Anthony Navarro is an evil scumbag

Be warned. This is a horrific story.

Anthony Navarro Jr. is a righteous fundamentalist who is opposed without reservation to divorce. His brother, Dave Navarro, decided to leave his marriage — so Anthony Jr. stalks and harasses his own brother, threatening him, harasses people associated with him, lies about him, contacts his clients and basically destroys his business, all because he will not tolerate the fact that a man and a woman can decide to dissolve the bonds of matrimony. He has a religious belief in an absolutely insoluble form of marriage, which he insists on imposing on others (Anthony Jr.’s wife is apparently trapped for life).

Anthony Jr. writes a letter to Dave.

Psalms 69:5
O God, you know my folly;
the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you.

Jeremiah 3:25
Let us lie down in our shame, and let our dishonor cover us. For we have sinned against the Lord our God, we and our fathers, from our youth even to this day, and we have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God.”

Brother, no matter how fast you run, you cannot run from your sin, nor its penalty. Come back to the light, come back into the circle of blessing. You need not continue to live like a fugitive… Like a coward.

Adultery is the greatest sin addressed in the bible. Realize, Dave, that you are committing adultery… Against your wife, Alison; against your children, and against God. You are guilty of the same sin as our mother and it cost her her life in the end… It cost her her soul. Her selfishness was her downfall. Do not fall into the same trap… The same spiral… The same death… The same eternity.

Why do you not even talk? Are you so ashamed? You can turn back to the right path, and you can be forgiven.

It’s not too late. Yet.


That’s a scary letter. That’s a letter written by a demented fuckwit. But you haven’t heard the worst of it yet.

What happened to Dave and Anthony Jr.’s mother?

Their mother left their father when they were children. Anthony Navarro Sr. hired a hit man to murder her in front of her daughter and mother. Anthony Navarro Sr. was convicted of this crime and is currently serving life in prison.

So Anthony Navarro Jr. is now blaming his mother for her murder by his father, and is now perpetuating the same warped, sanctimonious idea that divorce justifies murder.

So that’s what the Bible means by “sins of the father”.

If you care about secular America…

You might want to join this project. Dr. Juhem Navarro-Rivera gives an introduction to his Secular Voices panel at Skepticon (a five hour long video? That’s the entire afternoon/evening lineup — Juhem is just in the first hour, don’t be afraid).

Or, in short:

Understanding the secular vote in 2020

This project will help develop a a unique panel of nonreligious Americans who will answer monthly surveys during the 2020 campaign to learn more about the politics of this important, growing, and not well-understood group.

He’s looking for volunteers to contribute their opinions (Hey! You can do that!) to build a picture of the scattered, splintered secular community and their views on politics. Most of the polling work is done by outsiders who don’t even know what questions to ask of godless people, so this is going build an informed perspective from the inside. It’s currently a work in progress, sign up to help shape the story.

Yes, I’m home from #Skepticon

My sense of time is also totally scrambled. I didn’t get home until 2am, and then slept the sleep of the undead, striving to ignore the existence of sunrise. I woke up late and had to scramble to meet my students for our Monday feeding.

It was the best Skepticon ever, though. I caught a half dozen Missouri p tep, and best of all, a half dozen large egg sacs that I smuggled through the airport and brought to the lab. One of the reasons I had to get into the lab this morning was to get these spiders sorted and labeled, so that I could set up a distinct line of Missouri-born spiders separate from our Minnesota natives. We are going to have a lot of spiders to track for the school year. So yes, best conference ever.

Oh, yeah, and the conference itself…that was pretty good, too. I very much liked the organization, with multiple tracks of ‘workshops’ during the day, with a couple of featured talks in the evening. You could just explore and sample various events, and then later get blown away by the excellent speakers before retiring to the bar. They really were most fabulous speakers, too. Ashton Woods was fierce, Rose Eveleth made me think even at 8pm, Juhem Navarro-Rivera gave a surprising statistical analysis of nones (Guess what? Separation of church & state isn’t the most important issue on their minds, it’s social justice), Indre Viskontas talked about music and minds (good timing, since my granddaughter is coming to visit this week), and Cora Harrington was a total surprise. She’s a lingerie blogger, which I didn’t even know was a thing, but she took a skeptical look at myths about women’s underwear. On Sunday, Miri Mogilevsky talked about ritual as a way of coping with grief, something on my mind this year as several of my colleagues here struggled with cancer. Also unexpectedly, the most ferociously anti-clerical, pro-atheism rage-talk of the weekend came from Marissa McCool. Who says social justice activists are too soft to do a barn-burner?

But most of you missed it. It’ll be back August 14-16 2020, in the same place, so mark your calendars now so you don’t forget. There will be a completely different slate of speakers, but the spiders will also still be there.

