Musings of a Christian Geek about the Word, Geek Culture, Science, Music, Movies, and anything that is deemed noteworthy.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Trial-And-Error: Unthinking Process or Argument for Intelligence?

For my 100th post, I decided to finally finish something I've been working on for some time.

Trial-and-error is the process by which naturalistic evolution, or as The Free Dictionary puts it, “Change in the genetic composition of a population during successive generations, as a result of natural selection acting on the genetic variation among individuals, and resulting in the development of new species,” is advanced. This is an idea Carl Sagan wrote about when discussing fossils, “The fossil record implies trial and error, the inability to anticipate the future, features inconsistent with a Great Designer (though not a Designer of a more remote and indirect temperament.)” Trial-and-error in evolutionary process is also supported by sites like What Is Life, who state, “Evolution works because it produces change through trial and error.” So, with so many Evolutionists and resources touting trial-and-error as natural selection’s mechanism, then why even question the contrary?

First we must ask the question, “What exactly constitutes trial-and-error?” The term is defined by as “experimentation or investigation in which various methods or means are tried and faulty ones eliminated in order to find the correct solution or to achieve the desired result or effect.” Really, how else would evolution be able to work as it “finds” out which biological arrangements are going to work in the genetic scheme of things and which arrangements just won’t stand a chance? However, I believe the more time one spends thinking about this evolutionary process, the more it doesn’t make atheistic sense. Have you ever just sat down and thought about how complicated biological trial-and-error would be?

While doing research for this article I came upon a question in Yahoo! Answers about the lack of trial-and-error evidence in the fossil record. One of the answers was priceless as it explained that trial-and-error change involves very small changes such as slightly higher levels of hemoglobin. For those who don’t know, hemoglobin is a protein found in the red blood cells which carry oxygen throughout the body using the blood stream. Now, this got me thinking about what it would take to actually evolve hemoglobin to the levels we find today in the human body.

Let’s start with the normal concentration of hemoglobin in the blood of the average human at birth. According to Medscape, the normal concentration is a mean of 16.5 g/dL with a range of 14-24 g/dL. When the hemoglobin concentration starts deviating from the normal range, health problems start to occur. According to Medscape, a low hemoglobin level is categorized as anemia. As the concentration decreases to critical levels, the person is susceptible to congestive heart failure, myocardial infarction (heart attack), and stroke (Hemoglobin Test, 2011). High hemoglobin concentration is often a product of polycythemia (high volume of red blood cells in the blood) and is just as dangerous as anemia because the condition can lead to thrombosis (spontaneous clotting), congenital heart conditions, and stroke (Besa, 2012). Every one of these disease processes is lethal without the intervention of modern medical therapies.  

So, let’s explore the process by which the correct levels of hemoglobin in the human body were determined by evolutionary processes. There are many articles upon review which describe aspects of the evolution of hemoglobin (like this one); however, a literature review using the phrase hemoglobin and trial and error yielded no such description of the trial and error process in relation to hemoglobin. Thus, we must critically think about how such a process would work in reference to trial-and-error. 

Obviously, it would have initially involved a wide range of hemoglobin levels within different hominids or else not enough hominids would have survived the process and this current conversation could not even happen. This process should be fairly simple because the early humans who exhibited anemic or extremely high levels would just die out and leave those within the correct levels alive. This is where we run into trouble. How did natural selection determine that outlying levels of hemoglobin killed these organisms? Evolution from single-celled organisms to what we have today is a process that is said to have occurred over 4 billion years and, therefore, many millions of biologic processes, structures, and mechanism had to be evolving at the same time. Within the same time frame that natural selection is determining the correct levels of hemoglobin in the blood, it might be determining correct hormonal balances, the correct steps of clotting cascade, or any of the other billions of essential mechanisms inside an organism. 

Another problem arises from this inquiry, millions upon millions of biologic mechanisms within the cells and tissues must work correctly just to keep us alive.  At all times, cells are constantly transporting sodium and potassium ions across their membranes using Sodium-Potassium ATPase pumps to maintain resting potential. This process allows our cells to react to changes in the environment, to communicate with other cells, and to help keep cells working. Membrane potential is an essential part of the transportation of neurotransmitters and hormones throughout the body which are used for everything from temperature regulation to energy consumption. An example would be Insulin which is an essential hormone that regulates glucose levels and diabetics can tell you all about its biologic necessity. 

The point of all this scientific jargon is to show that hemoglobin would not have been the only thing being fine-tuned at the time of its development in hominids. Natural selection would have had to single out hemoglobin out of all the other developing biomechanics to determine inadequate levels as the culprit for an organism’s death. That would be highly suspect because human intelligence would be hard-pressed to figure this out let alone an unthinking process such as natural selection. 

