Wishing can make it so … or maybe not, if this is about monkeys

by Denyse O’Leary

In, "Document Sheds Light on Investigation at Harvard (Chronicle Review, August 19, 2010)," Tom Bartlett reports that Harvard has told evolutionary psychologist Marc D. Hauser to explain issues around a few of his journal articles:

The experiment tested the ability of rhesus monkeys to recognize sound patterns. Researchers played a series of three tones (in a pattern like A-B-A) over a sound system. After establishing the pattern, they would vary it (for instance, A-B-B) and see whether the monkeys were aware of the change. If a monkey looked at the speaker, this was taken as an indication that a difference was noticed. 

The method has been used in experiments on primates and human infants. Mr. Hauser has long worked on studies that seemed to show that primates, like rhesus monkeys or cotton-top tamarins, can recognize patterns as well as human infants do. Such pattern recognition is thought to be a component of language acquisition.
Researchers watched videotapes of the experiments and "coded" the results, meaning that they wrote down how the monkeys reacted. As was common practice, two researchers independently coded the results so that their findings could later be compared to eliminate errors or bias.
According to the document that was provided to The Chronicle, the experiment in question was coded by Mr. Hauser and a research assistant in his laboratory. A second research assistant was asked by Mr. Hauser to analyze the results. When the second research assistant analyzed the first research assistant's codes, he found that the monkeys didn't seem to notice the change in pattern. In fact, they looked at the speaker more often when the pattern was the same. In other words, the experiment was a bust.
But Mr. Hauser's coding showed something else entirely: He found that the monkeys did notice the change in pattern—and, according to his numbers, the results were statistically significant. If his coding was right, the experiment was a big success.
Well, the long and short of it is that no one in Hauser’s own lab could replicate his results.

The research that was the catalyst for the inquiry ended up being tabled, but only after additional problems were found with the data. In a statement to Harvard officials in 2007, the research assistant who instigated what became a revolt among junior members of the lab, outlined his larger concerns: "The most disconcerting part of the whole experience to me was the feeling that Marc was using his position of authority to force us to accept sloppy (at best) science."

Hauser was found to be solely responsible for the discrepancies, and as of the date of the Chronicle Review article, was on leave.
The whole story is testimony to the sheer need some have to prove that apes and monkeys are just fuzzy people or we are just naked apes. Life, whatever it is, is not that simple. According to Hauser’s Edge bio,

MARC D. HAUSER, an evolutionary psychologist and biologist, is Harvard College Professor, Professor of Psychology and Program in Neurosciences, and Director of Primate Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory. He is the author of The Evolution of Communication, Wild Minds: What Animals Think, and Moral Minds: How Nature Designed Our Universal Sense of Right and Wrong.

[ … ]
Along with Irv Devore, he teaches the Evolution of Human Behavior class, a Core Course at Harvard with 500 undergraduate students. The interdisciplinary course, "Science B29" (nickname: "The Sex Course"), has been running for 30 years, was started by Devore and Robert Trivers, and is the second most popular course on campus, behind "Econ 10". Section teachers over the years comprise a who's who of leading thinkers and include people such as John Tooby and Leda Cosmides, and Sarah B. Hrdy. In 1997-98, he sponsored a trial run of "Edge University" in which the students in Science B29 received Edge mailing as part of required reading in the course.
Re his book, Wild Minds: What Animals Think, it was what humans think that proved his undoing.
See also:

Continue reading

Abortion: It’s Not Just a Woman’s Choice

Raquel Welch made a surprising (for her) statement last week. Jerry Janquart excerpted this little gem she wrote in It's Sex O'clock in America:

"Seriously, folks, if an aging sex symbol like me starts waving the red flag of caution over how low moral standards have plummeted, you know it's gotta be pretty bad. In fact, it's precisely because of the sexy image I've had that it's important for me to speak up and say: Come on girls! Time to pull up our socks! We're capable of so much better."

