Monday, January 14, 2013

Gun laws... a response to a friend

It's been a while since the shooting that has gun laws on the table again. That Connecticut school shooting wasn't the first and it won't be the last. There have been several public shootings in the weeks since that one, anyway. So my friend John wrote and asked me to respond to an editorial by a Canadian journalist on that shooting and gun laws. I did so and thought it might help someone to openly share my response, so here it is in full:

Hi John, nice to hear from you. We've both read the editorial you'd linked to and have a few thoughts... so since you asked: 
We are Christian before we are anything else, so as Christians, we believe the taking of human life is not right under any circumstance. However, governments do what they will and make laws for the protection of their citizens and the restraint of evil - and they do this by evil means. Governments maintain military and police whose job it is to carry weapons and restrain evil. Sometimes there is misuse power of this due to personal moral lack. For example, soldiers often kill civilians purposely in war zones and they are usually punished for this as it does not represent the government's wishes.
So we see that it is the heart of the individual that matters and no one can force another to have a heart change. No law or police force can obtain safety for people. There is no safety in this world, other than the solace we find in the bosom of our Lord. 
Let's say there were no guns that shot more than 5 bullets... so he carries 6 of them and kills the same number of people.
Let's say there were no guns that shot more than 5 bullets... so he killed people more slowly.
Let's say there were no guns... he could have killed them all another way. There is no end to this, because it is the heart of the person that is the problem, not any material thing. 
Neil, as a Canadian, is heavy on socialism and believes that laws are good things and the more, the better. His solution is to "take weapons of war away from people who aren't soldiers or police." Every gun is a weapon of war... knives, swords, javelins, discus, shot put... And really, the ubiquitous car takes far, far more lives in our societies than guns. And what else should they take away from people? 
So they'll make a law restricting some kind of gun and the public will be happy with the compromise. But it will be arbitrary, and no one's heart will change, and God will continue weeping.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Chapter 21: Practical Application of Primitive Wisdom

Continuing my review of Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Weston A. Price...

If an interested person's time was limited, a reading of chapters 16 and the present chapter (21) would be sufficient to gain the gist of Weston Price's observations and conclusions as well as be of help in nutritional thinking so that a person can make appropriate changes in their diet.

As a sort of summary of the previous few chapters, Price writes:
One of the most urgent changes in our viewpoint should be to look upon the assortment of physical, mental and moral distortions as due, in considerable part, to nutritional disturbances in one or both parents which modify the development of the child, rather than to accepted factors in the inheritance. (p359)
This is the same now, as then. The general thinking in our society is that physical and mental problems are random "genetic" events without cause and I'm not sure there is room at all for acceptance of the concept of moral distortion... I think it has shifted entirely into the realm of mental health. But it's not as if there isn't contemporary evidence: I heard the other day on the radio about school lunch programs not only helping children's physical needs, but also teachers remarked how hungry children who were admitted to this food aid had increased attention in the classroom and their grades improved. I suspect if pressed, we might find that these children were also less irritable and thus less likely to be involved in problems with their peers. I don't think that Price was trying to say that proper nutrition would solve all of society's ills, but it is a basic starting point that would go a long way; and yet I can't help but notice his constant references to the lack of prisons and asylums in traditional societies.

I think we know far less than admitted about heredity, genetics and the like. I recall my mother asking a doctor when I was 10 or 12 years old about whether I was in danger of passing on my Beckwith-Wiedemann Syndrome. He didn't think so based on my relative health at the time, but urged me to get tested further before having children. Now I realize that he had no clue whatsoever, but as a doctor, was not able to admit that. In the first half of the 20th century there were many forced sterilization programs for "defective" people. Perhaps if I had lived at that time I would have been included in one of those programs? But even back then Price was able to observe that these were unnecessary and senseless:
The normal determining factors that are of hereditary origin may be interrupted in a given generation but need not become fixed characteristics in the future generations. This question of parental nutrition, accordingly, constitutes a fundamental determining factor in the health and physical perfection of the offspring. (p368)
Note the difference between the teeth of each sister in these photos:

