News Notes

Zip Dobyns

The Humanist is one of those magazines about which I have considerable ambivalence. Their September-October 1993 issue has an article on NAFTA (the North American free trade agreement) which supports what I have read and heard from other sources. The gist of the article is that NAFTA is basically designed to help international corporations become even more rich and powerful. The author, Melvin Burke, suggests that the wages of unskilled workers are likely to be even more reduced than they have been in recent years, but that big companies in North America would receive some protection against Europe and Asia. Most of the arguments against NAFTA which I have seen have focused on the harm that might be done to U.S. workers. Burke suggests that Mexico, with a much smaller and less developed economy, will be hit much harder than the U.S. He credits Japan’s past economic policies for much of their success, and he suggests that Mexico still needs some protectionism. Similar protectionism was also practiced in the early days of the U.S. until our industries were strong enough to compete with Europe.

“By international treaty, NAFTA will preclude Mexico from undertaking industrial planning, infant industry protection, land reform, and income redistribution, while increasing dependency and the domination of the Mexican economy by foreign multinational corporations. Cultural preservation and sustainable agriculture will also cease to be options for Mexico after NAFTA is signed. Most adversely affected will be the ejidos (small farms), the beneficiaries of the Mexican revolution. Agribusiness will replace them, imported corn will be substituted for domestic production, and, in the process, these small landowners will be pushed off the land and forced to become itinerant laborers—unwelcome either in Mexican cities or across the border in the United States.” p. 9

The probable results of NAFTA are already foreshadowed in what has been happening since de Salinas came to power in Mexico. Many of their import duties have been reduced and foreign companies have been encouraged to move into the country. Burke writes that with the recent changes in Mexican investment laws, the number of foreign franchises increased from 10 in 1990 to 125 in 1992 with 950 outlets throughout the country. Both Mexican small businesses and U.S. workers were displaced by these developments. A program which I heard on public radio some weeks ago supported Burke’s thesis. It reported that in the past five years under de Salinas, 25% of the workers in Mexico who were formerly above the poverty line had slipped below it and the number of Mexican billionaires had more than doubled.

This same issue of the Humanist has a good article on the New Social Darwinism which points out the success of the rich in persuading the middle class that the poor are their enemies with a consequent decrease in empathy and an increase in hostility towards the homeless and hungry. In the same issue, there is also extensive material on the Vatican’s involvement in American politics but I have not yet read the articles. Time disappears, and unread material accumulates.

The reason for my ambivalence about the magazine is their materialism and atheism. For example, inside the front cover of the issue which contains the articles just described is a profile of and a quotation from one of the founders of modern Humanism. In a book called Science and the Supernatural, Anton J Carlson wrote “Science nurtures inquiry, the supernatural stifles it.... The supernatural has no support in science, is incompatible with science, [and] is frequently an active foe of science. It is unnecessary for the good life....” My experience with CSICOP, an offshoot of the Humanistic Society which was started by a former editor of the Humanist magazine, is that they stifle inquiry into astrology and parapsychology in the name of science. I think that they are a disgrace to scientific principles which do call for open inquiry. Individuals who are anti-supernaturalism, who refuse to look at the evidence for the power of the mind, are just as biased, just as unwilling to consider any evidence which challenges their own theories, as any other “true believer” in his/her own belief-system.

The January 1994 issue is already out of a relatively new magazine called Earth. It has several interesting articles, including one titled “The Mother of All Mass Extinctions.” Evidence is accumulating which suggests that the periodic extinctions of many species of life on Earth may have been caused by asteroids or comets hitting earth. The demise of the dinosaurs around 65 million years ago is blamed on one (or maybe several) of these visitors from space. The main culprit is thought to be buried in the Yucatan area of Mexico, but the arrival of additional smaller bodies, perhaps pieces of what was originally one asteroid, is dated to about the same time, including one which landed in Iowa and another in Siberia. Simultaneously, there were massive eruptions of basaltic rock in a large part of India.

A theory which is gaining adherents, though still dismissed by many geologists, is that the impact of the main asteroid or comet produced the lava flows and that the combination of catastrophes so altered the amount of sunlight reaching earth, the temperature, the water level in the oceans, etc., that mass extinctions resulted.

