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greg dahlen

Alumnus, academy of achievement


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What have you researched?

You can enjoy researching something, it can be tedious, or you might have other feelings. What have you researched? How did you do it? Did you enjoy it or not, and why?


Closing Statement from greg dahlen

well, I enjoyed hearing about people's different projects. The most useful abstractions I got from the conversation came from Fritzie Reisner, who clarified the difference between formal, academic research and informal home research, but also suggested they might not be so different; and Carolyn mcauley, who made me think about what is an experiment, and what experiments do I, and others, do in our personal lives.

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      Jan 22 2014: My guess would be the active side you fall on this, your experiment, whereas I am not certain how to understand the underlying 'moral goodness' in it, as any form of nutrition in the animal kingdom results in the annihilation of another life-form. And as shifting our focus, or appetite, from fauna and flora to flora exclusively does not eliminate this inherent form of annihilation of life - 'moral goodness' in this context therefore becomes highly questionable.

      If choosing the least 'familiarity' to our species is a 'good enough' decision to claim 'good morals' or just the most practical and lowest common denominator to our conscience remains unsolved to me so far.

      Isn't just our pace of life, our high mobility and our lack of certain receptors the main reason which makes it so difficult to us to sense the natural cycles and behaviors of plants? Whenever I watch a time-lapse video of them, I realize, how much of my overall environment remains unnoticed to me - day in, day out.

      Certainly, watching plants in their daily business would be as entertaining to us as to watch paint to dry, yet being comparable hasty as we are, again, seems no 'good enough' reason to me to draw morally solid lines for a higher 'goodness'.

      Humans are 'eye' focused animals and it enables us to get closer to another being, emphatically, if we have this 'entrance' of another visual system towards another form of life. And even here the kind of eyes is important, which usually makes it so difficult to us to 'access' emotionally to almost all insects.

      Plants totally lack this connectivity points for us, yet as we can become aware about this, shouldn't we consider and weight this fact differently as we often seem to do?

      Veganism and vegetarianism are both fine with me, as well as omnivores, yet to construct, to claim or to award on either form any superior 'good morals' over another, to me, proves highly questionable.

      Only plants manage to thrive on 'death' matter we can not catch up with.
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        Jan 22 2014: don't most people just think animals suffer more when they die than plants, that they have more intensity and articulation of emotion?
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          Jan 22 2014: If the method of killing is chosen and done wisely, dieing is free of any suffering.

          Pain, which probably makes for the most part of our understanding of suffering, is mainly a feedback signal to change behavior to avoid damage or further damage within a situation to remain intact as a being. Why would this be any different in plants?

          Many plants produce toxic substances in reaction on and against insect attacks 'just in time', so it is likely, that some sort of 'suffer equivalent' underlays their bio-system too. Now, does the fact, that this our limitations in 'interpretation' of this other forms of suffering minder their existence?

          And even when we could interpret given signs of suffering correctly, for instance the death struggle of countless fish, slowly suffocating on industrial scale on industrial fishing fleets, 'we' often tend not to. I am pretty convinced, that fishing as we know it today would be different, if fish could scream. Yet isn't our species known for empathy and imagination? So why aren't we using it wisely and in respect of what we choose for our food?

          I am no biologist, yet I wouldn't be surprised to learn, that some plants would die slowly after being harvested, as their equivalent to our nervous system is likely to notice their state of being, as well as their 'interpretation' or 'experience' may well be less centralized than ours and therefore remains partly and detecting in the parts of the plants which we get off our supermarket counters.

          I don't think, that the instinct of self-preservation is reserved to the fauna only, as it wouldn't make sense to me in the broader context of life in general.

          There is a difference in 'thinking' and 'knowing' if and how another species suffers, especially, if another species is so far off our personal experience as well as our emotional access towards it.

          So would I keep boiling my potatoes if science revealed its inherent cruelty? Honestly, I don't know ...
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        Jan 22 2014: well, Lejan ., even if it is free of suffering, we know that potentially it could be very painful in an animal, more obviously painful than in a plant. We also I think have the sense that animals have a richer life than plants, so more is lost when one dies.

        But what is your objection, Lejan .? You are okay with anything being killed as long as it is painless? Or do you have qualms about anything being killed at all? But if you don't eat anything you will kill yourself, so you will be killing something?
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          Jan 23 2014: I accept the fact, that the continuation of my existence is based on the discontinuation of other existences. But besides my own species, I do not value or weight the life of other species, plants or animals any different, although I am aware that I do have certain 'tendencies' on them.

          In my day to day life, the only species I kill personally, pro-actively and on purpose are midges and my moral is fine with it. My moral would also be fine if I had to kill my own food for meat, as long as the purpose of this killing was strictly tight to my survival. Hunting 'sport' to me is out of question. I eat meat only once a week although I like its taste very much, but this way it stays special, covers my natural tendency and goes fine with my conscience.

          On the killing part I have to trust my butcher, that he really does his job as professional as he claims to do and I would stop buying from him if I would find out any different. Also of importance to me is, that the animal was grown local, biologically fed and held under species-appropriate conditions. This meat is a bit more expensive, yet worth it.

          I am not certain if I share this sense you talk about, that 'animals have a richer life than plants, so more is lost when one dies', as this is what we tend to assume, yet actually know little about it. I can not imagine that Kettle bred on industrial scale has any richness in its life at all.

          And what do we know about the life richness of a lettuce? I for my part know nothing about it.
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          Jan 23 2014: Yet here a question to you, Greg, completely off topic:

          I found an interesting song on youtube, called 'tip tapping' and I have absolutely no clue what 'tip tapping' means in English.

          All of my translation sources failed, as the whole phrase isn't existent and the translation of each word combined doesn't make sense in my language at all... at least for the combinations I chose ... :o)

          The only 'imagination' I have is to walk silently and only on the toes of the feed to avoid noise, but if this is correct or not, I don't know.

          Do you know what it means, and if so, could you please explain it to me?

          Here is the link to this song in case further context is needed:


          Thank you
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        Jan 23 2014: did you say above you value your own species more than any other species, human or animal, Lejan .? Because if you do, surely you would then value animals more than plants for being more like humans than plants?

