Friday, January 15, 2010

Men evolving

Well, my local paper is at it again, misunderstanding current events, or at least not matching headlines to the text. The headline was "Men evolving faster," or something like that. What the text said was that the information on the Y chromosome has changed much more quickly than that on other chromosomes.
Folks, that isn't evolving. That's change. Evolution has two components: change and survival. Any change is an evolutionary change if it increases the chances of a person's surviving to reproduce. Nor is change directional. That is, if men's Y chromosomes are changing, that doesn't mean they are getting better; it simply means that they are changing. The future will decide whether the change is toward the more efficient man. Or, the changes may be utterly insignificant, since most mutations are. Nor can you say that if man is evolving, woman isn't. All you can say is that the Y chromosome in men appears to be changing. Not nearly as interesting as assuming that men are moving ahead of themselves or of women.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Choosing God

There are plenty of Gods in the world today, so in essence it's a buyer's market. So, if you're in the market for a God (and a religion to go with it), I think there are some questions that you ought to ask yourself before you choose:
1: What will my God require of me? Forget the "Broken heart and contrite spirit" stuff and get to the nitty gritty. What do I have to do for my God? Most religions have at least some, "Thou shalt worship me" component to them. So, the purpose of the religion is to glorify God. This has always struck me as a little funny. I mean, this is God we're talking about, right? The supreme being? Why does this being feel he/she/incarnation/spirit/essence needs to be reassured? Isn't He/She/It secure in His/Her/Its godhood?
How much money am I going to have to give this God, and what will it be used for? How much is my God going to micro-manage my life? Will I be told what to wear? What to eat on certain days? What thoughts to think and when to think them? Whom to hate and whom to love?
2: What do I get out of this (I mean besides salvation, or lots of virgins, or nothingness)? For instance, in many Christian religions, the reward for a good life is to hang around heaven all day singing God's praises. That doesn't strike me as being much fun. I want to be able to date all the neat chicks and I'd like a Rolls and a Rolex.
I think that some tangible evidence of God's intentions and sincerity would also be helpful.
All I'm saying is, think before you commit yourself.

Culture and cultures

When my Mother and Dad lived in Afghanistan in the late 60's, Mom spent much of her time in the bazaars searching out hand-made, one-of-a-kind items crafted from wood, brass, stone, and wool. She treasured them for the hours of labor that went into them, and I still have much of what she got. At the end of her tenure there, her house staff bought her a present (These were people with almost no money). It was a pitcher, shaped in the form of a chicken, and made of translucent, pebble-grained, clear --- plastic. It was the ugliest thing I've ever seen
My Mother thanked them graciously, and then asked, "Why did you buy me this particular piece?" "Oh Memsahib," one of them answered, "There were three of them in the bazaar, and they were all exactly alike. And, if you dent it, you can push it back out. It is easy to clean and will last a long time."
What was undesirable to us was wonderful to them. The idea that you could produce a thousand items, all alike, was mind-boggling to them. We in the west desire the unique, the irregular, the one-off, but that's because we have the luxury of things that work the same way every time, of taps that turn on and and off, of reliable hot water, of flushing toilets, of synthetic motor oil and automatic furnaces and dishwashers and vacuum cleaners and toilet paper and....
If you don't have any of those things, they are wonders to you. I visit a mountain-man encampment every year and watch all the people playing at living in 1840, when a mountain man would have killed for a down-filled sleeping bag and a 30-30.
We want traditional people to stay traditional, for the Navajo to herd sheep and weave rugs and look colorful as they stand alongside the highways. By and large, they want hi-def TV and a brand new pickup. To heck with the charm, let them get warm in the winter.