Prometheus/Anti-metheus…

Ok, so it’s important to note that, when it comes to movies, I’m a pretty cheap date. Superpowers, futuristic technology and explosions are good enough for me, and if there are lots of superpowers, lots of futuristic technology and lots of explosions, not only am I sold, but I may even cry tears of happiness.

Nonetheless, I was really looking forward to Prometheus, and not just because it was “this year’s must see sci-fi thriller”, but because it was being sold as a possible prequel to Alien.

I loved the Alien movie franchise as a teen. And Ripley. Mostly Ripley.

This wasn’t Alien.

Spoilers begin here.

Let me start by saying that this movie was visually stunning and the technology was just awesome. With that said, the characters and backstories were all shallow, choppy and underdeveloped. All, that is, except for that of David, the (to some extent) antagonist android. I’ll elucidate further on my attraction to David, but first I must lambast.

Lazy science!!!

A WHITE alien comes to Earth to either seed human life or all life? Really? If it’s all life, then why the hell was the alien able to breathe the atmosphere that – as it was established they required – without the single celled organisms that, billions of years ago, created the oxygen through metabolising the molecules in the atmosphere and oceans?

If it was only the humans they created, then why didn’t they make this more clear and why was it a White/Arian? In the real world, white skin was selected for when early humans migrated from the tropics of Africa into the higher latitudes in order to absorb more UV light in a shorter time, so that adequate amounts of Vitamin D could be produced. Dark skin is selected for in the tropics because the melanin that creates the dark colour filters out UV light, because too much UV creates skin cancer and too much Vitamin D is also bad.

I’m inclined to believe that it was the latter – i.e. that aliens just created humans – (the premise that the Prometheus travelled to this distant planet after early human cultures artistically depicted giant aliens pointing to the constellation they invariably travelled to), but even then, the alien apparently creates humanity and early humans carry some sort of memory of the giant alien and where it launched from, but later cultures don’t share this memory. Is that right?

Nonetheless, the theme of direct creationism, albeit via design, is implicit in the movie. As is the Judeo-Christian undertone of a benevolent creator who turns capricious and decides to kill everything for no reason. And speaking of Christian undertones, the captain of the ship who sacrifices himself on Christmas day to save humanity? C’mon!!

There were some really silly religiously motivated exchanges too (badly paraphrased):
“I guess you should throw away your cross.”
“Why?”
“Well, it’s obvious we weren’t created by gods.”
“But who created the engineers?”

And at the end, Elizabeth Shaw, after having seen her partner die; taught a voice controlled autonomous medical machine how to remove the alien from her abdominal cavity (and yanked out the umbilicus attached to her); gone back into the alien installation to meet the alien after having invasive surgery; escaped the alien and sprinted back to her ship; leaping across chasms, that would’ve torn her stapled stomach open, to tell the captain of the expedition team to destroy the alien ship; sprinting from the falling debris and rolling ship, which is seemingly intent on crushing her; narrowly making it back to the life-boat with 30 seconds of O2; narrowly escaping the squid monster and the alien, again; after all that, the thing that steels her resolve is her Christian cross… that David, for some unknowable reason, placed in his utility belt after changing into his environment suit.

Lastly, while I loved the technology, I do have a few niggling gripes; ion drives don’t travel faster than light, so the two year journey would’ve been immensely longer; the gravity on the ship had no observable explanation; the voice controlled autonomous medical pod was purchased by Meredith Vickers, a woman, but the pod was not configured for women; the flame thrower worked too efficiently for an atmosphere with four times the CO2 of Earth.

Awesome Android!!

While the crew were in their deep sleep, David learned the root of all human languages, taught himself basketball and how to comb his hair like Laurence Olivier. His philosophically charged wit and snark make him my favourite character by a very wide margin, even despite his homicidal tendencies.

My three favourite exchanges in the film were all due to this completely relatable character.

Third favourite: old looking Guy Pearce is attacked by the “engineer” and is dying, says, “there’s nothing”, to which David replies, “I know, have a nice journey.”

Second favourite: Holloway tells David that he doesn’t need to breathe, so wearing an environment suit would be pointless. David responds by saying that humans made him this way (i.e. restrained him to such a frame) because they’re fickle and scared of things that are more capable/better than themselves. As such, he must wear the environment suit so as to maintain the illusion that he is not a trillion times more awesome… even though he is.

Favourite: Holloway is drunk and dishevelled at the pool table and David enters to antagonise him and dose him with the “weaponised evolution.” In this exchange David is curious why Holloway is so disappointed at not being able to meet the “engineers.”

David: “Why did you make me?”
Holloway: “Because we could.”

