Everything That’s Wrong With the Gene-Edited Babies

A Chinese researcher announced Monday that a woman has given birth to twins that he had genetically edited.

As someone who works in biotech, I have a lot of strong feelings about this. I am all for genetically engineering and modifying plant, animal, and human life, as long as it is regulated, ethical, and safe. However, that was not the case here. This was done in complete secrecy with no oversight committee. This is not how we conduct science. The following post contains my own opinions as well as some edited statements from science communicators and scientific institutions.

The Biology

For starters, the researcher claims this gene editing will create HIV-resistant humans. Let’s take a look into the actual biology of what happened. Firstly, the researchers used HIV-positive sperm to fertilize HIV-negative eggs. In order to try and make the embryos resistant to HIV, the CCR5 gene (which codes for a receptor found on white blood cells) was mutated to be non-functional. However, only one of the twins was made homozygous for the CCR5 edit (meaning they received two copies of the edit) while the other was made heterozygous for the edit (they received one edited copy and one unedited copy).

It’s important to remember that people who are heterozygous for the CCR5 non-functional version of this gene are still susceptible to HIV.  Aside from that, this also causes a problem because the CCR5 receptor that HIV uses to enter cells has other functions that are essential to the immune system response.

What’s so reckless about this work is that the loss of a functional CCR5 protein increases susceptibility to flaviviruses, such as West Nile virus. The researcher was attempting to make HIV-1 resistant humans, but trading one deadly virus for another, especially when flaviviruses are endemic worldwide, is an incredibly bad idea.

This is still not even mentioning the fact that he has forced one of the twins to essentially be born with HIV. To knowingly and purposefully use HIV-positive sperm to fertilize an egg is beyond disturbing. (A big thanks to The Mad Virologist for providing a lot of the information here.)

The Ethics

Secondly, the NIH said it best in their statement denouncing this researcher’s work: “The medical necessity for the inactivation of CCR5 in these infants is completely unconvincing. […] the possibility of damaging off-target effects has not been satisfactorily explored.

What that means is that the use of CRISPR, which is an extremely powerful and new gene editing tool, has been known to edit genes that were not intended to be edited.

This is perhaps the most concerning aspect.

This is why we have regulations and oversight committees. We have no idea what the long term effects of these edits are going to be. Any ethical scientific institution would have needed much more evidence before beginning human trials. This is why we have animal studies and programs that can run simulations using different theoretical nucleotide sequences. To jump straight to human trials is completely and utterly unethical.

We have international standards that we abide by because we’ve seen what happens when people *don’t* abide to ethical principles. I’m of course talking about eugenics, nazi testing, the Tuskegee experiments, etc. Testing new scientific breakthroughs will never be 100% completely ethical, but we can set rules and limitations to make them as ethical as possible.

The Future Effects

Another deeply concerning aspect is the fact that these edits can now be passed on into the human germline. In other words, if these children end up reproducing they can pass these edited genes into the human gene pool. This would begin affecting every single future generation of humans. Especially given the fact that you would need two copies of the edit in order to theoretically become HIV resistant, this is highly dangerous. We would see a large increase of humans who are now much more susceptible to the flavivirus.

In my opinion, which obviously can be changed if I’m philosophically convinced otherwise, we essentially need to look at the possibility of sterilizing them for the sake of future generations and the human germline. And that in itself is a horribly unethical thing to do.

Conclusion

We have absolutely no idea how the researchers conducted themselves. Everything they did was kept in secret rather than them going through peer-reviewed publications. No oversight committees, regulations, or anything.

Doing science this way is completely unacceptable. I am all for the genetic modification of plants, animals, and humans, and I’ve been a proponent of that for years. But if we want to use this powerful and amazing technology, it needs to be regulated and have federal and international oversight. Without those ethical standards, scientific progress is not progress. This is not the way we conduct science. This is unethical. This is dangerous. This is not innovative by any definition of the word.

How chronic pain sufferers / people with autoimmune diseases are targeted by woo.

A lot the time chronic pain sufferers/people w autoimmune diseases are desperate for a good treatment, or maybe even a cure even if their judgement tells them that is bad advice.

People try to take advantage of these people all the time.I have polled a group of people that are chronically ill. Including myself. There’s plenty of bad advice out there but these are my findings that stuck out the most.