        Probably I can rely on manifest suffering. If a creature is more obviously suffering as best I can interpret, I am content to think that it really does suffer the most. I somewhat trust my emotions and an animal's suffering registers more highly with my emotions, or maybe intution. One thing about plants is that many plants you do not kill the entire creature when you harvest something to eat, for instance picking an orange from an orange tree. I always try to save the seeds when I eat an orange and plant them. But some plants you do kill, such as carrots? How do we harvest carrots humanely, to limit their suffering as much as possible?

        One diet idea I like that makes me feel moral is a Masai idea. The Masai say that if a man eats meat and drinks milk on the same day, the man is a glutton. I follow this idea quite rigorously, and I really like it. I think the idea is that we have cows quite dominated, most of their life is just giving to us. But still they deserve to have some life of their own. If you drink her milk in the morning and eat her body in the afternoon, it is like you are saying she has no life, everything she is is for you, if you are going to take her milk at least give her a day to live before you butcher her.

        Let us say you had a choice, Lejan .. You can eat something that tastes good, but was farmed a bit cruelly. Or you can eat something that tastes not so good, but was farmed more kindly. Which do you choose?

        Tip tapping could be "tiptoeing." Or maybe it means she was deliberately tapping the leaves with her foot, moving them around, rustling them? Or it could be an open phrase that lets the listener let their mind roam as to what she means?
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          Jan 23 2014: Yes, I did say above, that I value my own species more than any others and this for 'plants and animals' not 'humans or animals'.

          On my emotional level, your assumption is right that I have more of a tendency towards animals, because of the given similarities, yet this vanishes on my rational level, which only separates life from not alive matter.

          With your manifestation of suffering I totally agree with you by my emotional side, yet nevertheless, the fact that I am missing the right gateway to plants does not sufficiently validates the non-existence of an equally existent form of suffering to me.

          Not knowing, or not accessing a different form of pain would not change its existence, right?

          Your Masai example gets to the point behind my own considerations, by which in relation to food I am trying to regain a deeper form of respect, humbleness, appreciation and thankfulness which got lost to some degree on my way through our affluent society.

          By this and the choice you gave me, I clearly decide for the more kindly food, by which, if I was a believer in the current market mechanics, it would only take a view more consumers like me to form the bit cruel farm into a kind environment, so that one fine day I could finally and also have some better tasting food as alternative to my former diet.

          So no, I am not against killing animals and plants to have our food, yet we have to have respect for our food while we are farming it and when we are killing it. And would this change the cost of food? Most likely, but this only in this current and failing market system.

          On 'tip tapping' and on the possibility that she provoked the 'listener let their mind roam as to what she means', she then definitely succeeded with me! :o)

          But your given remarks gives me now a way better room in which to place a meaning, for which I like to thank you for! Appreciated!
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          Jan 23 2014: What you're saying here, Greg, Deserves a New Topic.

          The difference between humans and the rest of living forms commonly give us this questionable confidence that other kinds of creatures are not as intelligent or less sensitive than humans - and they do not understand our artifucial language, math, sciences, poetry, etc The freaking belief that animals are "having no souls" or simply "automata" is still circulating to this very day, since old Descares time.

          I'm just wondering, Why did not we develop some beautiful and durable fur, or feathers, to protect ourselves from the harsh weather, but in stead we produce tons of bizarre outfits;

          or why did not we develop our sense of intuition to communicate with each other in a long distance, like plants and other living creatures do, but prefer to pile up our places with endless technological toys? I'm actually "researching" these phenomenon on my own..
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        Jan 24 2014: Lejan ., is it possible that our being aware of a consciousness in an animal means that the consciousness is stronger in the animal? Therefore I say it is less moral to kill an animal.

        But also, is it not enough to say that based on what I know, I bring everything to the experience of killing my food, my sensual awareness and experiences, my reading, my talking and thinking, and anything else I can bring, based on all that my best judgement is that killilng an animal is inflicting more suffering, therefore it is less moral to kill an animal?

        Life probably assumes different shapes, more ore less sophisticated, therefore more is lost with certain forms of life?

        Yes, and the Masai way is also a very practical, concrete practice where one makes a choice and a small sacrifice on behalf of the animal. Some days I wish I could drink milk and eat meat in the same day, but I sacrifice one or the other for the animal. It is good for me too as I stay slimmer.

        I think I would decide for the better tasting food as I grant humans the kingship of nature, but I love your point that we should improve the farm we can have both great taste and humaneness.

        Yes, maybe she invented the phrase and, to have fun with us, didn't tell us exactly what she meant. What does Beatles mean "I am the walrus"? "I am the eggplant."
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          Jan 24 2014: Yes, Greg, it is possible that consciousness is stronger in animals than in plants, yet I don't think that our awareness is a fine enough measure to draw final conclusions on this.

          I assume you have watched cats or dogs stretching out after their sleep, have you? And if so, you may have noticed the similarities in our behavior, as we also tend to do this within our process of waking up and to get the system going. Now watching and experiencing this event with animals perfectly fits our attention time-frame, as those species are 'clocked' as we are, yet compared to the average movement speed within the flora, cats, dogs and we are quite speedy.

          So if our attention time-frame is to short for us to realize plant movements in clear detail, how would we be able to grand them comparable levels of consciousness if we don't even notice any possible similarities?

          I don't know if plants in a way stretch in the morning hours, but if they do, this knowledge would certainly make them more understandable to us, don't you think?

          So maybe our awareness of strength in consciousness in plants gets simply lost in our hastiness? And if so, would this to any degree minder its strength? Thats why time-lapse videos of plants are so fascinating to me, because it allows me to recognize processes I would otherwise never have noticed, even though I am surrounded by them.

          My moral allows to kill animals and plants for food, if it serves our very survival - and, to a decent degree, also our enjoyment and pleasure, which doesn't include sport hunting, but some food creations which are not necessary for survival alone, such as chocolate or ice-cream, etc. And even so this may sound pretty stringent and ridged, in fact, it isn't.

          Just don't waste food, respect animals and plants and food-wise, try to focus a bit more on the healthy side. Anything else then comes with it.

