Sunday: Hili dialogue

Greetings on Sunday (Ceiling Cat’s Day), April 23, 2017. It’s a double food holiday: National Cherry Cheesecake Day and National Picnic Day, though I prefer my cheesecake plain (cherries are too much, and mask the pure cheesecake flavor), and it’s too cold in Chicago for a picnic. It’s also World Book Day, a project of UNESCO.  I’ll be reading Lawrence Krauss’s new book: The Greatest Story Ever Told. . . So Far. What will you be reading? Put answers below, and maybe I’ll find my next book to read.

On this day in history, not much of note happened. I could only find these items on Wikipedia:

1985: Coca-Cola changes its formula and releases New Coke. The response is overwhelmingly negative, and the original formula is back on the market in less than three months.

2005: The first ever YouTube video, titled “Me at the zoo”, was published by user “jawed”.

Further information about “Me at the zoo”:

Me at the zoo is the first-ever video that was uploaded to YouTube. It was uploaded on April 24 2005 at 3:27:12 UTC (on April 23, 2005 at 20:27:12 PDT)  by the site’s cofounder Jawed Karim, with the username “jawed” and recorded by his high school friend Yakov Lapitsky.

He created an account on YouTube the same day.

The nineteen-second video was shot by Yakov Lapitsky at the San Diego Zoo, featuring Karim in front of the elephants in their old exhibit in Elephant Mesa, professing his interest in their “really, really, really long trunks”.

Here it is, still on the site!:

On the other hands, lots of births and deaths on this day. On April 23, 1858, Max Planck was born, and in 1891 Sergei Prokofiev. Photographer Lee Miller was born in 1907, Warren Spahn in 1921, Shirley Temple in 1928, Roy Orbison (1936), Sandra Dee (1942; died in 2005 from complications of anorexia: I had no idea!), Michael Moore (1954), and Timothy McVeigh (1968). Those who died on this day include Joan of Acre (1307; not a typo!), William Wordsworth (1850), Rupert Brooke (1915), Sam Ervin (country lawyer, 1985), Satyajit Ray (1992), Cesar Chavez (1993), James Earl Ray (1998), and Boris Yeltsin (2007). Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, the Beasts are awaiting the arrival of their Staff:

Hili: You need loads of patience with this staff!
​Cyrus: I think they’re coming.
In Polish:
Hili: Trzeba ogromnej cierpliwości do tej służby!
Cyrus: Chyba już idą.

In response to my call for experiments and photos of cats sitting in squares of tape (PLEASE?), reader Cicely sent an alternative truth she calls: “Cats sitting in defined spaces”, and adds this about the moggie:

Name: Bella-a stray, now the ruler of my life. She is about three years old, keeps the house free of mice, and has just rediscovered the outdoors now that the snow has gone—and has begun bringing in voles and birds



Krauss’s two articles on the Science March

As I’ve said repeatedly, I’ve been conflicted about participating in the March for Science, and have explained why I decided not to participate—but why I don’t discourage others from doing so. I wish them well, and hope that they effect some change.

In the meantime, physicist Lawrence Krauss has published two simultaneous pieces on today’s March: one in the New Yorker (“What is science good for?“), and the other in Scientific American (“March for Science or March for Reality?”). They’re both good, especially the first one, which makes the point that the March’s goal of “[calling] for science that upholds the common good” is a bit problematic. That goal, says Krauss, leads to political decisions about supporting science having foreseeable and beneficial concerns to humanity, and of course turns the “common good” into an “inherently political” and subjective aim that shouldn’t govern scientific research. I agree with him when he says that pure curiosity should be the center of the scientific enterprise. And his point about science being, in that respect, similar to the humanities—a kind of art, but one that finds objective truth—is one I’ve often made. But here—read for yourself:

And yet, as important as these economic and technological spinoffs of science are, knowledge, in itself, is still at the center of the scientific enterprise. In this respect, perhaps the greatest benefit of science for society is how it transforms our culture. Science provides us with a new perspective on our place in the cosmos and a better understanding of ourselves as human beings. It helps us overcome our otherwise myopic preconceptions about how the world works. At a deep level, it allows us to see through some of our illusions about reality, which result from the peculiarities of space and time within which we happen to exist, and to perceive, instead, the detailed, fundamental workings of nature.

