Monday, February 28, 2005

Fifty Fantasy & Science Fiction Works That Socialists Should Read

I need to update my sci-fi bookshelf:

(hat tip: Canadian Lefty -

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New Legislation Would Ban Urban Legends

No comment:

By Brian Briggs

Washington D.C. – A new law proposed by a bipartisan group of Representatives would outlaw the spread of "urban legends."

Representative Simon Heedsmore of West Virginia said, "We cannot allow these frauds to be perpetrated on the American public. If the right urban legend were to be created it could cause a panic which could have dangerous consequences to national security."

Kevin Sikes, staffer for Representative Lewis of South Carolina said, "It's ridiculous how many questions about the e-mail tax we get. There ought to be a law to stop that sort of thing, and soon there will be."

Publicly, Representatives are touting "national security" on the urban legend issue, but privately they say the real reason is preventing embarrassment. In January, a bill almost made it out of committee that would've forced Starbucks to sell coffee to the armed forces in Iraq. The bill was in response to a hoax circulating in e-mail that Starbucks was refusing to provide coffee to the army, because it did not support the war. Fortunately, a staffer found the hoax debunked on a web site, before the bill made it to the floor for a vote.

"It was embarrassing for the Representatives and they didn't want to go through that again," said one staffer who wished to remain anonymous.

The bill would punish individuals who create or spread this type of information. Penalties range from fines of $500 for sending an urban legend e-mail to 90 days in jail for creating and publishing one.

The ACLU contends that this law would violate free speech rights. "Congress cannot limit constitutionally guaranteed rights, just because they are too dumb to realize something is a piece of fiction. We are confident the law will be overturned," said Chief Counsel Elliott Spence.

An urban legend or urban myth is usually apocryphal story involving incidents of the recent past, often including elements of humor and horror, which spreads quickly and is popularly believed to be true.

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 10:49 PM | permalink | (3 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Who said that a small blogger cannot make a difference?

Kudos to Pseudonymous UNC Student.

This post revealed a dirty secret:

It was discovered and resulted in real action:

Let us know if we can help in any way.

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 8:30 PM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

At the very end of and under the Long Tail

People blog about the weirdest things:

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Technology Innovation Awards

This is a wonderful achievement for Israeli scientists/engineers. From a worldwide search, Israelis took two of the top three places:

The winners of The Wall Street Journal's 2004 Technology Innovation Awards competition have been announced. Innovators worldwide were considered. The Gold award went to Sun Microsystems Inc. of Californiafor a wireless approach to chip design.The Silver award went to Given Imaging Ltd. of Yoqneam, Israel, for 'Pill Cam', a tiny camera that patients swallow so that doctors can see their digestive tract. The Bronze award went to InSightec Image GuidedTreatment Ltd. of Tirat Carmel, Israel, for 'Ex Ablate 2000', a nonsurgical way to destroy tumors by focusing ultrasound waves on them.

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Liberal Straw-Men In Conservative Minds

It has happened a lot to me lately. Just as a thought crystallizes itself and I set out to write a long winding post about it, I discover that somebody has just written something on exactly the same topic, often better than I would have, and often with the same conclusions I would have made. So, I was just about to write a post about straw-men that conservatives raise to label the liberals and paint them in the most frighteningly bad light, when I saw this:

Right Wing, Left Wing, Chicken Wing

A new poll reveals that most Americans don't know their right from their left ... wing.The right knows this and leads the manipulation race.

The Harris polling agency last week released the results of an interesting study. In a survey of 2,209 adults, they discovered that most Americans only have the vaguest idea of the meaning of two important pairs of words that play crucial roles in the national political discourse: conservative and liberal, and left and right.
Respondents were asked to define the labels according to what their positions were on seven "political issues": abortion rights, gun control, cutting taxes, gay rights, same-sex marriage, affirmative action and moral values. This list of issues is preposterous in itself as a symbolic reflection of the political landscape, but that's a discussion for another time. To me the most instructive category was "moral values." According to the survey, 78 percent of respondents believe conservatives support moral values, while only 40 percent said the same about left-wingers. In fact, 29 percent said they believed left-wingers actually opposed moral values.

If people are confused about what left-wing means, there might be a reason for that. If you can call both Leon Trotsky and Eric Alterman left-wing and be technically right in both cases, then clearly the word is doing injustice to one of them.

I have written several times before why modern liberalism has nothing to do with 19th and early-20th century socialism/communism (,,, or with postmodernism/deconstructionism (, or with animal rights movement ( Yet, the popular perception, thanks to Frank Luntz and the language-constructing machines euphemistically called "conservative think-tanks" (similar to the place where Winston Smith works) is that Democrats today are exactly that: pinko-commie, gay-loving, Bible-burning, latte-drinking, Volvo-driving, tree-hugging, gun-banning, baby-killing spawns of the Devil. Ehmmm....have you ever read Kerry and Edwards' stands on any of this? Or any of the congressional Democrats? Excuse me, but today's Democratic party is slightly right of center (in comparison to most of the world throughout last few centuries of history), while the Republicans have gone so right, they have fallen off the line (remember: this line goes into infinity). We need to pull both parties to the left if we want a normal country again.

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 3:52 PM | permalink | (1 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Mininetwork Blogads

Henry has, yet again, come up with a brilliant idea. Small, otherwise easily ignored blogs can pool together into mininetworks that are big enough to be interesting to advertisers:

All of those bloggers pointing into that page should generate some orders, and it will also make it much easier for us to direct ads to that group, since many are too small to find and monitor as we're putting together large ad proposals. This tool will be available to some other bloggers in coming days.

Some bloggers will obviously worry that by promoting advertising opportunities on other blogs they will cannibalize their own sales. Wrong. Smart bloggers small and large agree that the ONLY way to grab a significant chunk (0.1%!?) of the $250 billion spent annually on advertising in the US is to band together. What's been true of blog content will also be true of blogads: a single blog is an easily ignored ant -- 100,000 ants together is an unignorable hive.

Thus, a small blog can get some profit. It is small, as it is divvied up between members of the mininetwork, but it is much bigger than zero, what a small blog would otherwise expect.

Thus, for instance, while my blog is too small to attract an advertiser on its own, joining in networks of likewise small blogs can produce some revenue. I can see myself as being a part of a number of such networks, e.g., Chapel Hill, Orange Co., Triangle, North Carolina blogs, Serbian, Yugoslav, Balkan blogs, Jewish blogs, atheist, agnostic, secular, godless, Brights blogs, skeptical, academic, science, biology, chronobiology blogs, Democratic, Progressive, liberal blogs, etc. This is definitely an idea to explore further.

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 10:23 AM | permalink | (1 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Postmodern Conservatism

I have hinted several times (here, here, here and here) before that relativism (including moral relativism) is not consistent with the liberal core model (in Lakoffian sense). Instead, postmodernism is used these days as a tactic by conservatives to push their pre-modern views within a modern society. In other words, faced with the reality of a modern world, the only way conservatives can re-intorduce their medieval ideas is by invoking relativism, i.e., equivalence between their view and current view. Thus, they are pushing for so-called "fairness" and "balance" in the media (he said/she said journalism) as that is the only way to get Ann Coulter on TV. Thus, they are pushing for "balance" in schools, as that is the only way they can smuggle Creationism into schools. Thus, they are pushing for "balance" in Academia, as that is the only way Horowitz can force his minions into it. Unfortunately, there is no, and should be no "balance" between their out-dated opinion and the modern understanding of the world, based on empirical data collected by liberals.

So, I was about to write a long post explaining all this, but then I discovered this piece of satire that does the job of explaining this much better than anything I could have written:

Intellectual Diversity at Stanford


But these far-left academics just ignore these devastating critiques. They
continue to pretend their job is to investigate "reality" and believe things
based on "evidence", when everyone can see that these are merely absurd
justifications for them to maintain their positions power and status over
society. And,
as has widely been conceded, their advanced "search committees" and "hiring requirements" are just ways to prevent nonconformists from challenging their orthodoxies.

