An innocent joke about worms triggers a scientific firestorm on Twitter

I’d heard about this kerfuffle, and wrote it off as a tempest in a petri dish until I saw this article in the Daily Beast. Surprisingly, the Beast, which I thought was on the liberal side of the spectrum,  took sides against the Perpetually Offended, as it should have given the ridiculous nature of the fracas.

You can read about it at the website below or just peruse my short take her (click on screenshot):

The ignition: Michael Eisen, a well known professor of genetics at UC Berkeley, an advocate for “open” science publishing, and editor of the respected journal e-Life, answered a Twitter question about the most overhyped animal.  He was clearly joking, as you can see below (Eisen’s also known for his sense of humor). Eisen suggested Caenorhabditis elegans, a roundworm that has been immensely useful in unraveling the genetics of development. It’s a “model organism,” which means that it’s studied in the lab rather than the wild.

This kind of mock dissing is applied to other “model organisms”, like the Drosophila I work on. That species, too, has taught us an immense amount about genetics and development, but throughout my career I’ve had to endure jokes about it not being a “real” species. I always laughed these off because a). it is a real species found in nature (it’s now a human commensal) and b). starting with T. H. Morgan in the early 1900s, it’s been the insect species used to study classical genetics, molecular genetics, and now evolutionary developmental biology (“evo devo”). From that species we’ve learned, for instance, about sex chromosomes, about gene duplication, about the linkage of genes on chromosomes, and so on—and that’s just the classical-genetics stuff.

I don’t think Eisen knew what he was getting into with his humorous response. (The worm is also a self-fertilizing hermaphrodite, which is what he means by “occasionally they fuck themselves”.)

The pushback began immediately, as if Eisen somehow didn’t realize the importance of the worm. He quickly made it clear that he was joking:

But he had to clarify himself again, for one clarification only leads to another if you’re facing the Woke.  Although scientists have previously not been that immersed in Wokeness, they’re starting to become that way big time, buffeted by the winds of social change and perhaps a bit peevish and restive from the pandemic.

Eisen even got faulted for using the word “fuck,” for his “frat boy humor” and for having a bit of fun on the Internet:

Some people, like Coleen Murphy, took umbrage because they had “grants and paper rejected based on *exactly* this reason.” I seriously doubt that this is literally true. Perhaps the rejections were based on a perceived lack of generality from results in C. elegans to other metazoan species, but they could have been rejected for other reasons. At any rate, that’s no reason to dump on Eisen. What we see here is animus aimed at editors and reviewers directed instead at Eisen:

It wasn’t long before the specter of racism insinuated itself into the discussion. But even black scientists pushed back:

The Beast gives a bit more information. (Ahna Skop’s tweets are now hidden.) The invocation of marginalized people is the new version of an old rule—I can’t remember its name—which said something like “Any Internet argument will eventually devolve to comparisons with Hitler.” Now it’s “systemic racism” instead of Hitler.

By far the most prolific poster in this vein was Ahna Skop, associate professor of genetics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and previous recipient of a Diversity, Equality and Inclusion-based award in 2018. Dr. Skop—who did not respond to a request for comment by The Daily Beast—argued extensively that making jokes about worms was merely the tip of the iceberg when it came to making jokes about marginalized identities, or an example of a ‘bystander effect’, a psychological theory arguing that individuals are less likely to offer help to a victim in a crowd. (For is it not said: First they came for the worm people, and I said nothing, as I was not a worm person?)

In the resulting threads, Dr. Skop—who identifies as “part Eastern Band Cherokee” and “disabled with EDS”—and others consistently failed to publicly respond to Black scientists like herpetologist Chelsea Connor, who tried to point out that this was a ridiculous conflation.  In a private communication Connor shared with The Daily Beast, Skop doubled down, arguing that as she had previously been harmed by entrenched sexism, her concerns regarding the worm joke were justified.

