Article: Boys Beating Girls (as in boys out-number girls)

My Casualty Report in Salvo Issue #46 is on modern-day eugenics. In several countries, the ratio of boys born compared to girls is well above the naturally occurring ratio of 104 to 106 boys for every 100 girls. Keep in mind that the natural ratio does not deviate, even in cases where there is a sex-linked disease. This is a very stable ratio. Yet, in some provinces in China the ratio is 125 boys for every 100 girls. Several Soviet bloc countries also have a sex ratio around 120 boys per 100 girls.

The United Nations Population Fund estimates that there are 117 million women believed to be “missing” in Asia and Eastern Europe due to sex-selective abortion and child neglect.

Article: Young & Restless

My Casualty Report in Salvo Magazine (Issue #45) gives recent statistics on issues affecting our culture. My latest Casualty Report is politically incorrect even though the statistics are from well-known journals and media sources. It is on transgenderism and specifically addresses the number of teens who identify as transgender, and then after puberty accept their biological sex. It also reports how many gender confirmation surgeries have been done in the past two years. However, it does not report on the number of de-transition surgeries because there have been no formal studies on de-transitioning. Here’s why: A doctor and several other surgeons who perform gender confirmation surgeries noticed an increase in people wanting to de-transition. The doctor wanted to conduct a formal study on this, but the university shut down the research because it was “potentially politically incorrect.” Even though this seems like a valid medical research question, politics prevailed.

Article: Embryoids: Explanations and Ethical Issues

I serve as news curator for bioethics.com and occasionally write a commentary on a news item. Usually these commentaries involve translating recent research into layman’s terms and outlining the bioethical issues.

My newest commentary is on embryoids. Embryoids are clusters of cells that are made either from embryonic stem cells or from induced pluripotent stem cells. They self-organize and demonstrate many of the features of a developing embryo, but lack certain cell types to allow them to grow beyond the initial phases of embryonic development.

Embryoids are an ethical conundrum. Are they embryos or are they not? If they are not, do they still qualify as organisms?

My article does not come to any hard conclusions but outlines the ethical discussion. For more about embryoids, you can read my bioethics.com commentary here.

Casualty Report: Going It Alone

Salvo Issue #44 has some great articles on living as a whole person in a broken world. I was particularly impressed with “Suffer These Children: True Confessions of a Guardian ad Litem” by Raymond J. Brown, who serves as a court-appointed special advocate for abused and neglected children. His article will break your heart and offer hope.

I was also impressed with Terrell Clemmons’ article “Drug Busted: Psychiatry & Mad, Bad Medicine.” I have long been interested in how the pharmaceutical industry medicalizes mental health disorders and then are happy to sell pills that often do more harm than good, particularly in the long term. Terrell mentions Mad in America, a book and website that I read periodically, particularly when I’ve just posted another study showing how psycho-pharmaceuticals are addictive and dangerous.

My Casualty Report column this issue is on loneliness. More and more Americans and Europeans suffer from a deep sense of isolation that leads to despair. This is different from solitude. Solitude is healthy and necessary. Loneliness, on the other hand, is not just about being alone. A person can feel deeply alone in a crowded room. I provide some recent statistics on loneliness.

Mother Teresa wrote in her book A Simple Path these words that pinpoint what our deep sense of loneliness is really about:

The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty–it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There’s a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.

If you are interested in getting a subscription to Salvo for a high school or college student in your life, the good people at Salvo are running a special. One year subscription for $10, which is 60% off the normal subscription price. I think this is a fantastic deal for top-notch articles and stunning layouts. Here is the link for more details: http://www.salvomag.com/student/.

Article: What’s Wrong with Crowdfunding Medical Expenses?

What does crowdfunding have to do with medical ethics? Actually, a lot. The number one type of crowdfunding campaign on sites like GoFundMe is medical expenses. Crowdfunding brings up several ethical issues such as medical privacy, emotional manipulation, fraud, inequality, and doctor endorsements. In my article in MercatorNet, I discuss some of the issues surrounding crowdfunding medical expenses.

The majority of medical crowdfunding campaigns do not reach their goals. And often the people who do reach their goals not the ones that are most in need, but the ones who are better at telling a compelling story, have a larger social network, are young and white. Furthermore, few people know that a percentage of the donations goes back to the company running the crowdfunding website.

Crowdfunding medical expenses is great when it works, but there needs to be other ways to help people fund their medical expenses, such as charities that know how to direct funds for the largest impact and toward those who are most in need.

