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Mar 27 2014

Hollywood evolution

Gwyneth Paltrow is getting divorced, and I don’t care. I can’t say that I’ve ever even given a thought to her marital status before. But what is rather fascinatingly bizarre is her pretentious gooeyness: she calls her divorce Conscious Uncoupling…and reading elsewhere through her blog you get the impression of a young woman with so much money that she can cheerfully indulge in every poorly justified and absurd fad.

But that’s not what caught my eye. After her announcement, she has a long justification for divorce (really, Gwyneth, you don’t need to make excuses — if you’ve grown apart, it’s fine to move on), and the reasons offered are based on a Hollywood version of evolution. Not real evolution, of course — these people are too airily superficial to ever bother with reality — but a fairy tale evolution in which they are elevated above the brutes and bugs.

It’s not written by Paltrow, but by two of her friends, a married couple, a dentist, Dr Sherry Sami, Founder of Happy Kids Dental Planet Homeopathic Dentistry and Orthodontics in Los Angeles and Dr Habib Sadeghi, an osteopath who is co-founder of Be Hive of Healing, an integrative health center based in Los Angeles. So a homeopathic dentist and a quack. Fills you with confidence, don’t it?

How bad is it? It is so bad that I’m going to skip right over the lazy evolutionary psychology at the beginning, in which we’re told that marriage is a Paleolithic adaptation for short-lived early humans, to go right to the really funny bits.

It’s about insects.

Intimacy & Insects

To understand what life is really like living with an external shield, we have to examine the experts: Insects. Beetles, grasshoppers, and all other insects have an exoskeleton. The structure that protects and supports their body is on the outside. Not only are they stuck in a rigid, unchanging form that provides no flexibility, they are also at the mercy of their environment. If they find themselves under the heel of a shoe, it’s all over. That’s not the only downside: Exoskeletons can calcify, leading to buildup and more rigidity.

If only insects could sue for libel…

This is all wrong. There’s nothing unchanging about having an exoskeleton — holometabolous arthropods undergo some of the most amazing transformations during their life cycle. Have these people never heard of metamorphosis? As for flexibility, insects are the most diverse and successful animal group on the planet.

And what organism isn’t at the mercy of their environment? If I found myself under the heel of a giant shoe, it’d be all over, too.

Calcification of the exoskeleton…is this a significant problem for insects? I don’t think so. They’re just making things up.

By contrast, vertebrates like dogs, horses, and humans have an endoskeleton. Our support structure is on the inside of our bodies, giving us exceptional flexibility and mobility to adapt and change under a wide range of circumstances. The price for this gift is vulnerability: Our soft outside is completely exposed to hurt and harm every day.

Hey, they were just complaining that insects were vulnerable to passing shoes, now they’re saying the price of internal skeletons is vulnerability. It seems to me that just existing, no matter what your skeleton looks like, is a risky business.

They don’t let the incoherence bother them, they’re on a roll.

Life is a spiritual exercise in evolving from an exoskeleton for support and survival to an endoskeleton. Think about it. When we get our emotional support and wellbeing from outside ourselves, everything someone says or does can set us off and ruin our day. Since we can’t control or predict what another person does, our moods are at the mercy of our environment. We can’t adapt to the situation if our intimate partner doesn’t behave the way we think they should. Everything is then perceived as a personal attack and attempt to upset us. Up goes our armor and it’s all-out war.

Life is not a spiritual exercise in ‘evolving’ from an exoskeleton to an endoskeleton. Real life wasn’t about evolving from exoskeletons to endoskeletons, either. Their metaphor makes no sense. They have this weird idea that exoskeletons are associated with inflexibility and an inability to respond to the environment, which is just wrong.

