Sokal Squared: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (and the Outlook)

Hello all. It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything, but I figured I might resurrect this dead blog (I think blogging as a whole is dead and I missed the opportune window for this to be really anything) to put a bookend on something I have been talking about without end for the past six days – Helen Pluckrose, James Lindsay, and Peter Boghossians’ hoaxing of “Academic Grievance Studies”. Continue reading “Sokal Squared: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (and the Outlook)”

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Upending a Sense of Placelessness

“The greatest story ever written is the one you carry in your DNA.” – Spencer Wells

I’m back in Texas and have been arguing with some other graduate students about why ancestral DNA tests are important for people since it seems to be something that white Americans in particular are exclusively interested in. I don’t know if this is true, but their questions and criticisms highlight a number of concerns about DNA testing. One student said there is a racist aspect in it, a desire to be known as European (which I think is silly because if your desire was to be European, you would probably rather not look at a DNA test which might tell you otherwise). Another said that we shouldn’t be focusing on race and heritage in the United States to begin with so that we can focus on forming more organic groups (that will never happen with the current state of racial affairs in America and obvious issues with a human tendency towards visibility). I disagree with both of these statements, and strongly believe that ancestral DNA testing is an important component in fighting, rather than producing, prejudice.

Continue reading “Upending a Sense of Placelessness”

The Culture of Computers

you i i i everything else . . . . . . . . . . . . . .” – Bob, Facebook Chatbot

Culture is a weird thing for humans and the few animals who exhibit it. As biologists have explored the animal kingdom for longer and more continuous periods, our understanding of what culture is and what culture isn’t is being pushed by our many case studies in creatures ranging from chimpanzees to chickadees. What progress has been made is in our understanding of culture as a far more mechanical, rigid, and adaptive process than we could have ever anticipated. Like in genetics, the transfer of information is the basis of culture, and the recapitulation of genetic patterns of transmission onto cultural ones only highlights that information theory, as applied in our understanding of dual inheritance, is a unifying theme between the two. An understanding of genetics can help us understand what culture is and what culture isn’t, as can an understanding of any other type of information transfer, especially in the realm of communication, especially in the realm of artificial intelligence. Continue reading “The Culture of Computers”

“The Selfish Nature of Human Cooperation” Re: Punishment Games

I was recently given the opportunity by the kind folks at Areo Magazine to publish a few opinions of mine on the nature of human cooperation titled, “The Selfish Nature of Human Cooperation,” which you can find in a link at the bottom of this post.

The article, which is about a 9 minute read, argues that most of the time when anthropologists et al align cooperation with some sort of moral good, we fail to take into account the mechanisms by which cooperation is maintained and what the purpose of cooperation is. Since I decided to soft-dox myself by publishing it under my real name, I don’t want to get into too many polemics on who this piece though.

Target audience aside, the article had some good feedback, but I wanted to address a point made by Siberian Fox (@SilverVVulpes on Twitter).

siberian fox

Continue reading ““The Selfish Nature of Human Cooperation” Re: Punishment Games”