Thursday: Hili dialogue

June 1, 2023 • 6:45 am

June is here! Yes, it’s Thursday, June 1, 2023, and although Summer doesn’t officially start for three weeks, June really IS summer. It’s National Hazelnut Cake Day, which nobody has ever eaten, as well as these food-month designations for June:

National Candy Month
National Dairy Month
National Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Month
National Iced Tea Month
National Papaya Month

It’s also Dinosaur Day, Heimlich Maneuver Day (note that there are now two ways to do this: abdominal thrusts and back blows, and you should alternate between them), International Children’s Day, National Go Barefoot Day, National Nail Polish Day, National Olive Day, Say Something Nice Day (how about “you look maah-velous!”?), Wear a Dress Day, World Milk Day, and Global Day of Parents.

Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the June 1 Wikipedia page.

Da Nooz:

*Yesterday the House passed a bill affirming the bipartisan deal to raise the debt ceiling, so the U.S. won’t go into default (the Senate is almost certain to pass it, too).  The support was bipartisan, but so was the opposition:

The bill would defer the federal debt limit for two years — allowing the government to borrow unlimited sums as necessary to pay its obligations — while imposing two years of spending caps and a string of policy changes that Republicans demanded in exchange for allowing the country to avoid a disastrous default. The 314-to-117 vote came days before the nation was set to exhaust its borrowing limit, and days after a marathon set of talks between White House negotiators and top House Republicans yielded a breakthrough agreement.

With both far-right and hard-left lawmakers in revolt over the deal, it fell to a bipartisan coalition powered by Democrats to push the bill over the finish line, throwing their support behind the compromise in an effort to break the fiscal stalemate that had gripped Washington for weeks. On the final vote, 149 Republicans and 165 Democrats backed the measure, while 71 Republicans and 46 Democrats opposed it.

That was a blow to the Republican speaker, whose hard-fought victory on the measure was dampened by the fact that more Democrats ultimately voted for the bill than members of his own party.

The measure nearly collapsed on its way to the House floor, when hard-right Republicans sought to block its consideration, and in a suspenseful scene, Democrats waited several minutes before swooping in to supply their votes for a procedural measure that allowed the plan to move ahead.

The “progressive” Democrats, including Jayapal and Ocasio-Cortez, voted against the bill because it didn’t give them what they wanted (same reason the Republicans voted against the bill), but do these people want to throw the country into a crisis? AOC:

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York, said she, too, would vote against the bill, in part because of changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

“Republicans need to own this vote,” she said. “This was their deal, this was their negotiations. They’re the ones trying to come in and cut SNAP, cut environmental protections, trying to ram through an oil pipeline through a community that does not want it.”

Sorry, but both Dems and Republicans own this vote, and it was negotiations and a deal from both parties. And a good thing, too.

*As reported in Forbes Magazine, a nationwide telephone poll of 1,680 adults conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago assayed Americans on a number of issues, the one reported in this piece being how much weight should be given to race in college admissions. According to Americans, “some, but not much.” We should find out shortly if the Supreme Court will allow any consideration of race in admissions, and it doesn’t look likely.

A new poll conducted by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds that 63% of adults believe that the Supreme Court should not prohibit colleges from considering race or ethnicity as one factor in their admission decisions, but most also believe it should not be treated as a major factor.

. . . Support for the limited use of race as an admission factor was surprisingly consistent across political and racial lines. A majority of both Democrats (65%) and Republicans (60%) favored allowing applicants’ race to be considered. Likewise, there was no significant difference based on race or ethnicity. Sixty-two percent of white adults, along with 62% of Black adults and 65% of Hispanic adults said consideration of race and ethnicity should be permitted by colleges.

. . . There were, however, differences in how much consideration people thought race/ethnicity should be given in college admissions with Blacks, Hispanics and Democrats more likely to say they should be important.

When asked about the importance of several other admission factors, respondents assigned relatively low priority to race/ethnicity (only 13% said it should be extremely or very important), donations to the school (10% said the same), athletic ability (9%), gender (9%), and legacy status (9%). Overall, 68% of adults said race and ethnicity should not be a significant factor.

And although the Supreme Court will be the ultimate arbiter of this issue, Americans have lost confidence in the Court in a large measure: only 12% of those polled expressing great confidence in it—down more than 50% from 2020.

*Yesterday North Korea just tried to launch its first spy satellite, but it failed miserably, with the rocket falling into the sea.

North Korea’s attempt to put its first spy satellite into space failed Wednesday in a setback to leader Kim Jong Un’s push to boost his military capabilities as tensions with the United States and South Korea rise.

After an unusually quick admission of failure, North Korea vowed to conduct a second launch after it learns what went wrong. It suggests Kim remains determined to expand his weapons arsenal and apply more pressure on Washington and Seoul while diplomacy is stalled.

South Korea and Japan briefly urged residents in some areas to take shelter after the launch.

The South Korean military said it was salvaging an object presumed to be part of the crashed North Korean rocket in waters 200 kilometers (125 miles) west of the southwestern island of Eocheongdo. Later, the Defense Ministry released photos of a white, metal cylinder it described as a suspected rocket part.

A satellite launch by North Korea is a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions that ban the country from conducting any launch based on ballistic technology. Observers say North Korea’s previous satellite launches helped improve its long-range missile technology. North Korean long-range missile tests in recent years demonstrated a potential to reach all of the continental U.S., but outside experts say the North still has some work to do to develop functioning nuclear missiles.

They’ll eventually succeed, even as they’ll eventually succeed in producing workable ICBMs with nuclear warheads. This is one of the most difficult diplomatic problems to solve—if it even needs solving. Negotiating, of course, won’t work, and, the country not being suicidal, it’s not going to launch nukes without provocation. But all the money for this war material is coming out of the mouths of North Koreans, who are starving en masse. And there’s no hope of a regime change.

*The NYT has discovered that the James Beard Foundation, which gives prestigious award to various chefs, has gone full Pecksniff and is now grilling candidate chefs about their sociopolitical backgrounds and scrutinizing their past social media accounts. After all, our chefs must be politically correct!

[Chef Sam] Fore is a finalist in the James Beard awards, which for nearly three decades have been considered the most prestigious culinary honors in the United States, the so-called “Oscars of the food world.” As the #MeToo movement led to high-profile revelations of misbehavior and workplace abuse in the restaurant world in recent years, the Beard foundation overhauled its processes to make the awards more equitable and diverse, and to ensure that chefs with troubling histories are not honored.

Ms. Fore is among the first subjects of an investigatory process created in 2021 as part of that overhaul. But in many ways she is the kind of chef the retooled awards are meant to recognize more fully. Early indications suggest that the new process is vulnerable to failure in several ways.

