Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!

5 10 2013

So it turns out domestic cats share over 95 percent of their genomes with tigers.

Of course they do.





And I said “nothing”

7 02 2013

Was I gaslighting myself?

I was sure I had seen this book review at one of the places I frequent online, and I didn’t write it down or bookmark it, so that meant I’d be able to find it easily when I decided to go back and use it as a springboard for a post.

Except I couldn’t find the damned thing.

Slate? Nope. HuffPo? Nope. I knew it wasn’t Sully (who’s being a real prick about the whole retail servitude thing, by the way), wasn’t TNC. Someplace on the Atlantic site? Books? Health & Medicine? Tech? Nope nope nope. Didn’t think it was ThinkProgess or CrookedTimber, but checked anyway—nada. Christianity Today? Fred Clark? Nuh-uh. Really hoped it wasn’t Brad DeLong or Marginal Revolution or Pharyngula because it would be a total pain in the ass to try to dig it out.

It didn’t help that I didn’t know the title and I didn’t know the authors—although I did know there were two authors.

And I did know the topic: something about genetics and society. So, off to Amazon to try to track down the book. “Human genetics” didn’t get me there; neither did “genes” or “genetics” or these subjects coupled with “2013” (I knew the book was new). Nothin’. Same at Barnes & Noble.

What gives?! Did I NOT see a review of a recent book on genes and society? Was I imagining all of this? Jay-zeus Christie.

So: onward to the Giant Omnivorous Omniscient Grabbing of Life and Everything search, with different terms. At some point I plugged in “genetics ethics” and there on the top of the third page, a piece from the Guardian:

Genetics | Science | The Guardian

Video (5min 28sec), 30 Jan 2013: Hilary Rose, co-author of Genes, Cells and Brains, argues that we should treat the medical claims made for genetic research

Bingo! Hilary Rose! So back to the aforementioned sites and plug in Hilary Rose and. . . NOTHING! DAMMIT.

And then I thought: What about The Daily Beast? They do books, don’t they? And lo! There it was:

The Selfish Gene: The Broken Promises of the Human Genome Project

Jan 29, 2013 2:39 PM EST

What did the Human Genome Project give us? Better shampoo and billions of dollars’ worth of economic projects, but what happened to improving our lives? By Michael Thomsen.

There is a point to all of this, I promise you, but since it’s really just another way for me to lash myself over the stupid, stupid decisions I’ve made regarding my dissertation and career, I think I’ll save that for another post.

For this one, let’s end on the happy thought that I am not, in fact, crazy. At least on this.





Dumb and dumber

30 11 2011

Complete and utter blog theft from Henry Farrell at Crooked Timber, but so nicely done, I couldn’t pass it up:

Gedankenexperiment

by Henry on November 29, 2011

Let’s imagine that we lived in an alternative universe where some of the more noxious nineteenth century pseudo-science regarding ‘inverts’ and same-sex attraction had survived into the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Let us further stipulate that the editor of a nominally liberal opinion magazine had published one purported effort to ‘prove’ via statistics that same-sex attraction was a form of communicable psychosis, which invariably resulted in national degeneracy when it was allowed to persist. One of this essay’s co-authors had chased sissies in his youth, but claimed he had not realized that this was homophobic; he also had occasion to observe the lack of real men on the streets of Paris, and to deplore the resulting sapping of virility in the French national character. His efforts, and the efforts of fellow researchers (all of the latter funded by and/or directly involved with the Institute for the Suppression of Homosexual Filth) succeeded in creating a significant public controversy. Some public commentators embraced the same-sex-attraction-as-psychosis argument because they were, themselves, homophobes, others more plausibly because they were incompetent, or because they enjoyed being contrarians, or both. This, despite the fact that the statistical arguments on which these extreme claims depended were demonstrably incompetent.

Now, let us suppose that the same editor who helped release this tide of noxious homophobia in the first place still played a significant role in American public debate, and still refused to recognize that he might, actually, be wrong on the facts.  . . .

