The Science - Science Fiction thread

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  • DarthDimiDarthDimi Behind you!Moderator
    edited March 2013 Posts: 22,020
    Dude, I showed the GE PTS yesterday in my physics class and discussed the 'correctness' of the simultaneous free fall of the plane and Bond. ;-) I love being the James Bond fan and the science professor. ;-)

    (Incidentally, the Q scene with the corroding pen in OP comes next. I show them the effect of strong acids on certain metals.)
  • CommanderRossCommanderRoss The bottom of a pitch lake in Eastern Trinidad, place called La Brea
    edited March 2013 Posts: 7,471
    DarthDimi wrote:
    What... you guys never went to Jedi Academy or what? :(
    Man! I feel sick! X(

    Just joking. ;-)

    So anyway, today was a marvellous day in my career. MARVELLOUS I tell you. Nothing special though. But, I was given two hours to fill in a classroom full of pupils interested in science and I decided to explain - in full detail - the scientific method, its relevance and its criticism. We spent a long time going through arguments against Creationism and arguments against Creationists' arguments against Evolution. :D I felt quite at home amongst these wonderful pupils who were not only very interested and most co-operative, but above everything else, agreeing with the whole package of anti-Creationist banter I kept going. I swear that if a book full of Creationist teachings had been present - quod non - some of my pupils would have spontaneously defecated all over it. :P Anyway, next time someone tries to convince any of them that Evolution is 'just a theory', a corpse will be dragged away five minutes later...
    DarthDimi wrote:
    Dude, I showed the GE PTS yesterday in my physics class and discussed the 'correctness' of the simultaneous free fall of the plane and Bond. ;-) I love being the James Bond fan and the science professor. ;-)

    (Incidentally, the Q scene with the corroding pen in OP comes next. I show them the effect of strong acids on certain metals.)

    Darth, you must be one of the coolest teachers on the planet! You rock!

    Now, for those who are on facebook and like a regular scientific laugh, this is one page to follow:
    http://www.facebook.com/RichardDawkinsFoundation

    Then there's this:
    WoGjBg2.jpg

    And finally, first encounters....
  • DarthDimiDarthDimi Behind you!Moderator
    Posts: 22,020
    @CommanderRoss: thank you! :D

    And rest assured that nice little text makes it all the way to tomorrow's classes. I love it! :P
  • Posts: 498
    DarthDimi wrote:
    Dude, I showed the GE PTS yesterday in my physics class and discussed the 'correctness' of the simultaneous free fall of the plane and Bond. ;-) I love being the James Bond fan and the science professor. ;-)

    (Incidentally, the Q scene with the corroding pen in OP comes next. I show them the effect of strong acids on certain metals.)

    That's Brilliant!
    Are your students by any chance as enthusiastic about Bond as much as you are. If that were ever possible ;)

    considering the topic you brought up about free fall trajectory.I took the trouble of digging this up for you :)

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-leicestershire-18780929



    https://physics.le.ac.uk/journals/index.php/pst/article/view/484/289

    I am sure this will be a great example !

    How old are your students if I may ask ?
  • 4EverBonded4EverBonded the Ballrooms of Mars
    edited March 2013 Posts: 12,446
    DarthDimi wrote:
    What... you guys never went to Jedi Academy or what? :(
    Man! I feel sick! X(

    Just joking. ;-)

    So anyway, today was a marvellous day in my career. MARVELLOUS I tell you. Nothing special though. But, I was given two hours to fill in a classroom full of pupils interested in science and I decided to explain - in full detail - the scientific method, its relevance and its criticism. We spent a long time going through arguments against Creationism and arguments against Creationists' arguments against Evolution. :D I felt quite at home amongst these wonderful pupils who were not only very interested and most co-operative, but above everything else, agreeing with the whole package of anti-Creationist banter I kept going. I swear that if a book full of Creationist teachings had been present - quod non - some of my pupils would have spontaneously defecated all over it. :P Anyway, next time someone tries to convince any of them that Evolution is 'just a theory', a corpse will be dragged away five minutes later...

    Just as a personal note, not all Christians dismiss evolution. I am a Christian (on this thread?! Oh noooooooooooo!) ;) - and I have no problem with evolution at all. Maybe my faith in God, is of a God that can include making our world through that process. It has never bothered me, nor shaken my Christian faith.

    And no, I won't be on here often. I am not here to promote my personal faith. I enjoy reading about some scientific things - that's why I check this thread every once in a while. I am also going to mention again the sleptoid.com website I mentioned; I honestly think many of you would like it. It debunks many things. It's a podcast, but I just read the text. Lots of good stuff here. And here is a bit from the home page: (I don't know how to paste in an url; sorry)

    Skeptoid is a weekly science podcast dedicated to furthering knowledge by blasting away the widespread pseudosciences that infect popular culture, and replacing them with way cooler reality.