Oy!  But sensible people like Dr. Berg tried to defuse the crisis with the correct claim “it was only a joke”. She included screenshots of Skop’s tweets:

Let us bring this ludicrous squabble to an end with a quote from the Beast (criticizing the Offended) and a cartoon encapsulating the gist of the battle:

In falsely equating the real oppression of people belonging to marginalized groups to a Twitter joke about a roundworm, Wormageddon 2020 offers a clear example of how white and white-passing women misuse the language of diversity, equality and inclusion, with little accountability and self-awareness, and without any interest in the hurt that such frivolous invocations cause the people they’re theoretically defending. Someone who took the struggles that marginalized people face in academia seriously, after all, would not invoke them to win a Twitter argument about whether a worm joke is rude. “That comparison should never have been the knee-jerk reaction for them,” Connor said. “And then the response [to criticism] should have been better… The harm done stays with us and they get to log out and forget that this ever happened and let it ‘blow over’ meanwhile we have to work to fix what they did.”

My take: Eisen and Connor 42, Offended Worm People 0.  In this case Eisen properly refused to be mobbed, and the attempts to demonize him backfired, so that people like Skop have come off looking ridiculous. I’m just wondering if this episode shows a pushback against cancel culture, as did Trader Joe’s refusal to eliminate the brand names of its ethnic foods.

It was just a worm joke!

h/t: John, Peter

102 Comments

  1. Mark Jones
    Posted August 3, 2020 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    The invocation of marginalized people is the new version of an old rule—I can’t remember its name—which said something like “Any Internet argument will eventually devolve to comparisons with Hitler.” Now it’s “systemic racism” instead of Hitler.

    FYI it’s Godwin’s Law https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godwin%27s_law

    • jezgrove
      Posted August 3, 2020 at 9:43 am | Permalink

      Yes, one of those jokey laws that is also true! Another one is Muphry’s Law: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muphry%27s_law

    • Hempenstein
      Posted August 3, 2020 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

      Yep, and the way I remember that, which may work for a few who remember him, is that Miles Godwin was Gov of VA – back when some of us were undergrads.

      And having noted that I can also note that Miles was from Chuckatuck., which sounds like a place name in the Hank Snow song, but isn’t – that would be Winnemucca.

    • A C Harper
      Posted August 3, 2020 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

      Sturgeon’s Law: “95% of everything is crap”

  2. notsecurelyanchored
    Posted August 3, 2020 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    Call in Tatania! Wormageddon — I love it.

    • jezgrove
      Posted August 3, 2020 at 9:54 am | Permalink

      “Wormageddon” – genius !

    • Posted August 3, 2020 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

      ‘Wormgate’ is also being used for this one. But that term is used for other things so Wormageddon seems best.

  3. Kirbmarc
    Posted August 3, 2020 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    Twitter wiggles forwards, wiggles backwards, and occasionally fucks itself.

    • Posted August 3, 2020 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

      Clearly the take home from this is,
      C Elegans is a emotional thought provoking organism that knows how to fuck itself.

  4. GBJames
    Posted August 3, 2020 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    I think that the concept of humor is completely absent from people who operate within the postmodern thought tradition.

    • Posted August 3, 2020 at 9:29 am | Permalink

      It’s the controlling mindset, similar to fundamentalist religious folks.

      Humor is a great tool for pointing out the absurd. It therefore must be suppressed in worldviews that often traffic in the absurd.

      • W.Benson
        Posted August 3, 2020 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

        Good comment.

      • Posted August 3, 2020 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

        Yes.

      • C.
        Posted August 3, 2020 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

        My son sent me a quote maybe by John Cleese, or maybe by someone else and he was sharing it, which was something like:

        “If people can’t control their own emotions then they have to start trying to control other people’s behavior.”

        Fitting, no matter who actually said it.

        • Posted August 3, 2020 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

          That’s a great quote.

        • revelator60
          Posted August 3, 2020 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

          Yes, that’s by Cleese. I recall him saying it in interviews, and on twitter, if memory serves.

    • eric
      Posted August 3, 2020 at 10:49 am | Permalink

      I think that’s somewhat true of extremists of any stripe. Extreme dedication to a cause seems to leach most if not all the humor out of a person.

      Maybe because they see any activity which his not focused on their cause as detracting from it?

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted August 3, 2020 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

      Probably true except in the one field of intellectual endeavor where postmodernism has validity: Literature.

      There, among the primary themes and techniques of the postmodern are playfulness, black humor, and jouissance.

