Saturday, October 01, 2016

Bloody legacy

A new article in a top-ranking scientific journal (Gómez, J. M., M. Verdú, A. González-Megías, and M. Méndez. 2016. The phylogenetic roots of human lethal violence. Nature, doi:10.1038/nature19758, Published online, 28 September 2016) deals with the tendency of humans to kill other humans in evolutionary perspectives. It is discussed extensively by Prof. Jerry Coyne at his site, from where I learned about it.

Using data from other published articles, the authors calculated for more than 1000 animal species the proportion of deaths that are due to killing by other members of the same species. They found that related species had similar levels of such "lethal violence", and that it was higher in social and territorial species such as carnivores and (especially) primates.

Levels of deadly violence were also estimated for different human populations - more than 600, dating from the Paleolithic to the present. According to the authors, the ancestral human condition corresponded to about 2% deaths caused by other humans. However, depending on the social organization, this proportion could be moved both up and down. Some primitive societies, esp. those that are still retaining their primitive organization, were found to have higher levels of violence, while states have lower levels.

I know that we cannot hope ever to build a society completely free of lethal violence. The bloody legacy of our evolution is inscripted in human genes and cannot be erased. However, we can and must try to control it. We must strive for a society that discourages killing in every possible way. We have already advanced on this path, and this gives hope. We must continue. Every life that is preserved is worth the effort.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Trump, Putin and NATO: worrying development

The quote below is from the Sept. 9 article Why Donald Trump can't stop praising Vladimir Putin, by Jeet Heer at the New Republic:

"Donald Trump has long shown admiration and respect for Vladimir Putin, saying that the authoritarian Russian president is “doing a great job” in “rebuilding Russia,” and “I think I’d get along very well with Vladimir Putin.” After Putin called Trump a “talented person” last year, he returned the favor: “It is always a great honor to be so nicely complimented by a man so highly respected within his own country and beyond.”

So it came as no surprise when he praised Putin during NBC’s “Commander-in-Chief Forum” on Wednesday night. “The man has very strong control over a country,” Trump told Matt Lauer. “It’s a very different system and I don’t happen to like the system, but certainly, in that system, he’s been a leader, far more than our president has been a leader.”...

Americans, though, feel less affection for the Russian strongman. A Bloomberg poll conducted last month found that 69 percent of respondents were bothered by Trump’s praise of Putin, the seventh-highest concern about the Republican nominee.  

Why, then, does Trump continue to show affection for Putin? Some journalists have tried to explain it in crass economic terms, by pointing to evidence that Trump has borrowed money from Russian oligarchs and that former campaign manager Paul Manafort was handsomely compensated by Putin allies in the Ukraine..."

Next, I am copying from How Donald Trump's Rhetoric on NATO Works to Vladimir Putin's Advantage, by Michael Singh at the Aug. 7 Wall Street Journal:

"To see Donald Trump’s rhetoric on NATO strictly through the lens of U.S. politics would be a mistake. Mr. Trump has called the alliance “obsolete” and questioned the U.S. commitment to defend NATO allies...

In an election year, it is tempting to dismiss as partisan division such divergence from long-standing U.S. policy... Russian President Vladimir Putin, however, probably sees the growing skepticism toward NATO not as an unexpected twist in the U.S. political debate but as the intended outcome of a Russian policy designed to deter the United States.

Consider: Russian forces have acted boldly in Georgia, Ukraine, and Syria. They have become increasingly aggressive toward U.S. forces. Analysts have had to reassess Moscow’s willingness to take risks. Meanwhile, Russia has threatened to use nuclear weapons to counter conventional threats and quickly close conflicts, a strategy it describes as “escalate to deescalate.”

To Mr. Putin, wavering in the U.S. commitment to the NATO alliance is vindication of this approach. He will not fail to highlight U.S. vacillation to Eastern European states, where leaders may increasingly feel pressure to hedge their bets on U.S. support against Russia and other threats. This vicious cycle could result in the success of a Russian strategy to “destroy our alliance, not by attacking it but by splintering it,” as the commander of U.S. Army forces in Europe, Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, put it last year..."