With an internal support structure, we can stand strong because our stability doesn’t depend on anything outside ourselves. We can be vulnerable and pay attention to what’s happening around us, knowing that whatever comes, we have the flexibility to adapt to the situation. There’s a reason we call cowards spineless: It takes great courage to drop your armor, expose your soft inside, and come to terms with the reality of what’s happening around you. It’s a powerful thing to then realize that you can survive it. When we examine our intimate relationships from this perspective, we realize that they aren’t for finding static, lifelong bliss like we see in the movies. They’re for helping us evolve a psycho-spiritual spine, a divine endoskeleton made from conscious self-awareness so that we can evolve into a better life without recreating the same problems for ourselves again and again. When we learn to find our emotional and spiritual support from inside ourselves, nothing that changes our environment or relationships can unsettle us.

Are all woo artists like this? What a load of psycho-spiritual hooey. It’s all flawed metaphor, and I don’t even see how to apply this inconsistent, incoherent rubbish to my personal life.

There’s a scientific theory by Russian esotericist, Peter Ouspensky, that the creation of insects was a failed attempt by nature to evolve a higher form of consciousness. There was a time millions of years ago when insects were enormous—a dragonfly’s wings were three feet across. So why didn’t they end up being the dominant species on earth? Because they lacked flexibility, which is what evolution is all about, and couldn’t adapt to changing conditions like humans can. The lives of people who imprison themselves in an exoskeleton of anger usually don’t evolve the way they’d like them to, either. Being trapped inside negative energy like anger and resentment keeps people from moving forward in life because they can only focus on the past. Even worse, over time, these powerful emotions often turn into disease in the body.

Ouspensky was not a scientist and did not come up with any scientific theories. The idea that insects are a failed attempt at anything is absurd, and judging a species by whether it is conscious or by how big individuals are is inappropriate.

And insects are the dominant form of animal life on earth. There are 200 million insects for every human being; insects have been here for 400 million years, while humans have been around for about 6 million; when humans go extinct, cockroaches will still walk the earth. I can’t even comprehend the head-up-assedness of declaring that insects lack flexibility and can’t adapt — if they are so incapable of adapting, how did we end up with 10-30 million extant species?

But I can comprehend how they can claim emotions turn into disease. They’re quacks. That’s the sort of thing they lie about to make money.

75 comments

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  1. 1
    Dunc

    WTF is a homeopathic dentist?

  2. 2
    azhael

    Aaaaaaaaarrrrrrggggghhhh……..I´d throw a cockroach at them if i didn´t have more respect for cockroaches than i have for those idiots. What a load of steaming fucking horseshit.

    By far the two most vomit inducing bits:
    “There’s a scientific theory by Russian esotericist, Peter Ouspensky”
    “They’re for helping us evolve a psycho-spiritual spine, a divine endoskeleton made from conscious self-awareness so that we can evolve into a better life”

    Fucking hell….

  3. 3
    RichardMNixon

    #1 took the words out of my fingers.

  4. 4
    Jeremy Shaffer

    A homeopathic dentist is someone you pay a ton of money to so that they’ll shove really watered-down sugar down your throat so that you’ll have no more cavities.

  5. 5
    =8)-DX

    A think this is a perfect example of theomatising by extended metaphor. Love is more like a fish than a dung-beetle (presumably). Now the way it seems to me, this exo-endoskeleton nonsense sounds very much like the old image of knight in armour, when in amour, must shed his armour, get off his high horse and make love to the princess. And she has to open up like a flower. Or something. Now I’m not sure how these newfangled insect metaphors are better than the old ones (can’t love just be like a secret garden or a summer’s day? And people be like an open or closed book), but I guess that’s what romancimasizing is all about.

    Or something.

  6. 6
    rq

    I’m glad they’re splitting amicably.
    But they really need to work on their science.

  7. 7
    doublereed

    I didn’t know Nature had intentions and wishes, like some sort of mad inventor. But I guess anthropomorphizing Nature is a pretty common thing among woo-artists.

    And we call things “spineless” to compare them to invertabrates, not creatures with exoskeletons. Obviously. And may I point out that invertabrates are far more flexible than we’ll ever be.

