All Things Bright and Beautiful

Recently, an old and very dear never-Mormon friend died following a few weeks in hospital after the late discovery of last stage cancer. She was content, had lived a full life and was in her eighties. A short service, led by a nondenominational female minister I have seen conduct several such services, was held at the local crematorium. It was handled well and kind words were spoken. Naturally, there were a couple of scripture readings, hymns and set prayers. One hymn was ‘All Things Bright and Beautiful’ and it struck me how we are indoctrinated from a very young age by such hymns (at least here in the UK where we sang it regularly in school assembly from my age five). We are thankful to a god for all the beautiful things listed in the hymn. They are beautiful of course and the hymn is lovely. But there were two problems for me as we once again sang it.

The first was that I knew my friend didn’t actually believe in any god. I am not sure if her family were fully aware or not and she was such a sweet lady that I am sure she didn’t mind them planning a low key Christian service at all. She may even have chosen the hymns herself. In any event, the service certainly helped those attending to cope with their grief. And, of course, everyone expects to have a funeral – it’s tradition. No one seems to realise that it is only one option. I don’t like the idea at all – so I am not going to have one. My wife and I have donated our bodies to London University for medical research. They will collect our cadavers when the time comes and when they are finished with them, probably several years later, any remains will simply be cremated without ceremony. It is a personal choice to help the next generation of medical students along their way.

The second problem for me was the fact that whilst a god is credited with all the ‘beautiful’ things (lovable life forms and pretty scenery) that he supposedly designed and created, he is never credited with – let alone held to account for – all the ‘not so nice’ life forms, geological and meteorological events that constantly afflict humans. Why is there no mention of the many horrible things that, if a god created this planet and all life upon it, are equally his responsibility? We don’t like to think about them, or of god actually ‘creating’ them, as there is no logical reason for him to have done so. It many cases it could be considered an extremely evil thing to do – so we ignore the problem instead of facing it and holding god accountable – but the fact is that if he is real, then he is culpable.

It seemed ironic that I had recently been thinking about this very hymn and had composed parallel verses in order to create balance to the supposed truth about his ‘creation’ of all life. I had not intended to share it but this experience has now prompted me to do so. Some may consider it a parody but it is not intended to be. It is in fact an equal and opposite statement of some of the facts about this god’s work that must also be considered, if he is real, and it is time he stood up and was counted for ‘All Things’ – bright and beautiful or not.

All Things Dark And Miserable.
(For Which God Is Also Culpable, Responsible, And Accountable).

All things dark and miserable,
All stingers great and small,
All things cruel and noxious,
The Lord God made them all. (Chorus).

Each little bug that kills us,
Each killer wasp that stings,
He made their evil natures,
The suffering that each brings.

Chorus.

Volcanoes spewing lava,
Tsunami’s on their way,
Thousands are in mourning,
More dying every day;

Chorus.

Viral infections and bacteria,
Skin cancer from the sun,
The diseases and the venoms,
He made them every one;

Chorus.

Leucochloridium paradoxum,*
And the parasitic worm, **
Are just a few examples,
To make your stomach turn;

Chorus.

The Loa loa (eye) worm, ***
Inflicts excruciating pain,
How cruel is God Almighty,
What did he have to gain?

All things dark and miserable,
All stingers great and small,
All things cruel and noxious,
The Lord God made them all.

Copyright ©  Jim Whitefield 2013

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If God created all life on Earth (great and small), then he also created these, along with many more, not so nice or even remotely useful life forms. Yet, God is never credited with any of them – especially in hymns. There are many things not to be grateful for at all; yet they are all God’s very own ‘creations’.

*Leucochloridium paradoxum.

This is Leucochloridium paradoxum. No, not the snail. The thing in its eyes.

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The parasite starts its life as an egg that is found in bird droppings. A grazing Succinea snail will come across the droppings and ingest it. The egg hatches and the L. paradoxum finds its way to the snail’s hepatopancreas*. The parasite builds up brood nests in the eye stalks of the snail, as shown in the picture. This makes the eyestalks look like caterpillars. This behaviour has resulted in them earning the common name, Green-banded Broodsac.

The parasite also takes control of the snail’s brain. It makes the snail, which usually lives in the shade, attracted to sunlight. The snail comes out into the open. At this point, the snail’s eyestalks look like pulsating caterpillars sitting on a leaf. Dinner for the birds. After the bird eats the snail’s eyestalks, they get infected by the L. paradoxum, which proceeds to lay eggs in the rectum of their new hosts. These eggs make their way out of the bird in their droppings and the cycle begins again.

*Hepatopancreas – The snail equivalent of a liver/pancreas.

More details. Leucochloridium paradoxum.

See a video: Zombie snails.

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** Parasitic worms. From the ‘All Science All The Time’ (facebook) page:

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5 Most Horrific Parasitic Worms

Loathed wherever they go, parasitic worms are some of the animal kingdom’s true lowlifes. They feed off living hosts, sapping them of energy and nutrients while causing a range of horrible diseases. After worming their way into people’s lives, particularly in developing countries, these suckers can lie undetected for months or even years. They just take, take, take, and when they reveal themselves, gracious me, are they hideous creatures to lay your eyes on! We’ve picked five of the worst known to eat us humans from the inside out.

