Monday, December 24, 2012

The Nopocolypse

[Johnathan Clayborn]
I had intended on posting this on the 21st, but I was actually pretty busy with school and Christmas preparations and all. Better late than never, right?

Obviously, the world didn’t end on Friday. According to the internet, social media, and news outlets 12/21/2012 was supposed to be an end-of-the-world apocalypse as foretold by the ancient Mayans. But, is that really what they believed? What do the Mayans have to say about it anyway?

I would first like to point out that the Mayans have been unfairly blamed for this most recent doomsday prophecy in the first place. Not one single archaeologist or anthropologist who is studying the Mayans has found anything to suggest that the Mayans believed the world would end. In fact, their calendars still continue counting for at least another 2,400 years.

So what did the Mayans actually predict? According the experts; nothing. This was just the end of their calendar. It’s no different than people 6,000 years from now thinking that we might believe the world would end on December 31st. The Mayan Calendar ended and restarted.

So what caused this stir of internet-fueled apocalyptic panic? It turns out that we did. And, as crazy as it may seem, this trend is not a new one. In my lifetime I have seen the great Y2K scare in 1999. Then, in May and October some people bought into the doomsday prophecies foretold by Harold Camping. Then there was the whole “Mayan Apocalypse” thing. And, of course, there are even more right around the corner.  According to some so-called experts in fields ranging from psychic powers to theology the world will either in 2018, 2020, 2129, or 2240 (see the source).

So, when will the world really end? No on knows. Scientists believe that the sun will eventually expand to the point where the heat will kill off every living thing on the planet, boil away our oceans and atmosphere, and then fully consume the Earth itself. But this isn’t supposed to happen for a few million years. For a fun read about doomsday predictions past and future, check out this list here:


Monday, December 17, 2012

The Paradox of Computer Simulated Time Travel

[Johnathan Clayborn]
Earlier today I was reading a thoroughly fascinating article on The article (link below for the curious) posited that universe very well might be an artificially manufactured construct created by an Intelligent Design, although not in the sense that most people might think of. While not proposing that God in the biblical sense is responsible for the universe, there are some scientists and philosophers who are arguing that intelligent design might indeed be why we are here reading this blog right now.

The main part of this theory, in summary, is the fact that the universe, our solar system, even our planet all essentially won the intergalactic lottery and had conditions that were just right for life to develop. They argue that if the universe were designed this way, it would certainly explain why everything is just right. Also, even more mind-boggling; if the universe were custom designed for us it would explain the Formi Paradox and answer the question of why there are no other aliens. But, if God is not responsible for this, then who? According these scientists; we are.

Our current day technology allows us to use supercomputers to model, predict, and analyze minute parts of the universe and try to understand it. As our computer technology increases, then the amount of things that we would be able to model would increase also. Theoretically, with a large enough computer, we should be able to model the entire universe.

The researchers hypothesize that our far-distant future descendants might have hypothetically reached that point and are running a simulation right now; a simulation that we are all part of. The researchers even hypothesize that humans might have created artificial intelligence, which created artificial intelligence, and so on and it is this non-living descendant that is actually running the simulation out of curiosity about how their ancient biological ancestors might have lived. While that would conveniently answers questions like the Formi Paradox and the Big Bang, it still leaves a lot of questions unanswered.

For one thing, as with many poorly written time-travel examples from Hollywood, this hypothesis still doesn’t account for the standard temporal paradox that always associates time travel. If, hypothetically, this theory were true, then it would certainly mean our descendants had to have lived in the real universe long enough to make progeny that would have advanced to the point where they would be technologically capable of even running the experiment. But, if this carefully modeled, carefully constructed universe is indeed a simulation and was intended to make everything just right for us to exist and the odds of that happening are a billion to one, then how, pray tell, did our real descendants come to be in the real, uncontrolled universe in the first place? Surely some place that wasn’t carefully constructed would have had even more risk factors and less favorable conditions. So, the researchers would have us believe that we originally existed in an even more tumultuous reality and having somehow, miraculously survived that one, created this just right universe to model how ancient people lived?

Also, another blaring question that is raised by this; computer simulations, even mega simulations, are governed by a specific set of rules and laws. According to the scientists, there is a test that can be performed that would determine if our version of reality really is real. Suppose they find out that it really is just a simulation, then what? What would be the purpose of having a computer simulation be self-aware that it is living in a simulation? Surely, from a scientific process this would ruin their experiment. This type of experiment is known as naturalistic observation and conclusion about the behavior of the people or animals involved are entirely dependent on the fact that they are not aware that they are being watched. As soon as an organism becomes aware that it is being watched its behavior changes and then the results become biased. So why make this super-elaborate experiment only to have it ruined by self-awareness?

While this hypothesis is certainly interesting, it doesn’t seem all that logical to me. Either way it will be interesting to see what results the scientists turn up from their experiments to prove or disprove this theory.


Friday, December 14, 2012

Grief & Loss

[Johnathan Clayborn]
My heart at aches heavily at the news of the shooting at Sandy Point Elementary School earlier this morning. As of this writing the estimates are that 27 people are dead and 18 of them are school children, most of them in Kindergarten. This really hits home for me as my own son, William, is in first grade and is almost the same age as many of these victims.

Grief is complex, powerful emotion. Zoologists have shown that even animals feel grief. Grief can be slight or it can be completely and totally debilitating. It can just appear suddenly without warning, particularly in cases where the grief is the result of a disaster or catastrophe.

What’s rather interesting is how we handle grief. For one thing, if people perish as the result of a natural disaster; a flood, a hurricane, etc, then it seems like we have a somewhat easier time dealing with that. Sure, there is still grief, particularly for those who lost loved ones, but we sort of recognize on some level that the situation was completely out of our hands. However, when the grief is the result of an act of senselessness, like this shooting, we have a much harder time processing this. Part of that seems to be due to the fact that perpetrators of these heinous acts actually have a choice. They are choosing to commit these acts and they are choosing to take the lives of others. When we cannot process what thought patterns would lead a human being to make such a senseless, irrational decision, we falter in our ability to process and handle the grief.

Another strange quirk of grief; grief is amplified by its proximity to salvation. You might be wondering what I mean by that. Suppose that you have a plane full of people and the plane crashes in the middle of the ocean and everyone perishes. It’s sad, a horrible tragedy to be sure. However, if that exact same plan crashed within a few miles of the runway they were trying to reach, it seems like a far worse tragedy. What changed? The same number of people perished either way. The biggest difference is the fact the people almost made it; they were almost safe. Being that close to being safe and falling short seems to make any disaster worse.

