Voice Of Sanity – May 2012
Second Saturday Brunch, May 12th, 10:00AM to 12:00noon, at Denny’s restaurant, 2521 Wade Hampton Blvd.
Fourth Friday or Fourth Saturday get-together to be announced by email.
The Non-theist group get-togethers are 2:00PM every Sunday afternoon at the Brew and Ewe; 108 West Broad Street; Greenville.
Socrates Club group meets the first and third Wednesdays of the month 7:00PM at Earth Fair; 3 Pelham Road, #3620; Greenville.
The Free-Thought group meets every other Thursday (May 3rd, 17th, and 31st); 7:00PM at Bailey’s; 2409 Laurens Road; Greenville.
The American Humanist Association will have their 71st annual conference June 7th 2012 in New Orleans
Annual Upstate Humanists Picnic will be at Shelter 30 in Cleveland Park (East Washington and Cleveland Park Drive, Greenville), Sunday August 26th from 1:30PM to 4:30PM
Thoughts after reading:
“Making of the Fittest” by Sean B. Carroll (2006;
It would take a major shift in thought for a believer in
intelligent design to even consider the concept of evolution. Ignorance of the
scientific method and its accumulated data keeps him from appreciating how such
a thing could occur. He has to believe that life cannot exist without a creator
to order the universe and dictate its existence. Indeed, the past 150 years’
research has shown evolution to be a sloppy process at best. It doesn’t even
result in the conveniently branching tree of life at the top of which humans
should sit. Recent observations show that even microbes can reproduce in such a
way that very distant genes can be exchanged. This creates a path of very
confusing evolutionary direction, if there is direction at all.
Two things are required if one is to embrace the research
presently being done in evolutionary biology. One is that there is no notion of
progress in evolution and therefore we are definitely not at the top of
any evolutionary tree. The other is a question: Why are there characteristics
in the genetic code of all life forms so contradictory, showing both common
relatedness, and at the same time, evidence of change? Our own genetic makeup
indicates that we are missing an awful lot of handy working genetic material to
do things other species simply take for granted. On the other hand, we have
“immortal genes” binding us to all other forms of life.
The “immortal genes” mentioned in Making of the Fittest
constitute a total of about 500 genes. They have been observed in all forms of
life so far examined. The text of their DNA has not changed significantly over
the past two billion years in spite of the steady pressure of mutation and
environmental change. This does not mean the genes have not mutated at all
because there have been minor shifts in their make up. But, despite the shifts,
they still consistently code to perform the basic processes of the cell. The
processes include decoding DNA and RNA and manufacturing proteins.
Mutation is a random process and it happens because, like
everything else, nothing is perfect. Unfortunately, every living thing has to
make a living on earth using its genetic inheritance. If that inheritance isn’t
good enough to lead to reproduction, it doesn’t survive. For example, if a
climate in a certain area changes from wet to dry, a tiny drought resistant
part of a population of petunias might survive to go on into the future. We
don’t realize that in following generations large parts of that little
population will still die without reproducing because the new mutation won’t be
in every individual. But, the new environment, will select the mutant form in
mathematical rates akin to compounding interest. The new plants will not only
survive, but will expand their territory because of room left by those
individuals no longer able to compete.
The above is only one simple example. Mutations happen
constantly and at random. Only the most useful will be selected by the
environment to have a future at all. The rest will be dispensed with. On the
other hand, the environment changes, too, and only the genes that can negotiate
the change will be successful. Immortal genes have possessed the strongest
basic accommodation to earth’s changing environments during the last two
billion years. Although these genes have been successful, the total variety of
genetic material in present-day species suggests there has been awful lot of
weeding done by past environments. Many scientists think it’s possible that 99
percent of species have lived out allotted times and become extinct over the
long life span of earth.
There is another familiar argument for the supremacy of
intelligent design. That is the notion that complex organs such as the eye
could not occur through the process of evolution. The idea here is that
mutations would be too random to result in complex “designs”. Surprisingly, the
gene that codes for eye formation has been found in both simple and complex
eyes of all animals so far investigated. The gene codes for two types of cells:
photoreceptors (light-detectors) and pigment cells called opsins (these angle
the part of the color spectrum to reach the photoreceptors) All are found in
the simple two-celled eye of the marine ragworm as well as the many celled eye
of the human being. And, it does not matter whether the eyes are the compound
eyes of insects or camera eyes of mammals, the same two cells are used.
Furthermore, our eyes are not so “advanced” as those of some birds that have
opsins able to ultraviolet light as well as red, green and blue.
