Milo Yiannopoulos is a fraud

Shocking. It turns out that Milo Yiannopoulos is ghost-written. Everywhere. He’s got interns writing his articles, his talks…I wonder if he’s so lazy that he’s got them writing his tweets.

Yiannopoulos confirmed in an interview with BuzzFeed News that he has about 44 interns — a mix of paid and unpaid — writing and conducting research for him. But he denied that other people write stories for him start to finish.

Two people write Breitbart stuff for me, he told BuzzFeed News, but ghostwriting is too great a word. [Nope. Ghostwriting is exactly the word. –pzm] He said that the majority of his interns are researchers and that some write speeches for him. I have two books coming out this year, he said. It’s completely standard for someone with a career like mine to have researchers and assistants and ghostwriters.

A career like his…what career? He is, supposedly, a writer. What he does for a career is write stuff. He doesn’t have any other job. His wikipedia page identifies him as a journalist. He’s employed at Breitbart as their tech journalist — he doesn’t know much about “tech”, but I guess he’s as qualified to be labeled that as “journalist”.

You know, if he were calling himself an astronaut, and it turned out that the only people to step into a rocket were his paid staff and volunteers, It would be fair to call him out on that phoniness. If he said he was a movie star, but had a team of proxies who were doing all his acting for him, I’d wonder why anyone needed him at all. He’s got about as much of a career as a Kardashian, apparently, famous for being famous rather than talented, and mainly his job is posting selfies and preening.

And 44 interns? That’s ludicrous. What is there left for him to do after 44 people have written his text, edited his words, done all the labor of writing?

Worst of all, he’s outsourcing his writing to…goons from 4chan. That explains a lot, actually.

I tried to read Orrin Hatch’s defense of Republican obstructionism

I really did. I got as far as the first sentence: Justice Antonin Scalia was among the greatest jurists in our nation’s history, and decided that the flavor of that bullshit was going to be just a little too rank. So I skipped to the last paragraph, read Considering a nominee in the midst of a toxic presidential election would be irresponsible, and realized that I have become wise in my years in skipping all the crap in between. What’s making this election toxic, I wondered? Has Hatch looked at his fellow party members?

Fortunately, a historian examined Hatch’s rationalizations for me. Reeking ordure confirmed, and that mysterious scent stinking up the joint? That’s cowardice.

If Hatch and his fellow Republicans want to vote against Judge Garland, they have every right to do so. But they should stop being cowards. They should make a substantive argument against him. vote against him, and accept the political consequences of that vote. They should stop pretending that this reckless path they have chosen is anything but a desperate attempt to hold onto a Supreme Court majority.

Dishonest, cowardly, and contemptible. That’s our Republican party!

April science talks

I’m doing some sort-of local (on the other side of the state, that is) talks in April, so my Minnesota pals will have an opportunity to stop by and argue with me. The first is on Sunday, 17 April, in the Rondo Library in St Paul, at 2pm. It’ll be a slightly updated version of a talk I gave a few times last year.

Bad Biology: How Evolutionary Psychology Corrupts Evolution

The most powerful and versatile tool in your toolbox is the adjustable wrench. Not only can it tighten and loosen both nuts and bolts of all sizes, but it also makes an excellent hammer, can be used to punch holes in objects, and it also performs as a serviceable canoe paddle.

If that lack of respect for tools makes you cringe, now you know how PZ Myers feels. Natural selection is one of the most powerful concepts in evolutionary biology, yet many people use it excessively and inappropriately as a kind of quasi-miraculous explanation for everything. Most biologists know better, though, and realize that there are many other forces operating on evolution.

The dangerous aspect of the abuse of natural selection is that it allows the naturalistic fallacy to run rampant. If selection inevitably optimizes everything, then whatever is must be for the best – so human nature must be exactly what allows us to survive. This attitude is used to justify the status quo, whether it’s racism, or the superiority of Western culture, or the inferiority of women. This can only be done by ignoring the multiple forces that drive evolutionary change.

Prof. Myers will be explain what these other forces are, and giving examples of the abuse of science to justify several fallacies: so-called “scientific” racism and evolutionary psychology. He’ll also discuss how lack of knowledge of basic evolutionary biology can lead professional scientists astray.

Yes! Let’s annoy the evolutionary psychologists some more! They deserve it.

Then, the next weekend on Saturday 23 April at 10am, I’ll be joining the West Metro Critical Thinking Club to talk science education for a while.

STEM and the liberal arts: How do we teach science?

There is a constant push to change education from an experience that broadens the mind to one that focuses students on a vocation. We’ve got universities hiring business people with no educational experience to make them more profitable, and people seriously questioning the value of disciplines like philosophy, psychology, sociology, or anything that others disparagingly call “soft” subjects. At the same time, there are advocates of reform who think algebra is useless, and that we waste too much time teaching mathematics that, they think, no one will ever use.

I’ll be presenting an interdisciplinary, liberal arts perspective on science education — we need all facets of human knowledge if we are to adequately comprehend our own narrower fields of interest. I’ll be interested in getting a discussion going about what attendees expect from a college education.

I’m not sure of the location just yet — somewhere near the Ridgedale Mall.

Come on by to either one or both!

Could I ever vote for a Blue Dog? Maybe.


I have never voted for my representative, Collin Peterson.

Peterson is a co-founder of the Blue Dog Coalition, the caucus of moderate House Democrats, and is known for his conservatism. He’s anti-abortion, opposed to embryonic stem cell research, against same-sex marriage and supports the death penalty. He is also avidly anti-gun control.

I can’t stand the guy. Look at that list: he opposes everything I favor. So every time I’ve had to go into the voting booth, I look at his name, and his opponent (who is always something worse), and I just leave it blank. I’m not voting for him or a Republican.

But I might have to change my habits, hold my nose, and punch that ballot in the future. Not only is Peterson endorsing Bernie Sanders, but the Republicans are getting increasingly vile.

Chad Hartman: I would say this sir, I think you are genuine in what you want [but] I don’t think a lot of these people want the help you are offering. I would say this you have talked about the issue of sexuality and have caused plenty of criticism. I just want to ask you if you still stand by what you said a few years ago that homosexuality is unhealthy sexual addiction. Do you still stand by that?
Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen: Yes I do, and I know — I have friends who are homosexual, and I have friends who are former homosexuals, okay? So it is uh — you know the CDC — the Centers for Disease Control — which is not a right-wing organization, I think we can all agree on that — recently came out with the report that we have between 65 and 100 million Americans that have an STD. 65 to 100 million. We’re approaching one third of our population has an STD.
Hartman: Many heterosexuals obviously…
Gruenhagen: This whole concept of promiscuity outside the bond of marriage is not working out real well, and people say, “Well, that’s a social issue.” Do you understand the billions and billions of dollars in health care costs those diseases brings?
Hartman: You are telling the millions of people in this country who are homosexual — and the rest of their lives are no different than me or yours — but that the reason they have described themselves as homosexual is because they have an unhealthy sexual addiction?
Gruenhagen: Yeah you can go on the internet and there’s treatment for sexual addictions right here in Minnesota, whether it’s pornography or unhealthy sexual behavior. You can receive treatment for that and be free from those compulsions.

OMG. The Republicans are making Collin Peterson look liberal! And compelling me to <choke> compromise!

Boy Scouts taint Unitarian Universalism


My sons were involved in the Boy Scouts of America a bit as they were growing up, especially my middle kid. We had fun: camping, making campfires, running around in the woods, setting things on fire, archery, making even bigger campfires, etc., all that important stuff. But it also made me uneasy, because the Boy Scouts of America was an awful organization. We had to keep our lack of religious belief quiet, and as more and more horrible information about their policies towards gay kids emerged, it became increasingly uncomfortable. But hey, we were straight white people who could pass for Lutherans, we didn’t have to worry about those other people, and I wasn’t aware of all the bias built into the system. What’s really a shame is that at the time my kids were into it, we lived in Philadelphia…and I didn’t know Margaret Downey, nemesis of the BSA then, and I’m proud now to know her now and her fight against their discriminatory practices.

I was kind of relieved when the kids lost interest. It’s really hard to stand up for principle and what is right when it might make your own children unhappy. If I were to do it all over again, with the knowledge I have now, I’d try to discourage them from even starting up. And I’d refuse to participate myself at all, but at the same time I wouldn’t go all Christian on them and say I’d disown them if they didn’t follow my moral principles. It’s a tough gig, having to deal with other people.

But still, the BSA is a poisonously evil organization.

And now James Croft joins in the battle, in a very good post in which he scorns the BSA and their “Declaration of Religious Principle” (you have to sign a loyalty oath to a god to join), but also the fact that the Unitarian Universalist Association has re-affiliated themselves with the scouts.