1. Hookworm

While living in its host’s gut, the Hookworm lodges its well developed, toothy mouth into the intestinal lining and voraciously begins sucking out blood. This thirsty vampire drinks so much of the red stuff that there is a serious risk of anaemia caused by iron deficiency. Rashes, nausea and diarrhoea are among the symptoms those infected by Hookworm can expect, though part of the danger lies in the fact that its damage is so insidious and easy to miss.

As larva, the Hookworm forces entry by burrowing into its host’s skin, usually through bare feet, and from there it travels through the body to the intestine, at which point it grows into an adult worm. Although all but eradicated in America’s South, where it infected a large proportion of the population during the early 20th century, the Hookworm remains a major threat to children in the tropics, causing retarded growth as well as cognitive and intellectual impairment. As many as 740 million individuals are thought to be infected by Hookworm today.

2. Ascaris (I suggest you NOT do a google image search for this one!*)

A larger cousin of the Hookworm, Ascaris is a giant sized roundworm that can reach as long as 40cm, as opposed to little over 1cm. It too sets up shop in its host’s small intestine, using its characteristic mouth, which is surrounded by three less than luscious lips.

Ascaris is in fact the parasite most familiar to us humans, though the fact that up to 25% percent of the world’s population is infected certainly doesn’t make it any more welcome in our bowels. Sickness, fever, and heavy infestations with severe intestinal blockages kill up to 20,000 people a year.

Like the Hookworm, the Ascaris likes warm, damp conditions with poor hygiene, and is a particularly severe pain in the backside for young people. Yet while the larva of Ascaris’ smaller relative tends to penetrate the skin of prospective hosts, infection in this case occurs through consuming food contaminated with faeces containing Ascaris eggs. The larva then hatches and migrates through the gut and respiratory system, before eventually being re-swallowed and allowed to mature, anchored snugly to the intestinal wall. The female Ascaris may then lay hundreds of thousands of eggs a day.

3. Guinea Worm (*or this one).

Another elongated roundworm of ill repute, the Guinea Worm is one of the best documented of human parasites – and at around a meter in length, as thick as a spaghetti noodle, and with some decidedly unsavoury habits, it’s easy to see why. When humans drink stagnant water contaminated with this nasty blighter’s eggs, it eventually gives rise to a slender, fulsome female Guinea Worm that burrows its way along to the arms or more likely the legs. There it assumes a position under the skin, before boring its way out through a blister that brings excruciating pain to the unfortunate host.

The burning sore often leads the afflicted individual to dunk their limb in cool water, much to the delight of the Guinea Worm, which proceeds to release hundreds of thousands of larvae, infecting the water supply and starting the cycle all over again. Meanwhile, the host must wind the Guinea worm around a stick and slowly tease it out over several agonising, debilitating weeks.

Still, it’s better to endure the ghastly Guinea Worm hanging there, for if it breaks apart it is more likely to cause a potentially fatal infection. Despite efforts to eradicate it, largely through education, this remains one strand of evolutionary adaptation that definitely gets too close to the bone.

4. Tapeworm

Typically 3-5m long, this odious form of parasitic flatworm can grow to over 12m in some situations – situations that usually involve the digestive tracts of humans, livestock or other animals. Armed with powerful suckers and revolting teeth, the Tapeworm hunkers down and grows. And grows.

Despite its size, the common Beef Tapeworm is not especially dangerous: it can by avoided by having your steak well done, and its symptoms are limited to sickness and intestinal obstruction. Not so with its cousin Echinococcus…

An Echinococcus, like the Hyper Tapeworm, carries with it a rather nasty surprise in the shape of hydatid disease. This occurs when the Tapeworm eggs are ingested in fecal-contaminated food, and the embryos take a ride in the bloodstream to hook themselves onto an organ like the lungs or liver. There, they grow into hydatid cysts, which act as a nursery for the next generation of Tapeworm larva – but which, less maternally, also put pressure on the host’s organs, and can cause shock if they rupture. These large, potentially fatal cysts need to be surgically removed.

5. Filarial Worm

Last but not least – although it may actually be the most microscopic of the bunch – meet the Filarial Worm, another repugnant roundworm, and one with a rather remarkable life cycle allied to some pretty gruesome costs. Once injected into its host by that harbinger of disease and destruction, the mosquito, this threadlike little horror needles its way into its host’s lymphatic system, where it lodges itself and can cause blockages. This in turn may lead to elephantiasis, a grotesque swelling of the skin and tissue usually in the limbs. The Filarial Worm is thought to be one of the world’s leading causes of disability.

One of the things that makes the Filarial Worm so ingenious, as well as so abhorrent, is the way in which it has so successfully perpetuated its population over thousands of years. What’s so special? Well, after the Filarial larva has been born in the lymphatic system, it slowly migrates to the lungs, where it rests by day, only to move to the peripheral blood vessels by night, in anticipation of being sucked up by a thirsty mosquito. Thus the cycle is kept going. Recently, we humans have stepped up our efforts to eliminate this crippling critter, but until that day the Filarial Worm looks set to remain among the diminutive big hitters that are parasitic worms.

