It’s Squirrel Appreciation Day!

I just discovered, almost too late, that it’s Squirrel Appreciation Day!

Squirrel Appreciation Day is observed annually on January 21. The creator, Christy Hargrove, is a wildlife rehabilitator in North Carolina and is affiliated with the Western North Carolina Nature Center.  According to Christy, “Celebration of the event itself is up to the individual or group — anything from putting out extra food for the squirrels to learning something new about the species.”

I’ve not only put out lots of tasty peanuts today, but also proffer a special tribute to my small rodential friends:

h/t: Chris

Fight Club: Jordan Peterson vs. Cathy Newman

The first rule of Fight Club is to prepare for Fight Club.

This video, in which journalist Cathy Newman interviews psychologist Jordan B. Peterson on Britain’s Channel 4, is an object lesson in how NOT to do an interview, even though I found the exchange entertaining. Newman didn’t do her homework, and her conversation is motivated not by curiosity or an attempt to draw out the subject, but to attack him—without ammunition. Newman fails because she’s angry and invested in her narrative, leading her to ignore what Peterson says (she makes some of her arguments over and over again) and to constantly mischaracterize his views.

As I’ve said before, I don’t have a well-formed opinion about Peterson, because I haven’t spent a lot of time listening to him. I know he’s religious and doesn’t like New Atheists, which turns me off; but on other issues, like the ones in this discussion, he’s worth listening to. I’m not sure whether his sources are accurate or complete, but the point I’m making is that if you want to attack somebody’s position, you have to do your homework, or you wind up—as Newman did in this interview—looking really bad. It’s the same problem that recurs when irate Leftists or intersectionalist college students face conservative Ben Shapiro.

And this is why we need free speech. For how else will you learn the “best” arguments of your opponents?

 

Despite their rancor in this interview, both have been good sports: Peterson has decried the misogynists who attacked Newman on Twitter, while, according to the Telegraph:

Newman has since been subjected to abuse online, but has defended herself tweeting: “I thoroughly enjoyed my bout with Jordan Peterson as did hundreds of thousands of our viewers. Viva feminism, viva free speech.”

Here’s a tweet by Nicholas Christakis, who you’ll remember from the Halloween fracas at Yale

 

Here’s the leopard!

Did you spot the Persian leopard in the tweet-picture below?

Here it is!

Andrew Sullivan on evolutionary psychology

Since Andrew Sullivan has moved to New York Magazine, I find him more liberal, more tempered, more rational, and more readable. His three-part essay this week is notable for what he says in the first part: “#MeToo and the Taboo Topic of Nature” Don’t be put off by the title: it’s really a discussion of evolutionary psychology infused with Sullivan’s experiences as a gay man.

One thing that makes the Left less appealing than it used to be is its overt resistance to scientific findings that supposedly go against the liberal narrative. For example, any suggestion that there might be evolutionary differences between human ethnic groups, or between men and women, is not only denied, but has become so taboo that merely to bring up these subjects risks opprobrium from the Left. Evolutionary psychology and studies of “race” have been demonized by many to the extent that these endeavors are sometimes deemed worthless.

Likewise, the Left obdurately resists any notion that there are evolved differences between the behavior, abilities, or preferences of men and women. Cordelia Fine, for example, has made this her goal, and while her two books on the subject are good in parts, they’re also deeply flawed in some of their critiques. For instance, males are larger and stronger than females, and it’s hard to explain this without invoking sexual selection. And if sexual selection on the human body caused dimorphism in morphology, isn’t it reasonable to expect it to have caused differences in behavior and brains— just the kind of differences that produce behaviors we see in human society? (Males are generally promiscuous and willing to mate with many females, looking for signs of reproductive capacity, while women are pickier, and more attuned to signs of males being good providers. Males are also more competitive and take more risks when they’re of reproductive age.) Another example: P. Z. Myers is on a constant tirade against evolutionary psychology, and has made the ludicrous statement that “the fundamental premises of evo psych are false.” But those “fundamental premises” are only that the human mind, like the human body, bears traces of our evolutionary ancestry and the selective pressures that molded it. (See my longer response here and here.)

