Archive for May, 2009

I just read two news reports about orangutans that are quite disturbing.  The first is a report about the Malaysian orangutan sanctuary that has sparked much controversy amongst environmentalists and wildlife veterinarians due to the way the staff treats the animals. Perhaps abuse by babying the animals? Baby orangutans taken from their mothers to sleep in cots and play with baby rattles while tourists coo at them probably isn’t the best way to get them ready for release back into the wild. The second article is a flash forward several years into the life of a rehabilitated and released orangutan. Two so called “semi-wild” orangutans have been seen cannibalising the bodies of their recently deceased babies. The hypothesis is that mothers’ stressed upbringing may have triggered their later actions. These stories are shocking and suggests a very bleak future for the mental well-being of these rehabilitated animals. Here are both news reports, the second article includes a link to a video of one of the orangutans eating her baby’s corpse. (more…)


Read Full Post »

“Did you eat something that didn’t agree with you?” asked Bernard.

The Savage nodded. “I ate civilization” (p. 185).

Brave New World, written in 1932 by social satirist Aldous Huxley, is a glimpse into a futuristic society that has successfully given up the painful things in life and has completely embraced happiness and peace for all through a means of biological engineering and Pavlovian conditioning. Babies were literally engineered and born in test tubes (even the term “viviparous reproduction” itself brought out a sense of sickness when mentioned). All children were born into a caste system. Through oxygen deprivation and other means some children were born with less-than-normal intellectual capabilities and thus would be the lower caste of workers, while others who were nurtured more were born into upper castes. Children were raised in state run “Hatchery and Conditioning Centres” and molded through psychological behaviorism into the mindset that was proper of the pre-determined caste– this successfully eliminated most jealousy. And “that is the secret of happiness and virtue – liking what you’ve got to do. All conditioning aims at that: making people like their unescapable social destiny” (p. 11). The state’s motto was “Community, Identity, Stability” and they maintained it so. Huxley’s world is definitely different than reality, but it is a believable and possible route for civilization to take. I definitely recommend this book! (more…)

Read Full Post »

The individualization of healthcare is becoming more and more obvious and needed. Treatment, drugs, and even psychological support for each patient is finally being taken into consideration. Medical anthropologists are pushing for this cross-cultural healthcare. Forget political correctness (isn’t science supposed to be objective?), and accept the diversity of the natural human variation.  Below is an article about several mixed-race patients that cleary shows that we need to continue with research for individualized treatments. Race isn’t an issue we should be ashamed of or afraid to speak about.

Newsflash: HAYWARD, Calif. – If Nick Glasgow were white, he would have a nearly 90 percent chance of finding a matching bone marrow donor who could cure his leukemia.

But because the 28-year-old bodybuilder is one-quarter Japanese, his doctor warned him the outlook was grim. Glasgow’s background would make it almost impossible to find a match, which usually comes from a patient’s own ethnic group. (more…)

Read Full Post »

UPDATE: Monday night I watched a special called “The Link” on the History Channel about this new fossil of the species Darwinius Masillae. Like all History Channel shows it was long and drawn out as much as possible with way too much added drama- but excitement is what TV viewers want. So ignore all the hoopla, here’s the deal. This fossil is thought to be a transitional species between the prosimians (the family of modern lemurs) and the anthropoids, a family that comprises both monkeys and primates. The skeleton could be said to be a missing link between the prosimians and anthropoids in PRIMATE evolution. In my opinion “human” evolution didn’t start until the hominid break off from other anthropoids (like the great apes) around an estimated 6-8 million years ago. (Yes, theoretically it can be stretched to say this fossil is a link in human evolution, but since this little creature is over 47 million years old that is a little too fantastic for me. I see this as an advancement for primate evolutionary studies.)

Darwinius Masillae is the oldest known species to have adapted a talus bone in the ankle (shaped almost identical to modern humans) allowing for the possibility of upright walking.  “Ida” may have looked more prosimian, but she had several other similarities to anthropoids, (such as nails opposed to claws and teeth more like monkeys instead of a toothcomb) making her the best discovery of what really could be the transition between the species.

