Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Unintelligent Design

Intelligent Design "theory" is one of the dumbest ideas out there, for multiple reasons, but today I am going to focus on only one. If you are going to say that god exists because everything appears to be ordered and designed, then you need to own up to the fact that truly everything is designed by god. Theist always cop out and leave the dirty work to the devil, blaming Lucifer for everything malicious or imperfect. But that is just way too convenient, and hello! there is no evidence of this invisible power war going on, just a bunch of ridiculous humans trying to rationalize the universe with religious fantasies. The Universe is the way it is, and that is that. There are reasons for everything, some of which we even know.

Do you know what the #1 reason is that I don't believe the universe was intelligently designed? UTIs. That's right, urinary tract infections, baby!

In the hilarious words of Neil Degrasse Tyson, " It's like an entertainment complex in the middle of a sewage system--no engineer would design that at all!"

DO watch the full talk on YouTube here. It is fascinating and entertaining.

Being a female, getting UTIs is ridiculously easy. In fact, most women experience them up to several times a year. It's pretty much a given. Among other possible reasons, the biggest is that, well, the back door and all its bacterial glory is inches away from your hoo-hah! What intelligent being would ever design it this way? Why, as Tyson also points out, do we eat, breathe and communicate out of the same hole in our face, accounting for thousands of choking deaths per year (as well as social faux pas)?

Simple questions, simple answers. We are not designed, at least not intelligently. We are the product of billions of years of nature's trial and error. We have the leftover body parts in our genetic code to prove it, like appendices, coccyges and wisdom teeth. Look at all the birth defects, and these are just the ones that are still here! There must be hundreds of thousands that nature has edited out by now.

Theists define what they believe, and then try to warp the evidence to make it seem to fit what they what it to say. Let's be honest. Let the evidence speak for itself, and tell its own story.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

It's hard not to be smug

It's only because breeding is the norm and default (and frequently a religious mandate) that is seems so strange to not do it. For those of us childfree who came to it later, we feel like we won the lottery. We're free, yippee!!!!! It's like being handed a million dollars. It's this huge burden lifted off our shoulders. We thought we knew two things: we had to have kids at some point, and we didn't want to, thus a major conflict that can take years to sort out. When we finally realize that breeding is completely optional we are happy and at peace. This mindset has been considered immoral, bizarre, selfish and unusual and it wasn't until the last few decades that this is beginning to change.

This is generally how we see ourselves, and how we see our childed friends and family. Many childed believe that the childfree are bored, selfish, unfulfilled and miserable; many childfree see the childed as frazzled, overworked, unpaid, unappreciated, stressed, boring, mentally stifled... I could go on.

I often wonder why there are such vast differences in mindset when it comes to having children. Are we just wired differently? Why do some women have baby rabies and some women are repulsed by children?

I have friends whose dream it is to become mothers. In one case, it's nearly an obsession. I just can't relate. I can't fathom throwing away my time, my body, my energy, my money, my happy relationship towards such a miserable endeavor. There's not even a guarantee that your children will be healthy, productive, or even good people! Those are HUGE factors. Every murderer, rapist, serial killer, oppressive dictator and thief is someone's child. Every clueless idiot who doesn't have two brain cells to rub together is someone's child. Every disabled, mentally ill, suicidal, paraplegic, cancerous person is someone's child.

Still this compulsion to breed is very strong. It's got to be biology. What person in their right mind would want to take such a risk? Who wants to fix breakfast, lunch and dinner for someone else 3x a day, 365x a year for at least 18 years? Who wants to sacrifice romance in their relationship? Who wants to deal in spit up, vomit, poop, drool, pee and frequent illness for each child? Who wants to worry about a child's education and entertainment, and all the time and expense that goes into those? Parents do, apparently. To the childfree, all that looks like hell.

And parents, you guys make it easy to see the misery to anyone who is paying attention. If you have baby obsession and your eyes glaze over at the sight of a child, you're hopeless. But to anyone who analyzes child rearing critically, it's pretty obvious that shit sucks. Parents, we see your tired eyes and saggy boobs. We know that you moms pee a little when you sneeze, and that your vaginas are now as spacious as a grand hallway, and your husbands' penises the proverbial hot dogs within them. We see your kids tugging on your shirt, whining for something, and throwing tantrums. We hear about your adventures in vomit, poop and mysterious illnesses on your Facebook statuses. We hear about your marriage problems because you have neither time nor energy to maintain your relationships, not to mention major disagreements about money and child rearing. We know that you miss the happy, energetic woman your wife used to be, and you resent having to work to support her SAHMness, even though the house is always gross and kids are brats.

Knowing that this is a choice, and as adults we are able to think about the decisions we make, I don't feel bad for parents and I truly hope they are happy with their choice. Many of them are, though I can't understand it personally. One man's trash is another man's treasure, I suppose.

