The double irony of classes voluntarily segregated by race

November 28, 2023 • 11:15 am

Here we have a news piece (not an op-ed) from a recent Wall Street Journal, reporting that a high school in the Chicago-adjacent town of Evanston, Illinois, is offering voluntarily race-segregated classes as a way to achieve “equity”.  These classes, called “affinity classes”, are of course optional, because mandated race-segregated classes are illegal.

The claim is that voluntary racial segregation produces better academic results for minorities (the minority classes are black and Latino, not white or Asian, and the “classes of color” also have race-compatible minority teachers), but the evidence for “reducing disparities” is either thin or nonexistent.

Moreover, there’s a huge irony involved in doing this: segregating classes by race reduces diversity in the classroom, yet advocates for diversity always (again, here the evidence is thin) that greater diversity of groups leads to greater achievement of those groups on average. You can’t have it both ways! (As far as I know, Evanston was also the first city in America to effect reparations for black people, giving them money for mortgages or home improvement. Voluntarily segregated classes, however, are found in other places, including, as the article below notes, Minneapolis, Seattle, San Francisco, and Oakland.  There are also classes voluntarily segregated by sex.)

Click to read, or see the article archived here:

An excerpt:

School leaders in this college town just north of Chicago have been battling a sizable academic achievement gap between Black, Latino and white students for decades. So a few years ago, the school district decided to try something new at the high school: classrooms voluntarily separated by race.

Nearly 200 Black and Latino students at Evanston Township High School signed up this year for math classes and a writing seminar intended for students of the same race, taught by a teacher of color. These optional so-called affinity classes are designed to address the achievement gap by making students feel more comfortable in class, district leaders have said, particularly in Advanced Placement courses that historically have enrolled few Black and Latino students.

“Our Black students are, for lack of a better word…at the bottom, consistently still. And they are being outperformed consistently,” Monique Parsons, Evanston school board vice president, said at a November board meeting. “It’s not good.”

School districts across the country have sometimes struggled to find ways to boost the performance of Black and Latino students, who, nationwide, tend to enroll in fewer advanced classes and score lower on standardized tests than white students.

. . . Evanston is taking the strategy one step further, offering courses for Black and Latino students in core math classes: algebra 2, precalculus and AP calculus, as well as an English seminar. Evanston’s classes for Black students are known as AXLE, an acronym for Advancing Excellence, Lifting Everyone, and those for Latino students are called GANAS, from a Spanish expression that means “giving it all you’ve got.”

The reason this is done, so it’s said, is that voluntary segregation makes the students more comfortable, and hence facilitates learning. (Quotes from students attest to their comfort level.) There are other rationales that are not as appealing, as “white standards”:

“A lot of times within our education system, Black students are expected to conform to a white standard,” said Dena Luna, who leads Black student-achievement initiatives in Minneapolis Public Schools. The district offers middle- and high-school students electives focused on African-American history and social-emotional support, taught by teachers of color. Created in 2015 for Black boys, the format has expanded to Black girls and will soon expand to Latino students. An internal study showed improved attendance for Black boys in the program in 2017 and average GPAs of 2.27, compared with 2.14 for Black males districtwide.

“In our spaces, you don’t have to shed one ounce of yourself because everything about our space is rooted in Blackness,” Luna said.

Some quotes:

Student testimonials included in a presentation Evanston teachers gave at a conference last fall described how students feel more accepted in the classes.

“I feel like I represent me and not the whole black race in this AP class,” said a student who took an AXLE class in 2021. “It’s a safe space. In AP classes that are mostly white, I feel like if I answer wrong, I am representing all black kids. I stay quiet in those classes.”

A GANAS student who identified as half-Latina said, “I feel accepted for the first time in a long time.”

Note that the difference in GPAs associated with voluntary segregation is minimal—only .13 points, or about 6%. But there’s another possible reason for that. Suppose that professors grade on the curve, or, on average, minority teachers tend to grade their minority students higher than do teachers that are “race incompatible”. In that case you’d get higher GPAs in the segregated classes than in the integrated classes. No, the only way to really test if voluntary segregation improves performance is to use standardized tests as controls—tests in which everybody has to answer the same question. If this kind of segregation works, we should see higher test scores on minority students if they’ve been in self-segregated classes.

But what if that turns out to be the case? That has potentially upsetting implications for “progressives.” First of all, the mantra is that “increased diversity within groups increases average group performance”.  That conclusion is based on very weak evidence (psychology experiments, for one thing), so I’m not confident about it.  But if the standardized test data refute it, then there goes the argument for diversity!

Further, if segregated classes improve performance of minorities, wouldn’t voluntarily segregated schools do that as well? That, of course, is the second great irony of this issue: minorities fought for years to end segregation in schools, and finally got it, both in secondary schools and colleges.  But then they claim that, well, integrated classes are inimical to minority achievement. You can’t have it both ways. If the result above proves to be true (and I have no idea whether it is), the argument for integration goes down the tubes. Further, one might argue that if this holds on the college level—and the “comfort” argument should also apply there—colleges shouldn’t be trying to get around the ban on affirmative action but should instead be urging minority students to go, for instance, to historically black colleges.

One possible counterargument to the above is to claim that = students do mix racially outside of class.  But I’m not sure that is the case.  I’ve often heard that in both colleges and secondary schools (and witnessed this when I was young, though racism was more prevalent then) students self-segregate outside the class, also for “comfort” reasons.  We all know that minority students tend to eat lunch together in secondary schools, and colleges are even pushing for “affinity dorms”, in which students can voluntarily choose to live with others from their same ethnic group.

My question, then, is this. If you want integration, but claim that integration is bad for minority achievement, then aren’t you being a hypocrite?

My own view is that the differences in achievement due to voluntary segregation are small, and may be due to factors other than “comfort.”  The proper tests have not yet been done. But even if they show some boos in achievement boost due to segregation, there are other advantages to integration beyond possible boosts in achievement, which I would imagine at any rate to be small.  Those advantages include learning to get along with different types of people, which is a personal and societal good. If you always segregate yourself voluntarily, or are given the opportunity to do so, then America once again becomes divided into racial groups with little mixing. So much for E Pluribus Unum!

Now perhaps this whole problem will disappear as minorities increase in achievement. But that isn’t going to happen any time soon.

I have no dog in this fight except to say that I favor integration because of its social benefits, not necessarily academic ones.  But if liberals encourage self-segregation as a way to boost achievement, and it does, then they will have to structure schools and curricula on that basis. And that will lead them back to how schools were in the 1950s.

USC abrogates freedom of speech: Jewish professor banned from campus for saying he hoped that all members of Hamas would be killed.

November 28, 2023 • 9:15 am

John Strauss, an economics professor at the University of Southern California (USC), has suffered one of the most ridiculous instances of professorial “cancellation” that I’ve heard of. He’s being punished by USC simply for exercising his right of free speech. (Although USC is a private school, it has a free-speech code that is close to the University of Chicago’s, and does not exempt “hate speech” so long as it conforms to the courts’ interpretation of the First Amendment.) Here’s an excerpt from their code:

Our longstanding policies also declare that the University of Southern California is committed to fostering a learning environment where free inquiry and expression are encouraged and celebrated and for which all its members share responsibility. Dissent — disagreement, a difference of opinion, or thinking differently from others — is an integral aspect of expression in higher education, whether it manifests itself in a new and differing theory in quantum mechanics, a personal disagreement with a current foreign policy, opposition to a position taken by the university itself, or by some other means.  The university is a diverse community based on free exchange of ideas and devoted to the use of reason and thought in the resolution of differences.  The university recognizes the crucial importance of preserving First Amendment rights and maintaining open communication and dialogue in the process of identifying and resolving problems which arise in the dynamics of life in a university community.

Sadly, Professor Strauss, who is Jewish, uttered a statement that, while conforming to USC’s definition of free speech, has gotten him into big trouble. Click below to read about it in the Los Angeles Times.

Most of the incident was filmed, and, indeed, Strauss was simply using his free speech. There are data!

The details from the LA Times:

Until recently, USC professor John Strauss was known mostly for his research on the economics of developing countries, with decades of fieldwork in Indonesia and China.

That changed Nov. 9, when Strauss stopped before students staging a walkout and protest calling for a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip and holding a memorial to thousands of Palestinian civilians killed in the Israel-Hamas war.

The economics professor’s interactions with students that day ended with the 72-year-old Strauss, who is Jewish, declaring: “Hamas are murderers. That’s all they are. Every one should be killed, and I hope they all are killed.”

Strauss told a group of pro-Palestinian students demonstrating on campus: “No, shame on you. You people are ignorant. Really ignorant. Hamas are murderers. That’s all they are. Every one should be killed, and I hope they all are.”

