Oh, hi, Ben Stein. I had almost forgotten that you existed.

But now that you’ve reminded me, could you please go away again? You’re simply an awful little man.

He has a question about Barack Obama.

I think the question is why is he so angry at America? I don’t think there’s much question that he does not wish America well. He has a real strong hatred of America. Is it because he’s part black? I don’t know. Is it because his father was mistreated by the British in Kenya? I don’t know.

Obama is a bad leader because he doesn’t realize that being black means you hate America? Clearly, Ben Stein is the new voice of the Republican party.

The magical world of epigenetics


Let me tell you the hard part about writing about epigenetics: most of your audience has no idea what you’re talking about, but is pretty sure that they can use it, whatever it is, to justify every bit of folk wisdom/nonsensical assumption that they have. So while you’re explaining how it’s a very real and important biological process that is essential for development and learning and behavior, half your readers are using the biology to confirm their biases about evolution and inheritance, and the other half already know all the basic stuff and want to get to the Evisceration of the Wrong, which is always the fun part anyway.

So I’ve split this post in two: there’s a section on the basics of what epigenetics is, and there’s a section on what epigenetics is not, and why. Read whatever part floats your boat.

[Read more…]

The real threat to our way of life

The terrorist attacks in Paris and the rising tide of Islamist fascism have had dire consequences here in America. Erick Erickson is afraid to go to the movies.

I’m really glad I didn’t get tickets on opening day to see Star Wars. Seriously.

I have no confidence in this Administration to keep us all safe, particularly in light of President Obama’s statement today that there’s really no way to stop this stuff.

There are no metal detectors at American theaters.

I think I’ll wait till Star Wars is less a threat scenario.

I weep for you, Erick. The terrorists have won.

Suddenly, I have a favorite fungus

It’s beautiful: the devil’s fingers, AKA the octopus fungus. Even just the name is like a barbed hook calculated to draw me in.


It has other interesting features, besides the awesome appearance.

While unappealing to us humans,

Stop right there. Am I not human? Did I not coo in delight when I first saw this lovely organism? Do I not want to see my grassy yard replaced with thousands of erupting fungal eggs?

But do continue.

what you’re seeing is actually a rather ingenious method of reproduction. The tentacles are laced with a foul smelling tissue, specially formulated to attract flies and other insects. When bugs come-a-knockin’, they get to feed on the slimy substance, but not before their feet are coated with fungus’ spores.

See? What’s unappealing about all that?

Krugman + Schneier + Cracked

Someday, the people in power (who will not be Republicans) will accept the wisdom of an economist, a security expert, and a humor site. I’m not holding my breath, though.

But our job is to remain steadfast in the face of terror, to refuse to be terrorized. Our job is to not panic every time two Muslims stand together checking their watches. There are approximately 1 billion Muslims in the world, a large percentage of them not Arab, and about 320 million Arabs in the Middle East, the overwhelming majority of them not terrorists. Our job is to think critically and rationally, and to ignore the cacophony of other interests trying to use terrorism to advance political careers or increase a television show’s viewership.

That’s harder than playing Pick the Bad Guy, though.

This is why I’m an atheist

There’s this new movie coming out, Gods of Egypt, which looks like a horrendous fecal splatter of CGI with Egyptians played by Canadians and Scotsmen. I’m serious. I expect poutine and bagpipes, with pyramids in the background, and testimonials from Ben Carson on the historical accuracy of the movie.


Gotta love those activist students

Even when (especially when?) they make us uncomfortable. Our students have just noticed the dirty little secret of a lot of universities: we pride ourselves on the diversity of the student body, but when you look at the faculty and administration, a whole lot of that diversity magically pales to white. So they’re having a rally tomorrow at 1:30, meeting in the Science Atrium and migrating towards the administration, to demand more equality in our hiring practices.

And look, they’re smart and all empirical and everything!

faculty ratios

I’m so proud of them.

It’s a real problem. We have a mostly white faculty, so hiring committees are mostly white, and somehow, miraculously, they always seem to find that the very best candidates are also always white. Weird, huh?

Before I get accusations that I, rabble-rouser, put them up to it, I had absolutely nothing to do with this event — it’s entirely our students paying attention and figuring out what’s going on. But I’ll be there in support!

The Huck is full of…

It’s always fun when a Republican jerk opens his mouth to say something stupid. Here’s Mike Huckabee, arguing that we shouldn’t accept Syrian refugees because Minnesota is cold.


If you ever get a chance to fly into the Minneapolis/St Paul airport, take a look around you: most of the service jobs are held by formerly Somali people. When you take a cab, you’ll probably have a Somali driver (there was some conflict a while back where Muslim drivers objected to transporting alcohol). There are Hmong areas in town — I’ve had a fair number of Hmong students over the years.

It seems to me that the problem isn’t the temperature of the climate, but the temperature of the citizens, and that human beings are fairly adaptable and capable of living just about anywhere. But none of them can thrive living anywhere near a reprehensible scumbag like Mike Huckabee.

There’s also some implicit racism in his remark. We aren’t surprised that white people live in both Alaska and Florida, and take for granted that we can live anywhere; why should we look at the color of someone’s skin and decide that they’re limited to living in just one kind of environment?