Today, Sept. 22, is Bulgaria's Independence Day. I hope that despite these scary trends my country and all of Eastern Europe will retain independence.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Go to therapy at your own risk

In today's West, whenever we are emotionally overwhelmed, we are advised to "go to therapy". Unfortunately, if we follow the advice, this most often means that some individual with a pseudo-scientific diploma will charge us nice round sums for asking us very personal questions. I like the dialog below, borrowed from the Greek Mythology Olympiaganza by Don Zolidis. It shows Cronus and Rhea in a psychotherapy office, trying in vain to save their marriage.

"NARRATOR 2: Now I know what you’re thinking out there: I’m not sure this is the proper family
relationship. But you’re just looking at it with modern eyes, in ancient times it was perfectly acceptable to... okay, it was always gross.

RHEA: Cronos, can we talk?

CRONOS: Sure honey, what’s up?

RHEA: This is hard for me to say: I’d like you to stop eating our children.

CRONOS: Nag nag nag nag nag, that’s all you ever do!

NARRATOR 2: So Rhea did the only thing she could do - they went to therapy.

(A COUNSELOR enters and they sit.)

THERAPIST: That’s interesting. And how do you feel about him eating the children?

RHEA: It makes me feel… upset.


RHEA: Because he’s a jerk -

THERAPIST: That’s a blaming statement. We’re not using blaming statements here.

CRONOS: I feel upset now.

THERAPIST: It’s okay, Cronos. It’s Rhea’s turn to share right now. Are you listening to her?


THERAPIST: Good. I think we’re making progress. Go on Rhea. Tell Cronos how you feel.

RHEA: Cronos, when you eat my babies it makes me…

THERAPIST: If you don’t share your feelings with him, he’ll never know.

RHEA: It makes me feel angry because a lot of work into those babies and you eating them…

THERAPIST: Keep going! We’re getting somewhere now.

RHEA: Means that you’re eating our love.

CRONOS: Can I respond to that?

THERAPIST: Please. That’s why we’re here.

CRONOS: Rhea -

THERAPIST: Yes. Look at her.

CRONOS: You need to stop complaining or I’ll eat you next.

THERAPIST: No no we’re backsliding, remember what we talked about in our last session -

CRONOS: No death threats -

THERAPIST: That’s right, no death threats. Positive statements, Cronos. Positive statements.

CRONOS: Okay, um… it makes me feel good to threaten to kill -

THERAPIST: No. No. Cronos?

CRONOS: Okay. Rhea, I’m sorry you’re upset that I eat our children. But… I don’t feel that… you
respect my decision to eat the children enough -

RHEA: What!

THERAPIST: Listen to him. Hear him out.

RHEA: He’s crazy!

CRONOS: This is what I’m talking about, Doctor. Right there. No respect!

RHEA: I don’t respect anyone who eats babies!

CRONOS: Oh sure and you’ve never done anything wrong in this marriage! What about that time
when the soup was cold?


CRONOS: You’re not even trying to make this marriage work!

RHEA: Are you kidding me?!

THERAPIST (overlapping): Let’s try to remain positive -

CRONOS: Where is the love?! Huh? Where is the affection!!!

THERAPIST: Okay. Okay. Stop. Let’s just sit down and try to move forward. We’re going to try an
exercise I like to call `sharing time’. So here’s what we do: Cronos, you share something you haven’t told Rhea, and then Rhea, you share something you haven’t told Cronos. Okay? Can we try that?

CRONOS: I guess.

THERAPIST: Cronos. You first. What haven’t you told Rhea?

CRONOS: Um… Rhea… I think your sister is hotter than you.

RHEA: What!

THERAPIST: Now Rhea. What would you like to share with Cronos?

RHEA: Okay - you know how the last baby you ate was all tough?

CRONOS: I figured he was going to be god of earthquakes or something.

RHEA: Actually that wasn’t a baby. That was a rock.


RHEA: And I’ve been raising that child ever since to kill you.


