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Special pleading for the persistence of mal-adaptive traits - last commented 28 March 2012 06:25 AM

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Go to: Suffering

sciencemd68's Avatar Jump to comment 3 by sciencemd68

Christians, methinks, have got their world view backwards. They believe that life is sacrosanct, that their God has endowed them with the right to live a long life and use and abuse the world to their own ends. The only thing though their god has promised them is death.

"Spirituality" for lack of a better word, based on natural selection would proscribe that our life is a gift from those who have come before and our death, though sad, is actually a helping hand to our heirs. If we lived long fatuous lives, our children and their offspring would be denied resources better served for those entrusted with our genetic heritage. It's why salmon die after spawning, why ancient elderly Inuit walked off on dark snowy nights, and why pine tress have flammable resin.

Death is inevitable and important. Do not go gentle into that good night as Mr. Thomas admonished, but realize it is ultimately "good" that we all go there. Look upon death as a gift to one's heirs and it won't seem so necessary to suffer to endure.

Wed, 15 Aug 2012 17:23:38 UTC | #950836

Go to: How Humans Became Moral Beings

sciencemd68's Avatar Jump to comment 13 by sciencemd68

A problem with the author's theory is that he poses that humans have cornered the market on altruism. I don't suppose you need a conscience to be altruistic. Bees, birds, mammals and others all exhibit altruistic behavior. I am convinced that altruism arose as a gene like sickle cell disease. If you have two copies of the gene, you exhibit altruistic tendencies; if you only have one copy, you are essentially self centered. The gene proliferates because it is exploiting the full expression of the altruistic phenotype in others in the population. By having the gene in the gene pool, self centered heterozygotes exploit the fact that their are altruists in their midst. The gene can thrive, unexpressed, in the selfish vehicle of the heterozygote, even if the altruists suffer from lessened survival, just as people with sickle cell trait thrive despite the lessened survival of those with full blown sickle cell disease in areas where malaria is endemic. The heterozygotes exploit the homozygous phenotype. The gene, or more accurately, the allele is using itself to become widespread. This idea is expounded in a little known, curious manuscript called The Ju-Jitsu of the Peahen, which is a short, but interesting read.

Tue, 05 Jun 2012 02:50:21 UTC | #945628

Go to: In God We Teach

sciencemd68's Avatar Jump to comment 3 by sciencemd68

Nice piece. This teacher has an inherent conflict of interest to teach in the public schools, if he believes he is duty bound by his religion to evangelize. He should be asked to teach in a parochial institution. Furthermore, he uses a scientist discovering the cure for cancer being duty-bound to spread his knowledge as a metaphor for his reason to continue to proselytize his "cure" for society. What a joke. His cure is snake oil and his scientist is a quack. Go sell crazy somewhere else.

Wed, 30 May 2012 18:40:27 UTC | #944575

Go to: Understanding Evolution and Being a Good Doctor

sciencemd68's Avatar Jump to comment 16 by sciencemd68

As a physician, I think I understand why physicians may be less than comfortable with natural selection. We see the human body at its worst. We see superflous and dangerous organs that don't seem to have a purpose that should have been eliminated under natural selection. We see things like senescence, shock and congestive heart failure that don't seem to have an explanation from a survival of the fittest perspective. For example, as the heart starts to fail, blood pressure rises, kidneys hold onto more salt and fluid, and lungs fill up with that excess fluid all of which makes it harder on the failing heart. As physicians get further and further from biology class they don't recall (or were never taught) the evolutionary explanation for these conundrums they face every day. But it is critically important to understand why we age, why we get sick and more importantly why we die if we are going to be able to converse intelligently and realistically with our patients faced things like hernias, appendicitis or cancer. To give into religious explanations (it's God's plan) or to forgo intellectual curiousity over these issues is a diservice to our patients afflicted with these ailments. I have seen papers trying to explain from an evolutionary perspective,the persistance of the appendix or the explanation of the prevalence of autoimmune disease. These articles fail to realize that perhaps these entities persist because at one time in our evolution, it was beneficial for your progeny if not everyone lived forever. Another surgeon wrote about this in a curious book called The Ju-jitsu of the Peahen. It's an interesting perspective of evolution from a physician and should be mandatory reading for all medical students.

Sun, 27 May 2012 02:28:47 UTC | #943749

Go to: Catholic School?

sciencemd68's Avatar Jump to comment 7 by sciencemd68

It is a difficult decision and one that I have had to make for our children: we chose Catholic education for our children for alot of the same reasons you state and I cringe when studying the religious tenents with my kids. But I also point out the mental gymnastics that the textbooks have to use to update the Babylonian fairy tales for todays world.I look at it as a Classics scholar studying ancient Roman religion; as fairy tales go, there are some poignant chapters in religion and as a morality play, it's at least entertaining to read, so long as you approach it in the same way you approach Homer or Beowulf.

The only way to counter an arguement is to be familiar with the opposing viewpoint. If they have a skeptical mind it will allow them to know their opponents arguements and hone their own. There are many non-Catholics in these schools, so it is not like they will be the only ones. There are definite drawbacks, don't get me wrong, and you have to do a fair amount of damage control at home, but on the whole the science and math curricula are good and on balance, it is a cost effective education. The path to the end of belief leads through the seminary, as someone smarter than I once said.

Tue, 08 May 2012 16:28:55 UTC | #940558

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