Back in School and other things

Hey ya’ll,

Well, I’m currently back in school earning my Doctorate in Education with a focus in STEM Education Leadership. My ancillary focus will be in evolution and climate change education. I am paying my way through school so I am working hard on this multiple income stream thing I have heard so much about.

I am currently a high school science teacher, a curriculum designer, an adjunct professor (in training), an online instructor, a course evaluator, a biology tutor, soon to be a science camp instructor, and I’m a speech and book editor.  I am also working on the format for my new show. Yeah, I’m burned out already. 🙂

In my editing capacity, I am freelancing for Humanist Learning Systems. Two works I have edited are:

– How to De-Escalate Conflicts: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07CKN2YNJ
– Ending Harassment in the Workplace: https://www.amazon.com/Harassment-Retaliation-Workplace-Jennifer-Hancock/dp/1987765761

Well, that’s all for now. If you wish to help me through school this month, feel free to donate what you can. https://goo.gl/5DbjDX

skeletonmemetheysaid

We Are All Cousins!

Originally Posted at: familyoriginstree.com reposted at: amazinglife.bio

Updated: 04/06/2018

 

Did you know that we are all related? Yes, we are all family. The human genome project has revealed to us long ago that there are no genetically distinct and pure groups of humans. We are all cousins.

 

The Tree of Life

The concept of The Tree of Lifein many of our world’s myths and legends, conjure symbolic imagery of a magnificent and beautiful tree. In The Bible, we are told that the first humans were disallowed to eat of its eternal fruit.

Today, we also have a Tree of Life but it is not forbidden to partake of it. It is the Tree of Biological Life. It is the only Tree that serves to show humanity’s true Earthly origins and the origins of all species on this planet.

But before we argue evidence of our global kinships, let’s talk about family trees.

 

Family Trees

A family tree shows your relatedness to others in your family. If you have ever seen a family tree, you may have noticed the branching.

Image Source: familyholiday.net

Common ancestors, such as granddad and granny, can give rise to many offspring, who then create offspring of their own. Each of these offspring share similarities because they all come from the same common ancestry. Though they have similarities, each also have various genetic mutations and variations that give rise to recognizable/visual differences. Most mutations appear benign, some are deadly but some of these genetic differences may be beneficial. These changes may decide the fate of a race or cline of humans. Example: Mutations that help some humans resist the Black Death and HIV.

 

Image Source: geneticliteracyproject.org

 

Constantly Changing and Evolving

The same pathogens that once plagued our ancestors may not affect us now due to small modifications of our genetic code. When your parent’s genetic material combined to eventually create you, some traits were lost, some acquired, and some recombined. You have become a unique individual!

Now, imagine if this mixing of genes and mutations occurred for a million years; in the end, the resulting offspring wouldn’t look very much like their Great-grandfather x 10,0000.

Image Source: primatetales.com | Hominid Skull Comparison

It’s beautiful to be able to look at your body and see the result of these slow changes. You are witnessing your evolutionary lineage. Thanks to the discovery of DNA, and more modern ways to interpret and understand our world, we now know more than ever about our evolutionary past!

 

Invasive Evidence of Evolution

Most of us have experienced a cold or flu. These are caused by viruses. Many viruses find their way into your body and start causing damage before they are eventually destroyed and flushed out of your system. However, some viruses find a way to be passed down to the next generation! How?

Within our DNA are remnants of an invasion, a viral invasion that occurred to our ancestors long ago. These viruses invaded our sex cells and wrote its code into our DNA. Luckily, thanks to the miracle of imperfection, when some of these infected cells replicate, they produce small errors in the code of the virus. When this occurs, the virus becomes inactivated and is passed down to future generations without causing harm to the host, hopefully. These are called endogenous retroviruses (ERVs).

Why is this important and evidence for evolution?

Well, ERVs are primarily passed on via reproduction. So, just like a mom passing down her blue eye color to her child, ERVs can be transmitted in the same way; thus, if a scientist finds the same “viral remnants/viral genetic sequence” in another organism it can be assured that they share a recent common ancestor and are cousins.

Imagine if you found a species of hamster in one valley and a different hamster species in another valley a hundred miles away. The question of relatedness would be easy via other genetic means, but the number of shared ERVs can assist with when the ancestral split occurred.

In Chimpanzees, we share many ERVs with them! These ERVs match almost exactly with ERVs found in us. Remember, ERVs are passed down from parent, to offspring. No! This doesn’t mean that a chimp and human had babies! But this is does conjure the question: How is it possible that many apes and humans share many of the same ERVs? The answer is simple, we must share a common ancestor that at one time contracted this virus. We are cousins, with all modern apes and primates. We share a common ancestor in the Grand Tree or Web of Life.

It has been argued that ERVs could have entered the human line through some other means. Though this is true, it’s difficult to explain away how that particular ERV genetic sequence matches human ones so closely and how the molecular sequencing matches a timeline that fits the paleontological evidence.

