Category Archives: Darwin and Biology

The Main Drawback

More and more over the past decade or so I’ve become convinced that modern, secular, post-Enlightenment civilization — perhaps high civilization in any form, but especially the sort we live in today — operates in such a way as inexorably to extinguish itself. Writing in the early 20th century, the prominent Progressive intellectual and author […]

Male Plumage

                                               

The Womaniferous Aether

I’ve just read an outstanding essay on the paucity of women in high-tech jobs, and the stubbornly persistent (and demonstrably counterfactual) belief that it is caused, not by natural differences between the sexes, but by an invisible fog of sexism. I’d sum up its arguments for you, but it’s so good you should go and […]

How Can This Be?

The CBS program 60 Minutes reported tonight, to everyone’s astonishment and dismay, on a recent, and heretofore completely unsuspected, scientific discovery. The context was specific — differences in the effect of the sleeping pill Ambien on men and women — but it appears, shockingly, that the scope of the problem might be far more general, […]

Know Your Limitations

The computer scientist David Gelernter has just posted an essay about the aggressiveness and overreach of contemporary scientism and transhumanism. In particular, he focuses on what he perceives to be an assault on the essence of our humanity — our subjectivity, which so far remains an impenetrable mystery. We read: Today science and the “philosophy […]

It’s Different For Girls

In this blog post, a New York venture capitalist expresses his concern about an urgent national problem: the underrepresentation of women in software engineering. Why this would, by itself, be an urgent national problem is hard to imagine. From an end-user’s perspective, what matters is that software does what it’s supposed to, reliably and without […]

Not So Fast

From our reader Henry, here’s an interesting item: geneticists studying the rate at which biological complexity has increased over time have arrived at a provocative extrapolation.

Homo Rationalis

James Taranto had a very good piece in his daily Best of the Web edition yesterday, but before I could write it up, my pal Mangan beat me to it. So go and find it at his place.

Feet Of Clay

When I was a young boy (the son of two scientists), I was fascinated by paleontology, and always imagined that it would be what I would do when I grew up. It didn’t work out that way, but I never lost my interest in natural history and the theory of evolution. One man I admired […]

Diversity vs. Reality

Our e-pal ‘hbd* chick’ (a scholar of human reproductive patterns and variation whose outstanding blog should be on your regular reading list, if it isn’t already) posted an excellent item yesterday on the increasing difficulties confronting adherents of the ideological cult of Diversity in the face of damning and discrediting evidence. (At this point the […]

Let P Be A Constant

Another item from the frontiers of science: the Law of Mammalian Urination.

By The Numbers

From Heartiste: the Beauty Ratio.

Head Start

Interesting item here: the human population may have undergone significant expansion far longer ago than we’ve thought up till now — not ten millennia ago, but sixty to eighty. How, I wonder, does this fit in with the “Toba bottleneck” theory, in which the entire breeding population of humans is thought to have crashed to […]

Step Right Up

Sam Harris has issued a $20,000 challenge to anyone who can refute his claim to have placed morality on a thoroughly scientific, Utilitarianist footing. (Not a merely descriptive footing, that is: a normative one: a beneficent blend of biology and Bentham.) I might have to take a go at this myself. See also Harris’s initial […]

Move Over, Colombian Weasel

In case you missed it, there’s a new mammal, which doesn’t happen much these days.

Go Not Gently

Perhaps the most spectacular self-delusion of the modern liberal mind — a mind that prides itself in being “reality-based”, and on “restoring science to its rightful place” — is the cognitive dissonance required to tune out the realities of human biodiversity. On the one hand, the science proceeds apace; on the other, the terrifying power […]

Dark Counsel From The Durants

In 1965, near the end of a long lifetime of scholarly study and reflection, the great historians Will and Ariel Durant brought forth a slim volume called The Lessons of History, a companion to their magnum opus, The Story of Civilization. The third chapter, Biology and History, deals with topics now associated with the dissident […]

Unity And Diversity

Here’s a paper worth reading carefully, from Frank Salter and Henry Harpending: J.P. Rushton’s theory of ethnic nepotism In brief, the paper argues that in ethnically diverse settings, the statistical advantage conferred by intra-ethnic altruistic cohesion is sufficient to create significant group-level selection pressure, even when the actual kin relations are fairly weak.

This Just In!

