Monday, February 25, 2013

Low-fat diet causes heart disease

The NY Times reports on a major new diet study:
About 30 percent of heart attacks, strokes and deaths from heart disease can be prevented in people at high risk if they switch to a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil, nuts, beans, fish, fruits and vegetables, and even drink wine with meals, a large and rigorous new study has found.

The findings, published on The New England Journal of Medicine’s Web site on Monday, were based on the first major clinical trial to measure the diet’s effect on heart risks. The magnitude of the diet’s benefits startled experts. The study ended early, after almost five years, because the results were so clear it was considered unethical to continue.

The diet helped those following it even though they did not lose weight and most of them were already taking statins, or blood pressure or diabetes drugs to lower their heart disease risk. ...

Low-fat diets have not been shown in any rigorous way to be helpful, and they are also very hard for patients to maintain — a reality borne out in the new study, said Dr. Steven E. Nissen, chairman of the department of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation.

“Now along comes this group and does a gigantic study in Spain that says you can eat a nicely balanced diet with fruits and vegetables and olive oil and lower heart disease by 30 percent,” he said. “And you can actually enjoy life.”
The physicians havee been telling us for 40 years that a low-fat diet is the best way to prevent heart disease. This is the latest study that shows just the opposite.

The study compared a low-fat diet to two other diets, for Spaniards at high risk for heart disease. Those on the low-fat diet did significantly worse. It appears that they really wanted to compare olive oil to nuts, but found no difference.

The NEJM paper argues:
Our results compare favorably with those of the Women's Health Initiative Dietary Modification Trial, wherein a low-fat dietary approach resulted in no cardiovascular benefit.35 Salient components of the Mediterranean diet reportedly associated with better survival include moderate consumption of ethanol (mostly from wine), low consumption of meat and meat products, and high consumption of vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, fish, and olive oil.36,37 Perhaps there is a synergy among the nutrient-rich foods included in the Mediterranean diet that fosters favorable changes in intermediate pathways of cardiometabolic risk, such as blood lipids, insulin sensitivity, resistance to oxidation, inflammation, and vasoreactivity.38
Perhaps there is a synergy?! In other words, this study tells us nothing about the advantages of individual aspects of the Mediterranean diet, such as olive oil and wine. It only confirms previous studies that the low-fat diet does not help.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Instilling false memory

Steven Ross Pomeroy writes in a SciAm blog:
How to implant false memories in your friends, in four steps:

In The Demon-Haunted World, Carl Sagan argued that implanting false memories in people is not only possible, but is actually pretty easy when attempted in the proper settings with a gullible subject, ...

Once you’ve got your target singled out, the next, and possibly the most critical step, is to fabricate a memory. The false memory should have “taken place” at least a year in the past, not be unduly intricate, and not be something that might engender strong feelings of emotion.

Studies have shown that it’s easy to make people falsely recall small details about events, but as the fake memories grow in complexity and specificity, implantation grows progressively harder, though not impossible. After three interviews, researchers at Western Washington University succeeded in getting subjects to recall details about accidentally spilling a bowl of punch on the parents of the bride at a wedding reception. ...

Still, implanting a false memory in a person, and having them fully believe it, takes some doing. Even in the lab, researchers succeed less than half of the time…
Even sincere and honest people can be duped, so you cannot always believe what they say.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Race not a social construct

I pointed out below that experts regularly claim that gender is a social construct, in spite of obvious and overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Likewise with race. A NY Times blog writes:
Another two decades on, Immanuel Kant, considered by many to be the greatest philosopher of the modern period, would manage to let slip what is surely the greatest non-sequitur in the history of philosophy: describing a report of something seemingly intelligent that had once been said by an African, Kant dismisses it on the grounds that “this fellow was quite black from head to toe, a clear proof that what he said was stupid.” ...

Since the mid-20th century no mainstream scientist has considered race a biologically significant category; no scientist believes any longer that “negroid,” “caucasoid” and so on represent real natural kinds or categories.
No, this shows how experts can be wrong. Immanuel Kant is considered a great genius, but most of what he said was worthless. As Steve Sailer points out, you can find the science behind racial traits in the same newspaper. The NY Times reports:
Gaining a deep insight into human evolution, researchers have identified a mutation in a critical human gene as the source of several distinctive traits that make East Asians different from other races.

The traits — thicker hair shafts, more sweat glands, characteristically identified teeth and smaller breasts — are the result of a gene mutation that occurred about 35,000 years ago, the researchers have concluded.
Yes, race is measurable in terms of genes.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Today's lame denials

Here are some lame denials in the news today. Yahoo reports:
San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon said Wednesday the fire was not set on purpose.

