That High-School Running Competition: Anatomic and Physiologic Differences Between Men and Women and the Possibility of Sports Segregation by Anatomy and Physiology
Recently there has rightly been, much written about a certain high-school running competition. The competition in question was a girl’s high-school in-door state competition in Connecticut. The first two spots went to two transgender athletes, as if that is a surprise to anyone who knows basic body mechanics and anatomy and physiology. What really irks me about this is that it is demoralizing to the women who train hard year-round, who eat right and have the right mindset to be able to compete in these competitions. Then men who “identify” as women just pretty much walk onto the track and blow away the competition. In this article, I will discuss anatomical and physiological differences between the sexes and how and why these competitions are segregated. Finally, I will discuss Roslyn Kerr’s thoughts on why it may be time to end sex segregation in sports, because she drives a very compelling argument—and this may end the current problems we have regarding these current controversies in high-school—and all—sports.
I have previously written on transgender athletes competing in weight-lifting and the IOC’s (International Olympic Committee’s) guidelines on testosterone levels and “acceptable limits” regarding “transitioning” athletes. The IOC writes:
The athlete must demonstrate that her total testosterone level in serum has been below 10 nmol/L for at least 12 months prior to her first competition (with the requirement for any longer period to be based on a confidential case-by-case evaluation, considering whether or not 12 months is a sufficient length of time to minimize any advantage in women’s competition).
The athlete’s total testosterone level in serum must remain below 10 nmol/L throughout the period of desired eligibility to compete in the female category.
Compliance with these conditions may be monitored by testing. In the event of non-compliance, the athlete’s eligibility for female competition will be suspended for 12 months.
This is very strange to me. Quoting myself:
10 nanomoles per liter of blood converts to about 288 ng/dl (nanograms per deciliter). Going with the lower end suggested by other members of the IOC, 3 nanomoles per deciliter of blood converts to 87 ng/dl. The range for women is 15 to 70 ng/dl. Now, the 10 nmol/l is, as you can see, way too high. However, 10 nmol/l converts to slightly higher than the lower end of the new testosterone guidelines for the average male in America and Europe (which I covered yesterday, the new levels being 264-916 ng/dl). As we can see, even 10 nmol/l is way too high and, in my opinion, will give an unfair advantage to these athletes
10 nanomoles per liter of blood converts to slightly higher than the lower end for males. How is that fair, in any capacity? Though it is worth noting that other members of the IOC have contested this, saying that 10 nmol/L is too high. In any case, this discussion is really about what should happen at the 2020 Olympic Games, but it is useful for the current discussion since there is evidence that testosterone influences sporting performance. Now let’s get to this high-school running competition.
Transgender athletes Terry Miller and Andraya Yearwood finished first and second in an in-door track competition. Miller’s time in the 55 m dash was 6.96 seconds; Yearwood’s time was 7.01 seconds; and the third place winner’s—a biological female—time was 7.23 seconds. Now, quite obviously, since the top-two placers times are, far and beyond, better than the third placer’s time, there is something strange about it. Since Miller and Yearwood are biological males, they have the anatomy and physiology of males since they were born males and went through male puberty. Miller and Yearwood also won competitions last year as well. Looking at their anatomy, compared to the women’s in the competition, how is that fair? That they went through male puberty and were exposed to higher levels of testosterone, how is that fair?
(From the Washington Times)
Look at the hips of the runner in red (a bio-male). Narrow hips are conducive to running success. This is because the quads run in a straight line from the hips, compared to a woman’s wider hips, where the quads sort of are on an angle. Another reason that wider hips are not conducive to running success—and why narrow hips are—is that women have what is called a wider Q-angle—or the quadriceps angle. Think of the average woman. Since they have wider hips, the angle for to their quads from their hips is wider. Males, obviously, have a narrower Q-angle, since they have narrower hips. Since they have narrower hips and therefore a narrower Q-angle, just on the basis of anatomy alone, we can say that, more often than not, men will blow women away in running—ceteris paribus.
You can even see what I mean just by looking at the above picture—there is a clear shot of the girl in yellow and how wide her hips are, although she is in motion.
Since males have narrower hips, then the quads almost go in a straight line, and since they are in the same line as the hips, they are in effect moving the same direction which does not impede running. Now, think of the Q-angle and how it is wider in women. Since the quads are not in-line with the hips, the quads need to do extra work in order to move the same distance as someone who has narrower hips. Women, compared to men, are less-efficient runners and this is due to their hip width and Q-angle.
Once puberty occurs is when the sexes really differentiate in both anatomy and physiology. This is due to the surge of testosterone increases in men, which cause harder bones, and is a driver of muscle growth. Testosterone stimulates red blood cell production (Beggs et al, 2014), which is important for work during a sprint, since the more blood that gets to a muscle, the harder that muscle can work. Women produce less testosterone. So, naturally, women will have less muscle than men. Even in men who “transition” to “women”—especially if they went through the male puberty—they will still have this advantage over them. A higher proportion of a man’s leg is muscle compared to women which can also help in running faster. Furthermore, since they have larger muscles and a higher percentage of their legs are muscle, then they necessarily would have higher amounts of type II muscle fibers which are conducive to sprinting success; sprinters are more likely to have fast-twitch (type II) muscle fibers in their vastus lateralis (Zierath and Hawley, 2004). (Also see Trappe et al, 2015 for a case-study on a world champion sprinter.)
