50 words for snow, or conceptual confusion

In a well-known and generally debunked story, Inuit people have around 50 words for snow. Or so the argument by anthropologist Franz Boas goes. In fact, people who engage with the phenomena of their environments often make distinctions that those who rarely or never engage in the same way with those phenomena don’t. Snow is Read More…

Thoughts on racism

For many years, I have been very hesitant to speak about race. I’m white (a stupid social construction in itself), male and middle class. Every time I make a comment, in come the critics, attacking me on everything from my own group identity (which, by the way, I do not adopt; being on the spectrum, Read More…

Equality is about protection, not love

Again and again I see the same-sex marriage (SSM) debate cast in terms of love. And while I agree that people should be free to love those they wish (if it is mutual, and freely given, and no minors are involved), that is not what the SSM debate is really about. Instead it is about Read More…

Phobosophy

As everyone knows, philosophy comes from the two Greek words philo and sophos, and means, roughly, the love of wisdom, although as everyone also knows, Socrates declared his wisdom was his knowledge that he knew nothing. In recent years (by which I mean increasingly since the 1970s), there has been a drop away from knowledge Read More…

Species: The evolution of the idea

I have completed and submitted the manuscript now for my revision of Species: A history of the idea, now renamed Species: the evolution of the idea. I am publishing it with CRC Press, and it is due out next year. In addition to updating and revising the historical sections of the book, I have added Read More…

Noah’s Ark and the creation of the species rank

This is a section of my forthcoming revision to Species, presented here for comments that I can steal – umm, I mean for peer commentary. At this point in our narrative, we still do not have a uniquely biological notion of species, nor of a fixed rank in logic. As species concepts evolved, at some point both of Read More…

Are species life forms?

This is a section of my forthcoming revision to Species, presented here for comments that I can steal – umm, I mean for peer commentary. The philosophical ideas and terms of Wittgenstein have played an interesting and underappreciated role in the species debate: we saw Beckner appeal to family resemblance predicates, and Pigliucci revive that, Read More…

Look over here – “terrorism”

The notion of terrorism is not well-defined.There are over 150 legal definitions in the US and more in international law. Here is the UN’s definition: Criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public, a group of persons or particular persons for political purposes are in any circumstance unjustifiable, whatever the considerations of a Read More…

The Abstract and the Concrete, or, the Road to Fascism

I was thinking about the way in which the anti-abortionists justify their views. I have always said that “Pro-Life” is a misnomer. Instead of being pro-life, they are pro-potential life. In order to protect potential lives, they ignore the needs and rights of those who have actual life – the women who cannot for whatever reason carry that Read More…

Secular Calvinism

Australia is one of the most secular of developed nations. At the last census, 22% of people marked “No religion” as their affiliation, and the attendance at religious services weekly dropped to 16%, from a high in 1950 of 44%. So why is it that a sizeable minority (around 30%) of Australians oppose gay marriage, Read More…