Placebo Buttons?

A recent article suggested that many of the buttons/toggles that we experience in our daily lives...

The Development Of Social Monogamy In Mammals

Two papers published this week have proposed explanations regarding the evolution of social monogamy...

Easy Answers To World Problems

After reading another article by Alex Berezow ["The Arrogance of a Well-Fed Society"] insisting...

The Precautionary Principle Review

There is an interesting series of articles published by the Guardian discussing various aspects...

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Gerhard AdamRSS Feed of this column.

I'm not big on writing things about myself so a friend on this site (Brian Taylor) opted to put a few sentences together: Hopefully I'll be able to live up to his claims. "I thought perhaps you... Read More »

It is clear from many discussions that there is a split between things people consider to be "natural" versus those that are the products of technology, or man-made.  Obviously no one would consider a computer to be natural, nor would anyone suggest that a tree is man-made.  These differences are intuitive.
In my previous article, the fundamental equivalence of foods was discussed recognizing that there is a difference in assessing problems with the food, versus problems with food handling.  Moreover, much of the focus has been on the safety of these foods regarding human/animal consumption, however I would argue that there are much more serious problems that need to be addressed.
It seems that as this discussion continues, more and more concepts become conflated producing all manner of irrelevant comparisons that create more and more confusion.

In the first place, we have the problem of defining what we even mean by food safety.  Truth be told, we don't have any idea what constitutes "safe" food beyond the fact that we may have a history of consuming it without obvious incidence.  Even here, we have a basic problem because many people may have allergies or sensitivites that have always existed, or are now being recognized.
"Heritability" is a term used in many articles and through much of the scientific literature and invariably promotes the idea that it relates specifically to inherited traits.  As a result, it is often assumed that the heritability of a particular trait relates to how much influence genetics has on the trait manifesting in an individual.

However, that isn't what it means.

Heritability attempts to address the relationship between nature (genetics) and nurture (environment), so that as each changes, the variation between individuals within a population can be estimated based on these influences.  In this context, "environment" simply represents everything external to the genome that could effect expression. 
There was an interesting study published recently that addresses the changes that occur to gut bacteria in pregnant women and the role this fulfills in maintaining a healthy pregnancy.

There are two primary points that need to be addressed in order to appreciate these findings.
There is little doubt that there is an abundance of evidence regarding the role of cooperation among social animals and it is mentioned here as a precondition for the discussion of group selection and altruism; specifically in humans.

While many of the elements that constitute human behavior are present in other animals, there is little question that humans represent an extremely unique existence.  Beyond even the obvious differences regarding intellectual capacity, humans represent a eusocial mammal that exploits an extreme division of labor, such that it is human society that operates to support human existence, rather than the capabilities of any individual (1).