Stop teabagging science, Scott Adams


Scott Adams, the cartoonist and professional self-promoter, is undermining his brand and marketing himself poorly, again. He is complaining about the DNC in ways that demonstrate that he’s an insecure man and profoundly ignorant.

It’s all about the men, don’t you know.

But if you’re an undecided voter, and male, you’re seeing something different. You’re seeing a celebration that your role in society is permanently diminished. And it’s happening in an impressive venue that was, in all likelihood, designed and built mostly by men. Men get to watch it all at home, in homes designed and built mostly by men, thanks to the technology that was designed and built mostly by men. I mention that as context, not opinion.

Don’t thank technology, guy. Thank sociology for the fact that men build and design things, while women and minorities are relegated to serving the dominant white men, and thereby have their roles diminished. Being the beneficiary of a long history of discrimination does not make you a better person. If you actually worked with women, rather than sitting alone drawing cartoons designed to prove your point, you’d know that they are just as capable as men.

But it takes a special kind of wanker to see other people getting their due and think that acknowledging other people’s achievements somehow diminishes your own. Scott Adams must be fun at children’s birthday parties; he probably goes around reminding the kids that he has birthday parties, too, and he’s had more of them and they’re better than this stupid party.

I’m especially peeved at Adams’ continuing abuse of science, though. This is not science.

I watched singer Alicia Keys perform her song Superwoman at the convention and experienced a sinking feeling. I’m fairly certain my testosterone levels dropped as I watched, and that’s not even a little bit of an exaggeration. Science says men’s testosterone levels rise when they experience victory, and drop when they experience the opposite. I watched Keys tell the world that women are the answer to our problems. True or not, men were probably not feeling successful and victorious during her act.

Apparently, we men are terribly hormonal, and dependent on our testicles to appreciate happiness. Unfortunately, Adams has taken a tiny grain of scientific evidence and mangled it into something unrecognizable.

First, we have to appreciate the fact that testosterone levels fluctuate a lot. There is circadian and seasonal variation, and also individual variation in testosterone levels.

Male   Female  
Age: T Level (ng/dL): Age: T Level (ng/dL):
0-5 months 75-400 0-5 months 20-80
6 mos.-9 yrs. <7-20 6 mos.-9 yrs. <7-20
10-11 yrs. <7-130 10-11 yrs. <7-44
12-13 yrs. <7-800 12-16 yrs. <7-75
14 yrs. <7-1,200 17-18 yrs. 20-75
15-16 yrs. 100-1,200 19+ yrs. 8-60
17-18 yrs. 300-1,200    
19+ yrs. 240-950    
Avg. Adult Male 270-1,070 Avg. Adult Female 15-70
30+ yrs. -1% per year    

I almost certainly have much lower levels of testosterone now than I did when I was 20, but I don’t know, because I’ve never had them measured. Scott Adams did not have his testosterone levels measured, either, but he felt free to claim a nonexistent measurement validated his perception of how science works. Also, despite likely declines in my testosterone over the years, I’m happier and more secure and confident now than I was in my 20s; it’s almost as if environmental circumstances have a greater effect on the cognitive perception of my life.

But also, Adams left out a significant point in those scientific studies, as explained in this paper: Effects of victory and defeat on testosterone and cortisol response to competition: evidence for same response patterns in men and women.

In this study, we report evidence from sport competition that is consistent with the biosocial model of status and dominance. Results show that testosterone levels rise and drop following victory and defeat in badminton players of both sexes, although at lower circulating levels in women. After losing the match, peak cortisol levels are observed in both sexes and correlational analyses indicate that defeat leads to rises in cortisol as well as to drops in testosterone, the percent change in hormone levels being almost identical in both sexes. In conclusion, results show the same pattern of hormonal responses to victory and defeat in men and women.

So, if he were correct (he’s not), then all across America men were experiencing a decline in testosterone, while women’s testosterone levels were rising. Since women outnumber men, that translates into a net gain in American T levels!

