Opinions are my stock-in-trade. Early in my career, I pretended to be objective, but as time went on I thought it would be more fun telling readers exactly what I think about psychiatric drugs, "progress" in psychology, multiverse "theories", war-is-in-our-genes malarkey, free will and so on.
When freshmen in my humanities colloquium at Stevens Institute of Technology ask why they have to read stuff by ancient Greeks, I reply that we have much to learn from old guys like Thucydides.
Rational Scientific American readers surely scoff at claims—based on ancient Mayan calendars and other esoterica—that life as we know it will end this December, especially now that NASA experts have "crushed" the prophecy.
Behaviorism is back! That's what David Freedman proclaims in the June Atlantic cover story, "The End of Temptation: How the creepy science of behavior modification is reshaping our desires." The article is, on one level, a hyperbolic report on apps that are "transforming us into thinner, richer, all around-better versions of ourselves" by helping people (including Freedman's brother) overcome overeating, smoking and other bad habits.
In 1991, when I was a staff writer for Scientific American , I wrote a letter to Thomas Kuhn, then at MIT. I said I wanted to profile him for Scientific American and "tell readers how you developed your views of the process of science." When he didn't respond, I called.
Evolutionary psychology, which traces what we do and think to instincts embedded into our ancestors by natural selection, is a dangerous meme. It can make even the smartest intellectuals say not-so-smart things.
When I teach history of science at Stevens Institute of Technology, I devote plenty of time to science's glories, the kinds of achievements that my buddy George Johnson wrote about in The Ten Most Beautiful Experiments (Alfred A.
A recent Scientific American post on lethal chimpanzee violence has me mulling over an incident that took place two summers ago when I was surfcasting for bluefish on Nantucket Island.
My girlfriend, whom I'll call Emily, loves videos of animals, especially cute ones, like baby hippos, talking porcupines, lionesses that nuzzle baby antelopes.
When predicting something that science will never do, it's wise to recall the French philosopher Auguste Comte. In 1835 he asserted that science will never figure out what stars are made of.
I've been bashing determinism and fatalism a lot lately, so I thought I'd write about an "ism" I like: optimism. For most of my career as a science journalist, I've been a pessimist, harping on all the goals that scientists will probably never attain.
I spent this morning pondering whether I should attack neuroscientist Sam Harris for attacking free will. I thought, haven't I spent enough time hassling Harris?
I met Christof Koch in 1994 at the first of series of big conferences on consciousness held in Tucson, Ariz. A professor at Caltech, Koch had helped popularize consciousness as a topic for serious scientific investigation—instead of windy philosophical supposition—through his collaboration with the great Francis Crick, who had already cracked the genetic code and now wanted to solve the riddle of mind as well.
Water, water, everywhere. But will we always have enough to drink? Wash away our waste? Grow crops and raise livestock? Some prominent progressives are warning that, as our population grows and our planet warms, water will become increasingly scarce, and humans will inevitably start fighting over it.
Legions of experts are trying to fathom what drove Staff Sergeant Robert Bales to allegedly slaughter 16 Afghan civilians, including nine children, on March 11.
I recently visited a doctor for one problem, and, as doctors are wont to do, he recommended tests for completely unrelated problems. My hearing has seemed muffled lately, so I wanted the doctor to peer in my ears.
Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America (Crown 2010), by the journalist Robert Whitaker, is one of the most disturbing, consequential works of investigative journalism I've read in a long time.
When, if ever, is lying justified? I talked about this conundrum this week in a freshmen humanities class, in which we were reading Immanuel Kant on morality.
Are you a war pessimist? Odds are you are. For almost a decade now, I've been asking people if they think war will ever end. I've surveyed thousands of people, young and old, liberal and conservative, hawks and doves, male and female.
In Remaking Eden (Harper Perennial, 1998), geneticist Lee Silver envisioned a future in which humanity has split into two species: "Naturals," the poor slobs who muddle along with the genes that nature gave them, and the "GenRich," who can afford to boost their physical and mental talents via genetic engineering.