# I’d forgotten how silly other sites could be

I was looking over the comments on my article at Salon, and realizing that we’re in a privileged position here. The kooks don’t last long in the searing heat of the Pharyngula comments section, so we only rarely see the woo peddlers confidently blithering away…but there they are, spouting inanities as if there are no fierce hunters of woo in the neighborhood. But we are watching. Some critics are responding intelligently over there, but they’re outnumbered, I think.

So here are a few excerpts for your amusement.

I brought up the subject out of curiosity because if Myers is a telepathy denier, then he is a shade dogmatic. My own experience has convinced me that telepathy happens, most often on the level of feelings, but sometimes including mental content. Unlike NDE’s, of course, nothing can be claimed to follow from this about survival after death.

Show me the evidence. “Feelings” are not evidence.

I’m not reporting a scientific experiment, just a belief – a conclusion – reached on the basis on personal experience. It’s not a belief I wouldn’t absolutely *never* give up, but it would take a lot to dislodge it.

Several people made comments like this: NDEs aren’t “science”, therefore you can’t disprove them with science. They’re complaining about me, though, not Beauregard, who’s trying to claim he has scientific evidence for the phenomenon. Why weren’t they telling Beauregard to get out of town in his original post?

Here’s another example of this double-standard.

I find it hilarious how up in arms you guys are getting about this. I never got the impression that Beauregard was making any definitive statements in either of his articles. He was writing about some things that may or may not have happened, and it is up to the reader to decide what they want to believe. The fact is, you don’t know, Dr. Myers. Don’t act like you do, because absolutely no one in the scientific world can explain NDE’s definitively.

Except Beauregard, apparently.

What hilarious nonsense, though: “He was writing about some things that may or may not have happened”. Right. Shall we just say they didn’t happen as he described and be done with it?

I understand getting offended by something you consider pseudo-science, but your entire profession is based on theories that are constantly up for debate and can ALWAYS be proven wrong. I would like you to say something positive about this subject, because as of yet you have not made a single statement that confirms you have any interesting ideas about it. To brush aside so many people’s accounts of similar experiences AND the positive effects they have had on people’s lives is arrogant, and frankly pretty unscientific. There will always be, and should always be, things we can’t explain in this world. Deal with it.

I didn’t brush those experiences aside, of course. I explained them: NDEs are the product of psychological confabulation. I know, my answer doesn’t mention ghosts, though, so he rejects it.

You can trust him, though. He’s a scientist.

Dude, I have an M.S. in Biology from a well-respected university, where I studied under a University Fellowship. I do think I know what it means to be a scientist.

Heh. He has a Masters Degree…in Science!

I would be far more impressed with Myers’ overheated insistence on how scientific he is if he weren’t so keen to use such emotional and emotionally charged words and phrases such as “very silly article,” “feeble,” “some very, very strange beliefs,” “babbling piffle,” “nonsense,” and the like. Why does Myers care so very much that some people are open to the ideas that Beauregard espouses? Because he clearly cares a great deal. I’m sorry, I’m not buying the “I care because I’m a scientist!!” meme. He clearly has an emotional investment in people not believing that there could be life after death. His side of the aisle loves to use the argument that people WANT to believe that there is life after death, so that negates their entire argument. But if someone like him WANTS to believe that there isn’t, then that doesn’t disprove their position, nooooo, oh no. I find this rant disturbing, not scientific. I’m not in any position to evaluate the science of the original article, but if Meyers is so scientific, then he could have given his rebuttal in a cool and unemotional way instead of resorting to insults. Give me a break. My understanding is that scientists are openminded. Myers’ stance in this rebuttal clearly does not fit that very basic criterion. His mind is made up. I would wager that it wouldn’t matter what evidence was presented, he wouldn’t accept it.

Myer’s should just blast holes in the research but he is ranting and raving like a lunatic. Editors at Salon- Can you get some qualified columnists to discuss these topics? I’d suggest Dean Radin for one side and someone other than biologist Myers on the other. Maybe a physicist?

Then follows several comments where they talk about how I ought to be replaced with a physicist. Of course, it must be a physicist who is sympathetic to magic.

But I don’t count. See, I’m just a biologist, not a neuroscientist.

Leaving aside the sarcasm and nonsequiturs in your “response”, how exactly are you qualified to evaluate the work of Beauregard? You state that you are a biologist, not a neuroscientist or psychologist. Are you an expert in life forms with or without brains?

Well, actually, I have a Ph.D. from the Institute of Neuroscience at the University of Oregon, but I’m not playing credential games. You just to be competent and aware of the basics of the scientific method to see that Beauregard was babbling bullshit.

Also, the references to some “primordial matrix” may seem odd at first, until you realize it sounds very similar to Jungian theory. And there are many things empirical science has still not been able to explain that are commonplace. We still do not know why women menstruate per the lunar cycle unlike other mammals, or why bumblebees can fly. Yet they do, and always have.

You had me laughing at Jung. But I have to correct you: women do not menstruate on the lunar cycle, and in fact the phase of the moon pretty much has nothing to do with reproductive physiology. We also know how bumblebees fly; google “clap and fling” for lots of links to the details of the aerodynamics.

Wouldn’t you know it, but someone has to trot out vibrations. It’s always vibrations and quantum with these weirdos.

Again, paranormal “events” and and realities exist in a frequency range beyond current measuring tools. Arguing that they should is silly and about as productive as the old joke about the guy looking for his keys under the lamp post.

Before radio and TV was invented, the frequencies for them existed. If you told someone like Myers in 1300 about them he would have burned you at the stake.

This rationalist-reductionist viewpoint is an archaic dinosaur. In 50 years people will look back and wonder at the cache of such a primitive, mundane world view.

Many of the materialists here are progressives politically but don’t realize in this debate you are the right wing.

You either get it or you don’t. And since its a karmic issue, no one is to blame.

What exactly is that frequency, Kenneth? Be specific. I can look up the electromagnetic spectrum as well as anyone (well, as anyone but you), and I don’t see the mysterious gap that we can’t measure.

I’m not a burny kind of guy, so you probably wouldn’t have to worry, even in 1300. But then as now, I’d ask you for your evidence for radio waves and psi waves or whatever silly stuff you’re going on about. Got any? Or are you just talking out of your ass? I can show you instruments that record radio waves and give us good reason to believe they are there. No one can do the same for your paranormal powers, so until you do, those beliefs should be rejected.

One last example, then I’m done. My karma is full up right now.

I understand what Meyers is saying but I was watching a PBS documentary on the sun. They explained why the sun doesn’t burn out and why it doesn’t fly apart. I just want to know how they know that for a fact.

Complex answer: the sun is a massive nuclear fusion engine. Gravity compresses the core causing the fusion of hydrogen atoms into helium, which generates energy and heat, which causes the expansion of the star. These forces of compression and expansion are currently in balance. (Yes, I know, stellar nucleosynthesis is more complicated than that.)

Simple answer: Look up during the day. There’s the sun. It’s still burning, and it hasn’t flown apart. You can tell by looking at it.

But what do I know? I’m just a biologist.

1. says

I would be far more impressed with Myers’ overheated insistence on how scientific he is if he weren’t so keen to use such emotional and emotionally charged words and phrases such as “very silly article,” “feeble,” “some very, very strange beliefs,” “babbling piffle,” “nonsense,” and the like.

You know, unless it actually was silly, feeble, babbling piffle.

Oh, hey, that might explain it.

This rationalist-reductionist viewpoint is an archaic dinosaur. In 50 years people will look back and wonder at the cache of such a primitive, mundane world view.

Yes, and they’ll also wonder why there used to be heat engines and electronic computers that actually worked during that ridiculous period. Must have been some kind of magic that we just need to learn the incantations for, and it’ll happen again.

Glen Davidson

2. michaellatiolais says

Wow. They are still pulling out the bumblebee shit? How…pathetic….

3. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

I’m shocked no one brought up the very disturbing discovery that while we live in a time of dwarfs that there is evidence of pygmies.

4. kp71 says

Wackaloons. I can’t believe how many people still use that bumble bee canard.

5. Cuttlefish says

I was shocked at how many people wanted input from a physicist. Sorry, but this was not a question of physics.

6. StevoR says

“I understand what Meyers is saying but I was watching a PBS documentary on the sun. They explained why the sun doesn’t burn out and why it doesn’t fly apart. I just want to know how they know that for a fact.”

Complex answer: the sun is a massive nuclear fusion engine. Gravity compresses the core causing the fusion of hydrogen atoms into helium, which generates energy and heat, which causes the expansion of the star. These forces of compression and expansion are currently in balance. (Yes, I know, stellar nucleosynthesis is more complicated than that.)

Simple answer: Look up during the day. There’s the sun. It’s still burning, and it hasn’t flown apart. You can tell by looking at it.

Our daytime star isn’t burning at all but rather shining through core hydrogen-helium fusion.

It doesn’t fly apart because of gravity.

Stars (incl.our Sun) are the result of a stalemate between gravity trying to crush everything inwards and radiation presssure from the stellar (solar) core trying to blast everything outwards.

Hoew do we know this? Well there’s a very long and complex history involving people like Isaac Newton, Fraunhofer, Russell & Hertzsprung and many others thinking and calculating and observing and testing their observations and modelling them and classifying how our star fits in compared with other suns so on.

Short answer – because people took the time and effort to work it out using the scientific method.

7. StevoR says

Do’h. Blockquote fail. Sorry.

PZ ‘s quote ends and my response begins at theline :

“Our daytime star isn’t burning at all but rather shining through core hydrogen-helium fusion.”

8. Amphiox says

Again, paranormal “events” and and realities exist in a frequency range beyond current measuring tools.

The current measuring tools encompass a continuous range without gaps. So “beyond” must mean either too high or too low to be measured.

If too low, we are talking about wavelengths the size of planetary diameters, which would require a receiver on the scale of a planetary orbit.

Last I checked, humans don’t have any organs that big.

If too high, we are talking about energies beyond gamma ray range. That has its own peculiar problems. Like you know what the Large Hadron Collider does? That’s what such frequencies of radiation would do to your DNA (or any other molecule in your body).

9. Amphiox says

Well, I will give it this – there’s nothing, in principle, that prevents telepathy from existing, unlike things like souls, and nothing, in principle, that would prevent a telepathic species from evolving.

