Month: August 2014

“The Dark Side of Almond Use” – Really?

almonds

The online Atlantic is funding some excellent journalism on California water use — this story is in-depth and worth the time to read, for example.

On the other hand, it is also publishing some of the silliest alarmism on the topic I have seen. First we have “Why Bottled Water Comes From California, Which Can’t Spare Much,” a concern troll of story — bottled water, which uses about 0.01% of California’s water supply (and most of that replacing tap water which would also come from the same sources), is decried as if the water is shipped to places where it is bountiful (most isn’t.) Failure to do math or have any understanding of true problems (like using water for irrigating crops that a very water-thirsty, like rice, in a dry state.)

This week The Atlantic gave us this concern troll: “The Dark Side of Almond Use,” by James Hamblin, (a very young) M.D. and editor there. Clickbait, even high-minded clickbait, is deadly to true understanding — our journalist wants us to feel guilty about eating almonds, a (not especially thirsty) irrigated crop in California’s central valley which supplies much of the world with almond-y goodness. He doesn’t present much evidence of how much water is used to irrigate almond crops or compare the value of that crop with the value of the water used to give us a sense of whether this irrigation is a consequence of the ultra-low rates irrigation users pay for their water, or if it is a reasonable use for the value of the crop:

This week another large study added to the body of known cardiovascular benefits of eating almonds. Every ounce eaten daily was associated with a 3.5 percent decreased risk of heart disease ten years later. Almonds are already known to help with weight loss and satiety, help prevent diabetes, and potentially ameliorate arthritis, inhibit cancer-cell growth, and decrease Alzheimer’s risk. A strong case could be made that almonds are, nutritionally, the best single food a person could eat….

This follows a massive study released last fall from Harvard that found eating nuts decreased mortality rates by 20 percent, and it builds on Jenkins’ work done more than 10 years ago which suggested, in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation, “Almonds used as snacks in the diets of hyperlipidemic subjects significantly reduce coronary heart disease risk factors.”

That’s all wonderful, but coverage of almond-nutrition research necessarily affords a narrow vantage on health. It seems like every day someone asks me to dichotomize a health trend: good or bad. Almonds are a great example of why I’m terrible at doing that…. [Ed. note: indeed!]

The only state that produces almonds commercially is California, where cool winter and mild springs let almond trees bloom. Eighty-two percent of the world’s almonds come from California. The U.S. is the leading consumer of almonds by far. California so controls the almond market that the Almond Board of California’s website is almonds.com. Its twitter handle is @almonds. (Almost everything it tweets is about almonds.)

California’s almonds constitute a lucrative multibillion dollar industry in a fiscally tenuous state that is also, as you know, in the middle of the worst drought in recent history. The drought is so dire that experts are considering adding a fifth level to the four-tiered drought scale. That’s right: D5. But each almond requires 1.1 gallons of water to produce, as Alex Park and Julia Lurie at Mother Jones reported earlier this year, and 44 percent more land in California is being used to farm almonds than was 10 years ago.

That raises ecological concerns like, as NPR’s Alastair Bland reported last weekend, that thousands of endangered king salmon in northern California’s Klamath River are threatened by low water levels because water is being diverted to almond farms. Despite the severe drought, as of June 30, California’s Department of Agriculture projected that almond farmers will have their largest harvest to date. If more water is not released into the river soon, Bland reported, the salmon will be seriously threatened by a disease called gill rot. If there’s one disease I never want to get, it’s gill rot…. [Ed note: he places water use for almonds in opposition to water used to preserve salmon runs, as if there are no other uses, like for animal feed, corn, rice, etc., much lower value crops.]

[and now he drags in concern for honeybees, which are not natural but brought in by honeybee keepers]

California’s almond industry is also completely reliant on honeybees to pollinate its almond trees. The industry requires 1.4 million bee colonies, according to the USDA, most of which are brought to the state from across the country. Because of colony collapse disorder, honeybees are a commodity. The almond farmers’ requirements represent approximately 60 percent of the country’s managed colonies. This year many of the mercenary pollinating bees brought to California died due to exposure to pesticides.

Anyway, when I buy almonds, I don’t think about having a hand in killing bees or salmon, or getting someone’s truck stolen or collapsing a road. It’s just a jumble of what’s “good for me,” what I feel like eating, and how much things cost. Michael Specter’s feature on GMOs in last week’s New Yorker gets into how seven billion people on the planet will be 10 billion by the end of the century, and feeding that population might well be the greatest challenge to humanity ever. Thinking about going easy on almonds is sort of analogous to GMO dilemmas or buying organic, where the point isn’t really nutrition, it’s environmental consciousness and sustainability, which always come back to water. Thinking about that side of food makes it hard to write about nutrition in isolation. Anyway, almonds are good for our hearts.

[“I’m very confused but I wanted you to know the whirl of considerations I keep in my head when I’m choosing food. I have no idea how important each of them is proportionally, but my guilt and sensitivity over choosing what foods to eat makes me a good person.”]

