Hah. Answers in Genesis is pissed off because their insurance didn’t cover rain damage.

Ark Encounter, which unveiled the 510-foot-long model in 2016, says that heavy rains in 2017 and 2018 caused a landslide on its access road, and its five insurance carriers refused to cover nearly $1 million in damages.

In a 77-page lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court, Ark Encounter asks for compensatory and punitive damages.

A million dollars in damages…I think maybe God was sending them a warning.

I think that means I’m a natural for the Morris Public Library summer reading club, even if it is mainly geared for children.

You can also win a coupon for a Dairy Queen ice cream cone for reading enough books! I could trample all over those poky little kids for that.

Perhaps more my style is their Silent Reading Club, where you show up, sit quietly, and instead of talking, you read a book. That’s my kind of social event. Next one is tonight at 5. I’m currently reading Tchaikovsky’s Children of Ruin — it’s got intelligent spiders and cephalopods in it, so it’s like it’s stimulating all of my cerebral erogenous zones.

Now this is high-quality click-bait: Near-Sighted Kids of Martian Colonists Could Find Sex With Earth-Humans Deadly. If only HG Wells had thought of that, his story would have had a more dramatic end as squinty-eyed Martian invaders dropped dead while trying to rape humans. The source for this peculiar claim isn’t that bad, but it’s still bad science. It’s about a guy who makes predictions about the future of human space colonists.

Solomon’s 2016 book, Future Humans: Inside the Science of Our Continuing Evolution, argues that evolution is still a force at play in modern humans. In an awe-inspiring TEDx talk in January 2018 — which inexplicably still has fewer than 1,000 views — Solomon outlined how humans would change — literally — after spending a generation or two living on Mars.

There’s the problem. These ideas are coming out of a TED talk, which is a good source for misinformation. I listened to it, and it was not awe-inspiring at all, but bad: it starts with the Elon-Muskian notion that the human race is doomed if we stay on Earth and we need to colonize other worlds. He lists a few ways we might go extinct, like a meteor strike, or erupting super-volcanoes, or using up all the resources on Earth. But he has a solution! One way to avoid such a fate would be to spread out beyond Earth, venturing out into the galaxy the way our ancestors spread from our birthplace in Africa.

I felt like raising my hand and mentioning that one and a quarter billion people still live in Africa, and that there are a lot of people who might wonder who you’re talking to with that “our ancestors” comment.

I’d also want to mention that changes occurring within two generations are going to be physiological adaptations, not evolutionary changes.

And galaxy? Seriously? He’s talking about a pie-in-the-sky effort to colonize Mars, practically our neighbor yet still almost impossible to reach. If we’ve got our pick of the entire galaxy, surely there are better choices than a cold, arid rock that is uninhabitable by humans.

It gets worse from there.

It’s a weird talk. The first half is all about how awful life on Mars would be for our species: the greatly reduced gravity is going to lead to calcium depletion and brittle bones, and much greater complications in pregnancy. The radiation is going to be a severe, even lethal problem — he points out that a native of Mars would receive 5,000 times the radiation dose of an inhabitant of Earth. Babies born on Mars will bear thousands of times more mutations than Earth babies, so miscarriages will be far more common.

You may be thinking that this sounds like a hell-hole, that the tiny population of humans who make it to Mars will be rapidly eliminated by fierce attrition, and that any colony will be far more doomed than anyone remaining on Earth. Not to this guy! He makes some very positive predictions about what will happen to this remote colony.

Far from waiting thousands of years to witness minuscule changes, Solomon instead believes that humans going to Mars could be on the verge of an evolutionary rollercoaster. He expects, among other things, that their bones will be stronger, their sight shorter, and that they’ll, at some point, have to stop having sex with Earth-humans.

But how? Solomon has an almost religious faith in the power of natural selection. Sure, there’ll be lots more mutations, but that just means evolutionary changes that might require thousands of years on Earth will occur in a few generations on Mars. He sort of sails over the fact that his hypothesis bypasses any opportunity for natural selection to work. He’s relying entirely on wishful thinking, that because brittle bones are a problem, a spontaneous mutation that counters it will arise, and rapidly spread through the colony…in a couple of generations. He doesn’t seem to be aware of the cost of selection. You’ve already got a tiny population, and you’re proposing that rare mutations will displace the majority of the individuals in a few generations? What kind of genetic load is he predicting? What is the effective population size of your colony?

“Evolution is faster or slower depending on how much of an advantage there is to having a certain mutation,” Solomon says. “If a mutation pops up for people living on Mars, and it gives them a 50-percent survival advantage, that’s a huge advantage, right? And that means that those individuals are going to be passing those genes on at a much higher rate than they otherwise would have.”

So we’re expecting an extremely rare advantageous mutation with extremely high adaptive value to “pop up” in a colony, while ignoring the greater likelihood of lethal or sterilizing mutations. We’ve got predictable increases in short-term adapations, like rising near-sightedness rates from living in close spaces, but we’ll pretend the predictable increases in cancer rates are negligible. Further, this population undergoing constant, rapid die-off with a few very rare benign mutations will, among other things, lose immune responses due to living in a sterile environment, which is how they’ll lose the ability to have sex with, or even contact with filthy Earth-humans, preventing the possibility of replacement of losses with new immigrants.

But cool, they might evolve new skin tones to cope with the radiation, because turning orange with more carotenes in your skin will be sufficiently protective to compensate for all the other damages.

He’s at least vaguely aware that they’re going to need a large, rich source of human genetic diversity to get all this “evolution” going.

It also means Musk and others will need to consider genetic diversity, to ensure a good mix throughout the population. Solomon argues for around 100,000 people migrating to Mars over the course of a few years, with the majority from Africa, as that is where humans see the greatest genetic diversity.

“If I were designing a human colony on Mars, I would want a population that would be hundreds of thousands of people, with representatives of every human population here on Earth,” Solomon says.

OK, how? At least this is a good example of a biologist telling physicists to do the impossible, rather than vice versa, but I’m just thinking this is silly. The resources required to ship hundreds of thousands of people to a place where the majority are going to die and fail might be better spent improving the sustainability of life on Earth. At least he did early on acknowledge that resource depletion might be a factor that would limit survivability, it just wasn’t clear that he wanted to engineer a situation to make his prophecy come true.

Finally, the fact that his solution relies entirely on unpredictable, chance mutations occurring so rapidly that natural selection has no time to work means that his fundamental premise, that he can make predictions about the fate of human colonies on other worlds, is absolute rubbish.

I don’t mind a little optimism, but it’s the internal contradictions and neglect of basic facts that gets to me.

By Brian Kahn Cryptobenthic fish may sound weird, but they’re not so different from you and me. They’re vertebrates just like us, though their hearts, bones, and brains are quite tiny. But unlike us, they do two things extremely well. “They’re the masters of premature death,” Simon Brandl, a postdoctoral researcher at Simon Fraser University, …
By Mike Wall Last night (May 23), SpaceX lofted the first five dozen members of its Starlink broadband constellation to low-Earth orbit (LEO) using one of the company’s workhorse Falcon 9 rockets. Starlink is designed to provide internet connectivity to people around the world, and it will do so using a truly enormous number of satellites. Starlink …
By Linda Greenhouse I happened to be in Dublin last week when the Alabama Legislature voted to ban abortions. Foreign travel tends to enhance a person’s perception of what’s happening back home, and that was certainly true for me on this trip. It’s almost exactly a year since Irish voters, by an overwhelming two-thirds majority, threw …
By Jonah Blank VARANASI, India—The seven pandits draped in cloth of gold are clearly competing against the five in saffron. In front of thousands of assembled pilgrims, each bevy of priests furiously recites Sanskrit chants, deftly swinging pyramids of flaming oil lamps, banging on bells and blowing on conch shells, wafting thick clouds of incense …
It’s Friday and the start of a three-day weekend for my fellow United States-ians. But before you get to your memorials, barbecues, sales, and grueling workouts, we have some news and cute animals for you. First off, say hello to our fearless leader’s fearless dog, Indy! He’s fluffy, he’s happy, and he loooooves everybody. I …

…but this seems like cruel and unusual punishment.

