Archive for December, 2016


(Credit: Getty Images)

The last man on Earth is a common trope in fiction – but what if it actually happened? How many people would it take to save our species?

By Zaria Gorvett

The alien predators arrived by boat. Within two years, everyone was dead. Almost.

The tiny islet of Ball’s Pyramid lies 600km east of Australia in the South Pacific, rising out of the sea like a shard of glass. And there they were – halfway up its sheer cliff edge, sheltering under a spindly bush – the last of the species. Two escaped and just nine years later there were 9,000, the children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren of Adam and Eve.

No, this isn’t a bizarre take on the story of creation. The lucky couple were tree lobsters Dryococelus australis, stick insects the size of a human hand. They were thought to be extinct soon after black rats invaded their native Lord Howe Island in 1918, but were found clinging on in Ball’s Pyramid 83 years later. The species owes its miraculous recovery to a team of scientists who scaled 500ft of vertical rock to reach their hiding place in 2003. The lobsters were named “Adam” and “Eve” and sent to start a breeding programme at Melbourne Zoo.

(Credit: Getty Images)

Lord Howe Island near Australia – where species have been driven to the brink thanks to ‘alien’ invaders (Credit: Getty Images)

Bouncing back after insect Armageddon is one thing. Female tree lobsters lay 10 eggs every 10 days and are capable of parthenogenesis; they don’t need a man to reproduce. Repopulating the earth with humans is quite another matter. Could we do it? And how long would it take?

The answer is more than a whimsical discussion for the pub. From Nasa’s research on the magic number of pioneers needed for our move to another planet, to decisions about the conservation of endangered species, it’s a matter of increasing international importance and urgency.

The average person has between one and two lethal recessive mutations in their genome

So let’s fast-forward 100 years. Humanity’s endeavours have gone horribly wrong and a robot uprising has wiped us off the face of the Earth – a fate predicted by Stephen Hawking in 2014. Just two people made it. There’s no way around it: the first generation would all be brothers and sisters.

Sigmund Freud believed incest was the only universal human taboo alongside murdering your parents. It’s not just gross, it’s downright dangerous. A study of children born in Czechoslovakia between 1933 and 1970 found that nearly 40% of those whose parents were first-degree relatives were severely handicapped, of which 14% eventually died.

Recessive risks

To understand why inbreeding can be so deadly, we need to get to grips with some genetics. We all have two copies of every gene, one from each parent. But some gene variants don’t show up unless you have two exactly the same. Most inherited diseases are caused by these “recessive” variants, which sneak through the evolutionary radar because they are harmless on their own. In fact, the average person has between one and two lethal recessive mutations in their genome.

When a couple are related, it doesn’t take long for the mask to slip. Take achromatopsia, a rare recessive disorder which causes total colour blindness. It affects 1 in 33,000 Americans and is carried by one in 100. If one of our post-apocalyptic survivors had the variant, there’s a one in four chance of their child having a copy. So far, so good. After just one generation of incest, the risk skyrockets – with a one in four chance of their child having two copies. That’s a 1 in 16 chance that the original couple’s first grandchild would have the disease.

This was the fate of the inhabitants of Pingelap, an isolated atoll in the western Pacific. The entire population is descended from just 20 survivors of a typhoon which swept the island in the 18th Century, including a carrier of achromatopsia. With such a small gene pool, today a 10th of the island’s population is totally colour blind…

more…

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20160113-could-just-two-people-repopulate-earth

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<em>Resting Model</em>, 1839 by Constantin Hansen. <em>Courtesy Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen/Wikipedia</em>Resting Model, 1839 by Constantin Hansen. Courtesy Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen/Wikipedia

by Raja Halwani is professor of philosophy at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He is the author of Philosophy of Love, Sex and Marriage (2010).