Now here’s an interesting item: it seems that upper-body strength in males correlates positively with opposition to redistributive economic policies. We read: “Our results demonstrate that physically weak males are more reluctant than physically strong males to assert their self-interest — just as if disputes over national policies were a matter of direct physical confrontation […]

They All Look Alike To Me

If you’ve ever wondered about just how subjective human notions of beauty really are (or aren’t), here’s an interesting item: Korean beauty-pageant contestants go for plastic surgery, and all end up with the same face.

Slow Road To Extinction

Over at Mangan’s, our friend Dennis links to a post by Bruce Charlton about the cratering birthrates of the developed, Westernized world. That there is something maladaptive about secular modernity has been apparent for some time, and I’ve written about this myself; most of the discussion to date, however, has focused on social and cultural […]

Chasing Rainbows

A vexing feature of modern physicalistic non-theism is that, followed to its logical conclusion, it leads to moral nihilism. (I realize that theistic attempts to put morality on an objective basis also face serious challenges, but that’s not the point tonight.) Moral nihilism being, to most folks, bad, there’s been a rash lately of books […]

Competition For Excrement Is Fierce

If you’re like me (of course you are!), you’ve been lying awake at night, asking yourself: “How the hell do South African dung beetles roll their balls in a straight line? Sure, polarized light from the Sun works fine during the day (duh!), but what about at night, when many of them do their best […]

Web Of Deceit

Here’s a new one: a spider that builds decoy spiders.

Born That Way

Writing at The Thinking Housewife, Laura Wood examines an article, by one Alice Dreger, about the sexuality of two African tribes, the Aka and the Ngandu, in which both masturbation and homosexuality are absent. Mrs. Wood writes: Dreger says that the absence of homosexuality does not conflict with the prevailing belief in the West that […]

Jews, Genes And Intelligence

I haven’t much time for writing today, so for now, here’s Steven Pinker on the genetic basis of the high IQ of Ashkenazi Jews. Pinker is one academic who, despite being a fairly high-echelon member of the Cathedral staff, apparently has an office with a window, and flirts openly with apostasy. Among the apostatic asseverations […]

Cheap Date

Here’s a remarkable critter: a plant-animal chimera called Elysia chlorotica. Once it has dined on enough algae to prime its photosynthetic pump, it lives on nothing but sunlight, and never needs to eat again. Amazing. More photos here.

Gene Pool

Many years ago I stumbled across a book called The Descent of Woman, by Elaine Morgan. It was the first I’d ever heard of something called the “aquatic ape hypothesis”, which claims that certain features of the human body — our hairless skin, our bipedalism, and some other things you can read about here — […]

Birth Of A Notion

It was Richard Dawkins who gave us, in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene, the idea of the “meme”. The concept, by replicating itself into millions of human minds, has turned out to be a robustly successful meme in its own right — and Professor Dawkins is rightly credited with setting it loose in the […]

Goldilocks Chemistry

If we infidels are going to go around insisting that life arose spontaneously without miraculous intervention, then we’re naturally going to have a keen interest providing an explanation of how that could have happened. To make the story hang together, what’s needed is for some sort of self-replicating molecules to have arisen, and a plausible […]

Well, Blow Me Down

In the past day or so Dennis Mangan and others have mentioned this important new study confirming the heritability of intelligence. The results will hardly be a shock to denizens of the HBD blogosphere, or for that matter anyone who has been following the actual science of psychometrics, but are bound to raise a hackle […]

Assembly Of God

Boffins at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology have made a nifty find: an animal that’s screwed together. (Just like we’re all going to be.) Have a look here.

Beta Test

Lawrence Auster, in a post commenting on the idiotic and occasionally dangerous fad known as “planking” (in which people take photos of themselves stretched out horizontally in odd locations), suggests that plankers deserve a Darwin Award. So far, so good, and I quite agree. But Mr. Auster, who has an intellectually unfortunate antipathy to Darwinism, […]

Groupthink

A couple of days ago, David Brooks wrote a column about the evolution of morality by group selection, an idea that is finally gaining broader acceptance. I’m glad to see that happening; the group-selection model provides such a solid foundation for an evolutionary account of the origins of religion and morality that I was persuaded […]

Works For Me

When it comes to thinking about human consciousness and reason, people divide, broadly speaking, into two camps: those who see consciousness and reason as primary features of reality, and those who see them as emerging from the activity of suitably configured physical systems (in particular, human brains). For those in the first camp, consciousness is […]

Collectivism

It’s another busy spell for me; I haven’t had much time to comment on the passing scene since putting up that brief eugenics post last week, and I’ve had no time for writing today. But don’t touch that dial! I have something I’m sure you’ll enjoy: Ants As Fluids.

