Friday, December 31, 2004

I Have Fans!

Getting linked is always fun, and getting comments here is great, but it is rare too see an expression of real appreciation - and it feeels goooood:

Democracy Now and Science And Politics
Democracy Now Isn't On Vacation


Now how about this for a great compliment:

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 11:28 AM | permalink | (2 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Harris on Religion

Has anyone read this? Is it worth it?

The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason
by Sam Harris

Excerpt here:

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 2:29 AM | permalink | (3 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Ahhh, Those Fragile and Emotional Balkans Folks!

Hey, why didn't Martha Stewart think of this? What a great excuse to not go to jail!

In the good old times in Yugoslavia, Slavko Perovic was a God:

...but these days, every country has its own Freepers. Note the first comment by an Anonymous. Perhaps in Croatia they should start a blog named Little Green Soccerballs!

Tito's Monument Blown Up

I guess all those wingers just lack self-esteem....but on the other hand....

Exploding the Self-Esteem Myth

Boosting people's sense of self-worth has become a national
preoccupation. Yet surprisingly, research shows that such efforts are of little
value in fostering academic progress or preventing undesirable behavior

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 11:26 PM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

The IDC blog-craze

Blogs are gping nuts over IDC and Evolution. Hundreds of blogs have something to say about it.

There are two new threads on Kos, both seem to be non-starters, though:

Slate writes this:

Creation Myth: No Christian Taliban is taking over your school board.

which links to this:

Unintelligible Redesign: This is the way creationism ends. Not with a bang, but with a whimper.

which links to this:

The "New" Creationism

Elsewhere around the blogs, there is a variety of responses. Some examples:

Darwinism vs. Creationism: The Battle Rages On!

Warning - Too Much Education Causes (gasp!)...


Honk if you understand Punctuated Equilibrium

King George the Malevolent: What the...

Open Thread: Evolution and IDC Discussions

Rules for Being a Republican

ID: To engage or ignore?

Creationism and the Grand Canyon

Thomas Jefferson and the American Right

Intelligent Design

Evolution & Intelligent Design, Part II

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 11:49 PM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Sixth Sense? Give Me A Break!

What’s Really Important?

What's Really Not That Important, But I Can't Help It?
Did Animals Sense Tsunami?

I hate it when they say "sixth sense"! Days of Aristotle and his Five Senses are long gone. Even we have more than five sensory modalities. Various animals (and even plants) have many more. The original five are vision, audition, olfaction, gustation and touch.

Photoreception is not just vision and is not a unitary modality. There are animals with capabilities, sometimes served by a separate organ or at least cell-type, for UV-reception, infra-red perception, perception of polarized light, not to mention the non-visual and extraretinal photoreception involved in circadian entrainment, photoperiodism, phototaxis/photokinesis, pupillary reflex and control of mood. The "third eye" (frontal organ in amphibians, or parapineal in reptiles) cannot form an image but detects shadows and apparently also color.

Audition in many animals also includes ultrasound (e.g., bats, insects, dolphins, some fish) and infrasound (whales, elephants, giraffes, rhinos, crocodiles etc. mostly large animals). And do not forget that the sense of balance and movement is also located in the inner ear and operates on similar principles of mechanoreception.

Olfaction is not alone - how about perception of pheromones by the vomero-nasal organ (and processed in the secondary olfactory bulb), and what about the nervus terminalis? Some animals have very specific senses for particular chemicals, e.g., water (hygroreceptors) and CO2. Gustation is fine, but how about the separate trigeminal capsaicin-sensitive system (the one that lets you sense the hot in hot peppers)? Chemoreceptors of various kinds can be found everywhere, in every organism, including bacteria.

Touch (somatoreception) is such a vaguely defined sense. In our skin, it encompasses separate types of receptors for light touch (including itch), pressure, pain, hot and cold. The pain receptor is a chemoreceptor (sensing chemicals relseaed from the neighboring damaged cells), while the others are different types of mechanoreceptors. Inside our bodies, different types of receptors monitor the state of the internal organs, including stretch receptors, tendon receptors etc. Deep in there, we have baroreceptors (pressure, as in blood pressure) and chemoreceptors that detect changes in blood levels of O2 or CO2 or calcium etc. Animals with exoskeletons, like arthropods, also possess tensoriceptors that sense angles between various elements of the exoskeleton, particularly in the legs, allowing the animals to control its locomotion.

Pit-vipers, Melanophila beetles and a couple of other insects, have infrared detectors. While snakes use this sense to track down prey, the insects use it to detect distant forest fires, as they breed in the flames and deposit their eggs in the still-glowing wood, thus ensuring they are there "first". While infra-red waves are officially "light", it is their high energy that is used to detect it. In case of the beetles, the energy is transformed into heat. Heated receptor cells expand and get misshapen. Their shape-change moves a hair-cell, thus translating heat energy into mechanical energy, which is then translated into the electrical energy of the nerve cell.

Several aquatic animals, including sharks and eels, as well as the platypus, are capable of sensing changes in the electric field - electroreception. More and more organisms, from bacteria, through arthropods, to fish, amphibians, birds and mammals, are found to be quite capable of sensing the direction, inclination, and intensity of the Earth's magnetic field. Study of magnetoreception has recently been a very exciting and fast-growing field of biology.

On a more philosophical note, some people have proposed that the circadian clock, among other functions, serves as a sensory receptor of the passage of time. If that is the case, this would be a unique instance of a sensory organ that does not detect any form of energy, but a completely different aspect of the physical world.

Finally, many animals, from insects, through tree-frogs, to elephants are capable of detecting vibrations of the substrate (and use it to communicate with each other by shaking the branches or stamping the ground). It is probably this sense that allowed many animals to detect the incoming tsunami, although the sound of the tsunami (described by humans as hissing and crackling, or even as similar to a sound of a really big fire) may have been a clue, too. I am assuming that birds could have also seen the wave coming from a distance, although they needed the warning the least, considering they could fly up at the moment's notice. The reports so far were from Indonesia and Sri Lanka - places hit the most. It would be interesting to know how the animals fared further away from the epicenter of the earthquake.

Which leads me to the well-known idea that animals can predict earthquakes. While pet-owners swear their little preciouses get antsy before earthquakes, all studies to date see absolutely no evidence of this. Animals get antsy at various times for various reasons, and next day get as surprised as we are when the "Big One" hits. When a strong earthquake hit California in the 1980s, a chronobiology laboratory looked back at the records of their mice and hamsters. Those were wheel-running activity records, continuously recorded by computers over many weeks, including the moment of the earthquake. No changes in the normal patterns of activity were detected. I believe that this was never published, but just relayed from advisor to student, generation after generation, and mentioned in courses as an anecdote.

The key difference here, of course, is between sensing the earthquake as it is happening somewhere far away (as the animals can certainly do) and the ability to predict earthquakes before they happen (which animals cannot do). So, I don't think there is anything mysterious about the survival of animals in the tsunamis, and the sense they used is certainly not just "sixth"...perhaps twenty-sixth or hundred-twenty-sixth (or whatever criterion one uses for counting them) depending on the species.

