Big brains, baldness and a hybrid

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A while back, I read a very interesting scientific paper published in the prestigious science journal Cell. The authors of the paper studied the differences in the DNA between humans, primates and rodents, all mammals but species with significantly different behaviour. The authors found that the genetic changes needed for humans to have their bigger brains, and for those brains to work, include an extensive and specialised set of genetic alterations. What's more, humans have gained all those required genetic changes in a very short time, genetically speaking.

What especially caught my eye in this paper was how often the word 'remarkable' was used. Scientific papers are almost always dry, sober reports, their authors do not want to sound emotional and flighty, and so it is illuminating that the authors saying remarkable in two particular paragraphs. Here they are:

“It has long been noted that brains of various extant and extinct primates display remarkable variation in size, organization, and behavioral output (Noback and Montagna, 1970; Armstrong and Falk, 1982; Byrne and Whiten, 1988; Matsuzawa, 2001). This is particularly true for the evolutionary lineage leading from ancestral primates to humans, in which the increase in brain size and complexity was remarkably rapid and persistent throughout the lineage (Jerison, 1973; Walker et al., 1983).” Page 1.

“It is remarkable that 17 out of the 24 primate-fast outliers [rare or exceptional genetic changes] are linked to the regulation of either brain size or behavior.”

The third ‘remarkable’ is of special significance, for it touches upon a very strange story.

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According to the official line, based on Darwin's Theory of Evolution, homo sapiens (us) naturally evolved from Homo Erectus in about one million years. They in turn evolved from Homo Erectus in about one million years. Homo Erectus had a brain capacity of 850 cm³ and Homo Habilis had a brain capacity of 600 cm³. Chimpanzees have a brain capacity of up to 500 cm³. Humans, the last in line of these species, have a brain capacity of roughly 1400 cm³.

This sounds, at first glance, to be a reasonable progress of development. Bigger brains enable tool use, group coordination, planning etc. The only problem is that the odds of gaining the required genetic changes to have these big brains through natural selection, in the time described, are vanishingly small.
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Flouride and IQ

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As a follow-on from my earlier article about Flouride, 'The Jekyll and Hyde of Flouride', I recommend this interesting video on the issues around the fluoridation of water. As I explained in my earlier article, Flouride applied to the teeth does leave a calcified layer, which can prevent some tooth decay, but it also blocks up the holes that enable the nerves in our teeth to detect sugar, heat, cold, acids and other things toxic to our body. It therefore shuts off the natural alarm signals we receive from our teeth when we ingest sugary, acidic, holt or cold food and drink. Not good.

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This video focuses on a related matter; the fluoridation of water supplies. It points out that there is no scientific evidence that flouridation of water improves the health of our teeth. Unfortunately, flouridation does have proven negative effects on our body, and in particular, our pineal gland and our brain function. Here's the video:



Twelve important psychology experiments

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I thought it would be a good time to go over all the psychology experiments that I've encountered over the years, ones that have been fascinating and revealing studies on human behaviour. It's not a comprehensive list, for sure, but it is a good list, I think, full of revealing content. It starts out fun and harmless and becomes darker as it progresses, so you can stop at any point if you become too saddened by human nature.

I haven't included psychology experiments showing 'psi' effects, such as work done by Daryl Bem, Robert Jahn and others; I think they're better off in their own list. I also haven't included experiments about cognitive bias, although there are lots of interesting ones for that subject (e.g. anchoring bias, halo effect, priming, framing etc). My favourite cognitive bias example at the moment is the 'UP TO 50% OFF' sale signs we see here in Britain all the time. Many people will see these signs and expect items inside to be 30% off or 40%. In fact, the sign does not state this at all. In fact, what the sign says is exactly the same as saying; 'NO MORE THAN 50% OFF.' Imagine what the customer would think if he or she saw a sign like that stuck on the shop window? Read More...

'Consciousness after physical death' report published

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After several years of work, a major study into what patients experience when their hearts have stopped beating has been published. Dr Sam Parnia, a research fellow at Southampton University, led the study, which 'spent four years examining more than 2,000 people who suffered cardiac arrests at 15 hospitals in the UK, US and Austria'. Here is a quote from the article in the Telegraph newspaper:

They found that nearly 40 per cent of people who survived described some kind of ‘awareness’ during the time when they were clinically dead before their hearts were restarted. One man even recalled leaving his body entirely and watching his resuscitation from the corner of the room. Despite being unconscious and ‘dead’ for three minutes, the 57-year-old social worker from Southampton, recounted the actions of the nursing staff in detail and described the sound of the machines.