Students captured those remarks on their cellphones, almost instantly seeming to recognize a viral moment. “Can you say that for the camera?” one pressed.

Within hours, Strauss’ comments were posted online, shared and reshared on X, Instagram, Facebook and TikTok.

Here’s the full clip of the interaction with pro-Palestinian students that got Strauss in trouble. I can’t make out what he’s saying, but even the complaining students verified that what he said is what’s given above: wishing for Hamas members to all be killed:

More from the paper:

As his remarks raced across the internet, his condemnation of Hamas was often excised, leaving only his “hope” for “all” to be killed. Captions and comments online framed his demand for “every one” to be killed in myriad, at times deceptive, ways. One Instagram post shared to millions of users claimed falsely that Strauss told the students, “[I] hope you get killed….”

Some of the clip was truncated to make Strauss looks as if he were saying that all Palestinians should be killed. Here’s that clip:

He was punished by USC almost immediately after “offended” students complained to the University. Need I add that saying one thinks members of Hamas should be killed is simply freedom of speech? It can’t even be considered hate speech or incitement to violence because presumably there were no members of Hamas in attendance! Further, trying to kill all members of Hamas is in fact Israel’s precise goal in the recent war.

Within a day, an associate dean told Strauss that he was on paid administrative leave, barred from campus, and that he would no longer teach his undergraduates this semester.

Within the week, a petition demanding that USC fire Strauss for his “racist, xenophobic behavior” and comments that “promote and incite violence” had collected more than 6,500 signatures.

Meanwhile, more than 9,000 signed a counter-petition decrying USC’s treatment of Strauss as “unjust,” saying he was the victim of online misinformation, and demanding that the university reinstate him.

Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Los Angeles, called for USC to launch an investigation into Strauss and to take actions to protect “Muslim, Palestinian and Arab students as well as any others who are targeted by hate and bigotry.”


Jonathan Friedman, director of free expression at PEN America, criticized USC for “a shocking overreaction,” adding in a statement, “What USC has done runs counter to the university’s obligation to foster dialogue and debate.”

By now, millions have viewed portions of Strauss’ remarks, and his statements — and USC’s response — have become a Rorschach test for a war raging 7,500 miles away.

With its political, ethnic, generational and religious fault lines, the incident has reignited intractable debates over campus censorship, academic freedom and student safety. Nearly every student who spoke to The Times for this article would do so only on condition of anonymity, citing a fear of online harassment

Need I add that that this is punishment, both investigations and barring a professor from campus—punishment for exercising free speech? That violates USC’s own policies and is something for which Strauss could sue the school.  Oh, and he stepped on a paper list of putative killed Palestinians, which he avers (and I believe) was an accident. And, at any rate, that “offense” is not why Strauss was punished:

Near a busy campus corridor, the event also included a memorial to Palestinians killed in Gaza since Oct. 7, a death toll that was then about 10,000 and that has since grown to more than 13,000, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry. Partly enclosed by a fence, the memorial featured four long rolls of paper, at least 18 inches wide, unfurled several feet across the ground. On the paper were printed thousands of names.

Students said that when Strauss came to the demonstration, he stepped on the paper. One student said he was “desecrating the names.”

“All I did was walk through the crowd,” Strauss said, insisting he never saw the list of names but spotted the memorial later in the day after the crowd had dissipated. He acknowledged that he “might well have accidentally walked on” the list but said it was “completely unintentional.”

No one appears to have recorded the first interaction, but students say his presence caused a stir.

Yes, of course it did; he’s known, he’s Jewish, and he wished for Hamas to be killed—a sentiment that many of us probably share. The event blew up more as Muslim or pro-Palestinian students weighed in to damn Strauss. This puzzles me because pro-Palestinian students finally admitted that Strauss was referring to Hamas, not Palestinians. But it didn’t matter: once you’re offended, the cortisol keeps circulating until you get the professor fired. I’ve bolded one bit of the report below:

But as the clip circulated online, it was at times trimmed to a few seconds of Strauss uttering, “Every one should be killed.”

The captions and superimposed text in social media posts could be minimal, misleading or wrong.

“This zionist econ professor purposefully stepped on the list of martyrs before our march and came by again after & said ‘everyone should be killed,’” a student group posted on Instagram.

Another post on Instagram, shared by @CravingPalestine and activist Shaun King, among others, said Strauss “threatened these students ‘hope you get killed and I hope they all are (*Gaza)” during a campus rally for Gaza.” That post has been viewed more than 3.2 million times.

At one point, the group Trojans for Palestine clarified on Instagram that Strauss “did not say he wanted Palestinians to be killed, but Hamas,” according to screenshots of the post.

Then, the group appeared to walk it back: “With his hateful rhetoric, you can draw your own conclusion about whether or not he wished death upon just Hamas or civilians as well.”

Within hours of Strauss’ recorded comments, USC’s Muslim Student Union issued a statement saying that Strauss was “repeatedly calling for the murder of the entirety of Palestine” and expressing “a desire for the death of those supporting Palestine.”

What we see here is a group of The Offended admitting that Strauss was talking about Hamas, but then adding, in a reprehensible bit of rhetoric, “you can draw your own conclusions”. But there’s a video, and the video, even according to the Trojans for Palestine, shows that Strauss was talking about Hamas. The conclusion to be drawn is simply that Trojans for Palestine are trying to get a Jewish professor punished for wishing for the extermination of Hamas.

Since then, USC has backed off a bit: it now allows Strauss to teach undergrads, too, but only remotely. He is still banned from campus. And now he is, as expected, being deluged with hate mail (this is of course legal unless that hate mail threatens him).  Complaints have also been fired against him by USC’s “equity, diversity, and Title IX office”. For what, I wonder? Haven’t the administrators viewed the “incriminating” video? If they had acted properly, they would have seen the clip and dismissed the case as in conformity with the University’s freedom of speech policy. But they didn’t.

And so the Academic Freedom Alliance has provided Strauss with a lawyer, and FIRE has written a letter to Carol Folt, USC’s President, which includes the following paragraphs:

Neither the First Amendment nor USC’s policies shield Strauss from every consequence of his expressionincluding criticism by students, faculty, or the broader community. Criticism is
“more speech,” the remedy to offensive expression the First Amendment prefers to censorship.  But university policies that invoke the First Amendment limit the types of consequences that may be imposed on protected expression, and who may impose them.

Restricting Strauss to teaching remotely the rest of the semester is precisely the type of consequence for constitutionally protected expression that USC’s First Amendmentmirroring Faculty Handbook plainly prohibits, because such a restriction is likely to chill future faculty speech. The question is not whether formal punishment is meted out, but whether the institution’s actions “would chill or silence a person of ordinary firmness from future [expressive] activities[.]”  Courts have explicitly recognized consequences similar to those imposed on Strauss, such as changes to working conditions or restricting access to the institution’s facilities as sufficiently chilling speech. Whether the university labels the restriction “administrative leave” is irrelevant to the analysis: USC violated Strauss’s free speech rights by imposing the remoteteaching restriction in response to his protected expression.

They’re right and USC is acting shamefully. It doesn’t matter what Strauss said so long as it conformed to protected First Amendment speech, which it surely did. And I’d be just a peeved if he walked by a bunch of pro-Israel students and said that Israeli West Bank settlers who attacked Palestinians should all be killed.

USC has a history of both administrative and student anti-Israel or antisemitic actions (see the open letters here, here, here, and here). While some of this is protected speech, and other letters call for the University to violate institutional neutrality (which it does NOT have anyway), these incidents have, in toto, created a climate at the University in which Jewish students feel endangered.  And if that impedes the function of the University, which is to teach such students and not chill their speech, the atmosphere needs to be addressed. I don’t know what to do about that without asking for violations of the First Amendment or of the principle of institutional neutrality (USC doesn’t have it, but all schools should). Still, the one thing that USC can do is not cancel professors who criticize Hamas.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: If you think Dr. Strauss has been unfairly treated, you can send an email to USC here via the FIRE website. I did, and I wrote my own email although there’s a boilerplate one on the site.

h/t: Anna

Readers’ wildlife photos

November 28, 2023 • 8:15 am

Physicist and origami master Robert Lang has bestowed upon us a batch of photos from New Zealand (and two other batches, which will appear later)! Robert’s notes and IDs are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

New Zealand, Part 1: Birds of the Water

In January, my wife and I got to visit the South Island of New Zealand, a long-time goal for both of us. I took a lot of pictures, and will send three parts. In this first group, birds that we saw on the waters, some in Milford Sound, others in other boat journeys near the southern end of the island.