Garbage in, garbage out: Foerster misinterprets the Paracas skulls, again

The paranormalists are all a-buzz right now because Brien Foerster has announced the results of a DNA analysis of the Paracas skulls — the extraordinarily deformed skulls of high caste Peruvians from several thousand years ago. The skulls look weird, warped into conical shapes, so they’ve long been the focus of people like Lloyd Pye, who wants to argue that they’re the remains of extraterrestrials. Or Nephilim, fallen angels. Or ancient hominids from a completely different lineage than Homo sapiens. They aren’t very consistent in their explanations.

Anyway, here’s Foerster announcing the ‘intriguing’ results of having sent off samples from Peruvian skulls to various commercial labs.

I can tell you what part has the fringe groups most excited: Foerster explains that all native american peoples…are of haplogroup A, B, C, and D, but in this set of skulls, the most common haplogroups that showed up were U2, E, and also H, H1a and 2. If you look at where the most prevalent percentage of U2 and the H1s are, it is in between the Black and Caspian seas, as in, the Caucasus Mountains. These people weren’t aliens, or supernatural beings, they were…WHITE PEOPLE. Ta-daa! As we all should know, brown people in South America, or Egypt, or the Mississippi river valley, or anywhere for that matter, could not possibly have developed sophisticated cultures, and white people, or Jews, must have traveled there in ancient times and taught them everything they know.

Man, it’s not surprising at all to discover racism rotting deep in the heart of the ancient astronaut community. He also seems oblivious to the fact that identifying human haplogroups in these skulls tells us that they were fully…human. Not angels, not aliens.

Foerster has a long history of obsession with these skulls.

Brien Foerster managed to persuade Juan Navarro Hierro, director (and owner) of the Paracas History Museum (sic: on the sign outside the museum, the name is given first in English, then, smaller, in Spanish) to part with some tissue samples. He claims that he did this because “[t]he only way to establish the actual age, and possible genetic origins of the Paracas people is through DNA analysis of the skulls themselves”. Dating human tissue by means of DNA analysis is such a new technique that I can find no other use of this remarkable development in any other archaeological investigation. Of course, there is no such dating technique: this is Brien Foerster displaying his ignorance of archaeological dating techniques!

Where did he choose to send the samples? To some prestigious university department, well known for its work on ancient DNA? No. Instead, he chose to send them to Lloyd Pye (1946-2013), a crank who believed in ancient astronauts, the extraterrestrial origins of humanity and, worst of all, touted the “Starchild Skull” as an alien/human hybrid. Why? This suggests that, far from being a dispassionate researcher, Brien Foerster has a preconceived agenda and it’s one that involves aliens. Although his original page lists his affiliation as “University of Victoria, Biological Sciences, Department Member”, his association with the university is as a graduate, not a member of faculty. [Update 11 April 2015: he has a new page that more honestly describes him as an undergraduate.]

That’s from a few years ago. I guess the accusation that his DNA analysis was done by a crank stung a bit, because these latest results were obtained by sending samples to professional, commercial labs. He mentions that one lab refused to send him results, which he attributes to malign motivations, but more than likely it’s because his samples were crap.

In 2016, Jennifer Raff gave a talk on the sloppy methodology of these pseudogenetics researchers, and specifically discussed the poor technique used by these cranks.

As you can see from the image, the individuals attempting to sample DNA from this mummy made some attempt to cover themselves, but it’s entirely inadequate for ancient DNA work. There is exposed skin on every individual in the room, the gentleman’s beard and hair are uncovered, and at one point they start squirting water all over the mummy, claiming that because it’s distilled, it won’t introduce contamination. Wrong. All water used in ancient DNA work has to be purchased from vendors who guarantee that it’s certified DNA free. Distilled water has lots of DNA present in it. Any one of these things could have (and probably did) introduced contamination to the sample they tested.

Yeah, so Foerster’s results are meaningless garbage, tainted with contamination from, no doubt, “Caucasian” investigators who slobbered all over the skulls. None of that will stop Foerster, or his ignorant followers. He promises to publish the results in a book with none other than LA Marzulli, another notorious crackpot. I’m sure we’ll be hearing more about this on the History Channel in the near future.

A damn good critique of Charles Murray’s awful oeuvre

When many of us criticize Charles Murray, we tend to focus on his unwarranted extrapolations from correlations; it’s easy to get caught up in the details and point out esoteric statistical flaws that take an advanced degree to be able to understand, and are even more challenging to explain. It’s also easy for the other side to trot out “experts” who are good at burying you in yet more statistical bafflegab to muddy the waters. Nathan J. Robinson makes a 180° turnabout to explain why Charles Murray is odious, and maybe goes a little too far to pardon the bad science, but does refocus our attention on the real problem, that his argument is fundamentally a racist argument, built on racist assumptions, and it can’t be reformed by more clever statistics.

