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Discussion (76)¬

  1. Trevor Holding says:

    I feel a Pascal’s wager is being made…

  2. suffolk blue says:

    testing – 1,2,3

  3. suffolk blue says:

    Testing 1,2,3

  4. suffolk blue says:

    Testing 1-2-3

  5. Donn says:

    Deep in denial. Yahweh’s creation is a cruel mockery. Stupid demiurge, fit only to b

  6. Donn says:

    e a tribal god for nomadic goat herders.

  7. Donn says:

    (Well, that was weird. I don’t know what I hit to submit the first part, but it showed up immediately, where the second part with is in the pipeline somewhere.)

  8. Nakul Nitin Gote says:

    Abrahamic God is most loving, if love for you means a demanding disposition emenating from insecurity and megalomania.

  9. Laripu says:

    On the previous comic, where I thanked M27, that comment showed up right away. The next one, where I commented about that, didn’t show up right away. Also, sometimes I see a comments button and a random button, and sometimes I don’t. It looks like it isn’t back to normal.

  10. Newtonian Q. Snookers says:

    I’ve been following for a few years now. This is one of your best.

  11. M27Holts says:

    Is it working?

  12. Rebecca says:

    If not right, what’s left?

  13. Bruce Vereshagen says:

    I reject objective reality and substitute my own.

  14. Bruce Vereshagen says:

    Still seems wonky.

  15. jb says:

    Just as long as you never forget that human evolution stopped 50,000 years ago and we are all exactly the same!

  16. paradoctor says:

    You mean the appendix was on purpose?

  17. Donn says:

    It is on purpose. Population reservoir for intestinal flora. I predict that in a couple decades we will learn that the intestinal flora are even more important than we already understand. We’re only vessels.

  18. Rrr says:

    Paradoctor: Well duh, obviously the appendix was an afterthought!

  19. Shaughn says:

    jb, how do you know nothing has changed? Perhaps we have adapted to an environment full of industrial pollution (since the Industrial Revolution), or drenched in electromagnetism (developed since the invention of radio); maybe as we speak we’re adapting to the digestion of micro plastics. Napoleon might have died young of lung disease, brain damage and plastic poisoning in this atmosphere, for all we ‘know’. Things change, we adapt or not. Those who don’t don’t procreate.

  20. Son of Glenner says:

    jb, Donn, paradoctor, Rrr: Please note that I have been lacking an appendix for 70 years (almost to the day!) but my intestinal flora are in excellent condition! (Oops! I have just experienced another bit of evidence that that is the case! Anybody want some methane?)

    Evolution never ceases but has no purpose. You lot obviously have a juvenile concept of the nature of evolution. 50,000 years is only like the blink of an eye in the process of evolution/history. (Or herstory!)

  21. Son of Glenner says:

    For what it’s worth, my recent comment did not appear immediately, but did show up within about an hour.

    (And best wishes from all my intestinal flora!)

  22. Son of Glenner says:

    And that comment (1:02 pm UK time) did appear immediately.

  23. Donn says:

    It takes a sort of extreme accident to wipe out gut flora. Statistics might be interesting on gut issues vs. appendectomy+colonoscopies, but even colonoscopy prep probably doesn’t sterilize. Antibiotics, maybe.

  24. jb says:

    Actually, 50,000 years is plenty of time for evolution to do its work. I was simply making a small joke about the fact that the same people who ridicule the creationists are often themselves adamantly unwilling to even consider the possibility that evolution might be responsible for significant differences between current human populations. Nope, human evolution stopped 50,000 years ago and we are all exactly the same. Or if there has been evolution, it’s been from the neck down only!

  25. Laripu says:

    In order to replenish gut bacteria, god created yogurt, unfiltered beer, oral sex, thumb-sucking, the five second rule and breathing/swallowing. It’s the god of microorganisms. He/she/it doesn’t want us to be without our tiny internal friends. 😉

    I’ve seen some Christian web pages that try to explain harmful bacteria as a consequence of the original sin. Here’s a website that talks about bacteria and the days of creation:

    They’d do anything to squirm out of thinking in evolutionary terms. I wonder how creationists think about oral sex?

  26. Rodrigo Diaz says:

    @jb who says we’re exactly the same?!

    One interesting aspect of this, now we are talking about digestion, is dairy consumption. The human population is more or less artificially selected to favour those that can consume milk products in their adulthood. This probably was an (useful) anomaly in the paleolitic.

    So in terms of evolution, I think people without lactose intolerance are somewhat overrepresented in current human population.

    If you would like to cite a specific example of what you’d like to discuss, I don’t see why you should hold yourself back.