The 18th-century philosopher Immanuel Kant believed that human beings tend to be evil. He wasn’t talking about some guy rubbing his hands and crowing with glee at the prospect of torturing an enemy. He was thinking about the basic human tendency to succumb to what we want to do instead of what we ought to do, to heed the siren-song of our desires instead of the call of duty. For Kant, morality is the force that closes this gap, and holds us back from our darker, desiring selves. 

Once desire becomes suspect, sex is never far behind. Kant implicitly acknowledged the unusual power of sexual urges and their capacity to divert us from doing what is right. He claimed that sex was particularly morally condemnable, because lust focuses on the body, not the agency, of those we sexually desire, and so reduces them to mere things. It makes us see the objects of our longing as just that ­– objects. In so doing, we see them as mere tools for our own satisfaction.

Treating people as objects can mean many things. It could include beating them, tearing into them, and violating them. But there are other, less violent ways of objectifying people. We might treat someone as only a means to our sexual pleasure, to satisfy our lust on that person, to use a somewhat archaic expression. The fact that the other person consents does not get rid of the objectification; two people can agree to use one another for purely sexual purposes.

But don’t we use each other all the time? Many of us have jobs – as cleaners, gardeners, teachers, singers. Does the beneficiary of the service objectify the service provider, and does the service provider objectify the recipient by taking their money? These relationships don’t seem to provoke the same moral qualms. Either they do not involve objectification, or the objectification is somehow neutered.

Kant said that these scenarios weren’t really a problem. He draws a distinction between mere use – the basis of objectification – and more-than-mere use. While we might employ people to do jobs, and accept payment for our work, we don’t treat the person on the other side of the transaction as a mere tool; we still recognise that person’s fundamental humanity.

Sex, though, is different. When I hire someone to sing, according to Kant, my desire is for his or her talent – for the voice-in-action. But when I sexually desire someone, I desire his or her body, not the person’s services or talents or intellectual capabilities, although any of these could enhance the desire. So, when we desire the person’s body, we often focus during sex on its individual parts: the buttocks, the penis, the clitoris, the thighs, the lips. What we desire to do with those parts differs, of course. Some like to touch them with the hand, others with the lips, others with the tongue; for others still, the desire is just to look. This does not mean that I would settle for a human corpse: our desire for human bodies is directed at them as living, much like my desire for a cellphone is directed at a functioning one.

But, one might object, don’t we do sexual things because we love our partners, and want them to feel pleasure? Of course we do. But if we did so when we didn’t want to in the first place, then we do not do it out of sexual desire. And if we don’t do it out of sexual desire, then the problem of objectification does not present itself. We can enjoy sexually pleasing someone else. But you can think of the other person as a sophisticated instrument: to give the maximum pleasure, we have to please it. Just because I have to oil and maintain my car for it to work does not mean it is any less of an instrument…

more…

https://aeon.co/ideas/why-sexual-desire-is-objectifying-and-hence-morally-wrong

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by Anna Hunt, Staff, Waking Times

Scientists discover that listening to the song “Weightless” by Marconi Union can results in a striking 65 percent reduction in a person’s overall anxiety, and a 35 percent reduction in their usual physiological resting rates.

The Anxiety Pandemic

“Anxiety is a thin stream of fear trickling through the mind. If encouraged, it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained.”Arthur Somers Roche

Anxiety is a growing pandemic in our society. The mainstream solution is a trip to the psychiatrist and an indefinite prescription for pharmaceuticals. As a result, many anxiety sufferers find themselves dependent on psychotropic drugs but still searching for relief.

Because of this, it begs the question if a pharmaceutical solution even works. Many believe that treating anxiety with a holistic approach may be more effective than expensive, addictive and sometimes even dangerous psychotropic drugs. Holistic alternatives range from treating anxiety with foods that fight inflammation, to exercise, yoga, and meditation. People also like to use age-old tricks for calming nerves, such as breath exercises.

Music is Effective at Reducing Anxiety

Music therapy is already an accepted alternative therapy for stress and pain management. It has also been shown to help improve immune support system function. Historically, indigenous cultures have used sound to enhance physical and mental well-being, as well as enrich spiritual experiences.

