As long as Shermer is a respected skeptic, movement skepticism will be an embarrassment

So this is what skepticism has become, Michael Shermer interviewing racist bigot and cult leader Stefan Molyneux because he is one of the most articulate podcasters for reason.

People were flabbergasted. How could he do this? Shermer has an excuse: ignorance.

I’ve done a few interviews in my time, and I always look into the other person ahead of time, if, for nothing else, to have some idea of what topics would provide a good discussion. No, not Shermer! He knew nothing and did zero prep. I don’t believe him, but if I did, that would tell me his podcast has to be total crap.

Don’t you worry about Shermer, though. He’s moving on to grand new projects that won’t be at all skewed by his biases, no sirree bob.

The membership in the Intellectual Dork Web is small and self-proclaimed, so I don’t understand the point of a “scientific survey”. Is this to be an assay where the questions are contrived so he can say that Ben Shapiro and Jordan Peterson aren’t really conservative right-wingers? I trust him to do that about as much as I trust him to honestly vet the people he interviews on his podcast.


The new movie is playing in town, so I’m hoping to see it tonight…except that I’ve been prescribed cetirizine to suppress the allergies that might be causing my tinnitus, and I’ve been known to slip into unconsciousness at odd times of the day. It’s annoying, and worst of all, it doesn’t seem to be doing anything. So, if I can keep my eyes open tonight, I’ll be going to see Godzilla, King of the Monsters.

It’s about science, don’t you know. It just got a write-up in Science magazine!

The “evolutionary biology” of Godzilla is a topic of enduring interest among devotees, with numerous fan pages and forums dedicated to the subject. If we accept Godzilla as a ceratosaurid dinosaur and Lazarus taxon—a species thought to have gone extinct, only to be rediscovered later—then it represents a sensational example of evolutionary stasis, second only to coelacanths among vertebrates. Yet, the creature’s recent morphological change has been dramatic.

Godzilla has doubled in size since 1954. This rate of increase far exceeds that of ceratosaurids during the Jurassic, which was exceptional. The rate of change rules out genetic drift as the primary cause. It is more consistent with strong natural selection.

The strength of this selective pressure can be estimated by using the breeder’s equation, where the response to selection “R” is the product of the heritability (h2) of a given trait and the strength of selection. If we assume that h2 = 0.55 for body size—a reasonable estimate according to quantitative genetic studies of lizards—then the observed increase in Godzilla’s body size would require a total strength of selection of 4.89 SD. To put this number in context, the median value of natural selection documented in a review of more than 2500 estimates in the wild was 0.16. Godzilla, it seems, has been subject to a selective pressure 30 times greater than that of typical natural systems.

One problem with this analysis: isn’t it the same Godzilla in every movie? I could be wrong, but I think this is a specific individual returning over and over again, not a member of a population of Godzillas over many generations. It would have to be a very large and prolific population to hold up under that kind of selection pressure, too. It seems more likely to me that this is an example of a long-lived individual that is undergoing continuous growth over its lifetime, and therefore this is more of a matter for the developmental biologists, and is an example of a physiological adaptation.

Even if Godzilla is multiple different members of a changing population, we have no idea of the extent of the variation present within the population. The 1954 Godzilla could have been the Peter Dinklage of Godzillas, while the 2019 Godzilla could be the Yao Ming of the group. We don’t know, but I think that trying to argue for rates of selection is premature.

I must disagree with this diagram as well.

The 1998 monster does not look anything like the others, and must be from a completely different species, so don’t try to tell me it’s a Godzilla.

You’ll probably be disappointed

Here’s a site calling itself “A People Map of the US, where city names are replaced by their most Wikipedia’ed resident: people born in, lived in, or connected to a place.” It’s a concept that might have some promise, except that instead you discover a list of celebrities in politics, movies, and most of all, sports, where the connection to the location is often extraordinarily tenuous. For example, here’s my region of West Central Minnesota.

I didn’t recognize any name, except Westrom — he’s the Republican representative for my district, I can’t stand him, but it’s fair that his name is up there. For Morris, on the other hand, it’s some guy named Aaron Schock. I never heard of him. He’s never in any of the local papers. I looked him up, and learn that he was born here and moved to Illinois at a young age. So what is he famous for?

Schock resigned from Congress in March 2015 amid a scandal involving his use of public and campaign funds. A subsequent congressional ethics investigation “revealed that he used taxpayer money to fund lavish trips and events”. In November 2016, a federal grand jury indicted him in connection with the scandal. After he pled not guilty, prosecutors reached an agreement with him in March 2019 whereby all charges against him were dropped. As part of the deal, Schock’s campaign committee, Schock for Congress, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of failing to properly report expenses.

He got into Wikipedia for being a crooked politician, and the Wikipedia entry mentions where he was born, and that’s it. Now this map tars the town with him, because it has such sloppy criteria for inclusion.

Oh, well. Take a look at your hometown, maybe you’ll be lucky and discover some worthy who actually has some substantial connection to the place. Probably not, though.

The hero we need

This beautiful man took bold action.

If you want to complain about the harm done to those poor racist, Confederacy-worshipping seccessionists, I don’t care to hear it. I want to see a thousand heroes like that man. He ran like he was the cavalry, now we just needed a few infantry throwing punches and an artillery flinging milkshakes, and those scumbags would have been routed.

How to scare away creationists: be tolerant of gender preferences!

Answers in Genesis got a dose of reality, and it slapped them hard in the face. They sent a pair of representatives to the American Alliance of MuseumsNational Conference, and boy howdy were they ever shocked. They had all-gender bathrooms and stickers to declare your preferred pronouns!

Drs. Purdom and Rivera are responsible for designing many of the wonderful programs, workshops, and other educational activities we offer here at the Creation Museum. But the potential usefulness of the AMA meeting was completely eclipsed by the “virtue signaling” and political correctness of the organizers.

It eclipsed it so much that Purdom and Rivera skipped the whole conference and went sight-seeing in New Orleans.

The whole point of a conference supporting LGBTQ+ individuals is to get that irrelevant stuff out of the way: the conference is about museum content, and by stripping away all the formalities, they streamline everything. Does anyone want to waste time correcting every single person who comes up to them and misgenders them? No. Put it on a sticker, put it in the program, put it on a conference slide, presto — no fuss acceptance.

One of the first things Georgia and Jennifer noticed when they arrived were the signs posted outside the restrooms.

As you can see, the AAM invited everyone to use whichever restroom facility they wanted. Now, that view is anti-science, anti-genetics, anti-biology, and anti the truth about male and female. Jennifer said that, because the lines to the women’s restroom were long, several women left the line and used the men’s restrooms since the signs invited them to use whichever restroom they wanted. This is probably not what the organizers had in mind!

Science does not dictate society’s approach to gender issues, so that’s not anti-science. It’s not anti-genetics or anti-biology, because we know that sexual differentiation is complex and multi-layered, and isn’t the result of a holy book decreeing that there can be only two genders. Having to pee or poop is something all humans have to do, so it makes sense that such facilities can be used by all humans.

I suspect the organizers had the fact that attendees could use any facility that they wanted in mind — using a restroom is not some grand statement that requires a fanfare and a calligraphic testimonial about the nature of your particular gender. Again, the organizers want people to just get the job done so they can get on with the business of the conference.

In a further denial that we’ve been created male and female (Genesis 1:27), the convention featured ribbon stickers for attendees to attach to their name tags if they so chose. These stickers announced one’s preferred pronoun, and they came in three options: he/him/his, she/her/hers, and fill in the blank for whatever pronoun they preferred.

Ho hum. Completely routine at conferences nowadays.

Clearly, the AAM wants to be seen first and foremost as an LGBTQIA+ ally. But, really, it’s an outright denial of biological and biblical reality—we’re created male and female. A denial of this truth leads to confusion and chaos, as was exhibited throughout the convention.

I’ve been to many conferences with this approach. I’ll be attending Convergence next month, where gender neutrality is taken for granted. It causes no confusion or chaos, but rather the opposite. How would they know that the convention was chaotic? They abandoned it the first day!

What the Hamites want you to think is that this was an example of persecuting Christians.

It’s interesting that the AAM was being very cautious not to offend anyone and to come across as welcoming, tolerant, and accepting to everyone . . . except for Christians or others who believe that we’re created male and female. They don’t care if they offend or isolate Christians, a trend we increasingly see in a culture that claims to be tolerant. What we see is that they are only tolerant of views that agree with theirs! It makes you wonder how many museums that belong to AAM have policies and teaching that align with these secular, unbiblical views.

So, having a sign on the restroom door that says you aren’t allowed to stare at, question, or threaten other users is offensive to Christians of his sort. Which of those three things did the AiG contingent want to do?

Most educated, aware professionals implement such tolerant policies as much as they can, and as educated professionals, they are a majority secular in purpose.

So really, this conference turned out to be a gathering not primarily about museum programs and workshops, but the AAM allowed it to be an LGBTQ agenda-driven conference disguised as a museum conference.

No, it was primarily about museum programs and workshops, open to all professionals, and how you peed was disregarded. Ken Ham just thinks a museum conference ought to be more about putting people into one of two bins.

Speaking of disguises, why were those two frauds even in attendance? The Ark Park isn’t a museum, it’s a church disguised as a science museum.

I’m happy to see, though, that we now have a simple way to keep creationist trolls out of our events. Just put this sign on the door.

Big bonus: It’ll repel all those regressive atheists, as well! It’s amazing how much alike creationists and a certain ugly contingent of the atheist community sound.

Steven Pinker gets the treatment he has earned

Well, this just made my morning: Nathan Robinson shreds the most annoying man in the world, Steven Pinker. I thought I’d pull out one brief quote to illustrate, but it was nearly impossible — I just wanted to pull out the entire dang thing and frame it and hang it on my wall.

But OK, one tiny bit:

I do not mean to dwell too much on the tone of Pinker’s writing, but it’s important to see how dishonest centrist critics of social justice rhetoric can be. Pinker treats the left as hysterically overstating its case, of calling everybody racists and despoilers, even as he brands them Nazis and Stalinists. One of the common themes I see in critics of social justice politics is engaging in the very thing they’re accusing the left of doing. There are countless examples of this in Pinker’s work. For example, in The Blank Slate, which is strongly critical of mainstream feminism, he cites Gloria Steinem saying: “What you need is people who see through literature like Andrea Dworkin, who see through law like me, to see through art and create the uncompromised woman’s visual vocabulary.” Pinker concludes from this quote that Steinem is “oblivious to the danger inherent in a few intellectuals’ arrogating the role of deciding which art and literature the rest of society will enjoy.” This is an incredibly audacious remark for a book with entire sections on which art is the Good Art and which art is “ugly, baffling, and insulting art”:

“In this chapter I will diagnose the malaise of the arts and humanities and offer some suggestions for revitalizing them… Once we recognize what modernism and postmodernism have done to the elite arts and humanities, the reasons for their decline and fall become all too obvious.”

When you say it, it’s dangerous elitism. When I say it, it’s Science!

The Blank Slate was the book that ended my interest in paying attention to what Pinker was saying. Even the title was a gigantic straw man, and the internal contradictions were overwhelming. Robinson goes on to point out something I’ve seen repeatedly in the atheist community:

Hypocrisy doesn’t make the underlying arguments untrue, but I think it’s critical to explaining why the left can end up with an unwarranted reputation for being unreasonable and emotional: Our critics operate just as much from “feeling” and instinct, but insist that they’re just being Objective. My colleague Aisling McCrea has written about how mere invocation of the word “logic” is used as proof that one is being logical. “Reason” becomes a brand rather than a description of an actual process by which the other side’s arguments are carefully analyzed and responded to fairly. (I’ve shown how both Sam Harris and Ben Shapiro mangle basic reasoning.)

The path to popularity always seems to be tag your identity with a lot of buzzwords, even if you don’t actually implement them. It was a gigantic tactical error on my part not to call this site “The Amazing Logical Reasonable Rational Skeptical Atheist White Man” instead of boring ol’ “Pharyngula”. I’d be rich and popular today! There sure are a lot of successful atheists who parade their virtuous identity politics in the name of their channel.

At least Pinker doesn’t do that. He doesn’t have to — his name has become synonymous with Calmly Misleading Apologist for the Status Quo.

Go read it. It’s a work of art.

Also, how does Santa determine who is naught and nice?

The British Army seems to be trying to screen out dangerously demented Extreme Right Wing (XRW) individuals with a checklist.

That seems like a good idea to me, and those look like common markers for bad behavior right there. I can say that, because I’d score a zero. The real right-wingers on social media sites are pissed off about it, because they conform with at least some of the items on the list.

That, though, is where I start to see problems here. If someone says they think it’s true that they “describe themselves as patriots”, but also detest the idea of “white-only communities”, are they still an XRW? Can you be 10% XRW, or is it an all-or-nothing sort of determination? Is there any weighting of the terms? Sticking “-istan” on place names is stupid, but using racial slurs and violence is far worse.

How are people supposed to use this list? It just says “Look out for individuals who…”, which is terribly vague. OK, if I, for instance, have a co-worker who does any of these things, am I supposed to report them, complain to HR, sign them up for attitude readjustment, get them fired, what?

The chief utility seems to be as a kind of meta test: print it out, show it to someone you suspect of being an XRW, see if they explode into an angry rant, which will out them as an XRW. Then what?

The British military only hints.

Addressing the ‘XRW chart’, an army spokesperson told BuzzFeed News that “robust measures” were in place to make sure they didn’t have people with “extremist views” in the armed forces.

“Robust measures”…what are they?

I agree that anyone who meets any of those criteria is not very bright and is conforming to right-wing cliches, but it’s not sufficient to just wave around a list. You need to explain how to interpret the list and what actions will be taken against people who express some number of the attitudes on it.

Yes, Tomi Lahren, I do think. Don’t you?

Conservatives don’t think at all, they just assume their prejudices are true, and demand that you accept them, too.

The “boy” in this ad is not a teenager, he’s a young man, capable of thinking for himself.

It’s not a “little much”, it’s a “bit late”. We should normalize the decision to be a trans person. It does no one any harm, and it does help some individuals.

That said, it’s a little strange to see progressive social issues being used in an ad to sell razor blades. We should take it, though, since that’s what tools we have in a capitalist system.

I look forward to the day that Tomi Lahren realizes that social attitudes are being manipulated by capitalism, and tweets out her rejection of capitalist values.

Freedom’s just another word for…flammable?

At first, I thought it had to be some strange typo: the department of energy has started calling natural gas “freedom gas” made up of “molecules of U.S. freedom”. But no, apparently this is a trial balloon that has been flung about before.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry, a former Texas governor, has equated natural gas with “freedom” in the past. In January 2018, Perry told Fox Business that giving allies access to energy choices is a “priceless” kind of freedom.

“The United States is not just exporting energy, we’re exporting freedom,” Perry said.

One of the first people to have called the export “freedom gas” appears to have been a European journalist from the platform Euractiv. While the Perry was visiting Brussels in April, the journalist asked if “freedom gas” was an accurate description.

Perry agreed, saying that the U.S. is “again delivering a form of freedom” to Europe. “And rather than in the form of young American soldiers, it’s in the form of liquefied natural gas.”

The American people can’t possibly be as stupid as Rick Perry, can they?

I’m also wondering what they’ve been huffing down there in the department of energy.

Doctor of doom

I went off to my doctor’s appointment a short while ago. Buckets of blood were drawn. Many tests were made. I was dismayed at the results.

I’m fine. My physiology and biochemistry are in perfect harmony. Blood pressure is good. No debris from ruptured organs flowing through my bloodstream. Eosinophils are up a bit; I’m probably having an allergic reaction to spring, which may account for the tinnitis. I probably just pulled a muscle in my back. Go home, take an antihistamine, live for a few more decades.

Disappointing. I always go in to these things expecting I’m experiencing symptoms of my imminent doom, that they’ll discover some terrible catastrophe waiting to finally destroy me, and they always let me down.

At least I have something to look forward to. Someday I’ll get checked out and they’ll tell me my organs are imploding! My spleen is leaking! I’ve got brain rot! All my tissues are sloughing off my bones! I’ve got cartilage cancer! I shall receive the news with grim satisfaction, and inform them that I knew I was right, I’ve been telling you young whippersnappers this for 60 years, about time you pulled your heads out of your butts and figured it out. Then my head will fall off with a smug smile on my face.