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All that you think you know is wrong
The risk of skin cancer, the causes of global warming, the dangers of high
cholesterol - one expert says it's all bunk. Report by Robin McKie
Sunday July 1, 2001
Imagine a world where cholesterol is harmless, depression is beneficial and
only suntan lotions cause skin cancer. Or a planet on which the industrial
gases that pour from cars and factories are unconnected with increasing
temperatures and rising ocean levels.
This topsy-turvy world could have been dreamt up by George W. Bush - or a
Glaswegian gorging on deep-fried Mars Bars - but it may be far closer to
reality than we realise.
Many of the medical and environmental horror stories that fill our newspapers
and TV documentaries on subjects ranging from global warming to GM foods may be
based on science that is 'so unreliable, so fragile, that it does not merit our
emotional energy', according to a controversial new analysis of science in the
In Fragile Science: The Reality Behind the Headlines, Dr Robin Baker, former
reader in zoology at Manchester University, argues that confusion over
statistical analyses, pressure to provide speedy answers, misguided belief in
computer models and the desire to attract the attention of journalists and
broadcasters have misled scientists to such a degree that 'we can scarcely
believe anything they tell us'.
Hardcover - 269 pages (22 June, 2001)
Macmillan; ISBN: 0333901029
AMAZON - UK
Headlines bring news of the latest health scare, with worrying predictions for
where developments in science will takes us. We want and need to understand the
phenomena that influence our lives, but science is often more subtle and more
complicated than the headlines would suggest. Over a diverse range of subjects,
Robin Baker shows that the science we as consumers believe to be true is often
an oversimplification - a convenient way of explaining complex subjects which
are little understood. His investigations reach their own, startling
conclusions. Could it be possible, for example, that using sun screen is
actually increasing our chance of skin cancer? More and more people are taking
Prozac, but does science have an easy answer to explain why? We all know the
arguments in favour of conservation, but could there be strong biological
arguments against it?
THE SUNDAY TIMES
July 1 2001 LIFESTYLE: BEAUTY
The clichés are wrong: your hair isn't saying what you think. By EMMA MOORE
DOES MY BRAIN LOOK BIG IN THIS?
Okay, it's not rocket science, but it is worthy nonetheless of a study by Yale
University. The hallowed seat of learning has apparently conducted research
into how different hairstyles colour our first impressions. And it manages to
turn our preconceptions on their heads. Dark hair, it seems, does not
necessarily point to a mysterious personality, and curly doesn't equal dizzy.
And just as the expression "having a blonde moment" seems to be entering common
parlance, the preferred colour of gentlemen doesn't necessarily denote a bimbo.
It looks like we might all be deluded about the image we are portraying.
THE SUNDAY TIMES
July 1 2001 NEWS REVIEW
Robert Winston says new evidence shows that upbringing has more bearing on our
character than genes
Nurture counts more than nature, baby
It has been called "the blueprint for the human race". And it is true that the
mapping of the human genome is an important and extraordinary feat of co-
ordinated scientific research. But finding the sequence of the body's DNA is
not, as some commentators would have us believe, the discovery of the secret of
life itself. In these respects, the impact of the project has been greatly
Scientists - and I certainly would not exclude myself from this criticism - are
often prone to overstating the importance of their own discoveries. This is in
part because they believe they live in a society that does not fully appreciate
what they do. But what is the public to make of it? In the justified excitement
surrounding the human genome project, the role of genes in determining human
characteristics has been blown out of proportion.
Gradually, despite the hyperbole, people are beginning to realise that the link
between disease and genes is far from straightforward. It is true that genes
and minor alterations in the genetic code can indicate a predisposition to
certain diseases, but the relationship is rarely simple.
July 1 2001 BOOKS
She lived her life through great dramas and miniature masterpieces
Block on wood
GWEN RAVERAT: Friends, Family & Affections
by Frances Spalding
Harvill Press £30 pp438
If you believe the telephone directory, there aren't any Darwins in Cambridge
now. Only the listings for Darwin Instruments and Darwin College in the
business section now stand for the many descendants of the author of The
Descent of Man, who once unofficially served as this self-regarding city's
aristocracy. Most of the men had chairs or fellowships even unto the third and
fourth generation. One was the master of Christ's College. Another served as
mayor. And since the women often married men with such other surnames as
Cornford or Keynes, those born into this exclusive tribe were more numerous
still. All helped set the social and intellectual tone of Cambridge from
Victorian times until well after the second world war.
Darwin revealed his theory of evolution on this day
Events which happened on this day include:
1858 Charles Darwin presented his theory on evolution and natural selection to
the Linnean Society in London.
1867 The Dominion of Canada was established by the British North American Act.
It comprised four million people and four provinces - Quebec, Ontario, Nova
Scotia and New Brunswick.
1916 First day of the battle of the Somme in the First World War. In less than
24 hours there were 60,000 British casualties.
1929 The cartoon character Popeye the Sailor was created by Elzie Segar in the
1937 The 999 emergency service came into operation in Britain.
1969 Prince Charles was invested as Prince of Wales by the Queen at Caernarvon
SEXING THE BODY: Gender Politics and The Construction of Sexuality
SEXING THE BODY. The title immediately grabbed my attention, and I just had to
read this book. However, it wasn't long before I discovered that the extra
fine, small print used in this book along with all the technical language kept
putting my brain to sleep. Despite the fact that every time I opened up this
book I wound up snoozing, there were a few points of interest that caught my
attention along the way.
