Monday, June 13, 2011

In the last 10,000 years, humans have got smaller and our brains have shrunk

I suppose I should say a few words about the story below. The facts as given are sound but they omit to mention that the decrease in brain size in late prehistoric times was linked to known brain mutations (genes MCPH1 and ASPM) taking place at that time which seem to have led to an increase in IQ -- as indicated by the sudden arrival of early civilization in the Middle East. What presumably happened was an increase in the degree of folding in the brain, thus giving a bigger surface area even while overall size decreased. In short, human brains with the mutation became more efficient at that time.

And once civilization had arrived, selection for hunter characteristics (height, muscle etc.) diminished greatly, leading to a shrinking in those attributes. Social characteristics (e.g. verbal ability) were selected for instead

Having conquered Everest and landed on the Moon, it is tempting to think we are bigger and better than our ancestors. But on a purely physical basis, it seems, we just don’t measure up. Mankind is actually shrinking.

Cambridge University experts say humans are past their peak and that modern-day people are 10 per cent smaller and shorter than their hunter-gatherer ancestors.

And if that’s not depressing enough, our brains are also smaller.
The findings reverse perceived wisdom that humans have grown taller and larger, a belief which has grown from data on more recent physical development.

The decline, say scientists, has happened over the past 10,000 years. They blame agriculture, with restricted diets and urbanisation compromising health and leading to the spread of disease.

The theory has emerged from studies of fossilised human remains found in Africa, Europe and Asia. The earliest, from Ethiopia, date back 200,000 years, and were larger and ‘more robust’ than their modern-day counterparts, said Dr Marta Lahr, an expert in human evolution.

Fossils found in Israeli caves and dating from 120,000 to 100,000 years ago, reveal a people who were tall and muscular, a pattern that continued uninterrupted until relatively recent times. An average person 10,000 years ago weighed between 12st 8lb and 13st 6lb. Today, the average is between 11st and 12st 8lb.

Dr Lahr, who last week presented her findings to the Royal Society, Britain’s most prestigious scientific body, described the changes as ‘striking’. ‘We can see that humans have continually evolved but in body size it is not until the last 10,000 years that they have changed substantially, so the question is why this should have happened.’

The male brain of 20,000 years ago measured 1,500 cubic centimetres. Modern man’s brain averages just 1,350 cubic cm – a decrease equivalent to the size of a tennis ball. The female brain has shrunk by about the same proportion. It doesn’t mean we are less intelligent – rather we have learnt to make the best use of our resources.

Dr Lahr said: ‘Over evolutionary time there would have been huge energy savings in making the brain smaller but more efficient – as we see today with computer processors.’

Robert Foley, a Cambridge University professor of human evolution, said: ‘Becoming human, in an evolutionary sense, is a continuous and gradual process. Our species, rather than being a fixed entity, is more like a piece of putty, changing shape and dimensions all the time.’



Deadly Prescription Drug Shortages Caused by Regulation

Doctors at the Johns Hopkins cancer center are rationing cytarabine, a drug used to treat leukemia and lymphoma. They are literally deciding who will live and who will die. The drug is also in short supply at the Stanford, Wisconsin and Nebraska university medical centers. Large medical centers, in Oklahoma and Maryland have completely run out.

All of this might be dismissed as an unfortunate turn of events were it not for the fact that a lot of other drugs are also in short supply. About 90 percent of all the anesthesiologists in the country report they are experiencing a shortage of at least one anesthetic, for example. Drug shortages are also endangering cancer patients, heart attack victims, accident survivors and a host of other ill people. The vast majority involve injectable medications used mostly by medical centers, in emergency rooms, ICUs and cancer wards.

Currently, there are about 246 drugs that are in short supply and as the chart shows, the number has been growing for some time. There were 74 newly reported drug shortages in 2005; the number dipped slightly to 70 in 2006, then rose to 129 in 2007, 149 in 2008, 166 in 2009, and 211 in 2010.