Robinson drills right down to the core of Murray’s book, and highlights what we should find far more offensive than an abuse of abstract statistical calculations. He distills The Bell Curve down to these three premises.

  1. Black people tend to be dumber than white people, which is probably partly why white people tend to have more money than black people. This is likely to be partly because of genetics, a question that would be valid and useful to investigate.
  2. Black cultural achievements are almost negligible. Western peoples have a superior tendency toward creating “objectively” more “excellent” art and music. Differences in cultural excellence across groups might also have biological roots.
  3. We should return to the conception of equality held by the Founding Fathers, who thought black people were subhumans. A situation in which white people are politically and economically dominant over black people is natural and acceptable.

He backs up these summaries with quotes from Murray and Herrnstein, too, and criticizes critics.

Murray’s opponents occasionally trip up, by arguing against the reality of the difference in test scores rather than against Murray’s formulation of the concept of intelligence. The dubious aspect of The Bell Curve‘s intelligence framework is not that it argues there are ethnic differences in IQ scores, which plenty of sociologists acknowledge. It is that Murray and Herrnstein use IQ, an arbitrary test of a particular set of abilities (arbitrary in the sense that there is no reason why a person’s IQ should matter any more than their eye color, not in the sense that it is uncorrelated with economic outcomes) as a measure of whether someone is smart or dumb in the ordinary language sense. It isn’t, though: the number of high-IQ idiots in our society is staggering. Now, Murray and Herrnstein say that “intelligence” is “just a noun, not an accolade,” generally using the phrase “cognitive ability” in the book as a synonym for “intelligent” or “smart.” But because they say explicitly (1) that “IQ,” “intelligent,” and “smart” mean the same thing, (2) that “smart” can be contrasted with “dumb,” and (3) the ethnic difference in IQ scores means an ethnic difference in intelligence/smartness, it is hard to see how the book can be seen as arguing anything other than that black people tend to be dumber than white people, and Murray and Herrnstein should not have been surprised that their “black people are dumb” book landed them in hot water. (“We didn’t sat ‘dumb’! We just said dumber! And only on average! And through most of the book we said ‘lacking cognitive ability’ rather than ‘dumb’!”)

I have to admit, I’m guilty. When one of these wankers pops up to triumphantly announce that these test scores show that black people are inferior, I tend to reflexively focus on the interpretation of test scores and the overloaded concept of IQ and the unwarranted expansion of a number to dismiss people, when maybe, if I were more the target of such claims, I would be more likely to take offense at the part where he’s saying these human beings are ‘lacking in cognitive ability’, or whatever other euphemism they’re using today.

The problem isn’t that Murray got the math wrong (although bad assumptions make for bad math). The problem is that he abuses math to justify prior racist beliefs, exaggerating minor variations in measurements of arbitrary population groups to warrant bigotry against certain subsets. That ought to be the heart of our objection, that he attaches strong value judgments to numbers he has fished out of a great pool of complexity.

In part, too, the objection ought to be because somehow, his numbers tend to conveniently support existing racist biases in our society. But he consistently twists the interpretations to prop up ideas that would have been welcomed in the antebellum South.

We should be clear on why the Murray-Herrnstein argument was both morally offensive and poor social science. If they had stuck to what is ostensibly the core claim of the book, that IQ (whatever it is) is strongly correlated with one’s economic status, there would have been nothing objectionable about their work. In fact, it would even have been (as Murray himself has pointed out) totally consistent with a left-wing worldview. “IQ predicts economic outcomes” just means “some particular set of mental abilities happen to be well-adapted for doing the things that make you successful in contemporary U.S. capitalist society.” Testing for IQ is no different from testing whether someone can play the guitar or do 1000 jumping jacks or lick their elbow. And “the people who can do those certain valued things are forming a narrow elite at the expense of the underclass” is a conclusion left-wing people would be happy to entertain. After all, it’s no different than saying “people who have the good fortune to be skilled at finance are making a lot of money and thereby exacerbating inequality.” Noam Chomsky goes further and suggests that if we actually managed to determine the traits that predicted success under capitalism, more relevant than “intelligence” would probably be “some combination of greed, cynicism, obsequiousness and subordination, lack of curiosity and independence of mind, self-serving disregard for others, and who knows what else.”

I also learned something new. I read The Bell Curve years ago when it first came out, and it did effectively turn me away from ever wanting to hear another word from Charles Murray. But he has written other books! He also wrote Human Accomplishment: The Pursuit of Excellence in the Arts and Sciences, 800 B.C. to 1950, which Robinson turns to to further reveal Murray’s implicit bigotry.