Last week the Unitarian Universalist Association – the national organization which represents all Unitarian Universalist churches in the USA, some of which are Humanist congregations, and many of which include significant numbers of Humanists – renewed ties with the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), praising the recent changes they have made to policies regarding gay boy scouts and scout leaders. As I’ve written before, those changes don’t go nearly far enough: the BSA still allows local troops to discriminate against gay people, and until that policy is totally overthrown, I would be against re-affiliation. Allowing your member organizations to engage in homophobic discrimination is to be party to homophobic discrimination, and the UUA should not re-affiliate for that reason alone. Furthermore, trans boys are still not fully included in scouting, and this movement to re-affiliate by the UUA is part of a long history of trans people’s dignity being shoved aside once gay people have got what they wanted. It leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

I agree.

But Unitarian Universalism now? The UUs have always bugged me a bit, too — you’re a religion, and you can’t even bring yourself to a specific conclusion about deities? — but I’ve been accepting because the spirit of freethought isn’t specifically about being an atheist, but about rejecting organized religion and being tolerant of other people’s ideas, but if they’re happily joining up with an intolerant organization, I can’t give them the benefit of the doubt anymore.

The Unitarian Universalist Association is the national representative of a religious movement which prides itself on radical religious inclusivity, and the BSA is manifestly not a “radically inclusive” organization. It goes out of its way to actively insult people who don’t believe in god – which includes many members of UU congregations and a number of respected UU clergy. Imagine the outcry if the UUA had re-affiliated with an organization which said similar things about Jewish people, Muslims, or Pagans: no re-affiliation would have been possible or acceptable to the UUA under such circumstances, and they certainly would not have considered such a move without consulting UU representatives of those faith traditions.

This is betrayal. There’s no other word for it. The UUA has decided which of its members are important and which are not, and atheists, agnostics, and Humanists have been unceremoniously dumped as the UUA gets back into bed with an organization which practices religious discrimination and spiritual coercion of children. There are many wonderfully affirming and inclusive Unitarian Universalist churches and clergy who are fully accepting of and welcoming to Humanists. But to those Humanist members of UU churches who reach out to me frequently to express their despair that the Unitarian Universalist Association doesn’t seem to care about them or want them, I now have only one message: you’re right.

We keep hacking these deep rifts, but it’s necessary — the guiding principle should be based on humanist ideals, not simply atheism or anti-theism, and organizations that can’t support those ideals are not allies.

The anti-PC police are in the wrong

I’m really fed up with all the op-eds emerging now, decrying those wimpy college students and political correctness and trigger warnings and safe spaces. They’re all from obnoxious ignoramuses who are really trying to defend their sheltered privilege from criticism, so they’re all playing a game of IKYABWAI. So here are a couple of strong rebuttals.

  • “PC Culture” isn’t Killing Higher Ed (But Your Crappy Op-Eds Might Be).

    The last thing higher education needs is one more old white guy bleating about “political correctness run amok,” when it’s just a slightly more genteel phrase for “people not like me getting all uppity.” If you’re upset about other people winning in the marketplace of ideas, maybe it’s because your ideas suck. If you think today’s students are coddled, and don’t have “grit,” you either don’t teach or aren’t paying attention. To see students calling out power inequalities and inequitable behaviors is not some sort of failure, but a triumph of critical thinking and intellectual agency. If you think students calling institutions, their administrations, or other authorities out on bad thinking, institutional inequities, or general bullshit is “silly,” or “killing higher education,” maybe you’re the delicate little flower who can’t abide an intellectual challenge.

  • Straw Freshmen: Why the War on Campus PC Culture is Bullshit.

    Take the “trigger warning” as an example. There are still no colleges or universities that mandate trigger warnings as a practice in any field of study. Most cases of them being used have been in teaching sensitive issues of rape, abuse, or assault to classes with young women. The overarching point in “Coddling,” that trigger warnings actually can’t improve mental health, misses the point of the reality of these women. A new study from the Association of American Universities finds that over a fifth of all college women are sexually assaulted at some time in their enrollment. Another 47% have experienced sexual harassment and another 12% have experienced intimate partner violence. This means that any given classroom with any significant amount of women could be composed of up to a third or more of women who are processing rapes, assaults, harassment, or violence. Given the absolutely horrendous state of affairs within colleges (and largely, the country) in handling rape cases and pursuing justice and health for these women, it is likely that most of these survivors have not received or are not receiving the proper therapy and healing in order to be able to process triggering images and words without suffering further damage.

  • ‘Coddled’ students and their ‘safe spaces’ aren’t the problem, college official says. Bigots are.

    Therefore, whether one is suspicious of the merits of college as a whole or cynical about the existence of “safe spaces,” the truth of the matter is that “coddled” college students aren’t the problem.

    The real culprits — on campuses and in the real world — are the persistent effects of homophobia, income inequality, misogyny, poverty, racism, sexism, white supremacy and xenophobia.

    When students refuse to accept discrimination on college campuses, they’re learning important lessons about how to fight it everywhere.

That last one makes an excellent point: the anti-PC language does the opposite of what its obnoxious proponents claim. It’s not about advocating for free speech. It’s about using accusations of “PC” and mocking efforts to give minorities a voice to silence critics of the status quo.

Would you rather be a good poet or an incompetent scientist?

One of those wacky Islamists took to pestering me on Twitter with a flurry of standard Allah-pologetics. They were embarrassingly stupid, and I finally had to block him. But I thought I’d share one example of his bad reasoning.


This is a standard approach they take. Here’s some remark made by Mohammed, usually something short and lacking in detail; now here’s some modern scientific discovery that superficially agrees with Mohammed’s vague comment; therefore, Mohammed had some deep scientific insight of divine origin, proving that he was a true prophet.

So let’s look at the quote from the Qur’an.

Do they not travel through the land, so that their hearts may thus learn wisdom. 22:46

Does that sound like a scientific declaration to anyone? It’s a poetic metaphor, is all. It might also be a warmed-over vestige of Greek philosophy, although it has become such a common colloquialism that I wouldn’t use it to claim that Mohammed was a serious scholar of Greek thought (especially since that is another prong of Islamic ignorance: Mohammed was really badly educated and ignorant, they say, so anything he got right had to have been introduced into his head by magic). But yes, the Greeks had complex ideas about souls, with an appetitive soul situated in your gut, a rational soul in your head (but probably not your brain), and an emotional, spiritual soul in your heart. And now people will say “bless your heart” or say that someone is “kind-hearted” or talk about a kind and generous person as “big hearted”.

It is not and is never intended as a scientific claim, that such people have a large cognitive center in their chests that is advising their brain to be charitable or friendly or loving. That would be silly. It’s an expression not intended to be taken literally. I think it’s safe to assume that Mohammed is similarly using an expression in a colloquial way.

But not our Islamist kook! No, Mohammed is literally arguing that there is a brain located in your heart. It has to be true, because Mohammed never lied and knows everything. So he’s going to take this simple phrase and mangle science to make it support his belief.

Scientists discovered that the heart thinks, learns wisdom, and contains neurological centers that save data. Heart contains 40000 nerve cells that form a “real brain”!!


There is nervous tissue throughout your body; it’s how you sense the world, know the position of your body parts, and regulate the activity of your organs. Your enteric nervous system contains about half a billion neurons lacing through your guts, and you’ve also got a sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. These do not mediate conscious thought. They do not “think” as we recognize it, and they don’t necessarily learn, especially not in a way that we’d call wisdom. The heart contains nervous tissue that generates a rhythm, and that responds to electrical and hormonal signals to modulate the heart rate. It does not sit there composing Valentine’s Day greetings or responding to scenery during traveling with passionate odes to lovely landscapes. It is not a brain. No one calls it a brain. This guy is just making it all up.

One clue about that is the phrase contains neurological centers that save data. Oh, bullshit. He’s just stringing together sciencey-sounding words to sound clever, when anyone who knows anything can read that and tell instantly that he’s pompously confabulating.

He’s doing something the fundamentalist Christians also do: making their prophets look like idiots by insisting on imposing narrow modern interpretations on their words. Mohammed is making a pleasant enough comment about how travel broadens the mind and increases our understanding, and that’s a sensible thing to say — it may be commonplace, but I’d have to agree that in the ordinary meaning of the phrases, Mohammed is saying something that is trivially true and reasonable. And then along comes @ahmdabdallah17, insisting that what Mohammed is doing is talking in a pretentious way about the anatomy and physiology of the heart, in which case he’s making Mohammed sound as ignorant and stupid as he is.

Ken Ham does the same thing when he requires a ‘literal’ interpretation of the Bible — it completely strips it of any literary quality, where the authors chose their language for poetry’s sake and for its emotional resonance, and turns it into a badly written, grossly erroneous engineering manual.

Why do these people despise their supposedly revered forebears so much?