Monday, 18 August 2014


I've had a long convo with -a person who wants to remain anonymous-, a former Young Earth Creationist (YEC) about evolution (and religion, and abiogenesis, and morality...). This convo is ongoing with the exact same result; -S- returning to her default position of denial (of evolution) and affirmation (of creation). The latest development is that -S- is now a believer of Intelligent Design (ID); her beliefs have evolved (changed over time). She's not a Christian any more.

I'm not sure if she's gone from YEC to Old Earth Creationism.

It seems nearly impossible to convince -S- that evolution is possible, probable and, in fact, a scientific fact.

Still, one can only try :-) and try, and try, and try again.

The thing is that -S- needs to look at evolution from a different angle because she has been bombarded with creationist' propaganda that she chooses to believe over the biologists' evidence.

How can you convince someone who believes the earth is 10.000 years old, or less?

All these points have been explained... to no avail. Whatever scientists measure, check and double check, it fails to make an impact. All these independent fields of science give ages older than 10.000 years.

Dendrochronology has more than one uninterrupted chronologies over 10.000 years old. It also has a method of cross dating which yields results up to 50.000 years old, the maximum limit of carbon dating.

Maybe she doesn't know about weathering of stones (similar to erosion) or about Igneous rocks.

The point being that multiple scientific disciplines, each boasting countless observations and experiments, all point to an old earth. Sediments, for instance, accumulate slowly as is observed and tested. Granite weathers slowly... as is observed and tested. Plates move slowly... as is observed and tested. Etcetera.

Take the Siberian traps, formed by flow basalt and massive. Creationists claim there were huge volcanoes during the flood... those would have resulted in other basalts because under water the lava cools rapidly. As is confirmed by 'observational' science.

But, lets return to the subject of evolution. Biology defines evolution as “change in allele frequency in populations”. As implied in my post about meiosis, this is really a truism. So much so, that creationists have started to adopt the phrase 'micro-evolution'... as if there exists a method for stopping 'macro-evolution' from happening.

Some people represent evolution as a causal process (even convinced 'evolutionists' do that); “this happened therefore life adapted”. This is a common misrepresentation. The real story is slightly different; “random genetic mutations happen all the time and some are better adapted to the changing environment”.

Lets examine an example. There is a population of prey and a population of predators. Some animals are faster because of their genetics and some are slower. The predators are capable of capturing the slower animals... The next generation of prey have more of the genes of the faster animals and, over time (over many generations), the whole population will become faster.

The same applies to the predators. They have faster and slower members and the slower members will be left without food and die. Therefore the slower animals will have less offspring and the whole population of predators will become faster.

Natural selection is an arms race between predator and prey... The real world is a tat more complicated as there are multiple prey species and multiple predators in an area.

One of the many strawman logical fallacies of -S-, is that “working guts need to be in place” for the evolution of the eye, wings, hands, etcetera to take place. In other words, guts need to have evolved before eyes, wings, hands, etcetera. The funny thing is that she's right. Biologists who have read -S-'s objections to evolution got seriously worried that the bar-room theory of evolution would collapse. That, or they had already taken that into account. You never know what scientists think of...

Here is a very short story about how the guts might have evolved. I'm not a biologist, so the following should not be taken too seriously.

  1. A single celled world. All you can see, some 600 million years ago, are micro-organisms. Bacteria, virus... whatever else there is (amoebas). Evolution had been going on for 3 billion years already, so competition for food is fierce. One single random genetic mutation results in the collagen molecule causing bacteria to lump together.

    - A double celled organism in a sea of single cells? That's a competitive advantage, as it's harder for a double celled organism to be eaten, or it's easier for a double celled organism to trap food...

    Once collagen binds two cells together, this 'information' gets passed on to the next generation and this allows another generation to form groups or clusters.
    Suddenly, all single celled organisms die out overnight! As the brilliant “Why are there still apes?” question implies. 

    Or maybe not. The single celled organisms in New York are hardly affected by the death of a single celled organism in Sidney. Some cry a little when they read about it in the newspapers ("The Unicellular Times", "Cambrian News").

