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Category Archives: Biocultural Anthropology

Anthropology – wrestling life´s architecture of containment

ImageAs an anthropologist, life becomes embroiled in comparision. Everything must have an alternative context through which we can seek an empathetic or critical glance at a range of aspects relating to what it means to be human. In other words, things are not stable, but constantly in flux – our systems of thought, our political, religious, ideological processes of expansion or containment. We adhere to principles of non-adherance. We do this through a set of (fluid) methodologies which (we believe) enable us to contemplate humanity through holistic understandings. Long-term fieldwork, the sine qua non of the discipline, remains the tried and tested approach to the challenges of alterity, or what we can gauge by comparing the drastic or subtle nuances involved in fundamental human practices. We think, we move, we love, we fight, we create, we acquiesce, we are born, we die, we interact, we destroy, and we seek meaning through a variety of sources. This is what makes the human species so fascinating – different approaches to the mundane, different outcomes – or maybe not. Maybe the longue duree of evolution has become so daunting, that to us, this reflection and its acceptance, thrusts us into increasingly confined spaces where we seek solace in our fear of this awareness and the challenges life presents?

Yes, the anthropologist is the Leatherman philosopher. At once aware of diversity, applying a set of tools in order to unlock life´s mysteries, but always aware of the fragility of their construction, and the imminency of their potential reconstitution.

For most, reflection, and an openness to tackle such fundamental questions relating to ´what it means to be human?´ and ´how might things be different?` are challenges far greater than the confines of a sheltered life of fear or ´comfort´ provide. The great philosophers, stretching back to Plato and Aristotle, all knew this and most subsequent thinkers have sought (albeit in contrasting ways) to unravel these questions, and shed light on humanities´ desire to approach, but mostly avoid, their direct experiential appraisal through action (trial and error). In a contemporary setting, people shy away from questioning their beliefs, their choices, their actions out of fear for the apparent insecurities that will eventuate; What if s/he is not right for me? Is this career fulfilling? Do I believe in science and/or superstition? Is what I am putting in my mouth doing me more harm than good? Could a change in approach unlock certain anxieties that have prevented me from doing z, y or z? The list is endless – as are the possibilities we have for being more human.

People, again in a contemporary sense, reveal signs of what it means to be human, but from within the enclosed space of their anxieties. People are becoming caged animals, yet another tragic case of apes trapped in a sanctuary – made invisible by the ´freedom´of facebook profile updates telling ´the world´of their daring, their dexterity, their knowledge, and their visions through a photo of a plate of chicken and vegetables. People ´travel´ to the far corners of the globe (or the closest place with sun and cheap beer) for their ´experience´of diversity, unwittingly forging their further isolation through reinforcing unreflective dichotomies of ´difference´ – Oh, they we so poor, but all smiling. We helped them out by volunteering, showing them how they can escape poverty and now sponsor a family – it´s so great to be making a difference… etc. Yet back on safe ground, people climb back into their sanctuaries, slumping into their Ikea sofas, updating their profiles, filling themselves with sugar and HFCS, doing as the state tells them to do – reveling in the glory of wealth and hypermodernity.

ImageFreedom, as a fundamental instinct of the antropos, lies elsewhere. It is unbound. It lies not in a set of flow charts or indexes keeping us in a pseudo state of harmony – Oh how lucky we are!

Freedom exists outside any paradigms that cushion our increasingly flabby backsides and stress/diet-related illnesses. Freedom is a curiosity that leads to further awareness of our potentials as a species to live a life of co-existence in the vast glory of our global ecoscape. Freedom is not confined to those with the means to purchase a ticket to fly to the world´s ends. Nor is it limited for those severely inhibited by such structural constrains as war, and tyranny. It exists within a mindset and a moving body. Freedom is not an idealistic realm of the kombucha drinking yoga practitioner. Humans are but a minor aberration when seen from afar, at the mercy of our environments, garnished as we are, with this remarkable opportunity to participate in our stage in evolution. It makes acts of sloth, of adherence to commercialized ´wisdom´, to greed and ignorance of contrasting ways of life, to uncritical use of “better-worse”, “us-them”, or an early retirement of our exponential range of mental, physical and emotional capacities – all seem like such a slight on the winning lottery ticket we have been dealt to share in the vastness of our interconnected pathway. Our ancestors started to get things right, yet we´ve regressed.

