What bird are you like?

July 14, 2020 • 2:00 pm

Can you resist this given that the quiz—which of 22 birds are you most like?—was designed by the estimable folks at Cornell University’s Ornithology Lab. Take the quiz here, and see whether you’re most like a kestrel, an American robin, a bald eagle, a blue jay, a Canada goose, a chickadee, a crow, a goldfinch, a great blue heron, a great horned owl, a ruby-throated hummingbird, a magpie, a mallard, a mourning dove, a northern cardinal, a northern mockingbird, a peregrine falcon, a red-tailed hawk, a rock pigeon, a raven, a snowy owl, or a screech-owl.  Now this is just for fun, but can you resist?
The quiz’s notes; each question has four choices.

Cornell Lab ornithologists and educators examined the personality and behavior characteristics of 22 North American birds, to help create this fun personality quiz. Now you can find out which bird you are most like (or is most like you) based on 15 simple questions.

This quiz is a companion to AM I LIKE YOU?, a children’s book by Laura Erickson and Brian Sockin, illustrated by Anna Rettberg.

Copyright © 2016, the Cornell Lab Publishing Group. All rights reserved.

It turned out that I was a kestrel: here’s my diagnosis. I am single-minded and determined, I’m not particularly graceful, I do like to travel, I don’t like going to baseball games that much, and I am NOT tolerant of messy living quarters. So it goes. I still like kestrels, though.

h/t: Jeannie

Sunday wildlife: Duck O’ the Day:

April 26, 2020 • 7:45 am

Evolutionary biologists and amateur photographer John Avise continues with his series on North American ducks. The object is for readers to learn all our ducks as a project in quarantine. You have to guess which one is shown in these photographs, and then see the answer, a duck fact, and a range map below the fold. John’s comments are indented.

Now, name this duck (many of you will get this one):







Click “read more” to get more facts about this species: Continue reading “Sunday wildlife: Duck O’ the Day:”

Sunday’s Duck O’ the Week

April 19, 2020 • 8:00 am

Evolutionary biologist John Avise has a backlog of duck photos to help us through the pandemic. As I said, every Sunday I’ll post his photos of a single species, and your job is to guess the species. By the time we’re out of lockdown in a few years, we’ll know all the duck species!

Here are the photos. An ID, range map, and John’s Duck Fact O’ the Week is below the fold:

Click “read more” to learn the ID and other stuff about the species.


Continue reading “Sunday’s Duck O’ the Week”

Readers’ wildlife photos: Sunday Duck O’ the Week

April 12, 2020 • 8:00 am

Evolutionary biologist and avid bird photographer John Avise continues our weekly series in which readers are challenged to name the species of duck show. Click below the fold to get the answer, along with John’s Duck Fact about the species.  A preliminary comment from Dr. Avise:

During these difficult times, I find it comforting to reflect upon the fact that life goes on as usual for all ducks and other creatures.  Here are my photos of our next Duck O’ the Week:

Click “read more” for the answer, a Duck Fact, and a range map: Continue reading “Readers’ wildlife photos: Sunday Duck O’ the Week”

Which Democratic candidate best aligns with your views?

January 19, 2020 • 8:30 am

Reader Simon called my attention to this quiz in the Washington Post that asks about your views on issues like gun control, immigration, government-sponsored health care, voting rights for felons, the Electoral College, and other stuff that we’ve been talking about. You get to answer 20 multiple-choice questions, and after giving each answer you are shown which Democratic candidates agree with you.

At the end, they tally up your answers and tell you which candidates agreed with you most often overall.

Take the test by clicking on the screenshot, and put your results below. Big fun!

And here are my results. I guess that makes me a centrist rather than a “progressive” Democrat. So be it. I’d still vote for any of these folks were they the candidate.

Are you likely to be a Democrat or a Republican? Take this short quiz on your demographics, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, age and religion.

August 9, 2019 • 9:00 am

Reader Rick called my attention to a quiz in today’s New York Times—a quiz you can take to assess, based on only three to eight questions (or perhaps more), your likelihood of identifying as a Democrat or a Republican. The diagnosis depends on where you go for a set of bifurcating questions (“yes” or “no”). You can be fairly accurately diagnosed in as few as four questions or, in my case, as many as eight.

The accuracy is because there are a few “yes” factors that drastically increase your probability of being a member of one party. For example, if you’re Black, Hispanic, or Asian, you immediately acquire a 64% “difference in Party identification”. That is, there’s a 64% difference between the probability you’re a Democrat versus a Republican, in the direction of being Democratic. That’s the first question, but if you’re white or more religious, you’re more likely to be a Republican. This much we know. Also, more college education is correlated with a higher probability of being a Democrat. In contrast, gender by itself isn’t highly predictive of your party affiliation, although when combined with age and marital status, it increses predictive power: 70% of millennial women ally with Democrats.

But now it’s time to take the quiz, and who can resist a quiz? Click on the screenshot below, and then on the “Are you Black, Hispanic, or Asian?” button, which will take you to the next question.


It took eight questions to get me to the point where I fell within the range of the 50 percentage point difference in party identification (that is, as I understand this statistic, people with my views and demgraphics are on average are 75% Democratic and 25% Republican. I would have thought I would have ranked more Democratic than that. I gained a lot of points by being nonreligious, but lost ground—toward the GOP side—by being straight and male.

Here’s my pathway:

If you’re black, older, and female, you’re virtually guaranteed to identify as a Democrat. Only four questions, with the proper answers, get you to a 91% difference in party affiliation:

On the other hand, I answered the questions the way I thought Republicans would (I was right on all of them), but it took me seven questions to get to the 75% difference point.

I’m curious about how many people got an incorrect diagnosis from the questions. Weigh in below. I’m expecting, of course, that most readers will fall on the Democratic side, but some will not. Let us know how accurate the questions were for you.

