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C0nc0rdance Videos

Why Dont Whales Get (More) Cancer?
Why Dont Whales Get (More) Cancer?

This is one of the more interesting questions in cancer biology. I'll be talking about cancer and evolution over the next few videos. This one will set the basic question and framework.

Evolutionary trade-offs and reproductive strategies are necessary to understanding why we get cancer at the rate we do.

1. The values in the chart showing whales and mice cell counts are wrong.

Blue Whales Mice
Cell number 100 quadrillion (1E17) 5 trillion (5E9)

2. Natural selection is unguided, but it is not random.

Ear Candling
Ear Candling

I don't make any secret that I think ear candling is NOT an advisable practice, but I'm making an effort here to stay focused only on the objective, verifiable facts from laboratory testing.

I understand that many people report subjective relief from ear candling, and I understand that this can be persuasive. The claims made about it are demonstrably false, though. We could debate whether or not it works, but we can't debate whether or not it works in the way proponents claim.

As always: Be very wary of taking medical advice from anonymous Internet sources (including me!). If in doubt, your best, most reliable source of medical information is a licensed medical practitioner.

1. "Ear candling
Should general practitioners recommend it?"
Can Fam Physician. 2007 Dec; 53(12): 2121–2122.

2. Why Ear Candling Is Not a Good Idea by Lisa Roazen, M.D.

3. "Ear candles--efficacy and safety."
Laryngoscope. 1996 Oct;106(10):1226-9.

4. "Ear candles: a triumph of ignorance over science."
J Laryngol Otol. 2004 Jan;118(1):1-2.

"Light of Evolution" by Theodosius Dobzhansky
"Light of Evolution" by Theodosius Dobzhansky

To celebrate Darwin Day, Feb 12th, 2015, I offer the words of Dobzhansky, who was a central figure in the modern evolutionary synthesis with his 1937 book, "Genetics and the Origin of Species". Dobzhansky was also a deeply religious man who believed that God had a hand in the process of evolution, a view I don't share, but try to understand.

Dobzhansky cites Teilhard de Chardin, who was a biologist, a theistic evolutionist, and a controversial figure who described evolution as cosmic attainment of perfection, a concept I also strongly disagree with.

This is an excerpt from the original work:
The American Biology Teacher, Vol. 35, No. 3 (Mar., 1973), pp. 125-129.

I also want to offer my condolences and wish for healing to the families of the victims of the recent Chapel Hill shootings. Deah Shaddy Barakat, Yusor Mohammad, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha were senselessly murdered. If you want to try to do some good in the world, consider donating to the Foundation Beyond Belief drive to fund Deah's charity, which will bring dental care to refugees in Syria.

Why a 28% Effective Influenza Vaccine Matters
Why a 28% Effective Influenza Vaccine Matters

Why would you bother to get a 28% effective vaccine?

Addendum: The actual effectiveness of the 2014-2015 vaccine against laboratory confirmed cases is 23% [95% CI of 8 -- 36%]. Earlier reports have come up with numbers from 46% to 3% effectiveness. The value of 28% that I used was from a Facebook post by one of my extended family. It doesn't really matter for the purposes of the video what number is used.

Find a location to get a flu shot:

Climate Change and Cultural Cognition
Climate Change and Cultural Cognition

Are global warming deniers just uneducated or stupid? This paper examines two competing models of why people would dispute the conclusion of 97% of the world's climatologists. Is it simply a matter of lacking knowledge and critical thinking?

This is a verbatim reading of sections of:
Donald Braman et. at., "The Polarizing Impact of Science Literacy and Numeracy on Perceived Climate Change Risks", 2 Nature Climate Change 732 (2012).

I encourage you to read the full results and discuss them in comments below. I found cultural cognition thesis to be a near-perfect fit for my own experiences on Youtube. Cultural cognition raises questions for me about my persuasive tactics to date, and I hope it does for you, too.

More about cultural cognition here:

My thanks to Dan Kahan, who brings this work to life in his many videos here on Youtube:

Steven Pinker's "Why free speech is fundamental"
Steven Pinker's "Why free speech is fundamental"

First published as an editorial in the Boston Globe, January 27th, 2015.
Author is Harvard Professor and award winning writer, Steven Pinker.

