Christine McVie died

November 30, 2022 • 2:37 pm

As we Boomers age, we’re going to suffer the loss of many musical idols of our youth. The latest was Christine McVie of Fleetwood Mac fame, who passed away on Wednesday. She was 79, which is close to a reasonable life expectancy, but still. . .

From the NYT:

Her family announced her death on Facebook. The statement said that she died at a hospital but did not specify its location. The statement also did not give the cause of her death. In June, Ms. McVie told Rolling Stone that she was in “quite bad health” and that she had endured debilitating problems with her back.

From the band:

Here’s the group performing a song she wrote (my favorite of hers), and she sings lead:

Antioch College fires a grad student

November 30, 2022 • 11:30 am

UPDATE: Elliott may have been “de-fired”, an addendum to the video says this:

As of yesterday my student ID was listed as invalid. I made this video because my assumption was that they terminated me due to my speaking out. Tonight, my ID was reinstated and I was able to login again. Please see my subsequent video update for details.

I suspect that Antioch had second thoughts about how firing her would look. Regardless, the counselor training degree program should be revamped.



About a week ago I wrote about Leslie Elliiott, a graduate student in mental-health counseling at Antioch University in Seattle—part of the whole Antioch College consortium. Elliott had posted a video on YouTube about how her fellow students were being taught to force their counseling practice into a racial or identitarian mold, no matter what their problems. Her complaints, which you can see at the site linked above, were reasonable ones: she wanted to counsel people based on their needs, not cram a progressive ideology down the throats of vulnerable patients.

Further, Elliott refused to adhere to a pledge included in her course syllabi, a pledge I mentioned earlier:

The pledge, which Elliott says is now included in most syllabuses, reflects the social justice mission of Antioch. It states: “I acknowledge that racism, sexism, heterosexism, classism, ableism, ageism, nativism, and other forms of interpersonal and institutionalized forms of oppression exist. I will do my best to better understand my own privileged and marginalized identities and the power that these afford me.” Antioch added the statement starting in 2020 after the death of George Floyd.

What Elliott got for her efforts, as I wrote at the time, was not unexpected but still reprehensible. .

 . . . a response from Antioch sent to all students in the college—save Elliott (what a rookie move!)—implicitly singling her out for promulgating “white supremacy” and “transphobia”. Here we have the college acting like an online social-justice mob. The author of the college’s email, and presumably at least part of the “Commitment to Social Justice” statement, is Shawn Fitzgerald, CEO of Antioch’s Seattle campus and Dean of the Graduate School of Counseling, Psychology, and Therapy.

Clearly the “one person who posted online” is Eliott, who, according to her own school, stands accused of transphobia, white supremacy, and “harmful ideologies”, as well as “hate speech”. The statement was certainly inspired by Elliott’s video above.  Elliott has posted another video detailing what’s below and giving her response.

Finally, Elliott wrote to the administration explicitly saying she would not stop calling out Antioch’s misguided social justice and asking them not to retaliate against her.

But they did. She was just kicked out of Antioch.  She made a short YouTube video recounting what happened to her, which you can see below.

I don’t have any reason to doubt what she says, and it’s shameful that Antioch let her go, much less kicking her out without telling her directly.  They’re not only quashing her freedom of speech, but promulgating an ideology that could be harmful to the patients of their students. And they’re cowards.

I wonder if she could sue them, but of course, if she returned to the school, that lawsuit would make her life.

h/t: Norman

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Reith lecture on literature and freedom of speech

November 30, 2022 • 10:15 am

The Reith Lectures, named after Lord Reith, the BBC’s first director-general, are intended, as Wikipedia notes, “to enrich the intellectual and cultural life of the nation. It is in this spirit that the BBC each year invites a leading figure to deliver the lectures. The aim is to advance public understanding and debate about issues of contemporary interest.”

Delivered on the radio, they’ve been going yearly since 1946, when Bertrand Russell gave the first one. (Only one year was missed—1992, when the Beeb couldn’t find anyone to deliver the talk). Each speaker customarily gives four talks.

