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Friday, December 6, 2013

Sister Wives, Gay Divorce and a Chimp's Day in Court

From the Wired article linked below

 A little over two years ago I wrote "Sister Wives and 'The Next Step'..." about how polygamists were busy building on the gateway Lawrence v. Texas (sodomy laws - linked in the article above) built for the establishment of gay marriage.

The implication was, and is, that if gay marriage is recognized then polygamists will claim that their marital practices should be accepted as well.

Of course supports of gay marriage appear, for some odd reason, opposed to polygamy (and all the other poly's like andry).  See, for example, "After Gay Marriage, Why Not Polygamy" and "A Simple Point on Polygamy".

(Not that, in my opinion, the road to gay marriage was well thought out either.  For example, apparently it never occurred to anyone that getting a divorce might be involve a legal issue.  There are, in fact, no laws (or few) that support it so to get a "gay divorce" according to the article is a non-trivial matter.)

Turns out I was wrong about predicting the success of the Sister Wives.

The gay and poly blocks have apparently been caught off guard by yet another group seeking "rights."

Chimps (as in Chimpanzee).

That's right, chimps.

So while all the bickering and fighting and filing of lawsuits has been going on so that each special group can have its needs made into "rights" the chimps have been busy working on rights of their own.

And not only "rights" - but "human rights."

They are, after all, besides being cute, intelligent and thoughtful.

In any case the chimps are set for their day in court already as described in "A Chimp’s Day in Court: Inside the Historic Demand for Nonhuman Rights."

Just as in the precursors of Lawrence v. Texas chimps are wisely starting out small.  In this case for "bodily liberty," i.e., the freedom of being caged.

Of course, we can all see where this goes next.

I think the Sister Wives should be worried - the chimps may scoop their first place finish.

After all chimpanzee mating habits are certainly not gay or straight but instead fall more along the "poly" line of thinking from what I can tell at a distance.

I mean, gee, once freed of their cages there will be little to prevent them from practicing their on unique brand of "poly" openly around the country side for all to see.

Clearly its a race to the bottom.

Why not grant fish rights as well.

Deep ocean dwellers will, after all, deserve "bodily liberty."

While everyone seems quite certain that there is no "slippery slope" its sure is hard to describe this chimp-based turn of events as anything but.

Good thing for the deep ocean dwellers though.

(Hang in there guys, "rights" on on their way...)

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Epigenetics, Smoking and Addiction

Epigenetics is the process by which some trait of a parent is transmitted to an offspring through non-genetic and non-social means (Wikipedia: "...anything other than DNA sequence that influences the development of an organism.")

Over at National Geographic we see this article: "Mice Inherit Specific Memories, Because of Genetics?" by Virginia Huges. (You can find the original article here but you'd have to pay $32 to read it even though its quite likely your tax dollars paid for its research, content and writing.)

Epigenetics has been somewhat "out of fashion" for a number of years but this paper brings it back to the fore.  Basically the idea is that mice taught that a certain smell is bad somehow seem to pass this on to subsequent generations through a reproductive process, i.e., with all the possibility of social and environmental transmission removed, that transcends DNA, i.e., the DNA itself is not directly altered, yet the offspring still avoid the bad smell.

The article is straight forward and an easy read.

The same topic is also covered here at ArsTechnica.

Of course, modern science never stops to think about the implications of this.

What about a positive reward rather than a negative one (in the paper above mice are given a specific smell and a corresponding shock - the fear of the specific smell is what's passed on to the subsequent generation)?

Could there be, perhaps, a propensity to smoke, for example, based on a similar process?

By the same line of reasoning, again, as an example, your parents might smoke and indirectly pass a preference for smoking on to you, their offspring, through a similar process.

One might argue that there was a epigenetic reason for being a smoker (or drinker, and so on).

So your parents biology is somehow responsible for the reason you are now a social outcast.

Someone whom is picked on, bullied, and ridiculed for smoking.

Yet what if the very reason you smoke is biological - just like hair color, skin color, and all the other myriad of things that people are bullied for...?

Everyone agrees that its "bad" to bully someone of, for example, another race than your own.

But what about bully for epigenetic traits?

The mice, for example, bullying their cousins for fearing a certain smell.  (In this case you'd demonstrate the effect of the Nature article on one "branch" of the family but not another, e.g., one cousin is so trained but not another.

Now mouse cousin A can ridicule mouse cousin B for a seemingly unexplainable fear of a smell.

Now imagine how this might translate into children...

Well, actually, we don't have to.

We can see that those who smoke, despite decades of put down, ridicule, and "re-education" continue to smoke.

And, at least to my mind, smoking tends to run in families (and yes, maybe its all social), but the point of this post is that we don't know.

The mere possibility of epigenetics having a roll in the outcome of our children really says that there may, in fact, be biological reasons that people smoke other than addiction.

Of course, this could apply to many other things as well, drug use, drinking, abusive behavior, fearful behavior, the list is endless.

The point is simple: science understands very little about why things occur, yet, just like Facebook, is happy to assist in the bullying and ridicule of what may in fact be something over which an individual has no control.