Saturday, August 30, 2008

Scalpel and the Soul

Just finished reading Scalpel and the Soul. Curiously, I found his book firmly ensconced in the New Age section of Borders, sitting alongside endless books by psychics, channelers, witches, diviners, etc., etc., etc... While a few might think it belongs there, I'm not so sure.

This is an autobiography. The author is an extremely accomplished neurosurgeon who revitalized his post-surgical career by creating a think tank dedicated to the development of new surgical devices. This was after he could no longer be a practicing surgeon (physical ailments). His being relegated to the New Age shelf is probably more of a marketing ploy that anything else.

Here's why I think it's a good book. Without trying to persuade the reader that he or she should believe what he does, he describes what he has seen and experienced, draws his own conclusions and leaves it at that. He doesn't ask the reader to believe him. Unlike the professional purveyors and debunkers, believers and skeptics, Hamilton's voice is refreshing and sincere, speaking without an a priori ideology or belief system. His beliefs have been formed by experience, not in a labratory, press room or ivory tower, but hands on, every day, and directly. As impressive as writers like Dawkins, Harris, Carrier and Hitchens are, these men have never actually opened up the human brain or sat and listened to very real people and their experiences. He listens. He aptly expresses his awe at the human body, the human mind and the human experience.

On the other side of the coin, he is a professional, trained to tinker in one of the most delicate and complex organs known. None of the New Age writers with whom he shares shelf space are remotely comparable or as qualified.

And what are his experiences? Consciousness, as he has observed it, is far more mysterious than the idle reassurances of new age psychics; and consciousness is far more mysterious than the controlled dissiction of the labratory. He confirms the odd experiences that we all have - the strange synchrocities, the inexplicable coincidences that can't be reproduced, the random but powerful experiences that defy logic, rational inquiry and even death itself. These things happen, says Hamilton, and they are observed by countless medical practitioners daily exposed to life and death.

"I've been sharing some of my own "rounds" with you. Not because they're so special. Just the opposite. Many of the spiritual experiences I've written about are not unique. They're common, everyday events you'd find in every medical center. And although I can't vouch for those of other surgeons, the majority of these experiences get overlooked -- dismissed."

In the final chapter of the book, he recalls the experience of a woman who underwent hypothermic arrest to remove a basilar tip aneurysm after a nearly lethal intracerebral hemorrhage. "I was not the only one asking to see [the patients records]. Other doctors, researchers, and experts on concsciousness were making similar requests as word of the case spread through the local medical community. Few of us, as doctors, suspected we might encounter something altogether new or unique.... We came with the purpose of explaining it away."

What they were investigating was the woman's memory of the surgury during hypothermic arrest. She could remember conversations as well as the the appearance and jewelry of the attending staff, along with OR procedures.

"The patient was reproducing practically word for word what had been said. Right down to the jewelry store and the waiter stumbling. No, she clearly recalled what had been said. There was no doubt about that....

From everything we currently know about how the brain works, it would be utterly impossible, from a biochemical, metabolic, and physiologic point of view, for this woman's brain to create a memory. To do so would require neurons to be activated and then be capable of encoding incoming electrical signals. This electrical activity would cause them to convert the voltage signals across the cell's surface membrane into specific changes in the transcription of messenger RNA - or mRNA - in each neuron. These changes in mRNA produce precise molecular changes, altering amino acid and peptide production within thousands of cells to make a lasting memory the brain can recall. In order to create a "Kodak moment of recollection," the brain must be very much alive and bristling with electrical activation, and intracellular metabolism must be "revved up" to hte maximum of each cell's capacity...

Yet we also had here unequivocal, scientific evidence that not only was her brain not working, it specifically demonstrated the absence of all cortical electrical activity when these conversations actually took place. So where could these brand-new memories have been created? Where had these memories gone? And where would such a place exist?"

The anesthesiologist's response? "No. No way! No, it's impossible."

