It’s been a while! I’ve been slaving away working on my PhD and getting my life sorted in a number of other areas but hopefully will get back to writing and harassing the online secular world!
Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category
OK all my freethinking legend and legendette friends I have returned from my trip to Indonesia + a week or two off following that. Back and ready to kick some ignorant, faith-based ass and delve out injections of science and knowledge!
I hope you are all well and look forward to engaging you all again!
I guess you learn something new everyday!
Iran has succeeded in sharply reducing its birth rate in recent years. Iran is the only country where mandatory contraceptive courses are required for both males and females before a marriage license can be obtained. The government emphasizes the benefits of smaller families and the use of contraception.
So I spotted this large skull in the museum’s mammal collection last week and had a closer look to see what it was. It belonged to a leopard seal, Hydrurga leptonyx (a pretty cool scientific name!). But that wasn’t the coolest bit. When I looked down to see by whom and where it had been collected I saw it was retrieved by Douglas Mawson and crew on his expedition to the Antarctic around 100 years ago (1911-1914)!
You would have probably seen documentaries on these guys around the Antarctic slaughtering penguins willy nilly. They’re pretty ferocious seals.
Occam's razor suggests that the more likely explanation for some phenomenon is the explanation which requires the fewest number of assumptions or required assertions. Even though in science the correct answer is sometimes the more complex one, rationally speaking, the fewer amount of assumptions that we have to make in order to get a theory to work, the better.
So I was walking around the University of Melbourne Parkville campus the other day and was handed a pamphlet from a Peta2 volunteer. “Ok, let’s see what they have to say,” I thought. Reading in only a few sentences I was already furious… It was a pamphlet touting an anti-dissection message for students from high schools and universities worldwide. But it was blatantly written by someone who is ignorant to how biology is taught, how the animals are treated, where they come from, how they are euthanised, and how to REFERENCE!!!
This was the monstrosity handed to me below:
These people shit me to tears because they believe they have a monopoly on animal ethics, which is completely ludicrous. These idiots have no idea where animals used in dissections are acquired from, how they’re killed, the benefits of dissection, etc. I’ll go through each of these. [I'll just add that I am speaking from my own personal experiences as a scientist and biologist from Australia.]
Where do they come from? From my experience as a scientist who’s studied biology since high school, and subsequently has carried out numerous dissections of many different animals, all animals are either specifically bred for dissection, or obtained from butchers or fish markets where they would’ve been sold as food.
The rats and mice used in the Zoology Department at the University of Melbourne live in a disease free environment, they receive a constant and adequate supply of food, water and shelter for the entire length of their lives, at the end of which they receive a quick, painless and humane death from professional scientists. The frogs used are the pest species Bufo marinus (or Cane toad), which are either collected from the wild (a benefit to our natural environment and wildlife in Australia) or specifically bred in a lab. And again are killed quickly, painlessly and humanely by professionals prior to being dissected.
How are they killed? Today, no university or high school would be able to legally kill their own animals unless it follows strict ethical guidelines laid out by an ethics committee. Frogs I’ve dissected are either pithed (the brain is quickly destroyed by a needle), or put in an anaesthetic bath or freezer where they die relatively quickly and without pain. Mammals such as rats or mice, and birds like pigeons, are usually killed by gassing with CO2, and then have their necks broken quickly to ensure they have died humanely. This takes only 30 seconds to a minute and again is painless. From what I gather from my vet friends the dogs, cats and other animals they dissect have usually died or been euthanised for some other reason, whether they were sick, old, or a pound simply had too many animals, etc. Considering the huge amount of animals that die and are euthanised on a day to day basis around the world they hardly have to unethically kill and use native animals like the frog depicted above on the pamphlet. (Here’s the real info on the bogus foetal pig argument they use on the pamphlet)
What are the benefits of dissection? Outlined and referenced on the page linked just above re: foetal pigs, benefits are explained as the following:
1. Dissection is a hands-on, investigatory kind of activity for students. Historically, dissection has been the principle tool of investigation for anatomists(2). Dissection allows students to “test the thruthfulness” of what they see in books.(3)
2. Dissection engages students in “observational and kinesthetic learning that instills a recognition an appreciation for the three dimensional structure of the animal body, the interconnections between organs and organ systems, and the uniqueness of biological material.”(2)
3. Dissection impresses on students the normal variation that is present in the natural world. No two fetal pigs, even though they are perfectly normal, will look exactly the same. In fact, to do well on practicals, students MUST looks at several examples of each structure in different animals. Occasionally, quite significant anatomical variations (anomalies) will be noticed. Most would function perfectly normally. This helps to develop “students’ powers of observation.”(3)
Animals are not just collected willy-nilly in the wild, killed inhumanely, and then poked and prodded for the sake of it. How would doctors, vets, biologists, anatomists, etc be trained appropriately if they were denied access to dissections. One can learn a lot from pictures and text in a book but when it really comes down to it nothing can replace practical exercises.