Examples

  • MLM scam known as Mona-Vie (sold as a cure all for mental, physical, and even to cure cancer)
  • Meditation
  • Prayer
  • Gluten free life
  • Veganism or raw vegan diet
  • Yoga
  • Acupuncture
  • Just relax
  • Reiki
  • Random piercings
  • Juice cleansing AKA Jilly juice
  • Symptoms must be caused by Hysteria
  • “Autoimmune paleo diet”
  • Organic Juice only
  • Probiotics/gut bacteria
  • “It’s the devil”
  • Coconut oil
  • Consume breast milk
  • Enemas
  • Chaga Tea
  • Atheism causes physical pain
  • Seizures are caused by fungus, mold, eating dairy, & gluten
  • Depression invented by “big pharma”
  • Onions in socks overnight
  • Don’t eat or drink cold things
  • Essential oils
  • Raw veggies to detox
  • More exercise (endometriosis) breastfeeding “prevents” it
  • Caused by poor self esteem
  • Lavender to treat fibromyalgia
  • All in your head
  • Go outside more
  •  Smoking marijuana/eat it as a vegetable(if it doesn’t work, you need more)
  • Bathe once a week in malt vinegar (Celiac)
  • Amylose-free diet
  • Swedish calisthenics
  • Glyphosate
  • Meds for illness are actually causing illness
  • Apple cider
  • Intravenous infusions of vitamin C
  • Turmeric
  • Crystals
  • Accept Jesus into your heart and you’ll be cured
  • Anxiety is caused by a secret sin and needs to be confessed to Jesus
  • The doctors have lasers for that, but they don’t want you to know
  • Getting audited for Scientology would cure all physical and mental ailments
  • Eat boiled cabbage after accepting Jesus into your heart
  • Elderberry soup to boost immune system ( immune system actively attacking this person’s brain)
  • Autoimmune disorder was actually a vaccine injury
  • Back pain from herniated bulging disc. OB referral to chiropractor while 7 months pregnant. Wanted to adjust her back right then.
  • Say ” I am healing from EDS” instead of “I have EDS” and the genes will fix themselves
  • Attend the landmark forum and stop experiencing negativity as pain. You will also no longer burn in the Sun
  • All medical issues are caused by a bad attitude and you deserve it if cinnamon honey cannot cure it
  • Although this person had their reflexes checked. The doctor determine the young woman didn’t have an autoimmune disease and just needed more sleep. The Physician try to prescribe sleeping medicine
  •  Nurse practitioner had patient hold small glass vials with names like “gluten” or “wheat”. Had patient touch head with one finger while the nurse practitioner tried to push down the hand holding a vial. This told the nurse practitioner what foods the patient was sensitive to.
  • Random man saw an article about a young woman with lupus leading the Lupus walk. He looked up her phone number and called her to tell her she was drinking too much soda and chewing too much gum. The woman was scared to hang up and ended up having to listen to his conspiracies.

These are just some examples of the terrible things said knowing the despair of chronic illness. It is very sickening to even read 1/4 of this. We need to do better.

The problem of debating without knowing what the f*** the position of your opponent is. 

Have you ever debated with someone who says “you Atheists believe we came from a monkey…” or “it’s you who believe this or that”?
Knowing what your opponent thinks or what his/her points are should be the basis of every debate for it to have some merit.

ass_of_u_and_me

I would like to say that our community is impervious to debating mere assumptions and that it is a bulwark of critical thinking, but, unfortunately, that’s not the case.

I cannot say I haven’t ever assumed what another person believes just by listening to the label that person has chosen to be labeled as, but that’s certainly not an ideal situation.

This is something that occurs when people are fed up with endless discussions and it is easier to dismiss a whole argument just by assuming what the other person will say based on the premise they’ve given than spending time listening or reading to what they are going to say to state their positions on a subject.

One common example is when a theist defends the idea that reality was created by a deity or group of deities and someone opposing that way of thinking assumes what other things that person may believe, like if the person is a young Earth creationist or a Bible thumping southerner who speaks in tongues.

While this may begin just with a misrepresentation of the other person’s position, it can easily devolve into a discussion where the topic at hand is nothing more than a strawman of what was originally being discussed; this situation is especially dangerous when it is a mob against an individual and rationality is not the goal, but bashing the individual who disagrees with the loud majority.

This is something that is prevalent in discussion sites that talk about subjective positions like politics, where each person has a different opinion even within the group, with varying degrees of acceptance between different propositions.

“I believe H”
“Then you are X, Y and Z because most people who believe in H also believe in X, Y & Z; therefore you are evil as I don’t share your opinion.”

As ridiculous as that example may be, plenty of discussions online are managed in such a way, making a cartoon of the other person’s position and then categorizing him or her as wrong or plainly evil due to the disagreement, mixing judgements of value with personal opinions and facts.
The discussion could soon become one side defending his or her own character against accusations about X, Y or Z.

At best this is the result of intellectual laziness or at worst of intellectual dishonesty.

The next example is about a picture of a assuming_positionswoman marching in favor of gun control, the response featured in here is against the way the

woman presented her case, not against gun control; the following responses misrepresent the position of the first response and assume what that person thinks of the whole debate, there is even one appealing to emotions.

assumptions_of_beliefs

“To effectively debate someone you have to know their position even better than themselves.”

A common debating principle.

Logical fallacies related to this:

David Goodall’s Death Reaffirms How Important the “Right to Die” Is

As many of you may have heard by now, renowned ecologist David Goodall has passed away. While it is of course extremely unfortunate to hear about the death of somebody who was well-loved, I think the details surrounding his passing make for an interesting philosophical discussion.

The cause of his death was suicide, however it was not suicide in a way that society would consider “conventional.” Rather, he ended his own life by a method known assisted suicide. Assisted suicides differ from conventional suicides as they occur under the care, supervision, and judgement of physicians, therapists, and psychologists.

Goodall’s death seems to have reignited the discussion surrounding assisted suicide, especially regarding its philosophy and ethics, so I decided I would like to weigh in on this issue since it is something that I have personally thought, read, and talked about for a long time.

__________________________________________________________

To paraphrase a quote by Daniel Defoe, “There are only two things certain in life: death and taxes.” If the statement is true, then we should have the right to determine how death and taxes occur and play out.

