Now there’s another one.

Now a fourth woman has told BuzzFeed News her experience of sexual harassment from Tyson. In January 2010, she recalled, she joined her then-boyfriend at a holiday party for employees of the American Museum of Natural History. Tyson, its most famous employee, drunkenly approached her, she said, making sexual jokes and propositioning her to join him alone in his office. In a 2014 email shared with BuzzFeed News, she described the incident to her own employer in order to shoot down a proposed collaboration with Tyson.

Uh-oh. And in summary:

All three of these women say that Tyson’s behavior toward them was not simply inappropriate or clumsy; it was harassment. Their stories, they said, which all took place in professional settings, show a clear abuse of power. And his response, they said, ignored the real pain and discomfort that he caused under the guise of playfulness and goodwill.

How will I satisfy my fetish for “female-presenting nipples” now?

As you may have heard by now, Tumblr has announced new community guidelines that prohibit nudity, sex acts, and of all things “female-presenting nipples”. You might be wondering why. That’s easy. I pulled out the relevant lines from this long article about the decision.

in June 2017, Yahoo was acquired by Verizon for its ad business

Simon explicitly said that Black Lives Matter was an opportunity to [make] a ton of money.

the real problem was always that Verizon couldn’t sell ads next to porn.

Porn on Tumblr is something Verizon needs to wipe out if it’s going to make any money off what it thinks is actually valuable about the platform

I think the most important point is that they can’t sell ads next to porn, which is any public portrayal of or discussion about sexual activity (and given how random the algorithms they’ve devised to detect “porn” are, it seems to be anything vaguely like people doing anything), or anything Verizon can’t figure out how to monetize. They seem to be pouring more money into sanitizing Tumblr than they ever did on just maintaining the site, and right now there are all kinds of people sadly announcing that their blogs were shut down or photos were flagged or that they’re suddenly finding themselves censured for building fandoms of consenting adults because insurance companies and auto dealers don’t want to advertise on their sites.

Their unique brand was that they allowed sex workers, women, LGBTQ folk, and random niche fandoms to thrive, and yet recently people were getting concerned about “what they were going to do about the influx of alt right users, pedophilic users, and inappropriate bots that would appear in tags that were meant to cater to underage users,” so what did the staff do? They lashed out at the sex workers, women, LGBTQ folk, and random niche fandoms, rather than the alt right users. Curious. They’re willing to take draconian actions that alienate the people who’ve been using their medium for years, and have been investing resources in scrubbing out “female-presenting nipples”. Which raises a significant question.

Why aren’t any of the major social media sites taking similarly severe action to purge their sites of Nazis?

I mean, they always make excuses about free speech and not wishing to antagonize their dedicated user base. But porn is also free speech, and Tumblr is certainly turning away a significant number of contributors (to the point they’re going to destroy their own niche), so none of those excuses is operative. If the choice is to keep nipples or Nazis, wouldn’t most people choose nipples?

I guess Nazis are easier to monetize.

I changed my mind. No longer satisfactory.

Yesterday I said I was satisfied by Neil deGrasse Tyson’s response. Today, after reading a flood of comments and counter-arguments, I am convinced that there are many things wrong with it, from thinking that well-meaning explanations of intent after the fact are sufficient amends, to the weird handshake learned from a mysterious Native elder. All I can say is that when someone I have prior sympathy for says “Here’s why I didn’t mean to harm that person”, I should learn to cut through the excuses straight to the operative phrase, “I harmed that person“. OK, now what, Dr Tyson?

Also, an affirmation from someone with prior leanings in your favor is pretty much meaningless. He needs to listen far more to his critics, as do we all, and address their concerns. Most of all, he needs to respect the people he’s harmed, or their numbers will grow.

One last thing: I also looked at the comments of his other defenders. I was horrified to see how many of them are comparing Neil deGrasse Tyson to Brett Kavanaugh — I am not going to be one of them. I hope Dr Tyson is also appalled, and recognizes that this is a sign he’s going in the wrong direction.

I am satisfied by Neil deGrasse Tyson’s response

As you’ve probably heard, Neil deGrasse Tyson has been accused of, and is being investigated for, inappropriate behavior with women. Three women have made accusations of varying severity, which is starting to add up.

