Two of my colleagues discuss postmodernism, truth, and bias. News flash: civil dialogue is possible in the com-box! In the comments section of the Dawkins vs. Gould wrap-up, two of my fellow bloggers exchanged ideas about human nature, informed decision-making, and trust in science. Meeting of the Minds of the Century of the Week In one corner we have Honey Crisis, creator of the wonderfully anarchic Lipstick Riot channel on Disqus. In the opposite corner we have Rick Snedeker, manager of… Read more

Finally, where do Dawkins and Gould differ in the matter of science itself? In the first two installments of my review of Kim Sterelny’s Dawkins vs. Gould: Survival of the Fittest, I talked about how Richard Dawkins and Stephen Jay Gould differed in the way they conceptualized natural selection and in the way they described the history of the development of life on Earth. Now we look at the way these two scientists approach the history and methodology of empirical… Read more

Dawkins and Gould describe the history of life on Earth in very different ways. We continue our discussion of Kim Sterelny’s Dawkins vs. Gould: Survival of the Fittest by focusing on the disagreements between the two scientists concerning the history of life on Earth. Punctuated Equilibrium vs. Gradualism Dawkins has always been clear that the cumulative effects of small selection-driven changes are what constitute evolution. The development of life on Earth, according to him, is explained by natural selection driving… Read more

Their scientific rivalry describes the different ways we conceptualize life, randomness, and science itself. On my recent travels abroad, I got a copy of Dawkins Vs. Gould: Survival of the Fittest by Australian philosopher, author, and educator Kim Sterelny. It’s a brief but comprehensive overview of the rivalry between English ethologist Richard Dawkins and American paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould. Sterelny wrote it prior to Gould’s death in 2002, so the conflict was still current at the time of this book’s… Read more

Science fans talking about philosophy is never. Not. Funny. According to RationalWiki, “The Dunning-Kruger effect occurs where people fail to adequately assess their level of competence — or specifically, their incompetence — at a task and thus consider themselves much more competent than everyone else. This lack of awareness is attributed to their lower level of competence robbing them of the ability to critically analyse their performance, leading to a significant overestimation of themselves.” Being Ignorant About Knowledge Science fans are used to referring… Read more

Conspiracy theories aren’t about credulity, they’re about skepticism gone haywire. The subject of conspiracy theories came up recently on another blog here at Patheos Nonreligious, and I have to wonder whether we characterize belief in these wacky ideas according to the way we define our own beliefs. Bert Bigelow asserts that “belief in conspiracy theories is not unlike religious belief,” but my experience with conspiracists leads me to a different conclusion. A Veteran of the Tin Hat Trenches I assume… Read more

No spoilers, I promise! On a recent flight overseas, I noticed someone watching the Disney film Black Panther on the seat back TV monitor. I had seen the movie some weeks back and thought it was a good action movie. However, there’s an aspect of the film that always bothered me. Techno-Fetishism: It’s Not Just For the Future Anymore In the film, the nation of Wakanda is a hidden civilization whose monopoly on an element known as vibranium has produced… Read more

What I did on my summer vacation, in bookstores! I’ve been in the UK for two weeks, and I never miss an opportunity to browse the bookshops when I’m on vacation. Here’s the rundown of my acquisitions: The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2017 – edited by Hope Jahren and Tim Folger My wife got me this one just before we left and I brought it along to read on the flight, so it counts as a vacation book…. Read more

Forget the fetus fetishism. Pro-life is a hate group. For all their talk about when life begins or the humanity of the fetus, pro-life activists aren’t motivated by compassion or love. They’re motivated by misogyny and cynicism. They’ve just been able to focus their rhetoric on the fetus so their contempt for sexually active women isn’t immediately apparent. We need to change that. The Backlash Against Feminism Nationwide anti-abortion organization in the USA and Australia formed in the 60s, when… Read more

If we were biased, we’d notice it, right? In the latest issue of Wired, author Robert Wright expresses his amusement at how Sam Harris characterizes his recent debate with Ezra Klein. Though a more circumspect thinker would at least admit that Klein had zeroed in on a few of his most glaring weaknesses in the discussion, the hilariously self-serving Harris appeared on Joe Rogan’s radio show and crowed about the difference between his approach and Klein’s: he claimed that, while… Read more

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