April Recommended Reading

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Cascadia Volcanoes

At the end of each month I compile links to articles I found thought-provoking over that month, categorized with pull-quotes for your perusal and edification. Each of these is a story that made me stop and think, and hopefully one or two of them will do the same for you. Continue reading

March Recommended Reading

noaaAt the end of each month I compile links to articles I found thought-provoking over that month, categorized with pull-quotes for your perusal and edification. Each of these is a story that made me stop and think, and hopefully one or two of them will do the same for you.

Continue reading

October Recommended Reading

 At the end of each month I compile links to articles I found thought-provoking over that month, categorized with pull-quotes for your perusal and edification. Each of these is a story that made me stop and think, and hopefully one or two of them will do the same for you.

Racism:

She was guilty of being a black girl: The mundane terror of police violence in American schools – Brittney Cooper

“Still, there are those who insist that we don’t know the full context. But we do know that this young lady did not do anything violent. We do know that she did not have a weapon. We do know that Ben Fields has been twice sued, once as a member of the police force and once during his time as a school administrator for excessive use of force. He has a documented history of online complaints about his mistreatment of students going back to 2012.

And we should know that this kind of violence is not acceptable. It is not discipline. It is terror and brutalization designed to compel compliance rather than to redirect negative behaviors. It is no way to educate. It is the way a system treats Black students when it decides that they are not worthy of hope, care, dignity or protection. This is the way the system and its arbiters view and treat Black life.”

Sexism:

A New Twist in the Fight Against Sexism in Science – Sarah Zhang

“What’s remarkable is what happened after each of these events occurred, when the hashtags trended and the voices clamored: The people responsible were held accountable for their actions. The Rosetta scientist issued a teary apology. The Nobel laureate lost his honorary professorship. The editor of the Science column is no longer there. The Berkeley astronomer resigned in disgrace.

In isolation, any one of these events could seem like an outlier: just one person getting his due. But taken together, so many and in succession, they suggest something bigger. A conversation about sexism in science broke open this year. Sharp organizing and social media are sparking real change. What was once whispered privately in laboratories and offices is being discussed publicly, loudly, and clearly.”

Even With Hard Evidence Of Gender Bias In STEM Fields, Men Don’t Believe It’s Real – Laurel Raymond

“One landmark study found that science faculty at research universities rate applicants with male names as more competent, more hireable, and more deserving of a higher starting salary than female applicants, even when the resumes are otherwise identical.

Now, a new study published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS) shows another level of bias: Many men don’t believe this is happening. When shown empirical evidence of gender bias against women in the STEM fields, men were far less likely to find the studies convincing or important, according to researchers from Montana State University (MSU), the University of North Florida, and Skidmore College.”

Cuts To Domestic Violence Services Are Placing Victims In Danger – Bryce Covert

“The National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) recently released its yearly one-day census of most of the country’s nearly 2,000 domestic violence programs and shelters. Many have cut back on key services and have run out of enough beds to accommodate the massive number of people who need them.

That can leave victims in dangerous situations longer and keeps them from moving into stable, independent living arrangements. “When [victims] come into domestic violence shelters, their situations are more dangerous, likely because they’ve waited longer,” said Joyce Grover, executive director of the Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence. “They have to wait for services even when they personally feel like they are in crisis.””

Politics:

What Could Raising Taxes on the 1% Do? Surprising Amounts – Patricia Cohen

“”Most economists today would agree that raising taxes modestly would bring in more revenue” without doing any serious damage to the economy, said Roberton Williams, a fellow at the Tax Policy Center. The big question is how much is too much, because at some point, higher tax rates would discourage extra investment and work.

All the Republican candidates share the party’s traditional opposition to raising taxes on the wealthy, arguing that it would ruin the economy by sopping up money that would otherwise be used to create jobs. Lowering taxes, they say, will unleash a torrent of economic activity that will in the long run spur growth and revenue.

But most mainstream economists, including some on the conservative side of the divide, concede that even with optimistic projections about growth and spending cuts, the Republican plans would leave a whopping budget gap, requiring more borrowing, not less. Revamping the tax code along these lines would also decrease the share paid by those at the top.”

Climate Change:

Greedland is Melting Away – Coral Davenport, Josh Haner, Larry Buchanan And Derek Watkins

“For years, scientists have studied the impact of the planet’s warming on the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets. But while researchers have satellite images to track the icebergs that break off, and have created models to simulate the thawing, they have little on-the-ground information and so have trouble predicting precisely how fast sea levels will rise.”

