A Naturalistic Fairy Tale-Part XVIII

And then did we, Most High Scientist, put to bed the mystery of the origin of sex. Sex did arise from hermaphrodites (praise Science), as we do now know from our study of strawberry plants.(1) Well at least in plants, but we’ll title the article as if the whole mystery we did solve, because it might as well have been the whole mystery, for we can generalize. We did learn, that genes at two different spots in the strawberry plant can cast that plant as a hermaphrodite, single sex, or neuter (praise Science).

“All of the animals and plants that are bi-sexual [praise Science; text added], or have two sexes, are theorized to have evolved according to a particular set of steps,” said researcher Kim Lewers, a plant geneticist at the USDA’s Genetic Improvement of Fruits and Vegetables Lab in Maryland. “Until now, no example had been found of the very earliest steps. Therefore, those steps were undemonstrated to be true.”

Please do continue to rely on us, the Most High Scientists, to solve whatever tiny mysteries do remain. We do think you now must be utterly convinced by the strawberry plant about the origin of sex in all of its variations.

(1) Scientists put sex origin to bed, MSNBC


Darwinian Psychology-Part II: Why we eat junk

There’s no doubt about it, the average American diet is atrocious.  Give us the 44 ounce softdrinks, Big Macs, ice cream, and snack cakes, and we’ll take that every time over a healthy diet of fruit and vegetables.  Obesity is referred to as an “epidemic” in America.  I agree with all of that.[1]  Here’s where I get off of the bus:

Maybe your mother didn’t cry, “Mangia!” when you ate dinner, like mine did. Still, you’re likely to whisper it to yourself. That’s because you possess a simple survival impulse: Eat until sated. Our neanderthink legacy is to store as much energy as possible, since calories were scarce and uncertain for most of human evolutionary history and our metabolism was set to guard against the possibility of starvation tomorrow. The problem is that eating more doesn’t sate us; we merely recalibrate how much we think we need.

Our evolved mind-set on food hinders us in several ways. Our instincts tell us to keep eating well beyond when we are sated. Worse, the foods we crave—calorie-dense fats and sugars—were once rare and valued as a bulwark against starvation; now they’re plentiful and harmful in excess. We don’t crave plants, precisely because they were more abundant in our past. And if we do manage to temporarily gain a handle on the gustatory Disneyland in which we live, our dietary rigor plummets once we’ve lost weight.(1)

So, the notion is that our Neanderthink makes us do it.  For the sake of argument, let’s say I concede this point for a moment.  What is the recommendation?

We’re good at rationalizations to avoid governing our food intake. We tell ourselves, “I can get away with eating this delicious morsel,” or “It’s too hard to deny myself this scrumptious ice cream.” By yielding to such urges, we ratchet upward the amount of sugar and fat we crave, because we are tampering with a hormonal system finely attuned to the lack of such concentrated energy. On the savannah, the sweetest confection was wild fruit.

Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, famously summed up what you need to know to consume healthfully: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” The method by which we might hew to this Paleolithic regimen can also be summed up in seven words: “Dieting gets easier if you don’t cheat.”

So the question is, how do the recommendations actually follow from the just so story?  They don’t.  It’s just, “Don’t eat too much, and eat mostly plants.  Oh yeah, don’t cheat.”  But this goes back to the premise of my original post, and that is that the Darwinian Psychology narrative is thought to add scientific authority to whatever is being discussed.  Forget the fact that the conclusion does not follow from the premise in the article.  That is irrelevant to why these folks invoke a Darwinian just so story.  They think it adds credibility.  For me, they just prevented the story from being printed out and handed to my patients, which could have been beneficial.

The same periodical also published an article entitled, How to Be a Good Storyteller not long before.(2)

Perhaps they find these articles unrelated, but I found them to be very related:

Stories also entertain, educate, and instill moral values—sometimes all at once. We can all tell narratives, whether in the classroom, the boardroom, or the living room, but it takes practice to become a fine raconteur.

It seems the folks over at Psychology Today have been getting their practice.

(1) Neanderthink: An Outsize Appetite, Courtesy of Evolution, Nando Pelusi Ph.D., (11/17/08), Psychology Today
(2) How to Spin a Good Story, Brian Andrew, (10/20/08), Psychology Today

[1] I have a simple experiment which I use to teach my patients about their diet. This one has to do with sugar, and more specifically folks who are addicted to soft drinks. Go two weeks without any soft drinks (it actually doesn’t matter if it’s a diet soft drink or regular), and then go out and buy the biggest soft drink you can. Then it will be clear to you what it does to your mind and body. This is something that has worked in each case. In fact, the research shows that drinking just one diet soft drink daily increases the risk of being overweight to an extent that is greater than regular soft drinks, although not by much. One diet soft drink daily increases your chances by approximately 42% whereas one sugar filled drink increases your chances by 38%. It goes up with each additional drink per day.

Darwinian Psychology-Part I: An Introduction

I am going to write an ongoing series on Darwinian Psychology (aka Evolutionary Psychology). Unfortunately, my chosen field (psychology) has probably generated more “just so”(1,2) stories than has biology. Paleontologist and Darwinist, Stephen J. Gould, wrote about “Darwinian Fundamentalism”,(3) and specifically singled out Darwinian Psychology for criticism. He also noted the similarity between Darwinism and fundamentalism:

But since the modern ultras [Ultra Darwinists] push their line with an almost theological fervor, and since the views of founding fathers do matter in religion, though supposedly not in science, Darwin’s own fierce opposition does become a factor in judgment.(3)

Equivalent of Darwinian Just So Story

Equivalent of Darwinian Just So Story

I have noted an interesting phenomena among scientists and in “scientific” writings. Presenting a Darwinian “just so” story for the phenomena that you are discussing seems to provide the research with a veneer of scientific credibility. It is as if a Darwinian “just so” story is a suitable substitute for empirical data.

