The Tree of Life

“Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever…”

I find it fascinating that in the bible’s story of the fall of man, the reason god gives for banishing humanity from their original home in the Garden of Eden is that they could become immortal by eating from the tree of life. This tree is first mentioned in the previous chapter, where it’s said to be in the midst of the garden with the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. However, there is no prohibition against eating from it. Adam and Eve were prohibited from obtaining knowledge of good and evil, and told that doing so would kill them. Yet even after breaking this command the possibility still existed for them to become immortal, so god had to kick them out and guard his special trees with a flaming sword in order to make his threat of death come true.

The bible’s tree of life is just an ancient story, almost certainly borrowed from some earlier mythology like most of the bible is. What I’ll be talking about this time is the real tree of life…the family tree of all life on earth.800px-phylogenetic_tree-svg Continue reading

The Flat Earth, World’s Edge, and Charlotte

polaris

I borrowed this image from another blog that explains how Polaris proves the earth is spherical.

It seems like most people disregard conspiracy theorists who think NASA is a complete hoax and somehow the planet is flat, believing they’re just trolls. Perhaps a lot of people who argue in favor of a flat earth are simply playing devil’s advocate for the fun of it, but there are still some who definitely believe it, many for religious reasons. I think the combination of math, science, religion, and stupidity makes this a perfect subject for my blog.

One of my favorite new YouTubers recently released a video on this topic, and I thought it would be fun to add something to the conversation. Rather than deal with the ridiculous arguments and complete disconnection from reality that comprise the flat earth delusion, I’m going to attempt to provide a simple representation of the mathematics involved. I could cite the direct airplane flights from South Africa to Australia, which are significantly shorter than they would be on a flat earth. Or the ancient Greeks who calculated the circumference of the earth with remarkable precision many hundreds of years before Christianity began. Or that time I watched the ISS with my own eyes as it passed over me in orbit. Or a huge number of other things. But perhaps what some people really need is a simple math lesson.

Therefore, I have decided that I will calculate the circumference of the planet using a silent 20-second YouTube video.

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Responding to Christian Reason

337678_357962984231725_811981445_o-1I came across this blog post by a Christian and thought it warranted a detailed answer, so I have written one.

Quote: “But to look out at creation and proclaim: “I know there is no Creator!” is beyond me. How do you know?

I actually fall in the agnostic category mentioned earlier in the article. It is irrational to make the absolute claim that there are no supernatural things, or to make any claim about how the universe started. There is not enough data to confirm anything about those ideas. That’s why I generally avoid the atheist label even though it technically applies.

However, there are ways to rule out specific hypotheses. If someone proposes a deity who interacts with the reality we are able to observe and test, and offers specific claims about the nature of said deity, all we must do is observe reality and compare the results to what we would expect if such a deity existed. Suppose I claim there’s a deity that will heal people’s sickness if I pray for them to be healed. We could run a simple experiment in which I pray for one group of sick people and not for a different group, and see if there’s any difference in their recovery. This sort of experiment has actually been done with Christians multiple times, and has shown prayer to be useless.

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Some Facts About Climate Change

global-temperatureClimate change is happening, and I’m watching it happen. I’ve been watching it for a couple decades, as I grew up in the wild forest of a steep and rainy valley. Of course, I was raised by slightly fundamentalist Christians, and homeschooled, so from the beginning I was told that climate change wasn’t real, that global warming was not a thing. I spent many days of my childhood free and innocent, exploring and imagining my way through our own wilderness of trees and moss and ferns.

In later years the argument shifted to “it’s real but not caused by humans”, probably because reality wasn’t conforming to their previous claims, as I eventually noticed. I watched our once gushing sweet well water, pumped up from 265 feet below the surface, slowly dwindle from summer to summer until there were days that the ground simply had no more water to give and the pump would stop, waiting for more liquid so it could safely run again. Once the pump didn’t shut off and it burned out and had to be replaced.

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The Young-Earth Creationist’s Problem with Evidence

early_cretaceous_plant_fossilsThe whole basis of young earth creationist (YEC) arguments, and indeed the only way they can even begin to make a case for their so-called viewpoint, is the idea that nothing can be known about geological history based on the analysis of rocks. This idea is so fundamental to the case for a young earth that vast amounts of evidence must be brutally twisted or completely ignored, and the entire field of geology is reduced to nothing. It’s really more of a non-viewpoint, since they refuse to do any viewing and their point is empty and self-defeating.

Let’s take a moment to consider the strange irony of people worshiping as absolute truth an ancient human-produced document of dubious origins, claiming that the world is direct evidence of their god…and then utterly denying the possibility of learning truth from ancient rocks formed by predictable natural forces that we’ve been studying for a long time now and can actually observe in progress today. The cognitive dissonance of such a position blows my mind.

There are numerous things we can learn from the rocks, fossils, and other features on our planet. I mentioned varves in a recent article–they are particularly compelling because the evidence of their age is the very physical stuff they’re made from. They show clearly defined seasonal layers that contain the pollen, flowers, and fruit of plants, as well as many other substances representing specific times of year. We have proven beyond a reasonable doubt that varve layers are of annual nature, some that are still forming today have more than ten thousand layers, and we have unearthed well-preserved ancient varves covering millions of years of environmental history.

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Mason Lynch Rambles at Facebook: Episode 3

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Today’s free advertising goes to SpaceX, the marvelous space company started by the impressive Elon Musk. You probably can’t afford paying them to put something in actual space, but they’ve got some cool T-shirts in their online shop. I think I might get the one that says “Occupy Mars”. Plus hats, mugs, posters, and my favorite, a rocket pen!

This is in response to the comments of Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert, who’s not thinking through his theoretical situations very well.

What’s on my mind, Facebook? I’ll tell you.

If I was choosing forty humans to start a colony, and the decision was based on having the most genetic diversity in the next generation, I would choose twenty young lesbian couples representing as much diversity of the human genome as possible, who are healthy and want to have children.

Think about it. Every single member of your forty person crew is able to bear a child, and every single member of the crew is in an emotionally fulfilling relationship, something I’d want to have if I was part of a pioneering colony.

How do they get pregnant, you ask? Don’t they need men, so they can get pregnant?

Ha, silly man. Science, you know, is a wonderful thing. Along with the women would go a collection of thousands of diverse semen samples, donated by the brave stay-at-home men back on earth.

Funny how science can preserve semen more economically without an entire human male to sustain.

That’s what’s on my mind, Facebook, and I’m not ashamed of it.

The Backward Thinking of Creationists

puddle-thinkingThere are a few arguments commonly used by opponents of evolution to postulate the need for a god. I wrote recently about the cosmological argument, and there are a few others that are particularly annoying because they involve such backward reasoning.

The first is the argument from design, or the “fine-tuning” argument. It notes the truth that if any one of various physical constants were to change by a small amount, life as we know it would be impossible, and based on this truth assumes that those constants must have been set at the beginning of the universe for the purpose of allowing the existence of life.

Douglas Adams satirized this argument with his story of the sentient puddle. The reasoning is obviously backward; water changes shape to fit into a hole that existed before it arrived. Likewise, the physical processes that produce what we call life change to fit the environment that existed before they arrived. This is why many animals have evolved very detailed camouflage that is specific to their habitat, and why you don’t find chameleons in Antarctica or whales in the Sahara.

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