Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Sunday, October 23, 2011
Justin E.H Smith interviews Cătălin Avramescu about this new book, An Intellectual History of Cannibalism. (side note, Cabinet is one of the better magazines I have seen in a while, subscribe if you like what you read)
I think cannibalism is challenging not just on an epistemological level. The cannibal provokes us at a deeper, ontological, level. How can cannibalism’s existence be justified? This question is particularly difficult, since the coming into being of the cannibal implies the disappearance of other beings. If this is true, then an examination of cannibalism is bound to induce a species of metaphysical unease....
Early modern authors were aware of the slipperiness of the concept of cannibalism and they played it to great effect. The consuming of the body of Christ in the ritual of the Christian communion or the medical use of the extract of mummies were, for instance, reconstructed as acts of cannibalism by radical writers and reformers. Some utilized symbolic associations such as that between bloodletting and money lending. On the other hand, there was, indeed, some acceptance of what I should call, perhaps, “minor cannibalism.” For instance: a man drowns in a river, is eaten by fish, and then another man eats the fish. What made the difference? Two elements. One is essential in casuistry: intention. The minor cannibals, such as the sick men flocking around the scaffold, do not themselves wish to harm the source of the matter they ingest. This contrasts with the perverted will of the “major” cannibal. The other element is the drama of dismemberment, which is a procedure that carries numerous associations in Western culture.
at 10:30 PM
Saturday, October 22, 2011
Monday, October 17, 2011
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Emma Marris @ The Last Word On Nothing blog asks the question. One major issue when it comes to synthetic life is are we really synthesizing all of organism, including our microbiotic gut dwelling partners?
Another problem that I’ve talked over with Wildlife Conservation Society Institute director Kent Redford is that animals are not ever really alone. Mammals like mammoths and humans host thriving, complex communities of microbes on their skins, in their mouths and, especially, in their guts. This “gut flora”, when behaving normally, doesn’t hurt us but helps us break down our food and train our immune systems. Disorders from asthma to eczema to allergies and even obesity have been linked to the number and kinds of microbes in our guts. There are ten times as many microbial cells as human cells in your body, and microbial genes outnumber human genes by at least 100 to one (See here). Animals and their microbiota are so tightly linked that some scientists think of them collectively as a kind of superorganism. Each species has its own suite of flora species that have adapted to it. When the mammoth went extinct, so, presumably, did all its little bugs. A cloned mammoth born vaginally from an elephant would likely end up with elephant microflora. One delivered by cesarean might have no bugs at all. What do we make of a mammoth superoganism if only one out 100 of its genes are authentic to the ecosystem that roamed the earth inside a hairy proboscidean skin 13,000 years ago?H/T: Andrew Sullivan
at 2:53 PM