Anthropology today works diligently at protecting this diversity, yet struggles to break free of its philosophical grounding in a world of Red Bull-fuelled instant gratification. The pregnancy of life´s meaning struggles to resonate when we turn to so-called scientific “truths” – uncritically rendered to us through multiple medias, states, and religious doctrines – each with their own projects of containment. You see, modern society is becoming constructed through an architecture of containment. We are being watched by big brother from all corners, whether we like it or not. Any attempts to stand outside the boundaries of “normality” will attract unwanted attention (and we´ll cease to get liked on facebook). This suits our further containment, despite our sanctuaries appearing in glossy magazines as expressions of our freedoms.

People need (a more public) anthropology. It remains stuck within itself however, an ironic isolation from the very tenants of the freedom and manifold it seeks to portray.

We can all be anthropologists. We don´t need an academic straightjacket. We are all indeed philosophers. There are no rules to this. We have it in us to seek knowledge, understanding and wisdom – but this only eventuates through an awareness and an openness to the fact that we are all unique, only as a species sharing the same planet, with similar desires for a “good life” – but lacking the tools to break free from our confined zoological warehouses.

Great people only become iconic figures because they dare to try (and fail) where others fear. Beautiful movement, creative thought, empathy, love, work, curiosity and our unique capacities to amaze lie alongside our ability to hate, our obesity, our prejudice and our constant social media updates.

It´s the process that separates the eventual outcomes.

We are all unique apes and we could all do with stopping our lazy-arse ways reflecting upon how things might and could be and getting stuck into the pathways that lead us ahead.

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Sexual selection (part 1)

Sexual selection: It does all seem to get over analyzed, with the general confusing over how much the social/external influence directs our evolutionary makeup. Less than we realize I reckon. This post** outlines how some of this confusion has got us through to today´s uncertain times regarding mate selection. In anthropology, 20th century theory was dominated by forms of functionalist thinking which saw social behavior reflecting or sustaining social order or collectivity, with less weight (understanding) placed upon legitimate biological practicalities of evolution.

Two competing, yet comparative instincts humans have evolved through their increased complexity are the sexual instincts that drive copulation (finding a partner to mate with) and the way we create, expose and decorate our bodies to apparently achieve such results. Both factors (one, we could crudely call biological, the other social) are part of sexual selection and, whilst not mutually inclusive, are fundamental to understanding the modern commercial preoccupation for “the ideal body” (whatever that is…I just heard about this reading high-end lit. in the dentists waiting room last week).

For the male, I think it is unquestionable that evolution has favored toughness those with hard to hide expressions of physical condition. Size, energy, loudness etc have been selected ahead of feebleness. But for the female, physical signs have not been allowed such scope of outward diversity due to the demanding task of pregnancy and motherhood. It would make sense to think that a female with a large arse and thighs (vs. skinny one) would indicate too much processed food breeding potential and proficiency as carrying potential genes forward. But then again, not all females are like that, so there are other factors. One that has become popular with evolutionary psychologists is the idea of “developmental stability”. Not just the arse then. This relates to the ability to change outward expression of fertility and health by aiming for symmetry in appearance, even if the genes and environment select against this. This is related to these odd studies you read about whereby people look at faces of all sorts of individuals and pick the ones they are most/least attracted to based upon nose/cheek/eye/chin lines etc.

Bodily symmetry has of course been a major factor in aesthetical expression of the human form throughout our history. But whatever the size and shape, these factors are biologically important to mate selection. So the question may be asked for today´s male or female out to find a partner or a one night liaison:

  • “What are these developmental symmetries that can help me out here?!”
  • “Never mind your evolutionary ranting, I just want to know how to get laid, and whether or not it is the bodily characteristics me or her I should be concerned about!”

