We're putting on an event called "The Festival of Bad Ad Hoc Hypotheses." at MIT on April 20th.

Dr. Wilson is a leading expert on biology, so if you have any questions about evolutionary biology, this is the place!

The festival, which we're calling "BAH!" will feature a group of speakers who submitted very bad evolutionary theories which manage to explain a lot of data. They will present, and a panel of judges (including Zach) will ask them questions, and then decide who had the best bad theory. The event is in Cambridge on April 20th.

You can buy tickets at https://www.wepay.com/events/bahfest

EDIT: David had to head off for a bit for some Science Stuff, but he'll check in later in the day to answer more questions. I, Weinersmith, shall remain.

EDIT: Do we have a livestream or a recording? We are trying to do both, but I can't promise it yet!

EDIT: If you see "sciencegal" posting, that's Kelly Weinersmith, who will be emceeing the event!

Comments: 162 • Responses: 36  • Date: 

trlo26 karma

Mr. Weinersmith, rumour has it that an anagram of your name is ESCHEW NAZI MIRTH. It seems like you're trying a little too hard to disassociate yourself from the happiness of antisemite fascists. What do you have to say in your defence?

MrWeiner23 karma

golf clap

mpprog15 karma

Will the event be filmed and/or webcast?

MrWeiner14 karma

We are working on doing both, but I can't promise anything yet!

Godfiend5 karma

At this point, are you hoping to sell it or just host it on something like youtube?

MrWeiner4 karma

We are going to try to have a free option, but I can't give a definitive answer yet.

Unidan12 karma

What have been your favorite terrible ad hoc hypotheses?

Of all the real-life ad hoc hypotheses, are there many incidentally good ones?

MrWeiner11 karma

We've gotten a few awesome ones, but I'm keeping them secret for now. The best ad hoc hypothesis that I can think of us the proposal for the cosmological constant.

Unidan9 karma

Einstein had the best flubs.

MrWeiner10 karma

The existence of the neutrino is another good one.

sinn1sl0ken11 karma

Did you ever figure out a wicked awesome "Confused Darwin" trophy?

MrWeiner9 karma

Not yet!

davidswilson10 karma

Zach--How did you come by the idea of BAH Fest??

MrWeiner15 karma

It was based on this comic, which was probably based on a conversation with my wife, Kelly.


tyrsson9 karma

Has anyone given any thought to how encouraging and awarding bad evolutionary theories might play out with creationists?

MrWeiner17 karma

Yeah, I had that concern. BUT, no sense in letting a bunch of crazy people keep us from laughing at ourselves. People cite The Onion all the time :)

rawlingstones8 karma

What was your first cartoon that people liked?

MrWeiner10 karma

Ha! Well, my friends liked some of the early ones.

rawlingstones8 karma

I probably sounded sarcastic. What I meant was, what was the first cartoon you put out that made you think "I could go into doing this seriously."

MrWeiner9 karma

I don't think I really had an "aha!" moment. If you really work on something, hopefully you just get better over time.

FiP7 karma

Doesn't the bananana disprove evolution ?

MrWeiner17 karma

You've had too much Internet.

Persons3247 karma

Can we ask questions about SMBC too? If so: Zach, what has been the hardest thing you've ever had to draw for SMBC?

MrWeiner10 karma

I'm really bad at drawing cars. Just... terrible.

And yes, you're welcome to ask SMBC questions.


Follow up: Do you write and draw one comic per day, or do you stock up a few when you're feeling more creative and just release them on per day? Does much research go into your comics, or are they all based on things you know already? Thanks for doing this AMA.

MrWeiner8 karma

Depends on what I'm doing. Right now I have a 6 day buffer, which is close to a record. But, I'll burn through that and a bunch more from travel in April. I do try to write every day.

Research rarely goes into the comics directly. But I tried to read a few books and several hard science chapters at least per week.

mechroid7 karma

What's the best joke that's been made out of your last name, Mr. Weinersmith?

MrWeiner12 karma

Anything that isn't a joke about a blacksmith smithing wieners.

Aerien6 karma

That sounds amazing!

Question: I'm hoping to meet you at Skeptech this April but may not be able to make it. Are you planning to do more skeptical conferences in the future, like the Skepchick track at CONvergence for example?

MrWeiner6 karma

I'm actually cutting back on cons, I'm afraid. But, if you can make it to SDCC, NYCC, or GaymerX, I'll be there.

dschneider6 karma

Dr. Wilson: If you could make one change in our evolutionary history that would alter mankind in a significant way, what would it be and why?

Mr. Weinersmith: Can you draw a picture of what you think mankind's next evolutionary leap will be?

davidswilson10 karma

The one change would be to make us more cooperative and farsighted, but that's a tall order, because very special social environments are required to select for that.

MrWeiner5 karma

Could you elaborate on which environments? Is there a trade-off between farsightedness and individuality?

MrWeiner6 karma

I would draw you that picture if I wasn't worried I'd get a billion drawing requests :) But, I'm gonna go with returning to being quadrumanas, which will be better for zero gravity.

jeremyfrankly3 karma

Maybe just describe it? "Red line. Brown circle. Blue squiggle."

MrWeiner10 karma

Gray lines. Much erasing. Lacrimation. Despair.

le_utilisateur4 karma

Do you happen to work together on SMBC if Zach needs some pointers in the evolutionary biology field?

