Somebody put a slight check on the Daily Mail? Unbelievable.

Kate Stone was the victim of a genuinely bizarre accident: she startled a deer as she was walking home one night, and it charged her and gored her in the throat with its antlers. That’s weird and kind of perversely newsworthy, so take a look at the headlines describing the stabbing.

With honourable exceptions, such as the BBC, coverage in the British media majored on Stone’s transgender status: "Deer spears sex-swap Kate"; "Sex swap scientist in fight for life"; and "Sex-swap scientist gored by stag."

It must be interesting to know that if one is transgender, you can almost die in a spectacularly unusual encounter with an exotic animal, and all the news will be focused on your crotch. I’ve done a lot of interviews, and strangely, not one has dwelt at length on my sex. I suspect I could die and my obituary here in Morris might not even mention that I’m a man, unless they use a masculine pronoun somewhere in it.

Say, isn’t that an example of something called privilege?

Anyway, the good news is that the newspapers’ offenses were so blatant that they’ve actually admitted that they were in the wrong, and the articles have been withdrawn.

Now, as a result of a landmark negotiation with the Press Complaints Commission (PCC), six national newspapers – the Daily Mail, the Daily Telegraph, the Sun, the Scottish Sun, the Daily Record and the Daily Mirror – have agreed that the "sex swap" headlines and the reference to Stone’s transgender status were inappropriate.

They acknowledged that such references constituted a direct breach of the discrimination clause in the PCC editors’ code. The code states that details of an individual’s transgender status "must be avoided unless genuinely relevant to the story". All such references were subsequently withdrawn from the newspapers’ online stories.

The Daily Mail confessed to going too far and publishing inappropriate, sensationalist garbage? Stop the presses! That’s real news!

The truth only bullies liars

Gah. SE Cupp. She is the worst: a right-wing atheist who fully supports the dishonesty of the Fox News types, and who has no regard for reality. Atheists who bury themselves in a new set of delusions sicken me.

She got into an argument with Bill Nye — that’s a bad sign, since the last loon he had to put down was Ken Ham. She was really peeved that those “science guys” keep confronting climate change denialists with facts. Science bullies her ideological cronies!

“Isn’t it a problem when science guys attempt to bully other people?” Cupp asked Nye. “Nick here had to say, ‘I’m not a denier.’ He had to get it out: ‘I’m not a denier.’ Because really, the science group has tried to shame anyone who dares question this, and the point I’m trying to make is, it’s not working with the public.”

This was after she threw up some statistics, that only 36% of the American public think global warming is a serious threat to their way of life. I’d have two replies to that: 1) polling data on what a deluded public thinks is not a measure of the truth, and 2) the problem here isn’t scientists explaining the science, it’s propagandists like Cupp using dishonest media like Fox News or Heritage Foundation tracts to cast fear, uncertainty, and doubt over the evidence.

Watch the encounter and see Cupp hopelessly outclassed.

Best part of the interview? This exchange:


Right-wing lies flourish on their propaganda organs

Wheee! I’m featured on OneNewsNow, the Far Right Christian online ‘news’ organization. It’s the same old thing.

University of Minnesota-Morris Professor Paul Z. Myers has encouraged students to gather up and trash all copies of an independent student newspaper [Not true. I said the university ought to prohibit their racist rag in the same way we would refuse the Ku Klux Klan the right to insult our non-white students on campus] with which he disagrees [Not true. I said we do have conservatives on campus; the basis of my disagreement wasn’t their politics, but the racism of this particular small group of extremists. And also their incompetence.]. The politically radical [Sorry, no. I’m pretty much a rock solid liberal/progressive. Not very radical at all.] professor blogged that the Morris NorthStar student newspaper was a disgrace and has "worn out its welcome and must go."[Correct! When your approach is to hide behind Trayvon Martin’s corpse and accuse university administrators of racism because they aren’t nice enough to white people…you’re not really bright enough or responsible enough to appreciate an education, let alone benefit from it.]

"We ask UMM to publicly condemn these instances of theft and destruction [They did!], investigate what happened [They did! Although I haven’t seen any evidence that this ‘theft’ even occurred; it was a free paper, widely distributed across campus, and all of a sudden, we have known far-right media clowns claiming some were “stolen”. Really? How could you tell?], and prosecute those responsible, [Yes, even if it is a stunt by the students who put out the North Star. So why are you harassing me? I had nothing to do with it.]" Theriot says. "The university must take steps to protect the NorthStar [Not necessarily. They could also banish it from campus as a disruptive, dishonest, and scurrilous pile of shit.] and all other student publications from such viewpoint-based [Is that what Republicans are calling their racism now?] censorship [There is no evidence of censorship! Saying it over and over again doesn’t make it true.] in the future."

While copies of the newspaper were being stolen, trashed, and defaced, ADF attorney David Hacker says the university quietly stood by.[Again: no evidence of theft, except the claim by the North Star. It’s a free paper that students were encouraged to take. What was the university supposed to do, put guards around the distribution racks and yell at anyone who takes a copy?]

It is simply bizarre. The university throughout has repudiated any attempt to destroy the paper; the chancellor sent out a campus-wide email saying so way back in December. They’ve got no case against the university. I used my free speech rights to say that the paper is garbage and that we ought to have some standards and reject the distribution of the libelous, poorly written crap, and yet they’re claiming that there must be an absolute right to free speech everywhere and at all times. They are going to have a hard time making a case that a free paper could be or even was stolen, and they’ve made this patently bogus case against me based on the idiot editor’s claim that there was a sciencey smell around one of the racks. That’s it. A contrived and implausible claim by a dope with an agenda, and that’s what these right-wingers are leaping upon.

It’s the same dishonest O’Keefeian tactics again. We’re just waiting for someone to ask if these people have any decency at all.

I hate the HuffPo, too. I hate them all.

My complaint about Salon seemed to resonate with a lot of people…but then we acquired some wackaloon named Johny in the comments, raving about auras and magic energy sources and all kinds of idiocy, and then he reminds me that there is a site far worse than Salon: the Huffington Post. Ariana Huffington plunged deep into the worst aspects of tabloid journalism and, damn it, she was successful…and now every left-leaning news site seems to be diving in right after her.

Johny cited this article as some kind of touchstone of reason: 8 Ancient Beliefs Now Backed By Modern Science (yeah, notice the listicle click bait — I am now so conditioned by hatred of that format that I avoid any link that begins with a number, but here I go, linking to it.)

It’s an awful list.

There are things that are trivial in it, things that are ambiguous and misinterpreted, and things that are just plain wrong. Here’s what Huffington says has been confirmed by science:

Helping others can make you healthier.

She cites a single study that somehow confirmed that helping others improved your health and longevity on a genetic level. The study was done with phone interviews.

Acupuncture can restore balance to your body.

Again, she cites a single study, a meta-analysis of the whole dubious mess of acupuncture studies. It concludes, actually, that acupuncture is no better than placebo.

We need the support of a community in order to thrive.

Again, another meta-analysis that found that health is correlated with strong social networks. There is a big problem with these studies: they don’t know cause and effect. It is unfortunately true that one common consequence of serious illness is loss of mobility, loss of connection, and changes in social activity, so yes, if you study sick and dying people, you often find that they are isolated and alone. It doesn’t mean that being alone makes you sick.

Tai chi can help alleviate a variety of health conditions.

Same story. Physical activity and maintaining mobility are good for you. Tai chi is nothing special — get out and take a walk, go square dancing, swim.

Meditation can help you reduce stress and discover inner peace.

Right. Taking a break and focusing on something other than the stressors in your life helps you relax. You don’t need to babble about Tibetan Buddhism to know this.

Compassion is the key to a meaningful life.

Compassion is part of it. But I’ve found a little rigor, aggression, and pursuit of uncomfortable truths to be far more meaningful.

Accepting what you can’t change is key to reducing suffering.

Yay! Platitudes!

All you need is love.

Yay! Beatles lyrics!

Turns out you also need oxygen, food, water, shelter, good health, and security, but I’m happy to allow these loons to try to live on Tai chi, acupuncture, kumbayah, and love. And since it is the HuffPo, apparently you also need celebrity gossip, clickbait, and religious fluff.

So as all media descends into lowest-common-denominator Idiot America noise, where do we go for actual information? This is what worries me. All of the media, not just the obvious examples like the History and Discovery channels on TV, seem to be sinking into the abyss of patent misinformation. Don’t tell me about the New York Times, which publishes kooks like Douthat and Brooks; it used to be the national standard, but it’s long been crippled by an attitude that it can do no wrong, and by a pretense of false objectivity.

I’m a little happier with the BBC and Al Jazeera; if I want informed opinion, I turn to Maddow or Pierce. Who or what do you read to keep abreast of news and politics? Let me know; we’ve got to start ignoring the idiots like the HuffPo, and start corrupting a new set of opinionators with popularity.

Salon sucks so bad

I give up. I’ve deleted my bookmarks to Salon. The final straw: two articles published today that are appalling in their inanity.

First up is Charles Darwin’s Tragic Error: Hitler, Evolution, Racism, and the Holocaust. Just the title tells you it’s a dishonest pile of crap. Most of it has nothing at all to do with Darwin (so why are they blaming him?), but here’s the key graf:

Modern racism had several different intellectual sources, and only with difficulty could one say which of these was most important. I will focus here on the “scientific” strand of racism, which drew its inspiration from Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution through natural selection. Several factors dictate this emphasis on Darwinian racism. First, Darwinist racism explicitly motivated Hitler and many other leading perpetrators of the Holocaust. Second, Darwin inspired the researchers, most notably in biology and anthropology, who gave racism its aura of scientific certainty. Third, Darwinian thought may well have been more popular in Germany than anywhere else during these years, in part because Germany was the world’s leading center of biological research before World War I and the Germans were exceptionally literate. Finally, Darwinist racism was the brand of racism most easily understood by the widest number of people, in part because Darwin’s theory was astonishingly simple and easy to explain.

Right. “Several different intellectual sources,” but notice the absence of any mention of the Catholic or Lutheran churches, which were far more powerful sources for promoting anti-semitism. All the author has is the claim that Hitler’s racism was “inspired” by Darwin.

No, it wasn’t. Hitler did not make scientific arguments; he did not cite or credit Darwin; he did think God was peachy-keen and justified his actions on behalf of the right German people. His actual sources did not much care for Darwin.

RationalWiki has a good discussion of the subject. In particular, it discusses Houston Stewart Chamberlain — you cannot seriously discuss Hitler’s race arguments without referencing Chamberlain, and it’s a sure sign of a hack when Darwin is given more blame than Chamberlain.

Houston Stewart Chamberlain was an influence on Hitler’s antisemitism. In Chamberlain’s book, “Foundations of the Nineteenth Century” he wrote of “A manifestly unsound system like that of Darwin …” (Author’s Introduction, page lxxxviii), “… Darwinian castles in the air …” (First Part, Division II, Fourth Chapter, “Scientific Confusion” volume 1, footnote beginning on page 264), “… no tenable position can be derived even from the most consistent, and, therefore, most shallow Darwinism.” (Second Part, Ninth Chapter, “Historical Criterion” volume 2, pages 215-216)

The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, an infamous anti-Semitic fraud of some influence, includes Darwin among the Jewish conspiracies:

“Protocol 2: … 3. Do not suppose for a moment that these statements are empty words: think carefully of the successes we arranged for Darwinism, Marxism, Nietzsche-ism. To us Jews, at any rate, it should be plain to see what a disintegrating importance these directives have had upon the minds of the GOYIM.”

The Salon article is the kind of ahistorical hackery I’d expect from the Discovery Institute.

The second article reflects Salon’s recent dumbassed pandering of religion: Science Doesn’t Disprove God: Where Richard Dawkins and New Atheists Go Wrong. It’s embarrassingly bad. The authors argument is that science cannot build an AI, therefore God had to have created consciousness.

No, seriously. That’s his argument.

The question about consciousness is key to everything we are discussing. Modern cognitive science relies on the principles of evolution and posits that consciousness is something that can be produced artificially. Life-forms become more and more advanced through evolution, and eventually consciousness is the outcome. Thus, many cognitive science practitioners believe that machines can develop a consciousness as well, although this has never happened. Consciousness has never been produced in the lab, not even close.

That is not the basis of the anti-dualist argument. We expect that an AI could be constructed, but the reasons that we think the mind is a natural product of the activity of the brain rest on knowledge of how the brain works, how damage and chemical modification affect consciousness, and the mapping of activity in the brain to thought.

I don’t know of any biologist or atheist who is waiting to see a conscious machine before concluding that the mind is a product of the brain; there is simply no expectation that that is a necessary prerequisite. But this wanker is throwing out all of neuroscience because this one experiment can’t be done with current technology. OK, and the stars are only 500,000 miles from the Earth, and you can believe that right now because we haven’t built a starship to fly to Alpha Centauri.

He then makes the usual arguments from ignorance: gosh wow, but you can’t possibly create Leonardo’s Mona Lisa, Picasso’s Guernica, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, or the palaces on Venice’s Grand Canal with brains made of meat, because they’re just too beautiful, therefore…

Therefore… (can you possibly guess what?)

Therefore…GOD. (You couldn’t possibly have seen that coming, could you?)

An alternative explanation is that God gave us the mental abilities and that extra something we use in making decisions and in creating great works of art, sublime music, magnificent architecture, beautiful literature, and science and mathematics. Our incredible brains can do all these things because they contain some ingredients that science has not yet found or explained and whose origin remains one of the deepest mysteries in all of science.

Fuck me. I can’t read this bullshit anymore. The Salon editors are just letting drivel through now.

Scientists can’t build a conscious robot yet, but God-diddlers can imagine superpowerful beings that are magically inserting thoughts into our heads, therefore theology wins.

That’s a terrible chart

I wish I’d had this a few weeks ago, when I was telling students how not to present their data. This is a chart illustrating the effects of stand-your-ground-laws on murder in Florida.


I glanced at that and thought, “Whoa, surprise: the stand-your-ground-laws had a pretty dramatic effect in reducing murder. I did not expect that at all.”

And then I was a bit disappointed: “But they really should have set the Y axis at zero. It’s a bit misleading and magnifies the apparent effect, otherwise.”

And then I did a double-take: “They inverted the freaking Y axis!”

That’s right. It doesn’t show a decline, it shows a dramatic spike in murder after the law was passed. The text in the article actually says that clearly, but the chart was actively selling the opposite message. They’ve since added a corrected chart that actually makes the point clearly, instead of obscuring it.


I took away two points. It’s really easy to lie with graphics, and shouldn’t any evidence-based legal system recognize the consequences of passing a bad law and correct itself?

More from a data visualization expert.

#upfordebate: @DonLemon Did a chupacabra eat Malaysia Airlines Flight 370?

It’s kind of neat how a twitter hashtag and my contempt for cable news are colliding right now. Apparently, True Skeptics™ are supposed to be willing to debate anything and everything, even if it gives unwarranted credibility to nonsense. The True Skeptics™ must be loving CNN right now, because with the unexplained disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, they are just going to town with weird speculation. Everyone seems to be doing it.

So cable news has to fill up 24 hours of endless talk with something, and this is the perfect opportunity for them: call in a panel of ‘experts’, have an open-minded moderator who feeds all the speculation, and then blather away in the complete absence of information. CNN bubblehead Don Lemon has become the go-to guy for every crazy theory out there, going so far as to ask about the possibility of a supernatural explanation, and here he is babbling about black holes, the Bermuda Triangle, and the Twilight Zone.

There are six nobodies sitting in on this panel. If I were one of them, I would not say that the ideas were unlikely but that I just love the theories — I’d stand up, throw off my microphone, and flip off Don Lemon as I left the set.

Open-mindedness to a degree is a virtue, but not to such an extent that it’s like you’ve got an open head wound and are stumbling about hemorrhaging copiously and smearing flecks of greasy brain tissue on the walls you’re bumping into.

This is why I don’t watch any of the 24 hour news channels. It’s like a bad zombie movie come to life.

Watching Nate Silver squander his reputation

Nate Silver is putting together this journalism startup, and it’s already on the path to failure. I mentioned his oblivious sexism the other day, and now we learn the name of the ‘science’ writer he’s bringing to to cover the environment.

Nate Silver’s highly anticipated data-driven news site FiveThirtyEight launched on Monday, with a controversial figure covering science issues. Silver has brought on Roger Pielke, Jr., a professor of environmental studies at the University of Colorado Boulder, as a contributing writer – a political scientist who comes with a long history of data distortion and confrontations with climate scientists.

That last sentence is a lovely example of understatement. Pielke, both Jr. and Sr., are denialist kooks.

I don’t think I’ll bother reading FiveThirtyEight. “Data-driven,” hah.