Well, if I knew the answer, I would be like Tucker Max pretends to be. There is no answer of course, other than the fact that sexual selection a mutual choice (mostly). And that mutual choice is based upon a hugely broad variation of indicators of what fitness entails. It can be be boiled down to the level of tradeoff one places upon a certain category versus the other, which again is vastly diverse. If sexual fitness was biologically determined to favour certain factors like breast size, hip width or height, then we would all be the same. We are not, which is an indicator that humans get what they can use strategic selection based upon whatever they can get  a combination of socially and biologically influenced understandings of fertility and health. Big, or perhaps solid and meaty arses have long been a feature of the developmental success of our species, and the trend today towards stripping away the flesh to reveal bony, flat rumps is in fact more of a reversal of the evolutionary path back to our tree-dwelling days (minus all the hair). As far as breasts go, size has usually been linked to nutritional wellbeing in terms of fat reserves being stored there, but also as an indicator of fertility. In this sense, we would expect large breasts in affluent societies but the huge variation in size is perhaps an indicator of too much pointless aerobic exercise of other more influential factors in male selection, like brains.

The human body has successfully evolved to survive. We don´t have to worry too much about selecting a mate who may not have the capacity to survive, with few exceptions. Sexual selection has become more complex as our brains have developed, and as our societies have expanded. No longer do we have to make do with the odd new mate appearing on the horizon, unless we live in the Arctic. No longer do we have to use violence. No longer do we have to grunt better than the other hairy dude living in the next cave. We have language, we have the cognitive skills and intuition to make wrong choices and get divorced make the selective process a lottery more nuanced, more interesting and broader than that of our ancestors. But we still focus on tits ´n arses, girls still check out the shoulders, arms and hips. What´s up then?. The more we are told that aesthetic composition is the key to successful mating, the less we seem to adhere to the factors that have played a pivotal role over the course of our life histories.

Humans get sexually aroused rather quickly, and this is our downfall usually precedes the time it takes for emotional connection, which, in most cases is the determinant factor in (long-term) mate selection. How many times do you hear, see or think “he´s in it for the body” or “that has to be to suit the image”?. Like it or not, we are rather plastic beneath our cloak of egalitarianism and humility. We wish society well, and believe personality is the key to harmonious relations and coherence in life, yet still we are genetically programmed to display our (perceived) sexual prowess and select mates who fill these desires. Be truthful now!. Science does not usually lie, it is as objective as we allow ourselves to believe it ahead of the subjectivity that allows our ideological meandering to think we are an advanced monogamous species.

So, what the hell has this to do with modern consumer society trying desperately how to change our genetic tendencies?. We are perhaps guided by moralities and try our best to adhere to principles of good faith, family bonds and unity. But we find our modern complexities in constant flux regarding social, psychological, biological and physical frailties and the need to place more or less weight on the factors (they say, we say, we feel etc) that initiate our selection choice for partners.

It is only the media and commercial interests that profit from telling us how we need to manipulate our bodies and buy shit we don´t need through diet and exercise in order to make ourselves more attractive. Save yourself time and think of “being healthy” not as some aspect of social conformity, but as a possibility we have to fulfill our evolutionary potential. Mates will come and go, hearts will be broken, that is just my human nature. The less we stress about it the better. If we think of selection like we think of an episode of Seinfeld, then we understand the blurred nature of reality and entertainment. Just how we “know” what we are attracted to and why is part of our epistemological evolution that is in constant flux, and in constant battle with the pressures we allow ourselves to be influenced by in modern society.

Intelligence, warmth, compassion, humility, humor and lifting kettlebells so on are all parts of physical attractiveness. These qualities are displayed in various ways and will forever be debated through trial and error. Body image through the media and social commentary is part of the objectification of self that is so pervasive in today´s society. But we are reflexive in our mind´s appearance and habituate a body every day in many ways, thus have a capacity to act in non-cognitive ways. Our bodies are in constant motion and move freely beyond the boundaries prescribed by the the subject-object dichotomy that causes so much self-doubt about body image. It is the space we occupy and interact with that determines our consciousness wellbeing, not a static time zone. Sexual selection has many forces at play, but still, take it as a compliment if someone tells you you´ve got a nice arse. I´m sure it´s well meant.