MrWeiner6 karma

Ha! That hasn't happened just yet. I happened to be married to a biologist, so that might be seen in this household as going over her head :)

BrockYourSocksOff4 karma

You guys looking forward to the new season of Arrested Development?

MrWeiner6 karma

Kelly is. Bigtime.

collynomial4 karma

Zach, since we can ask you about SMBC. I've always wondered, are the characters which look alike in different panels the same characters/based on the same people? Have you ever considered their story arc?

MrWeiner4 karma

You mean similar characters in different comics?

Not really. I have been sorely tempted in the past to take the "kids lying in the grass" and make it into its own kid-friendly series. But, just this second, I don't have the time.

collynomial3 karma

wow no one has ever replied to a question I asked before. Yeah, exactly, or like the aliens, or like god: for example had you taken care not to make him contradict herself or stuff like that. anyway, I guess not. I would buy into the kids lying on the grass, it reminds me of Calvin and Hobbs, without being to derivative.

PS I really like the voteys that involve your creative process (if we can refer to them like that).

MrWeiner3 karma

Thanks! Yeah, for me nothing has quite stepped into the space of Calvin and Hobbes, mostly because a lot of people misconstrue its charm as having to do with cute kids. That's part of it, but what really gives it heart is that the characters feel sadness, ennui, angst. Most comics about kids don't do that, and as a result the characters are harder to associate with.

Then again, I probably go too far in the other direction...

stuupidsteve4 karma

So..what do the winners get?

MrWeiner5 karma

A set of SMBC books, and an award for best bad ad hoc hypothesis. And unending worldwide acclaim.

SkaveRat3 karma

will there be livestreams and records of all talks?

edit: meh, too slow

MrWeiner5 karma

We are doing our best to make that happen!

mpprog3 karma

What makes a good "bad ad hoc hypothesis"?

MrWeiner8 karma

These are the criteria we'll be using:

1) Force of Science - how much “scientific” information was brought to bear (graphs, real citations, “research” etc.)

2) Artistry - how unexpected and clever the idea and presentation are, and how well the presentation is delivered.

3) Parsimony - the simplest theory that explains the most data is best.

4) Strength of Defense - how well did you defend your views to the judges. Please note - being funny is not a good defense. We want to see you actually defend your terrible terrible theory!

sciencequiche3 karma

Any thoughts to have a Theory Slam component of BAH!? Folks get to pitch their own bad evolutionary theories to be judged by you guys.

MrWeiner3 karma

Perhaps for a future event! We're keeping this one simple, since it's our first time out.

collynomial3 karma

Dear David and Zach How did you select the final papers for the conference? Also which is your favourite? Since you've mentioned data, are any of the theories plausibly true or can all theories be refuted by common sense/ other data?

MrWeiner3 karma

We're finishing up selection now, but mostly we're going for theories that are conceptually funny to us. Like, we know they can't work because they're ludicrous, but they "explain" a lot of the data. None of the theories are plausibly true :)

jeremyfrankly3 karma

I am really hoping you guys do a livestream. Hell, I would do a $5 DRM-free download of it. I am just so pumped.

MrWeiner3 karma

We will do our best. It's a little tricky do get that sort of thing to be worth the 5 bucks, but I think we can pull it off!

Jesus_luvs_Jenkem2 karma

What was it like to grow up with the name Wienersmith?

MrWeiner5 karma

I wouldn't know. I was a Weiner and my wife a Smith.

honkadoodledoo2 karma

Will you come speak at Cornell, Zach?

MrWeiner2 karma

If someone can arrange it and pay for me, possibly. Though, I'm insanely busy these days!

Annikinss2 karma

Mr. Weiner: ten spite being a science nerd, are there any superstitions or -gasp- unobserved beliefs/theories that you indulge in?

MrWeiner2 karma

Nothing springs to mind. I do tend to think about people that they often have more potential at things but are unwilling to put in the effort. But, I don't know that that's terribly unobserved.

mattster_oyster2 karma

What do you guys think makes something a scientific theory? I know a lot of people used to claim that a theory needed to make accurate predictions for it to be considered scientific, but evolution doesn't make predictions and we do think that if any theory is scientific, it would be the theory of evolution.

MrWeiner6 karma

Of course evolution makes predictions. It depends on how specific you want to get. But, for example, are you familiar with the Lenski bacteria experiments?

ani6252 karma

very bad evolutionary theories

then decide who had the best bad theory

So Intelligent design is out? It'll win hands down.

MrWeiner15 karma

They have to be plausible theories of evolution.

bebopin642 karma

If I have sex with a hedgehog can I make little spiny human babies?

MrWeiner5 karma

Somehow, I have a feeling no one's ever tried.

Chuck_Faldo1 karma

Zach: What comic(s) did you receive the most hatemail/general abuse for?

MrWeiner2 karma

I don't get too much. Now and then I get anti-gay emails, but even that's rare these days.

lewknukem1 karma

Dr Wilson and/or Zach, what crazy theory do you wish were true? It doesn't have to be the craziest or coolest sounding one, just one you have a personal crush on.

MrWeiner1 karma

I would love if magLIF fusion worked. It's an awesome project at Sandia right now.