  8. 8
    doublereed

    And by invertabrates I mean things like jellyfish and squids and such. You know, things with no skeletons at all.

  9. 9
    carlie

    There was a time millions of years ago when insects were enormous—a dragonfly’s wings were three feet across. So why didn’t they end up being the dominant species on earth? Because they lacked flexibility, which is what evolution is all about, and couldn’t adapt to changing conditions like humans can.

    I simultaneously developed hives and started to throw up reading that.

  10. 10
    David Gerard

    NewsThump: Coldplay’s Chris Martin has massive steak for breakfast

    Chris Martin has eaten almost two pounds of extremely rare steak for breakfast this morning, according to reports close to the Coldplay frontman.

    http://newsthump.com/2014/03/26/coldplays-chris-martin-has-massive-steak-for-breakfast/

  11. 11
    carlie

    So they’re dissing insects as being unchangeable and bad and stuff, but still willing to use insects as a cute pun for their business name. HYPOCRITES.

  12. 12
    Dan

    My teeth hurt just thinking about a homeopathic dentist! Does he use homeopathic lidocaine?

  13. 13
    dannorth

    “holometabolous arthropods undergo some of the most amazing transformations during their life cycle. Have these people never heard of metamorphosis? ”

    Hush!!

    If they learn about that they will serve it back at us as a crappy belabored metaphor of something or other of “high” spiritual significance.

  14. 14
    twas brillig (stevem)

    Aaaarrrrggggghhhh; isn’t it just a METAPHOR? Maybe poorly couched as “science”, but all that stuff about exoskeletons vs soft flesh exteriors sounds like they are just making a sloppy metaphor of attitudes and emotions, etc. The real problem is the quack who tried to make science into poetry [and thinks similes ARE science]. Gwyneth is a fantastic actress so everyone must know everything about her personal life…it seems appropriate that she say something about her upcoming divorce ;-( and that her friends would want to gush about it. The evolution metaphor was just poorly chosen words. Leave it at that, just bad images.
    Just say your emotions, no need for metaphors poorly constructed as examples of ee,voe,lue,shun, Gwyneth.

  15. 15
    Anri

    How small a drill must a homeopathic dentist use when filling a cavity?

    Do you need an electron microscope to see a homeopathic dental bridge, or are there light opticals up to the task?

    When a homeopathic dentist tells you to spit, would simply exhaling expel too much saliva? And how the hell do you hit that itty bitty washbasin, anyway?

    Seriously, the jokes just write themselves.

  16. 16
    gussnarp

    I couldn’t get past the nonsense about insects. The heal of the shoe bit was particularly egregious. Helpless? How many roaches have they stepped on? Those critters can escape at the last second, and some survive the shoe thanks to that exoskeleton. Ants can manage to squeeze into the cracks in the tread at the last second and survive. Nothing about their exoskeleton makes them slow or makes it hard for them to escape. And as for coping with changes in their environment, there’s a reason there are more of them than there are of us. They were here first and they’ll be here long after we’re gone.

    I really wanted to like Gwynny because I know her aunt, who is a very nice woman, but man, Gwynny is about as susceptible to woo as a human being can possibly be.

    And yes, homeopathic dentistry is now my favorite thing ever.

  17. 17
    mariofernandez

    Being a homeopath for the rich is a great gig (for cynical P.O.S.) . You give your patients water, but you know they’re still going to a real doctor, so when they are cured you just claim it was your magic and poof! now you get referrals from people with too much easy money; probably made for just being good looking or being born from the right womb… Not much different than a pastor giving credit to god when chemotherapy works.

  18. 18
    poglodyte

    @Dunc, 1

    And for that matter, what the hell is an “esotericist”?

  19. 19
    David Chapman

    Dental Planet????

    Ohhhh Godddd………

  20. 20
    Forbidden Snowflake

    Regarding using wildlife as a metaphor for human character and/or society, please see this PSA from Oglaf.

  21. 21
    David Chapman

    It seems to me that just existing, no matter what your skeleton looks like, is a risky business.

