February 23, 2013

Douthat talks about the leisurely poor in new shark-jumping record

Ross Douthat just set new records for himself in shark-jumping. This goes beyond his "Catholic moment" and other nonsense of the last two weeks, and makes me seriously wonder if the National Review, or somebody worse, isn't negotiating with him to jump ship, bribing him, or similar.

Per my header, here's this:
So instead of spreading from the top down, leisure time — wanted or unwanted — is expanding from the bottom up. Long hours are increasingly the province of the rich.  
Yes, that's what he said.

He didn't use the word "lazy," but, he pretty much does in half a dozen ways through the rest of the column.

We have this:
Many of the Americans dropping out of the work force are not destitute: they’re receiving disability payments and food stamps, living with relatives, cobbling together work here and there, and often doing as well as they might with a low-wage job. 
Which seems to imply this "dropping out" is entirely voluntary when, in reality, it's nowhere near that. The long-term underemployed, just like the long-term unemployed, have more and more trouble getting back to full-time work.

But, that is conjoined, in the same paragraph, as this:
Those riches mean that we can probably find ways to subsidize — through public means and private — a continuing decline in blue-collar work.
Those "dropouts" (all voluntary, of course) are being "subsidized." Funny how wingnuts talk about how much more money we could take home if our bosses could just pay us what they instead pay into government unemployment insurance programs. But then, when it comes time to actually use that money, well, that's "subsidization."

Douthat then gives us his Catholic moment version of the Protestant work ethic as another reason to worry about all these dropout goldbrickers who love the easy street of sleeping on a relative's couch.

The Black Count: When France led the West in race equality

The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte CristoThe Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Fascinating bio of whom the book says ... the man who spent part of his life, early on, near Monte Cristo ... in today's Haiti!

And, the man who was indeed the inspiration for Alexandre Dumas' famous protagonist because ... he was Dumas' father!

Alex Dumas, son of an impoverished French scion who joined his younger brother in Haiti and eventually ran off with the slave woman who became Alex' mother, rose to the rank of general in the army of revolutionary France, only to be shunted aside when a reactionary racist worked his way higher and higher up the French ranks.

You know this reactionary racist as Napoleon Bonaparte, the man who attempted to reconquer Saint Domingue (Haiti) and re-install slavery there; the man who gutted the egalitarianism, including that of race, the original Republic had proclaimed and which, pre-Great Britain, actually had its foundation in the ancien regime.

I'd read Dumas' book long ago, but knew nothing about his personage and history, let alone his family tree, including the multiracial fatehr.



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Pop Ev Psych and sexism

Legitimate evolutionary psychology, as it has developed, has enough problem with scientific rigor, especially on gender issues. That all starts with its idea of an environment of evolutionary adaptiveness, or EEA.

Ev Psych "conveniently" postulates a long history of Homo sapiens as hunter-gatherers, with noble, brawny males battling to hunt down big game while dutiful demure women gathered up tubers, roots and herbs.

However, early in H. sapiens' history, and going back to our Homo erectus predecessors, we were scavenger-gatherers long before, and for many millennia before, become hunter gatherers. Nothing "noble" about it. Nothing particular androcentric about it, either. 

Of course, that's actually three scientific problems, or more.
  • Getting human development wrong by ignoring scavenger-gathererers;
  • Trying to artificially constrain the "evolutionary" part by limiting it to homo sapiens;
  • Either accidentally or willfully putting Nos 1 and 2 in the service of sexist conclusions.  
That said, as someone who accepts the neo-Darwinian findings of evolution by natural selection, I don't argue with the baseline idea, that as hominids, including but not limited to H. sapiens, evolved, so did the minds expressed by their brains in interaction with their external environments.

I do object to the things above.

Beyond that, I object to:
  • Making unfalsifiable statements, especially ones we may NEVER be able to falsify. And, given that brains generally don't fossilize, that covers a lot of territory.
  • Telling "just-so" stories, for which Steve Gould, especially, criticized evolutionary psychologists.    
Pop Evolutionary Psychology is to legitimate ev psych (to the degree it's becoming more legit) as Dan Dennett's idea of folk psychology is to legitimate psychology (to the degree psychology is becoming more legit scientifically). And, in going beyond the first three issues with much of ev pscyh, Pop Ev Psychers seem determined to be egregious about the second set of bullet points.