We have the ability to vote for our government officials who will then go on to enact legislation and policies regarding how much tax we will have to pay and how those taxes will be used. If you dislike taxation, you may likely vote for the candidate who supports lower taxes. If you find that paying more taxes is beneficial, you may likely vote for the person who takes that platform as well.

What I find so egregious however, is the fact that we don’t have a system set up which allows us to decide how we die. At the very least, one of the last decisions we ever make in our life should be how we depart this world. We write our wills, hopefully pick our nursing homes, and prepare our end-of-life care as much as we possibly can, however the vast majority of us still don’t have the ability to preferentiate when and how we die.

To die with dignity is a noble and novel concept. For someone to die on their own terms can be one of the most empowering choices they will ever make. It’s almost definitely how I will choose to go. I have been a personal supporter of the right to die for as long as I can remember. And I don’t mean just for terminally ill people. If someone wants to die and perhaps therapy, drugs, etc have all failed, then why should they be stopped from seeking assisted suicide as an option? It is their life, their body, and they have a fundamental right to seek this method of suicide.

Mr. Goodall had to fly all the way from Australia to Switzerland in order to end his life in the closest way possible to how he wanted. He said he would have rather died in Australia, but Australia’s laws made the prospect of finding a safe assisted suicide clinic impossible. While I’m glad he was able to find a facility in Switzerland, it is still slightly depressing to me that he could not die in his home country as he wanted.

We need to give people safe and effective ways to end their life. Doctors, therapists, psychologists, facilities, and equipment dedicated to assisted suicide.

David spent his last hours with his friends and family while enjoying his favorite food and activities. During his final moments, as he listened to Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, the last movement ‘Ode to Joy’ began. David flicked a switch which would administer the drug that would stop his heart and his eyes closed for the final time just two minutes later.

Much like the debate surrounding Planned Parenthood, women who want or need abortions will seek alternative and dangerous methods if they are not given easier access to safe abortion facilities. If people want to kill themselves, they’re going to do it. We should at least give them a space which is safe and dignifying.

​Twas the Night before madness…

I don’t celebrate Christmas, I don’t have a Christmas tree in my living room, there’s nothing outside dangling that is festive, I don’t say merry Christmas and only say Happy holidays out of obligation, in all honesty, I sincerely hate this time of year. Let me elaborate so you all don’t think I’m just being depressed or cynical.

For one, as probably all of you may know, I’m an outspoken atheist. For me this time of year is a constant reminder of how people’s deeply held superstition still persists and is quite literally forced in your face in December. The whole aspect of the Christmas season is a Frankenstein holiday, nevertheless Christians never seem to figure this out. They celebrate a holiday that the person they are celebrating… wouldn’t even celebrate.

That being said, it doesn’t take that much applied critical thinking and a minor understanding of geological and historical knowledge to realize that according to the ridiculous book known as the Bible, never mentioned an exact date for this supposed birth; but what we do know is that historically the Romans did their census in the spring and shepherds don’t leave their flocks out at night in the winter, especially since it sometimes snows in Bethlehem during the the winter. So from a historical position, if Jesus did exist, he would have been born in spring. The story of Jesus’ birth is also borrowed mythology as well, born of a virgin, in a manger, a brilliant star in the sky guiding wise men visiting from a far, all borrowed stories from other religions (then again a lot of stories from the Bible are borrowed stories). And being born in the middle east in December, where the altitude in Bethlehem is 2,500 ft above sea level and has an average late December temperature of 42°f, you’d think there would be more emphasis on keeping a newborn warm during this time of year. So that’s why I scoff at Christmas from the very premise of it.
The history of Christmas is just as dubious, especially when it comes to Christmas tradition. Getting people to embrace the Christian religious beliefs did pose a challenge to earlier followers of this religion, especially in European areas where they held their own religious beliefs and traditions in December. We know that in an effort to make the Christian religious beliefs more acceptable to the Europeans in the late Iron age, they had to adopt traditional times of celebration that other religions had. Yule, Winter solstice, Ziemassvētki, etc. were pagan traditional holidays this time of year. And in an effort to convert the people of these religious beliefs, the Christian Church adopted the customs and traditions of these holidays in an attempt to make the Christian religion more appealing (and it worked).
So with all this being said, now you know why I refer to it as a Frankenstein holiday. But this isn’t just what bothers me about this holiday season, this is more of an irritation to me. It’s the people themselves that really get under my skin as well as the expectations society has that really erks me.
People are at their most hypocritical point this time of year. They pretend to be happy and helpful with a desire to help their fellow man (which sometimes they do for this short period of time), but mostly they come across as pretentious and fake with a holier-than-thou attitude. For some reason people feel like they need a special occasion to help one another, and they aren’t really doing it for the right reasons; they’re doing it because they themselves feel like they need to appease a bearded white man that knows if they’re good or bad and will either punish or reward them for their efforts or there by lack of (sound familiar?). So they smile with tongue in cheek and pretend to be merry and joyful and scoff at those of us that dare roll our eyes.
This is where Christians are at their most loudest, their pinacle of bigotry this time of year and it’s truly pathetic. Masquerading around like they’re being oppressed and screaming there’s a “war on Christmas” and how they’re being so undoly discriminated against if anyone dares to tell them to kindly keep their religious beliefs to themselves. The arrogance this time of year makes me only gain in my disdain for the holiday season, but just when you think this couldn’t sound any worse than it is; society and capitalism ensures to add insult to injury.
We lie to our impressionable children and tell them a white bearded man will reward them with toys and treats if they behave (sound familiar?). And we constructed a grandiose back story about this character we call Santa Claus with it’s own customs and traditions that dazzle children and gives them hope (sound familiar?). All to eventually find out that it was all just a lie to keep them in line. Why do we do this to them when we know it’s wrong? (Maybe it’s because society tells us it’s ok)

