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Critical views of science in the news

  • "Infidelity Gene" Hyped in the News

    By John Horgan | May 25, 2015 |

    The New York Times "Sunday Review" section has anointed Richard Friedman its go-to guy for touting behavioral genetics--or "gene-whiz science," as I prefer to call it. In March, Friedman, professor of clinical psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College, proclaimed that researchers had discovered a "feel-good gene," which "makes some people inherently less anxious, and more able to forget fearful and unpleasant experiences." As I pointed out on this blog , Friedman's claim—like virtually all reported linkages of complex human traits and disorders to specific genes (see Further Reading )--is based on flimsy, contradictory evidence. […]

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  • 25 Terrific Science(y) Books

    25 Terrific Science(y) Books

    By John Horgan | May 20, 2015 |

    The great physicist Steven Weinberg recently nominated his "best science books ," inspiring me to revisit a list of my favorites, posted four years ago. I've dusted off those entries and chopped them down from 40 to 25, listed in authorial alphabetical order. […]

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  • Oliver Sacks and the Binding Power of Rhythm

    Oliver Sacks and the Binding Power of Rhythm

    By John Horgan | May 18, 2015 |

    In my last post, an appreciation of neurologist and author Oliver Sacks , I described him as an "anti-theorist," who emphasizes the irreducible individuality of each of his patients. But Sacks has presented more conventional, specific theories about the brain and mind. […]

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  • An Appreciation of Oliver Sacks, Anti-Theorist of the Mind

    By John Horgan | May 10, 2015 |

    So many people are singing the praises of neurologist and author Oliver Sacks that I hesitate to chime in. In February, Sacks revealed in The New York Times that he has terminal cancer, and reviewers are now raving about his new autobiography, On the Move , and entire oeuvre. […]

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  • Profile of Steven Weinberg: from The End of Science

    By John Horgan | May 4, 2015 |

    In my last post Steven Weinberg, one of history’s greatest physicists, answers questions about progress—or the lack thereof–in particle physics, cosmology and politics . He comments on, among other topics, strings, multiverses, the anthropic principle, religion, evil, nuclear weapons and human progress. […]

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  • Nobel Laureate Steven Weinberg Still Dreams of Final Theory

    By John Horgan | May 1, 2015 |

    One might think that success in science requires seeing through your own bullshit as well as the bullshit of others. But in my experience, this quality is quite rare. I’ve met only a few scientists who seem immune to wishful thinking. Francis Crick was one. […]

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  • Can a Hole in Your Head Get You High?

    By John Horgan | April 27, 2015 |

    Of the weird conversations I’ve had in my life, many of the weirdest took place while I was researching my 2003 book Rational Mysticism , which explores religious experiences and other exotic states of consciousness. And one of the weirdest of all involved a British aristocrat, Amanda Feilding, a.k.a. […]

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  • How to Handle Doubts about Evolution, Global Warming, Multiverses: Teach the Controversy!

    How to Handle Doubts about Evolution, Global Warming, Multiverses: Teach the Controversy!

    By John Horgan | April 20, 2015 |

    I’ve been blabbing a lot about free speech lately–in posts here and here , on New Hampshire Public Radio and the online chat show Bloggingheads.tv , in my classes. I’ve defended the right of all citizens to challenge scientists and other “experts,” who are often wrong. […]

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  • “Ecomodernists” Envision Utopia—but What about War?

    By John Horgan | April 14, 2015 |

    For an in-class exercise, I like asking students: “What’s your utopia?” I tell them that utopias aren’t fashionable these days; “utopian” is generally employed in a derogatory sense, meaning naively optimistic. Some cynics, notably philosopher John Gray , insist that our utopian yearnings invariably lead to disaster. […]

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  • Was I Wrong about “The End of Science”?

    Was I Wrong about “The End of Science”?

    By John Horgan | April 13, 2015 |

    One of the coolest—and most stressful--moments of my career took place November 7, 1996, when I was a staff writer for Scientific American . That evening, the New York Academy of Sciences sponsored a "Sneak Preview of Science in the 21st Century" featuring a panel of seven scientific luminaries. […]

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