Not work safe especially if you work in a church:
2+2=5. Slap. Oh sorry.
This blog does not endorse all of the methods used in this video. But this blog did ROFLMAO.
Hat tip Bunny.
Not work safe especially if you work in a church:
2+2=5. Slap. Oh sorry.
This blog does not endorse all of the methods used in this video. But this blog did ROFLMAO.
Hat tip Bunny.
Bill Nye “The Science Guy” went to the Creation Museum to debate “is creation a viable model of origins in today’s modern scientific era?” After the debate, Bill Nye came to the Last Word to discuss his faceoff with the founder of the Creation Museum, Ken Ham.
Nye said he accepted the debate challenge because the spread of creationism “frightens” him. “I don’t think I’m going to win Mr. Ham over any more than Mr. Ham thinks he’s going to win me over,” Nye said. “Instead, I want to show people that this belief is still among us. It finds its way onto school boards in the United States.”
Ham, on the other side, told TheBlaze why he challenged Nye to the debate. “I just think it’s really healthy for the public to actually hear two people like this that are really polar opposites in many ways,” he said, “because what you believe about who you are [and] where you came from affects your whole worldview.”
In the Spring of 2010, evangelical Bible scholar Bruce Waltke, in speaking about the overwhelming evidence for evolution, said “To deny that reality will make us a cult, some odd group that is not really interacting with the real world.”
In response to this, Ken Ham, president of Kentucky’s Creation Museum, commented, “What he is saying ultimately undermines the authority of God’s word.”
Both statements seem to be true. (I don’t think you necessarily need to have faith in a god to accept the basic logic of Ham’s statement.) Also, that’s really all you need to know about young earth creationism. It is God’s word, and the FAQ on the matter is the Bible.
Last night, science communicator Bill Nye debated Ken Ham at Ham’s Creation Museum in Kentucky. This debate came about because of a statement Bill Nye made not long ago suggesting that creationism, and in particular efforts to force creationism into textbooks and, via other means, into classrooms, does harm to children and ultimately to society. Ham took that statement as a cue to challenge Nye to a debate, and Nye accepted.
The debate happened last night. When it comes to creationism, I admit that I am not an objective observer, but I can try. I think Ken Ham did fine in that debate. He spoke before his own audience. A remarkably white but gender and age diverse gathering of followers of the Bible and believers in creationism seem to have responded well to Ham. His rhetoric was consistent. We know everything, we understand the most important issues of origins, creation, and evolution, and all of this information comes mainly from the Bible. There are a few other details.
At the same time, however, Bill Nye also did well in this debate, objectively speaking. He presented science, science, science and more science. He presented the science clearly, convincingly, chose his examples well, personalized the discussion wherever possible even to the point of doing a Lewis Black moment (pulling out a fossil he had picked up earlier in the week!). During the few moments when we were allowed to see the evangelical audience during Bill Nye’s presentation they looked, frankly, charmed. And how could they not be, Bill Nye is a charming guy!
In my view, again biased in favor of science because, well, because it’s the correct view, Bill Nye won the debate by a large margin. Friends on Twitter and Facebook equated the debate to the Superbowl, with Bill Nye being the Seahawks and Ken Ham being Denver. Apt. Perhaps even an understatement. Even a poll on a Christian web site gave a strong win to Nye
One could say that it was easy. Bill Nye made it look easy. He focused on the science, as I mentioned, but he also frequently applied that science to Ken Ham’s young earth creationism. One might wonder if Noah’s Ark could have stayed afloat during the great flood, with all those animals on it, for as long as the Bible says it did. But during this debate, Bill Nye sunk that Ark again and again. In addition to an excellent and convincing high altitude view of evolutionary science, and effective deconstruction of young earth creationism, Nye also made frequent and engaging references to the amazing outcome of unfettered scientific study and technology, which I think helps people appreciate and personalized science. He even made an argument from patriotism (not a scientific argument for evolution, but an argument for honest pursuit of knowledge).
Ken Ham’s argument for the young age of the Earth was unassailable. The Bible tells us the age of the Earth, period. Ham claims all of the dating methods are fallible, none are as good as eye witness evidence. (That would be God.) This is unassailable because it is untestable, but based on good science, we can say it is wrong. But you can’t really do much about a religious belief. Ham presented counter evidence contrary to the generally accepted science, but it was the usual bogus, incorrect, easily dismissed set of arguments. For example, some really old stuff was dated to really old (as it is) with the potassium argon method but to only 40-something thousand years using radiocarbon dating. The reason for that, of course, is that radiocarbon dating generally does not function beyond 40-something thousand years old, so all older material produces a young date with that particular method. If you measure the height of a great mountain with a ruler, the mountain will come out to be one foot tall, unless you get a bigger ruler. Also, somewhere in there I think Ken Ham made the argument that we should not wear clothes. Yet he was wearing clothes. Please explain.
