Struggling with Meaninglessness

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The End of the World

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Everything is changeable, everything appears and disappears; there is no blissful peace until one passes beyond the agony of life and death.

— Buddha.

I wouldn’t call myself a movie junkie, but if there’s one movie I really look forward to watch, it would be 2012. Watch the movie trailer below.

 

Now, I’m not a big advocate of 2012 doomsday although I have been reading about those Mayan stuffs 4-5 years ago. Even this website – http://www.instituteforhumancontinuity.org has presented some really compelling arguments and video graphics of the inevitable disasters, quote “with 94% certainty” that something really huge will happen to Earth 3 years from now.

Again, I’m not a strong believer of 2012 nor the Planet X (aka Niburu) conspiracy theory. However, I do believe it’s a pretty solid fact that humanity will not live forever. It will come to a day where all human being will perish. And I will tell you why.

Over the past 500 million years of life history, the Earth has witnessed five big mass extinction events, better known as the Big Five. Each of this event wiped out almost all life form and then gradually replaced by a new generation of life form. For instance – the reptilian dinosaurs replaced the vast marine life lost in The Great Dying 250 million years ago and the extinct dinosaurs replaced by mammals and birds since 65 million years ago.

Hence, based on this little observed Earth’s life cycle, it is safe to say that another major extinction is pretty much inevitable in the coming future.

But why do I think the movie 2012 is so interesting? The first reason would be the tag line – How Would The Governments Of Our Planet Prepare Six Billion People For The End Of The World? – They Wouldn’t.

Really, they wouldn’t. Why would the government induce public panic unnecessarily for an unstoppable disaster? We would die anyway, so it doesn’t make much differences. The government also wouldn’t tell if we barely escape a close call disaster.

Case in point, almost three months ago in March, a huge comet came within approximately 64,000KM of Earth’s atmosphere which was powerful enough to destroy a whole major city should it hit the earth. 64,000KM may seem to be reasonably far, but considering the moon is 384,000KM away from Earth, it means the distance between Earth and the comet was 1/6 of the distance between earth and moon. From astronomical standpoint, 64,000 KM is actually crazily close.

The government perhaps knew the Earth would be safe from any collision. However, there will always be some quarter of skeptics who will never cease to be a paranoid… just like ignorant people who criticized the Large Hadrons Collider without any depth of knowledge. These people fear uncertainty, thus creating more ruckus to mislead the uninformed people which eventually lead to more panic.

So, whether it is a near miss or sure-hit disaster, rest assured, the government will never inform the citizens of any incoming potential disasters. And I’m deadly curious how will people react when the end of the world is right in front of their eyes, without expecting it.

The second reason why I think the movie 2012 is interesting – the image of the end of the world.

Our Earth is actually much much more fragile than we can ever imagine.

  • One huge solar flare which shoot the Earth directly will mess up Earth’s magnetic field and all technology which uses electricity will shut down. When the Earth’s magnetic field is instable, catastrophe will take place. Fortunately, Earth was rarely shot directly by solar flare. (Solar flare happens once in every 11 years)
  • One magnetic pole reversal to turn our Earth upside down, thus creating instability in Earth resulting in massive earthquakes, tsunami, worldwide flood and resulting Ice Age. (Magnetic pole reversal happens once every 11,500 years and the last Ice age apparently took place 11,000+ years ago. Hence, some  scientists believed the cycle is almost due.)
  • One supernova, an explosion of nearby giant star will result a surge of cosmic radiation transmission. Huge amount of radiation would destroy all life form nearby the star.
  • One huge asteroid or meteor escaped from The Asteroid Belt between Mars and Jupiter could destroy the whole earth if it is big enough.

I always have this little habit of imagining a meteor hitting the earth. And it’s quite terrifying, perhaps for the fact that there’s nothing we can do to handle such huge force. Again, I’m not a strong believer of 2012, but sometimes, I just can’t help to think, what if Earth has really only 3 years left?

Written by elan85

June 15, 2009 at 12:21 am

Evolution’s Four Noble of Truths

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This is a tribute essay to Charles Darwin, who was born exactly 200 years ago… minus 3 weeks … (yes, I left this essay in my draft for 3 weeks)

The Role of Evolution

What is the role of Evolution? Putting it simply, Evolution is a natural system organized by the nature to keep life going and survive in this ever changing environment. In other words, we will not exist without Evolution’s presence.

For instance, billion years ago, there was an ice age where the earth was literally freezing cold. Hence, every animal lived during that period must have resistant against cold or else they will die of freezing and frostbite. However, over time , the earth became warmer and species have to adapt to survive the warmer environment or else they will die of heat.

Hence, a simple formula – (The ever-changing environment on Earth) * X = (Continuity in Life)

And X is Evolution.

