Good Charlotte Was Right: A Science Fact of the Day

I haven’t done a science fact of the day lately. Work is time consuming. Don’t forget, science facts of the day are my thoughts on and descriptions of what scientists say. In other words, it’s a fact that some scientists have said it. What I write is not necessarily a fact of nature nor something I even take to be the case.

In an article at Big Think, an author describes this analysis of online dating data.

Here are some pieces of the original article:

We examine the impact of a user’s weight on his or her outcomes by means of the body mass index (BMI), which is a height adjusted measure of weight.18 Figure 5.5 shows that for both men and women there is an “ideal” BMI at which success peaks, but the level of the ideal BMI differs strongly across genders. The optimal BMI for men is about 27. According to the American Heart Association, a man with such a BMI is slightly overweight. For women, on the other hand, the optimal BMI is about 17, which is considered underweight and corresponds to the figure of a supermodel. A woman with such a BMI receives about 77% more first contact e-mails than a woman with a BMI of 25.

This is expected. Men with a slightly higher BMI probably have more muscle mass. And women whose BMI was so low in 2005 and prior (when the study was done) probably ran a lot.

Income strongly affects the success of men, as measured by the number of first contact e-mails received.

This makes sense. Dating with your self-interest in mind for women includes the well being of any children or potential children.  It would be stupid to not care about income and it’s not shallow for women to do so. A lot of people bristle at the fact that the silly song said “girls like cars and money” but the song writer was just observing facts. In a similarly “shallow” way, men prefered that women look attractive. But again, if the invisible hand of biology is operating, then men will probably be more interested in women they perceive (for good or bad reasons) to be fertile and potentially good mothers.

Anyway, the article interested me because I am asked by a lot of young men for dating advice. I usually tell them: seek first God’s kingdom (virtue is more important than marriage) but then make more money and get more muscles. The empirical data generally back up these observations. Another case in point would be the extremely annoying body builder at my old gym. Women would be repulsed by him at first (he’s too huge). But he’d mention, “My lambo” and suddenly the girl would end her work out and follow him around for his. My wife and I observed this well over a dozen times over the three years we went to the gym.* Now, I mentioned the “invisible hand of biology,” and this is real. But the fact is that relationships are more than biology, they just aren’t less than biology. Romance can transcend biology but you cannot subtract biology from it.

Here’s the song I mentioned:

 

*Incidentally, he tried flirting with her while she was doing deadlift. She simply said something terse like, “I’m working out.”

Writing a reference letter

To write a good reference letter, you need three ingredients:

  1. Metal
  2. A Word Processor
    I recommend Libre Office.
  3. The Gift of Gab
    As to the third, here is the generic reference letter that is guaranteed to get anybody into whatever they want to do. They probably won’t need a resume:

    To Whom It May Concern,

    This person is better than your other candidates’s. Don’t even think about hiring/accepting/considering them.

    My student/colleague/employee has every trait necessary to succeed. Not only so, but they certainly exceed your competence. Trust me, this person is the best. I once saw him/her create tremendous synergy in an output flow organizational paradigm.

    More importantly. Big heart and destroyer of many enemies’s. Your organization will fail without this [insert name here…honestly, they won’t need the name at this point, you could put anything here], believe me.

    Geoff Smith
    Professional Reference Writer

    Note: This is probably not good advice. On the other hand, I would hire this person in an instant. Also, try to use apostrophe ‘s’ for plural a few times. This forces the reader to see how smart you are.

Growing In Grace: A Vision For Who We Want To Be

Proverbs 29:18 KJV Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.

Having a vision for who we want to be is crucial for all personal growth.

As a consequence, such a vision is important for spiritual growth.

The Christian vision for human excellence and happiness revealed throught Scripture, but most intensely in Jesus Christ.

In the first post in this series I wrote about what it means to grow in grace.

In it, I explained Dallas Willard’s V-I-M paradigm for personal transformation.

In VIM, the V stands for vision. Our vision is our picture of what we want to be true about ourselves in the future.[1]

Having a vision for strength, longevity, and durability can help you to joyfully endure the grind at the gym. Similarly, having a vision of future food (like the ant in Proverbs 6) can help us to ensure that food by gardening little by little each day.

In the case of growing in grace, our vision is the character of a human being fully alive and conformed into the image of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

This is a powerful vision which has fed the souls of God’s saints for quite some time.

There are three important things to remember about this vision:

  1. It is about growing into somebody who is like Jesus and who does the kinds of things he said to do.
    Jesus’ ministry cannot be replicated, nor should it be. It was his and his alone. Nevertheless, his character, which was on display in his life and explained in his teachings and that of his apostles is the goal for his disciples. We should envision ourselves as destined to be fundamentally strong, courageous, self-controlled, clever, confident, creative, productive, truthful, loving, humble, and forgiving in all the ways Jesus is in the gospels.
  2. The vision is not a vision of sameness of personality or calling.
    In one sense, all Christians have the same calling: love God and love neighbor. In another sense, Christians have diverse gifts and callings insofar as calling refers to your unique life circumstance and whatever legacy you can leave that is unique to you.This is not the same for everybody. Christians might be scientists, farmers, plumbers, pastors, homeschool mothers, philosophers, artisans, waiters, slaves, and so-on. Jesus does not call all of us to be itinerant preachers like was. Similarly, we aren’t all to have the same personality and interests. Some people like novels and poetry, some people don’t. Some people love tidy desks, some don’t. Some people like spicy food, sarcastic jokes, and terrible music. The New Testament never prescribes conformity of gifts or personality.
  3. The vision of Christian character must be rooted firmly in Scripture.
    Because the vision of Christian growth in grace is based on Jesus Christ, it must be rooted in Scripture. What this means is that our vision of Jesus is subject to change insofar as we understand Scripture more correctly (or by accident, less correctly) over time. The vision is not merely impressions about Jesus and his will which flash before our intuitions and feelings (as in many super-spiritual versions of Christianity). Instead it is a robust picture of Jesus based primarily upon the gospels, but also upon the whole Bible.

In the previous post, I showed how two passages Scripture support the idea that Jesus is the prototype for human character and happiness. I’ll add one:

18 Now, while we all, with unveiled face, contemplate the glory of the Lord, we are transformed into the same image from one degree of glory into another (this is from the Lord, the Spirit). 4:1 For this reason, having this ministry, just as it was mercifully given to us, we do not lose heart, 2 but we renounce the shameful tricks [of our opponents], neither walking in trickery nor falsifying the word of God, but by shining light on the truth we commend ourselves to the consciences of all humanity in the presence of God. 3 But if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4 in their case, the God of this epoch has blinded the minds of those who are unfaithful so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For we are not preaching ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants on behalf of Jesus. 6 Because God is the one who said, “From darkness let light shine,” is he who shines in our hearts for the understanding of the glory of God in the face of Christ.[2]

 

Observe the sections in bold. Christians are transformed as they contemplate the glory of the Lord into that same glory. But what, in Paul’s argument, is the glory of the Lord? It is related directly to the content of the gospel of Jesus Christ: the image of God. It is to this image that Christians are to be conformed (also see Romans 8, Ephesians 4, and 2 Peter 1:3-4). And this glory is found, again in the face of Christ. The meaning is clear: the human life of Jesus from birth to ascension which is contained in the gospel which Paul preached is the matter for Christian contemplation and personal transformation. In the exercise below, I will include passages that go beyond this, but this is because the whole canon of Scripture is a witness to the whole person of Christ.

 

Final Exercise:

I recommend reading passages of Scripture like Psalm 1, Psalm 23, Psalm 119, Proverbs 1-9 and 31, the four gospels and Acts, Romans 12-15, 2 Peter 1:3-11, and 1 John (all of it) in order to get a picture of the type of person that Jesus wants us to become as well as the results of that type of character. What is on offer (eternal life, entrance into the wonderful family of the church on earth, present happiness, strong character, joyful generosity, creative concern for others, a life based on love, justice, and wisdom, an infinite reference point for self-improvement, and experiential knowledge of God) is amazing. When you read these passages try this exercises:

  1. Write down the positive character traits mentioned (in teaching or on display in the lives of Jesus and the apostles in Acts).
  2. Write down the positive results the text uses to entice you and I toward those character traits.
  3. Write down the character traits you need to grow toward.
  4. Write down the character traits you need to grow from (lack of self-control, ungratefulness, irritability, pornography use, stinginess, thievery, and so-on).
  5. Now, simply pray for forgiveness for your sinful character traits and ask the Lord’s help in becoming more like Jesus Christ. If you’re concerned to put on Christ, then you’re precisely the type of person that Jesus is willing to assist in becoming like him (see especially Matthew 28:16-20).

References

[1] This might not seem very academic, but Arnold Schwarzenegger talked about vision in a very compelling way here:Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bill Dobbins, and Arnold Schwarzenegger, The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding(New York: Simon & Schuster, 1998), 437, “As I alluded to in Chapter 5, the first step is to have a clear vision of where you want to go, what you want to achieve. “Where the mind goes, the body will follow” is a saying I have always believed in. If you want to be Mr. America or Mr. Universe, you have to have a clear vision of yourself achieving these goals. When your vision is powerful enough, everything else falls into place: how you live your life, your workouts, what friends you choose to hang out with, how you eat, what you do for fun. Vision is purpose, and when your purpose is clear so are your life choices. Vision creates faith and faith creates willpower. With faith there is no anxiety, no doubt—just absolute confidence.” He also talks about this exact thing in this video:

 

 

[2] Kurt Aland et al., Novum Testamentum Graece, 28th Edition (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2012), 2 Co 3:18–4:6. “18 ἡμεῖς δὲ πάντες ἀνακεκαλυμμένῳ προσώπῳ τὴν δόξαν κυρίου κατοπτριζόμενοι τὴν αὐτὴν εἰκόνα μεταμορφούμεθα ἀπὸ δόξης εἰς δόξαν καθάπερ ἀπὸ κυρίου πνεύματος. 4 Διὰ τοῦτο, ἔχοντες τὴν διακονίαν ταύτην καθὼς ἠλεήθημεν, οὐκ ἐγκακοῦμεν 2 ἀλλʼ ἀπειπάμεθα τὰ κρυπτὰ τῆς αἰσχύνης, μὴ περιπατοῦντες ἐν πανουργίᾳ μηδὲ δολοῦντες τὸν λόγον τοῦ θεοῦ ἀλλὰ τῇ φανερώσει τῆς ἀληθείας συνιστάνοντες ἑαυτοὺς πρὸς πᾶσαν συνείδησιν ἀνθρώπων ἐνώπιον τοῦ θεοῦ. 3 εἰ δὲ καὶ ἔστιν κεκαλυμμένον τὸ εὐαγγέλιον ἡμῶν, ἐν τοῖς ἀπολλυμένοις ἐστὶν κεκαλυμμένον, 4 ἐν οἷς ὁ θεὸς τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου ἐτύφλωσεν τὰ νοήματα τῶν ἀπίστων εἰς τὸ μὴ αὐγάσαι τὸν φωτισμὸν τοῦ εὐαγγελίου τῆς δόξης τοῦ Χριστοῦ, ὅς ἐστιν εἰκὼν τοῦ θεοῦ. 5 Οὐ γὰρ ἑαυτοὺς κηρύσσομεν ἀλλʼ Ἰησοῦν Χριστὸν κύριον, ἑαυτοὺς δὲ δούλους ὑμῶν διὰ Ἰησοῦν. 6 ὅτι ὁ θεὸς ὁ εἰπών· ἐκ σκότους φῶς λάμψει, ὃς ἔλαμψεν ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις ἡμῶν πρὸς φωτισμὸν τῆς γνώσεως τῆς δόξης τοῦ θεοῦ ἐν προσώπῳ [Ἰησοῦ] Χριστοῦ.”

Why I’m a Christian

In ye olde current year, many people think that being a Christian is a matter of irrationality, bigotry, or political conservatism. While all of those things bear some weight upon whether one is likely to be a Christian or upon the sort of Christian they are, I think there are other reasons entirely. In the following posts, despite my not being some philosopher, historian, or theologian, I’ll give my reasons for being a Christian with respect to the three phases of persuasion in Aristotle’s rhetoric: ethos (appeal to personal credibility via knowledge, expertise, and moral connection to the audience), pathos (appeal to emotions), and logos (appeal to logic and facts).

  1. Ethos
    1. The moral credibility of Jesus
    2. The moral credibility of Christianity’s best
    3. The power of Western Civilization
  2. Pathos
    1. Hell
    2. The Cosmic Story
    3. Tribalism
  3.  Logos
    1. Why I think God exists
    2. Why I think Jesus was raised

Book Review: Virtuous Minds by Philip Dow

Virtuous Minds: Intellectual Character Development by Philip E. Dow

I don’t know much about the author of this book except that he is a Cambridge Ph.D. and a school superintendent. But if the content of this book is any indication, I can make three probably inferences: he is a man of deep reflection, a man who loves to teach, and a man who loves his students. In these senses, he is a true philosopher.

The Bad

There isn’t really anything bad about this book. I will say that in the forward, Jason Baehr wrote that ‘this is the first book of its kind.’ I’ll just observe that this isn’t quite true. It was published in 2013, but I can think, off of the top of my head several books very similar to it of varying qualities: Habits of Mind, Love Your God With All Your Mind, Excellence, and Epistemology. I intentionally left out older or more academic treatments (which would extend the list into nearly two dozen books!)

The other issue I took with the book was that it didn’t, in general, use the Christian tradition’s language that already existed concerning intellectual virtue: wisdom, studiousness, intelligence, sanity, etc. Because of this, ‘curiosity’ was considered a virtue, when Aquinas considered it a vice closer to what we might call distraction (55-60). The material in the book is quite good and it’s okay to use and update terminology. But it was interesting that not even a nod was made to Aquinas’ terminology, particularly where the field already used one word to mean quite nearly the opposite of what it came to mean in the present book.

The Good

Wow, this was a great book for any educator, undergraduate student, parent, or pastor. Every chapter is well organized with its terms defined, examples of the titular virtue and its lack, as well as actionable steps to acquire the virtue. The virtues discussed are: courage, carefulness, tenacity, fair-mindedness, curiosity, honesty, and humility. Here are some of my favorite quotes:

  1. “It has been said that a person’s character is forged, not in one dramatic moment but in the ledger of his or her daily work.” (30)
  2. “…the fruits of habitually careful thinking are deceptively mundane. Spaceships get to their destinations and back safely, offices effectively accomplish their goals because employees trust each other’s work, our relationships blossom, and our gardens bloom.” (38)
  3. “There is something deeply satisfying about completing a task, especially when that task included significant obstacles or hardships.” (44)
  4. And here’s one of the many great actionable steps, “So when you are tired and tempted to switch on the TV or surf the net, decide to open a book for a few minutes. When you are tempted to ignore a newspaper article because it will require too much mental energy, or because it appears to contradict your opinion, take the ten minutes required to read it thoughtfully.” (124)

Conclusion

While the book wasn’t a great deal of new information for me. It was delightful to read and discuss with my colleagues as a starting point for training our students’ in the habits of mind that will lead them to success and hopefully happiness.

Wisdom Wedneday: Wisdom for Leadership from the Wisdom of Solomon

A lot of people want to be in leadership roles just like a lot of people want to be a body builder.

But the problem is that very few people want to put in the work necessary to be a good leader, nor the work necessary to be a big bodybuilder.

To be a good leader one needs to:

  1. Have a picture for how things can be better.

  2. Be good at following (treat others as you wish to be treated)

  3. Have wisdom for accomplishing the necessary tasks.

The author of the Wisdom of Solomon caught on to the fact that many people want to be leaders but do not want to put any of the work in that would make them fit for the task. And indeed, leaders, because they’re supposed to know these things are more accoutnable for these failures. And not only so, but Christian leaders are supposed to have plans that lead to the good as prescribed by God and discovered by reason.

Wis 6:1-6 (Brenton) Hear therefore, O ye kings, and understand; learn, ye that be judges of the ends of the earth. (2) Give ear, ye that rule the people, and glory in the multitude of nations. (3) For power is given you of the Lord, and sovereignty from the Highest, who shall try your works, and search out your counsels. (4) Because, being ministers of his kingdom, ye have not judged aright, nor kept the law, nor walked after the counsel of God; (5) Horribly and speedily shall he come upon you: for a sharp judgment shall be to them that be in high places. (6) For mercy will soon pardon the meanest: but mighty men shall be mightily tormented.

