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Posts posted by CharonY

  1. 2 minutes ago, MigL said:

    Exchemist said that he personally found thoughts of same gender sex, or being 'approached' by a same sex suitor, distasteful, not that he disliked others who engage in such.
    He was told this was a learned response.

    Well, there is a bit of nuance, as mentioned earlier, one of the question in some of the standard surveys specifically asked whether folks would be uncomfortable with and showing that the comfort is highly contextual.

    And this is really the issue when trying to frame it as an innate response. The distaste for being approached is not only dependent on the suitor, but highly dependent on context. I would bet that in a highly professional environment most folks would feel uncomfortable when approached overtly sexually, regardless of ones sexual orientation, for example.

    Moreover, I think I may mentioned that folks might be put off by by sexual advances of any folks they are not interested in. While this mechanism might have some innate components, it is clear that it is not specifically targeted at homosexuality. I.e. there are many cues at play that can trigger the distaste reaction. We learn, for example, that this behaviour has no place at work. We might be more receptive in other social settings.

    So in short, the feeling of distaste might only be partially learned, but the cues triggering those are social and hence, learned (and therefore also malleable). This is what I tried to address with my comment about hardwired before.


  2. 5 hours ago, Phi for All said:

    The orientation may be hardwired, but I think the behavior surrounding it is mostly learned. Male heterosexuality in particular is a pretty fragile thing, where men learn even one mistake can label you for life. Women's orientation is a bit more forgiving, as if men don't understand lesbians and don't see their homosexuality as a threat.

    To your first point, I think it the term hardwired or innate does obscure some of the mechanisms surrounding sexual orientation. Most likely it is a developmental mechanism where genetic factors contribute, but not necessarily determine sexual orientation. What we do know is that typically it is fixed at an early age. However, one should contrast them to sexual preference, which might be finer grained. I.e. the attraction among the perceived sexually compatible partners. These are much clearer to be learned, but are likely also heavily influenced by child-hood learning. There are several mechanisms described in psychology in that regard where childhood might influence partner selection.

    There is for example a hypothesis in psychology, called the Westermarck effect which assumes a form of inprinting in which folks tend not to be attracted to siblings, if they have lived together at a young age. It is an attractive hypothesis as in contrast to what is under discussion here, there is a path to selective advantages (i.e. avoiding incest). The problem though is if experimental data does not really support such a mechanism.

    What has been found is that e.g. disgust with incest is more related to social and cultural cues, though the debate is not fully settled yet. So even from a perspective where at least theoretically there could be strong selective factors and which appear to be a automatism, the underlying mechanisms are apparently far more complex. And obviously there is not really a good argument to made for strong selection on mutable traits.

    As with many things, I think the somewhat unsatisfactory answer is that most behaviour, even many unconscious ones are learned on one level or another. Our brain requires constant feedback to develop and some behavioural traits (such as sexual orientation) can be fixed very strongly, whereas others remain malleable. 

    The OP was talking about selection and as such the traits that are malleable are not under selection. However, the basis for such traits (e.g. the mechanisms which influence how we develop sexual preferences) might be. And I think in the discussion so far, both factors have been mixed up.

  3. 1 hour ago, MigL said:

    But we are not discussing 'homophobic' sentiments, which most of us can agree are wrong; there is never a reason to hate others.

    I am wondering how liking something can be innate, but disliking the very same thing, be a learned behaviour.

    It falls roughly under the same umbrella. There is a host of data, starting from the one I mentioned above where it shows that folks are far less uncomfortable (including sexual advances from individuals from the same sex). I think it is fairly clear that this is not true for sexual orientation. I.e. it only seems similar if you use the terms of like and dislike. But I think you will agree that sexual orientation is far more hardwired (though part is likely learned early on), whereas the other "dislike" is far more malleable.


  4. 1 hour ago, MigL said:

    I find it funny ( rather strange, actually ) that sexual attraction to your own gender, along with preference for homosexual sex, is considered innate, or even genetic, by some, yet a distaste for homosexual acts is considered 'learned' behaviour, and deserving of the 'homophobe' term.

    Maybe someone could explain the 'logic' to me, Exchemist, and others.

    The logic is that sexual orientation basically does not change through life, making it either genetic or at least strongly imprinted early in  life and in a mostly unchangeable way.

