Monday, April 17, 2006

How Will They Know When It's Over--When There Are No More Fat Ladies To Sing?

A cure for obesity would have serious repercussions. What would society do with fewer fat women and more beautiful ones? Quite a quandry that, what? This provocative newsrelease suggests the possibility of the end of obesity--with implications for diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and above all, love. Ciliary neurotrophic factor (CNTF) promises to move mountains.

....CNTF protects against some of the effects of obesity.

It does this by activating an enzyme, skeletal muscle AMP kinase, which increases the ability of the body to metabolize fat and sugar. This work may lead to new strategies to reduce the risk of metabolic abnormalities associated with excess weight.

Dr. Steinberg's research shows how CNTF activates similar pathways to those stimulated by exercise.

"While hormones such as leptin were initially thought to be the cure-all for weight loss, they were later found to be ineffective in obesity due to the presence of proteins which inhibit their ability to stimulate fat metabolism," says Dr. Steinberg, a Canadian researcher at the University of Melbourne, Australia. "Fortunately, CNTF's effects on fat burning are maintained."

Nearly half of all adult Canadians are overweight or obese and 26 per cent of Canadian children and adolescents aged two to 17 are overweight or obese. From 1985 to 2000, 57,000 deaths in Canada were associated with overweight and obesity.

"The incidence of obesity in Canada has more than doubled over the course of the last 20 years and is a major contributor to cardiovascular risk factors including diabetes and elevated blood fats," says Dr. Ruth McPherson, Heart and Stroke Foundation spokesperson and lipid expert. "Physical activity and healthy diet are important lifestyle factors in combating obesity. This study provides new clues on the regulation of skeletal muscle metabolism relevant to the treatment of obesity."


Exercise and wise nutritional choices are best, of course. But look at society. Children are taught to be tolerant of what should never be tolerated, and to have self-esteem when they have done nothing to earn it. Children are being taught to be ineffectual and indiscriminate consumers of the garbage that is fed to them by the pseudo-intellectuals in education and popular culture. Why should they not also be indiscriminate consumers of sugar and fat--so that their bodies become as fat-filled as their minds? Where is the drug that will cure that condition?

Only joking, of course. Go ahead, take a bite of that cookie. By the time you finish, you will be feeling right as rain.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Dump the Guy--You're Better Off Without Him

Many of you have read this article in today's issue of The Economist. The article is slick and provocative, an excellent example of modern journalism. (it may be necessary to view a short advertisement before viewing the premium content)

....Girls get better grades at school than boys, and in most developed countries more women than men go to university. Women will thus be better equipped for the new jobs of the 21st century, in which brains count a lot more than brawn. In Britain far more women than men are now training to become doctors. And women are more likely to provide sound advice on investing their parents' nest egg: surveys show that women consistently achieve higher financial returns than men do.

Furthermore, the increase in female employment in the rich world has been the main driving force of growth in the past couple of decades. Those women have contributed more to global GDP growth than have either new technology or the new giants, China and India.... It used to be said that women must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good. Luckily that is not so difficult.

It is fascinating to contemplate the continuing need for strong "affirmative action" programs for women in academia and the workplace, in the face of such obvious female superiority of achievement. But I digress.

I doubt if many readers here are privy to the triple ultra premium content of The Economist. Probably few would even know where to find it. Fortunately, we at Al Fin read all, so that you do not have to. Here are excerpts from the 3UPC edition of The Economist:

...In fact, the only reason men are tolerated at all, is that women scientists have not quite perfected cloning. There is still a need for human sperm, and for now, only human male testicles are capable of reliably supplying that need. Currently there are projects supported by UNESCO and the EU, which will allow scientists to create sperm-producing human testicles in the laboratory from male embryos....

....Some male scientists have suggested that male humans are overrepresented on the high end of cognitive ability, particularly in math and spatial abilities. Fortunately, Liz Spelke has totally refuted that bit of obsolete patriarchal folk psychology. Once the effects of millenia of prejudice are allowed to wear off, women will outperform men in math and spatial abilities, just as they have in all the other fields of human endeavor....