This Sunday, New Covenant Group: The Place
This Sunday, New Covenant Group: The Place

C0nc0rdance, Ozymandias Ramses II and Evitable Replicator will be on Sunday Evening at The Place (Aug. 24th). The topic will be: How Science Undermines Dogmatic Religion.

|| WHO ||
-Panelist include:
+Ozymandias Ramses II
+Bob Greaves
-Hosts include:
Dr. Michael W. Jones
Rhonda Jones

|| WHAT ||
The topic will be: How Science Undermines Dogmatic Religion

|| WHEN ||
This Sunday night (Aug. 24th, 2014) on 'Sunday Evening at The Place'

|| WHERE ||
LIVE on +theNewCovenantGroup YouTube Channel
Channel here:
scheduled LIVE broadcast here:

What Causes Autism?
What Causes Autism?

We've established that autism is not a vaccine related illness. What exactly do we know about how it's caused?

Scientists are currently searching for a unifying theory of autism, and the only thing that's clear so far is that it will need to be a complex, multi-hit hypothesis.

This is a far from comprehensive review, just a few thoughts of mine. As always, the best advice is not to be found on the Internet. A licensed physician or health care professional is always better than a blog, vlog, or forum.

1. Lancet. 2009 November 7; 374(9701): 1627–1638. "Autism"

2. Front Hum Neurosci. 2010 Dec 21;4:224. "The Intense World Theory – a unifying theory of the neurobiology of autism"

3. J Neurodev Disord. 2012; 4(1): 7. "Infant siblings and the investigation of autism risk factors"

Clarifying my positions.
Clarifying my positions.

If your goal is to only have your personal views confirmed; if you prefer to shout down your opposition; if you like to glorify drugs, violence, or crime... please feel free to unsubscribe.

I'm here to participate in a meaningful discussion with people of varying opinions.

I won't link to CultOfDusty's or Thunderf00t's videos. You can find them easily enough and my comments on them are also easy to find.

Evolution and HIV for OFNF, Part 2
Evolution and HIV for OFNF, Part 2

I have to publish this in two parts because of the length. The cuts are pretty sharp.

This is in response to OnceForgivenNowFree's challenge to "prove evolution is a fact". While I don't actually care to convince him of the factual nature of evolution, I want to explain to him why I oppose his interference in science and science education. It was also an excuse to revisit HIV and evolution, my two favorite topics.

Link to Part 1:

Evolution and HIV for OFNF, Part 1
Evolution and HIV for OFNF, Part 1

I have to publish this in two parts because of the length. The cuts are pretty sharp.

This is in response to OnceForgivenNowFree's challenge to "prove evolution is a fact". While I don't actually care to convince him of the factual nature of evolution, I want to explain to him why I oppose his interference in science and science education. It was also an excuse to revisit HIV and evolution, my two favorite topics.

Link to Part 2:

Individuality by Robert Ingersoll
Individuality by Robert Ingersoll

Happy 4th of July! It's the American Independence Day, and I think this short excerpt from Robert G Ingersoll's "Individuality" is very appropriate. Being a non-believer is still sometimes challenging in this country, and the parallels between Ingersoll's time and now are very appropriate.

If you don't know who Robert Ingersoll is, and you happen to be a non-theist, you are in for a treat! His essays are some of the most powerful and passionate for his time.

Here's the full-text of Individuality (requires acceptance of disclaimer):

More about Robert G Ingersoll:

Frank Statement to Cigarette Smokers, 1954
Frank Statement to Cigarette Smokers, 1954

Called the "Frank Statement" in marketing circles, this newspaper ad circulated in 1954 in several hundred newspapers nationally, in response to overwhelming studies linking smoking to lung cancer risk.

I offer this as an example of how simple it is to "spin" health risks. Cigarette smoking was possibly one of the earliest examples of science denialism which today includes creationism (evolution denial), global warming denial, HIV-AIDS denialism, and others.

For more information about the link between cigarette smoking and cancer:

Wakefield's Smoking Gun
Wakefield's Smoking Gun

Andrew Wakefield kicked off the modern anti-vaccine movement in 1998 with a publication in the Lancet linking autism to entercolitis (gut inflammation). He followed this with an expanded study in 2000, and evidence showing that measles replication in the gut was causing the inflammation in 2002.

The Lancet 1998 and American Journal of Gastroenterology 2000 papers were later retracted, at least in part because the samples used in those studies were obtained unethically and outside of ethical review of human research.

The Molecular Pathology 2002 paper was never retracted. The General Medical Council (UK) in their public hearings disclosed the raw data obtained during an investigation. It came to me through a colleague involved in the investigation and I want to share it with you. It is the smoking gun that convinced me that Wakefield was involved in an intentional fraud, that he was aware the data he was producing was false and deceptive.

