Some People Can't Stand Equality

This story in the Washington Post this morning reports on the findings that the quality of life for girls and boys is about equal according to the researchers at Duke University. What is not surprising is how quickly the study drew adamant criticism from both sides of the "this gender has it worst" crowd.

It is this exact kind of debate that manipulates change to suit a few and not the many. Both sides stand to lose mindshare ground for their 'cause' if the study is accepted as is. Nothing puts out the fire of injustice faster than learning there is none. Both sides have invested passion, time and money in bringing about change that suits their grievance. Both sides have commissioned research to prove their point. Neither side can conceptualize that their mission might be flawed.

I believe it is quite natural that individually we are always looking for and jumping at the chance to fight for something. That tendency is part of what is beautiful about the human spirit.

Two neighboring farmers have been feuding with each other for years over the quality of their corn. In court, with agricultural inspectors, and granaries, each believed their corn would grow better and sell higher but for the presence of the neighbors corn. It seems each had commissioned a soil test, and both tests "proved" that the their neighbors strain of corn was leaching all of the nutrients from the ground and was probably effecting any crops nearby. Armed with their studies they were able to secure extra funding, equipment, and other favorable allowances to offset their “losses”.

Believing it would be a good field project, a professor at the local university sent his students out to do their own research. When the study was complete the university announced that the cross-pollination of the two strains of corn had produced a single "super-strain" and that the crops where quite equal in quality and the soil on neither property was in jeopardy.

“Balderdash,” cried the first farmer. “Look at all of the evidence and effort I’ve put into proving my story. Your study must be flawed!”

“Harrumph!”, muttered the second farmer. “He (the first farmer) knows his information is wrong, and since his son studied in your science department you’re probably doing him a favor to try and discredit both of our soil tests. Your tests are all lies.”

With regard to the human spirit; it is equally possible for our pride of ownership (of our view) to blind us from truth and reason. An emotional and material investment cannot change wrong to right.

Get High to Stop Getting High

Read this story in The Village Voice and make up your own mind.


Is Intelligent Design Supposed to Guarantee Perfection?

Jim Holt at the New York Times penned an opinion that rants about the imperfections of life (at least according to Jim Holt) and, like many with a disdain for what they do not understand, made certain to point his finger at who is to blame (at least according to Jim Holt). I gather from his ranting that he does not believe in "intelligent design" and resents others that differ with his belief.

I would agree the world appears to be an imperfect place, but within it's imperfection there also appears to be a lot of joy in life. The peacock is admired for its useless beauty, suffering has made life dear to us and teaches us lessons untold, and though I cannot surmise the reason the recurrent laryngeal nerve was created to be so long, I do know it has worked quite effectively. I have this image in my head of Jim running down the street grabbing people and shouting, "Don't you GET IT? It's all wrong! We're DOOMED! There is NO REASON FOR US TO KEEP GOING!"

OK. There is my imperfect opinion about Jim's imperfect rant.


How Fast Do We Jump to Start a Cause

Over at TalkLeft they have been following a story of a judge who is reported to have told a rape victim to, "get over it." Meanwhile, the Standard-Times in New Bedford, MA (home of the judge and victim) is running a parallel story stating that no such exchange took place and the judge had been quite compassionate. Eventually this business will works itself out... No help from outsiders thank you.

In recent weeks the blogging community has been reveling in it's own positive press as one great story after another was revealed through diligent citizen reporters via the blogsphere. And rightfully so. Mainstream media could stand to lose a peg or two. But I also think that bloggers need to temper their zeal to be immediate in bringing information to their readers.

This blog, The Catalyst, is only about looking for signs of change so I don't know if TalkLeft is right in their report, or the Standard-Times. What I do see is subtle hints that citizen reporters can fall victim to the very same impulses and influences that have plagued a portion of traditional media reporters. A passion to prove the worthiness of our cause should never replace our passion to allow for truth.

Follow-up on Life on Mars

This just in... NASA officially separates themselves from claims of "proof of life" on Mars. My thoughts for NASA; Thank you.