For more on almonds and other good supplements for life-extension:

Almonds: Superfood, Eat Them Daily for Heart Health
Getting to Less Than 10% Body Fat Like the Models – Ask Me How!
Low-Dose Aspirin Reduces Pancreatic Cancer
Daily Aspirin Regimen Reduces Cancer Rates
Fish Oil Supplements Ward Off Dementia
Lower Back Pain: Acetaminophen (Tylenol, Paracetamol) Useless
Cleanses and Detox Diets: Quackery
Gluten-Free Diets: The Nocebo Effect
Scams: Multi-Level Marketing, Herbalife
Fish and Fish Oil for Better Brain Health
Vitamin D: Anti-Dementia?
Salt: New Research Says Too Little May Be Unhealthy

Why We’re Fat: In-Depth Studies Under Way

Sugar in Processed Foods

Sugar in Processed Foods – UCSF

Wired has a deep look into the more rigorous studies now being done to examine the connections between diet and obesity. The article by Sam Apple (“Why Are We So Fat? The Multimillion-Dollar Scientific Quest to Find Out”) is long and worth reading if you’re interested, but here’s a few takeaway bits:

In January of this year, the first subject checked into the metabolic ward at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, to participate in one of the most rigorous dietary studies ever devised. For eight weeks, he was forbidden to leave. He spent two days of each week inside tiny airtight rooms known as metabolic chambers, where scientists determined precisely how many calories he was burning by measuring changes in oxygen and carbon dioxide in the air. He received meals through vacuum-sealed portholes so that the researchers’ breath wouldn’t interfere with their measurements. The food itself had been chemically analyzed to ensure an exact number of carbohydrate, protein, and fat calories.

The two-day stays in the chambers were only a small part of the testing, which was also being carried out on subjects at three other institutions around the US. Twice a month, the subjects were required to lie down for dual-energy x-ray absorpti­ometry scans, an accurate way to measure body fat. They offered up their veins again and again so that scientists could measure their lipids and hormone levels. They provided samples of their stools so the researchers could record the different colonies of bacteria residing in their guts…. [T]he studies are intended as steps toward an audacious goal: cutting the prevalence of obesity in the US by more than half—and the prevalence of diabetes by 75 percent—in less than 15 years….

But in recent years, competing theories have suggested other culprits. A growing number of doctors and advocates now see decades of increased consumption of table sugar and other refined carbohydrates as the most likely explanation for our current epidemics. Robert Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist, rose to national fame after a 2009 lecture in which he called sugar “poison” went viral on YouTube. (Lustig had a chance to repeat his case against sugar in the 2014 Katie Couric-produced documentary Fed Up.)….

… Taubes eloquently argues, most of the existing knowledge gathered in the past five decades of research comes from studies marred by inadequate controls, faulty cause-and-effect reasoning, and animal studies that are not applicable to humans. The whole body of literature, Taubes wrote in a blog post announcing the launch of NuSI, “is based on science that was simply not adequate to the task of establishing reliable knowledge.”

For instance, much of what we think we know about nutrition is based on observational studies, a mainstay of major research initiatives like the Nurses’ Health Study, which followed more than 120,000 women across the US for three decades. Such studies look for associations between the foods that subjects claim to eat and the diseases they later develop. The problem, as Taubes sees it, is that observational studies may show a link between a food or nutrient and a disease but tell us nothing about whether the food or nutrient is actually causing the disease. It’s a classic blunder of confusing correlation with causation—and failing to test conclusions with controlled experiments.

… Taubes knew almost nothing about the topic. He would end up spending the next nine months interviewing 80 researchers, clinicians, and administrators. That research resulted in an August 1998 article headlined “The (Political) Science of Salt.” It was a sweeping takedown of everything scientists thought they had established about the link between salt consumption and blood pressure. The belief that too much salt was the cause of hypertension wasn’t based on careful experiments, Taubes wrote, but primarily on observations of the diets of populations with less hypertension. The scientists and health professionals railing against salt didn’t seem to notice or care that the diets of those populations might differ in a dozen ways from the diets of populations with more hypertension.

Taubes began to wonder if his critique applied beyond salt, to the rest of nutrition science. After all, one of the researchers Taubes interviewed had taken credit not only for getting Americans to eat less salt but also for getting them to eat less fat and eggs….
Under the cover line “What if Fat Doesn’t Make You Fat?” Taubes made the case that we get fat not because we ignore the advice of the medical establishment but because we follow it. He argued that carbohydrates, not fat, were more likely to be the cause of the obesity epidemic. The piece was a sensation. “Gary Taubes is ruining my life!” one NYU professor of nutrition, Marion Nestle, complained to Popular Science at the time. “I can’t go anywhere without someone asking about that damn article.” … The Times article led to a $700,000 deal for what would become Good Calories, Bad Calories, and Taubes spent the next five years plowing through late-19th- and 20th-century nutrition research. In doing so, he found himself drawn to an even more radical theory, the so-called alternative hypothesis, which holds that we get fat not because we eat too many calories but because specific kinds of calories trigger hormones that regulate how our fat cells behave. In particular, eating refined carbohydrates, and especially sugar, on a sustained basis leads to chronically elevated insulin levels. Among its many other crucial functions in the body, insulin tells fat cells to take up glucose, which is converted into fat, and then keeps fat from all sources locked inside. Therefore: Consume a bunch of sugar every day, as most Americans do, and you’ll get fat.

Of course, Taubes could only present the hypothesis. He couldn’t prove any of it. The right experiments had never been done….

At age 35, Attia weighed 205 pounds, 45 more than he did in high school. Alarmingly, his blood work suggested he was on the path to heart disease. Fearing for his future and out of conventional options, in late 2009 Attia began eliminating more and more carbs from his diet while adding more and more dietary fat. Over the next two years, his waist shrank from 36 to 31 inches. His triglycerides, an indicator of cardiovascular risk, dropped from 154 to 22. His HDL (the so-called good cholesterol) rose from 31 to 85 even as his LDL (the arguably bad cholesterol) dropped from 113 to 59.

This is also my story: despite years of long-distance running and weightlifting, I still was a bit pudgy. When I eliminated most carbs from my diet (cutting way back on bread, rice, and sugars) I reduced my body fat percentage to less than 10% and my triglycerides dropped into the heart-safe zone.

