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Critical views of science in the news

Quitting the hominid fight club: The evidence is flimsy for innate chimpanzee--let alone human--warfare

Quitting the hominid fight club: The evidence is flimsy for innate chimpanzee--let alone human--warfare

Extraordinary claims, Carl Sagan liked to say, require extraordinary evidence. Here is an extraordinary claim: "Chimpanzeelike violence preceded and paved the way for human war, making modern humans the dazed survivors of a continuous, five-million-year habit of lethal aggression."

The anthropologist Richard Wrangham of Harvard University made this statement in his 1996 book Demonic Males: Apes and the Origins of Human Violence (Houghton Mifflin, co-written with journalist Dale Peterson) and has reiterated it ever since.

June 29, 2010 — John Horgan
Chain links: Is the Internet empowering or enslaving us?

Chain links: Is the Internet empowering or enslaving us?

I don't believe in God—at least, not any version I've encountered so far—but I do believe in free will. Free will, which I define as our capacity to recognize and act on choices, is what makes life meaningful.

June 15, 2010 — John Horgan
Craig Venter has neither created--nor demystified--life

Craig Venter has neither created--nor demystified--life

Craig Venter is the Lady Gaga of science. Like her, he is a drama queen, an over-the-top performance artist with a genius for self-promotion. Hype is what Craig Venter does, and he does it extremely well, whether touting the decoding of his own genome several years ago or his construction of a hybrid bacterium this year.

May 27, 2010 — John Horgan
Are predictions of endless war self-fulfilling?

Are predictions of endless war self-fulfilling?

In Isaac Asimov's science fiction series Foundation, the mathematician Hari Seldon invents a method, called psychohistory, that predicts social behavior as accurately as statistical mechanics predicts the behavior of gases.

May 19, 2010 — John Horgan
Artificial brains are imminent...not!

Artificial brains are imminent...not!

Scientists are on the verge of building an artificial brain! How do I know? Terry Sejnowski of the Salk Institute said so right here on ScientificAmerican.com .

May 14, 2010 — John Horgan
Maybe nuclear power isn't so bad after all

Maybe nuclear power isn't so bad after all

Even before the colossal oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico highlighted the downsides of fossil fuels (as if we needed reminding), nuclear energy was looking better to me.

May 11, 2010 — John Horgan

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Cross-CheckCritical views of science in the news

Beyond XX and XY

Biology. Identity. Equality.