Race, Identity, Politics, History, and misuse of ‘science’

I just finished reading an op-ed by Aaron Hanlon, Assistant Professor of English at Colby College, that was not only well written and relevant to what we are currently seeing take place in the United States, but is interesting and drives home an important message.  The article can be found here:   The use of dubious science to defend racism is as old as the Founding Fathers.

Over the years, I have had many conversations with racist people (in my case they were all from a much older generation), who always liked to throw up “well that’s how it was when I grew up and it was no big deal,” or some other nonsense about some pocket of society making all this up or trying to stir the pot, or political correctness, or it doesn’t happen where I live so it’s not true, etc.  The simple truth is that this manner of thinking, and continuing to raise the younger generations with this manner of thinking, is a huge part of the problem.  It perpetuates hatred towards others who don’t look or act the same or have the exact same beliefs.  Just because that is how people acted or thought years ago does not make it acceptable.  And continuing to go along with this thinking is most definitely not ok.

As someone who has an extensive background in the sciences – including biology, chemistry, genetics, medicine, and so on – and in the humanities, what I can tell you without a doubt is this:  we are all created equally; we all start out the same, we live, and we die.  Sure, we all have different outward physical characteristics, but by no means does this make anyone superior or inferior.  Genetically and medically speaking, we are comprised of the same building blocks, share the same genome (just in variation, which makes us each unique), and all look the same inside (trust me, I successfully completed gross anatomy and we dissected people from all across the board).  How someone looks on the outside is absolutely no indication of what they are capable of physically, intellectually, or creatively.

What make us different are our life experiences, what we “are born into,” our personalities, and our strengths and weaknesses.  Just because I’m not as good as you at something does not mean I am inferior, it just means that is not one of my strengths; in fact, I am pretty positive there is something I can do better than you.  This is what makes life interesting and brings us all together.  If we were all perfect at everything, then life would be pretty boring and it would be difficult to learn from each other, which is one of the great parts of life.  The sad truth is that there are many people who never have the opportunity to reach their full potential.  This is largely because of what some people are born into; whether it’s country, state, poverty, or lack of resources, unfortunately, some are stuck by consequence.  For various reasons, not everyone is able to break this cycle; only a few do.  Privilege makes it much easier to “succeed” in life.  Throughout history, we see the vicious cycles of poverty vs. privilege and that is the sole reason why some people do better and have more.

So, I guess what I’m trying to get at here is this – rather than going along with an idea that “well that’s how I was raised,” or “that’s how people around me act,” think for yourself, and look outside the box.  If the manner of thinking by those around you requires you to look down on others based on race/color, nationality, creed, sexuality, gender, or any other characteristic, start questioning why, and don’t stop.  Try to look beyond and understand that this is not alright.  Try to realize that maybe you have more “success” than someone else because maybe you were born into a better situation and were therefore better able to take advantage of opportunities.  Sure, some do get out of their circumstances, but not everyone is able to.  Try to educate yourself and know that oppression does still exist all over the world (including in America), and work towards a solution to finally get everyone on equal footing.  Use common sense – if you think we’re all equal, then question why large groups of people live so differently from one another.  Instead of judging, reach out your hand to help others realize and reach their full potential.  And help out those in need – you never know who may be the next Einstein, Mozart, Picasso, or great leader of the world, and they just need a little boost to get there.

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Today’s Quotes

“All men are our brothers.  As far as the discovery of the truth is concerned, they are all working for the same purpose; they may be separated by the accidents of space and time, and by the exigencies of race, religion, nationality, and other groupings; from the point of view of eternity they are working together.”

“If we are generous enough, we can stretch our souls everywhere and everywhen else.  If we succeed in doing so, we shall discover that our present embraces the past and the future and that the whole world is our province.”

“A deed happens in a definite place at a definite time, but if it be sufficiently great and pregnant, its virtue radiates everywhere in time and space.”

~George Sarton, 1884 – 1956

Today’s Random Science Fact

Atomic Emission Spectra

The discontinuous line spectra of light produced when excited atoms return to their ground state and emit photons of a certain frequency.

Each atom has a specific energy difference which in turn produces different radiated wavelengths, which equals it’s emission spectrum.  Since each element has a unique emission spectrum, elements of an unknown composition can by identified via atomic emission spectroscopy (AES).  This technique is commonly used in labs for several purposes, including the regulation of alkali metals for pharmaceuticals, quality control in metal casting and foundry facilities, and in the chemical analysis of substances.

