Bribing My Way Through Cosmos

cosmosMy kids refused to to watch the original Cosmos when I bought it on DVD a decade ago. Fearful that I would turn them off science forever I didn’t push the point but played it in the background as I worked rebuilding our house. It seemed to have a similar effect anyway but at least towards Cosmos and not science itself.

This time I suggested a new Cosmos but no still bites. My spouse who bought my first Neil deGrasse Tyson book for me and was the cause of my meeting him in New York was not enthusiastic either, for reasons I will soon state. I also met Ann Druyan that trip and had a wonderful time telling her how reading Sagan’s “Demon Haunted World” had helped nurture me back when I accidentily sawed off my small finger and I was lying in bed on opiates in a pool of self pity.

It took a snow day without school and a growing frustration on my part. The second Cosmos episode came out I hadn’t seen the first. While I appreciated watching the Veronica Mars movie along with watching the entire series in preparation I had nowhere to go to watch Cosmos. The rooms we keep heated are small and few. The bathroom sounded good because it is also heated. A tub and Cosmos sounded great but for the fact we don’t have a very good hot water heater. Shivering my way through Cosmos didn’t seem pleasant nor did just sitting there.

My grandfather used to bribe his students and family when they needed more encouragement then his motivational sayings and stories could muster. I first asked for some time to watch it our small winter living room to a resounding no (it’s our snow day) and my spouse had the kitchen covered with grading (it’s my snow day). I thought to watch it on my phone in bed under the electric blanket but it’s a visual show. Besides… Voile.

“Hey, if I pay you 20 bucks will you watch Cosmos with me.” “Uhh, yeah, sure.”

My spouse was somewhat incensed as money is not plentiful and she now earns most of it. There is also something grating about bribing people to learn. It’s odd how we willingly use force and fear for encouragement but not bribes. My kids don’t get allowances and we live too remotely for them to have jobs and the farm provides very little child income so it seemed to me a fine thing to do even if I overpaid them.

My family does get the utility of rewards as they use trips abroad to get them through the school year. It was the price. The immediacy of yes to $20 made me think I should have offered $10, or maybe cookies. Studies indicate people lower the needed value of their bribe if it’s food.

My grandfather was famous for saying to overpay people.

What would you prefer? Someone who isn’t happy wishing they were elsewhere, looking to get done early or cheat a bit. Or someone who thinks they should give a bit more in return, shows up early, and is happy to be working for you.”

He may have owned a business college but he didn’t have that fuck em mentality of most capitalists. Perhaps it was because he had always wanted to be a lawyer but he had been emotionally blackmailed to take over the college from his father.

$40 more poor (two children) I am happy, happy, happy. What a fun show. None of it new but satisfying like a meal that isn’t exotic but really well made.

I particularly liked the emphasis on evolution and the eye. Too often the eye is made to be too complicated, requiring a designer, and he showed how it had evolved and how the world might look at various stages. I also liked the discussion of artificial selection. I often say we breed animals and that is evolution to get other farmers and creationists to get evolution. Their fallback has been macro versus micro evolution.

I am happy in a public school district that doesn’t really teach evolution to be able to expose my children to it. Even in homeschooling it was tough. When I bought the Nova series Evolution for them to watch and various evolution books I had little support as now because of idiot politics and my religiously oriented extended family discussing evolution is like saying you’re secular. Indeed, I have had family members come to me and say they believe in evolution as if that were some concession–does that mean I should start attending church and not staying silent during prayers (I won’t say amen.) What that means is when I say evolution they hear antifamily-religion.

For those without cable or satellite episodes are available for 60 days after release at Fox TV.

Veronica Mars is worthing viewing as well. Strong female lead, independent attitude, good relationship with father, good friendships, and complicated relationships.

Jim n

Evolution is Intuitive

venus_statueA few years ago Rick Warren wrote a piece emphasizing that it was more credulous that a sky daddy created humans than they evolved from primordial slime. I was gobsmacked that some of my mellowly religious friends agreed. This argument has been called the credulity fallacy and a few other names that what is believable on the face of it is true. Posh, I don’t even see that it applies in the case of evolution.

