Friday, June 12, 2009

deciding element: Iron? (Fe)

Dr. Leonard Shlain proposes an intriguing 300 + page theory of the role that iron had played in the evolution of our species in the book: Sex, Time and Power: How Women's Sexuality Shaped Human Evolution (Viking Pub.). In one of the more thought provoking books that I have ever come across, a wide range of reasonable ideas are addressed regarding female biology and its effects on behavior, cultural and physical evolution.

Some personal points of interest: the compound molecule chlorophyll is like a ring of molecules of Nitrogen, Carbon, Oxygen, Hydrogen and located in the center of this "ring" rests one molecule of magnesium which gives plants their green color. The compound molecule of hemoglobin is the same ring of molecules but the magnesium is replaced with a single iron molecule.
The need for iron in our blood is what persuaded us to become carnivores. Unlike other mammals we have a hard time processing the iron found in plant life so we must eat other animals to acquire the iron for our body's needs. As we evolved, the brain size in human infants got bigger resulting in larger craniums. Brain development requires high does of iron, as well as amino fatty acids. This need for iron and the man's role as hunter, because a pregnant, nursing, or attentive to children mother is not exactly in a convenient place to go out for a kill, increased our "bravery" to go for larger and more dangerous game, resulting in higher testoterone levels. The larger or more dangerous the game a hunter brought back, the more evidence of his hunting skills = he was a more desirable mate for the women. The more iron supplies the woman had while pregnant the more the brain in the baby developed reaching its genetic intellectual potential (women are succeptable to anemia while pregant and if this occurs may result in unfullfilled brain development in the child or mental retardation even). This iron rich diet produced greater intellegence. This has been a grossly under-articulated, insultingly brief description of some of the thoughts found in this great book, my apologies to Dr. Shlain.

Now for some personal thoughts:
The fact that the major make up of the Earth is iron seems to be of little coincidence. Though our physical make up is mostly H2O, the iron needed for intellectual capacity is undesputable. If it were not for iron: the gravity of our planet may be different because its density would be different resulting in either a stronger or weaker pull on its inhabitants and objects within its gravitational field, our species would not be as intelligent as we like to think that we are, the scale of our industrialization would be squashed since the Bessemer process, which uses the introduction of oxygen into a pot of molten iron to rid some of the carbon contents in the iron resulting in a more resilient and less brittle material, transforms iron into steel.
The chlorophyll description above + the Earth-iron relationship + the idea that the salt content of the ocean is similar to the salt content found in the human blood stream seems to point things in a certain direction.
There are some questions that I find it hard to fathom that we as a species will ever come to undisputable universally accepted difinite answers. Isn't a fact just subjective reasoning with the illusion of objectivity that the majority of a given group of people agree to be true? Some of these indefinables I believe include: What is the origin of life? What is the origin of the Universe? What is God's pants size (or is it skirt size.....)
It is this curiosity of our surrounding which in cooberation with our increased intellect that we are able to come up with inventiveness, both in objects and ideas. As Dr. Shlain puts it, the "if = then" priveledge we have as a species, granted by curiosity, a sense of deep time (past and future) and our thumbs. This is what we do, play with things and think about stuff to pass the time. Problems amount when these ideas acquire such an emotional charge within us that it results in war and violence. To take the time to understand other's beliefs can curb the instinct lash out at those who disagree. Where to absolutes lie anyway?

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