The March-April, 1998 issue of Natural Health had a fascinating article about individuals who experienced psychological changes after they received organ transplants. The stories in the article are from the book The Heart’s Code by Paul Pearsall, Ph.D. In one case, the widow of the heart donor was able to meet the young Spanish man who had received her dead husband’s heart. She said she felt that her husband was present during their meeting in a church, and she hugged the young Spanish man and whispered “Everything is copacetic,” which had been the signal she and her husband had used to indicate everything was okay after they had argued and made up. The mother of the young heart recipient then said “My son used that word ‘copacetic’ all the time now. He never used it before he got his new heart, but after his surgery, it was the first thing he said to me when he could talk. I didn’t know what it means. He said everything was copacetic. It is not a word I know in Spanish.”
The young man and his mother also reported numerous other changes which had followed the surgery. From being a vegetarian who liked heavy metal music, he started craving meat and fatty foods and preferred ’50s rock and roll music. He also had recurrent dreams of bright lights coming straight for him. The man whose heart he had received had been killed in an auto accident. His wife had also been in the accident but had survived, and she too reported dreaming of the bright lights coming at them just before the head-on collision.
Dr. Pearsall interviewed 73 other recipients of heart transplants and their families,, and he reports on their experiences in his book. One of his most dramatic cases came from a psychiatrist who attended a lecture about his investigations. The woman psychiatrist described her work with an eight-year-old girl who had received the heart of a murdered ten-year-old girl. Following the heart transplant, the child started screaming at night about her dreams of the man who had murdered her donor. Her mother brought her to the psychiatrist after her daughter said she knew who the murderer was. After some psychiatric sessions, the adults went to the police, and using the information from the little girl, the police were able to find and convict the murderer. Everything the child reported about the murder, the time, weapon, place, clothes worn by the murderer, and what the murdered child had said to him, was completely accurate.
Dr. Pearsall tries to fit such experiences into the materialistic belief system of western science by theorizing that body organs, especially the heart, retain specific memories which can then be tapped by the new recipient of the organ. For those who accept the continuity of consciousness, including memories, after we leave the physical body, the Spiritualist explanation seems more likely. The disembodied consciousness of the former owner of the organ may hang around the new owner and psychically impress him or her, either to provide information as in the case of the murdered child, or to get a little vicarious pleasure from persuading the new organ owner to do things enjoyed by the former owner. (Of course, Diaconis, mentioned in the Asteroid-World article on the Bible Code, would say such examples are just coincidences with hidden causes or possible because with large numbers of examples, everything is possible without having any meaning.)
In addition to evidence which challenges the beliefs of materialism, paleontology remains one of my continuing interests. Science keeps on finding new life forms as well as previously unrecognized abilities in familiar life forms. The November 22, 1997 issue of Science News reported on fossils found in Namibia which are described as so bizarre, they are not yet assigned to any modern category of animals or plants. The organism lived in shallow oceans more than a half billion years ago with a broad array of other unclassified species. The newly identified fossils, called Swartpuntia, are described as looking like a revolving door about the size of a hand. At least three vertical apparently inflated sheets seem to have been attached to a single stalk. Recently, a specimen has been discovered in Nevada. Their extinction might have been caused by newly evolved predators, or by changes in seawater chemistry.
The same issue of Science News also reports evidence for a bird capable of constructing mental pictures called cognitive maps. The Clark’s nutcracker is able to estimate the center point between two landmarks, even when the landmarks are moved to new locations and separated by changing distances. These birds bury seeds for future use, and return to find them months later. When scientists buried seeds midway between short colored pipes, the nutcrackers went to the midpoint between the pipes even after they had been moved to new locations. This does not sound like a great feat to humans who are habitual makers of cognitive models (as discussed in my theoretical article in this issue), but scientists have long thought that smaller brained animals lacked this ability.
The October 18, 1997 issue of Science News reports new evidence for an ape able to walk upright long before the ones which became early hominids ancestral to humans. The fossils were found on what was once a Mediterranean island and are dated at 7 to 9 million years ago. In addition to other skeletal features which permitted an upright, two-legged gait, their foot bones included a big toe which stuck out at a 90 degree angle from the rest of the toes. The foot bones provided a stable tripod which facilitated walking on two legs, but would have prevented the apes from moving quickly. Theoretically, they were able to survive with such an evolutionary change because there were no major predators on the island.
The June 6, 1998 issue of Science News describes a newly discovered ancient skull which fills a large fossil gap. The new fossil is said to be the only substantial Homo cranium from between 1.4 million and 600,000 years ago. True believers who think that everything in the Bible is literal truth are still resisting the massive evidence for evolution by insisting that there are “missing links,” intermediate forms, between the apes and humans. The new find, with features in between ancient apes and early humans, is described as a good candidate to be considered a previously “missing link.”
In the same issue of Science News, an article about sunscreens throws some doubt about their ability to protect one from sun damage and skin cancer. As I wrote long ago in The Mutable Dilemma, most of the sunscreens protect only against ultraviolet B rays of the sun (UV B), and the UV A may actually be the ones which produce skin cancer. Even worse, some evidence is surfacing suggesting that people using sunscreens might be more likely to develop the common form of skin cancer than others who did not use the screens. At the moment, the whole area is in a state of uncertainty, and more research is urgently needed. In a more recent issue of The Mutable Dilemma, I reported on research in Australia which associated skin cancer with an excessive intake of Omega 6 oils and a deficiency of Omega 3. The average U.S. diet is strongly likely to include such an imbalance since the common vegetable oils are Omega 6. Omega 3 oil is found in fish, especially those from cold water such as salmon. For vegetarians, almost the only source is flaxseed oil Recent work at Harvard has also strongly implicated hydrogenated oils in the development of tumors. These are found in margarine and almost all prepared baked goods, including mixes. They are best avoided!
