Why are we getting all kinds of diseases nowadays? Are our immune systems becoming weaker? If so, why?

It does seem like we are being confronted with an onslaught of new diseases – Ebola, Zika, MRSA, CRE etc. But seeming and being are two different things. Our notions of probability and prevalence are strongly biased by their availability to our memory. Dying from these diseases is a horrible prospect that triggers a strong Read More …

If the microbiome affects our mood and well-being, why isn’t the gut-brain axis explored further by pharmaceuticals?

I’m sure they are. After all, the market for antidepressant drugs is over $15B[1] , so there is a lot of money to be made here. But it won’t be easy. And if you think about the process of drug discovery, you’ll see why. Some drugs are indeed discovered fortuitously. The discovery of penicillin is Read More …

What evolutionary purpose does the placebo effect serve?

Assigning a “purpose” to any feature of evolution is an invitation to make a fool of one’s self. Evolution is an inherently random process. The desire to use evolution to tell “just so” stories often results in seemingly scientific explanations that are completely bogus. But I’ll bite, and risk looking like an idiot, because this Read More …

Gastroenterology: Is there really a link between gut bacteria and depression or is this just fancy pop science?

The evidence for a link between gut bacteria and depression/anxiety disorders is compelling. The gut microbiome of clinically depressed patients is substantially altered[1], and gut disorders such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease show both an altered microbiome and an increased risk of depression[2] . We also know that recurrent antibiotic use, which inevitably disrupts the gut microbiota[3] , Read More …

Is it true that intelligence is inherited from the mother?

The first rule regarding new studies of the inheritance of intelligence is to be very suspicious of all studies of the inheritance of intelligence. The history of these studies is not a happy one. Stephen Gould wrote a whole book (The Mismeasure of Man) detailing all the ways in which biological research has been co-opted Read More …