THE REGRESSIVE LEFT FALLACY

 

Here we are with another example of skeptics making thinking errors that they’d pick up on if someone else did it. However this is a bit more than just a failure of logic – it’s also a distortion of the original term. While words can and do change meaning, it doesn’t mean that we can appropriate a phrase and twist it to mean whatever we feel like. We get all pissy when “deniers” are referred to as “skeptics”, so let’s not be hypocrites as well, eh?

The “regressive left” was coined by Maajid Nawaz in his 2012 memoir “Radical: My Journey from Islamist Extremism to a Democratic Awakening“, describing ‘”well-meaning liberals and ideologically driven leftists” in the United Kingdom who naïvely and ‘ignorantly pandered to” Islamists and helped Islamist ideology to gain acceptance.’  It is related to another of his phrases “the racism of low expectations“, which refers to the application of lower moral standards to people within minorities, based on the notion that they are unable to take criticism or adopt universal standards of morality, due to their being backward or uncivilised.

However, this phrase is really doing the rounds on the internet at the moment, applied to anyone who is prepared to step outside of their comfort zone and find common ground with those who are different.  A significant part of the problem is hostility to religious folk, something written about here, by Hayley Is A Ghost.  And the atheist community’s favourite example of such “loony left” behaviour is the Goldsmith’s LGBT Society’s support of the University’s Islamic Society.

Here’s a summary of what happened:

The SU’s Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society invited Maryam Namazie to give a presentation.  Some members of the Islamic Society were unhappy about this and attended the talk with the intention of interrupting her and preventing her from speaking.  With SUs being what they are, and student bodies being willing to support the oppressed, reports of what happened were misrepresented as the event being discriminatory to Muslims, and many people were outraged about it (which would have been a fair response if that was what actually happened).  Other student societies who campaign for social justice stood in solidarity with the Islamic Society, because they saw an alignment of principles.  And this is where it started to go really, really wrong.

Now, the LGBT & Feminist Societies aren’t populated by idiots.  These are educated, if idealistic, young adults standing up for human rights in spite of the knowledge that Islam isn’t totally OK with women and The Gays.  It was the problem of perceived oppression that was the issue.  It’s something that many of us would do if we believed that people were being unjustly treated, even if we don’t personally share all the values of the group we seek to assist.

In keeping with their behaviour at Namazie’s talk, the Islamic Society then behaved in a not-entirely-honourable fashion:

Tweet by Goldsmiths Islamic Society's then-president
Oh dear.

Tweets by Goldsmiths Islamic Society's then-president
#cringe

It was rather amusing to see this clash of cultures played out in the Twittersphere, but I never thought of it as anything more than an awkward misjudgement of the character of others.  The LGBT and Feminist Societies acted in good faith, and perhaps naively, expected others to do so as well.  Anyone with half a brain knows that #notallmuslims are like this, and it should have just ended as an unfortunate incident that hopefully teaches us to be more aware of others’ motivations.  But no!  Never ones to miss an anti-theist bandwagon, it really captured the imagination of the skeptical movement, and not to be discriminatory in their nature, they then aimed their mockery at SUs as well as Islam – in particular any of the left-leaning societies (this is a weird thing, most skeptics I know are left-of-centre, yet right-wing ideas are very popular if they push the right buttons.  Maybe we’re not sceptical enough).

One thing I heard was that they were like “turkeys voting for Christmas”, and that Skeptical Trump Card, The Regressive Left (booooooooooooooooooooo!).  Well, at the time, I felt quite off about it, but it wasn’t clear enough in my mind to articulate my opposition to it.  But the popularity of this idea grew, and it got more tiresome with every minute.  And so, here’s some commentary from the recent #womensmarch:

I wonder how much this person cares about women’s rights on days they can’t point out a contradiction?
It featured heavily on my timeline, and, well, I’m not one to let these things slide:

The Regressive Left strikes again!
Of course I had to weigh in. Friends don’t let friends make dumbass mistakes like this.
This person, commenting elsewhere, summed up how I feel about the whole debacle:

