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Facts and Truth.

EinsteinA few weeks ago, one of my favorite cousins posted something on Facebook that had questionable origins at best. The Internet has become a huge echo chamber for misinformation, maudlin parables, and a whole lot of cat videos. This particular story was an anecdote about Einstein and religion. It has no basis in fact. I put my husband on the case, a natural skeptic, fact finder and truth seeker. This is what he found:

First, this is obviously a fictional story written to support an opinion with junk logic. Modified versions of this same story are all over the web. Here’s a version featuring a Muslim student instead of a Christian:

It’s interesting to note that for each of the 10 different versions I found, none had a byline by a reporter, an author, or credited to a source of any kind.

 Second, the logic put forward by this fictional piece is outrageously flawed and it doesn’t require a big brain like Einstein to see through it. For example, to say that there is no such thing as cold, is absurd. Yes, we might conclude that cold is the word we use to describe the lack of heat, but that’s just splitting hairs over how the word ‘cold’ is defined! Let’s remember, the word ‘cold’ has uses beyond physics. It’s easier to say ‘it’s cold outside’ than to say ‘today’s atmosphere lacks heat at this altitude ‘. Further, we commonly use the word ‘cold’ as the opposite of heat because temperatures we consider cold or hot are on opposite ends of a continuous scale.

Third, this story posits that evolution has not been observed when, in fact, it has:

Fourth, this is a well known hoax, documented here:

Note: no biographical writing of Einstein mentions this event. Something as dramatic as this is intended to be would have made the pages of at least one of the thousands of Einstein biographical works made to date.

 Ultimately, this was written by someone who has no understanding of how science works. It’s really just a poorly conceived philosophical story without merit.

Okay then. The story is a manipulative pile of horse apples. However, please do not misunderstand me or vilify me: I am not just about exposing questionable parables for its own sake. Something can FEEL true, even when it’s not. My hope is that if one is seeking spiritual guidance, trying to answer the BIG questions in life, or needs some healing for the spirit, remember that tolerance for ambiguity is a good thing.

Scientists are not this “other” species who are seeking to destroy faith and belief systems. In fact, many of the most ingenious scientists have been those who are passionate in their quests for both facts and truth, such as Carl Sagan, Marie Curie, William Herschel, John Dalton, and Gregor Mendel, just to name a few. There is no real debate or argument between science and religion. It’s like a celebrity death-match; completely fabricated to keep our minds off of the real questions, to distract us from our own journeys. Humanity is too good and big for these petty tussles, and the universe can shoulder it, too.

Next time, find a real anecdote, quote, or fact to speak your truth.

I have always liked this one:

In order to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe.

–Carl Sagan

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What’s in a name?


From the Writer’s Almanac, February 15, 2010:

It’s the birthday of the Father of Modern Science, Galileo Galilei, (born in Pisa, Italy (1564). It was Copernicus who suggested that it was the sun, and not the Earth, that was at the center of the universe. But Galileo became a famous public defender of that theory, called heliocentrism. The pope and Galileo were on friendly terms, and the pope encouraged Galileo to write a book outlining the controversy. But of course the pope instructed Galileo that he must not promote heliocentrism, and asked that his own beliefs be represented. So Galileo wrote Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, which purported to be a debate between two philosophers; but one of the two, Simplicio, sounded stupid, and it was this figure that acted as a mouthpiece of the pope. No one knows whether Galileo deliberately attacked the Pope — it’s probable that he just couldn’t write as convincing of an argument from a philosophy that undermined his own scientific beliefs. In any case, the pope was definitely not a fan of the book, and Galileo was put on trial for heresy. He publicly renounced his views, but he still spent the rest of his life under house arrest, and his books were banned.

Wow.  Talk about your author’s bias and purpose. Remember the other day when we talked about characters, and how writers purposefully and intentionally name their characters? Simplicio? Simple? As in simple-minded? Consider that when we begin fictional narratives in the next few weeks. The characters in your writing all matter, whether they have a major or minor role. And they are your creation–name them accordingly.

One more note: heliocentrism. Remind you of anything? Helios? Hmmmm?

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Mrs. Love’s Note:I asked one of my favorite science teachers/doctors/bloggers I follow for a little clarification, because I knew that this information wasn’t completely on target. I knew we aren’t “fish” people. We are life forms. We share traits, like bones, guts, and eyeballs. I am using this as a metaphor, which I’m sure you all know. The metaphor is we share a sociological and biological imperative, a need to tell a story. At some point, humans stood up, looked around, and said, “I want to talk about this! Better invent language! I need to write this down! Better invent pigments for the cave walls! I need to read a letter from Aunt Mudpie, better learn to read! (She has a recipe for grilled mastodon that is to die for!)

