The World Without Us

Do we care more about the future existence of other people than about our own future existence? In a strange kind of way, maybe we do.

Bertrand Russell's Ten Commandments

Russell: “The Ten Commandments that, as a teacher, I should wish to promulgate, might be set forth as follows..."

Microaggressions and the New Culture of Victimhood

Two sociologists offer a provocative analysis of a recent cultural trend.

Bike Helmet Laws and the Law of Unintended Consequences

Bicycle helmet laws reduce head injuries - because they put kids off riding their bikes.

A Quick Guide to the Replication Crisis In Psychology

Studying psychology? A lot of what you're taught probably isn't true.

Why Do Politicians Say Dumb Things?

Why do politicians - many of whom are presumably pretty smart - often say such non-smart things? According to Jason Brennan, it's the rational thing to do.

The Sticking Point: Why Men Still Outnumber Women in Science

Let's face facts: Most women can't cut it in science. But nor can most men. Only a small handful of people have what it takes to excel in science. Some suggest, though, that this group includes somewhat more men than women. Are they right?

Is There a Gene for Winning Gold Medals?

Will 10,000 hours on the golf course turn you into the next Tiger Woods? What does Michael Phelps have in common with a canoe? Why do so many great sprinters hail from Jamaica? How does economics help explain Kenyan dominance in long-distance running? And why might a genetic test make you think twice about playing rugby or football?

Making (the Science of) Sex Fun

Meet the woman who can think herself to orgasm, the woman who has an orgasm every time she brushes her teeth, and the pig farmers who manually "pleasure" female pigs in order to increase their chances of getting pregnant (the pigs' chances, that is)...

What's Wrong with Princesses?

Parents are a neurotic breed, and a common focus of their neurotic concern is their children's toys. Toy guns and violent video games have vexed well-meaning parents for generations. But so-called girls' toys don't escape the critical gaze of modern parents. Indeed, some parents seem to be quite contemptuous of their daughters' preferred play items...

Sex Differences: Proof of Sexism or a Sign of Social Health?

Why should we trample people’s career preferences in order to enact our own preference for a 50:50 sex ratio in science or any other area? Why do activists think that their preference for a 50:50 sex ratio should take precedence over individual men and women's preferences regarding their own lives and careers?

Quote of the Day: William James on Consciousness

William James was one of greatest writers in the history of psychology. He was also one of the first evolutionary psychologists (the first was Darwin). In his book, The Principles of Psychology, James muses on the mystery of conscious awareness. Check out one of my favourite of his quotes on that topic.

Where Are All the Women?

There's probably sexism in science. But there's probably sexism in every field. Why would it only stop women from going into science? Something else must be going on...

Affirmative Action for Women in Science?

Are current worries about the underrepresentation of women in science misguided? There's a strong case that they are - but not a lot of people have heard it yet.

The Cartoon Guide to Psychology!

Recently a reader put me onto these very cool, very smart cartoons, which deal with a range of topics in psychology and evolutionary biology and life in general. The stars of the show are some sperm and eggs going about their everyday business. The cartoons are the brainchildren of Sheila McCann; if you like 'em, there are plenty more where these came from...

The Meaning of Life Revealed!

Evolutionary theory answers one of the most profound and fundamental questions human beings have ever asked themselves, a question that has plagued reflective minds for as long as reflective minds have existed in the universe: Why are we here? The question was answered in 1859 by Charles Darwin, and the answer can be stated in just six words...

My Family and Other Animals

Does size matter? What are the chances that you might accidentally marry a blood relative? What’s the difference between a trip to the zoo and a family reunion? Should psychology become a branch of zoology? Are doctors just glorified veterinarians? All these questions and many more will be answered in this blog post!

Rewriting Morality III: How Should We Treat Animals?

W. R. Inge: "We have enslaved the rest of the animal creation, and have treated our distant cousins in fur and feathers so badly that beyond doubt, if they were able to formulate a religion, they would depict the Devil in human form."

Rewriting Morality II: Suicide and Euthanasia

Critics of euthanasia claim that it is immoral to take a person's life, even if that person is suffering and wishes to die with dignity. After Darwin, we might argue instead that it is immoral to force people to keep on living when they would rather not. It is strange that we have elevated human life - i.e., pure biological continuation - so far above the quality of life for the person living it. If an animal is suffering terribly from a fatal injury or disease, most people agree that the humane thing to do is to put it out of its misery. But because of the inflated value assigned to human life, we are less humane in our treatment of human beings in the same boat. People are made to suffer needlessly on the basis of superstition.

Rewriting Morality I: Goodbye to Human Dignity

Is it always wrong to take a human life? Is the life of an animal ever worth more than the life of a human being? Traditional moral systems would answer "no" to both questions, for they are based on the view that human life is infinitely valuable whereas the lives of other animals have little or no value. But evolutionary theory undermines this view. It undermines the idea that we were made in the image of God, and the idea that we deserve special moral treatment because we are rational animals. This has important implications for ethical issues including suicide, euthanasia, and the proper treatment of other animals.

Evidence for Life after Death?

Where there's good evidence for an alleged paranormal phenomenon, it can easily be explained in naturalistic terms; where an alleged paranormal phenomenon cannot be explained in naturalistic terms, there's no good evidence for it.

Longing for an Afterlife

Human beings know something terrible. We know that one day we're going to wake up, and it will be the last time we ever do. We know that one day will be the last day of our lives. We know, in short, that one day - inevitably, inexorably, inescapably - we're going to die. It is an unfortunate by-product of our intelligence that we are burdened with this knowledge, knowledge that no other animal on the planet could hope to possess. And it is, to use the technical term, a bit of a bummer.

Did Morality Evolve?

Is morality an adaptation, crafted by the invisible hand of natural selection? Or do we just make it up? This turns out to be a tricky question to answer. On the one hand, there's little doubt that evolutionary theory can shed light on the origins of some of the behaviours that fall within the rubric of morality, including altruism. On the other hand...

Is the Universe Conscious?

One day, 13.82 billion years after the Big Bang and almost four billion years after life first evolved, something strange began to happen: Tiny parts of the universe became conscious, and came to know something about themselves and the universe of which they are a part.