Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Monday, June 08, 2009

Oh, Evolution, what will we do with you?

Here's what I don't understand:

If we can witness adaptation and change in species over time, why is that not proof of evolution?

I mean, I understand that evolution means more than adaptation and change of a species, it means the rise of a new species from an old one, off-shooting successfully. But don't we have proof of this everywhere through genetics? We can see the relationships of all these animals to one another, how closely they're related, how closely the genetic code of all mammals are related. The individual mutated genes that cause the differences in two species. How is this not adequate scientific proof to support Evolution indisputably as a process which caused the diversification of life in the past, and continues to cause it in the present and future?

Is it simply that none of us were present at the beginning of time to witness the first single celled organism divide into two different single celled organisms? Is that what's holding us up? I'm just not sure I understand what the controversy is here. It only makes sense that adaptation of populations in different environments would produce different species of the same animal over time. We can SEE that in modern populations. As far as I'm concerned, evolution is proved by the selective breeding we engage in with domestic animals.

It isn't that I don't recognize the religious implications of Evolution. I distinctly remember sitting in my confirmation class in my small town church when someone asked our priest the question of what the church thought/what we were supposed to believe. And I remember our priest saying "Look, as long as you believe that God made the world, then that's all that matters." It isn't about the how specifically. It isn't about the step by step, day by day account. It's about the act of creation. I don't see how THAT can conflict with the theory of Evolution--maybe the big bang theory, although that too could be considered God's Hand, but not Evolution. Evolution explains the diversification of life, it doesn't dispute or disprove God.

So. What's the problem?
I wish I had a science council in my pocket that I could pull out and ask these questions to. Quick Reference Body of Scientific Intellectuals.
Wouldn't that be nice? Or wait--maybe that's what the Internet is for.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Multiverse as Religious Urge?

I'm just not sure what do with this article: What if there is only one Universe?

I mean, okay, I understand, to an extent, what this guy is saying. He's saying since we can't see or observe these other potential universes, we should be focusing on the one we can, and forget all this hypothetical guesswork about how things work outside of the physical world which we're operating under.

Or at least, I think that's what he's saying.

He also says, "This, I would claim, should be enough; anything beyond that is more a religious urge for transcendence than science."

And that's where I'm going to stop and just...

That seems almost... anti-science. Anti-human!
I mean, sure we can focus on the world we live in, and for that matter, with that same logic, maybe we should be focusing just on earth, and say the heck with space and the rest of the galaxy. Except that someone, somewhere, said hey-- see those points of light? What if I could see them better? But yeah, those points of light really don't have any affect on us. They really don't impinge on our "universe" so why should we bother looking more closely at them? Why did we send a couple of robots to Mars to see what's there? Who cares what's on another planet that we can't even see with our naked eyes outside of a shiny spot that's pretty much indistinguishable from a star?

But here's where I think he's got it wrong, continuing along with the same metaphor: We can choose not to look at the stars, but that doesn't mean the stars don't exist. And why is looking at the idea of other universes religious transcendence, but looking outside ourselves at the stars isn't?

Since when has science ever championed ignorance? And why does science have to choose as a whole to focus only on the one universe which we can see and feel and touch and comprehend? Why shouldn't people keep probing and looking and coming up with theories, and building bigger telescopes to see farther and better than we ever have before? What does it hurt, scientifically, to explore ALL these options? Because it means we have to relabel some laws? Categorize things as "True within our known universe" vs. "True for all possible universes"? Is that too much work? I mean, I'm totally baffled here. Why is this an issue?

So. What if there is only one universe? Then some people in science are going to look kind of silly. But, so did a lot of people who thought the world was flat. And the people who thought the Earth was the center of the galaxy. So what? How does it hurt us? What if there ISN'T only one Universe? What if Time IS variable? Should we ignore the possibility for convenience?

This guy's argument-- or at least that last line-- seems kind of specious at best. But I'm not a scientist, I guess. Certainly I'm no physicist. My realm is definitely the biological and behavioral, as opposed to the math based sciences. But it seems to me that the best decision science can make is to explore both options until one or the other is disproved. I kind of thought that's what the whole point of science was. Isn't that part of the scientific method? Create a null-hypothesis (the opposite of what you want to show is true) and prove it false?

In the interest of being overly dramatic:
I can't see Gravity.
Maybe I'll decide to ignore that next.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

The Mystery of Human Friendship


This article attracted my attention today: Be your best friend if you'll be mine: Alliance Hypothesis for Human Friendship

Basically, it says that the mutual altruism model doesn't explain human behavior at all, when it comes to friendships and an Alliance based model makes a lot more sense. They compare it to nations who build alliances with other nations, just in case there's a conflict later (which kind of is a weird comparison, because that's still a human-friendship-relationship, and so it's comparing human friendship to human friendship, but whatever). It says, also, that the most valuable friends are the friends who have fewer other "alliances" or friends, because they can be counted upon more readily to support us in the instance of a conflict, whereas someone with lots of other strong relationships may not be able to support us totally, since their attention and time is divided.

I think that this kind of explains the single vs. married chasm**. Single people seem to have more single friends, and married people seem to be more interested in cultivating "couple" friends. But if this is about alliances, then for a single person, this makes a lot of sense-- you can't count on one half of a married party to ally with you. They always have an obligation to their mate that supersedes you, as a single entity. I would say that the only time this doesn't apply is when a single person is equally good friends with both halves of the couple in question, but traditionally, that doesn't seem to happen all that often. For example, My husband and I have several friends who are single and friends with both of us, but I have a lot more single friends who have no relationship with him at all. That being said, I would say that those single friends who are friends with both of us would divide in a conflict along gender lines, and as strong as those relationships are, they're not equally friends with both of us. The relationships are perhaps just MORE equal than others.

So. There you have it. All that drifting apart that occurs (or we're worried will occur) between single friends and their newly married buddies-- that's completely in line with the model. It's a natural consequence when we look at friendships with an Alliance based model. Mutual Altruism wouldn't really explain that either-- because whether you're married or single, the exchange of friendship services shouldn't really change that much, but Marriage is a swearing of allegiance, causing friends to fall in line as well. Now you're not only obligated in alliance to your friend, but also their spouse, in conflict. But your friend's first obligation will always be to their spouse, even if previously it was to their single friend.

Anyway, all of this is supposition without any real research backing it-- just my limited experience with human relationships and the world. But I think it's fascinating to think about, and even more interesting that this article doesn't touch on the single vs. married conflict, even though it seems kind of obvious to me.

**Disclaimer: By no means do I mean to say that by getting married, a person must eschew their single friends, or that a single person doesn't have married friends, and vice versa. It just seems to me that this is a popular trope of society and popular culture, if perhaps exaggerated. (Is trope the right word there? I'm leaving it anyway, because I feel like it applies.)