This certainly isn't the blog post I was intending on making today, but I felt compelled to discuss grief and its complexity. You’ll have to forgive me if this isn't one of my longer posts, I’m going to go take some time to myself and try to make sense of this tragedy. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Questions Follow Answers

[Johnathan Clayborn]
Most people wish that they had answers for certain things. Many of us sit around and accept the likelihood that those answers will never come. This is certainly true with me in my attempts to uncover my genetic family roots. But, some scientists are lucky enough to find the answers that they seek. Ironically, those answers are only bittersweet as they almost immediately yield more questions, particularly when discussing the ancient world.
In my next article I’ll discuss some of the mind-boggling, scientific quandaries that make us question our very understanding of the ancient world. In the meantime I want to summarize a fascinating show that I was watching on TV last night about why Egypt fell.
The show started out by following two different scientists working independently in different parts of Egypt; one studying ancient ruins and pyramids, and the other studying the migration and habitation pattern of the Nile delta.  Both came to the same independent conclusions; when Pharaoh Pepi  II of Egypt died (2184 BC) and was buried Egypt was at the height of its power building pyramids and other large structures. Then, rather suddenly, Egypt was gone without reason or explanation. In terms of historical accounting “suddenly” means within one generation. By 2150 BC, 34 years later, Egypt had fallen.

Knowing that the fall of Egypt was a rather sudden and cataclysmic event both scientists set out in search of answers. Within a rather short time, both scientists came to the exact same conclusion; a drought.  The scientist studying the ruins and the pyramids saw evidence of a sudden stoppage in construction. Since most of the materials were borne to the job sites via waterways the foregone conclusion was that there may not have been enough water to get the supplies there. But, this was after Pepi II died because there was still enough water to transport his sarcophagus, the largest ever built.  The scientist studying habitation patterns in the delta used satellites to locate ancient settlements without having to dig up the entire area. What she found was that people rapidly abandoned those settlements to migrate towards the larger cities where they could pool their resources.  Since most of these smaller villages were along the tributaries of the Nile, she concluded that they abandoned them because of a lack of food and that they lacked food because the water had dried up.
Of course, all of this was only a theory that needed proof. So, they set out to find it. One of the scientists was also an archeologist and took core samples near the areas where there were known to have been deep lakes. What he found was a layer of wind-blown, arid sand. This meant that no water reached that site whatsoever. Not only did he find the sand he looking for, the thickness of the layer indicated that this area suffered a drought that lasted for roughly four decades.  In fact, conditions of the drought were so bad that some reports indicate that they may have resorted to eating their own children to survive.

After publishing their findings researchers in Turkey, Iran, Mesopotamia and Greece have all uncovered the same drought conditions in those regions at the exact same time. Not only was Egypt affected, but the entire Mediterranean Sea area was affected as well. Besides Egypt, this drought, which is now called the 4.2 Kiloyear Event, was also responsible for the fall of the Akkadian Empire. Although not wiped out to the point of extinction there is some evidence to suggest that the drought at least influenced the development of the Persian Empire and several cultures that inhabited China.
So, they answered the question of what happened to Ancient Egypt, and in the process they uncovered a much more important discovery. But, this answer begot another question; what caused this drought to begin with? The current theories center on the concept that the Atlantic Current stopped moving. This current sends warm air into the atmosphere and helps regulate the temperature around the world. If this current stops flowing, then the Mediterranean region undergoes a severe drought while the continental US will undergo a small Ice Age. According to the fossil record in North America, there was an Ice Age in 2200, B.C., which is exactly what they expected to find.

Now they’ve answered the question about what caused the drought, which is exciting, but a more disturbing question looms; what caused that current to stop flowing? Evidence suggests that it has stopped several times throughout the Earth’s history. But no one knows why.


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Are We Evolving?

[Johnathan Clayborn]
This question was posed to me earlier today and it got me thinking. I don't think that most people I know would argue against the notion that evolution has infact happened. Assuming that evolution is true, I think the more obvious questions with regards to evolution should be: are we still evolving, and if so, how much?

From a purely biological perspective with regards to physical characteristics, I would argue that the answer would be "not really", and I'll explain that in a minute.

The sociocultural aspect of our collective societies is evolving; of that there seems to be little doubt. Humans have always evolved culturally. (A fascinating read on the overall topic of human civilizations and evolutionary behaviors is Guns, Germs and Steel by Prof. Jared Diamond). In our modern digital world it seems as though our current cultural evolutionary process is leading us to world that is more close-knit and united.

One of the interesting side-effects of becoming more multicultural as a species is that it invariably leads to interracial breeding on a scale not seen before. There have been several studies on the impacts of this. A quick survey of the census records in the US also show this to the be the case as more and more immigrants from other countries move here. Cultural behavior, and certainly multicultural behavior certainly shapes our genetic makeup as we trade and mix DNA with an ever-growing host of potential mates that was not readily available 100 years ago. The October 2011 issues of Psychology Today discusses this very issue citing a 2003 study conducted by Joan Chiao of Northwestern University. The study linked DNA to behavior in ways that were not so expected; such as China's idolization of Communism and the Western culture's adoration of independence. These behaviors are now understood to be driven by genetics. By that logic, changing our genetic makeup will certainly change our behavior. As other's pointed out, I'm not convinced that this would make us any less pliable or adaptable as a species.

Certainly having a genetic admixture will result in noticable physiological changes; skin tone, hair color and type, height, etc. But, from a biological standpoint the question that I find myself asking is: so what? Okay, so my descendants will one day have a skin tone that is more coppery than my fair Irish skin. Does that afford them any special advantages? No. Does having a different height or a different hair type help ensure their survival? Not really. In today's technological world medicine and medications have gone a long way in stamping out things which would have eradicated "weaker specimens" even just a hundred years ago. From that standpoint the introduction of "weak" genes into the genepool persists whence it would have been stamped out before.

From a fundamental standpoint the purpose of evolution is to provide those specimens with the strongest genes the best chance to reproduce and spread healthy offspring. From what I've seen none of the physiological changes that are occurring in our current admixtures of genes seem to be doing this. Sure, they change our physical appearances, but that's about it. This example dealing with shark Genetics ( reveals a more arguable demonstration of evolution in action; the sharks are adapting to endure different temperature climates than what they were otherwise used to. What primary advantages does the admixture of modern human genetics provide us? We have houses to shelter us from the elements, we have medicine to cure our illnesses. Even within the human species the sexual dimorphism of Homo Sapiens is already far less pronounced than in other species in our genus. The rest of our traits are spread across a wide array of polymorphic attributes.