What will happen if Evolution do not exist? Simple, continuity in life will not happen. The Earth’s environment is dynamic – it keeps on changing and fluctuates up and down. So, for a species to survive, they need to cope with this ups and downs over generations. And this is exactly the role of Evolution and genetics – a game of trial and error to ensure the survival of life – A system where it makes life automatically adapt to the environment.  A system which bring the existence of new species and the extinction of weak species (in terms of adaptability).

If we bother to look around the nature, we will see Evolution is everywhere. Why do we find camels in the desert but not horse when they are both mammals? Because only animals which can withstand a long period without water can survive in the desert. Why is there no crocodiles in the urban area but plenty of house lizards around? Because only domestic animals which can cope with human activities can survive in the urban area.

Or perhaps we could ask something more detailed – why is our teeth not 100% symmetrical but rather few of them are shorter or longer than the rest of the teeth? If indeed human were designed by a perfect divine power, shouldn’t our teeth also be perfectly even? How about our hand and legs? As a person who play football and wear tight boots often, I notice that my left foot is slightly bigger than my right. Why such variation exist?

When it comes to variations, some of them do not matter. Like the imbalance length between my teeth. Or the difference of length between my left index finger and my right index finger. Or the difference of my brain size with the smartest guy in the world. All these variations, caused by Evolution, make little difference to our survival because in our environment, we do not depend on this variations to survive. But there are some animals which need these variations to survive.

One good example was the discovery by Charles Darwin when he came across finches with different shape of beak when he was on voyage around the world to study plants and animals.

 finches

Darwin discovered that the same species of finches actually had different shape of beak, depending on the environment where they live in. Finches which live in an environment with the primary source of food consist of nuts, will have a broad beak function to crack the nut. Finches which live in an environment with plenty of fruits will have a sharp beak to pierce the fruit.

Finches which have the wrong beak in the wrong environment will simply die because of difficulty in getting food. Hence, finches with the right beak in the right environment will keep multiply as the resources are abundant.

Hence, allow me to present the four truths of Evolution –

Evolution’s Four Noble of Truths

1. Evolution is natural.  We treat gravity as something natural through our everyday experience. Same goes for melting ice. And water droplets falling from the sky.  And the ‘small box’ invented by human being to communicate with each other wirelessly across the world. These are no miracles. They are just some natural law.

If all these phenomena which obey the law of nature and science are natural, why not Evolution? Just like the law of physics and the law of chemistry, biology also has a natural law and every life spawned in the face of earth will have to obey it. That’s the same reason why there’s no human being with 10 pairs of eyes – it is impossible to evolve to such extent because Evolution works by having small amount of incremental steps.

2. Evolution is not intelligent. Perhaps it sounds outrageous to even mildly suggest Evolution is stupid. But really, Evolution is not something ‘Intelligent’ at all. Evolution can’t ‘design’ organisms out. Evolution is just a game of probability. A game of trial and error. Like a dumb version of Thomas Edison who have to use billion of years to come out with a mildly intelligent being called human. Yes, it is ‘billion’ of years. Isn’t it great that human being took only like ten thousand of years and became civilized from living in the cave to having Internet? Human mind is much more capable in designing things than Evolution, apparently.

At the end, the environment will be the benchmark. Evolve well and the species survive. Evolve wrongly and it will extinct.

3. Evolution is unfair. There’s a form of unfairness in Evolution due to the element of randomness … just like babies who were born to a poverty-stricken family or a soul born to a cockroach which will have a high chance to be exterminated by human.

Evolution is also cruel in the sense only the fittest will survive. As I have said many times, Evolution is a game of trial and error – A game of genetics calculation and probability.

If let’s say for some weird reason, bamboo mysteriously vanish from the face of the earth tomorrow, then it also means the end for the pandas.

Too bad, that’s life, Panda. Evolve or vanish.

4. Evolution works. Yes, it works. That’s what allows me to type these out.

The Wisdom

All things appear and disappear because of the concurrence of causes and conditions. Nothing ever exists entirely alone; everything is in relation to everything else.Buddha

When you throw something up, it will eventually come down – this is the law of gravity, the law of physics. The law of sciences are neutral – it simply lay down the rules to turn cause into effect. I pour water to the fire – that’s the cause. The fire is put down and that’s the effect – The law of chemistry has made this event possible.

Just like other law of science, Evolution is also neutral. No love, no hate, no mercy, no sympathy, no reward, no punishment. What it does is just to lay down the rules and laws and let the cause and effect to take place.

Hence, once we grasp this idea in our head, we will start to see the link and realize human being is kinda selfish when it comes to things like which is apparently noble … like saving endangered species.

