Their Lying Eyes

Once upon a time, I read a book on parasitology. In the the introduction, the author mentioned a copepod that settles on the eyes of a particular kind of fish, eventually leaving that fish blind.  He mentioned that naive grad students would often assume that this was bad for the fish, lowered its fitness – but of course a sophisticate like himself understood that parasites always evolved to become harmless to the host, so in fact that induced blindness didn’t decrease the fish’s fitness at all.

I  could explain how a better evolutionary analysis can indeed explain nonzero virulence, but that is not the real question. The real question is, what  should we do with pinheads like this?  There are whole fields in which the average professor is that loony.  Come the Revolution,  what should be done?


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54 Responses to Their Lying Eyes

  1. Anonymous says:

    “Come the Revolution, what should be done?”
    Clearly, they should be the first ones up against the wall – even before the marketing types.

  2. Patrick Boyle says:

    My favorite fish parasite is the crustacean shown in Zimmer’s ‘Parasite Rex’ that eats the fish’s tongue and then takes it’s place. It thereafter serves as the fish’s new tongue and both live long and prosper.

    • I remember reading about this in a Shuker book, but this is surely extremely atypical for a parasite. Although I imagine the crustacean causes pain or discomfort by eating the tongue it can’t be compared to the copepod that sends the fish blind because it doesn’t replace the fishes eyes. The very fact the copepod in Greg’s post is destroying organs functional to the fish, ie. organs that exist only to increase the fish’s fitness, means the crustacean is decreasing its fitness. How significantly, though, surely depends on how sight-oriented the fish in question is. This kind of parasite wouldn’t harm a knifefish or a mormyrid too much but I expect it would probably devastate a squirrelfish or a scombroid.

      What is the mortality rate of the infected fishes?

  3. reiner Tor says:

    Vladimir Ulyanov believed that you cannot make a revolution without hanging a few people. Quite a few. And he really did do it.

    After some difficult struggle with the counter-revolutionaries and the interventionist imperialist powers, the Soviet people rid itself of the yoke of Tsarism, capitalism, feudalism, religion, etc., and they were building socialism for twenty years until a new, even more aggressive imperialist robber attacked them, Hitler’s Germany, who treacherously attacked them in spite of the nonaggression pact concluded less than two years before.

    But the Soviet people rose up to the challenge, and again showed the door to the imperialist invaders. They finally killed the Fascist beast in its own lair, by capturing its capital and liberating even huge parts of Germany from the capitalist yoke. After the workers and peasants in the countries liberated by the Red Army were free to organize themselves, people’s democracies sprang up spontaneously in these countries everywhere. Soon all these countries were building socialism.

    This was not something that the ever greedy and power-hungry imperialists in New York and London, or the fascist-revanchist leaders of West Germany took lightly. So they organized the aggressive imperialistic military bloc NATO, which has posed a danger ever since to the freedom-loving peoples of the world. The Soviet Union and the people’s democracies around it were quick themselves to improve their own respective defensive military capabilities, even if it somewhat slowed down the process of building socialism.

    I think this is enough for today, actually your question was only about the revolution, and not about later heroic struggles. I guess many people will reeducate, they will parrot the new party line, or something. We might see some rearguard action from them here and there, but since they are loons, it will be easier for them to simply change points of view not to reveal they were out of their depths.

  4. Carl Lumma says:

    > I could explain how a better evolutionary analysis can indeed explain nonzero virulence

    Have you done? Seems like something worth publishing.

  5. Rudolf Winestock says:

    Come the Great Correction, such people should be fired from their jobs and forced to support themselves by taking more humble, less prestigious employment.

    The real question is how do we prevent such people rising so high to begin with?

  6. JayMan says:

    Ah man, where do I start:

    Another problem endemic to obesity and nutrition research since the second world war has been the assumption that poorly controlled experiments and observational studies are sufficient basis on which to form beliefs and promulgate public health guidelines. This is rationalised by the fact that it’s exceedingly difficult (and inordinately expensive) to do better science when dealing with humans and long term chronic diseases. This may be true, but it doesn’t negate the fact the evidence generated from this research is inherently incapable of establishing reliable knowledge.

