Rationality win!

swimmerguy's picture

So, not much happened today. EXCEPT...

First, background, this was last year, in Chemistry, I was talking to one of my "one year, one class" friends. Do you know those? Like people you really like, and have for one class, one year, but they don't actually get into your inner circle of regularly contacted friends, and so when the class ends you fall out with them?
Anyway, this chick was one of those, in Chemistry, and we were talking about, I forget how it got to this, but something along the lines of if the Earth had no oxygen, and it was all nitrogen, or something like that, and I was like But then we would have evolved to breathe that and then she said after that, I don't believe in that.
And I was just like, stunned, for a second. Someone who's smart, in high school, in an honors science class, and yet believes in rather the wide scientific consensus supported by a wealth of evidence, believes in a claim made by a book written thousands of years ago, translated multiple times and with parts added and removed, the final edition decided by a committee, deciding which books to keep and which to throw out, and supported by no widely supported data from the real world?
That really struck me.

But finally, for the first time, I found this page, and I've been reading it, it's very long: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evidence_of_common_descent
And it makes me so happy. The incredible rationality and intelligence win displayed in it just makes me so happy.
I mean, I always knew that there was a lot of evidence for evolution, but I didn't realize how much.
For instance, I didn't realize until reading The God Delusion that say, if fossils didn't exist, there were zero fossils of extinct creatures, the evidence for evolution would still be overwhelming.
All the evidence and properties it talks about is just so interesting and it makes everything seem so clear.

Because, this is what always pisses me off about places such as The Discovery Institute, based just a half-hour south of where I live, that advocated intelligent design, and teaching it in schools.
Often, for "evidence", people like that cite things such as gaps in the fossil record.
I didn't realize until recently that that's just arguing about semantics. I mean, in the first place, doesn't it kinda remove the Christian Creationism aspect if you actually acknowledge that there are fossils, and that they show extinct creatures, as well as showing that most creatures we know now didn't exist 100 million years ago, even if the fossil record doesn't always show every successive step? (An awesome example is the Coelacanth, a fish they found fossilized in 400 million year old fossils, and thought had died out 65 million years ago in the Late Cretaceous, until fishermen started pulling them out of the water off the coast of South Africa)
If God created all creatures, he certainly has a sense of humor. For instance, the recurrent laryngeal nerve in most mammals extends from the base of the brain, down the neck, down to the heart in the chest, around the aorta, then goes back up the neck, and ends in the larynx, a path of, in giraffes, up to 13 feet long, when the actual distance between start and end is only inches.
God must've laughed at the guy who first discovered that.

And what about the dodo bird? Didn't people realize that you killed all of them, they're dead now, all of them, they're not coming back? If that's possible, wouldn't that imply that new species must arise, before the Earth only has like 50 species left, each the very best at surviving in their environment?

The odd thought that now seems so foreign to me, that God created the world, before that there was nothing, about 7000 or so years ago, and soon, very soon some would have us know, Jesus will return, the sinners all will go to hell, the good guys will all go to heaven, the earth will be destroyed, and then that's how it'll be for eternity, sinners burning, righteous ones doing, I dunno what (That's another thing. If things like partying and having sex are sinful, and only the righteous go to heaven, which is supposed to be some great place, what are they supposed to do for eternity? I mean, I know animals don't have souls, of course, they're just tools made just for mankind, so all that there is is just a bunch of people rapturously staring at Jesus for eternity or something? Wouldn't that get old after a few thousand years? At least, even if you're suffering, and don't have access to alcohol or anything else, in hell I could still sodomize right enough, I'm sure, and that has to be more fun than anything you can do in heaven...)
in heaven, that seems so restricted to me now.

I feel like this knowledge that the cosmos are really big, that human beings are only the end result of inevitable processes resulting on our beautiful little piece of rock left over from the Big Bang, and that we're insignificant, really, even in the scale of our own planet and it's history, which is itself a tiny, tiny piece of the universe at large, I feel like that thought feels so much more open now.
The thought of reason and rationality feels like it literally opens things up, when we used to think the world was so small, now we know it's so big.

And the possibilities are endless.
For example, the possibility of a "warp drive" has been hypothesized.
I'll explain.
Well, the problem is that the universe is really really big, and there's a speed limit in it, 186,000 miles per second, the speed of light.
I'll explain why that in a second.
And so that means that even to get to the very closest stars and planets to us in our own galaxy, even if we were travelling at the speed of light, would take well over a century.
And we can't even get close to the speed of light, so trying to get to them in the very fastest spaceship we have would take... 10,000 years.
Which is a little sad, there's a great big universe out there, full of amazing planets and stars we could explore, but it's too big, and the speed limit's too low to allow us to look around like something out of Spaceman Spiff (Calvin and Hobbes).
The speed limit comes from e=mc^2, which says that energy and matter are the same thing. Both have mass.
That means, to boost and object up to the speed of light, you'd need to accelerate it. But, to get an object to move faster, you have to add more energy. Which means you're adding more mass, the object you're trying to move gets heavier.
The more energy you try to add to the object to accelerate it more and more will just make it heavier and heavier, like an asymptote on an exponential graph, until, to reach the speed of light, you must have an infinite amount of energy, and therefore an infinite amount of mass.
(Although, we're not too sure that that's true anymore, some neutrinos have recently appeared to actually move slightly faster that the speed of light, they're still checking it to see if it holds water)

So, that's impossible, we can't visit stars by moving through space.
But, there is another option, barring wormholes. The Warp Drive.
The Warp Drive works through the principle that you're not actually moving at all. Your spaceship would be surrounded by a bubble of space that does not move at all, and then you would rapidly contract the space between you and your target, and rapidly expand the space behind you, meaning that you're getting closer too your target, simply by shrinking the distance between you and it, without actually moving at all through space.
And in Einstein's laws, there's nothing that tells you how fast you can warp space, you can do that at whatever speed you want.
So the Warp Drive would theoretically be able to move infinitely fast.

