An Alternative to "Hardwired to Connect. The New Scientific Case for Authoritative Communities" Human Evolution

Copyright 2003, James Michael Howard, Fayetteville, Arkansas, U.S.A.

A new idea is afoot within the United States: "Hardwired to Connect. The New Scientific Case for Authoritative Communities." (Henceforth, this will be "HTC.") HTC is a response to a "crisis" in our children: "…the deteriorating mental and behavioral health of U.S. children." HTC states this crisis is due to "lack of connectedness," that is, lack of "close connections to other people, and deep connections to moral and spiritual meaning." HTC states that "authoritative communities" can solve this crisis. "Authoritative communities are groups that live out the types of connectedness that our children increasingly lack. They are groups of people who are committed to one another over time and who model and pass on at least part of what it means to be a good person and live a good life. Renewing and building them is the key to improving the lives of U.S. children and adolescents."

HTC is a battleship. It will be difficult to turn or stop. Its creators and supporters are committed. Bill Gates has committed $51 million to this idea in one city alone (New York City). HTC states it has three goals and 18 recommendations. The HTC "executive summary" states: "Reaching these goals and implementing these recommendations would constitute fundamental social change in our society. The report argues that nothing less will do [my italics]." One article about the HTC states: "The [HTC] commission aims to improve the environment." The HTC is acting on the premise that the cause/s of the crisis resides in the environment rather than us and our children. This will be popular, especially in this society that is increasingly attracted to the idea that our problems are caused by poor multimedia, poor nutrition, poor teachers, …at least someone/thing else. Before this ship sails beyond a point of no return and monies and "fundamental social change in our society" is required, because "nothing less will do," lets look at another possible, simpler explanation of this phenomenon. The problem may actually reside within us.

I suggest my work provides another explanation of this crisis in America. It is my hypothesis that human evolution is driven by selective reproduction due to testosterone ("Androgens in Human Evolution," Rivista di Biologia / Biology Forum 2001; 94: 345-365, ). I suggest this is an ongoing phenomenon identifiable as the "secular trend" in modern populations. The secular trend is the increase in size, mainly weight, of children and earlier onset of puberty. The trend is real and ongoing in the U.S. (Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 2000;154:155-161). I suggest this increase represents an increase in the percentage of individuals of higher testosterone. Increased testosterone increases size and stimulates earlier puberty. Increased testosterone increases sexuality and aggression. Individuals of higher testosterone will produce more offspring, more rapidly than those of lower testosterone. Given time, individuals of higher testosterone will increase in percentage within our population and produce the secular trend. (Some say the trend is due to increased nutrition (calories). Increased calories simply accelerate reproduction, especially of higher testosterone individuals. Increased nutrition is not the cause of the secular trend, increased nutrition simply accelerates reproduction.)

Periodically, the secular trend will increase, then decline due to negative effects of excessive testosterone. For example, testosterone inhibits the immune system. Animal pathogens are beginning to invade human populations, such as HIV, Ebola and Marburg viruses. The virulence of bacterial pathogens is increasing within America, vis-à-vis the seat of the best medical care on Earth. This is a time of increasing testosterone and we are experiencing the negative effects throughout our society. I suggest the negative effects within excessive numbers of individuals of higher testosterone is causing "…the deteriorating mental and behavioral health of U.S. children."

In 1985, I first suggested that the hormone, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), was selected by evolution because DHEA optimizes replication and transcription of DNA ( ). Therefore, DHEA affects growth and development and maintenance of all tissues. In fact, I think the rise of DHEA within animals is the basis for the evolution of mammals ("Hormones in Mammalian Evolution," Rivista di Biologia / Biology Forum 2001; 94: 177-184, ). I also attribute the increase in brain to body ratio in mammals to DHEA. For this reason, I suggest the brain is very dependent upon DHEA for growth and development and maintenance. Therefore, I suggest the availability of DHEA is directly involved in our "mental and behavioral health," and testosterone directly affects the availability of DHEA.

The largest supply, the major steroid hormone, of our bodies is DHEA sulfate (DHEAS). The active molecule, DHEA, is derived from this large, background supply of DHEAS by removal of the "sulfate" group by a steroid sulfatase. Testosterone inhibits steroid sulfatase (J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol 2000; 73: 251-6). Testosterone will reduce the availability of DHEA; testosterone will increase the ratio of DHEAS to DHEA. (I suggest this effect of testosterone on steroid sulfatase and, therefore, on availability of DHEA may be the basis for differential growth of reproductive organs from the same tissues in males and females, as well as other tissues.) If testosterone is increasing, that is, the percentage of individuals of higher testosterone is increasing, we should see effects of an increasing switch to a higher ratio of DHEAS to DHEA. This is real and it may be shown to affect "mental and behavioral health." (The pattern to notice in the following information is high testosterone and/or high DHEAS levels.)

In a test animal steroid sulfatase inhibitors and DHEAS increase aggressive behavior in mice (Brain Res 2001; 922: 216-22). Children with oppositional defiant disorder had higher DHEAS levels than either psychiatric controls or normal control groups (J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 2000; 39:1446-51). Conduct disorder is also connected with high levels of DHEAS and may represent a disorder of only low availability of DHEA as testosterone is not abnormal in one study. "CD boys had significantly higher levels of DHEAS and marginally significantly higher levels of A; there were no differences in T. Moreover, DHEAS levels were significantly positively correlated with the intensity of aggression and delinquency as rated by both parents and teachers." (Biol Psychiatry 1998; 43: 156-8).


"Testosterone is connected to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Early testosterone treatment of an animal model of ADHD "support the hypothesis that early androgen treatment may support the neurobiology of animals with genetic predisposition to hyperactivity, impulsivity and inattention in a manner consistent with the enhanced expression of ADHD-like behaviors." (Behav Brain Res 2000; 107: 35-43).

DHEA is significantly low in schizophrenia (Biol Psychiatry 1973; 6: 23). Testosterone levels and high levels of DHEAS are both demonstrably connected with schizophrenia. "Female psychotic patients showed E2 levels lower than matched healthy cycling controls but higher than those on a contraceptive pill; they also showed higher TE levels than controls. Male psychotic patients had higher DHEAS levels than healthy or obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) subjects." (Psychoneuroendocrinology 1994; 19: 373-85). Unipolar major depression is characterized by "significantly higher values of plasma DHEAS" (J Neural Transm 1998; 105: 537-42). "Markedly elevated basal DHEAS levels are associated with resistance to ECT [electroconvulsive therapy]" which is used as a treatment for depression (Biol Psychiatry 2000; 48: 693-701).

While obesity is not mentioned in HRT, to my knowledge, obesity has recently become a collective "cause" of many problems in our society. I mention obesity only because this is another manifestation I think is attributable to the increase in testosterone in our society, along with HRT's emphasis on the "deteriorating mental and behavioral health of U.S. children." I am surprised that HRT did not include this as obesity is increasing within American children. Obesity is directly connected to DHEAS and testosterone: "Differences in concentrations of circulating DHEAS and total testosterone are independently associated with the waist-hip ratio in premenopausal women, providing epidemiologic support to the "neuroendocrine dysregulation" hypothesis for the pathogenesis of central obesity." (Epidemiology 1996; 7: 513-6). "The FT [free testosterone] to DHEAS molar ratio is the androgenic parameter that most closely relates to the accumulation of visceral fat in premenopausal obese women." (Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord 1994; 18: 659-64).

I suggest human evolution is real, ongoing, and identifiable within modern populations. This results from differential reproduction which produces more individuals of higher testosterone than those of lower testosterone with time. The effects of this increase in individuals of higher testosterone is sometimes beneficial and sometimes negative. I suggest we are currently experiencing and witnessing a time when the negative effects of testosterone are becoming rapidly apparent. While I commend the group of individuals, who combined to produce "Hardwired to Connect," for attempting to explain and solve this problem and Mr. Gates for his support, I have to disagree with their hypothesis. There is a simple explanation directly tied to all of these phenomena. Before this nation commits to spending precious resources and fomenting "fundamental social change in our society," we should examine a simple biological explanation.