It is SO possible that humans (who aren’t that naturally evolved species), went ahead and invented a technological aid that GIVES them functional telepathy.

It’s called a cell-phone.

10. says

I didn’t know people with an M.S. in Biology go around addressing other scientists as “dude”.
Live and learn…

11. Naked Bunny with a Whip says

Yeah, how can physicists claim to know anything about nuclear fusion? It’s not like we can observe it directly, right?

12. Naked Bunny with a Whip says

Sorry, but this was not a question of physics.

But…but…quantum!

13. ibyea says

Someone has to educate these idiots about quantum mechanics. I am so sick and tired of quantum=mystic BS.

14. Naked Bunny with a Whip says

So “beyond” must mean either too high or too low to be measured.

No, no. You’re thinking so one-dimensionally. What about vibrations that are at right angles to electromagnetism? The brain might polarize those with quantum electron waves, using them to communicate with our souls.

(If I could keep this up for 120 pages, I’d be rich.)

15. says

Simple answer: Look up during the day. There’s the sun. It’s still burning, and it hasn’t flown apart. You can tell by looking at it.

And if you look at it long enough, you won’t have to eat anymore!

16. John Morales says

[meta]

ibyea, if only they’d chosen ‘chunky’ instead of ‘quantum’ back in the day, eh?

:)

17. I brought up the subject out of curiosity because if Myers is a telepathy denier, then he is a shade dogmatic. My own experience has convinced me that telepathy happens, most often on the level of feelings, but sometimes including mental content.

Mirror neurons, fuckwit. Try reality, like learning some neuroscience.

18. Cuttlefish:

I was shocked at how many people wanted input from a physicist.

Same here. How about running this crap by a neuroscientist*, ya know, those people who study braaaaiiiinz.

*Of course, PZ has that pesky degree, so that wouldn’t work.

19. A. R says

20. shouldbeworking says

That piffle would be more believable if the authors used more math stuff. That always works.

21. xenithrys says

I’m surprised he had to ask if PZ believes in telepathy; you’d think he’d kind of know.

22. ibyea says

If I had the authority to delve out punishment, I would force them to learn all the physics and calculus so that in the end, they would be forced to solve Schrodinger’s equation for the hydrogen atom without any help. Not even a hint that they would have to solve it in spherical coordinate, or what the Laplacian in spherical is.

23. physicsphdstu says

I am assuming that the sun question person was not a total idiot and was asking how we know that fusion is happening in the sun or the interplay between gravity and fusion.

We have actually acheived fusion in labs(even though not in an efficient way to use it as a powersource yet) and from the sun we can measure by products of fusion like neutrinoes etc.

Interplay between gravity and fusion. We have predicted the life cycle of a star and have observed stars in all the stages including supernovae where gravity loses and the star goes KaBOOM.

24. says

@physicsphdstu, #23:

Were you there? Therefore, souls. Therefore, near death experiences. Checkmate, atheists!

25. Wowbagger, Madman of Insleyfarne says

I was in shock that they all appeared to have spelled ‘Myers’ correctly – until I got to the last one where the extra ‘e’ appeared.

26. says

They explained why the sun doesn’t burn out and why it doesn’t fly apart. I just want to know how they know that for a fact.

It’s pretty simple, really. If the sun were expanding (flying apart, whatever), the pressure and temperature in the core would decline due to the expansion (you need to know some physics, I can’t tell you everything). Meanwhile, the sun would continue to radiate energy, because it’s hot, so the entire star would cool, and then it would contract again, heat up through gravitational energy and fusion, and might expand once again due to that. Likely there were rounds of expansion and contraction in the early sun.

The reason the sun doesn’t burn out quickly (it’ll last another 4 or 5 billion years) is that there’s a hell of a lot of very energy-rich fuel, which doesn’t burn up too rapidly because if it did, the sun would heat up, expand, and the fusion rate would decrease–or even stop. Nonetheless, the sun is using fuel faster and faster, I believe mostly because density in the core is increasing as hydrogen atoms are compacted into helium atoms.

Yet the sun will burn out, as will all stars eventually. The reason we have a planet is that certain processes cause explosions of large stars (powered by fusion in supernovae Ia, gravitational energy in supernovae II) at the ends of their lives. Thereby the nebula from which our planet formed was enriched in iron, oxygen, silicon, and magnesium, and a host of other elements. The balance of normal stars no longer holds during supernovae explosions, and so energy releases can be enormous over very short periods of time.

By the way, fission plants using water as a moderator also rely upon expansion of fuel and moderator (especially as it boils, if it gets really hot) to partly control the reaction rate. There are important differences, but generally expansion reduces mass nuclear reactions.

Glen Davidson

27. Random Mutant says

I understand what Meyers [sic] is saying but I was watching a PBS documentary on the sun. They explained why the sun doesn’t burn out and why it doesn’t fly apart. I just want to know how they know that for a fact.

Fucken magnets! The sun will burn out, and it will fly apart. Just not for a wee while yet. However, there are plenty that have, and plenty that are about to, and some have even been observed in the process.

Fucken telescopes, how do they work?!?

28. A. R says

Fucken telescopes, how do they work?!?

Magnets!

29. elfsternberg says

I recently had the displeasure of running into one of these fuckwits in the context of pornography: he was convinced that porn caused brain damaged. He had a pair of studies, one of which showed brain activity caused by meth in rats followed by discernable changes to brain structure upon dissection, and another that shows that those parts of the brain show activity in CAT scans while watching porn.

After pointing out that “watchng porn while in a giant, loud, rotating, helium-cooled electromagnet” was hardly a normal and daily activity for even the most consumed porn-hound, I proceeded to show that his analogy was tragically wrong, and that there was far stronger evidence, based upon at least six studies, that the availability of pornography in a given territorial region was strongly correlated with a drop in the rates of rape, and that no study yet had found a counter-trend.

“I choose not to believe that.”

I swear, my jaw just about dropped. How do you choose to ignore reality?

30. Dhorvath, OM says

elfsternberg,
Defiantly.

31. leftwingfox says

Woobie: “I want a quantum physicist’s opinion!”

Quantum Physicist: “Ok” (raises a bullhorn). “IT’S BULLSHIT!!”

Woobie: “Noo! I mean a REAL quantum physicist. Like Deepak Chopra!”

32. christophburschka says

Bumblebee. Wing goes up, wing goes down. You can’t explain that!

33. eigenperson says

Fun fact: In those days before televisions and radio, we didn’t have people going around postulating sans evidence the existence of invisible radiation that could be used to communicate and questioning the progressive credentials of those who dared to attack their strongly held personal beliefs.

That’s because as soon as someone actually discovered that radio waves might possibly exist and be usable for communication, they started building an apparatus to communicate with them. And it actually worked.

If you think your idea has any basis in fact, you should try building the machine.

34. unclefrogy says

I was going to make a comment about the sun not dieing yet but ““I choose not to believe that.”” took the wind right out the moment.
I think I’ll go and play solitaire and wait till another day

uncle frogy

35. picool says

Hooray! It’s Dr. Science! At least he doesn’t claim that his invented reality has any validity.

36. broken.cynic says

FTB so needs Like buttons, or an upvote/downvote system… and the OM’s could be at least partially automated (and internet polls being sacred around here, that would work flawlessly, right!?)

37. says

Why have I never heard of Dr. Science before. That was genius!

Also:

Myer’s should just blast holes in the research but he is ranting and raving like a lunatic.

We’re discovering new and exciting ways of misspelling Myers!

38. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

Are you an expert in life forms with or without brains?

Perhaps an expert in life forms without brains WOULD be better qualified to evaluate Boregard, and the various sycophants defending Bueraegourd’s twaddle.

39. Lars says

Woobie: “I want a quantum physicist’s opinion!”

Quantum Physicist: “Ok” (raises a bullhorn). “IT’S BULLSHIT!!”

Woobie: “Noo! I mean a REAL quantum physicist. Like Deepak Chopra!”

40. The Swordfish, Supreme Overlord of Sporks says

Waitwaitwait. You got your Ph.D. here in Eugene? OMG SQUEE. :D

41. The Swordfish, Supreme Overlord of Sporks says

Anyway, civic pride that my hometown can be associated with the Poopyhead aside:

There will always be, and should always be, things we can’t explain in this world. Deal with it.

It never ceases to amaze me how utterly sanctimonious woo-peddlers of all varieties are, and how actively, consciously resistant they are to the very concept that ignorance isn’t automatically a good thing. Even aside from the infuriatingly deontic language this moron applied (as though xe’s somehow the arbiter of what should and shouldn’t be), the comment is just dripping with self-satisfied, holier-than-thou arrogance. Maybe I’m just too jaded from living in the US and Christianity’s excesses have ceased to register to me as they should, but this stuff actually makes me angrier than simple religious stupidity.

42. Marcus Hill says

eigenperson @33: That argument reminds me of this.

43. concernedjoe says

This has to be the defining point between a brain wired toward woo and and brain not! Seriously I think it really boils down to the chemistry of it all – and yes nurture can push the reaction to degrees one way or the other within a range, but really, “chi nasce tondo non può morire quadrato”

Woo propensity version:

There will always be, and should always be, things we can’t explain in this world. Deal with it.

Non-woo propensity version:

There will always be, and should always be, things we can’t [haven’t yet] explain[ed] in this world. [And we] Deal with it[them and find answers through the processes of science and honest discovery].

Really there is no fighting most of these people – you’d have to do major brain reconfiguration – and I mean actually physically!

44. KG says

concernedjoe@44,

Do you have any actual evidence for that claim?

45. concernedjoe says

LOL KG

For now short answer akin to: “There’s the sun. It’s still burning, and it hasn’t flown apart. You can tell by looking at it.”

I am not inclined nor free enough to do a research dissertation here. OK I guess I have to fall on my sword by default.. but not so easily – I will give a small bit of a fight.

(1) There is empirical evidence that even after extensive education and therapy some people cannot full change whatever and indeed direct manipulation of the brain or other regulatory systems is the only way of allaying certain behaviors to the degree needed,

(2) the notion of “freewill, an illusion” has been discussed with references herein (other posts) extensively – I think you have been a participant; these discussions and references are germane to my point,

and (3) studies e.g., Altemeyer’s RWA work illustrate the reticence of some people regardless of prompting and education.

Now I believe I am being honest that the above exists in the literature. That does not mean there does not exist counterpoint.

However for me I see no other way around the “willful” stupidity of otherwise intelligent and sane people. I am not the definitive speaker on these issues granted .. but I’ve not seen another explanation that makes sense.

Do you have one KG?

I say all this in peace BTW. Your comment was a fair one in general.

46. johnwolforth says

” so we only rarely see the woo peddlers confidently blithering away”

You should get out more. Into the woo-ish places on the internet at least. I realize the fundamentalists are a big part of the problem, but there are just as many like the commenters you encountered at Salon. They have normal jobs, believe in evolution and global warming, but they don’t quite get science.

I think it is a population that has more potential partners in the fight against ignorance, so worth getting some understanding.

47. concernedjoe says

BTW I am not saying anyone who believes BS is incorrigible in the long run.

Schooling, peer pressure, experiences, life context, behavior modification regimes, personal scholarship, explained evidence, etc. work to change people and their beliefs.

But not all people – and the exceptions are significant.

So what is different?

One explanation is “gold in dem dar hills” or punishment avoidance. So the charlatan or beneficiary of a behavior feigns belief – maybe self deluding – because the cost of admitting non-belief is too high. But here the external forces are usually evident. These people are not fixated as I was stipulating above.

The other explanation is it is a “pathological inclination”. And again I am referring to this subset.

48. KG says

concernedjoe,

There is empirical evidence that even after extensive education and therapy some people cannot full change whatever

the notion of “freewill, an illusion” has been discussed with references herein (other posts) extensively – I think you have been a participant; these discussions and references are germane to my point,

How?

Altemeyer’s RWA work illustrate the reticence of some people regardless of prompting and education.

Reticence? What’s reticence got to do with anything under discussion? Again, an English translation is requested.

I’ve not seen another explanation that makes sense.

That’s not evidence for your explanation, nor is the onus on me to supply an alternative. It’s ironic that you make claims without evidence in a post complaining about belief in claims without evidence.

49. Marcus Hill says

concernedjoe: There’s a difference between “people’s behaviour and attitudes are not as easily moved as you might think” and “people’s behaviour and attitudes are biologically determined”.

50. benco says

“How do you know the sun is going to rise tomorrow?”
“Well, it’s risen every day so far”

51. concernedjoe says

KG OK – I’ll try to clean up the English and offer a bit more explanation.

There is empirical evidence that even after extensive education and non-physical therapy some people do not change in feelings and behaviors. (really are you disputing this – counterpointing with your own evidence?!?!?)

52. concernedjoe says

Continued..

The notion of “free will is an illusion” is part and parcel to the whole concept about how in control we are of ourselves and how malleable we are in general. (you really do not see any connection?)

Perhaps reticence is wrong word .. but “resistance to change” hopefully works for your understanding. I referenced Altemeyer’s work that rigorously speaks to the notion I was addressing. (you may disagree with Altemeyer’s work but do you really not see my point?)

Are you really saying my statements are invalid prima facie? That they have no support in any way via experience or appropriate literature that have been discussed herein? That they are so far reality that your prima facie dismissal of them is warranted and that your obligation to provide some counterpoint in the friendly discussion is non-existent?

KG I mean no harm and I know you understand my gist. You may disagree with my gist and you may be right to disagree. But this forum is not for my PhD – it is to exchange some thoughts. I welcome your opinions. And I like to learn and change. But simply invalidating my gist via attacks on the rigor being not up to publication standards and on the form and fir not being perfect really does not add to the discuss.

You obviously disagree with my gist – in this forum it would behoove a gentleperson to add insights and knowledge to help me and perhaps others not have the opinions I professed above.

53. Brother Ogvorbis: Advanced Accolyte of Tpyos says

How do you choose to ignore reality?

One word: Republicans (in the USA, anyway). They get rich doing that.

Denying reality allows woo medicine (which is an easier way to get rich in medicine than, say, a medical degree), religion (which has always been a good way to live comfortably), anti-science (if AGW is real, then oil companies might have to change and I might have to get rid of my Hummer!). And, considering the pathetic way that science is taught in most USA middle and high schools, it is far easier to make money by fleecing the gullible than it is to do it by embracing reality.

54. concernedjoe says

#50 Marcus Hill

Nature and nurture applies.

All is chemistry and physics. We are born with a nature so to speak .. to the extent part of our nature is malleable we change via the effects of nurture (external and internal forces).

We are programmable. But as with any computer and operating system there are limits set by the architecture and design – and the flaws or lack of flaws – built-in.

Perhaps I missed your point so I offered more words.. now can you rephrase? Thanks.

55. 'Tis Himself says

<blockquote cite = "creationist:I’m not in any position to evaluate the science of the original article, but if Meyers [sic] is so scientific, then he could have given his rebuttal in a cool and unemotional way instead of resorting to insults. Give me a break.

Tone trolling is alive and well in the woo world.

Incidentally, tone troll, Salon is not a scientific journal. An emotionless demeanor is not a requirement in a couple of articles Salon reprinted from a blog.

56. speedweasel says

I hate the extension of the ‘Sun argument’ whereby some believer claims that because the Sun has neither blown apart nor collapsed into itself, this is proof of some higher power.

“Because something is the way it is, that’s the way it was meant to be.”

Sigh…

57. flaq says

How do we know this? Well there’s a very long and complex history involving people like Isaac Newton, Fraunhofer, Russell & Hertzsprung and many others thinking and calculating and observing and testing their observations and modelling them and classifying how our star fits in compared with other suns so on.

Short answer – because people took the time and effort to work it out using the scientific method.

This is well put.
In other words, we gained this knowledge because of people who weren’t satisfied to throw up their hands and say, “I guess there are some things we’ll never know.”

I get why people give up like that — after all, it’s a shit-ton of work to actually do all that observing and calculating and most people just aren’t up for it. Fine. But why do so many of those same people try to claim some kind of perverse spiritual high ground with this cop-out position? It seem like when you say this:

“just because we don’t understand it now doesn’t mean we never will,”

they hear this:

“there is no mystery in the world, everything is knowable, and I’m an arrogant prick.”

Fuckin people. How do they work??

58. w00dview says

We still do not know why women menstruate per the lunar cycle unlike other mammals, or why bumblebees can fly.

I fucking love this argument, it’s basically “Science (or more usually, just me) can’t explain this phenomenon so my woo is probably the answer!” Intellectual laziness at it’s finest.

You are damn right about the flaming stupidity of a lot of comment sections. In fact, Freethought blogs is one of the few places where I love the comment section. When kooks are not being torn to shreds, I usually learn something just by reading the well thought out arguments given by the regulars. So win-win.

59. KG says

concernedjoe,

Thanks for the attempts at clarification.

There is empirical evidence that even after extensive education and non-physical therapy some people do not change in feelings and behaviors.

That’s true. The most obvious cases are psychopaths. However, it’s not clear that this applies to belief in woo: I don’t know of any evidence on either side of that question. I’m not saying there isn’t any, but inviting you to supply some if you know of it.

The notion of “free will is an illusion” is part and parcel to the whole concept about how in control we are of ourselves and how malleable we are in general. (you really do not see any connection?)

No, none whatever. You are claiming some people are not maleable in a specific respect, but it’s not clear how you think malleability is related to the claim that free will is an illusion. Are you saying that “free will is an illusion” implies that we should expect more malleability, or less?

Perhaps reticence is wrong word .. but “resistance to change” hopefully works for your understanding.

There’s no “perhaps” about it: it’s obviously the wrong word. Yes, some people are resistant to change, but that doesn’t tell us what the source of that resistance is.

You obviously disagree with my gist

I neither agree nor disagree. I don’t know how far a propensity to believe in woo is innate (which is what I take your “gist” to be – but I could be wrong, because you haven’t expressed it at all clearly, even now).

60. Sastra says

What a target-rich environment.

“I never got the impression that Beauregard was making any definitive statements in either of his articles. He was writing about some things that may or may not have happened, and it is up to the reader to decide what they want to believe.”

I think part of the reason for the double standard (“science can be used to support spiritual beliefs, but it may never be used to count against it”) is the easy habit of shifting categories people have formed when it comes to religion. Because the fact claims are mixed in with meaning claims, they tend to get blurred together. Attacking somebody’s hypothesis is therefore just like attacking someone’s personal taste — or, worse, the values they live by.

That’s why it’s so important to work at getting people to separate them. Faith confuses a commitment to believe X with the ability to commit to anything significant.

“You either get it or you don’t. And since its a karmic issue, no one is to blame.”

Yep, right here is the distinction between the science-based approach to knowledge and the faith-based approached to Knowledge. “For those who believe, no evidence is necessary; for those who don’t believe, no evidence is possible.” Vicious anti-humanist, anti-science world-view. Conclusions aren’t rational progression from evidence. Oh no — they’re really reflections of a person’s basic character. The honest search for truth is a matter of giving in to biases and predispositions. You believe — or don’t believe — because of who and what you are.

It’s all subjective. The reality-check of science is simply window-dressing when approached from this assumption. It’s about people, not facts. The wise will intuit the truth by following their preferences, their karmic nature. Good people have good preferences; bad people have bad preferences. Or, more charitable (i.e. more passively aggressive) types will talk about who has grown in the spiritual sense and who is still sadly stuck at the lower levels — developmental delay due to stubbornness and closed minds.

“I’m sorry, I’m not buying the “I care because I’m a scientist!!” meme. He clearly has an emotional investment in people not believing that there could be life after death. His side of the aisle loves to use the argument that people WANT to believe that there is life after death, so that negates their entire argument. But if someone like him WANTS to believe that there isn’t, then that doesn’t disprove their position, nooooo, oh no.”

Why the hell would anyone NOT want to live forever in the happy states of bliss they describe? Again, they’re trying to take the objective truth of the issue out of consideration and focus instead on dividing people into intractable types: those who respond, embrace, intuit, and “get it” vs. those who don’t. And the latter type are meanies with a wicked, cruel nature. They don’t WANT people to be happy.

It’s the same sort of thinking as that which allows the damned in Hell to not only deserve it, but deserve it forever. Cartoon bad guys on the other side.