    Each weekly episode focuses on a single phenomenon — an urban legend, a paranormal claim, alternative therapy, or something just plain stupid — that you've heard of, and that you probably believe in. Skeptoid attempts to expose the folly of belief in non-evidence based phenomena, and more importantly, explains the factual scientific reality.

    Sounds right up your alley, Darth.
  • DarthDimiDarthDimi Behind you!Moderator
    Posts: 22,020
    @Skyfail, they range between 15 (my youngest) and 18. ;-)

    @4EverBonded, Thanks for the suggestion. ;-)

    Incidentally, can anyone explain what happened in the Pope Francis thread? I feel like I missed some science <-> religion banter.
  • Posts: 498
    DarthDimi wrote:
    @Skyfail, they range between 15 (my youngest) and 18. ;-)

    @4EverBonded, Thanks for the suggestion. ;-)

    Incidentally, can anyone explain what happened in the Pope Francis thread? I feel like I missed some science <-> religion banter.

    Got closed, the discussions had turned to insults .

  • http://nerdapproved.com/misc-weirdness/the-millennium-falcon-is-still-awesome-even-if-its-just-12-inch-long/

    this guy must have serious finger skills. Look how beautiful these star wars ships are, awesome.
  • TheWizardOfIceTheWizardOfIce 'One of the Internet's more toxic individuals'
    Posts: 9,117
    Skyfail wrote:
    DarthDimi wrote:
    @Skyfail, they range between 15 (my youngest) and 18. ;-)

    @4EverBonded, Thanks for the suggestion. ;-)

    Incidentally, can anyone explain what happened in the Pope Francis thread? I feel like I missed some science <-> religion banter.

    Got closed, the discussions had turned to insults .

    Got closed because a few people said religion was bullshit and believers wouldnt have it. Apparently we all have to respect everyone's beliefs except if you believe religion is an insidious poison that holds mankind back and then you have to keep it under your hat so you don't hurt anyone's feelings.

    That's freedom of speech apparently. Not inciting violence against anyone or using threatening behaviour just staying something they like is a load of crap. Why don't we have to respect people who like DAD? When we slate that aren't we hurting their feelings?

    But I'm wasting my breath - we all have to bow down and treat religion with reverence whether we like it or not.

    Anyway back to science.

    Re your GE PTS freefall experiments Darth - is it truly impossible?

    I know that as it is presented in the film it is but if the plane is just idling as it goes over but Bond is doing 60-70 mph then wouldn't he have the forward momentum to catch up if he angled his body correctly or would gravity kick in before he could?

    In the initial real stunt as the bike goes over he seems to be catching up but then of course it cuts to effects shots.

    Have you actually done the math(s) on this?
  • 0BradyM0Bondfanatic70BradyM0Bondfanatic7 Quantum Floral Arrangements: "We Have Petals Everywhere"
    Posts: 28,653
    Skyfail wrote:
    DarthDimi wrote:
    @Skyfail, they range between 15 (my youngest) and 18. ;-)

    @4EverBonded, Thanks for the suggestion. ;-)

    Incidentally, can anyone explain what happened in the Pope Francis thread? I feel like I missed some science <-> religion banter.

    Got closed, the discussions had turned to insults .

    As if you all thought a debate of science/fact vs. religion/faith could go anywhere else. I didn't even bother posting, popped some corn, sat back and waited for the locking to come.
  • edited March 2013 Posts: 246
    I know that as it is presented in the film it is [possible] but if the plane is just idling as it goes over but Bond is doing 60-70 mph then wouldn't he have the forward momentum to catch up if he angled his body correctly or would gravity kick in before he could?

    I'm not a real scientist but I think...

    Once the plane leaves the ground and goes into a dive it's falling under gravity (there being no tyres on the ground or wings providing lift). And once Bond and his bike leave the ground he's in exactly the same situation as the plane and falls under gravity. So, ignoring drag for the moment, they fall at exactly the same rate in a downward direction, Bond slightly behind. Bond's forward momentum horizontally would mean he follows an arc off the cliff rather than plummeting straight down but his altitude will decrease just the same as the plane's.
    However, bringing drag into it, if Bond takes a streamlined dive posture he'll have less air resistance than if he keeps his limbs out in the classic free fall position (see Moonraker for an illustration) and he'll descend faster. The plane also has a degree of wind resistance - so if Bond's wind resistance is less than the plane's he would be able to catch it up. Though whether there'd be enough time to enter the cockpit and pull up the aircraft before they both ended up crashing is down to the numbers.

    And that Pope thread got closed because some people are uncomfortable with fully engaged believers and non-believers having a free-form discussion. Seems a couple of members deemed it distasteful to debate with believers about their beliefs even though the believers were happy to do so. There was some heat there, but I didn't read any personal insults.

