Social Sciences

I think I've made it pretty clear that I loathe political conventions and campaigns in general, with their tired litany of empty language and meaningless cliches. Rarely does anyone even attempt to address a real issue in real terms. Today one of my favorite actors, Ron Silver, gave one of those brief little hoorah speeches at the Republican convention, and it was full of mostly tired cliches as usual, but there was one statement in it that stood out to me because it provides at least a glimpse of a real and larger issue that I think we must address one way or the other. He said: Even though…
Marriage, we're told by the president and a lot of other people, can only be between one man and one woman. Anything else would go against thousands of years of tradition and nature itself. If the president's DNA could talk, I think it might disagree. In the 1980s, geneticists began to study variations in human DNA to learn about the origin of our species. They paid particular attention to the genes carried by mitochondria, fuel-producing factories of the cell. Each mitochondrion carries its own small set of genes, a peculiarity that has its origins over two billion years ago, when our single…
Jon Rowe has written an absolute must-read essay on our favorite intrepid campaigner, Alan Keyes, and our favorite nihilist-who-sounds-like-a-fundamentalist philosopher, Allan Bloom. I was not aware until I read it that Keyes was the person that Bloom was referring to in his book The Closing of the American Mind, when he told the story of a black student at Cornell who had been threatened by radical black students and the administration would do nothing about it. In fact, other than the fact that they both are social conservatives, I had no idea that Keyes was a student of Bloom at all. As…
Jon Rowe has written an absolute must-read essay on our favorite intrepid campaigner, Alan Keyes, and our favorite nihilist-who-sounds-like-a-fundamentalist philosopher, Allan Bloom. I was not aware until I read it that Keyes was the person that Bloom was referring to in his book The Closing of the American Mind, when he told the story of a black student at Cornell who had been threatened by radical black students and the administration would do nothing about it. In fact, other than the fact that they both are social conservatives, I had no idea that Keyes was a student of Bloom at all. As…
Jon Rowe has a post about the WorldNutDaily called Antistatism Makes for Strange Bedfellows. He says:I think the strangest case of antistatist politicsin fact, libertarian politicsmaking for strange bedfellows is how the Christian Reconstructionists have managed to infiltrate libertarian circles, indeed calling themselves Christian libertarians. Like real libertarians, they too want to eliminate todays big-government. And he goes on to note that the "christian libertarians" want to replace this big government with, of course, a biblical theocracy. I thought I'd add a little information to…
[Note: This is a copy of a document found at this link on John Lott's website on April 25, 2005. I have added critical commentary, written in italics like this. Tim Lambert ] 1) Did I Attribute the 98 Percent Brandishing Number to Others? No Apparently, some credence is being given to the claim that I have attributed the 98 percent brandishing estimate to others instead of myself. Some are taking this as evidence that I never conducted the survey. Yet, the fact is I never attributed this number to anyone else other than myself. It is claimed that I attributed this number to Gary Kleck on…
Our brains are huge, particularly if you take into consideration the relative size of our bodies. Generally, the proportion of brain to body is pretty tight among mammals. But the human brain is seven times bigger than what you'd predict from the size of our body. Six million years ago, hominid brains were about a third the size they are today, comparable to a chimp's. So what accounts for the big boom? It would be flattering ourselves to say that the cause was something we are proud of--our ability to talk, or our gifts with tools. Certainly, our brains show signs of being adapted for these…
I've been doing some reading today of two of my favorite living essayists, Stanley Crouch and Nat Hentoff. They are both intellectuals, cultural observers, literary critics and, primarily, jazz critics. Both have written for the Village Voice. Both are also relatively controversial figures, for different reasons. Crouch is controversial for many reasons. He is a black intellectual who still uses the term "negro"; he calls afrocentrism a "simple-minded hustle" and Louis Farrakhan "insane"; and he has had a few major run-ins with colleagues, one of which led to his dismissal from the Voice. He…
From the files of our intrepid vice police comes this story about Baltimore Ravens fullback Corey Fuller. His house in Tallahassee, Florida was raided by 20 - TWENTY - law enforcement officers on Tuesday night. Was he hiding stolen goods? Peddling crack? Storing bodies in his crawlspace? Nope. What was this obvious threat to society doing? Well, he was playing poker with his friends. And for this horrible crime against humanity, he now faces up to 5 years in prison and a $5000 fine. Color me pissed, and not just because I participate in weekly poker games of this sort (though presumably for…
