"To be human: To be the place where the falling angel meets the rising ape."Hogfather (1997) by Terry Pratchett
BBC reported yet another incidence of science marching on yesterday as the majority of humanity still cling on to the literal interpretation of a bunch of doggerels started by a tribe of superstitious shepherds in the fucking Bronze Age, and was added to by four followers (who, by the way, can't seem to get their stories straight) of a Jewish Magic Man in Pontius Pilate's Judea who was his own father, born of a virgin, went dead for a weekend and is devoured every Sunday ever since by his believers in the form of little holy crackers. I usually say all of this in a ridiculous sing-song falsetto.
No, I don't think I'm being too offensive or disrespectful here. After all, I'm talking about a belief system which clearly insists people like me should be tortured in hellfire for all eternity. Feel the Christian love, yo.
No time to argue about the contradictions in said books. This will save everyone a lot of time.
Anyway, the short of the newsflash is this; a team from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany - over a 4-year period - discovered that up to 4% of our genome were contributed by the Neanderthals. For the chronically unschooled, the Neanderthals were a separate species of hominids from ours (or a subspecies, depending on who you ask) and we started to part ways with them on the evolutionary tree about 600,000 to 350,000 years ago but according to Christian and Jewish Young Earth creationists, our planet is at most 10,000 years old only. I'm not saying that all Christians and Jews are as batshit as these kooks, but those that are make a sizable team indeed.
Now, our ancestral story started in Africa when a small number of anatomically modern Homo sapiens (us!) migrated out of Africa and went on to populate the rest of the world, replacing other more "archaic" species of humankind like the H. erectus and H. neanderthalensis - there's debate on how this happened exactly. Did our great, great, great... great, great grandparents simply out-hunted and out-bred the competition? Were they assimilated into our family through some hot interspecies homo-on-homo action? Or did we simply eat them with some fava beans and a nice Chianti? *hissss*
Prof. Svante Paabo et al. now have definite proof that, yes, most of us have some amount of H. neanderthalensis within us. Search your feelings, Luke, you know it to be true.
Let's take a gander at the lineage tree, shall we?
I find it interesting that the Han Chinese people (yours truly included) descended from the original progeny of H. sapiens and H. neanderthalensis cross-sub-species love and can't wait to see if the Neanderthal Genome Project will uncover any Neanderthal-specific traits that my genealogical tree inherited from those unions. I'd like to look at some of the published papers that inspired this BBC news piece, but I haven't had much luck with Google Scholar so far.
Today, scientists are battling conservative Christians in the United States who seek to sideline (and eventually eliminate) the Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection from their high school biology curriculum by replacing it with some scriptural-derived bullshit called Creationism - a hypothesis that essentially says "Godidit". Here in Malaysia, Muslim conservatives ensured that even the merest idea of evolution is suppressed from our high school biology textbooks and my very first exposure to the most important theory in biology occurred late in college. This is ludicrous because nothing in biology makes sense outside the light of evolution.
Even in college, I've met extensively brainwashed godbots that still reject evolution in spite of all the evidences presented to them. There was an intelligent Christian girl I knew in my A-levels biology class who remained adamant that evolution is bunk. I asked her, "If you don't think it's true, why study it?"
Her reply went something like this; "To get a degree, to be successful in life and to glorify God."
The same girl has parents who forbid her from reading the Harry Potter series because they think it's the work of Satan. Funnily enough, she disobeyed them behind their backs.
Likewise, a great number of my Muslim and Christian colleagues in med school stubbornly dismiss evolution while being bombarded daily with proofs that evolution had occurred in the human body - proofs like the inside-out configuration of the human eye necessitating a blind spot; the tendency for humans to suffer from lower back pain due to our upright bipedal posture; the difficulty women experience while trying to give birth through a very narrow birth canal (another downside to being bipeds); the pain and trouble we often experience at the eruption of our wisdom teeth because our jaws have shrunk; our primate inability to synthesise vitamin C unlike other mammals; the neotenous capacity to digest milk which some of us retained into adulthood (while others are lactose intolerant); the long long list of vestigial organs we still possess like the third eyelid, the vermiform appendix, the tailbone, Darwin's tubercle, the small external ear muscles, the terminal nerve or cranial nerve zero, Jacobson's organ, the plantaris muscle, the male nipple... and I can go on for a long time on all the etceteras I remember from the top of my head but I advise you, intrepid reader, to go look them up for yourself. After 4 years in med school, I realise that if God really designed us... let's just say that he shouldn't have taken that day off after all.
And the way most bacteria and viruses develop resistance to antibiotics and antivirals? That's one of the biggest challenges the medical fraternity faces today, and it has basis in the Theory of Fucking Evolution by Natural Fucking Selection. The way these people ignore the obvious makes me want to scream through a megaphone at the top floor of a skyscraper while dressed entirely in traffic orange. Or something.
Christians have a long history of fighting science and progress because some of the things scientists uncover went contrary to Biblical "facts". Remember when Christians placed Galileo under house arrest for heresy because he supported Copernicus' theory that the earth revolves around the sun and not the other way round in the early 17th century? The verses they used were Joshua 10:12-13, Habakkuk 3:11, Psalms 19:4-6, Ecclesiastes 1:5 and many, many more. Giordano Bruno was burned alive and screaming at the stake by Christians for daring to discover that, gosh, stars are suns just like ours! And that there are planets revolving round those suns too! The list of vindicated scientists who were wrongly persecuted by Christians in their times included big names such as Rene Descartes, Tycho Brahe, Johannes Kepler, Edmond Halley, William Buckland, Charles Lyell, Adam Sedgewick, Louis Agassiz... and dear ol' Charles Darwin. That list reads like a Who's Who of science, doesn't it? The Christians' feud against science spanned centuries, and every single time, it's the Christians who have to suck it and admit that yes, they fucked up. Why, after being wrong for so fucking long, Christians still have the gall to oppose human advancement? How dare they?
I was invited to a church sponsored Christmas party in 2007 where a pastor denounced evolution and FUCKING LIED to his congregation that Darwin recanted his ideas and converted to Christianity on his deathbed - while all the stupid sheeps in the room just nodded smugly in agreement, drinking it all up. Similarly a year ago, I was at a church dinner as a guest of a Christian paediatrician where some guest superstar pastor from Singapore FUCKING LIED that his prayers helped a child grow a brand new kidney - something which would be heavily publicised in the medical and scientific community if true - just to win his Lord Gourd more new, stupid, unquestioning zombie converts.
A Muslim girl in my class simply explained, "Well, I'm a Muslim so I can't believe in evolution."
Well, I like to see how far Malaysia can go in the field of biology and biomedical science with its fingers in its ears going "La la la, I can't hear you!"
P.S. HERE's a useful beginner's read to evolution for anyone who's interested in learning more. While I strongly studying it sequentially, I find Part 2: Past History to be the most accessible section for even people with a rudimentary understanding of biology.
P.P.S. I am not against anyone practicing their own religion but when religion encroaches upon the territory of science and progress, I go marching on the warpath. I welcome anyone to comment and to argue with me, but be warned: I don't play nice.
P.P.P.S. Note that the Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection does not explain the origin of life; only the diversity of life. I find that opponents of evolution frequently confuse it with the Theory of Abiogenesis. If I'm a charitable person, I'd say that it's an easy mistake to make - but I'm not, so quit confusing the two, you twits.
Achieved the Age of Reason,
k0k s3n w4i