Not Just Non-Human Animals:

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 10:39 PM | permalink | (2 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Holiday Reading: Science Books

I have picked my top ten books on politics ( and have posted a long list of books before (, and now, as I promised, here is my list of best science books. As I struggled so much to restrict myself to just 10 books on politics, and left out so many worthy titles, this time around I decided to cheat a little. Instead of Top 10 Science Books, I will make a meta-list of my top picks of books in each of the 6 science topics. Sorry - it is almost all biology due to the professional bias. I have restricted myself to books I own, and have read (at least big chunks) relatively recently (though some are so important I waived that last criterion) . Also, I will just write titles - I am too lazy and tired right now to find all the links to and anyway, I want to move from amazon to Powells these days in order to Buy Blue. So just google the titles, or copy and paste into your favourite online bookseller's webpage search engine. Add your own (or criticize my choices) in the comments. Here we go:

1) Genetics Explained:
Stephen Rose - Lifelines
Richard Lewontin - The Triple Helix
Evelyn Fox Keller - The Century of the Gene
David Moore - The Dependent Gene
Jonathan Marks - What it means to be 98% chimpanzee
Lewontin, Rose and Kamin - Not In Our Genes
Dorothy Nelkin and M.Susan Lindee - The DNA Mystique
Ruth Hubbard abd Elijah Wald - Exploding the Gene Myth
...and once all these arm you against the seductive rhetoric of genetics, go and see the exciting stuff that geneticists have really found:
John Medina - The Genetic Inferno
Jonathan Weiner - Time, Love, Memory

2) Evolution for the 21st Century:
Stephen Jay Gould - The Structure of Evolutionary Theory
Susan Oyama - The Ontogeny of Information: Developmental Systems and Evolution
David Sloan Wilson and Elliott Sober - Unto Others
Robert Brandon - Adaptation and Environment
Susan Oyama - Cycles of Contingency : Developmental Systems and Evolution
Niles Eldredge - Reinventing Darwin
Terrence Deacon - The Symbolic Species
Stephen Jay Gould - Ontogeny and Phylogeny
Stephen Jay Gould - The Wonderful Life
Joan Roughgarden - Evolution's Rainbow
Stuart Kauffman - At Home in the Universe
Carl Zimmer - Parasite Rex
Jonathan Weiner - The Beak of the Finch
Rudolf Raff - The Shape of Life
Evelyn Fox Keller and Elizabeth Lloyd - Keywords in Evolutionary Biology
Kenneth McNamara - Shapes of Time
Stephen R. Palumbi - The Evolution Explosion: How Humans Cause Rapid Evolutionary Change Misia Landau - Narratives of Human Evolution

3) Animals, Ecology and Natural History:
May Berenbaum - Buzzwords
May Berenbaum - Bugs in the System
R.J.Hoage - Perceptions of Animals in American Culture
Michael Rosenzweig - Win-Win Ecology
Matt Cartmill - A View to a Death in the Morning
Harriet Ritvo - The Animal Estate
Paul Shepard - The Others
Paul Shepard - Traces of the Omnivore
Deborah Gordon - Ants at Work
Niles Eldredge - Dominion
Stephen Budiansky -The Nature of Horses
Roger Caras - A Perfect Harmony
Keith Thomas - Man and the Natural World
Stephen Kellert - Kinship to Mastery
Julian McAllister Groves - Hearts and Minds
Alfred Crosby - Ecological Imperialism
Lester R. Brown - Eco-Economy: Building a New Economy for the Environmental Age

4) Physiology and Behavior:
Stephen Budiansky - If A Lion Could Talk
Marc Hauser - Wild Minds
Sara Shettleworth - Cognition, Evolution and Behavior
Mitchel, Thoompson and Miles - Anthropomorphism, Anecdotes and Animals
Robert Sapolsky - Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers
Robert Sapolsky - The Trouble With Testosterone
Robert Sapolsky - The Primate's Memoir
Knut Schmidt-Nielsen - The Camel's Nose
Bernd Heinrich - Mind of the Raven
Eric Widmaier - Why Geese Don't Get Obese (and We Do)
J.Scott Turner - Extended Organism
Hochachka and Somero - Biochemical Adaptation
Gopnik, Meltzoff and Kuhl - The Scientist in the Crib
Steven R. Quartz, Terrence J. Sejnowski - Liars, Lovers, and Heroes
R Jourdain - Music, The Brain, And Ecstasy : How Music Captures Our Imagination

5) Health, Medicine, Clocks, Sleep, Aging and Death:
Mary Roach - Stiff
M.Lee Goff - A Fly for the Prosecution
Hal Hellman - Great Feuds in Medicine
Michael Gershon - The Second Brain
Rudolph Nesse and George Williams - Why We Get Sick
Leonard Hayflick - How and Why We Age
Roger Gosden - Cheating Time
Sherwin Nuland - How We Die
Peter Breggin - Talking Back to Prozac
Carl Zimmer - Soul Made Flesh: The Discovery of the Brain-and How It Changed the World
Andrea Rock - The Mind at Night
Russell Foster - Rhythms of Life
Jay Dunlap, Jennifer Loros and Patricia DecCoursey - Chronobiology
John Palmer - The Living Clock
Michael Smolensky - The Body Clock Guide to Better Health
Martin Moore-Ede - The Twenty Four Hour Society
A.Alvarez - Night
William Dement - The Promise of Sleep
Stanley Coren - Sleep Thieves

6) Meta-science, Pseudo-science and Nonsense (sounds nicer than Miscellaneous or "Other"):
David Sloan Wilson - Darwin's Cathedrals
Frank Sulloway - Born to Rebel
Dean Keith Simonton - Origin of Genius
Michael Shermer - The Borderlands of Science
Steven Vogel - Cats' Paws and Catapults
Richard Lewontin - It Ain't Neccessarily So
Richard Lewontin - Biology as Ideology
R.Lewontin and R.Levin - The Dialectical Biologist
Stephen Jay Gould - Time's Arrow, Time's Cycle
Stephen Jay Gould - Rocks of Ages
Stephen Jay Gould - The Hedgehog, The Fox, The Magister's Pox
Stephen Jay Gould - Full House
Stephen Jay Gould - Mismeasure of Man
Clara Pinto-Correia - The Ovary of Eve
Evelyn Fox-Keller - Re-Inventing Life
Kim Sterelny and Paul Griffiths - Sex and Death
David Livingstone - Putting Science in its Place
Jared Diamond - Guns, Germs and Steel
Michael Shermer - Why People Believe Weird Things
Carl Sagan - The Demon-Haunted World
Richard Pennock - The Tower of Babel
Barbara Carroll Forrest and Paul R. Gross - Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design
Michael Shermer - How We Believe
Phillip Kitcher - Abusing Science
Martin Gardner - Science: Good, Bad, and Bogus

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 1:49 AM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Evolution of the Intelligent Blog Design

Well, Creationism is all over the Blogosphere (again). If you have not already read recent threads on Daily Kos, here are the URLs - they are worth reading, and contain many good links to external sources:

...and there are a couple of new ones, "live" today:

Response to believer in ID

The ID Fraud: "Intelligent Design" For Non-Dummies

Publius chimes in with an excellent post:

A lively discussion, with some excellent additional links is going on on Pharyngula:
Open Evolution/Creationism Thread

Folks at Panda's thumb have an interesting take on the recent article on Washington Post:
Is ID unfairly portrayed?

Here comes a strange post - can someone enlighten me?
Bridging Evolution and Intelligent Design

To see the underlying unity of all faces of conservatism, read this article:

Bush, the Neocons and Evangelical Christian Fiction

...and for a better look at our side, read this (hat tip to Chris Mooney):
Cornell Evolution Project

How it fits in with general anti-intellectualism? read this article:

Careful Not to Get Too Much Education...Or You Could Turn Liberal

...and comments to it:

Too Much Education = Turning Liberal

If you are interested in some really cool science and some really intelligent biology, read new Carl Zimmer's post about Cope's Law (it has link to his article in tomorrow's NYTimes):

All the News That's Too Big To Print

For more cool science, perhaps you want to pick some of the best PZMyer's posts from the past year:

Fave Science Posts of the Year

Also, the new issue of the medical carnival, the "Grand Rounds #14", is now online, full of really cool medical stories:

Not to be outdone, philosophers have put together the new issue of their Carnival, on the delightful Mixing Memory blog:

Philosophers' Carnival VII: The Holiday Edition

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 8:56 PM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Monday, December 27, 2004

Sleep Repression

What are you doing up so late, staring at the computer screen reading this? For that matter, what am I doing up late writing this at 11pm? Are we all nuts?