Women have higher levels of estrogen than men; these higher levels of estrogen lead to higher body-fat percentage which then impedes running success. Higher levels of body-fat are not conducive to running speed/success because the body needs to work harder to move and, thusly, uses more energy to move since there is more weight—more fat—to move. Therefore, this is yet another reason why women are poorer runners than men.
Women have smaller, lighter lungs with fewer bronchioles than men at birth; boys have larger lungs than girls (Carey et al, 2008). Since women have smaller lungs than men, then, necessarily, women have a lower Vo2 max than men—meaning that women utilize less oxygen during exercise than men. The average Vo2 max for women is about 70-75 percent of that of males after puberty (Sharma and Kailashaya, 2016), while these differences in Vo2 max are still present even after correcting for muscle/fat mass (Stagner, 2009). So, the amount of oxygen that is produced during maximal exertion is greater for men; women have to work much harder than men to deliver more oxygen to their muscles to keep them going.
Women have smaller hearts (and smaller coronary vessels), which pump less blood per beat, meaning that their heart has to beat faster than a man’s to match a man’s cardiac output (Haward, Kalnins, and Kelly, 2001; Prabhavathi et al, 2014). Since women have smaller hearts, they have a smaller stroke volume—meaning the amount of oxygenated blood that the left ventricle releases is less than that of men who have bigger hearts and therefore bigger stroke volumes. Women have a higher heart rate than men (Lufti and Sukkar, 2011), but this is not enough to offset the lower stroke volume. Therefore, each time a woman’s heart pumps, it delivers less blood and oxygen to the muscles. Furthermore, women have 12 percent lower levels of hemoglobin than men (Murphy, 2014). Hemoglobin is a protein in the red blood cells (which women have fewer of) that transports oxygen to the blood. Since women have lower levels of hemoglobin and lower levels of red blood cells, then, less oxygen gets carried to the body’s tissues—muscles included.
I am a betting man and I would bet that both of those individuals who took first and second place in the competition in question would have beaten the women in all of the physiological variables that I have just discussed. We can outright see that the winner had extremely narrow hips. This is not to say that women who have narrow hips should not compete—but the fact of the matter is, that person has a whole slew of advantages over the women that he competed against because he went through male puberty.
What should be done here? There are three courses of action:
(1) Don’t let transgender athletes compete with women.
This is the most obvious course of action. Due to the anatomical and physiological differences between men and women that I described above, these types of people have an unfair advantage over women who did not go through the same type of puberty that they did. Now, one can make the same type of argument for Caster Semenya, who has been the subject of controversy the past few years, though, point (3) will address this.
(2) Have a separate competition for transgender athletes.
This seems to be a logical point. Just because people “identify” as something does not mean that they should compete in that competition. If someone identifies as disabled—even though they are not, physically, for instance—should they then be allowed to compete in the Special Olympics? Having separate competitions for these types of athletes would end these types of discussions—women who bust their ass year-round in order to succeed against their competition would not have to worry about competing against someone who went through a male puberty which would then throw out all of their hard training out the window.
(3) Separate individuals by anatomy and physiology.
This third and final point is separating individuals on the basis of anatomical and physiological parameters. Kerr and Obel (2017) compellingly argue that, instead of segregating sporting competitions by sex, sporting competitions should be segregated by anatomical and physiological parameters.
For example, take sprinting. Success in sprinting hinges on a few things: (1) muscle mass; the more muscle mass one has, especially in their legs, the more power they can generate in order to efficiently move; (2) fast twitch fiber count: the greater number of fast-twitch fibers in, for example, the vastus lateralis dictates how quick and explosive one can be. Coupled with the right morphology and fast-twitch fibers, this leads to more explosive contractions in RR genotypes (Broos et al, 2016). So we can say that for the 100m dash, it can be segregated on the basis of RR genotypes, an abundance of fast-twitch muscle fibers and a mesomorphic somatotype. So, if we know about what certain anatomic and physiologic variables are conducive in certain sporting events (we do know this) then segregating certain sports on the types of variables more conducive to success in that sport would lead to more balanced competition.
This would then end these types of arguments. Transgender athletes would then compete with individuals—male or female—on the basis of whichever anatomic and physiologic variables are conducive to the sport in question. The argument that Kerr and Obel advance is certainly intriguing—dare I say, it makes sense. Though it would take a lot to get it put into practice, it is an interesting thought experiment and makes more sense than just segregating based on sex alone.
Finally, Miller and Yearwood made some comments on their performance in that competition. When some of the girls said that it was unfair that they had to compete against people who went through male puberty, Miller said that the girls just need to “work harder” to compete with them [Miller and Yearwood]. This is ridiculous, due to what I outlined about the anatomic and physiologic differences between men and women. One of the competitors in the competition, Selina Soule said “We all know the outcome of the race before it even starts; it’s demoralizing.” Miller is the third fastest in the “women’s” (scarequotes due to the fact that it’s not all women anymore) 55-meter dash, while Yearwood is tied for 7th. These two should not be competing with women; they should either be competing with other transgender athletes or not competing at all.
