stupidity en Machines driven to meaningless, mindless murder <span>Machines driven to meaningless, mindless murder</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p><a href=""><img src="" alt="Crab_jawdrop" width="150" height="125" class="alignright size-thumbnail wp-image-17214" /></a><br /></p><p class="lead">Earlier this summer, Michael Shermer wrote a column for Scientific American to explain <a href="">Why Do Cops Kill?</a>. I was rapturously unaware of it because he's an author I long ago decided I could ignore, but just recently a reader had to destroy my state of ecstatic ignorance by pointing it out to me. I read it with growing disbelief, my jaw sagging further and further at the dreadful illogic and the scientismic insipidity of the thing. How does he still get published?</p> <p>To make it short, for those who prefer not to read anything associated with The Shermer, his answer is…it's not racism, it's because they have brain circuitry. No, really. It's even illustrated with a cartoon of a clockwork murder-bot.</p> <p><a href=""><img src="" alt="clockwork" width="277" height="213" class="aligncenter size-full wp-image-17215" /></a></p> <!--more--><blockquote class="creationist"> <p>The ongoing rash of police using deadly force against minority citizens has triggered a search for a universal cause—most commonly identified as racism. Such soul searching is understandable, especially in light of the racist e-mails uncovered in the Ferguson, Mo., police department by the U.S. Department of Justice's investigation into the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown.</p> </blockquote> <p>When black people are being killed at a greater rate than white people, and we actually have racist documents written by perpetrators, then why yes, racism does seem like a likely explanation. What more do you need?</p> <p>Since that's the opening paragraph, you know what's coming next: a great big enormous <strong>"BUT"</strong>.</p> <blockquote class="creationist"><p>To whatever extent prejudice still percolates in the minds of a few cops in a handful of pockets of American society (nothing like 50 years ago), it does not explain the many interactions between white police and minority citizens that unfold without incident every year or the thousands of cases of assaults on police that do not end in police deaths (49,851 in 2013, according to the FBI). What in the brains of cops or citizens leads either group to erupt in violence?</p> </blockquote> <p>Oh. Start by diminishing the problem: it's only a <q>few cops</q> in a <q>handful of pockets</q>, and we are so much better than we were 50 years ago. You can tell right away that this was written by a white guy who wants to handwave away the problem.</p> <p>But then comes a line of reasoning that has me wondering what drugs he was on while he was writing this piece. We can ignore racism as an explanation, because white police don't shoot <em>all</em> the black citizens they meet, and the majority of interactions between police and citizens don't involve violence. <a href="">Police kill about a thousand people per year</a>, but we should ignore that because they don't <em>usually</em> kill people? That makes no sense. No one argues that racism is only expressed in the form of murder sprees against black people, so telling us that the police don't kill every black person they meet is awfully poor evidence that racism isn't a factor.</p> <p>Likewise, telling us that <a href="">almost 50,000 instances of non-lethal attacks on police officers occurred</a> is a total non sequitur. It is irrelevant. The article starts with the problem of the police killing black people, declares it a small and shrinking problem, and then tells us that there were a lot of cases of people fighting against police officers? It makes no sense. That datum does not address his thesis in any way.</p> <p>He also selectively cites that data. 50,000 attacks sounds like a lot -- those poor oppressed policemen -- but that figure includes all incidents of resisting arrest, not the ones where an officer was killed. That number is smaller: 76 officers died in the line of duty in 2013. Of those, 49 died in traffic accidents, and 27 as a result of criminal attacks. 27 is still too many, but if we're going to compare murder scores, the police are winning.</p> <p>But even those numbers don't let racism off the hook. Shermer needs a non-racist scapegoat, so he digs down and comes up with an even more irrelevant and stupid explanation. It wasn't racism, it was <em>their brain</em> that made them kill.</p> <blockquote class="creationist"><p>An answer may be found deep inside the brain, where a neural network stitches together three structures into what neuroscientist Jaak Panksepp calls the rage circuit: (1) the periaqueductal gray (it coordinates incoming stimuli and outgoing motor responses); (2) the hypothalamus (it regulates the release of adrenaline and testosterone as related to motivation and emotion); and (3) the amygdala (associated with automatic emotional responses, especially fear, it lights up in response to an angry face; patients with damage to this area have difficultly assessing emotions in others). When Panksepp electrically stimulated the rage circuit of a cat, it leaped toward his head with claws and fangs bared. Humans similarly stimulated reported feeling uncontrollable anger.</p> </blockquote> <p>Jeepers, that sounds so <em>sciencey</em>. Look at that! Networks and circuits, generally obscure polysyllabic neuroanatomical terms, and cats with electrodes planted in their heads!</p> <p>OK, so who's been going around installing chronic stimulating electrodes into cops' amygdalas? If only we could get them to stop doing that, it would end this epidemic of seeming racism.</p> <p>Once again, like throwing random numbers around in the first part of his essay, this neurobiological explanation is empty and useless. I don't deny that there is brain circuitry involved in violent responses…of course there is. But it doesn't explain why one cop gunned down Michael Brown.