What is Time?

In response to students’ questions about whether time is real and time travel is possible, I’ve been reading what physicists and biologists have to say. My conclusions are that time (as a system of relations among events) is real, and that time travel is implausible.

Better Than Resilient – Prosilient

Resilience is important in many spheres of life, from personal psychology to ecology and economics. It’s important to be resilient and bounce back from life’s difficulties, but it’s even better to bounce forward and be “prosilient”.

Karma—What Goes Around Comes Around?

The idea of karma is used to mean that good deeds will be rewarded with good results, with the opposite for bad deeds. But like fate and destiny, the idea of karma is not based on any good evidence.

The New Synthesis in Cognitive Science

Chris Eliasmith's amazing book, How to Build a Brain, provides a new way of thinking about how brains make minds and synthesizes the major approaches to cognitive science.

Irregular Emotions

Bertrand Russell devised a word game he called “irregular verbs” with examples like: I am firm, you are obstinate, he is a pigheaded fool. These constructions provide excellent illustrations of the varying emotional associations of words.

What are Values?

Values in science and technology are mind-brain processes that combine cognition and emotion, and they can be objective if they reflect human needs.

What Is Evidence?

Medicine, psychology, and even philosophy should be based on evidence that is reliable, intersubjective, repeatable, robust, and causally correlated with the world.

Why Memes Are a Bad Idea

Memes are bad ideas because of the substantial differences between biological and cultural evolution. The lumping of all cultural entities together as memes neglects the variety and complexity of mental representations. The processes by which mental representations are generated and selected are very different from the ones that operate in biological evolution.

Motivated Ignorance

People succumb to motivated ignorance when their goals lead them to avoid learning potentially valuable information. Such avoidance of knowledge naturally happens with respect to important personal topics such as relationships and health. It is also common at the social and political level with respect to issues such as climate change.

Eleven Dogmas of Analytic Philosophy

Philosophy attempts to answer fundamental questions about the nature of knowledge, reality, and morals. In contrast to the dominant approach that uses the study of language and logic to analyze existing concepts, I prefer an approach that is closely tied to scientific investigations and aims to improve concepts.

Ethics, Caring, and Reason

Being ethical requires good reasoning about rights, consequences, and principles; but it also requires caring about the people affected by actions. Ethical thought needs to be both cognitive and emotional.

Interdisciplinary Collaboration

There are good theoretical and practical reasons to collaborate with people from other disciplines on projects such as trying to understand how the mind works. Here is some advice about how to collaborate productively.

Take the Cognitive Science Quiz

What do you think the answers to eight questions are about the nature of the mind and intelligence?

Procedural Creativity Invents New Methods

Procedural creativity – the generation of new methods – is important for scientific discovery, technological invention, artistic imagination, and social innovation. How do minds do it?

Is Healthcare like Broccoli?

Some critics of U.S. President Obama’s healthcare plan have argued that requiring people to buy health insurance is as illegitimate as requiring them to eat broccoli. A psychological theory of analogy clarifies where this reasoning goes wrong.

Should You Fear Death?

Many psychologists have claimed that people are heavily motivated by fear of their own mortality. This claim may well describe large numbers of people, but is it rational to fear death?

What is Pseudoscience?

Science is different from pseudoscience in using mechanistic explanations, statistical thinking, critical evaluation of competing theories, and in progressing with new theories and applications.

Mapping Values in Science and Society

Making decisions about social issues, including scientific ones such as climate change and bioengineering, requires values as well as facts. One good way to make such values explicit is to diagram them using cognitive-affective maps, which display emotional attitudes as well as conceptual structure.

Should You Trust Your Intuitions?

Intuitions in everyday life and especially in philosophy are often unreliable. Intuition should only be trusted when a thinker has had ample opportunity to acquire knowledge about stable regularities in an environment.

Your Brain on Drugs: Philosophical Implications

Studies of the neurochemical effects of drugs support the mind-brain identity theory over its chief rival, dualism, which claims that minds are distinct from bodies.

Having a Hip Replacement

Joint replacement surgery is unavoidably scary. Here are some ways to make it easier.

What’s New in Cognitive Science?

Cognitive science, the interdisciplinary study of mind and intelligence, is increasingly concerned with neuroscience, statistics, embodiment, and culture.

Zombie Ethics

Zombie ethics can contribute to assessment of people's obligations concerning the environment.

Emotional Causes of Climate Change Denial

Kari Marie Norgaard provides a sophisticated account of why a group of well informed and politically progressive people nevertheless tend to deny that climate change is a serious problem.

Facts about Grief

A new book clears up many misconceptions about grief, such as the common view that it unfolds in the five stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

Climate Change Denial

Climate change denial results from a natural thinking tendency called motivated inference, in which beliefs are based on people’s goals and emotions rather than on good evidence.

What Matters?

Different philosophical views about what we ought to care about will determine how best to produce a more desirable world in 2050.

Increasing Empathy

A new technique for mapping emotional values has potential for increasing empathy by helping people to grasp their own values as well as those of people with whom they have conflicts.

What Is Consciousness?

Everybody consciously experiences perceptions, sensations, emotions, and thoughts. Will psychology and neuroscience ever be able to explain consciousness?

The Joy of Thought

Many scientists have described the great joy that comes from making a discovery. Such emotions provide a major part of the motivation that keeps creative people working hard in the face of adversity. A new model of the Aha! experience provides a neural explanation of the joy of thought.