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. . . .