    (and yes, incidentally, antibiotics will wipe out your intestinal flora. Had 6 weeks on IV antibiotics some years back. Took me about a year to regain “normal” gut function).

  27. Son of Glenner says:

    Laripu: I had a look at the website you referenced. It reads like a parody of creationism, complete with references to make it seem more scientific, including shameless references to the likes of Leewenhuik and Pasteur alongside references to the Bible (no doubt King James Version). And it speaks of “professional creationist scientists” – who the hell are they?

    They don’t deserve intestinal flora!

  28. smee says:

    Surely the purpose of this page is that no one knows the answers? Even the barmaid; She’s right about J&M. But as to whether evolution has a purpose no one knows. Any one who claims to know the answers to whether there or not there is a creator is either a crook or a charlatan? Even though the best way to proceed appears to be that there isn’t.

  29. Son of Glenner says:

    smee: “… either a crook or a charlatan …”

    Is there a difference between those two?

  30. Shaughn says:

    Smee, ‘purpose’ is a superfluous hypothesis in evolution theory.
    Evolution theory deals with ‘how’, not ‘what for’.

  31. suffolk blue says:

    Laripu – I have no idea what creationists think about oral sex. But as an atheist, i have been known to utter the words “oh god”.

  32. Atanwat says:

    I never noticed that the comments were broken. Given the thread drift shown above, I think I’m much happier not reading them.

  33. M27Holts says:

    Intestinal fauna and Oral sex…good title for a concept album….

  34. M27Holts says:

    The concept of competing genes in gene pools is the game changer…understand that concept and poooof all gods suddenly disappear as rhe smog of ignorance is dissipated…

  35. Son of Glenner says:

    M27Holts: You are confused about Fauna and Flora – not the same thing!

    Oral sex meaning: just talking about it.

  36. M27Holts says:

    Flora = plants. Fauna = scousers…

  37. Laripu says:

    I wondered how bible believers think about oral sex, so I looked it up. It appears they’re in favor of it for married heterosexual couples. Kind of weirdly and explicitly in favor of it. Including talk about the wife getting on her knees and swallowing.


    I wouldn’t have guessed this.

  38. Laripu says:

    Son of Glenner, I looked it up. Here’s a list of creation scientists.


    It seems like a lot, but it’s still a very small percentage of the total number of scientists.

  39. M27Holts says:

    Hm. Creation scientst is an oxymoron surely?

  40. paradoctor says:

    Evolution continues. I predict that future hominins will inherit these traits:

    An immune system that can laugh off AIDS, Ebola, the flu and the common cold.
    Radiation resistance.
    A liver that can break down dioxin and nanomachines.
    Eat anything you want, as much as you want, without fear of heart disease, stroke, obesity or diabetes.
    Limb regeneration.
    Reading, writing and ‘rithmetic, at the highest skill level, from a very early age.
    Accurate statistical intuition.
    Accurate physics intuition.
    Superhuman political savvy.
    Superhuman sales resistance.
    Superhuman sense of humor.
    Superhuman emotional resilience.

    The good news is, people of the far future will have all of these traits. The bad news is, they’ll need them in order to survive long enough to reproduce.

  41. jb says:

    paradoctor — Are people with those traits the people who will be having the most children in the future? I rather doubt it. Evolution these days seems to be favoring irresponsible people who have more children than they can afford to take care of, so that’s probably what we will be seeing more of.

  42. jb says:

    Rodrigo Diaz said: “who says we’re exactly the same?”!

    Pretty much anybody who wants to have a career in in science, that’s who! Yes, the lactose intolerance thing is well known (it’s covered in the book I linked to), but the stomach is below the neck. Anybody who ventures above the neck does so at great peril!

  43. M27Holts says:

    I’ve decided that Tandoori chicken chillie masala is the king of curry. Especially from the shabna II in Kersley….i’m stuffed….

  44. paradoctor says:

    jb: The people of the far future will have more kids than they can take care of – as ever – and the ones who survive will have the traits that I mentioned. So we’re both right.

  45. James R. Baerg says:

    It looks like every living thing on Earth already has radiation resistance.
    In human studies, any harm just can’t be found for doses less than 100 milliSievert in a short time (4 mSv per year is fairly typical for much of the earth). Spreading the dose over months or years appears to allow time for repair of the damage from the radiation.
    The Linear No Threshold with out repair idea, that has been commonly accepted, is a hyper-pessimistic hypothesis, that no appears to have no evidence in its favor.
    Look up, “Linear with Threshold”, and “Radiation Hormesis”, for the competing theories of biological response to ionizing radiation, that appear to have some evidence for them.

