Everyone is excited about this graph showing that “Gen Z” saved us from a red wave:
I love that voters between the ages of 18 and 29, inclusively, have voted in higher numbers during the last two midterms. But this midterm, there was a drop, not an increase, in Gen Z involvement, even though they had more at stake. Also, the number is not that large to begin with. Look at the scale of the graph; it maxes out at 50%. Only about a quarter of folks in this age group showed up in an election that promised to ruin their lives forever. I would have preferred to see at least the modest trend demonstrated in 2018 continue, rather than somewhat reverse. Like this:
When democratic activists like myself complain that the youth vote is not there, it has become common to gets scolded that we should not be so tough on the youth vote, and look, they showed up after all!
Listen: You can and should scold me when I’m wrong, but not when I’m right. Younger voters don’t show up (3 out of 4 don’t show up, kind of a lot), they showed up in smaller, not larger, numbers this midterm (if these preliminary data from Tufts hold up), enough to help, and kudos to the one in 4 who did show up. But can you imagine what would have happened if 10% more showed up? A trifecta, that’s what would have happened.
All we need for a full on demographic transition is a change in behavior in existing age groups. Then we’d be done.
Make the voting age 17.
Ask states to provide a special holiday: students and teachers in public schools are off on voting day (but no one else, or voting day holiday will decrease, not increase, voter turnout).
Incentivize election authorities to use the space in schools for voting locations where possible.
Incentivize schools to incorporate voting day into their programing.
Allow 17 and 18 year old voters in schools to treat their school location as a valid voting location, as an option (split books if necessary, so their vote is registered in their home district).
This way the major transition that is HS to College, or some other life history stage, carries voting and involvement in our political process with it, rather than making it harder and more likely. Then we’d have this graph (note change in the y-axis scale):
Republicans told us they expected a red wave in this year’s election. There was absolutely no rational reason to say that, but they said it, and since they said it, the so-called but not-really “liberal” press reported it as fact.
So, since the Republicans, who only lie and would not know the truth if it bit them on the ass (which it frequently does in fact do) said it, and the New York Times verified it in breathless scary headline speak, let us assume it is true. There was a red wave on November 8th. Given this, we can now define what a red wave looks like.
Democrats hold their slim grasp on the senate.
Repbulicans will win the house as all out-of-white-house parties do, but by one of the slimest margins in history (and they could actually not win, not all the votes are counted yet).
Democrats won gubernatorial races that were either flips or serious threats against incumbents in Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Kansas, Maryland, and Massachustts.
Democrats flipped the legislatures in Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania.
Abortion rights were enshrined in the constitutions of California, Michigan, Vermont.
So, that is what a red wave looks like! We love red waves! All hail the red wave!
So, how did it happen? Because all politics are local, and I’m not talking about pot-hole local, but local as in each election is in fact an independent thing.
Independents voted with Democrats.
People were not tricked into voting for odious candidates because Trump told them to.
For the first time in history other than 2002, the in-the-white-house party almost cleared the table.
I suspect that the places where the Democrats did less well, they were hampered for these reasons, depending on the race (and this is mainly in the house):
Highly focused gerrymandering by Republican governors.
Trump failed to zero in on a particular candidate, so they were less likely to be rejected in an election that, in part, was a repudiation of Trump and MAGA.
In a few places, highly privileged white supremacists are simply in too high a number to ever do the right thing.
Inflation and other economic issue blunted Democratic support in some cases.
Analyses are still being done, but keep this in mind: it appears that Republicans outperformed Democrats in many areas in voter turnout (R+4). Republicans showed up to protect their MAGA nuts, and Democrats did not show up to protect democracy in as large a number. It was the Independents showing up that saved us, especially independent women, especially in Arizona, Georgia, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania. So, when Democrats say over the next two years “there are more of us than there are of them” and “we just have to turn up” tell that person to STFU and get to work on actually turning out Democrats and not just pretending Democrats turn out. Because they don’t. If they did not in this election, Democrats are proven unreliable.
