Monday, April 2, 2007

If you had access to all resources how would you deal with "the global crisis in diet"?

I can hear Mary (our OM theory teacher) telling us that getting patients to change their dietary practices is beyond challenging, and that the best we can do is provide education and help bring their bodies back into balance with acupuncture, herbs, massage, and qi kung. I believe that schooling around healthy food choices needs to happen when people are young, and that the modeling of conscious eating needs to happen in the home. So if I had all the resources I would target parents and children with dietary education. I would set up a program that would come into every family's home and provide lectures and cooking classes on healthy eating. I would make sure that the foods given to children in school are of the highest quality and that the meals are well-rounded. I would also eradicate all of the fast food chains and the makers of toxic foods, such as Pepsi, Kraft, etc. I would make organic foods cheap to buy, and unhealthy foods really expensive. Shopping at Whole Foods would be the norm! The possibilities are endless.

Would you expect "carbon offsets" to work effectively?

This article was my first introduction to carbon offsets, and it seems that they would be effective in theory. People need to take responsibility and give back to the environment if they are particularly increasing the rate of carbon emissions. It would certainly make people more aware of the environmental damage they are causing with aviation. But the system seems to be more about symptom management and checks and balances than about solving the actual problem. We need to focus our efforts on creating technology/transportation that is environmentally supportive. It's happening with cars, so I see no reason why it can't happen with planes. That may be a naive thing to say, but I'm optimistic and I believe in the limitless potential of the human mind when it's used for goodness.

Do you agree that "Laughter really is the best medicine"?

I certainly agree that laughter is great therapy, and I appreciate that the scientific community is providing the physiological facts to support the obvious. For me, it is not necessarily to act of laughing that is the medicine, but more so that laughter is a key component in an overall healthy, fulfilling lifestyle. I see that living a life of joy and gratitude is the best preventative and restorative healthcare, and laughter is a beautiful expression of these feelings.
I was proud that a Western medical doctor said this in the article: "It may sound corny, but we in health care medical sciences need to get serious about happiness and the lifestyle that produces it, relative to mind, body and spirit." Holistic indeed! And it's with these MDs who are open to holistic medicine that the integration of Eastern and Western practices can occur.

Monday, March 26, 2007

How would you prioritize the reintroduction of the American Bison?

I appreciated the articles on this cooperative movement. The initiative seems much bigger than boosting up the Bison population in the U.S.---it's about the ecological healing of the land, the spiritual revitalization of the tribes, and the restoring of human rights to American Indians. I would say that all of these should be considered priorities of the U.S. government. I think that our government needs to bring its focus back to domestic issues instead of invading other countries and trying to install democracies. We need to make sure that the health and rights of our own citizens are being upheld. I want my tax dollars to go towards supporting groups such as the InterTribal Bison Cooperative instead of the Iraq war. Thanks again for presenting us with materials on the movement and I intend to look into it further.

How would you assess the "New pill promises to reduce breast cancer risk?"

I can't even think about assessing the new pill because I'm so angered that these crazy drugs are being created that seriously mess with women's bodies. "It (the new pill) also stops women having periods altogether-suggesting it could offer relief for the hundreds of thousands suffering from PMT." Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!!!! As if that would be a good thing?!! Oral contraceptives throw off women's biochemistry and have horrible side-effects. I speak from my own experience of taking the birth control pill. There are many alternatives to taking oral contraceptives and I think that more research and education need to go into making these alternatives available to women. I currently advocate the Fertility Awareness Method and I encourage all women to read, Taking Charge of your Fertility. It explains the Fertility Awareness Method and provides a thorough education on natural birth control practices.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Can you assess the end goals of social ecology?

I get the sense that social ecology operates like a think tank that systematically applies its theories. The end goals seem to be simple: save the planet and elevate human consciousness (just a small task, really---not!). By deconstructing and challenging the socio-political institutions that harm the environment, social ecology seeks to end the global ecology crisis and ensure a human and planetary future.