In sum, we will be hearing a lot more about these types of things in the future. As more and more schools become “inclusive” to allow individuals who identify as X to compete in Y, there will be more and more outrage and then something would have to be done. I don’t see anything wrong with having them compete with other transgender athletes and only transgender athletes. Because then, the women who actually are women who train and bust their ass year-round to be the best they can be won’t be up-ended by men who walk onto the field who have anatomic and physiologic advantages who then blow them away (that much is clear by the time differences between the top two and third competitors in this competition).
Just-so Stories: Christianity
Storytelling in religions is ubiquitous. Storytelling can be found in all religions for myriad reasons, including—but not limited to—(1) the passing of traditions; (2) how the mores of the society in question should be structured (Wuthnow, 2011); (3) bringing people into the religion by creating origin myths, and so on. In short, the function of religious storytelling has numerous primary directives, but one of the most important is answering why questions (Braustein, 2012) (i.e., “Why are we here?”, “Why do we do X?”), not how questions (i.e., “How did we get here?”). Thus, the importance of religious storytelling seems to be obvious: religious storytelling serves its function in virtue of explaining why questions which were formulated by a human mind. It also, for billions of people around the world, grounds morality in an objective reality given to Man by God.
If religious storytelling can answer how questions, then, it is proposed, we can believe these stories as evidence that the religions in question are true. However, there is much pushback in believing these religious stories. Religious stories are what can be termed “just-so stories”, which amount to hypotheses which offer “little in the way of independent evidence to suggest that it is actually true” (Law, 2016). It is for this reason that we cannot—nor should we—accept any religious just-so stories: they lack sufficient evidence for belief, other than what they purport to explain. In this article, I will discuss certain just-so stories and Christianity—how they fail to successfully argue what they purport to but still serve important (moralistic) functions. Religion and language/writing are deeply intertwined, and so, understanding how and why we speak and write along with the history of civilization will help us to better understand how and why we tell these kinds of stories.
Religion has been around as long as agriculture (Peoples, Duda, and Marlowe, 2016), and so, if we understand the co-evolution of both of these variables, then we may understand how and why these types of stories have persisted through the ages. Storytelling—in a religious manner—is a way to ground a certain group’s morals in something objective. This is one very important reason that religious storytelling has persisted. For example, Christians argue that Jesus rose from the dead in 3 days and that God created the universe we live in, and so on. These two claims, though, are just-so stories since there is no independent evidence for the claims. There are other more important functions to Christian storytelling other than believing in the ultimate truths of the purported claims.
Stories have many functions—one of the many functions is to give purpose to one’s life. Yet another function is to guide how one lives their lives using stories that were created thousands of years ago. Storytelling in Christianity is a large topic—one that is held dear to many people. What are some of the stories and are there any independent reasons to believe them?
Creationists—those who believe that a Supreme Being created everything we see around us—use the Bible and its stories as evidence that evolution is false and Creationism is true. One prominent Creationist is Dr. Bo Kirkwood who wrote The Evolution Delusion: A Scientific Study of Creation and Evolution (Kirkwood, 2016). In the book, he attempts to use Christian storytelling to attempt to discredit the fact of evolution. He makes many questionable claims including “God’s fingerprints are seen by observing his finely tuned universe” (Kirkwood, 2016: 210). This is a perfect example of a just-so story—make a claim that has no evidence to support it, the only evidence to support it is the claim (that “God’s fingerprints are seen by observing his finely tuned universe”).
No evidence exists that the universe is “God’s fingerprints … finely tuned” the universe, and so it is a just-so story. The arguments pushed by Creationists such as Kirkwood (2016) do not make any testable predictions. The Big Bang theory, however, does make testable predictions and is, therefore, not a just-so story. Note how Kirkwood’s (2016) claim have no independent evidence to back them—that God “finely tuned” the universe is one of the ultimate just-so stories. It’s literally based off of faith and no evidence. Nothing can falsify the claim that God “finely tuned” the universe, and so we should disregard claims like this from Creationists. Kirkwood’s (2016) claims that the universe is “finely tuned” by God is an attempt to argue that there is a Creator of the universe we live in, and so we should dispense with evolutionary thinking and embrace the Creator, God. Kirkwood (2016) believes that, if evolutionary theory can be disproven by appealing to claims that God “finely tuned” the universe, then more people would believe God’s Word and society would start trending in a more religious, Christian trajectory.
Just because claims from Creationists are false does not mean that religious storytelling has no use—no function—in the modern day (or even thousands of years ago when they were first formulated) One of the most important functions for storytelling in Christianity is the grounding of objective morality. Most of the stories told in the Bible have a moralistic message that it wants to convey. Do this, not that, because God is watching and this objective morality is grounded by God. These stories, then, got passed down through each successive generation and eventually became got sorted into what is now the Bible during the Council of Nicaea.