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Dr Parnia's study confirms other studies conducted under clinical conditions, in particular the work of Dr Pim Van Lommel in the Netherlands. Lommel has written a compelling book called Consciousness Beyond Life about his clinical work studying the experiences of patients whose bodies physically die on the operating table but who are then brought back to life.

The evidence now appears to be conclusive. When someone physically dies on an operating table, in essence when their heart stops, their brain has about twenty seconds worth of oxygen. After that, the brain is unable to function. According to the current orthodox view of consciousness, the subject can no longer think as the brain can no longer work. And yet Dr Parnia's study and Dr Van Lommel's before it, and other associated studies, clearly show that the mind does function. Subjects who physically die and are then revived are found to have been fully aware of what was going on during the several minutes that their bodies were dead. In some cases, they even give detailed descriptions of what happened in the room while they were physically dead which tally with what actually happened.

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Thanks to this exhaustive and thorough study, and all the studies before it, the materialist view that the functioning brain creates the conscious mind can now be regarded as an invalid idea. There is already a body of evidence showing that people can function as intelligent adults while missing major parts of their brain, as reported in this recent New Scientist article. People can even function as conscious adults when their brains aren't even electrically active, such as in the strange case of Cotard's syndrome, where the subject thinks they are dead. Parnia's report, along with Van Lommel's and others, supplies the thorough scientific evidence that negates the 'functioning brain creates the mind' idea. As Richard Feynmann famously stated: A theory may be popular and it might even be endorsed by famous scientists but if the evidence negates it, then that theory must be thrown out. Throw out the materialist view of the mind!

Heading Towards Omega book review

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Following on from my review of the book ‘Consciousness Beyond Life’, I thought it would be useful to write about another excellent, thought-provoking book on the Near Death Experience phenomenon; ‘Heading Towards Omega’ by Kenneth Ring.

‘Heading Towards Omega’ focusses on people’s reports of their Near Death Experiences, including episodes they experienced decades before, the circumstances of their NDE and the effect those NDE’s had on their lives and their view of life and reality. The experiences of those subjects closely match those reported in ‘Consciousness Beyond Life’. Both describe separating from the body, viewing their body from outside, observing people in the room, awareness of a tunnel, a light at the end of that tunnel, a realm of light, the presence of loved ones, encounters with higher individuals filled with love, the reviewing of their life so far, their decision to return to their body, their return and connection with the physical world - along with its pain and intensity and physical limitations - and, finally, their the return to a waking, aware state. Read More...

Consciousness Beyond Life book review

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I’ve recently finished reading ‘Consciousness Beyond Life’ by the Dutch cardiologist Dr Pim Van Lommel. The book studies and discusses the phenomenon of Near Death Experiences, when a person is effectively dead for a short period of time, later recovers and then recounts a dramatic experience that occurred while they were clinically dead.

Unlike other books on the subject, such as Kenneth Ring’s excellent ‘Heading Towards Omega’, the book describes Dr Van Lommel decision to set up a study to rule out the possibility that these episodes were fantasised or were caused by the subjects’ brains hallucinating when low on oxygen or affected by drugs. Read More...

The woman who woke up just in time

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This article comes from the Independent newspaper. It describes the instance where a woman, who was thought to be dead, woke up as the medical staff were wheeling her in the operating theatre to have her organs removed as a transplant donor. To quote from the article, ‘her eyes opened in response to the bright lights in the operating theatre, causing doctors to immediately call off the procedure.’

Not surprisingly, everyone involved was quite shocked. The hospital involved, St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Centre in Syracuse, was a professionally run hospital that had highly trained staff and modern technology, and yet they had completed failed to spot that their patient wasn’t actually dead.

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The man who believed he was dead

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Today’s article comes from New Scientist. In it, a man named Graham attempted suicide but his bid failed. Afterwards, he told everyone around him that he regarded himself as dead. He no longer gained any joy from life, from normally pleasurable activities, and saw no point in continuing to exist. The mental problem that Graham was suffering from is known as Cotard’s Syndrome.

What is fascinating about this particular patient was that the researchers took the step of analysing Graham’s brain using the latest scanning techniques. They found that portions of his brain that should have been active, since he was clearly alive, showed virtually no activity at all. He had the brain activity of someone who was unconscious or in a coma, and yet he was walking around conscious and living like anyone else. Only his depression and his view of the world was different.

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