Can you explain why ecosystems are both strong and fragile?

The ecosystems of our planet have undergone countless changes and adaptations since the beginning of life. They have prevailed and thereby give the impression that they are 'strong,' or maybe better said, 'resilient.' But even though ecosystems have a tremendous capacity to recover, they are not infallible. Clearly with global warming we are seeing that our ecosystems are, indeed, fragile and if we don't start acting out of the long-term health for our planet, we will cause irreparable damage.
I'm optimistic and very concerned at the same time. In my parents' home there is a picture of my dad on the Matterhorn (in Switzerland) in 1973 and one of my brother on the same mountain in 2006. Both pictures were taken during the summertime. The one of my dad shows substantial snow and greenery all over the mountain. There is nothing of the kind in my brother's picture; just a big, brown hill. In just over thirty years, the change of that ecosystem is dramatic. Sure, it's surviving, but clearly fragile. We need to get all of our energy behind saving the environment, or else my children won't have mountains to climb!

What do you think about the 8 point deep ecology platform?

I think these principles are right on. It felt to me as if Mother Earth were speaking them herself. It reminded me of the saying, "we belong to the earth; the earth does not belong to us." We treat the planet as if it's here to serve our purposes and as if its resources are inexhaustible. Non-human life deserves the same respect as human life, and our social, political, and economic policies must reflect this.
I love the 8th principle--that those who subscribe to the platform have an obligation to implement the necessary changes. I think we all struggle with being in integrity with our beliefs, and I'm glad to see that this movement is calling us to 'walk our talk.' I wasn't familiar with the deep ecology movement before reading the articles for this week. I think I'll check them out. Seems like the people involved are modern-day planet savers. . . .

Monday, March 12, 2007

What do you think of the "deal that saved the whale"?

I was very impressed by this so-called "deal" and the preventative, progressive approach Mexico is taking to protect its land and wildlife. The plan that the groups have put together is creative and cooperative. It seems as though all parties are winning and getting their needs met. I love that the deal encourages people not to sell their land and that these groups want to set a precedent for regional conservation. I am a big fan of communal property and living. It's also wonderful that a country like Mexico that is plagued with major sociopolitical and economic problems is putting energy into sustainability and protecting the environment. It's all very smart and hopeful. . . . .

Can TCM strengthen our immune systems?

Absolutely! Astragalus, for example, is an herb that boosts immunity. The acupuncture point ST 36 seems to go straight to the immune system and improve its functioning. Tui na stimulates the immune system and there are many great Qi Kung exercises that address immunity. For me, eating in accordance with TCM dietary therapy keeps my immune system strong. TCM has a very strong grasp on disease prevention and has established the major role of our immune systems/wei qi in doing so. I am living proof that TCM can strengthen immunity. Before I came to TCM, I was constantly battling illnesses. But over the past three years since I've been getting regular acupuncture treatments, eating well, taking herbs, and doing qi kung, I've been sick once (!!!!). I would recommend TCM to anyone who has depressed immunity.

How do you feel about WM approaches to HIV/AIDS?

As I experienced in our recent discussion of cancer, Western Medicine has an advanced cellular and mechanical understanding of HIV/AIDS. It's amazing how much has been discovered about the disease in the past two decades. I greatly appreciate how hard WM researchers have been working to acquire knowledge of and treatments for the AIDS epidemic. At the same time, I think much more energy and money need to go towards developing psycho-social approaches to the disease. Prevention, particularly education, is key with eradicating AIDS. We need to get our efforts behind providing resources to the severely afflicted countries (i.e. Africa). No one should be denied treatment because of money. And I think more emotional and financial support should be given to those suffering with AIDS. I read recently that children are becoming orphans at a staggering rate, namely in Africa, because parents are dying so quickly of AIDS. This global social issue cannot be ignored! I would like to see WM and TCM come together and target AIDS. With both systems providing support for one another, the potential is limitless.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

How sophisticated is our understanding of cancer?

