Posted by: LucidMystery | April 3, 2014

Simple Question

I guess my title says it all…I have an easy question, but there’s not an easy answer. This is a bit rant-like (which is stinky of me because it was such a wonderfully beautiful and sunny day!), but still…the brain-tumbling remains…

My question: Why do I have to be the oddball between two communities? I love my God–my Lord and Savior. And I love science. Why is that difficult?

I want to understand how the world works! It’s intricate, it’s complex, it’s confusing, it’s exciting! We were given a beautiful planet and universe; I just want to learn more about it. That’s my science.

On the flipside, as fun as science can be, it will never satisfy my deeper questions…why are we here, do I have purpose, is it possible there is something greater out there that we little humans don’t understand? I found the answers to those questions with my faith. Scientists, if you’ve never wondered those questions, or if you like the answer you came up with on your own, that’s completely your choice. This is mine.

The way I see it, God is the Author of the universe. Science is just my way of reading what He wrote.

 

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Posted by: LucidMystery | March 1, 2014

And Poof! You’re No Longer Extinct!

I should be working, right now. I successfully defended my dissertation Monday (wee!) but I still have plenty o’edits before I can submit the final draft to the university. I can does it 😉

First though, this concept randomly popped back in my head: de-extinction. It’s a very Jurassic Park-like idea to bring back extinct species using the DNA of preserved specimens. Even though I read this story months ago, my head was about to explode with my own opinion. I can see the appeal. Many animals are gone forever purely due to human stupidity. Over-hunting, habitat loss/fragmentation, human persecution, depredation or resources loss from invasive species—there’s quite a list of dumb ways we’ve ruined the existence of wildlife. Still though…I don’t think I can get behind de-extinction. Besides the uber creepy factor, there’s a couple very good reasons that I am not ok at all with this.

1.) If we haven’t taken care of the reason a species went extinct in the first place, what is the point of bringing it back? Same concept as with reintroductions. You can reintroduce an animal into its former habitat; but if the habitat is still fragmented, if pollutants are still afoot, or human-introduced predators are still out and about, then someone is just wasting their money. I have a whole file full of failed reintroduction papers if anyone wants to read them.

2.) The article mentions this, but if we theoretically take away the consequences of extinction, what’s the motivation for preservation? Our society is becoming increasingly obsessed with avoiding the consequences of our actions, and this is just another way we could delude ourselves that our wasteful behavior doesn’t matter. Let’s work on saving what we have now! Pretty please 🙂

3.) Genetic diversity. You’re setting up an army of clones, so to speak, that can easily be wiped out again through some environmental stochasticity. One unfortunately-timed pathogen or drought could ruin decades of work and millions of dollars.

4.) Who’s going to pay for it? Good luck introducing that idea to the average tax payer, and that includes scientists like me. So what about companies? Say a mega corporation promises to pay for de-extinction if they accidentally kill off an amphibian species during the construction of a factory or its ensuing production practices. How many lawyers do you think they will hire to make sure they can “prove” that amphibian wasn’t destroyed because of them?

5.) I’ll lose the science crowd with this, but come on now…we cannot play God. Some species are gone forever, which is a devastating thought; but whether it was through human actions or other actions…the fact remains that they are gone and our feeble attempts to resuscitate the extinct only gives us more absurd reason to feel that we are masters of the universe. That’s a scary notion to have in our heads.

I should clarify that even though the article suggests this idea has a growing backing, it is by no means mainstream. Most of the scientific community is very leery of the idea…so that’s good at least. Shudder.

Ah well…back to my dissertation revisions…cranky rant over…Starbucks is tasty.

Posted by: LucidMystery | February 22, 2014

When I Googled “Monogamism”…

Google can be a dangerous thing. On the one hand, it can be valuable and provide a path to exactly the information I was looking for. Or…it can lead me down a rabbit-trail of baby animal pictures, quizzes about what superhero I should be, videos of college kids grabbing electric fences, anti-vaccine mommy blogs, the nutritional information to accompany my favorite Chipotle burrito (dear heavens, never visit that site!), or pretty much anything else someone’s imagination can dream up. Today, though, Google led me to thoughts I guess I hadn’t paid much attention to.