</p> <p>I would ask the obvious question. Does Michael Shermer have a rage circuit in his brain? Yes, he does. Does that explain why he's a raging racist? That latter question is not implied by the fact that behavior is driven by neurons. Having this circuitry does not mean you are determined to murder black people. <em>I</em> have a rage circuit. You have a rage circuit. All the victims of execution by the police had a rage circuit. His explanation is as pointless as telling us that there is are motoneurons in our spinal cord that excite the flexor digitorum profundus to contract, causing our trigger fingers to bend. </p> <p>You cannot reduce people to a collection of proximate causes. That Shermer thinks you can, and that this is a profound explanation, is as much a case of useless babble as claiming that it was sin or demons or an imbalance of humours that is causing inequities and racial tension. It is not helpful. It has no explanatory power. It is fucking <em>stupid</em>.</p> <p>But this man has a column in Scientific American.</p> </div> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/pharyngula" lang="" about="/pharyngula" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">pharyngula</a></span> <span>Sat, 09/05/2015 - 07:30</span> <div class="field field--name-field-blog-categories field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Categories</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/channel/brain-and-behavior" hreflang="en">Brain and Behavior</a></div> </div> </div> Sat, 05 Sep 2015 11:30:56 +0000 pharyngula 14138 at How do you explain Judith Curry? <span>How do you explain Judith Curry?</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p>How do you explain a person seemingly legitimately trained in science drifting off and becoming more and more of a science denier? </p> <p>In the case of Judith Curry I was unwilling to think of her as a full on science denier for a long time because her transition into denierhood seemed to be going very slowly, methodologically. It was almost like she was trying to drift over into denier land and maybe bring a few back with her. Like some people seem to do sometimes. But no, she just kept providing more and more evidence that she does not accept climate science's concensus that global warming is real, caused by human greenhouse gas polution, involves actual warming of the Earth's surface, and is important.</p> <p>And lately she has added to this slippery sliding jello-like set of magic goal posts yet another denier meme. She is certain, after a convoluted review of "evidence" that one of the classic examples of deniers lying, deniers making stuff up to confuse and mislead policy makers, reporters, and the public, is real. </p> <p>It is not real but she says it is real. If you were looking for a last straw required to place Judith Curry plainly and simply and undoubtedly in the category of Climate Science denier, this straw has fallen heavily on the camelid's aching overburdened back. If you were looking for that one last fact that determines the balance of argument in favor (vs. against) Judith Curry being either nefarious (as all those who intentionally deny this important area of science must be) or just plain (and inexcusably) stupid (the only alternative explanation for pushing climate science denialism) than that fact has arrived.</p> <p>What the heck am I talking about? This.</p> <p>I've talked about it <a href="">here</a>. Go read that and the 100+ comments on it. In that post I contextualize and quote the following words from<a href=""> this source</a>:</p> <blockquote><p>One e-mail Phil Jones of CRU sent to my coauthors and me in early 1999 has received more attention than any other. In it, Jones both made reference to “Mike’s Nature trick” and used the phrase “to hide the decline” in describing a figure … comparing different proxy temperature reconstructions. Here was the smoking gun, climate change deniers clamored. Climate scientists had finally been caught cooking the books: They were using “a trick to hide the decline in global temperatures,” a nefarious plot to hide the fact the globe was in fact cooling, not warming! …</p> <p>The full quotation from Jones’s e-mail was …, “I’ve just completed Mike’s Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (i.e. from 1981 onwards) and from 1961 for Keith’s to hide the decline.” Only by omitting the twenty-three words in between “trick” and “hide the decline” were change deniers able to fabricate the claim of a supposed “trick to hide the decline.” No such phrase was used in the e-mail nor in any of the stolen e-mails for that matter. Indeed, “Mike’s Nature trick” and “hide the decline” had nothing to do with each other. In reality, neither “trick” nor “hide the decline” was referring to recent warming, but rather the far more mundane issue of how to compare proxy and instrumental temperature records. Jones was using the word trick [to refer to] to an entirely legitimate plotting device for comparing two datasets on a single graph…</p> <p>The reconstruction by Briffa, (see K. R. Briffa, F. H. Schweingruber, P. D. Jones, T. J. Osborn, S. G. Shiyatov, and E. A. Vaganov, “Reduced Sensitivity of Recent Tree-Growth to Temperature at High Northern Latitudes,” Nature, 391 (1998): 678–682) in particular …</p> <p>…was susceptible to the so-called divergence problem, a problem that primarily afflicts tree ring density data from higher latitudes. These data show an enigmatic decline in their response to warming temperatures after roughly 1960, … [Jones] was simply referring to something Briffa and coauthors had themselves cautioned in their original 1998 publication: that their tree ring density data should not be used to infer temperatures after 1960 because they were compromised by the divergence problem. Jones thus chose not to display the Briffa et al. series after 1960 in his plot, “hiding” data known to be faulty and misleading—again, entirely appropriate. … Individuals such as S. Fred Singer have … tried to tar my coauthors and me with “hide the decline” by conflating the divergence problem that plagued the Briffa et al. tree ring density reconstruction with entirely unrelated aspects of the hockey stick.</p></blockquote> <p>In her most recent <a href="">post</a>, Judith Curry says:</p> <blockquote><p>In hindsight, the way the Climategate emails was rolled out, after very careful scrutiny by the targeted bloggers, was handled pretty responsibly. Lets face it – “Mike’s Nature trick” to “hide the decline” means . . . “Mike’s Nature trick” to “hide the decline.”</p></blockquote> <p>That statement by Curry is demonstrably wrong. That is a fact borne of logical and scientific examination of the information, and information is not lacking. Curry is wrong.</p> <p>Beyond that, I think, as implied above, she is either doing something here that is morally wrong (lying to slow down action on climate change) or <a href="">stupid</a> (she is not smart enough to understand what she is looking at). Here, I want to be clear. The argument that Curry is wrong is logical. Ends there. She's wrong. The idea that she is either immoral or stupid is both my opinion and NOT an argument about her wrongness. I am not making an ad hominem argument. If you think that is an ad hominem argument then you don't know what an ad hominum argument is (and isn't). </p> <p>And yes, I understand that this is a rather insulting thing to say, that one is either immoral or a dumbass. But it is my children's future that is at risk here. Expect insults. </p> <p>See also this: </p> <iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""></iframe></div> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/author/gregladen" lang="" about="/author/gregladen" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">gregladen</a></span> <span>Thu, 08/20/2015 - 06:07</span> Thu, 20 Aug 2015 10:07:00 +0000 gregladen 33645 at The fuddy-duddies still thrive <span>The fuddy-duddies still thrive</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p>Kate Clancy comments on a <a href="">'satire' published in a serious journal</a>.</p> <blockquote><p><a href="">Genome Biology published</a> a satirical piece by Neil Hall today, and since I’m American and he’s British I don’t find it funny. No wait, it’s that I’m female and he’s male. Or maybe that I’m junior and he’s senior. I’ve got it, it’s because he has a ton of publications (many times the number I have), and I have a ton of Twitter followers (many times the number he has). Meaning, my K-index knocks his out of the park.</p> <p>Let me back up. You see, Hall created a joke metric he calls the Kardashian Index, which is one’s Twitter followers divided by one’s scientific citations. He writes:</p> <blockquote class="creationist"><p>“Hence a high K-index is a warning to the community that researcher X may have built their public profile on shaky foundations, while a very low K-index suggests that a scientist is being undervalued.”</p> </blockquote> </blockquote> <p>Ha ha. Hilarious. You know how you could optimize your k-index? <em>Never talk to the public at all</em>. What this guy has done is published a joke that reflects the attitude of many senior people in the scientific community, that not only is communicating science to the world valueless, it <em>reduces</em> the value of the science. If he really wants to piss on his colleagues, he should have added something about how teaching is a debit on your academic credit, too.</p> <p>I remember when <a href="">Sagan was denied tenure at Harvard (which isn't too surprising, Harvard is extraordinarily full of itself) and also refused admission to the National Academy of Sciences</a> — the perception was that he was just too danged good as a popularizer, so he couldn't possibly be a serious scientist. At the time, I was reassured that all the tightly puckered sphincters who were offended by popularizing science were old, and would be dying off, and it would be getting better. And now I'm getting old and gray myself, and they're still hanging in their, immortal, apparently. I think they must live forever by sucking the joy of science out of children's brains.</p> <p>Maybe we need a different index, one that penalizes scientists who clutter up the scientific literature with fluffy stupid opinion pieces padded with pseudoscientific and contrived formulas marked as humor. It was the kind of thing that, instead of being elevated by Genome Biology, might have been better presented as a tweet. Except that distilling it down to 140 characters would have made its inanity even more obvious, and it would have hurt his k-index.</p> </div> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/pharyngula" lang="" about="/pharyngula" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">pharyngula</a></span> <span>Fri, 08/01/2014 - 06:56</span> Fri, 01 Aug 2014 10:56:59 +0000 pharyngula 13910 at Ladybrains evolved in the Pleistocene <span>Ladybrains evolved in the Pleistocene</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p class="lead">Dr Gijsbert Stoet thinks we should <a href="">stop trying to correct gender disparities</a>.</p> <blockquote><p>Speaking at the British Education Studies Association conference in Glasgow on Friday, he argued: "We need to have a national debate on why we find it so important to have equal numbers. Do we really care that only five per cent of the programmers are women?</p> <p>"Well, actually, I don't care who programmes my computers. A wealthy, democratic society can afford to let people do what they want.</p> <p>"What is better? To have 50 per cent of female engineers who do not really like their work but say, 'Yeah, well, I did it for the feminist cause.' Or do you want three per cent or female engineers who say, 'I really like my job'?"</p> </blockquote> <p>I would say that if only 5% of programmers are women, we should ask why -- that kind of difference represents an interesting problem. And if, while exploring the problem, we learn that many more women are interested in the profession, but find themselves actively discouraged by various elements of the field, then that means there are institutional roadblocks in the way, and we should remove them.