Brain and Behavior

Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic, that is. One of the common complaints about evolutionary psychology is that it claims to be addressing evolved human universals, but when you look at the data sets, they are almost always drawn from the same tiny pool of outliers, Western undergraduate students enrolled in psychology programs, and excessively extrapolated to be representative of Homo sapiens — when we're actually a very peculiar group. How peculiar? A paper by Heinrich, Heine, and Norenzayan, "The Weirdest People in the World", tries to measure that…and by nearly every…
I've known about this effect for a while as I've been variously accused of being in the pocket of big pharma, big ag, big science, democrats and republicans etc. Now Stephan Lewandowsky, in follow up to his "NASA Faked the Moon Landings – Therefore (Climate) Science is a Hoax." paper, has used these conspiratorial responses to study how conspiracy theorists respond to being studied! It's called "Recursive fury: Conspiracist ideation in the blogosphere in response to research on conspiracist ideation". Here's the abstract: Conspiracist ideation has been repeatedly implicated in the…
It's been well over two weeks since I urged everyone to get out the popcorn and sit back to enjoy the internecine war going on over in the antivaccine movement. The reason for my chuckling was the way that everyone's favorite Boy Wonder Reporter Propagandist for the antivaccine crank blog Age of Autism, Jake Crosby, had apparently turned on his masters because he was ticked off at a perceived betrayal of purity in their antivaccine beliefs, so much so that he actually posted a screed against the other wretched hive of scum and quackery besides AoA or The Huffington Post, namely the…
Wow. Talk about major failure. A new study out correlates levels of Foxp2 with levels of vocalization in rats: basically, male rats squeak more than female pups when they're stressed by separation from their mothers, and mothers tend to rescue the rat who squeaks the loudest. They then found higher levels of Foxp2 in males, and also found that reducing male Foxp2 levels in male pups with siRNA also reduced vocalizations. So far, so good; looks like a reasonable and interesting experiment. Then they extended it to humans half-assedly, finding that 4 year old boys have lower levels of Foxp2 in…
Is it just me, or are medical propaganda films becoming the preferred media for "brave maverick doctors, dubious doctors, and quacks to promote their wares? I just pointed out how everybody's favorite "brave maverick doctor," he of the therapy for cancer for which there is no compelling evidence but that he keeps administering anyway, using the clinical trial process to avoid pesky rules about administering unapproved drugs and that is nothing more at its core than an orphan drug without compelling evidence for efficacy and of the "personalized gene-targeted therapy for dummies" based on…
My students are also blogging here: My undergrad encounters Developmental Biology Miles' Devo Blog Tavis Grorud’s Blog for Developmental Biology Thang’s Blog Heidi’s blog for Developmental Biology Chelsae blog Stacy’s Strange World of Developmental Biology Thoughts of Developmental Biology Biology~ On Wednesdays, I try to break away from the lecture format and prompt the students to talk about the science of development. We're working our way through Sean Carroll's Endless Forms Most Beautiful, and yesterday we talked about chapters 3 and 4. Chapter 3 has an overview of…
On the one hand, I'm seriously tempted to get out the popcorn, sit back, and enjoy the show that is the internecine conflict going on in the antivaccine movement right now. On the other hand, as bizarre as it sounds, I actually do feel a bit sorry for the main combatant, Jake Crosby. He's the guy whom I likened to an antivaccine Frankenstein's monster turning on his creators last week. The reason was that Jake had become very, very unhappy with the antivaccine leaders who created him, or at least who created the blogging phenomenon that is Jake Crosby, Internet Detective and Disher of Dirt.…
Have you ever noticed how the religious regard 'scientism' and 'reductionism' and demands for concrete evidence as barely a notch above obscenities? That is, until they need to reduce complex issues to simplistic claims and don the mantle of Science to support their beliefs. Then they become Holy Writ. You can really see this behavior in the abortion debate, where suddenly anti-choicers decide that humanity is defined by a particular arrangement of alleles in the genome. Case closed, they say, Science has spoken! Unfortunately, they get the science wrong, and we know their commitment to the…
Way back in the day, when I was a newbie at countering the mass of hysterical pseudoscience that is the antivaccine movement, particularly the myth that vaccines cause autism, a blogger by the 'nym of Prometheus taught me that autism and autism spectrum disorders (particularly by antivaccinationists and believers in the quackery known as "autism biomed") are conditions of developmental delay, not developmental stasis. Autistic children can and do exhibit improvement in their symptoms simply through growth and development. However, parents who subject their children to "autism biomed" quackery…
I sense a disturbance in the antivaccine Force, which is, of course, by definition the Dark Side. Whenever I sense such a disturbance, there are a number of possible reactions that it provokes in me. One such reaction is alarm, as when antivaccine activists say something that is just clever enough to sound plausible enough that it might cause trouble. It never is, of course, but it often takes a close reading and some research to figure out what the game is and deconstruct the nonsense. Sometimes, my reaction is amusement, as when an antivaccine activist says something that is so hilariously…
