Something Wonderful

Some Thoughts on Relationships

I think we have to allow ourselves to be emotionally vulnerable. How else can we really be genuine? To do so is taking a chance, but how can a relationship, whether friendship or love, really grow if we are not willing to let our guard down and open up?

Letting someone in is a big deal, yes, but more often than not it helps us to grow, assuage our insecurities, and build a stronger relationship. Sometimes we get hurt; sometimes we are ridiculed. But sometimes it opens the door to something wonderful.


An Interesting Take on the Existence of God

The following is an article from As a scientist, I find Dan’s view on issues surrounding the existence of God very interesting.

January 2, 2017

I Call B.S. On Atheism

By Dan Pedersen
(Reblogged here)

I have a theory that there are no true atheists. That everyone, somewhere deep inside, believes that God exists. Somewhere in all of us is a flame of hope — hoping that this life is not the whole story. That when we die we will continue to exist as something more than just atoms and a memory in the minds of those we leave behind.

There’s nothing to be lost by acknowledging to ourselves that we know very little about the nature of reality. It’s perfectly reasonable to accept the possibility God exists in some way — in a way that’s hard for us to comprehend. It’s perfectly reasonable to believe the order and intelligence of this universe are no accident. The chances of it being an accident are so low that no one would take that bet if there were consequences for being wrong. If you had to bet your life’s savings on it you wouldn’t.

As Robert Lanza has said:

“The laws of physics seem to be exactly balanced for life to exist. For example, if the Big Bang had been one-part-in-a-million more powerful, the cosmos would have rushed out too fast for the galaxies and stars to have developed. There are over 200 physical parameters like this that could have any value but happen to be exactly right for us to be here. These fundamental constants of the universe aren’t predicted by any theory — all seem to be carefully chosen to allow for the existence of life and consciousness.”

The Big Bang Theory may very well be true (though even this is shrouded in doubt: one example here), but what happened before the Big Bang? Where did the matter come from that caused the Big Bang? How was there once nothing and then there was something? It’s about as easy to comprehend as being attracted to a frog. As neuroscientist David Eagleman has said “there are thoughts you cannot think”.

Everything is a miracle. The mere fact that we’re here, in all our complexity, is a miracle. If it’s all by chance why does chance exist in the first place? Why does Natural Selection exist? Where did that intelligence come from? Why should there be any natural “laws” at all? Why aren’t they random and subject to constant change?

As Einstein once said (about quantum mechanics), “God does not play dice with the universe.” Einstein may have meant that metaphorically, but if God doesn’t exist why doesn’t nature play dice?

The Scientific Aesthetic

Lightning Storm Over the Grand Canyon Copyright by Rolph Maeder, Photography Sedona

Lightning Storm Over the Grand Canyon
Copyright by Rolph Maeder, Photography Sedona

#weekendcoffeeshare 9/17/16

If we were having coffee, I would tell you how I wanted to be a scientist since about the age of ten or eleven. Unlike most children who declare a vocation at such a young age, I never lost sight of the goal and did indeed become a scientist (now retired).

But the other day I was thinking about what it was that kept my dream alive from childhood to fruition as an adult. I mean how many young kids who say they want to be a fireman actually do it? What I realized was that I had an abiding wonder and fascination with all of the mysteries of nature. Science was a tool to reveal its secrets.

As a young boy, I wanted to explore many and varied aspects of the natural world and science. For a time I was an avid mineralogist. I made many expeditions into the creek bed behind the apartments where I lived. My holy grail was to find a geode; I never found one but found some petrified wood instead. I was disappointed at the time, but years later realized how cool and unusual that find was.

I had an inexpensive microscope and peered into the previously unseen details of all sorts of things from hair to bugs and leaves. When the Russians launched Sputnick in 1957, the first satellite, I became fascinated with rockets and space travel. Yes…of course, I fabricated my own rocket. It was a unique home design made from an aluminum pipe with balsa wood tail fins and a crude fuel made with chemicals in my chemistry set. Back then the sets included the components needed to make gun powder—oops.

I realized in retrospect that my design was badly flawed— more like a dangerous firework than a rocket— but it did manage a few flights of maybe 50 feet up before the aluminum could no longer withstand the blast. Thank God my brother and I had the good sense to run like hell when the fuse was lit!

As time went on, I began to develop a pantheistic view of the world. My vision moved beyond practical, objective aspects of my surroundings to a more aesthetic appreciation.

Into middle age, my relationship with science and nature became more inspirational and spiritual, and less investigative. Rather than study and analyze nature, I wanted to experience it. Rather than simply being a refuge from daily life, the natural world became a celebration of the diversity of life—something sacred to be revered, loved, and protected.

