Saturday, July 31, 2010

The facts of an improving world jar with the doom-mongering

So why do we find it so difficult to celebrate these facts? Ridley points out that developed societies seem to live in constant fear of things coming to an end: what he calls ‘turning-point-itis’. From fears of nuclear armageddon, an epidemic of pesticide-induced cancers and global starvation in the Sixties and Seventies, to panics about pandemics and climate change today, the defining worldview is of things getting worse and worse with the root cause of the impending disaster being humanity itself. The collapse of the old left and the rise of the greens is built on the assumption that the world is going to hell. Indeed, there are distinct echoes of apocalyptic religion in environmentalist discourse today. The facts of an improving world jar with such a sense of doom, which helps to explain the vitriolic reaction to Lomborg and Ridley from many commentators.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Why biology should inform social policy

LEFT-LEANING politicians have traditionally blamed the structure of western society for the feckless and antisocial behaviour of its "underclass". Now biologists are chiming in.

Animals that live shorter, riskier lives tend to reproduce early, and that applies to humans living in tough circumstances, too. So teenaged mothers and wayward fathers may be an evolutionary response to deprivation, and many of the problem behaviours that plague western societies could be put down to a biological "die young, live fast" strategy.

The solution is to improve the health and wellbeing of the poorest in society and give all young people the prospect of a good job and a stake in their future. But that looks unlikely, given the economic downturn.

In recent years, though, we have gained considerable insights into the prerequisites for human fulfilment. Health and security may be top of the list, but we also thrive on community, fairness, bonding, altruism, playfulness and celebration. Hard-pressed politicians seeking inspiration would do well to look to these biological principles.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Television viewing time independently predicts all-cause and cardiovascular mortality

Television viewing (TV), a highly prevalent behaviour, is associated with higher cardiovascular risk independently of physical activity

How Wall Street Starved Millions and Got Away With It

The Food Bubble: How Wall Street Starved Millions and Got Away With It

While Goldman Sachs agreed to pay $550 million to resolve a civil fraud
lawsuit filed by the SEC, Goldman has not been held accountable for many
of its other questionable investment practices. A new article in
Harper’s Magazine examines the role Goldman played in the food crisis of
2008 when the ranks of the world’s hungry increased by 250 million.

See also:

Goldman Sachs Settles Civil Fraud Case for $550M—Less Than It Reportedly
Expected, and With No Admission of Criminal Wrongdoing

Goldman Sachs has agreed to pay $550 million to resolve a civil fraud
lawsuit over selling a mortgage investment that was established to fail.
While the SEC hailed the $550 million settlement as the largest in Wall
Street history, many outside analysts questioned why the government
didn’t demand more. Investors responded favorably as Goldman Sachs
shares jumped by five percent in late trading, adding far more to the
firm’s market value than the amount it will have to pay in the

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Can more sex make up for less life?

Does an extra dose of testosterone pay long-term dividends? A higher level of the hormone increases sex drive and attractiveness of males, leading to more offspring and increased evolutionary fitness; it also weakens the immune system, amplifies stress, and encourages recklessness, increasing the risk of departing the gene pool altogether. Looking at songbirds, Wendy Reed, a physiological ecologist at North Dakota State University, set out to determine whether, evolutionarily speaking, a little extra machismo is really worth it. And since testosterone has pretty much the same effect across all species, her results probably extend to humans as well.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Freedom from Sexual Self-Denial

Freedom from Sexual Self-Denial: Why Not Have Sex With People Who Aren't Your Partner?
Infidelity is treated as selfish, while monogamy is celebrated. But what's so great about living a life of self-denial?