Archive for ‘science’

February 19, 2009

Honkies are too uptight

That seems to be the basic point of a Tufts University research project about how “self-control” — self-censorship might be a better phrase — isn’t the answer to better race relations. (Via Kathy Shaidle who, of course, is completely out of control. And yes, I do mean that as a compliment.)

Personally, I feel that there are inherent limitations to what “experts” can tell us about race, just as there are limits to what “experts” can tell us about sex. Common sense and careful observation will teach you just as much in the long run.
Richard Spencer, who witnessed the lunacy of the Duke lacrosse “rape” fiasco as a Duke student, has some wry observations.
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February 10, 2009

Sixteen-year-old sex change

Tim Petras began hormone treatment at age 12 and recently became Kim Petras, the world’s youngest post-operative transsexual:

The op — carried out in secret last month — was authorised after psychologists confirmed that Kim was “without doubt a girl in a boy’s body.”

(H/T: Right View from the Left Coast.) The appropriate pronoun? Oh, never mind. And what’s a sex story without a media-approved “expert”?

Dr Bernd Meyenburg, who treats patients with identity disorders at the University of Frankfurt Hospital, said . . . “I was always against such operations on children so young but after seeing how happy one of my patients was and how well adjusted after returning from having the operation abroad while still a teenager – I realised that in some cases it is the right decision.”

Thank you, Dr. Mengele! And I’m sure Steven Kotler is happy that “Tim/Kim” won’t be contributing to overpopulation. Teen pregnancy? Not a problem. (Everybody go neuter yourselves in the name of ecology.)

Kim reportedly signed a record deal, and here is a video of the song “Last Forever”:

Here is video of Kim answering blog questions:

Who can wait until Disney announces “The Kim Petras Show”? A role model for your children! Next: “Oprah”! “The View”! “Larry King Live”! . . . “Cabaret”? (Isn’t there something kind of Weimar going on here?)

TOP TEN SIGNS THE PETRAS FAMILY KNEW YOUNG ‘TIM’ HAD A PROBLEM

10. Won the lead role when the kindergarten staged its version of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”

(Commenters can finish the list.)

UPDATE: Linked at AOSHQ headlines.

UPDATE Ii: Kim may not be the youngest for long. “Experts” have approved sex-change treatment for preteens.

January 25, 2009

The problem with plethysmographs

You know this recently-reported research claiming that, when measured by plethysmograph, women seem to become aroused by watching monkeys having sex?

Maybe the plethysmograph is not measuring what the researchers think it’s measuring. That is to say, the reaction that researchers are classifying as “arousal” may actually be embarrassment, or perhaps “awww, what a cute monkey.”

This goes back to my skepticism toward Northwestern University psychologist Michael Bailey, who reported somewhat similar results in his notorious federally funded “porn arousal” research. The plethysmographic measurement of female arousal may simply be miscalibrated or misunderstood.

Female sexuality may be sufficiently subtle and complex that what are actually emotional (as opposed to sexual) reactions to visual stimuli are producing somatic changes that are picked up by the plethysmograph and then misinterpreted by researchers. So the real problem is in the interpretation of the data, and the “scientific” misconception of what is actually being measured. Just because a reaction can be detected by changes in the woman’s genitalia does not mean the reaction is sexual, per se.

A scientific mystery solved! Can I get my federal research grant now?

January 11, 2009

‘Science’ and teen sex

Thursday, I wrote about how liberals were spinning the latest teen pregnancy statistics as an argument against abstinence education. I had missed Bill McGurn’s take on how research results have been misrepresented in the media:

A medical journal starts it off by announcing a study comparing teens who take a pledge of virginity until marriage with those who don’t. Lo and behold, when they crunch the numbers, they find not much difference between pledgers and nonpledgers: most do not make it to the marriage bed as virgins.
Like a pack of randy 15-year-old boys, the press dives right in.
“Virginity Pledges Don’t Stop Teen Sex,” screams CBS News. “Virginity pledges don’t mean much,” adds CNN. “Study questions virginity pledges,” says the Chicago Tribune. “Premarital Abstinence Pledges Ineffective, Study Finds,” heralds the Washington Post. “Virginity Pledges Fail to Trump Teen Lust in Look at Older Data,” reports Bloomberg. And on it goes.
In other words, teens will be teens, and moms or dads who believe that concepts such as restraint or morality have any application today are living in a dream world. Typical was the lead for the CBS News story: “Teenagers who take virginity pledges are no less sexually active than other teens, according to a new study.”
Here’s the rub: It just isn’t true.

