Whoa, I know that guy!

I was reading about the ongoing climate change debate in Australia, and a name from my past came up: Alan Finkel. I used to do contract programming for his company, Axon Instruments (all the neuroscientists out there know that name — it’s pretty much the premier company for making essential neurophysiology gadgets). I had to look up what Finkel has been doing in the last 20 years, since I last worked with him (I was one of the people working on his foray into cellular imaging, of which he says “we didn’t make a successful play in the market”, which is true).

Anyway, he was caught explaining climate change to that idiot, Malcolm Roberts. It’s an excellent explanation.

Across all the countries of the planet we’ve been burning fossil fuels for a rapid rate. It’s clear that by doing that we are emitting ever-increasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The natural systems can’t absorb that. There’s a clear hypothesis, then there’s clear evidence. The thing that I find most compelling, senator, is that when you have a combination of a hypothesis and evidence.
When it comes to carbon dioxide it’s clear what would be driving increases in carbon dioxide, then you go out and measure it. Carbon dioxide goes up every year. Last year carbon dioxide went up 3.05 ppm which is more than any other time.

So the carbon dioxide is going up. Does that create warming? The theory is that carbon dioxide does trap heat, so ultraviolet light comes through the atmosphere without interruption, or almost without interruption, hits the ground, warms the ground and you get an infrared radiation from the ground which is then to some extent trapped by the carbon dioxide.

That theory goes back to 1896, Swedish physical chemist Svante Arrhenius did the initial work on that. He subsequently got a Nobel prize for other work and he identified that back in 1896 that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, for basic physical reasons will trap heat.

So you’ve got the carbon dioxide, you’ve got the physics that says carbon dioxide would trap heat coming off the ground being radiated from the surface and from the water as well.

Do you have the evidence? Yes!

The temperature is going up and up and up. It was just yesterday that NASA declared that the last 12 months, yet again have been the hottest on record. So in both cases carbon dioxide is going up and it’s trapping heat, you’ve got evidence and theory. The second case is that that trapped heat will lead to an increase in temperature, you’ve got the theory and the evidence. That’s steps one and two.

The third step is the impact. The temperatures going up, what will that do to climate? That’s where it gets very, very difficult now you’re into the world of modelling.

I’m impressed. When I worked with him, he was sharp, talked very fast, and was incredibly focused and enthusiastic. It looks like he still is.

The worst thing from last night’s debate was…

…Donald Trump’s declaration that our national misery and embarrassment won’t end on 8 November. He could lose in a landslide, and his ego will not allow him to accept it — expect the election night to be full of Trumpians declaring that everything is “rigged”. Expect him to go on a rhetorical rampage the day after. Expect his rabid followers to riot. Expect him to show up on inauguration day demanding to be sworn in, and to appear on every freakish far right wing radio show for years to come complaining about how the election was stolen.

I really just want him to go away.

The lies were pretty bad, too. Yes, he did say that he thought Japan should defend itself with nukes…to Chris Wallace, despite denying it last night. He babbled about ending abortion, claiming that a woman could demand one the day before her due date, and that a beautiful baby would be torn limb from limb…which sounds exactly like the kind of grisly lie pro-life kooks love to make up. There is no such thing as a ninth month abortion.

There was also the expected word salad served up every time actual policy was discussed. Here’s what he said to defend his claim that Aleppo has fallen to Assad forces.

Well, Aleppo is a disaster. It’s a humanitarian nightmare. But it has fallen from any standpoint. I mean, what do you need, a signed document? Take a look at Aleppo. It is so sad when you see what’s happened. And a lot of this is because of Hillary Clinton. Because what has happened is by fighting Assad, who turned out to be a lot tougher than she thought, and now she is going to say, “Oh, he loves Assad.” He’s just much tougher and much smarter than her and Obama. And everyone thought he was gone two years ago, three years ago. He aligned with Russia. He now also aligned with Iran, who we made very powerful. We gave them $150 billion back. We give them $1.7 billion in cash. I mean cash, bundles of cash as big as this stage. We gave them $1.7 billion.

Now they have aligned, he has aligned with Russia and with Iran. They don’t want ISIS. But they have other things because we’re backing, we’re backing rebels. We don’t know who the rebels are. We’re giving them lots of money, lots of everything. We don’t know who the rebels are. And when and if, and it’s not going to happen because you have Russia and you have Iran now. But if they ever did overthrow Assad, you might end up as bad as Assad is, and he is a bad guy.

But you may very well end up with worse than Assad. If she did nothing, we’d be in much better shape. And this is what has caused the great migration where she has taken in tens of thousands of Syrian refugees who probably in many cases, not probably, who are definitely in many cases ISIS-aligned. And we now have them in our country and wait until you see this is going to be the great Trojan Horse.

And wait until you see what happens in the coming years. Lots of luck, Hillary. Thanks a lot for doing a great job.

That…doesn’t…answer…the question. It doesn’t even make sense. The only thing it confirms is that Trump is an ignoramus.

Lots of luck, Republicans. Thanks a lot for doing a great job. I hope your party does a Joffrey and dies purple-faced and bleeding, but quickly and definitively, at least.

Oh, no…not another debate

Is there any point? Isn’t this whole thing over now?

Anyway, tonight the competent, experience woman is going to have to share the stage with the ignorant, egocentric man, and give him unearned equal time. The topics that Hillary Clinton will discuss have been announced:

  • Debt and entitlements
  • Immigration
  • Economy
  • Supreme Court
  • Foreign hot spots
  • Fitness to be President

Note that I said these are what Clinton will discuss. Trump will be off in argle-bargle land, ranting about how great he is and how his enemies will face his wrath and vengeance. One thing I’ve noticed about these debates, though, is that they don’t discuss…science. I think the politicians are afraid of the subject.

But here’s something brilliant: Gaius Publius explains how every one of those topics could be turned into specific questions about climate change. All it would take is some intelligence and willingness to dig a little deeper on the part of the moderator…

Oh, crap. The moderator is Chris Wallace? Fuck it, he’s a schmuck.

Racial incoherence

Kwame Anthony Appiah gave a lecture on race and globalization, and all I’ve got is a second-hand review of the talk that makes me wish I could hear the whole thing.

Society still largely operates under the misapprehension that race (largely defined by skin colour) has some basis in biology. There is a perpetuating idea that black-skinned or white-skinned people across the world share a similar set of genes that set the two races apart, even across continents. In short, it’s what Appiah calls “total twaddle”.

“The way that we talk about race today is just incoherent,” he says. “The thing about race is that it is a form of identity that is meant to apply across the world, everybody is supposed to have one – you’re black or you’re white or you’re Asian – and it’s supposed to be significant for you, whoever and wherever you are. But biologically that’s nonsense.”

I can almost hear the alt-right whining in rebuttal…but there are genes for skin color, that’s biology, isn’t it? And aren’t there other genes that affect physiology and morphology? Yes, there are, and these can be significant markers of lineage. I can look at my brothers and sisters, and my aunts and uncles, and see an assemblage of traits that confer a familial resemblance. We don’t, however, assume that all members of the Myers clan are identical in behavior and attitude and ability because of the shape of their chin; we lack a social construct that affiliates that undeniably genetic trait with a whole vast host of assumptions about our place in society and every other biological property of the family.

What we do have is a complex social construct that takes one biological property, skin color, and imposes a mess of entirely non-biological assumptions on individuals with it. Worst of all, the people who do that then think that their racism, which is all about history and propagated myths and unjustified beliefs about relative superiority, is based on science because you can empirically measure the density of pigment cells in the skin. Or they do measurements of stuff like “intelligence” (where the tools are flawed and clumsy), correlate them with skin color, and pretend that the influence of cultural ideas and oppression and poverty, all freighted with the constructed social beliefs that they claim to be objectively assessing, are nonexistent.

But Appiah knows all this and is explaining it. I get irritated with the abuse of my discipline to justify nonsense.

Appiah is at pains to point out that, while society has made race and colour a significant part of how we identify ourselves, particularly in places such as the UK and US, it is an invented idea to which we cling irrationally.

Appiah’s lecture explores the notion that two black-skinned people may share similar genes for skin colour, but a white-skinned person and a black-skinned person may share a similar gene that makes them brilliant at playing the piano. So why, he asks, have we decided that one is the core of our identity and the other is a lesser trait?

“How race works is actually pretty local and specific; what it means to be black in New York is completely different from what it means to be black in Accra, or even in London,” he explains. “And yet people believe it means roughly the same thing everywhere. Race does nothing for us.