While the awards have historically honored mostly white chefs serving European-derived food in expensive urban restaurants — in fact, the other four finalists in the Best Chef: Southeast category with Ms. Fore are white men — her business, Tuk Tuk, is a pop-up that serves cuisine inspired by what she grew up eating in Lexington, Ky., as the daughter of Sri Lankan immigrants.

In what she called “an interrogation,” the investigators asked her about social media posts she had made on both private and public accounts. Someone had sent them to the foundation through an anonymous tip line on its website. The men told Ms. Fore that the posts potentially violated the organization’s code of ethics — specifically that they amounted to “targeted harassment” and “bullying.”

They included an Instagram post, she said, that was part of a domestic-violence awareness campaign, and others related to her advocacy for victims of sexual violence, including “vague tweets” about people the posts did not name.

Here’s the “problematic” post, which isn’t problematic at all:

The Foundation even has an anonymous “tip line”, where you can report a chef or restaurant for not practicing Social Justice correctly.  It’s a good thing that there is no Big Brother to record people’s words, for then all of us would have been guilty of at least one such offense in our lives.

*Talk about May-December romances, India Today reports that actor Al Pacino, who’s now 83, is expecting a baby with his 29-year-old wife Noor Alfallah. I found one photo of them on her Instagram page (below), but he’s not named (the guy on the right is artist James Bennett).

Veteran American actor and filmmaker Alfredo James “Al” Pacino is set to become a dad for the fourth time. He is 82 years old! As per TMZ, the actor’s 29-year-old girlfriend, Noor Alfallah is eight-months pregnant. Pacino’s representative also confirmed the news to PEOPLE

Al Pacino and Noor Alfallah have been linked since April 2022 when they were spotted grabbing dinner together. According to Page Six sources, it was revealed that the couple had actually been quietly dating since the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Pacino and Noor started seeing each other during the pandemic. She mostly dates very rich older men. She has been with Al for some time and they get on very well. The age gap doesn’t seem to be a problem, even though he is older than her father. She moves with the wealthy jet-set crowd, and she comes from a family with money,” the source revealed.

Meanwhile, Al Pacino already shares daughter Julie Marie, 33, with his ex-girlfriend, Jan Tarrant. She is an acting coach. He also has 22-year-old twins Anton and Olivia with ex-partner Beverly D’Angelo. The duo dated from 1997 to 2003. Meanwhile, this appears to be Alfallah’s first child.

Previously, Alfallah was linked to Mick Jagger, who was 74 at the time, and she was just 22. She was also linked to billionaire Nicolas Berggruen, 60.

I’ve heard people criticize Pacino for this, presumably on the grounds that his child won’t have a father for very long, but this seems to be the business of Pacino and Alfallah alone. But as long as we’re gossiping, Robert DeNiro just had his seventh kid at 79.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili still despises molehills, but Andrzej likes them:

Hili: A tragedy.
A: How so?
Hili: Six molehills in my field of vision.
A: But I like moles and their molehills very much.
In Polish:
Hili: Rozpacz.
Ja: Z czym?
Hili: Sześć kretowisk w polu widzenia.
Ja: A ja bardzo lubię krety i ich kretowiska.

. . . and a photo of baby Kulka:

. . . and a photo of Baby Kulka:


From Nicole:

From Facebook:

This guy won the Grand Prize in the claw machine! (Click on screenshot to see the short video.)


From Masih. I never fail to be impressed by the bravery of Iranian women. She could certainly be imprisoned for going unveiled in public:

Here are a few “life tips” from “Strong Minded”, who self-identifies as “Investor, Learner, Out Of The Rat Race. Sharing Wealth, Wisdom, And Motivational Tips To Help You Perform At Your Highest Level.” They actually seem to make a lot of sense, so I’ll post them here (click on each tweet to see all the “wisdom”).

Of course nobody could adhere to all of these all of the time—if you did you’d be like Jesus was supposed to be, but much of this advice is good. And #20, the last tip, is the best.

From Barry: spa day for human and kitty!

From Malcolm, the beginning of a cat brawl:

From the Auschwitz Memorial, a mother and child gassed upon arrival:

Tweets from Professor Cobb. First, a Dali Hamster:

Ah, those crafty Norwegians. What a way to change!

The headline is a bit confusing (it’s about Matthew’s book), but it sure impressed his daughter:

Book recommendation: “G-Man”

May 31, 2023 • 12:45 pm

Assuming you’re not put off by long books (this one has about 750 pages of text) and that you a well-written biography of a fascinating American character, I can highly recommend G-Man, which won last year’s Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction. It also nabbed a bunch of other awards, including the 2023 Bancroft Prize, the 2023 Barbara and David Zalaznick Book Prize in American History, the 2023 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Biography, and the 2022 National Book Critics Circle Award for Biography.  I found out about the book via a recommendation fr0m my editor at Viking Penguin, the terrific Wendy Wolf, who happened to be the editor of this book—her second editing job to win a Pulitzer for nonfiction.

I presume that you know a little about J. Edgar Hoover: how he was FBI director from 1935-1972—from the days of John Dillinger and Pretty Boy Floyd right up through the Watergate burglary.  He refused to step down (and so died in office), served under eight Presidents, and grew the Bureau from a small investigative office into the behemoth institution it is today.

You’ve probably also heard that he illegally bugged Martin Luther King (among many other people), catching the Reverend in acts of infidelity and sending the tapes to Coretta King. After that, he had an anonymous note sent to King urging him to “do the right thing”, i.e.,  kill himself. (Hoover, an arch-conservative, disliked the civil rights movement, all Communists, and, at the end of his life, the left-wing antiwar movement.) You may have also heard that he was gay and dressed in women’s clothes. The latter isn’t true, while the former probably is, though Gage was unable to produce convincing proof that Hoover, who never married, had a homosexual relationship with his deputy Clyde Tolson.  They were surely partners of some sort, and nearly all of Hoover’s money (and the flag on his coffin) went to Tolson after his death. Hoover also bugged John and Bobby Kennedy, catching them in multiple infidelities, though he didn’t use that information against them.

Beverly Gage spent 16 years writing this book, and it shows: it’s loaded with facts that only a dogged researcher could pry out of archives, and yet the prose is superb. This is a long book that’s also a page-turner.

I don’t think that anyone who reads this book and has a moral neuron could think anything other than that Hoover was an odious human being, even though he ran the Bureau efficiently (although autocratically). He regularly violated the law by wiretapping, intimidating people, and engaging in quasi-legal manipulations to get his way, and I could find no sense of humor in the man, or, indeed, anything to like. Acts of empathy on his part were almost nonexistent. People befriended him simply because he was powerful.  But that’s what makes the story fascinating: how he cowed seven Presidents, including several who couldn’t stand him, into getting his way. (He got along best with Nixon and Johnson).

Gage sums up his life in a couple of pages at the end, and, like me, sees him as a pretty awful human being, but one who had the facility to wield power to his own advantage. He played a huge role in American history, though not always a good one, and if you’re a history buff or simply like biographies, this is one to read.  It’s a good book to take on a long trip, but too heavy to schlep to the beach!