I was blown away by the article on cancer from this week's readings. I had no idea that Western medicine's understanding of cancer was so advanced. I had to read the article several times to comprehend the dense, complex information. It seems that WM has a solid grasp on what exactly cancer is on a cellular level. The opening paragraph talked about cancer as "rebel" cells that break the rules of normal cell function. The sections on the causes and prevention of cancer seemed too simplistic and that more research needs to go into these areas. I was impressed with the new WM treatment options. I didn't know that there were effective WM alternatives to chemo available. One section that really stuck out for me was the involvement of the immune system in the cause of cancer. It is my belief that the failure of the immune system/Wei qi underlies all disease, and thus I plan to focus on strengthening this system in all of my patients once I have a private practice.

The highest level of understanding a disease is in its cure. I think it's simply a matter of time before we crack the codes of cancer. There is so much money and brain power going into the investigation. I'm an optimist in the sense that I believe humanity can do anything (i.e. catch cancer) if our intentions are good and pure. We'll get you, cancer!!!!

How does a TCM approach to cancer differ?

It is my understanding that TCM focuses on cancer prevention, thereby keeping Qi and Blood flowing within the body so that disease cannot manifest. However, we're just starting to discuss in our Diagnosis and Herbs classes some of the treatments for cancer. Our Herbs teacher recently told us that cancer is often viewed as a heat pathogen that has become toxic. We learned an entire category of herbs that clear heat-toxins from the body. I'm also aware of quite a few acupuncture points that clear heat (i.e. LI 11). I also believe that TCM dietary prescriptions, tui na, and qi kung can prevent and rid cancer from the body. The beauty of our medicine is that it operates off of the inherent trust in the body to heal itself, whereas Western medicine virtually destroys the body for cancer treatment.

Are our genes still shaped by natural selection?

I believe that our genes always have been shaped by natural selection and will continue to do so until we become extinct. I've recently been thinking about the need for our genes to adapt to living in a warmer climate. With the global warming/weirding phenomenon, temperatures across the planet are increasing, and thus our bodies will have to learn how to survive in more extreme weather conditions. Also, our genes will need to evolve with the evolution of food. New foods are produced every day, many of which are too complicated for our digestive systems to break down. Just as the Europeans developed a lactose-digesting gene, our current genes must be undergoing rapid change to keep up with our modern-day diet. I wonder if a McDonald's-digesting gene will be discovered......yuck!

I am entirely confident that humans will become more and more fabulous through the brilliance of natural selection.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Living vs. Non-living systems

For me, breath distinguishes between living and non-living organisms. Some organisms we can't see breathing, but they do, in fact, breathe (i.e. plants, trees, etc.). I see breath as the uniting force of all living beings. I feel this sometimes when I'm practicing meditation and deep breathing techniques. It puts me in touch with the divinity within me (within all of us, really) and our interconnectedness.

Speaking of pranayama, I want to share a breathing technique that I practice daily. It's very effective for energetic balancing and stress management. Enjoy. . . .

Nadi Sodhana (Alternate Nostril Breathing)
If you don't do anything else, this is a simple yoga breathing exercise that can be done virtually anywhere, anyplace. You will be glad you did. It is simply dynamic!
The name alternate nostril breathing is due to the fact that we alternate between the two nostrils when we do the breathing. Yogis believe that this exercise will clean and rejuvenate your vital channels of energy, thus the name nadi sodhana (purification of nadis or channels).
With this exercise, we breathe through only one nostril at a time. The logic behind this exercise is that normal breathing does alternate from one nostril to the other at various times during the day. In a healthy person the breath will alternate between nostrils about every two hours. Because most of us are not in optimum health, this time period varies considerably between people and further reduces our vitality. According to the yogis, when the breath continues to flow in one nostril for more than two hours, as it does with most of us, it will have an adverse effect on our health. If the right nostril is involved, the result is mental and nervous disturbance. If the left nostril is involved, the result is chronic fatigue and reduced brain function. The longer the flow of breath in one nostril, the more serious the illness will be.
The exercise produces optimum function to both sides of the brain: that is optimum creativity and optimum logical verbal activity. This also creates a more balanced person, since both halves of the brain are functioning property.
The yogis consider this to be the best technique to calm the mind and the nervous system.


