My Lifelong Wrestle With Mormonism

An insightful and poignant essay, very much worth sharing. His second list is much like one I saw decades ago, compiled by a good friend of mine, Dru White:

A Few Commandments

The Old Wolf has reblogged; be sure to read the full post below.

Relationship Refinery

Since I’ve at times been grumpy, tired, the bad kind of opinionated, and wrong about things, I haven’t felt like I’m the right person, in the right moment, with the right amount of faithfulness to be the giver of the things I’ll discuss below.

I’m not a theologian or doctrine ninja. I’m not extremely well-versed in scripture and I haven’t always been on the straight and narrow path.

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I want to play in the World Game

 

 

Yes, it’s the title of my blog, too. Some of my readers may have wondered what that’s all about.

The idea originated with R. Buckminster Fuller, and you can read more about the concept at the Buckminster Fuller Institute.

TL;DR – Fuller’s concept for humanity, summarized as follows:

“Make the world work, for 100% of humanity, in the shortest possible time, through spontaneous cooperation, without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone.”

In 1983, John Denver released “World Game,” a moving song echoing the same concept:

The lyrics:

World Game
John Denver
I want to play in the World Game
I want to make it better it’s ever been before
I want to play in the World Game
I want to make sure everybody knows the score
About using less, doing so much more
Everywhere I’m going I see trouble
Everywhere I’m looking I see all kinds of pain
Maybe we can get back on the double
Maybe we can turn around and make it all change
They say it’s you against your neighbor
If it gets right down to it, you against your friend
I swear that this is not the answer
As far as I can see it is the way it all ends
I want to play in the World Game
I want to make it better it’s ever been before
I want to play in the World Game
I want to make sure everybody knows the score
About using less, doing so much more
Hey man,…

This is the game. This is the reason for this collection of thoughts. To help build Dr. Fuller’s world that works for all of us.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

No, Turmeric lemonade is not better than Prozac

In current parlance, the word “woo” is defined at RationalWiki in this way:

Woo is a term for pseudoscientific explanations that share certain common characteristics, often being too good to be true (aside from being unscientific). The term is common among skeptical writers. Woo is understood specifically as dressing itself in the trappings of science (but not the substance) while involving unscientific concepts, such as anecdotal evidence and sciencey-sounding words.

No industry is more susceptible to the propagation of woo than the diet, health, and nutrition sector. Just say “trillion dollar industry” and you have the motivation to do and say anything to get a slice of that pie. Facebook, Pinterest, and Tumblr are all hotbeds for the dissemination of woo. Countless public figures have gotten rich by flogging woo, and in the process have led to believe that various and sundry herbs, spices, and so-called “superfoods” are a panacæa for all sorts of ills – cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and even lupus.

Its-not-lupus-Its-never-lupus

I’ve blogged many times about snake oil and supplements. The industry of deception is alive and well. Even a year after her death, my mother continued to receive slick-looking solicitations for absolutely worthless concoctions like “MentaFit Ultra“, which unsurprisingly is not even sold any more. These products arise in a flash of advertising, are sold to a whole raft of unsuspecting and gullible victims, and then vanish along with their creators, only to surface with another name and a new formulation.

Newser, a popular news aggregator, is still allowing multiple clickbait ads and popups for worthless and expensive supplements to appear on their website,  even though this last particular scam has been widely debunked by multiple sources – two of note are Malwarebytes and Snopes. A percentage of this may be the result of poorly-vetted or supervised automatic affiliate marketing ad placement, but someone has got to know the kind of stuff that’s being hawked here – and Newser is hardly the only offender. I just happen to use them as the teacher in the moment because I’m sad about what they’ve allowed themselves to become in the name of monetization.

Today this showed up on my Facebook page:

http://healthinformative.net/turmeric-lemonade-that-treats-depression-better-than-prozac/

turmeric

Go to the article and they refer to two studies at PubMed:

  1. Multitargeting by turmeric, the golden spice: From kitchen to clinic, by Gupta SC, Sung B, Kim JH, Prasad S, Li S, and Aggarwal BB.
  2. Efficacy and safety of curcumin in major depressive disorder: a randomized controlled trial, by Sanmukhani J, Satodia V, Trivedi J, Patel T, Tiwari D, Panchal B, Goel A, and Tripathi CB.

In the second article, the abstract includes the following sentences:

Traditionally, this spice has been used in Ayurveda and folk medicine for the treatment of such ailments as gynecological problems, gastric problems, hepatic disorders, infectious diseases, and blood disorders. […] Numerous animal studies have shown the potential of this spice against proinflammatory diseases, cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, depression, diabetes, obesity, and atherosclerosis. At the molecular level, this spice has been shown to modulate numerous cell-signaling pathways. In clinical trials, turmeric has shown efficacy against numerous human ailments including lupus nephritis, cancer, diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome, acne, and fibrosis.

