NOAH’S RAINBOW SERPENT – observations by Ian MacDougall

A MOLECULAR BASIS FOR MEMORY

Posted in Natural Science by Ian MacDougall on May 29, 2019

When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
       I summon up remembrance of things past,
       I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,
       And with old woes new wail my dear time’s waste.
       Then can I drown an eye, unus’d to flow,
       For precious friends hid in death’s dateless night,
       And weep afresh love’s long since cancell’d woe,
       And moan th’ expense of many a vanish’d sight.
       Then can I grieve at grievances foregone,
       And heavily from woe to woe tell o’er
       The sad account of fore-bemoaned moan,
       Which I new pay as if not paid before.
            But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,
           All losses are restor’d, and sorrows end.
 
William Shakespeare (26 April 1564 – 23 April 1616) Sonnet 30

A single phrase from a piece of music is enough to start memories ‘flooding back’ from wherever in the head it is they are kept, and however kept there; until “death’s dateless night”.                                                                                                            

The organic basis of memory is intriguing, but at the same time one of the hardest topics to research in all of science.  http://www.theosophy-nw.org/theosnw/science/prat-bra.htm  . The Nobel laureate Sir John Eccles retired declaring that after a lifetime of neurological research, he knew nothing more of much significance about the operation of the brain than he did when he first began work as a neurologist. He predicted also that “The last thing that man will understand in nature is the performance of his brain.”

So far, he is on track to be proved right.

 https://www.quotetab.com/quotes/by-john-eccles#p52qJ2SwEsajiU1l.99 ;

https://www.quotetab.com/quote/by-john-eccles/the-last-thing-that-man-will-understand-in-nature-is-the-performance-of-his-brain#3xi4vmdKrW8WuwbI.97

After a working life teaching scientific thinking and scientific thought to people with fresh young active and alert personalities and minds, I may be in a position to offer an hypothesis; for which I make no claim other than it might just be something useful for some line of research in that field. What interests me right here and now is the possible manner in which information is stored in the nervous system, presumably but not necessarily exclusively, in the brain.

Though protozoans can respond to stimuli, and practice survival behaviour, it is at the level of the coelenterates that what we might call nervous systems appear.  The initial purpose appears to be coordination and telegraph-like signalling for muscle movement, principally for self-protection. Those animals are not capable of the behaviour of self-protection,  because like sponges and some protozoa, their behaviour repertoire is limited. They might as well be plants, protecting themselves as best they can with woody barriers, thorns, and the widest possible variety of stings and poisons. But any animal which through perception and response to stimuli seeks to protect itself and aid its own survival, to that extent has a form of what we might call ‘consciousness.’

Consciousness is by no means confined to the higher vertebrates. Arguably, coelenterates (eg coral polyps) and molluscs have it, at least on the above basis. A snail responds to danger by withdrawing into its shell, so protecting itself. In other words, like the living human itself gradually coming into being from zygote to embryo to foetus to baby to infant and so on, consciousness in the course of evolution has done much the same; rather than being switched on as if an electric light in the final, fully-formed conscious Homo sapiens.

I contend that a likely beginning point in any animal species’ start towards consciousness is Hamlet’s classic question: To be, or not to be? Those indifferent to their own survival tend to leave fewer than average descendants. An ability to sense a situation of danger, and respond to it in a way favouring survival, merely requires a fixed action pattern wired into the animal’s nervous system in some way, however basic that nervous system might be.                                

But also, as in many other cases in biology, a cell, tissue or organ having one initial apparent purpose can be adapted, modified or whatever  for a very different, if not apparently unrelated purpose.

The horn of a rhinoceros for example, is actually made of keratin: the same substance that makes up animal hair fibres, claws and fingernails, which are in turn modified reptilian scales inherited from ancestral fish. Amphibian legs are likewise modified fins of fish. Jawbones originated in fish as modified gill arches. Similarly, in plants, flower petals are modified leaves.

In architectural history, walls of buildings initially had the purpose of supporting the roof and keeping out wind and weather. But their vertical surfaces soon became interesting to decorators and other artists, leading to frescoes, murals and information storage and presentations in the form of wall art and writing, such as Egyptian hieroglyphs.

I contend here that the protein content of the neuronal cell membrane conceivably has a function not just in containing the cell contents, but as a repository for the vast detail of memory. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fluid_mosaic_model#/media/File:Cell_membrane_detailed_diagram_en.svg https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC224883/?page=2

Our individual human collections of memories become within each of us a huge otherworld. That is, a world apart from the experiences of human collectives organised as communities (including communicating language communities) tribes and larger entities such as social classes and nations.

The human brain is often considered to be the most cognitively capable among mammalian brains and to be much larger than expected for a mammal of our body size. Although the number of neurons is generally assumed to be a determinant of computational power, and despite the widespread quotes that the human brain contains 100 billion neurons and ten times more glial cells, the absolute number of neurons and glial cells in the human brain remains unknown. Here we determine these numbers by using the isotropic fractionator and compare them with the expected values for a humansized primate. We find that the adult male human brain contains on average 86.1 ± 8.1 billion NeuNpositive cells (“neurons”) and 84.6 ± 9.8 billion NeuNnegative (“nonneuronal”) cells.  https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/cne.2197

So 100 billion is a good round working number. There is a large number of neurones and accompanying glial cells in the human brain. The axons of those neurones are relatively long cellular tubes ending in a cell body, with numerous branches or dendrites coming off it, like branches off some leafless tree. Nerve impulses pass along a linear series of neurones insulated from each other sideways by fatty sheaths of myelin, and separated from each other end-to-end by tiny gaps called synapses. Across any synapse, the signal is carried by neurotransmitter molecules from the axon of one neurone to the dendrites of the next in the neurone series in the nerve or nerve bundle. A single neurone can have up to a thousand synapses. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0092867414002906

For our purposes, the brain amounts to a dense electrical jelly packed out with neurones.  Let us now consider neurone dimensions. The diameter of a typical neurone is 1/106 m.

The human brain has often been viewed as outstanding among mammalian brains: the most cognitively able, the largest-than-expected from body size, endowed with an overdeveloped cerebral cortex that represents over 80% of brain mass, and purportedly containing 100 billion neurons and 10× more glial cells.

The Human Brain in Numbers: A Linearly Scaled-up Primate Brain   https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2776484/

Neurone diameter is one one millionth of a metre or 1/1,000,000 m. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neuron  So the circumference C of any neurone, is the product of the diameter of the neurone and pi (π ).

 C = πd

π [pi in Greek] is the ratio of the length of the circumference of a circle to its diameter: 3.1415927 [approx – it is an irrational number, because C must be assumed to be an infinite number of very short straight lines.] We take the total length of the cerebral neurones as 850,000 km.

In the case of any neurone in cross-section, 

C     = the diameter of the neurone x π

       = 1/106 m x 3.14 = 3.14 x 10-6 m

The human brain’s approximately 86 billion neurons are probably connected by something like 850,000 km of axons and dendrites. Of this total, roughly 80% is short-range, local connections (averaging 680 microns in length), and approximately 20% is long-range, global connections in the form of myelinated fibers (likely averaging several centimeters in length).

[https://aiimpacts.org/transmitting-fibers-in-the-brain-total-length-and-distribution-of-lengths/]

As we saw, neurones are essentially pipes. Across the walls of these pipes, sodium and potassium ions exchange in a wave-like motion as the nerve impulse travels along the neurone from the axon of one to the dendrites of the next. The functional internal area of the wall of the nerve pipe is thus the pipe circumference multiplied by the total length of all the neurone pipes.  (We assume that thanks to the myelin sheath, the external membrane surface is probably not involved.)

So the neurone circumference multiplied by the average length of a neurone gives us the area Aneuron cell membrane  (one side only) of the neurone cell membrane.

Aneuron cell membrane       = area of neuron cell membrane (one side only)

                                  = C x length of av. length of neurone

                                  = 3.14 x 10-6 m x 850 x 106 m = 2.67 x 103 m2

That is to say that if one was to split all the cerebral neurones and flatten them out into a layer one neurone-membrane thick, they would cover an area of around 2, 670 square metres. That would be the area of a square around 51 metres by 51 metres. Say 50 x 50 m2. (It would be double that if we considered both inner and outer neurone surfaces, but we will not.)

If one put a human brain into a blender, added some water and turned the whole lot into a slurry, it could conceivably be spray-painted on to cover such an area to a depth of one cell membrane thickness. (The mechanics of doing it I leave to others more skilled in that field than am I.) But that checks out about right on an order of magnitude level.

Area of neuron cell membrane (Aneuron cell membrane : one side only) 

= C x total av. length of neurone

Aneuron cell membrane  = av neurone diameter x total length of neurones ( 850 x 106 m = 2.12 x 103 m2)

                             = 3.14 x 10-6 m x 850 x 106 m = 2.12 x 103 m2

                             = 2,669m2

That makes it a square of 52 m per side: say 50 m2.

Again, we would double that if both inside and outside surfaces of the neurone cell membrane are involved in memory. But I doubt they are, for the above (myelin) reason.

The neurone membrane consists of two layers of protein each one molecule thick, separated by a single layer of lipid molecules. (So it is a lipid sandwich whose ‘bread’ is protein.) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neuron

Our next question is: how many protein molecules can be packed one molecule deep into that area of 50m x 50m?                                                                                           

Take each protein molecule as being 10nm across (1 nanometre = 10^-9 m). Therefore the number of protein molecules Np needed for this will be:

Np  = 50 / 10-9 x 50 / 10-9  = 2500 x 1018

      ~ 2.5 x 1021

If we were to represent each protein molecule as grain of sand on a beach: each grain of side 1mm, we would need an area Abeach of  2.5 x 1021 mm2 to accommodate  it.

Abeach  = 2.5 x 1021 x 10-6 m2 , there being 106 sq mm in 1 sq m.

           = 2.5 x 1021 x 10-6 m2

           = 2.5 x 1015 m2

           = 2.5 x 1015 m2 x 10-6 km2

           = 2.5 x 109 km2  of beach

As the area of Australia is 7.692 million km², or 7.692 x 10^6 km2, the number of ‘Australias’  needed for  2.5 x 109 sq km of beach is 2.5 x 109 sq km /7.692 x 106 km2

         = 325 ‘Australias’

The Earth has an overall surface area of 5.1 x 108 km2 . https://www.universetoday.com/25756/surface-area-of-the-earth/

.So with each protein molecule in the neurone surface being represented as a 1 cubic mm sand grain, on a ‘beach’ one sand grain deep, the number of Earths we would need for this is 2.5 x 109 sq km / 5.1 x 108 km2

     = 4.9

     ~ 5 ‘planet Earths’.

In other words, scaled down from beach to neurone dimensions, on the molecular scale of things there is a rather vast protein surface inside every human brain.

BUT the vastness is even bigger than that. If each of the sand grains on that beach were to represent the protein molecules in the cell membranes of the neurones in the human brain, not only would we need a beach five times the surface area of the Earth to represent them, but as well, each of those protein molecules is made up of a selection of the 20 amino acids Nature uses to build the bodies of animals and plants, all held together by hydrogen bonds into a functional shape. And not just into any old shape. Proteins in order to function as they do in nature have to be of specific shapes.The possible combinations of amino acids and protein molecules increases; hugely.

This is illustrated by the simple act of boiling an egg. The heat denatures the ‘white’ of the egg (the albumin) and turns it from clear to white and from gelatinous to semi- solid. A shelled boiled egg will retain its ovoid shape, and can never be ‘unboiled’ again. A shelled raw egg does what such eggs have been doing since the invention of the frying pan.

As well, the sand grains on the vast five-Earths beach could be made more representative of the amino acids by each being in one of 20 colours, with each grain having information storage power according to its colour, as well as being in one of at least two orientations relative to some local point we can take as ‘fixed’ despite movement of the body, eg the orientation of the neurone cell membrane itself. One position or orientation could be for ‘on’ and another readily available one for ‘off’. Change that, and trouble follows; which is possibly why a blow to the head can be disastrous for both consciousness and memory.

Three colours only are used to form the pixels of a colour TV screen. Combinations and permutations of red, blue and green are used to make all the colours of the screen plus white (all brightly shining) and black (all off). But each protein molecule, can be one of 20 different molecular types, and can be oriented relative to its neighbours or some local fixed point in one of at least two orientation states. That can contribute to a cerebral memory system with vast possibilities for information storage.

BUT BACK TO THE BEACH. It should be apparent that with an area  2 x 1021 mm2 covered with 2 x 1021 sand grains, each grain being a cube of side 1 mm and having one of 20 distinct colours, we have considerable possibilities both for coding of information and for its storage and retrieval, provided we have ease of accessibility and some sort of writing/reading mechanism or system.

On high resolution OLED TV screens for example: we have 3 dots per pixel. Each dot is one of 3 possible colours, red, green and blue, with an illusion of intermediate spectral colours achieved by combining these primary colours. So in a square 100 pixels x 100 pixels on such a TV screen, there would be 10,000 pixels in all, each pixel consisting of 3 dots of red, green and blue. Pixels per inch (or pixels per centimeter) can also describe the resolution, in pixels, of an image file. A 100×100 pixel image printed in a 1 inch square has, by definition, a resolution of 100 pixels per inch.                                                                                         

Such a matrix could be used to store information, just as tribal lore is stored in an Australian Aboriginal dot painting.

A suitable scanner would be needed to read back the stored information in say, electronic form as a series of pulses.

Thus the neurones in the animal brain can be thought of in sum as a screen with 2 x 1021 pixels, each pixel consisting of one of 20 possible protein dots, and as the image on the TV screen is intrinsically capable of doing, capable of storing information in those protein dots. The dots would be read or otherwise accessed by suitable reading molecular apparatus, probably on the basis of the less access routinely required, the longer the time needed to effect the reading that constitutes memory recall.

One way Nature could have done this would be by placing Na+ and K+ ions to represent 1s and 0s the way digital computers use the polarity of microscopic switches in memory chips and microprocessors.                                                                               

Memory storage would then be a process of somehow moving the Na+ and K+ ions into different patterns on the cell membrane protein ‘beach’. Perhaps the myriad of glial cells might be involved in this.

Or possibly, a univalent positive ion (say, a K+ ion) is replaced with a divalent one (say a Ca2+ ion) making a local area of enhanced positivity, and thus capable of being digital code; for an item of information; ad infinitum.

In traditional book libraries, every holding (book, journal etc) is entered in a card catalogue, which becomes the first place for the information-seeking reader to go. If you know what you are looking for, then the catalogue gives you the location of the book, and the book’s index, or its table of contents,  gives you the page to go to for the information you seek.

These days cataloguing is done electronically, as indeed is information storage generally. But the library with its catalogue is still the best and most readily understandable analogy for information storage, in my humble opinion.

In computers, electrical circuits are made and broken at very high speeds, and information is stored in binary code of 1s and 0s on hard drives, memory sticks and other such devices. On a computer hard drive’s metal disc, a tiny local area of the metal can be magnetised.  That large shiny, circular ‘plate’ of magnetic material is called the ‘platter’. It is divided into billions of tiny areas, each one capable of being magnetised (say to store a 1) or demagnetised (say to store a 0). Magnetism is used in computer storage because it goes on storing information even when the power is switched off. 