What Is—and Is Not—Considered Settled with Climate Science? – Brenda Ekwurzel

“Three widely accepted scientific understandings in climate science: Carbon dioxide traps heat and exerts major influence on Earth’s temperature when its concentration increases or decreases: upheld since the late 19th century. Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia. Human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.”

Health:

Processed meat and cancer – what you need to know – Casey Dunlop

“In this post, we’ll look at what IARC’s classification actually means, how red and processed meat affect cancer risk, and the likely size of this effect. But before we move on, let’s be clear: yes, a prolonged high-meat diet isn’t terribly good for you. But a steak, bacon sandwich or sausage bap a few times a week probably isn’t much to worry about. And overall the risks are much lower than for other things linked to cancer – such as smoking.”

Meat and tobacco: the difference between risk and strength of evidence – Suzi Gage

“The way this message has been framed in the media is extremely misleading. Comparing meat to tobacco, as most news organisations who’ve chosen to report this have done, makes it seem like a bacon sandwich might be just as harmful as a cigarette. This is absolutely not the case.”

Patients Assume ‘Breakthrough’ Drugs Are Better – Sarah Wickline Wallan

“The breakthrough designation gets awarded based on preliminary evidence, which can include changes in surrogate markers of disease that do not always translate into meaningful clinical benefit, Ross and Redberg added, suggesting that even when the designation is based on clinical outcomes, many of those benefits will not be confirmed in subsequent, larger-scale clinical trials.”

“Health” Supplements Send 23,000 to Emergency Rooms in the U.S Each Year – Gene Emery

“The supplements include herbal products, amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and other complementary nutrition products hawked for a wide range of uses, often with little or no testing to back up claims. The new study “illustrates the idea that something that’s ‘natural’ is not necessarily safe, and these products do not come without risk,” Dr. Curtis Haas, director of pharmacy for the University of Rochester Medical Center and a past president of the American College of Clinical Pharmacy, told Reuters Health.”

Drug companies aren’t telling you the whole truth – Rob Waters

“Bottom line: studies showing that antidepressants worked got published; studies showing they didn’t went unpublished and few people knew they existed.

The study caused a bit of a stir. Jeffrey Drazen, the editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, where Turner’s review was published, told me then it was evidence of “publication bias”—the tendency for positive, but not negative, findings to make their way into print. Despite the best efforts of journal editors to publish a balance of findings, Drazen told me, “what’s reported is really a much more rosy situation than actually exists.”

OK, you may be saying, but this is six-year old news, and by now things must have changed. Two recent studies suggest that when it comes to publication bias, in fact, things have not changed much at all.”

Religion:

White evangelical church-goers think their ‘science’ is better than the science those stupid scientists say is science – Fred Clark

“Here’s Pew’s own headline: “Highly religious Americans are less likely than others to see conflict between faith and science.” That’s not true. That’s not what Pew’s own survey shows. But this weird, distorting spin on the survey is being widely repeated. Here’s the headline at Christianity Today: “Churchgoers Least Likely to See Science and Religion in Conflict.”

Again, no. That is not at all what the survey shows.What the survey shows, rather, is that Churchgoers Are More Likely to Redefine Science as That Which Does Not Conflict With Their Religion. Or, in other words, that Real, True Christians also imagine they alone possess the Real, True Science.”

Science:

21764634350_8d9c3239b2_kRelive Our One Giant Leap in an Archive of Thousands of Apollo Photographs – Phil Plait

“If we can put a man on the Moon, why can’t we put 8,400 hi-res scans of the Apollo mission photographs taken by the astronauts themselves on Flickr? Oh wait. We can. And Kipp Teague did.

Teague is a network and IT director at Lynchburg College, and he and I have two things in common: We’re both University of Virginia alumni (wahoowa!), and we’re both unabashed fans of the Apollo Moon missions. But where I will sometimes write about the missions and talk about how they’re real, he went way, way farther: He rescanned more than 8,000 original photographs taken by the astronauts using their chest-mounted Hasselblad cameras, creating a huge archive on Flickr showcasing the epic journey to the Moon and back.”