Science Can Rock Our World

Guardian Unlimited ran a column today on the human cost of bad science and singled out Rachel Carson's research on DDTs. What is worth noting about her research, how she reported the findings, and the subsequent sweeping changes that were made based on her findings is a case study in the complexity of hoping to know what changes may come.

I do not believe scientists in general have any desire for their discoveries to cause bad things to happen. In fact I believe the opposite. Scientists, like everyone else, are trying to do good things. What may not be evident to many scientists is the inherent authority they wield by simply knowing things the rest of us cannot even guess at. If enough scientists say 'it's true' the rest of us believe and act on that truth we've been told.

A recent example of this is the discovery of a specific gas on Mars that some scientists adamantly state is proof there is life there. Have they found life? No. Is this gas only possible as a result of life? Scientists don't know. Here on the planet earth it's produced by living things, so taking a giant leap, science would have us believe that life on Mars is proven. Well, no its not. What IS proven is that this specific gas is on Mars.

Believing something is true effects everyone forever after the truth is accepted. Scientists should spend some time contemplating their ability to effect so many for so long.


Thoughts on the Life We Lead

Joseph Cooper at Christian Science Monitor pens a great column that challenges our measurment of self-worth. To quote Joseph, "... Still, each of us, in our own way, carves out a bit of history that should be set down - for our own edification, and for each of our families and a few friends." His words are worth the read. (link)

The Planet Earth Now Hosting 6.5 Billion People

Numbers between 1 and about 100 million I can comprehend. 6.5 billion (as reported over at Science Blog) is a entirely new ballpark. Living in Southern California (home to 17 million people in a five county area) I have grown accustomed to knowing there are a lot of folks around and not nearly enough land to hold us all. But economies of scale to accommodate 6.5 billion seems staggering and impossible.

Though the earth has demonstrated it's capacity to provide it makes sense that one day there will not be any more of something. Of course there always been instances of 'not-enough', but for now those problems are due to poor distribution, political struggle, and indifference. It's just amazing to me with 6.5 billion people in the world that there are not already long lists of things that the earth has run out of that until now had been a staple in my life.


Further Evidence of Fear in a Shrinking World

Geek News Central reports that a national ID card may be just around the corner following the approval of the Real ID Act by the US House of Representatives.

As I have previously commented and evidenced, fear creates change. This is a good example of just such a case. The argument is that a national identification system will provide an additional layer of security and safety for our citizens with side effect benefits to immigration regulation.

What a stupid, stupid, costly idea. Which part of the ID system will be accurately measuring the mind and intent of the card holder? Being required to carry and show 'my papers' whenever required is simply one more intrusion with no hope of creating positive change... But it does have tremendous potential to foster more hate and suspicion.

Carrying a drivers license to prove I'm authorized to drive; this I can swallow. Carrying a card to prove that I belong here; No way! The assumption that carrying a card increases security is silly. Just imagining all of the different ways that the power of a national ID system could be extended by the Fed, states, regulators, politicians, business and we the people is even a greater cause for concern. NOTHING that big would be left intact and untouched.

Fear creates change. This proposed change scares me more than the evil we are trying to contain.

Seeking the Next Change Frontier

Guardian Unlimited released this interview piece that asked the question, 'Where will the next scientific revolution take us?"


Blogging Has Stopped Change

Over at Ripples this morning David St Lawrence wrote that blogging offers us a voice within our communities; a place to speak up, be heard, engage in conversation and form new relationships based on ideas and interest. I so much agree with David and while thinking about his words I wondered if blogging is creating change or stopping a change that was in progress.

I think blogging will stop a change in our social structure that has been going awry for centuries.

“Change” in society happens when we have to adjust our lives and our thinking to accommodate new truths whether we like or not. One of the changes that has been going on with increased velocity has been accepting our smaller and smaller individual footprint in the world we’ve come to know. The human drive for more-better-faster has brought the world to my doorstep and I will know the details of things in Siberia before hearing about what happened at a neighbors house two doors down.