I decided to educate myself on the identity of woman in the picture, with the US flag headscarf. Her name is Munira Ahmed, and she intended the image to demonstrate that she, as a Muslim, is as American as anyone else.  And it’s an important point: Muslims are as diverse as just about any population you can think of.  The caricature of Muslims perpetuated by the New Atheist Movement is horribly simplistic and creates division.  We can’t say with any integrity that we will not support those women who look different from us, or those who are oppressed by our country’s actions.  And what about Muslim women who do feel oppressed by the headscarf?  Do we support them, but only as long as they take it off when in our presence?  Of course it is possible to hold both beliefs: that Muslims are human beings who we should care about, and that the headscarf can be a tool of female oppression.  That doesn’t seem so regressive to me.

 

ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE

 

Valentine’s Day is coming up, and because I don’t subscribe to the “I don’t need a special day to show my love for my partner” / “it’s numerology” / “I’m a heartless cynic” fad, I’m going to recommend some of my science-themed products for you to buy!  I may also add that I enjoy earning money, so if you wanted to show your love for me by purchasing my stuff, that would be wonderful.

First up, is my Periodic Table merch.  If you get creative, there’s a lot you can do with chemical symbols.  How about trying some of these?

Or, how about these?  As well as the object of your affection, you might also love science and maths.  And what do we need for love?  Oxytocin!  Although it’s not strictly true to say that that’s all you need.

I Love Science gifts I Love Maths gifts All You Need Is Oxytocin

There are more Valentines gifts available at my Hallowe’en In January shop, if a more metaphysical vibe is what you’re after.

 True Love tattoo gifts  To The Virgins, To Make Much Of Time  Love Birds tattoo gifts

Happy Valentine’s Everyone!

F*CK YOU, 2016.

 

One thing that pretty much everyone can agree on is that 2016 has been universally shite.  All the best celebs have died, we voted for Brexit, and Donald Trump was elected President.  I’m almost convinced that there could be a God after all, due to 2016 looking like an elaborate practical joke contrived by a mischievous overlord.  And that’s just a brief summary of all the terrible things that happened last year up until the beginning of November (I’ve probably missed a few, so much bad shit went down last year).  Also, these are things that were of note in the white, middle-class, Western world.  That’s just the frame of reference that I have.  Things might have looked a lot rosier in other cultures (every cloud, etc).

On 12th November, Twitter user @christhebarker created a Sgt. Pepper-themed montage of all those that 2016 had stolen from us (although 2016 really wasn’t done by this point).  Hover over the picture for more info about those in the image.

Denise Robertson Ed Stewart Carla Lane Garry Shandling Johan Cruyff Prince Buster Sir George Martin Anton Yelchin Howard Marks Leonard Cohen Arnold Palmer Harper Lee Pierre Boulez Gareth Thomas Erik Bauersfeld Glenn Frey Keith Emerson Burt Kwouk Sir Jimmy Young Paul Daniels Sir Terry Wogan Cliff Michelmore Jean Alexander Muhammad Ali Frank Kelly Caroline Aherne George Kennedy Maurice White David Gest Gene Wilder Lemmy Kilmister Prince David Bowie Pete Burns Alan Rickman Zaha Hadid Ronnie Corbett Victoria Wood Robert Vaughn Jo Cox MP Sylvia Anderson Kenny Baker Tony Dyson The Toblerone Travesty Donald Trump PEOTUS Leicester City Premier League Champions 2016

 

But after that, we needed to add another whole damn row, because 2016 is a right bastard, apparently:

blub

Is 2016 all that unusual?  Yes and No.  The number of celebrity deaths, international incidents, wars, and other human-induced clusterfucks is no more than in any other year, proportionally.  But as I said at the start, the events that have caught our attention have been skewed to the Western middle-class span of interests, and so it looks like we’ve been particularly hard done by this year.  And there are other confounding factors.  Think about when we started to define people as “celebrities” by modern standards – it was around the time that television really took off, from the 1950s.  People who made their name in early TV are well into old age now, and those household figures who have become so familiar are just like any of us, mere mortals.  So this might be the start of a wave of well-known figures dying off.  Which would make 2016 seem less exceptional in a few years from now.

