I guess I’m doing this YouTube schtick until my face falls off from decrepitude

I put up this video on my YouTube channel yesterday. It’s short, only 2 minutes long, and is a basic introduction to me.

I was asked why — I’ve been making videos for a few months now, years even, isn’t it a little late to be putting up an intro video? I’ll explain.

  • I started this as an experiment, just dipping my toes in the water. I had no confidence that I could sustain it. Now I’m feeling like, yeah, I can put out one or two videos a week, no sweat, so let’s commit to the long run.

  • I’m also getting more confident that I can get better at this — I’m not claiming I’m any good at it, but at least I’m recognizing where all the flaws are and can work on correcting them next time. It’s a productive exercise for me.

  • There’s a provision in YouTube for including a channel trailer, that is, a video that is shown to unsubscribed viewers when they visit. I figured I’d finally get around to filling that slot.

  • There are video creators on YouTube who are confusing — they have so thoroughly absorbed the internet custom of constant sarcasm that you don’t know whether they’re mocking a position, stating a criticism, or are occupying some undefined middle ground where they make stupid arguments with plausible deniability. I hate those guys. So I wanted to stake out where I’m coming from with complete clarity.

  • Another thing I’ve grown to detest: people with crudely animated avatars doing all their speaking for them, with terrible names, like “The Adjective Atheist” or “The Pretentious Modifier Skeptic”. I hate those guys, too. So I’m using my real name, and I’m going to commit to at least begin all future videos with my real face on camera, even though it’s not going to win me any beauty prizes.

So now you know. The beatings will continue until you appreciate them more. Sorry. But I’m doing this for me, not for you.

Speaking of ongoing suffering, I’m planning to subject you all to another “Ask Me Anything” hangout tomorrow, Sunday, 1 July, at noon central time. To get the conversation rolling, I thought I’d share with you a couple of mail messages I’ve received in the last month. Real mail! On paper! With stamps and everything! Also, they’re not all bad, but there are a couple of creationist doozies in there.


How many creeps are employed at Liberty University?

News outlets report 63-year-old Liberty University professor Stephen Kilpatrick was arrested Wednesday. He faces multiple charges, including using communications systems to facilitate certain offenses involving children.

A task force against child internet crimes says Kilpatrick was arrested after travelling to meet someone who he believed was an underage girl. The school said in an email that Kilpatrick has been suspended from his position as an associate professor of mathematics “pending the outcome of this matter.”

You’ve got to wonder how many young girls’ lives he exploited before he got caught.

Have you ever thought the problem might be…hierarchies?

It’s time for another example of abusive academia: in this case, it’s a woman, Guinevere Kauffmann, director of the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics in Garching, Germany who has been bullying and flinging racist emails about.

The research shows how employees and students are treated at one of the most highly respected research institutes in the world. While the institute in Garching outwardly presents itself as the cutting edge of German research, young scientists talk of despotism, fear of superiors, and destroyed careers.

The accusations against the director are only the latest in a global debate about bullying and abuse of power in science. Women physicists and astrophysicists are making harassment allegations public under the hashtag #AstroSH. For example, famous physicist Lawrence Krauss was placed on temporary leave at Arizona State University following accusations of sexual harassment. And astrophysicist Rachael Livermore was harassed by a colleague in a scientific article so severely that she has since left the field of science.

In early February German news magazine Der Spiegel reported similar accusations at a Max Planck institute, yet without naming the specific institute (Astrophysics) or the professor (Kauffmann).

It sounds like this branch of the Max Planck has utterly miserably working conditions. This is not how science thrives.

“This matter with Guinevere Kauffmann and her husband is by far the worst. But the prevailing culture in the entire institute is bad. Things happen there that aren’t okay,” said Hans. Andressa Jendreieck agreed. “I get the impression many of the advisors are bullying their employees.”

All nine scientists who spoke with BuzzFeed News Germany say that the institute is profoundly hierarchical. You either endure it, or you break.

“Hierarchical” is the magic word. Science isn’t a top-down process, and when you give select individuals so much power and control, it doesn’t lead to greater productivity. It breaks everything.

I’ve worked in an institute that was profoundly egalitarian — there were PIs, sure, but their role, for which they were respected, was to take on more responsibility, rather than more “power”. Everyone was fully aware that the goal of the institute was to work as a team to do great science, which meant that everyone, undergraduates, grad students, post-docs, technicians, and PIs had essential roles in getting that done — and taking a dump on someone at a lower level in the imaginary hierarchy was disruptive and self-defeating. All human beings in the great machine of science must be regarded as equals, or the enterprise will fail.

This is why the myth of the Great Men of Science is so wrong and damaging. It leads to pathologies like the situation at the Max Planck in Garching. Good science is collaborative and cooperative.


The next big name to fall is Francisco Ayala, a huge name in genetics and evolution. It turns out he took advantage of his wealth and reputation.

Micha Liberty, an attorney who represents three of the women, said UCI ignored years of complaints from professors and graduate students that Ayala touched them and made sexual and sexist comments. She said one of the professors she’s representing reported Ayala’s conduct three years ago, but university officials failed to investigate or sanction him.

“They just told him, ‘Stay away from her,’ ” Liberty said. “Dr. Ayala has had a long and successful career and was clearly an asset to the UCI campus … and that in turn motivated UCI to look the other way when it came to complaints of sexual harassment.”

The university started the investigation last November. The women, who asked to be identified, are Kathleen Treseder, professor and chair of ecology and evolutionary biology; Jessica Pratt, an assistant teaching professor; Benedicte Shipley, an assistant dean; and Michelle Herrera, a graduate student.

After interviews with the women and more than 60 witnesses, the university substantiated the complaints last month.

I’m just sayin’…holy crap. His name is on textbooks, he’s in the textbooks. This is big and very shocking. And there goes his reputation. Gone.

In 2011, Ayala donated $10 million to the School of Biological Sciences, which then bore his name. It was the largest gift from a faculty member at the time.

The university said Ayala’s name has been removed from that school, and also is being removed from its central science library, graduate fellowships, scholar programs and endowed chairs. The biology school will now be known as the UCI School of Biological Sciences.

Also ironic: he was a major associate of the Templeton Foundation, and was fond of arguing for the compatibility of science and religion. That Catholic upbringing didn’t help him here.

He does have a novel defense. He had “too much respect” for women, and they just confused his manners for sexual assault.

“I deeply regret that what I have always thought of as the good manners of a European gentleman — to greet women colleagues warmly, with a kiss to both cheeks, to compliment them on their beauty — made colleagues I respect uncomfortable,” Ayala said Friday in a statement. “It was never my intent to do so.”

He said he had “too much respect” for the women, his family and UC Irvine to continue defending himself with hearings, appeals or lawsuits and would continue his research “with renewed vigor” elsewhere.

Yeah, right. Sure. These were intelligent, well-educated women — I don’t think they’d be at all confused, and wouldn’t mistake a European-style kiss on the cheek for sexual harassment. It’s an insulting argument.

Creationists on the move!

Yeesh. There’s a new creation “museum” that is basically a big trailer touring around the Midwest. It’s called Semisaurus — and they’re going to be spreading miseducation all over Iowa, Nebraska, and Missouri in the next few months.

Oh, boy. Cowboys and dinosaurs. Wasn’t there a cheesy movie about that?

Fortunately, it looks small and cramped, so they’re not going to be able to shuffle too many kids through their bullshit.

The really sad thing is that they’re not coming to Minnesota. If they were, I’d be sure to show up to point and laugh.

Just how corrupt is the US government?

Here’s another fun fact: Anthony Kennedy, who had a reputation as the “swing justice” on the Supreme court (he wasn’t), had closer ties to Trump than I could have imagined.

Retired Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s son loaned President Donald Trump over a billion dollars for his real estate projects, The New York Times reported.

Justin Kennedy was the head of Deutsche Bank’s real estate capital markets division and loaned to Trump when other banks wouldn’t.

Jesus Fucking Christ.

But don’t you worry. The crook who has profited most off of all these connections now has the power to appoint new judges who will then handle his crimes.

And don’t forget, the crook is confident that he has the power to pardon everyone who is guilty, including himself.