From a Taxonomy viewpoint the consideration of the human species in general is rather fascinating. For every other species on the planet we break down their taxonomical classifications into distinct sub-groups based on geography and physical characteristics. For example; the Willow Warbler is divided into three distinct sub-species that are genetically identical and the only differences between them is the location of their habitat and the coloring of their plumage. Their skeletal structures are identical. Humans, Homo Sapiens Sapiens in particular, have a wide range of skin colors, hair colors, natural habitats, slightly genetic makeups that, although compatible, are slightly different. And yet, we are all lumped into the exact same genus and sub-species despite obvious polymorphic differences. Surely this muddles the question of evolution and genetic admixture. If you were to break human beings into separate sub-species based on their genetic haplogroups, then because the specific traits that are being analyzed are so narrow, it would certainly argue a stronger case for continuing evolution.

As you might have guessed I can relate to both sides of the debate that humans are and are not evolving. I personally don't have a strong opinion about it one way or the other. However, I do feel compelled to point out that in my own studies of evolution over a long period of time the driving factor in pushing major physiological changes within a species seems to be either radical climate change or natural disaster on an epic scale (like a giant meteor). Fossil records of human settlements show that our physiology has remained largely unchanged for the last 200,000 years. If this is true, then how much evolutionary process is truly going on now within the span of a few centuries?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Chemtrail Craziness

[Johnathan Clayborn]
No doubt I will be stirring the pot with this one, and more than certainly drawing the ire of some, but I feel compelled to continue forth anyway.

A few weeks ago one of my friends on Facebook posted a photo and asked what types of clouds these were.  For reference, I’ve included a different photo showing the same types of clouds here.

I naturally informed her that these were not clouds, per se, but were actually contrails; residue and water vapor left over from aircraft flying overhead. Within minutes another person responded and informed me that I was wrong and these were actually chemtrails. Not having heard of “chemtrails” before, I asked him to explain what he meant. What followed was the one of the most entertaining stories that I have heard in a long time. He regaled me with a story where the government is purposely and secretly spraying chemicals all over the unsuspecting citizens as part of a grand experiment. I asked him for some kind of proof of this and he directed me to a link for a “News” video on the topic (a video that I’ll destroy later). After he called me “silly” because I didn’t believe in his chemtrails theory I politely told him that we should just agree to disagree and ended the conversation. But, this has plagued my thoughts for some days. How can people really believe this is happening?

Being the overly analytical, thorough person that I am I decided to dig a little deeper into this. The one thing that struck me as immediately odd is that the chemtrail believers don’t even all believe the same thing; one group says that the “chemicals” are designed to allow the government to control our minds, another group says that they’re testing biochemical weapons, and the third and largest group believes that the government is doing secret tests to try to control the weather, primarily to reverse or slow global warming. 

For starters I want to analyze the “news video” (in the links below if you care to watch it). The first part of this story that strikes me as strange is that their “chemtrail expert” is just some random guy from Arkansas who collected a “sample” by putting a jar of water in his back yard. Right off the bat, this seems like shoddy investigative work. No records were kept about anything else that was going on when the sample was taken. Not to mention the guy who took the sample isn’t exactly a scientist, just a regular Joe that shows up with some stuff in a jar. But, be that as it may the news agency went ahead and had it tested anyway.

The test results themselves are rather hilarious. The reporter says clearly that the barium levels in the water are “5.8 parts per million, more than three times the toxic levels set by the EPA.” But, let’s examine that claim. At 1:03 in the video he shows the lab results to the camera. It clearly reads 58.8 ug/L.   According to the EPA, the maximum level of Barium is 2 mg/l. (Here’s the EPA Fact Sheet: Canadians are somewhat more stringent with their pollutants. They only allow a maximum level of 1 mg/L.  ( Why is that important? Well, for one thing, 1 mg/L translates into 1000 ug/L.  The reporter’s lab results show 58.8 ug/L. Basic math tells us that the results are not “more than three time the toxic levels set by the EPA as the reporter claims. In fact this level is perfectly normal; only 5.88% of the Canadian safe limits, and 2.94% of the US allowances. The rest of this video goes on to explain the multitude of chemtrail theories that abound and how barium is bad for you, etc.

Let’s assume for a minute that this reporter’s results were accurate and that the numbers really were 5880 ug/L. That still doesn’t prove chemical testing. As anyone who has taken statistics knows; the lower the sample size, the higher the rate of margin of error. So, the news would have us believe that one single sample from a large metropolitan city means chemical testing is going on? Interesting conclusion, but that doesn’t produce statistically significant results. Not to mention they don’t even consider any other possibilities for how that sample could have become contaminated in the first place. It was just collected in Average Joe’s backyard. Maybe he lives near a manufacturing plant that emits barium in the air as a waste product. Maybe his groundsoil or tapwater is already contaminated due to other, unknown reasons. This is why you need samples from multiple random sources. 

Let’s move on. At 2:25 in the video he says “they even mention Chemtrails by name in the initial draft of Senate Bill 2977”. Okay. What’s the point? Senate Bill 2977 ( does mention Chemtrails, yes. However, the context of the bill in this particular case is a motion to have Chemtrails banned entirely. In this case it’s mentioned in Section 7B of the bill under the “definitions” section where they are defining what they mean in earlier portion of the bill. The bill itself is called the “Space Preservation Act of 2001”. Section 3 states that the President shall permanently ban all weapons in space and shall enter into a worldwide agreement abiding by the ban. Then, Section 7 enumerates what “weapons” are, and section 7B says that “this includes exotic weapons such as chemtrails”.  So, the reporter, in essence, says “they even mention chemtrails by name in a house bill where they’re planning to ban them permanently, so that must be proof that they’re using them”.  The rest of their “evidence” is over 50 years old. It doesn’t make for a very convincing case no matter how you slice it. The rest of the video is so ridiculous that it’s not even worth mentioning.

