Skepchick Quickies, 3.21


Jen is a writer and web designer/developer in Columbus, Ohio. She spends too much time on Twitter at @antiheroine.

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  1. Yeah, I kinda get his point, but I've been into space for a LONG time and basically I know why we stopped dreaming.  It's because dreaming in space costs billions and has no visible return.  Of course we get great science out of that, but try and explain that to shortsighted taxpayers and politicians.
    The key is, as is happening now to COMMERCIALIZE SPACE, because without a fiscal return from going there, no private entity or group of taxpayers will support financing going there.  My thought is that at the government level, they need to increase their funding to private commercialization efforts.  And they ARE doing that so I actually think we're heading in the right direction, but we should be more aggressive towards space commercialization.

  2. I took a look at Did depression evolve to fight infection?

    I don’t know about the original paper, but the Futurity.com article got into some pretty un-skeptical speculation about the role of evolution in depression.

    1. Yeah I kinda wish Skepchick would start using a quality bar for the articles they post unless they're meaning to criticize it.  Is that what the author intended here?

      1. When I post links, there is not necessarily any implicit endorsement or criticizing. They are links that I think would make good discussion. Sometimes the discussion is seeing how commenters can discredit stories. A good hint is if I pose the link as a question.

      2. There are plenty of people frequenting here who are well versed in the practice of critical thinking, who know how to research, and can recognize shoddy work when they see it.
        We are the quality bar.

        1. Hm, ya, I guess that's part of the fun, not much to stick around for skeptics if there's not something to rip apart once in a while.

  3. OK, if the idea is to critique the linked articles, I’ll have a go at the depression one. (Again, the disclaimer: I have not read the original journal article.)

    For starters, they say “infection was the major cause of death.” If by that, they mean communicable diseases contracted by people in otherwise good health, that doesn’t square with what I have heard elsewhere. The consensus is that for most of our species’ existence, we were hunter-gatherers in small bands, and small populations don’t support mortal diseases. (Chronic ones, yes.) Starvation, violence, and injuries would have been more significant. And, of course, old age.

    How being depressed would help you fight off a disease is not mentioned. If anything, it’s usually said that being depressed lowers your resistance to disease and your ability to fight it off.

    They then change tack and talk about how the sleep disturbances were due to the “need to stay on alert to fend off predators after injury.” I don’t know about anyone else, but when depression is bad enough to disturb my sleep, I am a lot less alert.

    Basically, the whole thing sounded like a lot of gee-whiz hand-waving. If you are inventive enough, are good with your hands, and willing to lower your standards of — let’s call it plausibility — enough, you can explain almost anything as a consequence of evolution. Stars and stripes for the USA flag? Geneticly programmed by evolution!

    I’m not saying that there aren’t aspects of human psychology or behavior that are products of evolution (in a basic sense, they all are.) But figuring out how any particular aspect came about requires doing real science, not bar table speculation. And the resulting explanation is likely to be a lot subtler than what we see here.

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