  46. Laripu says:

    Paradoctor, you’re predicting that people will develop “Superhuman sales resistance”. From what I understand if predator/prey relationships, salespeople will develop superhuman sales techniques. The resulting sales outcome will look statistically pretty much the same.

    Of course all of the above is a joke, and I presume what you wrote is also a joke.

    What happens to evolution in the long term is impossible to predict without knowing what the environment will look like. In the near term (5000 to 10,000 years), I expect a population collapse due to any combination of many possible factors: pollution, mass extinction, endocrine disrupting plastics, climate change, volcanic eruption, nuclear war, comet impact, stupidity.

    It’ll all be blamed on people not obeying some silly religious command… like we ate forbidden foods, or had sex in unapproved ways, or didn’t wear our hair the way we were supposed to.

    Ah, well, it was fun while it lasted. For a bit more fun, here are some rhymes:

    Moron is better

    When the doctors can’t save you
    the priests just lie.
    The Cruelty never ended,
    it got sanctified.

    Moron is better:
    It fills the pews.
    The rich get richer,
    not me and you.

    Thinking about thinking
    creates awkward doubt.
    The process is fixed
    and you’ve been sold out.
    You’ve been sold out,
    but you don’t know by who.
    Moron is better,
    not me or you.

    Your loved ones are gone
    no-one cares if you miss them.
    Cruelty’s an integral
    part of the system,
    embedded inside
    the genetic code.
    Therefore, ignore
    what Darwin showed.

    Moron is better:
    ignore the clues.
    The rich get richer,
    not me and you.

    When the doctors can’t save you
    and the priests must lie
    the Cruelty never ends,
    it gets sanctified.

  47. Shaughn says:

    As the ancient wisdom has it:
    “Itis apis potand itis abigone”

  48. Donn says:

    Any one who claims to know the answers to whether there or not there is a creator is either a crook or a charlatan?

    Rather, anyone who poses that as a real question.

    Considering the difficulty of describing how “creator of the universe” would relate to anything we know about anything.

    Somewhat by definition, it isn’t part of our real world, like anything else that would respond to “there is an X”, so we have to practically redefine “there is”.

    And then come up with a meaningful account of the object of our redefined term.


  49. Laripu says:

    Donn, I fully agree, and have been saying something like that for decades.

    The typical contexts of the word “exists” are either physical things like e.g. chairs or elements of abstract systems like e.g. the square root of 2. Neither of those contexts apply when people want to talk about “god”.

    When children learn a word, they abstract out the meaning from multiple different uses in the same context. Later in life we can use metaphor to grasp meaning, but it amounts to the same things. You need multiple different uses in the same context.

    The problem with “exists” for “god” is that the context contains only a single example. Nothing else “exists” like “god” does. That’s how it ought to be, but that also makes it impossible to understand the word. The context is too sparse: there is only one member.

    So “god exists” is meaningless. It is just as meaningful to say “god is a big green cow!” Praise Yehu with a mighty moo!

  50. Rodrigo Diaz says:

    JB – I see you still haven’t committed to an answer.

    Hardly a serious concern. Lynn’s study is out there, uncensored. The methodology of the book is seriously discussed – and the flaws in the methodology are out there for everyone to discuss the merits.

    Especially those regarding measuring intelligence – like cherry picking the IQ data for white children that deliberately excludes the children with lower intelligence vs. those of mixed heritage raised by German parents. It is disingenuous. Lacking a proper variability assessment within groups (i.e. are white children more intelligent but more variable within the group?), or the well known bias of current IQ tests (urban western children “are” more intelligent in this IQ test because it’s culturally tailored for them. Even things like language of the test are well known sources of variance).

    But if you want to commit to the idea that “coloured people are dumber” – just say so. It’ll be like the foolish idea that “women can’t be firefighters because they are weak”.

  51. jb says:

    Rodrigo Diaz — Which question you are referring to? Did you miss the link at the end of my previous comment? It’s about people getting extremely upset at even the suggestion that we are not all the same (above the neck), so it does address your question about “who says”. As for myself I am not committing to anything — I consider the question to be open. (A position that itself would get me cancelled in wide variety of settings). I was simply pointing out that it isn’t only religious believers who are totally unwilling to “go there” when the theory of evolution threatens a sacred cow.

    However you may want to reconsider your use of firefighters as a counterargument. Woman actually are weak compared to men! (On average of course!) In grip strength for example, where the disparity is probably greatest, the difference is two standard deviations, which means that only 2% of women have a stronger grip than the average man. This is vastly greater than any purported group differences in IQ. Only a small percentage of women are physically capable of meeting the standards of jobs like firefighter or infantryman (and that’s after the standards have been dumbed down to make it easier for them).

    (Also, the people who make IQ tests have spent decades working to eliminate bias. You won’t find any questions about regattas. Also, has anybody replicated that German study? I mean, that was a long time back, and you’d think there would be plenty of subjects to work with these days. Of course, you’d have to find someone willing to risk their career by doing the study…).

  52. Donn says:

    The problem here is that nuance is impossible. To take a non-controversial example of hereditary behavior/cognitive traits, we know dog breeds show considerable differences – but naturally people fixate on those traits and fail to consider that any old dog is just about as likely to bite your ass – like, within a small enough statistical spread that the breed isn’t a reliable guide. With humans, having not really had much or any selective pressure towards testable cognitive traits in recent millennia, that statistical spread is vanishingly small, and yet we have the same weakness for making such distinctions. That’s why no one who means well, will touch it with a stick.

  53. M27Holts says:

    Laripu you are right. I have carried my wife home unconscious on a dozen occaisions. She isn’t that heavy, perhaps 58kg. But even carrying that mass over a mile or so Is hard for me who.is above average strength and with a body mass of 105kg ish…A firefighter has to be able to heave such mass out of a burning building….

  54. Laripu says:

    M27, perhaps you mean jb, rather than me? … but also, perhaps your wife should drink less?

  55. M27Holts says:

    Aye probably a dozen since 1986 though to be fair…

  56. Son of Glenner says:

    Who has to carry home M27Holts himself when he has had too much to drink?

    Does the Holts family own a wheelbarrow?

  57. M27Holts says:

    I only got staggeringly drunk once. And smashed my face into a brick wall. I sat there, blood running down my throat from a busted nose. Till I sobered up. I went to work the following morning, my face was a bit of a mess though…

  58. jb says:

    I had a manager once who was a serious bicycler. He showed up at a business meeting one morning (at a big fancy-pants corporation) with half of his face crimson red from a fall. He said it didn’t bother him so much though, because at least this time he could remember the accident.

  59. jb says:

    Donn — Why do you believe there hasn’t been any selective pressure on cognitive traits in recent millennia? Aren’t you assuming your conclusion? The argument usually made is that once culture took over 50,000 year ago there was no more need for biological evolution (you don’t need fur if you can make warm coats), but that’s nonsense. Culture creates new environments, and one would expect biology to respond. The environment of a farmer is drastically different from that of a hunter-gatherer, and that of a city dweller is different again. And not all farms and cities are the same. Plenty of opportunity for selection to act!

  60. Donn says:

    Do more intelligent members of the social group, have more children that reach child bearing age?

    If they did, then there would be reason to guess there’s positive selective pressure for intelligence.

    I am assuming they do not, that rather on the contrary, less intelligent people breed more. Maybe I’m wrong.

    For a much more extensive treatment of this issue, see Wikipedia “Fertility and intelligence”

  61. jb says:

    Just FYI, comments are still a bit flaky. In particular, comments have taken a long time to show, up, or sometimes showed up immediately, then disappeared on a refresh, then reappeared later. (And not just my comments — other people’s have disappeared and reappeared too). So far none of my comments have been permanently lost though. Looks like maybe all the servers are not updating as quickly as they should.

  62. Shaughn says:

    Donn, basically there are two successful strategies to spread your genes. The first is to ‘invest’ in a lot of offspring with a low survival rate. It’s what turtles do: lay a dozen eggs at a time, of which only one survives to lay another dozen. The second is to invest in a little offspring with a very high rate of survival. Elephants do: one calf at a time that will almost certainly grow up to procreate. These two strategies are widespread in the animal kingdom.
    In humanity, the first is the poor men’s strategy, the second the rich men’s. We have a choice. Turtles and elephants do not. The key in human choice of strategy is wealth, and more intelligent people are more likely acquire wealth. So intelligence => wealth => little offspring but with high survival rate. But it’s correlation, not causation.

  63. Choirboy says:

    I think it’s a bit of a sweeping statement that wealth is necessarily connected to intelligence. In my experience it’s more likely to be the result of good fortune, opportunity, aggression, selfishness, even psychopathy or sociopathy.
    The old saying that you can judge God’s view of wealth by looking at who he gave it to has always rung true to me. ‘Full many a flower is born to blush unseen and waste its sweetness on the desert air’

  64. Donn says:

    There also appears to be an implied assumption that the survival rate of affluent children makes up for the disparity in fertility. I very much doubt that.

    Where intelligence is measured as it commonly has been – skill with relatively abstract cognitive functions – I am positive Homo sapiens has negative selective pressure. The only doubt I have is whether as a heritable trait, it makes sense to measure it that way, or if the intellect that goes into social skills etc. is phenotypically interchangeable with abstract cognition. That would turn the tables somewhat.

  65. Shaughn says:

    Spoken as a true christian, Choirboy!

  66. Donn says:

    And there seems to be an implicit assumption that the odds of survival to breeding age go up with affluence, enough to offset the reduced fertility. I doubt that very much.

    Where I do have some doubts about my premise, is regarding the nature of intelligence. I spent some time recently in the company of a woman with a really high level of social skill. At a phenotypical level, is that the same intelligence that would have made someone else a math whiz? If so, that would probably more than even the odds.

  67. Shaughn says:

    Donn, if we look at the ‘wealthy’ class’ there’s less fertility, but enough to maintain a little population growth while maintaining wealth also. The ‘poverty’ class, big as it is, grows faster in spite of child mortality, whereas increase in wealth disappears in population growth.
    Intelligence, loosely defined as a general problem solving capacity, is found in both populations. The wealthy class can afford to explore and exploit it, the poverty class cannot or much less in the struggle for subsistence and life. BUT.
    What we see in third world poverty class societies, is that given the opportunity, education is the key to escape from poverty, to acquire some wealth and then the next thing is dropping birth rates. Especially when women and girls are educated.
    Which is why scientists expect the world population to decrease again: development and education, a moderate wealth ensuring life and subsistence, and a lesser birth rate facilitated by less child mortality.

  68. Donn says:

    Sure … to bring it back to the natural selection perspective, adequate intelligence is present in all levels of competitive success. The question is whether an increase in inheritable intelligence confers a selective advantage. If it doesn’t, we would expect stagnation or even gradual decline in intelligence in the species.

    Also, don’t be fooled by “opportunity” – it’s good for individuals, but in the broader picture it’s more of a safety valve than a solution for societal problems.

  69. Choirboy says:

    Shaughn, spoken as a true atheist. I use the adage simply to make a point. I suspect a ‘true’ Christian might at least aim to be more charitable than I am.
    The bulk of the wealth in the world is still ‘old money’ and the more obvious scions of rich families like Johnson and Trump and most of the old Etonians who have cocked up the running of this country for years are demonstrably stupid.
    It would be interesting to see how they would fare in, say, a favela without the advantages bought for them from birth.
    Of course birth rates fall with acquired riches. For the poor, children are probably the only investment they have.

  70. M27Holts says:

    Donn “a woman with high social skills”…Low cut dress, long legs and stupendous waps is what you meant to say…haha

  71. Shaughn says:

    Donn, it seems to me that intelligence is inherited and also prone to mutation. That’s why average intelligent people (as a population)reproduce average intelligent offspring, but also an amount of far above and far below average. Unless I’m misinformed, the average IQ has been rising – it’s named the Flynn effect. Norwegian studies suggest a correlation between less children in a family and their higher IQ… That might point towards selective advantage. Although I admit that isn’t conclusive proof.
    Re natural selection, I don’t think culture and human society should be seen apart from nature. Human societies are part of the environment and environmental pressuren on selection. Which brings me to Choirboy’s point:
    Upper class born and raised kids probably wouldn’t do much good in favelas, favela born and raised kids wouldn’t do either in upper class. As the saying goes: it takes three generations to breed a gentleman. But I think intelligence will be of influence on their social mobilty, upward or downward.

  72. Shaughn says:

    Donn, Choirboy and all ye others: thanks for your thought provoking contributions. I enjoyed this discussion very much.

  73. Donn says:

    Flynn effect: nurture, not nature. Improvements in nutrition, cultural inputs that prepare children better to answer IQ questions as intended, less malaria, etc. Whatever the cause, the interval is pretty short for genome change due to selective pressure, especially if there isn’t any selective pressure. Where an already existing genetic variation meets life or death selection, things can go pretty fast, but that clearly isn’t the case here.

  74. Donn says:

    High social skills meant what it says. She was reasonably attractive and therefore made the most of that, but I think the bottom line was that she loved dealing with people and her energy and intellectual development focused on that. Social interaction happens on a kind of intuitive/impulsive level, but there’s a lot of cognition involved, and I just wonder if the genetically determined intellect behind it have equally well supported playing the piano or mechanical engineering.

  75. M27Holts says:

    I like writing complicated software, and love making and reading lists and tables. I think anybody who says they beleive in any god is either a liar or stupid, thus social interaction sometimes gets me into arguments…I reckon I am definately on the Autism spectrum….

  76. Son of Glenner says:

    M27Holts: Which end of the spectrum?


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