Police doing it right

I know most of you heard about the explosion in New York that injured a score of people and led to Trump using it to foment fear and hatred to bump up his poll numbers. We also had an incident in Minnesota, in a St Cloud mall (I’ve been there many times!), where a man went on a stabbing spree, and shouted something about Allah. Eight people were injured, and the guy wielding the knife was killed — which goes to show that it is kind of helpful to get guns out of the hands of these bad people.

But here’s the thing…Minnesota does have a substantial population of Muslims, largely Somali immigrants. They don’t have a violent reputation. But when the St Cloud police chief went on Fox News, of course the Foxites assumed we had a terrible race/immigrant problem here, and tried to stir up some inflammatory racist assumptions and remarks. Chief William Blair Anderson would have nothing to do with it, and actually made a helpful reply.

“I can tell you that the vast majority of all of our citizens, no matter their ethnicity, are fine, hard-working people, and now is not the time for us to be divisive,” he said. “We already have a very cohesive community, and I expect that this will draw us even closer together. But at the end of the day, our job is public safety, period.”

Anderson then went on to say that developing relationships with Somalis in his community was vital to rooting out potential extremists.

“We actually work very well not just with our East African community, but all of our community,” he said. “We meet regularly with any number of people, whether they are advocates for a specific ethnicity or different cause. It’s one of things that makes St. Cloud a wonderful place to live, and I know that might sound corny, but it’s the truth. We have established and maintained a very good rapport with our East African community and our community at large.”

Go away, race-baiters. The less we see of you, the better we’re doing.

That’s also the kind of responsible attitude I like to see in the police.

“Psychologist finds humans fickle and shallow” is probably not a click-baity enough title

A lot of my balding friends are sharing this story (in jest, I hope) that claims Bald men are sexier, more masculine, scientific study finds

A recent scientific study found that men with bald heads are perceived to be more masculine, dominant and stronger. So if you are bald don’t worry, embrace it by shaving your hair off and whatever you do, according to the study, do not wear a toupee, comb over or try hiding your baldness.

Females will in general perceive men with a shaved head as more confident.

This is obviously a worthless study, for several reasons I will expand upon.

[Read more…]

48°52.6’S 123°23.6’W

If ever I mysteriously disappear, here’s where to find me. If I ever retire (which seems unlikely), I have a destination. Point Nemo.


It’s the point on Earth farthest from any land mass. It sounds delightful.

Also, if ever sunken R’lyeh rises sometime after my vanishing, I’ll be the skeleton found on the slimy rocks of the beach, hagfish writhing in my ribcage and and crabs peeking out through my eyesockets. Just so you know.


Uri Geller is using his psychic powers to make an amazing prediction.

To all my dear friends,
Whether you like him or dislike him I have got news for you!
Donald Trump will become the 45th president of United States of America!

What is the basis for this prediction?

11 is a very powerful mystical number.
Barack Obama : 11 letters
George W. Bush: 11 letters
Bill Clinton: 11 letters
Jimmy Carter: 11 letters
John Kennedy: 11 letters
Donald Trump…. 11 letters!!

Barack Hussein Obama: 18 letters
George Walker Bush: 17 letters
William Jefferson Clinton: 23 letters
James Earl Carter: 15 letters
John Fitzgerald Kennedy: 21 letters
Donald John Trump: 15 letters

I think he was rigging the numbers to fit.

If you’re not convinced on the importance of 11, please see this page on my website: http://www.urigeller.com/are-your-eyes-attracted-to-11-11/
More significant people with eleven letters in their name:

Sorry, I didn’t bother.

Jesus Christ
Antony Blair
Pope Francis
Colin Powell

“Jesus Christ” wasn’t his name. “Christ” was a title.

He had to leave a letter out of Tony Blair’s first name to make it fit! Besides, it’s Anthony Charles Lynton Blair.

That’s the latinized version. His name was Michel de Nostredame.

His first name is not “Pope”.

Again, Colin Luther Powell. He seems to have some funny rules for what names he’ll use.

There are so many other historically significant people, places and events that also include 11, or 11.11, read the article, it will blow your mind!
Please let me know your thoughts, and if you are unhappy – or happy at the thought of Donald Trump becoming President, please let me know why, it interests me to hear your perspective.
By the way, do you know of any other people or important events or places that are not on my page about 11.11, please comment to let me know.
Don’t forget to share!

I’ve shared. You’re an idiot, Uri.

Christian arguments are just as nebulous as their deity

Here we go again, another session of Christians complaining about atheists…specifically, these danged “New Atheists” who don’t show the proper respect that the old atheists did. And of course they start with an annoying definition.

I have a couple of friends who are New Atheists and have had conversations with several more. If you haven’t run across them, New Atheism is a sort of grassroots movement among atheists that has gone beyond holding the position that no god exists to the position that theism is actively bad for the world and that atheism should “evangelize” actively to move people away from theism and religion. The movement is spearheaded by the writings and stylings of Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, and Sam Harris.

[Read more…]

A good list of bad news sites

I agree with Ed Brayton: these so-called news sites truly suck.

Occupy Democrats
Bipartisan Report
Winning Democrats
Blue Nation Review
The Freethought Project
Addicting Info
Politicalo (almost anything that ends on lo; these sites specialize in taking accurate statements from politicians and then adding false quotes to them that are much worse than what they actually said)
Being Liberal
American Newsx
The Other 98%

There are others. I notice that he forgot to include the Fox network (anything owned by Rupert Murdoch, actually), Breitbart, and World Net Daily.

Every once in a while, they do say something interesting or newsworthy, but they’re so bad otherwise that you still need to check with other, more reliable news sites to verify…so maybe you should be linking to those, anyway.

Jon Stewart spoiled us

We thought political commentators could actually have some snap and bite, and wouldn’t let folly pass by without mocking it. Boy, were we ever wrong, as Jimmy Fallon enthusiastically demonstrated for us.

On Thursday, Jimmy Fallon had Donald Trump on the Tonight Show and ended the segment by saying, “Donald I want to ask you, because the next time I see you you could be the President of the United States. I just want to know if there is something we could do that’s just not really presidential, really – can I mess your hair up?” Trump let him and the NBC audience roared with laughter. But, for many of us, this is very far from being a joke.

Giving comic cover to Trump just isn’t funny when he’s unleashed forces of anti-blackness and anti-immigrant sentiment. He’s labelled Mexicans rapists, raised the prospect of a ban on Muslims, patronized and insulted African Americans while pretending to be a potential new hope. As a result, Fallon managed to come over as one powerful white man protecting another.

Not only was it not funny. It didn’t do anything to take Trump down a notch (if it was even meant to). Instead, it humanized him, boosting him on that stupid metric so many Americans use when choosing a president: “Hey, he’s a guy I’d want to have a beer with! Look at him, letting Fallon have fun with him!”

I’d threaten to boycott Fallon’s show, but I never watched it anyway. Oh, yeah, I never watched Jay Leno, either.

We see you, Jimmy Fallon. You are as “apolitical” as the wretched Jay Leno was, a champion of the status quo. You think the idea of Trump in the White House is as harmless as your face on a pint of Ben and Jerry’s.

Maybe it is to you, as a powerful white man on TV who doesn’t have to worry about life as a woman, Muslim, Black or Latin person, immigrant, or queer American living under Trumpism (an era which has already begun and will continue, regardless of whether Trump is elected). Your skit was nothing like Charlie Chaplin’s Great Dictator, which brilliantly skewered a rising leader of the right. In fact, you did the opposite, making Trump seem more palatable. When history looks back on this moment, we may well say: Jimmy Fallon, you helped build a monster.

If you want further dissection of how media personalities are often grossly incompetent at actual critical thinking, read Jen Gunter’s analysis of the Oz-Trump interview. I’d boycott Oz, too, except that’s another show I already never watch.


You know that stupid story about inheriting your intelligence from your mother, that I debunked? Emily Willingham said pretty much the same thing, so now you can trust that I was right.

This is not surprising, and it didn’t require a conspiracy or telepathy or a Vulcan mind meld — it was a totally bogus claim that anyone with any significant biology training at all would have found mind-bogglingly inane.

In the same way, scientists around the world are groaning upon hearing Attenborough’s aquatic ape fannishness, and for the same reason — it’s patently false.

Say it ain’t so, Sir David


I’m sorry to report that Sir David Attenborough done screwed up. He is using his mellifluous voice and awesome reputation to promote the Wet Ape Theory. The show features all the usual suspects: recordings of Elaine Morgan insisting that her story is reasonable, Marc Verhaegen’s pseudoscientific hairsplitting, cartoon versions of evolution by Robert Ardrey and Desmond Morris, and that incessant nonsense of ignoring the whole organism and the existing evidence to argue that, well, this one little piece of our physiology could have evolved in the ocean, therefore we should claim that the whole beast was aquatic, because that is the only way they can now imagine it evolved.

The classic example is Alister Hardy’s initial hypothesis to explain why humans are hairless and have a layer of subcutaneous fat. What other animals have such a combination? Why, whales! They live in the ocean, and have lost most of their hair for better streamlining, and built up fat for insulation, therefore…humans lost their hair to better cut through the water, and evolved subcutaneous fat for heat retention. This is a bad hypothesis, because it ignores so much.

  • We don’t have any other streamlining adaptations, and are actually rather clumsy in the water.

  • Only aquatic mammals that live full time in the water show these adaptations; mammals that live part time in the water tend to have lots of hair.

  • Our “blubber” does a poor job of protecting us from that big heat sink, the ocean. We also lack the circulatory adaptations that make it useful in that function: countercurrent exchangers, arteriovenous anastomoses, that sort of thing.

  • Marine mammals have very little visceral fat; we’ve got loads of it. OK, I’ve got lots. Most of our fat is not distributed in a way to improve insulation.

And most annoyingly, the wet ape proponents simply pretend alternative explanations don’t exist. Hairlessness or reduced body hair, for instance, has evolved independently in several groups: cetaceans, naked mole rats, domesticated pigs, elephants, hippos, etc. So there are different strategies or environmental conditions that can lead to these features, and you can’t simply say all hairless mammals had to have gone through a dolphin-like evolutionary stage, because there are no other situations that can favor hairlessness.

But of course wet ape fanatics do — I’ve seen them seriously suggest that elephants had to have also gone through an aquatic phase.

Attenborough, I’m sorry to say, also takes this blinkered attitude. He closes episode 1 (there are two, I couldn’t bear to listen to the second) of his “waterside ape” series with what he proposes to be a “test” of the aquatic ape theory, which is no such thing. He claims to have new evidence: that there is a known feature of human infants which he predicts would be found in newborn cetaceans, and if confirmed, would both demonstrate the predictive power of the wet ape theory and provide an additional point of confirmation.

That feature is vernix, which is only known in humans. Vernix is the slimy, greasy coat that covers newborn humans, which he wants to claim is an aquatic adaptation, and therefore should be also found in other aquatic mammals. He is able to triumphantly announce that something similar has recently been reported in cetaceans.

But, again, the connection to an aquatic life has not been demonstrated. I don’t even see how vernix helps a mammal thrive in the water; it’s a fetal feature that is lost with the first bath, or is shed within a few days of birth. Vernix has many hypothesized functions for humans:

Vernix caseosa is a white, creamy, naturally occurring biofilm covering the skin of the fetus during the last trimester of pregnancy. Vernix coating on the neonatal skin protects the newborn skin and facilitates extra-uterine adaptation of skin in the first postnatal week if not washed away after birth. It consists of water-containing corneocytes embedded in a lipid matrix. The strategic location of the vernix on the fetal skin surface suggests participation in multiple overlapping functions required at birth, such as barrier to water loss, temperature regulation [the paper later shows a lack of support for this function –pzm], and innate immunity. Vernix seems to perform various integral roles during transition of the fetus from intra-uterine to extra-uterine life. It has also found various interesting diagnostic and prognostic implications in this arena. Thus, it continues to be an intriguing topic of interest among the medical fraternity to understand its detailed biology and function in the fetus and also to put its naturally endowed characteristics to use in the adult population.

Most of those multiple overlapping functions have nothing to do with adaptations for swimming — they are important for a mammal with no insulating layer of hair that is basically born prematurely with relatively few defenses. It is a logical error to imply that sharing a feature with many functions, like vernix, means that two species had to have had a similar ecological history. It makes no sense at all. I am very disappointed that David Attenborough has fallen for such crank nonsense.

I am not being peculiarly fussy, either. Very few people in the evolutionary/anthropological community think the Aquatic Ape is a credible hypothesis. Jim Moore has a very thorough compendium of rebuttals to the hodge-podge of contradictory details that make up the Aquatic Ape Theory; it’s a constant struggle to combat proponents who vomit up all kinds of odd scientific factlets that they claim are supportive of their cherished, much-loved, stupid theory. John Hawks explains why the AAT is pseudoscience. The Guardian has already posted a rejection of Attenborough’s “wishful thinking”. Alice Roberts quickly wrote an excellent response to Attenborough.

The original idea, and certainly Elaine Morgan’s elaboration of it, became an umbrella hypothesis or a “Theory of Everything”; both far too extravagant and too simple an explanation. It attempts to provide a single rationale for a huge range of adaptations – which we know arose at different times in the course of human evolution. Traits such as habitual bipedalism, big brains and language didn’t all appear at once – instead, their emergence is spread over millions of years. It’s nonsense to lump them all together as if they require a single explanation.

Despite the evidence stacked up against the theory, it is strangely tenacious. It has become very elastic, and its proponents will seize hold of any mentions of water, fish or shellfish in human evolution, and any archaeological sites found near coasts, rivers and lakes as supporting evidence. But we must always build our hypotheses on, and test them against, the hard evidence: the fossils, comparative anatomy and physiology, and genetics. In that test, the aquatic ape has failed – again and again.

It is a great shame the BBC recently indulged this implausible theory as it distracts from the emerging story of human evolution that is both more complex and more interesting. Because at the end of the day science is about evidence, not wishful thinking.

Unfortunately, I’m sure this bad idea will emerge again and again. There’s something appealing to the human psyche about one simple explanation of everything, even if that explanation is completely wrong.