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Thread: Science saves religion from itself?

  1. #1
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    Science saves religion from itself?

    I watched a quite interesting programme the other night about the decline of vultures in India/Pakistan, which links to Hinduism and another religious faction.

    In essence there seem to be two religious groups that this situation was indirectly brought about by and were then affected by the results, Hinduism and another sect that believe fire is sacred (I don't remember the name though).

    Due to the cow being sacred to Hindu's, cows are thus never killed and they only die of old age and then left to rot, a bit unsanitary but thanks to natures wonderful creation, the vulture; everything seems to work ok.

    That is until all the vulture began to vanish, eventually the RSPB and a group of scientists arrived to find out what was going on and it seemed the over 90% of the vulture population was deceased, reason currently unknown.

    This had some serious effects, firstly the cow corpses weren't being consumed and thus the wild dog population increased and rabies became more prevalent than ever (rabies causes 20,000 deaths in India per year accounting for 35% of such deaths worldwide - stats 2007) as wild diseased dog attacks increased greatly and secondly disease was spreading from human corpses from the cult who revere fire as being sacred (thus they can't burn corpses or for some other reason bury them either so they used to leave them for the vultures) due to them not being eaten by vultures.

    The science team's job was made harder because the Indian government had now declared the vulture endangered so nobody was allowed to take live or dead specimens, the science team went to pakistan though and got a recently deceased vulture thankfully.

    The autopsy revealed the vultures were dying a drawn out and painful death from multiple organ failure, reason unknown. After eliminating several potential reasons they decided that it might be something the vultures were getting from the cows (this being their main diet).

    Eventually the team managed to get some liver samples from dead cows and narrowed down all the possible chemicals that could cause the vulture disease, finally they found a chemical that is used to relieve pain in old cows (cows arent permitted to suffer pain either due to old age and they keep them around as long as possible much like we do with pets) and linked it to the vulture decline.

    It took them 2 years to convince the Government to ban the substance from use in cows (but it's still available for human use and could thus still possibly enter the food chain again). However by now the vulture population was nearly beyond recovery. They have managed to breed 200 in captivity which they intend to release in India soon but this may be too little too late.

    To sum up this seems to be an example of religion causing the deaths of it's own believers in a roundabout way since without the sacred cow/fire the Diclofenac would not have entered the food chain or at least in not such a fatal manner (I believe the ratio was 10% in the cow samples and 1% would be considered to be fatal to the vulture population). If the science team had not acted (despite the barriers put in their way by the Government) the situation would have been considerably worse, even now it's looking bleak but hopefully the breeding program will succeed.

    Endangered vultures set to fly in Mumbai - India - DNA
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    Re: Science saves religion from itself?

    I for one find that an interesting post, perhaps more so because I'm very aware of the law of unintended consequences, and I've often wondered how many of man's activities have had such knock-on consequences, some of which could very well come back to affect other people quite remote from the cause. Perhaps the case of mad cow disease is a good, and perhaps the best known, example of this; how the inclusion of 'recycled' animal products in cattle feed inadvertently lead to a considerable number of humans contracting CJD.

    I posted a news item here some while back, although I can't find it to link to, how over-fishing off the coast of parts of West Africa was leading to the death of many wild animals including lions and elephants, being illegally poached as bush meat to replace the depleted fish in the diet of the local population, which in turn was causing large increases in the numbers of baboons (lions being their main predator), which in their turn were damaging many crops in farmer's fields, so much so that they were keeping their children off school so they could guard the fields. So the same law of unintended consequences, in this case from over-fishing, was in turn severely damaging wildlife over a very wide area and causing a drop in the overall educational standards of local children.

    I hope people will wake up to chains of events like this, but I have my doubts! And good luck to the vultures in India.
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    Re: Science saves religion from itself?

    I saw some of the program, it was excelent.
    It's very dangerous when religious dogma interfears with science and progress. Just look at the consiquences of the millions of Africans, and Latin Americans following edicts from the vatican and abstaining from using condoms.
    "I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours ." Steven Roberts

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    Re: Science saves religion from itself?

    That is a very good post. It helps strengthen my belief that religions worldwide should be banned and outlawed. I'm not prejudiced against religion, I hate them all equally. I haven't found one yet where the leaders are not socially retarded.

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