An Israeli Jew rejects “Why Evolution is True”

September 16, 2023 • 12:00 pm

My book Why Evolution is True has been translated into 18 languages, and one of them was Hebrew. I was pleased about that because many Orthodox Jews are Biblical creationists and I wanted them to at least have a shot at learning about the evidence for evolution.

In fact, I know of at least two American Orthodox Jews who accepted evolution (but then left the faith and were expelled by their families!) after reading the English version of the book.  They both told me they had no regrets. (I met them both at Randi’s The Amazing Meeting some years ago.)

Now that a Hebrew version is out, one of my Israeli readers managed to get two copies of it (not easy to procure!) and sent me this tale this morning:

I showed your (Hebrew edition) book to an intelligent young Jewish man living opposite me – he looked about 17 – 18 years old.

He is a student and shortly going to college.

He claimed he was happy with the ‘truth’ that the earth is less than 6,000 years old, and why would he want to consider anything that would detract from his ‘happiness’?

I suggested the possibility that his truth might not be the truth, but he rejected that possibility out of hand. His truth was most definitely the true truth..!

I offered to lend him the book for a few days but he politely refused, saying he had much preparation for college.

There are a lot of orthodox Jews in my area, and I’m considering delivering an A4 leaflet, English on one side, Hebrew on the other, with a basic explanation of Big Bang, stars formation, nucleosynthesis, planet formation, life, us.

But now wonder if such an action will result in unhappiness……?

It seems such a shame that otherwise intelligent humans are so far removed from aspects of critical thinking in their lives…

p.s.  the young student even went as far as saying you are not a ‘real’ Jew for even publishing such a book…!

And that, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, friends and comrades, is why I am sad every time I see a child being brought up as an ultra-Orthodox Jew. Am I a “real” Jew?  I’ll let others decide on their own. I’m certainly not a “religious” Jew, but you know the old joke:

Q; What do you call a Jew who doesn’t believe in God?
A: A Jew.

And as for the truth making them unhappy, well, they can always reject it.

(Remind me to tell you the story about the edition in Arabic.)

Glitch fixed (I think)

August 7, 2023 • 10:38 am

Several readers noted a glitch in the Jordan Peterson post, which involved the text running in a narrow column way down the page, making a mess of the whole thing.

Fortunately, Greg found the cause: some bad code that somehow got inserted into that post. He spent a fair amount of time fixing it, and now I think things are okay.

Many, many thanks to Greg for taking the time to do this. I hope we’ll be okay from now on.

Oh, and if you left a comment on the Jordan Peterson post that disappeared in the fix, please make it again. Thanks!

Readers report problems getting WEIT emails

January 29, 2023 • 8:00 am

About half a dozen readers have reported that since yesterday they haven’t received their emails of posts on this site. (I think they’re all Gmail users.)  I have no idea what’s going on, and have called the problem to the attention of my web tech person.  I’m not sure if anything can be done about this, but I’m trying.

To judge the nature of the problem, simply put a comment below if you’ve stopped getting emails rather than emailing me about it.

In the meantime, if you have another email account I would suggest using that one, or, as in the good old days, just look at the site itself online once a day (there are rarely any posts after 2 pm Chicago time, and each day begins with a Hili Dialogue post).

I hope this is a temporary inconvenience, and I’m doing my best to get it fixed. Thanks.

A little beef

January 27, 2023 • 11:15 am

Here’s a dilemma I face constantly. A lot of material on this site is devoted to opposing “progressive liberal” (i.e., “woke”) initiatives, particularly in science. And I’m pretty much of an absolutist when it comes to freedom of speech on campus, which isn’t exactly an attitude that’s au courant or ubiquitous among progressives.

Whenever another site links to a post on WEIT, which is fairly often, I get a “pingback” that lets me know that someplace has put up a link. Very often I go to see how my posts are being used, and very often—in fact at least 90% of the time—it’s a right-wing site like The College Fix, or The American Conservative, or someone like that, all of them decrying wokeness. Likewise, you’ll never see my criticisms of the incursion of wokeness into science appear in science journals—or in any left-wing media. In other words, my words are being uses to attack the Left, which happens to be the end of the political spectrum I’m on.

Now I could look at this situation in two ways.

1.) Since I go after what I see as irrational or harmful behaviors of “progressives”—and I do that to try to show that even liberals can call out their own, as well as to help purge the authoritarian and reflexively irrational elements on my own side of the aisle—I could regard these pingbacks as helping me in those efforts.


2.) The audience for these right-wing websites isn’t just interested in getting rid of “progressivism” or authoritarianism in the Left: they want to get rid of the entire Left. To the extent that my words are being construed as tarring the entire Left, I could be seen as hurting my own cause. Or even as helping the most dire Republicans around—the people like Trump who call out wokeness to go after Democrats in general.

