Thursday, May 22, 2008

Popularity Contrasts

Upon browsing through the Yahoo Top News Stories section, I happened to notice five very interesting articles under the Most Popular heading.

1) Pilots run out of fuel, pray, land near Jesus sign
2) Lost parrot tells veterinarian his address
3) Daughter of Christian music star killed by car
4) Federal court rules against military gays policy
5) Scientists discover "frogamander" fossil

As one glances through these topics, it's hard not to notice the vastly different stories that these articles contain. The first one involves light aircraft pilots who made an emergency landing and upon preying to God, happened to crash land safely next to a sign praising Jesus. Now it's understandable that during the stress of the event, and the likelihood that their perceived survival was slim, such a coincidence would seem like proof positive that the heavens somehow intervened to save these pilots. One question however is why do so many people praying for similar things end up dead, while these two survived? Some may say that perhaps they had a mission in life that wasn't accomplished, or that God operates mysteriously. Well, as is obvious from previous posts, that's a load of nonsense and justifiably used to convince oneself of their indoctrinated beliefs. The survival of these two pilots was a lucky accident, and they should feel like they won a royal flush in poker, but to assume that God made that possible is laughable at best.

The second story relates to a lost African Grey parrot in Japan that happened to know its own name and address, to the minute detail of the apartment number. What amazes me about the story is the temperment of the parrot. Initially, as it was brought in to a police station, it was silent, but after a few days of reduced stress, and a nurturing environment that had comforts such as food and water, the parrot was able to feel comfortable enough to speak. The fact that they display such differing characteristics and temperments between each other highlights their intelligence. One question that often comes up is the evolutionary advantage of such great mimicry. Why are African Grey parrots so much better at mimicking various sounds, as opposed to other parrots? What is special in their environment that allows the such an evolutionary adaptation? Finally, do their thought processes and vocal mimicries result from their gregarious social nature or sexual selection adaptability?

The third article is unfortunately the most tragic of all. Apparently the 5 year old daughter of a Christian music star was killed when she was accidentally run over by a car driven by her teenage brother. Naturally, the death, and subsequent trauma that this poor child must carry will be a burden upon this unfortunate family. Yet, where was their God to save the poor girl? Was he silent? Was he blind? I don't mean to lessen the tragedy or severity of this event, but was this girl's life any less sacred then the lives of the light aircraft pilots?

The fourth story represents a fragment of the constant battle that minority groups have fought throughout our history. As culture and society progress, groups that were previously mistreated have slowly become accepted and eventually ingrained in society. At one point in time, Native Americans, African-Americans, non land-owners, women, and recently homosexuals have been given negligible, if perhaps limited freedoms in American society. The story mimics the constant battles that each of these groups has had to face for acceptance. At the moment, non-believers such as atheists, agnostics, and others who have replaced irrational faith with evidence based reasoning have become targets for discrimination. Ultimately, as has always been the case, progress will prevail, and after a long drawn out battle of acceptance, groups that are discriminated will eventually become absorbed into the complex social fabric that will become the future. Yet, we are constantly reminded of liberty, equality, and justice for all, while those concepts are applied to a limited number of individuals and seem to always come with a limiting caveat.

Finally, on a more scientific-related article, recent fossil evidence has emerged that links the amphibian family lines of frogs and salamanders together. Evolutionary Biologists have long known that there was a common ancestor, or transitional species that at one point branched to form the respective amphibian families. The evidence is indicated through comparative anatomy, molecular clocks, and other such independent evidence. Finding the missing fossil that links the frog and salamander family together is vitally important in understanding how fossils evolve over time, and more specifically, how the amphibian family branched. It is amazing and literally ground-breaking discoveries like this that leads to our expanded knowledge and understanding of the world around us. No religion, no matter how well intentioned can ever answer questions as properly and beautifully as the scientific method can. The fact that a 290 million year old creature happened to die in favorable circumstances for fossilization, and that nearly a third of a billion years later, a creature with immense reasoning abilities managed to uncover it and trace its origins and subsequent species diversity is humbling and absolutely incredible. Here we are, as a highly intelligent and adaptable primate uncovering fossils of animals that highlights the origins and immense diversity of life on this little blue globe, placing more importance and emphasis to imaginary entities, instead of the awe inspiring physical world around us.

What links these five stories together, besides their popularity is that they involve our deepest seats of emotion. As one story attempts to solidify our faith, another highlights the tragedy of life, a third uncovers the battle for cultural awareness and progress , and finally two that highlight the wonderment of nature (fossils that unravel so many mysteries and animals that mimic our valuable traits). From highs to lows, from understanding to ignorance, these are the contrasting variables that describe our complex human behavior.


Anonymous said...

i cant believe you would ask where is god when tis little girl died?! no matter what religion you are and if you have no belief you should be more respectful of a life specially of such a young child, its just disrespectful...if it was your daughter and somebody made such a comment what would you think....this is something you should have more consideration!

AgnosticThought said...

Obviously, you didn't read the contents thoroughly. This was not in any way disrespectful to her life, but highlighting the fact that many use God to justify their own survival when they remain silent in these instances. If this supposedly benevolent deity that so many worship was so careless with life, why do they remain faithful to such a sadist? Drawing simple conclusions, either the universe is an apathetic place that has no purpose, or, that there's a deity who could care less about innocent individuals, and either way, not worth even noticing. That said, an apathetic universe, though full of senseless tragedy, can be made purposeful by our deeds and actions. Let me restate again that this was a horrible tragedy, and I really do feel for the family, yet, one can't ignore the hypocrisy present in dogmatic religious foundations.

The same criticism of disrespect and inconsideration was directed at individuals attempting to make sense of the World Trade Center catastrophe of 9-11. Those who blamed it on our dependence on oil were branded inconsiderate at best, and traitors at worst. Yet, years after the tragedy, looking back on it, as we try to make sense, it does become clear that our dependence on oil played a very large part. Similarly, in years to come, when we look back on the wasted time and money spent on religion, we'll come to realize that better things could be accomplished when we put belief aside, and embrace reason. Perhaps safer car sensors, or emergency measures to prevent such tragedies that befell this poor girl. If people decided to use the money they waste in their places of worship towards increasing safety, technology, and medical breakthroughs, less individuals would die of cancer, heart disease, alzheimer's, parkinson's, accidents, famine, etc.