Flash drives a full of tiny transistors which can serve as switches having two positions: ‘on’ and ‘off’.   But whatever the organic basis of human memory, the information storage has to be vast, and the location and retrieval systems very powerful and rapid.

I will give you an example. If you are of a certain age, you might recall receiving news of US President John F Kennedy’s assassination on November 22nd, 1963. Or if you are not of a certain age, you might recall the circumstance in which you first heard of it.

OR: where were you when you first became aware that you existed?                              

AND/OR Do you remember learning to ride a bicycle for the first time free of trainer wheels or fussing adults?

Do you remember learning to walk? I do. Long before that memorable day I learned to ride my 2-wheeler bike, I was crawling around the floor of my parents’ rented house at 77 Woodward Ave, Strathfield, a suburb of Sydney. I hauled myself up and held onto the sofa, made it from the sofa to an armchair, and from there to a second armchair. For me, 78 years on, that is still a vivid memory. The year was 1940, in the month of December, which I worked out from the age my mother later told me that I was at the time: 8 months.                                                          

Or if such has never been of particular concern to you, please recall the name of your first pet dog or cat. (Mine was ‘Binka’, a mainly fox terrier ‘bitser’ dog; and a cross I am sure between 16 of the finest dogs and bitches from round the streets of Strathfield.)

We all have streams of memories: often trivia to others and just as often pretty vital and vivid stuff to us as individuals. Have I ever flown in a biplane? No. I cannot recall ever having done so; but that lack of memory is itself a memory ‘fact’. However, I have flown in other kinds of planes, the first one being a piston-engined, prop-driven  Lockheed Super-constellation in 1958, and the latest one being some Boeing job in the Virgin fleet. About a month ago, my wife Jenny and I flew across from Adelaide in it, and were met at the Canberra Airport by Jenny’s brother Stuart and his wife Anna. More facts fresh out of storage, which will fade I am sure, possibly, even probably, because the organic molecules and ions arguably used for their storage will be found other uses. But more on that below.

Hypnosis has been established as a means of retrieving memories long believed by their owner to be totally forgotten. That is also a fact I have encountered and memorised somehow. That fact and countless, probably millions, of other bits of trivial information are stored in me in some manner; presumably somewhere in my central nervous system, probably mainly in my brain, though perhaps the spinal cord and peripheral nerves play a role: hence the expression ‘muscle memory.’

If I was retrieving them and relaying them verbally to you, dear reader, then in all likelihood my speed of transmission would match your speed of reception and interpretation, because our two brains are constructed on similar lines. If you were a blue whale, a hummingbird, or say one of the Australian eastern brown snakes, living on the hill just up the street from my home here in Canberra, that can get about 5 deadly strikes in before you know about the first of them, there could be synchronisation problems.

Now, to return to the Kennedy assassination: I do recall my particular circumstances. I was living in my Great Aunt Sadie’s house in Fivedock, Sydney. (Aunt Sadie was in a nursing home nearby) and my (then) wife came wide-eyed into the room where I was with the news.

My response to her was half exclamation, half question. “What?!”

And I could not at first believe it. Today, I ask myself as well another ‘what‘ question: what happened in those last 5 seconds?  What happened when I remembered that event?

Or when I recall this extra little bit of information: Aunt Sadie was born in New York, but taken back to Scotland as a baby by her Scottish parents, where she learned to talk and had her early childhood. Later, after emigrating to Australia with her parents, she used to tell everyone with great enthusiasm in her pronounced Scots burr: “I’m a Yankee!”

As I recall, most found that very hard to believe.

Out of a huge quantity of trivia, Nature (not I) has somehow stored away inside my head, I have used whatever it was Nature gave me; have looked it up, gone to it, retrieved it and communicated it back to you, the reader of this, who uses as I do,  more or less, the same communication system (called the English language, and in that language often called in turn ‘remembrance of things past’).

And we can bring understanding of the symbols out of storage, and use that information to decode the symbols. So what happened, and how did Nature set us up to be able to do it; however it was that we did it? Because we not only have to retrieve the information, we have to understand the language used in the question, remembering what the words as used in their context, mean.

It is little wonder therefore that the human brain consumes (transforms, if you would prefer) energy at a surprising rate.

The brain makes up 2% of a person’s weight. Despite this, even at rest, the brain consumes 20% of the body’s energy. The brain consumes energy at 10 times the rate of the rest of the body per gram of tissue. The average power consumption of a typical adult is 100 Watts and the brain consumes 20% of this making the power of the brain 20 W.

https://hypertextbook.com/facts/2001/JacquelineLing.shtml

The facts are:

  1. Memory can be vast in all of us: an unquantifiable collection of words, grammar rules, events and sensual experiences from the 5 fundamental senses: sight, hearing, taste, touch and balance.
  2. Recall is often rapid: of skills, words, past advice from others, of one’s own experiences and other categories of memory.
  3. Recent experience, if not out of the ordinary, is readily lost.
  4. First (remarkable) experiences are often long remembered and readily recalled.
  5. Some memories can only be recalled by suggestion and autosuggestion.

     So here is my tentative suggestion and by no means complete hypothesis on what takes place.                                                                                                                          

Memory storage needs a highly accessible ‘wall’ on which symbols of some kind can be drawn, and retrieved easily and efficiently without the librarian (you) having to plough through a mountain codexes (books and journal articles) of irrelevant stuff before arriving at what is sought. We need to be able to stand back, survey the whole store, and then go to the part we want.

The manner this storage was done from the earliest times through to the earliest civilisations is perhaps the model. Neanderthal art in Spain has been dated at 65,000 years BP, though the oldest Australian Aboriginal cave art is at 28,000 BP is also old by any standard.

https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2018/02/neanderthals-cave-art-humans-evolution-science/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indigenous_Australian_art

Cave paintings gave way to hieroglyphics on interior walls of tombs, which in turn gave way to hieroglyphics on papyrus scrolls, those flattened and matted papyrus reeds from the Nile, and from which we derive the word paper. Papyrus (which I remember first learning about in my history class in my first year at high school) in turn gave way to cuneiform impressions made by styli on the surfaces of clay tablets, which gave way to alphabetic script (first developed by the Phoenicians) on animal skin and  parchment, and to ideograms (Chinese script.) on paper scrolls also.

Interestingly, when we read a book we don’t do it letter-by-letter as a beginning reader does ‘sounding it out’.  (‘The cat sat on the mat’ is my favourite.) Each word is read as a whole: ie as an ideogram. But where one needs about 3,000 characters to read a Chinese newspaper, 26 letters of the Roman alphabet is all it takes in English, provided it is correctly spelled.  Paw speling slos tha prozess dowen.

In other words, a book is a surface on which code can be written, scaled down from wall-size to something more convenient. So is microfilm. So is a computer flash drive or hard drive, because however it is stored electronically, that memory code is made visible and alterable and capable of being edited and added to by being displayed on a flat screen and hooked up via a computer to a keyboard.

(The first computer I ever owned was a Commodore CPM, with its Random Access Memory (RAM) upgraded from 16 kilobytes to an enormous 32 kilobytes.  Pathetic by today’s standards, but I just fished that fact out of somewhere in my head as well.)

So what might be the hard drive of the brain and the alterable and editable recording system of the mind dwelling within it? I assume that what we call the mind is based on vast memory of life history, events, words, phrases, quotable quotes, routinely extracted quotes and other expressions, photographs, sound recordings etc. In fact, ‘etc’ raised to the power of M, where M is a very large number.                                                                                                                          

I suggest the most likely candidate is one or (less likely) both of the protein surfaces of the cell membrane of the cerebral neurone, the both of which surfaces resemble somewhat the pile of a rather plush carpet.

One protein surface could serve for short-term memories, and the other for long-term ones, including operating system (culture, language etc) stuff. Importantly, protein molecules are electrically polar, each one having a more positive side and a more negative side, and so they have an affinity for that supreme polar solvent, water. (This can be confirmed by taking some of the protein gelatine, the main constituent of jelly crystals, dissolving it in hot water, and then allowing time for it to cool and form new inter-molecular bonds: a process know as ‘setting’ in jelly preparation, and which can be reversed simply by re-heating the jelly.) Because amino acid and protein molecules are polar, they also have affinity for positively charged ions (ions being charged atoms or groups of atoms.)

The molecular polarity arises from the fact that the amino acid groups making up the structure of the protein molecule contain highly electronegative oxygen (as  –COOH ) on one side and less electronegative nitrogen (as  – NH2 ) on the other. http://www.interactive-biology.com/49/proteins-in-the-membrane-of-the-neuron-and-their-functions/

There is evidence that hyponatremia (sodium deficiency) affects memory in rats, which fits the above.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4470176/

Positive ions possibly play a role as the hieroglyphs of memory: one possibility is that monovalent sodium and potassium ions (Na+ and K+) so common in nerve and brain tissue and chemistry swap places, with other enzyme molecules doing the swapping.

Or, a monovalent Na+ or K+ ion could be replaced with a divalent Mg2+ or Ca2+ ion, creating a local area of the protein ‘carpet’ of enhanced positivity.

Our protein molecules can possibly be stored ‘wrong side out’ until required for a memory. So they can be turned and stored ‘right side in’ where they will be needed: in association with local potassium-sodium ion combinations. In other words, they have the potential to act like changeable tiles in a mosaic; with a reading mechanism.

A dot matrix like a TV screen can present ‘information’ in “pixels per inch (or pixels per centimeter) can also describe the resolution, in pixels, of an image file. A 100×100 pixel image printed in a 1 inch square has a resolution of 100 pixels per inch. … Industry standard, good quality photographs usually require 300 pixels per inch, at 100% size…” ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pixel_density )

Thus a TV or computer screen could function like the wall of an Egyptian pharaoh’s tomb to store information; with a suitable playback or readback mechanism or device. Actually, the image is a bit like the ‘positive’ created from the ‘negative’ of an old black-and-white film. Except the ‘negative’ can be considered as an electronic master recording of data, subsequently sent to the TV screen to form the array of illuminated dots that make up the picture or screen image.

Eukaryotic cells are those with their genetic material in chromosomes contained within distinct cell nuclei. The ‘central dogma’ of eukaryote genetics is that genes express themselves through the production of enzyme molecules, which are complex and specific catalysts for the production of proteins. The code embedded in the genes of the nuclear DNA is read as a master plan for the production of enzyme molecules, which in turn act as templates for the production of proteins. The principle is simple: one gene, one enzyme.

Once the proteins are in place in the cell membrane, they can conceivably be read back by the same or similar enzymes and so function in their own way as a code. Thus the eukaryote cell can have at least two functioning systems of information storage:

1. What we might call ‘Ancestral data’ In the ancestral DNA and

2. What we might call ‘Individual data’ in the proteins constructed from information in that DNA and then modified through individual use.

Individual data storage in the brain can also be likened to the books in a library. A lifetime is spent adding to and reading the collection, which can in my experience, finish up rather vast. Most of it is ‘forgotten’ until needed, then simple passage of time brings the book containing the data from the stacks. For example, apart from the recalls of mine I have cited so far, yesterday I had occasion to recall a remark made by a member of the Rolling Stones (a band incidentally whose music does not interest me much) but it was in answer years ago to a journalist’s question as to why no songwriter in the band wrote political songs.  The answer came along the lines of “it’s a bit hard to get too worked up about Ted Heath, mate.” Ted Heath, you will possibly recall, was British Prime Minister. As I recalled, that remark was made by Mick Taylor. And a day or so later I recalled the name. It was Keith Richard. Not Mick Taylor, as I had previously thought.

So what, I ask myself, happened there?

I suggest something may have happened fairly quickly at the protein layer on its inside surface on the cell membrane of one or many of the neurones in my brain, with the much smaller glial cells perhaps having an intermediary messenger role.

ALL I WOULD CONCLUDE FROM THIS is that in the protein-lipid-protein layers of the cell membranes of the CNS neurones, there is enormous potential for information (ie memory) storage; and that those proteins are involved in memory would help explain the ready accessibility of a vast array of information and data stored in the human memory; the possible physical and/or structures in which it is based being apparently housed within the brain. Moreover, the storage is as intimately associated with the central nervous system as it is possible to be.

Note that in reading the above paragraph, you have been rapidly accessing your memory however recorded to retrieve the meanings of all the words in the sequence in which they are written. Change the order, and you change the meaning: as in ‘the mat sat on the cat’.

We have seen that the total internal area of the cerebral neurones is found my multiplying the average length of a neurone by the number of them:

.Aneuron cell membrane  = av neurone diameter x total length of neurones ( 850 x 106 m = 2.12 x 103 m2)

                             = 3.14 x 10-6 m x 850 x 106 m = 2.12 x 103 m2

                             = 2,669 m2

This in turn would be an area sufficient to accommodate  around 2 x 1021  protein molecules, ( Np  = 46 / 10-9 x 46 / 10-9  = 2119 x 1018 ,~ 2 x 1021 ) each protein molecule being made up of a combination of amino acid groups of atoms, of which amino acids there are 20 varieties for Nature to use in the recording of memory, and into which memory coding could be set.

But I would contend, at least at this point in time, that synaptic changes and/or fresh neurone connections need not be and are probably not involved. Memory can rather be likened to the switching yard in a major railway terminus, such as the Eveleigh Yards in Sydney. My contention is that the configuration of the points, while essential for getting the right carriages onto the right siding, is not likely to be what memory is stored as or in. Nor is it in the trains, freight cars, crates and boxes stacked within them, whatever their nervous system analogues might be. The points and switching gear is a means to that end, and quite likely, no more.

On this analogy, the surface on which information would be written to be stored as writing, would be that of the rails themselves. Each length of standard Australian rail has a lateral perimeter of 0.730 m (I measured that myself on a small length of standard railway line.) We can calculate the diameter of a pipe with that circumference as follows:

C = πd

Divide both sides by π to retain the = sign:

          Therefore d = C/π

                               = 0.730 m/ 3.1415927

                               = 0.232 m, which is 23.2 cm.

Each rail is part of a national rail system totalling in 2018  33,200 km of track,  or 3.32 x 107 m, each track consisting of two rails, so 66,400 km (6.64.x 107 m) of rail in all, thus with a total surface area of track of

6.64.x 107 m x 0.730 m = 4.85 x 107 m2 = 48.5 km2 = 7km x 7km approx.

That is equivalent to a 23.2 cm (~ 1 foot) diameter pipe extending for 66,400 km: a huge surface area of steel for graffiti artists to get to work on, compared with what they could do for their public information cause by playing about with points and switches. Points and switches or rails of whatever size and overall length, and written on in whatever size of print; if the print size is of a constant proportion to the pipe diameter, it will make no difference. Pipe surface area will always provide far more information storage than will settings of points and switches, even if the latter cover the whole 7km x 7km (approx.) area. 

And as there are 106 m2 in every km2, in an area of 48.5 km2 , that is almost exactly one million times the internal area of the cerebral neurones.  But the ‘hieroglyphs’ written in the proteins are far smaller still. If our railway graffiti artist were to paint slogans in letters 1 m high on carriages, they would be 108 times too big. Again, taking each protein molecule as being 10 nm across  (1 nanometre = 10-9 m). As we have seen above, the number of protein molecules available for the hieroglyphs of memory is

Np  = 46 / 10-9 x 46 / 10-9  = 2,500 x 1018

      ~ 2.5 x 1021

Written out in longhand, that is 2,500,000,000,000,000,000,000 nice large (as molecules go) protein molecules.  On average.  In every human head on Earth.

