Sunday, October 4, 2009

Homeopathy = FAIL


http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16125589

“This finding is compatible with the notion that the clinical effects of homeopathy are placebo effects.”


http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12492603

“It is concluded that the best clinical evidence for homeopathy available to date does not warrant positive recommendations for its use in clinical practice.”


http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16376071

“Our analysis of published literature on homeopathy found insufficient evidence to support clinical efficacy of homeopathic therapy in cancer care.”


http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17285788

“The evidence from rigorous clinical trials of any type of therapeutic or preventive intervention testing homeopathy for childhood and adolescence ailments is not convincing enough for recommendations in any condition.”


http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14973954

“There is not enough evidence to reliably assess the possible role of homeopathy in asthma.”


http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12535487

“In view of the absence of evidence it is not possible to comment on the use of homeopathy in treating dementia.”


http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14583972

“There is insufficient evidence to recommend the use of homeopathy as a method of [labor] induction.”


http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11212088

“The authors conclude that the small number of randomized clinical trials conducted to date, although favoring homeopathic treatment, do not allow a firm conclusion as to the effectiveness of homeopathic remedies in the treatment of patients with osteoarthritis.”


http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14651731

“Ultramolecular homeopathy had no observable clinical effects.”


http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11872551

“There was no difference in most outcomes between placebo and homeopathic immunotherapy.”


http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9251877

“Overall, there was no significant benefit over placebo of homeopathic treatment.”


http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12614092

“Evidence suggests that homeopathy is ineffective for migraine, delayed-onset muscle soreness, and influenza prevention.”


http://rheumatology.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/40/9/1052

“We found no evidence that active homeopathy improves the symptoms of RA.”


http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11212083

“No discrete signals suggesting a difference between remedies and controls were seen.”


http://www.biomedcentral.com/1472-6882/4/15/abstract

“In conclusion, published results from NMR research on homeopathy indicating differences between homeopathic solutions and control samples could not be reproduced.”


http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15500843?dopt=Abstract

“None of the homeopathically treated groups differed significantly with respect to any of the parameters from the non-medicated, infected control group. It is concluded that the results of this study do not justify use of these homeopathic remedies for treatment of colibacillosis in broilers.”


http://veterinaryrecord.bvapublications.com/cgi/content/abstract/124/1/15

“There were no discernible differences between the treated and control groups in their manifestations of resistance to D viviparus or their clinical responses to the disease produced.”


http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14650548?dopt=Abstract

“These results support the widely held opinion that scientific proof for the efficacy of veterinary homeopathy is lacking.”


http://vetpath.co.uk/voodoo/mastitis.pdf

There were no significant differences between the SCC of the two groups.”


http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/118788810/abstract?CRETRY=1&SRETRY=0

“Evidence of efficacy of homeopathic treatment beyond placebo was not found in this study.”


http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8255290?dopt=Abstract

“Following as closely as possible the methods of the original study, we can find no evidence for any periodic or polynomial change of degranulation as a function of anti-IgE dilution.”


http://www.springerlink.com/content/h46222021483827m/

“We found no evidence for a different effect of strongly agitated dilutions, compared to dilutions made with minimal physical agitation. In fact, in our hands no effect of extreme dilutions was shown at all.”


www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14973976

Current evidence does not support a preventative effect of Oscillococcinum-like homeopathic medicines in influenza and influenza-like syndromes.


http://www.newsweek.com/id/105581

Dr. Jack Killen, acting deputy director of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, says homeopathy "goes beyond current understanding of chemistry and physics." He adds: "There is, to my knowledge, no condition for which homeopathy has been proven to be an effective treatment."

Friday, October 2, 2009

Why Boys are Jerks and Girls are Stupid

Originally written May 2009

To explain this, we are going to break the problem down into three levels of explanation, working from the bottom, up: Theory of Mind, Different Minds Fallacy, and Motivation Attribution Bias. Once we explore these concepts, we will have the tools to answer the individual questions of why boys are jerks and why girls are stupid.


THEORY OF MIND (ToM)

This is the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. More specifically, it is the ability to attribute mental states—beliefs, intents, desires, knowledge, etc.—to oneself and others, and to understand that others have beliefs, desires and intentions that are different from your own.

For example, if I have a picture of a tree laying on a table in front of me, and there is someone sitting across from me, I am able to understand, via a ToM, that the person across the table sees the tree as being upside down.

This seems trivial and obvious. And it is. But while it is easy for most people to realize that a picture they are looking at would appear to be upside down from an observer across the table, there are other areas of life that are much more difficult to understand from a different perspective.


DIFFERENT MINDS FALLACY (DMF)

I made this term up, so there might be a different term describing the same concept. If so, I don’t know about it. The DMF is the false assumption that your mental experience of something is the same as someone else’s.