The reason that some Leftists oppose this kind of science, of course, is because they think it enables racism and sexism, with the premise being that any observed differences will be grounds for discrimination. But that need not be true: for example, groups will differ on many axes: better on some, worse on others. More important, and as I’ve emphasized endlessly, the moral and political equality of groups should not be grounded on empirical research. For if you do that, and then, like Fine, slant your analyses to match your ideology, asserting that women and men are absolutely equal in all respects, then your argument for equality becomes vulnerable to future empirical observation of differences. Further, as Pinker emphasized in his Spiked remarks at Harvard, if the Left tries to deny scientific findings, it simply drives people toward the right. Our best strategy, and one that comports with centuries of moral philosophy, is to be open to scientific research but absolutely committed to equality of opportunity for all.

Sullivan’s piece is about the denial of evolutionary psychology by the Left; he too thinks that it’s maladaptive to pretend that all groups are, on average, exactly the same. His perspective as a gay man is quite interesting. An excerpt (my emphasis):

. . . in our increasingly heated debate about gender relations and the #MeToo movement, this natural reality [the effects of testosterone on behavior, based on Sullivan’s own experience with hormone therapy]— reflected in chromosomes and hormones no scientist disputes — is rarely discussed. It’s almost become taboo. You can spend a lifetime in gender studies and the subject will never come up. All differences between the sexes, we are now informed, are a function of the age-old oppression of women by men, of the “patriarchy” that enforces this subjugation, and of the power structures that mandate misogyny. All differences between the genders, we are told, are a function not of nature but of sexism. In fact, we are now informed by the latest generation of feminists, following the theories of Michel Foucault, that nature itself is a “social construction” designed by men to oppress women. It doesn’t actually exist. It’s merely another tool of male power and must be resisted.

This is, however, untrue. Even the newest generation of feminists concede this on the quiet. Although they will organize to shut down an entire magazine to prevent an airing of an alternative view of gender, they are not currently campaigning to shut down the Planet Earth series because it reveals that in almost every species, males and females behave differently — very differently — and there appears to be no “patriarchy” in place to bring this about at all. They know enough not to push their argument into places where it will seem to be, quite obviously, ridiculous. But it is strikingly obvious that for today’s progressives, humans are the sole species on this planet where gender differentiation has no clear basis in nature, science, evolution, or biology. This is where they are as hostile to Darwin as any creationist.

And this is stupid. The alternative explanation — that these core natural differences between men and women have been supplemented by centuries of conscious oppression — is staring us in the face. The fascinating conundrum is where one ends and the other begins. How much of this difference is natural and how much is social? That is the question. And the answer is a tricky one. Is the fact that the vast majority of construction workers are male and the huge majority of nurses are female a function of sexism or nature? Is male sexual aggression and horniness a function of patriarchy or testosterone? Is the fact that women now outnumber men among college graduates a function of reverse sexism or nature?

My suspicion is that it’s more about nature than about society, and one reason I believe this (apart from all the data) is I because I’m gay. I live in a sexual and romantic world without women, where no patriarchy could definitionally exist, a subculture with hookups and relationships and marriages and every conceivable form of sexual desire that straight men and women experience as well. And you know what you find? That men behave no differently in sexual matters when there are no women involved at all. In fact, remove women, and you see male sexuality unleashed more fully, as men would naturally express it, if they could get away with it. It’s full of handsiness and groping and objectification and lust and aggression and passion and the ruthless pursuit of yet another conquest. And yes, I mean conquest. That’s what testosterone does. It’s also full of love, tenderness, compassion, jealousy, respect, dignity, and a need for security and a home. It’s men’s revenge on men. The old joke applies: What does a lesbian bring on a second date? A U-Haul. What does a gay man bring on a second date? What second date?