Please also note that these hormonal effects are not about “happiness”, but about dominance. I know that to the normal clueless guy dominance is equated with happiness, but it’s simply not true — mammalian hierarchical behavior also increases stress, so it’s not as simple as testosterone being the happy chemical. Testosterone also drives feelings we don’t regard as “happy”.

Throughout vertebrate phylogeny, testosterone has motivated animals to obtain and maintain social dominance-a fact suggesting that unconscious primordial brain mechanisms are involved in social dominance. In humans, however, the prevailing view is that the neocortex is in control of primordial drives, and testosterone is thought to promote social dominance via conscious feelings of superiority, indefatigability, strength, and anger. Here we show that testosterone administration in humans prolongs dominant staring into the eyes of threatening faces that are viewed outside of awareness, without affecting consciously experienced feelings. These findings reveal that testosterone motivates social dominance in humans in much the same ways that it does in other vertebrates: involuntarily, automatically, and unconsciously.

So maybe watching Alicia Keys also made American men less angry and less arrogant…if the song had the purported effect on testosterone levels, which, I emphasize again, was not measured. Personally, I did not feel threatened or diminished by a woman singing a song, so I don’t have any reason to think my testosterone levels were affected at all…but then, I should not deny Scott Adams his perception of the experience. Maybe he felt totally crushed and defeated by a woman musician and his balls actually shriveled.

The song might have had other positive effects.

Elevated levels of testosterone have repeatedly been associated with antisocial behavior, but the psychobiological mechanisms underlying this effect are unknown. However, testosterone is evidently capable of altering the processing of facial threat, and facial signals of fear and anger serve sociality through their higher-level empathy-provoking and socially corrective properties. We investigated the hypothesis that testosterone predisposes people to antisocial behavior by reducing conscious recognition of facial threat. In a within-subjects design, testosterone (0.5 mg) or placebo was administered to 16 female volunteers. Afterward, a task with morphed stimuli indexed their sensitivity for consciously recognizing the facial expressions of threat (disgust, fear, and anger) and nonthreat (surprise, sadness, and happiness). Testosterone induced a significant reduction in the conscious recognition of facial threat overall. Separate analyses for the three categories of threat faces indicated that this effect was reliable for angry facial expressions exclusively. This testosterone-induced impairment in the conscious detection of the socially corrective facial signal of anger may predispose individuals to antisocial behavior.

So maybe the hypothetical reduction in men’s testosterone levels made them less angry, more sensitive to the social cues of their loved ones, and less antisocial? These sound like good results that are not at all in conflict with happiness!

If the Scott Adams Castration Effect* were real, that would argue that maybe we ought to be broadcasting Alicia Keys everywhere. Maybe more Beyoncé is the path to World Peace.

*The Scott Adams Castration Effect is what I’m calling the fearful sensation of diminishment that some men experience when faced with strong women. The poor man. He’s got it bad.

That’s a very useful quote

Larry Moran cites a great quote from Bill Martin.

Life is an exergonic chemical reaction. It’s the energy releasing redox reaction at the core of metabolism that makes life run, and throughout all of life’s history it is one and the same reaction that has been running in uninterrupted continuity from life’s onset. Everything else is secondary, manifestations of what is possible when the energy is harnessed to make genes that pass the torch.

If you need any of that explained, read Larry’s summary.

I teach cell biology, and that could be the theme for the entire class. The course has a strictly enforced prerequisite of general chemistry, and students typically take it concurrently with organic chemistry. I tell them from day one that this is basically a chemistry course that focuses narrowly on the reactions that go on inside cells, and yes, life is all about electrons getting cycled through reactions that provide the energy that drives other reactions — it’s mostly redox chemistry.

Focusing on that is also helpful in understanding the origins of life, because it really is just a transition from geochemistry to self-contained bags carrying out continuous redox reactions. I teach the first half-year of our second year core curriculum, and we really do emphasize metabolism and the energetics of the cell, while the second half is basic molecular biology that focuses on DNA/RNA. That makes a lot of sense, because as we all know, metabolism came first, information came second.

A gathering of wickedness and ignorance

I just saw on Facebook that someone I know is going to peek into this rally in Buffalo today.


Yikes. This is not good. That symbol on the poster is the runic odal — it stands for the Volksdeutsche movement, or the ‘pure’ Germans. WLM is a racist movement, plain and simple; the NSM are outright neo-Nazis. The ARS is the Aryan Renaissance Society. ANA is the Aryan Nationalist Alliance, an umbrella organization trying to bring a hodge-podge of bigots together. The person posting it is Rebecca Barnette, who is a nasty piece of work. The “88” in her email address is a “Heil Hitler” reference.

I suspect this rally will be small, but the reek of concentrated flaming shit will be intense.

Still, this is in upstate New York, home of CFI. I just learned that it may also be home for my son Captain Connlann, who has been given a preliminary (it may change between now and November) assignment to Fort Drum. If he ends up there, I’ll certainly be making the trip to the Syracuse area every year or so.

I will credit them for honesty, though. They at least know what the “All Lives Matter” slogan implies.


They’re also big fans of Donald Trump. Surprising, I know.

It was a rout.

Is it a neo-Nazi rally when only one neo-Nazi shows up?

On a warm, sunny Saturday at Cazenovia Park in South Buffalo, well-known white supremacist Karl Hand of Lockport was the only evidence of a much-anticipated “White Lives Matter” rally.

And Hand was outnumbered by about 350 to 1.

Beware of empowr

A couple of days ago, I started getting all these messages from something calling itself “empowr”, a social networking site. First alarm: they announced that I had made a post to their site. No, I didn’t, I had never heard of it. Second alarm: they kept sending me messages announcing that I had earned $X from my post and my photo (remember, I had made no post or photo). It was up to $25 today, which sounds rather sweet for two days earnings from something that involved no work at all on my part.

Wait…money for nothing? Don’t trust it. So I looked into it.

Empowr is a scam. It’s not illegal, but it is a cheat in which they give you imaginary credits to monetize connections with imaginary dollar values, but to cash in on those monetized links, you have to repay empowr for all those credits they loaned to you. And, surprise, those loaned credits cost you more than your earnings from links.

Get out while you can. Don’t give them a credit card or paypal information, because you’re authorizing them to buy out all those ‘credits’ they give you.

I checked out the site myself, and here’s another warning: they don’t give you any way to quit empowr once you’re in. Fortunately, I didn’t give them access to facebook or any credit info, so they don’t have any hooks on me, and I just blocked all their messages in email. I expect there will be urgent notifications of ever-growing sums of money piling up in my fictitious account, all getting automatically thrown in the trash.

How to fix gender representation in vidyagames

I have thought of a way to get more representation of women in video games. I was inspired by the latest Feminist Frequency video, which asks “Are Women Too Hard To Animate?”

And my first thought was yeah, well, boob physics is really hard and requires adding lots more math to the code, if you want to be properly salacious.

And my second thought was gosh, game programmers must be really lazy.

And my third thought was that game programmers sure put a lot of thought into sexualizing their games.

And that’s when my new idea popped into my head. Have you ever seen a naked man running? There’s this small dangly bit that you can’t avoid noticing that is bouncing and flopping and twirling as they move, and it can even, sometimes, change shape in response to the environment. I imagine simulating penis physics is even harder than boob physics, and you can’t cheat and just have an immobile lump down there on a naked man, because all the viewers would see that as sad and sick (either that, or it’s really cold in the game environment), especially the male viewers.

So that’s my solution. We have to demand more male nudity in video games, and not just when they’re standing around — we must insist on full frontal nakedness in action shots. And of course, there must be graphical accuracy in the animation.

Imagine the design phase of games. Everytime the designers suggest a male protagonist, the programmers will say “Aww, man, that’s gonna be hard, I’m gonna have to spend weeks coding shape-shifting pendulums, and then we’re going to have to spend months playtesting his junk. Can we just have the hero be a woman?”

This is going to work. It draws on what are clearly entirely natural impulses in programmers: to throw in lots of sex, while doing as little creative work as possible.