Just observe the type of endangered animals which human are spending heavily on saving … they are all mammals! What about the endangered insects? What about some endangered frogs? The bees? Will human being splash million of dollars just to save some endangered insects? No, we only  save ‘cute’ mammals, or animals which could interact with us. That’s how, unconsciously, selfish human being is. We are playing ‘God’ here.

So, why not just let the endangered species go since they are having hard time adapting?

I won’t elaborate much on this but will just let a video to do the talking. I have, literally, watched this video hundreds of times.  This is one of the few videos out there with really deep insight and wisdom about the nature  I would say George Carlin is more evolved than most people out there because he see things from universal point of view instead from Earth’s point of view. He is ‘conscious’.

I have said this quite frequently – human being’s existence is insignificant. Only the emotion of self-importance make us think we are. Life will continue even without human’s existence.


Emptiness is impermanence, it is change.
We should not complain about impermanence,
because without impermanence, nothing is possible.

Zen Buddhism Master, Thich Nhat Hanh

Written by elan85

March 3, 2009 at 6:09 pm

The Structure of Life

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It was 8.30 PM and while I was waiting for the bus to take me home from my workplace, I saw a huge cockroach on the wall near the bus stop. And then, I saw a lizard moved near the bug and just stared at the gigantic cockroach not doing anything as if knowing the cockroach is too huge to be taken down. Then another lizard did the same – just stared and moved around the cockroach and left. The cockroach is obviously too huge for both of the lizards.

Hence, I was wondering – Why didn’t both of the lizards cooperate and work together to take down the cockroach?

Immediately I imagined, what would lions do if there is a big fat bull standing right in front of them? The lions would have gangbanged and take down the bull together. What would chimpanzees do when they spot a threat? Either they would run away together or would attack the threat together. What would human being do when we face a global crisis? All nations would come together to create a solution for the problem. And this element of cooperation is obviously missing in lizards, and generally reptiles. Why? Why can’t lizards understand the idea of working together?

Because they are not evolved enough … eureka ~

Therefore, this brought me a realization that Evolution works by having a sort of hierarchy in Life, which the rule of thumb is – Life Evolve from Simplicity to Complexity

Origin of Life

I believe Life is a natural force, as natural as the force of gravity and electromagnetism which happens all around the universe. In other words, life is everywhere, governed by the force of Evolution, just like how gravity and light are governed by the law of physics. The degree of how complex life can be is heavily depending on how conducive the environment is. For instance, we can only find microorganism in Mars, perhaps some fishes/sea creatures in Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons (though just a hypothesis) and human being on Earth.

The more essential elements available in a planet such as hydrogen, oxygen, carbon (and others that can be found in periodic table), the more conducive the environment will be. The more conducive the environment is, the more capacity it allows life to evolve. And Earth seems like a nice little place for complex life to flourish.

All life started out being equal … first we have several microorganism around, then over a short period of time, microorganism multiply exponentially. And keep on multiply and multiply. Since resources are scarce, microorganism will thrive on evolving to gain upper hand advantage when competing with other microorganism. Therefore, Evolution is basically a natural way of the nature in maintaining a balance world where resources are scarce. Over time, some microorganism will evolve to be bigger, hence giving itself advantage over other microorganism which did not evolve and remain small. And this struggle will go on and on where microorganism will keep evolving to gain advantage over one another. When the Evolution reaches a complex stage, the microorganism will evolve to have legs. When organism have legs and could walk around, it will create an upper hand advantage over other life form which could not move. Hence, that’s what we categorize as Insect today. Basically, the hierarchy as I see it:

Microorganism –> Insect –> Fish –> Reptiles/Amphibians –> Mammal –> Humanity –> A.I. (Singularity)

To acquire certain trait, a creature need to climb the Evolution ladder, which is totally out of their control because Evolution is a game of probability. It’s a fate. It is out of the creatures hand. In other words, human being is not special. Individuals are not unique. We are all just a bunch of creatures trapped in the game of Evolution ruled by the law of probabilities. In the realm of probabilities, luck and chances play a prominent role in our life. Which means – Life is never Fair. You cannot argue how the cockroach lurking in my room, which will eventually be exterminated by my mum is born luckier than I do. You cannot argue how people born in rural Africa, a place of poverty-stricken, starvation and plagued by disease are luckier than people who are born in the western country where they get to eat hamburgers everyday. You cannot argue how a person with retarded mind living in the mental hospital all life long is luckier than Albert Einstein who is acknowledged as a genius and will be remembered forever by history for his mental ability.

I believe there is a reason why Nature allow imbalance to exist. I have not give much thought on this yet but I think perhaps it is something like the concept of man and woman – Both genders are very different from each other, yet bringing balance to the nature at the same time.