....In summary, men are a total waste of resources, if not for sperm. It should be a top priority to, in the short term, create alternate sources of sperm. In the intermediate term, the perfection of cloning will allow the total elimination of any need for men at all--in the long term.

There you have it, the master plan. I would like to be able to provide links, but the triple ultra premium content is quadruple-encoded, preventing the use of ordinary links. I cannot help but think back to Al Fin's fascinating interview with two of the leading members of the movement referred to in the 3UPC article above.

For more detailed information on why men have become the disposable sex, consult Warren Farrel, Lionel Tiger, and Cristina Hoff Sommers.


Monday, April 03, 2006

Sex and Gender Differences in the Human Brain

While the scientific findings that male and female brains are anatomically and functionally different, statistically, is still quite controversial on a political level, on a purely scientific level it is becoming well established. Doreen Kimura is one of several prolific women cognitive scientists who are brave enough to buck the political storm in order to pursue scientific truth. Camilla Benbow is another.

In this article published in Sexualities, Evolution and Gender, Kimura plainly lays out the basic argument and evidence.

Many reliable anatomical brain differences have been found to differentiate men and women, from basic structures such as the hypothalamus, to differences in systems connecting the two hemispheres, such as the anterior commissure. Some of these have been reviewed in my book......We don’t yet know the significance of such differences for cognitive function, but to describe them as fiction is to deny the careful investigations of many respected scientists (e.g., Allen and Gorski 1990, 1991; Allen, Hines, Shryne and Gorski 1989; Allen, Richey, Chai and Gorski 1991). Although we now have a fair understanding of how brain systems work in mediating certain cognitive functions such as memory, language, and the like, we are still far from understanding how individual differences, the variation in such functions from one type of person to another, are mediated by the brain. However, it must follow that if two groups (such as males and females, left-handers and right-handers, or masculine and feminine gender types) differ reliably in some behaviour not simply dependent on physical differences, then their nervous systems must also differ in some way. Where else could the behavioural differences reside? This is just as true of learned as of unlearned behaviours. Brain differences underlying cognitive differences need not, however, be visible in simple structural features. They may take the form of differing organizational mechanisms not apparent by simply viewing the external brain.

This Scientific American article by Kimura presents the argument more methodically, and at greater length.

Men and women differ not only in their physical attributes and reproductive function but also in many other characteristics, including the way they solve intellectual problems. For the past few decades, it has been ideologically fashionable to insist that these behavioral differences are minimal and are the consequence of variations in experience during development before and after adolescence. Evidence accumulated more recently, however, suggests that the effects of sex hormones on brain organization occur so early in life that from the start the environment is acting on differently wired brains in boys and girls. Such effects make evaluating the role of experience, independent of physiological predisposition, a difficult if not dubious task. The biological bases of sex differences in brain and behavior have become much better known through increasing numbers of behavioral, neurological and endocrinological studies.

Read the entire article here, it is quite fascinating.

This is a brief list of scholarly research supporting the concept of "innate differences" in neuroanatomy and cognition in males and females. It is a very abbreviated list, but it serves to introduce the evidence. For a much longer list, consult this reference list from one of Kimura's articles. Scroll down to the list, and continue scrolling. There are 111 citations, and that list is far from complete.

I have posted on this topic before--here, here, and here.

The research continues, and the weight of research--new and old--points to significant cognitive sex differences, or if you prefer, gender differences or gender disparities.

Politically, this is not a popular topic, and politically inclined "scientists" will more easily cling to the political line. It is difficult to get funding for this type of research, and publishing in some mainstream journals is difficult. Even university presidents can fall from grace if they forget the politically correct stance, and deviate from it. This has not discouraged the very persistent women and men of cognitive science.

Neither men nor women are superior to the other as groups. Both groups have statistical strengths and weaknesses. A wise society will seek to understand its members, rather than try to sweep under the rug any scientific findings that are inconvenient to a dominant political viewpoint.

Addendum: This Guardian article by Simon Baron-Cohen contains a link to a test you can take to determine if you have a male brain or a female brain. Just looking at your genitalia or your chromosome map will not tell you that. Regardless of your chromosomes, your brain has a mind of its own, perhaps of a different gender than your body. Are you willing to find out?

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