The complex nature of GMOs calls for a new conversation – Maywa Montenegro

“GMOs, in sum, point us to deeper issues that underlie the entire food system. A nonreductionist evaluation of GMOs can push us toward thinking about effects at multiple scales and time spans. Such an evaluation can get us to think deeply about who benefits from technologies, who controls their availability and access, and who makes such decisions. We get to think about the entanglements of politics, the media and public interest in shaping scientific validity and consensus. In short, we are invited to think socially and ecologically — indeed agroecologically — about the utility and value of engineered seeds.”

Writing:

Narrative X-Rays: Looking at Stories’ Structural Skeletons – Julia Rosen

“Structuring long-form nonfiction writing defies simple rules. Sometimes, you should start at the beginning of a story; other times, the middle or even the end. Sometimes you should follow a single narrative as it unfolds; other times, two or more tales tango through an article. The only hard and fast rule seems to be: Do what works. Do whatever will convey the information you want to share while also giving readers the feeling that they’re on a journey—one that might continue beyond the final sentence. …

To beginners, the whole process can sound, well, a little magical. What if we don’t know how to conquer our unruly notes? Or more importantly, what if we can’t recognize the right organizational pattern when we see it? Part of the problem is that there are as many successful structures as there are compelling stories. But that’s also part of the solution: By examining a range of stories, not only can you build a repertoire of possible choices, but you can also develop a sense of which narrative choices work, and why. So we’ve asked four long-form writers to reverse engineer some of their favorite tales—their own and those by other writers—to expose their narrative skeletons.”

 

September Recommended Reading

At the end of each month I compile links to articles I found thought-provoking over that month, categorized with pull-quotes for your perusal and edification. Each of these is a story that made me stop and think, and hopefully one or two of them will do the same for you.

Racism:

Cops: Texas Man Vandalized His Own Truck, Blamed It On Black Lives Matter – Caitlin Cruz

“A disabled veteran told Whitney, Texas, police on Sept. 8 that his pickup truck was vandalized by Black Lives Matter activists. As a result, he raised almost $6,000 from the public for repairs, according to a report from Dallas-Fort Worth television station KDFW.

But footage from the television station’s initial report told police a different story. On Friday police arrested Scott Lattin on suspicion of making a false police report.”

Sexism:

New Census Data Shows The Gender Wage Gap Hasn’t Improved In 7 Years – Bryce Covert

“The average woman working full time, year round in 2014 made just 79 percent of what a similar man made, according to the latest data from the Census Bureau. That’s not statistically different than last year’s 78 percent figure, and there hasn’t been a significant reduction of the wage gap since 2007.

Men earned $50,400 at the median in 2014, while women earned $39,600. both not stat from 2013. Neither gender has seen a significant increase in their median earnings since 2009, and women’s 2014 median earnings were not statistically different than what they made in 2007.”

Online posts about killing feminists prompt University of Toronto to increase campus security – Tristin Hopper

In the letter, Regehr says the university was the target of ‘anonymous threats made on a public blog,’ but provides no details. However, a later statement by CUPE 3902, the union representing University of Toronto academic staff, said the posts ‘were gendered threats made specifically toward women and feminists.’

‘We can also add that the threats specifically encourage violence and target our members in their workplaces,’ it reads. ‘Specifically mentioned are those working in Sociology and Women’s Studies classrooms.’ ”

Classism:

Wages Have Been Stagnant For 40 Years But It’s Not The Fault Of American Workers – Bryce Covert

“Stagnating wages aren’t workers’ fault. ‘People have been told that the economy isn’t doing well and therefore that’s why people haven’t done well,’ Lawrence Mishel, president of EPI and a co-author of the report, told ThinkProgress. But economic growth has kept increasing at a healthy rate. ‘Everybody’s wages could have grown substantially. But they didn’t.’

This isn’t accidental, either. ‘We haven’t been in an economic tsunami where people aren’t able to move ahead,’ Mishel said. ‘This is a man-made phenomenon.’ ”

Climate Change:

Secretive donors gave US climate denial groups $125m over three years – Suzanne Goldenberg and Helena Bengtsson

“The secretive funders behind America’s conservative movement directed around $125m (£82m) over three years to groups spreading disinformation about climate science and committed to wrecking Barack Obama’s climate change plan, according to an analysis of tax records. The amount is close to half of the anonymous funding disbursed to rightwing groups, underlining the importance of the climate issue to US conservatives. The anonymous cash flow came from two secretive organisations – the Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund – that have been called the “Dark Money ATM” of the conservative movement.”