Some of those celebrity deaths have been of relatively young people – Carrie Fisher, Prince, George Michael, David Bowie – but even though most of us will make it into old age, there is a sizeable minority of any population that is just unlucky and dies young.  I know people who’ve died in their 20s, 30s and 40s.  All of these deaths are tragedies, but they’re not as unusual as we think.

And even if 2016 is a statistical blip (which it probably isn’t), such is the nature of chance.  If all deaths occurred at a uniform rate, then THAT would be unusual. So whatever it is; more celebrities getting to an older age, more people being recognised as celebrities, better media reporting, whatever – we are just going to have to accept that Shit Happens.  And 2016 was really shit, wasn’t it.

 

THE GOD OF THE GAPS FALLACY FALLACY

 

“The God Of The Gaps” is something I hear mentioned a lot in skeptical circles. The concept is that because it has taken humans many thousands of years to develop the scientific knowledge we now collectively hold, that religion was used as a placeholder while we caught up with the facts. But I can see numerous problems with this idea – which, as I discovered while researching this article, never originally meant what skeptics take it to mean nowadays. It was actually a term used by Christian theologians to caution against the type of argument in which believers would say “well, science can’t explain this, therefore God”.  And that’s actually a pretty smart argument – if you’re a person of power within the Christian religion (or any religion), things are going to get awkward when your evidence for God’s existence is progressively overturned by advances in science.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/God_of_the_gaps

However, in popular modern usage, it means something rather different; a version of the argument-from-ignorance fallacy, that:

  • There is a gap in understanding of some aspect of the natural world.
  • Therefore the cause must be supernatural.

But this is a huge simplification, nay, thinking error, in terms of what’s actually happening in the minds of believers.

Categorising the argument this way is useful for understanding the history and philosophy of religion and science, as we can see the pattern of questioning and rejecting religion during the enlightenment years of scientific inquiry & discovery.  This is an important part of history that we must understand & record, but we mustn’t make the error of thinking it was a well-executed plan. We can look back and observe the changes, and learn from how the knowledge spread. But to conflate the evolution of human learning 200 years ago with the reasons that people choose faith over reason today, doesn’t make any sense.  It is effectively a post hoc, ergo propter hoc argument on our part.

1. While there are some unknowns about many areas of science, we know enough about the scientific origins of just about everything now to only have gaps that would accommodate a vanishingly tiny god. There are many religious sects that keep their adherents ignorant, precisely because of the risk of them abandoning their faith if they were to hear of alternative explanations. There are no more significant gaps.

2. A common mistake skeptics make is to assume that other, ordinary, people make choices based on logic and reason. Trying to “debunk” faith with science is like arguing with the archetypal chess-playing pigeon. It is completely pointless. Both sides leave the discussion thinking that they’ve “won”, having achieved nothing. Faith in anything is just that: faith. And faith occurs independent of any knowledge to the contrary. It is powerful, illogical, and rooted in emotional needs. The devout are able to hold their strong beliefs in a world of information because of cognitive dissonance.  The gaps may get smaller, but the faith does not contract in turn.

3. Not only is it a mistake to think that one can argue on a rational basis with a fundamentalist, but it is to fall into a trap from which one cannot escape. To think that the deeply religious are less intelligent than the rest of us is naive and dangerous. Our religious debating opponent is not stupid – they are well-practised in arguing against attacks on their beliefs, and one useful tactic is to play it coy, to let us believe we have the upper hand, and then pull the rug from under our feet. Arguing against belief with science will never be successful. If someone is to leave their faith, they must arrive at that conclusion by themselves.