I wonder, if we lived in such a world, what Andrew Sullivan would think of that editor?

(Go read the whole thing—and definitely click through the embedded links.)

A fine response to Sully’s inability not only to wipe the shit from his shoes, but even to admit he stepped in it.

There are, of course, substantive responses to Mr. Sullivan’s flogging the pc-egalitarianism-is-killing-research-into-racial-differences-in-IQ-and-I-am-brave-for-pointing-the-way-to-truth-justice-and-the-American-way line he periodically burps up, even while admitting that “I certainly don’t have profound knowledge of the deep research of experts in the field.”

Or, you know, any knowledge, beyond that of an editor publishing the execrable Murray-Herrnstein “bell curve” thesis that blacks are dumber than whites (even as he complains that “No one is arguing that ‘that black people are dumber than white,’ “—oh yes, Mr. Andrew,  these two ‘no ones’ did exactly that).

Anyway, here’s the entire stupid thread thus far (original, response, responseresponse, response), as well as smart rebuttals by TNC here and here (read especially the comments for links to research from people who do have “profound knowledge” of the field).

In any case anyone is listening, yes, I believe that intelligence has a biological substrate, that evidence points to a multifactorial construction of intelligence, and that as a general matter there are genetic differences across populations, differences worth studying.

But that’s a damn sight away from sloppily heated declamations on race and IQ, refusal to consider the definitional (and thus methodological) problems with the terms “race” and “intelligence”, or, for that matter, on the role of “truth” in the research enterprise.

Pfft. Platonists.





Yesterday’s a day away

7 09 2009

It’s about time.

All those boxes of files, the folders full of print outs of journal articles, cut-outs from newspapers, clippings from The New Yorker and The Nation, transcripts from The NewsHour (and before, the MacNeill/Lehrer NewsHour), Gina Kolata and Elizabeth Farnsworth and Lawrence Wright. Time to go.

Start easy: start with the ‘Media/Polls’ box. There’s only one of those, and you know you want to get rid of those, right? You haven’t looked at its contents in six years, not since you left Montreal, not since you threw a shovelful of dirt over the remains of your academic career and lit out for your life.

One box, shouldn’t take long. One less to cart to wherever it is you’ll go next. And it’s on your list.

The first folder: ‘Media–to be filed’. What? I thought these were mostly polls, old and outdated and easily disposed of, save for pulling out the staples or off the binder clips and reshuffling the paper for reuse as the back end of lecture notes. Gallup and Roper and whatnot.

But here’s a piece by Sallie Tisdale, and another by Annie Dillard and another by an old colleague, Carl Elliott. Carefully annotated with publication date, volume, number. Haven’t read any of these likely since I yanked them out of Harper’s and The Atlantic 7, 8, 12 years ago.

Next up: Cloning. All the Times‘ pieces, the television transcripts. Here are a few pieces by Leon Kass, my Pilot-penned scrawls arguing with him in the margins.

Here is the stillborn promise of books never to be written, articles never to be submitted. Here is my dead career, never carefully tended, finally abandoned to die, mummified in filed slices.

And my career as an academic is dead, no question about it. Oh, I stroll through the cemetery regularly as an adjunct, but ‘adjunct’ is just another term for dead-end job.

I know this. I know this. I knew what I was doing six years ago, even if I didn’t know the consequences of what I was doing, even if I had no idea what I was doing. Still, I knew that the slow climb from assistant to associate to full professor was not for me, that I would not end an emeritus.

Even now that I know the consequences, I can’t say I was wrong to have dropped off the tenure track. Sure, I might even have managed the climb, secured myself in some out-of-the-way department somewhere, but it wouldn’t have been my life. A role, only.

It will be good for me, finally, to have finished with these files, to have disarticulated the stories and narratives within. But I know they meant something, once, that they mattered, once, and it grieves me to put it all behind me.

I will feel lighter, when I am done, however heavy I feel now.

Lighter, yes.








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