Older Men, Reproduction, and Resentment

Sunday, April 5, 2009

It’s a beautiful day in New York so I’m not going to write a long (or, many will argue, well thought-out) post for this issue, but I will just say I am consistently amazed at the resentment among privileged, educated women at men generally, and, I’m guessing, at their husbands specifically.

Reading the New York Times Magazine and a piece within by Lisa Belkin, essentially calling for men to be riven by the same age and time pressure as women when in comes to reproduction. She cites several studies that promote the idea that older men have children with more problems – lower IQs, autism, etc. Assuming that the studies rigorously controlled for other factors (which is always a legitimate concern in studies of this kind) like environment and mothers’ age, correlation doesn’t imply causation.

It seems more likely to me that older dads are simply too tired to supply the extra stimulation to boost their childrens’ IQs by two or three points.

In any case, Belkin goes off on an embittered riff about men having “sell by” dates and hoping that women will now begin to judge them in the same way women are judged.

Good luck, sister.

And while you’re at it, quit complaining. The choices of the modern woman are what women have been fighting for for decades, right? Furthermore, she isn’t really at war with men or the culture, she’s at war with biology, but doesn’t seem to realize it.

Reproduction is the purpose of life. If you don’t want to have kids, don’t have them. But if you do, quit complaining. The world has had enough of these latter-day feminists whining about the burdens of motherhood. She writes of the stereotype of “women eager to settle down and men as reluctant” as though their were no truth in it; as though women are not the primary drivers of our reproductive dyad. It’s just silly.

Lisa, women – you want babies and are anatomically constructed to grow and nurture them. Get used to it already. In fact, revel in it. It’s the point of your existence – not, and this is true of men as well, whatever pathetic career you pursue until you die and everyone forgets you ever existed.

Even if it turns out to be true that sperm loses some potency as men age, it does not change the sexual dynamic. Men can reproduce well beyond the age when women can. Fecundity is sexually attractive. Ipso facto, men are attractive to the opposite sex for longer than women are. That’s why women go for the “silver-haired sex symbols,” and why old ladies can’t get a date.

What can you do? Life sucks.

One can only imagine what its like to live with a woman like this. Carefully charting up chores and duties to make sure they’re split 50/50 and resenting it the whole way; seething about breastfeeding and having the primary role as the caregiver because she is “mommy.”

Eeesh. I pity her poor husband.

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Embryology: The Biology of Development

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Brilliant video from Edge.org.

Lewis Wolpert, Professor of Biology as Applied to Medicine in the Department of Anatomy and Developmental Biology of University College, London, gives a brief walk-thru of some of the latest developments in embryology.

Cell biology is among the most mysterious and fascinating areas in science. So how do cells know to grow a hand instead of an elbow? Wolpert suggest a “buffer zone” that directs anatomical construction based on timing. The experiments referenced in the video support the hypothesis – just amazing!


Tunneling Nanotubes

Friday, November 21, 2008

From New Scientist:

HAD Amin Rustom not messed up, he would not have stumbled upon one of the biggest discoveries in biology of recent times. It all began in 2000, when he saw something strange under his microscope. A very long, thin tube had formed between two of the rat cells that he was studying. It looked like nothing he had ever seen before…

…At the time, it was not clear whether these structures were anything more than a curiosity seen only in peculiar circumstances. Since their pioneering paper appeared, however, other groups have started finding nanotubes in all sorts of places, from nerve cells to heart cells. And far from being a mere curiosity, they seem to play a major role in anything from how our immune system responds to attacks to how damaged muscle is repaired after a heart attack.

Essentially, these nanotubes allows animal cell interiors at some distance to “communicate” so that they act can in concert. This had previously been thought nearly impossible as cell communication seemed to occur almost entirely by releasing chemicals that can be detected by receptors on the surface of other cells.

There are potentially enormous implications for this discovery, not least in immunology. For instance, there is speculation that HIV may avoid an immunological response by traveling through nanotubes. Another fascinating aspect is this:

Using fluorescent proteins, the team also discovered that relatively large cellular structures, or organelles, could move from one cell to another through the nanotubes.

You have to understand the basic structure of a cell to grasp what this means. The human cell is a like micro-machine that generates it’s own energy and functions like a little organism, producing proteins to perform all sorts of activities including making new cells. To be able to pass an organelle from one cell to another is something like (but not quite) one human being being able to pass a kidney to another human being without the fuss of surgery.

Cell biology and immunology are among the most fascinating areas in science. I am not practiced enough to write about these topics at length, but if you want to understand how beautifully strange and complex life is, cell biology and immunology is a great place to start.


Evolution: A Scientific American Reader

Friday, May 30, 2008

I bought this book while browsing the book section of the gift shop at the Museum of Natural History in New York. My interest in biology, genetics, and evolution is paramount in my intellectual life right now, and has been for a while. I was hoping that the book would give me new information and inspire my thinking on the subject. I wasn’t disappointed.

The book is a compilation of articles from Scientific American magazine related to evolution. It starts with a section on the evolution of the universe, continues with cellular evolution, dinosaurs and pre-hominid life, and then finishes with human evolution. Each section contains several articles worth reading, with the standouts being:

  • The entire section on the evolution of the universe.
  • The articles about primitive cellular evolution and immunology (this is a fascinating subject).
  • Stephen Jay Gould on Punctuated Equilibrium.
  • The articles about early hominid evolution and population dispersal.
  • There are a few misses in there as well, but because the book is loosely organized by discrete topics, without much continuity between them, you can simply skip the articles that don’t interest you. For a primer on evolution, and in particular to learn about the evolution of the universe, the formation of stars, and utterly amazing biology of cells, Evolution: A Scientific American Reader is a great book. I recommend it.


    Mankind Down to the Last 2,000

    Tuesday, April 29, 2008

    A genetic analysis produced by researchers at the National Geographic Genographic Project and Stanford reports that mankind may have been down to about 2,000 people roughly 70,000 years ago.

    They can figure this out by analyzing the genomes of mitochondrial DNA. Mitochondria produce energy for cells, among other things. They have their own DNA, separate from a cell’s nucleus, and they are thought to have once been distinct organisms that were engulfed by our cellular ancestors.

    This research lends some support to Stephen Jay Gould’s theory of punctuated equilibrium, which sees evolution not as a flowing natural progression towards complexity (and human inevitability) but as a series of start and stop accidents that put us here purely by luck.

    One more major drought and we’d have gone the way of the Neanderthals.


    It’s Alive!

    Sunday, April 27, 2008

    I couldn’t resist posting this link to a Reuters slideshow of new images from the Hubble Telescope. These are spectacular photos; mostly of galaxies colliding. When I see photos like this I am ever more certain that humanity is beside the point of the universe.

    I think of this activity in space as macro-organic. And I can’t help but feel as though we are free riders; that we are to these galaxies something like the trillions of bacteria that inhabit our bodies are to us.


    Sex Differences: Men and Women Are Not the Same

    Thursday, April 24, 2008

    What seems like common sense to most people is a matter a great debate among scientists and social scientists. Mainly because the cause(s) of the differences between men and women is hard to identify. Susan Pinker’s book suggests a strong biological trigger for patterns of male and female behavior and the resultant differences between the sexes. Louann Brizendrine’s recent book essentially posits the same thing.

    This, to me, seems like a no brainer. There is an important but poorly understood relationship between nature and nurture, but nature certainly is at least a co-equal part of development. The simple fact is that, biologically-speaking, women’s brains and bodies develop differently from men’s.

    And that’s…okay. It’s really okay.

    Apart from that, there is a political battle being fought here. It’s not that women are different, it’s that they’re discriminated against because they are different. This no longer holds water in the face of the continued advancement of women in our society. If women are not equally represented at the top of certain fields, it is not because men (or society) wouldn’t let them get there.

    No one is going to stop a female Einstein from solving the deepest problems of the universe at her desk in the patent office, or for that matter, the nursery.