Now, neuroimaging has proven that playing music can substantially reduce anxiety. Scientists in the UK have identified what can be called the most relaxing song on earth song. By playing the song “Weightless” by Manchester trio Marconi Union, these researchers reduced anxiety by 65 percent in individuals who participated in their clinical study. Have a listen:

Science Discovers the Most Relaxing Song on Earth

Researchers at Mindlab International, led by clinical psychologist Dr. David Lewis-Hodgson, were commissioned to find out which song is the most effective at helping someone to relax. They played songs by Enya, Mozart and Coldplay, among many others, to 40 participating women.

The researchers discovered that the song “Weightless” resulted in a striking 65 percent reduction in participants’ overall anxiety, and a 35 percent reduction in their usual physiological resting rates. Dr. Lewis-Hodgson stated:

“The results clearly show that the track induced the greatest relaxation – higher than any of the other music tested.

“Brain imaging studies have shown that music works at a very deep level within the brain, stimulating not only those regions responsible for processing sound but also ones associated with emotions.”

Sound therapist Lyz Cooper, founder of the British Academy of Sound Therapy, explains the process of how the song affects the body:

“[The song] contains a sustaining rhythm that starts at 60 beats per minute and gradually slows to around 50.

“While listening, your heart rate gradually comes to match that beat.

“It is important that the song is eight minutes long because it takes about five minutes for this process, known as entrainment, to occur.”

The study was conducted on participants who were asked to solve difficult puzzles, as quickly as possible, while connected to sensors. Participants listened to different songs while researchers measured brain activity, heart rate, blood pressure, and the rate of breathing.

Anxiety and Overall Health

Lowering anxiety can be one of the most important steps a person can take towards improving overall health and well-being. Stress can increase the risk of conditions such as heart disease, depression, gastrointestinal ailments, asthma, and even obesity. It can also exacerbate these problems if they are preexisting.

Furthermore, researchers continue to discover that anxiety and stress can be fatal. Here are the findings published in a 2015 working paper out of Harvard and Stanford Business Schools:

The paper found that health problems stemming from job stress, like hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and decreased mental health, can lead to fatal conditions that wind up killing about 120,000 people each year—making work-related stressors and the maladies they cause, more deadly than diabetes, Alzheimer’s, or influenza.

Top 10 Songs for Helping Reduce Anxiety

Here’s the full list of the top 10 relaxing songs discovered by Mindlab International during their research.

  1. We Can Fly,” by Rue du Soleil (Café Del Mar)
  2. Canzonetta Sull’aria,” by Mozart
  3. Someone Like You,” by Adele
  4. Pure Shores,” by All Saints
  5. Please Don’t Go,” by Barcelona
  6. Strawberry Swing,” by Coldplay
  7. Watermark,” by Enya
  8. Mellomaniac (Chill Out Mix),” by DJ Shah
  9. Electra,” by Airstream
  10. Weightless,” by Marconi Union
About the Author
Anna Hunt is co-owner of OffgridOutpost.com, an online store offering GMO-free healthy storable food and emergency kits. She is also the staff writer for WakingTimes.com. Anna is a certified Hatha yoga instructor and founder of Atenas Yoga Center. She enjoys raising her children and being a voice for optimal human health and wellness. Visit her essential oils store here. Visit Offgrid Outpost on Facebook.
Sources:
http://www.inc.com/melanie-curtin/neuroscience-says-listening-to-this-one-song-reduces-anxiety-by-up-to-65-percent.html
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/8830066/Band-creates-the-most-relaxing-tune-ever.html
This article (Science Discovers A Song that Reduces Anxiety by 65 Percent – Listen) was originally created and published by Waking Times and is published here under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Anna Hunt and WakingTimes.com. It may be re-posted freely with proper attribution, author bio, and this copyright statement.
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of WakingTimes or its staff.
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Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Amancio Ortego, Jeff Bezos,  Mark Zuckerberg, Carlos Slim, David Koch, Larry Ellison, and Larry Page. (composite AP/Getty Images)

Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Amancio Ortego, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, Carlos Slim, David Koch, Larry Ellison, and Larry Page. (composite AP/Getty Images)

The world’s richest people got even richer in 2016, according to a Bloomberg analysis on Tuesday.