For more on science-based diet and fat loss:

Getting to Less Than 10% Body Fat Like the Models – Ask Me How!
Starbucks, Jamba Juice Make You Fat
Fat Doesn’t Make You Fat. Government Guidelines Did!
‘Fed Up’ Asks, Are All Calories Equal?
Fructose: The True Villain?
More on “Fed Up”, Sugar Subsidies, and Obesity
Another Study on Diet Drinks
LeBron James Cut Carbs for Lean Look
Almonds: Superfood, Eat Them Daily for Heart Health
Fish Oil Supplements Ward Off Dementia
More on Diet Drinks: Best Studies Show They Aid Weight Loss
Vani Hari: “Food Babe” and Quack
Cleanses and Detox Diets: Quackery
Sugared Soft Drinks: Health Risk? (and What About Diet Soda?)
Gluten-Free Diets: The Nocebo Effect
Acidic Soft Drinks and Sodas: Demineralization Damages Teeth
Fish and Fish Oil for Better Brain Health
Salt: New Research Says Too Little May Be Unhealthy
Bulletproof Coffee: Coffee, Oil, and Butter for Breakfast?

Sex is Better With Love (Claim Women)

Sex Plus Love

Sex Plus Love

I almost didn’t bother writing this up since it’s one of those “studies” that tells us nothing we didn’t already know.

Science Daily writes up research from Penn State’s Beth Montemurro, associate professor of sociology.

We can’t blame Science Daily for exaggerating the significance of the study: the Penn State writeup is headlined “Love Makes Sex Better for Most Women.” The correct headline would have been “Most Women *Say* Love Makes Sex Better.”

From Science Daily:

In a series of interviews, heterosexual women between the ages of 20 and 68 and from a range of backgrounds said that they believed love was necessary for maximum satisfaction in both sexual relationships and marriage. The benefits of being in love with a sexual partner are more than just emotional. Most of the women in the study said that love made sex physically more pleasurable.

“Women said that they connected love with sex and that love actually enhanced the physical experience of sex,” said Beth Montemurro, associate professor of sociology. Women who loved their sexual partners also said they felt less inhibited and more willing to explore their sexuality. “When women feel love, they may feel greater sexual agency because they not only trust their partners but because they feel that it is OK to have sex when love is present,” Montemurro said.

While 50 women of the 95 that were interviewed said that love was not necessary for sex, only 18 of the women unequivocally believed that love was unnecessary in a sexual relationship. Older women who were interviewed indicated that this connection between love, sex and marriage remained important throughout their lifetimes, not just in certain eras of their lives.

The connection between love and sex may show how women are socialized to see sex as an expression of love, Montemurro said. Despite decades of the women’s rights movement and an increased awareness of women’s sexual desire, the media continue to send a strong cultural message for women to connect sex and love and to look down on girls and women who have sex outside of committed relationships. “On one hand, the media may seem to show that casual sex is OK, but at the same time, movies and television, especially, tend to portray women who are having sex outside of relationships negatively,” said Montemurro.

Sociology has a bad reputation as a field because it tended to attract students wanting to coast on political correctness, and it has been rife with junk science and a lack of understanding of statistics since its heyday in the 1970s. That this poll of what women say they think could be presented seriously at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association tells us this poor scientific reputation is justified.

Without doing a study, we know that (as the professor points out) culturally women are “supposed” to not desire sex for its own sake, while men are freer to express such base desires. So naturally most women will protect their self-image and shade the truth for a human (especially female) interviewer. One might get closer to honesty with an online survey, but that also has the issues of the self-selecting sample.

I think that for most secure women and men that sex with a loved partner is a different kind of experience: more meaningful and deeper than casual encounters, yet often less exciting precisely because it is safe and somewhat routine. People in committed monogamous relationships want to believe that their sex is better (and it is almost certainly more frequent than single people get, at least in the first few years) and both men and women would say so out of emotional commitment to their choice. And this is entirely healthy.

Vandana Shiva: Quack

Vandana Shiva, Quack

Vandana Shiva, Quack

We’ve already looked at the promotion of pseudoscience to gain wealth and power by Vani Hari “Food Babe,” Mike Adams, and Dr. Oz. On the international scene, there’s an even more dangerous person: Vandana Shiva, wealthy promoter of food fear and anti-GMO pseudoscience.

Human beings have an innate fear of contamination (dirty or diseased food, for example.) Modern quacks play on this by targeting unfamiliar food ingredients or agricultural techniques for demonization; it is quite easy to make scientific-sounding allegations about unknown chemical names or genetic engineering techniques, present yourself as the heroic bearer of truths food businesses want to repress, and then reap the benefits of power and wealth that come from your skill at swaying the easily hoodwinked.

The New Yorker has a wonderful deep-dive story on Vandana Shiva by Michael Spector. If you don’t have time to read it all, here’s some good bits:

Shiva has a flair for incendiary analogies. Recently, she compared what she calls “seed slavery,” inflicted upon the world by the forces of globalization, to human slavery. “When starting to fight for seed freedom, it’s because I saw a parallel,” she said at a food conference in the Netherlands. “That time, it was blacks who were captured in Africa and taken to work on the cotton and sugarcane fields of America. Today, it is all of life being enslaved. All of life. All species.”

Shiva cannot tolerate any group that endorses the use of genetic engineering in agriculture, no matter what else the organization does, or how qualified its support. When I mentioned that Monsanto, in addition to making genetically engineered seeds, has also become one of the world’s largest producers of conventionally bred seeds, she laughed. “That’s just public relations,” she said. She has a similarly low regard for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has taken strong positions in support of biotechnology. Not long ago, Shiva wrote that the billions of dollars the foundation has invested in agricultural research and assistance poses “the greatest threat to farmers in the developing world.” She dismisses the American scientific organizations responsible for regulating genetically modified products, including the Food and Drug Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the United States Department of Agriculture, as little more than tools of the international seed conglomerates.

