Tag Archive: science


This is the walking catfish.  Originally native of Southeast Asia, it is currently inundating parts of the "Bible Belt" such as Florida... It is a fish that has developed the ability to breathe oxygen outside of the water and walk over land between ponds in search of food.  That's right, these people will still deny the validity of evolution even when it's walking right past their front door.

The image that triggered this post

 

I am not a huge fan of writing two blogs in one day, particularly when it takes time away from my research.  The problem is, I saw a comment earlier today about how walking catfish cannot be a demonstration of evolution because they aren’t turning into apes.  First, this makes me really sad about the state of education that somehow only the evolution into apes counts in the minds of many as evolution.  Evolution is so much more beautiful and complicated than that.  Second, a couple weeks ago, after finishing Richard Dawkins’ The Greatest Show on Earth, my mom asked me to take a look at people who disagree with Dawkins, perhaps she doesn’t entirely understand my research, but I figured I would humor her.  The lies that get spread about evolution by people who have absolutely no understanding of science concerns me.  Many people buy into the arguments made by apologists, in part because the apologists have an unfortunate tendency to not understand the science themselves, so they interpret it in a way that makes it have little to no resemblance to the real thing.  This is why people throw out questions about the “missing link” as if missing a piece of the puzzle means the puzzle doesn’t exist.

There is a huge misunderstanding about what the theory of evolution states.  Evolution is about tiny changes over time, leading to the creation of different species, and sometimes even different genus.  This process is slow. This is why we wouldn’t necessarily notice evolution as it happened. In fact, we see mutations all the time, some of these could make survival easier, and thus over time couple with other traits to lead to new species.

Walking catfish are a cool example of this because they show one obvious mutation from traditional catfish; they walk on land and can survive longer out of water than other species.  It doesn’t take a genius to see why this would be handy.  They can move beyond their traditional hunting ground, perhaps finding a new untapped food niche.  If this had not work, it would have been a failed evolutionary attempt, and they would have died out. Now say over time we have another mutation, this time our catfish has a baby with legs instead of front fins.  With these legs, it walks a bit faster and can get away from predators.  It mates with another catfish, and some of the offspring have legs, others have fins.  Eventually, they will develop into different species.  Each successful mutation changing them a little bit, until they don’t look like the same species at all.  Each negative mutation, and there will be mutations that hinder survival will simply lead the holder to eventually die out.  Our original catfish could eventually end up more like a crocodile than a fish.  It just depends upon what mutations develop and how they influence survival.

These sorts of small shifts can lead to huge shifts over time.  Some of these fossils survive and show us a little piece of the puzzle, while some of them will not.  This could have to do with bad conditions for formation, climate change, or even flooding.  Missing puzzle pieces do not indicate a lack of a puzzle.

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“I was born on the night of Samhain, when the barrier between the worlds is whisper-thin and when magic, old magic, sings its heady and sweet song to anyone who cares to hear it.”
― Carolyn MacCullough, Once a Witch

I was born on the night of Samhain. My mom prayed hard that I wouldn’t be born on my due date, Halloween, though I am not really sure why. I love Halloween. That is probably part of the reason I have spent the better part of the last decade as part of the Pagan community.

When I was 14, I read Silver Ravenwolf’s Teen Witch. I was on a trip to the Oregon Coast with my sister and her family. My niece’s friend had brought the book. I think it was supposed to be forbidden, but after the first chapter I was hooked. I cast several spells while on the trip. Since then I have read pretty much any book on magick I can get my hands on.

With one exception, I have no regrets about any spell I have ever cast. While they didn’t always turn out the way it hoped, nothing disastrous has ever occurred. I have learned to see the magic in nature, which my Christian friends inform me is God. My Pagan friends would likely agree, though their gods are many.

My mom thinks I believe in the wormhole aliens from DS9.  She had asked if I somehow have projected my beliefs into outer-space. This is not the case, though I am considering the possibility that gods are also supernatural extraterrestrial beings.