Later in the chapter, the author observes that those who want to be wise must set themselves to the task to honoring (treating as valuable) wisdom so that they might actually prolong their leadership.

Wis 6:21 (Brenton) If your delight be then in thrones and sceptres, O ye kings of the people, honour wisdom, that ye may reign for evermore.

But how are leaders to find wisdom? What does it mean for a leader to honor wisdom?

Wis 6:12-14 (Brenton) Wisdom is glorious, and never fadeth away: yea, she is easily seen of them that love her, and found of such as seek her. (13) She preventeth them that desire her, in making herself first known unto them. (14) Whoso seeketh her early shall have no great travail: for he shall find her sitting at his doors.

The idea here is this, for those who love wisdom, it’s easy to find. But it’s hard to find wisdom at first. But, if you do the difficult task of waking up early to study, meditate, pray, and plan then wisdom comes easily and as a matter of course.

I would say that any leader (teacher, parent, pastor, manager) should wake up early enough to grow in wisdom each day before setting about to work.

Tips for Rhetoric from Hypnosis

When I was in highschool, I found a little red book on hypnosis in my school library. I flipped through the pages, saw a section on inducing sleep states, and read it. When I was a kid I always struggled to sleep. The method in the book, though it was meant for trained psychiatrists to utilize on patients worked swimmingly. I used to have very few good nights of sleep. After reading those few short paragraphs, I found myself having few nights of bad sleep. The change was remarkable.

Anyway, I was at a used book store Monday night and happened upon the exact same book. Out of nostalgia I bought it. I actually read it this time. It’s a neat primer on the state of hypnosis in therapy and for public performance at the time of its writing.

One of the chapter titles is “Rules of Thought.” It’s a compelling chapter and remarkably similar to William James’ remarks on hypnosis in his magnum opus Principles of Psychology. Anyway, I think of hypnosis as just individualized rhetoric for therapy purposes so I thought I would show the “rules of thought” from the chapter and give brief thoughts on how they can be used to the art and science of persuasion:1

  1. Every thought or idea causes a physical reaction.

    On the face of it this is true as our brains do things when we think. Not only so, but our thoughts often come from sensations, all of which are physical in nature. Even further, though, if you think thoughts about previous experiences, emotions associated with them will often occur. With those emotions, the associated physical symptoms will happen. I can think of specific times I have felt great anger and my heartrate increases. This is important for rhetoric for several reasons, but mostly just that our anthropology typically functions as a data based system: I give people facts, they process them, then their minds make their bodies act accordingly. Aristotle knew this didn’t work. In reality, advertising is so effective precisely because advertisers know that, whether our minds are immaterial or not, our bodies are physical and the needs and experiences of the body typically determine human action.

  2. The expected sensation tends to be realized.

    When I was a Greek student, we were told that “the fog” would occur. This is some time period wherein everything is confusing and everybody is confused. I was only in the fog until I memorized my verb endings. But many people who did this felt confused about easy to understand concepts. Why? I think they were told to expect it. I’ve taught Greek to high school students using the same college text books. I never mention “the fog” and nobody ever complains of confusion beyond their own failure to study or coming across a particularly difficult sentence. Indeed, a friend who works as a draftsman learned Greek with no fog whatsoever.

  3. Imagination is more potent than knowledge when dealing with the mind of another; or: Imagination of the audience is more potent than his knowledge…Imagination is more powerful than reason.

    Jesus used loads of images to insult the Pharisee’s way of life. If he had just said, “they do bad things.” Nobody would have remembered and the Pharisees themselves would have just ignored him. The visceral reactions to Jesus’ teachings seemed to stem from not only their obvious truth but the imagery used to grip people.

  4. Only one idea can be entertained in the mind at the same time. Corollary: Conflicting ideas cannot be held at one and the same time.

    Moving from idea to idea in a speech before people grasp what was said can be very damaging to your persuasiveness. Also, people may become nervous and uncomfortable hearing things that don’t match up with their accepted worldview. We don’t “entertain” our worldview, so much as base our lives upon it. But when people try to entertain a new idea for the purpose of possibly believing it, great anxiety can occur if it conflicts with the beliefs upon which they base their lives or imagine they base their lives. Because of this, great gentleness is necessary in a speech or conversation when helping somebody see a truth which they have yet to grasp personally. This might be why scientific consensus seems to change as a previous generation of scientists dies.

  5. An idea, once accepted, tends to remain until replaced by another idea or is forgotten. And: Once an idea has been accepted, there is opposition to replacing it with a new idea.

    This is relatively similar to what came before.

  6. An imagined condition tends to become real if persisted in long enough. Or: A mental attitude tends to reflect itself in the body structure and the physical condition.

    The Greek fog above? This is it. But it goes further. I’m not sure if you can convince people to become well of physical problems. Although, John Sorno’s book on back pain uses psychotherpeutic methods to alleviate back pain and the book has a tremendously positive reception on Amazon. I’ve had power-lifters with physical back damage recommend it to me because they said after doing what it said, they stopped having back pain. The book of Psalms does mention a similar reality as well, “Psa 16:8-9 ESV I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. (9) Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure.” The Psalmist’s personal experience is feeling physically well in response to practicing God’s presence. Obviously, “mind over matter” is not always true. Perhaps it isn’t ever true. But there is an element of persuasion that involves observing people’s outer posture and attitudes in order to see if a different form of verbiage is necessary to convince them of an idea due to their positive/negative frames of mind.

  7. A suggestion once followed tends to create less and less opposition to successive suggestions. (halo effect).

    In persuasion you build ethos/credibility with people after you persuade them of something. This is just true. I’ve heard it called, though I don’t remember where, the halo effect. This is dangerous for pastors or radio hosts because your research can get sloppy in direct response to the level of trust people put in you. I suppose it can also happen with parents. Authorty carries great responsibility, especially if that authority includes, of necessity, persuasion.

 

References

1  James T McBrayer, The Key to Hypnotism Simplified. (New York: Bell Pub. Co., 1956), 113-136

Reference Group Theory and Stupid Economic Inferences

In a NYT article examining the increasing death rates among white males, it was concluded that:

Reference group theory explains why people who have more may feel that they have less. What matters is to whom you are comparing yourself. It’s not that white workers are doing worse than African-Americans or Hispanics.

In the fourth quarter of 2015, the median weekly earnings of white men aged 25 to 54 were $950, well above the same figure for black men ($703) and Hispanic men ($701). But for some whites — perhaps the ones who account for the increasing death rate — that may be beside the point. Their main reference group is their parents’ generation, and by that standard they have little to look forward to and a lot to lament.

While there may be something to reference group theory (we feel depressed if we don’t measure up to our ideal…in this case our parents’ level of prosperity), the interesting thing is how easily the author treats people as aggregates. This is the same problem that occurs when using GDP as a measure of economic prosperity. Increased GDP may come along with massive decreases in individual wealth among 60-90% of a population. Similarly,  looking how the median earnings of white men doesn’t tell you what the modal earnings are, nor the earnings amongst the specific people who are dead or addicted to drugs.

I would observe that the “a lot to lament” comment, while likely true in the aggregate doesn’t necessarily work as a causal explanation for the increased deaths. For instance, BMI has increased in white populations, as has divorce, as have feelings of disconnectedness with their communities and political representative. Not only so, but the individuals who died may have had income significantly lower than the median income for white males in their age range. The fact of the matter is that unless you’re looking at the specific people who died or who are engaging in behaviours that contribute to likely deaths, there is simply nothing but a fuzzy correlation between median income and deaths.

I mean, the article compares the income rates of all while men (see above) to the death rates of white men with less education but with no reference to income:

The economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton reported in December that rates have been climbing since 1999 for non-Hispanic whites age 45 to 54, with the largest increase occurring among the least educated.

People think so much in terms of aggregates, that they don’t even look at the specific causes. “White people make plenty of money according to mean income…so these people must be dying early because they long for the income levels of their parents.” The article should have said, “reference group theory should be looked into as a cause for suicide, drug and alcohol abuse, and other factors leading to increased early mortality based on this apparent correlation.”