Again, taking each protein molecule as being 10 nm across  (1 nanometre = 10-9 m), and the diameter of the neurone  it forms part of as one one millionth of a metre or 1/1,000,000 m, then

                                    Protein molecular diameter = 10 x 10-9 m  = 10-8 m,

                                    Neurone diameter                 = 10-6 m

             then protein diameter / neuron diameter  = 10-8 m / 10-6

                                                                                   =  1/100

Therefore the ‘lettering’ on the pipe representing the neurone axon will be 1/100 of the diameter of the pipe, whatever that diameter may be. This gives considerable scope for the storing of a huge amount of information in the protein layer which makes up most of the vast total of the internal surfaces of the neurones of the brain: of any animal capable of memory of experience past.

.

.

REFERENCES: 1. General

Davies, Paul, The Demon in the Machine, Allen Lane, UK, 2019.

Dennettt, Daniel C., Consciouness Explained; Penguin, England, 1991.

Tortora, Gerard J. and Anagnostakos, Nicholas P., Principles of Anatomy and Physiology, 5th Ed., Harper and RowPublishers, NY, 1987.

.

REFERENCES, 2. In order of citation in the text              

memory, organic basis …  http://www.theosophy-nw.org/theosnw/science/prat-bra.htm  

Eccles , Sir John https://www.quotetab.com/quotes/by-john-eccles#p52qJ2SwEsajiU1l.99 ;

https://www.quotetab.com/quote/by-john-eccles/the-last-thing-that-man-will-understand-in-nature-is-the-performance-of-his-brain#3xi4vmdKrW8WuwbI.97

neurone cell membrane https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fluid_mosaic_model#/media/File:Cell_membrane_detailed_diagram_en.svg   https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC224883/?page=2

neurone numbers https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/cne.2197                 

synapses. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0092867414002906                   

neurone dimensionsThe Human Brain in Numbers: A Linearly Scaled-up Primate Brain   https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2776484/

neurone diameter https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neuron 

nerve fibres total length https://aiimpacts.org/transmitting-fibers-in-the-brain-total-length-and-distribution-of-lengths/   

 neurone membrane https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neuron

brain, power consumption https://hypertextbook.com/facts/2001/JacquelineLing.shtml

cave art https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2018/02/neanderthals-cave-art-humans-evolution-science/ 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indigenous_Australian_art

proteins, neurone http://www.interactive-biology.com/49/proteins-in-the-membrane-of-the-neuron-and-their-functions/  

hyponatremia in rats https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4470176/

pixel density https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pixel_density    

PILGER, NEW MATILDA, AND JULIAN ASSANGE

Posted in Uncategorized by Ian MacDougall on June 18, 2018

 

“No investigative journalism in my lifetime can equal the importance of what WikiLeaks has done in calling rapacious power to account. It is as if a one-way moral screen has been pushed back to expose the imperialism of liberal democracies: the commitment to endless warfare and the division and degradation of “unworthy” lives: from Grenfell Tower to Gaza.”

Thus spake John Pilger, at the generally worthwhile website known as New Matilda. I have given up posting there, due to its management’s policy of censoring posts by taking them down if they do not abide by the House’s ideological standards.

The above quote from the work of the generally excellent Pilger shows pretty well a fundamental problem of the man’s praxis. The authoritarian governments from Eisenhower on got America into the moral and political quagmire of the Vietnam War, an antidemocratic neocolonialist cause that stank to High Heaven. For the ten-year  (1965-75) course of that war, Pilger along with the rest of the western Left opposed America, and rightly so. But in the process, the syllogism  was forged: America bad; America’s Vietnamese National Liberation Front enemy good; therefore ANY ENEMY OF AMERICA good; Islamists oppose America and its liberal-democratic foundations; therefore Islamists a bit extreme but on the right side of History; but America and liberal democracy definitely both hollow shams. Therefore opponents of liberal democracy in the Islamic world, such as the father-and-son Assad dictatorship team in Syria, ARE TO BE SUPPORTED, and their aspiring liberal-democratic opponents opposed.

I do not think I do Pilger any injustice in portraying his position that way. He after all, never has a good word to say for America, or for liberal democracy, as he pours all the bile within him onto the enemies of Islam.

On this basis, he can maintain good relations with the antidemocratic heads of the authoritarian and dictatorial regimes of the Islamic world so vital to his work as a journalist, AND be a political gadfly to all the Western governments who physically or just morally supported the rotten US cause in Vietnam. So it has to be win-win as far as he is concerned.

Except that I put it to my readers on this site (both of you) that Assange in his present predicament needs the support of Pilger like he needs a proverbial hole in the head.

 

 

 

 

GUNS, GENES AND TIME

Posted in Natural Science by Ian MacDougall on December 26, 2014

DSCN1746We know where and how to hunt Alaska brown bears and our sucess [sic] at taking big bears shows it.

 

Mileur’s Guide Service, Alaska.

From their website: http://www.huntalaska.com/index.html

Management of the harvest of Kodiak bears is currently based primarily on population assessments and regulation of sport hunting. With a healthy population of bears on the archipelago, the emphasis has been on maintaining a stable bear population that will  sustain an annual harvest of 150 bears, composed of at least 60 percent males.

http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=wildlifeplanning.kodiakbps

Just inside the entrance to Departures at the Anchorage International Airport, Alaska, there stands a large case of thick perspex. (Perhaps it is glass – I was in a bit of a hurry.)

Inside the case stands the stuffed hide, suitably mounted on a realistic rock-like platform, of a magnificent Kodiak bear. Kodiak Island is 160 km long and of area 9,300 sq km, and is the largest island in the Kodiak Archipelago on the south coast of Alaska.

Also inside the case is a photo taken of the bear shortly after it was shot. It lies in what appears to be a dry creek bed, with the presumed and clearly proud shooter sitting behind it.

DSCN1745

A small placard gives some additional information:

May 5th, 1996

Shot by Kenneth M Aberle, D.D.S., M.S.  [ie Doctor of Dental Surgery; Master of Science – IM.]

Male 9.4 years.

Wt 1,300 – 1,500 lb.

Taxidermist: Bret’s Wildlife Artistry, Willow, Alaska.

The services of Bret’s Wildlife Artistry, Willow, Alaska probably did not come cheap. How much public money was spent on this exhibit by either the airport or the government, I have no idea, but I suspect it was not much. More likely, the exhibit is a generous and proud donation to the airport’s interior décor by Kenneth M Aberle, D.D.S., M.S.

Himself.!

Neither have we any way of determining the degree of personal risk taken by Kenneth M Aberle, D.D.S., M.S, and please understand that it could have been anything between trivial and considerable, depending on the exact circumstances. The Kodiak bear, Ursus arctos middendorffi, is the largest subspecies of Ursus arctos, and the grizzly bear: Ursus arctos horribilis is another. Apart from the polar bear Ursus maritimus, the grizzly is without doubt the most aggressive and dangerous of all the North American bear species. Shooting at one, even from a distance and using a high-powered rifle with a telescopic sight, can still land a shooter in a heap of trouble: well, in principle anyway.

In 2007, Alaska had an officially estimated 30,000 brown bears state-wide. Of these, about 1,900 were shot (the wholesome-sounding euphemism is ‘harvested’) in the hunting season. Though every now and then a careless hunter gets harvested by a bear, human hunters pose far more of a danger to bears than bears do to humans.

Kodiak bears are a unique subspecies of the brown or grizzly bear… They live exclusively on the islands in the Kodiak Archipelago and have been isolated from other bears for about 12,000 years.

 There are about 3,500 Kodiak bears; a density of about 0.7 bears per square mile.

 Kodiak bear populations are healthy and productive. They enjoy relatively pristine habitat and well managed fish populations. In most areas the number of bears is stable, but there are some places where bear density is increasing.

 http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=brownbear.trivia

Of that 30,000 total Alaskan brown bear population, about 15,000 will be male and the same number female. There are restrictions on the killing of females (‘sows’). Male bears (‘boars’) are more highly prized as trophies by the hunting brotherhood; the bigger, the better. So the majority of those shot can be assumed to be male, just like the one ‘harvested’ by Kenneth M Aberle, D.D.S., M.S.

That gives us a rough mortality rate for Alaskan grizzlies of say 1,500 / 15,000 per year, or 10%: about four bears are shot every day, on average. Statistically, as we shall see, few can get to die of old age. Their maximum life expectancy? The oldest known wild Kodiak bear was a sow 35 years old. The oldest known boar was 27 years old. As the maximum weight of Kodiak bears as cited by the government is up to 1,300 lb, Aberle’s specimen at “1,300 – 1,500 lb” was truly a whopper. And it was in the prime of its life.

For the fraternity of bear hunters, and all others interested, Kenneth M Aberle, D.D.S., M.S has obligingly supplied some details of the ammunition he used. It is on the placard in the glass case along with the other information. Take it for granted that the mass, velocity and gauge of his bullet was adequate for the task of turning the bear, over however many seconds, minutes, hours or even days, from a virile and healthy young animal into the collapsed bag of pelt, meat, bones and offal shown in the photo. The exhibit gives no information on the time taken for this bear to die, but many no doubt are injured by bullets but get away none the less.

An estimated 100,000 black bears (Ursus americanus) also inhabit Alaska. Statewide, and between 2003 and 2007, the annual ‘harvest’ of this species increased steadily from about 2,500 to 3,250 bears. But modern bear hunting is only potentially dangerous. Far more hunters survive an encounter with a bear than the other way around. But bears are not the most dangerous big game. That honour seems to go to the cape buffalo, an animal that will take to stalking the hunter at the drop of a hat, particularly if wounded.

However I did hear a story (retold second hand from a friend) from a big game hunter, in whose opinion the most dangerous animal was the male wild pig, ie original wild boar. It lives in dense vegetation or rainforest understorey, and in those conditions, it is only a matter of three seconds between the time he breaks cover and when he’s got you; with tusks that can rip you open as if you were a wet paper bag. That means you have three seconds to locate him, take aim, and get your shot away; probably not to be followed by a second one.

The preferred weapon, according to this source, is a large bore (preferably 12 gauge) shotgun, and the preferred ammunition is not a standard shotgun cartridge, but one loaded with a single slug: a cylinder of lead about 1 inch (24 mm) long and of diameter to neatly fit the shotgun bore.

AcuTip Slug – solid lead bullets for shotgun use. These are big, heavy, fat hunks of soft lead that have enormous stopping power (e.g. a typical 12 gauge slug is .73″ caliber and weighs 438 grains* – a 9mm bullet is .355″ and 115 grains).

  *(1 grain = 64.799 milligrams, so the slug would weigh 28.4 g: about 60% of the mass of a golf ball, but packed into only one sixteenth of the golf ball’s volume..– IM)

 http://gundata.org/blog/post/best-shotgun-ammo-for-self-defense-and-why/

Kodiak bears are remarkably uniform genetically, but not absolutely so. In 1912, the volcano Novarupta, which is 160 km northwest of Kodiak Island staged a one month long eruption, which is held to be the largest eruption in the 20th century. (The largest eruption in recorded history appears to have been the 1883 eruption of the Krakatoa volcano in Indonesia, and the second-largest that of the Santorini volcano in the Mediterranean, circa 1,500 BC, which put an end to the Minoan civilisation.)

Wildlife on Kodiak Island was decimated by ash and acid rain from the eruption. Bears and other large animals were blinded by thick ash and many starved to death because large numbers of plants and small animals were smothered in the eruption. Birds blinded and coated by volcanic ash fell to the ground. Even the region’s prolific mosquitoes were exterminated. Aquatic organisms in the region perished in the ash-clogged waters. Salmon, in all stages of life, were destroyed by the eruption and its aftereffects. From 1915 to 1919, southwestern Alaska’s salmon-fishing industry was devastated.

 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kodiak_Island

That event just over 100 years ago could only have acted as a massive genetic bottleneck or selector, on the wildlife, including of course, the Kodiak bears.

Today hunters kill about 180 Kodiak bears each year under tightly controlled regulations. About 5,000 resident hunters apply each year for a chance at the 496 bear permits that are available for them. Hunters who are not residents of Alaska must hire a professional guide, paying $10,000 – $21,000 per hunt. Over 70% of the Kodiak bears killed by hunters are males. (ie around 135 boars pa- IM)

http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=brownbear.trivia

If there are 3,500 Kodiak bears and around 50% of them are male, the boar population will be around 1,750. If we take the ‘harvest’ rate as being 135 boars per year, then a given boar’s probability of not being shot in any given year, expressed as a percentage, is (1,750 – 135) / 1,750 x 100, = 92%. This of course, is an annual hunting kill, or cull rate, of 8%.

With each passing year, each surviving boar is pushing his luck just a bit further: 8% further, to be more precise. The probability (ps) after the passage of n years, that any given boar will have been shot, assuming all other factors are equal, is given by the equation:

ps = 1 – (92/100)n

As the years go by and the value of n steadily increases, the value of (92/100)n tends towards zero, and the value of ps, the probability of the boar being shot, tends towards 1: that is, towards certainty. For example, after 8 years,

ps = 1 – (92/100)n

= 1 – (92/100)8

= 1 – 0.51

= 0.49,

which means that the boar will have a 50% chance of still being alive, and half its contemporaries born in the same year will have been shot. After 16 years, that chance will have decreased to 26% and after 32 years to 0.07%. Of the original 1,750, only

1,750 x 0.07/100

= 1.225

~ 1

will still be alive. But precisely which one?

For an important factor has been left out of the above equation. Though boars are more desirable than are sows to the trophy-minded hunting population, all boars are not equally so. Some, like the unfortunate individual harvested by Kenneth M Aberle, D.D.S., M.S, have characteristics which make them a particularly desirable compensation for the US$10,000 – $21,000 which has to be stumped up by the non-Alaskan hunter for the shooting of them. They are large, in the prime of life, and with fur, face and hide that has not been marred through losing fights with other boars. They are the winners in the Alaskan struggle for existence. Because they have been the outstanding survivors of their species, they are the fittest. Charles Darwin would have undoubtedly agreed.

Thus the culling process carried out by the likes of Kenneth M Aberle, D.D.S., M.S, is the diametric opposite of that carried out by any competent livestock breeder on a breeding population of domestic animals, or by nature herself on wild populations. As the years roll by, the effect of all the rifle-toting hunters can only be in favour of a genetic drift in the population: a weeding-out of those with nature’s most desirable and vital characteristics, and selecting in those with the least desirable, from a bear-survival point of view.

There is another distinct possibility here as well. North American bears do not actively seek out and stalk the men hunting them the way cape buffalo reportedly do. But any bears with this aggressive inclination would arguably have better survival chances and leave more progeny than the more shy and elusive of their kind. The hunters might just be selecting this type of bear into the population.

One possible way the hunters can avoid contributing to this outcome is for them to select the smallest, scruffiest and most beaten-up of youngest boars for their ($10,000+) trophies: something I suspect they would be reluctant to do.

