Category Archives: Science

October 15, 2017

The Real War on Science

The Left has done far more than the Right to set back progress.

My liberal friends sometimes ask me why I don’t devote more of my science journalism to the sins of the Right. It’s fine to expose pseudoscience on the left, they say, but why aren’t you an equal-opportunity debunker? Why not write about conservatives’ threat to science?

My friends don’t like my answer: because there isn’t much to write about. Conservatives just don’t have that much impact on science. I know that sounds strange to Democrats who decry Republican creationists and call themselves the “party of science.” But I’ve done my homework. I’ve read the Left’s indictments, including Chris Mooney’s bestseller, The Republican War on Science. I finished it with the same question about this war that I had at the outset: Where are the casualties?

Where are the scientists who lost their jobs or their funding? What vital research has been corrupted or suppressed? What scientific debate has been silenced? Yes, the book reveals that Republican creationists exist, but they don’t affect the biologists or anthropologists studying evolution. Yes, George W. Bush refused federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research, but that hardly put a stop to it (and not much changed after Barack Obama reversed the policy). Mooney rails at scientists and politicians who oppose government policies favored by progressives like himself, but if you’re looking for serious damage to the enterprise of science, he offers only three examples.

[…]

Complete text linked here.

October 13, 2017

My Chat with Harvard Evolutionist Joe Henrich – The Saad Truth (Video)

Must watch video.

October 6, 2017

‘Our minds can be hijacked’: the tech insiders who fear a smartphone dystopia

Google, Twitter and Facebook workers who helped make technology so addictive are disconnecting themselves from the internet. Paul Lewis reports on the Silicon Valley refuseniks alarmed by a race for human attention.

Justin Rosenstein had tweaked his laptop’s operating system to block Reddit, banned himself from Snapchat, which he compares to heroin, and imposed limits on his use of Facebook. But even that wasn’t enough. In August, the 34-year-old tech executive took a more radical step to restrict his use of social media and other addictive technologies.

Rosenstein purchased a new iPhone and instructed his assistant to set up a parental-control feature to prevent him from downloading any apps.

He was particularly aware of the allure of Facebook “likes”, which he describes as “bright dings of pseudo-pleasure” that can be as hollow as they are seductive. And Rosenstein should know: he was the Facebook engineer who created the “like” button in the first place.

A decade after he stayed up all night coding a prototype of what was then called an “awesome” button, Rosenstein belongs to a small but growing band of Silicon Valley heretics who complain about the rise of the so-called “attention economy”: an internet shaped around the demands of an advertising economy.

[…]

Complete text linked here.

October 2, 2017

Mars missions ‘should be all-female’ to avoid sex and fighting in space, NASA report says

Sharman told an audience at the Excel centre that NASA concluded that an all-female crew would be better as women were ‘more collaborative’ and men would squabble over who was ‘the leader’.

A secret report created by NASA has suggested that any Mars mission should be single-sex – and ideally all-female.

The secret report was revealed today by British astronaut, Helen Sharman, who said it was filed some years ago.

Sharman claims that the report suggests the Mars mission should be single-sex, as it’s liable to last a year and a half – and that all-female crews work better as a team.

Ms Sharman said: ‘I did hear some years ago that there was a report.

‘Nasa has never released it, but it was done to see exactly the kind of crew makeup was necessary for the reason we have already alluded to.

[…]

Complete text linked here.

October 1, 2017

Intelligence, Wisdom and Evolution (Video)

An exploration of wisdom and its evolutionary meaning.

September 25, 2017

Evolutionary Geneticists Spot Natural Selection Happening Now in People

Everyone who’s been through high school knows about Darwin and natural selection. It’s difficult to study how it works while we’re experiencing it, but we now have some idea of how natural selection is affecting humans.

Human evolution can seem like a phenomenon of the distant past which applies only to our ancestors living millions of years ago. But human evolution is ongoing. To evolve simply means that mutations — the accidental changes to genes that happen normally in the process of copying DNA — are becoming more or less common in the population over time.

These changes can happen by chance, because the individuals who reproduced happened to carry a particular mutation somewhat more often than individuals who didn’t have children. They can also happen because of natural selection, when carriers of a specific mutation are better able to survive, reproduce, or tend to their family members — and therefore leave more descendants. Every biological adaptation, from the ability of humans to walk upright on two feet to flight in birds, ultimately traces back to natural selection acting on these minute changes, generation after generation.