So what’s going on? Industry insiders point to numerous causes of the problem, including the fact that the generic drug market may be inherently more volatile than the market for brand-name drugs. Others point to supply chain problems. Then there is government regulatory policy.

Output Controls. The Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been stepping up its quality enforcement efforts — levying fines and forcing manufacturers to retool their facilities both here and abroad. Not only has this more rigorous regulatory oversight slowed down production, the FDA’s “zero tolerance” regime is forcing manufacturers to abide by rules that are rigid, inflexible and unforgiving. For example, a drug manufacturer must get approval for how much of a drug it plans to produce, as well as the timeframe. If a shortage develops (because, say, the FDA shuts down a competitor’s plant), a drug manufacturer cannot increase its output of that drug without another round of approvals. Nor can it alter its timetable production (producing a shortage drug earlier than planned) without FDA approval.

Even the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has a role — because minute quantities of controlled substances are often used to make other drugs. This is the apparent reason for a nationwide shortage of ADHD drugs, for example, including the generic version of Ritalin. And like the FDA, DEA regulations are rigid and inflexible. For example, if a shortage develops and the manufacturers have reached their preauthorized production cap, a manufacturer cannot respond by increasing output without going back to the DEA for approval.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) also has a role – levying large fines for “overcharging,” forcing some companies to leave the generic market altogether.

Price Controls. Also contributing to the problems of many facilities is a little known program that forces drug manufacturers to give discounts to certain end users. The federal 340B drug rebate program was created in 1992 to provide discounted drugs to hospitals and clinics that treat a high number of indigent patients, clinics treating patients on Medicaid, hospitals and clinics in the Public Health Service and certain Federally Qualified Health Centers (more listed here). Currently, the law requires drug companies to provide rebates of 23.1 percent for brand drugs; and 13 percent for generic drugs off of their average manufacturer’s price on qualifying outpatient drug use. States have the right to negotiate further discounts and actual rebates negotiated are typically much steeper than the federal requirement.

Economics teaches that when prices are kept artificially low, shortages develop. People cannot get all of the care they try to obtain at the existing rate. Also, regardless of the apparently multiple causes of the shortages, certain patterns tend to emerge. People respond to persistent shortages by doing things that invariably make the problem worse.

Stockpiling. Buying organizations will typically respond by trying to stockpile quantities of drugs where supply is uncertain. That is, they will try to hoard more of the drugs than they ordinarily would keep in inventory in order to try to make sure they are available when needed. As the Healthcare Alliance Report explains, “drug shortages have been exacerbated by stockpiling on the part of providers,” who are trying to “protect themselves from the instability of the drug supply chain by placing orders that exceed normal requirements.”

Cascading Effects on Other Markets. Another consequence of shortages is that the effects in one market begin to cascade to other markets. In general, when hospitals cannot get a drug, they will turn to the next best alternative drug that creates the least adverse effects for patients. But as a Premier healthcare alliance analysis explains, when a shortage of one drug causes increased demand for a therapeutically similar product, the substitute product may also then be in short supply because it “is not normally produced in quantities sufficient to meet unanticipated market needs.” This scenario occurred last year with the morphine and subsequent hydromorphone shortages.

Solutions. Again, the Obama administration did not create this problem. But up till now, its preference for regulation rather than market forces to solve safety problems is making the entire health care system less safe than it otherwise would have been.



Reactionary Progressives

They desparately hang on to the status quo

No one seems to be more conservative and backward-looking than the modern day, self-described "progressive." Their modes of thought and rhetoric reflects what they themselves would call a reactionary conservatism if spotted in others. Today I will explore three of these modes:

1. Argument by Appeals to Authority

2. Complete lack of imagination when it comes to social change

3. A profound intellectual inconsistency

* Appeals to Authority

The most obvious example here is the "scientific consensus" on "climate change" (what they used to call Global Warming). Perhaps there is one – progressives keep insisting that there is one. Nevertheless, the idea of human-made carbon emissions changing the planet's climate seems both plausible yet conter-intuitive when one considers other often-extreme changes in climate only over the past thousand years, not to mention in Earth's overall history.