Human Accomplishment is one of the most absurd works of “social science” ever produced. If you want evidence proving Murray a “pseudoscientist,” it is Human Accomplishment rather than The Bell Curve that you should turn to. In it, he attempts to prove using statistics which cultures are objectively the most “excellent” and “accomplished,” demonstrating mathematically the inherent superiority of Western thought throughout the arts and sciences.

Oh god. I can tell what’s coming. Pages and pages of cherry-picking, oodles of selection bias that Murray will use to complain of cultural trends when all his elaborate statistics do is take the measure of the slant of his own brain. Pseudoscientists do this all the time; another example would be Ray Kurzweil, who has done a survey of history in which he selects which bits he wants to plot to support his claim of accelerating technological progress leading to his much-desired Singularity. Murray does the same thing to “prove” his prior assumption that black people “lack cognitive ability”.

How does he do this? By counting “significant” people. (First rule of pseudoscientists: turn your biases into numbers. That way, if anyone disagrees, you can accuse them of being anti-math.)

Murray purports to show that Europeans have produced the most “significant” people in literature, philosophy, art, music, and the sciences, and then posits some theories as to what makes cultures able to produce better versus worse things. The problem that immediately arises, of course, is that there is no actual objective way of determining a person’s “significance.” In order to provide such an “objective” measure, Murray uses (I am not kidding you) the frequency of people’s appearances in encyclopedias and biographical dictionaries. In this way, he says, he has shown their “eminence,” therefore objectively shown their accomplishments in their respective fields. And by then showing which cultures they came from, he can rank each culture by its cultural and scientific worth.

Then it just gets hilariously bad. Murray decides to enumerate accomplishment in music, of all things, by first dismissing everything produced since 1950 (the last half century has failed to produce “an abundance of timeless work”, don’t you know), and then, in his list of great musical accomplishment, does not include any black composers, except Duke Ellington. Robinson provides a brutal takedown.

Before 1950, black people had invented gospel, blues, jazz, R&B, samba, meringue, ragtime, zydeco, mento, calypso, and bomba. During the early 20th century, in the United States alone, the following composers and players were active: Ma Rainey, W.C. Handy, Scott Joplin, Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton, James P. Johnson, Fats Waller, Count Basie, Cab Calloway, Art Tatum, Charlie Parker, Charles Mingus, Lil Hardin Armstrong, Bessie Smith, Billie Holliday, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Mahalia Jackson, J. Rosamond Johnson, Ella Fitzgerald, John Lee Hooker, Coleman Hawkins, Leadbelly, Earl Hines, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Fats Navarro, Roy Brown, Wynonie Harris, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Blind Willie Johnson, Robert Johnson, Son House, Dinah Washington, Thelonious Monk, Muddy Waters, Art Blakey, Sarah Vaughan, Memphis Slim, Skip James, Louis Jordan, Ruth Brown, Big Jay McNeely, Paul Gayten, and Professor Longhair. (This list is partial.) When we talk about black American music of the early 20th century, we are talking about one of the most astonishing periods of cultural accomplishment in the history of civilization. We are talking about an unparalleled record of invention, the creation of some of the most transcendently moving and original artistic material that has yet emerged from the human mind. The significance of this achievement cannot be overstated. What’s more, it occurred without state sponsorship or the patronage of elites. In fact, it arose organically under conditions of brutal Jim Crow segregation and discrimination, in which black people had access to almost no mainstream institutions or material resources.

Jesus. This ought to be the approach we always take to Charles Murray: not that his calculations and statistics are a bit iffy, but that he can take a look at the music of the 20th century and somehow argue that contributions by the black community were inferior and not even worth mentioning. His biases are screamingly loud.

Unfortunately, while I suffered through The Bell Curve, this is so outrageously stupid that I’m not at all tempted to read Human Accomplishment, and I’m a guy who reads creationist literature to expose its flaws. Murray is more repulsive than even Kent Hovind (Hovind should not take that as an accolade, since that’s an awfully low bar.)

I get all the obsessive-compulsive kooks

Now I’m being warned to prepare for an “epic shitstorm” from some loony site because, apparently, I misrepresented Anthony Navarro, Jr. by quoting his delusions and threats at length. We’re supposed to get flooded with indignant trolls who will take me down. I haven’t seen any — at least, no more than usual — and I checked the traffic stats to see if there was an assault in progress, and nope, not even a blip. Anyway, now you’ve all got a heads-up. We might get an occasional whimper from them at some time in the future, but right now they seem to be busy enough scouring the web for derogatory comments from deranged nitwits about me (there are plenty!), and I suspect they won’t step out of their little hole in the web.