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SCIENCE

- HEALTH - ENVIRONMENT - CONSCIOUSNESS - NATURE -
- QUANTUM REALITY -

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A WORLD OF CITIZEN-SCIENTISTS

       In the modern world, we like to think we rely on scientific information to guide our decisions.  We have no end of problems to solve if we want to maintain a decent standard of living and repair the earth’s fractured environment at the same time.  Science (and related technology) is perhaps our greatest tool in making progress toward that goal.  How much progress are we currently making toward this end, and how much progress could we be making if we tried our best?  As it is, we rely almost exclusively on studies done by prestigious universities, government agencies, and large nonprofit corporations.  We have been conditioned to believe that only large groups like this can get anything done for us.  When those among us without professorships do their own interesting studies, their discoveries are not published in peer-reviewed journals, they are roundly ignored by the media, and the public never hears about any of it.  From now on, if we really want to solve our problems, we should show our support for science by participating directly in large-scale experimentation.  

 

       Today we seem to have forgotten that ordinary individuals can make significant contributions to scientific and technological advancement.  All on his own, Benjamin Franklin discovered that lightning storms involved electricity.  He invented the lighting rod, the Franklin stove, bifocals, and the description of positive and negative charges for electricity.  Luther Burbank developed over 800 varieties of plants on his own.  Like Thomas Edison, most inventors throughout history began by working on their own in an entirely unfunded capacity, prior to their later fame and fortune.

 

       In the field of medicine, just imagine what we could discover if we all signed up for large-scale research projects.  I suffered from summer allergies until a friend told me about a local naturopath.  I went to see them, and they used a simple and completely unreputable treatment called NAET (Naturopathic Allergy Elimination Treatment).  My allergies all but disappeared that summer.  The next year I waited until I was a debilitated mass of snot and sneezing before making another appointment.  The problem disappeared immediately again.  This went on for a few years, and then I found a local source for a product that seemed to be identical to that used in the NAET.  I used it (all you have to do is hold a vial), feeling fully confident that my allergy would disappear the same as before.  This time it did not work.  I had to make another trip to the clinic, after which my allergy quit as before.  Some people have suggested it was all the placebo effect, but if that was the case, why didn’t the allergy go away when I fully believed my replacement product would do the trick?  I suggested a low-cost way the naturopath could set up a controlled, double-blind experiment to test the efficacy of the treatment, but they were too busy to attempt it.  Just think of how many unique and effective treatments may be out there, which may be effective for treating millions of people’s health issues, yet we don’t know about them because the research hasn’t been done, or it has been done but it hasn’t been properly disseminated.

 

       I recently had a rash on my leg, and the doctor prescribed a cream.  The rash didn’t improve, but I was sick for a whole week even though I had already received my flu shot.  I saw another doctor, a dermatologist, who prescribed a different cream.  This was not much more effective than the first, but I did get sick a lot.  I caught six colds that winter and missed at least 12 days of work.  Although I cannot prove cause and effect, I am convinced that the cream was suppressing my immune system so that I succumbed to every virus I contacted.  When I saw the doctors, I asked about the efficacy of treating the rash with sunlight.  I was told there were no studies on this, and so the answer was unclear.  Living in the Northwest in winter, it was too cold and rainy to get much sun for a while, but as soon as I had the chance, I got plenty of sun on my leg.  The problem went away completely.  It’s funny how I solved the problem quickly and cheaply with heliotherapy, yet two MDs, with all their training, were clueless.  How many people around the world have similar problems that could be cured easily, but when they go to see doctors, they are told to take medications with harmful side-effects?  If we tested these simple home remedies on a large scale, we could find out for ourselves whether or not they are effective instead of relying on profit-oriented, institutional medicine to figure out if something as basic as sunshine can help cure skin problems. 

 

       In 1988, my dad was told by a doctor that his depression was caused by a chemical imbalance in his brain.  He was given a bottle of antidepressants.  He took these from age 46 until age 65, when he had a massive seizure.  The first warning on the side of his bottle of antidepressants was “May cause seizure,” but doctors all denied there could be any cause and effect involved.  They said the type of grand-mal seizure my father had was a different sort from the kind normally associated with these medications, but of course there were no long-term studies done on these new meds, so how could they be sure?  The seizure destroyed part of his brain, leaving him unable to form new memories.  Every five minutes or so he forgot everything that had happened prior to that.  If only I could go back to the day before he started taking antidepressants and help him with things like herbs, acupuncture, and meditation, I feel sure he would have maintained his health and his old lifestyle to this day.  The old “chemical imbalance” model has been discredited, yet antidepressant use has ironically become far more common today.  What could we learn about safe alternatives to these psychotropic drugs if we all volunteered for large-scale studies?  No doubt we could avoid the use of most of these drugs and the nasty side effects they bring if people found ways to live more positively and use holistic methods of treatment instead.  The pharmaceutical industry is holds powerful sway, though, and it is not in their interests to do anything that reduces their profits.  Are all the machinations of drug research, approval, consumer awareness, and doctor prescriptions based purely on science?  Watch the miniseries Dopesick if you think so.  

 

       When I moved to Taiwan in 1991, the first place I lived was a tiny apartment above a barber shop which was above a store selling traditional Chinese herbs.  Every time I passed through the herbal medicine store on my way out, I shuddered at the dried seahorses, leeches, centipedes, and other mummified horrors on display.  I felt like an explorer who had stumbled on a witch doctor’s secret cache of voodoo medicine.  Over the first year I was in Taiwan, however, I changed my tune completely.  I heard person after person tell amazing stories of how they had suffered from incurable problems that baffled all the Western experts, but then a single trip to a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practitioner cured them instantly.  Some of the treatments sounded insane, like pricking the finger and bleeding it to cure hyperactivity, but the results spoke for themselves.  I could not reconcile my disbelief in this unscientific herbal medicine with its incredible results.  By the end of my first year in Taiwan, I had decided to study Chinese medicine in earnest, which I later did.  I am now aware of dozens of health tricks that could benefit countless people, but they remain esoteric.  The collective repertoire of all TCM practitioners, if made common knowledge, would absolutely revolutionize the health condition of people everywhere, but they are considered unproven and remain unknown (outside of the TCM-based universities in China and Taiwan, where large studies have been done for decades).  If we all made ourselves into active volunteers in studies to determine what treatments were most effective for what problems, we could prove what works and what doesn’t.  Other areas of holistic medicine like homeopathy, Ayurveda, Unani Tibb, Tibetan Medicine, etc. might all have their special areas of effectiveness, but the average person will never know until we do large-scale studies to research their effectiveness.

 

       Experts everywhere declare that there is no known way to get synthetic chemicals out of the human body, but I single-handedly proved that there is a method for doing this.  In my book Detox Fast, I shared a case study on myself about how a fasting-based regimen can reduce cancer-causing chemicals in the blood.  DDE (the residue from DDT) went down by 60.78% and PCBs went down by 58.87%.  I personally researched various detox methods and made a list of ideas for future research.  There is far too much for one person to handle, but if we divided up the work, together we could find the most effective ways of living in non-toxic environments and ridding ourselves of toxicants through practices like periodic fasting.  

 

       Science thinks of itself as a self-correcting mechanism that will get all the right answers to all the questions of the universe in the end.  The problem is that we live in the short run, and we will all be dead before these answers are forthcoming.  As it is, most of us are sitting on our butts, waiting for a few high-paid researchers in prestigious organizations to write papers that will hopefully get peer-reviewed, published, and eventually accepted by the consensus of the medical or scientific communities.  Then we lucky people might actually hear about the few discoveries that have been properly vetted and deemed best practices (and considered safe for doctors to tell patients about without being sued for malpractice).  The great medical revelations of the future will describe realities that exist today (and always have existed, since time immemorial), but until those facts are fully explored, we will remain in the dark about them.     

 

       In addition, we could also pool our efforts to investigate (among other things):

 

       *clean energy

       *mental health

       *the healthiest diets

       *community well-being

       *the benefits of meditation

       *the connection between mind and spirit

       *the best ways to live long and healthy lives

       *the quantum connections of mind and reality

       *the best way to maintain peaceful relationships

       *the best way to maintain healthy ecosystems

       *the best way to sequester carbon and stop global warming

       *the best way to maintain fertile, organic soil on a farm

       *the most effective and efficient ways to bring food from field to plate without pollution

 

       Remember the science projects we used to do in school?  There is nothing stopping us from doing projects like these on a larger scale, and networking to study complex theories or effects en masse to gain useful data.  Crowd participation can be done to examine photos of outer space taken by telescope or the earth taken by satellite.  Diet or lifestyle changes can be tried by large numbers of people and the effects analyzed by statistics.  As with the studies done by the Institute of Noetic Sciences, people can volunteer to meditate from a distance to try and cause a change in the behavior of subatomic particles.  If we are properly educated, we would form worldwide circles of scientific investigation in which we are all made to feel like full participants.  In this case, the masses would have buy-in, interest, motivation, and easy pathways to join useful experimentation, the results of which would provide immediate benefits to our health, our standard of living, and the state of the environment.  People would no longer wait helplessly for someone else to save them or make their lives better; we would all be enlisted as citizen-scientists with a can-do attitude.  People everywhere would be valued for their contributions, not labeled for their degrees or judged by their age.  By doing this, we could turbo-power the quest for scientific knowledge and technological improvement and empower all succeeding generations.  

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THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF FASTING

       In 1972, Dr. Yuri Nikolayev of the Moscow Research Institute of Psychiatry reported the successful treatment with fasting of over 7,000 patients who suffered from a variety of psychological disorders.