Fig.133 In this family the first child to the left was most injured in the formative period as shown in the form of the face and dental arches above and x-rays below. The first child required fifty-three hours of labor and the second three hours, preceded by special nutrition of the mother.
Fig. 133 shows a striking example of how poor nutrition of the mother during pregnancy shows up in the children. The child on the left most obviously has crooked teeth but also narrow nostrils when compared to her younger sister on the right whose mother had proper nutrition during the pregnancy. Now the chance for a North American woman to have proper nutrition during pregnancy is relatively low because as a society we have no special foods for pregnant women other than prenatal vitamins. Price notes how traditional societies all had a special set of foods for young women and pregnant women to supply their bodies with the extra nutrients required of the demands of having children. It seems in our contemporary society maternity clothing is given more importance than nutrition. And when the pregnant woman's food is talked about it's usually in a joking manner about pickles and ice cream or about how much she eats.

One of our modern tendencies is to select the foods we like, particularly those that satisfy our hunger without our having to eat much, and, another is to think in terms of the few known vitamins and their effects. The primitive tendency seems to have been to provide an adequate factor of safety for all emergencies by the selection of a sufficient variety and quantity of the various natural foods to prevent entirely most of our modern affections. Their success demonstrates that their program is superior to ours. (p382)

Now in North America unless we are part of a recent immigrant family, there is generally little cultural tradition when it comes to food, so the question naturally arises: What pattern of eating should one follow?" Price recognized the nutritive factors which gave rise to the excellent health of the peoples he studied. It was not because of what was on the menu that they were healthy, but because of what was in the food on the menu. So he encourages the reader: "It is not necessary to adopt the foods of any particular racial stock, but only to make our nutrition adequate in all its nutritive factors to the primitive nutritions."(p379)

Weston Price believed that tooth decay (and poor health in general) was caused by violations of the laws of nature... I would say that nature was created by God and he is the architect of our bodies - therefore we must live in this world following the ways of God if we are to be healthy. As a farmer, I see everyday that different animals have different food needs in order to fulfill their different nutritional needs, and it is my responsibility as their caretaker to ensure that all these needs are met. Shall I not do the same for me and my family?

"Tooth decay is not only unnecessary, but an indication of our divergence from Nature's fundamental laws of life and health."p.379

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Chapter 20: Soil Depletion and Plant and Animal Deterioration

 Continuing my review of Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Weston A. Price...

Given my vocation as a farmer, chapter 20 represents an important part of Weston Price's message. The general concept is that soils the world over have been losing their capacity to produce nutritious food and that it is not an easy problem to solve. He calls this "the most serious problem confronting the coming generations" (p.358)

He sees the demise of all great civilizations as tied to a loss in agricultural fertility - and he sees the United States as standing squarely in this lineage of fallen cultures. He writes, "The complacency with which the masses of the people as well as the politicians view our trend is not unlike the drifting of a merry party in the rapids above a great cataract. There seems to be no appropriate sense of impending doom." (p.355)

And so the modern and contemporary farmer has attempted to counter this effect of reduced fertility by adding endless chemicals to the land - which works to a point - but runs counter to the will of the Creator. Organisms and microorganisms - all animals - have a role in the fertility of the soil and the practice of monocultures with chemical additives destroys the cycle of life that is the wisdom of God. The only answer to this problem is the slow methods of farming which not only keep fertility but even add to it through nature-observant methods of farming. And that is what I seek to to through farming in a permaculture context. May it be the will of the Lord.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Chapter 19: Physical, Mental and Moral Deterioration

Continuing my review of Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Weston A. Price...

This is likely to be the most controversial chapter in the whole book - it is certainly the most difficult to read for the postmodern.

As I go through this book, I have a choice to simply summarize the content and/or add my own thoughts to critically reflect on the content. This chapter shall be no exception, but I'd like to be very brief. Neither Price nor I are judging people based on their looks - what he has written and what I am reflecting on is an observation of physical, mental and moral characteristics. At no time is there a prescriptive personality matrix - there is only description of the defective and undesirable abnormal with an eye to their prevention via nutrition. 