But it's impossible for me to not feel really happy with my choice when I see all these things going on around me. There's nothing about children or the child-raising experience that could ever make all the bad things worth it for me. Every time I see my friends' Facebook posts about having to take their baby to the doctor 5 times in 1 week for his ear infection, or a rant about a teenager's rebellion, a big smile creeps up on my face. When I come home to my clean, quiet house, I rejoice. When I sleep through the night, every night, and sleep in every weekend, it feels great. When I drink wine in my bubble bath, I'm not missing anything. When I don't trip over toys, or don't have to ever cook for kids, when my furniture stays in good shape, my body intact, my relationship happy... I don't miss a damn thing.

I can take vacations and spend money without have to worry about babysitting, kid-friendly crap or budgeting for my kids' needs and wants. I have time. I have freedom. I have peace. I have financial security, and can plan for my later years. I have time to nurture friendships and experience life. I have more of myself to give to charity, being able to reach out of my daily bubble, because I'm not wrapped up in my own little world of daily child rearing. I am not adding any more to environmental devastation and overpopulation. I can zip through my errands and grocery shopping without hauling a kid around, dealing with temper tantrums or hassling with diaper bags and car seats. I am efficient. I don't miss work unless I want to. Sticky toddler kisses and occasional Kodak moments aren't worth it. I don't have to listen to kids' music or TV shows 500 times a week.

I think I'll go enjoy a bottle of fine wine and fancy cheese, and read in my quiet home.

It's hard not to be smug. /schadenfreude.

2012 so far & some reflections on death and the future

Life has been kicking my butt this year. I've had some high points, and some very, very low points. I wrote about this before, but my grandmother passed away in January. That has been hard, but it has been a normal, peaceful process of grieving as she was in her 90s and we had known for years that any day would be her last. I was lucky to be able to say goodbye to her before her mind was completely gone, and spent her subsequent years loving and appreciating her, and knowing she did not suffer is enormously comforting. But what has devastated me deeply is the death of my chocolate lab 10 days ago. This has hit me like a ton of painful bricks. It is still so fresh it is hard for me to talk about; he was my best friend, my child and my confidant. He went from perfectly fine to completely paralyzed in a week, and it was not pretty. He was in pain, was extremely anxious, and couldn't control any body function. When he was correctly diagnosed with a spinal tumor, we knew he was only going to get worse, and quickly. To date this has been the worst and most heart-wrenching experience of my life, far exceeding my divorce, the death of my human child in my old life, and near-complete ostracization from my family. I had to make the decision to put him down in order to spare further suffering, and though intellectually I know it was the best, emotionally I am racked with guilt. Fortunately I have friends who have been here, too, and their understanding and support is invaluable.

In the midst of all this pain, two things become very clear: 1) Life is precious, and 2) I have a much more personal understanding of why people believe in the comforting fairy tales of life after death.

I wish it were true, and I certainly hope it is, that we all go to some utopian place after death and are reunited in eternal bliss. The reality is that there is no real reason to believe that this is so. I would love to be wrong, and I hope I am, but I have to deal with reality on reality's terms. Well, I suppose I don't have to, but I chose to, rather than believe whatever marshmallowy fluff feels good. It would be easy to stick my head in the sand and believe something sweet and sugary; but it is such actions, such mental atrophy, that ultimately place barriers in our path to knowledge (see my recent post for specific reasons why). When you believe you have the answers, then a quest for attainable knowledge becomes completely meaningless. Curiosity becomes meaningless. Ambition to push the limits of our abilities becomes meaningless.

As it is, death is final. We don't yet know if there is anything beyond it, or any way to end it. I have hope that as we continue learning about the Universe and the origins of life, we will be amazed at the beauty and possibility that is out there. Maybe one day death will be optional--I sometimes see this in the future, with the advances in medical technology, especially witnessing the baby industry of lab-grown human organs. Maybe one day we will discover Earth-life planets that can sustain life, and we will have the ability to travel to and from there. Maybe one day we will meet intelligent, extraterrestrial life. Maybe one day humans will evolve to despise conflict of all kinds, and we will become a unified, kind species that loves knowledge and art. Maybe one day there will be no poverty, no politics, no suffering and no hate.

Maybe these are pipe dreams, but I believe that all those things are possible, at least in a small scale. Surely, though, none of it will happen if religion--and its pointless rules, and insistence on unsubstantiated dogma and invisible beings/places--continues to be considered a positive institution. Thankfully, this is changing. As knowledge increases, religion changes to an ever-more nebulous idea with a God whose only power is to fill in the gaps. From our primordial goo, humans--at least many of us--have evolved to think critically, to seek knowledge, and to respect each other and our fellow animals. I have hope that this can continue.

Even if we outbreed our planet's ability to nourish us, I have hope. If we don't change our behavior globally, we are certainly headed that way, but even so, Earth will survive and we humans will experience a great natural culling of our species. If that happens, maybe after the dust settles and we die off until we reach a sustainable population level, maybe then we will have learned our lesson. Humans are famous for making some really huge mistakes with horrendous consequences, but over time we generally do learn from them. Maybe, just maybe, we will finally learn that God isn't going to swoop down and care for us; we have to take care of ourselves. Maybe we will see that our choices are to choose to breed less, or breed carelessly and wait for a natural culling, wars, and mass excessive suffering.

Knowledge is the key, as is perseverance. Don't give up.