Until not long ago, just about until electricity became ubiquitous, humans used to have a sleep pattern quite different from what we consider "normal" today. At dusk you go to sleep, at some point in the middle of the night you wake up for an hour or two, then fall asleep again until dawn. Thus there are two events of falling asleep and two events of waking up every night (plus, perhaps, a short nap in the afternoon). As indigenous people today, as well as people in non-electrified rural areas of the world, still follow this pattern, it is likely that our ancestors did, too.
The bimodal sleep pattern was first seen in laboratory animals (various birds, lizards and mammals) in the 1950s, 60s and 70s, i.e, before everyone moved their research to mice and rats who have erratic (un-consolidated) sleep patterns. The research on humans kept in constant conditions, as well as field work in primitive communities (including non-electrified rural places in what is otherwise considered the First World) confirmed the bimodality of sleep in humans, particularly in winter.

Larks and Owls

Also, there is a continuum of individual sleep patterns ranging from extreme "larks" who fall asleep at the first inkling of dusk but wake up before dawn, all the way to the extreme "owls" who stay up quite late and wake up once the day is in full swing, and of course everything in between. No matter where you are on this continuum, you tend to sleep more during the winter long nights than during the short summer nights.

The genetic basis of extreme "larkiness" has been elucidated ( It is a mutation in a phosphorilation site on the protein product of the core-clock gene period (per). A phosphorilation site on a protein is a place where another protein may add a phosphate group. Phosphate groups are ubiquitous sources of energy in biology (remember ATP from high-school biology? That's it!). Thus, an addition of the phophate may make it easier for the protein to react with another molecule. That other molecule may give it stability, or destroy it, or allow it to move to another part of the cell. In the case of period, it appears that lack of the phosphate group allows the protein to move into the nucleus sooner than normal where it blocks transcription of its own gene.

Of course, we are talking statistics here: hundreds or thousands of period proteins per cell, several thousand pacemaker clock-cells in the suprachiasmatic nuclei, plus trillions of peripheral clock-cells all over the body: each of these molecules has a statistical chance of moving back into the nucleus sooner than in a person without a mutation. Moving sooner into the nucleus means that the inherent ("freerunning") period of the clock is shorter. In most people it is about 24-25 hours long (when measured in completely constant environmental conditions, i.e., no light-dark, temperature, sound, or social cycles). The "owls" have longer periods and "larks" have shorter periods. Period determines phase relationship between the internal clock and the environmental synchronizing cue (e.g., the light-dark cycle), thus longer the period of the clock, later the clock will trigger waking up in the morning or feeling sleepy in the evening, and vice versa. People like me go to bed at 4am and wake up at noon. People with the extreme lark mutation wake up at about 4am, but are real party poopers, snoozing at 7pm or so. The whole continuum is believed to be determined by similar small mutations in which just a single DNA base-pair is replaced in one of the clock genes (12 such clock-genes are known so far to operate in mammals).

During a normal night's sleep, REM occurs every 90 minutes or so. As the night progresses, the REM episodes get longer and the non-Rem periods in-between become shorter (thus still adding up to 90 minutes) as well as shallower. Thus, the really deep sleep (e.g, Stage 3) occurs only during first 1-2 cycles early in the night. Lack of Deep Sleep results in tiredness. Usually adults wake up from REM (children do not), unless waking is forced (e.g., alarm clock). Research on relative roles of REM and NREM in consolidation of memory is very controversial (look for Jerome Siegel on Google Scholar). Growth Hormone surges during episodes of Deep Sleep, and falls during REM, and is almost undetectable during wakefulness.

In the morning, our body prepares us for waking by increasing blood levels of ACTH and cortisol (leading to preponderance of heart attacks at waking time). Our body temperature is the lowest just an hour or two before waking and highest an hour or two before falling asleep. If you feel a chill sometimes when you are up at strange times, it is because your clock is at a pre-waking (late-night) phase.

Melatonin is secreted only at night (circadian clock time) and is not dependent on sleep. However, bright light tends to reduce melatonin levels. In summer, nights are short, thus the duration of the melatonin "signal" is short. In winter, nights are long, thus the duration of the melatonin "signal" is long. The duration of the melatonin signal is the cue that the circadian clock (this is in mammals only) uses to detect season, i.e., the changes in photoperiod (daylength) - information important for timing of seasonal events, e.g., molting, migration, hibernation, reproduction. Humans are only mildly seasonal - our ancestors about 70 million years ago were living in little holes in the ground, were tiny, were nocturnal, were seasonal breeders, and were hibernators. Some traces of our ability to measure photoperiod are retained in "winter blues", or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). It is almost a form of hibernation.

Phase-disorders of the circadian clock (i.e., extreme larks or owls) can have a similar effect by tricking the melatonin signal (or the reading of the signal by the clock) into believing it is always winter, thus time to be depressed. Lithium treats depression by affecting the period (thus indirectly phase) of the circadian clock (both in vivo and in vitro). In bipolar disorder, manic episodes are characterized by phase-advances and depressive episodes by phase-delays of the diurnal sleep-wake and activity patterns. In a way, phase-delayed people are constantly in the depressive phase of the bipolar disorder.

Treating Extreme Larks and Owls

Trying to regulate sleep-time with melatonin supplements can be tricky. If you are phase-delayed, thus producing melatonin in summer from 2am until 10am, if you take a melatonin pill at 10pm in order to go to sleep earlier, your clock will see a winter-like melatonin signal of 12 hours duration (10pm-10am) and will make you depressed within a couple of days.
The best way to shift a clock is by using bright light. Instead of buying a $500 light-box, you can, for much less money, build your own for a fraction of that money. You need a piece of board, 3-4 strong neon lightbulbs, balasts, a switch, a plug, and some wires. An hour of fun, and you have an apparatus that is just as good and effective as the hifallutin corporate gizmo. Use the light box at appropriate times (dawn for owls, dusk for owls). If you are an extreme owl, when you first get up in the morning, immediately go out in the sunlight (that is thousands of lux of light energy, compared to hundreds from a lightbox) for a jog with your dog. If you do not have a dog, buy one - that will force you to go for a walk early in the morning. Well-scheduled meals also help.

Do not take anti-depressants. They tend to not work for circadian-based depression and may just mask the symptoms (i.e., you "feel" good while your body is falling apart). Do not use melatonin supplements. Do not use alcohol - it may make you fall asleep fast, but the sleep will be shallow and erratic and you will wake up feeling lousy instead of rested. Caffeinated drinks are fine, except during the last 2-3 hours before your intended bedtime, at which time a warm glass of milk may be better.

Make a routine in the evening. The last 2-3 hours before bedtime stay out of the bedroom (bedroom is only for sleep and sex), and switch off all the screens: no TV, no computer, no gameboy. Reading a book while sitting in an armchair in the living room is fine. Just sitting on the porch and thinking will help you wind down. As the evening progresses gradually turn down the lights. Once the bedtime arrives, go to the bedroom, go to bed, switch off the light (pitch darkness) and go to sleep if you can. If you cannot, get up for a few minutes, but keep your lights dim, still no screens, no caffein, no food.

Of course, all of the above are the strategies to shift your clock to a "socially accepted" phase. But you are not crazy or sick. It is the societal pressure to get up at a certain time that is making you sick. Try to get a job that fits your natural schedule. Work at night, sleep during the day (in a pitch-dark, light-tight, sound-proof room) and enjoy life in all its quirkiness.

If you need to go to the bathroom in the evening or during the night, do not turn on the light. Can't you find your vital organs in the dark? If neccessary, a very dim nightlight (or indirect light from the hall) is OK. If you wake up in the middle of the night, do not get up or switch on the light. Have sex instead. Hopefully your partner will enjoy being woken up by your kinky activities. You will both crash into pleasant deep sleep afterwards. If you do not have a partner, just do it yourself without switching on the lights (as I said, you can find your vital organs in the dark). Jocelyn Elders was onto something....

Why We Sleep Like This?

A classical sociobiological just-so story posits that this kind of individual variation on the lark/owl continuum had an adaptive function, namely to ensure that at every time of night at least one member of the tribe was awake. Thus some stood guard early in the night, others late in the night, listening to the sounds of the jungle (or savannah, or whatever) while the midnight break is thought to have been used for copulating with whomever also happens to be awake at the time - this was before the social invention of sexual monogamy.

Why did cave-men live in caves? Caves are rare and expensive pieces of real estate. If you find one, it is likely to be already inhabited, thus you need to kick out the old tenants (bears?) in order to move in. Then you have to defend it from others who also want this nice piece of property. And it is difficult to defend a cave - it has one entrance - the rest is a trap. If the intruder is really dangerous you have two options: to go out and be killed outside, or remain inside and get killed in the cave. What is so important about the cave that warrants such a risk? Is it that a possible attack can come only from one side, thus requiring only one guard at a time? Is it that newly naked human animals needed shelter from bad weather that they did not need while they were still furry? Is it to protect the newly acquired fire from being extinguished by rain? Does it make easier the task of keeping the herd of not-yet-that-well domesticated animals all together and preventing it from running away? Possibly all of it - we'll never know - it's a "just-so" story. But do not forget one very important property of the cave: it is dark inside. It is easy to sleep in the dark. Most animals find shelter or burrow when they want to sleep - this is not just to hide from the enemies and weather, but also to hide from the sunlight.

Sleep is one of the strongest human needs. If you have read the last part of my four-part series featured on the previous Tangled Bank (WWDD:, you have read my ideas why we still don't know what sleep is for (though see the current state of knowledge in, e.g., this paper: Origin and evolution of sleep: roles of vision and endothermy: I am not advocating ditching modernity, cutting off electricity and going back to the old sleep pattern, we still do not know enough about sleep in order to make the 24-hour society work for us without too much in the way of health consequences.

Societal Constraints

One thing we know is that darkness is an important aspect of the environment conducive to sleep. Silence is another. And we do not need science to tell us this - it's been known forever. I remember, as a kid, learning the "sleep manners", along with learning how to say "please" and "thank you", how not to interrupt adults when they were on the phone, and other early lessons of life. By "sleep manners" I mean behavior when there is someone asleep in the house: one is not to enter the room with the sleeping person, not to switch on the lights, not to switch on the noisy appliances (TV, vacuum cleaner, hair dryer or wash machine), not to talk at all if possible, or reduce it to the briefest quietest whisper if absolutely neccessary. One is to walk around on tiptoes, although the best idea is just to leave the house for a while. There was also a ban on telephone use between 10pm and 8am and again between 2pm and 5pm (so-called "house order"). Sleep was treated as something sacred. Be it at night, or the afternoon siesta, only a life-or-death emergency situation warranted waking someone up.

As Robert Anston Heinlein said:

Waking a person unnecessarily should not be
considered acapital crime. For a first offense, that is.

One thing I noticed upon arriving to the States is that nobody here seems to have any notion of "sleep manners". I have seen (and experienced) many times people barging into the room containing a sleeping person, switching on the lights and TV, talking, even talking to the sleeping person, all the while not being even aware that this is a Big No-No, very inconsiderate, and extremely rude. When confronted, the response is usually very defensive, stressing the person's individual right to do whatever he/she wants and not bother about being considerate about some lazy bum who is sleeping at an inappropriate time. Whoa! Stop right there!

First, individual rights are assumed to mean that you can do whatever you want as long as that does not hurt another person in some way. Waking someone up is harassment - of course it hurts someone. Second, there is no such thing as inappropriate time. If you can, you sleep whenever you can. There is no appropriate or inappropriate time. What do you do if someone is working the night-shift (like my wife often does, and I sometimes do, too)? That person will sleep during the day, so you better shut up. Third, what is this about sleeping being a sign of laziness. The "owls" are constantly being treated as lazy, though they are more likely to be sleep-deprived (cannot fall asleep until the wee hours, then being rudely awoken by the alarm clock after just a couple of hours) and spend more hours awake (and presumably productive) than "larks" do. If you are asleep, this means you need it. If you are rested enough you cannot physically remain asleep or go back to sleep again. You are wide awake. Thus, when you see someone asleep, it is because that person needs sleep right there and then. Sleep is not laziness. Laziness is "lots of front-porch picking" (from the Red State lyrics I quoted in:

Pretending that sleep-need does not exist is also institutionalized. I am not talking just about night-shifts and rotating shifts (those will kill you), night flights, being available for communication 24/7, stores open 24/7, etc - those are part of a modern society, will not go away, and we just need to learn how to adjust. I am talking about the building standards. With a huge proportion of the population working at night, why do windows have no blinds? Some old manors do, but new buildings do not. Never. Some have fake blinds, just for show, screwed into the outside walls on the sides of windows, yet cannot be closed. There are no built-in black curtains, or roll-down wooden blinds. It is difficult to find such curtains in stores if one wants to install one. What is going on? I have never seen, heard, read about, or experienced another country in the world in which sleep is not sacred, and blinds are not an essential part of a house.

I see some striking parallels between the way this society treats sleep and the way it treats sex. Both are sinful activities, associated with one of the Seven Deadly Sins (Sloth and Lust). Both are associated with the most powerful biological needs. Both are supposed to be a taboo topic. Both are supposed to be done in private, at night, with a pretense that it is never actually happening. Education in sleep hygiene and sex hygiene are both slighted, one way or another (the former passively, the latter actively opposed). Both are thought to interfere with one's productivity - ah, the good old Protestant work ethic! Why are Avarice and Greed not treated the same way? Raking in money by selling mega-burgers is just fine, and a decent topic of conversation, even a point of pride. Why are we still allowing Puritan Calvinist way of thinking, coupled with capitalist creed, to still guide the way we live our lives, or even think about life. Sleeping, whether with someone or alone, is a basic human need, thus a basic human right. Neither really detracts from the workplace productivity - au contraire: well rested and well satisfied people are happy, energetic, enthusiastic and productive. It is sleep repressed people, along with the dour sex repressed people, who are the problem, making everyone nervous. How much longer are we going to hide under the covers?

Perhaps not that long. It appears that we are slowly waking up to sleep problems (pun intended). More and more companies are allowing naps, and even providing nap-rooms. More and more school districts are moving high-school morning schedules later, as during teenage years, under effects of sex hormones, the circadian clocks are all temporarily "owlish". Adolescents are not crazy and lazy - they physically cannot fall asleep at a normal bed time, and physically cannot awake and feel rested early in the morning (elementary and middle school kids can, as their hormones have not surged yet).

It seems political advisors have caught on, too. During the presidential debates I blogged about the likely tacks used by the handlers to get their candidates to be at their peak performance levels in early evening - something apparently more difficult for Bush than Kerry ( and Battle for More Free Time, including its subset: the Battle for Sleep, is re-entering the political domain again. Check the links to the websites (here: commenting on this newly-brewing movement. And of course, the art of matchmaking is starting to include the lark/owl questionnaire, assuming that people of the same chronotype are a perfect match (I saw this in a magazine in a waiting room, but if anyone knows if online dating services are doing this, please let me know).

