To anyone who has donated to J&M’s bandwidth since the 5th April – thank you very much, and sorry that I didn’t send you an email. My host has changed the notification email I receive when someone makes a donation so that it no longer includes the email address of the donor. It is a “privacy issue”. While I am glad that NearlyFreeSpeech.Net takes privacy so seriously, I’m a bit sad that in this case privacy precludes politeness. In future, if you want to make a donation, and would like me to contact you about it, send me an email at the same time and I’ll thank you personally. Otherwise, please just accept my sincere thanks in advance.

└ Tags: ,

Discussion (66)¬

  1. Nassar Ben Houdja says:

    What kind of a jerka
    Insults a man in a burka?
    Its legal to bender
    Ones personal gender
    And dress in mid eastern splenda.

  2. jean-françois gauthier says:

    the best way not to stand out of the crowd in an occidental city is to dress yourself in a bright-blue potato bag (mo’s burka looks black; is he still widowing aisha?). that ought to make you nearly invisible to men—save the occasional bright-blue-potato-bag fetishist.

  3. Wrinkly Dick says:

    My God these Muslims are so forward, dressing with veils and burqas so that they’re easily noticed. Burqas do make me horny; I’m having the T-shirt made.

  4. Andrew Hall says:

    I can’t wait until Islamo-bots are on the market so women will never need to leave the house.

  5. yelinna says:

    All those sexy lustful burkas must be banned forever!!

  6. HaggisForBrains says:

    “There ought to be a law against it.”


  7. spoing says:

    Nice one @Nassar Ben Houdja ! Will you be publishing a compilation one of these days?

  8. Poor Richard says:

    Does anyone else remember “the Black Bag” at (I think) University of Oregon, c. 1970? She/he entered the classroom covered in a black bag on day one, sat down, attended every class all term, silent, unmoving. At first, there was mild pandemonium. Professor, not in on it, had nothing to say. (Well, heck, I’ve had many students not so interesting.) Most of us didn’t bother to take roll, since it was your money, students. A week or two and BB had won mere acceptance; after all, those were weird times on campuses. Not as weird as now, of course, but still . . . .

  9. Jerry w says:

    I’m thinking that the term “bag ’em and tag ’em” used in those police procedural t.v. shows has taken on a different meaning in France.

  10. FreeFox says:

    @Daoloth: In the last thead you asked about my position on the French ban on Burqas. I don’t know. Just read up on it a little, and while I really don’t like the whole male/female gender role distribution in any of the Abrahamic religions, and the Burqa is a manifestations of that, I can’t say I like the ruling. For one, to avoid accusations of religious discimination they banned all forms of hiding the face. I don’t like states putting up cams everywhere, and forcing me to register my finger prints for a passport, and I don’t like it to insist on me keeping my face unobscured. They just added a privacy problem on top of religious discrimination, to curb a case of largely voluntary gender discrimination. (“Largely” because in France of course women, Muslim or not, are protected by law from discrimination… which, I know, doesn’t help against peer pressure, family pressure, and religious homocidal maniacs.)
    But even the original case of banning head scarfs from schools as religious symbols in a laicist state bugs me. I know they ban crosses just the same, and that is a nice touch. Part of me would love a truly laicist state. But is that possible? It at least doesn’t actually exist yet:
    Doesn’t it bother all of you collected atheist and sceptics that you are overwhelmingly still playing riffs on the original 10 commandments?
    1. Hold to no truth but the scientific one and do not worship false idols, like the fairy sky daddy.
    2. Do not abuse the name of science to push false medicine or pseudo-scientific mysticism.
    3. Okay, I’ll grant, Sabbath observation seems to be truly gone.
    4. Don’t diss the honourable father figures of scepticism or risk the wrath of the boards.
    5. Don’t murder or preach murder (- that is after all one of the big sins of the old faiths.)
    6. Yeah, adultery is clearly on the way out, like the Sabbath, but it seems to me “don’t be a hypocrite” has sort of taken it’s place in its moral outrage status. That is after all the one sin of the old faiths that ranks even higher than their murderousness.
    7. & 8. Don’t steal and don’t lie, still the backbone of our morals.
    9. & 10. Don’t covet the intellectual gain (Sophia as a wife?) of your fellow research and do not commit plagiarism; neither falsify your data for earthly gain and glory.
    Okay, I’ll admit, that is a bit flippant, but maybe it illustrates the core point: Western civilizations remains founded on Mosaic values. We can bitch all we want about the Sharia (and as one having to contend with the Sharia in my everyday life, I will join you loudly in that bitching, it sucks and is inhuman and stupid), we mostly do so, because it differes from our own hallowed, inherited values.
    So, for France to call itself truly laicist, it would have to take it’s constitution and bill of human rights and check it article by article with true scientific scepticism and come up with some basis for them other than Christian-descendet culture. Research in mirror-neurons and other tend and befriend mechanisms is a start… but *if* we truly go down that evolutionary/biologist path to value systems… well, look at the genocidal behaviour of primates… is our disillusionment with religious values really so strong that we want to risk the scientific answers we might end up with? Or are we still just looking for scientific support for our old religious morals?
    Maybe that answer is a bit sweeping for your simple Burqa question… but how can we make any moral judgements unless we truly look at the basics of our ethical systems? And so far Sam Harris hasn’t really given us much help.