RHEA: Come on in, Zeus!

(ZEUS enters.)

CRONOS: See what I mean! She’s been lying to me!

RHEA: Kill him Zeus!

THERAPIST (shouting over them): There has to be a healthier way to address family conflicts!

RHEA: Get him boy!

ZEUS: Rarrrrrgh!

NARRATOR 2: Oh yeah, and in the middle of this Cronos puked up all the kids he had eaten and they banded together and -
(they all stop to look at him.)
What? I’m not making this up. This is straight from Wikipedia."

My fears about the future of Europe and the world

My friend Bill Moulton, commenting on my previous post, agreed with those who think that the world is getting better.

I have had times when I have thought the same, e.g. after the fall of communism in 1989, the breakdown of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the ending of wars in former Yugoslavia by NATO intervention. However, most of the time I have been pessimistic about the future of Europe and the whole mankind, esp. after the mid-2000s.

Of course, when people say that "there are now more forcibly displaced people worldwide than there have been at any point since World War II", one important reason is that there are now more people in general than there have been at any point in world history. However, I see little reason for optimism here. The current human population growth, and I think even the current absolute number of humans, is unsustainable. Look at the chart below, based on data from Wikipedia:

The last point corresponds to the 2014 estimate of 7,215,000,000 people. How do you imagine the future of a population with this dynamics? It can curb and become flat and then decline slowly. This is the optimistic scenario. However, it can also curb and decline fast, like a bacterial culture in the death phase.

Actually, I think the very fact that we are making comparisons with the catastrophic immediate aftermath of World War II speaks volumes, even if the comparisons are reassuring.

The global political situation is grim. Pax Americana is over. Bush Jr. compromised it, then Obama destroyed it altogether. It was not perfect, but I miss it. Without it, the world is scary. Even if you take such a minor but telltale sign as the resurgence of piracy that accompanied also the end of Pax Romana.

With the decline of US power, of course, every well-armed bandit state makes a bid for the vacant superpower status. Russia is invading, killing and grabbing land once again, pulling down by force other nations to the level of its misery. No one in Eastern Europe should feel safe anymore.

There is, however, an even more sinister threat to Europe: the invasion of Islam. The large-scale, uncontrolled migration from Third World Muslim countries to Europe is threatening to destroy the cultures of the continent and to reduce its native population to pariah status, a fate my nation has already suffered in its history, living under Ottoman domination for almost 5 centuries. Frankly, with the current scale of the migration process and the determination of European elites to continue it at all costs and against the will of ordinary Europeans, I see little hope for the future of Europe. In 100 years, I imagine the continent as a conglomerate of Muslim-majority states, all of them failed by any reasonable standard, as is now every single Muslim-majority state on Earth.

I expect now that indignant readers will jump to the comment form and start writing that most Muslims are good people. Of course, they are. But the same can be said about most early Indo-Europeans, most Huns of Attila, most Ottoman Turks, most European settlers in the Americas, and most Germans and Russians in the 1930s and 1940s. Every single human wave in history and prehistory that has wreaked misery and destroyed civilizations on its way has been composed mostly of nice people, if you don't judge them too harshly. This, however, is small consolation for the victims.

America could at least take a lesson from Europe and down-regulate Muslim immigration before it's too late. There is, however, little hope for this. The only high-profile politician promising such a policy is the Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. However, he is an aggressive mentally unstable crook and habitual liar who shouldn't be trusted to run a grocery store. The Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, who will most likely be the next leader of the free world, is an appeaser of Islam and promoter of large-scale Muslim immigration.

These days, several bombs were planted in New York and New Jersey, and some exploded, injuring more than 30 people (happily, nobody was killed). Such Islamist terror acts, which I interpret as claims for domination, are becoming more and more often. So far, there is a single suspect - Ahmad Khan Rahami (28), an immigrant from Afghanistan. Well, can you guess whom is Clinton blaming? Not the terrorists, and not the religion/ideology inspiring them, but her opponent! Because, as she allegedly said, "Trump's comments have been used online for the recruitment of terrorists". With such a leader, Allah help the free world, or what has remained of it. My American online friends are divided in their choice for whom to vote, but no matter whether it's Clinton or Trump, they will vote holding their noses.