    Most lifeforms to this date are single celled organisms. No harm done.

  2. The clusters of bound cells without structure, by single random genetic mutations over countless generations, become bigger and bigger as long as there is a selection pressure to increase size (predators and preys become bigger). At some point, a single random mutation makes the cells cluster in an unusual form which happens to get more nutrients to all cells.

    - A structured group of cells in an unstructured world? That's a competitive advantage, as the structured group of cells can grow bigger and get more food more easily.

    Once structure starts evolving, all single celled and unstructured clusters die out magically! That, or they are unaffected and evolve in their own peculiar way, generation after generation.

    Sponges are groups of cells without much structure. Push a sponge through a sieve and it will form another sponge. Sponges continue to evolve. No harm done.

  1. The structured group of cells, an animal feeding off floating particles, other animals or plants, sticks to the seabed thanks to one single random genetic mutation.

    - An animal sticking to the seabed in a world of drifting food? That's a competitive advantage, as the food floats by. Animals sticking to the seabed keep evolving, just like the other organisms around it keep evolving; one generation at a time.

  2. The animals evolve (a branching process) into wildly different shapes over millions of years. One single mutation makes a funnel shape. This might (I dunno) increase the water flow and get more food to the animal. A funnel evolves into a tube, one generation at a time. One single mutation at a time.
    A tube with water entering at one side and exiting at the other side is a rudimentary gut. This is the result of millions of generations of minute genetic accumulation. But evolution never stops.

  1. Maybe the first muscles already evolved before the tube was closed, or maybe they evolved afterwards. At any rate, getting a contraction (with tube or without tube), is a competitive advantage, as water flow increases (and with water, nutrients). Pulsing tubes have more offspring and their pulses become better over thousands of generations. Each tube having multiple offspring and the fittest offspring having more...

And then a mouth evolved and an anus and gills and spines and fins and eyes and teeth and on and on and on and on evolution goes, accumulating tiny changes over generations.

The thing is that according to the theory of evolution, there once lived a common ancestor of all lifeforms with guts, from insects, to vertebrates. So, yes -S-, the gut was in place when eyes started evolving.

What's interesting is that evolution is a branching process where some organisms can maintain a successful shape for a long time. Single celled organisms are still hugely successful. Sponges are still around. Sea squirts are still there... and barnacles also...

Mutation (Genotype) → Characteristics (Phenotype) → Fitness → Meiosis → Repeat

-S-, I hope there's finally a click in your brain.

Ps. Karl Meyer (@karlmeyer), who has beer-reviewed this post, proposes a similar approach to sexual reproduction.
Pps. Edited at the request of -S-

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Faith, no more

One of the recurring arguments theists use is 'We have faith'. This is a strange, seemingly unassailable position. The word 'faith' means 'to believe without evidence'. The point is that 'the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence'.

This may sound convincing, to some, at first glance (and second, and third), but if examined closely, the argument fails utterly.

First of all, if there is no evidence, why should one religion be chosen over any other religion? In other words, maybe a deity exists, but how can anybody claim its name is Yahweh, Jehovah , Allah or Vishnu (let alone, Zeus, Thor or Ra...). To have faith in the deity of someone’s parents, or of their own choosing, seems to be quite arbitrary.

Secondly, and this is the main issue, there is evidence to the contrary. The 'holy' books (Torah, Bible, Koran or Bhagavad Gita) all contain creation stories that are in conflict with current scientific knowledge... Genesis is wrong about space-time. Genesis is wrong with respect to the moon as a source of light. Genesis is wrong on account of the 'firmament' being a solid dome.

It's not faith to believe in something unbelievable when there's evidence to the contrary; it's madness.

Any religious person can hold onto talking snakes (highly improbable as they are); they are 'miraculous'. Miracles, per definition, only happen once and can't be scientifically tested or falsified. But, what faith does it take to believe in 'the corners of the earth'? It's just ludicrous.