    PZ, it seems to me you may have here, new-minted, one of the classic aphorisms of our age!! :)

  22. 22
    tsig

    Life is like being a beetle, it’ll crush you like a bug.

    :) :} :]

  23. 23
    knowknot

    “a divine endoskeleton made from conscious self-awareness…”
     
    There was a time when, in order to deal in vapor and still be noticed, your imagery – your poetry – had to be at least adequate. But now it is possible to find patronage even if your exointellect cannot be found in orbit.

  24. 24
    Jeff K

    Too bad we can’t sentence them to remedial Biology.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neuroimmunology

    Not as simple at emotion=disease, but there is research that suggests depression can effect immunological response.

  25. 25
    timgueguen

    If I found myself under the heel of a giant shoe, it’d be all over, too.

    This comment might generate some interesting visitors. There are some people into the idea of people being stepped on by giants, or being shrunk so they can be stepped on by normal size people.

  26. 26
    timgueguen

    Meh, I should have previewed first.

  27. 27
    Kevin Alexander

    I can’t even comprehend the head-up-assedness of declaring that insects lack flexibility and can’t adapt —

    Especially since these colospectives have watched Gwynneth change from a butterfly to a stick insect and back again.

  28. 28
    cyberax

    Well, exoskeletons are bad, endoskeletons are also bad.

    So cephalopods win! They don’t have ANY skeleton.

  29. 29
    mattwatkins

    reading elsewhere through her blog you get the impression of a young woman with so much money that she can cheerfully indulge in every poorly justified and absurd fad.

    Just wanted to point out that Paltrow is 41. And I sort of understand that it’s easy to view anyone a decade or more younger than you as “young”, but your use of “young” in this context is mildly pejorative. (Would you use the word young to describe a 41 year old man: say Idris Elba or Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson?) Can’t she just be a woman with so much money?

  30. 30
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    I’m glad they’re splitting amicably.
    But they really need to work on their science.

    It seems like the split from reality was far less amicable

  31. 31
    Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened

    When we get our emotional support and wellbeing from outside ourselves, everything someone says or does can set us off and ruin our day. Since we can’t control or predict what another person does, our moods are at the mercy of our environment. We can’t adapt to the situation if our intimate partner doesn’t behave the way we think they should. Everything is then perceived as a personal attack and attempt to upset us. Up goes our armor and it’s all-out war.

    They’ve just found a really shit analogy for a dependant relationship.

  32. 32
    Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened

    @cyberax #28

    Well, exoskeletons are bad, endoskeletons are also bad.

    So cephalopods win! They don’t have ANY skeleton.

    Don’t they have a hydroskeleton? And Nautilusses (Nautiloids? I want it to be Nautiloids) have a shell. And cuttlefish have a cuttlebone.

    But those are the inferior cephalopods. Squid are the ubercephalopods.

  33. 33
    firstapproximation

    There was a time millions of years ago when insects were enormous—a dragonfly’s wings were three feet across. So why didn’t they end up being the dominant species on earth? Because they lacked flexibility, which is what evolution is all about, and couldn’t adapt to changing conditions like humans can.

    Jesus Christ, even the ones who accept evolution have such a distorted view of it.

  34. 34
    Trebuchet

    I”m going to the dentist in about 1/2 hour. I’ll be very upset if he uses homeopathic Novocaine.

  35. 35
    Naked Bunny with a Whip

    @Trebuchet: Maybe not if he’s using a homeopathic drill, too.

  36. 36
    vaiyt

    Just wanted to point out that Paltrow is 41. And I sort of understand that it’s easy to view anyone a decade or more younger than you as “young”, but your use of “young” in this context is mildly pejorative.

    Quick, blame Hollywood’s obsession with making everyone appear young for longer than they should!

  37. 37
    A Masked Avenger

    Are all woo artists like this? What a load of psycho-spiritual hooey. It’s all flawed metaphor, and I don’t even see how to apply this inconsistent, incoherent rubbish to my personal life.

