Heather E Heying Profile picture
Evolutionary biologist. Seeker and communicator of truths. Visiting Fellow at Princeton. Spends time in the Amazon. Rhymes with flying.
Merrill Holt Profile picture Hecate's Crossroad #QVArmy Profile picture Chris Brown Profile picture Ꮢ Profile picture kiddphunk Profile picture 26 added to My Authors
13 Apr
Ignorance, arrogance, and the wielding of credentials to shut down discourse: a triple threat.

When these three characteristics show up in one place, I feel a responsibility to at least slow the spread of misinformation. Here we go. [thread 1/26]
We are all ignorant of some things. Ignorance should be forgiven. 2/
Add arrogance and you have a problem brewing: an undeservedly confident tone that spews garbage will be confusing to some people, people who do not deserve to be confused by the ignorant, arrogant person in their feed. 3/
Read 26 tweets
2 Apr
@GodflyThe @JenelopeJohnson @maxrenke @SadLittleKobold I don’t tend to do remedial evolution on Twitter. But since you say you are an evolutionary geneticist, I’ll make an exception. I’ll go slow, since you seem to have missed a lot already. Consider it a public service. [thread 1/14]
@GodflyThe @JenelopeJohnson @maxrenke @SadLittleKobold This is an evolutionary tree. Some branches display parts of history that we never inhabited. One of those branches on this tree, for instance, terminates in the taxon called “orangutan”. We were never orangutans. But we were—and still are—apes. As are orangutans. 2/
@GodflyThe @JenelopeJohnson @maxrenke @SadLittleKobold (Tree thinking—really grasping what phylogenetic trees are conveying, and what they are not—takes some time, but turns out to be necessary if you are to grok lineage level thinking, and macroevolutionary concepts like synapomorphy, homology, monophyly, etc.) 3/
Read 14 tweets
18 Mar
The mainstream narrative on the search for SARS-Cov2 origins reads like the dystopian endgame of a postmodern world. It’s anti-scientific, anti-reason, and anti-human. Humanity can do better, and we must. [thread 1/12]
wsj.com/articles/who-c…
The WHO’s verdict on SARS-CoV2 origins was arrived at by a show of hands, an informal vote in which how individuals voted was visible to all.

Guess what, though. Reality doesn’t care about democratic norms. Reality is what it is, regardless of what people think about it. 2/
“The team members said they didn’t have the mandate, expertise and access to investigate a potential lab leak.”

My god. And then they voted on whether lab leak was a plausible explanation for the origin of SARS-CoV2 in a show of hands in front of their Chinese counterparts. 3/
Read 12 tweets
21 Feb
I had a conversation with Meghan Murphy on science, and SARS-CoV2, and feminism, and sex and gender, and more. Meghan Murphy was booted from twitter for the 21st century crime of stating the obvious. She’s still on YouTube, which is good for all of us.
I made two errors of (biological) fact in this conversation. I’m not going to say here what they are. If you watch and you think you spot them, let me know!
Privately, I've heard from a few people as to what the two "errors of (biological) fact" might be, but since twitter is apparently not like a classroom in which patience can be inculcated, I will state the errors here:
Read 4 tweets
16 Feb
On top of the global pandemic, Portland, Oregon had months of protests & riots; 10 days of wildfires that gave us the planet’s worst air quality; and now this: snow and ice storms that wiped out power *and* cell service for a huge number of us. (Portland is under all the red.)
Earlier, I was out walking the dog in the deep icy slush as an explosive melt kicked in: The sun broke through, and days of accumulated ice loosened, breaking off trees, shattering on the ground like porcelain , crystalline ice casting shard-shadows.
I spoke to many strangers, all out in the strangest conditions many of us had ever seen, marveling at what we saw. Many roads were blocked by branches and trees. I carried the dog over a downed power line. One man said, “I thought 2020 was bad. But here we are: apocalypse.”
Read 4 tweets
4 Feb
Attacks on women in sports are showing up at the federal level.

These erasures are discriminatory, harmful, and unscientific. Here’s why ⬇️
FACT ONE: Trans girls are natal boys.

MYTH: Sex is not binary.
Gametes reveal our sex. Going through development as a male permanently changes your body, and provides advantages in strength, speed, and power.
Variation within categories does not render the categories invalid.
FACT TWO: Trans athletes have an unfair advantage in sports.

Variation is a feature of complex systems. The fact that some female athletes perform as well or better than some trans athletes is not evidence of your point. Take some statistics, do better, and stop gaslighting us.
Read 12 tweets
31 Jan
You all ready? Here we go.

Science doesn’t work by fiat, or by forced, fabricated consensus.

That consensus that you see before you? It’s a mirage. It’s a farce.

