November 28, 2010

Horrible Fishing Laws are Made Without Evolutionary Consideration

When fishing the ultimate goal, for most anglers, is to catch the biggest fish of the species you are fishing for. It's always exciting to reel in that lunker that you've been fighting for 10 minutes and not so much so to get a glimpse of a small fish coming in without stretching the line or diving back out of sight.

Yet, after the fight with the fish in hand, there is a question of what to do with the fish. Many people keep the biggest fish they catch as there is more meat on a larger fish. It is also more impressive to see a large fish on someones wall rather than a smaller one, for the type of people who are impressed with that sort of thing. Those are the main reason people keep bigger fish, but there is also another more subtle reason.

Size limits prohibit people from keeping the smaller fish, but they also have a more adverse effect as well. It helps create and maintain a potentially dangerous cultural belief. The belief is that it is morally wronger to keep a small fish as they, 'Haven't had a chance to live yet.'

I'm sure many people have heard this sentiment echoed when people would ask, 'Way did you keep those little fellas?' or 'Are you going to throw that little guy back?'  Questions about throwing the fish back or asking why you kept that fish are not nearly as prevalent when then fish is a larger one, then all that is asked is 'What are you going to do with it?'

Anyone who understands evolution will quickly grasp the result of such strong selective pressures, like the ones described above, have on species. Carl Sagan in his series Cosmos really put those words into reality when it talked about a type of Japanese Crab

Heikea japonica, or the Samurai Crab as it is less formally known, have been selectively pressured by fishermen to become the way they appear above. Carl explains the mythological back-story of how the crab came to be, but then he goes on to give the evolutionary explanation. 

The crabs when caught were not eaten when they looked like samurai or people, but instead are thrown back into the ocean, as an honor the the samurai killed in a battle long ago. While the crabs that didn't look as much like samurai were eaten. By doing that fishermen created the face on the back of the crab over numerous generations and selections they ensured it stayed that way.

This is the same process of forced selection for an individual characteristic that created Domesticated Silver Fox's in a famous Russian experiment, and it is the same type of selection that is currently ongoing in Canada's lakes, rivers and oceans. Through the actively seek out and eliminating the largest fish in the gene pool, it is being ensured that the smaller fish that are thrown back are the ones breeding, and passing their genes to the next generation of fish.

Both for the health of the species, and anglers delight it would be better to throw the bigger fish back. For nesting fish, it is much easier to be a larger fish to protect her eggs. Not only will her offspring have the genes to be large and more easily protect their nests, they will have a better chance of surviving to become a small fish.

Yet it doesn't stop there, as the most aggressive fish are the ones most likely to be caught, so people keeping fish will tend to lead to more passive fish in general. What fishermen in generations will be left with are smaller, slower growing, less active fish, if that's if nothing else goes wrong.

Size limits on fish don't make any sense as they currently exist, and if the government had any understanding they would actually have size limits the opposite of what they actually are, people wouldn't be able to keep as many trophy level fish as they wanted.

Limits on the number of fish caught are what are supposed to ensure that fist stay at a sustainable level and size limits are just a detriment to the whole process and limits on size are only there determining the future evolution of fish. 

A false mentality created by uninformed law is ruining the future of fishing, and weakening species.

Thanks for reading,
-the moral skeptic

November 22, 2010

Two Funerals and An Atheist: Part 3

This will  be my last post on this memory, and I'll move onto my more regular and less personal topics. The first post detailed the death and funeral of my Grandfather Charlie, while the second detailed the deathbed happenings surrounding Grandpa Allen's death. All that remains to write about are the few curious things that were said around my grandpa's wake/funeral and a choice that I made.

Grandpa Allen was dead, my second grandpa to have died in less than a week. This left my grandmother enough dessert and sandwiches for her to survive a nuclear winter and me just wanting to relax and take my mind off things by watching football. Yet it wasn't possible that day, but at least no one asked me to do any kind of bible readings. However, I was asked if I wanted to say something on behalf of the family during the funeral, I didn't answer, as I was thinking about more fundamental question.

I had been to Grandpa Charlie's funeral and felt out of place, uncomfortable, and unhappy from the onset and that was a funeral performed by a minster that was pretty laid back according to some church regulars. This minister would be less laid back and more long winded, but it wouldn't have mattered if he/she only did a 5 minute talk. What he/she would have expressed is a dogma that I don't accept, through a lack of reason for believing it. Given that it would be articulately spouted bullshit erupting from the lips it wouldn't really have mattered how long the fecal vomiting would have gone on, I didn't want to be a part of it.

Yet, I also didn't want make this funeral about me at all. This wasn't an act of protest that I wanted to be noted for, illogical belief was just something I didn't want to tastily endorse, or having tarnishing my memories as it still does for my memories of Charlie. So while I would have liked to stand up and express how much me meant to me, I wasn't willing to be a part of something I am ardently agianst. The decision was easily to make after looking at my feelings; the funeral is something that I would not go to, all that remained was to tell my family that...

