Fiction is good for you

Following my critique of Lawrence Krauss’ scientistic views on the mythical imagination, Mainz University literature scholar Anja Müller-Wood discusses the value of storytelling in terms of evolutionary psychology. And if that’s not enough, in this week’s New Scientist is a short article by Toronto University cognitive psychologist Keith Oatley on the benefits to the individual […]

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A naturally enchanted universe

In a recent column in New Scientist magazine, physicist Lawrence Krauss argues with those who claim that the scientific world view disenchants the universe. Krauss is absolutely right to challenge this highly offensive critique of reason, and his appeal to the natural wondrousness of the cosmos shows how creative and imaginative the naturalistic mindset can […]

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Seals steer by the stars

I only have access to the abstract and a brief write-up in New Scientist, but this paper in the journal Animal Cognition has caught my attention: “Harbour seals (Phoca vitulina) can steer by the stars” It has long been known that cetaceans and certain other sea mammals occasionally pop their heads out of the water […]

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AC Grayling on “anousics”

The philosopher AC Grayling is up to his usual polemical tricks in a Comment is Free article published today. It must be months since I last cited that august forum, and today it’s only happening as Norman Geras has taken objection to Grayling’s mode of argument. In his article, which is ostensibly about “faith schools”, […]

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Intelligent Design: a lesson plan

In a letter to New Scientist magazine, Ken Lignar from Chester, Connecticut, offers teachers a suggested lesson plan that would satisfy the desire of the outgoing US president to have “intelligent design” taught in schools alongside evolution. Here it is in total: “The theory of intelligent design states that an omnipotent being created the universe […]

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Altruism needs selfish genes

It may be awkward for those with a philosophical prejudice against the ‘selfish gene’ school of thinking in evolutionary biology, but recent work by researchers in the UK and Australia has cast doubt on at least one aspect of the group natural selection theory of Harvard biologist Edward O Wilson. Kin selection is the theory […]

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No bug squishing this week!

Today is the start of National Insect Week. In deference to our six-legged friends you are kindly requested not to swat flies or stamp on beetles. Contemplate instead a world without bees, and the role of insects as a whole in the natural order. They will likely be around long after homo sapiens has left […]

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RIP adult education

The UK government has responded to the unanimous criticism of the parliamentary Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee of its plans to withdraw funding for students in higher education taking courses at a level equivalent to or lower than the qualifications they hold already. These are known in the trade as “ELQs”. This would affect, […]

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On nuclear weapons, morality and reality

Norman Geras, commenting on an essay by David Krieger of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, agrees with Krieger that nuclear weapons are criminal by their very nature. But Norm adds that without a means of enforcing a prohibitionist international law on “delinquent states”, the renunciation of such weapons by “good states” would leave the latter […]

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Cannabis strength and health – who cares about evidence?

The dust is now settling in the UK mass media ‘debate’ surrounding cannabis strength and health. Prohibitionists have got their way with the re-re-classification to Class B, putting the drug on a par with lethal substances such as amphetamines and barbiturates. But scientific experts and other commentators, myself among them, won the argument by blowing the […]

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