All entries by this author

Politics and science must be disentangled *

Sep 16th, 2002 | Filed by

Steven Pinker chides critics of Wilson and Dawkins for ’25 years of pointless attacks’… Read the rest

Three cheers for Balkanization *

Sep 16th, 2002 | Filed by

Home secretary David Blunkett is under attack for saying English is a useful language in the UK.… Read the rest

Time to sweep up Angela’s ashes *

Sep 15th, 2002 | Filed by

Oxford historian Roy Foster takes on tearful or nostalgic myths of Ireland’s past.… Read the rest

The Ancient World As Seen By Afrocentrists

Sep 15th, 2002 | By Mary Lefkowitz


At some schools and universities in the USA today students are learning a version
of ancient history that is strikingly different from what is being taught to
their counterparts in Europe.[1] This new narrative cannot be reconciled with
the traditional account, which is still being taught in the vast majority of
schools and universities. Advocates of the revisionist version ("the Afrocentric
narrative") claim that because of their inherent prejudice against Africans
and peoples of African descent, the traditionalists have ignored a significant
body of evidence. Advocates of the traditional version of ancient history insist
that their version ("the Eurocentric narrative") offers the best available
account of the known facts. Thus in the debate between the two groups there
is … Read the rest

Biography as Story Time

Sep 14th, 2002 8:16 pm | By

Two articles in The New Republic in the past year or two, one about Theodore Roosevelt and the other about John Adams, are also about the oversimplification of history. Wilentz says the Adams biography is too reverential and respectful, too much of a hagiography. Stansell says the Roosevelt is too incurious, too movie-like and you-are-there-ish, too long on detail and much too short on questions and analysis. Is this inevitable in writing popular biography and history? Does one absolutely have to choose between writing a book that’s fun and entertaining and not too difficult, and one that actually explores and interrogates the subject rather than merely telling a story about it? Is it entirely out of the question to present … Read the rest

‘I prefer unification to reduction’ *

Sep 14th, 2002 | Filed by

Steven Pinker talks to the New York Times about worries over equality and free will that influence our views of the mind.… Read the rest

Astronaut thumps moon landing doubter *

Sep 14th, 2002 | Filed by

Would faking a moon landing be more difficult than actually doing one? Probably, but the myth lives on.… Read the rest

Disturbances in the field *

Sep 13th, 2002 | Filed by

In a frivolous-Friday mood, The Guardian offers links to both credulous and skeptical material on crop circles.… Read the rest

Education does not rule out credulity *

Sep 12th, 2002 | Filed by

Michael Shermer in Scientific American says the siren song of pseudoscience can be too alluring to resist.… Read the rest

Suspicion fills the gap *

Sep 12th, 2002 | Filed by

The new president of the British Association for the Advancement of Science says the gap between scientists and the public leads to a widespread distrust of rational inquiry.… Read the rest

Teaching is not propaganda *

Sep 11th, 2002 | Filed by

Education professor propounds eccentric notion that teachers may know more than students.… Read the rest

Blunt opinions *

Sep 10th, 2002 | Filed by

‘Naipaul has always eschewed the rhetoric of marginality.’… Read the rest

Uncertain terrain *

Sep 10th, 2002 | Filed by

Skeptic editor Michael Shermer explains the difference between science and pseudoscience, and explores the intermediate area where the jury is still out.… Read the rest

Perhaps not so radically different *

Sep 10th, 2002 | Filed by

Margaret Talbot takes Carol Gilligan to task for her claim that there are radical differences between male and female minds.… Read the rest

Fantasy beats reason every time *

Sep 10th, 2002 | Filed by

Philosopher Simon Blackburn in despair at humanity’s capacity for self-deception.… Read the rest

Kennewick Man to be studied *

Sep 10th, 2002 | Filed by

A federal magistrate judge has ordered the US government to let scientists study the bones of Kennewick Man, an ancient skeleton discovered on the banks of the Columbia River.… Read the rest

End the excuses *

Sep 10th, 2002 | Filed by

Ian Buruma argues that it is time that people stopped hiding behind a sloppy relativism as a way to excuse the inexcusable.… Read the rest

Get real about human nature *

Sep 9th, 2002 | Filed by

Steven Pinker on the fears that lead to people embracing an erroneous conception of human nature.… Read the rest

Oxymoron? *

Sep 4th, 2002 | Filed by

The evolution of the scientific creationist.… Read the rest

Misunderstanding Richard Dawkins

Sep 1st, 2002 | By Jeremy Stangroom


Richard Dawkins’s The Selfish Gene is the kind of book
that changes the way that people look at the world. Its importance
is that it articulates a gene’s-eye view of evolution. According
to this view, all organisms, including human beings, are ‘survival
machines’ which have been ‘blindly programmed’ to preserve their
genes (see The Selfish Gene, p. v). Of course, extant
survival machines take a myriad of different forms – for example,
it is estimated that there are some three million different species
of insect alone – but they all have in common that they have been
built according to the instructions of successful genes; that
is, genes whose replicas in previous generations managed to get
themselves copied.

At … Read the rest