How I Came To Jesus On Global Warming — Dan Vergano

“It took a jolt from someone I trusted before my mind started to change. Jim, another aerospace engineer, had started working with the Energy Department, which funded climate scientists. He had quickly discovered that these researchers were not the addled souls of our imagination, but a crusty and sharp-minded breed (something that I can attest, after two decades of interviewing them, is still true).

So, when I casually voiced something sarcastic about global warming, Jim said: ‘Have you checked the data?’ In engineering speak that translates as, ‘Dude, are you high?’

That stung. Not enough to actually engage seriously with the idea that I might be wrong. But enough to open the door to real thought.”

Environment:

“A Big Deal… A Big Move”: the U.S. Wind Industry’s New Plan for Protecting Bats – John Rogers

“The new voluntary industry guidelines involve wind project operators operating their wind turbines differently when they’re not generating power during peak bat migration time. Wind turbines can pose threats to bats at wind speeds that are too low for generating electricity. Under this agreement, turbines will have their blades turned, such that they spin very slowly, or not at all, when they’re not needed.”

Media:

Book Publishing, Not Fact-Checking – Kate Newman

“Fact-checking dates back to the founding of Time in 1923, and has a strong tradition at places like Mother Jones and The New Yorker. (The Atlantic checks every article in print.) But it’s becoming less and less common even in the magazine world. Silverman suggests this is in part due to the Internet and the drive for quick content production. ‘Fact-checkers don’t increase content production,’ he said. ‘Arguably, they slow it.’

What many readers don’t realize is that fact-checking has never been standard practice in the book-publishing world at all.”

Politics:

Stop Comparing Donald Trump And Bernie Sanders – Nate Silver

“Trump is a much greater threat to his party establishment. It would be a mistake, however, to conclude that Sanders is as threatening to the Democratic establishment as Trump is to the Republican one. Sanders’s policy positions, as I’ve mentioned, are about 95 percent the same as those of a typical liberal Democrat in Congress. And where they diverge, they push Democrats further to the left in a fairly predictable way,3 acting as a ‘supersized’ or slightly exaggerated version of the Democratic agenda. Indeed, while Sanders lacks support from elected Democratic officials, he has some backing from other influential constituencies within the party, such as some labor unions and liberal media outlets.”

Religion:

Everything That Claims to be Christian – Shaun King

“Without fail, the people who harass me daily (I don’t mean genuine critiques) with the ugliest racist words and threats, all claim to be Christian. The people who openly hate Latino immigrants and even state that they’d like to shoot and kill them almost always claim to be Christians. The people who make life difficult, daily, and mock my LGBT friends, are almost always Christians. Those who are calling the Black Lives Matter movement a ‘terrorist organization’ or a hate group…so-called Christians.

For me, I’m at a point where I just don’t want to be anything that those people claim to be and here’s the greater point that I want to make…

We can’t both be Christians.”

Medicine:

The Human Cost of a Misleading Drug-Safety Study – David Dobbs

“Count this as shocking but unsurprising, for GSK has been admonished and fined many times since 2001, including once for $3 billion, for exaggerating Paxil’s safety and marketing it improperly for use in adolescents. Yet this BMJ study deals an especially sharp blow, for it’s only rarely that researchers are able to crack open the tightly sealed file cabinets of drugmakers and look at raw trial data. This illustrates why they want to do so: It appears to be a direct demonstration of how a company and researchers can misinterpret the data to make a bad drug look good.”

Science:

Perplexing Pluto: New ‘Snakeskin’ Image and More from New Horizons – NASA

“The newest high-resolution images of Pluto from NASA’s New Horizons are both dazzling and mystifying, revealing a multitude of previously unseen topographic and compositional details. The image below — showing an area near the line that separates day from night — captures a vast rippling landscape of strange, aligned linear ridges that has astonished New Horizons team members.

‘It’s a unique and perplexing landscape stretching over hundreds of miles,’ said William McKinnon, New Horizons Geology, Geophysics and Imaging (GGI) team deputy lead from Washington University in St. Louis. ‘It looks more like tree bark or dragon scales than geology. This’ll really take time to figure out.’ ”

August Recommended Reading

At the end of each month I compile links to articles I found thought-provoking over that month, categorized with pull-quotes for your perusal and edification. Each of these is a story that made me stop and think, and hopefully one or two of them will do the same for you.