(Note: This post was inspired, originally, and developed from, one I did about sexual objectification among Pop Ev Psychers and nth-wave feminists alike. And, yes, feminists can be sexists, just like blacks or other populations can be racists.)

The  EEA, being based on sexist ideas about hunter-gatherer societies’ operation, as well as further sexist ideas that Homo sapiens had a long period as hunter-gatherers when we probably had just as much a period as less sexy scavenger-gatherers, has shown itself to be bathed in about as much an aroma of sexism as a bottle of Old Spice gone past its expiration date. (This long and colorful metaphor assumes Old Spice has an expiration date, of course.) And, Pop Ev Psychers like to treat it like the Nicene Creed

Example No. 1 is like shooting fish in a barrel Randy Thornhill claiming rape isevolutionarily adaptive. Tosh. Bullshit.

In pre-state tribe/band sized societies, you raped once, inside your clan, you were likely killed. There was little hierarchical structure for a chieftan, jefe or whomever to "pull rank" to rape lower-class women, either.

You raped some woman in another band? You immediately started a small-scale war, most likely satisfied when your clan handed you over ot the other clan to be put to death by them.

So, even if you were 100 percent sure your rape caused a pregnancy, it was only a break-even on "adaptiveness" if you were caught immediately. And, rape appears to be less likely to cause pregnancy than even the hit-and-miss of normal human sexual intercourse.   

Short of rape, though, there's plenty of other "just so" storytelling that's sexist.

Here's another. Theoretically, based on porn or whatever, we men in the modern West like big boobs. But,  Pop Ev Psychers claim that a genetic variation that appears to have given East Asian women, on average, smaller breasts, possibly to adapt to its cold winters (and per Jerry Coyne, even the issue that the genetic change coded for small breasts is debatable) was actually driven by sexual selection.
But Joshua Akey, a geneticist at the University of Washington in Seattle, said he thought the more likely cause of the gene’s spread among East Asians was sexual selection. Thick hair and small breasts are visible sexual signals which, if preferred by men, could quickly become more common as the carriers had more children.
There's a just-so story staring the likes of Ed Clint right in the face. 

Here's Coyne's take, though:
He wonders how the researchers concluded that the variant EDAR gene shrinks breasts at all, given that mice don’t have breasts­at least, they don’t have pronounced lumps on their chests the way people do.  
Er ... good point.

That said, such nuttery has better-known touters than Joshua Akey.  

Per Massimo Pigliucci, it seems Michael Shermer's also still swimming in the waters of Pop Ev Psych sexism. Gee, what a shock!

Here's Shermer, in an ongoing dialogue about how much science does (Pigliucci) or does not (Shermer) need philosophy to guide discussions of ethics:
Most men, for example, are much more receptive toward unsolicited offers of sex than are women. 
Just wow. And, as Massimo notes, simply not true!  

Shermer then goes on to claim rape is scientifically shows to be immoral, ignoring that Pop Ev Psycher Randy Thornhill claimed it was evolutionarily adaptive! Now, it is not true that everything adaptive should be moral. However, since Shermer himself has previously mangled David Hume's classic is-ought distinction, which in turn led to this dialogue between him and Pigliucci, I think it's legit to hoist him on this petard.

Meanwhile, it's not just differences in sexual desire. Whether it's Pop Ev Psych or John Gray-type pop psychology, the whole "men are from Mars, women from Venus," is getting more and more refutation.
"Sex is not nearly as confining a category as stereotypes and even some academic studies would have us believe," study researcher Bobbi Carothers, a senior data analyst at Washington University in St. Louis, said in a statement. 
Are there differences? Yes:
Carothers, who completed the research as part of her doctoral dissertation at the University of Rochester, and her colleagues are not denying that men and women often do differ from one another. Women, for example, are known to have higher levels of anxiety than men, on average, and to react to bad news with more stress. Studies also turn up gender differences in aggression, sexuality, frequency of smiling, and body image, Carothers and her colleagues wrote.

But researchers haven't spent much time examining the structure of these differences, Carothers wrote. It's possible, for example, that men and women usually fall into distinct groups. In this categorical world, knowing someone is a man would automatically tell you that he's aggressive, interested in short-term sex over long-term relationships, good at math and bad verbally. Alternatively, gender differences could occur more often on a continuum. You might know someone is a man, but it would tell you little about his skills with math. 

Which possibility is more likely might seem clear to anyone who has ever known a guy who can't figure out a tip to save his life. But humans tend toward categorical thinking, the researchers wrote, and gender is about as basic a category as you can get.
Bingo. And here's some specific issues where gender differences are an overlapping continuum:
Men and women fell along a continuum on such measures as interest in casual sex, frequency of thoughts about sex, and the appeal of certain traits such as virginity, looks and wealth in a mate. The same was true of attitudes toward close relationships, empathy and other interpersonal factors.

In other words, if told that a person is more than 6 feet tall, you would be pretty safe in guessing that they were a guy. If told that a person is very empathic, you'd be much harder-pressed to correctly guess their gender.
So, let's just put this "men are from horndog, women are from demure" idea on ice. It's insulting to both sexes. It perpetuates stereotypes, many of which then translate into our legal system, such as judges still occasionally admonishing rape victims about how they dress. 

Oh, and women don't talk more than men, either. 

Their "gap" on spacial relations skills appears to be at least somewhat culturally driven.

But, a lot of people like to assume they do. And, there have been Pop Ev Psych just-so stories about that, too.
And, on the psychology side of Pop Ev Psych, let's make sure that claims aren't being made on the basis of biased psychological studies, with such bias including gender bias. (Per Robert Sapolsky, in "moving backward" from Pop Ev Psych to some thought within evolutionary biology in general on sexual selection, such sexism isn't confined to thoughts about human evolution.) It also seems that Pop Ev Psychers, like drug companies, don't have any problems with being "selective" on how they frame their research or on what results they report.

Now, I’m not saying there are no sex-based differences in formulation and expression of sexual desire. But, the differences are smaller than either Pop Ev Psychers, nth-wave feminists or male-hierarchy Christians will admit. And, all three are similar in throwing bullshit ideas against the wall, hoping something will socially stick, either due to religious prejudice (the Christians), reverse sex prejudice plus tribalism (the nth-wave feminists) or sex prejudice cloaked in pseudoscience (Pop Ev Psychers).

I'm also not saying every Pop Ev Psycher, let alone every legit evolutionary psychologist, has such sexual issues, but, unless anybody close to a Thornhill is deliberately marginalized, the legit movement risks getting tarred with this big, black brush.

And, speaking of "black," what if such Pop Ev Psych sexist nonsense statements were made about blacks vs. whites?

Well, maybe we don't totally have to.

I've blogged this before, but I'm going to do so again.

Shermer has had two known racialists, Frank Miele and the recently deceased Vince Sarich, on the masthead of Skeptic magazine.

The two co-wrote "Race," a horrible racialist book which believes the different races are subspecies headed toward speciation, ignores the cultural background of IQ tests and much more, as I note in this review. A sampling:
On page 1, the authors misinterpret a Lincoln quote about the difference between races, and infer that, rather than talking about the sociologocial fallouts from a clearly perceived difference in skin colors, Lincoln was talking about deeper differences in physical attributes. ...

Page 9 - Going with their unproven -- and logically fallacious idea-generating -- 50,000 year date for the evolution of modern Homo sapiens, Miele and Sarich then use this to bootstrap their own arguments about the degree of difference between races, claiming this shows how rapidly human evolution can progress. It's clear circular reasoning based on an already assumed point of view.

Pages 9-10 have a laughably racist "genetic" rather than sociological assumption of evidence for various types of athletic prowess. ...


And, the piece de resistance on page 10 -- the "mean sub-Saharan African IQ of 70." All together, now, can we say Bell Curve?
How bad is it, and are/were they? They're both associates of A-grade racialist Philippe Rushton. With Rushton, at least, I am comfortable with removing the second syllable from the word "racialism."

It's yet more reason not to trust Shermer on any issues like this. Given that racialists like this mentioned above and Arthur Jensen and others, have spouted just-so stories about alleged differences in brain sizes, brain size vs. penis size and more, I have no doubt some racialists have a foot in the currents of Pop Ev Psych.   