      • GBJames
        Posted August 3, 2020 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

        Black humor… Would that be dark humor, as in gallows humor? Or would it be humor by comedians like Eddie Murphy? Or maybe gallows humor by comedians like Eddie Murphy!

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted August 3, 2020 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

          Yeah, literary critics today would likely hesitate to label what Vonnegut, Heller, et al. wrote as “black humor” — for fear of the fate that befell the professor in Philip Roth’s campus novel, The Human Stain, who used “spooks” as a synonym for ghosts.

  5. Diana MacPherson
    Posted August 3, 2020 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    Paradoxically, while it would seem that this flame war suggests you can’t make jokes at all about anything anymore, the entire scene plays out like a Monty Python skit. We are living the absurd.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted August 3, 2020 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

      Major Danby replied indulgently with a superior smile: “But, Yossarian, suppose everyone felt that way.”

      “Then,” said Yossarian, “I’d certainly be a damned fool to feel any other way, wouldn’t I?”

  6. Posted August 3, 2020 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    One can see how twitter magnifies the opinions of the deranged. Eisen’s original joke got 3.4K likes and over 500 retweets. The tweets of the complainers received only a handful each, often single digits. We are simply paying to much attention to these sad souls.

  7. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted August 3, 2020 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    “ … all from a dude with HHMI funding and head of a journal.“

    I sense jealousy and grievance here – and I don’t understand “dude” here – is that brevity to represent His Dudeness, or El Duderino – or is this an invective against males who surf?

    But swear words – especially the F word “fuck” – say what you will, this unfortunately will lose and limit on part of an important audience. For instance, I do not see elementary school teachers choosing and finding this a productive tw33t to discuss in class.

    • Posted August 3, 2020 at 10:33 am | Permalink

      I’d be quite concerned if any teacher spent any time at all discussing a joke made on Twitter with or without “fuck”.

      • eric
        Posted August 3, 2020 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

        So would I, but I’d be less surprised if a teacher had their class follow tweets from a significant biologist such as Eisen for a class project or some such, and they all got an unexpected moment.

        Having said that, this is not Eisen’s problem. It’s not like he promised a family-friendly tweet stream, so the fact that he doesn’t deliver one is no issue. Caveat Emptor to any teacher who considers having their class engage with scientists over twitter, I guess.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted August 3, 2020 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

      The Stranger: “Just one thing, Dude, do you have to use so many cuss words?

      The Dude: “The fuck you talkin’ about?”

      Anyway, I don’t think Coleen Murphy is into the whole brevity thing. 🙂

  8. Posted August 3, 2020 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    Systemic racism. Hitler. It’s really all the same. 😉

  9. john reynolds
    Posted August 3, 2020 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    The worm has turned.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted August 3, 2020 at 10:49 am | Permalink

      They’ve crossed the wormicon.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted August 3, 2020 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

      Beats finding half a worm in your apple (or your Apple™).

  10. Rich Tea
    Posted August 3, 2020 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    In her online presence, Prof. Skop makes sure to mention that she’s of Cherokee descent (specifically, Eastern Band of Cherokee), and she links this to her activism on D,E&I.

    However, we also have this:

    “During her undergrad years she researched and put together a genetic lineage with definite links to the Eastern Cherokee tribe of North Carolina. As one of only a few American Indian assistant professors in the country working at a top 50 research institution, Skop is committed to reaching out to young Native students.”

    This suggests that Prof. Skop’s claim of Cherokee identity is a little disingenuous. She did not grow up identifying as a Cherokee nor sharing in their marginalization. Moreover, my understanding (i.e., Google search) is that tribal membership of the Eastern Band of Cherokee is based not on genetics, but on a direct lineal ancestor appearing on the 1924 Baker Roll of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. Presumably, then, she is not a tribal member.

    Cultural appropriation — problematic for thee, but not for me?

    • Posted August 3, 2020 at 11:00 am | Permalink

      I wonder if Skop and Elizabeth Warren are cousins? Used to be, to impress, people would claim an ancestor came over on the Mayflower. Now they claim they have a Cherokee ancestor.

      • Posted August 3, 2020 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

        Per the left, race is nothing but a social construct…there aren’t even any subpopulations of humans. To the extent there is genetic diversity our species, it exists only within these artificially constructed racial or ethnic groups, and not between them.