As couple of days passed, it came to be the day before the wake would take place, and two days before the funeral. I was staying at Grandma's that night so she wouldn't have to be alone. It was about 8 p.m. and grandma left to take a bath and mom came down for a tea before bed, it was time I started explaining how I felt.

'I wouldn't be attending the funeral' I blurted out before explaining how I felt. She took it well, but asked if I was an atheist, butt she knew I was already, it was fairly obvious for a number of reasons. I explained the reasons that I've outlined in the previous two posts about why I wouldn't be attending, and she agreed that it was probably the best decision. Yet, she worried that Grandma might not take it as well as she did.

However, Grandma was even more understanding than anyone else. She said that it was fine, and didn't give me a shocked look or question as a response. It was arranged so that I would be there the morning of the funeral and just before it started I would slip out a side door and wait in the car. 

Yet, before the funeral there was the wake where I would shake those many hands again. Except this side of the family was much smaller and many people from my local community would be there. This was fine, although it gets a bit taxing when you have to say the same thing over and over again, especially when you don't really have too many good things to say about your current situation. I'll spare most of the details, but two incidents from the wake still stand out in my mind.

The first being what someone said to me in response to one of my stock responses. As I've written the LSAT's (the test to get into law school), and been in the process of applying, so as I was unemployed at the time when someone asked me what I was doing that is what I told them. When I went into my usual explanation of what I was currently doing and got a response that differed greatly from the, 'Ah, that's great.' it remained memorable.

An older man in his 70's or 80's came up to me and after a handshake he turned away slightly. The line to the casket wasn't really moving; it was time to make some idol small talk. He asked what relation I was to my Grandpa, and what I was currently doing. I explained to him what I stated in the previous paragraph. That's when he overtly stated that,'Well that's good but the law school test isn't as hard as the medical school test'. It was also better to be a doctor than a lawyer. All this from someone I hadn't met before, and he was telling me this at the funeral of my grandfather.

Perhaps the law school test is easier in some way, but like most people with strong opinions that they like to freely assert, he had no evidence to back up what he was saying. Although the tests results are determined by which percentile among the test takers you finish in, and not about an overall mark anyway, so the difficultly of the test a small factor in the results anyway. Either way this guy was a dick for what he said, and for saying it without any understanding of the process of the tests.

Which brings me to the other interesting memory of the wake. My brother was talking to a woman and they were talking about my grandfather, as one would expect in the setting. Yet, this conversation was a strange one. The part that I remember is when the woman said that Allen could be stubborn enough about something that it sometimes made him right. My brother and the woman laughed and nodded, seemingly to agree on the point.

Yet, I'm sure it would be agreed that stubbornness is no way to settle anything, and has no correlation with being right. Stubbornness instead is a quality that hinders being able to really look at the evidence and make an evaluation. The key is often stated as being open minded, but not so open minded that your brain falls out. Alfred Russel Wallace was so open minded that his indeed did, but there are many who error in the opposite direction, and Allen was one of those people. The quality of listening and careful evaluation was not his strong suit, and unlike at least two other people, I wouldn't celebrate it. People's faults after they die, still remain as faults, even with rose coloured glasses on.

That was all that was interesting at the wake, and as it ended it meant the next morning I would be living up to my choice of not going to the funeral. As it would turn out it went pretty smoothly. I would shake some more hands in the morning and just before it started than I walked into the hallway where they kept the coffee and tea. I exited through the door and sat in the car reading Sartre. The reading went pretty well, and so went the funeral from what I learned afterwords.

There was no regret for missing it, and no second thoughts about what I decided. A knock on the side of the car window told me it was over. My memories were persevered, free of bitterness. I was no longer a complacent supporter of religious pathological mythology. Yet, there remained the actual burial and the post funeral gluttony. They, like my Grandfather, wouldn't pass without incident.

At the burial I didn't stand near the casket and with my immediate family beside the priest, I stood far enough back that I didn't have to hear him and my aunt came to stand beside me, which I appreciated a lot. Yet, this priest was determined to have me hear him say something  so he blessed the food later.

I attended that post funeral meal and talked to a few different people. One person in particular wanted to speak with me, my Grandmother Jessie. Up to this point I had spoken with a few people and no one had mentioned my absence from the funeral, so I was starting to feel more relaxed. I was making the rounds, and talking to people, when I got to my grandma.

I gave her a hug and she asked me how I was doing. "I'm alright", I told her and then she let out a long 'ohhhh'. She then asked me where I went at the start of the funeral, and so I told her that I didn't feel that the funeral was something I wanted to be a part of and it really didn't represent my views at all. With that out of the way, she then had the obvious wonderment at why I attended her husbands funeral the week before.