    The shortcomings of observational studies are obvious and should not be controversial. These studies, regardless of their size or number, only indicate associations—providing hypothesis generating data—not causal relations. These hypotheses then have to be rigorously tested. This is the core of the scientific process. Without rigorous experimental tests, we know nothing meaningful about the cause of the disease states we’re studying or about the therapies that might work to ameliorate them. All we have are speculations.

    -Gary Taubes, detailing the sorry state of medical science in certain arenas, quoted in my post Even George W. Bush Has Heart Disease | JayMan’s Blog

    Also, there’s our boy Sir David Attenborough:

    We stopped natural selection as soon as we started being able to rear 95–99 per cent of our babies that are born.

    We are the only species to have put a halt to natural selection, of its own free will, as it were.

    Then there’s this chica:

    For whatever reason, breast fed kids are 24% more likely to move up the social ladder — that swamps the effect of whatever alleles reported by the educational attainment GWAS. Reinforcing the idea that whatever genetic component there is to winning the social race, it’s miniscule compared with social and environmental factors.

    We’d like to suggest that studies of the genetics of intelligence are not just convenient abstract amorality. They are dangerously immoral. Just as GWAS of diseases like cardiovascular disease or type 2 diabetes, that take the focus off lifestyle which clearly has a large effect on risk of disease, emphasis on the genetics of intelligence takes the responsibility from society to ensure that each child meets his or her intellectual potential.

    But studies of the genetics of intelligence are almost certainly to be used to evaluate people’s inherent intellectual worth — the most fundamental worth, criteria that have widespread formal and informal use in our society

    And so on and so on. There are a whole lot of nutty professors (and doctors, and others) out there. How could you tackle them all? 😉

    • reiner Tor says:

      Zinoviev thought that in Russia under the Bolshevik government (after Brest-Litovsk) there lived around hundred million people capable of being reeducated (the toiling masses), and another ten million totally incapable of that, kulaks, former members and lackeys of the bourgeoisie, priests, nobles, and the like. He thought that they should either leave the country (and leave quickly), or they had to perish. Along with their children, who would naturally resent the extermination of their parents.

      On the other hand, there are two reasons why Zinoviev’s ideas might not be applicable this time.

      First, as is well known, he was later proven to have been a bourgeois agent all along, even though it took several years of hard work for the organs of the party and the state to uncover that.

      Second, I think that when trying to convert people from a lunacy to plain and simple common sense, it must be a whole lot easier than the other way around. I have seen journalists writing Marxist-Leninist nonsense change to conservative nationalists almost overnight in my native country. I think it is very easy. However, stupid people will stay stupid, there’s no way around that. In other words, they might convert from a belief in race as a social construct to a belief in the unchanging essence of race, or something similarly simple and lunatic idea that they might be capable of understanding, but they won’t overnight become smart.

      What we need to ensure is that the vanguard is intelligent enough and gets enough power to implement the changes that need to be made.

    • misdreavus says:

      Neither of the idiots who post on that blog know any quantitative genetics. Quite typical of a stamp collector I mean biologist in this modern day and age, sadly to say.

  7. gwern says:

    Ah, I see someone has been reading their Cochran :

    > It used to be the case [and still is] that many biologists thought that natural selection would inevitably tend towards a situation in which pathogens did infinitesimal harm to their host. This despite the epidemics all around them. I remember reading a book on parasitology in which the gormless author mentioned a certain species of parasitic copepod that routinely blinded the fish they attached to. He said that many a naive grad student would think that that these parasitic copepods were bad for the fish, but sophisticated evolutionists like himself knew (and would explain to the newbies) that of course the fish didn’t suffer any reduction in fitness by going blind – theory said so ! Clearly, that man had a Ph.D.

  8. Hbdgay says:

    “Come the Revolution, what should be done?”

    There will never be a revolution. The dumb will outbreed us until we’re back in the Malthusian trap… unless we attain GATTACA first.

    • Actually breeding may have turned eugenic:

      If that fails, I’m joining the Cylons.

      • ziel says:

        May not be as rosy as it sounds.
        Another obvious factor is net immigration. Immigrants tend to have more children than natives and although this trend reduces over time, it still can have a big effect in the short-term. Furthermore, BCA thinks convergence may be slower than before, in part because the level of intermarriage between natives and immigrants is lower than in previous eras.

