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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.
  • How an Agnostic Science Writer Celebrates Winter Solstice

    Sitting in a circle of stones on Winter Solstice can help us intuit what science also tells us, that life is infinitely improbable.

    Winter Solstice, darkest day of the year, is fast approaching. So once again I’m posting an edited version of a column I originally wrote for The New York Times more than a decade ago, when I was still married and living in a Hudson Valley hamlet. –John Horgan My wife recently decided that our family [...]

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    Advice to Young Science Writers: Ask “What Would Chomsky Think?”

    Science journalists should challenge dogma and authority, just as Noam Chomsky does in the realm of politics.

    I’ve been pondering my profession again lately, for several reasons: shifts in the Scientific American Blog Network; the launch of a science communication program at my school, Stevens Institute of Technology, which is closely allied with a new program in science, technology and society (STS); and finally a chat with editors at IEEE Spectrum, where [...]

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    A Profile of Biologist, Warrior, Poet, Philosopher Edward O. Wilson

    In a 1994 interview, Wilson expressed doubt that "we are going to go through any revolutionary changes of how evolution works or how diversification works or how biodiversity is created, at the species level."

    Personal feelings can complicate science journalism. I dislike some scientists whose views I admire, and like some whose views make me squirm. For example, I admired Stephen Jay Gould’s hostility to biological reductionism but thought he was a jerk. Conversely, I resist some views of Gould’s archenemy, Edward O. Wilson, but in person I find [...]

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    Edward Wilson’s Thrilling Prophecy of “Paradise” on Earth

    We have enough intelligence, goodwill, generosity and enterprise to turn Earth into a paradise both for ourselves and for the biosphere that gave us birth," says Edward Wilson in his latest book.

    Edward Wilson has earned the right to title his latest book The Meaning of Human Existence, which coming from almost any other author would sound laughably pretentious. Wilson is one of the towering intellectual figures of our era, who transcended his specialty—the study of ants and other social insects—to become a leading investigator of human [...]

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    Physicist Paul Steinhardt Slams Inflation, Cosmic Theory He Helped Conceive

    Paul Steinhardt: "Scientific ideas should be simple, explanatory, predictive.  The inflationary multiverse as currently understood appears to have none of those properties."

    I love apostates, believers in or, better yet, conceivers of a theory who turn against it. They restore my faith in science, because they show that scientists can overcome attachment to their own brainchildren, a feat that is essential for progress and cannot be taken for granted. Paul Steinhardt, Albert Einstein Professor in Science and [...]

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    Anthropologist Finds Flaw in Claim That Chimp Raids Are “Adaptive”

    Chimp violence by one community produces little or no net advantage over other communities and hence may not be adaptive, according to anthropologist Brian Ferguson.

    Since September, I’ve posted three columns, including two written by others, on whether lethal chimpanzee raids–and by implication, human warfare—are adaptive and hence innate. In the first, I critique a widely reported study in Nature: “Lethal aggression in Pan is better explained by adaptive strategies than human impacts.” In the second, anthropologist Brian Ferguson criticizes the [...]

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    Thanksgiving and the Slanderous Myth of the Savage Savage

    Native Americans, accused of Hobbesian savagery by modern scientists, actually treated Europeans kindly in some early encounters. This painting shows the legendary Thanksgiving feast between Pilgrims and the Wampanoag, who helped the newcomers survive and were eventually driven from their land.

    The approach of Thanksgiving, that quintessential American holiday, has me brooding once again over slanderous scientific portrayals of Native Americans as bellicose brutes.* When I was in grade school, my classmates and I wore paper Indian headdresses and Pilgrim hats and reenacted the “first Thanksgiving,” in which supposedly friendly Native Americans joined Pilgrims for a [...]

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    Are Scientists on the “Cusp of Knowing” How Weird We Are?

    In his new book Caleb Scharf writes: "So are we unusual or not?... Neither side is yet a winner. But we are much, much closer to an answer than we have ever been in the history of the human species; we are on the cusp of knowing."

    I’m writing this post for two reasons. One is to recommend a new book by Columbia astrobiologist Caleb Scharf (who also writes a terrific Scientific American blog, “Life, Unbounded“), and the other is to defend an old book of mine. Scharf’s book is The Copernicus Complex: Our Cosmic Significance in a Universe of Planets and [...]

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    Green Analysts Respond to Cross-Check Concerns about Warming, War and Hawkish U.S. Policies


    For a professional blowhard, there is no worse fate than being ignored. So I’m always—well, almost always—delighted when my posts get pushback, especially from people who are smart, well-informed and thoughtful. In my last post, “Hawkish U.S. Policies Pose Bigger Threat to Peace Than Climate Change,” I complained that discussions of how global warming might [...]

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    Hawkish U.S. Policies Pose Bigger Threat to Peace Than Climate Change

    Hawkish U.S. policies are far more of a threat to world peace than global warming, if recent history is any guide.

    In a previous post, I poked my nose into the debate over whether climate change will precipitate more conflict. I offered a half dozen objections to predictions that more warming means more war. One objection was that “many people making decisions that lead to large-scale violence—politicians, generals, warlords, drug kingpins and so on—work indoors in [...]

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