Heroic League: Character description - Fadra Englen
The following is a write up I did for a character that is part of the Heroic League story I’ve been working on. The Heroic League takes place over several decades, and this character is comes up in the third generation, along with Yellow Jacket II, the Mannekin II, and the new character of Hawk’s Scream, Grey Kestrel and Moquette.
This character is Fadra Englen, and instead of me rambling on about her, I thought it would be easier to have her describe herself, based on an interview style question and answer series. Later this evening, I will try to have a drawing completed of Fadra.
Interviewer: Good morning, you’re listening to CBC One, I’m Jordyn Ashton, and this is The Science of Religion. Today’s guest is well versed in both areas of science and religion, and has often been criticized by both right wing fundamentalists and the hardline scientific community as being soft on both positions. We’d like to welcome to the studio Doctor Fadra Englen, a specialist in genetic research who wrote the paper, Genetic Evolution. Dr. Englen is also a practicing physician, who holds a position with the Silver Spring Health Centre in Silver Spring, Saskatchewan. Good morning, Doctor.
Fadra: Good morning, Jordyn.
JA: Before we discuss your paper, I’d like our viewers to get to know you a little more. As I understand it, you are a first generation Canadian.
Fadra: That’s right, I was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Both my parents are immigrants who escaped the dangers of the political changes in the Middle East, which came about because both my mom and dad are very outspoken in political circles.
JA: They received refugee status?
Fadra: That’s correct, but it did take a few years. Fortunately, my father was a physician and was able to find a place in rural Manitoba near Dauphin, and that helped both my parents in their move toward citizenship. My mother was an artist, still is actually, and her paintings reflect much of what we see on the news that happens in the Middle East, and even here in Canada.
JA: Why exactly did your parents have to leave the Middle East?
Fadra: We are Palestinian. During the ongoing war between the Israeli and Arabic states, my father’s position was seen as a threat because he was a very well respected individual in the medical community, both in the Middle East and overseas.
JA: Now, you grew up in relatively calm circumstances compared to what your parents had to go through.
Fadra: Yes, I did. But I still faced a lot of adversity. There aren’t a lot of other Muslim kids or Palestinian kids that went to school with me. There was one or two other kids that I knew of, and I was the only Palestinian Canadian in my school. So, I received a lot of … I guess you could say bigotry because of my faith and because of my cultural background. I remember one day running home from the playground and telling dad that a bunch of kids called me names. A couple called me sand digger, which I’m sure everyone has heard now in the news with the activities in Afghanistan. I remember my father sitting me down and telling me “if they ever call you that, just look at them and tell them you’ve never dug in sand, but you’ve made a lot of snow angels”.
JA: (laughs) That is different as far as advice goes.
Fadra: My dad, and my mom for that matter, always taught me that no matter how hurtful a name is, you should always shrug it off and turn the hurtful thing into something harmless. I know that doesn’t work for everyone, but it works for me.
JA: You also have another reason, that you have explained in the past, why you grew up differently.
Fadra: Yes, and it’s a bit difficult because it’s not a cultural or religious difference, it’s actually genetic. It also has to be one of the reasons why I became so intrigued with genetics and mapping the human DNA. I always knew that I was different from other kids, I could see that in the mirror, and it was something I researched when I went off to university. It explained a great deal, as we, myself and a team of researchers, discovered that my own DNA has sort of evolved. We found out that among the signature aspects of human DNA, there was also glaring evidence of panthera tigris.
JA: What is pan… what is that?
Fadra: Panthera tigris is the scientific name for the family of the feline species known as Tiger. But, as we began to piece things together, it made sense. I have markings on my skin, I have better than normal vision and hearing, my musculature and bone structure is stronger than a human beings.
JA: What exactly can you attribute that to?
Fadra: That’s just it. We don’t know. And from a personal perspective, that drives me nuts. I can’t not know why something happens. That desire has been the driving force behind why I became a scientist, why I went into medicine and why I became interested in mapping the human DNA.
JA: Was it this interest that lead into your extensive education?
Fadra: Partially, yes. I feel I was extremely fortunate, given where I grew up. I had access to a very good educational system in Winnipeg, and I worked hard. That hard work granted me acceptance into the University of Saskatchewan’s college of medicine, and my work there caught the attention of several who worked at Oxford. Eventually I was invited to work with several students in England and I completed my studies there.
JA: Yet, when you came back, you accepted a medical position in Silver Spring on the Whitecap Dakota First Nation.
Fadra: Silver Spring is an amazing opportunity, plus it’s close enough to Saskatoon and the University of Saskatchewan for research purposes. The Canadian Lightsource Synchrotron allows me to continue my own research, while at the same time staying in a community that is incredible.
JA: Silver Spring has an interesting history.
Fadra: It does indeed. Silver Spring grew as a community when Chinese migrant workers wanted a place to live at the turn of the 20th Century. It was a lot like the Moose Jaw tunnels, except these workers weren’t hidden. And they received a great deal of acceptance from the Dakota First Nations. Eventually, it became a multicultural hub in the early 20th Century. Now, it is a town of 2700 and has the most culturally diverse and spiritually diverse populations in Western Canada.
JA: As well as having your position with the health centre and your work with genetic research, you also find the time to travel and talk about the things human beings do to the environment are having not only a detrimental effect on this planet’s ecology, but also on human nature itself. Can you explain that?