    Seems critical discussion of religion is taboo for some people - though why that should carry any weight with the mods here I don't know.
  • DarthDimiDarthDimi Behind you!Moderator
    Posts: 22,020
    Anon wrote:
    Seems critical discussion of religion is taboo for some people - though why that should carry any weight with the mods here I don't know.

    Sometimes we need to anticipate on possible full-scale war and as the thread had nothing to do with Bond and the interesting stuff had been posted anyway, leaving room only for less balanced discussion, I can see why it's a good thing to close the door before the wrong folks step in. ;-)
  • 0BradyM0Bondfanatic70BradyM0Bondfanatic7 Quantum Floral Arrangements: "We Have Petals Everywhere"
    Posts: 28,653
    DarthDimi wrote:
    Anon wrote:
    Seems critical discussion of religion is taboo for some people - though why that should carry any weight with the mods here I don't know.

    Sometimes we need to anticipate on possible full-scale war and as the thread had nothing to do with Bond and the interesting stuff had been posted anyway, leaving room only for less balanced discussion, I can see why it's a good thing to close the door before the wrong folks step in. ;-)

    And thank you for that. I have never in my life seen a religious debate end well.
  • Posts: 246
    DarthDimi wrote:
    Sometimes we need to anticipate on possible full-scale war and as the thread had nothing to do with Bond and the interesting stuff had been posted anyway, leaving room only for less balanced discussion, I can see why it's a good thing to close the door before the wrong folks step in. ;-)

    Fair enough.
  • DarthDimiDarthDimi Behind you!Moderator
    edited March 2013 Posts: 22,020
    I have never in my life seen a religious debate end well.

    The opposite, I feel, is impossible anyway. Religious groups usually send their biggest showmen to a debate, fully armed with good-sounding, easily digestible nonsense, perfectly understandable to even the least educated. Science, by contrast, sends in a scientist who will work from logic and a deeper mathematical understanding of things, using phrases, terms, laws and theories three quarters of the audience fails to grasp. Because many don't speak his language, they cannot be persuaded by him. Since their education failed to provide them with the proper frames of reference, even Newton's laws hold little validity to them if they get in the way of Heaven and Hell. What's more, Bible quoters don't mind throwing in unproven ideas for fact, whereas the scientist is probably brutally honest. Take life after death. The religious showman will proclaim that there is such a thing. It's written in the Bible after all and the Holy scripts shouldn't be questioned for if you do, you end up in quite a terrible life after death. The scientist, when completely honest, must admit that he simply doesn't know. He has neither proof of life after death, nor of it not existing. He will reason there's a very high probability that no life after death exists, that in its essence it seems quite illogical with what we know today, BUT, he can't verify nor falsify the concept of life after death. This kind of thinking appears much weaker in the eye of the audience, who secretly desire eternal happiness in Heaven and will much sooner adopt the notion as true - because the Bible says so and it makes us all feel good.

    Bottom line, a scientist and a religious spokesperson having a debate is doomed to fail for both are aliens to each other.
  • Posts: 246
    DarthDimi wrote:
    Bottom line, a scientist and a religious spokesperson having a debate is doomed to fail for both are aliens to each other.

    Although as an atheist it's always good to point out to a christian that we have a great deal of common ground. Christians are in fact atheists already - as far as the thousands of alternative deities are concerned. We just go one better.
  • TheWizardOfIceTheWizardOfIce 'One of the Internet's more toxic individuals'
    Posts: 9,117
    Because we still live in a world in which scribblings in a medieval book still carry weight
    Anon wrote:
    I know that as it is presented in the film it is [possible] but if the plane is just idling as it goes over but Bond is doing 60-70 mph then wouldn't he have the forward momentum to catch up if he angled his body correctly or would gravity kick in before he could?

    I'm not a real scientist but I think...

    Once the plane leaves the ground and goes into a dive it's falling under gravity (there being no tyres on the ground or wings providing lift). And once Bond and his bike leave the ground he's in exactly the same situation as the plane and falls under gravity. So, ignoring drag for the moment, they fall at exactly the same rate in a downward direction, Bond slightly behind. Bond's forward momentum horizontally would mean he follows an arc off the cliff rather than plummeting straight down but his altitude will decrease just the same as the plane's.
    However, bringing drag into it, if Bond takes a streamlined dive posture he'll have less air resistance than if he keeps his limbs out in the classic free fall position (see Moonraker for an illustration) and he'll descend faster. The plane also has a degree of wind resistance - so if Bond's wind resistance is less than the plane's he would be able to catch it up. Though whether there'd be enough time to enter the cockpit and pull up the aircraft before they both ended up crashing is down to the numbers.

    And that Pope thread got closed because some people are uncomfortable with fully engaged believers and non-believers having a free-form discussion. Seems a couple of members deemed it distasteful to debate with believers about their beliefs even though the believers were happy to do so. There was some heat there, but I didn't read any personal insults.