Preliminary exit polling shows that abortion was the second most important issue across the board for most voters, and the most important issue for most Democrats, more so in certain states where the issue was more on the table in local legislation.
Florida is about to get another hurricane. Tropical Storm Nicole is expected to develop into a Category 1 hurricane and come ashoire on the East Coast somewhere near Palm Bay, north of West Palm Beach, late in the day Wednesday. This is going to be a physically large storm, with effects over a broad area.
Somewhat suddenly there are two named storms in the Atlantic.
Lisa is a Category 1 hurricane bearing down on the coast of Belize, with Belize City in the front right quadrant of the storm. This will be going on for several more hours, then the storm will convert to a tropical storm or strong depression, until it exist land to the Gulf of Mexico, or possibly (but not likely) the Pacific.
Martin is a Category 1 hurricane way out in the middle of the Atlantic. Martin may develop into a Category 2 hurricane as it moves north, reaching nearly Category 3 strength, before weakening and wandering clumsily into the part of the Atlantic between Iceland and the UK.
I’m not going to call an end to the season. But the season seems to be over.
October 11th later that day
The original plan was to keep the name Julia for whatever storm might have formed from Remnant Julia. But instead, a second storm formed right next to Julia Proper and created Clone Julia. That storm then moved into the Gulf of Mexico, and got up enough gumption to get an name, and its name is Karl with a K. (You don’t say the “with a K” part.)
This storm will shortly turn back into Mexico and land not far from Veracruz as a tropical storm, not a hurricane.
Just a quick note: It is looking like the remnant of Julia is passing back over the sea in the Gulf of Mexico, highly likely to become a tropical storm, but then with an uncertain future. Stay tuned.
Julia came ashore on Nicaragua’s coast as a Category 1 hurricane, and is now a tropical storm dumping a lot of rain in the interior. It is very likely to re-emerge on the Pacific side and will likely hug the Pacific coast for several hours.
From the NHC:
Regardless of Julia’s track and future status as a tropical cyclone,
the evolving weather pattern is likely to lead to heavy rains over
Central America and southern Mexico for several days, which could
cause life-threatening flash floods and mudslides, especially in
areas of mountainous terrain.
Since Julia’s low-level circulation is expected to survive its
passage across Nicaragua, the cyclone will retain the same name
when it moves into the eastern Pacific basin. The intermediate
advisory at 100 PM CDT (1800 UTC) will be issued under the same
Atlantic product headers as before. However, now that all coastal
watches and warnings are located along the Pacific coast of Central
America, product headers will change to eastern Pacific headers
beginning with the next complete advisory at 400 PM CDT (2100 UTC),
with the ATCF identifier changing from AL132022 to EP182022.
If Julia regains hurricane status, there is a non-zero chance it will make a second landfall in Mexico.
Julia is the name of the below mentioned new system in the Atlantic Basin. This is now a tropical storm heading due west, which is expected to turn into a Category 1 hurricane prior to making landfall on the east coast of Nicaragua. The island of San Andrés, part of Columbia, is dead in the middle of the expected track. After landfall it is not unlikely that the remnants of Julia will pass into the Eastern Pacific with enough ooomph to be a concern, or less likely, but possible, to recurve north into the Gulf of Mexico and make a second landfall (hopefully not as a hurricane). One model (don’t believe the models yet) has it hitting Florida in the general vicinity of where Ian recently caused major devastation. Not likely but a reminder that if you get hit once with a Hurricane you can get hit twice with a hurricane.
Please go HERE to get the current forecast and advisory.
