This week's Marilyn Vos Idiot-Savant article

I read Marilyn Vos Savant’s articles in Parade magazine purely for their humor- I find great pleasure in seeing smug, self-righteous and self-proclaimed “intellectuals” making fools of themselves. This week she (once again) went too far in spreading ignorance, and I feel it’s my duty to bring it to the SDMB’s attention.

Vos Savant was asked “why do you doubt the idea that certain people are genetically prone to alcoholism?”

Her reply: “One reason is that alcohol doesn’t exist in nature. Instead, alcohol is a creation of mankind: Our genes don’t know about it.”
WTF?! What has she been drinking? Some cocktail produced in the labs of Dow Chemicals? Has she never heard of yeast and fermentation? There’s certainly been naturally-produced alcohol on this planet longer than humankind has been here.

Plus, her answer is logically wrong beyond just being factually wrong. She seems to believe that because we aren’t passively exposed to alcohol in the natural environment that there would be no adaptive pressure to create a genetic change in the population that is more or less susceptible to alcoholism. However, I believe it’s just as likely that a genetically-determined propensity towards alcoholism might arise because the genetic mutations involved confers some yet-to-be-recognized survival ability…becoming an alcoholic is just an unhappy side-effect.

Where’s the petition to have her MENSA membership recalled?

It’s not so much alcoholism that is genetic, I believe, but that there is a genetic tendency towards addiction.

Am I right?

Of course, then she’s still a dumbass if she doesn’t see that there usually is a connection to addiction and family history. One that I, sadly, know all too well.

Tell that to the wee critters that get fucked up and out-of-control on fermenting berries.


Like the frat boys that live on the other side of the block?

In all seriouness, how the hell can she claim that alcohol isn’t a naturally existing thing? Is it just too much to look up and find that a chemical formulae with a floating -OH group is an alcohol, and they do exist in nature, and that freakin’ free radical molecular group is what gets you jacked up in the first place? Its almost as bad as those folks who think dioxin is the most toxic chemical known to man (if you’ve ever burned a bonfire, or used Weed-B-Gone, you’ve come in contact with dioxin.)

Also, the ability for the body to rid itself of alcohol through liver filtering and enzymatic (sic?) cleansing shows that not only are humans accustomed to it, but that the body is built to rid itself of alcohol. True, some ethnicities have higher and lower abilities to do so (I’m paraphrasing from biology here,) but that all humans and most non-human animals have SOME capacity to rid their bodies of alcohol.

And Guin, it is addiction. Somewhere on the 22nd chromosome pair, there is a genetic trait that predeposes some people to becoming addicted to free-radical molecules in the bloodstream. Alcohol is one of the most readily accessable chemicals which fit this distinction, but drugs too.

Well, the truly idiotic thing is that the human body metabolizes alcohol. If vos Savant actually bothered to learn before she tried to teach, she would know that the human body has special enzymes to break down alcohol. A moment’s reflection might also lead her to the fact that there are receptors in the brain that respond to alcohol. After all, if such receptors did not exist, one could not get drunk.

Ergo, perhaps people can respond to alcohol differently due to differences in these proteins, and hang whether alcohol occurs in nature. Hint, Marilyn: it’s not as though there’s selective pressure to evolve towards alcoholism.

Honestly, I could write a much better column than her. If only I wasn’t so busy working on new prostate cancer drugs…

Guinastasia - Yes, you’re right, it’s more of a tendency towards addictive behaviors that follows in families…something I’m also all-too-familiar with also. (and on preview, I see that fushj00mang has answered this quite well)

Larry Mudd- Maybe Marilyn was gang anal-raped by a horde of fucked-up and out-of control marmots and it’s her attempt at suppressing that memory that preventing her from admitting that fermentation is a natural process.

Ah, for too long has the Cecil-Marilyn war simmered underground. It’s good to see it flare up again like a pesky hemmerhoid.

stochastic, if your SN is the reference I’m thinking, love it:) Only on this MB would someone have a matrix-related screen name (well, other than DrMatrix, of course)!

(Bolding mine.) No need to make that distinction, of course. Alcohol is a drug, not just a chemical. The difference between it and illicit drugs is a legal one.

She also misspelled the phonetic letter “Alfa” [as “Alpha” (sic)] used by “our armed forces”.


Another cite: The U.S. Navy named Russian subs after phonetic letters. One of them was the Alfa-class.

Pretty nitpicky, I know–but she’s the one proclaiming herself to be the world’s smartest person…

Well, I’m not so sure of that. According to the blurb in her weekly column, it’s the Guinness Book of World Records that cites her for having the highest measured IQ, an unqualified assertion such as one might expect to find in a glorified bar-bet settler. vos-Savant’s only claim, tehcnically, is that the GBOWR names her as holding the title.

Still, I agree that it’s a bit ironic that she is willing to nitpick and hyperanalyze other assertions to (in her dreams) “debunk” them, all the while she leaves the Guinness claim safely unexamined.

My SN wasn’t directly inspired by any detailed knowledge or love of stochastic matrices in mathematics. I used the word frequently in my Ph.D. thesis to describe the seemingly random production of different types of lineage-committed blood cells from pluripotent bone marrow stem cells. I never got much into the mathematics of the process (it was a bit beyond the focus of my work), though a colleague and I did spend a few afternoon coffee breaks brain-storming it.

On a personal level, the term seems to to fit the predictably unpredictable course that my life has taken.

She was one of my heros. Now you have gone and ruined it.

“The cause of – and solution to – all of life’s problems.”

– The Dao of D’Oh!, by H. J. Simpson.

Every time she does this, I’m reminded of a column in which someone asked her which ability she’s most proud of, and her answer was “My ability to recognize what I’m qualified to answer and what I’m not.”

Yeah, right. Of course, it’s entirely possible that she’s content with writing columns that she knows full well are full of it.

Are you suggesting that perhaps her brilliance could be directed to help mankind more than it is helped by a weekly column in which she answers stupid questions, sometimes inaccurately?

I think it’s significant that her column runs in that noted scientific publication, Parade magazine.

im pretty sure the claim is based on the fact taht when she was 10 she took an IQ test and scored the same score as an average 23 year old, giving her an IQ around 228. I dont think that that necessarily makes someone brilliant as an adult, just mature as a child. I have no idea what her other qualifications are.

My dogs just came off a two-week bender, what with the fermenting jujubes in my backyard. Tell THEM alcohol doesn’t exist in nature.

Yeah, ol’ Marilyn’s a twit.