Science Affliction #5

I’m running all sorts of behind this week and I apologize. Without further delay, here is this week’s selection of science links:

1) A thought-provoking post at io9.com about why you shouldn’t lie to kids. I tried to convince a friend at work a few weeks ago that lying to your children about Santa is shoddy parenting, but she just couldn’t understand my point. Seriously folks, the myth of Santa is quite damaging if you deconstruct it. You’re teaching kids that presents that you bought were actually delivered by some mythical figure who keeps tally of what you did right and wrong on a list. The canny child will quickly ponder out that all you have to do is do more nice things than naughty things and you’re still in present land. And really, no matter how bad the kid is, doesn’t he still get presents? You’re not fooling anyone. Anyway, I ranted about that more than I intended to, sorry. The thrust of the article is that by convincing children that mythical figures exist, you’re harming their ability to separate truth from fiction.

2) Very cool news about the next step in defeating diabetes in an article from ScienceDaily.com. An artificial pancreas, set to start clinical trials in November, looks like a promising alternative to constant blood sugar testing and insulin shots.

3) An article (and a pretty picture) at arstechnica.com about salt water geysers on Enceladus, one of Saturn’s moons. Enceladus is currently thought the most likely place to find signs of life in the solar system.

4) A tongue-in-cheek post at science20.com about why females shouldn’t have sex with males from the future. The idea is that subsequent generations develop ways to promote an individual’s genetic lines, often to the detriment of the other gender. Keep antagonistic coevolution in mind for your next time-traveling hookup!

5) This one really surprised me. Here’s an article at nature.com regarding how city living might have a detrimental effect on mental health. According to the study, city life causes social stress which activates parts of the brain that process emotions, increasing the risk of schizophrenia.


Ryan’s Word of the day is palanquin. It’s a covered litter carried by bearers. For this one, I thought I’d link to some images for a change.

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3 Responses to “Science Affliction #5”

  1. GM says:

    Well, I think the first point is a bunch of horse hoo-hoo. I speak as both a child who believed in Santa, the tooth fairy and the Easter bunny (and monsters in the closet), and a parent. I think there’s more damaging impact from feeding your children the cold, hard truth at a young age, depriving them of the wonder and joy that all their friends and classmates experience from those childhood myths. Making them the odd case out, the only one Santa doesn’t visit.

    Parents can explain about reality and truth as much as they like, but the kid is going to decide there’s something wrong with *them*, and that’s why Santa doesn’t come. Because OBVIOUSLY Santa exists: everyone else says he exists, and they’ve got the presents to back it up! And little kids think the universe revolves around them, and everything that happens is somehow tied to something they did (or refused to do). So all you do is give the kid an inferiority complex.

    And, honestly, I think most of us look back on the time we believed in Santa as a magical, excitement-filled time, and appreciate all our parents did to make the magic happen.

    If people want to get worked up about feeding lies to little people who have a hard time distinguishing between fantasy and reality, then I suggest they work on keeping four-year-olds out of films like _Blow_ and _Snake Eyes_ (true story; years ago, when I still lived in the US, I sat in the 9 PM show of each of these films with at least one child under the age of five behind me, presumably because the parents were too cheap to hire a babysitter, and too brain-dead to realize what they were doing to their kid).

    • Coral says:

      You can say shit on my blog, it’s okay. :)

      I’m glad I finally said something you disagree with, because mostly we agree on everything! I think that also wins the award of longest comment on here, ever.

      Well, the issue is a complex one, and I think every child is different. I don’t look back on my belief in Santa as a magical time in my childhood. In fact, what I remember most about the experience is how betrayed I felt when I found out it wasn’t real. I guess I was always a pragmatic kid.

      I think it’s a shame that Santa takes all the credit for presents, it feels wrong to me, and dishonest. It seems like the lesson being taught is very different from the one parents think they are teaching and I guess I just don’t understand the purpose behind it.

      It’s a good thing I don’t plan to have kids. I’m sure I’d ruin them. :)

      I’m totally with you about the movies, and I wonder why theaters don’t enforce ratings anymore. I went to see the second Silence of the Lambs movie, which I can’t remember the name of at the moment and there was a family of six sitting in the row behind me with kids from toddler to teen. I simply could not believe they’d take their kids to that.

      • Jimi says:

        I’m really going to have to ask my parents the details of how they handled Santa Clause, the tooth fairy, etc. Somehow we (myself and my two siblings) turned out to be fairly well-balanced individuals.

        I remember the magic and wonder of the presents appearing under the tree on Christmas Eve, but I always knew that my parents had them stashed away somewhere. I enjoyed the surprise of my tooth magically being replaced with a quarter (and eventually a dollar) while I slept, but it wasn’t long before I figured out that the tooth fairy was actually named Dad. I think that we were allowed to believe for the time it suited our level of development with more gradually being revealed as we got older.

        Christmas is a time to celebrate our close family bonds. I think that’s what really matters, not exactly how fervently a child believes along the way.

        Now, if you’ll excuse me, I really must go read the article on why females shouldn’t have sex with males from the future. :)

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