21 November 2009


So. From the time when we are old enough to take in information (which is pretty much immediately after birth) we are told what to think. We are told what to believe. We are told what the world IS. We are told not to question, not to buck authority, not to be different.

My problem: All advancement and achievement has been accomplished by those who said "I will be different, and who cares? I will think. I see these things that are true, and must tell the world, even if they do not believe me!"

We are raising a stagnant world. We are teaching the future that growth is bad, that ambition, that dreaming, is pointless. Why?

Rise up out of your stagnant grocery store-driven life, out of your world of crackberry and i-rule world, look around, and realize that we have forgotten how to live. Reclaim your individuality. Say " I am who I am happy being, and I don't Care what people say!" Use the internet as the tool it is supposed to be, and not as a replacement social life. Go. Talk to people face to face. Engage them, discuss everything, start an argument! Do SOMETHING. BE DIFFERENT. Be unafraid of things that will not cause you harm.

Question Everything. Master your fear and be a rational individual. I dare you.

13 August 2009

Inherently Flawed?

So I was having a conversation recently about humans, and was told that we humans are inherently flawed, the misfits of nature, the one of the things that does not belong. This is an exceedingly common belief. The Christians believe in original sin, the Buddhists that we are working off past indiscretions, the list goes on, but you get the idea.

I disagree. There are no words for how strongly I disagree. If we were inherently flawed, we would be extinct. We are exactly what we needed to be for our environment, we have adapted readily, and evolved some pretty damn cool traits. So, okay, we can't go toe to toe unarmed against a bear. Neither can a fish. Does that make the fish flawed? We do have a tendency to radically alter our environment. So does a beaver. That we are currently taking it to an extreme only makes us as short sighted as most other mammals, possibly a bit on the stupid side, but hardly inherently or irredeemably flawed. We do kill our own kind, particularly over resources- we are hardly alone amongst other animals in that respect. So why are we flawed? Is it a result of some misguided notion that evolution produces perfection? It doesn't - it produces viability. Is it a belief that a mythological higher being (pick one) created us, and meant us to be flawed? Is it that we no longer fit in the delicate balance of the worlds eco-systems? I think I'll address that one.

We haven't existed in total harmony with our surrounding eco-system for at least 10,000 years. If you want to get back to nature, you've got a long trip. We have however in most cases managed to pace ourselves so the rest of the world can keep up. We can't go back to the beginning - the idea is ridiculous. Our species sacrificed speed for bipedalism and opposable thumbs, claws and fangs and fast maturation gave way to our great big marvelous brains, and instead of growing fur, we make clothing to suit the weather. Each of these steps was a remarkable adaptation that we should be celebrating, not cursing.

I am made exactly the way I should be made. I can easily adapt to live in any climactic zone on the planet. I can choose to understand something instead of fearing it. I can make a place to live, or tools to help me live, or beautiful works of art that enrich life. I can make music, and dance to it. I can communicate my ideas to others and be part of a community that helps and supports its members. Like any other mammal, I can be happy, sad, angry, afraid, lustful or tired. I can learn and I can teach. I can even leave this planet briefly and go out into space for a visit, or go to the moon. Soon I may be able to go to Mars. I can understand why I get sick, and do things to prevent illness or cure it. I (not personally, but we) can split the atom, and use it to heat my house in the winter. We have the means to live cleanly, and healthily and far longer than we ever have before. We are able to understand the damage we have done, and begin to fix it. We are able to see that sometimes there is no instant gratification, and learn patience. We are able to see the world from another's point of view, and learn compassion. We are able to remember pain, and heal it. We are able to remember love, and share it.

Inherently flawed my ass; we humans are so incredibly cool, it blows me away. Anyone who thinks there is something fundamentally Wrong with us isn't just seeing the glass half empty, they're looking at a full glass and seeing nothing. Why is it so hard to accept that we are cool? I think the notion of being flawed is like any lie - repeat it enough times and you begin to believe it.

It doesn't matter if you believe in god(s)/goddess(es), spirits, heroes, villains, cheese or flying spaghetti monsters, next time someone tells you that humans need fixing, tell them we aren't broken. Tell them we are awesome.

12 April 2009

Evolution 101, part I

It has come to my attention that there is a need for an online resource which explains evolution and natural selection in plain and accessible language. So I have decided to try my hand at compiling such a resource. Lets start from the beginning, shall we?

