The Study of Religion

What is Religion?

Merriam Webster defines religion as “a belief in a god or a group of gods; an organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a god or a group of gods; an interest, a belief, or an activity that is very important to a person or group; a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith” (Merriam Webster, 2016).  However, this is neither a complete nor accurate definition of religion.

Religion could be said to contain some or all of the following eight elements: belief system; community; central myths; ritual; ethics; characteristic emotional experiences; material expression; and sacredness. A belief system is where several beliefs about the universe and humans place in the world fit together to form a worldview. This belief system or worldview is shared by several people in a community, and its ideals are practiced by this community. Religions contain myths or stories about the creator of the universe or about the human helper the creator sent to Earth. It should be noted that myth does not necessarily mean the stories are untrue, just that they are a part of that specific religion. Religions contain rituals or ceremonies that are practiced by the community, such as baptism in Christianity. Religions provide rules or ethics about how people should act and how they should treat others. These rituals and ceremonies usually bring a characteristic emotional experience with them, such as awe, or inner peace, maybe even fear. Religions use material expressions, such as paintings, and statues to depict the lives of the deities or saints that form the religious belief system. Religions carry with a feeling of sacredness by using special clothing, different languages, or places, in the community to shares in this sacredness (Molloy, 2013). Regardless of what religion one believes in and follows, all religions have certain elements in common.

Patterns in World Religions

All religions are different, but all religions are also the same in some ways. All religions have three major patterns that can be seen across cultures, and those patterns are views of the world and life, focus on beliefs and practices, and views on males and females (Molloy, 2013).

All religions attempt to answer one of the most profound questions known to humankind – What is the meaning of life? Why are we here? What is our purpose?  How did the universe come into existence; will it ever end? How do we reach fulfillment or salvation? What is or should be our relationship with nature? What is or what should be our relationship with the sacred or the holy?  All religions answer these questions in different ways (Molloy, 2013).

Some religions define the sacred or “God” as transcendent, living in a realm beyond our ability to reach. Other religions represent sacred as being within humans and nature and can be experienced as energy or a feeling of peace. Sometimes it is seen as having personal attributes, much like humans, and sometimes it is viewed as an impersonal entity, who has not care about humans (Molloy, 2013).

Some religions see the creator of the universe as a personal, caring entity that has a master plan for the cosmos, and that he or she is guiding the world along on an ultimate path that leads to his or her ultimate goal for life. Other religions view the universe as eternal, having neither a beginning nor end. If the religion sees the universe as having been created by a creator, then that religion worships that creator. If, however, the religion views the universe as eternal, with no creator, then the universe becomes the center of that religion (Molloy, 2013).

The human attitude toward nature is also something all religions address. Some religions believe that nature was put here to be the tools for man. Some religions preach that nature is evil and must be overcome. Some religions say that nature is sacred and needs no alterations. And, some religions teach that nature is or was created by a divine being for humans to shape (Molloy, 2013).

In some religions time is considered linear, moving in a straight line from the beginning to the end; the end of everything as we know it. In these religions time is important because it is limited and unrepeatable. In other religions time is cylindrical, moving in an endless pattern of changes that repeat themselves over and over again on a grand scale. In these religions time is not so important, the universe is not moving towards an ultimate ending, and enjoying the present is more important than being concerned about the future (Molloy, 2013).

In some religions, humans have a purpose and are part of a great divine plan. Individual meaning comes from within and from the divine in the context of a great struggle between the forces of good and evil. In these religions human actions are of great importance and therefore, their actions are prescribed by a righteous moral code. In other religions, however, human life and their actions are not viewed as important, and the individual person is only part of a much larger reality. In these religions, humans are not seen as a small part of a larger plan; they are seen as part of a family, society, and the universe as a whole; placing more importance on how one may achieve harmony with the universe, as opposed to their individual salvation. Human action is not guided by a divine moral code, but by the family and society of the individual (Molloy, 2013).

Different Approaches to Studying Religions

            The study of religion was, at one time, divided among different academic fields. Fields such as psychology, theology, and philosophy would study different aspects of religions. Now, the study of religion is unified into one academic field, but all the different fields still study religion as part of their curriculum.

Psychology means soul study in Greek, and encompasses the study of human mental states, emotions, and behaviors. Psychology takes a special interest in religions because of its rich material in human experiences. Mythology is the study of myths, which is the study of religious stories, texts, and arts that reveal universal commonalities. Philosophy means the love of wisdom in Greek, and encompasses the study of human life and their purpose. Theology means the study of the divine in Greek, and encompasses the study of one particular religious belief, usually the religion of the theologies who is doing the studying in order to gain a deeper understanding of their own religion (Molloy, 2013).

Critical Issues in Studying Religion

The academic study of religion has, in the past, been carried out by individuals seeking to find further knowledge in their own religion. However, in recent decades, there has been a shift in this cycle where now people are wanting to study religion academically without promoting the beliefs of one religion over another. The great questions of religions were once studied as a philosophy course in colleges, while other aspects of religious beliefs were found scattered in such academic departments as anthropology, history, or psychology. The study of religion then was very fragmented, scattered all over the college campus, and no unified course could be found.

In the recent past, all of this has changed and now most campuses have a department for studying religion as a whole. However, the academic study of religion brings problems and questions, as well as clarity, insight, and answers. Some concerns include the rights and obligations that professionals hold towards the practitioners of each religion, the truthfulness of informants or interpreters, the objectivity of the professional, and how, and in what way do researchers change indigenous communities.

 

References

Molloy, M. (2013). Experiencing the world’s religions: Tradition, challenge, and change (6th

Ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Religion. (n.d.). Retrieved June 13, 2016, from http://www.merriam

webster.com/dictionary/religion

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The Benefits of Space Exploration

 

Mankind has always had an interest in exploring and discovering new things; this interest has spanned oceans, lands, and vast seas of stars and planets. From the very first mention of astronomy in ancient Babylon to the current race to Mars, space exploration has always been a fascination of the human race. In ancient times, astronomy was used to track seasons, predict future events, and in some cases, architecture. But, today mankind doesn’t just stand on earth and study the stars, they can now travel to the stars. With NASA and private companies such as Mars One, planning a manned mission to Mars within the next fifteen years, the debate on rather or not to send manned missions into space is a hot one. Some scientists claim manned missions into space are not only a waste of money but a dangerous waste of money and that robots can accomplish the same thing with less money and risk. Other scientists argue that the benefits of colonizing Mars, advancing the human race and the possibility of finding life out there, make the cost and the risk worthwhile.

Safe Travel through Space

NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) has always played an active role in the advancement of technology. NASA scientists have invented such products as LED lighting, memory foam, artificial limbs, cochlear implants, scratch resistant eyeglass wear, and insulin pumps for diabetic patients (John Jones, Dan Lockney, 2008). While these are all inventions most people are familiar with, they are all offshoots of other inventions meant to send manned missions safely into space.