        Therefore, you shouldn’t be able to determine with any accuracy a person’s identified race through genetic testing. It won’t map on to our artificial racial constructs.

        The particular genetic profile that I have as a “white person”, an artificial social construct, could just as easily be the profile of a “black person”.

        Oh, and also, Liz Warren can prove her Cherokee bona fides through genetic testing!

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted August 3, 2020 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

        Now you guys have given me a Paul Revere & the Raiders ear worm.

        It’s worms all the way down.

        • JP415
          Posted August 3, 2020 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

          Ha, I was just listening to that a few hours ago.

      • JP415
        Posted August 3, 2020 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

        Has anyone heard of Jamake Highwater? He was a “Cherokee” writer and filmmaker who made a PBS documentary in 1984 called The Primal Mind: Vision and Reality in Indian America. He became a minor celebrity and befriended Joseph Campbell and other luminaries. However, a Native American activist named Henry Lyle Adams became suspicious of Highwater’s lineage and did a bit of investigating. Adams found that Highwater was really . . . Jackie Marks, born in Los Angeles, the son of a Jewish father from New York and a mother from Philadelphia!

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted August 3, 2020 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

          “Jackie Marks” would be a good name for a tummler at a Catskills summer resort back in the 1950s.

          Seems short on Native-American cred.

          • JP415
            Posted August 3, 2020 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

            Wikipedia informs me that a Native-American novelist named Gerald Vizenor created a fictional character based on Jamake Highwater. He called him “Homer Yellow Snow.” Very appropriate!

    • Mike
      Posted August 3, 2020 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

      Skop’s web site lists one of her professional appointments at UW Madison as “Affiliate Faculty, Life Sciences Communication.” The implication is that she teaches this mode of “communication” to students. Awful.

    • JP415
      Posted August 3, 2020 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

      It reminds me of Ward Churchill, the Professor who made the infamous “Little Eichman” comment after the September 11 attacks. He claimed to be partially Cherokee, but it amounted to something like 1/16 Cherokee blood. Claiming Native American ancestry must be prestigious in that particular far-left subculture. I’d be curious to hear what an actual Cherokee would say about that.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted August 3, 2020 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

        That was the dude the Right tried to “cancel,” avant la lettre, until the investigation into his scholarly misconduct overtook the controversy concerning his “Little Eichmanns” 9/11 essay.

    • Paul S
      Posted August 3, 2020 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

      Skop may claim that she’s an Eastern Band of Cherokee tribal member, but if she is not on the tribal roster it’s meaningless. She has no vote or benefits if she’s not on the roster.

  11. john avise
    Posted August 3, 2020 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    Behold the hermaphrodite,
    A part-male, part-female sight;
    Who are we to say
    If (s)he’s straight or gay?
    We might be half-wrong and half-right!

    • Posted August 3, 2020 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

      +1!

    • JP415
      Posted August 3, 2020 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

      I dig it. Worthy of Edward Lear!

      • john avise
        Posted August 3, 2020 at 10:34 pm | Permalink

        Thanks for the compliment.

        Limericks are my hobby,
        In home, office, or lobby.
        They keep me sane
        And not too vain,
        Or snobby!

    • Tim Harris
      Posted August 3, 2020 at 8:13 pm | Permalink

      Trans in both directions.

  12. rickflick
    Posted August 3, 2020 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    I’m seeing this as a psychological/sociological phenomenon that must be a glitch in our brain. People become saturated with the issue of cancel culture and it’s vocabulary, and as soon as anyone says anything with any kind of suggestive term or phrase, the brain jumps into threat mode and quickly the vocabulary of condemnation comes into short term memory. Once having jumped that shark, they are trapped into defending their position, no matter how absurd, just to save face. It’s a feature of the brain that can simply get pumped up beyond need. It will die only when enough pushback begins to make the cost too high to continue.

    • Posted August 3, 2020 at 11:51 am | Permalink

      I have to think that these are people who have low self-esteem that is weaponized by the availability and safety of social media. By “safety”, I mean that they can do their slamming without much fear of retribution. Any negative tweet will get support from fellow bullies and I expect no one gets cancelled (fired from their job, etc.) for lashing out at someone else’s tweet by pretending to take the moral high ground. There’s protection in not being the first in.

