Friday, November 21, 2008

Pumpkin bread – cooking, Gadfly-style

5.5 cups whole wheat flour
1.5 cups multigrain whole-grain flour (Good local health grocery has this here; it’s a mix of whole wheat, whole oat, brown rice, barley, rye, triticale flour, flaxseed flour and soy flour; it adds the additional protein profile of soy flour and flaxseed flour, too)
(If you insist on using white flour, I can’t be responsible! ....)
1/3 cup pecan meal
1/4 cup flaxseed meal (non-essential)
6 tablespoons wheat gluten (used extra here than I normally do, with the pumpkin)
2 packs rapid-rise dry yeast
1/4 tsp sea salt
3 tbsp cinnamon
2 tbsp ground cloves
1 tbsp cardamom
1/2 sugar (turbinado plus conventional brown here)

Liquid ingredients
1/3 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup margarine, melted
1/2 cup fat-free half-and-half
1 egg plus one extra white
1/8 cup honey

Mix all the dry stuff together while yeast is in warm water to start
rise. Add in liquid ingredients.

Add in one can of canned pumpkin.

Finish kneading. (I do NOT use a bread machine!)

After first rise, separate into loaves.

After second rise, bake!

400F, about 55 minutes.

It’s rich, with the butter plus half-and-half, even if fat-free, but tasty. It’s on the mild side as far as spiciness; add another tbsp. each of cinnamon and clove, plus an extra half teaspoon of cardamom, or half a teaspoon of ginger, for more flavor.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Stuart Kauffman erects anti-reductionistic straw man

Kauffman, the former long-term scholar at the Santa Fe Institute, says we need spirituality to exorcise the demons of reductionism from science.

Here’s one example:
To take one example, I argue that the evolutionary emergence of the human heart cannot be deduced from physics. That doesn't mean it breaks any laws of physics. But there's no way of getting from physics to the emergence of hearts in the evolution of the biosphere.

Contrary to Kauffman playing pin-the-reductionistic-tail on Steve Weinberg, though, no mainstream scientist has tried to get evolutionary biology deduced from quantum physics. That’s what Dan Dennett calls “greedy reductionism,” not reductionism.

Then, Kauffman goes well beyond that nonsense to the major leagues of creating straw men. He claims that, in essence, we can’t appreciate value, can’t have a sense of aesthetics or awe at the world, etc., with a reductionistic stance.

This is the typical canard repeated, nay thrust at, atheists by theists. Coming out of the mouth of a professed atheist like Kaufmann, it’s disconcerting at the least and off-putting at the most. Even more than that, is his insistence that we should use the word “God” to discuss this non-reductionistic aesthetics or, as I will call it …

Stuart Kauffman’s metaphysics. Proof?

Kauffman goes Paul Tillich at the end of the interview:
Not that there's a supernatural god. I think that there’s something else. I think the creativity in nature is so stunning and so overwhelming that it's God enough for me, and I think it’s God enough for many of us if we think about it.

Ridiculous. But not the first time I’ve heard such stuff out of the mouth of a professed philosopher.

Friday, November 14, 2008



Love is not beauty.
Love is not sex.
Beauty is formed in the eye of a loving beholder.
But itself cannot create love instead of lust.
Love is more than sex, and extends and exists beyond it;
And even better without it at times.

Beauty is not sex.
Beauty is not love.
Many people, at swingers’ parties and clubs
Have engaged in sex when not beautiful, or with those not beautiful
And many beautiful people either cannot or will not
Find or give love.

Sex is not love.
Sex is not beauty.
As John Holmes said, without love
Sex is but mutual masturbation.
And we have plenty of mutual masturbators, as well as solo ones,
In our world.
And sex doesn’t make me, or a partner
Any more beautiful in and of itself.

— Nov. 10, 2008

Thursday, November 13, 2008


The sun set
An hour earlier today
Than yesterday.
The leaves turned redder,
Or browner in this dry year,
And my hike ended at late dusk.
The time that flees is mine
More than the thirst-unquenched oak’s.
But the wrath that could be mine
At passed days and lost opportunities —
As the change of time reminds me
Of the change of life —
Is not, on many days, is not.
An emotional detachment often plays
In the pensively introspective
Key of B minor.
Tempus fugit, dies irae.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Are your mom and dad fighting inside your brain?

No, I’m not talking Freudian psychology. Nor gestalt, nor modern humanistic or self-actualization theories.

I’m talking about the latest theory on the heritability of mental illness.

Bernard Crespi and Christopher Badcock claim this:
An evolutionary tug of war between genes from the father’s sperm and the mother’s egg can, in effect, tip brain development in one of two ways. A strong bias toward the father pushes a developing brain along the autistic spectrum, toward a fascination with objects, patterns, mechanical systems, at the expense of social development. A bias toward the mother moves the growing brain along what the researchers call the psychotic spectrum, toward hypersensitivity to mood, their own and others’. This, according to the theory, increases a child’s risk of developing schizophrenia later on, as well as mood problems like bipolar disorder and depression.

My first thought? It may not be Freudianism, but it carries as much sexual stereotyping baggage as Freud did.

That said, the story notes that their work leans heavily on David Haig. A decade ago, he argued that pregnancy was in part a biological struggle for resources between the mother and unborn child, with natural selection favoring mothers who could limit the nutritional “vampirism” of fetusus and fathers whose offspring were greedy as they could be in the womb.

So, Crespi and Babcock aren’t totally barking up the wrong tree.

But, beyond their sexist-sounding take on mental illness, they seem to have a black-and-white view of genetic and epigenetic effects, too, which leads them into their one-axis view of all mental health conditions.

So, right now, if mom and dad are fighting inside you, they are more likely to be fighting inside your mind rather than in genetic or epigenetic coding in your brain.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Genes — the 1 percent ‘solution’

Individualized genetic medicine? Not so fast there

Yes, that’s right.

The “binary” bits alleged to be the centerpiece of human heredity, beloved of evolutionary biologists, population geneticists, and above all, capital-letter Evolutionary Psychologists, in reality are only the 1 percent solution of heritability. Elementary!

As to WHY the gene is only the “1 percent solution,” here’s the details of the latest research.

First, one strand of DNA may code for several different proteins. (In a process known as alternative splicing, a cell can select different combinations of exons to make different transcripts, the story notes.)

Second, said “gene” can combine with several other different genes, in different situations, to produce yet more different proteins.

Third, genes often encode for RNA, not proteins.

So, throw out the 1 gene = 1 protein idea.

Beyond that, “genes” may make up as little as 1 percent of DNA. “Junk DNA,” which more and more is proving itself to be anything but junk, makes up much of the remainder.

And, non-coding introns can lie in the middle of a stretch of DNA that makes up a single coding exon.

Also, some DNA, such as methyl caps, and histones, controls whether or not an exon can even be expressed, or how. They’re part of “epigenetic marks,” an area of DNA far more poorly understood than genes, as traditionally described. And, it gets fun with them:
When an embryo begins to develop, the epigenetic marks that have accumulated on both parents’ DNA are stripped away. The cells add a fresh set of epigenetic marks in the same pattern that its parents had when they were embryos.

This process turns out to be very delicate. If an embryo experiences certain kinds of stress, it may fail to lay down the right epigenetic marks.

But, that’s not always the case. Sometimes, epigenetic marks can be inherited.

And, in a bit of quasi-Lamarckianism (though not quite as much so as prions), it takes RNA to guide these markers to the right spot on DNA.

And, if that’s not enough, studies of micro-RNA and half a dozen other “non-basic RNAs” show even more the role RNA plays, no subservience to DNA involved, in cellular development

So, this all his tie-ins for our commercial, chemical modern world.

Very preliminary research indicates that chemicals that appear to cause “genetic” damage may well be causing epigenetic damage instead.

That, in turn, throw the whole biotech tout sheet of “the promise of genetic medicine” into a big kink.

And, we haven’t even talked about the amount of viral DNA stuck inside yours and mine.