    Seems critical discussion of religion is taboo for some people - though why that should carry any weight with the mods here I don't know.

    There is actually a real shot in there of BJ Worth chasing a real plane (with an effects shot background of the cliff) and he is catching up. But obviously there's unlikely to be a cliff high enough to give Bond time to catch up.

  • There is actually a real shot in there of BJ Worth chasing a real plane (with an effects shot background of the cliff) and he is catching up. But obviously there's unlikely to be a cliff high enough to give Bond time to catch up.

    But the most important thing is this - if Bond does something impossible in a film that we love then "well, that's just Bond" - but if he does something impossible in a film that we *don't* like then it's an insult to our intelligence and shows how terrible the film is ;-)

  • CommanderRossCommanderRoss The bottom of a pitch lake in Eastern Trinidad, place called La Brea
    Posts: 7,471

    There is actually a real shot in there of BJ Worth chasing a real plane (with an effects shot background of the cliff) and he is catching up. But obviously there's unlikely to be a cliff high enough to give Bond time to catch up.


    But the most important thing is this - if Bond does something impossible in a film that we love then "well, that's just Bond" - but if he does something impossible in a film that we *don't* like then it's an insult to our intelligence and shows how terrible the film is ;-)

    I know of stunts where people jumped from a plane, which would then dive so they could get back in. The problem is, those were piloted planes. An emty plane's trajectory
    depends on it's speed, it's trim settings, etc. the faster it falls, more lift is generated by the wings. Keeping up as a human with limited lift capability (also directly linked to it's falling speed) would be quite hard to do, but I don't think it's impossible. Just extremely hard to pull off.
  • DarthDimiDarthDimi Behind you!Moderator
    Posts: 22,020
    I know of stunts where people jumped from a plane, which would then dive so they could get back in. The problem is, those were piloted planes. An emty plane's trajectory
    depends on it's speed, it's trim settings, etc. the faster it falls, more lift is generated by the wings. Keeping up as a human with limited lift capability (also directly linked to it's falling speed) would be quite hard to do, but I don't think it's impossible. Just extremely hard to pull off.

    Well, I will admit that some of what we see in the Bonds isn't completely impossible, merely highly improbable. MR and even - grab hold of something! - DAD aren't necessarily fiction in terms of the science they apply but we are asked to accept some nasty tricks - from a contemporary scientific / technical POV - where a great deal of luck is involved. ;-) To be fair, most issues I have there involve logistics. Setting up a space station: fine. But under private funding from one man only and without anyone else finding out about it: mèh ;-).
  • CommanderRossCommanderRoss The bottom of a pitch lake in Eastern Trinidad, place called La Brea
    Posts: 7,471
    DarthDimi wrote:
    I know of stunts where people jumped from a plane, which would then dive so they could get back in. The problem is, those were piloted planes. An emty plane's trajectory
    depends on it's speed, it's trim settings, etc. the faster it falls, more lift is generated by the wings. Keeping up as a human with limited lift capability (also directly linked to it's falling speed) would be quite hard to do, but I don't think it's impossible. Just extremely hard to pull off.

    Well, I will admit that some of what we see in the Bonds isn't completely impossible, merely highly improbable. MR and even - grab hold of something! - DAD aren't necessarily fiction in terms of the science they apply but we are asked to accept some nasty tricks - from a contemporary scientific / technical POV - where a great deal of luck is involved. ;-) To be fair, most issues I have there involve logistics. Setting up a space station: fine. But under private funding from one man only and without anyone else finding out about it: mèh ;-).
    In comparison GE's stunt is far more likely. The moonraker is stolen from the top of it's carrier 747 which is impossible, as they never carry fuel when transported. It would be completely daft and very dangerous to do so.

    Then there's the spacebattle (noise in space?), the ease with which all those shuttles are launched, and of course far worse: the indestructabillity of Jaws. So on the imrpbabillity/ unbelievabillity scale MR is far more off then GE.

    here you go:
  • edited March 2013 Posts: 1,143
    Skyfail wrote:
    DarthDimi wrote:
    @Skyfail, they range between 15 (my youngest) and 18. ;-)

    @4EverBonded, Thanks for the suggestion. ;-)

    Incidentally, can anyone explain what happened in the Pope Francis thread? I feel like I missed some science <-> religion banter.

    Got closed, the discussions had turned to insults .

    Got closed because a few people said religion was bullshit and believers wouldnt have it. Apparently we all have to respect everyone's beliefs except if you believe religion is an insidious poison that holds mankind back and then you have to keep it under your hat so you don't hurt anyone's feelings.

    That's freedom of speech apparently. Not inciting violence against anyone or using threatening behaviour just staying something they like is a load of crap. Why don't we have to respect people who like DAD? When we slate that aren't we hurting their feelings?

    But I'm wasting my breath - we all have to bow down and treat religion with reverence whether we like it or not.