To summarise, The God Of The Gaps Fallacy Fallacy is one argument we really need to drop. We’ve been arguing this point for decades and have gained no ground. If anything, it’s made the faithful even more firm in their convictions. And it reinforces the stereotype of the hard-hearted, uncaring, dogmatic atheist. We need to stop picking fights that we’ll never win. It’s not a betrayal of principles; we spend much of our time firming them up and confirming our convictions anyway! If the faithful can hold such stock in their stories in the event of conflicting evidence, why can’t we trust in what we know to be fact?

 

TWO MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT

 

This post isn’t about global Armageddon, so I’m sorry to disappoint if that was what you were looking for.  No, this is about my adventures on New Year’s Eve, in one of the closest “cutting it so fine as to be graphene-thick” moments I’ve ever had.

My OCD got the better of me, and I was stuck in a loop of complete inertia.  I needed to complete my chores to perfection, but knew that it wasn’t possible.  And so I collapsed into a mess of mental compulsions and avoidance.

Who else remembers ‘Allo ‘Allo?
I had been invited to a close friend’s New Year’s party, and there are certain expectations that one will be present at the required time.  Well I tried to hard to leave my pit of procrastination, and finally summoned the energy at 2330.  I got in a taxi at 2337, and had a lovely chat with my driver, who was quite pleased that I’d chosen him, as my route took him to near his home – so he could look in on his family just after 12 (I love beautiful coincidences like this).  Trouble is, neither him nor my friend live particularly near to me, so this was literally going to be a race against the clock.

Let’s just say that the driver got me there rather, ahem, efficiently.  I wasn’t keeping my eye on the speed, but it felt an awful lot like the 88 mph needed to transport me to the correct dimension to wish a happy new year to my mates.  Regular text updates on my location were sent en route, and Google’s ETA fluctuated between 2359 and 0002.  I was going to miss it.

But no.  I rang ahead as we turned on to my friend’s road, and I was greeted at the front door with a glass of prosecco and ushered in to the kitchen just in time for the obligatory snog and Auld Lang Syne. 2358.  Two minutes to midnight.

 

F*CK YOU, DELIVEROO.

 

I’ve voiced my dissatisfaction with Deliveroo before, but this is a rather more serious point than my light-hearted jibe at their crap adverts.

I was out on Christmas Eve, heading over to The Boy’s flat for takeaway, wine, and nerdery, and I was Absolutely Bloody Fuming to have witnessed a transgression of the Highway Code that I felt I Should Do Something.  If you’ve ever been in the car with me, you’ll know that my expectations of other drivers are exacting, and that my driving style is akin to that of Kenneth Noye.

I was using a pedestrian crossing, and waiting for the green man to appear as I had been instructed to do in my early years, and as We Should All Do (Rules 7 to 25 of the Highway Code).  The much-awaited green man revealed himself, traffic approaching the crossing stopped, and about 30 of us (I live in the city centre; there’s rarely a time when it is not busy) stepped out, to continue our business on the other side.

Out of nowhere, a Deliveroo driver on a scooter shot through the red light, which had been that way for a good five seconds.  He performed an emergency stop, but still hit someone, with whom he remonstrated for a minute or so before getting back on his round (so, fortunately, it wasn’t a serious collision).  I was incensed that a fellow road user could be so inconsiderate and downright dangerous, so I put my Good Citizen Hat on and recorded the vehicle’s registration number.  I was all ready to report it to the local fuzz and the Council’s licensing authority, but then I Calmed The F*ck Down, gained some perspective, and decided to conveniently erase what I had seen from my memory.

See, I know that a) it’s not easy working in the Gig Economy, and b) that gentlemen will be lucky to be earning the minimum wage, let alone a living one.  Did I really want to get him into trouble and plunge him into an even worse state of poverty?  Even worse, he probably needs to risk his life and license in order to complete all the drops he needs to, to put food on the table.

And a bigger question, to which I do not know the answer – is it ethical for me to use services like Deliveroo and Uber, where it has been well-documented that their workers are getting a substandard deal?  I mean, people do want to work for these companies, and without this questionable means of running a business, those people would be without jobs.  But in using their services, I’m helping to keep things the way they are.  We could have even had the same driver for our takeaway that night.  At least we left them a tip – seriously, everyone, look after your delivery and taxi drivers.  They do a difficult and poorly-paid job, and they are the grease that keeps society’s wheels turning.