Today's post will be relatively brief (for an Orac post, that is). The reason is that it's some very sad news that depresses me greatly. It's also because I don't want to distract too much from the announcement I'd like to highlight. About a month and a half ago, around the same time that Stanislaw Burzynski managed to get off on a technicality, with the Texas Medical Board agreeing to dismiss its case against Burzynski because it apparently couldn't go after him for treatment decisions made by doctors he hired, I met an unfortunate girl named Amelia Saunders. Amelia had been diagnosed with a…
I've constricted my anus 100 times, and it isn't helping! I'm still feeling extremely cranky about this story from the NY Times. Scientists intend to sequence Adam Lanza's DNA. They're looking for genetic markers for mass murder. Why? Because some scientists are stupid. Some researchers, like Dr. Arthur Beaudet, a professor at the Baylor College of Medicine and the chairman of its department of molecular and human genetics, applaud the effort. He believes that the acts committed by men like Mr. Lanza and the gunmen in other rampages in recent years — at Columbine High School and in Aurora,…
Quacks despise science-based medicine in general, but there are certain specialties that they detest more than others. Arguably, the specialty most attacked by quacks is psychiatry. Many are the reasons, some legitimate, many not. In particular, Scientologists despise psychiatry, even going so far as to maintain a "museum" dedicated to psychiatry that they charmingly call Psychiatry: Industry of Death. It's so ridiculously over-the-top, a virtual self-parody, that it almost inadvertently undermines attacks on psychiatry frequently leveled by Scientologists and quacks. Let's face it,…
Well, I'm back. It's been a long week away, and very enjoyable, although I must say that such long trips tend to drain one. That's why I'm always on the lookout for something to restore lost energy and vigor, sucked out of me from long hours cramped on an airplane and holed up in airports, just trying to get to a vacation and then later to wend my way home. Of course, as a physician and skeptic, I know that just taking a rest, going to bed on time and getting up on time, and waiting for my body's clock to reset to the new location and cure me of jet lag would work, but that's just too slow.…
As anyone who reads my blog or Orac's knows, Mike Adams, the "health ranger", is a deranged individual who denies HIV causes AIDS, promotes some of the most absurd quackery in the world, and also is such an all around crank you can rely on him to wax conspiratorial about almost any dramatic news story. He's done it again, already alleging a conspiracy and coverup in this most recent school shooting, and citing his bizarre conspiracy theories about Aurora as further evidence of these shootings being "staged" by the US government. I wouldn't suggest clicking the link unless you want to lose…
Note: Orac is away somewhere warm recharging his Tarial cells for further science and skepticism. In the meantime, he is rerunning some of his favorite posts. Given that the blog seems to have been infiltrated with Burzynski trolls again and Eric Merola threatens to make a sequel to the execrable movie he made about Burzynski a couple of years ago, now seems a perfect time to rerun a post of Orac's from about a year ago. In fact, now might be a perfect time to rerun these posts. Indeed, maybe I'll even rerun the whole trio, as Orac has been thinking he needs to do a major update and…
As much as I try, even when I'm on vacation in an undisclosed warm location near a beach (actually, our hotel room has a balcony overlooking the ocean), occasionally news finds its way to me. Part of it is because I still get the odd e-mail or two, and I do check my e-mail every so often on vacation in case something is exploding. In any case, an update to a story I wrote about last month has found its way to my in box, and, even on vacation, I can't resist a brief update. Right before Thanksgiving, when it was announced that Stanislaw Burzynski got off on a technicality, I discussed as part…
Note: Orac is away somewhere warm recharging his Tarial cells for further science and skepticism. In the meantime, he is rerunning some of his favorite posts. Given that the blog seems to have been infiltrated with Burzynski trolls again and Eric Merola threatens to make a sequel to the execrable movie he made about Burzynski a couple of years ago, now seems a perfect time to rerun a post of Orac's from about a year ago. In fact, now might be a perfect time to rerun the whole trio, as Orac has been thinking he needs to do a major update and reanalysis, and where better to start than with the…
Darwinian Psychology, or really, any “Psychology” that claims to be science, will operate under the assumption that the human brain, as an organ, has arrived at its modern form through the process of evolution, which includes a certain amount of design through Natural Selection. It does not take that much additional sophistication to realize that the human brain is not only good at, but absolutely requires for typical functioning, a great deal of learning. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that the typical human brain functions as it does because of information provided by the genes that…
I was recently pointed to this post by Edward Clint which purports to show Rebecca Watson using the 5 tactics of science denialism during her talk "How Girls Evolved to Shop" which was critical of evolutionary psychology at Skepticon. I watched her talk, found it entertaining, informative, wondered why I haven't been invited to Skepticon, and I found I agreed with many of her examples of really bad pop psychology nonsense that's filtered into the media through both scientists, press-release journalism, and marketing disguised as science. In particular the "pink is for girls" idiocy, which…