Of Guns and Religions

Guns don’t kill people. People kill people. Or so says the dedicated gun nut. (more…)


Did Jesus Turn Water into Wine with Trick Jugs?

At a wedding in Cana, sometime in the first century, Jesus turned water into wine. At least, so it says in the Gospel of John. This was the first of Jesus’ public miracles. The story runs that after the wine had run out, Jesus ordered the servants to fill six water jars full of water. They obeyed. The servants were then directed to draw from the jugs and serve up a mugful to one of the attendees. Upon taking a sip, the attendee proclaimed ‘ you have kept the good wine until now!’ (more…)

Am I a Whack Job? Or Just a Conspiracy Theorist?

The recent “termination” of James Comey by Donald Trump has led many to think that Trump may have finally jumped the shark. The Trump administration first claimed that the decision lay with the deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein, but Trump later indicated the decision ultimately lay in his own hands. The lack of any unified public explanation for the dismissal, in conjunction with the fact that Comey was leading an investigation into the Trump campaign’s Russia connections, has inevitably led the media, the opposition and the public alike to posit a conspiracy theory: Comey was fired by Trump for refusing to protect Trump from the Russia probe. (more…)

Why Defend Philosophy?

In recent years there has been a spate of articles defending the study of philosophy. Philosophy is not all idle chatter, these defenses usually argue. On the contrary, philosophy is surprisingly useful. The skills that philosophers gain through their study are remarkably important in all arenas of life, and especially in growing and lucrative fields like commerce and tech. Philosophy, they say, is not only good for the brain, but good for business! Plato, as is well-known, said that studying philosophy made you fit to rule others. Apparently he was wrong. According to the many defenses on offer, philosophy doesn’t make you a good ruler, but a good earner. I dislike this defense. (more…)

Wilde vs. Swift on Disagreement

Oscar Wilde once said that to disagree with three quarters of the British public was a prerequisite of sanity. Although Jonathan Swift probably put the idea better when he wrote that one can recognize a true genius by the following sign: all the dunces are in a confederacy against him. Wilde and Swift agree that a mere disagreement is no reason to change one’s own beliefs. They agree that  if you find yourself up against a large number of people who think you’re wrong, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you are. That seems a matter of common sense, but why? (more…)

Eureka Moments

Scientists go about trying to collect evidence that can be brought to bear on disputes between rival theories. If I accept the abiogenic theory of petroleum origins, whereas you accept the biogenic theory, then there is a simple way we can settle our dispute. We can try to find evidence of petroleum originating deep in the Earth’s crust, in a layer that cannot plausibly contain fossil deposits. This evidence would favour the abiogenic theory over the biogenic theory, and our dispute would be settled. But of course, there is more to science than just collecting evidence. Scientists don’t just collect evidence and write up papers for peer review; they also come up with the theories in the first place. And while the quest for relevant evidence is largely methodical, rational and logical, the creation of a new theory is largely spontaneous, whimsical and imaginative. (more…)