Close the right nostril with your right thumb and inhale through the left nostril. Do this to the count of four seconds.
Immediately close the left nostril with your right ring finger and little finger, and at the same time remove your thumb from the right nostril, and exhale through this nostril. Do this to the count of eight seconds. This completes a half round.
Inhale through the right nostril to the count of four seconds. Close the right nostril with your right thumb and exhale through the left nostril to the count of eight seconds. This completes one full round.
Start by doing three rounds, adding one per week until you are doing seven rounds.
Alternate nostril breathing should not be practiced if you have a cold or if your nasal passages are blocked in any way. Forced breathing through the nose may lead to complications. In pranayama it is important to follow this rule: under no circumstances should anything be forced. If you use the nostrils for breath control they must be unobstructed. If they are not, you must practice throat breathing.

For more info on pranayama, visit

Use of language and tools in chimps

I believe such research is incredibly significant to making discoveries about the evolution of our species. We've learned that humans and chimps share 99% of the same DNA, so observing how chimps acquire language and other survival tools could likely tell us how we did the same. It seems that chimps are catching up to us in terms of intellectual development. Maybe in 100,000 years, chimps will be identical with modern-day humans. I wonder where we will be....probably like computers or aliens!

"Chinese medicine gaining respectability in the West"

A few things came up for me in reading this article. First, the stories of the patients who turned to TCM when Western medicine couldn't help them resonated with me. I have the same background; I fell through the cracks in the Western healthcare system onto TCM's doorstep, and in a life-threatening state. TCM helped me reclaim my life from severe, chronic health issues and gave me my purpose: to pass its healing powers onto others. Every time I hear a story of someone finding relief in the arms of TCM when nothing else worked is always a magical moment for me. I love TCM so much!

Second, the growing number of Western medical institutions that are now offering TCM modalities gives me hope for a full integration of East and West medical traditions someday. Two of the Western hospitals that were discussed are here in the Bay Area. My godfather works for Kaiser in SF and he says that they have several acupuncturists on staff. I think that the modern research on TCM coming out of Harvard and other prestigious institutions is the most important contribution to TCM growing in this country. I plan to do research studies and thus help to ground the field of TCM into the cold, hard facts that Western society appreciates.

Third, I was angered by the uneducated comments made by the Stanford professor of the "voodoo," placebo nature of TCM. It's frustrating that on top of the overwhelming complexity of TCM and having to learn so much Western medicine that we have to deal with the cynicism, doubts, and attacks from conventional doctors. But as long as we continue to do clinical studies on the efficacy of TCM and give the doctors cold, hard facts, I believe we will receive more and more of their support and cooperation in delivering integrative medicine.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Can diversification save a species?

I believe it can based on my experiences with gardening. When I lived with a women's healing community, we had a garden and planted greens every spring. We made sure to diversify our selection of greens because they made one another grow stronger and protected each other against bugs, weather conditions, etc. During our first year of the garden, the only green we planted was rainbow chard, and we lost the entire crop. This seems to make sense in terms of humans as well. I've witnessed people seek out partners with different traits than them so that their genetic material is stronger for their children. I think our species would have died off long ago if it wasn't for adaptability and diversification. But I don't believe it's the only thing that can save a species. Today, for example, I think that in order to save the human race, we need to heal the planet and practice loving kindness towards one another. Who's with me?

The chicken or the egg?

I appreciated the article on this timeless theoretical conundrum. It never made sense to me to believe that a chicken was created out of thin air and then laid an egg. But I couldn't see how an egg could have been made without a chicken. I never considered the possibility that a chicken could have been created from the egg of two non-chickens. So now I'm definitely behind the argument that the egg came first, and I'm excited to bring the information from the article to my next dinner party discussion.