Let’s say then that natural selection did indeed determine that inadequate hemoglobin levels killed the organism. We now have a problem with sample size. Any researcher knows that sample size is the key for any experimental trial to determine statistical significance. Sakpal (2010) demonstrates that small sample size can lead to under-estimation and result in a lack of statistical significance.

With all of these processes developing in an organism at one time, the rate of death would have to be extremely high while natural selection is fine-tuning. Thus, with the millions of ways one can die from the failure of compensatory mechanisms, how could the sample size for human evolution ever be large enough? Millions of factors means that millions or even billions of subjects have to be alive at one time and even with these numbers, the sample size of viable organisms would be relatively small leading to statistical insignificance. In the biological selection process, statistical insignificance would prevent natural selection from determining with any certainty the correct hemoglobin range. 

Evolution and natural selection are solid until one has to really think about the difficult questions. Inquiries into the process of trial-and-error which superficially seems like a slam dunk for the theory actually can destroy it. Can evolution really be explained by an unthinking trial-and-error process or is intelligence inherent in the intricacies of biology? In light of the arguments posited in this article, the latter idea makes much more sense.    

Besa, E.C. (2012). Polycythemia Vera. Medscape. Retrieved from

Mayo Clinic. (2011). Hemoglobin Test. Retrieved from

Merritt, B.Y. (2012). Hemoglobin concentration. Medscape. Retrieved from  

Sakpal, T.V. (2010). Sample Size estimation in clinical trial. Perspectives in Clinical Research, 1(2), 67-69.


Thursday, January 16, 2014

Why Gaming is Leaving Me Behind. Part 3.

Here is Part 1.

Here is Part 2.
Now presenting the third and final chapter of what I find unappealing in the current gaming climate...

The Politics. I am a Right Wing kind of guy and you might be wondering why I would be so disappointed with the myriad of military shooters out there which should be to my liking. Well, unlike most modern players who seem to buy games only for the multiplayer aspect, I actually like to play through the game’s plot. One of the worst experiences I had playing through a game’s story was Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. The first game’s plot was not very memorable and the only thing I can remember is the main character dying in a nuclear blast. 

The game in question, however, is memorable for all of the wrong reasons. The game starts out with the mission No Russian which I had no problem with because, like any 1980s action movie, it seemed to be setting up the terrorist villain as a horrible person that you can’t wait to kill. But, was he the final boss? No! The final boss (spoilers) was an American general who betrayed the team. The whole last mission has the player mowing through American black ops. This kind of story telling is aggravating and shows how much regard Infinity Ward (an American developer, I might add) really has for the United States. No matter how gung-ho American the developer makes their future games, I will always feel a certain falseness behind it all.

I might sound like a prude or what not, but these complaints are not from an anti-game crusader like the ridiculous Jack Thompson, they are from a genuine gamer. I have  witnessed an activity that used to be fun and exciting become a cesspool of depravity, cheating, and repelling. I want to thank the general public for ruining yet another thing I enjoy.
Although my current attitude seems to be totally anti-gaming, I still have total respect for the medium and the people who craft some interesting and vast worlds. I also can't wait for some titles to be released. When Halo 5 comes around, you can bet I will be purchasing an Xbox One. In honor of video games, I am going to count down my top 10 video games.                        

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Putting God Back Into the Equation

As students of the Word of God, we receive many disparaging remarks about our precious Holy Bible. I can’t tell you how many times individuals have approached me, telling me how man alone wrote the Bible and use the fact that there are countless extraneous books left out to fit an agenda of modern Christianity. The Gospel of Judas, Thomas, Mary Magdalene, Jehoiakim, or whatever person is the flavor of the week in scholarly circles, are constantly brought up as being withheld from apocrypha. Academically, the argument against many of these works can be found in Gnosticism from the mid to late second century, Saint Jerome, or any other historical points. However, one place from which we never seem to argue is that of God’s involvement in dispersion of His Word. All too often, God is taken out of the Biblical equation altogether.

For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. -2 Peter 1:21 

So, according to His own Word, God is responsible for telling His men what to write. If this is the case, why isn’t God brought up in more Biblical authorship debates? I think many times we humans think on a solely physical plane and can sometimes forget about God’s point of view. Arguing from the perspective that God has decided what books should stay and go in His own Word, might seem like a counterproductive argument against atheistic sentiments. This perspective is not counterproductive because atheists and agnostics argue from purely naturalistic and humanistic positions. Why can’t we as children of the ultimate spiritual Force in the universe argue from spiritual perspectives? Let’s stop taking God out of the equation.

Why Gaming is Leaving Me Behind. Part 2.

Now we turn to the second factor Gaming has left behind: The Players...

The Players. I say “players” here because as I said before, I don’t think most of the people who play games today are real gamers. It takes more than being a Commander in Call of Duty to qualify as a gamer and is a prime example of the problem: the general public has become enamored with video games. A good place to look is at Facebook. I remember the chatter when Facebook was open to state universities and my college started using it. There was a certain prestige to using it over Myspace. When Facebook was open to general public, it just cheapened the whole product and now teenagers are bullying others to suicide and others live their lives through Facebook

The same thing, I feel, has happened to video games and the culture that surrounds them. It has been cheapened greatly and with that, certain etiquette has gone out the window. I have grown tired of Xbox Live and Playstation Network because people on each of these services have degraded the experience to the lowest common denominator. One issue I have is with the constant barrage of vulgarities slung every which way from twelve year olds and thirty year old shut ins. Sure, during the old days in the burgeoning online arenas, gamers could be somewhat vulgar but it was much lower key. After playing a round of online Halo, one can begin to question the intelligence and outright worthiness of the current and succeeding generations.
It is even worse for female gamers. They receive the most sexist, vile, and sexually charged barbs thrown their way. I am surprised any girl would want to play online at all given the constant vitriol involved in the activity. There are a couple sites (I won’t link to them because of the total depravity of the subject matter) that show the horrible comments women receive on a game-by-game basis.

This vulgarity carries over into the broken matchmaking systems of most games. When I was a more avid gamer as an undergrad, I still would go months between playing games because of work and school. This practice would be my downfall as I would mostly lose because I was matched up against experts and junkies. These people seemed to have spent months and months building upgrades while I had basic gear. Constantly losing in addition to being berated for being a “noob” and much worse things does not a fun time make. 

And don’t even bring any inexperienced guests to play with you. Some of the worst times gaming were in Gears of War after good players have died watching my guests play. I would have to hear constant insults and berating of my guests while they fumbled around trying to survive while missing their shots. 
Another issue which takes the fun out of playing games is the lack of sportsmanship exhibited. I have tried playing Madden online a number of times and I have found that it is just not a fun game to play with total strangers. When I am beating someone pretty handily in the game, the strategy of the other player is to disconnect their system so as not to count the game as a loss. Their lack of loss, equals my lack of win and soon I look like I can’t win any game because every time (and I mean every time), my opponent disconnects on me it doesn’t count for anything. This practice just takes all of the fun out of playing when I will stay in a loss to the end. 

To be concluded in Part 3...

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Why Gaming is Leaving Me Behind. Part 1.

I once called a person a “hippie” in a somewhat negative connotation and received a lecture on how being a hippie is not about the clothes one wears, the drugs one abuses, or the politics one spews. No, being a hippie is a mentality and a way of life. I thought this description was actually quite profound in that this is how I view Gamers and Geeks. What separates Geeks and Gamers from those who like geeky stuff or like playing video games is the person’s mentality and way of life.

Someone who spends almost every waking hour playing Call of Duty, Madden, or Candy Crush has probably never experienced the rush of receiving a Nintendo Entertainment System for their seventh birthday; felt accomplishment on beating their first game, Super Mario Bros 3; watched in awe of the first Lion Heart limit break performed; or skipped their Senior Prom to attend a Halo LAN party. All of these events have fashioned me into a Gamer like so many others who have similar experiences and carry the same mentality. This is why with great regret, I have realized that the current video game culture is leaving me behind. 

Much of the reason I am not keeping up with the current trends and games is because I have a lot going on between working full time, grad school, and research. However, I would still find time to play games as I did in undergrad if there was anything worth making time for. The fact is that current trends just take the fun out of playing games. I would like to mention the three main factors which have ruined it for me. 

The Companies. Video game companies are helping to destroy the business of video games while making massive profits off the trends that are ultimately going to doom us in the end. I am a Capitalist and I have no problem at all with companies striving for profits, but that is not my point. My point is that the companies are allowed to get away with screwing gamers on a regular basis because the masses which play the most popular games don’t seem to care. 

Electronic Arts (EA), which was recognized as the worst company in America, is one of the greatest offenders as they make gamers pay for extras which used to be included in 60 dollar games. I remember turning on Madden and having to pay 800 Microsoft points just to play online and get updates. EA is hardly the only guilty party as many people are okay with paying real money to dress up avatars online or pay for necessary advancement in mobile games. The key to all of this is that companies will only go as far as the public will tolerate and, sadly, the public is just fine with being charged for every little thing as long as they get to scream epithets at someone living half a world away which brings me to my next issue: the players themselves. 

To be continued in Part 2...