I typically do not publish blog-posts so quickly after a previous post, for several different reasons, but this is just too important, too good, and necessary to raise awareness of a crisis that is in reality more common than most people around the world realize. What is it? It is twofold. One, the frequency of inter-sexed births around the world and how often it has been occurring throughout human history and its implications on societal (not religious or moral) norms! But this is not the real “Breaking News” story that’s going to shatter life as we know it. Second, and what IS shattering and inhumane is how Conservative, close-minded (religious?) hypocrites treat other humans (intersexed humans or LGBTQ humans) who have simply been born — from prenatal genetic developments and design — the way they were meant to be born. The abuse or mistreatment needs to be illegal and their safety and rights monitored/policed by all of society.
I have written a few posts in the past about the genetic prenatal designs for a person’s eventual gender and sexual orientation, e.g. Sexual & Gender Ambiguity: My Once Gross Ignorance. The science is overwhelming: there are little options for a person to “choose” what they will be and how they will behave when most of their neurology, hormones, and neural-programming in the brain has simply manifested in a way it was DESIGNED to be in the first place, not only in the womb from conception, but also from genomes from many, many ancestors! Is anyone familiar with just how immeasurably these gender-sexual systems vary within populations around the world? These births happen today in at LEAST four or five different regions on Earth annually. If you are not aware, get educated; get informed and updated about just how unimaginably diverse this Earth and all her species truly are by reading this. But just as immeasurable are the vast, never-ending spectrums of gender/sexual orientations within endocrinology and neurology. In other words, just as there are obvious physical differences, there are exponentially more differences that are not physical, but internal that began early inside the mother’s womb and was finished before her third trimester. Think about that people!
And yet, for far too many decades and centuries we still have a cognitive dysfunctional sector of the human population that are grossly naive, ignorant, or in severe denial of the actual facts. And worse, those dysfunctional people want to treat these different individuals with such insensitive, inhumane, dehumanizing methods like this new 2018 film Boy Erased truthfully portrays.
Yes, these Conversion Therapy camps actually exist and ignorant religious zealots ship their kids and teenagers — who cannot help what their prenatal genetic design has made them into — off to these psychologically damaging internment camps! These “clinics” or facilities are notmedically or psychologically based, much less legally licensed to perform such “therapy”! Just like bloodletting was a bogus remedy to infection, conversion therapy has no moral, medical, or scientific ground to stand on. It is child abuse. Period.
This must stop! Do everything you can to stop these abuses to children and teenagers by parents and churches that still live in the Medieval Dark Ages. How can you help and spread the awareness and higher intelligence? Go watch the movie for starters! Next, vote and campaign for the permanent closures of these (il)legal camps of child-abuse! These people (if you can call them that) simply do not understand the overwhelming science behind embryology, genetics, endocrinology, and neurology backed up by the actual, very tangible inter-sexed stats. Period. The religious-minded are horribly ignorant and misguided in this regard and many others! Educate them, save them from themselves… if possible. But do not NOT do anything. Speak out against them, stand up to them.
For more important information on how to help and how much work/action needs to take place and continue, go here: LGTBmap.org and get active against child-abuse!
Surprise! I am not a fan of horse-blinders, headless ostriches, or one-tree forests. I am not a fan of shallow, baseless rhetoric or opinion unless it is cleverly woven with satire and parody. Nor am I a fan of closed systems and strong-armed boxing in. Are you asking “What on Earth is he going on about?” Fair question.
What 2017 will become for Americans, and hopefully to a minimal extent the world, will be or has been partly determined by 2015-16, the state-of-the-Union and its unionists today, and what will result in 2018 and 2019 based on the past and present. This is the final post from the previous: 2016: Cries for Mutiny.
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The Past Two Years
2015 and 2016 in America saw many economic, political, social, and scientific headlines, many good as there were bad. Following are some of the biggest and in my opinion most impactful relative to the well-being of all U.S. citizens and citizens to be.
Racism, lethal violence, and gun-control, and so by default our nation’s outrageous incarceration rate, seems to never go away. The mass shootings at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC and the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, FL, a popular LGBT club, were two of the deadliest shootings in recent history. The Charleston Church shooting was reportedly motivated by a 21-year old white supremacist charged with 33 counts including murder, firearms charges, and federal hate-crime charges. The murderer’s beliefs prompted continued debate over the state’s long history of flying the 19th century Confederate Battle Flag atop the state capitol building. This shooting and other similar shootings in the U.S. including the Pulse nightclub—and Roseburg, Lafayette, Chattanooga, Planned Parenthood, San Bernardino—ignited again the still never-ending controversy of racism and gun-control.
The phrase Black Lives Matter became a common trending 2015 hashtag on social media following events such as the death of 25-year old Freddie Gray while in custody. Increased police violence and killing continued throughout 2016, primarily toward or effecting African-Americans, shockingly suggesting that the end of the American Civil War in 1865, the ratification of the 13th Amendment also in 1865, then decades later historical victories by the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s and 70’s never happened! It seriously begs the question whether basic human rights in America have really taken firm roots after 151 years!
On a high note, in 2015 June 26th, the White House vowed its support for the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in favor of marriage equality for same-sex couples. President Obama remarked:
“In my second inaugural address, I said that if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. It is gratifying to see that principle enshrined into law by this decision.”