The good news is that the dracunculiasis eradication campain is close to its successful ending, and the polio eradication campaign is advancing, although extremist Muslims try to stop it by attacking and killing vaccination workers. Let's hope that Dracunculus and the polio virus will share the fates of smallpox and rinderpest viruses. Whatever troubles has the future in store, it will be better to face them in a polio-free world.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Hopefully, no monster mosque next to Ground Zero

Today, at the 15th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, I do not feel optimistic. I am afraid for the world, for the civilization. (To me, "clash of civilizations" is an euphemism, for I see only one civilization.) There is, however, a small piece of symbolic good news that is worth mentioning. It is related to the project to build a monster mosque nest to Ground Zero. After years of opposition from American citizens, and reluctance even of Muslims to pray or gather at this site, the developers of the project have announced that they back off from their original idea and will build a luxury condominium instead.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Beware homeopathy: it poisons!

(Bulgarians can read this post here.)

Shortly before the end of the summer semester, I caught laryngitis. I was drinking tea every hour and other liquids every 3 minutes and nevertheless I had no voice. Two friends advised me to try the homeopathic remedy Homeovox that were allegedly very useful to them in a similar situation.

Now, I agree with those who say that homeopathy is "science for idiots". I had used it only once when I had contracted sinusitis while pregnant and an otorhinolaryngologist had prescribed me the homeopathic remedy Cinabsin. Doctors avoid prescribing true drugs to pregnant women because they could harm the baby, as if the best for the baby is to develop amidst an untreated infection. I tried the tablets, to no avail. Nevertheless, I decided to try the Homeovox as well, hoping that they could help after all.

I bought a package from the nearest pharmacy and sucked a tablet. No improvement at all. The highly recommended remedy could not even compare in efficiency with the cheap mint candy offered by a third friend. I looked into the list of ingredients to see what is (or is presumed to be) inside. You can see it here. I mentioned in the list the ingredient Mercurius solubilis, that is, soluble mercury. The medicine claims to be "toxin-free" and one indeed expects it to be safe because it is produced in France. So what was this mercury doing there? Indeed, many vaccines used to contain the mercury compound thimerosal (thiomersal) as preservative, and a few still have it; but tablets do not need such a preservative. Besides, Mercurius solubilis was listed among the active ingredients.

I searched the Web and found out that mercury is a regular component of homeopathic "remedies". The explanations why it is there, and generally how these "remedies" act, read as if their authors have some serious psychiatric diagnosis, and no adequate treatment. Here are some examples:

Jonathan Hardy, the site of the British Homeopathic Association: "Mercury is an element which has been known to man and used in medicine for millennia. Used homeopathically it is a very deep-acting and wide-ranging medicine. As is often the case we can see fascinating parallels between the chemical nature, properties, toxicology, as well as associated mythol­ogy and psychology and the homeo­pathic application of the substance... Highly toxic, mercury is most poisonous when inhaled but dangerous amounts can be ingested and absorbed through the skin over time. Our homeopathic knowledge of Mercury comes partly from the provings carried out by Hahne­mann and others and also from the extensive toxicological knowledge that has been built up over the centuries. The symptom picture gained is similar to many common diseases and Mercury is thus a frequently prescribed homeo­pathic medicine." Got it? Because mercury is toxic and the symptoms of poisoning with it resemble those of some other diseases, homeopathy considers it therapeutic! Of course, if you obtain your mercury not from a homeopathic potion but from a vaccine, do not expect any therapeutic effects, only toxic ones! The author claims below: "The FDA in the United States has admitted that children have been ex­posed to unsafe levels of mercury through vaccines containing thimerosal" - a statement that is just a blatant lie.