Here are some links to learn more.
Investigator Brian Deer details the full chronology with essential primary documents. Excellent, thorough journalism:

The GMC findings in the case of Andrew Wakefield:
It details the way Wakefield collected blood samples at his children's birthday parties, and the ethical violations.

A brief introduction to real-time PCR:

The three papers referenced:
1. Lancet. 1998 Feb 28;351(9103):637-41.
"Ileal-lymphoid-nodular hyperplasia, non-specific colitis, and pervasive developmental disorder in children." [RETRACTED]

2. Am J Gastroenterol. 2000 Sep;95(9):2285-95.
"Enterocolitis in children with developmental disorders."

3. Mol Pathol. 2002 Apr;55(2):84-90.
"Potential viral pathogenic mechanism for new variant inflammatory bowel disease."

Shoutout:  Goddard's Journal and CoolHardLogic
Shoutout: Goddard's Journal and CoolHardLogic

Goddard's Journal:
Video "Fukushima Health Effects in North America?"

"Testing Homeopathy - Part 1: Plausbility"
Just fantastic video making. I am envious of both them. Anyone who claims YouTube is getting stale just hasn't looked hard enough. There's great science and pseudoscience-debunking videos out there, made by innovative and careful videomakers.

Spirit Science: An Open Letter to Jordan
Spirit Science: An Open Letter to Jordan

Dear Jordan Pearce of The Spirit Science, I have a challenge for you. From one truth-seeker to another, I want to see what we can accomplish together.

Jordan's main web presence

Here's RationalWiki's slightly snarky take on Jordan:

Might I suggest that you go to Jordan's video and give him a link to this video and let him know that he's "not even wrong".

Maybe All This
Maybe All This

I'm a little busy to get back into video making 100%, but this is a promise that more is coming.

"Maybe All This" is one of my favorite short poems. The author is just as remarkable, Wisława Szymborska-Włodek, a Polish Nobel Laureate. I recommend reading her story:

This work was first published in English translation in the New Yorker, original here:

YouTube Stahp
YouTube Stahp

I needed to vent. Only Dolan can express my full loathing and sorrow.

Assault rifle vs. Assault weapon
Assault rifle vs. Assault weapon

I've already made the mistake of misusing these two terms. The "Assault Weapon" is defined in the "Federal Assault Weapons Ban" of 1994, which has since expired. Newer legislation is needed to redefine, using smarter criteria, what an assault weapon is, prior to any future bill restricting their ownership and sale.

It appears Ciancia used an M&P15, a Smith and Wesson clone of the AR-15, chambered in 5.45x39mm.

"The Hand Grenade test"
"The Hand Grenade test"

"The Hand Grenade Test" is a rhetorical device I use with friends and family to convey the simple idea that all weapons are not equal: some have design features that make them inappropriate for self-defense use. Hand grenades and C4 have a high potential for misuse and little to no potential for legitimate defensive use.

I understand that [assault weapons] are a contentious issue among gun owners, in spite of being a low percentage of total gun ownership. The "Feinstein definition" is often mocked and parodied, and I agree some of the definitions seem disconnected to reality, but the idea that some weapons have a greater misuse potential than their use can support.

I am not someone who opposes all gun ownership, but smart regulation can prevent misuse of weapons by people intending to harm the innocent.

The "1 in 4" rape statistics:  Fact-checking the numbers
The "1 in 4" rape statistics: Fact-checking the numbers

In response to a very popular claim that the "1 in 4" statistics has been soundly debunked, I decided to dig a little deeper on the research. While I admire the spirit of skepticism many viewer displayed, skepticism without investigation is just biased ignorance.

I've said elsewhere, and I want to say it here again: Rape and sexual assault are not good subjects for fighting the culture wars with. Let's keep this topic a matter of "human compassion and civil law" as ThePeach has said elsewhere (

Provided here are some useful links for you to pursue your own skeptical research:
1. The "short form" of the SES survey instrument:

2. The 1987 paper by Dr. Koss that might be the first time the 1 in 4 statistic was published.

3. The CDC National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, 2010 Summary:

4. An independent series of papers reviewing the accuracy and validity of the SES:

Preventing Sexual Assault
Preventing Sexual Assault

This is a hard topic to discuss, and while I don't think Thunderf00t handled it delicately, he's created an opportunity to have a frank discussion about the how and why of sexual assault prevention and response.