But American history has shown that simple moral, ethical equality for all is still far from established, practiced, and protected within our national borders, e.g. Texas Rep. Andrew Murr in my previous post. And America is not always so embracing when it comes to foreigners and foreign affairs, despite what Lady Liberty is supposed to symbolize to the world.
The European refugee crisis from war-torn nations like Syria have been an embarrassing blemish across Lady Liberty and all Americans. Tens of thousands of people fleeing from the Middle East and Africa learned harshly just how paranoid and apathetic the United States has become. Germany, Sweden, and the U.K. on the other hand opened up their arms wide taking in far more than President Obama’s plan to allow 10,000. Other foreign aid into those warring nations reached all-time highs and lows for the international community despite U.S. peace and refusal talks. Yet, these refugee figures come out of European and American sources — the numbers are anywhere between 1.1 to 4.4 million refugees in African nations, ironically where some of the poorest nations in the world are located. Hmmmm.
The U.S. economy made several headlines as well, no surprise given the upcoming Presidential primaries and election in 2016. The federal deficit indeed shrunk over 2015. The final figures came in at $439 billion, about $45 billion less than in 2014. Employment rose, unemployment fell, and for the first time in the past 7-years, 2015’s real hourly pay climbed faster than 2%. Good news, yes. However, America’s widening zip code inequality continued to rise as poverty and a lack of upward mobility became not just social and economic problems, they became bigger geographical ones too. American living standards only saw limited gains creating a false illusion of recovery. This was reflected by a contraction of aggregate supply rather than a strong expansion of demand, all according to the Brookings Institute. Therefore, now is an easy segway into America’s federal politics and “Election 2016″… a campaign year that would go down in history as infamous, to put it mildly.
In an April 2015 two-minute video, Democrat Hillary Clinton announced her anticipated second run for president. With Democratic candidates Sanders and Clinton set, the race for the Republican nomination became a wild free-for-all. Another Bush from Florida entered the race, Jeb Bush, along with no less than 15 others, including the TV-reality star and business mogul Donald Trump. From that point on, the fiery “You’re Fired!” TV personality turned the campaigns into polarizing, even comical, reality shows. Soon after, as if to get in line for the next blockbuster show, rapper Kanye West proclaimed he would run in the 2020 presidential election. Why not! Come one, come all. No experience necessary.
In November 2016, what can only be described as a stunning outcome, Trump won not the popular vote, but the Electoral College vote to become the 45th President of the United States. Yes, the rest of the world was shocked, not shocked, and Vladimir Putin and Russia loved it.
In late 2016 the Brookings Institute spoke about Trump’s economic team forecasting doubled long-term GDP as “unrealistic.”
“Labor force growth is slowing to a crawl. The population is aging, the dramatic advance of women into the labor market is waning, and male participation has been declining for decades. We will be lucky if the labor force grows by 0.5 percent a year. That means labor productivity growth would have to grow by 3 percent a year. Over the past decade, it grew by just over 1 percent. So the Trump administration seems to be assuming that they can more than double productivity growth. So, is a near-doubling of the GDP growth rate realistic? No. But even if it were, it would be less important than ensuring that whatever growth we have is more equally distributed. But let’s assume we can bump up the growth rate. Even then, unless something is done to ensure that growth is more broadly distributed, the average American is unlikely to benefit very much. This lesson was reinforced recently by the release of new data showing that, on average, if you were born in 1940, you had a 90 percent chance of being better off than your parents, but the odds fell to 50 percent if you were born in the 1980s. Both lower growth and rising inequality contributed to this depressing story for today’s younger generations. In addition, the study—by Raj Chetty and colleagues—found that more equally distributing growth would be more effective at improving the average person’s life chances than simply restoring GDP growth to its golden years’ rate. In fact, in today’s lopsided economy, it would take a growth rate of more than 6 percent to revive the income trajectories experienced by middle class children in 1940.”
But don’t fret too much America. There are some very bright spots from 2015-16!
A shattered chromosome cured a woman of her immune disease then reassembled. This is known as chromothripsis, possibly paving the way for therapies against a variety of human diseases. 2015 saw the dawn of gene editing, the rise of immunotherapy and the first hints of a drug to slow the pace of Alzheimer’s disease. NASA’s Kepler telescope found 1,284 new planets of which nine could plausibly support human life. About 800-million years ago a slight genetic mutation lead to multicellular life on Earth. An ancient molecule known as GK-PID was discovered to be the reason single-celled organisms on Earth started evolving into multicellular organisms we have today. In mathematics a new prime number was discovered, further expanding and enhancing encryption programming: the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search. Then perhaps one of the biggest headline for medical science in 2016 was made by the Stanford University School of Medicine! Stem cells injected into stroke patients re-enabled patients to walk again.
Finally and on the faith vs. science debate, cavefish were found that could walk up walls. This showed similarities to four-limbed vertebrates. The New Jersey Institute of Technology discovered a Taiwanese Cavefish that is capable of walking up walls with the same anatomical movement as any present-day amphibian or reptile. And in the state of Utah, the Black Dragon Canyon rock-art debate was finally solved! Due to pterosaur fossils being found in the area, young-Earth creationists — who believe our planet to be only 6,000 to 10,000 years old — have relentlessly cited the rock-painting as proof that humans and the winged reptiles had walked the region together. Archaeological chemist Dr. Marvin Rowe using “a photographic enhancement program known as DStretch and a technique called x-ray fluorescence,” completely debunked the creationist’s claim of the art.