Popping melatonin pills is one of the latest crazes. Melatonin failed as a sleeping pill and its uses as a scavenger of free radicals are dubious at best. It can shift one's clock, though ( However, it cannot help against jet-lag or effects of shift-work (shift-lag) as melatonin is likely to shift only the main brain pacemaker in the suprachiasmatic nuclei. The problem with jet-lag and shift-lag is dissociation of rhythms between cells in different tissues, i.e., your brain clock may resynchornize to the new time-zone/schedule in a couple of days, the clocks in your heart and lungs in a week, and in your stomach and liver in a month. In the meantime, everything in your body is desynchronized and you feel really bad. If you keep changing your work shift over and over again, you never get to achieve complete synchronization, leading to long-term effects on health, including significant rise in heart attacks, stomach ulcers, and breast cancer.

Well, intercontinental flight is here to stay, and some shift-work is neccessary for the modern society to survive. It is now understood that some people (chronotypes) adjust to night-shifts and even properly executed (non-rapid, phase-delaying) rotating shifts, better than others. People have always tried to self-select for various schedules, yet it has recently started to enter the corporate consciousness that forcing employees into unwanted shifts has negative effects on productivity and safety, thus bottom line. See Chernobyl, Bhopal, Exxon Valdese and Three Mile Island accidents - all caused by sober but sleepy people at about 3am, just like thousands of traffic accidents every year.

So how does the future look like? As usual, don't ask scientists, especially members of the Academy. If you want answers to scientific questions about the future, you have to read science-fiction - this is a sacred duty of all scientists. Cory Doctorow who blogs on the group blog Boing Boing (, has written a novel "Eastern Standard Tribe" (you can buy it, or download for free, here: that answers just such questions.

In the future not so far, people form communities not according to geography, or hobbies, or ideology, but their time zone. Everyone, no matter where on the planet, awake and at the computer at the same time, belongs to a particular Time Zone Tribe. Thus an owl from one country, an average from another and a lark from another will all be typing and reading at the same time, thus will meet in cyberspace and forge alliances against other time-zone communities. Inter-time-zone wars ensue, intrigue and treason happen, boy meets girl...the story is wonderful and will make you think about sleep, and about circadian rhythms, about Internet, and about being human, all in ways you never thought before. Enjoy.

Note: This is a longer, more elaborate, more hyperlinked, more thoughful and more 'finished' version of an older post.

A new study adds a developmental dimension which I discuss in Part II of this series:

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 3:10 AM | permalink | (1 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Call for Submissions

No, you dirty minds, that is not what I meant. I am not a Dom seeking a Sub. I am talking here about your blog submissions to the next edition of Tangled Bank, to be published right here, on this blog, on January 12th, 2005.

If you have written recently, or intend to write until January 11th, something - anything - that has to do with Life, natural history, medicine or any other area of biology, let me know. You saw a cool creature last night? Write about it. History or philosophy of biology? Great. Science education? Fine. Conservation biology, pet nutrition, medical diagnosis of ailments of fictional characters? All fits here.

Go to to check out the rules. Also, go and read the previous issues - there is some waaaaay cool writing there. Excerpt:

Have you recently written something you are proud of, that you think other
people with an interest in biology, medicine, science in general, or just the
general workings of the natural world might find worth reading? Let me know!
Send an e-mail message to host AT tangledbank DOT net, or pzmyers AT pharyngula DOT org, or Coturnix1 AT aol DOT com, containing the words "Tangled Bank" somewhere in the subject line, and a link to your article, along with a sentence or two of descriptive summary. Don't hesitate, don't be shy, don't wonder if your work is good enough—flit right into the bank with the rest of us elaborately constructed forms.

This is an egalitarian activity. You do not have to be a
Ph.D., you don't have to write articles with ten-syllable words, you don't have
to discuss esoteric details. All you have to do is express some enthusiasm for
the natural world or encourage study of the same.

The host will review your entry, and if it meets our generous
standards, it will be included in that week's Tangled Bank. Our

The subject should be on biology, medicine, or natural history. We will
define those categories very broadly, and it's sufficient that you show some
passion for the science of the natural world.

Your entry should reflect your point of view and your writing; give us
something more than a couple of links with a brief comment.

I would like to encourage positive stories; while the occasional cranky
rant against creationist legislators or evil malpractice lawyers, if well
written, might fit in, entries that talk about the really cool stuff of life are
more appropriate.

The Tangled Bank is apolitical. While we as individuals may care very
much about the policies of right vs. left, the focus here should be on the
universal subjects of science, not the latest crime against scientific study by
the political party you like least.

Only make one submission per weblog per week. Be selective and pick the
best of your writing.

Anyone can submit an entry. Even if you don't routinely write about
medicine or biology, if you just happen to have written about your gall bladder
surgery that week or the pileated woodpecker that has taken to waking you every
morning, if you think you've said something interesting and insightful, send it

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 2:51 AM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Evolution/Creation Discussions on DailyKos

Here is an interesting thread on the Evolution/Creation debate on dKos:

As a recommended diary, it already has more than 100 comments.

The discussion now continues here:

DailyKos gets about 300,000 hits a day. It is the biggest watering hole for the most politically active, and presumably most educated, liberals and progressives on the whole Internet. Level of thought, argument, and erudition of some members is absolutely amazing.

On the other hand, as seen from these (and other) threads, there is a small but substantial proportion of people who just don't "get it" in the sense they do not understand the basic idea what science is and how it works, not to mention not knowing anything about evolution. This is quite depressing. These are supposed to be liberal educated elites, creme de la creme. This is just a testament to the criminal state of science education in this country.

If the educated liberals don't get it, how can we even start educating the Red State conservatives? Not to mention that those are additionally handicapped by their upbringing. The Strict Father childrearing method arrests the mental development at a Piagetian stage beyond nebulous (making connections betwen two events that co-occur) and hierarchical (understanding the simple cause/effect relations), but before entering the realm of having capacity to understand complex causal systems. And evolution is a complex causal system. Is this going to be a Sysiphus' task?

Some of those on dKos who know something about evolution have, as expected, learned it on their own from sources like Dawkins and Dennett. Genes-eye view is seductive and comforting for many people who have rejected God (, yet it is an essentially conservative position ( and Why do they adhere, often ferociously, to the view of nature that gives comfort to types like Steve Sailer and the GNXP folks, the conservative racists? I have no idea.

Since I wrote the WWDD essay in 1999 (, there have been some developments. Geneticists have bumped into their walls (as I predicted) and adopted physiology as their new genetics. If you look at recent issues of genetics journals (hat tip to Will for this) you will not see reports of discoveries of "gene for X" any more. Instead, you will see a lot of quantitative genetics, polygenic traits, epistasis, complex genetic cascades fusing into even more complex gene networks, etc. The science of genetics has moved away from genocentrism. This makes the GNXP folks left exposed for what they are - they alone stick to the "gene for X" paradigm because they need it for their racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, homophobia etc.

Much of philosophy of biology in recent years has focused on the validity of gene-centered biology, specifically on Dawkins-style selfish gene theory. While Dawkins has responded to criticisms and has become more and more sophisticated with each new book (compared to the atrocity of "The Selfish Gene"), he is unwilling to make the last logical step his system demands, and for an obvious reason. If he makes that step, his whole construct ceases to be his construct - it becomes the same thing as the modern evolutionary theory. He has to admit that Gould, Lewontin, Rose and Co., were correct all along. He has too much invested in his theory to ever make such a move. We should just leave him behind in the 20th century where he belongs and move on, into the 21st century and the modern evolutionary thinking as exemplified by Gould's "The Structure of Evolutionary Theory".