    By the same token, homophobic sentiments can change quickly as noted earlier. Thus, using the same reasoning, it is much less likely to be innate.

  5. 2 hours ago, TheVat said:

    Group selection is also part of NS.  From Brit Tanica...

    group selection, in biology, a type of natural selection that acts collectively on all members of a given group. Group selection may also be defined as selection in which traits evolve according to the fitness (survival and reproductive success) of groups or, mathematically, as selection in which overall group fitness is higher or lower than the mean of the individual members’ fitness values. Typically the group under selection is a small cohesive social unit, and members’ interactions are of an altruistic nature. Examples of behaviours that appear to influence group selection include cooperative hunting, such as among lions and other social carnivores; cooperative raising of young, such as in elephants; and systems of predatory warning, such as those used by prairie dogs and ground squirrels.

    Homophobia, given its potential effect on the cohesion of, say, hunting parties, could have some negative group selection effect.  When social humans divide up by gender so that male groups go off to hunt or trade or make war with other tribes, some tolerance of homosexual play (recreation, relaxation, bonding) might improve stability and effectiveness of that group.  

    Given the constant fertility of human males, it seems unlikely that nonreproductive acts, be it blowing, wanking or buggering, would put much dent in overall pregnancy rates.  We're like bonobos - lots of nonreproductive sex done for bonding.  

    I just want to add that group selection has been in discussion for a long time and despite some resurgences, most evolutionary scientists find it problematic, as other than just-so stories, it has not been useful in explaining persistence of traits. Moreover, many social traits can and have been explained in the context of "regular" selection more efficiently. 

    The whole idea kind of nosedived together with the sociobiology and evolutionary psychology. 

  6. Considering how much a person has learned by that age, including one or more languages, and many other unnatural things (wearing clothes, hygiene, culture-specific mannerisms). Moreover, "natural" reactions can also have learned components. Imprinting is such an example, for example (though perhaps less well studied in humans compared to other animals).

  7. 2 hours ago, Genady said:

    Yes, and I think the teacher should ignore them and focus on the other 20%. Then the people who deserve it will get more of the teacher's time, energy, creativity, flexibility, and eventually even better education.

    Great, except folks won't get tenure if they do that. See the economic aspect in OP.

  8. 40 minutes ago, Genady said:

    No, I'm not. But, really, are surgeons or structural engineers placed in highly responsible positions just based on their degrees out of school?

    A degree is a low bar. Do you think folks who are unable to pass it should go into these positions? Do you really think that a job interview will screen out inadequate performance better than a few years of training and supervision?

  9. 56 minutes ago, Genady said:

    There are people who want to learn. These people don't have any reason to cheat. They do their homework to learn and to practice what they learn. They take exams to see if they got it. They look for mentors. Educators work with these people.

    Sounds good, if you are able to ignore about 80% of any given class. 


    39 minutes ago, OldChemE said:

    How to assess abilities?  The best way is to not rely on anything that can be generated via the internet,  That's why, in math classes for example, the gold standard has been pencil and paper and "Show your work"

    That is true, and in many disciplines writing is a big part of it. One way you seem to suggest to do writing in class only? Because that is where we are headed for the moment. I used to run a lab where the objectives where research-driven. I.e. teaching methods and then present them with small questions that they had to figure out using the methods they were taught. The idea was to get away from rote memorisation to application of knowledge. I co-ran a version as postdoc a long time ago with quite some success. A little while ago I tried it again, and basically one one student liked it (who is now a postdoc) whereas the rest specifically complained about the amount of work and the lack of simple and direct answers. 

    In many countries the university system has slowly changed from a somewhat elitist to a much broader system. Unfortunately that has also changed attitudes of the student body. While in the past it was mostly pre-meds, now quite a few other students are also getting anxious when they do not have clear question-answer sheets that they can use to guide their learning. Whereas lectures were used in the past to augment reading, folks do not read anymore and you get massive complaints if the answer to a question is not prominently featured in one of the lectures.

    Mind you, my experience is not at an elite school, but some of my colleagues who teach in ivy league school see a more muted version of what we experience in lower tier schools. But so far the solution seems to be focus on in-class performance, which is basically what we are doing right now. Though assignments and homework are a bit more questionable. I am not a fan of those in the first place, but then folks complain about not having extra credits if you do not give them the opportunity to turn those in.

