Category Archives: Evolution

A Tale of Bizarre Biological Research

From time to time we see reports of research we regard as ridiculous. Most often it’s done by sociologists, but this time it was biologists. The story is in PhysOrg: ‘Evolutionary fitness’ key in determining why some females more physically attractive than others. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:

Scientists from the University of Aberdeen have been working as part of an international collaboration co-ordinated by the Institute of Genetics and Developmental Biology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing to try and discover why there is a link between body fatness and perceived physical attractiveness.

Of all the questions that require investigation, few are more important than why svelte is more attractive than tubby. We’re told:

The study, which was funded by the National Science Foundation of China and involved researchers from 10 different institutions around the world, was published today (August 25) in the journal PeerJ.

That journal was started three years ago. Here’s a link to the paper: The relationship of female physical attractiveness to body fatness. You don’t need a subscription to read it online. Let’s stay with PhysOrg:

One idea about how we rate physical attractiveness is based on the impact that different aspects of our bodies (like body fatness) have on evolutionary fitness. For example, we know that above a certain body fatness females have greater risks of chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease, and lower fertility, which might make fatter subjects less attractive. On the other hand, in the past fatter people might have had greater abilities to survive famines, making fatness more attractive. This might suggest there is an optimum level of fatness that is maximally attractive which is somewhere in between.

This is a problem that has puzzled scientists for millennia. We continue:

The study was coordinated by Professor John Speakman, of the Institute of Genetics and Developmental Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing and the Institute of Biological and Environmental Sciences at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. Professor Speakman explains: “Fitness in evolutionary terms comprises two things: survival and the ability to reproduce. What we wanted to investigate was the idea that when we look at someone and think they are physically attractive, are we actually making that assessment based on a hard-wired evolutionary understanding of their potential for future survival and reproductive ability?

Brilliant question: “When we look at someone and think they are physically attractive,” what are we really thinking? Here’s more:

To test their idea, the scientists built a mathematical model which combined the relationships between levels of obesity and the future risk of mortality from all causes, and the relationship between obesity and the future possibility of having children. This model predicted that people would perceive females with a body mass index (BMI) of between 24 and 24.8 as being the most physically attractive.

Researchers then tested the prediction on more than 1,300 people, both males and females, from the UK and nine other countries. Participants were shown 21 image cards showing females with different levels of body fatness and were asked to reorder them from least to most attractive.

They tested their mathematical model. This is really great research! What did they discover? We’re told:

In all the populations, males and females rated physical attractiveness of the female images very similarly. The very thinnest images with body mass index of around 19 were rated as most attractive. As fatness increased above that value, the less attractive they were rated. This contrasted the predictions of the mathematical ‘fitness’ model that there should be a peak in attractiveness around a BMI of 24 to 24.8.

Egad — their math model was wrong! Why? Moving along:

The reason for the discrepancy was revealed when subjects were asked how old they thought the people in the images were. In this exercise they judged that the fatter people were older. Age is itself a strong indicator of evolutionary fitness. When the age factor was included into the model the optimum fatness fell to a BMI somewhere between 17 and 20 – corresponding exactly to the images people found to be most attractive.

Amazing! What did the scientists learn from this? Here it comes:

This suggests that we find thinness in females so attractive because we equate it with youth – a BMI of 17-20 corresponds to the average BMI of a young 18-20 year old with maximal fertility and minimal risk of future disease. This was to be consistent across European, African and Asian test groups. Historical exposure to famine does not appear to have been an important factor driving the link between fatness and attractiveness.

We’re shocked — shocked! — that a woman’s ability to withstand famine isn’t a factor when men make judgments about attractiveness. We won’t make that mistake again! And we are pleased to have told you about this vital research.

Copyright © 2015. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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David McConaghie — Guilty!

Creationist voyeurism

Creationist voyeurism

The trial we wrote about and described yesterday — see David McConaghie Trial — What Will Happen? — has concluded.