Tyson has made a response to the accusations. I think it’s a good one. It is the case that if you are a popular celebrity with many encounters with the public, you’ll slip up now and then and cross a boundary that someone finds inappropriate, and the question is whether you can recognize that, draw back, and apologize with some sympathy for your accuser. Tyson demonstrates that here.

I’m sure it’s even more difficult for an exuberant fellow like Tyson. I’m recalling one event where he and I met for the first time, and he rushed over and gave me a great big bear hug — more than that, we practically had a wrestling match then and there. He’s passionate and enthusiastic and unreserved with everyone, and looking back on it…what if I were more reluctant to accept physical contact? What if I’d been a woman? How would that encounter have been interpreted? I can see how his wholeheartedness is going to occasionally get him into trouble, but I don’t want a timid, reserved Neil deGrasse Tyson.

As for the three accounts: 1) the production assistant who resigned from her job over the excessive intimacy: he apologized profusely, and he did not touch her inappropriately, nor has she accused him of that. He says, “had I known she was uncomfortable, I would have apologized on the spot, ended the evening”, and they parted on good terms.

2) The woman whose tattoo he examined a bit too intensely:

I only just learned (nine years after) that she thought this behavior creepy. That was never my intent and I’m deeply sorry to have made her feel that way. Had I been told of her discomfort in the moment, I would have offered this same apology eagerly, and on the spot. In my mind’s eye, I’m a friendly and accessible guy, but going forward, I can surely be more sensitive to people’s personal space, even in the midst of my planetary enthusiasm.

Isn’t that what we want, that people learn from their mistakes?

3) The Ahmet Tchiya accusations of rape: Something always seemed off about that, and Tyson admits to a relationship in grad school.

I remember being intimate only a few times, all at her apartment, but the chemistry wasn’t there. So the relationship faded quickly. There was nothing otherwise odd or unusual about this friendship.

That seems reasonable. This, though, is a case where a fleeting intimacy turned weird over the years.

For me, what was most significant, was that in this new life, long after dropping out of astrophysics graduate school, she was posting videos of colored tuning forks endowed with vibrational therapeutic energy that she channels from the orbiting planets. As a scientist, I found this odd. Meanwhile, according to her blog posts, the drug and rape allegation comes from an assumption of what happened to her during a night that she cannot remember. It is as though a false memory had been implanted, which, because it never actually happened, had to be remembered as an evening she doesn’t remember. Nor does she remember waking up the next morning and going to the office. I kept a record of everything she posted, in case her stories morphed over time. So this is sad, which, for me, defies explanation.

This behavior is also not unusual or exceptional or unbelievable. Barring other evidence, we have to accept it.

I also appreciate his final sentiment.

That brings us back to the value of an independent investigation, which FOX/NatGeo (the networks on which Cosmos and StarTalk air) announced that they will conduct. I welcome this.

What? He’s not going to throw a tantrum and sue everyone in sight? How refreshing. It is also how an innocent man would respond to an accusation.

Unless the investigation uncovers something truly sordid, I’m satisfied that Tyson wants to make amends, and is simply a guy who is perhaps a bit more exuberant than most. I’d accept a hug from him anytime, although maybe he needs to learn to ask permission first.

OK, he definitely needs to learn to respect boundaries more.

No more stonewalling, NdGT

Two more women have stepped forward to recount instances of creepy behavior by Neil deGrasse Tyson. Up until now, he has just ignored the accusations by Tchiya Amet, which I think is the right thing to if the accusation is false. But now that there are further specific complaints — and these are accounts of inappropriate boundary pushing, not assault — I think he needs to step forward, explain himself, apologize to the women, and recognize that these were wrong actions that won’t be repeated.

Silence at this point is just denial, and it will look like these behaviors will be threatening to emerge again. I hope he does the right thing.

This “gender reveal” nonsense is getting out of hand

I’ve been in this rodeo a few times: 3 children, 2 grandchildren. We’ve been through that period of anxiety where you want to know the status of the pregnancy, and somewhere early in the second trimester you find out the sex of the fetus…and it’s no big deal, except that it’s a landmark in development, so it’s always good to know that all is progressing smoothly. That’s it. We were not hung up on getting a boy or a girl, because you know they’re all good kids.