 

       Dr. Joel Fuhrman observed patients of Dr. Herbert Shelton recover from asthma, colitis, and atherosclerosis by fasting.  He himself fasted under the guidance of Dr. Shelton in San Antonio for 46 days to allow his body to repair a severe heel injury (rather than undergo experimental surgery to fix the damage).  The result was so impressive that it inspired him to write the book Fasting and Eating for Health: A Medical Doctor’s Program for Conquering Disease, published in 1995.  He writes, “Therapeutic fasting accelerates the healing process and allows the body to recover from serious disease in a dramatically short period of time.”  Dr. Fuhrman writes that in his own practice he has seen fasting cure lupus, arthritis, psoriasis, eczema, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, high blood pressure, and angina.  He says that hundreds of journal articles are available in medical literature to document the ability of fasting to improve the function of the entire body, including the brain.  He writes that fasting can help with a variety of other conditions, including acne, vertigo, fibromyalgia, glaucoma, cervical dysplasia, chronic neck and back pain, polymyalgia rheumatica, hypothyroidism, deafness, and many other ailments.  Dr. Fuhrman also asserts that fasting regulates the production of free radicals.

 

       The article, “Autophagy in the Pathogenesis of Disease,” by Beth Levine and Guido Kroemer appeared in the online magazine Cell (cell.com, Volume 132, Issue 1, p. 27-42, 11 January 2008).  In the article, Levine and Kroemer describe how fasting can allow cells to rid themselves of damaged organelles, misfolded proteins, and attacking micro-organisms.

 

       In 2011, a documentary entitled The Science of Fasting was created by the Buchinger Wilhelmi Bodensee, a clinic in Germany that offers fasting retreats.  This documentary shows how the Soviet Union compiled forty years of scientific studies on fasting.  The story of Yuri Nikolayev is highlighted: the Russian doctor who did pioneering research using fasting to treat psychological disorders.  He treated thousands of people successfully with fasting and was opposed by the medical establishment, but in the end his findings were all verified by other researchers.  This documentary shows Goryaschinsk Sanatorium in Siberia, which had been guiding patients in fasting since about 1996, using findings from the earlier research as a basis for their program.  Of the ten thousand patients who underwent fasting there, almost two-thirds claimed to have been cured of their symptoms, including diabetes, asthma, hypertension, allergies, rheumatism, etc.  The example of male emperor penguins is cited in the film, as they spontaneously fast for up to four months while sitting on eggs.  Research showed that of the energy they burn each day, only 4% is protein and 96% is fat.  Rats were also found to burn the same proportion of fats and proteins when they fast.  The documentary highlights Professor Valter Longo at USC, who gave high doses of chemotherapy drugs to two groups of mice: one group that had eaten regularly, and one group that had fasted for 48 hours.  The mice that had fasted were far healthier than those that had not fasted.  All the fasting mice survived their injections of toxic drugs, while only 35% of the non-fasting mice survived.  Studies with humans similarly show that fasting makes chemotherapy more bearable.  It was also discovered that gene expression is radically altered during fasting.  Some genes are over-expressed, while others are under-expressed, all of which has been interpreted by Dr. Longo as the body’s way of entering a protective mode.  He believes fasting is able to slow the growth of cancer cells due to this protective mode of gene expression, and the inhospitable environment the body creates for them.  In a separate interview, Longo explained further that fasting interferes with oncogenic signaling, so that fasting has the effect of making cancer cells more vulnerable.  Fasting simultaneously confers stress resistance on healthy cells.  This opposite effect on normal cells versus cancer cells is known as differential stress resistance.

 

       Stephen Harrod Buhner’s book, The Transformational Power of Fasting, was published in 2012.  In the book, the author describes how fasting can help improve many health problems, including type two diabetes, childhood seizures, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, psoriasis, insomnia, and fibromyalgia.  According to Buhner, the body cleans house as it seeks out all possible fuel sources, including viruses, bacteria, tumors, and degenerative tissues.  Buhner calls this action of the lysosomes “autophagy,” wherein the body catabolizes (essentially cannibalizes) non-essential parts within every cell.  This is where the cleansing and rejuvenating effects of a fast take place.  Autophagy creates amino acids, which lead to the production of ATP by the mitochondria.  Buhner also emphasizes the spiritual catharsis that takes place during a fast.

 

       In the 2012 BBC Horizon episode entitled  “Eat, Fast, and Live Longer” (season 49, episode 3), it was reported that the mice who were starved every other day lived longer, avoided getting Alzheimer’s for a longer period of time, and actually even grew new brain cells.  Scientists had always believed that after the brain was done growing, all it did was lose brain cells, never gain new ones.  This discovery helped overturn that belief, as new neurons were apparently triggered to grow under the stress of the fasting.  Prof. Mark P. Mattson at the National Institute on Aging suggests this may be an evolutionary adaptation: those animals with this mutation were probably better able to survive because they were more able to remember where to find food. 

 

       Dr. Alan Goldhamer runs the TrueNorth Health Center in Santa Rosa, California.  This is said to be the largest facility in the world specializing in water-only fasting.  Beginning in 2001, Dr. Goldhamer did an experiment in which he treated 174 hypertension patients with an average of 10.2 days of water fasting, plus diet adjustments after the fast, and found that 154 of them had blood pressure in the normal range when done.  In a second test in 2002, Dr. Goldhamer put 68 hypertension patients on fasts, and found that 82% of them experienced a reduction in blood pressure.  Leon Goldhamer claims fasting can bring about “enzymatic recalibration,” reduce gut leakage, and correct insulin resistance.

 

       Thomas Seyfried, Professor of Biology at Boston College, does research into the means by which fasting can manage chronic disease and cancer.  He says, “All cancers can be linked to impaired mitochondrial function and energy metabolism.  It’s not a nuclear genetic disease.  It’s a mitochondrial metabolic disease . . . therapeutic ketosis can enhance mitochondrial function for some conditions, and can kill tumor cells.”  He explains that autophagy and mitochondrial biogenesis can clean out defective mitochondria and help prevent cancer.  To induce this, Prof. Seyfried recommends bi-annual water-only fasts of three to seven days.

 

       In 2016, The Complete Guide to Fasting was published, authored by Jason Fung, M.D., with Jimmy Moore.  Numerous examples are cited of diabetic and pre-diabetic patients who fasted and saw tremendous changes in their health - not only normalized blood sugar levels, but also improvements in the condition of polycystic ovary syndrome, tingling, swelling, and numbness of the limbs, blood pressure, as well as yeast and bacterial infections.  Researcher Robb Wolf fasted for seventeen and a half days, and did blood lipid panels both before and after the fast.  His total cholesterol went from 295 to 195, LDL-C went from 216 to 131, triglycerides went from 90 to 68, LDL-P went from 2889 to 1664, small LDL-P went from 1446 to 587, and Lp(a) went from 441 to 143.

 

       In February of 2017, the journal Cell reported that restrictive, or “fasting,” diet restored the function of the pancreas and reversed the symptoms of diabetes (both type one and two).  The research was done at USC under the direction of Professor Valter Longo.  Experiments were done on mice, where the animals were restricted to a diet that was low-calorie, low-protein, low-carbohydrate (but high in unsaturated fats) for four consecutive days per week.  This fasting diet increased production of the protein known as neurogein-3, which in turn promotes creation of new beta cells.  The beta cells in the pancreas are the ones responsible for detecting sugar in the bloodstream and secreting appropriate amounts of insulin.

 

       In May of 2018, a paper appeared in Cell Stem Cell describing the effect of fasting on stem cells in the intestine.  All new cells in the intestine come from stem cells, but as people age, the regenerative ability of these stem cells declines.  This makes older people more susceptible to infections and other maladies.  Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, led by Professor Omer Yilmaz and Chia-Wei Cheng, discovered that a 24-hour fast dramatically improved the ability of intestinal stem cells in mice to regenerate.  The mechanism of action appears to be through the activation of transcription factors called PPARs, which switch on genes involved in metabolizing fatty acids.

 

       In 2019, a report on fasting was published concerning research done at the Buchinger Clinic in Germany.  Over the course of one year, the clinic had 1,422 patients fast (with 250 calories a day or less) for up to 22 days.  An absence of hunger was reported in 93.2% of participants, indicating the feasibility of prolonged fasting.  Of the 404 subjects with pre-existing health problems, 341 of them (84.4%) reported an improvement in their conditions.

                                                                                                             - from Detox Fast

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PLANCK, SCHRÖDINGER, HAWKING, AND THE BUDDHA

 

       Max Planck was a pioneer of quantum mechanics over a century ago.  He realized that particles behaved in strange ways in the sub-atomic realm.  They became clouds in a kind of superposition, occupying many spaces at once, and then were forced into becoming what we recognize as particles in fixed positions the instant we observed them with our instruments.  For some reason, it was the interaction of the particle with our consciousness that made it change its state of existence.

 

       Max Planck made the following statements:

 

       I regard consciousness as fundamental.  I regard matter as derivative from consciousness.  We cannot get behind consciousness.  Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness.

 

       All matter originates and exists by virtue of a force which brings the particles of the atom to vibration.  I must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent mind.  This mind is the matrix of all matter.

 

       Erwin Schrödinger was another physicist who studied quantum mechanics.  He looked at the uncertainty principle involved in finding the location of any particle when it was in the “wave function” (when it had magically and inexplicably become an amorphous cloud).  He realized that this did not only happen on a sub-atomic level, but, because the visible universe is made up of sub-atomic components, it happened on a macro-level as well.  This is to say, until human consciousness interacts with something, even if it is larger than a photon, it remains in an undefined state.  Only when we look at it does it “choose” a fixed form or status.  He made the famous thought experiment of a cat trapped in a box with a sort of random event generator which may or may not release poisonous gas into the box.  If we put the cat in the box and let some time elapse, then right up until the very moment we check to see if the cat is alive or dead, the cat is in both conditions: alive and dead. 