I'll also counter Shermer's "scientism" with repeated recent revelations of cheating on grants, Ben Goldacre's whole new book about selective research reporting in the pharmaceutical industry, and more.

Say, Joseph Mengele? Eugenics "research" in the US? Arthur Jensen? Shockley?

Science is, to riff on Euclid, NO royal road to morality. Period. End of story. 


And, as I've said before, science in general is no guarantor of morality. Science badly practiced, or abused and twisted, though, usually is a guarantor of bad ethics, sometimes in narrow ways, sometimes in broad ones.

Besides that, Pop Ev Psych, and to some degree "legit" ev psych, "whiff" on more than sexism. More below the fold.

February 22, 2013

Dennis Tito plans manned trip to Mars?

Megamillionaire Dennis Tito, who's already made a trip to space via Russian rocket, supposedly plans a manned mission to Mars by 2018.

More power to him. And rotsa ruck.

In reality? There's almost no way he can get everything ready by that deadline. If he does, the briefness of the actual stay time on Mars will make it of little scientific value. And, assuming he won't be able to shield the spacecraft from cosmic rays, he'll be knocking years off his life expectancy.

More here, in an extended previous blog post, about the reality of the difficulties of a manned mission to Mars. And, now, March 8, we read about how a fair chunk of the memory of the Curiosity rover got zapped by a cosmic ray.

Beyond the technical, psychological and other difficulties, I estimated the cost at possibly reaching $1 trillion. Tito says he can do it much cheaper than many other estimates. If he's telling one-quarter the truth, then he's skimping on three-quarters the safety, psychological safety and other issues I mention.

Part of me actually hopes he goes, and suffers a massive disaster, just so the country as a whole gets real about how serious of a venture this is.

I'm totally serious. If we learn through mistakes, then that's going to have to be part of the learning. And, sometimes we collectively refuse to do such learning. Challenger, anybody?

February 21, 2013

If not a carbon tax, then a gas tax

Great column here on the need to up our federal gas tax. It's fallen by 40 percent over the last 2 decades, after adjusting for inflation. Meanwhile, more fuel-efficient cars means fewer gallons per trip.

A hike in the gas tax, at 10 cents per gallon per year for five years, would be relatively painless, yet enough of a hike to push more people away from SUVs when they don't need them.

It would also pay for the massive amount of road and bridge repair our nation needs and that has been crunched by diminshed gas tax revenues.

It's a win-win.

And Obama can tell wingnut Congressmen in red states they can name every new bridge after Reagan, W. Bush, or even themselves. 

It's a cheap form of a carbon tax, and at least gets the ball rolling. Plus, if sold right, it gets sold on the road work side, something any American should appreciate.

February 20, 2013

Can Obama play golf better than tell the truth? Can the press stop lying, too?

So, Dear Leader had a golf outing with Tiger Woods. I kind of can't blame him for stiffing the press, whether it was more his idea or that of "Watch Me Slice This One To Perkins."

The White House press corps meanwhile got its panties in a knot:
It's not like Obama snubbed reporters after a visit with a foreign head of state or anything. There was one journalist who got in, Tim Rosaforte from Golf Digest, but the press pool was upset on principal. "Speaking on behalf of the White House Correspondents Association, I can say a broad cross section of our members from print, radio, online and TV have today expressed extreme frustration to me about having absolutely no access to the president of the United States this entire weekend," said Ed Henry, president of the WHCA. "There is a very simple but important principle we will continue to fight for today and in the days ahead: transparency."
Ed, you just fucking wanted Tiger's autograph. Or at least to be in the same area code as him. Stop lying.

That said, you're no worse a liar than Dear Leader. Read his hips:
Just three days ago Obama boldly declared that his administration is "the most transparent in history." That was read as a pretty dicey claim, especially after we just got finished learning about just how secretive the Obama administration has been about its drone program, despite calls from lawmakers and transparency advocates alike to share the rules of engagement with the public. Obama didn't just make up that "most transparent in history" line, either. It's the same one he used his very first day in office, when he promised "an unprecedented level of openness." A few years into his first administration, many had their doubts about whether or not the president kept that promise.
So, Ed's right that transparency is still an issue.

No, it's not an issue.

We know Obama's going to lie to the bank, all while hoping to continue benefiting from the soft bigotry of low expectations.