With that I explained what I've explained in much greater detail in my first post of this series,  and told her that, at her husband's funeral I felt uneasy and out of place the whole time. It was the reason that I was able to make the decision not to attend the funeral of my other grandfather. I also told her that what was said at the funeral wasn't something that I had any belief in and was something I didn't want to complicity support.

Well, she looked a little taken-a-back by my candour. She quickly asked a question that still amuses me even now, "So your going to be a lawyer without Jesus in your heart?"

I can quite honestly say that I don't know exactly what my face looked like the moment I understood what she was going to say, but I'd bet I had a smile. Yes, I was going to be a lawyer without Jesus in my heart, but I chose not to answer the question. Answering that question wouldn't get me anywhere and wasn't something I wanted to get into about in front of a room of about 200 acquaintances, friends, and family members immediately after a funeral.

I instead just told her that I still loved her and that, that hadn't changed at all. She returned my sentiment and told me that she loved me as well, but also added that, "She wasn't giving up on me."

I'm sure that atheist's or agnostics that have gone through a similar situation have heard those words as well. The words that you were a lost soul in need of being saved; the type of soul that is sang about in Amazing Grace.

Well I don't need a song, personal opinions or priests to save me, I'll be humbled by the evidence that is brought before me. Show me the soul and it will save itself.

Thanks for reading,
-the moral skeptic

November 9, 2010

A Tale of Two Funerals and an Skeptical Atheist: Part 2

Well the previous post dealt with my feelings from the death of Grandpa Charlie. It ran on longer than expected so this is the second part of the story and the second death I had to deal with. Instead of being a passive observer in what was going on and being complicit, tacitly supporting the mysticism that surrounded me I took more of a stand...but I'm getting ahead of myself .

When my last post ended I was just leaving the after funeral family gathering based around snacks, cakes, caffeinated beverages: a smorgasbord of artificial togetherness. Other family's may have been brought closer together by an event like this, but I don't feel that was the case with this unfortunate passing.

So my family drove home, tired and emotionally drained. I went to bed to lay down and quickly found myself asleep and then awoken. The phone rang, something urgent had come up an hour into my after funeral slumber. Mom and Dad were driving to the hospital, it appeared that Grandpa Allen was having some difficulty, his lungs had filled with fluid again. I sat at home with my brother and a close family friend. We sat waiting for the inevitable phone call telling us to come to the hospital and tell him our good-byes.

We didn't have to wait long, as soon as my parents got to the hospital it was apparent that this would be last night of his life. Grandpa Allen would die early in the morning of his 51st wedding anniversary, a fact that would only be remembered afterwords. He would be surrounded by family and friends, but I would not be among them. 

The three of us drove to the hospital in a surreal state. How do you say your good-byes to someone full of morphine, struggling to breath and who has no waking consciousness? It is a hallow self serving good-bye, but at least it grants a little closure.

We arrived and walked with heavy steps to the evaluator that would lead us to the 10th floor and a hallway to a room that had been emptied for us. The walk took only a couple minutes, but it felt much longer. There was a nervous energy that filled me, it was like I was excited to be there, but I didn't know why and still can't really make sense of it.

In the room were Grandma, Mom, Dad and pale man breathing loudly and fighting for each breath. It was 9 P.M. and for the next three hours were filled with many tears, tissue boxes, and stories of a man who would soon cease to be.

The stories were great. I learned, laughed and cried. An uncle showed up an hour later and brought back all the emotion that had somewhat eased with time. Doctors came in and out and kept the morphine flowing, and all the while we remembered and celebrated the better times. This was a proper sending out.

Of course I had to ignore a few statements about how he was going to a 'better place', or how Allen was dying  because he couldn't let Charlie beat him to heaven and that they will both be 'up there' laughing at us. I understood not only that that's what they think happens when someone dies, but also it is how they are able to cope with an awful situation. Knowing and thinking about that, left comments lacking the usual sting of annoyance they usually held.

Yet, as the minutes turned into hours, and the tears faded, and so to did the stories. All that remained was my Grandpa Allen gasping, struggling to breath despite the oxygen that was being pumped into his nose. With each minute that passed I had a greater appreciation for what was going on. I had said my good-byes, reminisced about Allen, and cried my tears. All that remained was waiting for him to die. The more I thought about it the more morbid it seemed, why sit and watch the person you loved die, what good does it do?

I was the only one that left, everyone else stayed, staring at the upcoming car crash. The car ride hope brought little solace, but I was able to relax a little more now that I wasn't watching, waiting for someone to die. Laying in bed I couldn't sleep, and just listened to music. After a few hours my family came home, everything was over, and I could now rest my tired eyes.

Part three, will talk about the funeral and the days after.

Thanks for reading,
-the moral skeptic