Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Creatures that Defy Creationism: Water Scorpion


Water Scorpion (female) // March 18, 2012 // Grand Rapids, MI


Here is another creature that defies creationism: the water scorpion.

I found this specimen depicted in the picture above walking clumsily across a sidewalk this past Sunday with her wings partly unfolded. She had apparently landed and was unable to take again to the air. Water scorpions are effective predators in slow-moving and stagnant plant-rich waters, but they are very poor walkers and feeble flyers.

In their water habitats, water scorpions hunt by means of camouflage. A hunting water scorpion will sit stationary for hours in a largely vertical position. Her “tail” (the item of her anatomy that has won her the misnomer of “scorpion”) serves as a snorkel by which she is able to breathe. Her tail is made up of several strands, and they hold together underwater by means of surface tension; hence, when out of the water, her “tail” looks more like “tails” than a singular tube. With her “tail” to breathe, the water scorpion will sit motionless, resembling a stick or a twig with her stick-like narrow body.

As already indicated, the water scorpion is not a scorpion. She is not even an eight-legged arachnid; she is an insect with six legs. As a beautiful example of convergent evolution, the water scorpion has developed front legs that are a nearly complete mirror of a praying mantid’s forelegs. In fact, if I did not already know that the water scorpion was an aquatic insect, I may have even mistaken this for a mantid fly or even a praying mantis. However, the water scorpion is not closely related to the praying mantis; she developed her predatory front legs independently.

How does the water scorpion defy creationism?

One of the basic teachings of the majority of young-earth creationists is that of “no death before the Fall.” That is, there was no death of humans or animals prior to the sin of Adam and Eve eating from the Tree of Knowledge in Genesis 3. Hence, as suggested in Genesis 1:29, all animals and humans ate fruits and vegetables only. The introduction of meat eating gradually emerged, according to most creationists, only after the Flood of Noah where, in Genesis 9:3, dispensation is given to eat meat. No joke—there are millions of Americans that buy this narrative uncritically.

The water scorpion is clearly adapted to hunt its prey of water insects, fish, and frogs. It is structured to remain motionless for hours, breathing through its “snorkel,” resembling a stick or a water plant. It has lightning-fast reflexes and mantid-like forelegs that quickly clasp and retain its unwitting prey. Now, one must ask, how would these adaptations—camouflage, “snorkel,” forelegs, speed, etc.—work in a world that was strictly vegetarian? What use would there be for any of these adaptations if the water scorpion merely grazed on water plants?

Frankly, in a deathless world, the water scorpion wouldn’t exist. It would have no use in a vegetarian food chain, and it would find no use for its marvelous predatory adaptations. This is yet another creature that defies creationism.



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Monday, March 19, 2012

Embodied Reality & Agnosticism

Our generation has seen the tremendous influence that the choice of a
hermeneutical viewpoint can have… (Wheeler, p. 126)


This is no new point for this blog; I’ve expressed this before. Process philosopher-theologian Wheeler asserts,


…faith’s home is to some extent a function of the contingencies of one’s birth,
upbringing, and historical-cultural location, and to some extent a function of
one’s own temperament and choices. Fundamentalists of every ilk ignore
this truism (p. 104).


And similarly,


…concrete faith communities, no matter how great their vitality and their
efficacy in producing concord and well-being for their believers, do not exhaust
the possibilities of encounter with the Real, nor do they exclude the
possibility of other faith communities and traditions. …the core images of
my faith tradition are ‘true,” in the sense that they are a faithful response to
God’s self-communication within the limits of human symbol-forming capacity (pgs
104-105).


I live this reality—I have “lived” in numerous “faith homes,” I have run with numerous religious paradigms. This is no mere boast. I am a capable of rendering a coherent, robust, and thorough defense of any of the following paradigms, among others: metaphysical naturalism (atheism), agnosticism, Moody-Bible styled Evangelicalism, Assembly of God (first-wave Pentecostalism), Fundamentalist Baptist, Seventh-day Adventist, Messianic Jewish, Roman Catholic, Orthodox Christian, Orthodox Jewish, Conservative Jewish, traditional Karaite Judaism, hyper-scriptural Karaite Judaism, Sunni Islam, Shiite Islam, young-earth creationism, etc. I can enter into any of these paradigms and provide a strong defense. As a result, I feel that my choice of paradigm is, just that, a choice.

