Friday, November 16, 2007

Believing Science

Back in college, I took a very pro-evolution class called "The Nature of Science", which fell under the realm of Philosophy, according to my University. In this class, we talked about various aspects of science from a philosophical point of view. But about half of the semester was devoted to the evolution versus creation debate. And, the instructor was undeniably biased toward the evolutionary point of view. Fine.

In this class, we learned of an argument that, once upon a time, evolutionists used to use to prove that evolution takes places. Then, it was shown how this, as it turned out, did nothing to prove evolution. (Nor did it make any difference whatsoever to the creation side of things.) This case was about some butterflies (or moths...actually, I forget), and how prior to the industrial revolution, there were all these butterflies of a certain color. But, once the industries started their task of polluting the air, the butterflies changed their color. It was thought that, as a result of the darkening of the trees due to air pollution, that those butterflies that were white were obvious targets for birds, and quickly had to either adapt or be eaten. So, evolutionists of the day believed, the butterflies adapted by turning dark. Soon, all the white butterflies had become dark butterflies.

The problem was that no actual adaptation took place. Instead, it was just a shift in the already existing population. Very few dark butterflies survived prior to the pollution. After the pollution, the dark butterflies blended better, and soon the white butterflies became bird food.

I bring this up because of something I've noticed recently in regards to recent news about various viruses that have either mutated or may mutate, causing a health hazard. The idea is evolutionary in nature (micro-evolutionary in nature,, having nothing to do with supporting evolution versus creation, since the creation view supports micro-evolution). There is a virus. But this virus mutates, developing characteristics that allow it to better survive, and harder to kill by modern medicine.

We've seen the news about the bird flu, for example. Or how about the new one about the rare cold virus that has killed some folks recently? Are we seeing evidence that a virus as truly "evolved", in a sense, and mutated into another form?

Or, is it possible, that we are seeing a population shift? Or, perhaps, different breeds, in a sense, of the same virus? It is possible that both viruses descended from the same parent virus. Over time, and through isolation, one strain of the virus lost certain genetic information compared to the other strain. So, yes, they are different...but not as a result of a mutation. Both, then, coexist. However, for whatever reason, there is a population shift. The more dangerous strain is becoming more prominent, possibly because whatever external factor that used to keep it in check isn't around any more.

I raise this because it has implications on the "fear" that the bird flu may mutate at any given moment to something more dangerous. Perhaps it won't.

And look at the implications for the overuse of antibiotics. It has been suggested that viruses are becoming resistant to antibiotics. They have mutated. But it is also possible that these antibiotic-resistant strains have always existed. Only, now that we have been successfully eliminating their competition through antibiotic use, the ones that are resistant are, again, experiencing a population shift.

What I haven't seen is any real evidence given that we've actually ever witnessed a mutation as has been suggested in the media. Would we be able to differentiate a mutation from a population shift? History would suggest not necessarily. What I'm curious about is if anyone who is more familiar with this has links to information that provides such evidence. Because as of right now, I keep reading phrases such as, "scientists believe...," qualifying any such claims.

Such qualifiers sound suspiciously similar to the very phrases scientists balk at when they come from creationists. It only goes to show how much of science, even today, is framed by our beliefs.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Case of the Missing Case

Two days ago, the three movies we borrowed from the library were due back. Two of the movies were ready to go. The third? Well, we had the DVD, but no case for it. This, of course, is not unusual in our home. With four kids (not to mention myself!), things get misplaced frequently.

So, a mass search of the house ensued. First, in all the usual and expected places. When the case didn't turn up, we searched all the unusual and unexpected places. Still no case. We interrogated the kids, but none of them knew where it was. Under the beds, behind furniture, stuffed among the piles of papers and books strewn across the house, in the laundry room (including, yes, in the washer and dryer!), through piles of laundry, bathroom cabinets, and everywhere.