That's how he got his Nobel Piss Prize. That's how he undersold his stimulus. That's how he stiffed us on national health care. That's how he will stiff us on Keystone XL.

Update, Feb. 20: We now now WHY Obama stiffed Ed Henry, to whom a partial apology, at least, I now submit. Dear Leader was golfing not just with T. Woods, but two Texas oil buddies.
(O)n his first “guys weekend" away since he was reelected, the president chose to spend his free time with Jim Crane and Milton Carroll, leading figures in the Texas oil and gas industry, along with other men who run companies that deal in the same kinds of carbon-based services that Keystone would enlarge.
Among their background?
Both Carroll and Crane are directors at Western Gas Holdings, the managing partner of Western Gas Partners, a midstream energy provider created by Anadarko Petroleum, one of the largest publicly traded oil and gas companies.
"Transparent," indeed.

More on THAT below the fold.

Michael Brune is smoking crack on Keystone

Were he in front of me now, I'd bet the Sierra Club's head $20 he's wrong about Obama, that Dear Leader will in fact approve Keystone XL.

He played you and your donors perfectly up to election day, doesn't need to do so now.

That's why this guy is also wrong:
“This is a tricky political challenge for the president,” said Michael A. Levi, an energy fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. “The reality is everyone has defined the stakes on Keystone in such absolute terms that it is borderline impossible to see a compromise that will satisfy all the players.”  
There's nothing at all politically tricky for Obama, other than the "spin" angle and asking help for that from north of the border.

Per the story, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has chits to spend and will need to spend them anyway.

Beyond that, Canada's already pushing the jobs issue of Keystone. And, while the total number of jobs is surely oversold, nonetheless, in a still-sluggish economy, it can't be neglected.

The real way to fight this is, as I've said a million times before, push for a carbon tax, including on imports. Since in Canada, British Columbia already has a carbon tax, passed by Stephen Harper's Conservatives at the provincial level, no less (though leaky as hell), meaning he would have no room to protest.

Anyway, back to you, Mr. Brune. I'll bet that $20 at 2-1 odds, your favor, even. And, you and the other Gang Green enviro groups sometimes play the "spin" game with your donors, anyway, so whatever Dear Leader does shouldn't surprise you.

And here's why.

Update, Feb. 20: We now now WHY Obama stiffed Ed Henry, to whom a partial apology, at least, I now submit. Dear Leader was golfing not just with T. Woods, but two Texas oil buddies.
(O)n his first “guys weekend" away since he was reelected, the president chose to spend his free time with Jim Crane and Milton Carroll, leading figures in the Texas oil and gas industry, along with other men who run companies that deal in the same kinds of carbon-based services that Keystone would enlarge.
Among their background?
Both Carroll and Crane are directors at Western Gas Holdings, the managing partner of Western Gas Partners, a midstream energy provider created by Anadarko Petroleum, one of the largest publicly traded oil and gas companies.
"Most transparent administration in history," indeed.

At least Brune's crack-smoking is heartfelt.

At the New York Times, the new Tom Friedman is just an idiot on the issue. More below the fold.

#Obamacare and digital medical records - John Doe can't win

At least not so far. Currently, the big "winner" in digitizing medical records is not patients, getting more reliable treatment when moving from doctor to doctor or hospital to hospital, but companies that do the work of digitizing records.

While proponents say new record-keeping technologies will one day reduce costs and improve care, profits and sales are soaring now across the records industry. At Allscripts, annual sales have more than doubled from $548 million in 2009 to an estimated $1.44 billion last year.
Gee, what a shock.

"Shock" No. 2 — how this happened, including the revolving government-industry door of "the most transparent administration in history.
None of that would have happened without the health records legislation that was included in the 2009 economic stimulus bill — and the lobbying that helped produce it. Along the way, the records industry made hundreds of thousands of dollars of political contributions to both Democrats and Republicans. In some cases, the ties went deeper. Glen E. Tullman, until recently the chief executive of Allscripts, was health technology adviser to the 2008 Obama campaign. As C.E.O. of Allscripts, he visited the White House no fewer than seven times after President Obama took office in 2009, according to White House records.  
So, as more and more of Obamacare gets implemented, let's be prepared for more and more real shocks of how it doesn't save so much money after all, and more and more fake "shocks" of how that came to be.

Of course, for some, IOKIYAO.

And, speaking of such things, neoliberals are good at the Orwellian Newspeak:
“We really haven’t done any lobbying,” Mr. Tullman said in an interview. “I think it’s very common with every administration that when they want to talk about the automotive industry, they convene automotive executives, and when they want to talk about the Internet, they convene Internet executives.” 
Nope, not "lobbying." Just "convening."

And, trust me, there will be real shock sticker shocks we haven't yet come across in Obamacare, or at the least, promised savings that never materialize.

Here's another, not a financial one directly (yet):
The records systems sold by the biggest vendors have their fans, who argue that, among other things, the systems ease prescribing medications electronically. But these systems also have many critics, who contend that they can be difficult to use, cannot share patient information with other systems and are sometimes adding hours to the time physicians spend documenting patient care. 
So, we're not even getting what we're supposed to be paying for.

But, no matter. Like Reagan looking for a pony after finding pony shit, Obamiacs in the rank and file will believe the true gold will soon show up. Meanwhile, Glen Tullman and his wallet keep on smiling.

And, in other Obamacare news, a few Senate Dems say Team Obama is foot-dragging on some implementation issues. Maybe that's because there's no "convening."

This is why I worried so much about one aspect of Obamacare when it was put forward: the lack of cost control.

Promises of what things might do in cost control is no substitute for regulation on statuatory stipulations specifically toward that end. And, from no federal bureau of insurance regulation through no mandatory paperwork uniformity for hardcopy records and on to other things, plenty of promises don't add up to a hill of beans.

In some cases, this may have been nothing more than naivete, believing that such savings would become real. I hope they're right; I'd love to be proven wrong.

But, in other cases, and from people higher up the Team Obama ladder, like Tullman? They surely knew any promises they made were being overstated at the time they were making them, at the time they were "consulting" with America's Health Insurance Plans.

But, hey, this is the "most transparent administration in history" and I'm just a poor Obama-skeptic, more and more Obama-cynic, peon, so what do I know, right?

February 19, 2013

Men, women, sexual objectification, #GnuAtheism, and Pop #EvPsych

Any woman who's used a dildo more than a couple of times in her life, especially one fully shaped and designed like a penis, not just a cylinder, is in no position to talk about male sexual objectification of women.

Just wondering how many of the nth-wave feminists, especially those that fit into Gnu Atheism, or its kiddie pool of Atheism Plus, this applies to.

Not saying it does, but I'm just thinking of, oh, Stephanie Zvan and Rebecca Watson off the top of my head.

But NOT from the top of my other head. Or the bottom of my heart. Or the bottom of my loins.

Sorry if you didn't want to hear that, but people who read me regularly shouldn't be surprised.

And, if you're lesbian, you can certainly objectify other women, too. So, no get out of jail free card for you, Greta Christina.

Beyond that, there's plenty of women atheist old and gnu alike, non-atheist, professed Christian, feminist or not, etc., who all fit the profile. We've all seen news stories in the past few years, especially in more politically reddish parts of the country, where female small business proprietors have been busted for running afoul of municipal or state laws by selling something much more than Tupperware at house parties. (And, it does much more than "burp"!)

Besides the fact that Pop Ev Psychers have provided plenty of evidence for that case, starting with Randy Thornhill claiming rape is evolutionarily adaptive, the whole framework of Pop Ev Psych, starting with its environment of evolutionary adaptiveness, or EEA, being based on sexist ideas about hunter-gatherer societies’ operation, as well as further sexist ideas that Homo sapiens had a long period as hunter-gatherers when we probably had just as much a period as less sexy scavenger-gatherers, has shown itself to be bathed in about as much an aroma of sexism as a bottle of Old Spice gone past its expiration date. (This long and colorful metaphor assumes Old Spice has an expiration date, of course.)

Besides, it’s fun to consign Rebecca Watson and Edward Clint to the same circle of hell, run over them with the same bus, etc. (Should a B-grade Jean Paul Sartre — who was himself the B-grade Albert Camus at times — come along today, he might remake No Exit with Clint, Watson and Christina together. Or Zvan, Greg Laden and almost anybody. Don’t worry, folks, I’ll stop now, lest I go into material for an entirely separate blog post.)

