Posts Tagged ‘evolution’

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Did psychedelic mushrooms and group sex play a role in human evolution?

The iMom (short)

Posted: February 27, 2016 in -
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This is like an episode of Black Mirror.

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Darwin Day Revelation: Evolution, Not Religion, is the Source of Morality

There you have it: the elemental fear that belief in evolution will cause morality to collapse. That fear is predicated on a powerful assumption: that morality comes to us from God via religion. This is false. It is demonstrably false.

If religion were God’s UPS, delivering a package of moral laws to humanity, you’d expect a single, consistent set. Yet, each religion includes unique laws that outsiders find baffling or repugnant. Hinduism has its “untouchables.” Buddhism (as understood by many) spurns those born blind or otherwise disabled for bad behavior in past lives. Judaism, Islam, and Christianity each have their oddities: Judaism’s law against mixing meat and dairy, Islam’s prohibition on figurative art, and Christianity’s ritual drinking of Christ’s blood, for example.

 

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Yay. Another imbecile who may be president…

LISTEN TO BEN CARSON TELL THE WORLD THAT HE IS AN IDIOT WHO DOESN’T BELIEVE IN EVOLUTION

Dear Ben:

NOVA: Intelligent Design on Trial

 

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Yes darling, it makes no sense. To you. But really, what would?


PBS: Intelligent Design on Trial

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Conflict’s in the genes: The Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The Greanville Post

Steven Jonas, MD, MPH

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes can be viewed on a number of different levels, possibly not all of them present in the minds of its makers.  First, it can be viewed as a remarkable achievement in high-tech/special effects movie-making.  It is one thing to see Andrew Serkis motion-captured as the chimpanzee leader Caesar, who becomes totally convincing (no masks here) and conversant in at least three languages: Simian sign language, human sign language (apparently), and English.  (Being in California he may also speak some Spanish, but we do not have the opportunity to find that out).  But it is quite another to see literally a multitude of totally life-like chimpanzees engaged in big-game hunting or swinging through the trees on their way to an engagement with a group of surviving Homo sapiens holed up in downtown San Francisco.

Second, it can be seen as a fairly conventional action-adventure movie, man vs. man-like ape, the latter being originally a lab creation of the former.  (By the way, in terms of the story-line, except for a few names and superficial identities, the current “Planet of the Apes” series has nothing to do with the [original 1968 film] directed by Franklin J. Schaffer, with the screenplay by Michael Wilson and Rod Serling, that was based on the 1963 French novel La Planète des Singes by Pierre Boulle, and starred Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall, Maurice Evans, and the most appealing Kim Hunter, or its then-successors.)  

Third, it can be seen as a morality play, with a guess-which-group lives to a higher moral standard theme.  Fourth, it can be seen as an essay in paleo-anthropology, which is how I have come to see it.

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A group of Simians and a group of Homo sapiens are survivors of a world-wide, highly fatal infectious disease epidemic which the humans conveniently name the “Simian flu.”  That it has nothing to do with the Simian population but rather was created in a Homo sapiens lab ([the recent CDC anthrax-smallpox episode], anyone?) is of course a product of the Homo sapiens media naming it the “Simian flu,” but what else is new?

The Simian population consists primarily of chimpanzees with few gorillas and one rather intelligent orangutan thrown in (the latter possibly being a throw-back to the Dr. Zaius character of the original).  They lead a hunter-gatherer lifestyle in a communal setting.  While they have one acknowledged political leader, Caesar, no one appears to have either a) any control over the hunting-gathering processes or b) any material advantages over anyone else.  They also appear to not engage in inter-Simian violence, as a routine.  When one episode of that sort occurs, an attack on Caesar, when the latter wins he condemns the perpetrator to death. Before he does so Caesar pronounces the profound words: “You are not an ape.”

