Horrible updater that I am, I do have some new tidbits to share.
Namely that now I’ve landed in the Atlantic…’s Health section. Check out my article debunking a long held belief about weight loss — that it necessarily makes us happier. Here’s a brief snippet:
An extensive 2011 review of different weight-loss methods by Anthony Fabricatore, an assistant professor of psychology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, and others found that obese people generally experienced decreased symptoms of depression after taking part in a weight-loss trial. As noted in the review, that conclusion provides a sharp contrast to studies conducted throughout the 1950s. In a 1957 paper, AJ Stunkard—an eventual pioneer of obesity research—wrote that “for a large number of overweight persons, the current prescription of reducing diets has had unfortunate consequences; for a smaller number, it has been disastrous.” These consequences included depression, anxiety, and even psychosis.
Full story here.
Per some very good advice, here’s what will become a now-regular look at some of my latest articles around the web:
New Study: Homeless Children Facing Mental Health Crisis (Affect Magazine)
Earlier today, researchers from North Carolina State University have gone one step further in illuminating these children’s unique hurdles, publishing a pilot study that provides one of the largest looks yet at the mental health and developmental status of displaced children. The authors found that they’re more likely to suffer developmental delays than the average child, as well as be at greater risk to develop behavioral and emotional problems. More startlingly, they conclude that 25% of homeless children are in need of mental health services.
Is Netflix Turning Us All Into Depressed Lonely Zombies? (Daily Dot)
Contrary to what Entertainment Weekly, Hypable, and the Huffington Post say, no, the study does not prove that binge-watching television, whether on subscription apps like Netflix and Hulu or through DVD box sets, makes you sad and lonely. Nor does it conclude that if you engage in binge-watching (the definition of which I’ll pick a bone with later), you are, thus, a burlap sack of melancholy.
How A Children’s Song About Cartoon Penises and Vaginas Took Over Sweden (Daily Dot)
For peen’s sake, we were a nation desperate enough to invent Corn Flakes just on the off-chance it could stop boys from masturbating. Corn Flakes. If and when women were included in the conversation, they were either told to maintain their chastity for their future property owners or cited as a dirty whirlpool of sin and disease eager to gobble up our proud wartime boys. That latter fear is the only reason we have sexual education programs in the first place, our society only stepping in to educate young people about sex so we could scare the bejesus out of them with slides of syphilis and gonorrhea-infected members.
Don’t worry, I’ll be sure to post some original work and commentary on here soon enough! Till next time.
The following is excerpted and slightly modified from the audio essay “Hearts and Minds” that I did for the Skeptical Connections podcast last year, sadly no longer in production. As I’m tied up in other writing projects currently, but I did want to touch on the ongoing anti-vaxxer backlash as a result of the measles outbreaks in the U.S., I figured this would be a good compromise. Enjoy.
Let’s make things simple here.
Andrew Wakefield — of the UK MMR vaccine scare — is an unethical fraud. Many of the renegade doctors who endorse staying away from vaccines are unscientific cranks who offer unproven, unnecessary and even harmful remedies to their patients. Those who conflate the money-grubbing practices of ‘Big Pharma’ with a conspiracy-laden scheme to keep sticking America’s kids with syringes are misguided at best, ignorant at worst. And parents who swear their children were infected with autism by a needle tend to misremember the course of their child’s gradual decline in order to create a narrative in which their tragedy was somehow preventable.
All this is true, but so is the reality that an idea is a hard thing to fully banish from the hearts and minds of people invested in it.
Without further ado, my cover article for the November/December issue of the Pacific Standard. Short excerpt and link below.
Child sexual abuse is, of course, a serious and widespread issue in America. Researchers agree that it occurs far more often than official statistics indicate, because children so often decline to report their abuse out of embarrassment, a desire to protect members of their family, or in an attempt to avoid the memory altogether. But the idea that people can immediately banish abuse from their own consciousness, lock those memories away for years, and then recover them through therapy is one with far shakier empirical grounding, and a deeply problematic history. The therapeutic vogue for memory recovery in the early 1990s fueled a nationwide moral panic over ritual sex abuse, satanic cults, and other supposedly repressed traumas. Today, for most of us, the fad seems like a strange, self-contained, and very much closed chapter in recent cultural history.
But for Tom Mitchell, who denies his daughter’s accusations, the controversy is very much alive. He believes his family has suffered from the fact that the mental health establishment has never really purged itself of a thoroughly discredited idea—and arguably lacks the basic mechanisms necessary to self-correct.
Check out the full story here.
Anne: I’m a scientist. I like studying the world! And stuff.
That there might just be the most cogent definition of ‘scientist’ ever made, and it came from the mouth of a 11-year-old girl who builds giant robots androids in her spare time.
Someday, when the shores of Florida have retreated onto itself, New York is more levee than city and the heart of Africa is flooded, our grandchildren will come knocking at the drenched door and ask why.
Why, when faced with the knowledge of an impending yet preventable catastrophe, did we do nothing but squabble about its merits? Why did we stare into the face of oblivion only to stomp our feet and drown out its repeated warnings with cries of cost-effectiveness and socialist takeovers? Why did we, as journalist Nick Cohen put forlornly earlier this year, fail to shake humanity from its complacency? And I don’t know what I’ll be able to say to them.
Maybe I’ll point them to the financial records of energy corporations who spent millions every year to cultivate public doubt of the long established scientific consensus. Or the inane scribblings of designated climate skeptics who repeated the same debunked arguments until their ears filled up with sea water, and of the supposedly impartial publications that continuously allowed them writing space. I’ll tell them of an ideological movement fundamentally opposed to the idea of responsible, restrained capitalism and of those who sheepishly stood aside for them as they crafted policy, doled out billions in oil and gas subsidies and prevented regulatory action. These were all pieces of the puzzle, I’ll say. And though there existed plenty who were willing to fight for the future, they underestimated the tenacity of our collective passivity.
As my eyes welt up in a quiet anger at that last realization, I’ll plead with them to forgive us for what we did and didn’t do. And I’ll understand when they instead turn around and slam the door in my face. Someday.
Among global warming deniers, U.S. is number one: Poll (July 22nd)
Whistleblowing is not for the meek at heart.
There’s a gauntlet of mistrust and doubt that awaits the unlucky soul willing to illuminate the darker corners of an institution, politely and scholarly worded as they might be.
Our lifestyle choices can be deceiving in their independence.
A bagel here, a twenty minute jog there, there’s an existential comfort in believing the decisions we make to exist in a vacuum, free from unseen influence. Unfortunately, science is rarely considerate enough to offer us that same comfort. From open access journal and beloved light of my life PloS-One:
Physical inactivity, ambient air pollution and obesity are modifiable risk factors for non-communicable diseases, with the first accounting for 10% of premature deaths worldwide. Although community level interventions may target each simultaneously, research on the relationship between these risk factors is lacking.
Over the span of May to October 2012, anthropologist Lauren Renée Moore interviewed 37 residents of the university town Lawrence, Kansas.
Finding volunteers through various supermarkets, community events and restaurants, Moore was interested in documenting one of the fastest growing populations in the United States: the gluten-free.