The prime minister will remain in Downing Street, to shoulder the blame for what are expected to be dire results for her party from Thursday’s European elections – and to host Donald Trump when he visits.

If I were her, I’d ask for something more medieval. Drawing and quartering, burning at the stake, the chopping block? All would be more humane.

So, UK…what slime-oozing gibbering abyssal nightmare are you going to replace her with? I know better than to wonder if politics will improve, it never does.

We should start throwing milkshakes at every journalist and pol who uses the word “electability” right now.

This post was originally published February 5, 2015, but the measles situation has only worsened since then, with anti-vaccination propaganda leading to the worst outbreak since measles was all but eradicated in 2000, so this post is unfortunately timely once again. Roman Bystrianyk and Suzanne Humphries have a cherry to pick with proponents of vaccination. …
By Heidi Ledford Minute fossils pulled from remote Arctic Canada could push back the first known appearance of fungi to about one billion years ago — more than 500 million years earlier than scientists had expected. These ur-fungi, described on 22 May in Nature1, are microscopic and surprisingly intricate, with filament-like structures. Chemical analyses suggest that …
Why the anti-abortion movement relies on white women leaders – “With the support of white women, anti-abortion activists can paint the many women who vocally protest their dangerous policies as hysterical and non-representative of all women. Subsequently, they can capitalize on the racial power dynamics that grant white women greater visibility and credibility than women …

book cover

You have probably heard of "life hacking": in recent years, the term has become a shorthand for any trick, shortcut, skill, or novelty method that increases productivity and efficiency. Life hackers might track and analyse the food they eat, the hours they sleep, the money they spend, or how they're feeling on any given day. Online, they share tips on the most efficient ways to tie shoelaces and load the dishwasher. Underpinning this is a view of the world as a system composed of parts that can be decomposed and recomposed, with algorithmic rules that can be understood, optimised, and subverted. In his book "Hacking Life: Systematized Living and its Discontents" (MIT Press), Joseph Reagle examines this phenomenon.

For the uninitiated, could you explain what “life hacking” is?

Life hacking is a type of self-help for the new millennium. Trivially, it includes clever tricks for doing something quickly or cheaply. Substantively, it approaches life as a system to be mastered, optimised, or exploited—often by bending or breaking widely recognised rules.

Sixty years ago, model railroad enthusiasts at MIT coined the word "hack" to describe a quick fix to “The System,” the web of wires and relays under the train platform. They defined a hacker as someone “who avoids the standard solution.” Life hackers do the same today, across all the domains of life.

What is your sense of how widely this advice is actually practised?

We can only estimate, but consider the most popular book, podcast, and website. Tim Ferriss’s The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9–5, Live Anywhere, and Join The New Rich has been translated into 40 languages and has sold more than 2.1 million copies. In November 2016, Ferriss reported his podcast had crossed the hundred-million download threshold—with as many as seven-million downloads a month. It can only be larger now. Presently, Lifehacker.com gets forty-million plus visits a month.

Your book traces the history of this movement. When, where and how did it originate?

The movement emerged among a handful of technically inclined writers in 2004. In February of that year, Danny O’Brien proposed a “life hacking” session at the O’Reilly Emerging Tech conference in San Diego, California. O’Brien, a writer and digital activist, noted that “alpha geeks” are extraordinarily productive, and he wanted to speak “to the most prolific technologists about the secrets of their desktops, their inboxes, and their schedules.” Within the year Merlin Mann launched 43Folders.com, named for a way of organising future tasks via folders, and Gina Trapani started Lifehacker.com, a site that remains popular today. Tim Ferriss took the practice mainstream with his 2007 best-seller The 4-Hour Workweek. Although Ferriss does not make much use of the life hacker term—he sees himself as a self-experimenter in "lifestyle design"—his books and podcast make him its most famous practitioner.

How does life hacking differ from previous self-improvement methods?

It’s not a coincidence that the term "life hacking" emerged a few years after Richard Florida’s 2002 identification of The Rise of the Creative Class. Florida argued that metropolises with the “3T’s” (technology, talent, and tolerance) correlate with growth. This growth is driven by the creative class, those who create “new ideas, new technology, and creative content,” including artists, engineers, writers, designers, educators, and entertainers.

Members of the creative class have significant autonomy, engage with complex problems, and accept flexible work even if it exceeds the bounds of the 9–5 workweek. They feel that working too much is better than counting the minutes before the end of the day. Consequently, they tend to complain of too little time rather than too much work.

Life hackers are the geeky constituency of the creative class, attempting to make the best use of their time, bodies, and minds. They are rationally-inclined individuals seeking self-help via systems and experimentation.

Is it damaging to view life as a series of components that can be optimised?

It can be, but my intention is not to demonise life hacking. Life hacking can be a double edged sword, and optimising has merits and downsides.

Downsides include optimising the wrong thing or doing it to the exclusion of everything else. For example, one hacker optimised his dating routine such that he went on 150 dates in four months. This led to some hurt feelings, such as when he asked a woman how her parents were when she had already told him of her childhood as an orphan. Also, his optimisations were not helping him because he kept thinking something better was around the corner. He had optimised going on dates, but not beginning a relationship.

When is life hacking useful? When is it dangerous?

The usefulness of life hacking is readily apparent; it’s hard to find something that is more pragmatic than tips on folding shirts and staying organised. However, this utility obscures the dangers. As I noted, there are the excesses of naive optimisation, which tends to blinker people to anything outside their focus. And treating features of life as something to be quantified risks objectification, especially when it comes to others.

Life hacker’s strengths and weaknesses are two sides of the same coin, the edge of which can understood by way of a Buddhist concept. Virtues, like compassion, often have an obvious opposite, like animosity; this is known as the "far enemy". There are also sentiments that masquerade as virtues: pity as compassion, dependence as love, indifference as equanimity; these are "near enemies". In the book, I identify the near enemies of hacking work, wealth, health, relationships, and meaning. For example, no one wants to be incapable or incompetent, but being efficient is not the same as being effective. And no one likes being sick, but compulsively checking health stats is its own sort of dysfunction.

What does the popularity of life hacking tell us about our current political, economic and cultural moment?

Self-help reflects the needs, wishes, and fears of a people in their moment in time, as Steven Starker suggested in his history of the genre.

Life hacking, then, reflects a world of far-flung interactions, pervasive systems, ubiquitous devices, and unsettled science; a moment in which we can work remotely, outsource chores, and track and experiment with every indicator of life, from heart rate to emails sent. It’s a fast-moving world where the individual must be an entrepreneur of the self, promoting their latest writing, podcast, app, or influencer tie-in.

There has been a lot of discussion online recently about burnout – partly related to our digital culture. Do you see any connection between this and life hacking?

Certainly. Life hacking began as a technique for coping with information overload. David Allen’s 2001 book Getting Things Done (GTD), was a source of inspiration to early life hackers.

However, being more productive is the first link in a chain of near enemies. Overwhelmed, we are tempted to become more efficient without considering the larger picture of what we truly value. When some life hackers gained this insight, they concluded they needed to get off the productivity treadmill, quit their high-paying jobs, and become “digital minimalists.” They then traveled the world exhorting others to follow their newfound lifestyle of owning only what they can fit in their backpack. And when they found this lacking, they turned to hacking meaning, dabbling with Stoic philosophy and meditation.