I know this must be a pain in the neck for most women. But it’s who we are. It’s a blessing and a curse. It’s called being male, this strange creature, covered in hair, pinioned between morality and hormones, governed by two brains, one above and one below. We can and should be restrained, tamed, kept under control. But nature will not be eradicated. And when left-feminism denies nature’s power, ignores testosterone, and sees all this behavior as a function entirely of structural patriarchal oppression, it is going to overreach.

. . . Trump understands this dynamic intuitively. Bannon believed it was integral to the Trump project, and wants the slanted elite discourse on men to continue and intensify. I think this issue was an under-acknowledged cause for Clinton’s failure. At some point, Democrats and liberals are going to have to decide if they want to “problematize” half the voting population. They are going to have to figure out who they really side with: Brooklyn or much of America? Reality or an ideology? Both genders or one?

Sullivan goes on to describe how gay men, in their own relationships, show the same dynamics that that straight men do with women, while lesbians in relationships show behavior similar to straight women. (Read the piece to see Sullivan’s joke about this.) To Sullivan, this is evidence that the important differences of sexual behaviors between men and women are based on hormones and genetics, not pure social conditioning. (I suppose one could counterargue that even gay men and women were socialized when young, but a counter-counter argument would note, as Sullivan did above, that there are striking parallels between sexual dimorphism in human sexual behavior and animal sexual behavior. Is there a patriarchy in wild chimpanzees?)

Sullivan is not, of course, defending the sexual predators singled out by #MeToo. He’s merely pointing out that in our future discussions of the fraught sexual dynamics between men and women (or men with men, or women with women), we must take into account that there are biological differences between the sexes that will affect their behavior.  It’s always better to know what’s true when trying to deal with a problematic issue.

Read the whole piece (the other two pieces, not as thought-provoking, are about Trump’s wall—Sullivan is for it, but not for the reason you think—and about how underrated Washington, D.C. is).

 h/t: Gregory

Creationism rears its head in India

UPDATE: Reader Snowy Owl has pointed out that pushback against Singh’s anti-evolution comments have also appeared on Indian websites and newspapers (h/t: Snowy Owl). Here are two articles defending evolution:

The Hindu: “What Darwin actually said about man and apes.” (I left a comment.)

Flipboard: “If the minister’s pen, with RSS support, blots the page of textbooks, the Indian child will be at even greater risk of learning nothing in school than she already is.”

And all three major Indian science academies have denounced Singh’s statement (h/t: Vidya). Their statement:

“The Honourable  Minister of State for Human Resource Development, Shri Satyapal Singh has been quoted as saying that “Nobody, including our ancestors, in writing or orally, have said they saw an ape turning into a man. Darwin’s theory (of evolution of humans) is scientifically wrong. It needs to change in school and college curricula.”

“The three Academies of Science wish to state that there is no scientific basis for the Minister’s statements. Evolutionary theory, to which Darwin made seminal contributions, is well established. There is no scientific dispute about the basic facts of evolution. This is a scientific theory, and one that has made many predictions that have been repeatedly confirmed by experiments and observation. An important insight from evolutionary theory is that all life forms on this planet, including humans and the other apes have evolved from one or a few common ancestral progenitors.

“It would be a retrograde step to remove the teaching of the theory of evolution from school and college curricula or to dilute this by offering non-scientific explanations or myths.

“The theory of evolution by natural selection as propounded by Charles Darwin and developed and extended subsequently has had a major influence on modern biology and medicine, and indeed all of modern science. It is widely supported across the world. See for example.”

_________________

One statistic I adduced when I lectured on evolution in India was this: Indians are about as religious as Americans, but the acceptance of evolution among Indians is substantially higher. (The statistics for India show some variance, but are consistently higher than for the U.S.) When I asked Indians why, most responded that Hindu scripture already has evolutionary concepts incorporated in it, and although those religious tenets aren’t really scientific (e.g., reincarnation), Hindus don’t, as a group, adhere to creation stories that explicitly contradict evolution.

