Thursday, November 25, 2010

It's been far too long

I began this voyage a number of years ago intent on changing a world that does not wish to be changed or saved from the disease that has infested it for the past tow millenia. What is sad is not that this world did not desire to change, but that people like myself became complacent enough to give up on that change anyhow. I predicted long ago that the United States was in serious trouble. In my absence from reporting the ensuing implosion, our economy has been brought to the brink of collapse. What was once hypothesized as impossible happened. We are rapidly becoming a former superpower in the world. We are being supplanted by China and removed to the relative backwaters of our English forebearers. This change did not have to happen this way, and I personally do not gloat over saying "I told you so" to anyone who knows me. Sadly I was right. Sadly, I was among the many who lost almost everything they had ever worked for in their adult lives. Even more sadly, the worse things got, the more the far right wing political factions that caused all of this drama gained in power over the ignorant masses. It turns out that Kevin Philips was right about a lot more than anyone wanted to hear in his book American Theocracy. The Republican Party has now firmly regained control over the House of Representatives and are already hard at work dismantling the health care reform bill and gutting social services. I'd like to pretend that nobody could have predicted this from them, but the fact remains that this is EXACTLY what they said they intended to do...and you, the mentally retarded masses, elected them to do.

It is personally interesting that my journey into internet webblogging began with an interest in political science, which led me to trying to find some sort of sense of meaning by studying philosophy in general, which in turn led me to specifically philosophy of mind and evolutionary psychology. It is even more interesting in some ways that these studies have led me full-circle back to the same place I started from, trying to explain the reason people often act against their own interests if for no other reason than to make sure someone else is not taking more than their fair share. This topic is one that I am personally hoping to find time to explore in greater depth in the near future, since there is much to be said on this particular topic.

I find that as the years go by, I am always hoping for more time to research and write; yet I am constantly disappointed in the reality of the situation. I have seen my life change from having a big slice of that American pie, to clinging to life on a machine and losing everything or so it seemed. Yet, I find that I am more resilient than I once thought I was; and I ham still hopeful that in whatever years I have in my life I manage to make some sort of positive impact on someone's life. I have no delusions of immortality and don't wish for anything similar, but to have a lasting impact on posterity is the one thing we all crave. With this in mind, I am returning to the joyful task of writing. Instead of working this corner of the internet into a tightly woven message about contract theory and a philosophy of right, I am just going to let the cards fall where they may for a while. I am earnestly going to write with more regularity and reflect on current affairs along with some words of curiosity and wisdom about the secret world of our minds and everything in between that strikes my imagination. In a word, I'm just going to blog. Do I have an audience? I once did. I would suppose that with time I will again. only time will tell.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Again I return

What hath befallen me: Hark! Hath time flown away? Do I not fall? Have I not fallen—hark! into the well of eternity?

What happeneth to me? Hush! It stingeth me—alas—to the heart? To the heart! Oh, break up, break up, my heart, after such happiness, after such a sting!

What? Hath not the world just now become perfect? Round and ripe? Oh, for the golden round ring—whither doth it fly? Let me run after it! Quick!

Hush—" (and here Zarathustra stretched himself, and felt that he was asleep.)

"Up!" said he to himself, "thou sleeper! Thou noontide sleeper! Well then, up, ye old legs! It is time and more than time; many a good stretch of road is still awaiting you—

Now have ye slept your fill; for how long a time? A half-eternity! Well then, up now, mine old heart! For how long after such a sleep mayest thou—remain awake?"


Have I slept long? So it would appear. Yet I wonder at what cost is this to me? Must there be a tragic fate to those who fall silent, even if only for a while? I certainly have friends who think I have managed to fall off the end of the world and perhaps I have. Time will tell if I have any lessons left to share.

I have certainly been busy studying and reading, reading and studying. I have gone back to school. The calling to educate has gotten the best of me. I therefore am pursuing an education degree.

But enough of this small talk. I wish to return to the business or Jean-Jacques Rousseau. I will grant that it has been a very long time since this topic was broached here, but then, it has been a long time since any topic was broached here. I will return to the previous sidebar in time but the business of Rousseau is at hand.

Way back when...July 07, 2005 to be precise my former interlocutor who referred to himself as Mannning posted the following to in response to an argument the two of us were having. His entire response is posted in the comments under the posting Book One. Specifically though I would like to point out this comment:

"These ideas sparked the Reign of Terror in France headed by Robespierre, and the imprisonment of 300,000 nobles, priests and political dissidents, and the deaths of 17,000 citizens in a year."

I feel it is time to address this assertion in the here and now. Sadly, we cannot always address every important detail when it is best to do so. In life we are bombarded with a constant barrage of information and misinformation, accusations and lamentations. But Robespierre and Rousseau....

Mannning is more than a bit deceiving with this misstatement here and it is high time to set the record straight. One cannot simply boil the French Revolution down into a thin broth for easy human consumption. To do so is to belittle the cause and the effect of the revolutionary process and the effects the French Revolution had on European and even world history. The question here is not whether or not Maximilien Marie Isidore de Robespierre was a devoted follower of Rousseau's political philosophy. He was and took the ideology of this peculiar man to extremes during the short period of his dictatorship over France. The real questions are as follows:

What role did the dictatorship of Robespierre have on the entire revolutionary cycle in France?