I give it two hearty thumbs up.

Click on the screenshot to go to the Amazon page:

Click below to see a 16-minute NPR interview of Beverly Gage by Michel Martin:

Official press statement by the government of New Zealand

May 31, 2023 • 11:30 am

Here’s a new government of New Zealand statement by Kelvin Davis, the country’s Associate Minister of Education as well as  Minister for Māori Crown Relations: Te Arawhiti, Minister for Children with responsibility for Oranga Tamariki, and Minister of Corrections.

It announces the building of a school (“wharekura”) that focuses mostly on science, and will be connected to indigenous ways of knowing (mātauranga Māori), which are a combination of practical knowledge, legend and oral tradition, superstition, religion, morality, and tips on how to live better. By now I know most of the Māori words, but only because I read this stuff all the time and look up what I don’t know in a Māori dictionary. Remember, this announcement is supposed to be directed at all the citizens of New Zealand, not just the small percentage who speak Māori.

The announcement (indented):

A new Year 7-13 designated character wharekura will be built in Pāpāmoa, Associate Minister of Education Kelvin Davis has announced.

The wharekura will focus on science, mathematics and creative technologies while connecting ākonga to the whakapapa of the area. The decision follows an application by the Ngā Pōtiki ā Tamapahore Trust and a consultation process.

“The wharekura will initially have a maximum roll of 72 ākonga. Its establishment recognises the importance of Wairuatanga that is deeply embedded within the marae communities of the Bay of Plenty – Waiariki District,” Kelvin Davis said.

Teaching at the wharekura will be conducted in te reo Māori and will deliver a science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) programme supported by mātauranga Māori. This reflects Ngā Pōtiki ki Uta Ngā Pōtiki ki Tai – mai ngā kāhui maunga ki te moana: Tauranga Moana, Tauranga tangata: Te Arawa waka Te Arawa tangata: Mai ngā pae maunga ki te moana.


“Boosting Māori education is a focus for the Chris Hipkins’ Government, as shown in the recent Budget where $225 million went into areas including more classrooms and learning support,” Kelvin Davis said.

“Our goal is to grow the number of Māori learners in Māori Medium and Kaupapa Māori Education to 30% by 2040, and new wharekura like this will help us achieve this.”

“We are pleased to make this announcement in partnership with Ngā Pōtiki ā Tamapahore Trust as we continue to work collaboratively to foster increased participation, engagement and success for Māori through Māori immersion education,” Kelvin Davis said.

The next step is the appointment of an Establishment Board who will be tasked with developing the vision and direction of the wharekura and appointing staff.

A new Year 7-13 designated character wharekura will be built in Pāpāmoa, Associate Minister of Education Kelvin Davis has announced.

The wharekura will focus on science, mathematics and creative technologies while connecting ākonga to the whakapapa of the area. The decision follows an application by the Ngā Pōtiki ā Tamapahore Trust and a consultation process.

“The wharekura will initially have a maximum roll of 72 ākonga. Its establishment recognises the importance of Wairuatanga that is deeply embedded within the marae communities of the Bay of Plenty – Waiariki District,” Kelvin Davis said.

Teaching at the wharekura will be conducted in te reo Māori and will deliver a science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) programme supported by mātauranga Māori. This reflects Ngā Pōtiki ki Uta Ngā Pōtiki ki Tai – mai ngā kāhui maunga ki te moana: Tauranga Moana, Tauranga tangata: Te Arawa waka Te Arawa tangata: Mai ngā pae maunga ki te moana.

“Boosting Māori education is a focus for the Chris Hipkins’ Government, as shown in the recent Budget where $225 million went into areas including more classrooms and learning support,” Kelvin Davis said.

“Our goal is to grow the number of Māori learners in Māori Medium and Kaupapa Māori Education to 30% by 2040, and new wharekura like this will help us achieve this.”

“We are pleased to make this announcement in partnership with Ngā Pōtiki ā Tamapahore Trust as we continue to work collaboratively to foster increased participation, engagement and success for Māori through Māori immersion education,” Kelvin Davis said.

The next step is the appointment of an Establishment Board who will be tasked with developing the vision and direction of the wharekura and appointing staff.

Can you understand that? Even if you’re a Kiwi you probably can’t because, according to N.Z.’s Newshub, only a very tiny fraction of the country’s population speak Māori:

Te reo Māori [the Māori language], listed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization as ‘vulnerable’, is only proficiently spoken by around one in 100 New Zealanders. Another 2.7 percent are able to hold a basic conversation, according to census figures – all up that’s around 185,000 people.

Since only about 16.5% of New Zealanders identify as Māori, that means that about 80% of the indigenous people don’t even speak this language, even in the ability to hold a basic conversation.

Are Māori-laden statements like this, then,  a big attempt a virtue signaling, or does the government hope that by issuing them it will drive the whole country to learn the indigenous language? I doubt it, because a paper from the Royal Society suggests that, without intensive intervention, the demographics of the country will doom Māori as a language.

But more important, what is being proposed, once you translate the announcement into English, is a school that will teach science only in Māori, will use the principles of matauranga Māori, including the “whakapapa of the area” (whakapapa is a Māori-specific term reflecting the privileges and duties of your tribal ancestry), and will involve a lot of money.  I may be wrong, but given the paucity of Māori-speakers, and the prevalence of scientific literature and texts in English, not to mention the issue of matauranga Māori not being science but including some practical knowledge—given all this, shouldn’t they just educate the children in English, and reduce the influence of a largely superstition-and-tradition-based knowledge system on a science curriculum?

Indian science curriculum axes not only evolution, but the periodic table, energy sources, and pollution

May 31, 2023 • 9:15 am

As I wrote in April, India’s National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT), decided to remove evolution—a great unifying theory of biology—from all science classes below “class 11”, , which means that only students who have decided to major in biology will learn about evolution. (Indian students begin specializing younger than do American students.)

. . . . evolution used to be part of science class in “Classes 9 and 10,” which in India are kids 13-15 years old.  After that they take exams and have to decide what subjects to specialize in: science (with or without biology), commerce, economics, the arts, and so on. Specialization begins early, before the age at which kids go to college in America.

In India now, only the students who decide to go the Biology route in Classes 11 and 12 will get any exposure to evolution at all! It’s been wiped out of the biology material taught to any kids who don’t choose to major in biology.

The deep-sixing of evolution was originally part of the whittling-down of the Indian school curriculum during the pandemic, but now it appears to be a permanent change, and not just in public schools, but also in many private ones, who follow the same standards set by the ICSE (Indian Certificate of Secondary Education).

But it’s gotten worse. NCERT has eliminated not only evolution from most secondary school science classes, but have also deep-sixed the periodic table (!), as well as sources of energy and material about air and water pollution. (One would think those topics would be relevant in a country as crowded as India.)

