Go home, Wisconsin, you’re drunk

This is a map plotting the ratio of bars to grocery stores across America.


What is up with Wisconsin? Do you people need a lot of beer to wash down all that cheese?

I notice the brown bleeds over into Minnesota and the Dakotas as well. Maybe it’s an upper midwest thing. Or all the Germans that settled in this area. Or our winters, although Wisconsin is mild compared to Minnesota and North and South Dakota.

The link also has similar maps of Canada and Australia — they’ve got nothin’ on Wisconsin. I’d really like to see a map of Europe done up this way, though.



This story about the the market for Bigfoot erotica was only plausible up to a point. Obviously, I have no problem believing that an attractive woman might have sex with a hideous hairy grunting beast, and even enjoy it, but the little details tripped me up.

1. The Sasquatch’s name is…Leonard.

2. The author is raking in $30,000/month with her line of cryptozoological porn.

OK, that last one might not be a matter of implausibility, but envy.

That’s awesome!

DrSkySkull thinks it is anticlimactic, but I’m kind of impressed. To find out what it would look like if a person fell into lava, some investigators made up a bag of 30kg of organic camp trash and threw it into a lava flow (they apparently couldn’t get any real human volunteers).

Spectacular! After I die, you have permission to throw my corpse into a volcano. I said after …I know you’re anxious to see the show, but no jumping the gun. Patience.

Not racist at all

Learn from a Nobelist in economics: all you have to do to not be a racist is prefix all your racist comments with the claim that you have no racial prejudices, like Friedrich Hayek.

Robert Chitester: Going back to the question I asked you about people you dislike or can’t deal with, can you make any additional comments in that regard, in terms of the characteristics of people that trouble you?

Hayek: I don’t have many strong dislikes. I admit that as a teacher—I have no racial prejudices in general—but there were certain types, and conspicuous among them the Near Eastern populations, which I still dislike because they are fundamentally dishonest. And I must say dishonesty is a thing I intensely dislike. It was a type which, in my childhood in Austria, was described as “Levantine”, typical of the people of the eastern Mediterranean. But I encountered it later, and I have a profound dislike for the typical Indian students at the London School of Economics, which I admit are all one type—Bengali moneylender sons. They are to me a detestable type, I admit, but not with any racial feeling. I have found a little of the same amongst the Egyptians—basically a lack of honesty in them.

Bengalis and Egyptians are all liars, but he says that without any racism whatsoever. And of course, he was born in fin de siecle Austria, an environment completely free of the kind of bigotry that might explode into some kind of nationalistic nightmare.

(via Free-Market Orientalism)

Harken back to the satanic panics of yesteryear

Ah, the 1980s. When every preschool was a hotbed of satan worshipping child abusers, police departments had ‘experts’ on ritual murder, daytime talk TV would run very special episodes on cultic cannibal orgies, and Jack Chick published Dark Dungeons. You’ve read it, right? The story about Dungeons & Dragons giving you actual magical powers that would damn you to hell? Go ahead, take a minute to read it if you haven’t already.

Or don’t. Just wait until August, fork over $5, and you’ll be able to watch the movie of Dark Dungeons, no reading required. And this version is even more over the top than the Chick tract.

Watch to the end for the surprise guest appearance of an important character beloved by yours truly.

In case you’re wondering if this is a sarcastic send-up of the original tract, read the FAQ.

Is Dark Dungeons the Movie a satire?

NO! Satire is “a humorously exaggerated imitation.” The most classic example is Swift’s “A Modest Proposal”, in which he mocks the English aristocracy’s indifference to the rural Irish poor by suggesting they eat Irish babies. This was an exaggeration as the English did not actually hate the Irish enough to eat their babies. By contrast, Dark Dungeons the comic shows that RPGs can lead to suicide, joining a witches coven, and gaining real life magical powers and Dark Dungeons the movie shows exactly those same things as well. The film adaptation does not exaggerate or alter those claims. It is NOT a satire.

Brilliant. It’s true — you cannot possibly make a satire of “Dark Dungeons”.

The sexbots are everywhere!

After that short post yesterday pointing out the abuse of photoshop to distort women’s bodies, I was briefly harangued by a loon who announced that I obviously did not understand the concept of sexual selection.

women’s bodies today are changing due to sexual selection whether you like it or not. Humans use tools to sculpt their bodies into appealing forms, so it’s not just left to inherent biological changes. And, women are abiding our wishes whether you like it or not. As biologists say, evolution is merciless. So why all the whining?

Actually, I do understand sexual selection quite well. I fail to see how making images of bodies plastic with photoshop is an example, or how you leap from manipulating pixels to how we can “sculpt…bodies into appealing forms”. Perhaps he thinks it is a kind of sympathetic magic, that if you paint a picture of a woman with balloon breasts and a wasp waist, women will simply comply with your wishes?

I am also impressed with the obliviousness. Sexual selection works both ways — has he ever wondered why some men are obsessed with women’s body parts, wanting them to be a certain size and shape? Exactly who’s brain is being sculpted by nature here?

I should also introduce him to the concept of the supernormal stimulus, the idea that a species can evolve to respond to a triggering stimulus that can be inappropriately strengthened by an exaggerated stimulus. This isn’t necessarily a good thing; for instance, Lorenz found that birds would enthusiastically nurture large fake eggs at the expense of their normal-sized real eggs, which at least isn’t a serious concern in nature, usually (although cuckoos can take advantage of it). There’s also the serious concern about human diet: give a person the choice of a twinkie or a carrot, and guess which one will be most attractive?

Or we could talk about RealDolls, these “life-like” (more like corpse-like) full-sized rubbery plastic dolls with conveniently compliant orifices. Is that an example of “sexual selection”? I suppose you could make a case for it, although it’s not affecting women, but rather selecting out males who waste their time in futile coupling with an infertile assortment of artificial stimuli — futile in both the sense that reproduction will not occur, nor will any bonding with another human being.

Besides, apparently those RealDolls are over-engineered. Simpler models will do the job just fine.

According to a Murfreesboro Police Department report, an officer was dispatched to the bar, where a witness said that Hutton walked to the ATM and “pulled down his pants and underwear exposing his genitals.” Officer M. Rickard added, “Mr. Hutton then attempted to have sexual intercourse with the ATM.”

After his encounter with the ATM, Hutton “then began to walk ‘nude’ around the bar thrusting his hips in the air,” Rickard reported.

Behold the latest generation of sexbot!


Is that an example of selection? Or just a case of drunken disinhibition exposing the simpler driving machinery of the male sexual urge?

What blessed drivel is this?


Every once in a while, an obscure science journal somewhere just has to demolish their reputation by allowing their editors to publish garbage. Case in point: The Journal of Maternal-Fetal & Neonatal Medicine, the official journal of the European Association of Perinatal Medicine, has published an editorial titled, “Can modern biology interpret the mystery of the birth of Christ?” It’s five pages of embarrassingly goofy nonsense. Nonsense from the very first paragraph:

With the advent of Enlightenment, the intellectual movement that challenged principles and views grounded in tradition and faith and affirmed that knowledge should be advanced through a scientific method, science and religion began to drift apart and today, they are often considered irreconcilable. We believe that, since both aim at finding the same truth, whether by evaluating natural processes or through revelation, a positive dialogue can and should be established.

And this article is apparently intended to demonstrate that they aren’t just considered irreconcilable, but are irreconcilable. That last sentence is just plain wrong. Science attempts to determine verifiable truths that can be objectively and independently examined and tested. Religion claims to have the truth already, in their musty dusty old books, and attempts to manipulate the evidence to make it fit their preconceptions. Their goals are contradictory, and since religion will always attempt to corrupt the evidence to reconcile it to their dogma, we should not establish a dialog at all — we should simply dismiss this theological bullshit.

For example, this article assumes that there existed a person named Jesus who was born of a virgin and a god; despite the fact that its conclusion is that nothing in biology can explain this phenomenal claim, it doesn’t reject the hypothesis. It can’t; it’s taken as a given. It blithely cites the Bible as reasonable evidence throughout (Hint: any science article that includes the Holy Bible (4 times!), the Catholic Catechism, the Catholic Encyclopedia, and CARM.org in its reference list, alongside articles from Cell and Nature, ought not to be trusted), and takes for granted the most ridiculous articles of the Christian faith.

There is some entertainment value, though. The review of the literature attempting to explain the Virgin Birth is amusing.

Aiming high within the field of reproductive biology, we decided to attempt a scientific analysis of the first, most miraculous and fundamental of all events described in the New Testament, that defined by John at the beginning of his Gospel: “And the Word became flesh”. We are definitely not the first to address this complex topic. For instance, Edward Kessel and Robert Berry have amply discussed fundamental aspects of the Incarnation and mentioned several mechanisms by which the virgin birth of a male child might have occurred. Kessel, in particular, held the opinion that “Jesus was not only conceived as a female but remained chromosomally such throughout life. Through the natural process of sex reversal Jesus became male, not instead of female but as well as female, assuming the phenotype of a man while retaining the chromosomal badge of a woman. Thus Jesus was born and lived as the androgynous Christ”. Berry, on the other hand, believes that “Some form of distinctiveness like a Virgin Birth is theologically required if Jesus is to be divine as well as human, and there are several mechanisms by which the virgin birth of a male child could occur”. In his opinion, “The reason for recognising these is not to suggest that God necessarily used any of them, but simply to point out that apparent scientific difficulty should not determine the acceptability of a theological concept”.

You know, when you have to resort to increasingly twisted and complicated rationalizations to explain an undemonstrated event, wouldn’t it be easier to simply declare the event unlikely to have occurred, especially when there is absolutely no evidence for it, other than a word-of-mouth claim? At least, that’s what a scientist would do.

These authors, after going over some of the basic facts of sex determination, have another source to fall back on, though. When evidence fails, yank some hokum out of the Bible.

Even theists consider the birth of Jesus a “double miracle”, in the sense that, even if parthenogenesis could be possible in humans, the offspring of such an event would be a female, not a male. In this respect, there is a somewhat obscure prophecy by Jeremiah, a Jewish prophet almost a contemporary of Isaiah. He wrote: “The Lord has created a new thing upon the earth: a woman shall compass a man”. This text has been interpreted in many opposing ways, but one intriguing option, put forward by Ewald is “a woman shall change into a man”. Although this interpretation has been considered hardly faithful to the original text, if correct, it would be a premonition of what might have occurred in the case of Jesus, a “parthenogenically” born man.

Yeah, try telling that to the Christians. Maybe they’d quit freaking out over transgender.

Really, the whole idea makes no biological sense at all. The only way this parthenogenesis thing could work is if Mary had a copy of SRY to pass along (but then she’d be male!), but then maybe she had androgen insensitivity syndrome too (but then she’d be sterile!) but then she’d pass that on to Jesus (who would be female!) unless he had a reversion mutation. It’s a long chain of malarkey.

To their credit, the authors also recognize that none of the explanations are worth a good god damn.

The reason we attempted a scientific analysis of this mystery was simply the hope that a review of present knowledge of parthenogenic mechanisms may stimulate a debate among theologians and advance the search for truth. Limiting ourselves to biology, the only conclusion we can reach is that – after reviewing present knowledge about parthenogenesis – we are unable to identify any known natural biological mechanism that can account for the virginal birth of Christ.

Very good. So why did you waste our time publishing this tedious codswallop?

Take the next step. Reject the hypothesis.

Benagiano G, Dallapiccola B (2014) Can modern biology interpret the mystery of the birth of Christ? J Matern Fetal Neonatal Med. Apr 30. [Epub ahead of print]