I see many similarities in the way Pagans practice their religion and in the way Christians practice their religion. For example, the other day I was told by Christian to open the Bible to a random page, there I would find my answer. Pagans call this divination. It isn’t really all that different from drawing a random Tarot card, or opening up to a random page of any old book. It is predicated on the belief that at random we can find answers.

A friend of mine suggested that this works because in fact because we are part of the God and goddess. We already know the answer, we just need assistance recognize it. Scientists would argue this is just a self-fulfilling prophecy. We don’t know anything, we simply react to what we see and assume that it is true, bringing about the intended result.

Similarly, prayer and spell casting are very similar. When I do a spell, I’m essentially putting out energy into the universe asking for an intended result. If it works the universe agreed to my request. If it didn’t then nothing happens. When you pray, you ask for an intended results. If your prayers answered that it is well but the will of God, if it is not God simply didn’t want it to happen. Of course, this is a massive oversimplification of both magic and prayer.

Science has shown that the universe is both complicated and beautiful. This may be one of the few things that all religions could agree upon. The difference I find, as the some religions rely so deeply on faith, that they fail to be able to see what is in front of them. Science can be eloquently demonstrated, but means nothing to them. This simply makes no sense to me. I am willing to consider opposing viewpoints, but I struggle to understand why someone who would reject what they see in order to cling to an unseen.  This is why I struggle to wrap my head around faith.

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“Evolution skeptic: Professor Haldane, even given the billions of years that you say were available for evolution, I simply cannot believe it is possible to go from a single cell to a complicated human body, with its trillions of cells organized into bones and muscles and nerves, a heart that pumps without ceasing for decades, miles and miles of blood vessels and kidney tubules, and a brain capable of thinking and talking and feeling. JBS: But madam, you did it yourself. And it only took you nine months.”
― Richard Dawkins, The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution

I am a scientist. I am a very logic and fact driven woman. My most recent readings have been texts on quantum physics and evolution. It was through reading these texts that my “crisis” moment occurred. To be clear, I 100% accept both sciences until evidence is sufficiently offered to the contrary. Richard Dawkins’ science is impeccable. Quantum physics took this one-step further for me indicating that God was not needed to be the catalyst for the big bang. It could have been more like a bottle of soda in the freezer, pressure built up until it eventually exploded.

The problem occurred after I accepted his conclusion that there is no God. The evidence fit logically within my scientific understanding of the universe. I was so convince I came home and excitedly shared it with my boyfriend. My boyfriend is a Christian. He took the evidence I offered him and suggested that living in a fallen world could have the same consequences. Part of me finds the fallen world theory to be a convenient argument for anything that science finds that contradicts what would be expected if there were a creator. It feels simplistic to argue that science does not contradict religion because we live in a fallen word, and therefore nothing we would expect actually is.

The problem is this; I think most humans would prefer not to be atheists. It is a bleak world if we are the pinnacle of all existence. That being said, I find the evidence I have seen so far to convincing. My aha moment as a Pagan is what I think is causing me the problem. If I had never had a moment in Paganism where it made perfect sense, where something went exactly as it should have, despite being quite improbably, I probably could have accepted Atheism without a second thought. Having never had one of those aha moments in Christianity, I cannot entirely rule the “fallen world” hypothesis out, though I can construct similar hypotheses from the dogma of other religions.

The lack of a need for a god is not proof that there is no god, but I suppose this is my struggle. The reason I have been reaching out to Christians for explanations and understanding is that I have had aha moment that convinced me of the validity of Paganism, but despite being raised Christian never had a similar “conversion” moment. I am not certain it is possible to embrace the fallen world hypothesis without being a Christian. Certainly, there are faults with the world and things do not happen as they would in an ideally constructed universe, but is it possible that is just the way nature works? Do we need religion?

There is scientific support for the idea that people with faith live longer, but the studies I remember indicated that it did not matter what religion you were, so long as you have faith in something. Does it matter what we believe? Clearly, it does or people would not kill each other over disagreements over who is God and what s/he wants.

photo credit: Kaptain Kobold via photopin cc