Would you trust a doctor to operate on your heart if he’d only ever read books and never seen or touched a real heart in the flesh? What about a vet operating on your pet dog who’d never actually seen inside a dog before? Or maybe a pilot that had only ever flown simulation, or a bus driver who’d never been in a real automobile? The point is, all of these professions mentioned above require 100s if not 1000s of hours of hands-on practical work in each of their respective areas prior to one completing their training and being a ‘professional’.
To all of the volunteers, supporters and members of Peta2, if you really want to stick by your beliefs, keep a shred of integrity and gain any respect from people like me you will have to refuse all future medical treatment… I can’t imagine a single operation, vaccine, pharmaceutical treatment, etc that doesn’t owe its invention and validity to experiments and trials involving animals/humans. The world as a whole, animals and humans alike, would be a great deal worse off with and enjoy a lot more suffering and needless death but for these experiments, trials and dissections.
Spreading misinformation, propaganda and fear isn’t going to help anyone or anything when it really comes down to it.
- When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
- The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
- Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
First published in Clarke’s ”Hazards of Prophecy: The Failure of Imagination“, in Profiles of the Future (1962).
So I posted a few days ago about leucism and albinism, both genetic disorders that lead to the pigmentation of animals not being expressed normally, so they appear completely or partially white. Anyway, reading up a bit more on things apparently there is also a genetic disorder that lands on the opposite end of the shade spectrum at black. It’s known as melanism.
Melanism is effectively the complete opposite of albinism. Both of these genetic disorders involve the regulation of the melanin pigment in an animals cells, whereas leucism affects all pigment types not just melanin.
Unlike albinism, melanism is the result of a dominant gene. So just carrying a single allele for this gene leads to the expression of melanism in one’s phenotype, (they appear darker). From an evolutionary point of view this adaptive trait becomes selected for when darker individuals have a higher fitness compared to lighter individuals and are better camouflaged to either elude predation or aid in the capture of prey.
1. The peppered moth. This species was predominantly white with black dots, giving it a peppered appearance, before the industrial revolution. After the industrial revolution began the pollution killed off the lichen on which the moths would sit on trees to camouflage themselves. The trees then became blackened by soot leaving the white peppered moths much more visible to predators. In a very short time this white morph disappeared and a black morph, that could much better camouflage on the trees, became dominant. So melanism in this example evolved to avoid detection by predators.
2. Black panthers. These are not a specific species of their own. As it happens they are in fact a black colour variant of a number of large cat species including, cougars, jaguars and leopards. Black variants in all of these species have been documented, but most ‘black panthers’ seen in captivity will be melanistic leopards (below left). Unlike peppered moths, these cat species have evolved black morphs to aid them in hunting at night, and avoid detection by their prey items. Leopards and jaguars, specifically, are known to inhabit dense jungles in the Americas, Asia and Africa, where a darker appearance would be a great deal more beneficial than for say a cheetah or lion living in open plain environments (they could be seen from miles away by prey).
As well as being found in many wild species such as squirrels, deer, bobcats, insects, seals and penguins to only name a few, melanism is often selected for by breeders in a large number of domestic animals, sheep, guinea pigs, cows, rabbits, cats and dogs. My folks have a black labrador and black tabby cat. You can still see her tabby lines in the right light as even though the hairs are all the same black colour, they have a different shine to them.
Furthermore, something awesome I read about was that wolves that are totally black, you know those freaky ones with the epic yellow eyes, actually received the melanism from the domestic dog. The mutation first arose in the domestic dog, and due to wolf-dog hybridisation wolves gained this trait.
Here are a few more images of melanistic animals found via a quick Google images search.