All posts filed under: Science

Whatever It Is, It Ain’t Aliens

From my knowledge of the world that I see around me, I think that it is much more likely that the reports of flying saucers are the results of the known irrational characteristics of terrestrial intelligence than of the unknown rational efforts of extra-terrestrial intelligence. ~Richard P. Feynman, The Character of Physical Law   On June 25th, the Office of the US Director of National Intelligence created a national stir by releasing a long awaited, if short, nine-page unclassified report entitled, “Preliminary Assessment: Unidentified Aerial Phenomena.” It was created under the direction of the Intelligence Authorization act of 2021 to assess the threat posed by unidentified areal phenomena, and the results of the Department of Defense Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force (UAPTF) effort to understand this threat. Put in more popular parlance, it was an official government report about UFOs. The report came almost 74 years to the day after a pilot flying near Mt. Rainier sighted a string of nine “shiny unidentified flying objects,” which the press reported as flying saucers, launching the modern …

Looking for COVID-19 ‘Miracle Drugs’? We Already Have Them. They’re Called Vaccines

Bret Weinstein, a former professor of biology at Evergreen State College, is best known for being hounded off his own campus in 2017 by a horde of social-justice zombies who themselves seemed to resemble nothing so much as a lab accident gone wrong. Having become a martyr of hyper-progressive ideological mania, Weinstein resigned, sued, won, starred in a documentary about the experience, and embarked upon a new career as a podcaster. Since then, Weinstein has become both a symbol and a voice for millions of Americans, on the Left and Right alike, who are unnerved that a handful of Silicon Valley oligopolists have acquired the power to set the boundaries of acceptable speech, if not formally, then effectively. Weinstein has become an influential public figure, with 350,000 subscribers on YouTube. Many consider his voice a credible one in life-and-death debates about the COVID-19 pandemic. Recently, Weinstein has graduated from entertaining theories that might not be right but could do no harm, to theories that cannot be right and are sure to do harm. Because of …

Mate Selection for Modernity

“All things in nature occur mathematically.” ~ Rene Descartes Dating and the process of mate selection have changed. The rise of hook-up culture, proliferation of dating apps, and ever-increasing age of first marriage are evidence of this. This current situation can be summarized along four parameters: Increasing female achievement. Growing variability in male status and competence. An evolutionary desire among females to marry up. The globalization of the sexual marketplace and resultant collapse of local status hierarchies. Together, these conditions have created pronounced imbalances in the modern sexual marketplace. Put plainly, an increasing cohort of successful women are chasing a shrinking number of high-value, commitment-averse men. At a cursory level, much of this can be explained by sex ratios and partner availability. However, the underlying structure of modern mate selection is fundamentally mathematical. For us to truly understand the causes and consequences of the modern sexual marketplace, a bit of math is required. Chads, dads, and hypergamy Hypergamy is an evolved sexual strategy where individuals mate with and/or marry those most capable of providing long …

Standing Up to the Gender Ideologues: a Quillette Editorial

On June 23rd, Britain’s Royal Academy of Arts put out a carefully worded five-paragraph media statement regarding German-born textile artist Jess de Wahls. “We have apologised to Jess de Wahls for the way we have treated her and do so again publicly now,” read the RA communiqué. “We had no right to judge her views … This betrayed our most important core value—the protection of free speech.” The controverted speech in question was contained in a 2019 blog post, in which de Wahls wrote that “a woman is an adult human female (not an identity or feeling),” and that trans women are “biological males [who] choose to live as a woman, or believe they actually are women.” These are statements that almost every person knows to be true, but which have become unfashionable to say out loud in highly progressive subcultures. And so, when a handful of people raised a fuss about de Wahls’ work being sold in the RA gift shop, Academy officials not only purged de Wahl from their inventory earlier this month, …

The Sperm Count Culture War

Attempts to make science conform to ideology have enjoyed a long and dispiriting history. For many centuries, religion was the main perpetrator, and scientists and philosophers who ran afoul of the Church and the Inquisition were burned at the stake or left to rot in prison. In the early 17th century, the astronomer Galileo was convicted of heresy by the Roman Catholic Church for daring to suggest that the Earth revolved around the Sun. His book containing the evidence he had amassed was banned and he was sentenced to prison, and then spent the last nine years of his life under house arrest. In the 1930s, under the banner of “scientific socialism,” the Soviet Politburo imposed the pseudoscientific theories of Trofim Lysenko. Lysenko rejected modern genetics in favor of crackpot ideas that promised to usher in a Soviet utopia. Scientists and farmers who dissented were persecuted and ended up dying in labor camps. As a result, Soviet agriculture was set back for decades, leading to millions of deaths and food shortages. The lesson: Just because …