Let me backtrack. I read Matt Walsh’s blog pretty regularly. Now granted, I’m a bit more moderate than he is, so while I sometimes read his posts and think “YES!,” sometimes I read them and think “Eh, not sure about that, but interesting thought.” One of his older posts on monogamy in particular resonated with me pretty seriously, and ultimately started today’s rabbit trail through a Google Wonderland.

You see, Matt was defending monogamy. Defending a promise two people make to each other–a promise that recognizes life will bring challenges but brings a partner along to help navigate the obstacles. He was defending a relationship that, while occasionally painful, can ultimately bring more fulfillment and a deeper connection than any other earthly relationship can. What sent me to Google was the disdain some folks have for that relationship.

I simply Googled “monogamism” and “monogamy.” Here were some of the things I found…

“The Monogamy Gap: Men, Love, and the Reality of Cheating.”

“Scandals be damned. The goal of marriage, argues Dan Savage — devoted husband, proud father, sex columnist — should be stability, not monogamy.”

“Monogamism is commonplace. And it is bigotry. Monogamism is no more justifiable than racism or sexism or homophobia, and one day, it will be as reviled.”

“Polygamism and Monogamism: Why is Better?”

“Sex at Dawn: Why Monogamy Goes Against Our Nature…From testicle size to slutty ancestors, a new book explains what human history teaches us about sex and couples.”

“An estimated 90% of all bird species are monogamous.”

“Monogamy: Who Needs It? Scientists are still asking where monogamy came from.”

“The New Monogamy: Marriage with Benefits.”

I have a lot of conflicting thoughts on this subject. What do I think about monogamy? Does it really matter if people have different views of what monogamy is or what it should be? What are the pros and cons of polyamorous relationships versus monogamous ones? Does it really make a difference, anyway?

Before I begin spouting off my thoughts, yes, I am a Bible-believing Christian. Label me as biased (not that anyone isn’t.) Keep in mind, though, that I’m also an “academic.” This Monday (ack!) I’m defending my dissertation on wildlife population genetics. My doctoral qualifying exams were in physiology and evolution, so I’m not a complete nincompoop on the subject of human evolution and the history of hominid mating systems even if I have an idea of what I want my own relationships to be like. So…uh…I guess my conclusions will be from a blend of my faith and the natural world. Take from that what you will.

Well, with that disclaimer out of the way, now for my findings, thoughts, etc. From all the things I ran into while looking up the negative side of monogamy, there were a few general themes. 1.) Monogamy is not natural for humans. 2.) Monogamy is too much of a challenge to burden someone with. 3.) Monogamy is a lie anyway since infidelity rates are pretty outstanding. 4.) Monogamy doesn’t make me happy. The problem is that each of these arguments has a few serious flaws that stop me in my tracks.

1.) Monogamy is not natural for humans.

Ok…any argument involving the word “natural” drives me crazy. Since did something being a “natural” behavior automatically make that the optimal behavior? Lying, stealing, cheating, hiding, running away–those are all natural behaviors. Infanticide, tyranny, oppression, discrimination–those are naturally occurring. You don’t have to teach kids to lie. It’s completely natural. You have to teach them not to. And as much as I love MLK’s quote that you have to teach a child to hate, I’m sorry, but biologically speaking you do not. The inclination towards prejudice and discrimination is completely natural, but that does NOT make it right. So arguing that monogamy isn’t for everyone based on whether or not monogamy is “natural” a terrible direction unless we are operating off completely different platforms of morality (nature vs human ethics.)

