Creationism vs Evolution: Give Them A Choice

There is much harrumphing going on in The States about the teaching of Creationism, now in its Noughties guise of “Intelligent Design”, rather than Evolution. Up until recently, the teaching of Creationism, for ’twas its name, was illegal in US schools. Religious groups have recently managed to overturn this and get “ID” taught. And now the boot is on the other foot, as pro-evolution campaigners have managed to reverse this trend in Delaware.

However, in this battle of Good vs Evil, Evolution vs Creationism, no-one is paying any attention to the people this affects: the kids. I’m wary at this point of getting too Whitney Houston: I couldn’t say “I believe the children are out future. Teach them well and let them lead the way.” without feeling ill, new daddy or no. But the fact remains that adults with their closed minds are enforcing their opinions on people whose only real freedom is figuring things out for themselves.

I should say that both Evolution and Creationism are both theories: they are both mechanisms by which the world we have around us can have been arrived at. There is no way that anyone can say with absolute certainty that “this is the way the world came to be”. No-one was there at the time. Creationism, at least, has the luxury of not requiring this: Faith obviates the need for proof or certainty.

There are probably many more possibilities as to the genesis1 of the world, but people are so closed to any other options, and are so determined to crush other theories in favour of their champion, that they are destroying the ability of the kids to choose for themselves.

I’m sadly with Dubya on this, in that children should be presented with both approaches and let them make a decision about which works for them. Force them down any particular road, and any new advances that may lie in wait for enlightened individuals with the gift of choice and free will can never be made.

This is unfortunately the nature of the Real World. Human society is a funnel, churning out clones. Children start their lives with a plethora of opportunity, but gradually these possibilities are removed as the constraints of history impose themselves. Kids are not taught to be free thinkers, they are taught that things are done a certain way. Free thinkers are shunned and derided. At no point are they encouraged to think that there is room for improvement in the world. How many kids today have thought “I can do this better!”?. Those that do make millions.

This is probably why the youth of today is so disgruntled. Classrooms of square pegs are taught that the world is a round hole. No wonder they’re pissed. The only people that make it through the system unscathed are those for whom a round hole looks like a nice place to be. But if you knew that there are no square holes out there, would you try?

The greatest gift we can give kids is choice. If we impose our choices on children, they will make the same mistakes as us. And then the Human race really is in trouble.

1 I’m using a religious word here, but not with a capital “G”; “genesis” as in “beginning”.

Avalanches: ‘Tis the Season to Get Stabbed

Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat, and everyone buggers off somewhere steep and slides down it with planks on their feet. The perfect excuse for not “going to your mothers”. The chance to see if the hundreds of pounds of new gear, complete with in-built radio beacon and MP3 player, actually does mean you fall down less, like you promised the disbelieving wife it would.

The biggest danger associated with skiing is not falling down and breaking your leg, or mowing down a line of beginners, or being decapitated by a snowboarder (“Dude, like, sorry.”), or being made to look stupid by a midget kid wearing a ridculous hat going twice as fast as you. No, it’s avalanches.

The risk of avalanches is heightened every year by the expanding ubiquity of the portable media player. If you don’t turn the volume down before you remove your headphones to berate a dread-locked boarder, the “uhn-tiss uhn-tiss” or irish-boy-band-ballad-power-chord will have the mountain down around your ears.

The thing that worries me is the way they go about finding people after avalanches; more specifically, the people without radio beacons in their coats. They get a big line of people with metal poles and then mooch about the hillside in big lines stabbing the ground. It’s sort of like grouse shooting, if you take away the guns and give them sticks and lots of drugs instead.

Evidently they can tell the difference between stabbing snow and stabbing people, because they then dig ’em up, fill ’em with whatever they do fill ’em with and it’s home in time for egg-nog and misteltoe.

I do wonder why they don’t kill more people in the process. Or maybe they do. Think about it this way. You’re trudging up a hillside, thrusting this metal spike into the snow, not paying much attention and then the next thrust encounters some initial resistance, but then continues as normal. The chances are that you’ve just stabbed some unlucky punter in the face / chest / groin. What is to stop them just carrying on, then going back down and saying “We never found anyone.”? Nothing, right? People will get up in the morning, look at the mountain and say to their friends “Does that bit of snow look pink to you?”