Some people, though, stage these elaborate events where they tell everyone it’s a boy or a girl. Really elaborate. Like this act of stupidity:

That was the start of the Sawmill Fire in Arizona — some dumbass had to set off an exploding target with colored smoke to show off whether a fetus had a penis or a vagina. And he just had to set it off in a dry, grassy, arid place. Look at that sere landscape, full of dry brush — you’d think anyone would be smart enough to know that this is not the place for a fiery explosion.

You’ll be pleased to know they’re having a boy, and they’ve also been slapped with a $220,000 fine. He got off really easy.

Before the fire was over, it had burned 47,000 acres and cost $8.2 million to extinguish, with nearly 800 firefighters battling the blaze.

His name is Dennis Dickey, and he’s a border patrol agent. I hope this idiotic act haunts him for the rest of his life. Maybe he can explain it to his son.

@MrPeterLMorris demands that I explain gender and all of biology to him!

Yesterday, I was just trying to gather a fragment of family for Thanksgiving — my kids are all so dispersed that we need to make a long drive to collect the one, my oldest, who is still living somewhere in the state of Minnesota — when someone popped up to portentiously declare to me (and a gaggle of other science twitter people) that Nature magazine has decreed that biology has no foundation in science. Oh, really?

So I gave the article a quick read. It turns out that no, it hadn’t said that at all, but what it did say was that the consensus of biologists was that a cherished opinion he held was wrong, and since Mr Peter Leslie Morris knows more about biology than biologists, Nature had abandoned all reason and was denying True Biology, his version of biology. I gave him a quick reply, and then charged off to St Cloud to scoop up my wee liddle child for Thanksgiving (except he’s all growed up now and taller than I am, but he’ll still always be my baby).

But now I’m back home. The baby is sleeping in on the couch, and someone is wrong on the internet.

Here’s the article he claims is wrong and denies all biology. My indignant interlocutor is a TERF. It’s a sensible article that, as I said, shows a better understanding of the breadth and depth of biology than some random pompous code-bro on Twitter. Surprising, I know.

According to a draft memo leaked to The New York Times, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) proposes to establish a legal definition of whether someone is male or female based solely and immutably on the genitals they are born with. Genetic testing, it says, could be used to resolve any ambiguity about external appearance. The move would make it easier for institutions receiving federal funds, such as universities and health programmes, to discriminate against people on the basis of their gender identity.

The memo claims that processes for deciding the sex on a birth certificate will be “clear, grounded in science, objective and administrable”.

The proposal — on which HHS officials have refused to comment — is a terrible idea that should be killed off. It has no foundation in science and would undo decades of progress on understanding sex — a classification based on internal and external bodily characteristics — and gender, a social construct related to biological differences but also rooted in culture, societal norms and individual behaviour. Worse, it would undermine efforts to reduce discrimination against transgender people and those who do not fall into the binary categories of male or female.

Yes, exactly. External sexual characteristics, like genitalia, or even genetic characters, like the presence or absence of a Y chromosome, are not adequate proxies for gender. You can’t look inside someone’s pants and determine what’s going on inside their brain, which is a disturbing thought to the dedicated devotees of gender essentialism. What the article is saying is that sex and specifically gender is a heck of a lot more complex than a rigid binary, where all the various traits — biological, psychological, and cultural — do not fall into two tightly concordant categories. Which one would hope that here in the 21st century everyone would recognize as obvious. One thing we’ve learned, though, is that even in our enlightened age there are a huge number of benighted twits who want to deny reality.

I had asked the pretentious bro-grammer whether he’d actually read the article for comprehension, because of the plain English in this bit.

Even more scientifically complex is a mismatch between gender and the sex on a person’s birth certificate. Some evidence suggests that transgender identity has genetic or hormonal roots, but its exact biological correlates are unclear. Whatever the cause, organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics advise physicians to treat people according to their preferred gender, regardless of appearance or genetics.

The research and medical community now sees sex as more complex than male and female, and gender as a spectrum that includes transgender people and those who identify as neither male nor female. The US administration’s proposal would ignore that expert consensus.

