Uncommon Sense

March 9, 2022

Let The Grasping Begin

Filed under: Culture,Reason,Religion,Science,Technology — Steve Ruis @ 12:45 pm
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While we try to explain abiogenesis over and over again to newbie theists who think the theory of evolution covers it, progress on finding a mechanism for abiogenesis continues to be made in laboratories. Recently a team of Japanese scientists filled a major hole in the potential process by which living things could have formed from nonliving chemicals. To quote a Medium.com post:

But the main issue was the propagation, which according to the lead researcher, requires spontaneous polymer production and self-assembly under the same conditions. When they added water to the mixture at room temperature, they condensed & arranged it into peptides — which then spontaneously formed droplets. These peptides grew in size & quantity as more amino acids were fed to them.

Not only did this process work for amino acids forming proteins but also for (more complex) genetic material being formed from nucleic acids (genetic material building blocks).

Sensibly, the scientists stated:

While this new find does not guarantee that this is how complex life evolved on our planet but it does lend some credibility to the possibility.

Whenever a significant gap in our knowledge gets filled, one of two things happens: the religious apologists try to incorporate it into their theology, a la, the Big Bang theory or <cricket, cricket, cricket>. I have referred to the first effort as a manifestation of the time honored process of grasping at straws, meaning trying to find some way to succeed when nothing you choose is likely to work. (Well, besides my cartoon mind showing the God of the Gaps getting smaller and smaller crying “Oh, I’m melting” like the Wicked Witch in the Wizard of Oz.)

I suspect that this time, we will get <cricket, cricket, cricket>, that is silence, about this finding, because the last thing these goobers want is a clear pathway between dead chemicals and living cells be shown to exist. They’d rather that no one notice that progress is even being made.

Why such a abiogenesis process is possible is a shock to anyone is beyond me. The facts are clear: whenever anything dies, it decomposes into a pile of not very valuable chemicals. That tells us is that, since everyone of us decomposes into roughly the same pile of chemicals, then all that we (you and I) are is a particular arrangement of those chemical’s atoms. So, it seems logical that there is a pathway for those dead atom’s to be arranged to create something alive (possessing the ability to eat, ability to propagate, etc.) The claim for the existence of a material or immaterial soul has no evidence, so that is just wishful thinking, so far.

I think I understand why organizations like Answers in Genesis and wealthy individual Christians do not sponsor research to find “the soul” they so dearly love to refer to, because not finding it would be evidence it did not exist. (Absence of evidence is evidence of absence, if many attempts are made to find the evidence and they all fail.) They would rather the question remain “open,” asking instead “well, how hard are those atheistic scientists trying to find the evidence?”

February 26, 2019

For Want of a Word the Meaning Was Lost

An article in The Guardian was entitled “The Grand Canyon turns 100.” Uh, hello? Just what the creationists want to hear. (They believe the Grand Canyon was carved out by the Great Flood!) The headline should have been “Grand Canyon Nat. Park turns 100.” That’s right, the park was signed into existence 100 years ago on the 26th of February. (Thanks, Teddy!)

I know people have short attention spans and they need headlines that grab people attention, but a lot of people only read the headline, so it should be accurate, don’t you think? And it is not as if these articles are fighting over space in a printed newspaper … sheesh!

October 23, 2018

Gosh, What are the Odds?

Filed under: History,Reason,Science — Steve Ruis @ 8:32 am
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TV shows like Ancient Aliens often point to things that seem very, very unlikely to have happened naturally and claim that help must have been had from aliens. They have this claim in common with creationists who make the same argument except with the help coming from supernatural beings, yet still could have been aliens.

I am reminded that events which most people consider to be very, very unlikely … happen all of the time. What triggered this topic is the fact that today is my birthday. It is also Mole Day. Here is how Scientific American is celebrating this holiday:

Holy Moley, It’s 6.02 x 1023 Day!
Let’s celebrate our chemistry! Or rather, chemistry’s favorite unit of measurement.
From 6:02 a.m. through 6:02 p.m., we’re commemorating Avogadro’s Number.

Avogadro’s number was not found by Avogadro, it was named to commemorate his contributions to chemistry (as slight as they were). His number is the basis for a unit of amount in chemistry, the mole (symbol mol … hardly worth the contraction effort). This number of molecules of any chemical is said to be one mole of that chemical, so it is a quantity representing an amount and a number of molecules simultaneously, which is very handy for chemists as molecules seem to interact in simple whole number ratios.

