Tuesday, July 21, 2015



Or, more accurately, what evolution can tell us about diet, started in my mind as a semi-humorous post that soon evolved into one with some serious messages.  It was triggered by a conversation I overheard discussing someones weight problem and the persons lack of knowledge of what I thought were bits of information one could not overlook if they kept up with the news and opinion over the past few dozen years.

The evolutionary aspects of diet

We are a product of a long evolutionary history.  One would think our more recent ancestors had a more direct impact on our genetic heritage.  That is probably true, but more remote ones often leave their imprint on our genetic code.  Many fundamentals of our biochemistry go back to one-celled ancestors common to both plants and animals.  So it is not surprising that vegetation has a store of nutrients useful for a healthy diet.

We may worry about exposure to foreign organisms, especially bacteria.  When our ancestors left that primordial soup in which they evolved they were accompanied by a varied flora and fauna.  So today, after a course of antibiotics that kill off useful members of those organism inhabiting our gut, it is a good idea to eat yogurt and perhaps other things that will reintroduce those useful organisms back in to the gut.  Doing so can lead to rapid return of comfortable intestinal function.

Even our skin may benefit from the presence of useful organisms that compete with pathogens trying to establish themselves on or in our skin.

Fast forward to the present and we see diets that rely on excessive distortion, not truly natural diets based on our evolutionary history.

A fatal diet

A few decades ago, a liquid protein diet worked wonders in providing rapid weight loss.  But some died when they reached their desired weight and tried to resume a normal diet to prevent further weight loss.  It was thought the lack of carbohydrates and/or fats in their diet had fostered the deterioration of the parts of their biochemical cellular features which could not be retooled quickly enough to preserve life.

A balanced diet

Is balanced on a tray carried by the waitperson?  No, it is one that should contain all needed nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, proteins, fats, carbohydrates as well as fiber and some less easily characterized nutrients.  Would an egg diet be a balanced diet, it has all the nutrients needed to form the systems of a bird?  No, most adults need a larger supply of energy. But some eggs are probably beneficial.  Fats are food having the most calories (stored energy), about 9 calories per gram, carbohydrates and proteins each have about 4 or 4 1/2 calories per gram, and alcohol has about 9 calories per gram.  So, if you are serious about a diet, reduce the alcohol consumption to the equivalent of a small glass of wine; none is far better than too much.

Nutrients do not all provide energy.  For example-  Our need for vitamin C in our diet is almost certainly a result of having tree-dwelling primate ancestors that had so much vitamin C laden fruit in their diet that random mutations destroying the ability to make vitamin C did not get eliminated by natural selection.  Non-primates ancestors such as your pets retained the ability to make vitamin C from earlier common ancestors we share.

Fat was the most efficient material to use for storing energy.  Not only for its high energy content, but it has very low impact on the aqueous based metabolic processes of cells.  Thus enough can be more easily stored to get an animal through seasons of low food supply.  We don't have that need now so our natural tendency to stock up does not get followed by a season to use up the excess reserves.  We still need fats and/or oils in our diet to aid uptake of fat soluble vitamins in our food.

Because we cannot digest fiber it does not provide dietary calories.  We lost that ability sometime way back in our evolutionary history.  Our appendix is thought to be a vestigial organ representing the cecal sac of an ancestor that could use it as a location to use microorganisms to break down fiber and otherwise indigestible plant parts, like cellulose, into usable carbohydrates.

High protein diets may put an excessive load of breakdown products on the excretory system.  More details of protein metabolism can be found in [ http://evolutioninsights.blogspot.com/2014/04/evolution-of-proteins.html ] a post which also indicates the important role protein break-down products had in adaptation for animals emerging from water to occupy terrestrial habitats.  The views count for the protein post is zero.  The views count for carbohydrates [  http://evolutioninsights.blogspot.com/2014/04/evolution-of-carbohydrates.html ] was one.  The views count for fats [  http://evolutioninsights.blogspot.com/2014/04/evolution-and-fats.html ] was two.  But the next post on macromolecules was more than an order of magnitude more popular [ http://evolutioninsights.blogspot.com/2014/05/evolution-of-macromolecules.html ].


Our teeth include biting (incisors), piercing and tearing (canines), and chewing or grinding (molars), a combination of forms characteristic of omnivores.  That could suggest that our transition from one diet to another was fairly rapid in an evolutionary sense; it also makes us more adaptable to a variety of diets.

Evolution of diet

Our earliest animal like ancestors fed on small microorganisms like bacteria.  That method of nutrition can still be seen in us as the white blood cells that go around ingesting bacteria that invade our body.  Things go awry when disease causing bacteria get too good a start in our body.

The large eggs, part of the diet of many of us, developed in part because birds and reptiles were able to form them with a shell because the waste products of protein metabolism could be largely in the form of nearly insoluble uric acid.  Before that ammonia that was the first nitrogenous waste product of protein metabolism could diffuse in to the water.  We have partially gotten away from uric acid by using urea as a soluble nearly non-toxic alternative.  But for most of us, too much protein can lead to gout and other problems of excess uric acid accumulation.  Egg, dairy, and meat eaters face other problems from cholesterol and saturated fats although most of us can use moderate amounts if adequate vegetable, fruits, and whole grain fiber gets to our diet.  Some fish, not all types of fish, each week seems to have a beneficial role in nutrition.

Trans-fats, refined sugars and refined grains were not part of our remote ancestors diets, and we would probably be better off without them.  But even if we could study middens or other evidence of diet of distant ancestors it does not necessarily mean that roots, leaves, fruits, and berries form an essential diet.  We do not know the health and disease problems of those ancestors in sufficient detail to know that we should try to be like them.

My wife tells me that if I eat like my grandparents did on the farm, then I should work like them too.

An important consequence of a vegetarian diet is better avoidance of toxic chemicals we have introduced into our environment.  Animal protein can accumulate heavy metals, the animal fats can accumulate organic toxins when animals get food or medicines that contain those compounds.  Fortunately, the scary numbers are partly due to our ability to often identify pollutants in parts per billion amounts, a few generations ago when tests identified parts per million amounts, we didn't know they were there.  The bad thing is that some can poison at extremely low concentrations if they mimic or interfere with hormones or their functions.

Part of the bureaucracy many complain about is doing its best to see that we get safe food, drugs, air, and water.  That is not to say that improvements cannot be made.

Joe Engemann    Kalamazoo, Michigan       July 21, 2015

Wednesday, July 15, 2015



In his remarks on TV today, about the pending agreement to ban nuclear weapons development in Iran, came across as sincere and convincing, in my estimation.  Seeking to work out a solution, although somewhat temporary, between the mutually assured destruction policy of the past, and the hoped for elimination of all nuclear weapons use, he presented a case that was a reasoned approach that seems to have some safeguards.  It could be a win-win situation rather the present lose-lose one.  The fact that it incorporates input from many other countries makes it more palatable and more likely to succeed with sustained vigilance.


The volatile Middle East is a tough place to have reason take a leading role.  Factions that recruit child suicide bombers and rule through fear and mass beheadings are difficult to deal with once they are established.  So the proposed agreement is probably as good as is possible in such an environment.  So Iranian officials may have to soft pedal their statements and live with factions that say "death to America."  In such a hostel environment an Israel spokesperson can hardly be expected to endorse an agreement short of destruction of nuclear facilities rather than a well designed inspection program and related other contingent measures.


The indication that the Federal Reserve System will start raising interest rates later this year brings some uncertainty about the direction the economy will take.  In the past such a measure might have spooked the stock market.  But rates are so low it might have the opposite effect.  If rates continue to rise, companies may eventually borrow and expand at such a great rate that it could lead to a boom then a bust with a dramatic fall of the economy.

The political will to do a good job of maintaining stable growth, jobs, and reasonable interest rates is sometime difficult to get.  There is some correlation of economic results and the four year presidential election cycle.  It is made more difficult by the idiotic no-tax increase pledges signed by some legislators; it is a pledge to not use your brain when needed.

I was only an infant when the economy tanked in 1929.  I would hope that the economists and politicians can work together to prevent a decline of that magnitude.  Everyone can help by not taking on excessive personal debt and having a personal savings program to supplement social security when they retire.  My father noted that some he knew that were worst hit by the depression had really been flaunting their wealth and spending beyond their means before it struck.

This is neither an endorsement nor a criticism of Democrats or Republicans, they can be equally offensive, but deserving of praise when they show some bipartisan progress.

How did this get in an evolution blog?  Extinction via nuclear destruction could loom with no progress on arms control.  Nuclear destruction could give a fresh evolutionary start without us, but would take millions of years for recovery.

Joe Engemann   Kalamazoo, Michigan    July 15, 2015

Friday, July 10, 2015



There seems to be a lull in Creation/Evolution debates now that court cases about how it should be taught or not taught in schools are not in the news each day.  The attempt to make such debates a God versus Science contest should be abandoned.


The debates represent an unrecognized case of cognitive dissonance that was acquired shortly after Darwin presented his evolution ideas in the The Origin of Species as was noted in my 12th post "Darwin and God "[ http://evolutioninsights.blogspot.com/2013/06/darwin-and-god.html ].

I never connected the debates to cognitive dissonance until today (July 10, 2015) even though I had blogged about it [ http://evolutioninsights.blogspot.com/2013/05/creativity-and-cognitive-dissonance.html ] and had talked about the pertinent opposing concepts on the first page of my manuscript's preface that can be read in my post [http://evolutioninsights.blogspot.com/2014/03/evolution-insights-preface.html ].

The clash of ideas did not start with Darwin, he was originally viewing evolution as the work of the Creator.  But the vocal views of colleagues that science proved evolution and disproved any possibility of a spiritual component in the process was soon countered by vehement objections that it couldn't be true since evolution contradicted some of the literal interpretations of the creation stories in the biblical book of Genesis.

Vocal scientists and religious leaders kept the controversy going by overstating their cases in a way excluding the possibility of both having truths that are not mutually exclusive.  So when each side convinces you of the truth of their position it becomes a case of acquired cognitive dissonance.

MERGING THE VIEWS eliminates the dissonance if you can grasp the truth of each position.

Many of my posts are intended to help people along the way to such peaceful coexistence of science and spirituality.

Joseph G. Engemann    Kalamazoo, Michigan    July 10, 2015

Thursday, July 2, 2015


Tuesday's Quake

According to Julie Mack's report in the July 2, 2015 Kalamazoo Gazette, the earthquake that occurred at 11:42 A.M. Tuesday was a 3.3 magnitude one and an aftershock of the 4.2 one May 2.  I have two comments that I think may be of interest about the two that are not likely to be considered by the earthquake experts.


First, although I agree it is appropriate to label it an aftershock, the assumption that the depth of over three miles detaches the question of fracking being part of the cause is most likely but not necessarily correct for two reasons.  Fissures and boreholes could possibly divert fracking fluids to greater depths; I think that is not likely, but possible.  Of greater probability is the fact that if fracking fluids are spread in the quake region but at considerably shallower depths, they could detach the overlying strata from the ones below and reduce resistance to movement at different rates in the separated strata.  THE SLIPPING LAYER COULD BE EITHER ABOVE OR BELOW A FRACKED LAYER.  Although that should be true, it also seems that in reference to surrounding areas the upper layers would be more likely to demonstrate movement.


Second, the timing of both quakes came near the approaching full moon's peak effect on tides that may have a cyclic effect on stresses of continental plates.  I presented this as a possibility in the blog of May 3,[ http://evolutioninsights.blogspot.com/2015/05/earthquake-and-continental-drift.html ].  If I had more confidence in this as a partial cause, I would look up the phase of the moon, to see if was either near full or near new moon status on August 10, 1947, when a 4.6 magnitude quake was the strongest recorded in Michigan.  The three quakes seem to be clustered in the same fault system.

I think that years ago I saw some data presented showing tides exist in the crust of one or both bodies of the earth-moon system.  They were of much smaller magnitude than the movement seen in ocean tides.

The effect of the moon would seem to peak near noon and midnight (ignoring the position of the sun).  The monthly peak of those peaks would be near the new moon and the full moon - about every 14 days.  It seems, if quakes correlate with the lunar cycle, a scatter graph of earthquakes by intensity and time of the lunar monthly cycle and another by intensity and time of the lunar daily cycle might reveal if the moon has an affect.  Possibly smaller quakes would be more likely the ones to reveal effects by such a process.

The problem may be much more complicated than I have suggested.  Anyone familiar with tides along our coasts knows the delay in tide arrival is not very closely correlated with the time of maximum lunar and solar gravity attraction maximums.  Tidal and moon effects are not true causes of earthquakes, they only affect the timing of quakes due to gradual accumulation of stresses from crustal movements.  But the possible result is to make a quake occur sooner than the gradual accumulation would otherwise cause it.  Thus the quakes along a fault may release the energy in smaller quakes than the ones only triggered by the gradual buildup of stress.

Joseph G. Engemann   Kalamazoo, Michigan   July 2, 2015