Sunday, November 7, 2010

Vampires rejoice - Blood created from human skin!

Too late for Hallowe'en, but not a moment too soon for vampires (and their victims), a Canadian university has been able to create blood from human skin.

CBC news reports
Researchers at McMaster University in Hamilton report that they converted patches of skin directly into blood. Their process doesn't involve any intermediate conversion of skin stem cells into multi-purpose stem cells that can create almost any other type of cells.
"We have shown this works using human skin. We know how it works and believe we can even improve on the process," stated Mick Bhatia, scientific director of McMaster's Stem Cell and Cancer Research Institute. "We'll now go on to work on developing other types of human cell types from skin, as we already have encouraging evidence."
The process was repeated several times over a two-year period and was conducted using skin cells from people of various ages.
Here's the sort of story that can capture the public's imagination about science-whether through a vampire tale, or the knowledge that a loved one requiring regular blood transfusions now has more options. It's also a step toward creating other cells-all knowledge that can be linked back to evolution and the scientific method.

(And it's a verifiable type of "transubstantiation", not like the catholic kind that can't be proven and relies on outdated aristotelian metaphysics for its definition-Science 1 catholicism -2 )

 That leaves science doing "miracles', healing people and making a better world, while religion tries to talk a good game.

Fail religion.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

We can think (and sing) such messed up things if we add god to the mix.

Yesterday I heard Pearl Jam's version of "Last Kiss":

While I had always liked the song, I found myself bothered by the lyrics:
Oh, where oh where can my baby be?
The Lord took her away from me
She's gone to heaven, so I got to be good
So I can see my baby when I leave this world.
While I don't believe the original songwriter was trying to make a theological statement, I think it shows how deluded we can be as a society that accepted the idea of a murdering god who holds people hostage with the threat of no reunion to their loved ones .

If the singer had written about lovers eating one another, or murdering puppies, or torturing people in their basement, there would have been an outcry to ban the song from the radio. Put the gun in god's hand and let him turn the thumbscrews on the survivor and it's considered a lovely sentiment of true christian love.

It boggles the mind.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Swiss Catholics split over condoms

Catholics in Lucerne started handing out condoms as part of an AIDS awareness campaign, provoking mixed reactions from other catholics. According to the New Zealand Herald, the campaign is focused on raising awareness:

"We needed something to appeal to people who wouldn't dream of talking to the church about that kind of issue," said spokesman Florian Flohr.
The campaign is targeted at those as young as 14 and includes talks in schools about the devastating effect Aids is having in Africa.
"It's not about promoting promiscuous activity. We're using the condoms to prompt people to think about HIV and Aids."
As one might expect, other catholics see it differently:
Officials in the diocese of Basel, of which Lucerne is a part, didn't respond to requests for comment, but a spokesman in the neighbouring Church was quoted by Swiss TV as describing the condom campaign as a mistake.
"It sends the wrong signal," Christoph Casetti told SF1. "From a medical point of view, I also think it's wrong because we know condoms don't provide certain protection."
Vatican officials also repeated the same tired answers.

While the catholics giving out condoms still saw them as linked to promiscuity instead of mature and safe sexual activity, they have at least raised their standard of care for others to the point where causing unnecessary risk through non-use of condoms is unacceptable. It is progress, and if it provokes a debate in the church, that will also prompt more people to question and reconsider dogma.

And help save lives.

Proof against Intelligent Design: The 80's

Would an all-powerful and all-knowing deity have built his greatest creation in his image and provided it with the cognitive ability and natural resources to create technology and capture information to share worldwide so that we could fulfill his plan for us by producing this:

I love the silly quirks that define the 80's and enjoy both Tracey Ulman and the song "Breakaway", but even the most diehard IDer can't explain the existence of silliness. With design, purpose, destiny and god's will, there's no place in the ID cosmology for it.

Nontheists don't have to explain away silly-given that our mental software has been developed "on-the-fly" to meet needs as they arose, it makes perfect sense that it produces thoughts and actions that are "out there".

Think of it as error checking or a self-diagnostic-as long as silliness is still silly to you, the mental mechanism is working properly. It's only when silliness makes you angry or intolerant that you've likely gotten a defective meme in your head (like religion) that needs to be flushed. South Park anyone?