We hunted the rabbit

I know it’s not as impressive as the mammoth, but it gives AMAB people an edge in rugby, therefore trans athletes should be banned. So saith Sean Ingle, chief sportswriter for the increasingly transphobic Guardian.

As he repeated many lies about trans women in sport, whether through ignorance or malice, Ingle said, And going back to the start with the science is to have a separate, exclusive, preserved category for natal females with trans women and trans men then going into an open, universal category. And those that support this approach point to the recent science that suggests that even when testosterone is reduced, strength in transgender women only goes down 5%.

Most of that advantage for male puberty is retained. They also point out, and I hear this a lot, that women are not men with lower testosterone. They point out there are thousands of physical differences between males and females, and they aren’t always obvious.

Females tend to have better peripheral vision than males. Males, in contrast, are quite as fast[sic?] at accurately detecting the trajectory of a moving object. That is, how fast it’s moving, in which direction it’s moving, and where it’s going to be 1 second from now.

That’s helpful when you’re trying to chuck a spear at a rabbit. If you’re going back to evolutionary biology times, it’s also helpful when you’re trying to intercept a rugby ball. My general view here is that The Guardian should be at the heart of all this and that we should write about the subject fearlessly.

Ah, even sportswriters have absorbed the biases of evolutionary psychology. Now men, not women, have evolved to be better at throwing spears.

These glib comparisons always make me wonder what was being compared in these studies. All women tend to have better peripheral vision than men? What if you compared men, in general, to women tennis players? Is it still true? Isn’t it quite likely that peripheral vision, and the ability to calculate trajectories, are plastic and responsive to practice?

Also, how large is the variation within men, and within women? Aren’t we really dealing with selected subsets of populations, making blanket claims about the aggregate abilities of diverse populations rather problematic?

The whole premise is flawed. It assumes that men of the paleolithic were specifically and exclusively selected for spear chucking, that women of that time had no use for that talent, and that some epigenetic factor inhibits the genetic spear-chucking complex in women. No evidence for any of that. Then we have to assume that there was no further selection for or against that complex for 100,000 years — men retained a fairly specific ability through many generations of life farming. Then we assume further that whatever epigenetic modifiers allow for enhanced spearchucking in men, they don’t include things like testosterone that might be blocked by inhibitors — these hypothetical male advantages sail through everything that affects trans women unaffected.

But sure, if you’re an evolutionary psychologist sportswriter, you can just propose that whole chain of improbabilities as a given and call it “science” or “biology,” all in the name of transphobia. I call it magical thinking.

The administration has destroyed all my lesson plans!

I was looking forward to a mellow, relaxed Fall term, when the office of human resources sent me this memo:

Dear Faculty and Staff,

As you may have read in the news, Governor Walz recently signed a bill into law legalizing the use of marijuana for recreational purposes by adults age 21 and over as well as the right to grow up to eight plants for personal use. The new law will also decriminalize its possession and expunge misdemeanor marijuana offenses from criminal records.

While the new law may begin to shift societal norms outside the workplace, University employees will still be expected to follow the University’s Drug-Free policy, Smoke-and Tobacco-Free policy, and Code of Conduct, which outlines the responsibilities of employees to “act according to the highest ethical and professional standards of conduct” and “be personally accountable for individual actions.”

As has been the standard procedure in the past, employees who violate these policies and perform work while impaired due to the use of controlled substances are subject to disciplinary action, including termination. Additionally, while the new law allows for the growing of cannabis plants at home, no such plants grown for personal use are allowed on any University property nor should such plants be visible on camera during remote work. Please also note that the legalization of marijuana at the state level does not change the federal DOT Drug policy for drivers, of which the University has about 100 employees. All members of our University community are responsible for encouraging compliance with these policies.

If you, or someone you are concerned about, need help with substance misuse, the University has resources available to you, including confidential counseling and chemical health consultation through the Employee Assistance Program and mental health resources for University employees and their dependents enrolled in the medical plan.

We appreciate your awareness and compliance with this issue in support of protecting the health of our entire community.

Darn. I guess the backup plan is MDMA.

(No, actually, I don’t partake of anything anymore, not even alcohol. I have no idea what the students will be doing to make my classes tolerable.)

This is Lawrence Krauss’s career now

He’s fallen far now, and seems to think that thrashing about in the muck will raise him up, rather than make him dirtier. He’s got an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal 🤮, titled “A Scientist’s Sexuality Shouldn’t Matter”. I agree, it shouldn’t, but we’re dealing with facts here rather than a disgruntled conservative’s feelings, and it does matter, unfortunately.