Fausto-Sterling's chapter on "Should there be only two sexes" is fascinating.
She describes people who are intersexual, a part of both sexes, and argues for
the addition of this category to the two that we have currently in our society.
Because the infants born with visible combinations of both sexes are generally
altered before they ever leave the hospital, a few of them have problems with
their sexual assignment. The author suggests holding off on the surgery until
they are older and can make the decisions themselves.
that is interesting data
evidence suggests that many paedophiles were themselves victims of child
however, there is obvioulsy much less evidence about the proportion of
people who are abused as children who go on to be excellent adult lovers,
partners and parents. probably VERY high
this is not irrelevant if adults wsih to adopt children or have children
in minor difficulties at school. thus people who suffered as children are
also forced by society to suffer unnecesarily as adults.
often the difference between
70% of pedophiles were abused as children, AND
70% of abused children are pedophiles
is poorly understood
if 10% of abused and 1% non-abused children are pedophiles, then the
association is enormously reliable (significant)
BUT 90% of abused are NOT pedophiles
Dr. Diana Kornbrot
Reader in Mathematical Psychology
Associate Dean Research, Faculty of Health & Human Sciences
University of Hertfordshire
College Lane, Hatfield, Hertfordshire AL10 9AB, UK
voice: +44 0170 728 4626 fax: +44 0170 728 5073
On Thursday, June 28, 2001, at 21:03:36, Adam Schaeffer wrote:
AS> Specifically, Bill Joy is concerned with the self-replication of
machines in the future, and the possibility that
AS> they will overtake us and the world because of the very nature of evolution.
Now, there seems to me certain fundamental
AS> differences in the analogy, among them the fact that the niche any
"intelligent," self-replicating and modifying
AS> technology (or "life") fills would be defined by and in the service of the
Just as a general point: if stuff stayed in the niche where it
originated, this discussion would be conducted between prokaryotes.
Phone +44 (0)1799-516812
Fax +44 (0)1799-500726
What I do: http://www.darwinwars.com
Steven Ravett Brown wrote:
> Again we have one of Dr. Reason's brilliantly-written put-downs. Yes, all the
> criticisms below are true... what would you expect, a full-blown theory and
> explanation for something which has barely been researched, for which data is
> sparse (and how *does* one systematically collect it in this case?), and which
> impacts on extremely emotionally-laden issues? What, Dr. Reason, would you
> prefer? The religious explanations? None at all: silence from the
> Why not, instead of criticism after criticism of extremely difficult and
> pioneering work, give some concrete, specific, *constructive* directions:
> experimental designs, directions for theories, etc.
I'm confused -- why on earth was that a put-down? Maybe I could have been a
little more diplomatic, but it is rather depressing the way out-of-date
theories keep getting passed around as though they were still current.
No, I don't expect a full-blown theory. But it's all the work of two
minutes for anyone with a basic knowledge of the visual system to discern
that Blackmore's theory is internally inconsistent. This theory is now more
than a decade old - a version of it was published in New Scientist magazine
as far back as the 1980's -- so why is it still being cited?
I'm all in favor of more research being done, but that's evidently what the
Horizon Research Foundation has been set up to do. Why do people have such
a problem with it?
I would like to point out first, that there's a confusion in Mike's message
between "pedophile" and "sex offender against minors under age fourteen"
(SOAMUA14) which is what Mike is actually talking about. SInce all the
research suggests that most child molesters incarcerated in prisons are not
pedophiles, I think we ought to stop using this term unless it applies (that
is, unless the researchers have verified that the prisoners are indeed
Second, we *don't* know how many of these SOAMUA14s were molested, only how
many *claim* to have been molested. Because satisfying one's therapist is a
common criterion for parole, and therapists widely believe the molestation
causes molestation notion; and criminals will blame any useful target on
their behavior, these figures are highly suspect.
Incidentally, if molestation causes molestation, I wonder why so many more
men than women molest children, given that so many more girls than boys
Finally, again, what is the function of a family?
----- Original Message -----
From: "Michael Groom" <mscorpdrag@...>
Sent: Saturday, June 30, 2001 6:33 PM
Subject: [evol-psych] paraphilias
> Sorry, I wasn't trying to be obtuse. 70% of the pedophiles I have worked
> with were themselves molested. I work in a forensic hospital with civil
> commitments after they've served a sentence in prison. In California
> clinicians are mandated reporters so therapy with a pedophile as an
> outpatient wouldn't take place it was known that he was never charged with
> the crime. In other words any data on pedophiles collected in California
> concerns known sex-offenders with a criminal history. Those who were
> molested by a relative in their home come from a dysfunctional background by
> Interesting fact, girls molested by their step-fathers are the most common
> reported and the offender the most treatable. Boy victims are the least
> reported and the offender is the most difficult to treat. That offender has
> an average of 150 victims in his career, according to one study. Boys don't
> report because of "masculine" sterotypes, expectations, and more shame and
> embarrassment than girl victims, it is supposed. Also when they do report
> it is not often believed.
