Who owns your body?

Many people even today live under the yoke of very direct and brutal slavery.  We have recently heard the horror stories.

But this is not the only way slavery is happening.

No – this time, I will not go on a long rant about how coercive taxation is, in a very real sense, the state making an ownership claim over our bodies, but it hits close.

Different societies are built on different principles – and, depending on these foundational ‘truths’, the governance of the society evolves.  All societies evolve over time.  But, those societies which build their governance on things other than the principles they were founded on soon run into serious trouble;

After all, in order for a society to function in a healthy way, for the citizenry to be able to anticipate, understand and guide themselves by the rules of the society, it is important for every new law, for every rule that is enforced, to be grounded in this foundation.  I’m not sure if I am explaining this clearly, so, if I am making a mess of it, please, let me know and I’ll try to clarify.

What I mean by this is that in a very practical sense, for a new rule to ‘work’ in a society, one must be able to reason to it by starting with the foundational principles.

In other words, if laws are passed which are arbitrary – cannot be arrived at by reasoning from ‘first principles’, sooner or later, the governance will not form a seamless body but the laws and regulations will become a mess, some may even contradict each other and it will be upon the whim of the police and the judiciary as to which rules are enforced when…

Our politicians – in all levels of government – are busy passing laws and regulations.  If every citizen were to memorize every new law and regulation as they are passed, they would have little time to actually be productive…and the society would begin to stagnate.

If, however, each and every law and regulation passed could be reasoned out from ‘first principles’ (the ‘foundational truths’ on which the society is built), then the citizen needs not memorize every new rule and regulation:  these will simply be a natural extension of the foundations upon which the society is built.

One of the core – if not THE core – ‘foundational truths’ on which our society is built is the principle of self-ownership.

So far, so good – yes?

I own my body and you own yours.  You cannot sell your children into slavery or for body organs, because while a parent may be a child’s guardian, the parent does not own their child.  Each and every human being owns her or him self.

So, what are our bodies made up of?

Lots of stuff.

Some of our ‘stuff’ shares common things with other humans, some with all living things – and some of our ‘stuff’ is uniquely our own and defines us as an individual.

Let’s look at some examples of ‘stuff’ that makes us up – but which we share with some others.

Blood, for example.

We can, within certain defined parameters, switch blood from one person to another:  from one who has enough and chooses to share to the ones who need it.

Same with, say, kidneys and corneas and lots of other ‘stuff’.

Our brilliant scientists have, for example, found a way to take a pig’s heart, keep the ‘infrastructure’ but wash away the DNA containing tissues, graft a human being’s own personal stem cells over this pig’s hear infrastructure - and then implant it into that human!!!  Most brilliant, since all the DNA-bearing ‘stuff’ is that owner’s very own DNA, so the body recognizes it as part of itself and the immune system does not try to ‘kill this invader’:  something which, when using another human’s heart, had to be fought with anti-rejection drugs that had considerable and unpleasant side effects.

AWESOME!

Right?

And there’s all these new cancer treatments and chronic illness treatments based on gene therapies!  It’s enough to make one feel like we’re living in the science fiction future!

Makes sense that we will expect more and more gene-based therapies for our ills.

But, there is a problem with this.

The problem is that, in their wisdom, the bureaucrats who award patents have agreed with deep-pocketed corporaions to grant them patents on genes.  Both human and non-human…

Please, consider this very, very carefully.

For decades, the MD’s and medical researchers have warned that the greatest obstacle to more gene therapies being developed and used in the practice of medicine are – you guessed it – patents granted on genes.

Oh, it crept in gradually, like all the greatest villains in history.

First it was a human-modified gene in one creature or another which made it more suitable for medical studies – human-altered gene, it was argued, intellectual property rights…

Then it was ‘unraveling’ genes – doing the lab work to identify them and the role they played.  The corporations argued – quite truthfully – that they invested money up front to make this possible.  And they did, that is true.

