Endangered Species - unfortunately a pretty
broad subject nowadays. No, we're not going to go ecological on you or biological,
zoological, nor even geological, although we must admit that we remain continually awed by
the propensity of our planet to bite us in the ass when we least expect it, and perhaps,
most deserve it. This piece involves ideas, specifically concepts like Truth, Justice, and the
American way (there was a Superman marathon on last weekend on the TVLand channel - and I
remain impressionable). Besides, one can dwell only so long on the miseries inflicted on
both the tobacco industry and the smoker before becoming needlessly tainted with the
cynical. Without a doubt, unbroken negativism serves no purpose other than to ensure that
other, more creative attempts to deal with the "root problem", can become staid
and non-productive. Therefore . . . I submit that the predominant factor at the
"root" of many of our "problems" is INFORMATION
. . . or at least the lack of. Now I am perfectly aware that the time we live in is
touted as the information age and that there is more information available to more people
than ever before. We certainly appear
to have ACCESS, but do we really?. The
problem is that the majority of this so-called information is completely useless garbage
either comprised of irrelevant, oft repeated "facts", or more frequently
distorted interpretations and rough extrapolations of the so-called TRUTH,
heavily weighted by the personal bias of the particular information source.
In fact, the more I search around while attempting to get at the heart of nearly any issue (including but not exclusively tobacco usage and its regulation), the more I am convinced that the access that we supposedly have to information is a sham. Very soon, I begin to feel like a table-scrap-begging dog who's been give a hunk of old hamburger so his master can enjoy his nice hot juicy porterhouse in peace. This particular article has taken so long to write because every time I would get the train going I would be derailed with yet another example of the above. You need only turn on any television talk/news show to see diametrically opposed combatants each throwing out streams of propaganda, masquerading as facts, that are 180 degrees in interpretation from one another - facts and interpretations that are clearly mutually exclusive of one another . . . And all the while, as each principal evangelically proclaims to have found the TRUTH, the host consistently fails to ask that most pertinent question of all, "How do you know that?"
Now lest we become immersed in a battle of semantics, let's first differentiate between ACCURACY and TRUTH. There is an old saying that (I paraphrase) states, "Respect those who seek the truth and avoid those who claim to have found it." We know that TRUTH dwells in different guises amongst all cultures, religions and even scientific dogmatics. Like beauty, it is in the eye of the beholder. A fundamental Christian sees the "true" world much differently than an Islamic fundamentalist in much the same way as apparently do Democrats and Republicans, Creationists and Evolutionists, even you and your teen aged children. However, within a given society one would expect far less variation in facts as fact. Well apparently not so even (or especially so) in a culture like ours that is inundated with information resources. Perhaps we are using the wrong term here. Perhaps truth is not the ideal quest after all. And if truth then is not a reliable yardstick, what is? Let's explore another concept, the concept of ACCURACY. Accuracy should have no filter, decision making process, or observational shortcomings. If it does, it is not ACCURATE! To be accurate requires only a simple statement of the observations evident to anyone regarding any particular event or set of data. It does leave open the possibility that not all of the facts are disclosed therefore skewing the conclusion (more about that later) but at least the ones that are disclosed should, if accurate, be reliable and universal. By way of comparison, the behavior of an electron around the nucleus of an atom is more truth (or some would say philosophy) than accuracy as you cannot predict (or see) the specific location of such a particle at any given moment. You can see the path left by its motion under certain circumstances and therefore one can however predict the "behavior " of this particle over a range of time and motion. This behavior analysis is what often defines "truth" and it relies more on assumptions than point specific data. It is this methodology that often forms the basis for much of that which is believed to be the "truth" about nearly all things we interact with in our universe.
For example, we don't know for sure what dinosaurs looked like. With the exception of a very few intact skeletons, we have discovered primarily large amounts of fragmentary evidence. Pieces are put together like some grand jigsaw puzzle in seemingly (to the experts) logical ways resulting in our best guess as to what the complete animal "may" have looked like. In general, the models appear to the lay person, to be coherently assembled and may actually be pretty close to accurate but anatomical parts like skin and hair survive poorly as fossils in time frames of millions of years. Truly we may not have the slightest idea what a T-Rex looked like other than it was big and had long teeth. It may have been covered with thick blue feathers. (As a matter of fact, recent "evidence" is leading to rising speculation that feathering may have been common in the late Jurassic period). If we had ALL the parts mentioned above, that is a complete animal exterior and interior, we obviously could "see" the physiography of a particular creature but paleozoologists make leap-of-faith conclusions as to a whole species based on a few pieces of petrified bone in the fossil record and further extrapolations of assumed similarities with present day animals. And the experts are nearly uniform in their disagreement with each other as to the true nature of these creatures. These disagreements are the source of much of the relatively paltry funding grants that are awarded (usually by private institutions) that propel this area of research. There are oceans of speculation, few "facts." For example, the Velociraptor, made famous in the Jurassic Park films, is touted as a pack hunter. How do we know this? The bulk of the evidence supporting this theory is simply that remains of a few of these creatures apparently died together in proximity with a supposed prey animal. Is there no other possible explanation. Some predators do hunt in packs, but many do not. Female lions do, male lions do not. Bottom line - we may never truly "know" these striking creatures for what they really were. But at least the questions continue to be asked.