It’s complicated, and I don’t know what the answer is.  While I can stay informed on consumer & human rights issues, there is only so much I can actually do to reduce harm.  Hell, living in the West, you’re still shitting on someone else even if you go off-grid and live in a sodding yurt.  How about we start a conversation in the comments?

FROM D.O.A. TO D.O.I.

 

I’ve been struggling with keeping on top of my research of late; my health’s not been brilliant, and I’ve had a lot of projects to get done in the run up to the end of the year.  I only officially handed in my end-of-year-one report the Monday before Christmas (it was a whole three years in the making), and I was worried that I might drop out, but also really sick of the whole damn thing.  While my ability to get the job done has been massively impacted by external factors, I found the literature review component of my studies to be a real drag.  I know how important it is to assess the present state of research and knowledge, so that I will have a firm foundation upon which to build.  But I really wanted to skip that bit and jump into the independent research stage!

Honestly, I don’t know if anyone else is quite as excited about transferring into the second year of a Ph.D as me, but I’m sure that with this level of new-found enthusiasm, nothing could possibly go wrong (extremities crossed!).  And now the fun stuff really starts.  And I’ve had a few very exciting things happen to keep my interest buoyed:

  • I submitted abstracts to two more conferences, and so far have had one accepted;
  • I’m assembling the structure of my first research paper;
  • And I published a referenceable work and created my first, proper, academic research profile!

If you’re a seasoned academic, you’ll see that these are just baby steps.  I am a curious toddler in a world full of adults.  But my childlike excitement for novelty is my gift – I’m in awe of what’s been achieved before me, and of what I can achieve in my research career.

You can find my ResearchGate profile here, and my first published work (originally created in June 2016) here.

 

SELF-WORTH

 

This isn’t a confidence-boosting, self-help load of waffle.  This is actually about something totally wrong-headed I heard from an acquaintance with, uh, clearly different aspirations to me.

More than a difference of opinion, this is about some seriously harmful and life-limiting stereotypes that are still with us even in the 21st Century.  Worryingly, this is just one occasion of many that I’ve heard a variation on this theme, and there seem to be social penalties for those who don’t comply.

So I was on my way to the water cooler, when I happened upon two colleagues discussing marriage (not to each other, but I have no problems with that – more in a future post).  These two individuals were a younger woman (late 20s-ish), and an older gentleman, with, ahem, traditional views.  The younger woman was engaged, but not looking to get married and have children just yet.  You might not agree with that attitude (it doesn’t entirely align with my thoughts), but that’s what she wants, and what she’s getting in her present relationship.  Good for her.

And literally everything that was said after this point was a cringe-inducing train wreck of a conversation.  So the older chap suggests that:

  1. She should hurry up and get married because all men are commitment-phobes (I will address the myriad contentions I have with this idea below, but for now let’s just celebrate that at least this guy is an equal-opportunities sexist)
  2. [I feel it necessary to point out here that these were his actual words, because this is just such a bizarre phrase to actually come out of someone’s mouth]  “A person hasn’t achieved anything in life until they’ve had children” (he literally said this, and again, detailed analysis of the blindingly obvious to follow below).

And then he starts to engage me in the conversation.  Now there are some people that I work with that I can be my passionate, political and skeptical self with.  This guy is not one of them.  But seriously, I’m not going to keep my mouth shut about this.

WEIRD BLOKE: “Don’t you agree, Science Lady, that our sole purpose is to pass on our genetic material?”

SCIENCE LADY: “Um, no, actually.  There are plenty of ways to live a meaningful life.”

WEIRD BLOKE: “But you’ve already achieved things with your offspring, haven’t you?”