The genetic drift will be somewhat glacial in its pace, enabling each generation of hunters to reach its dotage averring that over their entire hunting careers, the target populations have remained of constant apparent quality. But it will happen, because by its very nature, the selection process carried out by the likes of Kenneth M Aberle, D.D.S., M.S. is non-random.

So what is achieved by the shooting of bears? There are millions of gun owners in America, and a huge number are active shooters of wildlife. Shooting at living animals clearly provides these people with a satisfaction not to be had from shooting at trees, targets nailed to them, bottles on posts and such. The preferred target is a living animal whose remains can be dressed in some way to provide a conversation piece for the hunter’s den. And the bigger, the better. Size clearly matters. The head of a rabbit preserved and mounted by an outfit with the skills of Bret’s Wildlife Artistry, Willow, Alaska and hung up on the wall of the shooter’s den would clearly not be good enough: at least, not enough to start up the right kind of conversation. Not when one can have the head of say, a moose, caribou, wolf, bear or cougar in its place.

Don’t get me wrong. I am also a gun owner, and I occasionally shoot a fox, rabbit, injured kangaroo or other wildlife, and livestock injured beyond recovery. Foxes and rabbits do serious damage to Australian native wildlife, and do not belong in the landscape. I am not at all worried about their genetic future, as they are great survivors back where they came from, and I think that it was a great mistake to introduce them to Australia. They should be eliminated, and as humanely as possible..

But as a teenager, I found considerable satisfaction in a day’s rabbit hunting. Sometimes I think that perhaps we males of the species Homo sapiens have an innate bloodlust very important for survival in our hunter-gatherer past. The same sort of response can be seen when a well fed dog takes off after a cat or rabbit on sight and impulse. It does not need to do it, yet it does it.

So what has been achieved by the killing of this particular bear? Most important I suppose, Kenneth M Aberle, D.D.S., M.S has had a big boost to his own self-image (ie his ego), and the satisfaction of having taken on a dangerous animal on terms he might persuade himself were equal. But even if we count that as a positive, we are left with little else. I have no doubt that some hunters will claim that their activity is good for the bear population as a whole, and for the species through prevention of overpopulation. But the hide cannot last say, a human lifetime, not even if expertly preserved by America’s most competent taxidermist and kept away from the air inside a sealed glass case. Not even if it impresses hordes of airline passengers and tourists. Ask yourself: how many leather articles you own that are 50 years old? 100 years old? Even 10 years old?

Wood preserves far better than does leather. The oldest wooden artifact that I have ever personally been in contact with is an oak table from Shakespeare’s time that an antique-collector friend bought in England and had shipped out here to Australia, and at an expense so great she would not disclose it. But over the 400 years or so since the Immortal Bard  might have supped at it, slow dry rot has left the table’s wood scarcely harder than balsa.

As for wooden tables, so too for stuffed bears. Sadly, in a couple of generations’ time, Aberle’s prize bear will probably have to be replaced by a fresh, and likely somewhat inferior, specimen. Because that is the way both decay and selection work in nature.

Kenneth M Aberle, D.D.S., M.S, and his fellow hunters could avoid this outcome by putting their rifles, telescopic sights and ammunition into permanent storage, and reverting to the bear-harvesting techniques practiced by their ancestors earlier on in the Iron Age. They could hunt bears with nothing more dangerous than spears and knives.

They have a precedent to follow. Amongst the native Alaskan Tlingit people, a young man wanting to pass his initiation test and be accepted into manhood had to do something far more difficult than look through the telescopic sight of a high powered rifle at a distant bear, then let fly a pellet of lead with a squeeze of the trigger, and then make himself available for a photo opportunity afterwards.

He had to cover one of his hands with the fine dry dusty spores produced by a certain local species of bracket fungus, sneak up on a wild deer, and leave his palm print clearly visible on its side. After which, he was not only accepted into the company of Tlingit hunters, he was accepted as a man amongst men.

But try that trick on a Kodiak bear, other than maybe one in deepest hibernation, and you will be harvested. London to a brick.

Far better, therefore, to leave the selecting and harvesting to Nature.

REFERENCES:

Waits, L et al, A COMPARISON OF GENETIC DIVERSITY IN NORTH AMERICAN BROWN BEARS

http://www.bearbiology.com/fileadmin/tpl/Downloads/URSUS/Vol_10/Waits_Paetkau_Strobeck_Vol_10.pdf

http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=hunting.bearsafety

https://www.google.com.au/search?sourceid=navclient&aq=hts&oq=&ie=UTF-8&rlz=1T4ASUT_enAU510AU511&q=bear-hunting+accidents%2C+alaska

http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=brownbearhunting.main

http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/static/home/about/management/wildlifeplanning/pdfs/kabcmp2.pdf

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kodiak_Island

http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=blackbearhunting.main

http://www.huntercourse.com/blog/2011/11/the-worlds-most-dangerous-game-to-hunt/

The Serpent’s Most Popular Pages

Posted in History, Human Biology, Natural Science, Political Economy by Ian MacDougall on December 17, 2010
 

Carbon Abatement Submission (Senate Inquiry) Condensed

Though air temperatures whether local or worldwide, daily or annual average, may for various reasons not reflect it, the world is none the less clearly warming. It is now possible to fulfill Lord Franklin’s dream and sail the Northwest Passage over the top of Canada from the Atlantic to the Pacific, at least for one month or so in the Northern summer. Possibly within the next ten years ships will be able drop anchor in an essentially ice-free Arctic Ocean, right at the North Pole. That together with the satellite altimetry data on sea levels  testifies to the rapidity of global warming, and of the onset of the positive feedback loops that can only further accelerate it. The safest assumption we can make, in short, is that we face a planetary climate emergency, requiring urgent economic reforms on a comparable scale to those which took place in Australia after the declaration of war in 1939…

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Kangaroos, Thylacines and Aborigines 1

As in other areas of human history, inference is needed for the Aboriginal past not only because there are controversial and politically sensitive areas, but because the documentary record alone is insufficient for sound judgement one way or another. While some might find certain inferences to be politically (and mythologically) attractive, on close inspection they turn out to be too improbable for acceptance. Such, I argue, is the case with Keith Windschuttle’s thesis on the demise of the Tasmanians, which he applies also to explain the declines of the mainland populations, namely that the bulk of it was the unintended consequence of introduced diseases, rather than the intended consequence of deliberate frontier violence…

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Kangaroos, Thylacines and Aborigines 2

Beside European settlement, agriculture, rainfall and temperature, there is another, related distribution. It is that of the present day distribution of speakers of indigenous languages, mainly found today beyond the Europale. It shows that wherever Europeans settled, the native languages died out. The unavoidable conclusion is that conditions inside the Europale increasingly militated against aboriginal children learning their ancestral language in the process of growing up…

The language decline correlates with the dilution of the aboriginal indigenous gene pool, as increasing numbers of people who describe themselves as Aborigines find themselves acknowledging, with varying degrees of enthusiasm, one or more Europeans in their ancestry…

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Kangaroos, Thylacines and Aborigines 3

The British perception was that the macropods were wild in the country and belonged to nobody. The ecological reality of Tasmania and elsewhere was that the biomass of available grass and herbage in any one period of time could feed a related biomass of herbivores only up to a limit, which in turn could support a limited biomass of omnivorous humans, their dogs and a net population of wild carnivores. The latter included dingoes on the mainland, where they had displaced thylacines; thylacines in Tasmania, and also the Tasmanian Aborigines’ dogs (gone feral) as the aboriginal populations crashed. Settlers everywhere in Australia honoured these principles every time they set about clearing the bush to make way for grass; ‘clearing off’ kangaroos and emus to make way for sheep, cattle or crops, and clearing off Aborigines to make way for themselves…

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Kangaroos, Thylacines and Aborigines 4

…Windschuttle’s Australia is one where the Aborigines went quietly to their fate as fringe dwellers of the country towns, and in marked contrast to their aboriginal counterparts in the Americas and New Zealand.

If there was no ‘warfare’ of whatever category involved in this transition, then the attendant and marked depopulation of the countryside and Aboriginal population decline can only be due to starvation and/or disease. Windschuttle won’t have starvation, but at the same time there are problems with the disease hypothesis that beg for a remedy, an explanation, or at the very least, a Band-Aid: which leaves warfare of some kind hanging around in the background.

And so we come to the elephant in the parlour of Aboriginal history…

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Night Vision and Bipedalism

This raises the intriguing possibility that before the discovery of fire and the invention of the thorn-fenced kraal, our distant African ancestors attained their relatively longer legs by wading, swimming and climbing for shelter at night up or down rocky cliffs, bluffs and outcrops, where long non-grasping legs provide no great disadvantage. For the climbing of trees, they do. Getting to where the predators cannot reach you makes poor night vision less of a disadvantage…

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Plimer’s Climatology 101

Plimer says that nothing humans do can affect the climate of the whole Earth, and that if it is warming, it is a good thing anyway.  Others disagree, and contend that climate change is occurring because of CO2 emissions. These latter were not put into the air for the purpose of warming the planet. Like the radioactive waste from the nuclear industry, they are a by product of another project entirely, to be justified after the fact…

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Plimer’s Climatology 102

At a point in the long distant past someone extracted what was found to be useful fuel from a coal outcrop, and the coal industry was born. Only since the work of Arrhenius in the late 19thC have questions arisen about the basing of the steel, power generation and other industries upon it. Established industry has understandably reacted to the IPCC reports and scientific concern about greenhouse gases with counter-argument and delaying tactics regarding the transition to alternatives. Ian Plimer’s book and his talk to the Sydney Mining Club talk are best seen in this context…

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Plimer’s Climatology 103

The total yearly biomass production of the organisms on Earth is on one estimate at around 170 billion tonnes (164 billion tons)  of which a third is oceanic and two thirds terrestrial: say 60 billion tonnes oceanic. Assuming this roughly to be 10% of the total oceanic biomass brings the total mass of all marine organisms to 600 billion tonnes, or 600 Gt. The potential total CO2 addition to the hydrosphere of 4210 Gt (assuming it all finishes up in the oceans) is thus about 7 times the total biomass in the oceans. That is indeed significant…

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Plimer’s Climatology 104

…a two degree rise due to CO2 will produce a further two degree rise due to water vapour, making four degrees in all. The next domino to fall in this situation is the methane, locked up in arctic permafrost in Siberia and Northern Canada, and below the deep ocean floors as methane hydrates. In all those locations, it has built up from slow bacterial decomposition of organic matter. Methane is 45 times as powerful a greenhouse gas as CO2, to which it oxidizes in about a year after release to the air. The warming produced by this gas may in turn release the final nightmare gas, hydrogen sulfide. Plimer does not mention these potentially disastrous knock-on effects of methane and hydrogen sulfide…

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Plimer’s Climatology 105: Lord Franklin’s Dream Turned Nightmare

Pope aside, there’s no need to ask which embodiments of human stupidity Plimer might have had in mind. He has spent the preceding 483 pages denouncing them: ‘activists’, ‘environmentalists’, Greenpeace… but above all, Sir Nicholas Stern, Michael Mann, James Hansen, Al Gore, Ross Garnaut; other practitioners of the alleged quackery and pseudoscience of climatology, the IPCC, the Royal Society, the signers of the Kyoto Accord… If the book’s index was any good I could look them all up.

But that is only half of the last sentence. I have an uneasy feeling that behind the rest of it lies the profound theological thought that there will be no runaway greenhouse or climate catastrophe, because God will not allow it.

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Plimer’s Climatology 106: His Lordship’s List

At the end of his book, Ian Plimer hands over the keyboard to his lordship to deal with the question ‘What if I am wrong?’ In Plimer’s view Monckton (previously an economic adviser to Margaret Thatcher) had already dealt with it splendidly in a speech to the Local Government Association at Bournemouth, on 3 July 2008. So Plimer reproduces the speech in its entirety (with his lordship’s permission) on pages 489-493 of Heaven+Earth. We can take as noted the usual ‘ITS?’ (is that so?) in the margin against each one of the following points as they occur, and as well a ‘WIIFY?’ –  an abbreviated form of ‘what’s in it for you?’

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Team sport and social organisation

Posted in Political Economy by Ian MacDougall on June 28, 2010

28 June, 2010

Global civilisation began with the appearance of the town of Jericho around 11,000 years ago. It is still recognised as the world’s oldest town, but its history is a mere blink beside the history of life, or even of humanity. What civilisation could be like 10,000 years from now is more knowable than what it will be like, but the key to such knowledge lies in an understanding of how power and control is exercised in human society and its institutions, and how created wealth is shared around.

Strangely enough, a deep insight is provided by team sports such as the various codes of football… Read more>>>

All pages should be listed at the right of your screen

Posted in Uncategorized by Ian MacDougall on March 21, 2010

 

If they are not, scroll right down to the bottom of this page, and you should find them there.

MacDougall’s Music

Posted in Uncategorized by Ian MacDougall on March 4, 2010

I am currently recording a new CD: Songs From the Shed. Those interested in my existing CDs can read more at my other WordPress site >>>

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Good Planets are Hard to Come By

Posted in Natural Science, Political Economy by Ian MacDougall on February 7, 2010

 

TITANIC COPENHAGEN

GUEST POST: Good Planets are Hard to Come By – Andrew Glikson

ANU Earth and paleoclimate scientist Andrew Glikson puts an extraordinary amount of effort, well above and beyond the call of duty, into keeping the rest of us informed on the science behind the global warming issue.

The Earth’s climate system is commonly likened to a supertanker, meaning that in order to avoid disaster later in the 21st Century, we have to start turning the wheel now. Unfortunately there is a political problem in this, because the short-term interests of many in politics and business demand all ahead full.  –IM

                                       *******************

 GOOD PLANETS ARE HARD TO COME BY

 As sea level rises the planet is drowning in an ocean of untruths

 Andrew Glikson

Earth and paleoclimate scientist, Australian National University

We’re simply talking about the very life support system of this planet.  (Joachim Schellnhuber, Director, Potsdam Climate Impacts Institute, advisor to the German government.)

The sleep of reason produces monsters (Francisco Goya)

While Earth is undergoing a sixth mass extinction in its history, dominated by oxidation of hundreds of billion tons of carbon derived from fossil ancient biospheres, with consequent shift in the state of the atmosphere-ocean-cryosphere system, the feeble efforts of civilization to mitigate the climate is drowning in medieval conspiracy theories aimed against climate scientists by vested interests and fundamentalist man-over-nature ideologues.

The release of more than 320 billion tons of carbon (GtC) from buried early biospheres, adding more than one half of the original carbon inventory of the atmosphere (~590 GtC) to the atmosphere-ocean system, has triggered a fundamental shift in the state of the atmosphere at a rate of 2 ppm CO2/year, a pace unprecedented in the geological record with the exception of the effects of CO2 released from craters excavated by large asteroid impacts.

Read on >>>

Are Denialists in Denial?

Posted in Natural Science, Political Economy by Ian MacDougall on November 19, 2009

                                                                                                                                                                                      November 19, 2009

It is clear from these various facts, therefore, that a warmer planet than today’s is far from unusual. It is also clear that climate changes naturally all the time. The idea that is implicit in much public discussion of the global warming issue – that climate was stable (or constant) prior to the industrial revolution, after which human emissions have rendered it unstable – is simply fanciful. Change is what climate does.

