Jumping Genes

No, not jumping jeans. We’re talking DNA not dancing music. Horizontal DNA transfer is a booming field of evolutionary science which is hot on the trail of explaining large leaps in evolution. H-DNA transfer can occur between species and, in fact, between the plant and animal kingdom. It also can occur between viruses and other species as well as between bacteria and higher forms of life. We’re not just talking infection but gene/DNA transfer into the other species.

Take the lowly sweet potato. Sweet potatoes from all over the world naturally contain genes from the bacterium Agrobacterium. Researchers from UGent and the International Potato Institute (CIP) published this discovery on the website of PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America). Interestingly, the sweet potato is one of the most important food crops for human consumption in the world. Because of the presence of this “foreign” DNA, sweet potato can be seen as a “natural GMO.”But, it was ‘modified’ by bacteria, not lab scientists.

  

                                                                   Photo courtesy of Science Daily

This gene transfer is most common in a group of organisms which scientists have labeled prokaryotes- organisms which do not have a defined nucleus to envelop its DNA materials. An article in Aeon by Ferris Jebr states:

‘What scientists have seen is just a little tip of an immense iceberg,’ says Antonio Teixeira, a biologist at the University of Brasilia. W Ford Doolittle, a biochemist at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, agrees: horizontal gene transfer, he wrote recently ‘is far more pervasive and more radical in its consequences than we could have guessed just a decade ago’. Researchers have now discovered so many examples of gene transfer between species and kingdoms of life – with many more surely to come – that they have to adjust their understanding of how evolution works. Standard evolutionary theory does not account for the possibility of complex organisms suddenly acquiring genes from other species, let alone how those foreign genes might change a creature for better or worse. Think of it this way: if the genomes of living species are flowers on different branches of the great evolutionary tree of life, horizontal gene transfer is a subversive wind whipping pollen from one part of the tree to another.

What about us? Well, if we put on our Thinking Caps, we might be able to imagine that we are big clumps of composite DNA which got transferred into us from non-human sources along our evolutionary trail. In other words, we may be the at the top of evolutionary heap, having acquired bits and pieces of ‘stuff’ from creatures lower in the pile. Not exactly what Genesis says especially the part about being made in the image of God.

For an interesting read about how the fern stole the DNA from the hornwort visit http://aeon.co/magazine/science/how-horizontal-gene-transfer-changes-evolutionary-theory/

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Coding: The Sequel

Back in grade school, we passed notes to our friends during boring classes (which were every class!) one of the simplest codes was the one-letter-away substitution. ‘Dog’ became Eph. Code-breakers were in demand in WWII and it was the subject of the recent hit film, The Imitation Game. 

In the early 80’s I purchased one of the very first home computers, the Timex Sinclair 1000. It was the ‘state of the art’ with its 1K memory. It was wired to a TV screen and essentially spelled out messages. The operator programmed the message through the use of a code called Basic. 

  

The booklet (above) taught the programmer step-by-step how to produce the desired outcome. I recall being fascinated by the logic inherent in the program. One wrong step produced a blank screen. By the end of the summer, I was able to create/code a primitive game.

  

Fast forward to 2015. Coding is in vogue these days; in fact the UK is teaching it to their grade school children. Here in the U.S. It is naturally not taught, yet the late- teens and 20-somethings are interested specifically for the APP craze. There is money to be made! Money is a great motivator, yet even if the student does not seek a career in tech, the logic, critical thinking and reasoning skills associated with coding are valuable life-lessons that everyone can use.

Today’s schools in the U.S. are not teaching coding because there are few teachers competent enough to teach the class. Rather, American teachers spend countless weeks even months teaching long division. How useful is that! Why? Because they learned it back in the day. American education is still stuck in the same factory model designed for our grandparents. Pitiful, but not at all surprising.

In a recent conversation, a friend was complaining about trying to help her granddaughter with math homework. The math was ‘new’ and grandma didn’t understand the methodology involved. Her quip was not surprising: “Why can’t they just teach this the simple way we learned?” Apparently grandma did well in long division.

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One dollar blood test using gold nanoparticles outperforms PSA screen for prostate cancer, study suggests

A test that uses gold nanoparticles to detect early-stage prostate cancer costs less than $1, returns results in minutes and is more accurate than standard PSA screening, pilot studies show. The new technique leverages the ability of gold nanoparticles to attract cancer biomarkers.