NASA has been busy for the last fifty years, concentrating more on sending robotic missions into space rather than manned missions. Some of those missions include the Mars rover, the Hubble spacecraft, and the newest mission due to launch on March 12th 2015, Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS); which will study the reconnection of the magnetic field surrounding the Earth (NASA, 2015). However, with the manned mission to Mars on the horizon NASA, Mars One, and Inspiration Mars are now concentrating on safe travel for humans through space.

The first planned trip to Mars is Inspiration Mars, a two manned mission that is to be “… launched on a flight path that takes it looping around the Red Planet and then directly back to Earth” (Henbest, 2013, p. 2. para.2). The most dangerous part of the trip will be reentry when the spacecraft enters Earth’s atmosphere around 50,000 kilometers per hour, faster than any mission before it (Henbest, 2013). To combat the possibility that the astronauts will fry upon reentry, the scientists involved with Inspiration Mars are working with NASA to create a heat shield to surround the spaceship.

NASA is building the Orion capsule to send a manned mission to Mars’s moon, Phobos in 2025, but they lack a detailed plan (Henbest, 2013). The intent is to overview a robotically built planetary base on Mars with the astronauts due to fly there in 2031. However, by 2031, NASA may already be behind the Mars One mission, which plans on landing humans on Mars by 2025.

Bas Lansdorp and Arno Wielders, the founders of Mars One, have plans to colonize Mars by 2025. The flight to Mars will last four to six months, and the astronauts will never return to Earth (Henbest, 2013).  The largest dangers to the human body from spending so much time in space are muscle atrophy, bone density loss, and radiation damage from both just being in space, and from the sun (Henbest, 2013). Solar radiation (radiation from the sun) is much harder to shield against than the radiation that naturally exist in space. In order to protect the Astronauts on board the Mars One mission, Lansdorp has invented a spaceship that will have “… several thousand liters of water filling a hollow shell around the crews sleeping compartment” (Henbest, 2013, p. 3.para.12). As the best protection against solar radiation is organic matter, not heavy lead shields. As the first human colonization of another planet, Mars One will also face unique situations when they land on Mars.

Safely Living On Mars

Life on Mars will vary from life on Earth in many ways. The lighting on Mars varies from an amber color to a gray color, temperature varies from -225 degrees to 64 degrees Fahrenheit, the atmosphere is made up of primarily carbon dioxide (95%) and unpredictable dust storms that can be miles long and last for days can wreak havoc on infrastructures. Gravity on Mars is about a third of what it is on Earth and days are about thirty-nine minutes longer (Henbest, 2013). So, how will humans survive and prosper in such harsh conditions?

The dust present in the Martin atmosphere causes the sunsets and sunrises to have an opposite effect on what occurs on Earth; “… instead of our blue-sky with pinkish/red effects around the sun, Mars presents pinkish-red sunsets/sunrises with touches of blue in the vicinity of the Sun” (Discovery Channel, 2015, p. 1.para.7). Days and twilights will last longer, and astronauts will have to adjust to the longer days by wearing special watches designed to keep Martian time (Discovery Channel, 2015).

Since the gravity on Mars is 38% of the value of Earth, exercise, and special precaution will have to be taken to prevent muscle atrophy and bone density loss. Astronauts will carry exercise equipment with them to the Red planet, and they will need to develop a way to walk on Mars, such as the bunny hop the astronauts used on the Moon (Discovery Channel, 2015). “The effects of gravity on humans and living organism are not fully understood and need further study. Results to date have shown a profound effect on the health of humans. Thus, new methodologies and technologies need to be developed to keep humans healthy and productive and grow crops in this environment” (Krishen, 2009, p. 231. para.6). While the production of plants on Mars can be accomplished through hydroponics and artificial lighting; how will the first astronauts to Mars produce enough water to survive?

The first unmanned mission to Mars is a demonstration mission and it is set to prove the technologies needed to colonize Mars (Mars One, 2014). The Mars One probe, as it is being called, is charged with setting up a direct line of sight between Earth and Mars so the camera and satellite can communicate with Earth and so Earth can have a live feed of Mars 365 days a year (Mars One, 2014). It is also responsible for settling on a spot where water can be extracted from the Martian soil and for testing a variety of thin film solar panels, both experiments will prove the feasibility of human colonization on Mars (Mars One, 2014). Scientist believes that just under the topsoil of Mars is a thin layer of ice, and the Mars One probe will utilize that ice to make water for the human colony.

Human Verses Robot

Traditionally, robots are used in lieu of persons. They are sent on missions too dangerous or inaccessible to people, and the purpose has always been to prepare the way for humans. However, with the cost of one person being sent to Mars around 50 billion per; some scientist argues that it is too expensive and too dangerous to send humans to live on Mars. They believe robots can accomplish the same goals at a percentage of the cost and with no life lost (Discovery Channel, 2015).

The argument for robot versus human is a vast and highly complex case. Some of the reasons these scientists believe robot only missions would be best including; eliminating the risk of human error, eliminating the need for psychosocial and psychological evaluations, elimination of long-term health effects on humans, and the cost of sending robots to Mars is exponentially lower than manned missions plus return trips are not needed (Discovery Channel, 2015).

However, robots are not as independent or as functional as humans. They require constant supervision and direction from humans; if they are out of communication with Earth, they just sit and wait for further instruction (Discovery Channel, 2015). Whereas, humans can perform tasks and still maintain the mission if communications with ground control are lost (Discovery Channel, 2015). Humans can make independent decisions and do not require constant supervision.

The cost of sending humans into space is extraordinary, whereas the cost of sending robots is dependent upon the technologies used on that robot. “Humans are bulky, fragile and expensive to maintain” (Discovery Channel, 2015, p. 1. table 1. section 6.). Robots, on the other hand, are economical, expandable, and they don’t need supplies. However, some scientist would argue that “… the scientific gains of one human mission would be worth that of ten robot only missions” (Discovery Channel, 2015) as humans can continue advancing technologies and exploring space without direct instructions.

Conclusion

Although some scientists say that human space exploration is both a dangerous risk to our astronauts and a waste of money, the thought of exploring space has always been a fascination of mankind. From the very beginning of history, we see evidence of mapping of the planets, galaxies, and stars. Mankind will always want to travel beyond and reach higher than the moon, with the new plans to colonize Mars, mankind may soon have the answer to rather or not there is life out there.

