All entries by this author

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

Will Lingua Franca be back? *

Aug 20th, 2002 | Filed by

Intellectual arguments and personal bile make a compelling read.… Read the rest

Doug and Dave *

Aug 15th, 2002 | Filed by

Where crop circles come from.… Read the rest

Science Wars: an interview with Alan Sokal

Aug 15th, 2002 | By Julian Baggini

Dennis Healey once compared a verbal attack by one of his parliamentary
colleagues to "being savaged by a dead sheep." I was reminded
of this remark when I met the physicist Alan Sokal, the man who,
along with mathematician Jean Bricmont, has caused outrage and indignation
among the French intelligentsia first with his spoof post-modern
article published in the journal Social Text, and then for
his and Bricmont’s book Intellectual Impostures, which
combines a catalogue of misuses of scientific terms by predominantly
French thinkers with a stinging attack on what they call "sloppy

Given this history, you’d expect Sokal to be more lupine than lamb-like,
but in fact, he is a friendly, chatty, effusive figure more interested… Read the rest

Lay Sceptic’s Travels on Planet Energy

Aug 14th, 2002 | By Elina Rigler

Recently I have been feeling like a visitor on an alien planet: ordinary people
around me have started to communicate in a new, esoteric language. Let’s call
it Energyspeak. It uses the same vocabulary as Oldspeak (my native language),
but many of its words have been stripped of their usual meanings. Its speakers
also seem to inhabit a radically different metaphysical universe. They inform
me that there is a bioenergetic field flowing through and around us; and that
disturbances in it have dire consequences for our health. Those fluent in Energyspeak
pay regular visits to energy therapists (acupuncturists; homeopaths; reflexologists;
reiki healers) who are able to treat all kinds of physical and emotional problems
by correcting energy imbalances. I myself … Read the rest

Reputation *

Aug 10th, 2002 | Filed by

One of the three most important English language literary critics of the 20th century? Or is that a bit inflated.… Read the rest

Sums on snails *

Aug 10th, 2002 | Filed by

Francis Galton counted silly things.… Read the rest

Dawkins on Sanderson *

Aug 2nd, 2002 | Filed by

A Headmaster’s hatred of any locked door which might stand between a boy and some worthwhile enthusiasm shows what real education is.… Read the rest