Brain Size Myth Won’t Die

first_img(Visited 72 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0 Evolutionists continue to push the idea that bigger brains offer better fitness, despite repeated empirical problems.“It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog,” an old proverb goes. Similarly, it’s not the size of the computer, but the wiring or programming that can make all the difference. Today’s cell phone chips have more ability than the room-sized computers of the early days. This seems so obvious; why, then, do some evolutionists get so focused on brain size? A bigger brain could offer more wiring, but if brain tissue mass were the main determinant of intelligence, elephants or whales would be solving differential equations and keeping us humans in their zoos. Yet crows have more problem-solving ability than chimpanzees, and tiny insects perform remarkable feats with brains smaller than a grain of rice (see Evolution News & Views).In some sense, the larger brain in humans is a function of our mental abilities compared with those of apes, whose brains (on average) are 1/3 the size. But if it were a linear relationship, the biggest humans would be the smartest. We know that isn’t necessarily true. A small Asian female mathematician can out-think many a pro wrestler or NBA player. And there are cases of disabled humans with severely diminished brains—with even half of the brain missing—who, for most intents and purposes, were normal. Since large brains are costly to maintain metabolically, an evolutionist could make a case that miniaturization would provide a fitness advantage.Three recent articles show that evolutionists have a hard time letting go of the notion that bigger brains are more fit—and these aren’t even from the field of paleoanthropology, where the myth is endemic.Zebrafish:  PhysOrg reports on Swedish researchers who measured brains of zebrafish and guppies. A single gene, they said, was responsible for the increase in size. The brief article says that bigger brains correlated with intelligence, but it doesn’t say how that was measured. The gene, Ang-1, seems mostly responsible for blood vessel formation in the brain. “We don’t yet know if Ang-1 is important in human brain development,” they say, making giant leaps from fish to mammals.Guppies:  Science Daily titles one of their articles “An evolutionary heads-up: The brain size advantage.” Viennese scientists bred guppies with 12% larger brains, then let them loose in a “semi-natural environment” where they had to survive predation. After about six months the larger-brained fish were more numerous. “We have provided the first experimental proof that a large brain offers an evolutionary advantage,” the lead author boasted (notice after all these decades of brain-size hype, they claim this is the “first” proof). But what does this really prove? The bigger brain might have only helped motor skills and escape speed, not intelligence. They merely assumed that bigger brains are more intelligent:A larger brain brings better cognitive performance. And so it seems only logical that a larger brain would offer a higher survival potential. In the course of evolution, large brains should therefore win out over smaller ones. Previous tests of this hypothesis had relied on comparison studies looking at the intelligence and survival potential of species with large brains versus species with smaller brains. And species with larger brains do appear to have an advantage. But such studies are unable to show a causal relationship.They did notice that size is not all good; any advantage had “to compensate for the fact that brain mass is very expensive to develop and maintain.” The results, however, were of dubious evolutionary use, because the larger brain hurt the males:Large-brained females, whose brains were about 12 percent larger than that of the small-brained females, evaded their predators more often and so had a higher rate of survival. Larger brains did not provide any survival benefit for males. Ethologist Sarah Zala explains: “Male guppies are more colourful and more conspicuous than females and are therefore more easily caught by a predator. A larger brain does not appear to compensate this disadvantage.“Obviously you’re not helping natural selection if you get eaten. If this were a sex-specific law of nature, we should expect conspicuous male birds, like peacocks, to have smaller brains than drab females. That seems unsupportable. The only conclusion that seems viable is that the larger-brained females of one guppy species in a partly contrived situation either (1) may have been able to dart away from predators faster or (2) had more offspring. That’s only if we can assume the experimental setup was unbiased, was reported honestly, and produced statistically significant results. In terms of neo-Darwinian theory, we don’t even know if the trait was passed on. “Genetic analysis should help provide clarity in this regard,” they say. Indeed; clarity was sorely lacking. Shed a tear, meanwhile, for the large-brained males.Birds:  Corina Logan, a biologist at UC Santa Barbara, got a wake-up call when studying brain size in birds. Everything was rosy one day as she embarked on proving the brain-size paradigm for great-tailed grackles:“People love to study brain size,” said Logan, currently a Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow in the Department of Zoology at the University of Cambridge. “It’s a huge topic. And there is growing interest in how brain size varies within a species, which can tell us what factors contribute to the evolution of large brains.“She had this notion that measuring the skull should correlate other measurement technique, measuring the inside volume of the skull. That way, you didn’t have to kill the bird to get data. Problem: they didn’t sync. Measuring the skull with calipers cannot predict the actual internal brain size. PhysOrg (“The challenge of measuring a bird brain”) reveals the implications of her results:According to Logan, it’s impossible to approximate brain size using the external skull measurement because it varies so much within this species. That was surprising to her on a couple of levels. “First, I was surprised that the external skull measurements did not accurately predict the actual endocranial volumes,” she said. “But I was also surprised that there was so much variation, particularly in males.”There’s another more serious implication about the ethical practice of the scientific method that goes far beyond her own work:Scientists don’t generally publish negative results—i.e. not finding what they’re looking for—but in this case, Logan’s unexpected result is quite interesting. She demonstrated that the Pearson product-moment correlation coefficient, which is commonly used to measure the degree to which two variables relate to each other (such as the two indirect measures of brain size), is not the right test to apply to these data. It overlooks differences in the individual data points, she noted, which was the whole point of the study.Logan draws a wider net around science: “According to Logan, scientists can no longer take for granted what has previously been determined as accurate and correct,” the article says. In fact, “Statistical methods in biology are in flux right now,” she said. What does this imply about decades of previous studies that used p-values, Pearson coefficients or other then-popular methods to draw conclusions? What does it mean for brain size measurements on humans?Junk the MythSocial Darwinism left a dark stain on the history of anthropology. Stephen Jay Gould, in his 1981 book The Mismeasure of Man, recounted in damning detail the practice by racist evolutionists of measuring skulls to prove their belief in the superiority of white Europeans over other “inferior” races. Simplistically thinking “bigger is better,” they rigged their measurements to prove their foregone conclusions, finding ways to toss out measurements that didn’t fit their assumptions.One would hope we know better now, yet Logan happily jumped into the skull-size game with birds because “It’s a huge topic” and “People love to study brain size.” And why is that? Because it “can tell us what factors contribute to the evolution of large brains.” It’s long past time to junk this myth. Brain size is just one factor among many; any increase in one trait will have tradeoffs in other traits; and quantity does not necessarily correlate with quality. Better a modern microchip than a 1951 Univac. All we can say scientifically is that each species has the brain it needs for its place in the system. It strains logic to assume that mistakes in a gene here or there will improve any trait, especially a brain.You have the brain you need for your place in the system. Use it.last_img read more

3 Big Privacy Issues Of 2013 – And What You Can Do About Them

first_imgTop Reasons to Go With Managed WordPress Hosting Why Tech Companies Need Simpler Terms of Servic… On the surface, 2012 saw some major shifts in how privacy is treated online. The Federal Trade Commission’s Do-Not-Track Online Act and the White House’s Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights prompted Facebook and Google to change allegedly deceptive practices for tracking users. And most Web browsers and even Twitter adopted the do-not-track functions in one form or another.These were steps in the right direction, but in reality, they didn’t solve the data insecurity problem. Facebook can still track users through its “Like” function. And Web surfers’ online data can still be used by law enforcement and “market research” for the employment, credit, healthcare and insurance industries. And let’s not even get into denial of service attacks and cybersecurity…That said, here are three major privacy issues that everyone should pay attention to in 2013:  TransparencyData sharingDodgy QR codes1. TransparencyEver been to a restaurant that’s so proud of its clean kitchen that it lets customers see right into it? It’s called an open kitchen, and this kind of transparency is what Internet companies need to strive for.Consumer confusion and uncertainty over how social sites use their data threaten to derail the social media gravy train, and services like Facebook and Twitter need to take the initiative to stave off fears of abuse. That means no hidden fees, confusing Terms of Service or the like. The more open a company is, the more a customer is likely to trust the service, and keep using it. Social privacy login service Gigya uses your data to to log into sites such as Twitter or Facebook. With a reach extending to 75% of the Web, you probably use its technology and don’t even know it. But with 1.5 billion unique users a month and more than 600 enterprise clients like CBS, NBC, ABC, Nike and Verizon – it knows you.  All that data raises some very real concerns: 53% of Internet users utilize social logins, and 41% of them worry about their security and privacy.To alleviate those, Gigya practices an “open kitchen” policy. It has partnered with the Future of Privacy Forum to develop social privacy certification allowing “businesses to verify that they follow approved social network guidelines and industry best practices for managing consumer social data.” It promises users that their social data is safe.Back to the restaurant analogy, a promise like this is like coupling an open kitchen with a health department grade in the window. The idea is to instill confidence in potential customers.2. Data Dealing It’s not gold, it’s not oil, it’s not drugs. Today’s most valuable commodity is information.With so much personal data online and accessible by law enforcement and many marketers, the only real control we have over our data, is ourselves. Michael Hussey, the chief executive of New York-based people search experts PeekYou, recommends mirroring your online identity with your real life: Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want everyone to see. One solution to curbing marketers is Mine, a purchase directory site that combs through e-purchases to allow people to add public sales history to their online identities. More importantly, it also lets you erase unwanted purchase data so marketers can’t monitor it. Pierre Legrain, Mine’s chief executive, says the best way to stop companies tracking and selling data behind our backs is “not by blocking it, but by offering marketers what they ultimately want, while also benefiting us.” It’s a nice idea, but it’s unclear how much those aggressive marketers will cooperate. So it’s still all about keeping your digital footprint clean. Because “leave no trace” is no longer an option. 3. Bad BarcodesJust because it’s there, that doesn’t mean you should click it. Especially when it comes to QR codes. “People need to undersand QR codes are just URLs,” says Jim Fenton, chief security officer of the digital identity service OneID. In our smartphone-heavy culture, we have to be wary of the sites we frequent, especially now that fake QR codes are popping up in crowded spots like airports and metropolitan centers. A string of international cybercrimes has been linked to stickers featuring bad QR codes leading to dodgy websites. And they’re popping up everywhere: Posters, boxes, buildings – you name it. And while practically anything can be on the other end, you could likely expect bad codes to result in malware, spam and phishing attacks. “QR codes aren’t magic,” Fenton warns. “If anything there’s less visiblity about who they are.”So take these three steps to protect yourself:First, get a QR reader that can check the associated site’s URL, and make sure it has built-in security features.Enable a QR code review prior to opening the link to make sure you’re not headed for the temple of doom.Finally, inspect the code to make sure it isn’t a sticker, a dead give away that it’s probably not authentic.Better yet, just don’t click on any QR codes. After all they don’t really do anyone much good anyway (see ReadWrite DeathWatch: QR Codes).Photo courtesy of Shutterstock. A Web Developer’s New Best Friend is the AI Wai… Related Posts center_img adam popescu Tags:#cybersecurity#privacy 8 Best WordPress Hosting Solutions on the Marketlast_img read more

BJP launches agitation against govt action on Ramdev

first_imgBJP on Sunday launched a nationwide 24-hour-long agitation against police crackdown on Ramdev supporters and corruption even as it asked the government to bring back black money parked abroad.Several BJP leaders led by party president Nitin Gadkari and Parliamentary Party Chairman L K Advani reached Rajghat amid a massive police bandobast to launch the ‘satyagraha’.The decision to hold the agitation was taken at a meeting of the BJP’s national office-bearers here.”The agitation is against the atrocities committed against Ramdev and his supporters and against corruption. We had been raising the issue of bringing back black money. Now we want an affirmative action,” BJP leader Ananth Kumar told reporters.He dubbed the crackdown as an effort of the government to hide its “misdeeds” on corruption.At Rajghat, several party leaders launched an attack on the UPA government, accusing it of violating democratic norms in breaking the yoga guru’s fast.They equated last night’s police action with Jallianwala Bagh incident in which several unarmed people were killed in firing.Terming the police action on “peaceful and unarmed” people at Baba Ramdev’s hunger strike venue as a “shameful” chapter in India’s democracy, BJP earlier today accused Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi of ordering the crackdown.- With PTI inputslast_img read more

London Business School Announces New Masters in Analytics and Management

first_imgLondon Business School Announces New Masters in Analytics and Management Earlier this week, the London Business School officially announced the new LBS Masters in Analytics and Management program, which is slated to begin August 2019.The 12-month LBS Masters in Analytics and Management, according to the business school, “is designed for top graduates with a quantitative degree or work experience, who want to combine a detailed knowledge of data analytics, with the ability to translate big data into bold visions and profit-maximising business strategy.”The LBS Masters in Analytics and Management (MAM) will be the fifth official specialized master’s program provided by the business school, alongside the Masters in Management and Global Masters in Management (MiM), the Masters in Finance (MiF), and Masters in Financial Analysis (MFA). In a recent press release announcing the newest program addition, LBS’ Associate Professor of Management Science and Operations Tolga Tezcan, who will teach in the program, says: “There is huge demand from the top recruiters for managers who are not only data literate, but who also have the vision to see how big data can be used to create real competitive edge, product or service transformation. That’s why we’re combining subjects like machine learning and data visualisation with organisational behaviour.”In the release, Gareth Howells, LBS Executive Director, MAM, Degree Education & Career Centre, also adds, “Jumping into the vibrant London business environment, our students will experience data in action. Using real data to solve real problems on a live analytics project, they will learn how to translate the results of data analysis into insightful, high-impact business solutions.”The new Masters in Analytics and Management will begin August 2019, costing £33,500.What Is The LBS Masters in Analytics and Management?The program, according to the business school, is centered around a core of: “Data Analytics, Applied Statistics, Data Visualisation and Storytelling, Data Management, Digital Marketing, Data Science for Business, Machine Learning for Big Data, and Decision Technology.”The school assures that hopeful entrants in the program must have “a strong degree in a quantitative subject such as Engineering, Maths and Sciences, Computing, Economics, Accounting, Finance or Business, and Management.”About 95 percent of entrants in the program come from the international community, representing 50 countries worldwide. The school adds that about 96 percent of its graduates from the aforementioned Masters in Management program earned employment within three months of graduation, and that “we expect our new MAM graduates to hit the ground running, entering sought-after sectors like technology and consulting with similar levels of success.”In addition, students in the program will have the option to undertake a fourth term, which will only be available for students on specific career treks. In the fourth term, which will cost additional fees not yet revealed by LBS, students can “pursue the option to take three additional elective courses or go on an international exchange with a top business school.”Head over to the official London Business School Masters in Analytics and Management page for more details. About the AuthorMatthew KormanMatthew Korman is the Managing Editor of MetroMBA. Since graduating from Rowan University with a degree in journalism and political science, Matthew has worked as a music industry writer and promoter, a data analyst, and with numerous academic institutions. His works have appeared in publications such as NPR and Sports Illustrated.View more posts by Matthew Korman regions: Londoncenter_img Last Updated Aug 23, 2018 by Matthew KormanFacebookTwitterLinkedinemail RelatedColumbia Business School Announces New M.S. in Business Analytics DegreeThe program was developed jointly by faculty at both CBS and Columbia Engineering, and the resulting curriculum is designed to prepare graduates to excel in careers both as consulting analysts and associates and as business analysts and data scientists in fields including financial and professional services, technology, advertising and media,…December 6, 2017In “Featured Home”Rady Makes ‘Top 50 Best Value Big Data Graduate Programs’ ListAre you into big data? How about vivid sunsets? The Rady School of Management at the University of California at San Diego might be right for you, then. The school ranked 11th in the United States for Value Colleges’ “Top 50 Best Value Big Data Graduate Programs” list. The honor…September 5, 2017In “Featured Region”Big Data and Business: An MBA vs. Masters in Business Analytics2016 was the “Year of the Data Analyst.” According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job market for various data analyst positions is growing far faster than average—around 27 percent annually. In fact, 85 percent of Fortune 500 companies have either launched big data projects or are planning to…April 19, 2017In “Advice”last_img read more