I was up way to late last night watching the 24 hour 'Twilight Zone' marathon on the Sci-Fi channel, which featured the classic episode 'To Serve Man.'
The Kanamits, a race of nine foot tall space aliens, with big light bulb heads and curious little goatees, arrive on Earth, and immediately start helping man. They appear totally trustworthy and full of goodwill. This idea is backed up when they leave a book titled "To Serve Man" at the U.N. Michael Chambers, a decoding expert, along with thousands of other people book passage to the Kanamit's home panet. Meanwhile, Michael's assistant Pat is trying to decode the book left by the Kanamits. As Michael is boarding the Kanamit spacecraft, Pat runs up and tells Michael she has finished translating the book - it's a cookbook!
Besides the fact that it was shot in glorious black and white and gorgeously lit, the show had oddly moralistic endings, which were themselves often quite twisted. Not too scarey to a saucer-eyed kid in 1964 who could still run to his grandparents sitting in the kitchen if things got too intense.
This all-consuming soliloquy reminds me of a classic line from the Simpsons, during the opening credits of the Clown's holiday special:
"It's a Krusty Kinda Kristmas. Brought to you by ILG: selling your body's chemicals after you die. And by Li'l Sweetheart Cupcakes - a subsidiary of ILG."
Which of course reminds me of the famous scream by Charleton Heston that 'Soylet Green is made from humans!' or, even better, the repeated attempts of an Apache-necktied Heston parody on a long-ago Saturday Night Live trying to get the phrase just right.
Back soon with a 'heartier' blog!
If you rob Peter to pay Paul, you've already got half the vote.'
'Many years have you have been snubbed and even mocked, your theories debased and reviled. People seem to offhandedly wave away the world of discovery you have achieved like an odd odor in the air. It would seem that tremendous psychological forces are interacting in peoples minds when it comes to change, specifically in terms of attaining concrete understanding of health. You scare people, they are not ready for the truth.
-Stephan (blog comment)
Truth be told, the last few years have been a painful, if eye-opening education in the reality of rent-seeking, the corruption (intellectual, spiritual and economic) that results when learning is wedded to bureaucratic authority and income. Competing with rent-seekers can be a wearying and scarifying experience and a note like Stephan's does a lot to reassure me, a least a wee bit, that I am not some type of evil lunatic.
Rent-seeking can take many forms. There was the time a major manufacturer of ephedra-driven diet pills, fronted by a sonambulent reality TV star, advised my via FAX that they had been awarded the patent for developing supplements based on blood type and unless I 'played ball' with them, they would issue a cease and desist order. Investigating the patent quickly disclosed that the source material used in their application was my first book. They were, in essence, using me again me. We rolled the patent back, but only at great expense. But what about people who can't afford to fight back against the well-heeled?
Rent seeking is nothing new. The philosopher Schopenhauer wrote of it almost 200 years ago:
'Now what in the world has such a philosophy as mine to do with that alma mater, the good, substantial university philosophy, which, burdened with a hundred intentions and a thousand considerations, proceeds on its course cautiously tacking, since at all times it has before its eyes the fear of the Lord, the will of the publsher, the encouragement of students, the goodwill of colleagues, the course of current politics, the momentary tendency of the public, and Heaven knows what else? Or what has my silent and serious search for truth in common with the yelling school disputations of the chairs and benches, whose most secret motives are always personal aims?'
The new USDA food guideline are a great example of rent-seeking. Witness how the major processed food manufacturers have pre-registered for the whole-grain bandwangon. The stuff was already produced, the advertising copy already written. And right behind them? The biggest rent seekers of them all, The American Dietetic Association.
Whole grain? Great! GMO? What's that? Oh, yeah. Don't worry! Junk food CAN be part of a balanced diet. Blood Type Diet? Dangerous! Unscientific! Read this pamphet on a REAL healthy diet (paid for by McDonalds Corp). Use our spokespeople in your magazine or TV show (funded by Kraft Foods, or Monsanto, or ADM).
The proposed Codex Alimentarius is another exercise in professional and corporate rent-seeking. Interesting dialectic going on there. As long as vitamins are medically useless and not very profitable, there's no need to regulate. As soon as a biological role or profit margin is discovered, they become a terrible threat to the public and must immediately be regulated. The difference to the public? A minimum three-fold increase in price, availability only through physicians (most of whom are not going to prescribe them), and sub-therapeutic doses.
Those Quackbuster guys are another bunch of self-appointed public guardians who are in reality world class rent-seekers. Talk about double-speak: By definition alternative medicines don't work, since if they did, then they would then be conventional medicines.
