Monday: Hili dialogue

May 15, 2023 • 6:45 am

Back to work! It’s Monday, May 15, 2023, and National Chocolate Chip Day, brought to you by Big Chocolate.

It’s also  International Conscientious Objectors Day, (ME!), Bring Flowers to Someone Day, Stepmother’s Day (which stepmother is being honored?), World Baking Day, International Day of Families, and, in the U.S. Peace Officers Memorial Day.  Once again I am contemplating closing down this website.

Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the May 15 Wikipedia page.

Da Nooz:

*President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey has been in power for 20 years, and his presidency has not been a happy one. Besides banning the teaching of evolution below the college level, he’s slowly transforming Turkey into a theocracy, as well as damping down freedom of the press. But he faced another election yesterday, and so far the news looks good: his challenger appears to be leading:

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey was facing the greatest political challenge of his career after millions voted on Sunday in pivotal elections that could reshape the country’s domestic and foreign policies.

The state-run Anadolu news agency reported that initial results showed Mr. Erdogan in the lead. But opposition leaders dismissed those figures as misleading and Mr. Erdogan’s main challenger, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, wrote on Twitter: “We are leading.”

The presidential and parliamentary elections took place three months after devastating earthquakes killed more than 50,000 people in southern Turkey, and were in many ways a referendum on Mr. Erdogan’s two decades as the country’s dominant politician. He faced an extremely tight race, largely because of anger at the state of the economy and concerns among many voters that he has pushed the country toward one-man rule.

Even as Mr. Erdogan tapped state resources in an effort to tilt the contest, pre-election polls showed a slight lead for Mr. Kilicdaroglu, who represents a coalition of six opposition parties and has vowed to shore up the economy and restore Turkey’s democracy. If no candidate secures a majority, the two front-runners would go to a runoff on May 28.

The winner will set the course for the country of 84 million, a NATO member with one of the world’s 20 largest economies and a wide array of economic and political ties across Asia, Africa, Europe and the Middle East.

We may know the results tomorrow, but surely in a few days. And I’ll be a happy man if Erdogan loses. I wouldn’t put it past him, if he loses, to pull a trump and claim that he lost by fraud. But if there’s any fraud going on, it’s Erdogan’s. Kilicdaroglu is a much better bet, bent on strengthening NATO and Turkey’s ties to the west. He’d never oppose Scandinavian countries’ bids to join NATO.

*Another example, this time from Kenya of the faithful following their preacher’s advice to die for the sake of Jesus. It reminds me of the mass suicide at Jonestown or the Heaven’s Gate case, in both of which charistmatic leaders led their followers to death.

like hundreds of other believers, [Solomon Muendo] abandoned his home and moved there with his wife and two young children.

They were following the call of Paul Nthenge Mackenzie, a former taxi driver turned televangelist who, declaring that the world was about to end, marketed Shakahola to his followers as an evangelical Christian sanctuary from the fast-approaching apocalypse.

Instead of a haven, however, the 800-acre property, a sun-scorched wasteland of scrub and spindly trees, is now a gruesome crime scene, scattered with the shallow graves of believers who starved themselves to death — or, as Mr. Mackenzie would have it, crucified themselves so that they could meet Jesus.

As of this past week, 179 bodies have been exhumed and moved to a hospital mortuary in the coastal town of Malindi, around 100 miles east of Shakahola, for identification and autopsy. The government’s chief pathologists reported last week that while starvation caused many deaths, some of the bodies showed signs of death by asphyxiation, strangulation or bludgeoning. Some had had organs removed, a police affidavit said.

Hundreds more people are still missing, perhaps buried in undiscovered graves. Others are wandering the property without food like Mr. Muendo — whose wife and children are missing, his sister said.

Kenyan authorities are puzzled that they didn’t know abut these shenanigans, but there’s no puzzle about why this happened. It’s faith, Jake!

*A Washington Post exclusive reports that President Zelensky has secret plans to launch attacks against Russia:

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has won the trust of Western governments by refusing to use the weapons they provide for attacks inside Russia and prioritizing the targeting of Russian forces inside Ukraine’s borders.

But behind closed doors, Ukraine’s leader has proposed going in a more audacious direction — occupying Russian villages to gain leverage over Moscow, bombing a pipeline that transfers Russian oil to Hungary, a NATO member, and privately pining for long-range missiles to hit targets inside Russia’s borders, according to classified U.S. intelligence documents detailing his internal communications with top aides and military leaders.

The documents, which have not been previously disclosed, are part of a broader leak of U.S. secrets circulated on the Discord messaging platform and obtained by The Washington Post. They reveal a leader with aggressive instincts that sharply contrast with his public-facing image as the calm and stoic statesman weathering Russia’s brutal onslaught. The insights were gleaned through intercepted digital communications, providing a rare look at Zelensky’s deliberations amid Russian missile barrages, infrastructure attacks and war crimes.

The Pentagon, where senior U.S. military leaders were briefed on the matters outlined in the leaked documents, did not dispute the authenticity of the materials.
I really can’t blame Zelensky for this so long as he confines his attacks to military targets. Why should he not strike back after the Russians not only invaded his country, but are committing war crimes by targeting infrastructure and other civilian targets in Ukraine? But the minute he deliberately targets Russian civilians, he loses a lot of my support.

*In response to the WaPo report, Zelensky “clarified” that he’s not going after Russia, but simply liberating captured Ukrainian territory. But they’re already fighting for that, and they’ve even blow up stuff in Crimea (also captured Ukrainian land). The AP says this:

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Sunday that his country is preparing a counteroffensive designed to liberate areas occupied by Russia, not to attack Russian territory.

Speaking during a news conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin, Zelenskyy said Ukraine’s goal is to free the territories within its internationally recognized borders.

The Washington Post cited previously undisclosed documents from a trove of U.S. intelligence leaks suggesting that Zelenskyy has considered trying to capture areas in Russia proper for possible use as bargaining chips in peace negotiations to end the war launched by Moscow in February 2022. This would put him at odds with Western governments that have insisted that weapons they provide must not be used to attack targets in Russia.

Asked about the report, Zelenskyy said: “We don’t attack Russian territory, we liberate our own legitimate territory.”

“We have neither the time nor the strength (to attack Russia),” he said, according to an official interpreter. “And we also don’t have weapons to spare, with which we could do this.”

“We are preparing a counterattack for the illegally occupied areas based on our constitutionally defined legitimate borders, which are recognized internationally,” Zelenskyy said.

I’m not sure I believe him, but now that he’s denied the reports, he has to keep his credibility by NOT occupying Russian territory (except Crimea, which is really Ukrainian territory).

*How could I not click on the WSJ article called “The most exciting young athlete in the world isn’t playing in America.”? (Why should he be? That headline is pure jingoism.) It turns out that the sport is footie, the team is Manchester City, and the athletes is Norwegian. I hadn’t even heard of him, even though soccer is my favorite sport (I don’t get to watch much as it’s not on American t.v. unless you pay).

Specifically, I want to pivot to the most thrilling human currently on two cleats, I mean boots:

Erling Haaland.

Or just Haaland—the Erling’s long been extraneous. He’s a 6-foot-4 Norwegian who celebrates goals by falling to the ground in a meditative Lotus pose, but also says he enjoys the fearsome nickname “Terminator.”

We will also accept That Guy, because you can’t miss Haaland out there—the unmistakable, ponytailed blond sequoia in Manchester City sky blue who looks like he escaped from a Gronkowski extended family reunion.

He’s the English Premier League’s breakout superstar, and he’s building a case as one of the most exciting young athletes on earth, in any sport, a true get to the television and watch him, now sensation.

Let me repeat: Get to the television and watch Haaland, now. Or any screen of your choice. Manchester City’s next game is Sunday, May 14, versus Everton at 9 a.m. ET.

