How to argue with silly thing believers

[Apologies this took a while; I’ve been rather sick] So, given all this [Why believers believe silly things, why they believe the particular silly things they do, and the developmental hypothesis of belief acquisition], how can you change a believer’s mind? It is tempting to say that you cannot, or to take a more rationalist Read More…

Why anti science?

Over the past few decades there has been an increasingly negative attitude by governments, pundits, religiosi and faux philosophers against science. We have seen an increase in denialism about climate change (one of the most well supported scientific models of the day), vaccination, evolution, medical research in general, and the ancillary aspects of science like Read More…

The origin of “intelligent design” in the 18th and 19th centuries

A question asked on the talk.origins group by reader Garamond Lethe led me to do some reading and writing, which I do below the fold. He asked: I’m looking for an article that detailed the history of the term “intelligent design” prior to its use by the DI. I have a dim memory of reading Read More…

Scientists and history

Recently, historian of medicine Edward Shorter made the following comment [follow link for a good discussion]: Historians aren’t as interested [in his work] because they aren’t intellectually equipped to study that kind of thing. Most of them don’t have a scientific background. They can’t get into detailed discussions of therapies because they aren’t well informed about Read More…

God and evolution 1

[I have decided to restart ET for a bit, but given my circumstances, it will be sporadic at best. This is the first in a series that will be tagged “Living with Evolution”, and is the first rough draft of what I hope will be a book.] The common view these days is the religion Read More…

Chocolate history

Reader Jeb McLeish has brought to my attention an early attempt to do the metaphysics of chocolate: The Natural History of Chocolate by D. de Quelus (1730): The Spaniards, who were first acquainted with Chocolate after the Conquest of the new World, have laid it down for an undoubted Truth, that Chocolate is cold and dry, participating of the Nature Read More…

Classification and the DSM

More from my forthcoming book with Malte Ebach. Last post for the year, folks. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders This text, known by its acronym the DSM (-I, -II-, III or -IV, and -V due in 2013), is the main standard classification of mental illness and disorders used across the world, although Read More…

Classification and the periodic table

It might be thought that classification in the special and historical sciences is occasionally atheoretical, but that in the general sciences, physics and chemistry, it is derived from Theory. But in fact one of the most exemplary cases of empirical classification that led to Theory is in these sciences: the periodic table. According to a Read More…

The classification of clouds

[A segment of my new book, coauthored with Malte Ebach] The classification of clouds Clouds were regarded as so subjective, fleeting and resistant to classification that they were a byword for the failure of empirical classification, until Luke Howard in 1802 proposed the foundation for our present system of cloud classification (in competition, although he Read More…

Why is Darwin’s theory so controversial?

So asks this essay and gets the whole thing wrong. Darwin’s theories (plural) are not controversial because they imply that species are mutable. This was a widely held view by preachers, moralists, Aristotelians, naturalists, breeders, formalists, folk biology, and even biblical translators. Darwin was not controversial because he implied racist ideas about humans. He never Read More…