The three aims of this video:
1. Raise your consciousness about using gender-specific terms for victim and perpetrator.
2. Present some facts about sexual assault based on primary research sources.
3. Identify why sexual assault prevention and response matters.

This is not a good topic for either side to use to fight the culture wars. I'd hate to see something as basic and important as rape crisis response become a contentious political issue.

1. Clin Psychol Rev. 2009 July; 29(5): 431--448.
"Rape Treatment Outcome Research: Empirical Findings and State of the Literature"

2. J Am Coll Health. 2011 Aug-Oct; 59(7): 582--587.
"Reporting Rape in a National Sample of College Women"

3. J Interpers Violence. 2010 December; 25(12): 2217--2236.
"Drug- and Alcohol-Facilitated, Incapacitated, and Forcible Rape in Relation to Mental Health among a National Sample of Women"

4. Drug Alcohol Rev. 2011 September; 30(5): 481--489.
"Alcohol's Role in Sexual Violence Perpetration: Theoretical Explanations, Existing Evidence, and Future Directions"

5. Am J Public Health. 1993 November; 83(11): 1633--1634.
"The effects of resistance strategies on rape."

6. Am J Community Psychol. 2006 December; 38(3-4): 263--274.
"Being Silenced: The Impact of Negative Social Reactions on the Disclosure of Rape"

7. Violence Vict. 2002 Dec;17(6):691-705.
"Avoiding rape: the effects of protective actions and situational factors on rape outcome."

Journal Club:  Alcohol and Sexual Victimization
Journal Club: Alcohol and Sexual Victimization

The article I'm reading excerpts from:
"Alcohol Consumption and Women's Vulnerability to Sexual Victimization: Can Reducing Women's Drinking Prevent Rape?"
Subst Use Misuse. 2009; 44(9-10): 1349--1376.

This paper is outside the paywall, free, full-text for either HTML or PDF:

Like the rest of the panel yesterday, I was quite ready to criticize Thunderf00t for his tone. As you can see from academic papers on this topic, the same controversial ideas are conveyed with the same types of disclaimers. If opponents of these discussions stymie efforts that focus on risk reduction for women, I think they do a disservice to those future sexual victims who could have benefited. The worst I can say about Thunderf00t is that his tone was wrong for the audience he was addressing. He is very accustomed to the language of academic discourse, which is often detached and unemotional about issues that are painfully emotional for the victims of sexual assault or their family. Rather than assuming malice on his part, it helps to think of the audience he addresses professionally, academic researchers.

Your comments are welcome. Please read the paper for a deeper analysis of risk reduction efforts that have been tried in the college setting. The scholarship here is quite good, and the authors are well published on this topic.

My apologies to Drs. Testa and Livingston for dragging them obliquely into this, but it was important to establish the bona fides of the authors.

Gun Control Claims
Gun Control Claims


This is an analysis of four tropes of the anti gun-control / pro-gun lobby. I expect the comments will be a battleground for the "Great Culture Wars", so let me be clear on my own position.
"Gun control is not gun prohibition, it is about preventing misuse of guns by criminals to hurt innocents."

The US President's proposed gun policy, in 9 parts:

Versailles Treaty, Article 169, which outlawed all arms and munitions in Germany prior to Hitler, including private arms:

The "Great Purge" of Stalin:

Boston's Project Ceasefire:

State of Michigan's Handgun Permit process:

How to get a driver's license in Michigan:

The correlation between guns and violence, at the Harvard School of Public Health:


NewEuropeANP (National Libertarian Socialist People's Action Party):

The Courtier's Reply by PZ Myers
The Courtier's Reply by PZ Myers

PZ Myers wrote "The Courtier's Reply" in response to critics of Richard Dawkin's book "The God Delusion" which focused on his lack of knowledge in theological studies. I'd like to hear what message you take away from this essay. Please share in comments.

I found this on my hard drive from last year. Originally, I hesitated to put it up because the "voice acting" was so bad and annoying; later, because I had a strong disagreement with PZ. I'm putting that behind me to share with you what I think is a thought provoking essay.

Sorry for the long absence, folks! The gun control video series isn't dead, merely sleeping while I get my work and personal life under control.

"Should Atheists Pray?" response by Hemant Mehta
"Should Atheists Pray?" response by Hemant Mehta

Several essays were recently published by the New York Times on the topic of "Should Atheists Pray?" This is the only one worth recording... the only one that represents atheism. Follow the link below to read infuriating articles by pastors and woo-meisters like Deepak Chopra. I have long admired Hemant Mehta, and his answer here is so well written I had to share it.

The original article, by Hemant Mehta, "The Friendly Atheist":

Hemant's blog, well worth reading:

I haven't abandoned my videos on gun control, but work and personal life have gotten in the way of speedy completion. Stay tuned.

Sam Harris: The Fireplace Delusion
Sam Harris: The Fireplace Delusion

I hate to have to point this out, but: I DID NOT WRITE THIS ESSAY. I'm just READING IT ALOUD.

This essay came to my attention recently, and it's an excellent exercise for a skeptic or atheist to experience this feeling of loss of innocence and the painful feelings it summons. See it through to the end before posting, please.

The source:

Next gun video is in production. First up is Australian gun control policy.

Burzynski Clinic: The Merola-Friendly Version
Burzynski Clinic: The Merola-Friendly Version

Poor Eric Merola. He objected to my "Fair Use" of a small low-res image of his movie poster. He used the legal thuggery tactic of submitting a false DMCA in order to force me to give him my home address so that I can be the subject of legal harassment and intimidation by his lawyers and media thugs.

Then, when I posted a short video pointing out the false DMCA and posting his public email address... he had it flagged for "Scams and Spam". Poor Eric. A guy can't use perjury to silence his critics without a lot of headache anymore. At last count, there were over 80 copies of this "unscrubbed" video on YouTube. My thanks to those who deemed that necessary.

To ease his troubled mind, I've removed any and all references to anything he ever worked on in this "scrubbed" version of my previous video. I dare him to take this one down. Go on, Eric... I'm game if you are. Let's dance.

Madness Mayhem and Charity 2013
Madness Mayhem and Charity 2013

Don't miss the C0nc0rdance Riddle Challenge! We'll be having some fun and raising some money for HIV/AIDS research. I hereby pledge $5 for every riddle I fail to stump you with, if you'll pledge the same.

Time and Date, adjusted to your local time:

Where to go:

The schedule of all shows:

Facebook page:

The donation sites are:
International AIDS Vaccine Initiative -
International HIV/AIDS Alliance -

Many thanks to Peach and devchelle2 for their work on this charity event.

Host list:
Dogma Debate
Matt ONeil
meridianfrost & IdunnoUUU
SoretaYuki performing with We Are the Afterglow / Cobalt Sons in a live concert

Gun Control: 2nd Amendment
Gun Control: 2nd Amendment

Gun control is a supremely contentious issue in the US. The Framers had a clear vision in mind of an armed citizenry resisting tyranny. Of course they did, they had just overthrown their own lawful government. In this video, I'll take a brief trip through the legal tradition of gun ownership.

Future videos will examine the effectiveness of gun control legislation, best gun practices, and debunking of gun control myths so popular on Facebook.

Wikipedia on the 2nd amendment:

Pennsylvania's Constitution of 1776; the template for the later Bill of Rights.

Federalist #28:

United States v. Cruikshank, 92 U.S. 542 (1876):

District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008):

Alex Jones on Piers Morgan. (I detest Alex Jones):

PZ Myers and the Definition of Trolling
PZ Myers and the Definition of Trolling

The formatting here was done in a rush, forgive the white screens. I had to throw it together quickly due to work and family. This issue has been rattling around in my head ever since the Google Hangout last weekend. This is my catharsis, drawing an end to any references to PZ Myers or Pharyngula on this channel.

The Pharyngula Dungeon.

1. You can read NoelPlum99's last comment chain here:
NoelPlum99's blog:

2. Michael Hawkins's terminal conversation is documented here:
Here's Michael's blog:

3. Edward Gemmer's last stand:

4. Huntstoddard's demise is documented here:

Gun control is coming up, hopefully by Friday! It will likely be a multi-parter.

Peter Atkins: "Science As Truth"
Peter Atkins: "Science As Truth"

PZ Myers, TheTruePooka, SkepticalHeretic, and me
Saturday, February 2nd, 2013
4 PM Eastern US time, 3 PM Central US time, 1 PM Pacific US time.
The format will be a Google Hangout, to be broadcast on YouTube via TheTruePooka.
The topic/discussion:
The announcment/format:

More about Peter Atkins

There's a good deal more in this essay that I could not include. Some discussion of why real scientists tend to scorn the paranormal or supernatural might be of interest to my atheist or skeptical viewers.