Also, ok, I hate to go here; but if we really want to take a “natural” theme for all it’s worth, then human semen type demonstrates that at the very least, humans were “meant” to be monandrous (single male), if not monogamous. If you compare the mating systems and semen types of primates, the more promiscuous the “culture,” the…um…more coagulant the ejaculate. This supposed to be a form of sperm competition — block the runway so even if this female you just had an adventure with goes off and has another adventure with another male, that second guy’s sperm won’t make it to the uterus and he won’t reproduce. Bonobos and chimps, for example — pretty much everybody mates with everybody else (good golly, try taking a group of kids past the bonobo exhibit at the zoo. There will be questions.) Predictably, chimps and bonobos even have what’s called a “copulatory plug” where the semen basically solidifies into…well, a plug…to keep out male competitor sperm. Humans have nothing like that. Very little sperm competition because our “natural” state is a one-male mating system. The number of females, well, that’s debatable. But if I’m only gettin’ one male, uh, he’s only gettin’ one female.

2.) Monogamy is too much of a challenge to burden someone with.

Anything worth having or doing is going to be a challenge. Case and point, the last six years of my life have been a huge struggle. I’ve doubted my intelligence, my abilities, my life direction, heck even the point of my existence. On Monday, though, if all goes well, I’ll be granted the highest possible degree in science. There are so many doors that I will be able to open only because I’ve spent the past several years proving that I’m not a quitter and I can deal with the ups and downs of science as a career. When I think of what I will be able to do for conservation biology, for scientific literacy, for all of the students that may enter my classrooms…some ups and downs are worth the struggle in the long run.

Is monogamy a struggle? Ask me that if a shirtless Channing Tatum showed up at my door and begged me to have him right then and there. I’m sure it is. In my experience, though, temptations rarely arise in the form of unexpected, blatant sexuality dragging you into a velvet-silk-and-maybe-chains night of passion. More often than not, temptation arises subtly…that curvy woman at the office who is just such a great listener…and after a few months you notice her calming eyes…a few months later, her steady voice and charming demeanor…and a few months later, some forbidden magic suggests she understands you better than your wife ever did. Or flip that around entirely. This works exactly the same for men and women. Is a challenge then to say no? Of course it is! But the strong desire was preceded by months of innocent attachment, a slow build of a relationship. Could it be love? Of course. Love is both a noun and a verb. You may be helplessly attracted to someone, but you do have to choose to allow the growth of love. I suppose in this argument, which is better? A long, possibly bumpy road of a life-long commitment? Or the short staccatos of punctuated relationships starting and ending every couple of years, each heart break as acute if not worse than the one before?

The alternative is an “open marriage,” which is kind of an oxymoron, but whatever. A “married” couple who regularly has relationships with other people, and they’re honest about it. Would that work for me? Heck no. I guess honesty is better than nothing, but I can’t fathom the idea that the person who chose to be with me for life is say that because I don’t know exactly how to fulfill him sexually, rather than work on it with me, he is going to find that fulfillment somewhere else. (And come on now, how bad could “working on it” possibly be, hehe)

3.) Monogamy is a lie anyway since infidelity rates are pretty outstanding.

School is a lie because a lot of kids get bad grades. Beauty shops don’t exist because some people still have mullets. The gym is a lie because some have overweight members.

Come on, now. We already mentioned above that monogamy is rough. Are some people going to fail? Yes. Are some marriages going to be ruined because of it? Yes. Does that mean we throw the baby out with the bathwater? Dumb cliche, but hopefully no. Cultural acceptance of infidelity is part of the problem, but because some people fail, that’s no reason to denounce those who put work into their relationship. Even those who work at it may at some point fail. Last I checked, though, universities don’t close because some students never master quantum mechanics or non-linear algebra.

4.) Monogamy doesn’t make me happy.