Why the fuss? Pretty simple. It’s because Haaland scores. And scores and scores and scores and scores. And scores again. Then he scores one more goal, just in case you missed the last one. It’s honestly bigger news when Haaland doesn’t score—that’s what happened Tuesday, when Real Madrid impressively kept the big man quiet during a 1-1 tie in the opener of its Champions League semifinal.

Here; let’s watch some highlights of his career at Man United:

He’s big and powerful and, like Messi, fast, but I’d still rather watch Messi because of his finesse.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is acting out Darwin:

Hili: I’m lying here and I’m thinking.
A: What about?
Hili: Whether to act as an agent of natural selection or as a consumer.
In Polish:

Hili: Leżę tu i myślę.
Ja: Nad czym?
Hili: Czy działać jako agentka doboru naturalnego, czy być konsumerystką.

From America’s Cultural Decline into Idiocy. Why do Canadian kids develop faster?

From Jesus of the Day. Something like these (they are artiodactyls and some species can swim a long distance underwater) may have been ancestors of whales):


From Beth:


From Masih, both men and women fight back against the theocracy:

From Barry. I can’t believe the d*g did it!

From Simon, Obama’s Mother’s Day tweet. Boy, how his and Michelle’s girls have grown!

From Malcolm, a monkey being a cat:

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

Tweets from Professor Cobb, who’s still in the US, I think. Say “hi” if you see him. The first one involves random acts of kindness:

He labels this one “nsfw”:

Tweeted by the cartoonist:

51 thoughts on “Monday: Hili dialogue

  1. Canadian children probably do not develop faster, but there might be some laws regulating child toy safety different in Canada and USA.

    1. Having lived for years in both the US and Canada, I can attest that Canadian children actually do develop faster.

  2. I read this every day, but I guess I understand why you might want to do it; it must take awhile to write/compile.

  3. “Contemplating closing down this website”? WEIT represents an incredible amount of work from you; it is incredibly valuable to us. Thank you, Dr. Coyne, for your efforts. Here is one vote urging you to continue.

  4. And here’s another vote for you to keep up your WEiT site. Just today I learned about the chevrotain and Haaland, things I wouldn’t have known without you. Now I have to go find the next Manchester City match.

  5. I read your website every day and really enjoy it and I appreciate the effort it must take. Have you considered simply doing less posts? Maybe not every day? Take some time off from it? Anyway, if you do stop then I’m grateful for all the entertainment and education you’ve given me over the years.

    1. Seconded. I really enjoy this website, both Dr. Coyne’s posts and the comment section, but I can see how keeping up that rate of posts can be exhausting. I do hope it will continue – it’s a rare and valuable outpost of reason in an increasingly insane world.

    2. I read WEIT every day. As others have noted it is my best source of a balance viewpoint and I would greatly miss it. The work you do is highly appreciated and I thank you for your hard work.

  6. WEIT is the first thing I look at each morning. You present a valuable and trustworthy viewpoint.

  7. On this day:
    1252 – Pope Innocent IV issues the papal bull ad extirpanda, which authorizes, but also limits, the torture of heretics in the Medieval Inquisition.

    1536 – Anne Boleyn, Queen of England, stands trial in London on charges of treason, adultery and incest; she is condemned to death by a specially-selected jury.

    1618 – Johannes Kepler confirms his previously rejected discovery of the third law of planetary motion (he first discovered it on March 8 but soon rejected the idea after some initial calculations were made).

    1905 – The city of Las Vegas is founded in Nevada, United States.

    1940 – Richard and Maurice McDonald open the first McDonald’s restaurant.

    1941 – First flight of the Gloster E.28/39 the first British and Allied jet aircraft.

    1948 – Following the expiration of The British Mandate for Palestine, the Kingdom of Egypt, Transjordan, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia invade Israel thus starting the 1948 Arab–Israeli War.

    1957 – At Malden Island in the Pacific Ocean, Britain tests its first hydrogen bomb in Operation Grapple.