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The Homo sapiens population is classically Homo sapiens.  They have guns aplenty and with few exceptions are ready to use them at a moment’s notice.  Violence, against other species and within their own, is commonplace and for the most part fully accepted.  This characteristic doesn’t show up in this particular scenario, because there are so few of them left (having somehow acquired immunity to the disease).  But they are members of one of the very few species of animal on the planet that slaughters each other in numbers that have grown ever larger in the brief period of time that the species has existed in its so-called “civilized” mode of organization.  They are devious, both with each other and with the Simians.  Unlike the Simians, the Homo sapiens cannot exist for very long without converting one or more elements that they find in their environment into one or more goods and services.  It is the struggle of the Homo sapiens to get to an abandoned dam that lies to the north of where the Simians live so that they can have electrical power that forms the basis of the plot-line.  They are about to run out of power as the fuel supply for their generators runs out.

So the fundamental conflict in the movie is between an apparently egalitarian society of hunter-gatherers, which among other things rejects the use of use of intra-species violence, and the classic Homo sapiens society.  There is no historical indication that if the latter would somehow manage to survive, it would not eventually revert to its economically hierarchical organization based on intra-species violence.  Why?  Because [as I have discussed elsewhere], what has happened in Homo sapiens history is that the ownership means of production that converts elements found in the environment into the goods and services that Homo sapiens needs/uses for survival has been in private hands.  And it is that mode of ownership that eventually leads to violence within and between societies on a larger and larger scale.

I said in the introduction to this column that the movie could be seen as a parable of the conflict that took place tens of thousands of years ago, between the Homo species that we call “Neanderthal” and our own.  [By the way, that name comes from the name of the valley in Germany where the original fossils of that species were found, the Valley (“thal” in German) of the German river “Neander.”)]  It will be fascinating to see where the movie series goes with this one.  And oh yes, the next sequel is set up at the end of the film.

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There will eventually be a sequel to this column as well, dealing with three questions. 

A) Apparently Homo sapiens and Neanderthals co-existed for tens of thousands of years.  Is there evidence that the former killed off the latter over time, or did the former succeed them, simply through better adaptation to the shared environment over time? 

B) Is there a gene or genes for intra-species violence in Homo sapiens that exists in few other species?  (If they are to survive, all animal species need to have one or more violence genes directing activities at one or more other species.) 

C) If Homo sapiens does have one or more intra-species survival genes is it selected for by the organization of Homo sapien communities around the private ownership of the means of production?  A consideration of these questions will not be appearing your local theater any time soon.


Greanville Post Senior Contributing Editor Steven Jonas, the polymathic author of this article, has published hundreds of essays on politics, history, culture, health and economics, and penned more than 30 books.  His essays normally appear on many venues on the web, including the leading political sites. Dr. Jonas’ latest book is The 15% Solution: How the Republican Religious Right Took Control of the U.S., 1981-2022: A futuristic Novel, Brewster, NY, Trepper & Katz Impact Books, Punto Press Publishing, 2013, and available on Amazon.

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Gallup Poll:

In U.S., 42% Believe Creationist View of Human Origins

 

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45 Things I Learned At The Creation Museum

 

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Jacque Fresco continues challenging humanity to advance and to evolve.  Kickstarter.

Paradise or Oblivion?

 

 

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“Words do not live in dictionaries.  They live in the mind.”

The only audio recording of Virgina Woolf.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E8czs8v6PuI&feature=player_embedded

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Chimpanzee Ascendancy:
Pan Troglodytes’ New Status in Policy & in Films

by Jennifer Epps

Charles Darwin turned 204 this year, but his birthday didn’t make as big of a splash as Abe Lincoln’s (both were born February 12, 1809) because Darwin didn’t have a giant Hollywood epic movie playing in theatres. But those who champion what Darwin revealed, or who care about great apes and their intelligence, might want to look into the DVDs of several movies from recent years in honor of Earth Week.

All four great apes suffer when confined in captivity (over 3000 great apes are held in captivity in the U.S.); at the same time, they are disappearing from the wild due to poaching and habitat loss. Things are pretty serious for all of our great ape cousins, but it is our closest relatives, the chimpanzees, who have arguably had it the worst because in addition to other evils, they have been subjected to brutal experimentation in labs, abused by the entertainment industry, exploited by the pet trade, and even been sacrificed in space.