Chicken or Egg?

In a timely follow-up to our previous post, here’s an article from Science Daily: Cultural Differences Are Evident Deep in the Brain of Caucasian and Asian People The lead paragraph: People in different cultures make different assumptions about the people around them, according to an upcoming study published in Psychological Science, a journal of the […]

Spin

In a recent study of psychological “priming”, boffins at two universities have turned up an unsurprising result: anxiety about death can incline people more favorably toward belief in supernatural agency and purpose, in particular “intelligent design”. (The study might have been somewhat slanted, however; one of the metrics used for confidence in naturalism was “liking […]

No Fluke

In the hugely popular sci-fi video game Halo, humans do battle with something called the Flood — a disgusting parasitic fungus that takes over the bodies of its victims, converting them into mutilated zombie soldiers. When that happens to one of our boys, the result looks like this: According to Wikipedia’s account of the Halo […]

What Is A Moral Fact?

In the comment thread of our previous post, we’ve been looking at Sam Harris’s claim that there can be a prescriptive natural science of human morality, one that uncovers objective normative truths. This would rebut, it seems, the idea that there are no “oughts” in nature. People do want there to be absolute moral truths, […]

Living In Grass Houses, Throwing Stones

There’s an interesting item in today’s Science Daily: a paper by University of Wyoming researcher Qin Zhu et al., suggests that the human size-weight illusion — which makes us think, if holding two objects of equal weight, that the larger one actually weighs less — is an evolved adaptation that helped us find objects of […]

As Above, So Below

With the publication of The Selfish Gene in 1976, Richard Dawkins raised a lively debate about which level of life’s organization is the right one for understanding natural selection. Previously the assumption had been that selection could only be understood to act upon discrete individuals, but Dawkins shook things up by suggesting that selection pressures […]

Life Goes On

The “big news” from yesterday, about a new form of arsenic-based life found in Mono Lake, seems, from what I’ve read today, to have been a bit exaggerated. The bacterium in question was taken from an arsenic-rich environment — one to which it had presumably adapted by developing a tolerance for the stuff — and […]

Second Life

This could be very big news: the discovery of a new life-form, in California’s Mono Lake, with a significant difference in its most basic biochemistry. (Having turned up in California, chances are it will soon be demanding in-state tuition rates.) Story here.

As Good As It Gets

“To err is human.” When it comes to what we do, there’s usually plenty of room for improvement. But when it comes to what we are, it turns out that isn’t always the case. Natalie Angier explains.

What Do Women Want?

Our friend Dennis Mangan is a rising star in the conservative blogosphere, and in addition to his continuing work at Mangan’s he has begun contributing articles to the new conservative website Alternative Right. His latest is about the biological causes of the male-female “wage gap”. Read it here.

That Word Again

Of all the conceptual tar-pits into which discussions of Darwinian naturalism often sink, none smothers its victims so prolifically as the concept of “design”. We reserve it jealously for the foresightedly purposeful efforts of conscious agents, which leaves us fumfering about for a word to describe the beautiful machinery of living things, and the powerful […]

Ought From Naught

In a post over at VFR, Lawrence Auster comments on an essay by Stanley Fish in which Professor Fish remarks on the inability of pure “secular” reason, bereft of normative bedrock in the Divine, to provide any “oughts”. This is catnip to Mr. Auster, who is, despite having various admirable qualities, a crusading anti-Darwinist. The […]

Stupid Cephalopod Tricks

Making the rounds today is some marvelously entertaining footage that some biologists think is evidence of tool use amongst invertebrates. I think it’s safe to say you’ve never seen this before; see for yourself here.

Is Secularism Maladaptive?

In the paper the other day there was an item about Pope Benedict’s recent remarks to the people of the Czech Republic. The Pope, speaking to one of the most secular societies on Earth, sought earnestly to persuade them of the dangers of a society without God. On a superficial level this is easy enough […]