This is all reported in a new article from Nature (click on screenshot for a free read):

An excerpt:

In India, children under-16 returning to school at the start of the new school year this month, will no longer be taught about evolution, the periodic table of elements, or sources of energy.

The news that evolution would be cut from the curriculum for students aged 15–16 was widely reported last month, when thousands of people signed a petition in protest. But official guidance has revealed that a chapter on the periodic table will be cut, too, along with other foundational topics such as sources of energy and environmental sustainability. Younger learners will no longer be taught certain pollution- and climate-related topics, and there are cuts to biology, chemistry, geography, mathematics and physics subjects for older school students.

Overall, the changes affect some 134 million 11–18-year-olds in India’s schools. The extent of what has changed became clearer last month when the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) — the public body that develops the Indian school curriculum and textbooks — released textbooks for the new academic year starting in May.

Researchers, including those who study science education, are shocked.

Not only that, but NCERT didn’t get input from parents or teachers, or even respond to Nature‘s request for comment. Here’s what’s gone besides evolution:

Mythili Ramchand, a science-teacher trainer at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai, India, says that “everything related to water, air pollution, resource management has been removed. “I don’t see how conservation of water, and air [pollution], is not relevant for us. It’s all the more so currently,” she adds. A chapter on different sources of energy — from fossil fuels to renewables — has also been removed. “That’s a bit strange, quite honestly, given the relevance in today’s world,” says Osborne.

A chapter on the periodic table of elements has been removed from the syllabus for class-10 students, who are typically 15–16 years old. Whole chapters on sources of energy and the sustainable management of natural resources have also been removed.

They’ve also bowdlerized stuff on politics:

A small section on Michael Faraday’s contributions to the understanding of electricity and magnetism in the nineteenth century has also been stripped from the class-10 syllabus. In non-science content, chapters on democracy and diversity; political parties; and challenges to democracy have been scrapped. And a chapter on the industrial revolution has been removed for older students.

And here’s NCERT’s explanation, which doesn’t make sense at all.

In explaining its changes, NCERT states on its website that it considered whether content overlapped with similar content covered elsewhere, the difficulty of the content, and whether the content was irrelevant. It also aims to provide opportunities for experiential learning and creativity.

First, evolution is NOT covered elsewhere, nor is it that difficult in principle. You don’t even have to teach natural selection; you can just give people the evidence for evolution, which is hardly rocket science. And the periodic table? That’s hard? How else will students learn about the elements?  As I said, only students age 16 and above will even hear about evolution or the elements, and most students in India will not go on to college where they can also learn these things. Remember, only high-school-age (in the U.S.) students who decide to specialize in science will learn about evolution, the periodic table, and energy.

And these cuts may well be permanent:

NCERT announced the cuts last year, saying that they would ease pressures on students studying online during the COVID-19 pandemic. Amitabh Joshi, an evolutionary biologist at Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research in Bengaluru, India, says that science teachers and researchers expected that the content would be reinstated once students returned to classrooms. Instead, the NCERT shocked everyone by printing textbooks for the new academic year with a statement that the changes will remain for the next two academic years, in line with India’s revised education policy approved by government in July 2020.

At first I thought the dropping of evolution reflected the Hindu-centric policies of Modi, somewhat of a theocrat, but an Indian biologist (see earlier post) told me this was unlikely, as Hindus aren’t particularly offended by evolution. The reasons must lie elsewhere, but they’re a mystery to all of us. However, Joshi does that the dumping of evolution reflect in part some religious beliefs:

Science educators are particularly concerned about the removal of evolution. A chapter on diversity in living organisms and one called ‘Why do we fall ill’ has been removed from the syllabus for class-9 students, who are typically 14–15 years old. Darwin’s contributions to evolution, how fossils form and human evolution have all been removed from the chapter on heredity and evolution for class-10 pupils. That chapter is now called just ‘Heredity’. Evolution, says Joshi, is essential to understanding human diversity and “our place in the world”.

In India, class 10 is the last year in which science is taught to every student. Only students who elect to study biology in the final two years of education (before university) will learn about the topic.

Joshi says that the curriculum revision process has lacked transparency. But in the case of evolution, “more religious groups in India are beginning to take anti-evolution stances”, he says. Some members of the public also think that evolution lacks relevance outside academic institutions.

And here’s one more suggestion: that some of these ideas are “Western”—truly the dumbest reason ever not to teach them. So what if Darwin was British?

“There is a movement away from rational thinking, against the enlightenment and Western ideas” in India, adds Sucheta Mahajan, a historian at Jawaharlal Nehru University who collaborates with Mukherjee on studies of RSS influence on school texts. Evolution conflicts with creation stories, adds Mukherjee. History is the main target, but “science is one of the victims”, she adds.

So here we have the world’s largest democracy dumbing down its curriculum, making some of the greatest ideas in science unavailable to its citizens.  This is unconscionable, but there’s little those outside of India can do about this.  The only thing I can think of is to is tell Richard Dawkins, who can at least embarrass the government by tweeting about this.  Otherwise, there are no petitions to sign, nobody to protest to.  And millions of Indian kids will be deprived of the greatest idea in biology.

From the Indian Express:

h/t: Matthew


Readers’ wildlife photos

May 31, 2023 • 8:15 am

Thanks to all who sent in photos; we’re good for a short while, but please don’t forget the site!

It’s been a while since we’ve heard from Tony Eales, who recently moved to Canberra, but he sent us a diverse batch of photos. His narrative is indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

So, we had a long weekend for Reconciliation Day and despite it being bitterly cold, the wife and I decided to go camping. We went to the Southern Forest National Park, three hours away, because in my investigations these are the temperate rainforests closest to my new home in Canberra.

This area was also ground zero for some of the worst of the unprecedented 2019-2020 bushfire season, and the damage to giant swathes of forest was still in evidence. Where we camped was completely destroyed in those bushfires and while the rainforest plants were back along the streams, the same could not be said for the canopy, and most of the understory was a mix of packed wattle and invasive fireweed. Very different to the sparser and fern-heavy understory that would have existed before the fires.

But despite the cold and the damage there was a lot of life around to be seen and heard. I heard Superb Lyrebirds calling every day and briefly saw one dash into the understory from the side of the road as I was driving past.

Other birds were more friendly like this beautiful Scarlet Robin (Petroica boodang). The Austro-Papuan Robins are not closely related to northern hemisphere robins but they come in a variety of shades of red, orange, pink, yellow and white:

In the mountains closer to Canberra, I saw Flame Robins (Petroica phoenicea), close cousins of the Scarlet Robins:

There were also flocks of the tiny Brown Thornbills (Acanthiza pusilla) foraging through the leaves for small insects:

We saw many signs of wombats but no actual wombats themselves but there were plenty of Swamp Wallabies (Wallabia bicolor) around:

At night, in among the leaves I found more than enough invertebrates to keep me photographing for a couple of hours each evening.
There was the impressive Badge Huntsman (Neosparassus cf diana):

Lots of Snowy Mountain Humpbacked Slugs (Cystopelta astra):

Several large ant species out hunting including this impressive Inchman Bulldog Ant (Myrmecia forficata):

And on the way home we stopped at Black Lake and photographed a couple of duck species that are new to me because they are more common in Southern Australia. Unfortunately, I am much more set up for close up photography than distance photography.