Almost one in six people worldwide are infected by parasitic worms, while parasitic infections of livestock cause economic losses of billions of Euro per year. Resistance to the few drugs available to treat infections is increasing and there is an urgent need to identify additional strategies to control parasitic diseases. A new study by Martina Ondrovics and colleagues at the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna describes a rational approach to identifying proteins that might be involved in the larval development of a particular worm that infects pigs.

Stopping the worm from turning.

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***Eye worm, (species Loa loa), common parasite of humans and other primates in central and western Africa, a member of the phylum Nematoda. It is transmitted to humans by the deerfly, Chrysops (the intermediate host), which feeds on primate blood. When the fly alights on a human victim, the wormlarva drops onto the new host’s skin and burrows underneath. The larva migrates through the bloodstream, commonly locating in the eye or in other tissues just under the skin. The adult worm is 3–6 cm (1.2–2.4 inches) long. The movement of the worm beneath the skin may cause itching or sometimes swellings as large as a hen’s egg.

Within the human host the adult female worm produces large numbers of microscopic, active embryos called microfilariae, which enter the host’s blood or lymph vessels. Some of these are ingested by a deerfly as it sucks blood and, after about two weeks, complete a series of growth stages. As infective larvae, they move to the insect’s proboscis to await an opportunity to transfer to a new human host.
(Source: Encyclopaedia Britannica).

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Millions of animals suffer and die terrible deaths every day as they are torn apart and eaten alive by other animals. Many creatures suffer excruciating pain before they die due to the survival instincts and actions of others. You could question why any god would ‘design’ let alone create such creatures that use others to ensure their own survival in this manner… any caring human designing an animal kingdom would surely have made a far more humane job of it. Evolution explains the development of all life very well – things are as they are – but a god ‘designing’ such a system?

And finally (from the ‘Science is Awesome’ fb page), god made these:

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Image shows four (dead) queen Vespa mandarinia. (Image credit).

Vespa mandarinia (Asian giant hornets) extend about 3.5 to 3.9 centimetres in length, and have an orange head with a black tooth used for burrowing. Swarms of the aggressive hornets have killed 42 people and injured 1,675 people in three cities in Shaanxi province in China since July. The hornets are in their autumn mating season, though the attacks could be caused by the unusually dry weather in the area.

Read more: Deadly giant hornets kill 42 people in China.

And the list of god’s unholy creations goes on and on and on… think about it.

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[March 2014]: Since writing about ‘All Things Bright and Beautiful’, I just discovered that Eric Idle also composed a similar set of verses (great minds think alike), and it was sung by the Monty Python team.

This is Eric’s version:

The Lord God Made Them All.

All things dull and ugly
All creatures short and squat
All things rude and nasty
The Lord God made the lot.

Each little snake that poisons
Each little wasp that stings
He made their brutish venom
He made their horrid wings.

All things sick and cancerous
All evil great and small,
All things foul and dangerous
The Lord God made them all.

Each nasty little hornet
Each beastly little squid
Who made the spiky urchin?
Who made the sharks? He did!

All things scabbed and ulcerous
All pox both great and small
Putrid, foul and gangrenous
The Lord God made them all.

—Composed by Eric Idle, sung by the Monty Python team.

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God or Not, We Know Where We Came From

The  following  is  a  short  synopsis  of  just some of the main ‘characters’ in the history of mankind. It is by no means meant to be a complete or totally definitive view, rather a brief summary or thumbnail sketch of some of the background and forerunners of mankind. For a complete, simple and easy to understand overview of the full history of mankind, I strongly recommend the superbly illustrated, Human Origins, The Story of our Species by Yves Coppens, from which most of the following notes on mankind are summarised. There are many good books on the history of the Earth of course; and again, an easy to read and superbly illustrated version is Smithsonian’s Earth, The Definitive Visual Guide published in 2003 by Dorling Kindersley Ltd., from which the following notes relating to the Earth are summarised.

You can make our current knowledge fit a religious or scientific view; there is no conflict to the rational thinker. However, these are not speculative notes either; they make up the most recent position taken from scientifically proven evidence of what is the case. The actual point of this is that modern mankind (and therefore Adam) is at least 40,000 years old (unless, as some people suppose, Adam entered an already existing race); and that Joseph Smith’s pile of rocks could not have been Adam’s altar. I have tried to write this simply and make it easily readable, for those who may have no detailed knowledge of this area.

I will start with what happened before life appeared on the earth. It has only been within the last fifty years that the current accuracy of dating the Earth has been established and in the last twenty or so years that enough discoveries have been made to allow us to see a more complete picture of mankind than ever before, at last putting an end to the myths and contentious suppositions of the past. DNA and RNA have completed a basic picture of the ‘tree of life’.

People who still believe God created man in his own image and placed him on an empty earth in modern human form may decry the idea that DNA and particularly RNA now complete the jigsaw puzzle of life. Most probably have no idea that the phylogenetic tree of life can be confirmed from any discipline; comparative anatomy, embryology, developmental genetics, mutation studies, evolutionary ecology, population & quantitative genetics, transmission genetics… even palaeontology.

You can make an embryological assessment of all the organisms and construct a tree of life based on their evolution. You can do the same thing with genetics or comparative anatomy. They all line up correctly.