A couple problems with this statement. We can start with the physiological. Our experience of biological happiness is subjective and hormonal; thus, when you say you’re “happy,” it’s not necessarily the same thing as when Sally says she’s happy. I don’t remember all the details of oxytocin, serotonin, dopamine, etc, but essentially, our moods boil down to a chemical cocktail that our brains produce as a response to environmental stimuli. Stressed? You’ve probably activated the HPA axis, and your body is spitting out cortisol. Sleepy? Your circadian rhythm hit a certain point and melatonin has you wanting a pillow. Unhappy in your marriage? You or your partner, or you and your partner, are behaving in ways that trigger unpleasant physiological responses. Fixable? Probably. Easy? Not necessarily. Worth it? You tell me. The trouble is when you run around looking for novel ways to manipulate your biological happiness level. For example, porn addicts fail big time because they eventually lose the ability to be aroused in real life because they have become dependent on the dopamine fix from the visual stimuli of unusual scenarios. In other words, they lose the ability to find a certain aspect of “happiness” until the addiction is treated.

On the flip side to happiness is the Biblical concept of joy, something that is not dependent on surrounding circumstances. This is where I’m going to lose some of you, but if you have a spiritual side at all, I would appeal to anecdotal evidence that suggests those who have maintained monogamous, life-long partnerships are the ones who have that extra God-given joy…a feeling that isn’t dependent on your external situation. Again, joy is subjective. For me, it’s a peace, an inner strength, and a sense of hopeful trust. I don’t know how to win scientific arguments with that, but then again, I don’t really want to try. I do believe in humans as spiritual beings, and I do think there is more to our emotions than a mix of hormones. Just don’t tell my academic advisor that 😉

Sooo…what’s my point?

I guess…my bottom line is this: monogamy is not for me. In monogamy, you learn to know someone far better than is possible in multi-year or multi-partner relationships. Aren’t we worth someone dedicating their life to knowing us in that way? What are we teaching future generations about individual human worth when they see marriages collapsing? I’m not saying that some marriages don’t need to end. If you’re a woman with an abusive husband, I’ll even help you pack! But some things are worth fighting for. Rough patches won’t last forever if you have two people who genuinely want to make it work. That’s a big “if,” I know…but I at least want to say I tried at real love. Not Disney it-feels-so-good-I-might-sing love (though that will be part of it). The gritty, everyday, left-overs for dinner, the resolve, the protection, the security, the fights, the relief, the hugs and snuggles, the who-didn’t-replace-the-toilet-paper-roll, the grass that just won’t grow while the weeds just won’t stop, the Chinese take-out because our reservation was lost, the awful matching Halloween costumes, the old car with the flat tire–I want all that. I want the stories and memories, the good and the bad. And one life-long adventure buddy is the only way to get it.

Posted by: LucidMystery | January 4, 2014

Your Parents Never Wanted You

I’ve been sitting on this story for a while. It’s a heartbreaking story. Tragic beyond what I can understand, and I didn’t want to cause more fuss around Christmas. But I couldn’t forget it.

Below is the link to an article that describes how Rhea and Brock Wuth, a couple with a disabled child, sued a hospital over what they consider to be the wrongful birth of their child. Had they known their son was going to be born disabled, they say they never would have allowed him to be born. Since prenatal genetic testing did not reveal his genetic disorder, the couple was just awarded $50 million. Because…life is rough. Because life is unfair. Because you can’t control your universe.

http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2022438460_geneticverdictxml.html

I’ll suspend the whole moral premise that this couple is saying they wish they had killed their son when they had a chance, and I’ll instead focus on how this affects you: if hospitals need to start being financially prepared to handle when a couple claims someone else was negligent over the birth of their child, your hospital bills WILL go up. What kind of Nazi-eugenics-infused precedence is this setting? Let’s keep shooting ourselves in the foot. And let’s pray that this child will never be able to understand the rationale behind his parents’ lawsuit. How heartbreaking would it be to know that you’re parents wouldn’t have wanted you?

Look…I’m not heartless. I understand perfectly well that this little guy has to deal with difficulties that I never will, and no, that is not fair at all. Why can I walk when he can’t? Why did God allow me to succeed in school, but this little guy will probably never even be able to read? I don’t know. But to live is to face difficulties. To live is to take risks. We were never promised an easy life, and everyone will face something that their neighbors never will. But if we continue this trend of trying to live a life surrounded by the safety of bubble wrap, sure we’ll get rid of hardships, but we’ll also ruin anything of value. We’ll ruin the beauty. We’ll destroy any chance of learning from those who teach us compassion in unconventional ways. We’ll destroy our own humanity.

