Random Myth Debunking

Image result for myth

By Mike Cronin

The latest myths and legends that need to be debunked:

Global warming caused Hurricane Michael. Nope. It was a normal hurricane following a normal path during the annual hurricane season. There was nothing special about it as a hurricane per se.  It was so destructive because of where it hit: Places where there are lots of people and many expensive buildings and assets.  Thankfully, most of the people were evacuated and the death toll has been low.

Taking a knee during the national anthem isn’t disrespectful.  If it wasn’t disrespectful, it would have no value as a symbol of protest! There would be no controversy, it wouldn’t make the news, and no one would be talking about it.

America has one of the highest murder rates.  Simply not true. Our murder rate is in the middle of the pack. http://www.nationmaster.com/country-info/stats/Crime/Violent-crime/Murder-rate-per-million-people.

Violent crime is at an all time high. Again not true. In the age of the 24-hour news cycle, ratings wars, and alternative media, reporting of crime is pervasive, because it gets ratings.

The now solidly conservative Supreme Court (SC) will overturn Roe v Wade and multiple gun laws.  It might, but not on a whim. First, a relevant case would have to be appealed through the lesser courts, then appealed to the SC, then the SC would have to agree to hear the case – then it might overturn a law, or it might not. Much depends on the exacting details of the case and what precisely is being argued.

There are more than two genders. Not quite. Homo sapiens reproduces sexually, thus, as with other mammals, we come in two sexes: male and female. No doubt masculinity and femininity are scales. No doubt there are transgender people and intersex people and people with chromosome disorders. They might feel “non-binary,” or they might be hermaphrodites, or they may feel that they want to be the opposite of what their genitalia indicate. I’m not hating on any of them. But nothing suggests there is anything other than male and female characteristics being desired or undesired, hormone levels to manipulate, and male and female organs available for surgical manipulation. Humans haven’t evolved new sex organs, new methods of reproduction, or new genders, we’ve just reached a level of technological development and affluence where it’s possible to play mix-and-match between the two existing ones.

Directing our own Evolution?

e-dna-repair-cartoon

By Mike Cronin

We have global communications and transportation. In Europe, most of the Americas, and most of Asia at least, we have enough food to eat and wondrous technological gadgetry. Anyone labeled “middle class” today lives a far more luxurious lifestyle than royalty did less than a century ago.

Some of our most basic problems, such as bigotry, racism, and other social ills have been at least partially resolved, for at least part of the world.  Will we ever be able to finish the job?

I submit the answer does not lie within the bounds of governments and politicians,  It lies in diminishing the mismatch between the relatively steady pace of evolution and the accelerating rate of technological advancement. Our species may be on the cusp of such an advancement.

Human beings evolved on the plains of Africa.  We were smaller, slower, weaker, and had less effective sensory apparatus than the alpha predators.  We didn’t even have biological “weaponry” (such as fangs, horns, or claws) to defend ourselves.  How did we achieve mastery over lions, leopards, and hyenas?

11

From “2001: A Space Odyssey:” A human ancestor learns tool usage

We lived brutal, tribal-centric lives as we evolved higher intelligence. Other animals adapt to their surroundings, humans learned to adapt their surroundings to themselves.  We learned to use fire to cook meat.  Cooking made it easier for our bodies to absorb the protein value of the meat, which allowed our brains to add more neurons per volume than our primate cousins – and other mammals with similar-sized, or even larger, brains than our own.

Other animals can use simple stick and stone tools; humans are the only species that tamed fire.  This started humans down the path of technological advancement. Fire. The wheel. Bronze. Iron. Steel. The lens. Science. Industry. Atomic energy. Space flight. Internet. But while our technology advances faster and faster, human evolution follows at a more leisurely pace…for the moment.

For example: We vilify adults who engage in any kind of sexual activity with minors, but the concept of “minor” is a modern legal distinction, not a biological one.  Girls reach physical maturity well before we consider them to be of sufficient emotional maturity to have children – because adults now live long enough to accumulate much more knowledge and wisdom from the ever-increasing store of knowledge and wisdom available that the gulf between a 25, or 35, or 55 year old man and a 13 year old girl renders a sexual relationship between them abhorrent to us.  But before the advent of civilization and the division of labor, humans that made it to 30 were elderly!  Most people died in their 20s or earlier of disease, tooth decay, or child birth.  It was necessary for a girl who was physically old enough to bear children to start doing so – for the sake of the survival of the clan or tribe.  The modern concept of maturity didn’t enter into it.  Our distant human ancestors didn’t have to worry about homework, getting a job, health insurance, paying the rent, career advancement, global warming, elections, or taxes.  They had to worry about finding food for themselves even as they sought to avoid becoming dinner for a big cat.