Is Imbalance important to bring balance to the nature?

Psychology of the Creatures

Let’s use back the cockroach vs. lizards as example. Let’s examine the differences between these two creatures’ psychology in the way how they react to potential danger. When I was young, I have this thought that cockroach is afraid of people because it seems that whenever I chase a cockroach, it will run away frantically just like how birds and cats do. Only recently I realized that cockroach actually do not react to human being rather, they react to movements and light. (I was sitting still on the chair and saw a cockroach moving towards me, oblivious of my existence. When I flashed a bright light, it ran away and hid at a dark spot.)

Hence, it brought me a realization that insects do not have the emotion of fear – just like a mosquito biting me without having the awareness that I have the capability to kill it by just a single move. So, it is pretty obvious that insects were evolved and programmed in the mind with simple instructions to explore the environment and survive based on their own inert function without having any emotions.

How about lizards on the other hand? I would say they have emotions because lizards react to people. They run away and hide when human is nearby. Lizards recognize human as threat.  Unlike insects, lizards (and reptiles) have bones and organs which is essential in having a higher level of mind and body. Therefore, lizards is one notch higher than insect. Yes, just one notch because apparently mammals are more complex than reptiles.

Reptile are solitary animals who live and hunt alone. Once reptiles lay the eggs, they leave them alone. Compared that to mammals which generally take care of their youngs and live in groups. A group of zebra staying and running together to confuse the tiger. A pack of dogs using wind and body odor to hunt for prey. Birds using flocking technique to be more efficient in foraging. Monkeys living in a social lifestyle where reciprocity plays a huge role in the relationship between the ‘tribe’. Living in group or socially definitely has an upper hand over solitary lifestyle.

But above all these, we have human being, which is on top of the pyramid, taking charge of the world. This imbalance which I mentioned earlier is what creates diversity. And this diversity is what creates the ecology and food chain. True, it is so much more miserable to be born as a cockroach but it will serve the purpose from ecology point of view – get eaten by bigger animals.

By analyzing the pattern of animal’s behaviours, I hypothesized there’s a correlation between traits of animal behaviours and the level of how evolved the creature is. The more evolved the creature is, the more complex it becomes. The more complex it becomes, the more sophisticated survival techniques it will deploy. And this variety of survival techniques is what created the existing diversity of life that we can find on Earth.

Future of Humanity

At the moment, the pinnacle of Evolution would certainly be human being as we are the only species which have deep consciousness and intelligence. But if you think human being has reach the very peak, then you’re wrong – human’s mind is still rapidly evolving. I truly believe there will come a day when humanity will evolve out of our tribal instincts in the future and become more cohesive in our thoughts and ideas. Among the list:

1. Extreme thoughts such as sectarianism, fundamentalism, and racism will slowly fade away from humanity. (The acceptance of Barack Obama as president)

2. Global scale war among nations will cease. (It has been 65 years since a major war erupted). Human being is starting to value peace more.

3. Humanity will become more and more secular and will slowly disassociate ourselves with God, religion and irrational beliefs. (The rise of secular and free thinking movements)

4. This is a controversial belief of mine – Backward nations, like countries in Africa, will become more and more of a laggard because generally, the mind of the people there is slightly less evolved (in micro scale) compared to people in advanced countries. (The stagnancy of Africa countries)

—————————————————————————————

By the way, I got this from my all time favourite philosophical movie – The Matrix. Pretty insightful.

I like to share a revelation that I’ve had during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your species (human being) and I realized that you’re not actually mammals. Every mammals on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment. But you humans do not. You move to an area, and you multiply and multiply, until every natural resource is consumed. The only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Human beings are a disease. A cancer of this planet. You are a plague. And we … are the cure – Agent Smith to Morpheus.

I like the thoughts on natural equilibrium. How did human being destroy the equilibrium? Deforestation, overhunting of animals to extinction, garbage, constructions and development which pollute the world, wastage of resources, etc.

Written by elan85

December 22, 2008 at 4:27 pm

Number One Human Killer?

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Squirrel naturally have anti-cancer mechanism within its body. Human being on the other hand, is pretty much naked in such defense. I could imagine if a supernova, the explosion of a gigantic star takes place, thus spreading mild level of cosmic radiation to Earth, every human being will die of cancer as our cells will undergo massive mutation. On the other hand, squirrels, fruit flies and cockroaches will just wonder why are we dying out one by one. Well, unless there are some special human being who have this anti-cancer system in their body or else we can say bye bye to humanity.

OK, i will stop digressing.

Exactly a century ago, the case of cancer is literally one in a million. Today, the statistic is staggering especially in US and UK. One in Three people (yes, as in 1/3) will develops cancer in some stage of their life.I could see a correlation between cancer and the rise of economic wealth distribution. But does it imply causation? I will try to reason this out. 