The science behind atomic emission is also utilized in the creation of neon signs.

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Today’s Quotes

Three quotes from a photographer whom I admire:

“From the very beginning of recorded time all the great civilisations of our world have believed in ghosts and the supernatural in some form or other.  These are ancient mysteries and to dismiss them is to deny ourselves that arcane knowledge of the past that has ultimately fashioned our lives.  For wherever we may stand on no matter which particular landscape of this planet, beneath our feet lie the many layers of these previous civilisations, which have left their irrevocable mark, not only on the physical landscape, but on our subconscious too.”

“I believe that another dimension, a spirit world, runs parallel to our own so-called ‘real’ world, and that sometimes, when the conditions are right, we can see into and become part of this supernatural domain.  The mystical quality of my photographs reflects this ancient order and they attempt to reveal what is eternal.”

“Ghosts are a controversial subject and most people have their own theories as to what they might be.  It is not my intention to try and convince you that ghosts exist, but rather to hopefully inspire you not to take everything around you at face value; to show that what we are conditioned to believe is ‘reality’ may not be quite all that it seems, if only we take the time to inquire.”

~Sir Simon Marsden, 1948 – 2012

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Random Thoughts

Ok, I know I’ve become very sporadic in writing.  I’m working on getting better about it, while I juggle motherhood, taking my preemie baby to extra physical therapy appointments to help her catch up, taking a class on jewelry making, working like crazy on my artwork and photography and keeping up on social media (as best as I can), keeping the house clean, organized and running, and trying to lose weight and get back into shape.  Whew.  I’ve also been writing thoughts on the current state of events in the U.S. that is more of a rant than anything.  Originally, I was going to publish some of these thoughts, along with references… – just a few nights ago I hammered out 4 single-spaced pages in a matter of 30 minutes – but, I have restrained myself from doing so.  The reason I have chosen instead to sit on these writings and think before publishing is this:  My original intent of this blog was to reach out to help others, to create awareness for various problems, to provide inspiration through quotes, music, and words, and to share some of the knowledge I have gained over the years pertaining to art, science, and sobriety.  I really want to keep this as non-political as possible, but with the state of things today, that becomes increasingly difficult because what is going on in the White House directly impacts so many things I am passionate about, and as someone who works hard to fight for civil rights for many, it is hard to sit back and say nothing.  However, in my ranting to myself, I realize that the only people I would likely reach by posting those thoughts are those who basically feel the same way, and those on the other side of the fence will only dig in their heels more; and by doing this, it only adds to the divisiveness we are currently experiencing in the states.  My goal is to bring both sides together, to demonstrate that we are all people and no one person is better than the next, and that if we can put these differences aside, we can accomplish great things.  One example is how many people along the Gulf are reaching out to each other regardless of race, sexuality, creed, etc., and helping one another.

So, rather than railing against Trump and the current administration in the White House, I would like to simply mention a few things and provide a couple of solid references that can be referred to if one so pleases.  To start, let’s clear up a few things – I do not support hate groups in any way, shape or form.  By stating I would like to bring both sides together, I am referring to the ‘left/liberal’ and the ‘right/conservative;’ knowing that hate is learned and taught, I do hope that those who are members of these groups or supporters of the ideas pushed by these groups, can one day unlearn this hate and embrace their fellow human.  Sadly, I grew up around hate and intolerance, but I was able to look beyond the rhetoric, as can others.  There are many hate groups all over the world; one highly reputable source on hate groups currently operating in the U.S. is the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).  The SPLC has been widely recognized and highly regarded for over 45 years by law enforcement, academia, and others in the U.S. for unbiased accuracy for reporting hate and hate crimes, teaching awareness and tolerance, and what you can do to help.  I am well aware that this is a free country, however, there should be no tolerance for these groups publicly gathering with the sole purpose of infusing their horrible message into the masses, bringing attention to their cause, and ‘riling up the other side,’ as some have stated; this goes against everything this country represents and what many have died for in wars and on the streets.  Also, I by no means believe that everyone who voted for and/or supports the current administration falls within these groups.  Sure, there are those who most certainly do – all you have to do is turn on the news to see this, but not all of Trump’s supporters agree with these ideas.  And subsequently – not everyone who is left-leaning thinks this, and those on the left do not all fall under the ideology that Antifa supports.  As for Antifa, for those who are not aware, this is a group whose name is short for Anti-fascists, they typically represent those who are anti-government/anarchists, and rather than supporting liberal ideas or promoting working together, they instead fight against right-wing ideals, largely via destruction of property and violence.  This group has roots that trace back to Nazi Germany (as early as the 1930’s).  They also do not associate with the Democratic party, as they rather be anti-government, and the vast majority of those on the left do not agree with their methods.  The big take away here is, no matter which side you are on (left or right), remember that if you don’t like being lumped into these categories – whether it be Antifa or a known hate group – please don’t turn around and do that to the side you oppose, for that only increases judgement and divide.