 

       A different researcher did experiments  not with cats, but with sound recordings.  Helmut Schmidt did over 20,000 trials with to recordings made by random event generators (REGs – devices that work with semiconductors according to quantum principles).  All the device did was make a series of identical sounds in either the right or left side of a stereo recorder, at random.  According to probability, the sounds should have been recorded in such a way that, when played back, half came out only from the right speaker and half from the left.  These recordings had never been heard by anyone, until a listener was given instructions (which were randomly determined at that instant by the REG) to focus on making the sounds produced by the REGs appear more in one ear or the other.  When people focused on making the sounds happen more in the right side, they happened more on the right.  When they focused on the sounds being more on the left, they were more on the left, even though the recording had been made at an earlier time.  The results were statistically significant, showing that people could influence the operation of the random event generators, even though the events had technically occurred in the past (cited by McTaggart, The Field, 171-172).  This indicates that consciousness affects reality, and what’s more, that there is no distinct separation between past, present, and future.

 

       As for Schrödinger’s traumatized cat, some clarification should be made.  The consciousness that observes reality and forces it to take on definite form does not have to be human.  It could be the consciousness of a dog or a cat.  One weakness in his thought experiment is that the cat would definitely be aware of its state of life or death in real time, thus forcing it to be either one or the other, not both simultaneously.  Instead of a cat, it would have been better if he had suggested having a randomized machine select one card from a shuffled deck and place the upturned card atop the deck inside a light-proof container.  Since the cards are not alive (or so we assume), they could not themselves affect the experiment with their self-awareness.  Until the container was opened, the upturned card could theoretically be any card in the deck, and (based on the results of earlier studies) if people focused on it to appear as one particular card, their wishes, although made after the actual selection of the card by the machine, would have a statistically significant effect on forcing it to become that particular card.

 

       Schrödinger said:

 

       The total number of minds in the universe is one.  In fact, consciousness is a singularity phasing within all beings.

 

       Stephen Hawking’s last theory was about the role of quantum mechanics in the creation of the universe.  One aspect of his theory, created in conjunction with Thomas Hertog, is that in the beginning, the nascent universe was in a state of superposition – existing in multiple states simultaneously.  The universe could have evolved in countless different ways, with completely different laws of physics, and completely different outcomes.  Most of these possible outcomes would not have led to environments conducive to the evolution of life.  It has always seemed like an impossible string of miracles that allowed us to exist, but this theory says it was not the result of random elements coming together at all.  Hawking suggests that these things happened the way they did – hydrogen being created, drawn together by gravity, fusing as stars, creating more elements in its death cycle, and these elements forming planets and living things – all because sentient beings were co-creating the process from the start, even though our physical forms did not yet exist.  Just as we can alter an as-yet-unheard recording made yesterday, Hawking theorizes that our collective consciousness altered the course of the as-yet-uncreated universe to will ourselves into existence: making this single possibility into a reality.  For this to be true, it would mean that time is an illusion.  In March of 1955, one month before he finally passed away, Einstein admitted that this was true.  He wrote, “. . . the distinction between past, present, and future is only an illusion, however tenacious this illusion may be.” 

 

       The above-mentioned men are physicists, not mystics.  What they have to say sounds strangely like what Shakyamuni Buddha said over 2,500 years ago:

 

With our thoughts, we create the world.

 

       He meant it literally.  Now that physics has had some time to catch up, so do the more enlightened physicists.

 

DNA

 

FASTING AND LONGEVITY

 

       Dr. James F. Balch’s book, Prescription for Nutritional Healing, was published in 1990.  In the book, Dr. Balch writes, “Due to effects of fasting, a fast can help you heal with greater speed; cleanse your liver, kidneys, and colon; purify your blood; help you lose excess weight and water; flush out toxins; clear the eyes and tongue; and cleanse the breath.”  Balch writes: “Fasting is an effective and safe method of detoxifying the body . . . a technique that wise men have used for centuries to heal the sick.  Fast regularly and help the body heal itself and stay well.  Give all of your organs a rest.  Fasting can help reverse the aging process, and if we use it correctly, we will live longer, happier lives.”

 

       Fasting and/or a reduced diet has been found to be closely related to longevity.  A 2011 meta-analysis by William R. Swindell found that rats fed a restricted diet had their lifespans extended by up to 45%.

 

       In 2014, Prof. Valter Longo at USC reported the results of his research with rats eating a reduced diet.  This simulated the effects of fasting.  It led to increased immune function, increased destruction of cancer cells and other damaged cells, and a slowing-down of the aging process.

 

       On May 17, 2016, researchers at The Salk Institute for Biological Studies reported that fasting studies on fruit flies had revealed the existence of a neural pathway from the intestines that communicates with the brain.  During fasting, the barrier that prevents gut microbes from entering the bloodstream is strengthened, so that the body’s autoimmune system is not switched on and inflammation throughout the body is reduced.  The flies that fasted and activated this neural pathway lived twice as long as those that did not.

 

       In July of 2017, the online journal Nature Communications published a study on fasting in mice that suggests a mechanism for the extended lifespan phenomenon that comes with calorie restriction.  The mice in the study were fed only on alternate days, and their mean lifespans were extended by 102 days (908 days versus 806 days).  Analysis suggests this was not caused so much by a slowing of the aging process as by a delayed onset of neoplastic diseases (mostly cancers) that limit the lifespan of mice.

 

       In September 2018, a study concerning the effects of fasting on male mice was published in the online journal Cell Metabolism.  The mice who were made to fast longer showed more health benefits, including delays in age-related liver damage, metabolic disorders, improvements in fasting glucose and insulin levels, as well as increased longevity.

                                                                                                                               - from Detox Fast

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HAVE THE NEW PHYSICS REALLY SUNK IN?

 

       In the recent movie, Oppenheimer, he referred to the need to bring the “New Physics” from Europe to American universities.  What were these “New Physics”?  He was referring to the so-called “Copenhagen interpretation” developed by Niels Bohr.  The Copenhagen interpretation explains that a particle exists simultaneously in all possible states until human observation collapses the "wave function."  This is a convenient term that masks the inexplicability of this everything, everywhere, all at once state.  We might as well call it the "we don't have a clue function."  Observation creates the reality of a single particular state of being.  This means that the classical Newtonian concept of physics is technically incorrect.  We imagine that an object can only be in one place at one time and that it has an independent existence apart from the observer who sees it, but we know from the myriad experiments of quantum mechanics that this is wrong.  Particles can be in more than one place at the same time.  Things do not exist independently of their being observed by conscious beings.  It sounds crazy and impossible, but we know that this is the way things are.  We cannot explain it or get our minds to fully accept this reality, but we know it to be true.  These weird quantum effects are what physicists called “New Physics” a century ago.  They are not so new anymore, but they remain counterintuitive.  The question is: have they sunk in?

 

       Scientists admit that, in theory, the “New Physics” are unassailable and the classical Newtonian physics need to be upgraded.  Their reactions to anything that actually refutes mechanist Newtonian physics, however, show that the implications of the “New Physics” haven't really sunk in.  On the show Big Bang Theory, Leonard’s girlfriend Penny wanted to see a psychic.  Leonard was distraught by this.  He pointed out that there was no factual basis for her belief in psychic abilities (season three, episode 12).  In the 1994 movie The Shadow, a daughter asked her father whether or not he believed people had psychic abilities.  He laughed as he answered: “Of course not, dear, I’m a scientist.”  These are examples from T.V. and movies, but what about real life?  Research on distance healing was done at California Pacific Medical Center by Elisabeth Targ back in the 90s.  It aroused a firestorm of criticism simply because it sounded to the scientific community like pseudoscience.  A typical outburst against this experiment came from Dr. Richard J. McNally, a psychologist at Harvard, who commented: “Intercessory prayer presupposes some supernatural intervention that is by definition beyond the reach of science.  It is just a nonstarter, in my opinion, a total waste of time and money.”  

 

       Well-designed, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies have found homeopathy to be an effective treatment for many conditions, including asthma, diarrhea, upper respiratory tract infections in children, and heart disease.  Eighty-one out of 105 trials produced positive results.  In a carefully designed study, Dr. David Rielly in Glasgow verified that homeopathy was effective in treating asthma, yet the experiment, while scientifically unassailable, was simply dismissed by an editorial in The Lancet, which said in part: “What could be more absurd than the notion that a substance is therapeutically active in dilutions so great that the patient is unlikely to receive a single molecule of it?”  In 2017, after Professor Al-Kali of the University of Surrey gave a lecture, there was a question from the audience about a possible connection to homeopathy.  He could have answered that while this was not his area of expertise, if quantum mechanics shows us anything, it is that nothing is impossible, and that he would be happy to consider the results of any serious research on the subject.  Instead, he chose to immediately distance himself from homeopathy, saying, “We’ve now strayed into pseudo-scientific woo-woo, and scientists are very conscious that reputations can be very, you know, your scientific reputation is like virginity it can only be lost once.” 

 

       Jacques Benveniste did experiments in which IgE antibodies were diluted in water to the point where there was probably not a single antibody left, and yet the water still produced a response from immune cells.  As homeopathists claimed, the response grew weaker until it reached a certain point at the ninth dilution, after which the effect counterintuitively grew stronger the more it was diluted.  These findings were reported in a 1988 issue of Nature magazine, with the honest admission: “The precise nature of this phenomenon remains unexplained.”  In a most unusual move, John Maddox, the editor of the magazine, made his own addendum to the article, expressing his skepticism about the results, and saying in part: “There is no physical basis for such an activity.”  Despite the results of numerous experiments done by labs in four different countries over four years, Maddox proceeded to bring in a team of “quackbusters” who repeatedly attempted the experiment and changed the protocols each time until they found a single negative result.  Based solely on this, Maddox then declared the entire series of experiments “a delusion,” ruining Benveniste’s reputation and costing him his position at the French National Institute for Health and Medical Research.  Other experiments done over the years continued to validate Benveniste’s findings, until Professor Madelene Ennis of Queen’s University in Belfast headed a large pan-European study to prove his results incorrect once and for all.  In the end, she was forced to admit that he was right.  She concluded: “The results compel me to suspend my disbelief and to start searching for rational explanations for our findings.”  Nature magazine did not apologize for its earlier judgment, nor did it even publish this new study.  Other prestigious journals also ignored the validation of his research because it flew in the face of the mechanist theory.         

 

       Scientists around the world belong to a cult of orthodoxy.  They fear losing their reputations if they pay too much attention to studies that are deemed pseudoscientific “woo-woo” by their peers.  Because of this weird bureaucratic resistance to the deeper ramifications of the “New Physics,” they continue to reject the results of an experiment because there is no physical explanation.  We cannot ever get a fully mechanical explanation for all the phenomena in our quantum universe, and things that cannot be explained mechanically are not necessarily impossible.  All we need now is a quantum explanation in order for something to be considered entirely possible.  This leaves the door wide open.  Dr. Russell Targ knows this better than anyone.  In the 1960s and 70s, he was paid by the CIA to research ESP and discovered it was real.  In the 2020 documentary, Close Encounters of the Fifth Kind, Targ counters those who claim these phenomena are impossible.  He says, “How could ESP work?  Does ESP violate any physics?  First of all, you can’t violate the laws of physics; not like going through a stop sign.  If you have a phenomenon, physics has to change to agree with your phenomenon.”  This is how science is supposed to work, right?  We make observations, then formulate hypotheses, and then test these hypotheses to see if they can explain what we have observed.  When we observe something new, we go back to the drawing board and modify our hypotheses.  We do not jump to conclusions and then refuse to consider new hypotheses that do not conform to our predetermined ideas.  You do not declare that something does not exist simply because you cannot yet explain it.

 

       If we look at the calendar, the “New Physics” are not so new anymore.  When we look at how little scientists' attitudes have changed, it seems they are so new that we are still awaiting their arrival.  When people in the scientific community hear that research has demonstrated the power of our thoughts to alter reality, the existence of extra-sensory perception, or some other paranormal phenomenon, they become angry that such “pseudo-scientific” studies are being done at all.  They are using a pre-quantum definition of science that is more suited to the 1800s than the 2000s.  Their refusal to even consider such data shows that they are in a time warp.  On the one hand, they admit the basic correctness of quantum mechanics.  When it comes to the practical effects of quantum mechanics, however, they cannot bring themselves to face up to the full implications of this admission.  According to classical physics, neither the wave/particle duality of light, quantum entanglement, nor quantum tunneling could exist, yet we know these things do exist.  The revolution that occurred in physics over a century ago has not yet percolated down to the rank and file.  Closed-mindedness and extreme skepticism continue to guide the thoughts and actions of many in the scientific community, putting us at a severe disadvantage in our attempts to make sense of the universe.

 

       None other than the great Nikola Tesla (whom Einstein called the smartest man in the world) is quoted as having said, “The day science begins to study non-physical phenomena, it will make more progress in one decade than in all the previous centuries of its existence.”

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FOOD AND HEALTH

       In the 2020s, we have a brand new space-based telescope one million miles from Earth.  We have read the entire DNA sequence for ourselves and many other living things.  We can splice DNA with absolute precision.  We can create artificial intelligence devices that can do billions of hours of work in a day.  Why, then, are rates of obesity and diabetes going through the roof?  Why is life expectancy declining?  Why are we unable in the 2020s to achieve the health results that we used to achieve in the 1920s?  Do we have less knowledge of nutrition?  Do we not understand the causes of obesity and diabetes?  Has the human constitution changed dramatically in the last 100 years?  Why can’t our supposedly science-driven modern culture find a way to create better health outcomes for its citizens?  What exactly is the problem, anyway?

 

       Let’s begin with childhood.  Kids grow up eating a lot of candy and watching other people eat a lot of candy (I know I did).  The average person is not taught by example about nutrition or reasonable portion sizes.  Most kids grow up thinking pop-tarts are a balanced breakfast (I know I did).  Most kids go to public school, where meals are less than perfect.  For a real cultural comparison, see Michael Moore’s documentary, Where to Invade Next.  He visits a school in France to show the attention to detail that goes into the student’s food preparation, plus the civilizing experience the students undergo.  This shows that the eating experience in America is more a matter of horking down as much as you can than anything else.  Childhood obesity is becoming a major problem.  Doctors are starting to see signs of atherosclerosis and kidney stone development in people at a younger age than ever before.  One could argue that this precipitous decline in the overall health of our population is a cultural problem and not a scientific one.  For a post-enlightenment society that prides itself on progress, the application of scientific understanding to human culture should be a matter of common sense.  The problem is that it isn't happening.  All out health indicators are going in the wrong direction.

 

       The documentary Supersize Me was eye-opening in many regards.  Americans are bombarded with advertisements for unhealthy foods.  We are hard-wired to crave salt, fat, and sugar, and giant corporations focus all their energies into making slick ads to target consumers from a young age.  Many Americans live in what have been called food deserts.  Fresh, organic produce is hard to find (or too expensive to afford) for many, but processed, high-calorie foods are relatively cheap and abundant.  For a few more cents, we can add hundreds of calories to the average fast food meal that is already far larger than it needs to be to maintain a healthy weight.  At most places of work, shared meals and birthday celebrations mean there is almost always a table full of cake and low-cost sugary baked goods from the supermarket.  Cookies, doughnuts, muffins, and crackers are always sitting on trays at group celebrations, and leftovers are always just waiting in the break room to make you fat.  On top of that, our sedentary, screen-staring lives lead us to eat more than we should and walk less than we should.  

 

       A simple calculus can work for most of us, but only if we employ it with determination.  That formula is, when we become too heavy, we need to cut back on our food intake.  When we find we lack strength or endurance, we need to exercise more.  This seems obvious, and yet, more and more, it is not happening.  To understand why this is not happening, we cannot just blame education, school lunches, or big corporations.  Passing new laws or policy changes to affect these things would only affect a small part of the big picture.  Some choose to say it’s a matter for each individual to solve for themselves with willpower.  This is true, and sounds good from a certain libertarian point of view, but when the issue reaches tsunami proportions, it isn’t feasible to just continue doing everything the same old way and blame each individual for their own poor health.   At present, two-thirds of American adults are considered either overweight or obese, 37 million Americans have diabetes, and 96 million have prediabetes.  At this rate, one-third of adult Americans will have type two diabetes within a few decades.  Back in the 1950s, only one person in thousands had diabetes.  There is no reason why things had to devolve into the current state, yet here we are.  This abysmal, pathetic situation needs a multilayered solution.  

 

       Part of the answer is definitely in changing the way we educate people.  We need to change the norms people experience as they grow up.  We also need to completely revamp our economic system so that companies are no longer rewarded for giving people non-nutritious food.  Part of the solution is a more scientific approach, but not in the standard, laboratory-based way.  Social science and psychology are needed to recognize the all-powerful social dynamics involved in taking food from field to plate.  When people shop for food, they do so as individual consumers in markets.  They make purchases based on taste, affordability, and convenience.  People often know that foods they eat are not particularly good for them, but we do it all the time.  No one should shop when they are hungry, but we do that all the time as well.  In addition to eating unhealthy food at restaurants, we take food home and eat it: enough sugar, salt, and fat to kill a horse.  Many people with eating disorders are unable to regulate their own food intake but no one is on hand to step in and save them.

 

       We have interventions for drugs, smoking, and alcohol, but not for food.  I have heard people express frustration on both sides of this conundrum.  One health professional pointed out the inconsistency of telling a person they shouldn’t smoke but then allowing a morbidly obese person to keep going back for more helpings of dessert without so much as a word.  I once heard a person express the opposite point of view: complaining loudly about the nerve of someone who spoke up in this way to an overweight person who was going to get seconds at a buffet.  Our culture at the moment is so sensitive on this topic that it seems there is no safe way to bring it up.  We should at least be able to agree on a couple of things from the outset.  First of all, it is always wrong to deliberately make people feel embarrassed or ashamed of their body.  At the same time, we should be able to agree that health is always a good idea.  Sometimes difficult topics need to be discussed to rescue people's health.  We need to be able to admit that being overweight puts a person at increased risk for stroke, heart attack, diabetes, cancer, fatty liver disease, high blood pressure, and depression, among other things.   The risk of heart failure is increased because every pound of fat we add to our frame means the heart has to to pump blood to an extra mass of adipose tissue the size of a restaurant-sized burrito.  There is also the matter of quality of life, because when people are obese, the number of fat cells in the body multiply, and even if a person loses weight, the number of fat cells does not go back down, leading to increased hunger messages sent to the body and brain.  Moreover, if a person were put in an emergency situation where they needed to climb, maneuver around wreckage, carry others, or run for help, the more physically fit they were, the better their ability to save themselves and others.  Just try hiking on a trail that gains three or four thousand feet in elevation when you are 10-20 pounds overweight.  You will be in a world of pain until you drop your weight to where it belongs. 

       Unfortunately, the concept of "body-shaming" is so poorly-defined that it almost precludes any discussion of health vis-a-vis body mass index.  We should be able to separate aesthetics from facts.  Where looks and preferences are concerned, rather than ask people to conform to culturally-contrived ideals in terms of appearance, they should choose for themselves what they consider to be their desired body shape and ask others to assist them in working towards that goal.  There may be different body types, but the body mass indexes and physical fitness markers to be considered healthy are generally within an agreed-upon range that can be objectively measured.  With enough assistance and effort, we can all approximate a fit and athletic version of ourselves, and possess a body that can accomplish measurable physical fitness tasks (perform sit-ups, pull-ups, push-ups, strength tests, endurance challenges, ride a bicycle for 10 miles, walk up a steep hill, run a few miles, etc.).  

 

       How can we achieve this?  Not everyone can afford a personal trainer, live-in chef, dietician, and life coach.  In an intentional co-op community that worked according to cooperative economic principles, this could be designed as part of a co-op’s lifestyle according to the group's charter.  Besides being more efficient in terms of division of labor and energy use in a central kitchen that cooks for hundreds, and in addition to the obvious benefit to the environment through reduced need for transportation and less packaging, an arrangement like this would work wonders for improving people’s health.  Those who needed assistance could ask the kitchen staff (in conjunction with on-site experts like nutritionists and physicians) to create tailor-made meals for them.  The job of measuring serving size and determining the best ingredients would be left up to an expert, and there would be no cheating.  Eating with family and friends would make it easier to stay on one’s diet as well, since they would also be aiming for their own health goals, and could all keep each other on target.  How many people do you know who always say they intend to lose weight but never manage to do so, year in, year out?  With a system of co-op community interaction, people would not be able to lock themselves away from others and eat carton after carton of ice cream, or bag after bag of chips.  They would not get so obese that they needed a scooter to carry them around.  Friendly interventions would help people who had trouble balancing caloric intake.  Co-op members would arrange regular activities of their choice (yoga, Tai Ji Quan, sports, swimming, hiking, etc.), creating a culture of physical fitness.  Friends who were like extended family would encourage you to reach your health goals and celebrate with you when the goals were reached.  People would watch out for each other and keep each other on track out of love.

 

       An ounce of practice is worth a ton of theory.  We know what constitutes good nutrition, what reasonable portion sizes are, and what adequate exercise looks like.  The problem is that, on average, we aren’t following through with any of this: we aren’t eating the right things, we aren’t eating the right amounts, and we aren’t exercising enough.  Under our current socio-economic system, there is little chance of enacting all the major changes it would take to turn the tide.  The same forces that are causing a wave of depression, loneliness, mental health issues, social media addiction, drug abuse, etc., are also conspiring to make people overweight, out of shape, and diabetic.  Only when we live in properly-designed intentional communities can we derive maximum benefit from our scientific knowledge about nutrition, calories, and physical activity, and only when this happens will human health be in sync with the times.  Wouldn't that be nice?

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CARL SAGAN’S DEMON-HAUNTED WORLD

       Carl Sagan's book, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, is a litany of complaints about pseudoscientific and antiscientific thinking.   Sagan warns of a decadent future if we continue on our current path.  The book contains a lengthy collection of unscientific beliefs that Western people have had over the centuries.  Sagan documents the way we humans tend to look for patterns in nature and jump to unsound conclusions.  In chapter four, he mentions belief in an immortal known as the Count of St. Germain.  In chapter seven, he lists examples of belief in demons and witchcraft.  While I agree with most of his hypotheses, I have to disagree with others.  It is not fashionable to say anything negative about the late Carl Sagan or his work, but some of his statements are so stunningly wrong and inappropriate I have to call them out.  

 

       As for Sagan’s criticism of American culture and concern for our future, I feel his pain.  Here is a selection from the text, summarizing his worry: 

 

       I have a foreboding of an America in my children's or grandchildren's time – when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the key manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what's true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness. . . The dumbing down of America is most evident in the slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media, the 30 second sound bites (now down to 10 seconds or less), lowest common denominator programming, credulous presentations on pseudoscience and superstition, but especially a kind of celebration of ignorance.

 

       As much as I believe that a New Age of humanity is dawning, and that things will get better, there are many concerning signs of darkness closing in around us, as Sagan describes in this particular rant.  I have seen gullible people putting unchecked faith in unsubstantiated powers of crystals and rocks, planning their lives around their horoscope, and believing too easily in the utterance of every guru who purports to channel a message.  The Netflix show Wild Wild Country about Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and his psychotic cult in in Oregon illustrates how easily well-intentioned people can go down the wrong path, believe whatever their leader says, and become murderers.  We have all seen the wasteland of American television, with its mind-emptying “reality shows,” contest shows, crude humor, and invented news that hypnotizes millions with a web of lies and incite thousands to violence.  In education, the dumbing-down of America is apparent, as the printed word has less and less relevance for both adults and children every year.  People who don’t read much know less than they should about history, science, economics, politics, and human psychology.  What used to be common knowledge is now becoming esoteric.  Each generation seems to understand less and be less able to communicate complex ideas.  It seems as if we are in the process of returning to a pre-literate, pictographic society that communicates with a severely limited vocabulary, a large part of which is composed of swear words.  I am convinced we will soon turn the tide, but Sagan is right: our current story arc is more than alarming.  

 

       The part of the book with which I take exception is where Sagan includes UFO sightings and crop circles in his list of things that are totally bogus.  Thousands of people have reported seeing unidentified flying objects of all types for centuries, with an increase in sightings since the heyday of the atomic and hydrogen bomb tests.  Sagan says it is all hooey.  He was included in the Air Force’s “Project Blue Book,” as if that makes him an authority on the subject.  All reliable sources report that this project was only meant to suppress public belief in UFOs and tell everyone that they didn’t see what they actually saw.  This project has been so thoroughly discredited that it is a joke, but Sagan uses it as serious proof that there is nothing to this entire phenomenon.  Sagan suggests that UFO observers, if they in fact saw anything at all, were just mistaking weather balloons for something otherworldly.  There are two main possibilities here.  Either Sagan was out of the loop and was tricked into believing what the project wanted Americans to believe, or else he was in the loop and a willing part of the disinformation campaign.  It is hard to say which is worse.  Either way, he was part of the cover-up, and either way, he should have known better.  The authorities have always been of the opinion that the public would panic if they believed UFO reports were authentic, and so, supposedly for our own benefit, it has been a consistent policy since the 1940s to downplay these reports.  One way or another, whether through willingness or ignorance, Sagan was part of this program to prevent the public from (1) believing in such reports or even (2) worrying our pretty little heads about them.  This is a shameful legacy for a man who claimed to represent the search for truth.

 

       When it comes to the so-called “crop circle” phenomenon, Sagan has special ire.  As proof that these crop formations are all hoaxes, he trots out the testimony of Doug Bower and Dave Chorley, a couple of guys who told the media in 1991 they were the ones who had been behind all the crop circles over the 15 years prior to that.  They gave demonstrations for the media where they used boards to knock down growing grain in the fields, but their crude formations were nothing like the complex ones seen in some cases.  The mathematical precision, the size, the speed of construction, the lack of footprints, the sighting of small, glowing orbs in the vicinity, and the fact that the stalks have not been broken (but were bent by some other means), all show that something more than these two knuckle-heads was responsible for the real crop formations.  Not only this, but the fact that the crop formations continued to be formed even while Doug and Dave were on tour confessing falsely that they were behind the whole phenomenon.  Sagan writes that the public was foolish to buy Doug and Dave’s hoax “hook, line, and sinker.”  Actually, it is Sagan, in his rush to prove that no such phenomenon could possibly exist, who has failed to do his due diligence.  He was bamboozled by Doug and Dave’s lie and he's the one who bought it “hook, line, and sinker.”  It is a sad end to the career of a man who claimed to be interested in finding proof of extraterrestrial life.  Most people have been conditioned by the media’s disdainful treatment of the crop formations to fear mentioning it at all because they don't want to be branded a lunatic.  If they really are messages from other-worldly intelligence, this phenomenon could be the biggest story of all time, yet we have almost completely ignored it.

 

       Some other alien-related topics are harder to pin down.  Sagan rants at length about alleged UFO abductions and cattle mutilations, which he derides as fantasy, hallucination, and sensationalism by tabloids.  He never once addresses the fact that the stories told by numerous witnesses share amazing similarities.  He does not appear to have met with any of the people who claim to have been abducted.  I would say there are three distinct classes of possibilities for each claim.  One, they may be completely inauthentic.  Two, they may be authentic with a nonhuman cause.  Three, they may be authentic with a human cause.  I don’t have enough information to speculate further.  Neither does Sagan, but this doesn’t stop him from asserting the entire thing is a case of mass hysteria like the Salem witch trials.  He mentions the alleged face on Mars and discounts it completely.  It would be easy to dismiss such stories if only we could trust that NASA was sharing all its information with the public.  Since this is obviously not the case, how are we supposed to make any sort of judgment?

 

       I would add that there is something very strange going on when the person in charge of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence states that (1) there is nothing to all the thousands of UFO sightings except for psychiatric issues, and (2) it is highly unlikely that aliens could visit Earth at all.  Why should a person who doubts the existence of alien life or who thinks they can only communicate by the same slow-as-light methods we use be made head of the project to find intelligent alien life?  Earlier in his career, Sagan had written, "It is now quite clear that Earth is not the only inhabited planet," but later he changed his tune and spoke only in negative terms about the entire subject.  A quote by Frank Salisbury, PhD, might shed some light on Sagan's change of heart: "I must admit that any favorable mention of the flying saucers by a scientist amounts to extreme heresy and places the one making the statement in danger of excommunication by the scientific theocracy."  All of this brings up a good question: is the goal of SETI to actually find life outside Earth, or is the goal to pooh-pooh the whole subject while making the public believe that a real investigation is ongoing?  Sagan’s early espousal of an H.G. Wells-style encounter with imperialistic aliens who treat the Earth the way Europeans treated native peoples around the world is also indicative of a less than open-minded attitude.  If he feels this way, it suggests he is not particularly inclined to make contact with the intelligent life he claims to doubt is out there in the first place.