One of the best examples of morality in the Bible—and the stories that accompany it—is Romans 13: 8-10, where it is stated that, many of the Commandments can be summed up succinctly as “Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore, love is the fulfillment of the law” (New International Version). The Ten Commandments were given to Moses by God – they were given to Moses to give to the Israelites in order to guide them to live good, moral lives. So, if “… whoever loves others has fulfilled the law” (New International Version), and those who follow the Ten Commandments have fulfilled the law by loving—not harming—their neighbors, then those who follow the story that Moses was given the Commandments by God are living a moral life and therefore these stories help people in our societies live moral lives. That these stories help billions of Christians live moral lives does not speak to the truth of the claim that these Commandments were given to Moses by God, though. That is irrelevant. The most important thing here is that these stories help others live moral lives. (Quite obviously, the stories are not sufficient to live a moral life, since there are non-religious people who do so.)
Religious storytelling—irrespective of the truth of the stories—is clearly important in our societies. They help people with certain moral quandaries, to live their lives a certain way because they believe that someone is watching them. If these stories help people live good, moral lives, then it does not matter if the ultimate claims of the stories are true or not. Therefore, Christian storytelling has very important functions for how our current societies function which is why Christian storytelling has persisted through the ages, even if the claims are false.
They Did Not Come Before Columbus
A generation of work in this area had unearthed a large number of Negroid heads in clay, gold, copper and copal sculpted by pre-Colombian American artists. … Accidental stylazation could not account for the individuality and racial particulars of these heads. Their Negro-ness could not be explained away nor, in most cases, their African cultural origin. Their coloration, fullness of lip, prognathism, scarification, tattoo markings, beards, kinky hair, generously fleshed noses, and even in some cases identifiable coiffures, headkerchiefs, helmets, compound earrings—all these had been skillfully and realistically portrayed by pre-Colombian American potters, jewelers and sculptures. (Van Sertima, 1972: xiv; They Came Before Colombus)
Ivan Van Sertima is a fringe Afrocentric theorist (they all are), who argued that there was an African presence in America, long before Colombus set shore in the Bahamas in 1492. This view, of course, is seen as highly fringe in the field of anthropology. On the cover of the book, John A. Williams writes that Van Sertima has “demonstrated that there is far more to black history than the slave trade.” Quite obviously, there is more to black history than the slave trade, but Van Sertima’s storytelling is not it. This article will refute Van Sertima’s claim that the Olmec heads were of Negroid origin—or were sculpted to show the appearance of Negroids—and his other claim that Mali seafarers reached the Americans some 200-odd years before Colombus.
Van Sertima spent his career pushing pseudoscience of this type, even editing and publishing most of his own work in his own edited journals (because other journals would not accept his fringe work). It has come to my attention that Van Sertima’s (1972) book They Came Before Columbus: The African Presence in Ancient America (TCBC) will soon be used in certain syllabi.
Back in December of 2015, I published an article refuting the notion that the Olmecs—and other pre-Colombian civilizations—were started by Negroid peoples. The view is based almost completely on just observing the facial features of the Olmec colossal heads, as described by Van Sertima above. There are, of course, numerous problems with these claims: most importantly, the “evidence” that Van Sertima provides in his book to “prove” an ancient African presence in America is highly lacking.
Van Sertima believed that Mali seafarers sailed across the Atlantic and landed in Mesoamerica. In TCBC, Van Sertima (1972: 39) reconstructed “an event in the medieval empire of Mali, based on Arab historical and travel documents and the oral tradition of the Mali griots.” Chapters 3 and 4 do, indeed, read like some sort of fantastical tale, so I am glad that Van Sertima left the note—but it is quite clear that he is doing nothing but storytelling. Van Sertima claims that the Mixtecs and Aztecs were influenced by Bakari II. All of these claims are incredible—which means that they deserve incredible evidence in order to verify them. Alas, none exist.
Van Sertima claimed that Bakari II had a fleet of ships and set off from the west coast of Africa across the Atlantic to the Gulf of Mexico and influenced the Vera Cruz region of what is now modern-day Mexico. However, anthropologists and archaeologists who specialized in Mesoamerican history, rightly, reject Van Sertima’s storytelling.
So, Van Sertima became convinced due to the writings of linguists and anthropologists, that there was an ancient, as-of-yet-looked-into connection between ancient Africa and Mesoamerica. So, Van Sertima had his conclusion in mind first, and looked for evidence for it—meaning he was telling just-so stories. There is a lack of evidence for his claims and, the evidence he claims lends credence to his outlandish claims falls short since we know the origins of what convinced him that there was an ancient African presence in Mesoamerica.
Van Sertima’s main evidence for his claims regarding a pre-Colombian contact between ancient Africans (Nubians) and Olmecs rests on the supposed similarities between Negroid facial features and the colossal Olmec heads. For example, Van Sertima’s claims that the Olmec heads are Negroid due to the broad flat noses runs into a major problem: nose shape is dictated by climate; the climate of Mesoamerica and Africa is similar; the function of nose shape is to moisten air before it goes into the lungs; therefore, since climate is dictated by nose shape and the climate of Mesoamerica and Africa is similar, then they have similar-shaped noses due to the climate they lived in. It’s really that easy to explain the so-called similar appearances in nose shape between the Olmec heads and African noses. The Olmec heads, quite obviously, represent the peoples living in lowland Mexico—not Nubians who supposedly sailed across the Atlantic and made contact with pre-Colombian civilizations (Viera, de Montellano, and Barbour, 1997).
