Science News: Signs of Sentience and Sayonara Soil

Not much blogging these days — sorry about that!  Local business and the impending move to Ohio have us pretty busy.  But for more than a week, now, I have had two webpages on my iPhone’s browser that I refuse to close until I note them, so I list them here as a means of closing a loop.  They are not related to each other at all (outside of my corny title), but perhaps you will find one or the other interesting…

Wikipedia graphic of an fMRI image (visual cortex activity)First: Some fascinating headway (pun intended) has been made in the attempt to determine consciousness in hospital patience in a persistent vegetative state.  Read it for yourself here in this New York Times article: “Trace of Thought Is Found in ‘Vegetative Patient'” (February 3, 2010).

Here’s the gist… Using an MRI, doctors and technicians can tell when certain areas of the brain are being used.  For instance if you are performing (or contemplating) physical activity, a particular area of the brain (the motor cortex) will “light up.”  When you contemplate being in your home, different areas devoted to spatial conceptualization show activity.  With this in mind, researchers asked vegetative patients a series of questions and instructed them to think of playing tennis if the answer was “yes” and to think of being in their home if the answer was “no” — all while their brain’s activity was being monitored with an MRI.  Surprisingly, many patients were able to give correct answers — as indicated by the apparent choice of brain activity — even though there was no outward sign, at all, of consciousness.  Then, the researches asked them to switch, thinking of tennis for “no” and their home for “yes,” and, sure enough, the correct answers kept on coming, demonstrating that the person was, by all appearances, consciously attempting to follow instructions and answer the questions.

Read the article, it really is fascinating.  Perhaps there is new hope here for those facing the heartache of these situations.

Next: Apparently, the world is losing its top soil — and thus, its ability to feed itself — at an astonishing rate.

Government Image of Soil TestingWith Climategate and the IPCC circus in the news, long-term “scientific” forecasts have certainly gathered an air of skepticism, but this one really caught my eye: “Britain facing food crisis as world’s soil ‘vanishes in 60 years'” (February 2, 2010, Telegraph.co.uk).  Apparently, according to a study by the University of Sydney, China is losing fertile soil at a rate 57 times faster than it can be replaced by natural processes — Europe is losing it 17 times faster than natural replacement, America 10 times, and Australia 5 times.  As Britain imports 40% of all its food (a figure that continues to rise), it is very sensitive to such issues.  As all of us eat, it’s something that we should all consider.

There are concerns, expressed in the article, about how to reverse the problem, if reversal is even possible.  Among the solutions is to begin letting the land “rest” more frequently instead of constantly forcing it through fertilization, etc. (consider Leviticus 25:1-7, here).  However, our choices up to this point may have put us in a position where there is not enough time to enact such solutions.

The article mentions the recent wheat stock crisis (discussed in this blog here, here, here, here, and here) and September’s worst-in-70-years dust storm that hit Sydney as evidence of the problem.  And I am reminded of a 2008 news item entitles “Britain urging return to wartime food frugality” in which British PM said that “ever more affordable food cannot be taken for granted,” and Dr. Tim Lang of London’s City University said, “I think we need to accept that food is once again in a wartime state.”

The Bible speaks of a time when the United States and the United Kingdom will feel as though its land is as iron (Deut. 28:23) and when any food that it does grow will go to feed the mouths of others (Deut. 28:33).  It speaks, as well, of a time when a quart of wheat might cost a family an entire day’s wages (Rev. 6:6).  As soured as I have been as of late on long-term “scientific” projections, it is possible that this soil issue represents part of the groundwork for the fulfillment of these very prophecies.

With regard to the top item above, I have been inching along on an article I would like to submit for the Tomorrow’s World magazine about what the Bible has to reveal about the connection between spirit, brain, and mind.  With regard to the latter item, you might want to consider our magazine article “Droughts and Famines Increasing” and our television program “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” which can be viewed on our website.

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7 thoughts on “Science News: Signs of Sentience and Sayonara Soil

  1. Oy. At this rate we’ll be starving on top of the bedrock just in time to see the glaciers roll down from the north. I think I’ll donate my body not to science or to medicine, but to fertilizer.

    How about thinking through the connection between “spirit and soul and body” as the Bible describes them, and cognitive dynamics, interactive (social) styles and temperaments as they express themselves empirically? Our “minds”, even from a scientific point of view, can’t be explained fully as *just* “the human spirit working with the human brain” (that’s cognitive dynamics and its parallels in neurology, but it’s not the rest of the package I’ve just described even though it’s interrelated with the rest). I’m trying to put together information in a systematic way to feed you all on that, but unfortunately health limitations and other problems have delayed my being able to do so. But I can recommend a source privately on what I’m talking about, and if you have the time and the budget you can look at the materials…

  2. Steve

    The main problem with soil depletion is too many people living in big cities. This forces a relatively small number of people to “farm” on an industrial scale. Tons of pesticide, chemical fertilizers, and big machines. That depletes the soil by its very nature.

    It’s not a question of farmers using wrong practices. It’s a question of how our modern civilization is structured. You simply cannot have a highly urbanized society dependent on a handful of farmers.

    For those with a COG background, I would highly recommend the book by Ian McHarg, “Design With Nature.” He was Albert Einstein of land use planning, if you will. I guarentee that you will recognize a lot of what you read.

  3. Perhaps it’s better to say, “It’s not MERELY a question of farmers using wrong practices.” Most certainly do so these days. There was an article, I think in DISCOVER Magazine, some years ago about the use of nitrogen fertilizer; that article alone was enough to curl one’s hair, considering what was freely admitted and documented and recognized as detrimental.

  4. Steve

    I’ll concede the point made in Rakkav’s first sentence. It’s an example of how I don’t always express myself well.

    “Farmers are not using wrong practices, given the structure of our modern society”. That’s what I meant to say. They are producing food in the only way they can.

    You cannot have a highly urbanized nation dependent on a handful of farmers. If urbanites want to complain about soil depletion, then they need to look in the mirror.

    It’s going to be a lot different in God’s Kingdom, and I’m thanful for it.

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