LGBTQ Rights:

When Public Servants Refuse to Serve the Public – Garrett Epps

“Is it possible to agree on what religious freedom is not? It’s not a right to wear a Marine uniform but refuse to fight. It’s not a right to be a county clerk and decide which citizens you will serve and which you won’t. Religious “accommodation” doesn’t mean what Liberty Counsel thinks it means. If a person can perform the duties of a job with some adjustment for religious belief, that’s an accommodation. If they’re not willing to do the job, they have to leave. That’s not just a requirement of law; honor requires it as well.

Government in particular has an obligation to dismiss any employee who claims a right to discriminate against citizens. It’s not good enough to say, “Go to another county if you want a license.” It’s not good enough to say, “I won’t let anyone get married.” Those aren’t a clerk’s decisions to make.”

Racism:

Black American lives are being erased. The victors still rewrite history. – Lindy West

“There is nothing intrinsically wrong with paying tribute to a big, beautiful lion whose life was sacrificed on the altar of white male insecurity. There is nothing intrinsically wrong, I suppose, with devoting column inches to an apparently dangerous racist publicly confirming that he is a dangerous racist. But we must remember that when we use the phrase “History is written by the victors”, we are talking about moments like this. This is what that looks like. The victors (ie the beneficiaries of the status quo) are writing history, in front of our eyes, in real time – deciding what will endure and what will fade away. This isn’t necessarily an overt, explicit or even conscious process – it’s often just a series of seemingly innocuous choices that add up to a slow, grinding erasure.”

Tracking Police Violence A Year After Ferguson – Donovan X. Ramsey

“Over the past few months, The Guardian and The Washington Post have published reporting projects that measure the number of civilians killed by police. The Guardian’s count for 2015 stands at 690, and the Post’s, which tracks deaths from police shootings in particular, is at 581. Both projects rely on data provided by news outlets, research groups, and the open-source reporting projects Fatal Encounters and Killed By Police. The Guardian’s and Post’s projects have captured the public’s attention, but Sabol says they lack the rigor needed to provide lasting answers. The projects are, after all, works of journalism designed to offer estimates based on available data, not official measurements.”

Sexism:

Why Can’t the FBI Identify Serial Rapists? – T. Christian Miller

“That’s what’s striking about ViCAP today: the paucity of information it contains. Only about 1,400 police agencies in the U.S., out of roughly 18,000, participate in the system. The database receives reports from far less than 1 percent of the violent crimes committed annually. It’s not even clear how many crimes the database has helped solve. The FBI does not release any figures. A review in the 1990s found it had linked only 33 crimes in 12 years.

Canadian authorities built on the original ViCAP framework to develop a modern and sophisticated system capable of identifying patterns and linking crimes. It has proven particularly successful at analyzing sexual-assault cases. But three decades and an estimated $30 million later, the FBI’s system remains stuck in the past, the John Henry of data mining. ViCAP was supposed to revolutionize American law enforcement. That revolution never came.”

It’s Weird How People Correct Me When They Think I’m a Woman – Jef Rouner

“It went on and on and on. I even saw one person (who I blocked because I don’t need to see this sort of nuttiness) on a friend’s Facebook share refer to my work as “typical white women liberal logic”, whatever the heck that means. Time after time, I was assumed to be a woman, and those who did so were usually the ones who immediately tried to mansplain away every seed of logic and well-sourced information that I had planted.”

To Have and to Hold: Reproduction, marriage, and the Constitution – Jill Lepore

“The coincidence of the fiftieth anniversary of the Court’s ruling in Griswold and its anticipated decision in Obergefell makes this, inescapably, an occasion for considering the past half century of legal reasoning about reproductive and gay rights. The cases that link Griswold to Obergefell are the product of political movements that have been closely allied, both philosophically and historically. That sex and marriage can be separated from reproduction is fundamental to both movements, and to their legal claims. Still, there’s a difference between the arguments of political movements and appeals to the Constitution. Good political arguments are expansive: they broaden and deepen the understanding of citizens and of legislators. Bad political arguments are as frothy as soapsuds: they get bigger and bigger, until they pop. But both good and bad constitutional arguments are more like blown-in insulation: they fill every last nook of a very cramped space, and then they harden. Over time, arguments based on a right to privacy have tended to weaken and crack; arguments based on equality have grown only stronger.”

