With the never-ending wave of hysteria being promulgated daily in the news media and on the internet, how do we make sense of it all? How do we deflect the emotional pull of anger, greed and hate, all cousins of fear, that are often brought to us by those who wish to drown our better selves in the worst emotions, so as to persuade us to think or act in some certain way? How do we find a way to think and act responsibly when our politicians, pundits, preachers, programs and parents promote their agendas, at times with little regard for truth or ethics or morality, while with the deepest irony, and sometimes cynicism, couching their points of view in the language of truth and ethics and morality?
One of the most difficult things for me is to watch politicians, governments, corporations, and organizations of all stripes, tell lies in order to persuade their intended audience to support them. This is clearly a naive reaction on my part: Why be perpetually bothered afresh by something that is pervasive and nearly universal? After all, "everybody cheats", and the most important thing for these entities is that they survive, they prevail, or that their influence waxes rather than wanes, not that they do the "right thing". To this question I have no pragmatic answer, except to say that I believe that honesty has more potential to make people and organizations successful, to make the world that more loving place called for by the major religions, than does the selfish manipulation that is the lie. The lie all too often gets you what you want, but at what cost to others, and at what cost to yourself?
Aretha Franklin recently sang at the Kennedy Center Honors tribute to Carole King, reprising the song Carole wrote for her, A Natural Woman. The performance was glorious, and drew tears from the President, as well as from myself as I watched and listened to it later on video. Obama said of Aretha afterwords: 'Nobody embodies more fully the connection between the African-American spiritual, the blues, R. & B., rock and rollâ€”the way that hardship and sorrow were transformed into something full of beauty and vitality and hope. American history wells up when Aretha sings.'
Today's Republican Party, in choosing a clearly unqualified candidate for the presidency, in choosing to wallow in the deepest trough of political mud in my memory, in choosing to embrace the grossest of lies and the most laughable of conspiracies, in choosing to generate fear and hatred instead of exercising civilized, reasoned judgment, has embraced my 5th grade teacher's admonishment for a ten year old's bad behavior: "Crude, rude and impolite".
Epigenetic studies are burgeoning; these genetic mechanisms that are external to direct DNA/RNA encoding and expression are being intensively studied, particularly how environmental factors can stimulate methylation and acetylation of bases of DNA or histone proteins, which then affects the expression of specific gene activity. Is epigenetic modification heritable, and if so, does this represent a revival of Lamarckism?