    Thumper beat me to it in #31: “They’ve just found a really shit analogy for a dependent relationship.” All they’re trying to say is that growing up involves passing from complete dependence to, hopefully, independence. And that a good relationship involves independent people voluntarily coming together, rather than surrendering their independence and expecting someone else to take care of them.

    I’m not sure if I should be ashamed or pleased with myself, that this was so obvious to me. Is it because I’m still fluent in woo, my first language? Or is it because I also know just enough (pop) psychology to spot where they got the idea they’re riffing on?

  38. 38
    A Masked Avenger

    Darn blockquote monster swallowed my comment.

  39. 39
    azhael

    @32

    But those are the inferior cephalopods. Squid are the ubercephalopods.

    Squid have a gladius. I´m not trying to besmirch their glory, though.

  40. 40
    devnll

    A homeopathic dentist hits you in the face with a hammer, repeatedly, until there is only a tiny fragment of the tooth remaining. Then they tip a bucket of water over your head and shake you (repeating “Why? Why?!?” in an anguished tone.)

  41. 41
    Lynna, OM

    Paltrow used ad content associated with the divorce announcement to increase her incoming cash flow. She also sells all manner of crap through the goop website. The divorce announcement is bound to increase her readership.

    Deepak Chopra is a close friend.. He posts on Paltrow’s blog.

    […] Imagine the self as a huge steamship, fully loaded, set on reaching a destination. When you set eyes on this ship in mid-journey, you don’t see it being loaded, leaving port and settling on where it wants to go. By analogy, when you see your friend, you meet her at a given moment, but she is sailing through her life fully loaded with past influences – all of us express our entire lives in this very minute. The minute is fleeting, but the momentum carrying us forward is immense.

    Your friend’s pessimism isn’t about what’s here and now. It’s about the fully loaded cargo she’s carrying. Here and now you are tempted to say, “See? There’s no reason to be suspicious or negative. It’s a beautiful day, we all love you. Be happy.” This approach never works. Not because your friend is stubborn but because this beautiful day and your loving feelings are a tiny fraction of her reality, her fully loaded cargo.

    […] A good deal of negativity is ego-based. […] She and you are both on a journey, and if it happens that you exchange a burst of light on the way, appreciate that and be alert to the next time you can share a moment of clarity.

    Love,
    Deepak
    Deepak Chopra is the President of the Alliance for A New Humanity

    http://www.goop.com/journal/be/4/thoughts-on-pessimism

    This Chopra association may be where Paltrow gets some of her blather about negative thoughts and positive thoughts, etc.

  42. 42
    PZ Myers

    #29, mattwatkins:

    Hell yes, I’d call Idris Elba and “The Rock” young, sonny.

  43. 43
    chigau (違う)

    Everyone 18 or more years younger than me is Young.

  44. 44
    knowknot

    #30 Giliell

    It seems like the split from reality was far less amicable

    BRILLIANT.
    And deeply insightful, since later we see the illustrious Deepak accidentally giving away the post mortem…
    …it was a conflagration: the “exchange” of a “burst of light.”
    I find myself longing for the personal bomb shelters of old, exoskeletal as they may have been.

  45. 45
    Tommy Capitalist

    All this woo makes my head hurt. Really. Did they have to talk about exoskeletons? Failed attempt at consciousness?? The woo is strong with this one.

  46. 46
    Sastra

    The scariest thing here is that this is often what people mean when they say that there’s no conflict between science and religion. So when we see the statistics on moderate and religious liberals and their “acceptance” of the theory of evolution, take it with a grain of salt. They count this sort of thing on the pro-science side.

    I think the whole extended pseudoscientific metaphor PZ has dumped on us is an excellent example of a Spiritual deepity. If you read it as only a metaphor — oh, let’s compare an insecure personality to an insect with an exoskeleton — then it’s true but trivial. As Thumper and Masked Avenger pointed out, there’s really nothing being said which is particularly controversial and there’s actually some good advice lurking beneath the rather flowery and pompous language.

