martes, 9 de febrero de 2016

MercatorNet: Where are all the men? Dating in the 21st century

MercatorNet: Where are all the men? Dating in the 21st century

Where are all the men? Dating in the 21st century

Women were keen, but we had to beg men to come to a dating event.
Bernard Toutounji | Feb 9 2016 | comment 

When I am not writing columns I spend my time in an office which works with and for young people. Last year we tried a new event for young adults which we called Dating & Degustation. The evening consists of a five-course meal in an upmarket hotel. At the start of each course the male participants change tables according to a preset list, so that each person has the opportunity to have a mini-date with five different people. While there are many events at which young adults can meet and mingle, we wanted an event that was explicitly pointed towards the goal of good relationships.

Of course we had no idea how this scheme would be received and whether or not we would even achieve the minimum number of forty people to actually book out the hotel restaurant. The risk with dating events is that a person who might interiorly be interested has to rather explicitly admit to themselves (and others) that they are interested in (a) meeting someone with whom they could enter into a relationship and (b) one day marrying such a person ­ and in the 21st century we knew that would be a rather large call. None the less we created the event, started advertising, and, to be sure, the registrations began to come in. Within a short space of time the twenty female tickets were gone and we began a waiting list of ten, twenty, thirty extra women. However, the twenty male tickets were barely moving.

Naturally, an event like this could only be held with equal numbers of men and women so we began adjusting the advertising to target men specifically. At one point it felt like we had to beg men to register. Happily we ended up securing enough men, resulting in a total of sixty participants at the dinner (the maximum the restaurant could hold). The night went really well, conversations flowed freely and the feedback was very positive.

In fact the event went so well that we have now hosted it on three separate occasions, and each time we have had the same experience: the female tickets sell out with little energy and there is a significant waiting list, while the male tickets sell last with much greater effort and a small waiting list, if any.

So I am left to wonder ­ where are all the men? In my mind the whole situation is highly ironic because men are naturally (supposed to be) the initiators of relationships; they are the ones who most often ask a woman on a date, and they are most often the ones who drop to the knee to ask for a woman’s hand in marriage. Study after study shows that women do not want to be the ones to ask their man to marry them. And nor should they.

This order of behavior is not merely a social construct; there is something within the man which summons him to action. Yet every time this event is on we almost have to send out special invitations to men. This is just another indicator of the depressing low which dating has reached in Western society. In fact it would be fair to say that traditional dating has effectively been killed off and replaced with a free and easy approach to relationships where everything is on the table except any talk of possible commitment. That may suit men (for the time being) but it sure doesn’t suit women.

Thankfully, we see that women’s hearts are still in the right place. They desire opportunities to meet men, to be taken on the classical date, and are willing to take a risk in the search for love. Perhaps it is because men have, seemingly, forsaken their role as initiators (many of them to sit at home with their mates and their PlayStations) that women have felt the need to be more daring and active in the dating scene.

Perhaps an event such as ours provides an opportunity for women to be a little proactive. However, even with the opportunity laid out for them, too many men are impotent (pardon the pun). Any single men reading this need to realise that there are many wonderful women out there who are anxious to just encounter a man who would be brave enough to also take a risk in search of “the right one”.

Bernard Toutounji writes at where this article was first published
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MercatorNet: CRISPR, but no clearer about the human embryo

CRISPR, but no clearer about the human embryo

Gene editing relies on an unscientific approach to embryonic life.
Javier Cuadros | Feb 9 2016 | comment 

A human embryo implanting, six days after fertilisation.
(Source:IMAGES.WELLCOME.AC.UK) via Infinity Imagined

The first ever permission to conduct genomic editing in human embryos was granted recently by the UK body regulating human fertilization and embryo research activity (Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority, HFEA). The permission is not universal but provided to individual applicants and only for research, the journal Nature revealed.

The permission was granted to Dr. Kathy Niakan, a developmental biologist working in the Francis Crick Institute in London. In the experiments, embryos will be manipulated and maintained for about seven days, and then destroyed.

One must admit that the news has the taint of Brave New World. Sure enough, on the electronic page carrying the news there was an inset with a title that ran “Where in the world could the first CRISPR baby be born?” Somewhere very "brave" and "new" in its approach to human life, no doubt.

CRISPR is the name of the specific gene editing technique. A lot of research is going on with human embryos and by the look of it much more is coming. My argument here is that this scientific activity carries within it a big element of insincerity.

Science is a process of knowledge in which we penetrate ever deeper into the fabric of nature and of the processes taking place in it. It is a journey through different layers of understanding. The starting point is the simple, immediate observation of individual phenomena. At this stage the “appearances” of things are noted. It is a good starting point and the only one there is.

As the observations multiply, include other connected facts and phenomena, and the human mind elaborates all of them together, it is typical that the original appearances, solid and evident as they are to the uneducated eye, are shown to be incorrect. The reality is different and the “false appearances” prove to be due to specific conditions or viewpoint.