    1963 – Project Mercury: The launch of the final Mercury mission, Mercury-Atlas 9 with astronaut Gordon Cooper on board. He becomes the first American to spend more than a day in space, and the last American to go into space alone.

    1970 – President Richard Nixon appoints Anna Mae Hays and Elizabeth P. Hoisington the first female United States Army generals.

    1974 – Ma’alot massacre: Members of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine attack and take hostages at an Israeli school; a total of 31 people are killed, including 22 schoolchildren.

    1988 – Soviet–Afghan War: After more than eight years of fighting, the Soviet Army begins to withdraw 115,000 troops from Afghanistan.

    1991 – Édith Cresson becomes France’s first female Prime Minister.

    2004 – Arsenal F.C. go an entire league campaign unbeaten in the English Premier League, joining Preston North End F.C. with the right to claim the title “The Invincibles”.

    2010 – Jessica Watson becomes the youngest person to sail, non-stop and unassisted around the world solo.

    1817 – Debendranath Tagore, Indian philosopher and author (d. 1905).

    1856 – L. Frank Baum, American novelist (d. 1919).

    1857 – Williamina Fleming, Scottish-American astronomer and academic (d. 1911).

    1859 – Pierre Curie, French physicist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1906).

    1863 – Frank Hornby, English businessman and politician, invented Meccano (d. 1936).

    1905 – Abraham Zapruder, American businessman and amateur photographer, filmed the Zapruder film (d. 1970).

    1909 – James Mason, English actor, producer, and screenwriter (d. 1984).

    1936 – Ralph Steadman, English painter and illustrator.

    1937 – Madeleine Albright, Czech-American politician and diplomat, 64th United States Secretary of State (d. 2022).

    1948 – Brian Eno, English singer-songwriter, keyboard player, and producer.

    1953 – Mike Oldfield, English-Irish singer-songwriter, guitarist, and producer.

    1987 – Andy Murray, Scottish tennis player. [Both he and his brother attended Dunblane Primary School and were present during the 1996 Dunblane school massacre, when Thomas Hamilton killed 16 children and a teacher before shooting himself.]

    We are all bound thither; we are hastening to the same common goal. Black death calls all things under the sway of its laws:
    1886 – Emily Dickinson, American poet and author (b. 1830).

    1967 – Edward Hopper, American painter (b. 1882).

    2003 – June Carter Cash, American singer-songwriter, guitarist, and actress (b. 1929).

    2007 – Jerry Falwell, American pastor, founded Liberty University (b. 1933).

  8. Unlike Erdogan, it would be a great shame to see WEIT go but I agree with the others, it is am immense amount of work. I rarely post here but look at the site every day.

  9. Incredible footage of solifugids (aka camel spiders/sun scorpions) mating. Males put the highly aggressive females into a state of complete inactivity, a sort of trance.
    Males rapidly chew with their chelicerae at the female’s genital region, possibly facilitating sperm transfer.

    Male solifugids’ may be overdoing their approach to givin’ head.

    (Hey, Professor Cobb labelled the tweet “nsfw.”)

  10. A fair number of Manchester City’s games have been on NBC, which is free TV. They often show Premier league games after the early games on USA network (cheap TV). So you should not be missing his games,

  11. “I am contemplating closing down this website.”

    As long as the material gets published, e.g. on Substack, not all hope is lost.

  12. When writing about Haaland you sometimes say Man City and sometimes Man United. You are probably safe in Chicago, but you had better get it right if you go to Manchester!

  13. Interesting to learn that you were a C.O. When I registered for the draft (in 1967 or 1968?) I filed an application for C.O. status. It was never adjudicated, as I had a medical exemption approved (asthma), but I did have to write an essay for the application and prepare for a possible hearing. It was a tough job explaining a moral conviction against killing while not having religious belief or affiliation. (Ethnically Jewish but not practicing.) That should sound perfectly sound and reasonable by now, but my advisers and I all knew the draft boards (and possibly the official criteria) expected it to be based in a religious commitment. There was a phrasing about moral conviction *equivalent to* religious upbringing.