In these aspects, science resembles those other human activities, like art, music, and literature, that distinguish humanity as a species. We don’t—or shouldn’t—ask what the utility of a play by Shakespeare is, or how a Mozart concerto or a Rolling Stones song upholds “the common good,” or how a Picasso painting or a movie like “Citizen Kane” might be in “the national interest.” (Perhaps it’s because we insist on thinking in such terms that support for art, music, and literature is also under attack in Congress.) The free inquiry and creative activity we find in science and art reflect the best about what it means to be human.

In one small respect, Lawrence undercuts this thesis by arguing that research driven by curiosity still has had salubrious spinoffs for society, and that, too, should get people to support basic research. Further, a lot of directly goal-driven medical research has itself had beneficial results, or transgenic work like the creation of “golden rice.” That kind of work should be supported.

Nevertheless, human curiosity is a worthwhile motivation for scientists, but, I’d add, only if the results if that research are passed on to the people who fund it: the taxpayers. The implicit conclusion is that to make the results of pure science a true “common good” in the Kraussian sense, researchers must tell the public about their work, making public outreach a real priority for all scientists. (Some aren’t very good at it!). I agree again, and that’s one reason why I do it. And the eloquent quote by Wilson given below should be read and remembered by all of us:

In 1969, Robert Wilson, the first director of the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, near Chicago, was asked by Congress whether the huge particle accelerator being built there would contribute to “the national defense.” His response then is appropriate now:

No, sir. . . . I don’t believe so. . . . It has only to do with the respect with which we regard one another, the dignity of men, our love of culture. . . . It has to do with, are we good painters, good sculptors, great poets? I mean all the things we really venerate in our country and are patriotic about. It has nothing to do directly with defending our country except to make it worth defending.

Finally, I agree with Krauss’s conclusion about the goals of a good science march, and had the ones given below been the main aims, without the pollution by identity politics and the unsustainable accusations that science itself is a tool of oppression, I’d be adding my carcass to the group:

The March for Science can meaningfully celebrate the ways in which the process of science enhances our lives, and it can usefully demand that the government pursue evidence-based public policy. It’s certainly true that Congress should use the knowledge developed by free inquiry to assist in developing policies to promote “the common good,” as the electorate conceives of it. But the standard of “the common good” should not be the one by which science is judged, because such a standard risks politicizing what is inherently apolitical. The March for Science must be clear-eyed in its defense of the scientific process as an independently valuable human activity. It should defend the core value of the scientific process: discovering more about the universe, and ourselves.

The Sci Am piece deals less with the nature of science and much more with the malfeasance—and lack of respect for truth—of the Trump administration itself, pointing out all the ways that administration has lied about or tried to suppress science. We all know, despite the claims of the March’s organizers, that it’s really a political protest about Trump, more like the “Women’s March, But With Scientists”. That’s fine, but Krauss argues that perhaps Trump himself, and our constant efforts to publicize his administration’s lies and missteps, will itself accomplish what the Science March is supposed to do:

By providing such a constant and sharp explicit and observable contrast between policy and empirical reality, the Trump administration can encourage a new public skepticism about political assertions vs. reality, and a demand for evidence before endorsing policies and the politicians who espouse them—the very things that most marchers on April 22nd will be demanding. This skepticism is beginning to manifest itself in data. A Gallup poll result on April 17 indicated that only 45 percent of the public believe President Trump’s promises, a drop of 17 percent since February.

. . . The Trump Administration is discovering that obfuscation, denial, and hype may work when selling real estate, but in public arena eventually reality has a way of biting you in the butt. And the public is watching. The March for Science may be lucky to capitalize upon a growing awareness that there is no Wizard behind the curtain. The number of marchers, their backgrounds, or even their myriad messages may not drive the success of the March. Rather, it may be driven by the harsh examples coming out every day that reality exists independent of the desires or claims of those in power. In this case, the greatest asset the March for Science has going for it may be Donald Trump himself.

My only beef here is that Krauss, as a secular Jew, should have said “tuchas” instead of “butt”. 

