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October 25, 2010

Why genes are leftwing

Why genes are leftwing | Oliver James | Comment is free | The Guardian
When the map of the human genome was presented to the world in 2001, psychiatrists had high hopes for it. Itemising all our genes would surely provide molecular evidence that the main cause of mental illness was genetic – something psychiatrists had long believed. Drug companies were wetting their lips at the prospect of massive profits from unique potions for every idiosyncrasy. But a decade later, unnoticed by the media, the human genome project has not delivered what the psychiatrists hoped: we now know that genes play little part in why one sibling, social class or ethnic group is more likely to suffer mental health problems than another. This result had been predicted by Craig Venter, one of the key researchers on the project. When the map was published, he said that because we only have about 25,000 genes psychological differences could not be much determined by them. "Our environments are critical," he concluded. And, after only a few years of extensive genome searching, even the most convinced geneticists began to publicly admit that there are no individual genes for the vast majority of mental health problems. In 2009 Professor Robert Plomin, a leading behavioural geneticist, wrote that the evidence had proved that "genetic effects are much smaller than previously considered: the largest effects account for only 1% of quantitative traits". However, he believed that all was not lost. Complex combinations of genes might hold the key. So far, this has not been shown, nor is it likely to be. . . .

October 15, 2010

Cancers may be caused by pollution, diets

The scientists found that cancer was virtually nonexistent before the Industrial Population, even amongst peoples who lived very long lives. Initial findings suggest that the pollution brought about by modern technology is causing cancers. Scientists suggest that cancer is purely man-made
Finding only one case of the disease in the investigation of hundreds of Egyptian mummies, with few references to cancer in literary evidence, proves that cancer was extremely rare in antiquity. The disease rate has risen massively since the Industrial Revolution, in particular childhood cancer – proving that the rise is not simply due to people living longer. Professor Rosalie David, at the Faculty of Life Sciences, said: “In industrialised societies, cancer is second only to cardiovascular disease as a cause of death. But in ancient times, it was extremely rare. There is nothing in the natural environment that can cause cancer. So it has to be a man-made disease, down to pollution and changes to our diet and lifestyle.” She added: “The important thing about our study is that it gives a historical perspective to this disease. We can make very clear statements on the cancer rates in societies because we have a full overview. We have looked at millennia, not one hundred years, and have masses of data.”

October 07, 2010

Study finds that light drinking during pregnancy is good for child development

Bottoms Up, Pregnant Women! – The Blogs at HowStuffWorks
Pregnant women everywhere can knock back a pint without feeling an ounce of guilt, thanks to study findings published today in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health (via Discovery News). Based on long-term research that followed 18,500 children from the moment they exited the womb through their first couple years, it’s perfectly healthy to have a cocktail every now and then while pregnant. The word on drinking while pregnant has been somewhat murky until now, with healthcare providers shifty on whether or not that one glass or wine is really fine. For instance, the Mayo Clinic currently warns that “one drink isn’t likely to hurt your baby, but no level of alcohol has been proved safe during pregnancy.” But according to Fred Bookstein, an applied statistician and fetal alcohol expert familiar with the research, the study’s conclusion is so rock-solid, there’s no need to study the effects of low-dose alcohol use in pregnant women any further.

October 03, 2010

Carbon emissions increasing acidity of oceans

Oceans Turning Acid from Carbon Emissions, Point to Biological Breakdown | Informed Comment
The other problem with flooding carbon emissions into the atmosphere in such massive amounts, besides the certitude that it will cause the surface temperature of the earth to increase dramatically over time, is that it will also certainly acidify the oceans. Enjoy those scallops while you can. In fact, you can expect a general biological meltdown in the oceans by the end of the century, according to the Geological Society of London. Parts per million of carbon in the atmosphere have increased from 280 before the Industrial Revolution to 391 at present. Scientists predict that anything over 350 will bring catastrophic climate change. The climate change issue is the more serious one, but the problem of the acidification of the oceans would be enough to argue for carbon emissions reduction all on its own, since the oceans are our life support system. Of course, acidification plus increased water temperatures could work together in very unpleasant ways for marine life. The rate of massive carbon dumping in our air is increasing significantly year by year.