Another Dawkins influence that holds sway in the blogosphere, including on dKos, is the love of memes. Now, I have no problem with the word "meme" per se - everybody knows what it means. The problem is with memetics. Memetics is attempting to explain the spreading of ideas by using models from evolutionary theory. Cultural evolution, including the evolution of language, has been the focus of much thinking lately. The best and the brightest philosophers of science concentrated on it because they wanted, oh so much wanted this to work. They were salivating over the prospect of cultural evolution and memetics being valid and useful tools. Bill Whimsatt (U. Chicago) and Bob Brandon (Duke), two of the most brilliant (and rightfully revered) philosophers of science alive today especially wanted this project to work and have spent much time dissecting Boyd and Richerson and Cavalli-Sforza and other works published on the topic. And, in the end, those two guys published the most forceful and conclusive refutations of the field. What they realized was that the differences betwen biological and cultural evolution were so great that the theory did not work. It was not predictive, i.e., the theory had to be tweaked for every new piece of data and never predicted any piece of new data. The best description for cultural evolution is something similar to viral epidemiology - and that model has been used by classical linguistics and philology since at least the time of Brothers Grimm. So, memetics is dead, except for those few people who have staked their careers on it. They will keep pushing it, just like Dawkins will keep pushing selfish genes. Just let them rot. You have smarter things to do.

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 5:07 PM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Saturday, December 25, 2004

What 'Bout Them Libertahrians?

Much of the stuff on this blog is based on the bimodal (bipolar?) view of the world: there are Conservatives and there are Liberals, and that's it. Lakoff, Ducat, Frank and the like spend much time explaining the two, or just trying to explain the strange Conservative animals to the Liberals.

But, as I stated before, only about a third of Americans are core Conservatives and another third are core Liberals. What about the remaining third? Also, as only about a half of Americans vote, does one group or another tend to be over- or under- represented in the voting booth? Are Conservatives more likely not to vote, but Rove managed to lure them out of their lairs in sufficient numbers to win this time? Is the proportion at the polls skewing our notions of their proportion in the general population? The polls, after all, screen for "likely voters". Who knows what is the ratio among the screened-off, the "unlikely voters"? Since the Fundies have taken over the GOP and are quickly building a fascist theocracy, it is an immediate goal of the Democratic Party, the only other powerful political force as faulty as it is, to figure out the way to save the World by getting the middle third to vote for Dems.

It is practically impossible to get the core Conservative third - they are just apparently lost to reason, for deep psychological reasons (, and although they need to go visit the shrink pronto, those are the kinds of people least likely to do so, as "seeking help" is one of the emasculating "no-no's" in their deeply femiphobic world. Thus, "moving to the Right" or appealing to the economic self-interest will take us nowhere. Before I start thinking about the "middle third", let me give you some very smart thoughts by other people about the difference between Left and Right - please don'e be lazy to click on the links, these are worth your while:

The Progressive Agenda

Dining with the rhinos

Some Epistemology

"Rhinoceros" in America

On the possibility of getting through to the right

The Left2Right Blog Phenomenon

The dialogue continues on whether dialogue is worthwhile

This reminds me of something I wrote about 18 months ago on the Edwards primary blog:
If your party's goal is to steal from the poor and give to the rich, and,
If there are a few rich and many poor people in the country, and,
If the power is decided by elections in which majority decides, and,
If the majority of the poor do not like the idea of giving money to the minority of the rich, then,
The only way to get elected is to lie.

So, now that you have enjoyed a few minutes of sound logical explanations why Left is right and Right is wrong (and evil), let's try to look at the Middle and especially at Libertarians.

Lakoff explains the Conservative and the Liberal core models in terms of family models applied to the Government. The Conservatives are raised in Strict Father families and like Strict Father government, while Liberals are raised in Nurturant Parent families and like Nurturant Parent government. According to Lakoff, there are no Moderates, there are only people (Independents, Undecideds?) who are capable of switching between the two modes and/or use both modes in different areas of life [he also mentions the rare animal - the pragmatic: someone who is firmly conservative or liberal but is capable of making compromises in short term in order to attain long-term goals. I guess I am a liberal pragmatist in a way:]. Thus, invocation of 9/11, War on Terror and the Politics of Fear invoked the Strict Father model in most of them, thus Bush won. The Democratic Party, in order to win, needs to trigger the Nurturant Parent model instead, which is exactly NOT possible to do by triangulation, appeasement, and caving in to macho foreign policy, anti-abortion, or whatever right-wing agenda has been proposed for adoption by Pelosi, Reid and the rest of the DLC cretins.

Libertarians, according to Lakoff, are on a far-off radial deviation from the Conservative core. Many prominent libertarians (e.g., Dan Drezner, Mike Munger) did not like, nor did they vote for Bush as far as I know, but they could not stomach Kerry either. Thus, libertarians are essentially conservative and retain the conservative core in economic sphere, while they have also adopted some aspects of the liberal core, particularly in the social sphere. Thought this way, the libertarians are just one special case of the Independents in the middle third.

But there is another lurking question: do the in-betweens, including libertarians, frame the government in the family mode? Ducat thinks they do. He explains it through the psychoanalytic term of "transference". Every adult feels transference towards the government in one way or another: conservatives like the abusive father and despise the loving mother, both in their personal lives and in their view of the government, which is clearly pathological. Liberals, on the other hand, want to put a restraining order on the abusive father and love their loving mother, both in personal lives and in government, quite a rational thing to do. People in the middle, the Undecideds, want both - they want their government to be both like a harsh father and like a loving mother. They want both the 'daddy state' and the 'mommy state', and are always grumbling how there is no real choice between the two parties in American politics because the two parties are such polar opposites: one provides pure testosterone, the other oozes estrogen (or is presented, actually erroneously, to do so), and the Independents are not happy with having just one or the other. How would they like a testosterone-laden Democratic party? Not at all, as it would be a 'daddy party' in which daddy is not as strong, in other words GOP daddy beats Dem daddy every time. Unfortunately, due to the GOP propaganda, they do not see that Liberal worldview is not "mommy" model, which I have explained at length before (

Ducat writes:

"Democrats, especially those who identify as liberal or
progressive, tend to see the 'maternal', caretaking functions of government as
most important. Thus, when out of power, they have a negative paternal
transference to the government, which can be seen as a malevolent, abusive
father." ("The Wimp Factor", p.237)

When Republicans are out of power, they have a negative maternal transference to the government, as they see it as a weak, ineffective mother. Thus they rail against the government. Once they assume power, they change its facade - it is a phallic macho government now, so it is good. "No more national nanny - daddy's in charge now".

But here is something ineteresting. Ducat separates Libertarians from the rest of the Undecided herd and explains them in a separate manner:

"Libertarians, on the other hand, seem to attribute both
negative maternal and paternal qualities to the government, and insist they need
neither love nor the law from those who hold public office".(p.237)

OK, now this all sounds like types of teenage rebelion. Some rebel against the father, especially if he is a disciplinarian, some against the mother, especially if she is an ineffective as a disciplinarian, some retain good relations with both, and some very unhappy ones rebel against both. When is everyone going to grow up and come back home for Thanksgiving?

Suddenly, instead of two, we have four models of family-type transference of the government. Where do they come from? How are they caused?

Both Lakoff and Ducat think in term of fathers and their influence on their sons' gender-based emotional health and, connected to this, the political/ideoligical orientation. Sometimes, it gets a bit fuzzy what they are talking about. Let me try to develop this further.