We present some excerpts from Ex-DUP adviser guilty of voyeurism by hiding camera in constituency office toilets in the Belfast Telegraph, which has the largest circulation of any newspaper in Northern Ireland. They don’t seem to have a comments feature. The bold font was added by us:

A disgraced aide to a DUP MP [Democratic Unionist Party Member of Parliament] faces up to six months in jail after he was convicted of voyeurism today. Standing in the dock of Craigavon Magistrates Court with his hands clasped in front of him, 50-year-old David McConaghie showed little or no reaction as District Judge Mervyn Bates said he had no doubt he “secreted” the sophisticated spy camera in a pot pourri in the toilets of David Simpson’s constituency office for his own sexual gratification.

Frankly, dear reader, because of McConaghie’s political connections and his career as a preacher, your Curmudgeon wasn’t expecting that result. We are pleased to see that reality denial has its limits, and in extreme circumstances, creationists can be shamed into abandoning one of their own. Then we’re told:

The judge told McConaghie his crime was aggravated by numerous factors including that the act represented a breach of the trust places in him by others who worked in David Simpson’s Upper Bann constituency office, the length of time it was carried out and that it was a “deliberate attempt to observe someone that you knew well carrying out a private act.”

Judge Bates being satisfied “beyond reasonable doubt,” he convicted McConaghie, from Cottage Hill, Dollingstown, of the single charge of voyeurism on dates between August 22 and September 13, 2012 in that for the purposes of sexual gratification, he recorded another person doing a private act knowing that the other person did not consent.

What about sentencing? Let’s read on:

Releasing McConaghie on continuing bail, the judge adjourned passing sentence for five weeks and ordered probation pre-sentence reports. He told McConaghie, a onetime prominent Orangeman and church minister, that depending on what sentence he passes, he may have to sign the police sex offenders register “for at least five years.”

How did the convicted pervert react? No surprise there:

Moments later as McConaghie left the court, he continued with his silence, refusing to comment on his conviction or to even offer an apology to his victim.

The news article then gives a lurid account of the evidence against McConaghie, which we’ve discussed before and won’t repeat here, but if you’re not familiar with it and want to see how a creationist conducts such loathsome deeds, then you’ll want to read that material.

But what about the defense objection that the videos weren’t proven to be for McConaghie’s sexual gratification? Here’s what the Belfast Telegraph reports:

Defence barrister Michael Tierney had argued that the case should be dropped, submitting there was no evidence that McConaghie had placed the secret camera in the toilet for sexual gratification despite the police searching his home and trawling through his internet history. On Wednesday however, Judge Bates dismissed that application, telling the court there was “absolutely no evidence” of it being there for any other purpose.

The application having been dismissed, it was at that stage that McConaghie could have taken the witness box to provide some other explanation but having consulted with the pervert, Mr Tierney said he was “exercising his right” not to and confirmed that he had been advised regarding potential adverse inferences to be drawn from his silence.

Observe, dear reader, now that he has been convicted, the newspaper refers to McConaghie as a “pervert.” And so do we.

So there you are. The sentencing will be five weeks from now — near the end of September or the beginning of October. We’ll be watching.

And once more, we remind you of the advice we’ve been giving whenever such cases come to our attention: Avoid using the bathrooms at any creationist organization — that includes creationist politicians, creationist “think tanks,” creation museums and theme parks, and the church buildings of creationist denominations.

Copyright © 2015. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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David McConaghie Trial — What Will Happen?

Creationist voyeurism

Creationist voyeurism

The last time we wrote about the voyeurism trial of David McConaghie, the creationist preacher and Northern Ireland political operative who was arrested in connection with the discovery of a hidden camera found in the loo of Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) member David Simpson’s constituency office, was a month ago: David McConaghie Trial Lurches Forward.

We’ve been following this case for almost three years, ever since we posted Creationist Suspected of Bathroom Voyeurism. As you recall, besides being a trusted aide to a member of Parliament, McConaghie was a prominent creationist and preacher with the Free Presbyterian church. He was also the media officer for the Caleb Foundation, a politically powerful creationist think tank in Northern Ireland. The Caleb Foundation was instrumental in persuading the National Trust to include a “younger Earth” explanation of the origins of the Giant’s Causeway visitor centre.

Inspired by McConaghie’s alleged activities, we posted Essential Creationist Gear: Toilet Camera. The McConaghie case begat our hypothesis that there may be some heretofore unsuspected disorder which we call Creationism-Voyeurism Syndrome (CVS). We then found several creationists who were suffering from that malady.

At the time of our last post the trial was delayed because of a surprise motion by the defense, claiming that although the court had already seen video footage showing what appeared to be McConaghie concealing the camera in a bowl of potpourri which was placed in the ladies’ bathroom, the prosecution had failed to produce evidence to prove that McConaghie carried out this act for his own sexual gratification. Apparently, that’s part of the definition of the crime. To give the prosecutors time to respond, the judge granted a continuance. The trial is scheduled to resume on 26 August, which is tomorrow.

That gives us an opportunity. We’d like to hear your guess as to the outcome of the trial. Will McConaghie be convicted, or acquitted? If acquitted, what will his lawyers claim was the real purpose of the concealed camera? We’ve previously speculated that he may have done it in a quest for spiritual enlightenment. A comment suggested that he was studying ladies’ undergarment fashions. Or he may have been making a potty training tape for children.

We should know the answers tomorrow, but until then it’ll be fun to see if you can properly anticipate the results. So tell us what you think.

In conclusion, we’ll remind you of the advice we’ve been giving whenever such cases come to our attention: Avoid using the bathrooms at any creationist organization — that includes creationist politicians, creationist “think tanks,” creation museums and theme parks, and the church buildings of creationist denominations.

Update: See David McConaghie — Guilty!

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Creationist Wisdom #604: Climate Change

Today’s letter-to-the-editor appears in The Pantagraph, a daily newspaper in Bloomington, Illinois. It’s titled Climate and weather in God’s control. They have a comments feature.

Because the writer isn’t a politician, preacher, or other public figure, we won’t embarrass or promote him by using his full name. His first name is John. Although John is primarily focused on climate change, which is not a big topic around here, we think his letter belongs in our collection.

As you’ll soon see, John’s views on climate change are closely related to the fact that he’s also a creationist. An earlier letter of his appeared in that newspaper a month ago — Don’t put too much trust in technology — in which he said:

Today, men trust in man’s technology and give almighty God no consideration, not realizing that prophecy has been fulfilled, that God has opened man’s mind to knowledge of this sort only about 120 years ago and, because of this knowledge, man trusts himself and has been driven to utter turmoil and confusion, almost at wit’s end of how to solve the economic and moral problems facing them now.

Because of unbelief and sin on Earth, around 2348 B.C. God produced the Genesis flood that destroyed every living thing on Earth, except the contents of Noah’s ark. Today God is still in complete control.

Excerpts from John’s new letter will be enhanced with our Curmudgeonly commentary and some bold font for emphasis. Here we go!

Scientists and others are worried about climate change. I believe they are deceived because of unbelief of the almighty God. There have been floods and droughts, volcanoes, hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes from the beginning of mankind 6,000 years ago. These could cause climate change but only if God allows it.

Foolish scientists! Why don’t they listen to John? Then he says:

[An earlier] letter contained results from a popular newspaper’s research of the question, “Do you believe in God?” Sixty-four percent said “no” or “not sure,” while only 36 percent said “yes.”

How horrible! Let’s read on:

My thought is, what would be the outcome if the question was asked, “Do you believe in Jesus?” I believe the percentage would be much less than 36 who answer “yes.”

Egad — maybe he’s right! That explains why we have so many problems. This is the rest of John’s brief (but inspirational) letter:

It’s certain our nation needs to turn to the Bible and find the truth that also leads to the prophecy being fulfilled before our very eyes.

John is worried. His letter worries us too. What do you think, dear reader?

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