Poem: Liberate me from the drowning sea of bills

Hell beckons with sweet temptations

And Heaven scorns my pious attempt

To resist hell’s aspirations;

A life devoid of contempt

To live each breath

Without choking on lies

And lurking death

Anxious for my demise

Swarmed in a riot of blind

My soul rebuffed and muted

Ostracized from mankind

With dreams all polluted

Confused how to direct my life

Fighting the lurking depression

Each day a monotonous strife

Blinded by oppression

God can’t help me now

My dreams vomit

My prayers gone disavowed

I will submit

No more pain

No more rain

No more chain

No more strain

Submission to the toll

Prepare the gate

For my restless soul

That’s been abused by hate

Slave to the ominous bill

Corporate tyrants leering

With me on their grill

Vindication within raging

I won’t take anymore pain

I won’t stand anymore in the rain

No longer in this chain

No longer should life be a strain

Grip the liberating sword

To decapitate their tongues

Break from the suffocating hoard

And have exuberance fill my lungs

Never rely on another for the answer

Only you can bring self-liberation

From the coarsing pain like cancer

From lifes debilitating frustration

Clench your fist full of defiance

Annihilate the mocking shadows within

And create a self-alliance

So that a new life may begin

~

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Why Dream Interpretation Works

In this article, I wish to provide my personal view on the most common views of dream interpretation followed by my own approach.  There are several approaches to interpreting dreams and many have gained the entire concept a rather pejorative stigma.  However, dream interpretation is still utilized by therapists and counselor’s to help achieve further self-awareness.

I am not an advocate for the clairvoyant or clandestine approaches to dreams.  Like many others, dreams are simply a means to discuss and investigate a persons unconscious and self-awareness.  I have done a great deal of dream interpretation for people and so I’d like to share how I approach it as you could take this approach to yourself as well.

➡ Purpose of Dream Interpretation

When we think of our dreams, we often think of many mysterious symbols and meanings. Our dreams have always had a history of vague purpose and spiritual nature. There have been many methods to interpretation and their purposes are also varied.  Often, people first think of dreams in a spiritual nature. They are often considered a sign or a prediction of things to come. They can also be referred to as a manifestation of your psychopathology.

Scientists will often say that the dreams are manifestations of consciousness. The reductionist will even go so far to say that dreams are just the random firing of neurons during sleep. They assert that there is often no purpose at all.  Clinicians who utilize dream interpretation in their therapy are those in favour of the psychodynamic approach. In this approach, the dreams are representations of unconscious content that have resided in the individuals cognizance since childhood. They are often representations of deeper unresolved conflicts.

Whatever the approach that is taken, we must all take an approach to interpreting them because of how much time we spend doing it! Further, the purpose is always an underlying understanding of the self.

➡ Spiritual

+ “Dream of Aesculapius” by Sebastiano Ricci

The first greatest dream interpreter was Aesculapius. Aesculapius is often depicted as the God of Medicine. The common medicine symbol is derived from the symbol of Aesculapius; a snake entwined around a staff.  The actual living Aesculapius was a formidable doctor who constructed places for baths and dream interpretation. These buildings were known as Asclepeion’s.

Ever since this time, it is natural for humans to look at dreams as spiritual manifestations vis-a-vis the individual. Symbols, people, and animals are all spiritual representations in favour of the individuals personality.  There is no specific institution for spiritual dream interpretation. Even Aesculapius, the first dream interpreter, never wrote any manuals or dictum’s on how he did it.

I would consider the next greatest spiritual dream interpreter to be Carl Jung. Carl Jung was actually a great inspiration to me to study psychology. In his book, “Man and His Symbols” he, and his favoured associates, share their interpretations and work on the symbols in human history. With this, they share how individuals often dream of these symbols and what they would mean to them.

To Jungians, the symbology of humankind is derived from a collective uncsoncious. A sort of unconsciousness that resides within us all and understands the world in unison. Jungian concepts are very powerful and still, to this day, are commonly used in the media and art.

➡ Barcode Interpretations

In contemporary times, there are many books and resources which make equation dream interpretations. I like to call this method the “barcode interpretation”.

In this method, one takes a symbol and looks for it in a manual. Under each symbol is a given interpretation.  However, I would not likely call it an interpretation more or less a given definition. There is little insight given to the individual and most likely encourages the person to feel less control of their own dreams and even self-will.  Most people do not adhere to this method but many will succumb to buying, or accidentally buying, a copy of one of these books.

The main problem with this approach is that it completely ignores context and the individuals background. How can you possibly make one interpretation of a symbol completely global and applicable to everyone?  While a symbol like blood is often interpreted as a bad thing, it could easily be contextually good (say, for example, the blood of a cow you just killed to eat, or the blood of an incision that will initiate your life-saving surgery, etc. etc.)

There are many sites that easily do this. You will also often find them covered in advertisements, silly games, and vague or pseudo-intellectual context. For example:

+ My Dream Visions

➡ Scientific

Aristotle provided the first greatest scientific approach to dream interpretation from a scientific approach.

+ “On Dreams” by Aristotle

In this first short record, Aristotle describes the situations in which people fall asleep, wake up, the difference between being awake and sleep, and more.  I personally think the most important point that Aristotle made was how individuals can tell the difference between reality and hallucinations and how this is inhibited in dreams.

Many dreamers can relate this to the short speach given in the popular movie “Waking Life”

+ Key Speech at 0:50

Here, Jason T. Hodge is speaking of how our neurotransmitters facilitate our sensory of our environments. While awake, we have naurotransmitters which facilitate our distinction between imaginary concepts and actual stimulus which exists outside of our cognizance.

This is an important function of the scientific approach to dream interpretation.

The common scientific theory is now called the Activation Synthesis theory, purported by Allan Hobson. In this theory, Allan Hobson ascribes dreams to the random activity of neurons in our brain. This random activity is no longer affected by our distinction of reality and cognition, so the thoughts appear as reality!

Some neuropsychologists might utilize these brain patterns and facilitate certain drugs or lesions to help prevent maladaptive behaviours. However, this is thankfully often a last (if ever) resort.

➡ Freudian/Psychodynamic

Probably the most famous form of Dream Interpretation is by the Sigmund Freud.

+ “The Interpretation of Dreams” by Sigmund Freud

It is not an easy task to sum up Freudian psychoanalysis in a quick paragraph, but I will do my best.

The crux of Freudian Dream Analysis is Wish Fulfillment. In our dreams, Freud would argue that our wishes are fulfilled. Things we wish we had done during the previous day or things we wish would happen in real life would be fulfilled in our dreams.

The idea is derived from his psychodynamic view that we have unresolved conflicts from childhood. These unresolved issues are “wished to be resolved” and are then “resolved” in our dreams. As these issues can easily carry their way far into adulthood, some people will have neurotic dreams or recurring dreams. Freud would accredit these recurring or neurotic dreams to these unresolved issues from childhood. Finding the conflict and then resolving it is the purpose of the psychotherapy. However, I will not delve into psychodynamic psychotherapy.

➡ My Take/Interactionist

Personally, I employ an interactionist model.

As diverse as humans are, we must also employ a diverse model. We need a model that can adapt and change per individuals needs. There are certain steps to this approach, and I will summarize them afterwards.

♦ Step 1: Background: While interpreting a persons dreams, one must take that individuals background into consideration. If that person takes a spiritual approach to dreams, you ought to as well. If they take a barcode approach, you ought to as well.

Afterwards, you ought to ask about them. Ask them what their family was like, their upbringing, their schooling, their interests, etc. I often look at it as like reading a painting and trying to figure out what the artist is trying to say or why they painted it. In this case, the dream is the painting and the artist being the dreamer!

♦ Step 2: Emotions: Further, you must consider all the things that this person feels about the context of the dream. While the dream might sound happy to you, the individual might find it dreadful.

In addition, ask why it is important to them to understand the dream. Often, people just ignore dreams. If they ask for interpretation, their is usually good reason. People do not often ask for dreams about going pee to be interpreted.

In these two steps, you will do two major things:

– Make the individual reminisce on their life

– Make the individual self-aware of their emotions

Once doing this, it is often the case that the person immediately understands their own dream. This is your goal as an interpreter!  However, it is also probably %50 likely that they will still not understand. There are a couple reasons why, so this is the next step.

♦ Step 3: Investigate: Ask open-ended questions about the person and eliminate certain obstacles.

Sometimes, people do not want to understand the dream content. Ask if the person has experienced anything profound that affects them to this day. Try to use neutral questions to avoid leading emotions in good or bad; you want the real emotions left to the dream. Do not create new issues.

Also, often people do not want you to know what the dream is about. Ask them if there is anything about them self they wish they could change or not have experienced.  There are other common possibilities to this further complication and this is where I interact with the other models.