Their position would be FAR more credible if almost all of research on the topic would be privately funded, not government-funded, and that the scientists involved worked in non-State institutions. Oftentimes, the most progress in science was accomplished by those who worked outside of the System and dissented from the status quo. As long as science is directly or indirectly funded by the State, why should we believe scientific claims? "Because scientists say so!" isn't much of an argument.

This isn't the only example of the Progressive Appeal to Authority. They blame "corporate greed" and rich people for the world's problems, but when a rich guy says that taxes should be raised, progressives treat him as a wise, public-spirited man of conscience who we should believe. And, they are often at best skeptical toward religion, but will gladly trot out pastors who claim that Jesus wanted higher taxes and more regulation.

"Question authority" is not part of the Progressive vocabulary. At least not anymore.

* Lack of Imagination

Progressives seem more interested in just throwing tax dollars into public education bureaucracies, and doing nothing about overpriced universities. They'd rather coerce people into overpriced health insurance schemes than give doctors, hospitals, and insurance companies the freedom and flexibility to provide quality care at lower prices.

They are more concerned with the nation's economy as measured by "Gross Domestic Product" in terms of dollars, than they are with allowing individuals to start their own businesses and to make exchanges by non-dollar means.

In other words, their institutions and insistence on regulatory control of our lives and the economy is more important than the idea that these institutions might not actually work. In other words, Progressives are resistant to change.

* Intellectual Inconsistency

The most famous inconsistent position of Progressives is that women should be "free to choose" abortion, but that women (or anyone else) can't buy a gun to protect herself, smoke marijuana, give money freely to a political candidate, or send kids to a school of her choice. While Progressive causes on behalf of gay rights, women's rights, and civil rights for minorities may be admirable, they meanly seem to want mere "equality" for these groups, NOT more freedom.

Perhaps the most significant inconsistency is the Progressive view of the environment and economy. They constantly speak of "jobs" and believe that economic "stimulus" can be achieved by creating money through increased government spending.

This is inconsistent with the environmental stewardship they claim they want. Creating money out of nothing encourages consumers to spend money, and for investors to invest money, they didn't earn. The obsession with home ownership is just one example of what can happen. When homes are built that people can't afford, the earth's raw resources are taken to build it, and the earth's energy supplies are similarly taken.

Wouldn't it have been better for the planet for the home buyer to have stayed in his existing rental residence, then consume more resources – with unearned money – to build a house he didn't need?

Consumerism, environmentalism, and inflationary policies don't mix. Progressives can't artificially overheat the economy and then blame business for the resulting emissions. The truly environmentally-friendly economy is the free economy. Without the promise of monetary inflation, individuals would have greater incentive to make more efficient use of the earth's resources.




MI: TSA “apologetic” for patdown of disabled man: "A Detroit father said agents with the Transportation Security Administration singled out his special-needs son for a pat-down while the family was headed to Disney World, an incident that the TSA admitted was a 'case of bad judgment.' David Mandy said agents at Detroit Metro Airport took his son Drew, 29, and asked him about the padding underneath his pants, which turned out to be adult diapers. Drew, who is severely mentally disabled, had trouble understanding the agents’ orders because his family said he has the mental capacity of a 2-year-old. ... The agents confiscated a six-inch plastic hammer, something Drew had carried with him for 20 years for comfort [and] ... called it a security threat."

Freedom must include right to die: "Who owns your body? Judging from our nation’s body of law, the ruling class wrongly believes the government does. However, you own your body and, with that ownership, you have a God-given natural right to do what you will with it, even if that means ending your life."

Virginia is not for small businesses: "No matter how bad the economy gets, governments at all levels will always put their own petty authority ahead of productive market activities. An example is the Batesville Store in rural Albermarle County, Virginia, which was closed — without notice or due process — by a local bureaucrat who decreed the store, which was being used primarily as a restaurant and live music venue, had too many seats."

There is a new lot of postings by Chris Brand just up -- on his usual vastly "incorrect" themes of race, genes, IQ etc.


List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


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