Don’t watch this if you’re at all squeamish about blood

I was just reading this post by Shiv about the expectations of femininity, making the point that there is a huge role for perception in how we react to sex-based phenomena — women are supposed to be hyper-emotional, even when they’re not, and we’ve all got this idea that extremely high level cognitive/emotional phenomena can be reduced to a simplistic measure of how much of which steroid you’ve got in your blood.

Here’s the thing: I’ve read the literature attempting to link estrogen to anything but physiology. It’s quite desperate. It’s EvoPsych levels of bad. The problem is that even if you do find a correlation, there’s a million and one moving parts–the biggest problem being “how do you measure levels of emotionality.” In the absence of anything remotely convincing, I remain skeptical of the exact role estrogen supposedly plays on emotional expression. It is far too convenient for these poorly designed experiments to support cultural stereotypes. The problem runs so deep that we’re asking the wrong question–how, exactly, does one measure the null hypothesis? Are you able to reasonably assess stoicism without the gender of the subject prejudicing your measurement?

Men don’t cry, but it’s not because testosterone dries up your tear ducts — it’s because men are mocked fiercely if they show that kind of emotion. Women are supposed to be emotionally expressive, but it’s not because estrogen somehow disinhibits emotional centers of the brain, but because they’re conditioned by years of expectations that girls are supposed to be this way.

But it doesn’t have to be that way, and different cultures have different expectations of gendered behavior, and that is what shapes us most. One of the best discussions I’ve seen of that is in Sarah Hrdy’s Mother Nature: Maternal Instincts and How They Shape the Human Species, in which she takes a cold hard anthropological look at the myth of the woman enslaved by her instinct for mothering, and shows that it’s bunk.

And then I ran across this commercial, which is the most fucking macho thing ever. There’s a lot of blood in it, so you may not want to watch it. It’s an ad for feminine napkins.

Who we are is partly a product of biology (but there’s more commonality between men and women than our sexist society wants to accept), but how we think of ourselves is a matter of attitude.

Mr Rogers says, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

And then shoot them.

Amanda Marcotte writes about the performative worship of the police at the Republican National Convention. Meanwhile, in Miami, a black caregiver trying to help a severely autistic man who wandered away from a group home, was confronted by police who’d been called by someone who said the man was wielding a gun (it was actually a toy truck). The caregiver ends up lying in the street with his hands up and clearly empty, trying to explain to the police that he was trying to help the man, and please don’t shoot.

So shot him, obvs.

“When I went to the ground, I went to the ground with my hands up,” Kinsey said, “and I am laying there just like this. Telling them again there is no need for firearms. He is autistic. He has a toy truck in his hand.” …

“I’m like this right here, and when he shot me, it was so surprising,” Kinsey said. “I thought it was a mosquito bite, and when it hit me I had my hands in the air, and I’m thinking I just got shot! And I’m saying, ‘Sir, why did you shoot me?’ and his words to me were, ‘I don’t know.’ ”

Then they handcuffed him. Why, I don’t know. I think the new logic has changed from “if you see a criminal, shoot them” to “if you shoot them, you see a criminal.”

So that’s what a gay party is like

I’ve never been to one, and I’ve never even been invited to one, and this is the first account I’ve read of one, and it’s not quite what I would have expected. Hosting the party was Milo Yiannopoulos — perfectly legitimate, since he is openly gay — and…Pam Geller? Geert Wilders? Praise for Trump, excoriation of Democrats and other liberals, condemnation of jihadis, and…bad dancing?

I am so disappointed. That doesn’t sound open and liberal and joyful and fabulous at all.

Quantum paramagnetic looping heme molecules shaped our morphology!


The other day, I was briefly harangued by someone named William Peters on Twitter. It was a strange comment that was simultaneously pro-evolution while trying to imply some peculiar doubts — it was just off a bit. He wasn’t rude or anything, but I was intrigued and curious, so I dug a little deeper. He says many things that are slightly off.

Like having a simple mathematical explanation for the evolution of humans from fish.

The world is spherical, not flat! Cartesian math = 19th C. Polar co-ordinate math describes evolution of fish to man

Uh-oh. I see trouble coming. This is a common attractor in crank biology, the idea that form is only superficially complex, and that underlying it all is an elegant mathematical formula that will explain all, and of course, the author has discovered the secret equation that will cut through all the shallow trivia pursued by his peers. We saw it in Stuart Pivar, in Vincent Fleury, in Erik Andrulis. I can sympathize with the seductive power of geometry, but at some point, you have to look at the data…and the data trumps all your abstract theorizing every time.

But at least Peters isn’t talking about toruses, the usual crank attractor. No, this guy is into vacuum cleaner hoses, magnets, electricity, and…

Quantum biology has arrived #persanguinemnostrum Enjoyed your talk in NZ 2014

We have “quantum”, mission control, I repeat, “quantum”.

If you’re in the mood for some grandeloquent strangeness, check out his website, The opening announcement is this:





[Read more…]

Twitter rule: always punch down

Scalzi has some comments on the banning of Milo, and I particularly like this point.

It’s good that Twitter punted Yiannopoulos, but let’s not pretend that it doesn’t look like Twitter did some celebrity calculus there. Yiannopoulos and pals had a nice long run pointing themselves at all other manner of people they didn’t like, for whatever reason, and essentially Twitter didn’t say “boo” about it. But then they harass a movie star with movie star friends, many of whom are Twitter users with large numbers of followers, and whose complaints about Twitter and the harassment of their friend get play in major news outlets, and Twitter finally boots the ringleader of that shitty little circus.

So the math there at least appears pretty obvious from the outside. You can punch down on Twitter and get away with it, but don’t punch up, and punch up enough to make Twitter look bad, or you’ll get in trouble (after more than a day). Is this actually the way it works? I’m not at Twitter so I can’t say. I can say I do know enough women of all sorts who have gotten all manner of shit by creeps on Twitter, but who weren’t in a movie and had movie star friends or got press play for their harassment. And they basically had to suck it up. So, yeah, from the outside it looks like Twitter made their decision on this based on optics rather than the general well-being of their users.

This is exactly the rule set that fosters bullies, and is going to make the problem worse.


It was just a mistake.

A US air strike killed more than 85 civilians, including children, in Syria on Tuesday after the coalition mistook them for Islamic State fighters.

Some eight families were hit as they tried to flee fighting in their area, in one of the single deadliest strikes on civilians by the alliance since the start of its operations in the war-torn country.

A slight inaccuracy. A little slip-up. A bit of a faux pas, don’t you know. A blunder. A goof. Flubbed that one. A boo-boo. One brown person fleeing looks like another. They were wearing middle-eastern-looking clothes! If they didn’t want to get blown up, they shouldn’t have been living in a place that has terrorists. How do you know they were all innocent? Not our fault, we had good intentions, we didn’t mean to kill frightened civilians. Gotta break a few eggs to make an omelette. We have to kill the terrorists, sometimes civilians get in the way. Would you rather let the terrorists win? Collateral damage. Collateral damage. Collateral damage.

85 dead Syrians/terrorists/Islamic State fighters/Muslims. The labels help. Makes it easier to forget these were 85 dead human beings, as long as you don’t use the labels “children”, “women”, “men”, “families”, “people”.

Ben Carson always brings the weird

Carson spoke at the Republican convention last night, and of course it was bizarre.

He starts off with an announcement that he’s a proud asshole…that is, he declares that he’s not politically correct. You know, this PC thing was invented by assholes, to justify their persecution complex when they’re called out on being assholes, right?

Then he trots out his claim to credibility, which is that he was a brain surgeon, and treats this as a testimonial that he must be an expert on reason. I’ve dissected fish, I guess that means I know how to breathe underwater.

But then we get to the fun stuff: Carson accuses Hillary Clinton of Satanism, by way of that conservative boogey man, Saul Alinsky.

He wrote a book called Rules for Radicals. It acknowledges Lucifer, the original radical who gained his own kingdom. Now think about that. This is our nation where our founding document, the Declaration of Independence talks about certain inalienable rights that come from our creator, a nation where our Pledge of Allegiance says we are ‘One nation under God.’ This is a nation where every coin in our pockets and every bill in our wallet says, ‘In God We Trust.’ So are we willing to elect someone as president who has as their role model somebody who acknowledges Lucifer? Think about that.

It’s true! Everything he mentioned is a True Fact! Our money does have “In God We Trust” stamped on it, something that was done in the face of the Red Scare in the 1950s. The Pledge of Allegiance does say “One nation under God”…now. Again, that was an addition made in the 1950s. The authors of the Declaration of Independence included a bunch of freethinkers who included a vague mention of a Creator (but of course, elsewhere they carefully divorced themselves from any specific sectarian intention). And yes, Alinsky does include an epigraph that mentions Lucifer.

Lest we forget at least an over-the-shoulder acknowledgment to the very first radical: from all our legends, mythology, and history (and who is to know where mythology leaves off and history begins — or which is which), the first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom — Lucifer.
—Saul Alinsky

But see, this is where reason comes into play. You can cite a hodge-podge of miscellaneous True Facts, but you have to use your reason to assemble them into meaning. And Carson uses these fragments of facts to imply that Satan is real, Hillary Clinton serves him, and that an imaginary superbeing will turn away from America if we don’t have “In God We Trust” jingling in our pockets, like sublime capitalist prayer wheels.

This makes no sense. This is unreason. Worse, it’s the conservative version of political correctness.

At least it’s nice to know I’ll be voting for Lucifer in November.

If he wept endlessly over a checkmark, what is Milo Yiannopoulos going to do now?

Poor Milo. The Breitbart crank, hero to the worst elements of the internet, was very bitter about the fact that Twitter removed the blue verification checkmark from his profile, about as petty a slight as can be imagined. I have no idea how he’ll react to the latest news: Twitter has finally, permanently banned Milo Yiannopoulos from the service.

Yiannopoulos, who currently serves as’s tech editor, has been hailed as a standout voice of the new “alt-right” movement. As such, he has made a living as a provocateur, continually inflaming tensions between progressive branches of the internet focused on identity politics and the fervently anti-PC segment that constantly trolls it. For years, Yiannopoulous has used Twitter not only to voice his controversial opinions but to direct his legion of followers (388,042 at the time of this writing) toward his opponents. As a result, he’s been temporarily banned from Twitter a number of times for violating terms of service and stripped of his verification.

It’s about time that he was permanently kicked off for his incessant abuse. What did it at last? Milo was one of the people who led the racist, sexist online assault against Leslie Jones, whose sole crime was being one of the stars of the new Ghostbusters movie. The social injustice warriors were already irate that somehow, a remake of an old movie with women cast in major roles was an unforgivable slight against their masculinity, so they tried to pump themselves up by sending a tsunami of vile, filthy, bigoted imagery against a black woman.

It’s nice that something finally drove Twitter to do something about it — their responses to online harassment have been infuriatingly forgiving to some incredibly nasty stuff — but it’s a shame that it takes something as savage as the attacks on Jones to get them to finally do what needed to be done about one person.