But we must remember why patents were ‘brought about’:  it was a trade off. The ‘inventor/thinker’ would share the information with everyone else about all aspects in return for ‘exclusive rights’ on the item for a period of time that would let them make back their investment plus a modest profit. But, it was argued, one could only patent ‘products’ – not naturally occurring ‘stuff’.

So – how come patents were granted to companies on naturally-occurring ‘stuff’ like genes?

A bit of ignorance and a bit of corruption, I guess…

But, we now find ourselves in a situation where multinational corporations own the patents on certain human genes.

Aside:  this issue is explored very, very well in a most excellent Canadian Netflix show, ‘Orphan Black’.  Not only is the show brilliantly written and generally awesomely executed, it tackles this very question:  if a corporation ‘owns’ a ‘gene and all its derivatives’, and that gene is inside of you, do they ‘own’ you?  Do they have a legal claim on your children?  Your child is, after all, a derivative of your genes….

Please, indulge me in the following speculation.

A corporation owns a specific gene which is, say, introduced into asthma sufferers using a specific virus (as the genetic material carrier).  This engineered DNA (patented by, say, Corporation ‘C’) is successfully integrated into your cells, so that all the cells of your body have replaced the old, ‘faulty asthma-causing gene’ with the newly engineered ‘C’ gene.

Then you have kids.

Your children will have inherited the ‘C’ gene.

Do you have to seek permission to ‘create a derivative of the ‘ C’ gene through reproduction’ before you have said child?

Do you owe the Corporation ‘C’ royalties?

Do they have an ownership claim on your offspring?

As the laws stand, these questions have not been answered very well.

For example, courts have ruled that if a genetically modified pollen accidentally pollinates your non genetically modified crops, you DO owe the pollen’s patent holder royalties.

Really, do think about where this is heading….

After all, if somebody owns your gene – something which is in every cell of your body – do they not have an actual claim of ownership over you?

This is why I am so thrilled that CHEO (Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario) has initiated a lawsuit challenging the patenting of a specific gene-test.  OK – a baby step, but a very, very important one!!!

Let’s keep our eyes on this one!

Can Video games be used in education? – a guest post by my son

I removed the header identifying my son’s name and the class/teacher/assignment he wrote this  for.  The reason for publishing this essay is that I think it is most awesome and can stand on its own!  

            Video games. You’ve probably played at least one of them before. Almost everyone has at some point in their lives. Chances are it was fun, but maybe not. If you look on the internet, it doesn’t take long to find out that there are many people who love video games. If you haven’t really thought about them, you might find it strange that some weird form of entertainment has gotten such a huge following. But stop yourself there. If you really go down the rabbit hole of video games, you can see that they can be more than just cheap time-wasters.

 

When kids see games, most of the time, they will pounce upon them, because kids love games. What if there was a way to use these games in order to educate them? Then kids would see it as another game, and allow themselves to imprint upon it, something kids might not do for pencil and paper work. But how could you possibly get any educational value from a game?

 

Firstly, games can help you learn basic logic skills. This can be as simple as teaching a young child how pressing a certain button can have different results. For example, you could let the child experiment with a set of buttons, where each of which makes a different colour on the screen. After letting the child experiment, ask the child to make a specific colour appear. This can be extended into more advanced logic puzzles. In a game called Minecraft, there is something called Redstone, which allows users to create logic gates and make complex contraptions. People have made computers, calculators, clocks, and more by using it. This would be a fantastic way to teach logic gates. Have the students make RS-Nor latches, and contraptions to prove their understanding.

 

Redstone isn’t the only good thing about Minecraft, though. Minecraft can teach kids architectural design, how to manage resources (Making sure you don’t run out of food, getting the right amount of material to build something, etc.), how to read, allow a great form of expressing themselves, and so many other applications! It’s like LEGO on steroids, minus choking hazards and the pain of stepping on them. There’s even an official educational version of Minecraft licensed by the developer, Mojang, called Minecraft EDU, and it’s being used in classrooms around the world. If you install mods manually into Minecraft, the possibilities increase almost exponentially, as are mods to add computer programming, and more.

