Science Is Partisan, Like It Or Not

I've written about the March for Science already, but there's another critique I wanted to address. This one is from a surprising source: Robert Young, a geologist and one of the authors of the famous North Carolina report that predicted rising sea levels from global warming, to which the Republican legislature responded by passing a law banning state agencies from taking these facts into account.You'd think someone in his position would be the ideal person to speak out against politicized … [Read more...]

Science Is For Everyone

In the years to come, science will be under threat in America as never before. Every branch of science that makes conservatives unhappy, from evolution to climate change, is on the chopping block. Birth control and abortion will be assaulted with religious pseudoscience. Federal agencies from NASA to the EPA to the National Park Service will be silenced by executive fiat, forbidden to speak facts that don't align with the reigning worldview. And, of course, an indiscriminate immigrant ban is … [Read more...]

Generations

I was at a family gathering last weekend, and after dinner, we were looking through some old photo albums that had been discovered in the attic of my grandparents' house. My attention was grabbed by this one, a picture of my great-grandfather Hymie, which is in excellent condition considering it's over a hundred years old:Born May 10 1890 Romania Came to US Nov 1907 Picture taken 1908This one is a little more faded, but here he is together with my great-grandmother … [Read more...]

Facebook’s Fake News Poisons Democracy

In the past couple of months, I've noticed a significant dropoff in page views on Daylight Atheism. From what I've found out, it's not just me and it's not even just Patheos. It's an industry-wide problem, affecting media companies large and small, and it's being driven by Facebook changing its algorithm to deemphasize links to external sites in favor of native content, like photos and status updates from your friends.In a sense, this is an understandable business decision. Whenever you see … [Read more...]

The Deserved Death of Coal

I grew up in a house with a coal-burning furnace. Once a month or so, a dump truck would back up to our garage and refill the coal bin. I was fascinated by those soft, glossy black chunks which looked like rock but burned with ferocious fire in the belly of the furnace, keeping the house toasty warm on even the coldest winter days.I mention this just to show that I feel a little bit of nostalgia for coal. And as a New Yorker, I have to concede that coal-fired ovens make the best pizza. But … [Read more...]

Scott Adams Can’t See the Elephant

In the past, I've mocked the privileged obliviousness of Scott Adams, Dilbert cartoonist and Man Who Knows One Thing. I have to revisit Adams, because in this election, he's come out of the closet as a Donald Trump fan.As Ben Dolnick hilariously outlines, this makes sense because they're kindred spirits in many ways. Like Trump, Adams has a pronounced narcissistic streak and an extremely high regard for his own talents. (Remember the sockpuppet incident?) He also shares Trump's belief that … [Read more...]

Human Reproduction Is Ridiculous

Over the past year leading up to the birth of my son, Elizabeth and I (her more than me, obviously) have had an intimate view of what it takes to bring a new human being into the world. And going through this has only cemented a view that her and I both held, namely that human reproduction is ridiculous.Contrary to those who assume that pregnancy is "natural" and therefore easy, it's the most burdensome and dangerous thing most ordinary people will ever do. At every step, there's an … [Read more...]

The Rush to Canonize Mother Teresa

Surprising no one, the Vatican has declared Mother Teresa to be a saint.Under the church's rules, canonization requires two verified miracles. But the evidence that the church has put forward as proof of her miraculous powers is less than completely convincing:The [first] approved miracle involved Monica Besra, a 30-year-old Kolkata woman who said praying to the nun cured a stomach tumor. The Vatican committee said in October 2002 that it could find no "scientific explanation" for the … [Read more...]

The Democritean Dance

I've always said that the argument from mind-brain unity is one of the most potent arguments for atheism, yet also one of the most overlooked. Virtually without anyone noticing, science has dissolved the ancient belief that the seat of consciousness is an immaterial soul inhabiting the body. Even though the inner workings of the brain are still a terra incognita that we're just beginning to explore, we've collected ample evidence that the mind is a thoroughly material phenomenon.We know that … [Read more...]

A World on Our Doorstep

The search for extraterrestrial intelligence remains a high-risk, low-payoff-probability endeavor, with many exciting initial reports that mostly turn out to be false alarms.The search for other planets, however, continues to pay off in spades. And a team of European astronomers just hit the biggest jackpot yet: a habitable planet orbiting the Sun's nearest neighbor.Astronomers using ESO telescopes and other facilities have found clear evidence of a planet orbiting the closest star to … [Read more...]