Chris Mooney supports this insane argument in “7 Reasons Why It’s Easier to Believe in God than Evolution.” I suppose it’s really an excuse to justify the ridiculous mess we are in today. Maybe to make atheists seem less harsh when some of us ridicule religious fundamentals as dirt-stupid clods. Trust that a sky daddy is less intuitive than evolution is patently obvious to me and I think is to most people if they clear their head of Abrahamic nonsense.

The oldest image of a human made by a human is a mix of real and what some say are unreal qualities. Yet, she looks more real than the media images we portray as normative. The hegemony of modernism and westernism still plays. We act now as if being heavy were a biostructural collateral response to constant starvation, a so-called new problem brought on.  Other societies have both desired heaviness and found it. Not every society starved. Not all heaviness has been a negative or compensatory response.

It takes an oppressive religion to convince others that evolution is not intuitive. What we’re seeing is mimetic tripe from the stranglehold of Abrahamic theology over most of the worlds developed philosophy, from sheer conquest, and not some Hegelian sense of Progress that we naturally, logically got ourselves in this mental quagmire inevitably and somehow honorably. So much so that even those who aren’t very religious still can pattern match “Oh, they think a sky daddy did it. That kinda makes sense to me as I can see how someone could think that is, so it must be true.”

Hogwash. What’s incredible to me is that anyone can look around this world and think it was created by a sky daddy and that humans were in any way always the same, in the image of God. It is utterly astounding to me that anyone can hold this belief without being in some sort of deep, deep denial. If anything it long ago caused me to overemphasize the nurture or cultural aspects of the human mind. It lead me to support postmodernism where every interpretation is a misinterpretation because there is just so much evidence that people will believe any old absurdity with abandon in spite of their heritage.

However, since then I have calmed down and do see there is such a thing as natural morality and natural immorality both of which can be rather easily manipulated and neither are particularly absolute because of evolution. If it became necessary to eat our children for lunch to survive it would happen and we would call it good, for good reason. That it confounds the idea of reproduction to survival would be a post hoc intellectual question. This is not to my point though.

How can one not see changes everywhere? How can anyone not see that all life changes, all things change, even dead wood burns, rocks flame in water, or attract other rocks? The seasons of the year? From  day to night, from brown to green, from dirt to expanding plants wrought from seeds we can’t even see?

I look at my family and I see similarities and differences. I look at people and I see every manner of difference from tall to short, broad to thin, smart to stupid, fast to slow, a near infinite variety of difference. Bobby looks like Grandma and Suzy looks like her dad. Over and over again I see examples of inheritance and change.

In the animal world I see so much alikeness between  animals, so much shared intelligence, shared ingeniousness, and even superiority that we humans can only be another stop on long multiple continuums of existence. A moving stop at that. Only a blinded person, stupefied by religion would look at a chimpanzee and not recognize a brother. Hell, look at a coyote, a horse, a pig, a dolphin and see relations. As did most Native Americans and Aboriginals. We talk to house mice because they are like us and we talk to machines because they are like us and not because we have problems with personification.

The idea of humans as a static entity is a relic of imposed religions. They won by conquest and not because they best fit a natural psychological makeup.

When Alfred Kroeber compended the lives of California Indians the diversity was utterly astounding. 1,000 different cultures in one state. Then it was popular to show how “savage” cultures were really on the same trajectory as Westerners but the result was the opposite. Rather than something like Campbell’s hero of a thousand faces you see 1,000 faces and not a hero among them, only developments in response to environment. Structuralism ultimately failed in its search for singular unity. Diversity is the rule and saying everyone eats food is a vast commonality that trivializes the differences.

Propp’s morphology of narrative may have resolved to close to thirty variants but that is a far cry from the singular admonition Abrahamic religions put forth. This misapplication of narratives to religions and structural culture bleeds out as a kind of biostructuralism that isn’t possible without adding a date and geography stamp to it, showing it as sliding designations on continuums.

This is still too  much philosophy. Only a complicated, abstracted, transcendental view of nature encourages the ability to not see that humans are just another animal and a changing animal at that. If there is a natural view that is it.

There is no biological basis for the content of city-state level religions, above totemism, above tribalism, above local lore. It’s all collateral to developmental issues of population and production in changing environments.