Krauss is upset because federal grant agencies ask applicants about various bits of demographic data.

The Survey of Earned Doctorates is an annual census of new postgraduate research degrees. The National Science Foundation, a federal agency, collects data on academic discipline, sex, race, ethnicity, debt burden, disability and citizenship. The results are used by government, universities and industry to track the demographics of women and minorities in STEM — science, technology, engineering and math.

Well, yes, it’s a survey. That’s what surveys do. Krauss wants them to stop because — wait for it — sexism is over! According to a notorious sex pest, that is.

The sex and race data — the latter has been collected since 1975 — was initially useful in efforts to overcome barriers to women and minorities in academia. Those barriers have largely disappeared, yet quotas and preferential hiring have persisted. After such a concerted effort, demographic disparities are less likely to point to systemic biases in academia than to underlying societal factors.

That’s especially true when it comes to disparities of sex. Women earn a majority of postbaccalaureate degrees over all STEM disciplines in the U.S. Since female undergraduates outnumber male ones by about 3 to 2, this trend is likely to continue. Further, a recent large-scale study found that previous claims about sex bias in academic science were overblown. Tenure-track women and men in STEM receive comparable grant funding, journal acceptances and recommendation letters, and women have an edge in hiring.

What quotas? What preferential hiring? I’ve been in a lot of job searches over the years, and we’re told over and over by the administration that there are questions we can’t ask, and they’re all about avoiding bias. I’d agree that there are fewer biases in academia (but not no biases) because of policies Krauss doesn’t like, and that we’re dealing with larger societal factors, but academia is part of society, if you hadn’t noticed.

A good example of those societal factors: undergraduate women outnumber men, especially at liberal arts colleges like mine. Is this a good thing? Nobody thinks so. It’s not at all because we preferentially admit women — please, high school men, do apply and come to UMM, we love you all — but because when universities stopped discriminating against women, many women saw a college education as a tool for escaping traditional roles. Liberal arts colleges also actively encourage students to explore new ideas, which is appealing if you want something more than a fast-track to a job.

Of course, to a white man the barriers are invisible, so they don’t exist.

Such personal matters are irrelevant to science and essentially invisible. In my 40 years in academia, I have worked with all sorts of colleagues and students. Many were highly eccentric, but that didn’t matter if they were good scientists. As one colleague put it: “You are teaching a chemistry or physics course. Your lectures describe concepts and present equations. ‘Suppose a magnet is moving relative to a loop of wire.’ You barely know any of your students. You give tests and grade them. You have no idea, nor care about, the ‘sexual orientation’ of any of your students. . . . What career barriers are there?”

What a blinkered ass…you might as well say, “no one is trying to rape me, therefore rape and sexual harassment are not a problem anywhere.” Which is just what a self-centered serial harasser would say.

I’m also appalled at the idea that a professor just lectures and gives tests and grades them and doesn’t need to know anything about their students. What university was this at? Krauss should have mentioned it so everyone would know to avoid it. Of course we are and should be aware of our students’ lives, to a degree. We invite deeper interactions than just talking at and grading them — I listen when students are struggling and try to help them resolve conflicts and issues.

I don’t even understand this factory-style approach to impersonal teaching.

Asking respondents if they’re “transgender,” “gender non-conforming,” “nonbinary,” “gender-fluid” or “genderqueer” is patently ridiculous. These are subjective categories, unobservable by others unless the person in question makes it a point to label himself publicly. Most scientists, like ordinary people, couldn’t even define most of these terms, let alone use them as a basis for discrimination.

You don’t need to define the terms, you just need to categorize your students and colleagues as highly eccentric.

This is peak clueless offensiveness, though. Non-heterosexual identities are patently ridiculous and mere subjective categories? They matter to the people who have them, and what also matters is professors who so callously dismiss their lived identities. You know, the ones who think people who aren’t like them are not ordinary people.

Jesus. Krauss is making me aware that we do discriminate. If we were interviewing a job candidate and they spewed out that stuff about how teaching is just about giving tests and grading them, calling gay and trans students eccentric and patently ridiculous, it’s true — there’s no way we’d hire them. We try not to employ assholes.

Also, we’d rather not hire stupid people. Krauss even quotes the goals of these agencies, but doesn’t understand them.

What’s the purpose of all this? Nature magazine paraphrases a statement from the NSF’s chief diversity and inclusion officer, Charles Barber: “Collecting these data will help the NSF and other agencies to analyse employers’ policies and procedures for addressing unintended barriers to employment, advancement and inclusion.” The magazine then quotes Mr. Barber: “This gives us an opportunity to create more opportunities and broaden participation to yield equitable outcomes for the LGBTQIA+ community and others.”

Yes. Collecting data to detect “unintended barriers to employment, advancement and inclusion.” How would you know if an organization discriminates, unintentionally or otherwise, if you have no information about the population of a class known to be subject to bias? How would you know if an organization has successfully knocked down all barriers to advancement if you don’t look? Krauss is advocating willful blindness to abuse and harassment and bias…unsurprisingly, for a guy with his history. If those meddling kids hadn’t noticed and reported his behavior, he’d still have a job!

Does that mean quotas?


If so, how would one even go about determining the “correct” proportion of “queer” or “genderqueer” scientists? The percentage of the population that espouses these labels is so small that any data the NSF gathers will be statistically useless.

The correct proportion is one that roughly matches the proportion in the general population, because that would indicate that there’s probably an absence of selective bias. That wasn’t so hard, Larry.

It’s kind of astonishing to see a physicist dismissing an event as insignificant because the frequency is too low. What happened to 5-sigma, Larry? Does the Higgs boson not matter because it’s so difficult to see that you have to spend billions of dollars to detect it? Most of the stars in the sky are not exploding, so why waste our time looking for novas? The frequency of stellar class A stars is only 0.63% — can we just ignore them, then? Heck, our sun falls into a group that makes up less than 8% of all stars. Must not be important, then.

You know we can detect all kinds of numbers if we just look. Here’s a result of the US census — over a million ‘eccentric’ people live in same-sex relationships.

We also know, because people looked at the data, that over 1.6 million ‘ordinary’ people are transgender, and that the proportion is rising as social barriers fall.

A study published on Friday estimates that nearly 1.64 million people over the age of 13 in the United States identify themselves as transgender, based on an analysis of newly expanded federal health surveys.

The study estimates that about 0.5% of all U.S. adults, some 1.3 million people, and about 1.4%, or 300,000, of youth between 13- and 17-years-old identify as transgender, having a different gender identity than the sex they were assigned at birth.

I really don’t understand this frequency based argument. Can we just ignore 1.3 million people, or worse, oppress and discriminate against them? They’re statistically useless, you know. It’s just that they are people.

Wow, Krauss has become a right-wing cartoon at this point.

AI-generated garbage videos

Another way that AI is hurting us: it’s being used to generate science spam that is flooding YouTube. Kyle Hill points out that they’ve SEO’d their way to the top of video recommendations by, for instance, putting Elon Musk or Joe Rogan or Michio Kaku on the thumbnail (we’re already in dubious “science” territory), and then when you click on it you get this text-to-speech robotic voice reading what sounds like ChatGPT generated word salad accompanied by random images. It’s terrible stuff designed to trawl up bottom-of-the-barrel undiscriminating eyeballs.

I haven’t encountered much of this stuff myself, I think because I don’t click on the kind of videos he shows. It does highlight one of the many problems with the ‘algorithms’ used by social media, because the spammers will always find a way to exploit the system.

A chiropractic schism?

A chiropractor who also has a master’s degree in immunology is in trouble because she posted an op-ed that favored vaccines.

The article she posted by the New York Times was titled “Underselling the Vaccine” and described how experts were being overly cautious when reporting their success rate.

With a master’s degree in immunology, Weiss thought the article was interesting and wanted to pass it along to her many Facebook friends, which include immunologists and scientists, she told CBC News.

A fellow chiropractor — whose identity remains a secret to this day — saw it and reported her to the Manitoba Chiropractors Association, the regulatory body for her profession.

Apparently, some chiropractors believe in an evidence-based approach (then why are they still chiropractors, I wonder?) and others believe in subluxation, which is garbage pseudoscience.

At the core of this divide in the profession is subluxation — a diagnosis used by some chiropractors to measure the health of someone’s spine.

If someone has a “subluxation-free spine,” there are some in the profession who believe that you don’t need vaccines or other medical interventions, explained Brian Gleberzon, a Toronto-based chiropractor and former professor at the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College.

“This would be a very traditional belief, and they would hearken back to the developers of the profession,” he said.

The subluxationists are out for Carolyn Weiss’s (the offending believer in vaccinations) blood, sending cease-and-desist letters and demanding the her op-eds be removed and threatening her license to practice chiropractic. They’re kind of nuts. They police what members say on the net.

It led to the association subscribing to a web scraper tool in 2021 that crawls through the professional websites and social media accounts of chiropractors and flags keywords such as “vaccines.”

The word “evidence-based,” “principled,” “honest,” and “ethical” were also flagged, as the association felt they could be used to make one chiropractor appear superior to another, according to an undated memo from the association to chiropractors obtained by CBC News.

The chiropractic association even has a rule that you can’t discuss vaccination because it is not within the scope of chiropractic practice. Well, yeah. But nothing medical is within the scope of chiropractic. I agree that chiropractors shouldn’t be dispensing any medical advice, any more than I should, but they are silencing this one thing for all the wrong reasons.

I’ve never understood why people go to chiropractors — I suspect it’s because they’re cheaper than real physical therapy, they’re desperate for relief from chronic pain (and haven’t discovered opioid abuse yet), and chiropractors make wild promises. We have a quack here in Morris who implied that his chiropractic shop would help cure cancer — he seems to have adopted a lower profile since I highlighted his sleaze.

Who keeps putting all these globes everywhere?

Kandiss Taylor ran for governor of Georgia on the slogan, Jesus, Guns, and Babies, which is the perfect Republican mantra. She also promised to execute sheriffs who disobeyed her rules. To everyone’s immense surprise, she lost big time, getting only 3.4% of the vote. Don’t worry, she’s doing the Trump thing and contesting the election, saying it was rigged.

She’s in the news again. She went on a flat-earth podcast to denounce globes.


Would you believe she has a PhD in counseling and was employed as a guidance counselor at an elementary school for 19 years? I think someone needs to go back and check on those poor kids.

I think we’ve found the perfectly distilled essence of Republicanism, and astoundingly, someone even worse than Marjorie Taylor Greene.

When they said “pathetic, posturing little wimp” I thought they were talking about me

Lawrence Krauss, of all people, defended Geoff Marcy on the pages of Quillette last week.

Well, that’s a sentence that probably killed all further interest.

That Richard Dawkins then waded in to accuse people who oppose the abuses of power of being pathetic, posturing little wimps probably doesn’t help.

I went ahead and barreled right in, and even compared their defense of sexism to the revelations that emerged from the recent documentary, Secrets of Hillsong. The good ol’ boy network is often deployed in the name of god, but sometimes it’s fired up in the name of science.

Transcript coming up!

[Read more…]

I guess these are the kinds of people who run the country now

American Idiot

You may have heard that the state of Florida banned a poem by Amanda Gorman from grade school libraries. What’s chilling is that this was triggered by one person complaining, a woman named Daily Salinas. She is a real piece of work.

In a series of screenshots tweeted by the group Miami Against Fascism, Salinas appears to be photographed in several Proud Boys events. In one photo, Salinas appears to be standing next to Enrique Tarrio, the far-right group’s neo-fascist leader who was found guilty of seditious conspiracy last month. “Freedom to choose,” said Salinas’s T-shirt.

In another post that featured a picture of Tarrio, Salinas appeared to hail the Proud Boys, writing, “Los mejores,” or “The best” in Spanish, adding, “My Proud boys,” alongside emojis of the American flag, a heart, a flexed arm and prayer hands.

Miami Against Fascism also posted pictures of Salinas’s apparent involvement with CCDF, also known as County Citizens Defending Freedom USA, a controversial Christian nationalist organization.

The outlet Jewish Telegraphic Agency also reviewed a Facebook account that appeared to be Salinas’s. The account featured a series of rightwing and antisemitic posts, including one about the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a fabricated Russian antisemitic text originally published in 1903 about a purported Jewish plan to dominate the world.

According to JTA, the post about the Protocols showed a list of steps on how “Jewish Zionists” would dominate the world.

Not only is she a bigot, she is a nearly illiterate dumbass.

“I see the word ‘communism’, and I think it’s something about communism,” she told JTA, adding, “I didn’t read the words.”

Salinas added that she is Christian, has Jewish friends and enjoys watching the Israeli Netflix series Fauda.

She also revealed that she only read snippets of the books that she sought to ban at the education center. The books include The ABCs of Black History, poetry by Langston Hughes and books on Cuba, all of which she has criticized for “indirect hate messages”, references to critical race theory and gender indoctrination.

“They have to read for me because I’m not an expert,” Salinas told JTA. “I’m not a reader. I’m not a book person. I’m a mom involved in my children’s education.”

The state of Florida allows an idiot who doesn’t read to dictate the contents of school libraries.

Maybe they should only accept criticisms of books from people who pass a test of basic literacy and who can actually demonstrate that they read and understood the whole book in question. But that would be un-American!