And with that lie we the parents need to deliver on that promise, and dig ourselves into a financial hole by spending money we don’t have! But wait, just when you think this couldn’t be any worse, it does!
To add to the financial burden and pain of the societal expectation to buy treats and gifts for our children, we also do the same for our family, friends, acquaintances and coworkers, because if we don’t you’re an asshole! And businesses capitalize on this and assault your senses with a barrage of Christmas music and decorative displays  and just short of fumigating the air with the scent of cinnamon and pine; all in an attempt to get you to spend more of your hard earned cash that you really should be using for other things like bills. What’s worse is people buy right into this hook, line, and sinker and spend that money on holiday sales to the point that businesses mark their growth on just this month alone.
It’s pure chaos and hypocrisy wrapped in colorful paper with bow of insanity on top. But remember if you’re not singing joyful merry Christmas tunes then people have a name for this as well Ebenezer Scrooge… Bah-Humbug!
So happy holidays to you all, I hope a reindeer display falls on your head so maybe I won’t have to hear merry Christmas… again.

– Daniel Fisk Bennett

Response to the “Perfect Earth”

Have you ever actually looked at our planet? How many places on Earth would actually kill you if you were there? How many places on Earth are lethal to life in general, let alone human life? I’m sure in your natural state (meaning completely naked and unaided) if we dropped you just about anywhere from where we originally evolved from you would eventually die due to the environment.

So let’s talk hypothetically, if we dropped you in the center of Antarctica (or any other living animal for that matter) you would quickly freeze dry within a few minutes. I’m sure if we put you on top of Mount Everest (or any other animal for that matter) you would suffocate and die (if not freeze to death very rapidly first.) If you were put on the bottom of the ocean (which by the way makes up 70% of the earth’s surface) you and many other animals would instantly die ( FYI you would be crushed by the sheer pressure of the water before you could drown). I’m sure if we put you on the middle of a salt flat somewhere in the Kalahari Desert you would eventually die and completely dehydrate into a mummy, same goes with most other animals.

By the way salt flats in deserts are not very uncommon as deserts make up some 33% or a 3rd of earth’s non water covered surface. That’s just short of 10% of the entire earth’s surface when you include the water of the oceans. So that means 20% of the earth’s surface is left… but that also includes other things like tundra, artic and subartic, mountains, temperate zones, rainforests, and tropical regions. In our natural state, we can only survive in tropical regions. Tropical regions comprise approximately 7% of the earth’s dry land surface or just short of 2% of earth’s total surface and sustains over 50% of all species, that’s not very much space… In-fact if you just stand out in the sun long enough you would eventually die due to exposure… These are simple facts.

There are very few areas where a human can naturally survive, and those areas are filled with very large predators that evolved to eat us. For a place that was supposedly so perfectly created for us, it sure seems to want to kill us a lot; and has a great deal of completely uninhabitable areas and areas that are inherently dangerous to we fragile humans… So much for that intelligent design hypothesis you had.

-Daniel Bennett

A review of the evolutionary claims in the Paleo Diet

The Paleo diet trend was kicked off with the publication of a book by Dr. Cordain published in 2002. Since then it’s popularity has increased steadily. Dr. Cordain believes that by eating as he believes our ancestors ate you can lose weight, and cure many diseases. Despite Dr. Cordain’s claims of expertise on Paleolithic diet, heath, and nutrition the majority of his claims are suspicious at best. The majority of the book relies on the appeal to nature fallacy whereby Dr. Cordain repeatedly claims that the only natural and safe diet for humans is the way our hominid ancestors allegedly ate. In order to understand the problem with many of Dr. Cordain’s statements you must first understand human evolution.

The Paleolithic period, which means Old Stone Age began approximately 2.5 million years ago when hominids began making stone tools. It ended approximately 10,000 years ago when the Mesolithic, or Middle Stone Age, began with the advent of agriculture in the archaeological record. The Paleolithic period can be further broken into the Lower Paleolithic period that lasted from 2.5 mya (million years ago) to approximately 200,000 ya (years ago).  For much of the Lower Paleolithic period stone technology was quite simple, and did not change much despite significant changes in hominid species and their brain capacity. Approximately 200,000 ya the Upper Paleolithic began when our species, Homo sapiens, evolved. Now this distinction is not merely human ego, but is based on the more advanced stone technology that humans displayed compared to other hominid species.

During the Paleolithic hominids learned to control fire, and it is thought that the first signs of human culture date back to the Paleolithic. Archaeological sites from this time are very rare. Any hominid remains from this time consist solely of fossilized skeletons that are fragmentary and often quite degraded.The archaeological evidence suggests that Homo erectus was the first species to be able to control fire, and therefore to begin cooking food. This is a very important factor in human evolution. It has long been known that eating meat was important to human evolution, particularly in allowing our brains to grow to unprecedented size and complexity compared to our body size.

