Cranks congregate to demonstrate that they’re cranks

This weekend, Peter Thiel and various right-wing think tanks backed something called the Academic Freedom Conference. You can guess what this was all about.

Academic freedom, open inquiry, and freedom of speech are under threat as they have not been for decades. Visibly, academics are “canceled,” fired, or subject to lengthy disciplinary proceedings in response to academic writing or public engagement. Less visibly, funding agencies, university bureaucracies, hiring procedures, promotion committees, professional organizations, and journals censor some kinds of research or demand adherence to political causes. Many parts of universities have become politicized or have turned into ideological monocultures, excluding people, ideas, or kinds of work that challenge their orthodoxy. Younger researchers are afraid to speak and write and don’t investigate promising ideas that they fear will endanger their careers.

The two-day Academic Freedom Conference, arranged by the organizing committee, aims to identify ways to restore academic freedom, open inquiry, and freedom of speech and expression on campus and in the larger culture and restore the open debate required for new knowledge to flourish. The conference will focus on the organizational structures leading to censorship and stifling debate and how to repair them.

All you have to do is look at the list of speakers and see that it’s a conference of far-right kooks and their enablers. Oh, look: there’s Jordan Peterson, Douglas Murray, Gad Saad, Niall Ferguson, Bjorn Lomborg, Jay Bhattacharya, John Ioannidis, and a horde of disgraced academics, bigots, Quillette authors, misogynists, vaccine deniers, and cranks. Several of the people there have publicly professed their support for good science (usually to defend garbage science), but then the keynote by Peter Thiel is an embarrassing anti-science rant. Also mostly rambling and incoherent.

So you you have the string theory people telling us how wonderful string theory people are and how everybody else just has bad math genes and can’t talk about it. We have the uh the cancer researchers promising us they will cure cancer in five years which they’ve been doing for the last 50. We have um and on and on in all these sort of hyper hyper specialized areas and um and then the question is, you know how much how much progress is actually happening?

The um, these sort of indirect intuitions I have on where it seems very very slowed, are things like, umm, if you if you if you look at things like um, the the economy, the the standards of living among younger people.

Except that cancer researchers say no such thing — the most common idea I see expressed by cancer researchers is that cancer is a thousand different diseases with hundreds of alternative pathways, and that there will be no magic bullet. All he’s got to go on is “indirect intuitions”. He’s an idiot. Then he makes similarly stupid statements about education.

Um and that’s probably the political intuition we should have about the sciences versus uh versus the humanities. The, the, the, the polemical version of it that I, I had once was that you know I I think um I think that uh it’s better for undergraduates to meh meh to major in the humanities rather than the sciences. Set computer sciences, aside, as the one thing that sort of works, but everything else. Because um in the humanities you at least know you’re not going to get a job, you’ll be unemployable, whereas in the sciences you have people who are so deluded as to believe that we’ll be taken care of by the natural goodness of the universe. And it’s just it is just a Malthusian competition.

You hear that? The only topic that matters is computer science, because that’s the only one that will land you a job — which isn’t true, and also isn’t the one reason to get education. Scientists don’t have this illusion that the universe has “natural goodness”.

I’m trying to imagine how any of the scientists in the audience could listen to that drivel without rising up and walking out. But don’t worry, there was no drama: the kinds of people who would attend such a conference are pre-selected for being gullible conservative loons. Even more, I can’t imagine anyone accepting an invitation to an even packed so heavily with horrible people like Thiel or Peterson or that roster of denialists and bigots, as summarized in this list or this one. Yet there sat marginally respectable people like Steve Pinker and Jon Haidt and Jerry Coyne, who have often fucked up and are now confirming their deplorable status by enthusiastically attending. Ick.

Coyne predicted ahead of time that he’d be labeled with guilt by association. He’s right.

I predict that the mainstream media and many on social media will deem the entire conference a conclave of bigots, racists, and transphobes because a few people on the schedule have been called those names. Indeed, Steve Pinker himself has been the object of criticism, and has been called a racist; and I (deemed “someone with a solid reputation who speaks his mind and is honest in his arguments”) have also been called a transphobe and a racist. Hardly anybody is immune!