“Basically, organisms develop in a very specific way according to thousands of factors which allow their development to be examined, and placed on a phylogenetic tree.”

“Evolution unites all the disciplines as well as having useful applications in medicine and other fields.”

“Trees constructed from every gene in every organism on the planet all yield the same result… independently. Every single one!”

See: Proof of Evolution Part 2. (Summation). Don Exodus.

Life first appeared and evolved on our planet many millions of years after the planet itself had evolved sufficiently to actually produce and sustain life. Our own galaxy (the Milky Way) probably formed about 10,000 – 11,000 million years ago. Within our galaxy (cutting a very long story short), a nebula (a clump of gas and dust) began to condense into what became our solar system, some 4,560 million years ago. An object the size of Mars later collided with Earth around 4,500 million years ago, the debris from which, held by the Earth’s gravity; cooled and coalesced, ultimately forming a satellite that we call the moon. The intense bombardment that is still visible on the moons surface, which continued for 600 million years, continued more so on earth of course due to its size. The reason we cannot readily see it now is simply that the earth is covered with water and vegetation, whereas the moon has not significantly changed in its overall appearance since that time. Conglomerate rocks dated to 3,800 million years ago, show that the atmosphere and the oceans formed on earth at that time, thus hiding much of the visible evidence which would otherwise look similar to that which we still see on the surface of the moon.

[26 January 2009 update note]. New Scientist. “A SPECK of the mineral zircon that’s older than any yet found on Earth has been recovered from a rock sample brought back by Apollo 17 astronauts. The grain has helped pinpoint the age at which the molten moon solidified … is 4.42 billion years old, and came from the lunar highlands. …The moon is thought to have formed from debris ejected by a giant impact between Earth and a smaller body between 10 and 100 million years after the formation of the solar system, 4.57 billion years ago. Taylor reckons the lunar crust formed within 90 million years of the impact, which tallies well with the age of the zircon.”

The earliest evidence for life on Earth, which dates from about 3,800 million years ago, comes from hydrocarbon residues in metamorphosed sedimentary rocks in Greenland. By 3,460 million years ago, microbial photosynthesisers in warm shallow waters formed mounds known as stromatolites, while other microbes lived off chemicals generated by submarine hot springs. Chemical fossils suggest that the first eukaryotes (organisms with relatively complex cells that contain a nucleus) appeared about 2,700 million years ago, but the first direct fossil evidence for their existence does not appear until 2,200 million years ago from coiled filamentous microfossils called Grypania, found in Michigan, USA.

Subsequently, multicellular life existed 2,200 million years ago and red alga called Bangiomorpha existed 1,200 million years ago. By 1,000 million years ago, towards the end of the Proterozoic era, following a prolonged evolutionary gestation, the “big bang” of eukaryotic gestation had started. Evidence of the evolution of multicellular organisms with sexual reproduction (evidence of fossilised embryos have been found in China dating from about 600 million years ago) paved the way for larger and more diverse organisms. By 580 million years ago the first large animal fossils (known as Ediacarans) appear, followed by the first shelled animals, Cloudina, in 555-million-year-old marine sediments from Namibia.

Shark fossils date to 355 million years ago but it is thought they may actually have been in existence up to 528 million years ago. For 150 million years, from the late Triassic to the end of the Cretaceous, terrestrial life was dominated by reptiles. There were over 900 genera in the group known as dinosaurs alone. Some 50% of all species and 90% of all life died out at the end of the Cretaceous in an event known as the K-T extinction event. This coincided with the impact of a huge meteorite in the Caribbean sea and the Deccan lava eruptions 650 million years ago. Effectively life, to a large degree, started again after this.

We now know and it is scientifically proven that the first true mammals appeared some 70 million years ago. After the great saurians became extinct, the mammals took over the ecosystem. They evolved and diversified. The first bipeds came about between 7 and 4.5 million years ago. Then 4.5 to 2.5 million years ago, several groups of hominids, collectively known as Australopithecus spread from Chad to southern Africa, scattered across three regions. Australopithecines were not just represented by A. aferensis, as in this period there were at least five related species. It is most likely that A. anamesis is the prime candidate for the title of our true ancestor.

The first “representative” of the human race, a new hominid, was Homo Habilis – (the handyman) the first toolmaker, some 2.5 million years ago. He was still much unlike us but he had a much larger brain than previous bipeds and used it to advantage. They were nomads wandering the savannah in groups. They had the ability to think and made shelters from large stones and branches between 1.8 and 1.3 million years ago. If Adam was the first of this race, unfortunately he lived in Africa and did not look much like us. If he arrived then and was in the image of God, then God also looks nothing like us; so if you are prone to imagine God actually looks ‘white’ and as ‘human’ as us, perhaps Adam came along somewhat later.

Homo Ergaster came on the scene around 2 million years ago. Hunter-gathers, they migrated and roamed the world. They stood tall and had a wider range of tools. Clearly a more likely candidate to include Adam, as no doubt they were in what we now know as the Americas, but again, facially very unlike today’s humans. H. ergaster enjoyed unparalleled thinking power and fresh neural networks arose, developing specific zones of the brain, such as those associated with language. Their brain capacity of 55 cubic inches (900 cm³) was almost as much as some modern H. sapiens. With other developments they became the beginnings of society. Was this the time of Adam? They were still quite ugly compared to modern man but quickly gaining intelligence.