Since I’ve utterly rebuked that news video, let’s examine some of the other claims made by the conspiracy theorists who believe that these are really chemtrails. One of the more amusing claims is that these chemicals are part of a “grand experiment” to allow the government to control people’s minds. There’s so many things wrong with this one. First, as anyone who conducts research knows; you have to have a control group or a baseline measurement to compare your results against. It has been well-established, even by the conspiracy theorists that these trails appear over every major city in the world. So, if it is an experiment and they’re gassing every major city in the world as part of this presumably cost-prohibitive experiment, then where’s the control data? What city are they gathering the data from to compare the results against? Surely they must have one or their results would be invalid. Not to mention, if they were successful, then wouldn’t they be able to control your thoughts? And if they could control your thoughts, then surely they would stop you from thinking that they’re gassing you in the first place? I know that’s what I would do if I were them. So, it seems rather logical that the fact that this belief even exists is proof enough that they aren’t controlling people’s minds. For some reason the conspiracy believers seem to think 2002 was the start of the “experiment”, but even our government would shut down a 10 year old project that produced no statistically significant results.

The next one is that these trails are the secret tests by the government of biological chemical weapons on the unsuspecting populace. But, as before, this theory is riddled with problems. First, it has the same problems as the previous theory; these trails appear over every major city which means that there’s no control data, which makes any experiment invalid. Secondly, if these “subjects” are being treated at local hospitals then how would the government monitor the results? They’d have to be secretly in charge or have access to every hospital in the world and that just seems slightly more than a little implausible. Not to mention, they’ve been doing this testing for at least 10 years. Surely we’d all have to be hospitalized or treated in some way if that were true. But, I rarely get sick and the few times I’ve needed medical attention it was due to a physical accident, not an unexplained illness. In fact, no one I know has come down with any strange illnesses despite “a decade of secret government testing”, so clearly if this was a test, it’s an utter failure as it failed to produce any statistically significant results.

The last theory seems the most realistic of the three, but that’s not saying much. Essentially it’s based on the theory that aluminum oxide can be injected into the atmosphere and that the resulting metal particulates in the air will essentially act as a global sunscreen and reflect enough of the sun’s rays to cool the Earth. That was an actual theory proposed by scientists, but it was never acted upon for many reasons. First, it’s very cost prohibitive. Last time I checked metal was heavier than air. Any metal particulates that could be introduced into the atmosphere would immediately begin to fall due to the effects of gravity. So, how would you keep them up there long enough to even test it? And, of course, there’s that pesky problem of lack of a control. You could argue that they could use historical data as a baseline, but scientists are divided about what’s causing the Earth’s temperature shift in the first place, so how can you be certain that the temperature changes are the result of your actions and not some other unaccounted for factor? There’s also another problem with this theory; it’s not working. The theory states that they are trying to cool the Earth and slow or prevent global warming. However, all of the current data from NASA, NOAA, and everyone else who’s tracking this data shows that the Earth has been continuing to get warmer. If that’s true, then their experiment has failed to produce statistically significant results and after 10 years of wasted funds it would surely have been cancelled by now.  Not to mention there are a number of scientists and critical thinkers, myself included, who aren’t entirely convinced about global warming. There is evidence in the geological record that shows that the Earth cools a great deal every few thousand years. We know them commonly as “ice ages”. There’s also an old expression; every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Is it that hard to theorize that if the Earth cools a great deal every few thousand years that it also heats up every few thousand years as well? It seems pretty plausible to me, and it’s supported by the geological record, but I digress.

What is it that these conspiracy theorists are so afraid of? Here are some photos:

As you can clearly see, these clouds emanate from the plane’s engines, not from some super-secret gas tank. These “clouds” are formed because the plane’s exhaust fumes, which include some water vapor, exits the engine superheated. This superheated gas comes into contact with the colder air at the higher elevation where planes fly and immediately condenses into clouds.  

Some of the conspiracy theorists will say that these plumes first starting showing up around 2002. However, there is an abundant amount of photographic evidence that shows that these contrails were common prior to that, including during WWII and as early as 1918, just after WWI. Many of these photos are linked to from the Contrail Science page in the links below.

It also seems pretty plausible to me that changes in technology in either aviation fuel or jet engines themselves could be responsible for the gasses lingering around longer, as people claim. Or, it could be attributed to a warmer environmental climate. There are several possible explanations that make sense, but secret government testing isn’t one of them.

Before I go, I did also include the links to the Discovery Channel show, Best Evidence, where they discuss Chemtrails as fact. I used to buy into the Discovery Channel and give them a lot of credit, however, they have lost a lot of stock as being a reputable scientific source of information. Shows that they have aired previously such as Mermaids: The Body Found do quite a bit of damage to their credibility.

References:  Wikipedia Page  A page debunking Chemtrails   A site promoting the chemtrail conspiracy Another site promoting the chemtrail conspiracy  This page has a TON of information from both sides of the debate (but obviously debunks the chemtrails).

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Dangers of Tradition

[Johnathan Clayborn]
Sorry about the delay in new posts, things have been very busy for me over the last few weeks.

I would wager that probably everyone on the planet clings to some type of tradition or another. In many cases our traditions are comforting. They are old friends that we anticipate getting re-acquainted with. Most of us don’t bother to stop and question our traditions, and why should we? After all, our traditions are awesome, aren’t they?
Most of us have some staple family traditions of some form or another. It could be a specific type of food that you eat on a holiday, like Turkey on Thanksgiving or Ham at Easter or Christmas. It could also be an activity that you do; like giving someone a cake on their birthday, or singing Christmas carols to your neighbors.

The question that I’ve been asking myself over the last few weeks is whether or not these traditions are a good thing or a bad thing in terms of our cultural and individual psychological development. Sure, I can argue the point that traditions play a very important role in our societal development. I could argue that without tradition we have no way to cling on to our past; no collective “living memories” of things that once were, no ever-present reminders, and no exotic fanfare with which to pepper our culture.  It can certainly be argued that many of the more colorful aspects of our culture come from traditions and that without traditions our culture might feel empty and hallow.
However, there are two sides to every story. I can also argue that tradition holds us back; it inhibits our growth, it stagnates our social and psychological development and only serves to placate us. What a horrible thing to say, I know, but I feel compelled to say it.

What started me thinking about this a lot was an incident that happened a few weeks ago. I teach martial arts classes every Thursday night with my friend, Matt. We had a student arrive to class who had studied martial arts before. We had several lengthy discussions and comparisons of styles and techniques. This discussion flooded my memory with numerous similar discussions where people told me about this “ancient technique” or that one, and they almost always were followed by some demonstration of something that was rather complex.  I thought about most of the other major martial arts in the world and how they fragmented and split over disagreements about the curriculum.
One thing that I am very grateful for is the fact that Matt is also analytical. Between the two of us we scrutinize everything and evaluate everything and reject what doesn’t work or what isn’t good and replace it with what does.  But, neither of us views our art as being very traditional. I also help teach Karate on Wednesday nights and Saturday mornings and the mentality there is very different. They don’t do anything that wasn’t passed down for generations upon generations.