Two albatrosses. First, a White-Capped Albatross (Thalassarche cauta steadi), flying. Look at the length of those wings!:

And another White-Capped Albatross, close-up on the water:

Next, a Buller’s Albatross (Thalassarche bulleri), which has different coloration on the bill. When I was looking for that one, I couldn’t resist asking “Buller’s? Buller’s?” Alas, that joke is not long for this world, as the American Ornithological Association will someday name it something like “The doubly-yellow-billed albatross,” or some such thing:

A Kelp Gull (Larus dominicanus), showing the red spot that is the target for chicks demanding a feeding:

A Red-Billed Gull (Chroicocephalus novaehollandiae scopulinus), which could also be called the Red-Eyed Gull, or the Red-Legged Gull; there’s a lot of red to choose from. (Or we could just call it the tarāpunga, which is the Maori name.):

A Cape Petrel (Daption capense), swimming:

A Variable Oystercatcher (Haematopus unicolor) (I think; I invite our birding experts to chime in on this, or any of these, if they have corrections). A little bit fuzzy because it was quite some distance away:

A pair of Australian Pied Cormorants (Phalacrocorax varius), also called the Pied Shag. I will resist the obvious jokes here:

And finally, our first penguin. Merlin ID is telling me it’s a Little Penguin (Eudyptula minor) (but aren’t they all rather little?). Again, I invite correction or further precise IDs from our experts.

Tuesday: Hili dialogue

November 28, 2023 • 6:45 am

Welcome to the Cruelest Day: Tuesday, November 28, 2023, and National French Toast Day.  I love the stuff and would get it as a special breakfast treat when I was a kid. It is indeed French, but could also be called “German Toast”, for, according to Wikipedia, its first mentions are these:

A 14th-century German recipe uses the name Arme Ritter poor knights, a name also used in English and the Nordic languages. Also in the 14th-century, Taillevent presented a recipe for “tostées dorées”. Italian 15th-century culinary expert Martino da Como offers a recipe.

Here’s a fine photo of loaded French toast from Wikipedia, labeled “French toast topped with fruit, butter and cream, served with maple syrup.”  And I’m sitting here with my latte (my only breakfast), salivating like a horse.  Note the real maple syrup, essential to complete the dish. (I never use anything but dark maple syrup on pancakes or French toast, as there is no substitute.)

It’s also Red Planet Day, marking the launch of  launch of the Mariner 4 spacecraft on this day in 1964, Letter Writing Day (when’s the last time you wrote a real letter?), Turkey Leftover Day, and, in Japan,, Hōonkō, described thusly in Wikipedia:

Hōonkō (報恩講) is a holiday in the Jodo Shinshu tradition of Buddhism which commemorates the death of its founder, Shinran Shonin. . . . A typical service for Hoonko will consist of reciting Shinran’s hymn, the Shoshinge, and a reading from the life of Shinran. Followers will sometimes observe a strict diet that day, preferring to eat shōjin ryōri or “Buddhist cuisine“, though this is entirely optional. Temple services will often serve Buddhist cuisine after service, including vegetarian ozōniadzuki, and mochi.

I’ll have all of that food, please.

Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the November 28 Wikipedia page.

Da Nooz:

*The latest on the Hamas/Israel war from the NYT: The good news is that more hostages have been released (three terrorists for every hostage, of course). The bad news is that Hamas is playing Biden and Netanyahu like a violing, dribbling out the hostages so as to prolong the cease fire, allowing Hamas to regroup. And world opinion will no start calling for a permanent cease-fire, which will be the end of Israel. The only reason there is not going to be a big one-time hostage-terrorist exchange, bringing all the hostages home, is clearly to buy time for Hamas. What other reason could there be? And why would Hamas want time. This isn’t rocket science.

The tenuous truce between Israel and Hamas appeared to hold for a fifth day on Tuesday, an act of continued cooperation that could allow for additional aid to flow into Gaza and the release of more hostages, prisoners and detainees than initially expected.

Qatari mediators announced on Monday that both sides had agreed to extend their initial four-day cease-fire, which had been set to expire on Tuesday morning, for two more days. Israel has not formally confirmed a cease-fire, but it has made it clear in past statements that it would continue to observe the truce as long as 10 hostages are released per day.

The Qatari announcement came a few hours before 11 more Israeli hostages — including 3-year-old twins — were released into the custody of Israel’s military late Monday.

Hours later, a Red Cross bus of Palestinian prisoners and detainees arrived in the West Bank town of Ramallah as crowds cheered their arrival, according to The Associated Press.

It was the fourth swap of prisoners and hostages, one for each day of the cease-fire so far. The Israeli prime minister’s office said the released hostages included a 12-year-old boy and multiple members of four other families. The Israeli military said that they would undergo initial medical assessments and that its troops would accompany them until they were reunited with their families.

Do you seriously think that a two-day extension of the truce, leaving some hostages in the hands of Hamas, will placate the world. No, of course not.  Here’s the expected result:

The Biden administration welcomed the Qatari announcement of an additional two-day pause in fighting between Israel and Hamas and will continue pushing for the extension of the truce until all hostages are released, a White House official said Monday.

My worst fear is that this will result in a permanent cease-fire, Israel will withdraw to where it was before, leaving Hamas in power, but Israel will be weakened. And that might allow for more attacks from Hezbollah in the north and terrorists from Yemen. Even Iran might be emboldened.  And that could spell the end of Israel, which is clearly Hamas’s goal.

*The Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) explains how “the multiple ways the U.N. encouraged Hamas’s orgy of mass murder, rape, and child-stealing; the U.N.’s efforts to demonize and delegitimize Israel; and its campaign to make Israel an international scapegoat, whipping boy, and pariah.” (h/t Rosemary)

. . . On September 22, 2001, the U.N. staged an “anti-racism” conference in Durban, South Africa that morphed into a festival of Jew-hatred.

Participants held up signs reading: “For the liberation of Quds [Jerusalem] machine-guns based upon FAITH and ISLAM must be used!” and “The martyrs’ blood irrigates the tree of revolution in Palestine!” and “Down with Nazi-Israeli apartheid!”

American and Israeli representatives walked out. But the U.N. has stuck to its guns, so to speak. There’s been a Durban II, III, and IV.

And last month Tehran became chair of a U.N. human rights forum – appointed by the president of the U.N. Human Rights Council, which has become a club for human rights abusers.

Also last month, the U.N. General Assembly failed to pass a resolution condemning Hamas’s most recent war crimes.

Other U.N. agencies that are soft on Hamas include the WHO (World Health Organization); the U.N. Office on Genocide Prevention; and UNRWA (the United Nations Relief and Works Agency), a welfare agency that employs Hamas members and confers refugee status on the millions of descendants of the 1948 Arab war against Israel. This definition of “refugee” applies nowhere else in the world.

Francesca Albanese, the U.N.’s Special Rapporteur on Palestine, argues that Israel has no right of self-defense because Gaza is a land “it colonizes” – ignoring the fact that Jews lived in Gaza centuries before armies from Arabia conquered and colonized the territory. Also, as noted above, all Israelis left Gaza in 2005.

It goes on in detail, but my space here is limited. Anybody who knows how the UN works in the Palestinian territories knows about this stuff, but the MSM ignore it. It is, for example, shameful that UNRWA actually employees members of Hamas.

*Norman points us to a list of the accused and convicted Palestinian terrorists who were traded for Israeli and other-nationality hostages so far. He adds: “This list was compiled by Laura Atkins at the Forward (citation provided by Atkins at top of document). On the Israeli side, hostages were kidnapped for being children, grandmothers, Jews. On the other side, detained and jailed for stabbings, shooting at people, placing bombs, etc. Those released on the Palestinian side appear to be terrorists who will re-enter the fight.”  As per Atkins’s request, I note that the material is credited to “Laura E. Adkins of The Forward. ©Laura E. Adkins, all rights reserved.”  Here’s the first two pages of 4½, with the terrorist affiliation of the prisoners indicated. Click to enlarge.

Some of these detainees may actually NOT have been charged, as Israel allows those detained to be held without charges almost indefinitely, a practice I abhor.  Others are being held for seemingly minor offenses like “throwing stones” (which is a crime, even in America, as it is a threat to bodily harm), but others released were held for attempted murder, stabbings, and so on, and an appreciable number were members of terrorist groups. Still, I’m happy to see that Israel is not releasing a lot of terrorists who have done serious crimes and were sentenced to serious time, but remember than only a small fraction of the hostages have been released, so Israel will have to realease a lot more arrested or convicted terrorists.

*Last Saturday evening, three Palestinian-American students (two with US citizenship, one a legal resident), were shot in Burlington, Vermont by a guy with a shotgun.

Burlington police on Sunday said that a “white male with a handgun” approached the three students as they walked through downtown and, “without speaking,” shot the three men at least four times before fleeing on foot.

“All three victims were struck, two in their torsos and one in the lower extremities,” the Burlington Police Department said in a statement. All three remain hospitalized, one with very serious injuries, the department added.