 

But let’s take a step away from just Minecraft. Games in general can help kids develop problem solving skills and wit. If you already think that playing chess (or similar board games) is great for children, you’re in luck. There are many games that are all about using wit, intuition, and problem solving to get out of a tight situation. There are games that are basically chess with different rules, such as Starcraft or Civilization. There are also many single-player puzzle games that make you think about how your actions can affect your environment and how to get past obstacles. Games like Portal 1 and 2 are great examples of this.

 

Some history games put the player in the shoes of a historical figure, and give you the task of making the same decisions the figure did. If well executed, this can really help the player understand why these figures did what they did, while if they just read a textbook that said they did something, it won’t have the same impact for the student. Admittedly, this approach might not be great at teaching specifics like dates or small decisions the real historical figures did, but it can put them in the right mindset.

 

And when it comes time for marking to see how each student is doing, most games will provide a much more quantifiable answer than other means, or at least a more convenient means to an end. It’s easy to take a look at how students are progressing through games. What stages gave them the hardest times? Which ones did they breeze over? Is there a central concept the student is struggling with? You can teach it to them, maybe walk them through one of the stages they are having a hard time with. Watch them progress again, see if they learned anything from your lesson.

 

In fact, there are some schools and teachers that are testing the waters with using games in the classroom, and you know what? Teachers are showing that it’s working! There are many examples of teachers reporting positive effects, and the usage of some games like Minecraft in subjects like math, science, social studies, and computer science.

 

I am not trying to say that games should replace other parts of school. No, that would not be a good idea. What I’m really saying is that games can be used in conjunction with the other methods to provide great benefits. If we can move ourselves away from the idea that games are only entertainment, our society can benefit hugely, as games have a lot of untapped potential.

 

Sources

  • Andrew Miller “Ideas for Using Minecraft in the Classroom” org, Demand Media April 13 2014, Web. September 18 2014
  • “Examples by Subject” minecraftedu.com n.p. n.d. Web. September 18 2014
  • PBS Idea Channel, Mike Rugnetta “Is Minecraft the Ultimate Educational Tool? | Idea Channel | PBS Digital Studios” Online video clip. Youtube, March 6 2013, Web. September 18 2014
  • Jacqui Murray “Minecraft in the Classroom Teaches Reading and More” Teachhub, n.d. September 18
  • Brandon Chapman “Video games could dramatically streamline education research” news.wsu.edu September 18 2014, Web. September 18 2014 (No, this was not a mistake.)

Judge Jim Gray – Judging The Drug War

Food for thought…I have never, ever, in my life indulged in illegal drugs – not even marijuana.

Why?

Because as illegal substances, there is no way of knowing if they are adulterated with poison….

But, I do think that ‘drug laws’ are an abomination:  they are an admission that we are the slaves of the State – if the State did not own our bodies, it would not have the jurisdiction to govern what we do or do not choose to put into them.

Now – aside from the ‘recreational’ drugs, there is another, to me, more important implication of drug prohibition and the related legislation:  the only people who can legally ‘prescribe’ medication are people whom the government permits to do so.

And these are people educated in government controlled facilities, largely funded by drug manufacturers.

This is a glaring conflict of interest.

I am not saying that every MD out there is in the pockets of Big Pharma.  Far from it.  But, the education they receive is not well-rounded…and there is no other field that competes against the ideas – or, indeed, complements them.

No, I am not saying that homeopathy and such are credible – just that the only things that get research money for proper scientific examination are in a very, very narrow field.

Let me give you an example of what I mean:  the ‘placebo effect’.

Currently, it is regarded as no more than a nuisance:  patients think they are getting medicine and so get better…even in cases of legitimate disease that is not just a figment of the patient’s imagination.  So, studies control for it in order to evaluate the efficacy of drugs.

But, turn this around:  if there is a way to ‘trick’ the body into healing itself using no harsh chemicals – why are we not studying this in the most rigorous scientific manner possible?  A cure with no side effects is nothing to sneeze at…

That is just one tiny little example.