So, how is this any indication of the probability of an event occurring? Well, I was born, just after 6 AM on the morning of October 23, 1946. (I share this birthday with the planet Earth, according to Bishop Ussher.) So, 6:02 AM, 10th month, 23rd day … 6.02 x 1023! Uh and … ? Well, when I chose a profession, it just so happened to be that of chemistry professor. Wow! What is the likelihood of that happening? Was there something in the stars, guiding my path toward a career? Were aliens involved? Were gods? Surely my path was preordained by something spiritual/ghostial!

What is actually involved is … attention. If one is a chemistry professor, and not born on Mole Day, then we pay that no attention. But there are many, many chemistry professors and teachers, more than the 365 days in a year, so on any particular day of the year, many chemistry people are sharing a birthday. (I share my birthday with Gilbert Newton Lewis, a very prominent U.S. chemist, for example.) Of the people born on October 23rd, there have to be some born right around 6 AM or 6 PM and those of us who were, attend to that fact, once it is brought to our attention.

Many, many improbable things happen every day. One person won a major European lottery twice in a row! (What are the odds?) A creationist asked one time how likely it would be for a molecule of DNA to be created from chance (a silly reach to discredit the role of random mutations in evolution theory). The number he came up with was astronomical. In a quick calculation, I pointed out that if the atoms making up the molecule were selected at the rate at which molecules collide, then the DNA molecule sequence would occur more than a million times per second. Yes, it is an unlikely event … but if the number of participants is large or the process is very fast, that thing will happen and happen frequently.

So, I wish all of my fellow chemists and chemistry professors born on Mole Day (the thousands upon thousands of you) a very happy celebration of your birth day! And, you know what it means, don’t you?

October 3, 2018

Creationist Follies

Filed under: Religion,Science — Steve Ruis @ 1:41 pm
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Creationists aren’t interested in evidence as they “have faith” … at least until the slightest glimmer of hope some evidence supports their position and then it become full bore “I told you so!” artists.

The anti-evolution strain of this sect is especially active. I wish they would use some of that energy to understand what the theory actually is and what the evidence is but that wish is rather stupid. It is me asking them to look for themselves for why they are wrong. This is not something they are wont to do and this is not surprising. I don’t find that task pleasant, either.

One of the more troubling examples of their ignorance is the recent trend to try to poke holes in evolutionary science. Currently I have seen any number of tropes about why evolution transformed us from hairy ape-like creatures to hairless ape-like creatures. They bellow “Why did we lose our fur?” Explain that evolution-tards!


Okay, allow me. (And I am no expert, just an avid science-type, so feel free to pick this apart.)

Humans benefited mightily by losing their fur and the creation of wall-to-wall sweat glands. If you look no farther way from you than your dog, you will see the life of furred animals, predator and prey alike. Your dog can run like the wind, for a few minutes, and then they drop to the ground and pant like crazy. The reason? Other than a little sweat through their paws, they have no other way to get rid of excess heat.

Humans, on the other hand, when they moved out onto the savannah (possible due to Climate Change?) benefited mightily from the loss of fur and the proliferation of sweat glands.

You may know that cheetahs can achieve 70 mph in short bursts. All predators have to be fast or quick, but that exertion of muscle energy generates heat which has to be leaked into the environment. Humans, with their sweat glands all over their skin and the absence of fur that allows the air to carry away the evaporated water (evaporation takes a lot of heat and converts it into potential energy—it is cooling, Creationists) which gives them not great speed, but great stamina.

Let’s use a current marathon runner as an example. The record holders can run just over 26 miles in about two hours. Let’s call that 13 miles per hour. Any deer or antelope can easily do well in excess of 13 miles an hour. But they have to stop and rest after just a few seconds, by which time the human hunters have caught up and spook the game into sprinting away again, which it does. But then the humans catch up again. Spook, run to ground, spook, run to ground. In the end, the deer or antelope is exhausted and the human hunter can walk up and cut their throats with a knife.

This is how human hunters dominated the savannah in early Africa. We ran our prey to ground. And we could keep it up for hours because of our loss of fur (which prevents breezes from reaching the skin) and our multitude of sweat glands. This form of hunting was observed well into the 19th century in the form of hunting Native Americans. It is well documented.

So, “Why did we lose our fur? Where’s the answer Evolutionists? You now have your answer. next question, my ignorant friends.

September 4, 2017

Cherry Picking for Jesus

Filed under: Religion — Steve Ruis @ 9:56 am
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The recent eclipse of the sun, visible from the U.S., was accompanied by the usual creationist/apologist babble about how God made the Sun and Moon the same apparent size, and thus creating an amazing thing (an eclipse!) that couldn’t happen by coincidence! There are referring to the fact that if the Moon were farther away or closer to the Earth, such occurrences would appear quite different. Also, if the Moon were larger or smaller, same thing. What they don’t say is that, if it were different, they would be pointing to the different version of an eclipse and pointing at it while saying “See what God did, see what God did?!”