References

Discovery Channel. (2015). Life on Mars: A travel brochure for the Red Planet. Retrieved from Discovery Channel: http://www.racetomars.ca/mars/article_life_mars.jsp

Discovery Channel. (2015). Robots Versus Astronaunts. Retrieved from Discovery Channel: http://www.racetomars.ca/mars/article_robots.jsp

Henbest, N. (2013, July 13). Life on Mars. New Scientist, 219(2925), 02. Retrieved March 1, 2015, from http://web.a.ebscohost.com.proxy-library.ashford.edu/ehost/detail/detail?vid=22&sid=91b75b80-1667-43e0-a8be-6423b27e11db%40sessionmgr4003&hid=4207&bdata=JkF1dGhUeXBlPWlwLGNwaWQmY3VzdGlkPXM4ODU2ODk3JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=a9h&AN=89031951

John Jones, Dan Lockney. (2008). NASA Technologies Benefit Our Lives. Retrieved from Spinoff: http://spinoff.nasa.gov/Spinoff2008/tech_benefits.html

Krishen, K. (2009). Technology Needs for Future Space Exploration. IETE Technical Review, 26(4), 228-235. Retrieved Febuary 20, 2015, from http://eds.b.ebscohost.com.proxy-library.ashford.edu/eds/detail/detail?sid=d72ca07d-98eb-4639-acbe-cba0fc0b65e3%40sessionmgr112&vid=2&hid=104&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWRzLWxpdmU%3d#db=aph&AN=56440910

Mars One. (2014, Febfuary). Mars One – First Private Mars Mission in 2018. Retrieved from Indie Go Go: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/mars-one-first-private-mars-mission-in-2018#2018

NASA. (2015). Magnetospheric Multiscale. NASA. NASA. Retrieved from http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/mms/index.html#.VP3G7vnF848

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Psychological disorders are malfunctions in the mind that involve one’s thoughts, behaviors, or emotions that cause an individual significant distress and dysfunction over a period of time. Psychological disorders may interfere with a person’s ability to function in everyday life; they may be unable to meet their own personal needs, and/or be a danger to themselves or others. Generalized anxiety disorder is not considered to a dangerous disorder, however, it can cause some severe dysfunction in patients’ lives. In this paper, I will discuss generalized anxiety disorder from a neurobehavioral perspective.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fifth Edition, (DSM-V), generalized anxiety disorder is characterized by excessive worry and apprehension that last longer than six months and pervades every aspect of the person’s life, or nearly every aspect, and the individual finds it difficult to control these thoughts (DSM-V, 2013). This anxiety causes a variety of symptoms of which three or more must be present for more days than not over the six-month period; restlessness, being easily fatigued, difficulty concentrating, irritability, muscle tension, and/or sleep disturbances. These disturbances in a person’s life cannot be explained by either an addiction, such as a drug or alcohol addiction, or by another psychological disorder (DSM-V, 2013).

Biopsychosocial Theory

Generalized anxiety disorder is a disease that is caused by a variety of factors. Anxiety is generally considered to be a disorder that people are genetically predisposed too. Research has shown that generalized anxiety disorder has a heredibility factor, however, one’s environment will contribute a great deal to rather or not one develops generalized anxiety disorder (Brown, O’Leary, & Barlow, 2001). Although one may be predisposed to develop generalized anxiety disorder, evidence shows that stressful life events in childhood may play a contributing factor, events such as child abuse, the loss of a parent, or insecure attachments to caregivers (Brown, O’Leary, & Barlow, 2001). It is a comorbid disorder often occurring along with other disorders such as; autism, depression, sleep disorders, or substance abuse.

Evidence shows that the amygdala and areas of the forebrain are involved in generalized anxiety disorder. The basolateral amygdala complex (BLA), and centromedial amygdala complex, receive information about potentially negative emotions, activating the GABA neurotransmitters, leading to somatic manifestations of anxiety (Nuss, 2015).

Epidemiology

Generalized anxiety disorder is not a rare disease. In fact, it’s prevalence in the US may range as high as five percent of the population. It is found to be more prevalent in low income families, white, adult, women, and within those social groups of people who are widowed, separated, or divorced (Weisberg, 2009).

Complications

Generalized anxiety disorder is more than just excessive worrying. It can impair one’s ability to think clearly, and concentrate on a task. It can sap a person’s energy, and make it hard for them to sleep. It can lead to a worsening of, or be the cause of other psychological disorders such as; depression, substance abuse, insomnia, digestive problems, headaches, and may even cause heart problems. Generalized anxiety disorder has also been linked to suicidal tendency, and some people who suffer from the disorder to manage to carry out their suicide (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2016).

Treatment Options

The two main treatment options for generalized anxiety disorder are psychotherapy, or medication; usually a combination of both. Cognitive behavioral therapy is the most effective therapy for generalized anxiety disorder, as it involves teaching the patient how to respond better to stress and negative emotions. Several different medications are used to treat generalized anxiety disorder including antidepressants, antianxiety, and benzodiazepines (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2016).

Antidepressants such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI’s), and serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI), are usually the first choice of physicians when treating anxiety disorders. Antidepressants and antianxiety medications take up to several weeks to work, and the side effects can be drastic, to include suicidal thoughts; physicians are advised to carefully monitor patients, changing medications if severe side effects do occur. Benzodiazepines are only used on short term basis for patients who are suffering from acute anxiety attacks, and should not be used for patients with a history of substance abuse because they can be addicting (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2016).

Conclusion

Generalized anxiety is a psychological disorder that is quite prevalent in the population of the United States. People who suffer from this disorder are likely to stress and worry over the smallest thing in an uncontrollable manner, and this stress is likely to affect their personal life increasing the likely hood of them developing another psychological disorder. But, anxiety can be controlled with the assistance of a physician, through the use of psychotherapy, and medications. I believe Juliana Hatfield described anxiety, and its symptoms, best when she said, “Sometimes I feel like a human pincushion. Every painful emotion hits me with ridiculously exaggerated force. And, the anxiety feels like hands inside of me, squeezing my guts really hard.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

Nuss, P. (2015). Anxiety disorders and GABA neurotransmission: a disturbance of

modulation. Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment11, 165–175.

http://doi.org/10.2147/NDT.S58841

Brown, Timothy A., O’Leary, Tracy A., & Barlow, David H.(2001). Clinical Handbook of

            Psychological Disorders, Third Edition: A Step-by-Step Treatment Manual, Chapter

Four. Retrieved from:

http://commonweb.unifr.ch/artsdean/pub/gestens/f/as/files/4660/21992_121827.pdf

Weisberg, Risa B. (2009). Overview of Generalized Anxiety Disorder: Epidemiology,

Presentation, and Course. Journal of  Clinical Psychiatry 2009;70(suppl 2):4-9. Retrieved

from: http://www.psychiatrist.com/jcp/article/Pages/2009/v70s02/v70s0201.aspx

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2016). Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Complications. Retrieved from:

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/generalized-anxiety-

disorder/basics/complications/con-20024562

Juliana Hatfield. Retrieved from: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/anxiety.html

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

This week in class, I read something I had never heard before; that Autism is a consciousness disorder. I have a nine-year-old with Autism, and had never heard or read that before; strange huh? I’ve heard autism be called a spectrum disorder, a neurophysiological disorder, and a sensory disorder. I’ve always explained it as, “his senses do not work the same way ours do.” That description is right, and wrong. Let’s take a closer look at autism.

