Human Nature

Drinking While Intoxicated

Texas arrests people for getting drunk—in bars.

(For the latest Human Nature columns on polygamy, Social Security, and morning-after pills, click here.)

Texas is busting people for “public intoxication” in bars. Undercover agents have “infiltrated” 36 bars and arrested 30 drinkers. Explanations from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission: 1) We’re doing it to stop drinkers before they get in a car. 2) Even if they’re not going to get in a car, maybe they’ll “walk out into traffic and get run over.” 3) Or maybe they’ll “jump off of balconies trying to reach a swimming pool and miss.” 4) Anyway, bars aren’t exempt from laws against public intoxication.

The maker of Ambien is bracing for legal war with sleepwalkers, sleep-eaters, and sleep-drivers. Several Ambien users are suing Sanofi-Aventis, claiming that the pill caused them to walk, drive, or eat insatiably while sleeping. They’re urging others to join a class action suit. The company says 1) the drug’s label warns that rare side effects include sleep-walking and big appetites, 2) it’s supposed to be taken under a doctor’s supervision, and 3) it was carefully tested under the prescribed conditions. The company’s lawyers will meet with plaintiffs in June. (For Human Nature’s previous updates on sleep-eating and sleep-driving, click here and here.)

Smoking may increase a man’s risk of impotence by almost 40 percent. The correlation shows up in men who smoke more than a pack a day. Smoking up to 20 cigarettes a day correlated with a 24 increase in impotence. Theory: Nicotine and other related chemicals “diminish blood flow to the penis and blood pressure in it.” Bonus finding: Moderate alcohol consumption “significantly reduced” the risk of impotence. (For Human Nature’s previous updates on the benefits of alcohol, click here and here.)

If people in your office get coughs, headaches, or fatigue, blame your jobs, not your building. “Sick building syndrome” theory posits that bad office air quality causes these symptoms, but a British study concludes that symptoms are “due less to poor physical conditions than to … poor psychosocial conditions” such as job stress, work load, inadequate support, and bad managers.

Online daters are using health insurance to lure or screen potential mates. Examples: 1) A woman’s ad asks, “Do you make at least $75,000 a year and have health insurance?” 2) A man’s ad says he “can supply all the little things like health insurance and the big things like a nice place to live.” 3) Another man’s ad says, “If you are able to add someone to your health insurance as a ‘spousal equivalent’ have I got a deal for you.” Daters’ explanation: We ask about your health insurance just as a way to establish that you’ve got it together. Cynic’s translation: They want your health insurance. Economist’s conclusion: This is a logical result of patchwork, employer-based health insurance: Coverage becomes a commodity in sex as in everything else. (WSJ link requires subscription.) (For Michael Kinsley’s take on single-payer health insurance, click here.)

The Archbishop of Canterbury rejected creationism. The head of the Anglican Church, Christianity’s third-largest denomination, said: 1) “It’s not as if the writer of Genesis or whatever sat down and said, ‘Well, how am I going to explain all this? … I know: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.’” 2) “A belief that everything depends on the creative act of God is quite compatible with a degree of uncertainty or latitude about how precisely that unfolds.” But he added that 3) “That’s different from … teaching about what creation means” or “saying that Darwinism is the only thing that ought to be taught.” (For Human Nature’s take on related comments by the pope and Pat Robertson, click here.)

A longitudinal study suggests whiny kids grow up to be conservative.They “turned into rigid young adults who hewed closely to traditional gender roles and were uncomfortable with ambiguity. The confident kids turned out liberal and were still hanging loose, turning into bright, non-conforming adults with wide interests.” The authors suspect “insecure kids look for the reassurance provided by tradition and authority,” whereas “the more confident kids are eager to explore alternatives.” This matches a 2003 analysis that suggested “people who are dogmatic, fearful, [and] intolerant of ambiguity … are more likely to gravitate to conservatism.” Criticisms: 1) They did the study in Berkeley. 2) The correlations aren’t that strong. 3) They skewed the interpretation, calling moral confidence “rigidity.” 4) They overlooked left-wing rigidity. 5) What about the recent Pew study that showed Republicans are happier than Democrats?(For Human Nature’s takes on left-wing rigidity and right-wing sexual liberalism, click here and here.)

Remote-controlled flying saucers are raising UFO alarms in Southern California. The glowing saucers have been hovering, flying in formation, and “zigzagging through trees.” The culprits are two guys who make the propeller-driven, lithium-powered saucers in their garages. They “get their kicks shocking people,” and they sell saucers for $1,000 apiece. One, a heart surgeon, says, “It’s pretty funny. … People scream; one cabdriver ran his car up off the road.” Cops shrug off complaints that the saucers will cause hysteria, saying there’s no law against fake saucers.

A Los Angeles suburb imposed the nation’s first ban on outdoor smoking in all public places. It exempts houses, backyards, patios, and balconies, but not if they adjoin public spaces such as apartment-building corridors or laundry rooms. You can smoke in your car, but not with the windows open while other people are nearby. Businesses can arrange smoking areas, but they have to be 20 feet away from doorways. The idea is to clear smoke-free paths. Defense: The California Air Resources Board recently classified secondhand smoke as a toxic air pollutant. Criticism: Where’s the evidence of harm from outdoor secondhand smoke?

The FDA announced “two additional deaths following medical abortion with mifepristone,” known as Mifeprex or RU-486. The agency cited four previous deaths of women who had taken the pills; another death had been reported in Canada. Bacteria are suspected. Anti-abortion spin: “The FDA has pulled other drugs that have caused fewer deaths and less severe complications than RU-486. Why the double-standard?” Planned Parenthood spin: 1) This makes only seven reported deaths among 560,000 incidents in which women took the pills. 2) “None of those deaths have been directly attributed to mifepristone.” 3) Just to be safe, we’re changing the way we administer the pills. (For Human Nature’s takes on the pills as a step toward earlier abortions, click here.)

1) The difference between gay marriage and polygamy. 2) Stop giving healthy people Social Security. 3) South Dakota’s invitation to snuff your embryo. 4) Technology and the end of Roe. 5) The nonsense of Olympic doping rules. 6) The temptation of remote-controlled killing. 7) Teachers who have sex withboys. 8) Our creepy genetic experiment on dogs. (Click here to return to top of page.)