Bob Carter, ‘Knock, Knock: Where is the Evidence for Dangerous Human-Caused Global Warming?’

The reader will recall that Faust, in Goethe’s play of the same name, was offered a deal by the Devil: a life of every pleasure imaginable in return for his soul. The deal was accepted, and became the classic a metaphor for shortsightedness; and subsequently the basis of one of the funniest films ever made: Bedazzled, featuring Peter Cook and Dudley Moore.

I try to avoid shortsightedness, but three times in my life I have found myself in the related condition of extreme denial: the result in each case of receiving serious bad news affecting me personally. Confronted with an elephant in the parlour, in the shape of an elephantine tragedy, one looks around it, over the top of it, and anywhere but at it. On each occasion, I started looking for whatever scant threads there were of hope. My conclusion from these experiences is that living in denial and hope is about the most futile state of existence there is, but we do it on occasions because at the time there appears to be no better alternative. Added in is the fact that acceptance of an apparently dismal reality can also become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

So hope, furious, fervent and all too often futile, springs eternal.

Are those like Bob Carter, who deny that there is anthropogenic global warming (AGW) going on in this state of being in denial? (Read all you might want of their reasoning at Quadrant Online.)

Up to a point, we believe what we want to believe. This applies particularly to ideas which are in themselves beyond the scope of rationality and science, such as the propositions of the major religions; though devotees seeking consolation and grounds for hope in them also deny that this is the case.

I stumbled upon this issue thanks to the ABC Four Corners program Malcolm and the Malcontents,  put to air in Australia on Monday November 9, 2009. That dealt with the battle within the Liberal-National Coalition between AGW denialists and those who take a more alarmist and at the same time, truly conservative approach. It is tearing the Coalition apart and so ruining its electoral prospects. Their problem: how to deal with the Rudd Government’s policy on climate change. Then I happened to read George Monbiot’s Why the sudden surge in climate change denial? Could it be about something else altogether? published in the Guardian on November 2. It begins on the pessimistic note

There is no point in denying it: we’re losing. Climate change denial is spreading like a contagious disease. It exists in a sphere which cannot be reached by evidence or reasoned argument; any attempt to draw attention to scientific findings is greeted with furious invective. This sphere is expanding with astonishing speed.

Be that as it may.

Denialists are divided on what they deny. Most in my reading experience assert that the Earth is cooling, not warming, but add that whatever it is doing, humans cannot possibly be responsible. So if there must be GW, they want no A associated with it. But while I and many of my alarmist co-thinkers would be only too happy if they turned out to be right, we are not prepared to stake the lives of our children and grandchildren on it. By advocating a do-nothing policy with respect to CO2 emissions, the denialists finish up doing just that. This inevitably involves a dismissal or explaining away of evidence to the contrary. So they:

  1. look for flaws in the evidence on which AGW alarmism is based; and when I say ‘the evidence’ I mean all  the evidence. None of it can be allowed to pass;
  2. have to assert that any global warming detected post 1750 is purely natural, and part of a solar or other cycle or phenomenon.
  3. erect a straw man, then proceed to knock it down. (See the quote above from the prominent denialist Bob Carter. Does he seriously assert that the people raising the loudest alarm in the ‘public discussion’ – ie the bulk of the world’s climatologists – believe that the global climate only began to change after 1750 AD?)
  4. deny any useful role for computer models of climate;
  5. dismiss alarmist scientists for allegedly having venal motives, and being unable to see beyond their next  research grant. Given the extraordinary weight of scientific opinion now standing against the denialist case, this amounts to a full-blown conspiracy theory.
  6. dismiss any suggestion that they could have such motives themselves, or be influenced by any connections of individuals in their ranks to the fossil fuel industry;
  7. dismiss the Precautionary Principle or any sort of approach based on it as ill-advised;
  8. deny even the remotest possibility of runaway greenhouse establishing;
  9. assert (with Senator Nick Minchin et al) that AGW alarmism arises from the extreme left of politics; left causeless at the end of the Cold War;
  10. deny that anything humans do either way can possibly have any significant effect on the world’s climate;
  11. welcome the prospect a warmer Earth, arguing that our species only really got going in the last 10,000 years, after the retreat of the Pleistocene glaciers;
  12. assert that apart from its allegedly negligible greenhouse effect, carbon dioxide can have no significant effect on life in the oceans when it dissolves in water to form carbonic acid.
  13. admit of no possibility of their being wrong;
  14. nor admit of any serious consequence if they are wrong, particularly if their do-nothing approach has meanwhile become state policy.

Accordingly, every bit of data on which the alarmist case is based must in turn be challenged, leading the denialists to argue that:

  1. the last 100 years of thermometer-based surface temperature data is unreliable, thanks largely to the ‘urban heat island effect’ by which urban recording stations are influenced by waste heat from industry and automobiles, and the solar radiation absorbed and re-emitted by buildings and roads.
  2. at the same time, what little reliable data there is indicates that the Earth is cooling;
  3. as the ‘greenhouse effect’ of atmospheric CO2 diminishes logarithmically, from here on added CO2 will have minimal effect anyway (say perhaps raise average temperature by 0.1 degree Celsius.)
  4. the Precautionary Principle would actually have us keep on with business as usual, for by that principle, CO2 and other emissions must be assumed innocent until proven guilty.
  5. the complexity of the global weather system, and the difficulties implicit in attempts to isolate the effect of any one component (eg anthropogenic CO2 vs ‘natural’ CO2) are a point in favour of their do-nothing case.

Their use of such arguments, and their tendency to close association with the political Right, have not deterred major world scientific organizations and many governments from urging strong action at the forthcoming Copenhagen summit. One such is the Letter from the American Association for the Advancement of Science to the US Senate (link) which says to each US senator:

As you consider climate change legislation, we, as leaders of scientific organizations, write to state the consensus scientific view. Observations throughout the world make it clear that climate change is occurring, and rigorous scientific research demonstrates that the greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary driver. These conclusions are based on multiple independent lines of evidence, and contrary assertions are inconsistent with an objective assessment of the vast body of peer-reviewed science. Moreover, there is strong evidence that ongoing climate change will have broad impacts on society, including the global economy and on the environment. For the United States, climate change impacts include sea level rise for coastal states, greater threats of extreme weather events, and increased risk of regional water scarcity, urban heat waves, western wildfires, and the disturbance of biological systems throughout the country. The severity of climate change impacts is expected to increase substantially in the coming decades. If we are to avoid the most severe impacts of climate change, emissions of greenhouse gases must be dramatically reduced…

As well as being sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Letter is endorsed by the American Chemical Society, the American Geophysical Union, the American Meteorological Society, the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics and 14 other scientific organisations. Whatever its advocates elsewhere may claim, denialism has not exactly won the day in the scientific community.

All of the above denialist wisdom will be found in the paper already referred to; by leading denialist Bob Carter, a climatologist and Adjunct Research Professor James Cook University, Townsville.

 

Independent scientists who have considered the matter carefully do not deny that human

activities can have an effect on local climate, nor that the sum of such local effects represents a hypothetical global signal. The key questions to be answered, however, are, first, can any human global signal be measured, and, second, if so does it represent, or is it likely to become, dangerous change outside of the range of natural variability?

The answer to these questions is that no human global climate signal has yet been measured, and it is therefore likely that any such signal lies embedded within the variability of the natural climate system. Meanwhile, global temperature change is occurring, as it always naturally does, and a phase of cooling has succeeded the mild late 20th century warming. (Carter 2008, 190)

                                                         and

That human-caused climate change will prove dangerous is under strong dispute

amongst equally well qualified scientific groups. The null hypothesis, which is yet

to be contradicted, is that observed changes in climate or climate-related phenomena

are natural unless and until it can be shown otherwise. (Carter 2008, 193)

If made the captain of the SS Null Hypothesis, a liner sailing on its maiden voyage in the North Atlantic, Carter would order full speed ahead until it could be proven beyond reasonable doubt that the ship was about to collide with an iceberg. .As I have argued in the ‘Plimer’s Climatology’ series on this site, the most compelling evidence that the planet is presently warming is to be found in the:

  1. worldwide retreat of glaciers and the loss of summer sea ice in the Arctic, and
  2. satellite altimetry data that shows a consistent global sea level rise of 3 mm per year ever since readings began in 1992.

Both the above features are of geographic scale, and screen out the ‘noise’ of the ‘urban heat island effect’ and with it all the other strands of denialist argument. It may of course be the case that (say) so far undetected solar flux or bursts of heart coming up from the Earth’s interior are responsible for the ice loss and ocean level rise. It may be a mere coincidence that the rise from 270 ppm pre-industrial 383 ppm in 2009 is happening at the same time as a completely unconnected process of global ice loss and sea level rise. But I’m not betting the farm on it.

But interestingly, Carter and the other denialists never say what would constitute the unambiguous evidence of AGW that they proclaim does not exist. One is forced to the conclusion that in their view it cannot exist; that there is no way the signal of anthropogenic CO2 induced warming can be separated from natural background climate change, and that for them, by its own inherent nature it is both theoretically impossible and practically unknowable. Thus for them, if humanity was heading into self-inflicted climate catastrophe it would be doing so completely, inevitably and incurably blind. Nobody on the Titanic could have an inkling of the looming disaster. Whether conscious of it or not, as passengers on this planetary ship, the denialists seem not the slightest bit concerned at this possibility, which is implicit in their own thoughts on the matter.

One of the leading denialist Ian Plimer’s most enthusiastic supporters is Cardinal George Pell of Sydney.  On 24 May 2009, Pell had a column in the Sydney Daily Telegraph supporting Plimer’s position on AGW. A critical response from Michael Mullins, editor of the Catholic journal Eureka Street testifies that Catholics are not united behind him on the issue. However, Ian Plimer saw fit to include a significant theological aside on page 493 of his purportedly scientific book Heaven and Earth.

Human stupidity is only exceeded by God’s mercy, which is infinite.

In the context, the ‘stupidity’ referred to is what Plimer has spent his preceding 492 pages attacking: the proposition advanced by climatologists and other scientists that the Earth is being unduly warmed by human activities. This leaves the reader open to the conclusion that for Plimer, God is the ultimate thermostat. Of the Earth. There will be no climate catastrophe, because He will not allow it.

Well, it has this going for it: it is the most powerful and convincing argument in Plimer’s whole book, and the safest refuge for the denialist.

Without the atmosphere, the surface of the Earth would not be its present average temperature of 14 °C (57 °F), but as low as −18 °C (−0.4 °F).  In order of abundance, the main greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are (with their contributions to the greenhouse effect in [square brackets] ):

  1. water vapour (H2O)                   [36–70%]
  2. carbon dioxide (CO2)                [9–26%]
  3. methane (CH4)                          [4–9%]
  4. nitrous oxide (N2O)                   [neg]
  5. ozone (O3)                                 [3–7%]
  6. chlorofluorocarbons (‘CFCs’)     [neg]

All except the CFCs are products of natural chemistry, and have been generated in and by the atmosphere and ecosystems of the Earth since life began. All are likewise generated by human activities like the burning of fuels and the pasturing of ruminant animals such as sheep and cattle. The effect of the ‘natural’ as distinct from the anthropogenic CO2, N2O and CH4 can only be surmised from the known properties of each compound and the calculated concentrations of each in the air. If however, a significant percentage of the air was (say) chloroform (CHCl3), we could say that that any particular greenhouse effect due to that was 100% anthropogenic, because chloroform does not occur in nature.

However, that is a card we have not dealt to ourselves.

At this stage it would appear that there is no way the Earth can avoid a two degree rise in average temperature this century. That is an order locked in, thanks to the carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that have been added to the atmosphere since around 1750. But a global average of two degrees involves a much higher rise of temperature in the high latitudes, threatening significant releases of methane from the Arctic permafrost and ocean floor deposits, which would in turn drive the temperatures still higher. While climatologists say that global warming involves an increase in the number of extreme weather events, it would be simplistic to attribute, say, a run of hot days in Adelaide in November 2009 to global warming alone, or to say that it even provides evidence of it. The global weather system is like a supertanker. Its momentum when underway is so huge and the time it takes to respond to alterations to engine speed and rudder settings so long that collision and running aground can only be avoided if anticipated well in advance of their happening. As all-too-often happens in shipping, those on the bridge are condemned to watching disaster steadily loom, knowing that the opportunity for taking evasive action is well past and gone. Vide the Exxon Valdez.

This year the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS) changed the start date of the Pleistocene from 1.8 to 2.588 million years BP. In the last 650 000 years, the Earth has experienced seven major cycles of glacial advance and retreat, as seen on the  graph at the following  source,  [and my apologies for not being able to cut and paste it ditrectly.]

 We are now approximately in the warmest phase of the 7th cycle to occur in the last 650,000 years. It will be seen that corresponding warm periods in interglacials occurred at 130 000, 225 000, 325 000, 400 000, 475 000 and 580 000 BP.

It will be seen also from the above cited graph that the glacial-interglacial cycle has not been regular. In the last half million years or so, the glacials have been getting steadily longer and the interglacials shorter, as if the Earth was shaping up to plunge into a freeze-lock. If it were to do so, it might take a considerable time emerging on the other side and warming up again.

We are at a strange conjunction in the history of the Earth, with icecaps at both poles and the two American continents forming a north-south barrier to oceanic circulation that extends almost from pole to pole. It is pretty safe to assume that without the icecaps there would be no great mass of methane trapped in the permafrosts of Siberia and northern Canada, and thus considerably reduced possibility of runaway greenhouse establishing.

Since the start of the Cambrian 542 million years ago, the mean temperature of the Earth has kept between the lower and upper limits of 10 and 25 degrees Celsius; except for two brief periods in the late Permian (at 251 million years BP) and the end of the Paleocene (at 55.5-54.8 million years BP) when it went as high as 27 degrees Celsius.

Both of those periods have distinct names: the Permian-Triassic Extinction Event, and the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum. Both involved massive reduction of life, and should be taken very seriously by those who would avoid another one in the very, very, very near future of geological time.

As the old proverb has it, there are none so blind as those who will not see. Elvis may have left the building, but the elephant is still here.

THE BELLS OF HELL, DOOGUE, MARR, AND PELL

Posted in Uncategorized by Ian MacDougall on March 10, 2019

 

And I say also unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.

 And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of Heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on Earth shall be bound in Heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on Earth shall be loosed in Heaven.

-Matthew 16; 18-19  KJV

That header from Matthew is pretty powerful stuff. All popes, even the likes of the Borgias, have claimed on the strength of it the right to make the rules not just on Earth, but also in Heaven. It is an open cheque, Heaven-sent, or perhaps more likely, clerically devised. Hence also the symbolism of the keys, so arguably overworked in Catholic everyday art.

On the strength of the above (pretty broad) licence, Pope Pius XII in 1954 crowned Mary Queen of Heaven.

Well OK. Pope Pius XII  crowned a statue of her. But as good as the real thing. And Pope Francis has just done it again. Crowned a different statue, perhaps; but as far as I am aware, no Earthly queen was ever crowned more than once. So Queen Mary beats them all.