Friday, 24 January 2014

Fallacies 'R Us

After debating with religious people on Twitter for a number of months (mostly Christians, some Muslims and a few... stray bullets), I thought to myself that all arguments for gods are based on flawed logic. A short convo confirmed that, indeed, my fellow atheists on Twitter believe the same. This is a short list with the most common logical fallacies I've encountered. This post will be updated to incorporate new fallacies when they present themselves.

The Fallacy Fallacy

Warning: Using flawed logic doesn't mean that your conclusion is necessarily wrong, it just means that you cannot base your conclusion on that logic. Let's think about an example to clarify this. Suppose you are going to visit your family, and they ask you at what time you'll arrive. You take into account the inevitable traffic jam and estimate an hour. Then, you step into your car and lo and behold, there is no traffic jam... but you get a flat tire. You arrive at the estimated time, but not because of the traffic jam you were worried about.

The same applies to the arguments in favor of gods. The fact that all arguments are based on flaws doesn't mean there are no gods... It just means that the religious shouldn't base their faith on those flawed arguments.

Saying that all arguments in favor of gods are flawed and concluding therefore that there are no gods is the fallacy fallacy.

The Proof by Assertion Logical Fallacy

Saying that something is true, doesn't make it true. Repeating a lie doesn't make it true either.
  • God exists
  • There is a heaven / hell
  • As sure as there is a god
  • Allah Akbar
Only affirmations based on evidence should be given any credibility. “Gravity exists” is not an assertion logical fallacy, because we experience it daily. Julius Caesar was an historical figure because there are historical accounts and archaeological evidences that he, indeed, existed.
  • The evidence of god is everywhere. Look around you
This is still an assertion logical fallacy. Whatever we can observe is called “reality”. Supernatural gods, cannot be observed as per definition. Saying that gods obey the laws of nature is admitting that gods are powerless... nonexistent.

The Appeal to Authority Logical Fallacy

It's very easy to confide in the knowledge of others, especially when they are presented as experts.
  • Parents say that god exists
  • Preachers say that god exists
  • Teachers say that god exists
  • Weird people on street corners say that god exists
Parents, preachers, teachers and weird people commit the assertion logical fallacy... and you believe their affirmation, which is the appeal to authority logical fallacy.
  • Einstein, Newton (or others) believed in god
Whatever somebody (Einstein or whomever) believed is irrelevant, as long as they have not provided any evidence for the existence of gods. Basing your believe on the believe of others is not basing your believe on anything solid.

The Bandwagon Logical Fallacy

The fact that loads of people think that something is true, doesn't mean that it's actually true. Not so long ago, everybody thought the sun revolved around the earth. Then Copernicus came and, posthumously, changed all that. Now we know the earth revolves around the sun, and the sun around a massive black hole in the center of the milky way.
  • 2 Billion Christians/Muslims can't be wrong (the numbers change somewhat, sometimes)
  • Islam is the fastest growing religion on earth, therefore it's true

The Anecdotal Logical Fallacy

This is one of my favorites. Somebody tells you a story and you believe the story. For instance, Mary told Joseph that she was inseminated by the Holy Spirit (if you accept the story that they actually existed).
  • The old testament featured talking bushes
  • The apostles wrote eye witness accounts of Jesus
  • The Koran features Muhammad rising to heaven on a winged, flying, horse.
The 'holy' books contain stories. Maybe these are true, maybe not. Most of these stories are impossible to verify, especially when containing supernatural events. That's why I call the bible the tallest tale ever told (paraphrasing George Carlin). 

The Appeal to Emotion Logical Fallacy

Somebody tries to join two unrelated issues with an emotional link. Think about all the people that suffer hunger; eat. The fact that you eat (or not) doesn't affect the person who suffers hunger in any way. If you actually want to help people who suffer hunger, you can give to a charity that feeds them... or that teaches them how to fish.
  • Jesus died for your sins
  • Missionaries put their lives on the line
  • Martyrs died for their faith
  • God loves you (+ Assertion Logical Fallacy)
Appealing to Jesus' death is emotional blackmail. The logical fallacy is to try to do something for Jesus, as he can't be repaid... ever.
(Some) Missionaries are putting their lives at risk, voluntarily. So what? That proves they believe in their deity. It is not evidence for the deity actually existing.
Dead missionaries are martyrs. Same thing. It's no evidence for gods.

