The Skeptic's Guide to The Universe

Monday, November 9, 2009

Chapter One; THE NATURAL WORLD part one






The purpose of this book is to examine and understand the purpose of religion in the view of the Theory of Evolution and Natural Selection. It is hoped that you and I will work to explore some of the ideas of God, Religion, and the supernatural in America and the world. I am not going to take the time to explain the detailed biological aspect of Natural Selection. To be quite honest the nuts and bolts of the process from the lab and such are beyond my current knowledge. One thing that makes this book so great is that I use interpretive analysis of the evidence to explain the concepts. There are a great many books and videos available at your local library or bookstore that can give you the background you need on the subject.12 For one of many Internet resources the University of California at Berkley provides a nice primer to begin with.3 One of my favorite, as you will learn in section three, is Cosmos: A Personal Journey.4 Just as with the probability of life must be common enough for it to occur at least one place in the Galaxy or universe, because we are here and alive. Likewise, there must be a reason for religion in human evolution because it is also here in every culture known on Earth.
It may seem like a strange idea for me as an atheist to to try to explain and even justify a reason for religion. I am not sure I will be able to go as far as to justify it but I will try to take a even handed look at its aspects and influences on modern life. I assure you I am far from the first one to do this and I may not be the best one to attempt this subject. I do, however, feel I have a somewhat a unique perspective on this subject as my background has been deeply involved in both science and religion. Without a doubt much more so in religion than science but both still very much self researched and pursued. My purpose in writing this is to help explain in more common terms how and why religion is used and some would say even needed at times by mankind.
Concerning science, I always had a curious nature of how things work. I remember as a young boy of eight or nine years old getting tools and taking apart things like radios, furniture, turntables to see how they worked then putting them back together. I was lucky that even at that age I knew it was a good idea to have the electric cord unplugged or I may not have had the chance to write this Today. I was glad when after putting the item back together it worked as it should. When I was not successful at reassembling something it would cause my mother no end of distress. The question usually was, “Thomas why on Earth would you take [insert item here] apart?” To which my answer would be, “ I wouldn't to see how it worked.”
Part of this curious nature came from my older brothers and I making plastic models as kids. We would go to the local T.G. & Y. discount store and buy all types of models they had, from cars to planes and ships of all sorts. Plus I learned to use the detailing tools with paint and sanding to make the models look their best. Then after spending hours upon hours making the cars look great we would have a “crash and burn” day. That is when we would take the cars and at different levels of destruction watch them come apart. Finally the result would be a glue enhanced fiery crash of two or more cars.
What this means to me is that a lot of attention to detail was a big part of my youth just to have it all go up in smoke for my own enjoyment. Even the smoke held fascination for me. As the plastic burnt it had a black smoke which was different than the smoke of grass burning or cigarettes or other things I had seen burn prior to that. Plus it was easy to capture by simply putting another piece of plastic above the flame and letting the black smoke gather on it. All this lead me to understand that there was a very specific process to be able to make models and to disassemble and reassemble household items.
I also spent hours walking all over the small town of Durant, Oklahoma to see what was around town. I was like a tourist and wanted to see everything that was around me. It was a curious world with the trees, rocks, streets, cars, homes and people all around me at different levels of condition all on the same street and city I was in.
As I remember, some of my most favorite things to do as a young boy was to watch the construction workers on the streets or on a housing site. I would stand by a backhoe and watch them dig deeper or longer and move the dirt out of the hole to the truck or to the side of the hole as it went along. Also I would watch as these men built homes putting up the frames and even walking around inside the wall less house. It is there when I notice that the plumbing fixtures came up through the concrete and the plumbers really didn't spend that much time at the work site. Only in the begging and the end. But it seemed the rest of the workers were there all the construction. So watching these men work provided me an early experience of how cause and effect was in reality. You raise a board, nail it to another board, continue the process soon your have a frame for a wall.
One of the other places that I would find myself at many times is when I heard a fire truck near by I would try to find it to see what was going on. If there was a fire I would watch the fire fighters working. It always fascinated me that they worked so fast but the fire would still destroy the building anyway. The town I lived in was very small so a fire anywhere in town wouldn't take that long to find anyway.
While on one of my walks I came upon a mimosa tree with leaves that were very small and would pull off easily into my hands. The result left the leaves in my thumb and forefinger a conical appearance to them. After pealing off several layers of these leaves I went to wash off the green from the leaves and to my amazement there was a soapy lather as I rub my hands together. I am not sure if this is a natural soap or just a normal reaction to that particular plants being rubbed underwater. I did take it to mean that if I ever needed to wash my hands and there was no soap but one of the mimosa trees I would use that. And I did use that information many times while I was a young boy. Another plant I gained knowledge from was the magnolia tree. They had these trees all over the town and they had peculiar flowers and buds. I found that is I picked the flower and rubbed it with my finger or tore it, very quickly it would turn from the white color to a dark brown. One thing for sure I learned about the magnolia tree id there flowers are very sent filled. I didn't mind playing with the buds of the tree but I didn't so much like the smell afterward, another lesson in cause and effect.
Walking around town looking at the creeks and streams, following them to see where they went and what was in and around them was also a past time I enjoyed. One time with some from friends from my neighborhood, we were at a nearby creek and found a huge turtle. We had found many other smaller ones in the past but this one had to be 14 to 16 inches, head to tail. It wasn't like the little snapper turtles that we normally found. We decided that turtle had to gotten there from a recent rain the day before. That was the only way we could figure out that the huge turtle could make it all the way down to that part of the creek. There very well may have been other ways but this was the conclusion we reached. Even at the age of eight my mind was piecing together cause and effects of the natural world. I know that things had to make sense naturally.




This small creek, a clear running stream in Durant, OK, is the same location where I spent time as a child with friends gathering crawdads, other small animals and exploring the natural world.

At this age most little boys want to have a place for themselves, a “fort, tree house” or “club” if you will. But what does a little boy know about construction? I knew that the walls had to be strong enough to support the roof. I had observed a lot of construction but doing is quite another thing. I also knew that if you didn't have enough wood to make it high enough to stand up in you can dig down into the ground to give yourself more headroom. Kevin Winguard, a friend of mine and I built a clubhouse secure enough to stand on its own and walk inside upright. We made the walls, roof and floor ourselves. We even ran a power cord out to it so we could have light and play music on my record player. Not only would it hold us, but my two brothers were actually was surprised how deep it was inside when they came in.



When I was eight or nine years old I lived at this house in Durant, OK. This backyard is where I built one of my many “forts” with my friend Kevin Winguard.

What Kevin and I had done was to put posts or boards into holes we dug into the ground to make sure it was high enough for us to stand in, yet deep enough to hold the weight. The walls were stepped and arranged in a circle and the opening was stepped down into the ground to get in and out easier. This clubhouse last for about six months.
What I have learned from this and other experiences like this is that when I see artifacts of man from the past. I see not only the history of man but my own history as a youth. When I used the tools and items around me to make something greater then what was there to begin with. Each step man has taken in progress is still with us today because we are the same men and woman of that time. We have just learned to build upon the work of other great inventors and ingenious people from before.

1 http://richarddawkins.net/
2 http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/evolution/
3 http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/article/evo_01
4 http://www.carlsagan.com/

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