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

Meeting Military Families’ Need for Flexible Child Care

first_imgThe life of a military family can be very unpredictable. Service demands and plans can change frequently, sometimes at a moment’s notice. Care for an injured military parent may mean hospital, doctor or therapy visits that wreak havoc on a family’s daily routine. The demands on family schedules are especially challenging when there is no non-military family member who can provide a level of consistency and predictability for young children.The bottom line? Military families need flexible child care options. Flexibility for military families means having trustworthy care:on short noticeon an irregular basisat non-traditional hoursfor an extended time, possibly overnighton an hourly basis for brief timesWhere can flexible care be found? It may not be easy but there are a few places to look.Flexible Child Care Programs & CaregiversThe greatest flexibility is offered by in-home child care providers and nannies. Although on the surface it appears to be an expensive option, it’s really not when one considers that a live-in provider offers stability and consistency for both children and parents in the midst of changing schedules, multiple deployments – even relocation! Nannies’ responsibilities also often include other household tasks. It can be an especially beneficial option for large families, families with no nearby relatives, single parents, and dual-military families. Lisa Werth, a nanny for a family whose parents both work at the Pentagon says, “My bosses often email me from the Pentagon to see if I know of a nanny looking for a job.” Being an in-home child care provider can be a rewarding and interesting employment option for child care professionals to consider.Family Child Care homes can also offer greater flexibility. FCC owners may choose to market specifically to military families if they live in a community with a high enough concentration. But even when the majority of a FCC owner’s families are civilian, they may be able to meet the need for emergency or non-traditional care for an individual military family in a way that a center simply couldn’t. FCC owners who are willing to provide flexible child care for military families should communicate that in their marketing and through their currently enrolled families (since word-of-mouth is often how new families are found), their local Resource and Referral agency, and professional associations.Flexibility in child care centers is the most difficult to find because it is the most expensive to provide on a larger scale. The less demand there is in a geographic area, the less likely it is that flexible options are available. The highest demand, of course, is on military installations, so it’s not surprising that each of the branches of the Armed Forces offer a variety of programs to meet these needs through their children, youth and teen programs. For example, programs at Camp LeJeune (Marines) include hourly child care, Family Child Care (24-hr, 7 days a week), and emergency drop-in care. The demand may be so high, however, that there is a waiting list for enrollment, in which case child care programs in the surrounding area may choose to satisfy the needs of families.Both FCC and center-based programs who are interested in serving military families should also consider becoming an approved provider for the military’s child care fee assistance program.  Approved programs are entered into a searchable online database, allowing military families to more easily locate programs that may be able to meet their unique needs. And remember, military families, especially Guard and Reserve, can be found living in communities all over the map. So no matter where you live, if you are willing and able to provide flexible care, even if only on an occasional basis, consider becoming an approved provider.Additional Programs to Fill Child Care GapsChild care programs and providers who can’t themselves meet the child care needs of every military family should be aware of other options to refer families to that may help fill the gaps.NACCRRA-Army Respite Child CareThe Army is working with the National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies (NACCRRA) to provide financial support for community-based child care programs to offer respite care when short–term care needs arise. Approved programs are paid to provide free hourly child care to for families of soldiers who are deployed, serving on temporary duty (90-179 days), under a Wounded, Ill or Injured status or are Survivors of Fallen Warriors. Refer families to the website’s searchable database to find participating programs. Call NACCRRA at 1-800-424-2246 if you are interested in becoming an approved provider or want more information.Air Force Aid SocietyAir Force families who will be relocating because of a Permanent Change of Station (PCS in military lingo) are eligible for 20 hours of child care at a certified Family Child Care home (either on or off base). Call 1-800-769-8951 or e-mail if you are interested in becoming a certified FCC home or want help in locating homes to refer families to in your area.YMCA Military OutreachOne option that can meet some respite child care needs is the local Y. The Department of Defense pays for up to 16 hours of child care per month for infants through 12 year olds from eligible military families who don’t live on an installation.Family members of deployed National Guard and ReservistsActive Duty Independent Duty personnel (deployment is not a requirement)Relocated spouse/dependent children of deployed Active Duty personnelFamilies of deployed Active Duty personnel residing 30 miles from a military installationAlthough local Ys are not required to offer the program, many are choosing to participate, so check to see whether it’s an option that’s offered in your community. To find more information to share with families and search for participating Ys in your area, visit the Y’s website.SittercitySittercity is an online service that matches families with child care providers who can meet their needs, including last-minute emergency care, overnight care, etc. Sittercity has an extensive database of babysitters and nannies with detailed profiles that can be searched by location and 14 other options, including hourly rate, education/certification, and reviews from families. The Department of Defense has partnered with Sittercity to offer free membership to the matching service for military families. Entering your profile in the Sittercity database as a child care provider is free.New Programs on the HorizonThe Veterans Administration launched a pilot program last year that offers on-site child care at three VA medical facilities. The child care centers provide free, drop-in child care for eligible veterans who come to the facilities for health care services. The centers can care for children from 6 weeks to 12 years old. Time will tell whether the program will expand to others of the 149 medical centers in the VA system.What’s Available in Your Community?If you are one of the many individual child care centers and family child care providers who tailor their programs to the unique needs of military families, we would love to hear your story!Whole communities can also rally on behalf of military families, using local resources and combined creativity to meet a variety of military family needs, including child care. If you’ve been involved with or know of a community-level effort, please share your story, too. It may give others some fresh ideas for their own communities!Even with all these efforts, there is still much to do to meet the child care needs of military families. What suggestions do you have for creating a sturdier network of support?[Note: All branches of the military offer respite care for families of children with special needs through the Department of Defense Exceptional Family Member Respite Care program.]last_img read more

Zimbabwe squad

first_imgZimbabwe are not the team that they used to be earlier still captain Elton Chigumbura would be hoping his team wins a few matches in the World Cup. Chigumbura has established himself as an all-rounder in the team.They have a few familiar names though. Charles Coventry, Craig Ervine, Tatenda Taibu, Brendan Taylor and left-arm spinner Raymond Price can make the match interesting. Do watch them play good cricket.Squad: Elton Chigumbura (captain), Regis Chakabva, Charles Coventry, Graeme Cremer, Craig Ervine, Tinotenda Mawoyo, Gregory Lamb, Shingirai Masakadza, Christopher Mpofu, Raymond Price, Edward Rainsford, Tatenda Taibu, Brendan Taylor, Prosper Utseya, Sean Williams. Non-travelling reserves: Terrence Duffin, Tinotenda Mawoyo, Njabulo Ncube, Tinashe Panyangara, Vusimuzi Sibandalast_img read more