Changing My Mind
I am a scientist. Perhaps because I am a scientist, I have always felt that changing a belief I hold is a cause for celebration. New information that causes a belief to become untenable is a reason for joy. I am now eighty years old. This means that of all the scientific, engineering, and medical …
Faith and the Pandemic
In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, we are being inundated by analyses and speculation about its effects on the world economy, political campaigning, democratic norms, civil liberties, social solidarity, the viability of regimes of fragile states, ongoing armed conflicts, camps of refugees and displaced persons, business practices, income inequality, provision of safety nets, the …
On Listening to Our Opponents
It’s hardly headline news these days that we Americans are dividing more and more into warring camps. Our social media are partly to blame, driving us into mutually hostile and suspicious “siloes” of opinion. I have a genuinely modest suggestion of one practice for dealing with these “interesting times” of ours—that old Chinese curse, “May …
Sixty-Six out of Seventy
Sixteen years ago, Free Inquiry published a remarkable and prescient article by Laurence W. Britt about the encroachment of fascism in various nations throughout the world, including the United States (“Fascism, Anyone?,” Spring 2003). This writer wishes to revisit the essence of that article—or perhaps, oracle—with the intention of alerting, and even alarming, all readers …
Eugenics or Bust
We have been God-like in our planned breeding of our domestic plants and animals, but rabbit-like in our unplanned breeding of ourselves. —Arnold Toynbee Some time ago, in some lab somewhere, some fruit flies were put into a closed container of some size, given some nectar, and patiently observed. The nectar supply kept up with …
When Absurdity Becomes the Norm
Tertullian (Quintus Septimus Florens Tertullianus, c. 155 AD–c. 225 AD) was a quipster who might have enjoyed a Henny Youngman–type success had he been born about eighteen centuries later. The Henny Youngman of more recent fame became the king of one-liners: he concentrated on human incongruences for the sake of human humor. On the contrary, …
People Are Apes! And That’s Very Bad for Creator Belief
The recent dispute in Free Inquiry over whether or not humans are apes spotlights a very important controversy that keeps popping up in the secular and skeptical communities. As is usual, the dispute was between non-biologists. In the biological community, there is no disagreement on the matter. As an active paleozoologist who publishes in the …
Perceptions of Humanism
I greatly enjoyed the dialogue between historian Yuval Noah Harari and philosopher A. P. Norman (“The Meaning and Legacy of Humanism,” FI, April/May 2018). Who would have thought that a debate over the definition of a single word could be so interesting and thought-provoking? Apparently the definition of humanism varies not only according to personal perception …
Tom Malthus, King Hubbert, and Me
Every reader of this publication will know of Thomas Malthus, the man who first warned of human overpopulation. His warnings that exponential human population growth would outpace food production have become so well known since his death (in 1834) as to give birth to that adjective Malthusian. And for the past half century or so, …
Pilots have a saying: there are bold pilots and old pilots, but there are no old, bold pilots. I am a good geologist (now retired), and geologists have a comparable, mutually exclusive saying: there are good geologists, and there are religious geologists, but there are no good, religious geologists. Geologists, as a group, are probably …
The Suffocation of American Compassion
The rise of the GOP and the decline of compassion go hand-in-glove. This dreadful phenomenon affects not only the old, sick, and struggling of our own nation but also rejects all hope for desperate people in many war-afflicted nations as they struggle to survive, eat, drink, and escape catastrophic carnage. To have witnessed this increasingly …
Confessions of a Recovering Jerk
One opponent of sexual harassment realizes that he’s been less than blameless.
Of Big Bangs and Little Whimpers
The United Kingdom’s June 2016 vote to leave the European Union was of a piece with the general tendency since the latter part of the twentieth century toward secession, fragmentation, and “local control.”
Bogus Heartbeat Bill Logic
“Equating a human life with a heartbeat is emotionally powerful but objectively false.”
Abolish the Freedom of Religion! A View from Europe
“All opinions should be free, whether they’re called religious’ or not.”
A Little Question for Our Believer Friends
“… It’s one great mystery why this supposedly loving and compassionate deity does not simply imbue all his creatures at least with the knowledge and certitude of his existence, his nature, and exactly how he wished to be worshipped… .”
Religion: Private Matter or Public Policy?
Religious extremists are crazy, right? Not so fast.
A Better Name for Us, Part 4
Part 4 of the entire four-part article just as the author submitted it.
A Better Name for Us, Part 3
Part 3 of the entire four-part article just as the author submitted it.
A Better Name for Us, Part 2
Part 2 of the entire four-part article just as the author submitted it.
A Better Name for Us
Does the world need one more label for people who lead lives of reason? Yes, and that label is genuism.
A Better Name for Us, Part 1
Part 1 of the entire four-part article just as the author submitted it.
Money on His Mindfulness: The Real Dalai Lama
The Dalai Lama carries some serious baggage, which scarcely anyone in an unfairly adoring West will dare to speak about.