Will Knowland knows nothing

Will Knowland was a teacher at Eton who was dismissed for making a video claiming that patriarchy was good after being told not to — I’m not keen on the idea of firing someone for expressing an opinion, but I do think it’s reasonable to fire teachers for ignorance and incompetence. Knowland has gone on to make more videos to demonstrate just how stupid he is. He has chosen to claim that evolution is false. Big mistake. Especially since his arguments are pathetic.

I have the transcript. Let’s see how big a dumbass Will Knowland is.

here are eight things about Evolution that I wasn’t taught in school

Correct. He wasn’t taught the following things in school because they are wrong.

0:05 number one because Free Will is real and humans are rational any materialistic account of our Origins is certainly false this means darwinian materialistic evolution is and that’s why people who hold that worldview end up denying human rationality and Free Will including their own the two stand or fall together

I think free will arguments are all bad, no matter what side you take, so I’m not going to touch that one. The argument about rationaility, though, I think, is already refuted, because his claims are all irrational. Humans aren’t particularly rational — we’re all creatures of emotion and bias, and I note that Knowland fails to provide any supporting evidence or arguments otherwise. It’s an assertion with no rational support.

It’s also false to claim that science and evolution, specifically, require the rejection of rationality.

0:32 number two the oldest rocks on Earth date from 3.8 to 3.98 billion years ago but life was present 3.81 billion years ago so life had only 100 to 170 million years to evolve that is an instant a blink of the eye in evolutionary time

Remember that: 100 to 170 million is a blink of the eye. I’m inclined to think that 100 million years is an incredibly long time — lots can happen in a million years or a thousand. The origin of life was a process of chemical evolution. How many chemical reactions can occur in that span of time?

0:58 number three there’s no evidence for concentrated organic pools on early Earth no empirical evidence whatsoever and without a blueprint to direct it and convert it raw energy isn’t usable anyway but since these are only produced by life this is the Catch-22 and don’t say life came from space that just pushes the problem one step back where did it begin if it came from space

How concentrated is concentrated? Is he claiming to be a quantitative organic chemist now?

The best models for the origin of life now suggest it arose in deep-sea volcanic vents, which are rich in the precursors for organic molecules, and also provide the energy necessary for the reactions to produce them. Right now, electrons are being shuffled across inorganic substrates, reducing compounds and creating the building blocks of life without “blueprints.” It’s all chemistry. All of life is chemistry.

OK, I won’t say life came from space. That’s just bullshit anyway. Why does Knowland feel the need to put bogus arguments into his critics’ mouths?

1:33 number four there are millions of transitional forms organisms observable across successive Generations appear fully formed they have no ancestors or Bridges and they don’t change and don’t say punctuated equilibrium that is empirically equivalent to creationism

At least he admits that there are many transitional forms, but it’s weird that he then claims they can have no ancestors. All organisms are functional, or they wouldn’t exist. Evolution is all about changes from one fully functional organism to a different fully functional organism by small successive variations. We’d be very surprised to discover a species that arose from a non-viable population of incomplete organisms.

Again, he puts a bogus argument in our mouths. Punctuated equilibrium is about rates of change in subsets of a population. It’s not a version of creationism. Eldredge and Gould would be very surprised to be told that they have invented a creationist theory.

1:57 number five some structures require the whole structure to be in place to be functional imagine having one tenth of an eye or one one hundredth of a heart or one one thousandth of a penis

Most birds, to name one counter-example. Most birds (excepting ducks, obviously) lack a penis and mate by cloacal kissing. Clearly you don’t need a whole massive 3mm long penis to successfully reproduce, as he should know since he has 7 children.

Similarly, we evolved from organisms that have little more than a muscular tube for a heart and an open circulatory system, or that have only an eyespot that can only sense light and dark. We have a plethora of examples of simpler hearts, eyes, and reproductive organs that are entirely functional.

2:19 number six there are built-in limits to genetic material Darwin thought natural selection worked a bit like dog breeding but humans can’t make a dog the size of an ant or a whale and we definitely can’t create a new species out of dogs and that’s despite centuries of intelligent intervention speciation has never been observed

What are the mechanisms that impose these limits? He doesn’t say. Creationists never do. Besides, speciation has been observed.

Refer back to his objection number two, where he says 100 to 170 million is an eyeblink, yet now he argues that the limitations of a few centuries refutes evolution.

2:49 number seven DNA is literally not figuratively a code it embodies meaningful information it’s like the typewriter not the message there’s currently a 10 million dollar prize for anyone who can demonstrate a naturally encoding and decoding system nobody can

Man, that metaphor went kablooieeee. So DNA is literally a code, like a typewriter? What? None of that makes sense.