       In chapter 13, Sagan refers to a mother and daughter from Scotland who claimed to possess  psychic abilities, self-professed dowsers, and others who claimed to be telepathic.  He says they were all tested and found to have no special powers.  He admits, "It is barely possible that a few of these paranormal claims might one day be verified by solid scientific data."  Too bad he did not have access to Prof. Russel Targ's 2012 book, Proof of ESP.  Sagan famously said that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and luckily for us, extraordinary amounts of evidence are now available for those who are interested to view it in an objective, unbiased manner.

 

       Sagan refers to The Search for Bridey Murphy, the book from the 1950s in which a woman, under regressive hypnosis, claimed to remember a previous life in 1800s Ireland.  Sagan mentions the way some people took this to be proof of reincarnation.  Yes, he is right, the Bridey Murphy case isn’t hard evidence of reincarnation, since none of what the woman said could be corroborated.  This is not to say that no such evidence exists.  In my book, Utopia Found, I list 20 examples of reincarnation claims that were corroborated.  Those who want to know more can find it with a little sincere effort.  Researchers like Prof. Ian Stevenson and Prof. Jim Tucker have looked into hundreds of very persuasive cases about which Sagan seems unaware.  The University of Virginia has thousands of case records in their database.  Sagan just tosses this isolated example out there as if to say “look at how people believe all these crazy things,” without bothering to mention that Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Daoists, and Jains (along with many others, including about a third of Americans, most of whom are Christians) perhaps as many as two billion people in all  believe in reincarnation, and that there is voluminous evidence to support this belief.  Sagan thinks it isn’t scientific, so he does a drive by and speeds away.  This is the definition of a cheap shot.  While he is at it, why doesn't Sagan ridicule all the people who believe in heaven, angels, Jesus, or God?  Why not mention all our ancestors who have buried their loved ones in such a way (since the Neolithic Era) that shows a clear belief in an undying spirit.  How unscientific!

 

       Sagan was a great proponent of astronomy.  He deserves credit for making millions of people want to become scientists and explore outer space.  Sagan was already a nationally-known figure when the book was published in 1996, the year he passed away from cancer-related pneumonia.  My problem with the book is that, since Sagan was so famous and influential, by condemning certain beliefs out of hand, he has done harm to the search for real understanding.  A whole generation of people has been adversely affected by his incorrect characterizations of legitimate inquiry into mass sighting events of UFOs and crop circles as if these were rare, lunatic fringe phenomena.  Ironically, the same sensationalist, oversimplifying media machine that Sagan criticized turned him into a pop-culture icon with his show Cosmos, and he was given an oversized megaphone with which to convey his thoughts directly to the public.  People trusted him, but he betrayed that trust by attacking so-called “paranormal” phenomena without doing the requisite first-person investigation to write authoritatively on the subject.  This reminds me of Steve Martin’s banjo-accompanied song about the advice his grandmother gave him, in which he included the line, “Criticize things you don’t know about.”  To put it simply, Sagan should have stayed in his lane.  As Shakespeare famously had Hamlet say, “There are more things in heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”  Some things should be left as mere question marks until we have enough evidence to say more.  We can hypothesize, but must remain humble in the face of the great unknown.  That is how science is supposed to work, remember?  In John Oliver's Last Week Tonight show about UFOs, he highlighted Edward Condon's statement that UFO authors should be horsewhipped, saying, "The scientific method doesn't go: one, hypothesis, two, horsewhip anyone who disagrees with you."  In my opinion, Sagan made a grievous over-reach in his final book.  It seems to me he was guilty of the errors he most despised in others: (1) blurring the line between beliefs on the one hand and facts on the other, and (2) failing to recognize his own bias.  From my point of view, the way to a brighter future is for science to clear the mote from its own eye, redefine itself so as to legitimize inquiry into certain areas that have been considered disreputable until now, and as long as there is evidence to support a particular hypotheses go wherever the truth takes us, redefining ourselves and our culture in the process.

people skinny dipping

 

NATURISM AND HEALTH

 

       Many studies show that naturism can help improve health.  For one thing, people who have access to an area for nude sunbathing are able to let a little vitamin D-producing sunlight shine on their whole body once in a while without difficulty or embarrassment.  The Moores Cancer Center at UC San Diego released a report in 2006 saying that higher levels of vitamin D3 were associated with a lowered risk of kidney cancer.  In 2008, they issued a report saying that there was a clear association between breast cancer and a deficiency in vitamin D3.  A 2015 study involving 1,658 senior citizens found that insufficient amounts of vitamin D led to a 53 percent increased risk of dementia and 69 percent increased risk of Alzheimer’s in people 65 and older (Discover Magazine, Jan/Feb 2015, page 65).  A 2008 Toronto study followed over 500 women for ten years and found that low levels of vitamin D3 were associated with breast cancer and poorer breast cancer outcomes.  They found that vitamin D3 supplements were not effective in raising blood levels of this nutrient, but 15 minutes of full sun several times a week appeared to do the trick.  In addition, people sun exposure and air circulation to all parts of the skin dries dampness, and prevents the growth of yeast and fungus. 

 

       Tight clothing can interfere with health in a number of ways, including blockage of the proper flow of qi, blood, and lymphatic fluid.  A BBC News report on July 28, 2003, stated that wearing a tight necktie caused a measurable increase in intraocular pressure (pressure inside the eyeball) that is linked with glaucoma.

 

       Lack of freedom where nudity is concerned may be interfering with responsible reproduction and child-rearing.  In 1985, the Guttmacher Institute found a strong correlation between the low incidence of public nudity in the United States and the ignorance of American youth about sex and biology.  This ignorance appears to be the main reason why the rate of teen pregnancy in America is double that of other Western industrialized countries  including Canada, France, England, Sweden, and the Netherlands - where nudity on public beaches is more common (of course the teen pregnancy rate has to do with education as well, but the different approaches to education reflect different attitudes towards the human body in the first place).  In the United States, partly as a result of inconvenience due to cultural taboos against public nudity, only about six percent of American mothers breast-feed their babies for the recommended twelve months.

       Research done at the University of Northern Iowa has shown that children who grew up in a nudist setting had better body self-concepts and were less ashamed of their appearance than other children.  A study done by psychologists Robin Lewis and Louis Janda at Old Damien University concluded that children who had seen their parents nude had higher self-esteem, increased acceptance of their bodies, and were more comfortable with physical affection. 

 

       Research by Lou Lieberman at the State University of New York at Albany found that people who had casually seen their parents in the nude while growing up were much more likely to be comfortable with their own bodies

 

       Research done by Marie-Louise Booth at the California School of Professional Psychology and by Diane Lee Wilson at The Wright Institute concluded that people who had less exposure to parental nudity as children suffered from a higher level of anxiety as adults. 

 

       A 1984 study done by Daniel DeGoede found that among nudist men, nudist women, non-nudist men, and non-nudist women, nudist women had the highest body self-concept, and non-nudist women had the lowest. 

 

       A study published in The Journal of Sex Research (volume 23, number 2, May 1987, pages 197-211) found that social nudists were actually less likely than non-nudists to have had premarital relations with someone other than their intended marriage partner, and less likely to have had extramarital affairs.   

 

       Dr. Keon West from the University of London did a study of over 800 naturists in the U.K.  Most respondents reported improvements in their life satisfaction and body image that directly correlated with the amount of time they spend in naturist environments (“Naked and Unashamed,” Journal of Happiness Studies, volume 19, issue 3, March, 2018).

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SCIENCE SET FREE

 

       Rupert Sheldrake’s book, Science Set Free: 10 Paths to New Discovery, is a masterful overview of the limitations and myopia of modern day scientific thinking.  Sheldrake begins by describing his early career as a scientist, and then explains his discovery of phenomena that cannot be explained by chemistry or physics.  He says in his preface that he is a scientist and believes in the scientific approach, but that, “Dogmatic ideology, fear-based conformity and institutional inertia are inhibiting scientific creativity.”  He points out that the biggest assumption-turned-dogma is that science has already uncovered most of the important answers.  That is to say that there is no reality except for material reality.  This means there is no such thing as a spirit, consciousness is an illusion, and all living things are just highly complex machines with predictable behavior.  Current scientific theory also holds that the laws of nature are fixed and that the total amount of matter and energy in the universe are always the same.  In his introduction, Sheldrake discusses the history and illogic of the materialist/deterministic viewpoint, the connection with atheism in many scientists’ minds, and the sense that they are involved in a crusade to rid the world of all non-scientific (superstitious) thinking.  He illustrates the naiveté of people who imagine that science is humble, open-minded, and not offended when new facts come along.  He contrasts this with the reality of human scientists who are closed-minded and are quite unwilling to consider any results that rock the boat of mainstream thought.  Chapters 1-10 of the book are devoted to challenging what he sees as the major false assumptions of current scientific thinking.

 

       Chapter one is about the mechanist theory.  Sheldrake relates how, prior to the 1600s, people assumed the universe was like a living thing, and only after the creation of sophisticated clocks with tiny meshed gears did people begin to use the metaphor of the universe as a giant machine.  Then the model was confused with the reality.  In the minds of the great thinkers of the day, not only did the workings of the universe resemble the movement of a machine; it actually was a giant machine.  The result is an idealized version of particles in space that react with one another like billiard balls on a table, with actions and reactions that can all be calculated with precision.  Sheldrake explains how, prior to Descartes, Europeans assumed that living things possessed spiritual qualities (like a soul) and that non-living things did not, but that after Descartes, it was assumed that living things were just soulless compilations of tiny, non-living components.   This is the essence of the “mechanistic revolution.”  He points out that this mechanist theory is subscribed to by mainstream science, but that it makes little sense and is applied selectively.  For example, if a person really believed 100% in mechanism, it would mean they had no free will to decide anything.  Life as a human being would be totally meaningless because you would know for a fact that every time you seemingly made a choice, you were not really making a decision at all, just going through the motions of a predetermined action.  All the positive qualities that show our true colors and make us who we are, including persistence, devotion, loyalty, and even love, would be reduced to the collision of subatomic particles inside us, over which we have no real control.  Sheldrake points out the hypocrisy of scientists who believe that everyone else is stuck in this deterministic trap, and that everything they say and do is merely a predictable result of the mechanical action of the neurons in their brains, but that when scientists tell us about the mechanist nature of the universe, they are somehow an exception they are on a lofty mission to share the light of truth with the rest of us.  Sheldrake points out the irony of the situation wherein scientific proponents of a purposeless universe (like the prolific and bombastic atheist, Richard Dawkins) themselves find it impossible to describe life without mentioning purposeful organizing principles.

 

       Chapter two deals with the scientific belief that the total amount of matter and energy are constant.  First of all, he points out the enormous void in our knowledge that we cover with the terms “dark matter” and “dark energy” to describe the mysterious "stuff" which we currently believe constitutes most of the universe.  He traces these notions of universal constancy from the theories of the ancient Greek atomists down to the present day.  He then points out that the currently-accepted “Big Bang theory,” completely suspends the whole idea of the conservation of matter and energy, yet scientists tend to turn a blind eye to this.  Sheldrake gives examples of inedia: people in medieval and modern times who appear to have lived for many years without eating.  If this is true, then where is the energy coming from to keep these people alive?  The individuals he mentions are primarily devout Hindus or Catholics, and his documentation is highly interesting.  Unfortunately, as with reports of stigmata, spontaneous human combustion, miracle tears from statues, possession cases, miracle cures, and other X-Files-type phenomenon, the reliable verification is not adequate to impress a skeptic.  

 

       Chapter three assesses the question: “Are the laws of nature fixed?”  Sheldrake properly notes that the very idea of “laws” is a human invention to begin with, which may not be reflected in the nature of the universe.  Humans have a habitual belief in laws, but should we not question our habitual beliefs as well as the laws that we assume exist as immutable truths?  If the universe has been evolving since the “Big Bang” (which we should admit up front that we cannot understand or explain), then isn’t it possible the rules of its operation also change and evolve?  Sheldrake hypothesizes that instead of laws, perhaps the universe operates under something more like “evolving habits.”  He explains the historical development of the idea that the universe is a book written with mathematical language.  Sheldrake presents evidence that some of the so-called constants of the universe have in fact fluctuated over recent time: the Universal Gravitational Constant, the fine-structure constant, and the speed of light, to name three examples.  The definition of a meter is based on an agreed-upon speed of light, but evidence shows that the speed of light has not always been the same.  It seems to have fluctuated by about 20 kilometers per second between 1928 and 1972, first slowing down and then speeding up.  This is assumed to be a constant, so the data supporting a fluctuation here is conveniently ignored.  Sheldrake proposes a hypothesis of “morphic resonance” to explain how the universe operates with a kind of collective memory.  This is a complex seven-part hypothesis that would go a long way to explain those phenomena that are beyond the ability of chemistry and physics to explain.  As an impressive demonstration of a phenomenon that makes more sense according to the concept of morphic resonance, Sheldrake points to the synthesis of new chemicals.  Turanose, for example, was first crystalized in the 1920s, after which it became easier to crystalize.  Sheldrake shares the further examples of xylitol, ampicillin, and Ritonavir, which should have continued to crystallize in the same manner throughout time, but which for some reason created new polymorph forms far more easily.  

 

       Chapter four examines the question of whether or not matter is unconscious.  This is intimately tied to the issue of whether or not a spirit exists in living things.  Sheldrake explores the enigma of attempting to explain evolution without a belief in a spirit to drive material bodies to survive and create new forms.  If everything is mechanist, soulless, and merely driven by random mutation and natural selection, then all our thoughts and emotions are nothing more than an epiphenomenon of electrical activity in the brain; but isn’t it these thoughts and emotions that actually drives the entire process?  Sheldrake explores the history of philosophy vis-a-vis the notion of the mind and how it works.  He discusses the possibility that mental causation may run backwards in time, directing "past" events to shape a particular "future" outcome.

 

       Chapter five asks the question: “Is nature purposeless?”  While animals have clear purposes, machines themselves do not (unless programmed to have them by people).  Therefore, if animals are literally nothing more than biological machines, what is the explanation for this discrepancy?  Why do animals have clear goals and purposes?  Richard Dawkins attempts to explain this by saying there are “selfish genes” in our DNA that make living things desire to replicate themselves.  Sheldrake points out that animals have an incredible ability to adjust both their behavior and their own shapes that, at present, defies understanding.  To attempt an explanation, he then enters into a further discussion of his morphogenic field hypothesis and the supposition that waves travel backwards in time.  I was reminded in this section of the seemingly impossible evolution of wings (supposedly through nothing but random mutation and natural selection) for the seeming purpose of flight in so many species wings which are all but useless until they have reached the stage where they are fully-formed and can actually allow flight.  It is as if the ultimate end was guiding the process from the earliest moment.  Sheldrake gives an interesting example of the complexity of protein folding.  For example, a protein such as ribonuclease naturally folds itself properly in two minutes, but if it had to find the correct configuration by trial and error, it would take an average of 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 years to get it right.  Some power beyond what we can discover from the reductionist study of the electromagnetic properties of molecules, atoms, and subatomic particles appears to be guiding the operation of these building blocks of life, but what is it?

 

       Chapter six ponders the question of whether or not all biological inheritance is material.  When we figured out the structure of DNA in the 1950s, it seemed to hold the answer to all programming for biological life forms.  In the 1990s, the human genome was decoded, and yet since then more and more traits seem to be the result of a mysterious concert of gene expression switching on and off, as well as various other epigenetic effects.  Again, Sheldrake postulates that morphic resonance is the best model for understanding this, although he does not go so far as to attempt to explain a mechanism by which this may operate.

 

       Chapter seven deals with the question of how memories are stored.  Mechanists assume that memories must be stored in the cells of the brain like material traces, just like 1s and 0s are stored in the hard drive of a computer.  The problem is that no amount of scanning or dissecting has yet found any evidence to support this belief.  Sheldrake shares the example of a man who, as a result of hydrocephalus, had a brain only 5% the size of the average man’s, but had scored 126 on an IQ test and had earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics.  The idea of resonance may help explain how rats running the same maze configuration finished faster on their first attempt year after year.  This happened in different labs around the world, as if the rats of the present had access to the memories of the other rats from the past who had solved the maze before them.  This is mirrored by the so-called Flynn Effect, whereby average American scores on IQ tests have increased from 75 in 1920 to 100 in 1990.  Sheldrake brings up the possibility of a collective memory, and points out the similarity between this concept and Jung’s belief in a “collective unconscious.”

 

       Chapter eight addresses the question of whether minds are confined to brains.  Scientific authorities and educational systems teach that this is the case because it is consistent with the mechanist theory.  This view holds that everything we think or feel, as well as our entire concept of identity, is no more than an effect caused by the neural activity in our brains.  Sheldrake cleverly takes Carl Sagan’s famous dictum, “Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence,” and turns it around to demand that mechanists produce evidence that the mind is, as they say, nothing more than brain activity.  He goes on to share many test results that suggest people possess extra-sensory perception that alerts them when they are being stared at by another person.    

 

       Chapter nine asks whether psychic phenomena are real or illusory.  A mechanist clearly believes that all psychic or paranormal phenomena must be impossible.  Sheldrake refers to the growing body of evidence that telepathy, precognition, and other psychic abilities are real.  He points out that it is due to materialist tendencies that we even have discriminatory terms like “paranormal” and “supernatural” at all.  He goes on to list the results of numerous ESP experiments involving card prediction, telepathy, and precognition.  He gives examples of debates he has had over the years with skeptics in which he found they were not only ignorant of the evidence to support the existence of ESP, but that they were not even interested to hear it.  He mentions a 2004 debate he had with Lewis Wolpert in which Wolpert declared that there was zero evidence to support the existence of telepathy, but then refused to even look at the screen as Sheldrake presented the findings of thousands of experiments that suggested otherwise.  In 2005, he debated Jan Nienhuys.  Nienhuys claimed there were errors in the research that Sheldrake presented, but when Sheldrake asked him to specify the nature of the errors, it turned out that his opponent had not bothered to read any of the research.  In 2006, Sheldrake participated in a debate with Richard Dawkins.  Sheldrake says that Dawkins dismissed all the research out of hand, claiming that it would “turn the laws of physics upside down.”  When presented with papers published in scientific journals, Dawkins responded, “I don’t want to discuss evidence.”  The debate ended early when Sheldrake realized that the exchange had been misrepresented as an honest debate, when in fact Dawkins had only meant the meeting to be “a high-grade debunking exercise.”  A recording of their interplay was put into a 2007 series  with the loaded title: Enemies of Reason.  