</p> <p>There is, after all, no actual known biological reason why having ovaries should interfere with the ability to program. If we can afford to let people do what they want, and it is in the interest of a democratic society to have its citizens occupied with rewarding, fulfilling work, then we should be trying to make it possible for people to do whatever they are good at, and finding evidence of extreme disparities suggests that there may be a problem that is interfering with that goal.</p> <p>Dr Stoet seems to think it's all about him -- he's happy when men program his computers, so he can ignore any injustices in the profession. But then, he's not exactly consistent in this attitude.</p> <blockquote><p>The lack of women in science and technology was diverting attention from the real issue, he said, because it was boys who generally did worse at school.</p> <p>He said: "Nobody seems to be that interested that boys have problems. We have, as human beings, a natural tendency to see woman as vulnerable and needing help. But if it's a boy who needs help, he's responsible for himself."</p> </blockquote> <p>Oh, well then, do we really care? If women are succeeding at academics, then <em>obviously</em> they have a natural aptitude for it, and we shouldn't be concerned if women naturally gravitate towards intellectual occupations. After all, what is better: to have 50% of the professoriate be men who do not really like their work but say 'Yeah, well, I did it for Men's Rights.' Or do you want 3% male academics who say, 'I really like my job'?</p> <p>Clearly, men, with their testosterone-stimulated larger muscle mass, are better suited to manual labor. I actually don't care who digs my ditches and totes my bales, so if they're all men, I'm happy. And I'm sure they'd be happier doing the work Nature has best suited them to do.</p> <p>Of course, Dr Stoet has an evolutionary argument for the difference…an <em>evolutionary psychology</em> argument. Prepare to cringe.</p> <blockquote><p>"In the face of limited resources, we should be cautious in spending money on interventions that will have no effect. Instead of focusing on equal numbers of male and female students in all subjects, I think we should strive to get boys and girls to at least perform equally good <span style="color: red">[Sic. See? Women would naturally understand grammar well; men should just shut up]</span> in all subjects (which will be very hard in itself)," he added.</p> <p>"People are often guided by their unconscious desires. In the stone age, it was useful for men to be hunters and women to look after babies, and nature has helped by encoding some of these skills in the hardware of our brain. That still influences how we think today.</p> </blockquote> <p>Aaargh. The stupid…!</p> <p>All right, let's embrace this 'reasoning'. In the stone age, women stayed in the cave or sought out tasty roots, and mashed things together to create flavorful food, while men went hunting and flung spears at things. Therefore, skill at chemistry is encoded in women's brains, while ballistics is a natural male talent. Stone age men went on long walks to hunt game, so they're better suited now to do field work in ecology, while women sat and did intricate weaving, therefore their brains are adapted to do data analysis.</p> <p>I could do this all day, inventing pseudo-scientific evo-psych rationalizations for why particular stone age tasks shaped brains in a sex-specific manner, but at least I wouldn't be doing it to somehow magically always fit 21st century Western cultural expectations. But I can't, because it's stupid.</p> <p>Why do these people forget that stone age men had mothers and stone age women had fathers, both members of the same population and sharing the same genetics, and that novel adaptations aren't likely to somehow be restricted to one sex or the other? I swear, these loons are always treating men and women as separate species evolving in parallel.</p> </div> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/pharyngula" lang="" about="/pharyngula" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">pharyngula</a></span> <span>Mon, 07/14/2014 - 06:25</span> <div class="field field--name-field-blog-categories field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Categories</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/channel/social-sciences" hreflang="en">Social Sciences</a></div> </div> </div> Mon, 14 Jul 2014 10:25:03 +0000 pharyngula 13895 at Not Great Impulse Control, Not Great Planning <span>Not Great Impulse Control, Not Great Planning</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p>Here are two pages out of this week's Swedish crime chronicle, showcasing the rare beauties of the small-town criminal mind. Both remind me of the movie <i>Fargo</i> in different ways. </p><ul><li>The first one is <a href="">awesomely stupid</a>. Wednesday shortly after noon a young couple were driving through the outskirts of Fagersta. Two police officers recognised them and flagged them down as the driver was known to have no licence. <p>The couple gets out of the car and starts arguing with the police, and then the man grabs one of the officers in a stranglehold and starts banging her head against the car. The woman hits the other officer on the back of the head. All this in broad daylight and in full view of many three-story apartment buildings! Both get pepper sprayed and taken into custody.</p> <p>The man is now held in suspicion of attempted manslaughter, threats against an officer of the law and aggravated driving without a licence. The woman is held in suspicion of violence against an officer of the law. Both are suspected of being shatteringly stupid rural meth heads.</p> <p>And Americans, take note. See how these things play out in an environment without many guns?