But, this type of mentality extends far beyond the realm of Martial Arts. One prime example that comes to light is the US Presidential Elections. Of course, you may have surmised that I mean the Electoral College specifically. Historically this institution made sense. Hundreds of years ago it was not possible to tally every single vote from every single person in a realistic time-frame. This system was devised as an alternate to the popular vote based on the ideology that they Electoral College members would vote the same way as their states and that they would vote altogether for one president. Since its inception The members of the Electoral College have split their votes for both candidates and they have voted opposite the popular vote of their states. If you examine the National totals you’ll see several instances where the popular votes would have garnered us a different president than the Electoral College system. Take, for example, the 2000 election; Al Gore won the popular vote while George Bush carried the college. Another example is the 1888 election; Grover Cleveland had the popular vote, but Benjamin Harrison carried the college. Or the 1876 election; Samuel Tilden had the popular vote while Rutherford B. Hayes had the college. The point is, with modern technology it is now possible to count and tally the votes of every voter in real time. When the Electoral College was created this was impossible. So, why are we clinging to the use of the college at all if we can now perform the very task that it was intended to circumvent? Tradition.
Historically, this problem plagues our police departments as well. They typically develop policies and procedures that develop into tradition. When presented with new ideas about how to do things most departments resolutely cling to their traditional views saying things like “this is how it’s always been done”.  In the case of police procedures, they only change when a new disaster has occurred and the department is forced to change their policies as a result.

All in all I think that we should all be encouraged to know what we’re getting from our traditions. Do they have meaning and value in a cultural sense? Do they perform necessary functions? Or, do they simply shackle us to a pillar of stagnation?

References & Notes:

To read up about the voting history of the country’s presidential elections, including the number of electoral and popular votes each candidate received check out:

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

School Bullying

[Johnathan Clayborn]
I’m a bit pissed off right now, so I’m going to have to think about my word choice rather carefully to keep the tone of this article as civil as I’d like it to be.
School bullying is definitely a hot topic right now. It’s all over the news and in the public eye. I even belong to several special interest groups on LinkedIn that discuss bullying. Granted, my view on it is a little less progressive than most as I vociferously disagree with the “zero tolerance” rules. I’m firmly in the “if the kid hit you, punch him back” camp. I don’t think it’s ever a good idea to teach kids that they don’t have the right to defend themselves. But, I digress.

The content of this article is probably going to surprise you as it’s a twist from the usual slant on this issue. Those of you who frequent this blog often have seen the numerous other posts I’ve written on education. To sum it up eloquently, in the words of Shakespeare; “something’s rotten in the state of Denmark.”
The topic I pose to you today is this; what do you do when the school is the bully?

I’ve encountered at least two incidents in the last two weeks that I think could be classified as bullying. The first instance occurred at my step-son’s school in the Dysart Elementary District in Arizona. In this case the teacher sent home a notice that she needed school supplies; Kleenex brand facial tissues, Viva brand paper towels, and Dove brand liquid hand sanitizer (16oz refill bottles). She was very specific about her list. How does this constitute bullying? Well, in her letter to the parents she stated that these items needed to be brought in to the classroom every month. She also said that any child who does not bring the items on the list every month will have participation points deducted from their grade!
I’m sorry, what? First of all, teachers should not be demanding items like this from the parents; especially not by size and brand name. If I have the cash to spare to donate supplies, then the teacher will get whatever is on sale, because that’s what I buy for my own house. Secondly, not every family can afford to be bringing in these items every month. Thirdly, There’s no way that a 1st grade classroom should be going through 30 boxes of tissue, 30 pounds of hand sanitizer and 180 rolls of paper towels every month. And finally, and most importantly, if I chose not to bring these items in, why does the school it’s fair to penalize my child? It’s entirely out of his control whether I buy these items or not.

In a second encounter in as many weeks another incident occurred, this time at my son’s school in Glendale Elementary District. This school gives the children daily planners/agendas. In those agendas the teacher makes comments about how the child is doing in class and assigns them a color based on their behavior. Those colors are communicated with the parents via this document.
The first week of school the teacher filled out Monday and Tuesday, which I signed. Wednesday through Friday had nothing in them, so I didn’t sign them. I’m going to sign a blank box, sorry. I emailed the teacher that Friday and asked her what was up with the blank entries. She never responded. Then, on the following Monday she marked my son down because the agenda wasn’t signed.

Come again? First of all, there was nothing to sign. If you’re not going to bother writing something in the box, I’m not going to sign it. It’s that simple. Secondly, even if the teacher had written something in those boxes and I didn’t sign it I fail to see what that has to do with my child’s behavior for that day. He can’t force me to sign it any more than I can force it to rain. I forgot to sign the agenda the other day because, well, dammit, life is busy. Even after telling the teacher to knock this off because I’m concerned about the long term psychological effects of punishing my child for something he didn’t do, she still did it again anyway.
For those of you who are out of the loop on this whole color-card system it works like this; there’s a poster or a chart or fabric or something in the front of the room. Every student’s name is on the list. They get a colored square and put it next to their name. Every day everyone starts at Green.  Each time the child does something wrong they have to get up in front of the entire class and publicly change their color to yellow or red in a process that is filled with shame and ridicule. I’m opposed to this entire system from the start for that very reason, but to make kids do it for something they can’t even control seems even more absurd.

In these cases the principal at the first school had no clue that this one going on and once she was made aware of the situation it was dealt with. As for the other situation, as of the time of this writing it is still pending. I have a meeting with the school later this week to discuss the situation.
I also have a lot of issues going on with the college that I’m going to as well, but that is enough to fill another article in-and-of-itself. I just find it odd that with all of the talk about bullying going on lately and the campaigns to stop it, the schools themselves would be prone to such practices.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Measurement of Success II

[Johnathan Clayborn]
Some months back I wrote an article about what people define as “success” and how it is measured and compared ( In the wake of the recently completed Summer Olympics I feel compelled to discuss this topic in a little more detail.

Don’t get me wrong. Let me start this discussion off by affirming that I love the concept of the Olympic Games. The entire world coming together peacefully in any endeavor, even for a short amount of time, is something worthwhile. But, the Olympics have left me feeling a little disenfranchised of late and it has almost everything to do with how they determine who is winning.