The 200 wealthiest people on the planet collectively made $237 billion throughout the year and have an amassed $4.4 trillion through the end of trading on Dec. 27, 2016, the report stated. The rise represents an increase of about 5.7 percent.

Warren Buffett, the super-investor head of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., made $11.8 billion during the year due to gains from financial and airline stocks. He’s now the second richest person in the world following Bill Gates.

“In general, clients rode through the volatility,” said Simon Smiles, chief investment officer with UBS Wealth Management—which serves ultra-rich clients—according to Bloomberg News.

“2016 ended up being a spectacular year for risk assets. Pretty remarkable given the start of the year,” he said.

Gates, the Microsoft co-founder, added about $10 billion, and he’s now worth $91.5 billion for the year’s end, making him still by far the richest person in the world.

After that was oil company owner Harold Hamm, who more than doubled his fortune to $15.3 billion.

Amazon CEO and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos added $7.5 billion to his net worth this year, ending with $67.2 billion.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg added some $5.4 billion to his net worth, ending up with $51.2 billion.

France’s Bernard Arnault added $7.1 billion, making him worth around $38.9 billion, the report added.

These are the current top 15 richest people in the world:

  1. Bill Gates (American) – $91.5 billion.
  2. Warren Buffett (American) – $74.1 billion.
  3. Amancio Ortego (Spanish) – $71.2 billion.
  4. Jeff Bezos (American) – $67.2 billion.
  5. Mark Zuckerberg (American) – $51.2 billion.
  6. Carlos Slim (Mexican) – $49.2 billion.
  7. Charles Koch (American) – $46 billion.
  8. David Koch (American) – $46 billion.
  9. Larry Ellison (American) – $41.9 billion.
  10. Larry Page (American) – $40.7 billion.
  11. Sergey Brin (American) – $39.9 billion.
  12. Ingvar Kamprad (Swedish) – $39.6 billion.
  13. Bernard Arnault (French) – $38.9 billion.
  14. Liliane Bettencourt (French) – $35.8 billion.
  15. Rob Walton (American) – $34.7 billion.

http://www.theepochtimes.com/n3/2204173-worlds-richest-people-gained-237-billion-in-2016-says-report/

 

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© Issei Kato / Reuters

For more than two years, Lance Crowder was having severe abdominal pain and vomiting, and no local doctor could figure out why. Finally, an emergency room physician in Indianapolis had an idea.

“The first question he asked was if I was taking hot showers to find relief. When he asked me that question, I basically fell into tears because I knew he had an answer,” Crowder said.

The answer was cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome, or CHS. It’s caused by heavy, long-term use of various forms of marijuana. For unclear reasons, the nausea and vomiting are relieved by hot showers or baths.

“They’ll often present to the emergency department three, four, five different times before we can sort this out,” said Dr. Kennon Heard, an emergency room physician at the University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora, Colorado.

He co-authored a studyshowing that since 2009, when medical marijuana became widely available, emergency room visits diagnoses for CHS in two Colorado hospitals nearly doubled. In 2012, the state legalized recreational marijuana.

“It is certainly something that, before legalization, we almost never saw,” Heard said. “Now we are seeing it quite frequently.”

Outside of Colorado, when patients do end up in an emergency room, the diagnosis is often missed. Partly because doctors don’t know about CHS, and partly because patients don’t want to admit to using a substance that’s illegal.

CHS can lead to dehydration and kidney failure, but usually resolves within days of stopping drug use. That’s what happened with Crowder, who has been off all forms of marijuana for seven months.

