Ok, so here is a strange but interesting little story. I was out in my yard just a little while ago, enjoying the morning sun. We haven’t had much sun lately, lots of clouds and rain. I like the rain, it’s good for the health of the land, our water tables, etc. I think I generally prefer the more diffuse light of an overcast sky, too. I still like seeing the sun every couple of days, though.
Anyway, I was admiring this small path I built in my back yard…large, smooth, flat river stones sitting on a bed of peat moss in which a bunch of Irish Moss patches are growing (can’t wait to see my path once the moss is fully grown in!) On one of the stones, a nice yellow colored one (the stones I purchased have a range of colors, from dark and light gray, to bright reds, to various shades of brown and yellow), was a fly. Just your average big-eyed iridescent blue/green fly. I poked my finger out over the sun, creating a shadow on the fly, and after about a second, it made a quick little movement to the sunny part of the rock. I kept “bugging” this fly for a minute, repeatedly covering it’s sun, watching it move to the sunny part of the rock again. Then I noticed that it moved again, without me covering it. I started playing around with this fly with my finger shadow, and it’s behavior became increasingly complex. Sometimes it would wait until I moved my finger, sometimes it would even jump rocks.
Now I became increasingly interested. This fly, this tiny little creature that 99.99999% of the time we don’t even bother thinking about, let alone ponder about, was showing a lot more intelligence than I think humans normally give a fly credit for. So I kept experimenting. There were a trio of rocks that the fly seemed to choose most often. The one chosen most often was the yellow stone I originally found it on. The other two nearby were a light pinkish-gray stone and a gray stone. The pinkish stone was half shaded, the gray stone was randomly shaded by the leaves of my plum tree. When the fly landed on the gray stone, it would only stay for a short while, as it would again be periodically covered by the shadows of the leaves. On the pinkish stone, it did not seem to like the fact that half was shaded. The fly’s affinity or preference was the yellow stone. A fly…with preferences. Once the fly settled down on the yellow stone again, I let it be for a while. When I had first walked up, the fly was completely stationary…it just sat there, soaking up the sunlight. Even after a minute or two of waiting, the fly was still expecting a shadow. It changed the direction it was pointing periodically, and every so often would preemptively jump to a new spot on the yellow stone.
So I started experimenting with the Great Finger Shadow again. Before, I had to completely cover the fly in shadow before it would move. This time, it would respond almost immediately once the edge of my finger shadow covered it. It would jump, then a moment later, before I could cover it, it would jump again. It was predicting my next move, and making a decision to preemptively avoid being covered by the shadow again. The fly’s behavior kept getting more and more complex the more I played around with it with my shadow. It would bounce around the yellow rock even if I only attempted to cover it in shadow once. Then it would settle down, but only for a while. It would jump from rock to rock, then back to it’s favorite spot on the yellow stone for a while. The fly eventually learned to look for the approaching finger shadow on the rock…I didn’t even need to cover it, as it scanned the radial area around its “spot”, it would see the shadow approaching and again move preemptively. Leaving it alone for a time, it would ultimately settle into this one particular spot on the yellow stone, however from that point on it still always kept a “vigil”…it would check different directions every couple of seconds for that very annoying encroaching fingershadow. 😉
This tiny little creature clearly had more intelligence than a mindless critter on wings that did nothing but barf up it’s stomach onto whatever pheromonically tasty thing it might be attracted to. It had preferences, dislikes, it had the ability to learn, and not only that, it had the ability to think ahead, and preemptively fend off the nasty fingershadow by moving when it first saw it coming, rather than after it had already been covered. I finally left the fly alone, however even after another five or ten minutes, it seemed to remember it’s experiences with the fingershadow. As the sun moved across the sky, the leaves that were originally only shading the gray rock started to shade the yellow rock, it’s favorite spot slowly changed…it hopped closer and closer to the edge of the rock farthest from the encroaching leaf shadows. Ultimately, it left the yellow rock entirely and moved to the pinkish-gray rock, which was now almost entirely exposed to the sun (the shadow that covered half of it before was now almost gone). Intriguingly, there were some yellowish-orange spots on this new rock, and the fly chose one of them as it’s new “spot”. A favorite color?