Before the industrialization age, apart from the rich ones, most people eat to live (instead of live to eat) as they have to spend plenty of effort to rear or hunt animals to eat. However, with the rise of the age of consumerism and commercialization, food has become commercialized and is mass produced. Instead of hunting for cow and chicken which lives naturally and healthily in the jungle, today we are eating meat which are chunked out directly from farms. Hence today, human have taken food for granted and strive more on living to eat instead of eating to live. – Ronn.

(I’ve written this before in one of my old post)

Just over few centuries ago, families had their own farms to feed themselves. They reared their own livestock and planted vegetables to eat. If they do not have a farm, they would go to a small local market to buy fresh fruits and meat. Eating meat was actually something of a privilege back then as meat was very expensive. Most family would jump in joy if they got to have a chicken for dinner. But with the rise of age of industrialization, an economic-modernization revolution took place, giving people the opportunity to have ‘jobs’ albeit mostly labour work. When people have jobs, they will have income. As time advanced, we reached the knowledge-economy where labour-based jobs has transformed to knowledge-based jobs. In other words, it is the corporate workforce that we have today. And people’s standard of living is getting higher and higher as time advances.

These economic advancements has caused two massive revolutions in humanity:

1. People are now occupied with work, hence no time for planting, rearing, or hunting for food.

2. Distribution of wealth to common people. With money, we revert back to our basic instinct of seeking luxurious food as eating is something our mind keeps motivating us to do.

3. Thus combine these 2 factors together, the demand for meat, a form of luxurious food perceived by our subconscious mind, shoots up.

Dangerous Meat

With the surge of demand in food, instead of staying in local farms, food producers have expanded their productions network due to economy of scale – the bigger the production is, the lesser the cost, thus higher profit. This is when the real definition of Money Is Evil comes in…. a combination of two factors – the greed of capitalism and the ever demand for affordable meat  from consumers.

One of the most popular form of meat consumed by people is beef. As we know, cows and bulls’ natural diet is grass. But little we are aware of what’s going on in the food industry right now which may be destructing humanity’s health.

The cost of growing grass is pretty hefty as it takes longer time and more effort to plant it. Greedy producers then found an alternative for grass to feed the cows – corn. Using corn as lifelong cow feeds is equivalent to us feeding a baby with rice and porridge and expect the baby to grow up healthily till adulthood. No, the natural diet for cow is grass, just like a human needs a balanced diet of vegetable and meat to grow up healthily.

So, how do food producers keep the cows “fat and fit”? Heck, how could they even keep a calf alive for more than a month? The answer is hormone growth injections. This hormone functions by genetically engineer the cow’s body to fatten and prolonging its life till it becomes an adult and slaughter it right away once it reaches maturity. From the discovery of one greedy food producer, it has now become the industry’s standard.

Now, if we eat something which have been genetically modified, will the food, in turn, modify back our cells, hence causing cancer? Or will the chemicals injected to livestock mutate our cells in the long run? I really do not know. Just some interesting thoughts.

The dilemma is this – if indeed growth hormone is dangerous and slowly killing us with cancer, then why do government do not impose any restrictions or regulations on these chemicals just like how they do on tobacco and alcohol?  On the other hand, if growth hormone is not dangerous, then why the fuss from green movements and pro organic food supporters? If this is so, they will seem like a group of deluded people. Or perhaps the government is closing one eye on this issue as there’s nothing much that can be done since food is the basic essential demand?

You judge.

And by the way, just if you have ever wondered how did Mad Cow Diseases happened, it is because food producers grinded meat and corn together and make it as cow’s feeds (as it will fatten up the cow). Cow, as a herbivore animal, do not take meat and once this ‘no-meat’ stance is violated, it will basically become crazy as the mind and body’s system will go malfunction. Just search in YouTube of cows eating live chickens to watch the horror.

Futile Vegetable/Fruit

Vegetable and fruits do have natural anti-oxidant which can clear away toxins in our body. However, we are back again to square one problem – over-commercialized food. Capitalism has posed two problems in commercialized plants and vegetables here.

1. Vegetables and fruits are planted in the same soil over and over again, hence drying up soil’s nutrients in the long run. The soil is supposed to be left barren for some period of time to recuperate the nutrient on the ground before planting again.

2. Vegetables and fruits are sprayed with pesticide to control pest problems in the farm.The root of the plant/tree will absorb the chemical and so as the skin of the fruit.