Our hominid ancestors most likely started out as scavengers before learning to hunt animals for food. However there is another aspect of meat eating whose importance is often under estimated, and that is the ability to cook the meat and other foods so that the nutrients are more easily absorbed. As cooking developed we see morphological changes such as decreased molar and mandible size as large jaws and teeth were no longer necessary to process tough food.

It is undeniable that humans evolved by eating an omnivorous and very adaptable diet. The evidence for this is written all over our bodies if you know how to read it. Perhaps the most easily identified evidence of our omnivorous origins lies in our teeth. We have teeth that are designed for chewing plant matter as well as consuming meat. As tooth morphology is almost completely controlled by genetic rather than environmental factors it is very slow to change and an excellent source of information about human evolution.

The consumption of meat was undeniably a very important nutritional source for hominids, however Dr. Cordain is incorrect in overstating how frequently hominids and early humans ate meat. Archaeological evidence suggests that most hominid species and archaic Homo sapiens were primarily vegetarian with meat being an occasional dietary supplement when available. This is supported by studies of modern hunter-gatherer populations.

Now it is important to understand that direct comparisons between modern hunter-gatherer populations and prehistoric populations are not possible. The environment has changed dramatically since the Paleolithic, even since the Mesolithic the environment has undergone rapid change. This means that the environments that modern hunter-gatherers live in is not necessarily similar to the environment that prehistoric populations lived in. Additionally modern hunter-gatherer populations have been pushed to areas that are not conducive to agriculture, while prehistoric populations would have lived in all environments. Yet that direct comparison is something Dr. Cordain attempts to do on several occasions.

Studies of modern hunter-gatherer populations are useful, but it is very important to remember that there is no single dietary pattern than hunter-gatherer’s utilize. They are known to be very flexible in their food sources. Modern population’s diets range from extremes such as the Inuit whose diet is predominantly meat based, to the predominantly vegetarian !Kung. Some hunter-gatherer populations are also well known to consume large quantities of starchy vegetables that according to the Paleo diet they should not be consuming.

Dr. Cordain states that during the Paleolithic humans had a longer life span, did not suffer from tooth decay, did not have “modern” diseases and were taller than in the Mesolithic and later periods. In order to examine these claims you need to understand a little bit about biological anthropology, which is the study of human and hominid skeletal remains. It is generally accepted that only a very small proportion of diseases leave a mark on the skeleton, and very few of these are specific enough to diagnose. As the majority of our bodies are made of soft tissue, therefore the majority of our illnesses are found in the soft tissue. Due to how long it has been since the Paleolithic no soft tissue has ever been found from this time. That means the only way to assess health is through the skeletons. Now we can determine their estimated height, age, and the sex of adults if the skeletal remains are complete enough, but this becomes more difficult to accurately assess as the remains become more fragmentary. As there is no soft tissue we cannot determine if the individual had diseases such as heart disease or diabetes, nor can we tell if they were obese as there is no consensus on how to identify obesity in the skeletal record at this time. We can look at indicators of health and nutrition called non-specific stress indicators, such as bone porosity or interruptions of dental enamel formation in childhood.

Linear Enamel Hypoplasia, an enamel defect that can be caused by malnutrition or disease in childhood. Source: The Museum of London

The average stature of a population has cycled many times throughout history. Our adult height is affected by a combination of factors including genetics, nutrition and health. In some populations stature and general health did decrease after the advent of agriculture, but to associate that strictly with nutrition would be incorrect. With the advent of agriculture we suddenly had large populations living in the same place for extended periods of time, and there was not exactly good hygiene or sanitation. The communicable disease load increased dramatically as populations grew. In some areas malnutrition also increased, but this trend is not universal. There is a pattern of negative affects on health in the archaeological record as agriculture was adopted. However not all populations that transitioned from being a hunter-gatherer society to agricultural society  experienced this decline. In particular it does not appear to be associated with societies that began depending on wet-rice agriculture. The decline in health is particularly noticeable in societies that depended on maize as their main crop.

Life span is another factor that is harder to determine. Once an individual reaches adulthood it becomes more difficult and less accurate to determine their age at death based on the skeleton. It is not impossible, but the age frames become wider than with children that can be accurately aged based on tooth eruption patterns and bone growth. The average life span of a population is difficult to estimate. In the past there were high rates of child and infant mortality. We do not know how high these rates were in the Paleolithic as the bones of children are more delicate than the bones of adults and do not preserve as well. We do know that if one survived into adult hood the next biggest threats to their lives were infection from injury, and for women childbirth. This is one of the reasons that in the archaeological record we see more men surviving into old age than women. These death patterns also skew the population’s average age at death downward. The fact is  the archaeological record shows that the average age of death for humans and hominids in any period was far shorter than it is today. While some individuals did survive into old age, even during the Paleolithic the average lifespan of an individual was what we would not consider not quite middle age.

The archaeological record does not support the claim that hominids and humans prior to agriculture did not have tooth decay, or caries. Neanderthals lived during only during the Paleolithic with the last Neanderthals dying out on Gibraltar approximately 28,000 ya. The skeletal remains of Neanderthals and other hominid species show signs of periodontal disease, and caries. While we do not know the rate at which caries and dental disase were present in the Paleolithic, we do have evidence that it was at lower rates than in societies that practice agriculture. In this Dr. Cordain is correct that agriculture had a negative impact on our health.

