Pharyngula Podcast #3

We had another fun Google+ Hangout this morning with Esteleth, James Rook, Tommy Leung, and Yankee Cynic, building on a couple of articles I mentioned before. Basically, we talked about the attractiveness of the premises of evolutionary psychology vs. the extravagance of their conclusions, and the unreliability of brains and how we have to work hard to overcome them. It turned into a kind of discussion about psychology, of all things.

And now you can watch it all, too.

Isn’t it amazing how you can assemble a small group of people, give them the seed of an idea, and then they can go on to talk about it for an hour, easy?

We’ll probably do another one in about two weeks. Make suggestions! I’m also planning to do the next one at sometime in my local evening, so maybe we can bring in an Australian or two.


  1. sadunlap says

    Thank you all for doing this. I joined late and then my elderly Mac crapped out just after Esteleth demolished the pink v. blue myth and the shopping = ovulation idiocy.

    Your introductory comments helped clarify, far more articulately than I could, the promise and the failure of evolutionary psychology.

    I hope to see more in the future.

  2. says

    Getting to participate in this was the most fun I’ve had all month. Thanks again to PZ for hosting and giving me the privilege of participating! I hope I contributed well to the discussion.

  3. ChasCPeterson says

    surprise, I have a dissenting opinion. I thought the discussion of the ‘evo-psych’ paper was disappointing. Little evidence of understanding (or even reading for comprehension), much facile boilerplate. Straw-figures, nitpicking, unreferenced assertions, and well-poisoning, but almost zero acknowledgement of the data.
    Some of PZ’s comments (almost alone imo) are sensible, others not so much (e.g. ‘if behavior can be modified or overridden by advertising or cognitive/social stimuli then it cannot have evolved’? wtf?)

    (Not that I thought the article was any good, either–most of my reasons were at least hinted at by PZ–but look: it was part of some kid’s Master’s thesis, in Marketing.)


  4. says

    I would not argue that features overridden by advertising could not have evolved. Instead, the biological substrates of a behavior so easily modified by culture are not going to be so easily extracted by a short term and trivial experiment.

  5. says

    Oh, no, I hate free will arguments. You’d just have video of me sitting there gritting my teeth with a pained expression.

    I don’t think “free will” is even a coherent concept.

  6. alkaloid says

    Unless its operating by a secondary mechanism, anisomycin is a protein synthesis inhibitor so it seems like it’d have a lot of side effects if you were just trying to use it to inhibit the proteins involved in memory formation.

    That does give me an idea for another approach, though. What if the proteins involve share common splicing factors, so by designing a compound that would selectively inhibit their splicing you could prevent the protein synthesis selectively?

  7. chakolate says

    Will these ever be available as .mp3s? I know, they can be converted, but my player doesn’t play those at all well, and if I stop the playback even once the whole thing jumps back and forth in the playback.

    I can’t be the only one.

  8. says

    I would also like an mp3. Usually someone is kind enough to do a conversion. I tried, but I am apparently not skilled enough to do it.

  9. says

    Free Will is hard and complicated, and probably not very well suited for this format.
    How about the classic “evidence for gods” topic, or something around circumcision?

  10. maudell says

    PZ, I assume you are talking about Concordia University in Montreal. If so, you are mistaken about it being upscale. I went to Concordia until last december and not only is it one of the cheapest universities in Canada (and it is a public university), they also pretty much accept anybody (I was accepted without a high school degree and any proof of academic competence whatsoever). It’s not a bad university, but definitely not upscale (my bachelor’s degree cost $1,100 a semester for tuition, including everything: health insurance, free public transit, etc). I’m now at SFU in Vancouver, another public university of similar quality, and tuition is about double that of Concordia. If you were talking about another university in the US called Concordia, then my apologies.

    I had a discussion with a professor there about one of his psychology paper that was covered in the media last year. It was supposedly “proving” that porn is evil and that women who watch porn become sexual deviant (a slippery slope type of argument). The professor was appalled that the media had distorted his study (which was, in fact, a survey for his first year’s students and wasn’t supposed to be seen as a study at all. They made a small group of women watch the same porn clip everyday for a certain period of time and found out that after a while, they were less aroused. The media took this as proof that it meant they would need a more extreme “fix” to get aroused again). My point is, the media often seriously distorts studies, particularly in psychology. It makes for a good story for them. I don’t know if that’s what happened in this case, but I would be curious about what the prof who wrote the shopping study would have to say about the media coverage.

    I’m glad you are finally making a podcast! Any chance it would be downloadable on itunes at some point?

  11. alkaloid says

    I liked “evidence for gods” as an idea. Perhaps you could turn it into a running series where every so often, you’d attack one of the many awful but recurring arguments religionists use.

  12. madscientist says

    I wouldn’t even agree that it would be a decent psychology paper; psychology may have a history of the same sort of nonsense claims (I did X and I declare it proves my pet idea Y) but the field has been trying to move beyond that for decades just as the medical field has been trying to move beyond bullshit for the past 70+ years (and the medical literature is, unfortunately, still littered with loads of crap).

  13. devogene says

    As I suggested last time, a discussion on evo-devo will be wonderful. If we do a discussion on The Dino-Bird article that PZ wrote, that would be great too!

  14. says

    Thanks for the positive comments about psychology in the discussion of the second article! Whilst I have no arguments with the comments on evolutionary psychology made on this blog – some very silly claims have been made by researchers/press offices/the media – it’s good to hear you (PZ) remind us that psychology can tell us a lot about the brain and our biases. (I’m a psychologist, btw)

  15. lsdfg says

    PZ, I’d like to suggest a topic for next times talk.

    I was reading about SLC18A2 the so called “God gene” when I typed it into youtube to try to learn more about it when I saw this video:

    As someone who knows absolutely nothing about biology I was asking myself is this for real. Not if the video is from a real meeting or is staged, since who knows what the hell its from, but more specifically if genetics has advanced to the stage where it can really do things like this. Also, what are the ethical implications of doing something like this? Would it really it even work? etc. I’d be interested in hearing a discussion about this.

  16. says

    @ 17,

    Another talk would be :

    The VMAT2/god gene bullshit, is exactly that, bullshit. If you want to call a gene that codes for a membrane protein that transports neurotransmitters god gene, you might as well call LSD the god molecule, or Jameson the god drink.

  17. ChasCPeterson says

    you might as well call LSD the god molecule, or Jameson the god drink.

    I almost epiphanied.

  18. Dr. Esteleth Dyke, Medicine Woman and Snark Machine says

    …I had not considered that, Gilliel, but possibly.

    Then again, they could have included women who use condoms & IUDs, and women who sleep with women in their sample.

  19. IndyM, pikčiurna says

    I’m sorry, but I can’t help myself…


    Now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, many thanks to all who participated in the podcast–these Pharyngula podcasts are great.

  20. says

    Any chance these can be packaged up and made available through iTunes? I’d rather get it that way rather than having to have a browser window open.