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Who… are you?

Sorry. Dave Grohl moment there.

All the Cool Kids at Scienceblogs are asking their readers to identify themselves. So, if the Cool Kids do it, I have to as well (why yes, I did have problems at high school. Why do you ask?). I hope they don’t leap over a cliff. I managed to avoid their zombie day thing, though.

In the comments, I’d love to know a bit about my readers. Are you science students or scientists? Do you study philosophy? Why do you come here? As any teacher will tell you, it’s a bugger trying to gauge the level of knowledge, expertise and interest of your students, and for bloggers that is eight times worse, since I can’t even see your faces or hear the snoring from the front row.

Don’t lay out anything you aren’t comfortable with, and if you want to make suggestions, please do (other than “shut up!” – if you come here, you do it of your own accord).


  1. ERV ERV


    • John S. Wilkins John S. Wilkins

      Oh, you. Don’t worry, I have a thick dossier on you…

      • Ian H Spedding FCD Ian H Spedding FCD

        Watch her, she’s an antapostrophist. How weird is that?

  2. Jeff Jeff

    Just a lay person with an interest in all science subjects. Started reading a newsgroup labeled “”in the mid to late ’90s. There was this Aussie, who despite the accent, had a rather innovative way of dissecting creationist arguments. Oh, and the pun chains that he started. Then his law firm of ‘Snatchit, Grabit and Run’ assessed me .05 USD every time I used the phrase “IDiot”. A lawyer with a moniker of ‘catshark’ eventually settled the lawsuit. Been following his writing ever since, on my lawyers advice.

  3. Ian Ian

    PhD in plant ecology. Teach botany.

  4. Brian Brian

    Just another unreconstructed fundamentalist new atheist.

    Fellow Melbournian. Just an amateur regarding philosophy and biology.

    I come here because I want to get my nose out of joint when I read your militant, strident, intolerant agnosticism. Besides it’s worth a read I think.

    • John S. Wilkins John S. Wilkins

      I object to “militant”. I prefer “New” or “Affirmative”. Oh, wait, I self-identified as militant, didn’t I? Dammit!

  5. Dale Dale

    Retired bio prof./computer programmer with interests in systematics, evolution and philosophy of science, especially as applied to evolutionary biology.

  6. cranium cranium

    Old, self-employed in an ancillary role in the arts. Rabid atheist. Qual’s in business and human resources.

    Hate theists, those who want the world run their way and accommodationists. I rove sites to find evidence to blast them with, from biblical interpretations, through pro-choice and sexuality, to political interference.

    I see no middle ground between science and religion and reject the notion of ‘new atheists’ or similar. You believe in god or not. If not, then there are various outcomes, from inactivity to militant action.

      • cranium cranium

        Errr… I’m actually harmless and sometimes pointless so don’t be alarmed. I gather information from sites such as yours, WEIT, Metamagician, Greg Laden, Pharyngula and some lower profile sites and apply it in arguments against what we often term ‘fundies’. BioLogos, Uncommon Descent, various evangelical sites and anti-choice sites.

        • John S. Wilkins John S. Wilkins

          ‘SOK, I figured you were being ironic… so was I.

    • Brian Brian

      Rabid atheist? Bugger, I didn’t identify as rabid. That means I’m not as extreme as I could be. Opportunity missed.

  7. Perplexed in Peoria Perplexed in Peoria

    Just a lay person with an interest in all science subjects. Started reading a newsgroup labeled “” in the mid to late ’90s. There was this Aussie named John, who had a rather innovative way of dissecting sociobiology arguments.
    But there was also another Aussie there named John who was sometimes almost worth reading. I knew he had a blog, so I decided to look at it for the first time just today. (BTW, sorry for misattributing that quote back in t.o.)

  8. Adam Adam

    Grad student in Molecular Evolution. I really like the history of science stuff that you’ve written at Talk Origins.

    BTW, do you have any thoughts on Pigliucci’s “The Future of Philosophy of Science”?

    • John S. Wilkins John S. Wilkins

      I have written about the ornithology metaphor before. It even became a published essay.