An edited version of this debate, with just the Bill Nye parts, will make an excellent overview of why evolutionary biology is the way to go and young earth creationism is not.
There were definitely several moment where I wish I could have jumped on the stage and given Bill’s answer for him. For example, Ham scored a point by deconstructing functional interpretations of mammalian dental anatomy, in relation to the question of whether all the animals were vegetarians during Ark-times. I could have crushed that response in a way that would introduce even more evidence for evolution. But Bill Nye is an expert in other areas. Moreover, Bill Nye did the right thing by not responding to most of Ham’s specific points, but rather, continuing to return to his own main points. Nye, in a sense, provided a slower and more ponderous, and well done, science version of the Gish Gallop. He had a number of powerful points and stuck to them, and mostly avoided going off track.
The fact that Bill Nye did very well in this debate does not mean that we should all start debating creationists, especially at events with a door charge that goes to support an entity like the Creation Museum. Put a different way: Bill Nye is a professional. DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME. But the widespread concern, including that expressed by yours truly, for this particular debate was wrong. I will be happily be dining on crow today at lunch.
Catching Fire is apparently a very popular book and/or movie that everyone is very excited about. But Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human is a different a book about some interesting research I was involved in about the origin of our genus, Homo.
You can pick up a copy of our paper on this page. We call it “The Cooking Hypothesis.” The basic idea can be summarized with these points:
1) Cooking food transformed human ecology. Many potential foods in the environment can’t be consumed by humans (or apes in general) without cooking. But adding cooking to our species-specific technology, we can access those foods effectively transforming our ecology to a much greater extent than the vast majority of evolutionary transitions, especially single-event transitions, have ever done. The total number of calories in the natural environment that become available to an ape that can cook goes up by orders of magnitude.
2) This increase in available calories left a biological signal that is very impressive. Two major changes happened in the hominid body (in early Homo erecuts/ergaster). One is an approximate doubling in body size from an earlier Australopithecine or “Early Homo” ancestor. The other is a reduction in tooth size. Less eating equipment with a body demanding so much more in energy to grow and maintain signals a fundamental change in the food supply. There may be more than one way this could have happened, but so far adding cooking to our technology seems to be the best explanation.
3) Related, this is when we see brain size, relative to body size and in absolute terms, increase. Neural tissue is picky, expensive, and costly. Having a significant increase in brain size may be related to the demands (on the brain) of adding cooking to our behavior in that the size increase is allowed by the extra energy. And, it may be related in that the larger brain may provide the capacity to have this behavior.
4) The actual act of cooking, as a technology, may or may not demand a larger brain. But the process of cooking almost certainly involves central place foraging (bringing all the food back to one place, much of the time, to cook it) and delayed consumption (as opposed to eating the food where you find it). The basic pattern for a chimpanzee-like ancestor is to eat the food where you find it. Bringing food into close proximity to other members of your group virtually guarantees direct competition for food, which makes getting to food to begin with a highly questionable thing to do. In order for cooking to work, the social interactions typical of an ape have to be modified significantly. Cooking demanded, facilitated, and made major changes in social structure “worth it” from the point of view of natural selection.
5) These changes in social structure are probably indicated as well by changes in stone tool technology. Early cookers also were early hand-ax makers, for example. Human ancestors went from making primarily expedient, one time use, very simple stone tools to making tools that required a great deal of investment in time and energy to learn the technology, get good at it, and even for the production of individual tools (including acquisition of better than average raw materials in many cases). Once the tools were made they seem to have been used, often, for long periods of time. It is hard to imagine a chimp-like creature carrying around a tool into which she invested time and energy without it being taken away. This is an important transformation.
6) Less visible but very likely is a change in social system which could be called the rise of proto marriage. Sexual arrangements of a human-like kind are very different than for chimp. The ability to allow others to possess food or invest in more sophisticated technologies may be parallel to the ability to have more or less exclusive sexual contracts among individuals. This is indicated independently in the fossil record by a large decrease in sexual dimorphism in body size. In polygynous species like chimps males are often much larger than females, and this seems to have been the case with pre-Homo erectus/ergaster ancestors. But at the same time the body size increase and tooth size decrease happen, we also see a reduction in sexual dimorphism in body size, strongly indicating a major change in social arrangements. The best two explanations for this may be a shift to a gibbon-like pattern of paired-off monogamous adults living more or less alone, or a human-like pattern of paired-off monogamous adults living in larger social groups.
It is an idea that would have caught on. It would have selected for more nuanced communication, and may thus have facilitated the origin of what we now know of as human language and symbolic processing.