**based upon years of trial and error and the realization that George was smarter than Jerry and Elaine

 

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Paleo Parenting: Now what´s that all about?

“Life affords no greater responsibility, no greater privilege, than the raising of the next generation.”


- C. Everett Koop

My father was amazing. He used to make me fried livers, onions and kidneys for breakfast and cycle up to school at lunch times with meat pies and red peppers filled with cottage cheese. He ordered Match magazine from England for me and I had an original Le Coq Sportif Chelsea strip with number 9 on the back in 1985. That was Kerry Dixon, my childhood hero. I had a Mongoose factory team BMX to race. My dad never missed a cricket or soccer practice, and was always on the sideline during games. He used to carry my golf clubs on his back and caddy for me all day.

He taught me how to think about history and be politically weary. We moved about a lot, but I always felt like I was the center of his world. He was the social scientist, and the things he didn´t know, like calculus or chemistry, he made sure I got a chance to know, by finding people to come over and tutor me. He let me find my way, led me where he knew, taught me patience, empathy, gratefulness and most of all, how to never let down the most precious thing in life, your child. When he passed away, my grief drew me closer to my will to honor his name by being the best father I could possibly be to my children. It is any parent´s primal instinct.

Parental Responsiveness

Back in the 1960s, clinical and developmental psychologist Diane Baumrind determined 3 basic types of parenting from a study of pre-school children and their parents:

Baumrind, D. (1967). Child care practices anteceding three patterns of preschool behavior. Genetic Psychology Monographs, 75(1), 43-88.

1. Authoritarian (rigid, harsh, demanding/unresponsive)

2. Permissive (soft, overly responsive/undemanding, “spoilt child”)

3. Authoritative (moderate, responsive/demanding in certain circumstances, fair)

Later in 1983 Maccoby and Martin added “Neglectful” or “Uninvolved” (undemanding/unresponsive).

Authoritative parenting was considered by Dr. Baumrind to be the ideal style. Give the children rules to respect, communicate well, and allow for independence. Punish misdemeanors in a fair way. Show respect for your child and be a role model for them to follow. Ok, fair enough, we have a winner. But wait….

What level of responsiveness should we give our children and how demanding should we be?. It seems that these categories are loosely formed on general observations and have been applied to varying degrees of success to studies looking at raising children based upon variants of responsiveness and demand. It is easy to generalize and point to levels of self-esteem and career success and failure to parental roles in childhood. We get the idea that social norms and expectations placed upon us as parents makes us adhere closely to the authoritative model. But how are we conditioned as parents to decide how to raise our kids?. Is it natural to make decisions for our kids based upon what we perceive as being right or wrong?. Can we not foster free-will through compassion, love and sympathy, yet not try to mould our kids into our mirror image?. We all say openly that we want what´s best for our kids, and that they can freely choose their path in life. But hang on:

  • I decide what they eat (by buying and cooking the meals)
  • I tell them that being outside is a better option than being inside
  • I tell them that doing well at school is the most essential thing for a child
  • I reflect upon what my father did and apply a lot of those things to my own parenting

Where do we draw the line at deciding when and why they can and cannot make their own choices?. Is stems back to traditions, ideologies and cultural schemas we are conditioned to reproduce as social beings. Now the evolutionary anthropology bit:

Every society has a steadily evolving set of cultural models for rearing children. This is seldom an individualistic task, and the vision and practicalities of this shared wisdom varies from community to community, culture to culture. What is universal however, is the desire to teach children at a young age the dispositions required to fulfill the complex expectations of adulthood. This is commonly referred to as sociocompetitive competency. It is a part of social evolution, that culture, as sets of shared practices, plays a determinate role in shaping the child´s experience and the parent´s role in nurturing them through to adulthood. Whilst the variables to child raising are immense cross-culturally, the overall design is similar. Children are taught through reactions of approval and disapproval to become culturally primed for their role as adults, but also in more abstract ways that can best enable then to tackle the myriad of conflicting interests and social ecology of other human beings.