Anyway, I think that the New York times is mostly read by people who want their friends to think they’re smart.

Science Fact of the Day: Good Charlotte was on to something

I haven’t done a science fact of the day lately. Work is time consuming. Don’t forget, science facts of the day are my thoughts on and descriptions of what scientists say. In other words, it’s a fact that some scientists have said it. What I write is not necessarily a fact of nature nor something I even take to be the case.

In an article at Big Think, an author describes this analysis of online dating data.

Here are some pieces of the original article:

We examine the impact of a user’s weight on his or her outcomes by means of the body mass index (BMI), which is a height adjusted measure of weight.18 Figure 5.5 shows that for both men and women there is an “ideal” BMI at which success peaks, but the level of the ideal BMI differs strongly across genders. The optimal BMI for men is about 27. According to the American Heart Association, a man with such a BMI is slightly overweight. For women, on the other hand, the optimal BMI is about 17, which is considered underweight and corresponds to the figure of a supermodel. A woman with such a BMI receives about 77% more first contact e-mails than a woman with a BMI of 25.

This is expected. Men with a slightly higher BMI probably have more muscle mass. And women whose BMI was so low in 2005 and prior (when the study was done) probably ran a lot.

Income strongly affects the success of men, as measured by the number of first contact e-mails received.

This makes sense. Dating with your self-interest in mind for women includes the well being of any children or potential children.  It would be stupid to not care about income and it’s not shallow for women to do so. A lot of people bristle at the fact that the silly song said “girls like cars and money” but the song writer was just observing facts. In a similarly “shallow” way, men prefered that women look attractive. But again, if the invisible hand of biology is operating, then men will probably be more interested in women they perceive (for good or bad reasons) to be fertile and potentially good mothers.

Anyway, the article interested me because I am asked by a lot of young men for dating advice. I usually tell them: seek first God’s kingdom (virtue is more important than marriage) but then make more money and get more muscles. The empirical data generally back up these observations. Another case in point would be the extremely annoying body builder at my old gym. Women would be repulsed by him at first (he’s too huge). But he’d mention, “My lambo” and suddenly the girl would end her work out and follow him around for his. My wife and I observed this well over a dozen times over the three years we went to the gym.* Now, I mentioned the “invisible hand of biology,” and this is real. But the fact is that relationships are more than biology, they just aren’t less than biology. Romance can transcend biology but you cannot subtract biology from it.

Here’s the song I mentioned:

 

*Incidentally, he tried flirting with her while she was doing deadlift. She simply said something terse like, “I’m working out.”

 

Interesting Reading

David Bentley Hart’s Reflections on the Early Christians
I don’t agree with everything he says here, but it does remind us of how powerful the rhetoric of the New Testament can be.

Amy Cuddy Reviews the Science of ‘Power Posing’ after unfair criticism
Cuddy’s research conclusions on endocrine and power posing seem like common sense to me. When I try to stand with better posture I feel more alert, less depressed, and more quick-witted.

Hypnosis and Health-Compromising Behaviours
This interesting review looks at the evidence for hypnosis techniques for weight-loss and overcoming nicotine addiction. If you’re interested in persuasion, weight loss, or clinical psychology I think you’ll appreciate it.

The Biblical Case for Limited Government
This is a cool little essay. The author, Yoram Hazony isn’t making the case that “on the authority of the Bible, we should adopt limited government.” Instead, he makes the case that the Bible is making a narrative philosophical case for the principles which lead to limited government. “The [Biblical] History wrestles with the question of whether there is a third option, which can secure a life of freedom for Israel, and for other nations as well. It teaches that there is such an option: A state that is not unlimited in principle, like the states of “all the nations” in the ancient Near East, but that seeks “the good and the right” by means of a system of dual legitimacy and a constitutional regime of restraint. This state must have rulers who understand that virtue emerges from limitation of the state’s borders, the size of its armies, its investment in foreign alliances, and its income. Only within these constraints will both the people and their king find a space in which the love of justice and of God that characterized the shepherds who were their forefathers can be rebuilt.”

Resistance Training is Medicine
This article by Wayne Westcott goes through the impressive evidence that strength training is, indeed, a panacea.