You could develop a jacket with the equivalent to the reactive armour you get on tanks. If a tank with this armour is hit, explosive charges on the outside explode, cancelling the force of the incoming projectile. I think we’d all pay to see that; a line of sullen Frenchies stabbing the ground, praying fervently that they get to stab someone, only for three of four of them to be violently exploded into the air in a cloud of snow. The would-be-rescuee would then step smiling from the crater and point, laughing down the mountain.

So, the moral is, buy a coat with a radio thingy in it. Your chances of being stabbed in the chest by a Frenchman then drop to the levels encountered by aristos in the only war in which the French really tried1.

1 This has gone a bit anti-French, but as soon as I got into the French Civil War, I was overcome by Blackadder-isms.

Poor Performance Bonus: Don’t Try Harder

With the addition in recent years of Eastern European countries to the European Union, there has been pressure on The Old Boys of The Union to reduce the rebates they accept from the Union. The fact that they get back money they have paid seems stupid, but I don’t pretend to understand why. It should be explained in the linked article. Chances are it’s going to be one of those things that still sounds stupid even after it’s explained to you.

Anyway, point being, the thing in Europe on which most of the EUs money gets spent is farming subsidies. This is basically to pay farmers to be less efficient and produce less. Farming methods have moved on to the point where most developed nations can produce more food than the populace can eat, even taking obesity into account.

The obvious solution is to sell it to nations that can’t produce enough. Unfortunately, these nations are either too far away to get it, too insular to want it or too poor to pay for it. Which means that you either store “grain mountains” and “milk lakes”, like in the Eighties, or you pay farmers to produce less. Bizarrely, it’s deemed cheaper to pay them to sit on their arses. Whether that’s cheaper economically or politically is not clear.

Farmers are encouraged to diversify and to use their land for other purposes, and there are all sorts of grants available to them to facilitate this. However, what the government giveth, they, egged on by the environ-mentalists, taketh away. For attached to each grant is a list of conditions so strict that they can only apply to a tiny fraction of the farmers in the country.

Basically, the only option viably open to farmers is to turn the country into a huge playground for those who live in the cities. The farm of the future will have offroad driving centres, bog-snorkelling courses, How to Build a Hedge / Wall / Scale Replica of Big Ben Using Toothpicks classes, corporate team-building days and the only animals on the whole place will be washed, shaved and abused relentlessly by the hordes of deranged infants in the creche’s Petting Zoo.

This move is the final straw for what is the only remnant of Britain’s industrial past. Rural Britain viewed from the air in a few decades will consist of several super-farms that produce the food, stitched together by a plethora of urban playgrounds for the tracksuit wearing masses. Assuming they don’t have the moxie to kybosh the whole thing, e-mentalists will be forced to trudge the thousand hectare megafields in order to get any half-decent rambling done. Although, ramblers and rambling as a pass-time will only last until the first bobble-hatted militant is brutally slain by the heavily-armed robot
gunships patrolling the super-farms, blaring “Get orf moi laaaaand!” in a metallic West Country twang.

Britain will be one big theme park. It’ll be “The Countryside”1 for people who don’t want to get their Nikes dirty. It’ll be “Westworld” without Yul Brynner. And he was the only thing that made it any good.

1 “The Countryside” is a Trademark of the Monsanto Company, “The Countryside” is operated in association with HM Government, and sponsored by Nestle and Bernard Matthews.

Packaging vs Contents: Big Boxes of Air

As I wrote recently, our technology, rather than coming in one big box, now comes in two smaller ones. Except they’re not actually smaller. They’re bigger.

Because our technology is small and probably fragile to some extent, and because we generally buy it online, we actually get delivered to us One Big Box. Although there is an initial twinge of deja-vu and nostalgia for the old days, this goes when you open the box.

You are confronted with the modern two-smaller-boxes, which you can’t get at. This is because they are surrounded by big bags of air which take up the airspace in the external box not used by the two-smaller-boxes, thereby stopping two-smaller-boxes from being able to chat while in transit, much less breathe. These bags of air are basically bubblewrap writ large, but are confusingly less fun to pop; no breakfast cereal “snap” here, just a lazy sigh, as from a recumbent canine. If terrorists wanted to kill people, they could just sneak into the Big-bags-of-air plant, fill them all with something nasty and Western society would vanish within a couple of months.

