And I turn contrarian …..some conservative talking points have merit…

Well, I was very grumpy because I came back from a “College of Liberal Arts and Science” meeting and thought “what nonsense…hours and hours of time spent coming up with …THIS???”

So I was about to go on a tirade about how many conservatives are right about some of their criticisms of liberal arts education…but then I decided to read statements from other liberal arts colleges. And..they weren’t that bad.

Here is a typical one: it appears to be reasonable to me. But still: any statement has zero effect on how I teach, how I research, or how I think about our curriculum. In service courses: “what tools do they need to master in able to learn their major”? In major courses: “what do I expect a math major to have mastery of? How do we help them attain such mastery?”

The problem is that some mission statements have stuff about “equality” (our proposed statement does). So it follows that anything that appears to be contrary to “equality” must be bad or wrong, right? Hence you have things like this: (Jerry Coyne’s website)

Finally: a sensible discussion of “race”
And by “sensible,” of course, I mean a discussion that aligns with my own views. I’ve often written that while there are no finite and strongly genetically demarcated human “races”, there are meaningful and statistically diagnostic differences between populations, ethnic groups, or whatever you want to call them. This is in opposition to the common Left-wing view that races are purely “social constructs” having no biological reality.

Well, there aren’t a finite number of groups whose members are 100% genetically differentiated from other groups. But when you take all genes together, there are sufficient average frequency differences that one can discern statistical clusters that, in turn, allow you to use lots of genes to pretty much diagnose where somebody’s from and who their ancestors were. These “statistical clusters” are real, not social constructs, for they fall out regardless of the politics or biases of the investigator.

Recognizing their existence by no means justifies bigotry or stereotyping, but we shouldn’t dismiss the existence of those clusters simply because, in the past, people with an incorrect idea of “race” have used differences to justify segregation and prejudice. Yet all too often, as with genetic differences among ethnic groups, behavioral differences between the sexes, and evolutionary psychology, those on the Left simply dismiss entire fields because of a fear that scientific research will justify discrimination.

Professor Coyne links to an excellent article by David Reich in the New York Times:

To understand why it is so dangerous for geneticists and anthropologists to simply repeat the old consensus about human population differences, consider what kinds of voices are filling the void that our silence is creating. Nicholas Wade, a longtime science journalist for The New York Times, rightly notes in his 2014 book, “A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History,” that modern research is challenging our thinking about the nature of human population differences. But he goes on to make the unfounded and irresponsible claim that this research is suggesting that genetic factors explain traditional stereotypes.

One of Mr. Wade’s key sources, for example, is the anthropologist Henry Harpending, who has asserted that people of sub-Saharan African ancestry have no propensity to work when they don’t have to because, he claims, they did not go through the type of natural selection for hard work in the last thousands of years that some Eurasians did. There is simply no scientific evidence to support this statement. Indeed, as 139 geneticists (including myself) pointed out in a letter to The New York Times about Mr. Wade’s book, there is no genetic evidence to back up any of the racist stereotypes he promotes.

Another high-profile example is James Watson, the scientist who in 1953 co-discovered the structure of DNA, and who was forced to retire as head of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories in 2007 after he stated in an interview — without any scientific evidence — that research has suggested that genetic factors contribute to lower intelligence in Africans than in Europeans. […]

What makes Dr. Watson’s and Mr. Wade’s statements so insidious is that they start with the accurate observation that many academics are implausibly denying the possibility of average genetic differences among human populations, and then end with a claim — backed by no evidence — that they know what those differences are and that they correspond to racist stereotypes.

In other words, refusing to admit that there ARE differences in frequencies of certain alleles in certain population clusters often leads to “see, the racist stereotypes must either be right or at least have a kernel of truth to them.” And, in my opinion, the regressive left (often found on college campuses) and the alt-right are on agreement of the implication; the “solution” the regressive left offers is to dismiss genuine science as “junk science; a tool of the oppressive white patriarchy” and the racist right is “see: the snowflakes are afraid of the truth, which WE are bold enough to talk about”.

(digression: I recommend reading Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel and Pinker’s Blank Slate. )

But…yeah, I can see how some conservatives think of education as a type of indoctrination. Then again, many of these conservatives are the same morons who think of creationism as having any validity and of expertise of being of no value. Yeah, I know; the Illinois governor’s race is a contest between unqualified billionaires/multi-millionaires. So …

Speaking of campaigns: I always wondered about how effective some campaigns are and if there is a point of “diminishing returns”.

And there is some research that backs this up. That is one reason I no longer phonebank; who wants to be annoyed at home? I might do some GOTV stuff; getting your people to the polls is essential. But if the turn out is high..well, it is mostly about the candidate (after a certain point anyway).