Science embraces all hypotheses, and says: let me at ‘em. [thread 1/30]
Science does not require a lab coat, or fancy tech, or a big grant. Having a credential and using an authoritarian tone are *useful* for tamping down dissent, but “useful” and “truth-seeking” aren’t always the same, are they now? 2/
.@BretWeinstein & I have the credentials—evolutionary processes are central to zoonotic disease *and* gain-of-function research. But we lack the perverse incentives that might keep us quiet. Refusing to be bullied into a canoe turns out to be freeing. 3/
Read 30 tweets
13 Jan
All of us are capable of beauty, grace & strength, and also of ugliness, spite & weakness. We make brilliant decisions, and bad ones. Sometimes we follow when we should lead in a different direction. Sometimes we conform so as not to feel alone. At our best, we forgive. [thread]
Here are three amazing pieces relevant to this moment, insightful and deep and enjoyable to read. They do not ask you to suffer for your sins, or to turn in your neighbors. They invite you to think, by offering observation and interpretation, and letting you go from there.
.@walterkirn writes of the “liberal switch from skepticism to sanctimony about the most powerful arms of the Establishment” and of “liberal puritanism…fears that the wrong sort of people might be happy, or that their happiness might be of the wrong kind.”
harpers.org/archive/2018/0…
Read 6 tweets
6 Dec 20
Here are a few cool things. Viewers of the DarkHorse podcast will be familiar with some: DarkHorse merch, an arts & culture magazine, perfume, some books. Gift ideas, if you will. [thread]

Your algorithm’s no good here—a recurring theme on the podcast.
teespring.com/your-algorithm…
Root Quarterly is a gorgeous, high-production arts and culture magazine based in Philadelphia—from journalism to poetry, politics to food, it is a joy to read, and to have in your hands.
rootquarterly.com
At the end of #DarkHorseLive53, I read (hilarious) perfume reviews from Turin & Sanchez’s “Perfumes: The Guide.” Soon thereafter, I became aware of Possetts Perfumes, which makes entirely hand-blended, original perfume. This is art, and affordable too.
possets.com
Read 4 tweets
3 Nov 20
Preparing good food for and with loved ones is a blessing. Image
Update #1: Zack reports that the onions are sad. Image
Update #2: Toby finds the lemons juicier than expected. Image
Read 7 tweets
2 Nov 20
A vote is not a valentine.

It seems that we differ, more publicly and more virulently, in our politics, than we ever have before. We are imagining the worst in each other. Fueled by anger and tribalism, we conflate disagreement with an idea, with dislike for a person. [1/11]
I didn’t vote for Trump, although to my surprise, I did consider it this year. I also didn’t vote for Biden. Both have disastrous potential. Many on the left see imminent threats from our own side. For having this opinion, we are called blind, racist, traitors, fascists, more. 2/
In 1992, riots erupted in Los Angeles, after Rodney King was beaten on camera by police officers, and a jury then acquitted the officers of assault. In the midst of those riots, Rodney King famously asked, “Can we all get along?” 3/
Read 11 tweets
6 Oct 20
On this day I am grateful. I am grateful for all the usual—love & partnership, home & hearth, the prospect of adventures to come.

Today I am also grateful for the moon, waning, high in the sky on a blue sky morning. And a grassy hill, with one tree, in whose shade I can sit. 1/4
I am grateful for a perfectly brewed cappuccino from a café that also sells art, the walls lined with beauty, the owner wondering how to proceed in these strange times, told that her efforts are noticed, appreciated. 2/4
I am grateful for the sounds of activity and connection, traveling up the air of this park where I sit: the scrape of a skateboard on concrete, the pop of tennis balls against racquets; the romping of dogs playing. 3/4
Read 4 tweets
30 Sep 20
Here are three conversations that brought me hope, laughter, and depth of understanding. Six outstanding humans sharing thoughts about childhood, language, society, what is coming and what to do now. The common theme: all six are unflinching.

What a gift.
From two of my favorite people: @FreeRangeKids talked with @meghan_daum on her terrific new podcast, @TheUnspeakPod (and I’m not just saying that because I was lucky to be Meghan’s first guest):
theunspeakablepodcast.podbean.com/e/how-to-let-y…
The always surprising @JohnHMcWhorter in conversation with @SamHarrisOrg is something to behold. This conversation felt audacious, and audacity is exactly what we need now.
samharris.org/subscriber-ext…
Read 4 tweets
24 Jun 20
“Men menstruate. Some have even given birth.” If you disagree, you are “attacking trans lives,” and likely one of those deplorables who support Trump.

I’m no Trump supporter, just a biologist who knows that this “new trans reality” is a dangerous fiction.
nytimes.com/2020/06/23/opi…
“The only difference between a trans woman and a cisgender woman is the sex assigned to her at birth.”

No. Really not.

Most people know this is flat out wrong.

Most people who hear this nod abjectly, eyes averted, hoping this will pass by and leave them intact.
Again, no.

The vast majority of us who call bullshit on reality-denial are not “anti-trans.”

Nature is not anarchic re: sex. We have 2 types of gametes, by which we sexually reproduce. Small and mobile -> sperm -> male. Large and sessile -> egg -> female. Where’s the anarchy? Image
Read 5 tweets
17 Jun 20
This is how it’s done.

Proclaim something to be true that is patently not. Do not mock those who disagree. Not yet. Instead, ask them, with sadness in your eyes, why you cannot just be generous and kind.

If they resist, shame them. (1/12)
nytimes.com/2020/06/16/mov…
Most people will roll their eyes and move on. At first.

But after repeated exposure to the thing-that-is-proclaimed-to-be-true-that-patently-is-not, some will begin to question their understanding of reality. Now you make your next move. 2/
Most people have an inadequate knowledge of biology (and other manifestations of reality), and know this. When pushed to the limits of what they are sure of, they may entrench (“er, no, men and women are different…?”) or they may cede small points. 3/
Read 12 tweets
8 Jun 20
Totalitarianism always flies in on the wings of beautiful ideals.

It lands gently, flatters you and charms you, makes you feel smart for recognizing how beautiful it is.

Do not be fooled. It is dangerous. Those ideals? They are not what they seem. (1/23)
Democracy’s ability to reveal value depends on its members being able to freely decide what they think, and what they say. 2/
How do we assess truth, and how do we assess value?

The “naturalistic fallacy” reminds us that that which *is* true (e.g. in nature) is not inherently that which *ought* to be true. Truth and value are, therefore, distinct and unique. 3/
Read 23 tweets
7 Jun 20
I thought “safe spaces” were necessary to protect the sensitive ears, hearts and minds of the youth from ideas they find troubling. Why is discomfort only laudable when it’s other people being uncomfortable? (thread 1/5)
Pandering to the mob is a big part of what’s wrong with the democrats now.

The quote above is from Hillary Clinton’s new essay, in which she condemns racism. #SoBrave 2/
medium.com/@HillaryClinto…
In her essay, Clinton aptly recommends fiction by Alice Walker and Toni Morrison. Yes. These are exquisite writers, who have written excellent books, and we can all learn from them. 3/
Read 6 tweets
6 May 20
Thank you for this measured critique.

I am still on the left, politically, despite seeing many gnawing and growing problems among others on the left, because my political positions are not inherently social positions. 1/11
By this I mean: My thinking doesn’t change because some people who claim to be in my political neighborhood are inane, or worse. It also doesn’t inherently change because the beliefs and actions of those people (whom I disagree with) are ascendant, and causing harm. 2/
I *do* feel that it is my responsibility to point out the dangers of this style of thinking, though. Some people read those critiques as evidence that I am not in fact on the left (as if ideological conformity is either honorable or recommended in a free-thinking populace). 3/
Read 11 tweets
6 May 20
Garter snakes fail social distancing. News at 11.

(A snake thread in 18 parts)
sciencemag.org/news/2020/05/g…
Snakes are more social than we think. These snakes aren’t merely aggregating—clustering together for warmth or protection against predators—but actually returning to be with the same individuals, time and again. 2/
…nk-springer-com.ezproxy.princeton.edu/content/pdf/10…
So given that snakes like to hang out with the same snakes all the time—they’re expert at “sheltering in place”—how do you figure out what their preferences are?

You “shuffle” the snakes, and watch them return to their preferred social groups.

Snake shuffling for the win. 3/
Read 18 tweets
5 May 20
A workplace pressuring employees to include pronouns in their email signatures is a 21st century form of loyalty oath.

Loyalty oaths are used to control a population, and to expose dissenters. They are not honorable, regardless of what the oath is about. (Thread: 1/8)
At his 1871 inauguration as president of the University of Michigan, James B. Angell, widely credited with transforming UofM into an elite public institution, said this:

An institution should “never insist on [the faculty] pronouncing the shibboleths of sect or party.” 2/
And yet insisting that people pronounce the shibboleths of the new orthodoxy is exactly what is happening, both on-campus and off. The presence or absence of pronouns in email signatures, and in twitter bios, has become an easy tell: woke or not? 3/
Read 8 tweets
3 May 20
Terrific article from @strauss_matt.

“In the absence of experiment, my bias will remain towards a minimalist approach.” This seems a very close match for “First, do no harm,” and also for the Precautionary Principle. (a thread, 1/10)

spectator.co.uk/article/ventil…
Both @strauss_matt’s and Dr. Kyle-Sidell’s critiques of treating COVID-19 patients with ventilators contain, so far as I (not a medical doctor) can tell, at least two distinct branches:

1.Are ventilators appropriate to treat ARDS?
2.Is this ARDS? 2/
The second question itself raises further questions, including: Is ARDS (Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome) a single syndrome, with one set of symptoms and causes, or is it a “catch-all” category of respiratory ailments, which may or may not have a common etiology? 3/
Read 10 tweets