 Although, I think the fossil has received a lot of trumped up news reporting, and then a lot of criticism (most of which I think was due to the secretive way it was studied and the its dramatized unveiling) I must say that this is a very important fossil. Many more scientists will need to study the fossil for confirmation of the initial findings and some may possibly have different interpretations. But here’s why this fossil seems to be significant:

1. This is an Eocene fossil. A report from Science Daily did a good job briefly explaining the significance of the fossils age.

 Known as “Ida,” the fossil is a transitional species – it shows characteristics from the very primitive non-human evolutionary line (prosimians, such as lemurs), but is more related to the human evolutionary line (anthropoids, such as monkeys, apes and humans). At 95% complete, the fossil provides the most complete understanding of the paleobiology of any Eocene primate so far discovered…..Ida lived 47 million years ago at a critical period in Earth’s history–the Eocene Epoch, a time when the blueprints for modern mammals were being established. Following the extinction of dinosaurs, the early horses, bats, whales and many other creatures including the first primates thrived on a subtropical planet. The Earth was just beginning to take the shape that we know and recognize today – the Himalayas were being formed and modern flora and fauna evolved. Land mammals, including primates, lived amid vast jungle.(from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090519104643.htm)

2.  The fossil was not African, but European. It brings a new piece of the puzzle into evolutionary studies. It is interesting that our evolutionary line was made possible by adaptations in multiple regions and climates. This does, afterall, support the theory of evolution itself.

Read Full Post »

Norwegian paleontologist Jørn Hurum of the University of Oslo Natural History Museum unveiled this week in New York a skeleton found that he believes is the “missing link”. However, when people refer to this “missing link” in regards to human evolution, they are refering to the gaps between 6-8 million years ago and about 200,000 years ago when anatomically modern humans arose.  The skeleton was 95% intact which is amazing for something that old. Anthropologists will debate for many years about the significance of this fossil. It may be way to old to fit into the line of human evolution, but I’m sure it will have its place among primate evolutionary lines (that is the primate lines that existed almost 40 million years before the hominids were suggested to have split off).   (more…)

Read Full Post »

Socrates (469–399 B.C.):  A great classical Greek philosopher whose ideas are still very much relevant today. Although Socrates never wrote anything (that we’ve found), others did. I read the “Last Days of Socrates” by Plato, its a compilation of transcripts from Socrates’ trial. We really learn a lot about his philosophy from the back and forth question and answer style of the court proceeding.

The Socratic method of teaching is an environment that I really excel in. The method of teaching that too many professors abuse is the use of powerpoints and projection screens. Students forced to copy notes projected on the wall takes away a lot of focus on what the professor is actually saying, and all too many of these same professors abuse this technique by not taking breaks for class discussions. Studies have shown that students who learn with this method of teaching don’t retain very much of it without having to reference their notes. Many professors are realizing the importance of class discussions. When tough questions are posed, that is where REAL critical thinking and learning enters the picture. The Socratic method of teaching encourages this question and answer type learning. A teacher poses a tough question in order to get the students to think, eventually through this back and forth discussion new ideas occur and real learning takes place because the student is actively involved.

“I cannot teach anybody anything, I can only make them think.” (more…)

Read Full Post »

Ivory sculpture in Germany could be world’s oldest

NEWSFLASH: BERLIN – A 35,000-year-old ivory carving of a busty woman found in a German cave was unveiled Wednesday by archaeologists who believe it is the oldest known sculpture of the human form. The carving found in six fragments in Germany’s Hohle Fels cave depicts a woman with a swollen belly, wide-set thighs and large, protruding breasts.

“It’s very sexually charged,” said University of Tuebingen archaeologist Nicholas Conard, whose team discovered the figure in September.

Carbon dating suggests it was carved at least 35,000 years ago, according to the researchers’ findings, which are being published Thursday in the scientific journal Nature.


Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: