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Thursday, December 19th, 2013 07:09 am
Which is to say all reporting sucks. I can fairly easily spot the flaws in science reporting and military reporting. If I extrapolate, all reporting must contain egregious flaws. Whoops. That was a side track. This was meant to just be about some recent science reporting.

A number of studies have been reported on in the last week or so. A few, three about multivitamins, one about pot, one about human behavior, I bothered to look at in some depth.

I often hear, in response to science stories, a collective, "Duh." Why is this, I wondered. Each study provides new observations and reenforces or sightly tweaks or completely breaks current theories in some field. Well, the reporting makes it sound like every study is just reinventing a wheel. And not just a wheel, but a really well designed and understood wheel. The reporting hints that the study was a giant waste of time and money.

The human behavior study, for instance, adds new observations to the theory that our behaviors are a collection of left overs from each developmental stage. The newest study suggests that most lashing out, violent behavior in adults is left over from the "terrible twos." We have known for a long time that people can be stuck in some development stage or another and not progress. Usually, though, the stage we associate with this is early adolescence. Righteous, gossipy, and mean social behaviors. Lots of folks stuck in this stage.

And we have known for a long time that under certain external conditions, most people can be made to revert. Certain threats can push us back to earlier stages. Some folks become helpless children when sufficiently threatened while others become their teen self. And so forth.

The new study, adds dimension and weight to this concept. Closer reading, though, gives the real science that should have been reported. This isn't just behavioral. Never getting over the Terrible Twos leaves a lasting mark on brain development, or, rather, a certain lack of brain development.

The recent pot study reporting also missed the important part. Teens who are chronic users of pot (or alcohol and other drugs) change the development of their brain. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence that chronic users "never grow up." Well, for a lot of young people, it turns out to be true. They have a much delayed exit from adolescence of no exit at all.

Being two in the body of a 30 year old has to really, really suck. At its worst, nothing is ever right with the world and the world just keeps telling them what to do. These people are often a loud and persistent, "NO!" to every last thing. Most of the pleasure they have in their lives comes from immediate gratification.

Folks stuck in adolescence are in a perpetual social tizzy. They are often inappropriate and accusatory. They have an inflated sense of the their rightness. They believe themselves to always be right while everyone else is wrong. And they are usually extremely sexist.

These new studies are using all sorts of medical devices like CAT scans and MRIs to point to the differences in brain development. THAT is the science that should be reported. Sometimes it is. But, so far, when it is reported, it seems to be reported by people steeped the right or wrong of it all. sigh.

For a long time, the women's movement used the slogan, "Biology is not destiny." Their meaning was clear (and one I agree with). But, in terms of the nurture part of our first 20 years, our developmental biology might very well be destiny.

And then, what of the new forms of therapy on horizon. What can we do with a brain that went a bit sideways at 2 or 12 or 20? Plenty of science fiction suggests that it will happen eventually. And, as in all things, it can be used for good or for evil.

While we might ignore many pressing problems in scientific research, we aren't likely to stop our search for the fountain of youth. We will continue to advance medical science because of a near universal fear of the unknown -- I mean of dying.