A test that uses gold nanoparticles to detect early-stage prostate cancer costs less than $1, returns results in minutes and is more accurate than standard PSA screening, pilot studies show. The new technique leverages the ability of gold nanoparticles to attract cancer biomarkers.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/04/150403130826.htm

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The War Without End

http://youtu.be/xWY79JCfhjw

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Wife of Pi



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I’m Not Scared of Muslims, I’m Scared of White Guys With Guns

The following is a post from Benjamin L. Corey as posted on Patheos. He is one of my favorite writers these days. 

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/formerlyfundie/im-not-scared-of-muslims-im-scared-of-white-guys-with-guns/

I’m Not Scared of Muslims, I’m Scared of White Guys With Guns

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Photo via Geoffrey Fairchild/ Flickr. No changes made.

 Lately there seems as if there is a growing fear and hostility towards Muslims in America. While there will always be racism in culture, and there will always be Islamophobia, the current level of fear and hatred toward our Muslim brothers and sisters is ramping up to levels that I haven’t seen since the early days following 9-11.

This peddling of fear and hatred hasn’t been limited to folks who just live in the back woods and don’t get out much- high profile Christians are getting in on the action too, and this is something I have found just absolutely sad. The highest profile of which has been Franklin Graham, who now seems to have made a modern crusade against Muslims a core part of his platform. If his twitter account hasn’t been enough, his recent statements and TV appearances have been over-the-top in his claims that the President favors Islam, that Muslims now have “access to the White House,” and that persecution of Christians is coming because President Obama is “sympathetic” to Islam.

My Facebook and Twitter feed have been full of the same type of fear-baiting to the point where I can’t block or unfollow people fast enough. It’s as if a massive section of Christianity in America is not only afraid of Muslims, but they want us to be afraid of them too. I know no other explanation for the behavior.

But you know what? I’m not buying it. I’m not scared of my Muslim neighbors. But you know who I am scared of? Who I think we should really be concerned about?

White guys with guns, that’s who.

I’m not scared of the people who come out of our local mosque after evening prayer, I’m not scared of the guy who owns the Somalian food store in town, and I’m certainly not afraid of that guy who likes to invite you into the shop to have some tea with him.

Who I am scared of however, are people who see no reason that a person should undergo a background check prior to owning a firearm. I’m scared of the weirdos who take their AR15′s shopping with them at Walmart just to prove a point. I’m scared of the people pushing for a change to our state law, advocating that anyone should be allowed to carry a concealed gun on their person without any type of permit or training. I’m scared of the geniuses who take their 10 year old kids out to the woods to shoot an Uzi, scared of the people who think that limiting the amount of ammo their guns can fire in a single burst is an offensive restriction on their liberties, scared of the 19 year old kid who think he’s a badass because he went out and bought a gun with his paycheck (that used to be me), I’m scared of people who are ready to shoot someone simply because they “feel” threatened, and I’m definitely scared of the kids who got picked on in high school who went on to become cops.

I’m scared of people who have been so indoctrinated into the acceptability of violence, and who have been filled with so many fear-based stereotypes about others, that they are only a blink of an eye away from pulling that weapon out from under their shirt and using it.

I’m scared of all of them, because I don’t trust them with my life. I don’t trust them to use their weapons in public places where my daughter might be innocently walking, I don’t trust them to use lethal force as a last resort, and I don’t trust their overall judgement as people. Anyone who thinks that a private citizen should be able to own military grade weapons and that any oversight of that right is an “infringement” on their right has lost me– because that’s not rational thinking. And, if they can’t think rationally before picking up a weapon, I sure as heck don’t trust them to think rationally when it’s loaded and cocked in their hand.

I’ve seen nothing in my Muslim neighbors worthy of a general fear of them, as some Christian leaders want us to hold. The absolute worst-case-scenario with my Muslim neighbors is being invited over for food and tea on a day where I have a super busy schedule.

I’m not scared of Muslims. But I have to be honest, I am scared of white guys with guns.

So just remember when you see all of the anti-Muslim fear baiting from Christian leaders: the real looming threat in our country has nothing to do with people who wear a hijab, but people who have been indoctrinated into the acceptability of violence, and who carry guns snuggled neatly underneath their flannel shirt.

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Dangerously Stuck in the 1950’s

The following is a post by an Episcopalian priest who traveled across the United States by car while listening to Christian radio along the way. His report is not only depressing but frightening as well! I’ve lived in metropolitan areas all of my life so I am unaware of what rural America is thinking, if anything.