      • rickflick
        Posted August 3, 2020 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

        Sound right.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted August 3, 2020 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

      I think the diagnosis is “when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail”.

      • rickflick
        Posted August 3, 2020 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

        Good.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted August 3, 2020 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

        If all I had was a hammer, I’d hammer in the morning; I’d hammer in the evening, all over this land.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted August 3, 2020 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

          And I’d say, “That Ken is hammered”.

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted August 3, 2020 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

            Yep, me AND Mr. Seeger. We’ve found a time to every purpose, under heaven.

    • JP415
      Posted August 3, 2020 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

      It’s like a Rorschach test in which people look at texts and scan them for signs of micro-aggressions — racism, sexism, transphobia, or whatever. It’s just total free-association with no rules whatsoever.

      • rickflick
        Posted August 3, 2020 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

        Yes. And they feel compelled to connect the dots and fill in the blanks.

        • Dan T.
          Posted August 4, 2020 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

          And under the rules of intersectionalism, once you find one -ism or -phobia, all the others get dragged in as well.

    • darrelle
      Posted August 3, 2020 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

      A big part of it looks to me like an addiction to being offended / indignant. I’m not the first one to suggest such a thing, but it sure as heck seems to fit to me.

      This also seems to me to account for the lack of humor in such people. Too busy looking for an indignation fix and a joke is a premium fix.

      It’s also a competition for social status thing. Humans in general do this, though for the typical person it isn’t often about how awesomely and visibly they can express offense.

      • rickflick
        Posted August 3, 2020 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

        Yes. That sounds right.

      • Posted August 4, 2020 at 3:00 am | Permalink

        “This also seems to me to account for the lack of humor in such people. Too busy looking for an indignation fix and a joke is a premium fix.”

        Kind of like the people who took offense at Trader Joe’s attempts at humorous naming of some of the store’s products. There’s a lot more to be righteously offended at that needs significantly more attention and a great deal of hard work immediately.

  13. Roo
    Posted August 3, 2020 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    Not sure if the Beast was pushing back against Wokeness or trying to out-Woke the would-be-Woke-ees (also, can I just say that “white-passing women” seems like an extremely questionable term for people so obsessed with being politically correct. “White-passing?” Really? Anyways.)

    As for the people egregiously offended over worms – I kinda wonder if these are people with personality disorders or some such thing who would be wreaking havoc wherever they went. If Wokeness wasn’t available, perhaps they’d be starting an office war over proper use of the coffee machine or some such thing. But maybe not – as I always say, I’m agnostic on the role of ideology. If that alone is enough to turn people into perpetually offended conflict junkies, then that really is a sad thing.

  14. Ken Kukec
    Posted August 3, 2020 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    Eisen even got faulted for using the word “fuck” …

    You ask me, anybody would fault another for using “fuck” can go screw themself.

  15. Posted August 3, 2020 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    From now on I’m calling “woke” culture The New Lysenkoism. The “graft” here isn’t biological grafting but the pile-ons which distract from legitimate researchers getting anything done because of this nonsense.

  16. Posted August 3, 2020 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    This sounds like an April joke!

  17. Ken Kukec
    Posted August 3, 2020 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    “Tweets not loading” — is that the twitterati version of “New phone. Who dis?”

  18. Posted August 3, 2020 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    This seems like an example of the sort of thing for which I often say, “Just because you inferred something doesn’t mean it was implied.” Or, as Radiohead said, “Just ’cause you feel it, doesn’t mean it’s there.”

  19. Mike
    Posted August 3, 2020 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    Fun lesson in intersectionality. Eisen gently pokes a bit of fun at worm biologists. Skop self-identifies as worm biologist and as female and Cherokee. Because she identifies as one, she goes nuclear in defence of the others.

  20. Keith
    Posted August 3, 2020 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    I really like the worm cartoon. I think it captures many of the social media kerfuffles. And it reinforces my decision to abstain from Twitter. Also, I generally find the threads difficult to follow, which is another good reason for me to leave Twitter to others.

  21. pablo
    Posted August 3, 2020 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    Whenever this sort of thing happens I have to ask: WHY IS ANYONE ON TWITTER?!