Fadra: As man kind continues with it’s addiction to fossil fuels, we are inevitably changing our own genetic structure. We continually pump more carbon into the air, dump radioactive waste into places where we know we shouldn’t, strip massive environmental wonders just for oil, and leave the local ecology destroyed with hardly anyway to come back. This isn’t only affecting our environment, but it’s affecting us as well. We can see it happening over the course of the past four hundred years.
JA: How so?
Fadra: As we grow and evolve, we change. Our immunities changes, our dependencies change. It may sound like something out of Isaac Asimov, but if you took a time machine and went back to the days of the Black Plague, you would surely die. The way people ate, the lifestyle they lived, and the diseases they encountered were completely different during that time, then what we deal with now. Human migration also changes our own genetics. Someone who grew up living in a hot and arid climate, would never think of living in a place like Yellowknife with it being cold for six months of the year. Sometimes longer. I remember my father saying it took him ten years before he got used to the winter wind in Winnipeg, and always dreaded going outside when it was minus fifteen. Where as I lived with it all my life. From my perspective, I don’t know if I could stand being in an arid and hot climate for too long.
JA: We’ve discussed at length about your background in science and medicine, but you also have said that you are extremely devote in your faith. Some say that is a contradiction.
Fadra: I don’t see it that way. And I know there is a good number of right wing fundamentalists who look at me, learn that I follow Islam, and they gain a stereotype even before they get to know me. A lot of times that stereotype is of a woman who grew up in a backwards culture and will ignore modern conveniences. (laughs) I actually get a kick out of seeing the expression on their face when I discuss advanced medical procedures without stumbling over my words. But still, that’s a perception that continues to persist in the world, that a Muslim cannot be a scientist at all. In fact, what they don’t understand is that those who created some marvelous advances in medicine, mathematics, art, literature… were all followers of Islam.
JA: A lot of those fundamentalists also find you a bit of an anomaly because you embrace your faith and you embrace the science of things so readily.
Fadra: I know that not everything in the world was explained in the Qur’an or in the Bible or in the Torah. But we can still discover things that exist in the world and we can always ask why. I know that Allah gave me several gifts, my health, my special abilities, and my constant want to discover. There is nothing written anywhere that says I cannot be a scientist, that I cannot study Darwin’s theories on evolution, and that I cannot be a faithful follower in Islam. I know other scientists throughout the world who are devote Christians or practice Judaism or Hinduism. Because you have a faith, does not mean you have to reject science. And the opposite is true as well. Just because you have a thirst for knowledge, because you are a scientist, does not mean you have to reject a religion. What many people don’t understand is that science and religion can walk hand in hand. It may sound cliché, but science isn’t much different from religion, because people like me need to have a little faith in their theories.
JA: And what if a theory is proven wrong.
Fadra: Well, then I have to change my understanding of it. I’m not one to sit back and admit defeat or admit that it was a waste of time, because it never is. If I’m presented with a theory that has been proven to be wrong, my only course of action is to discover why it was wrong.
JA: You have argued that there is no such thing as intelligent design, that the theory of evolution is more accurate in describing human history.
Fadra: Intelligent design fails on the theory that something happens automatically just because it was divinely inspired. Nothing in nature works that way. There are examples where animals will change in order to adapt, but many times that happens over the course of several generations. There are rare occurrences where an anomaly will take place, such as a collection of sea horses. If there is nothing but male or female sea horses in the group, one will change sex in order to continue the propagation of the collective. As far as humans are concerned, we have many intricate aspects about us.
For example, when a human fetus is still in the womb, it is technically female. Until all the building blocks are put in place, the gender of the fetus is female. We also breath water, not air, during those months in the womb. And, I know that there will be those that might become a bit angered by this, but in all honesty, a fetus acts no different than a parasite. That’s not just in humans, but in all creatures that give birth in the manner humans do.
Now, as far as adapting to environments, humans take a long time to evolve and become used to an environment. It’s not like what some have said, with the rather silly statement “I don’t see monkeys becoming humans”. That’s a very ignorant and unintelligent statement. Human evolution is not something that just happens over night. It takes generations for something to take place. Much like how the stars and planets were created. It took millions of years for this planet to be created and gain the perfect climate and conditions where it could sustain life. So to are the same with humans.
JA: You mentioned earlier about theories being wrong, and approaching it from a new angle. What’s an example of that?
Fadra: Dinosaurs. When the first paleontologists discovered dinosaurs, they imagined them as huge lizards. But after a hundred years or more, we’ve begun to understand that these beasts that roamed the earth millions of years ago have more in common with birds than they do with modern day lizards. In some cases, fossil records show that they may even have had plumage. That’s a perfect example of how we’ve had to rethink our perspective of how we look at dinosaurs.
JA: Some say that it’s dangerous to look at science as the way to answer all things. What do you say to that?
Fadra: Science can’t answer all things. At least, how we currently see them. It’s no different than having blind faith in a religion. There are those who believe that science can do no wrong. That is false, it can in fact do wrong. Look at the nuclear bomb, for example. Oppenheimer later regretted ever having helped with the project, and wished he’d never worked on his theories. Religion is the same way. We can have faith in what we believe in, but blind faith can be a dangerous thing. The one thing I have always found with everything I have approached in life, is that we can always ask why. It’s that way with science, and it should be that way with religion. There are those that don’t think that way, but I believe that how I approach my faith, that’s between me and Allah.
JA: One last thing before we go, Doctor Englen. Who was your hero growing up?
Fadra: Bill Nye.
JA: (laughs) The Science Guy?
Fadra: Oh yes! He was wonderful, and along with my mom and dad, probably the only other person who ever told me it was okay to ask questions and explore and discover.