Correct. If you hob-nob with transphobes, racists, and bigots, and you applaud their words, and trumpet how much you agree with the sentiments they express, then surprise! People will draw the reasonable conclusion that you are a fellow traveler. That’s how it works.

By the way, I was briefly mentioned (negatively, I’m proud to say) at the conference. Coyne condemned me for being “ideological” that he neglected to do for all the flamingly ideological speakers at the event.

He has done this multiple times in the past, and never pays any attention to corrections. Every time, he pretends that my beef is with the idea that our brains, as well as our body, show traces of our ancestry over the past 6 million years. That’s a lie, just an outright lie. It doesn’t matter that I’ve repeatedly said that I’m a hardcore materialist who accepts the idea of humanity evolving entirely by natural mechanisms, he has decided, as a rhetorical strategy, that since he can’t address my actual criticisms, he’s going to misrepresent my position. Every time. It’s pretty damned disgraceful. As I’ve written before:

The brain is a material product of evolution, and behavior is a product of the brain. There are natural causes for everything all the way down. And further, I have great respect for psychology, evolutionary biology, ethology, physiology, anthropology, anatomy, comparative biology — and I consider all of those disciplines to have strong integrative ties to evolutionary biology. Does Coyne really believe that I am critiquing the evolved nature of the human brain? Because otherwise, this is a completely irrelevant statement.

Evolutionary psychology has its own special methodology and logic, and that’s what I criticize — not anthropology or evolutionary biology or whatever. Somehow these unique properties get conveniently jettisoned whenever a critic wanders by, only to be re-adopted without reservation within the exercise of the discipline. And that’s really annoying.

What I object to in evolutionary psychology is that their stock in trade is to make observations of behavior in a single species, often in a single population, and then to infer an evolutionary history from that data point. You don’t get to do that. It’s not that the observations are invalid (they’re often interesting in their own right), or that it’s not possible that human behaviors carry a strong genetic component — it’s that you simply can’t draw an evolutionary conclusion from the simple existence of a trait in a population. Yet evolutionary psychologists do, all the time.

His only approach is to poison the well. So now I’m a blank slater and a Marxist, neither accusation being true.

It’s again, comes out of the ideology that we’re blank slates. I think that comes from Marxism, where people are seen as infinitely malleable by the social environment. Whereas evolutionary psychology tells us that we’re not blank slates that we’re born with a little bit of writing on those blank slates, that can be changed a bit, but can only be changed within certain limits.

Did you know that there are negligibly few biologists who believe we have no genetic predispositions? This whole blank slate nonsense is Pinker’s conceit, his default straw man, and it’s transparently bogus. It’s always fun to encounter someone who attacks you by announcing that you hold a ridiculous opinion that you’ve never held and are happy to agree that it’s wrong.

I do wonder how his audience received that claim that it’s blank slaters who think people are infinitely malleable by the social environment when there are a bunch of transphobes there who think that everyone’s sexual identity is so easily corrupted by the social environment, believing in garbage like rapid onset gender dysphoria. Is gender fluid in some people or not?

He also claims that evolutionary psychology has produced many valuable insights, such as differences in sexual behavior between men and women. What are those insights? That women are better at spotting pink berries or something? He doesn’t say.

Again, my gripe with EP is methodological: you can’t make “valuable insights” about human evolution with surveys and experiments on modern American undergraduates.


  1. says

    If there’s anyone who shouldn’t be listened to in regards to freedom perhaps it shouldn’t be someone who thinks democracy is antithetical to freedom and should be replaced by a monarchy.

  2. IX-103, the ■■■■ing idiot says

    Why are they calling “blank slate” Marxist?
    The idea can be traced back to Aristotle and but was popularized by John Locke during the enlightenment. That’s the same John Locke who inspired the American revolution and whose ideas of natural rights to “life, liberty, and property” inspired the phrase “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” in the Declaration of Independence.

    So he fails at philosophy and history as well as science. What kind of liberal arts education does he think you should get then, majoring in creative writing?

  3. dstatton says

    I don’t think that Pinker is even “marginally respectable.” I did enjoy Coyne’s Why Evolution is True.

  4. doctorworm says

    What strikes me about evo psych is that most defenders hold 3 central propositions, which they freely substitute for one another and act like all three are equivalent.

    P1) Our brains evolved much like our bodies, and thus at least some of our psychology is derived from adaptations to our prehistoric past. (More or less universally accepted)
    P2) Most if not all of our psychology can be traced to directly to adaptations in pre-civilization hominids. (A much bolder claim, and more controversial)
    P3) Our nature is effectively set in stone by our ancient genetics, and therefore any attempt to deviate from the status quo of mid-century American white patriarchal capitalism is contrary to innate human nature and thus doomed to failure. (The real problem with most evo-psych proponents)

    Proponents like to openly substitute P2 for P2. They tend to make the jump to P3 as if it were a trivially obvious result of P2, so simple that no explanation is needed.

  5. says

    On a more basic level, Thiel and the rest of these Nat. C crackpots are downright Orwellian in their bigoted, twisted definition of ‘freedom’. What they really mean (and demand) is freedom for their expressions and muzzling and censorship of anyone who doesn’t agree with their shovelful of crap!

    “War is peace.
    Freedom is slavery.
    Ignorance is strength.”
    ― George Orwell, 1984

  6. says

    RE: ‘the universe has “natural goodness”.’ Did they talk to it to find that out? Do you think they might be referring to the natural “noodly goodness” of the Flying Spaghetti Monster? The universe is mostly inanimate and full of environments hostile to our existence. It just can’t really care.

  7. Akira MacKenzie says


    P3) Our nature is effectively set in stone by our ancient genetics, and therefore any attempt to deviate from the status quo of mid-century American white patriarchal capitalism is contrary to innate human nature and thus doomed to failure. (The real problem with most evo-psych proponents)

    That sounds like an attempt to give basic right-wing ideology a veneer of “scientific” and “materialistic” justification. Before the cultural status quo, the “morality” of capitalism, and the supposed dangers of changing anything were preordained by some deity-usually the Christian one. It seems that the right is becoming more secular whilst I see more and more of the Left wallowing in mysticism.

    Not a good sign, either way.

  8. hemidactylus says

    Go on Coyne’s blog and be the slightest bit critical of him (no tut-tuting) or his hero Pinker and see how committed to “freedom” he actually is. He’s a snowflake.

    His commentariat ogled Pinker’s cowboy boots like they wanted to crawl right up and kiss them. Weird lockstep vibes over there.

    Coyne posted four creepy photos of Peterson animated about the so-called war on the west, whatever that means, in discussion with Douglas Murray. Weird.

    Pinker followed Scott Atlas as a speaker from what I saw as the schedule of events. WTFH!?

    Glad PZ addressed Coyne’s comments directed at him.

    I presume the headlining star of the entire show was “woke”, a bogey that puts Coyne and Desantis on the exact same page.

  9. Matt G says

    WTF happened to Coyne? I was a regular over at WEIT until about 10 years ago, when he seemed to kind of suddenly turn into an asshole.

  10. hemidactylus says

    In case anyone wants a commemorative copy of the event schedule to keep for posterity:

    What is CLI might you ask? It stands for “Classical Liberalism Initiative”. So all these folks can think of themselves now as classical liberals, you know before liberalism got corrupted by the New Deal and Great Society and became all Marxy Marx and stuff. From their main page: “The Classical Liberalism Initiative is devoted to the study of classical liberal institutions and the interactions among individuals, corporations, markets, government, and civic institutions in a free society.

    CLI will foster an open intellectual environment where all arguments and ideas are critically examined. It will be built on the classical liberal conviction that “we should not be afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead nor to tolerate error as long as reason is free to combat it.””

    It might help to realize this is under the banner of the Stanford Graduate School of Business and the three faculty organizers are a “Professor of Finance (by courtesy) and of Economics (by courtesy)”, a “Associate Professor of Accounting”, and “The James C. Van Horne Professor of Finance”.

    And so what exactly is classical liberalism you wonder versus the prevalent neoliberal world order? Sounds like some serious business.

  11. Larry says

    Why didn’t somebody tell me this was happening? I’m just up the road from Stanford. Well, I’ll just throw on some pants and head on over and…

    Damn, it was over yesterday.

  12. unclefrogy says

    Orwellian indeed such a nice way to describe the Academic freedom conference and their right wing thought leaders. such a polite way to call them liers and thieves, bigots and hypocrites
    It looks to me that evolutionary Psychology tend to be trying to prove the preconceived ideas their biases rather then trying to discover actually what is going on rather like the discovery institute

  13. Alverant says

    Found this clip about Jordan Peterson. He tries to argue against Marxism with only a quick reading of the Communist Manifesto and chose not to read Marx’s other books where he goes into more detail. Then Peterson comes up with a bunch of strawman arguments. It’s like he skimmed the cliff notes and sees himself as an expert.

  14. Matthew Currie says

    I don’t know doodly squat about string theory (or much else of physics), but nobody ever thought to tell me it was bad math genes. Here all this time I thought I was like Elizabeth Bennet, not good at something because I didn’t take the trouble to practice, and feeling vaguely (only vaguely, mind you) guilty at my laziness, while the excuse was there all along!

  15. pick says

    Matt G @9
    Yes, I enjoyed Coyne’s blog for the biology but not for what I came to see as rank bigotry, especially towards Muslims. I’ve found this view among other extremist Jewish people, again especially as regards Muslims, A quick way to gain instantaneous status as an antisemite is to even claim neutrality on the subject of the state of Israel and the Palestinian situation, a position I took that got me banned from his website. I know I’m not the only one. Coyne, Harris, Pinker, Epstein, Dershowitz et. al. seem to suffer from some kind of narcissism that they are necessarily on the right side of whatever “bell shaped curve” .
    I really appreciated reading Jay Goulds book “The mismeasure of man”. Gave me a good perspective on Murray, et. al.
    Also, PZ’s writings on these subjects make a lot of sense – what you would expect from a developmental biologist who doesn’t treat the genetic code as some immutable thing. See Pinkers talk below on why he thinks he is so intelligent…it’s in the genes.

  16. moarscienceplz says

    “This conference is an invitation-only event sponsored by Stanford Graduate School of Business.”
    I’d be willing to bet the SGSB is closely tied to the Hoover Institution, that paleolithic cabal of knuckle-walkers.
    Also, I find it ironic that Coyne the Barbarian referred to PZ as only a blogger, ignoring his academic credits and the fact that PZ is an active educator, whereas Coyne’s current contributions to society are posting pictures of his food (always cooked by others, heaven forfend he should ever handle a fry pan, let alone wash a plate), and polishing his cowboy boot collection (I would think the Texas insult of “all hat and no cattle” applies to boots, as well).

  17. moarscienceplz says

    “A quick way to gain instantaneous status as an antisemite is to even claim neutrality on the subject of the state of Israel and the Palestinian situation, a position I took that got me banned from his website. I know I’m not the only one.”
    Welcome to the club!

  18. hemidactylus says

    @17- moarscienceplz
    Coyne the Barbarian”? I love it!

    Hmmm…interesting point on “the Hoover Institution, that paleolithic cabal of knuckle-walkers”. Though I probably found more value (something I read recently talked of the virtues to values shift as a form of commodification in itself) in Pinker’s enlightenment fanfest than most others here it still read a bit as a collection of libertarian Cato Institute position papers and bullet points.

    When it comes to Critical Theory and its non-relation to postmodernism Pinker and Coyne are clueless reactionary dilettantes. Yeah reactionary. Coyne’s whole poseur left take on woke is the epitome of being a reactionary twit. Both Coyne and Pinker combined couldn’t produce a coherent synopsis of Critical Theory, its history and trajectory, nor the actual views of its varied proponents. Not a form of pomo.

  19. says

    I read it once, long ago. I also read the Bible. Neither converted me, although I do have to say that Marx was more coherent and interesting.

  20. says

    (I would think the Texas insult of “all hat and no cattle” applies to boots, as well)

    “All high-heeled boots and not a leg to stand on?”

    Also there’s a song called “Snakeskin Cowboy,” I forget who wrote it.

  21. microraptor says

    Matt G @9: Near as I can tell, Coyne became personally affronted by a few things that all happened more or less simultaneously.

    First of all, there was the fact that people dared to criticize St Dawkins during and after Elevatorgate. That couldn’t be tolerated.

    Second, he was got extremely butt-hurt over the concept of Safe Spaces on college campuses for whatever reason. Never did understand why the concept on not triggering someone’s PTSD offended him so much. Pointing out that his blog counted as a safe space because he was very restrictive about what was and was not allowed on it was what got me banned.

    And third, he went totally bananas over the idea that liberal ideology should listen to the opinions of anyone other than straight white middle-age-to-old men. Anyone who was female, gay, trans, non-white, and/or young should just shut up and let the grown ups make all the decisions.

    I remember that he got interested in Milo Yannapilos (or however the hell that tool’s last name is spelled, I don’t care enough to actually look it up and don’t want it in my search history) just because the guy made liberals mad and banned a few people for pointing out how much of a raging anti-Semite he was.

  22. John Morales says

    microraptor, ‘poulos’ is a Greek suffix to the effect of ‘so of’, and Gianno/Yianno is the version of John (like Juan, or Ian). Both quite common.
    A rudimentary knowledge sufficient to spell it pretty much right.

    (‘pilos’ would be ‘hair’)

  23. microraptor says

    @25: He’s nothing but a has-been of a right-wing asshole. Refusing to perform the bare minimum effort to insure I spell his name right is a demonstration of how important I think he is. The point is that Coyne went full wingnut and started praising him only because feminists hated him and as far as Coyne was concerned, that made him a good person.

  24. John Morales says


    @25: He’s nothing but a has-been of a right-wing asshole.

    Nah, he’s not even that. Just a grifting opportunist who happens to thrive by leeching on right-wing sentiment and ideas, and changing personas at will.
    A bit like a David Bowie of grift, those changing personas.

    But to mock his name in an effort to insult him is an affront to Greek culture and pretty much akin to descending to his level.
    But hey, if that’s the hill you want to die upon, fine.

    (That was my point)

  25. raven says

    He also claims that evolutionary psychology has produced many valuable insights, such as differences in sexual behavior between men and women. What are those insights? That women are better at spotting pink berries or something? He doesn’t say.

    Evo psych has been around for many years and accomplished about nothing.

    My impression is that most evolutionary biologists consider it fringe pseudoscience and say so often.
    I’ve read exactly that in the pages of Science before.

    The rock that evo psych hit and sank on is human behavioral and cultural plasticity and adaptability. We have thousands of different societies with thousands of different behaviors, attitudes, and differences in anything you care to measure.
    And yet all these societies all have the same human brains.

    There are very few human generalizations that can hold up as innate versus acquired and cultural.

  26. raven says

    WTF happened to Coyne? I was a regular over at WEIT until about 10 years ago, when he seemed to kind of suddenly turn into an asshole.

    Yeah, that sums it up.

    The guy was OK once and WEIT was a good book.
    When he went off into lunatic fringe land, I stopped reading his blog.
    I refuse to waste my time on that sort of thing.

    …Jordan Peterson, Douglas Murray, Gad Saad, Niall Ferguson, Bjorn Lomborg, Jay Bhattacharya, John Ioannidis,

    When you find yourself running with haters and liars like Jordan Peterson, Murray and Niall Ferguson, you know that something has gone very wrong with your life and your mind.

    I recognize most of those names.
    Jordan Peterson is a garden variety poly hater and life long conperson.
    Niall Ferguson is an idiot who was defending the US invasion of iraq long after it was obviously a complete disaster and failure.
    Bjorn Lomborg is a global warming denier whose work is mostly lies and fiction.

  27. raven says


    Ioannidis concluded from the study that the coronavirus is “not the apocalyptic problem we thought”.[136] The message found favor with right-wing media outlets, but the paper drew criticism from a number of epidemiologists who said its testing was inaccurate and its methods were sloppy.

    I didn’t recognize the name John Ioannidis.

    I didn’t miss much.

    Another crackpot and wrong as well.
    He was a Covid-19 virus minimizer.
    It’s no big deal and we don’t have to worry about it.
    1.4 million dead Americans and millions of Long Covid victims later, Ioannidis is just a nobody has been that no one remembers or cares about.

    “Ioannidis expressed doubt that vaccines or treatments would be developed and tested in time to affect how the pandemic would unfold.”
    Got that wrong too. The drugs and vaccines made a huge difference and turned an apocalyptic virus (wrong again) into merely a horrible pandemic.

  28. StevoR says

    @ ^ raven : yes. Jay Bhattacharya, John Ioannidis are new to me though.

    Hmm .. Wikis

    During the COVID-19 pandemic, Bhattacharya has been an opponent of lockdowns and mask mandates.[5][6] With Martin Kulldorff and Sunetra Gupta, he was a co-author in 2020 of the Great Barrington Declaration, which advocated letting the virus spread in lower-risk groups with the aim of herd immunity, with “focused protection” of those most at risk.


    Ioannidis’s 2005 essay “Why Most Published Research Findings Are False” was the most-accessed article in the history of Public Library of Science (PLOS) as of 2020, with more than three million views.[3][4]

    Ioannidis has been a prominent opponent of Masks and lockdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Ah, so, covid cranks it seems.

    Seems Murray is a British farreichwing Islamophic neocon & Gad Saad :

    Saad appeared on Reason TV in November 2011.[32] In September 2015, Saad was interviewed by TJ Kirk on the Drunken Peasants Podcast.[33]

    As of 2022, he had been featured on seven episodes of The Joe Rogan Experience.[11] In February 2022, Spotify removed one of the episodes (#1218) without giving any specific reason.

    Saad has also appeared on Sam Harris’s Making Sense podcast (then titled Waking Up),[11] The Adam Carolla Show,[34] Talk Nerdy with Cara Santa Maria,[35] and The Rubin Report.

    appears to be an evo pyscvh fool who pals around with and is featured on the reichwing media scene.

  29. John Morales says

    Walter, your take is not sufficiently snarky for me.

    Because um in the humanities you at least know you’re not going to get a job […]

    Quite telling, that quote.
    Basically, the claim is that education’s purpose is to get a job.

    Learning merely for learning’s sake?
    Not particularly relevant, under that perspective.

    (Playing sport? Why bother, unless you can earn a living from it?)

  30. lotharloo says

    I used to read Jerry Coyne’s [trigger warning] blog and I used to at least trust him on the sciency parts. But he writes stuff like this that makes me take him much less seriously:

    One distressing characteristic of the Left, at least as far as science is concerned, is to let our ideology trump scientific data; that is, some of us ignore biological data when it’s inimical to our political preferences. This plays out in several ways: the insistence that race doesn’t exist (and before you accuse me of saying that races do exist, read about what I’ve written here before: the issue is complex), that there are no evolutionarily-based innate (e.g., genetically based) behavioral or psychological differences between ethnic groups, and that there are no such differences, either, between males and females within humans.

    You read it right, he doesn’t say it explicitly but he implies that there is “evolutionarily-based innate (e.g., genetically based) behavioral or psychological differences between ethnic groups”. Now, I don’ t know what exactly the concept of “evolutionarily-based innate differences” means, I’m guessing it’s not a technical term just a dog-whistle that he cooked up for plausible deniability without having to make any specific claims, but if I am wrong and the term has actually a precise scientific meaning, then let me know.

    Somewhere else he writes:

    Last week I published a post intended to show that the profound sexual dimorphism for human size (and musculature) reflected sexual selection in our ancestors, a form of selection that can be explained only by an evolved difference in behavior: in humans, as in many other species in which females invest more in reproduction than do males, males (who often make little reproductive investment, sometimes only sperm) must compete with each other for access to females.

    .. and when people disagree with him, it is …

    Dunsworth offers her own thesis, which, she says, puts more emphasis on female evolution. I suspect her own hypothesis is in fact ideologically driven…

    Everyone ideologically driven except for Jerry Coyne. No, he’s a pure stable genius who absolutely doesn’t get triggered into a banning spree on his blog.

  31. lotharloo says

    @John Morales:

    It of course depends on how you define the “the Left” but I don’t have a problem with putting him in the “Left” camp. This is specially true in a country like US where the two options are “deranged anti-science COVID denying anti-democratic Trumpanzees” or “the Left”. Basically, he votes Democratic so he’s part of the “Left”; it actually shows how meaningless the term is, honestly.

  32. John Morales says


    Basically, he votes Democratic so he’s part of the “Left”; it actually shows how meaningless the term is, honestly.

    Well, in that particular milieu (yours, perhaps?) not being MAGA is sufficient to be considered communist, nevermind leftist.

    In reality, the leftmost mainstream in the USA is what is considered centrist elsewhere.

    (But you do make a good point!)

  33. StevoR says

    @ ^ John Morales : “In reality, the leftmost mainstream fringe in the USA is what is considered centrist elsewhere.”

    Fixed It For You?

    @38. lotharloo : Relative rather than meaningless I’d say but yeah.

    The USA has for all my lifetime – since McCarthyism for sure – been a very reichwing nation that has seen it’s Overton window shoved right out of the house, down the street and into a blazing rubbish fire by Murdoch, the White Supremacist Christianists and Conspiracy Theorists among others.

  34. leerudolph says

    microraptor@24: “Never did understand why the concept on not triggering someone’s PTSD offended him [Coyne] so much.” Knowing nothing particular about Coyne, I still do not hesitate to suggest that Coyne—like many people about whom I do have particuar knowledge, both public and private—is offended by the very notion of “post-traumatic stress”, and not specifically by the concept of “triggering”.

  35. says

    Someone on Twitter pointed out the crank etymology in the opening paragraphs of Thiel’s talk:

    what is the antonym of diversity?
    And the placeholder answer I would give for an antonym for diversity, the antonym of diversity is university

    That reminds me of Ray Comfort, who’s fond of claiming that the word “universe” means “one word”, therefore proving that the Bible & the book of Genesis are therefore proven correct.

  36. Akira MacKenzie says

    @ 42

    Has anyone ever explained to Ray or King Thiel that we can actually look up the etymology of these words and determine if they’re making shit up? Of course, they get away with it because their brain-dead disciples won’t bother and even if they did they’d just shriek ‘FAKE NEWS!”

  37. jenorafeuer says

    The annoying part about John Ioannidis is that he was, once, a reasonably well-respected researcher. The paper mentioned above, “Why Most Published Research Findings Are False”, was a study on replicability problems of studies in medicine (which makes sense because medicine in general is always going to be messy and positive results are more likely to get published than negative results, so first studies being false positives is not unexpected). He got mentioned a fair bit over on Orac’s blog, Respectful Insolence. See WTF happened to John Ioannidis?

    His descent into crankdom predates the Covid-19 situation, but not by too much. He appears to have been one of those people who went from being contrarian for originally valid reasons, to being contrarian for the sake of being contrarian once he got challenged on later statements that weren’t actually valid, and now his ‘I’m smarter than everybody else’ shtick is in full swing and he’s found his fellow travelers in other science denialists because they all agree on how smart and right he is.

  38. says

    He also claims that evolutionary psychology has “produced many valuable insights, such as differences in sexual behavior between men and women.”

    I’m sure actual psychology has given us many such valuable insights; but not “evolutionary psychology.” The latter too often seems like someone saying things like “Lots of people seem to be doing [X], therefore there must be some sort of evolutionary selection mechanism that rewards that,” and then just making up a reason that sounds good and calling it a day. And then if someone else observes that lots of people are also doing the exact opposite of [X], they’ll find a more-or-less-plausible-sounding reason for that to be a beneficial behavior too. Just notice something lots of people are doing that doesn’t seem all that rational to you, and come up with some reason why that may have helped primitive Cro-Mags hunt mammoths or find mates or something.

  39. Deepak Shetty says

    Coynes definitely an expert on cancel culture. He got a head start on it when he used to send petitions to employers for things that people wrote on their personal blog (Josh Rosenau , Theistic evolution is compatible with scientific thought).

    @Matt G @9

    when he seemed to kind of suddenly turn into an asshole.

    Was it sudden ? I think initially the thrill of having someone who could rebut the religious fundamentalists sort of appealed and maybe we ignored the signs. All the (non religious) critics of Gnu Atheists did point out quite a few of the same things that we realize now.