Sunday, April 17, 2005

The Holy Spirit Force

It seems a day doesn't go by when we don't have another example of the ever increasing distrust between the scientific community and the American government, clashes between science and politicians and--of course--religion. An AIDS researcher, David Celentano, was quoted as saying in reference to the political climate, "folks are worried this smacks of McCarthyism 50 years later." A government official reportedly said, in reference to the circuitous language often now employed by researchers to avoid problems, nor only with politicians but assorted traditional values groups, "Don't make me speak to you about this in public. There are spies everywhere!"

Recently, the American government, over the protests of leading geologists, allowed the sale of a book at the Grand Canyon National Park stating that Noah's flood--the one in the bible--created the chasm 4,500 years before. Scientists believe it's more likely that the "gorge" was created some six million years before. Maybe we could compromise on 2.5 million years?

Is it possible that ignorance has now become more emboldened in the world over the past few years? Yet, it does appear that rational thought and open scientific inquiry are still holding their own in areas of the world like Europe, Japan, and a few other locations. On the other hand....

This past March Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, one of the more powerful Vatican officials, directed Catholics not to read The DaVinci Code. According to the Cardinal, people might end up believing the book's "fables." Better safe than sorry.

A possible explanation is that the rapid acceleration of the idiot quotient in the United States may have served as an impetus for the noticeable increase in worldwide dumbness. Then again, it may just be only America that's scurrying to the bottom. Even Saudi Arabia looks as if it's making some effort to stagger out of the sixteenth century.

In the early fourth century some serious theological differences arose among the Christians regarding the "nature" of their God. This disagreement worried the Roman Emperor Constantine; his empire couldn't afford more turmoil. Constantine was the emperor that had proclaimed Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire. He was the person that had begun the massive transfer of money and land from pagan institutions to the Catholic church.

In 325 he called together the Council of Nicea to settle the dispute. Some 200 or so bishops met in the town of Nicea on the Black Sea ( Iznik, Turkey today ) and decided on the nature of God. Henceforth any other nature would be declared a heresy and might be punishable by death. Constantine was pleased that the bishops had reached a consensus on God's nature. Some things were much simpler 1,700 years ago.

The DaVinci Code, as millions of people in the world now know, claims that Jesus married and had a family. It's a great plot. It's also a novel, as most people know. But, we can't forget that the bishops, some 1,700 years ago at a seaside resort on the Black Sea, determined the "nature" of God; they decided this Jesus was a man, the son of God, and God himself--one and the same, and clearly a virgin. Which fable is the right fable?

In the early seventeenth century, Johannes Kepler, a German astronomer, who discovered the laws of planetary motion, realized that "something" made the planets stay in orbit around the sun. Mr. Kepler chose to call this something the Holy Spirit Force. It was acceptable science in 1609.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

So What?: April 2005

Mercury has been used in certain religious ceremonies for years. The purpose is to ward off "evil spirits." Among practitioners of Voodoo and Santeria, for example, it is a common practice to sprinkle mercury near a child's crib as well as outside an apartment door.

The problem is that mercury vapor might remain in a house for many years. The vapors are absorbed through the lungs and can lead to such things as tremors and emotional changes. If enough mercury vapors are breathed in, serious kidney damage may result and even respiratory failure can occur.

Mercury has been listed as a "causative" factor in impaired neurological development in children, which might manifest itself in such problems as language delay, autism, attention deficit disorder, and various types of learning difficulties. It also appears that the developing nervous system of the fetus is more vulnerable to methymercury than the adult system. For more information on mercury poisoning go to Mercury Poisoning Project at

This past March it was reported that certain IMAX theaters--primarily in the South--were reluctant to show several science documentaries because it "might offend" Christian fundamentalists. A number of these IMAX theaters were located in science centers or museums, where science is presumably encouraged.

Some of these documentaries, such as Cosmic Voyage, Galapagos, and the Deep Sea, had the "audacity" to suggest such things as the earth could be more than 10,000 years old and life on Earth might possibly have originated in undersea vents.

A sufficient amount of people protested this timid, self-censorship and IMAX did show the documentaries. But the yellow streaks down the back of corporate America got a little brighter in March.

Approximately 15,000 children under the age of 6 manage to put rat poison in their mouth each year in the U.S. Residential rat poison most often uses blood thinning agents; this causes internal bleeding in the rats. It of course can have the same effect on children.