Life hacking can impart useful techniques and insights in all these domains of life, but it has its limitations. Life hacking can be like donning a set of horse blinkers so as to block out distractions and focus attention on personal goals. Though this can be useful, life hacking, especially the optimising type, creates a type of tunnel vision. And with their vision fixed on the horizon, life hackers can be naive to the people and circumstances on their periphery. The more optimal the hacking, the more narrow and distant the vision tends to be.

This article is a preview from the Summer 2019 edition of New Humanist

If you’re sick of politicians citing the Second World War in their stance on Brexit, standing in a room of the most famous British military propaganda posters from the era will prove a powerful cure. Abram Games is celebrated now as a genius of mid-century design; most famously his branding of the Festival of Britain – that elegant profile of the goddess Britannia – but also his images of British brands that encapsulate post-war confidence, from the British Overseas Airways Corporation to the Financial Times.

His wartime posters, on display at the National Army Museum in London until November, remind us of a remarkable moment when an individual could come up with a powerful idea and get the creative freedom to achieve it. Games, a conscripted infantryman, convinced the army to let him run his own department, generating his own ideas of what soldiers needed to know. Though he had some art school training, Games, the son of Jewish refugees, had an instinct for applying his visual talent to social welfare.

Most of his work would have been displayed on small posters around mess rooms and barracks. His distinctive airbrush compositions, infused with the imagery and techniques of surrealism and Bauhaus, tackled everything from brushing your teeth correctly to keeping your ammunition dry. Part of their power is his unashamed use of glamour to inspire. His original recruitment poster for the the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) was trying to attract middle-class women to a service that involved much grit and grease. The exhibition curator, Emma Mawdsley, tells with pride and delight how her own mother – then just 17 – was one of those who signed up because of it.

But there’s a tension in Games’s work: it is hard to imagine it getting permission now. His elegant women and handsome male soldier profiles are almost without exception facing left – a surprisingly obvious statement of his socialism. It makes the glamour of his figures all the more provocative. That ATS poster and some others were withdrawn after their initial release. In the case of the glamorous ATS woman it was because of her implied brazenness. The siren-red lipstick triggered questions in Parliament.

Games’s posters do not flinch from harsh messages, for instance coffins to show that children will die from carelessly uncleared unexploded ammunition. His non-army fundraising posters for Jewish refugees use skeletal imagery of survivors of concentration camps. Such imagery would no doubt be considered intrusive now.

Above all, they celebrate the military and a broader socialist covenant between government and state that was considered mainstream in the 1940s and 1950s. Soldiers were confronted with images encouraging them to consider a further professional career with the army with its camaraderie, or to take advantage of training and apprenticeships to forge a new life on Civvy Street. His 1942 series “Your Britain: Fight for it Now” used images of the new designs of colleges, health centres and council estates to show the new Britain being planned and built.

One poster that was withdrawn shows behind the façade of the new Finsbury Health Centre in London. It depicts a child with rickets, the word “disease” graffitied onto a crumbling wall. Admitting such a Britain existed at all – even if it was being rapidly changed as the NHS took root – was unacceptable, according to then Prime Minister Winston Churchill. But these occasional bans remind us how strong his messages were.

What’s particularly affecting, seeing Games’s wartime posters now, is an awareness of how dramatically the covenant has broken down. During and in the aftermath of the Iraq War, stories of the poor treatment of British soldiers began to get more and more news coverage. There were scandals of poor or faulty equipment – soldiers without the right body armour; soldiers who weren’t getting proper treatment and therapy for their life-changing injuries or post-traumatic stress.

Under David Cameron’s coalition government, problems were compounded by massive cuts in jobs and an increasing reliance on the Territorial Army. One wonders what Games would make of the headlines about ex-army homelessness, mental ill-health, private company-run assessments withdrawing benefits from those left with severe disabilities, or the growing number of suicides. Or about the closures of libraries and youth and Sure Start centres.

Games’s posters were a promise of a better future predicated on a shared civic state. To modern eyes they have a more dreamlike quality than ever.

How many more stories do we have to tell? – “It’s dispiriting that once again, women feel compelled to participate in what feels like an endless drip of confession, one whose intended audience refuses to not only listen but ideologically refutes the very premise of those experiences.” There is value in sharing our stories so …
This post contains a video, which you can also view here. To support more videos like this, head to patreon.com/rebecca! Transcript: There’s a lot of pseudoscience in daytime TV, like Dr. Oz shilling magical beans that will make you lose weight or live forever or whatever, and Dr. Phil doing whatever it is that he …

Alice Roberts

This article is a preview from the Summer 2019 edition of New Humanist

Alice Roberts is an evolutionary biologist, anthropologist, broadcaster and author. Her most recent book is “Tamed: Ten Species that Changed Our World” (Hutchinson), and she was recently appointed president of Humanists UK.

In “Tamed” you say the Neolithic Revolution – which first started around 11,000 years ago – was the most important development in human history.

It’s the most important transformation in the way that humans interact with the rest of the natural world, because up until that point all of our ancestors were hunter-gatherers. In the Neolithic we see the beginning of farming communities settle in the landscape. You get villages, towns, cities, strongly defined societies – and then civilisation.

Charles Darwin analysed the domestication of animal species by humans. Did he believe this could cast light on evolution more broadly?

He absolutely did. Darwin studied domesticated species to understand how humans have effected change over several generations through selective breeding. He then arrived at his insight that this change occurs in wild populations. Simply by interacting with their environments, some animals are going to be more successful than others at surviving and reproducing. Darwin calls that natural selection.

Some of your evolutionary biology work has shown instances where we see species changing within a human lifetime.

Microbiology has enabled us to see new bacteria emerging as we’ve been looking at them. That’s a new species and that is evolution. We also have new species of worms that have evolved to survive in ground that is contaminated with arsenic mines in Cornwall. It’s very clear that those worms are separate genetically from other earthworms: they are a new species. And in the last few years, on the Galapagos Islands – so beloved of Darwin – we have seen new species of finch evolving.

Is the popular “Out of Africa” theory – the idea that humans evolved in Africa first, then migrated elsewhere – still accurate?

It’s still the main theory, but it has become much more elaborate. This is what tends to happen in science. We reduce things to bite-size stories, but you can end up with theories that are overly simplistic, and then you have to build them back up. What is clear now – with information from genetics and genomics – is that there has been a lot more milling around than we have given our ancestors credit for. There was also a lot of contact and mixing with other species: with Neanderthals; with these mysterious Denisovans in Asia; and with archaic species that we don’t even have fossils for, but whose ghosts we see in the DNA.

Much of your work focuses on the fact that, as a species at the top of the evolutionary food chain, we have a level of social responsibility.

We’ve previously assumed that as human beings we are all-powerful and in control of our own destiny. Much of the ground for this arrogance was laid by religion. But we are intensely networked and depend on lots of other species. Science says you are not the pinnacle of evolution; you are just another twig on the glorious tree of life, but you are lucky to have turned up with this quirk of being sentient. That brings with it great responsibility, which really focuses on minimising our impact on other species.

You point out that our impact on climate goes back further than the Industrial Revolution.

It pales in comparison beside the changes that have taken place since the Industrial Revolution, but it is still detectable. There is a change to the natural rhythm of climate that goes back to seven or eight thousand years ago. And it seems to be associated particularly with the clearance of forests, where you are basically removing the carbon sink, and increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

During the 20th century the world’s population grew from 1.6 billion to six billion. Do we need to think differently about the global food chain?

Politically and socially there has got to be a middle way: a balance between small farms, which are very important in terms of global food production, and the massive industrialised farms. But there is such a diversity of environments across the world. Say, for example, you said: everyone is going vegan tomorrow. That doesn’t work if you live in Siberia, where you cannot grow anything. And it doesn’t work if you live in arid east Africa, where you can herd goats, but crops are very limited. [But] there is no doubt that we will to have to reduce our meat consumption.