    But take the statements on biology and evolution as … statements on biology and evolution, and it’s a painful mess. They’re trying to support some rather obvious psychological assertions as the outcome of an intentional cosmos, a supernatural reality which cares and helps you grow if you tap into it and learn what it’s trying to teach you.

    Deepities are wonderful things. They allow the religious to justify absolute bullshit and shift accountability at will. I know how this (usually) works. Dollars to donuts Paltrow and Sami and Sadeghi would read these criticisms and insist that we are missing the point. The bugs and skeletons are only METAPHORS, dummy. Are you in favor of co-dependent relationships? Well, it sure sounds like you are. After all, atheists and scientists are frequently clueless about people and their emotions, so that’s not unexpected. The divorce is surely the controversial issue.

    But remove the skeptics from the room and oh, look at how spirituality and science come together! Evolution is part of the divine plan, if we allow it to teach us the real lessons. And so forth … back and forth. First it’s one interpretation, then the other. Flip here, flip there, allow the superficial resemblances to blur the distinctions. Sloppy thinking seems to discover underlying connections which give you insights. Woo is just supernaturalism unconnected to a specific religious dogma.

    (I have a friend who goes to a holistic dentist. She told me that he once had her lay down on a table and see that one foot was lower than the other. He then adjusted her (I’m not sure how) and magically fixed that. Two things bothered me right off. One, this is an old carny trick dealt with in skeptic literature: no, her body alignment was not really changed. But the second point was more disturbing. Wait. Your dentist works on your legs??? WTF? Isn’t this taking “holism” to a strange level?

    My rational advice is seldom sought or heeded, but I did tell her that if her Holistic Dentist ever tries to give her a breast exam — find a new dentist. Seriously.)

  47. 47
    Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened

    @azhael #39

    Some googling reveals that a gladius is what I know as the quill, my relationship with squid being mainly a culinary one…

    Damn. Does that mean octopusses are the ubercephalopod!? :-O

  48. 48
    moarscienceplz

    Homeopathic dentistry – I guess that means that if you rinse your mouth with highly dilute sugar water you won’t get any cavities.

  49. 49
    ganymede

    I don’t think the woo and the misstatements about science are nearly as telling as the fact that she is apparently so egocentric and vapid that she actually thinks the rest of the world cares about her divorce. Even if all of her ramblings had been dead-on accurate, it speaks volumes about her that she needs to include everyone in her family issues.

  50. 50
    mattwatkins

    @42 Touche, old fart:)

  51. 51
    azhael

    @47

    Damn. Does that mean octopusses are the ubercephalopod!? :-O

    Unlike non-octopodalists i don´t hold with the idea that the size of your shell makes you inferior. Cephalopodan equality!! Well, except argonauts, they are just plein weird…

  52. 52
    busterggi

    I suspect Ouspensky was stung by a bee at some time, hence his antipathy towards insects.

    And my personal schedule for age is:
    10 years younger than me = kid
    20 years younger than me = damned kid
    30 years younger than me = fuckin’ rotten kid
    40 years younger than me = you have no right to exist
    50 years younger than me = you don’t want to know.

  53. 53
    unclefrogy

    pompous and flowery language indeed! There is truth inside all the gobbledygook but my take is it is just the chum to get the suckers to keep following the leaders it is the leader that is he important thing here. those who follow want to think they are important to this process called life. The language has just enough truth to keep the followers coming back and is obscure enough to be impossible to completely understand leading to a search for the illusion deeper more esoteric knowledge .
    keep it as complicated as you can to keep the marks coming back for more.
    uncle frogy

  54. 54
    Trebuchet

    As far as I’m concerned, PZ is a whippersnapper.

  55. 55
    Drolfe

    Since we can’t control or predict what another person does, our moods are at the mercy of our environment.

    This stuck out to me, because given what I know of neurology etc., our “free will” is also at the mercy of our environment, as our consciousness post hoc rationalizes actions that are really environmental stimulus-response.

