Friday, August 25, 2017

Is life really worth it?

An atheist answers:

Q: At 42 I feel like I've fulfilled my obligations and done everything I needed to do in this world. I'm not sure that it's necessary for me to remain in here any longer. There's really nothing more that I want or need to do. Is it time for me to go?

A: Sure. You have to ask yourself, “what is the point to being alive”. There is no point. Procreating to protect the race against extinction can be handled by the other 7 billion people. Other than that, living is . . . living. What is the point of a tree, a turtle, a bacteria? Why should we be any different?

Q: What is the best thing that’s happened in your life?

A: Living to 76 years old. The alternative is terrible.

Q: Is life really worth it?

A: No. I’m 76. I’ve backpacked through more than 100 countries since 1957, many with my two sons. Started four successful companies. Retired at 45 and again at 49 after stumbling into another successful company. I’m married to an Asian woman 27 years younger than me who was a model in Japan for six years. I can buy what I want, when I want. And, no, it isn’t worth it. Mainly because there really isn’t any point to any of it. I’m sitting in front of my computer at 10:48 pm wasting time typing this reply to you. Why? Is this reply “worth it”? Hell no. Your life at any point in time is the result of memories that don’t exist. There is nothing but “now”. Is “now” worth it? I guess the answer is subjective.

Q: Is it possible to improve myself as a person while homeless? I’ve been pretty financially unstable and crashing on various couches for the last six months, and it’s been very hard to keep up with my spiritual side.

A: Why bother? If you have enough to eat, are in good health, and have a place to crash, why bring on problems by “improving yourself”. Spirituality has nothing to do with bucks. I think you mean “self esteem”, which is highly over-rated. Civilization hasn’t made anyone happier. Owning “stuff” doesn’t make anyone happier. Read, “Richard Corey” online.

"Richard Cory"
Edwin Arlington Robinson

Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.

And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
"Good-morning," and he glittered when he walked.

And he was rich—yes, richer than a king—
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.

So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Cuteness

Given atheism and evolution, it's odd we find small furry animals "cute". From an evolutionary perspective, wouldn't it make more sense (such as be better for our survival as a species) to be neutral about cuteness?

If we didn't find small furry animals cute, then we could kill and eat them without hesitation. It's not as if other animals seem to find small furry animals cute. Like foxes don't find bunnies cute. Like sea lions don't think about baby penguins that way. (Not that penguins have fur as such, but you get the idea.)

Perhaps evolutionists will explain it by saying we only find small furry animals that look most like our own babies cute. We see our own babies as cute since it helps us bond with our own babies which in turn helps us want to raise our own babies rather than toss them aside the moment they're born. However, even if so, why should that apply to babies that aren't our own? It's not as if chimps think of other baby chimps as cute when they kill other baby chimps (e.g. here).

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Delta Delta Delta force, can I help ya, help ya, help ya?

A friend emails to ask:

On the transgender troops issue, would a woman who's having her period be a problem when elite forces go out on a mission?

Definitely:

  1. We can distinguish between three categories: premenstrual symptoms, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). Each subsequent category is worse than the previous category. Premenstrual symptoms occur in approximately 75%-85% of all women, PMS occurs in approximately 5%-10% of all women, and PMDD occurs in approximately 3%-5% of all women.

    PMS and especially PMDD would be particularly destabilizing for women in special forces. I think that's fairly obvious to most people. So I'll simply focus on premenstrual symptoms.

  2. Premenestrual symptoms can be physical as well as psychological or emotional. The most common physical symptoms include swollen and tender breasts, pelvic pain, abdominal pain, diarrhea or constipation, headaches (e.g. migraines), skin changes (e.g. acne), hot flashes, altered cravings (e.g. craving candy), weight gain, local or generalized aches and pains (e.g. back pain). The most common psychological or emotional symptoms include moodiness, irritability, depression, confusion, temporary mild amnesia, anxiety, malaise, fatigue, insomnia, a sense of being "out of control".

    Again, keep in mind PMS and PMDD would have worse premenstrual symptoms and/or significantly more premenstrual symptoms.

    It should be fairly obvious none of these symptoms would be beneficial as a Navy SEAL or other special forces member. What's worse, most of these symptoms could be detrimental in certain situations operating as a member of the special forces. Not only to the woman herself, but to her fellow team members.

  3. Premenstrual symptoms generally peak around age 25-30 which would coincide with the time people tend to be at their physical peak as well.

  4. A woman could attempt to treat or manage her premenstrual symptoms (e.g. oral contraceptive combinations, depot injections, oophorectomy would be very radical). These have varying degrees of effectiveness as well as varying degrees of risks, even in ones that are deemed "safe". And I'm not sure how practical or effective these would be on a mission where the woman is sleeping in the rough, crisscrossing challenging terrain, in hostile enemy territory, etc.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Miscarriages

A friend asks about miscarriages. For what it's worth, here's my response:

  1. Definitions

    a. Miscarriage is also known as spontaneous abortion. Spontaneous abortion probably isn't the best term because it could confuse people to think it's associated with elective abortion.

    b. Miscarriage is such a broad term. In general it refers to a pregnancy that spontaneously ends before the embryo or fetus has reached a viable gestational age. Although a further complication is "viable gestational age" is itself a vague term susceptible to change (e.g. depending on medical science and technology). Currently that would be around the 20th week of gestation (as calculated from the date of the last menstrual period).

    c. Another common definition of miscarriage (such as the World Health Organization uses) is the spontaneous expulsion of an embryo or fetus weighing 500 g or less. A 500 g fetus would approximately correspond to the 20th week of gestation.

    d. Miscarriages can be subdivided into complete or incomplete miscarriages. If it's complete, then the uterus is entirely emptied, whereas if it's incomplete, then some tissue remains.

    e. One could make further distinctions such as induced (usually elective) abortions, threatened abortions, inevitable abortions, missed abortions, and tubal abortions or ectopic pregnancies.

  2. Incidence

    a. It's somewhat difficult to obtain accurate numbers (e.g. depending on how miscarriages are detected).

    b. At least to my knowledge, most of these studies on miscarriages are based on tests measuring β-hCG. But measuring β-hCG has its limitations. Other tests measure other factors like early pregnancy factor (EPF), but these tests may have their limitations too.

    c. What is the incidence of spontaneous abortions or miscarriages? Estimates range from 8-20% of all clinically recognized pregnancies under 20 weeks and 13-26% if we include unrecognized pregnancies.

  3. Etiology

    a. The most common cause of spontaneous abortions is most likely due to genetic abnormalities in the embryo or fetus. This is thought to account for -75% of all spontaneous abortions. The most common genetic abnormalities are autosomal trisomies (50% of all genetic abnormalities) - and trisomy 16 (which is 100% lethal) is the most common of the trisomies.

    b. Other causes of spontaneous abortions (~25%) are infections, autoimmune diseases, endocrine issues, uterine issues, and drug or substance abuse.

  4. Risk factors

    The biggest risk factors for spontaneous abortions are: advanced maternal age, previous spontaneous abortion, and maternal smoking (10 cigarettes per day or more).

  5. Fertilization/conception

    a. I think it's worth noting an important distinction: fertilization is not identical to conception and vice versa. Fertilization occurs when the sperm enters or penetrates the oocyte (later ovum) or egg. Conception occurs when the sperm and egg cease to exist as sperm and egg in order to become a zygote which has its own unique genetic material.

    b. I think it's possible to argue human life begins either at fertilization or conception. I see merits to both. I'd like to say we should play it safe and err on the side of fertilization. And I'd argue conception (syngamy) is certainly the latest it could be.

    c. I realize many or most state the sperm and egg fuse, unite, or the like. That's fine as far as it goes, and I don't object to the terminology. However at certain times it could be misleading language, scientifically speaking. More on this below.

    d. After the sperm has entered the egg, but prior to the creation of the zygote, the sperm and egg duplicate their respective genetic information in becoming paternal pronuclei and maternal pronuclei. The two pronuclei line up and move toward one another within the egg, their nucleic membranes dissolve (not fuse), and the chromosomes pair up to eventually become a new human genome.

    e. Overall it takes approximately 12-18 hours after fertilization for the zygote to be created.

  6. References

    Beckmann, C. Obstetrics and Gynecology (2009). (6th ed.).
    Cunnigham et al. (2014). Williams Obstetrics (24th ed.).
    Mularz, A., Dalati, S., & Pedigo, R. (eds.). (2016). OB/GYN Secrets (4th ed.).
    Tulandi, T., & Al-Forzan, H.M. (2017). "Spontaneous abortion: Risk factors, etiology, clinical manifestations, and diagnostic evaluation". In D. Levine, R. Barbieri, & K. Eckler (eds.), UpToDate. Retrieved April 28, 2017, from https://www.uptodate.com/contents/spontaneous-abortion-risk-factors-etiology-clinical-manifestations-and-diagnostic-evaluation

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Zoological diversity

I just wanted to pick up on what Steve Hays astutely said:

Finally, suppose we ask ourselves what biology would look like if God wanted to create a world with maximal zoological diversity. That would mean you could arrange species along a continuum of similarity and dissimilarity. Some species would be more alike while others would be less alike. Some would occupy the extreme ends of greatest similarity and dissimilarity while others would represent gradations in-between. For any two species, they are either more alike or less alike. You'd have a nearly infinite range of fine-grained variations.

