Archive for the ‘Human evolution’ Category

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by Andrew Welch

Xmas.

Quite revolting really.

We really are well and truly sucked into a quite revolting and alienating dubious tradition.

What is draining is seeing a mall full of people desperately fulfilling the implicit expectations of an officially-dictated happy season when same system doesn’t give the steam off a turd about suffering for the rest of the year.

Our fake traditions are retail or war mongering or sycophantic celebrity worship.  This is all symptomatic of abdicating control elsewhere.

Our culture is sanitised of worthy traditions and drowned in mindless consumerism.

Fake politics and fake democracy wrapped up in Xmas cheer.

The stress and loneliness and awful expectations of a hollow retail existence made even worse by the end of a year with no other certainty for many than a (more…)

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images (1)We were saddened to hear that Richard Levins died on January 19.  An outstanding scientist and veteran Marxist, Richard would have been 86 in June this year.  We were delighted to notice some time back that Richard sometimes looked at material on Redline and even commented on a couple of articles.  Below we reprint a short tribute to him and his life well-lived that appeared on facebook.

by Rob Wallace

imagesRichard Levins, the dialectical biologist extraordinaire, has passed. He revolutionized population biology multiple times, making foundational contributions to modeling evolution in changing environments, the theory of biological control, the philosophy of biology, modeling complex systems, mathematical biology, disease ecology, public health, and agroecology. He coined the term “metapopulation”.

His thinking remains profound enough to keep us busy for many decades to come. So much so, I think, that he reads like a traveler from another timeline. Imagine a working class Charles Darwin showing up in King Arthur’s court. He collaborated with evolutionary biologist Richard Lewontin to develop, via a series of beautifully written essays, a modern-day dialectical (more…)

Fat is a class issue

Fat is a class issue

Robert Lustig, Fat chance: the hidden truth about sugar, obesity and disease, Forthestate, 2013, pp320, £8.99; reviewed by James Linney

Once upon a time, advice on how to lose weight and lead a healthy life ran something like this: ‘Eat less fat and exercise more.’ Sugar got a mention – mainly as a warning to get kids to brush their teeth – but it was certainly not the evil queen of the story.

Robert Lustig’s book about the obesity pandemic makes the case that this advice, like any fairy tale, is based partly on a distorted reality and mostly on a fantasy. The mantra of ‘Eat less, move more’, he claims, has contributed to the huge obesity problem we are facing. Today more people die of the complications of obesity than of undernutrition. In 2008 there were more than 1.4 billion overweight adults worldwide and the prevalence of obesity has more than doubled since 1990.1 In America about a third of adults are now obese and the rates show no sign of slowing down. Yet in no way is this just a US and European problem: the rates of obesity are sky-rocketing globally and the problem has no respect for borders or level of economic development.

Lustig is an American paediatrician who specialises in endocrinology and this book is the result of his years of seeing, treating and researching obese children. Such children are now commonly presenting with type-2 diabetes, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease: conditions previously only seen in adults.

In the first part of the book the author attempts to myth-bust some long and commonly held beliefs in science regarding obesity – beliefs that have been partly assimilated and echoed by the food industry.

Three myths

Myth number 1: A “calorie is a calorie” and to maintain a healthy weight you simply have to balance calories in with calories out. This is a favourite argument of the fast-food industry: it claims that its products can form part of any healthy diet, as long as the consumer’s calorie in/out levels are roughly equal. In other words, it does not matter whether you consume your 2,000 daily calories in two Big Mac meals or 100 carrots (not something I would recommend in either case, by the way): if you don’t use up the energy your body will store it – at least that is the claim.

