All posts for the topic: Evolution and Biology

Bringing Science to Wellness Panel at Sydney Science Festival

Est Reading Time: 7 minHere’s a belated liveblog of the panel, which I thought would be focussed on making our definition of wellness more scientific but was actually about the wellness (ie. CAM) industry. There’s also a podcast about the panel on Radio National. DO NOT READ THE COMMENTS ON THAT PAGE! The panelists were: Natasha Mitchell from Radio National as the moderator (NM in this post) Professor Margaret Allman-Farinelli, a nutritionist (MAF) Christopher Zinn, a consumer advocate (CZ) Dr Sarah McKay, a neuroscientist turned science blogger (SM) Liz Graham, editor of body+soul (LG) Italics are comments from me. NM: How many of us […]

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Measuring Evolution with Molecular Clocks at Sydney Science Festival

Est Reading Time: 4 minIt’s Sydney Science Festival this week so I’m going to 4 talks and liveblogging them. Tonight’s talk by Simon Ho is Time After Time: Measuring Evolution with Molecular Clocks, discussing the research he’s been involved with. When we look at the picture we’ve built up of the history of life over the last 3.5 billion years, we have increasing diversity of life punctuated by mass extinctions (eg. the Cretaceous extinction that killed the dinosaurs and the much larger Permian extinction). However, the details have mainly been obtained through the fossil record which is systematically incomplete for these reasons: Single-celled and […]

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Atheists don’t exist (if you’re misleading enough)

Est Reading Time: 6 minThis is an oldie (from 2014) but a goodie. A legit science website (Science 2.0) publishes an blog post entitled Scientists discover that atheists might not exist, and that’s not a joke by Nury Vittachi. It’s a great example of what happens when you try to be so nuanced and sophisticated that your head gets sucked up into your own ass. The overall premise of the article is that studies seem to show that all people may tacitly hold religious beliefs. And hence people who identify as atheists may not be “true” atheists because subconsciously they still engage in religious […]

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Moral panic about “genderless” kids

Est Reading Time: 4 minThere have been some stories over the last few years of parents who are raising a “genderless” child. Of course, this always gets a severe case of moral panic and I have found even people who are usually a bit less prone to such stuff lose their shit a little. Two of the famouse cases are of Storm from Toronto in 2011 and Pop from Sweden in 2009. The level of outrage that this type of stuff inspires highlights how invested a lot of people are in traditional gender binaries. It was very common for this to be declared child […]

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Red Flag Words: A List

Est Reading Time: 3 minAges ago, it occured to me that some words are just red flags for ridiculous arguments. Not exactly groundbreaking, I know. Yet it was surprising that there’s quite a lot of them. In my biased experience, when someone uses one of these words in an argument, this is usually an indication that they’re saying something cringeworthy. Of course I don’t mean that I don’t accept any of these as concepts (there are some that I don’t but most I do, in a limited sense). It just means that I’ve found that something like 90% of the time, the person who […]

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An Epic Thread of Mind-Boggling Genesis Discussion

Est Reading Time: 9 minI’ve read a lot of claims by creationists so I’m used to wildly biologically-implausible claims. However, I’ve been having a slight back and forth that was so strange and dare I say ridiculous that I just have to share it. It’s about this old post where I discuss the story in Genesis where Jacob puts speckles in front of sheep so they see them as they’re mating in order to get speckled sheep. Below is a slightly-abridged and reparagraph version of the utterly bizarre conversation that started 3 weeks ago, over 3 years after the post was written. I’ve illustrated […]

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People Believe a LOT of Nonsense on Evolution, Creationism, Religion

Est Reading Time: 6 minI’m not talking about creationists, that goes without saying. I’m talking about the fact that a very high percentage of arguments by people who claim that evolution and religion are compatible are in fact nonsense. Via Jerry Coyne, an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education that made me lose my faith in humanity just a little more. In terms of both the article and the comments. It’s a microcosm of the kind of muddle-headed thinking that often comes up when evolution and religion are discussed together. Here we go: The article is about a theory advanced by Dan McAdams […]

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Behaviourism and Animal Behaviour

Est Reading Time: 3 minA quick follow-up to last week’s post about the dancing squid. An interesting related post was made on the Seed of Reason blog in 2009. The post speaks of the danger of basing too much of our conclusions about the lives of animals on direct observation — which I would count as including our intuitions about (say) whether a squid is alive or not. Animals have a tendency to think outside of our cultural boxes in their choice of behaviors. Consider another experiment in which the experimenters attempted to teach a primate how to make stone tools (with which they […]

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Dancing Squids and Human Judgement

Est Reading Time: 3 minYou might have seen this video making the rounds a few months ago. It’s of a whole (small) squid on a bowl of rice in presumably a Japanese restaurant. The diner pours soy sauce over the squid and it starts to wriggle around coming alive. My first impression of the video was of horror — despite what the website I found it on said, I thought “there’s no way this squid is anything but alive”. Having been primed with my commentary I invite you to watch this short video: [Video link] NOTE: the original video was taken down for copyright […]

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Interesting Stuff: Sokal the Second

Est Reading Time: 4 minYou’re probably familiar with the original Sokal’s Hoax. If not here’s a brief summary otherwise skip down to the Sokal 2 heading. The Sokal hoax was perpetrated by Alan Sokal, a professor of physics+mathematics dismayed at the excesses of postmodernism in academia. He was particularly annoyed by the radical social constructivist project that stated that all knowledge (especially science, being the object in question) is socially constructed and is simply the result of social negotiation between the power parties. Particularly egregious in his view was that academics in this arm of science studies were happy to write on areas of […]

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