      I broadly agree with Massimo’s article; little of it is controversial in the field. But I wonder about to what extent philosophers can criticise good science. We can unpack the ontology and epistemology of science; we can try to figure confusions within science, we can discuss the societal implications, and we can talk about the philosophical construals of science, but it seems to me that we are not, qua philosophers, entitled to do any actual science criticism. Science works, in my philosophical view, as a kind of simulated annealing process, and you cannot, ahead of time, specify what will work and what will not, so prescriptions (and retrospective prescriptions in particular) are a philosophical conceit.

      To exhibit this, I am of course doing the exact opposite by writing a text on classification in the natural sciences…

      • Barry Rountree Barry Rountree

        I don’t need philosophers to criticize good science, I need them to define what good science /is/. This isn’t taught to graduate students (except by imitation and osmosis). It wasn’t until I started reading your stuff in particular and philosophy of science in general that I came to an intuitive understanding of concepts like “model” and how it applied to my work. Up until that point, I thought the paper with the smallest error bars won.

        So there — you’ve been useful. Hope that doesn’t get you in trouble with the union or anything….

      • John S. Wilkins John S. Wilkins

        Even the most abstract of ruminations have a way of turning useful (vide Hardy’s boast). I think they forgive you so long as not too much of what you write has a practical application.

  9. I’m a lawyer … and, mostly, not ashamed of it.

    I’m interested in the philosophy of science and have read widely (not least among certain stubbornly antipodal practioners thereof) but hardly comprehensively.

    I’ve attempted to use my professional skills to support science as science and as a social force.

  10. jeff jeff

    Former hardcore software engineer (language design, compilers, and AI) for 25 years, but now a musician at large in the USA (permanent walkabout, it seems). Many interests, especially philosophy.

  11. Benjamin Franz Benjamin Franz

    Programmer and system admin. Background in physics (didn’t finish). Former US Navy electronics tech. Been on the net since the early 1990s and hung out in Talk Origins from about ’93 to about ’97.

  12. Chris' Wills Chris' Wills

    Eur Ing CEng (feel free to look those up if you aren’t from the UK), so that makes me an Engineer.
    Almost as old as the great white ape, perhaps older.

    Now manage the people who look after all the maintenance systems in a large LNG plant.

    Work in the Middle East (not Saudi, not Dubai, one of the other countries).

    Nothing against non-religious people.

    Rabid, raving Agnostic of the theistic kind

    Found this excellent blog on scienceblogs and when it moved I moved.

  13. Atheist.pig Atheist.pig

    Catholic agnostic/atheist network engineer who had a very traumatic experience when I was six or seven years old, I was told Santa Claus didn’t exist. My goal ever since has been trying to find meaning and purpose in a Santa-less universe.

  14. Skeptic Tim Skeptic Tim

    Me? Started off being a failed aircraft maintenance engineer (read mechanic) then went to university. Roamed through mechanical engineering, physics, mathematics, computer science type stuff (before computer science was respectable) but now I am just an old retied exploration geophysicist (it sort of happened by accident). I really wanted to be an astrophysicist so that’s what I studied in grad school until I discovered that no one in Canada was going to pay me to be one! I come here because I really liked biology but never got much beyond horticulture and gardening; and because I’ve always been a rabid agnostic atheist or atheist agnostic Mennonite and you don’t seem to be quite as annoying as PZ – and I like an argument occasionally.

  15. Mike Haubrich Mike Haubrich

    Gadabout, flibbertigibbit, former reader of several Posts of the Month from a guy who was always evading working on his thingy. Never took any philosophy past the 200 levels, nor biology past the 1003 level; yet when I started reading the stuff you have written for (the newsgroup and the FAQs) my interest in both took a sudden turn towards a desire for a deeper understanding in both subjects because you make it fun and interesting.

    Thanks, John!

  16. I’m that guy who is neglecting the blog next door.

    • John S. Wilkins John S. Wilkins

      “Evolving Thoughtz”?

  17. Danish IT-consultant with an interest in science and the religion wars

  18. Sam Clark Sam Clark

    Philosophy lecturer in the UK, interested amateurishly in philosophy of biology and professionally in the theory of toleration.

  19. Kel Kel

    Computer programmer with a degree in computer science. I’m not sure why I read here, possibly because after conversing with you after the dinner in Canberra I realised I knew absolutely nothing and reading here might be a way to slightly offset that.

  20. DiscoveredJoys DiscoveredJoys

    Upright mammalian biped. God free. 35+ year old science degree.

