Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Global Collapse

Years ago a group of Polynesians sailed to one of the most remote places on earth, Easter Island. Here they found a fertile island far from any other land, and started a prosperous society. They developed the technology to create and erect great statutes. But in the process they destroyed their civilization. They cut down every single tree, and ruined their economy. What did the man think that cut down the last tree? We don't know. But we know that the people sealed their own doom.

Similar stories have happened at other places. In the book Collapse Jared Diamond examine societies that have experienced collapse, and looks at the causes. He finds that the destruction of the environment as well as other factors lead to these collapses.

Diamond warns that a similar fate could await the global community today unless something is done about it. Overpopulation, diminishing resources, global warming, and pollution are just a few of the problems we face. Diamond calls us to seriously consider what we are doing to our world. He warns that a collapse could occur this century if we ignore the problems.

Think about it. You and I may not be alive that long, but what about our children and grandchildren? Many of us invest considerable time and energy into seeing that our children and grandchildren will be able to enjoy a good life. But what if the world does not address these problems, and our children find themselves in a desolate world?

All thinking people should listen to Diamond's warning. This is the only world we have. Let us make the most of it. Let us work together to protect the earth's resources to provide the best for humanity for many generations to come.

(Click here to see more about the book)

Monday, March 27, 2006

Questions about evolution

A reader writes with questions about evolution.

What makes things evolve?

Animals and plants evolve because their bodies are controlled by genes which occasionally experience random changes known as mutations. Some of these changes are good for survival, some are not. The creatures that have the most favorable genes are more likely to survive and pass their genes to the next generation. This causes creatures to gradually change into a form that best allows them to survive in their environment.

Why did man develop, and yet monkeys still exist? Did the monkeys who did evolve into men, simply have different environmental conditions than the monkeys who didn't?

Well, we really didn't come from monkeys. Rather, monkeys, apes, and humans all descended from a common ancestor (which, incidentally, was probably close to modern monkeys). The various offspring of this ancestor ended up exploiting various niches of nature to earn their survival. And so they diversified into many species, each with its own niche. Monkeys continue to survive in the tops of the jungles, finding plenty of food up there and quickly scrambling from tree to tree to escape predators. Humans would not do good in that enviroment.So we have both humans and monkeys, each surviving in a different way in a different environment.

Are we really just an accidental mutation, or do other forces cause such changes?

The mutations are random. However the forces of selection for survival drive the creatures to survive in their niche.

Why do some animals like crocodiles stay the same for hunderds of thousands of years?

Once an animal has become well established in a large niche, if that environment remains stable, the physical changes to that creature often become small. Thus since sharks and crocodiles have evolved to be well adapted to particular stable roles in the environment, they have little need of further change. There genes continue to mutate, but the forces of natural selection hold the physical forms ofthe creautres stable with time.

Scientists do admit that it seems there were evolutionary jumps from one species to another, so what makes this happen?

Jumps occur when isolated populations find themselves in a different environment. Creatures sometimes change "rapidly" to meet the new requirments. These changes actually take thousands of years, but compared to the age of the earth, the change is relatively rapid. A good picture of how this happens can be seen in the various dog breeds. Most of these breeds developed in the last several thousand years as humans guided their environment and selected those that they wanted to breed. Thus in a few thousand years, we see great differences in the dogs. Should this breeding continue, we will one day have many different species of dogs with different characteristics.

Will we humans evolve into something else in a million years, and if so what drives it exactlly?

Certainly human genes will be different in a million years. The extent and direction of the changes depend on the environment. Interestingly, we as humans can affect our environment, and thus can influence the future or our species.
Is there one or two books that could explain evolution for me, in simple terms?

I would begin at the Talk.Origins Archive. Also, many have found The Selfish Gene and The Blind Watchmaker by Richard Dawkins to be good introductory books to the mechanisms of evolution.

Sunday, March 26, 2006


There have been a few recent updates to my site:

Are the Gospels Historical? : I added a paragraph addressing the frequent claim that thousands of manuscripts (from the Middle Ages) validate the historicity of the Bible.

Is there Life after Death? I rewrote the section on consciousness to better develop my point.

How Old is the Earth? I rewrote the section on the distance to the stars, taking out redundancies and further developing my point.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?

The latest addition to my site is a page called Did Jesus Rise from the Dead? Formerly this page had been combined with the page on the gospels. I have seperated out the resurrection question, and have expanded it to better address this important issue. I hope you find this helpful. I may come back and edit this page later, so let me know if you have any comments on it.