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My Awe-mazing Life

Do you never wonder about the immaterial things like, why you have a conscience? Why you think some things are right and others are wrong? All the knowledge you hold about the human body and at the cellular level and the intricate detail involved in development and sustaining the metabolic process, you don’t ever wonder if their is an intelligent mind behind that design?  When you see you children conceived, developed in utero and then born thru this amazing process, it doesn’t make you wonder about the mind behind such a design?

 These are comments that were sent to me recently in an email, they reflect questions that many atheists are asked every day. I don’t think I’ve ever done a post about this particular stuff so here it is. I’m going to break down the quote into each question and address each one individually.

Do you never wonder about the immaterial things like, why you have a conscience?

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Of course I do, who wouldn’t!? I just don’t feel the need to answer every question with ‘god did it’. I can’t explain the exact parts that make us have higher brain functions than other animals but I am confident that it is something like Aristotle described it “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”.

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We don’t know exactly how much ‘feeling’ other primates or other animals have. It has been shown that mice will stop pressing the button that gives them food if they find out it is causing another mouse pain. Sharing and apparent caring have been observed in gorillas. To deny that animals have morality is some sort of special pleading and denial that we aren’t completely unique in this world.

More immaterial concepts exist; love, hate, etc. These are usually brought up so I will address them beforehand. Some people claim that the skeptic can’t be sure of love because there isn’t evidence for it. There is evidence if the love is there. In the little looks and caresses you and your partner share. A kiss feels much different when the feelings aren’t there to motivate it. Hate is much the same, except for the kiss part. A lovely post I came across recently on Imgur.com recounts children’s answers to the question ‘What is love?’

I’ll link this video by Tim Minchin here and the most relevant lyrics below.

But the human body is a mystery!
Science just falls in a hole
When it tries to explain the the nature of the soul.
….
Life is full of mysteries, yeah,
But there are answers out there
And they won’t be found
By people sitting around
Looking serious
And saying isn’t life mysterious?
Let’s sit here and hope
….
Does the idea that there might be knowledge
Frighten you?
Does the idea that one afternoon
On Wiki-fucking-pedia might enlighten you
Frighten you?
Does the notion that there may not be a supernatural
So blow your hippy noodle
That you’d rather just stand in the fog
Of your inability to Google?
….
Isn’t this enough?
Just this world?
Just this beautiful, complex
Wonderfully unfathomable, natural world?
How does it so fail to hold our attention
That we have to diminish it with the invention
Of cheap, man-made Myths and Monsters?

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The Future of our Children

Thank you for reading; my subject today is controversial to say the least, but as a parent raising my daughter who will soon enter the public school system I feel I must voice my opinion. A debate rages in our community (both locally and nationally) that our children are only being presented one side of an argument and that we owe it to ourselves, our children, and to the future generations to allow equal time in the classroom for alternative theories to be taught, but do we really?

I, of course, am speaking of Intelligent Design. The proponents of ID are trying their hardest to present the argument as science based, but at its very core it is founded to teach the Bible and the God of Abraham to our children. They would have us believe that Intelligent Design, or Biblical Creationism, deserves the right to be heard by the students of our schools just as much as Darwin’s THEORY of evolution. This is a blatant and vulgar misuse of the word theory and they know and exploit it. If we were to follow their logic there are a few more ‘theories’ that need to be added to the list that would deserve equal time and attention if we were to allow Intelligent Design.

Our science classrooms lack any information on other scenarios for the creation of our world; the time we have given to Darwin should be divided between Young Earth Creationism, Old Earth Creationism, Last Thursday Creationism, the creation legends of ancient Egypt, ancient Rome, the Vikings, the Mayans, the creation from Muslim literature, the creation story from Hindu, and all of the hundreds of other MYTHS of creation.

You may laugh at this if you wish, you may think I am only here to be humorous but I must tell you that we are on a slippery slope. If we allow one religion into our science classrooms we must allow them all and it will not stop there, we must then allow equal time to any idea that someone comes up with. Our science classrooms and our dear teachers are here to teach SCIENCE, not mythology, leave that to the Social Studies and History.

The science classroom is for ideas that can be investigated; for ideas that are empirical and measurable; for ideas that can, if necessary, be proven wrong. Religion allows for no investigation, measure, reason, or fallibility. Science is generally intended to be as objective as possible in order to reduce biased interpretations of results, looking at the many different denominations and religions that our world supports, obviously, the same cannot be said of religion. Biased interpretation is arguably the fundamental building block of Intelligent Design and many other of the “controversies” I mentioned.

Many people would, quite correctly, have the argument debated on the grounds of religion in our classrooms bringing up the first amendment to the Constitution and the Establishment Clause. In Everson v. Board of Education Justice Hugo Black wrote:

            The “establishment of religion” clause of the First Amendment means at least this: Neither a state nor the Federal Government can set up a church. Neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion to another … in the words of Jefferson, the [First Amendment] clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect ‘a wall of separation between church and State‘ … That wall must be kept high and impregnable. We could not approve the slightest breach.”

Obviously, the Establishment Clause of the Constitution will not allow for the invasion of religion into our public schools, but the argument of allowing ID and their mythological beliefs about the origin of our world and ourselves need not be debated only on the grounds of the Constitution but on the validity and merit of their “science.”

The so-called evidences they use to reinforce their ideas have been found to be based on sloppy and or out-dated science and are held to be infallible truths. The popular online community Talk Origins has compiled a list of creationist claims and a response to each; to be found here. The community at Answers in Genesis has actually compiled a list of arguments that should be avoided because of the overwhelming evidence against those arguments; this can be found here. I would not dare to ask you to take the word of Talk Origins or myself for each claim as true, in fact quite the opposite, I urge you to investigate the claims of ID and the creationists for yourself.

Thank you for your time. I hope this finds you well and logic and reason dictate your response.

This Week In Science

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Diagnosis Is In!

First the acknowledgements:

Thank you first and foremost to my wife for cleaning and dressing my wound during my recovery. Thank yous also go to Cumberland Pathology Associates (including Dr.s Gill, McCullough, and Haase), Knoxville Dermatopathology Laboratory (Dr. Googe), Premier Medical Center (including Dr.s Miller and Jackson), Gateway Medical Center, and to any assistants and staff who had a hand on my sample.

 

Next, an updated photo of the healing sutures:

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Its kind of hard to scale the image but the lesion they removed was a little over and inch vertical and half an inch horizontal and an inch or so deep.

 

and Finally, the diagnosis and pathology report:

Cumberland Pathology Associates/Dr. Haase’s report:

Clinical Impression: Lesions

Diagnosis: Dermatofibroma, Present in base of excision (Please see comment)

Comment: This case was forwarded for additional consultative review. Our consultant states that dermatofibromas rarely persist or recur even when incompletely removed. However if a lesion remains or recurs clinically, conservative complete removal would be suggested for further evaluation and therapy. A copy of the consultative opinion is attached (Knoxville Dermatopathology laboratory case *******).

Knoxville Dermatopathology Laboratory/Dr.  Googe’s report:

Diagnosis: Dermatofibroma, present in base of excision (Please see comment)

Comment: I agree with your diagnosis of dermatofibroma and this example has areas with the “sclerosing hemangioma” pattern which was described many years ago. This example is interesting because of the prominent sebaceous glands located above the neoplasm. This may be an inductive phenomenon of the tumor, but has no other known clinical significance. Dermatofibromas rarely persist or recur even when incompletely removed. In this example, however, there may be quite a bit of lesion left in the patient as the tumor is transected at the base of the specimen. If a lesion remains or recurs clinically, conservative complete removal would be suggested for further evaluation and therapy. Thank you for the opportunity to see this interesting case.

Microscopic Description:

The three slides have sections of a skin excision including epidermis, dermis, and focal superficial elements of subcutaneous fat. There is a spindle cell neoplasm forming a mass having its epicenter in the reticular dermis. The spindled cells have in-distinctive cytoplasmic boarders. They are arranged in haphazard groupings which replace portions of the dermis and which are accompanied by delicate fibrosis. Prominent capillaries are noted with the neoplasm. The tumor cells are somewhat infiltrative, but on low power examination the lesion has a fairly well-circumscribed border. There is overlying epidermal hyperplasia and several prominent sebaceous glands connect directly to the epidermis. The neoplastic cells show little variability or hyperchromasia. Mitotic activity is not noted. There is no necrosis. Tumor is present in the base of the biopsy.

 

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So, the lesion was a benign growth of tissue that usually occurs in kids (agrees with my story of it being around for quite awhile) and is unlikely to cause any problems if any was left in the procedure. I am pretty sure however that Dr. Miller was more aggressive in his excision than Dr. Jackson was; the specimen that was submitted was excised by Dr. Jackson and then he called for Dr. Miller to check his work and suggest appropriate sutures.

Dr. Miller advised that the part taken already was not at all the entirety of the tumor and took to excising more of my back himself. Both of the comments by the pathologists advise some sample was left and excision may or may not be needed but they did not know of the part that Dr. Miller had taken. The piece Dr. Miller took out was at least half to three quarters of an inch deep, likely three times the size of the sample Dr. Jackson had taken and submitted for study.

Because of the length of time that I have had this lesion I did not seriously contemplate that it would be malignant but it is cool to have these reports to know for certain. I like that even the doctors still find these cases interesting and I am glad mine was one of the interesting ones, but I would expect no less from myself. So, that’s it. its out and I’m healing nicely. I will post update pics and maybe a post or two after the stitches come out and I think healing is nearly complete. Thanks for following me on this journey.

E coli As A Fuel Producer?

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Possible new strain of E. coli able to produce diesel from fatty acids. Interesting story, probably a few years away from being actually able to produce usable fuel commercially.

Lab Week 2013

Happy Lab Week, my fellow Laboratorians. Phlebotomists, Medical Laboratory Technicians, Medical Laboratory Scientists, Med Techs, Cytologists, Pathologists, Histologists….Sorry if I missed your title/job, we are a big group of lab rats.

I hope Lab Week is fun at your lab, please let me know any exciting parts. Maybe you have ideas for next year, tell me!

Bleeding Disorders

Diagnosis of Bleeding Disorders

Hemoglobin Requirements

Hemoglobin…possibly the most important part of our blood. It binds oxygen to transfer it from the air in the lungs to the body parts and binds to carbon dioxide and other waste to take it away to get rid of it through the lungs. The iron particles in the blood are the reason it appears red. Every animal discovered so far has this system, except one! The fish in the article below has clear blood and no hemoglobin. Insane!

the article

We May Not Get Recognition Often

May be Canadian, but it’s true for us too

The lab isn’t just the person who takes the blood. We play with all sorts of bodily fluids and tissues in aiding the doctor in making accurate diagnoses.

A Numbers Game

Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) is a biochemical technique that allows a scientist to amplify a minute sample of DNA/RNA to thousands or even millions of copies. Many pieces of the technology have to work in harmony to ensure that it works correctly. When I was in college it baffled me as to how the parts knew where they were supposed to go until one professor explained it much more simply.

He said, (not an actual quote as its been a few years since I thought about this) Its a numbers game. The bases that we have added to the sample don’t know where they are supposed to go. They go where they can, and if the polymerase uses them there then they are added to the new sample of DNA. If however they have attached to an incorrect place or if they have attached somewhere on the DNA strand that the polymerase hasn’t replicated yet and the polymerase doesn’t get to them in time they will fall off and “try again” on the next cycle. If they are placed in the wrong place that strand is either destroyed or a few bases either side will be kicked off.

I was reading a post by The Page Nebula that was examining the logic behind reasoning that I have a liver even though I’ve never seen my own liver and that every object has a creator so there must be a creator. While trying to comment on his post it hit me that the evolutionary natural selection steps we have gone through are kind of like PCR. The advantageous pairs/mutations are kept and the bad ones are deleted/replaced.

I can see a flaw in the argument saying that I am a creator. That argument would only agree for “A” creator, not for the god of the bible, or any specific god. More of a deist view or whatever they are. I see myself in that analogy only as bringing the stuff closer together just to shorten time scale in the argument. All of the variables have to be perfect….we just happen to be the ones that made it. There are possibly billions of other planets, we just happened to be on planet which we incubated and evolved to become what we are. I will end with the title….Its all a Numbers Game.

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