Anthropogenic Evolution

Another day, another article highlighting studies into the differences between the brains of conservatives and liberals. Read for yourself but there seems to be good evidence that differences in political orientation is specific, marked, and more than casually influenced by our genes.[1] Add to this the increasing isolation, both intellectual and in real geographic terms, between conservatives and liberals, plus the revelation that politics[2] are causing people to walk out on dates, relationships (including friendships) and marriages,[3][4] and we have the prerequisite conditions for our next evolutionary stumble.

We stand at a fork in the road of humanity, where in the future two species may stand where today only one. Think H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine. And just like the Eloi and the Morlocks, our evolution will be decidedly anthropogenic. We are the creators of the conditions to which we now need to adapt. And not only that, but the diverging paths that we have chosen we have chosen for ourselves.

And so only one question remains: Who will be the small, effete surface-dwellers, and who the toiling, subterranean primitives?


[1] The Atlantic: Can your genes predict whether you’ll be a conservative or a liberal?; Slate: Why are conservatives more susceptible to believing lies?
[2] Specifically, in the US, the question of whether someone is a Trump supporter, as the perfect crystallisation of their political and social views.
[3] Like all the best revelations, it surprises nobody yet nevertheless changes everything.[4] Politico: How Donald Trump changed the dating world; Harper’s Bazaar: If you are married to a Trump supporter, divorce them


Guardian: What your latte says about you

On a lighter note:

“Mushroom latte. That’s where civilisation is at in 2017. Where previous generations were blessed with space flight, antibiotics or a deeper understanding of Copernican heliocentrism, this one gets fungus-flavoured milk.”

BBC: Why cake mix lacks one essential ingredient

This is fascinating. So people were too busy/lazy/other to bake at home and flour companies were worried, so they invented ready cake mix. But people didn’t like ready cake mix because it was too easy. Supposedly a cake should be something that ‘comes from the heart … a love poem, an act of faith’, something just adding water and pushing into a not-quite-yet pre-heated oven failed to satisfy. So, after talking to some experts and conducting some surveys, the manufacturers decide to leave out the eggs. Now people had to crack and whisk the eggs themselves. This, astoundingly, was enough to provide the necessary emotional connection. People felt vindicated. It’s like the Matrix.

There, between adding water to ready cake mix and adding water and eggs to ready cake mix, in that sliver of distinction, that’s where you’ll find our humanity.

Read the article, here.


A House Built on Biblical Sand

It’s true: the God of the Old Testament, the Abrahamic God, Yahweh, Allah, one third of the indivisible Christian Trinity, has always preferred his women young and virginal, has always sought the ruthless destruction of his enemies, and has always punished disobedience in his own followers without mercy or remorse. He is a vengeful, jealous, unforgiving god. So has He always been. Amen.

For centuries now (dare I say for over six  millennia) many among his faithful followers and cowed adherents have struggled with the ugly humanity central to many of the best-known Bible stories: the intolerance and hate, the violence and murder, the rape and incest–the whole, pervasive, foundational bigotry of God’s message.[1] For the most part they have chosen to ignore the unpalatable aspects, to focus instead on the more positive teachings in the New Testament (though similarly and conveniently ignoring the messages they dislike[2]). But this position was always unstable, one could say like a house built on biblical sand, a house that must, sooner or later, collapse.

And now, finally, Christians are being forced to reconcile their beliefs–finally to choose between the justifications for murder and rape and genocide in the Bible, and rejecting the bigotry, violence and harmful posturing of a primitive people. They choose the Bible.


[1] Not to mention the inconsistencies.
[2] Admonishments against greed, for example, or teachings on compassion.

Read: All the Appalling Ways Republicans are Defending Roy Moore


Vox: America is facing an epistemic crisis

If I wanted to sound trite, I could say there are two types of people in the world: those who understand epistemology, and those who don’t care.

Growing up, I was always taught not to argue with stupid people. But what no one ever taught me was what I’m supposed to do instead, if you have to live with them, work with them, be governed by them, as we all invariably do.