When our communities were small and geography was still a physical information buffer our individual voice could be large. Now the din of voices is so great we have a hard time concentrating on the voice we can barely hear right in front of us.

The adjustment we’ve been making because of the din has been to become silent. We’ve been speaking up less and less anticipating we won’t be heard anyway. We were becoming mute observers.

Blogging is anti-change. We have a voice again. Like orators in an old-world city market we can stand on our box and say what we want to say. Sometimes the passerby will stop and listen, discuss your words, and maybe even join you in being heard. Most important though is our feeling of “self” that comes from believing we are heard.

Once again we are part of a community of a size and scope we can comprehend. Blogging rewards us for thinking and speaking; it has re-engaged us in building and growing; it allows us to feel big again.


Evolution and God

This column by Nicholas Kristof at the NewYork Times takes the position that DNA may predispose humans toward religious faith. I'm wondering... wouldn't it make perfect sense for God to design our DNA so that we are predisposed to Him?

Building a Psychic Machine

For some, the fear of not knowing what tomorrow will bring is stronger than their fear of what is. And now some of these folks want to build machines to predict the future. In the aftermath of catastrophic events it feels pretty normal to wring our hands and frustrate over why we didn't see "it" coming. But, unless you're seated to the right or left of God I cannot conceive how it is possible to predict what has not happened yet like it was a newsletter you could buy to read about tomorrow.

As for the scientists that have taken on this mission of prediction; I predict they will be publishing lengthy discourses in scientific journals explaining how close they are to a goal they will never reach.

Random thought here: If you can build a machine to predict the future so that something might be avoided, which future will the machine predict?


Change is Personal

I look for change on a big scale; the things that will have far-reaching effects on life it total. Today I read this article and was reminded of how huge change can be at a personal level for a person when their world does not include any of the rest of us.


From the Earliest of Times Depression has Haunted Society

Zack Lynch over at Brain Waves posted a report on the Cyberonics Neurodevice targeted at treating depression. Imagine that, implant a piece of electronics in just the right place and a disease that has haunted mankind since the dawn of time might be put out of business.

In the course of history, "depression" has had a long and destructive reign. Many great leaders and thinkers have been afflicted; either interrupted in mid-stride or just stone cold stopped in their tracks. AND, too many suffering from the disease have risen to places of authority or leadership where their disease did the talking creating havoc, anarchy, genocide and extinction. More importantly though, depression touches us directly by effecting those we love creating pain and sorrow that need not be.

In its most minor form I cannot imagine what is positive about the disease. It effects millions, shortens life, destroys relationships, jobs and homes, and is the most commonly shared affliction in all suicides.

In reference to the my last post... Creating new life forms could not possibly be as impactful as improving the form of the life we have.


Can We Create Life?

The article on the race to create life from non-life as reported by NewScientist creates more questions than answers starting with, "What?" The researchers that argue about such things have determined that the criteria for deciding if life is created is the ability of the "creation" to self-replicate and evolve independently.

I do not doubt the capacity of humankind to pursue, and maybe even succeed in such an endeavor, but from where I sit something about this just feels odd and uncomfortable.

One of the stars of this race is a company called ProtoLife. Their statement of purpose reads, 'ProtoLife will develop evolutionary chemistry with the long-range goal of creating artificial cells from nonliving raw material, and programming them with desired chemical functionality.'

If they accomplish their goal will they have created life or bio-based robots? The part of their mission that involves "creating artificial cells (life) from nonliving raw materials (non-life)" is eerie to contemplate.

I'm not sure what all of this means... but the impact would definitely be far from small.


The Birth of a Solar System

It may be a delivery that last more than a few hours... actually it will be millions of years before the delivery is complete, but scientists are pretty certain they've found a solar system in the making. Pretty cool stuff.

Progress with a Price?