  11. xxxFred says:

    It’s the eyes, Mo, the eyes…..

  12. Ketil W.Grevstad says:

    hehe funny this one also, i like this cartoon wery much. Its my favorite

  13. HaggisForBrains says:

    @Author & xxxFred – this would have been a good one for the blinking eyes.

    PS Is this called Sexy or Lewd?

  14. Author says:

    @HFB This strip was called ‘sexy’ for the first five minutes of its life – and ‘sexy’ appeared where ‘lewd’ now appears in the script. Then I realised that Jesus calling the jogger’s look ‘sexy’ weakened the last panel’s she-surprise, so I changed it. Lewd is a funnier word anyway, I think.

  15. @FreeFox
    “Doesn’t it bother all of you collected atheist and sceptics (sic) that you are overwhelmingly still playing riffs on the original 10 commandments?”
    Now why on earth should this bother us. Do you think atheism is just a style thing? Do you think we are just trying to be different from the faith heads? Are you confusing atheism with nihilism?
    Is it a surprise we have the same values as most decent humans? What on earth are you on about with your atheist bashing? You’re making fun of us for having morals?
    “1.Hold to no truth but the scientific one and do not worship false idols, like the fairy sky daddy.” You just don’t get it. It’s not about holding any kind of truth. It’s about questioning, testing. weighing evidence, and open discussion of that evidence, something religions have historically suppressed, often with violence and to the severe detriment of society, as for example when the Spanish were not allowed to go to universities where they might learn something other than church dogma.
    “2. Do not abuse the name of science to push false medicine or pseudo-scientific mysticism.” Are you saying you are in favour of that kind of behavior? What? Recidivism is looking tempting? I think lying and cheating and spreading bullshit are things you don’t need to be an atheist to dislike, but maybe you can prove me wrong on this.
    I bitch about Sharia because I believe in secular law. I bitch about the Christian right wing trying to impose their morality on us too. I bitch about crucifixes in every Italian government building. I happen to believe that there actually is a clear and obvious basis for morality, and it doesn’t have all that much to do with our “hallowed, inherited values”. It has to do with things like protecting the weak from the strong, having a level playing field, allowing the individual to flourish but not at the expense of the group. We’ve codified some of these values into things like habeas corpus, freedom of the press, rule of law, right of assembly, and freedom of expression. I’m very encouraged by recent findings that serial killers are actually brain damaged. It doesn’t take “inherited values” to know that hurting people is wrong. It’s part of having a properly functioning human brain. I don’t happen to buy the standard narrative of the genocidal behavior of primates. It seems to me that our natural society is much more Bonobo than Chimpanzee.
    I’m in favour of a burka ban wherever it’s important to be able to identify people. This includes a heck of a lot of places. Try waking into your average liquor store wearing a ski mask. What’s the point of a photo on a drivers license? I can understand it if you don’t want your face on a security camera, but the store owner might feel different. Women can wear the burka if they want to, but not into stores, the library, the police station, schools, airports, train stations, bus stations, or coffee shops. Hiding your identity in our culture is threatening to a lot of people, for good reasons. How the heck do you even know it’s a woman under that thing. Could be Mo. And that’s a scary thought.

  16. “walking into a liquor store. Not “waking”. Damn but I hate mistakes that spell-check won’t catch.
    But while I’m here, @FreeFox Please don’t go pushing cultural relativism at me. I don’t accept it as a premise or a principle. Cultural relativism is just an excuse for human rights abuses.
    By the way, I suspect that cultural relativism as a concept was invented by anthropologists who were trying to stop the missionaries from insisting on the missionary position and imposing their nonsense morality on the “savages”. It’s ironic that it got co-opted by the religious control freaks as a great excuse for some rather horrific practices we’re not supposed to be able to criticize, like M&FGM and the enforced wearing of the burka.

  17. Can anyone explain to me how one demonstrates their modesty by dressing in a manner that draws all the attention to themselves?

    Or that actual modesty is accomplished by a display of modesty?

  18. that, plus wow, excellent lesbian subtext that naturally neither Jesus or Mo pick up on like they would have been had the jogger been male, despite the jogger’s perception that Mo would be female

  19. sweetpityfulmercy says:

    So the J&M world isnt set in France then?

  20. FreeFox says:

    @Darwin Harmless: Your tonal fluctuations between chumminess and hostility are making me a bit whoozy…

    I don’t confuse atheism with nihilism and I obviously do not think that the atheists and sceptics I adressed have no values. Would make little sense given the context of the ten commandments, would it?
    If I sounded as if I was bashing anything but the Sharia, I apologize. Also, I certainly did not want to push anything at “you”, not even cultural relativism. But if you “believe” in a clear and obvious (and evidence-based, I assume) basis for morality – a basis that supports only and directly liberal democracy, the western criminal justice system, and free market capitalism… well, I would very much like to see your sources.
    I, too, *wish* that humans have socially more in common with bonobonos than with chimpansees, but I have not yet seen any convincing scientific support for that. Genocidal and homicidal behaviour is known to occasionally occur in homo sapiens populations.
    The point I was trying to make about the 10 commandments is that they still form the moral basis of western societies, without having been fact checked in any scientific way. I adressed atheists and sceptics as they usually stress the “questioning, testing. weighing evidence, and open discussion of that evidence”, and I fail to see that very approach when it comes to human rights, constitutions, and all that. So far Sam Harris’s conclusions in this regard are, while laudable in and of themselves, a bit thin.
    I am not a cultural relativist, at least not in the sense that I do not value the values I inherited with European culture. I do. But I am aware that my belief in these values (where they are not universal) is largely a chance of birthplace, not any inherent proven “validity” of those values.
    (And by values I mean more than honesty or the sanctity of life; the conviction that there is only one truth, and the dualisms of yes/no, good/evil, true/false, etc, for example are part of an Abrahamic worldview and still part of secular westerrn belief, but for example not found as such in Buddhist or Taoist approaches. Again, not saying Buddhists are necessarily correct, just that we have inherited this emic labyrinth from our Christian ancestors together with enlightenment and the Cartesian doubt.)

    I am willing to discuss the right of private individuals to install security cameras on their own property, and may see a case in point in certain public buildings, but things like the ring of steel in London and similar CCTV blankets are a serious assault on the freedom of citizens. And again, prohibiting masks in private banks or some government or maybe even public transport buildings may be arguable, but making it mandator to be clearly identifiable everywhere, no, sorry, I see a major conflict with rights of privacy, mobility, and assembly.

    PS.: What was the “(sic)” for?

  21. Exzanian says:

    Lewd, Leered, Lascivious…Hell, as a self conscious and well adjusted primate those are three of my favourite words!

  22. FreeFox says:

    @DH: Since I certainly would not want to excuse any abuses of human rights, maybe you can explain to me why this J&M wouldn’t hold up if you replaced the phrase “There is a loving creator God” in panel 2 with “the recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world”.

  23. sweetpityfulmercy says:

    What is the ferocious need for Morals to have some absolute truth? It’s plainly obvious that morals sway with the zeitgeist of the times. In 200 years perhaps Hanging all Mormons will be a moral act, or perhaps it will be a jainist-like wearing of facemasks to protect bacteria from harm? We might kill all jews, we might only wear silicon hats,all homes might need a pink ostrich or the inhabitants will be shunned as perverts. Get-A-Grip and slough off the absolutism

  24. @FreeFox “maybe you can explain to me why this J&M wouldn’t hold up if you replaced the phrase “There is a loving creator God” in panel 2 with “the recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world”.
    Well, of course it would stand up. Very well. So if the point you were making is that we “skeptics and atheists” are essentially religious, I’ll just agree with you. As to the “Doesn’t it bother all of you collected atheist and sceptics”, no it doesn’t.
    Sorry for the “tonal variation”. Over reacting again, no doubt. But I think your tone is not quite as constant as you imagine. You did say a few things that got up my nose, and it always sounds to me as if you think there is some other way to “know” than through the scientific method, and that we are fools for not recognizing that. The cultural relativity response came from what I took to be your suggestions that we only bash Sharia because of our “own hallowed, inherited values” (note your tone there, throwing words like “hallowed” sounds mocking to me) and your use of the phrase “risk the scientific answers “, like accepting evidence and seeing where it leads involves risk, which has been a constant argument of the Ben Stein faction, the old argumentum ad consequentiam. I know “science” has been used to support eugenics and atheists are constantly being told that accepting reality leads to the holocaust. I guess I just didn’t get whatever it was you were trying to say, and reacted to your words instead.
    I’m not a fan of democracy, when 80% of a population would vote for death by stoning for adulterers. Or maybe I just agree with the quote you gave, and feel that human rights must come first.
    The (sic) is there because I was quoting you, noticed the spelling mistake, and did not want to correct it in a quote but just couldn’t leave it alone. Not that I don’t make spelling mistakes, of the worst kind, or wanted to put you down for it. Sorry. Old habit. Should have just corrected it and kept my mouth shut, or ignored it.
    @sweetpityfulmercy sorry (I’m saying “sorry” a lot this morning) if I came off like an absolutist. I don’t think I am one. What I believe is that we are still discussing what is “natural” and still swinging wildly between the “noble savage” and the “killer ape” narrative. My irrational hope is that cooperation and sharing have been the glue that binds us, far more than competition and aggression. Arguable of course, given human history. I’m also leaning toward the idea that our behavior is strongly influenced by culture, but that empathy and caring are built into the brain.
    I’m starting to envy those with the ability to make pithy comments. Sigh. @Exzanian I’ll second that.

  25. Durham669 says:

    It was Thomas Jefferson’s birthday yesterday. He said it best: “Religions are all alike, founded upon fables and mythologies.”

  26. spoing says:

    @DH – I also get the impression that freefox is convinced that there is, as you put it, “some other way to “know” than through the scientific method”. As evidenced by his comments on the previous strip re “evidence-based reasoning” (is there another kind of reasoning worth its salt besides evidence/logic based reasoning?) being used like a club by those big old bad rational thinkers.

    To return to that theme for a moment – FF grouped all sorts of people under his label of “rational thinkers” including environmentalists and economists. From my experience the quality of rational thought varies considerably in both of those groups (particularly the latter). I would say that to the extent that a discipline or knowledge domain makes use of the scientific method to advance its arguments, the more rational it becomes.

    Perhaps Freefox fails to understand that science as a discipline tends by DEFINITION to demand of its practitioners that they provide evidence for their propositions. Certainly within the ranks of practitioners of science there will be idealogues and people with vested interests (e.g. those “climate scientists” bankrolled by big oil to publish papers debunking climate change theory). The beauty of the scientific method is that it ultimately winnows these bad apples out, because ultimately their arguments can be refuted by those of more honest (as I would see it, truly scientific) practitioners. And so it goes. The emotions of the practitioners honest or otherwise has no bearing on the final outcome – the truth will out. Evolution theory is now a well established, demonstrably provable scientific fact; taking a position against it is akin to taking a position against the theory that light is transmitted as an electromagnetic wave or that the earth is flat; you’re free to do it but you’ll likely get the response you deserve.

  27. FreeFox says:

    Ahh… whee… sorry… *wipes eyes* ^_^

    Are there other ways of “knowing” (or rather believing to know) than the scientific method, and other ways to argue than with evidence? Well… d’uh. They are just mostly total bollocks. My issue wasn’t at all with the scientific method, just with peeps who think they are adhering to it, when really they are… not.

    (Hence: “…and other peeps who claim to be rational thinkers…”)

    Spoing, do you really think, that because someone disagrees with you on some issues, or questions some of your assumptions or conclusions, it follows that he must disagree with all your convictions? Is this really an “if you’re not with us you’re against us” situation?

    Oh, and DH: http://www.wsu.edu/~brians/errors/sceptic.html

  28. spoing says:


    “… do you really think, that …”

    >> no, I don’t. not sure where you’re coming from here.

    “Doesn’t it bother all of you collected atheist and sceptics that you are overwhelmingly still playing riffs on the original 10 commandments?”

    >> what was so original about the ten commandments? most human societies have upheld similar codes, presumably since prehistoric times. nobody said the old testament didn’t get some things right some of the time – like stating the bleeding obvious. So what?

    I suspect the secular concept of ethical behaviour is a just a fraction more sophisticated than the mosaic code.

    “Thou shalt not kill (another of God’s chosen few)”. “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s kinky burqa-clad wife”.

  29. Daoloth says:

    @FF. Things seem to have gone a bit since I asked you about Burkhas….
    I think you are right–secular thinkers also have a notion of the sacred. Human rights would be one example–epistemologically and metaphysically dubious but easy to understand and a good first approximation to a more sophisticated ethic. Another one would be naturalism/ functionalism in explanations. We (scientists) reject supernatural as being a contradiction in terms as far as explanations go and we make the fucntionalist bet when it comes to explanations.–e.g. what x is is what it does–what we can measure it to do.
    Why do’t we just come clean and admit this–and also then go on to point out the myriad wasy in which these approaches have been shown to work? E.g the whole of western technology, the power of explanatory frameworks like physics, chemistry, and biology?
    I honestly don’t know–but I suspect its because it makes it look like rationalism is one approach among others. And there isn’t really a scientific method–there is the collection of our best efforts to be measurable, checkable, repeatable and consilient. Most scientists havent much of a clue what others do–evident in the sniping and back-biting that occurs–only partly due to fighting for funding.
    The actual path of acqisition of knowledge has been very very winding indeed and has had many false starts, blind alleys, people pushing through beliefs for irreleavant reasons and occasional fraud. Presenting it as such might appear to undermine the whole thing–people want simple stories?
    Oh well- back to Burkhas. Of course, no-one in France has actually worn a Burkha. Some wear Niqabs (I heard a figure of 4000 quoted). I, like you (I suspect) am always a little bit wary of goverments banning stuff for our own good. As for outlawing social pressure to dress a particualr way (given that Niqab wearing is not enforced by our states)– blimey! That will be fun to enforce. The banning of teenage fashion idiocies will be a great place to start.

  30. spoing says:

    @daoloth “… and there isn’t really a scientific method …”

    well yes, there really IS, actually. “consisting in systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses.” The rigour of its application may vary but in general, when it gets applied, it delivers highly desirable outcomes – like well-established theories of the behaviour and origins of the physical universe, and of the origin of life itself. Yes there may be a bit of sniping and back-biting on the way … but it’s worth it.

    As to secular thinkers “having a notion of the sacred”. I would say that “sacred” too readily connotes an association with “the divine” or other spooky imaginary essence.

    Why not use a phrase like “secular thinkers have a deep reverence for the beauty and elegance of the natural world”.

  31. spoing says:


    Sorry I missed your example of human rights as an instance of “the sacred” amongst the secular. Here I would replace “sacred” with “a recognition that each human life has self-evident worth”.

  32. spoing says:

    @Daoloth thanks for clearing up the distinction between burkas and nijabs in France.

    Note my sweet greyhound bitch Cleo as an illustration of the fashionable niqab.

    If she was wearing a burka I suppose we’d have to call it a barka wouldn’t we? 🙂

  33. Daoloth says:

    1) Human rights are self-evident? Then why is this such a recent realisation? Have we only just become able to see the self-evident? Does anyone really believe this anyway? Every human life of equal value? A 24 week foetus for example?
    2) Experiment has little to do with astronomy, for example, and that does not make it not science.
    3) As for rigour of measurement–sure, of course–if anything counts as scientific method then it is the increasing precision and accuracy of measurement in each field of enquiry–and most of that is pretty recent.
    However, each area has its own standards of what counts as suffcient rigour of evidence and they often have trouble accepting others standards. Physicists sneer at chemists, chemists sneer at biologists, biologists sneer at psychologists who in turn sneer at sociologists–everyone sneers at geographers. (This last one is ok, however).
    More seriously- each area should fit together with the others–we have an existence proof that the universe does not fly apart at the seams–and our ways of carving it up represent convenience rather than (presumably) fundamental inconsistencies in reality. At least I hope so.
    This is what bothers me about what FF has to say (or what I take him to be saying)–the implication that some things must be always beyond scientific enquiry (is this what you are saying FF?)
    Cleo looks like a cute dog BTW

  34. FreeFox says:

    @Daoloth: “some things must be always beyond scientific enquiry”
    Er… no, not at all. I suppose scientific rigor isn’t always practical, esp. in everyday life situations. And I have found my gut feeling (when taken with an attempt at awareness of my own cognitive biases) often a pretty reliable guide, esp. in situations where decisions had to be made quickly and involved many factors. And I suppose there might be a theoretical ceiling to what humans are capable of understanding, though we are pretty clever at finding crutches such as mathematics, computers, or the ability to create models and analogies, to expand our capabilities in that regard. So, all in all, no, I don’t think that things *cannot* be understood scientifically.
    I do feel that our approach is still somewhat limited by cultural baggage – that physicists were stymied by the fact that photons can behave like particles and like waves was less a limit of the human brain, I think, but of the assumptions brought into the game. Daring to unlearn what we think we know may be one of the biggest hurdles to truly sceptical thinking.
    (And this is probably hardest at the Is-Ought Barrier, though I do not think that even ethics and morality are beyond scientific understanding. It is just a very complex matter, and therefor hard to unravel.)
    Spoing’s remark about the self-evidence of human rights or about some commandments “getting it right” is a case in point, I think. It isn’t whether they got it right or not, but how we know. Are we convinced of a certain ethos (e.g. thou shalt not kill) because we have actually examined the behaviour and its implications in its entirety without any pre-concieved notion of what is right and wrong… or do we arrived with our mind made up by cultural conditioning, and then apply our biases to filter the data according to our convictions?
    I am quite convinced (mostly from reading the body language of people I discussed such matters with), that it is far more often the latter. (And those who insist on their objectivity with the most vehemence seem to be the ones to be most weary of.) And this cuts both ways: Being afraid of being associated with a negative term, like “sacred” for example, will limit objectivity just as much as wishing to be seen amongst the “good” folks, like those on the side of human rights.
    Hence my conclusion that even self-styled atheists and sceptics are still much more faith-driven than they are willing to admit. But I’ll grant, it is a purely heuristic conclusion, and might be skewed by my own bias. I would like to see some convincing blinded data.

    (I’m afraid that my appreciation of canines is influenced negatively by my vulpine bias. ^_~)

  35. Daoloth says:

    @:FF Thanks for clarifying. I worried for a second that the word “reductionist” was going to put in an appearance. Thank you for not doing that to me!
    I don’t think there there could ever exist a human that has not had some cultural conditioning. However, it is interesting that different cultures have similar moral themes–its just false that anything goes for humans, and I assume that this is partly because there are no blank slates. But this is besides your main point, I think?
    What do you make of Sam Harris’ idea that we can link together neurology, evolutionary theory and a fairly rough and ready notion of harm to arrive at scientific underpinnings for moral judgements? I know that he and Haidt are somewhat at loggerheads over this–partly why I deliberately chose the word “sacred”–which means (at least) something beyond question. Are you saying, in effect, that nothing is beyond question?

  36. spoing says:

    @daoloth … your comment about geologists made me wonder … you weren’t perhaps “John the Geologist” in a previous incarnation were you???

    Re my Cleo, yes she is tremendously “cute”. I find it fascinating how natural selection has conferred/inflicted cuteness on dogs and other domesticated species – foxes too! Read the below National Geographic article for a fascinating article on the very subject of one man’s successful quest to domesticate the fox … in soviet-era Russia


  37. spoing says:

    whoops showing my age. You said geographers not geologists.

  38. FreeFox says:

    @Daoloth: Definitely. Nothing is beyond question. For the answers, however, we have to work. Often they don’t come easy.
    @Spoing: Domesticated foxes? I am shocked and appalled. Some things should be sacred! ^_~ Okay… I’ll admit… it’s kinda cute.

  39. Daoloth says:

    @ FF and Spoing. Not just artifical selection on real animals either. Teddy bears have undergone artificial selection to become cuter over the last 100 years. They started out more bear-like and growly, but the one who ticked the cute boxes sold better and got copied–probably with minimal conscious involvement.
    Chew on that creationists! (who have themselves undergone selection to become dumber in response to increasing evidence against creationism over the last 100 or so years)

  40. Daoloth says:

    @Spoing. I am not now, nor have I ever been a geologist. Not that I have anything against them. I don’t really have anything against geographers either–just a cheap and silly joke on my part, which I regret already.
    The Belyaev stuff is fascinating and makes us realise that what we previously thought about evolution not having much time to produce changes since (say) the last ice age is just plain wrong.
    There are, in turns out, all sorts of interesting adaptations–obvious ones like lactase persistence, but also less obvious ones such as selection on ASPM or MCPH1 genes, which–if true–throws lots that we thought we knew about brain evolution into a tailspin. There is a good discussion with the always conciliatory and peace-loving (ho ho) Cochrane here: http://tiny.cc/6dlqz where he is horribly rude about Steven Jay “The people’s biologist” Gould (who, it appears had been cutting class for the last 30 years)
    Plus, for those who like the technical stuff:

  41. spoing says:

    @daoloth – no offence intended, I have been called much worse 🙂

    Thanks for a fascinating link! (working through the first one). One wonders what natural selection has done to the human population over the past say, 50 millenia or so. Since the dawn of cro-magnon man say. How differently would a pre-neolithic person have reasoned or behaved to a modern person? What did their spoken language sound like? This all seems to be a world so tantalizingly close to us in time (relatively speaking) yet so very very inaccessible …

    Interesting connection to dogs again – re language development – there’s a theory that human language may have been strongly influenced by interactions with the first domestic dogs. Perhaps that’s where the penny first dropped that refining ones grunts and hoots delivered better results.

  42. steve oberski says:

    @spoing One wonders what natural selection has done to the human population over the past say, 50 millenia or so.

    It could be much faster than than.

    Evolutionary changes in northern Europeans for lactose tolerance have occured in the last 7,500 years and high altitude adaptations have occurred in Tibetans in the last 3,000 years.

    Given a human generation time of 20 years, that’s only a few hundred generations.

    See http://www.nescent.org/science/awards_summary.php?id=151 and http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/02/science/02tibet.html?_r=3

  43. Daoloth says:

    @Spoing. Do you have a link for the dog study? I have some recollection of one where domestic dogs have adapted to read human expressions.

  44. Altair IV says:

    Experimentation is quite a large part of astronomy, actually. Perhaps even the biggest part.

    I believe vagueness in the word “experiment” is causing some confusion here.

    In terms of the scientific method, experimentation is simply the step in the process where one tests hypotheses or confirms/disproves previous results. The actual types of “experiments” that can be used, however, depend on what’s being tested.

    The ideal is of course the controlled experiment, where all the relevant variables can be accounted for and possibly manipulated. Physics an chemistry are examples of areas amenable to this kind of formal experimentation.

    For fields like astronomy and biology, controlled experimentation is often (but not always) impossible or impractical, but you can still use “natural experiments”; observational studies, statistical surveys, comparison to computer models and the like.

    Incidentally, controlled experimentation can sometimes be done in astronomy to test the principles underlying the theories. Lab tests on impact cratering are often performed, for example.

    (Although it’s not currently the best-written article, IMO.)
    …and a nice sampling of historical experiments in various fields:

  45. gk4c4 says:

    FreeFox says:
    April 14, 2011 at 1:00 pm

    FF is one truly disgruntled religionista ….
    true color of the fox ..

  46. Daoloth says:

    @ Altair. Sure, I agree–and you are missing out the biggest experimental part of astronomy–the LHC, which comes closest to actually being a controlled experiment.
    My point is that the scientific enterprise doesn’t just boil down to one set of methods and that untold confusion (and squeals of “that’s not proper science”) results when people insist on the use of the methods they are familiar with in areas not suited to them.
    My claim is that science is much more piecemeal than the official simplified story–and none the worse for that!
    For example a large number of mathematicians and physicists are guided by what they (sometimes explicity) call an aesthetic sense. Einstein famously remarked that if Eddington’s observations hadn’t supported relativity then so much the worse for observation. Adn he would have been right.

  47. spoing says:


    further very interesting perspectives on the man/wolf (dog) connection here:


  48. carolita says:

    I saw him wink. He was asking for it.

  49. Daoloth says:

    @Spoing. Thanks for those. I liked her ideas about human/pet co-evolution–and pets do seem to be a cross-cultural universal as well as domestication. Curiously, the idea that there is an absolute split between humans and other animals seems to be one of the biggests barriers from anti-evoltionary types– and not just the religious ones either.

  50. Lord Elric says:

    Well, I’m not the world’s most passionate guy
    But when I looked in her eyes well I almost fell for my Mo-la
    M-M-Mola, M-M-Mola
    Mola, M-M-Mola, M-M-Mola…

    Girls will be boys and boys will be girls
    It’s a mixed up muddled up, shook up world
    Except for Mola, M-M-Mola…

    Mola, M-M-Mola, M-M-Mola
    Mola, M-M-Mola, M-M-Mola
    Mola, M-M-Mola, M-M-Mola…

    Nice twist Author…by the way, I love my new coffee cup…Thanks…

  51. spoing says:


    Indeed, the love of pets is a beautiful cross-cultural universal … for some of us anyway …


  52. Daoloth says:

    @Spoing. Ye gods! That has to be exaggerated…doesn’t it? If not–eek.

  53. spoing says:

    @daoloth … unfortunately most of what she says re Muslim attitudes to dogs is pretty accurate. Unsure whether the Saddam hot-poker thing is apocryphal or not. I do think her self-righteous attitude could do with a little adjusting though. e.g. Americans have no compunctions about consuming the steroid saturated flesh of cattle who eke out their miserable lives in the bovine equivalent of concentration camps.

  54. spoing says:

    Funny how many “L” words connoting sexual wantonness.


  55. solomon says:

    Hell is real..Now gaze at the Sun. Now are you convinced that Hell is real. Now try to convince that you will be thrown into it…

  56. spoing says:

    I’ve been doing a bit of research and I think that on second thoughts I may be able to come to terms with burkas now.


  57. spoing – you forgot lesbian – the mopst wonton and brazen of all, for it wholely excludes males – and these words are usually employed to limit and curtail female sexuality

  58. Daoloth

    even adult human life isn’t equal – as evidenced by that the laws do not apply equally to ordinary people and celebrities

    in fact, the fact of celebrities shows that we are not equal

  59. Daoloth says:

    @ Spoing http://tiny.cc/2irge
    Now this is getting kinky…
    A special prize to anyone who can find a site combining S & M, bestiality, rubber & Islam? Polish my furry Burka bitch?

  60. Unruly Simian says:

    Ewwww, I had to sanitize my mouse after that search!!!!!

  61. spoing says:

    @daoloth thanks for that …. wow, yet another fascinating parallel freakworld … My old mate Frank Zappa would surely have been moved to write an excellent song about this! What a pity he had to leave us prematurely. One wonders how latex lady “accidentally destroyed” her old burka.

    Do you think Mo’s is a latex ??

  62. spoing says:


    It is interesting how sexual depravity seems to be the domain of males. “Lechery” for example is something only ever associated with men, somehow.

    Which is what kind of makes the humour in this particular edition of J&M. When did a woman ever look at a man lecherously? It just doesn’t compute, nobody takes the suggestion seriously. Do lesbians lech over one another? Or are their urges of a more elevated kind?

  63. Stephen Turner says:

    @spoing: “When did a woman ever look at a man lecherously?
    It’s common.

    Experiments: computer simulations are also common in astronomy and elsewhere.

  64. spoing says:

    @stephen turner

    thanks for correcting my naivete stephen … i can’t say I’ve heard of many lecherous women but I look forward to finding out about them!

  65. Some Matt or other says:

    Lechery is in the eye of the receiver. Many a stardom has been built on a young woman’s ability to project lustful expressions at will. I have a particularly spirited female friend who gazes with a searingly intense look when she spots an attractive man. It’s not even with the intent to communicate; I’ve seen it happen when her object had no idea he was being watched.


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