What was the overall role of Rousseau's political philosophy have on the other elements of the revolution and which parts of Rousseau's philosophy would Mannning be implicating in his accusations?

What are the general causes behind all the violence of the Revolution?

What were the specific events that triggered the initial revolt and how did it get so far out of hand to tip the scales to revolution?

What specifically are we speaking of when referring to the Reign of Terror, and what were the underlying assumptions that made such policy decisions by those at the forefront of the political movement that accompanied the change in the French power structure?

What are the most accurate tallies of the casualties inflicted by the Terror and those responsible? Are Mannning's figures correct?

Who were the victims? Who were the victors? And what exactly were the historic implications of the outcome of the French Revolution?

These are the questions I will attempt to answer in the next several posts.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Mother's Little Gift to Darwin

Before we get entirely too enmeshed in Africa, I need to make a statement about Mitochondrial Deoxyribonucleic Acid, mtDNA for short. The interesting fact about mtDNA is its acquisition into the somatic line.

mtDNA resides outside the nucleus of every cell in the mitochodria. What is striking about mtDNA is that it is always inherited from the mother's ova. This is a product of what I have been hinting to previously dealing with Matt Ridley's Red Queen assertions. The female's ova is the larger of the two sex's gametes. You see, when the sperm fertilizes the egg, the smaller sperm cell sheds all nonessential material or in other words only the nucleus of the cell survives the process.

According to Ridley's assertion, this is a compromise on problems that occur on several fronts. First off, is one of the problems that I originally had with the whole concept of the transition from mitosis to meiosis as a viable method of reproduction. For a simpler single or multicelled organism it would seem much more convenient to divide and conquer. Certainly any organism that can reproduce by making exact copies of itself without the assistance of another organism should be able to crowd out sexually reproductive organisms in only a few generations when you consider the law of scarcity. So how is it that sexual creatures managed to evolve and flourish? Was it luck? The hand of some omnipotent god? To understand the reason requires that you take a gene's eye perspective. Evolution happens. Mutations occur and things change. What is in the gene's best interest is to make as many copies of itself as possible. While this is not so difficult to accomplish when you reside in a single cell, the competition increases greatly when dealing with more compicated organisms. Of course, this is a digression better left for later. Back to mitosis/meiosis. Given that asexual reproduction does not have the impediments that sexual reproduction faces, cells that reproduce asexually can reproduce at a much higher rate, but with the added condition that mutation will occur at an increased rate as well. Along with mutation, we need to take into account viruses which are another real world complication. Viral attachments can be deadly to organisms that cannot adapt their way around them. Viruses are an intangible in the genetic arms race. So while sexual reproduction is impeded by interaction and competition for reproductive rights, it gains in being able to propogate genes into the future by 'not putting all its eggs in one basket' so to speak.

The second point I'd like to make at this time has to do with another genetic arms race. This problem has to do with XY chormosomes and gender competition. For reasons I do not care to explain here, humans come in two and exactly two genders. Once again you have to understand it from the gene's perspective. When you are part of a 30000 pair of genes in the standard DNA, the problem is 'what to do to get ahead in life. Contrary to the opinion of some it is not all fun and games at this level. All genes 'desire' their organisms to thrust them into the future but only half will go. To make matters worse, if your human is a female you don't even get to decide the gender of your offspring. Perhaps your gene develops a mechanism that thwarts the activities of your male counterpart. This would be a good trick to get your way. Now perhaps your nemesis finds a way around your defenses. What we begin to have is the classic arms race that we can all remember from the '80s. At some point, the race becomes so expensive that someone has to call it quits and refuse to escalate any further. Or Maybe there will be a truce, but the point is that all arms races can only be carried to a point where it is economically feasible for both competitors. In the case of sperm/ovum armament, it was a unilateral move against aggression. It would appear that for the common good the sperm jettisons all but the nuclear DNA when combined with the egg. I'm not implying that chivalry is not dead here, merely that because this arrangement was made we get mtDNA from our mothers and not our fathers. In addition to stopping the arms race it solves another problem. Once again we return to viruses. By not bringing any non essential material into the union, the chances of viral mishaps are halved by one agent being frisked at the door.

Having said that, I'll move to my point. What I am prescribing in this series is known as the Genetic Replacement Hypothesis in Anthropology circles. This hypothesis basically states that modern human traits evolved from archaic human traits in one location (perhaps Africa) and because of natural selection prevailed over the traits which separate modern homo sapiens from archaic homo sapiens. The idea is that our ancestors all came from one place and the differences are merely superficial adaptations to the environments they settled in.

This theory is no the only one in competition for acceptance. It must compete with two other viable theories: The Multiregional Hypothesis that states that homo sapiens evolved in several different regions in isolation from archaic homo sapiens. While it may explain a few quirks it is highly unlikely that so many different lines could have evolved so much alike in complete genetic isolation. Then we have the Population Replacement Hypothesis. Which is similar to the genetic replacement idea except that it treats homo erectus as a separate species in direct competition with homo sapiens. The boost to genetic replacement came through mtDNA research. In 1987 a team at Berkeley did a study on 147 women from around the world which compared mtDNA among the members of the group. Cann, Stoneking, and Wilson, the study's authors found that the variation between women in the group from outside Africa was less than the differences between the women from Africa. From this study we can deduce that we share a common ancestry from within Africa.