Time for a new calendar?

Very few follow the Christian religion, yet to some degree we all remain tied to its festivals. Is there an alternative? A few weeks ago, Dave Hill gave us an amusing tale of Muslim youths going around the houses in his part of Hackney in East London, engaging in an Islamified form of the extortion […]

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It’s not about Brits in space

Science education may be in a poor state, but putting Brits into orbit is hardly the answer. The argument for Britain playing a full role in the European Space Agency’s Aurora programme stands on its own, and is based on its supposed scientific merit. The state of science education in the UK is quite another, […]

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On laying down your liver for your country

Human Behaviour 101: Raising taxes on alcohol will not reduce consumption Britain’s Health Secretary, Patricia Hewitt, is calling for taxes to be raised on alcohol in order to combat binge drinking. Hewitt is thinking principally of the “alcopops” consumed largely by teenagers. Where is the evidence of a correlation between tax and alcohol consumption? As […]

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Lord preserve us from death-worshiping cults

This article was published on the Guardian’s Comment is Free website on 27 October 2006. Christian fundamentalism in central and middle America threatens women’s hard-won rights. Who will they go after next? Abortion is back in the news, with a vengeance. The Central American state of Nicaragua is about to pass into law a complete ban […]

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Egotism disguised as piety

This article was published on the Guardian’s Comment is Free website on 20 October 2006. When believers complain that atheists are out to restrict their legitimate right to self-expression, they have completely lost the plot. In a Guardian article on religious expression, Stephen Beer of the Christian Socialist Movement erects a straw giant – a virtual […]

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Sulking in the corner of Europe

This article was published on the Guardian’s Comment is Free website on 19 October 2006. The European Union has its faults, but the biggest problem is member state governments, not the Commission or Parliament. During a speech on Monday of this week, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso effectively challenged the two likely contenders for the […]

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Misleading the public over toxic chemicals

Some environmentalists are misleading the public over toxic chemicals in the environment, focussing on their presence and ignoring the amounts involved. Having myself criticised environmentalists who go overboard in order to attract media attention and spread fear, it’s always good to see scientists fighting back against bad science and public deception. Leading toxicologists are taking […]

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There be no dragons

This article was published on the Guardian’s Comment is Free website on 13 October 2006. Biotechnology promises much, but it’s in everyone’s interest that we proceed with cautious optimism and not cut corners with research. Debate surrounding the promises and pitfalls of genetic engineering and other biotechnologies is often polarised, with vested interests on both sides […]

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What defines a “scientific expert”?

How can a sociologist pass himself off convincingly as a physicist? Slate magazine has an article reporting on a sociologist who posed as a physicist and managed to convince a number of experts. The case is reported also by OpenScience and Daniel Davies. Professor Harry Collins conducts sociological research into ‘expertise’, but has also a […]

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Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2006

This year’s Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine goes to: Andrew Fire Craig Mello “for their discovery of RNA interference – gene silencing by double-stranded RNA” Andrew Fire is Professor of Pathology and Genetics at the Stanford University School of Medicine in California, and Craig Mello a Professor of Medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical […]

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