At times, Shiva’s absolutism about G.M.O.s can lead her in strange directions. In 1999, ten thousand people were killed and millions were left homeless when a cyclone hit India’s eastern coastal state of Orissa. When the U.S. government dispatched grain and soy to help feed the desperate victims, Shiva held a news conference in New Delhi and said that the donation was proof that “the United States has been using the Orissa victims as guinea pigs” for genetically engineered products. She also wrote to the international relief agency Oxfam to say that she hoped it wasn’t planning to send genetically modified foods to feed the starving survivors. When neither the U.S. nor Oxfam altered its plans, she condemned the Indian government for accepting the provisions.

On March 29th, in Winnipeg, Shiva began a speech to a local food-rights group by revealing alarming new information about the impact of agricultural biotechnology on human health. “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that in two years the figure of autism has jumped from one in eighty-eight to one in sixty-eight,” she said, referring to an article in USA Today. “Then they go on to say obviously this is a trend showing that something’s wrong, and that whether something in the environment could be causing the uptick remains the million-dollar question.

“That question’s been answered,” Shiva continued. She mentioned glyphosate, the Monsanto herbicide that is commonly used with modified crops. “If you look at the graph of the growth of G.M.O.s, the growth of application of glyphosate and autism, it’s literally a one-to-one correspondence. And you could make that graph for kidney failure, you could make that graph for diabetes, you could make that graph even for Alzheimer’s.”

Hundreds of millions of people, in twenty-eight countries, eat transgenic products every day, and if any of Shiva’s assertions were true the implications would be catastrophic. But no relationship between glyphosate and the diseases that Shiva mentioned has been discovered. Her claims were based on a single research paper, released last year, in a journal called Entropy, which charges scientists to publish their findings. The paper contains no new research. Shiva had committed a common, but dangerous, fallacy: confusing a correlation with causation. (It turns out, for example, that the growth in sales of organic produce in the past decade matches the rise of autism, almost exactly. For that matter, so does the rise in sales of high-definition televisions, as well as the number of Americans who commute to work every day by bicycle.)

Shiva refers to her scientific credentials in almost every appearance, yet she often dispenses with the conventions of scientific inquiry. She is usually described in interviews and on television as a nuclear physicist, a quantum physicist, or a world-renowned physicist. Most of her book jackets include the following biographical note: “Before becoming an activist, Vandana Shiva was one of India’s leading physicists.” When I asked if she had ever worked as a physicist, she suggested that I search for the answer on Google. I found nothing, and she doesn’t list any such position in her biography.

“Shiva is lionized, particularly in the West, because she presents the romantic view of the farm,” Conway said. “Truth be damned. People in the rich world love to dabble in a past they were lucky enough to avoid—you know, a couple of chickens running around with the children in the back yard. But farming is bloody tough, as anyone who does it knows. It is like those people who romanticize villages in the developing world. Nobody who ever lived in one would do that.”

Everyone had a story to tell about insecticide poisoning. “Before Bt cotton came in, we used the other seeds,” Rameshwar Mamdev told me when I stopped by his six-acre farm, not far from the main dirt road that leads to the village. He plants corn in addition to cotton. “My wife would spray,” he said. “She would get sick. We would all get sick.” According to a recent study by the Flemish Institute for Biotechnology, there has been a sevenfold reduction in the use of pesticide since the introduction of Bt cotton; the number of cases of pesticide poisoning has fallen by nearly ninety per cent. Similar reductions have occurred in China. The growers, particularly women, by reducing their exposure to insecticide, not only have lowered their risk of serious illness but also are able to spend more time with their children.

“Why do rich people tell us to plant crops that will ruin our farms?” Narhari Pawar asked. Pawar is forty-seven, with skin the color of burnt molasses and the texture of a well-worn saddle. “Bt cotton is the only positive part of farming,” he said. “It has changed our lives. Without it, we would have no crops. Nothing.”

The all-encompassing obsession with Monsanto has made rational discussion of the risks and benefits of genetically modified products difficult. Many academic scientists who don’t work for Monsanto or any other large corporation are struggling to develop crops that have added nutrients and others that will tolerate drought, floods, or salty soil—all traits needed desperately by the world’s poorest farmers. Golden Rice—enriched with vitamin A—is the best-known example. More than a hundred and ninety million children under the age of five suffer from vitamin-A deficiency. Every year, as many as half a million will go blind. Rice plants produce beta carotene, the precursor to vitamin A, in the leaves but not in the grain. To make Golden Rice, scientists insert genes in the edible part of the plant, too.

Golden Rice would never offer more than a partial solution to micronutrient deficiency, and the intellectual-property rights have long been controlled by the nonprofit International Rice Research Institute, which makes the rights available to researchers at no cost. Still, after more than a decade of opposition, the rice is prohibited everywhere. Two economists, one from Berkeley and the other from Munich, recently examined the impact of that ban. In their study “The Economic Power of the Golden Rice Opposition,” they calculated that the absence of Golden Rice in the past decade has caused the loss of at least 1,424,680 life years in India alone. (Earlier this year, vandals destroyed some of the world’s first test plots, in the Philippines.)

Note the pattern: a wealthy elite use populist politics (based on feeding the fears of the ignorant) to gain more power for themselves. If their programs (no trade or technology, local sources only, no intellectual property) were ever to be implemented, billions would starve and the world would revert to a static, repressive subsistence economy. The damage they do by preventing development of better crops and agricultural methods, as well as blocking trade and investment wherever they can, is already enormous. Can we call this evil? You could argue that such memes are well-meaning and continue to flourish because of a lack of understanding of complex economic systems and trade webs; for example, Gandhi’s emphasis on village self-sufficiency (“A free India for Gandhi meant the flourishing of thousands of self-sufficient small communities who rule themselves without hindering others. Gandhian economics focused on the need for economic self-sufficiency at the village level.”) was at the time motivated by antipathy to a British India’s mercantilist exploitation of poor Indian farmers. But to argue this today when only agricultural technology saved millions from starvation in the late 1960s (when Norman Borlaug’s improved wheat varieties doubled the subcontinent’s wheat production) is worse than irresponsible.

