Archive for December, 2009

Origin of symmetry

i got a book out of the (not so) secret Santa in work. Knowing my rants on science and belief I got the most appropriate What we believe but cannot prove– today’s leading thinkers on science in the age of certainty.

I love the idea of getting a bunch of really smart guys together to come up with the notions that they hold dear that they suspect scientific empiricism will not give them a clear answer on.

Unfortunately it’s by a self-selected bunch of modernists with a taste for Ditchkinisms.

It seemed fashionable to answer the most complex of human questions with scientific empiricism back in the 19th century and it seems many haven’t got over the fact that ancients in thought had been there for a long time before them and had no intention of shifting.

Though perhaps I’m being unfair. There are a few crackers in there.

My favorite so far was

scientific results cannot be proved. they can only be tested again and agin until only a fool would refuse to believe them. I cannot prove that electrons exist, but i fervently believe in their existence. And if you don’t believe in them I have a high voltage cattle prod I’m willing to apply as an argument on their behalf.

i am a big fan of evolution – maybe it gives me a survival advantage to like it… It seems a great way to explain how we made many of the steps from slime to primates to humans.

Though I feel that’s where it falls flat on it’s face. Human beings have been around for only a tiny fraction of the evolutionary fraction that got us to our beginning. Unfortunately I feel that natural selection went out the window the moment a recognisable human being appeared.

[Let me acknowledge that anything recognisable as a human did not appear overnight. Over a few million years might be more useful, but let me make my point first]

Let me define a recognisable human being in a simplistic way – groups of humans reproducing and hunting/gathering with vestiges of farming and drawing animals on caves in the south of France.

This was pretty damn recent.

The moment we let something more than our genes or reproductive desires influence how we lived we made a step backwards in terms of our evolution – in the Darwinian sense anyhow.

My favorite phrase is usually that when our brains outgrew our dicks we began our journey towards our own biological self-destruction.

The moment we nurtured the weak in the group was the moment we started going backwards. The moment we nurtured a kid with trisomy 21, the moment we helped the young kid with pneumonia , the moment we started carrying the toddler with DDH.

Our rapidly enlarging brains gave us the ability to be effective in our nurturing (what i really mean to say is loving but shhhh don’t tell anyone…) deeds.

In the book Judith Rich Harris says she believes in 3 not 2 selection processes in humnaity 1) natural selection 2) sexual selection and 3) “parental” selection.

Parental selection is a shit name. Acts of love I would call it but don’t tell her that. Plus it sounds a bit cringe worthy and i haven’t spent enough time on it to think of anything better.

She tells the story of a woman from a “primitive” tribe who talks about a parent initally deciding to abandon her as yet unborn child as she was still nursing her previous child. but when the child was born she decided to encourage and nurse it instead.

She bases this choice on aesthetics – something different about one child and not the other that causes the parent not to abandon the infant due to circumstance (which undoubtedly happened regualrly in both our history and pre-history)

She goes on to suggest that we are hairless for such reasons (and over a very short period of time) which i find a bit hard to swallow.

But the idea that something fundamentally changed in our human journey interests me immensely.

I believe we are much more interesting than genes and natural selection. Our refusal as a species to naturally select has thrown a spanner in the double helix.

Frozen Lake

I find myself in that slightly awkward but always pleasant bit between Christmas and New Year. In this odd society that puts these major holidays together and where no real work happens in between.

Christmas was good, cracker food and some interesting gifts, of which my (second) favourite was this.

There were also the obligatory and most practical and appreciated socks and deoderant. Well appreciated by some people anyhow.

Much more excitingly on boxing day we managed to get wee Liz out in the canoe and make an attempt on Coney island.

We were thwarted by ice. Yes ice, a big dirty great sheet of it that seemed to run all the way out to Coney Island.

The good ship Pudge is not designed as ice breaker, though we tried all the same. In the end we gave up when the crunching noises became all a bit disconcerting.

Instead we paddled up the Blackwater instead fearing dive bombings by swans. We were fine.

I must say I did like the ice for dragging the canoe back to the car.

[Note my new hat, another cracking pressie]

You still touch me

Every day I go behind a curtain and ask various different people to remove their clothes so I can touch them.

I’m just saying it’s all a bit weird when you think about it.

Make it up

BMJ this week

Why has this taken so long to come out. That, as suspected and lots of people have said oseltamavir (tamiflu) doesn’t work. Our government has spent 500 million so far on these drugs and a commitment to spend another 500 million.

Channel 4 and the BMJ questioned the veracity of the claims that oseltamavir would have efficacy in influenza – based on 10 drug company funded studies (only 2 published in peer review journals).

None of these studies actually dealt with the at risk groups (immunocompromised, pregnant, under 5s) who we have actually been giving oseltamavir.

The royal college of GPs went against Department of Health recommendations back at the beginning of the epidemic opting for a much more considered view, suggesting doctors use this old fashioned thing called clinical judgement instead of blanket prescribing. Other specialities (including my own) have followed suit.

I have prescribed it to one patient in the past 6 months. And they were critically ill. I don’ think it helped him but I figure if you’re sick enough to cost £1500 a day in ICU then you grasping at straws is perfectly justifiable.

So as usual the major shocking revelation is this:

Drug company buffs results from its own trials to make it look better than it is.

Oh wait, that’s not revelatory at all actually…

The view from my window

The only skiff of snow that was left. Still it’s a start

So this is frolicks 2009

Christmas is upon us. Like a runaway hippo in a downtown metropolis.

Which means I have lots of christmas dinners and nights out to prepare/look forward to.

Topping the list is Festive Fun and Frolicks. The now famous institution of bringing people together to eat and be silly while I publish all to the world.

This thing only works if you have an act. If it’s just the Tates boys and Edinburgh St fighting it out for the top spot it won’t work. I’m throwing down the gauntlet to see if anyone will be able to match the Garvaghy massive in our prolific talent and boyish good looks.

So given a few hours on a wednesday morning with this:

I present FFF 09…

Local boy in the photograph

Most people wouldn’t go to Waterford for a night. We’re not most people.

But it was very nice all the same.

Cheap hotel, good food and a pub that was more like someone’s front room than anything else.

Watched Hunger on the laptop in the hotel room. Stunningly shot. The single shot scene lasting almost 15 minutes is sheer class. Not exactly a laugh a minute but worth watching.

Let the morning pass from breakfast to lunch to the afternoon in the same wee coffee shop taking silly photos of the missus.

Drove to Kilkenny and took more cool photos and sat in a fancy hotel drinking coffee and sneakily using their wi-fi. Found this ad for wedding planning.

It kind of implies that someone has stolen my dreams and is now selling them back to me. No fair.


December 2009