This year, however, there will be four Reith lecturers—the first time that more than one speaker has done the series. As the BBC’s Radio 4 page on the lectures notes:

Four speakers will feature in this year’s BBC Radio 4 Reith Lectures: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Lord Rowan Williams Darren McGarvey and Dr Fiona Hill will deliver lectures inspired by Franklin D Roosevelt’s famous “Four Freedoms” speech. Each speaker will explore one of Roosevelt’s themes: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear.

The first one is online now, and you’d best listen soon as it will vanish. It’s by acclaimed Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and, according to reader David, who sent me the link, “She’s a powerful and eloquent speaker, and as I listened to her, I couldn’t help thinking of Christopher Hitchens and his robust defence of the same ideas.”  Well, listen for yourself. I’m doing so at the moment, and I like it very much.

Click on screenshot below to go to the “listen” link. There’s a brief introduction, and the lecture proper begins at 3:45.  It’s short (about half an hour), and finishes at 34:23. It’s followed by another half hour of questions by the interlocutor and the audience. If the link disappears, email me for a substitute.

The talk is anti-authoritarian, and Adichie is uncompromising in her defense of free speech (reminiscent of Mill) and in her criticism of book banning. I can’t say that she’s a new incarnation of Hitchens—whose eloquence can never be equaled—but she is, as David says, “powerful and eloquent” in her own way.

One quote from her talk:

“Literature is increasingly viewed through ideological rather than artistic lenses. Nothing demonstrates this better than the recent phenomenon of ‘sensitivity readers’ in the world of publishing—people whose job it is to cleanse unpublished manuscripts of potentially offensive words. This, in my mind, negates the very idea of literature.”

She also takes up (and rejects) the mantra that “speech is violence”.

Readers’ wildlife photos

November 30, 2022 • 8:15 am

Dear readers, we are in serious trouble, for the photo tank is nearly dry. If you have good wildlife pics (or landscape or travel photos), send them in—pronto. Thanks!

Today’s batch comes from UC Davis ecologist Susan Harrison. Her notes and IDs are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

Fall Harvest

This fall, unusual numbers of Lewis’s Woodpeckers (Melanerpes lewis) descended upon some of our riparian oak woodlands around Davis, California.  These spectacular birds live in loose social groups that shift locations over time.  They catch flying insects rather than drilling for grubs like other woodpeckers, and in fall they also harvest and cache acorns.  In early October they were busy at both activities.

Lewis’s Woodpecker with a freshly collected acorn:

Acorn gathering puts them in competition with the much commoner Acorn Woodpecker (Melanerpes formicivorus), which form close-knit colonies of related individuals that raise their young communally, and which create “granary trees” studded with thousands of stored acorns.  In early October when the Valley Oak (Quercus lobata) acorns ripened, there was much chattering and chasing between the two woodpecker species.

Acorn Woodpecker:

By mid-November the hubbub seemed to have calmed, and the Lewis’s Woodpeckers already appeared to be eating cached acorns.   I’ll be curious to see how the two species interact as winter progresses.  Will there be cache robbing?

Lewis’s Woodpecker with a partly eaten acorn:

California Scrub-Jays (Aphelocoma californica) gather acorns and cache them in the ground, where sometimes the acorns turn into seedlings instead of bird food.

California Scrub-Jay with Oregon Oak (Quercus garryana) acorn:

Western Gray Squirrels (Sciurus griseus) are also acorn gatherers, but this one was gnawing on a California Black Walnut (Juglans californica):

This tiny Bushtit (Psaltriparus minimus) was in possession of a tiny acorn:

This Nuttall’s Woodpecker (Picoides nuttalli) was eating Poison Oak (Toxicodendron diversiloba) berries:

Overwintering birds have now arrived, including this White-Throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis), a species abundant in the eastern US but uncommon in California:

Neotropical migrants have left, except for a few late-lingering individuals like this Townsend’s Warbler (Setophaga townsendi):

Phainopeplas (Phainopepla nitens) are year-round residents of our oak-lined stream banks.  They are found mainly in Mexico and Central and South America, and reach their northern range limit in our area:

White-Tailed Kites (Elanus leucurus) are another year-round resident that adds an exciting southern element to our local fauna:

Lake Solano County Park, scene of most of these photos:

NOTE:  For spectacular woodpecker footage, including scenes of woodpeckers raising their young in tree cavities, see this new PBS Nature documentary!