David then, covertly, asks Holloway whether he was expecting a different answer to the same question. David then tells Holloway that he knows his creators and is pretty unimpressed.

So, what more can I say?

The film was pretty darn enjoyable, albeit fairly frustrating in parts. I dare say that if I had only a limited understanding of the biological evolution, and they’d spent more time working on the plot and storyline and less time working in out-of-place sex scenes and vagina-aliens, I would’ve been singing their praises.

I did leave the film feeling a little disappointed, but I am buoyed by the possibility of a sequel where David and Elizabeth Shaw hunt down the aliens to find out WTF they were thinking. Hell, it may even be a great opportunity to answer the questions raised by the lazy science in this movie.

NY Schools to ban teaching of Dinosaurs to avoid upsetting creationists

The New York City Department of Education has been infected with a new, highly deadly, antimoronic-resistant strain of the political correctness bug.

 

Effective immediately, any term that might offend any religious group has been banned from tests administered to students by the city.

 

It includes anything pertaining to literally anything prior to when creationists believe the earth was created. That means all teaching on climate modelling, geography, most of physics, most of chemistry, all of biology and human movement, all of cultural and sociology studies – basically all of the subjects that make school fun and interesting – are out.

 

Also outlawed are any mentions of the term ‘birthday’ (Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t believe in them), voting (also a no-no for J-Dubs), dancing and Halloween (due to their supposedly ‘Pagan origin’), also class identifying terms like ‘poverty’ or ‘wealth’, and ‘scary’ subjects like terrorism, disease or divorce.

 

While not explicitly stated on any of the source articles, I’d assume they’re also removing several colours from the spectrum of visible light, to avoid offending anyone with colour-blindness. They should also ban books, because this might offend anyone with a learning disability.

 

All students should also have plastic and orthopaedic surgery so that everyone is of a single homogenous phenotype. Thus no one will be taller or shorter than anyone else, all will have the same bone structure and skin, eye and hair colour, no one girl will be more perky than anyone else and to ensure that there is no bullying disparity, all students should be punched in the face at the beginning of school – this should also help making students complicit enough in learning the anachronism of creation.

 

In New York City, political correctness has apparently ceased being about preventing the marginalised from being intentionally targeted, and become a way to ensure that these children are completely unprepared for tertiary study. This is an attempt at homogeny and mediocrity.

 

“But it’s only in tests!”

 

Indeed, it is only in tests, but examinations are structured to test your attentiveness throughout the semester. If you fail the exam, it is due to a lack of understanding of the curriculum; thus you are tested on what you are taught and taught what you are tested on.

 

So writing this off as a benign act to prevent people from ‘freaking-out’ during testing is inappropriate. If you deny evolution and you’re in a biology class, you’ll fail; to pass on the basis that certain questions are withheld, is like drinking water, but telling everyone it’s vodka and acting drunk. If you don’t want to be taught things that contravene or contradict YOUR reality, be home schooled.

 

Here are a couple of ImaginaryFriendsShow.com preferred headlines for you:

 

NY Schools to ban teaching of dinosaurs to avoid upsetting creationists; all animals displaying 10k years of domestication to be culled immediately.

 

NY Schools to ban teaching of dinosaurs to avoid upsetting creationists; assassination of students with IQ above 80 to follow.

 

NY Schools to ban teaching of dinosaurs to avoid upsetting creationists; schools to also remove all ‘sharp things’ from cafeterias.

 

NY Schools to ban teaching of dinosaurs to avoid upsetting creationists; all Hindu’s to be reprimanded for ‘cosmic egg’ belief.

 

NY Schools to ban teaching of dinosaurs to avoid upsetting creationists; Buddha statues and texts to be destroyed for reincarnation belief.

 

NY Schools to ban teaching of dinosaurs to avoid upsetting creationists; Ray Comfort to be made king.

 

NY Schools to ban teaching of dinosaurs to avoid upsetting creationists; Geography classes to be changed to ‘Flat Earth’ class.

 

NY Schools to ban teaching of dinosaurs to avoid upsetting creationists; unicorns to be officially recognised as real animal.

 

Source.

Rockets are boring, StarTram is AWESOME!

 

At a cost of around $10,000 for every kilogram launched into space, the cost of sending satellites into low earth orbit is becoming prohibitively expensive. Part of this reason is the vast majority of the weight required to put a chunk of technology into space is made up with the fuel used to propel it up there.

 

So, what if, instead of placing a small cabin on top of a massive engine and fuel cylinders, you catapult the payload using magnets?