♦ Step 4: Integration: First, most importantly, ask about their biology. Do they have any medical conditions or biological problems. These are easily causes for dream content. If a person has visual problems caused by a concussion, it is very common for them to dream in related to the incident or how they wish it didn’t happen, etc. This can be distressing to them and you must be sensitive to the fact that dreams and manifest content of the persons traumatic incident that causes biological nightmares!

Second, ask about their childhood more deeply. There may be some repressed, or even regressed, issues that are not being attended to. For example; a person may have been molested while young and may truly consciously believe it didn’t happen while unconsciously profoundly affected by it.

If it comes to this state, then you are in the deepest form of interpretation which only a select few in history have been qualified for. On a personal level, I would simply say that it is better to leave it be. If you wish to continue, then you must aim for something referred to as “transference”.

In transference, you are trying to get the individual to transfer onto you the problems they had with childhood. By this time, you ought to have the persons trust and a decent relationship. However, you will want to challenge and confront them about problems relative to the dream content. You want facilitate the conflicts that are likely unresolved and basically play them out yourself.

This can be dangerous, and will likely never be employed by anyone reading this, but I thought I’d go the distance and explain the whole thing.

➡ Conclusion and Summary

My approach can be summarized as:

Background, Emotions, Investigate, Integration

There are many approaches to dream interpretation just as there are to understanding human behaviour. I adhere to the idea that we ought to employ interacting methods that can adapt and acknowledge relative contexts to each individual rather than strive for a sophomoric universal definition.

Further, I do not like the spiritual approach. When one employs that dreams are spiritual, it is implied that our dreams and thoughts are not in our control. If you agree that your dreams are from your thoughts, and that you control your thoughts, I do not think you have grounds to say that dreams are spiritual then.

I would like to debate, discuss, or hear from you!  Perhaps lucid dreaming next..?

What do you think…?

~

Why Mormonism is Moot

Mormonism, or the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS), is an inarguably popular religion. While it is not as prolific as Christianity or Islam, it is certainly an extension of Christianity and Theism. Many of us are accustomed to seeing the white shrit and black pants boys on bikes trying to talk to you about God. Normally, we avoid them. Normally, people avoid religious debate all together, it can be intimidating and many of us humbly admit to not knowing where to question or what to believe. Mormons are certainly a confident group and they are often noted for their charisma. However, Mormons make one grave mistake that humans are inclined to making too often; believing something absolutely bunk because of either traditions or kernels of proverbial reasoning.

Religions often preach that “love” is what their religion values most. However, they completely neglect the idea that there is not a single good that cannot be done without a belief in God. Furthermore, while they pontificate “love” as their main tenet, so do other religions. How can you tell who to believe? Well, you’d ask for further details. Unfortunately, when it comes to Mormonism, you’re heading towards a boat load from a treasure hunter who fantasizes about finding relics with glowing stones all the way from Egypt.

tl;dr

A guy named Joe Smith says he met an angel who gave him golden plates that only he can see and read. He says that it’s the restored bible that came from people who moved from Egypt and Israel to the america’s in 600 BC. Jesus, went to the america’s and told them all about God but then they were all killed by the people who we found later to be natives. If you preach the Book of Mormons, you too can become like Jesus and be a God in the after-life. Mormonism’s values are similar to Christianity. Polygamy is sometimes acceptable, depending on who you ask.

➡ Founding

Before Jospeh Smith found Mormonism, he was a treasure hunter. Joseph Smith claimed that the could dig tresure up from the dirt by using seer stones to tell him where to find them. To find out this information, he would put the seer stones in the bottom of a hat and then read the reflections from the stone. Many people ignore this history of Smith because it makes his founding look all the more skeptical.

Mormonism was founded by a man named Joseph Smith. In 1823, Smith claims that hewas visited by an angel named “Moroni” who told him where to find relics that would reveal the foundations of Mormonism. Included in these relics was the golden plates that would translate the book of Mormons to Smith. However, there was a catch and that is that he could not show the plates to anyone else nor could anyone see them. Smith would publicly translate the book to people, but he would hide the relics at the bottom of a hat or hide behind a curtain while, apparently, utilizing the angelic relics.

Of course, there was much doubt about the existance of these relics, so Smith had witnesses sign a paper showing that they had seen them. However, each witness was family or financially backing Smith. If this isn’t the definition of bias, what woulde be? Of course, it is also a logical fallacy to believe that a simple witness to something proves it’s existance. This is where faith would be necessary, but usually theistic religions require faith in God, not in the credibility of the holy texts authorship. For example, the Bible has been revised numerous times by the Council of Nicaea. However, these were groups of reputable members in the religion. At least Christians claim that humans wrote the bible, in plain sight, with God speaking through them. Yes, it’s still a problem to debate, but it’s a lot more credible than golden plates that no one can see but you that you found in the hills with the help of an angel and only you can read it in the bottom of a hat!

If you are to pontificate a new religion to others, you ought to be able to offer good reasoning or justification for your credibility aside from forcing others to say they believe you. When considering Joseph Smith’s background and the methods of writing the Book of Mormon, there is far too much room for doubt and suspicion.

➡ Beliefs

Essentially, Mormonism is an extension of Christianity. Mormonism utilizes the Old and New Testament as holy texts in support of it’s foundational beliefs. So, if you already have an understanding of the basics in these texts, then you know the very basic foundations of Mormonism.

Mormonism is really defined by the book of Mormons. In this, Joseph Smith explains all. So, for the sake of brevity, I want to give the quick run-down of what they believe without trying to convert you to Mormonism. While missionaries want to simply convert you to God, they will leave out a lot of key tenets of Mormonisms belief system and it’s flaws. When considering something to live by for the rest of your life, you really ought to question it fully, should you not?

Anyways, let’s look at the foundational beliefs.

Think of the Book of Mormons as the continuation and addition to the Old and New Testamanets. Smith explains, in the Book of Mormon, that Christ is amongst other Gods in heaven whom routinely create planets to spread life. It is a continuing process of reproducing. By believing in God and giving strong efforts in spreading their word, you too can join their ranks in God-hood, like Jesus, in the after-life. Marriages made in human form are continued in the after-life, so it’s easy to see where the problem of polygamy came in when reproduction is such a key tenet of Mormonism. On that note, it is important to mention that Brigham Young, the most notable successor of Smith after his death, introduced the concept that Adam (Adam and Eve) is the father of all spirits on Earth and the originator of all human-life. This is important to note because this is something testable.

The extension upon the Bible is that Israelites and Egyptians moved to the America’s, from Jerusalem, in 600 BC. There were four nations: Nephites, Lamanites, Jaredites, and Mulek’s. Let’s take a quick look at them:

Nephites: These are the light-skinned people. However, they were all killed by the

Lamanites. Before the last one died, they buried the golden plates that Smith would later claim to have uncovered, with the help of the angel Moroni.

Lamanites: These are the dark-skinned people. Mormonism’s will typically argue that the native people of America were Lamanites.

Jaredites: These are the people of southern America. They were apparently from the tower of Babel so their was linguistic differences.

Mulek’s: An inconsequential nation that worked with the Lamanites.

So why do Mormons go around preaching their beliefs? Because they believe that, by doing so, they will become Gods in the after-life. We can see more of the belief system exposed in my next section.

➡ Crucial Flaws

Without going into the philosophical arguments first, I want to first note very important physical flaws in Mormonism.

Archaeology

“I did break my bow, which was made of fine steel” ~ 1 Nephi 16:18

You can see, for yourself, that even the Smithsonian Institution has noted that there is no evidence supporting the existance of any of the nations, nor their use of steel or iron:

“…never used the Book of Mormon in any way as a scientific guide

….

Present evidence indicates that the first people to reach this continent from the East were the Norsemen who briefly visited the northeastern part of North America around AD 1000 and then settled in Greenland.

Iron, stseel, glass, and silk were not used in the New World before 1492.

….

No reputable Egyptologist or other specialist on Old World archaeology, and no expert on New World prehistory, has discovered or confirmed any relationship between archaeological remains in Mexico and archaeological remains in Egypt.”

+ http://irr.org/mit/smithsonian.html

Furthermore, if Mormons are taking the same premise as Christians that Adam and Eve are the first two humans created, then they must face the lacking archaeological evidence that they ever existed. You can find a plethora of evidence showing human fossils tracing millions of years back in time… and I will show you some of it.

“New discoveries combine to indicate that all the major steps in human evolution took place in Africa. Skeletal analysis of oldest human forbears around 3 million years ago reveal many anatomical similarities to African Great Apes. These and biochemical resemblances indicate a common ancestry for humans and apes, perhaps only a few million years earlier. Enlarged knowledge through recent recovery of skeletons of several successive stages in the line leading to modern peoples shows that many attributes or skills by which we define humanity arose much more recently in time than heretofore believed.”

+ Human Origins

“A highly resolved primate cladogram based on DNA evidence is congruent with extant and fossil osteological evidence. A provisional primate classification based on this cladogram and the time scale provided by fossils and the model of local molecular clocks has all named taxa represent clades and assigns the same taxonomic rank to those clades of roughly equivalent age. Order Primates divides into Strepsirhini and Haplorhini. Strepsirhines divide into Lemuriformes and Loriformes, whereas haplorhines divide into Tarsiiformes and Anthropoidea. Within Anthropoidea when equivalent ranks are used for divisions within Platyrrhini and Catarrhini, Homininae divides into Hylobatini (common and siamang gibbon) and Hominini, and the latter divides into Pongina forPongo(orangutans) and Hominina forGorillaandHomo. Homoitself divides into the subgeneraH.(Homo) for humans andH.(Pan) for chimpanzees and bonobos. The differences between this provisional age related phylogenetic classification and current primate taxonomies are discussed.”

+ Toward a phylogenetic classification of primates based on DNA evidence complemented by fossil evidence

Atonement

This is already a significant problem for Christianity as it is. If the Mormons are to take Christs sacrifice as a form of atonement, you must ask how he is atoning and to whom? Considering the idea that Adam and Eve are already non-existant characters that apparently initiated original sin, then who is Christ atoning for to begin with? Let the good man Dawkins explain:

Sexism

Firstly, Mormons definitively believe women to be inferior to men. Perhaps more liberal minded Mormons may believe otherwise, but it would contradict the reproducing nature of their after-life and the purpose of women on Earth, according to their own Holy Texts. Bruce R. McConkie, a LDS leader, is quoted as saying, “woman’s primary place is in the home, where she is to rear children and abide by the righteous counsel of her husband”:

+ http://www.caic.org.au/lds/mormwomn.htm

Here are some direct quotations from the Book of Mormon to support sexism:

“For I, the Lord God, delight in the chastity of women.” ~ Jacob 2:28

“And my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, they who lead thee cause thee to err and destroy the way of thy paths.” ~ 2 Nephi 13:12

Past Flaws

Initial flaws in the church included polygamy, racism, financial secrecy, homophobia, and history revisionism. Mormons views on polygamy and racism has changed, but this is also in part due to their constant and frequent editing of the Book of Mormon. Of course, if it was the word of God, should it not be invincible and true? Why should the word of the immortal creator of all life and existance need a revision?

Marriage and Divorce

Almost all religions claim that their marriage, under the name of God, will maintain the integrity of the marriage. Mormons hold marriage to be even more significant as it continues through their mortal life to the after-life. Thus, Mormons must inexorably value marriage more than an Atheist. Furthermore, if the marriage is under the name of our creator and invincible God, what is the point of saying this if he does not contribute any integrity to the marriage at all? Furthermore, what about the evidence showing that Atheists have the lowest divorce rates?

Here are results done by the Barna Research Group, which is, ironically, a Christian organization:

“11% of all American adults are divorced

25% of all American adults have had at least one divorce

27% of born-again Christians have had at least one divorce

24% of all non-born-again Christians have been divorced

21% of atheists have been divorced

21% of Catholics and Lutherans have been divorced

24% of Mormons have been divorced

25% of mainstream Protestants have been divorced

29% of Baptists have been divorced

24% of nondenominational, independent Protestants have been divorced

27% of people in the South and Midwest have been divorced

26% of people in the West have been divorced

19% of people in the Northwest and Northeast have been divorced”

+ Atheism and Divorce

An additional factor that some people take is that education or attendance to religious events makes a difference in divorce rates and family integrity. However, there is evidence showing that this is still not true. While Atheism is not included in this study, it is evident that we can attribute Mormons with having lower divorce rates than most other religions, aside from Atheism.

“This paper examines religious differentials in patterns of family formation. When compared with those who state no religious preference, Catholics, Protestants, and Mormons are more likely to marry, less likely to divorce, more likely to remarry following divorce, and they have larger families. … These patterns are not altered when frequency of attendance and education are included as control variables.”

+ Religion and Family Formation

Joseph Smith is a martyr..?

The events that lead up to Joseph Smith’s death are controversial, but it doesn’t take much research to learn what happened. Joseph Smith was running for the president of the US but he, of course, had a lot of opposition. The main opposition was a group of people who produced a newspaper called the Nauvoo Expositor. The main problem people had with Smith, aside from trying to change the US to a Theocracy (clergymen rule the country), Smith was accused of practicing polygamy and having subjugating views of women. In response, Smith had the newspaper destroyed (bureaucractically). This censorship caused a lot of problems and lead Smith to be jailed, with his brother. They went willingly saying that they were innocent men and would let the court show so. However, an angry mob busted into the jail and shot them both to death.. many, many times.

So, many people consider Smith a martyr for this. I am curious how..? Let me just double check..

mar·tyr

Noun: A person who is killed because of their religious or other beliefs.

Ok, yeah. A martyr is someone who dies because of their religious or other beliefs. I suppose Smith is a martyr because he believed he waas innocent of polygamy even though he openly admits to destroying the main medium to try and prove this? How can anyone, in their right mind, think this is matryrdom? Furthermore, some will equate him with Jesus. Well, Smith certainly did not die in the name of God, sin, or divine reasoning. Let’s face it; he was shot by an angry mob of husbands. Do I think they were right to do so? No, of course not. But that doesn’t mean Smith is a martyr. In this case, I’d say both parties are dumb. My biggest problem would have been Smith trying to change the US into a theocracy. Imagine the differences that would have made and how the public responded to that.

➡ So… what do I say to the preaching Mormons on the street..?

Generally, they will ask you, “Hello. Have you read/are you familiar with the bible/book of mormons?” and then continue to tell you how it spreads love and peace. The thing to remember is that people want to do good and they fervently believe they are doing good by telling others how to love and join their community. You cannot ever expect to turn the tables and try to convert them. However, you can ask questions showing an understanding and genuine problems with acceptance of the religion. When asked if you are familiar with the book of Mormons, here are some genuine options.

Estbalish Joseph Smith as a prophet:

As a precursor, missionaries often ask, “Have you heard the good news?”. While they do not do so all the time now, or they have become exhausted from their folly, this is a common phrase. The good news will be that the bible has been restored and found. This is where we can continue to our questioning.

You ought to first reply, “Yes, but I first must ask, you do declare Joseph Smith as your prophet and inarguable author of the book of mormons?”.

+ No: If they do not, you can then ask who wrote the Book of Mormons if it was not Joseph Smith who translated it from the golden plates. Any Mormon claiming that Joseph Smith did not write the book must be full of shit or is trying to avoid looking like an ill-informed person. Thus, you can ask to look at the Book of Mormons they have on them and look on the inside covers for the signature of the witnesses or Joseph Smith himself. Usually the witnesses signature is there. If so, claim that this signature is in there out of necessity to prove Joseph Smith’s divine translation of God from the golden plates.

+ Yes: Continue below.

Ask about historical problems:

“So Joseph Smith translated the word of God from the golden plates that were left behind by the Nephites, as claimed by the Book itself, right?”

+ No: If they claim that the golden plates were not left behind by the Nephites, you ought to ask them where the golden plates came from. If they continue to disagree, ask them to open to the Chapter of Moroni where he, as the final Nephite, writes about how he and the rest of the Nephites are being killed by the Lamantines and thus leaves the translation buried.

+ Yes(1): “How can you believe that Joseph Smith claims that Nephites existed in America when there is no proof of it? Furthermore, they mention the use of iron and steel in 600 BC but even the Smithsonian Institute denies any possibility of this for extensive years beyond Smith’s claim.”

+ Yes(2): “Where are the plates now..?” This is an often controversial question. I would not personally rely on this question to go anywhere productive as they are most prepared to answer this one with the power of God, Moroni, etc. It would likely be derailed with the “what’s more important, the evidence or the beliefs” argument.

What to believe..?

You can pretty much say this to any religious person to effectively end a debate:

“There are many religious people out in the world claiming that they follow the one true God, that their holy text is the true one, and that all others are false. I’m not sure who to trust because I cannot tell who to trust is the true religion. How can you tell the difference without making a blind leap of faith that could be made for any religion?”

~

Game Review: Zombie Gunship

  • $0.99
  • Category: Games
  • Updated: Aug 06, 2011
  • Current Version: 1.1
  • 1.1
  • Size: 15.8 MB
  • Language: English
  • Seller: Limbic Software, Inc.
  • © Limbic Software, Inc.
Rated 9+ for the following:

  • Infrequent/Mild Horror/Fear Themes
  • Infrequent/Mild Realistic Violence

Requirements: Compatible with iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPod touch (3rd generation), iPod touch (4th generation), and iPad. Requires iOS 4.1 or later.

tl;dr

AC-130 from MW2 on one map shooting zombies with little difficulty.  Fun game as reigning death with a gunship is awesome, but get ready to lose from friendly fire… a lot.
Review

My first impressions of the game were not too far off from what it really is; an aerial zombie shooter.  It is very remniscient in the AC-130 of Modern Warfare 2 in that it circles around the map and you change change between weapons to fire down on the zombies.  I was a bit disappointed to find out that there is only one map.  I had expected more to it than that, but the overall jist of the game is that you are protecting the same bunker over and over again while upgrading your gunship.  You get infinite ammo so there’s no reason to not fire away at the zombies except for the civillians you can accidentally kill.  I guarantee you too that by the latter rounds, you will only be losing the game due to friendly fire.  You can only accidentally kill 3 in total and then it’s over.

It’s not a difficult game to learn but it is disappointing that it doesn’t give any options to the game whatsoever.  For example, I normally play with inverted controls, but it does not offer this.  There is no sensitivity options, varying control schemes, etc.  Perhaps in the future they will add these.  As of right now, it’s a pretty straight forward look around and shoot.  To change weapons is just a matter of tapping the indicators.

The graphics and audio are nothing beyond expectation.  If you’ve seen any AC-130 mock-ups, you know what to expect.  It does have two light levels which is really just switching the blacks for the whites.  The audio is pretty dull too.  It gets very boring so playing your own iPod music is basically a must.  There’s essentially no audio to this game except the quiet hum of the AC-130 and the occasional stock response of some guy, “Nice shot!’

I’m a bit surprised with the success of this game because there is little to it.  I think that a lot of Call of Duty fans have been suckered into it but it is not that bad.  The upgrades are pretty well varied for only 3 weapons; bullet speeds, velocity, damage radius, and reload time.  It will get boring after a while though as it’s monotony is only quelled by the addicitiveness of buying upgrades or, in some people’s case, buying coins.  To add to that, it is ridiculous that there is even an option to pay $50 for a butt-load of coins in game.

Edit: I got a few search hits of people looking for how to switch weapons in-game.  You first need to buy the weapons from the Upgrades menu after playing the tutorial.  You start off with just the 25mm and then work your way up.  Until then, you’re just switching camera zoom.  However, to do this, you just tap the indicator of the weapon type in the top right corner “25mm, 40mm, 105mm” and it will rotate between weapons/camera zoom.  Hope this helps.

Highlights

+ Pro’s:

– Novel zombie type game.  It’s cool to be in an AC-130 reigning death down upon anything, especially zombies.

– Varying upgrades. For just 3 weapons, the upgrades are impressive.

+ Cons:

– Monotonous.  Though most zombie games can get monotonous, at least most other zombie games have different maps.  This has one.

– Lack of options.  Though not a big deal, it’d be nice to have inverted controls and possibly other control schemes.  I think using the gyroscope would be a big addition.

Overall Rating: 7/10 – Good and fun, but nothing impressive.

Get Zombie Gunship Here!

Update:

I received this message from Limbic regarding control schemes:

Limbic Support, Aug-12 00:16 (PDT):

Hi Michael,

The next update will add an invert controls option! Stay tuned and thanks for playing!

Best Regards
Limbic Software
www.limbic.com

Update:

New map. “Bakersfield” makes it onto the game!  Ohh.. it needs to be unlocked.. Although it can be easy to get the 15k or killing just another 400 zombies (depending on your kill count, it seems), it’s still annoying to see another gimmick to spend money in their cash shop.  I suppose it’s a trade-off for the fact that they have been giving the game away for free.

Also, the inverted controls were implemented in the most lazy way; just inverting ALL the controls.  Come on.  Even the most veteran of inverted control players usually only care about the y-axis, not x and y!  But, sadly, there is no option for this.  Hopefully they’ll get it right soon.  In the meantime, download some deadmau5, slap it on the iPod, turn off the boring Zombie Gunship sounds, and have some fun!

~

Why Do Video Game Movies Fail?

Video games are becoming more profitable than movies.  Let’s compare some blockbusters in the two industries.  Call of Duty: Black Ops earned $360 million in it’s opening weekend.  This is twice as much as Harry Potter’s: Deathly Hallows Part 1.  Avatar is recorded by IMDB as making gross sales of $2 billion.  As of December, 2010, Black Ops has made over $1 billion.  I have not found a reliable source for current sales, but it has had 3 DLC map packs released since that date which undoubtedly contribute to it’s sales.  Hence, the two most top selling block busters of both industries easily butt-heads.  While video games may not translate their success well over into movies, perhaps it is because they are better off on their own.

The history of game movies is daunting.  Not a single game movie resides in IMDB.com’s top 250 rated movies or top grossing movies of all time!  The cream of the crop so far has been Tomb Raider: Lara Croft, Prince of Persia, and Pokemon.  It seems that the chedder is to be found in comic books, where even Elektra and Catwoman contend with game movies top grossing films.  Did I mention I’m still weeping from Final Fantasy: Spirits Within?


The one thing all us gamer’s think when watching those epic cutscenes in the greatest games is, “This should be a movie”.  However, we are almost always disappointed with these “game movies”.  From Bloodrayne all the way back to Super Mario Bros it seems that video games have always looked good in theory, but fall apart in theater.  Then, some amateurs sneak by with teasers of fantastic looking cinema but it never seems to go anywhere.  Or, we have a game with a very large market but too much conflict to actually bring it to fruition.  Why must it be this way?  Why can we not get an “epic” game movie?

Hollywood can learn a lot from those small studio teasers.  Recent teasers of “FindMakarov” for Call of Duty, “Landfall” for Halo, or “Rebirth” for Mortal Kombat are amazing samples that all went viral.  In addition, each of these has a large market for expected success!  These samples don’t have any follow up because there are simply too many varying parties associated with each idea.  Then the lawyers crawl in the door and our dreams of seeing these fizzle out.  

One can only keep dreaming of the day Master Chief or Snake hits the screen.  It seems that they simply could not fail with such a market.  Games like Call of Duty, Halo, and Metal Gear Solid have a solid market that they could appeal to – and they even make dozens of fan made movies!  These games alone contend with the top grossing movies of all time, but the success of game movies has yet to be transcribed onto the screen.  Perhaps there is hope.  For example, Drake’s Uncharted has a promising future with promising words from David O. Russell along with Mark Wahlberg and Robert De Niro.  I expected mediocrity, but can’t be any worse than another Mortal Kombat sequel.All is not lost!  It is interesting to note that Mortal Kombat has had a successful web series, hosted by Machinima on YouTube.  You can find the first part by clicking Here.  Here is a trailer for the series:

Perhaps the reason video games have not been making good movies is because the video games are so emergent on their own that how can a movie compare?  There is nothing like slowly edging your character down the halls of a creepy hotel in Silent Hill when compared to a movie.  In the game, you are the one that has direct control on when you are scared.  In the movies, you’re just an observer.  There is talk of a Mass Effect movie, which could be amazing.  However, how can it compare to the game?  The game has so much reliance on the players moral decisions in the game that impact so many other variables.  The game inevitably gives so much character depth and sentimentality with the player that a 2 hour screening could just not offer.  While I love the idea of the movie, I just feel like it’s got to be miraculous or we have to have our expectations lower.

Here’s hoping for Shepard to save us from more than Reapers…

+ Mass Effect Pic Created by Bebbe88: http://bebbe88.deviantart.com/

~

Homosexuality is Not a Choice

Too often the argument is made that homosexuality is a lifestyle choice and that anyone can overcome this “disability” with will power, therapy, etc. While I am not a homosexual myself, I have a fetish and I know what it is like to be inclined to like something and know that it is not necessarily by choice.

In this article, I want to look at the evidence showing that homosexuality is a physical determinant, not psychological.  Also, I want to show that homosexuality exists in other animals, not just humans.  Finally, I want to look at the actual evidence of homosexuality’s prevalence statistics compared to common perceptions of it.

Furthermore, while homosexuality is a heated debate, I think it is commonly agreed upon that the central reasons are backed by religious justifications.  I do not want to delve into that.  I simple want to look at the evidence of the matter and leave the rest of the religious implications up for debate.  Maybe in another post I will cover my philosophical position on the matter, but for now, I just want to look at the evidence.

Evidence for Biological Causation of Homosexuality in Humans

As per my usual approach, I am not going to offer conjecture like it is objective truth.  Instead, I will reference and highlight scientific journals with real evidence and provide links so you can see the rest for yourself.  If I do not highlight anything (like the one below), it’s because I’m keeping it short and to the point of the important information it has to offer.

Morphometric analysis of the human hypothalamus revealed that the volume of the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) in homosexual men is 1.7 times as large as that of a reference group of male subjects and contains 2.1 times as many cells. In another hypothalamic nucleus which is located in the immediate vicinity of the SCN, the sexually dimorphic nucleus (SDN), no such differences in either volume or cell number were found. The SDN data indicate the selectivity of the enlarged SCN in homosexual men, but do not support the hypothesis that homosexual men have a ‘female hypothalamus’.

+ An enlarged suprachiasmatic nucleus in homosexual men

The anterior commissure, a fiber tract that is larger in its midsagittal area in women than in men, was examined in 90 postmortem brains from homosexual men, heterosexual men, and heterosexual women. The midsagittal plane of the anterior commissure in homosexual men was 18% larger than in heterosexual women and 34% larger than in heterosexual men. This anatomical difference, which correlates with gender and sexual orientation, may, in part, underlie differences in cognitive function and cerebral lateralization among homosexual men, heterosexual men, and heterosexual women. Moreover, this rinding of a difference in a structure not known to be related to reproductive functions supports the hypothesis that factors operating early in development differentiate sexually dimorphic structures and functions of the brain, including the anterior commissure and sexual orientation, in a global fashion.

Sexual orientation and the size of the anterior commissure in the human brain

Later fraternal birth order (FBO) is a well-established correlate of homosexuality in human males and may implicate a maternal immunization response in the feminization of male sexuality. This has led to the suggestion that FBO may relate to other markers of male sexual orientation which are robustly sexually dimorphic. If so, among homosexual males the number of older brothers should strongly correlate with traits such as spatial ability and psychological gender, indicative of greater behavioural feminization, compared to heterosexual males. The present study failed to find significant associations between number of older brothers and these traits.

+ The association between the fraternal birth order effect in male homosexuality and other markers of human sexual orientation

Gonadal steroids have remarkable developmental effects on sex-dependent brain organization and behavior in animals. Presumably, fetal or neonatal gonadal steroids are also responsible for sexual differentiation of the human brain. A limbic structure of special interest in this regard is the sexually dimorphic central subdivision of the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BSTc), because its size has been related to the gender identity disorder transsexuality. To determine at what age the BSTc becomes sexually dimorphic, the BSTc volume in males and females was studied from midgestation into adulthood. Using vasoactive intestinal polypeptide and somatostatin immunocytochemical staining as markers, we found that the BSTc was larger and contains more neurons in men than in women. However, this difference became significant only in adulthood, showing that sexual differentiation of the human brain may extend into the adulthood. The unexpectedly late sexual differentiation of the BSTc is discussed in relation to sex differences in developmental, adolescent, and adult gonadal steroid levels.

+ Sexual differentiation of the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis in humans may extend into adulthood

Cerebral responses to putative pheromones and objects of sexual attraction were recently found to differ between homo- and heterosexual subjects. Although this observation may merely mirror perceptional differences, it raises the intriguing question as to whether certain sexually dimorphic features in the brain may differ between individuals of the same sex but different sexual orientation. We addressed this issue by studying hemispheric asymmetry and functional connectivity, two parameters that in previous publications have shown specific sex differences. Ninety subjects [25 heterosexual men (HeM) and women (HeW), and 20 homosexual men (HoM) and women (HoW)] were investigated with magnetic resonance volumetry of cerebral and cerebellar hemispheres. Fifty of them also participated in PET measurements of cerebral blood flow, used for analyses of functional connections from the right and left amygdalae. HeM and HoW showed a rightward cerebral asymmetry, whereas volumes of the cerebral hemispheres were symmetrical in HoM and HeW. No cerebellar asymmetries were found. Homosexual subjects also showed sex-atypical amygdala connections. In HoM, as in HeW, the connections were more widespread from the left amygdala; in HoW and HeM, on the other hand, from the right amygdala. Furthermore, in HoM and HeW the connections were primarily displayed with the contralateral amygdala and the anterior cingulate, in HeM and HoW with the caudate, putamen, and the prefrontal cortex. The present study shows sex-atypical cerebral asymmetry and functional connections in homosexual subjects. The results cannot be primarily ascribed to learned effects, and they suggest a linkage to neurobiological entities.

+ PET and MRI show differences in cerebral asymmetry and functional connectivity between homo- and heterosexual subjects

From the above studies, we can conclude that homosexuality has varying biological causation.  We know from the above that:

* The suprachiasmatic nucleus is a variable in sexual orientation depending on size

* The anterior commisure is a determining factor in sexual orientation; it is significantly larger than those of the opposing sexual orientation of the same sex.

* Birth order does not seem to play a role in homosexuality

* Sexuality maturates through adulthood and is affected by gonadal steroidal levels

* The amygdala plays a significant role in differing sexual orientations

Homosexuality in Animals

In male rats, androgen deficiency during a critical hypothalamic organizational period was shown to give rise to a predominantly female-differentiated brain, homosexual behavior, and demonstration of a positive estrogen feedback effect. A positive estrogen feedback effect was also induced in intact homosexual men in contrast to intact heterosexual and bisexual men. Thus in 21 homosexual men an intravenous injection of 20 mg Presomen (Premarin) produced a significant decrease of serum LH levels followed by an increase above initial LH values. In 20 heterosexual and in five bisexual men, by contrast, intravenous estrogen administration, while producing a significant decrease of the serum LH level, was not followed by an increase above the initial LH values. Using a radioimmunoassay, plasma testosterone levels and 24-hr urinary excretions of unconjugated testosterone of adult homosexual men were found to be in the normal range as observed in heterosexual men. This finding suggests that homosexual men possess a predominantly female-differentiated brain which may be activated to homosexual behavior by normal or approximately normal androgen levels in adulthood.

+ A neuroendocrine predisposition for homosexuality in men

While this article demonstrates biological sexual determinism in humans, it also has implications for animal homosexuality.

This study examined endocrine components of sexual orientation of male sheep. Sexual orientation of adult rams was identified through standardized sexual performance tests. Four rams that copulated with ewes, four rams that never mounted females and copulated with males, and eight ewes were used in the experiments. Exogenous estradiol benzoate (50 μg, i.m.) stimulated (P < .05) a preovulatory-like LH surge 16-22 hr after administration to females. Estradiol did not (P > .05) affect LH release of heterosexual or homosexual rams. Thirty days after the estradiol challenge, sheep were euthanized and areas of the amygdala (AMY), hypothalamus (HYP), anterior pituitary (AP), and preoptic area (POA) of the hypothalamus were collected. Occupied and unoccupied content of estradiol receptors (ER) was determined. The content of ER in the amygdala of both homosexual rams and ewes was similar, but less than (P < .05) the content of ER in heterosexual rams. The ER content measured in other brain regions did not differ by sex or orientation. In summary, results from these data show that the preovulatory LH surge mechanism that is a characteristic of the female does not occur in either homosexual or heterosexual rams. Conversely, the ER content of the AMY of homosexual rams is similar to that of ewes and differs from the heterosexual male. Differences in ER content between heterosexual and homosexual rams imply that the amygdala serves as a link for input from potential mates. These data suggest that the amygdala not only plays a role in sexual behavior but may be involved in sexual orientation of rams.

+ A comparison of LH secretion and brain estradiol receptors in heterosexual and homosexual rams and female sheep

It is evident that homosexuality is not exclusive to humans.

Prevalence of Homosexuality

In this section, I just want to look at some prevalence statistics and evidence of homosexuality in the face of commonly held views of it.  For example, if you took the media for granted, it would seem that there are more gay women than men.  Also, some people seem to underestimate how common it is.  While I do not want to delve into the dynamics of sexual orientation (ie. the Kinsey sexual orientation scale), I want to look at some statistics from the DSM.  I must note now that it was at this point I looked into the DSM to search for homosexuality and found that it has been removed since the DSM-III.  It is difficult to find statistics on homosexuality because the very definitions is debated let alone people coming out to report it.  However, I want to share some interesting evidence on their prevalence.

Although homosexual activity is prevalent among US teenagers, adolescent homosexuality per se has been a poorly understood phenomenon. The purpose of this investigation is to describe the meaning and experience of homosexuality from the adolescent’s perspective. Twenty-nine male teenagers, self-described as gay (79%) or bisexual (21%), volunteered to participate in a structured interview, the purpose of which was to examine the definition of homosexuality, the acquisition of a gay identity, and the impact of sexuality on family, peers, and community. The youths demonstrated well-established sexual identities by the consistency of their sexual fantasies, interests, and behaviors over time. Homosexuality was more frequently described as a general attraction to men (48%) and an indicator of positive personal attributes (33%) than as an isolated sexual behavior. The subjects reported strong negative attitudes from parents (43%) and friends (41%) toward their sexualities. Discrimination (37%), verbal abuse from peers (55%), and physical assaults (30%) were frequently cited problems. These stressors may place the boys at high risk for physical and psychosocial dysfunction.