Dr. Cordain repeatedly claims that the so-called modern diseases such as cancer, diabetes and autoimmune diseases did not exist prior to agriculture. The evidence does not support this either. The oldest known case of cancer in hominids is a 1.7 mya osteosarcoma found in the metatarsal from an unknown hominid species. Cancer is found across species, therefore it is likely that cancers in hominids are older than this, but we do not have evidence to conclusively state this.

We do not know when the first case of heart disease, diabetes or autoimmune disease occurred based on skeletal material and that is where we must start looking at genes. After death the DNA in the body degrades until it is impossible to be extracted for analysis. At this time it is only possible to extract DNA in skeletal remains up to 30,000 ya, therefore Neanderthals are the only reliable source of non-human hominid DNA. The Neanderthal genome was sequenced several years ago and has provided a wealth of information. We now know that they had the genes for some autoimmune diseases such as lupus and Crohn’s disease. They also had genes that indicate a predisposition to several diseases that are considered modern diseases. These include type 2 diabetes, heart attacks, heart disease, and depression. This is contradicts Dr. Cordain’s claim that eating his version of a Paleolithic diet will cure or prevent these diseases as they are complex disease that include both genetic and environmental factors.

In 1991 one of the oldest mummified human remains were found in the Ötzal Alps. Ötzi, as he is known, dates back to the Neolithic (New Stone Age) approximately 5,300 ya. Ötzi was found in a glacier, which preserved his body remarkably well. Analyses of his genes show a predisposition to heart disease, and the presence of the world’s oldest case of Lyme disease. A CT scan confirmed the diagnosis of atherosclerosis. Now agriculture was present in the Neolithic and in fact Ötzi’s last meal did contain some unleavened bread however; studies of remains including those from hunter-gatherer societies suggest that atherosclerosis was prevalent in antiquity contrary to Dr. Cordain’s claims that it is only caused by agriculture.

A reconstruction of what Ötzi would looked like at the time of his death. Source: The South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology

The Paleo Diet does have some good points about choosing lean meats over fatty meats, reducing salt and sugar consumption,  and increasing fruit and vegetable consumption. These are all recommendations routinely made by dietitians. However it also states that all grains, legumes and dairy should be avoided. Dr. Cordain repeatedly claims that our hominid ancestors did not eat grains or dairy, and therefore we should not either. The argument against legumes is never explicitly stated, except for his statement that they contain lectins that aggravate autoimmune diseases. There does not appear to be a scientific consensus on this point at this time. Some research implicates lectins in some autoimmune diseases, but there is no clear evidence for the method by which this may occur. Also legumes contain protease inhibitors that have anti-inflammatory properties after cooking. Furthermore there is evidence of Paleolithic peoples consuming legumes and processing grains long before they began growing them.

Grains, legumes and dairy can all be excellent sources of nutrition. The agricultural revolution that occurred approximately 10,000 ya in multiple locations around the world dramatically changed human history. Humans were no longer nomadic hunter-gatherers. As agriculture spread some populations settled in location permanently and their population size exploded.

The process of domestication of plant and animal species was not as fast as Dr. Cordain implies. In order to domesticate a plant or animal species it’s entire life cycle, and especially it’s reproductive cycle needs to be well understood. The process of domestication takes generations. Not every attempt at domestication was successful either. In order to domesticate a plant or animal species it had to be very familiar and useful to the population, which means they had to eat or use it regularly. The species of fruits and vegetables available today have changed dramatically from the species that would have been available in the Paleolithic due to selective breeding for thousands of years.

The argument against dairy is one of the more illogical arguments in the Paleo Diet. Dr. Cordain once again commits the appeal to nature fallacy and argues that we have not had enough time to evolve to eat dairy. This is patently untrue for individuals who are lactose tolerant. Lactose intolerance is indeed the” natural” human state, however approximately 7,500 ya in Europe a single allele mutation allowing for lactase persistence emerged. This adaptation allowed adults to digest lactose, a sugar found in milk. Due to positive evolutionary pressure these genes became fixed in the populations very quickly. Today the rates of lactase persistence vary in Europe from as low as 15-54% of the population in eastern and southern Europe, to 62-86% in central and western Europe, to a high of 89-96% in the British Isles and Scandinavia. While lactase persistence has been most intensively studied in Europe, it is also found in other populations around the world including populations in Africa and India. Lactase persistence is found societies that were historically pastoral, that is they herded cattle. Perhaps more interesting is that there are multiple derived alleles allowing for lactase persistence that evolved independently.

One further claim Dr. Cordain makes regarding dairy is the body does properly not absorb the calcium in diary products and that eating too much dairy can increase osteoporosis risk. This has been hypothesized but further studies have found no evidence to support this conclusion. Dr. Cordain makes this claim as part of his discussion of the need to keep the diet more alkaline than acidic. This brings in elements of the alkaline dietary trends, which are also unsubstantiated by current research available. Furthermore idea of balancing acidic and alkaline foods suggested by Dr. Cordain is not actually upheld in studies of hunter-gatherer societies.