Nothing. Of course, we're in the process of preparing for a move, so things are in a general disarray at the moment. I explained this situation to the librarian, and he gave me special dispensation, renewing the disc for me to give me more time to find the disc.

I, of course, checked under our bed, between the wall and our mattress, in and around our nightstands. Very thoroughly, I might add. So, of course, I was a little put out when my wife grilled me on just how well I checked there.

"Did you look between the wall and...?"


"What about underneath...?"

"Yes! I did!"

I detailed where I looked quite extensively. But the next day, the case was still missing.

That night, just before going to bed, I decided to make one last check in our room. Just to be sure. You know. Just in case. Which really means that little voice in the back of my heading saying, "Uh, Ryan? Are you sure you looked as well as you say you did?" Of course, admitting I hadn't would only prove my wife's distrust of my searching ability as correct. So, I wouldn't admit.

Anyhow, there I was at eleven o'clock at night on my knees, searching under the bed once again. And that's when I noticed something. Near the wall, behind a box. It was thin and white. Just like a DVD case. I moved the box and, lo and behold, there it was! The DVD case!

Of course, the only possible solution was that at some point one of the kids found it and stuffed it back there at some point after I had searched under the bed. That's it. Really. Because it couldn't be that I didn't search good enough. Not after tearing apart the entire house.


Okay, okay, okay. I admit it. I was wrong. I looked under the bed, sure. But not as thoroughly as I had made my wife believe. And as a result, I went to my wife on my knees and begged her forgiveness. (Honestly, I really did do that. Because I know when I'm doomed.)

So the case is missing no more. Of course, the question still remains. How, exactly, did the case get there to begin with? That, I'm sure, was the misdoings of my kids. Still, it taught me something. I'm just not about to admit what that is.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

What's Next? No Friends Allowed?

Well, I think we're approaching the end of civilized civilization as we know it. And I'm only partly joking. Because from this point forward, you are not allowed to hug anyone. That would constitute a "public display of affection" after all. Even if that hug is a friendly "good-bye" hug among friends. That'll earn you a detention.

Oh, and I guess that little tear drop forming in the corner of your eye when you know you won't be seeing them for the entire summer vacation? Cause for suspension, I'm sure. In fact, you'd better not even have friends, because that would eliminate any possibility of displaying any form of affection at all.

That's what this world is coming to, least as evidenced by this article.

Something is wrong here. I'm sure the school board was originally trying to preventing the "suck-face" displays that irritate the on-lookers in the school hallways. Seems reasonable. But come on, a good-bye hug among friends?

I'm tired of the implications that touching implies some impropriety in this world. If anything, I think there is a serious lack of touching in the world. People need affection. People need to know they are loved and cared about. People need a shoulder to cry on or a comforting embrace at times. Girlfriends need (for some reason that eludes me) to hold hands or lock arms as a way to prove their BFF status to everyone around them. Even boys need to rough house. Touching is a part of life. It is a necessary and healthy part of life.

So, what is it with banning the "PDA" (public display of affection)? And what school principle would be so cold-hearted to interpreted such a school policy so literally? Have we forgotten our common sense?

I'll admit, I'm not a "huggy" kind of guy. I find it slightly uncomfortable when my fellow man throws his arm around me to show me he appreciates me. Yet, frankly, I wouldn't want it to end. Because the only way I'll stop being uncomfortable with it is when I see how important it is as a normal part of life. A normal part of relationships.

There is a guy at church who a touchy-feely kind of guy. If he is within a few feet of you having a conversation, he'll undoubtedly pat you on the back, hug you, shake your hand, or even, dare I say it, place his hand on your shoulder! And despite my own discomfort in displaying similar PDAs, I find it truly pleasurable to be around this man. He makes you feel loved. He makes you feel like he really cares about you, and that you matter.

I wish the same could be said about me and my more hands-off approach.

So, I say, go ahead. Hug a friend. And if it leads to a detention, so be it. Because we all need a little hug now and again. And no school policy should tell us otherwise.