Feb. 8th, 2008

heron61: (Gryphon)
This is what bad science look like. We have a study where genetics is supposedly more than twice as important than environment in determining obesity. I have no idea if this is true or not, and I have no more idea than I did before after looking at the study that supposedly proves this. The study uses 5,000 pairs of identical twins, and the article doesn't say so, I'm guessing they compared them to either non-identical twins or simply other siblings. The problem is that in most of the West, identical twins are subject to expectations about them being identical, and so there are significant behavioral similarities that are solely due to social expectations that non-twins do not face.

I've generally only seen two types of studies involving identical twins:

1) Studies, like this one, where the twins were raised together, and not only have the same environment, but also faced cultural expectations to be the same.

2) Studies where they were raised apart and did not know of one another. First off, this is vanishingly rare, and so most studies of this sort quite literally involve the same 2 dozen pairs of separated identical twins (thus resulting in a microscopic sample size). In addition, the only way to find twins where were raised separately is once they have found out about one another, so they have had months (or in most cases years) to spend time together and to work on developing habits in common, because identical twins are culturally expected to be identical.

The degree to which biologists and medical researchers discount culture is both impressive and deeply foolish.
heron61: (Gryphon)
I recently read an interesting work of philosophy (Indra's Postmodern Net) if any of you are interested). The piece is fascinating, and the discussions of the interconnectedness of all things and the relation between that idea and causality is well worth reading. However, on a purely personal level, I remain puzzled. Reading that piece once again pointed up the fundamental problem that I have with most philosophy, and especially with both Buddhism and everything derived from Existentialism and almost all of the various branches of western philosophy that followed it. All of these various worldviews assume that within all humans there is some fundamental and inherent discontent. The "human condition" is assumed to be unhappy. This can be phrased as "existence is suffering", or is discussions of the inherently meaningless nature of existence and the difficulty of coming to terms with this.

I find these and all related ideas to be utterly baffling on a personal level. I have always assumed that my base state should be both happy and content and when it isn't, I change my circumstances so that it is. I enjoy existence and see no reason to do otherwise.

Also as [livejournal.com profile] andrewducker one said about me, "John doesn't fundamentally believe in the human condition, as he thinks that it's socially constructed" (a statement that I'm quite pleased with), and I strongly suspect that this belief of mine is closely related to my lack of understanding of and thus my lack of interest in philosophy. I consider every sort of inherent "natural" or "human" limitation as a problem to be solved or an inefficiencies that needs to be fixed, not as things to be accepted or reflected upon (except as is needed to solve them). I most especially don't see such limitations, be they our limited intelligence, our limited lifespans, or the fact that some of us are far wealthier or happier than others, to be things we need to come to terms with, accept, or learn to feel good about. From my PoV, if problems exist, they exist to be solved.

More than that, from my PoV the meaning of life and of existence in general has always been patently obvious – It never occurred to me that life had any intrinsic meaning, the idea that it might has not only always seemed utterly ridiculous to me, I find any suggestion that it might to be horrifying in the sense that it means that people do not get to choose their own destinies. Instead, its always seemed obvious (to me at least) that the only meaning our lives have is whatever meaning we each individually choose to give it. I find this idea to be simultaneously perfectly natural and completely liberating and joyful.

While I recognize this as an unfair characterization, to me most philosophy and a great deal of the older religions seems to revolve around being unhappy and either (at best) learning to be happy or (far more commonly) learning to accept being unhappy. As someone who has never had any trouble being happy, I see little personal need for the first (but also recognize that others might), but I find the second to be horrifying and deeply wrong.

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