Monday, February 11, 2008

Amusing naivety: Homosexuality in Samoa

These guys must never have heard of the Margaret Meade debacle "Growing up in Samoa" -- reports that were totally vitiated by dishonest responses from Samoans. At least the authors appear to be aware of the other glaring methodological weakness in their work: Failure to compare childless homosexuals with childless heterosexuals. Their research so far justifies NO conclusions whatsoever

Studies of some unusual men in the remote Pacific have led scientists to surprising conclusions about homosexual and other genderbending behaviors. One of these conclusions: sexual attraction to members of the same sex may have an evolutionary function, though past studies had failed to find one. A second assertion to emerge from the work is that psychologists should reconsider the way they classify as a "disorder" transsexualisma strong desire to be the opposite sex.

The research focuses on a remarkable group of men who have sex with men, though they defy much conventional wisdom on what being "gay" is. They form a broadly accepted social class in Samoa, a south Pacific island nation.

The studies are directed in part toward resolving a scientific mystery: why does homosexuality persist in the world? It seems to make little evolutionary sense. Evolutionary theory, the lens through which most scientists study biological traits, holds that in each population, the genes of members who reproduce the most come to dominate the gene pool. That's because these individuals, unsurprisingly, spread their genes most widely. By that logic gays, who reproduce little, shouldn't exist. Yet they do, along with some evidence their tendencies may have a genetic component. What gives?

The explanation, many scientists argue, could be that the childless gays put extra efforts into helping raise nephews and nieces. That would boost the children's chances of survival, and someday reproduction. These youths, even if not gay, might share with their aunt or uncle a few genes promoting homosexualityensuring a clutch of "gay genes" in every generation.

One problem with this proposal: it has failed past scientific tests. A few studies have found gays aren't especially helpful to their families. Those results have worked in favor of an opposing argument, that homosexuality has no evolutionary function. Scientists who back this view say homosexuality is an aberration, so it has about as much biological function as a birth defectnone.

Mainstream physicians no longer consider homosexuality a disorder, but it was only in 1994 dropped from the American Psychiatric Association's handbook of mental disorders. Transsexualism, or "gender identity disorder," is still listed, though the manual says it's only a disorder if it causes the patient significant distress.

In the new studies, Canadian psychologists sought to test some of these competing ideas by visiting Samoa, a relatively unwesternized land. By studying people who they said live closer to the ways of humanity's "ancestral" past, the researchers said they hoped to assess possible evolutionary functions for homosexuality and the roles of other genderblurring behaviors.

The idea about gays helping their kin, called the kinselection hypothesis, might have failed past tests because these were done in modernized Western societies, the researchers said. Gays might help relatives more in traditional, triballybased cultures, the scientists claimed, because these often have tighterknit families and fewer antigay biases that could alienate gays. Moreover, the researchers argued, the traditional environment is more appropriate to study, as it's more like the setting in which humans mainly evolved.

Men who habitually have sex with men are socially accepted in Samoa, where they're known as fa'afines. Some characteristics of fa'afines, the psychologists said, are quite foreign to Western concepts of homosexuality: notably, they have sex only with men who are considered "straight," not with each other. But they are Samoa's equivalent of what Westerners would call gay men.

Based on fa'afine responses on questionnaires, compared to responses of heterosexual Samoan men, the researchers concluded that fa'afines put "significantly" more effort into raising nephews and nieces. The childcare activities that saw stronger input from fa'afines included babysitting, buying toys, tutoring, exposing the children to art and music, and contributing to daycare, medical and education expenses, the surveys indicated.

It's the first study to offer real evidence for the kin selection hypothesis' basic prediction, "that androphilic ["gay"] males should direct more altruistic behavior toward kin than gynephilic ["straight"] males," the team wrote in a report of their findings. The paper appeared in last May's issue of the research journal Evolution and Human Behavior.

But more studies will be needed, wrote the authors, Paul Vasey and colleagues at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta. A stronger study would compare the fa'afines to childless nonfa'afines, they noted. In their own study, 58 percent of the "straight" respondents had children, who might have diverted their attention from nephews and nieces.

In another study, Vasey and Nancy Bartlett of Mount Saint Vincent University in Nova Scotia concluded that psychologists' assessment of transsexualism as a disorder, at least for children, should be revised.

The relationship between transsexualism and homosexuality, if any, is unclear, though some experts say that many boys with "gender identity disorder" become gay.

Vasey and Bartlett wrote that fa'afines they interviewed seldom recalled being "distressed" by feeling or acting like a girl in childhood. Most such distressthe researchers concluded based on that and other factorsarises in Western societies because of the stigmatization of such children.


Anti-fungal pill (Lamisil) death link

This is far from conclusive but one wonders why it is used internally at all. It is pretty effective topically

THREE people have died and several others have suffered serious liver reactions after taking a popular tablet to treat fungal infections, the drug regulator says. The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has issued a warning about serious adverse side effects reported with oral Lamisil, a pill formulation for ringworm and nail fungal problems.

The medication is commonly prescribed to people who do not respond to topical fungal creams, but the regulator's Adverse Drug Reactions Advisory Committee (ADRAC) warns it can cause liver failure. The committee has received 722 adverse event reports related to Lamisil, known generically as terbinafine, including 70 liver reactions, 61 implicating the tablet form as the sole suspected drug. Those affected ranged from 20 to 85 years old, with half suffering their liver reaction within the first month of taking the pills.