The Australian Shelduck (Tadorna tadornoides):

and Australasian Shovelers (Spatula rhynchotis):

Wednesday: Hili dialogue

May 31, 2023 • 6:45 am

Welcome to the last Hump Day in May (“Көн” in Tatar): May 31, 2023, and National Macaroon Day. And yet the photo they show is not of macaroons but macarons. Learn the difference:

macaron is a sandwich-like cookie that’s filled with jam, ganache, or buttercream. A macaroon is a drop cookie made using shredded coconut.  The preparation for each of these cookies is incredibly different, even though they start out with many of the same ingredients.

Macarons are an overpriced fad; real macaroons are good.

These are MACARONS!

It’s also National Autonomous Vehicle Day, National Meditation Day, National Smile Day, Speak in Complete Sentences Day, World Parrot Day, and World No Tobacco Day. 

Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the May 31 Wikipedia page.

Da Nooz:

*While Russia continues its strikes on Kyiv, the Ukrainians appear to be striking back:

At least eight drones targeted Moscow early Tuesday, according to the Russian authorities, the first attack to hit civilian areas in the Russian capital and a potent sign that the war is increasingly reaching the heart of Russia.

The assault came after yet another overnight bombardment by Russian forces of the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, which has faced a barrage of attacks in recent weeks that have put the city on edge and tested the country’s air defenses. Kyiv was attacked with at least 20 drones early Tuesday, leaving one person dead and unnerving exhausted residents.

The dueling strikes reflected the dialed-up tension and shifting priorities ahead of Ukraine’s expected counteroffensive. Ukraine has increasingly been reaching far into Russia-held territory, while Moscow has been adjusting its tactics in an effort to inflict significant damage on Kyiv.

Tuesday’s aerial assault on Moscow — in which at least three residential buildings sustained minor damage — comes weeks after a pair of explosions over the Kremlin, a bold strike aimed at President Vladimir V. Putin’s seat of power. U.S. officials said the attack was most likely orchestrated by one of Ukraine’s special military or intelligence units.

The Russian Defense Ministry blamed Ukraine for Tuesday’s assault, describing the strike as a “terrorist attack” and saying that the drones had been intercepted. Mr. Putin briefly commented on the attack, telling a reporter that Russia’s air defenses had proved adequate. “We have stuff to do,” he said in a video clip published by state news media. “We know what needs to be done.”

I sure hope Ukraine is not deliberately targeting civilians in these drone strikes (if they ARE Ukrainian drone strikes), for they would lose considerable moral capital if they did that. I doubt that Zelensky would want to deliberately strike civilian targets, which is a war crime.

*There are two big implications for ex-students of the new debt-ceiling deal as well as Biden’s own executive order on student debt. The first, which is write in stone, apparently requires the government to start collecting frozen repayments from ex-students by the end of the summer. The other, not part of the agreement, involves debt forgiveness.

For millions of Americans with federal student loan debt, the payment holiday is about to end.

Legislation to raise the debt ceiling and cut spending includes a provision that would require borrowers to begin repaying their loans again by the end of the summer after a yearslong pause imposed during the coronavirus pandemic.

President Biden had already warned that the pause would end around the same time, but the legislation, if it passes in the coming days, would prevent him from issuing another last-minute extension, as he has already done several times.

The end of the pause will affect millions of Americans who have taken out federal student loans to pay for college. Across the United States, 45 million people owe $1.6 trillion for such loans — more than Americans owe for any kind of consumer debt other than mortgages.

The lesson: don’t borrow money if you don’t think you can pay it back. The other part of the equation:

Even with the pause ending, some borrowers may still see some relief if the Supreme Court allows Mr. Biden to move forward with a plan to forgive up to $20,000 in debt for some people with outstanding balances.

Mr. Biden’s plan would cancel $10,000 of federal student loan debt for those who make under $125,000 a year. People who received Pell grants for low-income families could qualify for an additional $10,000 in debt cancellation.

But the plan was challenged in court as an illegal use of executive authority, and during oral arguments in February, several justices appeared skeptical of the program. A ruling from the court could come at any time but is expected next month.

Same lesson, but with another nagging question: why do these people get relief, while the others who already paid off their debts get no relief? Aren’t they due some reparations? At any rate, I have NO idea how the Court will rule on this one. Note, though, that this debt relief is not part of the debt-ceiling agreement.

*This is one reason why we shouldn’t live so long. Now, while Jimmy Carter, 98, is in his third month of hospice care with metastasized brain cancer, his wife Rosalynn, 95, has been diagnosed with dementia. You can imagine the blows that have struck that family (I always thought that Jimmy was a model ex-President).

In a news release, the Carter Center said that Rosalynn Carter, 95, was comfortable and spending time with her 98-year-old husband at home in Plains, Ga.

“She continues to live happily at home with her husband, enjoying spring in Plains and visits with loved ones,” the organization said in a statement.

Carter, who was hailed by the organization as “the nation’s leading mental health advocate for much of her life,” frequently talked about caregiving before, during and after her time with her husband in the White House.

“The universality of caregiving is clear in our family, and we are experiencing the joy and the challenges of this journey,” the Carter Center said. “We do not expect to comment further and ask for understanding for our family and for everyone across the country serving in a caregiver role.”

If we live that long, we’ll all face things like this; as a friend said when I sent her the news, “Ageing sucks.” I suppose it’s better than the alternative, and one good thing is that Jimmy and Rosalynn had a lot of good years together.

*Lawrence Krauss seems to be producing WSJ op-eds (antiwoke, of course, but good ones) at a steady clip. His latest, “A scientist’s sexuality shouldn’t matter,” He’s talking about a new survey being conducted by the National Science Foundation:

A pilot project was announced last week to track “sexual orientation and gender identity.” In addition to being asked about their sex—now qualified as the sex “assigned at birth”—they will be asked if they “currently describe” themselves as male, female, “transgender” or “a different term”; whether they consider themselves a “gender minority,” a “sexual minority” and “LGBT+”; and whether they accept one of a dizzying list of labels: “Non-binary, Gender nonconforming, Genderfluid, Genderqueer . . . Gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer or another orientation.”

The list of reasons why this is a bad idea is almost as long. For one, asking about sexual preferences is a violation of privacy. Will the NSF next be asking how many sexual partners each degree recipient had during graduate school, in case promiscuous students are underrepresented?

