All entries by this author

Edge Science Questionaire *

Jan 7th, 2003 | Filed by

Edge asks scientists what they would tell the President, if he asked them, are the most pressing science issues he should be attending to. Alas, he hasn’t asked.… Read the rest

Fresh Meat? Old Meat? Scraps? *

Jan 7th, 2003 | Filed by

Did hunting shape human evolution, or was it foraging and scavenging? Or both?… Read the rest

Is Pointing Out the Obvious ‘Racist’? *

Jan 6th, 2003 | Filed by

Culture minister worries aloud about glamorization of guns by rappers, finds self ‘at the centre of a race row’.… Read the rest

You Know You Want It

Jan 5th, 2003 8:35 pm | By

Well, those silly Victorians, you know, of course they thought about sex every instant of their lives just as we do, but they wouldn’t admit it, the nasty hypocritical creatures, but we’ll fix them, we’ll just make a lot of movies and tv shows based on 19th century novels and if the sex isn’t there we’ll just damn well insert it! So to speak. There is an excellent article on this subject in the Boston Globe today. In it Abby Wolf reports, among other things, that child sexual abuse was featured in a tv drama based on Trollope’s The Way We Live Now, a feature that is entirely absent from the novel. This is one reason not to see … Read the rest

Is Language a Spandrel? *

Jan 5th, 2003 | Filed by

Chomsky, Hauser, and Fitch think it may be, Pinker thinks the idea is eccentric.… Read the rest

Hidden Ecological Explanations *

Jan 4th, 2003 | Filed by

Is culture a human category, or can animals have it? Do orangs and chimps learn culture, or adapt their behavior to their environment?… Read the rest

Is It Distraction, or Multi-Tasking? *

Jan 4th, 2003 | Filed by

Can students learn critical thinking while playing solitaire or surfing the Web?… Read the rest

When Good Scientists Go Bad *

Jan 3rd, 2003 | Filed by

They become journalists and friends of the Raelians and are selected to ‘check’ the ‘evidence’ of cloned baby.… Read the rest

Maybe It’s Both

Jan 2nd, 2003 8:26 pm | By

Another, more minor point from the MLA convention.

“The famous line about the M.L.A. is that you’ve never seen a convention where people drink so much and fuck so little,” said Michael Bérubé, an English professor from Penn State University.

Really. That’s so interesting, because I had always heard that was philosophers.… Read the rest

M.I.T. Investigating its own Laboratory *

Jan 2nd, 2003 | Filed by

Physicist at M.I.T. accuses lab of hiding flaws in missile defense program.… Read the rest

Specialized Professionals on the Subway

Jan 1st, 2003 6:25 pm | By

I always knew I didn’t want to be an academic, and a story like this reminds me why. Oh God. The jostling, the ogling, the sucking up, the trend-sniffing, the star-chasing, the pretension. I’d rather be a prison warden, a chicken plucker, a bus driver.

And that’s especially true of the MLA. There’s something about…what used to be called literary criticism, but is now called, in a move that to my mind reeks of pretension and seriosity-envy, ‘literary theory’, that makes me want to grab a shovel and cover myself in mud. Which is odd enough, because I’ve always been a literary type. But then again maybe that’s why: after all literature, unlike other academic fields, has always been a … Read the rest

An Evening in Hell *

Jan 1st, 2003 | Filed by

The MLA convention: interviews, fear and trembling, publish or perish, cutbacks, no vacancies, ‘literary theorists are the snappiest dressers’.… Read the rest

Never Mind Offensive, Is It True?

Dec 31st, 2002 5:42 pm | By

There is an interesting comment on the letters page of the New York Times Science section.

The conversation with David Sloan Wilson quotes him as saying, “I tell people I’m an atheist, but a nice atheist” (“The Origins of Religion, From a Distinctly Darwinian View”). The idea that atheists, secular humanists, agnostics and other free thinkers are not “nice” or, as is often more bluntly put, “cannot be moral without a belief in God” is highly offensive to the millions of Americans who are nonbelievers.

I entirely agree with the basic thought, but I would have phrased it a little differently. (Plus, in Wilson’s defense, I think he is reacting to the prejudices of other people, not expressing his own.) … Read the rest

Research on Free Will *

Dec 31st, 2002 | Filed by

Is it an empirical question rather than a philosophical one?… Read the rest

Paradigm Shift in Progress? *

Dec 31st, 2002 | Filed by

Physicists disagree about revisions to special relativity.… Read the rest

Claim Anything *

Dec 30th, 2002 | Filed by

Rael ‘once claimed that he travelled by flying saucer in 1975 to share lunch with Jesus, Buddha and Confucius’ and now claims to have cloned a human.… Read the rest

Undue Burden Indeed

Dec 30th, 2002 1:00 am | By

Here is a review of what sounds like a very strange book by a ‘New Democrat’ (i.e. a Democrat so conservative he might as well be a Republican) and adviser to Clinton named William Galston. He wraps himself in the cloak of Isaiah Berlin, the reviewer Stephen Macedo wittily remarks, in an effort to make a case for ‘value pluralism’; but it sounds more like Balkanization and desecularization. Particularly bizarre and indeed alarming is the fact that he condemns the U.S. Supreme Court for striking down the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which was written so broadly as to give religious groups the ability to challenge any law that imposed an ‘undue burden’.

The review is particulary sharp with the all-too … Read the rest

A Skeptical Look at ‘Diversity Liberalism’ *

Dec 29th, 2002 | Filed by

A New Democrat thinks the US doesn’t pander to religion enough.… Read the rest

The Great Age of the Big Notion *

Dec 29th, 2002 | Filed by

The Lonely Crowd was one of a crowd of Big Idea books that were long on speculation but short on evidence.… Read the rest

Separation of Politics and Science *

Dec 28th, 2002 | Filed by

Daniel Smith reviews Steven Pinker’s The Blank Slate in The Boston Globe.… Read the rest