Reason’s science writer Ron Bailey decries her in a much quicker read. A few good bits:

I have long been tracking the career of lies and disinformation that constitute the anti-intellectual trajectory of virulent anti-biotech activist Vandana Shiva. For example, back in 2001, I reported:

Ten thousand people were killed and 10 to 15 million left homeless when a cyclone slammed into India’s eastern coastal state of Orissa in October 1999. In the aftermath, CARE and the Catholic Relief Society distributed a high-nutrition mixture of corn and soy meal provided by the U.S. Agency for International Development to thousands of hungry storm victims. Oddly, this humanitarian act elicited cries of outrage.

“We call on the government of India and the state government of Orissa to immediately withdraw the corn-soya blend from distribution,” said Vandana Shiva, director of the New Delhi-based Research Foundation for Science, Technology, and Ecology. “The U.S. has been using the Orissa victims as guinea pigs for GM [genetically modified] products which have been rejected by consumers in the North, especially Europe.” Shiva’s organization had sent a sample of the food to a lab in the U.S. for testing to see if it contained any of the genetically improved corn and soy bean varieties grown by tens of thousands of farmers in the United States. Not surprisingly, it did.

“Vandana Shiva would rather have her people in India starve than eat bioengineered food,” says C.S. Prakash, a professor of plant molecular genetics at Tuskegee University in Alabama.

Writer Mary McCarty famously said of Lillian Hellman: “Every word she writes is a lie, including ‘and’ and ‘the’.” Nothing truer could be said of Shiva.

In a superb article, International Center of Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology researcher Anand Ranganathan nicely summarizes Shiva’s legacy of dishonesty and outright fabrication. Below are some representative quotations from Shiva along with some analysis by Ranganathan:

Shiva: “Science and masculinity were associated in domination over nature and femininity, and the ideologies of science and gender reinforced each other. The witch-hunting hysteria which was aimed at annihilating women in Europe as knowers and experts was contemporous with two centuries of scientific revolution. It reached its peak with Galileo’s Dialogue…”

Shiva: “Scientific missions colluded with religious missions to deny rights to nature. The rise of mechanical philosophy with the emergence of the scientific revolution was based on the destruction of concepts of a self-regenerative, self-organising nature which sustained all life. Just as technology changes seed from a living, renewable resource into mere raw material, it devalues women in a similar way.”…

So she is also a Third-Wave feminist: appeals to emotion and victimhood replace reason and science, though she pretends to be a scientist. Technology is supposedly a tool of the Patriarchy and oppresses women!

This tide of unreason, funded by governments, foundations, NGOs, and academia, threatens the future progress of humanity.


Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples OrganizationsDeath by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

[From Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations,  available now in Kindle and trade paperback.]

The first review is in: by Elmer T. Jones, author of The Employment Game. Here’s the condensed version; view the entire review here.

Corporate HR Scrambles to Halt Publication of “Death by HR”

Nobody gets a job through HR. The purpose of HR is to protect their parent organization against lawsuits for running afoul of the government’s diversity extortion bureaus. HR kills companies by blanketing industry with onerous gender and race labor compliance rules and forcing companies to hire useless HR staff to process the associated paperwork… a tour de force… carefully explains to CEOs how HR poisons their companies and what steps they may take to marginalize this threat… It is time to turn the tide against this madness, and Death by HR is an important research tool… All CEOs should read this book. If you are a mere worker drone but care about your company, you should forward an anonymous copy to him.

 


Other posts on pseudoscientific quacks:

Cleanses and Detox Diets: Quackery
Mike Adams: Quack Suggests Murdering Monsanto-supporting Scientists
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.: Quack
More on Quacks: “Dr. Oz” Testifies He’s a Victim!
Vani Hari, “Food Babe” and Quack: Where the Money Comes From
Vani Hari: “Food Babe” and Quack

Why We Are Attracted to Bad Partners (Who Resemble a Parent)

I Married My Father

I Married My Father

The research is thin on this point, but it appears many of us bond to partners whose attachment style (and other characteristics) reprise dramas from the family we grew up in. It’s often observed that many people end up married to people who remind them of the opposite-sex parent, and the attraction of the same psychological signalling games we used with our caregivers when we were children is that it is comforting and familiar, and confirms our sense of ourselves.

This is why we observe the outsize number and surprising stability (if not happiness) of Anxious-Preoccupied and Dismissive-Avoidant pairings. [For review, read “Attachment Type Combinations in Relationships.”]

The Anxious-Preoccupied would be wise to look for a Secure partner who can help build security and likely make for a happier marriage [quoting from my book]:

The preoccupied wife who had ambivalent attachment to her parent cannot believe her husband when he says, despite their fights and mutual dissatisfactions, that he genuinely loves her and wants to stay with her. She cannot assimilate it to her worldview, her internal model. She is sure he will abandon her, either because he already wants to or because her impossible and anxious neediness will eventually drive him out. But his steadfastness over the years builds her trust. It causes her to remember her relationship with a great uncle, whose love was precious and unwavering, and to think more and more about him and how good she felt about herself around him. Gradually, she assimilates her marriage to this model, and it becomes more central. Feeling more secure, she now finds herself freer to reflect on the past. — Karen, Robert. Becoming Attached: First Relationships and How They Shape Our Capacity to Love. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998, p. 404

Though is appears a preoccupied person might be better off with a secure partner, some research indicates that in this case opposites attract:

A number of studies have looked into the question of whether we are attracted to people based on their attachment style or ours. Two researchers in the field of adult attachment, Paula Pietromonaco, of the University of Massachusetts, and Katherine Carnelley, of the University of Southampton in the UK, found that avoidant individuals actually prefer anxiously attached people. Another study, by Jeffry Simpson of the University of Minnesota, showed that anxious women are more likely to date avoidant men. Is it possible, then, that people who guard their independence with ferocity would seek the partners most likely to impinge on their autonomy? Or that people who seek closeness are attracted to people who want to push them away? And if so, why? Pietromonaco and Carnelley believe that these attachment styles actually complement each other in a way. Each reaffirms the other’s beliefs about themselves and about relationships. The avoidants’ defensive self-perception that they are strong and independent is confirmed, as is the belief that others want to pull them into more closeness than they are comfortable with. The anxious types find that their perception of wanting more intimacy than their partner can provide is confirmed, as is their anticipation of ultimately being let down by significant others. So, in a way, each style is drawn to reenact a familiar script over and over again. — Levine, Amir; Heller, Rachel. Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find—and Keep—Love. p. 91

This kind of complementary dysfunction can lead to a stable relationship, but one where both partners stay in their insecure styles, with the preoccupied battling for every scrap of attention and the avoidant one only giving enough to confirm his view of attachment as a necessary evil. These attractions are based on re-enacting the dysfunctional touch and response cycles of their early childhoods, and generally these couples report they are together despite their unhappiness.

An interesting post by Peg Streep on the Psychology Today blogs (“Why Your Partner May Be Like Your Parent”) goes into more depth on “replaying old family patterns:”

Perhaps nothing is as disheartening as the discovery—after years of trying to escape from your dysfunctional childhood—that you have actually managed to recreate it. One woman, the daughter of a hypercritical and demanding mother, recently talked with me about her recently-ended, two-decades-long marriage:

“I still have issues with feeling capable and doing things right. Unfortunately, I married my mother and was never able to feel competent in my husband’s eyes, either. I also never really felt loved by him, in the same way I didn’t feel loved by my mother.”

A man emailed me recently with similar concerns:

“On the surface, my wife and my mother have nothing in common. My wife is petite and blonde, well-educated, polished, and sophisticated; my brunette and big-boned mother is none of those things. But they both criticize me constantly. Nothing I ever did was good enough for my mother because my older brother was perfect. My wife rules the roost with a dissatisfied look on her face which is depressing and familiar.”

A study by Glenn Geher suggests that we do tend to choose a romantic partner who is similar to our opposite-sex parent. In his research, he not only asked participants to self-report on how their romantic partners were like their opposite-sex parents across various categories—he actually interviewed the parents as well. The shared characteristics he discovered between his subjects’ partners and their opposite-sex parents were robust, and not merely coincidental. Needless to say, when romantic partners were like parents in good ways, relationship satisfaction was high; when the similarities were related to negative characteristics, however, relationship satisfaction was low.

When we meet someone new, it’s not just our unconscious models that are in the room or at the bar; there are conscious assessments, too. So the question remains: How do we end up marrying Mom if she’s been critical, unavailable or unloving? That’s exactly what Claudia Chloe Brumbaugh and R. Chris Fraley asked: How do insecurely attached people attract mates? After all, we all want a securely attached partner—one who’s emotionally available, loving, supportive, dependable—not an insecure or clingy one, or someone who’s detached and uncommunicative. How do we get roped in?

The researchers suggested that what happens is a combination of misreading by one partner and a fair amount of strategizing and even dissembling by the insecure partner. They point out that anxiously attached people may seem fascinating at first—their preoccupation with themselves may easily be confused with self-disclosure and openness, which facilitates a sense of connection. Similarly, an avoidant person may come across as independent and strong. In a series of experiments, the team discovered that avoidants—despite the fact that they don’t want emotional connection—actually made lots of eye contact and used touch more than securely attached people to seem more appealing in a dating situation. Avoidants use humor in dating situations to create a sense of sharing and detract from their essential aloofness. Although the researchers didn’t use Bartholomew’s distinction between fearful and dismissing avoidant types, it’s clear that the fearful avoidant—who both wants and fears emotional connection—would be the hardest to read and identify. Eventually, though, the leopard will show his spots.


Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples OrganizationsDeath by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

[From Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations,  available now in Kindle and trade paperback.]

The first review is in: by Elmer T. Jones, author of The Employment Game. Here’s the condensed version; view the entire review here.

Corporate HR Scrambles to Halt Publication of “Death by HR”

Nobody gets a job through HR. The purpose of HR is to protect their parent organization against lawsuits for running afoul of the government’s diversity extortion bureaus. HR kills companies by blanketing industry with onerous gender and race labor compliance rules and forcing companies to hire useless HR staff to process the associated paperwork… a tour de force… carefully explains to CEOs how HR poisons their companies and what steps they may take to marginalize this threat… It is time to turn the tide against this madness, and Death by HR is an important research tool… All CEOs should read this book. If you are a mere worker drone but care about your company, you should forward an anonymous copy to him.

 


More reading on “bad attractors” in relationships that lead people to choose replays of dysfunctional family patterns and bad relationships over good ones:

Why Are Great Husbands Being Abandoned?
The “Fairy Tale” Myth: Both False and Destructive
Dating Pool Danger: Harder to Find Good Partners After 30
“The Science of Happily Ever After” – Couples Communications
Anxious-Preoccupied / Dismissive-Avoidant Couples: the Silent Treatment
Anxious-Preoccupied: Stuck on the Dismissive?
And this one on malignant narcissists, who often attract sensitive, empathetic partners who enable them: Malignant Narcissists
Dismissive-Avoidants as Parents

Subconscious Positivity Predicts Marriage Success…

Happy Couple - shutterstock

Happy Couple – shutterstock

..and conversely, negativity predicts turmoil and failure. In attachment type terms, both avoidant types (Dismissive-Avoidant and Fearful-Avoidant) have a negative view of attached others in general, while Secure and Anxious-Preoccupied types are positive about others.

