My podcast on the Bryan Callen Show

Episode 113 of the Bryan Callen Show is a podcast I did about two weeks ago. It’s about an hour long, and you can hear it here.

I can’t bear to listen to such things, but the conversation devolved into sundry matters. As I recall, I got into a small but interesting kerfuffle with Callen’s co-host, Hunter Maats. You’ll have to listen to figure out what that contretemps was about.

Thanks to Callen and Maats for having me on.


  1. Posted April 1, 2014 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    Queueing it up….

    And I still insist you desperately need to stop worrying about your live presentation. Not only do you have nothing objectively to object to, but I fear it’ll keep you from becoming the media personality the world could really use.

    There’s really no reason why you shouldn’t be appearing on news shows as often as Sean or Neil, and we really don’t have any American biologists filling that type of role right now (that I’m aware of).



  2. Posted April 1, 2014 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    Oh, my — “with friends like Dawkins, Evolution doesn’t need enemies.” Well fielded, Jerry.


    • Mark Reaume
      Posted April 1, 2014 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

      The last 20 seconds of the podcast he brings this up again – after Jerry left of course. I have yet to hear Richard Dawkins scream and shouted at people. I honestly don’t know where they get this caricature. He also brought up the usage of the usage of certainty words which I believe Sam Harris tackled on his bl…site.

      • Posted April 1, 2014 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

        Sometimes I’m tempted to wonder why Richard and Carl Sagan get such diametrically opposed reactions, even though Sagan was every bit as dismissive and caustic towards religion as Richard. Then I remember that it’s at least in part because Richard speaks as if he’s just drunk a pot of tea, whilst Carl sounds like he’s just smoked a bowl of pot.

        Richard’s excitement about discovery and Carl’s passion about the quest for knowledge are equally sincere and deep and fruitful. It’s just that, when the one says something contrary to deeply-held religious beliefs, that evokes a reaction of, “Groovy, man, if that’s what works for you”…and the other a reaction of, “Fuck you, asshole!”

        I still haven’t quite figured out why that is, though.



        P.S. Yes, I know — it’s no coincidence that I chose those particular mind-altering substances in the opening analogy. b&

        • Robert Seidel
          Posted April 1, 2014 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

          I think you already named it. Sagan appears groovy, and Dawkins aristocratic. Bloody uppity Brit.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted April 1, 2014 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

          Yes, it’s totally Richard’s accent. I still would like to see him adopt a southern accent and wear a straw hat (for disguise) while saying the same things and see where that gets him.

          • Posted April 1, 2014 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

            Lynched, I’m afraid….


            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted April 1, 2014 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

              Depends where he talked.

              • Posted April 1, 2014 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

                Most anywhere south of the Mason-Dixon line,* saying things like, “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully,” is likely to be taken by righteous God-farin’ Rebels as an invitation to be fitted with a nigger necktie, regardless of the melanin content of one’s skin.


              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted April 1, 2014 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

                Yet Richard likes talking there. I wonder if he sounded like one of their own if he’d be tolerated less.

        • Chris
          Posted April 2, 2014 at 3:00 am | Permalink

          Hollywood and all of those posh British baddies, or does that feed into the same stereotype?

          Dawkins is very well spoken. Us Brits are used to that, with “BBC English” and all that. Maybe it comes across as patronising to USAers.

          • Chris
            Posted April 2, 2014 at 3:02 am | Permalink

            Sorry, not “into” but “from”!

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted April 1, 2014 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

      Yeah that was pretty bad. Jerry handled it very well!

      • Scientifik
        Posted April 2, 2014 at 3:13 am | Permalink

        And so was the suggestion of one of the hosts that new atheists are somehow religious. They are really trying very hard to make it seem like religion and atheism are two sides of the same coin, aren’t they? Which, btw, reminded me of this Bill Maher video 🙂

  3. Posted April 1, 2014 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    Re: aquatic apes. I would agree that there’s no good reason to suggest that we had an aquatic period in our evolution…but I would also suggest that humans have likely been as aquatic as we currently are for a long time.

    It’s not much of a step from wading in streams for fish to wading on lakeshores for fish to going further and further into the water for fish. We seem to be better adapted for aquatic activities than we are for adult lactose metabolism, but not hugely so. That suggests to me that humans have been fishing (and swimming) as much as we currently do for longer than we’ve been drinking milk, but the figures probably round to roughly the same order of magnitude.

    So, I think an argument can be made that we are the aquatic ape, but not that we were once significantly more aquatic than we are today.