Circular Logic Logical Fallacy

In formal logic, basing your premise on your conclusion on your premise on your conclusion.... is a flaw. Stating that something is True, because it's True doesn't make it true. It's an elaborate Assertion Logical Fallacy.
  • The bible is true because it says so in the bible
  • The creator created the creation (look around you)
  • God sacrificed himself, to himself, to save you from himself.

Non-sequitur Logical Fallacy

This means 'it doesn't follow'. If Aristotle is a man, therefore the sky is blue.
  • We don't know therefore gods
Mostly, this fallacy is used with the god of the gaps idea. If there's a gap in the scientific knowledge that's where gods are (Which god?)

Special pleading Logical Fallacy

This fallacy occurs in conjunction with the above, non-sequitur god of the gaps.
  • What caused the first cause? Ah, gods are uncaused.
Also known as the Kalam CosmologicalFallacy.

Black or white Logical Fallacy

Ever heard of Pascal's wager? He said that you're better of believing in 'god' because of the chance of ending in hell was smaller. That might be so if there would only be one god. But there are thousands. According to Christians, non-christians will go to hell. According to muslims, non-muslims will go to hell... So, with only Yahweh and Allah, your chances of going to hell are getting worse... if there are gods, that is.

--- Help me add the logical fallacies I've missed. Thanks for reading.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

The Kalam Cosmological Fallacies

I didn't think I would need to continue writing about atheism, but circumstances force me. Noblesse oblige, and all that shite.

In other words, I ran into somebody who thinks you can prove god logically... in the twenty-first century, using the Kalam Cosmological Argument. Well, let's rip that one apart, shall we?

I'll focus on the formal logic here. Others have more practical objections to Kalam.

The form of the argument is as follows.
Premise A: Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
Premise B: The universe began to exist.
Conclusion C: Therefore, the universe has a cause.

If premises A & B are true, conclusion C must be true. While it can be argued that premise A may not be true, let's just accept this argument. “The universe has a cause”

So far, so good, nobody got hurt in this exercise?

Now, Kalam makes magic happen... [see the update below]

Let's do a “non-sequitur” logical fallacy

“therefore cause of the universe is god”

Whoa! Wait one second! We were not discussing god there, did we? What happened?

Conclusion D: Therefore, the cause of the universe is god.

See, we were happily jogging along with the Kalam Cosmological Argument, and all of a sudden, a new conclusion was introduced, as if that was a logical result of the premises.

Let's rewrite that:
Premise A: Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
Premise B: The universe began to exist.
Conclusion D: The cause of the universe is god.

Formally speaking, the conclusion D doesn't logically follow from premises A and B.

Let's do a “Logical Tautology”

Maybe, we got this wrong, and the conclusion D is correct, so let's fix premise A.

Premise A: Whatever begins to exist is caused by god.
Premise B: The universe began to exist.
Conclusion D: The cause of the universe is god.

Now, we have eliminated that nasty non-sequitur logical fallacy. Maybe people have problems accepting the premise A (without proper indoctrination), but we have to consider another problem. As we're focusing on the formal logic side of Kalam, we see that it takes the following form: “If A therefore A”. This is a logical fallacy.

It's true, of course, but it's true for every value of A. If “god” therefore “god”. If “no god” therefore “no god”.

This fallacy is called a “logical tautology”, “begging the question” or plain and simple “circular reasoning”... Many names for the same error.

Let's do a “Special Pleading” logical fallacy.

But even if we accept the Kalam Cosmological Argument and we do suppose that god is indeed the cause of the universe, we have another problem. Let's apply Kalam to god.

Premise A: Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
Premise B: God began to exist.
Conclusion C: Therefore, God has a cause.

Wait, god did not begin to exist? That's a clever little construct to prevent regression and save god from scrutiny. Why would god not begin to exist? That's a special pleading logical fallacy. You declare god to be outside time and space, he doesn't begin to exist but still exists?

Can we agree on premise B, that god began to exist? Should we say:
Premise X: Whatever exists has a beginning.
Premise Y: God exists.
Conclusion Z: God has a beginning.

Now, we're introducing Premise Y and we're not going to agree on that one, are we... without evidence?

Let's do a “God of the gaps” logical fallacy.

The problem with the beginning of the universe is that it happened billions of years ago, and physics... breaks down before the beginning of time-space. In other words, physicists do not know what happened.
“We don't know therefore god” is placing a deity in the gaps.

Let's jump to conclusions.

Not a logical fallacy, but just a little finishing note. Even if god (a deity) does exist, or did exist, or did cause the universe to begin... what does that mean? Does that mean that he still exists, that he still causes the universe to exist?

There is no evidence in physics, to assume that there is a god (so why assume there was a god?) who acts on the physical world.

The problem is that, even if we say that god diddit, does that mean that *your* god diddit? Ra, Vishnu, Thor, Zeus... Yahweh? That's a huge leap, going from 'a deity' to 'your god of choice'.

I've received some critique that I need to include the “magic” part of the argument as well. The author of the original piece tells me I'm committing a strawman logical fallacy, and who would want to continue committing logical fallacies?

The reason I didn't include the “magic” babble in my original piece is simple: I was analyzing the formal logic of the argument as presented. Premise A, Premise B, Conclusion C.

Formal logic is a tool for understanding one another better. The text should reinforce the premises and conclusion. Period. The babble part of the “logical” argument, as presented, doesn't reinforce the formal argument, but takes the conclusion one (or more) steps further.

At any rate, Alex (@SelfExamineLife) was so kind as to transform the informal “magic” babble into a formal logical form.

To take the argument seriously, you need to include all the premises, like so:

P1: Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
P2: The universe began to exist.
C1: The universe had a cause.

C1: The universe had a cause.
P3: There are two known kinds of causes: material and mind.
P4: A material cause would entail an infinite regress (an actual infinity in time).
P5: Actual infinities in time can't exist because we never would have reached the present.
C2: The cause of the universe was a mind.

Laid out like this, the premises are easier to deal with and challenge. There is plenty of room for error here, but I don't see a non-sequitur being one of them.

I must accept Alex' verdict that this is not a non-sequitur logical fallacy... 

Short look at the new premises.
P3 seems suspect to me, as the (human) mind doesn't seem to affect the real world. 
P4 seems to be a "proof by assertion" logical fallacy. 
P5 seems to be a bit silly, but I'm not a philosopher.

My biggest gripe is with P3.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

The burden of proof – There are zero gods

I was discussing the “burden of proof” the other day. I lost the discussion, but I learned some things.

The burden of proof is a philosophical concept where, whoever asserts something (anything), has to support the claim with evidence. For instance, if you say you own a race-horse, somebody would want to see you with the horse.

Atheists, all over the world, are cautious when discussing the existence of gods. Usually, we say that we reject the claim of gods until there is evidence in favor of gods. That is, the theists will claim there is a god, and the burden of proof lies on the theist.

Atheists, normally, do not say 'there are zero gods', because, then, the burden of proof lies on the atheist to prove there are none, which seems impossible.

As I don't mind making a fool out of myself, I will claim that there are no gods. This means the burden of proof is on me.

What is a god?

My claim relies on the basic concept of gods; they are supreme beings and have supernatural powers. The supernatural is defined as being 'beyond scientific understanding or the laws of nature'. Meaning there either is a 'god of the gaps' or the laws of nature do not apply to gods.

The idea of a 'god of the gaps' is not compatible with supreme beings. The gaps in scientific knowledge are getting smaller. Besides, I don't accept that 'not understanding' something means it's 'supernatural'. If it can be repeated and investigated, it will be understood sooner or later... and it will turn out to be natural. “I don't understand therefore supernatural” is a non-sequitur logical fallacy.

The idea of a being that defies the laws of nature is more in line with my idea of what a god should be. In other words; a god, if he exists, should be capable of affecting the natural world in such a way that the laws of nature do not apply while the god doesn't want them to. Levitation, the suspension of gravity, would be a good example of that... only scientists have already developed a method of levitation using lasers.

The only way for a god to demonstrate his existence is by deliberately altering the laws of nature... in a controlled manner. Something that has never been scientifically documented.

The supernatural is “beyond the laws of nature”. That could also mean that gods simply are beyond our scope of observation. Science only observes the natural world. The supernatural world cannot be observed... by definition. What I mean is that, the supernatural, if it exists, will never be observed, as it's beyond any possible future method of observation. The goal-post will move ever away from us. We can observe the atoms on a pinhead, but gods will always elude us.

And that's it. Either gods exist, but can't or won't show themselves. Or gods simply don't exist.

Some people will argue that the possibility of gods still exists, and they are right, but nobody doubts that Harry Potter is fantasy... There is the possibility that Harry Potter is real. You can't rule that out applying the same logic.

Other fantasies that need debunking as rigorously as Harry Potter are the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot or Ice Giants (this list is near endless, just like the list of gods).

Another view on the god doesn't exist argument, by a philosopher, so expect long words :-) No, no worries, this is really readable.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Falsely accused by AtheismPlus

For those of you that don't know me, I'm a vocal atheist on Twitter. Important for this post is that I'm a feminist; I believe in equal rights and obligations for males and females of both sexes.

After writing this, and what follows after the 'End Update', I've learned some more about AtheismPlus. Without getting into details, I want to send a message to them. This is my message to AtheismPlus.

I am sympathetic with your cause. It's a noble cause and any reasonable person would embrace it. However, I feel you should reconsider your strategy. If you want to add (+) something to atheism you should listen to... atheists that want to add (+) something to your movement. The ball in your park.

Your strategic mistake has been, in my opinion, being overly aggressive. You have alienated possible allies by telling them they are rape apologists, or stupid, or … whatever. I'm sure all these people have tried to communicate with you, but it's very hard to do that when you're insulted.

You have misused the expression 'rape apologist' and you've stripped it of all meaning! Words have meaning, and rape apologist is explained in the rationalwiki. Saying that somebody who questions you is a rape apologist is a big mistake because you are trivializing the word. It also causes an immediate communication breakdown.

Insulting people is an indication of lack of arguments.

If you alienate reasonable people, you will be left with unreasonable people. Is that your goal?

I beg you to reconsider. A rape apologist is a bastard, and the people that have tried to communicate with you are not. Disagreement is not evil but enriching... if you give it a try.

Somebody who denies a rape can be a bastard, or can be a reasonable person. How can you tell, if you call him a rape apologist and label him a bastard from the start?

I have spend a great amount of time trying to communicate with you (well, actually, I tried to prevent communicating with you because you were overly aggressive towards my twitter pals), and you have called me 'stupid', 'rape apologist', 'despicable', 'transphobe', 'piece of shit'... and I call myself lucky.

You claim that somebody that denies rape is a rape apologist... that's not in the wiki and it's not how the expression is used in the world. Then you explain that this actually 'depends' on how you interpret the words of the denial... Reflect on that for a moment!

The whole world uses the expression rape apologist as it's described in the wiki. Only a small group of specialized persons interprets the denial of rape as you do. The inclusion is not automatic, but 'depends' on the judgment of over-sensitive persons. A recipe for disaster.

You alienate even more people by being rigid on border cases. I'm talking about statutory rape. A boy can, legally, make love to his underage girlfriend on the eve of his 18th birthday, but on the following morning, if the couple decide to start the day with a quicky, he's, legally speaking, raping her. That is daft! At which point, every reasonable person on earth, becomes a rape apologist!!!

You have successfully stripped the expression, an insult for the vilest bastards, of its meaning. Congratulations on trivializing 'rape' and 'rape apology'.

I insist you should reconsider your strategy. Use the correct words, ask before you insult and don't be a rigid cunt about statutory rape, for fucks sake.

End Update 

On Twitter, I've come across a lot of people that I genuinely admire for several reasons. Either because they are more intelligent than I, or wiser, or more humane, or better writers / tweeters.