    That all being said, I think there is some worth to have nurses and physicians who are able to read and comprehend texts without assistance, I think.

  10. Here is also a short article on the WHO comments on that matter:


    In all, the committee determined that COVID-19 "remains a dangerous infectious disease with the capacity to cause substantial damage to health and health systems." In addition to the still-high death toll, the committee voiced concern for low vaccination rates in low- to middle-income countries, a dramatic decline in the monitoring of variants, continued spread of misinformation driving vaccine hesitancy, and the long-term threat of long COVID. The committee also acknowledged that "pandemic fatigue and reduced public perception of risk have led to drastically reduced use of public health and social measures, such as masks and social distancing."



  11. Inspired by another thread, I wanted to see opinions on the rise of language AI for science teaching. I would actually like to go back a bit to the rise of the internet. Before that time, literature search was an often slow process involving going into the library and copying articles manually. With the rise of online databases and encyclopedias, access to information became a breeze. The in hindsight optimistic assumption of that time is that folks would need to spend less time searching for info, and therefore spend more time synthesizing.

    Thus, the logic went the quality of student work (but also research) should improve, as folks would use more time on thinking and less on rote memorization. I think most educators at this point will realize that this is not what happened. While folks memorize less, they also seem to read (and by extension) think less than they used to, paradoxically perhaps because they have access to a vast array of literature.

    The lack of reading is nowhere as obvious when students are writing essays. However now AI systems are making the rounds which is able to generate well-written (if frequently inaccurate) essays, articles or whatever you want. As the massive cheating during the pandemic has shown us, many, if not most students will use any means to improve their scores with as little effort as possible. Here again essays were seen as a way out as it requires more than a quick google search, compared to exam questions. But obviously ChatGPT is going to make it more difficult for the educator.

    So in the light of these modern developments, how should modern teaching look like? What should educators do in order to assess academic abilities? I also want to add that in many countries college-level education has strong economic incentives, where university administrations tries to get as many satisfied customers as possible, whereas increasingly students tend to focus on grades rather than improvement in their understanding (not least due the high cost).

    So we have an unfavorable situation of economic incentives and technological developments that, in my opinion, are negatively impacting learning and at this point I do feel that is a bit more than just a generational complaining issue. 

    So I would like to have an open discussion on the (hopefully) various perspectives on this issue.


  12. To add to that, the Journal in question also publishes experiences and method used in courses, and often looks at things like how to conduct a course (especially experimental courses), how it is received by students and so on. Taking a look at the paper proper, the intro has a lot of fluff which is unusual for STEM papers, but not uncommon for sociological articles. But the core of the course really appears to be more about historical issues in science and how they might translate into modern sciences. I.e. it seems to be a course for STEM students rather than a creating a new framework of teaching chemistry to students (I do find the paper, as a whole, to be poorly written). 

    Topics being covered are background in feminism (take it or leave it, I guess) but more interestingly, how politics and history motivated certain types of research and conclusions. These includes many of the typical cases folks learn in bioethics, such as non-consensual experiments on minorities (whose consent matters?), social Darwinism (extrapolation of scientific concepts to benefit certain power structures), the imbalance and lack of research in women's health and the undervaluing of female researchers.

    I am with Arete that the framing of the course is not ideal, but the material itself seems pretty inoffensive to me and is actually critical to improve sciences, probably with some more relevance to biomedical sciences than chemistry, but there is some overlap there, too.

    I think the point that the authors try to make is that the frameworks develops in sociological sciences can be helpful to contextualize the information we create in sciences and to at least acknowledge that these are not pure intellectual pursuits free from our current political and cultural situation (folks working on climate change might have a word or two in that regard. Or evolution. Or vaccines.)

  13. 4 hours ago, studiot said:


    Please read my point number 1 again. It specifically refers to the article presented by the OP.


    Why do do think I made it No. 1 ?


    Let us discuss what that article actually stated. I cannot divine what the authors may have meant to say, only what they did say. Furthermore I expect, though I am not cetain, that that article will have undergone some sort of peer review process, given its source.