Such personal matters are irrelevant to science and essentially invisible. In my 40 years in academia, I have worked with all sorts of colleagues and students. Many were highly eccentric, but that didn’t matter if they were good scientists. As one colleague put it: “You are teaching a chemistry or physics course. Your lectures describe concepts and present equations. ‘Suppose a magnet is moving relative to a loop of wire.’ You barely know any of your students. You give tests and grade them. You have no idea, nor care about, the ‘sexual orientation’ of any of your students. . . . What career barriers are there?”

Identity divisions make the world more divisive, not less. Some of my colleagues and students have been gay. Unless they made a point of discussing it, it wasn’t important. If someone publishes a report claiming that gays are underrepresented in STEM, will diversity offices require that job candidates add information about their sexual preferences to applications, as they now require them to pledge to promote racial “diversity” and describe past activities that demonstrate such a commitment?

Guess why they’re doing this.  It’s a six letter word that begins with “e” and ends with “y”:

What’s the purpose of all this? Nature magazine paraphrases a statement from the NSF’s chief diversity and inclusion officer, Charles Barber: “Collecting these data will help the NSF and other agencies to analyse employers’ policies and procedures for addressing unintended barriers to employment, advancement and inclusion.” The magazine then quotes Mr. Barber: “This gives us an opportunity to create more opportunities and broaden participation to yield equitable outcomes for the LGBTQIA+ community and others.”

Does that mean quotas? If so, how would one even go about determining the “correct” proportion of “queer” or “genderqueer” scientists? The percentage of the population that espouses these labels is so small that any data the NSF gathers will be statistically useless. Australia’s National Medical and Health Research Council recently announced plans to award half of its research grants for researchers at the midcareer and senior level to women and “nonbinary” applicants. That sounds like a loophole: Men could get special treatment by declaring themselves nonbinary.

It goes on, ,but Krauss is right: this is divisive, intrusive, and irrelevant. It’s a pity that places like the NYT or other liberal mainstream media won’t discuss palpably ridiculous initiatives like this.

*Yesterday afternoon, despite my predictions, Theranos grifter Elizabeth Holmes reported to federal prison in Bryan, Texas, the beginning of her 11+-year sentence.

A spokesman for the Bureau of Prisons confirmed Holmes arrived at the Bryan facility Tuesday afternoon local time.

Since The Wall Street Journal began publishing its findings about Theranos in 2015, Holmes has been convicted of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud in federal court and settled separate civil securities-fraud charges brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission. As part of the settlement, she paid a $500,000 fine and was banned from being an officer or director of any public company for 10 years.

. . . Inmates at the Bryan facility have been talking about Holmes’s possible arrival for months. Some want to be her friend while others think she deserves a longer prison sentence, said current inmate Tasha Wade.

FPC Bryan sits in the middle of a quiet residential neighborhood lined with trees. Vehicles have been driving into the facility throughout the morning, with drivers scanning cards on a reader that lifts a slim bar up allowing them to enter. A black fence and trees encircle the prison, which has a large field of grass and benches in the front.

Another WSJ article describes the prison, which, as a minimum-security federal prison for white-collar criminals, is pretty cushy:

Food Hall
The food hall offers a standard national prison menu, which includes oatmeal, pancakes, hamburgers, tacos, burritos and more. A no-flesh option at each meal could help Holmes, a vegetarian, stick to that diet. Inmates also cook for themselves using commissary ingredients and inventive cooking methods, inmates said.

Oatmeal! Burritos! Pancakes! She’ll eat better than I do!

Recreation Area
The prison offers inmates a jogging track and outdoor television sets in a recreation pavilion. Inmates can also participate in arts and hobby programs or read books from the library, where earlier this year an inmate spotted a copy of “Bad Blood,” the bestseller documenting the rise and fall of Holmes’s Theranos. The BOP spokesman said the book had been checked out and not returned.

And here’s what is likely to be a diagram of her cell. She’ll have roommates!

(from the NYT): In the room, there typically are also lockers to store personal belongings, a folding chair for each inmate, a table and no doors. The chairs must be folded and stacked against the wall when not in use, inmates said. Bathrooms are down the hall. Inmates said they often form close relationships with cellmates.

Why do I pay so much attention to Holmes’ fate? (This will be the last post about this unless I’m still alive when she gets out.) One reason, I suppose, is that if she gets off easy, while others get stiffer sentences for similar crimes, it would show that Americans aren’t equal under the law: if you’re eloquent, attractive, and educated, you get less punishment, which seems unfair.  Further, this seems to me a worse crime than simply a pyramid scheme, for she was duping not only investors, but patients as well, people who counted on her stupid blood machine to diagnose their illnesses. I don’t see this as retribution, but rather as deterrence, though some determinists, like Gregg Caruso, don’t favor imprisonment for deterrence because it violates their moral principle of using people as tools to affect the behavior of others. I don’t agree.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili doesn’t like molehills:

Hili: I’m going to restore order.
A: Order where?
Hili: With this mole which made a molehill again.
In Polish:
Hili: Idę zrobić porządek.
Ja: Z czym?
Hili: Z tym kretem, który znowu zrobił kretowisko.

. . . and a lovely picture of Szaron:


From Peter via reddit: a cat defends his d*g friend:

Cat stood up for his friend poodle
by u/alexisaftonio in instantkarma

From Jean via the New Yorker, an Edward Steed “Cautionary Tale” animation (I love this one):

From Mark:

From Masih, more women risking imprisonment in Iran over not wearing the hijab. If there’s going to be a revolution there (and the prospects don’t look good), it will have started with the headscarf:

J. K. Rowling attacks the stupid accusation that a feminist rally in Australia gave the Nazi salute:

From Simon, contrasting Memorial Day messages, one from the next President of the United States (but which one?):

From Barry. Yes, there are flat-Earthers in the U.S.: I’ve met some. One even got into politics.

From Luana: NPR interns (see here). Definite inequity for sex: does this mean structural misandry?

From Jez, who cited a Guardian article about this incident and commented, “These people are nuts!” You can read about the “Cooper’s Hill Cheese-Rolling Contest and Wake” on Wikipedia. Here’s a quote from the Guardian piece:

From the Auschwitz Memorial a nine-year old girl gassed upon arrival:

Tweets from Dr. Cobb. First, a leopard cat from South Asia. They’re about the size of housecats.

Phalarope behavior:

A video.  Why do they do this? This article from Science will tell you.

Protip: Lock your door before you do a video interview:


A creationist writes in: repent your acceptance of evolution lest ye burn in hell

May 30, 2023 • 12:15 pm

News is slow today, and I’m not feeling great, as my insomnia has returned. Let’s look at a new reader’s comment, which was meant to be put up after the post below but of course was trashed by moi.  If you reply, though, I’ll alert the religious Paul Polster to your comments.

Read and weep. It’s Pascal’s wager!

Details: From one “Paul A Polster” in reply to Carlos on the post “Odious Ray Comfort movie (watch it below) to be distributed in public schools“:

Think about this, and pass it along to all your fellow atheists: if you are right, you die, it is all over, no harm, but if God does exist, and the Bible is true, when you die, you will appear at the great white throne as a lost soul. You will hear a list of sins that you have committed since you were aware of right and wrong, you will bow a knee to Jesus Christ, however, it will be too late to repent and you will be cast into Hell for eternity. You evolutionists are thinkers, think that one through in your quiet time and add this to it: have I lied? stolen?looked at the opposite sex with lust? Cheated on a test? Give some thought as to why these things happen as well as why good and evil exist. Evolution has no answer to these questions. One final thought: are you willing to risk possibly going to hell in order to hold to your faith in evolution? (it requires faith to believe it). Or are you willing to give true science ( discovery of the truth) a chance with an open mind? I hope you can ,your eternity depends on it.

Well, we’re all going to hell, including Jimmy Carter, who has looked on women with lust.  He’s close to the end, and I bet he can feel the flames now. . .

A few comments:

  1. Why is “believing in evolution” a sin? Did God put the evidence for evolution everywhere to deceive us?  (And if you think it takes “faith” to believe in evolution, read my article dispelling that bit of stupidity.)
  2. Which moral dictates are we supposed to believe? If we’re Jews, we can’t mix meat and milk in one meal. If we’re Catholics, we have to go to confession. If we’re Muslims, we have to observe Ramadan. I presume that Mr. Polster somehow knows that the Christian god is the REAL god. But how does he know?
  3. What kind of God would send someone to hell who has lived a good life even if he didn’t accept the existence of God.’
  4. The absolute certainty of Polster—about the falsity of evolution, about God being the Christian god, and about liars and the lustful going to hell—is breathtaking.

The kind of God that Polster paints is the ruler, as Hitchens used to say, of a celestial North Korea. He’ll toss into the fire anybody who doesn’t accept Jesus Christ (even those who were faithful before the time of Jesus Christ), he burn anybody who accept the evidence for evolution that God supposedly put all around us, and he’s not in the least merciful.  Why did he design our bodies to lust after members of the opposite sex if you’re going to hell for it?


Can mātauranga Māori help us understand climate change?

May 30, 2023 • 9:30 am

Judging from this video lecture and Q&A session below by a Māori climate scientist, the answer to the title question is “no”.

A New Zealand biologist and teacher sent me the 46-minute video, angered at its intellectual vacuity, as you can detect from his/her email. (By the way, the scientists I quote are different people, not just one disaffected person.  Plenty of Kiwi scientists are fed up with the nation’s drive to indigenize science, as well as its handing over tons of grant money to Māori researchers for dubious projects. But they dare not reveal their names for fear of losing their jobs and reputations. This is a country where academia is deeply involved in self-censoring). Anyway, the email:

“Yesterday I came across a teachers’ newsletter referencing a webinar titled “What te aro Maori can teach us about climate change?” It’s 45 minutes long long and fellow bio teacher [NAME REDACTED] and I could only stomach the first 17 mins, with references to the “sky god”. Readers might be able to get further, but I can’t take this garbage.”

I had trouble getting through it, too, as it’s pretty much anodyne gobbledygook with the ultimate message “we need to talk to each other”. But I managed to listen to the whole thing, though it took me two sessions.

Although I had trouble deciphering some of the Māori language (the use of which is imperative to establish your credibility), I believe the words “te aro Māori” in the title simply mean “Māori-centered focus.” The question at hand is clearly what using that focus, or using mātauranga Māori (Māori “ways of knowing”, henceforth “MM”) can tell us about climate change, and how to ameliorate its effects.

Sadly, nowhere in the entire presentation and question session could I find a single contribution that a Māori perspective contributes to our understanding of and work on climate change. Listen for yourself and tell me if you find anything substantive.

That’s not surprising: after all, it was modern (not “Western”) science that discovered the issue of anthropogenic climate change and is now working on how to ameliorate it, though that will involve not just science but politics.  And if the Māori perspective can contribute to the political solution at least, or provide useful scientific viewpoints, we’d like to know. But the effort here comes up dry, with the climate scientist spouting bromides that you’ll see below. In the end, I felt as if I had given up 45 minutes of my life that I’ll never get back.  All I can do with that lost time is show the readers what the Māori themselves present as their best case for contributing to science. And the case is pitiful.

Here are the YouTube notes:

In our first Climate Conversation, Akuhata Bailey-Winiata (University of Waikato) will speak specifically about his work on the relevance and application of mātauranga and te ao Māori in climate change. The session will be facilitated by Glen Cornelius (Chief Executive, Harrison Grierson and Deputy President, Te Ao Rangahau). Bailey-Winiata is a climate change scientist.

Click to watch.  The take-home lesson is in a series of slides, some of which I’ve put below, but there’s not much to take home:

In lieu of his inability to really nail down proposals and solutions that differ between Māori and “Western” viewpoints,  Bailey-Wineata simply discusses the differences in between Māori and “Western” worldviews, and then makes up reasons why they’re relevant. One of the differences is said to involve the “Western” concept of linear time and the Māori concept of “Indigenous time” (slide below).  This turns out to be irrelevant because of the false suggestion that while Westerners have linear time, and don’t really look back much, the Māori view of time sees it as “event based” and “nonlinear”, with the “past and future just as important as the present.” Since climate change is really a problem for the future, but is detected by comparing past with the present, and solved by extrapolating into the future, this is a distinction without a difference, and not a contribution of MM to science. The slide:

When asked how MM-based scientific methods differ form those of modern science, Māori tend to emphasize the “interconnectedness of everything”, as opposed to the supposedly “Western” view that things aren’t much interconnected. Here’s the slide that emphasizes that supposed difference, but I see nothing relevant between this Māori view and the way modern science tackles climate change, which of course involves thinking about both past and future generations (cf. Greta Thunberg):

Below a slide meant to emphasize how Māori “long term views” can contribute to the climate change problem. Note that the lecturer brings in storytelling and water spirits, but again, this leads at best to only a week and unenlightening analogy between the dangers of water spirits and the dangers of climate change. I won’t get into the tail-flicking of the water spirit, supposedly a metaphor for a river changing course and causing flood damage (see here).

The lesson from the above: don’t put houses where they can be affected by climate change. But that’s just common sense, not a unique Māori-centric conclusion. Every insurance company in the US knows this.

Here’s a slide that again relies on weak metaphor: just as rivers in NZ can be “braided,” so, says Bailey-Winiata, so we need both Māori and “Western” approaches to science. (The constant use of the words “Western science” to refer to “modern science” irks me, but I use the term because the lecturer does.) At any rate, he says over and over again that both approaches are needed, but never says one tangible thing about what the Māori approach can add to how science is presently addressing climate change.

The Māori answer to the question “what can you add to how science is currently done?” invariably involves simply emphasizing the difference between Māori and non-Māori world views, but never translates these into tangible actions, much less telling us how they add to science in general.

Finally, here are Bailey-Winiata’s “take home messages”.   Again, they emphasize the difference in world view, but never tell us how those differences promote fruitful cultural interaction when it comes to scientific problems that affect society.


If you think I’m deliberately distorting what the lecturer says, and leaving out valuable contributions that a Māori view can bring to climate change, then by all means watch the video for yourself.

Bailey-Winiata‘s presentation is finished in 25 minutes, and in the rest of the video he answers listeners’ questions fed to him by moderator Grierson. Here are a few questions and answers. I’ll paraphrase some of them, and give quotes (using quotation marks) when I had time to write them down.

Question: “Are there difficulties matching the timelines from the event-based sense of time [hundreds of years] to a Western sense of time?”?

Answer: Yes, for Māori culture gives us a long-term view, so this changes “how policies and industry has been done.”  The Māori view tells us that “building the capacity to do these things within that spaces of change and policy is going to be crucial heading into the future, but yeah. . . it’s a hard question to answer in terms of. . .yeah.”

In other words, it’s gobbledygook.

Question:  “What challenges could you give us as engineers and as climate-change practitioners to embrace teo Māori and empower the use of MM amd mauri in the work we do?”

Answer: “The challenge is just to be open to new ideas to new concepts and new ways of knowing, of being, of doing. . . . we need to open ourselves up to these different knowledge systems. . .have conversations with your Maori colleagues, have a cup of tea with them, and just talk.” Answer: “be openminded and understanding. .  see the other side.

There’s a strong smell of kumbaya in such answers.

At one point, when asked what kind of new Māori-centric institutions we need to promote indigenous world views, Bailey-Winiata says that the Māori need “safe spaces” for discussion.

“Be openminded, be aware of time, everything is interconnected. . . “:  this is what we hear over and over again. What we don’t hear is how MM adds to modern science.

Question: How can we use the past to inform how we deal with climate change (emphasis on the past is part of the Māori “nonlinear” view of time)?

Answer:  We can “use history to understand how we can look forward in the future.” Māori tradition tells us “what can we draw resilience and inspiration from.”

Of course using the past to inform the future is already an integral part of climate-change solutions.

Question:  Is there existing literature in Maori available on climate change for the general public?”

Answer:”It’s very sparse. . . . . there’s a lot about Māori natural hazards that you can draw parallels with, but not much historical work has been done.”

Short answer, “no.”  Bailey-Winiata then lists several Māori people who are “pushing the boundaries of this area of climate change in Maori, and the literature is bound to come out”. But where is that literature? I look forward to it.


Question: “Do you think that Pākehā [the Māori word for European descendants] need to get on board with accepting some of the Māori values when planning projects, especially when accepting climate change.”

Answer; Bailey Winiata mentions the famous Listener letter of 2021, in which seven University of Auckland academics argue that MM should not be taught as if it were equivalent to modern science, and then claims that this misguided viewpoint is spreading.  Instead, he says, we need to “be open to the idea of new ways of knowing and new ways of doing”. and “we need to move forward because climate change is happening.”   The moderator, of course agrees, as he has with everything that Bailey-Winiata says.

And there you have it, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends: a presentation of the value of Māori ways of knowing in addressing anthropogenic climate change—and from a Māori climate-change scientist with a Ph.D.  Either he’s totally unable to express the values he sees in using MM to address the problem, or there is no value of using MM to address the problem. I tend toward the latter view, for MM was developed before “Western” scientists raised the problem of climate change, and MM is a worldview that contains a bit of practical knowledge but nothing that bears on climate change unless you think that the “long view,” supposedly contributed by Māori lore, has something to add. In fact, that could even be deleterious, for at one point Bailey-Winiata mentions even bigger climate change in the past—something that climate-change denialists often cite when arguing that today’s changes are simply part of the historical cycle of climate change on Earth.

Since this is a half-hour lecture by a credentialed Māori climate-change scientist, I take it to be the best case that can be made for infusing MM into modern science, at least in terms of climate change. And the case is not only weak, but nonexistent. There is no “there” there.

Let me emphasize that by criticizing MM as a valuable contribution to modern science, I am not criticizing the Māori people themselves, who had a rough time of it, but are now reaping reparations in the form of affirmative action, jobs, grants, and the like. But I will argue that their “way of knowing” is way overemphasized, and that the government and academic powers of New Zealand, in a desire to cater to “the sacred victim,” are being sold a bill of goods.

Readers wildlife photos

May 30, 2023 • 8:15 am

Today’s batch of plant photos comes from Rik Gern of Austin, Texas. His narration is indented, and you can click on the pictures to enlarge them.

Here is another collection of pictures of plants growing in my yard. These were prevalent in March and are either wildflowers or weeds, depending on your perspective.

The first plant, False Dayflower (Tinantia anomala) started making sporadic appearances in the back yard about ten years ago. It didn’t show up every year and when it did, it was only in small clusters, but this year it took over the back corner of the yard. I was surprised to learn that it is found only in parts of central and south Texas, and a few places in Mexico. The flowers look this striking and cartoonish only when they first bloom; after that they shrink up a bit and droop so that the purple specks in the field of green only become visible as you get closer. The young flowers are quite the attention grabbers though, as you can see from these pictures taken in mid-March. The first one looks like a frame from a Pixar animation and I half expect it to start gesturing and speaking!

The Tenpetal Thimbleweed (Anemone berlandieri) grows faster than the grass and stands above it with thick rubbery stems (third photo). Bees and butterflies seem to like it, so it’s a keeper. The petals can come in white, pink, purple, and maybe other colors.

Either this one (6) is a mutant, or they can also come with more than ten petals. I count 14 in this picture.

The prettiest flower in this series is the Purple Heart, or Wandering Jew (Tradescantia pallida). I’m not sure if this is a wildflower or was planted by the house’s previous owner, but it’s been growing in an area by the front fence for the 17 years I’ve lived here and has survived droughts, freezes, trampling and just about any other indignity you can imagine. (As I was typing the last sentence a lightbulb went off in my head—So that’s why it’s called a Wandering Jew!) Most of the pictures I’ve seen online show deep purple leaves, but apparently that has to do with the amount of sunlight it receives. This one lives in a shaded area.

Going from beauty to the beast, here is the mighty and fearsome Prickly Sow-thistle (Sonchus asper). I sent you a whole batch of Prickly Sowthistle pictures a few years ago and have remained intrigued by this plant ever since. You wouldn’t want to have too many of them around, but their shape and structure is fascinating and elegant in its own menacing way.

It is an edible plant, but I just use it as food for my imagination, so here are two photoshopped variations. (9&10). The first variation (Grumpy Thistle) shows what might happen if it spread and took over the world. The second photo (Dragon’s Eye) shows it starting to take over the universe!!!