I became aware of the existence of A+ a couple of weeks or months ago, always hearing negative things about them, but ignoring it. I did notice, however, that people I relate to (the people I follow) were put on “The Block Bot” blacklist.

Then, last week, one of the people that I admire, Len, was put on “The Block Bot” and I perceived that he was distressed by that fact. So, I asked to be put on the list voluntarily, as I wanted to have nothing to do with these people. They explained that was not how things worked. In the end, I was told that I would not be put on the list because I wanted to be put on the list :-0 Yeah, they will not put me on their list out of spite.

The next day, I saw another distressed tweet by Len... they had called him a “rape apologist” one of the worst things you can say to a decent human being. I admire Len because he's one of the gentlest persons on Twitter!

Looking at Len's tweet, and the context, I didn't see anything wrong with it and I said so.

@ool0n who is the author of the block bot... and who had added Len to the list the previous day, had written a reply to one of Len's tweets. “ 'Hysteria' is from people being blocked and calling it Stalinism, McCarthyism, Fascist, Nazism etc, not A+”

Len's reply is: “.@ool0n Hysteria is from people who cry rape without reporting it to the proper authorities”

My tweet is: “Nothing wrong with that tweet. If you're raped, report, otherwise... the rapist can act again and again.”

So, I tried to convince the A+ crowd of Len's innocence. Me, and any number of other people. After a sleepless night, discussing the issue with @MAMelby, who, I thought I had convinced at 4:15 am... The following day I tried to persuade @ool0n to drop the accusation... and was called “rape apologist” myself (not by him).

And another round of tweets followed with @MAMelby and some others who gave their own opinion calling me “rape apologist” and even “transophobe”. I finally got one tweet that caught my eye from @MAMelby: “... It's a rape apology cliché for goodness sake: Hysteric women crying rape!”

That's the key! Rape apology is not:
  1. Blaming women of their own rape.
  2. Saying she liked it.

  1. Denying the rape happened!
Wow! These people, these word vigilantes, interpret Len's words as meaning a denial of the actual rape!

Finally, after two or three awful days and nights, that's what they're after! They could have asked Len if that was what he meant. “Len, do you mean she wasn't actually raped?” But instead, they accused him viciously comparing him with people that blame women of their own rapes or that say they like to be raped.

Talking of improper use of the language! How difficult can communication be when you don't even try?

Apparently, there is a 'rape culture' in the US where 'rape apologists' say that the victims are liars. But, both Len and I are dutch and we don't have rape apologists in our country (that I'm aware of).

AtheismPlus, has been object of a number of posts by people I follow. I list the women that I'm aware of, that have supported Len against the accusation of being a rape apologist. I follow all of these women and they are great vocal Twitter voices.

Lil Miss Thundercunt About the word “cunt” - @AtheistMummy
Melisa About Len and the block bot - @AtheistMel
DamnedAndromeda About AtheismPlus and Rebecca Watson - @DamnedAndromeda

Other women that are supporting Len are @Jen_August and @WeaziePlz.

All these women are fabulous to follow!

You can add more support for Len in the comments below. Let's hope the stupid word vigilantes of AtheismPlus finally notice their own stupidity... but I don't have high hopes.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

We are all equals (I'm not)!

Hopefully, you'll stick with me to the end of this blog-post to discover the meaning of the title. :-) I promise to keep it short.

This post is about “genetic variations over generations”.

I did some research and I found there's a ton of material available. My efforts to understand reproduction, are very partial and it would be arrogant for me to call myself 'an expert'. I'm not. I hardly understand it, but it's incredibly interesting all the same!

For instance... meiosis. This is the first step in the reproductive process. The chromosomes in the individual come together, the chromosomes interchange DNA and then separate to form ova (if the individual is female) or sperms (in males). This is the reason why the traits of the grandparents are visible in the grandchildren!

“Genetic variation” occurs during meiosis; the biochemical process is not perfect. Anything can happen; DNA can be duplicated, deleted or changed! This doesn't represent a problem. Some species have 300 thousand ova in the average female and 250 million sperms in the average male. If a copy turns out bad... it is either discarded or it can't compete with the healthy ova and sperms.