“I do think that in the long run if everybody grasped the facts about the relevant biology and the social facts, they’d have to treat race in a different way and stop using it to define each,” he says.

At a time when the world continues to divide itself along racial lines and where, in the US, “being put in that black box means you tend to get treated worse and are more likely to get shot by a police officer”, getting people to understand race as a social invention could, in Appiah’s view, save lives.

And expand human potential. Being put in the black box means much more than that you’re more likely to get shot — it carries a multitude of socially constructed biases that mean you’re more like to be imprisoned, less likely to get a job, more likely to face a thousand micro-aggressions every day, less likely to attend a good public school, etc., etc., etc. — and none of those are genetic.

None of this implies that we should be blind to color. I’m quite proud of my family, and I’m not going to deny our resemblance; I’m also not ashamed of my descent from a long line of stolid Scandinavian farmers. I think we should all recognize the struggles and successes and flaws of our forebears, and black people have diverse and complex histories, too, and rightly take some pride in their families. But let’s stop pretending that skin color is a simplistic proxy to excuse the baggage of our biases, OK?

The pink must end

I find myself repelled by the color pink anymore. It’s basically been appropriated by the Susan G. Komen Foundation to represent research on breast cancer, and it’s as if daubing pink paint on something suddenly makes it an accomplishment in cancer research.


So we had pink drill bits. Fracking for the cure!


Pink fighter jets! Strafing and bombing for the cure!

They cut support for Planned Parenthood! Who needs mammograms and education when you’ve got drill bits and bullets?

Susan G. Komen has long held deep ties with right wing groups. Now we learn that another aspect of those ties is that they have scheduled major fund raising events at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago.

Komen has held their annual “Perfect Pink Party” at Mar-a-Lago since 2011, and Trump has attended throughout the years. The AP reported today that the party is still planned for January 2017, and that the organization won’t make a final decision about whether to go ahead — or cancel and lose the deposit — until after October. Komen spokesperson Andrea Rader declined to comment beyond the AP story.

The AP also reported that two alleged instances of Trump touching women inappropriately occurred at Mar-a-Lago.

There’s also this little gem.

Nancy Brinker, who is the founder and chair of Global Strategy for the Komen Foundation [but who is currently on leave] endorsed Trump earlier this year.

Trump’s support among women is dismally low — this is a thug who thinks women need to be punished for getting an abortion — and yet Komen doesn’t think this is enough of a problem that they should distance themselves from him.

I’ll never donate to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, and I don’t see how they can stop their slide into irrelevance at this rate. I’m just waiting for the Republicans to slap a coat of pink paint on their logo to show that they are pro-woman. It’s the least they could do.

Bad reasons to colonize Mars


I presume you all already know about my deep antipathy to Elon Musk’s stupid lifeboat rationale for going to Mars — I’m still getting hate mail for not worshipping Musk. In my defense, though, allow me to pull out Kim Stanley Robinson to say exactly the same thing.

What needs to happen for the Mars colony to live sustainably and give humanity the lifeboat Musk envisions?

It’s important to say that the idea of Mars as a lifeboat is wrong, in both a practical and a moral sense.

There is no Planet B, and it’s very likely that we require the conditions here on earth for our long-term health. When you don’t take these new biological discoveries into your imagined future, you are doing bad science fiction.

In a culture so rife with scientism and wish fulfillment, a culture that’s still coming to grips with the massive crisis of climate change, a culture that’s inflicting a sixth mass-extinction event on earth and itself, it’s important to try to pull your science fiction into the present, to make it a useful tool of human thought, a matter of serious planning as well as thrilling entertainment.

This is why Musk’s science fiction story needs some updating, some real imagination using current findings from biology and ecology.

But I’m not posting this to flog Musk some more. I’ve found a rationale even worse than Musk’s — we’re supposed to colonize Mars to expand the sacred worship of gods. James Poulos uses some ridiculously bad history to suggest that a religious impulse ought to drive our colonization.

The traditions of humanism and religion we’ve inherited from ancient Athens and Jerusalem also treat the natural world as a type of “base reality” against which our collective history can take place. Those traditions allow old myths and social orders to be honored and new ones to be founded — fresh starts, but by no means blank slates, where the best of what came before can be retained and given promise on new soil. In this sweeping journey of civilizations, what was begun with the exodus from Egypt and the founding of Rome continued, more or less, right up through the Pilgrims’ arrival on Plymouth Rock, Abraham Lincoln’s “new birth of freedom,” and on, perhaps, to the present day. You don’t have to be pious to think of human history in these essentially religious terms — as a multimillennial journey that is far from over (perennial panic over the literal End Times notwithstanding), and that in its totality can only be fully conceived of and known by a consciousness beyond what our human nature affords.

I must point out that the Biblical Exodus is a myth — it didn’t happen. That’s a very weird justification for a huge secular enterprise, to cite a self-serving and false story. Rome was founded by bandits and rapists who had a poor reputation among their neighbors, and likewise the religious gloss on their founding myth was added after the fact. The Pilgrims? Jesus. Horrible awful religious fanatics who contributed a deplorable Puritan sanctimony to American history. The Gettysburg Address mentions “God” only once, and even that is questioned — there are multiple drafts and transcripts, and they don’t all include the “under God” phrase, which is a peculiar focus to use to claim that the consecration of a graveyard is analogous to colonizing Mars. This guy is really reaching to claim a religious drive behind all of human history.

And that last sentence — can only be fully conceived of and known by a consciousness beyond what our human nature affords — total bullshit. You can imagine all kinds of nonsense, their irrationality does not mean that there must exist a cosmic intelligence that can make sense of it all.

The babble continues.

From this standpoint, the exciting thing about colonizing Mars (and tomorrow, the galaxy!) is not the prospect of accelerating humanity past the point of humanity. Instead, it’s continuing the grand journey of humankind, wherein sacred traditions can be imitatively repeated and re-founded. A colony on Mars, then, is not like a personal trainer, pushing us through some artificial but valuable exercises that end up taking us to a higher plane of aliveness otherwise unavailable to us. Humanity’s achievement of interplanetary life wouldn’t allow us to break with the past and level us up into a new reality. It would humble us in recognition of a newfound, enduring mission — to create new ways to honor our human essence and praise what has allowed it to be sustained over time, whether we call that nature, nature’s God, or something else.

You know what? That’s just noise. Religion is really good at generating well-meaning phrases that can be strung together into a happy collection of sounds that resonate because they’re familiar and often repeated to believers, but to anyone outside the belief, it’s just word salad.

He just keeps going!

Such an act of providence would be restorative for humanity — and there’s reason to think we now require a Mars colony to allow for it. What’s clear is that Earth no longer invites us to contemplate, much less renew, our deepest spiritual needs. It has filled up so much with people, discoveries, information, and sheer stuff that it’s maddening to find what F. Scott Fitzgerald called a fresh green breast of a new world — the experience of truly open horizons and an open but specific future. That’s a problem that does suggest a terrible calamity, if not exactly an imminent apocalypse. But by making a fresh pilgrimage to a literally new world — say, red-breasted Mars — we could mark our pilgrims’ progress from the shadows of ignorance and apartness from God.

Oh, he’s done with Earth. It’s got nothing lovely anymore. So let’s go to a place that isn’t ruined for good Christians!

He thinks we might need a religious litmus test for the Mars colony ship — maybe they should all be religious, with no atheists to pollute the contemplative theology of Mars.

That means asking and answering initially awkward questions, like, would we be best off if our first Martian colonists were religious observers? Especially today, nature and freedom won’t defend themselves, and they’re certainly not taken as a given by some of Earth’s more powerful people. But it turns out that even today, and in the far-flung future, many of those who see our cosmos as supernaturally real are still their best defenders. There may not be much to recommend for life on Mars if we don’t clear a path for Christ on Mars.

Now I’m torn. I’m horrified at the idea of spawning a space colony that is a home to religious zealots, but at the same time, I expect the colony to fail, especially if it is entirely crewed by babbling Jesus freaks. And then I’m further torn by the dilemma of whether to cheer at shipping out fanatics to their inevitable doom, or to mourn the loss of human life, or to regret that the tiny numbers of ‘colonists’ will make no dent in the population of idiots remaining here on earth.

Gets me right in the feels, it does.

My glamorous day

After reading about that photogenic wanker Bilzerian, I thought about what I could do to become an instagram star. I should take a storm of selfies of my exciting life.

Here’s my Monday:

  • Start my morning with a dental appointment.

  • Finish grading 50 cell biology exams. That’ll take me into early afternoon.

  • Spend the rest of the day finishing up my science talk for my Beijing trip. There goes the rest of the day.

  • Go to bed, too tired to play high-stakes poker.

That’s it. That’s the whole day. Maybe if I used a machine gun as a paperweight and had a team of topless supermodels standing around…nah, too distracting and my office isn’t that big.

Toxic masculinity is everywhere, and running for president

Joe Rogan dreams of being Billy Bush. Aim high, Joe, aim high! And now he’s found the ridiculously rich (but probably not as rich as he claims he is) presidential aspirant to leech off of and sycophantically praise for his raunchiness. It’s not Trump, though. It’s Dan Bilzerian.

If you’re like me, you said “who?”, but apparently Dan Bilzerian is huge on instagram, with millions of followers. His specialty is looking masculine while hanging out with expensive cars, big guns, and naked women. He’s filthy rich because he inherited huge sums from his criminal father, and, he says, from winning at poker. He sounds like a truly horrible person. Sadly, that seems to be a path to fame, and also sure enough, he is running for president of the US.

But Joe Rogan is even more pathetic. He did a three hour interview with Bilzerian in which he’s practically drooling over him and openly saying that he wants to be just like him. The sycophancy is gross.

I wasn’t able to cope with more than a few minutes of the interview, but someone wrote to me with an annotated breakdown of key moments. Thank you! I could not have made it through the whole thing, nor do I want to. So I’ll just put it all right here.

First Joe Rogan Defending Donald Trumps attack on the Miss Universe shaming her for being fat https://youtu.be/sywnldE9YIA?t=59 That’s not why I wrote you. It’s for the Podcast he did With Dan Bilzerian. This Is so bad, and yet no one has said anything against this monster. If you listen to nothing else just got to link 8. As a mother this broke my heart.

This is the perfect example of 2 white man, essentially promoting rape culture. People where surprised at Billy Bushes behavior, being the sycophant that he is. I was not surprised because as a woman I have seen the bro culture as it is now referred too my whole life. In a recent Joe Rogan podcast,
Joe talks a Dan Bilzerian who markets himself as a playboy He 40 million followers on intagram and facebook https://www.instagram.com/danbilzerian/?hl=en Notice all the groping in the photos.

The whole conversation they spend talking about women as objects being refereed to only as bitches and pussy.

1 Here is Joe Rogan emulating Billy Bush https://youtu.be/RX5Iw-XsWu4?t=3 @20 second he calls woman bitches.

2 Here, Bilzerian refers to woman as pussy https://youtu.be/RX5Iw-XsWu4?t=96

3 Here again Bilzerian braging about sleeping with woman even though he didn’t want, and Joe Rogan doing he best interpretation as BIlly Bush. https://youtu.be/RX5Iw-XsWu4?t=279

4 Here they go on a long rant about woman being gold diggers. https://youtu.be/RX5Iw-XsWu4?t=1451 Women are almost always talked about in the context of being evil whores that want to steal rich guys money.

5 In Bilzerian calls someone a cocksucker https://youtu.be/RX5Iw-XsWu4?t=2063
I see you often talk about Donald Trump, and wonder how he could become president. Here is you answer, this behavior is so normalized, that men like this look up to Trump. This and no one in the mainstream speaks up against this type of interaction. 50 Million people take these seriously.

6 They talk about fame and again women only being attracted to money. Listen to Joe refer to it as Balling. This is a 49 year old man https://youtu.be/RX5Iw-XsWu4?t=2887

7 This is the saddest part. I genuinely feel sorry for his wife and daughters who one day will listen to this. Joe Rogan laments that he has a wife and kids. He says it as if his family are a burden. https://youtu.be/RX5Iw-XsWu4?t=2901 TO say this publicly is just monstrous. I would not be happy if my husband said this about me.

8 famous for being a baller, https://youtu.be/RX5Iw-XsWu4?t=2922 Joe loses his dignity here. Look at Bilzerian’s face here, even he feels awkward with Joe Rogans ass kissing. https://youtu.be/RX5Iw-XsWu4?t=2949

If Bilzerian were at some point to get serious about running for the presidency (I don’t think he will, but I’d have said the same thing about Trump), the opposition research has already begun. I have to say though, that I don’t envy the people who have to go through the sludge of youtube and other media sources. It does help when you’ve got point sources like Rogan who revel in the slime.

Keep in mind, though, that there are millions of people who admire these two assholes.