The party of McCarthy must save academic freedom. Wealthy businessmen must pool their resources to fight elitism. Racists and sexists must tout the values of diversity. Conservatives must embrace postmodernism. Hard work? No doubt. But they are bravely willing to sacrifice all credibility to protect our nation’s youth. We should salute their courage.

(via Stanford Discriminates Against Stupidity! on Patternhunter:

I see that Chris has written on the same topic, citing the very same post by Aaron Swartz ( Chris is not as blunt as I am, but if you unwrap the tortilla-bread and look at the stuffing, I believe he would agree with me:

Yet, as Aaron Swartz (link via Preposterous Universe), an undergraduate at Stanford, so aptly (though sarcastically) notes in response to claims of discrimination at his university, "diversity," at least in the realm of ideas, is not an inherent goal of universities. Universities are in the business of educating and scholarship, both of which require that ideas be held to some standard, of truth for instance [my emphasis].

...and later adds:

It would be reasonable to say that universities like Stanford discriminate, albeit indirectly, against believers in astronomy and telepathy, as promoters of these ideas will have a very hard time meeting the standards of scholarship that such universities demand. Few of us would argue that universities have a compelling interest to remedy the effects of such discrimination.

...but than states this:

While it may not be fair to compare political conservativism to astronomy and telepathy.... which I say: Why not? The whole Part VI (Chapters. 20-23) in Lakoff's "Moral Politics", most of Graff's "What is marriage for?" (particularly Part III) and the whole book "Liars, Lovers, and Heroes: What the Brain Science Reveals About How We Become Who We Are" cover the empirical data on human nature, human development, human behavior, and effects of particular parenting styles on development of offspring's ideology. The basic premises upon conservative worldview is built on have turned out to be wrong. Thus, people who would promulgate conservative ideas by teaching them to the next generation are a couple of centuries out of date in their scholarship. Why should Universities hire them?

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 9:17 AM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Blogs as Teaching Tools

Here is an example of a teacher who successfully uses blogs in teaching, with great results:
This is definitely an idea to keep in mind and develop further.

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 1:33 AM | permalink | (2 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Lysenko Gets A D-Minus On My Genetics Test

I am happy, along with at least half of the blogosphere, that Billmon is back. One of his recent posts caught my eye, as it was comparing current treatment of science by the Bush Administration to the treatment of science by the Stalin Administration back in the early days of the USSR, notably Trofim Denisovich Lysenko. The US scientists today are very unhappy about this state of things and are pondering ways to fightback (hat tip: Chris Mooney)

I looked around the Internets to see what is there about Lysenko and I found a few websites, like this, this, this, and this. Note how the authors call this misuse of science "Marxist" while poor ole' Karl is rolling in his grave - ah, how many times was his name attached to stuff he would have never signed on if he was alive enough to personally stage a protest.

One thing I just recently managed to find online is an English translation of Lysenko's report to the Soviet Academy of the Agricultural Sciences"V.I.Lenin" on July 31st, 1948. I have a copy of it in Serbo-Croatian (80 pages long, small format, about 6" x 4"). I bought it in a used-book store for something like 1 dinar many years ago. It is one of my prized historical posessions, so I brought it to the States with me.

The Report was published in Yugoslavia in January 1949 which is really strange. Tito went to Moscow in 1948 and told Stalin to shove it - he was not letting Yugoslavia get burried under the Soviet umbrella as Tito had his own designs on "his" country. From 1948 till about 1955 Yugoslavia was an economically isolated country. Stalin lined up his tanks along the Hungarian, Romanian and Bulgarian borders with Yugoslavia, but never actually attacked. When Krushchev finally decided to warm up to Tito again, it was too late, as Tito successfully wooed the West by then. The following several decades were times of happiness and prosperity as both sides in the cold war tried so hard to be nice to Yugoslavia, the geographic buffer-zone between Warsaw countries in the East and NATO countries in the West. It was also a time of prosperity because Tito's "third way", i.e., market-based socialism, actually worked very well for a while, a fact that neither of the big powers liked.

As soon as USSR crumbled, the USA did everything in its power to undermine the successful example of socialism, break down Yugoslavia into economically unviable pieces ripe for new economic colonialism by Germany & Co., foment wars, bomb the shit out of civilians, then come in as a savior with IMF-nonsensical-style of economic "recovery" that strangled all other ex-communist countries already. Attack on Iraq belongs to the same way of thinking: every successful example of a "third way" has to be eliminated so the US-style barbaric capitalism can move in and spread across the globe insearch of profit for the US gazzillionaires. The American attack on the Soviet Union in 1918. belongs to the same category - the fear of success of a different economic model (though later discovered to be unfounded) was stronger than the lack of appetite of the general population for yet another war at the time the WWI barely ended.

Back to Lysenko. By 1949, Tito was throwing local Stalinists in jail, notably to the notorious Goli Otok (Bare Island) work prison (which, I hear,is going to be opened as a museum soon). Being pro-Soviet was considered high treason. Tito may have been a brilliant diplomat and a benevolent dictator, but he was a dictator nonetheless and dealt with internal political enemies as brutally as any dictator, while building a happy and prosperous country for the no-questions-asked segment of the population.

So why did Kultura, the state-run Zagreb-based publishing house, decide to print 10,000 copies (in Latinic script, as well as an unstated number inCyrillic script, probably printed somewhere in Belgrade) of Lysenko's report and sell it for 7.5 dinars each? Was it considered non-political enough? Was it considered communist but not Stalinist? It was offically approved by the Government of Croatia. I wish someone could tell me how did this manage to go through.

I will quote some of the Report later, but first, let me set the stage. The world was in the early years of the Cold War. Just like Americans suspended all rational judgment due to McCarthyism and Red Scare, so Russians also suspended all rational judgment due to the threat of American Imperialism. Everything Russians did was called"Marxism/communism" in the States. Everything Americans did was called"Burgoise/capitalist" in Russia. In other words, each side was painting the other with the most slanderous words they could come up with, then worked hard to make those words even more slanderous (the way Frank Luntz operates today). Thus, everything Russian intellectuals, including scientists, did was described by them as being"materialist/dialectic" while the enemy thinkers were imputed with the slander of "idealist/spiritualist" adjectives. The strategy of theWesterners was to completely ignore the entire intellectual activity in the East as if it was non-existent.

It is interesting to read Lysenko's Report for another reason. While pitting two opposing views against each other, he provides us, the modern readers, with an important insight. Thinking back at what was known by both Western and Soviet science at the time, we can now see that both were initially wrong, yet excited about their proposed paradigms. Both then went through a period of "hardening" of the absolute belief that they were right. Both then experienced, by forces from within, a re-evaluation and subsequent dismissal of what was wrong and dedication to get it right. After the end of Cold War, both sides are excited to learn from one another and fuse their insights into a bigger whole.

There seems to be an important lesson in this. Just because Lysenko was a Stalinist apparatchik does not mean he was 100% wrong, nor does it mean that his scientific opponents in the West at the time were 100% right. Apparently, Lysenko was a despicable person. Still, one does not need to be nice to be a good scientist. Lysenko's initial work on vernalization was, actually, quite all right. It is later, when ideology took over, that he started fudging the data and, as a result, ended up starving the Russian population.

Vernalization is the effect of chilling the seeds in order to promote earlier or greater growth after planting. It works, to some extent, in some plants. The phenomenon is still found in botany textbooks. There is even ongoing research today, looking at molecular basis of vernalization. Yet, it is now understood that this is a minor phenomenon and that it is no panacea for food production on a grand scale. Yet at the time, this notion appeared realistic. There was nothing in the data at the time (that has come much later) that precluded the idea that this could be a major method for increasing food production. Optimism by scientists at the time was understandable.