Wednesday: Hili dialogue

November 30, 2022 • 6:45 am

Greetings! It’s a Hump Day again (“Ngày bướu” in Vietnamese): Wednesday, November 30, 2022. Tomorrow it will be December. But today is National Mousse Day. Here’s a chocolate moose:

It’s also National Personal Space Day, Choose Women Wednesday (celebrating empowering women in business), National Mason Jar Day (celebrating the day John Landis Mason patented the jar in 1858), National Methamphetamine Awareness Day (a good day to start watching “Breaking Bad”), and, in Scotland, Saint Andrew’s Day.

Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the November 30 Wikipedia page.

Da Nooz:

*The railway workers’ unions have been fruitlessly negotiating with railroad management for two years, and a strike had become imminent. Now, according to Nancy Pelosi, Congress is set to to pass a bill that will avert a potentially disastrous strike (think supply chain) but by giving the unions a lot of what they want. And yes, Congress can do this:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) said that House lawmakers will take up legislation on Wednesday to stop a nationwide strike by railroad workers, saying Congress needs to intervene to prevent devastating job losses.

In a press conference, Mrs. Pelosi said that the House will aim to quickly pass legislation that accepts the original labor union agreement negotiated by Biden administration officials plus additional railway worker benefits added from subsequent negotiations.

“I don’t like going against the ability of unions to strike, but weighing the equities, we must avoid a strike. Jobs will be lost, even union jobs will be lost, water will not be safe, product will not be going to market,” she said Tuesday after meeting with President Biden and congressional leaders of both parties at the White House. “That must be avoided.”

. . .Under the Railway Labor Act, Congress can make both sides accept an agreement that their members have voted down. Lawmakers also can order negotiations to continue and delay the strike deadline for a certain period, or they can send the dispute to outside arbitrators.

Any House-approved legislation would also need passage in the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) said at Tuesday’s press conference that he and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) have agreed to work together quickly for the legislation to pass the Senate.

The unions don’t like it (they wanted the issue to play out normally), and neither do some Republicans and Democrats in the House. But when push comes to shove, the Democrats will fall into line, and the bill will also pass the Senate given that both Chuck Schumer and Mitch “Tortuga” McConnell have said they’ll work together to ensure passage. Bipartisanship in the cause of union-busting!

*Here’s bipartisanship to protect LGBTQ rights. The Senate voted yesterday to legalize same-sex marriage, which is already legal countrywide, but needed a law to protect it from the dark intentions of Clarence Thomas, who alluded in the abortion-bill hearings to gay rights being in danger as well. And the vote was bipartisan: 61-36 to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act:

The 61-to-36 vote put the bill on track to become law in the final weeks before Republicans assume the majority in the House of Representatives at the start of the new Congress in January. It marked one of the final major legislative achievements for Democrats before Republicans shift the focus in the House to conducting investigations of President Biden’s administration and family members.

The bill must now win final approval by the House in a vote expected as soon as next week, which would clear it for Mr. Biden, who said he looked forward to signing it alongside the bipartisan coalition that helped shepherd it through the Senate.

In a statement, the president said the vote reaffirmed “a fundamental truth: Love is love, and Americans should have the right to marry the person they love.”

There was little question that the bill’s embrace in the Senate, where proponents had a breakthrough this month in drawing a dozen Republican supporters and overcoming a filibuster, gave it the momentum required to become law.


One kicker, though:

The bill would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, which denied federal benefits to same-sex couples. It prohibits states from denying the validity of an out-of-state marriage based on sex, race or ethnicity. But in a condition that Republican backers insisted upon, it would guarantee that religious organizations would not be required to provide any goods or services for the celebration of any marriage, and could not lose tax-exempt status or other benefits for refusing to recognize same-sex unions.

No more gay wedding cakes in the South. . . . .

*Here are the World Cup results from yesterday (see below for more0:

In the ideologically big match, the US beat Iran by just one goal (at the cost of a valuable player), but now the Iranians are out and must go home, and right into Evin Prison. Seriously, though, will they face punishment for their tiny show of resistance to the regime?