    Nothing wrong with being passionate about your own point of view but I think the issue was when it descended to personal insults, calling people of faith simple minded. I can see how people with faith might get defensive with that.

    Nothing wrong with bashing religion as ballsh** if its your point of view. That's not an attack on an individual and a personal belief but a religion as a whole.

    As for the pope, I'm not interested in what the Catholic Church has to say, as far as I can tell they're all Doom and ...Groom! ;)

    As for being at odds, DAD and science, there's surely a few issues there!!
  • 0BradyM0Bondfanatic70BradyM0Bondfanatic7 Quantum Floral Arrangements: "We Have Petals Everywhere"
    Posts: 28,653
    Quite funny. Ray's novels will now be on the kind of technology he predicted in Fahrenheit 451. :)
  • DarthDimiDarthDimi Behind you!Moderator
    Posts: 22,020
    SHOULD SCIENCE BE CAGED?
    By DarthDimi

    - A man has got to know his limitations. -

    In the first decades of the 20th century, scientists explored the atomic nucleus, only to discover a great power residing within. Said power was, in frightening proportions, harvested in the 1940s as the first atomic bombs shook the world. Despite some generally more favourable applications of nuclear physics (like nuclear energy as a 'clean' alternative to fossil fuel burning), the threat of a nuclear holocaust would hold the world frozen in terror for many decades to come. In fact, the threat seems real still to this day. Educated people have screamed at the top of their lungs that science ought never to have pursued a detailed understanding of the atomic nucleus. It would have saved many lives in the past and it will perhaps save many more in the times to come. But how do you convince a scientist to cease the pursuit of knowledge, when such is in fact his raison d'être, like a primordial force that drives him every single day?

    Never mind how. Rather, ask yourself whether it's fair to hunt down scientists and hold them responsible for the way others abuse their discoveries. After all, the very scientists who had been engaged in building the nuclear bomb had, by means of writing spirited letters to the powerful men of politics, tried to terminate the finalisation of the bomb project. They had swiftly realised that what had begun as a series of honest experiments in the laboratories of the Curies and Rutherford, aimed at deepening our understanding of the building blocks of the universe, had begun to reveal a much more sinister 'dark side'.

    But such is the way of mankind, is it not, that it always seeks to improve its philosophical grip on the cosmos, only to segue into less flattering displays of that which typifies us as a species: the need for power and thus, inevitably it seems, for destruction. Fire brought us warmth; it also allowed us to burn down our enemies' houses and cities. Chemistry brought us medicinal aids and strong construction materials; it also brought us gun powder and drugs. Genetics brought us more resistant crops; it might one day also bring about the ability to completely distort natural selection and brew 'designer' children according to parents' possibly eccentric desires. Perhaps all this can best be phrased with a Frankensteinian metaphor: it is the way of men to create monsters, and it is the way of monsters to destroy their makers.

    So maybe scientists, mostly educated people as they are, should succumb to a certain 'Frankenstein complex' and cease any further scientific advances. We are in a way terrible students after all. Each new discovery will, it seems, continue to find a way to bring death and destruction, no matter how innocent said discovery appears to be. Even the second greatest discovery of all, the wheel, (second only to the mastery of fire) has already resulted in massive suffering (e.g. deadly car accidents) and we are slowly beginning to feel the devastating effects of global warming (caused by the CO2 output of cars amongst other vehicles that burn fossil fuels) which might in time totally reshape the planet. (Question: would a radical makeover of the planet be a bad thing necessarily?)

    But the problem is that science is addictive, like a drug. Our complex mind remains restless as long as the universe keeps so many secrets hidden from us. The desire to learn more is by itself so overwhelming a power that moral objections or ethics hardly ever stand in the way of scientific advance. To be fair, some scientists, brilliant thought they may be, are also fairly naive. It usually takes a different kind of people to spot the less humane possibilities that arise from a new scientific breakthrough. Science always seems to inspire bad people as well. But that may not be enough to keep a scientist from his 'fix' of scientific knowledge.

    In fact, if the scientific engine were shut down today, supposedly for the betterment of our race and its future, we would effectively write our obituary. Over-population of the Earth, the ever increasing need for even greater supplies of energy, the depletion of natural resources, rising levels of pollution ... they all seem to indicate that the quest for scientific advance was never as fundamental a necessity to the world of man as it is today. Our survival, even within the scope of one or two generations, may depend on the goodwill of our scientists and their achievements.

    It seems we have arrived at a pivotal conflict. On the one hand scientific breakthroughs apparently produce more suffering. On the other hand, they may very well be the key to our survival. So how do we solve this problem?