I have in my hands right now Proceedings from a Symposium on Vernalization and Photoperiodism in Waltham, MA (home of Brandeis University) in 1948. The book has ads for Lysenko's books, it sports a big photograph of Lysenko at the beginning together with the photos of some of the most notable other participants of the symposium (e.g, Garner and Allard - discoverers of photoperiodism), and almost every article mentions, cites and glorifies Lysenko. This was in the USA in 1948! Most participants were American (and West German). How come they did not laugh at him? Because his scientific misdeeds were uncovered much later. Does this also explain why Kultura published Lysenko in 1949 in Yugoslavia?

Lysenko's ideological stance was ignored by Western scientists as long as they thought that his science was good, and that was for quite some time. It is interesting to see how the authors of articles on vernalization are complete unknowns to me today, while a number of the authors on photoperiodism were not just alive, but still quite active in 1960, when they attended (e.g., Erwin Buning, Karl Hamner, F.W.Went) the legendary Cold Spring Harbor Symposium on Biological Clocks (I wrote about it here). Vernalization fell by the wayside. Photoperiodism marched on. The two fields completely separated. Interestingly, the site of the symposium, the Brandeis University, is currently one of the biggest centers for study of biological clocks.

But in 1948 it was completely plausible that the two phenomena were closely related and Lysenko's own theory of "developmental stages" that tied the two together was consistent with the available data at the time. Light and temperature were considered to be two environmetal parameters that could affect the rate of development of plants - a reasonable conjecture. Yet, even these Proceedings had a reprint of two Bunning's papers from 1940 and 1946 that cite his paper from 1928 that shows that daylength (photoperiod) does not act (just) as an environmental source of energy, but as a cue for entrainment of a timing mechanism - the biological clock. Yet this notion took some time to take hold and to get properly understood by the broader scientific community. We should not judge the scientists of old for not knowing everything we know now. Many smart theories were proposed that were subsequently shown to be wrong - but that did not make them any less smart.

Anyway, let me now go through some bits and pieces from the booklet and add my commentary. I will go first through the first "science" part. Then, I'll quote the very end of Lysenko's speech that has, in Serbo-Croatian version, little parenthetic notes about audience response. The whole story is less black-and-white and thus much more interesting than what you may expect.

Lysenko's strategy throughout the report is to quote, often at length, fromWestern sources including Weissman, Morgan and Muller. Those quotes would invoke a big yawn from any biology freshman today. Duh, that is sooooo waaay basic. Of course the germ cells and somatic cells are separate! ButLysenko then, after each quote, adds a quip that it is such an outrageous and obvious idealist/burgois Morganist/Mullerian lie that Soviet/Michurinist researchers have debunked with mountains of data. Thus the only argument he uses is argument from authority - it is so because I said so, and if you do not see that this is an obvious lie than you are uninformed or stupid and you better keep quiet because Stalin is on my side.

The other strategy he used was to immediately follow the long and relatively reasonable quote with a shorter quote from the same source, usually a short over-optimistic quip, sometimes (but not always) taken out of context. Let's look at some of the examples. Here, Lysenko asserts that Darwin got some stuff right and some stuff wrong. The effects of "use and disuse", an essentialy Lamarckist notion that crept back into the later editions of the Origin, are what Lysenko thinks is good about Darwin. The notion of competition for limited resources is what Lysenko thinks is wrong:

Many are still apt to slur over Darwin's error in transferring into his teaching Malthus's preposterous reactionary ideas on population. The true scientist cannot and must not overlook the erroneous aspects of Darwin's teaching.

Biologists should always ponder these words of Engels: "The entire Darwinian teaching on the struggle for existence merely transfers from society to the realm of living nature Hobbes's teaching on bellum omnium contra omnes and the bourgeois economic teaching on competition, along with Malthus's population theory. After this trick (the absolute justification for which I deny, particularly in regard to Malthus's theory) has been performed, the same theories are transferred back from organic nature to history and the claim is then made that it has been proved that they have the force of eternal laws of human society. The childishness of this procedure is obvious, and it is not worth while wasting words on it. But if I were to dwell on this at greater length, I should have started out by showing that they are poor economists first, and only then that they are poor naturalists and philosophers."

Next, he bashes Weissmann:

WEISMANNISM followed by Mendelism-Morganism, which made its appearance at the beginning of this century, was primarily directed against the materialist foundations of Darwin's theory of evolution.

Weismann named his conception Neo-Darwinism, but, in fact, it was a complete denial of the materialist aspects of Darwinism. It insinuated idealism and metaphysics into biology.

The materialist theory of the evolution of living nature involves recognition of the necessity of hereditary transmission of individual characteristics acquired by the organism under the conditions of its life; it is unthinkable without recognition of the inheritance of acquired characters. Weismann, however, set out to refute this materialist proposition. In his Lectures on Evolutionary Theory, asserts that "not only is there no proof of such a form of heredity, but it is inconceivable theoretically ". Referring to earlier statements of his in a similar vein, he declares that " thus war was declared against Lamarck's principle of the direct effect of use and disuse and, indeed, that marked the beginning of the struggle which is going on to this day, the struggle between the Neo-Lamarckians and the Neo-Darwinians, as the contending parties are called".

Weismann, as we see, speaks of having declared war against Lamarck's principle; but it is easy enough to see that he declared war against that without which there is no materialist theory of evolution, that under the guise of "Neo-Darwinism" he declared war against the materialist foundations of Darwinism.

Weismann denied the inheritability of acquired characters and elaborated the idea of a special hereditary substance to be sought for in the nucleus. "The sought for bearer of heredity ", he stated, "is contained in the chromosome material." The chromosomes, he said, contain units, each of which "determines a definite part of the organism in its appearance and final form".

Weismann asserts that there are "two great categories of living material: the hereditary substance, or idioplasm, and the 'nutrient substance', or trophoplasm". And he goes on to declare that the bearers of the hereditary substance, "the chromosomes, represent a separate world, as it were", a world independent of the organism and its conditions of life.

In Weismann's opinion the living body is but a nutritive soil for the hereditary substance, which is immortal and never generated again.

Thus, he asserts, " the germ-plasm is never generated again; it only grows and multiplies continually, handed down from generation to generation.... Looked at only from the point of view of propagation, the germ-cells are the most important element in the individual specimen, for they alone preserve the species, whereas the body is reduced practically to the status of mere breeding ground for the germ-cells, the place in which they form and, under favourable conditions, feed, multiply, and ripen".

The living body and its cells, according to Weismann, are but the container and nutritive medium of the hereditary substance; they themselves can never produce the latter, they "can never bring forth germ-cells".

Weismann thus endows the mythical hereditary substance with the property of continued existence; it is a substance which does not itself develop and at the same time determines the development of the mortal body.

Further: "... the hereditary substance of the germ-cell, prior to the reduction division, potentially contains all the elements of the body ". And although Weismann does state that "in the germ-plasm there is no determinant of a' hooked nose' just as there is no determinant of the wing of a butterfly with all its parts and particles", he goes on to
emphasise that, nevertheless, the germ-plasm "... contains a certain number of determinants which successively determine the development of an entire group of cells in all its stages, leading to the formation of the nose in such a mode as to result in a hooked nose, exactly in the same way as the wing of a butterfly, with all its little veins, cells, form of scales, and pigment deposits, comes into being by the successive action of multitudinous determinants upon the course of the proliferation of the cells".

Hence, according to Weismann, the hereditary substance produces no new forms, does not develop with the development of the individual, and is not subject to any dependent changes.