I think tendencies towards magical thinking may be more genetically imbedded in some people than others — but the same might be said for most character traits. Chances are that nobody is born with an incapacity to reason themselves out an instinctive reaction, or to find it absolutely impossible to separate what is true from what they want to be true. They virtually all understand this important distinction in other areas of their life. It’s just that, when it comes to Truths of the Spirit, suddenly they think all restrictions are off. We’re now in the area of values and meaning, and different rules apply.

That part is learned. And it’s wrong.

So I’m also a little concerned that concernedjoe sounds a bit like he’s too eager to ascribe views to the ‘type’ of person who holds them, but I think I get what he’s saying. He’s not playing the same game as the woosters — where “getting it” completely depends on having a ‘soul’ with the right instincts.

61. christopherg says

Never mind menstrual cycles.

There’s plenty of evidence that organisms can detect tidal influences. This isn’t evidence of astrology, but it is evidence of the underlying concept, that tidal forces affect behavior.

I’m curious as to what Dr. Meyers thinks of the work of Frank Brown. In essence, he proved that oysters open and close their shells in correlation to the tidal force itself, not by detecting ocean waves.

http://ajplegacy.physiology.org/content/178/3/510.extract

He went on to show that crab shell colors are influenced by when they are born. Since then, many other studies have been conducted with similarly positive results on a range of organisms.

Sooo….. sorry to point that out to all you skeptics. Google “tidal rhythmicity” and get back to me.

62. a miasma of incandescent plasma says

RE: PBS Sun documentary…

Yeah, I also saw a Nova episode (Secrets of the Sun) a couple weeks ago, probably what the oh-so-smrt commenter was referring to. It was a great episode, containing very detailed and clear explanations of our current understanding of how our star works.

http://www.tvguide.com/tvshows/nova-2012/episode-19-season-39/secrets-of-the-sun/191695

Looks like someone wasn’t paying attention. Appeal to ignorance, anyone?

63. says

“I’d forgotten how silly other sites could be”

64. Brother Ogvorbis: Advanced Accolyte of Tpyos says

Dr. Meyers

Heh.

If you read the above comments, you will note that the mocking has been directed explicitely at this phrase:

We still do not know why women menstruate per the lunar cycle unlike other mammals, or why bumblebees can fly.

Read that quote carefully. Read what you wrote. Do you see the problem?

65. christopherg:

Sooo….. sorry to point that out to all you skeptics. Google “tidal rhythmicity” and get back to me.

Hiya, dimwit! Tell you what, we’ll get back to you when you can figure out the overwhelming task of looking at the right sidebar to see how PZ’s name is spelled, so that you get it right. Bonus points if you figure out how to preview & proof!

66. christopherg says

Are you talking to me, Brother OggVorbis?

Yes, the person who wrote the menstrual cycle bumblebee thing was pretty daft. So what?

My point is, if lunar tides affect a range of organisms, why not people? And the evidence is pretty damn strong that tidal forces (and not just ocean wave-action or any other physical cues) affect marine animals.

Yet physicists invoke the inverse-square law to show that this is impossible. It’s kind of a dirty little secret in biology that not only is it not impossible, it happens to all kinds of organisms.

67. KG says

cristopherg,

Maybe you can help us here. How did you get to be such a fuckwit? Was it innate, or did you have to work at it?

Never mind menstrual cycles.

But that was exactly what was in question, shit-for-brains. Now, point out to us sceptics exactly where any one of us has denied that there are tidal influences on some organisms. Specifically those that, like oysters, live in environments where ecologically important factors such as the availability of food or the prevalence of predators depend on the tidal cycle.

68. concernedjoe says

KG – “I don’t know how far a propensity to believe in woo is innate (which is what I take your “gist” to be – but I could be wrong, because you haven’t expressed it at all clearly, even now).” Yup you got it. So my ability to write clearly is a moot point.

Let’s take it from Sastra’s “So I’m also a little concerned that concernedjoe sounds a bit like he’s too eager to ascribe views to the ‘type’ of person who holds them, but I think I get what he’s saying. He’s not playing the same game as the woosters — where “getting it” completely depends on having a ‘soul’ with the right instincts.”

I am saying people have an innate nature – part of that nature is how programmable they are as well as other traits relating to how receptive are they to changing opinions and beliefs.

RWA people are more resistant than others it has been proposed for instance. I buy that – that is my opinion for now.

This all speaks to susceptibility to woo and the like.

It all boils down to people that REALLY hold a belief that is contrary to evidence that is available and made understandable. This is not rational at a base level. There may be reasons a person “fakes” belief in the unsupportable but real belief is otherwise something of a different nature.

I am not saying a person is born with woo in their head but with a nature to NEED to lock onto something and hold it with such a tenacity that even evidence cannot not move the opinion. To illustrate – could be woo or could be Communism. I see the RWA work as one way of more rigorously expressing my view.

As to why I posted my original comment here was because I see no other general explanation as to why people have such a resistance to the facts in the subject at hand.

To add a further thought – what explains a Ken Miller?

69. says

Sooo….. sorry to point that out to all you skeptics. Google “tidal rhythmicity” and get back to me.

Oh, I just love a display of arrogance like this!

70. christopherg says

@Caine, Fleur du mal, OM

Oh yes, because ad-hominem is so clever. You have to be a genius to even understand that level of argument. Wasn’t the point of this very blog post about how much better the comments are here than at Salon?

LOL!

Fine, I misspelled his name. Sorry, won’t do it again. His name is Dr. Myers. There, are you happy?

For what it’s worth I thoroughly enjoyed his takedown of NDEs, and agree with essentially everything he wrote on the subject. As for you, you just lost all respect by engaging in personal attacks. So don’t bother to fulfill your snarky promise of getting back to me, now that I’ve fulfilled your specious requirement.

71. says

My point is, if lunar tides affect a range of organisms, why not people? And the evidence is pretty damn strong that tidal forces (and not just ocean wave-action or any other physical cues) affect marine animals.

You do realize that tidal forces ARE just a form of physical cues, right? Tidal forces, and any possible physiological response in animals to these forces, can be explained physically. You know, using science. No magical quantum woo required.

72. Brother Ogvorbis: Advanced Accolyte of Tpyos says

Are you talking to me, Brother OggVorbis?

No, actually ‘Brother Ogvorbis’ was directing a comment to you in response to your earlier comment.

Yes, the person who wrote the menstrual cycle bumblebee thing was pretty daft. So what?

So that is one of the points that was being discussed earlier in the thread and in the original post.

My point is, if lunar tides affect a range of organisms, why not people? And the evidence is pretty damn strong that tidal forces (and not just ocean wave-action or any other physical cues) affect marine animals.

Please show me where anyone, on this thread, has implied that no organisms are effected by tides. You may either quote the relevant text or point to a comment number and name. Either will work.

Yet physicists invoke the inverse-square law to show that this is impossible. It’s kind of a dirty little secret in biology that not only is it not impossible, it happens to all kinds of organisms.

We were not, before you and your comment about ‘Meyers’, talking about tides. The reference was to the idiocy and woo surrounding menstrual cycles.

73. christopherg says

Where did I say anything about quantum woo?

But you are in fact, incorrect. Ask a physicist.

The inverse square law means that the tidal force of your desk at work has a higher force than the moon or the sun. It’s the principle reason that physicists object to the principle of astrology. They say the tidal forces of the sun and the moon can’t affect something as small as your body, much less an oyster’s body.

And before you dash off a heated letter accusing me of being an astrologer, I am not.

74. christopherg:

Oh yes, because ad-hominem is so clever.

Your stupidity is not in the least amusing. Dimwit is an insult, not a logical fallacy. Like most dimwits, you don’t have the slightest fucking idea of what an ad hominem* is or how they work.

Try to learn something, you fuckwitted dimbulb.**

*This is link. Click it and try very hard to comprehend something.
**Insult.

75. Marcus Hill says

concernedjoe: My whole point was that you can’t disentangle nature from nurture based on behaviours alone. Your initial post was about chemistry and brain wiring and, whilst the neural connections are formed by experiences, brain chemistry is affected by genetics and environmental factors rather than learning. You seem to be implying (and correct me if I’m misunderstanding you) that there is a significant element of biological inborn propensity to be susceptible to woo.

I suspect the extent to which genetic factors play a part in this is not accessible to any ethical methodology, or even any feasible unethical ones. You’d need to gather a significant cohort of identical twins, separate them all at birth and raise half of them in one big skeptical group home and another as part of a new age commune, and see if the relative degree of gullibility among each cohort was in a similar rank order by twins.

76. Matt Penfold says

My point is, if lunar tides affect a range of organisms, why not people? And the evidence is pretty damn strong that tidal forces (and not just ocean wave-action or any other physical cues) affect marine animals.

That tides can affect marine animals is pretty fucking obvious. Actually it is not just animals, since tides effect marine flora as well.

If you want evidence, visit the coast and compare high tide with low tide.

77. KG says

My point is, if lunar tides affect a range of organisms, why not people?

All that has been asserted, shit-for-brains, is that there is no evidence that menstrual cycles are affected by the lunar cycle. Can you get that through the concrete? It’s quite simple.

And the evidence is pretty damn strong that tidal forces (and not just ocean wave-action or any other physical cues) affect marine animals.

No, the evidence is pretty damn strong that some marine animals respond to something in their environment that varies with the tidal cycle. Some at least also have an endogeous timekeeping mechanism with an approximately 12.5 hour periodicity. If you have evidence that they are responding directly to the variation in gravitational forces that causes the tides, please link to it.

78. christopherg says

@Caine, Fleur du mal, OM

Oh, I’m pretty sure I understand ad-hominem.

I don’t need to listen to anything you say because you’re a butt-puppet.

79. Brother Ogvorbis: Advanced Accolyte of Tpyos says

christopherg:

Do you have any evidence you can provide for your assertion that marine animals (and plants) living in intertidal zones are affected directly by the gravitational force of the moon and sun?

80. concernedjoe says

Marcus in the main we are on same page.

I do not agree with “I suspect the extent to which genetic factors play a part in this is not accessible to any ethical methodology, or even any feasible unethical ones.” in a general sense because that is saying it is outside of science. It is a philosophy of science disagreement – not a disagree as to a point in time reality – you may be right re: here and now – I don’t know.

I am saying that there is a significant element of biological inborn propensity to be susceptible to the need to understand via authority or doctrine or dogma – and once a belief is set it is SET!