Whether that’s the reason or not, we do see an absence in India of the kind of organized creationism that afflicts the U.S. But there’s still religious fundamentalism, and, in fact, under the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), with its adherence to Hindu nationalism (“Hindutva”) and the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India is slowly becoming more theocratic—like Turkey. Modi is a canny right-winger who has no credible opposition in India’s Congress Party, and, I found, has garnered surprising support among not just Indians in general, but scientists. (I hasten to add that most of the scientists I met were no fans of the BJP.) One humanities scholar I met told me that the main academic opposition to the BJP comes from humanities scholars rather than scientists, who either ignore Modi or, as several told me, see him as the only prime minister who can get widespread popular support.

Last year, Erdogan’s Turkish government banned the teaching of evolution in secondary schools (see also here and here), on the dubious grounds that it’s “too complicated for students at that level.” The real reason, of course, is that Erdogan’s government is tinged with Islamic theocracy, and evolution explicitly contradicts the creation myth of the Qur’an.

What about India? Though the country is more evolution-friendly than Turkey or the U.S., the BJP has increasingly tried to manipulate science to religious ends. One striking example is India’s creation of institutes designed to prove (not to test, but to prove), that the five products of the sacred cow: dung, milk, urine, yogurt and ghee (clarified butter) are wonder substances that can cure diseases, including cancer.  This ayurvedic cure, with all these things mixed into one nostrum, is called panchagavya, and the Modi government is diverting money that could go to real science into institutes and research that, operating on confirmation bias, will prove the sacredness of the cow.

The Science Chronicle reports other disturbing incursions of faith into Indian Science (my emphasis):

On January 8, 2018, speaking during a programme at the Rajasthan University in Jaipur, the Rajasthan Education Minister Vasudev Devnani said Brahmagupta-II discovered the law of gravity a thousand years before Issac Newton.

“We all have studied that Newton gave the law of gravitation, but delving deeper, we can find that Brahmagupta-II came up with the theory of gravitation 1,000 years before (Newton). Why don’t we include this fact in the curriculum?” Devnani asked.

It was widely reported in the media and there was much furore in the social media. But the scientific community was conspicuous by its silence; there wasn’t even the slightest murmur of protest despite such rubbish being articulated by an education minister of a large State.

The scientific community’s silence shouldn’t come as a surprise, though. In 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi claimed that Karna and Ganesha were a testimony of ancient Indians’ mastery of reproductive genetics and cosmetic surgery thousands of years ago and well before the West could discover or use them. Not a single scientist challenged him.

“We can feel proud of what our country achieved in medical science at one point of time. We all read about Karna in the Mahabharata. If we think a little more, we realise that the Mahabharata says Karna was not born from his mother’s womb. This means that genetic science was present at that time. That is why Karna could be born outside his mother’s womb,” Modi said.

Modi then went on to say: “We worship Lord Ganesha. There must have been some plastic surgeon at that time who got an elephant’s head on the body of a human being and began the practice of plastic surgery.”

Oy gewalt!

Evidence of advanced Indian plastic surgery?

When Indian theocrats claim the scriptures contain all that’s true in modern science, or the Prime Minister argues that an elephant-headed god is proof of early plastic surgery, Indian scientists had better start worrying. Can creationism be far behind? After all, the idea of organic evolution itself, as Darwin proposed, isn’t really in Hindu scripture.

Well, now several venues, including ndtv.com, reports that an education minister is denigrating evolution, and on the same ridiculous grounds used by American creationists. Here’s an NDTV news video, and an excerpt from their online report appears below that:

Yep, the education minister is touting the old creationist saw that “nobody saw evolution happen”:

Claiming that the theory of evolution put forth by naturalist Charles Robert Darwin was “scientifically wrong”, junior education minister Satyapal Singh says it should be changed in school and college text books. The minister of state for human resource development did not offer any scientific counter to the 19th century English naturalist’s theory but  said, “our ancestors haven’t mentioned anywhere that they ever saw an ape turning into a human being”.

“Darwin’s theory (of evolution of humans) is scientifically wrong. It needs to change in school and college curriculum. Ever since humans came to Earth, they have always been humans,” he told to reporters.

According to Darwin, who is regarded as the father of evolution, all organisms had a common ancestry way back time and kept on changing or evolving — a process that takes many, many years — to adapt to the change in environment.

Mr Singh, a former police commissioner of Mumbai, was in Aurangabad to attend the ‘All India Vaidik Sammelan’.

“Nobody, including our ancestors, have said or written that they ever saw an ape turning into a human being. No book we have read or the tales told to us by our grandparents had any such mention,” said the ex-IPS officer who took voluntary retirement to contest the 2014 general elections.

This is an education minister? Had he checked about the evidence for evolution (perhaps one book he should read is WEIT), he’d know what a stupid thing he said. And I predict that, given that the BJP is in power, this isn’t the last incursion of creationism into Indian politics.

This isn’t the first time Singh has put his metatarsals in his mouth. Flipboard reports this:

Singh recently made another claim that is part of the same trend: that a Mumbaikar named Shivkar Bapuji Talpade successfully flew an airplane eight years before the Wright brothers did by building a “mercury vortex engine” first described in the Vaimanika Shastra. “A Hindu person did it first”? Check. “It worked”? Check. “Knowledge came from ancient text”? Check.

Of course Indian scientists are appalled by what Singh said about evolution, and are now taking action. This is reported in the Science Chronicle article “At last, there’s a welcome push back by the Indian scientific community“, which reports a letter to Singh signed by several hundred Indian scientists. It’s a strong response, and ends like this:

When a minister working for Human Resource Development in the country makes such claims, it harms the scientific community’s efforts to propagate scientific thoughts and rationality through critical education and modern scientific research. It also diminishes the image of the country at the global level and reduces faith of the international historical research community in the genuine research by the Indian researchers.

Therefore, we urge you to retract the reported speech at the All India Vedic Sammelan with immediate effect and issue a clarification about the Ministry’s policy towards teaching the theory of evolution.

The letter is now a petition, which you can find here, and I’ve inquired whether non-Indian scientists can sign it, too. I was told “certainly.” I’ve signed it. So if you’re involved in doing science in any capacity, including learning it as a student, I’d urge you to sign the petition too (the place for signing is at the bottom of the page). It can’t hurt to let the government know that Singh is making them look ridiculous in the eyes of the world.
Next target: those stupid cow institutes!

 

Spot the Persian leopard!

(Note: the original title, which went out over email, was “spot the snow leopard,” but this is a regular leopard; see below.)

Here’s a tweet from Mohammad Farhadinia asking you to spot the Persian leopard (Panthera pardus tulliana; I had no idea that “African” leopards were in Asia, which shows how ignorant I am).  I’ll put a bigger picture below, and the answer will go up at noon Chicago time.

Can you see it? (Click to enlarge.)  I would rate this one “medium difficulty”.

 

And, for your delectation, here’s the range map of the subspecies of Panthera pardus:

Readers’ wildlife photos

We haven’t heard from reader Ed Kroc in a while, but he made up for his absence with some great photos of one of our favorite seabirds. Ed’s notes are indented.

It’s been far too long since I’ve sent in a batch of wildlife photos, but here are some shots from a trip I took this past summer to eastern Newfoundland. It’s one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited and home to one of bird-doms most iconic members: the Atlantic Puffin (Fratercula arctica). 