Jeff Sessions implies that a Hawaiian judge’s decision isn’t relevant to America

Jeff Sessions is the Attorney General of the United States, which means he’s our chief law enforcement officer. Nevertheless, he doesn’t seem to recognize that Hawaii is part of the United States, as valid a state as any other.  Nevertheless, he didn’t seem to recognize that a Federal Court ruling in Hawaii, overruling Trump’s second executive order on immigrants, has the force of law. When Federal judge Derrick K. Watson of Hawaii issued the block, Sessions (who voted to confirm Watson) put his metatarsals in his mouth:

CNN reports:

Sessions told “The Mark Levin Show” earlier this week that he was “amazed that a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific can issue an order that stops the President of the United States from what appears to be clearly his statutory and Constitutional power.”

Called out on this gaffe, Sessions didn’t take it back:

“I don’t know that I said anything I would want to phrase differently,” he said Friday. “We’re going to defend the presidential order. We believe it’s constitutional. We believe there is specific statutory authority for everything in that order that he did.”

“It only delayed six nations who have had real terrorists connections for 90 days in the immigration process,” Sessions added.

And so it goes with the Trump administration. “An island in the Pacific”, indeed!

Readers’ wildlife photos

Stephen Barnard has returned from fishing in New Zealand (sadly, I didn’t see him there), and has graced us with a new round of photos. His captions are indented:

Turkey Vultures (Cathartes aura). Isn’t nature beautiful? Their bald, featherless, hideous heads are clearly an adaptation to deal with carrion. They have an acute sense of smell for rotting meat. Look at those nostrils. In 1938 they were observed circling over a leak in a natural gas pipeline. It was discovered that they were attracted to the chemical methanethiol (aka mercaptan). Humans are also exquisitely sensitive to the smell of methanethiol. (It’s unpleasant.) Subsequently, methanethiol has been added to natural gas, propane, and butane as a safety measure to detect leaks.

This is a Wilson’s Snipe (Gallinago delicata). It’s one of the most secretive and well camouflaged birds around here, which accounts for its mythical status. Many people are surprised that snipe actually exist, knowing of them only from cruel pranks at Boy Scout camp. I heard it calling from the reeds across the creek, where I think they’re nesting, and enticed it out with a recording on my phone. (I don’t overdo this, but it’s almost necessary for a bird like this.) If I’d had a “normal” lens it would be a good “find the snipe” challenge.

Here are photos of what Stephen calls “another secretive bird”:

The Virginia Rail (Rallus limicola) is the only bird I know of that rivals the snipe for secretiveness, and it hides in the same habitat — reedy wetlands. I’ve been hearing these birds for years, and catching a few fleeting glimpses, have never seen one clearly until I took these photos. Like with the snipe, I called the bird out with my phone. Their calls are remarkable. They have two main ones, a grunt and a “kiddick”, neither of which you’d expect to hear from such a bird.

Some people get bothered by the phone trick, maintaining that it puts undue stress on the bird. It can be abused, especially when there are lots of birders and photographers frequenting one spot, usually looking for a rare bird. This rail and its mate live on a remote place on my ranch and are only bothered by me, and that’s very seldom.

Caturday felid trifecta: Climbing cat on the baseball field, cheetah cubs, mysterious cat behavior with squares made of tape

Several readers sent me this video of a cat loose on a major league ballpark–and on National Pet Day to boot! Its athleticism in climbing is amazing.

But no ailurophile can help being upset at the plight of this undoubtedly scared animal, though I’m told the cat eventually left the park. It would have been great had somebody adopted it, naming it either “Hillary” or “Edmund” (depending on its sex) because of its climbing abilities. UPDATE from reader Jon: The stadium cat story has a happy ending. A Miami Marlins’ employee adopted it.

Business Insider (?) reports:

The Miami Marlins’ 8-4 win over the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday [April 11] was temporarily delayed because of a loose cat.

During the sixth inning, a grey cat ran onto the field and was crawling along the centerfield wall, causing a delay.

As Giancarlo Stanton and a groundskeeper attempted to approach the cat, it fled, running along the wall before climbing a chain link fence.

While the spectacle was cute and amusing enough, the announcers’ play-by-play of the incident was just as great.