Each time I see a pingback from one of these conservative sites, then, I am ambivalent. Am I helping or hurting my own cause? Like all people who take my point of view, I have of course been called “alt-right,” “racist”, and even a white supremacist. I brush off those names because they’re just slurs that progressives who lack arguments use to tar their opponents.

Now I’ve already my decision: I’m going to keep doing what I do (alternative 1) for several reasons. My motivations in calling out woke craziness is not to go after the Left as a whole, and thus I may, as someone with Leftist beliefs and a fairly activist track record, have more credibility than the right-wing sites who call out the same stuff. Further, I cannot bear it when the Left is associated with performative nonsense and general insanity. It’s like when someone in your family is acting badly: you call them out before others do, because, after all, they’re family. Finally, I still think that purging progressives from the Democratic side, or at least letting others know that we recognize the Follies of the Woke, will keep centrists from moving toward the Right. So long as people think all Leftists are “progressive”, they will shy away from the Left, and that would not be good.

I just wanted to air these thoughts. Readers are welcome to react, and you can tell me to dial down my criticisms of “progressivism,” but I’m not going to do it.  Oh, and please don’t lecture me about using the word “woke”. I have not found a good substitute and I’ve gotten plenty of blowback about that, which I’ve also rejected.

Top posts on this site

December 30, 2022 • 10:30 am

It’s time for the end-of-the-year summing up. As of January, this website will have been going 14 years. In that period I’ve put up 26,803 posts (including this one), and there have been 1,252,059 comments. That was 46.7 comments per post, and a few years ago I vowed to discontinue the site if comments dropped below 50 per post. Well, as you see, I’ve violated my vow, but am not sure why.  Maybe, like the Twitter addicts I just denigrated, I need the love.

Below is what my dashboard tells me are the top posts in terms of views (I’m not sure whether this is just for the year or for all time; I suspect it’s the latter, simply because the audience has grown). I can’t take a lot of pride in this because the two top posts had very little intellectual input from me. #1, which was posted recently, just points to a good website harboring informative videos about sex and gender.  The second one I saw as a “throwaway post”—one of those pieces where I rant in Andy Rooney style—this time about the shrinkage of ice-cream quantities with no corresponding reduction in price. How did I know that so many people shared the anger against Big Food?

Looking them all over, I can see no real pattern in them. It may be that when a Big Fish like Dawkins or Pinker tweets about one of my posts, it gets a lot more views. But I can’t be arsed to look.

At any rate, if you missed any of these, here’s your chance to see what got the clicks.

Top Posts

Getting straight about sex: A collection of useful videos about sex and sex differences, and some mishigas by a couple of scientists  93,347 Views

The ice cream scams  77,817 Views

Progressive professors: the root of all evil  60,663 Views

Two religions collide: Cambridge student preacher causes row by suggesting that Jesus was a transsexual male  42,411 Views

Professor fired for showing art class image of Muhammad with his face visible (something not unusual in the history of Islamic art). Students and university go wild with crazy allegations of “Islamophobia”  24,727 Views

Scientific American does an asinine hit job on E. O. Wilson, calling him a racist  23,991 Views

Caturday felid trifecta: Celebrities’ cats; cat has rare brown kittens; giant cat screen in Japan; and lagniappe  22,748 Views

Searches that lead to this website

October 20, 2022 • 10:15 am

You’ll get no braining out of me today, as my neurons are clogged. As always, I do my best.

Every day, my website dashboard tells me what searches on the Internet have led people to this site. They’ve been pretty constant for a while, and here’s today’s:

I have no idea where the Arab thieves and police officer stuff comes from, and someone can’t spell “gobbledygook”.

WEIT quiz

August 2, 2022 • 9:15 am

Once again I’m debilitated from lack of sleep, having slept for a handful of hours last night. I have no idea why my insomnia recurred, as I’m following my sleep hygiene rules pretty carefully. But the upshot is that my brain isn’t working well, and posting is a huge effort.  It will be light today, and I’ll divert my minimal energy into preparing talks for my upcoming lecture cruise to the Galápagos.

But I thought I’d pose ten questions to the readers of this site to see how attentive they are. (Yes, this is a bit solipsistic.) To answer them all, you’d have to have been a reader for a while. Some are easy, others aren’t, but no Googling or searching the site allowed.

1.) What does PCC(E) stand for?

2.) Give two reasons why canids are usually spelled “d*g” on this site

3.) Why don’t I like WEIT to be called a “blog”? What’s the preferred term for the site?

4.) What is the name of my favorite duck, and how many years in succession have I taken care of her?

5.) How did this website get started?

6.) What was the name of my last cat, and what kin of cat was it?

7.) From what region does my favorite red wine come?

8.) What must all readers do before they put up their first comment?

9.) What is the name of Steve Pinker’s teddy bear? (This was the subject of a contest a long time ago.)

10.) What was the great insight I had on an acid trip when I was in college?