The job for the United States soccer team was simple, really: Win.

The stakes and the stage and the politics all made things harder going in to their game against Iran on Tuesday night at the World Cup. The own goal by their own federation’s social media team, the Iranians’ great umbrage at the perceived insult to their flag, the chatter and the threats and the intrigue all added to the spice of the matchup. But the task, at its heart, left no room for nuance at all: If United States wanted to keep playing in this tournament, it had to beat Iran on Tuesday night.

And so it did.

The price of victory may be a high one: Christian Pulisic, perhaps the Americans’ brightest star and the scorer of its only goal in a 1-0 victory, was forced from the game at halftime with an abdominal injury sustained when he crashed into Iran’s goalkeeper finishing his goal.

Highlights of that game: The sole U.S. goal, a nice one, is at 1:20. There’s another U.S. goal that was nullified by an offside call. Had this game tied, the U.S. would have been out of the Cup.


England won Group B after a 3-0 victory over Wales, which was eliminated. The U.S. needed a win and nothing less against Iran, and it got it, by a 1-0 score. The U.S. will face the Netherlands in the round of 16 on Saturday while England will meet Senegal on Sunday.

Here are the England/Wales highlights. England advances to the knockout round; Wales goes home after the rout:

Four years after missing the World Cup completely, the Netherlands beat Qatar 2-0 on Tuesday at Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, Qatar, to top Group A and advance to the knockout stage of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Peep! Peep! Peeeeeeeeeeeeeeep! It’s all over at Al Bayt Stadium, where the Netherlands have won with the bare minimum of fuss. They advance to the last 16 of the tournament while Qatar become the first host nation in World Cup history to go out of their own tournament without winning a single point.


The sight of a couple of Ecuador players slumped face-down on the turf sobbing uncontrollably tells you all you need to know. Senegal have held on to beat the South American side 2-1 and advance to the Round of 16, where they will face England if Gareth Southgate’s side finish top of Group B tonight.


*Dog kills man: a report from the Torygraph via reader Christopher. This is a weird report out of Turkey. It’s not dog bites man, but dog KILLS man.

A man in Turkey has been reportedly shot and killed by his own dog on a hunting trip after the pet stepped on the trigger of his shotgun.

Ozgur Gevrekogulu, 32, died in Turkey’s Black Sea province of Samsun last weekend.

Local police originally took one of his hunting companions into custody, according to the Anadolu news agency.

Mr Gevrekoglu was loading equipment into the boot of his car after the trip to the Kizlan Plateau when his dog jumped on the back of a friend, stepping on the trigger of a shotgun, the Cumhuriyet newspaper reported on Sunday.

The 32-year-old hunter, who reportedly became a father just two weeks earlier, died from a bullet wound in his stomach before paramedics arrived at the scene.

This is the deceased with a dog, but probably not the killer dog. They should have taken the d*g into custody instead of one of Gevrekogulu’s hunting companions.  But it’s really sad: he had a newborn kid.

*John McWhorter’s NYT column this week (is he producing just one a week now?) is called “Harvard, Herschel Walker, and ‘Tokenism‘”, and he sees both Walker’s candidacy and affirmatvie action as “tokenism”: the advancement of a black person because of skin color rather than merit. A few quotes:

Our theoretically enlightened idea these days is that using skin color as a major, and often decisive, factor in job hiring and school admissions is to be on the side of the angels. We euphemize this as being about the value of diverseness and people’s life experiences. This happened when we — by which I mean specifically but not exclusively Black people — shifted from demanding that we be allowed to show our best to demanding that the standards be changed for us.

. . . When the Supreme Court outlaws affirmative action in higher education admissions, as it almost certainly will, it will eliminate a decades-long program of tokenism. I’ve written that I support socioeconomic preferences and that I understand why racial ones were necessary for a generation or so. But for those who have a hard time getting past the idea that it’s eternally unfair to subject nonwhite students to equal competition unless they are from Asia, I suggest a mental exercise: Whenever you think or talk about racial preferences, substitute “racial tokenism.”

As for Walker, McWhorter does not go gentle:

At the same time, Republicans, despite generally deriding affirmative action and tokenism as leftist sins, are reveling in tokenism in supporting Walker’s run for Senate and are actually pretending to take him seriously. But to revile lowering standards on the basis of race requires reviling Walker’s very candidacy; to have an instinctive revulsion against tokenism requires the same.

There’s no point in my listing Walker’s copious ethical lapses. Terrible people can occasionally be good leaders. With him, the principal issue is his utter lack of qualification for the office. Walker in the Senate would be like Buddy Hackett in the United Nations. It is true that Republicans have also offered some less than admirably qualified white people for high office. But George W. Bush was one thing, with his “working hard to put food on your family.” Walker’s smilingly sheepish third-grade nonsense in response to even basic questions about the issues of the day is another.

I’m with McWhorter on both socioeconomic rather than racial affirmative action, and of course anybody with more than a handful of neurons knows what an idiot Walker is. If he wins, I will be both upset and even angrier at Republicans, who put this mushbrain up for election.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili’s pissed off because she didn’t get the right noms Look at that face! I had to make it my profile picture on Twitter.

Hili: You bought the cheap cat food again.
A: They had only this one in the shop.
Hili: Order it on the Internet.
In Polish:
Hili: Znowu kupiłeś tanią karmę.
Ja; Innej w sklepie nie było.
Hili: Zamów przez Internet.


A multiple groaner from David:

From Malcolm: a pas de deux with a border collie:

More Revenge from a Wronged Woman:

From Masih: Three videos in one:

From Barry, who says this is “uncalled for.” Indeed, octopuses are turning out to be nasty pieces of work, even throwing sand at each other:

From Simon. I have no idea why it ended the way it does:

A groaner from Malcolm:

A tweet from Ron, who notes,

“Here’s a new clue for the prevalence of religiosity. It turns out to be inversely correlated to the distance from the Pacific Ocean (I calculated Pearson’s r = -0.796). Who would have guessed that?”

From Luana; a paper that’s worth reading by Buss and von Hippel, which you can find here. It’s curious but not surprising that these people accept Darwinian evolution of the body, but not of the mind (aka evolutionary psychology).   It explains the widespread rejection of evolutionary psychology as a whole.

From the Auschwitz Memorial. I’m guessing that husband and wife were separated before they were gassed, so they didn’t even get to be together as they died.

Tweets from Matthew.  First, another “notice the errors” picture. The answer is in the thread (enlarge photo first). Find all 12!

The first biography of Darwin, published in 1882, very soon after his death, is now online:

It’s official: England and Wales are no longer Christian countries

November 29, 2022 • 11:30 am

Thanks to the many readers (probably atheist Brits) who sent me the links to these articles.

Of course England and Wales will still consider themselves Christian countries, but they have to do some fast stepping to justify it, for the 2021 government census (conducted once per decade) shows that people who identify as Christian no longer form a majority of the populations. They’re “Christian” only in the sense that Christianity is the faith of a plurality of people. (Scotland apparently wasn’t part of this survey.)

The decline in Christianity, which has been breathtakingly fast over the last decade, is the good news.  More good news is that, as expected, the proportion of people saying they had “no religion” has risen as steeply as Christianity has fallen.

The bad news is that Islam is growing, though that’s probably via immigration, not, like Christianity, via (de) conversion or death. And it’s still a tiny fraction of British faith.

Here are two articles; quotes from both are indented below with “G” for the Guardian and “B” for the BBC. Click on the screenshots to read.  The articles also discuss the growth in England’s ethnic minority population, but I’m dwelling on religion here.

From the Guardian:

And the BBC:


The census revealed a 5.5 million (17%) fall in the number of people who describe themselves as Christian and a 1.2 million (43%) rise in the number of people who say they follow Islam, bringing the Muslim population to 3.9 million. In percentage-point terms, the number of Christians has dropped by 13.1, and the number of Muslims has risen by 1.7.

It is the first time in a census of England and Wales that fewer than half of the population have described themselves as Christian.

Meanwhile, 37.2% of people – 22.2 million – declared they had “no religion”, the second most common response after Christian. It means that over the past 20 years the proportion of people reporting no religion has soared from 14.8% – a rise of more than 22 percentage points.


The proportion of people who said they were Christian was 46.2%, down from 59.3% in the last census in 2011.