    Love to find links between disparate facts and disciplines, sometimes very satisfying, sometimes gloriously wrong. Either works for me.

  21. Philosophy PhD student researching evolution and morality; science journalist and editor of Australian Life Scientist (and former editor of Cosmos magazine); curry enthusiast; come here because evolution is a continual source of spectacular revelations about all manner of stuff – and nice have someone who can point me at newer and spectacularer revelations.

  22. Ben Breuer Ben Breuer

    Musicologist and perennial dissertator (partly on evolution). Atheist from birth, with some appreciation of religious practices and great love for / interest in some religious music. [J.S. Bach–sure. Christian Rock–perhaps not.] Weaknesses for antipodeans and philosophers, but no antipathy towards cephalopodeans or biochemists. Got linked to your blog, I think through PZ, sometime in (?) 2005/06.

  23. Iorwerth Thomas Iorwerth Thomas

    Computational condensed matter physicist (trained in particle theory) presently based in Pisa, with an interest in philosophy of science. General fan of evolution. Also a UK Anglican of the ‘traditional’ [1] liberalish variety (which tells one absolutely nothing about what I may or may not believe at any given moment). Spent my university years being mistaken for an agnostic, which probably means I was doing something right…

    [1] Or what was ‘traditional’ before that label got hijacked by the allegedly conservative wing.

  24. Deb Deb

    Currently biology teacher, formerly paleoanthropology grad student, I come here because a) your writing is sharp, witty and makes me think about stuff that hurts my brain and b) I met you at the Howerfest in Toronto some years back, where we wandered through the fossils-from-China/feathered dinosaurs exhibit at the museum so I kinda feel obligated.


    I’d probably read it anyway. Hi John.

  25. Neovenator Neovenator

    Philosophy and psychology graduate, now a user experience/ usability researcher. Strong atheist who is far more weary than strident.

    My philosophy skills (such as they were) have somewhat atrophied, so reading your blog helps me to keep my oar in, as well as reading largely sensible analysis on the evo/creo wars. Been reading (and rarely commenting) for about 5 years now. And I stick by ‘largely’ :p

  26. I am an aging English freak who has spent fifty percent of his life living in Southern Germany. Over the years I have occupied my time and paid the bills with various combinations of the following: barman, glass washer in a bar, film projectionist, disc-jockey, field archaeologist, carpenter, drug dealer, electrician, painter, set designer, stage carpenter, theatre lighting technician, roadie, electric stove renovator, gardener, dish washer,studying (archaeology, mathematics, metallurgy, philosophy, English philology, history and history of science), industrial cleaner, university research assistant, billposter, jazz club manager, bicycle mechanic, evening manager of a culture centre, sound technician, stage hand, computer salesman, private tutor, language teacher, translator and proof reader.

    I’m just here for the beer.

  27. jeb jeb

    Social drop out with a background in classical theatre, history, archeology, ethnology and hard- core punk rock. My educational background is in the arts.

    I take an interest in how beliefs are transmited in narrative, and also in ethnic identity with a side- line interest in the social organisation of 6th cen. war- bands and violence.

    Blog is usefull as youre tendancy to deploy actual evidence from subjects I have a background in and to do so in a sophisticated and subtle way helps me to come to a very basic understanding of aspects of science and philosophy. Blog gives me a base to translate from.

    I have particular problems with recent debates in science as I think the best way to resolve contemporary issues posed by fundamental beliefs is to study belief systems.

    A lot of debate in science regarding belief has no relevance here and can prove to be rather distracting.

    It’s nice to see things that are on topic with an empirical evidence base.

  28. Ph.D. in neuroscience. Biology professor at Christian college. Christian, of the Reformed variety. Interested in philosophy of biology but quickly tire of metaphysics and don’t care what you or anyone else thinks of my particular religious beliefs.

    I use responses to “theistic evolution” to gauge whether someone is actually thinking or not. You passed.

    I come here for the variety and for the clear thinking. I think you’re right about atheism and the New Atheists (who I like a lot).

    • John S. Wilkins John S. Wilkins

      Steve, we must have an online conversation about this sometime. I am most interested in how you reconcile Reformed theology with science (and I am not saying that you can’t; it just interests me how you do).

  29. MSc in ecology, now enrolled in PhD in epidemiology. Love being challenged with old, new and crazy ideas.

    • John S. Wilkins John S. Wilkins

      Glad to oblige, especially with the crazy ones.

  30. I might be the odd man out: orthodox Catholic, Thomist, Ph. D Philosophy (I’m waiting for committee to convene in October to read my dissertation). I found your site either through Brandon or John Wilkins or when you critiqued something I wrote about species- I don’t remember exactly what it was since it was many years ago.

    I primarily read your blog for what you say about species. I think you do a fantastic job of explaining the fuzziness and imperfection of the notion, and the difficulty of dividing one species from another with bright yellow lines, or a one-size -fits-all account. That said, in the past, I’ve thought that you haven’t appreciated the role that matter plays in Aristotle’s account of an essence, and the significance of Plato teaching that things in nature do not have forms of their own, though both thinkers would, to be sure, say that an essence has some relation to a form. I think this sometimes leads you to an oversimplistic, Heraclitean notion of species that can’t explain the (at least partial) intelligibility of things.

    • John S. Wilkins John S. Wilkins

      Congrats on the nascent Phud.

  31. Oops… I meant I might have been referred to you first from John Farrell.

  32. Michael Fugate Michael Fugate

    PhD Biology – dissertation on speciation. Primarily teach and develop lab curricula for university level biology courses. Interested in philosophy of science – even had a philosopher (Alexander Rosenberg) on my oral examination committee. I only realized after the fact that my inviting a philospher pissed off quite a few biologists – I would have still done it even if I had known beforehand.

  33. Neville Park Neville Park

    Well, I’ve been reading your stuff since I was a high school student lurking on back in the early 00’s. It would be silly to stop now.

    Four years of university pretty much ripped out my interest in metaphysics and also philosophy of biology (and didn’t use any anesthesia either), then cauterized the wound with plenty of fire, but unfortunately I find it is growing back.

    Once a New Atheist and now feel very ashamed of it. Now agnostic. Canadian. Underemployed. Still mostly a lurker. The more things change, etc.

  34. An aging Anglo-Australian IT type and photographer in California with a semi-academic interest in HPS (starting with courses with David Oldroyd et al at UNSW a billion years ago) and — given the country I live in — a more practical interest in religion, Belief (this usage cries out for capitalisation), and its effects on politics and science. But you knew that already :-).

  35. Susan Silberstein Susan Silberstein

    Non-scientist science loving, tax-preparer, Southern California beach city dwelling Jewish atheist. Someone close to me keeps saying, “You’re such a geek.” I pretend to be offended.

    As you know, we are in agreement on many things.

    • John S. Wilkins John S. Wilkins

      Especially the best places to eat in San Francisco.

  36. I’m a Dutchman living in the birthplace of Erasmus with a M.Sc. in chemistry (major: molecular biology/biochemistry, minor: chemical informatics.) I flunked my Ph.D. on transcription factors, because while I do have the patience to read long philosophical blogs, I lack the patience for stuff like control experiments and Western blots. I blog about Dutch politics and music (mainly metal) in my native language.

    Currently I’m working in the call center of a homecare organisation while looking for a better job (I’m open to offers…) preferably in the birthplace of Spinoza

  37. Ribozyme Ribozyme

    Mexican, Ph.D. on molecular biology. Currently a professor and researcher (molecular mechanisms of infection in bacteria) in a Mexican university. I first came to your blog when it still was in Science Blogs through a recommendartion of PZ Myers. I’ve kept on following you because of your focus on science, which I love, and because what you write often makes me question my assumptions. I’m rather interested in philosophy, which I have never taken the time to learn properly (I wonder how you managed to study it and get a Ph.D. on it while holding a full time job) and even though my head starts spinning as soon as the discussions get technical. I consider myself an atheist, as in non-theist, ex-Roman Catholic, and I’m rather on th affirmative-newish side.

  38. Ribozyme Ribozyme

    Oh, by the way, very nice picture of you in Venice. Who says you aren’t photogenic?

    • John S. Wilkins John S. Wilkins

      I had to crop veerrryyy carefully. And note that a hat and dark glasses hides most of the sins.

  39. Ribozyme Ribozyme

    At least I think it’s Venice. Is it?

    • John S. Wilkins John S. Wilkins

      St Mark’s Square. That’s the church of fame behind me.