The Citrus Problem

In another example of obvious descent with modification, is the fact that humans and apes both cannot produce Vitamin C naturally. Most other mammals can produce Vitamin C on their own, (accept the Hamster and some other rodents). As a result, Apes and Humans have to acquire Vitamin C from outside sources, fruits, etc. What happened? Why would apes and humans have this same problem? It turns out, that when we look at the genes, that not only has something gone wrong with producing Vitamin C, but that our Ape cousins have the same broken gene as humans. Our common ancestor at one time lost the ability to produce Vitamin C, and passed that trait down to us. Our hamster cousin? Well, the genes that would help him manufacture Vitamin C have changed and are broken too, non-functioning for the task of Vitamin C making. But, the hamster’s Vitamin C gene is broken in a different place. Exactly what evolution would predict!

Okay, but what does this have to do with cousins and families and all that?

Image Source: familyoriginstree.com

We are getting there. The pic above shows a Tree of Life, using DNA relationships only. This is significant because if we had these samples and were completely ignorant of their origin, the tree would still be represented this way. The evidence speaks for itself. We share a common lineage with all Great Apes and each other. Humans then, of course, share many more ERVs, which matches evolutionary theory perfectly.

The relationships should be clear at this point, but let us look at one of my ancestors, David Day, in another Tree of Life depiction.

Image Source: familyoriginstree.com

 

Notice that it’s the same pattern. It’s the same distribution you’d expect in a ‘modification with descent’ scenario. David is the root and the children are the branches, different from him, but similar. Those children then start their own branches, their offspring are also different yet similar as well. It never ends! Allow a few million years of this branching and voilà, different but similar looking creatures result. Give another 10 or 100 million years, organisms begin to look hardly related to their ancient great-grandparents. (As evidenced via the fossil record)

Image Source: https://hcnaturalselection.wikispaces.com

Family

All life on Earth is part of an amazing evolution that goes back 3.5 billion years. Millions of Earth’s creatures all descended from one or two primitive forms generating the variety we see today. For humans, our evolution is relatively recent. This is why we look very much alike. We have a few regional differences but we are still very much the same species. As we all have descended from a common ancestral line, ipso facto, we are all cousins!

I wish humanity would realize that, in comparison to the vastness of the Universe, our home is just a tiny speck of dust floating in space. All of the people and creatures that live here are our family. Yet, we fight as if we have no other recourse. We hate as if hate is something to value. We kill as if life means nothing. We despise knowledge as if it’s a virtue. We love, only when convenient.

I think. We can do better. We must be better. We are one global family. We Are All Cousins in this Grand Tree of Life.

2008: The Great Tree of Life, Leonard Eisenberg

 

References

  • Li, Y., Shi, C.-X., Mossman, K.L., Rosenfeld, J., Boo, Y.C. & Schellhorn, H.E. (2008) Restoration of vitamin C synthesis in transgenic Gulo-/- mice by helper-dependent adenovirus-based expression of gulonolactone oxidase. Human gene therapy. [Online] 19 (12), 1349–1358. Available from: doi:10.1089/hgt.2008.106 [Accessed: 31 December 2011].
  • Montel-Hagen, A., Kinet, S., Manel, N., Mongellaz, C., Prohaska, R., Battini, J.-L., Delaunay, J., Sitbon, M. & Taylor, N. (2008) Erythrocyte Glut1 Triggers Dehydroascorbic Acid Uptake in Mammals Unable to Synthesize Vitamin C. Cell. [Online] 132 (6), 1039–1048. Available from: doi:10.1016/j.cell.2008.01.042 [Accessed: 31 December 2011].

New Platform to Broadcast

regstudiotwitch1

I have been experimenting with a new streaming media and community platform known as Twitch.tv. I have decided to use this platform to broadcast my new program. Again, the quality will suffer for a while until I can gather the funds to get better equipment but it’s a start. Visit my channel and follow me. When I start going LIVE I will update all of my social media pages so you can have a listen in real-time: https://www.twitch.tv/reggiefinleysr

On Being Vegan

The vegan philosophy and lifestyle has grown significantly in recent years. I was exposed to the idea of not eating animal flesh on one of my radio programs a decade ago but it didn’t stick. It seemed to me that the guest had some valid arguments but I just didn’t wish to change my very comfortable lifestyle habits.

Eventually, I succumbed to its message of caring and love. I have been vegan for 2 years now and I was a vegetarian for 2 years before that. When my veganism is questioned, many are somewhat surprised to hear what some of the motivating factors were for me in going… and staying Vegan.

I realized that was being contradictory

For the last few years I have been vegan. Why? Well, I chose to go vegan as something just didn’t sound right about the statement. “I love animals”, while simultaneously and purposefully contributing to an industry that contributes to their pain, suffering, and death. Moral, ethical, ecological, and health arguments aside, that realization was one of the major catalysts that started my journey towards veganism; and, it is my primary argument for veganism. It’s simple and easily defensible. As a logical, rational, critical thinker, consistency and attempting to avoid contradiction is paramount. Continuing to eat meat seemed to be a rather blatant and inexcusable contradiction.

But what if humans must eat meat?