Strict Father has quite a range of meanings, from the most colloquial sense of "strict", through Dobsonian sense of harsh, to the legal sense of abusive. This is a broad range and apparently, the differences matter. According to various longitudinal studies, the regular Joe-Sixpack Strict Father does not have the same effect as an abusive father. Both result in very negative outcomes, both socially and politically, but the abusive father is much worse than strict father. The individual responses of children will vary depending on genetics, the birth order, the behavior of the mother, siblings and other family members, and the existence (and quality) of the peer support group (e.g., gangs vs. sports teams) as well as broader society (e.g, school).
Bit, Strict Father and Nurturant Father are not the only types. There are also the Indiffent/Uninvolved Father (the next better model after Strict Father in terms of long-term outcomes), and the Indulgent/Permissive Father (the next better, just short of Nurturant Father in long-term outcomes). So, there are four basic types of fathers. Add to that the Absent Father, and the family consisitng of Two Gay Fathers (of different dispositions/childrearing styles) and it gets quite complex.

Now add to that complexity the role of the Mother, not much developed in either Lakoff's or Ducat's work. Strict Mother, Indifferent Mother, Permissive Mother, Nurturant Mother, Absent Mother, Two about a mother who is passive when daddy's around but a tyrant when he's gone? Each of the Mother and Father types may be alone as a single parent, or may be paired with each of the types of the other parent. Some combinations (e.g., Strict Father - Permissive Mother, or Nurturant Father - Nurturant Mother) may happen more often as such personalities would be drawn to each other, but it is safe to say that all combinations exist in various proportions.

How does each one of these combinations affect the kids? How does it affect the Eldest Son, Crown Prince, Heir of the Family Farm/Castle? How does it affect middle and younger sons? How does is affect daughters? Are different types of parents treating sons and daughters differently, while other types are more egalitarian? How come abusive fathering results in conservative sons and liberal daughters?

And, for Christ's sakes, can anyone explain Ann Coulter!@#$%^&? I am not sure, but I guess that she is not, has never been, and never will be married, or even in a serious relationship with another man. Which man wants his head chewed off after copulation? I am afraid of even thinking what kind of stuff she keeps in her bedroom for her amusement and satisfaction: some chains, police batons, stainless-steel spiky dildos, hand-held jack-hammers? (sorry for the disturbing imagery this may have caused in some of you). Here is how Freepers themselves describe Phyllis Schlafly: , but Phyllis is nothing compared to Ann. Next to Ann Coulter, Cruella DeVille emits warm and fuzzy feelings of Merry Poppins - and Ann is not a cartoon character, she is a real person, or perhaps she is a robot designed at The Heritage Institute. It is unbeliavable what venom this woman possesses and spits - worse than any man I have ever met ( What's her story? How can a psychiatrist explain the phenomenon? Lakoff does not even try, and Ducat's explanation is a non-explanation, something about being rich and being on a power-trip. I do not buy it. This is some serious disturbance.

This whole post, although I meant to write it for quite a while now, was prompted by this post by my state-mate and Libertarian Chair of Duke's Poli-Sci Department, Mike Munger, who links to me with humor and expected disapproval:

Here's another example of the need for clear-cut definitions of terms. As Libertarians are an offshoot of the Conservative core, they are officially part of a the mathematical set called "Conservatives", as they are clearly not the members of the only other set, the "Liberals". Yet, when I write about Conservatives, I write about the CORE Conservatives, people like these:, or these: When I write about Conservatives, I do not think of Munger - why should I even have his blog on my blogroll? I read his blog and, though I generally disagree, at least his arguments have internal logic, make sense and are peppered with charming sarcastic sense of humor. How can I think he's a nut when he is the source of Coulter-mocking stuff like this:

If you want to see the scary Conservatives, go to the online asylum called Free Republic, or the worse one called Little Green Footballs (sorry, no links, I don't want spam here). On the other hand, I would love to have some coffee with Munger one of these days, I bet he is as fun guy in person as he is online.


Some interesting links:

Libertarianism Makes You Stupid

Critiques Of Libertarianism

Organizing principles

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 1:01 AM | permalink | (1 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Friday, December 24, 2004

Carnival of Medical Blogs

Hey, the docs and nurses also have a carnival:

The Sex of Medical Blogs: Grand Rounds # 13

The new edition was published on CodeBlueBlog and it has some really neat stuff, e.g.,:

The Write Wing: A Precious Case (Mental State Evaluation of Gollum)

....and close to my heart:


...and many, many more. Go check it out.

The next rounds are at Code Blog: tales of a nurse on 12/28/04.

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 4:59 AM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Blog Tower #2

Second issue of Blog Tower is now available here:

Enjoy some of the best writing of the blogosphere!

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 2:17 AM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Thursday, December 23, 2004

New Game in Town

Here’s a simple meme: go up to your browser’s address bar, type a single letter, and note what URL pops up first in the autofill. Repeat for each letter of the alphabet. Supposedly, this will reveal something about who you are.

AOL does not do this, but my office computer spewed out these (some surprises here, as places I rarely visit showed up, while my own blog did not):



























Update: It's funny how fast stuff spreads through the blogosphere. Here is just one straight line out of many branches on the tree of diverging hyperlinks:

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 1:16 PM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Conservatives are Crazy and Dangerous

In the previous post I let the Wingers speak for themselves. However, there is also quite a lot of psychological research done and published. An encyclopedic review of such research is here:


A brief summary. These things are strongly correlated (remember that correlation does not mean causation):

When you put together all this, the Wingers' own words from the previous post, and everything else I wrote on this blog before, there are some clear conclusions:

There is no equivalency - Conservatism is Bad and Liberalism is Good. There is no middle ground. Period.

Conservatives are too emotionally and intellectually deranged to be talked to. They perceive this as a life-and-death struggle. Thus, reaching out to them is not just pointless, it is suicidal. We have to take them on with full force.

Although the above are all correlations, we can guess at the direction of causation. As conservative ideology is a much more abstract idea than gender identity, appearing later in an individual's development, it is much more likely that femiphobia causes conservatism than the other way round. As both femiphobia and conservatism are a result of Dobsonian Strict-father childrearing practice, i.e., it is inherited from one generation to the next via familial upbringing, the essential component in the fight against conservatism is to prevent them from raising their own kids in their own way.

A NYC escort writes on her experiences with Republican clients during the RNC, read as well the comments, including one about an escort who never takes Republicans as "....invariably they were fat, BAD about paying and almost all of them had a kink too wierd to deal with. Usually the 'mommy spank, beat me, **** me' kind- to the extreme. ":

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 1:29 AM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Conservative Manly Men - What Are They Afraid Of?

If you have read my past rantings and believe that I am either oevrsimplifying or just plain wrong to reduce all of American politics to sex, particularly to anxious masculinity of Conservative men induced by Dobsonian Strict Father upbringing, then let me offer you stuff to read that is not written by liberal psychoanalysts, but by Freepers themselves. Here it is, in black and white, a whole issue of Right-Wing American Enterprise devoted to gender. They think they sound intellectual and cannot even see how every sentence oozes with fears of masculine inadequacy. They are celebrating the recent regaining of "muscular male politics". Hmmm, I think...for something to be regained it first has to be lost. When did they lose their masculinity? I don't remember ever losing mine.

Articles in Sept 2003 issue of American Enterprise

Here are a few articles from the issue (not all, check them out):

Here is Steve, of the "Baby Gap" fame, demonstrating why biological determinism, racism and femiphobia are all one and the same. Why is he apologetic about being a nerd? Why does he admire and identify with macho hunks? What masulinity anxiety leads him to fall in love with our maniacal demented President? What he says is mostly factually correct, but he is actually proud of it and thinks this is good! A real man would be ashamed to think this way.
Why we need macho men
by Steve Sailer

Similar questions ca be asked of exurb-living Stoddard:
The manliness of art
by Catesby Leigh

The house is in the village of Elderslie, now a Glasgow
Wallace appears in the panels with a heroic musculature, always with
the torso exposed.
Virtus refers not only to manliness, physical strength,
vigor, and bravery, but to moral qualities of goodness and high character.
Virtue, in a word.

