Twenty Five Years Later, What Now?

There were three big things that happened in 1989, only two of which I remember: my baby sister was born, the Berlin Wall came down, and a guy went into a classroom at a college in Montreal and shot a bunch of women because he was pissed off that he didn’t get in.

The fall of the Berlin Wall is the one I don’t remember.

I was reminded on Facebook today that today is the 25th anniversary of the massacre at L’Ecole Polytechnique (please forgive the lack of accents, I have not a damn clue how to do them on my laptop), and it brought with it a lot of emotion, the biggest of which is the question I distinctly remember asking my mother after overhearing her and my father talking about it: “why?”

Even my four-year-old brain knew that it was wrong and was something that shouldn’t have happened.

I still have a tough time wrapping my head around it, even now that I’m attending a tech school in a science field. A school that has taken great strides to even out the gender ratio, and in my mind has done a pretty good job. When I came here, based on stories I had heard I was only expecting to see a girl only occasionally, and that’s pretty far from the truth. Of course, most of the stories I heard from my parents, who went here in the Stone Age and their papers were turned in written in mammoth blood on leaves or something. But while I didn’t remember exactly when the massacre occurred, it did cross my mind from time to time, along with a new question:

Can it happen again?

I’ll be honest, I’m not much of a feminist. *GASP!* a woman in the sciences, not all about women’s equality and liberation, THE HORROR! Truth be told, it’s not so much that I’m anti-feminist, it’s really more to do with the fact that I’m selfish enough that as long as I’m getting paid equally for equal work, I really don’t give a shit what goes on anywhere else and with anyone else. The whole shirtgate scandal I seriously thought was blown way out of proportion and I kept my mouth shut on it until now because I really didn’t find it worth my comment above and beyond to say that bring in the fashion police, sure, because the shirt was incredibly ugly. But the potential for violence against women simply because they’re lacking a Y chromosome does bother me, and quite a bit at that. The fact that someone would get so pissed off over nonacceptance to a school that he would blame it on women and then go on an armed rampage – in Canada, no less – kinda frightens me a little due to the simple fact that it has the physical possibility it will happen again. We’ll forget for a minute here that the Quebequois are a different breed of Canadian who despite sometimes being overly conservative do throw an AMAZING party centred around overly-boiled maple syrup poured into snow to point out that anger and fear are two emotions that transcend cultural mindsets. And while I think that we are due for a cultural shift, at least here in America, I think that it is going to take way too long for that to happen, and that something needs to be done NOW.

The question is: what?

Some will say we need better gun control, some will say that we need to make everyone believe in equality, some will say that we need better mental health services. Unfortunately, all those take time, and given the amounts of school shootings in the news lately, it’s only a matter of time before another Marc Lepine runs into a classroom with a semi-auto targeting women. Having said that, I really wish media would stop their 24/7 coverage over these kinds of events, but that’s another story for another time. Women shouldn’t have to find themselves constantly on the defensive just because of their sex, yet here we are, in the 21st century and still having to prove to the occasional random jerk that we’re freaking equal.

Thankfully, that occasional random jerk is just that – occasional and random. The comment I most often hear when I tell men what I study is “wow, that’s hardcore.” Yes it is, thanks, and fortunately I’m at a place where I really don’t have to worry about someone coming into my lab with a gun unless he’s got a freshly killed dear slung over his shoulder. Which, not gonna lie, would be awesomesauce since I’ve been wanting venison something fierce, even though the kinds of labs I hang out in would be a really bad place to process one of those. But the fact that something like the Montreal Massacre has the possibility of even happening is awful and we really need to find a way to end this possibility.

I consider myself to be incredibly lucky that I have yet to experience some of the awful things that I have heard my fellow women in STEM go through, and I hope that I will continue my string of good luck. Although I will take this moment to say that this may have something to do with the fact that what many women find to be inappropriate comments I don’t find inappropriate – and if I do, I shoot back with something equally inappropriate. I have a wee bit of a reputation of being a woman to not mess with, and I do think this contributes in part to my lack of dealing with the crap – people are simply scared shitless of me. I’m cool with that, I don’t do what I do to make friends, I do what I do to change the world.

I guess what I’m trying to say in the end of all this increasingly drunken rambling as I down yet another tasty beverage from the Keweenaw Brewing Company is that the Montreal massacre shouldn’t have happened. And that the Montreal massacre can happen again. Until such time as we stop looking at women as different people, it can happen. Until people remove their heads from their colons and see that there are women out there in the STEM fields, doing awesome things and making a difference, it can happen again. And until we finally wake up and get it through our thick skulls that women can and should be in STEM, it can happen again.

So how about we remove heads from colons, knock some sense into them and stop looking at women as different people and stop it from happening again?

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The Science of Evolutionary Theology

My absence has been long. But, the good news is I’ve now got all my crap in my new house, quite a few boxes are even unpacked and I’ve even got one thing up on the wall. It’s progress. I got internet put into the house yesterday so now I’m able to blog and Tweet again.

Which brings me to my reason for this post. I came across this tweet today, retweeted by the satire and sarcasm account Take That Darwin:

Screenshot 2014-08-24 19.29.14

…come again?