Homo erectus (man on the move) had not only learned to walk upright, he had learned to think and organise. He lived from about 1.5 million years ago, mastering fire about 500,000 years ago. This led to cooking and inevitably to the further evolvement of the brain and their society. Closer in resemblance to modern man, but with still a long way to go, they had brains twice the size of their cousins, the great apes. Their height was about 5’ 3” – 5’ 9”, almost the same as us. Along with the brain, the larynx and other developments took place; such as the vocal chords and the ability to sweat, meaning man no longer had to breathe by panting, which meant a coherent set of sounds could evolve which would be the forerunner of speech. Adam would have looked a bit more human now but probably had to wait to arrive when speech would be properly formed and man could reason more.

Neanderthal man (homo neanderthalensis) 200,000 – 40,000 years ago, was not as some still seem to believe, a forerunner of homo sapiens. Indeed it is now clear that there have been several species of essentially what are termed homo erectus – those who stand on two feet. For many years, Neanderthals and H. sapiens lived side by side. There is little if any conclusive evidence that they ever interbred. A child found in a Portuguese cave showing signs of both Neanderthal and H. sapiens characteristics is perhaps all there is to date. We do know however that they co-habited the planet for a long time.

Considered for years to be ancient brutes, we later discovered that Neanderthals actually had quite modern brains, although they looked somewhat different to us facially. In the opinion of some palaeoanthropoligists, the Neanderthals descended from populations of H. habilis, or at a later period from H. erectus who arrived in Europe prior to 1 million years ago. Neanderthals were apparently well adapted to colder or even freezing climates. As they appeared to not easily technologically adapt to climatic changes that created a warmer environment, they became isolated into restricted geographical zones, mainly in Europe and were in competition with H. sapiens for territory and natural resources. H. sapiens were technologically more advanced and eventually and inevitably Neanderthals, who could not easily adapt to change, reduced in number and finally died out completely around 25,000 years ago. The process took many thousands of years.

Neandethals coexisted with H. sapiens. Homo sapiens (which means “The Wise One”) appeared some 200,000 years ago.  Between 100,000 and 30,000 years ago they were migrating across the planet and some 40,000 years ago this new type of human appeared in Europe before rapidly inhabiting the globe. Often referred to as Cro-Magnon man, whether originating from Africa or the Middle East, this new actor appearing on the stage of human history would inherit the earth. If not appearing before; Adam would surely have had to have been the first of these people who were essentially; us.

The upper Palaeolithic, from 40,000 years ago was the beginning of a period dominated by innovation, either technical or cultural. When he arrived in Europe some 40,000 years ago, this ‘anatomically modern Man’ as he is described scientifically, was very different from the native Neanderthals. His unique skull was somewhat rounded with a vast cranial capacity averaging around 88 cubic inches (1450 cm³) but sometimes as large as 122 cubic inches (2000 cm³). The evolutionary developments between the skulls of archaic and modern H. sapiens took place very quickly, that is over only 100,000 years. The skeleton of H. sapiens also acquired a more gracile form, especially the legs which were proportionally longer and less bandy. H. sapiens walked with the flat of his foot on the ground and therefore more efficiently. His arms were longer in proportion. This streamlining gave better balance, as the centre of gravity of his body was now measurably closer to the axis of his spine.

There were many “eras” during the last 40,000 years and such things as the first musical instruments date back 45,000 or even 60,000 years in Central Europe. Art and religious ritual developed. Cave art over a 25,000 year period suggests strong links between populations and a structured and defined means of communicating knowledge, myths and representations of the world, based on some form of religion.

Yves Coppens says “One of man’s innate characteristics is spirituality. He could visualise an afterlife, ceremonially daubed cadavers with red ochre (the colour of blood, i.e. life) and arrayed them with jewels, rather than leave them to the mercy of carnivores. He was able to portray symbolically the relations between men and animals and idealise those of man and woman. These activities reveal mental and psychical processes unique in the story of life on Earth.”

Whilst researching details about a different subject, I came across the following:

New data derived from studies done on living elephants and reported by the American Institute of Biological Sciences (BioScience, April 2006, Vol. 56 No. 4, pp. 292-298) suggests that though human hunting may not have been the primary cause toward the mammoth’s final extinction, human hunting was likely a strong contributing factor. Homo Erectus is known to have consumed mammoth meat as early as 1.8 million years ago.

So, we know that Homo Erectus was around 1.8 million years ago. What we have to decide in the religious sense is when and IF Adam, the first MAN is supposed to have appeared. Was it 1.8 million years ago or was it at some later time when the brain was more evolved and after speech developed. What time period do we choose for the appearance of Adam on the scene? The choice is yours but it really cannot have been much later than 40,000 years ago as “modern” man with speech was around by then. Perhaps the Mormon Church will one day say “Well, Adam was clearly placed on the Earth as a unique species even though all other life evolved.” Considering that is the equivalent of the way they now treat DNA evidence against original Native American (Lamanite) tradition, it is perfectly plausible that it could happen when there is nowhere left to go (i.e; apologists propose that Lehi et al may have integrated into an already populated continent, as an escape route from the original claim, now DNA closes that door).