Autism does not have one known cause, and the disorder can range from severe to high functioning, leading scientists to believe that there are probably many causes. (Autism is NOT caused by vaccines, and that is all I will say about that in this paper.) Because of the complexity of the disorder, researchers believe that the cause of Autism may be both environmental and genetic (Mayo Clinic, 2016). Post mortem examinations have brought about many discoveries in how autism effects the genes, and the brain.

Several different genes appear to be involved in Autism Spectrum Disorder. Some children have mutations in their genes, that may be the involved in Autism. Some children who have Autism also have a genetic disorder, such as fragile X syndrome or Rhett’s Disease. Some mutations may be on the genes that affect communication, or determine the severity of symptoms. Some mutations may occur spontaneously, while others may be inherited (Mayo Clinic, 2016). One’s chances of having autism increase if one has a sibling or other blood relative with autism, however, scientists believe that many environmental factors may be involved in autism as well.

Environmental factors are currently being explored, and some causes that have been considered are; viral infections, medications or complications during pregnancy, air pollutants, and GMO’s (Mayo Clinic, 2016). All of these factors are considered to effect the baby in utero, evidence shows that around thirty-two weeks in utero, the baby’s brain stops developing normally.

The cerebellum, limbic system, and cortex appears to be affected by Autism. The cerebellum controls fine motor skills, balance, and coordination of the body, as well as, receiving sensory information from muscles, joints, and visual and audio input. Post mortem examinations of the brains of people with Autism has shown an under developed prefrontal cortex and a decrease of purkinje cells in the cerebellum, and that this mutation occurs around thirty-two weeks in vitro. This cell deficient in the cerebellum appears to increase the risk of seizures, and the risk of Autism (Blatt,2012). Many autistic patients also suffer from severe epilepsy.

Many neurotransmitters are affected in the autistic patient including dopamine, serotonin, GABA, and Acetylcholine. Dopamine plays a large role in regulating sensitivity and processing of information, perception of change, relying information, cognition, motivation, emotional responses, attention and focus, movement, and posture (Autism Couch, 2017). A decrease in dopamine levels can impair attention and focus, while an increase can cause the mind to race, and increase sensory processing causing an overload on the brain’s ability to process information. Studies have shown that individuals with autism have increased dopamine receptors on the mRNA expression (Autism Couch, 2017).

GABA is a neurotransmitter that contributes to calming a person down; prohibiting neurons from firing. Research has shown that individuals with autism have an imbalance of glutamate to the GABA receptors, causing over excitement, explaining why so many individuals with autism also have a co-morbid diagnosis of ADHD.

Acetylcholine is an excitatory neurotransmitter that contributes to the contraction of muscles, and stimulates the release of certain hormones. It is involved in wakefulness, attentiveness, anger, aggression, sexuality, and thirst, among other things. A decrease in acetylcholine may explain why so many on the spectrum suffer from issues with aggression.

Autism spectrum Disorder is an extremely complicated disorder, and individuals can range from low functioning to high functioning. What may affect one autistic person may not affect another. However, there are common characteristics that all patients with autism will share to one degree or another.

Social interaction and communication are issues for almost all individuals on the spectrum. They may fail to respond to their own name, after someone has called it many times. They may resist hugging and may not want to play with other kids, often times they will appear to be “in their own world.” They may lack eye contact when having conversations, and they may lack facial expression as well. Delayed speaking, or never speaking at all are common, as well as the inability to use words correctly, and some may lose the ability to speak. Conversations are hard for people on the spectrum, and often they may appear to be uninterested in what the other person is saying. They may speak in an abnormal tone, either sing songy, or robotic is common. Social interactions are complicated for autistic people, and they may approach a situation inappropriately by being passive, or aggressive.

As well as communication and social problems, people on the spectrum may have behavioral problems as well. Common behaviors found in ASD individuals include rocking of the body or flapping of the hands. They may self-harm, but not because they are emotionally damaged. They may bite themselves or hit their head against things. Autistic patients are very fixed in their routines and do not like change or surprises. They may be clumsy or have exaggerated body movements, as often they have a hard time with body coordination. (We know that this is due to the damage in the cerebellum.) Most autistic patients are unusually sensitive to light, and sound, but are indifferent to pain and temperature. Children on the spectrum tend to fixate on certain things, have very real food preferences (and that “let them get hungry” philosophy, does not work with autistic kids – they WILL starve before eating something they do not like). They participate in what is called “parallel play.” This means that, yes, they play with other kids, but only alongside them, not interacting or exchanging ideas with them – Jacob still does this.

Treatment for autism is nonexistent. I hate that some people do not care about a cure. I would love a cure for my son. Autism makes his life so hard, and he gets bullied every year because he has a hard time in social situations. Right now, he is in elementary school, and has a student aid that helps him; I’m scared for when he goes to middle school.  I hope they keep doing the research and find something, someday to cure autism. Many on the spectrum suffer from co-morbid diagnosis of epilepsy, ADHD, anxiety disorders, and sometimes OCD. Since the core symptoms of autism cannot be treated; treatment is focused on the symptoms, or what symptoms can be treated.

Jacob suffers from generalized anxiety disorder, and he takes an adult dose of Prozac to combat that. He’s been in behavioral therapy since he was diagnosed at age three. Behavioral therapy teaches him how to interact with his peers, and how to react in social situations. Jacob is high functioning, but when he was younger, and first diagnosed, the doctors told me that he would never communicate, and never have a life outside of my home. Well, he sure showed them! Jacob has many friends, and talks up a storm – he never stops, he even talks in his sleep! While I know that there is no cure for autism, some patients can be brought out of their shell, and can go from low functioning to high functioning. Jacob use to be non-verbal, and non-communicative (meaning no outward signs of communication, not even grunting and pointing), his IQ use to be a 70, now it’s a 92, and Jacob has come so far in his abilities to interact socially.  Jacob use to be in physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy (all common therapies for autism), and now he is only in speech and behavioral therapy. I have no complaints.

Autism spectrum disorder is complicated and can take many different paths. This is not a complete list of all signs and symptoms. If you feel like your child may be autistic, please see your primary care provider.

 

 

 

References

Gene J. Blatt, “The Neuropathology of Autism,” Scientific, vol. 2012, Article ID 703675, 16

pages, 2012. doi:10.6064/2012/703675

Autism Couch, Neurotransmitters and Autism. Retrieved from:

http://autismcoach.com/neurotransmitters-and-autism/

Marriage in Traditional Chinese Culture

Marriage is considered a high priority in all cultures around the world, however, different cultures practice marriage and genetic kinship in a variety of ways. Most cultures practice patrilineal lines of descent, where inheritance is passed down from father to son, and where the wife goes to live with her husband in his family home. Some cultures practice matrilineal lines of descent, where inheritance is passed down from mother to daughter, and husband move to live with the wife’s family after marriage. Some societies allow for more than one wife, polygyny, and even fewer societies enable the marriage of one wife too many husbands, also known as polyandry. Very few cultures are monogamous, and even fewer cultures allow marriage for love.  In this paper, I will discuss the marriage practice of the traditional Chinese people. I will show how marriage shaped a young woman’s life and required her to live in an environment where her needs were not entirely met.