+ Male Homosexuality: The Adolescent’s Perspective

This study above shows some differing perspectives that teens have about homosexuality.  I’d elaborate, but I think the abstract is well said.

A nationally representative study of the sexual behavior of men aged 20-39 in the United States shows that the prevalence and frequency of sexual acts (vaginal, anal and oral) and sexual orientation vary by social and demographic characteristics. Analysis of data from 3,321 respondents to the 1991 National Survey of Men reveals that 95% of men have had vaginal intercourse; among them, 23% have had 20 or more vaginal sex partners in their lifetime. About one-fifth of never-married and formerly married men had had four or more partners over a recent 18-month period. However, 41% of never-married men and 32% of formerly married men did not have coitus during the four weeks preceding the interview. Only 20% of men have ever engaged in anal intercourse. Among these, 51% had not done so during the previous 18 months, and 90% had not done so during the previous four weeks. Seventy-five percent of men have performed oral sex and 79% have received oral sex, although 53% of men who ever performed oral sex had not done so during the four weeks prior to interview, and only 11% had done so six or more times. The frequency of receiving oral sex is similar. Only 2% of sexually active men aged 20-39 have had any same-gender sexual activity during the last 10 years, and only 1% reported being exclusively homosexual during this interval

+ The sexual behaviour of men in the united states

While this above article only quotes 2% of men reporting homosexuality, we can find conflicting evidence in other sources, like the one below:

Researchers determining the prevalence of homosexuality in nationally representative samples have focused upon determining the prevalence of homosexual behavior, ignoring those individuals whose sexual attraction to the same sex had not resulted in sexual behavior. We examine the use of sexual attraction as well as sexual behavior to estimate the prevalence of homosexuality in the United States, the United Kingdom, and France using the Project HOPE International Survey of AIDS-Risk Behaviors. We find that 8.7, 7.9, and 8.5% of males and 11.1, 8.6, and 11.7% of females in the United States, the United Kingdom, and France, respectively, report some homosexual attraction but no homosexual behavior since age 15. Further, considering homosexual behavior and homosexual attraction as different but overlapping dimensions of homosexuality, we find 20.8, 16.3, and 18.5% of males, and 17.8, 18.6, and 18.5% of females in the United States, the United Kingdom, and France report either homosexual behavior or homosexual attraction since age 15. Examination of homosexual behavior separately finds that 6.2, 4.5, and 10.7% of males and 3.6, 2.1, and 3.3% of females in the United States, the United Kingdom, and France, respectively, report having had sexual contact with someone of the same sex in the previous 5 years. Our findings highlight the importance of using more than just homosexual behavior to examine the prevalence of homosexuality.

+ The prevalence of homosexual behavior and attraction in the united states, the united kingdom and france

It is clear that there is conflicting evidence in the prevalence.  However, it is consistent that that are more gay men than gay women.

On another note, some people claim that legalizing gay marriage would lead to higher divorce rates.  However, the study below shows the contrary.

According to provisional data from the Census Bureau and the Centers for Disease Control’s National Vital Statistics System, 5 of the 10 states, plus the District of Columbia, with the lowest divorce rates per thousand people (of the 44 states, plus D.C., that had available data) are also among the nine jurisdictions (a group that includes eight states and the District of Columbia) that currently perform or recognize gay marriages. Of course, states with more marriages naturally have more chances for divorce. But the trend also holds up when one looks at divorces as a share of marriages. In states that recognize or perform gay marriages, the number of divorces in 2009 was 41.2 percent of the number of marriages. In the 36 other states for which 2009 data are available, it was 50.3 percent. Remove the outlier Nevada, the state with by far the lowest divorce rate by this metric (16.3 percent), likely due in part to Las Vegas’s status as a wedding hotspot for out-of-state couples who may get married there but divorced elsewhere, and the figure jumps to 53.2 percent.

+ Divorce rates lower in states with same-sex marraige

Conclusions

My intent of this article was simply looking at the evidence of biological homosexuality.  I ought to note here the Kinsey sexual orientation scale.  This scale was used in Kinsey’s extensive research on sexuality because it was evident that people are not truly on extremes as imagined.  It is not the case there there it is simply gay, straight, and bi.  There is a plethora of evidence supporting this dynamic because it is a reflection of the dynamic of the human mind:

Kinsey Sexual Orientation Scale

 

This dynamic scale also illustrates the diversity in the biological homosexuality.  While it is evident that biological properties cause homosexuality, it is obvious that these biological properties are not clear cut and do vary in size, degree, potency, etc.  I imagine the differences in these biological constructs are reflected in this scale.

At length, homosexuality is not a choice deliberately made by humans.  While we can willfully deter this behavior and it’s manifestation in our everyday life, it is clear that it is not something arbitrarily chosen.  Furthermore, I liked to point out that there are more gay men than women.  Furthermore, embracing same-sex rights is related to lower divorce rates, something which many people imagined would be contradictory.

I am glad to see people are more accepting of the dynamic nature of the human mind.  We are not a simple coin that has only two sides with the rare middle.  Humans are a powerfully diverse and broad being.  We need to respect that.  We need to also respect that somethings are not within our choice, we are our biology.  You cannot will a sixth finger.  You cannot will a second head.  You cannot will additional arteries.  You cannot will lesions in the brain to remove characteristics.  I embrace this about ourselves.  Enjoy what you do have and respect others for who they are.

Edit: I found a great video with the same title

~

Why Aspartame is Perfectly Safe

There are a lot of people who say that aspartame is bad for you.  You can find people saying that a lot of things, in general, are bad for you.  However, I want to focus on aspartame without delving into the ridiculous details, origins, conspiracy, and what not.  Let’s just look at what it is accused of and the evidence.  After all, you should not just accept someones opinion, right?  It is always best to research yourself and check the evidence, including this very article.  This is why I provide references, so that you can check that what I am saying is not unsupported.  I am going to draw upon several online sources to share.

Claims

1) Aspartame is e. coli excrement

2) Aspartame is metabolized into aspartic acid, phenylalanine, methanol, formaldehyde, and formic acid.

3) Aspartame accounts for a significant portion of adverse reactions in food, as reported by the FDA

4) Aspartame causes cancer

5) Aspartame makes you fat

6) Aspartame makes children retarded

Responses

1) Aspartame is e. coli excrement

In some markets, aspartame manufacture takes advantage of modern genetic laboratory processes.  A plasmid introduces genes into E.coli bacteria; the genes are incorporated into the bacterial DNA and they increase production of enzymes that enhance the production of phenylalanine.  The bacteria produce more phenylalanine service as little living factories.  The phenylalanine these workhorses produce for us is exactly the same as phenylalanine from any other source.

~ Harriet Hall, M.D.

2) Aspartame is metabolized into aspartic acid, phenylalanine, methanol, formaldehyde, and formic acid.

It is the case that aspartame is metabolized into aspartic acid, phenylalanine, and methanol.  There are certain amino acids that humans need to survive and aspartic acid and phenylalanie are included in those.

+ What are the essential elements needed for the determination of amino acids requirements in humans?

Methanol is something that is regularly produced in several foods that we already eat and are unharmed by.  In fact, a cup of tomato juice has six times as much methanol as a cup of diet soda.

+ Proton high-field NMR study of tomato juice

+ Chronic ingestion of lycopene-rich tomato juice or lycopene supplements significant increases plasma concentrations of lycopene and related tomato carotenoids in humans

Formaldehyde is metabolized by the methanol leaving no formaldehyde behind.

Methanol toxicity in humans and monkeys is characterized by a latent period of many hours followed by a metabolic acidosis and ocular toxicity. This is not observed in most lower animals. The metabolic acidosis and blindness is apparently due to formic acid accumulation in humans and monkeys, a feature not seen in lower animals. The accumulation of formate is due to a deficiency in formate metabolism which is, in turn, related, in part, to low hepatic tetrahydrofolate (H4folate). An excellent correlation between hepatic H4folate and formute oxidation rates has been shown within and across species. Thus, humans and monkeys possess low hepatic H4folate levels, low rates of formate oxidation and accumulation of formate after methanol. Formate, itself, produces blindness in monkeys in the absence of metabolic acidosis. In addition to low hepatic H4folate concentrations, monkeys and humans also have low hepatic 10-formyl H4folate dehydrogenase levels, the enzyme which is the ultimate catalyst for conversion of formate to carbon dioxide. This review presents the basis for the role of folic acid-dependent reactions in the regulation of methanol toxicity.

+ The toxicity of methanol

To further evince the properties of methanol and formaldehyde..

Formaldehyde biodegradation by a strain of Pseudomonas putida has been studied. The results indicate that this biodegradation is initiated by a dismutation reaction, yielding as products formic acid and methanol. The degradation of methanol and formic acid begins after exhaustion of formaldehyde in the medium, and presents a diauxic pattern: first formic acid is consumed followed by methanol. Moreover, cell viability, which is affected by the amount of added formaldehyde, has been determined.

+ Mechanism of Formaldehyde Biodegradation

Formic acid is metabolized into water and carbon dioxide.  While high levels can manifest symptoms of toxicity (not severe), they must be high and accumulated.

+ Methanol and Formic Acid Toxicity: Biochemical Mechanisms

+ Acid levels control formic acid metabolism in bacterium

Aspartame, at the end of the day, is metabolized perfectly normally by the human body.

Aspartame is a dipeptide (L-aspartyl-L-phenylalanyl-methyl ester) with a sweeting potential 180 to 200 times that of sucrose. Questions have been raised about potential toxic effects of its constituent amino acids, aspartate and phenylalanine when the compound is ingested in large amounts. Plasma and erythrocyte amino acid levels were measured in 12 normal subjects after administration of either Aspartame (34 mg/kg) or equimolar quantities of aspartate (13 mg/kg) in a crossover design. No changes in either plasma or erythrocyte aspartate levels were noted at any time after either Aspartame or aspartate ingestion. Plasma phenylalanine levels decrease slightly after aspartate loading, and increased from fasting levels (4.9 +/- 1 mumoles/100 ml) to 10.7 +/- 1.9 mumoles/100 ml about 45 to 60 minutes after Aspartame loading. Phenylalanine levels returned to baseline by 4 hours. Erythrocyte phenylalanine levels showed similar changes.

+ Effect of aspartame and aspartate loading upon plasma and erythrocyte free amino acid levels in normal adult volunteers

3) Aspartame accounts for a significant portion of adverse reactions in food, as reported by the FDA

Here is a link to a search function at the FDA.  You may notice that the first result is a statement dictating that it is safe to consume aspartame.. nothing more about aspartame causing adverse food reactions:

http://google2.fda.gov/search?q=aspartame&x=0&y=0&client=FDAgov&site=FDAgov&lr=&proxystylesheet=FDAgov&output=xml_no_dtd&getfields=*

4) Aspartame causes cancer

Let us have the evidence speak for itself:

In 2005, ERF published new findings of a long-term feeding study on aspartame conducted in rats. Scientists from ERF concluded from their study that aspartame causes cancer and that current uses and consumption of the sweetener should be re-evaluated.

EFSA’s review of ERF’s study concluded, among other things, that on the basis of all evidence currently available to EFSA:

  • ERF’s conclusion that aspartame is a carcinogen is not supported by the data; and
  • EFSA sees no need to further review its earlier scientific opinion on the safety of aspartame or to revise the Acceptable Daily Intake.

Upon learning of the ERF study results, FDA requested the study data from ERF to evaluate the findings. On February 28, 2006, the agency received a portion of the data requested. We are actively reviewing the data provided by ERF and will complete our review of those data as soon as possible. When FDA completes its review of the ERF study data, it will announce its conclusion.

Since it was first approved for use in the United States, the safety of aspartame has been questioned by some. To date, however, the agency has not been presented with scientific information that would support a change in our conclusions about the safety of aspartame. Those conclusions are based on a detailed review of a large body of information, including more than 100 toxicological and clinical studies regarding the sweetener’s safety.

http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/2006/ucm108650.htm

Considering results from the large number of studies on aspartame’s safety, including five previously conducted negative chronic carcinogenicity studies, a recently reported large epidemiology study with negative associations between the use of aspartame and the occurrence of tumors, and negative findings from a series of three transgenic mouse assays, FDA finds no reason to alter its previous conclusion that aspartame is safe as a general purpose sweetener in food.

http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodIngredientsPackaging/FoodAdditives/ucm208580.htm

…In the present study, we analyzed these data from 197S to 1992 and found that the brain tumor increases in the United States occurred in two distinct phases, an early modest increase that may primarily reflect improved diagnostic technology, and a more recent sustained increase in the incidence and shift toward greater malignancy that must be explained by some other factor(s). Compared to other environmental factors putatively linked to brain tumors, the artificial sweetener aspartame is a promising candidate to explain the recent increase in incidence and degree of malignancy of brain tumors. Evidence potentially implicating aspartame includes an early animal study revealing an exceedingly high incidence of brain tumors in aspartame-fed rats compared to no brain tumors in concurrent controls, the recent finding that the aspartame molecule has mutagenic potential, and the close temporal association (aspartame was introduced into US food and beverage markets several years prior to the sharp increase in brain tumor incidence and malignancy). We conclude that there is need for reassessing the carcinogenic potential of aspartame.

+ Increasing Brain Tumor Rates: Is there a link to Aspartame?

There are some good reasons why people ought to have speculated carcinogenic potential in aspartame.  Take, for example, this article:

….In the present study, we analyzed these data from 197S to 1992 and found that the brain tumor increases in the United States occurred in two distinct phases, an early modest increase that may primarily reflect improved diagnostic technology, and a more recent sustained increase in the incidence and shift toward greater malignancy that must be explained by some other factor(s). Compared to other environmental factors putatively linked to brain tumors, the artificial sweetener aspartame is a promising candidate to explain the recent increase in incidence and degree of malignancy of brain tumors. Evidence potentially implicating aspartame includes an early animal study revealing an exceedingly high incidence of brain tumors in aspartame-fed rats compared to no brain tumors in concurrent controls, the recent finding that the aspartame molecule has mutagenic potential, and the close temporal association (aspartame was introduced into US food and beverage markets several years prior to the sharp increase in brain tumor incidence and malignancy). We conclude that there is need for reassessing the carcinogenic potential of aspartame.

http://journals.lww.com/jneuropath/Abstract/1996/11000/Increasing_Brain_Tumor_Rates__Is_There_a_Link_to.2.aspx

However, this is simply correlative data and is not enough to prove causation (as anyone ought to know about correlative data).  Because of this, there have been extensive research done.  If anyone is to be susceptible to bias research, it would be cancer organizations so that they could justify asking for more money, right?  Well, here is an extensive study by the National Cancer Institute:

Researchers examined the consumption of aspartame-containing beverages among the participants of the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study and reported that, in a comparison of people who drank aspartame-containing beverages with those who did not, increasing levels of consumption were not associated with an increased risk of lymphomas, leukemias, or brain cancers in men or women.

An increase in cancer risk was not found for the main subtypes of lymphoid cancers (Hodgkin lymphoma, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and multiple myeloma), non-Hodgkin lymphoma subtypes (including small lymphocytic lymphoma and chronic lymphocytic leukemia, immunoblastic lymphoma and lymphoblastic lymphoma/leukemia), or non-lymphoid leukemias. 

http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Risk/aspartame

5) Aspartame makes you fat

To examine whether artificial sweeteners aid in the control of long- term food intake and body weight, we gave free-living, normal-weight subjects 1150 g soda sweetened with aspartame (APM) or high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) per day. Relative to when no soda was given, drinking APM-sweetened soda for 3 wk significantly reduced calorie intake of both females (n = 9) and males (n = 21) and decreased the body weight of males but not of females. However, drinking HFCS-sweetened soda for 3 wk significantly increased the calorie intake and body weight of both sexes. Ingesting either type of soda reduced intake of sugar from the diet without affecting intake of other nutrients. Drinking large volumes of APM-sweetened soda, in contrast to drinking HFCS-sweetened soda, reduces sugar intake and thus may facilitate the control of calorie intake and body weight.

+ Effect of drinking soda sweetened with aspartame or high-fructose corn syrup on food intake and body weight

Diet soda’s actually work.

6) Aspartame makes children retarded

The preschool children ingested a mean (±SD) of 5600 ±2100 mg of sucrose per kilogram of body weight per day while on the sucrose diet, 38 ±13 mg of aspartame per kilogram per day while on the aspartame diet, and 12 ±4.5 mg of saccharin per kilogram per day while on the saccharin diet. The school-age children considered to be sensitive to sugar ingested 4500 ±1200 mg of sucrose per kilogram, 32 ±8.9 mg of aspartame per kilogram, and 9.9 ±3.9 mg of saccharin per kilogram, respectively. For the children described as sugar-sensitive, there were no significant differences among the three diets in any of 39 behavioral and cognitive variables. For the preschool children, only 4 of the 31 measures differed significantly among the three diets, and there was no consistent pattern in the differences that were observed.

+ Effects of diets high in sucrose or aspartame on the behavior and cognitive performance of children

Aspartame isn’t responsible for faulty genes.