So humans are definitely still evolving. The question is whether we are still adapting: are individuals who carry harmful mutations living less long, reproducing less — ultimately leaving fewer descendants? For instance, terrible eyesight may have been a major survival disadvantage living on the savanna, but with glasses and laser surgery, it’s unlikely to prevent people from living a long life today. How commonly then are mutations under selection in contemporary humans?

[…]

Complete text linked here.

September 9, 2017

Massive Genetic Study Shows How Humans are Evolving

Analysis of 215,000 people’s DNA suggests variants that shorten life are being selected against.

A huge genetic study that sought to pinpoint how the human genome is evolving suggests that natural selection is getting rid of harmful genetic mutations that shorten people’s lives. The work, published in PLoS Biology, analysed DNA from 215,000 people and is one of the first attempts to probe directly how humans are evolving over one or two generations.

To identify which bits of the human genome might be evolving, researchers scoured large US and UK genetic databases for mutations whose prevalence changed across different age groups. For each person, the parents’ age of death was recorded as a measure of longevity, or their own age in some cases.

“If a genetic variant influences survival, its frequency should change with the age of the surviving individuals,” says Hakhamanesh Mostafavi, an evolutionary biologist at Columbia University in New York City who led the study. People who carry a harmful genetic variant die at a higher rate, so the variant becomes rarer in the older portion of the population.

[…]

Complete text linked here.

September 5, 2017

The Neuroscience of Intelligence: Dr. Richard Haier – Jordan Peterson (Video)

There is almost nothing more important to understand about people than intelligence. It can be measured more accurately than anything else in the social sciences. It differs tremendously and importantly between individuals. It is the single most important determinant of life success. It’s very existence, however, remains subject to substantive debate, most of it highly politicized.

August 18, 2017

German Scientist Tests Drugging Citizens To Make Them Welcome Migrants

Scientists from the University of Bonn in Germany think they should drug people with oxytocin to make them more welcoming to immigrants.

The scientists wanted to test the hypothesis that social conditioning combined with doses of Oxytocin would increase the likelihood and amount of donations to refugees from the Middle East. The participants were given 50 Euros and had to decide how much money to donate to 25 local people in need versus 25 refugees in need. The kicker is that at the end if there is any money left over they get to keep it. Once the drugs and the societal pressure kicks in though, people were reportedly much more likely to hand over their cash.

The person in charge of the study, Professor Rene Hurlemann, said that society developed “xenophobia” as an evolutionary means of survival. However, Hurlemann doesn’t seem to care much about that. Hurlemann wants to investigate the mechanisms of xenophobia on the neurobiological level. So, to do that, he decided to drug people with happy pills and see if that would make them more accepting of immigrants.

This is what counts as science today – a study the figured out that if you give people more Oxytocin and you tell them it’s normal to give money to refugees that they’ll give more money to refugees. Perhaps these scientists should take a literature class. In 1931, Aldous Huxley wrote Brave New World, in which people were given a drug called soma in order to sooth them and incapacitate their ability to think critically. It did not end well for them.

[…]

Complete text linked here.

August 1, 2017

How Intelligence Leads to Stereotyping

A new study complicates the trope of the stupid bigot.

Upon seeing a young man hoisting a Hitler salute in 2017, most people likely do not think, “there goes a Rhodes Scholar.” Racists stereotype other people, for the most part, but there are also stereotypes about racists. And the stereotype about racists is that, well, they’re kind of dumb.

But a new study complicates the narrative that only unintelligent people are prejudiced. The paper, published recently in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, suggests smart people are actually more at risk of stereotyping others.

The study consisted of a series of experiments, all of which suggested that people who performed better on a test of pattern detection—a measure of cognitive ability—were also quicker to form and apply stereotypes.

First, researchers from New York University showed 271 participants a series of pictures of red, blue, and yellow cartoon aliens with different facial features, paired with a statement of either a nice behavior (“gave another alien a bouquet of flowers”) or a rude one (“spat in another alien’s face”).

[…]

Complete text linked here.