Chinese Society

Traditional Chinese society was characterized by the worship of family ancestors, specifically, the male line of descent. Patrilineal descent played an enormous role in the lives of both women and men. Men were highly valued and often women had no familial power until she gave birth to a son. In fact, because Chinese culture was an agrarian society, in which men were responsible for the cultivated of food by the plow, women were often confined to the home, unless the family was poor, in which case women were sent to the field (Stockard, 2002). One sign of wealth, in traditional Chinese culture, was that one’s wife had wrapped feet, indicated that they did not have to work in the field.

Like many agrarian societies, traditional Chinese society was also characterized by male dominance. while being able to stay home and take care of children may sound like a dream to some American women, in traditional Chinese societies, women often lived with and had to contend with the maneuverings of her mother in law, and, sometimes, many sisters in-laws. Because women in traditional Chinese cultures had very little value, they were born outside of their father’s descent line, and therefore only gained secure access to the afterlife once they had been wed (Stockard, 2002). So even daughters who passed away due to sickness were likely to haunt their father’s home in the form of ghosts until a ghost wedding could be performed, in which a groom married a ghost, took her incense burner to his home, and then married a living girl (Pasternak, 1997).

Marriage

“Patrilineal kinship in traditional Chinese society was a powerful influence on marriage practice and was one of the key factors shaping the meaning of marriage for husbands, their wives, and families” (Stockard, 2002, p. 44). Marriage in traditional Chinese’s culture had more to do with political and economic power than it did with love, in fact, love was never a consideration. Chinese societies, especially rural societies, were often exogamy in nature, and there were strict rules against marrying anyone with the same surname. In rural China, sometimes marrying someone from the same village would have been impossible, as everyone in the village had the same surname. Endogamy was highly frowned upon, and exogamy ensured that the bride would be moved away from her own family once she was married (Stockard, 2002).

Primary marriages began in traditional China when the parents employed a matchmaker, who knew the available sons and daughters within a market area of rural China, her job was to match who could marry whom based on ancestral lines and surnames (Stockard, 2002). “In Chinese society, marriage between a man and a woman with the same surname – the outward sign of kinship identity was forbidden by law and in custom and considered incestuous” (Stockard, 2002, p. 46). And, although a daughter inherited her father’s surname, lineage, and clan, she was technically not a part of either.

Once the matchmaker has identified two possible marriage partners, she suggests the name to the families and both families reputations are highly scrutinized by the other. The personal reputation of both individuals was also highly scrutinized, but only the reputation of the bride was considered relevant to the marriage (Stockard, 2002). Families of daughters often took great pains to limit contact between her and members of the opposite sex for her entire life (Pasternak, 1997), and any hint of a scandal on her part could make her unmarriageable by Chinese standards (Stockard, 2002).

Since marriage in traditional Chinese culture was mostly based on political or economic value, matchmakers were often charged with finding a partner from the same social class. Parents often strived to have a match that would bring them political or economic power. Once that all had been accomplished, the horoscopes of the two individuals would be compared to see if there were going to be any obstacles to the marriage (Stockard, 2002). If the horoscopes matched, the negotiations over the amount the families would exchange began.

“Bridewealth and dowry were fundamental features of the major form of marriage” (Stockard, 2002, p. 47). Father’s in both families, worked hard to negotiate the amount of wealth that was to be exchanged, creating the most advantageous position for his family. The groom’s family paid a large of amount of cash, the bride wealth, and in return, the bride’s family spent that money on a dowry and other individual items, usually household items, that were agreed upon by the fathers of both families (Stockard, 2002). After the agreement had been reached, the family of the bride would parade her, in a red sedan chair, through the streets, with much pomp and fanfare, displaying the items of the dowry from the bride’s village to the groom’s village.

The bride’s arrival at the groom’s home is the first time the marriage partners have met, and often it is a period of sadness or disappointment for both the bride and the groom. The groom, because his wishes for a young, lean, aesthetically pleasing woman has been dashed by his mother, and the bride because she has to leave her family, village, and friends behind, and embark on a new lonely existence, that will be emphasized in the days to come, until she can bear her new husband a son (Stockard, 2002). In fact, suicide is the leading cause of death in rural China among young people ages fifteen to thirty-four, with females committing suicide more often than males, in some places, as much as three times as higher (Zhang, 2010). While it hasn’t be proven that marriage has anything to do with these suicides, it has been proven that marriage is not a protective barrier against suicide for these young women, as it is in Western societies (Zhang, 2010).

The marriage ceremony started with the parade through the streets but is wrapped up once the groom lifts the bride’s veil and reveals her face. The bride and groom then kneel before the family altar, bowing their heads to the ground several times. Following that brief ceremony, there is a grand feast commencing the marriage (Stockard, 2002). Three days after the wedding festivities the bride would return home for a brief visit with her family. After the new bride leaves her family’s home, she may not see them again, except in celebration, such as a wedding or in mourning, such as at a funeral (Stockard, 2002).

Family Life

Life for the young bride changed dramatically at the time of her marriage. Since traditional Chinese societies practiced patrilocal residence, the wife moved to a new village, leaving her family, and friends behind, to marry a man she had never met, and to live in a home that may or may not have sisters-in-laws she had never met as well. From this moment on, her entire life was lived to serve her mother in law, she would be required, as the newest bride, to perform the worst of the household chores, and she would be subject to abuse from her mother in law, who chastise her or beat her if she did not do the jobs well enough or quick enough (Pasternak, 1997). Her nights were not much better, as her husband was likely to abuse her as well, not only physically if she displeased him, but often forcing his unwanted sexual attentions upon her as well (Pasternak, 1997).

Marriage was mainly designed to ensure the continuation of the groom’s male descent line, and the only way the new bride could gain a footing in her new household is to give birth to a son. All eyes in the family, and indeed, in some cases, the entire village, were on her as they waited for her to fulfill her obligation of producing a male heir. The sooner she gives birth to a son, the sooner she will be able to start convincing her husband to break off from the family and make a home of their own. Without a son to continue the family line, her husband may opt to marry another girl, which would only cause more problems in the extended family home.

Relationships between mother in laws and daughters in law in traditional Chinese culture has usually been one marked by strife and conflict. In fact, all the women in the family may fight, causing strife among the brothers as well (Stockard, 2002).  As each new wife set about trying to establish a place for herself in her new family, she often employed such tactics as gaining her husband’s ear and a place in his heart. The young bride would do this so that her husband would support her and look out for her best interests, in a place where she had no say or power over her own destiny. Once the new bride had children, she would use the children to vie for position in her new family, especially if that child was a son, by creating strong emotional ties between her new husband, his parents, and her children (Stockard, 2002). Wives often watch carefully to see which of the grandchildren was receiving better treatment and would cause problems with their husbands if their child was receiving worse treatment than another.