"I always eat my broccoli"

Broccoli is one of my favorite vegetables. I never used to eat the stems until recently. They're great added to stir frys and soups. I remember reading an article in college about how to get children to eat vegetables like broccoli. It said the key was to pair it with a food that the kids enjoyed (i.e. cheese). This supposedly creates a positive association with the vegetable and soon enough you won't need to pair it with another food to get kids to eat it. So start your kids off with melting cheese on top of broccoli (or on all veggies for that matter) and I'll bet that they'll end up being broccoli lovers. I also plan to educate my children about the health benefits of eating such foods. I think it's disempowering to tell children to do things and not explain why. It's a lot of work being a conscious parent, but I can't imagine anything more rewarding.

Monday, February 12, 2007

How do you think chimps and humans diverged as species?

I believe in intelligent design (the theory that intelligent causes are responsible for the origin of the universe and of life in all its diversity) and that we diverged as a species because a Higher Power wanted us to. As discussed in the article on human-chimpanzee speciation, I found it all-too-mysterious that our mixed lineage with chimps (due to inbreeding) died off quickly. The article said itself that "something very unusual happened at the time of speciation." What I hear from this statement is that the Great Spirit was working its magic. I don't believe that nature and complex biological structures evolve by chance but rather by a purposeful design. It just doesn't make sense to me any other way. I am fully behind the saying that science only goes so far, then comes God. But it was fascinating to learn about the latest research in genetic mapping and evolutionary technologies.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Can we raise levels of dopamine ourselves?

I believe we can and the article on the treatment of Parkinson's certainly supports the idea that we have the ability to do so. I have had many "natural highs" in my life that felt similar to the experiences when I've been on drugs that have acted on my dopamine levels. Falling/being in love, for instance, definitely gets the "feel-good" chemicals going in the brain (i.e. dopamine, serotonin). Yoga, meditation, taking a hot tub, eating chocolate, and having sex are other natural ways that I think we can kick up dopamine levels. I appreciated the article on how sex is an effective stress reduction therapy. The human body has limitless potential and there are so many "tools" in the world to help us feel well without having to resort to drugs. Below I'm going to post a forward I received on "natural highs." Enjoy the richness of life. . . . .

Natural Highs
1. Falling in love.
2. Laughing so hard your face hurts.
3. A hot shower.
4. No lines at the supermarket.
5. A special glance.
6. Getting mail.
7. Taking a drive on a pretty road.
8. Hearing your favorite song on the radio.
9. Lying in bed listening to the rain outside.
10. Hot towels fresh out of the dryer.
11. Chocolate milkshake (vanilla or strawberry).
12. A bubble bath.
13. Giggling.
14. A good conversation.
15. The beach.
16. Finding a 20 dollar bill in your coat from last winter.
17. Laughing at yourself.
18. Looking into their eyes and knowing they Love you
19. Midnight phone calls that last for hours.
20. Running through sprinklers.
21. Laughing for absolutely no reason at all.
22. Having someone tell you that you're beautiful.
23. Laughing at an inside joke .
24. Friends.
25. Accidentally overhearing someone say something nice about you.
26. Waking up and realizing you still have a few hours left to sleep.
27. Your first kiss (either the very first or with a new partner).
28. Making new friends or spending time with old ones.
29 Playing with a new puppy.
30. Having someone play with your hair.
31. Sweet dreams.
32. Hot chocolate.
33. Road trips with friends.
34. Swinging on swings.
35.. Making eye contact with a cute stranger.
36. Making chocolate chip cookies.
37. Having your friends send you homemade cookies.
38 . Holding hands with someone you care about.
39. Running into an old friend and realizing that some things (good or bad) never change.
40. Watching the expression on someone's face as they open a much desired present from you.
41. Watching the sunrise.
42. Getting out of bed every morning and being grateful for another beautiful day.
43. Knowing that somebody misses you.
44. Getting a hug from someone you care about deeply.
45. Knowing you've done the right thing, no matter what other people think.

Is there a drug around for just about everything?