Article: Rescuing Our Lives from Tech

 

I recently wrote an article in MercatorNet about ways you can take back your time by taking control of your technology. This starts by recognizing that our smart phones and the apps that we seemingly can’t live without are designed to hook us. The goal is to get us to stay on the app for as long as possible. This makes advertisers happy, and this provides useful information that companies like Facebook and Google can then sell.

Our laptops, cell phones, and the apps that they house can either be tools or treats. They can either serve us or we can serve them.

Article Announcement: Porn Planet

My latest Casualty Report has recent statistics on pornography and its affects on society. The title of the article comes from the hypothetical scenario I draw of an alien that visits Earth and found that in one year humans watched 4.6 billion hours of pornography. The majority of pornography involves violence or verbal aggression toward women, and studies have shown that after viewing pornography men are less likely to be sympathetic toward victims of sexual violence or to consider sexual violence a problem.

Article: Taking Apart the News Cycle Merry-Go-Round

My latest article at MercatorNet, Taking Apart the News Cycle Merry-Go-Round, is on a topic that I had been thinking about for a while. The news media seems to thrive on keeping the viewer, or reader, in a constant state of anxiety as we are taken on perpetual guilt trips. I wanted to better understand how we got here and why the rhetoric is so vitriolic. This article is from my research in looking at the topic. I hope it helps you, as it did me, to take a step back and realize that we don’t have to ride the merry-go-round.

Article Announcement: Silicon Valley’s Creepy Obsession with Longevity

Originally, I wanted to write an article about parabiosis since it was a hot topic in the news. But, it turns out what the company Ambrosia is doing isn’t exactly parabiosis. It’s more akin to expensive blood transfusions. Parabiosis involves attaching two animals together so they share a circulatory system. Ambrosia’s experiment is to give older people blood transfusions from young blood donors. The creepy part is that young blood transfusions are just one of the many things that Silicon Valley elites will try in an effort to stave off death for as long as possible. Many of them hope to eventually get rid of death altogether.

My article in MercatorNet “Silicon Valley’s creepy obsession with longevity” discusses this experiment and how transhumanism is alive and well in Silicon Valley.

Article Announcement: Turning Life into a Game

I’ve written critically on how social media and the gaming industry uses psychological hacks to get people hooked, but is there a positive side to hacking our brains? Gamification is using gaming techniques to motivate users to do things they may not otherwise want to do. My recent article in MercatorNet, “Turning life into a game,” looks at the pluses and minuses of using gamification as a motivation tool.

Article Announcement: Addiction or compulsion: Our love/hate relationship with technology

This first of two articles I review Sharon Begley’s book Can’t Just Stop: An Investigation into Compulsions. Begley says that our need to check our cell phone every five minutes is not an addiction, but a compulsion. Begley is a science writer and has written on obsessive compulsive disorder. This current book shows that rather than an addiction, which comes with a high, we constantly turn to our cell phones to keep from feeling anxious.

I’ve written on our relationship to technology on several occasions for MercatorNet. It is a topic that reveals much about human nature. For example, since last October I have acquired a couple of new writing projects, including a new client. I have finished a short creative non-fiction piece and finished drafting a fiction piece. I have also socialized more in real life. What changed? My Facebook password. My husband knows it, but I don’t. It’s a small thing that has had big results.

Article Announcement: Manipulating Science News

I have a new article at MercatorNet on embargoes on scientific reporting and how they can go wrong. When journalists report on breaking science news, they actually receive the journal article information and press release a week before the research is published in a journal. This, in theory, allows journalists to digest the research and get comments from all sides of the story. However, embargoes can be mis-used by  journals or organizations, like the FDA, to control how science is reported.

Article Announcement: The Seven Deadly Sins of Social Media

It has been a little while since I have posted a new article largely because I have been working on other projects lately. One of those larger projects is on time and technology. My newest article in MercatorNet is a short article on some research topics I came across while working on this project. It looks at how social media is both enticing and addictive.

Article Announcement: Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Algorithm

I have a new article at MercatorNet on Facebook’s Trending feature and the controversy that just won’t go away. First Facebook came under fire for allegedly removing conservative outlets from their Trending news list. Then people were surprised to learn that Trending has news curators (i.e., journalists) who post the news. Finally, when Facebook fired their curators and made Trending more algorithm-based, some no-so-worthy news items slipped through the filter.