We often say science is not intuitive as an excuse for why people don’t get it but magical thinking has been prevalent for as long as it can be traced. Watching a plant pop from the dirt is about as magical as it gets. Watching lightning race across the sky or spark a tree into fire is magical. Hell, humans can be raised so they don’t get the connection between sex and having a baby, just more magic.

It’s all magical, and thinking that somehow quantum mechanics, bigger numbers, and vaster distances are categorically different in their awesomeness is ridiculous. Humans and animals have dealt with this magical thinking for some time.

Evolution is actually more intuitive than a sky daddy and modern knowledge is not more magical than what was pondered tens of thousands of years ago. “Savages” practiced science when they asked a sister for confirmation on an observation. Further when they stood up to go take a look. With  verification of bias when they said they had misobserved at first look.

Too often scientists conflate animism with dualism or consciousness as if we just learned about these differences. That modern science-based research-writers allow this silliness credibility shows just how rooted they still are in their Abrahamic inheritance.

Jim Newman, bright and well

Where Evolution Races

paramosThe Paramos is considered to be an area of most rapid evolution.

“They’re like islands in a sea of forest,” said Santiago Madriñán, an expert on Páramos at the University of the Andes in Colombia. All told, Páramos cover about 13,500 square miles — an area the size of Maryland. In that small space, Dr. Madriñán and other researchers have found 3,431 species of vascular plants, most of them found nowhere else on Earth. The Páramos are home to strange variations on familiar forms, such as a daisy known as Espeletia uribei that grows as tall as trees.

Scientists have long known that in certain spots, evolution runs faster than normal. The Galápagos Islands, for example, are home to some 13 species of Darwin’s finches, which all evolved from a single group of birds that originally colonized them. The archipelago is just a few million years old, however, which means that all their diversity has evolved in a geologically short period of time.

In recent years, scientists have identified other regions where evolution is running fast. To measure its speed, researchers have looked at the DNA of species living in each place. The longer it has been since two species diverged from a common ancestor, the more time each lineage has had to accumulate mutations. Young species have relatively few mutations.

Stress, changing stress, and isolation, all lead to varying degrees of success. It is tempting to think evolution is good, it’s impetus is to endure and thrive in change. The goal of efficiency and energy conservation would be best met if no evolution occurred. When we celebrate diversity and difference we celebrate conflict, struggle, and success but it would be better for that to be eliminated.

In this sense human interest in evolution is a reverie of combat, violence, and ultimately success in the face of adversity. Evolution is the ultimate positivity activity, except it is not purposed other than individuals, sentient or not, do wish not only to survive but dominate to better ensure continued success. It’s a bittersweet story from which it is difficult to extract universal morals or peace, love, and everything lives.

Nevertheless, local morals, support of mates, children, and community abound, and even strangers, and give certainty that being moral is also evolutionary. Science yields the most accurate clues of how to do it.

Jim Newman, bright and well

How to Teach Your Kids Evolution in Ten Seconds

child-with-magWe home schooled our kids until finances and desire required otherwise. Since I am more of an unschooler  (unregimented homeschooling) I had to be able to answer hard questions quickly. While disliking memes and jingoes I do go with Richard Feynman (Surely Your Joking…) and Daniel Dennett (Intuition Pumps) on being able to make a decent quick summary and being able to make an argument that can be followed by an uneducated audience. It gets sticky when for a five-year old.

When my daughter asks, “Who made the first grass?”, I need a ten second answer on her level.

I got a few of these and it was touchy as my spouse disallowed overt abuse of religion other than my disallowing church attendance after relatives were using it to their advantage. Here are possible  answers.

“Grass wasn’t made by anyone. Millions of years ago, plants kind of like grass changed and became what looks like the grass here. See how these tall Pampas grasses are like our lawn grass but different.”

“Grass evolved from other plants. I am not sure which ones they evolved from. Grasses do well in more dry and flat areas. So I would guess as an area changed from wet to dry some plants were able to survive and do well and their kids were able to live better than other plants because they had changed, evolved.”

child-playing-with-grass-on-meadow-girl-looking-at-flowers-in-park-children“Evolution on a real simple level means changing from one thing to another. So grasses evolved from other plants. They evolved to different environments because when they changed some did better and lived and had more baby grasses like them.”