Geraldine Doogue, by her own account a lifelong and committed Catholic, has written an interesting piece on her church’s present Pell Crisis. Find it at: https://www.quarterlyessay.com.au/correspondence/correspondence-geraldine-doogue ($$$ for the full text.)

She begins with appropriate Catholic modesty:

“Unaccustomed as I am to find myself in easy agreement with Cardinal George Pell, I did approve of his response to David Marr’s essay….”

Said Marr’s essay has been summed up as follows:

Marr reveals a cleric at ease with power and aggressive in asserting the prerogatives of the Vatican. His account of Pell’s career focuses on his response as a man, a priest, an archbishop and prince of the church to the scandal that has engulfed the Catholic world in the last thirty years. This is the story of a cleric slow to see what was happening around him; torn by the contest between his church and its victims; and slow to realise that the Catholic Church cannot, in the end, escape secular scrutiny. 

‘The Prince’ is an arresting portrait of faith, loyalty and ambition, set against a backdrop of terrible suffering and an ancient institution in turmoil. 

https://www.quarterlyessay.com.au/essay/2013/09/the-prince

So here is Doogue in full flight on the matter:

Unaccustomed as I am to find myself in easy agreement with Cardinal George Pell, I did approve of his response to David Marr’s essay. It was published in the same week that I was to conduct a Gleebooks conversation with David in Sydney, and I was intrigued as to how the essay’s subject  [Pell]  would respond.  Would he ignore David altogether? Would he forensically rebut all the accusations and the terrible timeline of clerical malfeasance and church neglect in Victoria? Would he try loftily to contextualise his decisions? As it turned out, he chose none of those options but did comment and land some blows, in my view. “Marr has no idea what motivates a believing Christian.” [My emphasis – IM.] That last statement especially rang true for me. My final sense was that for all David’s writing’s usual elegance and flair, it came with plenty of baggage, only some of it declared. And it didn’t wrestle sufficiently with its own conclusion: that, above all, Pell simply could not contemplate a world without an operating Catholic Church. So yes, his best efforts would always, always be expended on its behalf, without apology, because he believed he was acting, by proxy, in the long-term interests of the wider society. I think this is a correct core judgment on the perplexing Pell, the man David ultimately found somewhat empty and hollow. 

 Yes, Pell: somewhat empty and hollow, and with all the empathy of a cabbage. (Sorry for that slur, cabbages.) But Doogue here and in her own way is trying to rouse up a bit of support for Pell, particularly from disillusioned and disgusted Catholics.

The Sacristy of St Patrick’s Cathedral, Melbourne, was off-limits to all choirboys. Two of them nonetheless had slipped away from the choir procession at the end of Mass, and were caught gargling a swig or two of altar wine, as choirboys have been inclined to do since time immemorial. (St Peter probably had much the same trouble with them at underground services down in the Roman catacombs.)  According to the main police witness, the Sacristy was where the offences Pell is presently jugged and banged up for occurred.

But the Pell case divides Catholics into those inclined to believe Pell on the one hand, and those inclined to believe the surviving victim, whose account the jury believed, on the other. Catholics are circling the wagons, battening down the hatches, manning the parapets, and generally getting ready for a long siege. At the other extreme and with a profound sense of betrayal, they are having serious thoughts about quitting the church and religion they were born into. A number of course are taking up positions somewhere in between. But clerical prestige is definitely in at the panel-beaters’ for a major workover.

The former choirboy reportedly gave testimony that the hefty Pell had planted himself in the doorway, blocking the exit, and said something like “what are you doing here?” or “you’re in trouble”. (Contrast this with Christ’s reported injunction in arguably similar circumstances: “Suffer the little children to come unto me, for such is the Kingdom of God.”)

There was this moment where we all just froze and then he undid his trousers or his belt, like he started moving underneath his robes,” the victim said.

Pell then pulled one of the boys aside and pushed his head down to his exposed penis.

Pell then forced the other choirboy to perform oral sex on him before fondling him as he masturbated.

That former choirboy told the court that, two months later, Pell molested him in a brief incident in a corridor at the back of the cathedral after mass.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-02-26/george-pell-guilty-child-abuse-how-it-happened/10847786

Not exactly trivial stuff.

Now I think I can speak with some authority on this, as I am a Christian by marriage. That is to say my darling wife is one, and she lives her religion (save for the odd irrational and totally undeserved outburst at me) 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

At this point I would like also to quote from my own Facebook page:

“Worth a read:

“Clare Linane, whose husband Peter Blenkiron is a survivor of clerical child abuse, writes in response to Andrew Bolt’s  defence of  George Pell (yes, Bolt’s in there, full steam ahead):

“If you want to support Pell, go and visit him in jail. Help fund his appeal. Take Miranda Devine with you.
“In the meantime, here in Ballarat we are going to continue to try to deal with the fact that our suicide rate among males is twice that of Melbourne and 65% greater than the Victorian average.
“We are going to keep helping women, children, mothers, fathers, and siblings pick up the pieces as their husbands, fathers, sons and brothers prematurely end their lives.
“We are going to keep lobbying for the redress scheme that the royal commission recommended, so that our survivors get the practical and emotional assistance they need.
“We are going to keep trying to figure out how to reverse what has now become a cultural problem whereby males in our community resort to suicide instead of seeking help.
“Honestly, the fact that our most senior Catholic has been jailed is the least of our worries right now.”

 Certainly puts Bolt in his place. Which as the Germans might say, ist in der schiesenhaus. (Modesty forbids me from providing a translation.)

What modesty does not do, however, is prevent me from revealing a bit of my own family’s history: particularly regarding the attitude to religion displayed by my own father, and to suppose a reason for it, particularly in the light of the above.

His mother (Pakie Macdougall, my grandmother) was in her day a pre-WW1 suffragette, and a freethinking bohemian. Her husband Duncan Macdougall (my grandfather) was at the same time trying to make a career for himself in the theatre, as a (reportedly consummate) actor, director and also producer. Thanks to his theatrical contacts, Duncan managed to secure for Robin (his son, my father) the leading role in the first full-length feature film produced by the New York studio Famous-Players Lasky. That was Maurice Maeterlinck’s The Blue Bird. The film was shot in a warehouse in New York, under the supervision of Adolph Zukor. (Following the film’s release, Zukor rebadged the Famous-Players Lasky enterprise as Paramount and moved the whole show to the sunnier clime of Hollywood, California.)

My grandparents’ activities and interests, both theatrical and political, took them at times far from their rented apartment in New York. For one of these trips, they found accommodation for the quite young Dad in a small farming community in West Virginia, that by his own account was straight out of L’il Abner. (School was at that time optional in the US. Dad was never formally enrolled in one until he got to Australia in 1919, aged 12.)

But there was no topic of conversation that could get him more steamed up or ready to launch into intemperate language, from ridicule to full-on invective, than the subject of religion. He did not mind Judaism, (some of his best friends were Jews) or those quaint Asian religions that involve lots of gong-banging, chanting, ritual river-bathing and incense-burning, but he could not abide Christianity, and particularly not its God-bothering Protestant variant. He would ridicule and pour on scorn by the bucketful on it at every opportunity. And when he attended those unavoidable occasions like church weddings of family members (I myself had two such during his long lifetime) nearby members of the congregation would find him sniggering and snorting his way through the whole business. In short, religion brought forth his rational side to such an extent that it turned itself into its own opposite. (However, my cousin married a Greek in an Orthodox ceremony. He did not find that too difficult; rather strange and interesting in fact.)

Methought he did protest too much; far too much. On the strength of all that, I think he might well have been sexually molested by some fundamentalist preacher over there in God’s country at some stage during his childhood. If that was the case, it certainly explains a lot about his behaviour and attitudes. Particularly so for his slump into depression after I joined the local Sydney-suburban Anglican church, (mainly for the youth arm known as The Fellowship) and  VERY PARTICULARLY after I returned home from a week-long fellowship house party in the Blue Mountains just west of Sydney, and announced with all the maturity that a 14-year-old can muster, that I wanted to become a missionary in South America. (The Fellowship had been addressed by one such, who was keen to recruit a few more. But please remember, this was the year 1954: Billy Graham was then in his globally-reaching prime.)

Looking back on it, I doubt there could be any project more forlorn on the face of God’s Earth than trying to convince genuine South American mestizos,  bandidos,  peons, comancheros, and the rest of them in all of their poncho-wearing, caballo-riding, flamenco-playing and tango-dancing variants, breeds and ethnicities (as found within any of their marvellous social formations that have never been defeudalised) that they are living in a darkness beyond imagining, and that their only way out is by becoming Anglicans. …!!! The mind boggles; not once, but again and again and again, in a positive feedback loop.

My father at this point truly descended into Hell. But on the third day, he rose again, and ascended into Heaven, or into the closest state to it: Nirvana, Paradise or whatever possible for him, because that was about all the time it took for the jumping euphoria of that Anglican houseparty to wear off and fade from my mind, and for me to resume something like normal transmission.

But for all his generosity and conviviality, my father remained forever trapped like, and as, an overgrown child, and in so many ways. An inability to express himself verbally or emotionally was one. His inner tension and apparent frustration, and a business (started in 1929 by his mother) kept him away from home for long periods, leading him to find solace in the arms of a mistress, and planning a new life with her after getting himself a mooted divorce from my mother.

When my mother, in his view unreasonably, objected to this, he started his measured and reasoned response one sunny day by throwing a chair or two across the dining room, busting one completely and driving a chair-leg right through the kitchen door, and also by knocking her down: one punch. Then he took off in Mum’s little 1927 model Morris Minor, but not before I could jump in beside him into the passenger seat, fearful that in his rage he would do something stupid like drive it off a cliff.

But after a while, he grew remorseful, and explained to me that Mum had been making his life really difficult. I replied along the lines of “… but you shouldn’t  have hit her.” To which he replied, almost in tears, “I know, I know.”

So we drove back home, with him subdued and reflective; which was all right, until it all happened again. And again; and again.  By which time he had moved out of the house and had decided that he wanted a divorce. So Mum would go visit him to discuss issues relating to that, property settlement and such, and return as often as not with facial bruises and one day with a black eye.

I lost all respect for my father after that, and stopped addressing him as ‘Dad’. In fact, I did not address him as anything, until just short of his dying day, when I tried to make up for all the lost time and foregone father-son companionship as best I could. And I hold it to be self-evident and highly likely that all of that sorry history was because some Bible-thumping, Jesus-jumping Ozark mountain pervert had taken him as a pretty defenceless young boy to Hell and back.

The sad thing is just this: the Pells of this world never have to face the real consequences of their own choices and actions, can remain oblivious to them, and can shed them as water gets shed off the proverbial duck’s back.

But let us return to that profundity of Pell’s, as quoted by the profundity-struck Geraldine Doogue: “Marr has no idea what motivates a believing Christian.” Doogue goes on:  “This Catholic Church is a vital provider of services to the current fabric of Australian life. Seven hundred thousand schoolchildren … 82,000 staff; sixty-six hospitals… St Vincent de Paul … largest welfare provider outside government…vast network of engagement. Spelling some of this out … may have highlighted the very confusion that plagues many of us, trying to imagine how this committed church restores itself beyond the shame.”

Well Geraldine, I suggest that every believing Christian should read a bit of the writings of the French sociologist Emile Durkheim (1858-1917). A good start can be made at https://www.iep.utm.edu/durkheim/ .

Durkheim’s major contribution to human understanding of what we humans really are about (as distinct from what we say we are about)  can be summed up quite simply, and as follows: in any religious ritual, from Catholic High mass to an Australian Aboriginal camp-fire corroboree, what is really happening is that the congregation is worshipping itself.

Catholicism has at least four gods: Father, Son, Holy Ghost, and Mary, and a multitude of others if we count in all the gallery of saints. But whatever gods, deities, sacred objects and acts of veneration are involved for any given grouping large or small, they symbolise that worshipping group. They effectively are the people in the worshipper’s life who, like him or her, have been born into the religion and have an ancestral past steeped in it. So the Mass or church service literally serves us by uniting us in a continuity with not only each other, but with our ancestors.

Such continuity can be as found as much if not far more so in the small bush church so beloved of the immortal Father PJ Hartigan (‘John O’Brien’, author of Around the Boree Log) as in St Peter’s in Rome, St Paul’s in London, or in any of the neo-Gothic architectural marvels in Australia in which we find say, mass celebrated by say, Cardinal George Pell; or one of his present clerical supporters or apologists.

The Catholic, Protestant or whatever congregation is worshipping itself. Believing is the means to belonging. That is why it is so important that we all pray together, and out loud, so everyone can hear. (God does not need it, because he reportedly knows our every unuttered thought.) For our group cohesion, we all must believe the same doctrine, propositions or ‘stuff’, and why a group recitation of the essentials of its shared faith, as in say The Apostles’ Creed is so powerful, and so important in group life, as well as other group vocalisations, sung hymns, recited prayers and so on. Count how many times the collective is mentioned in the Lord’s Prayer, by use of the words ‘our’ (3), ‘us’ (5) and ‘we’ (1).  That prayer, as the congregation recites it, contains nine collective nouns or pronouns in all, and the whole prayer totals just 70 words in the Anglican version I am used to.

Our Father, which art in heaven,/ Hallowed be thy Name; /Thy kingdom come;/ Thy will be done on Earth, as it is in Heaven:/ Give us this day our daily bread;/ And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us;/ And lead us not into temptation,/ But deliver us from evil: /For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, /For ever and ever. /Amen.

An extra dimension in all of this is the difference in responsibility and ceremonial privilege between the priesthood and the laity. The ceremonial dress of the clergy emphasises this apartness: robes (symbolising perhaps the simpler, far less clean, less than white and far from gilded garment  worn by Christ himself) stained-glass windows not only depicting sacred scenes, but filling the church interior with all the glorious and heavenly colours of the visible spectrum; Gothic arches soaring Heavenwards, and the mitres of the highest clerics likewise doing their own bits of mimicry, pointing upwards to the Heavenly source of clerical authority.  And the Sanctuary, off-limits and out of bounds to lowly congregationists, at least while worship is proceeding in the building.

All of this is true whether we are speaking of a simple lowly weatherboard Protestant church somewhere in the bush or of one of those huge neo-Gothic stone cathedrals in a state capital like Sydney and Melbourne. And most importantly, no ceremony in any church building can proceed in the absence of officiating clergy. The one exception to this rule I know of is the case of the Quakers, most admirable people generally, but for at least one of whose devout American members was the untried and unpunished war criminal Richard Nixon, whose military operations in Vietnam so closely resembled those of Hitler’s Wehrmacht in Poland.

Contrast all that with the scene of the first Eucharist, as depicted by Leonardo da Vinci and generally known as The Last Supper. It is painted as a mural, on the wall at the far end of the refectory of the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan. One’s eyes are drawn to it immediately one enters through the front door of the building. (One day in 1977, I was in there when there was nobody else around, and was able to contemplate it for some time in total silence.)

