Category Archives: Science

A conference on hype in science

Last December, Ford Doolittle, a biochemist at Dalhousie University who has actually done a lot, organized a symposium called “Hype in science“, which I announced on at the time though it hadn’t yet taken place. Now Florian Maderspacher, the senior reviews editor for Current Biology,  has written a three-page summary of the conference for the journal, “Hype in […]

Alan Sokal highlights the incompatibility of science and religion

As I noted recently, Massimo Pigliucci has left his Rationally Speaking website to found a new one: Scientia Salon, which will, it seems, host a greater diversity of authors. Alan Sokal has put up a new post (actually part 2 of 3) at Scientia Salon ; the title of the tripartite essay is “What is science […]

Valentine #3

This is a sad and poignant science valentine from xkcd. As far as I can tell, its point is to show that science tells us what is true, not what we want to be true. And, in this case, the truth is sad.

Carl Sagan’s last interview

Carl Sagan died 17 years ago today: December 20, 1996. This is a small clip of his last interview, with Charlie Rose. Sagan is clearly, as Hitchens said in his last speech, “not as I was.” (At the beginning of the third part of the full interview, below, he avers belief that he’s cured of […]

Skeptic asks Deepak how to distinguish real truth from that garnered by “other ways of knowing”

In 2010, skeptic and manga artist Sara Mayhew got a chance to ask Deepak Chopra a question after his ABC News debate with Sam Harris and Michael Shermer. The topic of the debate was “Does God have a future?“, and Chopra teamed with philosopher Jean Houston. (Thanks to a reader for pointing out this video.) […]

“I have this disease”: Feynman on curiosity and the wonders of life

This is about as good a statement of what motivates scientists as I’ve ever heard. It’s by Feynman, of course, but, unlike some science popularizers who seem to deliberately overdo the “wonder” stuff, what Feynman said always rang true. Listen to a “spiritual determinist”: I’ll add this quote from H. L. Mencken: “The value the […]

Science is in bad shape

There are two pieces in the latest Economist that are must-reads not just for scientists, but for science-friendly laypeople.  Both paint a dire picture of how credible scientific claims are, and how weak our system is for adjudicating them before publication.  One piece is called “How science goes wrong“; the other is “Trouble at the […]

Did Christianity (and other religions) promote the rise of science?

Of course most of you will answer “No way!”, and I do, too, but accommodationists and science-friendly believers make this argument often. Here are a few specimens: “. . . the very notion of physical law is a theological one in the first place, a fact that makes many scientists squirm. Isaac Newton first got […]

Does science make you moral?

Several readers have called my attention to a new paper in PLoS ONE by Christine Ma-Kellams and Jim Blascovich, psychologists from the University of California at Santa Barbara, supposedly showing that reading about science in an experimental study makes one behave more morally and altruistically. They also claim to show that studying science improves your […]

The art of Wally Gilbert

It’s a tough job, but someone has to talk to two Nobel Laureates in two days. Wednesday Jim Watson; Thursday Walter (Wally) Gilbert.  Gilbert’s name isn’t as familiar to laypeople as Watson’s, but it certainly deserves to be. First of all, he won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1980, along with Fred Sanger and […]


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