Just a quick reposting in honor of the winter solstice this Sunday Dec 21st.
With recent events surrounding police violence towards blacks in the United States, I would like to dedicate today’s #PhilanthrophyFriday post to the topic of racism.
We will visit Nobel Prizes for sale, noble intentions questioned, and then end with the nobility of the human spirit.
I believe that racism is a convenience that trumps reason only when activated by fear. We all see the world, note the differences in appearance and behavior, and our mind tries to organize our thoughts based upon inculcated prejudice, our own experience, and divine intuition.
When scarcity is introduced, as in the fear of safety, material wealth, social attainment, it is natural to try to seek strength in numbers and band together with our own self-identification group, to the exclusion of the “other”.
This scarcity can be experienced on a racial level, a socio-economic level, a political affiliation level, or a citizen’s rights level.
In researching my screenplay about Hypatia, a philosopher in the Late Roman Empire, I was fascinated that the concept of Roman citizenship was a political one, like that of Americans versus illegal immigrants. People we might consider “black” would routinely own “whites” slaves because at that time, the wars with Goths would have meant the majority of slaves were Germanic in appearance, language and culture.
How odd it would be to send Al Sharpton and David Duke back in time to witness the banality of black on white slavery and to understand that our notions of their perceived conflicts are predicated on social constructs that arose out of the particular history of European Enlightenment, Colonialism, and the Pseudoscience of Anthropology (spoken as an Anthropology major myself.)
The scientific and incontrovertible truth is that a species level classification of race touted by Carl Linnaeus, the father of species taxonomy, is a non-starter as all Homo Sapiens Sapiens appear to arise from the same East African origins and can interbreed without difficulty. As if we needed more proof that having brilliant scientific ideas doesn’t mean all our thoughts are valid, here comes the Greek tragedy of DNA-discoverer, Dr. James Watson, of Watson and Crick fame….
Part I: James Watson’s Nobel Prize sells for $4.8 Million
This very day, James Watson successfully auctioned off his Nobel Prize to help sustain himself because in 2007, he resigned from his position as chancellor of Cold Springs Harbor Laboratory for this publicly quoted comment in The Times:
“[I am] inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa [because] all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours—whereas all the testing says not really.” He went on to say that despite the desire that all human beings should be equal, “people who have to deal with black employees find this not true.”
Not to apologize for the man, but it would appear that his notable gifts for science were not tempered with a gift for keeping his foot out of his mouth. He has made many an impolitic comment about fat people, unattractive people, gays, the Irish…so there is a history of general unsmartness about his willingness to let notions fly.
As a cosmic bit of irony, if you click on the article linked to his picture, you will read about Watson’s feeling like an “unperson” after being ostracized. Well, isn’t that exactly the issue that everyone had with his proclamation about Africans? With this quote from the article, we see the universe teaching Watson how it feels to fall from the grace of an accomplished, straight, affluent man of European descent and to feel the marginalization of those “unpersons” that he so glibly judged.
“Because I was an ‘unperson’ I was fired from the boards of companies, so I have no income, apart from my academic income,”
And the irony of this irony is that he wants to buy a David Hockney painting with the proceeds of his sale after having been quoted as saying in the The Sunday Telegraph, in 1997,
“If you could find the gene which determines sexuality and a woman decides she doesn’t want a homosexual child, well, let her.”
Part II: Harvard discriminates against Asians based on race?
This very day of December 5th, 2014, I also received an email from my alma mater addressing the suit brought by some students alleging racist discrimination against Asian-American applicants in admissions by Harvard, UNC-Chapel Hill, and Univ of Wisconson-Madison.
Truth be told, and as an Asian-American and a participant in the admissions process for Harvard College, I would concur that the representation of Asians and Jews would be much higher at elite colleges if not for this bit of social engineering but that is not to say that I support this lawsuit. If you were a Caucasian parent with a child up for the same spot as an Asian-American child and all factors were magically equal, would you consider it “affirmative action” if they admitted your child solely based on his or her non-Asiatic heritage?
The main problem I have with the lawsuit is who sponsored it. It is a gentleman who has a very conservative bent and it reeks of an attempt to assault the temporary and vital institution of affirmative action by an means he deems necessary.
