Wednesday, February 13, 2008

On the Celebration of Darwin's Birthday

This year marks the 199th birthday of Charles Darwin, and the 149th since his seminal paper "On the Origin of Species" was published. Every year, on the anniversary of his birth, those of us who revel in the wonder that is science, especially in biology and evolutionary theory, celebrate this amazing man's birth. It must be understood that we're not deifying him, or placing him on some unreachable platform. We realize that he was a human being, just like every human being, with faults, and fears. His thoughts, of course, are archaic to us now, because even the most progressive individual of Darwin's time is considered racist in our current society. We can't fault a man for being wrong in certain ethical and moral ramifications when the social currents of his time were quite different then our own. Yet, he furthered our understanding of how nature created the vast diversity in species that we see in our world. Before Darwin, it was simple for many people to assume that species were created by a creator in their final form, yet, with Darwin's help, we now know that we don't have to inject a creator into explaining species diversity and forms. In fact, there is no such thing as a final form, or a static species, since we're constantly evolving anyway.

Not only was Darwin's discovery brilliant, but was further solidified with the isolation of the molecule in charge of genetic inheritance -- DNA. With DNA, we now had the proverbial smoking gun that allowed for random mutations and genetic changes within or genetic code. We could now follow and track the changes in the genes that resulted in such species diversity. By using molecular clocks, small fragments of certain genetic information that mutate at a known rate, we could date the approximate times that species diverged from each other. Coupled with the amazing new fossil discovery, an increase in understanding comparative anatomy, geological breakthroughs, radio-chemical tools, and other such data, we can correlate these scientific principles into a cohesive whole. Out of all this evidence, Darwin's idea has become irrefutable. When we say that Evolution is a theory, it must be understood that in science, a theory is a postulate that is backed up by evidence. In the case of Evolution through natural selection, we have a mountain of evidence to support it. Further, understanding evolution and natural selection has allowed us to probe deeper into unrelated fields like artificial intelligence and economic cycles. We now have a better understanding of a diversity of subjects because we can grasp the principles of natural selection.

In essence then, we can't fault a man for being far from perfect, because like all of us, Darwin had behaviors, characteristics, and personality traits that were less than ideal. However, we are not judging Darwin on his moral or ethical behavior, but on his scientific theory. He deserves the highly praised merit he constantly receives because his enlightening theory allowed the true study of biology to flourish. Before understanding such a deep and far reaching natural process, biologists were relegated to categorizing organisms based on appearance, whether anatomical or behavioral. As we slowly begin to fill the gaps in our understading of certain evolutionary traits, transitional fossils, and anatomical developments, we inch closer and closer to fully realizing our origins and place in the grand scheme of life on Earth. All does not begin and end with evolution however, because there are countless areas in the sciences that need to be further realized. For one, evolution does not explain how life started in the first place. There are many good theories, but no discrete evidence just yet. These, and other such unknowns are why science will always strive to fill gaps in our knowledge. We are a curious species, and the more of the natural world that we can uncover, the greater not only our understanding, but our ability to treat and cure the ills of society. These scientific principles are not just a selfish attempt at attaining knowledge but also a tool towards furthering out understanding and treatments of diseases, even helping to establish a more balanced environment such as reduction carbon emissions through modifying bacteria to fixate carbon and methane at a faster rate into harmless byproducts (perhaps even carbon containing waste that can be used to burn cleaner fuels).

Friday, February 08, 2008

Presidential Elections = Childish Game

As you may have all heard, there are Presidential elections coming up in November, and the field of candidates is continuously narrowing. We now have a clear front runner and probable Republican nominee in McCain, and as for the Democratic Race, it's a tight one between Obama and Clinton. What an interesting and politically charted development, but unfortunately, it's all a strategic game of bullshit. Thanks to Bush's idiotic presidency, we are now headed into a dark chapter of American history, and the next President will be unable to do anything to prevent it.

Looking at the current field of presidential candidates, a few things have become clear. The future is based not on who is the next President, but who will be held blame for the impending chaos. With Mitt Romney having dropped out of the race for the Republican Presidential Nominee, the lead is clearly and decisively in John McCain's hands. The reality is that he's just fodder tossed by Republicans because they're as certain they'll lose the presidency as the Democrats are on winning it. With 8 years of complete incompetence by Bush, the US is now a pariah in the world, and hemorrhaging money to wars that were completely mishandled, and in fact, should not even have been implemented. There's a looming recession in the horizon, and the housing bubble has finally started to collapse. What all this means is that regardless of who wins the elections as President, the country is going to be in terrible shape. All the blow-back from the Bush presidency does not stop with a new President in office. It will take years, if not decades, to undo what's been done by this current regime. The Republicans know that whoever is elected, whether it be Obama or Clinton, have little chance for surviving 8 years. Their presidency is doomed from the start because of the impending recession. Further, should the blow-back from Bush result in another terror event, we've already shown that most Americans are going to cower under the threat of terrorism and will need some kind of authoritarian figure "a protector to watch over us", while further stripping us of our inherent freedoms and rights. Clearly, this is when Romney will come in like a cowboy, just as Reagan did after Carter, and seem like the savior of the world.

So what have we learned from all this? That the next President, most likely Obama or Clinton will be "Cartered" out of office. What this means is that just as Carter was blamed for the Oil and Hostage crises in the late 70's that set the stage for Ronald Reagan to come in and save us from mismanagement, the next President (whether it's Clinton or Obama) will be blamed for Bush's misdeeds (just as Carter was blamed for Nixon's, Ford's, and even LBJ's transgressions), and Romney will come in and act as the savior. He has four more years to continue to vote as conservatively as possibly to convince the right wing that he's truly a hard core republican. That's also four more years to find a way to pander and whore his way to the Evangelical movement.

As far as my bias goes, I'm not affiliated with either party because they both pander to the special interests and there is no way that they'll tax the rich. Ultimately, the only true way to generate more income is start pouring more money into research and development (For future technologies and sciences), and tax the rich to generate revenue to pull us out of this Iraq deficit. Even the Democrats, considering that they're the lesser of the two evils will not be willing to do what needs to be done to further our future as a nation. They've all failed us badly, and perhaps, my brother's support for Ron Paul's correct, we should just shoot the system in the face, let anarchy reign and decide on how we should proceed. Either that or actually hold the government accountable for their promises, and keep them on a very tight leash. It's your call America, what do you want to do? Let rich assholes convince you through fear and cowardice that we need a fatherly figure in office to protect us against some unknown enemy while stripping us of our inherent right to freedom, or to actually educate ourselves, and vote out every lying idiot who places their own self interest ahead of the country.