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Directions for perpetrating a science hoax

Here, Adam Ruben, – “Experimental Error: Forging a Head” Science (April 22, 2011), reflects on how to construct a science hoax and have free publicity coming out of your ears: Attach the bones of something to the bones of something else. You have just created the missing link between those two species. “It’s amazing!” you can announce. “I’ve discovered the skeleton of the mythical half-chimp, half-sturgeon!” (Do not, however, attach the bones of something to nothing. It’s really not that impressive to declare, “I’ve discovered the skeleton of the mythical half-chimp!” Gross.) – Claim that your unique object has some impressive attribute, such as size, age, or incompatibility with accepted chronology. A 12-foot-tall, 9000-year-old Sony PlayStation, for example. – Make Read More ›

Darwinism and popular culture: PayPal co-founder on Darwin’s effect

At TechCrunch (Apr 10, 2011), Sarah Lacy catches Peter Thiel in a politically incorrect moment in “We’re in a Bubble and It’s Not the Internet. It’s Higher Education.”: the idea that attending Harvard is all about learning? Yeah. No one pays a quarter of a million dollars just to read Chaucer. The implicit promise is that you work hard to get there, and then you are set for life. It can lead to an unhealthy sense of entitlement. “It’s what you’ve been told all your life, and it’s how schools rationalize a quarter of a million dollars in debt,” Thiel says.[ … ] But Thiel’s issues with education run even deeper. He thinks it’s fundamentally wrong for a society to Read More ›

Darwinian brand marketing: it helps to be stunned

Here’s my latest Deprogram from Salvo, a magazine you should support. The stuff you are about to split a gut laughing while reading is all true: FIT FOR A ZOMBIE Evolutionary Brand Marketing for Your Survival[ … ] Hogshead is a brand marketing specialist; she helps executives persuade us to pay more for their brands. She has even formulated a theory, developed from the study of apes and neuroscience: to sell is to cast a spell, and the best strategy for casting a spell is to “fascinate” people. She has identified seven Darwinian triggers for successful sales spells. These triggers are not the fundamental reasons why we buy things, of course. We buy shoes to protect our feet, but brand Read More ›

Because we know the facts now, Rod, that’s why

Someone reminded me of this: “Darwin Pushed to Margins: Why is resistance to evolution so strong among science teachers?” Rod Dreher wonders (Big Questions On Line, Templeton Foundation, February 22, 2011) Then he lobs this: More broadly, many people of faith are drawn to the study of evolution to explore God’s work, and find a spiritual connection in their study of nature. This perspective was common in the 19th and early 20th centuries, but is not often enough articulated in current debates about evolution. Sorry, Rod, but that’s just too rotten a chestnut. Fact is, 78% of evolutionary biologists are pure naturalists (no God and no free will). Only two of 149 eminent ones were clearly theists. Let’s start with Read More ›

Academic Politics

This is mildly off-topic. And I’m guilty of little bit (maybe a lot) of ‘venting’. But here’s a link to what has allegedly happened at Oregon State University. It appears that a scientist whose children are on their way to Ph’D’s at OSU are being thrown out of the Ph’D program (one has been there 4 years already) because faculty members with connections to local Democratic politics are not happy that the scientist ran for state office as a Republican. It is simply mind-numbing what has happened to our Universities. When I was young and in college in the 60’s, the local SDS (Students for a Democratic Society–of Marxist bent) chapter yelled and screamed for a “free speech” area to Read More ›

Dawkins’s linguistic junk food – a hedge against thinking

Possibly, Richard Dawkins’s worst offense against the world of reason is the coining of the word “meme” – a “unit” of “thought” that replicates in the minds of others by neo-Darwinian natural selection. The idea itself is, of course, hardly a useful description of how people influence each other, but it serves very well as a lazy substitute for precise language.

For example, we might hear about the “hate Hilary Clinton meme”, the “Islam is the religion of peace meme”, or, even more inexcusably, the “religion meme”. These short cuts are short circuits.

How about, in order, Read More ›

Libertarians Against Darwin

I was a big fan of Robert J. Ringer in the 1970s (author of the runaway bestseller WINNING THROUGH INTIMIDATION — which was not about learning to intimidate others but about preventing others from intimidating you — good information if you have to deal with Darwinists). In the 1980s Ringer became a champion of libertarianism, which he has continued to the present, especially through his blog. In the last few years I’ve corresponded with him and learned that he too is a Darwin doubter. At his request, I wrote a short piece for his blog titled “Saving Our Freedoms from Darwin”: [EXCERPT:] Paternalists have always been infatuated with Darwin. Yet, having embraced Darwinism as a tool for social control, they became loath to Read More ›

Neuroscience and popular culture: How much are journalists to blame for pop science culture?

Don’t blame journalists, says Jonah Lehrer here on the reporting of science. He makes some excellent points:

Scientists are almost never subjected to critical coverage in the mainstream media. Quick: name the last newspaper or magazine article that dared to criticize or skeptically analyze a piece of published research. If you had trouble thinking of an article, it’s because it almost never happens. And this isn’t because science is perfect. As a JAMA study reported last year, almost a third of medical studies published in the most prestigious journals are wrong. Flat out false. These are the same studies that get that get faithfully recited in our daily newspapers day after day. This gullible reporting stands in sharp contrast to the way scientists actually perceive things. When I talk to scientists, I’m always impressed by the way they criticize the research of their peers. To take a recent example: a few weeks ago I spent over an hour listening to a neuroeconomist elegantly dissect a very influential fMRI study. (Other scientists subsequently echoed his criticisms.) And yet this same study has been covered extensively in the press, with nary a hint of skepticism. The fact is, science journalists suffer from an excess of politeness. We are intimidated by all the acronyms, and forget to ask difficult questions. But this is our duty. Most researchers, after all, are funded by tax dollars. They have an obligation to explain their research to the public.

He recommends that we stop letting science journals control the flow of news. I agree, except that in areas like “evolutionary psychology,” public funding usually means a licence to propound whatever you want, and call it science. Anyway, assuming we all agree that this situation is a problem – in the phrase of the old folk tale – who will put the bell on the cat?

Look, I am a science journalist myself, and I say yes, blame science journalists. Too many of us just do not even think to ask enough of the right questions about too many stories.

In fairness, when we do ask, as Lehrer implies, we run into problems. Read More ›