 

The developers of a new maglev technology, Startram, are able to send a payload into low earth orbit for around $50 per kilo and reduce the cost of sending a person to the International Space Station from $20 million to around $5,000.

 

When built onto the side of a tall mountain, Startram could propel a payload into space at 9 km/sec using a vented vacuum tube to eliminate sonic booms produced from traveling at such velocity.

 

The project under consideration is separated into two stages, Generation 1 and Generation 2. Gen 1 is intended for cargo usage and would cost around $20 billion and ten years to build once a suitable mountain side was found to build on.

 

Gen 2, intended for passenger use, would cost around $60 billion and take 20 years for production. This production would require some sort of scaffolding, as the incline and acceleration speeds would need to be lower than the cargo, so as not to liquefy your internal organs.

 

The developers list many reasons why a Startram should be funded: defending the Earth against large asteroids, harvesting solar energy, mining raw materials from asteroids and comets, building space-based industries, and space colonization.

 

With such extensive cutbacks to NASA missions and technology, investment in such technology, which is inherently ‘greener’ than using rocket propulsion, should be considered thoroughly!

 

How else are Bruce Willis, Steve Buscemi and a couple of nukes going to save the day?

 

Source.

If your family tree doesn’t have any branches, vote Mitt Romney

As an Australian white collar family of academics, I honestly have no idea why my parents played Jeff Foxworthy stand-up comedy on every single car trip we took during the early 90’s. Nonetheless, when inebriated and in a confined space, my brothers and I can recite, almost word for word, every line of the Jeff Foxworthy, “You Might Be A Redneck” cassette.

Despite my love for his self-deprecating style of humour I mother-flipping hate the fact that Jeff Foxworthy, the man who made car trips with three brothers and a farting beagle bearable, has endorsed Mitt Romney.

Nonetheless, in honour of this love-hate cognitive dissonance relationship I now hold with Foxworthy, I thought I’d reword a few of his best redneck jokes to fit with a Romney endorsement… and I feel justified considering Romney’s voting demographic.

“If your family tree doesn’t have any branches, vote Mitt Romney…”

“If you go to family reunions to pick up women, vote Mitt Romney…”

“If you’ve ever shot a concrete deer, taken it home and marinated it for weeks before declaring it inedible, vote Mitt Romney…”

“If you’ve ever cut your grass and found a car, vote Mitt Romney…”

“If you think, ‘loading the dishwasher’ means ‘getting your wife drunk’, vote Mitt Romney…”

“If you own a home that is mobile and five cars that aren’t, vote Mitt Romney…”

“If you’ve ever raked leaves in your kitchen, vote Mitt Romney…”

“If your mother has ‘ammo’ on her Christmas list, vote Mitt Romney…”

“If you’ve ever been kicked out of the zoo for heckling monkeys, vote Mitt Romney…”

“If your kids take a siphon hose to show and tell, vote Mitt Romney…”

“If you’ve ever financed a tattoo, vote Mitt Romney…”

“If someone asks to see your ID and you show them your belt buckle, vote Mitt Romney…”

“If your front porch collapses and more than five dogs are killed, vote Mitt Romney…”

“If you’ve ever been too drunk to fish, vote Mitt Romney…”

“If your gene pool doesn’t have a deep end, vote Mitt Romney…”

“If you can’t get married to your sweetheart because there’s a law against it, vote Mitt Romney…”

“If you come back from the garbage tip with more stuff than you went with, vote Mitt Romney…”

There are hundreds more, but those are some of my favourites… and fat jokes wouldn’t work in this context. Feel welcome to add your own!

Jake is @JakeFarrWharton on Twitter and the author of ‘Letters to Christian Leaders; Hollow be thy claims’, the book that takes the specific claims made by the most prominent Christian Leaders and directly refutes them using the latest research and evidence, reason, logic, and a dash of snarky humour. Get it here for your sexy kindleOr if you prefer the authenticity of a book (and are too cheap for a kindle) get the hardcopy here.

Neanderthals are an important link in the evolutionary line leading to modern humans

This essay will critically discuss the statement, that Neanderthals are an important link in the evolutionary line leading to modern humans. Specifically, this essay will aim provide evidence suggesting the genetic lineage of Neanderthals lived on, to some extent, through the interbreeding of Homo sapiens and Neanderthals, who shared parts of Europe for around 10,000 years co-existing and possibly interbreeding circa 50,000 years ago. Firstly, this essay will provide some context around Neanderthals and then the emergence of H. Sapiens. Then, in order to determine whether Neanderthals did in fact play any role in the evolutionary line leading to modern humans, we must determine which traits, cultural, genetic or morphological, which can be attributed to an interbreeding scenario. This essay aims to show that while Neanderthals are likely not part of the direct lineage of modern humans, that is, humans living today, some important traits of modern humans can be traced back to interbreeding of some H. sapiens and Neanderthals. The essay will lastly address some of the issues and debates concerning the possibility of whether Neanderthals and H. sapiens did indeed interbreed.

For up to 300,000 years, Neanderthal, one of the best known archaic Homo, Homo neanderthalensis (henceforth written as Neanderthal) thrived throughout Eurasia – Europe, parts of Western Asia, and parts of the Middle East (Mellars, 2011). Using stone tools, and in some cases, fire, as their ancestors from Africa had developed in aeons past, Neanderthals spent much of their time in caves, earning their early moniker as “cave-man”. Such cave dwelling would have, of course, been necessary considering the relative climate that Neanderthals evolved in, especially given that their reign coincided with a long period of glacial maximum (Hofreiter, 2009).

With a brain of between 1300 cc to 1600 cc, which is, in some cases, larger than that of modern humans, a squat torso, short extremities enabling very strong musculature, which also surpasses that of modern humans, Neanderthals adapted to their climate and surroundings perfectly. Their specialised physiology, altogether, may have also enabled them to survive at a lower temperature than that of modern H. sapiens providing a sincere advantage in such frigid climates (Balter, 2004).

The caves that Neanderthals lived in had the remarkable quality of preserving both their remains and the remains documenting their diet and changes within their morphology and culture. There is evidence that Neanderthals subsisted on a range of flora and fauna, with remnants of bones from gazelle, fish and seeds being found in some caves (Hardy, 2011).

Approaching 50,000 years ago, however, the specialised morphology of Neanderthals, began to work against then when the climate that it evolved in began to change and it faced a fierce new competition. Anatomically modern humans began penetrating Europe in numbers approaching ten times that of the population of Neanderthals. This influx of anatomically modern humans would have put significant pressure on the groups of Neanderthals, forcing them to compete for food, location and resources for the first time (Mellars, 2011). Whether or not the population of H. sapiens possessed more highly evolved mental capacities is not known, however the emergence of items of cultural significance, such as art and imported crafted ivory, and vastly more sophisticated tools, suggests that H. Sapiens was more culturally sophisticated than Neanderthals (Brose, 1971).

Rather interestingly, the diet of Neanderthals was not all that different to that of H. Sapiens and as the incursion into Neanderthal occupied territory continued, the cultural trait of H. sapiens travelling vast distances to hunt, ensured their survival (Roebroeks, 2001). Slowly, but surely, the vastly greater numbers of H. sapiens pushed Neandertals into harsher and less fertile environments, where they eventually went extinct around 30,000 years ago. Their slow decline is documented in the stratigraphic record, with the youngest specimens showing some evidence of malnutrition (Baskerville, 1989).

It is important to recognise that H. sapiens and Neanderthals were, in many ways, very similar. Culturally, both species recognised the significance of death, routinely and ritually acknowledging one’s passing, sometimes with tools and other artefacts apparently significant to the dead (Sommer, 1999). Most notably, while their phenotype provided a sincere morphological difference, the genetic distinction was not so great that they could not mate and produce viable, fertile offspring. This offspring, as has been found in recent comparative analysis of the nuclear DNA of Neandertals and modern humans, explains the origin of several traits (Green, 2010).

The first trait attributed to Neanderthals the gene microcephalin which regulates brain size during development, allowing for more thorough brain development, had been absent in the modern human genome for around 1.1 million years. Such an advantageous trait, which has been attributed to increased intelligence, arose in modern humans around 37,000 years ago and through positive selection, propagated throughout the human population (Evans, 2006). This gene is now present in close to 70% of the world’s population today and propagated with such speed that neutral genetic drift is discordant (Evans, 2005).

Perhaps the most compelling evidence for traits derived through interbreeding has been evidenced through research into the nuclear DNA of Neanderthals. The HLA (human leucocyte antigen) class 1 of genes play a vital role in developing resistance to viruses that attempt to proliferate the immune system. The specific set of antigens present only in modern humans with European and Asian lineage suggest that Neanderthals and other archaic Homos, who had developed their immunity in that environment for hundreds of thousands of years, had indeed interbred with anatomically modern humans (Gibbons, 2011).

Research into the genomic similarities between Neanderthals and modern humans has also confirmed that several populations around the world share a percentage of their genome with Neanderthals. Using both mitochondrial and nuclear DNA recovered from Neanderthals, researchers have been able to attribute between 2-6% of the human genome in modern humans that trace their lineage back to Eurasia. Researchers took samples from five groups of modern humans, French, Han-Chinese and Papuan from Eurasia and Yoruba and San groups in Africa and confirmed the presence of shared alleles between Neanderthals and the Eurasian groups and their absence in the African groups. This suggests genetic drift attributed to interbreeding of with Neanderthals (Green, 2006).