[here I need to point out that for numerous reasons I do not talk about my children at work.  This guy knows it’s something I consider inappropriate, but decorum certainly isn’t his strong suit]

SCIENCE LADY: “It’s complicated.  I don’t like to talk about it.”

WEIRD BLOKE: “But you know, you’ve fulfilled your purpose in life.”

SCIENCE LADY: “I have lots of things to live for, and not everyone wants to be a parent.  Many people choose not to, or are unable to have kids.  And they provide a valuable role as caretakers.  If everyone is focused on nurturing children at the expense of everything else, how can we develop as a society?”

[older gentleman looks aghast]

WEIRD BLOKE: “I don’t know what you mean.”

SCIENCE LADY: “We need other people to perform tasks that benefit the community, so that the whole environment provides suitable conditions for children to flourish.  And for some people, that’s a role they’re better suited to than parenthood.”

WEIRD BLOKE: “Oh, well I think you’re wrong.”

[awkward silence]

So that was depressing.  It’s amazing what things you learn about the beliefs of others when they let their guard down.  Anyway, time for some Grade-A ranting:

  1. So men are all commitment-phobic? Well, that’s not true, although men may generally have different requirements for wishing to settle down that don’t match those of many women, thereby creating this impression.  I also think it’s a lot to do with maturity, and the notion that other things in a man’s life need to be sorted before he allows himself to be vulnerable.  And the unrealistic ideals society has about relationships (oooh, another post on this, too!).
  2. It doesn’t really say good things about him, given that he’s saying how fickle his own gender is. Doesn’t matter if he’s repeating society’s lie, it’s still bullshit.
  3. This young woman is clearly happy in her relationship choice, and she doesn’t need some weird bloke telling her that she should do it differently.
  4. If someone is living with a person, and they’re engaged to be married, there is a certain amount of commitment inherent in that situation.
  5. While I have “passed on my genetic material” (could we make it sound any more clinical?), I have many ambitions, dreams, and goals. I want to be successful, to be remembered as a contributor to society, to enhance the lives of others who aren’t necessarily blood relatives.
  6. Unfortunately, having children does pose some restrictions on one’s life, especially in a society that still leaves most of the child-rearing burden on one parent. And many people don’t like kids, don’t want the responsibility, and just want something else from life.  They don’t need anyone’s approval or opinions on whether their lifestyle is valid.
  7. Some people are unable to have children, for a huge variety of reasons. Some of them are OK with that; many of them aren’t.  Attaching moral value to a distressing situation that cannot be resolved is cruel and simplistic.
  8. The world has 7 billion inhabitants and rising at the time of writing this. Numerous studies have demonstrated that there are too many of us, consuming resources at too great a pace, for the planet to be able to support us.  Of course many people will want to have children of their own, but forcing people down this route is slowly killing us all (have a great day, but don’t forget the ever-looming reminder of your own mortality!).
  9. This statement shows that this individual views the child-free as less worthy. You may think, “oh, well that’s just one individual’s bigoted opinion”, but there is evidence that those who choose to stay single and/or childless are seen as less mature, stable, and with lower status (Career-wise, not having children penalises men, and having children disadvantages women. Talk about a zero-sum game.).
  10. Women in particular are the recipients of an inordinate amount of questioning regarding the status of their reproductive organs. Not only is this intrusive and downright inappropriate, the sexist expectation that all women are incubators-in-waiting needs to be sent back to the 1800s.

So that was my Tuesday.  Let’s see what pisses me off tomorrow!

WHAT ABOUT THE MEN PART 3: THE DIET COKE EFFECT

 

Who remembers the Diet Coke advert with a bunch of female office workers ogling a shirtless site worker? <pssst… it’s 11.30>  At the time, it was a pretty funny ad, subverting the idea that women’s bodies are visual currency for men.  It made its point, and was a wildly popular ad, but it was 20 years ago, and the world has moved on since then – or has it?

Some of the women I work with speak about men in the same way; like they are objects on display for our entertainment.  It’s worse when its about colleagues of ours – it makes me cringe.  I work around the corner from The Birdcage – which I would like to visit, but not for this – which regularly has male strip shows with “Full Monty Guaranteed!”.  Call me a prude (ha, ironically maybe), but I think it’s rather distasteful.  Not to mention that the hairless, chiselled male bodies that we’re supposed to find attractive, look like children to my sex brain.  Ew.

When men speak of women in this way, they are rightly criticised.  But in 2016, it’s apparently OK for women to treat the other half of the human race like pieces of meat.  Sure, it seemed empowering 20 years ago, but it’s just embarrassing now.  There’s hypocrisy in that the same people who salivate over male bodies would get angry at men doing the same to women.  But there’s a worse hypocrisy; that I’m scared to call people on it because this is a socially accepted behaviour – and I’d be the weirdo for complaining.  I don’t feel that it damages men as a whole, sexism still has a disproportionately worse impact on women, but it does affect the way individuals see the world, and how they behave in relationships.  It’s toxic for the ogler, and for the ogl-ee.

Here’s a cheerful article on the rise of eating disorders among men.  It’s far more common than we had allowed ourselves to think.  I’d love it for gender equality to not be a race to the bottom where everyone is marginalised to an equivalent degree – we can do so much better than this.

 

THIS IS PLANET EARTH

 

Tonight I just caught the end of Planet Earth II – the last one in the series, as it happens.  It was about how various species have adapted to life in the cities that humans have created.  I switched on at the bit with hyenas that coexist with humans in Harar, Ethiopia, and watched right through to the end with Hawksbill Turtles crossing the road in Barbados.

The trouble with the Hawksbill Turtles is that when they hatch (which is at night), they need to head towards the sea, like, right away.  And how do they find the sea?  They follow the big, bright light in the sky because that signifies the Moon’s reflection off of the sea.  Unfortunately for them, humans have developed technologies that really screw with the hatchlings’ sense of direction.  Towns on the shore are full of bright lights that outshine the Moon, and so the turtles head away from the sea and into the towns.  Of those that do make it to the sea, only 1 in 1000 will grow to adulthood.  The odds aren’t looking great for the Hawksbill Turtles.

But back to the ill-fated wanderers.  Off they go on their journey towards what they must think of as the bestest, brightest, mega-moon evaaaaarrrrrrrrrrr!  And there are many hazards on the way.  Some disorientated turtles fall prey to hungry shore crabs, some slip into storm drains and can’t get out, and others get run over on the busy roads.  I’m not sure what happens to any of them that survive this turtle-themed Tough Mudder, but given that they need to make it to the sea to survive, it doesn’t look great.

But it’s not all bad!  Conservationists on the beaches of Barbados go out at night to rescue lost turtles and plop them back in the sea, as illustrated in this video.

Yay!  The heart-warming responses to BBC Earth’s tweets about this are testament to the Awesome Feels this engenders in the viewing public.  This time I haven’t concealed names to protect the guilty, as everyone in this public Twitter exchange is remarkably well-behaved:

But I’m not sure if this is the correct thing to do.  Watching this, I was reminded of the results of a well-intentioned intervention by humans on the nesting behaviour of black robins.  My party-pooping-self dropped a Devil’s Advocacy bomb on the Twitter love-in:

not one to mince my words The article I linked to (link reproduced below also) described how researchers in New Zealand noticed that some black robin females would lay eggs around the rim of the nest, leaving them less likely to be properly incubated.  The contents of these eggs would die.  And so conservationists would push these eggs back towards the centre of the nest to give them a chance of survival.  It was a huge success; more black robins were born and survived as a result of their intervention.  However, there was a catch: the offspring arising from the intervention would be more likely to lay their eggs around the edge of the nest.  The conservationists had inadvertently retained a trait in the species that would have been bred out due to natural selection.

The Road To Extinction Is Paved With Good Intentions

I wonder if that could be happening here – are we killing the species with kindness?  I’m not a biologist, so my expertise in this area is rather limited.  But it sounds like a similar scenario. Can anyone advise? Leave me a comment below!