  40. PhiJ PhiJ

    Hah! I’m not surprised I don’t quite fit. I’m a christian, of the reformed (as best I understand it) and charismatic kind. I’m currently a fence sitter with regard to creationism.

    My background is biochemical, and I’m staying on the more chemical side of that for my PhD.

    Dunno how I came across you, but you’re interesting. So I read (sometimes).

  41. I’ll just go ahead and call myself an amateur philosopher… Can’t hurt, can it?

    Aimlessly educated, newly located to Wichita, KS from southern CA for financial reasons, hoping to take more math classes as soon as I can afford it, struggling to think clearly and say clearly what I think.

  42. Ian H Spedding FCD Ian H Spedding FCD

    Briterican – Brit who’s just become a naturalized Merkin. Spent most of working life in news libraries at the BBC then running small library at a medical journals publisher. Met wife on Internet moved to US, married, now working in call-center to support two cats.

    Raised in C of E but interest first in science-fiction then science put paid to any faith. Attempted science education but project foundered on pathological hatred of mathematics instilled by British school system.

    Agnostic, atheist and Millian libertarian who enjoys this blog because it is civilized, thoughtful and enlightening and not prone to the blogmob mentality you find on certain other sites.

  43. I’m a grad student in number theory. Like many others here I also first read your stuff a long time ago on TO. Some of your posts were part of what helped get me over the remaining issues the young me had with with evolution.

  44. J.J.E. J.J.E.

    Evolutionary geneticist pdoc. I lurk because you engage me in ways I find constructive or interesting or both.

  45. I’m an expat (from Warragul, Vic), now a maths prof in Canada. I cannot recall how I found my way here, but I’ve always been interested in science and find that I also have an interest in some parts (at least) of philosophy.

  46. I’m the administrator of Carnival of Evolution. I just come here to check that you link to it once a month. So far so good.

    I study evolutionary biology. Agnostic atheist (at least by a common definition of atheism, but you can call me agnostic if you like).

  47. cicely cicely

    Are you science students or scientists? Once upon a time, I was a biology major; and I’ve always been interested in other sciences as well.

    Do you study philosophy? No.

    Why do you come here? Some scienceblogger, sometime, linked to something on your site; I followed it, and found it good. Dull job + unfettered computer access + science interests = my clicking in, here, generally once a day.

  48. Barry Rountree Barry Rountree

    Ph.D. CompSci (officially as of 30 June), Theater undergrad, found creationism to be fascinating because, while they’re wrong about everything, finding out exactly why they’re wrong led me deep into fields that I never knew existed (ice core stratigraphy, philosophy of mind, etc.).

    When I asked “What should I read about X” on, Wilkins reliably replied with annotated bibliographies. That put him on my very short list of People Who Have A Clue. My office for most of my graduate career was in the same building as the science library, and t.o. was the source of most of my leisure reading for a solid six years.

    Now working at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory as a postdoc, working on the many difficult things that are expected to happen when supercomputer clusters hit tens of million cores, which means I dabble in everything from processor architecture to compilers to operating systems to MPI internals. Also have a long-running collaboration on abiogenesis with a few biologists at Case Western Reserve University.

  49. John S. Wilkins John S. Wilkins

    Tens of millions!? Does computing become statistical rather than deterministic at that point? Are you talking now about Turing populations?

    • Barry Rountree Barry Rountree

      Nope, those are real cores. BlueGene/L at LLNL topped out at 212,992 cores, and it’s currently only the 8th fastest machine in the world.

      Sequoia is supposed to come online at LLNL in 2012 with 1.6 million cores.

      That architecture is pretty much set in stone at this point, so my research is targeting the generation that will follow that one.

      Computing at that scale is…. unimaginative, at least so far. You have a simulated world, you divide it up into cubes, each cube gets a processor, and more processors either mean smaller timescales, greater fidelity at the same timescale, or larger coverage. I’d eventually like to start leveraging this to evolutionary (or ecological) algorithms where there’s enough hardware to create a plausible effective population size.

      So no, it’s not particularly statistical, although debugging techniques are moving towards that.