A number of years ago the Environmental Protection Agency ( EPA ) ordered manufactures of rat poison to add two safety measures to the poison. But in November 2001 the EPA rescinded the requirements. They reported that they had come to a "mutual agreement" with the rodenticide manufacturers. Several months ago a New York advocacy group filed a lawsuit against the EPA.

Who loves you baby?

After a decline in the 1980's, there has been a resurgence in global fur sales. In 2002-03 fur sales amounted to $11.3 billion. Richard D. North, a fellow of Britain's Institute of Economic Affairs, said in reference to an endless row of caged minks and foxes, "They are treated better than farm animals. They are not moved to their slaughter. They are killed quickly in situ."

Now, don't you feel better.

Sunday, April 03, 2005


Would you want a humanzee living next door to you? Perhaps even dating your daughter no less!

It was pure coincidence. The same day I looked through the recently published Millennium Ecosystem Assessment ( ), I also happened to read an article by Jeremy Rifkin, the president of Foundation on Economic Trends. The M.E.A. study reported that Earth's environment is seriously deteriorating in a number of areas. Rifkin's article was about the new field known as chimeric experimentation.

That many of earth's ecosystems are in trouble is hardly a surprise to a great number of people. Several of the key recommendations have also been offered in other studies. But what was of particular interest, I thought, is the growing consensus among those who study these issues.

The question remains, however, just what are we humans--on a global scale--willing to do to reverse the trends. Clearly there is a point where it will likely be too late.

I thought Rifkin's article was especially pertinent in light of the findings in the M.E.A. report. Chimeric experimentation is about "crafting" hybrids out of different species. The first experiment of this type, a number of years ago, was the creation of the geep. The geep was born with the head of a goat and the body of a sheep.

But where the researchers want to ultimately take this is the crossing of humans and animals, to create some new kind of hybrid form. The reasons offered are many, some of which have been heard before; they include advancing medical research, testing new drugs, being better able to "model" the progression of human diseases, and harvesting tissues and organs for "transplantation" into human bodies.

As the article points out, this is not science fiction. In fact, some people are talking about the very real possibility of creating a human-chimpanzee species ... a "humanzee." Would a creature like this be protected by the U.S. Bill of Rights? Might Amnesty International, for example, publicize any genocide directed against humanzees? These are not unreasonable questions to consider. The fiction of film and literature is becoming the non-fiction in the laboratory and quite possibly the cities of the world.

What I felt though as I read this article was growing revulsion. Was I turning into some--perish the thought--simple-minded religious fundamentalist? Had I suddenly become a Luddite, afraid of progress? Was I now ready to join the mob and burn Galileo at the stake? And what was it about all of this that elicited--in me--so much disgust?

The next day, while standing in front of the mirror shaving, the word "narcissism" wrote itself across the glass. Rifkin remarked in his article about a common justification used by us; chimeric experimentation with these "almost" human creatures will benefit the human race....

And what exactly do we humans offer this planet? Whom do we Homo-sapiens benefit? Do we as a species think it's nothing more than "because we can."

Have you ever been fortunate enough to watch a group of female African elephants greet the matriarch of the herd? Trunks are raised and loud exclamations of joy are heard. An elephant herd is a large extended family, and all the cows assist in the care and the protection of the children. Like humans, knowledge is passed down from one generation to the other. The matriarch knows from experience where food is found, where the best watering holes are located, and how to watch out for danger.

Ivory poachers will generally kill the older cows because they have the longest tusks and can therefore bring the most money. This is disastrous to an elephant herd that depends on the wisdom of the older cows for its survival. But elephants have learned about human behavior. They've been observed in the wild to hide the tusks of their dead companions. Scientists believe the elephants know their tusks are a source of danger to them. The danger is from us.

There are 6.5 billion humans on this planet. Even under the most optimistic demographic assessment,we'll likely add another two billion people before world population begins to level off. There is no shortage of "us," now or in the foreseeable future.

Jeremy Rifkin does not support further research in human-animal fantasies. He's right; we are simply too childishly narcissistic, and far too primitive. We haven't demonstrated we can protect and preserve this planet. Considerable doubt exists whether or not we can preserve ourselves.