While it is best for the mother to keep all of her sons together, under the same roof, wives often pressed their husbands for the division of the family household. In a patrilineal society, property passed from father to son, with adult sons enjoying equal rights to the family land (Pasternak, 1997). A wife who is dissatisfied with the decisions of her father in law, in relations to how the grandchildren are educated, or treated, in general, will become, what the Chinese call a “ghost pillow” (Pasternak, 1997). In bed, at night, she will press her husband to the division of the household. If she succeeds, then she and her uterine family will move to another spot of the family land, and begin to fend for themselves. Curiously, extended families were found more often in wealthy families than in poor families, a fact that may reflect that sometimes men were required to practice matrilocal residence, where the groom moves in with the bride’s family, not very popular among the Chinese, but it did happen (Pasternak, 1997).

Modernization of Chinese Culture

Modernization of culture means for that culture to transition from one of traditional values and morals to one of more modern values and morals. Along with those values and morals comes a new way of living, most of the time causing an upheaval in widely held, superstitions, behavior, and beliefs.  Today, China is dealing with many changes, as the country attempts to become more westernized.

Today, young people of marriageable age meet at a marriage market, and views on marriage range from hoping to find a partner at the market to wishing for parents to arrange a marriage, to young females preferring to stay single (Looking for love; modern marriage, 2012). Arranged marriages were officially banned in the 1950’s; however, some parents still believe in that traditional belief, and so do their children. It is a belief that is still practiced by some to this day.

Young women have seen an increase in socio-economic freedoms, and with it has come the right to choose one’s husband. Since that freedom has been enjoyed, so has the option of remaining single, and of being extremely picky when choosing a husband (Looking for love; modern marriage, 2012). Online dating sites have become immensely popular in modern China, and often young women will marry a man from far away, leaving their families behind.

Conclusion

Young women in ancient China were often not afforded many privileges and were kept out of all political and social hierarchies; with the males of the society having dominance even in the after-life. As one can plainly see, young women were not offered much chance of advancement, they could not own land or property, and were in fact, considered the property of one male or another throughout their entire lives. Today, however, young women are afforded much more freedom, in not only their options for work outside the home but also for their choice in husbands. One can see that more and more Chinese women are becoming educated and moving out of their countries to pursue greener fields elsewhere.

 

 

References

Looking for love; modern marriage. (2012, June 09). The Economist, 50, 403. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1019706695?accountid=32521

Pasternak, E. E. (1997). Sex, Gender, and Kinship A Cross-Cultural Perspective. New Jersey, US: Prentice Hall.

Stockard, J. E. (2002). Marriage in Culture. Belmont: Earl McPeek.

Zhang, J. (2010). Marriage and Suicide among Chinese Rural Young Women. Social Forces, 89(1). Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/40927564

Ancient Egypt

The Neolithic Revolution, also called the Neolithic Demographic Transition (NDT), or the Agriculture Revolution began about eleven thousand years ago with a worldwide population explosion, and the beginnings of farming and civilization as we know it (Feder, 2014. Pg. 296). The Neolithic Revolution was not a sudden development, but rather a slow process that began again and again by many different civilizations in both the old and new world. Around ten thousand years ago the archeological records shows evidence of domesticated goats, and instead of wild wheat, lentils, peas, and beans, there is evidence of domesticated plants as well. While agriculture was not the cause of civilization, it was a catalyst that provided people with the necessary ingredients to expand their efforts in directions that had nothing to do with food; i.e. a food surplus. In this paper, I will discuss the effects of the Neolithic revolution upon the ancient Egyptians.

Ancient Egypt

Egypt was located in ancient history in the same place it is now, in Northern Africa, in the Nile Valley, along the Nile River. It was a haven in the middle of a desert, and that haven helped the ancient Egyptians to become a successful civilization about five thousand six hundred years ago (Feder, 2014. Pg. 356). During that time in history, the archeological record in Amratian/Nagada I and Omari A shows a shift in subsistence focus, and homes; a concentration is shown in domesticated animals and plants, as well as more permanent structures made of mud-brick instead of thatch (Feder, 2014. Pg. 356).

Around five thousand four hundred years ago the archeological record in Egypt, more specifically in Late Gerzean times, shows an increase in social stratification in the form of differentiated burials (Feder, 2014. Pg. 356). Leaders of this time frame would have objects made of imported raw materials buried with their elite class of citizens. At about five thousand three hundred years ago, one family came to rule in Egypt, in both the north and south. Cities like Hierakonpolis, were likened to city-states and were ruled by individuals called “chieftain-kings” (Feder, 2014. Pg. 357).

Hierakonpolis and the Neolithic Revolution

Hierakonpolis is a small Neolithic village located on the west bank of the Nile River six thousand years ago. Pottery is its main export, and ceramics from Hierakonpolis can be found up and down the length of the Nile River. The archeological record indicates that in Hierakonpolis, an elite class of citizens arose due to the manufacturing of ceramics. These leaders were buried in brick-lined tombs set into the bedrock, as opposed to the rest of the cities inhabitants, who were buried in a far less elaborate fashion (Feder, 2014. Pg. 357).

Evidence shows that after 5500 B.P., due to local climate change, possibly because of local deforestation, irrigation canals were built, possibly in response to the need to fire the kilns. During this time, the tombs of the elite class became larger, and more elaborate, indicating a boom in business. By 5100 B. P., small villages surrounding Hierakonpolis were abandoned and the inhabitants had moved to the larger city, making it larger still. Fortifications around Hierakonpolis were reinforced, and the tombs of the growing elite became even more elaborate (Feder, 2014. Pg. 357).

Characteristics of Civilization

Civilization can be a deceptive word, as it implies that anyone living in anything other than a developed country isn’t civilized. However, when anthropologist talk about civilization, they are talking about the hallmarks of society as we know it today. They are looking for certain characteristics that brought people together and helped them to develop into cities with opportunities besides food gathering. These characteristics are found in every civilization in ancient history as well as today, and include; food surplus, large, dense populations, social stratification, a formal government, labor specialization, record keeping, and monumental works (Feder, 2014). Ancient Egypt had all of these characteristics, and was considered a civilization or class society, especially at its peak, or at the time of the great pyramids, and Pharaohs. However, before Egypt could reach that point, certain attributes of civilization had to happen.

The first step to forming any city is a food surplus. Without agriculture that provides a city with a food surplus, every citizen must rely on hunting and gathering food for their own family, which prevents them from pursuing other interests (Feder, 2014. Pg. 345). In ancient Egypt, that food surplus can be traced back to five thousand, seven hundred and fifty years ago, as mentioned earlier, in Hierakonpolis (Feder, 2014. Pg. 356). With the unification of the villages surrounding Hierakonpolis, came the need to develop a record keeping system, better known as hieroglyphs.

A record keeping system is a hallmark of civilization as anthropologist define it. A record keeping system allowed the ruling class to keep track of resources, labor, and history by recording it in a manner that is beneficial to them. Without the ability to keep track of resources, it is highly unlikely that civilization would have developed at all (Feder, 2014. Pg. 348). The earliest record of Egyptian writing, or hieroglyphs, is about five thousand two hundred years ago. Hieroglyphs, or picture writing, is the most well-known of the ancient writing systems. The pictures can represent entire words, spoken sounds, or the meaning of the signs that precede them (Feder, 2014. Pg. 358). Record keeping provides a means for the ruling class to control information, and the pharaohs of ancient Egypt took advantage of that fact, often exploiting it for their own benefit (Feder, 2014. Pg. 358). With the record keeping abilities of the ruling class came the ability to control and manipulate others, which led to the social stratification that we see in ancient Egypt, but is still present in most civilizations today.

Social stratification in a complex society is a division of its citizens into levels, or strata, that defines one’s role in life. It is the position into which one is born, and can rarely be achieved through the development of useful skills. Social stratification defines what one can expect in life; one’s destiny. Monumental works are the symbols of the ruling classes in socially stratified societies, and one can see many monumental works dating from ancient Egypt (Feder, 2014. Pg. 346). The social stratification of the ancient Egyptians can be broken down as follows; at the pinnacle lies the god-king, or the pharaoh, next, and second in command, comes the small coterie of priests and nobles below whom rest less powerful, but still important, people who are scribes and artisans. These people, the top of the pyramid, are supported by a large phalanx of soldiers and merchants. However, the largest group, and lowest strata, is the group that supports them all at the top; slaves, farmers, workers, and pheasants, without whom the social hierarchy and the pyramids it built, could not be maintained (Feder, 2014. Pg. 347).

Collapse of Egypt

Egypt didn’t really collapse, as today one can still travel there and see the magnificent monumental works, or burial chambers of the Pharaohs Khufu, his son Khafre, and his grandson Menkaure (Feder, 2014. Pg. 364). However, over time, many of thousands of years, Egypt adapted and changed to better suit the time period it was in. During Egypt’s thirty-one dynasties, the archeological record clearly shows a pattern of political and economic domination by strong pharaohs, and times of decline where Egypt was ruled by local administrators or foreigners (Feder, 2014. Pg. 363). Today one can travel to Egypt and see the remains of this once great civilization, that is considered to be one of the first civilizations on Earth.

Conclusion

Although the archeological records show that people were gathering in large groups well before the development of agriculture, true civilization was unattainable until the development of agriculture, and a food surplus that would support mass amounts of people, while those people pursued other avenues such as engineering, medicine, religion, etc. With the development of agriculture, and the ability to organize labor groups came the need to keep track of those resources, which developed writing, and the ability to keep track of history and tell stories. Along with all of those abilities came social stratification which gave certain people, especially in ancient Egypt, the ability to gain wealth and prestige. Ancient Egyptians look upon their ruler as a god, and treated him as such, while the rest of their society worked to provide him and his ruling government with the luxuries they became accustomed too, and which followed them into the afterlife.

 

 

 

 

References

Feder, K. L. (2013). The past in perspective: An introduction to human prehistory (6th ed.). New

York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Life in the Universe

Life on Earth

Scientists learn about past life on Earth by studying fossils buried deep in the Earth’s crust. Fossils are created when dead organisms fall to the bottom of a body of water, and over the course of many millions of years, sediment piles up on top of that dead organism, creating fossils buried deep in rocks. The rocks or sediments create fossils that are later revealed by tectonic plate activity or erosion (Voit, 2015).

Determining the age of these fossils is how scientist determine how long life has existed on Earth. The relative age of fossils is easy to determine, the deeper a fossil is buried, and the older it is. However, radiometric dating confirms the relative age of fossils, giving a precise age for fossils found buried deep under water (Voit, 2015). The geological time scale is a measurement of intervals here on Earth, and its helps divide the four and a half billion years into more manageable eras for scientists.

The further back on the geological time scale scientist look the harder it is to identify fossils. The reason for that is because older rocks are harder to find than younger rocks, when older rocks are found, they have often gone through transformation caused by heat and pressure, that would have destroyed any fossil evidence, and third because nearly all life prior to a few hundred million years ago all life on Earth was microscopic and microscopic fossils are harder to identify (Voit, 2015). However, despite the difficulties in finding old rocks, geologists have found evidence in rocks called stromatolites, that suggests life started around three and a half billion years ago, and that older, more microscopic, simpler, single cell life evolved even earlier than that (Voit, 2015).

Fossil evidence of life before three and a half billion years ago is not likely to be found. However, the oldest sedimentary rock found on Earth, on the island of Akilia, near Greenland, are cut through with volcanic rock that radiometric dating dates back to 3.85 billion years ago, suggesting that the sediment is even older (Voit, 2015). The carbon isotopes in these rocks suggest that they may once have held living organisms. Carbon has two stable isotopes, carbon-12 and carbon-13. Living organisms incorporate carbon-12 more easily than carbon-13. All fossils have a lower fraction of carbon-13 than rocks that contain no fossils. Therefore, scientists conclude that these rocks, found on Akilia, must have, 3.85 billion years ago, contained life, and not only did it contain life, but that life must have been pretty widespread because the chances of Scientist’s finding the evidence otherwise, is highly unlikely (Voit, 2015). Due to this evidence of early life, scientists believe that life probably arose pretty easily here on Earth.

The Genesis of Life

Fossil records prove that life has gone through many changes in the last 3.85 billion years. These changes can be described as the theory of evolution, first put on paper by Charles Darwin in 1859 (Voit, 2015). Although the theory of evolution has gone through some major religious battles since it was first published, it is a fact that evolution occurred on Earth. Evolution simply means to change with time, and fossil records indicate that life has changed many times over the years.

Darwin built his proof for the theory of evolution around two undeniable facts and one inescapable conclusion.  Fact 1: overproduction and competition for survival. Any localized population of a species has the potential to produce far more offspring than the local environment can support with resources such as food and shelter. This overproduction leads to a competition for survival among the individuals of the population (Voit, 2015). Fact 2: individual variation. Individuals in a population of any species vary in many heritable traits (traits passed from parents to offspring). No two individuals are exactly alike, and some individuals possess traits that make them better able to compete for food and other vital resources (Voit, 2015). The inescapable conclusion: unequal reproductive success. In the struggle for survival, those individuals whose traits best enable them to survive and reproduce will, on average, leave the largest number of offspring that in turn survive to reproduce. Therefore, in any local environment, heritable traits that enhance survival and successful reproduction will become progressively more common in succeeding generations (Voit, 2015).

Natural Selection

Darwin called the unequal reproductive success of some species over others natural selection. Natural selection is when traits that give an advantage to the species is selected over less advantageous traits. Over time, natural selection can help individuals of a species become better able to compete for scarce resources. If enough small individual variations accumulate, natural selection can even give rise to an entirely new species (Voit, 2015).