Liberal reporters, McGurn explains, don’t look past the bullet-points on the press release to examine the underlying methodology of the study. The researchers pulled some hocus-pocus by comparing the pledge-taking teens not with the general population of teenagers, but rather with a “control” group who were matched demographically and socio-economically with the pledgers:

The first to notice something lost in the translation was Dr. Bernadine Healy, the former head of both the Red Cross and the National Institutes of Health. Today she serves as health editor for U.S. News & World Report. And in her dispatch on this study, Dr. Healy pointed out that “virginity pledging teens were considerably more conservative in their overall sexual behaviors than teens in general — a fact that many media reports have missed cold.”

In interviewing professionals in the science/medical/health fields, I’ve found they are almost unanimous in loathing the way the MSM report on research. Often, research that merely indicates a possible correlation between two facts — say, between coffee drinking and cancer rates — ends up with a headline implying that scientists have proved a cause-and-effect relationship: Coffee prevents cancer!

What is true in reporting on medical and scientific research is even more true in reporting on social science research. As one criminologist has remarked, social scientists can “prove” anything. Trying to isolate cause-and-effect in sociological research (which is what this abstinence-education study purports to do) is a damned difficult task. There is a disturbing tendency among liberal journalists to cherry-pick research — hyping research that seems to confirm their own biases and downplaying contradictory results.

Given the high correlation between delaying sexual activity and positive socioeconomic outcomes (i.e., completing high school, obtaining full-time employment, avoiding drug abuse, etc.), there is clearly a social good to be obtained by discouraging teen sex. Much of the media, however, think of this as a “Republican” or “conservative” objective, and therefore bring to bear the usual liberal bias. Since when did it become “liberal” to be indifferent to kids messing up their lives?

UPDATE: Laura Gallier of Inspiring Abstinence e-mails:

I see a huge contradiction in the medias’ response to the issue of teen sex, two primary contradictions to be exact. For one, the media cries out for answers when teen pregnancy rates are on the rise but then seems to go out of their way to undermine abstinence programs. Two, the same media that reports that we must find answers to the teen sex crises then turns around and includes sexually based images and comments in nearly everything they produce.

Indeed, one of the rich ironies is how TV producers, on the one hand, claim that their sex-saturated programming doesn’t influence kids’ behavior, but on the other hand, collect billions in advertising revenue by telling clients that a 30-second commercial can influence consumer behavior. Either TV influences behavior or it does not, so which is it?

BTW, Ms. Gallier is the author of a new book about abstinence called Choosing to Wait: A Guide to Inspiring Abstinence.

January 9, 2009

Did I mention I’m a father of six?

Scientific proof of my genius:

“Women tend to like smart men because they’re usually more successful and better providers. But here’s another reason: Their sperm is better, a new study says. . . .
“The smarter the men were, the more sperm they produced and the better their wee ones swam . . .
“The researchers instead speculate that intelligence might be passed down as part of a larger package of good attributes.”

“Larger package.” Heh. And proving the obverse:

“By the way, I have no children. And I’m not in MENSA, either.”

He also voted for Obama.
January 9, 2009

The Christina Hendricks autism test?

Weird science:

Men who do not find the shape of the curvier woman most attractive could be more likely to father children with autism, according to a study. . . .
The new research from the University of Bath suggests that fathers of autistic children do not share the preference of men across the world for the curvier woman. . . .
Dr Brosnan said he hopes the research will increase understanding of the causes of the condition.
‘Autism is widely regarded to have genetic origins which may combine with hormonal influences’, he said.
‘We wanted to investigate the mechanisms by which these genes come together in a parental pairing, whether it is by chance or if it could be due to different preferences in choosing a mate – so-called assortative mating.
‘This study raises some interesting questions about how the person we are attracted to could impact on our offspring.’

My completely unscientific hunch is that they’re barking up the wrong tree. But how can we know unless we test the hypothesis? (BTW, none of my children are autistic.)

(Via Hot Air Headlines.)

December 24, 2008

Real hope

One of the ironies of Obama’s invocation of “Hope” is that the soi-dissant “progressive” agenda is actually based on a pessimistic view of humanity: Everything is getting worse, individuals are either greedy exploiters or helpless victims, and therefore massive government intervention is necessary to save mankind from itself.

If you want real hope, you need to look to the optimistic free-market vision of the late Julian Simon. John Tierney has doubled down on real hope:

In 2005, I found a more adventurous prophet willing to bet on resource scarcity. Matthew Simmons, an expert on the oil industry and the author of “Twilight in the Desert,” bet $5,000 against me and Rita Simon, Julian’s widow, that the average price of oil, in 2005 dollars, would exceed $200 per barrel in 2010. . . .
Last week, the price of oil hit a four-year low, dropping below $35 per barrel, but Mr. Simmons remained optimistic of winning our bet. He told Jay Hancock of the Baltimore Sun that 2010 is “an eternity” away and predicted the price of oil would shoot back up. Well, anything’s possible. But I’m glad I followed Julian Simon’s advice to bet low. (Emphasis added.)