The premise seems to be that a lack of proper nutrition can lead to a poorly developed mental capacity and also poor moral character. Personally, I have no trouble whatsoever understanding the connection with mental capacity, but the extension to a moral deficiency is not so easy to follow. Mostly Price refrains from making a direct causal relationship between poor nutrition and deviant behavior such as criminality, but he attempts to show that the statistics suggest some sort of correlation. He reports that prenatal injury was seen in all but two patients in a prison (p.330), and suggests that criminals rarely have normal physical appearance.

There is much in this chapter concerning childbirth and I will save it for a later post specifically on Price's childbirth writings in this book. So for now the take home message from this chapter is none other than it is important for prenatal development to occur properly so as to not handicap a person for life - either physically or mentally.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Chapter 18: Prenatal Nutritional Deformities and Disease Types

Continuing my review of Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Weston A. Price...

It is here at the beginning of chapter 18 that we find an explanation for his world trip. He writes that he became convinced that the problem of disease could only be studied in the context of having a control group that was free of disease - something he felt he could not do in his contemporary society - so he "extended the search to isolated primitive racial stocks".

Throughout the book I have often found that some of the terms that Price uses are so heavily weighted that I have to stop mid-sentence and contemplate. On page 297 he used the term "prenatal injury". It's not a difficult one, but the way in which he uses it is from his nutritional viewpoint. On page 319 he uses a magnificent phrase that so encapsulates all that this book seeks to convey. In summing up what the degenerative problems are, he says the problem is "not heredity, but intercepted heredity". What a fantastic way to put it. So I cannot say that my Beckwith-Wiedemann Syndrome is inherited from my parents (because no one else in my entire family history has had it - and my daughter doesn't), I can rather say that the heredity that would have been passed on to me was blocked.

On page 302 Price writes of lions eating only the organs from a zebra. His point is clearly that a healthy animal like a lion only eats the organs, so… wait a minute, though… the jackals come around after the lion and clean up, don't they? So are the jackals unhealthy? Certainly not. So I'm not sure the analogy holds up or is even valid. More thought needs to go into this.

Always of particular interest is the anecdotes about childbirth. On page 305 we read that at the point of contact with modern civilization "is a decrease in the ease and efficiency of the birth process." This is a very important point as for most people in our society, childbirth is not viewed as something that could be easy or efficient. This fact has tremendous implications for the natural birthing movement that I will delve into in a later post.

He spends some time discussing pig studies on heredity. Of note, he writes about eyeless pigs who were bred, and we saw: "…the production of pigs with normal eyes, born to parents both of whom had no eyeballs due to lack of vitamin A in their mother's diet." p.309 Again, proof that what we are dealing with is "not heredity, but intercepted heredity." I raise Tamworth pigs, and I wonder about all the processes that occur in passing down traits to each new litter. my boar is a distinctive ginger color and my number one sow is a dark red, yet when a litter hits the ground, I see ginger, red, dark red and spotted piglets. We're clearly beyond a Mendelian view of genetics! How wonderful and complex it is that we all have recognizably different features, yet I often hear, "Your daughter looks so much like you." We pass on good things and hopefully not bad ones - the key is nutrition. Poor nutrition and we intercept heredity.

Friday, March 02, 2012

So why do I have Beckwith-Wiedemann Syndrome?

I sort of glossed over this in my last post. The commonly accepted "reasons" for BWS are as follows:

  • unknown
  • unclear
  • complex
  • genetic mutation
So it's not different at all from the majority of human maladies that the medical profession seeks to explain with many studies showing… nothing useful at all, but make them a lot of grant money.

To me, the answer is clear, although admittedly complex. It is a genetic mutation on chromosome 11, manifested by poor gene copying. So everyone knows DNA… it's the blueprint for life! How is it made? Well, glossing all the chemical processes, DNA makes RNA, and gives it a copy of itself, which the RNA then copies back to replace DNA. This process is constant in our bodies.

So what happens if there's a mistake? Of course, we all know - genetic mutation. Simple question and answer. Okay, then try asking why there is a mistake in copying. Go on, you can do it: Why would there be a mistake in copying?

Well, as an ink pad takes up ink from the stamp, sometimes we don't roll the stamp around enough and it doesn't get fully covered in ink. You could say, the stamp is lacking in ink. So when you make an impression on paper with that stamp… the design is mostly there, but missing a little bit.