The existence of loons who want to offer a prize for demonstrating something that silly is not a point in its favor, especially since they’re going to automatically reject the existence of the “encoding and decoding system” embodied in cells. This $10 million prize does sort of exist, at least as a PR stunt and hype engine for Perry Marshall, a guy with a degree in electrical engineering and no understanding of biology at all. He doesn’t have $10 million to give away, so the entire “prize” is contrived to make sure no one can possibly win. That is not a point in its favor.

3:12 number eight cells edit their own DNA in real time in response to threats this isn’t random and there is variation and adaptation before natural selection can occur talking about selfish genes also assumes the very teleology and purpose that Darwin explicitly denied

I don’t think he’s talking about gene editing here — that’s a completely different phenomenon. Since it’s “in response to threats” I suspect he’s mangling the idea of modifying gene expression in response to the environment. There’s nothing in that counter to the idea of evolution whatsoever. It’s a natural and well-understood biochemical and physiological process.

The selfish gene concept does not assume teleology. Some gene sequences can use cellular machinery to amplify their representation in the genome. That’s all.

3:37 and then we’ve got metaphysical problems life didn’t come from non-life animal life didn’t come from plant life man the rational animal didn’t come from non-rational animals these are all differences in kind not degree go into your garden pick up a stone and look at it and think of it one day evolving into being able to compose a symphony solve a theorem write a novel you can’t evolve a thin line into a thick one by simply extending it that’s what it’s like trying to get life from non-life animal life from plant life rational life man from non-rational Life The Brute animals

Those look like metaphysical assumptions, not problems. Animals evolved independently from the lineage that gave rise to plants, for one thing. Life had to have come from non-life, unless you think life has existed eternally. Stones don’t evolve, since they don’t reproduce. This all sounds like incoherent word vomit from a guy who doesn’t understand anything he’s babbling about.

Now for his grand conclusion…

4:24 so what do I think about Evolution now the church fathers are clear that God could have worked through evolutionary processes in creating man’s body but certainly not in creating his intellect and at least some creatures were created fully formed and many stemmed evolution of the others was involved

I don’t give a flying fuck what the “church fathers” said. They aren’t authorities on evolution by any stretch of the imagination.

Well, that’s all he’s got. Once again, a creationist demonstrates the paucity of intellect behind their reasoning, and their whole position goes down in flames. Maybe he needs to stop assuming that he is a rational being and try to earn that adjective.

AI poisons everything

Here we go again. Another paper, this time in Radiology Case Reports, got published while including obvious AI-generated text. I haven’t read the paper, since it’s been pulled, but it’s easy to see where it went wrong.

It begins:

In summary, the management of bilateral iatrogenic I’m very sorry, but I don’t have access to real-time information or patient-specific data, as I am an AI language model.

That is enraging. The author of this paper is churning them out so heedlessly that they provide no time or care to the point they’ve given up writing and now have given up reading their own work. Back in the day when I was publishing with coauthors, we were meticulous to the point of tedium in proofreading — we’d have long sessions where we’d read alternate sentences of the paper to each other to catch any typos and review the content. Ever since I’ve assumed that most authors follow some variation of that procedure. I was wrong.

If I knew an author was this sloppy and lazy in their work, I wouldn’t trust anything they ever wrote. How can you make all the thought and effort you put into the science, and then just hand off the communication of that science to an unthinking machine? It suggests to me that as little thought was put into the research as in the writing.

No wonder there is such a glut of scientific literature.

I could have told her that would never work

One of the great questions of the Internet Age is, “Is a hotdog a sandwich?” It has never been satisfactorily resolved, but Talia Levin boldly submitted the question to a battery of academics. You know what the result had to be, but you might as well read it just to witness the chaos for yourself.

The one answer I liked was from Mark Crimmins, a professor of philosophy at Stanford.

Any well-defended answer to that would take many pages and encompass so many (great, interesting) issues about language. Still, I’d like to offer something to your reader. If you think what counts as a “sandwich” is unclear or somewhat arbitrary, then you had better examine in that light whatever principles you take to be important about sandwiches. Similarly for “baby,” “woman,” “conscious,” “intelligent.” Are you sure that the (perhaps unclear) applicability of these ordinary-language terms marks what is crucial to the distinctions carved by your prized principles?

Categorical mushiness, that’s what I like. All the definitions are fine, the only mistake you can make is expecting simplicity from complexity.

44, shhhhh

Today is my 44th anniversary, but I’m not making a big noise about it. You never know, I worry that I might mention the big number, and she’ll look at me with dawning awareness and say, “Well, that’s about enough of that then. Time for me to be moving on!”

I figure if I let her situation slowly ease in, then maybe at some time I’ll mention the years, and she’ll be resigned to it and say, “Might as well stay then, if I’ve been here that long.” Maybe if I hang on to the big 5-O I’ll be safe. You gotta go slow, you don’t want to startle them, or they might just dart away.

But what about Free Speech?

You better not mention Hans Kristian Graebener on Twitter — Elon Musk doesn’t like it when you expose one of his favorite Nazis.

Twitter is nuking every single post that mentions the name Hans Kristian Graebener, even in quotes. Everyone that posts it is getting hit. I’ve never seen sitewide censorship like this done specifically on behalf of a neo nazi.

Gosh. He’ll suspend his support for free speech to help conceal a notorious creep? Maybe his support isn’t that deep.

Have they tried calling him Gräbener? It might sneak past some of the automated blocking.

Ignorance and hate go well together

In May of 1933, Nazis stormed the Institut für Sexualwissenschaft in Berlin, and walked off with cartloads of books from their library, which they then burned, publicly. This is one of the most famous photographs of the pre-war period, illustrating their process for purging “Jewish” literature from Germany.

On May 6, 1933, Nazi demonstrators raided the libraries of the Institut für Sexualwissenschaft, a German name that roughly translates to the Institute of Sexology. The Institute was a privately operated research space for studies of human sexuality. More than 20,000 books were taken from shelves and burned days later in the streets by Nazi youth groups.

A book publisher named Rubin Mass afterwards found a few scorched pages that survived the fire, and preserved them to remember the criminality of the right-wing mob.

They were from Hirschfeld’s Sexualpathologie. Hirschfeld was Jewish, gay, and a scholar, so of course he was hated by Nazis. Most people who know anything about the rise of Hitler’s regime know this — it’s common knowledge that the Nazis regarded anything to do with deviations from a Christian heterosexual norm as degenerate. You have to be soaking in the anti-intellectual, ahistorical circle-jerk of right-wing apologetics to be totally unaware of these facts.

Cue JK Rowling.

J.K. Rowling is once again making ignorant and anti-trans comments online. On Wednesday, the Harry Potter author’s name began trending on X thanks to an ill-advised post in which she denied the claim that Nazis burned “books on trans healthcare and research.”

“I just… how?” Rowling wrote above a screenshot of a nameless user’s post. “How did you type this out and press send without thinking ‘I should maybe check my source for this, because it might’ve been a fever dream’?””

I wish the murder of six million Jews, gays, transexuals, Romany, and political opponents had been nothing but a “fever dream,” but it wasn’t. It was a horrible reality that now a famous author of children’s fantasy books would like to bring back.

I’m ashamed to say that I contributed to her coffers years ago, by buying several of her books for my kids. That was before she grew the invisible toothbrush mustache and started openly courting fascists, though. At least I never paid to see any of those Harry Potter movies, and never will.

That’s no Franken-sheep

What do you think happened in a story with this headline, “Montana Man Pleads Guilty to Creating Massive Franken-Sheep With Cloned Animal Parts”? Oooh, Franken-Sheep and animal parts…were they importing chopped up bits of animal corpses and stitching them together to make monster sheep? The story continues:

An 80-year-old man in Montana pleaded guilty Tuesday to two felony wildlife crimes involving his plan to let paying customers hunt sheep on private ranches. But these weren’t just any old sheep. They were “massive hybrid sheep” created by illegally importing animal parts from central Asia, cloning the sheep, and then breeding an enormous hybrid species.

The “animal parts” are whole, intact embryos of Marco Polo sheep, a very large species, and then raising them to adulthood. He was basically smuggling in embryonic sheep, nothing particularly radical scientifically.

Once Schubart had smuggled his sheep parts into the U.S., he sent them to an unnamed lab which created 165 cloned embryos, according to the DOJ.

“Schubarth then implanted the embryos in ewes on his ranch, resulting in a single, pure genetic male Marco Polo argali that he named ‘Montana Mountain King’ or MMK,” federal authorities wrote in a press release.

Then they collected semen from the adult sheep, and crossed them to domestic sheep, again, not at all radical scientifically. Somebody tried to jazz up the story with talk of animal parts and Franken-sheep, when it’s really a story about illegally importing an endangered species from its native range, and hybridizing them to produce a stock for profit. The story is bad enough without stuffing it full of misleading pseudoscience.

At least the guy behind the scheme got his comeuppance.

Schubart pleaded guilty to violating the Lacey Act, and conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act, which makes it a crime to acquire, transport or sell wildlife in contravention of federal law.

“This was an audacious scheme to create massive hybrid sheep species to be sold and hunted as trophies,” assistant Attorney General Todd Kim from the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division said in a press release.

“In pursuit of this scheme, Schubarth violated international law and the Lacey Act, both of which protect the viability and health of native populations of animals,” Kim continued.

Yeah, and that’s the extra ugly twist here. They weren’t doing this to help the species — they were raising great big sheep on ranches so big game hunters could pay big money to shoot a large animal. On a farm. You know, real sportsman-like.

Hans Kristian Graebener no longer has to hide in the shadows

He must be so relieved to have been doxxed — now he can be his true self in public. He can go speak at conferences for his people, appear on television in documentaries, proudly march in parades.

Graebener is the creator of Stonetoss, the webcomic that tries to find the “cute” in “nazi”, while failing to notice that those two words share no letters in common. He does all these short “comics” with the same frequent punchlines: trans people end up killing themselves, gay people end up bathing in feces, Jews are behind everything and are scheming to sacrifice Xian babies. When they aren’t obvious, they’re so loaded with impenetrable bizarre references to neo-Nazi shit they’re incomprehensible, but racists and haters and Nazis love them anyway. You can even buy an adorable little plush toy of the main character. He’s also been peddling NFTs, still, endlessly trying to grift his way to riches and glory, and now he can do it in his own charmingly German name.

Graebener is an IT guy working (so far!) in Spring, Texas. He’s single, girls! He’s been known to desperately advertise his availability, but doesn’t seem to have landed a long-term relationship. I can’t imagine what a pleasant person he must be in person.

No, really, I can’t imagine it.

I can imagine that he’s the kind of guy who has a porn addiction. Too bad he lives in Texas, now that PornHub has blocked the whole state.

He’ll be OK, though. I’m sure he’ll have the support of Elon Musk, a guy who loves to promote racism.

Garrison also talks to Dr. Sasha Gusev, a statistical geneticist and associate professor at Harvard Medical School, who points out that because this racism is seemingly backed by scientific fact, people often lack the language to call out its problematic nature.

“There’s a kind of fusion between old-school gutter racism that everyone can recognize and this new-school Silicon Valley, data-driven analysis. And I think that this is very confusing to people,” said Gusev. “They don’t know what to do with it. They say, ‘Hey, there’s this thing that I recognize as ugly, and then there’s somebody posting a hundred charts that seem to support it.’”

Musk can do the hundred charts, while Graebener brings the ugly.

Time to find out if all my parts still work!

Good morning! I am going to the doctor today! It’s time for my yearly physical exam!

Just a suggestion: there are things you should not see or read before a doctor’s visit, like John Oliver’s report on the ineffectiveness of state medical boards and how incompetent doctors are hopping from state to state to butcher patients.

It’s OK! It’s just a physical! How much harm could a doctor do in a routine examination?

Then I read Chuck Wendig’s account of an irritating examination by his doctor. Fortunately, I can say that my doctor is nothing like his callous, bumbling doctor. Although I have to admit, this part rang true:

So, he then asks, and once again, please wait for it, wait for it —

“What medications are you taking?” And then, you know, have I had surgery, who in my family is alive and how did the dead ones die.

At this point I’m fairly convinced that I’m being punked, like this is some kind of joke, right? They all tell me, ha ha, no masks, also, please give us the same information you just gave to the last three people. Is anybody writing this down? Two of the people seem to be tapping it into a fucking iPad, but at this point I’m pretty sure they’re just playing Wordle. There is literally no continuity of information. I sigh, and I tell him the information AGAIN.

Now that is familiar. I got a long questionnaire in the mail a few weeks ago, and I dutifully filled it out to bring to the clinic today. Then they sent me an email, telling me to fill out an online survey, which was just as long and mostly the same questions, with a few little differences. I filled that out, too. I expect that today when I get there a nurse will sit down with a clipboard and go through the same questions one by one by one, and I’ll sit there in exposed in my gown, nodding.

But that’s just the medical bureaucracy, which we all hate anyway. My doctor is someone I’ve known for many years now, she’ll be helpful and fine, and probably won’t stab me. I think!

I’m back! The good news: blood pressure is perfect, cholesterol & triglycerides perfect, no problems detected in any of my blood work. I guess I’ll have to cancel all my funeral plans.

Unfortunately, there’s always something to bring me down. I’ve been scheduled for a colonoscopy in August.

Oh, also, all those forms I filled out? The nurse immediately ripped out a whole page of densely packed questions and triumphantly threw it in the trash. I didn’t need to fill that out! How silly of me.