Admittedly, it is difficult in the extreme to equate accuracy with concepts as complex and assumptive as particle behavior or interpretive (hypothetical) paleontology. So instead, lets look for accuracy in territory we should be far more familiar with. Look, if you will, at the top of this page and consider the graphic there (the one with "Endangered Species" as a component - you know, the big one that took too long to load). I have asked several dozen people to look at a print of this graphic to get their opinion on the "true" colors of certain of its sections. The oranges, reds and yellows prompted fairly consistent responses as to subtle shade variations while the interpretations of each person concerning the greens, blues and grays were quite inconsistent. Have you ever had a disagreement with a friend or spouse as to the color of a shirt or pair of socks? Well, I certainly have and it is obvious to me that every human on this planet may actually see color a little differently than I do. Discrepancies in color estimates among dark gray, dark green, and dark blue are really common (color-blind people are obviously excluded from this generalization but I am told (by color-blind people - hearsay at best) that they have heightened sexual powers to make up for their chromatic challenges).
Seriously though, think about the difficulty in describing even the concept of color to a blind person much less a particular color itself. A simple question arises - can we accurately distinguish color and nail it down definitively using our own eyes. Is seeing believing? The answer is obviously NO - which is why we have the Pantone matching systems for printing and other such useful standards for color in general. We have by "agreement" settled on generalizations having to do with hue, saturation and luminosity that may have little to do with actual perception, but it gives us, at least, the basis for a start when we design with color in mind.
The human eye is an incredibly complex system. The basic units called photo receptors are structures located in the retina (the red layer in the eye graphic at right) known as rods and cones. These are actually systems made up of increasingly complex subsystems, but generally it is "known" that rods function as black and white sensors while cones are the color sensors. They are grouped in the retina in various patterns with the bulk of the rods at the periphery while cones are found more predominantly near the center. The cones are thought to be of three types, red, green and blue and they are arranged with the blues more predominant nearer the center of the retina, the green next on either side of the blues and the reds outside of those. This is certainly a generalization but serves well enough to make the following observation. It has long been "known" that the blue part of the spectrum is the hardest to focus on (hence "Blue-Blockers" sunglasses or using the color blue to accentuate distance when painting a landscape showing a distant mountain). Focusing involves depth perception and the farther apart a particular sensor is from another similar sensor, the more accurately distance to an object can be perceived. Thus, it would be logical to speculate that the location of the blue receptor cones are likely candidates to explain our difficulty with processing distance in blue light.
However, the fact that there are far fewer blue (or S - for short wavelength) receptors may be as significant and certainly would go further in explaining the additional uncertainty/inconsistency humans have in recognizing subtle variations in this part of the spectrum. Cumulatively now, the problems we have with focusing on the blue part of the spectrum AND discerning various hues of blues, grays and greens appear to be the result of a number of factors rather than simply cone location. Moreover, the longer we look at these particular colors, the more desensitized we become to subtle variations in their hues. If there are fewer blue receptors, it is logical that they would more quickly become saturated with their "dedicated" part of the spectrum. ALL of the properties of the blue receptor cones are important to forming a hypothesis of why we experience anomalies with the color blue. Even after all of the above, we may still not have the complete picture of color recognition since factors regarding the size of the different color-specific cones and the depth of the fibers that connect them to the retina must also be considered, as well as the incredibly complex electro-conductive properties of the optic nerve itself.
Color is something we can investigate in real time. Is it any wonder that biological processes that may take 10 or 20 years to manifest may be so complicated and involve literally thousands of factors, many of which we may not even suspect, that attributing ONE set of circumstances to a particular outcome is simply not possible? Sure, if you jump off of a high enough cliff you will probably experience a commonality of consequences that approaches 100%. Likewise ingesting certain toxins will have the same nearly immediate and unanimous effect. The worst case scenario for smokers is about a 30% mortality rate. Life is an incredibly complex process. The human DNA molecule is the most complex structure yet observed in the entire universe. Anecdotal evidence to "study" the effects of smoking is about as useful as hearsay in a court of law. At the very least it should be vehemently "objected" to until experimentally verified.
Any inherently extrapolative study regarding nuclear processes, extinct life forms, color, or the biological effects of smoking, must take into consideration a lot of information. Just as any attempt to form a hypothesis based on only one facet of the information at hand would be ludicrous, so too, are "studies" conducted by those who are negligent when it come to asking ALL the possibly pertinent questions. Often they have a vested interest in their pre-supposition as to the desired outcome of the experiment. And this is precisely what the anti-smoking zealots are quoting as gospel. Research "evidence" from government funded, grant-based research organizations, who must proclaim the results they are seeking BEFORE funds are granted.
Here's a juicy little tidbit from Canada demonstrating just how whimsical extrapolation of scientific data has become. And by the way, if you are interested in reading more about the human eye click on the following link: http://webvision.med.utah.edu/
This is a recent essay passed on to RYO via e-mail from Mordecai Richler of Canada's National Post. It is followed by a small outline we also received, via e-mail, that looks at the ramifications of tobacco legislation - author unknown.
There is a whole lot of money to be made fighting the tobacco industry and smoking/smokers in general. And there is a whole lot of number and fact juggling going on that you need to investigate not only relating to the tobacco issue but for all of the complex issues in the future that we are bound to face regarding changes to the structure and diversity of our society. One last example, on Fox News' O'Reilly Factor the other day the subject of gay couples adopting children was being discussed. Recently Mississippi passed a law banning such adoptions. No matter what you think about the issue, it deserves fair and accurate debate. The female representative of the side favoring the ban (a comely little thing who, O'Reilly must have mentioned at least a dozen times, was voted one of the top 25 most beautiful people by some equally stupid magazine that bothers with such minutia) kept repeating the fact that "studies" show that kids raised in ONE parent families suffer from sexual identification problems and drug abuse more often than those raised in two parent households. Again and again, she emphasized SINGLE parent situations. Now even if you believe that the number of parents is an issue, rather than the quality of the parenting, she seemed to overlook the fact that the subject was gay couples (that means two people, you twit) adopting children. To make matters worse, neither O'Reilly, or most importantly, the guy on the other side of the issue (who should have been looking for any opportunity to challenge) disputed this obviously inaccurate interpretation of the facts. They just let her babble on with O'Reilly paying lip service to Libertarian rights and the gay rights advocate slinging unsubstantiated "facts" about gay people. My own opinion is that there are far too many kids without decent parents (one or two) and that good parenting has nothing to do with sexual preference, but should you disagree, even after a full serving of accurate information on the subject, I would remind you of the quote at the top of this issue's cover page. To save you time, I will repeat it here, and lest you didn't notice, it applies to all who find their private behavior challenged:
trample on the rights of others soon become fit subjects
It is on all of our tables to hold accountable those proposing changes that would affect our private behavior. There is a WEALTH of information out there and we continue to give you some outstanding leads. We hope you are even more motivated than before you came to visit. With that in mind, we once again provide you with the following links:.
And Now, Finally
Next time, we will continue to examine where anti-smoking groups, governmental consumer interest agencies, and spokespersons for various issues get the information (statistics) they are so fond of "sharing" with all who will swallow. As to their arguments regarding the TRUTH and how they shamelessly interpret that data so differently depending on which side of the fence they sit, we will continue to try to provide illumination, ever keeping in mind of course, that it is difficult to shine a light on emptiness.
We truly believe that money and power is of far more concern to anti-smoking groups and their attorneys than any altruistic mission to discover or share information for the good of others. There are a lot of "power brokers" out there. None have your best interest in mind. The larger, more critical issue should be the amount of control those at the helm of the information factories have on all of us and how we may force them to give us ACCESS to ACCURATE data - ALL of the data - ALL of the time - whether it concerns smoking or the environment or taxes or social security. I could not care less who politicians choose to sleep with or even who funds their ridiculous campaigns. Want I want to know is on what INFORMATION they base the often wacky decisions they make on our behalf. Only then can we accurately judge their ability to lead. We are more than capable of interpreting that data for ourselves. Our favorite question (and one that remains uniformly unanswered) every time we invest the effort to watch some pundit haunting the set of the wildly proliferating television news/opinion talk show is, "How do you know that?" It is time we insist that those providing "expert" commentary provide COMPLETE information, not just that which suits their particular cause. We continue to encourage no one to smoke but do encourage everyone who reads this publication to insist on their rights concerning personal behavior and to get involved with the task of loosening the grip that certain entities have on the control of INFORMATION. Until next time, ask questions - write letters to the talk show hosts, to your representatives - we're told they are reasonably literate (by them - more hearsay?). And by all means, make it a point to occasionally piss someone off. Turnabout's fair play. - RYO
|EDITOR'S NOTE: These reviews are solely for the convenience of people of legal age who already smoke, are trying to cut down on smoking, wish to spend less money on their smoking, want to roll their own cigarettes from high quality tobacco, and, in general, wish to have a far more satisfying, and economical smoking experience when compared with smoking pre-manufactured cigarettes. We, in no way, encourage people to smoke. Further, we prescribe to a sane, more logical approach to smoking that involves common sense as to quantity coupled with a strong desire to manage the habit until it becomes an occasional, freely chosen, diversion, that can be fully enjoyed with minimal health risks. Finally, we strongly encourage those who do smoke to take it outdoors, or to appropriate environments where tobacco can be enjoyed away from those who do not smoke, most especially children. We do not sell tobacco or related products from this site; We distribute information about our perceptions of the quality of what is available and where it can be obtained. If you are under 18, it is illegal to buy tobacco and you should immediately exit this site. If you do not smoke, it would seem illogical to start.|
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