Actually, according to Tom Ehrich, their Christian preachers do the ‘thinking’ for them. If this were the former Soviet Union it would be labeled brainwashing. Yet we dare not use that term for our people, the special, God-blessed U. S. of A.!

So what about the 1950’s? Been there, did that, 2nd through 12th grade. Lots of fun and freedom with an occasional nuclear bomb drill in between. White boy living on the edge of a soybean field in northern Ohio. Naive. Parochial. Everyone except the ‘cleaning lady’ was white. Most of us were Catholics with an occasional Protestant soiling the neighborhood. Two Jews, too!

What did I miss during that decade? Seemed pretty good to me…

COMMENTARY: America’s Christian radio seems stuck in the 1950s

(RNS) On my recent 4,100-mile pilgrimage across the U.S., I occasionally used my radio’s “seek” function to find stations.

I often stopped on a “Christian radio” station, sometimes a national network such as American Family Radio, sometimes a local effort featuring preachers from area churches, always conservative.

I did so because I enjoy gospel music and I was curious what the radio preachers were saying.

A driver changes the car radio station. Photo courtesy of Syda Productions via Shutterstock

A driver changes the car radio station. Photo courtesy of Syda Productions via Shutterstock

They tended to be excellent speakers and well-prepared. But their message seemed frozen in time, as if nothing had changed in America since the 1950s, except for the identities of enemies who are allegedly “attacking Christians,” “attacking Christian values” and “attacking the American way of life.”

This siege mentality seemed basic to every preacher I heard. I suppose it’s one way to rally the troops. Get them fearful, angry and suspicious. It also prevents scrutiny of whether an attack actually exists, who’s attacking whom and what God’s stake might actually be.

In the 1950s, alleged attacks came from a “worldwide communist conspiracy.” Those attacks proved to be nonexistent, and Christianity wasn’t its target anyway.

Later, enemies included the supposed “free-love” culture of 1960s “hippies” and the anti-racism efforts of civil rights leaders. Today fear-mongering preachers name a black president and growing progressive movement that are out to destroy Christianity and to promote radical Islam or “secular humanism.”

The goal of these angry preachers seemed specific: promote laws and lawmakers who will restrict accepted morality to the narrow 1950s parameters of women under male control, gays in the closet, whites firmly in charge and free-market capitalism as true to the gospel. Never mind that Jesus taught the opposite of each principle. Never mind that white power, white privilege, limits on freedom, demonization of minorities and stifling of diversity have absolutely nothing to do with what God wants. These goals are what white conservative men want and what corporate interests will fund.

“It’s all about the ‘Benjamins,’” as they say. “Follow the money.”

It concerned me that so much well-funded and well-produced radio programming is selling this toxic waste as America’s only salvation. No wonder our political world is so angry and divided. When a sizable portion are being told that they are under attack — their faith, their Bible, their children, their homes, their nation — anger and its companion, fear, are the inevitable result, followed by armed aggression.

Another inevitable result is hubris: overweening pride based on the delusion of imminent attack means importance. If I am under attack, it must mean I am the center of all things. Hubris produces an “echo chamber,” in which people are told what they want to hear and reinforced in their outrage.

Tom Ehrich is a writer, church consultant and Episcopal priest based in New York. He is the president of Morning Walk Media and publisher of Fresh Day online magazine. His website is www.morningwalkmedia.com. Follow Tom on Twitter @tomehrich.

Tom Ehrich is a writer, church consultant and Episcopal priest based in New York. He is the president of Morning Walk Media and publisher of Fresh Day online magazine. His website is http://www.morningwalkmedia.com. Follow Tom on Twitter @tomehrich.

What I heard on stations from Arizona to New York was bad biblical scholarship — a flawed understanding of Scripture and thus of the God revealed in Scripture — feeding self-importance and a siege mentality, leading to isolation, resentment, ideological warfare and take-no-prisoners politics.

I couldn’t tell how much of this any one preacher intended or even saw. But I heard so much of the same thing that it alarmed me. I think American democracy hangs in the balance. Not to mention the gospel that Jesus actually proclaimed.

(Tom Ehrich is a writer, church consultant and Episcopal priest based in New York. He is the president of Morning Walk Media and publisher of Fresh Day online magazine. His website is www.morningwalkmedia.com. Follow Tom on Twitter @tomehrich.)

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