March 24, 2018 Posted by | evolution, racism, social/political | , , , , | Leave a comment

Human evolution: vestigial traits in the human body

Many of the traits of our body are there because they were useful to our distant ancestors:

There are other traits that wouldn’t make sense if we were intentionally designed; the Vagus nerve is one of them.

I can recommend Neil Shubin’s book Your Inner Fish.

March 20, 2016 Posted by | evolution, science | | Leave a comment

Human evolution and cross breeding

I recently joked about new discoveries on humans mating with other homo species. There is more detail here, including how scientists figure this stuff out. Of interest is that we had mating with other homos both in the “failed migration” out of Africa, and again in the successful one (65 K years ago), and these conclusions are possible because of modern genome sequencing techniques.

On a more mundane (but still fun) level, here is a little video describing an evolutionary trajectory that lead to modern humans.

Science humor: a joke about curved spacetime:


February 19, 2016 Posted by | evolution, human sexuality, physics, science | , , | Leave a comment

Should have been my Valentines Day Post (human evolution)

Hey, you think that you’ve pushed the envelope in seeking romance? Both of us are downright shy compared to what our ancient ancestors did:

The discovery of yet another period of interbreeding between early humans and Neanderthals is adding to the growing sense that sexual encounters among different ancient human species were commonplace throughout their history.

“As more early modern humans and archaic humans are found and sequenced, we’re going to see many more instances of interbreeding,” says Sergi Castellano, a population geneticist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. His team discovered the latest example, which they believe occurred around 100,000 years ago, by analysing traces of Homo sapiens DNA in a Neanderthal genome extracted from a toe bone found in a cave in Siberia.

“There is this joke in the population genetics community — there’s always one more interbreeding event,” Castellano says. So before researchers discover the next one, here’s a rundown of the interbreeding episodes that they have already deduced from studies of ancient DNA.

5 different episodes of inbreeding are discussed, with two different species of homo (based on DNA analysis) Surf to the article to read the rest. The conclusion:

We’re looking at a Lord of the Rings-type world — that there were many hominid populations,” one evolutionary geneticist told Nature when the findings were presented at a conference in 2013.

Kink is nothing new for us; in fact we are tamer than we used to be.

February 18, 2016 Posted by | evolution, human sexuality, nature, science | | Leave a comment

Cats, gravity waves and politics

I had an excellent evening; I had dinner with 2 friends (Sanders supporter and a Republican) and I completely enjoyed it. We didn’t hold back, but kept it civil due to the genuine mutual respect that we have for each other.

Oh, the food was pretty good too.

As far as politics, here is one millennial women’s rant about Hillary Clinton (and Paul Krugman…and about anyone who well, actually KNOWS anything)

On the other end, here is the National Review saying that Carly Fiorina actually helped her party (note who they called “heavyweights”). Yes, Rick Perry …a heavyweight.

As far as me: this is one reason that I think that I have more of an affinity for Clinton than Sanders: she has a stronger belief in merit:

But what Clinton suggested in place of a more expansive welfare state illuminates another difference between her politics and Sanders’. Where Sanders tended to focus on inequality and inequality-reducing policies, Clinton focused heavily on increasing opportunity, repeatedly expressing a desire that all Americans be able to realize their “God-given talents,” as she and her husband have. “I have spent a very long time—my entire adult life—looking for ways to even the odds to help people have a chance to get ahead, and, in particular, to find the ways for each child to live up to his or her God-given potential,” Clinton said in her opening remarks, revisiting the idea throughout the debate.

Here we have an interesting hypothesis about a parasite making a chimp less wary of a large predator, thereby helping the parasite reproduce in the predator’s gut.

Hear the news about the detection of gravity waves? Here is an expert’s article for the lay person and here is Stephen Hawking discussing (short video) about the role that the colliding black holes played and how it relates to his work.

February 13, 2016 Posted by | evolution, Friends, nature, physics, political/social, politics | , , | Leave a comment

Unrequited Love: bunny style

(hat tip: Jerry Coyne)

It is mating season and the wild rabbit sees something that he likes…but can’t have. Aw…a love that will never be.

Or, perhaps put another way, yet another male who is a victim of testosterone poisoning. Most of us straight males know the feeling. The conflict between nature and civilization can play havoc with our serenity. 🙂

January 14, 2016 Posted by | evolution, human sexuality, nature | | Leave a comment

The 12 days of “ugh..”

Workout notes: lightening did not allow for me to swim during my planned “workout window” so I walked to the university indoor track and walked 8 miles (64 laps of the middle lane): 1:51:15. All miles were about 13:55 plus/minus a few seconds; no 14 minute miles but no sub 13:40 either. Very, very consistent and slow-ish.

Then I did a little bit of yoga.

The gym was empty though I did see two older guys; one I had followed at the Peoria Marathon (but couldn’t quite catch and stay ahead of) and one who ran a 4:15, which pleased him.