In speaking with purposeful meat-eaters who hear my argument, typically there are three responses: 1.) “I don’t care. I like meat.” 2.) “Morality is subjective, so you can’t tell me that I’m wrong.” 3.) “But we need meat.” Out of these three, the 3rd one in my view is a more addressable and easily researched to see if this is true. There just aren’t valid studies showing that in a 1st world society, that humans “need” to eat meat to survive. In fact, almost all studies show health benefits to switching to either less meat, or none. Whereas meat consumption, in general, in 1st world countries are attributed to a large variety of sicknesses and illnesses in humans.

There is no scientific evidence that humans biologically “need meat” to survive. In the past, some populations of humans and human cousins became dependent on sources of animal protein (including insects) in their journeys northward and in lean times. In modern times, humans near the oceans have become dependent on sea life to thrive but it is NOT some biological axiom that they must do so. Animal nutrition aids in these population’s survival, but so would plenty of fruits, nuts, seeds, vegetables, seaweed, and possibly an occasional vitamin (though not necessary). Many humans today have a more cultural perspective about meat intake which typically isn’t very conducive to health as these products are high in sodium and saturated fat. A good-sense diet rich in fiber, starches, green leafy plants, nuts and legumes is the best way to go and can in many cases reverse or lessen the severity of many diet-based medical conditions. Can I eat very little meat and be healthy? Sure! But if I don’t need meat to live and survive, why would I purposefully contribute to the pain, suffering, and death of innocent sentient beings?

Why not be more compassionate?

As I alluded to above in (1), some humans just don’t care about the lives of other animals, they feel non-human animals are beneath them, and that they can do whatever they wish to do to them. Their sensation of taste and satiety makes more sense to them than making conscious and caring efforts to prevent the needless suffering and harm to sentient beings. For those people, I have no argument and wouldn’t attempt to debate them as we are on diametrically two different playing fields. You cannot make someone care. Either you do care, or you don’t. For me, since becoming vegan, I have found myself more compassionate and loving of most people and animals.

Some have argued that just existing as a human has negative consequences for other life on this planet. I cannot find fault with this argument as it is a true statement; however, pointing out that I harm life regardless doesn’t justifying increasing as much harm as possible or trying to do nothing at all.

“Vegans Suck!”

In my short time as vegan, I have found it odd at the gross amount of teasing, anger, hate and vitriol that I see against vegans online and in-person (yes, I have seen vegans do similarly to meat-eaters). In my case however, I am not the kind of vegan that insults you cowardly online nor would I kick a cow muscle burger out of your hands and mouths but I do adhere to rational dialogues. Sadly, I get random and unrequested comments quite often when I am at non-vegan restaurants. I ordered a veggie sub at Subway once and the guy behind me commented, “Man, I can’t do that. I need meat! I’m a carnivore!” I didn’t say anything about his meal nor his ignorance about animal diet categorizations, but he chose to say something about mine. Why? Just the very presence of a vegan incites discomfort, anger and insecure feelings among some meat eaters. It’s odd. Could it be that deep down, they wish to make changes as well? Is it some non-conscious, knee-jerk defense of their carnistic rituals? Admittedly, some vegans are ignorant insecure bastions of pseudoscientific stupidity and some real jerks to boot! However, most vegans, I surmise, are just passionate about animal life and they wish to share that passion, love, and concern to all; much in the same way that most humans are against dog-fighting or child-abuses. I remember sharing my atheism with friends and family thinking they’d actually have rational discussions about the topic. I was horribly naive. Just as many atheists find it difficult to shut-up when they hear really bad scientific and theological arguments, how can a compassionate and caring vegan be silent when they see humans contributing to the needless pain, suffering, torture, and death of innocent beings?

On a Healthier Note

Even though I didn’t start this journey to improve my health. I do in fact sleep better and rest more peacefully. My blood pressure has returned to normal and my cholesterol has lowered. I no longer have GERD and my esophageal H. Pylori has seemed to magically disappear (last test shows that it’s gone). I also seem to have alleviated symptoms generally associated with hypoglycemia (Diabetes tends to run in my family.) Granted, I have picked up my physical activity which could account for some of these positive changes. And yes, eating less meat can also provide many of the same benefits. I’m not a big fan of health arguments, but as some readers may be curious, I included that here as well.

 

Fin

Well, this is only a few reasons why I became a vegan and why I will most likely stay the course. Thanks for reading. This is a running document and will be updated as newer thoughts come to me.

 

Extras

Edutainment, Documentaries, and Films I recommend (search youtube): Lucent, Earthlings, Meet Your Meat, Okja, Food Inc, Forks Over Knives. I have found flaws in the docs I listed above; however, I still recommend them as I find them impactful and accurate in crucial areas. Type “vegan” on Amazon and Netflix. Plenty of Free Content. For my scholars and academics, please visit google scholar to research “vegan diet”. I think you will be quite stunned at the latest research. For other casual investigative readers, you may enjoy NutritionFacts.org as well.

Thank you for reading. Can we please do what’s right by our animal cousins? 🙁

“As long as humanity continues to make excuses for harming innocent sentient beings, we will always be an unnecessarily violent species.” – Reginald V. Finley Sr