So what chance does a guy like me, with a puny idea like the BTD, stand against a juggernaut like this?
A pretty good one, if you ask me.
They can only manipulate to achieve their ends.
We have the idea.
'Every truth passes through three stages before it is recognized. In the first it is ridiculed, in the second it is opposed, in the third it is regarded as self evident.'
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:
Cool is a complex aesthetic of motion and interval, of tension and tranquility, of juxtaposition and coexistence, that has its roots in various West African cultures. Over time, it has been transformed by African-Americans and appropriated by American and Western popular culture, generally.
A new study seems to indicate that Tai Chi may reduce falls in the elderly. The researchers concluded that â€˜Improved functional balance through Tai Chi training is associated with subsequent reductions in fall frequency in older persons,' the authors write. â€˜Healthcare providers and clinicians contemplating fall-prevention programs for older persons at risk of falling should consider Tai Chi, both as a balance-retraining program, and as part of a multifaceted treatment intervention for fall prevention.'On of the main topics at ifHI 2003 was the link between elevated levels of a 'soluable endothelial factor' called E-Selectin, and individuals who are blood type A. In a nutshell E-selectin is one of several molecules that are involved in the adhesion of certain white blood cells to the artery wall, typically as a result of inflammation. Higher levels of E-selectin may contribute to the overall greater levels of heart disease seen in type A individuals.
New research indicates (again) that a 'western' level of red meat consumption results in increased levels of E-selectin. Also worth noting is that the artery inflammation caused by E-selectin is greatly enhanced by elevated levels of other blood clotting factors (Factor VIII, von Willebrand Factor) which can be up to 25% lower in normal, healthy, type O individuals when compared to type A.
E-selectin levels drop with a vegetable based diet. so if you're type A an think you need to do Atkins or Paleo, think again. You may well wind up cooking your arteries.
I was going through the logs of the referrer program last night. This is the script that allows visitors to refer a friend to the website by just plunking in their email and a short message. How many of these messages were from dads concerned about a child (â€˜Hey Sweety, this may help. Look's interesting. Love Dad') or friends who found the site and knew of others on the program (â€˜Hey Ginnie, this is the diet Betty is on!')
I scrolled through pages and pages of these quick, helpful notes and perhaps because I have been re-reading Dawkin's The Selfish Gene I got to thinking about his concept of a meme.
For those who have never heard of the concept, at its simplest, a meme (rhymes with dream) is an idea. Any idea. It is simply something that gets stuck in the human mind.
Dawkins described memes thusly:
Examples of memes are tunes, ideas, catch-phrases, clothes fashions, ways of making pots or of building arches. Just as genes propagate themselves in the gene pool by leaping from body to body via sperms or eggs, so memes propagate themselves in the meme pool by leaping from brain to brain via a process which, in the broad sense, can be called imitation. If a scientist hears, or reads about, a good idea, he passed it on to his colleagues and students. He mentions it in his articles and his lectures. If the idea catches on, it can be said to propagate itself, spreading from brain to brain.
You can think of a meme as a sort of 'thought replicator' stored in our human brains and passed on by the imitation of others. Some memes are helpful, others can be harmful. For example if you pulled up to a man on the side of the road that looked like a policemen, you might expect directions to a particular location to be accurate. However, people can simply walk into a uniform store and buy a policeman's uniform.
Some people may see a connection with memes to brain washing or thought manipulation, but that would not the case in anything but a tiny fraction. Most memes are passed along as a desire to inform, assist, or make a special statement about ourselves.
Our minds are not a blank slate on which any idea can be impressed. To be understood, a new meme must connect to the values and process that are already available to the individual. In addition one must also be willing to believe it or to take it serious. For example, although you are likely to understand the proposition that cartoon animals can talk with each other, you are unlikely to accept the proposition that this occurs in the real world without very strong evidence. Therefore, you will not add it to your â€˜information base' on animal characteristics. The cartoon meme will not manage to change your view on the subject.
The columnists and bloggers have been effective meme vehicles for the Blood Type Diet. A great example of the meme effect is Cheryl Hendrix's blog First Do No Harm where she writes of an interaction which allowed her to instruct an uninformed individual on another diet board about the low quality of most internet reviews of the Blood Type Diet. Another is Suzanne Graham's blog about her difficulties with the food pyramid.
Some writers think there are two basic types of memes: procedural and propagative. For example, when I successfully communicate an idea or application of the Blood Type Diet to you, I've spread a 'BTD procedural meme.' The BTD procedural meme then becomes widespread if it provides some benefit, like increasing the diet's effectiveness, or explaining things better, etc. When you in turn recommend the diet of the website to a friend, or discuss it with a co-worker, you in turn spread the 'BTD propagational meme.'