</p> </li><li>The <a href="">second one</a> is more kind of sad but also amazing. After a burglary in Höganäs Tuesday or Wednesday, the police managed to chase the three burglars down. To their surprise they found that one of the three, a woman of 40, was in an obvious and advanced state of pregnancy. She told them that she was feeling labour pangs, and they rushed her to hospital. Luckily, it was a false alarm and she could soon join her confederates at Helsingborg police station.</li></ul></div> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/author/aardvarchaeology" lang="" about="/author/aardvarchaeology" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">aardvarchaeology</a></span> <span>Thu, 09/26/2013 - 08:20</span> Thu, 26 Sep 2013 12:20:38 +0000 aardvarchaeology 55964 at For shame, Discovery Channel <span>For shame, Discovery Channel</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p class="lead">It's shark week. I'm not going to watch a bit of it; I'm actually boycotting the Discovery Channel for the indefinite future. The reason: <a href="">An appalling violation of media ethics and outright scientific dishonesty</a>. They opened the week with a special "documentary" on Megalodon, the awesome 60 foot long shark that went extinct a few million years ago…or at least, that's what the science says. The show outright <i>lied</i> to suggest that Megalodon might still exist somewhere in the ocean.</p> <blockquote class="creationist"><p>None of the institutions or agencies that appear in the film are affiliated with it in any way, nor have approved its contents. </p> <p> Though certain events and characters in this film have been dramatized, sightings of “Submarine” continue to this day. </p> <p> Megalodon was a real shark. Legends of giant sharks persist all over the world. There is still a debate about what they may be.</p> </blockquote> <p>There is no evidence of this species' persistence, nor did they present any. They just made it all up; reality isn't awesome enough, so they had to gild the giant shark story. They've gone the way of our other so-called "documentary" channels dedicated to fact-based education -- the History channel, Animal Planet, TLC. Garbage rules.</p> <p>This also makes me sad because I already have to deal with irrational loons telling me that since coelacanths exist, scientists are wrong and humans walked with dinosaurs. I await with gritted teeth the first creationist who tries to argue that the survival of the Megalodon to modern times means it's perfectly plausible that medieval knights hunted dragons/dinosaurs.</p> <p>Thanks, Discovery Channel. And screw you.</p> </div> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/pharyngula" lang="" about="/pharyngula" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">pharyngula</a></span> <span>Tue, 08/06/2013 - 10:00</span> Tue, 06 Aug 2013 14:00:44 +0000 pharyngula 13715 at The science of antediluvian plushies <span>The science of antediluvian plushies</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p class="lead">One creationist claim that's commonly laughed at is this idea that 8 people could build a great big boat, big enough to hold all the 'kinds' of animals, and that those same 8 people were an adequate work force to maintain all those beasts for a year in a confined space on a storm-tossed ark. So the creationists have created a whole pseudoscientific field called <i>baraminology</i> which tries to survey all of taxonomy and throw 99% of it out, so they can reduce the necessary number of animals packed into the boat. Literally, that's all it's really about: inventing new taxonomies with the specific goal of lumping as many as possible, in order to minimize the load on their fantasy boat.</p> <p>In the past, I've seen them argue that a biblical 'kind' is equivalent to a genus; others have claim it's the Linnaean family. Now, Dr Jean K. Lightner, Independent Scholar (<i>i.e.</i> retired veterinarian), has taken the next step: <a href="">a kind is equivalent to an order, roughly</a>. Well, she does kind of chicken out at the Rodentia, the largest and most diverse group of mammals, and decides that <i>those</i> ought to be sorted into families, because otherwise she's reducing the number of animals on the ark too much. </p> <blockquote class="creationist"><p>Given the characteristics that unite this order and the controversy in suborder classification, one could argue that the obvious cognitum is at the level of the order. Given my personal observations of squirrels and rats, which usually are placed in different suborders (except on the dual suborder scheme where they are both in Sciurognathi), I find this suggestion appealing. However, for the purposes of this project the order is too high for such a diverse group without considerably more evidence. For this reason the level of the kind will be considered to be at the level of the family.</p> </blockquote> <p>She needs <span style="creationist">"more evidence"</span> to be able to squish all of the rodents down to one common ancestor 4,000 years ago! You know, there's no evidence given anywhere in the paper: it's just a series of abbreviated descriptions of each order (or, for the rodents, family). She made this determination by looking at photos on the web. That's it. She comes to the conclusion that only 137 kinds of mammals had to be on Noah's Ark (350, if you count extinct species, which of course she should -- Ken Ham is adamant that <i>all</i> kinds were on the ark).</p> <blockquote class="lead"><p>In this paper 137 kinds have been tentatively identified. If the fossil record is taken into consideration, this number could easily double. Beech (2012) listed terrestrial vertebrate families represented in the fossil record. In the list of mammals 210 to 218 families are not recognized here. This suggests that closer to 350 mammal kinds were on the Ark. The large number of extinct families may be partially from a tendency for paleontologists to be splitters. However, much of it reflects the fact that a large amount of the diversity previously found in mammals has been lost.