Flu Vaccine Statistics and NaturalNews
Flu Vaccine Statistics and NaturalNews

I'm always amused by the response of people to bad reporting. This is a classic example. The author, Ethan Huff, blogging at NaturalNews, the website of Mike Adams, the Health Ranger, has confused percentile change and percentage POINT change and the result is hilariously misinformed. He accuses the CDC of deceptive statistics in stating that the seasonal flu vaccine is 60% effective. No, he disputes, the accurate descriptor is "less than 2% effective". *facepalm*

XKCD illustrates the difference far better than I ever could:

For a basic primer:

The Burzynski Clinic
The Burzynski Clinic

Feel free to pass this on to anyone considering their options in alternative cancer treatments at the Burzynski Clinic. It's also CCMA, so feel free to mirror or repost.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: I caught an error in post-production: The Burzynski Clinic has only started 61 clinical trials, not 62. The last came up in my query because one of the authors has the same name. Otherwise the figures are correct.

Fact 1: The Burzynski Clinic has attempted 61 clinical trials, but only completed 1.

Check it out here:

Fact 2: The Burzynski Clinic charges its patients to participate in a study of their patented medication that exposes them to risk.

Fact 3: The Burzynski Clinic makes heavy use of marketing techniques not normally associated with clinical practices and not in the best spirit of research medicine.

For example, you can see here that they are abusing libel laws to silence critics.
And threatening and bullying of a 17 year old blogger by a media consultant:

The Magic Sandwich Show Special; 2012 in review
The Magic Sandwich Show Special; 2012 in review

Don't miss the show this Sunday; 2012 in review with a long lineup of special guests. Check here for more details:

Watch the show at:


"Probable" guests:
Professor Phil Moriarty

"Possible" guests:
David Silverman
Sean Faircloth

For more details:

Magic Sandwich Show LIVE in Austin at the Texas Freethought Convention
Magic Sandwich Show LIVE in Austin at the Texas Freethought Convention

WARNING: Audio is painfully bad to listen to. I've decided to simply post this and work on audio improvement later. Aron and I knew that we would have to improvise an audio recording solution once we got "on-site". Unfortunately, the uncompressed audio has been such a pain to move around and share out with some very nice folks who offered to help me with clean-up, that I'm going to wash my hands of it for now. Too many important projects at work to mess with this.

The License (as in all my videos) is set to CCA. That means you are welcome to download, re-process the video or audio, and repost on your own channel.

For the record, this was recorded by Aron's son, MiniRa using my cheap handheld camcorder. Good camera work by MiniRa, and thank you to him for holding the camera steadier than I could.

The audio was recorded in Audacity with my Blue Yeti USB microphone. Unfortunately, the format put us at separate tables and the distance to source required a high gain setting and hence a lot of reverb. YouTube adds its own defects in encoding as well.

The discussion was fun and I found it interesting. Aron is really in his element in front of a crowd, and got a few good rants going on.

Rebutting Brad Harrub:  Mutations produce nothing new
Rebutting Brad Harrub: Mutations produce nothing new

This week, Dr. Brad Harrub demonstrates a shocking lack of understanding of the mechanisms by which evolution explores fitness space. I'll explain how actual biologists mentally think about the processes that lead to changes in fitness.

Evolution doesn't, as most people think, move like an arrow towards higher fitness. It's more like a drunk walk. It gets there in the end, but explores a lot of area looking for landmarks. This "random walk" effect is important to allow for exploration of new fitness peaks, even when getting there involves accepting a decrease in fitness.

This is the last of the pre-produced Harrub videos. It may be a few weeks before I can get around to producing another set.

PZ Myers and the Principle of Free Expression
PZ Myers and the Principle of Free Expression

I want to recommend that at the completion of this video, you simply go watch:

Christopher Hitchens says more eloquently than I ever could why it is important that we choose to allow a culture of free (and offensive) expression. He also explains very clearly why it is important not just to allow a person to SPEAK, but that we have an obligation to make sure that person is HEARD.

This is triply true for atheists, freethinkers, skeptics and rationalists. We shelter under the shield of free expression. Religious groups would prefer we kept our ideas to our own forums, that we remain silent in their presence. Honoring the idea that no-one has a right not to be offended is core to our very existence as a group.

PZ is within his legal rights and within the terms of service of YouTube to close comments and ratings, but in doing so offends the principles of free expression. I can think of no compelling argument to close comments and ratings, and several good reasons to leave them open. Treat Pharyngula like a blog, PZ, and YouTube like the unmoderated forum it was meant to be.