The Earth appears to be stationary and the Sun, Moon, planets and stars to circle around it. Observation of the movement of the planets suggested a different explanation, which was finally proved by Foucault using a pendulum he devised.

The continents appear to be solid and stationary masses. Geological observation, especially of large mountain ranges, volcanic activity and earthquakes suggested that they are part of plates that actually move, collide and go past each other. This has been proven by multiple observations at very different scales, from continent to rock level, and now satellites can measure with high precision the relative displacement of the continents.

Animal and plant species appear to be fixed, maintaining always their identity. Observation of the fossil record indicates that the species existing along the long geologic eras have been different and that species have evolved into new ones. The appearance of fixed species is a result of the short time span of our original observations.

All these facts were hard to prove and encountered a lot of opposition within scientific circles.

The examples could be multiplied. It is in the very nature of science to penetrate underneath the appearance of things to understand their real inner workings. And the process is repeated time and again. The deeper explanation and its description of facts become the new “appearances”, that can be left behind by new observations or deeper and wider elaboration of those already existing.

This is why I have always been puzzled about the reluctance of scientists to apply the same program of investigation to the nature of the human embryo. Are human embryos men and women and thus entitled to the inalienable right to life and respect  for their dignity and physical integrity, or are they not?

Here, many scientists (biologists and doctors) are for applying the simple criterion of appearances. No, they are not men and women, they say, because they do not look like a person. Agreed, they do not look like a developed human being. But the Earth looks like it is stationary, the continents anchored and so on. Surely scientists should be ready to explore the issue further in order to test whether the appearances tell the whole truth. Following such investigation it has been pointed out that shape does not make a human being.

It has been shown that the most fundamental element of the presence and identity of a human being is the existence of a specific DNA molecule. The embryo, with its complete DNA information, contains all the essential elements of the developed human being. All that is necessary for such development is nutrition and the appropriate environment, however specific they need to be. There is no essential change taking place with the embryo after the egg is fertilised. As far as one can see, this is the deepest level available now to define a human being from the scientific point of view.

Abortion laws allow terminations up to certain stages of embryonic development. The reason is that the embryo looks more like a person after these stages than before. There can be no other reasons because there is no other change in the embryo before and after the legal limits. Then, of course, a newly generated embryo is so much unlike a developed human being that the same argument applies. This is very unscientific.

I really wonder that such a superficial approach is allowed to go unchecked in this age that has seen and continues to see so much progress in the discovery of underlying layers of understanding of the fabric of the universe. I suspect that, for some scientists, the question “When does a human being begin to exist?” is not answered considering only the scientific evidence. They also include in their argument a battery of social issues.

It is argued in support of CRISPR, for example, that the embryos used in the gene editing experiments will be donated by couples having IVF treatment, as though their co-operation removed a major ethical obstacle. Of course, this question has implications that affect both individuals and society in the most vivid ways. However, to allow social arguments to take over the investigation of the nature of the human embryo is also a very unscientific approach. It amounts to using opinion surveys to advance nuclear physics, or any other branch of science. This is not the way forward either for science or for society to benefit from the knowledge that science provides.

Research with human embryos is producing knowledge and human beings will benefit from it. But there is a scientific lie lurking in the middle of the whole business. After all, science is not just knowledge; it is also power. Let science be just slightly manipulated here and there, using pressure from political parties or lobbies, and what a powerful means for financial and political hegemony it becomes. And how hard for the scientist to resist the temptation of riding the huge wave that the slight manipulation will create.

Javier Cuadros is an earth scientist working in London
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MercatorNet: CRISPR, but no clearer about the human embryo


The people who want to experiment with human embryos to show that they can prevent disorders; those who create embryos in the lab and then throw some away; and those who insist that there is nothing wrong with abortion because a fetus is not a person -- all think they are the real scientists. But, as Javier Cuadros argues in his article about gene editing, they are not. Or at least, not honest ones.
That is because they judge a person by appearances, which is only the first step in science. The truth is that no matter how a week-old embryo LOOKS (a clump of cells) it already has all the genetic information necessary for it to grow into an adult human being. All it needs is what the rest of us need -- the environment that will nourish its life. Scientists know that. We know that. Outfits like the UK Human Fertilisation and and Embryology Authority (that gave permission for gene editing a couple of weeks ago) know that.
How can they get away with treating these new brothers and sisters of ours like mere stuff? Dr Cuadros has the answer, I thnk.

Carolyn Moynihan
Deputy Editor,

CRISPR, but no clearer about the human embryo
Javier Cuadros | FEATURES | 9 February 2016
Gene editing relies on an unscientific approach to embryonic life.
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Where are all the men? Dating in the 21st century
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Women were keen, but we had to beg men to come to a dating event.
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