In reading through a number of the threads, I’ve been struck by apparent conceptual acceptance most folk have with the term “death”, taking for granted (it appears) that everyone else reading the term understands it pretty much exactly as the poster intended. However, it also appears to me that there are a few different underlying understandings of the meaning of that term.
I for one am not and never have been all that comfortable conceptually with the term. I find the term to be sort of a contrast place holder for “that which is no longer alive”, but vaguely defined. And from there different folk attach all sorts of esoteric or assumed baggage that I don’t fully grasp or understand. For example, some folk apparently think of “death” as a thing – an actual object independent of (though clearly tied to) living things. I don’t understand that concept. Then there are some folk who think of “death” as something like a transition or perhaps threshold (portal…door…take your metaphorical pick) that living things “pass through” when they “lose life”. Uhh…oookay… And then there are some folk who think of death as something like a state of existence – like sleep I guess only…uhh…deeper…maybe? I do not understand any of those concepts of death.
To me, “living” is a term I use to denote a functioning autonomous system that seeks out resources for the perpetuation of the system’s operation and/or reproduction, and that expels byproducts derived from the system function and resource use. As such, fire to me is very much a living thing. And while in a metaphorical sense I might say that a fire has “died” after it’s gone out, I simply mean that the conditions for that combustion system no longer exist. Similarly, to me, bodies no longer living have simply reached a state where the conditions for the physiological system no longer exist. Systems, by their very nature of resource use and environmental stress, wear. As such, they eventually get to a point they stop functioning. Seems odd to call that “death” to me.
An interesting article by Zack Koplin on creationism in Texas caught my eye on my Yahoo news feed. Setting aside the fact that I had no idea it was legal to teach creationism in Texas, I was equally surprised to discover the workings to remove such behind the scenes:
I am fascinated by dinosaurs, prehistoric marine reptiles, prehistoric squaliformes, prehistoric giant sea scorpions, and so forth like a lot of folk who grew up as kids in the 70s (or really…like a lot of kids). Seeing the bones or fossils of such creatures, the artist renditions, the movies that feature (gross exaggerations in many cases) such creatures all stir my imagination and just plain excite me to no end. They just seem so…<i>fantastic</i>…so legendary…so other worldly.
I was thinking about this yesterday and I came to the conclusion (and I’m betting I’m not alone in this) after a few brief searches that I have a real bias in regards to the “fantastical”. And I think that bias stems from familiarity.
Part of the amazement people have with dinosaurs stems from the fact that a lot of them were quite large. Many people (and I’ve been guilty of this misconception myself) get the impression that at some point (or even various points) the world was filled with animals far larger than anything we have today. In fact, a lot of people think that the vast majority of prehistoric animals were larger than anything we have today (which simply is not the case), mostly because of a few very popular and more well-known specimens (T-Rex, stegosaurus, Triceratops, brachiosaurus to name a few). What few take the time to consider is that not only do these animals not represent the size of the majority of other animals from those times, but in many cases those particular animals didn’t even exist <i>at the same time</i>. Still, we tend to think that animals in the past were larger, more fantastic than anything around today.
Here is a pic of the (likely) largest animal that has ever existed on this planet. Unless you actually get a chance to see one up close in the wild, particularly with something nearby for scale, you really can’t appreciate just how unbelievably large this animal is. It. Is. ENORMOUS. Here’s how it compares (at least based on an artist’s rendition) to some other “fantastical” animals:
Now one can debate about how accurate the artist got some of the sizes I suppose or whether the current research and inferences to actual size are accurate, but that isn’t all that relevant to the point. Even if some of the other animals are off by significant percentages, the Blue Whale still dwarfs every other specimen.
The point is, we DO live in an amazing time of fantastical creatures. And I hope we can learn not to take that for granted.
“But their still Finches! Checkmate Evolutionists!”
Or some similar comment. But whatever. Still a very cool study.
So I’m pretty drunk right now. And I wanted to retain my experience with this state while I asked a question, because I think (although…what does that mean right now?) I can present my question accurately: is this state immoral?
Keep in mind that I’m asking this question as someone who has fought to stay alive through surgery and for whom alcohol (in theory) creates problems with maintaining that live. But what is life? And what is the correct way to face such a issue
At Uncommon Descent, Mung makes an assertion that other creationists have raised from time to time:
However, I don’t see why similarity in design necessarily implies common descent. If an architect designs two slightly dissimilar buildings one after the other, where is the common descent in this process? I am assuming that by common descent, one means that the species arose via a long sequence of sexual reproduction events acted upon by random variations.
As a software engineer, I know I don’t use any kind of sexual reproduction mechanism to derive one class of objects from another. Why could not the designers have a huge database of pre-designed genes to choose from and with which to create new species of animals and humans? And why would they need sexual reproduction to accomplish this? Beings that advanced could easily incubate newly designed species outside the womb, no?