Note that the 13% fall in the proportion of Christians (these include Catholics, Anglicans, and assorted followers of Jesus) took place in only a decade. Likewise the 22.4% increase in those espousing “no religion” also occurred within the last decade. If this goes on, in the next census more than 50% of Welsh and English will be nonbelievers, and the proportion of Christians will be about 33%. As you can see from the BBC graph below, the decrease in faith and increase in unbelief over two decades have followed a nearly straight-line plot, making extrapolation easy (and probably unreliable).

Muslims are still a small minority of the population, so we don’t have to worry about a big increase of Islam in the UK.

More data from the Beeb.

The hotspots for nonbelief from the Guardian:

The places with the highest numbers of people saying they had no religion were Caerphilly, Blaenau Gwent and Rhondda Cynon Taf, all in south Wales, and Brighton and Hove and Norwich in England. They were among 11 areas where more than half the population are not religious, including Bristol, Hastings in East Sussex and Ashfield in Nottinghamshire, most of which had relatively low ethnic minority populations.

The places with the lowest number of non-believers were Harrow, Redbridge and Slough, where close to two-thirds of the populations are from minority ethnic backgrounds.

There is a correlation, with areas having the highest minority populations also being the most religious, surely because ethnic minorities are more religious than Indigenous Welsh and Brits.

Below you can see hotspots of nonbelief—the darker ones. Ceiling Cat bless the Welsh! London is a hotbed of Christianity, possibly because it has a high proportion of minorities (are they less frequent in the tony area of Islington?):

And while the atheists and humanists are making hay, the distressed Archbishops are kvetching hard (G):

The archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, said the census result “throws down a challenge to us not only to trust that God will build his kingdom on Earth but also to play our part in making Christ known”.

He added: “We have left behind the era when many people almost automatically identified as Christian but other surveys consistently show how the same people still seek spiritual truth and wisdom and a set of values to live by.”

But why do humans have to make Christ known when Christ could make himself known—simply by returning? He won’t return, of course, because a divine Jesus (and perhaps no Jesus person) ever existed.

The good folk weigh in:

The chief executive of Humanists UK, Andrew Copson, said: “One of the most striking things about these census results is how at odds the population is from the state itself. No state in Europe has such a religious setup as we do in terms of law and public policy, while at the same time having such a non-religious population.”

. . .Humanists and secularists seized on the figures as proof of the need for an overhaul of religion’s role in a society that has bishops of the established Church of England voting on laws and compulsory Christian worship in all schools that are not of a designated religious character.

“It’s official – we are no longer a Christian country,” said Stephen Evans, the chief executive of the National Secular Society. “The census figures paint a picture of a population that has dramatically moved away from Christianity – and from religion as a whole. The current status quo, in which the Church of England is deeply embedded in the UK state, is unfair and undemocratic – and looking increasingly absurd and unsustainable.”

I didn’t know about that “compulsory Christian worship” in non-religious schools, but it’s ridiculous. (I presume that Jews, Muslims, and nonbelievers can opt out.) Remember that the Church of England is the official National Church, and the King is the head of the Church. That has to go, too. It’s time for England to join Scandinavia in pervasive nonbelief.

Finally, Adam Rutherford said the obvious, but it needs repeated saying:

Dr Adam Rutherford, the president of Humanists UK, said people should not think a decline in religion equated to an “absence in values”.

“We might be living in a more values-driven society than ever before,” he said. “Surveys show, for example, that around three in 10 British adults have humanist beliefs and values, and it’s a trend we’ve seen growing in recent years.”

Humanists say they trust science over the supernatural, base their ethics around reason, empathy and concern for humans and other sentient animals and that in the absence of an afterlife, “human beings can act to give their own lives meaning by seeking happiness in this life and helping others to do the same”.

Ideology keeps sticking its nose into science: An essay by Anna Krylov

November 29, 2022 • 9:30 am

Anna Krylov, a professor of chemistry at the University of Southern California (USC), has a fruitful sideline in calling attention to the invasion of science by wokeness—much to the detriment of science. I’ve called attention to one of her papers before—a critique of politicizing science that she managed to get published in a reputable, peer-reviewed journal.  And she did an interview that I wrote about here. Since then, we’re coauthors—with a gazillion other “concerned scientists”—on a couple of papers on related topics, but it’s hard getting them published since no regular journal will touch anything perceived as anti-woke.