The image of Christ himself is literally central to the painting, with the disciples in two groups of six on each side of him, but none the less with Christ not physically above his disciples, as if on a higher spiritual level. Christ is sitting on the same level, and presumably on the very same (undepicted) bench. He is not as a modern parson or priest, physically raised to the level of the Sanctuary and above the level of the pews the mere laity sit on; that is, when not on their knees before God (and also, as it always happens, the officiating priest, God’s spokesperson here on Earth.)

Spokesperson.  Let us pause to consider in conclusion here Catholicism post-Pell. Ordination of women is likely only a matter of time, despite Pope Francis’ final, complete, total and infallible ban on it forever and ever amen. I think that is now inevitable, and an indirect and unintended consequence of His Eminence Cardinal George Pell, third-highest-ranking Catholic in the world, residing now in Melbourne Assessment Prison, a grim maximum security facility which can hold about 250 prisoners..

Whatever arguments are advanced by conservatives against, the easiest and most telling retort will be “but the exclusive black (some would say satanic) brotherhood gave us Pell, protected Pell, covered up for Pell, and was dragged kicking and screaming  all the way to admitting and facing the truth about Pell.”

“How can anything we might do be worse?”

 

 

 

LINKS

  1. https://www.quarterlyessay.com.au/correspondence/correspondence-geraldine-doogue
  2. https://beginningandend.com/apostasy-alert-pope-francis-crowns-statue-of-mary-as-queen-of-heaven/
  3. https://www.ncronline.org/news/vatican/pope-francis-confirms-finality-ban-ordaining-women
  4. https://www.ourcatholicprayers.com/coronation-and-queenship-of-mary-meditation2.html

 

 

 

Another Open Letter to Stan Grant

Posted in Uncategorized by Ian MacDougall on March 1, 2018

See:
https://www.xyz.net.au/open-letter-stan-grant/
https://www.sbs.com.au/nitv/nitv-news/article/2016/02/25/stan-grants-speech-national-press-club-australia

And also my critique of Keith Windschuttle’s line on Aboriginal history post 1777 at: https://noahsarc.wordpress.com/kangaroos-thylacines-and-aborigines-1/

Stan: At the National Press Club (link above) you reportedly said:

For so many of my people, Aboriginal people this is true. There is a deep, deep wound that comes from the time of dispossession, scarred by the generations of injustice and suffering that have followed. And this wound sits at heart of the malaise that grips indigenous Australia. It is there in our life expectancy ten years shorter than other Australians, it is there in statistics that tell us we are not three percent of the population yet a quarter of those in prisons. These are the things that kill, the things that send us mad or steal our sight.

How often we are told to get over it, leave it in the past, but these wounds are fresh. My family like so many Indigenous families is still shackled to its past. We are told to let it go, but our history is a living thing. It is physical. It is noses and mouths and faces. It is written on our bodies.

-Stan Grant [https://www.sbs.com.au/nitv/nitv-news/article/2016/02/25/stan-grants-speech-national-press-club-australia]

The above as I read it is an attack directed at the whole present non-Aboriginal population of Australia. I and my family are amongst them. But there are quite deep historical issues here.

Firstly, your people, whom you identify as “Aboriginal people” in the quote above, were not one ethnic group, nor as one people given a hard time by one lot of invaders of this continent. The 19thC anthropologists identified three distinct ethnic groups amongst the people we now refer to as ‘The Aborigines’:

(1) The Tasmanians – apparently the first to arrive. They were short-statured people rather similar to African pygmies: short stature being a trait selected in by the demands of a life lived in rainforest, of which there was no shortage in the regions they came from and the Australia they moved into. They, being the first to arrive, had the continent to themselves, but were pushed south by the next distinct invading population, who pushed the Tasmanians to the southern extremity of the continent before the Bass Strait rose as the Pleistocene Ice melted: that southern extemity is now called Tasmania.

(2) the Murrayans, who were on average a taller, heavier-bodied people than the Tasmanians, and who occupied the southern mainland, and who pushed the Tasmanians before them. Then came

(3) the Carpentarians, taller, and like the modern native Nilotic peoples of Africa, adapted for life in the hot, dry climate found today in northern Australia, and who kept ethnically distinct from the Murrayans on the mainland; showing that there was not much interbreeding there either.

Nor was pre-European Australia exactly a garden of tranquility. Very telling is a study of Aboriginal weapons, the most interesting being in my opinion Aboriginal shields. These, to be used successfully by warriors who were also nomads, had to be both lightweight and easily carried, but at the same time effective against the most devastating attack weapons in the contemporary Aboriginal arsenal. These were spears and the clubs called ‘nulla-nullas’, normally used to despatch game, but also as effective weapons in what is generally termed ‘tribal warfare’: which in one form or another, still goes on in town and country today. ( See particularly the warrior photograph at http://www.aboriginal-bark-painting.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Screen-Shot-2017-07-28-at-3.48.00-pm.png )

But also:

https://www.mbantua.com.au/aboriginal-weapons/
http://www.aboriginal-bark-painting.com/wp/index.php/2017/07/28/aboriginal-weapons/

It takes a high degree of skill to survive when one is the target of several incoming spears, thrown either together or at slightly different time intervals, launched at you with murderous intent. One’s parents, grandparents and other ancestors over whatever timespan you care to name likewise needed such skill.

The First Arrivals

The late ANU scientist Gurdip Singh concluded from a study of pollens from the bed of Lake George, NSW, that there had been a fairly abrupt botanical change from ecosystems dominated by pyrophobic (‘fire averse’) plants like Causuarinas to pyrophytic (fire-tolerant) ones in SE Australia at around 110,000 BP. This apparent increase of fire in the Australian bush led him to conclude that Aborigines with their ‘firestick farming’ practices may have been responsible. That is, a full 70,000 years before the appearance of Mungo Man and his skeleton, the earliest direct evidential remains.

At the Australian Academy of Science website, https://www.science.org.au/learning/general-audience/science-booklets-0/science-climate-change/2-how-has-climate-changed
we can see graphs that show how the country’s climate has changed over those 110 millennia. There was a marked general cooling, down to around 10,000 BP, followed by a rapid rise in average temperature and heat content of the ocean. The first Aborigines to arrive (ie the ancestors of the Tasmanians) would have had to cross far less oceanic distance than exists today, thanks to so much of the Earth’s water being locked up as polar icecaps. But over those millennia, all our ancestors, of whatever colour, were living somewhere. And there was no book up there in the sky in which it was written by the Gods that the Australian continent belonged to the ancestral Tasmanians, though they possibly or even likely believed it did. The Murrayans would have relieved them of any such illusion, and the Carpentarians likewise both those preceding populations.

The lesson they all learned then taught: by the Tasmanians to the kangaroos, wombats and megafauna, the Murrayans to all those four groups, and the Carpentarians to the lot of them, was a simple one: if you can’t defend it, you don’t own it.

I am 100% of Scots-Irish ancestry according to analysis of my own DNA. My own ancestors were cleared off land they could not defend in the ‘clearances’ carried out by aristocrats supported by Royal armies, or by the first British colonising acts beginning in Ireland under Henry VIII that led on to the building of the vast British Empire, which eventually stretched as far as Australia. Dispossessed Scots and Irish emigrated to Australia, to either dispossess Aborigines, or purchase former Aboriginal land from earlier colonisers who had grabbed it: from the people whose ownership ceased because they could not defend it.

To give them their due, all the Tasmanians, Murrayans and Carpentarians over time took their cultures and technologies as far as they could be taken within the limitations they experienced. Modern scholarship indicates that agriculture actually began, not in the Tigris and Euphrates valleys of ancient Mesopotamia at around 10,000 BP as previously believed, but in New Guinea, at around 20,000 BP. But while neighbouring Australia had plant food and game sufficient to support a pre-1777 population estimated now at around 1 million, it had no domesticable or potentially cultivable plants save the Macadamia nut, (now marketed worldwide under a variety of names.) And the hunter-gatherer nomads, while they had an astounding variety of plant and animal foods both marine and terrestrial, had no grasses from which to develop grain crops, and thus they had collectors’, not croppers’, granaries.

Whereas the Asian peoples had rice and millet, the Ameriindians maize (as well as potatoes) and the peoples of the ‘fertile crescent’ centred on Mesopotamia had what are still the western staples: wheat, barley and oats. They also had cattle, horses and other domesticable animals, spread right across the Eurasian Landmass to China and Japan, and down into Africa in one vast mass of intercommunicating populations.

In Australia, there was what the historian Geoffrey Blainey calls in his excellent book of the same name The Triumph of the Nomads, but only because the nomadic way was the only one that could triumph. And to their credit, the Aborigines took it as far as anyone could, without grain crops, large granaries, ceramics and pottery for storage of liquids like oils and wines, and without the metallurgy that these duly brought forth and the Iron Age weapons that in turn emerged.

So when Captain Cook dropped anchor in Botany Bay and made first European contact with the local Aborigines, it was also the most advanced civilisation in the world greeting people who were about, through no fault of their own of course, the least technically advanced. While clash and interaction across Eurasia had laid the foundations of modern urban civilisation, science and technology, Aboriginal Australia remained contentedly ignorant of all of it: until disaster struck.

But as for me: I was born right here in Australia, as was my wife, as were my children and grandchildren. We all have as much right to be here as anyone else, and I don’t have much time for arguments to the contrary, from you or anyone else: either implied or bluntly stated. But if your gripe is anything to go by, all the apologising for the past will not end with Kevin Rudd. It will still be routinely demanded and expected centuries from now.

And as for the Adam Goodes incident. Well that’s nothing special, is it? Aborigines can’t walk down the street in any city, town or hamlet without getting jeered, booed, heckled and called all sorts of nasty racist names, can they? Well, isn’t that the case?

Bovine excrement, of the non-female variety.

Football games and football fans are subject to crowd psychology. Fans routinely cheer their own teams and jeer their teams’ opponents, and however they can. At times they chuck beer cans: sometimes when full of beer; sometimes full of worse. Adam Goodes got mixed up in just such an incident, and some of the airheads in the crowd picked on his Aboriginality and let fly. Big deal: or only so if anyone wants to make an issue of it.

So on top of all that, we now we have agitation for a ‘treaty’, to be signed presumably by representatives of both the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal populations of Australia as presently set up, and followed presumably, by significant compensation payments. And now we come down to it.

Let’s open the negotiations at say $1 million to each modern Aborigine: enough to buy a house in the upper half of the Sydney or Melbourne real estate markets. And as there are roughly 670,000 such people claiming Aboriginality ( a 2011m estimate: see https://www.creativespirits.info/aboriginalculture/people/aboriginal-population-in-australia)  that adds up to a tidy $670 billion. That would be quite a low price to pay for a whole continent, but it would swallow most of the Federal Government’s revenue for two successive years. (The Federal taxation revenue in 2015-16, the latest figures available, was only around $465 billion; so the government would need time to pay.)

It would also require the vendors to quit the property completely: normal real-estate practice in both town and country.

But there is also a problem of retrospectivity here. If any money at all is due to be paid by modern non-Aboriginal Australians to Aboriginal ones, then it is payment long overdue. It should have been paid at the time of the original dispossession, and by the people who did that dispossessing. The non-Aboriginal part of your own ancestry, Stan, should have paid the Aboriginal part. Today, you can do it for them. You can take money, however much you like, from your wallet with your right hand on behalf of your ancestor the Irish rebel John Grant, later by your own account to become a wealthy squatter, and as well on behalf of all the other non-Aboriginal people in your ancestry, and then receive it into your left on behalf of all the Aborigines in your ancestry. Then put it back into your wallet.

But please note: without the contribution made by all, repeat ALL to you own genome and of whatever skin colour, you would not exist today, and would never have existed.

END OF STORY

A CRIT OF THE AUSTRALIAN CONSERVATIVES’ MANIFESTO

Posted in Political Economy, Uncategorized by Ian MacDougall on December 6, 2017

 

See https://www.conservatives.org.au/our_policies

Below are extracts from the policy in plain type, as copied from the above AC website. My comments are in bold.

Ian MacDougall

 The AC policy statement includes the following items:

The ‘Canberra Bubble’ isolates politicians and the bureaucracy. Australian Conservatives believe there is a better way, where principles are put before politics, and policies are more important than personalities. We must bring transparency, accountability and efficiency to government.

[Hidden agenda: revive the old squabble between the burghers of the state capitals: mainly Sydney and Melbourne, which gave rise to Canberra in the first place.]

 Donations to political parties, candidates and associated political entities should only be made by individuals and capped at an annual amount. All contributions in excess of the disclosure threshold should be disclosed in ’real time’.

[Real agenda: defund the ALP. Why only ‘individuals’? This can be an excuse for the start of a witch-hunt against the trade unions. (Remember, the ALP historically was set up as a union party, by the unions after the failure of the 1891 shearing-maritime strike.) One obvious way round this provision is for companies and unions alike to pass their party donation through some chosen plausible wealthy individuals. And it will be far easier to find a plausible wealthy donor on the ‘conservative’ side of politics than on the Labor side.

Australian Conservatives support introducing a publicly available, easily searchable database of spending across the whole of government as a means of improving transparency and accountability of public spending.

[ QUESTION:  Does that include military and covert intelligence expenditure?]

 We will respect the division of responsibilities between the Commonwealth and the States in order to improve the efficiency, decision-making and accountability of government and reduce waste.

[Real agenda: stop any repeat of something like Gillard’s mining tax. The Gini C (Gini coefficient, not to be confused with Gina R.) must be held high!]

 We support the introduction of term limits for all politicians and restoring the principal role of the Senate as the States’ house. Australian Conservatives support Senate reform including: having Senators sit in State instead of party blocks, having no Senators form part of executive government and constitutional reform to resolve deadlocks without recourse to a double dissolution election.

[ON THE NOSE: Term limits for pollies simply generates more of them, and the overall cost of them in post-parliamentary entitlements; and such limits restrict the right of voters to elect whoever wins the favour of the electoral majority.]

 Tax bases should be broadened and the tax law streamlined to enable lower tax rates, less complexity and reduced accounting and legal costs.

[ Real agenda: pass more of the tax burden by ‘broadening’ to the poorer levels of the population, while relieving the richer side, with the usual justifications, of course: so they can invest, create jobs, etc, etc. (Competitive conspicuous consumption we need not mention.)]

Individuals are far better placed to decide how best to spend their own money than governments. Our economy will be far stronger and more responsive to changes in preferences and circumstances when taxation and regulation are as low and as efficient as possible.

[Real agenda again: widen income differentials and skew wealth distribution in favour of the rich; enhance the nation’s Gini coefficient.]

 We will streamline the taxation system and reduce the number of personal tax brackets. To support this, we will rationalise the number of tax offsets, rebates and deductions, as well as standardise them and limit their accessibility.

 [So those who qualify must jump ever higher hurdles. Real agenda again: enhance the nation’s Gini coefficient, as above. Nothing is said about the ‘reforms’ introduced in the Howard years by Peter Costello, which cost the individual taxpayer time and money to set up, thus keeping the average mug out of it, but once up and running such a scheme pretty well makes paying tax an optional activity for the deserving rich and upper echelons generally.]

 We will remove the tax-disparity between single income and dual income households with the same income levels.