There is a new storm, very likely to become a hurricane just before hitting land. In about 3 days the as yet unnamed storm will likely come assure in Nicaragua. There is a very good chance the storm will pass over Central America and emerge as a non-hurricane with potential in the Eastern Pacific. It will not be stronger than a Category 1 hurricane, but there could be serious problems in Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and Belize. The island of
Ian’s Death Toll. Sometimes, when a deadly disaster happens, and the death toll starts to come in, you can get a feeling for how absurd the initial numbers are, and for what the order of magnitude of the final count is likely to be. And indeed we were seeing some pretty low and absurd numbers a few days ago for Ian’s mortality count, but I have no idea where this is going. There are neighborhoods where it seems like every single person present must have been killed, but what we don’t know is how many had left before the storm tide came in. Yesterdays estiamte was round 35, thius mornings estimates range from 44 to 67. The highest current estimate I know of is 77. Continue reading The 2022 Atlantic Hurricane Season: Nicole Meet Florida→
Reality CheckHow Science Deniers Threaten Our Future* by my close personal friend Don Prothero (author of Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why it Matters*) is now on sale in Kindle form for cheap! Get it while they last!
A thought-provoking look at science denialism “for popular science readers who want better to be able to explain and defend science and scientific methods to others” (Library Journal).
The battles over evolution, climate change, childhood vaccinations, and the causes of AIDS, alternative medicine, oil shortages, population growth, and the place of science in our country—all are reaching a fevered pitch. Many people and institutions have exerted enormous efforts to misrepresent or flatly deny demonstrable scientific reality to protect their nonscientific ideology, their power, or their bottom line. To shed light on this darkness, Donald R. Prothero explains the scientific process and why society has come to rely on science not only to provide a better life but also to reach verifiable truths no other method can obtain. He describes how major scientific ideas that are accepted by the entire scientific community (evolution, anthropogenic global warming, vaccination, the HIV cause of AIDS, and others) have been attacked with totally unscientific arguments and methods. Prothero argues that science deniers pose a serious threat to society, as their attempts to subvert the truth have resulted in widespread scientific ignorance, increased risk of global catastrophes, and deaths due to the spread of diseases that could have been prevented.
“Prothero’s treatise will give the science-minded something to cheer about, a brief summary of the real data that supports so many critical aspects of modern life.” —Publishers Weekly
One you might no know, but related to a writing project I’ve go going: The Orphans of Davenport: Eugenics, the Great Depression, and the War over Children’s Intelligence*, Kindle format, cheap.
“Doomed from birth” was how psychologist Harold Skeels described two toddler girls at the Iowa Soldiers’ Orphans’ Home in Davenport, Iowa, in 1934. Their IQ scores, added together, totaled just 81. Following prevailing eugenic beliefs of the times, Skeels and his colleague Marie Skodak assumed that the girls had inherited their parents’ low intelligence and were therefore unfit for adoption. The girls were sent to an institution for the “feebleminded” to be cared for by “moron” women. To Skeels and Skodak’s astonishment, under the women’s care, the children’s IQ scores became normal.
Now considered one of the most important scientific findings of the twentieth century, the discovery that environment shapes children’s intelligence was also one of the most fiercely contested—and its origin story has never been told. In The Orphans of Davenport, psychologist and esteemed historian Marilyn Brookwood chronicles how a band of young psychologists in 1930s Iowa shattered the nature-versus-nurture debate and overthrew long-accepted racist and classist views of childhood development.
Transporting readers to a rural Iowa devastated by dust storms and economic collapse, Brookwood reveals just how profoundly unlikely it was for this breakthrough to come from the Iowa Child Welfare Research Station. Funded by the University of Iowa and the Rockefeller Foundation, and modeled on America’s experimental agricultural stations, the Iowa Station was virtually unknown, a backwater compared to the renowned psychology faculties of Stanford, Harvard, and Princeton. Despite the challenges they faced, the Iowa psychologists replicated increased intelligence in thirteen more “retarded” children.
When Skeels published their incredible work, America’s leading psychologists—eugenicists all—attacked and condemned his conclusions. The loudest critic was Lewis M. Terman, who advocated for forced sterilization of low-intelligence women and whose own widely accepted IQ test was threatened by the Iowa research. Terman and his opponents insisted that intelligence was hereditary, and their prestige ensured that the research would be ignored for decades. Remarkably, it was not until the 1960s that a new generation of psychologists accepted environment’s role in intelligence and helped launch the modern field of developmental neuroscience..
