NY haz teh Gay

By now you may have heard that the NY State Senate passed a marriage equality bill last night making NY the sixth, and so far largest, state in the US to allow same sex marriage.  That makes me pleased. I like knowing that that sort of progressive thought is alive and well in my home state. In fact, I read recently that 58% of the state’s population supports gay marriage. Of course, this didn’t stop my stodgy and backward thinking state senator, Joe Griffo, from voting against it. But I was a little surprised by the comments I saw on the local paper’s web site regarding the announcement. And by surprised, I mean I saw a lot of well considered and thoughtful remarks supporting it instead of the usual drivel there. Granted, there were the usual howls from the biblical crowd, but on balance it’s heartening:

http://www.uticaod.com/features/x177089819/NY-Legislature-legalizes-gay-marriage

It should be noted that NY won’t officially adopt this until Governor Cuomo signs the bill, but as he stated it to be a top priority, it would be extraordinary if he didn’t sign it.

“It’s not your average creation video”

This is true only to the extent that the video in question is narrated by a young-earth whackjob who looks and sounds disturbingly like Richard Dawkins. Watching the video is thus much like watching George Carlin deliver a speech in an impassive monotone about how bright and charming most people are, or seeing Sarah Palin offer her latest insights about superstring theory. Other than that, though, it’s standard creationist bullshit — allege that something that real scientists have elucidated is actually a quandary for them, then solve a nonexistent problem (or more to the point, something that is a problem only for YECs) by throwing up a Biblical model in its place. Boilerplate drivel.

You may have noticed that the guy who operates this blog, Ikester, himself doesn’t possess an especially deep understanding of that which he purports to debunk: Continue reading ““It’s not your average creation video””

The “tipping point” model as an explanation for the maintenance of homosexuality

This is interesting and suggests that there may be a definitive answer to the long-standing question, “Is there an evolutionarily based explanation for homosexuality?”

Overly simplified, this “tipping-point” model (originally introduced by G. E. Hutchinson in 1959, and then later popularized by Jim McKnight in 1997 and Edward Miller in 2000) posits that genes associated with homosexuality confer fitness benefits in their heterosexual carriers. If only a few of these alleles are inherited, a males’ reproductive success is enhanced via the expression of attractive, albeit feminine traits, such as kindness, sensitivity, empathy, and tenderness. However, if many of these alleles are inherited, a “tipping point” is reached at which even mate preferences become “feminized,” meaning males are attracted to other males. In explaining this model, Miller asked readers to imagine a genetic system in which there are five different genes that place an individual along a masculine-feminine continuum. Each of the five genes has two alleles, one that pulls the individual to the masculine side and one that pulls to the feminine side. If a man inherited all of the feminine-pulling alleles (of which he has a 3.125% chance: .55), he will become homosexual. If he inherited less than all five of the feminine-pulling alleles, however, he would not be homosexual. Although originally proposed in simple form in 1959, this model was finally empirically tested in 2008 and 2009.

Behavioral geneticists at the Queensland Institute of Medical Research lead by Brendan Zietsch (joined by sexual orientation expert Michael Bailey and evolutionary geneticist Matthew Keller) found that psychological femininity in heterosexual men elevated the number of opposite-sex sexual partners, suggesting that their femininity was often attractive to women (think Johnny Depp). In addition, these researchers and those at Abo Akedemi University in Finland (lead by Pekka Santtila) independently predicted that if the “tipping point” model was correct, then heterosexual men with a homosexual twin should have more of the attractive feminine-pulling alleles and thus more opposite-sex sexual partners than members of heterosexual twin pairs. The Finnish group also measured the number of children and age at first intercourse between heterosexual men with a homosexual twin brother and heterosexual men with heterosexual twin brothers. While the findings did not reach statistical significance, data suggested that heterosexuals with a homosexual twin had slightly more opposite-sex sexual partners, slightly more children, and were a bit younger at the age of first intercourse than heterosexual twin pairs.

In other words, a certain amount of “femininity” makes straight men more appealing to women and increases the chances that they’ll pass along more of their genes. Too much and then men are simply gay, but the fact that they don’t reproduce is mitigated by the face that their close cousins–comparatively “woman-like” straight men–are busy passing along a slew of the same genes that apparently contribute to homosexuality. (Obviously this description is fraught with hazards. “Woman-like” as I’m using it here implies not a queeny bearing, but greater tendencies toward kindness, empathy, and other positive traits that can be found in men who present as perfectly “masculine.”)

It’s an intriguing idea, anyway, not that the homobigots–usually people whose comprehension of simple genetics is zero–will either understand or accept it if it ever comes to prominence.

The Discovery Institute: a shambling, sneering concern troll (3)

This is the last in a three-part series (the first is here, the second here).
Bruce Chapman had this to say yesterday:

[T]he new standards are just fine, an improvement, in fact. Now teachers can tell the kids about the scientific evidence in a variety of fields that seems to contradict the Darwinian account as well as the supposed evidence in support.