Anyway, in a sense, on its overblown, often unverifiable and likely never verifiable gender difference claims, Pop Evolutionary Psychology, as pushed to its envelope-destroying limits recently by Mr. Clint in chastisement of Ms. Watson, is nth-wave feminism’s tar baby. (It’s also a tar baby of traditionalist versions of Christianity in this way.)

All three movements put woman on a pedestal, or similarly, in a gilded cage. They seek to deny that there’s a fair amount of overlap between men and women on sexual fantasizing and related issues. They also, especially Pop Ev Psych but somewhat the other two, seek to deny that a fair amount of how, in what ways, and to what degree both men and women internally formulate and bring to coherence sexual desires, then externally express them, is culturally driven.

Now, I’m not saying there are no sex-based differences in formulation and expression of sexual desire. But, the differences are smaller than either Pop Ev Psychers, nth-wave feminists or male-hierarchy Christians will admit. And, all three are similar in throwing bullshit ideas against the wall, hoping something will socially stick, either due to religious prejudice (the Christians), reverse sex prejudice plus tribalism (the nth-wave feminists) or sex prejudice cloaked in pseudoscience (Pop Ev Psychers).

Update, Feb. 19: Per Massimo Pigliucci, it seems Michael Shermer's also still swimming in the waters of Pop Ev Psych sexism. Gee, what a shock!

Here's Shermer, in an ongoing dialogue about how much science does (Pigliucci) or does not (Shermer) need philosophy to guide discussions of ethics:
Most men, for example, are much more receptive toward unsolicited offers of sex than are women. 
Just wow. And, as Massimo notes, simply not true!  

Shermer then goes on to claim rape is scientifically shows to be immoral, ignoring that Pop Ev Psycher Randy Thornhill claimed it was evolutionarily adaptive! 

Meanwhile, it's not just differences in sexual desire. Whether it's Pop Ev Psych or John Gray-type pop psychology, the whole "men are from Mars, women from Venus," is getting more and more refutation.
"Sex is not nearly as confining a category as stereotypes and even some academic studies would have us believe," study researcher Bobbi Carothers, a senior data analyst at Washington University in St. Louis, said in a statement. 
Are there differences? Yes:
Carothers, who completed the research as part of her doctoral dissertation at the University of Rochester, and her colleagues are not denying that men and women often do differ from one another. Women, for example, are known to have higher levels of anxiety than men, on average, and to react to bad news with more stress. Studies also turn up gender differences in aggression, sexuality, frequency of smiling, and body image, Carothers and her colleagues wrote.

But researchers haven't spent much time examining the structure of these differences, Carothers wrote. It's possible, for example, that men and women usually fall into distinct groups. In this categorical world, knowing someone is a man would automatically tell you that he's aggressive, interested in short-term sex over long-term relationships, good at math and bad verbally. Alternatively, gender differences could occur more often on a continuum. You might know someone is a man, but it would tell you little about his skills with math. 

Which possibility is more likely might seem clear to anyone who has ever known a guy who can't figure out a tip to save his life. But humans tend toward categorical thinking, the researchers wrote, and gender is about as basic a category as you can get.
Bingo. And here's some specific issues where gender differences are an overlapping continuum:
Men and women fell along a continuum on such measures as interest in casual sex, frequency of thoughts about sex, and the appeal of certain traits such as virginity, looks and wealth in a mate. The same was true of attitudes toward close relationships, empathy and other interpersonal factors.

In other words, if told that a person is more than 6 feet tall, you would be pretty safe in guessing that they were a guy. If told that a person is very empathic, you'd be much harder-pressed to correctly guess their gender.
So, let's just put this "men are from horndog, women are from demure" idea on ice. It's insulting to both sexes. It perpetuates stereotypes, many of which then translate into our legal system, such as judges still occasionally admonishing rape victims about how they dress. 

Oh, and women don't talk more than men, either.

Anyway, expect a separate blog post soon more specific to this issue and more specific to Pop Ev Psych. And that post is here!

That said, nth-wave feminists, to the degree they stereotype men as non-empathetic, etc., don't help on this issue, either.

And, on the psychology side of Pop Ev Psych, let's make sure that claims aren't being made on the basis of biased psychological studies, with such bias including gender bias.