Drawing on prodigious archival research, Brookwood reclaims the Iowa researchers as intrepid heroes and movingly recounts the stories of the orphans themselves, many of whom later credited the psychologists with giving them the opportunity to forge successful lives. A radiant story of the power and promise of science to better the lives of us all, The Orphans of Davenport unearths an essential history at a moment when race science is dangerously resurgent.
The MAGA Republican Party is a terrorist organization, but one that has infiltrated enough of the Justice Department, State Department, and Congress to not allow our country to classify it correctly as such. Hopefully in a few days, enough voters will realize this that they won’t be allowed to take over our country.
It will be a very sad day if we wake up on November 9th and realize that Americans have chosen to end democracy.
I am a Scrivener user. I like Scrivener so much that I maintain a Windows computer to run it on, because, sadly, it does not have a Linux version. There are two things that Scrivener does that I don’t think are widely adopted, and I am writing this post in the hopes that OpenSource software developers will notice and adopt.
Help: Search Menus
The first one is totally unique to Scrivener in my experience. This is an item under “help” that simply searches all the menus for what you are searching for. Never mind counter arguments to deploying this idea, that any help system will produce the same results mixed up with other results, etc. Especially never mind those arguments from OpenSource world, where the help item on the menu is, traditionally, so useless that I for one don’t even bother using it. It is vestigial. One way to resurrect the idea of OpenSource software even having a useful help option is to simply deploy a search for a term among the menu items in the software itself as a routine feature. This is incredibly useful in complex software where there are perhaps a hundred or so items across all the menu choices. This should be easy to implement. The list of menu items is certainly a set of objects in the software, and probably comes with links to information that could be added to the results. Play around with it, people!
File: Favorite Projects
The second item exists in some form or another here and there,. Qgiss might have something like this (I’ve not paid attention). This is the “favorite project” or “favorite file” menu item. For Scrivener, I have something like 30 projects on my computer, but some are old and done(ish), some are false starts or experiments, some are long term and at any given moment not of interest. So, I put the four or five that I’m currently working on in the Favorite Projects menu.
I want that for all my software.
There are four of five files that I use in Libre Office often enough to want them handy as shortcuts or favorites, but not often enough that they remain near the top of the “Recent Files” list in LibreOffice. A few years ago I tried to convince the LibreOffice community to make the Recent Files item include (as an option?) only files opened in a particular program. The way it works now, recent files opened in Calc (the spreadsheet) are on the list when you are working in the word processor (Writer). Sometimes, when I’m using Calc for a particular project, I may have 10 or 15 files (imported CSV files, various spreadsheets, etc) open over a work session, almost none of which I ever want to see again, but all of which populate the Recent Files menu list. This makes that list less useful, and if the list was separate for each different program (Cals, Writer, Draw, etc.) at least the problem would be partly contained. I don’t remember the reason they gave that this could not be done, but I didn’t buy it at the time. A technical glitch that seemed very solvable.
A “Favorite File” menu item in that software suit would solve this problem.
Microsoft’s office suit actually does this, I discovered while lamenting this problem. They are “pinned” items you can have in the otherwise very clumsy opening screen on the “Home” ribbon item. That good, but I’m not sure if I count that as a solution, since it involves using Microsoft Office and who wants to do that?
Above: The telescope formerly known as James Webb.
The Royal Astronomical Society has implemented a policy that papers published in its journals that make reference to the telescope formerly known as James Web use only the acronym JWST to signify this particular machine. This is because James Webb, who died in 1992, has a history.
James E. Webb was not a scientist. He was a government administrator with a law degree, some military experience, and a BA in Education. In 1961, JFK put him in charge of NASA where he worked until 1968.
