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Hilariously, Science Mag Declares Virgin Birth Unlikely

Well, call it all off. Forget the whole Virgin birth thing. Totally didn't happen. Science says so.

Pop Sci reports:

Virgin birth, known to scientists as parthenogenesis, appears to be rather common in the animal kingdom. Many insects and other invertebrates are capable of switching between sexual and clonal reproduction. Among the vertebrates, virgin births have been documented in at least 80 taxonomic groups, including fish, amphibians, and reptiles. But humans and our fellow mammals provide a notable exception. So far as anyone can say—and there are a few gaps in the data, notably the platypus—no mammalian species is capable of giving birth without a father.

So what stands in the way? First, a mammal’s egg cell usually won’t divide until it receives a signal from the sperm. Second, most mammalian eggs have only half the number of chromosomes necessary for development. If there isn’t any sperm, the embryo will end up with only half the DNA it needs to survive.

Both of those barriers could potentially be overcome in the lab or through random mutation, but there is a third obstacle that probably can’t be. Under normal conditions, the DNA in both egg and sperm cells is altered such that some genes will be more active while others are suppressed. When the egg and sperm join to form an embryo, these imprints work in tandem, ensuring that all the necessary proteins are produced in the right amounts. If an egg cell starts reproducing on its own, without the sperm-cell imprint, the offspring won’t survive for very long.

Scientists estimate that imprinting affects about 200 different genes. For parthenogenesis to occur, many of these changes would have to occur through random mutation. “I just think it’s too complex and you’d need too many things to happen accidentally,” says Marisa Bartolomei, a molecular geneticist at the University of Pennsylvania
You've got to love the fact that Pop Sci is just saying the Virgin birth is just too complex to happen. Say, isn't that irreducible complexity the same argument some make for the existence of God which you mock them for?

I love this kind of thing because it's just so condescending. As if we didn't understand that a virgin birth would be a pretty rare event. Because us dopey Christians needed to be told that a virgin birth is highly unlikely.

hey geniuses, that's kind of the point guys.

Hey look, they're science geeks. It's understandable that virginity is a major topic of conversation.

*subhead*Geeks.*subhead*

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25 comments:

BTanaka said...

I always love it when scientists point out that miracles are scientifically impossible as though this were some kind of shocking revelation.

Yeah, we know they're impossible. That's kind of the point!

Mack Hall, HSG said...

Your last line is classic!

ProudHillbilly said...

Last line made me laugh...

From Wikipedia: "A miracle is an event not ascribable to human power or the laws of nature and consequently attributed to a supernatural, especially divine, agency." Note, dear geeks, the part where it's not ascribable to laws of nature.

Sophia's Favorite said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sophia's Favorite said...

Joseph was, in fact, quite aware of that; freaking read the Gospel! "Where babies come from" is a thing like agriculture, it predates all historic civilizations by several thousand years, it's taken for granted as common knowledge by the very earliest records we have.

I can actually name you exactly one society on Earth that doesn't know where babies come from, and I think they've been assimilated into the Western culture that colonized their territory. Namely, the Tiwi, in Australia, who married their daughters off at birth in case they spontaneously became pregnant.

mcg03 said...

Where in the article does it explain how the Immaculate Conception didn't happen? It doesn't. There's not a single dig on Christianity save for (possibly) the cover picture. Did you ever consider that the article could have been a subtle affirmation that the Virgin Mary could not have been a biological phenomena and thus, conceived through God? the Pop Sci article doesn't make us Christians look dopey...this paranoid post does.

Sophia's Favorite said...

@mcg03: Nothing makes anyone look as dopey as your confusing the Immaculate Conception and the Virgin Birth does.

Proteios1 said...

Speaking as a scientist who is surrounded by scientists I have observed the following. Many are atheists who ascribe their identity to what they do not believe. This requires constant mockery and pseudo scientific validation. I do the same thing as a Catholic. I strengthen myself with bible study, reading encyclicals, etc. so when you define yourself on what you don't believe you must strengthen your non belief by various means. Ironic, the atheists are now starting a church. A silly group, but mainly exhibit a severe form of intellectual laziness.

Joe K said...