  14. Contemplating closing the website?
    I certainly hope not. We’ve learned a lot here and enjoyed the community. Besides, what would you do with the extra 20 hours a day of free time?

  15. I think that I have said this in the past. WEIT has been key to me (and thus to my local cohort of 70- and 80- somethings who are well educated retirees living here in the non-academic boondocks of southeastern Virginia, understanding and even knowing about the current DEI issues, academic freedom in universities, and many other issues over the years, that are not objectively covered in the MSM. In political areas that are informed by biology, such as trans high school athletics, having you and your science expert colleagues making the arguments and providing references has been of great value. Except for the fact that I cannot keep up with all articles in subject areas I care about each day – you seem to create faster than I can read and understand – I find each day more fulfilling due to the information, including real time commenters’ opinions, that lives on WEIT…..and on a, maybe selfish personal note, it has allowed me to continue a multi-decade friendship with you that we began as undergrads in the late 60’s…a rare opportunity these days.

  16. Please do not close the website. Even a truncated version would be far better than none. Thank you for all your work here, we do appreciate it.

  17. the team is Manchester United, and the athletes is Norwegian.

    The team is not Manchester United. City and United are very definitely different teams and they are implacable rivals. Haaland plays for Manchester City, unfortunately (I say this as an Arsenal fan).

    Once again I am contemplating closing down this website.

    That would make me very sad. I’ve had many hours of enjoyment and education reading it. That said, it must be a huge burden producing the quality content that you do, but you have never asked for a penny in compensation from your readers, so I respect whatever decision you make.

    Edit: OK, I have now read some of the other comments and I see I wasn’t the first person to pick up on the City/United confusion. Sorry to jump on the bandwagon, but a lot of people think it is important.

    OTOH, you did say “footie” at one point which is preferable to “soccer”. I know people who refuse to accept that “soccer” is a real word.

  18. Closing the website will be a real loss. My day starts with WEIT.
    I value every post and learn so much from you and the readers.

    I truly hope you don’t, but can understand the amount of work you put in everyday.

  19. Many have already said it, but I’ll say it again to add another voice. I would be saddened to see WEIT closed down. I started reading here right about the time you first created the site and for all the years since it has been my favorite site. A rare haven of sanity, thoughtfulness and goodness.

    Not to mention all of the great science related articles you’ve written here. I have a “Reference” folder filled with hundreds of bookmarks for science and philosophy related WEIT articles, because they are far better than any mainstream science journalism sources.

    And then there’s the commentors that have come and gone over the years. The qualities of the comments, year after year, would have made WEIT an exceptional site by themselves. That such people are / were regulars here tells you all you need to know about the quality of the author’s content.

    And let’s not forget the travel and culinary adventure posts! Cats and music too.

    I too can understand how much effort it takes to do what you do here at WEIT and could never fault you for closing it down. But for purely selfish reasons I hope you don’t.

    1. +1

      You are one of the first commentors I remember reading, along with Grania, Sastra, Ben Goren, Ken Kukec, gravelinspector, Diana MacPherson, Heather Hastie, and Mark Sturtevant…I’m forgetting many more. Like you said, the commentors are a testament to WEIT’s quality.

      And where to get the plethora of book/movie/music recommendations! Some of the best books I’ve ever read were from Jerry and the many bibliophile commentors here.

  20. Count me among the thousands who’s days would be much emptier and less edifying if WEIT were to disappear. I especially enjoy the readers wildlife section; it is one of the highlights of my mornings. And whenever I see an interesting article on new findings in biology, I look to see your take on the claims.

    I cannot understand the kind of work you must put in to make WEIT a daily treat for us all, but I can understand that at some point, if it becomes just work, perhaps it’s time to set it aside. I hope you feel it isn’t just work and that you continue to get something from it.

    I stand with many in appreciation and admiration for this (not) blog – a voice in the wilderness- and would be sad to see it go.