It’s like back in school when the class bully calls you a stupid, nasty name, and there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it. Ignore them, get angry, even defend yourself with fisticuffs, the damage is still done. Now the bully is in the Oval Office and the Boardroom, and they’re your neighbours and your family, and the schoolyard is everywhere.

Have you ever had an argument with a friend where one person says what is true, and the other person says what they want, and you both carry on and on and talk at cross-purposes until you’re both blue in the face and neither of you are any closer to understanding?

This article is a brilliantly depressing analysis of all these things in the context of America’s current political climate, which can only be described, meteorologically, as a shitstorm, and specifically the question: What if Special Counsel Mueller proves Trump’s wrongdoing, and we just can’t do anything about it?

Some highlights:

“It is quite simply impossible for most people to imagine believing all the things that would be required to also believe that DC Democrats are into organized child trafficking. … And yet millions of Americans fervently believe these things.”

“Mainstream scientists and journalists see themselves as … neutral arbiters, even if they do not always uphold that ideal in practice. … But the right did not want better neutral arbiters. The institutions it built scarcely made any pretense of transcending faction; they are of and for the right. … They are prosecuting its interests; that is the ur-goal. … That mindset leads to what I call “tribal epistemology” — the systematic conflation of what is true with what is good for the tribe.”

“[The reason] why Jeff Flake and Bob Corker are leaving the Senate [is that t]hey no longer have any control over what their constituents believe or want, and their constituents believe and want increasingly ugly things.”

“There is no longer any settling such arguments. The only way to settle any argument is for both sides to be committed, at least to some degree, to shared standards of evidence and accuracy … If one side rejects the epistemic authority of society’s core institutions and practices, there’s just nothing left to be done. Truth cannot speak for itself, like the voice of God from above.”

I highly recommend you read the article in full, here. And the best thing is, this commentator doesn’t seem inordinately beholden to that soporific, all-too-human need for ‘hope’–he’s not afraid of turning over the bodies.


Atlantic: He was a crook

I was wondering what Hunter S Thompson would have written about Trump if he had still been alive today, and the closest I could find were the words he reserved for the reigning champion of scum, Richard Nixon.

“Some people will say that words like scum and rotten are wrong for Objective Journalism — which is true, but they miss the point. It was the built-in blind spots of the Objective rules and dogma that allowed Nixon to slither into the White House in the first place.”

“I kicked him repeatedly long before he went down. I beat him like a mad dog with mange every time I got a chance, and I am proud of it. He was scum.”

Thanks you Hunter, we miss you.

Business Insider: Turning conservatives more liberal

Imagine that you’ve been granted superpowers and were suddenly as invincible as Superman — bullets bounce off you, fire couldn’t scorch your skin, and a fall from a cliff wouldn’t hurt at all. Now, let’s talk about how social issues.

Bringing superheroes to science!

Guardian: How the left must respond to this age of anger

Hope, some ideas, highlighting issues, bringing discussion, a step forward. Good piece from Lisa Nandy, Labour MP for Wigan.

Guardian: The first social media suicide

In May of last year, a teenager in a dreary suburb of Paris live-streamed her own suicide – and acquired a morbid kind of digital celebrity, writes Rana Dasgupta.

If You’re Not Part of the Problem

It used to be said: “If you’re not part of the SOLUTION, you’re part of the PROBLEM.”

But the tide of recent history, culminating with (but by no means limited to) the election of Trump to the US presidency,[1] has changed all that. Don’t think this was a sudden change; all manner of groups have been trying this for decades. Voltaire wrote in the eighteenth century that it is dangerous to be right when those in power are wrong. Now in countries all across the world, in Russia, in China, in America, in America(!), those in power have finally succeeded in making the human rights activists, the environmentalists, and all those who fight for real freedom and fairness, into the enemy.

So, it used to be said: “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.”

Now we say: “If you’re not part of the PROBLEM, you’re part of the SYSTEM.”


[1] Which until the moment Trump entered the Oval Office, despite not innumerable attacks from within and an almost congenital degeneracy, still stood as the pinnacle of our modern, western democracy. Thinking of Trump and the symbolism of the presidency reminds me of Groucho Marx’s comment that “I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member.” I can’t help feel a little sorry for Trump that he is the only person who can never get the irony.