Forgive me, but my BS meter just redlined.

BS Meter

Even without digging into these articles beyond the abstract, and analyzing methodologies and statistical significance of the results which I don’t have the time and energy to do, there are just too many red flags to even begin to take these kinds of claims seriously. References to Ayurveda, the fact that almost all the authors are from India, the wild claims of efficacy or references to “showing potential” – nothing here can be construed as “proof” that turmeric is “better than Prozac” for depression.

A caveat: I am not wholesale against nutrition, or nutritional supplements, or natural remedies. Aspirin was once a “natural remedy,” until science isolated salicylic acid and multiple peer-reviewed, double-blind, randomized tests proved its efficacy. There’s a lot we don’t know. Despite my skepticism about the studies above, there may be value in curcumin and turmeric that have not been fully explored. As with anything in science, the key is a large base of peer-reviewed studies and reproducible results.

Until then, woo-articles of this nature need to be taken with a hefty dose of salt – not just a pinch. Be very careful whom and what you trust. There are still people out there hawking “Miracle Mineral Supplement” for all sorts of things, and it’s nothing more than diluted bleach. This junk will kill you.

Depression is a serious illness and can be debilitating. While they are not a magic bullet, FDA-approved meds help many people to be able to carry on normal lives. And there is no one-size-fits-all solution.

This much I can tell you: ☞ It’s not turmeric lemonade. ☜  Be very careful out there.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

 

 

Climate change: The time for talk is over

The Internet is a huge thing. I try to stay abreast of world and current events, but without a positronic brain, I sometimes miss things.

Today came to my attention an article that was posted at reddit three years ago, and a stunning commentary by an ecological scientist. You know, the real thing – with degrees and experience and stuff, not just 45 minutes of reading something on Fox News.

maxresdefault.jpg

It needs to be shared.

The article at Business Insider carries the lede, “Two of the world’s most prestigious science academies say there’s clear evidence that humans are causing the climate to change.”

What’s more impressive was the comment left by user /u/tired_of_nonsense, which I replicate here with the writer’s express permission. If you care about this island Earth we live on, it’s worth the read, in full.

Throwaway for a real scientist here. I’d make my name, research area, and organization openly available, but the fact of the matter is that I don’t like getting death threats.

I’m a perpetual lurker, but I’m tired of looking through the nonsense that gets posted by a subset of the community on these types of posts. It’s extremely predictable.

  • Ten years ago, you were telling us that the climate wasn’t changing.
  • Five years ago, you were telling us that climate change wasn’t anthropogenic in origin.
  • Now, you’re telling us that anthropogenic climate change might be real, but it’s certainly not a bad thing.
  • I’m pretty sure that five years from now you’ll be admitting it’s a bad thing, but saying that you have no obligation to mitigate the effects.

You know why you’re changing your story so often? It’s because you guys are armchair quarterbacks scientists. You took some science classes in high school twenty years ago and you’re pretty sure it must be mostly the same now. I mean, chemical reactions follow static laws and stuff, or something, right? Okay, you’re rusty, but you read a few dozen blog posts each year. Maybe a book or two if you’re feeling motivated. Certainly, you listen to the radio and that’s plenty good enough.

I’m sorry, but it’s needs to be said: you’re full of it.

I’m at the Ocean Sciences Meeting in Honolulu, sponsored by ASLO, TOS, and AGU. I was just at a tutorial session on the IPCC AR5 report a few days ago. The most recent IPCC report was prepared by ~300 scientists with the help of ~50 editors. These people reviewed over 9000 climate change articles to prepare their report, and their report received over 50,000 comments to improve it’s quality and accuracy. I know you’ll jump all over me for guesstimating these numbers, but I’m not going to waste more of my time looking it up. You can find the exact numbers if you really want them, and I know you argue just to be contrary.

Let’s be honest here. These climate change scientists do climate science for a living. Surprise! Articles. Presentations. Workshops. Conferences. Staying late for science. Working on the weekends for science. All of those crappy holidays like Presidents’ Day? The ones you look forward to for that day off of work? Those aren’t holidays. Those are the days when the undergrads stay home and the scientists can work without distractions.

Now take a second before you drop your knowledge bomb on this page and remind me again… What’s your day job? When was the last time you read through an entire scholarly article on climate change? How many climate change journals can you name? How many conferences have you attended? Have you ever had coffee or a beer with a group of colleagues who study climate change? Are you sick of these inane questions yet?

