All entries by this author

A Curious Accident in Space-Time

Mar 5th, 2005 | By Paula Bourges-Waldegg

Despite the lack of evidence to support the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence, many people firmly believe in it. If you are skeptical on this matter you are likely to be accused of being arrogant, anthropocentric or even a religious fanatic. However, to consider the possibility that we might be alone in the universe doesn’t necessarily make you any of those things. You can believe both that humans are rare or unique and at the same time that they are a purposeless arrangement of matter or a curious accident in space-time.

In 1961 the astronomer Frank Drake announced that the number of extraterrestrial civilizations in our galaxy that might contact us could be calculated with the following equation:

N = R … Read the rest

Manufactured Consensus

Mar 4th, 2005 8:36 pm | By

This is typical. And irritating. Irritating in many ways.

Humera Khan of the An Nisa Society, an organisation that represents the views of women, agreed the school had failed to take into account the huge diversity of the UK’s 1.6 million Muslims. “If you consult on what is Islamic, and you for instance only talk to the Pakistani community, they will say the shalwar kameez is suitable. But other communities would have a different view that then becomes excluded,” she says.

Where to begin. How about with that ridiculous misleading essentially meaningless phrase ‘an organisation that represents the views of women’? The views of women. Does it mean all women, or some women? Notice that you can’t tell. It … Read the rest

Scholars Fret: How Much to Hide Female Bodies? *

Mar 4th, 2005 | Filed by

How covered is covered enough? Agreement remains elusive.… Read the rest

Women Worse Off Now Than Decade Ago *

Mar 4th, 2005 | Filed by

Piecemeal approach to women’s rights cannot achieve goals of Beijing conference.… Read the rest

US Drops Effort to Limit Women’s Rights via UN *

Mar 4th, 2005 | Filed by

Amnesty International hails end of anti-abortion amendment.… Read the rest

Mysterious Ways

Mar 4th, 2005 1:44 am | By

And since you mentioned skepticism – explain something to me. This Intelligent Designer we hear so much about. It’s supposed to answer those questions that atheists and biologists and similar tiresome people can’t answer. But the thing about this Intelligent Designer character is that it raises a hell of a lot of questions that don’t arise if there’s no need to explain the Intelligent Designer. Surely finding the Intelligent Designer a satisfactory answer to questions while finding Designer-free answers unsatisfactory, relies on ignoring a great barnlike stack of questions that trail in the wake of the Intelligent Designer. The most obvious one of course is Okay smartyboots then who designed the Designer? But there are others.

The one that I’ve … Read the rest

More Skeptical Sceptics

Mar 4th, 2005 12:52 am | By

The Third Skeptics’ Circle is posted. Read, doubt, enjoy.… Read the rest

Rawls, Habermas and Bobbio in an Age of War *

Mar 3rd, 2005 | Filed by

In era of serial war, three theorists of a perpetual peace. … Read the rest

MBA Maybe Necessary but not Sufficient *

Mar 3rd, 2005 | Filed by

Business students learn economics but they need more than that.… Read the rest

Victory for Muffled Women *

Mar 2nd, 2005 | Filed by

Shabina Begum wins right to wear concealing clothes.… Read the rest

Johnson and the Women *

Mar 2nd, 2005 | Filed by

Despite dog on hind legs remark, Johnson had clever women for friends.… Read the rest

Supreme Court Rules Against Execution of Juveniles *

Mar 2nd, 2005 | Filed by

Supreme Court ruled against capital punishment for crimes committed before age 18.… Read the rest

Yet More on WomenandMathandNatureandCulture *

Mar 2nd, 2005 | Filed by

Useful look at several studies.… Read the rest

Old News You Can Use: the denaturing of history

Mar 2nd, 2005 | By Barney F. McClelland

Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.

George Orwell, 1984

If there were a poll assessing the least favorite subject taught in high school, I would have to put my money on history or its more au courant euphemistic title, “social studies”. If history is not the clear cut winner, it would certainly be among the top three – my choice, mathematics, I suppose, would also be a strong contender.

The chronic complaint against history as a subject, you will hear from most Americans, is that it is “old news”. In our up-to-the-minute media saturated culture this is an undeniable fact. “That was soooo last year,” is perhaps a bit exaggerated, … Read the rest

Duty Duty Duty

Mar 1st, 2005 10:38 pm | By

Last month Richard Posner said something similar to what Stanley Fish said, but Posner said it much more clearly.

For as a practical matter, chief executive officers do not enjoy freedom of speech. A CEO is the fiduciary of his organization, and his duty is to speak publicly only in ways that are helpful to the organization. Not that he should lie; but he must avoid discussing matters as to which his honestly stated views would harm the organization. (Judges also lack complete freedom of speech; as I mentioned in our introductory blog posting, I am not permitted to comment publicly on any pending or impending court case.) Summers must think that his remarks did harm the university, as

Read the rest

Joseph Carroll’s Literary Darwinism *

Mar 1st, 2005 | Filed by

Debunking puffery of postmodernists and sly misrepresentations of Stephen Jay Gould.… Read the rest

Paley’s New Clothes *

Mar 1st, 2005 | Filed by

Niall Shanks looks at both biological and cosmological arguments for Intelligent Design.… Read the rest

On Stephen Greenblatt *

Mar 1st, 2005 | Filed by

Is he an apostate of Theory?… Read the rest

Voltaire Feared Boredom, not Inconsistency *

Mar 1st, 2005 | Filed by

He was like Nancy Mitford, Michael Moore, Susan Sontag, Toad of Toad Hall.… Read the rest

Hume and the Deep-fried Mars Bar *

Mar 1st, 2005 | Filed by

Slightly parochial review of new biography.… Read the rest