For those who study persuasion, they will note a similar phenomena in the general population. For example, people dressed in a suit and tie are more persuasive than those not dressed in this manner.(4) Authority is conferred to individuals dressed in this manner.  For those of us who worked in an hospital setting in graduate school, we were always excited when we were able to wear a white lab coat, because the patients listened to us better and were more apt to follow our instructions.

As an aside, this may be related to evolutionary factors indicating intelligence. Intelligence among our ancestors may have been displayed by having unique abilities (such as making unique tools or being able to communicate in a way that less intelligent apes could not understand).[1] Over time, our ancestors would have developed a mutation to recognize these symbols as promoting survival, and would have thus been more attracted to individuals who displayed these symbols. [Yes, I’m being sarcastic here.]

So, I hope you enjoy this forthcoming series analyzing pseudoscientific Darwinian Psychology.  There is a wealth of material upon which to draw.  The motto for this area seems to be, “If it sounds good and references evolution, then it is science.”


(1) Just So Stories, Wikipedia
(2) Darwin Says “Just So…”
(3) Darwinian Fundamentalism, Stephen J. Gould, (1997)
(4) Perceived Symbols of Authority and Their Influence on Compliance, Bushman, B.J. (1984)

[1]. I have generated a Darwinian Just So Story to help provide credibility to this post. Did it work?

A Naturalistic Fairy Tale-Part XVII

Then did we discover that some of those early trails that we did think were from multi-cellular creatures1 (or evotures to coin a phrase unconnected with the root term Creation), were actually from a gigantic single-celled organism.

This giant single celled creature’s trails were from 10 million years before the Cambrian explosion did occur.2 Within 5,000 times since the time of Christ, did complex hard-bodied evotures arise filling virtually every niche of the planet (praise Science!).  Evolution is amazing in its ways and speedy in its past.

Although there are no fossils, we do know, by the method of scientific imagination, that evolution did produce the subsequent wide ranging diversity of life.  Even though some of the species continue to exist today, as with the giant cell pictured to the left, all it does take is the right combination of time and selective pressures.

So, we do hope you appreciate the beauty of the evotures that nature has produced.  And, with time, we hope you can share our imagination of the benefits to humanity, or life in general, that may some day be produced as a result of our fact-filled imaginations.  You see, because we constantly revise our beliefs, we do show how open minded we are.  We do not, however, change our most important belief (praise Science), that material processes have given rise to all.  We do hope you continue to be patient, as we are working hard to save your life by the study of evolution (praise Science).

1 http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=creature&searchmode=none
2 http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/27827279/

Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed

I finally got to see the documentary (I signed up for Netflix on my Xbox 360–cool). I think it was very well done, and it points out the true state of science and academia. While it made use of strong visual rhetorical devices, I found them compelling and not inappropriate.

I would also say that I bet Ben Stein was a handful as a child (in school and elsewhere)! He plays dumb with  the best of folk when talking to the radical atheist naturalists (Dick Dawkins, Paul Zachary, Eugenie, et. al.). As an aside, I find that as a shrink, asking ‘dumb’ questions is an art form, and absolutely necessary. “So eating every meal under your basement stairs in complete darkness is much more pleasurable than eating it at the kitchen table like most people do?”

Also, poor Dickie D was feeling so magnanimous1 that day that he hypothesized that life on Earth could have been seeded by aliens who were the result of Darwinian evolution. Fortunately, for the theistic evolutionists and atheistic evolutionists, he is no longer feeling magnanimous.

1 A Naturalistic Fairy Tale-Part VIII

Uncommon Descent's Video of the Week

I couldn’t help posting it here. Maybe even some of the pro-evo folks will get a laugh.

An Infinite Number of Universes

I think I’ve said before I love Sci-Fi.  There’s nothing better than a worm-hole to an alternate universe.  Modern day cosmologists seem to be so distressed by the notion that our universe seems to be so “fine-tuned” to allow for the existence of life that they engage in arguments from imagination (not those “illogical” arguments from a lack of imagination mind you), in order to come up with a way that a Creator is not needed.

Ever since the ‘anthropic principle’ entered the language of science, the case for the universe having the hallmarks of design has become progressively stronger. There is a consensus in the thinking of physicists and cosmologists that far exceeds the alleged consensus about anthropogenic global warming, and also the alleged consensus that natural selection is the mechanism for explaining design in living things. Author Tim Folger elevates the principle to “an extraordinary fact” about the universe:

“Its basic properties are uncannily suited for life. Tweak the laws of physics in just about any way and – in this universe, anyway – life as we know it would not exist.” (1)

So the naturalists need to posit an infinite number of alternate universes, and having one that ended up being “just right,” was not only plausible, but inevitable. (2)

So an appeal to the unmeasurable seems suitable to naturalists as long as the unmeasurable does not involve a designer or God. The appeal to Sci-Fi seems to be a suitable and respected practice in modern cosmology.

(1). Post details: The Metaphysics of Multiverse Theory
(2). Our place in the Multiverse, Nature, Silk, J. (2006)