</p> <p>In this serious attempt to quantify the kinds represented on the Ark, the numbers which resulted are lower than many had anticipated. Previous work had estimated the genus as the level of the kind, knowing this would significantly overestimate the number, in order to emphasize that the Ark had sufficient room for its intended purpose (Woodmorappe 1996). In discussing the results of this study with other creationists, many are surprised at how incredibly spacious the accommodations on the Ark would have been. In any case, this work is a reminder we have a Creator who cares for His creation and, even in judgment, He provides a way of salvation to those who will trust in Him.</p> </blockquote> <p>Ah, that spacious ark. "Only" 350 mammals had to be cared for by those 8 custodians, and she hasn't considered the birds and reptiles and amphibians yet. Of course, that's still a lot of poop to shovel…except she seems to have solved that problem, too.</p> <p>Here's the quality of her scholarship: this is one of her kinds, the greater gliding posum. Look carefully at that photo. Notice anything odd about it?</p> <div class="center"><a href="" rel="attachment wp-att-15666"><img src="" alt="" title="AiGplush" width="500" height="295" class="aligncenter size-large wp-image-15666" /></a></div> <p>Maybe you'd like a <a href="">closer look</a> to be really sure. <a href="">RationalWiki noticed this peculiarity</a>.</p> <div class="center"><a href="" rel="attachment wp-att-15667"><img src="" alt="" title="misty12" width="340" height="255" class="aligncenter size-full wp-image-15667" /></a></div> <p>Hmmm. It reminds me of the time we found that <a href="">Harun Yahya was using photos of fishing lures to illustrate modern insects</a>. What great science!</p> <p>But it does solve a lot of problems if the ark were stuffed full of plushies! It's also a phenomenal marketing opportunity — the museum will <i>be</i> the gift shop!</p> </div> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/pharyngula" lang="" about="/pharyngula" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">pharyngula</a></span> <span>Sun, 11/18/2012 - 09:16</span> Sun, 18 Nov 2012 14:16:22 +0000 pharyngula 13549 at The ducks are gonna get you <span>The ducks are gonna get you</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p class="lead">Some poor young girl, deeply miseducated and misled, wrote into a newspaper with a letter trying to denounce homosexuality with a bad historical and biological argument. She's only 14, and her brain has already been poisoned by the cranks and liars in her own family…it's very sad. Here's the letter — I will say, it's a very <i>creative</i> argument that would be far more entertaining if it weren't wrong in every particular.</p> <div class="center"><a href="" rel="attachment wp-att-15616"><img src="" alt="" title="ducks" width="339" height="681" class="aligncenter size-full wp-image-15616" /></a></div> <p>I've transcribed it below. I couldn't help myself, though, and had to, um, <i>annotate</i> it a bit.</p> <!--more--><blockquote class="creationist"> <p>Homosexuality, including same sex marriage, is not an enlightened idea <span style="color: red; font-family: Georgia MS">[But tolerance and acceptance of diversity are]</span>. The Romans practiced homosexuality <span style="color: red; font-family: Georgia MS">[Every culture has had homosexual individuals; they differ only in the degree of suppression. The Romans actually regarded homosexuals as effete and inferior, and used accusations of gayness as expressions of contempt, just like modern middle schoolers]</span>. Surely, after 2000 years, our level of intelligence should have evolved somewhat, so that we can truly pride ourselves of being cleverer than our forebears <span style="color: red; font-family: Georgia MS">[Two millennia is actually a short span of time for biological evolution. Also, have you ever heard of the Dark Ages? Progress is not inevitable]</span>. </p> <p> If homosexuality spreads, it can cause human evolution to come to a standstill <span style="color: red; font-family: Georgia MS">[Nope. Homosexuals reproduce. Homosexuality refers to behavior and social preferences, not to biological limitations. Also, many heterosexuals choose to not reproduce as well, and it does not stop evolution in its tracks — in complex social organisms like ours, there are many ways to contribute to the species that don't involve breeding directly]</span>. It could threaten the human position on the evolutionary ladder <span style="color: red; font-family: Georgia MS">[There is no evolutionary "ladder". You have some serious misconceptions about biology, young lady!]</span>, and say, ducks, could take over the world <span style="color: red; font-family: Georgia MS">[Evolution is not about taking over the world. There is no pinnacle. Every species has a different niche, not a different spot in a hierarchy of dominance]</span>. Ducks always nest in pairs <span style="color: red; font-family: Georgia MS">[This is called the naturalistic fallacy. You cannot draw conclusions from how one species behaves and declare that it justifies one specific kind of behavior in another species. I could point to gorillas, and announce that we should live in polygamous harems; I could point to bonobos and say that public homosexual acts ought to be accepted as a matter of course, and that we ought to have casual sex as often as we say hello. If you'd like, I could give you a long list of very kinky sexual behaviors practiced by various species on the planet; shall we decide that because <a href="">ducks rape</a>, so should we, lest we fall behind evolutionarily?]