“Evolution is just a theory.” Please STOP saying this!



Well, just to get started, these three things are also “just” theories:

1. Germs are the cause of many diseases.
2. Everything you have ever touched is made of atoms.
3. The spinning earth doesn’t fling us into outer space because of gravity.

Would any reasonable person actually think the phrase “just a theory” makes sense for any of these three things? Use of this phrase, for evolution, the Big Bang, or anything else, indicates one thing: the person talking does not understand the meaning of the word “theory.” Theories are the best science has to offer, and science is the foundation of modern civilization. These theories are based on the repeated testing of hypotheses, using experiment, to explain what we observe — so they are evidence-based explanations, not mere guesses, as the annoying phrase “just a theory” implies.

Evolution is every bit as well-established a theory as the three examples cited above. All theories are subject to further testing, which is an important self-correcting mechanism in science. No theory is beyond revision or replacement, if new experimental evidence calls for it. However, that fact doesn’t make any particular theory invalid — it simply helps explain why science works. It also works just as well whether people believe in it, or approve of it, or agree with it — or not.

If you want to disprove the theory of evolution, just find a fossilized rabbit in a one-billion-year-old rock, as J.M.S. Haldane famously observed. It will only take one such finding to accomplish your goal, and you can publish your results, and become famous – if you can find such a fossil. For your own safety, though, please do not hold your breath while looking.

An Alternative Explanation for ADD and ADHD

ADD and ADHD are being treated, mostly in children too young to give informed consent themselves, with powerful, addictive, dangerous stimulants. How dangerous? Children have died because of such drugs as Ritalin and its relatives, all of which are amphetamines (feel free to check that with Google). Amphetamines are, of course, commonly known as speed. A large experiment is being conducted with many of America’s youth, with no control group, and woefully inadequate safety protocols.

The ADD/ADHD genes have not been found, nor has the virus, bacteria, nor parasite. Either the cause of ADD and ADHD is very good at hiding, or there simply isn’t one. Serious consideration is due to whether the term “disorder” actually applies to these conditions.

Consider this alternative explanation to the “disease model.” Humans evolved with certain characteristics related to paying attention, which is an obvious survival trait. One can try to pay attention to the myriad things going on, which I call a “wide focus,” or one can tune out most things to focus on one particular thing — a “narrow focus.”

I naturally have a narrow focus, and it takes considerable effort (and is exhausting) to widen it for sustained periods. There’s evidence on this blog:  all those geometrical patterns I like to make require intense concentration, for substantial periods, on a single activity. If ADD is real, I have its opposite.

By contrast, those who have a wide focus are more likely to notice, say, an approaching attacker than I am. Therefore, wide-focus attention is an even better survival trait that merely paying attention, or at least it has been for most of human history. Noticing lots of things, though, makes one naturally distractable, and that doesn’t mesh well with the expectations modern schools have for students — so a lot of students end up labeled and drugged, simply because they are more adapted to certain un-schoollike environments than is the average person. The natural environment in which our species evolved is, of course, nothing like school. If I were alive in the Stone Age, that wouldn’t remain true for long; some sabre-tooth tiger would easily catch me while I was drawing triangles in the dirt with a stick.

The people with a wide focus aren’t sick. There’s nothing wrong with them — except that a characteristic of theirs is not liked by many in education, who then encourage parents to turn to the medical profession — simply to alleviate conflict, in many cases, despite the very real risks to the students who are drugged, often against their will.

Evolution is a natural part of the universe. School, on the other hand, is a human invention. If there is a mismatch, as there often is, where, then, truly lies the disorder? In the students . . . or in the schools themselves?

Speculation Regarding Future Human Speciation, Part I


If human beings survive long enough, the unstoppable process of evolution will cause us to speciate again, as has happened many times before. Many millenia from now, there could be several different species of human being, with any hybrids which exist being infertile. What follows is speculation regarding some possible details of this entire process.

Speciation happens because of genetic drift, aided by reproductive isolation, which can happen in several different ways. For example, suppose humans establish extraterrestrial colonies. This would produce reproductive isolation by simple geographical isolation. The first such colony will likely be on the moon, and, once the colonists grow accustomed to such weak gravity, returning to earth would be extremely dangerous. Just imagine weighing six times as much as you are used to weighing, suddenly — that’s just what it would be like for a lunar colonist to return to earth. This danger would be even more severe for those actually born on the moon.

If speciation happened in this way, those back on earth would probably still be called homo sapiens, with a new name given to the off-world humans, such as homo lunaris for “moon people.” As colonization moves outward, to Mars, Jovian moons, etc., other new species could form in the same way, each with an astronomically-derived species-name, and characteristics shaped by their new environment.

