Archive: April, 2011
Here's another reader's response to this statement made by one of the proponents of Intelligent Design:
However, I'd love for Faye Flam to explain how humans got their consciences, the innate sense of right and wrong that commends right choices and condemns wrong choices, since animals don't possess them.
I do plan to explain some aspects of our moral behavior in Monday’s column. And in the future, I’ll take on the claim that animals don’t have any sense of right and wrong. Several scientists have recently published books on that very question. In the meantime, here’s an excerpt from another reader’s e-mail. She points out that psychopaths lack a conscience. Some commit atrocities with no remorse. And yet some dogs seem to express remorse and guilt for being bad.
Okay, I realize this might not be The Creator. While God may play dice, he definitely does not say, "lol". Also, I had to correct a couple of His spelling errors.
Reading the response posted today I realized, yet again, how arrogant humans are about their intelligence(creative or not). Why they think they know the answer to the question of their existence and are so small minded to believe they can use common sense in making assumptions about a subject beyond their comprehension. Why can't humans accept the fact that they don't know. That the real reasons (if there are any) will not be revealed to them. Just understand that you are inhabitants of a planet with many other inhabitants and that it is in your best interest to be morally responsible. To have a harmonious society where all can live their lives till they die without strangers impacting life in the negative ... lol. To exercise the innate right and wrong compass and thusly answer to themselves. Religion isn't needed for that, just a conscious and you all have one. You also have to deal with the imperfections in humanity and elsewhere as best as possible.
So go forth and multiply and make the best of it because you're a couple of nuclear accidents away from completely destroying your fragile atmosphere and rendering mankind (as well as other species) extinct. Meanwhile Mother Earth will just recoil and spit out another life form for the next umpteen years without missing a beat. Is the universe eternal? Who knows? All you need to know is your not and there's nothing you can do about it. So deal with it.
Many readers who accept evolution wrote great counterpoints to our two intelligent design supporters in a previous post. Here’s one, who takes this quote from one of the ID proponents:
"If God does not exist, then we have no moral accountability to any higher being".
To which, he answers:
While opinion leaders in Britain debate whether Prince William's impending marriage to a commoner will diminish the royal family's public image, geneticists see only an upside to the pairing.
"From a genetic perspective, mixture is good," said Francisco Ceballos, a biologist at the Universidad de Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Ceballos is involved with an ongoing study of the Habsburg family, a once-powerful royal dynasty that appears to have inbred itself into extinction.
Inbreeding, which can increase the likelihood of genetic defects, is still one of the most complex areas of evolution and population genetics, he said. Some groups of plants and animals can withstand more than others before harmful effects surface. In the badly depleted Florida panther population, geneticists determined that inbreeding had led to various birth defects, including malformed testicles and heart deformities - and that without intervention, the big cats were nearly certain to go the way of the Habsburgs.
I got a great response from readers to last Monday's column on science and religion. Most agreed with Judge Jones, who decided Intelligent Design was not science. But two disagreed. Both dissenters brought up points I plan to address in future columns, but in the meantime please feel free to offer your own response either through the comments or in an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The irreducible factor in evolution's grand scheme of things is time. A hurricane can blow through a junkyard for a million years and produce nothing but junk. But give it another 50 million years and you might get a Mercedes. However, I'd love for Faye Flam to explain how humans got their consciences, the innate sense of right and wrong that commends right choices and condemns wrong choices, since animals don't possess them.
To those of us who like science, the difference between science and religion can seem pretty self-evident: Religion requires faith, for one thing, and science demands evidence.
But that doesn't always satisfy the true believers. "You can't prove there isn't a God," they say, "and if scientists can't prove God didn't create people, how can they claim their 'belief' in evolution is any less religious than religion?"
In my first installment of Planet of the Apes, I interviewed a biologist who found that humans carry a mutation, a missing piece of DNA, that freed our species of penis spines. He described these spines as little whiskery projections that may increase sensitivity in the male. Apparently they adorn the male genitalia of chimps and many other mammals.
Penn State's Philip Reno, the biologist in question, said the penis spines on chimps are pretty benign, being only about a millimeter long. The scariest ones belong to, who else, the porcupine.
Porcupine penises are covered with spines the size of fingernails - as if the poor creatures didn't have enough issues already. Not surprisingly, porcupines are known as slow breeders. They're relatively rare animals, which is why some conservationists object to PA's decision to allow people to shoot a limited number of porcupines.
I got several wonderful responses to the question, two posts down, about why the chimp genome is 11.5% “higher” than ours, and whether evolution has done anything to enhance human well-being. Yesterday I heard from a prominent Philadelphia area developmental biologist who was reluctant to let me use his name because, as he puts it, “too many people are e-mailing their ministers’ remarks and praying for my soul.”
His answer was downright inspirational:
“1. Size doesn't matter much. The potato has 48 chromosomes, we have 46. Salamanders have enormous genomes, far bigger than ours, as do lungfish. There's a lot of gene duplication and non-coding DNA.”