The Wall Street Journal reports on an experiment which measures newlywed’s subconscious attitudes about their partners and found those with negative subconscious attitudes experienced a faster decline in marital satisfaction over time:

First off, they found that ratings of marital satisfaction declined over time, something reported previously. They also learned that the [written test] answers from newlyweds predicted nothing about marital satisfaction four years later.

But the scientists also measured something else in those newlyweds, using an “associative priming task.”

This involves briefly flashing a series of words like “wonderful” or “odious” on a screen; subjects have to quickly press one of two buttons, depending on whether the word has positive or negative connotations.

Now comes the subconscious manipulation.

Just before each word, the researchers flashed up a picture of a random face for an instant—300 milliseconds—too fast for people to be consciously certain about what they saw but enough time for our subconscious, emotional brain circuitry to be certain. If the face evokes positive feelings, the brain immediately takes on something akin to a positive mind-set; if the word flashed up an instant later is a positive one, the brain quickly detects it as such. But if the word is negative, there is an instant of subconscious dissonance—”I was feeling great, but now I have to think about that word that means ‘inconsiderate jerk who doesn’t replace the toilet paper.’ ” And it takes a few milliseconds longer to hit the “negative” key. Conversely, display faces with negative connotations, and there is that dissonance-induced minuscule delay in identifying positive terms.

So in the study, the rapid-fire sequence of faces/words included a picture of one’s new spouse, revealing automatic feelings about the person’s beloved. That led to the key finding: The more subconscious negativity in a newlywed, the larger the decline in marital satisfaction four years later.

Did subjects understand what the priming task was about? No, and people’s automatic responses were unrelated to their answers on the questionnaire. Was that discrepancy due to an unwillingness to answer honestly, or were people unaware of their automatic attitudes? It is impossible to tell. Did people with the most positive automatic feelings about their spouses subsequently develop fewer problems in their marriages, or were they less sensitive to the usual number of problems? Subtle data analysis suggested the latter.

What does this study tell us, beyond suggesting that lovebirds should probably take this nifty computerized test before marrying? It reminds us, like much we learn about the brain and behavior, that we are subject to endless, internal biological forces of which we are unaware.

The original Science writeup is here.


Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples OrganizationsDeath by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

[From Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations,  available now in Kindle and trade paperback.]

The first review is in: by Elmer T. Jones, author of The Employment Game. Here’s the condensed version; view the entire review here.

Corporate HR Scrambles to Halt Publication of “Death by HR”

Nobody gets a job through HR. The purpose of HR is to protect their parent organization against lawsuits for running afoul of the government’s diversity extortion bureaus. HR kills companies by blanketing industry with onerous gender and race labor compliance rules and forcing companies to hire useless HR staff to process the associated paperwork… a tour de force… carefully explains to CEOs how HR poisons their companies and what steps they may take to marginalize this threat… It is time to turn the tide against this madness, and Death by HR is an important research tool… All CEOs should read this book. If you are a mere worker drone but care about your company, you should forward an anonymous copy to him.

 


More on Divorce, Marriage, and Mateseeking

Marriages Happening Late, Are Good for You
Monogamy and Relationship Failure; “Love Illuminated”
“Millionaire Matchmaker”
More reasons to find a good partner: lower heart disease!
“Princeton Mom” Susan Patton: “Marry Smart” not so smart
“Blue Valentine”
“All the Taken Men are Best” – why women poach married men….
“Marriage Rate Lowest in a Century”
Making Divorce Hard to Strengthen Marriages?
Student Loan Debt: Problems in Divorce
“The Upside of ‘Marrying Down’”
The High Cost of Divorce
Separate Beds Save Marriages?
Marital Discord Linked to Depression
Marriage Contracts: Give People More Legal Options
Older Couples Avoiding Marriage For Financial Reasons
Divorced Men 8 Times as Likely to Commit Suicide as Divorced Women
Vox Charts Millennial Marriage Depression
What’s the Matter with Marriage?
Life Is Unfair! The Great Chain of Dysfunction Ends With You.
Leftover Women: The Chinese Scene
Constant Arguing Can Be Deadly…
“If a fraught relationship significantly shortens your life, are you better off alone?
“Divorce in America: Who Really Wants Out and Why”
View Marriage as a Private Contract?
“It’s up there with ‘Men Are From Mars’ and ‘The Road Less Travelled’”
Free Love, eHarmony, Matchmaking Pseudoscience
Love Songs of the Secure Attachment Type
“The New ‘I Do’”
Unrealistic Expectations: Liberal Arts Woman and Amazon Men
Mark Manson’s “Six Healthy Relationship Habits”
“The Science of Happily Ever After” – Couples Communications
Free Dating Sites: Which Have Attachment Type Screening?
Dating Pool Danger: Harder to Find Good Partners After 30
Mate-Seeking: The Science of Finding Your Best Partner
Perfect Soulmates or Fellow Travelers: Being Happy Depends on Perspective
No Marriage, Please: Cohabiting Taking Over
“Marriage Markets” – Marriage Beyond Our Means?
Rules for Relationships: Realism and Empathy
Limerence vs. Love
The “Fairy Tale” Myth: Both False and Destructive
When to Break Up or Divorce? The Economic View
“Why Are Great Husbands Being Abandoned?”
Divorce and Alimony: State-By-State Reform, Massachusetts Edition
“Sliding” Into Marriage, Small Weddings Associated with Poor Outcomes
Subconscious Positivity Predicts Marriage Success…
Why We Are Attracted to Bad Partners (Who Resemble a Parent)

More “50 Shades of Grey” Pseudoscience Reporting

Fifty Shades of Grey cover

“Fifty Shades of Grey” cover

Perhaps it’s not really “pseudoscience” — which connotes the promotion of definitely false beliefs — but “junk science,” where research studies are done by academics who cloak themselves in the authority of Science but actually commit logical fallacies in promoting their work to appear to confirm the beliefs they already hold about the world.

