You wanna known why Democrats lose?

The rotten Supreme Court makes yet another decision that harms our freedom, and what does Nancy Pelosi do? SHE READS A GODDAMN POEM.

A poem. You are not a literature professor, Pelosi. I want you to read some LEGISLATION that addresses this crap. That’s what you’re paid to do.

I also don’t want you to be sad. Get MAD. NOW.

Oh god. Biden speaks. His message: you need to elect more Democrats so we can do something. Great. I’d love to vote for someone who represented me, but Democrats are doing a piss-poor job of that.

Tepid as Biden is, he was better than my governor. Tim Walz, within minutes of the announcement of the decision, sent out a letter asking me to donate money to the Democratic party. That’s what this is, a fundraising opportunity.

The Supreme Court is what must be overturned

We all knew this was coming.

Goddamn this corrupt, theocratic, criminal Supreme Court. Not only are they killing women, they’re killing any trust we might have in the law.

Oh, you’re not a woman? You think this won’t affect you? Get ready.

They’re coming after the privacy, health, and safety of every American.

Why are Gaetz, Brooks, Biggs, Gohmert, and Perry still in office?

“The only reason I know to ask for a pardon, because you think you’ve committed a crime.”

After gripping testimony from former Justice Department officials describing Donald Trump’s efforts to undo the 2020 election results, House lawmakers on Thursday identified five Republican lawmakers who allegedly sought pardons — suggesting not just their own fear of criminal exposure, but a belief that the outgoing president would preemptively protect them from the investigations that followed the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on Congress.

Videotaped testimony presented at the end of Thursday’s hearing named Reps. Matt Gaetz (Fla.), Mo Brooks (Ala.), Andy Biggs (Ariz.), Louie Gohmert (Tex.) and Scott Perry (Pa.) as the lawmakers who sought preemptive pardons after or, in at least one case, before the Capitol breach. They were among the most active and outspoken supporters in Congress of Trump’s false claims of election fraud.

They’ve confessed to treason. Strip them of any powers they might have, impeach them, and if found guilty, begin the criminal proceedings. Those five, at the very least, need to have the full weight of the law, the law that they sought to avoid, brought down hard on them.

Marjorie Taylor Green also belongs in that rogue’s gallery. They’re all desperately trying to deny that they wanted a pardon, but that’s what criminals say — they were all quite vocal about supporting Trump’s insurrection.

Treacherous scum, every one of them.

Is this my shocked face, or my unsurprised by Jordan Peterson face?

Speaking of bad ideas about Darwin, here’s a doozy. And it comes from the king of biased pseudoscience, Jordan Peterson!

It’s amazing, another thing that offends Peterson. He thinks there’s zero probability that Darwin could have been wrong, while if you talk to any real scientist knowledgeable about evolution (like Rutherford), they can readily rattle off a whole raft of things he got wrong. That’s not at all surprising, the Origin is 123 years old, and it set in motion more than a century of work to test and refine and expand his idea.

I need to make a couple of points here…

  • Peterson shares a trait I’ve seen often in creationists: an unshakeable belief in the authority of Charles Darwin. They think Darwin was wrong about everything. Peterson thinks Darwin was right about everything. Those are both bad ideas.
  • There’s a tendency for charlatans to hide behind invocations of unquestionable authority to defend their unjustifiable beliefs. Peterson shares this property with the racists who react to accusations that their science is wrong with “I guess you don’t believe in Darwinism, then”.
  • The article he disagrees with is not written by “some random columnist”. It’s by Lisa Feldman Barrett, who is an extremely reputable neuroscientist and psychologist. I thought Peterson claimed some knowledge of those fields? I guess not.
  • There is no mention of “wokeness” or Marxism in the article. It’s a summary of current perspectives on the expression of emotions, that mentions that a) Darwin got many things wrong, and b) much of the literature incorrectly mistates Darwin’s interpretations.
  • Peterson has just been getting angrier and weirder about everything. He’s going to have another breakdown soon, I suspect.

You might enjoy reading Barrett’s article, “Facial Expressions Do Not Reveal Emotions”. She’s explaining that old beliefs about the universality and specificity of the association of facial expressions with emotions haven’t held up, and that there’s a lot more fluidity in how we express ourselves that is often shaped culturally. This is a great summary:

An increasing number of emotion researchers are taking population thinking more seriously and moving beyond the essentialist ideas of the past. It is time for emotion AI proponents and the companies that make and market these products to cut the hype and acknowledge that facial muscle movements do not map universally to specific emotions. The evidence is clear that the same emotion can accompany different facial movements and that the same facial movements can have different (or no) emotional meaning. Variety, not uniformity, is the rule.

Darwin’s Expression is best viewed as a historical text, not a definitive scientific guide. That leads to a deeper lesson here: Science is not truth by authority. Science is the quantification of doubt by repeated observation in varied contexts. Even the most exceptional scientists can be wrong. Fortunately, mistakes are part of the scientific process. They are opportunities for discovery.

No one should be upset that one of Darwin’s ideas failed the test of time; I’m sure Darwin would have been the first to tell you that.

Spider mating habits can repair ignorant slanders against Darwin

I don’t know about this Salon article, “A microscopic evolutionary arms race is happening between sperm”. It’s OK, but it put me off in the introduction.

As world-enlightening as Darwin’s ideas of natural and sexual selection were, there’s a tiny whiff of failure about him as a scientist. Brilliant as he was, he never realized that natural selection and sexual selection aren’t quite enough to explain evolution.

That’s just wrong. He didn’t get everything right, and he certainly didn’t explain everything about evolution, but he was humbly self-aware of that fact. There is no “tiny whiff of failure” associated with a scientist failing to explain the totality of evolution. If that were the case, every scientist ever would reek of failure. That passage reads more like the author is surprised by new discoveries in the field, and is projecting her own disappointment that a single book from 1859 was not comprehensive.

Also, nothing in the article is a new discovery. Sperm competition has been a known phenomenon for at least as long as I’ve been a biologist. There was a long-running aversion to the whole concept of polyandry, thanks to Darwin’s Victorian heritage, and I’m sure you can find some old relics in universities somewhere who want to think that sexual selection is all about brawny masculinity battering any competition into submission, but that’s just not the way most species work.

The author redeems herself at least in part by discussing spiders.

Perhaps because they’re easy to catch and breed, much of the research about sperm competition has been done on spiders. February 2022 work from biologists at Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich and Aarhus University in Denmark shows the benefit to mating males of long copulations. When a male nursery web spider (species Pisaura mirabilis, found all over Europe) offers a female a “nuptial gift” of a silk-wrapped bug, she allows him to copulate. What’s more, she lets him continue to flood her receptacle with sperm for as long as the proffered meal lasts. In an email, co-investigator Dr. Cristine Tuni explained the logic of this adaptation. The spider’s ejaculate doesn’t arrive as a brief, happy burst and then stop. Rather: “In this species, sperm is transferred continuously over time from his copulatory organ into hers,” Tuni says. “So, the longer a male has his organ coupled to a female organ, the more sperm is transferred. The relationship is basically linear.”

One egg sac can carry hundreds of eggs. Because of this, any male wanting a big bang for his f**k probably intuits that size (of the gift) matters. Pumping as much semen as possible can help send his DNA on its way.

Malabar spiders
The Malabar spider (Nephilengys malabarensis, found in Asian rain forests) wields a far more dramatic sperm competition adaptation. Each male has two genital appendages extending from behind the mouth. As semen pulsates out of one, the spider detaches it and leaves it inside the female’s receptacle. Even severed like that, the genital continues to ejaculate. Meanwhile, it also plugs the receptacle, making it difficult for another male to get a genital in. Ready to fend off anyone who tries, the mating male stays on the web near the female. Unfortunately for him, each female’s semen receptacle has two openings. He has only plugged one. This means that, if a rival approaches, the mating male will have to fight fiercely to keep him at bay. To that end, and while ejaculation from the abandoned genital continues, many males eat their only remaining genital.

Of course, that seems like a counter-intuitive strategy. Why get hungry at that very moment? Why hurt yourself right when you may need all the energy you can muster?

A team of biologists from several institutions in Europe and Asia seem to have an answer. They compared the battle survival rates of spiders who’d severed one genital to those of spiders who’d severed one and eaten the other. Additionally, they tested the battle survival rates of genitally intact males. The name of the team’s paper — “Eunuchs Are Better Fighters” — says a lot about why, under duress, a Malabar spider would eat its only remaining genital.

But what a way to go.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t discuss one of my favorite peculiar spider mating habits. Dark fishing spider (a common species in my area) males, once they succeed in mating to the point where they’ve inserted one palp into the female’s epigyne, spontaneously and abruptly drop dead. The palp is locked in place and the corpse continues to dribble sperm, but the poor guy is totally deceased, and eventually the female will notice the small dead male’s body dangling from her genitals and eat him.

Remember those horrible 80s comedies that were obsessed with teenagers desperate to lose their virginity? I like to imagine the obnoxious male protagonists having all the sexual properties of Dolomedes.

Can we please fire Ron Johnson now?

We’ve got a nest of traitors in the Senate, yet to my disappointment there has been no effort to eject these clowns. Maybe we’re getting close to smacking Ron Johnson down, though. That would be a start.

