Archive | February, 2016

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The Value of Racial Labels is Gone

Posted on 26 February 2016 by Jerry

Scientists say that the value of racial designations is gone in genetics and biology. They have been arguing this point for the last two decades. The facts are that genetically it can be demonstrated that our forebears all came from Africa. In addition, every single human being shares the same DNA. We share 99.9% of the genes that compose every single human being.

There are no medical conditions that human beings suffer that are reserved for a single ‘race’ of people.   For example, sickle-cell anemia has been often referred to as a disease that affects black people and so it has been considered an African American or African disease. In fact although it occurs in these groups in somewhat higher frequency it is a matter of ancestry, geography and evolution. It occurs in populations of the world where malaria is or once was common. Sickle-cell anemia is a disease that is an evolutionary adaptation to exposure to malaria.

An article appearing in The Guardian on March 1, 2015 written by Adam Rutherford states, “Sickle-cell anemia affects people of all skin colours [sic] because it has evolved where malaria is common. Tibetans are genetically adapted to high altitude, rendering Chinese residents of Beijing more similar to Europeans than their superficially similar neighbors. Tay-Sachs disease, once thought to be a “Jewish disease”, is as common in French Canadians and Cajuns.”

An article published in the HuffPost Science on February 9, 2016 said, “In 2004, for example, Francis Collins, then head of the National Human Genome Research Institute and now director of the National Institutes of Health, called race a “flawed” and “weak” concept and argued that science needed to move beyond race.”

Where racial divisions were once thought to be of significance they are today fading into irrelevance. Racial distinctions in the face of genetic information are only ‘skin deep’. “Race is a social concept, not a scientific one,” said Craig Venter, head of Celera Genomics Corporation and pioneer in interpreting the human genome. He continued, “We all evolved in the last 100,000 years from the same small number of tribes that migrated out of Africa and colonized the world.”

The writer of the book, The Myth of Race: The Troubling Persistence of an Unscientific Idea, Robert Wald Sussman wrote an editorial article published in NEWSWEEK magazine on 11/8/14. In the article he said, “In 1950, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) issued a statement asserting that all humans belong to the same species and that “race” is not a biological reality but a myth. This was a summary of the findings of an international panel of anthropologists, geneticists, sociologists, and psychologists….Since that time similar statements have been published by the American Anthropological Association and the American Association of Physical Anthropologists, and an enormous amount of modern scientific data has been gathered to justify this conclusion.”

A recent paper was authored by scientists from Drexel University, led by Michell Yudell, titled Taking race out of human genetics and published by Science magazine in the February 2016 issue. It stated, “In the wake of the sequencing of the human genome in the early 2000s, genome pioneers and social scientists alike called for an end to the use of race as a variable in genetic research….We believe the use of biological concepts of race in human genetic research – so disputed and so mired in confusion – is problematic at best and harmful at worst. It is time for biologists to find a better way.”

All elements of present society need to stop using the concept of race as if it matters. It doesn’t matter and we need to change our habits. This is not an issue that will be resolved overnight for the concept of race has worked its way into every bit of data the government and industry collect and store. We need to stop using race to sort our data and report the results of everything.

We are all guilty of being too lazy to update our reality. It has become too easy for all too many human beings to believe that skin color or facial characteristics, etc. are valid descriptions of divisions of humankind. We need to recognize and act consistent with the reality that the difference between humans is only “skin deep”.

Use the following links to access additional information or the original source material for this article.

http://www.nytimes.com/2000/08/22/science/do-races-differ-not-really-genes-show.html?pagewanted=all

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/mar/01/racism-science-human-genomes-darwin

http://drexel.edu/now/archive/2016/February/Race_Genetic_Study/

http://www.newsweek.com/there-no-such-thing-race-283123

http://www.metafilter.com/157046/Taking-race-out-of-human-genetics

http://science.sciencemag.org/content/351/6273/564.summary

http://www.americanscientist.org/bookshelf/pub/race-finished

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/race-is-not-biological_us_56b8db83e4b04f9b57da89ed

http://harvardmagazine.com/2008/05/race-in-a-genetic-world-html

http://www.pbs.org/race/000_About/002_04-background-01-07.htm#top

 