Interesting; I never knew that teachers heretofore were barred from discussing actual evidence of any sort. And “seems,” Bruce? And “supposed”? The sun “seems” to revolve around the earth, but we don’t teach kids that it does, because we have “supposed evidence” to the contrary.
Chapman has patently defined “evidence” in two wildly different ways here. Rarely does one see such bold equivocation within a single sentence, even from these guys. How mindless, and sold on hokum in advance, do people have to be to lend a shred of credulity to such weaselly presentations? (Of course, maybe this is just one more way of “framing science,” which means it may even be ethical since it’s not coming from someone with any interest in valid science.)
The DI crew and scientists both know that there is no scientific evidence against evolution. If such evidence existed, it would stand front and center on the DI Web site, probably linked in huge text at the top of the home page, and would be right next to the evidence supporting Intelligent Design creationism if that existed. The absence of these things alone should be sufficient to convince anyone of the flakiness of the entire ID “movement,” but unfortunately religion scrambles minds in a uniquely ugly way.
By referring to something that isn’t there, but which millions of Lone Star Staters need to be there, the DI gang foments uncertainty without the need to put anything scientific in its place, since they knows well the default position of the faithful. And technically, if teachers in Texas could be counted on to do their jobs competently and with integrity, the idea of “examining all sides of scientific evidence” in the world of biology morphs trivially into “examine the evidence for evolution” and everyone is happy.
But of course the public doesn’t know these things; otherwise, circuses like the one that was just conducted would never happen in the first place. At present, the burden of colossal, willful, angry ignorance is so great in Texas that it very easily overwhelms facts when left unchecked and usually does so even when facts are placed front and center and with due equanimity. Creationist teachers abound, and the DI knows full well that an abdication of teaching evolution implies the support–to whatever extent the teacher can get away with it–of evolution. The DI pretends to shun religious explanations for the diversity of life on Earth, but this is an obvious lie; their aim is to position students’ minds so that creationism can be molded into ID creationism.
Of course, these people are screw-ups, and so, despite all of the practice they’ve had honing their dishonest talking points, they can’t help but screw up here and there, often without any cloaking at all. Witness Casey Luskin:

Continue reading “The Discovery Institute: a shambling, sneering concern troll (3)”

Hitchens on the Texas evolution battles

I’m referring not to the evolution of Texas itself, of course–there’s little evidence that this brand of evolution actually occurs, be it naturally or by dint of human intervention–but to the ongoing efforts to poison the public-school science-teaching standards there.
Christopher Hitchens has written a piece for Newsweek addressing the issue.

Perhaps dimly aware that they don’t want a total victory, either, [Don] McLeroy and his allies now say that they ask for evolution to be taught only with all its “strengths and weaknesses.” But in this, they are surely being somewhat disingenuous. When their faction was strong enough to demand an outright ban on the teaching of what they call “Darwinism,” they had such a ban written into law in several states. Since the defeat and discredit of that policy, they have passed through several stages of what I am going to have to call evolution. First, they tried to get “secular humanism” classified as a “religion,” so that it would meet the First Amendment’s disqualification for being taught with taxpayers’ money. (That bright idea was Pat Robertson’s.) Then they came up with the formulation of “creation science,” picking up on anomalies and gaps in evolution and on differences between scientific Darwinists like Richard Dawkins and Stephen Jay Gould. Next came the ingratiating plea for “equal time”–what could be more American than that?–and now we have the rebranded new coinage of “intelligent design” and the fresh complaint that its brave advocates are, so goes the title of a recent self-pitying documentary, simply “expelled” from the discourse.
It’s not just that the overwhelming majority of scientists are now convinced that evolution is inscribed in the fossil record and in the lineaments of molecular biology. It is more that evolutionists will say in advance which evidence, if found, would refute them and force them to reconsider. (“Rabbit fossils in the pre-Cambrian layer” was, I seem to remember, the response of Prof. J.B.S. Haldane.) Try asking an “intelligent design” advocate to stipulate upfront what would constitute refutation of his world view and you will easily see the difference between the scientific method and the pseudoscientific one.
But that is just my opinion. And I certainly do not want it said that my side denies a hearing to the opposing one. In the spirit of compromise, then, I propose the following. First, let the school debating societies restage the wonderful set-piece real-life dramas of Oxford and Dayton, Tenn. Let time also be set aside, in our increasingly multiethnic and multicultural school system, for children to be taught the huge variety of creation stories, from the Hindu to the Muslim to the Australian Aboriginal. This is always interesting (and it can’t be, can it, that the Texas board holdouts think that only Genesis ought to be so honored?). Second, we can surely demand that the principle of “strengths and weaknesses” will be applied evenly. If any church in Texas receives a tax exemption, or if any religious institution is the beneficiary of any subvention from the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, we must be assured that it will devote a portion of its time to laying bare the “strengths and weaknesses” of the religious world view, and also to teaching the works of Voltaire, David Hume, Benedict de Spinoza, Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson. This is America. Let a hundred flowers bloom, and a thousand schools of thought contend. We may one day have cause to be grateful to the Texas Board of Education for lighting a candle that cannot be put out.

So what say the creationist readers of this blog (if any?) Does this sound like a fair deal? Or, as I suspect is the case, does the Christ myth not admit of any “weaknesses”?