An immortal hereditary substance, independent of the qualitative features attending the development of the living
body, directing the mortal body, but not produced by the latter--that is Weismann's frankly idealistic, essentially mystical conception, which he disguised as "Neo-Darwinism".

Whoah! "living body is but a nutritive soil for the hereditary substance, which is immortal" sounds like Dawkins' "lumbering robots". The "mythical hereditary substance" must be DNA. What Lysenko is attacking here is strict and naive genocentrism which actually IS idealistic, and has been abandoned by most biologists over the last 25 years or so, but not in 1948 yet. In 1948 the Darwinian Synthesis was just starting to harden. The real genocentrism of Williams (1966) and Dawkins was still to come!

Pretend that you do not know who said this, when and where it was said, and what was proposed instead:

The Mendelist-Morganist theory does not include in the scientific concept "living body" the conditions of the body's life. To the Morganists, environment is only the background--indispensable, they admit--for the manifestation and operation of the various characteristics of the living body, in accordance with its heredity. They therefore hold that qualitative variations in the heredity (nature) of living bodies are entirely independent of the environment, of the conditions of life.

Wouldn't Lewontin agree with this statement? Odling-Smee and Feldman? I know I would. Epigenetics, parental effects, reaction norm, niche-construction and learning are parts of a modern evolutionary theory that does not see environment as "only the background". In 1948, and for his own purposes, Lysenko attacked exactly the same aspects of neo-Darwinism that modern Western biologists started attacking in late 1970s - the aspects that are just plain wrong. Lysenko replaced them with his ideas that turned out to be also wrong. We are nowadays replacing them with ideas that we hope will stand the test of time.

The true ideological content of Morgan's genetics has been well revealed (to the discomfiture of our geneticists) by the physicist Erwin
Schroedinger. In his book, What Is Life? The Physical Aspect of the Living Cell, he draws some philosophical conclusions from Weismann's chromosome theory, of which he speaks very approvingly. Here is his main conclusion: "...the personal self equals the omni-present, all-comprehending, eternal self." Schroedinger
regards this conclusion as "the closest a biologist can get to proving God and immortality at one stroke".

Hey, if you speak to the Soviet academy, you want to mention somewhere that your enemies believe in God and immortality. That is just a good strategy. It does not matter what Schroedinger really meant with this. It does not really matter that the whole discussion has nothing to do with the existence or non-existence of God. It does not matter that the Soviets were likely right on this one matter.... You use this weapon anyway in order to win millions of rubles for your research program. Nobody said that Lysenko was stupid, just evil.

Here's another example:

MENDELISM-MORGANISM endows the postulated mythical "hereditary substance" with an indefinite character of variation. Mutations, i.e., changes of the " hereditary substance ", are supposed to have no definite
tendency. This assertion of the Morganists is logically connected with the underlying basis of Mendelism-Morganism--the principle that the hereditary substance is independent of the living body and its conditions of life.

The Morganist-Mendelists, who proclaim that hereditary alterations, or "mutations " as they are called, are "indefinite", presume that such alterations cannot as a matter of principle be predicted. We have here a peculiar conception of unknowability; its name is idealism in biology.

Here, Lysenko laments the way Western scientists ignore the Soviet scientists:

This formalistic, autonomistic theory of a "liberating cause " in which the role of external conditions is reduced to the
realisation of an autonomous process, has long been demolished by the advance of progressive science; it has been exposed by materialism as unscientific, as in essence idealistic.

Schmalhausen and others among our home-grown followers of imported Morganism claim that what they are asserting Darwin said before them. In proclaiming the "indefiniteness of variation ", they invoke Darwin's statements on the subject. Darwin indeed spoke of "indefinite variation". But that was due to the limitations of selection practice in his days. Darwin was aware of that himself and wrote that there were at that time no means of explaining the causes or nature of variation in organic beings. That, he said, was an obscure matter.

The Mendelist-Morganists cling to everything that is obsolete and wrong in Darwin's teaching, at the same
time discarding its living materialist core.

In our Socialist country, the teaching of the great transformer of nature, I. V. Michurin, has created a fundamentally new basis for directing the variability of living organisms.

Michurin himself and his followers have obtained and are obtaining directed hereditary changes in vegetable organisms literally in immense quantities. Yet Schmalhausen still asserts that:

"The appearance of individual mutations is by all indications a case of chance phenomena. We can neither predict nor deliberately induce this or that mutation. So far it has been found impossible to establish any reasonable connection between the quality of mutation and definite changes in the factors of the environment."

On the basis of the Morganist conception of mutations, Schmalhausen has formulated the theory of so-called " stabilising selection " --a theory profoundly wrong ideologically and having a disarming effect upon practical activity. According to Schmalhausen, the formation of breeds and strains proceeds--presumably inevitably--in a receding curve: the formation of breeds and strains, stormy at the dawn of civilisation, increasingly expends its " reserve of mutations " and gradually recedes. " Both the formation of breeds of domestic animals and the formation of strains of cultivated plants", writes Schmalhausen, "proceeded with such exceptional speed mainly, apparently, because of the previously accumulated reserve of variability. Further strictly directed selection is slower...."

Schmalhausen's assertion and his entire conception of "stabilising selection" follow the Morgan line.

As we know, Michurin, in the course of his lifetime, produced more than three hundred new strains of plants. Many of them were produced without sexual hybridisation, and all of them were the result of strictly directed selection, including systematic training. It is an insult to progressive science to assert--in face of these facts and subsequent achievements of followers of Michurin's teaching--that strictly directed selection must progressively

Schmalhausen obviously finds that Michurin's facts do not fit in with his theory of "stabilizing selection". In his book,
Factors of Evolution, he gets out of the difficulty by making no mention of these works of Michurin or of the very existence of Michurin as a scientist. Schmalhausen has written a bulky volume on factors of evolution without ever
once mentioning--not even in his bibliography-either K. A. Timiryazev or I. V. Michurin. Yet Timiryazev bequeathed to Soviet science a remarkable theoretical work bearing practically the same title: Factors of Organic Evolution. As for
Michurin and the Michurinists, they have put the factors of evolution to work for agriculture, revealed new factors and given us a deeper understanding of the old ones.

Schmalhausen has "forgotten" the Soviet advanced scientists, the founders of Soviet biological science. But at the same time he quotes profusely and repeatedly statements of big and small foreign and home-grown representatives of Morgan's metaphysics and leaders of reactionary biology. That is the style of Academician Schmalhausen, who calls himself a "Darwinist". Yet at a meeting of the Faculty of Biology at the University of Moscow his book was recommended as a masterpiece in the creative development of Darwinism. The book has been given a high rating by the deans of the Faculties of Biology at the Universities of Moscow and Leningrad; it has been praised by
I. Polyakov, Professor of Darwinism at the University of Kharkov, by the Pro-Rector of the University of Leningrad, Y. Polyansky, by the member of our Academy, B. Zavadovsky, and by other Morganists who sometimes pose as orthodox Darwinists.

Importantly for the time and place, Lysenko makes a point that science has to be practical:

Weismannism-Morganism has never been, nor can it be, a science conducive to the systematic production of new forms of plants and animals.

It is significant that abroad, in the United States for example, which is the home of Morganism and where it is so highly extolled as a theory, this teaching, because of its inadequacy, has no room in practical farming. Morganism as a theory is being developed per se, while practical farmers go their own way.

Weismannism-Morganism does not reveal the real laws of living nature; on the contrary, since it is a thoroughly idealistic teaching, it creates an absolutely false idea about natural laws.

For instance, the Weismannist conception that the hereditary characteristics of an organism are independent of
environmental conditions has led scientists to affirm that the property of heredity (i.e., the specific nature of an organism) is subject only to chance. All the so-called laws of Mendelism-Morganism are based entirely on the idea of chance.

Here are a few examples.

