​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

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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/

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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.

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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.

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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

Neanderthals’ genetic legacy: Humans inherited variants affecting disease risk, infertility, skin and hair charactheristics. (2014, January 29). Retrieved from Science Daily: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140129134956.htm

Richards, M. (2002). A brief review of the archaeological evidence for Palaeolithich and Neolithic subsistence. European Journal of Clinical Nutration , 56.

Schwalfenberg, G. K. (2012, Oct). The Alkaline Diet: Is There Evidence That an Alkaline pH Diet Benefits Health? J Envron Public Health .

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Weyrich, L. S., Duchene, S., Sourbrier, J., Arriola, L., Bastien, L., Breen, J., et al. (2017). Neanderthal behavior, diet and disease inferred from ancient DNA in dental calculus. Nature , 544, 357-361.

 

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

Atheist in Wonderland

At some point or another many on-line atheists are drawn towards an enticing rabbit hole. A singularity of rabbit holes among the broad array of rabbit holes to be found in the bazaars of bad sectors and binary bullshit the the Internet has to offer. Shock and horror awaits, lurking in dark dot coms and netherworld news feeds. Snatched up by a search engine from the gallows of Google, it forms, sucking you in like the brutal after effects of a supermarket shootout, you cant look away, you can’t escape.

“Hey atheists, if evolution is real…”

And so it begins. Your body and mind stretch as things become blurred and time becomes meaningless, as you’re drawn into the black hole of intrigue, lies, betrayal, and conspiracy. As the gravitational pull stretches your mind to the limit, even the simple becomes complex.

“Evolution is a proven scientific fact!”

Logical laws collapse in the infinity of fallacy which has led you thus far. You passionately defend all you know about science and evolution in the face of conspiracy theories, equivocation and talking animals.

Image Source

Meanwhile, your opponent wasn’t talking about evolution. Also lost in the infinite singularity was that the question is irrelevant. An even more distant issue from your mind is that the pseudoscience involved has little to do with biology.

Lets face it, many times we find ourselves defending evolution, the issue is the origin of life and the argument a statistical one, not a biological one. Given the reams and reams of crap out there about evolution, you’ll probably be shocked that an article on a page opposing pseudoscience would say what I’m about to say. I really don’t think there is much reason to bother with defending evolution against deniers, because the problem is normally not evolution, the origin of life, or any other scientific issue. The problem is that there exist beliefs which are held as irrefutable by many, and which are in direct opposition to certain biological and cosmological tenets of modern science.

“Surely this is a good reason to debate them?” You may well ask. No, because the dogma is too strong. To borrow from (ironically) a Biblical parable, seeds that are sown in hard ground don’t grow. Although I’m a big fan of “Thank You For Smoking” and the debate lessons it gives (the crucial acknowledgement of the audience in the ice cream debate), I feel more can be achieved even among debate audiences, if a different approach were considered.

This is a site focused on science and empirically observable phenomena, but I think certain things need to be covered before empiricism takes hold of us. What is the logical reasoning being applied? For example, we will assume the origin of life is in question and the argument is “what are the chances of life randomly forming without being directed by an intentional force?”

  • The origin of life is the question, evolution is what happens to life that has formed. Don’t defend evolution, you’re defending the wrong thing.
  • The question isn’t about biological research into the origin of life, it is about the statistical probabilities of random events leading to a particular event assuming all possible events share equal probability. Don’t defend biology, this isn’t the field for which a pseudoscience is being built.

Having established this, it is easier to proceed:

  • How do we know all the random events have equal probability?
  • How do we know the events are random, and that due to the ways particles interact, some are simply not going to happen given the environment available?
  • How do we know that this isn’t the only possible outcome and isn’t random at all?
  • At what point mathematically is an event considered impossible?

Unfortunately n=1. There is only one universe that we have observed, so we only have empirical evidence that one like this can exist, all the other possibilities are merely hypothetical.

