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I try to keep this blog religion free but this post will probably cut close to the line (and if it crosses a line, it’s your fault not mine – religion doesn’t have to conflict with evolution, you just want it to). I just want to make it clear I’m not attacking any beliefs – I just want to make some things clear whilst championing truth and logical reasoning. If it makes you sleep better, you’re free to believe that evolution was “set into motion” by a god, but the fact is that evolution is very real.

On a side note, I’m sick of theists trying to use science to disprove science. It doesn’t work that way. You can’t suddenly decide to believe in a certain, small amount of science taken out of context to “prove” your god, and then turn around and ignore all the other science pointing to another answer. If you’re a believer, stick to your beliefs and stop trying to justify it. If you feel the need to use an opposing ideal to verify your own, then you obviously don’t have enough strength in your beliefs to rely on it alone. You don’t see scientists saying god proves that there is no god.

Back on topic: here are some facts about evolution that many people might not know.

  1. The Catholic Church has changed its public stance to accept evolution as a fact, the same way it changed its opinion on a heliocentric solar system (Earth revolving around the sun). I lead with this because the Vatican seems to have no problem reconciling its beliefs with this particular scientific fact, although its reasoning is a bit sketchy. In a nutshell, the Church says they’re not sure whether cosmological and biological evolution exist but if it does, then it’s because of god. As for evolution, the Church accepts that we evolved from other biological life forms, but claims that god “specially created” our “soul”.
  2. Humans did not come from monkeys. This claim is an oversimplification commonly employed by theists to try and disrepute evolution and is a combination of both the Strawman and appeal to emotion logical fallacies (making it a doubly stupid claim). First of all, humans are closer to modern apes than monkeys, which automatically makes theists using this claim a whole deal more ignorant. Second, we didn’t evolve from these apes either, we share a common ancestor. About 5-8 million years ago, our common ancestor diverged into two separate lineages, one of which went on to become modern apes and the other became us humans. In fact, even this is oversimplifying it. Our common ancestor evolved into the earliest hominid species 5-8 million years ago, and since then, there have been dozens of different species of human-like creatures. It’s not as simple as take a monkey, pop, oh look it’s a human; it’s millions of years of dozens of species evolving slowly over time, with homo sapiens being the greatest survivor. It’s almost like the mitochondrial Eve.
  3. Humans have roughly a 96% DNA similarity to chimpanzees. This figure was previously as high as 99% but has been revised over time. DNA comparison by itself is somewhat limited so let’s introduce the next point.
  4. The missing chromosome between humans and apes has been discovered. Some of you might know about this, but for those who don’t, chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans have 48 chromosomes (if traced back far enough, humans have a common ancestry with these three separate species, with chimps being the closest). Humans, however, have only 46 chromosomes. If common ancestry were to be valid, one would expect humans to have a same number of chromosomes as our distant cousins. Chromosomes can’t just disappear, which would be fatal, so there are only two possibilities – either humans do not share a common ancestry with apes or two chromosomes got fused. Well, Dr. Ken Miller and other associates have located the two chromosomes that were fused through whole genome sequencing techniques. Chromosomes have centromeres which are DNA sequences used to separate them in the middle during mitosis and telomeres, which are DNA sequences at the ends. If two chromosomes were fused, we would have telomeres in the centre of the chromosome (instead of at the end). Guess what? They found the chromosome, it’s the Human Chromosome #2, which shows the exact point at which this fusion took place.
  5. There are many examples of evolution happening right before our eyes. It’ll take far too long for me to list  them and why, so I’ll give a quick list of the names and you can Google these for yourself if you don’t believe me (which you should). Peppered moths, three-toed skinks, crabs and mussels, Italian wall lizards, cane toads, Darwin’s finches, butterflies and parasites, viruses and superviruses (SARS, swineflu), flatfish, Australian skinks, elephants, fish in the Hudson River and many other species of lizards besides the ones I’ve mentioned.

Too often do I get carried away championing the Grammar Nazi cause that I forget to educate in a less scathing way. This is an odd habit of mine considering I used to be an English tutor – a patient and encouraging one too (I’d like to think).  I blame the impersonal nature of the internet for my blunt, borderline-mockery of those that commit errors relating to English syntax, although I’ve mentioned before that I generally don’t bother correcting people unless they’re trying to correct someone else – and getting it wrong. I’d like to think this absolves me of some of the gravity of my crime – I leave the oblivious alone and hunt the self-proclaimed Grammar Nazis who obviously need a bit of a lesson themselves.