I’m a scientist that studies how ecological systems respond to climate change. I would never presume to tell a climate scientist that their models are crap. I just don’t have the depth of knowledge to critically assess their work and point out their flaws. And that’s fair, because they don’t have the depth of knowledge in my area to point out my flaws. Yet, here we are, with deniers and apologists with orders of magnitude less scientific expertise, attempting to argue about climate change.

I mean, there’s so much nonsense here just from the ecology side of things:

User /u/nixonrichard [+1] writes:

Using the word “degradation” implies a value judgement on the condition of an environment. Is there any scientific proof that the existence of a mountaintop is superior to the absence of a mountain top? Your comment and sentiment smacks of naturalistic preference which is a value judgement on your part, and not any fundamental scientific principle.

You know, like /u/nixonrichard thinks that’s a profound thought or something. But it’s nonsense, because there are scientists who do exactly that. Search “mountain ecosystem services” on Google Scholar and that won’t even be the tip of the iceberg. Search “ecosystem services” if you want more of the iceberg. It’s like /u/nixonrichard doesn’t know that people study mountain ecosystems… or how to value ecosystems… or how to balance environmental and economic concerns… Yet, here /u/nixonrichard is, arguing about climate change.

Another example. Look at /u/el__duderino with this pearl of wisdom:

Climate change isn’t inherently degradation. It is change. Change hurts some species, helps others, and over time creates new species.

Again, someone who knows just enough about the climate debate to say something vaguely intelligent-sounding, but not enough to actually say something useful. One could search for review papers on the effects of climate change on ecological systems via Google Scholar, but it would be hard work actually reading one.

TL;DR’s:

  1. rapid environmental change hurts most species and that’s why biodiversity is crashing
  2. rapid environmental change helps some species, but I didn’t know you liked toxic algal blooms that much
  3. evolution can occur on rapid timescales, but it’ll take millions of years for meaningful speciation to replace what we’re losing in a matter of decades.

But you know, I really pity people like /u/nixonrichard and /u/el__duderino . It must be hard taking your car to 100 mechanics before you get to one that tells you your brakes are working just fine. It must be hard going to 100 doctors before you find the one that tells you your cholesterol level is healthy. No, I’m just kidding. People like /u/nixonrichard and /u/el__duderino treat scientific disciplines as one of the few occupations where an advanced degree, decades of training, mathematical and statistical expertise, and terabytes of data are equivalent with a passing familiarity with right-wing or industry talking points.

I’d like to leave you with two final thoughts.

First, I know that many in this community are going to think, “okay, you might be right, but why do you need to be such an ******** about it?” This isn’t about intellectual elitism. This isn’t about silencing dissent. This is about being fed up. The human race is on a long road trip and the deniers and apologists are the backseat drivers. They don’t like how the road trip is going but, rather than help navigating, they’re stuck kicking the driver’s seat and complaining about how long things are taking. I’d kick them out of the car, but we’re all locked in together. The best I can do is give them a whack on the side of the head.

Second, I hope that anyone with a sincere interest in learning about climate change continues to ask questions. Asking critical questions is an important part of the learning process and the scientific endeavor and should always be encouraged. Just remember that “do mountaintops provide essential ecosystem services?” is a question and “mountaintop ecosystem services are not a fundamental scientific principle” is a ridiculous and uninformed statement. Questions are good, especially when they’re critical. Statements of fact without citations or expertise is intellectual masturbation – just without the intellect.

Toodles. I’m going to bed now so that I can listen to, look at, and talk about science for another 12 hours tomorrow. Have fun at the office.

Edit: I checked back in to see whether the nonsense comments had been downvoted and was surprised to see my post up here. Feel free to use or adapt this if you want. Thanks for the editing suggestions as well. I just wanted to follow up to a few general comments and I’m sorry that I don’t have the time to discuss this in more detail.

“What can I do if I’m not a scientist?”

  • You can make changes in your lifestyle – no matter how small – if you want to feel morally absolved, as long as you recognize that large societal changes are necessary to combat the problem in meaningful ways.
  • You can work, volunteer, or donate to organizations that are fighting the good fight while you and I are busy at our day jobs.
  • You can remind your friends and family that they’re doctors, librarians, or bartenders in the friendliest of ways.
  • You can foster curiosity in your children, nieces, and nephews – encourage them to study STEM disciplines, even if it’s just for the sake of scientific literacy.