1. 'Life' from 'non-life'
This is one of the most misunderstood concepts in evolution. In 1953, Dr.s Urey & Miller showed how amino acids could have been formed on this planet by natural forces about 3.8 billion years ago. These Amino acids would have been the first organic compounds. Amino acids are what DNA is made of, and are essential to life. It has been shown that they have been produced by the naturally occurring conditions of planet formation, and there is some evidence to suggest that this one type of process has occurred on countless other worlds as well.

2. Evolution is not random.
Mutation is random. Mutation is simply tiny random changes that happen to DNA due to time, solar radiation, or chemical interaction. If these changes are passed on to a new generation, they may cause something that provides an advantage, in which case they are likely to get passed on again and become more common over time. If they cause a disadvantage, they are less likely to get passed on. That is what natural selection is. It is not random because mutations which give an advantage are more likely to help a person breed and raise healthy offspring, and mutations which are harmful are less likely to be continued because a person who has one is less likely to survive long enough to pass on their genes.

The definition of a beneficial mutation may change with environment. For example: A random mutation which causes a person to be taller and thinner than the average. In a hot climate, this would be an advantage because it would help them shed heat more effectively. It would likely get passed on. In a cold climate it would be a disadvantage for the very same reason. Therefore it would be less likely to be passed on there.

More to follow, hopefully with diagrams...

19 March 2009

01 March 2009


This is what our society favours. The emphasis is on toys and gadgets, impersonal communication, and limited interpersonal relationships.

We are increasingly communicating with others through text messaging, internet chat and MM games. Few of us see more than a handful of people outside of work, and some don't even see more than that through work. Even talking on the phone has become less encouraged as texting rates are usually cheaper than airtime, and blackberries become more common.

We spend an inordinate amount of time devoted to making money, but rarely form close friendships with those we work with, and don't have enough time leftover to form other friendships. What free time most people have is usually spent at home, with the same people. We need more community than that.

We are encouraged to pair bond, and told that we are only supposed to love that one person and our family. What happened to loving friends, and seeing them frequently to enjoy their company? Everyone is too busy being isolated by the work and social expectations of our society.

This is not healthy for anyone.

So put down your blackberry, save your WOW session, pick up your phone and call a friend you haven't seen in a while, and get together for an evening. Invite them over, or out for coffee, or a beer. Heck, invite a bunch of people. You will feel better for socializing face to face. I promise.

20 January 2009

I love natural selection!

This lyrebird mimics camera sounds, car alarms & chainsaws with uncanny accuracy. It's an amazing mating adaptation; truly marvelous!

02 January 2009

The nature of justice

I had an interesting conversation tonight about crime and punishment. There were numerous disagreements, which I always find interesting, and some of these I put forth to you.

Overall, I am in favour of restorative, rather than retributive justice. There was general agreement on this point that it is better to have a criminal/lawbreaker make amends (not just payment) in a manner which either fixes or mitigates the crime. There are certain crimes however, for which amends is either difficult or impossible. Examples which were put forth included murder, rape, and child abuse. The question is this: What is the best reaction on the part of society for these?

Several options were put forth as better than the current lock them up for a variable number of years and then release them.
 1)One suggestion was to lock them up permanently until a way can be found to permanently rehabilitate them. Arguments against this included that it is a fairly slim hope at this point, that it would be cruel to lock them up until death, and that it would be a burden on the rest of society that they should not have to bear.
2) Another, and counter, suggestion was that those who cannot be rehabilitated, or whose crimes go beyond restorative actions should be killed, thus removing them from further damaging the society or being a burden on it. The main argument against this was that it removed all hope from them.
 3) A less lethal option was put forth in that these offenders should be sterilized, to prevent them passing on these behaviours to potential offspring, and in the case of sexual offenders, mandatory castration (chemical). 4) Exile was also discussed as something that has been effective in smaller communities or tribal cultures, but was dismissed as ineffectual due to our present population density and ease of travel -it was deemed to be equivalent to imprisonment.

This is a topic of much controversy, and still requires a close examination of the effectiveness of the legal system to determine guilt or innocence. It was argued that the adversarial system is not effective or accurate enough, and that a better option was needed.

I myself tend to think that our society as a whole needs to start looking at our rules, laws and judicial system more critically. Punishment serves no-one. If questions of judicial precision can be addressed, then in the case of these offenses mentioned above, I think that options 2 or 3 would be viable. This also happened to be the majority consensus of the people involved in the discussion. Naturally, it would be better if rehabilitation methods could be developed, if society could start promoting rather than discouraging a sense of personal responsibility. Then we could begin moving towards a more restorative, and less retributive, justice system.

What do you think? Are there options that we have overlooked? Discuss!