DNA is a complex molecule that expresses a genetic computer-like code. Computers use binary code to program 'everything' the computer does! The DNA does the same thing. If you're a computer programmer, I recommend the page maintained by Bert Hubert. Instead of a binary code with only two options, DNA has four options. A computer 'byte' is 8 'bits' long, while a genetic 'codon' is only 3 letters long.

The next step in reproduction is the union of one ovum with one sperm cell to create a new individual. As noted above; one out of 300.000 genetically different ova blends with one out of 250.000.000 genetically different sperms. This individual has a one in 75 trillion to have it's specific unique gene-set.

This will result in the next generation. Two parents have offspring that's genetically different, thanks to meiosis. In a way, it is genetic lovemaking of the grandparents...

Normally, in nature, the next generation contains loads of individuals. Horses only have one foal per year. Dogs may have a litter of 8 pups. A tree can have thousands of seeds. This inevitably means that not all individuals can survive. Exponential growth of one breed is checked by the death of a great number of individuals. All the food we eat, was once a living organism; either plant or beast.

The survivors are the lucky ones, but also the healthy ones and the 'best' ones. When thousands of turtles hatch all at the same time, and hundreds are eaten before reaching the sea... those that make it are the lucky ones. Those that survive and become adults have proven their worth. They can pass their genetic information to the next generation.

Going backwards in time, it seems logical to think that each and every parent generation was the result of their parents reproducing. That is; you have parents, your parents had parents, repeat.

When does it stop?

To me, it seems daft to think that this would ever stop. Parents, had parents, had parents, had parents. Each generation, genetically speaking, slightly different from the previous one.

These slight genetic variations accumulate over time and become big genetic variations, still further in time these variations accumulate and become huge genetic variations. Each adult parent having shown his/her worth in the world they lived in at that time.

We are all equals.
To biologists, evolution started before or during the formation of the very first living cells, 3,9 billion years ago. We are related to each and every living organism on earth through our RNA/DNA. We are equals because we share that extraordinary molecule with all life. We are also equals, because we are alive together with other lifeforms that have 'evolved' the same amount of time as we have.

I'm not!
'My' genetic make-up is similar to all other humans in 99,5% however 'my' DNA is unique. Yours is as well.

Update: Minor corrections thanks @TakeThatDarwin

Evolution as a fact: Genetic variation over generations. (see also berkeley)
Evolution as a theory: Natural selection and Genetic drift. (see also berkeley)

Also check-out this excellent site for more information.

The great ape question:
"If evolution is true, why are there still apes?"

The answer is really simple. We're distant cousins. We share a common ancestor with other great apes.

Let me give you an example. My great uncle went to Australia in the sixties. As far as I know, his family is doing fine. When his children were born, nothing happened to the children of my grandfather (my mother and her siblings). When his grandchildren were born, this didn't affect me in the slightest.

That's what happens during evolution. Families drift apart and become independent species over time. It doesn't have to be an ocean :-) The bonobos and the chimpanzees were separated by the Congo river about two million years ago.

Micro/Macro evolution:
My friend Kaimatai has written about it. He has a PhD in biology. Nuf said.

Change over time:
When I studied evolution as part of the standard Dutch curriculum, the teacher explained it as being 'change over time'. This is unfortunate, as it's difficult to interpret. What change? Which amount of time?

"I haven't grown wings during my lifetime" is a typical strawman logical fallacy that can only be attributed to this phrase.

Charles Darwin, in his book "On the origin of species" doesn't use this phrase. He talks about accumulative variation over generations in a geological time frame. He lived before genetics had been discovered.

Intelligent design:
Somebody told me the 'language' points at Intelligent Design. However, ID requires a goal, while all the non-coding DNA is pointless if there's an intelligent designer. ID doesn't explain the Golden Mole (an animal with eye sockets but non-functional eyes) or the blind spot in vertebrate (human) eyes, or ...

"4 bases pairs. 20 amino acids. It [DNA] was originally thought to be "too dumb" to be molecule of inheritance" Kaimatai