So you remove big-bags-of-air and can finally reach two-smaller-boxes, which you then open, requiring, of course, all sorts of knives, pliers and degrees from red brick universities to do so. Inside these boxes are the Nineties equivalents of big-bags-of-air; cardboard spacers and hard plastic bracing. It looks like the inside of a garden-shed nuclear device, with your gadget nestling in the centre, pretending to be a plutonium core.

The cardboard-spacers are basically they way they get rid of the spare cardboard at the packaging plant. They cut and fold it into interesting shapes and jam it into the two-smaller-boxes. The up side is that it gives the kids and the dog something to destroy while you’re unpacking your toys. It’s not like the have the qualifications to open Noughties packaging anyway.

The hard-plastic-bracing stuff is an utter bastard. It’s the stuff they put tools in at DIY stores, the kind you need the tool itself to open. You spend hours hacking at it with a kitchen knife and are left with a mass of lethal shards on the carpet, most of which end up in the feet of you, your family and your pets and most likely a piece of overpriced tech which looks like the residents of the local pound have been chewing on it for a week or two.

So, basically, what you bought constitutes anywhere from 50% to 1% of the volume of the external packing, depending on the size of the gadget. The smaller the gadget, the more airspace is included Free! with the packaging. It would be OK if it was positioned in the centre of the box, but no. You pick the box up in the middle, only to discover that the contents are actually a twenty kilo point mass located in the far bottom corner, which means the box throws itself on the ground, right on the corner where the gadget is cowering, thereby rendering the big-bags-of-air, two-boxes, hard-plastic-bracing and cardboard-spacers thoroughly redundant.

You would have thought that these days, the amount of packaging would be reduced, for all sorts of environmental reasons. Yow would need to waste less oil on plastic, waste less trees on cardboard and expend less jet fuel on flying boxes of air around the globe. Teeny bits of tech should be (and probably are) designed to take some bumps in their life, especially if they are portable, as teeny tech tends to be.

Yet it appears that if we’re spending £200 pounds on something, we want some decent packaging and we want it to be shipped in containers that would withstand a gigatonne nuclear blast at point blank range. In a few years, the traditional opening of Christmas presents will be conducted in the garden, packaging will be nuclear-bunker-analogs and come with integrated transit tubes, allowing people to crawl between presents without having to brave the elements. Present opening will take on the adventure status of potholing, as you will need some sort of axe, harness, and helmet-with-a-torch to make it out before New Year arrives or the turkey becomes infested with Salmonella.

While that sounds like fun, not everyone has a garden capable of housing even a single nuclear bunker. So, packaging types, think of the planet and people with small cars and gardens and give us some decent packaging commensurate with the size of the contents. Otherwise Boxing Day will have to be replaced by Boxing Week.

Survival of the Fattest: Evolution is Dead, Long Live Evolution

Some people, among which comfortably rest I, bemoan Modern Western Society as wasteful and decadent and lots of other generally negative words. And it is undoubtably all these things, and more. However, among the “more” are such characteristics as “peaceful” and “supportive”, etc. These days, those of us lucky enough to be born into the luxury of a First World country can live out our lives without, if the notion takes us, ever having to try.

This unfortunately means that anyone can procreate successfully (that is, have their offspring survive long enough to procreate). There are no sabre-toothed tigers out there to kill off the elderly, the ill and the slow. It is precisely these people that Society protects, thereby allowing those people exhibiting these characteristics to further their genes without any “survival of the fittest”1.

So, evolution is stagnating. Society prevents natural selection from ocurring. But what about other means of selection? I’m talking about “adventure sports”. Since the masses stay in and watch Sky TV, thereby virtually eliminating the threat of evisceration and possible death by felines with elgongated incisors, it is down to adrenaline junkies to do their bit. But all this means is that the people with the kind of characteristics that have been preserved through natural selection are now being killed off by poor-quality Taiwanese parachute silk, shoddy aluminium climbing gear, wicker climbing boots and bungee ropes that are slightly too elastic.

It may be that physical evolution is being replaced by mental evolution. The drivers for physical evolution have been removed as Humans have tamed the World. The real challenges now are mental, as we try to devise new ways to use our mastery of the physical world. What this probably means is that a greater number of the people in the world no longer posess the mental furniture capable of making it in this Brave New World of mental evolution.

