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First the link to this week’s complete list as HTML and as PDF.
The recent announcement by the American Academy of Pediatrics is a typical and most blatant example of both Cargo cult Science and “Never trust the experts”. When my daughter was born, rather a short time before 1994, my wife and me kept being admonished in the strongest and least ambiguous terms possible, never ever to let her sleep on her back because of the high risk of her burping and suffocating on it. At the time I was well aware of several points:
I still followed the rules as laid down. One, I was young, and two, my wife would never have accepted me placing my lay view above the expert one. (Both points are rectified now, I’m older and experience has made me more arrogant.) So what the third of all Americans, who still have not reverted to placing their children on their backs, are really doing is
While I do believe that in this specific case they are wrong, in the far more important general way of their going about things, they are doing exactly right. One thing I have never seen, neither in the popular nor the specialist press, is admitting, that the whole distressing recent epidemic of infant cot death is purely the result of wrong advice and that it is the pediatricians and nobody else who willfully killed all those infants by their arrogant and forcefully Lysenkoist overturning of what had been right and true for generations and centuries. This arrogance of modernity and of youth knowing everything better than their forebears ever did, is the real root that Naziism, Stalinism, Maoism and all the other ills and evils of the 20th century grew out of, but when has any member of the generation 68 ever been heard to apologize?
Telzer et al. seem to confirm the core of most religious teaching about what leads to true happiness. Only, what they have found seems not to be a question of individual choice, so the better question to ask is how can it be evolutionarily adaptive.
There is nothing surprising in DeWitte’s results. According to Gregory Clark’s A Farewell to Alms people tend to multiply up to the Malthus limit of barest subsistence. Anything substantially raising the death rate will always improve the living standards of the survivors. The black death has to be viewed with caution though, preceded as it was by a very serious climate decline. Thus the population probably was higher than its equilibrium value and conditions worse.
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