"Gene" mutations, according to the theory of Mendelism-Morganism, appear fortuitously. Chromosome mutations are also fortuitous. Due to this, the direction of the process of mutation is also fortuitous. Proceeding from these invented fortuities, the Morganists base their experiments too on a fortuitous choice of substances that might act as mutation factors, believing that they are thereby acting on their postulated hereditary substance, which is just a figment of their imagination, and hoping to obtain fortuitously what may by chance prove to be of

According to Morganism, the separation of the so-called maternal and paternal chromosomes at reduction division is also a matter of pure chance. Fertilisation, according to Morganism, does not occur selectively, but by the chance meeting of germ cells. Hence the splitting of characters in the hybrid progeny is also a matter of chance, etc.

According to this sort of "science" the development of an organism does not proceed on the basis of the selectivity of conditions of life from the environment, but again on the basis of the assimilation of substances fortuitously entering from without.

On the whole, living nature appears to the Morganists as a medley of fortuitous, isolated phenomena, without any necessary connections and subject to no laws. Chance reigns supreme.

And again, more succintly:

A science which fails to give practical workers a clear perspective, the power of finding their bearings and confidence that they can achieve practical aims does not deserve to be called science.

Here is the end of the closing statement (my translation of audience reactions is in brackets):

Comrades, our session is drawing to its close. This session
has vividly demonstrated the strength and potency of the Michurian teaching. Many hundreds of representatives of biological and agricultural science have taken part in it.

They have come here from all parts of our vast country. They have taken a lively interest in the discussion on the
situation in biological science and, convinced in the course of many years of practical activity that the Michurin teaching is right, are ardently supporting this trend in biological science.

The present session has demonstrated the complete triumph of the Michurin trend over Morganism-Mendelism.[applause]

It is truly a historic landmark in the development of biological science.[applause]

I think I shall not be wrong if I say that this session has been a great occasion for all workers in the sciences of
biology and agriculture.[applause]

The Party and the Government are showing paternal concern for the strengthening and development of the Michurin trend in our science, for the removal of all obstacles to its further progress. This imposes upon us the duty to work still more extensively and profoundly to arm the State farms and collective farms with an advanced scientific theory. That is what the Soviet people expect of us.

We must effectively place science, theory, at the service of the people, so that crop yields and the productivity of
stock-breeding may increase at a still more rapid pace, that labour on State farms and collective farms may be more efficient.

I call upon all Academicians, scientific workers, agronomists, and animal breeders to bend all their efforts and work in close unity with the foremost men and women in socialist farming to achieve these great and noble aims.[applause]

Progressive biological science owes it to the geniuses of mankind, Lenin and Stalin, that the teaching of I. V. Michurin has been added to the treasure-house of our knowledge, has become part of the gold fund of our science. [applause]

Long live the Michurin teaching, which shows how to transform living nature for the benefit of
the Soviet people![applause]

Long live the Party of Lenin and Stalin, which discovered Michurin for the world [applause] and created all
the conditions for the progress of advanced materialist biology in our country.[applause]

Glory to the great friend and protagonist of science, our leader and teacher [koriffey], Comrade Stalin!
[Everyone rises and applauds for a long time]

So, in 1948, US science was genocentric and Soviet science was Lamarckist. Who is to say which one of the two is "worse"? They are both wrong. They were both consistent with the information available at the time. They were both consistent with the reigning ideologies of the societies in which they thrived for a while. Who are we to judge them with 20/20 hindsight?

Both approaches collapsed. Lysenko's "practical application" resulted in a big famine. As a result, he was marginalized and deposed. US genocentrism resulted in a growing dissonance between the theory and the data - a classical example of Kuhnian tension within the old paradigm waiting for a scientific revolution. The dismemberment of genocentrism did not happen as a revolution, though. While the reaction may have started with paleontologists, it is the geneticists themselves who gradually moved away from genocentrism as they were looking at their own data every day.

Western emphasis on competition is likely the result of Darwin and Co. living in early capitalist, thus competitive societies. But also, Darwin, Wallace, Bates and other pioneers of evolutionary theory all got their ideas while visiting the tropics where competition between enormous numbers of organisms for very limited space is obvious.

For Russians living in a feudal/communitarian society cooperation was the obvious substance that makes the society survive from day to day. Also, they were living in the steppes, tundras and taigas where space is wide-open and animals few and far apart. Competition just does not readily come to mind. It is not surprising that the two parts of the globe stressed different aspects of evolutionary theory. Yet today, both sides are more than excited about cross-fertilization of ideas. Genes have already won in the USSR by 1970s and competition is becoming an important part of their thinking. At the same time, study of cooperation is becoming a very popular endeavor in the West.

What Lysenko did was attack bad science in the West and replace it with his own bad science. The word "bad" here is only from our present perspective, as both sides' theories were consistent with the data available at the time. Yes, his personality was attrocious, his political power deadly, his personal scientific practice illeigitimate, but he was no dummy and he correctly identified what was wrong with the contemporary biology of the West. We should give him at least partical credit for smarts, long after he died in his lonely home in Siberia.

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 10:06 PM | permalink | (4 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Welcome to the Tar Heel Tavern

Welcome to the Tar Heel Tavern. It is great to see so many of my neighbors here. Today, the food and the drinks are on me, so go ahead, eat and drink and sing and be merry until dawn or until the tavern-keeper (Mr.Blogger) kicks us all out, whichever comes first.

But there is one catch! Once you make sure there's hay for your horses and a beer-mug in front of you, before you can relax after the long voyage in horse-drawn carriages breaking through snow-covered mountain passes, you have to introduce yourself and your travelling buddies through song! Perhaps a song about a tavern... How about The Misery Tavern, The Ballad Of Rose's Tavern, I Burnt The Little Roadside Tavern Down, or There Is A Tavern In The Town? Who is going first? OK, the Charlotte crowd will begin:

(sung to the tune of "St.James Infirmary Blues"):

It was down in Tar Heel Tavern on the corner by the square
The drinks were served as usual and the usual crowd was there.
On my left stood Charlotte's Ogre, his eyes bloodshot red
He turned to the crowd around him and these are the words he said:

"What's a redneck and what's a cowboy, are they diff'rent or the same?
Is one's truck overheating and the other guy's horse is lame?
And if I like just that llama song, why ask for nine or ten more?
Perhaps I should retrace the steps and see who has done this before."

"Rednecks and music" said Dennis, "I just learned something about that"
"You'd have learned it at home all much sooner" if you have read the Charlotte's Fat Cat.

Get six gamblers to carry the coffin, six chorus girls to sing me a song,
When basketball died in Charlotte, and football just went along.

And that's the end of my sad story, let's have another round of booze
And if anyone asks you just tell them you got The Tar Heel Tavern blues.

Thank you, thank you. That was a fun start. Who is next? Well, Amy just walked in after a long journey all the way from the mountains. She travelled all alone as, she confided, the mountain folks are a little shy. Perhaps they'll come along next time when Amy tells them what fun she had tonight. After three days and three nights on the road, bumping into shady characters in roadside taverns and enjoying the quiet of the vacant roads during the day, she can sing only one song:

Over the river and through the woods to Tar Heel Tavern we go,The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh through the white and drifted snow.

Over the river and through the woods, the spirit of nature and me,Nobody selling me this God or that, the forest will set you free.

Thank you Amy. Hopefully you'll bring some of your neighbors with you next time. Hmmm, nobody from the coast is here yet. Perhaps they'll show up later, perhaps next week. I wonder if the Pony Express messenger managed to bring the summons to them on the islands.

Anyway, a fun group just walked in, stomping their boots to shake off the snow. They look happy...I wonder if they already stopped for a drink somewhere on the way....It's Sue Polinsky and Stewart "lenslinger" Pittman and Linda Runyon and George The Dirty Greek, from Greensboro and Winston-Salem and other Piedmont/Triad area places. So, what's your song?

