John Searle, too?

Now the famous philosopher John Searle stands accused of harassment.

The lawsuit, which lists Searle and the Regents of the University of California as defendants, claims Searle groped Ong in his office after he told her “they were going to be lovers.” He also said he had an “emotional commitment to making her a public intellectual,” the complaint states, and that he was “going to love her for a long time.” Ong turned Searle down and reported him to other UC Berkeley employees, but they did nothing, the complaint states. Instead, Searle cut Ong’s salary and she was eventually fired, according to the complaint, which also claims Searle watched pornography at work and made sexist comments.

He’s one of many: 113 sexual harassment cases have been reported in the UC system in just 3 years. Personally, I find it incredible: I can’t imagine myself even wanting to treat students or colleagues that way, but the evidence is clear…there are a lot of rotten apples in the barrel.

I don’t think California is particularly terrible in this regard, either. It seems to be an issue all over the place. Part of the problem has to be a system that treats some individuals as “superstars”, giving them a bloated sense of entitlement, while simultaneously treating others as peons and dismissing their concerns. It’s everywhere. Hierarchies of privilege always seem to lead to evil.

If you’re somewhere low in one of those hierarchies, I recommend this checklist of warning signs of abusenone of the behaviors listed there are at all appropriate. If you’re higher up in the hierarchy, you should check it too and make sure you’re not doing any of them. They’re behaviors that ought not to be hard to avoid, but it’s surprising how many prominent academics can’t.

Morris March for Science details

Make your plans! Saturday, 22 April, meet near campus:

We will be meeting at 12:30pm at the UMM Sign on the corner of College Ave & E. 4th Street. There will be some brief comments from various people and participants are welcome to check out the posters in the Campus Center that Students have created as part of the Undergraduate Research Symposium. At 1:00pm we will begin our march down 4th Street, crossing Atlantic at 5th we will march up to Snap Fitness and cross back over ending our march at the Morris Theatre. MPIRG, CURE & The UMM Office of Sustainability are hosting a free showing of the ecological documentary “Before The Flood” at 2pm with a Q&A to follow the film. Bring your family and friends and join us in taking a non-partisan stance for Science!

The Undergraduate Research Symposium will be that morning; come early and tour UMM, stopping by the student center to see the research posters. The movie Before the Flood will discuss the evidence for and consequences of climate change, and it’s free to the public. Come spend the whole day celebrating science in Morris!

Mano posted about the Cleveland march about the same time I posted this — they look like they’ve got lots going on, too. If those aren’t close enough for you, check out the huge list of satellite marches.

A lovely futility

Ben Santer, Matthew England, Ed Hawkins, Michael Mann, Gerald Meehl, Yu Kosaka, and Shang-Ping Xie sent a polite and informative letter to Lamar Smith. Smith had misused a paper they had published to claim that there was a global warming “pause”, and to claim that their work had somehow invalidated the observations of another climate research group — it was a crude attempt to pit two groups with subtle differences in interpretation against one another to cast doubt where there is none.

What’s nice about the letter is that it carefully explains that scientists can disagree about some things without losing respect for one another, if the work is done well, and that they can agree completely on issues that Lamar Smith does not like.

Finally, we would like to emphasize that Karl et al. and Fyfe et al. agree on the most important scientific points. We agree that human influence on climate is real, is large, and is ongoing. We agree that this influence is primarily due to fossil fuel burning, and to the resulting human-caused changes in atmospheric levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases. We agree that human-caused changes in greenhouse gases should lead – and do lead – to global-scale warming of Earth’s atmosphere, oceans, and land surface. We agree that we have identified large global warming signals in the observed surface temperature changes from the late 19th century to the present, in the satellite atmospheric temperature data that have featured prominently in recent Congressional hearings, and in ocean heat content measurements.

And we agree with Karl et al. that on top of the underlying global-scale warming trend over the past 150 years, we should see – and do see – natural, decade-to-decade ups and downs caused by internal variability, volcanic activity, and changes in the Sun’s energy output. These decade-to-decade fluctuations in warming are not a scientific surprise. They have been discussed at length in every national and international assessment of climate science. Sometimes the “ups” act in the same direction as human influences, leading to accelerated warming. Sometimes the “downs” lead to a short-term decrease in warming. Our disagreement with Karl et al. about the size of the most recent short-term fluctuation does not call into question the reality of long-term human-caused warming.

Unfortunately, this case is being made to Lamar Smith, darling of the Heartland Institute, a lawyer with zero training in science who wants to redefine the scientific method, who has demonstrated his impenetrability to science over and over again. It’s important to continue to try and educate our Republican dingleberries as well as possible, but I have no confidence at all that this approach will sink in.

Maybe the rest of us can learn from the letter, though.

You went ahead and did it, UK

Prime Minister Theresa May has signed the letter that officially begins the process of the UK leaving the European Union. It’s done. You’re going to blow the whole thing up.

What with the political chaos and growing fascism in the US, it feels like the English-speaking part of the world is doing its damnedest to flush itself down the tubes of history. I’m wondering if I’m going to have to learn Icelandic.

So…what stupidity on a par with Trump and Brexit has Australia committed lately? Ireland and Canada, are you staying sane, mostly?

“Fox and Friends”: Worst people in media

When an accomplished black woman congressperson gets up to speak seriously about patriotism, a topic Fox News pretends to care about very deeply, what do the awful Doocy and Kilmeade and their guest, O’Reilly, have to say? They mock her appearance, specifically her hair. Sneering at black people’s hair is often used as a line of attack by bigots; they might as well have declared that they couldn’t take her seriously because of the color of her skin.

BILL O’REILLY: I didn’t hear a word [Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA)] said. I was looking at the James Brown wig. If we have a picture of James, it’s the same wig.

STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): It’s the same one.

BRIAN KILMEADE (CO-HOST): And he’s not using it anymore. They just — they finally buried him.


AINSLEY EARHARDT (CO-HOST): No. OK, I’ve got to defend her on that. I have to defend her on that. She a — you can’t go after a woman’s looks. I think she’s very attractive.

O’REILLY: I didn’t say she wasn’t attractive.

EARHARDT: Her hair is pretty.

OREILLY: I love James Brown, but it’s the same hair, James Brown — alright, the godfather of soul — had.

EARHARDT: So he had girl hair.

O’REILLY: Whatever it is, I just couldn’t get by it.

Goddamnit, Maxine Waters’ job isn’t to stand up and look pretty for you goons!

By the sacred scrotum of Jesus!

What is it about the shroud of Turin that short-circuits people’s critical thinking? A recently published paper by Catholic weirdos claims to have carefully scrutinized the piece of cloth, and that they can interpret some of the patterns there as an image of Jesus’ scrotum.

Yes. You read that correctly. There are peepers trying to get a look at Jesus’ twig & berries.

I can’t get at the paper itself, nor am I particularly interested — except, maybe, as another example of pareidolia. You might as well stare at medieval paintings of a naked Jesus and then claim that you’ve acquired deep insights into the biology of a person dead 2000 years ago. Oh, wait, gosh, that’s exactly what some people are doing. Some artwork shows Jesus in feminine poses, or with ambiguous sexuality, so it’s open season on speculation.

A late fifth/early sixth-century mosaic in what is known as the Arian baptistery in Ravenna, Italy shows Jesus, naked in the river Jordan, with genitals clearly visible to the viewer. The rest of Jesus’ body is ambiguously gendered. He is depicted as clean-shaven, youthful, and even slightly wide-hipped. Some have argued that he is androgynous. Regardless of how we assess Jesus’ gender in this scene, the mosaic is pointing us to the idea that Jesus really was a human being, not merely appearing as one.

There are no contemporary accounts or images of Jesus. The portrayals you seen now, or in the fifth century, or in the Medieval period, or during the Renaissance, were all artistic renditions that more reflected the culture and concerns of the artist than anything about the dead guy on a stick. It’s fine to talk about the values of 5th century Ravennans in the context of the art they made, but it is utterly bonkers to use that to discuss the biology of someone who died 500 years before, in another part of the world.

In 2014, Dr. Susannah Cornwall, who teaches at the University of Exeter, caused a stir when she published an academic article arguing that the sex of Jesus was simply a best guess. She wrote, “It is not possible to assert with any degree of certainty that Jesus was male as we now define maleness.” Correctly observing that it is difficult to speak definitively about the genitalia of an unmarried person with no children, she added, “There is no way of knowing for sure that Jesus did not have one of the intersex conditions which would give him a body which appeared externally to be unremarkably male, but which might nonetheless have had some ‘hidden’ female physical features.”

There is no way of knowing is the operative phrase there. I’m fine with the idea that Jesus’ masculinity was a rather irrelevant part of the myth, but annoyed with the baseless dissection of genitalia that aren’t there. But then, it’s also the case that we don’t know that Jesus had a beard, or long hair, or a fine Aryan complexion, so all we’ve got is cultural bias on those trivial details.

But now some unhinged people are excited that they might have a “photo” of Jesus’ crotch.

Newly published scientific investigations into the Turin Shroud have identified the outline of the scrotum and right hand thumb of the man outlined on the cloth. If the Shroud is authentic, this would seem to supply clear evidence that Jesus was, in fact, male.

If the Shroud is authentic, but, as the article points out, it isn’t. And if this picture were accurate, then Jesus rode a dinosaur.


The “ifs” are strong in this article.

An authentic foreskin relic would do a lot more than establish the sex of Jesus. If, in our twenty-first century, we had a piece of Jesus’ body, the problem would no longer be heretical claims about his gender or non-divinity, but rather the potential for sacrilege. If we had the DNA of God it would only be a matter of time before somebody wanted to clone him.

If we had a tiny scrap of human tissue from the first century, I’d think the first question to ask would be how you know it came from a specific individual (let alone one with magic powers), so I don’t see how any of this creative speculation allows you to say anything about the prophet who supposedly founded the Christian faith.

But then, this is a subject that does seem to scramble even relatively intelligent minds.