There will always be doubters of new scientific advancement
and they don’t have to be religious. Thirty years after Oliver Wendell Holmes,
Sr. suggested hand washing as a prevention of infection, women were still dying
of “childbed” fever, because physicians simply did not believe it would be
effective. The Soviet Union suffered disastrous consequences in agriculture
because T.D. Lysenko refused to recognize genetics as a science.
We cannot allow ignorance of evolution to go on. Our
arrogance about our importance in the scheme of things and our stubborn
resistance to face what scientific examination has shown during the past
century, have caused us to bring to the brink of extinction, species which we
might need for food, medicine and shelter in the future.
“THE TEN COMMANDMENTS
OF EVANGELICAL CAPITALISM” RESURRECTED
The Easter Sunday holiday of just three weeks ago reminded
us that, according to Scripture, on the third day Christ resurrected from the
dead and ascended to heaven. Since it has also been about three years since the
publication of my “The Ten Commandments of Evangelical Capitalism: A Challenge
to the Fairness Principle of Secular Humanism” in the December 2008/ January
2009 issue of the Council for Secular Humanism’s Free Inquiry, recent events prompt the resurrection of those
commandments. That piece, my first
attempt at satire [I am by training
and inclination a professional research sociologist (now retired)], was
actually inspired by:
(1) my admiration and appreciation for the work of Paul
Kurtz, who has been referred to as “the father of secular humanism,” who is the
author of “The Affirmations of Humanism: A Statement of Principles” and The Humanist
Manifesto 2000, who founded Prometheus Books publishing company, who served
as founder and Chairman of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, the Council for
Secular Humanism, the Center for Inquiry, and editor-in-chief of Free Inquiry. Dr. Kurtz’s editorial in a 2004 issue of Free Inquiry, “The Principles of Fairness: Progressive Taxation,”
was particularly inspirational for my ten commandments satire; and
(2) the disastrous presidency of George W. Bush. Both sources of inspiration are evident in
the commentary that accompanied the original publication of my Ten
Events of the past three years, especially the antics of the
Republican “party of NO,” committed to the preservation and expansion of the
privileges, wealth and power of the rich (upper 1% or upper 5%) at the expense
of the rest (and just forget about the poor and disadvantaged), the
privatization of everything public (schools, the military, social security,
Medicare, roads, etc.) and to the defeat (at any and all costs) of our nation’s
first president of African-American heritage (racism, anyone?), absolutely
necessitate the resurrection of my Ten Commandments of Evangelical Capitalism. My inspiration is of such magnitude that I
am inspired to dedicate them as well, specifically, to “The Holy Trinity” of the Republican Party:
“God the Father,” a.k.a. Senator Mitch McConnell (R) Kentucky, Senate Minority
John Boner, “God
the Son,” a.k.a. Representative John Boehner (R) Ohio, Speaker of the U.S.
House of Representatives; and
Eric Can’t or Won’t,
“God the Holy Ghost,” a.k.a. Representative Eric Cantor (R) Virginia, House
Here are my resurrected and newly dedicated commandments.
“THE TEN COMMANDMENTS
OF EVANGELICAL CAPITALISM”
I am PROFIT, thy Lord and God.
Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
Thou shalt not make for thyself an idol,
excepting paper and coin currency,
precious metals and stones, and stock options.
Thou shalt not make wrongful use of the name of the
Lord, though the phrase “In Profit we Trust” or similar
sentiment may be printed on thy currency.
Remember the Sabbath, but keepeth
thy retail establishments open.
Honor thy father, Greed, and
thy mother, Selfishness
Thou shalt covet thy neighbor’s spouse, cars, swimming
pools, and other possessions to a degree that is in direct
proportion to how much thou feeleth unfairly deprived.
Thou shalt exploit the environment
and labor in my name’s sake.
Thou shalt protect, preserve, and promote
increasing levels of income inequality.
Thou shalt not redistribute wealth.
Thou shalt ignore the poor
Yours in freethought, perpetual mischief and occasional
Last thoughts from
A Jew, A Catholic, and an atheist are rowing in Lake Erie
when their boat springs a huge leak. The Jew looks skyward, and says “Oh,
Adonai, if you save me, I promise I’ll sail to Israel and spend the rest of my
days trying to reclaim the land you gave us.” The Catholic looks skyward, and
says, “Oh, Jesus, if you save me, I promise I’ll fly to the Vatican and spend
the rest of my days singing your praises.” The atheist says, “Oh, guys, if you
pass me that one life preserver, I promise I’ll swim to Cleveland.” “And how
will you spend the rest of your days?” the Jew and the Catholic ask. “Well,”
says the atheist, “I’m not sure, but I can tell you one thing: I’ll never go
rowing with other atheists.”