As we know the root of a tree/plant absorbs nutrient and minerals from the ground to bring nutrition to fruit or vegetable. Now, we have a problem where fruits/vegetables couldn’t absorb much natural nutrient as the soil has most probably dried up. Making things worse, the plant have to absorb the chemicals along since the root does not have any ‘intelligence’ to filter up what to absorb and what not to. Besides that, eating the skin of commercialized fruits is like a double edged sword – it is the most nutritious, yet the most dangerous at the same time as it indiscriminately absorb all kind of vitamin, protein and chemicals it could get.  

Are we dead?

There must be a reason why cancer has became such a huge issue right now, from 1 out of 1,000,000 one hundred years ago to 1 out of 3 today.

Is it because of the food or because of what is put into our stomach?

There must be a reason.

There must be a reason.

There must be a reason.

Written by elan85

November 12, 2008 at 11:10 am

Posted in General Science

Ambiguousness

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Few months ago, I came across an article from a random blog – “Are boys smarter than girls in maths?”  Reading from the title alone, I immediately knew that the answer will be a big NO and the author will go on to emphasize equality in both genders. That’s because I know the blog’s author is a very careful person and tend to be politically-correct when it comes to his writing.

After skimming through the essay, his conclusion was indeed a no.

In my opinion, any safe, non-controversial, political correct writings which tend to seek reader’s nod in acceptance are maybe good for conveying knowledge and information, but it will not necessary help people to think critically. Sure, everyone will be happy when you tell them that genders are equal. But again, does appealing to sense of comfort equates to truth?

Now, back to the topic – Are boys really smarter than girls in maths? Below is one of the author’s reference to his essay:

In a new study published recently in Science, Professor Janet Hyde and colleagues may have spotted the first signs of change. They used data from around 7 million US children in 10 US states from grade 2 through to grade 11, routinely gathered as part of a national assessment exercise. They wanted to find out if boys are still performing better than girls at maths.
What they found was that in marked contrast to earlier research, there was little or no difference in maths performance between girls and boys in all of the 10 states. In some states girls performed fractionally better, on average, than boys, and in other states this trend was reversed

Before my refutation, I will first give an analogy. In a 100 meters sprint race, I would dare to say that 50% of the young people in this world could easily finish the race within 30 seconds. But on the other hand, how many people in the world could actually run as fast as Usain Bolt, who just set a world record at 9.69 seconds?

I say, not many.

Same goes for ability in maths. The research is done with grade 2 to grade 11 kids, which in other words, the level of maths is somewhat between basic to intermediate level of maths. Is this level of maths so difficult where boys and girls will show disparity in abilities? We need to know that when it comes to something that involves learning curves, there’s always the diminishing factor – which means a subject gets harder and harder to learn as you go to a higher level.

For example, it is not difficult to improve your running time from 30 seconds to 20 seconds in 100m sprint but to improve the timing from 10 seconds to 9.7 seconds, it is not something everyone can do. And this is what the diminishing factor is all about.

By ignoring the advanced or higher level of maths (in university and scientific world level), this research only gave Prof. Janet Hyde the answer that she wanted – that boys and girls are equal in maths. Or perhaps, she intended to give an ambiguous answer to gender equality by only highlighting “boys and girls” but ignoring “men and women”. Whatever it is, this does not give a complete answer anything pertaining to reality.

And I’m extremely aware that there are many of these half-hearted (or half-minded) experiments around which just give the answer the researches seek rather than finding the truth.

Another instance – the correlation between red wine and the heart. Basically, one research concluded that people who have the habit of drinking red wine tend to have lesser heart problems. So, yes, people who drink red wine do have better heart, but does correlation imply causation? Is red wine indeed a magical potion for your heart?

Or perhaps, people who could afford buying red wine tend to be better off who could also afford proper health care and diet, hence better heart? If so, red wine would just be a symbol of wealth or capability and not a causation.

Any research method which are technically over-simplistic will bound to have flaws or incompleteness. Considering these are funded researches, I’m surprised the research method is not thoroughly investigated and thought out properly. It goes no where when the researcher interpret the result based on his/her own subjective bias rather than judging objectively.

Written by elan85

September 26, 2008 at 4:03 am

Male Supremacy? Of The Differences Between Men and Women.

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Feminist often argued that men and women are equal in every sense. Some people used the idea of Tabula Rasa, better known as The Blank Slate to justify the idea that every person is born without any innate abilities and everything is learnt from the environment including the differences between men and women – Everything is “Nurtured”. This is certainly a very politically correct and pleasing answer to listen and accept. But is a ‘correct’ answer which gives comfort and some sense of security equates to truth?

The answer, to me at least, is pretty straight forward – accepting the idea of Blank Slate means dismissing Evolution because everyone, to a certain extent, is born with certain innate abilities. I will illustrate my point by using chimpanzees as a comparison.

