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Comment by Dr. Terence Meaden on December 30, 2008 at 2:22pm
Memo for Richard and readers: I am just adding here some words that disappeared from my last sentence, below.

"As for your second comment which deals with the evolution of venom, I have to say please find the video film that describes this exciting research and post it if you can." Terry.
Comment by Dr. Terence Meaden on December 30, 2008 at 2:15pm
Dear Richard, It is good of you to put so much thought into providing good logical commentaries.
Regarding your first comment, I have yet to view and listen to the video to which you refer but I'll do that another day when I have the time. I was just politely thanking you for posting it to this major thread.
As for your second comment which deals with the evolution of venom, I have to say if you can. Terry.
Comment by Richard Healy on December 30, 2008 at 1:32pm
My further thought.

I was watching a documentary the other day called 'evolve' (I might try and see if I can upload that) and this episode was about venom. Venom is found in insects, reptiles, fish, amphibians, molluscs even some mammals. It is a brilliant piece of evolutionary engineering that turns the very small into genuine predatory competitors. The programmes traced investigations of several species including snake venom (which showed that monitor lizards including the komodo dragon are also venomous although they lack the specialised delivery system that evolved in snakes of hypodermic fangs.) The programme also showed the evolution of venom resistance between American squirrels and their natural predator the rattle snake. The probability is the rattle snake will become more toxic, as the adult squirrels immunity represents a clear evolutionary selection pressure. While the snake currently hunt the immature pups who have no immunity, this will change if a snake evolves a better poison and when it does, watch it spread.

So anyway - Venom works so effectively it was pointed out because it is the mutated forms of basic proteins that regulate fundamental processes in organs and in the body such as blood. This is why snake bites are so effective they attack at a molecular level the construction of the body, and the assault on internal systems is so efficient and concerted it can be fatal.

The interesting thing is what happened next.

Researchers have been looking at reverse engineering venom as cures for diseases and afflictions. All pharmaceutical drugs do the same thing, use molecules of particular three-dimensional shapes to lock onto this cell membranes or trigger that enzyme or immune response. They are chemicals that trigger a specific reaction within the body. Something which venom has been engineered by evolution and natural selection to already do, so serious research goes into looking for the medicinal uses of various types of venom.

I thought this was brilliant - and for this reason: How wonderful is it for human brains, themselves the product of evolution, to take something like venom, also the product of evolution, and to then not only understand how venom works, but then to imagine alternative uses for it that are of direct benefit to us.

That really is the genius of the human brain to adapt to its environment but also to adapt the environment around it. No snake will ever understand why it's venom works, and no snake would ever think of another use for it.

I finished that documentary thinking: isn't evolution wonderful that it could actually come up with us, who are able to do this.'

Our brains truly our a matter of some wonder.
Comment by Richard Healy on December 30, 2008 at 1:14pm
I find many of the theistic views expressed in this video difficult to comprehend actually.

The level of misinformed ignorance actually annoys me.

The concern about faith threatened by questions about 'where our ability to reason came from' strike me as fundamentally misguided. Just look at the discussions currently circulating about creationism and neuroscience and you can see the scientific consensus on our subjective experiences is rooted in the functioning of our brains. Our brains are the product of our evolution and they are primarily what distinguishes us from our common relatives in terms of their size and scope for behaviours, including reasoning, theories of mind, projection* etc.

All of these things are rooted in a scientific study of our past and it does trouble me when I see people trying to reconcile this with a faith-inspired notion of adam and eve and the best 'hedge-betting' objection to this was: 'perhaps god's spirit, that provides our god-given sense of right and wrong, was breathed into one out of a group that god selected to be special, and this is who adam and eve were.' when the appropriate response, to me at least would seem to be:

Our notion of right and wrong are social constructions which change, demonstrably over time and are reinforced collectively. Our mental lives including rational, and artistic behaviour are functions of our brains; which we experience as subjects of a conscious life. Humans are certainly unique is many ways but in the vast biosphere as it exists on Earth and cosmologically seen gazing at the stars, the idea that we are 'special' in these which I think it is intended' is laughable. We, as much as any other life forms, are the product of our own evolutionary past. In that sense unique - but not special. There is a proposed 'bottle-necking' of human evolution when the global population was seriously threatened which is why all humans are so similar. The notion of an adam and an eve is just not congruent with the facts and the out-of-africa hypothesis and migration from that continent of our species to the rest of the globe.

In short, we should not try to reconcile biblical accounts with scientific findings, they are irreconcilable. Rather our scientific findings are what we know of our own ancestry and the bible teaches us nothing about that. Adam and Eve, as they conceive of them, probably do not exist which is the best that can be said about them as there is NO EVIDENCE that the account as told, took place and does not agree with the facts that are known.

Worrying about that seem to be to be just wrong head, and is not accepting of evidence but trying to reconcile it with faith does not rely on evidence and so the two come into direct and real conflict.


* a further thought to follow in another post.
Comment by Dr. Terence Meaden on December 30, 2008 at 3:05am
Again, thanks for this.
Comment by Evilgenius20 on December 26, 2008 at 2:15pm
Outstanding video.

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