August 2010: Ground Zero confusion, our carnivorous past, and other observations

A tip of the cap to the late, great New York newspaper columnist Jimmy Cannon for borrowing his signature phrase: nobody asked me, but…

THE MORAL HIGH GROUND IN THE DEBATE OVER THE SO-CALLED GROUND ZERO MOSQUE HAS PROVED TO BE SLIPPERY. Attempts to cast all opponents of the proposed controversial Cordoba Center/Park51 as intolerant or bigoted ran into trouble when some unexpected voices weighed in against the proposed location for the community/cultural center, two blocks north of Ground Zero. Somehow characterizing Howard Dean, Nat Hentoff, Donald Trump, Sen. Harry Reid, and Abraham H. Foxman (national director of the Anti-Defamation League)—who have all expressed reservations about the siting of the center so close to the World Trade Center—as Islamophobic didn’t ring true.

Yet the debate over the Cordoba center has been ugly at times: Sarah Palin (who called it the “9/11 mosque”) and Newt Gingrich (who warned it represented “an Islamist cultural-political offensive designed to undermine and destroy our civilization”) have both appealed to America’s baser instincts, and right-wing candidates around the country have attempted to capitalize on the Ground Zero controversy.

Because of the heated nature of the debate, there’s been a fair amount of confusion over the issues involved. What’s clear is that Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and the Park51 developers have a legal and constitutional right to build the center. If the idea behind the Cordoba Center is, as its founders claim, to foster healing and interfaith dialogue, then they should be open to rethinking its location. The firestorm of criticism over perceived insensitivity to Sept. 11 victims and survivors, a point of view held by most Americans, makes continuing ahead with the current plans a divisive move. If the idea is to heal the 9/11 breach, then Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and his colleagues should be open to efforts by Archbishop Timothy Dolan and New York governor David Patterson to find a compromise site.

SCIENTISTS NOW SURMISE THAT WE WERE BUTCHERING MEAT MUCH EARLIER IN TIME THAN PREVIOUSLY THOUGHT. Nature reported that “slashed animal bones suggest early hominins were chopping up predator kills earlier than we thought, based on research in Ethiopia. The report highlights the crucial role that large-animal meat played in making us who we are (homo sapiens). We are, it seems, carnivorous by nature.

SMELL, SEX, AND NATURAL SELECTION APPEAR TO BE CLOSELY INTERTWINED, ACCORDING TO INTRIGUING NEW RESEARCH. Smell has been singled out as a key determinant in sexual attraction (based on “sweaty t-shirt research” where men and women rate the smell of prospective mates).

Now WebMD reports:

A woman is sexually attracted to men who smell like a good genetic match, but birth control pills make her desire the “wrong” men, a U.K. study shows.

Who is the right man? Studies suggest women are attracted to men whose genetic makeup differs from their own. Having a genetically different mate increases the chances for a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.

In experiments, women on the pill preferred the smell of genetically similar men. The researchers theorize that birth control may cause a woman to respond as if she were pregnant, where other studies show genetically similar males become more attractive.

Researcher S. Craig Roberts told WebMD: “If this really happens in the real world, women on the pill would end up choosing a more genetically similar mate than she would otherwise choose and the implications go on from there.”

Don Draper of Mad Men seems to understand this dynamic of smell: his come-on line in Season Four has been: “You smell good.” While some find it lame, Draper is clearly a keen student of evolutionary biology.

RECENTLY RELEASED FBI FILES STRONGLY SUGGEST THAT THE LATE HOWARD ZINN, BEST-SELLING AUTHOR OF A PEOPLE’S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES WAS ALSO A COMMUNIST PARTY MEMBER DURING THE 1940s. Ronald Radosh, adjunct fellow at the Hudson Institute, notes that Zinn kept his CPUSA membership a secret in his Weekly Standard piece “Aside from That, He Was Also a Red.” Radosh, no fan of the radical historian, sees Zinn’s impact in highly negative terms: “Writing his tendentious history, which influenced a new generation to regard our country’s past with disdain, became his substitute for the old activism. That legacy is worse than anything he ever did as a member of the Communist party.”

THIS MONTH’S WORDS OF WISDOM COME FROM HOCKEY GREAT WAYNE GRETSKY: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

Copyright © 2010 Jefferson Flanders
All rights reserved