Posted by: LucidMystery | November 11, 2013

When Stats Get Annoying

Quick rant that seemed like I would irk too many people on facebook 😛

Ok, so I like what this article is trying to say about maternity , but the sketchy stats involved in infant mortality rate is kind of an issue.

To summarize my angst, one stat that pops up a lot, especially since the ACA/Obamacare fightin’ flames have been fanned into craziness, is the “fact” that the US seems to have a strangely high infant mortality rate compared to other developed countries. It must be our healthcare system, right? Well, I’m sure that doesn’t help, but it’s not the entire problem.

Here’s the actual issue: the US actually report ALL births as live births. Countries like Canada, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Japan, and a ton of others across Europe and Asia DON’T. Depending on the country, if a baby dies within 24 hours (ie, when a baby is most likely not to survive), it’s not considered a live birth; it’s called a miscarriage. In other countries, if a baby is born under a certain weight or under a certain length (ie, exceptionally premature–a main cause of infant mortality), again, it’s counted as a miscarriage and not a live birth. So basically, the reason the US lags behind isn’t because we magically have an absurd infant mortality rate compared to everyone else, it’s because other developed countries aren’t calling infant mortality the same way that we do.

Bottom line, you’re not going to get accurate statistics when your reporting criteria are different.

End rant 😛

Posted by: LucidMystery | October 20, 2013

Love Someone Today!

Today’s sermon was some serious food for thought (as a good sermon should be!), and my brain is spiraling down some tangents, as always.

I’m so used to hearing the phrase “unconditional love” that it’s almost lost its meaning. So my parents love me unconditionally…that means they have to love me no matter what kind of shenanigans I get up to right? I think that’s missing the point. Love isn’t just something for parents and spouses, and love shouldn’t be just some feeling that you act on only when it arises. Love is a daily choice. It has to be. People will hurt us, beat us down, annoy us, break our hearts–it’s inevitable! And we will do the same to others. If we only love when we feel like loving…our world is going to keep getting colder and colder. But, if we chose everyday to love those around us–our neighbors, strangers, that group of folks who dress and think differently from ourselves–how much better of a place would the world be? Don’t wait for the feeling to love someone unconditionally…if it’s the driver who just cut you off in traffic, heavens knows that feeling will never come. Make the choice to love. The actions will follow.

P.S…The sermon I’m referring to was called “Step Cuttin’ Daddy” and will be posted here probably around Oct 22nd or so.

love-inspirational-daily

Posted by: LucidMystery | October 16, 2013

Stop.The.Bullying

Another 12 year old girl killed herself after torture from bullies…

Honestly! What is wrong with this world?! Was bullying this bad ten-fifteen years ago, and I was just too young to see it? I feel like bullied kids being driven to suicide is more of a recent horror.

You know, I really, honest-to-goodness don’t understand…just because someone is big, small, short, developmentally challenged, gay, Christian, Muslim–who the hell gives you the right to DARE mock another human being? (And yeah, that was mild swearing from me. Bullying infuriates me.) And it’s not something that’s limited to a certain demographic. It’s human nature, but we all apparently think we alone have what it takes to be able to ignore the rules. For example…

Maybe you’re an academic/intellectual and you know better than all those poor brain-washed religious folks of clearly lesser intelligence…

Maybe you’re a believer and you think you’re doing a sinner a favor by pointing out in a holier-than-thou fashion the reasons he/she needs God–say…spray-painting your disapproval on the garage door of a 13-year old pregnant girl…who you didn’t realize had been raped…

Maybe you don’t like that someone disagreed with you, so you made sure to put them out of business

Or maybe you’re in great physical shape and you think that by belittling someone who battles their weight, you’re helping add fuel to their workout fire…

I don’t know, and I frankly I do not care. You can be a bigger person than that. Stop being mean. And stop your kids from being little jerks. We don’t need any more little girls whose lives are destroyed like Rebecca Ann Sedwick.