Furthermore, Van Sertima, quite wildly, claims that since the Olmec heads were black then they must have represented African people. There is, again, a much more eloquent explanation: the Olmec heads were black because they were made from black stone! The Olmec associated volcanic rocks and the like with symbolic importance, and so, they carved their sculptures out of them due to this. However, Afrocentrists then make the claim that the natives of Mesoamerica regarded them as gods, and so they sculpted these statues in order to honor them (sounds like Ancient Aliens, to me).
Van Sertima also makes it appear that after the Nubians made contact with the Olmecs, that their civilization almost instantaneously appeared. However, archaeological work has indicated that the foundations of Olmec culture—and indeed all of Mesoamerican culture—had its beginnings in Mesoamerica long before the Olmec appeared on the scence.
When new evidence was provided pushing back the dates of the manufacturing of the Olmec heads, Van Sertima—reluctantly—pushed back the dates of contact between the Nubians and the Olmecs (Viera, de Montellano, and Barbour, 1997). How convenient. When evidence came out refuting Van Sertima’s storytelling, he concocted an ad hoc hypothesis to save his hypothesis from immunization.
There is hardly a claim in any of Van Sertima’s writings that can be supported by the evidence found in the archaeological, botanical, linguistic, or historical record. He employs a number of tactics commonly used by pseudoscientists (Cole 1980; Radner and Radner 1982: 27-52; Ortiz de Montellano 1995; Williams 1988), including an almost exclusive use of outdated secondary sources and a reliance on the pseudoscientific writing of others. (Viera, de Montellano, and Barbour, 1997: 431)
In conclusion, Van Sertima misrepresents archaeological, linguistic, botanical etc evidence for his ridiculous claims that Africans settled—and created or influenced—Mesoamerican civilizations. Note how these claims are eerily similar to claims of ‘white gods’ that, for example, the Aztecs and Maya speak of. Isn’t it weird how Van Sertima and other Afrocentrists use the same type of tactics as pseudoscientists (i.e., ad hoc hypothesizing)? No, since they are only telling just-so stories. If anything, the only thing Van Sertima’s book is good for is a good laugh into the delusions of someone with the conclusion in mind, working backward to prove it (meaning, he’s using the type of reverse engineering that EPists use).
Strength and Neuromuscular Coordination
PumpkinPerson (PP) has some weird—and uneducated—views regarding strength and coordination, which, of course, implies that he has no understanding of what “coordination” truly is. He seems to have convinced himself that coordination weightlifting does not require coordination (neuromuscular coordination; hereafter NMC—the ability of the central nervous system—CNS—to control muscles). That view is patently ridiculous. In this article, I will explain the logic behind the fact that strength and power exercises, in particular, NEED a high NMC, and without a high NMC, the athlete in question cannot perform to their highest potential.
PP wrote about an “athletic g factor” to attempt to liken it to the “g factor” regarding “intelligence” tests, but I’m not worried about that comparison (IQ is boring to me now). What I am worried about are his outlandish claims regarding what he believes regarding strength and NMC. PP cited Jensen’s Bias in Mental Testing where Jensen cited a correlation matrix in which “all of [the] correlations were positive“, writing that he’s “not sure why some commenters think weight lifting requires coordination when the correlation between strength (hand grip, chinning) and coordination (Pursuit rotor tacking, Mirror star tracing) is zero” (PP; Physical Coordination).
Well, “some commenters” have actual experience in what he is talking about, so, forgive me if I don’t believe the claims that, in my opinion, he pulled out of thin air. Take chin-ups. Imagine a case of someone attempting to chin-up that does not have high NMC. Since they were not coordinated, do you think they would be able to do a controlled rep in order to complete one rep? Or would their body be all over the place, flailing around since they do not have the mind-muscle (MMC) connection required to complete the lift. Now take his other example, hand grip. On its face, one might assume that this requires no NMC. But think about the process of gripping something tightly. If the muscles in the forearm, for example, are not adequately trained, then, in all lifts involving forearm strength (a great majority of which involve at least some type of forearm strength) will not be able to be performed properly, since the individual in question does not have the NMC required to properly do the exercise in question.
PP then says that when he “lift weights, [he doesn’t] feel like [he’s] using coordination.” This proves two things to me: (1) PP does not know how to lift properly, and then (2) follows that he does not know about the MMC.
The MMC is where the mind and the body “meet.” Acetylcholine functions as a neurotransmitter. This neurotransmitter “communicates” with the muscles in the body to cause a contraction. This contraction, then, causes the action of voluntary muscle movement. (I had an A&P professor explain to me that, out of the whole textbook he taught out of, one of the only things in the textbook that we could choose to do was move the body—contract muscles and cause movement). So when acetylcholine is released, it latches onto muscle fibers and causes muscle contractions.
We can put the MMC in this way: imagine doing a movement such as a bicep curl. One is not actively attempting to use the proper levers in order to properly lift the weight. On the other hand, if one is actively thinking about the muscles being used in the movement, then they are using the connection—they are strengthing their MMC and, in turn, developing the proper NMC which is required in order to properly lift weights and get the most returns possible from your time spent lifting.