  21. Obviously, none of your readers relish the thought of WEIT closing down. That would certainly suck, but I’m sure it takes a lot of your time and energy to keep this site going at the high level we all enjoy.

    My wife never comments, but she’s another “please don’t close” vote.

  22. As per all the above: please don’t stop. Once a week would be a treat. Twice a week would be a bonus. Pace yourself! Oh, and please don’t stop.

  23. Please, please don’t close the Website. It’s an enormous amount of work (the Hili feature alone must be), but I would miss it so. I am sure you would, too (only slightly tongue in cheek). I can’t read every day, but catch up with reading what I missed when I can.

    1. Your posts are the first thing I read in the morning. They will be sorely missed if you stop blogging.

  24. Being the resident Turkey specialist, I’ll add that there will be a second round to the presidential election, as none of the candidates reached 50 %, and Erdoğan finished slightly ahead of his opponent. The voting itself was above board. The unfairness was in the campaign phase, with the state TV giving lots of room to Mr Erdoğans frequent long and detailed speeches (he is a very good speaker), and most large media being sympathetic to him, if not outright propaganda outlets. There still are opposition or critical media, though, like Cumhuriyet and Sözcü among the newspapers/websites, and Fox news on TV, although their financial means are limited. Turkey has always had very courageous journalists. I’d say that since 2016, US media bias pro the Democrats has hardly been less pervasive than pro-Erdoğan media bias in Turkey (despite the much heavier repression there.) During the Merkel government in Germany, many Turco Germans found it a bit rich to be lectured about Erdoğan;s capturing the Turkish media, as Merkel was best friends with the owners of two large media empires (Springer and Bertelsmann), and the large German media were almost unanimously and fawningly pro Merkel. In those days, the only dissenting or critical media were tiny often fringe outlets that were vilified by the large media, if they were noticed at all, despite some of them having high quality journalism. .

  25. If I can, I’d like to add my two-penn’orth. (Here in the UK we still have pennies – not cents, and I’m old enough to remember the old pre-decimal system, when we had twopence, thrupenny bits etc before they messed it up and money stopped being “real”. Anyway I digress.)
    I hope you do carry on with WEiT, Jerry. By now you’ll know that there are things about which we disagree, but I’ve hugely enjoyed your blog in the short time I’ve been coming on here – and learned quite a lot too. Hope you are able to continue with it.

  26. I notice that in close to half of Erling Haaland’s goals he was set up by Kevin the Bruyne. That couple is made in heaven (if you favour Man City) or hell (any other team). De Bruyne himself was something of a striker earlier in his career, but it appears that he is mainly ‘structuring’ goals now, and Haaland is the perfect finisher. Haaland has this great Cruyffian ability to be at the right spot at the right time: football intelligence. That means he might become more than a striker -an outstanding striker. I think we may have high hopes there.

  27. I understand when it’s time to say goodbye. I thank you for giving us foreigners a window on America‘s best, science and all the rest of it. You’re about as good as it gets for us. I realize some people take that as damning with faint praise but really I mean it as the sincerest of compliments. (Ken K. can tell me if it counts as litotes.)

    Glad we all (?) got through the pandemic together.

    1. I don’t think it qualifies as litotes per se, Leslie — which involves emphasis through negation of the opposite (as in the Queen’s remark, “We are not amused”) — though it does fit into the same general category of rhetorical understatement, known as meiosis.

      See? I try to be service-y like that. 🙂

  28. Can’t begin to count the number of times I have asked myself how is it possible for you to put this out every day. The amazing effort and energy you put into this. It has been a constant source of news, education, informed opinion, and amusement. Thank you so much, Dr. Coyne, you are a treasure.

  29. …yes, we and the great unwashed are a demanding lot and difficult. I can imagine all the abuse the lounge dwellers don’t get to ‘see’ would be draining as well. As a non academic this has been my daily interaction, organizing thoughts that stay consistent to fact finding, of discovery, reason, and of course some fun. Just people, sharing stuff. So I say, thanks Prof(E) J Coyne regardless of stay or go.

Leave a Reply