Herds of meat-producing animals are contributing significantly to global warming. But you have to consider the different facets together and not be dogmatic about the solutions. Because you might have a situation where you want to keep particular animals on a landscape because they may be increasing biodiversity, and we want a mixture of grasslands and forests, for instance. If we take all the grazers away we might revert everything back to forests. These are all interesting ethical problems, but we need to be talking about them.

You’ve supported Humanists UK’s call to end state funding of faith schools. Were you surprised by the backlash from sections of the media?

Yes, it did surprise me. There is this issue in the UK which seems to be a historical hangover where a lot of our primary schools in Britain – especially in rural areas – are Church of England schools. Some of these don’t get any funding from the Church of England at all and are funded entirely by the state. Others receive most of their funding from the state, but are allowed to discriminate against non-religious people [in their admissions policies]. It’s not fair, because most of the UK population is not religious.

And all schools in Britain have collective worship every single day, which is meant to be largely of a Christian character. It’s very odd and feels like an attempt to indoctrinate children.

How would a secular education system be better?

The most important part of this is social cohesion. We are a very diverse, multicultural country, and we need schools that are mixed and secular, in the real sense of the word. Not secular meaning atheist, but secular in the sense that everybody’s views are respected. And that no one religious belief is promoted or prioritised over everything else. Schools should be teaching RE and kids should be learning about a range of views, including humanism, of course. They should be nurtured in the way of critical thinking. But that is the opposite of what we have in many primary schools at the moment: where Anglicanism is very clearly promoted as the faith that the children are being inducted into. They are not just learning about it, they are being instructed in it.


The summer 2019 issue of New Humanist is on sale now! Subscribe here for just £27 a year

Religion and power: a special report

With religious fervour

The New Atheists thought they stood for truth and reason – but, Giovanni Tiso asks, did they help usher in an age of conspiracist thinking and prejudice?

Now, as we survey what’s left of the movement from its smouldering ruins, we may wonder what the fuss was about, and how these authors managed to build such formidable straw men of religion and human history on their way to selling millions of books. But New Atheism was never about faith nor, indeed, atheism. It was about asserting the supremacy of Western culture in spite of the enduring place of religion in Western institutions and societies, for the purpose of giving renewed justification to Western imperialism.

Steering a new course

Can Tunisia’s Islamist party Ennahdha secure the gains of the 2011 uprising and adapt itself to secular democracy? Layli Foroudi reports.

Ennahdha’s political evolution was applauded abroad, with media outlets characterising the move as a separation between “mosque and state”. However, their opponents within Tunisia are not convinced.

The Q&A: Alice Roberts

JP O'Malley talks to the evolutionary biologist and broadcaster about church schools, evolution and the climate.

We are a very diverse, multicultural country, and we need schools that are mixed and secular, in the real sense of the word. Not secular meaning atheist, but secular in the sense that everybody’s views are respected. And that no one religious belief is promoted or prioritised over everything else.

A 21st-century schism

Madeline Roache reports from Ukraine, where the conflict in the east of the country has provoked a split in the Russian Orthodox church. Up to 30 million followers are at stake.

The Kyiv Patriarchate now stands to win back parishes not just in Ukraine but also in Belarus and Lithuania, which it controlled before the Russian empire expanded. Putin ominously warned that the redistribution of church property could lead to a “bloody dispute”.

Caught in the middle

Have religious fundamentalists and western Islamophobes alike eroded vital breathing space for secular feminists in Pakistan? Rahila Gupta explores.

A whole body of scholarship that aims to counter what it sees as an imperialist project to construct a stereotypical Muslim woman – submissive and lacking in agency – has evolved. The irony is that Muslim women like Zia, who use their agency to argue for the importance of secularism, are dismissed as Western stooges or not authentically Muslim.

The summer 2019 issue of New Humanist is on sale now! Subscribe here for just £27 a year.

Wales painting

Also in this issue:

  • Is the populist rage against experts a symptom or the cause of political turmoil? By David Nowell Smith
  • Samira Ahmed on Abram Games's vintage designs and their dreams for a better future
  • How do communities defend themselves when the state is absent? Chitra Nagarajan reports from Nigeria
  • Caroline Crampton on Killing Eve and how women-led action drama is changing what we watch
  • The strange story of a commune in Denmark: Ken Worpole reflects
  • Rhian E. Jones explores how Welsh culture learned to assert itself
  • The Beirut marathon is helping to heal sectarian divides, as Samir Jeraj discovers
  • Niki Seth-Smith on what scientists learned from magic and the art of illusion
  • What Homer can teach us about hospitality, by Gabrielle Rifkind and John Harris
  • Why seeing isn’t believing for much of the universe, as Marcus Chown explains
  • PLUS: Columns from Michael Rosen and Laurie Taylor; book reviews; the latest developments in biology, chemistry and physics; cryptic crossword and Chris Maslanka's quiz

New Humanist is published four times a year by the Rationalist Association, a charity founded in 1885. Our journalism is fiercely independent and supported entirely by our readers. To make a deeper commitment, why not donate to the Rationalist Association?

This article appears in the Witness section of the Summer 2019 issue of the New Humanist. Subscribe today.

In April, the world watched as flames consumed Notre Dame, the 850-year-old cathedral in Paris. The fire broke out under the roof; the cathedral was undergoing structural work to repair years of damage from weather and pollution. In the hours it took to put out the blaze, the iconic spire fell and the roof was destroyed. The upper walls of the building were severely damaged, along with some works of art and religious relics, although many others were moved to safety early in the fire. The disaster was met with an outpouring of grief from people in France and around the world. Within a few days, over €1 billion had been raised to renovate Notre Dame – a reconstruction which is expected to take decades.

This expression of grief transcended the religiosity of the cathedral, which is an architectural wonder and cultural monument as well as a site of worship. Notre Dame is part of the UNESCO World Heritage site that spans the banks of the Seine in Paris.

It did not take long for the disaster to be politicised. As the fire blazed, the right-wing British commentator Katie Hopkins said it was “a terrifying manifestation of the truth of Judeo-Christian cultures [in] Western Europe. We are aflame. And powerless to quell the fire.” Polish president Andrzej Duda, who has been endorsed by far-right groups, called for a rebuilding of the cathedral as a symbolic reconstruction of Europe on its “real, historical, Judeo-Christian foundation”.

The term “Judeo-Christian” has long historic roots, and is said by some to form the basis of Western civilisation, invoking the shared values and connected fates of these two faiths. It references the fact that Christianity was derived from Judaism, and that both religions use the Torah. In the US in the mid-20th century, it became a shorthand for ethics such as the dignity of human life, common decency and support for traditional family values. Yet today it is most often used to draw a line between imagined Christian values and a perceived threat of Muslim immigration.

Several prominent Jewish commentators have pointed out that the term elides the fact that Jews have often experienced persecution in Christian-majority European countries. After Donald Trump used the term in 2017, Rabbi Jill Jacobs wrote on Twitter that “much of ‘Judeo-Christian’ tradition involves centuries of Christians trying to kill us,” adding, “if you mean ‘not Muslim’ say it.”

The description of the Notre Dame fire as an assault on the “Judeo-Christian” heritage of Europe, used by far-right figures, demonstrates this charged political use of the term, rather than any serious historical commentary.

My latest book, Shoot For The Moon, has just been published, and presents a radically new look at the science of success.

