1.3.13

Evolution is a gradual change, spanning millions of years...usually.

There are plenty of creatures we've watched maturing and evolving in the last few generations since we started recording our memories. Elephants are half as likely to be born with tusks than they were when we first started recording things about Elephants. In Croatia, a breed of lizard has changed so much in the last 30 years that it might even be its own breed now, switching from carnivore to omnivore among other huge characteristic changes. Other reptiles, skinks in particular, are starting to keep their eggs in their bellies til they're born. Live birth is something we haven't seen in reptiles since we started writing things down about reptiles. But the ongoing, visible evolution that's most interesting to me? The Microgadus tomcod. It's a fish that lives in the Hudson River in America, and has dropped six base pairs on its receptor gene. That means that it's impervious to the toxins in its water. The tomcod took about 20 generations to develop this trait, but because their life span is much shorter than a human's (no more than four years), it only took about 30 years.

If a fish can develop an immunity to chemical toxins, then perhaps with a little guidance, so can humans. So, if this parasite is something constructed by humans, using chemicals found on Earth, we should be able to single out the gene immune humans share (or don't) and find a way to duplicate that in other people. Or at least give those immune high incentives to breed, and the non-immune high incentives refrain from having children. My only concern is that 20 generations of tomcod is only 30 years, whereas 30 years is only one human generation. It could take hundreds of years for us to immunize ourselves through breeding alone, if it even works at all, and by then, who knows what PTA might look like and be capable of?

Either way, the breeding thing isn't a bad idea, and it provides us with a long-term plan, something that will at least aid future humans. So I was writing up a report and a request for implementation by my bosses at home, because I was feeling under the weather so I had decided to work from home. Belle came in with the girl she had recently been hanging out with, Imena. The look on her face when she saw me took me a little off guard. She looked embarrassed, then angry, and she started almost yelling at me.
"DAHLIA! I thought you were supposed to be at work? Why are you... here?"
"Well, I wasn't feeling well, so I stayed home. I had a good idea, so I was writing a memo to a few people I thought might be able to help. What are you doing here? I thought you were going to be watching movies with Imena today?" I responded.
"Yeah, well, the movie's over. So we came back here to... hang out." Belle looked down and her face flushed. What is she so worried about? I wondered.
"So, is everything okay? You seem a little upset, Belle. You guys are perfectly welcome to hang out here, I'll just finish up this memo, then go lie down some more. Like I said, I'm not feeling very well," I offered.
Belle let out the worst teen-sigh I think I've ever heard, but she conceded to the compromise with a long, regretful, "Yeah..."

I guess I have to get used to the fact that she's growing up, and her personality is evolving, too. Into something I don't really understand and can't really predict. Hopefully she still likes me by next week...

25.2.13

Volunteers

A group of idiots was here the other day. I'm not saying that all the people claiming PTA is an act of god are idiots. Or insane. But just like any other group of people, they have their radical extreme lunatics. It just so happens that this particular set of radical extreme lunatics thinks we should abandon science and go out into the world and let god have his judgement.

In the conference, the main speaker for the creation argument was good old Sylvan Watts. I personally like the old guy. A lot of people do. He's got a quiet, calm charm to him. They say he's only about 40, but I suppose he's lost a lot, just like the rest of us, because he looks about 70. His hair is thin and white, and kind of sticks out on all sides like Einstein. His skin is wrinkly and bags around his eyes and at the corners of his mouth, and he wears these round glasses so thick he almost looks like an owl. I've never met him in person, but we have corresponded occasionally through email and through teleconferences like the one we just finished. He's sweet. He is utterly and completely polite and courteous and kind. I've never seen him lose his temper, nor have I heard of it ever happening from anyone I've met. He says he's a Christian, but he's one of the rare ones who's not insane anymore.

When the plague broke lose, a lot of people lost their faith. Of the ones who did keep their faith, many died from PTA, and most of the remaining were... less than stable. These events, by and large, put a poor light on religion, particularly ones with public histories like Christianity. However. There are the few like Watts who make you look at the subject again. He's not crazy. Certainly not stupid. And he's a real scientist. So when he opens his mouth to talk about why he thinks this is possibly a result of creation, you shut up and listen, because you know he thought about it, researched it, and wouldn't claim it unless there was a chance it was true.

Watts reminded us on the conference, of all the holes in all the other theories. His argument is never "believe this, because it's emphatically, infinitely true!" He always argues that we cannot close our minds to the possibility. And I think he's right. Of course, I am a bit jealous, because he's coming from a theory that can explain everything away with one word: Omnipotence. God's supposedly all-powerful, so any question of origin can be explained away by just saying, why not? Of course, Watts is also looking for reasons to be wrong.And he's looking for hints as to how to beat this thing. But he's telling us to keep our minds open to the possibility that this thing is unbeatable. If god doesn't want us to find the answers, we won't. Like he said, "God promised no more floods. He never said anything about zombies. If he wants to start over with a new species, maybe PTA, he'll do it. Our resistance will, in time either prove fruitful and he'll reward us for our faith or we'll fail and go to be with him. Either way, we need to keep trying, because I really want to be wrong."

Sylvan Watts is not one of the crazies. But boy, oh boy, do those crazies love to quote him. There was a group of six who came through the area the other day. They came in to camp, to trade and resupply, which is not a frequent visit but certainly not out of the ordinary. Different nomads travel for different reasons, and when they get to military bases, they know they can trade and get emergency help if needed. Or, in this case, preach for a few days and just make total asses of themselves.

"We're here to help you!" Is what I heard every morning on my short walk to work from their main mouth, a woman looking to be about thirty. "God doesn't want us to leave the poor waifs dying out on the streets! Every person who's not taken up a blanket and sponge and gone out to help those poor dying people has committed a sin! Galatians 6:2! Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ! If you're still alive, it's not too late to repent and go to them! Proverbs says, Whoever gives to the poor will not want, but he who hides his eyes will get many a curse! Hiding our eyes and refusing to help these poor people is what has cursed our world! If we will potentially sacrifice ourselves to help them, maybe god will lift his curse on us!"

They stayed for three days. The first two, I just rolled my eyes and walked on by, but on the third morning, I'd had enough. I'd lost sleep over this crap, so I just lost it.

I walked up to her, both of us wearing our breathers, careful not to get to where she could touch me (if she's been 'helping' the sick, who knows what she could give me), and I said, "Listen, you maniac. We're not leaving this place. You can go out there and get eaten by men or parasites, I don't have any control over that, but what I do in that building is going to save lives. I work, day and night, to protect the people I love, all you do is pray to die so you can get relief from your loss. I actually do something about it, so SHUT up and leave me alone! And I've got a little girl up there where I live, and you're SCARING her! So SHUT UP!"

And I turned around and left her screaming, "They're not dying of PTA! They're dying from symptoms! From pain and suffering! Can you fix that from your sterile room?"

They left the next day.