Monday, August 31, 2009


Graph originally from here,
State IQ statistics from McDaniel Estimating State IQ
Religious importance statistics from Gallop - State of the States: Importance of Religion


A few outliers on there, Hawaii and California being the most prominent. Hawaii, California and Nevada are also on the top 5 list for the biggest homeless populations by state (here). Hawaii and California are also on the top 5 foreign born population list. (here)

Correlation does not equal causation without proper statistical significance, so just throwing those two facts out there for others to come to their own conclusions.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Synaptotagmin


I will be working on identifying Synaptotagmin genes in Nematostella in my new lab with Mark Martindale at the Kewalo Marine Laboratory . I will be doing some in-situ's, phylogenetic trees, cell fate mapping, antibody staining, and DAPI. Also I will be working on pro-neural gene transcription factors.

I'll write something up on Synaptotagmin in the future.

On the Intellectual Stance of Atheists Before Darwin

Famously, in Richard Dawkins various books (The Blind Watchmaker...etc.) and various talks, Prof. Dawkins has eluded to the fact that before Darwin intellectuals were not fully justified in their disbelief. These various statements made by Prof. Dawkins have brought out a plethora of critics on the matter.

Darwin gave the answer to the apparent illusion of the irreducible complexities of life. From Darwin (and friends) we now know that the original self-replicating molecule/molecules gave rise to all the different complexities of life. Humankind was knocked down off of its high pedestal of self importance and ignorance and brought down to the level of all other living organisms. No longer were we justified to say that we were created in a Gods image, we were just like all of the other animals utterly unimportant in terms of the universe as a whole. And as we look up into the sky with our modern day telescopes we find that we are on a single planet in a sea of galaxies each containing estimates of ~100 billion stars, each with their various planets and moons and most likely life of their own.

I argue that Dawkins was completely justified in making the statement that "Darwinism allowed one to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist." But, I would go one step further and say that every single scientific discovery fills a hole that was once left to the dead Gods of old. Darwins contribution while not sufficient to get rid of all of the different beliefs in a God, sure did well to justify the disbelief in the Judeo-Christian God.

"From so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved."
the concluding passage from, The Origin of Species, Charles Darwin 1859.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Disparity of the Intelligent and the Ignorant in the USA


Nature 453, 28-30 (1 May 2008) | doi:10.1038/453028a; Published online 30 April 2008

I have heard it said by Neil deGrasse Tyson that America produces the smartest people in the world, while at the same time producing the dumbest people in the world.

And Now for Something Completely Different.
Original graph from here, 2002 religiosity pew poll here, and IQ from IQ and the Wealth of Nations by Richard Lynn and Tatu Vanhanen.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Darwin Was Right!

About natural selection and almost everything else he wrote about. Any questions?

Smith HF, Fisher RE, Everett ML, Thomas AD, Randal Bollinger R, Parker W (2009) Comparative anatomy and phylogenetic distribution of the mammalian cecal appendix. J Evol Biol. 2009 Aug 12. [Epub ahead of print]

On the Concept of Racism

The term "racism" is properly defined as the belief that "race" is the primary determinant of human traits and that those traits produce inherent superiorities between "races".

There is another term "racialism," defined as a theory that race determines human traits and capacities.

While contemplating the term races in a purely scientific matter, I have come to the conclusion that factually, "race" exists. The proper term "races" stands for the different sets of genetic variants that accumulate within a population. Neo-Darwinism can be defined as changes in gene frequencies within a gene pool.

It is not hard to come up with an example of differences between races. The most obvious difference being skin color, but an even more appropriate physical feature showing a physical advantage or disadvantage depending on a particular environment would be to compare pygmies average height with that of any other "race" (The average male height of pygmies being 150 cm and the average height of American males being 176cm.) But of course even skin color can defer an advantage or disadvantage in rates of tolerance towards sun exposure. Other genetic differences between races include Lactose tolerance, HIV resistance, Malaria Resistance, and a number of other genetic differences that have been shown to occur at different rates between the supposed races.

Now, back to the term racism. Racial differences exist, we as scientists should be honest with ourselves and stop fooling ourselves into thinking that they don't. Too many people forget that it is one thing to say that racial differences exist and it is a whole other matter when someone says that a particular race is superior to another therefore the other race should be discriminated against. But again the situation gets even more complicated, because couldn't a person make a case for the discrimination of pygmies within the NBA (National Basketball Association,) obviously, yes. Would an airport hire a blind air-traffic controller? But, this brings up a new problem, in that, are not all short people discriminated against in the NBA? I would like to call this concept justified discrimination as opposed to unjustified discrimination. An example of unjustified discrimination would be the practices of organizations which perpetuate inherent differences between races, not based upon any type of pragmatic concern, but would otherwise lay claim to and actively discriminate against others solely based upon birthrights (I'm sure the reader can think of one.)

Luckily if things continue the way they are, in a few hundred years the human race will be a semi-perfect mix of all the current races. I look forward to that future of a homogeneous society where only one race exists and justified racial discrimination can and will no longer exist on logical grounds. The only discrimination will be that of the luck of the genetic draw and the subsequent environmental effects that change a persons phenotypes.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Sexual Differences

Two interesting papers. Come to your own conclusions...

Dunn, MJ & Searle, R (2009) Effect of manipulated prestige-car ownership on both sex attractiveness ratings British Journal of Psychology (In press) Pubmed
Abstract:
Previous studies have shown that male attractiveness can be enhanced by manipulation of status through, for example, the medium of costume. The present study experimentally manipulated status by seating the same target model (male and female matched for attractiveness) expressing identical facial expressions and posture in either a 'high status' (Silver Bentley Continental GT) or a 'neutral status' (Red Ford Fiesta ST) motor-car. A between-subjects design was used whereby the above photographic images were presented to male and female participants for attractiveness rating. Results showed that the male target model was rated as significantly more attractive on a rating scale of 1-10 when presented to female participants in the high compared to the neutral status context. Males were not influenced by status manipulation, as there was no significant difference between attractiveness ratings for the female seated in the high compared to the neutral condition. It would appear that despite a noticeable increase in female ownership of prestige/luxury cars over recent years males, unlike females remain oblivious to such cues in matters pertaining to opposite-sex attraction. These findings support the results of previous status enhancement of attractiveness studies especially those espousing sex differences in mate preferences are due to sex-specific adaptations.

Karremans, J., Verwijmeren, T., Pronk, T., & Reitsma, M. (2009) Interacting with women can impair men’s cognitive functioning. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 45(4), 1041-1044. DOI: 10.1016/j.jesp.2009.05.004
Abstract:
The present research tested the prediction that mixed-sex interactions may temporarily impair cognitive functioning. Two studies, in which participants interacted either with a same-sex or opposite-sex other, demonstrated that men’s (but not women’s) cognitive performance declined following a mixed-sex encounter. In line with our theoretical reasoning, this effect occurred more strongly to the extent that the opposite-sex other was perceived as more attractive (Study 1), and to the extent that participants reported higher levels of impression management motivation (Study 2). Implications for the general role of interpersonal processes in cognitive functioning, and some practical implications, are discussed.