[Real agenda: we will work this as a cover for increasing the tax paid by single-income people (eg single mothers) as against that paid by couples. Social agenda supported: reduce the number of single mothers by forcing them back into relationships they would prefer to be out of. ]

We will streamline regulation by adopting a one-in, two-out approach to remove the red and green [!] tape strangling business, investment and job creation. We support having an annual Regulation Repeal Day.

[There is a ‘regulation’ that one must only drive on the left hand side of the road. Will that be one of those to go?

Real agenda: where there is conflict between the needs of developers and the natural environment, it will be the latter that has to yield. Or to put that another way: in any dispute over development, there has to be give-and-take. The environment rightly gives, and the developers just as rightly take.

Regulations are nasty, nasty! They should all be repealed!]

We support the removal of taxes and tariffs applying to new car imports, saving Australian motor vehicle purchasers over $1 billion a year.

[Real agenda: so that revenue shortfall can be passed on to those not in the imported new car market.]

By reducing the number of special tax categories, concessions and deductions, the tax law can be simplified and dead-weight accounting and legal costs can fall.

The extra revenue raised from such streamlining can be used to lower tax rates for all. By reducing distortions from taxes imposed, and freeing up resources for more productive uses, we can strengthen our economy.

[Real agenda: this again favours the rich, and enhancement of Gini (easily confused with Gina.) DEFINITELY ON THE NOSE.  Vide again COSTELLO REFORMS.]

We support the removal of all political indoctrination from the [education] curriculum.

(Depends on how one defines it. Real agenda: remove social critique of any kind from education. Teach kids to think critically and for themselves completely free of any examples of it. NB: this is exactly what they do in the Islamic world, with every Islamic country an economic basket case, without exception; and including those with oil money coming out their ears.]

Australian Conservatives support the return to tried and tested methods of teaching.

ON THE NOSE

[We live in an electronic age. Learners of all ages have to be able to search the Internet without landing on porn sites. Real agenda: education must not move with the times.]

 Educational institutions are now used as a way to channel political propaganda on our children (such as the discredited ‘Safe Schools’ and ‘Respectful Relationships’ programs). We believe such indoctrination is wholly inappropriate for a school environment and are committed to their removal.

[Real agenda: remove Left influence and indoctrination, including all social critique: but not the indoctrination of the Right, and of the Religious Right.]

We do not support any renewable energy targets.

We will remove all taxpayer and cross subsidies to electricity generation.

We will require all electricity supplied to the grid to be useable – that is, predictable and consistent in output (kWhrs) and synchronous (at the required 50 Hz range).

We will allow market forces to provide the most efficient power generation available.

We will withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord

[This speaks for itself, without need for alteration.

We do not support any renewable energy targets, favouring coal.

We will remove all taxpayer and cross subsidies to electricity generation, favouring coal.

We will require all electricity supplied to the grid to be useable – that is, predictable and consistent in output (kWh) and synchronous (at the required 50 Hz range), favouring coal. 

 We will allow ‘market forces’ to provide the most efficient power generation available. [If renewables’ costs fall further, we will revise this.]

We will withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord.  [Where it suits us to be, we are anti-science].

 Real agenda: we support already heavily-subsidised coal-fired power, and the commercial interests involved in it, but not renewables.

 NB: This planet has a one-off, never-to-be-repeated or renewed store of fossil carbon. About the most short-sighted and bone-headed use of this is for furnace fuel in electricity generation: unless we expect that our descendants will all be flying helicopters or hovercraft over their unsealed roads.

Australia should have the cheapest and most reliable electricity in the world. We have world-scale and world-class coal, gas and uranium reserves. Yet our electricity sector no longer reflects that.

Australian Conservatives are open to any form of electricity generation, and will provide legislative certainty for the ongoing use of fossil fuels.  We will remove the barriers to building more dams for hydro-power and clear the way for nuclear power as well as a nuclear fuel cycle industry.

Real agenda: pass all the costs of it, as far as we can, to the mugs. Nuclear power is not ‘cheap’ when all the true costs, including long-term waste storage and clean-up after the inevitable Three-mile Islands, Chernobyls and Fukushimas is taken into account: which is why investment in nuclear power has all but ground to a halt.

 Australia should also have the cheapest and most reliable gas supply in the world.

We will support landholders’ rights to allow gas production on their properties, and to a reasonable return for that access and extraction, to help ensure there are sufficient quantities available for our domestic and export markets.

Real agenda: incredible.

The GAB [Great Artesian Basin] underlies a large portion of the Murray–Darling Basin (MDB) in northern NSW and southern Queensland…  It consists of layers of aquifers and aquitards [water-confining layers] ranging from 65 to 250 million years old, deposited in the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods…

The GAB also overlies older geological basins, such as the Bowen Basin. These basins are deeper than the GAB and, in the case of the Bowen Basin, have a boundary that extends beyond the boundary of the GAB. The Bowen Basin contains older, deeper coal seams and the Fairview and Scotia gas fields.

https://gisera.csiro.au/more-information/frequently-asked-questions/the-great-artesian-basin-and-coal-seam-gas/

In other words, to get to the coal-seam gas, the drillers have to drill down through the aquifer and its aquitards, creating a serious possibility that sooner or later, the fracking chemicals and the groundwater will mix. The common assurance made is that the wells will be permanently sealed with reinforced concrete, preventing such contamination. However, Portland cement was only invented around 1820, so no concrete structure involving it can be older than about 200 years. [How many concrete structures can you think of that are say, a mere 100 years old?] But the gas wells will have to stay sealed as long as there is demand for artesian water: effectively, till the end of time.

By the time ‘concrete cancer’, natural acids in the groundwater, minor earth tremors and also major ones have weakened the concrete and made it porous, the coal-seam gas drillers will be long gone, and their descendants will likely be off overseas living the high life.

 So who will pick up the tab? Why, the descendants of those who were warned, but chose to do nothing about it, of course and as usual.

 Though there are a lot of hot contenders in this particularly tight field, this one has to take the gong as arguably the most short-sighted and brainless of all the AC policies.

Australia produces less than 1.5% of global CO2 emissions. Even if our emissions were reduced to zero, it would make no perceptible difference to the climate.

 [THIS ONE IS REALLY ON THE NOSE.]

Ideological obsessions with uneconomic renewable technologies to meet unrealistic emissions targets to prevent ‘climate change’ have made our energy unreliable and expensive.

 [Note the ‘scare quotes’. [And we may ask of course: Is that so? ]

 Targets and subsidies for renewable energy distort the market and disadvantage consumers. Australian Conservatives are open to renewable energy as an option for electricity generation but we oppose taxpayer and cross-subsidies to support it.

China produces 26% of global emissions, and it is the biggest GHG producer of all. So no country produces the ‘majority’ of GHG emissions. Australia’s 1.5% does not make “no perceptible difference to the climate”, even though it is refreshing to see AC’s and Bernardi’s admission there that there is climate change, and that CO2 and other GHG emissions are involved in it.

 The last time I checked, 1.5% did not equal 0%. Arguably, Australia thus produces 1.5% of the total world emissions, which is nothing trivial. Every emitting country, including China, at the top of the ladder with 26% of global emissions, can claim this sort of pseudo-trivial ‘minority’ status.

Australian Conservatives will scrap all taxpayer and cross-subsidies for electricity generation and allow market forces to determine the best outcomes for Australian consumers and business.

 [ON THE NOSE.]

[The above should read: Australian Conservatives will scrap all taxpayer and cross-subsidies for electricity generation (but not for fossil-fuel extraction) and allow market forces (and taxpayer-subsidy of outfits like Adani) to determine the best outcomes for Australian consumers and business, and to convert the fossil fuel reserves into harmless, non-global warming, plant-feeding CO2 as rapidly as possible.

 And what will our descendants use for road tar? Let them use cake, and eat it too.]

Migrants must be committed to making a positive contribution to Australia. Welfare payments will be limited in scope and duration to better encourage migrants to participate in our workforce, become a regular taxpayer and be self-sufficient. Those settled in Australia should contribute to our economy, not be welfare-dependent.

[Really? So the money not spent on their welfare payments can be spent on boosting the police forces in order to fight the inevitable increase in crime resulting from this half-thought and half-brained policy.]

 Australian Conservatives recognise the importance of the National Broadcaster to many Australians, particularly those located in rural and remote communities.

[ ! ]

We also recognise that a diversified and financially sustainable media industry is important for all Australians.

Australian Conservatives will merge the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and Special Broadcasting Service (SBS).

We will require the new, merged broadcaster to strictly adhere to enhanced charter obligations of balance and a diversity of views.

We will ensure that it puts a greater emphasis on rural and regional broadcasting and alleviating other important gaps in commercial media coverage.

[ON THE NOSE]  Real agenda:  ruralise and de-urbanise the ABC. So no more programs like Four Corners or Chris Masters’ demolition of the Bjelke-Petersen gerrymandered crony regime in Queensland: thus being truly ‘conservative’ of existing arrangements, no matter how shonky, antidemocratic and dodgy.

 The media sector in Australia and around the world is undergoing significant disruption and national, taxpayer-funded broadcasting cannot be insulated from these changes.

Australian Conservatives will merge the ABC and SBS into a single, consolidated broadcaster saving taxpayers over $1 billion per year with the savings dedicated to debt reduction.

 [Read debt and program reduction.

Real agenda: gradually defund the ABC and SBS, prior to selling what is left of them both off to the highest bidder, probably based overseas. A certain name springs to mind.]

 Australian Conservatives will give the consolidated broadcaster a greater rural and regional focus – to ensure that the few remaining gaps in the Australian media landscape, including providing critical information during natural disasters and emergencies, are well-covered.

[More of the same: See above.]

 We will reform the board arrangements and Charter of the current ABC and ensure that the consolidated broadcaster is truly impartial, unbiased and presents a diversity of views representative of the Australian nation.

 [TRANSLATION:  we will censor it, by tying it up in the same red tape we make a big noise about cutting. Real agenda: So goodbye to Four Corners, and anything anyone to the left of Genghis Khan might object to. ]

 Australian Conservatives will limit the consolidated broadcaster to two TV stations – covering news, current affairs, drama and entertainment.

[Real agenda:  that’s for starters: we will prune them on from there.]

 We will limit the consolidated broadcaster to two radio stations available nationally with local and national content.

Further, Australian Conservatives will limit the provision of online services by the consolidated broadcaster to on-demand viewing of the local news, entertainment and current affairs programs produced by the broadcaster.

[ON THE NOSE. Real agenda: deny the Australian people the right to read and publicly comment on current affairs on the widely read ABC online site. Confine such to the ‘proper channels’ such as Federal Parliament, through us politicians. And constituents’ letters thereto, which we are masters at brushing aside and filing in the Parliamentary Rubbish Bin.]

These changes will save taxpayers over $1 billion per annum which will be used to repay national debt. They will further strengthen the diversity of the media market by limiting the size, scope and reach of government funded broadcasting. 

 [ And generally dumbing it down.]

[ON THE NOSE: Incredibly, Senator Cory Bernardi or whoever wrote this for him, cannot see the self-contradiction in the above: we will increase the diversity of the media market by pulling one of the main players out of it.]

 The West is under a significant threat from ideologies that seek to undermine our way of life.  The gradual dismantling of Western culture in other areas of the world has left a vacuum into which alternate cultures have expanded and taken root. We will stand up for Australian values in the face of these threats, and will ensure that our heritage and way of life are strengthened and retained.

[Add: despite the similarities of our policies to those of the most benighted regimes in the Islamic world.]

 We will abolish the Australian Human Rights Commission. Rather than defending or upholding key Western liberties, rights and freedoms of the individual, this institution has become an expensive agent for their undermining, suppression and destruction, often in the pursuit of identity politics and political correctness.

[But on the bright side, it has provided highly-paid careers for ex-politicians and IPA urgers.]

 https://gisera.csiro.au/more-information/frequently-asked-questions/the-great-artesian-basin-and-coal-seam-gas/

END OF STORY

 

 

A BIT OF TROUBLE AT QUADRANT ONLINE

Posted in Uncategorized by Ian MacDougall on July 29, 2016

 

I have recently been involved in something of an online exchange at  Quadrant Online  (where I am a paid-up subscriber) with a participant who goes by the nom-de-blog of ‘en passant’. (http://quadrant.org.au/opinion/qed/2016/07/trump-vs-accepted-wisdom/#comment-17068).   Quadrant Online  is a ‘conservative’ site devoting itself to ‘conservative’ causes like opposition to mainstream climatology; opposition to Islam and increase of the Islamic population of this country; opposition to the Turnbull ascendancy in the Liberal Party and for an Abbott revival there. It also seems to favour trickle-down economics. In short, QO supports an assortment of causes; one or two of which I also support. (nb: NOT Tony Abbott.)

I am also a subscriber at New Matilda , a more leftward site which likewise supports a variety of causes, some of which I likewise support. (https://newmatilda.com/2016/07/28/mums-grandmums-and-kids-have-just-invaded-tanya-pliberseks-office-over-alp-refugee-policies/)

However, in the last 24 hours, there has been something of a cybersnafu in the works at  Quadrant Online . A crucial response of mine to ‘en passant’ disappeared into cyberspace. Repeat postings got the usual ‘looks like you’ve already said that’ site response. An email exchange with QO management followed, and I was told that other site commenters had had similar experience.

So I have decided to post the missing response here.

The discussion was on Trump vs Clinton for the US presidency. The immediately preceding comment from ‘en passant’ concludes as follows:

I thought you just had thought-bubble, but now I realize you live in one as you failed to answer the only question that really mattered. Trump or Clinton for President? As you failed to work that out when broadly asked I will make it easy for you: they are the only choices. Roll of drums …. and the answer is: ….?

In the absence of any (successfully) posted response from me, the site got:

 en passant

 July 29, 2016 at 11:14 am

Oh well, Ian, I think you have made your line of thought clear.

What I had been unsuccessfully trying to post in response was:

Trump or Clinton?

Gee that’s a tricky one. Let’s see…. (While I’m thinking, you might amuse yourself scratching some more through that dirt file of yours. But for that, you might have to find some sort of light down there under that rock you hide under.)

Trump if he becomes US President will have to make a lot of important decisions. But the only decisions of his that I have so far been able to find record of, all directly involve his own financial interest. I think that also may be the reason Trump has failed to gain any  enthusiastic  traction so far here Quadrant Online editorial level. Opinion here seems to be that he is the best of a bad pair.

But Hillary is married to former President Bill. And Bill took a magnificent decision in 1999 to withdraw the US support that the murderous Suharto regime had previously enjoyed re East Timor. That threw the balance in favour of East Timorese independence, particularly after the US Chief of the General Staff got on the phone to the Indonesian armed forces chief thug Wiranto and read him the  Riot Act.

I can’t see Trump ever doing anything half as principled as that. His first question would most likely be “what’s in it for me?” Nor can I see Bill dropping out of influence anytime soon. Can you, ‘en passant’ or whatever your real name is?

So…… Suspense…………. Drum roll…………Bagpipes in chorus…………. Heavenly Choir…………

Hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiillllllllllllllllllllllaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrryyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Clinton!

AS I SAID, THIS WAS NOT ACCEPTED AT QUADRANT ONLINE http://quadrant.org.au/opinion/qed/2016/07/trump-vs-accepted-wisdom/#comment-17060