It seems that way this day in age. I definitely agree that Americans are over-medicated and that there are many natural alternatives for the drugs that treat common ailments. What is frustrating to me is Western medicine's blatant dismissal of the investigation of the root causes of diseases. In my experience, the Western doctors that I've seen have been quick to prescribe me medications for my mood swings, amenorrhea, acne, eating disorder, anxiety, etc. without bothering to ask me about or address the underlying causes (emotions, diet, stress, exercise, and other lifestyle factors). I was very upset after reading the article on a drug that supposedly cures gambling addiction. Drugs such as this likely create serious chemical changes in the brain and don't address the reason why the addiction developed in the first place. Prescribing drugs for every disharmony, especially psycho-spiritual diseases such as addiction, is lazy and very dangerous. I believe in focusing on education, prevention, and empowering people to take their health into their own hands through healthy-lifestyle choices. The fact that we have to keep tweaking the drugs on the market because our bodies become resistant to them proves that often drugs are not a sustainable method of treatment (as discussed in the article on the latest antibiotic on the market). And many times we don't even know if a drug works! They're given out like candy and we don't even know if they work!!! We saw this in the article on the placebo effect of a treatment for Parkinson's. Those who were given the drug and those who weren't both showed improvement. I'm obviously passionate about this issue due to my own negative experiences with drugs and Western medical therapies. I feel deeply honored to bring the alternative of Chinese and Integrative medicine to people.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Impressions of Human Genetic Evolution

Lots of deep, fascinating stuff in this site. It blew my mind to think that we all evolved from molecules that were created by heat, gas and light in the early atmosphere. I also liked the theory that life began around thermal vents caused by volcanic activity on the ocean floor. I appreciated the reality check that in the 3.5 billion year history of life, our Homo Sapien species was born only 200,000 years ago in Africa. I had no idea that we diversified so quickly in 100,000 years. It was also interesting to learn about the genetic lineages of the African-American, Polynesian, and American-Indian populations. I did not know that African-Americans were actually a hybrid of African and European peoples, nor that American-Indians are most closely related to Mongolians (so their name is very misleading!). We've all come so far in such a short amount of time, relatively speaking. I wonder what evolution has in store for us....

Prokaryotes, Eukaryotes, & Viruses Tutorial

I really appreciated this tutorial, especially the explanation of the differences between prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells, which I never quite understood from high school biology. The information on viruses was fascinating. I didn't know exactly how viruses worked, but the description of them being intracellular parasites that infect a cell and take over its genetic make-up really made sense to me. I also found the following statistic to be staggering: "since 1981, there have been 2.5 million deaths by AIDS and 20-40 million deaths by malaria." This makes me wonder why we have focused our efforts so heavily on the dialogue and cure of AIDS, and yet malaria has been a much more pervasive killer. I greatly appreciated the end of the tutorial that's entitled, "Sympathy for the life of bacteria." It was really funny and creative how they presented the information. I think similar presentations would be very effective for high school students in order to make the material more engaging.

Humans & Chimps--Similar DNA thoughts

99.4% of the most critical DNA sites are identical in human and chimp genes”
What do you make of this?

It does seem like we are like chimps in every way, from our body structure to our behaviors and temperment. This probably has huge implications for research and understanding human biology and evolution, next to the human genome itself, particularly what sets us apart from other animals. From the knowledge that I've acquired, I know that speech is a human-specific trait, but beyond that I don't know what our other genetic differences are. I did additional research because I was a bit skeptical of this statistic, and I found while many similarities between the human and chimp genomes exist, about 35 million DNA-base pairs differ, each of which, like most mammalian genomes, contains about 3 billion base pairs. In addition, there are another 5 million sites that differ because of an insertion or deletion in one of the lineages, along with a much smaller number of chromosomal rearrangements. So, although 99% makes it sound like human and chimps are the same, we still have huge amounts of genetic differences along crucial genetic protein lines.