A site called Home Remedy Central: "When we hear the word “mercury” many of us automatically assume that it’s bad. Though high levels of it can be toxic to humans, it has also had some fantastic healing properties that have been used through the years.It was used in mainstream medicine until it was found, in its natural form, to have adverse side effects. Since homeopathy dilutes to the point that not a molecule remains, it is safe and we can reap all of the healing benefits."

For the record: in the dark ages of medical history, mercury was used by (what passed for) official medicine for treatment of syphilis, until the team of Paul Ehrlich developed a drug based on the less toxic arsenic. Other "healing benefits" of mercury do not exist. Is it at least safe at the levels used by homeopathy, as its promoters claim? Not always. In 1991, Montoya-Cabrera and co-authors published in a Mexican medical journal an article with the following abstract:

"Mercury poisoning caused by a homeopathic drug
We report an infant with diaper dermatitis and mild respiratory and enteral infections, treated with a homeopathic mercurial medicine: Mercurius 6a (cinnabar dilute 1 x 10(6)), who thereafter became seriously ill with exacerbation and dissemination of the dermatitis as well as irritability and albuminuria. Mercury urine levels were 60 micrograms/L (reference less than 10 micrograms/L). The homeopathic medicine was suspended but symptoms persisted. Therefore the chelating agent D-penicillamine was administered per os (50 mg/kg/day during 10 days). The clinical conditions improved and urinary levels of mercury decreased to normal values. We concluded that homeopathic medicaments should be recognised as potentially harmful substances.
The good news is that at least some consumers show critical thinking abilities. Below, I am copying a short discussion from the Mothering forum.

1st participant: "Sorry if this is a dumb question, but my exposure to homeopathics has been limited to just a few remedies, so far. I purchased Traumeel drops for pain, then saw "Mercurius solubilis 8X 2 ml" listed in the ingredients. I looked it up online, and the info I saw said "also known as quicksilver" "mercury" "nontoxic." It seems odd that it is a good thing to consume. What am I missing?"

2nd participant: "Sorry, not sure about your question, but I know that Arsenic (yes, the poison used in many crime novels) is a homeopathic remedy (very much diluted of course as all remedies are)."

3rd participant: "This, the arsenicum, and Uranium Nitricum made me skeptical of homepathy. While there is good from the herbal remedies (undiluted arnica for ex.), to assert that 100 million-fold dilution of mercury is good and useful? (Esp. when we're worrying about million-fold dilutions in vaccines?) Eh. It reads like a Victorian medicinal primer. Some good, some bad, and some hocus pocus..."

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

How covering of Muslim women affects others

"Burkini" is all-covering swimming outfit beloved by fundamentalist Muslims. (Do you imagine staying in such a garb under the sun for hours? Or how it feels after swimming, wet all over your body, as if you have accidentally fallen in water with all your clothes on? Grrrrr!)

This summer, after France suffered three major Islamist terrorist attacks in a year and a half, various French resort municipalities ban burkini. As said David Lisnard, mayor of Cannes: "Beachwear which ostentatiously displays religious affiliation, when France and places of worship are currently the target of terrorist attacks, is liable to create risks of disrupting public order... I simply forbid a uniform that is the symbol of Islamic extremism..." His head of municipal services Thierry Migoule added: "We are not talking about banning the wearing of religious symbols on the beach… But ostentatious clothing which refers to an allegiance to terrorist movements which are at war with us."

The text below is from the Hill, by Hala Arafa, a retired news editor at the Arabic Branch of the Voice of America.

"The burkini is a toxic ideology, not a dress choice

It is very difficult to understand the uproar caused by the French government’s decision to ban the burkini. This was a reaction to the chaos and turmoil caused by the Islamic fundamentalist sect in the Muslim world and in Europe.

The fundamentalists are the ones who reject participation in the 21st century. They prefer to isolate themselves in seventh century ideas and dress; despite that no one is denying them the right to practice their religion in private. They don’t have the right, however, to invade the public space  and impose their ideology  and belief system represented by their dress.

Any dress is a culmination of a social experience  and a representation of its core values. The fashion worn in the 21st century reflects the progress of our thoughts on equality, human rights,  and women’s rights.

