Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Gilder, O'Leary, and lactose

In Part Four, The hierarchy of information vs. "nothing but", of Denyse O'Leary five part series on George Gilder, there is an interesting little detail.

O'Leary writes:

Regarding the "causes of economic growth," its [sic] worth remembering that - at every stage - "economic growth" is first and foremost an idea in the minds of men. It always begins with an idea of a better life - clean water or public schools, for example. The material advance follows the idea. Without the idea the advance never happens. Ignoring this principle has led to much waste in foreign aid efforts by wealthy countries. Why? Because things have been forced on people as "improvements" before they wanted or cared about them, and they responded by ignoring, subverting, or destroying them.

So, instead of just forcing our things on other people, we also have to force our ideas on them.

O'Leary continues:

Example: My own country (Canada) once exported tins of powdered milk to a poor country where the malnourished people did not normally drink milk after they were weaned. But the recipients threw away the powdered milk and used only the aluminum tins! The people were not stupid. They easily understood the value of the tins in their daily life. But they did not understand the value of the milk. They did not know about the importance of proteins in the diet. So an effort to improve health in that region did not depend on supplying a physical substance such as powdered milk. It depended on getting the people to accept the idea that a higher protein diet would alleviate illness and the idea that the donated powdered milk could help them do so. In that case, only a change at the highest level of the system (the ideas in the minds of men) could change centuries of misery. Indeed, once they accepted the idea, they might seek local sources of milk, and might not end up needing much help from Canada.

See, things are not that simple. To metabolize lactose, an ingredient in milk and other dairy products, you need the enzyme lactase, an enzyme produced, for obvious reasons, by young mammals, but usually not by adult mammals. For humans, the production generally cease between the ages two and five. This is called lactose intolerance (Wikipedia article).

Northern Europeans (and people elsewhere of Northern European origin) with their long tradition of living on dairy products have very few lactose intolerant people, whereas among African Bantus 89% are lactose intolerant, and among Native Americans 100% are lactose intolerant. So, it's not just a question of giving people the idea that milk is healthy, because maybe it isn't.

It is not possible from O'Leary's short story above to see, if the milk was cow milk or plant milk, and if it was cow milk, whether it had been treated with lactose catalysing bacteria or another process with the same purpose. But all in all, it is possible that the milk powder was thrown away, becay├║se it really wasn't healthy.

It's not just a question of ideas, lactose intolerance is real, not hysteria, and lactose tolerance is due to a mutation that is most widespread among Northern Europeans. So whether O'Leary likes it or not, she has unknowingly touched upon a subject that favors the evil Darwinists rather than the good IDists.


See also
Gilder, O'Leary, and Dawkins
The ID dilemma

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