“This grass is beach grass. It has tough stems and wiry leaves so it can live in this harsh sand, wind, and salty water. It became this way over time, evolved. See how different it is than the grass at home. As grass lives where it is hard to live some plants changes so they live better. Plants don’t really change. Some grasses that are a little different do better and eventually there is a new type of grass.”

“I am not sure exactly where grass came from. I think it first came from (evolved in) Africa. We can look it up when we get inside.”

“I don’t know but grass is mostly what our horses eat. Let’s look at it. This is the stem, the leaf, roots, and seeds. Look how the seeds can fall away to start another grass plant.”

“No one knows for sure when or how it evolved but they found grass in dinosaur poop 65 millions years ago.”

“I am not sure what the family plant name is for grasses but bamboo and rice are from the same family.”

Notice there is some conjecture. You don’t have to be right. You have to encourage possibility, exploration, and research–inquiry, critical reasoning, and the willingness to make mistakes through hypothesis. You also don’t have to be the perfect teacher, you can do a variety of aspects that are still about grasses and where they came from.

“I don’t know but aren’t they beautiful. Let’s draw one now.” “Let’s look at it with our magnifying glass.” “Let’s tear it apart and see what’s inside.” “You can eat most grasses. They don’t give you energy but sometimes they have a sweet taste.” “The flour and rice you eat comes from different types of grasses.”

“I don’t know this kind of grass but we can look it up when we get home.” “Look how it bends in the wind. It has a bendy flexible stem so it won’t break in the wind.” “I bet they evolved this stem to deal with they wind.”

“They evolved (developed, came from, changed from) with other plants. Their being green means they get energy from the sun. They take water and nutrients from the soil to be able to grow. Look how their leaves are kind of like the leaves of some trees like the palm tree over there. “

There is a vast array of information you can give, in bits and pieces, that is catered to you and your child. They don’t need it all at once. You’re trying to give them some bit of truth that satisfies them and not shut them down or bore them to tears. At 5 accuracy counts but interest and inquiry more. It’s not the last time you will be talking about evolution or grasses. If they show interest keep going.

I also try different takes. If they get that deer in the headlights look, I try something different. See what clicks. Like Dennett I don’t mind acting as if there were a purpose in evolutionary changes. This is for a five-year old. The Lamarckian fallacy can come later. Conversely if the kid can get it teach it to them.

Our kids did quite well “in spite of” homeschooling. One got on the Dean’s list, another got the math scholar award, and the third got all As pretty often. It is a myth now that home schooling is for religious people and that homeschooling is an inferior education. Perhaps secular home schoolers could better help other secular parents with educating their kids outside of school as school should never be the beginning and end of education.

Jim Newman, bright and well

Jaclyn Glenn: No One Thinks a Human Fell Out of a Monkey’s Vagina

Bedtime-Bonzo-Reagan_458Jaclyn Glenn has refuted Ray Comfort’s asinine evolution movie which pathetically clips every evolutionary or atheist account to make it look stupid. Yeah, Comfort tries to scare people with his crocodile heads on bunnies crap.  After reviewing this post I wonder if humans aren’t birthing monkeys now and calling at least one of them Ray Comfort! Here is a photo of  young Ray before he learned how to shave! I had no idea he was related to Ron Reagan. If you think I’m angry here is Glenn talking almost as fast as I do.

Gallup poll asserted that 46% of Americans are creationists. Additionally, 32% believed in god-aided evolution. That is, roughly 80% of Americans believe in some sort of godly creationism. That’s what we’re fighting and it is huge number. There has never been such agreement in a presidential election or in most elections. An 80% majority is huge. While the poll notes a 6% switch from theistic evolution to unassisted evolution that seems small consolation, especially since there was an increase of 2% in creationism.

Ray Comfort tried to get Richard Dawkins to debate him. Dawkins refused. Comfort offered 10K. Dawkins said maybe for 100K. Comfort offered 20k. Dawkins is correct not to argue with creationists. It is a losing battle. They will never concede any point. All things are from god, period, end of story.

Comfort was famous for first saying the banana was perfectly made for humans, forced to rescind due to the reality of banana development for agricultural production, and then credited it as still god’s work because he created humans. Yes, god created humans to create bananas for humans–which came first the banana or the human?