This type of cherry picking is common among Christian apologists and creationists. They claim, for example, that the laws of physics are perfectly tuned for the creation of life, when the laws of physics are perfectly tuned for this universe. (How could they not be?) And this universe was apparently perfectly tuned to create vacuum, of which there is more than anything else and more is being made every minute in a fashion that appears to be accelerating. Did I mention that vacuums are inimical to life?

On any planet on which sentient beasts existed, there would be guaranteed to be things that were unique, that would be easily noticed. That those unique things were special, though, requires magical thinking. That the Moon and Sun have the same apparent size is not quite true, but close enough for casual observers, but the Moon comes between the Earth and Sun once a month. Why were we seeing a solar eclipse for the first time since 1979, then? Well, there are a lot of facts the creationists/apologists leave out, for which they have no explanations. For example:

  • The Moon was much closer to the Earth in our past and will be farther away in the future. Why did God do that, that way? This means we will only have this kind of eclipse for a geologically short period of time. I am sure that the apologists will come up with something, but …
  • The Moon’s orbit is at about a five degree angle to the orbit of the Earth around the Sun. This is why we don’t have a solar eclipse every month. I am sure the apologists will come up with something along the lines that too many eclipses benefit human beings somehow.
  • A solar eclipse has no, I repeat, no actual effect on the planet, other than imagined ones in the minds of just one species living here … us. Solar eclipses aren’t “special” they are just rare.

So, instead of pointing to obvious coincidences and claiming “God!” how about all of the other observations they could make? How about, have you noticed how all mountains have different heights? That trees all have different shapes? That you can recognize your dog, even if it is in the company of another of its species, because no two are alike? That all things fall down, but the direct “down” is different depending where on the planet you are! (How do those things know which way to fall … puzzling?) Why are the rare things always signs of their god and not the mundane things. Why did their god make pebbles all different shapes, it makes them really hard to stack!

Hey, I have an idea, why don’t Christian apologists do something useful, like explain that if a Christian gets sick, a doctor is much better than prayers, which is why God made doctors or, I don’t know, how about it isn’t a good thing to rape altar boys, or condemn other human beings for things not completely under their control, or it would be a good thing to condemn non-defensive wars (such as every one we are currently engaged in). There is so much to do that might be useful, why wander into science when you don’t have any idea what you are talking about.


February 26, 2016

Aliens and Creationists

I am beginning to believe that the ability of ordinary people to think is vanishingly small and probably smaller if you are a creationist or IDer. And, no I am not talking about the candidacy of Donald Trump. I am talking about the creationists’ obsession with aliens. Apparently their god didn’t create any. How they could know this is quite beyond me.

One aspect of their blather is the so-called Fermi Paradox which is neither Fermi’s nor a paradox. The FP goes like this: if aliens exist, some must be very advanced and have noticed us by now; where are they? It sounds reasonable, but the obvious answer (They don’t exist!) is unwarranted.

Just put on your thinking cap for second. We have been producing radio waves and other electromagnetic signals for a bit over 100 years. So, lets be very conservative and say that there is a bubble 500 light-years in radius that our presence can be detected. (500 years of travel at the speed of light in a vacuum is a reasonable maximum supposition). The universe as a whole is 14+ billion light years in radius, so what percent of the entire universe does our “close enough to notice the humans” bubble consist? Since the volume of such spaces is proportional to a cube of the radius, the percent is (5003/14,000,000,0003) x 100. I will do the math for you .. uh … essentially zero (It is 0.00000000000000000000000455%.) This is also the probability that any aliens would fly through our bubble and notice our presence. This assumes that the aliens had sufficient technology to fly around faster than the speed of light and other apparently impossible abilities.

Now, those are the spatial odds. Regarding time, our 500 years is a very small fraction of the time the universe has existed (14+ billion years). Let me be generous and assume that the first 4+ billion years were needed for alien life to evolve (the creationists creator need not be so limited) so with regard to time, we have been signally for (500/10,000,000,000) x 100 = 0.000005% of the time period since life began in this universe (approximately). So, the aliens would have to be alive and looking during our time period to find us, no? So, the probability that aliens would find us is the product of these two probabilities, the spatial and the temporal probabilities, which is 0.000005% of basically zero.

So, for all you creationists who are asking “Where are these aliens?” Shut the fuck up and sit down. Besides, we really do not want them to find us. History shows us that when more “advanced” technological societies meet less advanced, it doesn’t go well for the less advanced.