However, back to earth. What happens here, while these new types of people are forming off-world? Well, no species lasts forever. Either homo sapiens are the last people on earth — human extinction — or we have one or more successor species here, eventually.

Reproductive isolation does not require geographical isolation. Another pathway to reproductive isolation involves differences in behavior. One example is the activity of reading. You’re reading this right now, which means that you not only can read, but actually choose to do so. Do all people have this ability, or make this choice? Certainly not. What’s more, many non-readers dislike readers (otherwise, the insult “bookworm” would not exist), and, often, the feeling is mutual. Obviously, reproduction is more likely to happen between those who like each other, rather than between those who don’t.

This particular split, based on literacy, has not yet produced new species. Why not? Simple:  there hasn’t been enough time (yet). Writing has only existed for ~5,000 years, and education has been widespread for a far shorter time. Given many more thousand years, though, two successor species, homo literaticus and homo illiteraticus, could well emerge.

Advances in medicine and computer science, combined with continuing inequality in wealth and income, could also produce variant humans another way:  deliberate modification (for those who can afford it). Such modification could happen in multiple ways:  manipulation of the human genome, for example, or the creation of cyborgs with organic brains, and silicon-based computers, fully interconnected (homo cyberneticus, perhaps). Such projects would be rife with controversy and ethical dilemmas, of course, but that, by itself, will not stop experimentation, any more than ethical concerns prevented humans from constructing the thousands of nuclear warheads we still have (and have, for the most part, avoided using — so far). The fact that a change would cause a lot of problems is not, by itself, sufficient to prevent that change from happening.

There are many other possibilities as well. One thing is certain:  we won’t simply stay like we are forever.

Thoughts On Asperger’s


After many years of curiosity, I took a detailed Asperger’s test on-line. This graph shows the results. When I discussed the possibility with my psychiatrist, he said “It’s entirely possible,” but shied away from a definitive diagnosis, for that takes a team, and has a high cost, in terms of time and money, as well.

Many (I’m one) view Asperger’s as a difference, not a disorder, nor disease, in need of treatment or cure. (What we need is for the rest of the world to begin behaving logically, but that’s a separate rant.) I suspect my doctor agrees with this, which would be an additional, understandable reason for him not to liberally hand out “Asperger’s” labels.

I know this much: I either have it, or I share a lot of characteristics with those who do. I also know that a difference which makes no difference is not a real difference. I therefore see no reason to shell out thousands of dollars for a useless diagnosis. Why would it be useless? Well, there is no treatment, and I wouldn’t want one if it became available, anyway. I’m used to being this way, I like who I am, and am not remotely interested in being more like most people.

Other people (many of them, anyway) drive me nuts, for more reasons than I could easily list, but “they care what others think” is near the top, and is surely the most baffling of these reasons, to me.

Most diagnosed Aspies I’ve met are, by contrast, comforting for me to talk to. Since we find the same things about social life bizarre, it’s much like talking to people from the same planet as my own who have found themselves on this alien world called Earth, uncertain how we got here. It’s a lonely existence (no matter how many friends surround you, for you’re still trapped in your own head), and it helps, somehow, to talk to others with similar perceptions.

I have run into a small number of Aspies who dislike those who consider themselves to be part of the Aspie community, as I do, yet have not had a formal diagnosis. One benefit of being like I am, though, is that it is incredibly easy for me to disregard what particular people think, feel, or say — if I simply choose to — and that is what I have done with the small number of “Aspie Exclusives.” Their attitudes only affect me if I allow that to happen, and I simply choose not to do that.

The bottom line is this: so far, studying Asperger’s helps me understand myself. It clears up many long-standing puzzles when I see that my years of talk about “the normals” is a excellent match for the way Aspies describe, and discuss, what they call “neurotypicals.” I’m not a big fan of the term “neurotypical,” though, for it seems like a condescending and vaguely-insulting term to me, and I do not see that as helpful to anyone, inside or outside the Aspie community. (I do understand the motivation for it, though, for my motives were similar when I talked about “the normals,” in years long past.) My proposal for an alternative term is non-judgmental, and non-insulting, but remains accurate, and is simple in the extreme: I refer to the people who are not Aspies by the clear, concise, easy-to-understand term, “non-Aspies,” or, when a more formal term is called for, “people without Asperger’s.”

I also don’t care to seek an official diagnosis — because that whole enterprise completely misses the point. Aspies aren’t defective, except in the sense that all people are, with the defects (and strengths) simply in different areas. There could simply be an Asperger’s mutation, which could be the beginning of a long process of speciation. If homo aspergerus is coming, it won’t be here for a long time — speciation takes a long time to happen, but happen it does. Evolution doesn’t stop. Evolution also doesn’t guarantee improvement. New species (of any animal) will be different (or they wouldn’t be new species), but that doesn’t make them “superior” or “more evolved.” Every living thing on earth, after all, has been evolving for the same amount of time: ~3.85 billion years.