Another one is from my own experience:  I have some rather rare health issues which most likely stem from having spent the first 13 years of my life 7 km downwind from a chemical plant in a socialist worker’s paradise (where the people who regulate the chemical plants – the government – are the same people who own them – the government – and there is no governing body over them to bring them into compliance with even the pitiful regulation they do have on the books….).  So, some informed friends did some digging in the scientific literature and found a precedent for treatment of conditions like mine.

Awesome, right?

Wrong!

I cannot get that treatment, because it is ‘not common’ and, whole a whole slew of MD’s I brought it to believe it would likely make it possible for me to live again a semi-normal life (no longer bed-ridden and all that pain), they will not prescribe it because ‘it is unusual’ and ‘prescribing it might make the OHIP – the government bureaucracy that oversees the MDs – suspicious enough to audit the MD who prescribed it, which would be too much of a bother….much better not to help me return to being a productive member of our society…

So – when we talk about drug prohibition, do keep in mind that we are not just prohibiting narcotics and halucinogens – we are prohibiting people from accessing legitimate medication needed for the treatment of real-life medical problems!

Because, like it or not, if I were to go out and seek health-restoring medications for myself, I could end up in jail for life on an ‘illegal drug’ conviction.

Not all drugs are ‘recreational’….but they are all equally illegal!

And that does not even scratch the surface of incentivizing police forces to focus on drug busts and the accompanying property forfeiture instead on preventing property and violent crime…

 

 

 

CrazyRussianHacker Tries for a Darwin Award (RE Dry ice air conditioner)

This is really quite amusing – it was just last night (or, should I say early this morning?) that I had stumbled upon CrazyRussianHacker’s channel.  Quite amusing – he is rather funny and some of his ideas are definitely something I’m going to try out when we go cottaging with my family.

And yes, I did see he had a video for a dry ice air conditioner, but thought the idea silly and skipped that video.

It seems that Thunderf00t did not skip it – and has some things to say about it:

P.S.  CRH actually has a video where he criticizes some of his own earlier hacks and shows why and how they are to be voided, so he’s probably open to constructive criticism.  Should be interesting to watch his reaction…

Evolution and HIV

The following videos are most excellent – but, if you have not ever been exposed to the language of ‘immunology’ or the latest theories in this branch of science, you may find the following few explanations useful.  Otherwise, please, proceed to the videos themselves!

Backgrounder:

Our body is made up of cells.

The outer layer of the cell is called a cell membrane.  It is made up of a waterproof ‘double-layer’ of ‘phospholipid bilayer’ - which make it very difficult for either water or fat-based substances to make it into the cell.  (A phospholipid is a thigie that is water-soluble on one end, fat-soluble on the other.  When they form a bilayer (a two-layer), they line up in just such a way that neither water nor fat soluble stuff can enter the cell through – which is why they are so useful in forming the cell wall.)

But, in order to live, the cell needs to exchange chemicals (like food and oxygen) with the outside.  In order to do this, each cell has some proteins built into the cell wall.  These proteins form channels that permit specific chemical reactions to occur – thus permitting the cell to ‘eat’ and ‘breathe’.

These proteins are not ‘flush’ with the rest of the cell wall – they form very specific ‘bumps’ on the surface of the cell wall that are unique to each protein…and each cell has a unique pattern of these proteins.

Thus, each different type of cell has a ‘fingerprint’ pattern of protein ‘bumps’ in the cell wall – that is how the body recognizes each cell for what it is and what function it performs.

Virus cells also have a unique ‘fingerprint’ pattern of proteins in their cell walls – and it is by this ‘fingerprint’ that our immune system learns to recognize them.  It then builds specific anti-bodies that check for this specific ‘fingerprint’ on the virus wall and if they detect it, they bind to it and eventually kill it.

Viruses are notorious for changing their ‘surface proteins’ and thus their ‘fingerprints’, making it impossible for our immune systems to identify the virus cells and mark them for destruction.

But, even if you are not educated in this field, the conclusion in the second video will make sense!

 

 

Thunderf00t: Guess how much US Gov. wasted on Solar Roadways?

 

Thunderf00t: Solar Roadways, a VERY expensive joke?

 

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