December 29, 2012

Religious Reset

Filed under: Religion — Steve Ruis @ 2:29 pm
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I have recently written a couple of posts about religious relics being put on display here in Chicago and so I have been musing about religion in general and Christianity in specific.

I also saw a very good presentation by Sam Harris (I adore Sam Harris.) in which one of his main points was that religion basically deals with death and consoling people when loved one’s die.

The main appeal of Christianity is its promise of everlasting life, which consoles Christians when they lose a loved family member or spouse or child. This in itself is just a delusion and should only harm those with the delusion, but that is only half of what is promised by Christianity. Christians believe that all people will live forever. That’s right; there is life after death and we all get one. Unfortunately, only a tiny number of folks, those who will be “saved,” get a nice afterlife. The vast majority of people on this planet including you and me will roast in Hell unfortunately, even those who were born and died before Jesus came along. Even those who were born and died before the Hebrew Bible was written, ca. 1 BCE. Even the batshit crazy creationists believe the earth is over 6000 years old, that means people were around for 4000 years before the Bible got written and 4000 years or so before Jesus made his promises. I expect we are talking many millions of people lived and died and then were sent to Hell on a technicality. Those fools were not saved as they didn’t accept Jesus in their hearts as their savior. You can almost smell the fat sizzling if it weren’t for the reek of sulfurous fumes.

“Christians believe that all people will live forever.
That’s right; there is life after death and we all get one.”

Christianity is not a nice religion. Studies show that the primary indicator of what religion a person espouses is the religion of their parents. That is we have little choice. All of those Christians are baptizing their kids before the kids can talk, let alone know what is happening.

Condemning 90+% of all people to eternal torment is terrorism. I have talked to a number of people who spent their childhoods in recurring fear because their grandparents or their friends were in the wrong religion and were going to roast in Hell. So, not only is this doctrine terrorism, it is child abuse.

Many people now say Christianity is nicer now and that as time goes on it becomes more gentle. If that is so, it is only because Christians are ignoring the Bible, which is considered by many to be the word of their God, so I can’t give much credit to people saying that a religion is much better now that they are ignoring its teachings.

I think everyone ought to be given a religious reset opportunity, kindo of a forced confirmation/opt out opportunity. It could be a sort of coming of age ceremony. We could get George Clooney to do the service. It would be short, George would merely ask : “Are you in or are you out?”

November 26, 2012

Marco Rubio and Creationists Can Relax

Filed under: Politics,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 9:25 am
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Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida was recently caught in an interview by a question about the age of the Earth and instead of responding with the “a bit over 4 billion years” that there is a scientific consensus for, he mumbled something about there being a “theological debate.” Most people are describing this as an example of his pandering to a conservative base who believe the Earth is less than 10,000 years old.

If you ask any of those “young Earth” Creationists, so-named because they believe in the Biblical story of creation of the planet and, well, the Universe, why they think the Earth id just a few thousand years old, they say it is a matter of their Christian faith.

Since the Christian faith is based solely on their Bible, I decided to check and, in fact, nowhere in the Bible does it say how old the Earth is. Some people, a little more in the thrall of the Creationists, can quote Bishop Usser’s estimate that the Earth was created in 4004 BC, specifically on the nightfall preceding 23 October 4004 BC, which means I and the planet share a birthday. It is curious that the worthy stated such a time, “nightfall” because “nightfall” is a condition that sweeps around the Earth once every 24 hours, so it occurs at different times in different places, but I digress.

The esteemed Bishop used certain assumptions about how long people lived and counted the generations which, with a little math, resulted in his estimate. But what most don’t know is that a great many other people did the same thing and came up with similar estimates of Earth’s birth date from roughly 3600 BC to 7000 BC. A few more modern folk, embarrassed about the difference between those dates and the date that geophysicists have come up with, namely ca. 4,300,000,000 BC have managed to stretch the birth date as far back as 20,000 BC.

Apparently, the people who believe the Bible and believe these “estimates,” also apparently believe the interpretations of people who lived hundreds of years ago and who had no knowledge of modern science. This is hard to believe especially for Evangelicals as they insist that they need no intermediaries to interpret the Bible. Some go so far to say that people who claim such positions are automatically deceivers.

For the rest of believers, there must be some doubt about the methods of people who take the same information and come up with “calculations” whose results differ by huge amounts. If the data is divinely inspired, should not the results come out the same for everyone? The fact that they do not indicates that the results of those calculations are merely the dreams of pointy-headed intellectuals.

So, if you base your faith on what the Bible actual says, you can rest easy. There is no dispute between the Bible and reality. And Marco Rubio can put away his dancing shoes.

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