When it comes to the Olympics it seems like the only thing that matters is taking home the Gold.  This system of measuring success seems to reinforce the idea of the old expression, “second place is just the first loser”.  Has our culture our society really become so focused on taking first place that no other aspects of the sportsmanship involved in getting there matter?

After hearing of the events of the Women’s Epee semifinals I remain more convinced than ever that the sportsmanship of the games is lost. For those of you who missed this debacle (because NBC never aired it), the semi-final match between South Korea and Germany was close. With 1 second remaining on the clock the South Korean athlete was in the lead. All she had to do was not get touched for 1 second and she would go on to fight for the Gold Medal. She squared off with her opponent and they fought. They both scored a simultaneous hit, and then again. And then, 3 seconds later the German opponent scored a hit, and then the clock reached 0. What happened? The 15-year old boy that they had running the clock screwed up. By rights, the Korean fighter should have won this. The Judges knew it, the fighters knew it and the crowd knew it. The sportsmanlike thing to do would be for the German fighter to concede on the grounds that she only won because the host country had unqualified idiots running the clock, but she didn’t do that. Even after paying thousands of US dollars to contest the ruling the judges still ruled in favor of Germany.  What happened to sports and personal honor?

The games themselves rank winning countries based one factor only; the number of Gold medals they have. When I was in high school I ran track and cross country. We were a team. Sure, we competed in individual events, but we were a team. There was a scoring system that they used to see which school won the overall meet. I don’t remember the exact details, but basically the people who finished in the top 5 places in any event earned points for their team. What if you did something like that for the Olympics?

Right now the top 10 leading countries are thus:

1.       United States                                    46 Gold                                 104 Total
2.       China                                                  38 Gold                                 88 Total
3.       Great Britain                                     29 Gold                                 65 Total
4.       Russia                                                 24 Gold                                 82 Total
5.       South Korea                                      13 Gold                                 28 Total
6.       Germany                                            11 Gold                                 44 Total
7.       France                                                 11 Gold                                 34 Total
8.       Italy                                                      8 Gold                                   28 total
9.       Hungary                                              8 Gold                                   17 Total
10.   Australia                                              7 Gold                                   35 Total

Now, I ask you, why should a country, like England, who scored 65 total medals, be beating a country, like Russia, that scored 17 more medals than they did? Or what about Korea, who scored 16 fewer medals than the country they beat?  Supposed we switched to a point based system where each Gold medal was worth 5 points, each Silver Medal was 3 points and each Bronze Medal was 1 point. The final standing would be quite different.

Under that system the top 10 countries would be:

1.       United States                    346 points
2.       China                                  294 points
3.       Russia                                 230 points
4.       Great Britain                     215 points
5.       Germany                            126 points
6.       France                                 100 points
7.       South Korea                       96 points
8.       Australia                             95 points
9.       Japan                                   94 points
10.   Italy                                      78 points

Under this system, Russia and Britain flip flop, Germany moves up to fifth, France moves up to 6th, South Korea drops to 7th, and Japan takes its place in the top 10 while Hungary is pushed out. To me, this type of system or something like it seems much more equitable, and it promotes teamwork and sportsmanship.

 An even more radical suggestion, one blogger suggests breaking down the medal count by the country’s population density. He argues that the more people you have in your country, the higher the statistical probability that you may have an Olympic champion. It’s quite an interesting concept and one that completely turns the medal count table on its head.  You can read about his ideas here:

Maybe I’m old fashioned or naive to still have the belief that how you play the game is more important than how you place.


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Racism Generalized

[Greg Bullock]
Nearly everyone knows that racism and stereotyping are wrong. Unfortunately, people don't stop to analyse why, or to generalize and apply the moral principles that forbid racism to other areas in which people judge individuals by the groups into which they are classified.

The problems with racist thinking are two-fold. Racism is first a mathematical error. A blanket statement about people of the form "all X's are Y's" is erroneous if a single counter example exists. Even when a premise is put into statistical form, such as "X is on average worse (in some area) than Y," assuming that a specific member of X is worse than a specific member of Y would be a mistake. Of course, these errors are greater in a situation where not a kernel of truth exists in our stereotypes. Human cognitive biases ensure that we will be enthralled to innumerable stereotypes, often without being aware of it.

These abstract points might be academic if it were not for the second problem with racist thinking. The mathematical errors implicit in such attitudes have moral consequences. We treat people differently from how we should because of our errors in reasoning. The consequences can range from accidentally giving offense to persecution, oppression, and genocide.

Decades of education have endowed most people with a finely-honed instinct for recognizing overt racism. Unfortunately, this instinct seems to be useless in noticing stereotypes not associated with historically persecuted classes, i. e., those stereotypes we decry as racist or sexist. As a simplistic example, it is common for people with progressive ideas about race to make statements which depict southerners as racist and backwards. When challenged on such points, perpetuators of stereotypes typically respond exactly as a racist does: "but it's true." They dismiss counter-examples in the same way, by adducing reasons the counter-example is nonrepresentative.

As an instructive exercise, you could substitute the name of a minority group for the group which such a person is defending his right to slander; If you were then to create a transcript of the altered conversation, you would see nothing that wouldn't be at home on the web page of a hate group.

Because the speaker hasn't generalized the principles that make racism wrong to govern his broader thinking, he continues to be no better than the hated racist. We might benefit from subsuming terms for specific categories of unenlightened thinking under the term "generalism," rather than racism, etc. We would certainly benefit by being more considerate of the ways in which we think of people as members of a group rather than individuals.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

I'm back!

Hello everyone!

I apologize for the long hiatus. I had a few college courses that I was struggling with and had to devote my attention there.

Some new things are in the works! First, I've got a few blog articles that I want to write and I'll be putting them up in the coming weeks.

Second, I've been talking for some time about adding other contributors to my blog so that this site truly becomes what it was intended; a place for people to share a variety of intellectual thoughts and opinions, even differing ones in a respectful manner. I've always wanted this site to be a place where people's creative juices get fired up, and their thought and their reason are engaged and they leave these pages thinking. Well, dear readers, that time has finally come. I have figured out how to allow additional authors to post to this blog and I will begin setting that up immediately. (Sheepishly I admit it was 1,000 times easier than I expected). You can expect to see the first posts by people other than myself within the next few days, with more to come. If you are interested in writing something for this blog, please contact me.