For those who still cry out “so you believe man came from monkeys then”, read the above again, as clearly this is not the case, as scientifically established. The great ape is genetically a kind of cousin in palaeoanthropological terms. We had a common ancestor. Everything evolves; the last hundred years has seen our own species evolve beyond imagination, in our culture, abilities and lifespan. As a Mormon prophet put it, “What are you doing with those extra thirty years?” The universe and our planet are on an evolutionary path that is proven. Life on this planet is most certainly a complex evolutionary system and process that has already spanned many millions of years and yet we tend to look at only a few thousand and sometimes only a few hundred years in our reasoning of life, any religion or belief system.

However, all the above is basic scientific fact and it can be fitted (by the Church’s own admission), into religion if you want it to. The Church does not, at the highest levels, adamantly state that Adam was the first and only living being ever on the planet. It actually steps back from that, admitting that there is much we do not know and that the story of Adam as told in the Bible may just be an explanation in a form we can understand and all we need to know for now, in place of the ultimate and perhaps more detailed truth. They just do not know for sure.  It is an ever changing feast with the Church. It also leaves an opening to change the story if need be; always a good option, as has been seen with DNA and the Book of Mormon.

The Church will ultimately have to accept the DNA evidence, not only regarding the Book of Mormon but more especially DNA and RNA confirmation of the ‘tree of life’ which has now been mapped for all life forms from the beginning of time. If there is a God; He, She or It used evolution to develop life on this planet and what God ended up with appears to be sheer chance rather than design. That much is fact! It is only in relatively recent years that we even began to look as we do now, so how could humans possibly be in God’s image?

The bigger question is, if there is a supreme being, why would he populate a planet using such a random basis, which had to even include a cataclysmic event to wipe out dinosaurs before it was possible for modern humans to ever have a chance to evolve at all. Surely there would be a better way for a God? That takes us back to the fairy tale book called the Bible which attempts to create a supreme being when there never was one to begin with.

 

Evolution & Atheism

Evolution is sometimes (and often erroneously) associated with atheism. Evolution is of course a long established scientific fact upon which all branches of biology are now based. They integrate perfectly, and the tree of life continues to be added to almost daily. Atheism is simply the absence of belief that gods exist. The fact that to many atheists, evolution is a logical explanation as to why a god was not involved is a separate issue.

However, if a god does exist, it is now perfectly scientifically clear that he, she, they or it, set things in motion and then left evolution (by natural selection) to do the rest. It is like a scientific experiment and humans as we now exist were anything but ‘planned’ let alone ‘created’ as such. We know how, what, and also when and where, we evolved from as humans. We may still not have discovered ‘why’ the universe exists, but that much we know for an absolute fact. To believe in biblical creationism and/or a six thousand year old Earth these days, is equivalent to still insisting that the world is flat.

[October 2009 addition]. A few weeks ago, a Jehovah’s Witness rang our door bell. At one point in the ensuing conversation, I told him that he was welcome to fit God into evolution if he wished to, but he had to accept the fact that scientific evidence proves conclusively certain Biblical events were pure fiction. He naively said “But evolution is just a theory”. I explained to him that evolution has long been an accepted scientific fact. DNA, and particularly RNA, along with other biological avenues of science, have mapped the tree of life and the relationships of all life on the planet from several separate and distinct areas of confirming evidence. He said “Why is it called a theory then?”

I have to admit that I laughed out loud and said “You really don’t know anything about science, do you?” Gravity is just a theory – but he didn’t float away. I tried to explain what ‘theory’ means in terms of science and referred him to the Oxford English Dictionary so he could review the various meanings of the word. For the uninformed, the word ‘theory’ doesn’t just mean ‘unproven hypothesis’; it can, and in the case of science (and especially evolution), it does, also mean “…a hypothesis that has been confirmed or established by observation or experiment, and is propounded or accepted as accounting for the known facts; a statement of what are held to be the general laws, principles, or causes of something known or observed.” (OED – cited on p.9 of Richard Dawkins new book, reviewed below). What was theory (or rather a hypothesis) in Darwin’s day has been confirmed as indisputable fact (proven scientific theory) in our day.

The problem is that many people learn to believe in something and then never keep up with the latest scientific evidence concerning aspects which may offend that belief. The fact is that evolution is a scientific fact. I am no expert in this area but I have studied it extensively in order to try to understand what we do know. Luckily, amongst all the material available, a new book has finally been written by Richard Dawkins which I highly recommend to everyone who has any interest in evolution. Although some of Richard’s earlier work is deeper and can be hard going for the casual reader, his new book effectively fills the ‘gap’ in the market for an up-to-date and simple to understand explanation as to why evolution is a fact. It is absolutely brilliantly written and easy to understand. You cannot put it down. It is the ultimate thriller and the outcome is that the reader obtains a clear understanding of the unassailable truth concerning evolution as a fact.

The book is called “The Greatest Show on Earth” with the sub-title “The Evidence for Evolution.” It is published by Random House (Bantam Press – Transworld Publishers). ISBN numbers are: 9780593061732 (cased) and 9780593061749 (tpb).

Richard wrote the book when he realised that “the evidence for evolution itself was nowhere explicitly set out, and this was a serious gap that I needed to close.” (Preface vii). “The Archbishop of Canterbury has no problem with evolution, nor does the Pope (give or take the odd wobble over the precise palaeontological juncture when the human soul was injected), nor do educated priests or professors of theology.” (p6).

“Evolution is a fact. Beyond reasonable doubt, beyond serious doubt, beyond sane, informed, intelligent doubt, beyond doubt evolution is a fact. The evidence for evolution is at least as strong as the evidence for the Holocaust, even allowing for eye witnesses to the Holocaust. It is the plain truth that we are cousins of chimpanzees, somewhat more distant cousins of monkeys, more distant cousins still of aardvarks and manatees, yet more distant cousins of bananas and turnips… continue the list as long as desired. That didn’t have to be true. It is not self-evidently, tautologically, obviously true, and there was a time when most people, even educated people, thought it wasn’t. It didn’t have to be true, but it is. We know this because a rising flood of evidence supports it. Evolution is a fact, and this book will demonstrate it. No reputable scientist disputes it, and no unbiased reader will close this book doubting it.” (pp.8-9).

“Biologists often make a distinction between the fact of evolution (all living things are cousins), and the theory of what drives it (they usually mean natural selection), and they may contrast it with rival theories such as Lamarck’s theory of ‘use and disuse’ and the ‘inheritance of acquired characteristics’). But Darwin himself thought of both as theories in the tentative, hypothetical, conjectural sense. This was because, in those days, the available evidence was less compelling and it was still possible for reputable scientists to dispute both evolution and natural selection. Nowadays it is no longer possible to dispute the fact of evolution itself – it has graduated to become a theorum [Dawkin’s unique spelling used to establish a specific point throughout the book – explained elsewhere in his text] or obviously supported fact – but it could still (just) be doubted that natural selection is its major driving force. (p.17. Emphasis in original).

If you do not believe evolution is a fact – read Dawkins’ book and you will be left in no doubt that the evidence is in and that evolution is indeed a fact. If you are already convinced, then his book will explain why and also how it is now known to be a fact. I recommend Richard Dawkins’ new book to everyone who has any interest in evolution.

Likewise, if you are a Mormon and do not yet believe that the Church is not true, my books will leave you in no doubt that the whole thing was a hoax. The evidence is in and the Mormon conspiracy to deceive is a fact. If you are already convinced, then my work will explain why and also how the hoax was established and the conspiracy perpetuated.

Following the example of author, Richard Dawkins, I registered as a “Bright” on the internet. A “Bright” is a person who has a naturalistic worldview, free of supernatural and mystical elements. Check out The Brights web site.

To me, science & DNA support atheism as the only plausible reality.
I actually hope I am wrong and that there is a God.

The one thing I am certain of, is that if there is a creative power; He, She, They or It, is definitely not the Mormon version.

If God does exist, He is not very good at religion.
Jim Whitefield

Early Civilisation, Smith & Biblical Nonsense

I knew in my heart (for me and me alone and with due respect to others to believe what they may) that no evidence for God existed, therefore my tendency was towards atheism. I made a study of all known civilisations from the commencement of the earliest time of known mankind and it quickly became apparent that almost every civilisation that has ever existed created gods of some description. Mainly in the first few thousand years of the ‘aware’ or ‘thinking’ man, they sacrificed regularly to appease ‘rain’, ‘sun’, ‘mountain’ or other gods. Many were human sacrifices and some were specifically children. This practice continued for countless thousands of years in many parts of the world.

There were no civilisations that did not end up with a ‘god’ creation or religious trait of some description. They looked to the heavens and felt they had to have a belief system and so religion evolved, just as everything does. I learned that even in early Biblical times, a complex multiple god system evolved in early Jewish history and it was only later that monotheism broke through as the then modern thought. At one time in ancient Egypt it was the Sun god that was the ‘only’ god under the rule of Pharaoh Akhenaten and his wife Nefertiti for a time, but that theology was suppressed by later Pharaohs for the next few hundred years.

One example of an early culture is a race that existed for about a thousand years. They grubbed out a meagre existence on poor land and managed to survive. The average age of death was about 28 for men and 32 for women. They sacrificed humans to a rain god. A thousand years – with no communication from the true God? And the purpose of all that, other than the will to survive, was what, in theological terms? Well, they were just here to gain a body and prove themselves – is of course the Mormon answer. I guess it didn’t matter to the one true God that they were sacrificing humans to a false rain god all that time. And these people, left to their own devices, who each lived, or rather just survived, for about thirty years on average, are able to become gods themselves in the eternities if they strive to progress to that stage? There was every point to their existence in evolutionary terms and absolutely no point to it in any later contrived theological terms.

The Bible contains many things that geologically and archeologically cannot be the case and this appears generally accepted by all but devout Christians (and Jews) these days. From another web site, the summary is: “Following 70 years of intensive excavations in the Land of Israel, archaeologists have found out: The patriarchs’ acts are legendary, the Israelites did not sojourn in Egypt or make an exodus, they did not conquer the land. Neither is there any mention of the empire of David and Solomon, nor of the source of belief in the God of Israel. Egyptian history for example has no record of multitudes of Israelites ever being there.”

Coincidentally, I was watching a TV programme the other day covering archaeology and finds from the 21st and 22nd dynasties. It stated the Syrian influence evidenced trade with other cultures but also that they again found no conclusive evidence of a Hebrew presence in Egypt. Evidence against the absence of historical documentation by the Egyptians could be considered in light of any archaeological finds in the Sinai, but there have been no archaeological finds anywhere in the Sinai confirming any camp of size, despite evidence of earlier small mining and nomadic encampments being readily discovered. Biblically, a whole nation (of about two million people) was on the move out there for forty years. Clearly, over a forty year period there would have been something left and that something has been searched for very diligently (just like Book of Mormon archaeology) and has never been found. It simply does not exist as it didn’t happen.

Therefore, and likewise, there was no army led by Joshua to bring down the high walls of Jericho. It surprises me that there are Christian web sites which claim in fact that there is evidence for that. However, I have been to Jericho and seen the excavations and the findings recorded there and there were no walls ever broken down (by any means) at the time period referred to in the Bible. They never were ‘sky high’ either. Town walls in the area were actually quite low (two storey) by comparison and the only early walls excavated from below the more recent walls were actually from an entirely different time period. They were built several thousands of years earlier, long before the time the Bible has Adam existing. The message there is, be sure to research evidence before relying on spurious reports or taking things that seem to support what you would like to believe, at face value. That’s a good idea for potential Mormon converts too.

The idea of a global flood having occurred, as taught by the Church in terms of the Earth requiring baptism, is geologically impossible. There is no geological evidence of the results of such a flood anywhere, nor in any location is there any resulting natural sediment that would have occurred. On the contrary, all evidence confirms not only that it did not happen, but also that it could not have happened. Given the diversity of species of life and sheer numbers existing today, of course it makes the idea of an ark an undeniable myth. It would have had to accommodate two (or more) of each of millions of species in a space the size of a football pitch. That includes some ten thousand different species of birds that cannot land on water and the flora which could not survive under water for a year. If we were to allow that an ark existed, the population of the Earth today would be miniscule in terms of humans, and the animal kingdom tiny in total numbers and diversity, compared to the actuality.

The history of various human cultures long predate the supposed time of the biblical flood, providing conclusive evidence that it did not happen. To be a reality, all human cultures – from Pygmies to Egyptians, from Aborigines to Native Africans, would have had to have evolved from one family to their present state over just a few thousand years. No sane person would ever believe that possible. As ‘believers’ we just don’t think. There are no layers of mass destroyed animals anywhere in the world relating to that era. Try a few million years earlier and you have some, but certainly not globally that late on in history. This is as scientifically proven as is the geological refutation of the ridiculous idea that Joseph Smith had about Adam’s altar being a pile of rocks he came across in Missouri. Again, from another writer: “When Joseph Smith announced that he had indeed discovered Adam’s altar, as one might expect, it caused great excitement. Converts constantly expected and continuously asked for more revelation and Joseph played to this constantly, not missing an opportunity to satisfy and astonish his followers.”

Smith’s statement is made as a matter of fact rather than opinion, giving extra credibility to his Adam-ondi-Ahman story and it was repeated by him and many others who heard him tell of it. People went to the place specifically to see ‘Adam’s altar’. Adam (if he indeed existed), palaeoanthropologically had to have lived at least 40,000 years ago. There have been several ice ages since, the last of which was 12,000 years ago. Since this affected Missouri just as much as the surrounding areas, it is geologically impossible for original stones to still be in the same location at surface level sufficiently to identify them as those associated with a crumbled altar, with or without the spirit. One has to conclude that it was simply fanciful thinking on the part of Joseph Smith for there is no other explanation.

So, after all, as with the story of Adam and Eve, there are a lot of fairy stories and folk lore in the Bible as well as in the Book of Mormon and even more elsewhere if you look for them. Who knew? I suppose, in light of the reality of mans’ creation of ancient gods and later monotheism and then the one true God in the first place (rather than God actually existing and creating man); it is only to be expected. There is so much more that could be said, but enough of that for now.

Scientifically, we know very well exactly how the universe has developed and how it will end (if not conclusive on its specific origin), and how our Earth has cooled and evolved to its current state over billions of years. We are now quite knowledgeable about how life has developed and we no longer just rely on theories. It is clear that man did not just ‘appear’ but that he developed from earlier primitive life forms to the way he is today, in parallel with millions of other species and varieties of life. We are quickly evolving now as we learn more and more about ourselves and how to treat the body and preserve life. We live more healthily and much longer than we used to. Mind you, we now get fat instead and get cancer or have heart attacks or strokes, but at least we know what we are doing and we have conquered many diseases, so to a degree we are now the masters of our mortal destinies.

I also took the time to study the history of man, as there has been so much new evidence in the last two decades or so. The Church has stated from the time of Brigham Young that it will accept all scientific discovery as it will fit the Church and there is no conflict. Fair enough. Prove it!