In July 1969, Apollo astronaut Neil Armstrong set foot on the Moon, one of humanity’s greatest achievements. A few years ago I was chatting to comedian and space enthusiast Helen Keen about the Apollo landings. I knew that the technology used during the missions has been extremely well documented, and asked whether anyone had explored the psychology behind this remarkable achievement. Helen didn’t think that it had, and kindly put me in touch with her friend, Craig Scott. Craig is another space enthusiast and, over the years, has become friends with many of the people who populated NASA’s Mission Control during the Apollo era. He kindly put me in touch with this remarkable bunch and they were kind enough to agreed to be interviewed them about their historic work.

I discovered that most of the controllers came from modest, working-class, backgrounds, and that they were often the first in their families to go to college. Perhaps most surprising of all, they were astonishingly young. When Neil Armstrong set foot on the Moon, the average age of the mission controllers was just twenty-six years old.

After extensive interviewing and research, I eventually identified the eight principles that I believe make-up the Apollo mindset. ‘Shoot For The Moon’ describes these principles, including how the seeds of success were sewn in the President Kenndy’s charismatic speeches, how pessimism was crucial to progress, and how fear and tragedy were transformed into hope and optimism. The book also describes techniques that allow you to incorporate these principles into your own life. Whether you want to start a new business venture, change careers, get promoted, escape the rat race or pursue a lifelong passion, these techniques will help you to reach your own Moon.

Books on success usually focus on genetically gifted Olympians, hardheaded CEOs and risk taking entrepreneurs. This book presents a radically different perspective on how to achieve your aims and ambitions. It tells the inspirational story of a group of ordinary people who did something extraordinary. Perhaps most important of all, once you understand how they did what they did, you can follow in their footsteps and achieve the extraordinary in your own life.

Shoot For The Moon is available in the UK here, and in the US here.

As many of you know, the Day of Reflection conference, scheduled for November 17 in NYC, has been cancelled, and some hundreds of ticket holders are now left seeking refunds.

I was forced to pull out of this event nearly two months ago and have said very little about it since. Now that Travis Pangburn has officially announced that he will be “folding” his touring company, Pangburn Philosophy, I can give a brief account of what happened.

  1. I participated in 10 events organized by Pangburn Philosophy between September 2017 and July 2018. I didn’t always approve of the way those events were staged or marketed, but all of them appeared to be successful.
  1. However, after the cancellation of an August 2018 conference in Auckland, Pangburn seemed intent on running his business off a cliff. He owed a lot of money to several speakers at that point, in the form of unpaid fees and reimbursements. Most egregiously, he seemed less than fully committed to refunding ticket holders for the cancelled Auckland conference.
  1. At this point, I had two more dates on the calendar with Pangburn in 2018: a dialogue with Brian Greene in Toronto (September 5) and the Day of Reflection conference in New York (November 17). I kept my appointment in Toronto because I was contractually obligated to do so. I also didn’t want to do anything that would harm Pangburn’s ability to pay his mounting debts.
  1. After Toronto, however, it became clear that Pangburn could not be trusted to put his house in order. Facing a total lack of transparency, and realizing that Pangburn was using my ongoing association with him to book future speakers, I withdrew from the NYC conference on September 21 (as well as from a Vancouver conference scheduled for March 2019). Legally, I was able to do this because Pangburn was in breach of my speaking contract. Ethically, I had a far more compelling reason to back out: I couldn’t promote or participate in an event for which I believed other speakers were unlikely to get paid; nor could I continue to work with someone who still hadn’t given refunds to ticket holders for a conference that had been canceled more than a month before.
  1. After I withdrew from the NYC conference, my management team asked Pangburn to give us the email addresses of all ticket holders so that we could notify them that I was no longer involved with the event. Pangburn refused to provide this information. However, he assured us that he would notify everyone himself. (I do not know whether he ever did.) He then stopped responding to our emails.
  1. At the time I pulled out of the NYC conference, I assumed that the revenue from ticket sales was still safely in the box office and that Pangburn would be obliged to issue refunds should the conference fail. That’s how things normally work, especially at a reputable venue like Lincoln Center. It hadn’t occurred to me that New York ticketholders might suffer the same fate as those in Auckland.
  1. I was left with a legal and ethical puzzle that I could not solve. Again, I had no way to communicate with ticket holders directly, and discussing the chaos surrounding Pangburn on my podcast never seemed like an option. Several friends and colleagues still had events on the calendar with him, and I didn’t want to do anything to derail them. In addition, many speakers who were aware of my reasons for pulling out of the NYC conference were still signed on and seemed intent on making it work. I couldn’t see anything to do that wouldn’t risk creating further harms.

Although Pangburn still owes several speakers (including me) an extraordinary amount of money, we were willing to participate in the NYC conference for free as recently as a few days ago, if he would have handed it over to us and stepped away. I have been told that this offer was made, and he declined it.

I find it appalling that so many people were needlessly harmed by the implosion of Pangburn Philosophy. I can assure you that every speaker associated with the NYC event will be much wiser when working with promoters in the future.

Sam Harris





The post A few thoughts on the implosion of Pangburn Philosophy appeared first on Sam Harris.

As I mentioned yesterday, I’ve recently gone back to school for an M.Ed in Higher Education. Regular readers may know that I already have a humanities PhD, which raises a pretty obvious question: “What the hell Dan? Aren’t you done with school? Why collect yet another degree? Seriously what is wrong with you?”

There are a few reasons I decided to go back to school. but most of them ultimately boil down to one thing: the academic job market. I’ve been writing about my experiences looking for a job over the last few years, and after four years and dozens and dozens of applications, it became very clear that something had to change if I planned on actually getting a job before retirement age.

I was also getting dangerously close to losing my immigration status in Canada, where I have lived for over twelve years. My three-year postgraduate work visa was set to expire this past summer, and with no employment on the horizon that would satisfy CIC requirements for renewal, going back to school was essentially the only way for me to stay in the country short of marriage (which an immigration lawyer actually suggested).

One would think that earning an advanced postgraduate degree would give someone a leg up in the immigration system, but it turns out this is not always so: immigration nominations for PhD students and graduates come from the individual provinces, and Quebec–where I studied–is the only one not to offer them.* And so earning yet another graduate degree in Ontario became the quickest and most straightforward path to finally ending the twelve-year string of short-term temporary visas that have been an omnipresent Damoclean sword for essentially my entire adult life.

But why Higher Ed?

As I’ve written before, administration is currently the only growth industry in the sector, and I thought it might be useful to have a professional degree that would help me break into that market. I also do honestly believe that schools would benefit from having more administrators who have first-hand experience with teaching and research, and with actual lived experience as graduate students and academic contract workers. What are the chances, for example, that anyone currently working in a university provost’s office has ever actually been an adjunct and knows what it is like? Or has even been a graduate student any time after the 1980s?

Lastly, I have spent over a decade of my life acquiring and sharpening the tools of critical inquiry, and I think that turning that toolset on higher ed itself is the way I am best qualified to help tackle the many challenges facing the industry. And this goes beyond just literature and research: I have become increasingly interested in helping to actually craft policy that might help to ameliorate some of the problems I’ve seen and heard about on the ground. This degree is a first step in that direction.

*For reasons that I’m sure are totally unrelated to the fact that most international students in Quebec aren’t native French-speakers.


Hello everyone! Many apologies for my long absence, but things got a little busy for me when I went back to school (yes, again) to actually officially study Higher Education!

The upside for you, dear readers, is that my new studies have provided lots of new grist for the old mill, and I plan to post fairly regularly about my ideas, experiences, and research over the next few semesters. This will include everything from day-to-day experiences in the programme itself to discussions of the existing literature on higher ed to summaries of my own research in the field (and possibly links to full papers for the true masochists among you).