As for racism, at no point in American history has racism ceased to exist.  I have seen much commentary in social media that ‘racism was gone until Obama…’  This is simply not true.  Again, you can go the the SPLC’s site and read up on this for yourself.  And while some argue that what is currently going on today is not Trump’s fault, it’s the fault of the media, keep this in mind – sure, the media plays a role, they tend to focus more on the negative than the positive, it has always been this way, this is nothing new.  I am not defending the media or condoning their behavior, I am simply pointing out that this is not a new occurrence.  That said, words spoken as well as actions, especially by people in power, are extremely powerful; one only needs to open a world history book to see the evidence.  All throughout history, leaders have been able to either bring people together, or divide; they have been able to mobilize people to work towards the common good, or commit atrocities.  The vast majority of historical events caused by these leaders took place long before there was ‘media’ as we understand it today.  Sure, there were means to get the word out, to push propaganda, to push agendas, and the evening news has been around for a little while, but remember the internet and social media are all still fairly new when you look at the big picture.  Also worth noting here – Black Lives Matter is not a hate group and certainly not a terrorist organization like so many seem to think.  Are there black hate groups?  Yes, again, refer to SPLC active hate groups 2016.  I deeply wish racism would end, but I realize it’s complicated.  Those making simplistic statements regarding slavery, such as ‘no one alive today…slavery,’ ‘the reason for violence amongst particular groups of people is…,’ and so on, trivializes the real problem we as a people need to address.  Professing that if people would stop bringing it up, there wouldn’t be such a problem is incorrect too – not having open dialogue, awareness, and discussion of these issues only allows the problems to fester and continue.

When it comes to the LGBTQ community, everyone has the right to love and be loved, and to live their lives the way they were meant to be.  I honestly scratch my head at why some people are so obsessed with what someone does in the privacy of their bedroom.  As long as the people there are consenting and of sound mind and age, and no one is getting hurt, then what is the problem?  If you don’t like seeing someone holding hands or kissing someone of the same sex in public, then politely look away.  People who are transgender do not choose to be – they are born in the wrong body and are brave enough to take the necessary steps to live a full, meaningful life.  Please keep in mind, that for those in the LGBTQ community, life is not easy; they are constantly met with hate, stares, violence, and so on.  If their lifestyle is against your religious belief, no one is asking you to change your belief, but to only accept that they are human too and deserve the same rights and freedoms you enjoy.  Shutting out an entire group of people is the same thing hate groups do.  I do not wish to discuss my religious beliefs here, but I will mention I was raised in a Christian household, and I took Biblical Study in college.  For someone to state they are a Christian, and then turn around and make disparaging remarks about any group of people completely goes against everything Christianity represents.  After all, according to the Bible, Jesus says to ‘love thy neighbor,’ and to not ‘cast the first stone.’  When people come together under the guise of Christianity and publish articles of hate, such as the recent Nashville Statement, it perpetuates ignorance and fear.  Many of the articles in the above mentioned statement include ideas that are absolutely false.  In fact, two of the groups represented are recognized hate groups (the Alliance Defending Freedom and the Family Research Council).  One of the original signatories, Tony Perkins, has also made claims regarding those in the LGBTQ community that are nothing but conspiracy theory and falsehoods.  Before thinking ‘well, this is just your opinion,’ read up on it in medical, scientific, and psychological journals.  Last I checked, this is not how we love one another.  My suggestion?  Let it go.  Homosexuality has been around since the beginning of time, and it is frequently found throughout the animal kingdom.  Transgenderism has also been around; try to remember those who are transgender already have turmoil in their lives as they often feel trapped in a body that is not theirs.  Rather than admonishing those in the LGBTQ community, why not take time to just talk to someone who identifies with this community?  Get to know them, and remember no one knows the struggles another is experiencing.  You might be surprised to find how beautiful someone can be.