Posted by: LucidMystery | August 7, 2013

A Marathon, Not a Sprint

I’ve been really bogged down lately by school. In theory, I am close enough to the finish line that the balloons and and cheering crowds should start appearing on either sides of the street soon. In reality, I still feel a hundred miles away–discouraged, running out of energy, and broken from things I’ve had to miss or give up along the way.

If you know me, you know that I hate being a Debbie Downer. Part of what I have disliked about the past few years is that I have felt myself turning into a stressed out whiner…eep! So to counteract some recent overwhelming anxiety, I’ve compiled some quotes and Bible verses about overcoming challenges and obstacles. Maybe this will help one of you out there, too!

“If you aren’t in over your head, how do you know how tall you are?” –T.S. Eliot

“The Lord is the everlasting God, the creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and His understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary, and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” –Isaiah 40:28-31

“Bad times have a scientific value. These are occasions a good learner would not want to miss.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

“In this world you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world.”–John 16:33b

“It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.” –A League of Their Own

“No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, I will be with you. I will never leave you nor forsake you.” –Joshua 1:5

“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, and difficulty.” –Theodore Roosevelt

And because I can’t get away from Disney, just imagine that the “dream” is my degree and “believing” is working in the lab…

“A dream is a wish your heart makes when you’re fast asleep…no matter how your heart is grieving, if you keep on believing, the dream that you wish will come true.”

 

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Posted by: LucidMystery | May 27, 2013

When Words Don’t Cut It

The English language needs some help.

Exhibit A:
-I love Chipotle
-I love my mom
-I love a shirtless Ryan Lochte.
This is an issue because I can assure you that three very different sentiments are in my head for each one of those things that I theoretically “love,” but I only have one word for all of them.

Exhibit B:
In Genesis 2:18, God refers to women by the phrase “ezer kenegdo,” a phrase so powerful that even throughout the entire rest of the Bible, it is only ever used again to describe God Himself. The word refers to something that is desperately needed, a life-saver, a life-sustainer, something that you absolutely will not survive without. If it was Earth’s biome, the word would describe oxygen. English doesn’t have this phrasing, though, so it used something else in its place…something a little less impressive. So much less impressive, in fact, that it has led billions of people to erroneously believe that God implied from the get-go that women are less valuable than men. What is the English version of our powerful descriptor?

“Helper.”

Yeeeaaahhh…”helper.” God described us using language so strong that the same phrasing is almost never used again because little else compares…and the English translation give us the same title we bestow on the 5th grade kid who hands out crayons in the kindergarteners’ VBS class. Spectacular mastery of linguistics, there, Anglo-Saxons.

Well, ladies, take heart. Even if the English language had no idea how to describe how awesome we are, rest assured God has known our value all along.

Posted by: LucidMystery | May 11, 2013

Pro-Life For My Life

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An image of a crowd like this scares me, personally. As a person who was born with severe congenital heart defects that are now detectable in utero, I have to wonder how many of these women would have killed me before I was given the chance to prove I’m a fighter. I guess in theory, some of them would think they’re acting out of love. Sparing me what could have been a short life full of pain and misery. Sparing me a life time of doctor’s visits for follow-up. Sparing themselves stressful nights staying with me in hospitals and careful monitoring of finances in case insurance didn’t cover something (or in some folks’ cases, dealing with the hassle of of Medicaid.)

So I guess maybe it’s selfish to hope I and others like me were worth the risk. And in case you’re interested, I’m still not perfect. I’ve had plenty of uber fun visits to cardiologists (including this week and next week). But on the flip side, I’m apparently an outstanding grad student, getting my PhD within the next some months; I can ride a bike for 150 miles; I can run 5K’s; I can dance around my lab until someone catches me and I burst out laughing; and apparently my mom doesn’t regret raising me.

Is it some woman’s choice? Whatever you say. But it’s someone else’s life.

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