There are problems, of course, foremost being that the Warp Drive needs vast quantities of "negative energy", which we don't really know much about.
But we are fairly sure it exists now.
An experiment has been done, taking over 15 years to complete, which appears to demonstrate negative energy.

A good analogy for negative energy is to think of a sheet of water with a miniature boat on it, with waves being sent through the water. The waves buffet the boat on both sides, meaning that it's likely to not move at all.
But if you add another boat next to it, separated by a little distance, the boats will tend to lessen the waves between them, and therefore be pushed by the waves on the one side, with fewer waves between the 2 boats, and so, through a concept similar to plane flight, the boats will move together, because the waves push them together, with fewer waves to resist them in between themselves.

In a way like that, 2 metal plates were set very close to each other in a vacuum, separated by less distance than the thickness of a human hair.

In vacuums, people tend to think of them as completely empty, but they're not, actually. Vacuums mostly consist of a constant spring of opposite particles popping into existence, then annihilating each other soon afterward, in a constant sort of foam.

The experiment runs under the premise that if you get these 2 plates close enough together, there'll be fewer of those particles, called the Zero-Point Energy, between them, than on either side of them, like the boats in the water. Therefore, the pressure of the more Zero Point Energy on either side will push the plates together.

And the experiment worked, it demonstrated that the plates had a force pushing them together, or, to think about it in another way, they were expanding the space on either side of them, using negative energy.

Now, the force detected was only equal to the weight of a red blood cell on Earth, but still, in theory, the Warp Drive would work.

And the amazing possibility that people could one day be whizzing all across the universe with Warp Drives like in Futurama, that fascinates me, and fills me with wonder.

With beautiful reason and rationality like that, who needs a God like that of Christianity?


inso_manic's picture

This is really fasinating

I'm not much into science, but i really want to research this more.

elph's picture

Evolution of complex life

Right next door to you is Professor Peter D. Ward (Seattle: University of Washington).

His experiences and insights for early life on earth are treated in quite readable form in a number of books (I've read all... although cosmology remains at top of my personal list).


(Not quite sure why that link does not appear in "clickable" form... but that should not be a difficulty for one so acquainted with Wikipedia...)

For a first read, I'd suggest: Rare Earth; Why Complex Life Is Uncommon in the Universe.


btw... You're possibly unaware... but, your propensity to restate (with commentary) in your own words recent acquisition of knowledge is an extremely efficacious device for ensuring permanent storage in memory!

I hope you never stop...


Not a single mention of CAG! :(

socialist's picture


There is so much wrong with the whole heaven/hell thing that I won't even bother pointing everything out.

elph's picture


With swimmerguy's assessment?

I hope that's not what you meant us to infer.

socialist's picture

It is.

So many things wrong with that. >_<

elph's picture

You do recognize...

...sarcasm when you see it?

ferrets's picture

i think theres alot wrong with the idea...

of a heaven and hell in the first place, primarily the lack of evidence of its existance, folowed closley by the moral monstoristy it creates if it were ot exist.

and dont be silly chalding,of course we needthe judeo-christain-islamic(?) god. or else who will tell us to cut off our foreskin and not having mind blowingly satisfying orgasms?

"A loving man and woman in a committed relationship can marry. Dogs, no matter what their relationship, are not allowed to marry. How should society treat gays and lesbians in committed relationships? As dogs or as humans?"

elph's picture

And this...

...just another example of quite adept sarcasm!

The only benefit you'll likely come to enjoy is your being able to last a bit longer traveling that utopian (metaphorical) trail at the end of which lies that deliciously-long and much-sought-after mind-blowing bliss.

This... properly summarizes your daily experience... right?

socialist's picture

I already am in heaven.

I experience constant happiness when I'm not thinking about Brad. Shit; I just realized how much this crush has ruined my endless ecstasy.

elph's picture

Did you pay full price...

...for the ticket? I hope not... :)

Anyway... don't let this weekend pass without having a full plan of action in hand when you return to school next Monday.

Alternatively... you could just text him this URL (Oasis) along with the simple statement: "fyi, I'm socialist."

I think this would end all uncertainty...

However, I know what I'd do were I in your position: Regrettably, I'd be roosting with the chickens.

socialist's picture

What do you mean by

What do you mean by "roosting with the chickens"?

elph's picture

"Regrettably" should have...

...provided a hint.

I meant to say that I would have been similarly "tongue tied" (iow, chicken).

The fear of expressing ones libidinal feelings... no matter how indirect and evasive... must have some evolutionary value... but to what end?

I'd keep asking, "What's the worst that could happen...?" Dunno :(

Dracofangxxx's picture

So... are you just gonna sit there and be passive-aggressive,

Or are you actually going to say WHAT'S wrong and have an intelligent rebuttal instead of an unintelligent dismissal?... There's no point in telling someone their idea is wrong unless you've got the balls to back it up, eh?
That's redick!