TL;DR; (This is just some of the thoughts that this little fly experiment stirred up…read if your interested in some alternative ideas and thoughts and philosophy, otherwise feel free to skip. ;))
Sometimes we humans think we have everything figured out. We model and calculate, come up with nice, tidy theories that explain things in aesthetically appealing ways that make us feel good. For a very long time, the scientific consensus on animals was that they only “simulated” emotion, only “simulated” the kinds of bonds humans create between each other, only “simulated” human-like intelligence and memory and affinities. Even today, despite the immense amount of evidence contradictory to the theory that animals only “simulate”, there are still scientists that adhere to that old adage, or at the very least, cannot accept the true intelligence of animals without having some undeniable scientific proof that animals are indeed actually thinking, feeling, remembering, and having it for each and every species. If a tiny little fly, in the span of a few minutes, can learn to preemptively react to a shadow to stay in the warm morning sunlight, and demonstrate an affinity for a specific color…how much more so do the animals we keep as pets or even consume as food have the same abilities…the same capacity for thinking, remembering…feeling emotion? Maybe we don’t really know as much as we think we do. Maybe there are still unknowns out there that need open minds to accept the possibilities of things we haven’t yet figured out, and even more important still…be willing to accept that maybe we’ve “figured” things wrong, and need to scrap our current models and revisit the drawing board to come up with new theories that better explain what we can clearly observe.
There are a couple other areas where I think scientific consensus is wrong. Another old “scientific” theory is that only meat is a sufficient source of protein. As the facts would have it, that notion was a simple lie put forward, however much with good intentions, in a book called “Diet for a Small Planet” by Frances Moore Lappé. While I am not sure that Frances actually coined the notion that animal proteins are “higher quality” or “the only source of good protein”, her book gets most of the credit for perpetuating the idea that plant proteins were insufficient for the human diet. With the knowledge we have today, which ironically is also the exact same knowledge we had some 40 years ago, we are now more accepting of the possibility that plants may be all we need. Back then, we knew that proteins are amino acids, our bodies break down proteins into their component amino acids, then reuse those individual amino acids to build the new proteins that our bodies actually require to function. We knew that there are nine essential dietary amino acids out of the 21 that we know our bodies use. The other twelve amino acids our bodies create on their own. Finally we also knew that plants contain all nine of the essential dietary amino acids, and in some cases, plants contain more than even meats. Legumes and dark green leafy vegetables often contain as much as 30% of certain proteins, proteins which contain all nine of the essential amino acids…that’s as much as the absolute best and most expensive cuts of meat (and more than your average cut, which usually contain more fats). Beans and broccoli, for example, are two of the most nutritious foods on the face of the planet.
(Tip: If you ever want to feel refreshed, cleaned and energized, go on a juice diet for a couple weeks. Juice up a few bunches of kale, a couple bags of spinach, a couple cucumbers, some apples, and a few sprigs of mint. In one glass of that juice, there is more nutrients than in a multitude of meat-centric meals! 😀 It’s incredibly refreshing!)
I went vegetarian several years ago, and the lack of meat in my diet has not resulted in any kind of malnutrition or adverse health effects. That made me begin to ponder the meat-driven diet of western society. Is it necessary? Why is a high-meat-protein diet still pushed as “essential”, when the eveidence, evidence accumulated by the millions of vegetarians in our country and the hundreds of millions of vegetarians in countries like China and India, demonstrates that a diet that is 100% completely absent in meat of any kind results in healthy people who can live strong, healthy lives, even hard-working lives, right up into their 90’s or beyond? I also pondered beyond the mere notion of health, and into the economic factors. What would happen if western societies stopped eating meat? We spent IMMENSE amounts of money raising animals for consumption as food…chickens, turkeys, cows, pigs, etc. The cost involved isn’t just monetary…we feed these animals grains, which for some of them is even an improper diet (cows are most healthy eating grass, not grain), and the cost of grain to feed all these animals we consume as food (or for milk) every year is mind boggling. The average amount of feed a dairy cow eats per year is 16,425lb…….and there are NINE MILLION dairy cows in the US alone. That amounts to a grand total amount of feed each year of 148 BILLION POUNDS, or about 74 MILLION TONNES!! And that is just dairy cows…it doesn’t count all the cows grown for beef. Beef cows eat hay or grass for several months of the year, and grains for the rest. Imagine if all that feed, which is usually grain although sometimes hay, were available for human consumption? What would happen to US food exports if we all stopped drinking cow milk (there are very good reasons to, as it’s one of the more unhealthy processed foods in existence due to homogenization…maybe another blog on this topic in the future)? What would happen to starving countries around the world? With BILLIONS of pounds of food no longer being directed towards the production of food animals, it would be available for human consumption. If the food was unworthy of human consumption, then all the land space used to grow feed for cows, chickens, and pigs could be repurposed to grow food that IS viable for human consumption. Maybe those high nutrient density foods like Broccoli and beans and whole rice. The what-if’s go on and on…and the only conclusion, if a pure vegetarian diet is not only viable but also healthier for humans, is…could we live longer lives with fewer health issues? Could we repurpose so much land that is spent in the wasteful expenditure of raising animals for food towards more efficient expenditures of growing food for direct human consumption? Could we end world hunger not with meat (as Frances claimed in her book Diet for a Small Planet), but with plants?