The article in Earth magazine is focused especially on what is called the greatest mass extinction in earth’s history which occurred at the end of the Permian Age about 250 million years ago. In the author’s graphic language, something “nearly sterilized our planet” at that time when “almost all species of life simply vanished.” p. 44. At about the same time geologically, for a period of around 600,000 years, Siberian lava flows covered much of the region north of Lake Baikal. A geologist named Rampino thinks he has found where the “big” one hit in a 200 mile diameter crater now at the bottom of the Atlantic ocean and a second smaller crater just off the east coast of South America. The smaller crater is theoretically the final resting place of the top of the 6 to 12 mile diameter object which left the big hole. At the time, about 250 million years ago, there was land in this area which is now ocean. Most of the currently separated continents were attached in a huge continent called Gondwanaland. Rampino thinks that in addition to its drastic effects on earth life, the impact of the object from space started the spreading of the continents.

In both of these theoretical incidents which occurred about 250 and 65 million years ago, the simultaneous massive lava flows occurred close to the antipode (on the opposite side of earth) of the presumed asteroid or comet impact on earth. “Coincidences” in time suggest some kind of connection. In astrology, the connection is mostly shared meaning. In this case, there may be a physical cause connecting a large object hitting earth and volcanic eruptions on the opposite side of earth. One of the challenges to traditional geology which has come out of these new theories is the suggestion that some of the rock debris which has previously been credited to glaciers may actually be the remnants of impacts from space. Geologists have been puzzled by some of the rock deposits called “tillites” which were thought to have been deposited by melting glaciers but which were dated to periods when the climate was too warm to produce glaciers. So knowledge grows, when humans are able to consider new possibilities, and it stagnates when they cling to cherished beliefs, whether or not the latter are named “science.”

It is fascinating to watch geologists inch closer to an acceptance of catastrophes as a real force in shaping earth and its life. Modern western science adopted the belief-system of materialism in its formative period in the 17th and 18th centuries. At the time, it had to resist the power over human minds of dogmatic religions, and in its search for freedom of inquiry, it “threw out the baby with the bath water.” It denied the reality of anything that could not be experienced through the physical senses. But giving up a Higher Power which is reliable and trustworthy is not easy in an uncertain and often threatening world. So science substituted “Natural Law” for God. Natural Law played much of the role that God had formerly played. It provided certainty and reliability. Humans retained the hope that they could predict and control their fates by knowing the “rules,” but they substituted the immutable, eternal, unchanging, all-powerful “laws of nature” for the rules of God handed down by the founders of different religions.

From its beginning, the scientific study of geology was dominated by the concept of “gradualism.” Mountains were pushed up and later eroded down over millennia of time. Species evolved or became extinct slowly through “survival of the fittest.” Heretics who talked of periodic, unpredictable catastrophes which affected earth and its life were attacked or ignored. My personal belief is that such unpredictable and uncontrollable events were too threatening to humans who had given up any faith in a protective spiritual power and any faith in a life beyond the current physical one. Unchanging, reliable natural law promised a world in which humans could live out their one life without nasty surprises from nature. It is only in recent years that geologists have been able to talk about sudden rather than slow change without being read out of the scientific community. Though the new ideas are still unacceptable to many, increasing numbers of scientists are at least considering the possibility of punctuated evolution when species change dramatically in relatively short periods of time after long periods without change, and at the possibility of catastrophes which had major effects on the earth and its life.

As one profound person has said, “we don’t believe what we see; we see what we believe.”

Another interesting recent move in science is the beginning of a new openness in biology to forms of consciousness in animals which were once strictly reserved for humans. Individuals who lived and worked closely with animals have always described actions which showed some capacity for reason and communication, but scientists have written these off as anecdotal, hence unscientific, hence unreal. Only science is permitted to define what is “real,” and only through the use of acceptable, carefully defined research methods. No matter that such a dismissal of massive human experience is a sign of a closed mind, a failure to live up to a basic tenet of science; scientists are also humans with emotional needs. Where geologists needed a stable earth for security, biologists needed to occupy a superior level of being to be able to treat other creatures as unconscious objects which they could manipulate as they wished.