    But it’s also a just-so sentence that doesn’t mean anything really. So we can’t always predict or control what other people do (though we often can and do), but we can’t influence our environment (though we often can and do and that’s what jettisoning a bad relationship is doing)?

    Ug, sorry if this is trite.

  56. 56
    Drolfe

    Maybe I was missing the point. :-/

  57. 57
    johnm55

    The real reason as everyone in the UK either knows or suspects is that Chris Martin, fed up of a macrobiotic raw vegan paleolithic diet, was caught nipping down to the local caff for a bacon roll and a decent mug of tea.

  58. 58
    johnm55

    I suspect that the real reason is that Chris Martin, fed up of a raw vegan macrobiotic paleolithic diet, was caught nipping down the local caff for a bacon roll and a decent mug of tea.

  59. 59
    Sastra

    Drolfe #55 wrote:

    But it’s also a just-so sentence that doesn’t mean anything really. So we can’t always predict or control what other people do (though we often can and do), but we can’t influence our environment (though we often can and do and that’s what jettisoning a bad relationship is doing)?

    I think the sentence’s meaning becomes clearer when it’s put in context. “When we get our emotional support and wellbeing from outside ourselves, everything someone says or does can set us off and ruin our day. Since we can’t control or predict what another person does, our moods are at the mercy of our environment.”

    There’s nothing really wrong with this given a simple, charitable interpretation. In other words, think of a teen who believes everything rises and falls on being in the popular crowd, neglecting grades, hobbies, and activities which might help them develop a sense of self-worth based on who they really are in order to chase social status and the illusion that being admired by others means they’re okay. Or, think of a movie star who obsessively craves fame, or a wife who has to get her husband’s approval in order to feel she’s worth something. The idea isn’t meaningless in the right context. Point taken.

    The problem with the announcement isn’t with the idea that our identity shouldn’t depend too much on others: it’s how they chose to say this, and what they use to back it up (as if that would even need an evolutionary justification.)

  60. 60
    Pierce R. Butler

    ganymede @ # 49: … she is apparently so egocentric and vapid that she actually thinks the rest of the world cares about her divorce.

    Fact check: millions of movie fans do care. If you had as many predatory paparazzi swarming around every time you so much as went out for a drink as Paltrow has endured for over a decade, you’d use a professional publicist for self-defense in the same way.

  61. 61
    Dena N.

    Sounds like an inaccurate but flowery way of saying “I don’t want to be married any longer”. I do not like her, have never liked her and here is yet another reason to continue with my dislike of her. I’m sure she’s a nice woman but there is something about her that is obnoxious and she’s managed to take divorce, something I generally find very sad and make it obnoxious too.

  62. 62
    Monsanto

    How does homeopathic dentistry work? Do you soak your tooth in memory water and it magically heals?

  63. 63
    Menyambal

    Exoskeletons aren’t flexible?!? I had occasion to pick up an extremely large beetle, one time—like mouse-sized (he had other beetles crawling on his legs)—very carefully, by the back, and that critter flexed a leg all the way around and clawed my finger. I squealed and dropped it.

    I did much the same after a paragraph or two of that gibberish. Ick.

  64. 64
    monad

    There was a time millions of years ago when insects were enormous—a dragonfly’s wings were three feet across. So why didn’t they end up being the dominant species on earth?

    Well, see, this explains what it’s really all about. Giant dragonflies weren’t able to adapt to changing conditions and remain dominant, because now they’re little and can be crushed by shoes. Because dominance doesn’t mean diversity of species or pervasiveness or ecological importance, it means size.

    Right now the dominant animals are whales in the ocean and elephants on land, but don’t worry, humans are hard at work at over-hunting, climate change, and habitat loss which should ensure our dominance sooner or later.

  65. 65
    Amphiox

    There was a time millions of years ago when insects were enormous—a dragonfly’s wings were three feet across. So why didn’t they end up being the dominant species on earth?