So goes gene copying… and the ink is nutrition. Lack of nutrition and the RNA cannot copy the DNA properly. This is the cause of my Beckwith-Wiedemann Syndrome and the vast majority of all genetic problems.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Chapter 17: One Origin of Physical Deformities

Continuing my review of Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Weston A. Price...

From time to time, there are certain phrases which stand out to me as beautiful. On page 276, Price writes as a description of poorly formed dental arches and crowded teeth that they are "the inhibition of Nature's normal procedure." For that is what happens when nutrition is not correct for the body to build itself, let alone do activity.

A lady asked me the other day, "How do you know your daughter's healthy?" I was so dumbfounded I could hardly reply, "When I look at her I see perfection, and when I look at most children today, I see deformity." Our society takes this as an affront, and dismisses such comments out of hand. Nevertheless, it is what I believe. We must be able to look at people and know if they are healthy or not. Price has helped me to open my eyes and see healthy people and unhealthy people; deformed and well formed. We are so afraid of passing judgement on others, that we cannot see what we need to see in order to make informed decisions about whether what we are doing is working or not. This is not about passing judgement on others - in fact, it is for the express purpose of helping others. A person's genetic problems are largely not their own fault (although they can be) - genetic problems are almost exclusively a result of parental nutritional deficiencies.

The caption to Figure 103 reads: "This is depressed reproductive capacity of the parents." Price said what our society no longer allows us to say: parents are at fault for unhealthy children. I will state what I know to be true here succinctly: "Almost all genetic problems are congenital problems, which are nutritional problems." Environmental factors such as toxins can play a role sometimes, but lack of nutrition is the main problem.

So in looking at races, we can see that there are racial patterns which are inherited. For example, if we see someone with red hair, we generally think of Scotland. Slotted eyes is East Asia. These are simple examples, but there are many barely perceptible features which allow us to recognize a "stranger". Price writes:

If the change in facial form were the result of racial admixture, we should not have the types of deformity patterns that these cases show. Indeed, in the same family we should not find several different deformity patterns. The lack of development downward of the upper anterior incisors and the bone supporting them is illustrated for the younger child, in Fig. 103 lower right. It will be noted that when this girl's molar teeth are in contact her front teeth still miss occluding by a considerable distance. p.281

I had the same problem when I was young, so I had an appliance to try to correct the situation - and it did for a few years, but guess what? My front teeth don't occlude:
Part of this problem in my mouth has to do with the macroglossia that came with my Beckwith-Wiedemann Syndrome, but because of the position of my teeth in general, and the fact that I'm missing a couple of the back molars, it is clear that my arches did not form correctly. Thankfully, I can chew and swallow just fine, although breathing was difficult when I was younger because of the largeness of my tongue.
I am a product of modern civilization: "Two serious defects from which many individuals in our modernized civilization suffer are impacted teeth and the absence of teeth due to their failure to develop." (p.294) These don't happen in healthy individuals and are not a normal part of the human condition - and they are not random events as has been shown in Price's research. He claims much of the problem is lack of Vitamin A in one or both parents before conception or during gestation, and will discuss the cause of this in the next chapter.

Monday, February 20, 2012

A new calf!

Comet & her heifer calf

Our Milking Shorthorn, Comet, calved this morning - it's a little heifer! She calved just fine - mother and daughter are doing splendidly, learning to know each other.

To read more and see a video of the pair, please check out the new blog section on (The post is here.) 

Finally, we have our own pure, unadulterated, raw milk to drink!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Maine Traditional Diet?

It's been just over a year since I started reading Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Weston A. Price. Somehow I thought I'd have had time to finish it more quickly. At any rate, I'm still progressing with my reading as I get the farm geared up for this growing season. Our new cow, Comet, a Milking Shorthorn, is due to calve in less than three weeks, so I've been reading all I can on the subject of cattle and nutrition. In one of those books, I came across this:

I once knew a family with eleven children who lived about forty years ago in an isolated area of Maine before food stamps and convenience foods. They seemed to live most of the year on nothing but home-baked beans and the milk from their cow. They were all magnificently, bloomingly healthy. They obviously knew how to use milk right. p.87 Keeping a Family Cow (rev. ed.) by Joann Sills Grohman (the book was originally published in 1975)

I couldn't help but think that perhaps this sort of people could have been studied to great benefit by Dr. Price. Maybe he didn't know about them? Or perhaps because it's just one family, it's not a big enough sample. Anyway, being financially poor is not a prescription for poor health, so long as we eat properly!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Chapter 16: Primitive Control of Dental Caries

Continuing my review of Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Weston A. Price...

In the first paragraph of chapter 16 we read:
We are concerned now with discovering whether the use of foods, which are equivalent in body-building and repairing material to those used by the primitives will, when provided to our affected modernized groups, prevent tooth decay or check it when it is active. p.253
!! What ?? He's now going to tell us if we can stop tooth decay by the food we eat? Yup.

Price has categorized the dietaries of the primitive peoples he studied:
  1. Dairy (high Alps Swiss, Arabs, certain Asians)
  2. Animal organs and eggs (North American interior natives, Andean tribes)
  3. Seafood (Islanders, coastal peoples)
  4. Small animals and insects (Aborigines, African interior tribes)
Each group he observed used foods from two or more sources, and the sources don't really matter - only the adequacy of the minerals and vitamins present in those sources are important.  He writes that we should obviously focus on foods near us, but understands that "It would be fortunate indeed, if our problems were as simple as this statement might indicate." (p.254) He then lists three problems to overcome:
  1. Strength of character and will power to eat what our bodies need rather than the foods that we like.
  2. Sedentary lifestyle of the modern = little energy needs and little hunger.
  3. Nutritional content of food.
To the first problem, I have no answer... It seems that each of us must struggle with our own character and listen to our own bodies. Perhaps we can find good ways to support one another in this struggle. I am surprised that in 1939 he wrote that 25% of the energy of the North American diet was supplied by sugar. (p.256) As our diet has changed over the past few years, Susan and I have noticed a change how "sweets" taste to us.... they're easier and easier to resist.... but not entirely, yet.

The second problem is an interesting one, and perhaps we live in a time when more people on earth are sedentary than ever before. Each person controls what they do during their day. Bodily movements, while perhaps subtle, are one of the most important aspects of "exercise". While I pity someone with a desk job, I, too have had such jobs in the past and found a simple way to overcome the lack of movement: walking to work and sometimes hiking on weekends.

The third problem is one I am trying to solve in my work. As I work with my animals and plants, I am seeking to improve the soil (and thus the nutrient content of my food) based on what I see working in nature. This relates back to chapter 15 and the quote about wild animals having perfect health. That's what I want to replicate in my farming. That means rebuilding the nutrition of the soil.

Price mentions that drying foods better preserves the vitamin content than canning. While in the past we haven't done a lot of canning, this advice might keep us from investing too much in canning equipment and have me build a solar food dehydrator instead.

He writes a bit about what he did to improve his patients' diets and seemed to universally recommend butter oil and cod liver oil, a 1/2 teaspoon 3 times per day. He believes that they are more powerful when given together. For certain these are nutrient dense foods, but it seems to me that those who live near the sea did not have dairy, and those who had dairy did not live near the sea. At any rate, it is a reparation formula for nutritionally deficient moderns, not a part of the diet of primitive peoples.

So was his program of nutrition for his patients successful? If one can believe what he writes, it was:
Clinical data demonstrate that by following the program outlined dental caries can be prevented or controlled when active in practically all individuals. This does not require either permission or prescription but it is the inherent right of every individual. p.271 
 The last part of this quote is the second to last sentence in the chapter, and it speaks to me on several levels. Simply, it is an empowering statement and a radical idea, coming from a man who's living was earned "fixing teeth". Teeth fixers earn they're living from people with bad teeth, not perfect ones. Why was he so eager to have people fix their teeth and prevent dental problems? I think the answer lies in his love of humanity. In all of his writing I feel that he loves the idea of humans living in a natural state and eating natural, local foods - and he recognizes that this possible perfection comes not from commerce, but as an "inherent right."