Saturday, December 11, 2004

Science Saturday

A genetic predisposition to depression? (New York Times)

"Dr. Marc Caron and Dr. Xiaodong Zhang, biologists at Duke University Medical Center, led a team of researchers who identified a mutation of a single gene that greatly reduced the amount of serotonin produced by brain cells. Serotonin is a chemical messenger active between neurons, and it has a powerful effect on mood."


Robert Sapolsky, Stanford neurology professor and author of the super fabulous drop-everything-else-and-read-it The Primate's Memoir, maintains "we should not give an inch in fighting to make sure our children are not taught nonsense."

He answers questions about evolution and speculates that those who most push for the teaching of intelligent design come from areas downtrodden and marginalized both economically and educationally.

These folk "dislike evolution, because of a side branch of evolutionary thinking that has metastasized ever since Darwin, which has a sordid record of doing bad things to folks like these. This is Social Darwinism, the pseudoscience that evolution is about 'should be' rather than 'is,' that folks on the lower rungs of society are peopled with individuals who are evolutionarily meant to be there, and that all is biologically just in this stratified world. Add in the potentially incorrect belief that accepting evolution is incompatible with one of the more common sources of solace in that corner of the country, namely fundamentalist religion, and you've got some unhappy campers. " (San Francisco Chronicle)

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