Monday, August 27, 2007

Progress in Preventative Medical Research

There has been much progress made in preventative medicine of late. A Warwick University team discovered that people with Type I and II diabetes have a severe thiamine deficiency. They had to use a new blood test to determine this result because the old test indicated the opposite result. If one looks at the symptoms of beriberi, you'll find that sufferers have peripheral nerve and heart damage similar to the damage caused by diabetes.

A group at The University of San Diego Medical Center have shown an inverse relationship between serum blood levels of vitamin D and cancer rates. The lower the blood levels of vitamin D, the higher the incidence of common cancers. This may explain why night shift workers have twice the cancer rate of most people and why blacks have poorer survival rates of cancer treatments in Northern countries. They recommend 2000 IU of vitamin D daily along with 15 minutes exposure to the sun. It turns out that vitamin D is the only vitamin that is converted to a hormone. It alters mood and is probably the reason for seasonal depression and the addiction to tanning beds, though I've seen no studies yet.

There's also a study showing that you have to take a lot of vitamin E to get any benefit, about 1600 IU. Previous clinical trials weren't measuring any clinical biochemical markers, just testing for an absence of disease effects. So, they were poorly designed studies.

Another study has explained why a caloric restriction diet works. Fasting or a restricted diet stimulates cells to catabolize (eat) damaged organelles and cellular components such as proteins, fats, and such, and produce new replacements. Since damaged mitochondria are responsible for Type II diabetes and its memory effects, with caloric restriction, it should be possible to reverse Type II diabetes in people. Indeed, caloric restriction's molecular mechanism explains why people with gastric bypasses experience Type II diabetes remission. Resveratrol may stimulate the same molecular pathways as caloric restriction does as well as prevent cellular damage due to its antioxidant effect.


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

China Outlaws Unapproved Reincarnation

This sounds like something out of The Onion, but it comes from The Times of London. China has effectively outlawed reincarnation outside of China. The apparent aim is a political one to lessen the role of the spiritual leader, the Dali Lama. I am not sure how they can enforce such a law if the people do not recognize the person they choose as the Dali Lama. That might not be their aim, though. Perhaps they seek to create enough confusion in people's minds about who the true Dali Lama is in order to tighten their hold on Tibet. The fact that they are sending Chinese into Tibet and destroying the native culture will mean that given another generation or two, Tibet will probably be theirs in mind and spirit. I hope that this is not the case. Beliefs and traditions are powerful and they outlast governments and institutions. Of course, if all the followers are dead and gone, so to is the religion they believed in. It would be a sad day if China succeeds in exterminating Tibetan Buddhism in Tibet.


Monday, August 20, 2007


These days it pays to be a heretic, a dissenter. Everyone is spoon fed information that someone else wants you to have. The media we rely on for objective news gathering really isn't gathering facts so much as gathering opinions and canned information that was given to them by a government, corporation, or individual. Not to mention, the thinly disguised commercials masquerading as news.

Corn makes a bad crop for ethanol production because it needs lots of fertilizer which is made using an energy intensive process requiring natural gas, but ADM stands to make a killing. Sugar cane is a better crop for producing ethanol, but there's no incentive for sugar producers to lobby Congress because they already have artificial price supports.

Freeman Dyson has some heretical views about global warming. He's correct that computer simulations about global warming are flawed. They are not the only evidence for global warming. There is much empirical evidence available, but our ignorance is great about the effects of human alteration of the planetary environment, and he could very well be right that there are better uses for the money such as conservation. I doubt that you could find any one who says that we have had more positive effects on the environment than negative, but the purpose of his essay is to stir up debate and make people think instead of blindly accept what they are told.

Our agriculture is not sustainable as it is currently practiced. It is energy and water intensive and causes much soil erosion. We will have to discard the plow and use no-till farming just for the soil erosion problem alone. The water shortage problem will still exist if rainfall does not increase in rural and urban areas. These issues and others are why we need heretics to stir up debate and help formulate sound policies on pressing problems or potential problems. How can an individual make an informed judgment or action if he or she doesn't have access to reliable information? This is why the control of information is antithetical to the goals of a free society.


Thursday, August 16, 2007

World Weekly News Dies

WWN, Weekly World News, that highly reputable weekly news tabloid you used to see in the grocery store, has ceased. Ahead of its time with headlines such as:




we only have The Onion and Ironic Times to carry on the tradition. Tis a sad day! If my workplace was as rewarding as WWN's, I'd be working days.

* People in the know say that they underestimated the number by 3-4 Senators!


Sunday, August 12, 2007

At the Brink

The History Channel had a show on this morning about Buddhism. The narrator who seems to be a Professor stated that Buddhism flourishes in every Asian country except the one it was born in, India. He thought that Hinduism adopting Buddha as an aspect of one of the Hindu Gods might have had something to do with that. He also stated that Buddhism has two paradoxes. It is a religion, but it teaches people not to believe in religions. It has a "god" named Buddha, but it teaches that there is no "God" as religions define them. He didn't understand that these two paradoxes arose from people's desires to be led and to have an anthropomorphic "god" to worship and their minds' inability to comprehend the Buddha's teachings.

People desire to learn many things the easiest way possible. They desire the condensed version of learning. Usually, this entails the form of a teacher. At the heart of Buddhism and Christianity, is self discovery or self realization which really can't be taught. Self discovery or realization can only be experienced to be known. When Jesus says to go within when you pray, he's telling people to look within themselves for the answers or solutions they seek. Even such men as Jesus or the Buddha could only guide their followers to look within themselves, they couldn't teach them the last step which comes down to individual choice and experience. You can't teach someone to walk. Everyone has to walk by themselves and experience walking to be able to walk. So, likely the state of bliss called Enlightenment is inherent within the human brain and nervous system. Whether it emerges or not depends upon whether people wish to experience it for themselves. There may also be an emergent aspect of it. If people see that more than one person can be in that state at the same time, then they may realize that it isn't as rare a condition they believe it to be. So, likely people are on the brink of Enlightenment all the time and they never realize it. Some may need a slight nudge, while others may need a shove to "go over the edge" and attain that state.

When they say you must kill the Buddha to be the Buddha, it means that you have to kill your desire to have any form of God, even "you" as God, for in the end, you can only depend upon your own consciousness in order to exist and your own senses in order to perceive. So, we are all at the brink of selfless perception. It's just that last step before the plunge that "scares" us?!


Monday, August 06, 2007

A World Without Evil

"It is difficult to stir rebellion among those to whom all things are good. There is no room for evil in their minds, despite the fact that they suffer it constantly. The slave upon the rack who knows he will be born again -- perhaps as a fat merchant -- if he suffers willingly -- his outlook is not the same as that of a man with but one life to live. He can bear anything, knowing that great as his present pain may be, his future pleasure will be higher. If such a one does not choose to believe in good and evil, perhaps then beauty and ugliness can be made to serve him as well. Only the names have been changed."

Sam (The Lord of Light, pp.48-49)


The Difference Between the Unknown and the Unknowable

"...but it makes a great deal of difference, you see. It is the difference between the unknown and the unknowable, between science and fantasy -- it is a matter of essence. The four points of the compass be logic, knowledge, wisdom, and the unknown. Some do bow in that final direction. Others advance upon it. To bow before the one is to lose sight of the three. I may submit to the unknown, but never to the unknowable. The man who bows in that final direction is either a saint or a fool. I have no use for either."

Yama-Dharma (The Lord of Light, p.31)

Alternative Theory to Dark Matter has an article about an alternative theory that would explain what astronomers see without invoking the existence of dark matter. The Modified Newtonian Dynamics (MOND) theory proposed by Stacy McGaugh states that a 1/100 billionth increase in g (9.8 m/s^2), the acceleration due to gravity, at the outer edges of galaxies is enough to explain what astronomers see in their telescopes currently. This is good, because we have an alternative theory that is testable. Astronomers can design experiments to see which theory explains reality better.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

From The Twilight Zone

"There was nothing in the dark that wasn't there when the lights were on." Rod Serling

There was an episode of The Twilight Zone about a woman who was afraid of the dark/death, but as Rod Serling said and the moral of the story goes, there wasn't anything there that wasn't there in the light. We fear the unknown, or worse, fear the imagined unknown, but the unknown is not unknowable, it's just undiscovered. One definition of truth is "conformity to fact or actuality", and another definition is "reality or actuality" itself. There is reality and then there is our perception of reality. The sun rises and sets is a relative truth. In reality, it does neither. It appears to rise and set due to the Earth's rotation, but if that rotation were to stop, one side of the planet would be in perpetual daylight and the other side in perpetual night. So, this truth is relative to your point of observation or environment. The Sun always shines on the earth is true now and will be until it becomes a red giant and swallows this world. The statement that SUVs are safer than cars is false, however. Our perception is that they are safer vehicles, but the mortality statistics show that they are twice as deadly as cars. So, what is reality? Reality is whatever is going on around you at this moment whether you perceive it or not. Reality is what is going on billions of light years away that we will likely never witness, but it's happening now any way whether we perceive it or not. You perceive sunlight or darkness now, but those photons are actually 8 minutes old if from the Sun and perhaps even older if from another star. It took the Sun's rays that long to reach us through the depths of space. That is the power of the human mind and it's ability to grasp what reality is. For all that power, we are more ignorant than we are wise, but given enough time, our ignorance will lessen considerably.

The seeker of truth acknowledges his or her ignorance and yet, never stops learning and questioning his or her perception of the world and learning that which conforms most closely to actuality. One might hear people say that there are no such things as truths, but I beg to differ. Try believing that Newton's Laws aren't true and jump off a high enough building and you'll discover for yourself how true relative to your fragile body they are. Actually, most people are ignorant of Newton's Laws, but they deal with them every day whether they know it or not. Newton just named and idealized these "laws", but they've existed since the universe was birthed over 13 billions of years ago, before they were named and codified. It doesn't matter how you think the world works, what matters is that you "know" or understand how it works, you know the actuality of it. From such knowledge comes wisdom and informed insight. Children generally test their world. They don't always take their parents' warnings as gospel, sometimes with painful results. But they learn over time what to accept as their parents' experience and what to experience for themselves in order to learn their own truths.

If you blindly accept what people tell you all the time, you might be happier, but you won't necessarily be wiser. Why then should you believe a leader or a holy man when they tell you something? Doesn't it depend upon the integrity and reasons of that person as to whether you believe him or her, or not? And yet, they can be completely sincere, and yet, be completely wrong in what they say. Many people didn't believe Churchill when he warned them about Hitler and events proved him correct. Many of us believed Colin Powell when he gave his speech to the U.N. only to find that he'd been essentially told lies. At best, he'd been told what he wanted to hear or what the people he talked to wished to believe. He was betrayed, or at least, deceived and people who believed him were deceived. I was one of those people at the time. But events didn't prove his speech correct, did it? If such a leader can be deceived by the CIA and his own government, why should you or I believe our own government when it tells us it knows what is best for us. And this is dealing with physical events! We haven't even talked about metaphysical events.

People will argue until they are breathless about whether God exists or not, but they will never seek to know whether that "God" really exists for themselves. They'd rather believe in the idea or concept of "God" or "no-God" rather than discover the actuality of "God" or "no-God". The word is not the thing or actuality it points to. It's just a label or description. People will argue until they are breathless that one needs a spiritual guide or guru or master to be this or that. No, one doesn't. All a teacher can do is point one in the right direction and save time and effort. It's up to each of us to attain the goal or realization that we individually seek by ourselves. If one seeks for an answer honestly and avoids deceptions and delusions, self-inflicted and otherwise, eventually, one will have a truthful answer. But, the answer was always there to begin with. It is there in the light or in the darkness. It just hasn't been discovered yet, through your own senses.


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