Taken to a (logical?) extreme, this could mean that we could have a genetic “underclass”2. Take that to its extreme, and you’ve got a big global war: the knuckle-dragging mentally-challenged masses against the big-skulled boffins in their flying chairs. The stuff of Hollywood dreams!

The linked article cites the existence of groups of teenagers terrorising our streets as symptomatic of a peaceful and prosperous society. Previous generations, it argued, would have been dying in wars and coal mines, rather than wearing Kappa and faux-Burberry and drinking own-brand vodka outside the local Co-op.

However, this does leave them open to Sabre-toothed Cat attacks, thereby reinjecting some natural selection back into our stagnant society. Now, all we need are some Sabre-toothed cats. Hmmm, I wonder if they’re on anyone’s “Reintroduce-to-Britain” list…

Human species may “split in two”
Looks like I was right…you’re either a god or a goblin! “But in the nearer future, humans will evolve in 1,000 years into giants between 6ft and 7ft tall, he predicts…” Huh, some of us are pushing 7ft already. Seems my protestations about being the genetic future are no longer funny…

1 I’m aware I’m sounding a bit Nazi here, but I’m not proposing a Solution. In fact, I think I have yet to come up with any solution to the things I have blogged about.
2 This does assume that clever people would never sleep with stupid people, but “The Power of Love”™ and the effects of alcohol should never be discounted.

The New Iraq: American Bureaucracy meets African Corruption

Where to start? The New Iraq™. They say that The Ends Justify The Means, but I can’t help feeling that The Ends thus far do not bathe The Means in the cool light or righteousness. I also want to be thoroughly hopeful and positive that Iraq can rebuild itself and the people can enjoy an era of peace and prosperity. Call me an old cynic, but the real world isn’t that simple.

New Iraq™ (© USA, Inc. 2003) is going through Teething, or The Terrible Twos, the first periods of prolonged pain in any new life after the trauma of the Birth itself. New Iraq’s progenitors have a great opportunity to help create a stable society from scratch and avoid as many of the problems as possible.

But, like a teenage mother, lacking in Life experience, America is making mistakes. America hasn’t been a country for that long, and is consequently less worldly in terms of the machinations of countries and societies. Oh, you can read as many history books as you like, but it is no substitute for centuries of experience. I’m not saying that Britain, or any other European country, would do a better job; merely that Europeans are understandably more realistic in terms of the rebuilding of countries destroyed by war and tyrannical dictators.

America may admit in media interviews that it’s a “difficult job with many interesting challenges”, but I don’t think they really understand how difficult and challenging the job is. Culturally, they believe that with application and hard work, anything can be achieved; The American Dream. But they’re not dealing with wide-eyed, forward-looking Americans. They’re dealing with psychologically abused orphans with a violent past. The needs of each cannot even be compared. They can’t use the same approach and expect the Iraqis to embrace it.

Which they blatantly aren’t. There are many factions within Iraq who sense the power vaccum and are sucked into it. As the creators of the vacuum, America find themselves in conflict with these dissidents who are using violent means in an attempt to further their agenda.

America’s attempts to install, from scratch, American methods and its attendant bureaucracy into an Arab country brainwashed to see America as The Enemy are foundering. Billions of dollars are being poured into Iraq but, as in Africa, not all the money is ending up where it should. Keeping track on all that cash is an impossible task and, after years of doing without, Iraqis are understandably grabbing what they can. Bribery and Corruption are rife. Combine American Bureaucracry with African Corruption1 means that very little progress is made despite the level of funding.

New Iraq™ is America’s baby, and all Europe can do is watch like a new grandmother, wincing at America’s mistakes, trying to offer advice without making it sound like advice and hoping that Iraq doesn’t hit Puberty too soon.

Given all this, America is doing the best it can. I don’t think anyone else could do much better.

Survey finds Optimism in Iraq
What’s the betting America try to mine that and export it. Maybe they’ll be going to war with Iraq again in the future, except this time it’ll be because Iraq is more optimistic than America, not because they have lots of lovely oil. Or “liberation”, if you insist…

1 Sorry, Africa. But it’s true.