I also came away concluding, similarly to mcg03, that science is on our side. The fact that the virgin birth is not naturally possible simply opens the way for a supernatural cause... "the Holy Spirit will come upon [the virgin], and the power of the Most High will overshadow [the virgin]."

Harry Seldon said...

I actually was interested in this article and thought it was well written. As pointed out above in comments, we Christians have been saying for 2,000 years that the virgin birth was a miraculous event. This understanding, that it was either miraculous or fictional, was stable until the 20th century, when the mechanics of animal parthenogenesis began to be understood. We've sort of been waiting for this news for several decades now, to see whether anyone could make a case for a 3rd possibility, that the virgin birth was a rare, but natural event.

This now appears to be an impossibility, and we're back on the well-known ground of miracle or fiction.

So...what was the problem with this article again?

Mary De Voe said...

Jesus Christ is the Word of God. The hypostatic union is the union of Christ's human nature and His divine nature. As God, Jesus Christ has a Father in heaven and therefore, Jesus Christ did not need a human father. In the economy salvation, God provides only what is necessary. In the virgin birth, God came to live in Mary's womb at conception. God is virgin. God created the Immaculate Conception, Mary, a virgin, conceived without sin and preserved from sin, pure love, the Mother of God, God, Who is pure love.
Science is the study of nature. Theology is the study of the metaphysical realm, the kingdom of God. When was the last time science defined free will, or even virginity, innocence or even the virtues of Justice and charity and most especially, when was the last time science defined the human, immortal, rational soul?

Mary De Voe said...

Get a grip guys, the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Harry Seldon said...

Who should 'get a grip', exactly...and about what?

I often imagine non-Catholics cruising by and looking at pages like this, and then leaving saying 'wow, I'm glad I'm not mixed up with THAT bunch..."

Sophia's Favorite said...

The problem with the article is the strawman conflation of "virgin birth" with natural parthenogenesis. Obviously.

And do you anywhere in that article get the impression that the writer actually knows what a miracle is? The only interpretation that actually fits what is written in that article, is that it's saying the Virgin Birth didn't happen, because the author arbitrarily chose to assume that it was 100% coterminous with parthenogenesis as observed in, say, Cnemidophorus sonorae, and then discussed the facts relating to how rare that phenomenon is (it's wholly unknown in mammals and the only archosaurs it happens in are incredibly overbred domestic strains of chickens and turkeys, where it's very rarely viable).

He was not saying "what is observed in the Virgin Birth must be a miracle because parthenogenesis is not possible in mammals", he was saying "nothing was actually observed, because of all these facts about something wholly unrelated that I am bringing up because I am unaware that the Virgin Birth is considered to be a miracle—a concept with which I show no signs of being acquainted".

Harry Seldon said...

Sophia's Favorite, I think that's a pretty tortured analysis. I'm reading a 4 paragraph simple story on why mammals can't reproduce via parthenogenesis. I welcome it, for the reasons I mention above. If some of you want conspiracies, you can find them everywhere. All I see is some web editor who decided a picture of the most famous claimed virgin birth in history was appropriate for this story. I don't know how anyone can determine what these people's position on the Virgin Birth is from this...except to say that they don't believe it was a natural phenomenon, which, again, I welcome.

Jason Fairfield said...

I have to agree with others here, I didn't see a single line in that article that even hinted at consideration of supernatural realities. It was looking at merely natural ones. it was an interesting article, nothing to be concerned with.

Harry Seldon said...

I also think that 'scientism' is far too much a bogeyman on the Catholic internet. We do a very good job of looking like idiots, throwing feces and shaking clubs at 'scientism' and those wascally atheistic scientists, so much of the time. In point of fact, we pretty much confirm people's worst prejudices against us when we comment on scientific things.

Sophia's Favorite said...

...But nobody does call parthenogenesis Virgin Birth (even though that's the literal meaning of the Greek—although not, I believe, the Greek term for Christ's being born of a virgin), unless they are deliberately trying to equate it to the Nativity of Christ.

It is not "tortured analysis" to note that two terms only occur in juxtaposition among people who want to make a certain point. Nobody calls the state of Israel "the Zionist entity"—although it is an entity that can obviously be described in some sense as "Zionist"—except people who deny that state's legitimacy.

Words have connotations as well as denotations, and connotations are highly context sensitive.

Harry Seldon said...