The anesthesiologist's response seems to be the same of many individuals unwittingly constrained by their own belief systems.

And yet it happened.

The woman's memory's were investigated immediately after the surgery, before there was time to "contaminate" her recall.

By the way, this patient wasn't Pam Reynolds. This patient was killed a year later in a traffic accident. When the pathologist removed the brain, she dictated:

"A titanium clip is found in good position, securely around the neck of an old basilar aneurysm."

In the forward to the book, Andrew Weil, M.D., writes:

"Good science begins with uncontrolled observation. If observations do not fit the standard model of reality - especially if they do not fit - scientists should give them attention. They are the raw material from which we form hypotheses to be tested. "Anecdote," by the way, derives from the Greek and means "unpublished." In publishing these "stories from the spiritual side of surgery," Allan Hamilton gives us quite a lot to ponder.

Friday, August 29, 2008

McClone Proves He is a Sham With Palin

For months I've been impressed by the fact that we will get a president who is serious about global warming no matter who wins the food fight. Once again, I was wrong. Once again my total apathy for politics increases. Once again I prove to myself that feelings of hope and encouragement about the state of affairs in the world aren't really worth having at all.

Sarah Palin is a global warming denialist who desires creationism to be taught in schools.

In response to the question, "What is your take on global warming and how is it affecting our country? " from the far right Newsmax Palin replied,

"A changing environment will affect Alaska more than any other state, because of our location. I'm not one though who would attribute it to being man-made. "

I can see no substantial value in selecting Palin other than pure politics- a decent looking over 40 piece of ass, wants to overturn Roe v Wade, pretends to believe in Jesus, denies the greenhouse effect, denies evolution, must realize that her role is to whore for Hillary voters so shallow that the only reason they wanted Hillary to win was because of her gender and who would literally change their entire political ideology just to elect a woman, James Dobson got a woody about her, Rush Limbaugh likes her, she looks like a "Cunt" many republican men would love to have a beer with, and she recently stated that she wasn't terribly interested in becoming the VP because she is just an "average soccer mom", yet is now poised to be a clogged artery away from being the goddamned president.

Eff it. I give up.

My first reaction this morning when I heard was to laugh out loud. The more I learned the more amazed I became, thinking that this was the worst VP choice ever made since Dan Quayle. Then I realized the brilliance of the republican party- they never underestimate the stupidity of the American people like the Dems do. Not only that, they have made stupidity a badge of honor- intellect a sign of weakness, and denial of reality a moniker for extraordinary faith.
I tuned into CSPAN and heard the very first 2 callers confirm my suspicions-
"Next we'll go to Pobunk dipshit cornhole city, you're next on CSPAN, what's your comment?"
-"When I learned that she was just an average soccer mom I knew that this was just what America needs for a Vice President".
Here we go again.

You've been rickrolled beyotch!

In case you don't know, the "rickroll" is a technique where someone posts a link on a message board you think will go to something pertinent but instead goes to this old 80's song by Rick Astley that is too funny for words-

It has 8,850,472 hits as I write. Chances are, if you have spent much time on message boards you've been rickrolled and thought to yourself WTF is this?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Racists pity those with epicanthal folds

First of all, what a stupid ad by the Spanish basketball team. But far from racist. A racist would instantly recognize the powder keg this ad would be and would never think to do it. A non-racist might not. 

A racist thinks there's something goofy about the epicanthal fold of the Asian eye and would never openly make fun of it. A non-racist does not, and may consider doing an ad like this.

A racist may get deeply offended by an ad like this, perhaps because somewhere inside they pity Asian people for having epicanthal folds. The non-racist does not see the epicanthal fold as having any particular significance.

Once again, the media absolutely *insists* that race becomes an issue. And the real racially driven people- those journalists who tend to find racism like a Catholic finds images of Mary, always seem to pat themselves on the back for being so astute.

Thursday, August 07, 2008