Vox’s evidence for evolution from vestigial traits in humans

June 14, 2022 • 2:00 pm

Here’s an old video from Vox that shows morphological evidence for evolution in the human body based on vestigial organs and traits. Most of these can be found in Why Evolution is True, but it’s good to see them in video like this.

This takes the website back to its original aim: giving the readers evidence for why evolution is true.

How Asian honeybees kill their fearsome hornet predators

May 10, 2022 • 12:45 pm

I can’t remember why I opened the natural-selection chapter in Why Evolution is True (chapter 5: “The Engine of Evolution”) with the story of the Asian giant hornet (Vespa mandarina) and of the counterdefense of its prey of native honeybees. (The European honeybee, more recently introduced into Asia, has not evolved such a bizarre and amazing defense.)  The giant hornet is much to be feared by both honeybees and humans: it’s as big as your thumb, and several humans (and millions of bees) die from its attacks every year.

Since you all should have a copy of WEIT (as Hitch would say, “Available at fine bookstores everywhere”), I won’t recount the story of the native honeybees’ defense, but it involve luring the voracious hornet scout into the bee nest and the cooking it to death:  surrounding it with a ball of vibrating bee bodies that raises the ball’s internal temperature to 117 degrees F (47°C): a temperature that kills the wasp but not the bees.

I suppose I put that story in because it’s a stunning example of the power of natural selection to shape behavior (in both wasp and bee), and not many people knew about it. Now I hear that a lot of readers especially liked that story. It is a true one, and in this segment from BBC Earth, you can see the nefarious hornet scout discovering a hive of native honeybees.

The scout marks the hive with pheromones and usually flies back to recruit a swarm of fellow hornets to return to the nest to destroy it: a process that can take only a short while as the wasps  nest in minutes, decapitate adult bees and steal their honey and and bee grubs. But, as I relate in the book, sometimes, as here, the hornet scout never gets back to its own nest because of the counterdefense. The native bees lure it inside and cover it with vibrating bees that kill it.

This video is, of course, far more vivid that what I could say in words, so I want to show it here. But imagine the sequence of evolutionary steps that produced this defense!

If you want to see how these hornets slaughter the non-native European honeybees, watch this gruesome attack (each wasp can kill 40 bees per minute!). I’m sure I’ve shown this video somewhere in the distant past.

Now if you’ll excuse me, i’ll go home to rest.

Readers’ wildlife photos

February 5, 2022 • 9:00 am

Today’s photos are of the Galápagos Islands and its wildlife, taken by reader Joe Baldassano. His commentary and IDs are indented, and you can enlarge his photos by clicking on them.

Attached are some photos of my November 27 thru Dec 6, 2021 trip to the Galapagos Islands.

First, you will recognize the Island below (not named in the attachment) as Daphne Major. I want to mention to your readers that this was the site of Peter and Rosemary Grant’s studies of finches which led to the book The Beak of the Finch, a work I highly recommend. This island is off limits to visitors without special permission from the government.

During this trip, I visited the islands of Genovesa, Balta, St. Cruz, Santiago, and Isabella.  Most of the wildlife has no fear of humans and I believe credit for that rests with the government of Ecuador.  All excursions into the islands are closely regulated and visitors are accompanied by a well-trained naturalist. You can get very close to the animals, but no contact is permitted.

Each island offered an opportunity for snorkeling, and I was able to swim with sea lions, fur seals, sea turtles, manta rays, white tip sharks, and penguins. On one particular snorkeling excursion, a large sea gull did not welcome our presence and swam over to me and began pecking at my goggles; he/she was not happy and began pecking at my arm. I just swam backwards and the gull focused attention on my snorkeling buddy by ripping one of the filters off of his underwater camera.  It was very exciting provided and comic relief for all of us.

Seeing the giant tortoises and all of the wildlife found nowhere else was a gift,and I would encourage any follower of your WEIT site to put the Galapagos Islands on their bucket list.

Nazca Booby (chick):  Sula granti:

Blue Footed BoobySula nebouxii:

Galapagos Sea LionZalophus wollebaeki:




Magnificent FrigatebirdFregata magnificens:

Galapagos HawkButeo galapagoensis: 

Galapagos penguinSphensicus mendiculus: 

Galapagos short-eared owlAsio flammeus:

Ground Finch: (I do not know which finch I photographed; there are six different ground finches):

Land Iguana:  Conolophus subcristatus:

Red footed booby: Slua slua websteri:

With egg:

Round Shell Tortoise: Chelonoidis Nigra:

Saddleback Tortoise: Chelonoidis becki:

Sea (Marine iguana): Amblyrhynchus cristatus:

Green Sea TurtleChelonia mydas mydas:

Swallow-tailed gull: Larus furcatus:

Yellow warbler: Dendroica petechia aureola:

Darwin Research Station [b: An especially good photo!]: