3.05.2007

Cooking, Toxicity, Men's Fertility, Old People, Darwin, and God

In other words, everything but the kitchen sink.

Below is a list of interesting New York Times articles that I've read over the past few weeks. But first, here are lots of good Judaic sources, courtesy of the Charles River Beit Midrash.

I could write a whole post about most of these articles, but I don't have time. They are in chronological order.
  • "He Cooks, She Stews": February 14 NYT article about how couples share (or don't share) kitchens and cooking duties. I think I would be okay doing dishes and having someone else do all of the cooking. Anyone want to apply for the position? Anyway, almost no one gets dishes as clean as I like them, so I'd probably end up doing (or redoing) the dishes anyway. I also don't think I would terribly mind being a sort of sous chef, as long as someone else did all of the planning. I'm an adequate cook, but I mostly make simple things (five ingredients or fewer, including seasoning) and I'm not very good at following recipes.

  • "A Safe House?": February 15 NYT article about the rising popularity of non-toxic household cleaners.

  • "Should You Trust Your Makeup?": February 15 NYT article about the lack of regulation of chemicals in makeup and other beauty products. It seems that hair dye and nail polish are the worst offenders. As someone told me, "Anything you shouldn't use while pregnant because it might harm the fetus [i.e. hair dye], you probably shouldn't use at all." I couldn't agree more.

  • "It Seems the Fertility Clock Ticks for Men, Too": February 27 NYT article about the declining quality of men's fertility as they age.

  • "New Options (and Risks) in Home Care for Elderly": March 1 NYT article about the problems with home health care for the elderly, including the high turnover/low wages, inefficiency of going through an agency, and the possibilities in the "grey market" for finding affordable, qualified care. This problem, of course, is only going to grow as the baby boomers age. (No, I don't really want them to age either, but it seems fairly inevitable at this point.)

  • "Darwin's God": March 4 NYT Magazine article about whether the apparently universal human tendency towards belief in the supernatural is an evolutionarily useful adaptive trait or was the unintended side effect of some other trait. Fascinating article. The most interesting of all that I linked to in this post. (The male fertility one was pretty good, too.)

4 comments:

BZ said...

You mean everything including the kitchen sink!

David said...

Good links, although I sure wish people would stop talking about "men's fertility" - I think the word they're looking for is virility...

ALG said...

David,

Hmmm... I had never really thought of that (fertility vs. virility) before. According to Merriam-Webster Online, one definition of fertile is "capable of breeding or reproducing." I'm fairly sure that medically speaking, it is a term that is used for both women and men. As for virility, I don't think that word would have made sense in this context. According to Merriam-Webster Online, virile means, among other things, "capable of functioning as a male in copulation." The article isn't talking about that. It's talking about the genetic mutations that acrue in male sperm over time, making older men more likely to produce children with detrimental genetic abnormalities.

So I'll grant you that maybe "fertility" was the wrong word, since, from what I recall, the article wasn't talking much about the ability of older men have children (i.e., their fertility), but the higher likelihood of such children having problems.

If you think these two words mean something different than that, let me know.

smoo said...

Re: Darwin's God. Haven't read it yet but this might interest you:

(cross posted by me with other thoughts as well at http://sweetrose.blogspot.com/2007/03/anthropological-look-at-religion.html#comments


I recently began reading Religion Explained by Pascal Boyer who shows how cognitive inference systems (that were necessary for our ancestors to cope with the challenges of life in bands, hunting for food, surviving drought, escaping enemies, forming alliances etc.) developed through evolution and have become part of how human minds work. These inference systems work in very specific ways and those ways coincidentally make it easier for the mind to accept religious, supernatural, or magical ideas (to different extents). This is different than the idea in Marc Hauser’s “book ‘Moral Minds’ that the brain has a genetically shaped mechanism for acquiring moral rules...” Boyer claims that there are universal mechanisms for processing information that would allow for moral rules to develop but NOT that there are specific mechanisms designed for this. IT IS A BY-PRODUCT.

Boyer stresses that people DO NOT suspend their reasoning and allow ideas of religion in their minds. Rather, our minds have developed systems that allow religion credible entry into our thoughts.

Just one example of an inference system is the agency-detection system allows us to ascribe ‘agency’ as the cause of a particular phenomenon. If we hear rustling of the leaves we immediately infer that there is some agent causing it. The first thing that occurs is that there is someone there, an animal, or predator. Upon further reflection we can ascribe its cause to the wind but our initial impulse is that there is someone out there doing something. This was beneficial from an evolutionary standpoint because you don’t get eaten by having too many false positives (overestimating the danger of there being a predator making noise in the leaves). There are a whole host of other inference systems that when looked at in totality combine to make a belief in a non-corporeal being the agent of action in our lives more believable.

[I haven’t gotten to far into the book so I can’t elaborate much more on this but it is an interesting read so far]. I’ll post a more total summary on my site in the future.