Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Nose Knows

I am reading another amazing book....Nature Via Nurture...and I just read an incredible thing.
(paraphrasing pgs: 138-9 )
The story begins in 1856 when a Spanish medical doctor did an autopsy on a 40-year-old man who had no sense of smell, a small penis and very small testes.
Anyway, many years later, it turns out, embryologically speaking, that the primitive cells for smell send axons to the area of the brain that will form the olfactory lobe. On their way, they lay down, and travel along, fascicles/rails to get there. If anosmin is not present the axons derail, and the rails do not get laid down....hence anosmia.
Amazingly, the cells for sexual development in males begin in the nose, in the vomeronasal organ. They neuronally migrate along the rails/fascicles laid down by the developing olfactory axons. In the absence of anosmin and the rails, the cells never reach their target to trigger the release of gonadotropin releasing hormone. In the absence of gonadotropin releasing hormone, the pituitary is never stimulated to release leutinizing hormone… hence the small penis/testes.
Gentlemen, you know who you are.
Go figure…evolution; incredibly efficient, and funny too!
I gotta go… I smell something in the other room that requires my immediate attention.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Creationism Is Not Science

Creationism, also known as Intelligent Design, is not a scientific theory. There is nothing scientific or factual about intelligent design. It is a Christian fundamentalist-Biblical-faith-based view that rests solely on a subjective inference of design. Their supporting scientific evidence consists of the Bible and a diorama exhibit of Noah’s Ark, at the Creation Museum in Petersburg, KY, depicting their 6000 year old Earth view with humans and dinosaurs living side by side.
Evolution theory, on the other hand, is supported by overwhelming scientific evidence, data and facts; from fossils, to brain development, to genetic/DNA evidence within the genomes, etc. Thousands of peer-reviewed scientific manuscripts extending, testing, and refining evolutionary theory are published each and every year, but there aren't any calling the basic premise of the theory into question.
Unlike the story of creation, evolution, as a scientific theory, “can be falsified by particular findings, such as a hominid skeleton dated to the Jurassic Era,” or a dinosaur skeleton 6000 years old (i.e.: evidence that humans and dinosaurs lived together). Such a finding would also serve to justify creationism. Obviously, none exist, or have yet to be discovered.
Even the Vatican has weighed in on this, stating: “that the scientific consensus model of evolution is valid but that it explains only the biological part of humanity, not the spiritual mystery.” In his address to the Pontifical Academy of Science, October 23, 1996 Pope John Paul II said: “A theory is a meta-scientific elaboration distinct from the results of observation but consistent with them. By means of it, a series of independent data and facts can be related and interpreted in a unified explanation. A theory’s validity depends on whether or not it can be falsified. It is continually tested against the facts; wherever it can no longer explain the latter, it shows its limitations and unsuitability. It must then be rethought.”
Evolution theory does not strike at the heart of faith or belief in God. And, unlike creationism, it does not demand one choose between faith/religion and reason/science. It does however strike at the heart of fundamentalist belief in the literal interpretation of the Bible, as the word of God.
Let us not forget the condemnation of Galileo in 1610 by the Catholic Church, for defending the Copernican observation that the earth revolves around the sun. The Inquisition called this “false and contrary to scripture.” The brilliant “father of science” spent the rest of his life under house arrest. But that was then, and this is now.
I respect Christian Fundamentalists’ freedom to believe as they choose. However, the leader’s within the fundamentalist churches, the Discovery Institute, and Christian Reconstructionism strategy is to position creationism as a scientific theory, equal to and competing with the scientific theory of evolution, to achieve a theological and political agenda. Their ultimate goal is for America to fulfill its destiny as a Christian nation, and that begins with teaching Christian dogma in our schools. By labeling intelligent design as scientific theory, seemingly separate from religion, they hope to evade any court ruling that would uphold and enforce the separation of church and state.
This challenge to science is not benign. It cannot be taken lightly or shrugged off. Their strategy is working.
Many politicians, including the White House under George Bush, have weighed in, in the name of fairness and academic freedom: “Both sides ought to be properly taught…so people can understand what the debate is about.” And, Christian conservatives have been working, hard and successfully, to build their presence on the Boards of Education to influence the content of school textbooks across the country, to include Creationism and revisionist history.
I read somewhere that a little bit of science may bring you away from God, but that a lot will bring you right back. I might add that no science leaves one with only faith, limited understanding and simplistic explanations.
There are few things more compelling and awe inspiring than reading with understanding about the embryological development, anatomy and physiology of the human body and brain, and the evolutionary development that created it. It is enough to make one believe in a “Genome Organizing Device".