However, studies of the effect of different food types on the metabolic processes of the body makes it clear that (more…)

downloadThe article below first appeared in issue #5 of revolution magazine, March/April 1998. revolution was one of the print ancestors of this blog. Its author was a reader of the mag and a science fiction novelist based in Edinburgh; he contributed several articles to the mag in its roughly nine-year history.

by Ken MacLeod

William Gibson, one of the best current science fiction (SF) writers, recently commented, “The best SF of the nineties is on CNN. Hard to beat that garbage-module slamming into space station Mir!” And, indeed, the co-operation between Russia and the West on the Mir space station may be the perfect symbol for the present state of affairs: actually-existing capitalism relying for its life support on the clapped-out projects of formerly-existing socialism, lurching from one crisis to another and going round in circles. After all, what happens to SF when the future goes dark?

When the future was bright

To answer that question we need to look back to when the future seemed bright. The past of SF as a self-conscious, largely American-centred genre can be mapped fairly closely to social developments. What the SF critic John Clute has aptly called ‘Agenda SF’ flourished roughly from the 1920s to the late 1950s. Although inevitably tracking the vicissitudes of boom, slump, world war and Cold War – including much of counter-current, query and dissent – and encompassing many developments of literary style and scientific/technological speculation, Agenda SF retained its coherence as an ongoing projection of humanity’s and capitalism’s – advance.

The consensus stages of this Future History included first the exploration, then the colonisation, of the solar system; the launching of gigantic ‘interstellar arks’, with generations living and dying en route to Alpha Centauri; until some future Edison/Einstein cracked the intractable problem of the light-speed limit, and opened the way to the stars. A great explosion of human pioneers would swarm across the galaxy, and be eventually unified into an Empire which would, inevitably, Decline and Fall. . . and beyond this Fall, new heights would rise.

For all its blind spots, Agenda SF’s handle on the future had a grandeur and ambition which can still inspire. (more…)

by Steve Masterson

Introduction

A modern, living dialectics is essential for social revolution. This series on Redline has now formally become the draft chapters of a book, A Living Dialectics. Indeed, for me they were so from the beginning. As such each chapter is connected as a scientific story and preparation for the next. Because of the large number of new concepts I’ve introduced – which is creepy to many traditional ‘Marxists’ – I’ve unfolded these integrated new ideas in a stepping stone and logical manner.

For example, this chapter on ‘Dynamics of human origins’ was prepared for by the previous two, ‘The Productive forces and human development’ and ‘Dialectics and praxis’. I knew that before introducing this very original and radical grasping of our origins and of precisely what made us human, I had to steep readers in Marx and especially in the processes of ‘human development’ and ‘social praxis’. Considering their vital and central role in our human evolution, I was preparing for a sensitizing to those most essential human properties that belong equally to 7 million years ago in emergence as they do today in us hopefully completing the human revolution – they belong to the same process at different stages.

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An upright modern bonobo mother is carrying two children and sticks. Common chimps cannot do this. The photo reminds me of a human mother today, with children clinging-on, pushing a buggy overloaded with shopping. It might seem little has changed in 7 million years – but it has!

We will now explore the anthropology of human origins and begin the science behind how human activity actually came into existence; of what made us human and still does so today – of how to discover our future in our past and through the present. We have already looked into the end phase of gatherer-hunter life and the transformation to hierarchy that began a mere 12,000 years ago in chapter-3 in the section ‘Gatherer-Hunter Life – Order then Chaos’. Now we go back 7 million years to an earlier phase, the emergence of gatherer-hunter life and human origins.

This chapter is very important to activists. Nearly everybody today believes that ‘human nature’ is very selfish, patriarchal, violent and automatically hierarchical in social structures. Politicians, the state, corporations and their military divide and rule we humans with borders, fear, wars and hate along nationalist, wealth, sexist, religious, ethnic and racial lines. The bosses’ mass media daily stuffs this nonsense down our throats. In short, the result is their enforced hierarchical and divisive uncaring way of life dominated today by greed and wars, money and profit accumulation – it’s OK to exploit the environment to earth’s destruction so long as the next day’s profit is met!

However, this inhuman way of life only began recently in opposition to our previous 7 million years of nomadic communal gatherer-hunter life where our tremendous ‘forces of humanity’ were nurtured in accumulated culture, which was hard-wired deep into us. Hierarchy began in a few parts of the world like the Middle East only (more…)