Prior to any of this, there occurred what is known as the “Lavender Scare,” a nationwide panic that Teh Gay was poised to take over key positions in the American societal landscape. Gays and Commies were conflated, and suspected socialists or communists and gay people were hunted down and persecuted, and if working for the government, fired.
In March 2021, Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, Sarah Tuttle, Lucianne Walkowicz, and Brian Nord, all scientists in the astronomy field, wrote a piece for Scientific American, in which certain aspects of Webb’s history were pointed out.
When Webb joined the recently created NASA, it was government policy to purge LGBT individuals from the federal workforce. That was happening earlier as well, and in those earlier times, Webb was with the US Department of State. The authors point to a book, The Lavender Scare*, by Javid Johnson, which includes evidence that Webb (and others) were involved in the deployment of these anti LGBT policies. Webb, apparently, remained silent as the LBTG purge happened at the Department of State, and actively participated in it at NASA.
To some extent, this is a case of someone “going along” with the culture of his time. For example, in 1950, a senior Stater Department administrator sent Webb a set of memoranda including a roadmap for this purge, and Webb passed the memos on to those he was overseeing. So, he didn’t start it, but also, he didn’t stop it, and who knows what he was thinking at the time.
Astronomers and others in cognate fields have defended Webb, in some cases by pointing out that some of the evidence against him was false or misattributed, or by pointing out that he did, after all, oversee the greatest successes ever during the period of the greatest expansion of space science ever.
The authors of the Scientific American piece make an important point, that I agree with. Had this been an historical wrong, a wrong yes but an old wrong, a part of a period in history where the wrong was normal (and this is clearly true in this case) but not part of the present, than we might view this differently. We don’t forgive Founders who enslaved Africans and African descendants in our early nation, but we also don’t see those wrongs as pertaining directly to current events in their historical form, because there is no widespread enslavement of African Americans by plantation owners today. But anti-LGBT sentiment and action in the living scientific community is not erased by recent wokeness. Indeed, the whole idea that gayness is a security risk was until very recently part of national self-policing in both the US and the UK. Still might be, for all I know. So, we don’t worry about the energy unit “Newtons” even though Newton certainly had some ideas we would not accept today (beyond his really poor grasp of elemental chemistry) but we do regard certain older or recently deceased old timey scientists as having been legit jerks in on way or another, having to do with LGBT rights, sexism, or racism. Don’t make me start a list here, not time or space.
So, in Great Britain, no more James Webb. We will see how this plays out in the US. See Society bans James Webb Name in the current Science.
This weekend, the weekend of Sat October 29th and Sunday October 30th, is #ChalkTheVote weekend. Note that participatns are welcome to chalk early, on that Friday, or later, on that Monday, but don’t get stepped on by monsters and ghosts if you are down on the sidewalk chalking too late in the day Monday.
This is a GOTV effort. Here’s how you do it:
Create chalk messages to inspire your community to vote.
Take a picture or video of your artwork.
Post it to Facebook, Instagram, or TikTok with the hashtag #ChalkTheVote. Tag @parentstogether so we can feature your art!
Make sure your post is public so we can see it! The folks at Parents Together, Chalk The Vote HQ, will repost some of their favorites.
An unusually upbeat (in a sense) day in our local paper, just before the election.
Star Tribune headline tells us that the MAGA extremist running for Governor has a tax plan that would ruin the economy. Tope headline of the paper.
Lower down on the same page: Jan 6 panel subpoenas Trump, with a pic of Bannon being shuffled off after sentencing. Trump has a November deadline.
Still on front cover:
Iran, China intelligence among seized documents
Calls for (MAGA Extremist) Sviggum to resign (from UMN regents) intensify (after he says that what may be the whitest of our campuses in Minnesota is too diverse! He refuses to resign, by the way, so this is going to be an interesting fight.)