The above diagram I drew is the process by which muscle action occurs. In my recent article on fiber typing and metabolic disease, I explained the process by which muscles contract:
But the skeletal muscle will not contract unless the skeletal muscles are stimulated. The nervous system and the muscular system communicate, which is called neural activiation—defined as the contraction of muscle generated by neural stimulation. We have what are called “motor neurons”—neurons located in the CNS (central nervous system) which can send impulses to muscles to move them. This is done through a special synapse called the neuromuscular junction. A motor neuron that connects with muscle fibers is called a motor unit and the point where the muscle fiber and motor unit meet is callled the neuromuscular junction. It is a small gap between the nerve and muscle fiber called a synapse. Action potentials (electrical impulses) are sent down the axon of the motor neuron from the CNS and when the action potential reaches the end of the axon, hormones called neurotransmitters are then released. Neurotransmitters transport the electrical signal from the nerve to the muscle.
So action potentials (APs) are carried out at the junction between synapses. So, regarding acetylcholine, when it is released, it binds to the synapses (a small space which separates the muscle from the nerve) and it then binds onto the receptors of the muscle fibers. Now we know that, in order for a muscle to contract, the brain sends the chemical message (acetylcholine) across synapses which then initiates movement. So, as can be seen from the diagram above, the MMC refers to the chemo-electric connection between the motor cortex, the cortico-spinal column, peripheral nerves and the neuromuscular junction. A neuromuscular junction is a synapse formed by the contact between a motor neuron and a muscle fiber. This is why beginners in the gym get stronger in the first 8 weeks or so of training—there has not been enough time for muscle to adequately grow in that time span. Thus, when people lift weights correctly, what they are doing is training their NMC—and their mind—to be able to adequately perform these types of actions in a safe, controlled manner.
How is NMC measured? It’s not simple to measure it, and in reality, the most feasible way to “measure it” in real life situations without the use of a lab is to just see one’s progress while they progress through higher and higher weights from their starting weights and they learn to perform the exercise in question safely. But a more empirical measure used in order to measure NMC are electromyography (EMG) tests. In fact, this test is THE MEASURE used to measure NMC, since all of the relevant variables in question (some seen in the above diagram) are tested. EMGs are used for numerous reasons, mostly in order to test for types of motor diseases which affect muscle action. There is also a related measure here: a nerve conduction study. This measures the speed and strength of signals traveling between two synapses, and so, the better one’s nerve conduction is in regard to muscle action, the higher their NMC is and, therefore, the better they will be able to perform any certain lift. So, for example, we can say that one’s NMC increased and the cause was resistance training if their EMG tests increase.
Imagine an Olympic lifter going to snatch 400 pounds. Would any sane person bet that they have low NMC (i.e., a low rate of firing between synapses as measured by an EMG)? A claim such as this would be quite preposterous—individuals like Olympic lifters clearly have trained both their bodies and minds in order to lift to the best of their abilities. And if they did NOT have high NMC (i.e., a higher rate of firing between synapses), then the weight would wobble and ultimately fall, causing the lifter serious injury. But, of course, we do not see that, since strength and NMC are closely related.
I now have some examples of studies which looked into this matter (that thinking about the action one is performing activates the primary muscles used in the movement in question), which will definitely put PP’s claims to rest for good.
Neuromuscular coordination is needed, for example, to be able to “squat lift” correctly (meaning, pick up a load from a squatting start and lift it; Scholz, Millford, and McMillan, 1995). Our understanding of how this occurs has greatly increased in 30 some-odd years since our technology has improved.
Now, take the MMC. We can simply define it as “One focusing on using the muscles in question to perform the lift.” Calatayud et al (2016) studied 18 resistance-trained men on a 1RM (one-rep max) bench press. Each individual in the study participated in 2 sessions: one to determine their 1RM and another experimental session. Calatayud et al (2016) attempted to control for as many factors as possible in order to attempt to see if the baseline changed at all. For example, all measures were made by the same two investigators; all measures were taken in the same facility; all participants participated in the same warm-up mobility drills prior to performing the lift; all participants performed the lift in the exact same manner they performed the two aforementioned sessions (same technique and body position, i.e., suicide grip and powerlifting technique).
They found that (1) higher levels of EMG activity lead to moving more weight; (2) the men could “selectively activate pectoralis and triceps muscles during the
bench press when this exercise is performed at low intensities” (Calatayud et al, 2016), at moderate intensities; (3) that focusing on one muscle (i.e., triceps brachii over pec major) did not hamper activation in one over the other; and (4) a threshold exists between 60-80 percent existed for muscle activation. Thus, experienced resistance-trained men can actively increase activity in certain muscles when cued to focus on those certain muscles.
Snyder and Fry (2012) studied 11 D-III football players on the bench press while recording EMG activity. They found that, when verbal cues were given to focus on the chest muscles, EMG increased by 22 percent, but when verbally cued to focus on the triceps, the pec major returned to baseline (though this does not mean, of course, that performance was hampered), while EMG activity increased by 26 percent. However, in-line with the findings from Calatayud et al (2016), when 80% 1RM were tested, EMG activity in the triceps remained unchanged, implying that there is a threshold.
The results of this study show that trained subjects can alter the participation of muscles in both moderate and higher-intensity multijoint resistance training exercises in response to verbal instructions, because both TB and PM activities were increased selectively in response to 2 different sets of instructions at 50% 1RM and 80% 1RM. This indicates that verbal instructions from trainers, therapists, and coaches are likely to have a measurable effect on muscle involvement, although it is unclear how generalizable this effect might be to all training exercises. Previous research from our laboratory (23) indicated that untrained subjects performing a lat pull-down at 30% max isometric load could respond to verbal instructions to increase back muscle involvement by increasing latissimus dorsi activity while maintaining proper form and similar speed of movement. The subjects in that study increased latissimus dorsi activity by 17.6%, whereas in the current study, verbal instruction resulted in a 22.3% increase from baseline at 50% 1RM for PM and a 25.6% increase for TB. However, antagonist activity was not measured by Snyder and Leech (23), and it was possible that the subjects activated antagonist muscles to offset additional force produced by agonist muscles. This study addressed this possibility, but no changes were seen in antagonist muscle activity with verbal instructions. The question of the effect of higher testing loads was also addressed by this study, and it was found that at 50% 1RM, the subjects were capable of altering muscle participation of both the horizontal adductors and the elbow extensors, but at 80% 1RM, only the horizontal adductors were affected. (Snyder and Fry, 2012)
If the activity of a muscle as measured by EMG is increased, then we can say that, for all intents and purposed, that NMC is high. One who is not familiar with a lift will have low NMC, that is, the firing will be low compared to someone with high NMC. Quite clearly, verbal instruction to focus on certain muscles can better activate them, and, using EMG, we can say that they have high NMC if the firing between synapses is fast.
Rutherford and Jones (1986) write that “It is concluded that a large part of the improvement in the ability to lift weights was due to an increased ability to coordinate other muscle groups involved in the movement such as those used to stabilise the body.” How weird is that… While Kim, Lockhart, and Roberto (2009) in their sample of elderly individuals found that “Strength gain by exercise training plays a role in the improved coordination of other fixator muscles necessary for body support while performing daily tasks such as cooking, gardening, reaching for an object, and walking, and in gaining more coordinated contractions between agonist and antagonist muscle groups leading to greater net force in the imposing movements.” Finally, Dahab and McCambridge (2009) found that strength training in kids improves the number and coordination of active neurons along with the firing rate pattern. This is important because the number and coordination of active neurons along with the rate of firing pattern influences—very strongly—NMC and how coordinated they will be.
In conclusion, it is quite obvious that PP does not know what he is talking about and only writes what sounds good in his head without having an adequate understanding of anatomy and physiology, NMC, MMC, APs and the like. These types of confusions can be cleared up by having an adequate understanding of anatomy and physiology and knowing how and why muscle actions are done, where they begin and where they end. Clearly, the claim that weight lifting requires no coordination is false.
JP Rushton, Richard Lynn, Satoshi Kanazawa, and Michael Hart: the Just-so Storytellers
The four men in the title are, in my opinion, the biggest just-so storytellers in the “HBD” movement. These four men have written numerous journal articles and books pushing their just-so stories—making a career out of storytelling. We have Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories for Little Children, well Rushton, Lynn, Kanazawa, and Hart (RLKH) told Just-so Stories for Adults—like all EP is. Either way, RLKH have quite the following—those who would defend their just-so stories—and if you deny and question them, you’re “denying evolution” and are “no better than a creationist.” Well, too bad for them, rejecting just-so stories means nothing of the sort.
So even though humans as a species are incredibly K selected, some believe that some humans are more K selected than others. In other words, while some men have numerous sexual partners and father lots of illegitimate babies with different mothers, other men are more nerdy, and father very few children with only one woman, but they make sure those children are well parented and provided for.
When men first evolved in the warm hospitable tropics some 200,000 years ago, survival was relatively easy, so instead of natural selection (survival of the fittest), genetic fitness was determined by who could get the most women (sexual selection). As a result, men with the biggest muscles, highest testosterone, best social skills, most charisma and sexual abilities, were the most successful at passing on their genes. But as the ice age emerged and humans moved North, passing on genes became more about natural selection and less about sexual selection. What good is it to be a great pick up artist if you can’t survive the winter long enough to mate? (PumpkinPerson; Why women hate nerdy men)
When asked “why white women didn’t evolve to prefer nerds,” PumpkinPerson writes that “cold climate women evolved to be submissive so their preferences were prehistorically irrelevant.” More and more just-so stories. That’s all “HBD” is: a collection of just-so stories.
Sexual selection is a subset of “natural selection” but there is one important difference: humans have minds and thus, humans can *attempt to* “select-for” traits, but each trait is coextensive with an infinitude of traits which throws a wrench in the notion. There is no such thing as “natural selection (Fodor and Piatteli-Palmarini, 2010).
The above just-so story, personally, is one of my favorites, in the top ten, at least. This type of just-so story was popularized by Rushton and his r/K selection theory (read the rebuttal here; I also have many rebuttals of Anonymous Conservatives just-so stories, his attempted revival of Rushton’s storytelling). Africans, like PP claimed above, evolved in hotter, harsher environments, and so had to have more progeny in order to ensure reproductive success. On the other hand, when Man out of Africa, he encountered colder temperatures and, it is said, had to have fewer children in order to ensure that the children were looked after.
According to Richard Lynn, then, this migration into colder climates caused a decrease in colder climates due to a shift to “K strategy”, which then “selected-for” lower testosterone (Lynn, 1990). In Lynn (1990), he claims that differences in PCa (prostate cancer) are evidence for the claim that blacks have higher levels of testosterone than whites, which drives behavioral differences between the races. He then assumes that these differences have an evolutionary origin between the races, and that migrating into colder climates caused a decrease in testosterone in Europeans compared to Africans. However, one large mistake that Lynn (1990) makes is assuming that testosterone levels today have any bearing on testosterone levels thousands of years ago.
Claims that PCa are caused by higher levels of testosterone are ubiquitous in the “HBD” literature. But, as I have covered in the past, there is no reason to be scared of the hormone testosterone (read my most extensive review here); testosterone does not cause aggression and it does not cause PCa (Stattin et al, 2003).
One of the most oft-cited studies on the matter of T differences between blacks and whites is a small, highly methodologically/conceptually flawed study by Ross et al (1986). I have documented numerous flaws with the study.
So Lynn, in his 1990 just-so story shown above, claims that, due to colder temperatures, children would have needed more attention. Giving more attention would have meant having fewer children. This was done, he claims, through shifting to K strategy. So then, a decrease in testosterone was how to achieve this “K adaptation”, and achieving this “K adaptation” was through a reduction in T levels which subsequently, according to Lynn, brought “about a lowering of sexual drive and behaviour” (Lynn, 1990: 1205).
Note how Lynn’s claims in this paper *completely rest on* differences in prostate cancer between races. He uses these differences due to the assumption that high levels of testosterone contribute to differences in prostate cancer. This claim is false.
One of my favorites is from Rushton and Templer (2012) who attempt to show that the melanocortin system modulates aggression and sexuality in humans. I wrote a response to it, and, of course, one of the main culprits is our old friend testosterone. The hypothesis put forth is, of course, another just-so story. Nevermind the fact that Rushton and Templer show no understanding of endocrinology. We have a great understanding of the melanocortin system and what it does in humans (see Cone, 2006), but, unfortunately for Rushton and Templer, none of the review discusses the fringe ideas they put forth. Rushton and Templer showed that they do not understand human physiology, much less the melanocortin system.
Lynn (2013) even claims that testosterone has an effect on human penis length between races, citing a study on… rats. RATS!! THAT is the standard of evidence that Lynn has for attempting to prove his fringe just-so stories.
These just-so stories pushed by Rushton (1997), Lynn (2006), and Hart (2007) lack independent evidence—we don’t have a time machine to verify their claims. So they’re just-so stories. I rebutted all 3 of these psycho-logists’ claims in this article on how black women do not have higher levels of T than white women. I did, indeed, used to push all types of just-so stories when I was a more hard-core “HBDer”, but I’ve since learned the errors of my ways and have stopped telling just-so stories See exhibit A, defending Kanazawa’s just-so stories.
“To be blunt, black women look more like men than women due to their higher levels of testosterone.”
I can’t believe some of the stuff that I used to write/believe… I have, of course, since seen the error of my ways (in more than one way, as can be evidenced by my view changes over the past two years).
Anyway, these types of claims are easily put to rest by reading Mazur’s (2016) analysis of testosterone and honor culture.
“There is no indication of inordinately high T among young black women with low education.”
“The pattern [high testosterone] is not seen among teenage boys or among females.”
So, quite clearly, PumpkinPerson’s just-so storytelling, as popularized by RLKH, has no backing in reality—these psycho-logists told nothing but just-so stories. “But the stories are consistent with the data!”, one may attempt to say. Well, to that, I would say the stories are selected to be consistent with the data; how parsimonious a just-so story is with any current data is irrelevant since one can spin any type of story they want to fit with any data point they have. This is put succinctly by Smith (2016) in his paper Explanations for adaptations, just-so stories, and limitations on evidence in evolutionary biology:
“An important weakness in the use of narratives for scientific purposes is that the ending is known before the narrative is constructed. … [Just-so stories] are always consistent with the observations because they are selected to be so.”
The method known as “inference to best explanation” is not a solution to these problems. … Some just-so stories should not be told.
Now, put this to the stories of RLKH, and it will become clear that all they are doing is storytelling—telling just-so stories for adults. These types of stories are inherently ad hoc and generate no testable predictions. It doesn’t matter that they “agree with the data”, since one can construct any type of narrative to agree with the data—that’s a fact.
It’s no surprise that people still, to this day, attempt to defend RLKH’s just-so storytelling—it is rooted in the Darwinian paradigm of natural selection, after all. However, appealing to an imaginary force (natural selection) which shaped traits over thousands of years is literally telling just-so stories—there is no evidence for the claim other than evidence the story purports to explain—nevermind the fact that the trait in question could have moved to fixation by other methods than “selection.” (See Samir Okasha’s (2018) book Agents and Goals in Evolution for a critique of Darwin’s view of “natural selection” with an “agent” behind it, guiding the process—Mother Nature.) Thus, RLKH et al are nothing but Darwinian just-so storytellers—and anyone who defends them as being “purveyors of truth”, people who get “shouted down” for attempting to “speak the truth” are no better than the just-so storytellers themselves.