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‘Aging Out’ of Nuclear Weapons

Posted on 23 February 2016 by Jerry

In 1996 President Bill Clinton became the first world leader to sign the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. In 1999 Bill Clinton suffered a major defeat when the U.S. Senate rejected this treaty’s ratification. Not since just after World War I when the Senate refused to ratify the treaty setting up the League of Nations had the Senate balked at ratifying a major arms treaty. Although both Clinton and Obama have sought ratification in the interim, the Senate continues to block ratification of this treaty.

This is after we have overcome the two main objections to this treaty that bans all nuclear test blasts including those conducted underground. In October 2015 a group headed by Energy Secretary Earnest Moniz, the head of the NNSA Frank Klotz, directors of the main nuclear weapons labs at Lawrence Livermore, Los Alamos, and Sandia National Laboratories, former Deputy Energy Secretary Charles Curtis and others stated emphatically that the ‘stockpile stewardship program’ that was initiated in place of ratification of this treaty was an unbridled success.

NNSA head Klotz stated, “Today we have a more detailed understanding of how a nuclear weapon works than was possible under nuclear testing.” He gave credit to the development of supercomputers and our modeling skills to have replaced the needs for more actual nuclear tests.

With the implementation of the worldwide seismic monitoring network that consists of 170 seismic monitoring stations in 73 countries we now have a system that can tell us if others have tested an underground nuclear weapon. Not only can we now detect an underground explosion using seismic waves but also we can use an additional 11 monitors to detect an undersea explosion or 60 monitors detecting frequency waves in the open atmosphere or 80 detectors measuring radioactive particles in the air.

For this reason, we have now measured and verified all of the tests of nuclear blasts by North Korea. Our network of monitors is so pervasive and sensitive that we can normally measure a sub-one megaton explosion or any other low-yield event.

With these principal restraints now gone, scientists, nuclear pundits and world leaders are suggesting this is the time to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. For example, only eight nuclear-capable states must ratify the treaty for it to become effective – China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, and the United States. Fully 183 countries have signed the treaty. Of these 164 states have ratified the agreements. Russia, the other large nuclear weapons power, has signed and ratified the agreement.

As an example, Lassina Zerbo, executive secretary of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization suggested a sort of domino effect. If both Israel, that has never acknowledged having nuclear weapons and Iran, who has just signed an agreement to not develop a weapon for 15 to 20 years both ratify the treaty, this would initiate a domino effect. This would apply pressure to Egypt to begin the establishment of a nuclear free zone in the Middle East.

A January 29, 2016 article in the International Business Times by Himanshu Goenka quotes Zerbo as saying, “Iran and Israel ratifying CTBT would provide momentum for Egypt to do so as well, which in turn would put pressure on the U.S. to ratify it as well. China would not ratify the treaty before the U.S., India wouldn’t do so before China and Pakistan wouldn’t ratify it before India, therefore making the U.S. action crucial.”

The article continued by saying that Zerbo added that North Korea was the least likely to ratify the CTBT. He said the international community needed to change the way it dealt with the East Asian country. It is the only country in the world to have tested nuclear weapons in the 21st century. It should be the target of worldwide condemnation and the subject of more sanctions.

The U.S. Senate should ratify the treaty in any case since its two main objections have been resolved. We should ratify because our worldwide sensor network serves as verification that countries either have or have not adhered to the treaty. We also have gained far more from supercomputer modeling that we could ever learn from additional test blasts.

Unfortunately the U.S. is not going to ratify the treaty in the Senate until one political party, probably the Democrats, dominates Congress. We are subject to a political stalemate. Once Congress is willing, the U.S. should ratify the treaty.

While this treaty does not eliminate nuclear weapons it does ban any further blast testing. This means the weapons will eventually age into obsolescence and we will age out of our nuclear weapons.

