Unconditional love

Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.

Exodus 20:12 (KJV)

We’re taught again and again that we are to show our relatives, and especially our parents, a higher level of respect than we grant to others. Usually, we make others work for the respect we show them (at least beyond the base respect some of us may grant all conscious beings). Our close relatives, however, are not required to earn their respect. Often, this turns into unconditional love. And, of course, cultural norms have reinforced the idea that children should unconditionally love their parents and parents should do the same for their children, with these notions usually being extended to siblings.

How does this not undermine the very concept of love?

All we are doing is determing our so-called ‘love’ from genetic relatedness. This served a purpose in our evolutionary past, but it is no longer needed for the civilized world. We demean the notion of love by using this ‘basis’. Through unconditional love we are telling our parents and children that, no, we do not love you for the person you are: we love you for no good reason at all. It isn’t your good nature, your heart, your intelligence, or how you affect the lives of those around you. No. Instead, it is your genes.

Our love should be wholly conditional. Anything less is an insult to the concept of love and, more importantly, an insult to those we claim to love.

Sigh. McCain.

So John McCain is at it again. Not satisfied with the sending of his inept running mate out into the big evil world of science and reality a few months back, McCain has decided to wade in to the pool himself – and he’s just as over his head as Palin was.

On Wednesday, McCain himself grabbed for the fruit-fly swatter at a press conference to unveil his new anti-earmark legislation.

After a long takedown of research into lobsters by the University of Maine that involves a “Lobster Cam,” McCain, a Senator from Arizona, turned on the fruit flies, saying, “also, there’s one in Paris that — yes — $212,000 for Olive Fruit Fly research in Paris, France.”

It’s pretty well established how important fruit fly research is in science. Given his lack of familiarity with the field, his election would have been as devastating to science as the past 8 years. But now he has decided to pick on lobster research, in my home state, no less. Personally, I’m not a fan of these sea cockroaches. However, I do enjoy the boost they give to the Maine economy. McCain apparently does not. He apparently believes citing a lobster cam shows how much of a MAVERICK!!! he is about pork-barrel spending. The truth is much more interesting.

This research by the University of Maine is done through its Lobster Institute, an organization devoted to the health of the Maine lobster industry. It is through this organization, not the $188,000 grant, that the lobster cam is funded. The grant money, on the other hand, goes toward “research of microbial diseases that devastate lobster stocks”.

I don’t know about any other readers, but I personally prefer politicians from Arizona to stay out of vital sectors of my state’s economy. More importantly, I prefer them to stay out of science if it is only utter ignorance they are able to profess.

Lobster Institute

Artificial molecules

Origins research is beginning to really heat up (hilarious pun intended). One team of researchers is working with RNA (but then again, who isn’t?)

A new molecule that performs the essential function of life – self-replication – could shed light on the origin of all living things.

If that wasn’t enough, the laboratory-born ribonucleic acid (RNA) strand evolves in a test tube to double itself ever more swiftly.

“Obviously what we’re trying to do is make a biology,” says Gerald Joyce, a biochemist at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California. He hopes to imbue his team’s molecule with all the fundamental properties of life: self-replication, evolution, and function.

By building a molecule that can self-replicate, Joyce’s team has shown a pretty solid principle of how scientists believe life began: begin with something simple which makes copies of itself, then…

Not content with achieving one hallmark of life in the lab, Joyce and Lincoln sought to evolve their molecule by natural selection. They did this by mutating sequences of the RNA building blocks, so that 288 possible ribozymes could be built by mixing and matching different pairs of shorter RNAs.

What came out bore an eerie resemblance to Darwin’s theory of survival of the fittest: a few sequences proved winners, most losers. The victors emerged because they could replicate fastest while surrounded by competition, Joyce says.

As Joyce notes, this isn’t truly life. It’s a very promising experiment, however, and that’s where the excitement lay. By inducing mutations, evolution began to take place. It’s so simple a child can understand it.