So when you are eating your Thanksgiving dinner this year, most of which will be cooked, look around at the people at the table and, briefly, imagine them to be chimps. Then go back to your meal and try to put all those thoughts aside…
I’ve been a guest or interviewer on Minnesota Atheist Talk radio a number of times. I never talk about atheism because I’m nothing close to an expert on that or related issues (though I do have a chapter in a book about it, here!). And, of course, I’m very involved, professionally, in certain church-state separation issues (like this and this). But on Atheist Talk Radio I mainly engage in either science (lately climate change science but also evolution) or the afore mentioned church-state separation issues vis-a-vis the evolution-creationism “debate.”
Anyway, I’ve been meaning to finally organize the list of Atheist Talk Radio spots I’ve done, and here it is, with links to the podcasts. Sorry if something is missing, but I’m pretty sure I got them all:
Wed, 07 Dec 2011 01:51:32 –0700
div class=”itemcontent” name=”decodeable”>Cynthia Egli talks with Lois Shadewald about pseudo science, including perpetual motion machines, and the Flat Earth Society which are mentioned in “Worlds of Their Own.” Greg Laden steps in to talk with Mike Haubrich about legislation which is hoping around the country, proposing “Academic Freedom,” that would require the teaching of Creationism in public schools yeast infection treatment.
Wed, 07 Dec 2011 03:02:26 –0700
Few things connect atheists better then reading and food. This week, Lynn Fellman interviews anthropologist blogger Greg Laden who talks to us about how human food has impacted human evolution. Later, Grant Steves speaks with John Coy on “Box Out.” Coy has written a novel targets to adolescent boys, an audience which has been a long ignored group. It focuses on how schools and sports can marginalize teens who may not fit a stereotype or expectation.
Wed, 07 Dec 2011 04:13:48 –0700
2009 is the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth and 150th year of this book “On the Origin of Species”. We’re celebrating by talking with Dr. Greg Laden, biological anthropologist, U of M. If you haven’t met Dr. Laden, you can get to know him through his nationally known blog. There you’ll find “Congo Memoirs”, his hilarious, hair raising, in-the-wild adventures while doing REAL science.
Similar to 19th century explorers Darwin and Wallace, Dr. Laden writes about tangling with the wild beasts (pythons), disease (malaria), pirates (real pirates) while deciphering how the world works — we know it as Evolution. One hundred fifty years later some of the issues are the same. Our 21st century scientist, Dr. Laden, will give us new insights into how radical the theory was, what’s new in our understanding of it and what to watch for in the future.
Also, on the first segment of the show is Don Luce, curator of exhibits at the Bell Museum of Natural History. Don will talk about the Darwin Day party on Feb. 12th at the Museum, the multimedia presentations by U of M scientists and the exhibit of Frans Lanting’s photography.
Wed, 07 Dec 2011 04:19:19 –0700
Greg Laden, who has been a frequent and popular guest on “Atheists Talk,” is an evolutionary anthropologist and professor at the University of Minnesota. On Sunday Greg turns the tables and does the interviewing, talking to Massimo about Ken Miller and the role of God in tweaking the genome at strategic moments; whether or not man is some sort of elevated creature as according to biologists who should know better and the role of pseudoscience in weakening the public understanding of evolution.
Wed, 07 Dec 2011 04:32:06 –0700
Greg and Genie will also be discussing the various approaches to religion in promoting and protecting science education. The NCSE is careful to assure religious leaders that science, properly done, is not necessarily dangerous to their faith (unless strict creationism is a cornerstone of their faith.) Many atheist scientists think that this is a dangerous approach because it dilutes science’s naturalistic methodology. They will discuss what the best approach may be, whether it is “New Atheism” or “Friendly Atheism.”
Wed, 07 Dec 2011 05:37:53 –0700
Biological anthropologist Greg Laden joins Stephanie Zvan to talk about his experiences with missionaries in the remotest parts of Africa and answer questions about what missions really offer the indigenous populations. He’ll tell us about the good and the bad and let us know where we need to step up to provide secular help uncomplicated by the religion of the missionaries.
This will be the final live Atheists Talk on the radio and the last podcast for a while, until we get the details of the ongoing podcast worked out. If you’re not attending the Pride Parade with the Minnesota Atheists delegation, please consider joining us at Q.Cumbers after the show to celebrate our long and successful radio run.
Posted: Wed, 07 Dec 2011 06:16:49 –0700
Who are these people and can we call them family? Listen to Greg Laden and Lynn Fellman discuss how recent fossil and tool discoveries are changing the shape of our family tree.
A report earlier this week showed evidence for stone tool use at 3.39 million years ago — much earlier than previously thought.