All these shots were taken at a large colony near Elliston, NFL in late July, right in the middle of the chick-rearing season. Puffins spend most of their lives on the open ocean,  coming to land only to breed. They choose tall rocky islets with plenty of dirt to dig their burrows where pairs lay a single egg. Young pufflings live entirely underground until they are old enough to fledge. When they are ready, they skip out under cover of night to the open ocean, using the light from the moon and stars as a guide (it reflects off the water, acting as a beacon). Of course, with urban encroachment, it is common for pufflings to get confused by city lights and end up marooned on streets or in back yards. Luckily, there are many local initiatives in Newfoundland, Iceland, Ireland, and Scotland to rescue and return these lost pufflings to the sea each summer.

You can see in the third shot how packed the puffin colony can be. Each puffin or pair of puffins is standing at the entrance to their burrows. Any patch of loose dirt can be used, as long as it is deep enough to house a nest and growing nestling. 

In the fourth shot you will see a couple American Herring Gulls (Larus smithsonianus) behind the burrows of some puffins. The gulls nest above ground, making simple nests in the tall grasses in the background. Puffins are interested only in seafood, so pose no danger to the gull eggs or chicks. However, if a puffin egg or nestling happened to be out of its burrow for some reason, a nearby gull would surely scoop it up for a snack. The gulls are effective at chasing away raptors, however, so a tentative alliance is maintained. Note just how small the puffins are: about a third the size of a typical large gull.

The next two shots showcase puffins in flight. They require a good gust of wind to take to the air, but once they are up, they can shoot through the sky like tuxedoed torpedoes. The winds blew strongly onshore, right to where I was sitting taking pictures. Consequently, puffins would sometimes come rocketing past me less than a foot away, blown in my direction as they leapt from the cliffs of the islet just offshore (it couldn’t have been more than 20 metres from cliff-base to cliff-base). 

 

The final two shots show flighted puffins en masse. In the first, a batch are returning to the colony. They would ride the wind down to the rocks, sometimes haphazardly, occasionally bumping into a neighbour. The last shot shows a group taking off. As a large gust swept in, dozens of puffins leapt from the edge, probably 40 metres above the jagged rocks and waves below. They plummeted parabolically for a second or two before their wings caught enough of the updraft to create lift – then they shot off like missiles in every direction. 

 

I highly recommend a trip to see the puffins during their breeding season in the north Atlantic for any wildlife lover. I easily spent all day watching them, and would have gladly spent multiple days had time allowed.

Sunday: Hili dialogue (and Leon monologue)

It’s Sunday, January 21, 2018, and there will be rain today in Chicago (the temperature will be above freezing), which is good because my car is covered with schmutz from being stored in the garage. It’s National Clam Chowder Day, celebrating an comestible that’s good when made in the New England style with cream (the “Manhattan” tomato-based version is not worth eating). It’s also National Hugging Day, but be careful to ask for consent, preferably on a signed form, before you hug someone.

On this day in 1789, what is regarded as the first American novel, bearing the tedious title of The Power of Sympathy or the Triumph of Nature Founded in Truth, was printed in Boston. In 1954, former State Department official Alger Hiss was convicted of perjury for lying about being a Soviet spy (he couldn’t be convicted of espionage as the statute of limitations had expired). This was a huge case at the time, and it’s still not clear whether Hiss was indeed a spy.  On January 21, 1954, the USS Nautilus, the first nuclear-powered submarine, was launched in Connecticut after christening by First Lady Mamie Dowd Eisenhower. On this day in 1960, the first primate-bearing Mercury spacecraft, Little Joe 1B, took off from Wallops Island, Virginia, bearing a female rhesus monkey (Macaca mulatta) named Miss Sam. Here she is in her spacesuit and being put into the capsule. You’ll be happy to know she survived the 8.5 minute flight, but I suspect that the engineers dissected her anyway.

 

On this day in 1981, the first DeLorean DMC-12 sports car was built in Dunmurry, Northern Ireland. Here it is—the only model ever made by the company. It’s estimated that 6500 of these gull-winged things are still around.

Finally, on this day 11 years ago, the U.S. Congress voted 395-28 to reprimand Speaker Newt Gingrich for ethics violations, making him the only speaker to be so sanctioned.

Notables born on this day include Ethan Allen (1738), Stonewall Jackson (1824), Grigori Rasputin (1869), Nobel-winning biochemist Konrad Emil Bloch (1912), Telly Savalas (1922), Wolfman Jack (1938), and Plácido Domingo and Richie Havens (both 1941).

Havens, who died in 2013, rose to fame after he played a soulful and emotional song at Woodstock, and until I looked this up I had no idea that that song, “Freedom,” was improvised. A video is below, and here are Wikipedia’s notes:

Havens as a live performer earned widespread notice. His Woodstock appearance in 1969 catapulted him into stardom and was a major turning point in his career. As the festival’s first performer, he held the crowd for nearly three hours. In part, Havens was told to continue playing, because many artists scheduled to perform after him were delayed in reaching the festival location with highways at a virtual standstill. He was called back for several encores. Having run out of tunes, he improvised a song based on the old spiritual “Motherless Child” that became “Freedom”.

Note that he has no teeth on his upper gums.

Those who took their last breath on this day include Vladimir Lenin (1924), Nobel-winning physician Camillio Golgi (1926), George Orwell (1950), Cecil B. DeMille (1959), James Beard (1985), and Peggy Lee (2002). Lenin was a cat-lover, as this short video attests:

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili pretends to feel sympathy for the mice in winter. What she really means, of course, is that it’s too cold for her to go outside to kill them. She wants a Mousesicle!

Hili: I’m afraid that the mice are freezing.
A: And you sympathize with them?
Hili: Very much so.

In Polish:

Hili: Obawiam się, że myszkom musi być bardzo zimno.
Ja: A ty im bardzo współczujesz?
Hili: Bardzo.

In nearby Wloclawek, Leon, who also hates the snow (despite his previous winter hikes) is hiding:

Leon: What’s the problem? I need some privacy.

A tw**t found by Matthew. Read the BBC story to learn how the wallabies got high: it’s true!

A gibbon taunts tiger cubs

Here we have what looks to be two tiger cubs in a zoo or reserve along with a gibbon who taunts them. The voiceover implies that the gibbon is protecting its territory, but it may also be toying with the cats—to the extent of pulling their ears and tails! The other question I have is whether those cubs could really do any damage to the gibbon.

Regardless, the athleticism and grace of this monkey is simply stunning.

As one reader remarked, gibbons make great cat toys because they can get themselves out of danger.

 

h/t: Michael

Local transgender student with penis sues school district to be allowed to change clothes openly in woman’s locker room

There are now two lawsuits in the Chicago area brought by transgender students who, granted access to the women’s locker room for changing, were requested to change behind a “privacy curtain” or a secluded area because they have male genitals.  The genital aspect of this case isn’t mentioned in the Chicago Tribune article below, but I heard it on the local NPR station. Click on the link for the story of one of these students (the other is anonymous); the story has a video of the student:

NPR also said that Nova Maday is being represented by the ACLU in her lawsuit.

I’m conflicted by this story, and decided to throw it out for discussion. And my conflict is because this student still has male genitalia. Had she fully transitioned, I wouldn’t have any problem with her being allowed to change with other female students.  But with a penis?

I suspect that some of the other female students would object to undressing with a student having male equipment, though no news story reports the reaction of the students, and it would probably be a violation of their privacy to ask. But if they do object, don’t we have to balance the transgender student’s wishes against those of the women students? After all, baring your woman’s body in front of a body with a penis could cause substantial distress.

I’m particularly interested in what women readers have to say about this. Think back to when you were in high school, and in the locker room. Would you have cared if there was somebody with a penis in there? At any rate, vote below, but also please leave a comment about your opinion on these two cases.