Issues: well, the Holidays are the price I pay for having a good year. I’ll have a chance to “get away” though (2 day). I am looking forward to it. I’ll probably also write a “Christmas/New Years Newsletter” and post it here.


Of course, I’ll just touch on highlights and keep some private stuff private. But yeah, many (most?) have stuff going on beneath the surface that few others realize.

And I am going to write about some mathematics!

I’ll close with a bit of science: not all stuff that appears in the public media is correct; this video, while mostly good, does make some errors (and not just the “buzz bombs” error either; it was plain old conventional bombing that drove them to the subways):

December 23, 2015 Posted by | evolution, science, walking | Leave a comment

Google celebrates Lucy….


Good job Google!

November 24, 2015 Posted by | evolution, science | | Leave a comment

Rages, surges, water, clocks and wasps..

Workout notes: swim, then weights.

Swim: 500 easy (Jason sort of raced me), 5 x (50 drill/free (fins for drill, no fins for free), 5 x 100 on the 2:10 (two in 1:50; rest 1:47-1:49), 2 x 100 IM, side/free

1800 (1 mile) total.

Weights: pull ups (did ok), incline press: 10 x 135, 3 x 160, 3 x 150
rotator cuff
military: 3 sets of 10 x 40 dumbbell standing
rows: 3 sets of 10 x 60 dumbbell
bench press: 10 x 70 dumbbell

yoga: 10 minutes worth; did some headstand.

It was ok, given that I was fatigued from yesterday.

The Fed and interest rates: a certain collection of bankers benefit when the rates are raised.

Science: wasps can indirectly alter caterpillar DNA. The interaction is complicated and there are still open questions.

Election 2016: If there is a “Sanders surge”, polls aren’t picking it up. I believe that sometimes people confuse intensity of support for breadth.

Clocks, etc.
In the clock case: no, the kid shouldn’t have been arrested nor suspended. In fact, we should not have ever known about it. But as far as the clock itself: probably not much profound there, other than a kid’s curiosity.

Note: I did similar stuff at that age; I remember disassembling a small radio to try to use its parts in other ways. What I ended up doing is using the earphone jack to power an external speaker…not exactly a huge feat of electrical engineering. 🙂

September 21, 2015 Posted by | economics, economy, evolution, political/social, politics, science, social/political, swimming, weight training | | Leave a comment

Busy day, baseball, professional sports, science, etc.

Workout notes
simple untimed 4.2 mile run on the Cornstalk classic course followed by a 10K bike (indoor); 14:30 for 4 miles, 21:26 for 6 and some light yoga.
That makes my knees feel good afterward, and, well, I am thinking that some of my feet tingling is due to PF (in my arch) rather than my back.

I admit that my running performances are starting to embarrass me. But there might be a few things that I can do. One thing is that I can be more conscious of keeping a higher turn over; I can do lower body resistance work and probably some “training for the mile”.

Personal My dad wanted me to go on to play professional (or college) sports. About 26 percent of parents with school aged kids that play sports think that their kids will eventually go pro. That is not realistic…at all. Example: about 1 in 1000 high school baseball players ever play a game of major league professional ball.

Now I did see the Chief’s playoff game against the Kane County Cougars (low A level). The Chiefs won it 2-1 despite stranding lots of runners in the first 4 innings. Here is what happened: it was 1-1 in the bottom of the 9’th and the Chiefs lead off with a double. They sent in a fast pinch runner. Now the next batter; the team slugger, struck out. But he fouled off so many pitches that the pitcher had to work..and got distracted and made a balk. That put the runner on 3’rd with one out.

The Cougars decided to load the bases with intentional walks. Still 1 out.

Then …the pitcher got to a full count on the next batter…and walked him! The pitcher and hitting coach and catcher argued the call (and it was close) but to no avail.

Note: the Cougars had a team batting average of .275 (high), so the Chiefs did a great job of limiting them to one run.

Science Evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne gives his take on the new hominin discovery. Yes, some of the popular reporting was sensationalized.

A friend (Linda) alerted me to an article about physical knots and slippage.

Politics Yes, Donald Trump is increasing his lead. And, no his remarks about Carly Fiorina aren’t going to hurt him. Mr. Trump’s whole brand is “I don’t have time for this nice PC nonsense; people want someone who will make great deals, protect the country, fix our infrastructure and protect Social Security.”

Heck even *I* find that attractive, though I have deep reservations about his being able to accomplish his policy goals. But I am one who is willing to overlook a nasty personality if that person can “get the job done”. However, in politics, being nasty probably interferes with “getting the job done.”

September 10, 2015 Posted by | 2016, baseball, evolution, injury, running, science | , , , , , | Leave a comment