 

       Chapter ten asks whether mechanistic medicine is the only kind that works.  Sheldrake notes in this chapter that most scientific studies are buried and their results not revealed to the public, that the much-touted “placebo effect” is actually an unexamined and unexplained mind-over-matter phenomenon that calls into question the entire mechanist theory, and that fewer and fewer new drugs actually outperform the placebo effect (especially in the U.S.).  He hypothesizes that his may be because our belief in the power of drugs has been augmented by all the commercials we have seen in recent years.  He shares the results of hypnosis, including the creation of a blister on the arm when a person under hypnosis was told they were being burned, and hypnotic cures for both ichthyosis and warts.  Evidence suggests that both traditional Chinese medicine and homeopathy can be effective, although they operate under principles that seem nonsensical to a mechanist.  If the mechanist theory is correct, how can that possibly be?

 

       In chapter 11, Sheldrake explores the issue of objectivity.  He notes that scientists are people who, despite the unblemished, idealized image, are (like everyone else) controlled by financial considerations, reputation, peer pressure, and ingrained cultural stubbornness.  In the scientific community, results that cannot be rationally explained are routinely ignored.  Anomalous data is hidden until the “correct” data comes along that agrees with an established understanding.  Sheldrake discusses the self-fulfilling biases that experimenters bring with them into the laboratory as well as stories of people who seem to either jinx experiments or guarantee their success.  He further considers the issues of publication bias and fraud in scientific publications.

 

       Chapter 12 is about the future of science.  Sheldrake suggests that we end the “authoritarian structure” of the sciences and stop pretending that science is omniscient.  He notes that the “sciences” of today did not all used to be classified under the same heading until the 1800s, when naturalists, biologists, geologists, pharmacologists, and mathematicians for the first time became collectively known by this moniker.  He observes that students absorb a set of assumptions and doctrines from scientific “popularizers” without even realizing it.  He writes: “These assumptions are not treated as aspects of a philosophy of nature, or as a hypothesis to be tested: they are part of the standard paradigm or consensus reality, protected by taboos against deviant thinking.”  He says that only in science is there anything today that resembles the absolute authority of the Roman Catholic Church of the Middle Ages.  This authority is maintained through a hierarchical system based on strict conformity.  Disagreements are mostly hidden from the public.  Sheldrake suggests that we need more open-mindedness, more debates, and more public participation in determining what scientists are funded to study.  He suggests there should be an ongoing dialog between scientists and religious practitioners about the true nature of reality.  He ends the book with the adroit observation: “Much needs to be discovered and rediscovered, including wisdom.”

 

       This book is one of the most fascinating I have read in years.  It is chock full of great quotes and anecdotes.  It was interesting to learn, for example, that Crick, the discoverer of the structure of DNA, made it his life’s ambition to “knock the final nail into the coffin of vitalism,” which is the term scientists use for the ultimate heresy of believing there is a mysterious living force in the universe outside the ability of chemistry and physics to describe.  It is funny how quickly and easily people who are supposed to be as dispassionate as Spock about finding the truth can become convinced that they already know the truth and fixate on the idea of crushing all opposing views.  Instead of just doing experiments, reporting results, and making hypotheses, scientists jump to conclusions and get their egos involved in arguing the correctness of their opinion.  In the process of reading this book, a person can clearly see why the scientific establishment is often compared to a priesthood.  I agree completely with Sheldrake’s view, stated in the introduction, that, “It is not anti-scientific to question established beliefs, but central to science itself.”  In many ways, this book is a perfect prequel to Utopia Found.

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VEGETARIANISM

 

       In ancient India, it was believed that the goal of life was to practice Yoga and achieve liberation (moksha) from the endless cycle of reincarnation.  A key to doing this was to cleanse one’s karma by practicing nonviolence (ahimsa).  One important element of ahimsa was vegetarianism.  This ancient Hindu practice has been dabbled in by others over the years  Pythagoreans, Manichaeans, Buddhists, Sikhs, etc.  and it has finally become fashionable in the modern world.  I completely understand the frustration and disgust the average American feels at the thought of giving up steaks, hamburgers, and hot dogs.  I grew up on a solid meat diet and went to my first vegetarian restaurant back in 1990 with a very bad attitude.  I teased the person who had invited us, saying I might just go and graze on the lawn if the food took too long to make it to our table.  The more I studied the subject, however, the more seriously I took it.  In Taiwan (the best place in the world to be a vegetarian, in my opinion), I experimented with different diets and came to appreciate the benefits of eating either a vegan or vegetarian diet.  The reasons for doing so are manifold.

 

       First, killing animals for food is cruel.  I know that our ancestors used to hunt for their food, and that animals in nature eat one another to survive. I can understand the feelings of those who hunt to maintain an attachment with their ancestors’ way of life and be close to nature.  I nevertheless insist that if you care for animals, you will come to admit that they have feelings just as we do.  They want to be safe, healthy, comfortable, and loved.  No creature wants to feel pain, live in fear, or be killed.  We as Americans feel enraged and sickened at the thought of people eating dogs (although this was common practice everywhere thousands of years ago) since we keep dogs as pets, but most have no qualms about eating pork, despite the fact that pigs are just as intelligent as dogs.  Cows and deer are also mammals, and not so dim-witted.  Even chickens, small-brained as they are, can recognize patterns, manifest an ego, and display individual traits akin to a “personality.”  We are no longer living in the Stone Age, and it is no longer necessary to perpetuate the hunter-gatherer lifestyle of our distant forebears.  If we aspire to the angelic nature of the spiritual teachers from around the world, we should aim higher than to design our culture so our hands and mouths are forever stained with blood.

 

       Second, eating animal protein is bad for your health.  Animal products contain a lot of cholesterol, and although the consumption of it does not necessarily equate to the production of harmful cholesterol in our own bodies, there seems to be a correlation between the two.  When people digest animal products, a protein called trimethylamine is converted into trimethylamine oxide, which causes plaque to form on artery walls and begin the process of occlusion.  Endotoxins from consumed meat also cause inflammation, leading to hardening of the arteries, which results in stroke and heart attack.  Processed meats like hot dogs, bacon, and sausages contain sodium nitrate, BHA, and BHT, which are believed to be carcinogenic.  Meat that is barbecued, browned, or blackened contains cancer-causing acrylamides.  Also, there is an increased risk if the meat is cooked in contact with an open flame.  This is due to the formation of dangerous chemicals called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).  All meat and eggs produce HCAs when cooked, but by far the highest concentration of these is found in chicken, which ironically has a reputation as being a healthier meat.  The risk of prostate cancer has been found to skyrocket with the daily consumption of meat.  In populations that eat traditional, mostly-vegetarian diets, the incidence of prostate cancer is only a tiny fraction of what it is in the U.S.  All meats, seafood, eggs, and dairy products have a concentrated amount of environmental toxicants, including PCBs, DDT, etc.  This is because many of these chemicals and elements bioaccumulate in the fats of animals.  Seafood is especially toxic because of all the pollution that flows into our oceans.  Fatty animal products like shrimp and butter tend to have the highest concentration of PCBs and other lipophilic toxicants.  In addition, meat is often deep fried, which produces damaging free radicals.  

 

       Third, a diet based on animal protein is bad for the environment.  It takes an estimated 20 times more of the fossil fuels that cause global warming to feed a population with a meat-based diet versus a plant-based diet.  In terms of land, it has been calculated that it requires about 12 times more space to feed a person with meat than with plants.  Pound for pound, the water demand to raise animals for food is far higher than that needed to grow vegetables.  Cows produce so much methane that it has been estimated one cow is as damaging to the planet as one gasoline-powered car.  Factory-style farming not only causes a stench that ruins entire regions, but also results in a flood of waste that overwhelms rivers and oceans.

 

       Fourth, it is completely unnecessary to eat meat, or even milk products or eggs, in order to maintain optimal health.  People all have the notion that since protein is needed to build muscle, the more protein we eat, the better.  In fact, the average person needs only a little protein every day, and this can easily be found through things like beans, tofu, or quinoa.  Vitamin D deficiency is another matter.  Vitamin D deficiency can be dangerous for strict vegans unless they are careful to get supplements, sunshine, or include some food that contains adequate amounts of Vitamin D (actually it is a hormone that we mislabel a vitamin).  Just be sure to get enough if you choose to be vegan, otherwise your whole system begins to go haywire.  

 

       Fifth, you do not need to sacrifice your enjoyment of food anymore when you make the switch from a meat-based diet to a plant-based diet.  As soon as you start trying to eat only plant-based foods, you realize right away that certain menu options are now much more limited than those of carnivores.  Once upon a time, the decision to be vegetarian would have been difficult and entailed a lot of sacrifices when it came to food.  Today we are fortunate to have chicken and beef imitation products (among others) that are so convincing and delicious.  Vegetarian choices in restaurants are becoming more common by the day and a plethora of vegetarian recipes abound in books, magazines, and on the internet.

 

       For those who care about any of these things, logic dictates that you should seriously consider cutting back on meat, perhaps even to the point of becoming mostly vegetarian.  If you don’t care about any of these things, you have to seriously ask yourself what you do care about.  If you reject vegetarianism out of hand because you balk at the thought of no longer being able to eat buckets of Kentucky fried chicken, barbecued ribs, and greasy cheeseburgers with both hands, you may want to rethink your priorities in life.  For people who believe the unquestioned life is not worth living, it is time to question your diet.  Our diets largely dictate our lifestyle, our state of mind, our health, our lifespan, our economy, our food production system, the landscape around us, and the state of our environment.  Our dietary practices are no small thing.  They are a self-fulfilling declaration of our values, and they shape our future in very concrete ways.  We should not unthinkingly pass on unwise traditions to our descendants simply because we are used to doing things a certain way; we need to carefully reconfigure our daily practices  especially regarding food  to improve the planet rather than destroy it.

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