If so, then man is bound to resemble some species more than others, and there will be a few species he most closely resembles. But is that due to common descent, or is that just the inevitable result of God making a world in which he rings the changes on body plans?

If God wanted to make humans completely discontinuous with all other life on Earth, then he could have made our entire genome fundamentally different from all other life on Earth. Perhaps instead of DNA or RNA, God could have based it on something different like XNA. Or God could easily not even use nucleic acid or nucleotides at all. Perhaps he could have used XYZ, ABCXYZ, or whatever.

However, if God did this, then it's possible we would suffer various incompatibilities as a result. For example, perhaps consuming water, plants, and animals on Earth would not give us energy (ATP). Worse, maybe doing so would be toxic to us. Scifi often explores these sorts of things. A human astronaut travels to a distant planet orbiting a distant star, but finds he or she can't breathe in the alien atmosphere. An alien species (a plant or animal analogue) which is innocuous to other aliens in their system is introduced to humanity only to pose an imminent threat to our existence. And so on. Hence, presumably, God would need to make us compatible enough to other lifeforms on Earth so we can all co-exist, etc., but unique enough to reflect his special handiwork (imago Dei). If so, then there would be various degrees of compatibility as well as incompatibility with one another.

Moreover, if God did create us with fundamentally different genetics, I assume secular scientists (among others) would still find a way to argue we're not God's creation. Perhaps they'd argue we're aliens on Earth à la Crick's panspermia theory except applied only to humans rather than all life on Earth, which would be "proof" of extraterrestrial intelligence and civilization, which in turn would somehow evidence God did not exist. In any case, secularists would find a way to conclude heads they win, tails we lose - and "life"? It just happens.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Is life really worth it?

An atheist answers:

Q: At 42 I feel like I've fulfilled my obligations and done everything I needed to do in this world. I'm not sure that it's necessary for me to remain in here any longer. There's really nothing more that I want or need to do. Is it time for me to go?

A: Sure. You have to ask yourself, “what is the point to being alive”. There is no point. Procreating to protect the race against extinction can be handled by the other 7 billion people. Other than that, living is . . . living. What is the point of a tree, a turtle, a bacteria? Why should we be any different?

Q: What is the best thing that’s happened in your life?

A: Living to 76 years old. The alternative is terrible.

Q: Is life really worth it?

A: No. I’m 76. I’ve backpacked through more than 100 countries since 1957, many with my two sons. Started four successful companies. Retired at 45 and again at 49 after stumbling into another successful company. I’m married to an Asian woman 27 years younger than me who was a model in Japan for six years. I can buy what I want, when I want. And, no, it isn’t worth it. Mainly because there really isn’t any point to any of it. I’m sitting in front of my computer at 10:48 pm wasting time typing this reply to you. Why? Is this reply “worth it”? Hell no. Your life at any point in time is the result of memories that don’t exist. There is nothing but “now”. Is “now” worth it? I guess the answer is subjective.

Q: Is it possible to improve myself as a person while homeless? I’ve been pretty financially unstable and crashing on various couches for the last six months, and it’s been very hard to keep up with my spiritual side.

A: Why bother? If you have enough to eat, are in good health, and have a place to crash, why bring on problems by “improving yourself”. Spirituality has nothing to do with bucks. I think you mean “self esteem”, which is highly over-rated. Civilization hasn’t made anyone happier. Owning “stuff” doesn’t make anyone happier. Read, “Richard Corey” online.

"Richard Cory"
Edwin Arlington Robinson

Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.

And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
"Good-morning," and he glittered when he walked.

And he was rich—yes, richer than a king—
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.

So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Cuteness

Given atheism and evolution, it's odd we find small furry animals "cute". From an evolutionary perspective, wouldn't it make more sense (such as be better for our survival as a species) to be neutral about cuteness?

