All posts filed under: Health

Why Is the Society for American Archaeology Promoting Indigenous Creationism?

In April, one of us—Elizabeth Weiss—gave a talk, titled Has Creationism Crept Back into Archaeology?, at the 86th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology (SAA). The 87-year-old SAA identifies itself as “an international organization dedicated to research about the interpretation and protection of the archaeological heritage of the Americas.” The SAA board of directors includes professors, curators, and government archaeologists, all of whom presumably appreciate the importance of studying artifacts and human remains as a means to understanding the history of our species. The subject of the April 15th talk, co-authored with James W. Springer (who also co-authored this essay), was the threat of religious literalism being used as a means to insist on the repatriation of human remains (mainly skeletons) and artifacts to presumed descendent populations—i.e., present-day Indigenous communities whose members live near the location where such remains are discovered. However, our use of the term “repatriation” more broadly encompasses the new laws, ideological claims, and policies that serve to give Indigenous claimants control over remains and artifacts, as well as over …

The Importance of Understanding the Nonspecific Effects of Vaccines

The world’s attention is presently focused on the mRNA vaccines, which may turn out to be the most revolutionary vaccines ever produced. However, very few doctors, and certainly not the public, have any awareness at all of the nonspecific effects of vaccines (NSEs). The specific effect of a vaccine is immunity to a target infection; the nonspecific effect refers to the off-target effects of all vaccines. These can be positive or negative. The beneficial effects are improved immunity to a variety of infections and all-round health, and the negative effects are the inverse—a predisposition to off-target diseases and immune dysregulation, whilst still conferring immunity to the targeted pathogen. These discoveries have surprised the scientific community and left researchers scratching their heads as to how and why such important effects could have been overlooked by epidemiologists for over a century. It began with observations made in the small West African nation of Guinea-Bissau from 1979. Anthropologist Peter Aaby was sent to investigate malnutrition in the country but found none. Instead, he ran headlong into a measles …

When Sons Become Daughters, Part VI: Asexuality, Intelligence, and the Trans Co-Option of Intersex Discourse

What follows is the sixth instalment of When Sons Become Daughters, a seven-part Quillette series that explores how parents react when a son announces he wants to be a girl—and explains why so many of these mothers and fathers believe they can’t discuss their fears and concerns with their own children, therapists, doctors, friends, and relatives. To find out more about how the author collected and reported information, please refer to his introductory essay in this series. Whether they exhibit autism spectrum disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, many trans-identified boys seem to be fixated on a hypothetical future self: Once brought to life, it is believed, this woman’s mere presence will resolve whatever existential crisis the young man is going through. In many cases, the boy will spend a lot of his time thinking about the differences between his status quo and his imagined (feminine) ideal. This “hyper-ruminative” behaviour is something many parents I interviewed discussed with me. From Milwaukee, Liz emails me a number of papers she’s found over the years …

Winners and Losers: The Global Economy After COVID

The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed the world economy in ways that will be debated by pundits and future historians for decades to come. Yet, as hard as it is to predict a disrupted future accurately, the pandemic (not to mention its probable successors) looks likely to produce clear economic winners and losers. The top digital companies—Amazon, Apple, Tencent, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Ant, Netflix, and Hulu—have thrived during quarantines and the ongoing dispersion of work. These are the most obvious winners in what leftist author Naomi Klein has called a “Screen New Deal” that seeks to create a “permanent and profitable no-touch future.” Since 2019, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, and Google have added over two-and-a-half trillion dollars to their combined valuation, and all enjoyed record breaking profits in 2020. But it’s not just the tech oligarchs who have benefited from the pandemic disruption. Companies that keep the basic economy functioning—firms dealing in logistics, for example, or critical metals or food processing—have become, if anything, even more important. With the shipping supply chain disrupted due to the …

How Strong Was Taiwan’s COVID Response?

In September 2020, I arrived in Taiwan on a flight from New York. I had read much about the border protocols that had prevented COVID from entering the country, but many aspects of the arrival process appeared incongruent with the country’s supposedly impermeable defenses. Staff in the airport interacted directly with me and other passengers with no distancing protocols. I asked if they were required to quarantine themselves. “No,” came the reply. Taking a taxi to my quarantine hotel, I saw no barriers in the vehicle. I asked the driver a similar question. Was he required to isolate himself? “No,” he said, adding, “they disinfect the vehicle every day.” While checking into my quarantine room at the hotel, staff interacted with me at close distance, and would immediately interact with other guests before returning home to their families. Witnessing these potential breaches at the gates of Taiwan’s COVID fortress was disconcerting. In the months prior to my arrival, many headlines on former COVID success stories asked: “What Went Wrong?” I was afraid that such headlines …

Trauma and the Psychedelic Renaissance

Military veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and the wildly imaginative British writer and philosopher Aldous Huxley are increasingly finding common ground. In 1954, Huxley published The Doors of Perception, a short monograph detailing his psychedelic experiences on mescaline the previous May, and the book became a bible for the “turn on, tune in, drop out” movement of the 1960s counterculture. Now, the arguments Huxley made in defence of psychoactive drug use are being consulted by doctors exploring innovative ways to treat psychological wounds and mental health problems resulting from military service and trauma. Research into the therapeutic potential of drugs such as MDMA (methylenedioxymethamphetamine) and LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) collapsed when the drugs were made illegal worldwide in the early ’70s. However, the merits of psychedelic science are currently undergoing an international reappraisal and renaissance, gaining media attention and traction among scientists, doctors, and in the wider public sphere. Psychedelics first appeared on my radar after I left the British Army in 2010 following tours in Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan. As I wrestled with …

The Social Determinants of Health: Critique and Implications

Of all the healthcare topics in vogue these days, the phrase “social determinants of health” (SDOH) has enjoyed an increasingly prominent place in both practice and policy. First inspired by Geoffrey Rose’s 1992 book, The Strategy for Preventative Medicine, and then mainstreamed by the WHO in the early 2000s, the term is now ubiquitous in public health literature. The CDC has defined SDOH as “conditions in the places where people live, learn, work, and play that affect a wide range of health and quality-of-life risks and outcomes.” Under such a broad definition, it is difficult to disentangle the difference between SDOH and the mere happenstance of life, or to grasp why this is an area in which public health officials should be so heavily involved. While such factors undoubtedly matter for health outcomes, the slanted narrative in this brand of literature omits some important social influences on health. This is particularly puzzling given the widening net experts have cast around these problems. Without assessing such issues in SDOH literature, it is impossible to know if …

When Sons Become Daughters, Part V: The Links Between Trans Identity, Gifted Minds, Categorical Thinking—And Anime

What follows is the fifth instalment of When Sons Become Daughters, a multi-part Quillette series that explores how parents react when a son announces he wants to be a girl—and explains why so many of these mothers and fathers believe they can’t discuss their fears and concerns with their own children, therapists, doctors, friends, and relatives. To find out more about how the author collected and reported information, please refer to his introductory essay in this series.   The first four instalments in this series already have covered many disparate topics, each of which merits a fuller discussion than one writer can present. But younger readers with knowledge of trans Internet culture may have noticed that, until now, I’ve failed to cover one of its most prominent aesthetic motifs. I am referring to the Japanese art form known as anime. Parents of trans-identified boys mention anime repeatedly. The animation style seems to loom large in the lives of many—at least half—of the young men whose stories I’m telling. Many of these boys have anime alter-egos, …

The Geography of COVID-19

The ongoing pandemic is reshaping the geography of our planet, helping some areas and hurting others. In the West, the clear winners have been the sprawling suburbs and exurbs, while dense cores have been dealt a powerful blow. The pandemic also has accelerated class differences and inequality, with poor and working class people around the world paying the dearest price. These conclusions are based on data we have repeatedly updated. Despite some variations, our earlier conclusions hold up: the virus wreaked the most havoc in areas of high urban density. This first became evident in the alarming pre-lockdown fatalities that occurred in New York City and the suburban commuting shed from which many of the employees in the huge Manhattan business district are drawn. Similar patterns have been seen in Europe and Asia as well. The problem is not density per se but rather the severe overcrowding associated with poverty in high density areas. Overcrowded physical proximity often includes insufficiently ventilated spaces such as crowded public transit, elevators, and employment locations, especially high-rise buildings, which often …

Keep Social-Justice Indoctrination Out of the Therapist’s Office

One of the earliest stains on the legacy of psychiatry, my medical specialty, dates to the American 1840 census, when the US government first began systematically collecting information on “idiocy” and “insanity.” According to the results, the purported rates of mental illness among free blacks in northern cities were deemed to exceed those among enslaved blacks in the south by an 11-to-one ratio. South Carolina Senator John C. Calhoun, a notoriously strident defender of slavery, seized upon the results as “proof” that “the African is incapable of self-care and sinks into lunacy under the burden of freedom. It is a mercy to him to give this guardianship and protection from mental death.” Five years later, the American Statistical Association published a new analysis of the census data, in which it illuminated what distinguished American psychiatrist Edward Jarvis called the “inconsistencies, contradictions, and falsehoods” of the original. Jarvis’s own review revealed recording errors and deliberate misuse of data. Yet many citizens in pro-slavery states continued to believe that enslaved blacks were less inclined toward insanity because …