Weekly Link Roundup

I noticed a few stories this week that I haven't had time to write more about, but wanted to mention briefly:• So-called "psychics" defraud their gullible customers out of thousands of dollars, usually through laughably obvious ploys in which they claim the client's money needs to be "cleansed". Can we please regulate these con artists already? Or should we even try - do the suckers deserve what they get?• And proving that corruption and hypocrisy crosses denominational lines, a … [Read more...]

Dispatches from Future America: Nation Celebrates National Day of Reason

[Editor's Note: This just keeps getting stranger.Last month, I received a news dispatch from a disturbing future version of America through an anonymous remailer. The other day, I received a message from a different address, presenting itself as the same thing... but apparently from a very different future than the previous one.I have no idea how to explain this. Parallel universes? Uncollapsed quantum wavefunctions? Which of these, if any, are our future? Are different possibilities … [Read more...]

Dispatches from Future America: Court Upholds National Day of Christianity

[Editor's Note: The day after after publishing my article on the abuse of standing, I found a message with a strange attachment in my inbox, sent through an anonymous remailer. This attachment presented itself as a story clipped from a newspaper published in a future version of America. The author of the message wouldn't explain how they acquired it, other than a cryptic comment about wormholes. I have no way to verify this admittedly fantastic account, but thought it best to reprint the story … [Read more...]

Movie Review: Into Eternity


This weekend, my wife and I saw Into Eternity, a gripping documentary by the Danish filmmaker Michael Madsen. It's well worth a wider audience, so here's a review of it that I hope will provoke some interest.Every nuclear power plant in the world produces several tons of high-level radioactive waste each year. In total, there exists in the world about 250,000 tons of radioactive waste, which is potentially deadly and will be for tens of thousands of years. Most countries that rely on nuclear … [Read more...]


Last month, in "Dreams of a Better World", I considered some of the immediate problems humanity could solve if we had the collective will to do so. I want to continue that theme in this post, but from a longer perspective.Historically, humanity's knowledge has exceeded its wisdom. As soon as we invent a new technology, we begin adopting it on a wide scale, without asking whether we should or what the consequences might be. Many of our most pressing problems - multidrug-resistant diseases, … [Read more...]

Dreams of a Better World

As I've written in the past, I'm an optimist when it comes to human progress: I'm confident that we can overcome the problems that beset us. This isn't to say that I think our triumph is inevitable, or even that optimism is the only possible position for a rational person to take. There are plenty of reasons to despair, for those who seek them out. Nevertheless, I think there's one major, counterbalancing reason for hope, and that reason is this.Simply stated, our greatest dangers are not … [Read more...]

The Amorphous Enemy

In a previous post, "The Soft Landing", I wrote about the future and about one potential scenario that I find disturbing: that militant, fundamentalist churches will grow at the expense of moderate and liberal ones, leaving behind a world split between atheism and angry, intolerant religion. In this post, I'll again look to the future, this time to outline another possibility that I find worrisome in a different way.In this scenario, both moderate and fundamentalist religion will decline … [Read more...]

The Soft Landing

Although it's much too early to look forward to a world without religion, one thing we can be confident of is that the numbers and influence of atheists will continue to grow in the near future. Census figures over the last few decades have consistently shown the rise of the nonbelievers in the educated and industrialized nations of the First World - even in America, despite its high religiosity as compared to its cultural neighbors. We can expect this trend to continue, to the point where it's … [Read more...]

On Cryonics

Last summer I wrote a post, "Why I'm Skeptical of the Singularity", which gave some reasons for doubting that godlike machine intelligences will ever come into being. Today I'll discuss another idea popular among enthusiasts of transhumanism, namely life extension through cryonics. Here, too, I intend to offer a qualified skepticism.Overcoming Bias presents a strong case for cryonics, in a post which pleads with readers to sign up for the process. I'll use them as my foil. My own viewpoint, … [Read more...]

What I Want For Christmas

In 1897, Robert Ingersoll wrote "What I Want for Christmas". This short essay was a holiday wish list for humankind in the coming year, one that showcased both the great freethinker's wit and his compassion.All well and good, but we can now look back at this piece from a century later and see how it's fared. Happily, some of Ingersoll's wishes have been fulfilled, but others are still awaiting fruition. This being so, I think it would be worthwhile to update Ingersoll's wish list, to highlight … [Read more...]