Conclusion and the Real Threat

Those with phenylketonuria (PKU) cannot process phenylalanine fast enough to deter the accumulation of detrimental levels of amino acids.  This is why it is required, by law, to show that aspartame is added to any foods.  Those without PKU metabolize aspartame perfectly normally and science has demonstrated this time and time again.  However, the real problem is people committing hoaxes and lies in order to persuade people to join a certain cause or group.  All that this accomplishes, in the end, is a waste of time and money to spend on consoling these paranoid people.  While it is good to prove the security and safe consumption of food, aspartame has been the subject to repeated testing with consistent results.  Regardless of countless scientific evidence, it seems that post hoc ergo propter hoc is far more convincing to people; because one thing happened after another thing, it must have caused it.  This is simply illogical and I cannot express how often people are easily convinced by this reasoning.  If you drink a diet soda, and then later on get a headache, you should not immediately jump to the conclusion that it was the diet soda.  What about the heat of the day?  Or the food you ate?  Or the cavity in your mouth?  Or your heightened blood pressure?  There are countless reasons why anything can happen but humans are drawn to what is most salient.  Whatever seems the most obvious and convenient to observe is often what humans attribute things to.

I would like to think that the majority of people are smart enough to be aware of the flaws in their reasoning.  After all, the reason I am blogging is to make sure that I, myself, am educated in these matters and have a thorough understanding as opposed to pontificating my opinion as though it were objective truth.

What do you think..?

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Future Post Trends

Making a note here to myself about the type of trending posts I want to do:

+ Moot Series: Cover a topic and why it is moot, eg. Mormonism

+ Guinea Pig Log: Continuing logging significant events with guinea pigs

+ Why X Works/Gotta Respect: Discuss topics that don’t get a lot of attention, or ought to in a different light, eg. video game therapy

+ Psychology Myths/tl;dr: I want to cover my tl;dr like material, simplifying complex topics or breaking myths.

+ Poetry: Mostly original. Maybe some favored.. Have not decided on that yet..

+ Amygdala Story: Thinking of starting a working story to blog about.  I’ve been meaning to write it for a while, but I’m thinking now it might be fun to have an ongoing story I could write with..

+ Likely to add more later..

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Poem: Trickling

There’s a trickle of it in there..

In that exhausted smile

Everyday chiseling at your patience

Working in what wreaks of revile

It’s trickling still..

In your tender will

Every night in languish

Aching for a dream to instill

A fickle vision of aspirations

The emptiness contesting ambition

A fragment of vigor holding a world of trial

A trickle of hope, not an apparition

The leaves are not infinitely falling

The roads are not infinitely swallowed in black

A hand will grasp yours

So long as yours is not infinitely aback

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Left vs Right Brain

Left vs right brain concepts are discussed as though they are obvious rudimentary concepts within psychology. However, left-right brain psychology is not an academic concept and grossly misrepresents how the brain works.

Left vs Right Brain

➡ The Two Hemispheres Are Not Even Connected

What left/right brain concepts are reaching for is what is called brain lateralization. This term means that a certain cognitive function is specific to one hemisphere of the brain; brain functions being lateralized to one region. The brain has two major hemispheres and a brain stem. The two sides are connected by a few fissures but most notably the corpus callosum. Some sources will claim that the hemispheres are completely independent and separated with no connections at all.  This is absurd as a simple image search for corpus callosum will show otherwise.

Each Hemisphere is Entirely Responsible for Certain Behaviors

The next argument would be to say that behaviors are specific to one hemisphere; that they are lateralized. There is a lot of evidence in the scientific community and a lot of it will admit that further research might reveal lateralization. I have yet to find an article that actually shows lateralization but does shoe predominance, which is the next venue for debate. However, let us look at some examples of what I mean:

“We have found marked anatomical asymmetries between tile upper surfaces of the human right and left temporal lobes. The planum temporale (the area behind Hesch’s gyrus) is larger on the left in 65 percent of brains; on the right it is larger in only 11 percent. The left planum is on the average one-third longer than the planum. This area makes up part of the temporal speech cortex, whose importance is well established on the basis of both anatomical findings in aphasic patients ans cortical stimulation at operation.”

+ Human Brain: Left-Right Asymmetries in Temporal Speech Region

– This article, trying to demonstrate speech lateralization, shows a predominance of the left temporal lobe. However, it is still evident that both hemispheres interact in order to facilitate the function.

“Reviews research on brain damage, psychiatric disorders, and normal emotion, which has shown the importance of the right hemisphere’s holistic and nonverbal conceptualization to emotion. Studies of hemispheric asymmetries in psychiatric patients have suggested the importance of specific and apparently lateralized arousal systems in the brain that support the differential cognitive capacities of the 2 cerebral hemispheres. The operation of these arousal systems seems to vary closely with the individual’s affective state. Research on emotional effects of unilateral lesions has suggested that the hemispheres may be specialized not just for the kind of emotion but for its valence, positive or negative. Research issues and methods in this area are still at an early stage of development, yet it seems clear that further research on the lateralization of emotion should reveal how emotional processes are at one level dependent on basic neurophysiological activation processes and at another level intrinsic to the differential forms of conceptualization of the 2 cerebral hemispheres. (3½ p ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2010 APA, all rights reserved)”

+ Lateral brain function, emotion, and conceptualization.

– In this case, the study is looking at nonverbal perception of emotion. In this case, there is evidence that predominance is taken for certain emotions, but still interactive. Furthermore, the article suggests that further research ought to be invested in for lateralization, implying that there may be strong correlations, but not locality.

While these are the consistent results in scientific inquiry, there are some originating significant results that initially caused reason for thinking there is lateralization:

* Broca’s Area: This area of the brain, mostly in the left hemisphere, is responsible for speech production. However, it is now noted that this region shares a significant contributor in the right hemisphere. While it is predominantly in the left hemisphere, it still relies on communication with the right hemisphere.

* Wernicke’s Area: Dominantly responsible for understanding writing and language. This region is predominantly in the left hemisphere. However, it is now shown that this region is connected with other regions within the right hemisphere and different lobes of the brain (not just the temporal)

To further demonstrate this point, if a behavior is only relying on one hemisphere of the brain, then we ought to be able to separate the two hemispheres and have no interference in regular functions. However, split-brains often have significant behavioral changes, challenges, and debilitating effects. While split-brains can compensate for the loss and operate normally at times, it is definitely apparent that there are handicaps and distinguishing differences. Let’s look at some sources:

“Tested 4 commissurotomy patients (described in a previous study by J. Levy et al; see record 1973-11433-001) for ability to match tachistoscopically presented stimuli with pictures in free vision, according to either structural appearance or functional-conceptual category. Patients were given ambiguous, structural, or functional instructions on any given run of trials with simultaneous double stimulus input to the 2 cerebral hemispheres. With ambiguous instructions, appearance and function matches were performed by the right and left hemispheres, respectively. When instructions were specific, appearance instructions tended to elicit appearance matches and right-hemisphere control. When function instructions were given, left-hemisphere control and function matches tended to be elicited. In 3 of the 4 patients, however, there was a significant number of dissociations between controlling hemisphere and strategy of matching. (24 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2010 APA, all rights reserved)”

+ Metacontrol of hemispheric function in human split-brain patients.

– This study is looking at how split-brains problem-solve ambiguous situations or how they respond when given instructions on how to solve ambiguous situations. For a significant amount of the time, there was significant amount of challenges to strategic problem-solving.

There are further sources, offline, suggesting that memory deficits are obvious in split-brains. This suggests that both hemispheres are required for accurate recollection and short-term memory tests. Furthermore, split-brains have grammatical and vocabulary challenges indicating a dependent relationship between the hemispheres for linguistic operations as a whole.

+ Tramo MJ, Baynes K, Fendrich R, Mangun GR, Phelps EA, Reuter- Lorenz PA, Gazzaniga MS (1995): Hemispheric specialization and interhemispheric integration: Insights from experiments with commissurotomy patients. In: Epilepsy and the Corpus Callosum 2. Reeves AG, Roberts DW, eds. New York: Plenum, pp. 263-295

+ Kandel E, Schwartz J, Jessel T. Principles of Neural Science. 4th ed. p1182. New York: McGraw–Hill; 2000. ISBN 0-8385-7701-6

Thus, it cannot be the case that a hemisphere is completely responsible for such gross behaviors. If this were the case, split-brains would not have such significant deficits. Furthermore, there is a plethora of evidence demonstrating predominance.

➡ Okay so left/brain predominance

In this case, we can say that there are predominant regions for behaviors. However, we cannot let that exaggerate to locality or lateralization. It is definitively evident that, while a behavior may be predominantly functioning in a region, it is still dependent on other regions for complete functionality. As an analogy, a guitar may make music predominantly from the pickups, but definitely not entirely. The entire guitar is responsible for producing its sound.

At length, it is easy to see how left/right brain concepts come to rise. We must appreciate how dynamic and complex the brain is instead of trying to grossly mis-represent and simplify it. The brain is far more complex than a simplistic chart of functions to a certain side. If anything, the lobes of the brain ought to be focused on for their specific functionality, not hemispheres.

What do you think…?

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