Here’s what he had to say:

Dear Kelly,

A couple of thoughts on your evolution post.

Humans and fish and reptiles all have common ancestors–just about everything alive does depending how far back you go–but no species around today evolved from any other species around today. Humans did not go through a “reptile” stage–we go back to a common ancestor.

The ontogeny illustration is lovely, and you’ll occasionally find it in textbooks, but it does injustice to the real appearance of embryos/fetuses at their respective stages. Ontogeny sort of recapitulates phylogeny, but not nearly as closely as would be fun to believe.

“Phylogeny” is a great word–it comes from “phylon” which means tribe, race,  or clan; “geny”, of course, goes back to the same roots as genesis, and means birth or origin. So phylogeny is looking at the origins of our tribe!



Also:  It is a lovely illustration, isn’t it? We animals/birds are all thrown together in an antiquated chart like some sort of indigo rainbow spectrum of life-light, albeit scientifically erroneous.

This is a stretch, I know, but perhaps early mankind felt more connected to the critters, creepers, and caterwaulers of the earth and sea, and that’s why animal spirits played an important role in spirituality, mythology, and fables.

 Now, on to our originally scheduled post, already in progress:

If carbon-based organisms keep some genetic memory, some imprint, of our collective consciousness, is that why we keep telling the same stories?

Ontogeny is the development of an individual organism; in other words, from its embryonic “egg” form to its mature, developed state. Phylogeny is the scientific discipline that studies the evolutionary history of a group of organisms. In other words, ontogeny would study how you went from an embryo to who you are now; phylogeny would study the entire human race’s path. (I think that’s what it means. Perhaps one of my science friends can help me out with this one!)



 The Connection between Ontogeny and Phylogeny 

The evolution of the human brain over millions of years and its development over the course of one lifetime are inextricably linked. In fact, the best way to get an overview of the stages through which our brain passed in the course of evolution is to look at those through which it passes as an individual develops.

The phrase “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny” was coined by Ernst Haeckel in 1866 and for many decades was accepted as natural law. Haeckel meant it in the strict sense: that an organism, in the course of its development, goes through all the stages of those forms of life from which it has evolved.Modern biology now rejects this dogmatic perspective. Though recognizing that human beings evolved from fish and reptiles, biologists cannot discern in our development any stages that correspond precisely to those of a fish or a reptile.That said, species that share the same branch of the evolutionary tree clearly also go through the same early stages of individual development, though they diverge subsequently. One good example here is the basic skeletal structure of all vertebrates, which is one of the anatomical structures that is laid down earliest in the process of embryogenesis. In fact, the most precise way to describe this whole phenomenon might be to say that related organisms start with a common general embryonic form and then eventually diverge into distinct adult morphologies as they complete their development.

To understand the link between phylogeny and ontogeny (in other words, between the evolution of a species and the development of an individual), one must understand that a species can evolve from a series of small mutations in the development program encoded in its individuals’ genes. The earlier that these mutations occur in an embryo’s development, the more likely they are to be lethal, because of the fundamental changes that they will involve. That is why we tend to see more mutations in the later stages of development, and why various species show similarities in their early embryonic stages. But sometimes a mutation in the program at an early stage of development will still leave the embryo viable, resulting in a differentiation of these early stages that erases any strict correspondence with the phylogeny of this species. That is why a strict interpretation of Haeckel’s law of recapitulation does not withstand close empirical scrutiny.  

Ride this Ride

Great conversation Friday afternoon, tying in with our World History studies. Consider early mankind. If you want to put a face on it, think about Lucy. With more time on her hands, perhaps she communicates a story to her young. They in turn, tell a story, too. They ask questions. They think of answers. They think outside of themselves. They begin to reflect on the meaning of their own existence. They use the spark, the light, the inner awareness (call it what you will) to look to the skies and ask, “Why am I here?”

How are we answering that question today? We’re still asking it. We’re still fighting over it. We’re still debating it. And sometimes it even involves blood, sweat, and tears. We want to know. We ate the fruit. We got fire. We created big rock clocks. And though we increase our data/technology construct, processing more information in the last five minutes than we did in the last five hundred years (I’m guessing), we still tell stories.

Is that what keeps us moving forward, or stuck in a rut? Or, is just a way to stay human?

That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

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