Of course Comfort got upset at Glenn so she  posted another video “Ray Comfort vs Logic”.

I don’t know what logic has to do with it. The entire issue seems so disingenuous and mendacious as to make one gasp for air.

Aron Ra has been giving talks and fighting for better science standards in Texas and sums it up: “the bible is a jumbled clusterfuck of atrocious stupidity”.

The damn issue is older than that. It is of Plato and Aristotle against the Presocratics Anaximander, Democritus then later Epicurus, and finally Lucretius of Rome. Even Augustine admits a kind of evolution. Plato’s theory of forms should have been ridiculed for 2,500 years but it suits people’s egos and power struggles to think of themselves as gods. Hell, even Reza Aslan’s book “Zealot” doesn’t do a good enough job sorting out the issue of divinity in Christ–people as gods or people as godly powerful or people with godly powers as instruments of gods or people using god to gain power–just what the hell is a messiah, king, god, godly embodiment, or predator?

Of course, some of my relatives tell me it’s anthropomorphic to attribute pain to fish, feelings to animals, and reflective consideration to horses and dogs and pigs. Yet, they happily make themselves the image of god or more accurately god the image of them. Egotistic bastards–I say that lovingly cousins!

But I am not supposed to offend people?

The biggest hurdle is the so called issue of macro versus micro evolution. This is popular with farmers and ranchers. They totally get intraspecies evolution but not interspecies evolution. They see plants, animals, and organisms adapting and changing but can’t or won’t see change across successful sexual intercourse. Yet, a chihuahua can’t breed with a great dane. Oh, that’s just the size difference. What’s the leap here? Is it so hard to get that a lion could change to a leopard over time or more accurately that the two could have come from common ancestry. Are horses so different from zebras? Mules have been around forever!

They get breeding is a kind of adaptive pressure  but then beat up evolutionists as supporting eugenics. It makes my head reel. Is it any wonder I bury myself in sappy bluegrass music where the brightest remark made is the sun is gonna shine again someday.

Think this is gonna end soon? Reason is bleeding out everywhere. While LGBT rights are doing better, womens’ rights are going down hill rapidly. The animosity against abortion is so profound as to make me wonder how LGBT even got headway. Clinics are being shut down at a phenomenal rate. Is it because most LGBT people in the news now are men? Is it for religious closeted men, male priest and pastors, to get some rights, out of the closet? While LGBT aren’t quite as high on the socioeconomic spectrum as their hetero counterparts the anti-women antiabortionists hit the poorest of families the most. It’s not just an attack against women but poor people.

Where are the husbands, lovers, friends? Why aren’t they there with the women? Yeh, love em and leave em. Now that a woman has to travel a day’s drive and come back again later and then again the male should be legally required to do the driving if the woman can stand to see the guy again. And pay for half of it plus some for good measure.

No one thinks a human fell out of a monkey’s vagina. No one. It’s a miracle that a little seed can put out a root. It’s a miracle that a leaf comes out. It’s a miracle that a fungus comes and destroys the little leaf. It’s a miracle that when you plow the land and don’t reseed it comes back as vicious, tenacious weeds. Not pretty little weeds like dandelions but nasty weeds that destroy the very life of the usurped ecosystem. Yeah, it’s all a miracle but it’s impossible that a species can change into something entirely different.

Evolution is all around you. You can see it everywhere. You can see both rapid and gradual change everywhere. Many orders of magnitude more than I see intelligent design. There is no intelligent design. There is precious little good design in nature. Life form after life form looks like it was made by a circus committee of bat shit crazy fools. Look around there is misdesign everywhere, everywhere.

How can anyone look at animals, especially mammals, and not see their cousins? How can you not see that a bush is like a tree even though they can’t be “bred”? Is not a shark like a trout? Is a bullhead so different than a catfish? How can anyone look at life and not get that life works the same for all of us? How can anyone be so egotistical as to think humans are separate and different in a super special way? It’s just an excuse for predation and war.

I’m gonna have to go listen to some sappy bluegrass music some more. Meanwhile thank you Jaclyn Glenn for taking this on!

Jim Newman, bright and well