Changing face of Easter Island

Easter Island has been used as a cautionary tale — the inhabitants denuded the island of palm trees while wasting their resources on colossal religious statuary, and then destroyed themselves in an orgy of self-destructive wars. Only there are a few problems with that myth emerging.

It seems that the palm trees were demolished early in the colonization of the island…not by the people, but by rats that had hitchhiked to the island. The people of Rapa Nui adapted and had a stable agricultural system that allowed them to thrive, and what caused their population to collapse was not internal conflict, but external forces.

Throughout the 19th century, South American slave raids took away as much as half of the native population. By 1877, the Rapanui numbered just 111. Introduced disease, destruction of property and enforced migration by European traders further decimated the natives and lead to increased conflict among those remaining. Perhaps this, instead, was the warfare the ethnohistorical accounts refer to and what ultimately stopped the statue carving.

There’s a lesson here, all right. That lesson is that you should trust the hard work of serious anthropologists who do deep, evidence-based research, rather than the self-serving stories spread by colonial empires or the speculations of dilettantes.


Did you know that the human hand might evolve to better use cell phones, according to research? You know, quote-unquote research, that version of inquiry that involves click-baity wild guesswork and misinformed speculation?

The freakish forecast includes a pointed finger to tap the screen with greater precision, gel-like pads for a more secure grip and an indented palm where the device could sit.

The evolutionary changes to the shape of the human hand would not only make it easier to use a smartphone, but also avoid a range of injuries and strains associated with using your mobile phone.

The gruesome concept image came after a study of 1,000 British adults revealed more than a quarter of respondents had injured themselves while using their phone.

The research, conducted by the mobile phone comparison team at, found black eyes from dropping the device while using it in bed was the most common complaint.

Oh, yeah, from the prestigious University of Broadband Choices. That’s plausible.

They also made an x-ray of that hand in Photoshop, in case you doubted the scienceyness of it all.

Hey, Daily Express, next you should do research on how your journalists will evolve. I’m picturing something with an enlarged pelvis, a clawlike hand, and a long, kinked forearm, the better to reach up their asses and pluck out stories.

How about a nice story?

We need some of these now and then. I know I was reading about the possibility of the Yellowstone supervolcano destroying us all, and it took me a few minutes to figure out if that was a bad thing or a good thing.*

Anyway, go read this story about David Bowie and an autistic little boy. It cheered me right up, I say while wearing my nifty new invisible mask.

*The article ends by saying the yearly odds of a supervolcano eruption is 1 in 730,000. Still not sure if that’s good or bad.

Evolutionary Psychology poisons everything

This study comes to a happy conclusion, and then wrecks it all with EP bullshit. What the researchers did was to email requests for either a pdf of a paper or copies of the raw data to researchers, and what they found was a high degree of cooperativity: 80% were willing to send a pdf, 60% were willing to send data. They seem to think this is surprisingly prosocial, but actually, I was a little surprised the numbers were so low. I was brought up to consider this to be expected — back in my old-timey days, when you published a paper, you also ordered a great big box of reprints, because people would send you postcards asking for a copy, and you’d mail it to them. Now you just push a button on a computer, and only 80% oblige? OK, I guess that’s an alright result.

They analyzed further, though, and also found a sex difference. If you were a man requesting a paper from a man, you were 15% more likely to get a positive response. That’s troubling. I’d say that that could be interpreted as indicating a continuing sexism in science. But that’s not enough for these authors.

There is no evolutionary analysis involved in this study, but of course, the reason for their result is…evolution.

Massen and his colleagues say that one possible explanation for their results “may be that among male academics there is a network at play, in which they favor each other much like ‘Old Boy’ networks”. They also suggest that this imbalance might have evolutionary roots and point to an idea called the male-warrior hypothesis, which states that men have evolved to form strong bonds with other males in their group because in the past this enabled them to defend territory from hostile attackers.

“Men are more ready to cooperate with genetic-stranger males to form these fighting coalitions,” says Mark van Vugt, an evolutionary psychologist at the Free University of Amsterdam who first suggested the theory in 2007. Some of the evidence for this idea comes from lab-based tasks such as public-goods games (in which volunteers choose how many tokens to keep or share), but there are some real-world hints too, he says. Boys tend to play in larger groups than girls, van Vugt says, and in sports such as tennis and boxing, men make more effort to bond with their opponent after a match or fight than women do. However cultural factors are also thought to be at work.

Jebus. Can I just say the words “US Women’s Soccer Team” and see this whole bogus line of reasoning vanish in a spray of flop sweat and tears from the men’s team?

The Apocalypse is nigh: Rush Limbaugh is correct about something

Now I’m getting worried. Limbaugh characterized lefties, and he got it right.

You know what the magic word, the only thing that matters in American sexual mores today is? One thing. You can do anything, the left will promote and understand and tolerate anything, as long as there is one element. Do you know what it is? Consent. If there is consent on both or all three or all four, however many are involved in the sex act, it’s perfectly fine. Whatever it is. But if the left ever senses and smells that there’s no consent in part of the equation then here come the rape police. But consent is the magic key to the left.

Holy crap. I had to peek outside to see if it is raining blood or a trumpet was sounding or chariots were descending out of the sky, because that actually is the magic key. If two willing, unimpaired adults consent to a behavior that does no harm to others, I’m not going to complain, much less try to stop them. It doesn’t have to be sexual, either. If my wife and I agree to have lutefisk for dinner tonight, here in the privacy of my home, we may do so. If she says “NO!”, I don’t get to compel her.

That’s how it works. That’s what we’ve always been saying is how it works.

Does the right think that a lack of consent in a sex act is OK? Because that’s not a slur I would have considered fair, but Limbaugh is implying that yes, in the right wing universe, consent is not a reasonable requirement for sex.

Humorless goons out to wreck Halloween

They’ve always been around. I remember trick-or-treating as a kid, and there were always those houses where you knew you’d get a Bible tract instead of candy, or worse, a lecture or an attempt to pray with you. Unfortunately, I wasn’t the kind of kid who would TP their trees or egg their windows in retaliation, even though they deserved it.

It’s not surprising that Ken Ham is into the game. He wants us to share Jesus Christ with trick-or-treaters by handing out A Biblical and Historical Look At Halloween by Bodie Hodge, which will cost you only $29.99 for a pack of a hundred. So not only do you get to annoy children with sanctimony, Answers in Genesis gets more shekels for their coffers. Win-win! Except for the kids.

If you’re too cheap for that, you can get 100 Dino-Bucks for only $5.99.

Hey, and you can also leave these as a tip next time you’re at a restaurant! I don’t quite understand the point of this strategem — Ray Comfort does it too — where Christians try to lure you into reading their dogma with fake money. It’s as if they intuit that the rubes they want to appeal to are naturally drawn to wads of cash.

You can also buy the DVD for $9.99, or read the contents of this noise online. What I find amusing is that it complains about cultures that ‘celebrate’ death — how dare they?

Death is a terrible reality for all of us—not something to celebrate or treat as fun. Death is the punishment for sin. Since all of us are sinners (Romans 3:23), we must realize that death is coming.

That’s funny stuff coming from proponents of a death cult. I think they’re most annoyed by people who flip off and mock death, rather than worshipping it.