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    John Horgan Every week, hockey-playing science writer John Horgan takes a puckish, provocative look at breaking science. A teacher at Stevens Institute of Technology, Horgan is the author of four books, including The End of Science (Addison Wesley, 1996) and The End of War (McSweeney's, 2012). Follow on Twitter @Horganism.
  • Steve Fuller and the Value of Intellectual Provocation

    Steve Fuller has been called "one of the few wild intelligences that I've seen in decades of being around academics."

    Philosopher Daniel Dennett once asked: Would you rather be remembered for being right about something, or for being “original and provocative”? I’ve been mulling over Dennett’s question in the aftermath of sociologist Steve Fuller’s recent visit to my school, Stevens Institute of Technology. After hanging out with Fuller for most of a day and night, [...]

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    Sociologist Steve Fuller: Scientists Aren’t More Rational Than the Rest of Us

    Steve Fuller: "Make no mistake: it is not that scientists are less rational than the rest of humanity; rather, they are not more rational." Photo: University of Warwick.

    In a column last week, I argued that journalists and other non-scientists have the right and even in some cases the responsibility to question the authority of scientific experts; after all, “even the most accomplished scientists at the most prestigious institutions often make claims that turn out to be erroneous or exaggerated.” My post criticized [...]

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    Everyone, Even Jenny McCarthy, Has the Right to Challenge “Scientific Experts”

    Journalist Chris Mooney argues that the views of anti-vaccine activist Jenny McCarthy can be dismissed because she is not a "scientific expert," but by his logic the views of journalists should also be dismissed.

    Years ago I was blathering to a science-writing class at Columbia Journalism School about the complexities of covering psychiatric drugs when a student, who as I recall had a medical degree, raised his hand. He said he didn’t understand what the big deal was; I should just report “the facts” that drug researchers reported in [...]

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    For Pi Day: A Reminiscence on “The Death of Proof”*

    The 1993 article "The Death of Proof" argued that "the doubts riddling modern human thought have finally infected mathematics."

    In 1993, when I was a full-time staff writer for Scientific American, my boss, Jonathan Piel, asked, or rather, commanded me to write an in-depth feature on something, anything, mathematical. Fercrissake, I was an English major! I whined. I could fake math knowledge for little news stories about the Mandelbrot set or Fermat’s last theorem, [...]

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    N.Y. Times Hype of “Feel-Good Gene” Makes Me Feel Bad

    The evidence for the "feel-good gene" is flimsy, just like the evidence for specific genes associated with high intelligence, violent aggression, homosexuality, bipolar disorder and countless other complex human traits and ailments.

    In 1990 The New York Times published a front-page article by Lawrence Altman, a reporter with a medical degree, announcing that scientists had discovered “a link between alcoholism and a specific gene.” That was merely one in a string of reports in which the Times and other major media hyped what turned out to be [...]

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    How a Goshawk Scalped Me—Twice

    If you see this bird in the woods, run.

    A charming article about northern goshawks by James Gorman of the New York Times has dredged up a memory of my run-in with one of these fierce creatures. Goshawks, which range across North America and Eurasia, are among evolution’s highest-performance products. They have relatively short, broad wings—compared to the wings of, say, red-tailed hawks—designed not [...]

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    Can Science Solve Terrorism? Q&A with Psychologist John Horgan

    "Psychology has tremendous potential both to shape our understanding of terrorism as well as offering us the basis for a strategic framework aimed at reducing terrorist behavior." Psychologist John Horgan

    For years, I’ve been getting emails from people who praise my brilliant research on terrorism and then ask me tough questions about the topic. I’m forced to reply: “Sorry, I’m John Horgan the American science writer. I occasionally write about terrorism, but you have mistaken me for John Horgan the Irish psychologist and terrorism expert.” [...]

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    Can Faith and Science Coexist? Mathematician and Christian John Lennox Responds

    "The mathematical intelligibility of nature is evidence for a rational spirit behind the universe." John Lennox.

    My last column outlined points I made in a February 18 debate at my school, Stevens Institute of Technology, about whether religion and science are compatible. My “opponent,” Oxford mathematician John Lennox–a Christian, who has debated Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Michael Shermer and other prominent non-believers–emailed me the following response: It was a great pleasure [...]

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    Can Faith and Science Coexist?

    veritas_forum2B_printable

    Last week I “debated” the question above at my school, Stevens Institute of Technology, in an event sponsored by the Christian group Veritas. My “opponent” was John Lennox, a mathematician at Oxford and a Christian. I enclose “debated” and “opponent” in quotations marks because Lennox–a ruddy-skinned, white-haired Irishman, who has debated such renowned religion-bashers as [...]

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    Selma’s Timely—and Empirically Sound—Message of Nonviolence

    The film Selma, about the struggle of Martin Luther King and other civil-rights activists in the mid-1960s, promotes a message that our violence-intoxicated era badly needs to hear.

    Americans are flocking to a film that celebrates a soldier who killed lots of people during the U.S. war in Iraq. Meanwhile, a growing number of Americans want the U.S. to send ground troops back into Iraq to fight ISIS, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. So now is the perfect time for people [...]

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