While the presence of Neanderthal genetic material in the modern human genome does indeed verify the theory of interbreeding, the low prevalence and percentage of shared genome, however, does raise the argument of such pairing being fairly uncommon. Recent simulated modelling into the spread of modern humans leaving Africa and their encounters with Neanderthals across Eurasia appears to validate the theory that sex between the two species may have been heavily discouraged or taboo. It may also have been quite the opposite and interbreeding may have been rampant, but the hybrid offspring may have either had some genetic disadvantage preventing it from reaching reproductive age, or offspring may have simply been infertile. The simulations concluded that it would have taken between only 197 and 430 successful ‘rendezvous’ to reach the current estimation of 2-3% of the human genome attributed to Neanderthals (Currat, 2011). Extrapolated, considering that humans and Neanderthals lived and competed for the same resources in the same areas for around 10,000 years, one human would only have to have mated with a Neanderthal, on average, every 23 to 50 years.

Is it so strange that these two morphologically different hominins interbred? The literature supporting or rejecting the case for H. sapiens and Neanderthals reproducing is mixed, though most do support some level of interbreeding. The reason for the lack of a firm position is for several reasons which we will discuss. Firstly, both species share a common ancestor, which, using cranial, mandibular and facial morphology, to determine common traits, might have been H. antecessor (Bermudez de Castro, 1997). Thus it is likely that the common ancestor of modern humans and Neanderthals diverged circa 706,000 to 650,000 years (Weaver, 2008).

As the two species of hominin shared a common ancestor, some of the traits common to both species could have a common origin. The obvious refutation to this, however, is the fact that alleles common to Neanderthals and people of Eurasian descent aren’t found in continuous African populations (Green, 2006). More specifically alleles related immunity, such as the aforementioned HLA series, come from and immune system subject to hundreds of thousands of years evolving to the conditions found in Eurasia during the Pleistocene (Potts, 1996).

Another theory that seems to hold some validity is the possibility that Neanderthal and H. sapiens populations did not interbreed, but were instead subjected to the same selective pressures. What this theory purports is that modern humans, upon arriving in Eurasia, were subject to the same ecological and pathological pressures that Neanderthal had lived and evolved in for some 300,000 years. In this scenario, modern humans superior numbers and ability to adapt to harsh environments through cultural means, rather than to lean on natural selection, may have been able to overcome a potentially high attrition rate expected from such a significant change in environment as that of leaving temperate Africa for frigid Eurasia (Piazza, 1981). As part of this, useful genetic mutations and traits would have been positively selected for, quickly spreading throughout the population (Kelley, 2008).

In conclusion, there appears to be enough evidence to suggest that modern humans and Neanderthals did indeed interbreed during their some 10,000 years spent cohabiting in Eurasia. With that said, the amount to which this interbreeding propagated any sort of important evolutionary traits appears to be either limited or indeterminate. The alleles linked to microcephalin and HLA’s certainly seem to provide some level of genetic differentiation between descendants of Eurasians who may have had contact with Neanderthals and those continuous cultures of Africa. However, again, the amount to which these alleles present of genetic advantage to those with those genetic traits appears to be either limited or indeterminate. As such, it doesn’t seem that Neanderthals were an important link in the evolutionary line leading to humans.

References:

  1. Mellars, P & French, JC 2011, ‘Tenfold Population Increase in Western Europe at the Neandertal-to-Modern Human Transition’, Science, vol. 333, no. 6042, p. 623. 
  2. Hofreiter, M & Stewart, J 2009, ‘Ecological change, range fluctuations and population dynamics during the Pleistocene’, Current Biology, vol. 19, no. 14, pp. R584-R94. 
  3. Balter, M 2004, ‘Dressed for success: Neandertal culture wins respect’, Science, vol. 306, no. 5693, p. 40. 
  4. Hardy, BL & Moncel, MH 2011, ‘Neanderthal Use of Fish, Mammals, Birds, Starchy Plants and Wood 125-250,000 Years Ago’, PloS one, vol. 6, no. 8, p. e23768. 
  5. Brose, DS & Wolpoff, MH 1971, ‘Early upper Paleolithic man and late middle Paleolithic tools’, American Anthropologist, vol. 73, no. 5, pp. 1156-94. 
  6. Roebroeks, W 2001, ‘Hominid behaviour and the earliest occupation of Europe: an exploration’, Journal of Human Evolution, vol. 41, no. 5, pp. 437-61. 
  7. Baskerville, RF & Rosenberg, KR 1989, ‘On Neandertal pubic length’, Current Anthropology, pp. 482-8. 
  8. Sommer, JD 1999, ‘The Shanidar IV ëFlower Burialí: A re-evaluation of Neanderthal burial ritual’, Cambridge Archaeological Journal, vol. 9, no. 01, pp. 127-9. 
  9. Green, RE, Krause, J, Briggs, AW, et al. 2010, ‘A Draft Sequence of the Neandertal Genome’, Science, vol. 328, no. 5979, pp. 710-22. 
  10. Evans, PD, Mekel-Bobrov, N, Vallender, EJ, Hudson, RR & Lahn, BT 2006, ‘Evidence that the adaptive allele of the brain size gene microcephalin introgressed into Homo sapiens from an archaic Homo lineage’, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 103, no. 48, p. 18178. 
  11. Evans, PD, Gilbert, SL, Mekel-Bobrov, N, Vallender, EJ, Anderson, JR, Vaez-Azizi, LM, Tishkoff, SA, Hudson, RR & Lahn, BT 2005, ‘Microcephalin, a Gene Regulating Brain Size, Continues to Evolve Adaptively in Humans’, Science, vol. 309, no. 5741, pp. 1717-20. 
  12. Gibbons, A 2011, ‘A Denisovan Legacy in the Immune System?’, Science, vol. 333, no. 6046, p. 1086. 
  13. Green, RE, Krause, J, Ptak, SE, Briggs, AW, Ronan, MT, Simons, JF, Du, L, Egholm, M, Rothberg, JM & Paunovic, M 2006, ‘Analysis of one million base pairs of Neanderthal DNA’, Nature, vol. 444, no. 7117, pp. 330-6. 
  14. Currat, M & Excoffier, L 2011, ‘Strong reproductive isolation between humans and Neanderthals inferred from observed patterns of introgression’, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 108, no. 37, pp. 15129-34. 
  15. Bermudez de Castro, JM, Arsuaga, JL, Carbonell, E, Rosas, A, Martinez, I & Mosquera, M 1997, ‘A Hominid from the Lower Pleistocene of Atapuerca, Spain: Possible Ancestor to Neandertals and Modern Humans’, Science, vol. 276, no. 5317, pp. 1392-5. 
  16. Weaver, TD, Roseman, CC & Stringer, CB 2008, ‘Close correspondence between quantitative-and molecular-genetic divergence times for Neandertals and modern humans’, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 105, no. 12, p. 4645. 
  17. Potts, R 1996, ‘Evolution and climate variability’, Science, vol. 273, no. 5277, p. 922. 
  18. Piazza, A, Menozzi, P & Cavalli-Sforza, L 1981, ‘Synthetic gene frequency maps of man and selective effects of climate’, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 78, no. 4, p. 2638. 
  19. Kelley, JL & Swanson, WJ 2008, ‘Positive selection in the human genome: from genome scans to biological significance’, Annu. Rev. Genomics Hum. Genet., vol. 9, pp. 143-60.

Sorry, Mormons, I just spent the last hour and a half posthumously baptising Joseph Smith into Satanism

Well, technically, Joseph Smith was always a Satanist. I mean, seriously, few people embody the central tenant of Satanism, hedonism, more than the dude who created a religion to get laid.

Nonetheless, after finding myself enraged by the Mormon stupidity of ‘baptism of the dead’. Effectively, the Mormons go to the graves of famous people, holocaust victims, Nazis, anyone, throw some water on the soil and declare that that person is now baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons).

Anne Frank, the poor little Jewish girl whose diary (The Diary of Anne Frank), who died Jewish, has been posthumously baptised.

Simon Wiesenthal, holocaust survivor and Nazi hunter, has been posthumously baptised.

Hitler and Stalin have been posthumously baptised.

Worse still, the fact that your dead family and relatives weren’t famous will not save your dead loved ones the stupidity of being baptised with this blindingly stupid ritual.

Roving gangs of young Mormon children will travel into cemeteries every weekend, their super-soakers filled to the hilt with baptismal-grade water.

Using bolt-cutters to bust open cemetery gates, they’ll risk life and limb to baptise the shit out of you, and everyone you’ve ever cared for.

They’ll do this so that you can spend the afterlife with their Lord and Saviour, American-Jesus; who appeared in America after his death in Jerusalem, to lead a tribe of Israel (who somehow travelled from Israel to America).