“The only thing that can stop the Marlins right now is a cat in centerfield, desperately looking for a way out of here,” one announcer said. As Stanton and the groundskeeper approached the cat, both announcers warned, “Easy there, G,” then “Don’t pick that up!” as the groundskeeper reached down.

As the cat ran along the wall and toward a sign, it climbed a chain link fence into the Marlins’ home-run sculpture, which activates when the Marlins hit a home run. The announcers were baffled by the cat’s athleticism.

And the adoption news:


The National Zoo, part of the Smithonian Institution, announced the recent birth of cheetah cubs, accompanied by an adorable video:

April 5, 2017—The start of spring brought a cheetah cub boom to the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) in Front Royal, Va., where two large litters were born over the course of a single week. Three-year-old Happy gave birth to five healthy cubs March 23. Seven-year-old Miti gave birth to seven cubs March 28—two were visibly smaller and less active at the time of birth and died, which is common in litters this large. Both mothers are reportedly doing well and proving to be attentive to the 10 surviving healthy cubs, which have all been successfully nursing. Each litter includes two male and three female cubs.

“The average litter size is three, so this time we’ve got an incredible pile of cubs,” said Adrienne Crosier, SCBI cheetah biologist and manager of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Cheetah Species Survival Plan (SSP). . .


Finally, the Mother Nature Network reports that if you make a square on the floor with masking tape, many cats cannot help but enter. I urge readers to try it with their cat and send me photos of the result, which I’ll publish. Here are some successes:

An explanation:

So what makes cats so interested in a square on the floor? We checked in with a couple of animal behaviorists for their theories.

“We know that cats like safe spaces. It’s possible that the marking on the floor creates some illusion on the floor that doesn’t actually exist,” says certified cat behavior consultant Mikel Delgado, who’s based in the Berkeley, California area. “It might have enough similarity to a low-sided box that a lot of cats are attracted to it for safety.”

Atlanta-based certified cat behavior consultant Ingrid Johnson agrees.

“I would imagine they probably feel as if they are ‘in’ something … like laying in a cardboard canned food tray. Though shallow, still comforting, offers parameters or at least the perception of sides,” she says.

Johnson points out that cats have poor close-up vision, so they may have the perception that the tape is actually the sides of a confined area.

“Their vision is built for distance and speed, watching a mouse run across the field,” she says. “Close up they’re virtually blind 8 to 12 inches off their muzzle.”

They don’t have to be squares, either!

h/t: Keith, j.j.

Saturday: Hili dialogue

Welcome to the weekend: it’s Saturday, April 22, 2017, and National Jelly Bean Day. There’s a jar in the office for general filching: should I have one? If so, what flavor?

Some people have noticed that I’ve been typing “zeroes” instead of “o”s in my words, and have sent me corrections. Please keep doing so. The reason is below:

While stuffing clothes into my backpack in Rotorua, I snapped a tendon in my right ring finger. Now it’s in a splint for four more weeks, which makes it hard to type and, of course, you’ll know that the “zero” key is what you hit when an artificially extended finger tries to type a “o”.  Thus you wind up with err0rs like the 0nes in this sentence. Please keep letting me know if I err. It’s also Earth Day, commemorated by Google, and if you click on the screenshot below, you’ll go to a series of drawings that highlight climate change. Time Magazine explains:

In a series of illustrations, the Google doodle tells the story of a sleeping fox that has a nightmare about the consequences of climate change, featuring melted icebergs and dead plants. Disturbed, the fox enlists two friends to be more thoughtful about conservation—the trio eat vegetables, grow plants, ride bikes and use solar energy. [JAC: those are the first five drawings.]

Google also offered conservation tips for Earth Day, reminding people to turn off lights, plant trees, eat locally sourced food and avoid driving.

On this day in 1889, the Oklahoma Land Rush began, and Oklahoma City was founded. On April 22, 1906, the modern era of the Olympic Games began in Athens, and, 39 years later, Adolf Hitler decided to commit suicide in the Führerbunker in Berlin. The first Earth Day was celebrated in 1970, and some of you may remember that exactly 17 years ago, six-year-old Elián González was forcibly taken from his relatives’ home in Miami and sent back to his father in Cuba.

Notables born on this day include Immanuel Kant (1724), Vladimir Lenin (1870), Vladimir Nabokov (1899), J. Robert Oppenheimer (1904), Charles Mingus (1922), and Jack Nicholson (1937), who is 80 today!. Those who died on this day include Ansel Adams (1984), Richard Nixon (1994), and Pat Tillman (2004). Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, once again Hili is rescued by Andrzej from the windowsill, and asserts her felinitude:

A: Why don’t you come when I call you?
Hili: Because I’m not a dog.
In Polish:
Ja: Dlaczego nie przychodzisz jak cię wołam?
Hili: Bo nie jestem psem.

Beaver herds cattle: in Canada!

Ed Kroc sent this curious video taken in Ituna Saskatchewan and reported by the Regina Leader Post:

Adrienne Ivey and her husband Aaron were out checking their 150 cattle near Ituna on Good Friday when they noticed something odd.

The cattle were gathered together and walking slowly behind a beaver, with some of the heifers lowering their heads to get a closer look at the furry cowboy with a funny-looking tail.

When the beaver stopped, the herd would stop, and then follow again when the rodent resumed its stroll.

Ivey says they are used to herding their cows with horses or quads, but nothing like this.


Now of course the beaver isn’t herding anything on purpose, and Adrienne’s explanation is probably the right one:

She says young cattle are naturally curious, while the beaver seemed to ignore all the attention.

“We knew that people would get a great chuckle out of it because you cannot get more Canadian than that,” said Ivey, who posted a video of the beaver-bovine cattle drive on Facebook.

“We talk about how awesome our Canadian beef is, but a beaver leading cattle around? It’s the most Canadian thing ever!”

Ivey said the beaver was probably looking around the pasture for a place to build a dam.

Latest college shenanigans by the Regressive Left: censorship at Pomona and UCLA; Wellesley student paper publishes “we need free speech but. . . ” editorial

Several readers have pointed out that 29 people from the Claremont College group (a consortium of 5 schools) signed a letter saying that “objectivity” and “truth” are not real, but are bogus ideas used to “silence oppressed people” and promote white supremacy . The student letter (full version here), addressed to Pomona College President David Oxtoby, is a response to an email Oxtoby sent about Heather Mac Donald’s April 7 talk at Claremont McKenna College’s (CMC) Athenaeum. (MacDonald, who describes herself as a “secular conservative”, talked—or tried to talk (see below)—about her book The War on Cops: How the New Attack on Law and Order Makes Everyone Less Safe, which, according to Amazon, makes this argument:

It deconstructs the central narrative of the Black Lives Matter movement: that racist cops are the greatest threat to young black males. On the contrary, it is criminals and gangbangers who are responsible for the high black homicide death rate.

The War on Cops exposes the truth about officer use of force and explodes the conceit of “mass incarceration.” A rigorous analysis of data shows that crime, not race, drives police actions and prison rates. The growth of proactive policing in the 1990s, along with lengthened sentences for violent crime, saved thousands of minority lives. In fact, Mac Donald argues, no government agency is more dedicated to the proposition that “black lives matter” than today’s data-driven, accountable police department.

In today’s political climate, where some argue that all police are racist and nearly all black people killed by cops are instances of racism, you can see why this thesis would be controversial. But it’s not “hate speech,” and it’s certainly worth discussing the data. Mac Donald argues that many black communities want more policing because of the prevalance of black-on-black crime.

When Mac Donald spoke at Pomona (she had to be livestreamed because students blocked the entrance to the auditorium), pandemonium ensued (see below), and Oxtoby wrote an email that inspired the student response. The President, according to the Atlantic (which defended Mac Donald’s right to speak) said this among other things in his defense of free speech:

“Protest has a legitimate and celebrated place on college campuses” . . . “What we cannot support is the act of preventing others from engaging with an invited speaker. Our mission is founded upon the discovery of truth, the collaborative development of knowledge and the betterment of society. Our shared commitment to these values is critical to educating leaders who are prepared to craft solutions to the most complex problems we face.”

