Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Chutpah, the female orgasm, and say, what ever did happened to that drug? 05.17.05

The march of science and medicine marches on.

So how was it for you?--It’s pretty easy to figure out the evolutionary purpose of the male orgasm. That was fun and gee, let’s do it again, an attitude that--among other things--promotes reproduction and literature. For some reason, the female orgasm seems to scientists to be more difficult to explain. Some experts even deny there is such a thing, but whatever. A new book written by a biologist at Indiana University explores the arguments and the various theories why evolution should care if a woman achieves orgasm or not. As reported in the New York Times, Elisabeth A. Lloyd, has a unique theory. She takes on some of the current thinking, such as the orgasm is just a byproduct of the early parallel development of male and female embryos (i.e., the nerves for orgasm are built into the developing embryo to be implanted in the penis and they are still there when the embryo differentiates--just sort of lying around so you might want to put them to some use). That’s the same explanation for nipples on men; they are left-overs from the time before embryos differentiated and serve no useful purpose. But if scientists acknowledge the need for a male orgasm, why do they spend so much time trying to find an evolutionary need for the female variety? Lloyd thinks it’s either because the scientists are invested in believing that women’s sexuality must parallel that of men’s, or just the quiet inevitable feeling that all adaptations had to serve some evolutionary purpose. Nah, says the lady. There is no real reason for a female orgasm. They are just fun. She surmises this because they are not necessary. For one thing, males get to have them every time they want to reproduce (we’re lucky that way); females don’t. It depends. A woman can get pregnant without having one. Ever. In her life. So, women, have fun. Call if you would like help.


Say, whatever happened to that miracle drug?--A while back I mentioned a science writer, David Cleary, who infuriated people at an American Cancer Society meeting by reading back all the “breakthroughs” they had announce five years earlier and wondering whatever happened to those swell advances. Now Derek Lowe, an organic chemist (not the baseball player) who posts on the wonderful blogsite, corante.com, has done Cleary one better. He went back to a Business Week story of May 13, 1991, a cover piece on designer drugs, and asked whatever happened to them. Lowe’s answer: not much. A few are still around but haven’t proven themselves to be the wonders they were touted, and the rest disappeared. Business Week was only one of many places that covered this change in the way drugs were being developed, and almost all of them were just as breathless. The traditional way to find drugs was, everyone admits, logically inefficient. You simply ran through every compound you think could reasonably be expected to work (A to Z) and tried them out. The overwhelming majority didn’t so you moved on and kept going until one of them showed promise. The new rational drug design meant working in the other direction, bottom up, to deliberately and rationally design a drug around what you knew of the disorder. If nothing else, it was supposed to be cheaper. Science writers went to these drug houses and watched dynamite computer generated models showing how the system worked and then, Lowe writes, made the category mistake of forgetting that what they saw wasn’t real. Lowe says nothing has changed. The rational design approach still doesn’t work very well, and most drugs are still developed the old sloppy way. We don’t know enough, Lowe asserts.


I’m not making this up, Chapter III--Quote of the day, courtesy Good Morning Silicon Valley.
We could really speed up the whole process of drug improvement if we did not have all the rules on human experimentation. If companies were allowed to use clinical trials in Third World countries, paying a lot of poor people to take risks that you wouldn't take in a developed country, we could speed up technology quickly. But because of the Holocaust ...

-- -- Francis Fukuyama, a member of the President's Council on Bioethics and director of the Human Biotechnology Governance Project (normally we would add a snarky comment here, but our mouths are still agape).
Mine too.


: [from the Yiddish] def. gall, bordering on effrontery. Syn. Microsoft--This could also be “I’m not making this up, Chapter IV.” Microsoft has announced that it is readying a service that will automatically provide updated anti-virus, anti-spyware, and firewall protection to computers running Windows XP. The service will clean up your disk and back up files. Microsoft realizes that there is a vast industry out there providing anti-virus software to protect PCs and decided that it need a piece of the action, which in Microsoft’s case, means they want to control the business. As David Pogue points out, if Microsoft had designed Windows properly, you wouldn’t need that software and those businesses wouldn’t exist. So they are going to sell you software that you need only because they are incompetent. (Unix, Linux and Mac owners can ratchet up the smug one notch).

At least we can forget the refrigerator mom--There are almost as many theories about what causes autism as there are autistics and CDC researchers are adding to the list. A study of 698 Danish children with autism found a disproportionate number of preemies, children with low birth weights and breech births. In other words, difficult deliveries. The children also were more likely to have parents with mental disorders before the children were born. CDC admits this doesn’t prove causation but opens up questions that need to be explored. Perhaps researchers need to look more closely at what goes on during pregnancy. The findings about parents with schizophrenia-type psychosis isn’t new, but the study seems to reinforce that. In the days when people took Bruno Bettelheim seriously, autism was blamed on the mother, who, he asserted, caused the disorder by being indifferent to their children. Fortunately, no one takes him seriously any more.

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