(sung to the tune of "Oh, My Darling Clementine")

In a tavern, in a barroom, looking for a story line,
then unhappy when one shows up and takes up all TV time.

Sue drove ducklings to the water every morning just at nine,
But, alas there was no coffee, real sugar, foaming brine.

Linda loves the New Year's morning, it is later she gets scared,
Jawls and collards, black-eyed monsters, wonder if she can get spared.

How I miss him, how I miss him, how I miss the old-time scribe,
'Till I saw that we can all be members of the scribing tribe.

Wow! That was fun. Have another round of beer while we wait for pig jawls and peas to be served. And now let's turn to the locals, my neighbors from the Triangle. What are we going to sing? There's a lot of us, so we should pick something of epic length, I guess. A haiku?

(sung to the tune of "The House of Rising Sun")

There is a House in Tar Heel state
They call the Rising Sun
It's been a ruin for many a poor boy
And Tim's, oh God, for one.

Sally met a saint
and then a poem she wrote .
Anton got a funny name
and then he did the same.

If I had listened to what Catharine said
I'd have quit the habit by now
But I was young and foolish, Oh God,
guess I'll get home anyhow.

The only thing a gambler needs
is a movie and a play.
And after the play there must be food
And the food better be good.

One foot is in the kitchen,
The other foot who knows where
I'm going back to strike it rich
I'll tell you when I get there.

Thank you all for coming. Don't be shy: serve yourself another plate. Get another drink. And do not forget to come again next week. The tab will be picked by melinama on Pratie Place. I hope I see you all there again, and don't forget to bring your friends along.

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 1:04 AM | permalink | (7 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Size Does Matter, or Does It?

Today, it appears that everyone in the blogosphere is writing about the penis...and I thought it was supposed to be estrogen week (!

First, Beth chimes in with "Penises" (

Then, PZ Myers of Pharyngula scares right-wingers by putting together their two bigest sources of insecurity: penises and evolution ( Apparently, size matters - in the opposite direction of what you think:
" hasn't been at all uncommon for female vertebrates to
be untroubled by the absence of a penis in their mates, and apparently have
preferred it that way."

That females do not select males according to the size of their bone (yup, bone, "os penis" in Latin) has been shown before here:

And you can buy one to use as a coffee-stirrer, though beware, I believe this is illegal trade of animal parts:

If you are interested in using a model for personal pleasure, perhaps you should learn some history first. Part I from prehistory till 1800:
Part II from 1800 till today:

What to do if you find one in a bottle of cathup? Read this:

"I will never buy this brand again, it's finished," vowed

"To see a gun in your dream, symbolizes aggression, anger, and potential danger. You may be dealing with issues of passiveness/aggressiveness and authority/dependence. Alternatively, a gun can represent the penis and male sexual drive. Thus the gun may mean power and impotence." (


Moving to more metaphorical worries about penis size, Dr.FrankLives finally discovered "The Wimp Factor" (

And if you are still worried about your size after reading Ducat's book, perhaps you should become a Republican ( and start admiring the Penis Personified: Ann Coulter (

...and this is just skimming the surface of the last 24 hours of penis blogging....

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 8:23 PM | permalink | (2 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Friday, February 25, 2005

Another silly blog "meme"

bold the states you've been to, underline the states you've lived in and italicize the state you're in now...

Alabama / Alaska / Arizona / Arkansas / California / Colorado / Connecticut / Delaware / Florida / Georgia / Hawaii / Idaho / Illinois / Indiana / Iowa / Kansas / Kentucky / Louisiana / Maine / Maryland / Massachusetts / Michigan / Minnesota / Mississippi / Missouri / Montana / Nebraska / Nevada / New Hampshire / New Jersey / New Mexico / New York / North Carolina / North Dakota / Ohio / Oklahoma / Oregon / Pennsylvania / Rhode Island / South Carolina / South Dakota / Tennessee / Texas / Utah / Vermont / Virginia / Washington / West Virginia / Wisconsin / Wyoming / Washington D.C /

Go HERE to have a form generate the HTML for you.

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 10:16 PM | permalink | (2 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Johnny's Got A Gun

You are all probably familiar with the old song "When Johnny comes marching home" - it goes like this:

When Johnny comes marching home again, hurrah, hurrah!
We'll give him a hearty welcome then, hurrah, hurrah!
The men will cheer, the boys will shout, the ladies they will all turn out
and we'll all feel gay when Johnny comes marching home.

The old church bell will peal with joy, hurrah, hurrah!
To welcome home our darling boy, hurrah, hurrah!
The village lads and lassies say, wit hroses they will strew the way
and we'll all feel gay when Johnny comes marching home.

Get ready for the jubilee, hurrah, hurrah!
We'll give the hero three times three, hurrah, hurrah!
The laurel wreath is ready now to place upon his loyal brow,
and we'll all feel gay when Johnny comes marchig home.

What you probably do not know is that these lyrics were ordered by the US government during the WWI. These lyrics were made to replace the original, the much grimmer song that inspired the book and later the movie "Johnny Got A Gun". I can't remember now for sure, but the melody, I believe, is in the background of both the movie "Johnny Got A Gun" and the later movie "Dr.Strangelove". Here is one version of the original lyrics, transcribed from "This Is Judy Bright", the most cherished album I ever had (DOT records, 1964 - if anyone knows if Ms.Bright ever recorded anything else, or if she's alive, or if the album has been released on CD, please let me know):

With guns and drums and drums and guns, hurroo, hurroo
With guns and drums and drums and guns, hurroo, hurroo
With guns and drums and drums and guns, the enemy nearly slew ya
Oh, my darling dear you look so queer-a, Johnny I hardly knew ya.

It's glad I am too see ya home, hurroo, hurroo
It's glad I am too see ya home, hurroo, hurroo
It's glad I am too see ya home, back from the island of Ceylon,
Oh, so low in flesh, so high in bone, Johnny I hardly knew ya.

Where are those eyes that were so bright, hurroo, hurroo
Where are those eyes that were so bright, hurroo, hurroo
Where are those eyes that were so bright, when first my heart they beguiled
Oh, why did you run from me and the child-a, Johnny I hardly knew ya.

You haven't an arm you haven't a leg, hurroo, hurroo
You haven't an arm you haven't a leg, hurroo, hurroo
You haven't an arm you haven't a leg, you're a hopeless shell of a man on a peg
And you got to be put to a bowl to beg, Johnny I hardly knew ya.

They're rolling out the guns again, hurroo, hurroo
They're rolling out the guns again, hurroo, hurroo
They're rolling out the guns again, but they'll never take our sons again,
Oh, they'll never take our sons again, Johnny I'm swearing to ya.

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 9:48 AM | permalink | (1 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Laugh at Superman

Click through images of classic comic-book covers (mostly Superman) here:
....and laugh and cry and wonder what kind of sexually repressed society needed such outlets, why such fetishism of marriage as an ultimate goal....arrrrgh!

...and for a "scientific" explanation why Superman and Lois Lane could not have and should not have ever had sex, read this Larry Niven classic piece:

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 9:20 AM | permalink | (1 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Chapel Hill Bloggers MeetUp and Second Call for The Tar Heel Tavern

We had a wonderful Chapel Hill Blogger MeetUp earlier tonight. Great foccacia and green gunpowder tea! I learned a lot about the way Google works and...well, I am sure Anton and Co. will be able to explain the technical stuff better on their own blogs.

I think I can make it to the Raleigh/Cary and/or Chapel Hill MeetUp next week, too. Hopefully, we will find a place with wi-fi so we can do a teach-in where techno-wizards get to teach us blog-idiots how to fix our templates, get RSS, protect from comment-spam etc. I also hope someone like Henry can come by and tell us about various ways that a small blogger can use to earn a little bit of money, e.g., putting a PayPal tip-jar, Amazon ads, blogads, etc. (and perhaps the techies can help us install that kind of stuff on the spot).