Biden Touts Falling Deficits
Inside the paper:
Emmett Till statue unveiled
Good news for Ethiopian refugees
First woman (Eve?) PM of Italy
Page A5: Bannnon gets 4 months
PA Man gets 34 months for attacks on press, cops, on Jan 6
Seized (Trump) document describes Iran nuke program
Today’s Strib editorial excoriates MAGA republicans for being insane, mentions litter boxes and bat-boy myths.
There is new polling, extensive and high quality polling, that seems to make clear one small problem we have in the United States.
Nobody really gives a hoot about key issues such as abortion rights or democracy. People will get mad, there will be demonstrations, but when large percentages of Democrats (yes, I said Democrats) tell us that they prioritize gas prices over democracy, and polls show, as they do, that if the election were held today, Republicans would take over the US House and possibly the Senate, then we have to admit that we are a Republican nation, a nation not in favor of freedoms or democracy. We are an anti-abortion nation, a back ally nation, a nation where we are ready and seemingly even happy to let a right wing fascist government control our lives.
I see it day to day. I see people who in the past helped Democratic candidates not showing up, not donating money, letting someone else do it. But there is no “someone else.” When Democrats lose this rare two-year trifecta on November 8th, and a Republican House is sworn in come January, we will begin a two or four year long deconstruction of this country. Enough election deniers will be in the power positions in key states that the republican party will be able to “elect” (but not really elect) whomever their party puts up for 2024, probably Donald Trump. There is a good chance that at the same time Trump is sworn in, a Democratic house will be sworn in, but with only the slimmest majority. Then two years after that, Democrats will stay home again, and there will be a Republican (Trump) in the White House, a Republican Senate (with McConnell in charge), and a Republican House with who knows which monster in charge.
The only pertinent details will be which of the old men who are bent on turning us in to a fascist country die of natural causes earlier than their plans ideally require. But that is just a detail. Others are eager to step in.
I partly blame the left. We removed the possibility of empathy as part of our way of being when we shouted down anyone who claimed it, in our rush to blame our allies for everything that our enemies are actually doing. We threw out half our good messaging when it failed to come from a repressed group, even if it was about repression. We developed and deployed abysmally bad messaging and wore it as a chip on our shoulder, a guaranteed recipe for losing any argument. We let our identity politics undermine our pro equity efforts. Then, after doing that for about a decade, we stopped showing up. We explicitly put “self care” as our number one priority, then forgot to move to number two after a suitable recovery peirod.
I thought 2016’s election was depressing, but that was just the beginning of the end. The elections of 2022 and 2024 will be the actual end, and we are letting it happen. Making it happen. Choosing for it to happen. When the Republicans take the majority, we will simply have to admit that this is a MAGA Republican country. We are a democracy that is about to vote out democracy, democratically.
This is my third or fourth missive declaring our failures, but in the previous ones, I also asked for help, asked for people to step up. I now see that as too unlikely. Nobody stepped up, and the polls show that nobody will.
It is hard for a person who thinks about, knows a little about, evolution to reconcile the seeming contradiction that females should be smarter than males, particularly in the language arts, knowing what we know about brain development in mammals. This is because, while there are great writers and speech makers among women, there are more men famous in these area. We can reasonably assume that the greater number of famous male authors and famous male speeches through Western history is due to bias imposed by the patriarchy. We know this because the numbers have shifted to something much more like equality in recent decades. But it is still hard to see how, if women are expected to be better than men on average in using words, that this supposed biological fact does not show itself somewhere, or somehow.
