Well, Fat Heads, Tom had a long trip back from the Low Carb Cruise and I’m sure is preparing a great report, so that means I get to stay in the chair for another day. Wheee!
Okay, by going long I’m not referring to this guest-blogging stint. And I don’t mean like a long run. I mean thinking about a long, long time. Like evolutionary time and how it works into some of my recent (and not so recent) reading material and my model of reality.
Studying different ideas on how we got here and what it means and how everything relates seems to occupy quit a bit of my daydreaming time these days. Things like nutrition and economics and how we developed as runners are all part of the same model. They fit together. They explain things in an internally consistent manner.
So I thought I’d share a few more books that have added to this model. The first I read a few years ago and it dealt directly with some evolutionary ideas. The other two don’t explore evolutionary models directly, but with some of the modern fallout of not considering these realities.
Here’s the first one:
News flash — it’s highly likely, in spite of it being politically perilous to say so, that men and women are different, and in ways that are and will remain significant.
Sorry to just spring that on you.
But instead of just anecdotally compiling differences, Barbara and Allan Pease traveled the world talking to researchers studying the brain and evolutionary biology to illuminate, sometimes hilariously, just how and why we got that way.
Again, in deference to the politically correct times we live in, several of their sources insisted on some level of anonymity to avoid the wrath of the elite and jeopardy to their funding.
For example, men and women have different visual processing. Men tend to see out distances and be more “tunnel-visioned” — required for hunting on the savannah; whereas women tend to have better peripheral vision, which is important to detecting threats to her offspring. They also tend to read expressions and body language better (i.e., “intuition”) for the same reason. On the humorous side, they give an example of a couple leaving a party where the woman is asking “oh my God, did you see the looks those two women were giving each other!?!” with the natural male response of “huh?”
Auditory processing is different, also, with men having more ability than women to detect the direction a sound is coming from, while women are more attenuated to voices and inflections.
They spend some time talking about sexuality and how it can be affected by the levels of testosterone and estrogen the fetus is subjected to in the womb. This seemed related to the whole epigenetics field that is getting more attention, where it’s not just a matter of what chromosome pairs you have, but also how other factors affect expression of those genes. So sexuality, affected by both in utero and environmental factors, becomes not just an either/or proposition, but more of a “spectrum,” as, for instance, Autism is now understood. Or in other words, maybe Monsanto and Big Soy created Caitlyn Jenner!
It was one of those books that you don’t necessarily think they’ve proved the point on everything they talk about, but they all made you think. Agree or not, the writing is very entertaining and at times outright hilarious.
I hadn’t thought directly about the book for a long time, but when I read the next two books — really more something of a matched set — they seemed to tie back to this idea of fundamental differences that we ignore at our own peril:
These are both by the same author – Dr. Leonard Sax. He actually wrote the Boys Adrift book first, then followed up with the “Girls on the Edge.” Sax doesn’t go way back into the evolutionary model of differences between boys and girls, but makes a strong case that they do indeed exist and the fact that progressive society insists on denying their existence are harming children of both sexes.
He talks about how the kindergarten experience that Tom and I had, and perhaps many of you, no longer exists. For us, that meant at age 5 we were spending half a day finger painting, gluing things together, having stories read, maybe working on some letter recognition, counting, and playing outside on the playground.
Today’s kindergarten is the equivalent of our old first or even second grade — all day long, heavily focused on reading and academics, without nearly the amount of physical activity, so another priority is “sitting still.”
The problem is, girls’ brains at age five are generally ready to begin reading. The reading capacity of a five year old boy’s brain is about the equivalent of a three year old girl’s. You couldn’t design a better model to frustrate young boys, convince them that they’re dumb, and to begin hating school. Oh, and not being able to sit still is now a medically treated condition. i.e., “ADHD.”
[One interesting piece of research Sax cites in one of the books was on the psychology school classic where you give a bunch of kids toys and the girls end up playing with mostly dolls and some trucks, where the boys play almost exclusively with the trucks. Then you debate on whether it’s some innate preference or environmental/social conditioning. You know which answer you’re supposed to get, right?
Researchers did the same experiment with monkeys. Guess what — the female monkeys played mostly with the dolls and some of the trucks, and the male monkeys played almost exclusively with the trucks. The theory is that it goes to the different visual processing between males and females in primates.]
Sax has other areas where each sex is being led astray. For boys, in addition to the feminization of school, they are also constantly exposed via the popularity and ubiquity of video games to levels of depraved behavior (i.e., rape and murder of innocents are rewarded in the games) unheard of even in hard-core porn in my generation, and medication for ADHD as already mentioned.
For girls, they are now sexualized way before they have reached emotional maturity, subjected to a 24/7 cyberbubble that stunts the growth of a real identity, and obsessions — whether being thin, the “brain,” the athlete, etc.
As a common issue for both boys and girls, Sax hits a resounding bulls-eye with “Environmental Toxins.” Unfortunately, he hits the bulls-eye on the wrong target.
Or at least, hits a single target to the exclusion of much bigger, more sound targets. I think most Fat Heads will be naturally open to the idea that the things we’re putting into, on, and around our bodies is having continuing bad effects on our collective health. Not just in terms of the sundry diseases of civilization, but also in the realm of epigenetics. There’s soy and its estrogen-mimicking havoc, gluten, the ungodly amounts of sugar in the SAD, etc. Sax points out that girls are entering puberty months and even years earlier than just a couple of decades ago. Men’s sperm counts are lower, boys’ bone are more brittle, and research indicates that exposure to environmental estrogens makes females less female and males less male (again, see Ms. Jenner).
Sax seems to have a near singular focus as to the source of all these evils as — plastic bottles. As in BPA. He has the studies and information to support his point, but I couldn’t help but think, “really? How about picking up a copy of Wheat Belly or something?” Is America’s problem, and our children’s health really more endangered by a plastic bottle of soda than by the rest of the crap on the school lunch program menu? So I’m with him on the environmental toxin idea — that we are literally playing roulette with our ancient genetic code — but think he’s missing a large part of the picture.
Other than that one issue, I thought both books were good reads, along with some very good suggestions for interested parents and grandparents who want to raise kids into healthy, productive adults. That makes their value higher than adding a few more interesting ideas to inform my model of the universe. I already bought a copy of “Girls on the Edge” for our daughter as the granddaughters are 5 and 7.
Hmmm. Looks like I could have also meant the length of this post when I said going long.
Ah well, I really enjoyed getting to man The Big Chair again for awhile. Hope I gave you couple of things to think about or add to your summer reading list. If nothing else, you got another great recipe from The Oldest Son out of the deal!
The Older Brother