The Paleo Diet makes repeated claims that eating the way Dr. Cordain believes our ancestors did will cure diseases that he believes are caused by eating “unnatural” foods such as grains, legumes and dairy. These claims are not supported by the archaeological record, which shows no single Paleolithic diet or dietary pattern, and as previously discussed is not supported by the study of ancient remains. Specifically Dr. Cordain believes that heart disease, autoimmune diseases and even skin cancer can be prevented by eating his diet despite there being no evidence to support this. The book also relies heavily on anecdotes provided by people who claim the diet has cured them along with a brief explanation about how this allegedly works that does not actually provide any scientific information in the second half of the book. Any time personal anecdotes are being provided instead of scientific evidence it should be a red flag to begin to look more deeply into the claims.

Sources

Adler, J. (2013, June). Why Fire Makes Us Human. Retrieved from Smithsonian Magazine: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/why-fire-makes-us-human-72989884/

Barras, C. (2016, December). Ancient leftovers show the real Paleo diet was a veggie feast. Retrieved from New Scientist: https://www.newscientist.com/article/2115127-ancient-leftovers-show-the-real-paleo-diet-was-a-veggie-feast/

Bradt, S. (2009, June 1). Invention of cooking drove evolution of the human species, new book argues. Retrieved from Harvard Gazette: http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2009/06/invention-of-cooking-drove-evolution-of-the-human-species-new-book-argues/

Coolidge, F. L., & Wynn, T. (2013, November 22). The Truth about the Caveman Diet: Faulty premises behind hte paleo diet. Retrieved from Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/how-think-neandertal/201311/the-truth-about-the-caveman-diet

Cordain, L. (2002). The Paleo Diet: lose weight and get healthy by eating the food you were designed to eat. New York, NY, USA: John Wiley & Sons.

Dunn, R. (2012, July 23). Human Ancestors Were Nearly All Vegatarian. Retrieved from Scientific American: https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/human-ancestors-were-nearly-all-vegetarians/

Freed, D. L. (1999). Do Dietary Lectins cause disease? . BMJ , 318.

Gerbault, P., Liebert, A., Powell, A., Currat, M., Burger, J., Swallo, D. M., et al. (2011). Evolution of lactase persistence: an example of human nice construction. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci , 366 (1566), 863-877.

Grine, F., Gwinnett, A., & Oaks, J. (1990). Early hominid dental pathology: Interproximal caries in 1.5 million-year-old Paranthropus robustus from Swartkrans. Archives of Oral Biology , 35 (5), 381-386.

Itan, Y., Powell, A., Beaumont, M. A., Burger, J., & Thomas, M. G. (2009). The Origins of Lactase Persistence in Europe. PLOS Computational Biology , 5 (8).

Larsen, C. S. (2015). Bioarchaeology: Interpretting Behavior from the Human Skeleton. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Leech, J. (2017, June 9). Authority Nutrtion. Retrieved from The Alkaline Diet: An Evidence Based Review: http://www.healthline.com/nutrition/the-alkaline-diet-myth#section1

Lewis, D. (2016, January 8). Thank Neanderthals for Your Immune System. Retrieved from http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/thank-neanderthals-your-immune-system-180957761/

Lozano, M., Subria, M. E., Aparicio, J., Lorenzo, C., & Gomez-Merino, G. (2013, October 16). Toothpicking and Periodontal Disease in a Neandertal Specimen from Cova Forada Site (Valencia, Spain). Retrieved from PLOS one: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0076852

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Dan’s Rant on Fad Dieting

There’s a woman here that is one of our clients that happens to be a vegan…how do I know she’s a vegan? She won’t stop fucking talking about it and it’s purported moral and health benefits.

It pains me to hear nonsensical ideology and woo presented as facts from what’s really just a lifestyle choice (and more power to you if it makes you happy). We get it, you’re a vegan and a business woman who’s income allows you to eat fad food and enjoy an eccentric diet that gives you a smug sense of self- gratification and moral superiority in your quest for who’s the healthiest person in the room. In all honesty, I see it as a form of middle aged image insecurity.

Guess what, your genetics already has your count down timer set and there’s only so much you can do to extend it, “welcome to the lottery.” So while you stuff you face with chickpeas, kale chips, gluten free bread, and wash it down with fluoride free alkaline water from Japan; I’m going to enjoy my burger and fries, with a coke because guess what lady, you only live once; enjoy it and for fucks sakes smell the flowers every once in a while. You’ll be happier and who knows, you might even live a little longer in doing so.

The problem with E.T.

It’s statistically possible (and likely even in our own solar system) for there to be life on other planets, even intelligent life for that matter. But because our universe is so vast, the likelihood of our species making any contact with another intelligent alien species is extremely remote… I’m just being realistic.

The next closest star Alpha Centauri takes 4 years for its light to reach us, this would make space travel very difficult for the long distances it would take to make physical contact. And even if they had the technology to visit, what would compel such a highly advanced alien race to seek us out?

Here’s the problem with our simplistic view on aliens in the universe. Typically pop culture displays them as being only about a few hundred years more advanced than we are. The reality is the universe is vastly old, 13.4 billion years and counting. It would not be entirely improbable that a potential visiting alien species would be millions of years more advanced than us.

A species that was theoretically 5 million years more advanced than us would be unfathomably ahead in technology and we wouldn’t even comprehend the advancements that they were making. There would be technology we would have no idea would be even possible. As for those ancient aliens conspiracy theories, it is laugh worthy to think that a highly advanced alien species would visit this planet and not leave a massive technological imprint on our species in the process; that is if they did decide to help us out.