..and nobody uses words like 'parthenogenesis' when common terms like 'virgin birth' are available.

Aren't we as Catholics supposed to presume good intentions on the part of others when possible?

Lynda said...

The point you make is true, though perhaps some don't understand it.

Lynda said...

"Scientism" does not mean scientific. It's most often used meaning is one involving an adverse judgment on the faulty logic of a person.

Sophia's Favorite said...

Nobody ever refers to parthenogenesis as virgin birth; it's less common than referring to hermaphrodites as "freemartins" or nictitating membranes as "haws". Mostly because "virgin birth" does not mean parthenogenesis, but the Incarnation and Nativity of Jesus Christ—and indeed "parthenogenesis" does not actually mean virgin birth, it means "coming into being (genesis) in the manner of Athena", AKA Parthenos ("the Maiden", cf. her chief temple, the Parthenon, "(Temple) of the Maiden"), who sprang fully-formed from the mind of Zeus, with no mother being involved.

"Virgin birth" is simply not used interchangeably with "parthenogenesis", and pretty much can't be. Catholics are not supposed to assume good intentions to the point of making flatly counter-factual assertions. When assuming good intentions requires you to contradict known facts about English usage, then it is not possible to assume those good intentions.

There are ways to determine what is or isn't common usage; as I don't have a convenient corpus of modern English prose to conduct frequency analysis upon, I'll just suggest that you look up "virgin birth" in any dictionary you care to consult. You won't find "(Biology, infml), see parthenogenesis" listed as a definition for it anywhere. Neither will you find "virgin birth" listed as a synonym for "parthenogenesis".

Understand, I am not concerned to argue against this post in the name of religion; my objection to the article is precisely that it is unscientific bafflegab garbage, exactly as legitimate as Young Earth Creationism. I know more about science than probably any layman you will ever meet; you will find my blog discussing the reasons we need to continue work on String Theory and wondering why space-time curvature is experienced as motion toward the center of a mass. There may be Catholics who need to be told that science is good but I ain't one of them.

Indeed, I find your defense of that article problematic as a scientist, albeit an autodidact amateur one. The science I have the most extensive background in is linguistics, and you are saying flat-out nonsense about words and their usage.

Harry Seldon said...

You fail so hard. Consult current dictionaries. Here's an online one:

parthenogenesis [ˌpɑːθɪnəʊˈdʒɛnɪsɪs]
n
1. (Life Sciences & Allied Applications / Biology) a type of reproduction, occurring in some insects and flowers, in which the unfertilized ovum develops directly into a new individual
2. (Christian Religious Writings / Theology) human conception without fertilization by a male; virgin birth
[from Greek parthenos virgin + genesis birth]
parthenogenetic [ˌpɑːθɪˌnəʊdʒɪˈnɛtɪk] adj
parthenogenetically adv

http://www.thefreedictionary.com/parthenogenesis


Fail fail fail. And failing in an unhinged, crazy, and dramatic fashion. So, I'd suggest stuffing a sock in your own bafflegab.

Lynda said...

I understand and accept your argument. I think some others aren't understanding it. Perhaps, too much emphasis on the linguistics, but then it is clear even from Mr Seldon's dictionary below that meanings 1. and 2. ascribed to the term are very different, almost unrelated. I would also contend that it would not be conventionally correct to use the term in respect of the Dogma of the Virgin Birth. However, with the diminution in logic and precision in academic and public discourse, language has become more vague (and ideological) and some dictionary publishers are producing editions that adopt common or ideological uses of terms as definitions. Thus, some dictionary publishers are involving themselves in determining the meaning(s) of certain words, rather than simply stating the formal pre-defined meaning. Dictionaries used to be much more reliable and objective than has been the case in many editions of recent decades. The tyranny of relativism.

Mary De Voe said...

"Who should 'get a grip', exactly...and about what? " About our human soul and the free will therein. Atheism cheats the atheist out of knowledge about his human soul with free will (and the will to live eternally).God too, has a free will, as Jesus Christ has a human, rational soul. God can do anything He wills to do except contradict Himself. Outside of time, God is changeless, and therefore cannot change his mind about TRUTH.
Get a grip on your human soul for the evil one wants to sift you like sand and destroy your freedom and your destiny as well as your identity. Get a grip.

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