In a later statement, Burlington police said Jason J. Eaton, 48, had been arrested in connection with the shooting. After a judge granted a search warrant for Eaton’s residence, evidence collected “gave investigators and prosecutors probable cause to believe that Mr. Eaton perpetrated the shooting,” the department said, adding that he will be arraigned Monday.

. . . the three men are students at Brown University, Haverford College and Trinity College, respectively, and had gathered in Burlington to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with Awartani’s grandmother.

Immediately everybody start crying “hate crime,” even before a suspect was caught, but we still don’t know the motivation.  The shooting was reprehensible (I’m still not sure if we should even have the concept of “hate crime”), but targeting someone for their presumed nationality, race, gender, or whatever seems somehow more reprehensible. At any rate, it’s good a suspect was caught. He’s just pleaded not guilty.

Vermont man suspected of shooting three college students of Palestinian descent pleaded not guilty Monday to three counts of attempted second-degree murder.

Jason Eaton, 48, made the plea in a brief, televised appearance in Chittenden County Superior Court. A court affidavit quoted a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent who went to Eaton’s Burlington apartment Sunday as saying Eaton “made a statement to the effect of: ‘I’ve been waiting for you.’”

The feds are investigating whether it was in fact a hate crime:

“As always, but especially right now, the Justice Department is remaining vigilant in the face of the potential threats of hate-fueled violence and terrorism,” [Attorney General Merrick] Garland said. “All of us have also seen a sharp increase in the volume and frequency of threats against Jewish, Muslim, and Arab communities across our country since October 7th.”

News of the shooting prompted a wave of condemnation across Vermont and the United States. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Monday that President Biden was “horrified” to learn of it and continues receiving updates as the investigation unfolds.

Much of the condemnation comes from assuming it’s a hate crime, but we know little about that so far.  But people are jumping the gun, like this one:

Awartani’s roommate, Aboud Ashhab, said that the shooting is not an isolated incident. Instead, he said, “it happened because of a system of violence” against Palestinians that is “perpetuated even when we are outside our home and we are abroad, in places like Burlington, Vermont.”

As to how they caught the suspect, I’m always amazed that they can do it so quickly, but they seem to have gotten the right guy

A court affidavit quoted a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent who went to Eaton’s Burlington apartment Sunday as saying Eaton “made a statement to the effect of: ‘I’ve been waiting for you.’”

. . . Court documents say ATF and Burlington police seized [from Eaton’s home] a .380 pistol with rounds of the Hornady brand — the same brand as bullets collected at the scene of the shooting on North Prospect Street. They also seized other firearms, including two shotguns and a rifle, as well as technology including five cellphones and a backpack filled with hard drives, the documents say.

The documents include interviews with the three young men and other witnesses describing a relaxing holiday weekend of family events, such as bowling and a showing of the movie “Napoleon,” that ended with a stranger approaching the students and wordlessly shooting them.

But how did they find this guy?

*From the AP’s “Oddities section,” we learn about a loose moose that’s further south than he should be. This kind of story makes me anxious:

A herd of followers are tracking a moose on the loose in southern Minnesota, hoping the majestic animal’s journey ends safely after it was spotted Tuesday 140 miles (225 km) northwest of Minneapolis.

Fans have been tracking the young male moose for weeks and posting updates on a Facebook page that as of Tuesday had more than 18,000 followers.

Admirers call the animal “Bullwinkle” or “Rutt,” the latter in homage to a scatterbrained moose from the movie “Brother Bear.”

A Minnesota Department of Natural Resources big game expert told the Minnesota Star Tribune that moose typically only roam in northern Minnesota, making the now-famous moose’s visit to south and central Minnesota a rare treat. Todd Froberg, the agency’s big game program coordinator, said the young moose is likely looking for home territory or other moose and is expected to continue moving north.

“He’s lost, and he’s trying to get home to his family,” said Bernie Stang, a moose fan who spotted the animal in late October.

Amateur moose-tracker Brenda Johnson said traffic on the Facebook page, of which she is the administrator, picked up in September when the moose was spotted in Iowa near the border of Minnesota.

She suspects Rutt traveled from North Dakota through South Dakota and Iowa before coming back to Minnesota, based on news reports of moose sightings in South Dakota that match his description.

Rutt’s Facebook page is here.

I hope Rutt gets back home!  Here’s a photo from the AP article (caption is also from the AP):

In this photo provided by Bernie Stang, a moose, named Rutt, or Bullwinkle by his admirers, roams through Meeker County, Mn. Oct. 23, 2023 (Bernie Stang via AP)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is waiting in the vestibule outside  (note that “crocs” are “crocsy”)

A: I will put on my crocs and go to see whether there are any apples left.
Hili: Let me in first.
In Polish:
Ja: Chyba założę crocsy i pójdę zobaczyć, czy są jeszcze jabłka.
Hili: Wpuść mnie najpierw do domu.
And a picture of Baby Kulka, whom Hili still hates:


A Gary Larson Far Side cartoon sent in by Merilee:

From Barry:

A menu item from Linkiest:

From Masih: the brave young people of Iran just won’t give up:

From Jez, who says, “This juggling act is insane and very hypnotic, especially with the sound up. I don’t remember seeing anything quite like it before”. It is stunning:

From the Babylon Bee, a satire that is close to reality. Be sure to watch the video:

From Malcolm: a cat that loves only one guy, and whose girlfriend cannot fool the moggy by dressing up like that guy. But she forgot about odor, too!:

From Barry, a HUGE gator in Lake Placid (New York):

From the Auschwitz Memorial, a Dutch girl gassed upon arrival; she was almost ten years old:

Once again we’re blessed by two tweets from Dr. Cobb. The first comes via Alice Roberts, and oy!

Honeybees stealing pollen from wild bees. There’s also a pdf auf Deutsch.

A small experiment using quotes with interchangeable races: which group is the most demonized?

November 27, 2023 • 12:00 pm

This short experiment was published on Lee Jussim’s Substack site Unsafe Science (Lee has an addendum), but is by Michael Bernstein and April Bleske-Recheck, whose bona fides are below:

Michael Bernstein is an experimental psychologist and an Assistant Professor at Brown University. His research focuses on: cognitive biases, the placebo effect, pain, and substance use. He is an editor of the forthcoming book, The nocebo effect: When words make you sick.

April Bleske-Rechek is a differential and evolutionary psychologist. She is a full professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, where she invests in mentoring undergraduate scholars and engaging students with viewpoints and data they are unlikely to be exposed to elsewhere. Her recent publications and presentations can be found on her personal website:

Click the screenshot to read the provocatively titled post, which in fact is appropriately titled. 

I could explain what they did, but it’s simple and they explain it themselves in the short post. The default hypothesis, I think, is that people would be more willing to accept quotes that denigrated white people than denigrated Jews or black people (whites are at the bottom of the “privilege” heap in today’s young people). Quotes from the article are indented:

Let’s play a game. It’s called “Who said it: Robin DiAngelo or Adolf Hitler?” DiAngelo, in case you don’t know, is author of the NYT best-seller book, White Fragility.  We’ll give you a couple quotes and you think about whether it’s from DiAngelo or Hitler. Ready, go.

1)    Did Hitler say: “Not having a group consciousness, Jews often respond defensively when grouped with other Jews.” Or did DiAngelo say: “Not having a group consciousness, Whites often respond defensively when grouped with other Whites.”

2)    Did Hitler say: “Jews… creep up on the workers in order to win their confidence, pretending to have compassion.” Or did DiAngelo say: “Whites… creep up on the workers in order to win their confidence, pretending to have compassion.”

For the record, the first quote is from DiAngelo and the second quote is from Hitler. Though whether you were right isn’t exactly the point, as an astute reader would probably know Hitler is likely to use the language of “workers” and DiAngelo is likely to use the language of “group consciousness”. The point is that DiAngelo and Hitler are both advocating an approach that reduces behavior to group membership. They describe the behavior of all Whites or all Jews in highly critical terms and conclude that this is the nature of Whiteness or Jewishness.

We know from decades of psychological research that people hold prejudices. But which groups in today’s society are more likely to be the target of expressions of prejudicial attitudes? And who is more likely to express them?

We decided to examine this empirically. Would agreement with the same statement, whether it be anti-White, anti-Black, or anti-Jew, vary depending on which group it referenced? And would political affiliation moderate attitudes

We took 3 real anti-Jew quotes from Adolf Hitler, 3 real anti-White quotes from Robin DiAngelo, and 3 real anti-Black quotes from Stephen Douglas. (Douglas was a 19th century American politician who debated Abraham Lincoln). Then, we created anti-Jew, anti-White, and anti-Black variations of each quote, and showed it to 428 college graduates or college students (72% White). This means that 1/3 of participants saw the real quote verbatim, whereas the other 2/3 saw a version of the quote that was manipulated by changing the original (e.g., replace “Jew” with “White” or “Black”, or any other combination thereof). This is shown in the Table below. For each quote, participants were asked to imagine that an intellectual or political leader uttered the statement. They then indicated whether they agreed with the statement by selecting: “definitely no,” “probably no,” “probably yes,” or “definitely yes.” Participants answered this question for all nine quotes, and all were in the same frame (anti-Jew, anti-White, or anti-Black).

