The White Man Non-Culpability Squad


There was some rare good news on the sexual-harassment front last week, with the news that Geoff Marcy has resigned. Marcy is a scientific pioneer in the field of exoplanet astronomy, who's often been mentioned as a potential Nobel laureate. He's also long been trailed by rumors of inappropriate, predatory behavior toward women. According to a former graduate student, now Harvard professor, John Asher Johnson:"What's really infuriating about this is that anybody of my generation in the … [Read more...]

From the Mailbag: Minds Do Change

Changing your mind about the belief system that's defined your life is a rare occurrence, one that demands an uncommon degree of courage and intellectual honesty. For obvious reasons, it's something that atheist bloggers don't expect to see too often, even if most of us would say that helping it happen is the whole purpose of our writing.But that doesn't mean it never happens. Here's an e-mail I got a few days ago, whose author, Brent, gave me permission to share it with … [Read more...]

Friday Night Music: The Shade

Following up on the theme of their last album, 2012's Synthetica, Metric delves deeper into a retro electronic-and-neon, 1980s-arcade-inspired sound and aesthetic on their new release, Pagans in Vegas. It comes off as cold and artificial on a first listen, and most of it took me a while to warm up to (especially "Cascades"). But I liked this one, the first single, immediately: … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: A Most Mundane Resurrection

Atlas Shrugged, part III, chapter IIIThe sky had the stagnant breath of a furnace and the streets of New York were like pipes running, not with air and light, but with melted dust. Dagny stood on a street corner, where the airport bus had left her, looking at the city in passive astonishment. The buildings seemed worn by weeks of summer heat, but the people seemed worn by centuries of anguish. She stood watching them, disarmed by an enormous sense of unreality.It turns out that John … [Read more...]

Against Religious Fatalism

Last month, construction was in progress at the Masjid al-Haram in Mecca, the holiest mosque in Islam, when a heavy crane collapsed in high winds and crashed through the roof of the mosque. Over a hundred pilgrims were killed and almost 400 were hurt or trapped beneath falling debris. An employee of the Saudi Binladen Group, which had been operating the crane, said this about the disaster:"What happened was beyond the power of humans. It was an act of God." (source)But this wasn't … [Read more...]

New on AlterNet: 10 More Lessons from Atlas Shrugged

My latest column is now up on AlterNet, "10 Things I Discovered About Ayn Rand's Addled Brain After Reading 'Atlas Shrugged'". It summarizes ten more of the very important political and moral lessons I've learned over the last year reviewing part II of Atlas Shrugged. Read the excerpt below, then click through to see the rest:If you've ever voted for politicians who passed safety regulations, or accepted any kind of loan or grant money from the government, or criticized the excesses of … [Read more...]

Weekend Coffee: October 11


• eBible Fellowship, a Christian group with ties to Harold Camping, predicted the world would end on October 7. Oops! After the date came and went, they put up a defiant post in which they conceded their error, yet insisted the world is still going to burn in hell anyway. (Here's a graphic of some other end-time blunders through history.)• The men trying to stop Sikh women from marrying outside their religion, using violence if necessary.• I've written about the horrible … [Read more...]

SF/F Saturday: The Culture

For all its virtues, Star Trek was a series that often failed to do justice to its own ideas. We're told that Starfleet is just one small part of a vast, advanced utopian civilization, but that means that the settings and characters of the various TV shows were atypical representatives of the Federation. We only ever saw brief glimpses of what ordinary life in such a society would be like.Iain M. Banks, who died tragically early in 2013, did better with his Culture sci-fi series. Like the … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: Guns and Butter


Atlas Shrugged, part III, chapter IIINow that we've finished our tour of Galt's Gulch, we're back in the outside world with Dagny. From this point on, Atlas Shrugged is less of an economic-philosophical diatribe and more of a straightforward adventure story, so I anticipate that the rest of the book will go quicker. But there are a few more points to be made along the way.This chapter opens with a scene about Robert Stadler, the once-great scientist who's thrown in with the looters. As … [Read more...]

New on the Guardian: Atheists Fighting for Choice


You may detect a theme this week. My latest column on the Guardian is up: "Abortion opposition is a religious stance. Atheists must help fight for choice".Under an onslaught of anti-choice legislation, abortion rights in the U.S. are threatened as never before. But an ally is beckoning from an unexpected quarter: in spite of our image as a male-dominated and sometimes obliviously sexist community, atheists are by far the most pro-choice demographic in the nation, and some large secular … [Read more...]