Immigrants are the backbone of the U.S.  We are a nation of immigrants.  Every single person in this country, with the exception of Native Americans, is either currently an immigrant or a descendant of immigrants.  Throughout U.S. history, immigrants were responsible for the building of much of our infrastructure, tending farms, and often doing menial jobs that others did not want to do.  I want to ask those who love stating ‘we’re taking our country back,’ who exactly are you taking it back from?  White men (this includes, the English, French, and Spanish amongst others) stole the vast majority this country from the Native Americans, and a large portion of it from Mexico.  Many people were brought over from other nations against their will and forced into slavery (Some whites came over as indentured servants; and although not slavery, it was still a form of bondage, nonetheless.)  To this day, many large corporations and some of the wealthy employ illegal immigrants for ridiculously tiny wages and horrible working conditions and get away with abuses with the threat that they will call ICE and turn them in.  To be fair, the government and some of the population has wanted, and tried, to clamp down on immigration in the past.  This is not the first time this country has seen this.  However, that does not make it excusable.  Also, for those who get angry and annoyed that immigrants bring their heritage and ways of life with them – this is also not new.  All immigrants throughout history have done this.  Some of us retain that part of our culture and past, and some don’t, it’s just how it is.  (Consider it this way: do you like pizza?  Does your grandmother make the best fish and chips on this side of the Atlantic?  Have you tried Sushi?  Do you like BBQ?  As in real barbecue with smoked meat and not grilling?  All of these and so many, many more owe to the transplantation of people from one part of the world to here.  And that is one small, yet, tasty, cultural benefit of immigration.)  Please, rather than shunning the person seeking a better life for themselves and their family, find out what you can do to help the transition.  Think about how difficult and scary it would be for you to uproot and leave for another country with next to nothing in your pocket in the hopes for a better life.

I am not so naive as to think I can change minds or even the world by publishing a statement, a quote, or a song.  But the thing is, it all starts somewhere, even if it is just one person at a time.  I also do not profess to be perfect, I’m just as flawed as the next person.  Admittedly, I have gone on Twitter to speak out against this administration, and I have struggled greatly with how I now feel about members of my family who not only voted the president in, but continue to blindly support everything he does.  I find it difficult to discuss things with those whose beliefs are starkly opposite of mine; yet, this is exactly what we need to be doing (and in a civil manner).  These are things I need to work on within myself.  My hope is that this doesn’t fall on deaf ears and that it engages people, and they not only feel encouraged to share this message, but to act on it.  Remember, diversity is what makes the U.S. great!

Here are some reputable resources should you wish to do some of your own reading into U.S. history, science, medicine, or psychology.  Some of these require a paid subscription; if you are a student, check with your school, as some schools and universities already pay for these subscriptions.  Some employers also pay for some of these subscriptions, so depending on your line of work, you may be able to access some of it that way.  Otherwise, check with your local public library or university for assistance.

***This is not an inclusive list – there are many other great journals and resources out there, please check with a university librarian for further assistance on what you want to know more about.  They are experts on assisting with research and reputable sources.  This is simply a list to get you started.

U.S. National Archives

U.S. Library of Congress

Various U.S. Presidential Libraries

American Historical Association (AHA)

The Society for Military History

The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM)

The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)

The American Medical Association (AMA)

American Psychological Association and Affiliated Journals (APA)

The Journal of Psychology

American Association for the Advancement of Science

Science

Why March for Science?

Why science is not just important, but critical.

George Lakoff

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The enormous role played by science — especially government-sponsored science — in our everyday lives is barely appreciated.

Start with modern medicine. We, the public, paid for it through the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and research universities where the medical researchers, surgeons, doctors and nurses were trained, and where tools like magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) developed. Modern drugs were also developed through basic research sponsored by NIH. Modern medicine is the dividend of our investment over decades in medical science.

Next, computers. Computer science didn’t just appear. It was developed through grants from National Science Foundation (NSF) and Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARP). The Internet was developed by the Defense Department. It was originally called the Arpanet. Satellites were developed through NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the Defense Department, with vast amount of new science: rocket fuels, physics, new materials for rocket shells, advances…

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