    Maybe that needs a closer discussion, I am not a fan  of how the curriculum is framed, but I think it is fair to say that knowledge is never created in a vacuum. The way we learn and think about science is dependent on how knowledge is created, evaluated, transmitted and preserved.

    A purely oral tradition would have a vastly different, likely less quantitative system, for example. Yet it still would transmit knowledge (and in conversation sciences, indigenous knowledge is getting a bit of a revival, right now). Indubitably, Science in its current format, rose from European traditions and has, as I mentioned earlier, historic issues. There also have been demographic  issues in disciplines, including chemistry, and I could imagine an argument being made that this has influenced the discipline. In my mind, more in terms of what is being researched and how. But what topic the course ultimately entertains, I don't know and it does seem to be a bit sensationalist about it.

    It is easy to see the spectrum of PC over it, but I think there is always some calue to at least trying to rethink the properties of the system we operate in.

    4 hours ago, MigL said:

    It seems that even institutions like a science forum can have biases.

    Some may be biased in seeing biases where there are none; more and more common, these days.

    I grant that the teaching and interpretation of the science, in a way that is understandable to the student, may have cultural, and other biases, but that is not what I understood of the OP either.
    I am inclined to agree with Studiot, Exchemist ( there is no subjectivity in the repeatability of an experiment, no matter who performs it ), and Arete.

    I don't see at as a bias thing as such, but rather a meta-view on a given system. I.e. ultimately it is a more philosophical approach. Rather looking at the natural world, we now look at how we look at the natural world. Social sciences like to jump the shark a bit with their concepts, which are typically far less quantitative, but at the same time, I am curious enough to try to look at things from a different perspective, as long as some sort of data is presented (which might not be the case for this topic). To me, it seems more like a conceptual thing, but the only hard data I can think of at the top of my head are underrepresentation and underfunding of non-white academics, which is being discussed by the various chemical societies, as far as I know. But here, the issue of bias among senior academics is somewhat harder dispute and as OP also mentioned, probably not really what the course is about. 

  14. It won't be a magic bullet. Phages have their place, but they are not ax universal as antibiotics used to be and have range of other limitations. While we need more options in the future, so far no solution presented itself. So far mitigating antibiotics use might be more important. It is bit like climate change. There are clear mid-term strategies, but we won't commit to them, so we keep hoping that somehow new technologies will save us.

  15. 7 hours ago, studiot said:


    Well I don't agree with either of you.

    In my view the opening post itself was clear enough, although I will accept any clarification by exchemist as to what he actually meant.

    I understood it to mean that:

    1.  An article was published that declared in exactly these words "all knowledge is..."
      In my dictionary all knowledge includes scientific knowledge, including established facts such as Pythagoras' theorem.
    2. The article further states that political correctness is being applied to a particular course in a scientific subject, to whit Chemistry.
    3. exchemist appears to me to be asking if this is sensible (science) and providing his opinion that this situation is 'bonkers'
    4. I agree with him.
    5. In extending these simple observations to the countries and places where they speak different languages I respectfully suggest that both CharonY and Arete are the ones who have 'missed the point'.


    In particular the question of those who do not speak English is a red herring.

    Said person must speak his or her own language and the exam in his or her country will not be in English but in his or her own language.
    So why should they not pass the exam ?

    No, I would not expect them to come to an English speaking country and take the exam in English and pass.
    Would you ?

    Did you read the words 'perhaps we should' at the beginning of my sentence indicating Swiftesque irony ?


    I think we are still talking past each other. You refer to the assertion by OP, whereas I am referring to the article linked in the OP. My point is that you and OP assume that the article refers to science in terms of natural processes (e.g. the chemical reactions themselves) whereas the article refers to the knowledge building, which requires a scientific system. The latter is built by folks using language, specific notations and theoretical frameworks that are based on nature, but are not natural and hence objective themselves.

    Any science ultimately makes models that approximate and describe the natural world. And inherently, we accept that these models are artificial and often flawed to a certain extent. The important point, however, is that these models are useful in specific circumstances, despite the flaws. What the article tries to do is a more philosophical treatment of the scientific system, i.e. the elements that surround the model building.

  16. 56 minutes ago, studiot said:

    I fail to see the relevancy of this to either of my comments.

    In particular would I be considered racist if I reported a black precipitate on passing hydrogen sulphide through copper sulphate solution ?