ALL humans lived like that as recently as 10,000 years ago – a mere eye-blink in evolutionary timescales, and a few, isolated, human cultures still live that way to this day. Culturally, we have had varying degrees of success in putting aside our physical differences in gender or coloration or belief and living together, but there is still friction, conflict, and in parts of the world, warfare over these differences. It takes enlightenment to put aside the tribalism that defined our social development for untold millennia and behave at a higher level than out stone-age ancestors, who’s DNA still forms the cornerstone of our genetic makeup.

Treating people as property, warring against competitor tribes for resources, superstitions about unseen forces that can literally blow apart a mountain, light up the sky, and move the earth, fear of the unknown – they all come from the same place – from our infancy as a sentient, sapient, speciesSome recent breakthroughs in genetic engineering may have put us on the verge of being able to routinely and casually alter our own DNA – in effect, to design our own evolution.  But we aren’t there yet.

Realizing this about ourselves may herald our transition to “toddlerhood” in the climb up the ladder of species maturity.  I gave thanks on Thursday that I don’t have to worry that my lack of fang or claw will doom me to fall prey to an animal that has them; that in fact I may live to see our species make its first self-directed evolutionary steps – if our scientists can overcome our cavemen!

The Philosophy of Invincible Ignorance

ignorance3

By Mike Cronin

I once heard an anecdote about a female engineering student who spoke up in the classroom and opined that 50% of engineers should be women.  The professor requested that the student take a look at the class make up. (It was overwhelmingly male.) The professor then observed that before 50% of engineers could be women, 50% of engineering students would have to be women.

A quick web search indicates science, engineering, technology, and math (STEM) are still largely male-dominated fields of work…and college study, with engineering being extremely so – to the tune of roughly 80% male to 20% female. (There was no accounting for any “alternately gendered” engineers/students.)

I don’t know how to get more females into STEM programs, or even if gender parity in STEM is a must-do, but I do know that destroying scientific rigor is not the answer.

Apparently, that is a misogynist attitude on my part.  According to a study by Laura Parson of the University of North Dakota, STEM course syllabi (and by extension all of STEM) alienate women because of the way they are worded. Her study was undertaken through the lens of “poststructuralist feminist thought.” For those of us uninitiated in the arcana of ivory-tower academician-speak,   “Poststructuralism ‘rejects objectivity and the notions of an absolute truth and single reality.’” Ahh, now that explains a few things.

Under such a system of thought, you can do or say anything you want, because in your subjective reality you’ve decided it’s OK.  That kind of junk philosophy may be the foundation (or the excuse) for the pervasiveness of what the late William F. Buckley, Jr. called “invincible ignorance.”  Imagine a world underpinned by such mental guidance: People could do whatever they felt like and get away with it…as long as they were of the anointed class approved by the elite, who could do or say whatever they felt like in their own little realities.

I mean, under such a regime you could have a central bank pump funny money into the big investment banks and the stock market even as the rest of the government taxes the bejesus out of the people’s real earnings and accumulated wealth, and call it “economic stimulus” or “quantitative easing.” Or you could have members of the elite who think the laws don’t apply to them, or that when they are caught breaking the laws, claim they made a “mistake” and not even get charged with a crime, let alone tried or convicted. Or you could wage endless wars against conditions and actions like obesity, poverty, drugs, and terrorism instead of naming your enemies and destroying them.  Or wealth could be distributed and redistributed, instead of earned and taken. Or the Supreme Court could call the Constitution a “living document” and interpret it to mean anything they liked, vice what it actually says.

I wonder how soon it will be before travelers will have to fly in an airplane designed by an engineer who went to the “Laura Parson School of Subjective Sciences and Mathematics,” who “felt” her math was correct under her own alternative understanding of the laws of physics?