It is also true that the origin of life wasn’t observed, and that this is equally problematic for biologists and theologians. It is easy for believers to claim that they don’t accept a natural origin of life because it has never been observed. This is ironically an “absence of evidence is evidence of absence” argument. Aside from this, it would be entirely rational and intellectually consistent to then conclude that one must also reject the idea of a divine origin for life, as it has also never been observed. While possibilities abound on this matter, the honest answer is, “I don’t know”.

At this point, one may say that the response to the above is usually an appeal to ignorance, “that we don’t know, is proof that ancient people with livestock did know.” So what? Point it out and read on for more.

The entire premise hinged on a false alternative. Simply broken down, it either happened completely randomly, or gods did it. This cannot eliminate other possibilities (some I alluded to earlier). Perhaps this is merely a simulated reality designed for us. We can’t prove this, but we can’t rule it out, and thus saying it must be a god or random process is fallacious. But either or arguments need to be exhaustive, life was made by god/s, or it wasn’t; it is random, or it isn’t and so on. The argument here would require a kind of omniscient awareness of every possibility available and what rules them all out. This is the reason why any theological debate about evolution is fallacious. even if the subject were evolution, this response is still the most valid, and simplest, and doesn’t land on the hard ground of evolution. Formal logic isn’t as easy to deny, as we all make basic day-to-day assumptions based on it. but the rational response if the subject is evolution is revealing this fallacy.

If we answer the final question in the list, then we have a simple answer. According to most modern stats textbooks, impossible events have a probability of zero, but the converse is not the case. Mathematical reasoning can assign a zero probability to a possible event. This would normally involve an infinite countable set, like the rational numbers between 1 and 2, and an equal assignment of probability to each member of the set randomly being called. The thing is, the origin of life is not an infinite countable set, but a finite countable set, and thus will produce a positive probability, although miserably small. The event is possible.

Another issue is that while origins of life are improbable unusual events, by gods or nature, they are not less likely than any other of the possible events, given complete randomness. Something had to happen with reacting chemicals, and all the possibility had equal probabilities, then a low probability outcome is the expected result. Therefore, we have an event with an expected probability. Given that origin of life was a random event, the mathematical probability is what we would expect it to be.

I’m going to wrap this up. Perhaps you think I should offer more. I haven’t won, I have proved nothing, I have merely provided some possibilities, and pointed out that the stats aren’t unexpected, given the information they provided. I also mentioned the false alternative, and how the question doesn’t bear much relevance to being and atheist, or that it is very helpful in providing a good reason to believe in god. I have merely planted some seeds in the softer soil beneath the hardened surface of the anti evolution movement.

Image source

There Is No Conclusive Evidence That Cannabinoids Actually Cure Cancer

 

 

On the subject of cannabis:

Many healthcare providers can agree that cannabis can alleviate some symptoms associated with cancer, like pain and nausea, as well as the side effects associated with the various kinds of cancer treatments available. But there is no conclusive evidence that it targets any one of the thousands of different and unique types of cancer systemic to the human population. Cancer isn’t just a simple disease: it has multiple causes and multiple ways of causing death and bodily harm. The drugs that can treat these various cancers can be extremely diverse, and one drug that will work with one particular type of cancer won’t work with another. In addition to the many varieties of cancers, each person has unique genetic characteristics which must be taken into account when designing a treatment plan.

The study people like to cite is this one:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4171598/

When you look at the actual facts, cannabis isn’t a miracle cure. The conclusion in the paper states that the  study was inconclusive and needed more research. The paper makes no mention of cancer cell destruction, either. It does talk about slowing down metastasizing factors, but not actually killing cancer cells themselves. It even acknowledged that in some cases cannaboids enhanced tumor growth:
“Furthermore, endocannabinoids- AEA and 2-AG are broken down into secondary metabolites like prostaglandin (PGE2) and epoxyeicosatetraenoic acid (EE) which enhance tumor growth and metastasis in diverse cancer types.”

Even if it was shown to have an effect on receptor sites or outright kills pancreatic cancer cells for example, without damaging the surrounding tissue, that’s still just 1 cancer out of many other varieties with multiple variables. With that being said another study even showed that cannabinoids actually had carcinogenic factors that increased the risk of pancreatic as well as other cancers for that matter:

http://cancerres.aacrjournals.org/content/64/6/1943.short

“In contrast, Grand and Gandhi recently presented a case study of acute pancreatitis induced by cannabis smoking, indicating that cannabinoids may be a risk factor for pancreatic cancer.”


Above are test results that presents a potential link to cancer from cannabinoids. See the above citation for further information.                                 

Thinking a plant or a single chemical can cure cancer is ridiculous and shows a fundamental lack in understanding medical science. Cannabis has become the new herbalism that quacks and charlatans are using pushing without any evidence to back up their claims.

So in, conclusion, there are specific cancers that cannabinoids may have an effect on reducing metastasis in cancer cells but in others it enhances tumor growth. The current state of the research does not support cannabis as a miracle cancer cure, or even a particularly effective cancer treatment.

A typical method utilized by alternative medicine and quacks are using the plea to emotion to bolster their position rather than using empirical evidence.

Can’t we just agree that it’s simply fun to enjoy without all the nonsense attached to it?

From Superstition to Reason: Journeys to Humanism/Atheism by HAPI

 

 

At long last, the very first secular book has come out from the printing press in Manila, Philippines. Soft launching is today, Good Friday for the Roman Catholics all over the world, a symbol of death for them, while it is a symbol of  love and education for us in HAPI (Humanist Alliance Philippines, International).

This book took about 6 years to make, with bittersweet memories, headaches and sleepless nights. We are lucky to have found a better personnel this time in HAPI, who made this book a reality. A long and grueling collaborative effort, with down to earth leadership, we finally did it.

With over 70 different journeys, from tearjerker to something serious and noble : from being religious to agnosticism and finally atheism,  and to make it better, we call it  humanism, as an act of love to our fellowmen in the Philippines.

It is only available via HAPI based in the Philippines for now,  at PHP 300 equivalent to $ 6 USD.

The profits,  if any,  will be utilized to buy more prints of this book to be donated to local libraries of schools and universities.

Education is our route in combating religiosity in the Philippines and for exponential growth.

My legacy will continue, I can die anytime.

I am not afraid.

By:

Marissa Torres Langseth, RN, MSN, ANP, Retired

Chairwoman Emeritus

HAPI Founder

 

https://hapihumanist.org/events/catch-em-young-exponential-growth-vision/

Mob behavior and the feeling of being right

People don’t want to understand, people want to feel they are right.

herdMentality

Disagreeing online has become a dangerous thing to do, the internalization of beliefs and the fanatization of those who hold said beliefs puts an end to rationality and opens the door for visceral discussions.

“Attacking my beliefs is attacking me, as I am what I think”

When a person disagrees with the notion a group holds dear, the usual reaction includes personal disqualifications, personal attacks, public mocking and exposure of personal information to shame that who dared to have a different opinion.

This happens because when a person feels the support of a group in which he or she is part of the majority, what the majority believes is taken as the truth.
If you were to go to an online group or forum dedicated to a certain topic, whether it is politics, conspiracy ideas, social movements, even fan clubs, and said “I’m not X”, sooner or later the conversation would devolve into an insult fest, in the case that the post is not deleted from the site and the user banned before the mob notices the one that is different.

I’d like to attach this behavior to those who I disagree with, but I’ve seen this kind of irrational and tribalistic behavior occurring within certain circles I’m part of, ending up forming eco-chambers where differing opinions and cognitive growth go to die.

“Understanding why the other person thinks he is right is more important than being right oneself”

Maslow constructed his model based on how people behave and what they need to do in order to achieve self-realization, forming part of a group and feeling one belongs is one of the most important factors in the process of achieving self-realization.
I’m mentioning this part because peer-pressure and the desire to belong to something bigger than ourselves is usually the reason why we, as humans, tend to behave in certain waves that include attacking those who are different, those who disagree, those who don’t have opinions and beliefs like ours.

Are we really far from our cousins the chimps or are we still following our instincts in order to survive while we keep self deluding ourselves into thinking we are “the rational ones”?

groupsInternet