The H. sapien Parent – evolving through the abstractions

Paternal investment is rare among mammalian species. In fact, in only 3-5 %. The evolved characteristics of H. sapiens to adapt to functioning best in competitive environments is marked by cultural variability, yet the role as parents has always been focussed on ways to adaptably provide the ecological surrounds for the child to acquire socially competitive skills. In this sense, the biological meets the social. There is an intrinsic link. But how as parents in a world full of conflicting interests, do we guide our children through to these competencies?. What are the evolutionary mechanisms Darwin taught us through his theory of natural selection that provides us with a set of guiding principles that should mould our neolithic parenting existence?. R-E-L-A-X!!!

The long evolution of social dynamics, skipping to the beat of natural selection when we are least aware, has given us an instinctive bond of parental protection with our children that not only ensures their survival and reproductive successes later in life, but stands them in good stead to deal with selection pressures, such as modern diseases of civilization. Remembering that Darwin´s observation of variability being heritable is key to differential survival (natural selection), then our role as parents is crucial, yet complicated, because selection pressures are acting upon physical, behavioral, physiological and cognitive variation. In other words, we should not start stressing about whether or not our parenting skills may effect the number of legs our grandchildren have, because we have been strongly selected to have two, but we should be AWARE of the need to access the optimal biological, physical and social resources that will allow our offspring to thrive in the way we wish

Isn´t this just our primal parental instinct?.

Heck, it should be!. We want our children to be competitive socially (finding a decent partner later in life), biologically healthy (eating natural, not man made food) and physically safe (having a home). We want the factors that can influence this in a positive way to be at the forefront of their lives, and the compounding pressures to be easily cast aside. We see with our mammalian ancestors acting in social ways to ensure protection of the young, of territory and of reproductive success. Chimpanzees fight when needed, make deals with each other, rest a lot and move and eat well. It is in the natural disposition of our ancestors to not only protect our young, but to form bonds of reciprocal altruism that can allow us to survive and to enjoy the journey.

Paleo and parenting

Is it not common sense that we should adopt the ways we are best selected for, and transfer them to all aspects of our lives?. We parent our kids in ways that suit our lifestyles, often to the detriment of the evolutionary model that has been laid out in our modern wake. We need to be aware of the way families operate cross-culturally to distill not only the variables, but to see the commonalities which may provide us with some guiding principles that may of may not need reinforcing to some. Human evolution can be boiled down to competition. Beyond our abilities to survive, come the abstractions that our enlarged neocortex has allowed us to become the sole human species left, but also the distractions that bring natural selection back to the forefront of our social thought. If being a parent is the ultimate path of evolution, then we should try to spend more time doing it, in whatever way we find works, but always with an awareness that our contribution is a legacy that we get just one shot at.

So, what to make of the developmental psychology?. Well, we have a lot to learn from the parental role of our primate ancestors. No, we shouldn´t always behave in a similar manner because we have bills to pay and laws to abide by (but it´s good to be nude as much as possible) but by observing primates with their young, we may be able to sharpen our instincts which are too often hindered by the distractions of modern day life and that abstract brain of ours. Clinical psychologist turned primatologist Harriet J. Smith has spent a lifetime raising and studying apes and monkeys and has contributed enormously to the study of human parental strategies. Observations of note include:

  • For all primates, successful parenting is hard work, and certainly not ‘natural´. It requires constant learning, awareness, experience, and of course help. Infant primates need continuous attention.
  • As far as single-parenting goes, primates need continuous help as well. The feeling of being isolated and overwhelmed is not an evolved stage we are accustomed to, despite the statistics.
  • All primates have been working parents. Despite the fact that modern society demands the juggling act of work and parenting, it is the time spent with your children that is key, and who they spend time with in your absence.
  • Good parents are made, not born. Tamarins learn to parent by observing their own parents care for young siblings and by babysitting new members the family. Without this crucial early experience, parenting ability is seriously impaired, and often leads to rejection of offspring.