“We did not intentionally burn down that cabin to get Mr. Dorner out,” he said.
No, I assumed that they intentionally burned down the cabin in order to kill Dorner. If there was ever a perp that the LA cops did not want to take alive, it was Dorner. But maybe no reward:
LA’s mayor offered the hefty sum for the “capture and conviction” of Dorner. But, since he was presumably killed in Tuesday night’s fire it would be nearly impossible to convict him.
Now there is a lame technicality. The tip did lead to the cops getting their man.

The NY Times was busted wtih a fake car review:
Broder emails regarding the Musk charge that "While the vast majority of journalists are honest, some believe the facts shouldn’t get in the way of a salacious story."

We're preparing a detailed response to the factual assertions in Mr. Musk's post, but I don't think we're going to respond to these and other ad hominem attacks.
Ah hominem? Broder is the one who wrote the false and nasty review. Musk just told the facts.

A supremacist judge complains:
The governor has been criticizing what he calls “the prison lobby” that profits from lawsuits filed against the state over substandard conditions in state prisons.

The administration said in a court filing last month that special master Matthew Lopes may be requiring the state to meet more strin­gent requirements as a way to ensure that “this revenue stream will continue.”

U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence Karlton of Sacra­mento ordered the state to consider withdrawing what he called “a smear.”

“Defendants’ attack con­sists of a raw assertion of unethical conduct, with no supporting evidence nor even any hint that defen­dants actually believe the attack they make,” Karlton wrote. He added later that “the court can only be dis­mayed by the cavalier man­ner in which defendants ... level a smear against the character and reputation of the Special Master.”

He said he takes legitimate allegations of unethical con­duct seriously, but suggested the administration’s filing may violate a court rule that allows sanctions for court filings that are intended to harass or are without any evidence.

Karlton gave the admin­­istration until next week to withdraw the assertion or show why he should not strike it from the court record.
No, it is not a smear to say that the prison lobby profits from these lawsuits, and judge Karlton would recognize that if he were acting ethically. He is acting defensive because he has no good excuse for sticking his nose where it does not belong.

I knew that it was unethical for marriage counselors to seduce their clients, but I just learned that it is a crime in Texas:
A marriage counselor in Texas is on trial for allegedly using a couple’s therapy sessions to convince the husband to have sex with her. She is being charged with sexual assault.

Sheila Loven, 45, was a counselor for an Arlington couple who was having marital difficulties. After advising them to begin attending counseling sessions separately, she and the husband began having sex.

Ultimately she convinced the husband it was best to get a divorce, what with them sleeping together and all. ...

Loven’s attorney said the relationship was real and came from romance. He claims that there was no emotional coercion.

“It had all the elements of any other romantic relationship. They went out at nightclubs and dinner, and they spent almost every night together. What you will not see in this case is any evidence of manipulation,” attorney Adam Burny said.
No, it did not have all the elements. It was missing marriage, honest disclosure, unpaid dating, and the lack of home-wrecking manipulation.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

New evidence for bird brains

There is new research trying to convince us that birds are capable of mindreading. AAAS Science magazine reported this a couple of weeks ago:
Are crows mind readers? Recent studies have suggested that the birds hide food because they think others will steal it -- a complex intuition that has been seen in only a select few creatures. Some critics have suggested that the birds might simply be stressed out, but new research reveals that crows may be gifted after all.
And now they report:
Well, jays are actually known as very intelligent birds. Scientists have shown previously that they can plan for the future, that they have sort of some conception of not just the current moment in time, but future moments. And so they thought this would be a good species to study to see if jays also had,maybe,this theory of mind. And the experiment they tried was actually kind of neat. It turns out that jays have pretty complicated courtship displays. And when the male jay – Eurasian jay in this case – is trying to woo a female,he actually feeds her during the courtship display. And he tries to feed her food that she likes. Well it turns out jays have a preference for certain foods. Given the choice, they prefer mealworm larvae, or wax moth larvae, but they can get sick of a food if they eat too much of it. So the scientists also knew that when the birds have been fed a lot of wax moth larvae, they tend to switch to the mealworms after a while because they just kind of get tired of the same food over and over again,kind of like we do. And so the researchers set up an experiment where the male could actually watch what the female was eating. So if the female was eating, for example, a lot of wax moth larvae, the male would start feeding her mealworm larvae,and vice versa. It was almost as if he was saying, look, I know you’re probably getting sick of that. Here’s a different kind of food.
This seems dubious to me. We don't know that the birds are getting sick of the wax moth larvae. Maybe a varied diet is healthier, and the birds sense that. Or maybe they have instincts for a varied diet.

Maybe the male jays have learned, by instinct or experience, that it is easier to get the female's attention by giving her food that is different from what she is eating.

I say:
My theory is that people like to anthropomorphize animals and concoct rich explanations when lean ones suffice. They are convinced that animals have empathy, even tho no one can prove it.
There is other evidence that crows are extremely smart animals, as they can use tools and recognize people. But this is a stretch.