“Now all kinds of ambition has come back. I desire so much more in life and, at 37 years old, it’s a little late to do it, but better now than never,”he said.

CHS has only been recognized for about the past decade, and nobody knows exactly how many people suffer from it. But as more states move towards the legalization of marijuana, emergency room physicians like Dr. Heard are eager to make sure both doctors and patients have CHS on their radar.

https://www.sott.net/article/338136-Is-legal-weed-making-you-sick-Mysterious-illness-tied-to-marijuana-use-on-the-rise

 

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Rilke’s <i>Book of Hours</i> as Portent and GuideLionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division, The New York Public Library | https://tricy.cl/2hIrhrq

Joanna Macy’s reading of Rilke offers a Middle Way in an era of ecological devastation.

By Marie Scarles
 

I remember the day I first read Bohemian-Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke’s Duino Elegies. I purchased a copy at Powell’s Books in downtown Portland, Oregon, and then biked east over the Willamette River to Alberta Park. I lay in the grass, shirtsleeves rolled onto my shoulders, and read the whole book in an afternoon. I remember it clearly because I read for so long that I burned the back of my neck as the shadow of the tree I’d been lying under moved away with the shifting sun—and because the lines in the book felt like they’d been spoken directly into my chest. The book lived in my bag collecting dog-ears and underlines for the rest of the summer.

In the Ninth Elegy, after asking why we’re here on earth in the first place, Rilke writes:

But because just being here matters, because
the things of this world, these passing things,
seem to need us, to put themselves in our care
somehow. Us, the most passing of all.
Once for each, just once. Once and no more.
And for us too, once. Never again. And yet
it seems that this—to have once existed,
even if only once, to have been a part
of this earth—can never be taken back.

I found Rilke’s attention to transience and mutability resonant with the dharma, and I took solace in his lines praising immanence: to have once existed, / even if only once, to have been a part / of this earth—can never be taken back.

This year, I was thrilled when the Garrison Institute offered me a spot at environmental activist and Buddhist scholar Joanna Macy’s weeklong retreat, “Rainer Maria Rilke and the Force of the Storm.” I looked forward to spending a week on the Hudson River in a state of leisurely solitude to match my memory of that day in Portland: I foresaw hikes in the woods, reading in the cozy lounge areas of Garrison’s renovated Capuchin monastery, and a week infused with quiet wonder. The retreat would be a melding of Macy’s longtime environmental activist work with her love of the 19th-century German poet; I was curious to see how the two would intertwine.

Macy is a Buddhist scholar, environmental activist, and author whose teachings are informed by the dharma, deep ecology, and systems thinking. In 1978, she developed an open-source workshop curriculum called the Work that Reconnects, a set of teachings to help make environmental and social devastation into an embodied experience for participants at dharma and community centers. The workshops create a space for people who are invested in ecological concerns to meet and connect with one another, and to replenish themselves spiritually. Macy describes “the activist’s inner journey” as a spiral with four successive stages—opening to gratitude, owning our pain (or dukkha) for the world, seeing with new eyes, and going forth—that are predicated on the idea that in order to heal ourselves and our ecosystems first we must be willing to feel both suffering and joy. “You’re stuck with what you don’t allow yourself to feel,” Macy said during workshop one day. It seems this motto drives forward both her work and the work of her students.

When I arrived at Garrison, I set my bags in the small plain room, formerly a monk’s quarters, and joined the group for our first meeting with Macy. She told us that her love of Rilke’s poetry began more than 50 years ago when she came across the original Insel Verlag edition of The Book of Hours in a Munich bookstore. She was struck by Rilke’s emphasis on the reciprocal relationship between humanity and God, and later, when she was introduced to Buddhist teachings, she found that his work aligned with the Buddha’s central doctrine of dependent co-arising.

The poems in The Book of Hours, written in the persona of a cloistered Russian monk, are often read as a series of intimate conversations with the Christian God, but in Macy’s workshop she read Rilke more broadly. She’s found a template within his poetry for ecological and social activism, an activism that relies on our capacity for deep feeling to guide us toward a “life-sustaining society.” On the first day, Macy gave us a brief background on the life of the poet…

more…

https://tricycle.org/trikedaily/rilkes-book-hours-portent-guide/

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by Julian Rose, Contributor, Waking Times 

I’m going to take it as a prerequisite that you feel some sense of urgency about the need for change. The need to find your place in the resistance. The need to get onto the road that’s supportive of life, rather than death. If you don’t even feel this, no point in reading any further; go back to the TV, the KFC and the GM lager.

OK, so you’re still with me, and eager to break-out of whatever is holding you back. Good. So the first action to take is ask yourself “Where do I need to go in my life?” and  “What is holding me back from going there?” Give yourself enough time to actually answer these two questions, because without good answers you can’t get to action number two.

In some cases you might already know where you want to go – and you might also have an inkling of what it is that is holding you back. Fine. In this case your next task is to stop prevaricating and simply do it. The time for prevarication is long past. You can go forwards or backwards, but not hang around in no man’s land waiting for the rescue party to winch you out.

Action number two is the starting point for a number of practical, pragmatic actions that you must take in order to ‘come alive’ to a point where you can think clearly, feel good about yourself and get your house in order. Also to enable you to start your role as a member of ‘the resistance’.

Food for Life

So, action number two concerns what you put in your stomach; from day-to-day, week to week, month to month and year to year. Food is absolutely fundamental to all our lives, but choosing the right food is equally fundamental to the nourishment of body, mind and spirit. Unless you are nourishing all three – you aren’t moving forward towards the manifestation of your true destiny, nor are you going to be much use to the resistance. And it’s vital that you ‘join-up’ with the minimum delay.

So you have a choice: go to your closest farmer’s market, ecological farmer or natural foods store and purchase ‘real food’, ecologically grown and minimally processed, packaged and preserved.

Make such food the basis of your eating needs from now on, because everything else is killing you.

Or, and this is the second option, get involved with a local food cooperative, or similar, and start learning how to grow your own food. This has the advantage of ‘earthing’ you, a survival factor necessary in this age of gismo addicted virtual reality, which destroys the ability to be human and to act humanely.

That’s your starting point for all that follows. Leave the issue of a decent diet out and you will have no secure health foundation upon which to take the actions you’ll need to take in order to turn the tide on the 1% who are your chief oppressors.

You will also have taken a deliberate action in supporting the restoration of nature and the environment, by acquiring food grown to a humane and environmentally benign formula. Excellent. Compare that with supporting your nearest dedicated globalist supermarket food and people killer.

Kick Out the Killers

Taking action to help save the life force of this planet from terminal destruction at the hands of corporate killers, is a key component of  your involvement in the resistance. It gets you out of the state of perpetual worrying about yourself, as though you’re life was the only thing that mattered.

You’re life does matter, but taking it to the point of obsession is called narcissism – and it’s pretty much an epidemic in affluent and semi-affluent Western World right now. It’s a fundamental reason why so little is done to redirect the evolution of this planet.

Action number three involves kicking-out as many as possible of the toxic elements that form part of your daily home life. For example: the phosphate enriched washing powder; the sugary synthetic toothpaste; the excessive amount of plastic; the junk food snacks; the TV (mind killer); the Wi-Fi (mind/body killer); the mobile phone (mind/body killer); the microwave oven (mind/body killer); the Smart Meter (mind/body killer) the hard alcohol (mind/body killer). I’m not going to produce a definitive list because you can find hundreds of books and websites that do this – and I’m assuming you wish to take control of your destiny and not have a nanny permanently on hand to change your nappies…

more…

About the Author
Julian Rose is an early pioneer of UK organic farming, international activist and author. Contact Julian at www.julianrose.info to find out more. He is President of The International Coalition to Protect the Polish Countryside, and is the author of two books with some very powerful perspectives: Changing Course for Life and In Defence of Life.
This article (8 Critical Actions for Joining the Resistance and Building the Ark in 2017) was originally created and published by Julian Rose and is re-posted here with permission. It may be re-posted freely with proper attribution, author bio, and this copyright statement.