(Via Instapundit.) Obama has picked gloom-and-doom prophet John Holdren as his science adviser, yet another omen of the new administration’s inevitable failure: It won’t work.

December 20, 2008

Obama’s population bomber

Yuval Levin points out that Barack Obama’s science advisor John Holdren included in a 2007 speech a respectful reference to Paul Ehrlich’s utterly discredited 1968 book The Population Bomb. He might as well have referenced phrenology or necromancy.

The Population Bomb — named one of the worst books of the 20th century by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute — began with one of the most infamously mistaken prophecies ever published:

The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970’s the world will undergo famines — hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now.

Wrong. The mass famines never happened. World population, which was about 3.5 billion when Erhlich wrote that, is now about 6 billion, and humanity has never been more well-fed than it is today. Far from a population “explosion,” what the world now faces — especially in industrialized nations — is a population implosion. In Europe, birth rates in recent decades have been disastrously below what demographers call the replacement rate (2.1 average lifetime births per woman) needed to maintain a stable population size.

Yet many people (Ted Turner notoriously among them), continue to pretend that Ehrlich’s misguided warning that “mankind will breed itself into oblivion” was accurate, and to push programs based on Ehrlich’s 1968 ultimatum:

We can no longer afford merely to treat the symptoms of the cancer of population growth; the cancer itself must be cut out. Population control is the only answer.

To speak of population growth — i.e., people having babies — as a “cancer” reflects an almost genocidal misanthropy. That Obama would choose as his science adviser Holdren, a believer in such malevolent hokum, is a disgrace.

UPDATE: Via Memeorandum and Ross Douthat, I learn that I’m arriving a little late to this dance. John Tierney is all over the Holdren appointment, revealing that Obama’s advisor was one of the “experts” consulted by Ehrlich in his ill-advised bet with the late Julian Simon. Reason magazine’s Ron Bailey has even more on the consistently wrong Dr. Holdren.

One global-warming fanatic recognizes Holdren as a kindred spirit: “Obama is dead serious about the strongest possible action on global warming.”

I hate to pick a fight with the Obama administration over science. After all, I’m hoping to get federal funding for my own research.

UPDATE II: Obama makes it official. And in his radio address, he declares:

“Today, more than ever before, science holds the key to our survival as a planet and our security and prosperity as a nation. . . . It’s time we once again put science at the top of our agenda and worked to restore America’s place as the world leader in science and technology.”

This eye-rolling is giving me a headache.

Here’s video of Obama’s speech:

December 19, 2008

Dear President Obama . . .

. . . I need a federal research grant in order to conduct intensive investigation of findings recently reported by the University of L’Aquila.

Science! (H/T: Tigerhawk.)

October 20, 2008

Short answer: ‘No.’

“Does the work of Sigmund Freud have anything to teach us about the global financial crisis and how to extricate ourselves from its clutches?”

No. A thousand times, no. To the extent that Freud asserted anything original as being scientific, he was 100% wrong. His conceptions of the mind, its natural processes and ailments, were as primitive as those of any tribal shaman or voodoo priestess, and as scientifically useful as astrology, tarot or palmistry.

Mental illness does not result from bad potty training or repressed lust for one’s own parents or any “complex” bearing a name from Greek mythology. Freud formed his theories from his practice treating the complaints of Viennese hypochondriacs in the Victorian Age. As such, his work offers some insight into the worries that afflicted 19th-century Austrian neurotics, but not much more than that.

Freud’s ignorant theories spawned more nonsense than the theories of any other intellectual in modern history, excepting only Marx and Nietzsche. And in the case of all three of these European humbug merchants, there are still apologists who, having been taught to reverence the Great Man before they had sufficient experience to know any better, cling to the idiotic insistence that the Great Man’s theories were true, and that any perception of error is the result of the misinterpretations made by the Great Man’s followers.

To defend these eminent authors of error is the same as advocating error, and to perpetuate misconceptions that have long since been proven false. No amount of fact can seem to shake these people who cling to the bogus theories of Great Men. One still encounters educated people who worry that “sexual repression” causes mental illness, even though nothing could be plainer than (a) American society is now less sexually repressed than any major culture since Nero was Emperor, and (b) we’ve got far more genuine craziness than we had when Coolidge was president and the Comstock Laws were in full force.

Anyone who thinks that anything true or useful can be found in Freudian psychology needs to have his head examined.
P.S.: I should add that the falsehood of Freud’s theories does not prove the truth of modern theories of the mind. I am a real physical being, not a perception induced by a neurochemical illusion. Also, if you think I’m sexy, it’s not because of a biological deterministic evolutionary urge. Darwin was wrong, too; there is no “gay gene”; and my sexiness is an objective fact.