In addition to ancient bones and tools, genetics is filling some of the pre-historic knowledge gaps. For instance, genetic material from 40,000 year old bones show that some of us are one to four percent Neanderthal.
As a biological anthropologist, Greg Laden has insight into how the recent finds are challenging intrenched ideas. He’ll talk about what new trends are changing our understanding of human evolution. Taking us through past and recent discoveries, Greg’s engaging way of thinking critically about the mixing of bones and genes reveal a remarkable and controversial family story.
Wed, 07 Dec 2011 06:37:56 –0700
Most know Ira Flatow as a science journalist, producer, and as the host of “Science Friday,” broadcast on National Public Radio (NPR) every Friday afternoon. But did you know about his Minnesota connection? He was the original host and writer for the Emmy award winning “Newton’s Apple,” which broadcast from the television studios at KTCA in St. Paul, Minnesota. Science communicators Greg Laden and Lynn Fellman will ask Ira about the major changes in delivering science news and the effectiveness of new media for science education. Science is changing our culture and Ira has insights on the value of communicating science through the humanities.
Ira Flatow is a national science journalist working in multiple media: TV, web, blogger, national speaker and book author, and most widely known as the host of the very popular radio show “Science Friday” which is a major stopping point for science geeks on their weekly rounds.
Greg Laden is a scientist, a science educator, author and Scienceblogs.com blogger focused on biological anthropology, the creation-evolution “debate” and human evolution.
Lynn Fellman is a visual artist who also speaks and writes about the intersection of art and science; most recently at the “Personal Genomes” meeting at Cold Spring Harbor Lab.
div class=”itemcontent” name=”decodeable”>As 2010 rolls out, we all hope the future is bright for 2011. Along with hope, there’s always hype. Bringing us a reality check from their areas of expertise are these savvy thinkers:
Greg Laden, bio anthropologist and bogger for Scienceblogs.com, will give his top ten list of science stories for 2010, with commentary on the new field of paleogenomics Maggie Koerth-Baker, science journalist and writer for BoingBoing.net, will talk about the Future of Energy in the US.
Steve Borsch, media trend expert at Connecting the Dots, has insights for a year of accelerating change.
Will Steeger, WillSteeger.com, arctic explorer and eyewitness to the on-going catastrophic consequences of global climate change will tell us the latest observations.
Interviewer Lynn Fellman, FellmanStudio.com, is an artist communicating science through art, and a frequent science interviewer on “Atheist Talk”.
Host Brent Michael Davids, FilmComposer.us, is an award winning composer and creator of the music for the “Atheist Talk”.
Wed, 07 Dec 2011 10:36:18 –0700
PZ Myers is not shy of controversy, as he seems to invoke and generate it at will through his blog, Pharyngula. He writes about atheism, science, politics from a liberal perspective, zebrafish, critical thinking, pirates, sexism and poorly reasoned e-mails. Greg Laden joins PZ for a question and answer session in our studios. Greg generates his own share of controversy at his own blog.
Thu, 08 Dec 2011 02:03:12 –0700
Greg Laden is a frequent guest and interviewer for Atheists Talk. Dr. Laden is a biological anthropologist and lecturer at the University of Minnesota, and will talk to Tyson about science communication, science education and the role of magnetism in astrophysics (which is Tyson’s specialty.)
Thu, 08 Dec 2011 05:23:36 –0700
Rundkvist and Chou live and work in Sweden; a culture and a country in which atheism is the norm and the mention of god or Jesus by a politician is frowned upon.
On the show, Dr. Greg Laden and our guests will discuss atheism from this perspective, and contrast what it is like to live in a primarily atheist vs. a primarily theist society.
We will also discuss how atheism and atheists interface with the society in which they are embedded can be very different depending on context. In addition, we can find out if a nation transforming over to atheism actually does experience the doomsday scenario painted by many outspoken American religious leaders. We may also talk a bit about our guests’ reaction to Nordic culture in Minnesota and Swedish archaeology.
Greg Laden is a frequent guest and interviewer on our show. He is a biological anthropologist with field work experience in Africa.
Thu, 08 Dec 2011 06:03:44 –0700
This episode will touch on a broad range of topics, including a preview of what Desiree will be talking about at this year’s Skepchick track at CONvergence.
From I’m a Skeptic mini-bio of Desiree Schell:
"Desiree explores the connections between science and skepticism, and strategies for promoting critical thinking beyond the ranks of current skeptics. She is also known for delving into the slippery social issues surrounding skepticism. Her show has been near the forefront of conversations about gender issues in skepticism, and about “Skepticism 2.0’s” rebirth as a demographically broad social movement. “We really want to spread critical thinking to the broadest possible audience,” Desiree says. “In order to do that, we as skeptics need to discuss ways that we can make our message more inclusive.”