Corporate society observer and pundit David St Lawrence shares his views and the thoughts of his readers about our ability to entrap ourselves in the name of "progress". In every revolution of human advancement we eventually overuse our discoveries to the point of revolt. The real change society reaps in any "revolution" comes when we discover our ability to retake control from the things we created to improve our world.


Biblical Copyright Holders

A question posted on "ask Yahoo" asks, "Is the Bible copyrighted?" There is just too much material in that one question!

It does beg this most obvious question. If I say something and someone else writes it down, do they now own my words? Better yet, if I say something and include in my statement that I want everyone to have free access to everything I've said, can someone else still wrestle control of my words away from me by being the first to print?

I would agree that being able to charge for the labor of printing, binding and distribution is a reasonable expectation. But to say that the words within the Bible can legally belong to someone other than the original author seems silly. I think transfer of ownership requires permission.

Some things never change. Mankinds propensity for wanting to say, "MINE!" is ageless and enduring.


Fear and How Far to the End

Change has its own energy within us. When we hear things we can't conceive often it leaves a little tic-tic of fear because, though we can't conceive of the idea, we must settle it within ourselves by imagining it in terms we can relate to. What? Let me explain.

Every time a scientist shouts that they have the answer to some question six others come up with something different, and the rest of us are left to try and relate to any of the answers they've arrived at. Often all of their answers feel like something we should fear.

For instance; How will the our universe end and how will that happen? Will it just keep going forever? Will it collapse? Will it bend over on itself and become something entirely different? Your guess is probably as good as the conjectures of science.

I can't even get my mind around the size of the universe let alone how it will age. I remember once concentrating on trying to conceive of a space with no edge. It never stops. It is not contained in any fashion and goes on forever (our universe). It made me dizzy! The human mind, of this time and of this place, understands that all things are contained no matter how large or small. Anything that bucks that reality... tic-tic...

The scientists talk of the end of the universe over a time span exceeding our ability to count. It's as far away as the edge of the universe (an edge that does not exist). But in the absence of numbers I can conceive, suddenly all things feel more eminent. "What? The universe is going to end? How do you know it's that far away? What if it's next year? Or maybe even next week?! Oh-my-GOSH!" (tic-tic)

These little tics caused by things we cannot conceive play a part in what we do and how we treat the people and the world around us. Some choose to live with greater abandon, while others will pull up the rug and bar the door. Most of us know that we cannot know what tomorrow will bring; the scientists are merely adding to the information we have to validate our certainty.


This is What Fear Looks Like

Will we use technology to invade our privacy or will we use technology to spread the fear of technology.


Does Humankind Have Choices?

I was reading the first few paragraphs of an article at New Scientist that makes the statement, "Psychologists and psychiatrists persist in treating us as if we were helpless victims of our biochemistry." The author even brought God into the argument (which I thought was a positive and open-minded approach). But it does get you to thinking....

Is there any social choice or defect of character that "science" has not shown to be totally out of our hands to control... and there's nothing we can do so except it and get over it!

That sort of thinking intimates that free-will is a non-factor. Free-will must be something someone dreamt up a long time ago to pacify a larger audience and it took hold. I could agree that each person is made up of a unique combination of DNA, cells, and so on. That means in all of us there are more of some things and less of others. Each combination contributes to how we deal with who we become. I do not think that "becoming" is an end destination but an ongoing process that ends only when we die.

In the history of mankind there have been billions of people who've overcome "defects of character", who've regained social acceptance through their own efforts, who are recovered addicts or have turned their life to entirely new directions.

I think some people are fortunate to have in themselves and in the people around them the tools to exercise their free-will to accomplish something wonderful. I also think others are less fortunate because they choose to use self-pity, self-persecution, narcassistic behaviors and manipulation as their tools to make everyone else change around them. That's not free-will, it's "my-will".


Two Things that Will Never Change...

It will never change #1: The insatiable desire of researchers to prove (yet again) that hamburgers are loaded with all of the bad things we should never eat.

It will never change #2: Hamburgers taste really, really good!