> The offenders I work with have all vicitimized children under 14, who were
> strangers to them. The 70% figure is not startling at all to clinicains
> working with pedophiles and is reported regularly in the research, though
> some say the figure is as low as 55%. I'm currently on vacation and so
> don't have ready references to cite, but a metaanalysis of the research
> published in 1998 will be a good begining for anyone interested. The study
> was by Hanson and Brussierre, out of Canada, where the best research is
> being done. I think it was reported in the J. of Clinical/Consult. Psy, but
> I might be wrong.
> It may be interesting from an ep point of view to consider that most
> criminals come from criminal backgrounds, even sex-offenders who have no
> advantage, reproductively to commit their crimes. It is not necessarily an
> endorsment of nature nor nuture, but a fact nevertheless. Seems to me that
> criminals procreate more than non-criminals. Sex-offenders are more often
> diagnosed with anti-social personality disorders than in the general
> population and our personalities are adapted to suit our enviornment as
> children (I hear "ugh!" again). I hope this post helps clear-up any
> confusion from the first; I wanted to provide basic background to encourage
> I don't have the answers, and judging by the treatment success with
> sex-offenders, others do not also. I think women are not diagnosed with
> paraphilias as often as men for the same reasons that they are not more
> greatly represented in prison populations, they may have fantasies of doing
> something naughty (read "My secret garden") but are less likely to act-out
> behaviorally, for both ep nd SSST reasons.
> Pleases and thank-yous.
> Michael Groom
> Atascadero, Calif.
To: Paul Okami and Diana Kornbrot:
THIS therapist is not certain at all that "molestation causes molestation"
and never said so. I AM interested in why some child victims go on to
molest as adults, and believe that victims who molest as men has to do with
the dynamics of boys identifying with their aggressor, the powerless
becoming the powerful; I think it's true of rapists as well. It is a
phenomenon that has both cultural and evolutionary significance.
I very much appreciate Dr. Kornbrot's observation about reliable
(significant) statistical conclusions. One recent study (condemned by the
U.S. Senate!) reported that the majority of survivors of childhood sexual
abuse go on to productive, non-effected lives. Again, I'm on vacation but
will reply to private inquiries after the 4th with the citations if asked.
Most cigarette smokers are not affected by lung-cancer, but 90% or more, of
lung-cancer patients were at one time cigarette smokers, right Diana?
This is my final clarifying post for Paul Okami. The child molesters on my
caseload are ALL diagnosed with Pedophilia (302.2 of the DSM-IV), with
either male victims, exclusive or non-exclusive (meaning without or with a
history of adult sexual experiences), or female victims, or both, with the
same qualifiers. This diagnoses is made by psychiatrists and/or
psychologists on treatment teams with alot of supporting documentation, from
the courts, the victims, records from institutions, objective tests,
subjective tests, interviews, etc. Each has had to undergo testing in a
sex-lab with a pletheismograph which measures their sexual preferences, and
each as I've said, have convictions for having had multiple victims. My
patients don't just "claim" to have been molested, but those that do, do so
after a long arduous process. Some have been in treatment for 3 or more
years and only reveal it during their autobiography or spontaneously while
watching a victim-empathy video. Safer-Society Press has good videos
available for purchase which will show you therapy in progress.
Finally, the FIRST function of a family is to provide safety and sustenance
to it's members who cannot fend or forge for themselves. I hope this is
clearer to Mr. Okami by now.
Pleases and thank-yous.
Get your FREE download of MSN Explorer at http://explorer.msn.com
Andrew Brown wrote:
> Just as a general point: if stuff stayed in the niche where it
> originated, this discussion would be conducted between prokaryotes.
Surely it would be being conducted between self-replicating molecules,
which may or may not have included DNA?
Michael Groom wrote:
> To: Paul Okami and Diana Kornbrot:
> THIS therapist is not certain at all that "molestation causes molestation"
> and never said so. I AM interested in why some child victims go on to
> molest as adults, and believe that victims who molest as men has to do with
> the dynamics of boys identifying with their aggressor, the powerless
> becoming the powerful; I think it's true of rapists as well.
So then, these people not only have molestation in their histories,
but the molestation actually caused them to molest. Ditto, rapists have
been molested, which caused them to rape.
[snip, note to Diana]
> This is my final clarifying post for Paul Okami. The child molesters on my
> caseload are ALL diagnosed with Pedophilia (302.2 of the DSM-IV), with
> either male victims, exclusive or non-exclusive (meaning without or with a
> history of adult sexual experiences), or female victims, or both, with the
> same qualifiers. This diagnoses is made by psychiatrists and/or
> psychologists on treatment teams with alot of supporting documentation,from
> the courts, the victims, records from institutions, objective tests,
> subjective tests, interviews, etc. Each has had to undergo testing in a
> sex-lab with a pletheismograph which measures their sexual preferences,and
> each as I've said, have convictions for having had multiple victims.
Good. I'm really glad that some people are doing this.
> patients don't just "claim" to have been molested, but those that do, do so
> after a long arduous process. Some have been in treatment for 3 or more
> years and only reveal it during their autobiography or spontaneously while
> watching a victim-empathy video.
So then, have they forgotten they were molested until three years into
therapy, or only decided to mention it after three years? Also, was this
therapy in ANY way connected to the length of their prison sentences or
likelihood of parole? For example, is the therapists' evaluation of the
client at all related to sentence length or possibility of parole? If so, I
suggest that these revelations three years into therapy should not be used
to compute statistics for the number of molesters who were molested. .