Anyway, to amend my sins I’ll quickly throw together some of the most common errors that I see so that this can be used as a reference for those trying to fix up their English (to whom I give my utmost respect – props for your effort). I don’t believe absolutely perfect grammar is necessary, and I have many well-educated, intellectual peers who have problems with English syntax themselves, but a good degree of English writing is necessary for professional credibility, and also for its own sake. What I find hilarious are people who attempt to be deep and meaningful with incorrect grammar – it sort of undermines your credibility when you don’t know what you’re saying. I think it would be plagiarism for me to go linking funny grammar fail photos, so I’ll let you guys Google them yourselves. I also don’t want to offend my Facebook friends by using theirs. Suffice to say, in a world comprised mostly of idiots, it’s nice to be able to stand out by using proper English. By the way, for those who don’t know, in linguistics, syntax is the study of the principles and processes of constructing sentences. I use the word syntax because I don’t want to be incorrect by calling something a grammar mistake when it’s actually spelling, punctuation or diction, for example (so yes, the term Grammar Nazi is actually a misnomer, which I find ironic). Syntax sort of encompasses all of that.

Ok, I ramble a lot; my posts are way too long. If you avoid all of these errors, your English is passable and you should be left alone by all but the most seasoned of Grammar Nazis. These are off the top of my head so I may miss some conditions. Here’s the list:

10 Common English mistakes:

  1. You’re means “you are”. Your means something belongs to or is associated with you. (You’re always late to your classes.)
  2. An apostrophe followed by the letter “s” ( ‘s ) is used to indicate possession, except for the word “it’s” which means “it is”. I find this one particularly amusing because people often say “Grammar Nazi’s” to indicate plural, which is incorrect. To indicate the possessive of a plural, you put the apostrophe after the “s”. However, if it’s a name ending with “s”, you still put an apostrophe with an “s” after the name. (Jess’s grammar is horrible. It’s quite obvious that she never paid attention in school; the teacher claims that she always got on the other students’ nerves.) Edit: Actually, there’s some debate over whether you need to add the apostrophe “s” after a name ending with “s”. My academic view is that you should, but it would take up too much space to support that argument here. Suffice to say, just make sure you’re consistent in your own writing.
  3. To indicate the plural of a word, generally you add an “s” to the end. If the word ends with the letter “y”, you change the “y” into an “ie” and then put the “s” on the end (-ies). Some exceptions include the plural form of “he” and “she”, “that” and “this” (they, those and these, respectively). (The baby’s eyes glared sinisterly at the other babies. They stared back with equal menace.)
  4. Words should be capitalised at the beginning of every sentence and after ever period/full-stop. Names and significant terms should also be capitalised (which is why Grammar Nazi should be capitalised, as it is an established term used to name somebody who corrects other peoples’ grammar). This should be pretty obvious so I’m not going to give an example. If you can’t do this correctly, I honestly think you need to go back to primary school – and I say that without any hint of insult intended. Also, capitalising randomly in the middle of your words and sentences makes you look like a douche.
  5. Then is used to indicate the next event after a certain time. Than is used to compare things. (He read the poorly constructed comment, then realised that he was far more educated than the other guy.)
  6. A liar is somebody who lies. I have no freaking clue what a lier or a lyer is. The act of committing a lie is lying. 
  7. Affect is a verb; it is the action of causing an effect, which is a noun. (His atrocious grammar affected the Grammar Nazis’ sensibilities to good effect.)
  8. Farther is used to indicate a measurable distance. Further is used for abstract distances, such as time or events. (He ran farther ahead but could predict no further catastrophes).
  9. Multiple negatives can be used for dramatic effect, but most of the time people use them incorrectly. If you use more than one negative in a sentence, you’re complicating things and you’re cancelling out the effect of your negatives. “He hasn’t never done nothing wrong” actually means he always does things wrong. See how confusing and stupid that is? If you want to say “He’s never done anything wrong” then just freaking say it normally.
  10. I’m not actually sure what the proper name for this error is but please, never say “more better” or anything along those lines. More is an adjective. Adjectives are used to describe nouns and pronouns only. Better is an adverb. You do not use adjectives in front of adverbs. Just say “better”, it already has the meaning of “more” incorporated into it.

Obviously, there’s many more mistakes that people make, but if you can manage to avoid these then congratulations! You are now the top 10% (a statistic that I can’t back up with any sources, but seriously, you’re now special because you’re no longer just another incoherent writer whose comments speak poorly of your education).

As a reward, here are some cool words (in my opinion) that you can try using to make yourself sound even more awesome.

  1. Ubiquitous – Omnipresent; found everywhere
  2. Pulchritudinous – Physically pretty; appealing to look at
  3. Paradigm – A set of forms and processes that is used as a model or example
  4. Paramount – Of great importance or impact
  5. Tantamount – Equivalent; equal to
  6. Guile – Cunning; deceitful
  7. Machiavellian – Characterised by the traits of deceit, manipulation and cunning
  8. Effervescent – Bubbly; lively
  9. Comeuppance – A consequence that one has earned, usually negative
  10. Enthrall – To captivate; to hold power over

With great grammar comes great responsibility. Enjoy your newfound power and may it help you in your social life, academic life and professional life (and it probably will if you used to tork lyke dis).

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