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Too Much Testosterone?

Our readers wonder whether the primary blame for warfare rests with one hormone.

I have issues with the research essay, "Make Birth Control, Not War," (May-June 2010) written by Thomas Hayden and Malcolm Potts in which they claim that it is our genetic evolutionary heritage and especially the generous amount of testosterone in young males that are the causes of war. Young males (and now some females) may be the human carriers of weapons and slaughter, but as far as I know, wars have been and still are engendered and manipulated by older men of wealth, status and power.

What is wrong (and could be corrected with education and training) is that our "value" system is chiefly still one of patriarchy. This is also the same "value" hierarchy that causes the catastrophes and inequalities of capitalism.

But, most of all, I protest the loaded insertion of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the essay that puts just about all blame on young Palestinian men and claims the solution is that Palestinian women should not produce so many offspring ... especially male ones.

History tells us that the establishment of the State of Israel after the Second World War — with no serious consideration of the facts that a large population of indigenous people already lived there — and Ben Gurion's master plan to take every bit of that land are the main causes of that ongoing horror and the main reasons for 9/11 and also why American troops are still fighting and dying in the Middle East.

Gloria del Vecchio
Morrisville, Pa.

A lack of faith in humanity and God
The subject article starts with a position that could be stated as "fewer people leaves more for us" — the standard mantra of so-called "pro-choice" supporters. The authors then weakly attempt to proceed to build a case to say, "It is all man's fault; let's have fewer men." Such an illogical and unsupported position leads to their obvious conclusion: "Stop war. Kill people before they are born."

Such lack of faith in humanity and God is sad.

There are many other issues that cause conflict such as religion, skin color and oppression of minorities, none of which can be demonstrated by objective factual review to be based on too much testosterone. The prevention of the beneficial use of testosterone precludes individual growth for mankind and destruction of society as we begin to evidence in Europe.

Richard C. Benkendorf
Austin, Texas

Perhaps a prostate drug is the answer
Thank you for your excellent journalism, most especially this month, taking on war and resource depletion due to overpopulation — sensitive subjects.

I have an idea to pass on to Hayden and Potts: As an older man, I have an enlarged prostate. My doctor put me on Avodart. One of the side effects is diminution — but not elimination — of sex drive, thus aggression. Diminished sex drive could also lead to procreation reduction.

Might the relevant components of Avodart be isolated, evaluated for safety and introduced worldwide in food, water?

Frank Rowe
Albuquerque, N.M.

A "conventional wisdom" teachable moment
In regards to Arthur Cosby and Lindsay Jones' delicious article ("Conventional Wisdom and Partial Data," March-April 2010), the authors' search for an explanation leads to this: "The answer lies in the powerful impact of conventional wisdom. ..."

The term "conventional wisdom" was, of course, coined by John Kenneth Galbraith in a famous chapter of that name in his classic book The Affluent Society. The whole chapter bears re-reading, but perhaps this observation in particular:

"Nor is it to be supposed that the man of conventional wisdom is an object of pity. Apart from his socially useful role, he has come to good terms with life. He can think of himself with justice as socially elect, for society in fact accords him the applause which his ideas are so arranged as to evoke. Secure in this applause, he is well armed against the annoyance of dissent. His bargain is to exchange a strong and even lofty position in the present for a weak one in the future."

Unfortunately for newsman Erik Eckholm, the future arrived so quickly.

Galbraith argued that conventional wisdom was something not only widely accepted but also inevitably wrong. (To see why, read Galbraith.) Unfortunately the term now has usually lost its stinger, which is why Cosby and Jones' usage (perhaps inadvertently) is so precise.

Richard Edwards
Lincoln, Neb.

Questioning a questioning of conventional wisdom
While reading the Cosby and Jones research essay "Conventional Wisdom and Partial Data," I appreciated the graphic presentations of data to effectively illustrate the points made in the article.

Unfortunately, Cosby and Jones' exclusive focus on race fails to consider the whole social science picture. Their analysis doesn't differentiate between the social class positions of Cindy McCain and a white female assembly-line worker, or Condoleezza Rice and an African-American female housekeeper at a budget motel. In my view, this is the fatal flaw in their analysis. If they would have included parental education, income and occupation in the analyses, I predict that the between-race disparities presented in the article would be replaced by within-race disparities that more accurately illustrate evidence of social inequality stratifications.

The social issues involved in studying infant mortality are much more complex than Cosby and Jones presented in the article. I have higher expectations than this for research essay content reviewed by Miller-McCune editors.

Jim Vander Putten
Little Rock, Ark.

Don't judge a book by its cover. Seriously.
In response to letter writer Ken Wing, who criticized faculty for hoarding library books, let me offer this perspective. I agree with Wing that hoarding books is unacceptable. However, simply because a faculty member has what appear to be several library books in his or her office does not mean that the person is abusing library privileges. As a case in point, I have many such books. They are former library discards, which I have bought at used bookstores or at library fundraisers even. Although some faculty are undoubtedly famous for hoarding, sometimes a quick glance at a professor's bookshelf, revealing books with old call number stickers, can be deceiving.

Paul Manna
Williamsburg, Va.