Douthat to the rescue of marriage!

I’ve had people try to tell me that Ross Douthat may be conservative, but that he’s a thoughtful and interesting guy. My response usually involves incredulous, speechless goggling at them, but now I’ve got one pithy response:

New York Times columnist Ross Douthat spoke at a fundraising event for the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a right-wing legal group that works to defend anti-LGBT discrimination and supported the criminalization of homosexuality.

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A scientific visualization of the importance of race

The image below is a phylogram, illustrating the degree of variation in a sequence of mitochondrial DNA. The concept is fairly simple: if two DNA samples are from individuals that are evolutionarily distant from one another, they’ll have accumulated more differences in their mitochondrial DNA, and will be drawn farther apart from one another. If the two individuals are closely related, their DNA will be more similar, and they’ll be drawn closer together. That’s the key thing you need to know to understand what’s going on.

There are other, more complicated analyses going on in the figure, too: the branching pattern is determined by analyzing subsets of shared sequences, and it takes a fair bit of computing power to put the full picture together. You’ll just have to trust me on that one, but all you need to know is that the branches are objectively calculated, and that the distances between the tips of the branches and their last branching point tell you something about the degree of genetic disparity in the group.

Unrooted phylogram of mitochondrial DNA sequences. Gagneux P1, Wills C, Gerloff U, Tautz D, Morin PA, Boesch C, Fruth B, Hohmann G, Ryder OA, Woodruff DS. (1999) Mitochondrial sequences show diverse evolutionary histories of African hominoids. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 96(9):5077-82.

Unrooted phylogram of mitochondrial DNA sequences.

Gagneux P1, Wills C, Gerloff U, Tautz D, Morin PA, Boesch C, Fruth B, Hohmann G, Ryder OA, Woodruff DS. (1999) Mitochondrial sequences show diverse evolutionary histories of African hominoids. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 96(9):5077-82.

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Rage more

Chris Kluwe posts on #gamergate. He’s not nice about it.

Dear #Gamergaters,

Do you know why you piss me the fuck off?

Because you’re lazy. You’re ignorant. You are a blithering collection of wannabe Wikipedia philosophers, drunk on your own buzzwords, incapable of forming an original thought. You display a lack of knowledge stunning in its scope, a fundamental disregard of history and human nature so pronounced that makes me wonder if lead paint is a key component of your diet. You think you’re making piercing arguments when, in actuality, you’re throwing a temper tantrum that would embarrass a three-year-old.

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The most dad thing

It’s too late for this, I’ve got to get some sleep — I have to go catch a plane in the morning. It’s a list of the most “Dad thing” people’s fathers have ever done, and it just made me sad. It’s all these embarrassing or old fashioned or idiosyncratic stupid quirks from their fathers. There’s a depressing tendency to treat older fathers as behind-the-times dopes, Homer Simpson on the way to becoming Grandpa Simpson.

So I had to think of the most Dad things my father ever did.

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Stem cell treatment of spinal cord injuries

I have to admit that my first response to these reports out of Britain that stem cells had been successfully used to repair a complete spinal cord transection was skepticism — incredulity even. They’re reporting that a man with a completely severed spinal cord at level T10-T11 is able to walk again! The Guardian gushes! The Daily Mail gets in the act (always a bad sign)! When I read that the patient had an 8mm gap in his spinal cord that had been filling up with scar tissue for the last two years, I was even more doubtful: under the best of conditions, it was unlikely that you’d get substantial connectivity across that distance.

So I read the paper. I’m less skeptical now, for a couple of reasons. They actually did this experiment on 3 people, and all showed degrees of improvement, although the newspapers are all focusing on just the one who had the greatest change. The gradual changes are all documented thoroughly and believably. And, sad to say, the improvements in the man’s motor and sensory ability are more limited and more realistic than most of the accounts would have you think.

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