Nature abhors a Trump

What does the scientific establishment, as represented by the journal Nature, think of Trump? I think you can guess.

Science advocates worry that Trump’s broader anti-immigration stance could pose a threat to US research dominance. Roughly 5% of all students in the United States hail from other countries — including more than 380,000 people studying science, engineering, technology or mathematics. “We’ve always been a nation which has welcomed scientific brainpower from other countries,” says Mary Woolley, president of Research!America, a science-advocacy group in Alexandria, Virginia. “We don’t want that to turn around now.”

Scientific issues have scarcely been mentioned on the campaign trail so far. Hillary Clinton, the Democratic front runner, has pledged to boost support for research into Alzheimer’s disease, and has pushed back against Trump’s anti-immigration and anti-Muslim stance. When she was a senator, Clinton backed health and research-related bills, and as first lady to former president Bill Clinton, she advocated for research on women’s health.

Trump is a wealthy real-estate mogul with no political legacy to mine for clues as to his scientific opinions. In the course of the campaign, he has linked autism to childhood vaccines, and dismissed climate change. (It’s called weather, he said.) In October, conservative radio host Michael Savage suggested on air that if elected, Trump should appoint him as head of the US National Institutes of Health (NIH). Well, you know you’d get common sense if that were the case, that I can tell you, Trump replied, during the light-hearted conversation. Because I hear so much about the NIH, and it’s terrible.

It’s terrible? Trump keeps shrinking his constituency. He’s alienated women, minorities, and now educated people. All he’s got left are ignorant, angry white guys. How is he going to win the election?

Also, the lack of discussion of scientific issues is a problem. Science and engineering are important drivers of technological advancement, so even if all you care about is the economy those should be significant topics of conversation; if nothing else, climate change ought to be a major concern. Where is our Science Debate? We haven’t had a candidate for high office this stupid since Ronald Reagan Dan Quayle George W Sarah Palin — aww, heck, since any Republican. It ought to be great blood sport.

“Village Atheists”

Atheism-for-Dummies

Sincere Kirabo discusses a wonderfully useful term, the “village atheist”. He brings up that faction of atheism that reacts with hostility to any mention of social justice.

The aforementioned critique, while a forgettable blip on the radar, is symptomatic of an overarching problem that’s festered within secular (both atheist and humanist) spaces since the New Atheism came into vogue. I call it “village atheism.”

I coined the term to classify a self-contained community of socially unaware atheists who reside within and reinforce a feedback loop of ignorance. This subset of nonbelievers is overly wowed by the low bar it requires to recognize the inadequacy of the God hypothesis. Meanwhile, in many ways, they preserve or encourage a bounty of beliefs that are just as oppressive and pernicious.

Yep, I recognize those atheists. You should read the rest for his dissection of the characteristics of these people — you’ll find them painfully familiar.

(I also wonder if they are able to see the irony of the image I used here.)

Think of the cost of shoes

This is the most extreme case of polydactyly I’ve seen — a child in China born with 31 fingers and toes.

polydactyl

They’re hoping to carry out a surgical correction, which can cause new problems…but in this case it’s necessary, because apparently the child’s thumbs have been transformed into other digits, or failed to form, so all they’ve got is 15 fingers. Opposable thumbs are generally useful.

Oh, and look at those big toes — triphalangeal digits? Developmentally fascinating, personally tragic.

SETI is bad science

setimsg

I thought I’d take a different tack on understanding science denialists. Are there any subjects on which I would be called a science denialist?

I can think of a couple of examples immediately. I’ve been called anti-science because I reject the bigotry of the “human biological diversity” or hbd crowd; I’ve also got quite a few fuming ranters who hate the fact that I reject evolutionary psychology as an ignorant fraud. I’ve written about those things before, though, and they also seem to draw in a lot of angry privileged assholes, so let’s not go over that again.

Instead, here’s something that maybe we can discuss dispassionately, but where I do sneer at the status quo.

I am a Search-For-Extraterrestrial-Intelligence (SETI) denier. I really am. It seems to be a popular topic among pro-science people, but I just roll my eyes whenever it comes up, and I’ve written a few things where I state my biases against it, but I’ll just make it crystal clear: I think it’s bad science driven by unrealistic fantasies, I don’t think its proponents think rationally about it, and we ought to stop throwing money at it.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not because I disbelieve in aliens — I rather suspect that life is relatively common in the universe. It’s not because I think it’s impossible for us to contact aliens — I just think the odds are prohibitively low. But every time a SETI person opens their mouth (like, for instance, Seth Shostak, who I also think is an extremely nice guy, and also very intelligent), I hear nothing but innumerate babble.

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I don’t understand what’s going on in denialist’s heads

Jimmy Kimmel featured a video of scientists reacting to climate change denialists.

It raises an interesting question. Why? Why do some people think climate scientists are telling the world about anthropogenic climate change? I’d really like to know.

Do they think scientists somehow profit from this? Because they don’t. The people with all the money are the oil and coal interests. If a scientist wants to make money, they should be sucking up to Exxon-Mobil.

Is it ideological? Do they think scientists just have an irrational hatred of the rich, or desire to see the end of the world? Because that isn’t the case, either. If they were welcoming the apocalypse, the best thing to do would be to advocate for more neglect and more consumption.

You know, we don’t have a holy book that revels in an end-of-the-world story. Scientists really don’t get much fame and glory, and no money at all, for coming to difficult conclusions.

I can understand why the deniers deny: wishful thinking — like us, they don’t want global warming to occur — and ignorance cultivated by the corporations that do profit from burning more oil. But I’m unable to figure out what they think we’re thinking.

This is also the case for creationists. I can understand their religious commitments that lead them to deny the evidence, but what do they think scientists gain from supporting evolution? Evolutionary biology is not lucrative. There is no religion of evolutionism. I’m interested in seeing the evidence evaluated rationally, but that’s about it: if there were good evidence that the Earth couldn’t be more than 10,000 years old, I’d be discussing that.

What do the anti-vaxxers think? Why would doctors be promoting a series of treatments that didn’t work? Do they believe that autism is some sort of highly profitable illness, or that doctors are racking up big stacks of bills with low cost vaccinations?

I confess to a total failure of empathy. I can’t put myself in their shoes when it comes to putting themselves in my shoes. I’ve talked to creationists one-on-one about this before, and they can’t tell me what I’m thinking at all accurately — it’s usually some nonsense about hating God or loving Satan, and it’s not at all true. But at the same time, I’m able to explain to them why they’re promoting creationism in a way they can agree with.

Maybe it’s that I can’t empathize with someone who is totally lacking an ability to empathize with others.

Oh, no! I’m related to…a gamer!

ragequest

Only by marriage, though, and he’s a gamer-in-snark, so that might make it tolerable. My son-in-law, Kyle Hughart, is trying to get a parody rpg, Ragequest: the Worst Game, greenlit on Steam.

“You know I can’t stay,” he said softly. “And you can’t go. The house wouldn’t be the same without you.” She didn’t speak. She couldn’t find the words to respond. She just watched his figure grow smaller, and smaller until it was gone. That’s how I would end a romance novel about a congresswoman and a snowman if I were to write one, but I didn’t. Instead I made Rage Quest: The Worst Game! A snarky, low-def odyssey through the trials and frustrations that unite gamers everywhere.

You’ll play as Ivy, a daring and cynical adventurer, as you spend 3-4 hours traversing a modestly-sized world of cheeky dialogue, terrible puns, and lovingly crafted artisanal frustration. Will your skills and irrational dedication to finish what you’ve started triumph over the forces of bad camera tracking, long cut scenes and useless allies? What other perils might lie in store for your delicate temper and extra-throwable wireless controller!? Find out for yourself as you explore the game already being called “Game-changing,” “Extraordinary,” and “Graphically extant” by a sentence you’ve read! Rage Quest! Mean-gift it to your enemies!

I worry that my daughter will starve. If you have a Steam account, vote for this game so my son-in-law can buy a package of ramen. Or maybe two.