I posted on who I thought was the funniest comedian a few days ago, now it's time for who I think is the funniest writer of our day. The award goes to Joe Queenan. Queenan is a freelance writer who has written in dozens and dozens of magazines as diverse as Spy and Forbes. He has also authored several books, including Balsamic Dreams: A Short but Self-Important History of the Baby Boomer Generation, My Goodness: A Cynic's Short-Lived Search for Sainthood, and the funniest of them all: Red Lobster, White Trash and the Blue Lagoon. This last book is simply one of the funniest books ever written…
Rusty from New Covenant has replied to my post on the religious right lowering its expectations, but more specifically to a comment I made at the end. I ended the post by saying, "The culture war isn't going well for the religious right. Another victory for true decency." Rusty responds:True decency? Why is it that Darwinists continue to hold on to ideas such as decency, morality, justice, and rights? Actually, what I should ask is: Why do inconsistent Darwinists continue to hold on to such ideas? Let me say a couple of things. First, I hate the term "darwinist". I am no more a "darwinist"…
They seem to be in desperate need of a fact checker at the Worldnetdaily. One of their features is called The American Minute, written by Bill Federer. Federer is president of Amerisearch, which is described as "a publishing company dedicated to researching America's noble heritage." Based on this snippet from one of his columns, I'd say their dedication to research far exceeds their ability to research. After noting that Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin were both born on the same day, he says:Lincoln is best known for freeing the slaves by issuing the Emancipation Proclamation, affirming…
Last week I wrote a post about some new research that suggests that global warming could trigger large-scale extinctions in the next few decades. In particular, I dissected some of the objections that were leveled at the study, pointing out how irrelevant they are to the actual science at hand. Some people who posted comments raised a question that I didn't talk much about: how did biodiversity respond to rapid climate change in the not-so-distant past? After all, in the past 2.5 million years (known as the Quaternary Period) Earth's climate has become particularly jumpy. It has swung in and…
Josh Claybourn has an interesting blog that I read now and then, but this morning he has an odd entry on the front page entitled "Libertarian Freedom: Self Destruction?". I think he's engaging in a bit of a straw man - at the very least, in drastically oversimplifying complex ideas. The entry begins,The consequence of original sin - man's fallen nature - is central to everything in the Christian worldview. Marxists, humanists, and most atheists/agnostics will tell you that human nature is perfectible and that only our faulty societies and social constructs have hindered man's reach for…
Just before the winter solstice brings autumn to an end, here's a chance to blog about the great evolutionary biologist--and student of fall foliage--William Hamilton. Hamilton, who died in 2000, has never reached the household-name status of other evolutionary biologists such as E.O. Wilson or Richard Dawkins or Stephen Jay Gould. But he deserves a place of privilege, for all his profoundly influential ideas. He found an explanation for altruistic behavior in many insect species by expanding biology's notion of fitness to include the genes an individual shares with its relatives. He offered…
I've long been active in the battle over the teaching of evolution in public schools. One of the arguments that we hear quite often is the "Fairness Argument". It goes like this: There are two explanations for the existence of life on earth, either life evolved by "random chance" (evolution) or it was put here by a creator (creationism or "intelligent design theory"); since neither has been "proven", it's only fair that if you're going to teach one, you should teach them both and let the kids decide. To the average person, this argument sounds eminently reasonable. Who, after all, could argue…
There is an e-mail making the rounds with a set of arguments alleging to prove that the US is a "Christian Nation." The entire e-mail was taken directly, word for word, from this webpage: http://www.errantskeptics.org/hold_quotes_2.htm, which was in turn taken from an article in Worldnetdaily, and which is quoted verbatim on what seems like hundreds of other webpages. I've put the original in italics and my responses in normal text. We are a Christian nation. A loaded beginning right off the bat. This statement could mean two very different things, and has been used to mean both things…
Futurepundit has an interesting post based on a new paper about so-called junk DNA. Only 2% or so of the human genome actually encodes protein sequences. The rest is a grab-bag of broken genes and virus-like sequences called mobile elements that hijack the cell's DNA copying-machinery from time to time and insert new copies of themselves back into the genome. A pair of scientists have come up with some ideas about why organisms like us have junk-rich genomes, while bacteria have barely any. I was going to post on it until pre-Thanksgiving business overwhelmed me. After summarizing this…
Chris Mooney, CalPundit, Signal+Noise and others have been doing a great job of keeping track of the woeful textbook battles down in Texas. The Board of Education there has been arguing over how evolution should be presented in the textbooks they're about to buy for the state's high school students. The Discovery Institute, the headquarters of "Intelligent Design" proponents, has been lobbying them hard to present their ideas on equal footing with those of evolutionary biology. It looks this morning like they've lost (again). The conservative members of the board are disappointed--they say…