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Sunday, December 27, 2009

Genetic engineering

I was reading New Scientist this week and found an article about why women have sex with men who have Porsches. Or at least that was my interpretation. It turns out that a series of psychology experiments have determined that quite a wide range of ladies from young to old will drop them for a man who shows off wealth rather than a man who may have more money but does not show it off. If a dreary, balding, grey-haired, overweight, middle-aged man (eg, me) turns up in a Volvo having invested the balance of his disposable income in a variety of savings instruments directed at long term security, the knickers stay on. On the other hand, if I were to ditch the Volvo and the Schroeders Capital Growth fund and use the proceeds to buy even the dullest of Porsches, they would literally fly off. But why? Are women generally stupid and unable to make calculations as to the long-term best investments to support offspring (as I had thought that natural selection would have demanded)?

Well, it transpires that women of childbearing age will do the Porsche guy not because they think he is a rich and can therefore provide for them and their offspring in the future, but because their hormones mistakenly assume that the Porsche signals good genes (experiments show that the long-term cashflow is heavily discounted). This is clearly a throwback to our pre-civilised past, when the possession of (say) a dead wildebeast probably did signal that the owner was stronger, faster, smarter and therefore had a better genetic makeup. Possession of a Porsche signals no such thing, and yet the ovaries still throb at the display.

Some women will be reassured to know that the experiments demonstrate that men display no such behaviour, because they will have sex with absolutely anyone under any absolutely any circumstances and, even better, will spend their every last penny to do so:

In short, men who saw attractive women became much more motivated to get whatever money they could in the short term, presumably so they could spend it on conspicuous consumption to attract mates

[From Sex and shopping – it's a guy thing - life - 01 January 2010 - New Scientist]

Nature or nurture?

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.
[posted with ecto]

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Deserve got nuttin' to do wiv it

Having replaced the merciless dance marathons of the great depression with the merciless karaoke-to-the-death X-Factor of this one, Simon Cowell is well on course to be the richest person in TV (if I heard the Today programme correctly). This is surely the final incontrovertible piece of evidence for atheism that Richard Dawkins has been lokking for. In a universe designed by an intelligent creator, this could not possibly happen. My hatred for the X-Factor may be the only opinion I have about anything that is shared with Elton John, but who are we against so many. Anyway, envy aside, good luck to Cowell and the money he wrings from a credulous public. He deserves it, doesn't he?

As Felicia "Snoop" Pearson notes in the greatest-ever television drama, The Wire, the universe is an uncaring arbiter. People don't get what they deserve. But what do they deserve?

Take me, for example. I’m smart and hard-working. I don’t know if it’s because of my genes, or because my parents brought me up right. But whatever the cause, I didn’t do anything to become smart or hard-working.

[From Do Smart, Hard-Working People Deserve to Make More Money? « The Baseline Scenario]

That's a really good point. This why when people on radio phone-ins talk about nurses "deserving" more than bankers or policemen "deserving" more than TV presenters, they are barking up the wrong tree. By starting off with a category error, then you find yourself in a system that cannot resolve even the most basic questions. Why should David Beckham get paid more than me just because of his parents (they were the ones who gave him the genes for being good at football)? Why should Zac Goldsmith have more capital than me because of this parents (who were very rich)? Why should Marcus Brigstocke get on Question Time just because of his parents (who sent him to a 25 grand per year public school) when I am right about most political and economic issues and he is wrong?

Perhaps no-one gets what they deserve, and Simon Cowell is no different. By the way, Simon Cowell got his break because of his parents. His father, who was an EMI executive, got him a job in the A&R department there. Snoop was right.

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.
[posted with ecto]

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Anthropology, Woking-style

I happened to be wandering through Woking town centre when I came across a group of welfare heffers grazing peacefully at a food court. No men were visible. There were a number of infants strapped into various kinds of pushchairs distributed through the herd, and a number of hatchet-faced crones (who I took to be mothers and grandmothers of herd members) circling the group. I was shocked at my own revulsion, but it was nevertheless real. I'm decidedly overweight, but couldn't help but reflect that many of these girls -- still teenagers -- were absolutely huge.

How does this happen? Eleven years of compulsory edukashun has left most of them pretty thick, for sure, but they must be at least vaguely aware of the connection between food and obesity (even if they don't seem aware of the connection between sex and pregnancy). I wonder if the Green Party should make more of an effort to target this group: they are consuming far more than their share of the world's resources and they are causing problems for the overcrowded world of the future by continually having children that they rely on the rest of the world to support.

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.
[posted with ecto]

Thursday, December 03, 2009


It's competition time (just for fun, don't phone in). One of these is a real person and the other is made up.

Poo Bah, First Lord of the Treasury, Lord Chief Justice, Commander-in-Chief, Lord High Admiral, Master of the Buckhounds, Groom of the Back Stairs, Archbishop of Titipu, Lord Mayor, both acting and elect, and Lord High Everything Else.

Lord Mandelson of Hartlepool and Foy, First Secretary of State, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, President of the Board of Trade and Lord President of the Council and Church Commissioner.

Difficult isn't it? Especially when I tell you that one of them is planning sacrifice economic growth to a few content oligarchs via a draconian and expensive scheme that will never actually work.

Well, as was covered on the Today programme on Radio 4 this morning, Poo Bah is a made-up character from Gilbert & Sullivan's comic opera The Mikado, whereas Lord Mandelson is, sadly, real.

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.
[posted with ecto]

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

The doormen of perception

In a sane society, you don't have the right to show "fire" in a crowded theatre and nor do you have the right to force (for example) airlines to respect your view that the world is flat. Developed countries live with a post-renaissance notion of scientific progress that rests on evidence and argument, not emotion and belief. However, here in Gordon Brown's Looking Glass Britain (the Land of Perverse Incentives), the institutionalising of stupidity of all forms has substituted for more traditional notions of progress.

A police worker who was sacked because he believed psychics can help solve criminal investigations is to go to court today to defend his right to legal protection from religious discrimination.

[From Man sacked for belief in psychics backed by judge (but, of course, he knew that would happen) - Home News, UK - The Independent]

You can see his thinking -- even without extra-sensory powers -- with absolute clarity. Nowhere does the inviolable law of unintended consequences exert such vengance as in the strange world of equality legislation, where hard cases make very bad law indeed. It's difficult to fault his logic, though: since you're not allowed to sack me for stupidity, because stupidity is my religion, I deserve recompense. It's only a matter of time before a burglar is able to demonstrate that his attraction to your property is a sacrament and therefore obtain similar legal protection.

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.
[posted with ecto]