The Importance of Understanding the Nonspecific Effects of Vaccines

The world’s attention is presently focused on the mRNA vaccines, which may turn out to be the most revolutionary vaccines ever produced. However, very few doctors, and certainly not the public, have any awareness at all of the nonspecific effects of vaccines (NSEs). The specific effect of a vaccine is immunity to a target infection; the nonspecific effect refers to the off-target effects of all vaccines. These can be positive or negative. The beneficial effects are improved immunity to a variety of infections and all-round health, and the negative effects are the inverse—a predisposition to off-target diseases and immune dysregulation, whilst still conferring immunity to the targeted pathogen. These discoveries have surprised the scientific community and left researchers scratching their heads as to how and why such important effects could have been overlooked by epidemiologists for over a century. It began with observations made in the small West African nation of Guinea-Bissau from 1979. Anthropologist Peter Aaby was sent to investigate malnutrition in the country but found none. Instead, he ran headlong into a measles …

Understanding the Unidentified

An advantage of having worked in the skeptical business for 30 years is institutional memory that enables me to place current claims and controversies into historical context. So, when the New York Times published their article on “The Pentagon’s Mysterious U.F.O. Program” in December 2017, and CBS’s 60 Minutes reported that “UFOs Regularly Spotted in Restricted U.S. Airspace” in May 2021—the reports bracketing the latest wave of apparent sightings—I immediately recalled similar waves dating back to the 1890s groundswell of “mystery airships” (later identified as dirigibles). Historian Mike Dash’s description of the 1896–1897 reports in his book Borderlands: The Ultimate Exploration of the Unknown will sound familiar to those energized by the latest round of UFO videos: Not only were [the mystery airships] bigger, faster and more robust than anything then produced by the aviators of the world; they seemed to be able to fly enormous distances, and some were equipped with giant wings … The files of almost 1,500 newspapers from across the United States have been combed for reports, an astonishing feat of …

In Defense of the Universal Values of Science

The progress of modern science has been a truly global phenomenon, a fact worth celebrating, just as the technological fruits of science have, to varying degrees, impacted the lives of everyone on the globe.  Scientific breakthroughs have paid no heed to geographic boundaries. Modern algebra owes its origins to 10th century Arabic mathematicians. Around the same time Chinese astronomers recorded an early supernova that formed the Crab Nebula, even when no record of this remarkable object was made in Europe. In spite of the attempts by British astrophysicist Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington to quash the impact of an otherwise unheralded young Indian physicist, Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, the latter’s groundbreaking work on stellar evolution altered our picture of stars so significantly that he was later awarded the Nobel Prize for his work. Nevertheless, the postmodern notion that empirical scientific knowledge is somehow culturally derived, with little or no objective underpinning, has continued to persist in various social science and literary corners of academia far removed from the rush of scientific progress.    Until recently, it seemed inconceivable …

Trauma and the Psychedelic Renaissance

Military veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and the wildly imaginative British writer and philosopher Aldous Huxley are increasingly finding common ground. In 1954, Huxley published The Doors of Perception, a short monograph detailing his psychedelic experiences on mescaline the previous May, and the book became a bible for the “turn on, tune in, drop out” movement of the 1960s counterculture. Now, the arguments Huxley made in defence of psychoactive drug use are being consulted by doctors exploring innovative ways to treat psychological wounds and mental health problems resulting from military service and trauma. Research into the therapeutic potential of drugs such as MDMA (methylenedioxymethamphetamine) and LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) collapsed when the drugs were made illegal worldwide in the early ’70s. However, the merits of psychedelic science are currently undergoing an international reappraisal and renaissance, gaining media attention and traction among scientists, doctors, and in the wider public sphere. Psychedelics first appeared on my radar after I left the British Army in 2010 following tours in Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan. As I wrestled with …

The Social Determinants of Health: Critique and Implications

Of all the healthcare topics in vogue these days, the phrase “social determinants of health” (SDOH) has enjoyed an increasingly prominent place in both practice and policy. First inspired by Geoffrey Rose’s 1992 book, The Strategy for Preventative Medicine, and then mainstreamed by the WHO in the early 2000s, the term is now ubiquitous in public health literature. The CDC has defined SDOH as “conditions in the places where people live, learn, work, and play that affect a wide range of health and quality-of-life risks and outcomes.” Under such a broad definition, it is difficult to disentangle the difference between SDOH and the mere happenstance of life, or to grasp why this is an area in which public health officials should be so heavily involved. While such factors undoubtedly matter for health outcomes, the slanted narrative in this brand of literature omits some important social influences on health. This is particularly puzzling given the widening net experts have cast around these problems. Without assessing such issues in SDOH literature, it is impossible to know if …