DNA provides scientists with the ability to discover how life has changed on a molecular level. Living organisms reproduce by copying DNA and passing this DNA onto its children. A molecule of DNA consists of two long strands wound together in the spiral shape known as a double helix. The instructions for assembling a living organism are written in the precise order of four chemical bases (abbreviated A, T, G, and C for the first letters of their chemical names) that make up the interlocking portions of the DNA “zipper.” These bases pair up in a way that ensures that both strands of a DNA molecule contain the same genetic information (Voit, 2015).

Evolution occurs because the transfer of genetic information from one generation to the next is not always perfect. An organism’s DNA may occasionally be altered by copying errors or by external influences, such as ultraviolet light from the Sun or exposure to toxic or radioactive chemicals. Any change in an organism’s DNA is called a mutation. Many mutations are lethal, killing the cell in which the mutation occurs. Some, however, may improve a cell’s ability to survive and reproduce. The cell then passes on this improvement to its offspring (Voit, 2015).

Three and a Half Billion Years of Evolution

Earth began about four and a half billion years, the moon formed soon after that, and the Earth developed its first ocean about 4.3 billion years ago. Scientists believe that oceans are where life first developed. Once life took hold, about 3.85 billion years ago, evolution quickly changed it so that the hardiest of the species stayed and continued to evolve. However, despite the quick hold of evolution, living organisms remained single-celled for about a billion years after life took hold (Voit, 2015).  Once oxygen took hold on the surface, and an atmosphere developed, evolution brought life out of the ocean.

Nearly all the oxygen in our atmosphere was originally released through photosynthesis by single-celled organisms known as cyanobacteria. Fossil evidence indicates that cyanobacteria were producing oxygen through photosynthesis by at least 2.7 billion years ago, and possibly for hundreds of millions of years before that (Voit, 2015). Oxygen took hundreds of millions of years to accumulate in the Earth’s atmosphere, reaching levels humans could breathe only a few hundred million years ago (Voit, 2015).

While today we think of oxygen as a necessity of life, in truth, oxygen was probably poisonous to most life on Earth before about two billion years, and remains poisonous to some micro-organism today. Oxygen probably provided tremendous pressure for the evolutionary process to excel, and was probably a major contributor to complex life of plants and animals (Voit, 2015). (Life on Earth)

About 542 million years ago, or an age known as the Cambrian period, evolution changed animal life from primitive microbes into the basic body type we still see on Earth today. This evolutionary process occurred in a relatively short time frame, and is often referred to as the Cambrian explosion (Voit, 2015).

Early dinosaurs and mammals evolved about 225 to 250 million years ago, but dinosaurs proved more evolutionarily successful and ruled the Earth for over a 100 million years. The catastrophe that killed the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, paved the way for larger mammals and ultimately for us humans (Voit, 2015). Humans only arose on the scene about a few million years ago, or after 99.9 percent of Earth’s history had already occurred. The history humans have of technology has only been about 99.99999 percent of Earth’s history (Voit, 2015).

Possibility of Life in the Universe

Scientists have made some predictions about the requirements for life in the Universe. The first necessity of life is that a planet reside in the habitable zone of its star. Once the requirement is met, scientists have determined that life has only three basic requirements: A source of nutrients (atoms and molecules) from which to build living cells, energy to fuel the activities of life, whether from sunlight, from chemical reactions, or from the heat of Earth itself, and liquid water (Voit, 2015). Liquid water is the only requirement that is not common in the universe. (Potential Habitable Planets)

Habitability also requires an atmosphere and a climate that remains stable over long periods of time. Other planets must be at least as large as Earth and have ongoing volcanism and plate tectonics (Voit, 2015). A global magnetic field is also necessary for a planet to maintain a habitable surface over long periods of time (Voit, 2015). Based on everything we have discussed so far, life should be abundant in the universe.

The Search for Extraterrestrial Life

The search for intelligent life in the universe is known as SETI or the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. The Drake Equation summarizes the factors that determine the number of civilizations in our galaxy that we could potentially communicate with (Voit, 2015). The number of habitable planets in the galaxy by the fraction of habitable planets that actually have life, by the fraction of planets where civilization has had time to evolve, by the number of planets that actually have a civilization now, and not millions or billions of years in the past (Voit, 2015). Scientists do not actually know any of the values for the Drake equation, but it is a way to organize their thoughts.

Most SETI research facilities use large radio telescopes to search for radio signals in space being transmitted from alien worlds (Voit, 2015). Humanity has been broadcasting strong radio signals into space since about the 1950’s, and scientist reason that if any intelligent life has developed out there, that they would communicate much the same way that we do. Essentially, any civilization out there that could pick up our signals could watch television ads from the 1950’s, that civilization would have to be no more than sixty light years away however, and have much stronger telescopes than humans currently have at their disposal (Voit, 2015).

Humans have attempted to send signals out into space for any intelligent life that could pick it up, but so far we have not made too many attempts, and nothing we have sent out would have traveled far enough to reach another civilization. The signal sent out in 1974 will not reach M13, the star it was sent out to, for another 25,000 years, and then another 25,000 years for an answer to reach us, if there is intelligent life on M13 (Voit, 2015).

References

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(n.d.).Habitable Zones. Retrieved from http://astro.unl.edu/naap/habitablezones/chz.html

(n.d.).Interstellar Communication. Retrieved from http://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/vida_alien/xenology/24.0.htm

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(n.d.).Magnetic Field. Retrieved from http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2014/04/will-happen-earths-magnetic-field-switches-collapses-2/

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NASA. (n.d.). Martian meteorite ALH 84001. NASA. Retrieved from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3049223/Oldest-evidence-life-Earth-WRONG-3-46-billion-year-old-fossils-simply-stacks-clay-minerals.html

(n.d.).Natural Selection. Retrieved from https://modeling-natural-selection.wikispaces.com/Does-a-population-stop-evolving%3F

(n.d.).Potential Habitable Planets. Retrieved from http://www.universetoday.com/97283/possible-subterranean-life-means-more-exoplanets-could-harbor-life/

Quizlet.com. (n.d.). Sedimentary Rock. Retrieved from https://quizlet.com/4079105/relativeabsolute-age-datingfossils-flash-cards/

Science, I. C. (n.d.). Carbon Isotopes. Retrieved from http://icanhasscience.com/fun-stuff/a-deuterated-mouse-isotopes-and-phys-org/

(n.d.).SETI. Retrieved from http://www.electricalfun.com/ElectronCafe/SETI.htm

Share, S. (n.d.). Theory of Evolution. Retrieved from http://www.slideshare.net/drleanna/lecture-2-evolutionary-fact-and-theory

(n.d.).The Theory of Evolution. Retrieved from http://darwinandthegalapagos.weebly.com/theory-of-evolution.html

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(n.d.).Vocanism. Retrieved from http://www.britannica.com/science/volcano

Voit, S. D. (2015). The Essential Cosmic Perspective (Textbook) (Seventh ed.). (N. Whilton, Ed.) James Smith. Retrieved January 5, 2016, from https://phoenix.vitalsource.com/#/books/9781323113059/cfi/0