My earlier post, “Reading “50 Shades of Grey” Gives You Anorexia and an Abusive Partner!”, reporting on the feminist junk science study trying to associate 50 Shades of Grey with anorexia and abusive relationships has company in two much-more-detailed critiques in Psychology Today blogs. Both are worth reading in full, but I’ll quote some points. First, we have this piece by Robert James King, Ph.D.:

Let’s start with the so-called eating disorders. What was actually measured? Two things.

Q1 “Have you ever fasted for a day (or more)?”

and

Q2 “Have you ever used diet aids?”

That’s the lot. No. Calling the use of diet aids an eating disorder is just scare-mongering. These people didn’t have eating disorders—at least not that we know of. I could have got the same results by dividing the group into “gym members” and “non-gym members”

The binge-drinking measure (“Having 5 or more drinks on 6 or more days in the last month”) was technically correct. For doctors, five or more drinks is a binge. For most of us—it’s a quiet night in—but let’s pass over that one to the juicy stuff, “risky sexual practices”.

The criteria the authors use for prevalence of risky sexual practices were two:

Q1: “Have you had five or more sexual partners?”

Q2: “Have you ever had anal sex?”

Really? Boy, you young people! These are the criteria for risky sexuality? ….

Running a bunch of correlations without having any controls is a thing that we scientists call (and stop me if I’m getting too technical here) “Not doing science”.

Let’s say I have a hunch that there is a nefarious plot that links people who have been killed by falling out of bed and the number of lawyers in Puerto Rico. It correlates .96 over twelve years—I bet you didn’t know that. Well, how could you? It’s a plot by Puerto-Rican Lawyers…

Well, I can search around for some correlations—but all this really tells the world is that I am obsessed with Puerto Rican lawyers (for some reason). (3) That’s why scientist control for certain factors. Here are some possible ones that don’t seem to have occurred to the authors:

Did their sample read other books? Other erotic books? Do they even have sexual partners? Have they ever had sex at all?

Here’s the thing—if you build in your assumptions at the start (that kink is bad) then maybe you can find a correlation there. Without controls all the authors have done is import their moralising and attached some numbers to it.

The next piece is by Jen Kim (who has read the books!):

“The study did not distinguish whether women experienced the health behaviors before or after reading the books.”

Lead researcher Amy Bonomi says it’s a potential problem either way, but I have to disagree.

The distinction is quite important, because one interpretation suggests that girls who read the book already have a proclivity for certain behaviors, while the other suggests that the book creates such behaviors.

As a reader of two (!) out of the three books by E.L. James, I have a difficult time seeing the latter case.

Ana Steele, the dimwitted ingénue of the story, chooses to participate in a consensual S&M relationship with handsome stalker, Christian Grey. As far as I can recall, she enjoys (or is at least, open) to this arrangement. Furthermore, Christian has more of a predilection for physical spanking than verbal abuse, right?
For some reason, Ana forgets to eat. It is certainly never implied that she is purposely trying to lose weight or suffers from an eating disorder. The girl just doesn’t like to eat.

I haven’t read the third book, but I believe Ana gets drunk once in the first book (to the point of getting sick) and then gets tipsy a few more times. How does this behavior differ from any other 21 year old’s?
Ana’s only sexual partner was and is Christian, which hardly makes her as promiscuous as this study claims its readers to be….

A lot of this criticism is reminiscent of the blowback against violent video games and films like The Matrix in the wake of the Columbine shooting. Keanu’s kung-fu skills were to blame, not the shooters’ mental health or upbringing.

But, a recent study from the University of Oxford, The University of Rochester and the company Immersyve, has found that playing so-called violent video games (e.g., Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto) do not give rise to real-world aggression.

Previous post on topic: Reading “50 Shades of Grey” Gives You Anorexia and an Abusive Partner!


Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples OrganizationsDeath by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

[From Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations,  available now in Kindle and trade paperback.]

The first review is in: by Elmer T. Jones, author of The Employment Game. Here’s the condensed version; view the entire review here.

Corporate HR Scrambles to Halt Publication of “Death by HR”

Nobody gets a job through HR. The purpose of HR is to protect their parent organization against lawsuits for running afoul of the government’s diversity extortion bureaus. HR kills companies by blanketing industry with onerous gender and race labor compliance rules and forcing companies to hire useless HR staff to process the associated paperwork… a tour de force… carefully explains to CEOs how HR poisons their companies and what steps they may take to marginalize this threat… It is time to turn the tide against this madness, and Death by HR is an important research tool… All CEOs should read this book. If you are a mere worker drone but care about your company, you should forward an anonymous copy to him.

 


For more on pop culture:

“Game of Thrones” and the Problem of PowerThe Lessons of Walter White
“Blue Valentine”
“Mad Men”
The Morality of Glamour
“Mockingjay” Propaganda Posters
“Big Bang Theory” — Aspergers and Emotional/Social Intelligence
Real-Life “Hunger Games”: Soft Oppression Destroys the Poor
Reading “50 Shades of Grey” Gives You Anorexia and an Abusive Partner!
YA Dystopias vs Heinlein et al: Social Justice Warriors Strike Again
“Raising Arizona” — Dream of a Family