Greg Laden is a frequent guest on Atheists Talk, as well as a frequent interviewer. Greg is an evolutionary anthropologist and blogs at ScienceBlogs.
Skeptically Speaking – http://skepticallyspeaking.ca/
Skeptical Review Interview with Desiree Schell
Thu, 08 Dec 2011 06:18:20 –0700
Freelance writer Ed Brayton, who writes at ScienceBlogs’ Dispatches from the Culture Wars has been following and writing about religion and politics and highlighting the more stupid and insane conservative and fundamentalist preachers, priests, rabbis and imams. He and Greg Laden and I will highlight the funny, and yet scary people who use fear, bigotry religious certainty to attract followers, money and even influence public policy because of their fractured religious beliefs.
Greg Laden is a frequent guest on Atheists Talk, as well as a frequent interviewer. Greg is an evolutionary anthropologist and blogs at ScienceBlogs.
Thu, 08 Dec 2011 07:26:27 –0700
The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration has released new temperature norms based on 30 year historical data. These are the “normals” that meteorologists compare the days’ weather to the mean for any particular day. The temperature norms are higher than they were ten years ago, and ten years ago the norms were higher than those of the prior decade. Denialism has to be very strong in a person in order to pretend that the global climate is not getting warmer. The data accumulate in the air and in the sea, and on land and indicate with very little uncertainty that human activity is the leading cause of global warming. This is the scientific consensus. The seas are showing the effects of warmer water, as the level of carbonic acids absorbed into the water are having a dangerous effect on the biosphere under the waves. Reefs are bleaching.
At a time when solutions need to be discussed in the public, scientists are facing an increasingly shrill level of “debate” and denial from those who claim that they are alarmists who are crying fire in a crowded theater when there is no need to worry. Denialists claim the atmosphere is too big and chaotic for us mere humans to have an effect.
Those of us who are familiar with creationism’s means and methods recognize the tactical similarities between creationism and global warming denialism. Our guests for this show are Dr. John Abraham and Kevin Zelnio.
John Abraham is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering (Heat Transfer and Fluid Mechanics) at St. Thomas University in St. Paul, He responded to a presentation made by Chrisopher Monckton at Bethel University. Monckton is a leading denialist who has many convinced that scientists are lying about global warming, but Abraham showed how this charge is false. http://www.stthomas.edu/engineering/jpabraham/
Kevin Zelnio is a science journalist and blogger at Scientific American Blogs and at Deep Sea News. He has written on the effects of the change in climate on the ocean (and our fisheries,) in addition to far-ranging subjects involving sea invertebrates . Greg Laden and Mike Haubrich will co-host today’s show.
To Catch a Fallen Sea Angel by Kevin Zelnio
Climate-Science Smackdown, Pt 2 , by Casey Selix
Abraham Reply to Monckton by John Abraham
Wed, 14 Dec 2011 07:17:44 –0700
Don is in town for the Geological Society of America meetings, and has agreed to come by the studio and chat with Greg Laden about dinosaurs, climate change, science denialism and, of course, the psychology of cryptozoology, which is the subject of one of his current writing projects.
Professor Prothero is Professor of Geology at Occidental College and Lecturer in Geobiology at the California Institute of Technology. He is a Fellow of the Geological Society of America and the Paleontological Society.
Links of interest:
Donald Prothero – The Psychology of Cryptozoologists on Point of Inquiry – http://www.pointofinquiry.org/donald_prothero_the_psychology_of_cryptozoologists/
Skeptics Guide to the Universe Interview with Don Prothero – http://www.theskepticsguide.org/archive/podcastinfo.aspx?mid=1&pid=268
American Museum of Natural History Podcast – http://www.learnoutloud.com/Results/Author/Donald-R.-Prothero/14195
Don Prothero on the East Coast Earthquake – http://www.wypr.org/category/podcast-keywords/donald-prothero
A short list of some of Donald Prothero’s books:
Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters
Catastrophes!: Earthquakes, Tsunamis, Tornadoes, and Other Earth-Shattering Disasters
Greenhouse of the Dinosaurs: Evolution, Extinction, and the Future of Our Planet
After the Dinosaurs: The Age of Mammals (Life of the Past)
The Evolution of Artiodactyls
h4>Shawn Lawrence Otto on Atheists Talk #142, November 20, 2011
Wed, 14 Dec 2011 07:48:54 –0700
Shawn Lawrence Otto has just launched his book, Fool Me Twice: Fighting the Assault on Science in America, a richly documented and well-reasoned analysis of modern science denialism, especially addressing climate change. Shawn notes that scientists are inherently apolitical in their work, but that science itself is always political, and ties this important observation into recent patterns of partisan maneuvering, questionable journalistic ethics even among the upper echelon of the fourth estate, and religious distortion of scientific findings and science-based policy making.
