Why is politics failing?

In a way this is a silly question: politics is politics, and always has been. The real question is why liberal democratic politics is becoming unrepresentative and generating cynicism, extremism and alienation among the supposedly represented. The answer is, I think, a loss of the social contract that made representative democracy work. In the US, Read More…

Accommodating Science: the backfire effect, and conclusion

[This is the final section of the book. I will return to the section on neurobiology and religion later.] The backfire effect If science is to be communicated to the wider community in a way that will change how people think, then it would seem an obvious idea to look at the actual science of Read More…

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…

Education, Journalism and Science

My last rant was perhaps somewhat intemperate. Carl Zimmer, who along with Ed Yong I really respect as a science journalist, tweeted it with the line: @carlzimmer: Man, @john_s_wilkins does not like newspapers.  This is not quite true. I like some newspapers. I do not like the newspaper industry. I worked in various media positions Read More…

Drama, journalism and science

Recently the Jonah Lehrer scandal was raised again when he was paid $20,000 to speak on his journalistic dishonesty by the Knight Foundation. I cynically noted on Twitter that being honest and as accurate as I could be netted me exactly nothing in the way of honoraria (I think I got a bottle of scotch Read More…

Eww, I stepped in some evolutionary psychology and other crap

*Sigh* I try and try to stay out of the muck, but they keep pulling me back in! I saw what I thought was a careful and rather overly-documented critique by Edward Clint of a talk by Rebecca Watson against evolutionary psychology (EP). It was full of references and arguments, devoid of ad hominem, and well Read More…