I may have mislead – but woo belief is just an example of holding a belief “’til the death” regardless of contrary evidence and logic

81. Matt Penfold says

christopherg – A man who has never heard of rockpools.

82. Marcus Hill says

christopherg: yes, and “everything you say is stupid and you’re a butt-puppet” is an insult, not an ad hom.

83. says

#62: The underlying concept of astrology is not that tidal forces affect behavior. If it were, they’d ignore all those other bodies beyond the moon.

You’re moving the goalposts. The assertion was that menstruation was coupled to the lunar cycle. It is not. Citing oysters does not change that fact.

In case you hadn’t noticed, women are not oysters.

84. christopherg says

*KG

I’m well aware that correlation does not equal causation, but yes, the link in my original post is to a paper showing that oysters open and close their shells in rhythm with the tidal forces themselves, with no other apparent physical mechanism to explain it.

Does that mean there’s no other mechanism? No, of course not. I think there probably is. I’m pretty comfortable with the inverse-square law. After all we kinda need it to travel into outer-space.

And to everyone jumping my case because you’re all discussing the menstrual cycle thing, I thought it relevant to point out that biology accepts other organisms seemingly affected by tidal forces. Sorry, didn’t mean to cause such a kerfluffle.

85. christopherg says

@Marcus

Nope, that would also be an ad-hominem. I’m not a junior debater, son.

If that’s the entirety of your “argument” then you are arguing to-the-man, and not to-the-argument.

If, however, you refute what I say, and THEN you say everything I say is stupid and I’m a butt-puppet, it’s not ad-hominem but just an insult.

86. says

Where did I say anything about quantum woo?

You may not have mentioned the words ‘quantum woo’, but you are suggesting some supernatural trait, are you not, since you are apparantly convinced that animals responding to tidal forces is physically impossible?

And as for the whole inverse square law, I’m not saying the organisms must respond to tidal forces directly. There’s a host of environmental changes that takes place in accordance with lunar cycles. For example (and I’m just throwing an idea out there, this is hardly my field!)changes in pressure from the surrounding water and air might be a possibility. All we’re saying is that there is currently no evidence for tidal influence in humans.

Actually, most organisms have a pretty accurate endogenous biological clock, which is fine tuned by environmetal cues (changes in light, day length,…).

87. Matt Penfold says

I’m well aware that correlation does not equal causation, but yes, the link in my original post is to a paper showing that oysters open and close their shells in rhythm with the tidal forces themselves, with no other apparent physical mechanism to explain it.

You mean other than be subjected currents created by the movement of water caused by the tidal action of the sun and moon ?

Oysters are not truly marine organisms, and they certainly do not thrive in water that is as salty as the sea. They much prefer living in water that is brackish, which means they will be subjected to changes in water level, and to changes in current, caused by tidal forces. Given they are filter feeders, it is not hard to see (except to you it would seem) why there might be pattern between when they feed (and thus will have their shells open) and the flow of water. Here is a hint: Think about nutrients.

88. Marcus Hill says

concernedjoe: I’m not saying it’s not accessible to science, only to our current ability to do it. There may in the future be some way to tell with some reliability which aspects of behaviour are genetically influenced and which are learned, but at present I don’t think there is. Hell, there’s still a live debate going on about the extent that genetics plays in determining sexual preference (as far as I know, I’m sure others will correct me if I’ve missed something) – so it’s pretty certain that something far more difficult to describe or quantify such as susceptibility to woo will be even harder to disentangle.

89. says

I’m well aware that correlation does not equal causation, but yes, the link in my original post is to a paper showing that oysters open and close their shells in rhythm with the tidal forces themselves, with no other apparent physical mechanism to explain it.

I suppose this is why the article ends with the following:

It is still not clear as to whether the mechanism of these variations is a temperature-independent endogenous metabolic clock of astounding precision or whether the frequency of the cycles is the result of direct induction by rhythms of exogenous forces of solar and lunar frequency.

90. Marcus Hill says

christopherg: “Everything you say is stupid” is not an ad hom. It’s not a well founded argument, but it’s only an ad hom if you add “because you’re a turdbrain”. Maybe you should go back to debating school.

91. Brother Ogvorbis: Advanced Accolyte of Tpyos says

I thought it relevant to point out that biology accepts other organisms seemingly affected by tidal forces.

First, I am an historian, not a biologist or any other form of scientist. Having said that, ‘tidal forces’ are not tides! Your implication, repeated implication, that we are a bunch of idiots because we don’t understand the role of tides in marine ecology is, to me, quite annoying. I can’t imagine how annoying it is to someone who actually studies this stuff.

92. christopherg says

@Matt Penfold

Nope. The study is behind a paywall unfortunately, but what Brown did is remove the oysters from the ocean and took them to a lab. He controlled for temperature, heat, light, etc. Yet after about 2 weeks the oysters synchronized as if they were in the ocean, correlating directly with the tidal force.

But this is hardly the only such experiment.

93. PZ:

In case you hadn’t noticed, women are not oysters.

Oh darn. I was going to use that as an excuse to move back to SoCal, so as to be near the ocean.

94. Sastra says

concernedjoe #69 wrote:

As to why I posted my original comment here was because I see no other general explanation as to why people have such a resistance to the facts in the subject at hand.

Well, I think one very general explanation might come down to the sort of sloppy thinking which can frame fact questions as identity statements. If you have committed yourself to believing something because you see this belief as separating those with valuable qualities from those without them, then “changing your mind” means you have to become a different kind of person. One who fails their commitments, for one thing.

I get this from my woo-friends. Whenever I try to challenge one of their pseudoscientific or spiritual “facts” with rational evidence and argument, they accuse me of trying to “make them be like me.” It’s as if I was trying to belittle them out of loving a certain type of art or music. I’m not respecting their proclivities. I’m denying who they are.

It’s as if the issue was secondary. Which, of course, it is — for them.

From what I can tell, Ken Miller, like most religious people, doesn’t seem to think “God” is just an empirical claim; it’s also a value, and he treats it like that. Category error. Religion excels at this even better than politics or other areas, because faith and loyalty is attached to the supernatural.

95. Matt Penfold says

Nope. The study is behind a paywall unfortunately, but what Brown did is remove the oysters from the ocean and took them to a lab. He controlled for temperature, heat, light, etc. Yet after about 2 weeks the oysters synchronized as if they were in the ocean, correlating directly with the tidal force.

But this is hardly the only such experiment.

But not for water level, water flow and direction and nutrient level, which are the very things that are effected by the tide.

Also, if you not aware that oysters are not marine organisms I really do have to question if you have the slightest idea of what you talking about.

96. Sastra says

christopherg #62 wrote:

There’s plenty of evidence that organisms can detect tidal influences. This isn’t evidence of astrology, but it is evidence of the underlying concept, that tidal forces affect behavior.

The underlying concept of astrology is not gravity; it’s sympathetic magic. ‘As above, so below.’

If you wanted to avoid being accused of defending ‘woo,’ then it wasn’t a good idea to bring up astrology here.

97. Anri says

My point is, if lunar tides affect a range of organisms, why not people? And the evidence is pretty damn strong that tidal forces (and not just ocean wave-action or any other physical cues) affect marine animals.

…can’t think what the issue might be, though. Can anyone help me out here? christopherg? Anyone?

98. Marcus Hill says

Matt: I just read the full study, and they did control for all of those things. The oysters were in a darkroom in a trough of water flowing past at a steady rate. They were around 1000 miles west of where they were harvested and over the course of around 15 days their times of maximum opening shifted from coinciding with high tide where they were harvested to the time of maximal tidal forces where at the lab.

99. says

As I mentioned earlier, the paper, which I actually have access to through my university, concludes with:

It is still not clear as to whether the mechanism of these variations is a temperature-independent endogenous metabolic clock of astounding precision or whether the frequency of the cycles is the result of direct induction by rhythms of exogenous forces of solar and lunar frequency.

Not such a conclusive proof of your case, now is it?

Also, from this review (http://www.nzetc.org/tm/scholarly/tei-Bio17Tuat03-t1-body-d5.html) it seems that Brown’s conclusions are at this point not the scientific consensus on the matter. The causal factors to lunar cycles are at this point not well understood, but don’t you dare pretend that what your claiming is established fact.

100. Matt Penfold says

…can’t think what the issue might be, though. Can anyone help me out here? christopherg? Anyone?

Don’t look to christopherg. He seems unable to grasp that organisms that are confronted with a massive change in their environment twice a day (in most places) as the result of tides might just change their behaviour depending on the state of the tide. After all shell-fish that finds itself exposed to their air at low-tide is still as capable of feeding as one that is still underwater.

101. Anri says

Ok, more seriously:

Yet after about 2 weeks the oysters synchronized as if they were in the ocean, correlating directly with the tidal force.

Synchronized with each other?
Or did they remain on the same ‘schedule’ as bodies of water they were no longer connected to?

(PS, if this is ‘hardly the only such experiment’, it would make life a lot easier for everyone here if you would reference one not behind a paywall.)

102. christopherg says

@Marcus

I’d be interested in reading about the consensus, and why Brown is out of it. Unlike what everyone seems to think, I am interested in the evidence. Do you have a link?

103. Marcus Hill says

Anri: still to each other (as far as I can tell), but not as if they were still “at home”, as if they were in a body of water located at the lab. The water they were actually in was just deep enough to cover them and flowing, so unlikely to be significantly tidal.

104. says

Wait…that Frank Brown paper is from 1954? This is the best he can do?

I can’t read the full paper, I’m afraid, but seeing a tidal rhythm in the lab is NOT an indication that they can sense tidal forces; to the contrary, it suggests that they have an internal tidal clock that anticipates changes associated with the tides. The question would be what factors entrain the rhythm, and I would strongly suspect that it would be other aspects of the environment than the incredibly weak tidal force. Tidal rhythms are like circadian rhythms; they aren’t caused by the moon or sun, they are biological clocks that approximate external events.

Other strange fact: I hadn’t heard of this Frank Brown paper before (not surprising: it’s old and doesn’t look that surprising). If you look on the web, though, it’s all over the place — about the only people talking about it are goddamned wacky astrologers, who use it as a poorly-understood justification for their superstitions. Christopherg has some suspiciously odd reading habits.

105. Marcus Hill says

chritopherg: ITYM pentatomid, I’m not a biologist and have no idea what the consensus is.