I also found this passage from a random website to be interesting: "Human DNA is 98 percent the same as the DNA of chimpanzees; but it's also 70 percent the same as the DNA of yeast. So what makes humans uniquely different from chimpanzees or yeast? One thing might be the way in which we created language and culture, and how we developed these things in different ways all over the earth." Fun thoughts. . . . .

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Impression of links on Darwinism

The readings brought a few things up for me. First, the article by Pearcy took me back to my college days when I was an atheist and obsessed with postmodern theories/ideals. Believing that religion and moral standards are arbitrary got me into a lot of trouble and led to severe feelings of isolation and a lack of trust in anything other than myself. Addiction then became my substitute for God and I almost died. My life was empty and meaningless. Now that I've reclaimed my spirituality and trust in a Divine Spirit that guides me, my life overflows with peace, health, connection, and hope. Based on my experience, living entirely from an intellectual understanding of the world is a very serious illness in our society and needs to be addressed in the scientific community.

I enjoyed the Origin of Life Q and A website, especially the articles on ET life. Of course I've heard claims about life on Mars, but it was interesting reading the actual research on why scientists made that claim. And the never-ending attempt to reconcile science and religion fascinates me. The debate was present in every article that I read from this website. I really liked this passage: "Nowadays most scientists and teachers take a somewhat 'schizophrenic' approach. They deny spontaneous generation, recognizing Pasteur's proofs against it. At the same time they say life arose spontaneously in the past, when we weren't around to observe or measure the process. " I was so amused by the term, 'schizophrenic approach.' It definitely captured my experience of all of my science teachers.

Lastly, I thought the Mirsky article did the best job of explaining Evo-Devo and the supporting research. I was fascinated by the studies they've done with flies. As I said on a previous blog, I can't wait to whip this information out during a dinner table discussion. The ending of the article ties everything together nicely, saying that evolution is simpler than we thought. Although the article was convincing, I'm still not entirely sure of which theory I support. Maybe that will come over the course of the semester.

How does Darwinism matter to me?

I think that Darwinism is important for me to learn about because it's so deeply woven into the fabric of our society. It's a standard of knowledge, really. If I want to call myself an educated person, I have to be familiar with it. So many theories of life and development (on all levels) have roots in Darwinism. For me, the question is similar to asking, "why is it important to know your grandfather?" Because it's the father theory and gives me insight into where we came from (literally and theoretically) and where we are going. I'm simply one of those people who has a drive to be informed.

Thoughts on Evo-Devo

I found this week's material challenging to wrap my head around. The scientific languaging was complex and hard for me to dissect. If I'm understanding the Evo-Devo theory correct, then it says that a species starts out with an information program and evolution occurs when this information is used in new and different combinations. Thus, every time a new member of a species is born, it does not start from scratch. It just uses the foundational genes in a new and different way. This theory seems very logical to me and addresses some of the holes in Darwin's theories (for instance, if evolution is all about improving the gene pool, then what accounts for undesirable/negative mutations of a species?). I just don't feel comfortable saying that I support one theory all together (i.e. Creationism, Darwinism, Evo-Devoism, etc). The more I learn about evolutionary theories, the more my mind gets jumbled and I don't know what to believe.

It was interesting learning about how hard researchers have been working over the past few decades to crack the evolutionary codes. I think I will bust out the fly experiments as a dinner table discussion sometime soon. And I was impressed with the UCSD/Salk Institute study on human embryonic implants in mice's brains. UCSD is my alma-mater and we used to sneak around the Salk Institute to try to find out what crazy research they were doing at the time. It really is mad-scientist type work.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Evolution impressions

I finally had to rip myself away from the links on evolution. I've spent the last two hours looking at them and I have been completely enthralled. Really fascinating stuff....

