Monthly Archives: December 2012

America’s culture of violence

Although I believe in the individual’s right to own the means to defend himself, I want to say that I do not believe that the reason that there are so many violent shootings in the USA is that too few people own guns. Nor do I believe, that the main problem is that people do not receive enough mental health services. The chief problem is that we are sick to begin with.

The main cause of violence in America is that America has a culture of violence. It is everywhere — in our movies, cities, laws, and homes. It is not the weapons themselves nor any admiration for the weapons that is responsible for our worship of violence, but the fact that almost everyone believes that conflicts of interest are inherent to human interaction. Today, violence and destruction are more deeply seeded in our culture than ever before in the history of America. It is instilled in us when we grow up in violent households, go to violent schools, face violent peers, and experience the politics of violence as adults.

By “violence” I do not refer primarily to crude physical violence, although there is still plenty of that. I refer to the violence done when any parent, schoolyard bully, teacher, policeman, preacher, government bureaucrat, or politician says: “you must do this or else.” I refer specifically to the philosophical worldview implied in that statement: that human values inherently conflict with each other, and therefore men must extract values from each other by force.

The only thing necessary for the violence to end is for people to recognize that there is no conflict of interest between rational men. Everyone, from parents to businessmen to judges must accept the fact that men should and can gain values from each other by voluntary exchange rather than force. We must fully accept, integrate, and apply the simple idea that force is not a moral or practical means to gain the cooperation of other people.

If we raised our children to believe this for the first few years of their life, the violence in our homes, schools, laws and foreign wars would end.

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Learning to squat

You probably don’t know how to squat. In fact, you are probably not capable of squatting for any period of time, even though it is one of the basic human positions, just like standing and lying. Why does it matter? Because, as I recently discovered, squatting is the optimal position for all sorts of things — eating, working, defecating, exercising, and especially giving birth. Learning to squat can even prevent cancer!

The full, resting squat position

I first learned about squatting through “Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way” book. Squatting is one of the exercises the book recommends to build muscles for birth as well as an alternative birthing position. What most people knows as “squatting” is the partial squat — where only the ball of the foot touches the ground. This position cannot be held for long because it requires continual muscle tension. For the full “resting” squat, you must plant your feet flat on the ground with your buttocks resting on the backs of the calves. Try it. You feel off-balance, right? That’s because a life of sitting on chairs and wearing shoes with heels (including most men’s shoes) has shortened your Achilles tendons and left many muscles underdeveloped.

While “civilized” people who have office jobs and read blogs rarely squat, it is still very common in the developing world, they just stick to making vlogs and often become very popular after they buy subscribers for their channel. In China (where I live), you will often see people squatting while working or eating. The majority of people across the world also squat on the toilet. Is that because they don’t have money to pay for western-style toilets and chairs?

Squatting for health:

from http://www.bengreenfieldfitness.com/2012/04/why-you-should-squat-to-poop/

Actually, it turns out squatting offers numerous health advantages for all kinds of activities. First, you must realize that human beings did not evolve to sit on chairs and toilets. This matters because the unnatural position we use while eating and defecating sitting down causes various health problems including:

  • Appendicitis
  • Bladder Incontinence
  • Colitis and Crohn’s Disease
  • Colon Cancer
  • Constipation
  • Contamination of the Small Intestine
  • Diverticulosis
  • Gynecological Disorders
  • Endometriosis
  • Hysterectomy
  • Pelvic Organ Prolapse
  • Rectocele
  • Uterine Fibroids
  • Heart Attacks
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Hiatus Hernia and GERD
  • Pregnancy and Childbirth Issues
  • Prostate Disorders
  • Sexual Dysfunction

Yeah.

Squatting for birth:

Squatting also happens to be the ideal position for birth. Lying down to give birth is a very recent “innovation” due to the replacement of midwives with doctors in the last century. Lying flat for birth reduces blood flow to baby and placenta, increasing the risk of fetal distress, whereas squatting maximizes the spaces between the pelvic bones and puts pressure on the cervix. Unfortunately, after a life time of sitting and wearing heels, most women cannot maintain a squat without extensive exercise.

Squatting for back pain:

About a year ago, I went to a social event which required me to stand while talking to people for several hours. Although no exercise was involved, the effort of just standing for an extended time caused such a strain in my back that I was in pain for weeks. Most adults have experiences some sort of back pain and assume that this one of the costs for the privilege of walking upright. In fact, the reason back pain is so common in the West is because we spend most of our time sitting or reclining rather than walking and squatting.

Farewell to the chair?

So we need to change our ideas about birthing position and toilet design, but what about chairs? Chairs for common use (rather than as thrones for public display) only because common with the European Renaissance.

I’m not an expert in ergonomics, but I suppose that sitting in a chair certainly has practical benefits. It allows for a better view of the surroundings, better access to operate machinery, and probably requires less calories. Are these benefits relevant to the modern office worker plugged into on a computer terminal all day? I don’t know. The important thing is not to rely exclusively on the chair (or couch or bed) to support one’s body. Ultra-comfortable ergonomic designs work against us when they allow the muscles that support the back and neck to atrophy. Every now and then, you must let your muscles and tendons do the job they were designed for.

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A comparison of two non-empirical hypotheses

“Mais où est Dieu dans tout cela?”
“[Sire,] je n’ai pas eu besoin de cette hypothèse.”
– Pierre-Simon Laplace

 

If you ask a pre-modern, pre-scientific person why he believes in God, he would probably mention the need to explain some natural phenomena, living or geological, or perhaps offer some ontological justification. If you ask a modern person, you are likely to get an explanation in terms of social goals – the need to justify or discourage various kinds of actions and attitudes.

If you ask a pre-modern, pre-democratic person why there needs to be a State, he would probably mention some specific purpose such as the need for defense against foreign threats. If you ask a modern person about the need for a government, he would probably first mention the need to enforce certain socially desirable activities and prohibit undesirable ones.

It seems to be that the justifications offered for religion and the State today are essentially the same. People believe that (1) an agent is needed to create and enforce the desired “natural” order and (2) that this agent is immune or excluded from the conditions giving rise to this need.

For example, it is believed that all entities require a creator, but the creator is excluded from this requirement. Likewise it is believed that people cannot peacefully coexist without a monopoly on the use of force, but that the States themselves can coexist without a single ruler over themselves.

If you offer a religious person a naturalistic basis for ethical behavior, or a natural explanation of the universe they will usually not try to disprove your argument on an empirical basis, but ask you to refute their arbitrary claims. For example, they will say that life itself is not a valid basis for a moral theory because it does not include a justification for their ethical doctrine (sacrifice, altruism, etc). Likewise, the instability of empty space due to vacuum energy cannot be a justification for the universe because it does not explain their version of “theological nothingness.” Arbitrary claims like this are impossible to disprove by empirical evidence. What argument can be given to someone who dismisses what we know to be true because it conflicts with what he wants to be true?

If you explain to someone who supports the State how a non-monopolistic, private agency could better accomplish some state-run function, they will usually not refute the argument directly, but ask you to refute their arbitrary assumption that only a coercive, monopolistic agency can full-fill that role. For example, if you explain why a private education would function better, they would not address the evidence directly, but ask how those who have neither funds nor charitable support could obtain an education – as if the State-run system is funded by magic, without either funds or electoral support. Their basic assumption is that voluntary cooperation is not possible to human beings in meeting certain kinds of values – but that the State is exempt from that same requirements.

The purpose of the above is not to convert the uninitiated but simply to point out how two popular memes have adapted to the Age of Reason by evolving from empirical to non-empirical, non-testable justifications.

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Why Paleo?

We are animals not far removed from the jungle. Genetically, we are identical to primitive man.

Our bodies have been shaped by our environment to make the best of the resources available to us. Our genotype (the DNA) only develops a healthy phenotype (our body and mind) in response to the environmental inputs it evolved to thrive in. The trouble with our modern, industrial lifestyle is that it is very different from the environment our bodies evolved to thrive in.

As a result, most of us are plagued by chronic illnesses that our ancestors never dealt with. If they survived childhood illnesses and accidents, our primitive ancestors could expect to live almost as long as us without the help of any modern comforts.

 

What are the sins of the modern lifestyle?

 

  • We eat terrible, non-human food: our bodies are adapted to handle a diet of mainly whole animal carcasses, leafy greens,nuts & berries, whereas modern man eats a diet full of grains and starches – full of carbohydrates that were a rare delicacy for primitive man.
  • We evolved to eat whatever food is available and to handle occasional fasts no to gorge ourselves multiple times a day on substances engineered to directly trigger our pleasure hormones.
  • We evolved to tone our bodies with hours of daily activity, but today we fight every exertion with door to door transportation.
  • Most people who try exercise programs follow stressful, repetitive and boring workouts which can be counter-productive and do not match the natural workouts our bodies adapted to.
  •  We evolved to handle occasional intense stresses (chasing prey and escaping predators) but we are overwhelmed with constantly stressful modern workplaces and hectic schedules.
  • The substitution of a physiologically proper diet with highly processed modern foods and toxic, synthetic sweeteners has destroyed our health as well as our sense of taste: we can no longer taste or appreciate the natural sugars and flavors in many foods.

So, why Paleo?

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