Curious beliefs

Black rhino

Black rhino

I dropped my car off for a service at the dealership today and got a ride back to work in one of their courtesy cars. Sitting upfront, I shared the ride with three ladies at the back who had also brought their cars in.

I listened silently, pondering my day ahead as two of the women got into a conversation. One began regaling the other about her recent holiday at a wildlife reserve, and the conversation somehow shifted to rhinos and the decimation of the species by poachers.

One quoted the death toll to be standing in the region of four hundred and something; I can’t remember the exact figure quoted. That’s more or less correct. The other mentioned that rhino horn tasted like fingernails – she knows because she got to taste it somewhere. That’s also true, more or less.

To my mild amusement the woman in the middle fumed that something’s got to be done about the Asians. Being an Indian I felt somehow complicit, but funnily did not feel insulted. In truth, the demand seems to stem mostly from Vietnam and China.

Then to my astonishment, the woman immediately behind me said that we have to protect the rhinos because God created the animals and humans and we were meant to share the earth equally – the other agreed that God put them here for a specific purpose. It was more than I could do to burst out laughing.

In case you’re wondering, I absolutely abhor the killing of rhinos to satisfy the sick beliefs of ignorant people, Asians or otherwise. But I’m appalled that anyone would think it’s wrong to kill an animal simply because God created them and that they were meant to share the earth with us equally.

I almost asked them if they would desist from squishing a mosquito or fly or cockroach when they become a nuisance, following their reasoning that they were also created by God. I sincerely think they would have no compunction trampling a bug, because it is all too easy to rationalize that bugs are purposeless, or worse, created by the Devil?

Surely we protect and preserve animals because it’s the right thing to do, rather than it being the judgement of some mythical being? This reasoning should apply to all things – we do it because it is good and decent, not because it is commanded.

In the end, I suppose I’m just being anal about the whole thing – these women are doing the right thing even if for the wrong reasons.

Evolution resource

Recently I’ve been engaged in quite a few debates on my blog about Evolution, Creation and the mental gymnasts’ take on creation – Intelligent Design.

I admit I’ve not always been eloquent or clear in my responses. So here’s a brilliant resource I’ve discovered that explains things clearly and simply.


Just a taste:

Scientific understanding requires both facts and theories that can explain those facts in a coherent manner. Evolution, in this context, is both a fact and a theory. It is an incontrovertible fact that organisms have changed, or evolved, during the history of life on Earth. And biologists have identified and investigated mechanisms that can explain the major patterns of change.

And just for laughs, something else I found on a Dutch Facebook page, Freethinker:




Viva la Evolucion

“Che Guevara,” remarked the waiter as I walked into a restaurant yesterday. He was staring at my green t-shirt with the Che-like image and the words “VIVA LA EVOLUCIÓN”, a big smile on his face.

“No. Charles Darwin” I responded in amusement.

Seeing the puzzled look on his face, I wanted to explain further, but decided against it. Observing that the other customers were already happily tucking into their meals, the greater need to satisfy hunger prompted me to request a table in a hurry, instead.

Over lunch I pondered the pervasiveness of Creationism [despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary], and concluded that it was easier and more comforting for most people to think that god-did-it, than to tax their minds with the reality.

Another nail in the Creation coffin

NASA’s major announcement on the 2nd of December basically just confirms what scientists have been saying all along; life adapts to its environment and evolves. Bleh!

The announcement follows findings from a recent study that demonstrates how a bacterium can survive using arsenic instead of phosphorus to develop its cell components. As all creationists supposedly know, arsenic is lethal to humans, but through this scientific study, they now also know that it is not lethal to all forms of life. Off course, we may have to first convince some if not all of them, that microorganisms like bacteria also constitute life.

And what of all that bunkum about the earth being placed the perfect distance from the sun and blessed with the right mix of elements to support life?

It has long been thought that carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, sulfur and phosphorus which is a basic element of DNA and RNA, were an essential mix for sustaining life as we know it. This new discovery proves different, as pointed out by  Ed Weiler, NASA’s associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate in Washington:

The definition of life has just expanded. As we pursue our efforts to seek signs of life in the solar system, we have to think more broadly, more diversely and consider life as we do not know it.

I wonder what Ken Ham and other evolution denialists will conjure up to discredit or rubbish this latest discovery? What new pseudoscientific explanation or crackpot display at the Creation Museum will they dream up to offset this latest nail in their creation coffin? What new feats of mental gymnastics will they demand from their followers?

