Human Nature

The Santorum Monkey Trial

A senator turns tail on intelligent design.

(For the latest Human Nature columns on intelligent design, dogs, and gay priests, click here.)

Intelligent design is becoming a hot issue in Pennsylvania’s Senate race. Rick Santorum, the Senate’s third-highest-ranking Republican, sits on the board of the Thomas More Law Center, which led the fight for ID in Dover, Pa. He also praised the Dover school district for trying to “teach the controversy of evolution.” Now that the case has led to a court ruling that eviscerated  ID, Santorum says the center “made a huge mistake in taking this case,” and he’s going to quit its board. Santorum 2002: “Intelligent design is a legitimate scientific theory that should be taught in science classes.” Santorum 2005: “I’m not comfortable with intelligent design being taught in the science classroom.” Reaction from Santorum’s challenger: He’s an ideologue or a weasel, take your pick. (For Human Nature’s take on the ruling, click here.)

Korean investigators confirmed that the biggest reported breakthrough in stem-cell research is a fraud.Contrary to claims by the lead researcher, Hwang Woo-Suk, the investigators say the data he reported “cannot be some error from a simple mistake [and] cannot be but seen as a deliberate fabrication to make it look like 11 stem-cell lines using results from just two.” They also “found no records that the final two lines had ever been created.” (For Human Nature’s previous update on the scandal, click here; for recent columns on stem cells, click here and here.)

Advocates of intelligent design are licking their wounds after a federal judge dismissed ID as pseudoscience. Their rationalizations: 1) He’s just one little judge, and his ruling doesn’t apply elsewhere. 2) His opinion was so nasty it’ll infuriate and mobilize conservative Christians. 3) We’ve got bills and friendly legislators in lots of states. 4) We’ll get around activist American judges by going international. 5) We don’t have to teach ID; we can attack gaps in evolution. 6) Just you wait till Justices Roberts and Alito weigh in. (For Human Nature’s take, click here.)

Men are gaining on women in life expectancy. Women can still expect four more years than men, but over the last two decades, men have increased their life expectancy at twice the rate of women. Reasons: 1) Women are working and getting more stress from it. 2) Women took up smoking about 25 years ago and are now dying from it. Cynical spin: This is the price of equality. But experts say men will never catch up, because risky behavior is in their nature.

Teenage substance abuse is shifting from illegal to legal drugs. Among 8th graders, marijuana use has fallen to 12 percent, but abuse of barbiturates, sedatives, or tranquilizers has risen to 7 percent. New favorites: painkillers such as Oxycontin and sleeping pills such as Ambien. Drug czar’s spin: We’re winning the war on illegal drugs. Cynics’ view: We’re teaching our kids to find refuge and self-improvement in pills.

The percentage of U.S. babies born to mothers who didn’t want them has increased by half. From 1995 to 2002, the rate of unwantedness (measured by the question, “Right before you became pregnant, did you yourself want to have a baby at any time in the future?”) ballooned from 9 to 14 percent. Meanwhile, the abortion rate fell from 26 to 24 of every 100 concluded pregnancies (those that ended in birth or abortion). Pro-life spin: Sonograms, information, and goodness are persuading women to choose life. Pro-choice spin: Pro-lifers are shutting down abortion clinics and forcing women to bear children into lives of misery. Bonus finding: The percentage of women who say they lived with a male sex partner outside of marriage rose from 41 to 50. (For Human Nature’s latest takes on abortion, click here and here.)

Webcams have opened a new era in child pornography. Problems: 1) Webcams are now cheap enough for kids to afford. 2) Broadband is fast enough to deliver sexual video. 3) A kid who posts innocuous video of himself is tracked down by pedophiles, who befriend him and offer money for favors, starting with partial nudity via the Webcam. 4) Some kids turn this into a business. 5) Parents don’t know, because the Webcam is in the kid’s room. 6) Cops can no longer pose as kids to catch pedophiles, because pedophiles insist that the kid show himself on a Webcam—and cops aren’t allowed to use real kids as bait.

Inserting two IVF embryos doesn’t increase your chance of having a baby. Clinics insert multiple embryos to boost the odds of live birth. But new studies show that inserting just one embryo gets you the same chance of having a baby, while lowering the chance of twins and thereby reducing both fetal and maternal health risks. Fertility experts hail this as an advance toward ending multiple-embryo IVF pregnancies. (For Human Nature’s takes on IVF regulation, click here and here.)

Latest Human Nature columns: 1) The future of creationism. 2) Our creepy genetic experiment on dogs. 3) The pope’s antigay tendencies. 4) Pat Robertson vs. the pope on intelligent design. 5) Does Alito treat women like girls? 6) Bill Bennett’s racial determinism. 7) The mainstreaming of anal sex.