Here’s a list of the topics I plan to address in the next few weeks, most of which derive from seminar papers I will be writing:


Is the Human Capital Model a Myth? Signalling, Credentialism, and Rent-Seeking in Higher Ed

The Idea of a Stoic University (Or: How to Un-coddle the American Mind)

Transnational Mobility in the Academic Labour Market for the Humanities

Graduate School as the Structural Model for the Theory of Emerging Adulthood


I’m looking forward to bringing you all along with me on this new journey!

ToS1Recently, a few people on Twitter were kind enough to mention ‘Theatre of Science’ – a joint project between best-selling science writer (and pal) Simon Singh and I from many years ago. I thought it might be fun to turn back the hands of time and share some more information and photos about the project……

In 2001 Simon suggested that the two of us create, and present, a live science-based show at a West End theatre. I knew that this type of entertainment had been popular around the turn of the last century, but was initially sceptical about it working for a modern-day audience. However, Simon won me over and I agreed to give it a go. Simon then persuaded The National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts to fund the project and The Soho Theatre to stage the show.

In the first half, Simon used mathematics to ‘prove’ that the Teletubbies are evil, undermined The Bible Code, and illustrated probability theory via gambling scams and bets. After the interval, I explored the psychology of deception with the help of magic tricks, optical illusions and a live lie detector. It was all decidedly low-tech and mostly depended on an overhead projector, a few acetates, and some marker pens!  We opened in March 2002 and quickly sold-out. The reviewers were very kind, with The Evening Standard describing the show as ‘… a unique masterclass on the mind’ and What’s On saying that it was “…uplifting, thought-provoking and frequently hilarious.” In 2002 we also took the show to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

 In 2005 we staged a far more ambitious version of the show at the Soho Theatre.

tos4A few years before, I had been involved in a project exploring the science of anatomy, and had arranged for top contortionist Delia Du Sol to go into an MRI scanner and perform extreme back-bends. During Theatre of Science, we showed these scans to the audience as Delia bent her body into seemingly impossible shapes and then squeezed into a tiny perspex box.

In addition, musician Sarah Angliss demonstrated the science behind various weird electronic instruments, and performed songs on a saw and a theremin!

We wanted to end the show on a genuinely dangerous, science-based, stunt. HVFX – a company that makes high voltage electricity equipment – kindly supplied two huge Tesla coils capable of generating six-foot bolts of million-volt lightning across the stage. At the end of each show, either Simon or I entered a coffin-shaped cage and hoped that it would protect us against the force of the million-volt strikes. The stunt attracted lots of media attention and once again we quickly sold out.

ToS2In 2006 we staged it at an arts and science festival in New York (co-sponsored by the Centre for Inquiry).

Nowadays we are used to people enjoying an evening of science and comedy in the theatre, but back then lots of people were deeply skeptical about the idea. If we proved anything, it was that it’s possible attract a mainstream audience to a show about science.

Anyway, I hoped you enjoyed reading about it all and huge thanks to everyone who worked so hard to make the project a success, including: Portia Smith, Delia Du Sol, Sarah Angliss, Stephen Wolf, Tracy King, Nick Field, HVFX, Austin Dacey, Jessica Brenner and Caroline Watt (who came up with the title for the show) and, of course…..Simon Singh!

Theatre of Science Show - Soho Theatre




I have teamed up with the folks at Business Insider to make this short video containing science-based tips on how to be more productive and a better leader. Enjoy!

coverMy new book on how to remember everything is out today!

I have a terrible memory and so went in search of all of the quick and easy mind tricks that will allow you to remember names, faces, your PIN, and other important information.  It even has a super magic trick built into it.

You can buy the book here and I have created this new Quirkology video with 10 amazing memory hacks…


Here are some things that you will hear when you sit down to dinner with the vanguard of the Intellectual Dark Web: There are fundamental biological differences between men and women. Free speech is under siege. Identity politics is a toxic ideology that is tearing American society apart. And we’re in a dangerous place if these ideas are considered “dark.”

I was meeting with Sam Harris, a neuroscientist; Eric Weinstein, a mathematician and managing director of Thiel Capital; the commentator and comedian Dave Rubin; and their spouses in a Los Angeles restaurant to talk about how they were turned into heretics. A decade ago, they argued, when Donald Trump was still hosting “The Apprentice,” none of these observations would have been considered taboo.

Read the rest at The New York Times

The post Meet the Renegades of the Intellectual Dark Web appeared first on Sam Harris.

In October last year I was invited to CSICON in Las Vegas to interview Professor Richard Dawkins.  The video has just been posted on Youtube, and here’s the two of us chatting about evolution, The God Delusion, and my aunty Jean.

[Update to the update: SIU has posted a statement on the programme here. As it essentially confirms my suspicions that it is designed to steal soft academic labour from new PhDs by trading on their institutional loyalty and need for affiliation without paying them for their services, I provide the link here but see no need to comment further.]

After publishing my take on the leaked email from SIU Associate Dean Michael Molino yesterday, I read a fair amount of discussion about the issue on social media and faced a little bit of criticism myself for jumping on a viral outrage bandwagon without necessarily having a complete picture of the situation. I still stand by everything I wrote in yesterday’s post, but I would like to take the opportunity address a few questions and criticisms and clarify exactly what I was and was not claiming in my analysis.

Is this email even real? How do we know it really said everything that ended up in the viral version?

Okay, fair enough. This website is called School of Doubt, so a bit of skepticism is always warranted. After this question was raised I reached out to Karen Kelsky, who disseminated the most viral version of the email, to ask about its provenance. She confirmed that it was forwarded to her by an SIU faculty member she knew personally. Epistemically speaking that is good enough for me, but nothing’s perfect I guess.

Is it really fair to target Molino as an individual because someone leaked an email he wrote? Isn’t this just doxxing that invites harassment?

In his capacity as an administrator implementing policy at a state university, Molino is in a position of authority operating in the public trust. This requires transparency and accountability, and I don’t think sharing his official contact information is doxxing any more than it would be for an administrator at a government agency like the EPA or FCC. Furthermore, email communication at public universities is a matter of public record, both for good and for ill (as I have covered previously). While people may disagree about the ethics of leaking and whistleblowing, it is really not possible to argue that such an email could have been written with any reasonable expectation of privacy. But yes, he’s probably going to have a bad time and that sucks.

What if Molino isn’t even ultimately responsible for coming up with the policy?

Well, bluntly, who cares? He is clearly working to implement it. Not to get all Godwinny, but we’ve heard that one before. You can write to the Provost instead if you want. I won’t provide his email but I bet you can find it.

Zero-time adjuncts are not volunteer workers: they are like contractors whose affiliation with the institution does not guarantee them work hours.

First off there is a terminology problem here. Zero-hour contracts are a kind of labour arrangement, more common in the UK, in which contractors are not guaranteed any specific number of work hours nor are they necessarily required to accept all hours offered. Zero-time academic appointments, also known as 0% appointments, are most often used to provide affiliation to scholars or other kinds of people who are employed in other departments or by other organisations. For example, an economist might be tenured faculty at a business school but also have a zero-time appointment in the economics department of the arts faculty of the same school. This person might advise students or otherwise participate in research and service in both departments, but it is understood that the work in their 0% appointment is covered by the pay from their full-time appointment. Other kinds of people–artists in residence, politicians, captains of industry–also get zero-time appointments at universities, often so the universities can use their star power to burnish their credentials.

Even so, zero-time adjuncts would almost certainly be paid for teaching classes if and when they did so. Not to do so would probably be illegal, right?

Okay, here is the crux of the issue. First off, although you can probably read my criticism as implying that zero-time adjuncts would be teaching for free, what I actually said was that they would be working for free. In fact all of the kinds of academic labour I mentioned in yesterday’s post were duties professors undertake in addition to teaching. Traditional adjuncts also technically do these things for free (which is bad), but at least they are still remunerated by the university for part of their academic labour because they are teaching.