      • Matt says:

        It seems that the relationship between fertility and household income has shifted. Increased prosperity used to lead to a decline in the fertility rate as parents did not need children as an insurance policy for their old age; and indeed, the modern child is very expensive to bring up. But now better-off people seem to be having more children; in the US, the fertility rate of wives whose husbands are in the top decile of income is back where it was a century ago. Having a lot of children may be a sign of status – BCA dubs this the “Brangelina effect” – or it may be that better-off women can afford the childcare help (and increased housing space) that children necessitate.

        Retarded article. More prosperous people have not bred less in industrialised countries.

        Individual income has been positively correlated with fertility for men and neutral for females in the entire USA 20th century GSS sample. You can look in the sample. There’s a variable for number of children, there are variables for income and wealth, and its quite a clear and linear trend.

        The “issue” with dysgenic breeding is that less intelligent people (lower education, lower IQ score) are having more children. Higher income people still have higher numbers of children. So the children of the future are currently and for the conceivable future, the kids of the dumb but rich, who perhaps have more of certain qualities (smooth interpersonal skills?) which give access to income but certainly have lesser IQ.

    • Knoxy says:

      Dooms dayers will never stop.

  9. TWS says:

    We’ll need people to play the part of ‘native’ cavemen on ‘Sabretooth Island’ (the hunting park Sailer suggested in the South Pacific). Give them furs and pointy sticks. They can live their lives portraying picturesque noble savages spouting nonsense just-so stories to each other. Now all we need are some mammoths and sabertooths.

  10. Man Mountain Molehill says:

    Clearly some clever brain parasite has improved their academic fitness. Probably by removing the higher brain function responsible for common sense.

    Come the revolution send them to the countryside to be reeducated by shoveling manure, a skill they have already amply demonstrated.

  11. The fourth doorman of the apocalypse says:

    What really pisses me off is that the replacement main spring housing I got for my 1911 is about 3/64ths of an inch too long and it stops the grip safety from functioning.

  12. We could round them up and make them live together in colleges, where they would have to go to pointless meetings. Unless someone has already beaten us to the point on that one.

    “There is a theory which states that if ever anybody discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened” Douglas Adams

  13. Justin Irving says:

    Wolves sure seem to harm the caribou when they take him down. I guess it is different though, when the wolf is small, and inside the caribou’s eye.

  14. So the student held up a camera phone and asked the lecturer, “Can you please repeat that please?”

  15. ziel says:

    Revolution?! What, is there some American Pinochet waiting in the wings? More likely the millions of little Maoists trolling the interweb will be wondering what to do with the likes of us, someday.

  16. Don’t make me search for the reference, but a study of British academics about 20 years ago showed that some had IQs as low as 115. They need a place of safety, and publicly funded universities provide such safety. Would you prefer them to be in charge of heavy machinery?

  17. Xtra Txtra says:

    The real question is, what should we do with pinheads like this? There are whole fields in which the average professor is that loony. Come the Revolution, what should be done?

    The Revolution is already here: your pinhead is an example of it. Denying the obvious appeals more to the intelligent, because it separates them from the proles. Nineteen Eighty-Four is Orwell’s vision of what the intelligent will create:

    It was only after the Soviet régime became unmistakably totalitarian that English intellectuals, in large numbers, began to show an interest in it. Burnham, although the English russophile intelligentsia would repudiate him, is really voicing their secret wish: the wish to destroy the old, equalitarian version of Socialism and usher in a hierarchical society where the intellectual can at last get his hands on the whip.

  18. and it'll drive me mad says:

    their has to be a way to rephrase that story in a manner that the copepod becomes the professor and the school of stundents a school of fish. the symmetry is there to turn tale into parable.

  19. a very knowing American says:

    Could this be the explanation?

    “The juvenile sea squirt wanders through the sea searching for a suitable rock or hunk of coral to cling to and make its home for life. For this task, it has a rudimentary nervous system. When it finds its spot and takes root, it doesn’t need its brain anymore, so it eats it! It’s rather like getting tenure.”

    Daniel Dennett

    • The fourth doorman of the apocalypse says:

      A little knowledge is a dangerous thing perhaps?