Sad but true, this is not the first time I’ve seen this kind of complaint. Evolutionary biology is often a required course for many biological sciences majors. Makes sense, since evolution is one of the cornerstones of biology. It runs right up there with the theory of relativity in terms of importance to science. 

So why in the fuck are you majoring in biology when you have strong views against evolution?

I will admit, I’m connecting dots here. It’s rare for other majors to REQUIRE a class on evolution. Hell, I study molecular biology and I don’t even have to take one. So I’m assuming this chick is majoring in biological sciences in one form or another. And sorry chica, evolution is at the base of all biology. Just the fact that someone with strong feelings against the validity of evolution would study the subject blows my mind. What the hell did you think biology was about, pretty flowers and fuzzy kittens? How the hell do you think those flowers got so pretty and those kittens got so fuzzy?

Here’s a hint: EVOLUTION.

Sure, we as humans had a hand in a lot of it, artificial selection is a big part of a lot of the life forms we come into contact with in our daily lives (don’t let anyone ever tell you that the sweet corn you just bought is in its “natural” state, it’s anything but). Funny story though, Darwin discusses artificial selection in On the Origin of Species. Sure, we helped the evolution along but guess what: IT STILL EVOLVED. The next time you start chowing down on a banana, be thankful for EVOLUTION making it so that you aren’t choking on the seeds:

FYI

That evolution folks is a HUGE part of biology. So WHYYYYYY are you studying it if you have a big problem with it? Listen, I am totally cool with the idea of creationism, I have no problems with people who insist on its truth, and as far as I’m concerned lessons can be learned from both sides of the debate. However it does seem quite silly to me to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a degree whose foundation is built on a concept that you vehemently disagree with. Trust me honey, you aren’t going to be able to change anyone’s minds in your classes. You can voice your disagreement, but all you will get is rolled eyes and raised eyebrows. I am well aware that there have been creationist scientists and I have no doubt that there are creationist scientists still out there. What I will argue, however, is that creationist ideals have no place in biology. The earth existed far more than 6000 years ago. Dinosaurs did not live concurrently with humans. There is scientific evidence that proves both. Humans did not look the same 10,000 years ago – hell, they didn’t look the same 500 years ago (turns out, we were shorter. But that’s irrelevant). And we didn’t look the same 10,000 years ago because we evolved.

One thing that irks the crap out of me is that the most common argument against evolution is that it’s a theory. Le sigh. Here I will incorporate one of my favourite memes ever made:

You killed my father. Prepare to die.

Just to clear up any confusion, the definition of scientific theory (because that’s what we’re talking about here) is as follows, courtesy of Wikipedia:

“A scientific theory is a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that is acquired through the scientific method, and repeatedly confirmed through observation and experimentation.”

That means a theory explains an observed phenomenon, and it has been confirmed through repeated trials and tests. However, that’s not to say that a theory cannot be disproved. Were new evidence come to light that shows a theory to be false, it is accepted and people move on. Evolution, as of right now, has not been disproved. As a matter of fact, it has been repeatedly shown to be true. So stop saying that evolution is “only a theory” when arguing against it, because what you’re in fact doing (in addition to further proving that you have no idea what you’re talking about) is reinforcing the other side.

Listen folks, I’m no atheist by any stretch of the imagination, but I do also think that religious thought evolves just as life forms do. The protestant sects are a prime example of this idea – the Church evolved from its Catholic roots and formed different sects based on differing ideas in doctrine. Sure, it’s not quite on the same scale as biological evolution, but the evolution of ideas as society changes and adapts to changing environment and attitudes is still a relevant example to the point that I’m trying to make. I’m a huge South Park fan, and there is an episode where the concept of atheism and evolution are explored. Sure, it has a subplot involving Richard Dawkins having sex with a woman who used to be a man, but that’s beside the point. One of my favourite quotes of all time came from Stan during a class on the subject, when he asks “couldn’t evolution be the answer to how and not the answer to why?” In my opinion, creationism is the why, evolution is the how. God created the world because he wanted to, and evolution is the way things ended up the way that they are now. I’m of the honest opinion that evolution is all part of God’s plan. I may even be inclined to think that he’s the driving force behind evolution. I mean, it is within the realm of possibility, since everything is under his command. The Bible says that man was created in His image, but what the Bible fails to mention is what that image actually was. For all we know, God has flippers and a tail, a unibrow and a great big bushy beard. I think that this idea that God created man looking exactly like the European specimen so often seen in art is not a result of God making modern man in His image, but rather modern man making God in his image.

Now all I need to do is find me a church door to nail this thesis to. 😉

In the end though, I will say that though there is room for religion in science, I think that holding tight to creationist beliefs in biology is difficult at best. At worst, it can be debilitating to not only a career, but also a mindset and even happiness. I know that there is happiness to be found in God’s love, but I have a tough time believing that it is possible to be happy while studying something that you believe to be fundamentally wrong.  My dear Demetria, you are more than welcome to believe what you want to believe, but I will be honest in admitting that I truly don’t think that a biology classroom is the place for you. I think that perhaps now is the time to sit down and truly figure out why you want to go into the field, seeing as you have a serious problem with the crux of the science. I understand the desire to study God’s creations, but it is imperative to understand that science and the Bible don’t always see eye-to-eye. I urge you to consider the possibility that God is the driving force behind evolution. Then maybe you will be able to find peace between religion and biology.