How populist are you? A Guardian quiz

December 4, 2018 • 9:45 am

Greg Mayer sent me a link to this Guardian quiz, “How populist are you?”. Click on the screenshot to go to the 20-question quiz, which takes a bit of demographic information and then asks you to rank your views on various social, political, and economic issues.


Here are the positions of various leaders:

And my own position—on the line connecting Barack Obama and Bernie Sanders, on the populist left, firmly in the left, but close to the populist-nonpopulist line. I don’t know what this means except I’m on the right side (i.e., left side) of history.


Where do you fall? I’m sure some readers will have pungent remarks about the questions.

h/t: Greg

Dear BBC: Yes, we are descended from monkeys. And no, evolution and religion are not compatible.

September 26, 2018 • 8:45 am

Yesterday I wrote a bit about the BBC’s new seven-question “Test your knowledge of evolution quiz” (quiz here, my posts here and here), which was (and is) larded with ambiguous questions and wrong answers. They’ve now changed the irrelevant religion question (#7), which originally said, “Evolution and religion are incompatible. True or false?” (the answer was “false,” of course). It now reads “Evolution and religion are not necessarily incompatible. True or false?”. Now that’s a confusing double-negative question, but the answer still touts compatibilism:

Well, we all know that the Beeb is soft on faith (note their “daily affirmation,” or whatever they call the prayer they broadcast each morning), so it’s no surprise. But the question itself palpably does not test one’s knowledge of evolution. It tests whether one is soft on faith. Depending on your definition of “incompatible,” either answer could be right.

Further, they now say that “evolution is not about the origins of life”. First, that’s not necessarily true, since life emerged from nonlife through an evolutionary process, probably involving something like natural selection on combinations of chemicals. But the statement itself implies that if one does consider the origin of life as part of evolution, then evolution is incompatible with religion.  Now why is that? Presumably because evolution is incompatible with the origin story told in Genesis I and II.  If so, then evolution does become incompatible with religion, since Genesis also tells the story of how animals and plants came to be. This is a real confusion on the part of the BBC. At the very least, they have to admit that the story of life—and methodological naturalism—are incompatible with religion.

Further, the Beeb changed the question without any indication that it did so. It was my impression that when a journalist changes an article, the change from the original piece must be indicated on the piece, as an addendum. That’s not done here: more irresponsible (and sneaky) journalism.

At any rate, the question below is still alive, as shown by the tweet below it:

Matthew, Greg and I all think the Beeb got it wrong here. If you’re a strict cladist, you might say that, no, humans did not descend from monkeys; but under the common usage of “monkeys”, yes, our common ancestor would have been recognizable as a monkey.

But the BBC wasn’t thinking of cladism here; it was trying to refute the old creationist trope: “If humans descended from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?”

Here’s a refutation of the BBC’s answer as tweeted by a paleontologist:


I’ve enlarged the phylogeny so you can see it.

Finally, one more plaint. The answer to the question, below, even as given by the BBC, is ambiguous. For the answer notes that, if you define progress as “improved abilities to survive and reproduce” under exigent conditions, then yes, evolution does result in progress. It’s only not progressive when you define progress as “getting more complex”, “getting more like humans”, or moving toward some specified goal. The whole question and answer is deeply ambiguous and, like most of the other questions, the BBC should have deep-sixed it.

They missed a good chance to educate people about what evolution is and what the theory says.

The BBC changed the religion/science accommodationism question on its evolution quiz

September 25, 2018 • 1:00 pm

As reader Eric astutely pointed out, the BBC has now changed question #7—the “accommodationism” question—in the evolution quiz I described this morning. It previously read this way:

Now it reads this way:

I’m fairly sure, but not positive, that calling attention to this question by myself or others has led to the change. It’s an improvement for sure, but I emphasize again that this question has no place in a quiz about evolution. It’s a theological or philosophical question that doesn’t test anybody’s knowledge about evolution. What gives, Beeb? You in bed with Templeton?

Further, the “right” answer depends on what you mean by “incompatible”. If you construe “compatibility” as “some people can be both scientists and religious,” then of course they’re compatible. But if you construe it as “compatible in using comparable methods to ascertain what’s true”, then it’s false. My whole book Faith Versus Fact is about this issue.

But the entire quiz is very shoddy, as several readers pointed out. Virtually every question is ambiguous or wonky. I don’t follow BBC science reporting much, but letting this quiz slip by without some vetting by good British evolutionists (e.g. our own Dr. Cobb) is bad journalism.

So it goes.


BBC gives a dumb quiz on how much you know about evolution

September 25, 2018 • 8:15 am

Readers Dom and Kevin called my attention to this new quiz on the BBC website that supposedly tests your knowledge of evolution. It was compiled with the help of Dr. Paula Kover, who teaches evolution at the University of Bath.

Click on the screenshot to take the seven-question quiz. I got only 5/7, but that’s because the quiz is badly screwed up!

I won’t reveal six of the science questions (the seventh, below, has nothing to do with science), but I will say that question #5 is deeply screwed up, and the “correct” answer is either wrong or, at best, ambiguous. It could have been phrased better. Matthew and I both think it’s just wrong. (See here for an explanation.)

Matthew and I also objected to question #6. I won’t tell you what it is, but Matthew said it’s ambiguous because “better” is not defined. I agree. If you define “better” as “having increased fitness”, then the answer they give is wrong.

As for question #7, it has NOTHING to do with science, but is simply a sop to religion. And it’s personally insulting because I wrote an entire book supporting what the BBC says is the wrong answer. Here’s the question—guess what they consider the “right” answer:

The BBC could have done a much better job with this quiz since nearly half the questions come with either ambiguous or incorrect answers. So it goes.