Are Atheists Smarter than Theists?

Are atheists, on average, smarter than everyone else?It sounds unbearably smug and condescending even to ask the question this way. But whatever one's feelings about the matter, there's some evidence suggesting that this may be the case.Belief in God correlates inversely with education level, as surveys have long shown. From high school to college to grad school, as you move up the rungs of educational attainment, people are more likely to be atheists, less likely to pray, less likely … [Read more...]

Skeptic Magazine’s Impotent Attack on Gender Studies

Remember, to be good rationalists, we must keep our work free of the taint of ideology - or worse, social justice. Proper skepticism is neutral and apolitical. Except when it isn't: Every once in awhile it is necessary and desirable to expose extreme ideologies for what they are by carrying out their arguments and rhetoric to their logical and absurd conclusion, which is why we are proud to publish this expose of a hoaxed article published in a peer-reviewed journal today. The authors, Peter … [Read more...]

Why I’m Vaccinating My Son

Another community has learned the hard way not to trust anti-vaccine activists. This time, it's the Somali-American immigrant community in Minneapolis:In the early 2000s, the large Somali immigrant population had high vaccination rates. But in 2008, fear that their children were suffering from higher rates of autism swept through the community. Though research later concluded that autism rates were not unusually high in the community, anti-vaccination activists pounced on the panic. The … [Read more...]

Book Review: Hidden Figures

Summary: We need all the brainpower we can get.Even in the darkest days of prejudice, when women and minorities were most oppressed and their talents denigrated, they've always been there, making crucial contributions to human progress. The only question is whether their achievements are preserved in the historical record, or whether they're shunted into the background so that white men can get all the glory. Margot Lee Shetterly's Hidden Figures, about the black women of NASA who helped … [Read more...]

The Solar System’s Ocean Worlds

If we ever overcome our differences and make it into space, there's a universe of wonders waiting for us. This month, NASA unveiled another of those wonders with the announcement of hydrothermal vents on Enceladus.Enceladus is one of Saturn's moons. Although it's tiny, barely 300 miles in diameter, it has a long history of tantalizing skywatchers. It's the most reflective body in the solar system because it's entirely covered in ice. The Voyager 2 flyby found a smooth and geologically young … [Read more...]

Movie Review: Arrival

Content note: Minor spoilers.I'm behind on movies, but I'm trying to catch up on the ones I missed when they were in theaters. The 2016 film I most wanted to see was Arrival, and it was worth the wait.Arrival is a first contact sci-fi story, based on Ted Chiang's novella "Story of Your Life". It begins with twelve huge ovoid spaceships appearing silently, simultaneously, at twelve locations across the Earth. Every eighteen hours, a hatch opens in each of the ships, and the human beings … [Read more...]

The Next Hop

For all the madness and cruelty on earth, we're privileged to live in a time when scientists are confirming that the skies are overflowing with planets friendly to life. And another big discovery that expands our cosmic horizon has just been announced:NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has revealed the first known system of seven Earth-size planets around a single star. Three of these planets are firmly located in the habitable zone, the area around the parent star where a rocky planet is most … [Read more...]

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...]