Raquel_sd457802 That's remarkable in itself coming from a 60s sex icon. But I want to pick up on something else. She mentioned the pivotal moment in her life when she first became pregnant:

"Even though I was married to the baby's father, Jim Welch, I wasn't prepared for this development. … At the time, we were 19-year-old newlyweds, struggling to make ends meet. But he was unflinching in his desire to keep our baby and his positive, upbeat attitude about the whole prospect turned everything around. I have always loved Jim for how he responded in that moment."

When she became pregnant, she was afraid, confused, and vulnerable, but she found strength in her husband and his support. This enabled her to not only carry the pregnancy to term but opened her heart up to the wonder of becoming a parent:

"During my pregnancy, I came to realize that this process was not about me. I was just a spectator to the metamorphosis that was happening inside my womb so that another life could be born. It came down to an act of self-sacrifice, especially for me, as a woman. But both of us were fully involved, not just for that moment, but for the rest of our lives. And it's scary. You may think you can skirt around the issue and dodge the decision, but I've never known anyone who could. Jim and I had two beautiful children who've been an ongoing blessing to both of us."

As a mother of three children, I can tell you, pregnancy is emotionally and physically overwhelming. Another life has taken over your body – it's both wonderful and terrifying. But no matter how "together" you may otherwise be, you will also be, at some level or another, a mess in need of someone to lean on.

Which leads to my point about men and abortion:
Her husband was there for her and their children. Because of his moral backbone, their two children lived to see the light of day and became "an ongoing blessing" to both of them.

Men, listen up: If you become the father of an unborn child, you are that child's advocate, and you may be its lifeline. Speak up, be a man, and be the father your child and your child's mother need you to be.

You'll never regret it.

Score Two for Phil Mickelson

When Phil Mickelson
won the Masters last weekend, his wife Amy was at the 18th hole waiting
to share the moment. When Mickelson came off the green, there was Amy, wearing,
in the words of one commentator, “a smile bigger than her sunglasses.” They
hugged, both of them in tears, for a very long time.

Phil Mickelson and Amy Mickelson Ahhh … the thrill of
victory. Yes, victory is thrilling, but there’s a story behind this
story that transcends sports. Amy was diagnosed with breast cancer last year,
and for eleven months has been undergoing chemo and radiation. She has not
travelled at all during that time, but mustered her strength to see his final
strokes that day. “I want to recognize my family,”' Mickelson said, choking up
during the victory ceremony. “My wife has been through a lot this year, and it
means so much to us to share some joy together. She's an incredible wife and an
incredible mother, and she has been an inspiration for me this past year in
seeing what she went through. I'm so happy that she and our three kids are
here. It was such an emotional week, and I'm having a hard time putting it into

Tigerwoodsfamily640_doomsday_604x341.gif There was another
media sensation at the Masters. Tiger Woods returned to professional golf after
having taken several months off in the wake of publicity concerning his serial adulterous
affairs. His estranged wife, Elin, and the couple’s two children did not attend
the Masters this year.

On display that last day were two very different approaches to love, sex, and marriage. One takes an anything-goes approach. This  is the view we see in pop culture, for example in Glee and The Big Bang Theory. Sex is what it's all about, and if it feels good, do it.

The other views sex
as a part of marriage and marriage as a solemn commitment. Sex is good, but it also
serves a higher purpose – that of bonding a couple together and preserving the
integrity of the family for the resulting children.

What was really on
display at the 18th hole was the inevitable outcome of each. The
Woods family, except for Tiger, was absent and their future remains uncertain. Ironically,
the Anything-Goes approach to sex inevitably leads to broken relationships and
fractured families. Just look at Tiger.

Phil_mickelson_and_wife_amy_with_children_golf_hero_green_celebrity_getty The Mickelson family
has endured pain and difficulty too, and their future is also uncertain, but in an
entirely different way. They remain an integral unit, and at the Masters, they
shared their joys and sorrows as one family.

commentator noted
, “Finally, we have some justice in the world. The right
man won.” I say he’d already won before setting foot on the course.

