Who wants to take bets

on how long before Lior Pachter gets #MeTooed? I call another Hugo Schwyzer case.


What’s good for the goose

The contentious biologist Lior Pachter has joined the fray, siding with Lysenko.
He accuses the mathematical commentators on Tao’s and Gowers’s blogs of making illiterate pronouncements on biology. As we’ll shortly see, he’s plenty guilty of blasting way past his own spheres of competence, but presently we address the substance of his criticism. Without pontificating on the complex, porous interface between mathematics and biology, we’ll note in passing that mathematicians can make solid contributions at the boundary without actually knowing much biology beyond the high school level. Population dynamicists and phylogenic analysts do this all the time.

But that is completely beside the point, since, as pointed out in Igor Rivin’s comment, the paper in question does not purport to offer a biological contribution! It mathematically models a well-documented phenomenon. Find the model unrealistic? Question the phenomenon’s veracity? That’s what rebuttals and rejoinders are for. What happened at NYJM is the paper equivalent of a summary execution (something I’m not entirely sure Pachter opposes for his ideological opponents). As for the paper’s mathematical interest — it would be ironic for a biologist who complains about ignorant mathematicians invading his field to take issue with that, would it not?

But it gets better. Pachter, you see, also dabbles in psychometry. Or rather, he brazenly dismisses the whole field from first principles. Nevermind that it has been actively studied for over a century, leaving a voluminous trail of scientific literature. Pachter’s got a slick gotcha-argument discrediting the whole field as bunk. He’s in good company with Queen Izabella — except she invokes more advanced tools and hence ends up looking sillier. (Pachter and Laba also share a passion for hounding innocent men out of their jobs, but that’s a topic for another post.)

We leave off with a note to hypocrites everywhere, and especially those fond of Yiddish proverbs:
עס נישט קיין ביינער, וועלן דיר נישט וויי טאן די ציינער

Reminder: Zuleikha project is soliciting stories

So a female academic has published “A List Of Known Harassers in Academia”. The database prominently displays (I guess for legal cover) the message, “Note: All cases are based on publicly available documents or media reports.”

We take this opportunity to remind our readers that the Zuleikha project is soliciting accounts, from the academia, of men being falsely accused of sexual misconduct. To send reports anonymously, write to zuleikha.potiphar@gmail.com. Include as much information as you can, including dates, institutions, names, what action was taken against the innocently accused, and what repercussions followed for the false accuser, if any.

Lysenko is smiling

The facts are summarized (I’d otherwise say alleged but I happen to have corroborating first-hand knowledge) in this Quillette piece. The fields medalists are on it, but I humbly posit that a crucial angle is still missing. Has anybody tried to discover the identity of the referees who recommended the paper’s acceptance? As a future example to others, they can be publicly shamed, fired from their jobs, thrown in prison for life


Update. Given the sad state of the news, one can at least be consoled with an Instalanche! Thanks, Glenn.

Kevin D. Williamson is a hypocrite

This is him in a recent NRO piece:

The hysteria directed at Kavanaugh is the most persuasive available example of why Kavanaugh is needed on the Supreme Court, and more like him.

Which is all fine and good, except this is a guy who rabidly opposed Trump and even wrote a book about it. No fool, he knows damn well that a President Hillary (shudder) would have packed the court with more fringe Pokemons. Yet he can’t bring himself to admit that maybe, just maybe, there was some positive aspect to having Trump become president. Par for the course.

You stay relevant, libertarians

It’s commonly observed that libertarianism is dead, but it’s not clear to me it was ever alive — and I say this as a former hard-core libertarian. To illustrate the complete, utter irrelevance of libertarianism in today’s political arena, see two recent pieces by prominent libertarians. Here’s Nick Gillespie arguing (aggressively, vociferously, in NYT!) for what appears to be completely unrestricted immigration. And here’s Ilya Somin in Reason: “Conservative support for racial profiling is deeply problematic”. Hey libertarians, did you stop to think that maybe if you didn’t let in so much diversity, you wouldn’t have the security issues necessitating the profiling?

PTT crowdsourcing effort

Prompted by Greg Cochran’s post, which we file under “self-correcting errors”. The topic is “Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria” (ROGD) among teenagers. Once this fad passes, it will be looked back upon with horror and disbelief. (Was there really a panic about Satanic child abuse in the 80’s that resulted in hundreds of innocent people-years in prison? I’m not falling for your Tlön, Uqbar hoax!)

Question to my multitude of readers: Which common past behaviors do we now view with horror and disbelief? We are specifically interested in the following narrow criteria:

  1. The behavior was socially accepted. Cochran and his commentators compare ROGD to self-cutting and anorexia, but none of these was socially condoned. If parents found out their daughter was starving or cutting herself, their reaction typically wouldn’t be encouragement and “acceptance” but rather to seek help.
  2. The behavior was common and copiously documented. The story about the nuns who cut off their noses doesn’t count.
  3. The behavior has to involve clear and lasting self-harm. The Chinese eunuchs don’t qualify: they were either castrated against their will (to benefit the family) or else did it voluntarily to obtain tangible benefits for themselves.
  4. The behavior cannot be entirely due to belonging to a religious sect. The skoptsy were expected to submit to mutilation — it’s right there in the sect title. I’m sure this must have seemed crazy to non-sect members even back then. We similarly disqualify the various celibacy religions.
  5. The behavior cannot be due to a reasonable universal misconception. We’re horrified today by the thought of putting mercury in our eyes or administering thalidomide to pregnant women, but it was considered a safe practice at the time. Not so with ROGD.

The closest thing that comes to mind are the various culture-bound syndromes, such as amok and koro (look it up, you won’t be disappointed). However, these appear to be neither terribly harmful nor actively encouraged by family and society. Ideas welcome.