    Firstly, I don't think scientists should ever be repressed as such. The more we learn about the universe, the more we can work towards a solution to the biggest challenge of all: how can we conquer space? For Earth won't be around forever. In fact, it will have become a hostile environment long before our Sun enters its Red Giant stage. Our future is among the stars, yet we've so far only been able - with painstaking effort I might add - to reach the Moon. Even Mars still seems very far away at this point. Without science, our society reaches a dreadful standstill. It will then inevitably wither and perish. Earth may turn over another leaf but all that we have built up, our knowledge, our history, our art, will be lost - an empty hole in the thread of time.

    Secondly, I think mankind as a whole needs to change its attitude towards itself. Obscure old-fashioned religions need to be abolished, the impossible system of different states and countries has to be thrown out and in fact, democracy itself may need to be critically challenged versus hitherto non-existing but perhaps vastly more workable political systems. Offers will have to be made, but then that's what happens when one tries to clean up the mess that countless generations before us have left behind. In summary, mankind has to be re-educated.

    Thirdly, with science unchained and mankind as a whole re-educated, one basic issue remains to be explored: the rate of scientific advance. While I myself would applaud an almost unlimited freedom for science, I am also of the belief that some restraint is never a bad thing. When things progress too fast, mankind has issues keeping up. It will neglect to carefully consider the consequences of its progressions and move far too enthusiastically into dangerous excesses. Some form of discipline and self-control will be mandatory, even for scientists.

    Allow me to conclude by saying that science, contrary to some popular and often religiously inspired beliefs, isn't a wild animal that needs to be caged. However, no matter how strongly I have emphasised the need for scientific advances if we wish to see mankind survive the coming aeons of despair, I also believe in caution and some reservation. If any limit should be imposed on scientific advance, it might very well be a speed limit. So let's continue to unravel the mysteries of the cosmos and of life itself, but let's do so in sufficiently small doses, one advance at a time.
  • DarthDimiDarthDimi Behind you!Moderator
    Posts: 22,020
    NATURAL SELECTION AND WE
    By DarthDimi

    One of nature's most prominent features is a delicate mechanism known as natural selection. All life forms are subjected to its reign whereas inanimate matter is totally unaffected by it. Human beings too have evolved into what we are today through the process of natural selection. However, might it be that we have reached a point where selection is gradually losing its grip on us?

    The basic principles of natural selection are simple: the weak, whom are unable to adapt, will eventually fail to reproduce whereas the strong, whom have little trouble adapting, multiply in ever increasing numbers until an entire array of weaknesses has been ruthlessly cancelled from existence. For example, when two tree species battle for fertile ground in a forest against other tree species, the one that is able to capture sunlight in a wavelength region which the other trees neglect, may survive. The other one must perish. Also, animals who easily attract diseases cannot compete with the stronger and far more resistant specimens of their species. Strong specimens in both sexes will seek out each other; neither will mate with a substantially weaker specimen. Eventually, the high vulnerability to some diseases gets selected away so to speak. Every species, it seems, uses natural selection, though unknowingly, as a self-correcting tool.

    Humans were once pretty much like all other animals. Taller humans mated with other taller humans and to far lesser an extent with shorter humans. Being tall used to be a benefit for a long time in our history and pre-history so quite naturally this selective process went on undisturbed. As a result, many of us are now far taller than our primitive forefathers or even than our Medieval ancestors.

    But times have changed and quite radically I might add. We have evolved from products of nature into products of society. One impressive side effect of that is that we have learned to suppress or even deny certain elements inherent to our wildlife existence of aeons ago. Nowadays, we shower, clean and perfume ourselves because we prefer the artificial scent of flowers over our own body odours (the same body odours we used to spread out in order to attract mates). We have learned to put ethics and moral codes in the way of simple survival tactics like killing or chasing away our competition - well, at least some of us have. And rather than spot a possible mate and have intercourse with said mate, willingly or not, we seduce, we talk about sex and, in fact, we have sex even without the direct want for reproduction.

    But further more, we have built moral constructs in which the weak are allowed to continue to spread their genes as well, without mercilessly withdrawing them from evolution. The people we have children with might not be biologically desirable mates but perhaps possess other features that attract us like wealth, a nice personality or a cute face (despite the rest of the body possibly being very weak). Also, some people are forced to mate, against their will, with someone totally undesirable, incapacitating cultures in which such is common habit to evolve up the ladder. In a way, all this allows weaknesses to flourish, to evade the brutal verdict of selection. We are blocking ourselves from physical (and mental) betterment.

    Some people say that it would be better to have a professional institution decide whom can mate with whom and how often. In a word, the stuff that some brave science fiction is made from should, according to certain folks, become reality. We might encourage an increase in intelligence, stimulate a decrease in criminal instinct, propel the creation of superhumans. Of course the mere thought unsettles many of us, for reproduction seems like a natural right and no one can interfere with that. True, however one must be careful when applying 'natural rights' to modern society. For in a way, the one who's about to starve to death has the 'natural right' to raid our fully stuffed fridges if he's able to do that and yet, here's one right we obviously don't allow our fellow man.