As a baptised member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, you’ll get your own planet, orbiting a nearby star called Koloft (not Zoloft)… which is where Jesus, God, Abraham, Adam, Noah and the Council of Ellohim currently reside.

Enough fun.

Baptising dead people into a religion that they did not belong to during their life is a violent act.

I don’t say that lightly.

I have no misconceptions about life or death. When you are dead, your consciousness dies with it. The neural flux in which your personality resided, proliferates from the cells that kept it, along with every cell in your body.

At the point where you die the only thing that ‘you’ have left is the impression that you leave on other people. Their memories of you, the advice you gave and the mannerisms they adopted from ‘you.’

I take memories very seriously; they’re what we leave behind when we die, in the memories of others.

My Grandparent, both of whom I loved intensely, both of whom spent much of their latter years raising a mischievous and inquisitive young Jake Farr-Wharton, we’re both very much against organised religion.

Are they now Mormon, thanks to some piece of trash in a Mormon temple who directed their flock to posthumously baptise them?

You may well have been a good person, you could have been a complete dick, but if the crackpot dick-faced assholes who sent an impressionable Mormon zealot to your grave to baptise you, it most certainly means that you weren’t Mormon.

So, why should this matter to an atheist, who shouldn’t care about what is done to his body after death, because he’s dead?

Quite simply, I don’t want my memory, my name or my gravestone to be used to further the cause of a stupid ritual within a ridiculous religion.

Mormonism is Scientology for people who don’t like Scientology.

Seriously, Scientology asserts that that the Galactic Emperor Xenu dropped aliens into Earth’s volcanos, and then dropped a H-Bomb into the volcano for good measure.

Mormonism asserts that, despite not being a long-distance sea faring people, a tribe of Israelites hopped on a boat and set sail for America… despite there being absolutely no supporting evidence. Also, God lives on a planet in a nearby solar system, with his multiple wives.

Enough digression, say that the lingering impressions, the memories that you leave behind with the people you influenced during your lives, is that you were a good, wholesome person who was devoted to the religion you found in your twenties. Then late one night, in a cemetery… Bam, you’re Mormon.

Say that you fought hard in your later years, as an outspoken atheist, to reduce the influence religious institutions hold over governmental bodies. Bam, you’re Mormon.

While you didn’t particularly believe in the dogma, you used your sway as a Catholic priest to open state-of-the-art orphanages and soup kitchens and shelters for homeless people. Bam, you’re Mormon.

Sure, the idea that they would baptise a dead atheist, or Catholic, or Muslim or Jew or Buddhist or Zoroastrian or Communist, just shows how little they knew about the person that used to reside in that body. Sure it is a most poignant example of just how painfully ridiculous the Mormon faith is.

It also demonstrates just how little respect they have for the memories that those dead people left with their family and friends.

The reason I relate this to an act of violence and violation, is that it uses the dead to further the Mormon cause.

Is akin to a USA presidential candidate registering the recently deceased to vote, then using that persona to vote.

If you’re a Mormon, you’re welcome to that belief, seriously. But I, rather vehemently, suggest that you reconsider posthumous baptisms. You’re sullying the memory of a dead human being that didn’t want to be Mormon, proof of this is the fact that they didn’t die Mormon.

IFS Recommends – With EmbiggenBooks.com

Warren Bonett from EmbiggenBooks.com in Melbourne drops by the show for a new segment looking at the books you should be reading… and why the hell you should be reading them. Enjoy!

Watch here:

Download mp3 here.

Subscribe to the mother-flipping show via iTunes (we’re on all major podcasting aggregators) here.

Peace and love.

Jake.

Jake is the author of ‘Letters to Christian Leaders; Hollow be thy claims’, the book which takes the specific claims that the most prominent Christian Leaders make and directly refutes them using the latest research and evidence, reason, logic, and a dash of snarky humour. Get it here for your sexy kindleOr if you prefer the authenticity of a book (and are too cheap for a kindle) get the hardcopy here.

Nominate us for an Atheism.about.com Reader’s Choice podcast award!!

In 2011, listeners of The ImaginaryFriendsShow.com Podcast helped The ImaginaryFriendsShow.com podcast, after only a few months of operation, to gain 5th place in the atheism.about.com reader’s choice awards.

Vote for The ImaginaryFriendsShow.com Podcast here.

We were completely honoured and humbled to be placed amongst such awesome podcasts as The Atheist Experience, Reasonable Doubts, The Good Atheist and Irreligiosophy, but that was SO last year.

Vote for The ImaginaryFriendsShow.com Podcast here.

We would literally appreciate the expletives (that’s right, plural) if you could invest literally 16 seconds of your time in nominating The ImaginaryFriendsShow.com Podcast as literally one of your favourite podcasts, literally for 2011.