First, the Wikipedia entry on Darwinism. I was first introduced to Darwinism in bio class during my first year of high school (10 years ago. yikes!). It was hard for me to grasp because I had attended Catholic Sunday school classes for many years where Creationism was taught. Both sets of teachers had a black or white mentality--if you believe in one, you can't believe in the other. I didn't know who to trust, so I just memorized what I needed to know to get an A on the tests. Looking back, it's frustrating that my teachers did not present multiple theories and allow me to make up my own mind. Now I am a huge fan of Darwinism and, at the same time, I believe that a Higher Power/Spirit intelligently designed all of this. The theory that resonates with me is a combination of Creationism and Darwinism. I also studied Social Darwinism in college and actually read the Heggleberg and Murray study for a sociology of education class. That was a trip to re-visit. I appreciated the refresher on Darwinism and found it fascinating to learn about Darwin as a person and the struggles he faced in presenting his ideas to a Victorian society.

The PBS program scared the crap out of me, particularly the theories of extinction. I had no idea that there had been 5 mass extinctions throughout the history of the planet. And the thought that we, as humans, are currently causing a sixth freaks me out! I enjoyed reading about the extinction of the dinosaurs and the prevailing theory that an asteroid caused an end to their life on earth. What makes us think the same thing can't happen to us? I felt very small browsing through the pages on the origins of mankind. We really are just a speck in the evolution of Earth and the Universe. I just kept thinking how amazing it is that scientists have mapped out the progression of our species. And I agree with the biologist who said that we give way too much energy to what we are doing to harm the planet, as opposed to the efforts going on to heal and improve the earth.

Lastly, as for UCB's website, I was fascinated by the work of Jennifer McElwain. Her research on the role that global warming played in the last mass extinction provides profound insight and implications for how we live today (that there was undoubtedly global warming involvement, so the planet kicked off most species and brought itself back into balance---hello, humans! We belong to the earth; the earth does not belong to us.). I also enjoyed exploring the article on the evolution of medicine, particularly that of infectious disease. I was stunned by the break-throughs that scientists have made in regards to HIV research. For instance, the discovery of a human gene that protects against HIV and is found in 20% of the European population. I wanted to browse through everything, but I had to give myself time restraints because I have 8 other classes to study for.

The information that is available to us on the Internet is sooooo cool!!!!!

Reflections on 1/8/07 class

I found Monday's class to be very stimulating. I greatly enjoyed our group discussions about several controversial issues that are making headlines around the planet. It awakened me to the reality that I am disconnected from world and national news. I went home and immediately sent in my order form for Time magazine, which I've been meaning to do for months. And since our class I've gone on the NY Times website almost every day. I used to pride myself on being an "informed" citizen, but with the crazy amount that we have to study I haven't made the time for it. Thank you all for fueling my passion for global current events and I look forward to our sharings and debates over the course of the semester. It was lovely to meet the new students. Welcome to AIMC!

I have not been able to stop thinking about the Overpopulation article. I was stunned by the fact that we added 76 million people to the planet in 2006 alone. And the estimate that the population will be 9 billion in 2050 has honestly made me question the idea of having children. I'm getting anxiety right now in writing about it. I notice that I've been more conscious about my sustainability practices since learning this information. But I want to take my fear and channel it towards a bigger effort. Does anyone know of any local environmental organizations that I could volunteer for?

I'm really excited about this class and exploring biology from a modern-day, integrative medical perpective. I'm off to check out the links on evolution. Stay tuned for my impressions.

Gratefully your awakening global family member,


Greetings and welcome to my blog! My postings here are for my Integrative Medical Biology class at the Acupuncture and Integrative Medicine College in Berkeley, CA. I am in my second semester (out of 10) of a graduate program in Oriental Medicine. I couldn't be happier with my decision to attend AIMC and my move to the Bay Area from San Diego (where I spent the last 7 years). I am passionate about Chinese medicine, holistic healthcare, Nia, fire dancing, snowboarding, world music, organic cooking, liberal politics, divination practices, cultural diversity, art history, recovery and empowerment work, feminism, Eastern philosophy, being with Onno (the love of my life), my community (Shakti Rising), and doing my part to make the world a more peaceful, healthy, joyful, sustainable, and loving sanctuary for all beings. Namaste. . . .