All of Stoddart's historical statues and nearly all
of his busts are of males. culture generally allergic to
virile, heroic, and monumental qualities in art.

....moral significance of manhood is central to his
artistic outlook.

Stoddart does not believe the historic predominance
of males in the visual arts is a matter of coincidence or social construct. "In
men as opposed to women," he said as we drove to Edinburgh on a bright, bitterly
cold January morning to look at his statue of the Enlightenment philosopher
David Hume there, "there is a possibility of the dissolution of the self. It is
rarely encountered in mankind, but when it happens, it happens more in the male
than in the female. I think of renunciation as a male

A lively conversationalist, Stoddart is not
physically imposing. Bespectacled, and of medium build, he has always been
artistically inclined. His youthful ambition was to be a pianist, and he still
finds time to play the piano every day. "Sandy," as he is known, lives in an
Italianate villa outside Paisley with Catriona and their three daughters, Clara,
14, Sophie, 12, and Iona, 9.
But the Witherspoon's most striking feature is
not its realism, which is restrained, but its virility--its embodiment of virtue
and authority. This august figure has no doubt whatsoever as to what the meaning
of "is" is.

"The primary part of our heresy," Stoddart says of
the classical camp, "is that we represent the past, the dead. We're up against a
belligerent revolutionist view stuck entirely in the twentieth century. God is
dead, living is everything, and the dead are disenfranchised.

Stoddart's temperamental pessimism is abetted by
the fact that despite his Baptist upbringing, he is "becoming increasingly
atheistic"--mainly under the influence of the German philosopher Schopenhauer,
whom he has been reading since his art school days. Like Schopenhauer, he sees
the world as dominated by undirected forces of nature, ranging from gravity,
magnetism, and heat to carnal lust.

"I think the war between man and nature redounds
greatly to man's credit," he said during the drive to Edinburgh. "Man is the
only element in nature that has the aesthetic faculty, and this faculty tends to
restrain the raging aspect of nature. I see art as nature turning back on
itself, the weapon of man's war against nature ... Art is the consolation of man
and the redemption of nature."

Stoddart therefore abhors the unbridled naturalism
of a great deal of ersatz-traditional art produced these days, exemplified by
the transcription of voluptuous female models with libido-inflaming literalness.
"When we see the statue of the Venus de Milo"--a great Hellenistic work in the
Louvre well known for its idealized beauty--"we don't want to have sex with it.
A statue you want to have sex with is a betrayal of art," Stoddart

Important to read in order to understand the woman's vote in 2004:
The kind of men society needs-and women want - The State of Modern Manhood-What Men Think

Silly and stupid:
The men of Congress - Indicators
by Karl Zinsmeister

Phyllis Schlafly - it's easy telling poor women to subordinate to husbands when you are filthy rich and free to do whatever you want.
American iron lady

If you need to induce vomiting, read this:
The return of manly leaders and the Americans who love them
by Jay Nordlinger

Since September 11, many Americans have rediscovered the
virtues of manliness in office. The Democrats have a job to do if they're to
challenge the "daddy party" in this respect.
Again, the Democrats will have
to acquire a bit more testosterone if they're to compete with the GOP. This is,
indeed, no time for "pitty-patty." As for the Republicans, if they had any more
testosterone, they'd be The Incredible Hulk. House Speaker Denny Hastert was a
wrestling coach, for crying out loud. That's almost overkill!

A-ha! Childrearing!
Unfortunate son - Flashback
by Bill Kauffman

Oh, Strict Father's sons are going to be lost to Strictfatherism in todays' school? I say - great!
Boys under attack: Christina Hoff Sommers was right
by Karina Rollins

The gender activists who fill our schools and government
agencies will continue with their efforts to make boys more docile and
emotional. But fewer and fewer Americans will support them. Maleness is back in
fashion. And one reason is that Americans are increasingly aware that
traditional male traits such as aggression, competitiveness, risk-taking and
stoicism--constrained by virtues of valor, honor and self-sacrifice--are
essential to the well-being and safety of our society.

Wow - boys will be boys, Bush is a Manly Man, biology is destiny - all in one article:
Men-it's in their nature - Bird's Eye - Editorial
by Christina Hoff Sommers

Me man, me hunt!
by Blake Hurst

Like many activities and traits identified with men,
and particularly men who live in rural areas, hunting is under attack on a
number of fronts. Environmentalists say they don't like the way hunters invade
the wilderness. Animal rights activists don't like the way hunters treat
animals. Psychiatrist Karl Menninger has opined that hunting is a "socially
accepted" form of sadism, with hunters under the sway of an "erotic sadistic
motivation." Dr. Joel Saper also worries about the sexual aspect of hunting,
stating that hunting "may reflect a profound yet subtle psychosexual
inadequacy." Maybe it's because guns are so, well, phallic, but this theme is a
constant in the anti-hunting literature. Clinical psychologist Margaret
Brooke-Williams has postulated that "Hunters are seeking reassurance of their
sexuality. The feeling of power that hunting brings temporarily alleviates this
sexual uneasiness." No wonder lots of rifle-toting men have grown decidedly
defensive about their hobby.

If you don't hunt, you might not understand people
who do. But, then, most hunters can't really explain or justify why they do it,
either. If you listen to what hunters say, they hunt just because they enjoy
hunting. That's a bit circular, but it satisfies most male practitioners. Tim
Renken, long-time outdoors writer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, has thought
about this subject more than most people, and he describes his own urge to hunt
this way: "It's instinctive. The whole drill--getting ready, going out, calling
the dogs, picking up the gun, gathering with the guys--it fulfills an urge, one
that some people feel more strongly than others. Our species existed for
thousands and thousands of years in a lifestyle that required that men go out in
groups and bring back the necessities of life.... It's the same feeling a person
gets picking up a baby, holding the hands of a child, and seeking women. Nature
arranges that we feel pleasure in doing the things we must do."

That hunting is in our bones may help explain what
surveys have long shown. Compared to people who engage in other outdoor
activities like hiking, hunters are less likely to "achieve their goals" or be
"successful" on their trips. The fact is, hunters often come home empty-handed.
Yet polling shows that hunters are the most satisfied with their outdoor
excursions, regardless of success.

Of course critics of hunting are not persuaded by
the argument that "a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do." They will point out
that certain instincts are no longer productive.

A history of French-hating

The French model "is more radical, centralized, and gives
birth to socialism," Mathy says. It places its hopes on ideal notions of
humanity--the French "want to completely reform humankind on the basis of
abstract reasoning." It is also strictly secular.
The American version, in
contrast, gives a role to religion, stresses pragmatism, and emphasizes
decentralization. It is suspicious of human engineering.

...and more, no comment:

The car and the man
by Ben Stein

The XX party and the XY party - Indicators
by Karl Zinsmeister

Men today - Opinion Pulse
by Karlyn Bowman

The new science of sex
by Iain Murray

Military men - Indicators
by Karl Zinsmeister

The manliness of men
by Harvey Mansfield

Conspicuously un-masculine - Indicators
by Karl Zinsmeister

Men on men: intellectual locker room talk - The State of Modern Manhood—What Men Think

My man of iron - In real life: first-person America
by Isabel Lyman

Lew Hicks: he's a Navy SEAL-turned-successful-businessman who could beat just about anyone in a fight but prefers communication to combat - "Live" with TAE

Stereotypes about guys - Opinion Pulse
by Karlyn Bowman

Real sex-ed polls - Scan
by Gina Dalfonzo

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 11:40 PM | permalink | (1 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink