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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.
  • Can Faith and Science Coexist?


    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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    As Psychedelic Revival Rolls On, Don’t Downplay Bad Trips*

    As William James warned, mystical visions can be "melancholic" and "diabolic" as well as consoling.

    I’m no psychedelic prude. I reported on, and applauded, the resurgence of research into psychedelics in my 2003 book Rational Mysticism. I participated in a peyote ceremony of the Native American Church, and I advocated legalization of psychedelics for therapeutic purposes. But the enthusiasm with which some journalists are now touting psychedelics makes me a [...]

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    Scientific Seeker Stuart Kauffman on Free Will, God, ESP and Other Mysteries

    Kauffman on Richard Dawkins and other "New Atheists": "It is wonderful for them to have expressed the truth that moral behavior requires no belief in God. Morality probably evolved in Paleolithic to some extent. But to dismiss those who do believe in God, in any sense, is arrogant and useless and divisive."

    Few living scientists are as ambitious in their choice of problems as Stuart Kauffman. He is a polymath, with a degree in medicine and training in biochemistry, genetics, physics, philosophy and other fields. He roams across disciplinary boundaries seeking answers to the riddles that obsess him. Why is reality so beautifully structured rather than being [...]

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    What War Propaganda Like American Sniper Reveals about Us

    If the urge to wage war were embedded deep in our genes, we wouldn't need propaganda like American Sniper to whip us into a righteous frenzy.

    U.S. coalition forces killed at least 1,201 children in Iraq between 2003 and 2011. And that brings me to American Sniper, whose real-life “hero,” Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, was a child killer. Ever since I saw the film, I’ve been denouncing it to students, colleagues and other poor souls within hearing range as jingoistic, warmongering [...]

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    Did Edgar Allan Poe Foresee Modern Physics and Cosmology?

    Poe presented an ambitious theory of everything—which seems to anticipate certain modern scientific ideas--in Eureka, a book-length work that he write just before he died.

    I’ve always been an Edgar Allan Poe fan, so much so that I even watched the horrifying—not in a good way–2012 film The Raven. But when I spotted an essay on Poe by novelist Marilynne Robinson in the February 5 New York Review of Books, I hesitated to read it, thinking, What more can I [...]

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    Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Haunting Reflections on Science and Progress

    In his 1964 Nobel acceptance speech, King lamented the "poverty of the spirit which stands in glaring contrast to our scientific and technological abundance."

    Wanting to post something to honor Martin Luther King Day, I searched online for commentary by King on science. I found some examples in a terrific 2012 column by science journalist Cara Santa Maria, who quoted King decrying how science had served the causes of white supremacy and slavery. I also discovered King’s 1964 Nobel [...]

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    A Brief, Ironic History of “Ironic Science”


    Football is dead to me! I can’t watch any more without thinking about brain-damage and abuse of women and dogs. So instead of watching playoff games today (although I’m beaming bad-luck vibes at Brady and Belichick, whom I love to hate), I traced the history of “ironic science.” In my previous column, I claimed ownership [...]

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    What Is “Ironic Science”?

    As far as I know, the phrase "ironic science" was first employed in my 1996 book The End of Science.

    I was scanning my Twitter feed recently, pretending to look for “news” while really searching, as usual, for items that praise, condemn or merely allude to me—I mean, let’s face it, all of us social-media addicts are narcissists–when the bells in my amygdala started clanging. Someone had tweeted a paper called “The Ethics of Ironic [...]

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    Would Global Violence Decline Faster If U.S. Was Less Militaristic?

    Global violence has declined, but wars instigated by the U.S. have produced enormous casualties. Graph from

    2015 has begun with horrific violence: the slaughter in Paris, allegedly by Muslim extremists, of the staff of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. Outbursts like these lead many people to despair over the prospects for peace. A recent essay in Slate, “The World Is Not Falling Apart“–subtitled “Never mind the headlines. We’ve never lived in [...]

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