In one of my previous posts, I highlighted the fact that chimpanzees are our closest relatives from Evolution’s standpoint. Richard Wrangham, a researcher from Harvard said …

“Very few animals live in patrilineal, male-bonded communities wherein females routinely reduce the risks of inbreeding by moving to neighboring group to mate. And only two animal species are known to do so with a system of intense, male-initiated territorial aggression, including lethal raiding into neighboring communities in search of vulnerable enemies to attack and kill. Out of four thousand mammals and ten million or more other animal species, this suite of behaviors is know only among chimpanzees and human.” – Richard Wrangham.

If you are holding the idea that chimpanzees are just some cute little friendly creatures, think again. Chimpanzees, one of the more intelligent animals, are capable of using ‘tools’ to fight. They use wood branch and stone and practically, beat and stone other chimpanzees to death. Chimpanzee community raid enemy’s territory and ‘capture’ the area to assert their dominance and gain the spoils (food). However, it is only the male chimpanzees which do all the fighting, warfare and killing. The female, on the other hand, do all the foraging  work and taking care of the young within the community. As mentioned, chimps practice patrilineal lifestyle, which means, the territory is often passed down from father to son. Perhaps another remarkable thing about chimpanzees – they can go all the way to exterminate other chimpanzee communities via systematic massacre.

Do chimps reminds you anything about human being? Briefly scanning through our humanity history, there’s nothing short of surprises for us to know that our past is full of bloodshed. In some sense, this sophisticatedly violent behaviour is shared by our common ancestor of human being with our cousin chimps and is passed down generation over generation.

(I have once contemplated on why do cows are so content to just graze grass day and night for their whole entire life while human get bored even if we have just 2 similar meals on the same day.  I was pretty clueless until I read the book Human by M. Gazzaniga. In the second chapter of the book, he described that one of the reasons why chimpanzees engage in warfare in capturing territories is due to food. Chimps by nature, are driven by luxurious, high-quality and difficult-to find food. In ecology-economics, it is called as cost-of-grouping theory which states that the size of the chimpanzee community depends on the resources around it. The more variety and abundant of food they have, the bigger the size of the community it will be, which means a more dominating and stronger group within the territory. Hence, this form of ‘desire’ is an inherited behaviour from our common ancestor as a way to establish a powerful community/clan/group)

Back to the gender differences, it’s clear we share many basic instincts with the chimps and that’s including the role between men and women. As i have very clearly argued here 6 months ago – The Perceived Value – it is extremely important to recognize that due to Evolution, men and women are not exactly equal in every sense – we are different. A little abstract of what i’ve written:

I always believe men, generally, are more intelligent than women in conceiving big-world-changing-complex-ideas. Just refer to the history and notice that 99% of the great scientists, inventors, and philosophers are male. But does that means the ladies are inferior to men? Absolutely not. Empathy is one of the many traits which men generally severely lack off while it is innate to most female.

Again, it is all down to the ‘Perceived Value’. Empathy is perceived more as a manners or morality while conceiving big ideas is an ability. The society rate Intelligence as more valuable, hence creating an impression that the male species are superior.

I believe men and women are equal. But I don’t believe men and women are equal in the sense of “corresponding-equality”. It is more of ‘total-equality’. Clueless? I invented these crappy terms, so i will explain the meanings,.

1. Corresponding-equality : What men can do, women can too. There’s no gap between men and women and we are 100% precisely equal in every sense.

2. Total-equality : Men & Women have different sets of strengths & weaknesses. But when you sum up these plus and minus together, men and women are actually equal.

Most feminist movements are championing the corresponding-equality ideology. I do not agree with their philosophy because i think it will take away the uniqueness of difference between men and women. Relationships are interesting because there are different ‘roles’ involved from both sides.

The reason why the disparity between gender exist in the first place is because we are hardwired to function in such a way to fulfil certain roles which Evolution wants us to be (hence, it seems we do not have much free will at macro-level). The female is evolved to be more concerned on issues pertaining to human – children, family, household matters, food, emotional aspects, etc. Hence, it explains why female are more interested in academics which are more people-oriented such as medical, pharmacy, biology, psychology, and also business area (which deals with network of people such as management and marketing). The male on the other hand is evolved to be more concerned with things which is beyond human being. That’s why men are more interested in abstract matter such as science, technology, engineering, music & arts, mathematics and entrepreneurship (which in some way boost our pride).

But you might say, there now exist a sense of equality between men and women. And it seems that we ‘learned’ and ‘nurtured’ the sense equality in humanity over these many years. If so, how could we evolved to have separate roles in the first place? My answer would be, if we could ‘evolved in’ to have roles, then we could also ‘evolved out’ of the roles. Discrimination has lessen over the years in the sense of sexism, racism, etc. and I believe we are evolving towards a Type 1 civilization (as described by Michio Kaku) where we will move to skin-colour-blind society and think from humanity point of view (instead from race or nation point of view). All i can tell you – free will is not as straightforward as you think if you link it with Evolution, genetics, and neuroscience. I will leave it to another time to explain it in more details.