"Most of the reports document minor abnormalities of liver function but three describe fatal liver failure, 10 describe hepatitis, and 12 describe jaundice," the committee's latest drug reactions bulletin states. "Full recovery was noted in 27 reports but 34 cases had not recovered and the outcome remained unknown in nine."

One case described in the bulletin involved an 81-year-old woman with previously normal liver function. "(She) developed cholestatic hepatitis some three weeks after commencing oral terbinafine treatment 250mg daily for a fungal infection of the big toe," according to the bulletin. "The patient subsequently died in hepatorenal (liver) failure." [How do we know it was due to Lamisil? She might have died anyway at that age]

This is the first ADRAC report linking Lamisil to liver dysfunction, but three others dating as back as far as 1996 have implicated the drug in the blood condition dyscrasia. The committee warned prescribers that the oral formulation should only be prescribed short-term and as a last resort. "Doctors prescribing oral terbinafine should be confident there is a clear indication for its use," the bulletin states. "Oral terbinafine should be prescribed only after topical therapy has failed and for the shortest time possible, in accordance with the current product information."

A spokesman for the drug's manufacturer, Novartis, said that serious and life-threatening liver reactions were rare and well documented side-effects of oral anti-fungal medications. The company said it agreed with the advice issued by ADRAC.

Meanwhile, the committee also received 12 reports of reactions in patients taking both the blood-thinning drug warfarin and anti-arthritis supplement glucosamine. It appeared some complementary medications could increase the activity of warfarin, the bulletin stated. The committee recommended that patients on warfarin have their blood tested within a few days of starting or changing the dose of a complementary medicine.



Just some problems with the "Obesity" war:

1). It tries to impose behavior change on everybody -- when most of those targeted are not obese and hence have no reason to change their behaviour. It is a form of punishing the innocent and the guilty alike. (It is also typical of Leftist thinking: Scorning the individual and capable of dealing with large groups only).

2). The longevity research all leads to the conclusion that it is people of MIDDLING weight who live longest -- not slim people. So the "epidemic" of obesity is in fact largely an "epidemic" of living longer.

3). It is total calorie intake that makes you fat -- not where you get your calories. Policies that attack only the source of the calories (e.g. "junk food") without addressing total calorie intake are hence pissing into the wind. People involuntarily deprived of their preferred calorie intake from one source are highly likely to seek and find their calories elsewhere.

4). So-called junk food is perfectly nutritious. A big Mac meal comprises meat, bread, salad and potatoes -- which is a mainstream Western diet. If that is bad then we are all in big trouble.

5). Food warriors demonize salt and fat. But we need a daily salt intake to counter salt-loss through perspiration and the research shows that people on salt-restricted diets die SOONER. And Eskimos eat huge amounts of fat with no apparent ill-effects. And the average home-cooked roast dinner has LOTS of fat. Will we ban roast dinners?

6). The foods restricted are often no more calorific than those permitted -- such as milk and fruit-juice drinks.

7). Tendency to weight is mostly genetic and is therefore not readily susceptible to voluntary behaviour change.

8). And when are we going to ban cheese? Cheese is a concentrated calorie bomb and has lots of that wicked animal fat in it too. Wouldn't we all be better off without it? And what about butter and margarine? They are just about pure fat. Surely they should be treated as contraband in kids' lunchboxes! [/sarcasm].

9). And how odd it is that we never hear of the huge American study which showed that women who eat lots of veggies have an INCREASED risk of stomach cancer? So the official recommendation to eat five lots of veggies every day might just be creating lots of cancer for the future! It's as plausible (i.e. not very) as all the other dietary "wisdom" we read about fat etc.

10). And will "this generation of Western children be the first in history to lead shorter lives than their parents did"? This is another anti-fat scare that emanates from a much-cited editorial in a prominent medical journal that said so. Yet this editorial offered no statistical basis for its opinion -- an opinion that flies directly in the face of the available evidence.

Even statistical correlations far stronger than anything found in medical research may disappear if more data is used. A remarkable example from Sociology:
"The modern literature on hate crimes began with a remarkable 1933 book by Arthur Raper titled The Tragedy of Lynching. Raper assembled data on the number of lynchings each year in the South and on the price of an acre's yield of cotton. He calculated the correlation coefficient between the two series at -0.532. In other words, when the economy was doing well, the number of lynchings was lower.... In 2001, Donald Green, Laurence McFalls, and Jennifer Smith published a paper that demolished the alleged connection between economic conditions and lynchings in Raper's data. Raper had the misfortune of stopping his analysis in 1929. After the Great Depression hit, the price of cotton plummeted and economic conditions deteriorated, yet lynchings continued to fall. The correlation disappeared altogether when more years of data were added."
So we must be sure to base our conclusions on ALL the data. But in medical research, data selectivity and the "overlooking" of discordant research findings is epidemic.

"What we should be doing is monitoring children from birth so we can detect any deviations from the norm at an early stage and action can be taken". Who said that? Joe Stalin? Adolf Hitler? Orwell's "Big Brother"? The Spanish Inquisition? Generalissimo Francisco Franco Bahamonde? None of those. It was Dr Colin Waine, chairman of Britain's National Obesity Forum. What a fine fellow!


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