Monday, October 24, 2011

M-Brane - the Mailbag!

Once more questions from readers, and answers!

Q. I have a question I've wanted to ask for some time. I see 'Comments' at the end of your blogs but when I try to send comments they're rejected since I am not a "blog member". Is there any way to have comments anew, or is this just to tantalize us, or what?

Mary S. - Sacramento, CA

Not at all! I began Comments as soon as the Blog started up in 2007. Indeed, I welcomed them. However, within a year or so more and more snarky comments with no real positive contributions or elements were arriving. I decided at that point to allow for moderated comments. People could post what they would and I would moderate them and then select the comments approved.

Then, as the 2010 midterm elections approached, and I had been doing more blogs on the Tea Party, I began to be deluged by hundreds of the nastiest, most vitriolic comments one could imagine. These weren't just vile, but super-vile, with every permutation of the f-word often invoked. I grew tired of plowing through this vitriol merely to find one or a few comments that might be worthwhile to post, and so restricted the blog comments further.

I am now considering opening up the blog comments once more, and possibly by next month, maybe around Thanksgiving. I will then see how it goes, and if the vitriol overwhelms sane comments, will probably lock them down for good. Only blogs, no comments, nor any 'comments' headers listed after blogs.

This also isn't about controlling or censoring "free speech" but rather setting comment standards! I have no objection to anyone finding fault with any of my posts-blogs, but I do expect any responses that are negative to be done in a civil fashion, with concrete arguments made, not merely expletive-laden venting and ranting because one doesn't agree with a blog.

Q. I notice you have no Facebook or Twitter links. Any reason for this?

Steven D., Hagerstown, MD

Mainly because I don't want to be locked into any 24/7 reply cycles, nor do I have the time or inclination to be managing "friends" on Facebook, apart from the fact I have issues with their security protocols. My main thrust is blogging, about sundry topics, as opposed to rapid, condensed communications, which I see no need for.

Q. In your excellent blog on Toxic America, Part 2, you go into lots of details on taking supplements or avoiding certain chemicals. Are there any veggies at all that can be used to cut the risk of absorption of harmful toxic chemicals, say to prevent cancer.

Yes, there are several. Probably at the top of my list are raw green onions because they contain phenols, the best anti-cancer natural agent there is. I'd say eating about 3 bunches of raw green onions each week puts one in good stead to counteract the worst chemical effects. Indeed, I'm at a loss to understand why more Americans don't avail themselves of this simple remedy- the only objection being maybe their breath (onion) odor. But that's what dentyne is for!

Also high on my list: Broccoli and Brussels sprouts (both lightly steamed). At least each of them, eaten once per week, in conjunction with the supplements I listed!

Q. Thanks for the blogs on the economy! Can I get you to predict where the jobless rate will be next year at this time? - Raymond B., Texarkana, AR

My best guess, if the Republican austerity measures constrain the economy and no further stimulus is forthcoming to lift aggregate demand, is about 12%. And a new recession.

Q. I enjoyed the blogs on Sir A.J. Ayer's near death experience. But I understand that his physician actually said he believed in the divine afterward, contradicting his claim that he retained his atheism. What say you? - Rhonda, K., Madison, Wis.

A. Later accounts (conveniently after Ayer's death, so he couldn't challenge them)by a physician who attended Ayer, made their way into the media and asserted Ayer saw a "Divine Being" but conveniently omitted Ayer's own interpretation of what this meant. Obviously, no hearsay account of Ayer's words can be trusted - which is why Ayer's 1988 Sunday Times' recounting (especially the part about a 'godless afterlife') trumps what the attending physician surmised that he heard.

Or perhaps, the words he imputed to Ayer after he was long gone and unable to defend himself!In any case, Ayer under no circumstances provided ANY cover or fodder for believers to grasp on to. So, the only thing astonishing about the episode, is how Xtians have continued to try to use it to peddle their fulsome nonsense.

Whatever experience Ayer did have, along with many others, it is still true that none of these verify a REAL afterlife exists. OR a "divine being". Indeed the nature of any such entity in terms of reported NDEs remains obscure. We know that in the case of severe trauma & oxygen deprivation in the brain, accompanying neural breakdown, as well as the release of endorphins can incite such effects in the visual cortex. There are many many NATURAL explanations before one need invoke a supernatural one, and attending to these avoids committing the logical fallacy of "ignotum per ignotius" or trying to explain the not well understood by the even less well understood.It is ALSO well known that OBEs (Out of Body experiences) are often part of the NDE descriptive-experiential matrix.

More recent research by H. Henrik Ehrsson (University College London) has actually managed to replicate the OBE in subjects. As reported by Ehrsson huimself in his Abstract ('The Experimental Induction of Out-of-Body Experiences'):

"I report an illusion in which individuals experience that they are located outside their physical bodies and looking at their bodies from this perspective. This demonstrates that the experience of being localized within the physical body can be determined by the visual perspective in conjunction with correlated multisensory information from the body. "

This is more reason than ever to distrust ANY subjective claims, whether of OBEs or the NDE. It is also to acknowledge that even as astute a mind as A.J. Ayer's can easily be fooled by what his brain was doing, and in the absence of other empirical data, a whole lot of credulity ought not be invested! Ignotum per ignotius still applies! (i.e. using the most marginal speculations to account for the less well known phenomena)

Fortunately, in his Sunday Times piece Ayer remaned sufficiently aloof from his reportings that nothing exotic or supernatural could really be attributed to them.

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