We talked about Carnivals for a while and I used the opportunity to encourage people to write and submit new posts, or submit old but good posts that are not-too-political and have somewhat local flavor to the first Tar Heel Tavern. We also need to line up a few hosts for the future editions. This is an opportunity to get exposure and new readers.

For more information, see here:

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 2:56 AM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Koufax Winners Announced

Go see for yourself:

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 5:17 PM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Brilliant! A Must Read!

An extremely thoughtful (and frightening) Diary by Stirling Newberry - read it twice:
The Rise of Rove's Republic

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 2:29 AM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Quality Reading Around the Blogs

Chris of Mixing Memory is on the roll again with three provocative essays:

Ward Churchill

How Evolutionary Psychology Can Make You Look Like an Ass

What Intelligent Design Could Be... But Isn't

Brandon of Siris starts a series on the logic of the argument of The Origin of Species. The first two installments are here:

On a Mistaken Impression

Darwin's Logic: Preliminaries: Vera Causa

On teaching science, two takes, by PZ Myers of Pharyngula and by Early Modern Web:

It’s more than just math

Show me your workings

Publius of Legal Fiction wrote a marvelous parable:


...and a series of thought-provoking (and comment-provoking) posts:

GO HOME, YOUNG MAN (on E.J. Dionne and Progressive religiosity)



Eric Martin of Total Information Awareness continues looking at Iraq, post-election:

Where Are We Now?

Eric Gordy of East Ethnia continues covering the (forced?) sale of the old military compound/turned Sarajevo University to the USA for the new Embassy:

New university campus: Sold, cheaply

How to alienate people

Mind Hacks on opening access to science journals (but also look around the blog for a cornucopia of interesting stuff):

How to open the brain to everyone

And Effect Measure continues the excellent series on explaining George Lakoff:

Lakoff - X: thinking about morality metaphorically

Lakoff - XI: the moral toolbox

Lakoff - XII: "family values"

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 6:12 PM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Anthropology of the Blogosphere - Carnivals as Potlatches

Researchers "Geocoding the Blogosphere" Portend Stronger, More Authentic Detection and Analysis of Social Trends

Blog content analysis permits 'weather reports' on socio-politics of cities, regionsResearchers in the University at Buffalo's School of Informatics have undertaken a long-term research project to study how information from blogs produced in specific American urban areas reflects the political agendas, opinions, attitudes and cultural idiosyncrasies of the general population of those places.


"We cannot ignore the blog," Lin says. "It is a rapidly emerging political and cultural entity whose importance is likely to increase. It is our contention that blogs not only tell us about those who write them, but quite a bit about particular urban areas in which we find them."

An Anthropologist in the Blogosphere

Let's try a simple substitution: "The link is economic, political,
kinship-oriented, legal, mythological, religious, magical, practical, personal
and social. By moving such an object through the virtual landscape, the
link-giver so to speak rearranges the fabric of sociality - and it is this that
forms the basis of the link's power."
There you have the beginnings of an
anthropology of the blogosphere.
The "Carnival of the Vanities," the brainstorm of Bigwig
) at Silflay Hraka
) -- for which I have a special affection, as the first
blog I ever linked to and the ritual bestower of my first link
) -- and all its Carnival offspring
are nothing other than potlatches: big link giveaways that bloggers vie to host,
for all those reasons -- the prestige, the exposure, the friendship, the curiosity, the pleasure, in no particular order.

Hat tip: Silflay Hraka (

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 5:29 PM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Incremental Strategy - sounds like evolution to me!

Nice job on ID-Creationism (hat tip:
Brian Leiter )

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 3:21 AM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Monday, February 21, 2005

Ah, arrogance

Two posts from Eric on East Ethnia on the ways USA arrogantly and ignorantly tramples over foreign cultures:
University of Sarajevo or US Embassy
Not just in Sarajevo


posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 4:17 PM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Sunday, February 20, 2005

The Tar Heel Tavern Is A Go!

OK, the comments in the previous posts, as well as some e-mails I got, tell me there is a real interest in getting this thing going. I have posted all the information about the carnival here:

Read the directions and start sending me your contributions to the first carnival.

Update: Excellent! Entries are starting to come in. Please, post an announcement/call for submissions on YOUR BLOG so more people get to be aware of this in time to write/submit a post of their own.

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 2:41 AM | permalink | (1 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Saturday, February 19, 2005

The Tar-Heel Tavern

I am toying with the idea of starting a carnival of North Carolina bloggers. Meeting more than 120 local bloggers in person last week, checking the long lists of local bloggers at and other aggregators, I understand that our state is one of the world's hubs of blogging, so why not showcase to the world how good we are.

I was thinking about a weekly carnival, posted on a different blog every time. I will do the inaugural here in a couple of weeks if there is enough interest. The early carnivals started small and grew over time. Today, however, and check my previous post for evidence, new carnivals need to come in with a splash in order to get noticed. Thus, the first issue, perhaps first couple of issues, need to be really big and good. While established carnivals usually accept only one entry from each blog, published since the previous issue, the new carnivals should start out by accepting one or two BEST EVER posts from each blog, before starting to impose such limits.

Also, many local blogs are very political. I think it is OK in the future to have a Lefty and a Righty chapter in each carnival, but for the very beginning I would prefer non-political posts, perhaps something with a local flavor, about culture, arts, science, philosophy, history....whatever you like to write about. I will organize the first edition by regions: Eastern, Western, Charlotte, Triad and Triangle, but future hosts may want to organize by topic or any other organizing principle (see Carnival of Vanities or Blog Tower for example).

Post a comment here if you are interested in submitting a post or hosting in the future (or e-mail me at coturnix AT gmail DOT com). Also, if you are creative and handy with graphic tools, consider making a pretty logo...something with a local flavor...perhaps the Lighthouse and the Wright's airplane on top of NC map....

As building a community is an important aspect of NC blogging, starting a virtual meeting-place and an online magazine all in one, is one of the important steps - thus a Carnival is in order. Do you like the name Tar-Heel Tavern?

[added later] If you like this idea, please promote it on your blogs. Thanks.

I will post all the info (submission info, logo/button code, past/current/future hosts, etc.) here:

Update: Wow! Entries are already starting to trickle in! Keep 'em coming! Spread the message!

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 2:56 PM | permalink | (18 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Friday, February 18, 2005

Meta-Carnival #1

I have written before about the emerging importance of blog carnivals ( ). They are centers of activity, meeting places, and at the same time newspapers and magazines of the blogosphere. Some are generalists - Carnival of Vanities is simultaneously the New York City (physical space) and the New York Times (newspaper). Others are local newspapers, covering the local news (e.g., India, Canada, or Balkans, or even one's neighborhood). Yet others are trade-papers or magazines, focused on a particular issue (law, science, education, economics, etc.), as well as virtual conferences of experts in the field.

Some carnivals appear every week, some every two or three weeks, or every month or two, or without a regular schedule. Some are always hosted on the same blog. Some others are mostly hosted in one place but are occasionally outsourced to other blogs. Some rotate between a limited number of blogs over and over again. Most, however, are alway hosted by a different blog. Even those that are initially hosted by one blog, if they become successfull, tend to move to the one issue/one blog system. Blog Of The Day is, in a sense a Carnival of sorts, presenting a new blog (not post) every day:

I have attempted to post round-ups before ( Several other people tried to do the same with more or less success. Bigwig has a pretty lengthy list (, and he tries to update it on a regular basis, though he has fallen behind somewhat these days, as new carnivals are sprouting almost every week. King of Fools also keeps track of a limited number of Carnivals. ( So does Watcher of Weasels ( Even InstaIdiot links to some (, but the quality of his round-ups reflects the quality of his thinking and writing.

There is also now a universal submission form for a number of carnivals: I will contact the owner of the site to nudge him/her to include several other carnivals.

I will try to, on a somewhat regular basis, post a whole list. Of course, the carnivals I like I link to as soon as a new issue is out. But I'll try to keep up with all of them as long as that is humanely possible. So here we go, in the order of age, from youngest to oldest, ending with dead carnivals:

Embryonic Carnivals (0 issues)

These are up and coming new carnivals, the first issue being still in preparation. For instance,

Carnival of Bad History
will start on March 1st on Archy (

Carnival of Cordite is for gun-lovers. The time of fertilization was here:

Pro-Life Carnival in the making? I guess they would consider their carnival alive and soulful even before it is really born:

Newborn Carnivals (1 issue)

Carnival of the Balkans ( gathers bloggers from the Balkans, or expats, or people blogging about Balkans. The first issue is here and is really fun:

Poetry Carnival #1 is here:

New Blogs Only: Carnival Showcase Extravaganza for blogs younger than three months. Homepage is here: The first issue is here:

From The Edge is a New Christian Fiction Carnival. The first issue is here:

Kid-Carnivals (2-7 issues)

Skeptic's Circle (every two weeks) immediately took off with a large number of excellent entries.
Issue #2 is also beautifully edited and written:

History Carnival (every three weeks) is a very high-standard carnival. Most of these posts are written by real historians and are worth reading carefully:
The latest edition is #2, here:

Carnival of Education ( is out every week and has also, from its inception, attracted a large number of excellent posts. The latest issue is #2, here:

Blog Tower ( is Mick Arran's baby ( It is a collection of the best writing (not neccessarily political) from the Progressive blogosphere, some self-submitted, some submitted by others, but mainly chosen by Mick himself. It does not have a pre-set frequency and Mick has had technical difficulties, thus Issue #2 is currently impossible to see. Go back to Blog Tower #1, in the meantime, while we are eagerly waiting for the third installment:

Carnivalesque ( is focusing on early Modern history. It comes out every two months. Unfortunately, the issue #3 is not available any more as the blog has been taken down. You can still check out the previous issues here:
and here:

Carnival of the Godless ( took off immediately. With "secular/atheist/humanist/agnostic/other" being the fastest growing "religious" category in the USA (though sadly, still lagging far behind the civilized world), it is no surprise that pent-up energy exploded in amazingly large and good first weekly issues. The latest, #3 is here:

Carnival of the Commies is a round-up of posts from the Left blogosphere collected by a Right-wing host:
Unfortunately, the posts are only from a handful of blogs, like Kos and Atrios who do not neccessarily represent Progressive blogosphere that well. They should look up the growing list on the blogroll of the Progressive Blog Alliance (check the bottom of my sidebar). The comments reveal typical whinger non-thinking-FrankLuntz/Karl Rove-talking-points-male-anxiety-ridden venom. Perhaps exposure to this will get them to think? Naw! They need a few years in therapy before they'd have the internal strength to confront their cognitive dissonance.
Issue #4:

Belly Up To The Bar is a weekly meeting-place of blawgs (legal blogs), and I wish there were more progressives on there for balance:
Issue #5:

Christian Apologetics? It's called Vox Apologia. Who are they apologizing to? I know what they are apologizing for, but that will take a very long time as the list is long:
Next issue #6 will be here:

The SciAn Melt ( is unique in that it combines both the geographical (India) and topical (science) focus. It comes out every two weeks. The latest issue, #7, is here:

Pre-teen Carnivals (8-12 issues)

Blogging For Books is competitive and the latest issue (#8) is here - some really good reading:

Philosopher's Carnival (every three weeks)
issue #9

Haveil Havalim is a carnival focused on Jewishness and Israel. The inaugural (with rules etc.) is here:
The latest installment, #9, is here:

Cavalcade of Canucks ( is a wonderful meeting space for the best of Canadian bloggers. The latest installment (#11) is here:

Carnival of Sin ( is trying to cover all Seven Deadly Sins, but so far, only issue number 10 managed to cover all Seven, as Lust is an overwhelming winner all the time. The issue #12 is here:

Storyblogging Carnival ( is, well, collecting good stories on the blogs. Issue #12 is here:

Teenage Carnivals (13-19 issues)

Red Ensign Standard is a conservative Canadian carnival. Apparently, the US Right-wingnuts have some serious lunacy competition up north. The issue #15 is here and it is dripping with venomous male anxiety:

Catholic Carnival (, issue #17:

Young Adult Carnivals (20-29 issues)

Sneak's Wide World of Blogging #20:

Tangled Bank ( is the bi-weekly carnival of biology (from ecology and evolution, through genetics and physiology, to medicine). This is probably my favourite carnival. The latest issue, finally allowing for imbibing an alcoholic beverage, #21 is here:

Grand Rounds is a weekly carnival of medicine, nursing and health-care policy:
The latest issue (#21) is here and is wonderfully done:

Friday Arc ( collects all animal pictures. The issues #22 is here:

Carnival of Recipes (weekly) is delicious. The homepage/archive is here: The issue #27 is here:

Mature Carnivals (30-60 issues)

Carnival of the Liberated (bloggers from Iraq) was impossible to track down as to the total number of issues. I am assuming it fits into this age category. Check it out, it is excellent and very relevant:

Carnival of Dogs (a weekly, but maddeningly not numbered, so my estimate is about 30 issues so far). The inauguration is here:
The latest issue is here:

Carnival of the Cats (every week) is much bigger. Why are bloggers cat people?

Christian Carnival #57:

Old Carnivals (61 and more issues)

The Best Of Me Symphony is a weekly roundup of posts that are at least 2 months old at the time of the carnival:
The issue number #62 is now up:

Carnival of Capitalists (aka Evil Carnival)( is, as expected, dominated by the Right-wing economic nonsense, so you have to look around to find good stuff (and there is some if you look hard). It is a useful intellectual exercise anyway, even if you do not agree. Check out issue #71:

Watcher of Weasels ( is competitive. Maddeningly, it is not numbered, but since it is weekly and it has been going on for at least a year and a half, it has somewhere about 80 issues so far. The latest installment is:

Bonfire of the Vanities ( is an old carnival. It is a mockery of the original Carnival of Vanities, in the sense that people submit their worst posts. It is quite hillarious, though it is a pity it has such a Right-wing slant, as if Lefties don't write pointless blog-posts. You can see the old issues here:
The latest installment, #85, can be found here:

Bharteeya Blog Mela ( is a Bollyblog written by Indian people and/or about India. It is also not numbered (, but since it is a weekly and it is over two year old, I give the latest issue number 105:

The Grand-daddy of them all, the Carnival that spawned all the other carnivals, the brainchild of brilliant Bigwig of Silflay Hraka ( is the Carnival of Vanities:
The unbeliavable issue #126 is here:

Dead Carnivals

Well, like everything in life, some Carnivals come to a sad end. Here are some examples of what I found, some still-born, some dead at a later stage, but most definitely dead (if not, let me know):

Kissing Booth - where is it?

Carnival of the Families devoted to woman's rights apparently never took off:

Carnival of the Canucks has gone up to #23:

Cul-de-Sac, somebody's own carnival started with the first issue here:
and ended with the last issue here:

Carnival of the Rugrats

Carnival of Poetry

Carnival of the Pajamas apparently had ten issues:

Carnival of Consumers is officially dead:

Carnival of Solutions had two issues:

The most recent Carnival of Canucks I could find is #23, back in June:

Bush Bloggers - perhaps this one is not dead...but it should be...I don't want to know. Copy and paste the URL if you are curious or suicidal - I don't want spam and life-threats:

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