Evolution Gaining Greater Acceptance in the U.S.

Public views in U.S. are shifting toward support for evolution. I never understood this one. Maybe it because I’m Jewish and the child of a scientist, but I never saw the conflict with Genesis or the Bible. Genesis doesn’t really weigh in on the subject. Even a literalist view (which I certainly don’t have admittedly) could leave a lot of room for alternative interpretation. Opposition to evolution in the developed world is peculiar to the United States and is primarily found among evangelicals. Most others do not share this belief. I would truly like to better understand the reasons for opposition to evolution, because it’s so foreign to me. Perhaps there is a much deeper issue at play. If we could get at that, we might be able to address the real difficulty.

http://www.pewforum.org/2013/12/30/publics-views-on-human-evolution/

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Oldest Piece (Zircon) of Planet Earth Found in Australia Sheep Ranch

ZirconOldestPieceOfPlanetEarth

This Zircon crystal formed in the first 100 million years of the earth’s existence and suggests that, even at this early date 4.4 billion years ago, a relatively cool earth could have conceivably sustained oceans and perhaps even life: http://www.smh.com.au/technology/sci-tech/gem-found-on-australian-sheep-ranch-is-the-oldest-known-piece-of-earth-scientists-find-20140224-hvdkd.html

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Environmental Prophets of Doom

There is something I want to say about many in the environmental movement. I hear a lot of people predicting “The End” and the collapse of everything. In fact, I understand their point of view, and I have some sympathy with it. We as a species certainly can destroy the earth through pollution, nuclear catastrophe, destruction of eco-systems, and other means.

However, I don’t really see the value in this. What good does such pessimism and hopelessness do? If everything is going to be destroyed anyway in the near future, then please shut up and live your life. We don’t need to hear prophecies of doom any more than we need to have it rammed in to us that we are going to die some day. Yes, I know, but I don’t need someone screaming at me about it every minute of the day.

I guess I place these environmental prophets of doom in the same category as I place fundamentalist Christian evangelists who speak of the coming apocalypse. Doom-saying, apocalyptic Christians can go to Jerusalem or Texas or Salt Lake or wherever else they have a vision to await the return of Christ; ultra-Orthodox Lubavitch Hasidim can await the return of Rabbi Schneerson to Brooklyn and Jerusalem; Shiite Muslims (like the current President of Iran and many others) can go to Damascus to await the descent of the twelfth imam (the Mahdi); and perhaps secular environmental prophets should go to Greenland or the Antarctic or Alaska or Polynesia to await the final collapse of civilization and planetary life.

Yes, we have problems, and they’re serious, life-threatening, even cataclysmic. We’ve been around for a little while now, and empires comes and go, as do societies and peoples. But the earth has continued, so has life, in spite of what human beings have done to the planet (and they’ve done a lot even before now). And the earth is certainly not the only planet with life, nor is this the only universe, and there are other life forms we on the planet have yet to encounter (or perhaps don’t recall).

While there is reason for an apocalyptic voice now and throughout history, sometimes it enters into pointlessness, even silliness. Often it reflects a kind of species narcissism, as if our problems, however difficult, portend the end of all that is. There’s much we don’t know or remember about our our own lives, the history of our species, and the origins and characteristics of our solar system, galaxy, and universe. Yet we presume to predict future outcomes and events based on our own limited knowledge and life-experience.

Just because our efforts do not seem to have much affect, if any, does not mean that nothing is changing. When we assume we are failing or having no impact (and I’ve done that too), we are in fact acting selfishly, assuming the world depends on us, that we have some inherent right to see change, and that our individual lifetimes have a greater value than thousands upon thousands of generations that came before us and that will come after us–not to mention the millions upon millions of generations of every cell and life-form. Maybe we need to lighten up and enjoy the music. I know I need to do that.

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Changing the Minds of Climate Change Deniers

It’s occasionally possible for the facts to change the minds of climate change deniers. The politicization of this issue in the U.S.. as well as the anti-intellectual and anti-scientific basis of American evangelical Protestants and the power of corporate interests, has made the U.S. one of the only places in the world to have such a substantial number of people who deny the clear conclusions of science.  In the U.S., this follows the pattern of denying other scientific assessments, including evolution, damage to the ozone layer, the use of marijuana, the age of the earth, the dangers of nuclear power. and much more.
http://www.slate.com/id/2293607/pagenum/all/ (via Dianne Bazell)

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The Reinvention of Silk

An intriguing discussion of the variegated uses of silk, particularly spider silk. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/08/science/08silk.html?hp=&pagewanted=al

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Use of Tools Much Older than Thought

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/12/science/12tools.html?_r=1&hp&pagewanted=all
And this is 3.4 million years ago: Puts the use of tools at a much earlier date than formerly thought.

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Humans are Earth Beings

Humans are earth beings (Gen 2.7), created from millennia of terrestrial DNA. To connect with our bodies is to connect with our primal origins.

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11 of the Craziest Things about the Universe

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/marcus-chown/11-of-the-craziest-things_b_628481.html#s107477

My personal favorite: There are an infinite number of copies of each one of us living out an infinite number of alternate lives. I actually find that comforting.

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Copernicus Reburied

http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory?id=10719548
A moving story, at least for me. A scientific hero, Copernicus (who proved that the earth and other planets orbit the sun), finally gets his due.

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A Buddhist View of the Environment and Evolution

http://www.shambhalasun.com/sunspace/?p=16105

“In his recent book, The World We Have: A Buddhist Approach to Peace and Ecology (2008), the great Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh asserts that Buddhism, as a robust type of humanism, allows people to learn how to live on our planet not only responsibly, but with compassion and lovingkindness. …”

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Evolution and Religion

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/23/opinion/23wright.html
An interesting approach to reconciling science and religion on the issue of natural selection and evolution. Personally I never had the conflict.

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