I disagree with PZ, I disliked the tone he took with me, but I don't hold a grudge on this. Two people can disagree without one of them having to be either mentally incompetent or maliciously deceptive. If you are just here to disparage PZ as a person, don't expect me to join in.

My honest intent is to persuade him with a reasoned argument to re-open comments and ratings.

Rebutting Brad Harrub:  Haeckel's Embryo Fraud
Rebutting Brad Harrub: Haeckel's Embryo Fraud

Ernst Haeckel was an amazing scientist at a crucial time in the history of biology. The legend of his fraud is largely manufactured.

His work reflected a certain ignorance of comparative embryology, and he probably skewed his illustrations to demonstrate his own theory, the biogenic (or "biogenetic") law. There is no evidence he was every convicted of fraud, he was not "kicked out" of the University of Jena, and all of Dr. Brad Harrub's assertions are based on poor research and factually false claims made by creationist author Jonathan Wells in his book "Icons of Evolution".

So, let's be clear on something that is often confused.
1. Haeckel's illustrations were an attempt to prove his own biogenic law, not evolution.
2. Comparative embryology, the similarities between tissues during development, show the same branching pattern that is seen in phylogenetics. That is, closely related organisms show very similar stages of development. THIS is the actual evidence for evolution to be taken from pictures of embryos found in textbooks.

Evolution of development ("evo-devo") has been one of the most productive areas of biology of the last two decades. Arguing that Haeckel's failure to prove his biogenetic law somehow affects the value of comparative embryology to demonstrate evolutionary relatedness is just false.

My apologies for the bad camera work. This was mid-way through the talk, and the seats were very uncomfortable. The "jiggling" was me adjusting my position and having to move my phone hand to relieve the strain.

Rebutting Brad Harrub:  Darwin was a racist
Rebutting Brad Harrub: Darwin was a racist

This is the lowest and saddest argument yet. Here Dr. Harrub attempts to poison the well by accusing Darwin of being a racist, and of advocating for racism. While Darwin was far from enlightened by modern standards, he was a passionate abolitionist.

Rational Revolution: Mis-portrayal of Darwin as a Racist:

BBC: Historian William Crawley on Darwin's feelings about race.

Uncommon Descent (creationist blog) quote mines Darwin on race:

Rebutting Brad Harrub: Kettlewell's Peppered Moths
Rebutting Brad Harrub: Kettlewell's Peppered Moths

I'm going to be very busy over the next few weeks as we finalize a major research outcome and prepare it for publication. Very busy, very tired, very excited!

The best analysis of Kettlewell's results and the creationist furor around them is at Dr. Jerry Coyne's non-blog website, "Why Evolution is True". Dr. Coyne is famously cited for his scientific criticisms of the peppered moth studies, but his real criticism has been misused to create the impression of scientific dishonesty.

Some links to Wikipedia to give some context:

A critical examination of the urban legend:
The only actual criticism that has borne scrutiny is that Kettlewell failed to test hypotheses OTHER THAN predation and there were some artificiality in his experiments that did not mimic nature well:
For example, he sometimes collected moths from other countries to supplement wild-caught moths. He released a very large number of moths, which could have artificially increased predation as the birds were presented with a bug buffet. That's why Majerus, using more careful methods, wanted to re-design and repeat the original experiments.

Rebutting Harrub:  Finches never produce rhinos or ferns
Rebutting Harrub: Finches never produce rhinos or ferns

Warning: Exposure to Harrub's logic may cause headaches or pain in the forehead. If you begin bleeding from the ears or nose, please consult a physician. Prolonged exposure may result in loss of IQ points.

More about Dollo's Law:

AronRa's excellent video:
"Caniform Carnivore Cladogram Construction"

In future videos, we will talk about the difference between cladogenesis (new species splitting off an existing one) and anagenesis (the formation of a new species by the transformation of an existing one). Most creationists assume evolution proceeds entirely by anagenesis, when it is almost entirely by cladogenesis.

I'm often forced to use terms that are imprecise in order to convey scientific ideas. The idea of the ancestral lineage of animals becoming more "specialized" is in the sense of "more like their own species". This means that a "generalized" bird is one that represents the common ancestor of the "genus". Each new adaptation that is acquired along an ancestral line goes into the evolutionary history of that species, but this acquisition is one-sided, not an equilibrium of change.

If it helps, think of Dollo's law as the "arrow of time" for evolutionary change.

