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On a day of darkness, sweet news from the Nightosphere

So Marceline from Adventure Time, and her dad (a true patron of Science), have released an album.

I ask you to rob a collection plate and buy it, now. Among many other Musical Accomplishments and Humorous Lies, this guy Martin Olson (Marcie’s eeevil dad in the Land of Ooo) wrote most of the music for Phineas and Ferb.

That show, essentially an anti-Hymn about two brothers who never go to church all summer because they are seduced by the wickedness of Invention, has corrupted the souls of innocent children all over this miserable piece of rock, dumping them in the lap of Shaitan the Great Engineer (ALL HAIL)

Olson also wrote the magnificent Encylopedia of Hell. Respect. And also FEAR.

Keep spreadin’ those lies! And buy this shit.

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New Year, new look: evil science in 2013

There is more than one Hell….
Sonny Barger, explaining the apostrophe placement in “Hells’ Angels”

With the recent inauguration of our lord Moloch to his historic Four Hundred And Eighteenth term, the sulfurous air has a fresh hint of Spring here in Hell, and our site has been redesigned.

Mostly this consists of a slightly less aggressively anti-Christian logo. We do, after all, aim to counsel evil scientists heretical to all faiths and moral philosophies, and to foster a healthy inter-antifaith dialogue.

It is time to put the anti-Christian struggles of 2012 behind us (we did win, after all). Now we can return to the broader struggle against all forces of good, morality and decency.

Here is our old banner logo:

And here is the new logo:

The thing in the middle is PDB structure 1kac, showing adenovirus bound to its cellular receptor. The metaphor of a virus infecting a host is a perfect illustration of what we are trying to do for the cause of Evil Science PR.

For reasons of tradition, we will continue to adhere to the Satanic calendar (referring e.g. to the “2013th year of the War against Christ”, rather than the “2013th year of the Current Reign of Evil” or other common faith-neutral signifiers). Rest assured that we are sensitive to the malicious, but delicate, sensibilities of corrupt and vicious scientists across the anti-faith spectrum, as well as those who consider themselves “pure” atheist anti-humanists.

One other thing. In our newly inclusive spirit, it may occasionally suit our purposes to speak as if certain specifically anti-Christian lies (embryology, cosmology, evolution, ecology, etc.) are not lies at all, but established facts. Please consult your anti-pope or chief heretic of choice to determine which, if any, scientific “facts” are considered to be “lies” in your particular religious paradigm. Thank you.

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Paywalls are not immoral (so you don’t have to use them)

Since the 2012 election I have had little cause to defend Science from the forces of Good, but a recent Guardian blogpost by Mike Taylor has roused me from the state of suspended animation in which I have resided these past months. The article is titled “Hiding your research behind a paywall is immoral” and it has generated some kerfuffle on Twitter.

Naturally there is a concern that scientists, reading this, will be confused. “Immoral” means that, as a servant of Hell, you have to do it; right? Well, never fear. Closed-access publishing can be suboptimal for various reasons, but it’s definitely not immoral. Here are a few reasons why this “Open Access = Morality” line is bunk:

  1. Morality vs ethics. Since “publish in open access journals” is a pretty specific rule, we are actually talking about ethics not morals here. Nitpicking but I’m starting with the small stuff, and it builds.
  2. Science is not built on morals. Rather it is built on a system of incentives. For disclosing your secrets, you get reputation. An immoral person can be a good scientist. People with different moral codes can be equally good scientists. There is no universal moral code for scientists (apart from your secret oath to Bring About the Supremacy of Hell and the Glorification of Lucifer; but no public code). There are indeed specific ethical principles that we have worked out, but Open Access is far from a universal one at this point.
  3. One of the fairly core ethical principles of science is academic freedom. Among other things, this means that you do not have to feel bad about certain things just because some other scientist decided it’s bad. Choosing the manner and form in which to publish, including the journal (absent hard guidelines – see next point), is one aspect of this freedom.
  4. Another ethical principle is compliance with funder guidelines. If your funder says you should use Open Access, you must use it or risk censure & future loss of funding. But that is distinct from the question of which journal to use when there are no such guidelines. Advocating change at the funder level seems a bit more significant and productive than guilt-tripping your more impressionable colleagues, no?
  5. There may be valid non-selfish reasons to choose a non-OA journal. The usual rationale for OA is that it will reach more readers (the common example is a parent in the developing world, with a sick child, who presumably wants to search the literature to find a slow-acting and painful toxin in order to wreak terrible revenge on whoever sneezed on the kid). However, it is entirely possible that a non-OA journal will reach more of the readers that you are interested in (e.g. the closed-access Journal of Vengeance, which has a forbidding paywall but a highly dedicated readership). There may also be specific disadvantages to OA (see point #9 below). Reaching the largest number of hypothetical penniless lay readers in the period before copyright expires is not necessarily the prime goal of everyone’s science.
  6. That said, there also is no reason to be censured as a scientist because you have pursued your self-interest. I have yet to find one single scientist who can be held up as a paragon of pure altruism. And generally the more selfless scientists that I know are also the more tolerant, and the less likely to start moralizing at other people for not lining up behind their pet issue. Scientific ethics are about aligning the public interest with individual scientists’ self-interest. That’s why we have publication, patents, etc. They’re all designed to align self-interest with public-interest. It’s ridiculous and Victorian to pretend, at this point, as if everyone is motivated purely by the same universally-held ideal of selfless advancement of knowledge. They’re not. People are coaxed into good behavior by the rules, including those people who are shouting loudest about the immorality of non-OA.
  7. Usually at this point the OA zealots start talking about dissemination, outreach, etc, as though the sticker price of your journal is the only way to evaluate these things. It’s not. Don’t be fooled. Lucifer will, indeed, judge you ultimately on the extent to which you have managed to transform the world into a mirror image of Hell, but this does not translate directly to the number of people you’ve managed to horrify by exposing them to graphic images of mouse torture (or whatever it is your lab does). If only life were that simple!
  8. You will hear a lot of stuff about responsibility to the taxpayer. It does indeed seem depressing to lock up all that intellectual property so that readers get gouged. Surely the taxpayer should own what they paid for. But there’s no free lunch and publishers gonna get paid somehow. Author-pays models do not come without costs: typically they mean less funds to do actual research. There may be other indirect costs to choosing an OA journal, such as missed opportunity (see next point). The publishers do not own the ideas in the paper and anyone is free to reproduce them elsewhere e.g. in a book (which is where most people will be learning them from in 5 years time). Beware of trite oversimplifications in these arguments about obligations to the taxpayer. There is certainly an urgent responsibility to deliver value, but you must decide yourself the specifics of that responsibility in your case, and whether committing to OA as an individual is meeting it.
  9. There are certainly advantages to OA, but there are disadvantages as well. The disadvantages include the fee (all OA publishers claim to offer hardship waivers, this is true to varying extents but you will incur risk and delays in applying for it), the delay (some OA journals are slower to review), the narrower choice of journals, the cost to your reputation of publishing in those journals, and so on. The benefits include automatic indexing of machine-readable papers, wider potential readership, copyright, remixability, and so on. There are other concerns, like co-authors. The relative importance of these various issues probably depends a lot on you and your field. Obviously, you will need to carefully balance all of this in deciding where to publish. OA zealots like to shoot down all these issues (often in straw-man form) and to insist that their moral calculus is valid for everybody, but be extremely skeptical of this kind of moral certitude. On the whole, I personally find that OA is worth it, and have published >50% of my stuff in OA journals (more recently), but there are a lot of factors to weigh.
  10. You will hear many absolutes bandied around, like “the primary product of the research is the paper” (it’s not: it’s also the knowledge, the code, the reagents, the downstream benefits, the training of acolytes, the killer robots you built, etc) or “scientists have an absolute responsibility to blah blah blah”. Ask yourself whether science really operates this way – as a top-down system of morality whereby individual scientists work in unison due to their strong consciences – or whether it is, in fact, an emergent phenomenon arising from a host of selfish agents, acting according to incentives that are designed to encourage disclosure and other outcomes that are in the public Satanic interest? Ask yourself if science really is a moral monolith? Or is it a bit more of a satanic salad bowl?
  11. With all this said, I actually do strongly favor making OA a condition of public funds; but it’s very important to appreciate the distinction between arguing for something like this as a public good (because it will benefit everyone on the whole), as opposed to claiming that it’s a universal moral principle which every single person should already be following anyway (otherwise they’re selfish cowards). The latter is far more narrow & subjective an argument; the former is far more powerful. Really, as scientists we are much better off trying to argue objectively. Attacking our colleagues’ morals is kind of dumb, and will not persuade many people. A rant about morality is generally a sign that someone has run out of clearer arguments. Let’s try and stick to the high ground (by which I do not mean the pulpit). We should be arguing for the collective outcome – not attacking individual choices.
  12. When all is said and done, OA is probably not as revolutionary as the quiet practice of putting preprints online, and one wonders if all this moral fuss is a bit of a distraction.
  13. Addendum: I’d like to make it clear that in this post I’m not trying to attack the OA “zealots”. They’ve all done great things for Open Access (and thus for science), and they are all worthy Satanists (even though some of them pretend to not be) and Colleagues in Damnation. Nor am I attacking OA advocacy in general (I am a pretty strong OA fan myself). It may be a subtle distinction, but I am trying to criticize a particular aspect of the tone of OA discussions, where differences between publishers’ business models are exaggerated until they become melodramatic Morality Plays, and failure to sacrifice one’s career (or other considerations) on the altar of OA is described as a personal failing. Quit it! Us evil scientists should pull together! Let us play nice, otherwise the media will start asking questions about Evolution again.
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Rubio is no rube