I will oppose any efforts to “cure” Asperger’s because, well, that would be genocide. I will also oppose any who try to label hypothetical new species as inherently superior, or inferior. We’ve been down that road enough times, throughout history, to see where it leads, and no sane person, Aspie or not, would want to venture further in that direction.

My Favorite Passage from the Bible, and How One Atheist Thinks We Just Might Use It to Avoid Extinction.


You may already know I am an atheist, and may be unaware that some of us have favorite passages from the Bible which were not selected for purposes of ridicule, nor of criticism of the Bible, nor because of dislike of any religion. This is my favorite passage because it contains excellent advice. I do not need “faith,” as that word is commonly understood, nor a literal belief in the devil, to recognize, and appreciate, good advice.

What’s not to like about self-control? Or being alert? Those things can keep us all alive. They are important. I used to only cite the first sentence here as my favorite part of the Bible, but have decided to include two complete verses, for context, and elaboration through metaphor, as I interpret this passage. I see no reason not to.

Atheists (only capitalized at the beginning of a sentence, by the way) don’t have denominations, nor creeds, and there are as many different types of atheist as there are atheists. Atheism isn’t a religion — the word simply describes existence without religion. Everyone is born an atheist, albeit an unconscious one. Also, those who remain, or return to, atheism, change, during the course of our lives, just as theists do. The only people who do not change are the dead.

In defiance of stereotype, we are not all angry and bitter, although some of us, it must be admitted, are. (I used to be far more bitter than I am now, although I am working hard to change that.) Many of us even believe in non-theistic ideas which make absolutely no sense, such as, for example, 9/11 conspiracy theories. We only have one thing in common: we lack belief in deities. You almost certainly lack belief in at least some deities, ones which others fervently believe in. If you are a theist, well, atheists just take things a bit further than you — that’s all. We don’t all hate theists, and (thankfully) not all theists hate us. The ability to respectfully disagree is at least one of the keys to peaceful coexistence. Universal agreement among humans simply will not happen (and would be horribly boring, anyway), until the death of the penultimate person, at least. Even if there is a “last person alive” scenario in the (hopefully very distant) future, this unknown last human being will still have internal disagreements, and will almost certainly disagree with remembered ideas of the dead. In fact, given human nature, and history, such a disagreement might even be the cause of the next-to-last person’s death, at the hands of the last man, or woman, ever to live.

I do not want homo sapiens to end this way.  I’d like us to continue, for many generations, until evolution, and speciation, replace us with successor species, a long time from now — still people, but different, in ways we cannot now know, and, hopefully, people who have long ago learned to live without constantly killing each other.  Isn’t it about time we left this nasty habit called “war” behind, along with murder, rape, and the rest of the litany of human horror?

I’m a big fan of John Lennon, but I’d far rather imagine no war than “imagine no religion,” and I no longer accept the idea, common among atheists, that the second is a prerequisite for the first.

Since we have, as a species, figured out several ways to self-destruct, we cannot afford to wait for evolution to “teach” us how to coexist peacefully.  Evolution is far more efficient at destruction than creation, after all, being a random process.  Far more species have gone extinct than exist today, and the process of evolution simply does not care whether we live or die.  Entropy happens.  It took 3.85 billion years of natural selection to get here, and we will not get a second chance to get it right.

We must figure out effective ways to live with our differences now.  I do not mean that we should somehow erase our differences, for I have no desire to live in a world of clones of myself, and I doubt you want to live in your version of such a world, either.  We do, however, need to come to terms, as a world-wide society, with the inescapable fact that people are different.  We have a right to be different, it’s good that we are, and the fact that we vary so much is certainly is no excuse for killing, nor even hating, anyone.

There is another part of human nature that is on our side in our struggle for survival, and this is the hopeful part of this essay. We are good at figuring things out. We actually enjoy trying our best to solve puzzles. We pay hard-earned money for them constantly! Some of us absolutely obsess over single problems, for days — or years — at a time. Well, this is the best, most important problem we have ever faced, with the highest stakes imaginable:  how to avoid our own extinction. The world isn’t a casino with no exit, though.  It has been mostly a game of chance, so far — and we’ve been lucky to have made it to the present.  However, it doesn’t have to be the way it has been, with us stumbling through history, like drunk monkeys in a minefield — which we pretty much are, right now.

We have minds, and it’s time to use them. We can stop playing roulette, especially the Russian variety, and sit down at the table to play chess, instead. We can figure this out.

If this Big Problem isn’t solved soon, though, there may not be a long wait for extinction.  It could very well be later than you think.  Therefore, I encourage everyone to, in the words of the Bible, “Be self-controlled and alert.” That’s a good place to start.