"Atheism Plus": an open letter
"Atheism Plus": an open letter

I'd like to address this video to the supporters and founders of Atheism Plus. I have concerns about the shape of any movement that seeks to create in-groups along secondary issues.

-- I agree with the stated goals of inclusion and diversity. Any movement that becomes homogenous is doomed to failure. That issue, applied to the predominantly male, white and hetero crowd at atheist meetings, is relevant. However, you are creating a group that has ideological homogeneity of views (must be anti-racist, anti-misogynist, anti-transphobia) as a stated goal. Do you see the problem there? You trade a predominantly white, liberal, male group of people for a group made exclusively of a specific political viewpoint.

-- Shunning and shaming, or any other form of exclusionary pressure used to maintain the ingroup/outgroup division is inherently damaging to the whole community. The functional effect will be to create "separate but equal status" for Atheism Plus and non-Atheism Plus meetings, as speakers refuse to speak at the same event because of political differences. It will also lead to an us vs. them mentality that could harm free exchange of ideas.

-- I realize it's too late to make structural changes, but the commitment to free speech, free thought, self-criticism (of all issues, even feminism and other topics) and the absence of a power structure is vital to keeping Atheism Plus a positive force in the community.

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Rebutting Harrub:  Argument from Historical Scientists
Rebutting Harrub: Argument from Historical Scientists

This is the second in my series on Dr. Brad Harrub's "Origins" talk in College Station, TX around August 9th, 2012. In the section, I address his argument from historical scientists. The key point: Many scientists throughout history have been religious, but it was not their religious beliefs that informed their science. The fact that Dr. Harrub focuses on scientists who lived prior to Darwin says a lot.

I thought it might be interesting to explore the actual religious beliefs of the people being summoned to testify on Dr. Harrub's behalf. Most of them were unorthodox by today's standards, and some of them can better testify to the negative; that religious or superstitious belief has hindered science and the progress of knowledge.

The context of the clip from Dr. Harrub's talk is that he was addressing Bill Nye's comments that creationism can hold students back from understanding the actual science. This is true. When a person has a commitment to dogmatic doctrine that conflicts with truth or evidence, they face a difficult choice: either reject the truth, or reject the doctrine.

c0nc0rdance's wager:
Whenever a supernatural explanation competes with a natural explanation, so far in the history of science, the natural has always held up to more scrutiny.

Neti Pot:  Safe and Effective?
Neti Pot: Safe and Effective?

An analysis of the safety and efficacy of neti pots.

Cochrane reviews of all the literature on the topic:

Want to learn more about Naegleria fowleri and PAM?

Want to learn more about Caddo Lake in East Texas?
Pay special attention to encroaching Salvinia and the frequent Bigfoot sightings (most of which I am sure are just sightings of particularly inbred, hairy locals).

Made at the request of Emily Dietle,

Evil Science Hour:  MSF 24 hr Charity Vlog-a-thon
Evil Science Hour: MSF 24 hr Charity Vlog-a-thon

Join me on the Evil Science Hour during the MSF Charity drive.

The schedule is here:
I'm on 5 AM British time, midnight Eastern US, 11 PM Central US, 9 PM Pacific US, 2 PM Ozzer time.

You can watch me (and a cast of other characters over the 24 hour period) here:

I have some new science toys to show off, some science projects in mind, and I'll be live on camera, answering questions and generally being evil and science-y. Bring some money to donate for special requests. I'm for sale during this hour... mercenary science for a cause.

Donations can be made here:
1. Justgiving
2. Firstgiving
3. Ebay items, up for bid

Rebutting Harrub:  Evolution is just a Theory
Rebutting Harrub: Evolution is just a Theory

This point has been made many times before, but it never seems to sink in with creationists. Evolution is "just a theory" in the same sense that gravity is "just a theory" or cells are "just a theory" or atoms are "just a theory".

This will be an ongoing series. I've managed to make six videos already, and I'm barely a quarter of the way through the video. I don't take much pleasure in debunking creationist arguments, but it's an opportunity to explore some key ideas in biology. I'm not worried about convincing evolution denialists that they are wrong. Their psychological mechanisms prevent that. As Hitchens famously said: "You cannot reason someone out of a position they did not arrive at by reason"

You can read more about Dr. Harrub at his own website:

Here's his publication (singular... he has only one, in spite of claiming "numerous publications"... hey, one *IS* a number)

Related Producers: c0nc0rdanceyoutubehelp

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