Article Announcement: Euthanasia

I have a new article in Salvo Magazine on Euthanasia. This is my second Casualty Report for Salvo and this time I provide the latest numbers on how many people have died as a result of euthanasia, where it is legal, and how physician-assisted suicide has changed over the years. The article is by subscription in Salvo Issue 38.

The Spirit of the Sport

American female runner Abbey D’Agostino and Nikki Hamblin from New Zealand collided during a 5,000m semi-final after Hamblin tripped to avoid the person in front of her causing D’Agostino to run into her. D’Agostino was first to get up and tried to encourage a disoriented Hamblin to finish the race. Hamblin said afterwards:

“I went down, and I was like, ‘What’s happening? Why am I on the ground?’…Then suddenly, there’s this hand on my shoulder [and D’Agostino saying], ‘Get up, get up, we have to finish this.’ And I’m like, ‘Yup, yup, you’re right. This is the Olympic Games. We have to finish this.’”

Quartz writer Marc Bain says that these women embodied the Olympic Spirit that Pierre de Coubertin advocated. Coubertin was a humanist who wanted to counter nineteenth century spiritual and moral decline. Coubertin believed that the point of sport was to cultivate virtues. To him, it was how you compete more than whether you won that made you an Olympian.

We are schizophrenic when it comes to sports, professional or Olympic. Sometimes we are with Pierre de Coubertin in believing that the athlete is mind, body, and character and that he or she should be held to a higher standard of virtue than others.  One of the arguments against doping is that athletes serve as role models to children.

At the same time, we want winners. We want our guy to be the best and to win at all costs. Winners write history.

The athlete is a race horse with a feeding and training regimen based on the best science, technology, and pseudoscience have to offer. Athletes try everything from sleeping in a hypobaric chamber to suction cups, cryotherapy, and electrode massages and any other ritual that may or may not involve visiting the witch at Endor and signing a waiver in blood with a phoenix feather.

In one view man is like a well-oiled machine. In the other view, he is like a god. Postmoderns like to make gods of their machines so it is no wonder that we have conflicting expectations from our athletes. And, for us, our gods must embody the highest good: progress. We need to know that we are progressing to be more godlike, whether that means more machine-like or immortal or both. This idea of progress is measured in broken World Records and impossible feats of prowess.

The problem with progress is that it has no time for the weak. We sit awestruck by the way that Simone Biles flies in the air or Usain Bolt leaves his competition in the dust or Michael Phelps glides through the water. They are almost inhuman in their abilities. But, it is D’Agostino and Hamblin’s humanness that, ironically, made them special. Biles, Bolt, and Phelps may stroke our pride, but D’Agostino and Hamblin touch our soul. They are mortals who fall, get mentally disoriented, and tear their ACL. And, unlike machines they somehow found within themselves the strength to cross the finish line in the midst of weakness.

Neither of them could remember D’Agostino going down and the last bit of the race. D’Agostino said in an interview that she prayed her way through the last lap and drew from the Bible verse written on her hand (“now to him who is able”). Hamblin pointed out that life is made up of these moments, and when all is said and done, it is the people you remember.

When asked why they have received such an outpouring of support from people, D’Agostino said that on a deeper level we know as humans that this is what we’re meant to do, to sacrifice for and serve each other.

It is in this sense that D’Agostino and Hamblin were like gods, though not one that resides on Mt. Olympus,

MercatorNet: Blind Faith in DNA

I have a new article at MercatorNet called “Blind Faith in DNA.” This article is cross-published at The Stream as “Be Wary of the Magical, Hyped-Up Claims About DNA

I wrote this article after Harvard’s George Church and several others published a proposal to make a synthetic human genome. They are calling their project HGP-Write. Prior to this proposal I had been researching some of the flaws in genetic testing for a fiction piece. I came across a fascinating article in The Atlantic on forensics and false positives in DNA matching. I also read a research paper on “genetic superheroes” that calls into question some of our assumptions about fully penetrant diseases.

Salvo Magazine: Casualty Report: Sex Trafficking

Salvo Magazine has a section called “Casualty Report” where they will report on current trends and statistics. I wrote this quarter’s report on sex trafficking. While the report is factual in tone, it was a difficult topic to research. I had to work on the report in small chunks because some of the testimonials were hard to read, particularly the ones about using sex slavery as a war tactic. I said several prayers for these women and children during my research.

You can read the report online here.