The one major addition I would add to the standard responses is that scientists need political and economic support. We have a general consensus on the trajectory of the planet, but we’re still working out the details in several areas. We’re trying to downscale models to regions. We’re trying to build management and mitigation plans. We’re trying to study how to balance environmental and economic services. Personally, part of what I do is look at how global, regional, and local coral reef patterns of biodiversity and environmental conditions may lead to coral reefs persisting in the future. Help us by voting for, donating to, and volunteering for politicians that can provide the cover to pursue this topic in greater detail. We don’t have all of the answers yet and we freely admit that, but we need your help to do so.

Importantly, don’t feel like you can’t be a part of the solution because you don’t understand the science. I’ve forgotten everything I’ve learned about economics in undergrad, but that doesn’t stop me from 1) voting for politicians that support policies that appear to have statistical backing aligning with my personal values, 2) making microloans that help sustainable development in developing countries, or 3) voting with my wallet by being careful about the food, clothing, and household goods I purchase. I don’t begrudge the fact that I’m not doing significant economics research, or working at the World Bank, or for the US Federal Reserve. We’ve all chosen our career paths and have the opportunity to contribute to society professionally and personally in unique ways. With respect to climate change – I only work on the ecological aspect of climate change, which means I rely on atmospheric and ocean scientists for models and engineers and social scientists for solutions. We need everyone!

Just try your best to ensure that your corner of the world is in better shape for the next generation when you’re done borrowing it.

t-minus 30 minutes to science

Accepting the reality of human-caused climate change and taking what steps we can to mitigate or at the very least slow it down is an important part of building a world that works for everyone… and every thing.
I’ve posted this before, but it merits inclusion here again, with thanks to Humon.
Gaia
If we don’t do what we need to do now, we’ll be gone – and the Earth won’t miss us.
The Old Wolf has spoken.

A letter to International Women’s Day

I am here sharing an English translation of a Hebrew article written by Or Maroni-Cohen, who would love her writing to be read by non-Hebrew-speakers. The translation is by Sharon Neeman. She has given permission to share it liberally.

FYI: strong words, strong feelings, and some strong language.


International Women’s Day

To me, it feels a bit like the stew doled out to indigents in a soup kitchen.

We women are supposed to be celebrating. But the person in charge of the United States is a dangerous man, who is already taking measures to steal human rights. In Russia, Putin has erased human rights. In Israel, there are still rights, but only for white Jews – especially male ones. What exactly are we supposed to be celebrating?

The crazier the worldwide situation gets, the less I talk about it – perhaps because I feel that the world’s psychosis is closing in on me. Perhaps because I have never felt so infinitesimal in this universe.

Once I fought for change, and I really did some significant things in my life, for the community and the State. Now I’m looking after my own home, simply because I feel powerless.

When we moved to Shlomi, a small green town in the Western Galilee, I was already feeling choked by the political situation. More than anything else, I needed a bubble that would enfold me and waft me gently away from the filth that was taking over.

Today, deep inside the bubble, I find that the remoteness is accompanied by a sense of helplessness, which increases as the fascism grows stronger. One more restrictive law is passed, and another and another; and if we protested against the first law, we drooped a bit with the second law – and the third one is already taken for granted. After all, we’re living in a fascist country. So why should anyone be surprised?

Women’s Day. Don’t make me laugh.

What this day is really about, more than anything else, is the oppression of women. Let’s give women one day a year when they can feel like queens. Let’s envelop their lives in flowers, presents and sex – so we can gloss over their unequal salaries, their unequal representation, their unequal life.

Fuck Women’s Day. Fuck this fascist state. Fuck this damn world that marches to the drumbeat of oppression.

Guys: don’t celebrate my womanhood and don’t do me any favors. Instead, pull up your own stinking socks. Change your heads and your discriminatory laws.

It doesn’t matter if we’re Jewish, Muslim, Christian or atheists – women are the ones who mourn their (and your!) dead, the ones who care for the wounded, the ones who pay the price of arrogance.

Take your roses – thorns and all – and shove them up your ass.

– Or Maroni-Cohen


I commented elsewhere, I am reminded of Morgan Freeman’s thoughts on Black History Month and racism:

It does seem pretty patronizing to give Women a single day of recognition when fully half (if not more) of the accomplishments of humanity are theirs, and when sexism is still so ingrained in various societies that most people don’t even recognize it. Even ones who think about it.

So essays like this are important, and need to be kept in the light and not in the dark.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

The Shame at America’s Borders

Yesterday on February 27th, the New Yorker published a piece about the ordeal of Mem Fox, a well-known Australian author of children’s books, who was coming to the US to be a keynote speaker at a conference in Wisconsin.

koala-lou

Read the article. You should hear her own account of the events – but I suspect it doesn’t do justice to what Ms. Fox must have been feeling – and what all the other people must have been feeling – as they were detained, barked at, yelled at, bullied, and humiliated by “professional agents.”