If we didn't find small furry animals cute, then we could kill and eat them without hesitation. It's not as if other animals seem to find small furry animals cute. Like foxes don't find bunnies cute. Like sea lions don't think about baby penguins that way. (Not that penguins have fur as such, but you get the idea.)

Perhaps evolutionists will explain it by saying we only find small furry animals that look most like our own babies cute. We see our own babies as cute since it helps us bond with our own babies which in turn helps us want to raise our own babies rather than toss them aside the moment they're born. However, even if so, why should that apply to babies that aren't our own? It's not as if chimps think of other baby chimps as cute when they kill other baby chimps (e.g. here).

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Delta Delta Delta force, can I help ya, help ya, help ya?

A friend emails to ask:

On the transgender troops issue, would a woman who's having her period be a problem when elite forces go out on a mission?

Definitely:

  1. We can distinguish between three categories: premenstrual symptoms, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). Each subsequent category is worse than the previous category. Premenstrual symptoms occur in approximately 75%-85% of all women, PMS occurs in approximately 5%-10% of all women, and PMDD occurs in approximately 3%-5% of all women.

    PMS and especially PMDD would be particularly destabilizing for women in special forces. I think that's fairly obvious to most people. So I'll simply focus on premenstrual symptoms.

  2. Premenestrual symptoms can be physical as well as psychological or emotional. The most common physical symptoms include swollen and tender breasts, pelvic pain, abdominal pain, diarrhea or constipation, headaches (e.g. migraines), skin changes (e.g. acne), hot flashes, altered cravings (e.g. craving candy), weight gain, local or generalized aches and pains (e.g. back pain). The most common psychological or emotional symptoms include moodiness, irritability, depression, confusion, temporary mild amnesia, anxiety, malaise, fatigue, insomnia, a sense of being "out of control".

    Again, keep in mind PMS and PMDD would have worse premenstrual symptoms and/or significantly more premenstrual symptoms.

    It should be fairly obvious none of these symptoms would be beneficial as a Navy SEAL or other special forces member. What's worse, most of these symptoms could be detrimental in certain situations operating as a member of the special forces. Not only to the woman herself, but to her fellow team members.

  3. Premenstrual symptoms generally peak around age 25-30 which would coincide with the time people tend to be at their physical peak as well.

  4. A woman could attempt to treat or manage her premenstrual symptoms (e.g. oral contraceptive combinations, depot injections, oophorectomy would be very radical). These have varying degrees of effectiveness as well as varying degrees of risks, even in ones that are deemed "safe". And I'm not sure how practical or effective these would be on a mission where the woman is sleeping in the rough, crisscrossing challenging terrain, in hostile enemy territory, etc.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Miscarriages

A friend asks about miscarriages. For what it's worth, here's my response:

  1. Definitions

    a. Miscarriage is also known as spontaneous abortion. Spontaneous abortion probably isn't the best term because it could confuse people to think it's associated with elective abortion.

    b. Miscarriage is such a broad term. In general it refers to a pregnancy that spontaneously ends before the embryo or fetus has reached a viable gestational age. Although a further complication is "viable gestational age" is itself a vague term susceptible to change (e.g. depending on medical science and technology). Currently that would be around the 20th week of gestation (as calculated from the date of the last menstrual period).

    c. Another common definition of miscarriage (such as the World Health Organization uses) is the spontaneous expulsion of an embryo or fetus weighing 500 g or less. A 500 g fetus would approximately correspond to the 20th week of gestation.

    d. Miscarriages can be subdivided into complete or incomplete miscarriages. If it's complete, then the uterus is entirely emptied, whereas if it's incomplete, then some tissue remains.

    e. One could make further distinctions such as induced (usually elective) abortions, threatened abortions, inevitable abortions, missed abortions, and tubal abortions or ectopic pregnancies.

  2. Incidence

    a. It's somewhat difficult to obtain accurate numbers (e.g. depending on how miscarriages are detected).

    b. At least to my knowledge, most of these studies on miscarriages are based on tests measuring β-hCG. But measuring β-hCG has its limitations. Other tests measure other factors like early pregnancy factor (EPF), but these tests may have their limitations too.

    c. What is the incidence of spontaneous abortions or miscarriages? Estimates range from 8-20% of all clinically recognized pregnancies under 20 weeks and 13-26% if we include unrecognized pregnancies.

  3. Etiology

    a. The most common cause of spontaneous abortions is most likely due to genetic abnormalities in the embryo or fetus. This is thought to account for -75% of all spontaneous abortions. The most common genetic abnormalities are autosomal trisomies (50% of all genetic abnormalities) - and trisomy 16 (which is 100% lethal) is the most common of the trisomies.

    b. Other causes of spontaneous abortions (~25%) are infections, autoimmune diseases, endocrine issues, uterine issues, and drug or substance abuse.

  4. Risk factors

    The biggest risk factors for spontaneous abortions are: advanced maternal age, previous spontaneous abortion, and maternal smoking (10 cigarettes per day or more).

  5. Fertilization/conception

    a. I think it's worth noting an important distinction: fertilization is not identical to conception and vice versa. Fertilization occurs when the sperm enters or penetrates the oocyte (later ovum) or egg. Conception occurs when the sperm and egg cease to exist as sperm and egg in order to become a zygote which has its own unique genetic material.

    b. I think it's possible to argue human life begins either at fertilization or conception. I see merits to both. I'd like to say we should play it safe and err on the side of fertilization. And I'd argue conception (syngamy) is certainly the latest it could be.

    c. I realize many or most state the sperm and egg fuse, unite, or the like. That's fine as far as it goes, and I don't object to the terminology. However at certain times it could be misleading language, scientifically speaking. More on this below.

    d. After the sperm has entered the egg, but prior to the creation of the zygote, the sperm and egg duplicate their respective genetic information in becoming paternal pronuclei and maternal pronuclei. The two pronuclei line up and move toward one another within the egg, their nucleic membranes dissolve (not fuse), and the chromosomes pair up to eventually become a new human genome.

    e. Overall it takes approximately 12-18 hours after fertilization for the zygote to be created.

  6. References

    Beckmann, C. Obstetrics and Gynecology (2009). (6th ed.).
    Cunnigham et al. (2014). Williams Obstetrics (24th ed.).
    Mularz, A., Dalati, S., & Pedigo, R. (eds.). (2016). OB/GYN Secrets (4th ed.).
    Tulandi, T., & Al-Forzan, H.M. (2017). "Spontaneous abortion: Risk factors, etiology, clinical manifestations, and diagnostic evaluation". In D. Levine, R. Barbieri, & K. Eckler (eds.), UpToDate. Retrieved April 28, 2017, from https://www.uptodate.com/contents/spontaneous-abortion-risk-factors-etiology-clinical-manifestations-and-diagnostic-evaluation

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Zoological diversity

I just wanted to pick up on what Steve Hays astutely said:

Finally, suppose we ask ourselves what biology would look like if God wanted to create a world with maximal zoological diversity. That would mean you could arrange species along a continuum of similarity and dissimilarity. Some species would be more alike while others would be less alike. Some would occupy the extreme ends of greatest similarity and dissimilarity while others would represent gradations in-between. For any two species, they are either more alike or less alike. You'd have a nearly infinite range of fine-grained variations.

If so, then man is bound to resemble some species more than others, and there will be a few species he most closely resembles. But is that due to common descent, or is that just the inevitable result of God making a world in which he rings the changes on body plans?

If God wanted to make humans completely discontinuous with all other life on Earth, then he could have made our entire genome fundamentally different from all other life on Earth. Perhaps instead of DNA or RNA, God could have based it on something different like XNA. Or God could easily not even use nucleic acid or nucleotides at all. Perhaps he could have used XYZ, ABCXYZ, or whatever.

However, if God did this, then it's possible we would suffer various incompatibilities as a result. For example, perhaps consuming water, plants, and animals on Earth would not give us energy (ATP). Worse, maybe doing so would be toxic to us. Scifi often explores these sorts of things. A human astronaut travels to a distant planet orbiting a distant star, but finds he or she can't breathe in the alien atmosphere. An alien species (a plant or animal analogue) which is innocuous to other aliens in their system is introduced to humanity only to pose an imminent threat to our existence. And so on. Hence, presumably, God would need to make us compatible enough to other lifeforms on Earth so we can all co-exist, etc., but unique enough to reflect his special handiwork (imago Dei). If so, then there would be various degrees of compatibility as well as incompatibility with one another.

Moreover, if God did create us with fundamentally different genetics, I assume secular scientists (among others) would still find a way to argue we're not God's creation. Perhaps they'd argue we're aliens on Earth à la Crick's panspermia theory except applied only to humans rather than all life on Earth, which would be "proof" of extraterrestrial intelligence and civilization, which in turn would somehow evidence God did not exist. In any case, secularists would find a way to conclude heads they win, tails we lose - and "life"? It just happens.