There are no easy answers to the questions we have as parents, and the doubts and frustrations we have within ourselves or with those around us. It has never been an easy road, and never will be. It isn´t about being perfect, or following the lead of a guidebook, therapist or crazy tv show. My father was a bit of an odd character in many ways, but he gave me time. He eliminated distractions and focussed on being the best dad that he could be. He expressed to me every night that he loved me. He showed balance and awareness and maybe he knew instinctively that he was teaching me how to be a father too. I often reflect upon his legacy when faced with daily paternal tasks myself; “What would my old man have done/said”?. Be patient and “take it easy” usually come first. After that?. Well, figure out what works best. But be there and be loving.

And in the end, it really does all comes down to some good old loving…

Thanks to John Durant for the above link, and Andrew at Evolvify for good ideas. Also Everydaypaleo and Paleodietlifestyle for some great recipes.

“My father didn’t tell me how to live, he lived, and let me watch him do it.” 
- Clarence Budinton Kelland


 

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Manipulating causality: Medical journals and the pharmaceutical industry fraud

“Medical journals are an extension of the marketing arm of pharmaceutical companies”

Richard Smith

This is a safe life

We are never far from captivating headlines telling us how our path to eventual death may be even closer should we consider squatting below 90, consuming a double espresso, eating bacon and eggs, or god forbid, challenging state health authority recommendations for diet and exercise. For most, avoiding doing anything remotely controversial when it comes to lifestyle changes is a scary option. And people do not like to get scared. People prefer to stay inside the wheel like a mouse, going nowhere in particular, eating birdseed, and wondering if what you did yesterday was what you will do tomorrow, and the day after. But of course being content that even if you never get around to doing something, you´ll not face fear. Society tells us a lot about fear, let´s just exist.

But some seek to understand their shortcomings, and move beyond page 3 of the tabloid newspapers whilst subliminally wondering what life on the road with Shakira would be like (this is the alter ego speaking, they confused image with reality). Some seek the science behind the myth, the clinical evidence that makes us convinced cholesterol is bad, fat loss is a genetic thing, and 60% carbohydrate intake is optimal for health performance. We go to the journals.

I´ve always liked journals, not so much for their up-to-dateness, but for the constant variation and stimulation provided on a regular basis, and the thought provoking material that one can either add to the pile in the office shelf or keep open and develop further knowledge. Much like relationships to a woman or a dip bar, journals can be a challenge, and thoroughly rewarding if approached methodically at the correct time in a focussed way, but can provide confusing feedback that may require extended periods of self-reflection. If I appear slightly Freudian, I can explain. And I love the dip bar.

Richard Smith was editor in chief of the British Medical Journal and CEO of the BMJ Publishing Group for 13 years between 1991-2004. His article “Medical Journals Are an Extension of the Marketing Arm of Pharmaceutical Companies” is based on a lecture at the Medical Society of London in October 2004 when receiving the HealthWatch Award. The article overlaps to a small extent with an article published in the BMJ in 2003. He later published a book in 2006 entitled “The Trouble with Medical Journals” which further expands upon this topic. Now what struck me as interesting, was the levels of collusion that must be systematically inherent in the medical journal industry that allows for randomised controlled clinal trials to be the basis of cause and effect “evidence” that ends up as published papers, which are force fed to the medical industry, state health authorities and eventually to all the mice on treadmills living the life of existence in the uncivilized and brainwashed modern society. Sorry about the long sentence, I´ve been reading too many medical journals and drinking coffee, so that MUST be the effect.

The pharmaceutical industry is big. The biggest company Pfizer had global revenues in 2008 of USD$68billion, so sponsoring journals and clinical trials and no doubt unethical medical practitioners/peer reviewers to promote its drugs is well worth it. The World Health Organization (WHO) recently issued a fact sheet warning about the corrupt and unethical practices that are endemic to every step of the pharmaceuticals business. This is probably not so new to many, as is usually the case with multi-billion dollar industries, corruption and malpractice is the norm rather than the exception; “Join the ride and keep your trap shut, or stand up against it, quit the industry and take up life as a poor, but morally sound social scientist instead” type gig. An extract:

  • Corruption in the pharmaceutical sector occurs throughout all stages of the medicine chain, from research and development to dispensing and promotion,” the fact sheet reads.The medicine chain refers to each step involved in getting drugs into the hands of patients, including drug creation, regulation, management and consumption. The WHO notes that corruption is so widespread in part because medicines pass through a large number of intermediaries before they reach the patients who need them. Each extra step provides an opportunity for corruption to take place, ultimately driving up the cost of the medicine or diverting it toward the wrong recipients.

So we see the journals being published by professional societies (e.g. British Medical Association), the pharmaceutical companies that provide the funds for gaining the results they want and the academics/medical professionals who provide the writing, reviewing, and promotion of the results to the students/patients/media. Talk about symbiosis. Reading through PubMed to gain some knowledge about type II diabetes, hormone regulation, fat metabolism etc is like a discovering a fetish for handbags, and sitting down with a decade´s supply of Woman´s Weekly magazines to work out what has been in fashion. Take cholesterol research for example.

You got it Homer!

Statins (lipoprotein reducing medicine) are the best selling medicines in the history of modern pharmaceuticals. It is a billion dollar drug range, and these companies will do anything to keep up the myth of cholesterol being bad for us and linking it to disease. But recent research, often coming from the internet/blog driven independent health research field, is telling us that this is little more than a scam on a massive scale. Still, one cannot help but feel sorry for the confusing advice that not only is “bad” cholesterol actually “bad”, because “new insights” tell us so, but some “good” cholesterol is actually “bad”, or can go “bad”. Even statins that reduce “bad” cholesterol, also reduce the risk of certain cancer. And again here. Or we could just relax, eat well, rest well and not worry about it at all. What methods to these companies adopt to get the results from clinical trials they look for?. Back to Dr. Smith´s article (2005)

  • Conduct a trial of your drug against a treatment known to be inferior.
  • Trial your drugs against too low a dose of a competitor drug.
  • Conduct a trial of your drug against too high a dose of a competitor drug (making your drug seem less toxic).
  • Conduct trials that are too small to show differences from competitor drugs.
  • Use multiple endpoints in the trial and select for publication those that give favourable results.
  • Do multicentre trials and select for publication results from centres that are favourable.
  • Conduct subgroup analyses and select for publication those that are favourable.
  • Present results that are most likely to impress—for example, reduction in relative rather than absolute risk.
The problem seems inextricably bound up in economics. As long as drug companies continue to fund research and be complicit in directing every step along the way, then the public will not get the preventative treatment that could be developed if, for example, state funding agencies began to sponsor trials based upon the types of broad-ranging interdisciplinary research that are beginning to uncover so many of the myths of modern medicine. It seems a long way off however. I cannot see even the state providing funding for a decade-long study looking at the effects of a lower carbohydrate/sugar intake on mental and physical health, without having to admit the fallacy of their advice over the past decades to consume a low-fat, high carbohydrate diet. Another suggestion would be to regulate the medical journal industry, making them somehow independent of the drug companies, and adopting a critical approach to existing research, instead of continuing to publish results from clinical trials that quite obviously seek to prove an effect from a pre-framed cause. This too, seems a long way off.
In the meantime, we can continue to discuss informally some of the benefits that a social science orientated methodological approach can provide to some of the natural sciences that seem steeped in a reductionist-type methodological orientation. We need to look closely at ideas taken from biocultural anthropology and evolutionary psychology and merge the holistic understandings about human physiological development to forge a new health paradigm for the current millennium that is not a slave to corrupt commercial interests, but actually has the wellbeing of humanity at its core.
 

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