</span> and if we allow same-sex marriage, then the ducks will have evolved further than we have <span style="color: red; font-family: Georgia MS">[Ducks are just as "evolved" as we are, and we're not more evolved than any other species on the planet. Evolution is about branching trees, not climbing ladders]</span>. We will be in danger of all being equal, with ducks more equal than us <span style="color: red; font-family: Georgia MS">[That makes no sense]</span>. </p> <p> We should learn from history and not be stuck with copying ancient behavior <span style="color: red; font-family: Georgia MS">[Are you, by any chance, a follower of Jesus or Mohammed? Because you know, those faiths are all about imposing ancient rules for behavior on modern society]</span>. The government has no right to bring us back to the stone age <span style="color: red; font-family: Georgia MS">[But the Middle Ages are OK, I suppose?]</span>. I don't want my children to have to compete with ducks <span style="color: red; font-family: Georgia MS">[Wait. I'm trying to puzzle this out. Because you think ducks are all heterosexual, and your children will all be heterosexual (brace yourself, you might get a few surprises in 10 or 20 years there), and a policy of tolerance will turn every other human being homosexual, you're afraid your kids will be competing for mates with ducks? Or is it that duck heterosexuality is the only criterion that makes them acceptable for positions of power, so years from now, your children will find themselves in a workplace dominated by duck bosses, who have overcome the handicap of lack of manipulatory appendages and very small brains to be in charge of everything? I don't get it]</span>. I want them to evolve further than I have <span style="color: red; font-family: Georgia MS">[But you don't believe in evolution!]</span>. Any self-respecting human would aim for that, too. <span style="color: red; font-family: Georgia MS">[Are you aware that the Abrahamic faiths all preach that humanity is in a state of ineluctable decay since the Fall and that human sin corrupts us? I don't think any self-respecting human should be a Christian or a Jew or Muslim, for the same reason]</span> </p> <p> None of this really bears any weight for be, because I do not believe in evolution <span style="color: red; font-family: Georgia MS">[You don't understand it, either]</span>. However, the powers that be believe in evolution, and have made many decisions based on it. They should be consistent: if you believe in evolution, then you can't be in favour of homosexuality <span style="color: red; font-family: Georgia MS">[If you accept evolution, then you recognize that there are diverse successful sexual strategies in the world, and you also have a deeper appreciation of the complexity of biology, so no, you should be much more accepting of reality]</span>, or the ducks will get you in the end <span style="color: red; font-family: Georgia MS">[You can live your life in fear of ducks, or you can love your fellow human beings and encourage more love in the world. Your choice]</span>. </p> <p> Jasmin H, aged 14 <span style="color: red; font-family: Georgia MS">[You have time to grow up!]</span><br /> Homeschooled <span style="color: red; font-family: Georgia MS">[Obviously]</span>, Scargill</p> </blockquote> </div> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/pharyngula" lang="" about="/pharyngula" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">pharyngula</a></span> <span>Sat, 10/13/2012 - 08:35</span> <div class="field field--name-field-blog-categories field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Categories</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/channel/brain-and-behavior" hreflang="en">Brain and Behavior</a></div> </div> </div> Sat, 13 Oct 2012 12:35:09 +0000 pharyngula 13538 at Newsweek panders to the deluded again <span>Newsweek panders to the deluded again</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p class="lead">I've got to wonder who is responsible for this nonsense, and how it gets past the staff at <i>Newsweek</i>. Every once in a while, they've just <i>got</i> to put up a garish cover story touting the reality of Christian doctrine, and invariably, the whole story is garbage. This time around, the claim is proof of life after death, in <a href="">Heaven Is Real: A Doctor’s Experience With the Afterlife</a>. This time, we have a real-live doctor who has worked at many prestigious institutions, as we are reminded several times in the story, whose brain was shut down and who then recites an elaborate fantasy of visiting heaven.</p> <!--more--><blockquote class="creationist"> <p>Very early one morning four years ago, I awoke with an extremely intense headache. Within hours, my entire cortex—the part of the brain that controls thought and emotion and that in essence makes us human—had shut down. Doctors at Lynchburg General Hospital in Virginia, a hospital where I myself worked as a neurosurgeon, determined that I had somehow contracted a very rare bacterial meningitis that mostly attacks newborns. E. coli bacteria had penetrated my cerebrospinal fluid and were eating my brain. </p> <p> When I entered the emergency room that morning, my chances of survival in anything beyond a vegetative state were already low. They soon sank to near nonexistent. For seven days I lay in a deep coma, my body unresponsive, my higher-order brain functions totally offline.</p> </blockquote> <p>Those are the last true words stated in the story. I believe that part; yes, there are catastrophically dangerous diseases that can so disrupt brain function that the victim loses all higher brain function. I don't have reason to doubt that this Dr Eben Alexander suffered from such a debilitating problem.</p> <p>But then it gets weird. After he regains consciousness a week later, he starts assembling an elaborate account of visiting heaven.</p> <blockquote class="creationist"><p>Toward the beginning of my adventure, I was in a place of clouds. Big, puffy, pink-white ones that showed up sharply against the deep blue-black sky. </p> <p> Higher than the clouds—immeasurably higher—flocks of transparent, shimmering beings arced across the sky, leaving long, streamerlike lines behind them. </p> <p> Birds? Angels? These words registered later, when I was writing down my recollections. But neither of these words do justice to the beings themselves, which were quite simply different from anything I have known on this planet. They were more advanced. Higher forms.