As you can easily see, the article plainly states that gender is a spectrum, and that there is a mismatch in some cases between the physical attributes we record at birth, and the preferred gender of the individual. Having a penis isn’t an absolute cognitive determinant.

So he tells me he did too read the whole article, and now he wants me to tell him what the absolute cognitive determinant is. Repeatedly.

The whole point of the article is that there is no biological evidence that will make classification possible. The Trump plan is unworkable. There is no objective scientific test that definitively determines what thoughts, attitudes, and preferences are percolating inside someone’s cranium, and yet they want to insist that being a penis-haver or Y-chromosome-haver is the conclusive, ultimate determinant that one is culturally and psychologically male.

That last one is a real give-away. There is something physical that must determine one’s gender, and anything else is a delusion. This understanding of reality would imply that your thoughts are all delusions. How would he prove that he was a man, if penises and Y chromosomes were not sufficient reassurance? Maybe his concept of manhood is the real delusion. The Western cultural ideal of masculinity trembles on the brink of collapse into fantasy if he can’t simply prove that he is a real man by pulling down his pants…if manhood is simply a shared belief in how one should behave and think as a man, a fixed star that everyone with a Y chromosome must follow by some precious inner biological compulsion.

Here is the truth: this is a political attempt to ostracize people they don’t like.

Political attempts to pigeonhole people have nothing to do with science and everything to do with stripping away rights and recognition from those whose identity does not correspond with outdated ideas of sex and gender. It is an easy way for the Trump administration to rally its supporters, many of whom oppose equality for people from sexual and gender minorities. It is unsurprising that it appeared just weeks before the midterm elections.

Of course, there is also no known biological correlate to ideology, therefore it must be a delusion. Republicans don’t really exist, unless perhaps they can show some Satan’s mark somewhere on their body. Maybe we should strip search all Republicans before they’re allowed to vote?

Mr Peter L Morris went back and forth with other people throughout the day while I was blissfully cruising down I94. I guess he was feeling the heat, because he decided to call in reinforcements.

MICHAEL LAIDLAW? Really? TERFiness confirmed. When you think Michael Laidlaw, ideological endocrinologist, is a legitimate source, maybe we do have an objective criterion for a certain range of thoughts.

I’d rather not get deeply into Laidlaw’s crackpot biology, but fortunately, Zinnia Jones has already ripped into that gomer. Just read that. I cannot resist this direct quote from Laidlaw, though: just so much bad biology.

If gender identity is determined only by genes, then we would expect that identical twins would profess having the same gender identity nearly 100 percent of the time. This is not the case. In fact, the largest transexual twin study ever conducted included seventy-four pairs of identical twins. They were studied to determine in how many cases both twins would grow up to identify as transgender. In only twenty-one of the seventy-four pairs (28 percent) did both identical twins identify as transgender. This is consistent with the fact that multiple factors play a role in determining gender identity, including psychological and social factors. This study in fact shows that those factors are more important than any potential genetic contribution. Furthermore, no genetic studies have ever identified a transgender gene or genes.

No one believes that gender identity is determined only by genes. I repeat what the Nature article says:

Some evidence suggests that transgender identity has genetic or hormonal roots, but its exact biological correlates are unclear.

Laidlaw has a cartoon version of genetics in his head, where everything is absolutely Mendelian. Genes are responsive to the environment, so he simply ignores an important contributor to gender. It’s genes or nothing! Meanwhile, any competent geneticists would look at the data he cites, even just the summary he makes, and tell you that it suggest that there may be a heritable component to gender.

Or if you just want the short summary, read that Nature article. It’s accurate and good biology, unlike anything you’ll hear from Michael Laidlaw MD, or Peter L Morris, Microsoft .NET developer.

Happy International Men’s Day!

If you’re one of those people who whines at women’s events, when is men’s day?, you’re in luck. Today’s the day! Just remember that the meaning of the day is “focusing on men’s and boys’ health, improving gender relations, promoting gender equality, and highlighting male role models.” Those are all good and valuable goals.

So get to it!

I’ll get you started with suggestions for a few excellent role models who are manly men.

I’m sure you can think of others.