106. Matt Penfold says

Matt: I just read the full study, and they did control for all of those things. The oysters were in a darkroom in a trough of water flowing past at a steady rate.

So there was no such control.

Oysters live in brackish water, such as typically found in estuaries. A feature of estuaries is that water flow is not steady. Not only does the flow change direction, it is also not constant, with flows near high and low tide being much lower than at the mid-points between high and low tide. Also, the flow of water will not be consistent with regards nutrient load.

107. christopherg says

Never mind, the reply was from pentatomid. I see the link, thanks, I’ll check it out.

108. says

I am interested in the evidence.

I’m interested to know if you actually read the paper you cited. It’s obscure, it’s in a journal not even my university provides access to, and as pentatomid shows, the conclusion isn’t the slam dunk you claimed, either.

I’d also be interested to know how you came to find this odd paper and why you cited it, since it’s not even relevant to the claim at hand.

And since you’re interested in evidence, have you even looked at any introductory texts in biological rhythms?

109. Marcus Hill says

Matt: in all honesty, I couldn’t be arsed reading that closely – but wouldn’t keeping things constant in terms of flow of nutrients rather than reproducing the cycles in the natural habitat be the right way to isolate the effect of those environmental factors?

110. Marcus Hill says

PZ, I hope nobody would be so unethical as to use their own university’s access to send you a copy of the paper. In totally unrelated news, check your email.

111. Dhorvath, OM says

Marcus,
No, you would need to have groups in the stable environment, and other groups that are exposed to changes in one factor that they would normally encounter in the wild. Only after seeing how things vary under different conditions can we draw conclusions about which things affect their internal clock. Sadly, we can’t eliminate the lunar gravity, but everything else can be controlled for.

112. nooneinparticular says

Such silliness.

Christopherg never said, as far as I can tell, that women are oysters or that their menstrual cycles are tied to lunar cycles. He said that it is not unreasonable that some organisms may tie a biological response to lunar tides. He then cited a paper which suggests just that (I recall a similar one with barnacles published quite some time ago. I don’t care to look for it).

It is not an unreasonable scientific question, one which some scientists have taken steps to ask. The answer to the question is still not completely there, but it’s silly to accuse christopherg of saying stuff he didn’t say. ISTM he was making an aside. A point in reference to the clueless argument by the commentator over at Salon. He may have been a bit unclear or ham-handed by Pharyngula standards, but this hoo-hah seem to be nothing more than dog-piling on a hapless poster.

Oh, and Penfold, oysters are so marine organisms. Just because they live in marine environments that have lower salinity (generally true, though it’s not true for all species) than others does not mean they aren’t marine organisms. I recently watched a Nova or some such show where they investigated little fishies living under the ice in Antarctica. Because they live so close to the ice, the water they live in has quite a bit lower salinity than the seawater around them. They are not marine animals?

113. christopherg says

PZ

Yes, quite a while ago, although I’m not a biologist so if you think I didn’t understand all the technicals you’d be right.

114. Anri says

Anri: still to each other (as far as I can tell), but not as if they were still “at home”, as if they were in a body of water located at the lab. The water they were actually in was just deep enough to cover them and flowing, so unlikely to be significantly tidal.

So, the conclusions are that a bunch of filter feeders in the same body of water:

a) tend to have bodily functions at the same rate they did in other bodies of water,

– and –

b) given that they cannot avoid each other’s effects on the water they are in, they apparently influence each other in terms of timing.

And this is suprising?

Or were they all kept seperately? That would at least be worth investigating a mechanism for.

115. Marcus Hill says

Dhorvath: you’re right, of course, and now I come to think of it the paper did explicitly say that the lack of controls (including any put in a similar lab environment at the same location as the harvesting) was a drawback of the study.

116. eigenperson says

@christopherg:

Did you even read the article you linked? You are misrepresenting its contents.

You claim: “In essence, he proved that oysters open and close their shells in correlation to the tidal force itself, not by detecting ocean waves.”

This claim is FALSE. From the article: “There is still no agreement [in 1954 (!)] as to whether the persistent rhythms are due to temperature-independent exogenous mechanisms or directly induced by exogenous factors….If they are due to exogenous factors, it is still by no means clear what the environmental forces might be which maintain these rhythmic changes.”

So Frank Brown does not, in fact, claim that.

Perhaps you would be interested in a more recent (but still very old) review article on the subject which I found in two minutes: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1469-185X.1973.tb01008.x/abstract

Quote (from the summary):

7. Determination of phase.

(a) The tidal cycle on the home shoreline sets the phase of the inhabitant’s rhythms. Even the location of a crab’s burrow on the beach incline can play a determining role.

(b) Paradoxically, the periodic wetting by inundation is not an important entraining factor for most intertidal organisms. Instead, the effective portions of the tidal cycle include one or more of the following. (i) Mechanical agitation, especially for animals living in an uprush zone where they are periodically subjected to the pounding surf, (ii) Temperature cycles, though they have not yet been systematically investigated, have very pronounced entraining roles in crabs. (iii) Pressure is probably not a generally important entraining agent for most intertidal organisms, but it is so for the green crab.

You’ll notice that the direct effect of tidal acceleration is not mentioned in this review article, and in fact the tidal cycle depends on factors like the location of the crab’s burrow, a factor which is independent of the tidal acceleration.

Your theory is falsified. Have a nice day.

117. eigenperson says

118. richardh says

For Brown (1954)’s oysters see:
http://www.astrology-and-science.com/d-arti2.htm
“Alleged lunar effects on oysters when the oysters were moved a thousand miles inland from their original sea location (Brown 1954) disappeared when the data were were given a proper time-series analysis, and were evidently due to inadequate data, failure to apply controls, and wishful thinking (Enright 1965). The oysters showed no consistent rhythms, so the issue of lunar-induced changes is irrelevant.”

119. KG says

the link in my original post is to a paper showing that oysters open and close their shells in rhythm with the tidal forces themselves, with no other apparent physical mechanism to explain it. – christopherg

Which would be adequately explained by an endogenous timekeeping mechanism – that’s why, as pentatomid notes, the article ends:

It is still not clear as to whether the mechanism of these variations is a temperature-independent endogenous metabolic clock of astounding precision or whether the frequency of the cycles is the result of direct induction by rhythms of exogenous forces of solar and lunar frequency.

Here is a much more recent article, not behind a paywall, which indicates that the relative contributions of endogenous and exogenous mechanisms to the timing of marine bivalve behaviour is still not known; but suggests that response to the light of the sun and the moon – which of course varies on the same schedule as tidal forces and is much more plausibly detected by the animals – is important. Of course, cloud cover can interfere with the detection of light, but the animals undoubtedly do possess an endogenous timekeeper, which is normally entrained to the tidal cycle but can operate autonomously. The article I link to also cites laboratory experiments showing that the periodicity of bibvalve shell opening can be manipulated by making food available in “pulses”. So we have: light cues, food availability cues, and an endogenous timekeeper; clearly, no need to posit an implausible ability to detect the tiny changes in gravitational pull directly.

But in any case, this is all beside the point, as has been explained to you several times: the claim made was that women’s menstrual cycles follow the lunar cycle. They don’t, and it was that that was pointed out.

120. Matt Penfold says

Oh, and Penfold, oysters are so marine organisms. Just because they live in marine environments that have lower salinity (generally true, though it’s not true for all species) than others does not mean they aren’t marine organisms. I recently watched a Nova or some such show where they investigated little fishies living under the ice in Antarctica. Because they live so close to the ice, the water they live in has quite a bit lower salinity than the seawater around them. They are not marine animals?

My understanding clearly differs from yours.

121. Matt Penfold says

but suggests that response to the light of the sun and the moon – which of course varies on the same schedule as tidal forces and is much more plausibly detected by the animals – is important.

Not to mention that changes in water depth related to the state of the tide will have a significant affect on light levels.

122. says

Now that I’ve read the paper (Thanks, mysterious & nefarious benefactor!) I can see that…no, it doesn’t say what christopherg and the astrologers have said it claims.

It is interesting that the isolated oysters maintained a consistent rhythm for a month and a half, which suggests that they do have a clock that’s fairly accurate, but that’s about it.

But again, why are we even talking about oysters and a tidal rhythm when the original claim was about humans and a lunar cycle? These are entirely different things!

123. eigenperson says

But again, why are we even talking about oysters and a tidal rhythm when the original claim was about humans and a lunar cycle? These are entirely different things!

Because claiming that organisms can detect the tidal acceleration caused by the moon is like waving a sausage in front of a hungry dog.

124. Matt Penfold says

But again, why are we even talking about oysters and a tidal rhythm when the original claim was about humans and a lunar cycle? These are entirely different things!

Because oysters are far more interesting than the idiotic original claim ?

125. Marcus Hill says

Because the oysters are what make bumblebees fly?

126. Anri says

“Pocket watches! Clams got pocket watches!”

127. nooneinparticular says

richardh@119 & PZ@123

Thanks! That answer’s the question christopherg was posing, I think.

(I had no idea the paper he cited was more than 50 years old)

128. concernedjoe says

Sastra #95 – it isn’t that I disagree with what you said but I am speaking about architecture and operating system implementation and you are giving an example of a manifestation of the implementation.

Yes some people are inclined to view things in terms of black and white and cast things in terms of the values (conceptual ones) they somehow acquire.

What you are saying is a very illustrative of the authoritative nature of some people. To form a concept (a mental model of values) and what represents that concept and it becomes sacrosanct – regardless of what presents itself.

Again I agree with what you said as a manifestation. I was addressing the issue of natures as a lower level of the architecture.

Allow me to be trivial for a moment for sake of discussion. Everything has degrees of whatever so to speak – he’s a jovial chap – she is even more so (said NOT to explore jovialness).

Lots of factors for this difference (nature and nurture).

But also some people cannot be TRULY jovial if their life depended on it. Not in their nature at all. This does not make them crazy – it makes them them.

Likewise some people NEED the comfort of being able to have definitive answers. Some other people (natures) like to look for questions that yet have answers.

Some people are born leaders. Some people are born followers.

Again nothing I said implies all is binary; all is a matter of degree.

But it takes a certain nature to make a person (armed with all evidence, etc.) really be a Nazi and worship Hitler to the end – a person that possibility outside of that framework is a very good honorable person.

Not all good “forever” Nazis were clinically sociopaths or psychotics. They probably were highly RWA though by nature (that means biology and nurture).

I think this is an important thing for us recognize: there is no one “human nature” but there are human natures. And some of these natures are impervious to facts and evidence regarding certain things – especially when the thing in question gets close to how they self-identify. Again I close in agreement with your comment as an example.

129. Aquaria says

I mentioned this over at Salon, but I’ll repeat it again here.

My mother was a CRNA–an RN who puts people to sleep for surgery, and she used to tell me the crazy things that she heard from people coming out of anesthesia. And especially how real those things seemed to the patients. I can relate. My own personal experience with coming out of surgery has typically been this one:

Someone has grabbed me, is holding me down, and has a hand over my nose and mouth, making it hard for me to breathe. It’s terrifying, but it makes perfect sense, in the context of what’s going on.

The lack of being able to move because you’re drugged to the gills can often feel like someone is holding you down. My guess is that it’s disorienting to have your brain working (sort of), and know that you can’t move, but not know why. So it’s understandable that someone would think in that state that you actually are being held down–even though you aren’t.

As for the hand over the face and mouth? The oxygen mask, of course. But because your brain is still struggling to work again, it doesn’t know that it’s an oxygen mask. It searches around in your badly working memory banks to match up to something that feels like that thing over your face and mouth–and what it gets back is someone putting a hand over it. And then you’re convinced you’re being choked, and panic.

Sort of like how you can have dreams that can seem so real that you feel like you’re there and doing them, even though you’re not really helping Luke Skywalker stuff Smokey Robinson into an intergalactic garbage can (Yes–I’ve actually had that bizarro dream!).

This is why nurses are nearby when you wake up from surgery. They know that your brain can tell you all sorts of nuts things when you’re coming out of anesthesia! They expect that you’re going to be disoriented, possibly for some really weird reasons in your head, and they’re there to assure you that you’re at X hospital, you’ve come out of surgery, you’re going to be okay. And then your brain says–Ah ha! The surgery!

But rather than thinking, “What a freaky dream!” the woo morons try to make the delusions in their head some kind of reality.

Bunch of fucking morons.

130. Janine: History’s Greatest Monster says

Someone has grabbed me, is holding me down, and has a hand over my nose and mouth, making it hard for me to breathe. It’s terrifying, but it makes perfect sense, in the context of what’s going on.

This is one of my earliest memories. I was three of four when my tonsils were removed. I do not remember anything else about the event. I just remember air the tasted funny and was cooler then the air I was breathing. And using my hands and feet to try to push away that mask that had the funny air.

I have no idea what I actually but that impression remains vivid and terrifying. I just do not take it seriously.

131. Loqi says

So now that the entirety of the Salon readership is aware of Pharyngula, are we going to get a fresh barrel of visitors spouting Choprawoo? Happy day!

132. Sal Bro says

Is it possible to subscribe to comments at Salon? And gawd, that website is ugly.

133. escuerd says

johnwolforth @ 47:

I realize the fundamentalists are a big part of the problem, but there are just as many like the commenters you encountered at Salon. They have normal jobs, believe in evolution and global warming, but they don’t quite get science.

One of the comments there that jumped out at me yesterday berated the skeptical commenters for taking the “conservative” position on this issue. In principle, I see no reason why this kind of woo ought to be related to conservative/liberal politics at all (there are, admittedly, different flavors of woo found more often in each camp).

It seems like the heuristic this commenter is promoting for determining the truth or reasonableness of a claim is something like:
1. Determine the political affiliations of most people who believe this claim.
2. If they agree with your own affiliations, accept the claim, or at least don’t criticize it.
3. If they do not agree, the claim is probably wrong and can be criticized on the basis of its proponents’ political affiliations.

It’s a natural human tendency to do this, of course, but obviously one that rational thinkers must struggle to overcome. It seems like at least one commenter at Salon (can’t remember which) thinks we should be embracing it.

134. leonpeyre says

If you told someone like Myers in 1300 about them he would have burned you at the stake.

I know he’s just (I hope) using that for emphasis, but: nice false equivalence, dude! It’s the guys like Myers who got burned at the stake back then. It’s guys like Ken Ham and other religious extremists who burned you for saying the wrong things.

But then, what can you expect from folks who are unfamiliar with the scientific method and completely unaware of the burden of proof?

135. Brownian says

I wish the people that ‘believe’ in telepathy would put their money where their mouths are and stop commenting on blogs and websites.

It’s like having the person sitting next to you on the bus try to convince you they’re a yogic flier, and somehow you’re the asshole for wondering why they’re plunking down $84.65 on monthly passes like a plain ol’ muggle. 136. truebutnotuseful says …I was watching a PBS documentary on the sun. But then my TV melted! *rimshot* 137. eigenperson says It’s like having the person sitting next to you on the bus try to convince you they’re a yogic flier, and somehow you’re the asshole for wondering why they’re plunking down$84.65 on monthly passes like a plain ol’ muggle.

Brownian, when you ascend to a higher state of consciousness all will become clear to you… it’s all a matter of thinking in terms of energy rather than in terms of matter like we are trained to do in Western Thought… money isnt very important at that point… sorry you arent enlightened yet but that is okay many people are not… it will come in time if you just keep an Open Mind and observe!!!

138. nakarti says

I love it:
“You’re not a neuroscientist!”

“Well yes, I am, but shouldn’t have to tell people that before I explain neurology.”

139. 'Tis Himself says

It’s like having the person sitting next to you on the bus try to convince you they’re a yogic flier, and somehow you’re the asshole for wondering why they’re plunking down \$84.65 on monthly passes like a plain ol’ muggle.

I used to be a yogic flier, then I took an arrow to the knee.

140. says

The arrow to the knee meme needs to make like itself, for reals.

Before radio and TV was invented, the frequencies for them existed. If you told someone like Myers in 1300 about them he would have burned you at the stake.

Because PZed is shooting you now?

141. Brownian says

eigenperson, +1

I used to be a yogic flier, then I took an arrow to the knee.

That’s not uncommon. (One of the benefits of not living under an Orwelling Two-Party systm is that elections are so much more interesting.)

142. says

I wonder if the telepathy guy is one of those people who still thinks that we only use ten percent of our brains, and if you use more than that you get all sorts of fun powers like telepathy?

143. alkaloid says

Brownian, when you ascend to a higher state of consciousness all will become clear to you… it’s all a matter of thinking in terms of energy rather than in terms of matter like we are trained to do in Western Thought… money isnt very important at that point… sorry you arent enlightened yet but that is okay many people are not… it will come in time if you just keep an Open Mind and observe!!!

Let me see if I can mimic this correctly:

“Your resistance to the obvious nature of my enlightenment obviously originates from your egoic patterns. I am a believer in a P_A_R_A_D_I_G_M of universal consciousness and ever expanding love. I know that it’s love, and I have faith that it’s ever expanding.”

144. Brownian says

alkaloid, that was more the guru to eigenperson’s acolyte or layperson. Both were pretty good.

145. alwayscurious says

When I was young & dumb, I assumed that scientists would naturally be conservative (demanding overwhelming evidence before changing anything; hesitant to embrace something new until it was fully understood). Turns out I was wrong. And with the current Republican anti-intelligentsia movement having no problem portraying science as having a liberal bias, conservative = stupid these days it seems.

In regards to the oyster paper, it seemed to me that circadian rhythms might explain anything that was hiding under the (absent) error bars. Looking at the author’s history and judging by the titles of his papers, he eventually came to a point in the early seventies where he mentions molecular clocks & circadian rhythm (can’t tell his opinion on them though).

I can’t say much about oysters, but circadian rhythms can be “trained” in many animals with light (and frequently other signals to a lesser extent). Such rhythms are “stable” for quite a long time after removal of entrainment signals. In rodents, the cycle is a little shorter than a full day so without clear signals their “physiologic day” starts a little earlier each “solar day” (*gasp* just like a tidal cycle!). It’s an interesting area of very active research but has nothing to do with the moon’s gravitational pull on the earth.

Amusingly enough, I found a single paper also that purports lunar regulation of the menstrual cycle via 6-hydroxymelatonin (Law 1986). I couldn’t access it, but 28% of the women mensed “near” the new moon transition. Guessing perhaps the remaining 72% were also evenly spread between “near” full moon, “near” first quarter, and “near” last quarter? Most recent papers must be missing the boat on menstrual cycles, referencings hormones ones like estradiol and progesterone instead of 6-hydroxymelatonin and lunar cycles .

146. Brownian says

I wonder if the telepathy guy is one of those people who still thinks that we only use ten percent of our brains, and if you use more than that you get all sorts of fun powers like telepathy?

If you use more than ten percent you get the power to step on spiders without making it rain or chanting “Bloody Mary”* into a mirror in the dark without the apparition appearing.

*Canadian schoolchildren learn that if you repeat “Spicy Caesar” three times the apparition that appears is of a floating celery stalk with a ghostly clam for a head.

147. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

Our daytime star isn’t burning at all but rather shining through core hydrogen-helium fusion.

“Burning” is used as shorthand for luminous fusion (“hydrogen-burning,” “helium-burning,” etc) even in science talks and textbooks.

148. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

I didn’t know people with an M.S. in Biology go around addressing other scientists as “dude”.
Live and learn…

Is that more agist or classist? I can’t tell.

149. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

I proceeded to show that his analogy was tragically wrong, and that there was far stronger evidence, based upon at least six studies, that the availability of pornography in a given territorial region was strongly correlated with a drop in the rates of rape, and that no study yet had found a counter-trend.

References, please? I find myself rebutting this line of stupidity all too frequently.

150. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

There’s plenty of evidence that organisms can detect tidal influences. This isn’t evidence of astrology, but it is evidence of the underlying concept, that tidal forces affect behavior.

Sooo….. sorry to point that out to all you skeptics. Google “tidal rhythmicity” and get back to me.

What the fuck does any of that have to do with anything being argued here? As with the oysters, any other supposed effects of tidal forces on behavior are something you’re going to have to establish with specific evidence – you can’t just say “oysters do it, therefore humans must too somehow.”

151. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

There’s plenty of evidence that organisms can detect tidal influences. This isn’t evidence of astrology, but it is evidence of the underlying concept, that tidal forces affect behavior.

Also, the tidal forces on the earth from anything other than the moon and sun are mathematically insignificant due to the distance and mass scales involved.

152. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

PZ, I hope nobody would be so unethical as to use their own university’s access to send you a copy of the paper. In totally unrelated news, check your email.

Paywalls are much closer to being unethical than sharing PDFs.

153. kemist, Dark Lord of the Sith says

I didn’t know people with an M.S. in Biology go around addressing other scientists as “dude”.
Live and learn…

Most scientists earn their M.S. before they’re 25.

Still plenty of time to go around calling each other “dude”, I recon.

And I quite like to see scientists who don’t take themselves too seriously. In my experience, the greatest ones don’t spend too much time fretting about stupid titles and such. They don’t care how prestigious and mannered you are, they are only interested in what you do.

If you don’t like it, forget science and go talk with lawyers.

154. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

Christopherg never said, as far as I can tell, that women are oysters or that their menstrual cycles are tied to lunar cycles. He said that it is not unreasonable that some organisms may tie a biological response to lunar tides. He then cited a paper which suggests just that (I recall a similar one with barnacles published quite some time ago. I don’t care to look for it).

To the extent he is making a point at all, which he doesn’t quite seem ready to commit to, he is engaging in an inexcusably dishonest form of argument which works as follows:

1) make a bold claim
2) purport to support some distantly related claim
3) imply that because the distantly related claim is (supposedly) supported, therefore the initial bold claim must be “possible”
4) pretend not to understand the difference between “Possible” and “true”

Do I really need to explain why this is unacceptable?

155. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

4) pretend not to understand the difference between “Possible” and “true”

Note: dishonestly strawmanning the skeptical position as “refusing to believe that this class of phenomenon is even possible” reduces to this…according to the most charitable interpretation possible.

156. betelgeux says

@Christopherg

I know I’m late to the discussion, but you really don’t have the slightest clue about tides, do you? You should have paid attention in eighth grade earth science.

Gravity weakens very quickly with increasing distance, so the pull on the side of the earth closest to the moon is stronger than the pull on the other side, 8,000 miles farther away. The difference is not the cause of the tidal effect, it is the tidal effect.

Oceans, being interconnected and fluid, respond to this difference in gravitational pull by rising and falling about three feet daily.

For people, however, the moon’s gravitational pull is equal on all parts of our body, since we are only 5 to 6 feet tall. So there is no tidal effect on humans, since the tidal effect is defined as the difference of gravitational pull between one side of an object and the other.

You’d have to be hundreds of miles tall for the moon to have any sort of effect on our bodies or bodily fluids. As far as the moon is concerned, we are sizeless points.

Our body fluids are not pulled by tides any more than water in a bucket climbs up the side when the moon is overhead.

Got it?

As for the notion of menstrual cycles being tied to the lunar cycle, it’s complete bunk. If you do believe it, you’d have to explain the odd fact that nature only chose us and the opossum for the dubious honor of having our menstrual cycles in sync with the moon. What makes us and dem play-deadin’ ‘possums so special?

157. Lyn M: Just Lyn M. says

It seems to me that there is further support for a link between the oysters’ response to tides and the menstrual cycle of women. This is clearly the explanation of why pearls are often worn by women.

QED

Now, we need some careful study of why oysters don’t wear women.

158. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

Gravity weakens very quickly with increasing distance, so the pull on the side of the earth closest to the moon is stronger than the pull on the other side, 8,000 miles farther away. The difference is not the cause of the tidal effect, it is the tidal effect.

This isn’t quite correct; the explanation concerns mechanics in non-inertial frames, and explains why we have two tides rather than one, which this formulation would suggest.

159. alwayscurious says

Rhesus macaque monkeys also have a 28 day menstrual cycle (during the breeding season). And also, 28-day cycles are simply the ‘normal’ human length. Plenty of women don’t have regular, 28-day cycles. That’s not really explained by oysters, moons, or by cabbages and kings.

160. Just_A_Lurker says

And also, 28-day cycles are simply the ‘normal’ human length. Plenty of women don’t have regular, 28-day cycles.

This. A thousand times this.

161. says

Late to the party, but this one just burns me.

@christopherg

“But you are in fact, incorrect. Ask a physicist.”
Okay ask me, I have a phys degree and am working on a second

“The inverse square law means that the tidal force of your desk at work has a higher force than the moon or the sun.”

I will assume that you are talking about the F = g m1 m2 / r^2 law of gravity. Please note that the inverse square law is actually a very general law of testing whether a force is conservative or not. But going on lets just say g=1 for comparison so things stay nice.

mass of you is about 50 kg. mass of your desk is about 40 kg, minimum distance is, lets say on the order of a meter, so F = 200

mass of you is still 50 kg. mass of the moon is 7.3459 * 10^22 kg, mean distance is 385,000,000 m
so F =2.5*10^7

so the moon, when overhead is exerting 120000 times the force on you your desk is. Care to try that one again?

162. Marcus Hill (mysterious and nefarious) says

Wait, I’ve just realised why oysters are relevant to women’s menses. It’s nothing to do with pearls. Oysters are often seen as an aphrodisiac, and I’ll bet the reason for this is that any woman eating them whilst menstruating will absorb the oyster’s lunar superpower and stop immediately, thus opening the door for previously unavailable nookie. I’ll just refuse to believe any women who tell me from personal experience that this isn’t so.

163. richardh says

@icarus:

so the moon, when overhead is exerting 120000 times the force on you your desk is.

Ahem. When people talk about “tidal force”, they don’t really mean a force, they mean the gradient of the gravitational force (loosely, the difference between how hard it’s pulling on your head and your feet). The gradient of an inverse-square force follows an inverse cube law, so the quantity you should be comparing is mass divided by distance cubed.
Then m/r^3 for desk, moon (and for good measure, sun, mass=2×10^30kg, distance=1.5×10^11m)
are approximately 40, 1.2×10^-3, 6×10^-4.

Please note that the inverse square law is actually a very general law of testing whether a force is conservative or not.

Umm. Any curl-free vector field, or equivalently one which can be expressed as the gradient of a scalar potential, is conservative. Maybe you’re thinking of Bertrand’s theorem, which states that the only central forces which generate stable orbits obey either the inverse-square law or Hooke’s law?

164. John Morales says

[OT]

richardh, yes.

$\Delta F=-\frac{2GMm}{d^3}\Delta r$

165. Marcus Hill (mysterious and nefarious) says

John: I think that [OT] was pretty extraneous, we lost sight of the actual topic sometime yesterday…

166. AshPlant says

Don’t mind John, Marcus, he just does that. Look out for [meta] as well, whenever he addresses another poster.

167. Marcus Hill (mysterious and nefarious) says

I know, but it’s generally on threads that are still in the same timezone as their rails – ISTR going on a tangent with him on the movie vs. book versions of Logan’s Run, though I can’t remember what the actual thread was about for the life of me.

Maybe I should have added a [meta] in there somewhere…

168. KG says

The answer to the question is still not completely there, but it’s silly to accuse christopherg of saying stuff he didn’t say. ISTM he was making an aside. A point in reference to the clueless argument by the commentator over at Salon. He may have been a bit unclear or ham-handed by Pharyngula standards, but this hoo-hah seem to be nothing more than dog-piling on a hapless poster. – nooneinparticular

ISTM you’re an idiot. Here’s what christopherg came in with:

Never mind menstrual cycles.

There’s plenty of evidence that organisms can detect tidal influences. This isn’t evidence of astrology, but it is evidence of the underlying concept, that tidal forces affect behavior.

I’m curious as to what Dr. Meyers thinks of the work of Frank Brown. In essence, he proved that oysters open and close their shells in correlation to the tidal force itself, not by detecting ocean waves.

http://ajplegacy.physiology.org/content/178/3/510.extract

He went on to show that crab shell colors are influenced by when they are born. Since then, many other studies have been conducted with similarly positive results on a range of organisms.

Sooo….. sorry to point that out to all you skeptics. Google “tidal rhythmicity” and get back to me.

I draw your attention particularly to the last paragraph. Christopherg is quite clearly using hir “aside” purely to suggest, falsely, that anyone who does not believe women’s menstrual cycles synchronise with the tidal cycle must therefore believe it is impossible for any animal behaviour or physiology to synchronise with the tidal cycle, and use that as the basis for a sneer at “all you sceptics”. Xe gets completely justified snark and rudeness in reply to hir own, and then you come along with your pompous whinge about “dog-piling on a hapless poster.”

169. says

@ richardh

Lets refresh ourselves about where this started christopherg said:
“The inverse square law means that the tidal force of your desk at work has a higher force than the moon or the sun.”

Tidal forces are not, as you correctly pointed out an inverse square relation, so his statement could be most easily related to gravity and not gradient. I picked the best way to tear apart his argument from the abilities and knowledge he presented.

THEN I corrected his use of the term “inverse square law”, which can have many meanings. The test I was taught as the colloquial classical and celestial mechanics rule of thumb is that only 1/r^2 force relations satisfy conservation for gravity. The proof for this is a more general form of Berstrand’s Theorem.

Thank you for turning a first year physics problem into a upper level discussion requiring vector calculus.

If we were to be upper year pedantic to your correction of my glib correction of an obviously uninformed person, then the first thing I would point out in your discussion is that it lacked the completeness of friction, and the associated fluid mechanics that are responsible for the tide’s lag.

170. richardh says

@Icaarus
1) What christopherg said at 74 was

The inverse square law means that the tidal force of your desk at work has a higher force than the moon or the sun. It’s the principle reason that physicists object to the principle of astrology. They say the tidal forces of the sun and the moon can’t affect something as small as your body, much less an oyster’s body.

and whatever his opinion may be on any other topic, if you give “tidal force” its usual interpretation of “force gradient”, that comment needs no correction. Almost everything else he wrote has been wrong or rebutted, as I and others have pointed out, but not that particular comment.

2) I’d be very interested to see your “more general form of Bertrand’s theorem”. The only one I know is set out in Appendix A of Goldstein’s classic Classical Mechanics and is unequivocally about stability, not conservation.

3) “Vector calculus”? Sure, but proving that a given vector field is the derivative of some scalar field is hardly brain surgery.

4) Bringing in friction and fluid mechanics would be both pedantic and irrelevant when nothing is moving. “Tidal force” != “tide”.