Everyone has something they are really good at, mentally speaking. There are things that come easy to some of us, while there are other things that might be quite difficult. With myself, I am quite good with visual/spatial problems. I can rotate shapes in my head quite easily. However, I am extremely bad at math. I always have been, and I imagine I always will be.

Some people are very, very good at math. Just as visual/spatial problems are easy for me, math is easy for them. No matter how hard I try, there is no way that I can imagine what it would be like to be in that persons mind—the person who is good at math. The only things that I can comprehend are things that my mind is able to comprehend or understand. I know that sounds trivial, but think about it.

What would it be like to be someone like Albert Einstein or Richard Feynman, where extremely advanced math equations just come easily to you? What would it be like to be someone who has Down’s syndrome, and can only understand the world in a very limited way? Or what would it be like to be someone with synesthesia—where you can taste colors, or see music?

Unless we have similar brain states, we have no idea what it would be like to experience that state of mind. We can understand that it happens, but we in no way can comprehend what it would be like.

A more appropriate example might be this: I have no idea what it would be like to not have a girl’s attractiveness be the most important trait. I can’t even comprehend how that would work. Likewise, girls have no idea what it would be like to have a guy’s physical attractiveness be the most important trait. Girls just don’t get it what it is like to place so much emphasis on someone’s looks, as opposed to their personality (such as confidence and sense of humor). And neither sex ever will get it, simply because we can’t understand what our minds aren’t programmed to understand.

So all that we are able to comprehend and understand is limited by our own minds. And we are unable to break out of that understanding, and completely understand what it would be like to be someone with a different mind. All you can know is what you know.


MOTIVATION ATTRIBUTION BIAS (MAB)

I introduced this concept in a previous blog, but I will explain it again.

This is when you attribute someone’s behavior, beliefs, actions, etc. to what you think the motivation is, rather than just asking the person about the actual motivations. Most likely, you are assuming that the person is doing something for the same reason that you would do such a thing.

Whenever someone does something, we have to guess about their motivation and reasoning (unless they tell us what it is). Often times, we might be right about their motivation. However, we are usually coming to our conclusions by trying to imagine why WE would do such a thing if we were in the same situation. However, we all think differently, and have different reasons for doing certain things. I might see someone do something and think “well, they did that because of X”, but I could be completely wrong, since that person might have a different reason for acting that certain way.

For example, people often claim that I am an atheist, simply because I want to lead a life of meaningless sex, and hard core drug abuse—all guilt free. Obviously, this isn’t true. But to those people, the only reason they can think of for being an atheist, would be so that they could do those things. And since that would be their motivation for not believing in God, they assume it is also my motivation.

So the bias is essentially the false assumption that everyone does things for same reasons that you do. Obviously, this is not true at all.


ALL TOGETHER NOW

Now that we have laid a groundwork on some of the basic assumptions that our minds operate with— and the problems that those assumptions—we can start to explain the questions.


WHY BOYS ARE JERKS

Guys tend to have a lot of other male friends. They might think differently about some things, however, there will be a general consensus about the most important thing in the world (from a biological perspective), the survival of our genes. Because of this basic instinct to reproduce, all men share the same basic instincts. That is, all men generally want the same thing: an attractive girl.

Now while the small details might different (blonds vs brunettes, for example), most guys can come to a consensus on what is attractive, and what is not.

So guys grow up, talking to each other about girls, checking out the same girls, and thinking about girls in a similar way. There is sort of a group reinforcement that goes on, since guys will come to see that “oh, you think the same way I do about girls, and like the same things that I do.”

So to guys, we share these ideas, such as “it would be cool if some random girl just came up and wanted to make out” or “wouldn’t it be sweet if that hot girl just grabbed my butt?” Most guys would agree, yes, that would be quite awesome.

And since this mentality is reinforced among other guys, guys will then think “well, I think it would be cool if a girl grabbed my butt while standing at the bar, and my friends think the same thing. So the girl standing at the bar would probably like it if I grabbed her butt too.”

So we can see some of the problems we have discussed earlier already popping up. The guy is unable to put himself in the position of the girl (ToM), and think about what he is going to do, from her perspective (DMF). This false perspective is because he is unable to understand her perspective to begin with. And this then causes him to assume that if he liked it, she would like it too.

So whenever a guy does something stupid, like grabbing a girls butt, or whistling/honking as a girl jogs down the sidewalk, or makes some crazy proposition, the guy is only doing it, because in his mind, he would LOVE it if a girl did the same think to him. He thinks “I would like it, so she probably would too.”

Every time a guy makes some ridiculous pass at a girl, and you think “What the hell is he thinking? Why does he think that would impress her?” just realize that he was thinking (assuming, actually), “I would like this. So she would probably like it too.”

Of course, as we have seen, this train of thought has a number of different problems with it. And unfortunately, no guy will ever be able to completely comprehend this, including myself. We can be told “that is not good”, and hopefully understand the reasoning behind it (“girls don’t like it). However, we will never truly be able to understand the underlying reasons of why exactly girls don’t like it. And this is for the same reason that I will never know what it is like to be good at math. The male brain works one way, and it is impossible to imagine it working in another way.

So guys really aren’t trying to be jerks. They just are making a mistake, assuming girls think like they do.

WHY GIRLS ARE STUPID

While guys have their fair share of thinking gone awry, girls are nowhere near from off the hook. The main thing that drives girls, and often guys, insane, is their ability and willingness to analyze every little detail of something, picking apart every word that was said in a conversation, or trying to find hidden, underlying meaning in any sort of interpersonal event – especially if boys are involved.

Like with guys reinforcing each other regarding how to think about girls, girls reinforce each other in terms of overanalyzing things, and this is done via their girl talk sessions.

From what I have gathered, girl talk consists of not only one girl rehashing every event that has her interest, and giving her theories about it, but all of the girls in the girl talk, giving their opinions and theories on every minute detail of the event in question.

Of course, having multiple opinions on something is very good, and can be quite helpful. However, the goal of girl talk is not to find the most reasonable answer, or the most rational conclusion. The goal is to find the most dramatic conclusion (since that is also the most interesting conclusion). If a girl went on a date, and the guy gave her a small kiss goodnight, it just CAN’T be that the guy didn’t put much thought into the length of the kiss. The REAL reason must be that he was scared to kiss her, because he doesn’t have much experience, or that he was nervous, because she is so pretty, or that he recently got out of a long relationship, and kissing had devolved to being short, and not as long and passionate.

There are a million reasons that girls could come up with in an attempt to explain the length of a kiss. Just taking a flip through a magazine like Cosmo reveals how much girls love to do this. There are always sections on “decoding what your man says” or “what your man’s bathroom reveals about his commitment issues” and other tripe. The worst I have ever seen was an article on the meaning behind the day a guy takes you out on a date, and what this can tell you about the guy!

Of course, girls don’t consciously make the choice to try and find the least objective, most dramatic reasoning behind a situation. They are doing this for the same reason that guys whistle at jogging girls. That is, the girls are looking for underlying meaning in things that guys do, because THEY themselves put meaning into everything they do. Humans are pattern seeking animals, and are able to find patterns and meaning where none actually exists. Girls just exploit this shamelessly.

A guy going on a date might put a little more thought into what he is wearing than on an average day. But girls put enormous amounts of thought into what they are going to wear every day, and especially on a date!

A guy might think “I will wear this shirt, because it is clean, looks good on me, and it might be a little warm, so I can always roll up the sleeves if I need.” A girl would think “Does this make me look sexy? Maybe too sexy? I don't want him to think I am a slut. But I don't want to look too conservative. Maybe if I wear this top with these pants I will look more mature.” Everything from shoes to hair style is there for a very specific reason.

Unfortunately, the guy won’t pick up on any of the meaning the girl has put into her outfit, while the girl will attempt to find meaning behind the guys outfit, even though none exists. And then after the date, the girl will have girl talk with her friends, and attempt to find even more meaning where none exists.

The reason that girls analyze, and overanalyze every little thing a guy does and says, is because girls assume that since they puts meaning into things, guys must do the same thing. And since girls are unable think any other way than how they think (DMF), they assume that guys think and act with the same reasoning that they do (MAB).

So girls really aren’t stupid. They just are making a mistake, assuming that guys think like they do.


CONCLUSION

As we can see, the main complaints that are thrown between the opposite sexes are actually a result of a few missteps in thinking. We assume that the opposite sex thinks the same way that we do, and in turn, act in ways that reflect that false assumption. When in reality, guys need to recognize that most girls don’t find the idea of getting groped or whistled at to be very appealing. Likewise, girls need to realize that there isn’t any hidden meaning behind what a guy says or does, and not feed into the lure of overanalyzing every little detail, even when your friends insist.

Unfortunately, it is easier to acknowledge the differences in thinking than it is to really internalize it. But recognizing the mistakes in our own mental processes are the first steps to understanding the seemingly bizarre behavior of the opposite sex, and understanding why boys can seem like such jerks, and why girls can seem to be so stupid.

The End.

Gentlemen Prefer Brunettes


Originally written June 2009

One of the biggest non-debates out there is in regards to human psychology, and what is responsible for it. Is it nature or nurture? No serious scientist thinks that you can explain all of human psychology with just one of these explanations. You need both, since they have each had a role in shaping who we are. The trick is to try and tease out which aspects of ourselves are the result of which, and to what extent.

Unfortunately, there are lots of people who often want to only attribute human psychology solely to either nature or nurture. Some post modernists and feminists make the mistake of trying to attribute all aspects of human nature to the environment someone was raised in (nurture), while another group often attributes everything to the nature side. These people are evolutionary psychologists.

Evolutionary psychologists (EPs) are given the task of explaining why human psychology is the way it is. Unfortunately, they are often a little too hasty, and attempt to find evolutionary reasons (nature) for our behavior, when a nurture explanation would be a much better explanation. For example, some EPs will try to explain something like color preference. The EPs see that women tend to like the color pink, so they come up with a reason that explains why women would like the color pink. Their answer is that women like pink, because back in hunter/gatherer societies, it would be advantageous to see red berries, and collect them.

Clever, very clever! But berries aren’t generally pink when they are ripe. They are red or blue. So that explanation, while clever, doesn’t stand up to any scrutiny. It is more likely that pink has just become associated with femininity because of societal pressures, and nothing else. If blue was considered feminine, women probably like it too.

In order to tell if something is the result of nature (and not nurture), there is an easy test: cross cultural studies. If every culture has the same opinion on something, it is highly probable that the characteristic in question is the result of biology, rather than culture. Or more simply put, traits that transcend culture are the product of our biology.

If it turned out that women in every culture preferred the color pink, then the EPs would have something to go by. Until then, the evidence suggests that women’s preference of pink is completely a product of American culture, and has nothing to do with our evolutionary past.

Another one of these clever explanations is an attempt to explain why “gentlemen prefer blondes.” There have been several attempts to explain this, and scientists from other disciplines found it so ridiculous that one neurologist, V.S. Ramachandran, actually wrote a satirical paper, proposing an explanation.

Ramachandran argued that men prefer women with blonde hair, because blonde hair tends to go hand in hand with fair skin, which is a sign of youth, which is one of the key factors in beauty. However, Ramachandran later revealed that the “article was a hoax, designed to reveal evolutionary psychologists' gullibility.”

While his paper wasn’t supposed to be taken seriously, EPs didn’t realize it was a joke, and bought onto it. Two scientists (one neuroscientist and one EP) even referenced Ramachandran’s paper in their books!*

In the first example, it seems obvious that the EPs prematurely assumed that color preference is a result of nature, and didn’t bother to check if that was true or not. The same thing goes for EPs who assume that men prefer women with blonde hair. Instead of questioning if this was true or not, they assumed it was, and went searching for an explanation. Unfortunately for the EPs, men do not prefer blondes, and there are multiple lines of evidence to support this. 

I first was tipped on to this, when I looked at my own personal preference. Over the course of my life, only 16% of girls that I have liked have been blonde, only 12% of the girls I have kissed have been blonde, and 0% of girls I have dated have been blonde. But I am just one person, so those stats don’t mean much. Men might still prefer blondes, and I could just be the outlier on the bell curve.

I then asked my friends what they prefer. Overwhelmingly, guys I have asked claim to prefer brunettes. And as an interesting observation, if you happen to flip through a Victoria’s Secret catalog, (as I often do, hahaha) the majority of models are brunette (only 28% of the models in the particular catalog I looked in were blonde).**

Finally, for some legitimate scientific evidence: research from Florida State University has shown that men prefer women with long brown hair to anything else. Of the men polled, 46% preferred women with brown hair, 27% preferred black, 19% preferred blondes, and only 7% preferred redheads. Further research also suggests the same thing.

A few decades ago, men might have indeed preferred blondes. Though, this is probably because Marilyn Monroe, who was the dominant sex symbol at the time, had blonde hair. Since women realized that men found her incredibly attractive, they tried to copy her, which meant trying to be blonde.

As for right now, why would men prefer brunettes? This brings us back to the question of hair color preference being a result of nature or nurture, or a little of both. The first thing we can see is that blonde hair is not that common. It’s only seen in people with Northern European ancestry. The vast majority of the world’s women have dark hair. So it’s not likely that we would have evolved the attraction to blondes over brunettes in such a short amount of time. 

Also, light skin is viewed as less attractive than darker skin (at least nowadays). But fair skin is a common trait of many young children. So if men preferred women with blonde hair, because it is a sign of youth, they should also like women with light skin. But this isn’t something we see at all.

So do gentlemen prefer blondes? Apparently not. There is no biological reason that men would. And the evidence seems to suggest the opposite-- that men prefer brunettes. As for if this preference is based on nature or nurture… I don’t know. Like many things, it’s probably a combination of both.

*"Survival of the Prettiest" by Nancy Etcoff and "Incognito" by David Eagleman.
**I looked at a Victoria’s Secret magazine and counted how many of the pictures featured blonde or brunette girls. There were 191 brunettes and 68 blondes. Though, for the blondes, I also counted brunettes who had a lot of blonde highlights.