    The dominant (animal) species on this planet are the ants.

    We humans just live on it….

  66. 66
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    So not so much gooey as Goopy?

  67. 67
    Rey Fox

    I’m not sure, but I get the distinct impression that the authors are writing of all insects as if they were a single “species”. I mean, that’s the only unit that you could directly compare to the human species, right?

  68. 68
    ganymede

    At Pierce, No. 58, point taken, though if that’s the issue she should fire her publicist; a good publicist would have issued a brief statement that the marriage is over and asked fans to respect her privacy rather than releasing paragraph after paragraph of drivel. Also, I’m not sure that swarming crowds of paparazzi necessarily means that the public cares, though maybe they do.

    On a related issue, since this is not my area of expertise, is it really true that at one time there were dragonflies with three foot wingspans, or did that fact get pulled from someone’s butt?

  69. 69
    Ing

    Was reminded of Last Continent where we meet Discworld’s God of Evolution.

    He compulsively makes beetles and considers the cockroach the apex of design.

  70. 70
    shazaadibrahim

    Esotericist (?)(??)
    (Uhh….Doctor of the Esoteric??)

  71. 71
    Pierce R. Butler

    ganymede @ # 68 – If you try to imagine 21st-century stardom from the POV of the star, pulling into a shell probably has all sorts of pitfalls (well-known to the star population, and recited regularly by their handlers).

    … is it really true that at one time there were dragonflies with three foot wingspans…?

    Apparently it’s a 50% exaggeration:

    Meganeura monyi was a prehistoric insect of the Carboniferous period (300 million years ago), resembling and related to the present-day dragonfly. With a wingspan of more than 75 cm (2 feet) wide, it was the largest known flying insect species to ever appear on Earth.

  72. 72
    Rey Fox

    Uhh….Doctor of the Esoteric?

    It sounds like a good fantasy novel term, something from Mieville or maybe Prachett.

    There was a time millions of years ago when insects were enormous—a dragonfly’s wings were three feet across. So why didn’t they end up being the dominant species on earth? Because they lacked flexibility, which is what evolution is all about, and couldn’t adapt to changing conditions like humans can.

    Let’s see…what wrongness with this statement hasn’t yet been addressed…the obvious ability of the arthropod clade to adapt and dominate the biosphere was quickly seized…I did the comparison of the human species vs. the entirety of insects…how about insects have been around on Earth thousands of times longer than humans? Pretty obvious, I guess. How about how the laws of physics prevent insects from getting much bigger than the three-foot wingspan dragonfly? Or would that be granting too much to the endo-exoskeleton “metaphor”? As would pointing out that a six-foot wingspan isn’t really that big anyway, red-tailed hawks are about that big at the upper end of their size range?

    Feh. Let’s just all agree to get our science from actual scientists and our metaphors from actual writers.

  73. 73
    Athywren

    There was a time millions of years ago when insects were enormous—a dragonfly’s wings were three feet across. So why didn’t they end up being the dominant species on earth? Because they lacked flexibility, which is what evolution is all about, and couldn’t adapt to changing conditions like humans can.

    And that, children, is why you never have to deal with the horror of a moth getting into your bedroom on summer nights. Because they’re extinct. If only the moths knew that. ¬_¬

    Srsly tho, augh! I thought GwPa (that’s what all the cool kids call her) was cool! My illusions! My precious illusions! SHATTERED!!!

  74. 74
    skylanetc

    Sigh. Gwyneth Paltrow: following in Shirley McClaine’s goofy footsteps.

    Does one have to be a woo-woo believing nitwit to be a Hollywood star? Judging by Charlton Heston, Tom Cruise, John Travolta, etc., being a buzz-brain must at least help one’s chances in Tinsel Town.

  75. 75
    ck

    I think the most interesting thing about this isn’t the squishy woo that Ms. Paltrow expresses here (this seems to be bog standard in Hollywood circles), but the visceral hatred some people have for the woman.

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