Civilized nations worked very hard for centuries to achieve the freedoms we enjoy today. The clothes worn by Muslim fundamentalist women are based on seventh century beliefs. They say that a woman’s honor is directly tied to her clothes and a man is not responsible for his actions if he is tempted by a woman. This is an ideology that absolves men from any responsibility of committing the crime of rape  and blames the victim for not protecting her honor by covering up.

This old ideology was revived in the early 1980s by the introduction of hijab, a seemingly innocuous piece of cloth, under the guise of modesty  and piety. It revived ideas of women’s servitude, promoted a rape culture and led to the political  and social instability we witness today.

The hijab ideology is why young Muslims today think they have the right to sexually assault uncovered women. This was demonstrated by Muslim immigrants gang assaults in Cologne, Germany, last January. Similar attacks happened in March in Sweden  and other European countries that took in Muslim immigrants.

To say the burkini ban stifles cultural diversity is to focus on the superficial garment, not the rape ideology it promotes. That also ignores the deterioration in every aspect of social & political life in the Muslim world since the introduction of this extremist ideology. This isn’t a choice of dress. This is a choice of a very specific ideology that has proven harmful to society.

To say the ban limits their religious freedom is also an invalid argument. Religious freedom means practicing religion in private without fear of intimidation or reprisals. It doesn’t mean people are free to impose their religious beliefs on others. Then of course the Islamic fundamentalist claims that it is Islamophobia, an accusation that assumes that they represent all of Islam & not merely one sect with extreme behavior and ideas whose time had passed 1400 years ago.

The French government’s ban finally shines the light on the glaring contradictions between the fundamentalists’ words  and actions. “Hijab” means to cover/to hide. Yet, they want to participate in every aspect of public life  and invade every public domain. Since neither the hijab nor the burkini is an invisibility cloak, we must wonder: Do they want to hide  and cover their women or are they using religion as a tool to make unquestioned political/social gains?

If we are to take into account the experience of the past 35 years in the majority-Muslim countries, we must conclude that Islam is being used as a means to an end. If the hijab or burkini had anything to do with modesty or piety, the Islamic fundamentalists would have sought private beaches, not insisted on forcing themselves on the public. But as they did before, they want to become part of the accepted social scene and part of the new norm of the society.

The French government’s burkini ban, unlike Iranian laws that enforce hijab, takes into account the experience in Muslim countries where the introduction of a religious element into the public sphere led to the current strife.

The ban removes an element that has proven to be a corrupting influence and morally destructive, unlike Iran where the law is based on an untested extremist religious dogma. The ban takes into account the effect of the Islamic fundamentalist ideology on future generations.

If hijab becomes an accepted public phenomenon, a modern society cannot teach its future generations that a woman’s dress is not an excuse for rape.

Islamic fundamentalists should be allowed to worship freely. Their beliefs must be properly defined as solely theirs. The whole society  and future generations must never regard them as acceptable or allow them to become part of the shared common public scene. All groups espousing ideas that veer off the accepted norms of a society isolate themselves  and practice their beliefs in private. Nudists have private beaches. Islamic fundamentalists should not be any different.

The burkini ban is an act of a socially conscious, morally courageous and responsible government with extreme prudence  and futuristic foresight."

Update: I have added a brilliant Jesus & Mo cartoon copied from Prof. Jerry Coyne's site.

Update: The burkini ban has been overturned by court.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Using sport to promote Islam, part 2

In my previous post, I reposted text from the blog of Prof. Jerry Coine about using the Olympics to promote the hideous religion of Islam. This post will be on the same subject, because Islamophiles continue (ab)using the Olympics to glorify Islam. The text below is copied from yesterday's post by Prof. Coyne.

"More on the Western fetishizing of Islamic worship

The Canadian ex-Muslim Eiynah, also known as “Nice Mangos” —it’s telling that many ex-Muslims, but not ex-Jews or ex-Catholics, must hide their identity—drew my attention to an article in Time Magazine with this tweet: