Henceforth, I shall call it the Big Gay Wooden Box

Ken Ham wants to take back the rainbow for his god, so he’s now lighting up the Big Wooden Box with rainbow lights.

I’m just seeing that Answers in Genesis is celebrating marriage equality.

You’re too late, Ken. The rainbow has been effectively coopted as a symbol for diversity, and you aren’t getting it back. Also, the flood/rainbow story is just plain stupid, unless you’re going to argue that before the flood, light wasn’t refracted by any materials, especially water.

Minnesota Department of Education approves Transgender Toolkit

I am surprised and gratified that our school system took a progressive step forward — they approved a set of guidelines for dealing with gender issues in schools, and it’s not outrageous bathroom bill nonsense.

A Minnesota Department of Education advisory council voted to approve a new toolkit for “Safe and Supportive Schools for Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Students” in front of a room of more than 200 opponents and advocates of LGBTQ issues Wednesday.

The motion was met with cheers from advocates for transgender students, led by OutFront Minnesota and its allies, who wore purple at the gathering at the department’s offices in Roseville.

Opponents of the toolkit, led by the Minnesota Family Council, a conservative Christian coalition, wore red.

The toolkit, approved by the School Safety Technical Assistance Council, is a nonbinding guide with information about providing welcoming environments for all students and guidelines for school officials to support transgender and gender-nonconforming students.

The toolkit stems from a desire to combat bullying in schools, said state Human Rights Commissioner Kevin Lindsey.

Impressive. The usual approach to combating bullying has been to enable the bullies. This is like, sensible and tolerant. Which means, of course that some people don’t like it at all.

Sadly, this toolkit undermines my authority as a parent, said Joy Orbis, who wore red and brought her four children from the Anoka-Hennepin School District to the packed meeting. Before the meeting, Orbis and her children drew signs that included the hashtag #Stopthetoolkit.

No, it doesn’t. If your little boy wants to be addressed as “he”, or your little girl wants to be called “she”, they still can, and you can complain if they’re misgendered.

The toolkit encourages teachers to teach false conceptions of gender, said Barb Anderson, a longtime opponent of changes to LGBTQ policies in the Anoka-Hennepin district. Her comments on Wednesday were met with yells of “disrespect” by others in the meeting room.

No, it doesn’t. It expects that teachers will respect the reasonable requests of their students. It contains clear, simple guidelines that mean less time spent squabbling over supporting bigotry.

You can read a draft of A Toolkit for Ensuring Safe and Supportive Schools for Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Students here. I hope more states follow Minnesota’s lead.

We Hunted the Megalodon

Since David Futrelle is currently offline, dealing with some nasty migraines, I guess I have to step in and cover the incel beat. Incels, for those blessedly ignorant of them, are “involuntary celibates”, sad deprived people who can’t get a woman to touch their penises, and who then blame all of womankind for their selfish unwillingness to have sex with them. They also tend to aggregate in places like r/incel where they indulge in increasingly vicious rounds of reinforcement of inappropriate blaming. It gets ugly.

Anyway, here’s an example of bad biology and misogyny from an incel.

OK, forget the bad biology — that’s irrelevant in the context of this person’s contemptible beliefs about women.

Without their shit tier brains they would be nearly perfect beings, which could be used by men for the better of society.

Yeah, ladies, if you were smarter men could use you, so we’re going to pith you so men can use your bodies. It’s all about using you.

Hey, I’m sort of understanding how Futrelle could feel bad after concentrated doses of reading this crap, but my discomfort seems lower down, somewhere in some heaving guts.

How do we end this bullshit? I think it’s safe to say that reddit makes it worse by allowing these people to clump into self-reinforcing clans suffering from self-fulfilling prophecies. Maybe reddit should take some responsibility and shut down wildly demented hate groups? Nah. Free speech uber alles!

It seems pretty bad already

So I’m not pleased to see a report on sexual harassment by faculty titled Worse Than It Seems. It summarizes the results of a survey of harassment in academia, and takes an objective, outsider’s look at the problem.

A Systematic Look at a Serial Problem: Sexual Harassment of Students by University Faculty” seeks to cut through the noise with data, analyzing nearly 300 faculty-student harassment cases for commonalities. The study, which focused on complaints by graduate students, led to two major findings: most faculty harassers are accused of physical, not verbal, harassment, and more than half of cases — 53 percent — involve alleged serial harassers.

Data “confirm that faculty harassment of students is more widespread than many may appreciate” says the study, forthcoming in Utah Law Review. Perhaps most importantly, it says, a “disturbingly high proportion of available cases indicate evidence of higher-severity sexual harassment that includes unwelcome physical contact and/or a pattern of serial sexual harassment of multiple victims by the same faculty member.”

In other words, data challenge what the study calls “stereotypes” about sexual harassment, including that the current reporting environment has compromised faculty members’ academic freedom.

That last bit is also surprising: treating students and colleagues with respect compromises academic freedom? Who claims that? It’s a new one to me, although given the stupidity of so many arguments from affronted men, I guess I should expect it.

It’s also eye-opening to get the perspective from the inside, close-up: read about Gina Baucom’s informal query about “what’s the crappiest thing you’ve heard said about a woman academic?” It’s horrifying.

The worst thing I’ve personally and directly heard? She’s an Asian girl, they’re always so good with their hands followed by a snigger and a leer. And my decision that I wasn’t going to work with that guy. That was in my first year as a grad student, so I got disillusioned early.

It’s too bad they’re Not Alone

We’re nervous about admitting this. We were made this way. We’re different. It’s scary. We’re oppressed by society. We need to be more open and honest with each other. We can’t have a bigoted society. <breaks down crying>

It’s so mean that people call us bigoted because we want to deny people basic rights just because we think they’re icky.

That’s a video from a conservative political group called Catholic Vote. It’s a strange and oblivious little organization of hidebound Catholic reactionaries that is not supported by the Catholic church at all — they really don’t like Pope Francis and his liberal ways — and are more about right-wing wing-nuttiness than they are Catholic dogma.

Apparently they don’t like the idea of empathy, either. They think you ought to have empathy for them, but they seem incapable of putting themselves in the shoes of people who actually do have their rights suppressed.

I’ll never be able to read Matt Taibbi again

I’ve enjoyed his scathing, ferocious approach to political reporting, but I just learned today that he takes the same ferocious, scathing approach to women. He and Mark Ames were columnists writing for an expat paper in Moscow years ago, and they apparently had a grand time being outrageous. When I first read a few quotes, I thought for a moment that they had to be faked — that these were ginned-up accounts written up by political enemies, of which they have more than a few.

But no. These were their own words. They wrote them up in a book-length account of their adventures in Russia. They were bragging about these attitudes.

It’s not ironic–Ames and Taibbi explicitly scorn the bourgeois safety net of irony–and it’s not just a rhetorical stance. “You’re always trying to force Masha and Sveta under the table to give you blow jobs,” complains their first business manager, an American woman, in chapter six, “The White God Factor.” “It’s not funny. They don’t think it’s funny.” “But…it is funny,” replies Taibbi. They take particular glee in trashing several former female staff members in print, taking multiple potshots at the aforementioned business manager’s “gorilla ass.” They’re equally nasty to her replacement, who quit in disgust after they went on a four-month “brain-sucking speed binge.”

It’s OK if you want to stop there. It gets worse. Much worse.

[Read more…]

There’s some kind of weird theme here

I can’t quite put my finger on it.

Barry Deutsch:

Clementine Ford:

You can be told 20 days in row that you should be raped and sodomised and beaten and strung up and thrown out and taught a lesson, but if on the 21st day you turn around and make a joke about firing men into the sun using a cannon, you are a scold who hates men and is teaching her son that he’s a rapist.

I think I benefit from all this. I’ve got obsessed lunatics who’ve been hating on me for a decade, who have forums that are all about how evil/stupid/whipped I am, who still try to leave comments here despite the filters in place, but all it takes is one uppity woman to immediately distract them.

Philosophers who understand neither philosophy nor biology

Peter Boghossian is demonstrating that he’s a fool and an ignoramus again.

Why is it that nearly every male who’s a 3rd wave intersectional feminist is physically feeble & has terrible body habitus?

You just have to love that extra fillip of the term “habitus” — it adds an extra level of pomposity to a statement that basically, feminists men are weak and have ugly physiques. It’s the male counterpart to the old anti-suffragette cartoons that portrayed them all as hideous crones and spinsters. That attitude is alive and well among regressive assholes today.

But then he goes further and invokes his poorly understood version of biology to justify it, and claims the authority of Science behind his opinion of those ugly feminists.

My “body habitus” tweet was a reference to what evolutionary biologists term “sneaky fucker” theory.

I have to correct HJ Hornbeck; the “sneaky fucker” theory was not invented by MRAs, but is a legitimate evolutionary idea that’s been around for quite a while. The thing is that you don’t publish a term with an obscenity in it — editors tend to chop those out. It’s more often called “sneaks and guards”, and if you want to find it in the scientific literature, better search terms are “alternative mating strategies” or “dimorphic males”. One of the clearest examples is found in Onthophagus beetles, where there is an allocation trade-off in development between investing in giant horns for use in direct battles with other males, vs. giant testes for better sperm competition. That’s also an experimental model where you can manipulate the tissues in the larva. Cauterize the developing testis, the horns grow bigger; cauterize the primordium of the thoracic cuticle that forms the horn, the testes grow larger.

But MRAs do love this theory, because they think it justifies condemning those wimpy feminist males (“betas” and “cucks”; by the way, that whole nonsense of “alphas” and “betas” is misappropriation of ethological descriptions used in wolves and some other species, which have more complex life history strategies than the MRAs can imagine). They’re just “white knights”, “sneaky fuckers” who sidle up to women and pretend to be on their side in order to have sex with them! They’re just as bad as the noble, straight-forward Alphas, but they’re devious about it!

However, I have to mention another, more useful term to Boghossian: the naturalistic fallacy. I hear that he teaches philosophy, so he might have heard of it, but he clearly doesn’t understand it. Spend less time on Reddit and YouTube where it is dreadfully abused by internet atheists to rationalize all kinds of bad behavior — if chimps throw feces, then obviously YouTube commenters have evolved to be shitlords. They take a grain of truth from animal studies and extrapolate it into all kinds of nonsense about people.

But sure, you can find animal models that fit an extreme pattern.

Beetles demonstrate a pattern of disruptive selection to produce large bodied “guard” morphs and smaller “sneak” morphs. But I am not a beetle, and humans do not show such a pattern.

Cuttlefish also have large aggressive males that zealously guard their harem of females with threat displays, and also smaller males that turn off the threat displays and instead camouflage themselves as females to join the harem. But I am not a cuttlefish, and humans show a wide range of courtship behaviors.

Orangutans have large flanged adult males who also guard harems of females, and smaller, unflanged young males skirt the outside of his territory, looking to mate opportunistically. But I am not an orangutan, and humans change their courtship behaviors to suit the circumstances, so you don’t get to claim a dichotomous suite of mating practices within our species.

Gorillas have a high degree of sexual dimorphism allowing one large male to control a group of smaller females. I am not a gorilla. Humans have evolved to reduce sexual dimorphism and increase cooperation, making the “guard” strategy impractical and counter-productive.

So please, do not shoehorn human behavior into your simplified model of how sex works. It’s reductive and also fails to appreciate the importance of female mating choice. Think about it: “sneaky fuckers” would be a total flop if females of the species didn’t go along with the opportunity and mate happily with the sneaky guys. Females have reproductive strategies, too, and they would rarely favor having their mate choice removed because the big thug corrals them and controls when and with whom they can mate. Unfortunately, we still live with a Victorian influence on science that tends to downplay female participation and initiative, leaving us with many theories that treat females of the species as objects collected and used by the males.

I am a human being. I am a member of a species with complex life histories and prolonged child-rearing requirements that require extensive social behaviors for survival. We have reduced sexual dimorphism, and rarely does our survival hinge on brute force muscular development. We form communities with intense social interactions. We choose mates based on long-term compatibilities — we form partnerships between individuals. One sex does not do all the choosing, and further, choices are based on fairly sophisticated intellectual and emotional properties. Does he or she have a sense of humor, do they have shared interests, are they willing to cooperate in necessary chores, are they fun to be with, are they sexually compatible, do they share the same religious beliefs, do they enjoy the same movies, do they have complementary skills, etc.? Rarely do women wonder whether he would be able to lock them in in the basement and successfully fight off all other human beings who come to visit, and if they do, it’s an argument to reject further association with the man.

Physical appearance does play a role, and we’d be foolish to pretend it doesn’t, but if you look around you at the world of human relationships you might notice that there a lot of stable, long-term couples where neither individual looks like they’re going to be featured on the cover of People magazine. Why? Because all the social and intellectual connections trump all the ephemeral details of looking like a 20 year old model. Appearances matter more in casual hookups (which rarely produce offspring, especially nowadays when birth control is cheap and easy), but the evolutionary outcomes are going to be more dependent on successful family construction and integration into communities.

We need terms more appropriate to the human condition. I suggest that we call superficially handsome, virile, young people like Peter Boghossian “shallow fuckers” while us old homely (or otherwise) guys who can recognize the autonomy of women and form relationships on the basis of long term cooperativity “decent human beings”. At least, that’s a good idea if you’re one of those shallow fuckers who also demand that the world be divided into no more than two classes of people.

Matthew Facciani also gets the science wrong:

“Sneaky f*cker” theory refers to the evolutionary psychology idea that beta males will “sneak in” and have sex with a female while the alpha males are busy. This theory was coined by John Maynard Smith and doesn’t have much (if any) scientific support.

This is not evolutionary psychology. It’s standard, ordinary old ethology, and it’s an idea that’s been around for a long time (I don’t think Maynard Smith coined it, either, he just gets credit for it because he’s a prominent authority), and there is plenty of scientific support — in specific species. But at least his criticism of Boghossian is spot on.

Both Tweets by Dr. Boghossian here are embarrassingly ignorant and illustrate his own bias against feminism. It’s like Pete can’t imagine why any man would embrace feminism so obviously they must be doing it to do get laid. It’s also just sloppy reasoning based on supposed anecdotes. Did he actually measure the body fat of a sample of male feminists and compare it to the average population? Until he shows the study he did, it’s just a childish attack on people he doesn’t like. But interestingly, he attempts to use pseudoscientific jargon to justify his biases.

This is interesting in another way, though: it reminds me of some old debates where pro-evolutionary people would argue against creationists that the distinction between microevolution and macroevolution was made up by creationists, and that the terms weren’t used by real evolutionary biologists…so I’d have to cite lists of books and papers that explicitly used those entirely legitimate terms and help out the wrong side of the debate. It was kind of annoying.

A new challenge for Evolutionary Psychology!

The berry-picking stuff has been done to death — and I haven’t even gotten to blueberries and tubers — but here’s an idea that ought to be pursued. What is the evolutionary and genetic basis of different ways of buttoning shirts? It’s a consistent pattern, has been that way for centuries, so by EP logic, there is surely a button-handedness module or gene.

Once they’ve figured that one out, they should get to work on pockets. That’s an infuriating sex difference.

All berries were pink in the Pleistocene, while meat was blue

They just won’t let it go. Some evolutionary psychologists are determined to salvage the idea that “pink is for girls, blue is for boys” has a biological basis. Marco Del Giudice goes digging with Google’s ngram viewer to collect data on whether pink and blue actually have undergone a consistent shift in preferences by sex (something no one has claimed), and thinks he has found evidence to overturn an idea he imagines that EP critics hold. It’s an amazing miss.

The role of pink and blue as gender markers is a source of endless fascination for both academics and the broader public.

Dude. No. We don’t find this pink and blue nonsense fascinating at all. We find evolutionary psychologists constant struggle to find biological significance in cultural phenomena exasperating. What is it with your bizarre obsession?

Five years ago I documented how a narrative that I labeled the “pink–blue reversal” (PBR) had become entrenched in contemporary culture (Del Giudice, 2012).

First, every true American knows that PBR stands for Pabst Blue Ribbon.

But secondly, there is no entrenched “pink–blue reversal” narrative. What is confirmed is that some people have insisted that there is an absolute, biological difference in how men and women percieve the world based on no evidence at all, and they were routed by observations of cultural variations that reveal that these color preferences are not hard-coded by evolution at all, but are conditioned responses to social signals.

There are biases. Visit a toy store; they all have the notorious pink aisle, where toys intended for girls are an eye-burning wash of hot pink. There has been no reversal. The question is whether girls are biologically programmed to prefer pink, the better to pick ripe fruit or respond to blushing or fevers, and that’s been shown to be a hypothesis without any good evidence, and a lot of counter-evidence.

The entrenched narrative is that evolutionary psychologists are full of shit. This paper does nothing to show that’s wrong. Quite the contrary: it demonstrates they’re even more full of shit than we imagined.

The PBR maintains that, in the U.S., pink was associated with males and blue with females until the 1940s, when the convention underwent a rapid and complete reversal. At the time, the PBR was treated as established fact in the media and the scientific literature. However, its originator—American Studies researcher Jo Paoletti—never argued that the convention was reversed prior to the 1940s, but only that it was inconsistent (Paoletti, 1987, 1997, 2012).

Oh, look. The point is sailing over the author’s head. I think it’s achieved escape velocity.

Again, that’s the goddamned point. Evolutionary psychologists want to claim a perceptual bias honed by millennia of hunter-gatherer selection on the African plains; everyone else points out that color fads in fashion fluctuate on a time-scale of years or decades, so you don’t get to invoke genetics as a basis for them.

Evolutionary psychologists come back to claim that the inconsistency makes their opponents wrong.

So what does his irrelevant data look like? Here’s a plot of his discovery of pink/blue color references by sex in books, over the last 140 years. He multiplies the frequency by 107 because the numbers are really tiny, but there is an initially small but steadily rising preference for claiming pink is a girl’s color and blue is a boy’s color over that time.

Clearly, this is evidence of a selective sweep for a pink gene in colors over the course of five generations. (No, it’s not). He argues that the UK was much more consistent in claiming that “pink is for girls”, and it’s just a few instances among those weird American books that claim “blue for girls”.

But wait. That’s from books. What about newspapers and magazines?

In total, the database of quotes from newspapers and magazines comprised 34 instances of standard coding and 28 instances of reverse coding. The combined data are plotted in Fig. 2. While the number of occurrences in the figure is too small to draw confident conclusions, the distribution of standard versus reversed gender coding looks approximately even, at least until about 1920.

(I love the way he labels “blue for boys” as standard coding and “blue for girls” as reverse coding, despite the fact that his own data shows that they’re approximately equal in frequency. Let your biases hang out!)

So the color assignments are basically equal by sex until about 1920, when suddenly the assignment of pink to boys plummets dramatically! An even faster selective sweep!

Del Giudice finds this significant.

The discrepancy between the two searches raises an intriguing historical puzzle. While the PBR account remains unsupported, quotes from newspapers and magazines suggest a pattern of variable and/or conflicting conventions in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (see the Appendix section). However, the marked inconsistency observed in newspapers is virtually absent from the books published in the same period; instead, the pattern found in books overwhelmingly conforms to the standard convention of pink for girls and blue for boys.

I repeat: this “PBR” thing is a strawman made of bullshit. What has been pointed out repeatedly is exactly what he says here: “variable and/or conflicting conventions”. His work confirms what EP critics have been saying all along.

He also thinks the difference between books and magazines is a mystery. No, it’s not. He’s talking about a period when color printing was becoming increasingly common.

“When color began to be added to the products themselves,” Banta writes, “advances in color printing and reproduction followed. Starting in the 1920s, American consumers went from a commercial world of white towels and black Model Ts to a range of products with a fantastic palette of hues from which to choose.”

Right. So it wasn’t genes. It was a shift that occurred as the media began to impose color conventions on the public. It’s exactly what we’d expect if sociocultural influences were fixing arbitrary preferences on us.

Thanks to Matt Lodder for bringing this crap to my attention and getting my morning off to a pissed-off start.

Del Giudice, M (2017) Pink, Blue, and Gender: An Update. Arch Sex Behav (2017). doi:10.1007/s10508-017-1024-3