  50. I have a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Toronto, although I’m currently bumming around Austin TX. I specialize in early modern philosophy, particularly David Hume in his historical context, and I did my dissertation on Malebranche’s account of our knowledge of the external world as part of this larger project (background to a compare/contrast/trace influences sort of thing). Early on in graduate school I considered doing philosophy of science as an area-of-competence thing, but quickly figured out that what I was really interested in was more like the history of philosophy of science; I went on to other things, but I still have a dabbler’s interest in 19th century philosophy of science, especially Whewell and (as a sort of late outgrowth of it) Duhem. In fact, I think I started reading Ev. Th. consistently due to a post or two that were spot-on about about 19th-century philosophy of classification (although I’m fairly sure it was someone other than Whewell). But that was long enough ago that its origins can, in blogging terms, be fairly considered lost in the mists of time.

    I’m Catholic, broadly Thomistic in views, enjoy teaching, and read books insatiably. I think someday I would like again to live in or near Portland, Oregon, where I did my undergrad, but that’s far down the road, if ever.

  51. Andrew Nesvadba Andrew Nesvadba

    Computer and Videogame Journalist currently stuck in the land ‘Down Under’.

    Your blog was brought to my attention after I was linked to the Slate article and I’ve found it intensely fascinating.

    I’d describe myself as an individual who has swung between militant and apathetic agnosticism. In my youth I struggled with understanding religious faith while growing up with Lutheran and Baptist Christian churches and ultimately forswore religion. I came to realise that I was Agnostic after realising that Atheism had the same holes that irked me about religious faith.

    I say ‘swinging between’ as my agnostic views are something I’ve had to defend against atheists and theists alike, leading to temporary combative phases of militancy.

    Ahh well; glad to know there are others who are vocal enough to ensure that I’m not alone in my views 🙂

  52. I’m a short, fat, bearded Darwin groupie. My love of science at school led to an
    interest in the History of Science, fuelled by great TV documentaries and accompanying books by Bronowski, Sagan and Burke.

    Studied Physics at university in 1980s, but the non-classical variety turned out to be way too weird for my mortal brain, so took some side-courses in Archaeology and the History & Philosophy (!) of Science.

    Was later drawn to Gould via Dawkins (!!), which sparked a fascination with all things Darwin. Formed the Friends of Charles Darwin with a mate down the pub to campaign to see Darwin celebrated on British bank note. He finally appeared on note in 2000. To be honest, don’t think it had much/anything to do with our campaign, but you never know. Despite that, we’re still taking on new members.

    I realised I was still an Atheist at age 12, in a ‘Rock’ Hudson Latin class. I arrived at this conclusion through a process of naive induction: all the gods I had heard of were false, therefore all gods are false. This still seems like a reasonable stance to me. On the whole, I avoid arguing with people about religion because it wastes too much time. There are plenty of other things I don’t believe in that I also don’t waste time arguing about, so why make a special case for religion?

    I can’t remember what first brought me to Evolving Thoughts, but I stuck around, intrigued by the concept of an Australian philosopher who isn’t named Bruce.

  53. DonE DonE

    Graduate student at the University of Chicago, formerly of Hampshire College, MA. I’m interested in the history, philosophy, and sociology of science, particularly where science and religion are both a concern.

  54. Snarkyxanf Snarkyxanf

    Grad student in mathematics (not specialized).

    Formerly programmer, undergraduate in mathematics and philosophy.

  55. A. Clausen A. Clausen

    Well, John and I go aways back, a few years to my days on (before I lost my newsfeed and interest in battering my head against brick walls).

    At any rate, just a poor old IT guy closing in on 40 at breakneck pace, but with a fascination for science since I was about five (due mainly to my father and, a little later, Isaac Asimov and other Golden Age SF). My early background was, believe it or not, Jehovah’s Witnesses (most of my family still is), and I still remember the moment that I stopped being a Creationist, at about nine years of age in my school library, when I picked up a book on human evolution, and saw this startling artist’s rendering of two species of Australopithecus going at each other (probably not terribly accurate, but hey, it was like 1981), and for some reason it all just clicked for me at that moment. I got the big picture, though the next thirty years have been spent understanding the little picture.

    I’ve probably been an out and out atheist since I was about 15 or 16, and my one great regret is that I didn’t follow my passion for science into something other than a layman’s interest. But some good news, my daughter, who will be entering her last year of high school, has inherited some of my esoteric tastes and has shown a keen interest in anthropology (not my first choice, but to have raised a future academic is good enough for me, I have no problem living vicariously through my offspring).