Note that whites were 72% of the sampled population of 428, which jibes with the 76% of whites we have in America if you count Hispanics as “white” (otherwise the country is 59% white.)

Here are the quotes, with the words targeted for replacement shown in red. So, for example, you could take the first Di-Angelo quote and substitute in “Jews” or “Blacks” for “whites”, and see if people agree or disagree with the quote. You’d also see whether they agreed with the quote as it stands.  (DiAngelo is, to my mind, off the rails.)

There are no statistics given, so I’m not sure which differences could be due to chance, but here are the results, which are as expected:

The results were surprising. For 7 of the 9 quotes, agreement differed according to target group. On each of these, agreement was highest in the anti-White condition versus the anti-Jew and anti-Black condition. The figures below show the percentage of college graduates (left) and college students (right) who either “probably” or “definitely” agreed with at least one statement, broken down by target group and the original author of the quote (Hitler vs. DiAngelo vs. Douglas). You can see that agreement with both Hitler and DiAngelo is much higher in the anti-White condition versus the other two conditions. Hardly anyone agreed with the Douglas quotes regardless of target group.

Douglas was a diehard racist, although in the Lincoln-Douglas debates Lincoln (to some extent) took out after him. At any rate, here are the data. College students (right) are much more likely to agree with antiwhite statements put into the mouths of Hitler and DiAngelo, while nobody agreed with Douglas no matter which group he was said to criticize.  Nearly 50% of college students agreed with the “antiwhite” statements of DiAngelo as well as when “white” was substituted for “Jews” in Hitler’s statements.  The percentages were lower for both when college grads were tested, but still about 35% agreed with Hitler’s spurious “antiwhite” statements.

There are other data (below) showing that antiwhite sentiments were higher among liberals than conservatives, but anti-black and anti-Jewish sentiments were higher among conservatives.

Clearly, though, antiwhite sentiments were the least offensive, though I suspect most of the students were white.  That is as expected, though Jews didn’t do as badly as I thought (most Americans still abhor antisemitic statements, though I predict that the “anti-Jew” numbers will rise in the future.

The authors conclude that their results aren’t really new, and then offer two caveats:

In a sense, our results are nothing new. We simply observed what has existed for millennia: People treat some groups preferentially to others. In the Bible, the Egyptian Pharoah enslaved the people of Israel. And interestingly, even God responded to this tribally by establishing Passover which “The whole community of Israel is to be included on the meal,” but “no foreigners are to eat it.”2

Sweeping claims about all members of certain demographic groups seem to be on the rise in some circles. But unless you’re tuned into a relatively small number of heterodox writers like Bari Weiss or Coleman Hughes, you will rarely hear someone speculate about the counter-factual (e.g. Bob said all Whites do X vs. Imagine if he instead said all Blacks do X).

The caveats (the first one is funny but, I suppose, necessary):

An incomplete list of disclaimers that should go without saying:

1)      Nothing in our essay is meant as an argument that DiAngelo is as evil a person as Hitler, or for that matter, evil at all. Hitler is responsible for the murder of 11 million people and the death toll from just the European theater of World War II was at least 40 million. DiAngelo is not responsible for the death of anyone. But we can recognize this fact while still pointing to similarities in their thinking.

2)      Just because a person agrees with a quote from Hitler does not mean that person agrees with Hitler’s genocide.

I should add another: this is a small experiment with no statistics (perhaps they’ll be in a subsequent paper). The differences are sometimes large (clearly Douglas’s quotes are despised no matter which group is substituted in them), but I’d like to see some error bars.

Did humans evolve in water?

November 27, 2023 • 9:30 am

On my post the other day about a new PNAS paper, “Censorship and science: a new paper and analysis,” I received a comment below from reader “Stephen”, which was held up because it was his/her first. I decided to make the comment a post because it might be educational.  Stephen argues that that one important example of scientific censorship is the “aquatic ape” hypothesis.

You’ve probably heard of this hypothesis, first broached in a Darwinian manner by British marine biologist Alister (now “Sir Alister”) Hardy, and made public as recently as 1960, when he wrote this in New Scientist.

 “My thesis is that a branch of this primitive ape-stock was forced by competition from life in the trees to feed on the sea-shores and to hunt for food, shellfishsea-urchins etc., in the shallow waters off the coast.”

Reader Stephen thinks this hypothesis was not only “undeniable when the data are analyzed objectively,” but has been “censored out of existence by the scientific community. Here’s his comment:

Not all scientific censorship can be understood through a left/right prism. In palaeoanthropology, for example, the idea that human ancestors may have gone through a period where underwater foraging was important, undeniable when the data are analysed objectively, has been censored out of existence by the scientific establishment. Peer review, which acts to reinforce established paradigms, is great for keeping unfounded ideas from taking up valuable scientific space, but for paradigm shifting breakthroughs it fails utterly.

The reason the hypothesis appealed to many people is that it superficially seemed to explain a number of features of humans that distinguish us from other apes to which we’re related. These features include our lack of body hair and the presence of subcutaneous fat (hair is useless in water and fat keeps us warm). As Scientific American wrote in 2016:

Hardy put forward all sorts of features which could be explained as “aquatic adaptations”: our swimming ability—and our enjoyment of it; loss of body hair, as well as an arrangement of body hair that he supposed may have reduced resistance in the water; curvy bodies; and the layer of fat under our skin. He even suggested that our ability to walk upright may have developed through wading, with the water helping to support body weight.

Note that this “aquatic phase” was supposed to have occurred during a specific time period when we lacked transitional fossils between our common ancestor with apes and creatures fully on the hominin side of the tree (my bolding). More from Sci Am:

For Hardy, this aquatic phase would have occupied the gap in the fossil record that then existed—between around 4m and 7m years ago. He sensibly concluded his paper saying that this was all only speculation—a “hypothesis to be discussed and tested against further lines of evidence”.

In the 50-odd years since the presentation of this hypothesis, it has enjoyed a certain fame—or perhaps notoriety. The writer Elaine Morgan championed it in her book The Aquatic Ape, and developed the hypothesis further, marshalling a seemingly impressive range of characteristics to support it, including breath control and diet. It seems such a tantalising and romantic idea—but a closer look at the evidence reveals it to be little more than that.

Other features supposedly suggesting that we went through an aquatic phase are “stretched hindlimbs, voluntary respiration, and dilute urine.” Those features were suggested by Belgian biologist M. J. Verhagen, who also posited that our evolution occurred this way (my bolding)

 The Aquatic Ape Theory states that our ancestors once spent a significant part of their life in water. Presumably, early apes were plant and fruit eaters in tropical forests. Early hominids also ate aquatic food; at first mainly weeds and tubers, later sea shore animals, especially shellfish. With the Pleistocene cooling, our ancestors returned to land and became bipedal omnivores and scavengers and later hunters of coastal and riverside animals.

Unfortunately, despite reader Stephen’s assertion that the hypothesis is “undeniable,” it’s been denied by most human evolutionary biologists, to the point where Wikipedia says this:

While the hypothesis has some popularity with the lay public, it is generally ignored or classified as pseudoscience by anthropologists.

Anthropologists do not take the hypothesis seriously: John Langdon characterized it as an “umbrella hypothesis” (a hypothesis that tries to explain many separate traits of humans as a result of a single adaptive pressure) that was not consistent with the fossil record, and he said that its claim that it was simpler and therefore more likely to be true than traditional explanations of human evolution was not true. According to anthropologist John Hawkes, the AAH is not consistent with the fossil record. Traits that the hypothesis tries to explain evolved at vastly different times, and distributions of soft tissue the hypothesis alleges are unique to humans are common among other primates.

To see why the hypothesis is now seen as pseudoscience, you can read either the 2016 Sci. Am. article linked above or John Hawks’s website post from just last year, “Why anthropologists rejected the aquatic ape theory.