    The very concept of selective breading is something that many people find humiliating and, considering what happened in Europe in the 1930s and 1940s, enormously frightening. But thinking about it could result in the realisation that it might not necessarily be such a bad thing after all. We could eliminate certain unpleasant features, like aggression, far more effectively than by means of law and a complex court system based on obedience and punishment. We could decrease the number of people who fall victim to certain common diseases and are, if you don't mind me saying so, an expensive burden to any society. But such 'benefits' would come at a tremendous cost: we'd have to give up a huge chunk of what we nowadays perceive to be our humanity.

    Not only does it leave a sour taste in our mouth only to think about a world in which others decide upon our mating habits, it also begs the question if it's really necessary. Have we indeed terminated natural selection among humans or have we merely slowed it down? Are we not strong enough to cope with a balanced world, where the strong take care of the weak and everyone has more or less equal chances for a decent life? Truthfully, I think we may yet surprise ourselves. Let's compare our society to a PC for a moment. Sometimes it's good enough to install a few patches and perhaps a new service pack, but the OS doesn't necessarily have to go at once. Formatting society overnight and installing a brand new OS with a completely different interface and new rules, may interrupt our natural progression too. For perhaps society has become our new nature and perhaps our constant re-evaluations of society are the new form of evolving. Perhaps our greatest triumph in time will prove to be the fact that we no longer need natural selection. Perhaps it's not a bad thing that we slowed it down for who knows, it might actually bring us to a finalisation that other species on this planet, out of their lack of intellect, fail to reach. Perhaps we can work towards a world in which even the term 'weak' is no longer applied in the same sense and we can finally accept that no two human beings are alike, but we all have our function in this world.

    Unfortunately, it seems we're still far away from that. Mutual acceptance will remain impossible as long as certain political and religious figures keep preaching intolerance, as longs as individualism keeps dominating our lives and as long as our laws are based on repression and punishment. But, by the same token, maybe the ever increasing complexity of the world of men is simply part of our evolution, partially natural, partially social, and maybe this is just an inevitable process towards the fulfilment of mankind's ultimate destiny as supreme beings of intellect instead of simple subjects of nature and its merciless laws.
  • CommanderRossCommanderRoss The bottom of a pitch lake in Eastern Trinidad, place called La Brea
    Posts: 7,471
    I hven't got the time to read your second post, nor give an elaborate reaction right now, I hope I will later on. However, the atomic bombs may have killed many, they also prevented the killing of many more. The more educated people are, the lesser the chance they will abuse the powers science have provided. Don't forget that those atomic bombs prevented the Soviets and the West to start an all-out war on eachother. Yes, as a scientist, you should always be aware of the dangers of the knowledge. But imo, the best way to prevent these things from happening, is educate people so they understand the risks and results of such actions.
  • DarthDimiDarthDimi Behind you!Moderator
    Posts: 22,020
    You make a few very good points, @CommanderRoss. I too strongly believe in the value of education. (Obviously ;-) - I wouldn't be good at my job if I didn't.)
  • CommanderRossCommanderRoss The bottom of a pitch lake in Eastern Trinidad, place called La Brea
    Posts: 7,471
    Indeed Darth, indeed!
    In your second post, you completely underestimate natural selection imo. We might pretend we've taken matters in our own hands, but I beg to differ. First, sexual selection works a lot faster then the 'survival' selection. We still start families with the partners we find attractive. To stick to an exmple given by Ian Fleming, the Doctor Hummingbird from Jamaica:
    drbiird.jpg

    This fantastic looking creature has bright colours and a lengthy tail that serves only one purpose: to be attractive to its opposite sex. For survival this long tail and these bright colours are utterly useless, or even counterproductive.

    For humans this still counts as well. And, as a single male, I'd say it works very well for me too. I find intelligence attractive, and if I'd finally decide I want a mate to settle down with, that would be one very important aspect, next to beauty and personality. Those last to in reverse order. Two weeks ago I slept with a stunningly beautiful swedish girl. She isn't the brightest, but, well, if beauty is all that ever mattered I'd have married her on the spot. Thankfully I can sleep with such a girl without creating offspring. I save that for a girl I actually fall in love with.

    Of course lesser intelligent people are more prone to accidental parenthood with often not the brightest results, but again, nature will help. For the deathrate of lower educated people is a lot higher then that of educated people. Even our 'safe' world knows many dangers, and amongst thrillseekers the lesser intelligent are far more accident prone.

    I don't think humans understand natural selection in such a way that meddling with it, or taking over, is a good idea. Thanks to randomness even two stupid people can produce an intelligent child. Even though we've had hundreds of years of experimenting with breeding other species, the one thing we've come to know is that you can pudh for results a long way, but you can never guarantee them.