    • Posted August 3, 2020 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

      That’s like saying you hate the telephone. Your experience will depend heavily on who you talk to.

  22. prinzler
    Posted August 3, 2020 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

    PCC(E), I thought it was going to be, “It’s just a worm joke, Jake.”

    • jezgrove
      Posted August 3, 2020 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

      Forget it, Jake. It’s Caenor[habditis]town.

      • jezgrove
        Posted August 3, 2020 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

        My sincere apologies to all for that pathetic attempt at humour. On reflection, it falls below even my own low standard (which coincidentally is set at the level of the belly of C. elegans …)

  23. Grant Palmer
    Posted August 3, 2020 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    I never understand why people get upset by the use of the word fuck, or shit for that matter.

    Fuck has the versatility to be a noun, adjective, verb and adverb. It can be used to insult and it can be used in praise of someone. At least in the vernacular anyway.

    People never complain about fornicate or sexual intercourse. But they have the same meaning as fuck, so why the difference. Isn’t it the same as Water and Dihydrogen Monoxide

    • Steve Pollard
      Posted August 3, 2020 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

      And it has an ancient and distinguished lineage: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fuck

    • jezgrove
      Posted August 3, 2020 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

      And that’s before you even get into the nonsense of the context in which the word is uttered; for example, saying a word like “Jesus” is sacred inside a church but profane outside it…!

      • Doug
        Posted August 3, 2020 at 8:00 pm | Permalink

        An interesting thing about taboo words is that the thing referred to is not itself taboo; there are words for it that can be used in polite company, and words that cannot.

        It’s like that probably apocryphal story about Harry Truman showing a bunch of old ladies from the Daughters of the American Revolution around the White House Rose Gardens. One asked “Mr. President, what is the secret to getting these lush rose bushes?” He said “Oh, it’s no secret; you just have to use a lot of manure.” Later, one of the ladies took Bess Truman aside and said “Really Mrs. Truman, the President of the United States should speak with more refinement. You should remind him to call it ‘fertilizer.'” Bess answered “I was happy he remembered to call it ‘manure.'”

        • jezgrove
          Posted August 4, 2020 at 4:33 am | Permalink

          Good point – and a great anecdote!

  24. Posted August 3, 2020 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

    I swear the whole world is going mad.

  25. Posted August 3, 2020 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

    I have a suggestion for anyone with a masochistic streak who wants to play a Sokol-Affair joke. Just create a false academic credential in Twitter and introduce into a science Twitter feed some sort of value statement about, oh I don’t know, hermaphrodite plants, or sterile female workers in social insects.
    Then sit back and watch the drama.

    • jezgrove
      Posted August 3, 2020 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

      After you…

    • JP415
      Posted August 3, 2020 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

      It could be a Godfrey Elfwick / Titania McGrath satire thing. I bet it would get traction if it were done well enough. Maybe even a book deal!

  26. Posted August 3, 2020 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1352325/ says:

    C. elegans is a bacteria-eating soil dwelling nematode that swallows bacteria with the large pump-like organ called the pharynx.

    Now that’s microaggression!

  27. john reynolds
    Posted August 3, 2020 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

    The twitter over nothing war proved one thing. There are some people on twitter who are lead smaller lives than roundworms.

  28. Ullrich Fischer
    Posted August 3, 2020 at 11:06 pm | Permalink

    Maybe this kind of bullshit would become less frequent if sane people and targets of this kind of offense-sniffing would automatically respond with “Fuck off, Jamie” followed by this link https://vimeo.com/276940268 to Tracy Ullman’s brilliant “Overly Woke Support Group” video.

    • jezgrove
      Posted August 4, 2020 at 4:35 am | Permalink

      Great clip – thanks!

  29. rjones59
    Posted August 4, 2020 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    This exposed a new subspecies… d. wokus humorgonus

  30. rjones59
    Posted August 4, 2020 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    This dumb argument caused self-identification of a new subspecies of human – d. humorgonus

  31. Dan T.
    Posted August 4, 2020 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    My favorite Worm is the web serial:
    https://parahumans.wordpress.com/

  32. DutchA
    Posted August 5, 2020 at 6:13 am | Permalink

    Much ado about nothing. Put that worm back in the wormhole.


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