So what does it mean when they also don’t get teaching?

Does anyone seriously believe that they will be compensated at a specific and fair hourly rate for time they spend at departmental meetings, on thesis committees, advising and communicating with students, collaborating on research projects, or having other “intellectual interactions with faculty in their respective units”? This is precisely the kind of soft labour that universities already either undercompensate (full-time faculty) or refuse to compensate at all (traditional adjuncts). Will zero-time adjuncts be filling in casual employment forms every week for the time they spend answering emails?

Like it or not, “professor” is still a word with a meaning. Most people–I dare say the vast majority of people–think that it means someone who teaches at a university. Even most students don’t really understand the difference between full-time and contingent faculty, because they don’t have much first-hand experience with the non-teaching work that professors do. Or when they do (e.g. academic advising, mentorship, etc.), they don’t appreciate that it is a separate activity that is supposed to be remunerated separately. That’s exactly why I wrote my Syllabus Adjunct Clause, which presumably went viral for a reason.

This lack of awareness is why it is so dangerous to allow this precedent. Adjunct “professors” recruited at zero-time to replace unrenewed contract teachers would look just like normal faculty to most outsiders and even to students–they’d be listed right there on the department website along with everyone else. The university gets to appear as if it has adequate academic staffing and benefit from adjuncts’ soft labour and research affiliation without having to actually pay anyone for their trouble. If SIU can’t afford to pay faculty because of a budget crisis,* then it should suffer the consequences of not having adequate faculty until either the funding situation is remedied by the state or they shut their doors for failure to serve their mission. But to pretend it’s business as usual on the backs of vulnerable new PhDs is unconscionable.

*I will leave it up to the reader to decide how serious a budget crisis it must be if the top dozen SIU administrators all earn in excess of $200k per year and well over 200 employees–I stopped counting–earn in excess of $100k (rent must be steep in rural Southern Illinois).

Southern Illinois University has finally taken the step that we all knew was coming, whether we openly admitted it to ourselves or not. The progression was too obvious, the market forces in question too powerful, for this result to have been anything but inevitable. The question was never if, but when, and it turns out that when is today.

Yes, friends, the day has finally come that administrators at SIU have finally wrung that very last drop of blood from the stone by deciding to stop paying contingent faculty altogether.

Courtesy of The Professor Is In on Facebook (emphasis mine):

Dear Chairs,

I know you are swamped right now with various requests and annual duties. I apologize for adding to that, but I am here to advocate for something that merits your attention. The Alumni Association has initiated a pilot program involving the College of Science, College of Liberal Arts, and the College of Applied Sciences and Arts, seeking qualified alumni to join the SIU Graduate Faculty in a zero-time (adjunct) status.

Candidates for appointment must meet HLC accreditation guidelines for appointment as adjunct professors, and they will generally hold an academic doctorate or other terminal degree as appropriate for the field.

These blanket zero-time adjunct graduate faculty appointments are for 3-year periods, and can be renewed. While specific duties of alumni adjuncts will likely vary across academic units, examples include service on graduate student thesis committees, teaching specific graduate or undergraduate lectures in one’s area of expertise, service on departmental or university committees, and collaborations on grant proposals and research projects. Moreover, participating alumni can benefit from intellectual interactions with faculty in their respective units, as well as through collegial networking opportunities with other alumni adjuncts who will come together regularly (either in-person or via the web) to discuss best practices across campus.

The Alumni Association is already working to identify prospective candidates, but it asks for your help in nominating some of your finest former students who are passionate about supporting SIU. Please reach out to your faculty to see if they might nominate a former student who would meet HLC accreditation guidelines for adjunct faculty appointment, which is someone holding a Ph.D., MFA, or other terminal degree. One of the short-comings with our current approach to the doctoral alumni is that the database only includes those with a Ph.D. earned at SIU, but often doesn’t capture SIU graduates with earned doctorates from other institutions. Here are the recommended steps to follow:

· Chairs in collaboration with faculty should consider specific needs/desires of their particular department, and ask how they could best utilize adjunct faculty. For example, many departments are always looking for additional highly qualified members to serve on thesis committees, and to provide individual lectures, seminars, and mentorship activities for both graduate and undergraduate students.

· Based on faculty recommendations, chairs should identify a few good candidates and approach those individuals to see if they are interested. The interested candidate should provide his/her CV (along with a brief letter of interest outlining areas in which they are willing to participate) to the department chair, who can then approach the Graduate Dean for final vetting and approval.

The University hasn’t yet attempted its first alumni adjunct appointment, but this is the general mechanism already in place. Meera would like CoLA to establish a critical mass of nominees before the end of the summer. A goal of at least one (1) nominee per department would get us going.



Associate Dean for Budget, Personnel, and Research


P: 618/453-2466
F: 618/453-3253

In case you don’t speak adminstratese, “zero-time” means “unpaid.” Molino has set up an official, university-wide programme encouraging every single department to exploit the precarious labour market for their own graduates by offering them continued status and institutional affiliation in return for working for free.

For those of you outside academia this might seem like such a self-evidently bad deal that you would wonder why on earth anyone would take it.

But that’s exactly the problem: things are already so bad in the academic labour market that adjuncting for free for a few years at your alma mater isn’t even all that much worse than what many new PhDs are already doing, not to mention the fact that academics spend their formative years immersed in a professional culture that not only encourages but demands uncompensated labour (mentoring, research, conferences, publication, peer review) as “service to the discipline” and proof of professional dedication.

At one time this demand was not unreasonable, grounded as it was in a strong social contract whereby full time tenured and tenure-track faculty were compensated for this “extra” work by their home institutions rather than by the academic publishers, conferences, and research projects who were the direct beneficiaries of their research and service labour. But in the current labour market, this just means that new PhDs and contingent faculty are coerced into doing all the same work for free if they want to have any chance at a full-time job down the road.

Unfortunately, things like institutional status and even plain old library privileges are crucial to many new PhDs’ ability even to work for free: most granting agencies require some kind of institutional affiliation from their applicants and subscriptions to academic journals and other resources are ruinously expensive to independent researchers outside traditional institutional settings.

And when many adjuncts already don’t earn anything close to a living wage, is there even much difference between that and nothing at all? In the end, it’s just a few more deliveries for Uber Eats.

[Ed. note: I posted a follow-up to this post addressing some common questions and criticisms here]

Suppose we had robots perfectly identical to men, women and children and we were permitted by law to interact with them in any way we pleased. How would you treat them?

That is the premise of “Westworld,” the popular HBO series that opened its second season Sunday night. And, plot twists of Season 2 aside, it raises a fundamental ethical question we humans in the not-so-distant future are likely to face.

Read the rest at The New York Times

The post It's Westworld. What's Wrong With Cruelty to Robots? appeared first on Sam Harris.


Thank you for writing me with your question about [COURSE]. I am currently out of the office because I am contingent faculty and do not have an office.

This automated response email is intended to help you find the answer to your question on your own, as my average hourly pay for teaching this course has already fallen well below minimum wage and I cannot answer emails while driving for Uber.

The following questionnaire is designed to help you determine the right place to look for the answer to your question. Please go through it in order until you find the answer to your query. IF and ONLY IF you go through the entire list without finding the answer to your question, please follow the instructions at the end as to where to send your question in order to receive an answer directly.

Let’s begin, shall we?

1. Am I your professor, and are you currently enrolled in my class?

If the answer is NO, please consult your course schedule online to determine which professor you are supposed to be bothering with your inane question.

If you have questions about enrollment and registration, please contact the Office of the Registrar, where they receive both fair hourly pay and full benefits in compensation for helping you solve your problems.