Join us on air for what is guaranteed to be a lively and enlightening conversation, and then join us at Q. Cumbers for brunch. If you bring a copy of Shawn Otto’s book and a pen, you can get it signed!
Shawn Lawrence Otto’s website – http://shawnotto.com/
Sun, 18 Mar 2012 17:33:35 –0600
"Atheist blogs are:
always stirring up controversy." mean." strident." an echo chamber." slacktivism."
A lot of things get said about atheist blogging, but most of them aren’t said by atheist bloggers themselves. With Jennifer McCreight in town to speak at the Minnesota Atheists monthly meeting, we take the opportunity to gather together a number of atheist bloggers to talk about what they do, why they do it, what they have accomplished, and what they hope to accomplish in the future. In addition to Jen, we will have Greg Laden, Brianne Bilyeu, and Stephanie Zvan in the studio this Sunday.
Sun, 22 Apr 2012 15:49:08 –0600
Most of you know John from his famous Internet site called “John Hawks Weblog: Paleoanthropology, Genetics and Evolution.” John is an associate professor of Anthropology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, which is one of the better known and respected for this sort of research.
Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you know that there are many interesting and exciting things going on in human origins research these days, and on Sunday morning, on Atheist Talk radio, John and Greg Laden will cover as many of them as they can. Were the Clovis people Solutreans? How many hominids were there in recent prehistory? And what do both ancient and modern DNA studies tell us about the Neanderthal side of the human family?
Wed, 28 Nov 2012 18:06:02 –0700
What are they? They are artificially created biological organisms. Authors George Church and Ed Regis, in their new book, Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Recreate Nature and Ourselves, tell us they are coming, and they tell us not to be afraid. Wary, perhaps, but not afraid.
Church is a molecular geneticist, who created many of the tools we use for genetic sequencing. He is also the founder of the Personal Genome Project, which looks to sequence the genomes of 100,000 volunteers and place the data in the public domain to facilitate research into the interplay of genetics and environment in determining how we become who we are. This Sunday, he will talk to us about what we may expect from this future in which we have this kind of information and this kind of power.
h4>“Denialism on a Large Scale” Greg Laden on Atheists Talk #214, April 14, 2013
Sun, 14 Apr 2013 17:15:47 –0600
Greg Laden stumbled onto climate denialism through a combination of concern for the environment and studying what climate history can tell us about human evolution. He has documented lies, threats and simple misinformation while working to get good information on climate change out to audiences on his blog and elsewhere. In the process, he’s received legal threats, death threats, and more factually incorrect comments than he can count.
This Sunday, Greg will join us in the studio to help us learn to spot denialism in the wild and to tell us what to expect from climate change denialists in the next few months.
Whitey Bulger has finally been convicted of a small percentage of all the bad things he is said to have done. The Boston Globe has the details.
James J. “Whitey” Bulger, the notorious Boston gangster who rampaged through the city’s underworld for decades before slipping away from authorities and eluding a worldwide manhunt for more than 16 years, was convicted today in federal court of charges that will likely keep him in prison for the rest of his life.
Don’t count on that. Whitey has slipped from the clutches of justice several times before. He’ll probably make a break for it between the court house and the jail, and if not, he’ll break out by pretending to be laundry or something in a few weeks.
Anyway, I started making references to Whitey Bulger back when he was just … retiring … and I live in the Boston Area, because he provided me with a good analogy in teaching about behavioral biology. So, whenever Uncle Whitey gets in the news I like to repost that. So …. from an earlier post (which still refers to him as a fugitive) we have this ….
This may or may not be a recent photograph of fugitive Whitey (James) Bulger of Boston’s Winter Hill Gang. Most of you won’t know who Whitey Bulger is. He is actually on the FBI’s ten most wanted list. He may have been spotted in Italy last Spring, and the FBI is just now asking for assistance from anyone who knows where he might be. (That’s not gonna work.)
Whitey was top dog in Boston’s Winter Hill gang. His brother was a Senator for the Commwealth of Massachusetts, and served as Senate President for several years.
It is said that Whitey was an FBI informant, and that his handler, FBI Special Agent John Connolly, tipped Whitey off that he was about to be indicted on racketeering charges. No problem. Whitey had left stashes of cash in safe deposit boxes all around the world, in preparation for the day he had to go on the lam. So he took off in 1995, and the FBI has not been able to catch up. Special Agent Connolly is pulling a ten year vacation in the stir.