Safer-Society Press has good videos
> available for purchase which will show you therapy in progress.
> Finally, the FIRST function of a family is to provide safety and sustenance
> to it's members who cannot fend or forge for themselves.
If this is so, than the vast number of families currently on the
"dysfunctional" list of psychotherapists are miscategorized, because such as
the following are often cited:
homosexuality, use of alcohol & drugs, extramarital affairs, nudism, odd
lifestyles, loud arguments between husband and wife that may get physical,
single parenthood, poverty....etc.
> [Catherine Reason]:
> I'm all in favor of more research being done, but that's evidently what the
> Horizon Research Foundation has been set up to do. Why do people have such
> a problem with it?
I agree with Cathy that research into NDEs is a good thing. Apparently there are
some genuine and unexplained phenomena involved. However, I think there are some
very good reasons for questioning the goals and scientific integrity of this
particular organization and its research program.
Anyone who has done an undergraduate-level survey of the relevant literature
cannot fail to be persuaded that there is overwhelming evidence to support the
view that mental activity depends upon brain activity. Literally hundreds of
thousands of rigorous experiments point to that conclusion (especially when
considered in concert). Of course, scientific advances often result from
questioning the received view. Paradigms shift, etc. However, the old data must
be adequately accommodated (not simply disregarded) by the new theories.
The main problem that I have with Parnia's research is that he appears to be
publicizing his conclusion (that the mind persists in the absence of brain
activity) before he has gathered sufficient to warrant such a fundamental
repudiation of the extant research results.
Imagine some doctor, let's call him Dr. Q, setting up a "charitable foundation"
devoted to researching the beneficial medical effects of prayer as a treatment
for cancer. Let's call this hypothetical organization the "Mirage Research
Suppose that, based upon the positive subjective reports of 7 people out of a
group of 63 participants in the study (56 of whom did not report any positive
results), Dr. Q publishes a report that claimed that his evidence (subjective
reports) reveals that prayer can cure cancer. The Hoodwink Foundation, by virtue
of Dr. Q's affiliation with a major university, attracts a fair amount of
publicity and Dr. Q announces, in a university news release:
"The aims of the charity are twofold. Firstly we want to be an educational
resource both for professionals and for people who have had or who want to find
out more about prayer as a treatment for cancer.
"We will be sending out an information pack and for a 10 pound annual fee
members will be kept up to date with the latest developments in the field
through regular newsletters and our website.
"We will also be organising seminars and conferences to educate those
interested. Any money raised will be used for more scientific research into the
study of prayer as a cure for cancer."
What do you think about the Mirage Research Foundation?
Undoubtedly there is good reason to support research into all possible cures for
cancer. If there was any credible scientific evidence that prayer constitutes
such a cure, then of course that method of treatment would be a worthy candidate
for empirical research.
Let's say that the 7 out of 63 Ss who reported a positive effect from prayer
were actually found to be free of their former cancer. Would Dr. Q's claims be
Would we not expect him to have ruled out more prosaic explanations for the
phenomena, such as errant diagnoses or the healing effects of other parallel
treatments? If he had not provided any evidence of alternative explanations and
his sole data was subjective reports, I think we would reasonably question the
validity of his conclusions and probably the purity of his motives.
Let's move now from the hypothetical Mirage Research Foundation to the actual
Horizon Research Foundation. Dr. Parnia has offered no evidence to suggest that
he has controlled for alternative hypotheses. Further, he has not supplied any
evidence to support his suggestion that "human consciousness may work
independently of the brain, using the gray matter as a mechanism to manifest the
thoughts, just as a television set translates waves in the air into picture and
sound" (as quoted in the Yahoo/Reuters article). This is worse than bad science
fiction. If he is going to publicize conclusions that so profoundly contradict
such an enormous body of strong scientific evidence, then surely he should offer
something more solid than "the gray matter as a mechanism to manifest the
The public at large is notoriously gullible with regard to theories about life
after death. Many sincere, intelligent, and grief-stricken people long to have
contact with their loved ones who have "passed on." To offer hope to these
people, under the cover of a scientifically sound research program, when the
actual scientific evidence is so weak, is little short of criminal.
From: "Paul Okami" <birdlivs@...>
--- In evolutionary-psychology@y..., "Paul Okami" <birdlivs@...>
-----(Responding to Michael Groom)----
So then, have they forgotten they were molested until three
years into therapy, or only decided to mention it after three years? Also, was
this therapy in ANY way connected to the length of their prison sentences or
likelihood of parole? For example, is the therapists' evaluation of the client
at all related to sentence length or possibility of parole? If so, I suggest
that these revelations three years into therapy should not be usedto compute
statistics for the number of molesters who were molested.
------SPENCER---I generally agree with the observations of Mr. Okami, and I
would point out that the use of the term "molested" and "molesters" would seem
to skew the data from the onset. In the true meaning of the term "molester", it
has been demonstrated that very few actual child *molesters* who have boy
victims are pedophiles or "boy lovers"--most are sociopathic and opportunists.
------In fact, the majority of intergenerational pedophiles with boy partners
would have no interest in forcing or "molesting" any boy.
-----When "research" is filled with terms like "victims", "molester", etc, then
it becomes more like Dr. Laura than valid research.
-----There are now many studies which conclude that consensual, non-penetrating
sexual contact between boys and an older partner with whom they have a
relationship has almost no detectable long term negative sequelae.