    Again, I'd opt for the educational approach. Nature always finds a way. Some idiots, sorry, misguided people think there's an almighty god. There isn't. There's only almighty randomness.
  • DarthDimiDarthDimi Behind you!Moderator
    edited May 2013 Posts: 22,020
    I am so scared now... :-S

    From http://www.landoverbaptist.org/news1100/science.html

    Science Doesn't Make Any Sense!

    Creation Research Center

    "We don't know how He does it," said Landover Junior High School teacher, Mrs Doris Whitaker, "but Jesus changes the colors of the leaves on the trees during the Fall (a season named after the fall of man from Eden, which had no autumn colors). No science book will tell you that. But it is clear that Jesus is behind the pretty colored leaves that drop off the trees as piles of trash on your lawn! Why else are only the Christmas trees left green? So they can be decorated on His birthday, that's why! Praise!" Mrs. Whitaker expressed a long-held Baptist belief that science cannot explain natural phenomenon. "For years, Congress has been able to force scientists to label their disgusting work as fiction," said Pastor Deacon Fred. "But we don't think that's good enough. It's not called "Science Fiction" for nothing folks. So-called science is just a big pile of secular lies made up solely to take the credit away from God. There is no other way of putting it! They need to stop calling it Biology, Chemistry, Astronomy, and Physics. Do they think that the people of God are going to stand by like idiots and let them rot this country's education system with a mythology spawned by hoofed demons in the fiery caves of Hell?" One does not have to have a degree in Theology to see the Devil's hot red hands in this plot. It was only a matter of time before scientists would start trying to pawn off their silly stories as "truth." Christians know that scientists have never cared, nor will they ever care, one iota about "the Truth." Because truth can't be found in the light of a Bunson Burner. It can only be seen in the Light of God's Word. And that is only found in the Bible. The Bible will tell you that God did not make man from so-called carbon; He made him with dirt.

    Today's scientists have taken a turn for the worse. Their mysterious campaign of deception was no doubt designed by several demons of the highest order, armed with Al Gore's calculator and more than likely orchestrated by the hoofed satyr, Lucifer, himself. Science is a "fuzzy math" and a blood-bought Baptist must have a spirit of discernment to see through secular science's toxic cloud of confusion. They mislead the public by creating different names for themselves. They say, "I'm a psychologist," or "I'm a therapist or microbiologist." Poppy-cock! That's what it is. They are nothing more than Satanists with spectacles and pockets full of pencils and rulers. In fact, the word "scientist" is actually Latin for "Satanist." Do they take Christians for fools?

    Jesus told us that we need to become like children if we want to get into Heaven. You see, Jesus doesn't want us to get puffed up with so-called education and knowledge, which is why He has anointed George W. Bush. Scientists would have you believe that salvation can be found in the accumulation of knowledge. They say that "knowledge" will set you free. This is hogwash according to our Lord and Savior. Through Jesus, we know that all knowledge outside of the Holy Bible is a lie. A child could tell you that! During this time of Thanksgiving, science has yet to provide an explanation as to why there are still so many turkeys available after they were all killed last year. We will tell you why: Jesus blesses us with those turkeys, end of story. We don't need to read a book to find out where they come from! They come from Jesus! And if those skinny, knock-kneed Africans had the presence of mind to come up with a holiday that centered around eating, instead of collecting shrunken heads, Jesus would give them food so they wouldn't starve, too. Ask and you shall receive!

    We can't understand how people fall for science. Do you know where scientists say that "ice" comes from? They say that when water gets cold, it huddles together for warmth. They say this "molecular body heat" stops the water from shaking so it becomes still. Can you believe how stupid secular scientists are? God's Word offers another explanation – the true explanation. "Jesus wants us all to be Christlike - - and what better way than to be able to walk on water? Praise His name!"

    How long will Christians be subjected to ridiculous notions about where rain comes from, what causes hurricanes (Would you believe that scientists blame them on a man called Nino living in Peru? It's outrageous! But they really believe it!), why there are floods and droughts, what causes sinkholes, where oil comes from (scientists will tell you oil and coal come from fern trees – try getting either substance from trees!), how food suddenly appears each day in the aisles of grocery stores, how gasoline makes cars "go," how houses get warm during the winter, how light comes out of little glass bulbs (or even how those glass bulbs are made!)."

    As Christians, we don't have silly stories or some bizarre mythology to explain the Truth. We know that Jesus is up in heaven, living on a cloud, sitting on a golden throne. If He rustles His silver robes, the Sahara gets a sand storm. If He flicks a drop of perspiration off His furrowed brow, those little folks in Tokyo find themselves under 10 feet of water. Secular scientists go crazy about a few little factories belching smoke, saying it causes acid rain and holes in the erogenous zone. But I have news for you, if the Lord just lets out just one tiny pooty-poot, it is like 4,000 Mount St. Helen's blowing a dark hole straight through the sky.






    This is... Oh dear.

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