Human Nature
Science, technology, and life.

July 6 2010 11:02 AM

Kagan's Abortion Spin

Fourteen years ago, to protect President Clinton's position on partial-birth abortions, Elena Kagan doctored a statement by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. ... All of us should be embarrassed that a sentence written by a White House aide now stands enshrined in the jurisprudence of the Supreme Court, erroneously credited with scientific authorship and rigor. Kagan should be most chastened of all. She fooled the nation's highest judges. As one of them, she had better make sure they aren't fooled again.

More here .

June 21 2010 9:24 AM

Blood and Bigotry

According to the FDA, men who have had sex with men "are, as a group, at increased risk for HIV, hepatitis B and certain other infections." To protect blood recipients from this risk, their blood must be excluded. This kind of group-based screening is a longstanding practice in blood regulation. Over the years, we've prohibited donors on the basis of nationality as well as sexuality. There's nothing wrong with such categorical exclusions, according to the FDA, as long as they make the blood supply safer. But if that's true, why not screen donors by race?

More here .

June 9 2010 9:25 AM

The Folly of Deepwater Drilling

From the comfort of your home or office, through the magic of Web video, you can watch the disaster unfolding on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico. What you're seeing—a leak that has spewed more than 36 million gallons of oil into the Gulf since April 20—is taking place a mile below the water's surface. The temperature there is just above freezing. The pressure is 2,300 pounds per square inch. ... You can see the spewing oil, but you can't touch it. None of us can. We've opened a hole in the earth that we can't close.

More here .

June 3 2010 9:33 AM

The Memory Doctor

Do you trust your memories? Would you send a defendant to jail based on the recollection of a single witness? If an adult woman suddenly remembered her father molesting her 20 years earlier, would you believe it?

These are some of the questions raised in Slate 's eight-part series, The Memory Doctor . The series focuses on Elizabeth Loftus, a psychologist who has challenged the reliability of eyewitness testimony and recovered memories of sexual abuse. From the introduction:

Loftus set out to prove that such memories could have been planted. To do so, she had to replicate the process. She had to make people remember, as sincerely and convincingly as any sworn witness, things that had never happened. And she succeeded. Her experiments shattered the legal system's credulity. Thanks to her ingenuity and persistence, the witch hunts of the recovered-memory era subsided.

But the experiments didn't stop. Loftus and her collaborators had become experts at planting memories. Couldn't they do something good with that power? So they began to practice deception for real. With a simple autobiographical tweak—altering people's recollections of childhood eating experiences—they embarked on a new project: making the world healthier and happier.

To begin reading The Memory Doctor , click here . Or you can start with Slate's memory-editing experiment , which kicked off the series.

June 3 2010 9:31 AM

How Slate Edited History

In 1984 , George Orwell told the story of Winston Smith, an employee in the propaganda office of a totalitarian regime. Smith's job at the fictional Ministry of Truth was to destroy photographs and alter documents, remaking the past to fit the needs of the present. But 1984 came and went, along with Soviet communism. In the age of the Internet, nobody could tamper with the past that way. Could they?

Yes, we can. In fact, two weeks ago, Slate did. We altered four images from recent political history, took a fifth out of context, and mixed them with three unadulterated scenes. We wanted to test the power of photographic editing to warp people's memories.

To read the results of our experiment, click here .

May 4 2010 9:44 AM

Cutting Corners

Kevin Williamson, the deputy managing editor of National Review , has written a curious blog post at NR 's " The Corner ." He says yesterday's Slate piece about partisan echo chambers ignored close-mindedness on the left. He calls me "a liberal guy" who "can find almost nothing to criticize other than the (tendentiously described, if not outright mischaracterized) intellectual shortcomings of those who hold opinions other than his own."

To prove the point, Williamson then quotes me—and carefully removes the parts where I criticized the left. Check it out:

Williamson's clipped quote #1:

6. Conservatives who see the epistemic-closure conversation as a political threat describe politics as a " team " contest. ...

What Williamson clipped out after the ellipses:

I've seen the same dynamic on the left, where internal critics are dismissed as " concern trolls ."

Williamson's clipped quote #2:

7. Some writers have turned the epistemic-closure conversation into a debate over which party is more smug. Conor Friedersdorf, a blogger at the American Scene , aptly mocks their hypocrisy : "There may be a problem in our thinking, but the important thing to focus on is that the other guys are worse." [Jonah] Goldberg, a perpetrator of this blame-deflecting tactic ....

What Williamson clipped out after the ellipses:

is right about one thing: Epistemic closure isn't unique to any era or faction. It's a problem " for all human associations and movements ." Challenging your community's delusions is your responsibility, whether that community is CPAC or Jeremiah Wright's church .

Another line Williamson clipped out:

Then MSNBC booted guest host Donny Deutsch off the air after he used two MSNBC anchors to illustrate left-wing rage.

As a longtime fan of Rich Lowry, Ramesh Ponnuru, Jonah Goldberg, and other writers at NR , I'd like to believe that these omissions are just oversights or unavoidable casualties of excerpting a longer article. But I'm having trouble mustering that defense for Williamson. He clipped quote #2 in the middle of a sentence to hide from NR readers the fact that the next words were an endorsement of Goldberg's observation that close-mindedness is not just a conservative problem. In so doing, he also neatly removed my criticism of Jeremiah Wright's church. Having done this, he derisively and dishonestly titled his post, "Because Liberals By Definition Cannot Be Closed-Minded."

None of the ellipses in what I've written above are mine. They're all Williamson's.

I challenge Williamson or the editors of NR to defend his use of the ellipses.


April 7 2010 8:32 AM

Sexting and Adultery

Everyone with an Internet connection now knows plenty about Tiger Woods' sex life. But we don't know it from a bimbo getting caught in a hallway. We know it from his texts. He treated his phone as a private channel, a place where he could hide his darkest thoughts from the world. Instead, the phone manifested and published them. His trysts are gone. His marriage is on the rocks. But his texts? They're immortal.

More here .

March 29 2010 8:20 AM

Eggonomics 101

For every 100-point increase in average SAT score, women at a college are offered an average of $2,350 more for their eggs. There's no mystery about what's going on here. It's the logic of the marketplace. At the grocery store, you pay more for bigger chicken eggs. At colleges, you pay more for smarter human eggs.

More here .

March 15 2010 2:18 PM

When Virtual Reality Kills

The Korean couple left their real daughter at home, alone, while they spent their days at an Internet café. Or rather, they spent their days in cyberspace. Once a day, they returned to the physical world to feed their daughter powdered milk. Then they went back to the world they cared about.

One day, after a 12-hour stint online, they visited the physical world and found their baby dead.

More here .

March 8 2010 11:42 AM

Abortion, Guns, and Racial Hypocrisy

There's something odd about the billboard campaign against aborting black babies. The child who appears beside the text is fully born. Abortion doesn't kill such children. What kills them, all too often, is shooting. If you wanted to save living, breathing, fully born children from a tool of extermination that is literally targeting blacks, the first problem you would focus on is guns. They are killing the present, not just the future. But the sponsors of the billboards don't support gun control. They oppose it.

More here .