Anna’s latest piece (click on screenshot below) appeared yesterday at the Heterodox STEM  site, a site worth following if you’re worried about how science is becoming a mere appendage of “progressive” ideology. Anna lived and worked in the USSR until 1991, and draws on her experience, comparing the authoritarian forces that squelched Soviet science in her youth with the authoritarianism of the “progressive” left that afflicts and constrains us now. Here’s the abstract, and then click to read the whole thing:

My everyday experiences as a chemistry professor at an American university in 2021 bring back memories from my school and university time in the USSR. Not good memories—more like Orwellian nightmares. I will compare my past and present experiences to illustrate the following parallels between the USSR and the US today: (i) the atmosphere of fear and self-censorship; (ii) the omnipresence of ideology (focusing on examples from science); (iii) an intolerance of dissenting opinions (i.e., suppression of ideas and people, censorship, and Newspeak); (iv) the use of social engineering to solve real and imagined problems.

A couple of quotes:

Much more dire manifestations of the SJW [social-justice warrior] agenda are subverting research and education, most notably, in the life sciences and medicine [15]. Just as happened in  Soviet Russia, the new ideology is declaring entire disciplines—for example, mathematics—racist [16,17]. There are proposals, some already enacted in Oregon and California, that call to “dismantle white supremacy” in the mathematics classroom. How does white supremacy manifest itself in the classroom? By “the focus [being] on getting the ‘right’ answer” and asking students “to show their work.” Google “equitable math instruction” to see what this is all about. These programs are backed by serious institutions, such as the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

In California, there is a proposal to do away with advanced math programs in schools. Why? Because they are racist. Why are they racist? Because their demographics do not match the state’s demographics. How can we make math instruction equitable? Instead of raising the quality of education for everyone, the SJW favor the path that socialist regimes—real [18] and dystopian [19]—took: bringing everyone down to the lowest common denominator.

For the same reasons, proficiency tests are being dropped, grading standards lowered [20], standardized tests eliminated [21], and so on.

What will the consequences of such policies be? I think they will be devastating, possibly on the scale of Lysenkoism.

Let’s hope not! At least we’re not yet at the stage where the editors of Nature can kill anti-woke scientists, as the Soviets did to the great geneticist Nikolai Vavilov, who dared stand up to Lysenko’s insane theories. For his honesty, Vavilov was sent to the gulag, where he died.

One more quote:

Now we live in the shadows of Cancel Culture. People are being disinvited and de-platformed. Or dragged through administrative investigations and reviews, which is a form of punishment [27]. Dorian Abbot’s case is a good example [7].

Scientific papers are being retracted or self-retracted. Not because of scientific concerns—but because findings are deemed to be offensive to some. Or because they contradict the dominant narrative. Many examples are from biology [15], but this ideological intrusion is not limited to the life sciences [28-32].

The mechanism of censorship and suppression is different from Soviet Russia. It is not administered by the government, but rather by Twitter vigilantes—by outrage mobs who use social media to call for punishment of those whose views they find  objectionable [28].

But mobs alone would not be able to enforce censorship. In Western democracies, outrage mobs do not burn heretics at the stake, at least not yet [28]. They do not retract papers. They do not cancel seminars. People in positions of power do—university presidents, department chairs, journal editors. Bret Stephens called this “Coward Culture” in his New York Times opinion about Dorian’s case [32].

Sadly, some organizations are institutionalizing censorship.

Here is a recent example [29,30]: The Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) issued guidelines to its journal editors to “consider whether or not any content [in a submitted manuscript]… might have the potential to cause offense.” The memos and published policies emphasize that it is the perception of the recipient that determines offense, regardless of author intent.

The RSC gave 15 “indicators” of offensive content, which included content that is “[l]ikely to be upsetting, insulting or objectionable to some or most people.” That covers a lot of ground, doesn’t it?

How does that align with the publisher’s mission to facilitate the communication of high-quality chemistry research? This is a subversion of the institution of science by SJW agenda.