As Hawks notes, the discovery of hominin fossils in Africa and development of molecular dating methods, all taking place after the hypothesis was first adumbrated, led to rejection of the hypothesis that major features of our body and social behavior evolved when we were largely immersed in water between 7 and 4 million years ago. But he adds that surely populations of hominins that lived along the coast did use aquatic resources such as fish and shellfish, and we have some evidence for that in the presence of fish bones associated with human remains dating back 1.95 million years and continuing up to Neandertals. These, of course, are found only in populations that lived near the sea.  But problems with the aquatic ape hypotheses are in the second paragraph below:

Still, evidence for fish or shellfish consumption in Pleistocene sites is mostly localized to coastal or riverside locations. Many populations, both modern and ancient, have lived far from coastlines and relied upon terrestrial foods. The nutritional advantages of aquatic foods may be matched in some populations by edible insects and other invertebrates. Human populations and nonhuman primates that eat only terrestrial foods do not suffer from a deficiency of essential fatty acids. Fish and shellfish are clearly valuable to many human populations and some primates, and they are strong signs of our lineage’s increasing diet breadth during the Pleistocene.

In 1997 the anthropologist John Langdon reviewed the evidence with which aquatic ape adherents had supported their ideas. He observed that the traits proposed as aquatic adaptations in humans appear in the fossil record at radically different times. Hominins were obligate bipeds more than two million years before any had a projecting nose or descended larynx. Early bipeds evolved larger jaws and teeth, the opposite expected from high-energy aquatic foods, and large brains appeared in only one branch of Homo during the last part of its history. These features were not evidence of an aquatic stage; they appeared at different times and in different contexts.

Now the fact that different adaptations appeared at different times is not strong evidence against the aquatic ape hypothesis, as adaptations to live in a novel environment could arise at different times. But the times they appeared are not the times suggested by adherents to the Aquatic Ape Hypothesis.  As for other features:

Yet the record does not preserve hard evidence of body fat, body hair, or sweat. To aquatic ape thinkers these soft-tissue traits were some of the most persuasive similarities between humans and certain water-living mammals.

Better data from other primates shows the flaws in this idea. For example, humans are extreme in our high fraction of eccrine compared to apocrine glands, but chimpanzees and gorillas also have a higher fraction of eccrine glands in comparison to other primates. Humans have sparse body hair but chimpanzees also have notably sparse body hair, and all great apes have lower body hair density than other primates. The body fat percentage of human hunting and gathering peoples is indeed higher than chimpanzees and most arboreal primates, but the human range of body fat is much closer to that seen in gorillas and orangutans. Humans are not a departure from other primates in these traits; we follow the same trends as our close relatives, some to a greater degree.

But Hawks does give the eating of fish and shellfish some credit for molding modern humans. It’s just that we have no evidence for an aquatic phase of human evolution:

But the science was not kind to the aquatic scenario sketched by Hardy and Morgan. The growing fossil and genetic data of the 1970s and 1980s showed that the aquatic idea was finely tailored around missing evidence. When this evidence started to appear, it showed that there was no long Miocene gap in the fossil record during which an aquatic ancestor might have been hidden from view. Hardy and Morgan had both adopted stereotypes of how humans differ from other apes, leading them to emphasize skin, fat, and hair patterns in ways that are not borne out by better datasets from living primates. The skeletal traits these writers suggested as adaptations to the water actually evolved at different times and in different lineages.

What remains of their ideas is the value of fish, shellfish, and aquatic plants to some ancient hominins and other primates. Tool use and extractive foraging techniques like digging enabled some hominin populations to broaden their resource use within both savanna and woodland settings. Marshes, swamps, and shorelines had some valuable foods that were open to clever hominins. Eating fish and shellfish in particular may have facilitated the habitation of coastal areas and islands by some members of our genus.

Scientific American gives more critiques:

All the suggested anatomical and physiological adaptations can be explained by other hypotheses, which fit much better with what we actually know about the ecology of ancient hominins. Hairlessness, for instance, is only a feature of fully aquatic mammals such as whales and dolphins. Semi-aquatic mammals such as otters and water voles are extremely furry. Sexual selection and adaptations to heat loss better explain our pattern of body hair. Sexual selection may also explain our body fat distribution, which differs between the sexes. Voluntary breath control is more likely to be related to speech than to diving.

The diet of many of our ancestors certainly included marine resources—where people lived on the shores of lakes or the sea. But this was a relatively late development in human evolution, and humans can also survive and thrive on food obtained entirely on land. Compared with other animals, we are not actually that good at swimming, and our skin leaks as well, letting in water so that our fingers become prune-like after a long bath.

What about walking on two legs? That’s something all apes do a bit of—while wading in water, certainly, but also while reaching for fruit, performing aggressive displays or simply moving around in trees. If we evolved from ancestors who already stood up in trees, we don’t need an extraordinary explanation for why we ended up standing on the ground rather than running around on all fours.

And this:

Since Hardy and Morgan’s hypothesis was advanced, many of the gaps in the human fossil record have been filled, with at least 13 new species found since 1987. We have also made great strides in reconstructing the environment in which our ancestors lived. And we know that species as far as part in time as Sahelanthropus tchadensis 7m years ago andHomo erectus 2m years ago all lived in forested or open woodland environments. While some of these woods included wetland, this was just part of the mosaic of habitats that our ancestors learned to survive in, and there is absolutely no trace of a hominin ancestor as aquatic as that described by Hardy and Morgan.

We also have evidence our ancestors had to survive periods of extremely dry climate with little or no aquatic resources. Coping with these highly variable, patchwork environments required behavioural flexibility and co-operation, and our large brains and ultra-social nature likely emerged as a result. This flexibility ultimately led to the invention of culture and technology.

I’m not an expert in human evolution, but the failure of an aquatic lifestyle to explain our large brains, our bipedalism and, importantly, the lack of evidence that hominins didn’t live in aquatic habitats during the time that important features of our body developed—all this counts against the Aquatic Ape Hypothesis.  However, simply giving alternative scenarios for the lack of body hair of presence of subcutaneous fat based on a terrestrial existence is not in itself strong evidence, but simply a terrestrial “adaptive story”. The decisive evidence seems to me to be where we lived—almost entirely on land—as judged from fossil evidence, as well as the failure of the aquatic ape theory to explain notable features of our bodies: our bipedality and large brains. (These evolved mostly after the time when we were supposed to be living largely in water).

Contrary to reader Stephen, then, the aquatic ape hypothesis is NOT “undeniable,” nor is there evidence that human evolutionists are in some kind of cabal to suppress the “aquatic ape hypothesis” because it goes against the terrestrial “established paradigm.”  As far as I can see, scientists did take the aquatic theory seriously, but rejected it based on the preponderance of evidence.  The accusation that scientists are suppressing novel and counterintuitive evidence out of a group desire to avoid major paradigm changes in their field is one sign of pseudoscience. In fact, these same accusations have been offered as reasons why scientists reject creationism. But, as you should know (read Why Evolution is True), we don’t reject creationism because we’re sworn to defend Darwin; we reject it because the evidence doesn’t support it! If any cabal existed to reject evidence, it consisted of the creationists who rejected Darwin’s paradigm-changing theory published in 1859. But that cabal couldn’t hold together, for it was crushed by the weight of the evidence for evolution.

One might say (and I suppose this has been said before): at present the Aquatic Ape Hypothesis is dead in the water.

Readers’ wildlife photos

November 27, 2023 • 8:15 am

Thank Ceiling Cat that readers have responded with some batches of photos for me. But please think of me when you have photos to spare.

Today sees the return of Tony Eales from Oz, and he sent us some photos showing mimicry in insects. Tony’s captions are indented, and you can click on the photos to enlarge them.

On the weekend I went to Black Mountain Nature Reserve in Canberra and was struck by the number and variety of lycid beetle mimics. I’ve brought these up before. The pollen-feeding lycid beetles around here have a distinctive set of grooved brick-red elytra and black head and body and are very foul-tasting if not poisonous.  An extraordinary number and variety of other beetles and insects take advantage of this simple model to avoid predation. The mimicry is often Batesian but also can be Müllerian as with some soldier beetles.

JAC: Remember that Batesian mimicry involves an edible organism mimicking one that is toxic, dangerous, or distasteful, such as the first lycid shown below.  The evolutionary advantage of this mimicry is clear: if you are edible, and a predator has evolved (or learned) to avoid the “aposematic” (warning) color or pattern of another species that for some reason is inedible, you stand a better chance of living—and passing on your genes—if you evolve some aspect of the inedible organisms’s pattern or color. Such mimicry makes you liable to be avoided by the predator more often (the predator will mistake you for an organism it can’t eat). The black-and-orange pattern of the “model” species in the first picture is a typical “warning pattern”, for all lycid beetles are toxic. (Why, by the way, is it advantageous for a species to evolve an easily recognized pattern if it’s toxic, inedible, or dangerous? After all, the first mutant individual with a conspicuous pattern is liable to be picked off by a predator that hasn’t yet learned to avoid it. It would seem, in such a case, that it’s disadvantageous to evolve a conspicuous color or pattern!)