The rational world waits with bated breath!

Some Random Thoughts on Creation, Death, Re-creation, Heaven and Hell

Creation stories have been around for a long, long time, from ancient civilizations to modern man with his Monotheistic religions. Strange tales of creation abound, such as those from Greece which tells of Gaia (or Eurynome) laying a monster egg from which emerged Uranus, whose “incestuous partnership” with Gaia gave rise to the Titans, one of whom Prometheus finally created humans from clay, after two previous botched attempts by the Titan gods. And the Mesopotamian tale of the battle between Marduk and Tiamat which led to the creation of mankind from the blood of Kingu, Tiamat’s champion in battle. Persia produced its own delightful creation tale which tells of the battle between Ahura Mazda who created the first man, and Ahriman, his (Ahura’s) brother, who introduced evil to the world. These tales have long been classified as Mythology, but  for some reason, the Genesis creation myth and the Hindu “Bramha” creation myth, no less strange than the other ancient myths, are largely believed as the literal truth by the Western and Eastern religions that still teach it.

In an effort to find compelling reasons (apart from faith) why these creation myths have endured, I have rather found more reasons why they should be consigned to the “bizarre , but persistent” section of ancient mythology. Let’s suspend all credulity and for a maddening moment, imagine that these creation tales were true. I will start with the Christian creation myth, being the most incessant ideology. God “creates” you for a purpose, according to his divine plan; no problems there, but I am not so much concerned with the “beginning”, as with the “end,” that is what happens when you cease to exist, or die. Assuming you were a “good” person or a bad-egg who has been forgiven, you go to heaven. Simple, right? Well, more people than not, are bound to wind up in heaven, and only the really, really “bad guys’ (presumably this includes Atheists), go to hell.

Well, since man first appeared on earth (about 6000 years ago, if we are still suspending credulity), if you consider all the people that have expired, this means that heaven is seriously bursting at the seams by now. But wait, we still haven’t factored in all the animals that also go to heaven. I mean seriously;  how could god not allow his very own creation into heaven (bar that evil snake of course who tempted Eve, and who is now roasting very nicely in hell). But why stop there? What about all the dinosaurs (and other assorted weird creatures) that existed prior to man. By now, even the most fundamentalist Christian has got to admit that there is ample evidence for the existence of these creatures, even if it was only 6000 years ago. Surely, god has admitted these creatures into heaven as well? Okay, so heaven is a huge place, and maybe its only dead souls that are there, floating around like soap bubbles. Meanwhile, back on earth people and animals continue to be “created” only to eventually end up in heaven. What’s the point? Is earth the great holding area for man and beast, while god sorts out his space planning in heaven?

So what about the Eastern creation ideologies? Here again you are created for a purpose, but unlike the more fortunate Christians who get to go to heaven (or hell) immediately after death, Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, some Gnostic Christian and Jewish sects, Native Americans and Inuits have to suffer the ignominy of being constantly reborn into different bodies, until they get their act together and prove that they are ready for heaven. Even animals are not spared this fate. And if the Jains are right, a human may be reincarnated as a lesser being (such as a fly or ant) if his transgressions were particularly bad, prior to his death. You’ve got to feel for Satan in this scenario; waiting in vain for evil souls. Here again, what’s the point? An all-knowing god would know that his “creation” would turn out bad, and apart from satisfying some sort of sadsistic desire to inflict pain, there is simply no reason to subject a man or animal to constant suffering. But, I guess even god needs to have some fun, because watching his “creation” incessantly trying to destroy each other really sucks all the enjoyment out of living for so long.

So while credulity is still suspended, I have to reasonably conclude that god favors the reincarnation model because it gives him more time to do space planning, while getting a few laughs watching puny humans, and mindless beasts squirm and suffer,  while still finding the time to have a go at the idle Satan. And yes, you really have to be a dumb-ass loser, to end up in hell, because you get a chance to pull the wool over your creator’s eyes in the Christian model, and you get to be born again and again in the reincarnation model.

But the eternal satirist that now resides in my body, concludes that god creates you to wait around on earth for a bit, die, then float up to heaven to become a sort of floating soap bubble. The alternative conclusion is that god creates you knowing full well that you’re going to screw up, so he waits for you to die, then re-ignites your motor and lets you have another bash, only to watch you blow it again, because it gives him a few giggles, each time you fail. So there you have the meaning of life, in a nutshell.