Fortunately, after many decades of struggle by their advocates, things are starting to look up for the chimpanzee, or Pan Troglodyte. At least it seems so judging by their gains in federal policy and public support, and the enlightened ways they have been depicted in several notable recent movies – an indicator of an improvement in how filmmakers think we see apes.

POLICY
Chimps as Experimental Subjects

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The U.S., the only developed country still using this species in invasive medical experiments, has now taken significant strides toward cutting down their use by labs. First, a December 2011 Institute of Medicine report commissioned by the National Institute of Health (NIH) concluded that ‘most current use of chimpanzees for biomedical research is unnecessary’. A committee of experts then set about scrutinizing all NIH-funded projects making use of chimps. Within 9 months, the NIH authorized the retirement of 113 government-owned chimpanzees, and began transferring them to sanctuaries. Moreover, in January of this year a NIH task force of scientists, the Health Working Group, deemed laboratories unable to meet the needs of chimpanzees and called for a halt to the breeding of chimpanzees and a gradual end to existing biomedical research grants for projects with chimps. They recommended the government retire 300 other chimps from its labs, suggesting just 50 chimps be retained for possible future experiments.

This is long-overdue progress and will have a real practical effect on the quality of life of these chimps. This is clearly evident from footage this spring of freshly released NIH research chimps  seeing sunlight and the outdoors for the first time after decades of incarceration.   However, if invasive research and the keeping of chimpanzees in laboratory facilities is inhumane, then it’s just as inhumane for the unfortunate 50 chimps who have to stay behind. And Stephen Rene Tello, the executive director of Texas-based sanctuary Primarily Primates, has other concerns, since the government is maintaining ownership of all the chimps. “What happens if someone decides they suddenly need chimpanzees for research again?” Tello fears: “they’ll send them right back to the labs.”

Meanwhile, research on chimps continues in the private sector. While the efforts of animal protection agencies have raised awareness, and a string of pharmaceutical companies such as Idenix Pharmaceuticals, GlaxoSmithKline, Novo Nordisk and Gilead Sciences, Inc. have promised not to use chimps in their research, there are still 950 chimps in labs in the U.S. being used as industrial test subjects.

Thankfully, a strong movement exists to persuade Congress to pass the Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act, a bill to ban the use of chimpanzees in invasive research (and save the Treasury $250 million dollars in a decade).

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), a group that both opposes vivisection and advocates for human health (and whose legislative leader is Dennis Kucinich’s wife Elizabeth), is one of the organizations passionately campaigning for this bill, which has been introduced by allies in session after session. PCRM reports the encouraging news that the bill garnered record support in the 112th congress, with close to 200 co-sponsors in the House and Senate. Its supporters will be back to try again.  The film world and Washington politics meet here, as James Franco, the headliner of Rise of the Planet of the Apes, also endorsed the Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act in this PCRM video.

Chimps as Entertainers

The world of entertainment and policy intersect in another way where great apes are concerned. An international campaign is afoot to end the use of great apes as performers in entertainment (chimps and orangutans being the ones generally used) and it is spearheaded by tireless chimpanzee champion Jane Goodall, as well as by national animal advocacy groups such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). The opposition stems in part from the fact that there is no way to police how the animals are trained – though the American Humane Association (AHA) monitors the treatment of animal performers while they’re on set, no-one assesses the techniques the trainers use in private to condition the animals to obey their commands. (And moreover, there are numerous criticisms of the integrity of the AHA’s monitoring operations, which have very limited authority and which are financed by the studios themselves.)

Plenty of incidents have been recorded of routine brutality toward ape actors, who begin their careers at very young ages, while they can still be dominated by human beings. The allegations of chimp abuse on the set of 2008’s Speed Racer are just the tip of the iceberg.