Müllerian mimicry, on the other hand, involves a group of organisms (they need not be related) that are all toxic, dangerous, or distasteful, evolving similar patterns to resemble each other. Can you think of an evolutionary advantage of an insect that’s already inedible evolving a color or pattern resemble another inedible species?

There are also “mimicry rings” that involve a combination of Batesian and Müllerian mimicry. In the cases below, I’m not sure which mimics of the lycid beetles are Batesian or Müllerian.  (By the way, how can we know if a given species of insect is toxic, distasteful, or dangerous? Remember, it has to be so to predators that may attack it in nature, not to us.)  Note that the species below are probably in such a ring, as there are, besides the toxic Porrostoma lycid model, five other beetles and one fly. It’s very unlikely that the fly, at least, is toxic or noxious, and that is surely a case of Batesian mimicry.

Typical lycid beetle Porrostoma sp.:

The Leptospermum or tea-trees in this part of the reserve were beginning to flower and it’s a great time to look for pollen and nectar-feeding beetles and the like. I managed to find no less than three of the four lycid-mimicking jewel beetles in Australia within only a few hundred square metres.

Castiarina rufipennis:

Castiarina erythroptera:

And the fairly rare Castiarina nasuta:

There were also several Washing Beetles, Phyllotocus sp., so called because they often mistake drying white clothes for giant flowers and in season, land on the washing in huge annoying numbers.

And a lycid mimicking click beetle Anilicus sp.:

And best of all I finally found my first lycid-mimicking fly species. The large and beautiful Pelecorhynchus fulvus from the flower-feeding snipe fly family Pelecorhynchidae:

Monday: Hili dialogue

November 27, 2023 • 6:45 am

Welcome to a dreary Monday: November 27, 2023, and National Bavarian Cream Pie Day, a pie I’ve never had, but one I should try, as it’s made with custard and whipped cream. Here’s one example (and there’s a recipe):

It’s also Pie in the Face Day, National Craft Jerky Day, Turtle Adoption Day, Lancashire Day in the United Kingdom, and National Electric Guitar Day.

The Rolling Stone has a list of the 250 Greates Guitarists of all Time, and #1 is Jimi Hendrix. That’s fine, but after that things get wonky: #2 is Chuck Berry, for crying out loud, and Clapton gets only the #35 position when he should be #2.  Here’s Hendrix doing “Purple Haze,” but Rolling Stone is pontificating that Chuck Berry is right behind him, and way ahead of Eric Clapton. That list is STUPID.

And here’s number #35. which should be #2. Chuck Berry couldn’t touch this. Although I love the Beatles, I still vote for “Layla” as the best rock song of all time—except for the slow part.  Check out the solo beginning at 2:20 and see if Chuck Berry could even come close to Clapton’s musicality and technical skill. (Yes, there’s a cigarette stuck in the guitar head.) You can stop listening at 3:30 when the slow part begins, although this slow part is better than the one in nearly ever rendition. Oh go ahead, listen to the end, and tell me if he’s not #2 on the list.

Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the November 27 Wikipedia page.

Da Nooz (all war-related today)

*Hamas released 17 more hostages, including one American, which of course President Biden will cheer about (honest, I don’t know why the nationality of released people who were abducted is of great import). Why didn’t Israel agree to let 750 Palestinian terrorists go in return for all the hostages? After all, the net gain to Palestine would be the same—almost. What Hamas is doing here is clear: they’re buying time, regrouping and hoping that world sentiment will build to the point that the U.S. and Israel will have to give up pursuing terrorists, and lose the war. This much is obvious, but I’m so thick that I just realized it. Anyway, from the NYT, we hear of a release yesterday evening of 17 hostages, including an American.

Hamas released 17 more hostages on Sunday, including one American — Avigail Idan, who turned 4 on Friday — and said it would seek to extend a temporary cease-fire with Israel after the current four-day pause is over.

Under the deal reached last week, the cease-fire began on Friday and is slated to continue into Monday. It is the longest break in fighting in Gaza since Oct. 7, when gunmen from Hamas and other militant groups launched a deadly attack on southern Israel, killing about 1,200 people, according to Israeli officials.

Israel has said that it is prepared to grant another day’s pause for every 10 hostages Hamas releases beyond the 50 outlined in the agreement, but the Palestinian group, which controls Gaza, had not previously responded to the offer publicly.

The statement by Hamas came hours after the Israeli prime minister’s office said 14 Israelis, including nine children, and three foreigners had been released on the third day of the agreement, under which both sides agreed to exchange Israeli hostages for Palestinian prisoners and detainees.

Avigail, the 4-year-old, a dual Israeli and U.S. citizen, and the others released on Sunday were among roughly 240 people taken to Gaza as hostages by Hamas and its allies on Oct. 7, according to Israeli officials.

“Thank God she’s home,” President Biden said of Avigail. Members of her family previously told The New York Times that her parents, Roy Idan and Smadar Idan, had been fatally shot at the Kfar Aza kibbutz. Her siblings — Michael, 9, and Amelia, 6 — survived the violence.

And here’s Hamas playing Netanyahu and Biden like a violin:

Hamas said it would seek to extend a temporary cease-fire with Israel after the current four-day pause is over, a move that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel suggested he would consider if it led to more hostages being released.

Under the deal, the cease-fire began on Friday and is slated to continue into Monday. It is the longest break in fighting in the Gaza Strip since Oct. 7, when gunmen from Hamas and other militant groups launched a deadly attack on southern Israel, killing about 1,200 people and taking about 240 others hostage, according to Israeli officials.

Israel has said that it is prepared to grant another day’s pause for every 10 hostages Hamas releases beyond the 50 outlined in the agreement. Hamas, which controls Gaza, had not previously responded to the offer publicly.

In a positive indication of Israel’s continued openness to the idea of extending the truce, Mr. Netanyahu issued a video statement soon after the Hamas statement in which he noted that there was already an outline for the possibility of freeing an additional 10 hostages for each additional day of truce. Mr. Netanyahu said he spoke to President Biden on Sunday, and that he reiterated that the goal, regardless of the length of the truce, was to destroy Hamas.

Remember, a long truce can easily morph into a cease-fire, regardless of what Bibi says.  And a permanent cease-fire means that Israel has not only lost the war, but is in serious danger of losing its country.

*The Washington Post has a news analysis piece by Steve Hendrix and Hazem Balousha called “Netanyahu and Hamas depended on each other. Both may be on the way out.” Well it’s clear that Bibi is; he’s toast the moment the war is over, no matter how it ends. (The authors note, “Polls show 75 percent of Israelis calling for him to resign now or be replaced when the fighting stops.”) But how are Hendrix and Balousha so sure that Hamas is toast, too?

The bulk of the piece is about how Netanyahu “used” Hamas as an excuse to avoid negotiating for a two-state solution, saying that “there was nobody to negotiate with” so long as the terrorist group is in power.  Well, he’s on the way out but I’m curious how the authors discern that Hamas, is, too. Here’s what they say:

In Gaza, where elections haven’t occurred since 2006, gauging support for Hamas is more difficult. Before the war, fear of Hamas retribution kept criticism of the regime largely to whispers. Now, the massive disruptions of bombardment and displacement make polling almost impossible. Some recent surveys show continuing support for Hamas, as anger at Israel grows during the ongoing military assault.

But more Gazans are willing to criticize Hamas on social media and in interviews with The Washington Post.

“I’m not afraid to say it: We don’t want Hamas and not just because of the war, but for years,” said Ahmad, 44, a pharmacist from Deir al-Balah in central Gaza. The Post is not using his full name to protect him from possible reprisals. “The lack of competent governance has left us in poverty and misery, exacerbated by this devastating war. Israel’s actions spare no one, regardless of being affiliated with Hamas or not.”

Motaz, 39, said Hamas’s attack on Israel left him in “horror,” and left his family exposed to Israeli attacks that destroyed his grocery store in Khan Younis last month.

He doesn’t believe Hamas can survive. But he doesn’t see what difference any change of leadership in Gaza would make to its devastated citizens.

“Even if Hamas remains in power, what will remain for us here?” Motaz asked. “There are no homes to live in, and no work to sustain us. I lost my only source of livelihood.”

That’s not a very strong case for an impending end to Hamas, is it?

*Most of the released hostages are still in hospitals, and are forbidden to talk about where they were held, or give details of how they were held. Nevertheless, the NYT also gives some information about the “hows” taken from the accounts of the relatives of hostages who have spoken to the media.

Relatives who have spoken or met with some of the released hostages said all seemed to have spent their weeks in captivity totally cut off from the outside world, and to have returned thinner than before.

“They were eating, but not regularly and not all of the time,” said Merav Mor Raviv, a cousin of Keren Munder, 54, who was released on Friday along with her son, Ohad Munder-Zichri, 9, and her mother, Ruth Munder, 78. “They ate a lot of rice and bread,” Ms. Raviv said, adding that Keren told her that both she and her mother had lost about 6 to 8 kilograms, or 13 to 18 pounds.