Thus, I have come full circle; once again I have that innocent sense of wonder and I am amazed and thrilled by the incredible beauty and complexity of the natural world around me, just as I was as a young boy growing up.

You might like to see the following related articles:

Just So…

The Golden Morning

Nature: A More Expansive Spirituality

The Spring of My One True Love

Winter Surrenders to Spring From

Winter Surrenders to Spring

#weekendcoffeeshare 4/16/16

If we were having coffee my love, I would sit next to you and tell you how much I have missed you. I have many questions, but seeing you now, they just don’t matter.

All I want to do is hold you and kiss your mouth, your cheek, your hands…your wrists….I want to run my fingers through your hair ever so gently and just take in the moment of seeing your beautiful face after such a long time.

My heart is pounding as a love suppressed for far too long awakens from a seemingly endless winter upon seeing the beautiful spring of my one true love again. I have so much to say; so much to tell you. But I find myself in a whirlwind of emotions…The only words that emerge from the storm—the only words that matter are—“I love you so very much.”

Love Song

The words to the song at the link above fit well with this piece of writing.

You might like to see the following related articles:

The Light Inside You

The Quintessence of Life

A Timeless Story

Genetically Modified Food Crops: A Clear and Present Danger?

GMO Farming

GMO Farming

Do genetically modified food crops present a clear and present danger? New research and common sense suggest the affirmative.

There appears to be much controversy concerning health safety issues surrounding the farming of genetically modified (GM) food crops and its impact on public health. Recent research reviewed below indicates that significant health risks associated with GM crops do in fact exist. In my view, the so-called controversy is actually a public relations campaign especially by Monsanto to deceive the public, legislators, and regulators into thinking that GM crops and the methods to farm them present no health threat.

The chemical industry, which now often includes a biotechnology component, has a long history of misleading the public and regulatory bodies concerning the dangers of their products. There are many cases of cover-ups and misinformation ultimately followed by the banning or very tight regulation of some of their products. For example, DDT, PCBs, and Agent Orange (which contains dioxin and 2,4-D) come to mind.

What is happening concerning the “controversy” surrounding the farming of GM crops has some remarkable parallels with the behavior of the tobacco industry when data began to appear suggesting a link to lung cancer. What happened in the tobacco industry is recounted in an article by Robert N. Proctor, Ph.D. at Stanford University titled “The history of the discovery of the cigarette–lung cancer link: evidentiary traditions, corporate denial, global toll” cited below.

Today it is well known and accepted that lung cancer is caused by smoking tobacco. That this might be the case was first proposed in the late 1800’s. By the end of the 1950’s evidence for a link between cigarette smoking and lung cancer was definitively proven by multiple and diverse sources of evidence, including epidemiology studies, animal research, studies of cell pathology in smokers, and identification of cancer-causing chemicals in cigarette smoke. However, it was not until 1964 that the Surgeon General formally declared that cigarettes cause lung cancer.

Before and after the Surgeon General’s report on smoking, the tobacco industry denied any link between cigarette smoking and lung cancer. The industry developed marketing campaigns to confuse the public and make it appear that the link between tobacco and cancer was still controversial when it was not.

These sorts of tactics are used by the chemical/biotech industry today with regard to the safety of GM crops and the herbicides and pesticides used with them. Monsanto is one of the largest producers of GM crop seeds and herbicides used in farming. The industry relies on the ignorance of the public and puts up smoke screens to confuse those who express safety concerns. Contrary to Monsanto’s propaganda, GM crops do not offer any altruistic redeeming qualities.

As I see it, there are two aspects to issues of health safety surrounding GM food crops: (1.) potential dangers imposed by eating the plants themselves and (2.) dangers arising from the herbicides and pesticides used to farm them. GM crops present their own set of health risks that I discussed in a previous article on this topic.

Monsanto likes to focus the discussion on the safety of the GM crops because it is easy for the public and regulators to accept the notion for example that GM corn or soy are really not noticeably different from the native plants. They both look and taste the same. However, they are not the same because the physiology of the GM plants has been altered through genetic engineering.

I believe that focusing on the plants is a ploy by Monsanto to distract attention from a more ominous, clear and present danger—the massive use of glyphosate, the herbicide in Roundup. Monsanto’s GM crops are called “Roundup Ready” because they were created to be resistant to large amounts of Roundup. This was done with the sole purpose of selling huge amounts of Roundup. Some non-corporate farmers do not realize that Roundup Ready crops are GM crops.