------If having such an experience actually produced a "molester", and if the
observations that the average molester has 150+ victims, then a bit of
mathematical and statistical analysis would suggest that the incidence of child
molesters would be approaching 100% of the male population.
-------The likely fact that a boy consenting to non-penetrating sexual contact
with an older partner has no negative long term problems from such is a bit
counter intuitive. That paired with the liklihood that many more men that would
ever admit it have some attraction to boys often results in the continued
hysteria associated with this entire field.
-----It is difficult in the present political atomosphere to even study this
field or to publish in this field if one comes to the realization that much of
childhood sexual acitivity with older partners is not harmful.
Make PC-to-Phone calls with Net2Phone.
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> It may come as no surprise that women such as Sharon Stone and Julianne Moore
> would be seen as attractive.
> But Dr George Fieldman, an evolutionary psychologist from Buckinghamshire
> Chilterns University College says that goes against the biological assumption
> that men would go for younger women who could bear them more children.
I'm not sure why this should be at all surprising. In the evolution of
brain mechanisms, it is highly unlikely that mechanisms arose and
could be selected which "tied in" directly to things like high-level
cognitive knowledge of someone's age. Evolution had only
correlates of reproductive potential to work with, and a pretty
reliable correlate is physical attractiveness (as frequently studied).
Age would be "accounted for" simply because women tend to get
less attractive as they get older. Additionally, humans are not truly
monogamous - an attractive older woman can likely have at least
one or two more kids, a younger woman could have more in the
long term but males would not necessarily be locked into lifetime
Now, such correlations tend to break down in the modern world
with our long lifespans, plastic surgery, makeup, etc. The resulting
preference for attractive older woman over less attractive younger
women is simply some (entirely expected if you think about it)
evidence that the evolutionary adaptations for mate choice come
primarily in the form of the directly accessible or sensable
"features" of a mate (appearance, ability to provoke certain
emotions or be a focus of attention, etc.) rather than in the form of
responses which would allow cognitive judgements of age, or
perhaps the visibility of a few wrinkles, to override all of the other
On 28 Jun 2001, at 16:03, Adam Schaeffer wrote:
> There is a thread I would like to begin in regard to the dangers
> posed by the evolution of technology. I am sure most of you are
> aware of the many dystopian futures predicted by neo-Luddites and
> simply pessimistic people claiming that computers,
> nanotechnology, and genetically engineered organisms will pose an
> uncontrollable threat to both humans and the biosphere. In
> particular, there was a fairly recent article in Wired magazine
> penned by Bill Joy of Sun Microsystems,
> c_set= Specifically, Bill Joy is concerned with the
> self-replication of machines in the future, and the possibility
> that they will overtake us and the world because of the very
> nature of evolution. Now, there seems to me certain fundamental
> differences in the analogy, among them the fact that the niche
> any "intelligent," self-replicating and modifying technology (or
> "life") fills would be defined by and in the service of the
> creators. I wanted to post the topic, however, and see if there
> are any thoughts as to the constraints and possibilities of
> self-evolving technology and the threat/non-threat they may pose.
Interestingly, when I was in undergrad my cognitive modelling class
(prof. Paul Thagard) considered this sort of issue because Thagard
was on a bit of a philosophical kick at the time. My conclusion
was simply that "all specific conclusions can only be premature".
It would be like Turing and Von Neumann trying to predict whether
the Internet would, on balance, be good or bad (the point being that
they didn't even think of such specific applications at all, and
couldn't reasonably had they tried, despite being some of the
greatest computing pioneers of their time).
The threat or lack thereof of artificial intelligence would depend both
on the nature of what produces it, and how the technology is
deployed. Thagard was worried that techniques such as use of
genetic algorithms to produce AI from subintelligent "parts" would
result in alien creatures with no concept of human morality. I
pointed out that this would depend entirely on what you adapted
them for, and with conscious design underlying the process, it
would not seem fundamentally more difficult to produce an ethically
superior intelligence than to produce a cognitively superior
I think the most interesting future event related to AI will not be a
sudden production of a computer intelligence out of whole cloth,
but the convergence of neuroscience, artificial intelligence,
evolutionary psychology, genetic engineering, etc. to allow some
serious mucking about with the human brain. Some of the most
pwoerful demonstration of these fields is that complex things like
social interactions, ethics, group behavior and so on, are likely
related to specific neurological adaptations which are not complex
in all ways. In other words, there will come a point in our
understanding of the mind when we are nowhere near
comprehending it fully or being able to design new ones from
scratch, but we have nevertheless identified many specific
neurological and genetic factors which have strong influences on
how people think, react, and interact with each other.
What if you could, through some complex surgical procedure
perhaps involving using highly miniaturized electronics to alter
neuronal behavior, "tweak" someone's brain to alter where they
stand on the broad dimensions of personality and orientation that
psychologists and evolutionary psychologists have measured?
What if we found brain loci corresponding to, say, the SDO/RWA
sort of measures that correlate with broad world views and political
orientations, and could (to exagerrate a bit perhaps) flip a switch to
turn liberals into conservatives or vice versa? To turn people into
perfectly loyal spouses, or boost their sex drives for a more
hedonistic lifestyle? To promote social conformity or competitive
individuality? To alter the basis of group-based perceptions? To
alter crucial mental factors affecting the nature or strength of
The impact of this sort of capability on human society could be
quite huge, and an implication of the emerging modern consensus
on the nature of intelligence is that this sort of thing, or at least
many similar things, would be far easier and require both far less
understanding, and far less technological horsepower, than
producing fully inhuman machine intelligences.
The 2001 annual meeting of the Association for Politics and the Life
Sciences (APLS) will be held in Charleston, South Carolina, USA, October
18-21 on the campus of the College of Charleston. The Call for Abstracts,
together with proposal forms and other conference information, is posted at
the APLS web site: http://www.aplsnet.org. The deadline for proposals is
As you may know, we have had great meetings (in Boston, Atlanta, and
Washington) since separating from the American Political Science
Association three years ago and establishing our own conference.
Keynote/plenary speakers have included Edward O. Wilson, Frans de Waal,
Lionel Tiger, Martin Daly and Margo Wilson, Patty Gowaty, Bobbi Low, Roger
Masters, Elinor Ostrom, Ullica Segerstrale, James Q. Wilson, and Richard
Wrangham, among others.
The panel and roundtable participants have included--in addition to many of
the keynote and plenary speakers--James L. Boone, Richard Connor, Denise
Dellarosa Cummins, S. Boyd Eaton, Paul Ewald, Vincent Falger, Francisco
Gil-White, Kristen Hawkes, Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, Kevin MacDonald, Randy
Nesse, Malcolm Potts, Amy Parish, Stephen Sanderson, Richard Sosis, E.O.
Smith, Craig Stanford, Johan van der Dennen, and Neil Wiener.
There have been panels and roundtables on a wide variety of topics related
to evolution and human behavior, including biology and morality, biology
and war, conflict and group identity, consilience, culture and human
nature, Darwinian medicine, dominance and coalition-making, the evolution
of collective action, evolutionary theory and the social sciences, feminism
and evolutionary biology, mechanisms and processes of leadership,
neuroscience and politics, political evolution, political philosophy and
human nature, reciprocity and food sharing in human groups, and the roots
and resolution of conflict.
We anticipate another great meeting in Charleston. Plenary speakers
include Francis Fukuyama, Kenneth Bernard, Glenn McGee, Michael Ruse,
Robert Sade, and Kristin Shrader-Frechette, among others. We also expect,
of course, a fascinating set of panels and roundtables on a wide variety of
topics in politics and the life sciences. In addition, there will be a
welcoming reception, a poster session and reception, lunch buffets, morning
and afternoon coffee breaks, a banquet, and a book exhibit.
Please make plans to join us in scenic and historic Charleston for what
promises to be a very exciting meeting!
P.S. If you know individuals who would be interested in APLS 2001, but who
might not be on our distribution list, I would appreciate it if you would
forward this message to them.
Gary R. Johnson, Executive Director
Association for Politics and the Life Sciences
Lake Superior State University
650 W. Easterday Ave.
Sault Ste. Marie, MI 49783-1699
Tel: (906) 635-2757
Fax: (906) 635-6693
NEW YORK TIMES
July 2, 2001
Cult Agrees Not to Clone Human in U.S.
By THE NEW YORK TIMES
WASHINGTON, July 1 — Federal regulators have inspected a laboratory run by a
secretive religious sect intent on cloning a person and have obtained a written
pledge from the group's lead scientist not to experiment with cloning in this
country, both the scientist and the Food and Drug Administration said.
The scientist, Dr. Brigitte Boisselier, has signed an agreement "not to attempt
human cloning in the United States and not to do research using human eggs in
the United States" until the legality of human cloning is settled by Congress
or the courts, Larry Bachorik, a spokesman for the agency, said on Friday.
Dr. Boisselier said she had experimented only with eggs of cows. She said she
did not know how agency officials found her laboratory.
Donor insemination raises big questions about children's rights to know their
Fertility law explained
Monday July 2, 2001
Every study of male infertility produces more dramatic statistics of its
precipitous increase. It's one of the most extraordinary changes to the make-up
of the human body - and probably one of the most rapid - history has ever
known. For millennia, human beings have reproduced fairly easily (keeping the
offspring alive was the more difficult part) until half a century ago. Now, new
studies suggest that 43% of men could have problems fathering a child; in a few
years - given the rate of increase - we could be facing the prospect of half of
all men not being able to have a child of their own.
No need to panic, claim helpful companies such as Northwest Andrology and
Cryobank in Spokane, Washington, US. Just tap "infertility" into a web search
engine and up pops its attractively pastel coloured website. Founded to provide
"superior frozen donor semen at reasonable costs", it offers to ship the stuff
direct to patients and accepts all major credit cards - a mere snip at $129 per
vial plus $88 for post and packing.
On 29 Jun 2001, at 10:21, Ian Pitchford wrote:
> The research also appears to reinforce a theory called "cognitive
> neoassociation," said Bushman. According to this theory, scenes of
> violence and sex in television programs can prime other related
> thoughts in memory. In other words, if viewers are thinking about the
> violence and sex they have just seen on the screen, they will be less
> likely to think about the commercial messages.
This seems to be saying that the underlying mechanism involves
violence and sex being more interesting to people for whatever
reason, and thus provoking more memories of or thoughts of them,
"drowning out" the advertising.