http://www.wakingtimes.com/2016/12/28/8-critical-actions-joining-resistance-building-ark-2017/

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Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir

“The saving of time and the conquest of leisure have no meaning if we are not moved by the laugh of a child at play.”

In her incisive inquiry into the intelligence of emotions, philosopher Martha Nussbaum wrote: “Instead of viewing morality as a system of principles to be grasped by the detached intellect, and emotions as motivations that either support or subvert our choice to act according to principle, we will have to consider emotions as part and parcel of the system of ethical reasoning.” But the moral system itself — what comprises it in a philosophical sense, how it is enacted in practical terms, and what it aims at in the daily act of living — remains one of the most conflicted ambiguities within and between human beings.

Those elements of the moral machinery are what the great French existentialist philosopher and trailblazing feminist Simone de Beauvoir (January 9, 1908–April 14, 1986) examines in The Ethics of Ambiguity (public library) — the paradigm-shifting 1947 treatise that gave us De Beauvoir on vitality, the measure of intelligence, and what freedom really means.

To wrest a graspable conception of morality, De Beauvoir turns to art and science:

Art and science do not establish themselves despite failure but through it; which does not prevent there being truths and errors, masterpieces and lemons, depending upon whether the discovery or the painting has or has not known how to win the adherence of human consciousnesses; this amounts to saying that failure, always ineluctable, is in certain cases spared and in others not.

For this reason, she suggests, success and failure bear no equivalence with right and wrong. If we are to seek an understanding of morality, the equivalence is to be found not in the outcomes of art and science but in their methods. She writes:

Which action is good? Which is bad? To ask such a question is also to fall into a naive abstraction. We don’t ask the physicist, “Which hypotheses are true?” Nor the artist, “By what procedures does one produce a work whose beauty is guaranteed?” Ethics does not furnish recipes any more than do science and art. One can merely propose methods. Thus, in science the fundamental problem is to make the idea adequate to its content and the law adequate to the facts; the logician finds that in the case where the pressure of the given fact bursts the concept which serves to comprehend it, one is obliged to invent another concept; but he can not define a priori the moment of invention, still less foresee it. Analogously, one may say that in the case where the content of the action falsifies its meaning, one must modify not the meaning, which is here willed absolutely, but the content itself; however, it is impossible to determine this relationship between meaning and content abstractly and universally: there must be a trial and decision in each case. But likewise just as the physicist finds it profitable to reflect on the conditions of scientific invention and the artist on those of artistic creation without expecting any ready-made solutions to come from these reflections, it is useful for the man of action to find out under what conditions his undertakings are valid.

In a sentiment that calls to mind her compatriot Albert Camus’s insistence that happiness is our moral obligation, De Beauvoir considers the ethic of happiness at the heart of freedom:

It must not be forgotten that there is a concrete bond between freedom and existence; to will man free is … to will the disclosure of being in the joy of existence; in order for the idea of liberation to have a concrete meaning, the joy of existence must be asserted in each one, at every instant; the movement toward freedom assumes its real, flesh and blood figure in the world by thickening into pleasure, into happiness.

Echoing the poignant and increasingly timely rhetorical question which Bertrand Russell posed two decades earlier — “What will be the good of the conquest of leisure and health, if no one remembers how to use them?” — she adds:

If the satisfaction of an old man drinking a glass of wine counts for nothing, then production and wealth are only hollow myths; they have meaning only if they are capable of being retrieved in individual and living joy. The saving of time and the conquest of leisure have no meaning if we are not moved by the laugh of a child at play.