‘This isn’t right’: New York City rape victim blasts police who asked if she was a drunk ‘party girl’- David Ferguson

“Having to recite her story repeatedly to openly skeptical police officials was a humiliating and degrading ordeal, Ellett said. “I had to keep retelling my story to a dude who didn’t even care, and who kept asking me to prove that I wasn’t some whore who forgot that I said that this guy could have sex with me,” she recounted.

She was then taken to the city’s Fifth Precinct headquarters where five more male police officials interrogated her. “[The officer] said, ‘Maybe you led him to believe it was okay in some way?’ I kept repeating myself and I got so frustrated. He told me, ‘If it’s his word against yours it’s gonna be years of an uphill legal battle, a lot more strife.’ He was basically deterring me from doing anything about it. I just asked him, ‘Well isn’t rape a crime? Isn’t it a felony?’” she said.”

Classism:

The Teen Who Exposed a Professor’s Myth – Ben Collins

“The theory picked up traction over the last decade, but seemed to reach an unexpected fever pitch in the last few months. Explainer websites this year used it to highlight popular myths of persecution complexes that are, as Vox put it, “stand-ins for an entire narrative about how immigrants are treated in America.” That’s from the lede of an article printed in March called “‘No Irish Need Apply’: the fake sign at the heart of a real movement.” Here, of course, is the problem: After only couple of hours Googling it, Rebecca, a 14-year-old, had found out these signs had, in fact, existed all along. Not only in newspaper listings—in which they appeared in droves—but, after further research, in shop windows, too.”

Haunted by Student Debt to the Grave – Mary Green Swig, Steven L. Swig and Roger Hickey

“Many people, including many student debt holders, may be surprised to learn that people can be pursued for student debt even into their elder years. In fact, the government is withholding Social Security payments for some retirees because their student loans have not been fully repaid. This is a growing problem that Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) have asked the government to study in greater depth. “Garnishing Social Security benefits defeats the entire point of the program – that’s why we don’t allow banks or credit card companies to do it,” said Sen. McCaskill. “Social Security is the sole means of retirement income for tens of millions of Americans, and allowing those benefits to be garnished to collect student loan debt cuts a dangerous hole in our safety net.” ”

Climate Change:

Hurricane Katrina, Ten Years Later: How a Country that Bore Witness Still Plays Business as Usual – Erika Spanger-Siegfried

“The default, our reality, is still business as usual along much of our coasts. And business as usual—that is, acting as though the sea hasn’t risen and won’t keep going—is risky business. Let’s consider New Jersey, which has the memory of Katrina and the punishing first-hand experience of Sandy to guide its coastal decision making. Just last month, New Jersey adopted major changes to its Coastal Zone Management Rules that, according to the New Jersey Association for Floodplain Management, “do not consider the effects of sea level rise; incorporating sea level rise into the permitting process is critical if it is to meet its goal of not putting the inhabitants of the New Jersey shore at risk.” This follows on a trend of rapid re-development in highly vulnerable places, such as the Barnegat Peninsula.”

Science:

Would You Rather Lose Your Morals or Your Memory? – Vlad Chituc

“This view, that our memory is what’s most essential to our identities, is most often credited to John Locke, a 17th century British philosopher. It’s difficult, though, to test this directly—after all, you can’t really ask someone who’s lost their memory whether or not they’re the same person as someone they no longer remember. To get around this requires some thought. In past work, Strohminger and Nichols tested Locke’s hypothesis with hypothetical scenarios: imagine someone seriously injured their head and lost their memories, or they lost their sight, or they lost their moral compass, and so on. Strohminger asked people to rate how different someone would be after these kinds of accidents. “What we find consistently, really no matter how we ask this question,” Strohminger told me, “is that moral traits are what matter the most.” ”

Scientists replicated 100 recent psychology experiments. More than half of them failed – Julia Belluz

“Consider the newest evidence: a landmark study published today in the journal Science. More than 270 researchers from around the world came together to replicate 100 recent findings from top psychology journals. By one measure, only 36 percent showed results that were consistent with the original findings. In other words, many more than half of the replications failed.