Ms. Raviv related that the Munders had slept in a reception room on improvised benches they fashioned by pushing three chairs together, and that when they wanted to go to the bathroom they would have to knock on a door and wait — sometimes for up to two hours.

Adva Adar’s grandmother, Yaffa Adar, 85, was among the hostages released on Friday. She noted that her grandmother had lost weight and was aware that she had been held for nearly 50 days because she had kept count.

. . .The uncle of two hostages who were among those freed late Saturday — Noam Or, 17, and his sister Alma, 13 — told the BBC on Sunday that they, too, were unaware until their release that their mother, Yonat Or, had been killed in the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks.

“They have some difficult stories to tell of the way they were captured and treated,” Ahal Besorai said of his nephew and niece. He said he had spoken with them on a video call at the hospital where they are staying.

I’m wondering whether the last tranche of hostages will be those who were ill, and would far poorly under this regime, or whether some hostages have died or been killed without Hamas letting anybody know. But I do share the joy of the relatives and friends of the hostages that have been released so far.

*The Associated Press reports on the rise of antisemitism in Europe and how it’s worrying the continent’s Jews.

Last month’s slayings of about 1,200 people in Israel by armed Palestinian militants represented the biggest killing of Jews since the Holocaust. The fallout from it, and from Israel’s intense military response that health officials in Hamas-controlled Gaza say has killed at least 13,300 Palestinians, has extended to Europe. In doing so, it has shaken a continent all too familiar with deadly anti-Jewish hatred for centuries.

The past century is of particular note, of course. Concern about rising antisemitism in Europe is fueled in part by what happened to Jews before and during World War II, and that makes it particularly fearsome for those who may be only one or two generations removed from people who were the victims of riots against Jews and Nazi brutality.

What most chills many Jews interviewed is what they see as the lack of empathy for the Israelis killed during the early morning massacre and for the relatives of the hostages — about 30 of whom are children — suspended in an agonizing limbo.

“What really upsets me,” said Holocaust survivor Herbert Traube said at a Paris event commemorating the 85th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the 1938 government-backed pogroms against Jews in Germany and Austria, “is to see that there isn’t a massive popular reaction against this.”

Well, Herr Traube, it’s the same in the U.S.  Sympathy for the Jews and Israel all but disappeared two or three days after the attacks, and even before Israel started defending itself by going after Hamas.  Why? You tell me!

The list of examples of anti-Jewish sentiment since the Oct. 7 attacks is long and documented by governments and watchdog groups across Europe.

—Little more than a month after the attack in Israel, the French Interior Ministry said 1,247 antisemitic incidents had been reported since Oct. 7, nearly three times the total for all of 2022.

—Denmark’s main Jewish association said cases were up 24 times from the average of the last nine months.

—The Community Security Trust, which tracks antisemitic incidents in Britain, reported more than 1,000 such events — the most ever recorded for a 28-day period.

That all comes despite widespread denunciations of anti-Jewish hatred — and support for Israel — from leaders in Europe since the attack.

Some of Europe’s Jews say they see it on the streets and the news. Jewish schoolchildren face bullying on their way to class, or — in one instance — have been asked to explain Israel’s actions, according to Britain’s Community Security Trust. There’s been talk of blending in better: covering skullcaps in public and perhaps hiding mezuzahs, the traditional symbol on doorposts of Jewish homes.

. . .“Some of us are in a state of panic,” said Anna Segal, 37, the manager of the Kahal Adass Jisroel in Berlin, a community of 450 members.

Some community members are changing how they live, Segal said. Students no longer wear uniforms. Kindergarten classes don’t leave the building for field trips or the playground next door. Some members no longer call taxis, or they hesitate to order deliveries to their homes. Hebrew-speaking in public is fading. Some wonder if they should move to Israel.

“I hear more and more from people from the Jewish community who say they feel safer and more comfortable in Israel now than in Germany, despite the war and all the rockets,” Segal said. “Because they don’t have to hide there.”

Things have to be dire if you’d rather move to Israel than live in Berlin!

*Yesterday reader Stephen sent in a UK news report with photos he took. I reproduce it all with permission:

There was a large rally in London today against anti-semitism. There have been several pro-Palestine rallies in London, I think 7 in all, every Saturday, starting on Oct 14, and they have attracted large numbers, up to 300,000 people. These have surprised me, and I have been further surprised that there haven’t been large pro-Israel / pro-Jewish rallies. There was a relatively small rally a week ago organised by Christian Action Against Anti-semitism. The rally today was organised by the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism in collaboration with a number of groups including the organisers of the October Declaration, British Friends of Israel.   This was clearly going to be the main rally to attract British Jews and supporters. The theme was specifically anti-semitism as you can see from the posters many marchers held up, but of course the context was the Oct 7 massacre. I attach a couple of pictures. The first shows the start of the rally, outside the Courts of Justice on the Strand, and the second gives a picture at the  end, looking up Whitehall from Parliament Square. The obelisk in the distance in the middle of the road is the Cenotaph, Britain’s memorial to those killed in the two world wars. The rally was certainly peaceful.At the end of the rally there were some speeches and both main political parties were represented by senior members. I saw Peter Tatchell (veteran LGBT activist) there, which was a surprise as he was prominent in at least one of the pro-Palestine rallies. He is a complex character so I wouldn’t want to try and summarise his position but he was holding a placard saying he is against all forms of violence. Talking of placards, they were light on humour naturally, but I enjoyed ‘More hummus, less Hamas’.The organisers stated that the count at the rally was 105,000, and from what I  saw I don’t think this can be far wrong (from my experiece of football matches with 70,000 supporters). From what I could tell from observing the crowd approximately half were Jewish and the rest were supporters. There are about 4 million Muslims in Britain, and about 250,000 Jews, so proportionally this was a very significant event, and highly newsworthy following the pro-Palestine rallies. I did eventually find an article on the BBC website about it by specifically searching, but it doesn’t appear on the main UK news page.

105,000 is the estimate for the French antisemitism rally I went to in Paris, so it’s about the same. Still, it’s only one-third the size of the pro-Palestinian rallies, which to me is a bit disheartening. But 105,000 is better than 50,000!

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili, a victim of misogyny, is told to smile. She won’t. Doesn’t she look grumpy today?

Hili: Oh no, not you again.
A: Smile.
Hili: I have no intention to.
In Polish:
Hili: O nie, znowu ty.
Ja: Uśmiechnij się.
Hili: Nie mam zamiaru.


From Barry:

From Merilee; I don’t know who did it, but reader’s help would be appreciated.

From Not Another Science Cat Page:

If you’re pro-Israel and like to look at Twitter or videos about Israel, the Elder of Ziyon publishes a collection of links, tweets, and videos every day except Monday. His site is here, and you can see yesterday’s collection of links here. There are far too many for me to post, much less to look at, but the “IDF All Women Tank Crew” below comes from the Elder.

Masih working out!  Just a few sentences from the long Twitter caption in Farsi (translated):

On the International Day against Violence Against Women, I recorded this video to say a few words from my heart to you:

Some people take the video of me exercising, singing and dancing hand in hand and try to humiliate me with the most ridiculous sentences, that you don’t like exercising and singing.

What a strange similarity between an anti-woman government that banned dancing, sports and singing for women and a group that does not consider these most basic activities to be beautiful for women. They want to humiliate to say that this is not your place. As they did not consider the club to be a place for women for many years. As they did not consider politics to be the domain of women and their brains are still left in the Stone Age.

We normal women who don’t claim to be professional athletes and singers and dance coaches, why shouldn’t we sometimes dance, exercise and sing like ordinary people? In your mind, if only a few should have this right, that is your problem. Our work does not harm anyone, but it is you who, like the foot soldiers of an ISIS government, seek to intimidate and humiliate millions of women.

She’s pretty strong!

From Malcolm (sound up). This must be one bad-ass cat!

I have a feeling that the Washington Post is going under, and it’s not just because it’s so woke that it equates Israelis hostages with convicted Palestinian terrorists (see below). The paper is just lame in every way possible these days.

From Jez; I have no idea if this is real. Readers?  (I’ve heard several times that the UN organization UNRWA actually employs members of Hamas.)

From Barry: an albino gator gets a good scrubbing. As Barry says, “I didn’t know they smiled!”

Caught in the act (I despise people who pretend they’re someone else on Twitter); see here. It looks as if “Maree Campbell” no longer is on “X”.

From the Auschwitz Memorial, a girl who died at about 14 in the camp.

Two, count them TWO tweets from Dr. Cobb today! He calls this first one “the future”:

And the second he calls “kot.” Cat on a plane!