There were many, many more major breakthroughs in medicine, history, and science for 2015-16 that simply could not all be listed here. Apologies.
The reviews are mixed about 2017. No surprise, right? It’s only January.
However, from a U.S. economic standpoint, the fiscal outlook for America’s “new POTUS” plans are not promising, says the Brookings Institute, and “it is likely to get worse soon.“
“The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimates that Trump’s tax and spending proposals – the latter including replacing the Affordable Care Act, modifying Medicaid, boosting military spending, and enacting savings in non-defense programs – imply that the debt will rise to 105 percent of GDP by 2026. The CRFB report leaves out any estimate of increased infrastructure spending, which Trump has said he would like to increase by roughly $1 trillion over a decade. Including that would add further to the debt figures.”
From a political standpoint, never before has the spirit of true, pure equality for ALL Americans been so threatened (e.g. 2016: Cries for Mutiny), arguably weakened the last 2-3 decades. Racism and hate-crimes littered our nation’s news media and if 2015-16 is any barometer, it isn’t going away anytime soon in 2017. For here and now and the sake of time, I am going to focus on sex-gender identities only.
Notwithstanding the obvious growing social trend of sex-gender equality across many states, the political-Conservative representation and processes, for various reasons, progressed at snail-paces. It took the highest court in the land, the Supreme Court, after four pivotal landmark decisions—Lawrence v. Texas (2003), United States v. Windsor (2013), Hollingsworth v. Perry (2013), and Obergefell v. Hodges (2015)—to make same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states. Can you say it took not an act of Congress, but the gavel of the Supreme Court to finally follow its majority of people!?
From the social and scientific standpoints then, the future in America has wider glimmers of hope. Since 1991 the work of doctors and scientists — like Dr. Simon LeVay and medical/university colleagues across Massachusetts and New York with their supporting universities and clinics through 2001 — has led to the progression and evolution of tangible better understandings of sex-gender dynamics. For example, in 2006 the Council for Responsible Genetics reported:
“We are sexual beings, yet this does not mean that we are born homosexual, bisexual, or heterosexual. Our sexual expression can change over time, towards different people, through different experiences. A lack of understanding about this type of human variability often leads to a perspective that our genes define who we are.
…Yet a narrow focus on the variability of sexual expression threatens to cloud the issue altogether. Without giving proper attention to the mutability of human sexual expression, questions regarding its origins and character cannot be answered. Without giving proper attention to the mutability of human sexual expression, questions regarding its origins and character cannot be answered.”
“For men, new research suggests that clues to sexual orientation may lie not just in the genes, but in the spaces between the DNA, where molecular marks instruct genes when to turn on and off and how strongly to express themselves.”
In individuals, said[UCLA molecular biologist Tuck C.]Ngun, the presence of these distinct molecular marks can predict homosexuality with an accuracy of close to 70%.
Researchers working in the young science of epigenetics acknowledge they are unsure just how an individual’s epigenome is formed. But they increasingly suspect it is forged, in part, by the stresses and demands of external influences. A set of chemical marks that lies between the genes, the epigenome changes the function of genetic material, turning the human body’s roughly 20,000 protein-coding genes on or off in response to the needs of the moment.
“Our best guess is that there are genes” that affect a man’s sexual orientation “because that’s what twin studies suggest,” said Northwestern University psychologist J. Michael Bailey, who has explored a range of physiological markers that point to homosexuality’s origins in the womb. But the existence of identical twin pairs in which only one is homosexual “conclusively suggest that genes don’t explain everything,” Bailey added.”
—Scientists find DNA differences between gay men and their straight twin brothers, by Melissa Healy – LA Times, October 2015
Stepping back from any one tree and examining the genetic or epigenetic forest strongly suggests that ancient and long-standing social-theological traditions of strictly an unbending binary paradigm in post-modern Europe and modern America are fast fading into fallacy. For the future growth of higher human virtues and education, this is great news!
This very month one of the most iconic American magazines, National Geographic, released their double-issues on the gender revolution. Since I can remember over the last 25+ years, this bold highly controversial step by a world-renown organization is long overdue in the U.S.! It paints the reality of the changing social stigma of sex-gender identity bringing it to our public squares to define the correct precise terms so misunderstood, and looks closely at the cultural, political, social, and most importantly the biological aspects! These are must copies for your personal library.
Topics the magazines cover include Helping Families Talk About Gender, Girls, Boys, and Gendered Toys, the power and influence of our society’s binaryColor Code on American children, a deeper look into children’s animated films of popular characters: Who’s the Fairest?, a detailed graph of Where In the World Are Women and Men Most-and Least-Equal, candid first-hand reports from 9-year olds around the globe of How (in their countries) Gender Affects Their Lives, Rethinking Gender: Can Science Help Us Navigate?, and then the lengthy article, Making A Man: How Does A 21st-century Boy Reach Manhood? that I found astonishing. And those articles and graphs are merely the first-half of the first magazine!
“Enveloped by the men of his family and Hasidic faith, Levi Tiechtel celebrates his 13th birthday at his bar mitzvah in Queens, New York. For millenia, Jews have been performing this ritual, which commemorates the[supposed]age when a male becomes accountable for his own actions and sins.”
—Making A Man: How Does A 21st-century Boy Reach Manhood?, January 2017 National Geographic, pp 86-87.
From 800 BCE Sparta to 1930 Italy and United States, “cultures have devised[not genetics or epigenetics necessarily]myriad practices and rituals to make boys into men. The methods — often secret and sacred — vary widely and continually evolve, says cultural anthropologist Gilbert Herdt. But they also share some universal themes that broadly reflect a community’s values and the roles its men are expected to play.” At such a young malleable age, in several cultures around the world, America included, it makes the decision to conform or not conform daunting or near impossible until perhaps an older age of increased independence and exposure to the world’s endless variety.
The Possible-Probable Forecast
Based on what I’ve written in this post and previous posts, my life experiences as an 8th-generation Texan as well as American, my 28-year futebol-soccer career across 4-of-the-6 inhabitable continents exposed and engrossed to a multitude of native cultures, the copiousness and curse of the internet, and my unconventional journey from young agnostic, to evangelical-fundamental Reformed theology with church leadership and practice, back toward a Freethinking Humanist today… and now an evolving, learning, and hopefully teaching social-sciences from basic chemistry to Quantum Physics, I would say the next 2-6 years in the United States looks promising through several lenses on the social and scientific fronts, but ominous on the economic and political battlefields. Why?
After 241-years as a nation and about 182 for Texas, we have nurtured the freedom to continually push the envelope of social refinement and scientific exploration, granted in pockets of the country, while also nurturing the fear of change and the consumer rewards of self-reliance and exclusion. When we examine the entire American forest over the lifetime of our nation, we stand at a pivotal ridge on our future’s horizon. Either we embrace a bigger global community, reverse the return or nuisance of old uncivilized ideologies which have crept or will creep back in, and instead keep pushing the scientific thresholds… else we risk increased fragmentation, polarization, and socioeconomic collapse in a few more generations, if not sooner.
I hope my seat behind this windshield and the view through my/our rearview mirror is different or temporarily malfunctioning! (half laughing, half nervous)
Tell me your thoughts and suggestions below. Whether you are American or not, I’d like to read them.
Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always
Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself, (I am large, I contain multitudes.)
— “Song of Myself“, Walt Whitman
Part of human nature, beginning at our very first breath, is to find identity, to feel loved, to feel a sense of value. Whitman poetically asks how is that achieved? By embracing equally, he replies, our ordinary and our extraordinary. Sounds liberating! Sounds easy, huh? If you are a child again, sure.
There are various reasons why it is not always as simple as Whitman’s monologue. But it doesn’t mean it’s impossible!
In my Introduction post of this series and the following Departure post, I covered just how truthful in 1855 Whitman’s poem describes us, “Very well then, I contradict myself…” In the next post Entries, I covered briefly how we humans probably became walking, talking contradictions; extraordinary contradictions over centuries and millenia to become one of the paradoxically dominant species on the planet. Four primary causes for this graduated progression were planetary resources, our physical bodies and brains, and our learned adaptation of more complex social collaboration. Yet, more paradoxical is that we’ve also made these remarkable leaps of advancement at a very staggering cost in human atrocities, deaths, and near extinctions. If we look more closely at these paradoxes on a group scale and personal scale, perhaps we can permanently exit our barbaric behaviours and fears, and begin to reside more permanently and safely in realized child-like kinetic, sharing creativity.
Power Management and the Grid – Planetary Resources
As I previously covered, the average human brain requires at least 12.6 watts of metabolic power to operate during an average 24-hours. The rest of our body requires about 50.4 watts for a total consumption of around 63 watts, or what nutritionists say is roughly 2,000 calories per day — 1,800 avg. for women, 2,200 avg. for men — and varies slightly due to height, weight, age, cultural region, and activity level. Care to be educated in what 2,000 calories or 63 watts looks like… for an entire day, all day? You might be surprised…
Though the food selections above are not the “healthiest choices,” that is as much as an average person requires for one entire day. Not much more, and less if desired. Multiply 2,000 calories (63 watts) by today’s approximate world population of 7.38 billion that comes out to 17.46 trillion calories per day, almost 465 million kW per day…a very, very manageable metabolic consumption rate for a planet brimming with caloric resources; a cornucopia of life-giving sustenance for everyone several times over. Yet, many regions, local or global, have persistent annual malnutrition and famine. From the U.N. Food & Agriculture Organization (2014):
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that about 805 million people of the 7.3 billion people in the world, or one in nine, were suffering from chronic undernourishment in 2012-2014. Almost all the hungry people, 791 million, live in developing countries, representing 13.5 percent, or one in eight, of the population of developing counties. There are 11 million people undernourished in developed countries.
As a fellow human being these facts slap me in the face. As an American living in one of, if not THE wealthiest nation on the planet, this hurts. This rips at my heart because daily I am surrounded, nagged, and ashamed by how excessively wasteful we are as a country. It’s everywhere here in Texas. I am not exaggerating.
The WEEE man statue, 7-meters of human electronics and electrical waste materials one human disposes in a lifetime.
It isn’t all bad news for us Yankees and Confederates, thankfully. According to the OECD the U.S. has ranked in the top three giving nations of the 28 member nations for the last fifteen years or more — because we do have so much excess. Do you think a lot more can be done?
Personal confession: my ideal body weight for a 6-foot man is 175-180 lbs. Today I weigh 196 lbs. This is not too healthy, both on a personal scale and nowhere close on a social scale! I’m changing it. The very first step I’m taking is saying “No” a lot more often. Repeating that wonderful word is not going to greatly effect my luxurious lifestyle either. It’s probably not near enough so I am doing more. I am reducing my food portions significantly and spreading out my two meals a day. Besides, much of what goes in my mouth never enters my body — what fat molecules remain get piled around the waist — and the rest is… as they say, returned to Earth. Typically, that is over half of what I ate in the first place. As I was learning more about the gastrointestinal tract, I was appalled by the waste and stunned by the body’s incredible efficiency to create metabolic-energy from so little.
Nevertheless, the minimal lean resources we humans actually need are relative to what Earth abundantly provides and what others, like myself, take away or waste.
The Beautiful Breakable Divergent Body and Brain
They are our first impressions. How the body looks, smells, and moves can reveal its general affairs and use. The body has several ways to let us and others know if it’s ill or well, surviving or thriving. It is perhaps one of the most sophisticated organic systems in the known universe. For the sake of time, here is a highly abbreviated idea of how sophisticated.
The Skin — Our body’s primary defense against the world’s microbial hordes is our skin; trillions of skin cells sacrifice themselves as shields absorbing invaders daily to soon fall off carrying would-be invaders with them. Then they are so rapidly replaced by new skin cells ready to repeat the carnage, it would make Joseph Stalin green with envy. Also, if you ever feel unattractive, consider this: Your body is so intensely appealing to trillions of tiny-stalkers they would like nothing better than to get all over you!
Immune System — It can be considered one of the most powerful array of defense weapons ever gathered in one organization. It can respond to attacks in broad or specific ways and due to highly sophisticated training, the system is like the body’s élite Special Forces in two basic Divisions: AB and CA. The AB, or antibody division, is led by B-cells handling most bacterial attacks. The CA, or cellular division, is made up of T-cells which are most effective against viral attackers. Both divisions derive their “special skills” from stem cells in bone marrow. Both can diversify as required by the battleground’s demands. Both divisions patrol the body far and wide. The immune system requires the effectiveness of the next system/buffet.
Amino Acid Buffet — About half of our organic material in our bodies is protein. It is usually connected to muscles, but protein is deployed in the body in a dazzling variety of ways and in tens of thousands of forms. Every day our bodies belly up to the amino acid buffet, creating thousands of proteins from 22 basic building blocks called amino acids. Some become muscle and sinew, some as hormones — messengers that stimulate growth, order organs to speed up or slow down, direct nerve traffic as well as manage how cells handle blood sugar. Others make up antibodies, the soldiers of the aforementioned immune system’s two combat divisions.
Sexual divergence illustrated
These three systems are only a tiny portion of multiple systems that make humans the most complex species on Earth. Yet, as covered in previous posts in this series, as remarkable as the design of the human body is it has flaws, weaknesses, and divergence. Compared to many other species which have retained and perfected their body configuration over tens or hundreds of millions of years, our hominid ancestors only started walking upright around 3-4 million years ago. This is barely enough time to sort out the imperfections, one of which we may feel every night or so in our lower back. Our spinal column comes from a model that evolved to better suit quadrupeds. Being bipedal results in gravity’s full force down our backbones, compressing vertebrae and squashing the disks that sit in between them: herniated disks. Perhaps it’s time to return to a lot more ‘horizontal‘ activity! 😈
The healthy and young suffer from evolutionary imperfections. Many pro athletes ask too much of their knees and shoulders than our current structures are mechanically able to perform. Youths suffer through acne, another probable evolutionary hangover. In other hairy animals, sebaceous glands disperse oil onto hair fibers aiding a supple and rain-proof coat. Oddly, Homo sapiens have become less and less hairy and those same oils clog and infect the sebaceous glands causing unsightly acne.
The Brain — A good deal of time was spent pointing out the human brain’s shortcomings in the first two posts. Now I wish to point out the nervous system’s astonishing control-room, the brain. Our skulls hold about a 2.8 pound tapioca-like goop holding about 100 to 200-billion neurons and many of them can interconnect with 10,000 or more other neurons throughout the entire body. This network means that the various pathways an impulse can take inside the brain can possibly exceed the number of particles in the Universe. The fact that some of us can hardly obey basic traffic laws or balance a checking account is not for the lack of tools!
As humankind faces known and unknown species-threatening biological diseases, social and planetary dysfunctions, any of which that could lead to near extinction, if not full extinction in the next fifty to one hundred years, it becomes utterly critical than ever before in human history that the human race begin thinking a lot more in terms of a species and not individuals. But wait! That is not all of it. Simple altruism will not achieve complete survival of our species. The journey and struggle for higher enlightenment, quicker evolution, and dynamic social ecological collaboration are ironically and equally an individual one as it also relates to the whole species. They cannot be separated. But more on this cognitive paradox later in the series.
Litmus and Human Chemistry – Our Social Life
“Don’t worry Wilson, I’ll do all the paddling. You just hang on!” Chuck Noland’s relationship with a volleyball, in the film Cast Away, sums up how much we need social interaction for identity, inspiration, and a functioning level of sanity in an otherwise apathetic daunting world.
Around 3-million years ago hominids began sharing resources, probably because they witnessed sharing among other animal groups particularly with offspring. This activity facilitates what is known in modern neurology and psychology as parental attachment. This bonding has several supporting social and physiological dynamics, most notably cognitive and hormonal bonding. Studies on infants and toddlers infer an innate need for children to develop emotional attachments to increase their chances of survival. Parental attachment eventually expands with age into more complex bonding mechanisms of group and mating attachments and identity, again satisfying our innate needs of survival and hormonal rewards. When none of these cognitive and hormonal dynamics exist for an infant, toddler, or adult, the result is a higher increase in stress or the release of cortisol by the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA Axis) which if prolonged, leads to a rippling-effect into other negative health complications such as digestive problems, heart disease, sleep deprivation, depression, and memory-concentration impairment to name a few. In contrast though, positive social interaction is associated with increased oxytocin. Oxytocin and vasopressin are major deterrents against stress-hormones and in both toddlers, children, and to extents adults too, enhancing human motivation for curiosity and intellectual growth of expression, language, mathematical, and logic-cognitive growth… all wonderful contributions to a secure healthy emotional base.
Now that I’ve quickly touched upon what goes on inside our body and brain on the microscopic biological spectrum — there is just too much to cover in a few posts; a virtual multi-storied library — I move on to external influences, stimuli, nourishment or dis-ease that enter our brain and body through all five senses.
The Question of Free Experiential Learning
Many of you may have been raised in systemic public schooling like me. Every single school morning in 1st period the class would stand, and in unison verbally recite word-for-exact-word… “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America. And to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for All.” Later as an adult and a teacher of several public school districts I was required to lead all my 1st period students in the Pledge of Allegiance, persuading each to follow suit if necessary. Why? What was the purpose of this oath?
When I was a boy I asked my Dad what the pledge was all about. Being a former Eagle Scout then U.S. Marine Corps soldier, my father explained in simpler terms a code and what I elaborate today as a code of honor, courage, and committment to live by and to guard our nation’s principles, as an élite noble warrior if necessary. This began my deep lifetime boyish admiration for military history, its valiant soldiers, leaders, and the powerful survival concept A Band of Brothers. The code of Semper Fidelis and what it means is something that for personal reasons quickly and embarrassingly brings tears to my eyes. Since 1990 I have continued to learn the stark contrast between freedom and license.
Real Madrid FC supporters
Nationalism, along with religion and sports fans, is one of civilization’s most potent methods of systemic taught and learned “beliefs”. What is most intriguing is that nationalism is everywhere around most of the world, yet it can be quite illusive to nail down what those beliefs are exactly that define nationalism or patriotism. One common form of nationalism is the odd belief that your nation is superior to others in particular ways. “Patriotism is your conviction” George Bernard Shaw notes, “that your country is superior to all other countries because you were born in it.” Indeed, even though one has no real control of where your mother births you, happenstance falsely gives you the conditioned right to proudly brag. Another form of nationalism is the perceived (and taught) duty to protect your nation when under threat, e.g. my father’s and my nation’s USMC code. This form of conditioning fascinates me and it can be found not only in the psyche of human groups, but also in many other species on Earth! I will address this phenomenon later in the series. Even more fascinating is that nationalism is a recent human endeavor, emerging only over the last three centuries!
Since the mid-1600’s nation-builders couldn’t simply use enthusiasm to unite people. Enthusiasm is too emotionally temporary; prolonged high levels of adrenaline, or epinephrine, exhaust the body’s hormonal and nervous system. This condition is associated with combat veterans suffering from PTSD or extended periods of the adrenaline-high “fight-or-flight” mode. The body needs to return to periods of standard hormonal levels to fully function.
No, instead nation-builders found a powerful more permanent tool: captive audience. In other words, a national education system teaching the nation-state’s “unique” ideology. In religion, it is and has historically been no different.
Should a national and/or religious education system be the one and only single form of teaching and learning? John Maynard Keynes was one of Western civilization’s prolific economists of the early 20th century. During the Great Depression (1929-1939) Keynes was popularly criticized for his M.O. of inconsistency. When forced to explain his fluidity, he replied “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do Sir?” Sherlock Holmes had a similar anecdote reminding Watson, “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” There is a profound ceaseless curiosity innate in our human psyche from our earliest days as a toddler. If free to explore and not ruthlessly confined and coerced, human cognition can brilliantly unlock mysteries of the subatomic to the macro-cosmic and everything in between, including the far reaches in ourselves. Alexander Neillalso believed in this learning philosophy. In 1921 Neill believed “school should be made to fit the child, rather than the other way around.” The role of the parents and nation-states was simply to protect the integrity of that freedom and nurture liberating non-stop curiosity which fuels human ingenuity and the highest human virtues. Neill’s Summerhill School in Lyme Regis then Leiston, Suffolk, England, was and is a radical departure from traditional religious and national education systems. However, our species didn’t make evolutionary and revolutionary leaps or breakthroughs by remaining intellectually, physically, biologically, and philosophically stagnate. No, progress requires continual questioning, reëxamination, and possible-probable retooling — residing in fluidness if you will — even in the face of perceived contradictions or threats from establishments.
“Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)”
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There is little doubt how much we truly need each other. The big question is how we need each other? What are the connections? Language, symbols, and physical expression are the acute methods of navigating our social soups. Mastering all of them could not be more urgent as our species confronts the biological, social, and ecological dilemmas and crises of the 21st century.
In the next post of this series Untapped Worlds — Retooling, I will explore what it means to be a part of a super-organism, what it means to be surrounded by endless biodiversity, and how more humans are finally catching up with other highly eusocial species on the planet, yet also highlight the coexisting paradoxes or contradictions that subtly distinguish us from other animals species, but never alienate us.
Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always
Simply put “Things are not always as they appear.” Some would say they never are. Still others claim there are always the black-and-white and they never change. My experience has taught me one profound thing: A violent storm brings down the greatest oak, but a reed stands by moving to and fro.
For many centuries, perhaps even two or three millennia, there has been a two-dimensional ideology assumed, proliferated, defended, and in some cases subjugated with little more basis than ego. Sexual-orientation or sexual-matching has increasingly been shown by science and nature not to be binary, or black-and-white, but instead as varied as the full color spectrum wheel. To be more accurate, nature has been hinting to us all along: appearances can be deceiving.
The Holy Nature of Embryology
There is a widespread misnomer out there which states or implies that human beings are born only one of two ways: male or female. This misnomer subsequently implies or states that according to Sears Craftsman Tool-amics a bolt does not connect, or join with another bolt. A nut does not join with or connect with another nut; they cannot fit together. The only way the bolt and nut are happy and causing the world to be happy is if the bolt is joined with the nut. Or is it the nut joined with the bolt? Nevertheless, it would seem that nature (or Craftsman Tools) supports this binary system, right? Nope, hang on Marty Feldman! It seems you do not get out to nature much.
Going strictly by primary education or the family’s birds-and-bees story, one would probably know that gender is determined by the father’s sperm, correct? Of those 14-million hyper-fluid target-seekers, the winner will either have the pointy-arrow or the downward cross chromosome and SHAZAAM it’s done! The embryo grows into a heterosexual boy or girl. Simple, right? Nope, strike two Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.
Even though at fertilization the male sperm carries the DNA gender-identifier, decades prior to conception there are many variables that took place throughout the parents’ hormonal-development that factor into their reproductive systems. Concurrently there are also variables still remaining to be developed over the following embryonic weeks that hinge on the mother’s hormonal and embryonic condition. Yes, the embryo begins to change during the first several days, but there is still much to be sorted out.
Ultimate Ambiguity: The Chicken or the Egg?
Every living organism has inherited traits, or a blueprint passed down to them from previous generations known as genetic code. During reproduction living cells follow two subset codes called the genotype and phenotype. For about the first 21 days the embryo’s development is directly controlled by the mother’s genotype. This coding controls everything developing internally and inherited. After 21 days further development begins according to the phenotype coding that tells the cells how to construct all the external (physical) features of the eventual fetus. This includes the development of our hormonal or endocrine system. Amazingly at 56 days the observable fetus is neither male nor female. More amazingly, however, is that the baby’s hormonal-system and sexual development, is an extremely complex transcription and translation of inherited RNA. And who did the parent’s inherit their RNA from? What of those four grandparents? Where did they inherit their RNA from? Are you beginning to glimpse the exponential complexity of embryonic-fetal cell development which programs the prenatal hormonal (sexual) system?
Anterior hypothalamus and INAH3
And yet, we are only beginning to scratch the surface of human development from embryo to full grown adult. Genetic coding of the embryo and fetus is only one part of the entire blueprint. Hold on, it gets bigger and more definitive.
The Rising Reality of Sexual Orientation and Attraction
Modern neuroscience and genoscience have clearly found over the last several decades that simple physical-sexual genitalia DOES NOT wholly determine a person’s sexual attractions. For the last twenty-odd years the accumulating molecular and neurological data (nature) are showing that sexual attraction and behavior are a product of a combination of genes, hormones, and evolving cells which likely determine future sexual preference from before birth.
In 1990 Harvard Medical School neuroscientist Dr. Simon LeVay began researching the origins of sexual orientation. It began when he reviewed a study done in the late 1980’s at UCLA which found that an area of the human brain, known medically as INAH3, was larger in men than in women. From this evidence it was deduced sexual behavior is in part due to biological differences in the brain. Therefore, when he concluded his 1990 study he indeed found that there were structural differences (again nature) in the brains of homosexual men compared to heterosexual men.
A fascinating landmark finding in his 1990 research showed that the INAH3 region of the brain in heterosexual men was over twice as large as the same region in women and homosexual men. This definitive evidence establishes that there is a natural biological difference between gay and heterosexual men. However, LeVay is quick to point out that this fact does not prove there is a specific homosexual gene. To date, neuroscience and genoscience studies haven’t made that determination. In his October 2012 lecture to Elmhurst College, LeVay cautions of a potential Gattaca nightmare (eugenics and genetic discrimination) and what biased parents or people may do to their prenatal child if it is determined they possess “the gay gene”. Personally, I too find that horrifying and no different than sexual or racial hate crimes.
What has become increasingly clear from the neurological, biological, genetic, and behavioral-psychological data regarding sexual development and orientation is that none of the components can be singled out as autonomous or non-relational to its other “siblings” if you will. It is a multi-spectrum micro and macroscopic epigenesis (formation) with no permanent walls, laws or lines. Our human brain registers love as love, despite gender.
Unquestionably nature, or more precisely human nature, cannot be “cured” or “cleansed” of what is perceived morally as right or wrong. Nature is oblivious to morality and we should give eternal thanks for that… treating all humans as family.
Since posting this in April 2011, it has been my most popular blog with over 11,000 views so far. It seems a good idea to reblog it since intersex births and sexual orientations are commonly misunderstood or avoided, or worse… attacked.
In my archaic way of thinking, or perhaps as my conservative culture taught me, I thought that a boy was a boy not only by how similar he acted among me and other boys, but also because of his genitalia. And a girl was a girl not only by how similar she acted among other girls, but because of her genitalia as well. It all seemed pretty obvious and quite simple, so I thought for more than 30 years.
A few years ago my mother informed me of the death of a dear family friend and halfway-house mother to my sister of addiction and innumerable relapses. She had been there for my mom and other women countless times as my sister fought her disease on the losing end. This woman had been a pillar of hope and therapy in the community for battered, abused women, and many typically in chemical addiction. I was unaware that she had been what is often termed as an “intersexed baby”; a prenatal condition I knew absolutely nothing about. Subsequently, this not-so-rare occurrence completely overhauled my views on sexual orientation, “same-sex” marriage, and gender identity.
Exact numbers of intersexed births are difficult to determine due to the lack of a humane dignifying definition of what physically should be considered normal or abnormal. The ignorance and social stigma the condition carries with it is as much a part of the difficulty as the collective understanding by medical science. Despite the ongoing studies one thing is quite clear. Sexual orientation, same-sex marriage, and gender identity IS NOT a social-religious debate, period.
Here is some perspective. It is commonly accepted in the medical community that on a global scale there are likely as many intersexed births as there are Jews. It is more common than multiple-sclerosis. More specifically, according to the Intersex Society of North America, about one in 100 births are intersexed or do not fall under “standard” male or female identity. One in 1,666 births has no clear XX or XY chromosome structure. For a more expansive report of all types of intersex conditions visit the ISNA (http://www.isna.org/faq/frequency) website. With chromosome structures outside of the traditional gender dichotomy, how can sexual or gender identity ever be separated from a genetic hard-wiring? Intersexed people could not have made the presumed adolescent or adult choice in “un-Godly perversion” if their condition formed in the womb. As such, social political shaming of these people can never be justified by any ideology. In fact, under such an archaic model one could argue that the molecular, biological, hormonal embryonic designing of intersex babies is from God’s workshop. Think about those implications.
The available prenatal and neonatal hormonal development studies are showing that aside from physical conditions, the development of testosterone and estrogen levels, or the under-developed levels, can sometimes vary widely. Pediatric and adolescent psychology has shown that intersex patient’s social behavior are indeed influenced by the relative levels of these and other gender hormones not necessarily specific to their external natal anatomy. A wonderful comprehensive article on the intricacies of intersexed births by Joy A. Bilharz can be found in her scholarly report (Click here). I highly recommend reading it two or three times. With this medical knowledge, it is not a stretch by any means to theorize, if not conclude, that there are smaller variations hormonally and neurologically in the general “natural” population that despite their socialcatch-all external anatomy, internally their gender development is different starting at conception.
For me, this is obvious: The rigid binary sexual-gender identification models many Americans have must be trashed for a more biologically, chromosome-informed model for not only political-legal reasons, but more importantly for humane reasons. However, the LGBT and intersex communities must avoid pendulum-mania. Elitism would certainly hamper hard fought gains. As Joy Bilharz notes,
The transgender movement…is attempting to breakdown the boxes into which people are pigeonholed on the basis of actual or presumed characteristics. Unfortunately, however, it has shown itself to be as exclusive and intolerant in many respects as the society whose values it rejects. This may represent the radical beginning typical of most social movements and it certainly doesn’t represent all of those who see themselves as transgendered. On the other hand, an attempt to bring all sex and gender and sexual minorities under a single umbrella of “queerness” can also be seen as having a homogenizing effect that creates discord within the category as different groups jockey for leadership positions or stake out their exclusive turf.
From a legal-political standpoint, I encourage the intersex/LGBT community to show first and foremost that they have something very unique to offer society without segregating it. A tall order in some cases, yes. But remember, men like myself, however fortunate to have grown up in a Humanist home, who are heterosexual and unaware that there are truly MORE flavor’s of ice cream than simply vanilla or chocolate. Since the condition did not directly affect my family, I was a product of our society’s concealment-approach to intersex and sexual orientation.
In defense of those like me, it is mindful to remember the “democracy” the United States of America was founded and later built upon: primarily European theological and social doctrines, which traditionally ostracized non-Catholics, or non-Protestants, or non-Christians who challenged or questioned them. Do not despair. Our nation’s brief history is laden with violent civil-rights movements that took many decades and generations to change legally. Fortunately, they did happen. One day, hopefully soon, ignorance will once again be overcome.
[Later addition] Our wonderful close family friend had told my Mom that for her entire life she felt her doctor and parents made the wrong gender choice for her at birth. She never felt as if she was female. Her social assimilation growing up was often unbearable at times eventually leading to prescription drug addiction, alcoholism, and illegal drug addiction. Thankfully, by her late thirties she turned her life around with large support by chemical dependency programs but most of all the support by other intersex support groups. As a result, she became the Director of no less than four women’s halfway-houses! Listening to my mother speak so fondly about her, I cannot help but wonder what mental and emotional state my Mom might otherwise be in, much less my sister. Thank all goodness in this Universe that someone so special and unique as her was THERE for us….us “standard” humans who too often treat people like her politically and socially as sub-human.