The Ethics Of Ambiguity remains a cultural classic of timeless insight into the human experience. Complement this particular portion with Susan Sontag on what it means to be a moral human being, German philosopher Josef Pieper on why leisure is the basis of culture, and Hannah Arendt on the crucial difference between how art and science illuminate the human condition, then revisit Sartre’s stunning love letter to De Beauvoir.

https://www.brainpickings.org/

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Benjamin Arenkiel, Baylor College of Medicine

by Baylor College of Medicine

Scientists have discovered that networks of inhibitory brain cells or neurons develop through a mechanism opposite to the one followed by excitatory networks. Excitatory neurons sculpt and refine maps of the external world throughout development and experience, while inhibitory neurons form maps that become broader with maturation. This discovery adds a new piece to the puzzle of how the brain organizes and processes information. Knowing how the normal brain works is an important step toward understanding the nature of neurological conditions and opens the possibility of finding treatments in the future. The results appear in Nature Neuroscience.

“The brain represents the external world as specific maps of activity created by networks of neurons,” said senior author Dr. Benjamin Arenkiel, associate professor of molecular and human genetics and of neuroscience at Baylor College of Medicine, who studies neural maps in the olfactory system of the laboratory mouse. “Most of these maps have been studied in the excitatory circuits of the brain because excitatory neurons in the cortex outnumber inhibitory neurons.”

The studies of excitatory maps have revealed that they begin as a diffuse and overlapping network of cells. “With time,” said Arenkiel, “experience sculpts this diffuse pattern of activity into better defined areas, such that individual mouse whiskers, for instance, are represented by discrete segments of the brain cortex. This progression from a diffuse to a refined pattern occurs in many areas of the brain.”

In addition to excitatory networks, the brain has inhibitory networks that also respond to external stimuli and regulate the activity of neural networks. How the inhibitory networks develop, however, has remained a mystery.

In this study, Arenkiel and colleagues studied the development of maps of inhibitory neurons in the olfactory system of the mouse.

Studying inhibitory brain networks of the mouse sense of smell

“Unlike sight, hearing or other senses, the sense of smell in the mouse detects discrete scents from a large array of molecules,” said Arenkiel, who is also a McNair Scholar at Baylor.

Mice can detect a vast number of scents thanks in part to a complex network of inhibitory neurons. Inhibitory neurons are the most abundant type of cells in the mouse brain area dedicated to process scent. To support this network, newly born inhibitory neurons are continually added and integrated into the circuits.

Arenkiel and colleagues followed the paths of these newly added neurons in time to determine how inhibitory circuits develop. First, they genetically labeled the cells so they would glow when the neurons were active. Then, they offered individual scents to the mice and visually recorded through a microscope the areas or networks of the brain that glowed for each scent the live, anesthetized animal smelled. The scientists repeated the experiment several times to determine how the networks changed as the animal learned to identify each scent.

Surprising result

The scientists expected that inhibitory networks would mature in a way similar to that of excitatory networks. That is, the more the animal experienced a scent, the better defined the networks of activity would become. Surprisingly, the scientists discovered that the inhibitory brain circuits of the mouse sense of smell develop in a manner opposite to the excitatory circuits. Instead of becoming narrowly defined areas, the inhibitory circuits become broader. Thanks to this new finding scientists now better understand how the brain organizes and processes information.

Arenkiel and colleagues think that the inhibitory networks work hand-in-hand with the excitatory networks. They propose that the interaction between excitatory and inhibitory networks could be compared to a network of roads (excitatory networks) whose traffic is regulated by a network of traffic lights (inhibitory networks). The scientists suggest that the formation of useful neural maps depends on inhibitory networks driving the refinement of excitatory networks, and that this new information will be essential towards developing new approaches for repairing brain tissue.

http://www.biosciencetechnology.com/news/2016/12/scientists-discover-new-mechanism-how-brain-networks-form

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