Advice, Devolved


Over at mercatornet.com Denyse O’leary brings to our attention a column in The Guardian that is something like a Dear Abby advice column that intends to “shine the cold light of evolutionary psychology on reader’s problems” by way of looking at the behaviors of chimpanzees and bonobos. Denyse writes:

The hand of popular culture is far more evident in the series than the paw prints of common ancestors. In her first column, addressing a woman who can’t decide between two men, Carole advises that “some Darwinists might say” that she her best approach is to commit surreptitious adultery. After all, “A worldwide study of sexual preferences revealed that females feel more secure if they have a mate in reserve. It seems you have the best of both worlds.”

Or the worst, if one or both of those guys find out – historically, it is a reliable way for a woman to get herself killed. And in fairness Carole does warn her. Still, we are also informed, in the next reply that “We have not evolved to stay with one mate for the whole of our adult lives.”

But Carole’s tone changes abruptly when the advice seeker is a guy who wants to fool around. Suddenly, the agony aunt is all a lather of concern for the poor wife, and we learn that “The sentiments of love and guilt are not Christian hangovers, they are evolved, higher cognitive emotions. These sentiments are adapted to best guide us through life.” Whatever the problem is, evolutionary psychology can not only explain it, but explain it within the comfort zone of the glossy women’s mags.

I found Denyse’s observation here to be particularly insightful. I’m starting to get tired of this supposed “cold reality” of evolutionary science. What could possibly be warmer than an all encompassing blanket theory which one can use to snuggle up to all their own personal causes and grudges?

SIECUS and Sex-Ed Subterfuge

A new study concludes that abstinence-only sex-education actually works, reducing sexual activity among teens by a third. Yesterday, the Washington Post quoted John Jemmott, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania who headed the study, "I think we've written off abstinence-only education
without looking closely at the nature of the evidence. Our study shows this could be one approach that could be used.”

Why has abstinence education been so vehemently opposed, and where exactly
did comprehensive sex-ed come from in the first place? The answer to that
question goes back to the 1960’s when a junk sex scientist, an abortionist, and
a publisher of pornography took it upon themselves to teach children about

In 1964, the trio of Wardell Pomeroy, collaborator with Alfred
Kinsey on Kinsey’s two seminal (but discredited) volumes on sexual behavior, Mary
Calderone, medical director of Planned Parenthood, and The Playboy foundation,
headed by Hugh Heffner, founded SIECUS, the Sexuality Information and Education
Council of the United States.

Last summer, Salvo 9 reported on the sex-ed subterfuge carried
out by SIECUS. Read more here. Click here to see the fake ad from Salvo 9.

Disney and the Tolerance Two-Step

There’s an interesting situation developing at the Walt Disney Company. Disney, one of the early pioneers of corporate gay acceptance, conducts mandatory sensitivity training for employees. The goal is full tolerance for and zero discrimination against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender (GLBT) employees.

But the tolerance enforcement saga has turned up a new twist: It appears there have been numerous documented incidents of intolerance against ex-gays. And one non-profit advocacy organization is asking Disney to address it. “Ex-gays are forced to remain closeted because they are not protected by diversity policies and are subjected to open disapproval by others in the workplace,” said Regina Griggs, executive director of Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays (PFOX).

PFOX became aware of the tolerance quandary after being contacted by Bobbie Strobhar, a Disney shareholder who submitted a resolution to Disney asking the corporation to expand its antidiscrimination policies to include ex-gays. “Disney should treat ex-gays and their friends with the respect they deserve," said Strobhar. "We need more of these resolutions nationwide to assure tolerance and safety in the workplace for the ex-gay community and their supporters."

Disney’s initial response was to ignore the request, but the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) disagreed, and has in effect ordered Disney to include the proposal among the issues addressed at its 2010 annual meeting.

The question yet to be answered is, Is tolerance really about tolerance?