“When asked for comment about Fox’s account, Jaime Ruiz, a spokesperson for U.S. Customs and Border Protection at LAX, said,

“That is not how we treat passengers. We treat passengers with respect and professionalism. We have zero tolerance for passengers being treated unprofessionally.”

Well, Jaime, guess what – that’s how you *do* treat passengers. It happened. It was real. Any sort of statement or apology should include an assurance that steps will be taken to change things. Because it was not just Ms. Fox that was treated that way – it was an entire roomful of other human beings, many who did not even speak English and who don’t have the social status to get on the public radar.

The Greeks have a saying: “Η γλώσσα κόκαλα δεν έχει και κόκαλα τσακίζει” (The tongue has no bones, but it breaks bones.) Your dismissive statement will not heal the deep cuts to the spirit of this gentle lady, and all the other gentle ladies and gentlemen whom your agents treat with all the delicacy of a fourth-grade bully with his posse behind the school.

Another report at the Washington post states,

After returning to her home in Adelaide, Fox filed a complaint with the U.S. Embassy in Canberra and received a “charming” email in response. “I took it as an apology from all of America,” she says.

While I’m glad the embassy responded positively, and that the apology was well received, I have no doubt that the memory of the experience will never truly fade. One kind diplomatic functionary is good, but to eliminate this kind of abomination change must start at the top – because attitude rolls downhill. And from what I’ve seen, it’s the attitude at the top that is enabling this kind of jingoistic, xenophobic vileness.

Ms. Fox, I’m deeply ashamed by the actions of my government, and very sorry this happened to you.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Some thoughts on hearing loss from reddit

In a recent post at /r/lifeprotips, user /u/briskyfresh posted a Life Pro Tip entitled, “LPT: Your hearing is not invincible. Please lower your volume when listening to music. Bring earplugs to concerts. Do not make the same mistake I made.”

User /u/goodhumansbad posted the following comment, which I found relevant as I have loved ones with hearing loss.

Something a lot of people, especially younger people, don’t realize about hearing loss is how much MORE there is to it than just “needing to listen to things louder when you’re old” or “some ringing” to varying degrees. My father has hearing loss which he incurred on the job – he was a radio DJ in the 60s/70s and between the sound levels at work and the sound levels at concerts he went to for reviewing purposes, he did permanent damage to his hearing. Tinnitus is one element, hearing loss of certain frequencies is another.

But the most toxic thing about his hearing loss is how it’s affected his relationships. He is increasingly isolated as time goes by; he tunes out of conversations because he can’t understand people in a crowd, so at every party we go to I look over and see him sitting there either playing on his phone or looking glazed or smiling & nodding… but he’s always the first one to want to leave somewhere, dragging my mother with him because he’s bored. So socializing has just become a chore.

It’s also affected his relationships at home; he never hears us the first time we ask a question, but he’s convinced it’s because we’re mumbling (we aren’t). So he gets really irritated, even angry, and is frankly always ready to be in a bad mood.

Imagine if every single casual question your roommate/wife/husband/sibling/child asked you filled you with annoyance-to-rage. “What would you like for dinner, Dad? Dad? Can you hear me?” “What?” (said with a cold glare). “What would you like for dinner?” “WELL I DON’T KNOW WHAT ARE THE OPTIONS.” (said with total irritation, like we’re being a huge pain in the ass). All of this rudeness, all of this anger, comes from being deaf as a post.

It would be tempting to think my dad’s just an asshole with no manners, but he isn’t – when he has functioning hearing aids and this problem is greatly reduced, his entire demeanor is different. He’s easy-going, appreciative, participates, listens. But when his hearing aids aren’t working, as they aren’t now, he’s rude, ornery, dismissive, and critically doesn’t listen anymore because he know’s it’s just too much work and he won’t hear it all anyway.

I’ve known several people who’ve lost their hearing later in life, and they’ve all experienced this anger. It pushes people away, it isolates you, and leaves you feeling miserable. My great grandfather was stone deaf by his 90s and apparently used to occasionally pick up his walking stick at the dinner table, when people were talking amongst themselves (big family) and if he couldn’t hear them he’d just straight up clear the table with the stick. Imagine how angry you’d have to be to do that? This was a man who adored his family, and was never in any way abusive or difficult before his deafness really set in.

I thought this was worth sharing for those who either experience this or have friends or family in the same situation. Naturally, no one’s situation is the same, and YMMV.

The Old Wolf has spoken.