While all countries ratifying the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty are only a single step that does not accomplish the ultimate goal, it is a step in the right direction. We should settle for half measures if we cannot accomplish a full forbidding of all weapons.

Ultimately we should continue to impose harsh sanctions on North Korea in an effort to get them to sign and ratify this treaty. In the meantime other negotiations that continue to reduce the size of our arsenals should continue. We, at the bottom line, should not care how the world rids itself of the nuclear menace. We should just end it anyway we can.

Use the following links to find out more information or access the original documents used to prepare this article.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/daily/oct99/senate14.htm

http://thebulletin.org/new-push-comprehensive-nuclear-test-ban-treaty8830

http://www.politico.com/story/2015/10/nuclear-test-ban-obama-kerry-moniz-215142

http://www.ibtimes.com/iran-israel-could-ratify-nuclear-test-ban-treaty-un-official-says-2285671

http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/future_tense/2012/04/comprehensive_nuclear_test_ban_treaty_the_u_s_should_ratify_it_now_.html

http://www.defensenews.com/story/defense/air-space/strike/2015/10/24/rough-path-ahead-kerry-nuclear-test-ban-treaty-ctbt/74460820/

http://www.brookings.edu/blogs/up-front/posts/2012/03/30-nuclear-pifer

https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/remarks-president-barack-obama-prague-delivered

 

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It Is Time To Commemorate Us

Posted on 14 February 2016 by Jerry

We should formally recognize our impact on planet Earth. We should rename the epoch we are in. We should close the Holocene Epoch and open the Anthropocene or human altered geologically significant Epoch. We should use it as the rallying point to express the urgency of our fight to reverse humanity’s devastation of the planet.

The International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS) is a professional organization that determines the Geological Time Scale under which the Earth operates. They, for example, formally named the Holocene or “entirely recent” Epoch that we are presently in. It began 11,700 years ago after the last major ice age and was progressing before our global affect on the planet was recognized.

The IUGS has formed an Anthopocene Working Group (from anthopo, for “man” and cene for “new”) with a target date sometime in 2016 to determine if we should change the name of our present Epoch to recognize humanity’s impact. This group is to make a formal recommendation to the IUGS this year.

It has already been well documented that humanity has fundamentally changed the planet. We know for example that we transitioned to the industrial age beginning in the early 1700’s. This represented the beginning of our global impact on the Earth. We started with England and by 1850 we were beginning to transform the rest of the world.

We quickly transitioned to fossil fuels and never stopped our increasing use. We moved from ongoing flows of water, wind, plants and animals to first coal then oil and gas. These fuels offered access to carbon stored in the ground from millions of years of photosynthesis. This represented a massive energy subsidy from the past to the present and became a great source of human wealth.

Today we use about five times as much energy as the hunter-gatherer societies that have gone before. Between the years 1800 to 2000 the human population grew more than six-fold with the worldwide economy growing about 50-fold and our energy use expanding about 40-fold. Nowhere was our growth more evident than our impact on the atmosphere.

An article by Will Steffen, Paul Crutzen, and John R. McNeil in December of 2007 said, “By 1950 the atmospheric CO2 concentration had pushed above the 300 ppmv, above its preindustrial value of 270-275 ppmv and was beginning to accelerate sharply.” In 2015 we have already had days and weeks above the 400 ppmv. It is only a matter of a short time when we will reach an average annual rate above 400 ppmv.

Paul Crutzen and Eugene Stoermer originally proposed this formal adoption of the Anthropocene Epoch in the year 2000 in an article that appeared in the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP) Global Change Newsletter. Readers will remember that Paul Crutzen was given a Nobel Prize for discovering the destruction of the ozone in our upper atmosphere by human used chemicals.

An article appearing in the March 11, 2015 issue of Nature magazine entitled the Anthropocene: The human age stated, “When Crutzen proposed the term Anthropocene, he gave it the suffix appropriate for an epoch…Between then and the new millennium, he noted, humans had chewed a hole in the ozone layer above Antarctica, doubled the amount of methane in the atmosphere and driven up carbon dioxide concentrations by 30%, to a level not seen in 400,000 years.”

