Are high-ranking professors selected for cluelessness?

This is getting really old. It’s another case of sexual harassment of students by senior faculty, this time at UC Berkeley. Herr Doktor Professor Blake Wentworth seems to have a thing for obsessing over his undergraduates and making life hell for them.

Read this for an extraordinary example of a total lack of self-awareness. He promises to honor student-professor boundaries while calling her “honey” and “honey bear”.

Hemenway tried to minimize contact with Wentworth after a meeting on 17 February 2015 that she said was particularly upsetting. According to the complaint, the professor repeatedly called her “honey” and “honey bear” and put his hands on hers while complimenting her and staring intensely into her eyes.

He also allegedly suggested that he wanted to pursue a romantic relationship with her as soon as she graduated.

“I will always honor professor-student boundaries,” he said, according to the complaint. “Once you graduate, that’s an entirely different scenario. I look forward to the day when you graduate. … But until then, just know that I will never come onto you or make you feel uncomfortable. Got that, honey?”

That’s quite an inducement to graduate he’s given Ms Hemenway, isn’t it?

Wentworth is still at Berkeley, while Hemenway is considering leaving her field altogether.

“Leading edge”?

There’s this new book out, Life: The Leading Edge of Evolutionary Biology, Genetics, Anthropology, and Environmental Science, which has a number of people rightfully irate that it has 23 authors, not a one of them a woman. I was also astounded to see among its leading edge authors Ernst Mayr, who died in 2005 at the age of 100.

There are no women in evolutionary biology who can compete with the corpse of a centenarian man? That’s pretty bad.

And Kary Mullis? Good grief.

I guess this article wasn’t humorous after all, but dead serious reporting.

What is a “computer”? What is “information processing”?

Just before I left the States, I read this, shall we say, interesting article about how your brain is not a computer. The subhead, which does more or less summarize the content, is:

Your brain does not process information, retrieve knowledge or store memories. In short: your brain is not a computer

Curiously, in order to comprehend the article, I had to retrieve knowledge and stored memories about neuroscience (I have a degree in that) and computers (I worked in the field for several years), and I had to process the information in the article and in my background, and I found that article confusing. It did not compute.

Jeffrey Shallit, who knows much more about the information processing side of the story, also found it somewhat enraging.

[Read more…]


Yesterday, we saw this big green area, Apsan Park, on the map, and it was in walking distance…so we started walking. And then we discovered that the flat oval on the map was actually a mountain. A mountain in the middle of the city. So we gave up and went back to our hotel.

But today, we got a cab and got driven up to the cable car that takes you to the top, so that’s what we did.

[Read more…]

Ban football

It’s the only decent thing to do. It’s a thuggish sport that allows thugs to rise to positions of privilege, and fosters an environment of brutality and viciousness.

Or, if that’s too radical for you, shut down the football program at Dietrich High School in Idaho (warning: tale of gross racism and rape at that link). They’ve lost any right to ever play the game again.

David Silverman understands how codes of conduct work

And DJ Grothe does not. The Reason Rally has a published Code of Conduct, and apparently a few bad apples are protesting that they won’t attend because they don’t want their freedom to harass limited. Dave does a very good job of explaining what they do and don’t do, and why they are reasonable. Don’t read the comments, though. So many people are getting their asses in a wringer because they hate being told that they don’t get to do whatever they want at a public event.

In vaguely related news, Ammon Bundy is planning to sue Multnomah County for violating his right to bear arms in prison.

Stupid people who don’t understand that living among other people compromises your right to have tantrums over your privileges are everywhere.

An excess of optimism

I read this article, Hitchens, Dawkins and Harris are old news — a totally different Atheism is on the rise, with considerable disbelief.

More and more, the strongest atheist voices are talking about nonbelief less as an end in itself, but as part of a larger conversation about social justice. It could hardly be any other way: atheism is growing not only in numbers, but in diversity. When Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens were at their most prominent, a frequent (and credible) criticism was that the faces of atheism were all white, male and affluent. To make the same claim now is to deliberately ignore some of the most vital atheist and skeptic voices that have emerged in the last 10 years.

I wish.

It’s what I want to happen, and maybe I just have a distorted perspective, but when I look at my email and see the hate pouring in, all from atheists who are deeply resentful of women and minorities, and somehow blame me for letting them in (which is twisted enough as it is — these people are so far gone that they can’t imagine this situation occurring without an old white guy being responsible), and I don’t see what change this author is seeing. The same white, male, affluent (or white, male, not-rich-enough-and-hating it) faces are still here, still dominating the conversation, still smugly confident that they are right and in control, still flooding any women or minorities with concentrated bile.

I’m disillusioned. I’m not seeing any substantial improvement at all. And as just another old white guy, there’s not a damned thing I can do about it without getting all the blame/credit from the same old bigots.