Another area where I think scientific consensus is wrong is the whole “theory of everything” concept. I’ve long been a fan of those sciences…quantum mechanics, astrophysics, etc. However for nearly two decades now, almost every time I’ve picked up an astronomy magazine or read about major new discoveries in space or quantum mechanics, I’ve been bombarded by phrases like: “…were shocked to find…”, “…were amazed to discover…”, “…were stunned at the discovery of…” Stunned shock, awe, and amazement. Are those the words you expect to hear from scientists studying the “hard” sciences? These are supposed to be things we REALLY understand EXTREMELY WELL. And yet…they seem to be repeatedly shocked and amazed at the discovery of things their theories did not predict. These responses to new discoveries again made me ponder…what if? What if the mainstream model of astrophysics and maybe even quantum mechanics were wrong? Are there any other theories out there that explain things that the standard models don’t, or are not constantly surprised by new discoveries? I was trying to research the specific reasons behind why planetary nebula form the way they do (in hour-glass shapes, like the Ant Nebula or M2-9) back in 2004-2005. I was unable to find any detailed and specific explanations of the exact cause from any standard-model centric explanation. There actually seemed to be an entire lack of consensus on why planetary nebula form hourglass shapes. It was during that time that I came across Donald Scott’s site on the “Electric Sun”, and from that encountered the “Electric Universe” theory…and I got my explanation. I found a complete, very detailed and specific explanation of exactly why planetary nebula form the way they do. I also found a very complete, but also very simple, concise, and even unexceptional model of…everything. The Electric Universe is a theory with the kind of predictive power that is utterly unsurprised by any new discoveries in space. As a matter of fact, proponents of the EU theory have predicted countless things seen in space…in our own solar system and far beyond, that are still “surprising” scientists who adhere to the standard model. The EU theory requires only one force, the electromagnetic force, to explain all phenomena, and therefor unifies all forces, achieving the holy grail of Einstein and modern day quantum mechanics scientists.
The discovery of the Electric Universe demonstrated that there ARE other explanations for theories that may otherwise seem well established, well understood, and otherwise “fact”. In line with Occam’s Razor, the EU theory is ludicrously simple and strait forward, based on forces we are intimately familiar with, requiring no fabrication of imaginary forces or forms of matter that we cannot detect nor observe (which, conveniently, completely eliminates the ability or, supposedly, the need to actually “test” them)…and is therefor most probably right. I’ve found it quite refreshing, to read about a theory and it’s predictions where the scientists are not shocked and amazed at each new discovery, where in turn they are actually predicting each new discovery. Where things are SIMPLE, and yet still logical. It does not 100% entirely invalidate all of quantum mechanics or modern astrophysics and cosmology, but it certainly brings to question a lot of the “facts” encapsulated by those theories, as well as the methodologies by which new discoveries are made and evaluated. Surprise shouldn’t be the de-facto standard response to new discoveries, nor should the fabrication of purely mathematical ideas that cannot be observed, and therefor neither verified nor refuted, be considered “science.”
What would happen if we applied the kind of thinking of EU theorists to other sciences? Geology? It was long thought (well, STILL IS thought) that earthquakes couldn’t occur on the western side of the salt domes in Louisiana, and that earthquakes are purely local phenomena that don’t have a broader effect to the entire tectonic plate system as a whole. Both notions are wrong…ripple effects have been seen from large earthquakes in the eastern Pacific regions…after 8-9 magnitude earthquakes occur in Japan or Indonesia, a progression of earthquakes ripple along the plates and cratons, diminishing in strength, within very predictable timeframes. An 8.0 in Japan can cause 6.0’s and 6.5’s and sometimes even the rare 7.0 in the US within 24-36 hours or so. Some individuals have actually been able to use this knowledge to very precisely predict, within hours, the location, time, and magnitudes of earthquakes in North America after large earthquakes on the opposite side of the world. The same effect caused earthquakes to occur in Louisiana, causing the collapse of the salt domes which ultimately lead to the 700 foot deep sinkhole in Bayou Corne. Our current scientific consensus told geologists, who if equipped with better knowledge with a more complete and accurate theory may have been able to predict the issue and formulate a plan of action to shore up the salt dome and prevent this disastrous accident from occurring, that it simply couldn’t occur. Yet…they did occur. Not only did they occur, they were predicted. Clearly, the scientific consensus is wrong, and should probably be questioned, if not entirely thrown out and reevaluated from the ground up (sorry, pun not intended) based on a clear evaluation of all the evidence collected, both historic and modern.
What other areas of our lives could be improved if we questioned our total, complete, and “infallible” knowledge of everything? Maybe all it takes is a fly and a shadow…
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Very interesting observations, Jon.