The same article observed, “When the Anthropocene Working Group started investigating, it compiled a much longer list of the changes wrought by humans. Agriculture, construction and the damming of rivers is stripping away sediment at least ten times as fast as the natural forces of erosion. Along some coastlines, the flood of nutrients from fertilizers has created oxygen-poor ‘dead zones’, and the extra CO2 from fossil fuel burning has acidified the surface waters of the ocean by 0.1 pH units. The fingerprint of humans is clear in global temperatures, the rate of species extinctions and the loss of Arctic ice.”

A key objective is to establish a key ‘geological signal’ or ‘golden spike’ that can be used worldwide by stratigraphers (scientists who study rock layers) and geologists to show the separation of one epoch from another. In an article entitled the Geology of Mankind in 2002 by Crutzen published in the journal Nature Crutzen argues “The Anthropocene could be said to have started in the late Eighteenth century when analysis of air trapped in polar ice showed the beginning of growing global concentrations of carbon dioxide and methane.” This would be around the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in Europe and/or coinciding with James Watt’s design of the steam engine in 1784.

Other seminal events or golden spikes have been suggested.   A leading candidate is a spike in geologic time or a visible signal shown in sediments worldwide that occurs in the 1950s and 1960s representing the worldwide fallout from nuclear weapons and their tests in the open air of the planet. In fact a member of the IUGS Working Group has suggested the specific date of 16 July 1945 or the day of the first atomic-bomb blast, as the beginning of the Anthropocene Epoch.

Those who have read the book Beyond Animal, Ego and Time know that chapter 12 states, “On July 16, 1945 the United States led an unknowing world into the nuclear age with the Trinity test nuclear explosion in New Mexico…Most people would credit the development of nuclear weapons as the tipping point where human beings moved from being incapable of destroying all life on planet Earth to fully capable.”

In a Smithsonian magazine article appearing in January of 2013 Joseph Stromberg writes, “Will Stephen, who heads Australia National University’s Climate Change Institute and has written articles with Crutzen, recommends starting the epoch with the advent of the industrial revolution in the early 1800s or with the atomic age in the 1950s. Either way, he says the new name sends a message: “[It] will be another strong reminder to the general public that we are now having undeniable impacts on the environment at the scale of the planet as a whole, so much so that a new geological epoch has begun.”

The article continues, “To Andrew Revkin, a New York Times reporter (now blogger) who suggested a similar term in 1992 that never caught on (“Anthrocene”), it’s significant that the issue is being debated at all. “Two billion years ago, cyanobacteria oxygenated the atmosphere and powerfully disrupted life on earth,” he says. “But they didn’t know it. We’re the first species that’s become a planet-scale influence and is aware of that reality. That’s what distinguishes us.”

For this reason and because it is true, the choice of this date and the use of the development of nuclear weapons as the beginning of the Anthropocene Epoch would be very appropriate. We should endorse this change and allow all of human kind to mark its ascension as the initiators of a new and dangerous epoch, the Anthropocene.  It should give every one of us a new urgency to change the destructive path we are on. The future is ours to shape. Whether we are victorious or go down to a final defeat is up to us and depends on what we do in the coming days and years.

For additional information or to access the source documents used for this article use the following links.

http://www.pik-potsdam.de/news/public-events/archiv/alter-net/former-ss/2007/05-09.2007/steffen/literature/ambi-36-08-06_614_621.pdf

http://www.nature.com/news/anthropocene-the-human-age-1.17085

http://science.sciencemag.org/content/351/6269/aad2622

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jan/07/human-impact-has-pushed-earth-into-the-anthropocene-scientists-say

http://quaternary.stratigraphy.org/workinggroups/anthropocene/

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/what-is-the-anthropocene-and-are-we-in-it-164801414/?no-ist

http://phys.org/news/2016-01-anthropocene-hard-evidence-human-driven-earth.html

http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2015/06/anthropocene-debate.html#

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