The November 1, 1993 issues of both Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report have articles on the declining taboo against discussions of links between humans and animals. The technical word for acknowledging that animals could have human-like feelings was “anthropomorphic” and anyone guilty of such suggestions was formerly dismissed as unscientific. The Newsweek article says that animals plan, deceive, and solve problems in ways that demand more than basic instinct. “The search has begun for the creatures’ inner lives.” p. 63. I can’t do justice to the articles and recommend that anyone interested in this subject get hold of the magazines.

The November issue of Longevity magazine has a couple of interesting articles about new medical developments. One article describes a New York M.D. named Nicholas Gonzalez who is curing cancer patients given up by other doctors. The Gonzalez treatment includes a strict diet tailored to the nutritional state of the patient who is analyzed with a hair test. Gonzalez has developed his own, unique hair analysis but most MDs still dismiss the whole idea. The analysis determines the specific vitamin, mineral, and enzyme supplements which are prescribed for each patient. The third part of the treatment is detoxification, partly through frequent coffee enemas. Gonzalez says that about 70% of the patients who follow his strict program are healed. The rest are too far gone when they come to him, usually after trying standard medical treatments.

As would be expected, the initial reaction of the medical establishment was to totally dismiss Gonzalez as a quack. However, enough people have been healed by now to persuade the authorities to consider his approach. Since the total cost of the Gonzalez program is about $5,000 to $6,000 a year for two years and much less for a maintenance regime after that, and since orthodox cancer treatments generate about 10 times that much revenue, there is some doubt whether many cancer specialists will be interested in switching to the Gonzalez approach.

The other Longevity article on new approaches to healing includes descriptions of several techniques which involve the use of electricity. After years of trying to reduce all body functions to chemical activity, science is finally realizing how large a role is played by electricity. Early uses of electricity included the relief of chronic pain with “TENS” machines and the faster healing of broken bones. Electricity is now being successfully used to help insomnia, arthritis, heart problems, and may find a role in treating cancer. One fascinating approach is being explored at the University of Liverpool in England. Nursing researcher Jackie Oldham, Ph.D., records the electrical firing pattern of a healthy human muscle and then “plays back” the signal to the muscles of arthritis patients. In a research project involving 30 rheumatoid arthritis sufferers, “the patients received the signal up to three hours a day for seven weeks. The results were remarkable. The endurance of the targeted muscles in the patients’ hands tripled, while the strength of their grip increased fourfold.” p 62.

We might end with a small article in the August 7-13, 1993 issue of the Economist magazine. Dr. Charles McCreery of Oxford University has discovered that he can produce OTBE (out-of-the- body experiences) in about half of the people who claimed they had previously had such an experience by having them relax with their eyes shut while they listen to “pink” noise. “Pink” noise sounds rather like surf. It is the hiss of “white” noise with more low frequencies in it. There is increased activity in the right hemisphere of the brain while the subjects are having such experiences. Dr. McCreery says the people who have these experiences are like schizophrenics, subject to hallucinations, except that unlike schizophrenics, they are happy.

The tone of the article resembles most of the material written by true believers in the myth of materialism. Labeling such experiences as schizophrenic hallucinations ignores the increasing number of cases in which the subject “saw” and accurately described objects and actions which they could not have seen with their physical eyes. It also demonstrates the total ignorance of most orthodox investigators who have never deigned to read the vast literature on research in parapsychology. Researchers at Mc Gill University in Canada got similar results at least 30 years ago by playing “white” noise to college students who had half ping-pong balls over their eyes and gloves on to reduce sensory input. When the mind is cut off from meaningful physical sensations, whether through meditation or under anesthesia or under hypnosis or by such research projects, it can either go to sleep or it can create some substitute sensations (hallucinate) or it can go beyond the physical senses to check out what is going on in this world or another. Only by checking out the accuracy of the reported experiences can we determine whether they are personally created (hallucinations) or whether they are sensations received through non-sensory means. The general term for the latter is “psychic” awareness and how it works is still shrouded in mystery as is the rest of what we call “consciousness.”

Copyright © 1993 Los Angeles Community Church of Religious Science, Inc.

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