Epidemiology was key in the case of tobacco because prior to widespread smoking of cigarettes, lung cancer was virtually unknown. It was so rare that when a case was found, physicians and medical students would gather to see it because it might be a once in a lifetime opportunity.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently announced that after review of available research on glyphosate that it is a probable cause of cancer in humans. The research accepted for review by the panel was vetted to assure that the authors had no conflicts of interest with industry and that the research was published in respected, peer-reviewed journals. The report includes glyphosate as well as other herbicides and pesticides.

The WHO announcement can be found here. Sources of the research findings included in the WHO panel’s review, some of which are summarized in the next two paragraphs, are reviewed in the WHO report published in the Lancet Oncology which can be found here and reviewed comprehensively in the WHO monograph found here.

Examining disease incidence in potentially high risk populations such as farm hands and farm workers may have merit. Glyphosate was found in the blood and urine of agricultural workers. Case-controlled studies of occupational exposure to glyphosate in the US, Canada, and Sweden has shown an increased incidence of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. This approach has also found increased incidence of prostate cancer among agricultural workers exposed to other pesticides. Convincing evidence was also found that glyphosate can cause cancer in animals.

It is possible, as with tobacco, that a link could exist between some rare form of cancer and pesticides or GM crops. Animal studies in mice and rats found that glyphosate induced increased incidence of several cancers, including a rare renal tubule carcinoma. Others included pancreatic adenoma, haemangiosarcoma, and skin tumors. Glyphosate was also shown to induce DNA and chromosomal damage in mammals and in human and animal cells in vitro. Such damage can trigger cancer.

Huge amounts of Roundup are used in the farming of GM crops. According to the Organic Consumer’s Association there are a number of studies suggesting links between glyphosate and a wide variety of diseases and health problems. The article found here summarizes the findings.

If you are wondering whether pesticides used in the farming of conventional and GM food crops actually get into our bodies when we eat these foods, take a look at the short video below.

This pilot study in Sweden clearly shows that we ingest and absorb pesticides into the blood, which find their way to the urine, when eating non-organic (i.e., conventional and GM crops) foods. These days, at least in the US, that means a lot of GM crops. The study tested for insecticides, fungicides, and herbicides, such as 2,4-D but not glyphosate. I have no doubt that high levels of glyphosate would have also been found in this pilot as in other studies.

Glyphosate and 2,4-D are the most widely used herbicides in the US. Both are toxic and carcinogenic. The discussion of GM crops focuses too much on the crops and not enough on the fact that farming of conventional and especially GMO crops results in the deposition of large amounts of pesticides and herbicides on the crops and into the environment. This leads to higher residues in and on the crops we eat. Organic farming does not use the above mentioned herbicides. Organic foods are a bit more expensive, especially for large families, but what is the health of your family worth?

In my view, reason and caution trump the so-called “controversy” promoted by the chemical and biotech industries, especially Monsanto. It seems to me that it is only common sense that chemicals that poison plants, fungi, insects, mice, and rats are also poisonous to humans. Bear in mind that in order for toxins such as herbicides and widely used neonicotinoid insecticides to work, they are absorbed into the plant’s tissues. This means that they cannot be removed by washing the plant before consumption.

The fact is, we don’t know with any certainty what levels of these poisons will produce health problems in humans. There needs to be more research in this area. Just because a clear link between pesticides used in farming and cancer or other diseases in humans has not been definitively shown yet, does not mean that they are harmless. The results of animal studies clearly say otherwise.

The creation of herbicide-resistant GM crops by Monsanto provided the springboard for its billion dollar sales of Roundup worldwide. If the public rejects GM crops, then sales of Roundup will drop dramatically, along with the threat it poses to human health and the environment.

It is time for governments and regulators to discharge their responsibility to protect the public health and environment. It is also time for the public to relentlessly apply pressure every way they can to get GM foods labeled and to push for a ban or tight restrictions on the use of glyphosate and other herbicides and pesticides shown to cause cancer and other health problems in animals and/or humans. Genetically modified crops do indeed present a clear and present danger.


IARC Monographs Volume 112 on Glyphosate published July 29, 2015 accessed November 18, 2015,

Guyton KZ, Loomis D, Grosse Y, El Ghissassi F, Benbrahim-Tallaa L, Guha N, Scoccianti C, Mattock H, Straif K (May 2015). “Carcinogenicity of tetrachlorvinphos, parathion, malathion, diazinon, and glyphosate”. The Lancet. Oncology. 16 (5): 490–1.
Accessed online November 8, 2015,

Organic Consumers Association; “Monsanto’s Roundup. Enough to Make You Sick,” article by Alexis Baden-Mayer, accessed November 8, 2015,

Proctor, Robert N. (2012). “The history of the discovery of the cigarette–lung cancer link: evidentiary traditions, corporate denial, global toll.” Tob Control 21:87-91. Available online at (Accessed November 8, 2015).