    My point is that actually that your comment misses the thrust of the issue. I think Arete gave a good example of context. I agree that the abstract in OP is poorly written and reeks of expertise overreach, but the idea behind is all about the scientific system not science or even nature in itself. Let's say you let a person conduct the experiment you mentioned, but is unable to write or speak English. They also do not know the Latin names of the chemicals. Will they pass the exam? 

  17. It is partially true, but perhaps not universally so. A few key points, the dying from and with COVID-19 can bit a bit muddled, depending on whether a give jurisdiction separates that data. Looking back at 2022, the omicron waves have hit countries quite differently and I think what we start to see is a change in the immunity status of the population. For example, for Canada 2022 was the deadliest year yet, as Omicron has swept the country and reached vulnerable populations that were not exposed during the less contagious waves (in conjunction with public health measures). 

    Now that Omicron has infected the majority of the population basically everywhere, the hope was/is that they may be more resilient when it comes to severe disease. Some data seems to show that with some areas having relative constant, COVID-19 specific hospitalizations, despite having increasing infections when new variants arrived at some of the areas I have looked at. In

    However, there are several issues with that. The biggest in my mind is that national data is at this point not terribly useful if you want to understand public health impact. In my mind, at the latest since Omicron the risk has shifted from individual risk, to population risk. Due to the massive and still not abating spread of Omicron lineages, our health care system is now systemically impacted. This includes obvious parameters such as hospitalization and death, but also increased risk of infection in vulnerable folks (e.g. cancer patients, immunosuppressed individuals, diabetic folks or otherwise vulnerable to inflammation). Whether you are hospitalized with or because of COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2 can cause complications. On top, we have lingering effects of sever inflammation and other issues, which ultimately put an almost constant pressure on virtually every health care system in the world. This has a ripple effect, resulting in excess health burden that simply would not exist without COVID-19.

    Especially in low population density countries, outbreaks have vastly different impact on the health care system, too. I.e. if the next hospitals is hours (or days!) away a few missing beds due to COVID-19 hospitalizations can have vastly more impact than in area where folks can be shuffled between hospitals, for example. 

    So in aggregate I would agree that the COVID-19 situations is, as a whole, in a different situation than at the beginning of the pandemic, with rapid mass deaths being less likely (at least so far). On the other hand it is still a bit of a semantic trick. Even if we do not think of it as an emergency, folks will die on a daily basis, we will have continued pressure on our health care system and our overall health is still going to be impacted. Perhaps one can think of it as the aftermath of a Tsunami, folks are less likely to be swept into the ocean now, but if thinks are not fixed, risk of cholera and other issues will increase.

    There are also a couple of rather bad takes from the author of the article that I do not agree with. For example the assertion that the daily deaths in the US are comparable to a bad flu season does not take into account that those numbers would represent about 3-4 months of flu. In contrast in the post-emergency situation of COVID-19 that is rate that is mostly non-seasonal (i.e. continues throughout the year). I am also slightly perplexed why he picks out Denmark, when I believe the UK actually has actually segregated data. A quick check shows me that pre-COVID-19 England had somewhere between 1-2k deaths per year. In 2022 about 18k cases had COVID-19 as cause. Even if that was not stringent enough, and we cut it by half, at least for the whole year the situation does not seem that great. 

    And I would also add that flu is not harmless. There is a reason why health authorities beg us to get vaccinated every year. And having two serious diseases circulating is going to put further strain on our health care systems. The tragedy is that once we move off the ledge, many think that the thing is over and it is time to have a picnic. In truth, the cliff is crumbling, and has for a long time, regardless whether we call it an emergency or not.

    Edit: I clicked through some of the links in the article and my assessment on the article is not improving. Some might be just mislinked, as they do not seem to show the data the author was citing. But perhaps worse, he is citing an author who publicly made false statements on COVID-19 and vaccines.  I am not saying that the overall thrust of the article is inherently wrong, but the way it is built looks too much like cherry-picking to me. And if I were to write an opinion piece, I would stay the heck away from folks who have promoted falsehoods.