“The results are more or less consistent with what we’ve seen in other fields,” said Ivan Oransky, one of the founders of the blog Retraction Watch, which tracks scientific retractions. Still, he applauded the effort: “Because the authors worked with the original researchers and repeated the experiments, the paper is an example of the gold standard of replication.” ”

Science Isn’t Broken: It’s just a hell of a lot harder than we give it credit for – Christie Aschwanden

“Taken together, headlines like these might suggest that science is a shady enterprise that spits out a bunch of dressed-up nonsense. But I’ve spent months investigating the problems hounding science, and I’ve learned that the headline-grabbing cases of misconduct and fraud are mere distractions. The state of our science is strong, but it’s plagued by a universal problem: Science is hard — really fucking hard. If we’re going to rely on science as a means for reaching the truth — and it’s still the best tool we have — it’s important that we understand and respect just how difficult it is to get a rigorous result.”

July Recommended Reading

At the end of each month I compile links to articles I found thought-provoking over that month, categorized with pull-quotes for your perusal and edification. Each of these is a story that made me stop and think, and hopefully one or two of them will do the same for you.

LGBTQ Rights:

The Real Reason Why Conservatives Like Ross Douthat Oppose The Gay Marriage Ruling – Amanda Marcotte

“In this sense, Douthat isn’t wrong that “support for same-sex marriage and the decline of straight marital norms exist in a kind of feedback loop.” To accept same-sex marriage is to accept this modern idea that marriage is about love and partnership, instead of about dutiful procreation and female submission. Traditional gender roles where husbands rule over wives are disintegrating and that process is definitely helped along by these new laws allowing that marriage doesn’t have to be a gendered institution at all.”

Change Doesn’t Usually Come This Fast – Nate Silver

“I came along just a few years too soon (I was born in 1978) to really consider coming out as gay when growing up. There were no openly gay students in my high school. And there were few gay role models in American society: certainly not on television and in the movies, which invariably portrayed gay men as camp characters, or freaks, or AIDS victims.

If coming out was hard to contemplate, however, the possibility of gay marriage was unthinkable. At the time Andrew Sullivan wrote his now-famous essay in support of gay marriage in The New Republic in 1989, almost no polling firms even bothered asking questions about gay marriage. One that did — the General Social Survey — found that just 12 percent of the population was in favor of it.”

Racism:

If It Were Mega Churches, We’d Know Who Was Burning Them – Ingrid Cruz

“Having been raised in a devout Christian family, I ask myself, where are mega churches and their pastors when it comes to the burning of African-American churches? So many who would normally call these acts a desecration of sacred symbols are nowhere to be seen or heard. I’m certain that if mega churches, or predominantly white churches were burning, all TV networks would cover these fires and the perpetrators in charge of these arsons would already be caught, or there would be a strong strategy to catch them.”

Sexism:

Can We Just, Like, Get Over the Way Women Talk? – Ann Friedman

” “With men, we listen for what they’re saying, their point, their assertions. Which is what all of us want others to do when we speak,” Lakoff says. “With women, we tend to listen to how they’re talking, the words they use, what they emphasize, whether they smile.” Men also use the word just. Men engage in upspeak. Men have vocal fry. Men pepper their sentences with unnecessary “likes” and “sorrys.” I haven’t read any articles encouraging them to change this behavior. The supposed distinctions between men’s and women’s ways of talking are, often, not that distinct.”

Masculinity and Mass Shootings in the U.S. – Tristan Bridges and Tara Leigh Tober

“Mass shootings are a pressing issue in the United States. And gun control is an important part of this problem. But, when we focus only on the guns, we sometimes gloss over an important fact: mass shootings are also enactments of masculinity. And they will continue to occur when this fact is combined with a sense among some men that male privilege is a birthright–and one that many feel unjustly denied.”

Classism:

Dunkin’ CEO: $15 minimum wage is ‘outrageous’ – Jackie Wattles

“Fast food workers making about $12 per hour sounds more reasonable to Travis. He said that would be the living wage for a worker with family at home.

MIT’s Living Wage Calculator, however, indicates New York state’s living wage is currently $12.75 for a single adult. For a household with two working parents and two kids, it estimates each worker would need to make $18.30 an hour. The current minimum wage in New York State is $8.75 and hour.”

Activism:

Resilience Is Futile: How Well-Meaning Nonprofits Perpetuate Poverty – Melissa Chadburn

“We started to absorb this woman’s idea that changing people’s behavior was the solution to their problems, which meant absorbing the idea that people’s behavior was the source of their problems. But I knew at the core of me this was false. The problem had never been that I didn’t know the right number to call. It’s a lack of resources that produces a lack of resilience, not the other way around.

But the work of the initiative said otherwise. This is what we did: we gathered residents in the community and pointed out what their individual and community assets were. Nothing else. We didn’t provide services, or even find a way to coordinate between the different service providers.”

A Renegade Trawler, Hunted for 10,000 Miles by Vigilantes – Ian Urbina

“Industrial-scale violators of fishing bans and protected areas are a main reason more than half of the world’s major fishing grounds have been depleted and by some estimates over 90 percent of the ocean’s large fish like marlin, tuna and swordfish have vanished. Interpol had issued a Purple Notice on the Thunder (the equivalent of adding it to a Most Wanted List, a status reserved for only four other ships in the world), but no government had been willing to dedicate the personnel and millions of dollars needed to go after it.

So Sea Shepherd did instead, stalking the fugitive 202-foot steel-sided ship from a desolate patch of ocean at the bottom of the Earth, deep in Antarctic waters, to any ports it neared, where its crews could alert the authorities. ‘The poachers thrive by staying in the shadows,’ Peter Hammarstedt, captain of the Barker, said while trying to level his ship through battering waves. ‘Our plan was to put a spotlight on them that they couldn’t escape.’ ”

Food:

How trans fats oozed into our diet and out again – Bethany Brookshire

“On June 16 the Food and Drug Administration made the final call: Trans fats are no longer “generally recognized as safe” for use in food. That means that food manufacturers have three years to ooze these cheap and useful fats out of their processed foods.

In fact, most of them already have. Trans fat —a big source of which is partially hydrogenated vegetable oils — has been the food villain of choice since 2006, when the FDA required companies to include trans fat content on food labels. Since then, the oily fats that used to lurk in everything from crackers to frosting have largely vanished — with a few exceptions, such as ice cream sprinkles and some doughnuts.

As trans fats went in and then out of style, some people blamed food companies for embracing the fats, which offered a cheaper alternative to animal products. But what trans fats brought to the world of microwave popcorn and Oreos was a bit more complicated than cost savings. And their fall from grace shows that nutrition — like any other scientific area — is subject to self-correction over time.”

The New York Times Gets It Wrong about Genetic Engineering – Henry Miller

“So what’s new? Not the genetic engineering of food, but only the techniques for accomplishing it. And the newest methods — recombinant-DNA technology, or ‘gene-splicing,’ and the new gene-editing techniques — are far more precise and predictable than their predecessors. They’re an extension, or refinement, of more-primitive techniques.

Here’s the take-home lesson: Because the techniques of molecular genetic engineering lead to greater control and certainty about the result, their use decreases the complexity of food production and the likelihood of what Spitznagel and Taleb call ‘unpredictable changes in the ecosystem.’ ”

Science:

Views of Pluto Through the Years

This is an animation showing just one little piece of the amazing data coming out of the Pluto system via New Horizons this month.

Sound Off – Peter Brennan

“Just how much noise has been added to the ocean has been revealed by the worldwide network of underwater microphones originally developed to eavesdrop on submarines. Hydrophones anchored to the continental slope off California, for instance, have recorded a doubling of background noise in the ocean every two decades since the 1960s. For whales, whose lives can be measured in centuries, the dramatic change to the environment is one that could be covered in the biography of a single whale. As a testament to that longevity, in 2007, during a traditional whale hunt, indigenous Alaskans pulled a bowhead whale out of the water with a harpoon embedded in its blubber that had been made in New Bedford, Massachusetts, in the 1800s – a type of weapon that might have been familiar to Herman Melville.

‘It’s very likely that the individuals that were being recorded in 1956 were the same ones being recorded in 2000,’ Parks said. ‘Some of these whales were born before there were motorized vessels in the water at all.’ ”

Sarcasm: How the ‘lowest form of wit’ actually makes people brighter and more creative – Roger Dobson

“Well, that’s just great. Sarcasm, often derided as the lowest form of wit, actually makes people brighter and more creative. People on the receiving end of sarcastic comments – and those who made them – were found to be up to three times more creative in a range of tests carried out by a team of researchers from Insead, one of the world’s leading business schools, and Harvard and Columbia universities.”

Ideas:

No, it’s Not Your Opinion, You’re Just Wrong – Jef Rouner

“There’s a common conception that an opinion cannot be wrong. My dad said it. Hell, everyone’s dad probably said it and in the strictest terms it is true. However, before you crouch behind your Shield of Opinion, you need to ask yourself two questions.

  1. Is this actually an opinion?
  2. If it is an opinion how informed is it and why do I hold it?”