A reasonable inference from this is that it is audience mental
engagement with the program (or arousal resulting from it or
whatever), not violence or sex specifically, that is actually reducing
the effectiveness of the advertising. I think this result may be a
candidate for disappearance in the face of better controls (on
audience arousal, on some measurement of actual interest or
engagement level, or whatever). Take, for example, those new
"reality shows" - no sex or violence, but lots of machiavellian
socialization, which lots of people obviously find very interesting.
I'd be willing to bet that memory for ads during them is as low as,
or lower than, memory for ads in a popular program involving more
"mature subject matter".
> "It is unlikely that moral appeals from parents and other concerned
> citizens will influence the TV industry to reduce the amount of
> violence and sex on television.
Oh joy, a pre-existing political aim. Especially amusing coming
from an American, since "television sex" in the US is rather tame
by international standards.
|<it would not seem fundamentally more difficult to|
produce an ethically superior intelligence than to produce a cognitively superior intelligence.>
Michael Frayn's novel Tin Men had a research laboratory dealing with just this; I remember their experiments with AI devices - crude robots - went like this -
1) placing the ethical robot and a human on a raft that could hold only one; they trained the robot to behave ethically, sacrificing itself by jumping off the raft.
2) only to find that it would sacrifice itself for a sack of coal;
so they trained it to sacrifice itself only for a cognitively superior being,
so it didn't jump off, and both the robot and the coalsack sank.
3) so they trained it to push any lesser being off;
and then they tried it with two robots, adjusting the ethical circuits so that
3a) both didn't sacrifice and both sank and
3b) both pushed each other off and both sank,
4) finally ending up with a resolution where the winner of the fight got to push off the loser, which had the added advantage that you could bet on it.
Health Promotion Journal of Australia Managing Editor: Chris Borthwick
Editor-in-Chief: Rob Moodie
VicHealth 15 Pelham St. Carlton Vic 3053 AUSTRALIA
Tel 61-3-9667 1333 Fax 61-3-9667 1375
The extracts below are from a letter written by Steven Rose and published in
the latest issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry. The letter includes the
same claim he made in The Biologist (Rose, S.P.R. (2001). Alas, poor Darwin.
Biologist, 48(2), 100.) about EP's commitment to mental architecture being
fixed in the Pleistocene. None of the specific hypotheses referred to seem
untestable. Rose uses "genetic determinism" to cover evolved psychological
modules and predispositions, rather than behaviour. This represents a change in
his position since the publication of 'Alas, Poor Darwin' in which he and
Hilary Rose refer to EP's "claims to explain all aspects of human behaviour,
and thence culture and society, on the basis of universal features of human
nature that found their final evolutionary form during the infancy of our
species some 100-600,000 years ago." (p. 1)
According to my textbooks the Pleistocene is internationally agreed to date
from about 1.6 million to 10, 000 years ago, so Rose seems to be arguing for
"genetic change under selection pressures" to our mental architecture in the
last 10,000 years. I wont speculate about the ideological connotations of this
Rose, S.P.R., & Lucas, P. (2001). Evolutionary psychology revisited. British
Journal of Psychiatry, 178, 573.
"In terms of evolutionary psychological theory, I dispute the claim made most
strongly by evolutionary psychology's spokespeople that the 'architecture' of
the human mind was laid down in the Pleistocene and there has not been
evolutionary time since for any major change to occur. Cavalli-Sforza (2000),
for one, has recently surveyed the substantial evidence of significant
post-Pleistocene genetic change under selection pressures."
".. if it is not 'biologically deterministic' to claim that humans possess
innate 'cheater detector' modules or that men are innately programmed to prefer
sex with younger women with specific hip:waist ratios, and women sex with older
men preferably with symmetrically shaped bodies which guarantees better
orgasms - I am not sure what is."
"The problem is that what currently passes for evolutionary psychology is
little more than an untestable bunch of anecdotes based upon _a priori_
Dorothy Nelkin has a paper in the latest issue of Nature Reviews Genetics, a
few excerpts from which appear below. It is far more measured and interesting
than her piece in 'Alas, Poor Darwin' (Nelkin, D. (2000). Less selfish than
sacred? Genes and the religious impulse in evolutionary psychology. In H. Rose
& S. Rose (Eds.), Alas, poor Darwin: Arguments against evolutionary psychology
(pp. 14-27). London: Joanthan Cape.) though she still refers to DNA's
metaphorical construction sharing "striking qualities with the Christian soul".
There is no mention of evolutionary psychology.
Nelkin, D. (2001). Molecular metaphors: the gene in popular discourse. Nature
Reviews Genetics, 2, 555-559.
"The gene continues to be described as a "master molecule" or "blueprint", in
both scientific and media communication. But such metaphors are also
fundamentally flawed, for they are based on impoverished ideas of causation. As
Evelyn Fox Keller observes, "The secrets of life have proven to be vastly more
complex and more confusing than they had seemed in the 1960s and 70s... "
Scientists must use metaphors to explain their complex and esoteric subject, to
attract popular interest in their technical fields and to win public funds. But
their metaphorical constructions, endowing genes with a kind of autonomous
power, are neither neutral nor benign. To geneticist Richard Lewontin: "The
transfer of causal power from social relations into inanimate agents that then
seem to have power and life of their own is one of the major mystifications of
science and its ideologies".