I remember when Whitey disappeared, and ever since then, I’ve used him almost annually in lecture material describing the Trivers-Willard hypothesis. It goes like this:
This may or may not be a recent photograph of Robert Trivers, of the Trivers-Willard Hypothesis. The Trivers-Willard model (I prefer to call it a “model” rather than a “hypothesis” because it is not specific enough to really be a hypothesis … it’s a model that generates lots of hypotheses) states that selection should favor the ability to differentially bias investment in offspring by sex if the two sexes have differential variances in reproductive success, and if there is any way to predict offspring rank. That’s a bit thick, so it requires some examples and further explanation. Maybe a story about a mobster would help..
OK, so an example: Red deer (also known as Elk) give birth to one offspring (max) per year. Males compete for access to or to be chosen by females. So, only a small percentage of male red deer mate in a given year, a significant percentage may never mate at all, and a very small percentage sire many many little red deer. Male red deer have a high variance in reproductive success. If you tried to predict how many offspring a given randomly chosen male would have, knowing nothing at all, your best guess would be the average number of offspring red deer have in an average lifetime. But you would be wrong almost every time because the actual number is highly variable. Male red deer have high variance in RS.
Females, on the other hand, have a pretty standard number of offspring. There is not much competition among them, they can always find a male to mate with, etc. If you needed to guess how many offspring a particular randomly chosen female red deer would have in a life time, you could guess the average, and you would be right on or very close. Female red deer have low variance in RS.
So, male and female red deer have differential variance in RS. Males high, females low.
If a female red deer could somehow “predict” the likelihood of her offspring getting to mate, i.e., if she could tell if any offspring she had in the present year (male or female) would be average vs. high ranking, then selection should favor the evolution of a mechanism to actually give birth to the appropriate sex offspring (thus biasing investment in one sex or the other). It turns out that she can. A female red deer that is herself average or lower-quality (thin, ill, injured) is likely to give birth to an offspring that will be either low ranking or average. But if the mother-to-be red deer is high ranking, she is likely to give birth to an individual who will grow up to be high ranking.
Under these conditions, she should have a female offspring if she’s average or low ranking, but a male if she’s high ranking. And that, it turns out, is what red deer actually do.
That should be clear. But in case it isn’t, let’s take it down do real life, and bring in the gangsters.
You check the mail this afternoon, and there is a letter from a law firm you have never heard of. It says that your Great Aunt Tillie (whom you’ve also never heard of) just died, and left you with $1,000 in her will. The check is enclosed.
This may or may not be a recent photograph of a male red deer. Holy crap. Found money! What are you going to do with it? So you and your close advisors (your roommates, your cat, etc.) discuss it and you narrow it down to two choices. Choice A and Choice B.
Choice A is to go to your broker and buy $1000 worth of a nice, relatively safe mutual fund. The fund will buy and sell reliable blue chip stocks, thus spreading the risk over several companies, and over time you can expect to get a return of 50 bucks a years, easy.
Choice B is to buy 1000 one dollar lottery tickets. Your chances of winning are slim, but if you do, you will win 87 million dollars.
So, what do you do? The obvious sane choice is to buy the mutual fund.
But what if your cousin is Whitey Bulger? Whitey Bulger, as head of the Winter Hill Gang, is said to have owned the director of the Commonwealth Lottery agency.
So now, you have two choices.
Choice A: Invest in a mutual fund and gain a return of 50 bucks a year (that’s dollars, not elk); and
Choice B: Buy 1000 PowerBall tickets and have a great deal of certainty of winning 87 million dollars.
What would you do?
In case it isn’t already clear. the baby male elk is a lottery ticket, the baby female elk is a mutual fund, but the female can guess pretty accurately if the lotter ticket (male offspring) will pay off. Because the elk’s cousin is Whitey Bulger. See?
There is now a video and a transcript of the Evolutionary Psychology Panel at CONvergence 2013. Many of you, when you watch this, will become enraged at things said by the panelists. Rumors of what was said had already been spread around on the internet and as I understand it Jerry Coyne and Stephen Pinker have already become enraged. Or maybe the loved it. I’m not sure.
If you want me to respond to any of your enraged rage regarding anything that was said, or for that matter, if you have anything at all … negative, positive, informative, whatever … to contribute to the conversation please put it in the comments below. Of late I’ve been engaged in a handful of projects that curtail my web surfing activities so if you put comments somewhere other than below this post I’m very unlikely to ever see them. This thread will not be moderated unless you post secret launch codes or whatever. (Comments are typically held in moderation until I release them unless you are a prior-trusted commenter, but I’ll put whatever you’ve got here that is not spam … or launch codes.)
Here’s the video:
The transcript is here.