Part III: The Nobility of Man
Brits love Ghandi, Southie’s love Bill Russel, former Nazi’s love Anne Frank. They just do.
On the deepest, truest level, any person’s struggle for dignity against attempts to render them “unpersons” is appreciated as it resonates with all our struggles for self-determination and freedom from judgement.
Movies are amazing because the immersion of the mind in darkness and anonymity can transform the human heart. That is one of the reasons I became a screenwriter. Think of “Billy Elliot”, “Glory”, “My Left Foot”, and any number of thousands of wonderful movies. You went in believing one thing, and leave transformed. Sure, when the lights come up in the movie house, you are free to resume your own close-minded bigotry, but there are few amongst us that will not be moved by ANY story, told with truth and empathy, about people we would normally consider “other” or perhaps even inferior.
Flying back from an interview I did for Gaiam TV in Boulder, Colorado yesterday, I was happy to watch “Guardians of the Galaxy” a Marvel Comics picture about a rag-tag band of misfits that saves the galaxy. In the first non-flashback scene, the hero strolls through a ruin and with a scanning device, appears to pick up scenes of a reality taking place “elsewhere in time” but apparently in the same space. It is not explained and does not appear central to the plot.
That scene reminded me of an eerie and wonderful film staring David Bowie called “The Man who Fell to Earth” in which he played a spaceman who was somehow not meant to be in this space-time realm; he was a man who was meant to be somewhere else and therefor bore the gifts and scars of that non-Earthly origin.
The reason I bring this up is that perhaps the message of this innocuous movie scene was that we are all guardians of the galaxy and that everything is happening all-at-once. As above, so below. Our world inside, outside, in the past, and in the future are all our responsibility to co-create.
Divine intuition allows us to understand betrayal when we interview face-to-face the unexpected Mary Smith who is obviously at least 50% Chinese- because now we have to temper our enthusiasm for their violin playing or math SAT score.
We can access the self-pity of Jim Watson’s hubris and the shame at having to now live with the consequences of our Tourette’s-like hubris.
And sadly, we feel the surprise and sorrow of being be choked to death by a racist cop just as well as we feel the carnal exhilaration of taking another man’s life in a fit of unbridled rage.
Are we ignorant, bigoted fools? Yes.
Are we conscious, loving deities?
Yes. Is that a contradiction? No.
So what now? Pray. Be kind. Learn. And believe only what’s true: that the world we see is the world inside and that we are the ultimate guardians of our galaxy and all our brothers’ keepers. If there is racism on the rise in your reality, then it is incumbent upon you to change that matrix of reality and believe something else into existence.
And don’t forget to ask yourselves: who benefits from activating our scarcity and fear? Ebola, televised beheadings, school shootings, alleged race riots? It’s time to pay attention to the men behind the curtains because Emerald City ain’t turning out to be what we were promised in the Bill of Rights. And Dorothy never needed the Wizard or even the Ruby Slippers to get back to Kansas.
For #ScienceSunday, I am posting this video of a brief interview that I did with Karl, our wonderful patient who was featured in a few of our previous videos about hypertension and sports injuries.
In it, we discuss the measurements of his telomere lengths. In videos to follow this one, I will discuss other interesting cases of even more dramatic changes.
Thank you to Karl for sharing his experiences with us. Hope you all enjoy watching it.
This week, a very influential man passed. He was Dr. Denham Harman, the originator of the free-radical theory of aging.
I am always learning and am grateful to know Dr. Bill Andrews, one of the stars of the documentary, The Immortalists, which I saw premiered at UCLA’s Film School last week. Bill and I both agree that telomerase holds the key to reversing human aging.
Mice, unlike dogs and humans, do not age by telomere erosion, but instead are susceptible to oxidative stress as per this gentleman’s theory. Bill informed a group of us at the premier that humans have vast reservoirs of scalable antioxidative capacity so the effects of oxidation are not as integral to our aging. Just like cold doesn’t bother polar bears.
In contrast, certain species for which telomerase is always on in all cells appear to have no discernible aging.
The other subject of the movie, Aubrey DeGrey, has declared that telomerase is the problem and states in the movie that he would like to shut it down in all cells to prevent cancer. He feels that mice hold the key to human aging and they award a prize to prove their theory to anyone that can make mice live longer.
It is noteworthy that the doc who came up with the idea of free radical damage got old and died. His theory lives on. There are several other candidate theories which are incredible to me: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ageing
The only thing that makes sense for human aging to me is telomere erosion in our stem cells. Since Bill Andrews and I have been taking TA-65 for seven years and are looking younger every time we get together, we will just have to see if Aubrey will outlive his mitochondrial theory of aging and his diabolical plans to deactivate telomerase to micromanage cellular physiology. Ironically, I first met both gentlemen in 2008 at Aubrey’s SENS conference held at UCLA. Time will tell but I’ll bet in another seven years, Aubrey will be taking what we’re taking…just in case.
Want to make up your own mind? Here is my banner for the upcoming trade show where I will lay my claim to a really simple unified theory of aging and disease:
If you prefer, you can treat every idea with equal validity, listen to “experts” pontificate, and chase weird fads like resveratrol. Where will that get you? I suggest you read this satirical article in the New York Times called “A Handy guide to living longer through science”
Either I’m the simpleton or we are way to fixated on mice and treating every paper like it has equal validity. We just watch as Rome burns and we continue to funnel billions of dollars into the medical-industrial-research complex to tell us things like people who stress out age faster and that any number of things might be helpful in some species and instances but more research is needed.
I’m so daft I can figure out why if oxidation is the root cause of aging we need to breath and use the horrible oxidizer, oxygen at all. Perhaps engineers are working to deprive all our cells of oxygen, calories and telomerase in their quest for celllular immortality.
I deem the free-radical damage theory of aging in humans to be a case of group think and over/underthinking that has set the quest for healthy longevity back decades. It’s greatest legacy has been billions in dubious supplement sales and taking care of mortgages and living expenses of misguided scientists along the way.
As I explain in my book, “TELOMERE TIMEBOMBS“, the free radicals pour out of aged cells because that is the final common pathway for cellular suicide via mitochondrial disruption that is triggered by DNA damage, allowed for by telomere erosion. It is a case of confusing the smoke with the arsonist.
It is as though the only acceptable theory of moon craters was the fact that it was composed of cheese. Anyone who studied a non-cheesy model of the moon was misguided. Welcome to the exact opposite of intellectual honesty and science. Welcome to your Holy and Catholic Apostolic Church of Science.
For #webinarWednesday, I want to address aging. I was recently at a meeting of cryogenic/maximum lifespan enthusiasts and had the honor of meeting Dr. Bryant Villaponteau and Dr. Junli Feng, two of the key scientists at the GERON corporation and true pioneers in the field of telomeres.
When I mentioned that I no longer believe in aging, Bryant gestured around the room and stated “there’s your proof”. I guess what I was trying to relay is that like, pornography, we know it when we see it. But in fact, aging is a nebulous and wastebasket term which can only be understood and defined by subjective, sense-real ideas. If anything, replicative senescence is the best explanatory model but as a syndrome, as you will learn in my video below, the “aging” that you believe is real can also be reproduced by inadequate DNA repair.
When you think of aging, you outwardly think of what happens in this artist’s depiction:
When we examine natural syndromes of accelerated aging, the so-called progerias, we already see that the definition of aging is fuzzy. Watch this 11-minute video I did on the topic to understand what I mean:
Scientifically, the principle of reversing your version of aging using telomerase has been proven in three ways:
By using a lock-in-key reactivation of the telomerase in this Harvard mice study:
By Maria Blasco and her colleagues showed using small molecule telomerase activator, TA-65:
And again by Blasco, using gene therapy (transfer of genes using Adenoviral vectors)
So the next time you think about aging, ask yourself, is it real? As a term, it probably confuses more than describes. Are these folks old?
Are these kids old?
Well all four can’t walk well and have poor control of their bladders, but is there something else different?
Would we smile if we saw this progeric child using a walker?
What I’m essentially saying is that all three pictures are mostly the same. They are humans in different stages of development, decay, and repair. They are a factory Edsels which have many road miles, Edsels with low miles, and a “lemon” with poor manufacturing.
I believe that eventually the world will join me in understanding that there is really only one disease, with many faces. Depending on how long and in which organs the process has run, you see manifestations of disease and aging that you might call aging. Read about my grand unified Stem Cell Theory of Aging in my book, “Telomere Timebombs: Defusing the Terror of Aging”