It is easier for a person who studies behavioral biology to get this. Colnsider Big Men in cultures that have formal Big Men. There are of course big men (small b, small m) in all soceities, in some way, but the role of a man as a Big Man is especially clear in societes that have a word for it, and a social and political position so defined. One of the great and classic ethnographic examples Ongka, a New Guinea big man from a tradition region, the star of a documentary called Ongka’s Big Moka. Ongka is a Big Man, a leader among men, seen as the Big Man for a large community which is in bellicose relationship with neighboring groups. In the documentary, Ongka devises an attack on his neighbors, in which he will attempt to defeat their Big Man. The attack requires the accumulation of a huge store of valuable goods, which includes Australian cash, a Land Rover, many bushels of Yams, and large numbers of rare forest bird feathers and domestic pigs. During the course of accumulating this wealth, Oka talks, and talks, talks. Ongka incessantly shows up ina aprt of the villafge, and talks about how he is the Big Man, and how he with the help of the villagers will defeat the neighboring Big Man1. Ongka shows up, gives his speech, and leaves with some pigs to add to his larder, and some yams, which will be used to feed the pigs. He may get a feather or two. And, over the months of time during which this happening, the polygenous Ongka adds a wife or two a well.
Eventually Ongka is ready to defeat his neighbor, and a ceremony is arranged. The two men face off. This is not a symmetrical battle, this is Ongka on the offense, and the man he is going after absorbs the attack, survives or loses, but has the option of attcking back at a later time. Ongka gives the biggest and baddest speech of them all, but the speech is not to ask for help, but to accompany what has been laid out. The feathers, pigs, yams, money, and Land Rover have all been arranged to look quite impressive. No marketing rep at Target could do a better job at making the goods look so good. This is the a largest Moka (that is what the ceremony is called) anyone can remember. Ongka’s Bit Moka has defeated his enemy, and Ongka tells him so in the last chapter of this round of his Big Man narrative.
This may look like a man being great at what men are great at, giving speeches that get him goods, mates, fame, and power. That would be the more naive or amateur evolutionary view of the thing. But if we add one level of theoretical sophistication to the model, we might see that this is actualy a man being good at what men are handicapped at. Linguistic skill is more easily come by in women than in men. Traditionally, remedial reading programs are frequented by boys, not girls. Typically, UN simultaneous translators are more often women than men. In many societies, women move at marriage between groups, and in places where language areas are small and heterogeneously mixed up, many young girls are expected to quickly learn, if not already have, high proficiency with a language that was not her birth language.2 In mammals, all males are females that have become masculinized to varying degrees in development, and in the brain, this masculinization can not be done by adding structure, function, or features, but only by literally wiping out brain tissue. It is thought that this process goes a bit farther in some boys, ultimately causing modest language related deficits. The details and degree to which this happens is not well understood, but it is generally agreed that it happens. Baby girls have better hearing discrimination of language phonemes than do boys. Average starting age for linguistic (verbal and reading) milestones are earlier for girls than boys. And so on.
So from a behavioral biological point of view, Ongka is handicapped, and is overcoming his handicap by being very very good at a behavior in which men tend to be limited relative to women. There is a great deal of theory and study surrounding the “handicap principle” (look up Zahavi’s Handicap Principle). If he can do that mentally, he must be an exceptional male, at the high end of the bell curve for the men in his society. No wonder he gets the extra yams.
I know I’ve been a little disdainful in this essay of amateur evolutionary thinkers. Let me be clear: I love amateur evolutionary thinkers. The non-specialists who take on evolutionary biology as an interest are in many areas more important, and their activities more impactful, than actual evolutionary biologists when it comes to preserving and sometimes even saving science from religiously or politically driven attacks. That is very much appreciated. The average actual biologist is a lab rat or a field drone, collecting data, running it through the peer review process, usually ignoring and maybe being unaware of the “war on science” carried out by the right win in congress, right wing parents in vulnerable school districts, and all those yahoos on the Internet. If it weren’t for the non-scientists who happen to love science, we would be doomed. But at the same time, people want to know the details, understand the nuances, and enjoy learning more things about the thing you know about already. So that’s what this is.
Here’s Ongka’s Big Moka:
To be accurate and clear, I don’t actually know what Ongka is saying in these speeches, it is not clear in the documentary, but I’d like to find out. ↩︎
She and most others in her society probably already had familiarly with most or all of the languages spoken in the region, but it is only women that have to rely for their own social comfort or even safety to become proficient at their new family’s primary language and dialect. ↩︎