In behavioral biology there is a fair amount of attention to individual quality, which may be determined by genes or parasite load or energy balance, or some interaction among these (and other) factors. Individual quality is honestly indicated by some trait or behavior; a large bright thing hanging of your head, a long bout of complex and energetic dancing, or a very loud complicated song, may be impossible to achieve in an individual with insufficient energy or some sort of disease. Therefore, other individuals looking to choose a mate can observe the traits or behaviors and do what the old guy in the cave said: “Choose wisely.”
Here is one of the nicest demonstrations of the relationship between parasite load and reproduction that I’ve seen in a while. And, as is so often the case, we gain valuable knowledge by closely observing great tits.
Here is a presentation by Genie Scott of the National Center for Science Education.
Far more people are climate change deniers than evolution deniers, but both camps use similar strategies to promote their views. Genie Scott explores the connections, the similarities, and the divergent ideologies. Where: New York. When: 10/23/2011. Hosted by the New York City Skeptics.
My friend and colleague, executive director of the National Center for Science Education’s Genie Scott, will retire by the end of the year. She’s been director of the NCSE for 26 years. Genie is a key player, perhaps the key player, in the battle to keep science in the classroom and other things that are not science out of the classroom, in public schools. She’s gotten piles of awards and has done a huge amount of great work. While a lot of people have been involved in this fight, I think it is fair to give Genie top billing in such major and momentous efforts as the fight in Dover (which sealed the fate for creationism in public schools forever). She is author of Evolution vs. Creationism: An Introduction and Not in Our Classrooms: Why Intelligent Design Is Wrong for Our Schools.
Genie was Julia’s grandfather’s undergraduate advisee, and back in the day, was a key influence on my personal interest in creationism (and the fighting thereof). Thank you Genie for everything.
She’ll be missed. Although maybe she’s not really going away, just doing other great things.
There are more details here, as well as info on the job announcement, in case you were looking for something new!
You know about the Atheists Nightmare, right? Also known as the Evolutionists Nightmare. No? It goes like this:
That’s pretty darn convincing. Until someone opens up some closed thing and there is some new species in there, then EVOLUTION IS MADE UP!!!1!!!
Well, it turns out, Evolution is True. Some guy on the internet opened up an Oreo Cookie and inside was a new organism that could only be there IF IT EVOVED IN SIDE THE COOKIE!!1!! Look here’s a picture:
A fake you say? A falsehood you say? Sorry, but Snopes was unable to disprove that this spider appeared spontaneously inside this cookie. Indeed, we all know that stuff that can’t happen happens all the time. If anything, Snopes will declare something false even when they can’t, so clearly, this spider did evolve in this Oreo Cookie.
Evolution. It’s real.
BTW, if this happens to you and creates a spider problem in your house, we can fix that.
The Rocks Don’t Lie: A Geologist Investigates Noah’s Flood by David Montgomery is new book on the Noachian flood. It is by a real life geologist and is not a creationist book. Might be a good gift for your annoying creationist relative.
Here is a write-up from the publisher:
In Tibet, geologist David R. Montgomery heard a local story about a great flood that bore a striking similarity to Noah’s Flood. Intrigued, Montgomery began investigating the world’s flood stories and—drawing from historic works by theologians, natural philosophers, and scientists—discovered the counterintuitive role Noah’s Flood played in the development of both geology and creationism. Steno, the grandfather of geology, even invoked the Flood in laying geology’s founding principles based on his observations of northern Italian landscapes. Centuries later, the founders of modern creationism based their irrational view of a global flood on a perceptive critique of geology. With an explorer’s eye and a refreshing approach to both faith and science, Montgomery takes readers on a journey across landscapes and cultures. In the process we discover the illusive nature of truth, whether viewed through the lens of science or religion, and how it changed through history and continues changing, even today.
… and here is a FREE COPY of a chapter of the book courtesy of the National Center for Science Education.
Oh, and in case you were wondering, no, it is not even close to true that “every culture has a flood myth.” But there is a falshood pertaining to that question: See “Every Culture Has A …”
Photo of the geology of Red Rock Canyon, Nevada by the author.
Here is a way you can support the Life Science teachers in your local school. Give them a poster or a hat or a T-shirt or a book or something. I’ll tell you why in a moment.
First, you have to find the teachers and start up a relationship with them. I have various relationships with various teachers around the Twin Cities area, but strangely enough my efforts to strike up a relationship with the Life Science teachers at Coon Rapids has led to nothing. The school is very close to my house. I go by it every day to do one thing or another. But when I’ve emailed the staff there I’ve never received a reply, so I’m guessing that maybe they are really busy. I’ll try again. I’ll let you know how that goes.
But never mind that.