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November 24, 2012

What's in a Name?

Man’s innate curiosity about his origins can be inferred from evidence that religious beliefs were held by most, if not all, aboriginal humans yet encountered. Aborigines, a term used by early British explorers for native Australians, has now become generic for the earliest inhabitants of any newly discovered region. Theoretically it would have been more accurate than "Indians" for the humans Columbus discovered on Hispaniola in 1492. They have been belatedly renamed Native Americans, so I doubt there's much interest in renaming them yet again, especially among American Indians themselves.

Be that as it may, the recent discovery through DNA evidence, that today's "Native Australians" had probably descended from the first anatomically modern humans to leave Africa is well-accepted by believers in Evolution, who also agree generally that humans were the latest species to have evolved from a line of approximately 22 separate hominids, at least one of which, Neanderthals, preceded our ancestors out of Africa, but are now extinct. Fossil evidence indicates that the original Neanderthal's range was influenced by glaciation, but they had at least reached northern Europe and the Middle East before disappearing. Also, the degree to which they may have shared genetic material with modern humans is both controversial and under investigation. However, there is no 'Neanderthal Now!' movement that I'm aware of.

Thus human history can be considered as beginning with our speciation, a process generally recognized by scientists, but not by the creationists who deny that evolution even took place and hold that all life forms were individually created by a supreme deity.

That intense disagreement between religious beliefs and Science is still a major problem for our modern world is painfully evident from the continued hostile exchanges between Muslims and those they consider infidels, now expressed most openly in the Middle East, but extant everywhere. I was reminded of similar intense disagreements this morning after tuning in to CNN in the midst of an animated discussion between CNN reporter Randi Kaye and “Science Guy” Bill Nye. Kaye was challenging Nye's oft expressed view that the teaching of “creationism” in American public schools impedes the understanding of science by young people and thus works against our best interests. I couldn’t agree more, but also understand there are certain “third rail” ideas still avoided on television as a matter of course. Marijuana legalization, just approved by voters in two states, has long been such an issue.

It suddenly occurred to me that my fellow Cornell alum could be a great asset for the cause of federal legalization of pot if he would use his impeccable logic to lobby for an idea that has been even more effectively demonized than atheism by doctrinaire Republicans.

Whether one would call our drug war a policy of "enforced ignorance" or "enforced stupidity" is essentially moot because my clinical study of cannabis applicants has convinced me that it's safe and effective therapy; Also that the idea it can’t possibly be considered medicine is so biased and bereft of scientific support that it impugns the intellectual competence of its most adamant supporters.

I don't know if my fellow Cornell alum Bill Nye, ever used pot, but I'm so confident that if he knew the facts, he'd support both its medical use and legalization and add also add the persuasion of US government policy supporters to creationists as targets to be persuaded.

The factual battle over the medical benefits of cannabis would be over if available data could be pulled together and receive honest scrutiny. The political problem might also be reduced dramatically by appealing to the present occupant of the White House to rethink his adolescent toking in light of the benefits it has provided to people similarly deprived of parenting from their biological fathers. Finally, legalization of cannabis should be attainable within the four year window provided by re-election to a second term.

PS: after a bit more digging, I found out what had probably set Nye off. It's so gross even I find it hard to believe; also too complex for inclusion in an already complex entry. Rather than try to do that, I'll save it for next time.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at November 24, 2012 06:46 PM