As always, thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Power of a Label

[Johnathan Clayborn]
Okay, so it’s been a while, I know. I’ve been busy with school work and trying to figure out a different way of hosting my blog so that I can open it up to other contributors.  (I’m still working on that, more details to come).
Last week I started two new classes; Abnormal Psychology and Learning and Cognition. Both of these classes are proving to be quite thought provoking and fun despite the heavy homework load.  The abnormal psych class is interesting because it relates to the behavioral health field where I currently work.  The Learning and Cognition class is fun because it relates directly to what I want to study in graduate school and has given me some more time to reflect on my dissertation topic.
One of my discussion questions this week really got me thinking. It was one of the “light bulb” moments where you have a profound epiphany that completely changes the way that you look at a situation.

The question was “If you found out that a member of your family was diagnosed with a dissociative disorder, what would be your reaction?”
After a few minutes of reflection I had that light bulb moment and I came to realization that in reality this is a trick question. I mean, let’s think about this realistically for a moment; this situation should come as no surprise to anyone.  William Shakespeare said it best when he said “A rose by any other name would still smell as sweet”. Along those same lines, a person with a mental disorder would still have a mental disorder even if they weren’t officially diagnosed as such.
How can I say that you might ask? Well, pragmatically a person with a mental disorder typically displays signs and symptoms that they have a condition in the first place. When they do go to the psychiatrist it is through the analysis of these symptoms that the doctor will make the diagnosis anyway. So, understanding that you will never have a situation where a perfectly normal person goes to see a shrink and walks out with a diagnosis. Mental disorders do not formulate overnight and are long, drawn out processes that are typically quite noticeable before they are diagnosed.
So what makes this question a trick question? Well, if it a family member of yours who has a disorder you will have been around them long before they got diagnosed. And, that being the case, you would either have developed coping skills to help you maintain a relationship with them or you would have severed your connection with them. The fact that they have a label for the way they behave does not change the fact that they behave that way. They are still the same person that they were before receiving the diagnosis.
But, will the application of a label, especially one like a mental illness, carries a powerful stigma. Labels can serve to alter your feelings about a person immediately and viscerally. Think about some common labels that we hear today; mentally ill, criminal, gangbanger, democrat, republican, etc. To certain groups these labels will invoke feelings of hatred and animosity although in many cases these labels tell you nothing about the person to whom they are applied any more than you can tell about me by knowing that my name is Johnathan.
All in all it was interesting lesson on perspective for me.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Thanks and Feedback

[Johnathan Clayborn]
First of all, dear readers, thank you. Today marks the day where readership of my blog has reached over 1,000 views. It’s a small milestone, I know, but it’s not too shabby for a small intellectual blog that I don’t really advertise.
On average I get about 168 views a month when I only post an average of 5.5 posts. That breaks down to about 30.5 views per post.
I have had readers from all over the world; the United States, Russia, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Canada, Brazil, Costa Rica, the Philippines, Malaysia, Turkey and Georgia.
A lot of the more interesting follow-up conversations happen off-site, either through Facebook or through email or on the phone. But, as I was explaining just last night, the purpose of this blog isn’t to shove my ideas down people’s throats and assert my “rightness” on these issues. It’s simply to provide me a place to vent the deep thoughts that I have sometimes have and to provide my readers with an article that makes them think or question or ponder, even if only for a moment. Being highly intellectual I crave those topics that really make me think, even if I disagree with the overall point of view. Those opposing points of view that have been carefully represented and backed up by research or other empirical data I truly appreciate it as it makes me re-evaluate my own thoughts and I’m able to ask myself “does this opinion come from biased feelings that I have, or is there actually a valid reason to think this way?”
What I would like to know is this; what topics do you want to hear about? Do you have any specific requests for articles for me to research? What do you like or dislike about this blog?
Also, as an Athenaeum is an institution that is dedicated to the promotion of learning I have tried to keep many of my articles as unbiased as possible. I have been toying with the idea of opening up this blog to other authors who may also wish to write intellectual articles of a similar fashion. In the promotion of knowledge and making people think it could be good to present ideas from more than just one person. What are your thoughts on that? Would you be interested in reading articles from other authors as well?
Anyway, thank you all for your readership this far. I sincerely hope that I can meet some of my self-imposed goals and that you do (at least occasionally) leave this blog thinking about the topics that I’ve written about.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Evolutionary Musings

[Johnathan Clayborn]
Based on all of the new information I have learned about the plethora of member species with the genus Homo and the genus Australopithecus I have been wracking my brain with all kinds of questions about evolution and humanity.
Clearly, in my mind, the mountain of data and fossils that they have uncovered seem to soundly refute the notion of intelligent design as even being a possibility. A glance at comparison photos of known hominid skulls speaks more to this than I can ever do with words: The resemblance between several of these skulls as compared to modern humans (bottom right) is astounding.
But, of course, having stated that I do not believe that intelligent design is the answer is not the same thing as saying that I believe that scientists have the right answer either. Clearly, they’re still trying to figure it out as well. Much of the evidence that I’ve seen leads me to believe that they are on the right track, however, it also makes me wonder how long it will take before we fully understand and ancient family tree, if that day ever comes to pass.
The first thing that should be pointed out to continue this discussion intelligently is to consider the entire mountain of research that has been completed with regards to the Human Genome Project. The entire human DNA genome was sequenced and decoded. Many hundreds of studies have been done on the DNA of modern humans and we now more about ourselves than ever have before.
In fact, by studying the different genetic mutations of the human hapologroups scientists have been able to recreate the historical migratory pattern of our human ancestors for tens of thousands of years. Maps such as this one: and this one: One interesting thing about these DNA studies is that they seem to loosely confirm some of the biblical concepts found in Genesis; every living person on Earth is descended from one common male ancestor and one common female ancestor. The only scientific hitch is that these individuals did not live at the same time.
All of this type of information, dating back to around 200,000 years ago, is a relatively small amount of time on the time-scale of human evolution. Scientists had believed that they had found a generalized “tree” of evolution that showed that humans descended from Neanderthals, and that if you go far enough back there was a common ancestor that tied everything neatly together. Many, many times this concept has been referenced within popular culture. The Geico commercials featuring the “cavemen” is one such example, as are movies like “iceman” and “homo erectus” and even an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation entitled Genesis where the crew de-evolves into more primitive species. Commander Riker turns into a Neanderthal.
Now, this is one point where I want to stop and explain one surprising counter-argument that I’ve found against evolution. There was one particular blog post I was reading a few days ago where the gentleman who wrote the blog was essentially saying that evolution is wrong because it’s racist and that it was only intended to prove that Africans and other non-white peoples were primitive and stupid, and then worthy of enslavement and mistreatment. Naturally, I had to set the record straight. In terms of evolutionary biology the word “primitive” does not mean “stupid or unintelligent”, it means “most like the original specimen.  As one example, suppose that you were to look at all of the different models of cell phones that exist today. Some a flip-phones, some are touch-screens, some are smart phones, some so-called “candy bar phones”. But, if you look at all of the different models of phones and their styles and functions there are many traits and characteristics that they have in common. But there is one trait or feature that all cell phones share; a number keypad; thus logically we can deduce that if all phones have a numbered keypad, then that is something that that must have come from the original model of cell phone since it is a trait that is present on its modern day descendants. Scientists refer to this “common denominator trait” as the primitive trait (as opposed to the advanced trait, which is the result of the process of evolution).
Putting that analogy to application in the evolutionary sense, “eyebrow ridges” (aka; supraorbital torus) is a trait that is found in every species of the genus Homo, Australopithecus, Pan, and Gorillini. Based on this, scientists have concluded that eyebrow ridges are a primitive trait, one that our common ancestor had as well. Based on genetic sequencing of fossil remains, scientists also believe that fair skin is a primitive trait and that darker colored skin is a more advanced trait; an evolutionary defense mechanism that people developed to protect themselves against the sun.  This particular topic, and this word in and of itself is one that is misunderstood and has been the cause of many debates over and over. For the record; scientists no longer believe that we are descended from Neanderthals, but instead that they were a sister species. They also do not believe that the Neanderthals were unintelligent. There is evidence to support that Neanderthals made tools, used projectile weapons, had language and some researchers even postulate that they may have developed art and music. In fact scientists now believe that one of the hominid ancestors, Homo Erectus sailed the ocean on rafts more than 700,000 years ago. When a scientist is calling a species primitive it is not in regards to its intelligence. Even modern day Gorillas and Chimpanzees can be taught to speak in sign language and understand human language, even if they are not able to reproduce those sounds. Clearly this is a sign of intelligence as well.
There have been a lot of changes in the concept of human evolution recently. Much of it is the result of new fossils that have been found within the last 10 years. Take, for example, this fossil found only two years ago: or this one found in 2007: Many opponents of evolution will cite these are arguments that these finds disprove evolution. I would disagree with them. Evolution has been proven as a concept as far as I am concerned. You want examples? Look at the donkey, a cross-breed between a mule and a horse. Take modern almonds as another example; the historically ancient version was poisonous to human consumption. And what about modern corn? It’s more than 3 times as large as its ancient ancestors with larger kernels.  The fact that there is so much ambiguity and confusion about the process of human evolution just means that we don’t have all of the answers. Look at the how many times we’ve been wrong before; the world was flat, the sun revolved around the earth, reflex was the result of an internal hydraulic pressure system, etc. Whenever you are trying to piece together a puzzle and old and as complex as this one you are bound to run into instances where the pieces don’t quite fit just right, even though it looks like it belongs there. This process is no different. As evidence that evolution is not only possible, but probable, consider this naturally occurring hybrid shark found off of Australia a few months ago:
But, even understanding that there are some margins of trial and error there are many questions that I have about humanity and evolution. One such example is the consideration given to the competing theories on human evolution. One of the most popular and widely accepted theories is that Humans (Homo Sapiens Sapiens specifically) migrated out of Africa and colonized the rest of the planet starting at around 150,000 years ago. This is called the Recent African Origin theory (RAO). The biggest evidence supporting this theory as being correct is the many hundreds of thousands of DNA studies conducted during the Human Genome Project (the maps I posted earlier). This is regarded as fact; humans did migrate out of Africa, no one is disputing that claim. But is this the only possible explanation?
The main competing explanation of the Recent African Origin Theory (also called the Recent Single-Origin Hypothesis (RSOH)) is the so-called Multiregional Origin Hypothesis. This model states that the human beings are different all over the world because they are all one species that diversified to fit their environment and that these “ancient bones” are all also human and just other examples of this diversification. Their primary arguments center around the fact that Homo Erectus is found in both Asia and Africa at the same time and that Homo Ergaster is physiologically similar to Homo Erectus to the point that some experts believe them to be the same species.
Pragmatically, there are issues with both of these theories. With regards to the multi-region theory, if all of these fossils are the diversification of a single species, then where did that species come from? This particular theory is most-often posited by those who favor intelligent design. But, on the other hand, if the RSOH is correct, then where did all of the other species of Homo go?  If they are so genetically close to us, why did they die off and we survive?
These questions lead me to profound questions of my own. It has been pointed out numerous times that the overall skeletal morphometry of modern humans is wildly diverse. It’s also been pointed out that some modern humans have physiological characteristics in common with these ancient bones. Therefore, one question that comes up is did the ancient Early Human Ancestors (formerly known as “cave men”) interbreed with the other species of Homo during the last few hundred thousand years and is there evidence of that today? The results seem to indicate that this is likely true. Some studies have shown that some middle eastern DNA sequences have between 4-8% DNA genome in common with Homo Neanderthalensis. This is suggestive of interbreeding.  It’s also been pointed out that the skulls of Malaysians, some Asians, and Aborigine Australians (among others) have many physical traits in common with Homo Erectus, such as the prominent supraorbital torus, and the sloping forehead.  There have been some studies that seem to support this (, however, the data and the studies that have been done on non-Africans and non-Europeans have been very limited. Thus, it begs the question; are those humans examples of cross-breeding between Homo Sapiens Sapiens and Homo Erectus, or are those humans modern day living examples of actual Homo Erectus specimens? The studies conclusively show that modern human skull characteristics differ considerably across the globe. This further begs the question; are these morphometric variances within tolerance for a shared taxonomic classification as evidenced by scientific standards, or should the variances be broken down into different taxonomic classifications? And does the entire genus Pan deserve to be moved within the genus Homo based on the close genetic kinship? There is a precedence for such an action based on prior DNA comparisons of other non-human species. And if that happens then would chimps then be considered “human”? Paleoarchelogists have determined that many species of early hominids used fire, tools and had developed language and some of them they theorize had art. Many of them lived in social settings much like we do. Thus, I can’t help but wonder, what does it mean to be “human” and where does one draw the proverbial line in sand between “human” and “nonhuman”? As you reflect on that question go take a look at the reconstructions of the fossils found here; and really ponder what it means to be human.