</p> </blockquote> <p>Notice that key phrase: "words registered later". He was not writing this stuff down while he was in a brain-dead state; I would argue that he was also not experiencing them at that time. These were stories that he built later, as he was coming to grips with that past trauma, and they were a means of coping with a huge painful gap in his memory. We <i>know</i> that this is what our brains do; it fills gaps in our knowledge with imaginary events to maintain continuity, a process called confabulation. This is all Alexander is doing, is <i>making up</i> fairy tales to comfort himself after a serious shock.</p> <blockquote class="creationist"><p>It took me months to come to terms with what happened to me. Not just the medical impossibility that I had been conscious during my coma, but—more importantly—the things that happened during that time.</p> </blockquote> <p>Isn't that telling enough? It took him months to build his story. He hadn't been conscious during his coma, but he sure was afterwards.</p> <p>Now why would he invent a Christian afterlife, though?</p> <blockquote class="creationist"><p>Although I considered myself a faithful Christian, I was so more in name than in actual belief. I didn’t begrudge those who wanted to believe that Jesus was more than simply a good man who had suffered at the hands of the world. I sympathized deeply with those who wanted to believe that there was a God somewhere out there who loved us unconditionally. In fact, I envied such people the security that those beliefs no doubt provided. But as a scientist, I simply knew better than to believe them myself.</p> </blockquote> <p>Yeah, yeah, I've heard that line of crap before. "I'm a serious, hard-nosed scientist, I wouldn't believe in that Christian stuff unless it was really true!" It's a common trope. This guy was soaking in Christianity, wanted to believe in Christianity, and I don't care if he was a Harvard neuroscientist, he was still vulnerable to self-delusion.</p> <p>But here's the real killer for me. People who go through these fantasies often tell of awe-inspiring insights that they receive and are quick to tell us how brilliant they were in Heaven. Alexander is no exception.</p> <blockquote class="creationist"><p>Each time I silently put one of these questions out, the answer came instantly in an explosion of light, color, love, and beauty that blew through me like a crashing wave. What was important about these blasts was that they didn’t simply silence my questions by overwhelming them. They answered them, but in a way that bypassed language. Thoughts entered me directly. But it wasn’t thought like we experience on earth. It wasn’t vague, immaterial, or abstract. These thoughts were solid and immediate—hotter than fire and wetter than water—and as I received them I was able to instantly and effortlessly understand concepts that would have taken me years to fully grasp in my earthly life.</p> </blockquote> <p>What were these concepts, you might wonder. He's a neuroscientist; shouldn't we expect some great "A-ha!" moments, some new powerful revelations about how the brain works that would revolutionize his field of study?</p> <p>But of course not. He returns from his mind-expanding experience and does not sit down to write a revolutionary new paper on the science of the mind, but instead, as usual, writes a bunch of banal drivel about angels. This is the deep message that he shares with us that would have taken years to fully grasp, he claims.</p> <blockquote class="creationist"><p>“You are loved and cherished, dearly, forever.” </p> <p> “You have nothing to fear.” </p> <p> “There is nothing you can do wrong.”</p> </blockquote> <p>Here's a deep message for you: brain damage can persuade you of the truth of some real bullshit.</p> </div> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/pharyngula" lang="" about="/pharyngula" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">pharyngula</a></span> <span>Tue, 10/09/2012 - 05:30</span> Tue, 09 Oct 2012 09:30:17 +0000 pharyngula 13536 at The stupidification of all media <span>The stupidification of all media</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p class="lead">I saw that <a href="">Doonesbury</a> made a joke of it, so I had to look it up. It's true. Americans were surveyed to see <a href="">which presidential candidate they thought would handle a UFO invasion best</a>.</p> <blockquote><p>The channel surveyed 1,114 Americans in late May to get their thoughts on all things alien in anticipation of the channel's upcoming series "Chasing UFOs." It even asked which superhero Americans would turn to first in the event of an alien invasion. (It's the Hulk.)</p> <p>Obama was particularly strong on the issue with women, with 68% saying they favor the president when it comes to dealing with flying saucers. And 61% of male respondents agreed. Obama also did well among Americans older than 65, with fully half of those surveyed casting their lot with him.</p> </blockquote> <p>I really don't give a damn which candidate won, any more than I care which comic book character they think would best fight little green men.</p> <p>No, what made my eyebrows rise was the perpetrator of this idiocy.</p> <blockquote><p>National Geographic Channel found that nearly 65% of Americans surveyed said they believed that Obama was better able to handle an alien onslaught than the Republican presidential candidate.</p> </blockquote> <p>The National Geographic Society is not synonymous with the National Geographic Channel, which is largely owned by News Corporation, Rupert Murdoch's sinister organization. But still…National Geographic has their good name attached to this garbage? For shame.</p> </div> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/pharyngula" lang="" about="/pharyngula" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">pharyngula</a></span> <span>Sun, 08/26/2012 - 21:46</span> Mon, 27 Aug 2012 01:46:22 +0000 pharyngula 13507 at