“The Organic Effect.” YouTube video, 1:34, posted by CoopSverige, May 4, 2015,
The full report from the Swedish Environment Research Institute was accessed November 8, 20015,

WHO Press release: IARC Monographs Volume 112: evaluation of five organophosphate insecticides and herbicides. International Agency for Research on Cancer, World Health Organization. March 20, 2015. Accessed online November 8, 2015,

You might also like to see the following related articles published on this blog site:

GMOs (genetically modified organisms) Part 1—What Are They and What’s All the Fuss?

GMOs (genetically modified organisms) Part 2—How to Avoid Them in Your Diet

A Good and Decent Man

The Last Trial Copyright 2015 by Blair Atherton

The Last Trial
Copyright 2015 by Blair Atherton

How would you react to a diagnosis of terminal cancer? How would you choose to spend your last days on earth? Would you have regrets or would you look back on a life well-lived, satisfied that you helped as many people as you could? Would you rush out to do and get as many of the things of which you had been deprived, or would you instead reflect upon all that you had already been privileged to do and possess?

You may have heard that our 39th President Jimmie Carter was diagnosed with melanoma, a very aggressive cancer. If you did not see his press conference announcing the diagnosis, it can be found here.

President Carter said some remarkable things about how he is coping with his diagnosis that provides an example and model concerning how one who has a deep belief in God should react. He was totally at ease, relaxed, and smiling throughout the news conference. There was no discussion of doom and gloom, and no self pity.

He said that he was surprisingly at ease with the diagnosis and that he had had a wonderful life filled with many blessings. He was grateful for all the people he was able to help through the Carter Center and Habitat for Humanity.

He went on to say that he would accept whatever treatments are available but that he is in God’s hands. When asked what he would say to other cancer patients he said, “Hope for the best and accept whatever comes.” He said he was as blessed as much or more than any human being and that he was grateful and hopeful. He said that he is ready for whatever is next—the next great adventure.

Doris Kearns Goodwin a presidential historian said that “What we should remember about Jimmie Carter is that he was a good and decent man. In politics today we don’t often get good and decent men running for politics.”

President Carter provides an example of the kind of life we should all strive to emulate: a life of unwavering faith in God, honesty, acceptance of life’s trials, compassion and service to others, and gratitude for the many blessings we receive. May we all do our best to be good and decent human beings.

Information about the work of the Carter Center can be found here.

One Civilization Among Billions?

The Milky Way as Seen from Earth

The Milky Way as Seen from Earth

Have you ever wondered if there are other civilizations elsewhere in the Cosmos? Could we be but one civilization among billions? How likely is it that other intelligent life exists on other planets? What information is available for us to assess the likelihood that there are alien species?

The sheer immensity of the cosmos makes the notion of only one planet with a civilization seem absurd and provides strong impetus to the idea that surely there must be life elsewhere. Using a super computer, it has been estimated that there are between 300-500 billion galaxies. Astronomers estimate there are 70 billion trillion stars in the observable universe (i.e., 70,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 or 7 x 10²²). We do not know how many more may be beyond our ability to observe or detect.

These are some very big numbers that are really beyond our comprehension. Let us suppose that only one ten thousandth of a percent of all of the stars have a planet that could support some form of life. From this assumption we would estimate that there could be one thousand trillion planets in the universe (i.e., 7 followed by 16 zeros) that could support life.

Let us now suppose that only one millionth of these could have some form of intelligent life. If our assumption is correct, then we would estimate that at least one billion planets scattered about the universe could have intelligent life.

I find these numbers to be compelling concerning the likelihood that not only does life exist elsewhere in the universe, but that other civilizations do as well. If true, it is also likely that many are more advanced than us, not only technologically, but also spiritually. The earth and sun are much younger than planets and galaxies that are in the far distant universe whose light has reached us. Therefore, humankind could be on the less developed end of the spectrum.

Wherever humanity may fall in the evolutionary and spiritual hierarchy of the cosmos, there is no doubt that we have a long way to go on both developmental pathways. Spiritual evolution of a civilization is a very slow process, as is biological evolution. As I look down that long road ahead, I envision one people united in common cause for the loving care and respect for one another and for the planet that sustains them.

You might like the following related articles:

One Species Among Millions

We Exist in the Ethereal Spaces Between the Atoms

“All that is composed shall be decomposed.”


Sources of Estimates

500 Billion –A Universe of Galaxies: Some Older than Milky Way

How many stars are there in the universe?