Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Exploits of God's Wrath

I have become so accustomed to the religious community pouncing on a tragic event, that I actually had somewhat of an imaginary lottery going on in my head as to which high profile leader would be the first one to blame modern society for the tornado in Oklahoma.  But then I realized I had forgotten the twisted rules of the game of religion: exploiting natural disasters depends wholly on the region in which that disaster occurred.

If the religious right has a strong foothold in the community and the local politics, all religious leaders are required to fire up the prayer machine to get their god to ease the suffering of others.  (Let's not even address the argument that for some strange reason, all that prayer and religious influence still didn't prevent the disaster in the first place.)  If, however, the religious influence is negligible or the local politics do not measure up to the will of their dogma, then the religious leaders are free to exploit human suffering to the fullest extent.  Oh, and make sure to remember that they can and should speak for the almighty (in his absence, of course.)

Here's a very short list of a few of the recent tragedies and the idiots that gave their god credit for murder:

  • Jerry Falwell - September 11, 2001 attack on the US.
  • John Hagee - 2005 hurricane Katrina hits New Orleans.
  • Pat Robertson - 2009 earthquake in Haiti.
  • Michelle Bachmann - 2011 hurricane Irene and earthquake in Washington D.C.
  • Glen Beck - 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

There are far more, but hopefully the point is clear.  These are the people that are willing to step in front of a microphone and confidently tell the public two wildly absurd statements.  First, the creator of the universe has given them the privilege of speaking for him (again, while he's away); and two, the creator of the universe murders relatively small groups of people if he suddenly realizes that everyone else isn't doing what they ought to be.

Now I realize that I shouldn't just single out the high profile religious leaders or politicians.  Equally as bad are the every-day religious folk who blithely regurgitate "miraculous" survival stories of extremely fortunate people... and dogs... and cats... and even horses.  All the while completely ignoring the human suffering that has already occurred or continues to occur.  Seriously, how can anyone justify calling the reunion of a dog with its master a "miracle" while standing in the street of a neighborhood obliterated by a tornado?

Sometimes it seems that this desperate search for god in the rubble of a tragedy has become so routine that a good portion of our society really doesn't give much thought as to what exactly these people are actually saying.

I suppose the point of this post is that while you think about the poor victims of Oklahoma, please... please think before you speak for the almighty.  Take the stained-glass blinders off for a few minutes.  Do it before you try to inject your god into an event which ultimately serves no purpose.  And why not think about those people that lost everything, or lost a loved one, or lost their lives?  Then, rather than try to pray away the sorrow and pity you feel, DONATE.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Global Citizens

A recent comment by someone I know, I won't say who, gave me the inspiration to finally come out of my writing hiatus.  In order to protect the individual's anonymity, I won't quote the comment verbatim, but the gist of their thought was this:

"... Today I saw another family with a rather large number of children.  I have a rather large number of children.  Maybe big families are making a comeback!!!"
As a scientist I say, boy I hope not.

What concerns me the most about the modern trend of having 3 to 5 children per couple can be summed up with simple mathematics.  Let's begin, shall we?  We'll start off simple with just two parents: Terry and Sherri.  Terry and Sherri have a total of four children, two children per parent in the succeeding gene pool.  (From now on we'll flex our science muscles and refer to this as the "replacement rate".  In our first example, this would be a replacement rate of 4.0.)  Now, Terry and Sherri's kids: Mary, Keri, Harry and Barry, pair up accordingly and marry (eww, shallow gene pool) and follow in their parent's footsteps and also have a replacement rate of 4.0.  Four kids per set isn't bad, right?

Well, if you're moderately savvy, you'll immediately see a very troublesome trend.  Even if we don't consider previous generations - in other words, once each couple gets all children to reproductive age, they die - this mythical population will explode.  And it will explode in a hurry - an exponential hurry.  If you want to try this at home, get a calculator and put in 2 raised to the 30th power and see how many people you get.  That's 1,073,741,824 children in just 30 generations...  Yikes.

Now let's consider resources for this exploding population.  Food, water, living space (you know, the offspring need enough space to develop, not to mention the couple needs enough space for at least four rounds of hypothetical hanky panky), clothing, and the means to barter for these resources - you know, money.  Remember, resources, by definition, are finite.  What happens when our mythical population explodes and these basic resources become scarce?  Double yikes.

I know this is a horrible comparison, but if you were to watch a colony of bacteria growing in a medium of limited resources - say a petri dish - you'll sit by and witness a colony thrive for a few generations only to eventually collapse and die due to lack of nutrients.

Note that I'm not even considering the possibility of a link between fertility rate and poverty, as this question has been going on for well over 100 years.  However, it seems I'm not the only one that believes that higher standards of living can be attributable to lower fertility rates.

I don't mean to be harsh, but at some point our species has to grow up and consider the consequences of our actions...  For example:  Rather than thinking about yourself and your own selfish needs, how about considering your future beyond a few months?  Do you have the means to accommodate that many children?  And how about an even bigger question:  Do you think our tiny little planet can continue to provide food and water for an exploding population of human beings?  Are you willing to risk your child's future, or lack thereof, on your own selfish need to keep having babies?