  56. Looks like the new post spotlight has moved on, but I thought it might still be useful to offer feedback. I’ve been an occasional reader of ET for a few years. I appreciate your thoughtful and authentic writing voice.

    I’m a student in the sense that I like to study and learn things and that I have a guest access to a decent university library. My (amateur) profession now is to advocate for a sane transition toward a sustainable human culture. For the last few years I’ve been grazing a number of knowledge areas that relate to persuasion and culture and possible futures. I’ve come to appreciate epistemology as I’ve grappled with humans who grapple with the slipperiness of the things many of us believe to be facts.

    That, and brain-in-a-vat as a metaphor.

    It seems as if our future may depend a lot upon whether several million brains in vats can be persuaded to take an interest in the maintenance of the freakin’ vats and the environment that contains their freakin’ vats.

    I gather that it’s de rigeur to mention the recurring deity-related debates. What I find interesting about those conversations is that they establish a template for other belief-driven conversations, including conversations about the seemingly widespread belief that the brain vat environment is indestructible and maintenance-free. Occasionally a few participants in both of those sorts of conversations demonstrate unusual abilities to think outside the vat, and that’s nice to see.

    Thanks for writing, and thanks for contributing to the effort of helping a few vat-brains to think outside the vat.


  57. Professor of microbiology (yeast genetics is more accurate), wife says opinionated bastard.

    Do you study philosophy? Sure, if you call reading books about philosophy and the philosophy of science study, oh and reading blog posts .

    Why do you come here? See above.

    • John S. Wilkins John S. Wilkins

      Is there enough room for more opinionated bastards here? Hmm, maybe I should start a group blog and call it that… want to join?

  58. Assistant prof of biochem, father of two boys. Graduate of TO. I only post here because John promised me a pint for every post — of course he’s probably forgotten all about that.

    (Writing from Lyon, SMBE conf, had two pleasant lunches in a row with Larry Moran and lived to tell about it)

  59. I just earned my PhD at Fordham University in May. I wrote my dissertation on Nietzsche and moral philosophy and I have been teaching for 7 and a half years already (across 4 different universities, and for the last two years at 3 schools at a time), all while a graduate student.

    I feel my strongest affinity with your stuff I’ve read is your evolutionary take on epistemology.

  60. ‘Nother old Howler Monkey here. Science geek who wound up in engineering ‘cuz it pays better; philosophy dilettante (but retirement beckons, and two degrees is not enough). I come here because I think everything John writes is worth reading, ever since t.o days.

    • John S. Wilkins John S. Wilkins

      Even the bad puns?

      • OK, maybe with some exceptions….

      • Especially the bad puns!

  61. Ph.D. student in the philosophy (and history) of biology here, at Notre Dame HPS. Working on fitness, the causal structure of evolutionary theory, the history of biology, chance and evolution, and so forth.

    But you know at least some of that, because I’ve had the audacity to harangue you about this very blog out there in Real Life(tm).

  62. I’m a regular reader. I am a mis-educated (at fundamentalist schools and college), senior citizen with no background in philosophy. But I find your posts always interesting, if sometimes over my head.

    • John S. Wilkins John S. Wilkins

      Is there a way I can make philosophical arguments more accessible to you, Susannah? Do you mutter darkly “I wish he wouldn’t do that!”? If so, what is “that”.

      • Where I get lost, I usually recognize that it’s a lack of background information, mostly the history of philosophy, schools of thought, and definitions. I often turn to Google to fill in the gaps. I don’t think you should dumb things down for me.

        What I find interesting is that sometimes, reading a tightly-reasoned philosophical argument, I think, “Of course! I knew that; he could have said it so much more simply!” And then I realize that I’ve gotten there through a gradual internal argument, taking many years. It’s not simple, at all, just informal, and spread out; what I call “simmering on the back of the stove.”

  63. Matty Smith Matty Smith

    I love this place, John. I lurk, mostly. I’m a young Kiwi from across the Tasman, an English Lit student with a passion for the sciences. I’m surrounded by Deconstructionists in my classes, so come to various science blogs to get my daily fix of people who believe in an external world. You have no idea how much this helps.

    I wrote to you once before thanking you for the basic concepts in science list. Thank you again for blogging, keep it up. *gush gush, etc*


  64. Rachael Brown Rachael Brown

    Philosophy PhD Candidate ANU, you know the rest 🙂

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