That didn’t sit well with the Claremont students, who responded with their ridiculous denial of the concept of “truth” and demanded that President Oxtoby not only answer their letter, but also issue an email retracting his initial defense of free speech. Because only 29 student signed the letter, I won’t analyze it in detail; suffice it to say that this is what happens when postmodernism meets Regressive Leftism, promoting prose laden with jargon and buzzwords, as well as invidious denial of a concept of truth. An excerpt from the student letter:

[Oxtoby’s] statement contains unnuanced views surrounding the academy and a belief in searching for some venerated truth. Historically, white supremacy has venerated the idea of objectivity, and wielded a dichotomy of ‘subjectivity vs. objectivity’ as a means of silencing oppressed peoples. The idea that there is a single truth–’the Truth’–is a construct of the Euro-West that is deeply rooted in the Enlightenment, which was a movement that also described Black and Brown people as both subhuman and impervious to pain. This construction is a myth and white supremacy, imperialism, colonization, capitalism, and the United States of America are all of its progeny. The idea that the truth is an entity for which we must search, in matters that endanger our abilities to exist in open spaces, is an attempt to silence oppressed peoples. We, Black students, exist with a myriad of different identities. We are queer, trans, differently-abled, poor/low-income, undocumented, Muslim, first-generation and/or immigrant, and positioned in different spaces across Africa and the African diaspora. The idea that we must subject ourselves routinely to the hate speech of fascists who want for us not to exist plays on the same Eurocentric constructs that believed Black people to be impervious to pain and apathetic to the brutal and violent conditions of white supremacy.

The letter goes on to accuse Mac Donald of being “a white supremacist fascist supporter of the police state”, and also demands that if anybody sends hate mail to or harasses the letter’s signatories, the senders be punished, up to expulsion. Finally, it demands that Oxtoby take action against  against The Claremont Independent, a conservative student paper, for “its continual perpetuation of hate speech, anti-Blackness, and intimidation toward students of marginalized backgrounds.”

But expulsion didn’t apply to those who disrupted Mac Donald’s talk at Pomona, one of the most egregious examples of an attempt to shut down an invited speaker and of a university’s administration and security standing by passively and allowing the censorship to happen. You can read Mac Donald’s account of her talk, a piece called “Get up, stand up“, at City Journal.  It also details the fracas that ensued when she spoke at UCLA the previous day. It’s pretty disturbing, and worth reading in its entirety (it’s not very long). As far as Mac Donald and I know, no students have ever been punished for disrupting a speaker, but that has to happen if these disruptions are to stop. As Mac Donald concludes:

We are cultivating students who lack all understanding of the principles of the American Founding. The mark of any civilization is its commitment to reason and discourse. The great accomplishment of the European enlightenment was to require all forms of authority to justify themselves through rational argument, rather than through coercion or an unadorned appeal to tradition. The resort to brute force in the face of disagreement is particularly disturbing in a university, which should provide a model of civil discourse.

But the students currently stewing in delusional resentments and self-pity will eventually graduate, and some will seize levers of power more far-reaching than those they currently wield over toadying campus bureaucrats and spineless faculty. Unless the campus zest for censorship is combatted now, what we have always regarded as a precious inheritance could be eroded beyond recognition, and a soft totalitarianism could become the new American norm.

Finally, in an editorial whose title alone tells you it’s a lie, read “Free speech is not violated at Wellesley“, in the Wellesley News, the student paper at a University rife with Regressive Leftism. You can probably tell from the title that this is a “we need free speech but. . .” piece, with the “but” dealing with “hate speech”. Here’s an excerpt:

Many members of our community, including students, alumnae and faculty, have criticized the Wellesley community for becoming an environment where free speech is not allowed or is a violated right. Many outside sources have painted us as a bunch of hot house flowers who cannot exist in the real world. However, we fundamentally disagree with that characterization, and we disagree with the idea that free speech is infringed upon at Wellesley. Rather, our Wellesley community will not stand for hate speech, and will call it out when possible.

Wellesley students are generally correct in their attempts to differentiate what is viable discourse from what is just hate speech. Wellesley is certainly not a place for racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, transphobia or any other type of discriminatory speech. Shutting down rhetoric that undermines the existence and rights of others is not a violation of free speech; it is hate speech. The founding fathers put free speech in the Constitution as a way to protect the disenfranchised and to protect individual citizens from the power of the government. The spirit of free speech is to protect the suppressed, not to protect a free-for-all where anything is acceptable, no matter how hateful and damaging.

Wrong to a large extent: free speech was put in the U.S. Bill of Rights to allow airing of all views that don’t call for immediate violence but permit a clash of freely expressed views as the best way to find truth and efficacious policies in a democracy. The First Amendment is not there to “protect the disenfranchised”! There are other such protections.

Finally, the Wellesley editorial implicitly threatens harassment or violence against students who don’t get properly “educated” about “hate speech” (shades of the Cultural Revolution!):

This being said, if people are given the resources to learn and either continue to speak hate speech or refuse to adapt their beliefs, then hostility may be warranted. If people continue to support racist politicians or pay for speakers that prop up speech that will lead to the harm of others, then it is critical to take the appropriate measures to hold them accountable for their actions. It is important to note that our preference for education over beration regards students who may have not been given the chance to learn. Rather, we are not referring to those who have already had the incentive to learn and should have taken the opportunities to do so. Paid professional lecturers and politicians are among those who should know better.

We at The Wellesley News, are not interested in any type of tone policing. The emotional labor required to educate people is immense and is additional weight that is put on those who are already forced to defend their human rights. There is no denying that problematic opinions need to be addressed in order to stop Wellesley from becoming a place where hate speech and casual discrimination is okay.

The editorial, very poorly written for a college full of smart students, shows how far this “hate speech” cancer has spread. Let me provide for you Coyne’s Glossary for the words at issue:

“free speech”: Speech that you like because it comports with your ideology
“hate speech”: Speech you don’t like because it challenges your ideology
“Nazi”: Anyone uttering “hate speech” (see above).
“White supremacist”: See “Nazi”
“emotional labor”: Having to argue your case rationally—something to be avoided at all costs when you can simply call people names (see “Nazi”)

Reminder of two appearances

Just a reminder: I’ll be on National Public Radio San Francisco (KQED) at 9 a.m. Pacific Time today, discussing the March for Science with some of the organizers, some scientists who are dubious, and journalists. You can find the announcement and the livestream link here.

And, on May 24 at the Lisner Auditorium in Washington D.C., I’ll be in conversation with Richard Dawkins, followed by audience Q&A. This is a benefit for the Center for Inquiry of Washington, and, as usual in such events I’m participating without remuneration. I believe tickets are still available—at $29 each—here (there’s a $250 VIP package as well).

I want to talk more about evolution than about atheism, since this is the only stop on Richard’s four-city tour in which he converses with another scientist (everyone else is a satirist or comedian). BTW, at this venue there is no choice of seats, so if you want a good seat, get there when doors open at 6 pm (the event begins at 7 pm).

On internet anonymity

I always post under my own name, and also use my name when commenting on other sites. As I’ve written before, I think this should be standard practice on the Internet. It not only tells people who is commenting, but dampens the sort of nastiness, trolling, and name-calling that has caused so many websites to become toxic cesspools of discourse. People should take responsibility for their words spoken in public. Only a very few writers with websites or a public presence resort to pseudonyms, and the ones who don’t include those most endangered by public exposure: people like Maajid Nawaz, Sarah Haider, Ali Rizvi, Asra Nomani, and so on.  These people, who criticize Islam, are risking their very lives by exposing themselves, and they are brave folks. We who risk less should do no less.

Now many readers do use their real names here, and I appreciate that. I also appreciate, though, that there are good reasons for some to withhold their names: fear of “outing” as an atheist and its attendant ostracism (but the more people who come out, the more who will come out); fear of public exposure and harm, especially if you have children; and fear of intolerableharassment (sometimes valid, often not—after all, I get harassed several times a day on email and even by phone).  I think that pretty much exhausts the valid reasons.  Most of pseudonymity, I claim—though not necessarily on this site—is practiced by people who want to be free to say whatever they want without taking responsibility for their words. That’s not a good reason.

So I’m writing this to encourage (not demand!) posters to use their real names unless they have a good reason to do otherwise. If you want to maintain pseudonymity, I ask (again, not demand!) that you let us know why below. I’m asking not to pressure people, but simply to know if I’ve missed some good reasons why people don’t use their real names when posting.

Finally, remember that there’s a reason why newspapers demand that, when you publish a letter to the editor, you give your real name.

The Management