One difference between the “science culture wars” of the Scopes Trial days versus now is that now scientists are complicit in their own muzzling. The ideologization” of science comes from both within the field, including journal editors and funding agencies, and without (social media, of course).

Anna uses lots of good pictures to illustrate her piece, and ends with a Jewish joke at the end that she got from me. Below is one photo of the much-maligned Trofim Lysenko, Stalin’s darling. (If you don’t know the story of Lysenko, his rise to power, and his strangulation of Soviet agriculture, which led to the death of millions, at least read the Wikipedia article on him.)

(from paper): Trofim Lysenko speaking in the Kremlin to the Communist Party Leadership (1935). Scientists make mistakes, form incorrect theories, and pursue false hypotheses all the time, but what makes science powerful and credible is its ability to separate the wheat from the chaff. In the USSR, the ideology took control over science, which impeded its ability to self-correct, and resulted in the catastrophe of Lysenkoism. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Here’s Anna’s final paragraph about possible solutions.

What can be done? Here are some ideas. First, speak up. Do not submit to bullies. Refuse to speak Newspeak. If you see that the king is naked—say the king is naked. Second, organize. There is safety in numbers. Organizations such as the Academic Freedom Alliance, Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism, and the Heterodox Academy, can provide a platform for action and protection against repercussions [46]. Do your share in defending humanism, democracy, and the liberal Enlightenment.

It all starts—like the New Atheism jump-started an increase in secularism—by saying out loud what the ideologues consider taboo.

Readers’ wildlife photos

November 29, 2022 • 8:15 am

Today’s photos come from Tony Eales in Queensland. His narrative and IDs are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

Lots of beautiful beetles around at the moment. I’ve been checking the flowers of native plants and under the lights of the train station to see what is around locally. Here’s a selection

The most interesting find was this small beetle. I found it crawling on my desk at work. I suspect I accidentally transported it there on my clothing. While it is just a small brown beetle, it turns out that this is the single species Acanthocnemus nigricans, in its own family Acanthocnemidae. It is a pyrophilous beetle that congregates in recently burned areas and even attracted to bonfires. It has twin heat sensing organs beneath its pronotum that it uses to find fires. Originally a solely Australian species it has now spread to Europe, Africa, India and Southeast Asia.  There was a small bushfire right near my house recently and and I think that’s why it ended up on my clothes and transported to my office. This shows the use of always carrying collection vials.

I’ve also come across a couple of longicorn beetles. One from the large robust Subfamily Prioninae. This one is a female Cacodacnus planicollis. The males have large mandibles for fighting each other, however even the smaller female jaws are not something I’d like to get my finger to close to.

The other longicorn was a member of the Subfamily Cerambycinae or typical longicorns. This is Coptocercus multitrichus, a pretty, medium-sized beetle associated with Eucalyptus forests.

The main reason I have been searching flowering trees and shrubs is to find jewel beetles. So far, I haven’t had a great deal of luck but I have found two species, neither feeding on flowers.

First is a small species that I find on the stems of Acacia, Diphucrania albosparsa:

The other jewel I found was a new one for me, Hypocisseis suturalis. I found it on a Red Ash (Alphitonia excelsa) leaf, but it looked so much like a bird or gecko dropping I had to touch it to make sure it was an insect. I am used to another species of Hypocisseis that I regularly find on Red Ash so it was a bit of a surprise to find this new species on the same host plant.
Speaking of Red Ash, every year at this time I find Red Ash trees half stripped of their leaves and covered in feeding and mating small scarabs of the genus Diphucephala. This one is a male with enlarged extensions at the front of the head for male-male battles.
One beetle species I have been finding on flowers is this member of the Comb-clawed Darkling Beetle subfamily Alleculinae. This one is Lepturidea viridis.

Also on the flowers I have found many of this gorgeous metallic-blue Flower Weevil (Subfamily Baridinae), Ipsichora desiderabilis:

Of course weevils, as the most specious family of beetles, are everywhere. This one is Myllorhinus strenuus, a member of the True Weevils subfamily Curculioninae:

And this is a member of Subfamily Apioninae, the Pear-shaped Weevils, Rhynolaccus formicarius.