Biological Determinism is False

Disproving sex-based biological determinism in one graph from No Ceilings, with more data on the phenomenon at their website.

Source: No Ceilings
Source: No Ceilings

HT: @Bailiuchan

Amateur Racism

NBA basketball, well all basketball, well, really, all sports are not what a metaphysical philosopher would call “important”. University of Michigan* professor Yago Colas’ deconstructing criticism of LeBron James to reveal the inherent class and racial biases in perceptions of modern basketball is important. You don’t need to care about the NBA or LeBron James to need to read this post. You simply need to care about how our cultural idioms reinforces social inequality – and, if you don’t care about those things…WOW:

Referring to the athlete who plays for the love of the sport, the concept [ameteurism] came to imply…the amateur is motivated by rewards intrinsic to the sport, rather than by extrinsic rewards such as fame or money…This effectively kept working class athletes, who had neither the resources nor the leisure time, from challenging upper-class domination of sport so that, in effect, amateurism “established a system of ‘sports apartheid’ with white males from the upper classes enjoying the advantages.”

Because the amateur ideal took root in basketball culture while the sport was still segregated, the values came unconsciously to be associated with whiteness.
Yago Colas, “On LeBron James and Coaching”

I also thoroughly endorse Yago’s suggestion that LeBron become the first player-coach-owner in forever.

*It take a lot for me to say nice things about the State Up North. GO BUCKS!!!

Dexter’s Laboratory

As Eva described at Science Studio, it turns out that The Offspring’s Dexter Holland has gone back to working on his PhD in molecular biology after taking some time off to be a rockstar. His thesis is looking at the use of microRNAs by HIV during infections. Holland now as the unofficially required first author paper (PDF link; authored as Bryan Holland) needed to be allowed to defend.

Not only is the name “The Offspring” probably inspired by biology, but the famous lyric “keep ’em separated” was inspired by an experience Holland had pouring plates in graduate school, which you can hear Dexter describe in an interview about his music and science on The Nerdist Podcast.

You can’t do transformative science without wasting money

This is a great statement by Eric Lander from an interview he gave to James Fallows at The Atlantic last year:

“When will genomics cure cancer?”

Young scientists who need to look at 100,000 cancer samples, or do functional tests inhibiting all the genes in the genome, or explore the use of chemicals in ways they never could before—they need an NIH [National Institutes of Health] that is able to place bets. With sequestration, and the NIH budget falling by about 25 percent in real terms over the past decade, the people reviewing grants naturally become more conservative. When there’s less money, reviewers don’t want to run the risk of wasting money on something that doesn’t work.

I’ve got to tell you, if you aren’t prepared to waste money on things that might not work, you can’t possibly do things that are transformative. Because for every successful transformative idea, there’s five times as many nonsuccessful transformative ideas. Nobody knows how to figure out in advance which ones they’re going to be.

I don’t agree with everything Lander says in the interview – specifically, the statement that we’ll have a “complete catalogue” of disease genes in another five or six years has no basis in reality. But overall, he makes some great points about the transformative potential of genomics.

The Missing, Female History of STEM

Chief Technology Officer of the United States Megan Smith discusses the problems of erasing women from the history of science and technology with Charlie Rose. It is not that the historical role models for young women don’t exist. It is that we actively expunge them from our narratives.

As Rose suggests with a question, it is hard to imagine how this practice actually benefits anyone – other than an intellectually lazy adherence to our standard, male-centric narrative.

HT: Caroline Siede at BoingBoing.

%d bloggers like this: