I am Neuroscience PhD, a humanist, skeptic, feminist, avid reader, science enthusiast, woolly-liberal über-nerd, and, as of October 2015, father to the Lykketroll.

I moved from England to Norway in January 2012 and live in Lørenskog with my wife, the Lykketroll, and our two aging rescue cats, Socrates and Schrödinger. 

I am on paternity leave from the 4th of July to the 18th of November. 

The job I am on leave from is as an  Associate Professor and Head of Studies at the Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences. My background is in child neurodevelopment (my PhD looked into the relationship between fatty acids like omega-3 and cognitive development in young children) but I now work on a hodge-podge of things roughly within the field of Universal Design of ICT 50% of the time, the other 50% of my time I am Head of the 'General' Studies (Allmenn in Norwegian) Unit, which is comprised of around 24 academics within a range of fields, including mathematics, physics, Norwegian, and technology and leadership.

In between working and doing the usual dad things,  I like hiking and running in the beautiful Norwegian outdoors, cooking and playing video games. 

If I believed in souls I would say that mine was born in Norway. 

I plan to sleep when I'm dead.

Week 6 Book review: Humans are not from Earth by Ellis Silver

Humans are not from Earth: a scientific evaluation of the evidence was a bit of a left-field choice for my reading list I’ll admit. The self-published book by ‘U.S. ecologist Ellis Silver’ (more on that later) caught my attention at the back end of last year when it was discussed on the Skeptics with a K podcast.

The book exploded into public consciousness when it was covered on the Daily Fail, and shared at the last count 58,000 times, and from the looks of it, parroted and linked to on countless conspiracy theory websites, including Alex Jones’ notorious Prison Planet.

I bought it as it was only 77p on my Kindle and then completely forgot about it. I found it again as I was tidying up my Kindle and putting together a list of my next ten books, and, remembering that it was only supposed to take a couple of hours to read, decided to give it a shot.

Ellis’ thesis is that humans did not evolve along with the rest of life on earth but that we were planted here by aliens (either fully formed or after being interbred with Neanderthals, he can't decide which), possibly to punish us for being war-mongering and horrible. 

Here are his genuine reasons:

  1. The sun hurts our eyes
  2. The sun kills us (gives us skin cancer)
  3. Some people suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
  4. We commonly suffer from bad backs
  5. We have 223 apparently unique genes
  6. There no 'missing link' the fossil record
  7. We lack the ability to sense the Earth's magnetic fields (and use to get a sense of direction)
  8. We lack body hair
  9. Some people suffer from hay fever and asthma
  10. We like eating tasty food that is sometimes bad for us
  11. We breed too much, resulting in overpopulation
  12. We lack natural defenses against large predators
  13. We're destroying the environment
  14. The technological leap from protohumans to modern day is just too great
  15. We suffer from a host of chronic illness.

So, basically:

Therefore Aliens.jpg

As Ellis’ friend, Dave Haslett, says: “there are far too many coincidences for it to be a coincidence.’ (This is genuinely used as an argument in the book.)

Ellis' ridiculous arguments have been dismantled by others so I won't bother doing it here.

I’m not actually convinced that Humans are not from Earth isn’t just a massively successful hoax. The best writers at the Onion couldn’t have written a more convincing parody of conspiracy theory/poor science literacy/vanity publishing literature.

To check that it wasn’t actually just someone taking the piss, I did a little search for ‘Dr’ Ellis Silver and his academic background; he was referred to as an 'expert' in several reports on the book, although it was never clear what of - self-publicity perhaps? I can’t find much of anything that suggests that Ellis Silver is even a real person, nevermind one with a doctorate in ecology from a US institution. Nothing turns up on Google Scholar for work by an academic by the name of Ellis Silver, and a regular google search just turns up countless links to Humans are not from Earth and to the publisher’s webpage, i4w2. There’s also nothing on the Amazon author’s page, and on an inactive twitter account for Ellis Silver, ‘ecological consultant and author’, there are just a handful of tweets referring to the book's publisher. *Alarm bells ringing*

Hoax or not, I think Humans are not from Earth would actually make a great learning resource: you could play name that logical fallacy, learn how not to formulate an argument, and, if you want to teach someone about evolution, going through everything this book gets wrong would actually be a pretty good place to start.

Anyone with a basic understanding of biology/who's heard of Occam’s Razor might laugh at this batshit crazy stuff, but the uncritical Daily Mail article, the way this tripe spread unchecked across the net, and the 10 five-star reviews for the book on Amazon (if they're not also parodies), are all pretty dispiriting.

Tiden er kommet for meg å blogge / skrive på norsk

Week 5 Book review: Religionskritikk by Gunn Hild Lem