          Kingships to me all failed to realize the origins they arose from and none of man-made ones ever endured.
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        Jan 24 2014: well, Lejan ., could we say that humans and animals have more creativity than plants? We know humans have invented all kinds of things to make their life better, and animals also, such as a beaver building a dam. Plants on the other hand don't change for millions of years? Something that is creative I think feels it death more poignantly than a non-creative, feeling more poignantly means suffering more?

        So on a rational level, it is okay with you cannibalism? Why not if all lives are equal?
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          Jan 24 2014: Creativity is one of the main pillars of nature and it comes in different forms, which to me, are all equal in value and therefore no differentiator for our morals.

          Not having changed for millions of years can also mean, that for million of years, plants had no need to make their life any better? How sophisticated must this appear to a species, which is creating any other month a new cell-phone model to squeeze a little bit more life improvement out of it?

          And so far I haven't seen any beaver building a holiday dam at some extra quiet place just for their vacation ...

          Isn't a climbing plant also using 'tools' when it grows upward the side of my house, grabbing tight onto it? Its goal is to reach more sunlight to improve its quality of life and as it isn't stable enough to grow upward on its own, that high, its using external help, as which we consider tools.

          I think nature uses creativity only if she needs to and stays mainly conservative if things are doing fine.

          So why do we keep inventing all this stuff and are our lives really becoming better? As a silent observer of first world nations the sense for improvement seems to me to be on the decline. Maybe not objectively, but subjectively many people seem to have come to an hold on this, or falling even downwards.

          On my rational level, cannibalism is absolutely fine with me, yet certain conditions have to be met by it to also align to my beliefs in humanity and it is exclusively bound to emergencies.
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        Jan 25 2014: yes, well, it looks to me, Lejan ., like we have done better than the plant because we can create a fire rather than just grow toward the sun. The fire we create gives us more pleasant warmth than just growing another micrometer toward the sun.

        Some stuff we come up with seems a little unnecessary, but a lot of the stuff seems really great and beautiful.

        What conditions of cannibalism have to be met to "align to (your) beliefs in humanity"?

        Lejan ., if you believe there is no moral goodness to vegetarianism, why only eat meat one day a week? I wish you will follow my precept on the day you eat meat, that on that day you will not drink milk or consume milk products like cheese.

        I am often surprised people don't eat the bodies of old humans after they die from natural causes. Maybe they are too sickly?
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          Jan 25 2014: As much as I know, Greg, plants doesn't strive towards the sun for its warmth, as for the photon energy which they need and use for their photosynthesis. Any temperature above freezing point, does not seem to effect this species as much as ours, so for them there is no need for fire at all (besides some specialized seeds which use fire as a germination initiator).

          Certainly we have beautiful and highly useful inventions, yet we also used our creativity for the most horrible ones, which in terms of moral superiority this our ability has eliminate itself by itself already.

          If in case of an emergency situation cannibalism was the only way to survive for a group of people, decisions had o be made whom to kill, in case no corpses were already available to feed from. Humanity then lays in the process how this decisions is formed, agreed upon and executed. And as this is strictly situational, I can not give you any concrete conditions on that.

          I eat meat only once a week mainly because animal fat is less healthy to my system than vegetable fat.

          And as much as I like and respect your precept, it wouldn't resonate with my own logic and therefore not have any effect on me, because I see cows as individuals and not as a single species in the context of food. So by killing one individual cow for meet I don't see any reason why I should not drink milk from another.

          I am not surprised that people don't eat one another after live ends in some of them. It is a form of respect in many cultures.
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        Jan 25 2014: well, I imagine plants are cold at night, and would prefer to be indoors in a heated house. Although I admit they are different than us, I still think how I would feel being naked outdoors at night, and I know it would be extremely uncomfortable.

        True, the cows are individuals, but if you have two cows they are both your slaves, but deserve to be treated as though they have some life of their own, not as though the only thing they exist for is how they can give up everything to you. To take meat from one of your cows and milk from the other on the same day is craven. And some people would go farther, milk their cow in the morning and kill her in the evening, also craven.

        What is respect? It's a dead body, it has no idea or feeling about you eating it. But maybe the flesh is diseased, however you can cut around it.

        Some invention with potentially horrible uses, but no so much horror so far. Think about all the billions of people who have lived out their natural life, well-fed, warmly clothed, comfortably sheltered. An old song on Broadway, "You have to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative"?
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          Jan 25 2014: Yes, it is so difficult to us to feel outside our realm of experiences, isn't it?

          As for the cows, my logic aligns with the one I milk in the morning to drink and kill in the evening to eat from it. Perfectly consistent on which I could agree on. Illogical remains to me why it would be craven to eat from one and drink from another, as from both individuals I would have demanded 'only' one enslaving service. And the moment I relate to the cows as slaves collectively, I would completely deny their individuality, which then collides with the honorable goal to leave them some life of their own, because 'own' demands individuality.

          As for the respect towards humans, my morals also includes their physical representation, alive or dead.

          Would you cut around questionable quality to feed from one of your species if appropriate alternatives were available to you but, lets say, not as tasty?

          But how will you ever eliminate inventions? Once out, one may try to hinder them by prohibition, sanctions or by executing some, lets say, foreign nuclear scientists ...yet making a negative invention disappear?

          So far and throughout history, those negative inventions got even more and more sophisticated, so it seems they are actually what we really accentuate on as a species?

          Broadway may hum a different tune on that, but what does our reality sing?
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        Jan 25 2014: I don't think it is, Lejan .. The evidence is that animals are cold at night, if they can insinuate themselves within human shelter they will do do, therefore I reason plants are cold as well.

        As for the cows, uh, well, these are their only two uses to you, milk and meat, and they don't particularly want to provide either one. If you take both in one day, you are exceptionally greedy?
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          Jan 25 2014: If that was true what you say, it would make for long, long lines of 'wanna be friends' penguins at any of our national antarctic polar stations, don't you think?

          Animals are usually equipped with sufficient enough isolation or instinct to find and/or build it to withstand the climate they grew into. And only rapid climate changes would be able to undermine it.

          Also plants are no warm-blooded species, which makes me think, that their experience towards temperature had no reason to develop similar to ours, and I doubt it has.

          In all my lifetime I spent in nature I have never seen a single frozen, wild animal. And although I think, that animals may well experience uncomfortable cold nights, I don't think this is the norm. They aren't stupid, so if one shelter didn't proof sufficient enough at dropping temperatures, they either find or build sufficient ones until their need for comfort is matched.

          I don't see why I was exceptionally greedy to my enslaved cows if I would demand from each of them one service a day from which I already know, none of which they would provide to me freely. Because if they would, there was no reason to enslave them in the first place.

          And as all of my cows would eat and drink at the same day, every day, why wouldn't I allow myself to do the same? Because I could drink water instead? Certainly, but so I could eat grass. Not that my metabolism could use much of the grass for me to live on, but for any other day in between I feed from my cows, it would fill my stomach just fine, right?

          Thats the break in logic for me, Greg. But I appreciate very much the idea behind this habit, regardless the flaws I see in it. Just some minor adjustments and I could go with it if I owned cows myself.
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        Jan 26 2014: well, Lejan ., possibly penguins are too afraid of man to line up at arctic station? One evidence that animals sleep cold is that their lifespans are shorter than ours?

        As evidence that we are most creative species, Lejan ., could we look at our mastery over all other animals and all plants? Do you agree that we have more power over plants and animals than they do over us?

        You can eat and drink the same day, I say just don't eat meat and drink milk the same day. In the past, when I was eating meat, on the day I eat meat I drink orange juice, or water, or pineapple juice. But just not milk. It is gross, it is like you say you will take anything from the cow, or the herd, any time, the cow or the herd has no meaning in this world except what she or he or they can provide for you.
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          Jan 27 2014: Animals which historically have been not or little exposed to humans usually show none to little fright towards us, which, like on the Galapagos islands, I would expect for other remote places as well.

          During periods of drought, in Africa for example, we can observe that herbivorous animals have no other choice but to overcome their fear in need for water to share the view remaining resources of surface water with their predators in plain sight, which, of cause need water too, yet stay lingering there for obvious reasons as well.

          Combining the two and following your train of thought, would make me expect for lots and lots of friendly penguins, especially as polar human scientists don't feed on them and as much as I know, never have.

          Lifespan is mainly determined by the given limitation of cell-division as part of the biological renewal process from within and the 'speed' of metabolism of a species when food and safety was sufficient and constantly provided.

          Water turtles may serve as a good example here, whose lifespan can easily exceed more than 120 years up to 160 years, although the water temperature they life in would make humans not only shiver but also die of hypothermia.

          'Power over' is an irrelevant concept in interdependent ecosystems. Take away all oxygen producing plants from this planet and the clock was ticking for all humans to go extinct by suffocating. Take away all pollinating insects, we go extinct as well. So who is dominating whom in intertwining dependencies?

          Some even say, that removing our species from the system would not have any negative effect on the system at all... on the contrary, which in terms of added value to the system, the ice we stand on may well be thinner than we think it to be ...

          On grossness, milk and cows I agree with you on individual view.
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        Jan 27 2014: I don't know for sure, but is that really a universal rule, Lejan ., that animals that haven't been exposed to us show no fright? I'm thinking some animals would be afraid of anything unfamiliar? I would think animals do unusual things when they are desperate, perhaps the penguins aren't desperate?

        Turtles one does hear live exceptionally long. They are a rather exceptional animal, people say they "carry their house on their back"?

        Why is "power over" an irrelevant concept because of interdependency? Although in general we may need different species, in individual situations we dominate them, I maintain this comes from our greater intelligence and creativity.

        I am going to investigate more to see if animals sleep cold at night in the outdoors. But we may ask, Lejan ., if you believe in evolution and that we were once animals, why did we strive to move towards clothing, houses, and fires if we were already comfortable?
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          Jan 27 2014: I think cats isn't the only species capable to kill itself by curiosity. And although I assume, that curiosity is wider spread amongst predators than it is with others, I also assume, that flight instinct is not exclusively based on inherent passed on experience.

          Fleeing takes energy so it wouldn't make sense for a species to run off anything which moves while ignoring to build a learning curve in doing so.

          In wildlife we can observe mixed herds of plant eaters grazing on same grounds, respecting yet not shying one another, which in terms of energy preservation and consumption makes perfect sense to me.

          So when a 'new kid' appears on the block it makes sense to get to know it, as on the long run a detailed evaluation makes for a higher survivability as well as for a better energy balance, which for each species is of importance.

          So yes, I assume, that what we observe on the Galapagos is not a local phenomenon of this island, as it would be difficult to assign any logic to it.

          Desperation on the other hand and in this context would be a reaction on the manifestation of unfulfilled needs which are necessary to maintain an intact existence, strong enough to trigger a change in instinctive behavior to increase the chance to gain whats needed while taking (and 'accepting') the risks in doing so.

          And as it is to expect, that nature equipped each of its species with all senses necessary to detect its 'state of being' in relation to the state it needs to be in to successfully survive, desperation was to expect only at extreme deviations between the two whereas slight changes in behavior or strategy would make for the norm of minor adaptations.

          Thus, if an animal freezes at night, it seeks or builds for better shelter, if its naturally given 'isolation and thermal management' is not capable to get it within its zone of comfort, which in fact is nothing but the felt representation of the state of being a species needs to be in to successfully survive.
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          Jan 27 2014: Regarding turtles and temperatures, we should not confuse our imagination of the cosiness and warmth of a 'house' as we use to build with its body armor, because turtles do not use external heat source as we do in our 'homes', thus, their experience of and need for temperature has to differ from ours significantly.

          On 'power over' you now changed from a first generalized concept towards a situational one since interdependency got introduced and you also separated humans from animals, about which I assume you followed the general tendency of our species to see itself as something 'special' on this planet.

          But if 'power over' is now situational, how do you derive towards a generalized conclusion?

          Facing a hungry grizzly in the woods with a fully loaded AK47 in our hands may well turn out in our favor in terms of 'power over', but as we are situational now, how do we do in one in which the gun turned into just a twig.

          How do we do with Anthrax if an infection took place in the middle of nowhere and without easy access to transportation?

          And AIDS? Didn't we so far 'just' prolonged but keep being defeated at the end? And does this makes this virus the ultimate power on this planet?

          Intelligence and creativity are certainly highly developed within our species, yet nevertheless both remain only chosen when used as differentiating criterion in between species and if so, remarkably clearly in our favor and our favor alone ... And I wonder why ... :o)
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        Jan 27 2014: well, what were you referring to when you mentioned an "arctic station"? Because if it is a closed building, I doubt that penguins could get in even if they wanted to, after all human locks, doors, and walls are pretty strong.

        By desperation I was thinking that animals could be uncomfortable but it would take extreme discomfort for them to try to break into human shelter.

        I tend to think that animals are uncomfortable but don't think of building a shelter. It is something I will have to research further. I was talking to a public librarian today and he said it is something to be researched at a university library. But still we may ask if our own species was once an animal and we were comfortable, why did we struggle toward having clothing, houses, fireplaces, and so on, when no other species did?
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          Jan 27 2014: I imagine arctic stations to be extraordinary well sealed and locked, yet also some scientists to have some daily business outside it, which would make for perfect situations for penguins to get in touch in hope to finally get in as well. Because if I would imagine myself in their situation, as you did with the plants in your garden, damn I would go for any chance and my best inter-species skills... because as you said, breaking in was probably no promising option.

          Although I share large parts of the Darwinian theory, it does not completely satisfy my 'sense' about evolution. Yet as this my sense is an intuitive feeling, I have no clear evidence for its real existence.

          Different from the current teachings, it appears to me, that randomness is not the only mechanism to trigger mutation, as it lacks any feedback in which life could manipulate itself in terms of necessities for adaptation, which for a complex system as such, I would expect to exist. But as I said, thats my sense, no valid science.

          Now the question you rose is a good one. Did we trade the necessity for most of our former fur by the mastery of fire?

          I don't know, but this is highly questionable to my personal logic for this to be the cause and this for the two following reasons.

          That warmth by fire was to overcome an existing gap in between 'insufficient' natural isolation and average environmental temperatures, which existence you propose, wouldn't make sense to me, because loosing existent fur due to the given heat density of fire was a local phenomenon only, and even though the fire place probably became the center of a herd, or tribe, the exposure time towards the fire in comparison to the necessity to be away from it, would in my view not a strong enough condition to loose the advantage of fur in open fields to be protected against the cold out there.

          So could it have been a matter of 'attraction' that randomly (mutated) less furrier individuals were more desired as sexual partners by others?
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          Jan 27 2014: But also this wouldn't make much sense to me, as usually body size is interpreted in nature as an indicator for a strong and healthy individual within a species, and whoever has made the experiment to wash a fluffy cat or dog in a bathtub had the chance to notice, that their former volume, which is one form of size, shrinks to a surprisingly small fraction of it.

          So by loosing body fur we would have lost a possibly dominating indicator for 'strength' and 'health' for our choice of partner, which in my view would not make for those genes of the less fury ones to become dominant.

          So could it be a matter and therefore first indicator of human 'aesthetics'?

          We know today, that each century we have sufficient information about, had its very 'ideal' of attractiveness of genders, which seems to vary over time.

          This concept of attractiveness so far was the only logical explanation for me for our species to loose most of its fur, as 'attractiveness' by being less fury has by no means any connection towards practical purpose and advantage within a cold and hostile environment. The invention of 'high heels' and 'depilation wax' thousands of years later and loved as hated by many of our females today may serve as an illustrated example here ... :o)

          The most irritating field observations I made for my species was in the Ural mountains in winter, watching Russian females walking the streets at -30°C wearing high-heels and mini-skirt and little more above their belts which looked warm at all ... ;o)
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        Jan 28 2014: well, I see on the net that penguins are sometimes hunted, for one thing they are hunted sometimes for their fur. So they might have reason to fear man and thus not seek human shelter despite being cold?

        It seems possible to me, Lejan ., that the animals that were able to become our pets were able to make themselves useful to us somehow. For instance, dogs can herd sheep. Cats can catch mice. Perhaps so far we have insufficient use for penguins? But what could be a use fo penguins where we might want to make them our pet?

        It is true that a certain number of animals are anomalous and live longer than us. I don't know yet what to do with these animals. But the majority are more short-lived http://www.sonic.net/~petdoc/lifespan.htm therefore I tend to believe that they are always colder and less comfortable than we are, and that being colder shortens their potential lifespan. I will continue to investigate this topic, but I am having trouble finding info on the net. I am at the library of my local community college today (Glendale Community College). I believe I will request assistance from the librarian to see if I can find an answer. I also have the option of attempting to find a biology professor who is holding office hours to pose my query. (They will help residents of the city who are not students, as I am not.) Now what is your story, Lejan ., did you go to college or university? What city do you live in?

        I would further reason that we are more creative than other animals because other animals love our food. Have you ever eaten the kind of food that a wild bird eats, such as leaves and worms? I have done it, and it is not as pleasant as our food. I remember being on safari in Africa and eating outdoors and the wild monkeys would approach us with menacing gestures, trying to blackmail us into giving them some of our food.

        I further reason that we have a higher quality of life than plants.......
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          Jan 28 2014: If hunting penguins for fur is what our species did, then its a matter of desperation of the penguins do decide to share shelter with their predators as antelopes do at the watering hole with theirs. And if we do not observe such behavior, as I assume, the coldness of their environment does not seem to drive them into desperation as we had to expect if we'd follow and agree on your imaginative 'garden experiment' in which you gathered conclusions how cold plants must feel at night, being naked.

          Any warm blooded species has to constantly maintain a certain narrow range in body temperature, as otherwise and at constant deviation, the system damages. And as environmental conditions change over the year by its seasons, we observe in many species adaptive changes of their 'insulation', behavior or even their complete metabolism.

          Hibernation, thickening in fur, feathers and fat-layers or digging for deeper shelter is natures way to increase the chances of survival under dropping temperatures and each species developed its specific strategy to cope with it.

          Our experience of 'comfort' in terms of temperature is related to our given 'core temperature' which has to be maintained. If its getting to cold, blood circulation focuses on vital organs whereas 'secondary' body-parts get neglected. If its to hot, we start sweating to use the cooling effect of evaporation.

          Without any technical support and cloth, the spread of our species was pretty limited on this planet today, as by evolution we seem to have lost much of our former adaptation abilities to keep a constant body temperature under harsher environment conditions.

          Natures heating devices are muscles which we instinctively activate if we are to cold and try to avoid to activate when we are to hot. Shivering in the cold is nothing but to heat up our body temperature by the activation of our muscles, which is controlled on subconscious levels in our brains.
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          Jan 28 2014: Now temperature wise, it is possible to imagine that there was a slight mismatch in between the necessity of a constant body temperature and the experience level of comfort, which could make a species constantly feel a bit 'to cold' or 'to hot' and this without any physical reason. Yet this could only be on conscious levels, as otherwise the body would automatically and subconsciously start to actively change the core temperature and as this temperature already was correct, active heating or cooling would then begin to damage the system itself of which we know, that this is not going to happen if the system itself is healthy.

          The question now is, how much 'subjective' discomfort is possible and how miserable would an individual, a species feel by it. As I expect nature to have perfectly matched the level of necessity and the feeling of comfort within the thermal management of each warm blooded species, I can only speculate about a mismatch in between both.

          Technically, this sort of control circuit would be highly flawed, as the temperature sensors would constantly deliver false informations to the systems, which in return would constantly adjust false temperatures for the system itself. Even if this sensor feedback was 'subjective' it would certainly spark the impulse of an individual to act 'accordingly', although there was no physical reason for it. This in return would activate subconscious mechanisms to out-balance this false behavior, which, depending on the magnitude of mismatch, could result in constant stress levels of the whole system by which it is to expect, that the lifespan of an individual or species was significantly reduced, which, again depending on its magnitude, could contradict the intention of life to at least live long enough to produce descendants for the continuation of the species.

          By this and Darwin's theory it is to expect, that a species suffering from such a mismatch in thermal management would not successfully make it.
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          Jan 28 2014: It seems you compare the lifespan of species in years only, while ignoring their average body size, body temperature and rate of metabolism, about which science seem to have already identified specific dependencies.

          A mouse may live shorter in years than you do, but how does it looks if we would compare the number of heartbeats both of you have during lifetime instead? I don't know the answer, but as I used to have a pet mouse as a child, I know their hart beat frequency is way higher than ours. You may have heard about 'dog years', if this is the correct English term for what I mean, but we already have some 'rule of thumb' measures for some of our pet animals how their 'years' compare to ours. And although I assume, that this comparison isn't scientifically very accurate, I am certain that science has more precise units than years to compare the average 'durability' of species to one another.

          On pets I assume, that todays purpose for most humans to have them is company, rather than any other 'functionality' they may bring.

          Personally I am not particular keen on the fact that my cat tries to contribute every now and then her ideas about good food to our diet, but as this is hers I leave it this way and have to accept it.

          As humans are apes, I am not surprised by your experiences in Africa. But I know that my cat despises most of my cuisine because of its spices and prefers her meat raw, which most of us wouldn't. And as I expect the same for birds, I leave the worms to them as long as I have more delicious alternatives for my taste.

          As for my story, I attended a technical college and graduated in mechanical engineering in aerospace technology.
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        Jan 28 2014: because we have a greater ability to communicate than plants. Plants can communicate by touch, and we can communicate by touch, also. But we, and other animals, can communicate by sound also, which plants cannot do?

        Very interesting story about the Russian women. But one of our human advantages is that if we are cold, we can put on pants, or stay indoors. We can wear a miniskirt one day and several full layers of clothing the next as we choose. Animals, I'm guessing are not as smart as us, and hence have not developed these options. Plants the same, well, that's another advantage of humans over plants, we can remain as still as a plant if we choose, but we can also move and do things to make ourselves more comfortable.

        As far as the AIDS virus being stronger than us: well, I don't know if an invidividual AIDS virus is as long-lived as us. I would imagine that the average AIDS bacterium lives a much shorter life than the average human, so in general I would say we are stronger. It is possible that the individual who gets AIDS has taken too many risks and made themselves too vulnerable. But even when AIDS overwhelms an individual, I'm thinking it may take millions or billions of bacteria to overwhelm one human, hence one human may be stronger than any one bacterium. Not sure on this one, do you know? Could one AIDS bacterium kill one human?
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          Jan 28 2014: I am not certain if we possess all sensors necessary to experience plant-communication in its whole, but I do know that my abilities to decode olfactory messages within the flora is quite limited.

          You tend to focus very much on the sensory equipment you have, Greg, and to neglect those you haven't. When you watch bats hunting insects at dawn you probably don't hear much of them, but in fact they are constantly 'screaming' to navigate. Would your conclusion be, that bats are quiet hunters?

          If it is smart to choose 'attractiveness' over 'comfort' is highly questionable to me and it would be interesting to know how many accidents and serious colds are caused by wearing high-heels and mini-skirts in severe winter conditions year in year out and what it cost to the overall health-system in Russia. :o)

          The immobility of plants does not seem to have created a huge disadvantage for them, as otherwise they would not be around anymore in large numbers.

          As for AIDS, science still is in dispute if viruses can be defined as a life-form or not, yet it is certain about this on bacteria. And as a virus existence is entirely bound to its host, as individual and 'species', it is questionable if the question who 'lives longer' is valid, especially as they are although lethal.

          One HIV virus is definitely enough to infect a human and as its 'purpose' is to reproduce within the cells of its host organism, it will duplicate in large numbers, which causes AIDS to form, which finally defeats the human immune system to give way for another disease to do the final killing.

          What makes it difficult to humans to not make themselves vulnerable towards this virus is, that its path of infection highly relates to our sexual instincts, of which we know that those have a high damping effect on human ratio.
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        Jan 28 2014: well, when I said penguins were cold at night, Lejan ., I meant that they were uncomfortable, but not so uncomfortable that they are desperate. But even if they were desperate they might not be able to overcome their fear of man to approach him. Or they might not understand that man has warmth to offer. We see wounded animals who could be helped by our animal doctors, and yet the wounded animal will try to get away from humans?

        I started researching this topic. Human beings optimum temperature 98.7 degrees F. Then I saw on the net mountain gorilla optimum temperature 62-64 degrees F. Can that be correct? Unfortunately, I am signing off, Lejan ., as I need to go to the bathroom and cannot leave the public computer safely while still signed on.

        But you know, it is a good question. If we think of ourselves as evolving from one-celled animals, one would wonder why the one-celled animal would even come into existence if its existence was in a form where it was always uncomfortable? On the other hand, maybe that is the best most life-forms can do, they have managed to come into existence and maintain existence despite being uncomfortable. Part of the problem is variations in temperature throughout the day and season. It is easier for humans to adapt to these changes because they can put on or take off clothes, blankets, and so on in order to cope.

        Cats are very picky eaters. But even they would rather have certain human food I think than anything they can catch in the wild?

        Bats may make sounds that we cannot hear, yet we have devised a way to hear them. But we have lived with plants for millions of years, we have worked with them, touched them, lay amongst them. Surely our perception of their communication abilities is worth something? Most people would agree that they cannot communicate as well as people?
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        Jan 29 2014: sorry, Lejan ., I went to those and they wouldn't load. Here is one I'm aware of http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7_X2Z9v8-6Q "The Secret Life of Plants" is the title. I like it because it features a soundtrack by Stevie Wonder, and in fact he won a Grammy for best album for the soundtrack.

        You know, it seems to me that plants are more sophisticated than they appear. And we may keep discovering more levels of sophistication. But human beings have been living amongst plants for millions of years, we have walked past them, grown them, lay down in them, cut them, eaten them. And human beings have great awareness, in fact we had a great awareness even before we had sophisticated scientific measuring machines. If in our awareness most people would say plants are not as sophisticated as human beings, you would not accept this?
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          Jan 29 2014: Given the sensitivity level of plant responses and experiences we are talking about, the sensitivity level of technology available to the science at a time, does matter in my view to its possible results. And as I actually felt highly disturbed by the music, I stopped watching quite released when I realized, that the documentary was made in 1979.

          How could I possibly accept such a generalized statement? Plants are not as sophisticated as human beings in ... what exactly? Cracking CO2 in photosynthesis or parking a car in between two others? What are your criteria to chose and compare those levels of sophistications with one another and why?
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        Jan 30 2014: well, one idea that comes to mind, Lejan ., is that we eat better than a plant eats. Think of our delicious food, and gourmet food, such as beef, raw milk, cream, truffles, escargot, caviar. Or even a piece of fish and a salad. Compare it to what a plant eats, won't you agree we eat better? But even an animal eats better than a plant? What does a plant eat, water only, it's not that good? Therefore when an animal dies, it feels its death with more poignancy than a plant as it gives up more in terms of pleasant food?
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          Jan 30 2014: Taste is only a mechanism to animals to choose high energetic food over low energy food and to reject poisonous one. If water was the only 'food' plants ate as you proposed, what would be beneficial to them to possess this form of 'choice mechanism'?
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        Jan 30 2014: What is your evidence that taste is only a mechanism to choose energizing food versus non-energizing? Many animals have their favorite foods, although they will eat others.

        What else does a plant eat besides water (and sunlight and air)?

        Lejan ., if there's some question in your mind that plants life might be as sophisticated as ours, maybe you should run an experiment where you try to live as much like a plant as possible? You could try to move as little as possible while awake every day, or move extremely slowly. And you could only live on water and sun? But maybe you will find that our human life is richer than that life?

        But I think in the strictest sense you are right. We really can't know with certainty that a plant doesn't mourn its death as much as we mourn ours. But would it be enough to go on probability, could we say that it's probably more moral to kill a plant than to kill a human being?
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          Jan 30 2014: Obesity would not occur as it does if 'taste' and 'energy content' were not related. Sugar and fat, both highly dense in energy, are usually especially tasty to many species and this for the mentioned reason.

          A plants menu you can find here:

          As for sophistication, it appears to me, that you wish for an absolute answer which species, which life-form is 'the best' on this planet, and this probably to grand and define different values of life to rank them accordingly to abilities you choose.

          The question to me is, why? What is this good for? And why does humans come always on top in those sort of rankings? Maybe, because we choose the criteria in our favor?

          The usual ranking in our value goes roughly like this:

          Viruses - bacteria - plants - insects - reptiles - mammals - humans

          But this is only the value 'we' granted and its order therefore defined, not absolute.

          Humans also 'defined' those levels of value even within their own species and we both now, that this caused a lot of slaughter among us.

          Nazi Germany defined Jews as 'Untermenschen', as humans of lower value than their own kin and behind this declassification was a whole list of chosen criteria and believes for its justification. Unreflected, it made sense to so many Germans at that time and caused a holocaust and genocide of historical proportion.

          Slavery is based on similar evaluations on freely chosen criteria, by which one 'race' devalues another in their very interest. Color of skin, religion, 'technology levels', whatever criteria deemed best at its time.

          And do you think this evaluation, this 'ranking' within our own species is valid?
          And if not, why should trans-species evaluation have any more validity at all?

          We usually remind each other not to compare oranges with apples, and in this we usually tend to sense why we shouldn't.

          Why this logical concept doesn't seem to work within and across species stays mysterious to me since.
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        Jan 31 2014: thanks for the plant nutrition link, Lejan .. I wonder in what form plants take up nutrients, I guess the nutrients must always be diffused in water for the plant roots to suck them up? (I apologize, I should look it up myself but I'm on a library computer where I have a set limited amount of time.)

        My first thought is that we want to rank ourselves versus other species so we won't feel too bad about enslaving them, or harvesting them. This seems kind of reasonable, I myself want to eat food from animals and plants, but I also don't want to feel too bad emotionally about it?
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          Jan 31 2014: Water is natures favorite solvent, so it is to expect it plays a major part for nutrients to cross plant cell-membranes to enter the system.

          To me, humans is the most cruel species on this planet and this because they are capable to calm their conscience by believes or successful suppression of better knowledge or chosen morals.

          Yet on food we can do nothing else but to accept, that our survival is, without exception, based on the extermination of other species. Its natures law and the best we can do to feel better about it, is to minimize the suffering of the life-forms we enslave and consume.

          Doing so, needs our respect towards other beings by which an artificial claim of being superior over them, is not helpful at all. On the contrary, as our history and cruelty tells us.

          Farming chicken for eggs does not call for conditions similar to 'concentration camps'. Farming pigs for meat does not call to lock them up in tiny cages.

          This only happens, when respect is overruled by other interests which are viewed higher of value than the well being of other creatures.

          Natural food-chains include a lot of suffering, as many species does not kill their prey always quick and painless. But on this I see the human species the only one capable to reflect on it and to act differently by choice. A necessity to do so is not existent, but then we should review the meaning of our morals in general and to be at least honest about it.
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        Jan 31 2014: Thanks for this, Lejan .. I believe I'm starting to understand your position better. Can you say more about why you assert humanity is the cruelest species on earth? I see humanity doing kind acts, too. For example, once I found an injured baby bird on the sidewalk. I made a couple of telephone calls, and I found out where I could take the bird so that it could be nursed to health. It was a private home that accepted injured birds from various people like me. This is a kind act, would you say? But no other species would have done it for the baby bird?
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          Jan 31 2014: I don't know any other species which kills its own kin as systematically and 'effectively' as ours and this also for other reason than for food. What makes us cruel is that fact, that our species is capable of empathy, which introduces the concept of choice to act accordingly.

          Caring for a baby bird is pure empathy and I can easily imagine a solider acting on one as you described, while taking the life of an defined enemy one hour later by a drone attack he/she performed.

          And if we would estimate how much poverty, how much hunger we could have eliminated by the resources we reserve for our military purposes, we seem far off even to be in balance with our potential to care, leave alone the given readiness to finally use the mentioned equipment.

          Its still a long way for our species on our path of social evolution, and it seems to me we haven't come far since we left our trees.
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        Feb 2 2014: that's a pretty deep topic, Lejan .. I would think part of our cruelty is that we have designed tools and weapons, whereas the other animals have not. If they designed tools and weapons they might become cruel to each other too?

        One also has to realize that the human race has been more successful at growing its numbers than other species, thus phenomena like war might have an aspect of "bleeding off" the population, keeping the population increase in check? Whereas most animal species exist on the ragged edge of survival and there is no pressure to reduce the numbers?

        But, Lejan ., would it be fair to say that I am defending the human race, whereas you are finding major fault with us? But isn't your position kind of depressing, isn't it more cheerful to look for the good points?
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          Feb 2 2014: Recognition is no matter of choice, Greg, avoidance is.

          When I look at my own species, I am neither patriotic nor misanthropic about it and take the plain data to draw my conclusions.

          The result of this was and still is pretty depressing due to the given mismatch of my formative personal experiences and therefore expectations, but I would be insincere to myself to neglect our imperfections to exclusively focus on our perfections instead.

          The only philosophical concept helping me a bit with this saddening findings is the harmony of balance, the Ying/Yang, although the concept itself isn't fully satisfying which results in my given tendency to be slightly more towards a cultural pessimistic attitude if it comes to general questions about our species.

          But as for any 'throwing stones in a glass house' business, I am closest to my reflective field studies and my very own and overall contributions to it.

          So if I get the impression, that I haven't come across enough smiling people on Monday, I simply make them. It is my choice, I am aware of it, I do use it and love to be used by the choice of others!

          This and a hardwired optimism within my brain is what keeps me highly skeptic, equally aware for good and the bad and able to maintain a minimum of hope at the same time, for me to find reason.

          Could we do better? Yes! Could we do worse? Yes, but not much though! ;o)

          Which gives us enough to do get harmony into balance, at least, and then we'll see how to improve from there.
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        Feb 4 2014: well, what if anything do you do to fight cruelty in the world at large?
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          Feb 4 2014: As anybody who is not explicitly devoting ones life in this field, my direct influence on world cruelty is pretty limited and almost reduced to small angles of degrees as an consumer and voter within questionable economic frames and democratic realities.

          So besides spreading my word every now and then and acting locally in my best possible fashion and as continuously and consistently as possible to my morals, there isn't much else I am doing right now.
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        Feb 5 2014: Well, what cruelties do you perceive in the world, Lejan ., I believe you mentioned war, and also food animals being raised under bad conditions? If you could, how would you try to prevent war? That would make a good TED conversations topic, no, "How would you prevent war?" Do you want to host that one, I'm going to think about it myself. I'm having trouble, every time I attempt to submit a TED conversations topic, I'm getting a message csrf attack detected and I can't submit. So I copy the submission and send it to them via my own email account.

        I can possibly suggest an easy way to fight animal cruelty. If you recall, for about five years now I've been living almost entirely on skim cow's milk, every day I drink about two gallons (7.5 liters) of skim cow's milk, and I hardly eat or drink anything else. For most of that time I was buying what they call "conventional" skim milk. "Conventional" means the cows that produced the milk are living on "factory farms," in other words they're very close together, lying in their own manure, when hungry they wander over to the food area where cut hay is brought in and laid in front of them. But I learned that if I buy organic milk, the cows will have a better life. In California, for a farmer to call the milk organic, the cows by law must be grazed on real pastures where they are eating grass growing from the ground at least 75% of the year. So I shifted and began only buying organic because I thought those cows have a better life. The organic is quite a bit more expensive, but to me it is worth it. So maybe in Germany if you went to organic you might be helping out some animals?

        Spreading your word here and there, and did you say you encourage smiling in yourself and others, is a good thing.

        You don't actually live near farms, do you?

        Do you see manifestations of cruelty locally (not just related to animals)?
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        Feb 5 2014: I actually tried to start a conversation about the bed-in for peace, do you remember when John Lennon and Yoko Ono lay in bed for a week in a hotel room in Toronto to promote peace? But TED wouldn't accept it. Here's John and Yoko's movie about it, this is on Yoko's YouTube channel, looks like she has a number of good peace videos on there: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mRjjiOV003Q&list=TL6IUuIKLqD_BC_QxjPLyXwDQZ3CVPWB9M
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      Jan 22 2014: that seems very smart, Carolyn, to keep a little distance and think of it as an experiment. What other experiments, if any, are you running within the larger cultural umbrella?

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