      From here I got the following:

      An ascidian ( a fish shaped chordate not really a fish. ) reabsorbs its central brain when it transitions from larval to adult form. At the same time it develops its visceral ganglion, the term for a primitive enteric brain. The metamorphosis is a sensible adaptation to a change in lifestyle, analogous to trading in scuba equipment for skis after moving from Barbados to Colorado. The larval sea squirt is motile and needs a CNS to direct motion. The primary activity of the adult sessile form is eating. Recent genomic work on the sea squirt, Ciona Intestinalis, may reveal more detail of the evolution of the enteric nervous system.

      This paints a more nuanced picture …

      Neoteny rules?

  20. JayMan says:

    Here you go. Check out this latest craze:

    Can Emotional Intelligence Be Taught? –

    Wade’s approach — used schoolwide at Garfield Elementary, in Oakland, Calif. — is part of a strategy known as social-emotional learning, which is based on the idea that emotional skills are crucial to academic performance.

    “Something we now know, from doing dozens of studies, is that emotions can either enhance or hinder your ability to learn,” Marc Brackett, a senior research scientist in psychology at Yale University, told a crowd of educators at a conference last June. “They affect our attention and our memory. If you’re very anxious about something, or agitated, how well can you focus on what’s being taught?”

    • The fourth doorman of the apocalypse says:

      It seems that these people think that learning can be force fed like forcing grain down a gooses neck.

  21. Ginny says:

    I suppose the author is also a Steve Guttenberg apologist.

  22. Asher says:

    Public crucifixion. One of the purposes of crucifixion was to publicly humiliate the targeted individual. Never underestimate the power of public humiliation.

    • kai says:

      On who, the public or the crucified? I have trouble thinking that public humiliation was high on the list of problems of the latest. U know, compared to the problem of managing to breath without increasing too much an already unbearable agony….But hey, never underestimate psychological suffering, so who knows…;-)

      • Asher says:

        I had an acquaintance who was a counselor for abused women and she talked about how most of the harm in physical abuse was actually psychological. the body heals far more quickly than the emotions.

      • kai says:

        This sound like most of psychology to me, i.e. counterintuitive explanation that are both politically correct and not verified by correctly done experimental studies. From personal experience (not crucifixion, obviously) it is simply false. Intense pain is so strong that you are not really able to think anymore and do everything possible to avoid it on quasi-reflex level. No place for shame there, shame is for after, when pain has stopped or reduced to manageable level. It maybe true that physical pain is not remembered as well as more abstract shame. I feel this way for most physical sensation…but the long term remembering is, obviously, not an issue for the crucified

      • Asher says:

        The point is to deter those who would make the same decisions ex post.

  23. teageegeepea says:

    Your “bomb both sides in Syria” column appeared at the American Conservative on the 10th, but wasn’t linked from here. That’s no way to self-promote!

  24. Greying Wanderer says:

    “The real question is, what should we do with pinheads like this? There are whole fields in which the average professor is that loony. Come the Revolution, what should be done?”

    Non-STEM academia is an accreditation scam – just close it down. People who can’t sit still leave school at 15, then get a job, learn on the job. People who can sit still stay till 18, then get a job, learn on the job. The bright ones will get ahead without wasting their breeding years in college and shackling themselves with a loan.

    Maybe leave Classics as the sole remaining bit of non-STEM academia as learning Latin and Greek (and maybe add Chinese and Sanskrit(?) as well) is rigorous enough and forcing future politicians and civil servants to read all that sensible old stuff in the process is probably as good a training as you can make for public office.

  25. james toney says:

    “In his remarkable diaries of his life as a Jew under Nazism — escaping the gas chambers by a near miracle — Victor Klemperer writes these words about a German professor friend whom he had much admired, but who had finally joined the pack: “If one day the situation were reversed and the fate of the vanquished lay in my hands, then I would let all the ordinary folk go and even some of the leaders, who might perhaps after all have had honourable intentions and not known what they were doing. But I would have all the intellectuals strung up, and the professors three feet higher than the rest; they would be left hanging from the lamp posts for as long as was compatible with hygiene.”

  26. Pingback: The Coming Plague | West Hunter

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