Caffeine Withdrawal Headaches

Caffeine is not addictive. Regular users of caffeine can develop tolerance and mild physical dependence, and sudden withdrawal can cause headaches and other symptoms (but only in half the population). This is does not qualify as addiction. In the Feb/March 2019 issue of Free Inquiry magazine, there was an article by John Frantz, MD, titled “The Biology

Molecular Phylogenetics: A New Way to Tell the Story of Evolution

The new science of molecular phylogenetics tells the story of evolution with no need to consult the fossil record. It has produced some surprises, including a whole new domain of life, the archaea. Darwin’s 1859 book On the Origin of Species was a well-written, well-argued introduction to evolution, to the theory that populations evolve and species differentiate

Human Flaws Demonstrate Evolution, Not Intelligent Design

The human body is clearly not the product of an intelligent designer. Its many flaws tell the fascinating story of evolution’s accidents and constraints. In his new book Human Errors: A Panorama of Our Glitches, from Pointless Bones to Broken Genes, Nathan Lents, a professor of biology at John Jay College, CUNY, has demonstrated that

Another Kind of Evolutionary Medicine

Last month I wrote about a book on evolutionary medicine that I could not recommend. Now I’ve found one I can recommend. Marlene Zuk, an evolutionary biologist at the University of California, Riverside, has written a delightful book entitled Riddled with Life: Friendly Worms, Ladybug Sex, and the Parasites That Make Us Who We Are.

The Riddle of Consciousness

For most of human history, people have assumed that some kind of vitalistic essence had to be added to matter to produce life. The belief in an immaterial soul was pervasive. At one point, scientists even tried to weigh the soul by weighing a body right before and after death, expecting to find a decrease

Testosterone Rex

When a man does something silly, my daughters and I like to joke, “Testosterone poisoning strikes again!” Everybody knows women and men are different, not just anatomically but psychologically and behaviorally. That common knowledge is epitomized in the book title Men Are from Mars; Women Are from Venus. Sometimes common knowledge turns out to be

Antibiotics vs. the Microbiome

In 1850, one in four American babies died before their first birthday, and people of all ages died of bacterial infections that could have been successfully treated today with antibiotics. Unfortunately, treatments that have effects usually have side effects, and we are seeing problems due to the overuse of antibiotics. They are given to people

Depression Re-examined: A New Way to Look at an Old Puzzle

Depression affects approximately 10% of Americans. It can be fatal; I found estimates of suicide rates ranging from 2-15% of patients with major depression. When it doesn’t kill, it impairs functioning and can make life almost unbearably miserable. It is a frustrating condition because there is no lab test to diagnose it, no good explanation

Tribalism and Medical Ethics

Science is intended to discover the “is”, not the “ought;” facts, not values. Science can’t tell us whether an action is moral; it can only provide evidence to help inform moral decisions. For instance, some people who believe abortion is immoral reject birth control methods that prevent implantation of a fertilized ovum on the grounds

Doves, Diplomats, and Diabetes

In the past I have criticized evolutionary medicine for its tendency to rely on unverifiable “Just-So Stories,” but a new book has helped me appreciate what the best kind of evolutionary thinking can contribute to our understanding of medicine. Doves, Diplomats, and Diabetes: A Darwinian Interpretation of Type 2 Diabetes and Related Disorders by Milind Watve investigates diabetes from an