DNA, after all, is a biological entity, a text without context, data without
dimension. To explain human beings in biological terms, to jump from the
molecular level of genetic systems to expression in behaviour or complex
clinical disorders, requires a profound leap of faith. But this is a leap
conveyed to the public through molecular metaphors, deployed by scientists to
promote their research and by the media to explain the science of genetics".
Nature Reviews Genetics
I am pleased to announce that Psychology Press, part of the
Taylor & Francis Group, have just launched OPAL - Online Psychology
Alerting - a FREE service for those with a specific interest in behavioural
This is a special email service designed to deliver tables of contents for
any Psychology Press, Taylor & Francis, Brunner-Routledge, or Carfax
behavioural science journal in advance of publication, to anyone who
has requested the information.
All you need to do is register, and you will be sent contents pages of the
journal(s) of your choice from that point onwards, in advance of the
printed edition. You can request contents pages either for any number of
individual titles, or for one or more of our sub-categories or a main
category, and you may unsubscribe at any time. For each of your choices,
you will receive the relevant bibliographic information: journal title,
volume/issue number and the ISSN. You will also receive full contents
details, names of authors and the appropriate page numbers from the
This will give you advance notice of what is being published, making it
easier for you to retrieve the exact information you require from the hard
copy once it arrives in your library, or electronically from the online
version of the journal.
Titles that may be of interest are:
International Journal of Psychology
Journal of Constructivist Psychology
Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology
European Journal of Cognitive Psychology
To register for this complimentary service, please visit:
on the OPAL button.
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Can anyone tell me who first mentioned the Swiss army knife
as an analogy for the mind?
I've always associated the idea with Cosmides & Tooby,
because in 1995 the Scientific American published a photo
of Tooby holding up a Swiss army knife whilst Cosmides held
a model of the brain. However, on browsing their 1992 book
I can't find a mention of this analogy. Furthermore, Steve
Mithen's 1996 book associates it with various psychologists
beginning with Fodor. Obviously, various psychologists have
been developing different modular views of the mind, but
who first actually mentioned the Swiss army knife?
Dr. David Hardman
Department of Psychology
London Guildhall University
Old Castle Street
London E1 7NT
Phone: +44 020 73201256
Fax: +44 020 73201236
For information on the London Judgment and Decision Making Group
For information on joining the 'Decision' jiscmail list, see
NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS
July 19, 2001
After the Genome, What Then?
This article will appear as the second epilogue to the chapter “The Dream of
the Human Genome” in the paperback edition of Richard Lewontin’s It Ain’t
Necessarily So: The Dream of the Human Genome and Other Illusions, to be
published in October by New York Review Books.
On Monday, February 12, 2001, The New York Times, on its front page above the
fold, leaked the news that the two competing projects to sequence the human
genome were about to announce on that very day that they had indeed located the
Holy Grail. Then, on Thursday and Friday, the scientific papers giving the
details appeared, surrounded by a penumbra of commentary, analysis, and
promises of a rosy future for human health and self-knowledge. It might seem
remarkable that both publicly funded and commercial projects should have
independently accomplished their ends of sequencing the three billion
nucleotides of the human genome, analyzing the sequence, and publishing their
findings within a day of each other, but it was no coincidence. It was, in
fact, the carefully prearranged and orchestrated outcome of a truce between the
contenders announced at a joint press conference the previous June.
Although I agree that having only one parent does not doom the offspring to
immediate death. But I'm confused, because it seems like many of the
respondents are interchanging a current and evolutionary perspective.
Historically, women have not held the economic independence that they
currently enjoy. My own Vietnamese grandmother, after losing her husband
with whom she was "first wife" had to immediately settle for being "third
wife" becuase she was already pregnant when her first husband died. In
Vietnam, a woman alone with a child WAS practically sentenced to death if
she had no extended family because women were not allowed college education,
were not allowed to own land or businesses, and were not employable accept
in the most menial of positions. Being employed was also difficult because
without extended family there was no such thing as daycare during that time
So although having a single mother does not necessarily mean death or
starvation, wasn't a partnership as much an economic as a social necessity?
And also in many ancient societies, young women were punished for being
raped rather than the rapist. This is true in Islamic cultures and was, in
fact, true in my great-grandmother's time in Vietnam. A young, unmarried
woman who is pregnant was never given the benefit of the doubt, she was
blamed for being promiscuous. How, exactly, is she supposed to garner
resources for the survival of her unwanted offspring?
Ian Mongomerie writes:
> Additionally, humans are not truly
-- I see no compelling reason to say that humans are not "truly" monogamous.
One cannot say so on the grounds that there is a lot of "cheating", because
if that disqualifies us, it also disqualified the vast majority of
Nor does it matter much that "breeding pairs" of humans often separate,
especially in times of great abundance. Intentions and norms here count for
more than "success rates". Even if most of an animal's attempts to catch its
prey fail, it is still a predator. It might conceivably still count as a
predator even if it *doesn't even try* to catch its food -- think of a
domestic cat that gets all of its food from a can.
I think we adopt a too-exacting standard when we use the word 'monogamous'.
Few (if any) creatures live up to that ideal, but that says more about our
own absolute intentions and high-minded ideals than anything else. Those
intentions and ideals suggest that we *are* truly monogamous, more than our
failures to live up to them suggest the opposite.
Just because the earth isn't a perfect sphere doesn't mean it isn't round!
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