The males are certainly the more dominant gender in human and chimpanzee. But it’s not right to think that the males are the universal dominant gender in every single  species in this animal kingdom. There are certain species of insects and birds where the females are the more dominant ones. Just like the mantis which practice sexual cannibalism where the female kill and eat the male after mating. All these diversities are the product of Evolution.

Written by elan85

September 3, 2008 at 3:00 am

Life : Just Perfect

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Earth is said to be a perfect place for life because it has water, oxygen, ozone, the right distance away from sun (ideal temperature and sunlight), the moon (stabilizing tidal), far away enough from Milky Way’s super massive black hole (avoiding radiation) and a long list of other factors. Hence, scientists have called Earth as the Goldilocks’ zone because everything is just right and nice for Life to exist. Should one of the essential elements do not exist or different in value, the entire Life system will collapse like a crumbling building. For instance, if Jupiter is only half of its size today,, Life on Earth would be impossible because Jupiter will not have a big gravity field strong enough to hold up asteroids and meteors in the Asteroid Belt between Mars and Jupiter. Earth would then be bombarded by asteroids and Life will have no chance to evolve over the million of years.

Some people argued that this ‘perfection’ proves God created Earth & human being. But in this age of Reasoning, i call this lazy way of thinking… It is a bad habit to just skip over mysteries and attribute it to divine or super power. No, you don’t skip over mysteries and call them mysteries. You tackle them instead.

Most people think that the Elements (water, oxygen, sun) fits into Life. Life is the grand design and elements are the components which make Life the way it is. It is just like the car is the grand design and human creates car components (steering, wheels, engine) to complement and fulfill the grand design. Without a car, an individual component like steering or wheel become useless and serve no purpose at all in the universe. Hence, people have the idea that there must be a creator orchestrating this grand design.

But think harder, what if Life does not work the way as we thought to be? What if it is the other way round? What if Life fits into the Elements instead? It is simply means Life depended, evolved and was built up utilizing these Elements.

Water itself is a special element. Oxygen is another special element. The existence of these Elements do not specifically exist solely for Life but it also serves other purposes in the universe. Every single Element is special. Even if it didn’t help to form Life, water will still serve other roles in the universe. Through emergence theory, the natural force build up Life via a process by combining all these elements which could fit nicely together. This process is known as Evolution. Should the environment or condition can’t provide sufficient conducive Elements for Life, the process will fail and Life will not exist. Look at the Moon, Venus and Mars.

So, yes, life itself is not a grand design. But the question whether Life is just a byproduct of chemical-Element-reactions or Life itself is one of the main goal of the Universe is still up for debate.

Organic vs Mechanical

Do you know that our body is actually powered by electricity? Whenever we use our brain to think, electrical pulses is exchanged between neurons. Whenever we walk around, electricity helps muscle contraction and allow us to move our body. Heart would not beat without electricity. The organs communicate with the brain via electrical pulses. And the most fundamental thing which made us the way we are, atoms and molecules, are also powered by electricity. It make sense that electricity play such an important role in Life since its one of the Four Fundamental Forces in the Universe.

(Now, there are two ways to see it. Either you will see that God created electricity as part of his design or you will see the force of Evolution utilizing electricity as a mechanism to make Life works.  The mind find meaning on what it seeks. If you believe in God’s existence, whatever you see or think will naturally be related to God and you will become more convinced of his existence. Else, if you believe in a natural world, everything you see is natural without needing a divine being for Life to happen. Obviously, i believe the latter.)

It’s just like how a car works. If one of the essential component is missing from the car, whether its engine, steering, wheel, gear or etc., the entire car system will not work. The car works the way it is because all these components come together and fit nicely together. Or using back electricity as example, if we have never discover the art of manipulating electricity, this blog will never exist because there are simply no other ways to power up computers, hence denying the possibility of computer’s existence.

Then you might think – if human created car and computer, wouldn’t it be logical that a God should exist to assemble all these components together and designed Life?

That’s where most people’s common sense is off. How could you compare organic objects with mechanical objects? Basically, same concept, different background.  Organic objects are natural, Mechanical objects are designed and created. Organic objects are governed by natural forces, Mechanical objects are governed by human being. If you throw a seed on the garden, a flower will grow naturally and go through its life cycle without needing any guidance. If you throw a car on the garden, the car will just stay stagnant there for eternal time and becomes rusty. All common sense.

Written by elan85

July 8, 2008 at 9:13 pm