I'll also counter Shermer's "scientism" with repeated recent revelations of cheating on grants, Ben Goldacre's whole new book about selective research reporting in the pharmaceutical industry, and more.

Say, Joseph Mengele? Eugenics "research" in the US? Arthur Jensen? Shockley?

Science is, to riff on Euclid, NO royal road to morality. Period. End of story. 


Note: I apologize to any nth-wave feminist Atheist Plusers I failed to mention here. If you feel you need to be thrown under the bus, too, leave your name in comments. Even better, for people of minds like to mine, who more seriously think I forgot to name anybody, leave a name in comments.



It's OK if you're an Obamiac

Remember the first decade of this century, when the acronym IOKIYAR arose?

It summed up in shorthand the ideas of Karl Rove and others that they would just check out from the reality-based world.

Well, now, it's clearer than ever that it's time for IOKIYAO — the "O" standing for "Obamiac."

Example No. 1? Obamiacs are overall OK with Dear Leader's unconstitutional, silent-killer drone warfare plan.

And by Obamiacs, to get blunter than Joan Walsh, we mean, "White, Volvo-driving, latte-sipping, Meyer-lemon-for-lemonade-squeezing (neo)liberals."  Here's the key point:
In a YouGov poll of 1,000 voters last August, (Brown University political scientist Michael) Tesler found significantly more support for targeted killing of suspected terrorists among white “racial liberals” (i.e., those liberal on issues of race) and African-Americans when they were told that Obama supported such a policy than when they were not told it was the president’s policy. Only 27 percent of white racial liberals in a control group supported the targeted killing policy, but that jumped to 48 percent among such voters who were told Obama had conducted such targeted killings (which Tesler refers to as the “Obama cue”).
That said, per Walsh, such folks need to get more skeptical about the alleged success versus actual reality of the drone program.

Bigger takeaway is Tesler's research in general. He has four simple questions to determine "racial liberals." But, unlike a Chris Mooney, he doesn't trot out a bunch of neuroscience, or even the latest psychological profile theories, to make overblown claims. He just uses his four questions to distinguish groups, then looks at polling breakouts of them on specific issues.

Also per Walsh, he sounds like someone for skeptical liberals to keep an eye on.

February 18, 2013

Texas AG Abbott now wastes taxpayer money over Dodd-Frank

A week or so ago, I blogged about "fiscal conservatives who aren't," state-level officials who waste their states' money either on defending school districts after they approve patently religious, patently unconstitutional measures, or suing the feds because the government passed something Obama wanted and they don't like.

Well, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott is high on that list.

Here's the latest example.

Now, the man who would be gov of Texas in two years, tired of suing the feds over Obamacare, has moved on to Dodd-Frank.

Here's the waste of taxpayer dollars part:
Legal experts believe that much of the lawsuit is unlikely to have much standing in court. “Sure, Dodd-Frank is a mess; sure, the statute is unwieldy and inefficient; sure, the statute takes power away from citizens and states and transfers it to the federal government. However, it’s not unconstitutional or otherwise illegal for Congress to pass a bad law. And this is what Dodd-Frank is,” says Jonathan Macey, a professor at Yale Law School.

Kenneth Klee, a law professor at UCLA, points out that the states’ major argument in the lawsuit — that Dodd-Frank violates states’ rights under the new bankruptcy provision — doesn’t hold up. ”States don’t have rights on bankruptcy law — Congress could prescribe anything at any time. There’s no vested property interest there,” he explains.
Bingo. So, the state of Texas may not even have legal "standing," but Abbott sues away.

As for the "bad law" issue? Abbott's compadres on the GOP side of the US House and Senate didn't want a "good" law. (And a lot of Democrats didn't want a great one, either.) So, this is what we got.

As far as wasting taxpayer dollars? Considering that the suit was originally filed by, among others, "two conservative advocacy groups, the Competitive Enterprise Institute and the 60 Plus Association," Abbott doesn't care.

Got that, you teabaggers? Abbott doesn't care. He'll waste your money and mine all day long, as long as he doesn't waste ExxonMobil's or the Koch Bros.

Update, Sept. 5: Federal appeals court in San Antonio confirms Abbott wasted more money over Texas Senate redistricting