Vote for The ImaginaryFriendsShow.com Podcast here.

The first 5,000 nominators will receive a complementary serving of imagination as well as free access to our archive of past shows… which is free to everyone everywhere anyway, but this way you get to feel as though you received something in return for you pithy effort.

Vote for The ImaginaryFriendsShow.com Podcast here.

Also, if you, the listeners’ of The ImaginaryFriendsShow.com Podcast and the readers of The ImaginaryFriendsShow.com Podcast get us into the top 5 again, we promise to resurrect Jesus. That’s right, we’ll resurrect freaking Jesus*.

Vote for The ImaginaryFriendsShow.com Podcast here.

So, it’s really easy to vote for The ImaginaryFriendsShow.com Podcast for the atheism.about.com reader’s choice awards, just vote for The ImaginaryFriendsShow.com Podcast here and provide the URL http://ImaginaryFriendsShow.com into the field that asks for the URL.

Also, if in doubt, please vote for The ImaginaryFriendsShow.com Podcast here.

You can also nominate Jake’s book ‘Letters to Christian Leaders – Hollow be thy claims’ for an atheist book award here.

*in the event that the resurrection of a fictional biblical overlord proves impossible, an imaginary Jesus-like substitute or blow-up-doll will be provided as compensation to whoever remembers that this promise was announced

E-Book vs Real Book – The Debate Every University Student Must Have

It should come as no surprise that being a student is expensive, here’s how the purchase of an iPad or Kindle can alleviate some of that burden.

Course fees, student union fees, tutor fees, travel and textbooks all have to be paid for and will often work out to be several thousand dollars every semester, for several years.

When one also considers that time spent working is time spent away from study, thus inhibiting ones ability to maintain a good GPA, the ability to pay for ones scholastic pursuits can be immensely tough, albeit worthwhile.

With this in mind, the rise of E-Book text books allows for students to purchase their university subject text books, often at half the price, without loosing any quality or usual functionality.

E-textbooks can cost up to 60 percent less than printed textbooks, said Yasemin Tunc, senior director of new technologies.

“Today’s students have grown up with various types of tablets, e-readers and laptops, so they are familiar with this type of reading and learning environment.

“These students are better known as digital natives because technology is second nature to them. So, why not provide them with a better means of obtaining content?”

While it is certainly true that you lose the tactile sense of holding a physical book, and certainly the ability to place Post-It notes and ear marks on every relevant page, applications like Kindle for iPad provide all this and more.

Take, for example, Anthropology: Appreciating Human Diversity by Conrad Phillip Kottak. The paperback version is available for AUD$167 through the university bookshop, GBP128 from Bookdepository.co.uk and USD$119 + postage from Amazon.com. The Kindle version of the same book is USD$57.

Many textbooks exceed the above example, and many Kindle versions are less than the above example.

The benefits do not stop with price, however: 

  • Ever lost an earmark or important note you’ve made in the text book? Kindle gives you the ability to write notes and highlight text, which are then indexed in a separate table of contents. This means that each of your notes and highlighted sections can be easily accessed, are never lost and you can jump to them in an instant – a necessity while writing essays.
  • Want to check or cite a reference mentioned in the text? Most Kindle books have hyperlinked text, which means that you can jump to a chapter, or a reference, or the referenced paper or journal article through a hyperlink (assuming that you have proxy access to your university’s library)
  • Do you constantly go from text book to dictionary? A great new feature of the Kindle is the dictionary ticker. All you have to do is highlight a word, and the definition appears at the bottom of the screen.
  • Want to share a quote with your fellow students? Kindle now allows you to share to Twitter, Facebook or email, fully referencing the passage you’ve highlighted and posting it simply and immediately without having to tediously type it out.
  • It weighs 1/10th of your average textbook! As each semester progresses and the subjects develop more depth, more and bigger textbooks are required as mandatory material. For those who don’t live on campus, that means carting several kilograms worth of textbook from lecture to library to tutorial to study group to home and is frankly exhausting! An iPad or Kindle weighs a few hundred grams and will store all lecture notes, text books, journal articles, lecture and tutorial recordings (and allows you to record) and your music library. And games.

While not all text books are available in Kindle format (and you should check this prior to investing in a Kindle or iPad), the ease of publishing and distribution is a tremendous incentive to textbook publishers.

With this in mind, investing in an iPad (Kindle application is free) or Kindle for a student will inevitably mean a significant reduction in costs and a major increase in efficiency and functionality.

Lastly, for those who refuse to switch format due to the supposed romantic indulgence of tactile text book immersion, you’re nuts!