biology

If only humans were as good-natured as animals..

..what a wonderful world would it be!

  • we would often be commiting infanticide for the sake of our lineage
  • we would be defining strict hierarchies where only two individuals are allowed to reproduce, or where the male has a harem of several females and fights hard any competitors
  • we would have males poisoning their female “soul mate”, but since she’d do the same with a stronger poison these males would inevitably die
  • we would have males beating their females and going with little armies to kill nearby groups of the same species or of other species, you know, the one that only thinks about sex
  • we would be committing suicide, either alone or “kamikaze style”

and plenty of other funny and lovely things!

On a more serious note

I know the common objection to this. “They cannot choose”, “It’s their nature” and so on. What really does bug me is that people aren’t able to see that we humans are actually an improvement, because we can choose and we can define our own “nature”, which becomes culture- and ratio-based instead of strictly genetic/impulsive.

Ethics can be defined, followed, enforced by law. All the bad things I listed, that indeed have been proudly performed by many humans and still cause suffering to a lot of people in the world, can be made forbidden or depicted as despicable, thus reducing them statistically.

In some of the cited articles, you may read explanations of why animals do such bad things. Sometimes had been indeed proved that those behaviours increase their probability, as a species, to survive.

I don’t know if you noticed, but the important thing seems to be the “species” when talking about animals. Not the “individual”.

Would you really like that? We have been constructing abstract wrappings around pain and suffering (as well as good feelings) for thousands of years, but you know: also animals suffers. When a male lion kills a pup, his mother (maybe, I don’t know) suffers but the pup suffers more, before dying. It’s physical suffering, which is really bad.

I guess it’s also worse when they starve to death or are plagued by different kind of damn diseases.

Would you like that to happen to you, your family, your friends? Don’t you see how humans, yet despicable on many areas, are actually an improvement for the individual, regardless of the species?

For me the individual is important, what I feel, what I want, and the same for the people near me: the more “far away” they are, the less I care. And that’s pretty normal: we’d die in a minute if we cared about all problems affecting people worldwide.

A lot still has to be done, on the ethical and technological side, to build a really safe and enjoyable world for us and our beloved.

For sure, the wrong way is that of be willing to go back to tribal societies, reviving our animal instincts, because animals are soooo cute and they are full of love while we are just reckless filthy humans.

Go down from the trees, ethical-driven humans! Your modern society needs you. Well educated, conscious and rational.

BS Science – Creationism (via Dr. Sci-Psy)

Basilosaurus cetoides, an archaeocete whale fr...

Image via Wikipedia

Links, bolds and underlines are mine. The tumblr of this guy is very funny, he’s smart. Follow it ;)

Here are some of the most common talking points creationists use.

1) No one has seen evolution in action. This theory is based on speculation.

As a microbiologist, I find this offensive. I witness evolution all the time when bacteria gain antibiotic resistance. This is small but very easy to see if you look at Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a bug that arose due to evolution and the overuse of antibiotics selecting for specific traits.

2) There are no transitional fossils (intermedeary fossils that show evolutionary transition).

There are. A lot of them actually. My favorites are whales. The Fossils we have have put their evolution as so: the land mammal Indohyus, returns to the water and transitions into Ambulocetus, then after two more known transitions (Protocetid and Basilosaurus), finally ends as Cetaceans – modern whales. Besides, evolution itself is a fluid transitional process. All living species are currently in a state of “transition”.

3) Evolution can’t explain how life started.

Well, it’s not supposed to. The process in which life started that so many creationists talk about is something else all together called “abiogenesis.” This branch of science has many theories (I’m particular to the RNA world hypothesis) but has nothing to do with evolution. Evolution explains how species change over time through natural selection.

Having creationism (or its dressed-up inbred cousin, “intelligent design”) taught in any science class is detrimental to children’s cognitive development. If we teach kids that the earth is 6,000 years old, we’re teaching them that it’s okay to ignore empirical evidence. Being able to shape your beliefs on things that are testable and falsifiable is one of the most important skills anyone can learn.

via Dr. Sci-Psy.

What happens to your genes when you smoke a cigarette? (via Machines Like Us)

The effects of smoking cigarettes on gene activity have been investigated in the largest study of its kind. Researchers writing in the open access journal BMC Medical Genomics studied white blood cells taken from 1,240 people to identify 323 unique genes whose expression levels were significantly correlated with smoking behavior.

Jac Charlesworth led a team of researchers from the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research, Texas, USA, who carried out the study as part of the long running San Antonio Family Heart Study in families from the Mexican American community in San Antonio. She said, “Previous studies of gene expression as influenced by smoking have been seriously limited in size with the largest of the in vivo studies including only 42 smokers and 43 non-smokers. We studied 1,240 individuals, including 297 current smokers. Never before has such a clear link between smoking and transcriptomics been revealed, and the scale at which exposure to cigarette smoke appears to influence the expression levels of our genes is sobering.”

via What happens to your genes when you smoke a cigarette? | Machines Like Us.