Steve Gould was the Darwinist we were all supposed to like because …

… he said it was okay to believe in something beyond 'Cratworld, as long as we let science types like him do whatever they want, sign the chit, and shut up (remember NOMA, or "non-overlapping magisteria"). Plus, he wasn't exactly sure if he was a Darwinist. And he appeared on the Simpsons. From PLOS Biology we learn (June 7, 2011):

1Stephen Jay Gould, the prominent evolutionary biologist and science historian, argued that “unconscious manipulation of data may be a scientific norm” because “scientists are human beings rooted in cultural contexts, not automatons directed toward external truth” [1], a view now popular in social studies of science [2]–[4]. In support of his argument Gould presented the case of Samuel George Morton, a 19th-century physician and physical anthropologist famous for his measurements of human skulls. Morton was considered the objectivist of his era, but Gould reanalyzed Morton's data and in his prize-winning book The Mismeasure of Man [5] argued that Morton skewed his data to fit his preconceptions about human variation. Morton is now viewed as a canonical example of scientific misconduct. But did Morton really fudge his data? Are studies of human variation inevitably biased, as per Gould, or are objective accounts attainable, as Morton attempted? We investigated these questions by remeasuring Morton's skulls and reexamining both Morton's and Gould's analyses. Our results resolve this historical controversy, demonstrating that Morton did not manipulate data to support his preconceptions, contra Gould. In fact, the Morton case provides an example of how the scientific method can shield results from cultural biases.

So this can be published now? Here's more:

Gould himself let political bias influence his scientific conclusions. He set out to demonstrate everybody is the same, that any differences are negligible, and that anyone who concluded there are meaningful differences in brain size were not only wrong but also stupid, depraved, evil, and racist, etc. And he did this to the exclusion of any opposing data or conclusion. He hurt a lot of people in the process. Perhaps he felt he had enough scientific credibility to burn in order to make himself into a hero–instead of a scientist. But I wouldn't want to start mind reading.

Gould wasn't worse than anyone else, just more noted and quoted.

Denyse O'Leary is co-author of The Spiritual Brain.

Does science need fewer bad boys and more adults?

In Scientific American, Leonard Susskind is profiled as the “Bad Boy of Physics”: "Leonard Susskind rebelled as a teen and never stopped. Today he insists that reality may forever be beyond reach of our understanding" (Peter Byrne, June 21, 2011),

Stanford University physicist Leonard Susskind revels in discovering ideas that transform the status quo in physics. Forty years ago he co-founded string theory, which was initially derided but eventually became the leading candidate for a unified theory of nature. For years he disputed Stephen Hawking's conjecture that black holes do not merely swallow objects but grind them up beyond recovery, in violation of quantum mechanics. Hawking eventually conceded. And he helped to develop the modern conception of parallel universes, based on what he dubbed the "landscape" of string theory. It spoiled physicists' dream to explain the universe as the unique outcome of basic principles. Physicists seeking to understand the deepest levels of reality now work within a framework largely of Susskind's making. But a funny thing has happened along the way. Susskind now wonders whether physicists can understand reality.

Is this a pattern or what?

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The real difference between humans and apes – well, one of them, anyway

At New Scientist, Michael Marshall reports, “It is human nature to cooperate with strangers” (13 June 2011):

It seems humans really are the cooperative ape. A nomadic society in east Africa that lacks a centralised government can still regularly muster armies of several hundred warriors, most of whom are strangers to each other.

These would be Turkana men, raising a crowd to risk their lives rustling cattle. Marshall observers,

We are the only species prepared to cooperate in large numbers with unrelated individuals. The feeling was that such behaviour was a recent development, requiring a centralised political authority. Now it seems possible that such cooperation could have predated these organisational structures and may have featured in numerous large prehistoric societies hundreds of thousands of years ago.

In that case, we are allowed to believe that such co-operation exists.

Interesting that researchers Mathew and Boyd – instead of theorizing from baboons and vervet monkeys and then making an announcement that lies in the face of everyday observation – observed humans in real life (the Turkana here standing in for Cave Man).

I have noted the same quality in a starkly non-violent situation: A Toronto subway shutdown at rush hour. If humans have an “innate tendency” to interpersonal violence or lack of co-operativeness, the shutdown should demonstrate it – thousands of people from all over the globe suddenly stranded together at a major urban intersection. What happened? Why? 

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A tale of two students: The “rebel” who knows the Establishment is right vs. the “problem” kid who wants to think critically

Some think them a mirror of contemporary American society.

Recently, the Clergy Letter Project's Michael Zimmerman (getting the clergy to help sell Darwinism to their congregations) was publicizing Louisiana student Zack Kopplin's effort to repeal Louisiana's "discussion allowed" law on controversial issues in science:

Zack hasn't been content to simply complain about an educationally irresponsible law, however. His organizational skills have been nothing short of phenomenal and he's gathered a collection of supporters second to none. His repeal effort has been endorsed by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the largest general science organization in the world with over 10 million members; the National Association of Biology Teachers, the country's main organization for biological educators;

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Animal rights philosopher Peter Singer expands on why he is backing away from his famous philosophy

In The Guardian (25 May 2011), Mark Vernon reports on Princeton's Peter Singer's gradual coming round to the view that, if there is no objective truth, morality – and specifically the immorality of ignoring climate change – cannot be grounded in anything.

Speaking to a group of Christian ethicists at Oxford, Singer said that his current focus is climate change, but he sees that the "preference utilitarianism" he was previously comfortable with,

… runs into problems because climate change requires that we consider the preferences not only of existing human beings, but of those yet to come. And we can have no confidence about that, when it comes to generations far into the future. Perhaps they won't much care about Earth because the consumptive delights of life on other planets will be even greater. Perhaps they won't much care because a virtual life, with its brilliant fantasies, will seem far more preferable than a real one. What this adds up to is that preference utilitarianism can provide good arguments not to worry about climate change, as well as arguments to do so.

Worse, some would add,

(See also: "Ed Feser on Peter Singer's shift, and "Objective morality and Peter Singer.")

it untethers climate change concerns from objectivity – either moral or evidentiary.

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A new term for people who trash books unread …

The recent contest at Uncommon Descent, for a free copy of Don Johnson’s Probability’s Nature and Nature’s Probability, asks “What do you call a guy who reviews/trashes a book without reading it?” It goes to homerj1 at 3 for

The review is a noview and the reviewer is a noviewer.

This won because it can be used effortlessly in a sentence, as in:

Prof. Retro Darwin's noview of biochemist Michael Behe's latest …

Rev. Darwin Santa, noviewer of Steve Meyer's …

Recently, Dimbo Darwin, science writer, noviewed Bill Dembski's latest …

Ease of use is important. And dropping the pretense of reading makes for more honest communication:

He didn't read it because he wouldn't like it and wouldn't learn anything from it, plus he can find an audience who wants to hear from him for precisely that reason. Don't forget how many people out there know they are "for science" because they believe any nonsense talked in Darwin's name.

For other interesting entries, here.

Also, must beauty queen be Darwinists now?

Prominent evolutionary psychologist tries to fix a has-been town and its religion

Denyse O'Leary is co-author of The Spiritual Brain.