  4. George
    Posted April 1, 2014 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    I have to take issue with the misuse of the term “theory”. While Reagan and others do not understand what scientists mean by theory, scientists, particularly physicists, also misuse it. We can talk about the string hypothesis or the string conjecture but we should never say string theory.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted April 1, 2014 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

      That is one unfortunate exception and you hear physicists suggest, as you do, that it should not be called a theory but a hypothesis. However, I don’t think that scientists in general misuse the word, “theory”.

      • Posted April 1, 2014 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

        Tish. Physicists are above all criticism…

        Sean Carroll seemed kind of torn about this in the BICEP2 interview posted here the other week.


        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted April 1, 2014 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

          Tish. Physicists are above all criticism…
          That’s all….wait for it….relative!

          • Posted April 1, 2014 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

            Yes, but can you quantify the relationship?


            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted April 1, 2014 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

              It’s most likely charming but sometimes up and down.

      • Richard Olson
        Posted April 1, 2014 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

        Scientist’s may use theory correctly when they write, but when they speak it is all too often a whole different story. Then it’s like handing a box of bullets to the theocrat over there holding an empty anti-science gun.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted April 1, 2014 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

          Do you mean when they use the word “theory” that has a different meaning to laymen or that they use the word, “theory” incorrectly in the scientific sense when talking about science?

          • Richard Olson
            Posted April 1, 2014 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

            Set, group, number, and string theory, and any other use of theory that meets scientific criteria, are not what refer to.

            I mean to say that I hear (mis)uses of theory that are not far from the sort of conversation Aunt Bea has with Andy and Barney when she brings lunch to the sheriff’s office, and while they eat they talk about all the different guesses circulating around town concerning what Gomer and Guber are slapping together late at night in the garage out at the fillin’ station.

            I refer to speech I too frequently hear in audio interviews on programs where a scientist describes two or more colleague’s speculations about some puzzle under investigation (like cause(s) of black hole formation, or multiverse quantities/properties, or perhaps a perceived potentiality that would account for a current mysterious anomaly lodged within an otherwise comprehensible set of conditions) as separate and distinctively different theories. Each of which may in the end prove not to be the correct theory after all, because of factors nobody is presently aware of.

            So after all that, none of these claims is even a hypothesis let alone a new scientific theory, unless there are some positive test results you fail to mention. And there surely aren’t any, or you would tell us one claim out of them all proved accurate so the other ideas, although interesting, were not useful and discarded. And even if some explanation that enhances an established result turns up somewhere down the road, it may still have a hell of a hurdle to clear before the theory term ought to be introduced, no?

            I first noticed these dubious vocabulary usages in the 90’s, while the Religious Right was ramping up ID in lieu of Creationism, when Science Friday found its way onto my weekly schedule. Surprised at the frequency of the misuse, which seemed to me to fuel the fundamentalist fire raging on local school boards, I printed definitions of scientific terms for quick reference, so I could check instantly check terms I heard and filter for self bias.

            I now listen to 6-8 science programs every week on podcast on a fairly regular basis. A speaker who uses hypothesis correctly instead of abusing theory (or perhaps surmise [or a synonym] where warranted) really stands out from the crowd. And speaking of surmise, you may perceive this particular misuse is a big fat pet peeve I have.

    • colnago80
      Posted April 1, 2014 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

      Well said. As we sit here today, there is no evidence for the strings hypothesis. It has a number of interesting properties, as I understand it, including the multiverse but, without any evidence, it cannot rise to the status of a theory. I think it may best be described as a branch of mathematics which may or may not have application to physics. AFAIK, the jury is still out on that. A number of physicists are negative on the subject, including Lawrence Krauss.

      • Gregory Kusnick
        Posted April 1, 2014 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

        “I think it may best be described as a branch of mathematics which may or may not have application to physics.”

        And such bodies of mathematical knowledge are called theories by mathematicians: set theory, group theory, number theory, etc. None of these needed to be confirmed as physical hypotheses to earn the title of “theory”.

        Quantum field theory is another mathematical theory that also usefully describes some aspects of fundamental physics. So it’s a theory in both senses.

        String theory has not yet been shown to describe anything in nature. But that doesn’t diminish its status as a mathematical theory fully worthy of the name.

  5. Robert Seidel
    Posted April 1, 2014 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    I like your voice, professor. Gnarly and deep, with that nice american accent. Could listen to it for hours (have, indeed).

    • Barry Lyons
      Posted April 1, 2014 at 4:53 pm | Permalink


    • challedon
      Posted April 2, 2014 at 5:31 am | Permalink

      Americans don’t have accents 🙂

  6. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted April 2, 2014 at 5:39 am | Permalink

    I hate to say it, Prof CC, but you look like that suit was forced onto you against your will by several gorillas. The smart-casual wear I saw you using in Glasgow suits you much better.
    Downloading just now.

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