Update: Matthew Cobb comments on the bird study:
Imagining that others experience the same feelings as oneself, or being able to see things from another’s perspective, is an essential part of being an adult human – it’s called having a ‘theory of mind’. Young children find it difficult, and either learn it or develop this ability as part of normal growth. Severely autistic individuals can also fail some of the simple tests that are used to measure this ability. This character, or a primitive version of it, must have been present in our primate ancestors, and there is evidence that chimps can attribute ‘intentionality’ to human behaviour, which suggests they can image what we feel/think.
Actually, the evidence that chimps or other non-human primates read human intentionality is very weak. Ordinary dogs can understand human pointing much better than chimps.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Men and women are from Earth

Apparently it is politically incorrect to find psychological differences between men and women. Even when studies find large and dramatic differences, they are reported as the opposite. Here is a current example:
If men and women were psychologically distinct from one another, then their scores on psychological measures should form large clusters at either end of a spectrum with little overlap between the two groups.

This is the case for physical characteristics such as height, shoulder breadth, arm circumference, and waist-to-hip ratio. Men tend to be tall, have broad shoulders, large arm circumference, and a small waist-to-hip ratio, while the inverse is true for women. A man is extremely unlikely to be taller than a woman, yet have narrower shoulders, for instance.

Yet the same could not be said for the myriad of psychological characteristics examined by the two researchers, including fear of success, sexual attitudes, mate selection criteria, sexual behaviors, empathy, and personality. A man could be aggressive, but verbally skilled and poor at math, for example, combining stereotypical masculine and feminine traits.

“It’s not enough that men, on average, score higher than women on a scale of masculinity,” Carothers told Raw Story. “Nearly all of the men would have to score higher than nearly all of the women on nearly every item of the scale. We did not see that level of consistency with the psychological variables we had.”
Actually women have the smaller waist-to-hip ratio, with healthy women at 0.7 and men at 0.9.

So it is not true that men score higher on all the tests than all the women. There is some overlap in the test scores, of course.

Here is the abstract:
Men and women are from Earth: Examining the latent structure of gender.
Carothers, Bobbi J.; Reis, Harry T.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 104(2), Feb 2013, 385-407. doi: 10.1037/a0030437

Taxometric methods enable determination of whether the latent structure of a construct is dimensional or taxonic (nonarbitrary categories). Although sex as a biological category is taxonic, psychological gender differences have not been examined in this way. The taxometric methods of mean above minus below a cut, maximum eigenvalue, and latent mode were used to investigate whether gender is taxonic or dimensional. Behavioral measures of stereotyped hobbies and physiological characteristics (physical strength, anthropometric measurements) were examined for validation purposes, and were taxonic by sex. Psychological indicators included sexuality and mating (sexual attitudes and behaviors, mate selectivity, sociosexual orientation), interpersonal orientation (empathy, relational-interdependent self-construal), gender-related dispositions (masculinity, femininity, care orientation, unmitigated communion, fear of success, science inclination, Big Five personality), and intimacy (intimacy prototypes and stages, social provisions, intimacy with best friend). Constructs were with few exceptions dimensional, speaking to Spence's (1993) gender identity theory. Average differences between men and women are not under dispute, but the dimensionality of gender indicates that these differences are inappropriate for diagnosing gender-typical psychological variables on the basis of sex.
Full paper here (pdf).

Monday, February 04, 2013

Congress considers Darwin Day

The NY Times reports:
Many Christians, of course, believe that Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection is compatible with a Christian worldview. The Roman Catholic Church, for example, is comfortable with Darwin, especially as his work relates to the evolution of bodies (souls come from God). In 1996, Pope John Paul II wrote, confirming older Catholic teaching, that “there is no conflict between evolution and the doctrine of the faith.”

Ronald L. Numbers, a science historian at the University of Wisconsin, said that many evangelical Protestants were once willing to accept the theory, as long as it was applied only to animals, not to humans.

For example, the Tennessee law that gave rise to the famous Scopes trial, in 1925, “banned the teaching of human evolution, not the teaching of evolution,” Mr. Numbers said.
Okay, but it is not just the evangelical Protestants who are uncomfortable with human evolution. So are the liberal scientists who try to deny human biodiversity.

A scientist congressman introduced a Darwin Day resolution:
Whereas the advancement of science must be protected from those unconcerned with the adverse impacts of global warming and climate change;

Whereas the teaching of creationism in some public schools compromises the scientific and academic integrity of the United States education systems;

Whereas Charles Darwin is a worthy symbol of scientific advancement on which to focus and around which to build a global celebration of science and humanity intended to promote a common bond among all of Earth’s peoples; and ...
So we need Darwin Day to protect scientists from global warming skeptics and creationists?!

No, Darwin is a lousy symbol of scientific advancement. Hardly anyone uses him to draw attention to his actual scientific work. Here he is used as a symbol to make some sort of point about global warming and creationism. If they really just want to make a point about science, then they could do that more effectively with animal evolution or some less politicized subject.