The primary driving variable then for me becomes, “What do I want to believe or disbelieve?” And, subsequently, I ask, “What makes me a better person?” There are times and there are situations when I feel that a conservative Christian theism impels me to be and to become a better person. Examples of such settings include times when I am dealing with guilt or seeking forgiveness. In such contexts the idea of a God who forgives and who calls to forgiveness helps me to assume a restorative stance and behavior patterns associated with confession or confrontation (depending on who the offender is) and apology. This is not to deny that such patterns and offerings cannot be found in other paradigms, but I find them the most meaningful for me against the backdrop of Christian theism. Additionally, there are other contexts where I find the same Christian paradigm to be morally retrograde and an obstruction to an inclusive vision of justice.

Granted, there are rules of logic that make methodological naturalism positivistically desirable and logically consistent. I am not denying this. Rather, I am asserting that I come away from my encounter with ultimate reality profoundly agnostic and aware of the embodiedness of my reason, experience, and thinking. Plato would not like me so well at the moment.

Wheeler, David. “Confessional Communities and Public Worldviews: A Case Study” in Searching for an Adequate God. Eerdmans, Grand Rapids: 2000 Eerdmans, Grand Rapids: 2000

Monday, March 5, 2012

Why Polamory: A Personal Reflection

This entry is meant as a personal reflection. I do not set out to prescribe universal prescriptions or recommendations. And, because the content of this post might be seen as controversial to some readers, I am not going to discuss much beyond theory. Polyamory, in my iteration, is the relationship paradigm for me, and in this post I will explain why:

Honesty
Polyamory encourages honesty specifically in the areas where monogamy tends to stifle honesty. In my first marriage I operated with the understanding that lusting after or desiring another married woman was tantamount to adultery and infidelity. Because I was a “good Christian,” I dared never confess to any wandering affections or lusts. In fact, I was quite proud of the fact that I maintained the image that I was idiosyncratically impeccable, never allowing my eyes to wander. However, the reality of my male humanity was always present. I did and do often find myself noticing attractive anatomy, and I did and do sometimes find myself drawn to others emotionally. However, instead of lying about this and claiming to my wife an artificial, dishonest singularity, I tell her the full, liberating truth. I tell her when I find someone else attractive. Now, mind you, I don’t tell her every time I entertain a lingering gaze. There is a balance, and I can reflect on this another time.

Set for Failure: “One-and-Only” Expectations
Cultural developments in the Victorian era placed an emphasis on the importance of romantic love as the foundation of marriage. Contrast this basis with somewhat more traditional societies where arranged marriages both did not require romance at the outset or allow for one or both participants to express choice. The Victorian emphasis on romantic love and free choice in spouse selection were both positive developments and specifically betterments toward the achievement of a more egalitarian society. However, the focus on romantic love in spousal selection also lead to the romanticized idea of “soul mates” and romantic destiny in which one person is envisioned as one’s romantic all-in-all, an end to all desire, and the fulfillment of all of one’s emotional and physical needs. I don’t accept the cultural “soul mate” narrative. I don’t believe that I can be for my wife the end-all of all her needs and potentials. Frankly, I don’t believe that any group of individuals can accomplish this for me or my wife, but I do believe that such can be accomplished better within the company of other loving, romantic, fulfilling relationships. I will be who I am to my wife, and I expect the same of her.

Zero-Sum Love Games
When my youngest son was born the love that my wife and I had toward our first-born son did not dissipate. Spousal love is different than parental love, but this analogy holds. When I feel the energy of attraction to someone who is not my wife, my love for my wife does not need to diminish. Yes, the romantic love and eros that I feel for my wife will ebb and wane, and this would happen whether we were monogamous or polyamorous; however, the feelings I have for someone else do not translate into a need to abandon the wonderful love relationship and the beautiful relationship history that I share with my wife. In fact, when we let go and let another be, the love return can be great. “Cast your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will find it again…”

Spousal Love
I love my wife. I have never loved a woman more than I love my wife. Love can be a creative force, and creative love grows in vulnerability through granting autonomy-rich space. I enjoy granting my wife time and space for her to pursue her interests and to do activities she enjoys. Likewise, I have enjoyed granting similar opportunities for her in relationships of various types. It is because I love my wife and believe in the strength of our relationship that I am willing to be vulnerable. I am willing to expose myself to jealousy and the feelings of insecurity that can accompany polyamory because I feel that our love will cultivate excellence and tread new ground.

Enjoyment
I am not advocating for irresponsible hedonism or relationship-free sexuality, but this is the only life I will live. There is nothing to look forward to consciously after I pass. Why limit myself by someone else’s narrative? Why live my life by boundary stones set in a bygone era? I am setting my own narratives, limits, and horizons.

The above reasons do not exhaust my personal thinking on polyamory. And, as noted at the outset, these are not meant to be universals. These are my personal reflections.