A good meme, like a good virus, will have special characteristics that insure continued growth. Without them, they eventually die. I've included a few here, with special reference to the Blood Type Diet.
Fidelity: The ability to maintain accuracy and correct errors to maintain integrity. I think the BTD does a good job here, as it has continued to generate a reassuring richness and complexity of material, but is as changeable and adaptable as needed. A good example is the addition of the secretor information to the basic ABO types that occurred with the publication of Live Right 4 Your Type.
Fecundity: The fertility of the idea. The ease by which an idea it spawns itself. At least to me, this appears to be by and large culturally dependent. For example, when I first began practicing in the early 1980's there was little to no public or media interest in nutrition. Until that began to change, ideas about diets had no real place in the daily dialogue. 'Cultural relevance' is probably a critical aspect of meme fecundity.
Longevity: To me, the longevity of an idea is related to how relevant it continues to be, as its meme is passed to newcomers and future generations. In the case of the BTD, one could argue that its best days are still ahead of it, since it will almost certainly benefit from the impending paradigm shift in nutrition that will occur over the next ten years --the nutrigenomics revolution-- and the growing frustration over one-size-fits-all diets. There are several good examples of the BTD's longevity. A simple capitalistic one is the fact that my first book, written almost ten years ago, is still in hardcover. Another is the belief of many on the program, that this is a diet for life. Individuals who have been on the diet for 5, 7 or 8 years -- a tremendous meme pool, are filling out prospective blogger applications. Consider the life cycle of the average low carb diet book. It usually takes off with a period of stupendous sales, and then slumps as a newer version takes its place. Remember Sugar Busters?
Co-adaption: Effective memes tend to thrive in the company of other replicators that compliment them. I'm not certain that we do well in this department. For example, the â€˜Blood Type Diet Meme' should be expected to do well with the â€˜Naturopathic Medicine Meme' since they both address issues of innate healing and individualized treatment. However, not all naturopaths see the BTD as being as â€˜naturopathic' per se as perhaps a universal vegetarian diet. Also since the diet suggests a place for both a plant based or animal based diet, it tends to be criticized by advocates of the exclusive use of one or the other.
Right after the Oprah article came out I was deluged with comments suggesting I write the magazine and address the mistakes that the panel of experts had made in their description of the diet. After putting this off for a few days, I finally sat at the computer and diligently tried to accomplish this task. It was then I remembered that I had never actually read the Oprah article (I've pretty much stopped reading popular depictions of my work). At that point writing the letter began to feel like a 200-pound weight around my neck. Plus the more I thought about it, the more bored I became with the whole exercise. Finally I just lost interest and gave up.
Not a great example of meme propagation, but I am trying to be honest about it.
Now as time passes I am coming to understand why this apparently simple task was so profoundly debilitating to me: The 'Write Oprah Magazine Meme*' is not my meme.
* The more analytical in the crowd may have noticed that this statement about who owns the 'Write Oprah Magazine Meme' is in itself a meme.
Image copyright 1984-2004 Apple Computer Corp. You can see the complete Macintosh '1984' clip at http://www.apple.com/hardware/ads/1984/1984_480.html
The Internet site The Edge recently asked a few hundred deep thinkers "What's your law?â€? I liked Eberhard Zangger's two laws.
Zangger's First Law
Most scientific breakthroughs are nothing else than the discovery of the obvious.
Zangger's Second Law
Truly great science is always ahead of its time.
As examples, he gives:
The Hungarian surgeon Ignaz Semmelweiss in 1847 reduced the death rate in his hospital from twelve to two percent, simply by washing hands between operations -- a concept that today would be advocated by a four year old child. When Semmelweiss urged his colleagues to introduce hygiene to the operating rooms, they had him committed to a mental hospital where he eventually died.
The German meteorologist Alfred Wegener discovered in 1913 what every ten year old looking at a globe will notice immediately: That the Atlantic coasts of the African and South American continents have matching contours and thus may have been locked together some time ago. The experts needed sixty more years to comprehend the concept.
Heinrich Schliemann's excavation of Bronze Age Mycenae and Tiryns in Greece was considered by English archaeologists in The Times' as the remains of some obscure barbarian tribe' from the Byzantine period. In particular, the so-called prehistoric palace in Tiryns was labelled "the most remarkable hallucination of an unscientific enthusiast that has ever appeared in literature."
The theories of the Austrian psychiatrist Sigmund Freud were called "a case for the police" during a neurologists' congress in Hamburg in 1910.
I know it is probably just auto-suggestion, but I take solace from this sort of stuff.