Johnson is the senator from our state next door, and he’s an idiot. If there were a competition for the dumbest guy in the Senate, it would be a struggle between Johnson, Tommy Tuberville, and Steve King, and Johnson would be a contender. King is in Iowa, our neighbor to the South, so I think we’re being surrounded. He’s a gun nut, he opposes acting against climate change (carbon dioxide is “good for the trees”, he says), he opposed the Affordable Care Act, he believes in that “Great Replacement” nonsense (yeah, he’s racist), he doesn’t like vaccines and pushed hydroxychloroquine, and he’s a devoted follower of Donald Trump. All that wasn’t enough to get him kicked out — it’s stuff that appealed to his dumbass electorate — but now his prominent role in the insurrection might get him in trouble.

Weeks before the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) held a hearing on election fraud in an attempt to legitimize former president Donald Trump’s false allegations of voting irregularities. Four days before the attack on the Capitol, Johnson signed a statement with nine other Republican senators that they intended to object to certifying Joe Biden’s electors and demand “an emergency 10-day audit of the election.”

This week, the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot revealed that Johnson’s chief of staff tried to deliver to Vice President Mike Pence a slate of fake electors backing Trump, raising questions about the Wisconsin Republican’s role in a deliberate and coordinated plan to block Biden’s win and give Trump the presidency.

The disclosure also underscores the extent of Johnson’s role as one of Congress’s most prominent election deniers and Jan. 6 apologists — spreading conspiracy theories about rigged votes and playing down the severity of the violent assault on the Capitol as mostly “peaceful,” while floating the idea that it might have been an inside job by the FBI.

Now it’s revealed that he was part of a plan to deliver an alternate slate of electors for Wisconsin and Michigan to Mike Pence. These were not valid electors, they were just a mob of self-appointed MAGA twits with no legitimate standing, but the goal was to sow sufficient confusion in the ballots that Pence would throw up his hands and toss the election into…the Supreme Court. That corrupt, untrustworthy gang of barely qualified theocratic hacks, who would then rule that Donald Trump was president.

It’s becoming obvious that Johnson was cheerfully poised, about to throw a spanner in the works of our clumsy election apparatus, and that there’s good evidence that he was prepared to do so. Maybe he’ll finally get drummed out of office, which is the least of what I want to see done. Maybe the chickenshits of the Senate will decide to drag their heels and hope that he loses his election in the fall. Maybe nothing will be done, ever, about him and all the other traitor Republicans in Washington DC.

I think I might be a little bit disillusioned about the people in power. Axing one bozo might restore a tiny shred of confidence.

We got legs!

I am excited to report that the latest generation of spiders in the colony is developing nicely. Here’s a closeup of a Steatoda triangulosa egg sac, and you can see the adorable little spiderling embryos inside. There are legs! Eight of them! Everything is looking good.

A lot of you don’t like spider photos (cute baby spiders don’t count, right?), but you can see those on Patreon. She’s out of focus in this one, but as soon as I put the optics on that egg sac, she scurried over and maternally embraced it — she’s the loving darkness lurking in the deep blur behind the eggs you see here.

The racist BS of Intelligence and Breast vs. Ass Preference

Here’s one for the Evolutionary Psychology Hall of Shame:

The author of this “study” has a theory, which is his, that breasts are an expensive ornament that could only be selected for in a stable environment where individuals can afford them. They’re kind of like elaborate antlers in species that have them, I guess. Maybe. I could consider an argument along those lines, except this one runs off the rails pretty quickly.

My theory of the evolution of breasts is that they are an adaptation for a slow life history rather than a fast life history. Breasts are K-selected. r-selected animals with a fast life history have short lifespans and mature quickly. K-selected species have longer lifespans, invest more in their children and take longer to mature. Fast life history is an adaptation to unstable ecologies where mortality is more random and uncontrollable so the best option is to have as many offspring as possible. By contrast in predictable environments, there’s an advantage to investing more in offspring to increase their chances.

Breasts by selecting for stable, long-term relationships between males and females facilitate long-term investment in offspring. It makes sense that only humans would have permanent breasts. Compared to other primates we have a slow life history strategy. We live for a particularly long time, take a long time to mature and need substantial resources and protection to develop our large brains.

For those of you fortunate enough to have never encountered racist literature, this r and K stuff, while legitimate parameters in ecology and evolutionary biology, is going to be sadly abused by racists. They want to argue that different populations of humans are living in very different r and K selection regimes, and that they have been living in those situations for long periods of time that are evolutionarily significant. They only trot out these terms to justify with pseudoscience their biases. So be warned: this is garbage science of the rankest kind.

You can’t see the axes of the big graph in the tweet above, so let me extract it for you.

The title, Intelligence and Breast vs. Ass Preference, should alert you to the absurdity that is about to follow. Note the horizontal axis: National IQ. This is a totally bogus parameter. As near as I can tell, it comes from the work of Richard Lynn, an English psychologist associated with a network of scientific racists who fabricated a list of IQ values associated with different nationalities which supported his bias that Africans were less intelligent than Europeans who were less intelligent than Asians. He’s on the board of the Pioneer Fund, an organization that hands out cash to other racist groups and individuals, and he’s also on the board of the notoriously racist journal Mankind Quarterly, which is a recipient of those funds. It’s an incestuous gang of bad pseudoscientists who reference and support each other’s bad pseudoscientific claims.

Now turn your eyes to the vertical axis, Big Boobs-Big Ass Google Trends Search Ratio.

Yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like. He used Google Trends to look at the frequency of people in various countries searching for the terms “Big Boobs” vs “Big Ass”. In English. He even admits that his results may reflect a linguistic bias, unaware that there are a lot of other reasons why this could be a very poor metric for measuring anatomical preferences. He’s an idiot trying to shoehorn technical terms from evolutionary biology into an inappropriate context with an incredibly sloppy methodology, all to support his racist biases.

Also note that Emil O W Kirkegaard, another racist, is touting this “work”, suggesting that it should appear in the next issue of Mankind Quarterly, which does tell you something about MQ’s standards.

He did later sort of retract that, dismissing criticisms of the inanity of that graph by saying this was a blogpost, not a formal study and making it clear that it wasn’t his work, but George Francis’s.

I want you to know that it was painful for me to dig into Kirkegaard’s repulsively racist Twitter history, in part because he has me blocked (Yay! And also easily circumvented), but also because it was imbedded in all kinds of wretched crap. Did you know Gypsies got bigger balls than Hungarians? And that Unnatural hair color really is a danger zone marker? (You will not be surprised to learn that a picture of Rebecca Watson is used as evidence, although I’m sure she’s tired of it.)

I need a shower after that.

Kirkegaard, by the way, is an editor for Mankind Quarterly. You should be troubled by the fact that Psychology Today, a reasonably mainstream publication that I already didn’t trust at all, has cited him in a terrible article that claims “Higher rates of mental illness have been found on the far left.” The foundation of the entire claim is built on a single paper by Kirkegaard published in Mankind Quarterly, which, I remind you, he edits.

The real danger zone marker here is Mankind Quarterly. Any time you see that journal cited, know that you are going to be exposed to toxic racist bullshit of the worst kind, with the kind of rigor that can be demonstrated with a graph of Intelligence and Breast vs. Ass Preference.

Before the Bat, there was the Spider

If I asked you to think of a masked comic book hero, the alter ego of a wealthy multimillionaire, who wore a costume chosen to strike fear into the hearts of criminals, and who had a battery of gadgets he used to foil crime, who would you think of? Batman? WRONG! It’s…the SPIDER, Master of Men!

Yeah, I never heard of him either.

That’s rather interesting, actually, because he was a phenomenally popular character in pulp novels of the 1930s and later. He was in several movie serials, and published in multiple novels over the decades. Apparently he was revived for some comic book series in the 1990s and 2000s, too. Before there were superheroes with magic powers, there was a collection of mysterious detectives in the popular literature — the Shadow, the Green Hornet, Doc Savage, and of course, the Spider — who were all eventually eaten by the Bat who now dominates comic books and movies.

The only thing that seems to distinguish the Spider from the Batman is that the Spider relied on the two pistols he was always running around with, and which he used to straight-out murder his foes. I wonder if the Batman’s evolutionary success, since he was always portrayed as avoiding killing, was a product of Fredric Wertham and the Comics Code Authority, which made publishers leery of excessive violence? The gunslinger heroes seem to have faded away, to be replaced with overpowered superheroes who don’t carry guns, but can raze whole city blocks with a punch. Maybe the Spider needs a Zack Snyder movie? (No, he does not. No one deserves that.)

Here’s a video with some clips from the old Spider serials.

I’m a sucker for that old pulp fiction graphic style, but I have zero interest in watching any of the old serials or reading the pulp novels of the time, and I’m not going to mourn the absence of the Spider from modern movies. What I find interesting is that this one successful, popular franchise could so thoroughly disappear over time, and not even occupy any space in my memory. It gives me hope for the future, it does. I can look at the current glut of comic book movies and tell myself that this too shall pass.

Or that they’ll be replaced with a different glut of franchised fantasies.