2. Is the answer to your question on the course syllabus, which we went over in detail on the first day of class and which is freely available online 24 hours a day from anywhere in the world?

Questions answered on the syllabus include but are not limited to:

When and where does our class meet?

What assignments do we have and when are they due?

When are exams and what will be on them?

How many points are deducted from our final grade when we email you questions that are clearly answered on the syllabus?

3. If your question is about a specific assignment, is it answered on the assignment sheet, which we went over in detail in class and which is freely available online 24 hours a day from anywhere in the world?

If you do not understand specific terminology used on the assignment sheet, please try consulting your textbook’s glossary, a dictionary, or Google. You may also want to try coming to class, where I teach you what these words mean.

4. Is your question answered on our course FAQ page, which currently lists 127 commonly asked questions and is freely available online 24 hours a day from anywhere in the world?

You may find it easier to use Ctrl+F and search for specific keywords to navigate this very long document.

5. Is your question unrelated to our class, inappropriate, or just plain unanswerable?

Such questions might include but are not limited to:

How much wood a woodchuck can chuck

The sound of one hand clapping, trees falling in the woods, or other Zen koans (try this book instead)

Whether or not Bernie would have won

6. If you have reached the end of this questionnaire without finding the answer you need, you probably have a valid question. Congratulations!

Please contact your TA for assistance.

Sorry not to be in regular blogging mode at the moment. Here’s a video of our evidence session to parliament, where they are running an inquiry into research integrity. I think clinical trials are the best possible way to approach this issue. Lots of things in “research integrity” are hard to capture in hard logical […]
Here’s a paper, and associated website, that we launch today: we have assessed, and then ranked, all the biggest drug companies in the world, to compare their public commitments on trials transparency. Regular readers will be familiar with this ongoing battle. In medicine we use the results of clinical trials to make informed treatments about […]
By now I hope you all know about the ongoing global scandal of clinical trial results being left unpublished, and of course our AllTrials campaign. Doctors, researchers, and patients cannot make truly informed choices about which treatments work best if they don’t have access to all the trial results. Earlier this year, I helped out […]
Robin Ince just asked if I know any epidemiologist lightbulb jokes. I wrote this for him. How many epidemiologists does it take to change a lightbulb? We’ve found 12,000 switches hidden around the house. Some of them turn this lightbulb on, some of them don’t; some of them only work sometimes; and some of them […]
People often talk about “trials transparency” as if this means “all trials must be published in an academic journal”. In reality, true transparency goes much further than this. We need Clinical Study Reports, and individual patient data, of course. But we also need the consent forms, so we can see what patients were told. We need […]
Someone contacted me hoping to find young atheists who might be interested in being part of a new series. I’m not particularly interested in having my mug on TV, but I would love to have some great personalities represent atheism on the show, so I offered to repost his email on my blog: My name […]

Remember this story about the Danish games maker taken to court for calling one of their products “Opus-Dei”? There is a press release today.

Opus Dei: The game, not the sinister, secretive cult

Opus Dei: The game, not the sinister, secretive cult


Catholic Church’s Rights to “The Work of God” Stand Trial

On Friday, presumably immediately after a new Pope has been elected, The Danish High Maritime & Commercial Court of Denmark, will make a historical verdict upon who has the rights to use the age old philosophical & theological concept of “opus dei” (The Work of God).

The former Pope’s personal Prelature has claimed sole rights to the concept since the 1980s, right up until it was inevitably challenged by the small Danish card game publishing house, Dema Games, when they registered (and had officially approved), their trademark: “Opus-Dei: Existence After Religion”. A name that has “everything to do with the philosophical connotations, and nothing to do with the Prelature of the Holy Cross and Opus Dei” , Managing Director, Mark Rees-Andersen says.

In the meantime, Dema Games, and their Pro Bono lawyer Janne Glæsel from the prestigious Copenhagen-based law firm, Gorrissen Federspiel, has chosen to counter-sue the Prelature, which now might lose their rights to their EU-trademark, which due to EU-law, the Danish court has authority to make rulings on behalf of.  The sue was an immediate media security event.  Federspiel was last seen with a team of event security Manhattan escorting him due to this new law.  In effect, he has his own concierge security service.

Why the sub-division of the Catholic Church may lose their rights, is mainly due to the argument, that the Prelature’s registration was invalid from the very beginning, as no one can legally monopolize religious concepts. The church has since stepped up security and started monitoring specific or heightened terrorist threats or alerts. Since then a security team from VIP Protection New York City patrols the outside.  Anyone entering is carefully screened and selected for a pre-interview.

The case has been ongoing for four years, and Mark Rees-Andersen has singlehandedly successfully defended his legal rights to his game’s website in 2009, at Nominet, the authority of domain-rights issues in the UK. Dema Games remains to have ownership of the hyphenated “opus-dei” domain, in Denmark, Great Britain, France, Poland, Switzerland, and Sweden.


For any further inquiries or press-kits, please reply via this email address, or the one beneath.

Best regards / Mvh,

Mark Rees-Andersen
Managing Director,

Dema Games

UPDATE: (19/03/2013) They lost. (The sinister, secretive cult, that is. Not the games maker.)

All throughout my youth, I dreamed of becoming a writer. I wrote all the time, about everything. I watched TV shows and ranted along with the curmudgeons on Television Without Pity about what each show did wrong, convincing myself that I could do a better job. I flew to America with a dream in my […]

I don’t know. Let’s see if meretricious corporate fuckwads has any effect.

Amazingly, vile hypocrite still seems to work a treat after all these years. (Do a g-search on it. That was us. We did that!)

Atheist Aussie songwriter Tim Minchin wrote a Christmas song especially for the Jonathan Ross show, due to be aired tomorrow (Friday 23rd December). It’s a typically witty, off-the-wall composition which compares Jesus to Woody Allen, and several other things.

Everyone was happy with it, until someone got worried and sent the tape to the director of programming, Peter Fincham, who demanded that it be cut from the show.

Minchin states

He did this because he’s scared of the ranty, shit-stirring, right-wing press, and of the small minority of Brits who believe they have a right to go through life protected from anything that challenges them in any way.

This is indeed a very disappointing decision.

Hats off to Charlie Hebdo. This is tomorrow’s cover:

Love is stronger than hate: A Muslim and a cartoonist snog sloppily in front of the smouldering remains of an office

Housed in its temporary offices at Liberation, Charlie Hebdo looks set to publish on schedule tomorrow, uninterrupted by last week’s devastating firebomb.

Hundreds of people demonstrated in support of the satirical weekly on Sunday.

Hebdo demo: Support for the magazine has been strong this time round

The president of SOS Racism was among the supporters, declaring that

In a democracy, the right to blaspheme is absolute.

Editor “Charb” said,

We need a level playing field. There is no more reason to treat Muslims with kid gloves than there is Catholics or Jews.

Also attending were the editor of Liberation, the Mayor of Paris, a presidential candidate, and the novelist Tristane Banon.

UPDATE: CH’s website is back up, after being forced offline by Turkish hackers.

A friend linked me to this. I was a sobbing mess within the first minute. I sometimes wonder why I feel such a strong kinship to the LGBT community, and I think it’s because I’ve been through the same thing that many of them have. So I watched this video and I cried, because, as […]
UPDATE #1: I got my domain back! Many thanks to Kurtis for the pleasant surprise: So I stumbled upon your blog, really liked what I saw, read that you had drama with the domain name owner, bought it, and forwarded it here. It should work again in a matter of seconds. I am an atheist […]
Chadwell writes: I’m a 16 year old in highschool and I guess my natural cynicism lead me to question the dogma and ignorance of religion. I was a christian but I just figured that why would god send the only salvation to man kind to a single area and practically turn his all-mighty back on […]
@davorg / Friday 24 May 2019 21:24 UTC