Saturday, 25 July 2009

New Daily Mail Scientist

[Daily Mail ad run in the Metro. Yes, in 2009]

This may well be a foolhardy adventure, a titanic battle, an Icarian endeavour, I cannot help myself but carefully and scientifically dissect another Daily Mail article. After I’m long dead I hope that the fossilised remains of my blog will be found so that others will know that there was resistance to this cancerous newspaper.

I’ll address most paragraphs in turn.

Fathers DO matter: Scientists claim they play crucial role in child's development

In a world where advances in cloning and genetics are threatening to make men redundant, scientists finally have some reassuring news.

No dipshit, it’s only in your paper that claims like this are made.
A study has shown that fathers play a crucial in family life - and that without a dad present in the crucial first stage of life, offspring grow up to be less sociable.
Let’s pick out the crucial words in this sentence: “father”, “family life”, “dad”. We all know what those words refer to don’t we. Yes, humans.
Although the findings come from a study of animals, it adds to the growing evidence that fathers influence the way children develop.
Right, so in fact a study HASN’T shown anything about “fathers” or “family life”. And given the variety of parenting models in the animal kingdom you are going to have to show applicability (who thinks they will?...)
Previous studies have shown that girls reach puberty younger, become sexually active earlier and are more likely to get pregnant in their teens if their father are absent when they were young, New Scientist magazine says.
I will address these ‘previous studies’ at the end and the problems with them. I will also take the New Scientist out the back for a damn good thrashing.
Other work has suggested that sons of missing dads have lower self-esteem later in life.
Other work? What like that paper I wrote with my own shit through the motion of wiping my arse? Obviously no need to reference, it is accepted wisdom.
The latest study looked for biological changes in laboratory mice when they were raised without fathers.
Here we go. Paragraph 6 and we find out you’re talking about mice. Five paragraphs on vague conjecture with a clue that this is a completely rehashed article from the New Scientist and we culminate in fucking lab mice.
A team at McGill University, Canada, used a strain of mice which, like people, are usually monogamous and tend to rear their young pups together.
A strain of mice, which like people, live in cages in laboratories, have tails and run around on wheels all day.
They removed the fathers from some of the mouse pups three days after birth until they were weaned at 30 to 40 days old.

The scientists, led by Dr Gabriella Gobbi, then analysed the behaviour and brain cells of the pups - and compared them to mice brought up with both parents.

Brain cells in the 'single parent' mice had a muted response to the 'cuddle hormone' oxytocin, a feel-good chemical released in the brain during sex or moments of intimacy.

‘Cuddle hormone’ is a technical term I’ll have you know. And given that the Daily Mail are anthropomorphising these mice to an alarming degree, does them talking about them having sex make this article paedophilic?
That meant they were less likely to feel positive when in the company of others. The fatherless mice were also more anti-social.
They found that they were feeling less positive through a survey where the mice were asked to rate their positivity on a scale of cheese to incontinence on a first date. Indeed fatherless mice are more likely to be Goths.
'Usually if you put two animals in the same cage they investigate and touch each other, but when we put to animals deprived of a father together they ignored each other,' said Dr Gobbi.
Maybe its because the offspring of divorce parents have less expectations of long-term relationships and decide not to get involved in an intimate relationship that will inevitably end in heart-break and despondency. Oh, wait a minute, they’re FUCKING MICE.
The scientists are unsure whether the same biological changes take place in human children raised without a father - and whether the findings are applicable to people.
But we’ll keep the headline and everything we've written up until this point because no one is really going to read this far and what can science tell us about the moral decline of Britain anyway.
In the strain of mice used in the experiment, the fathers lick and groom the young pups more than the mothers do. Because grooming affects the development of pups, it could be the lack of physical contact that cause the changes in the brain, the researchers say.
It seems that mice feminism has also gone to far and these mothers aren’t even looking after their children properly. OK, this paragraph does seem to entirely undermine the preceding drivel showing that mice parenting does seem to differ from human parenting somewhat, but apart from that the similarities are uncanny.
The finding follows another study which showed that men experience a huge surge in oxytocin after a child is born.
Let’s just randomly chuck this study in. Totally unconnected, but shit who cares?
Dr Ruth Feldman of Bar-Ilan University in Ramat-Gan, Israel tested oxytocin levels of 80 couples before a child was born and six months afterwards. She found that levels of the feel-good chemical rose in mothers and fathers after the arrival of a child.
‘Feel-good chemical’ is another technical term, keep up.
The chemical affected the parents in different ways.
Banal sentence of the entire article. Congratulations.
Mothers with the highest levels spent much longer gazing at their children, stroking and kissing them and speaking in a "sing song" voice, she found.
i.e. become insufferable to be around.
Dads with the highest levels played more with their child than fathers with the lowest levels.

'Fathers and mothers contribute in a very specific and different way,' she told the magazine.

She believes fathers may be 'biologically programmed' to help raise children.
This is a very very bizarre statement.
Right so let’s look at the studies the Daily Mail randomly chose to cite and how they arbitrary chose to report them. Sadly this Daily Mail article is a pretty much direct rehash of the New Scientist article it refers to. New 'Scientist' Fail.

I’ve been warned before that the New Scientist can be sexist, but this is the first time I’ve come across such a biased and unscientific article.

I have blogged here about the studies looking at early female pubescence and absent fathers when Oliver “bad-parenting-causes-schizophrenia” James tried to peddle his social-conservatism as caring liberal. (In summary; "I think you’ll find it’s a bit more complicated than that").

There are a number of social determinants that affect girls becoming sexually active earlier and teen pregnancy. Education, access to information, aspirations, abuse, gender inequality, coercion, poverty – can all play a role and interact with each other.

The two studies referred to directly in the article are by Dr Gabriella Gobbi of McGill University Health Centre and Dr Ruth Feldman of Bar-Ilan Universit, were both unpublished studies from Conference Posters presented at the World Congress of Biological Psychiatry and the Society for Research in Child Development Biennial Meeting, respectively. Dr Gobbi's: The fatherless brain: Impact of paternal deprivation in Peromyscus californicus on social behaviour and on Oxytocin, NMDA and monaminergic synapses in the prefrontal cortex, poster, WCBP (pdf of programme). Dr Feldman's: Maternal and Paternal Bonding in the Postpartum: Hormones, Parenting Behavior, and Mental Representations.

I therefore doubt very much that the article reflects what these researchers will have concluded in their studies. Even if they themselves did make these giant leaps, the work is unpublished and there has not been an opportunity to peer-review.

Reporting ideology rather than science is what the Daily Mail does. Which is why I am more annoyed with the New Scientist for this crappy article. Of course the Mail was going to pick it up and use it as more evidence to espouse its socially conservative and judgmental propaganda. But for a scientific publication to use a study in mice to comment on human social interaction, is willfully ignorant.

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