It’s safe to assume that any reasonable person has at one time or another gazed up at the night sky and dreamed of what or  who was out there just waiting to be discovered. Afterall, it would be fantastic to finally answer the question “are we alone in the universe?” Optimistically most likely we aren’t, but chances are we will never meet. Even if they did visit us, would we even know it or be worth their time?

AAPN on Chiropractic

“Chiropractic is a freak offshoot from osteopathy. Disease, say the chiropractors, is due to pressure on the spinal nerves; ergo it can be cured by “adjusting” the spinal column. It is the sheerest quackery, and those who profess to teach it make their appeal to the cupidity of the ignorant. Its practice is in no sense a profession but a trade – and a trade that is potent for great harm. It is carried on almost exclusively by those of no education, ignorant of anatomy, ignorant even of the fundamental sciences on which the treatment of disease depends.”
Journal of the American Medical Association, 1913

Chiropractic is considered to be one of the most accepted forms of quackery practiced in alternative medicine and, unfortunately, ACTUAL medicine as well. It is responsible for major injuries like arterial tearing/strokes, major nerve damage, fractures, infections due to poor sanitation practices, haphazard and poor regulatory practices, poor or incorrect medical advice, and every year is associated with preventable death and serious bodily harm.

The history of chiropractic began in 1895 when Daniel David Palmer of Iowa performed an apparent neck adjustment on a partially deaf janitor, Harvey Lillard. Mr. Palmer claimed that this subtle neck adjustment completely restored Mr. Lillard’s hearing; although this makes absolutely zero anatomical sense as the nerves for your hearing do not intersect your neck. This experience led Palmer to open a school of chiropractic two years later. Rev. Samel Weed later coined the word “chiropractic” from Greek roots.

Similar to the idea of chi practice where they believe in energy flow disruptions causing the root of all illness, “vertebral subluxation” is the misalignment of the spinal column which leads to body dysfunction, disease, and interferes with the bodies “innate intelligence”. Granted many chiropractic care providers choose to ignore the origins and bases for chiropractic, the problem is there are major inconsistencies with care provided by Chiropractic clinicians.

Chiropractors are not medical doctors or medical professionals and have a very short schooling period that varies from school to school depending on that particular institution’s ideology and curricula. A United States Department of Education staff analysis found that the Council on Chiropractic Education (CCE) was not in compliance with 44 of the criteria for accrediting agencies outlined in the Code of Federal Regulations. This included failure to comply with regulations governing conflicts of interest, record keeping, processing of student complaints and the adequacy of its site review of accredited chiropractic colleges. The schooling they do receive has shown to be suspect and contrary to accepted scientific facts and evidence. A survey of a 1999–2000 cross-section of students of CMCC reported that fourth-year students opposed vaccination more strongly than first-year’s, with 29.4% of fourth-year’s opposing vaccination. So when it comes to being a “healthcare provider” this is extremely contradictory and dangerous.

Chiropractic Care and Placebo have historically scored about the exact same but there has been an egregious lack in clinical trials and studies. The research on chiropractic has been far from rigorous unsurprisingly. One of the problems is that studies of spinal manipulation therapy (SMT) can’t be double blinded, and it is very difficult to even do single blinding. So most studies resort to non-manipulation control groups like “usual care” or “wait list” or “pain medication.” Those studies are practically guaranteed to lead to false positive conclusions: they make SMT look more effective than it would look if you could provide a control that patients couldn’t distinguish from real SMT. This has been one of the ways Chiropractic has been able to get away with their claims consistently without having to provide burden of proof and efficacy. Chiropractic usually goes hand-in-hand with naturopathy, homeopathy, acupuncture, herbalism, holistic care, and other unfounded alternative medicine practices.
Therefore Chiropractic is not a recognized form of Medical Science and is not based upon empirical evidence but on anecdotal testimony.

One of the best ways to see this is by using what is known as Hill’s criteria. Sir Austin Bradford Hill established contemporary epidemiology as strength (strength of association), consistency, specificity, temporality (temporal sequence), dose response, experi-
mental evidence, biological plausibility, coherence, and
analogy. They form the fundamental prerequisites and assessment criteria of the cause-effect relationship. In reguards to Chiropratic, Hill’s criteria are the most commonly used epidemiologic model for suggesting a causal link for any diagnostic or treatment approach. There is a significant lack of evidence in the literature to fulfill Hill’s criteria of causation with regards to the chiropractic subluxation. No supportive evidence is found for the chiropractic subluxation being associated with any disease process or of creating suboptimal health conditions requiring intervention. Regardless of popular appeal this leaves the subluxation construct in the realm of unsupported speculation. This lack of supportive evidence suggests the subluxation construct has no valid clinical applicability.

Sources:

http://www.quackwatch.org/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/chirostroke.html

Coroner’s Jury Concludes That Neck Manipulation Killed Canadian Woman.

Did chiropractic neck manipulation kill Katie May?

http://www.chirobase.org/15News/lewis.html

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0264410X08009511?via%3Dihub

Dept. of Education to Council on Chiropractic Education: “Straighten Up!”

An epidemiological examination of the subluxation construct using Hill’s criteria of causation, 2009

https://chiromt.biomedcentral.com/track/pdf/10.1186/1746-1340-17-13?site=chiromt.biomedcentral.com

A Credible Placebo Control for Chiropractic Research