For those interested in theories about climate changes, global warming, and ice ages, the February 1998 issue of The Atlantic Monthly has a good article by William Calvin. As modern satellites provide increasing information about both water currents in the oceans of earth and air currents in our atmosphere, along with time tables of temperature changes from sources like ice cores from the glaciers of Greenland, a theory is being formulated to explain earth’s periodic ice ages. The layers in the ice sheets of Greenland made of alternating winter snow and summer dust can be counted, like tree rings, to connect past dates with temperatures. For some fifteen years, evidence has been accumulating showing that major changes in temperature could occur in an amazingly short time period. The most recent big cooling came in the middle of our last global warming, about 12,700 years ago. The return to ice-age temperatures lasted about 1,300 years. Then warmer temperatures returned fairly suddenly about 11,000 years ago, permitting the establishment of agricultural villages in the Middle East.
In addition to the layered ice cores, changing pollen from plants which respond to temperature changes are analyzed in the layers of cores from old lake beds and they can be used to trace climate change. Some of these from central Europe and from the west coast of the U.S. support the timing of the ice cores. The evolving theory suggests that global climate flips, that cycles lasting only a few centuries occur frequently and abruptly, and that they are connected to something happening in the North Atlantic Ocean.
Scientists recognized years ago that the Gulf Stream deserved the credit for the milder climate found in northern Europe than in comparable latitudes in North America and Asia. The Gulf Stream is like a river of warm water flowing from the tropics into the North Atlantic Ocean, where it merges into the North Atlantic Current and splits, with one branch flowing up the Norwegian coast while another branch warms the tip of Greenland. Calvin describes the North Atlantic Current as possessing the flow of about 100 Amazon Rivers and with the potential of changing its route dramatically into a shorter loop. When the warmer water fails to reach the North Atlantic, Calvin says that northern Europe is not only chilled, but also tropical swamps decrease their production of methane, the gas which helps global warming, and the Gobi Desert whips much more dust into the air to reduce the amount of sunlight reaching earth and thus increase the cooling. Cooling by numerous volcanic eruptions whose particulates block the sun can be abrupt, but it does not explain a sudden return to warmer temperatures.
According to Calvin, mounting evidence suggests two major states produced by the climate mechanism which is just beginning to be understood. The temperature difference between the two states is reportedly 9 to 18 degrees. Since the sun’s energy varies only slightly, it cannot account for the shift from one state to the other. Since cold periods can start in the middle of warm ones, a gradual build up of ice sheets producing a gradual lowering of temperature is also not the explanation. After it reaches its farthest northern point, the formerly warm ocean current sinks and returns to the south along the ocean’s bottom. If, as suggested above, it is the blocking of this current which produces the abrupt climate shifts, the big question is what causes might block the current or shorten its loop?
Both denser (colder) and saltier water sink. The water coming out of the Mediterranean Sea into the Atlantic is saltier, so it sinks. Another underwater ridge from Greenland to Iceland to the Faroe Islands to Scotland also provides a salty water downflow due to the evaporation of surface waters by cold, dry winds from Canada that leaves the salt behind. This plunging cold salty water flowing south keeps the warmer surface water flowing farther north than would otherwise happen. The Pacific Ocean is much larger than the Atlantic, so there is more water to dilute the salt being carried into the oceans by rivers. Some of the excess salt in the Atlantic reaches the Pacific in long, loopy currents, but since continental drift connected North and South America at the Isthmus of Panama, there is less easy interaction between the oceans. One theory suggests that the climate flips in the past three million years are connected to that block.
Temporary local failures of the ocean flushing by the “salt-conveyer belt” have been observed in recent decades. Warmer temperatures and weaker or wetter winds could play a role, possibly produced by or producing El Niño type shifts in our atmosphere and our oceans. More floating ice could reduce the amount of ocean surface exposed to the winds, hence reducing the evaporation. The addition of large amounts of fresh water to the North Atlantic, from rain or from glacial ice sheets breaking loose and falling into the ocean, would dilute its salt content and reduce the underwater current. Students of this theory express concern over the possibility that global warming could increase high-latitude rainfall and/or melt Greenland’s ice, putting enough fresh water into the North Atlantic to interfere with the conveyer belt. Almost certainly, the preceding scenario is only part of the picture, so much additional research is needed. Calvin discusses a variety of actions which might help if the conditions deteriorate in ways that support the accuracy of the theory. He feels that just cutting down on our present warming trend is not an adequate solution, though he favors doing what we can in that direction. He feels that we have the potential to find technological solutions to stabilize earth’s climate and avoid the catastrophe of another ice age.
For a contrary view of global warming by a weather specialist, see my article in the Spring 1998 Asteroid-World on conferences attended during the spring of 1998.
A variety of news sources have featured the announcement by leading physicists that they have determined that the neutrino has mass. Though the amount is infinitesimal, it might account for some of the “missing matter” in the universe. Unlike the theories about climate which could be life-preserving, the reactions of most non-scientists to information about the neutrino is “so what?” What does it mean in our lives when the front page of the June 15, 1998 issue of the Los Angeles Times reports that cosmologists can’t account for as much as 99% of the matter which theories say ought to be in the universe, and that they are also missing as much as 70% of the energy that ought to be here if the physics theories are valid? Maybe it is saying the dream of a “theory of everything” is a fantasy and the day of materialism is over.