Primatologist Sarah Baeckler, who witnessed a culture of beatings of young performing chimps as a volunteer at Amazing Animal Actors ranch in Malibu, points out: “Healthy, young chimpanzees are playful, curious, energetic, and mischievous, but these traits don’t serve them well when training begins, so one of the things that chimpanzees in the entertainment industry have to endure is an initial ‘breaking of the spirit.’ In other words, they have to learn how NOT to act like normal chimpanzees.” Baeckler goes on to state that “abuse and physical violence are seemingly commonplace in this industry, and it’s not even a secret. In fact, it’s taught in a training school [Moorpark College’s Exotic Animal Training and Management program] that is currently producing many future animal trainers and zoo workers.” One indicator of how prevalent the abuse may be is the ubiquitousness of chimp performers ‘grin’ — far from being gleeful, that grimace on chimpanzees is an expression of fear.

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When apes get older they are no longer manageable even by brutes (typically, an 8 year-old chimp is already too dangerous to keep), and so they are sent to live somewhere else, often a sub-par roadside zoo where their housing and care are inadequate and they are isolated and bored. (Decent, accredited zoos won’t accept them because apes in such zoos now live in group installations, and chimps reared among humans are at sea in the complicated dynamics of chimp society; they can’t protect themselves from the aggression of dominant chimps.)

If they are lucky enough to end up at an enlightened ape sanctuary, this places the burden for their care on the philanthropic animal-charity community. The trainers who profited off of them (and traumatized them) just go on to acquire other young chimps.

And there are even more far-reaching reasons to ban the use of ape actors.

A 2008 survey found that the public is less likely to think that chimpanzees are endangered compared to other great apes. This may well be partly because chimps are so familiar to viewers from their use in commercials, circuses, and on greeting cards. (The truth is all four types of great apes are endangered.)

A 2011 study by Ross et al. has shown the power of even simple imagery: participants who were shown photos of a chimp standing next to a human were 35.5% less likely to deem chimpanzees as endangered or declining than those who saw photos of chimps alone.

These images can also boost the pet trade: participants who viewed these photos of chimps coexisting with humans were 30% more likely to believe that a chimp would make a good pet. (Charla Nash, the Connecticut woman who was attacked by former-performer Travis in 2009, would beg to differ, since her encounter with the 200-pound male chimp resulted in her face and hands being ripped off; she is now blind, has had a full face transplant, and now has to live in a nursing home at age 57). )

Some celebrities have taken a stand against the use of ape actors in entertainment, like Angelica Huston, Alec Baldwin, Cameron Diaz, and Bob Barker. And public pressure campaigns have convinced numerous companies – including Capital One, Dodge, Pizza Factory, and Pfizer — to can chimp ads for good.

However, Career Builder has been for several years one of the most prolific employers of chimpanzee performers through its series of humorous, office-based, TV ads.

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Even though the trainer of the chimps used in the ads has been excoriated for cruelty by animal activists –- and his first round of chimps has already been shuffled off to sanctuaries — Career Builder has taken a defiant stand for several years when faced with complaints against its ads. For example, Stephen Ross of Lincoln Park Zoo’s Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes in Chicago has submitted his objections to Career Builder every year since 2005 without receiving a reply. (This is in spite of the fact that a Duke University study found that the ads were not even very effective.)

But there may be some good news: in 2013 Career Builder refrained from buying air time during the Super Bowl, as they had so often done. It is still too early to tell whether they will stop using chimp performers.

PORTRAYAL ON FILM

And there is yet more good news, especially for those who care about film and its social impact. Listed below are five recent movies, straddling a range of genres, which depict chimps in enlightened ways which communicate that our evolutionary siblings are highly social, intelligent, and sensitive animals. Two of these movies are strong indictments against conducting medical research on chimpanzees, and none of these films utilize trained chimpanzees as performers. Instead they used performance capture, puppet animatronics, documentary file footage, patient nature photography, and claymation.

The filmmakers here often employ a shorthand which suggests that they believe the audience already has a high level of respect for chimpanzees, and that it is ready to believe in quite sophisticated simian abilities. This is very encouraging because it is surely an inevitable step from that belief to a conviction that chimpanzees deserve far better treatment from us.

(more…)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=024vLBBJf4I&feature=player_embedded

 

PBS Off Book has multiple installments on their website.

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