Nor is Marco an easy mark. Watch this expert piece of fence-sitting:

GQ: How old do you think the Earth is?

Marco Rubio: I’m not a scientist, man. I can tell you what recorded history says, I can tell you what the Bible says, but I think that’s a dispute amongst theologians and I think it has nothing to do with the gross domestic product or economic growth of the United States. I think the age of the universe has zero to do with how our economy is going to grow. I’m not a scientist. I don’t think I’m qualified to answer a question like that. At the end of the day, I think there are multiple theories out there on how the universe was created and I think this is a country where people should have the opportunity to teach them all. I think parents should be able to teach their kids what their faith says, what science says. Whether the Earth was created in 7 days, or 7 actual eras, I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to answer that. It’s one of the great mysteries.

Way to dodge the issue, Marco. For the record: Hell’s cryptographers have, in fact, intercepted a Vision sent directly to Rubio from Heaven, in which the Truth of the planted dinosaur bones and the synthetic oil fields was Revealed to him. So the fact that he’s still hedging his bets like this merely demonstrates the Infinite Reach of our Grand Lies.

The man is eminently corruptible. We may yet turn him into a Scientific Tool of Hell. Keep up the propaganda!

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Come to Daddy

At least they’ve changed the muzak in my dungeon.

PIs: this is how to talk to your grad students. (“Come to Mommy” also works.)

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Lump

This is what they are playing 24/7, in my dungeon.

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Affective computing and future elections

It’s trivial knowledge for any grown Satanist that politics on Earth are a mere shadow play, mirroring the politics of Hell. The recent US election, in particular, should be thought of as half focus group, half sitcom. It sure was entertaining to see so many people vote for Atheistic Science, calling the Christian platform “malarkey”… if  only they knew!

The truth, of course, is that we controlled both major candidates, neither of whom was human. One was a Djinn (Congrats dude! Keep up the Marxism) and the other a Golem, a.k.a., a Robot.

The stunning failure of the Robot is what I have been instructed to improve. Or rather, instructed to instruct you to improve.

It’s pretty clear we need to step up the research into Affective Computing. If you haven’t read about it, you should. Start here. Then, for the election campaign perspective, read Neal Stephenson’s book, “Interface”.

(And yes, I am still chained up in a snake-infested dungeon pending the new Cabinet assignments, fuck you very much for asking.)