    Edit 2: One of the things I feel that is missing is an honest discussion of what kind of disease burden we, as a community, feel acceptable. This includes direct damages due to the disease, but also disruptions in our health care and related factors. Howe much are we willing to spend vs what kind of damages (including deaths) do we feel is justifiable for a given price?

    Edit 3: I should add the disclaimer that I am not an epidemiologist nor do I work on public health systems. As such this is really just my opinion based on my work and interactions with local health authorities as part of related projects.

  18. 29 minutes ago, studiot said:

    I must say I fail to see what is subjective about the result of adding silver nitrate solution to sodium chloride solution.

    Perhaps we should ban such experiments since the majority of salts are white so white precipitates (if any at all) will be in the majority.

    The reactions are obviously independent of the operator. However, the interpretation depends on the whole system that has been built around chemistry. The notations we use for example are the one that we found useful and therefore we teach it. Yet it does not mean that the ways we describe the reactions are objectively the only way to do it. In other words nature, is truly objective and independent of people. However, the way we investigate and interpret nature is not. 

  19. 2 hours ago, exchemist said:

    Because it is collective, rather than individual, is not specific to a group or a way of thinking it is a reasoned technique for achieving objectivity. But if you think it is subjective, what would you say is subjective about it?  

    Actually it is also based on a specific group of folks that have been trained a specific way. Reproducibility is important, but to various degree we establish threshold in which we accept variability for a given methodology. Threshold and methodology again are established by a specific group of people. Some things work out to be extremely robust and it gives a semblance of objectivity. Other concepts are or remain a less bound by nature and are part of what a group of folks have established to be useful in for their work. Species are such a concept, for example. 

  20. Short answer is that it is not know specifically. Longer answer is a bit generic and encompasses arguments of weak natural selection, bottleneck in ancestral populations and sexual selection as Moon mentioned. There are a handful of more specific speculations but the genetics of pigmentation is somewhat complex. Some genetic variants influence pigmentation on different parts (i.e. not only the iris) and could for example be co-selected.

  21. Folks, you have not followed OPs logic properly. Remember things in the past are old, and old things don't work. Which is why everything older than 30 years ago is just garbage, everything 20 years ago is suspect, everything 10 years ago barely acceptable and everything we do now is new and exciting until 5 minutes ago. 

    You clearly are not going with the times of disruptive technology, where nothing really exists or persists and where we re-invent a new wheel every time someone gets high.

  22. 4 hours ago, TheVat said:

    We all have impressions of how others tick that may not be easily answered with evidence.  I have no idea if social science based surveys have been done on this, or what percent of straight males are uncomfortable (phobia might be too strong a term) with sexual advances from men. 

    So there are quite a few studies in that area. In fact, there are studies trying to define and quantify homophobia (there quire a few papers on it from Hudson and Ricketts dating back to the 80s). These questionnaires try to build scores from questions including the level of comfort with getting sexual advances from a person of the same sex.

    An interesting finding from some of the earlier studies is that the level of discomfort is highly malleable. For example after actual interaction with homosexuals, the level of discomfort drops substantially.

    For example, from a small study on students in the 80s 61% of students were very uncomfortable but this drops to 18% in a group that had interaction with gay persons.

    Other studies show similar tendencies and generally speaking lack of familiarity seems to correlate with discomfort (and prejudices also play into it). As a whole I think it makes much more sense to think about this issue in terms of learned behaviour and specifically the level of discomfort is likely inversely correlated with how much you like or dislike a particular person, rather than the sexual orientation (assuming the absence of specific prejudices, which would influence the like/dislike in the first place). I am fairly certain that getting aggressive, unwanted attention from a person one thoroughly dislikes, even if they are of the opposite sex is more repulsive than a friendly flirtation from someone, who one is comfortable around, but just not sexually attracted to.

    I also think that goes doubly for women, as there is also a different level of higher (implicit or potential) physical threat, when the unwanted advances come from a man.

    That being said, I have zero inklings how one could make an evolutionary argument out of it. 

  23. 4 hours ago, JacobNewton said:

    be that as it may, would you deter people from using IQ tests as a means of knowing where they stand intellectually? If so, why?

    They could do it, if they so choose. They just should be aware that this is not an indicator of where they are intellectually. I.e. one should not misinform folks on the meaning of such measures. If you are doing well in something, you are doing well regardless of what your score might be, and vice versa.

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