Chopsticks, my ass.

discuss amongst yourself
by Morbus

"HOPEFUL MONSTERS (1940). Coined by Richard Goldschmidt (1878-1958), a German-born geneticist who emigrated to the US, this is a reference to Goldschmidt's theory that sudden jumps in evolution are necessary to explain speciation.

Goldschmidt believed that chromosomal mutations accumulate in populations until some threshold is breached, propelling the species across 'an unbridgeable gap' to a new species. While he expected that most mutants (called 'monsters') would fail to survive, under certain conditions mutants could be more successful than competing individuals. Such successful mutants leading to a new species were called 'hopeful monsters'. Modern geneticists reject this theory."

Although nothing really new, the way in which the theory is expressed interests me. Almost every mutation could easily be described under Goldschmidt's watchful eye - Toomes from the first season X-FILES, the Davis baby from the IT'S ALIVE trilogy, or that freaking woman who pops out her eyeballs on national TV.

Perhaps those mutations suggest cramped living space, primal evolution to combat aliens (i can't believe i just said that), or increased eyesight to become aware of a new entry into the food chain above us.

And although Goldschmidt believed that the chromosomes were merely dormant, waiting to "awaken" (reference: AKIRA), perhaps "some threshold" could apply to cloning or gene splicing.

That damn spider goat is *definitely* a hopeful monster. For those uninformed, scientists spliced a goat and a spider so that the goat could produce thread. Called "biosteel", the thread is reported to be twelve times stronger than normal steel and super flexible. Said scientists hope to breed the damn things and use biosteel for military purposes.

And that scares me. Goldschmidt asserts that most mutations would fail to survive. But with scientists making sure that these "hopeful" monsters will continue to procreate, we can only patiently wait for the era of Von Frankenstein. And I won't even touch the genome and DNA advancements that have been heralding the biology and genetics scene.

The fun thing is that I'm excited about all of this. How correct the early mapmakers were when they signed "here there be dragons"...

a s s h o l i c
the greatest column ever told
by Rown Garnbii

or: The End
(Part Ten of Ten)

The last commandment.

"Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant. nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbor's." (God, Exodus 20:17)

Kind of a big pill to swallow to accept that all of that fit on one stone tablet. I can just visualize God running out of room and struggling to squeeze the rest into the margin.

This commandment means that one should not be attracted to another's possessions and attempt to get them for ourselves. I originally thought I had broken this one. After all, who hasn't looked in envy at another persons lover, or car, or toy? I have. I do it all the time. But I've never been so envious that I had tried to take their stuff by force, nor have I ever attempted to lure their girlfriend away, although sometimes I wish I had. In fact it's all really about me wanting to get one for myself. Therefore... I guess I win.

One more commandment for me. And that's it. That's all of them. Rown Garnbii with a final score of Hell-4 / Salvation-6.

60 percent. A D- on any test but still a passing grade.

...It's all a bit silly though, isn't it? I like the fact that there were some good solid laws laid out on the table, but it still strikes me as silly. The whole Bible thing. It's full of discrepancies and double talk. But on a less atheistic approach I just don't believe it in my heart. There's something wrong about a universe that dependent on rules over anything else.

Why can't everything just be? It's that simple. I think of it like a destination with two paths leading to it. One is a long, complicated path and one is of simple acceptance. Like science and faith, Catholicism and Christianity. In my mind the universe and the hereafter simply take care of themselves and that they require nothing of it's inhabitance, because I just don't have the strength. There's good TV that needs watchin'.

It always confused me that the ones who believe in an eternal soul are the ones who believe in the strictness and standards of living. Conversely, the ones who believe in nothing treat life cheaply. Neither makes any sense. If we never truly die, than to kill a person is meaningless. If we die and that's the end of it, then to end a life or to make one miserable is a true sin. Whatever... No one's ever gonna get it.

Me, I don't really know what to expect from the afterlife. I do think that if there are strict rules to get through the door, then they would have been announced loud enough for "everyone" to hear, which never really happened.

And if the Bible is true than I'd probably still go to Hell. It say's I'm suppose to obey all of them. And since each explanation starts off with "love and fear God" which I cleverly omitted, then I guess technically I've broken all of them. So really, what good was this exercise? I don't know. I just wanted to fill some space.

I'm not a perfect man. I know that. In fact, I suck. But I'm not a bad person either. I don't believe that I deserve eternity in Hell, nor would I want eternal bliss in Heaven.

Crazy, huh? Who would pass up eternal bliss. I'm not dumb, I know that I'd always be unconditionally happy, and I wouldn't even notice the difference. I just need challenge. I need to keep playing the game. I need pain. I don't know why, but I do.

The journey is the destination. I'd hate it if humanity ever did find the answers to life. I think that we really would just blink out of existence. Not out of punishment but because, what else could we do? We'd just start over, I guess.

What are your thoughts?

Salvation wins, 6-4

by Unkle John (edited by Morbus)

I was watching a re-run of "The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air" the other week, and had to constantly put up with the piss-making of England and its occupants. The truth is that the stereotype, stiff upper lipped ponce, no longer exists, or very few survive. The popular world belief that the English go round saying "sorry" every time they bump into people is a hideous mistake, and (the most annoying, may I add) that we all stop at 4pm for Tea... sadly not.

You will be hard pressed to go to London and find anyone speaking with an impeccable stereotype "english" accent, and if you are foolish enough to ask anyone, expect a black eye.

The other popular belief is that we are all related to the Royal family... the sad truth is that the Royal family are pretty much hated and despised, for their petty inter-family fighting.

And the added fact that they are inbred Germans figures into it as well.

What am I trying to say? Don't stereotype people. I am using us English (well, actually I am more Irish than English... but that's neither here or there) as an example, if you don't believe me, you are welcome to come over and try it. Be sure to visit a Milwall vs. Reading game of football, and you might see what I am on about.

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I'd just like to comment on issue 65, especially Mr. Garnbi(sp?)'s column.

He talks about, or at least what I got from it, was that he was trying to reason through the reason that faith is such a positive thing so much of the time, if the stuff itself seems so damn stupid.

I suppose before I go any further, I should 'fess up, and admit that yes, I am religious. I'm not quite Christian, not quite Muslim, not quite Buddhist, not quite a lot of things, in fact, but I like to think of myself as religious, even despite that. Maybe spiritual's a better word.

Anyhow, with my bias on the issue in mind, I think the problem with faith is that faith, in English, is all one word, and that word has come to mean 'Blind, against all reason, and inspite of evidence to the contrary' faith. The ancient greeks, who I've been doing some reading on lately(For an RPG, in my defense so I don't come across as some sort of academic jackass :) ) had two words, for two different kinds of faith, one better than the other.

Pistis and Gnosis were the two words. Pistis meant blind faith, of the sort that fundamentalists, and religious wackos of all stripes today have. Their beliefs are their _beliefs_ and bollocks to the guy who doesn't agree with them! Hell and brimstone for the heretics and those who doubt the word of God! And stuff like that. Their faith, Pistis, exists because of doubt. That is, they have to have blind faith, because deep down inside, they haven't proved to themselves that God/The Tao/The BuddhaNature/The Magical Pot O' Gold Over the Rainbow really exists. So, that internalised doubt forms a hard little shell that turns them into fanatics, and jerks, who really, emphasise the worst possible aspects of religion.

As well, Pistics(meaning someone who has Pistis, obscene puns aside :D) are generally the ones to be blamed for the heirarchies in religions, at least, when those heirarchies take the place of an individual practicitioners beliefs. Not just the Catholics though, are they are the most obvious example. Protestants too, often let reverends and congregations decide what their beliefs are. How many methodists know what the 'method' part comes from, and what it means? However, it's not the religion that's pistic, it's the practitioner of that religion.

On the other hand, Gnosis is the type of faith that translates roughly out of greek as 'knowing with surety'. However, that doesn't mean fanaticism. Rather, it's the same sort of knowing with surety that a scientist has when he talks about atomic theories, and quantum models. Gnosis accepts doubt within it, but isn't destroyed by it. It's rooted in the experience of God, and the faith that the destruction of that tiny little pistic core of doubt brings. Mystics(which is what these people are, though they tend to get called things like 'Saints' if anything at all) reaffirm their faith with each new discovery, and idea. Constant revelation of God is the key, since it is up to each practitioner to find his own truth through his relationship with God, rather than accept what someone else says, _merely_ because they call themselves a priest or a reverend. A mystic's faith isn't challenged by doubt, it's reaffirmed by it, and grows stronger without growing harsher or more intolerant of others. These are people who (try to)live exemplary lives because they themselves have experienced God.

These are the people who we tend to think of when we think of the positive examples of faith. Jesus, for example, was a mystic. So were the Disciples. Saints are mystics. So are Prophets, and the better Priests and Reverends and Rabbis and Monks.

It's these people who show us the positive side of faith, and prove to us that yes, faith can be a good thing, that it is worth having, and that morals are something more than shit on your boots to be scraped off at the first chance of material gain.

Anyhow, I'm rambling at this point, and I hope I made some sense somewhere along the way.

Just to sum up a few quick points: 1) I think that the search for all the answers to life the universe etc, etc etc, is so individual a quest that humanity as a whole couldn't accept it unless everyone undertook it whole-heartedly all at the same time, something very unlikely. Even then, the answers would be different for each person.

2)I agree that eternal bliss would suck. I'm actually a bit fonder of 'Nirvana' where you lose conciousness and simply merge with the universe... Of course, the implication is at that point you can surrender your conciousness without most people's fear of "losing" it.

3)Again, I'm a reincarnationist, though this time with a bit more of a Christian tint on things than a Buddhist one. Basically, if God is merciful, then he'll always give you another chance to make up for your screw-ups. Early Christians seemed to have the same idea, Pre-St.Paul. I find it much easier to reconcile that with the idea of an 'all merciful God' than the idea of people being cast into lakes of fire and whatnot.

Gah, that turned into more rambling, and of the sort that's likely to get me yelled at by someone else in response, so I'll shut up at this point :)


With that I am an Engineer, not an evolutionary biologist, but from the studies on the subject that I did do, I would like to make a couple of points.

A single change giving a 0.1% improvement in survivability will result in the more successful variant driving out it's predecessor in less than 1000 generations. Witness antibiotic resistant Staph.

Many of the apparently abrupt multi-gene changes that one sees (as in human evolution) are almost certainly single gene phenomena. If one looks at the following human features: Ability to learn, protruding forehead and chin, upright stance, curiosity, and relative hairlessness one can see all these features in the juvenile of the great apes. All these changes are in fact a single change, neotany, where the adult retains the characteristics of the juvenile.

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Devil Shat Sixty Five was released on 06/08/00. Last updated: 06/08/00.