They’re up to their usual tricks, pushing more hate bills.

Six Republican members of the North Dakota Legislature introduced a bill Wednesday that would send a clear message to nonhuman-identified students: You’re not wanted in the Roughrider State.

The two-page bill, which is primarily a measure seeking to prohibit schools in the state from accommodating transgender youths,

Wait. Stop there. The bill is mainly about discriminating against trans kids, but that isn’t newsworthy enough anymore, so the news article is focusing on…furries. It turns out the sponsors of the bill have been listening to propaganda about litter boxes. To resume…

includes a subsection aimed at a different — and theoretical — category of students.

“A board of a school district, a public or private school, or a teacher in a public or private school may not … Adopt a policy establishing or providing a place, facility, school program, or accommodation that caters to a student’s perception of being any animal species other than human,” the bill, labeled an “emergency measure” by its authors, states.

This section of the bill appears to be connected to an urban myth about litter boxes in U.S. schools that spread among conservative Republicans ahead of the November election. An NBC News report published in October found this myth — about schools providing accommodations, like litter boxes, for children who identify as cats — to be untrue.

Do you think this is stupid? Wait until you hear directly from the ditz behind it all. She’s posing in front of some sort of Christian slogan, which is totally unsurprising.

The interviewer asks exactly the right questions: “Do we have any confirmed sightings of furries in North Dakota schools?” I don’t specifically have a confirmed number on that. She doesn’t know any. And she repeats the litter box myth. This is all a purely hypothetical exercise. Then she says it is happening in Minnesota! No, it’s not. You don’t get to use my state as a shield for your stupidity, lady.

But let’s not forget that she’s using this nonsense about furries as a stalking horse for her real agenda: she’s a transphobe elected to state congress who wants to implement her hate and religious dogma in North Dakota law.

Behold the social media harvest! Pay me!

This will not end well, as we’re already seeing. Elon Musk recently pardoned a whole army of right-wing scumbags, allowing them to tweet freely, and then got reminded why they were banned in the first place. Nick Fuentes, the Nazi-loving anti-semite, took advantage of his new bullhorn to declare, We love Hitler…bitch!, and got banned again within 24 hours. You know, this was entirely predictable. That’s what Fuentes always does, ramping up the hatred to get his followers excited. He can do nothing else — if he toned down the rhetoric, his rabid base would evaporate.

Now Facebook/Meta/whatever mask Zuckerberg is wearing now, announced that they’re unbanning Donald Trump. They didn’t offer a good reason.

In an interview with Axios, which first reported the news, Nick Clegg, Meta’s president of global affairs, said the company had decided to allow Trump to regain access to his account shortly ahead of the 2024 election cycle.

Clegg added that he hoped Trump wouldn’t want to “delegitimize” the 2024 election as he did the 2020 election, should he decide to return to the platform.

“We just do not want — if he is to return to our services — for him to do what he did on January 6, which is to use our services to delegitimize the 2024 election, much as he sought to discredit the 2020 election,” Clegg said. “We’ve always believed that Americans should be able to hear from the people who want to lead the country.”

Oh. They let him back because they “hope” he won’t continue to do what he’s been constantly doing for the last several years. That’s not very rational. These bozos really need to read the fable of the scorpion and the frog.

I think Amanda Marcotte has figured out the real reason they want him back online. Meta has been an embarrassing debacle and is bleeding money. Trump is a trick to provoke more traffic.

This isn’t about fairness, free speech, or democracy — all values Trump has spent the past 8 years trying to destroy. It’s likely not even that much about Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s well-documented willingness to be bullied by right-wingers. This is almost certainly about one thing and one thing only: money.

It’s not just the money that Trump’s campaign will spend on Meta. Trump himself, by being the most famous and repugnant troll in the world, is just big business for social media. His fascism, his bigotry, his cruelty and even his poor spelling and grammar all draw attention from fans and haters alike, creating a whirlwind of clicks and engagement that more responsible content simply can’t match. As tech journalist Kara Swisher notes, “Enragement equals engagement.” Trump makes liberals angry, makes his fans angry at liberals, causes fights and incentivizes dunks. Every post generates huge numbers of reposts both praising and condemning him. Democracy can’t stand a chance against the sheer profitability engine that is his unique combination of stupidity, ego, and hatefulness. He’s the worst person imaginable, but that is all the more reason we can’t look away.

Exactly. The social media companies have figured out that troll farms are the cheap way to harvest clicks. They will then go to the capitalist companies and trade their bounty of clicks for real money, and the companies have not yet figured out how to tell cheap rage clicks from valuable quality clicks, so they pay up. The social media giants have been working very hard to devalue their product, and I hope someday everyone catches on.

Marcotte accurately describes what Facebook is currently selling.

At this point, Facebook has little choice but to lean into the userbase it still has: aging Boomers who believed they were joining to share pictures of grandkids but end up spending hours of the day on the site further alienating themselves from their kids through their addiction to COVID-19 denialism memes and conspiracy theories about “antifa.” Not injecting Trump into that situation is, from a profitability standpoint, like marketing a cruise line to retirees that doesn’t feature an all-you-can-eat buffet. In this case, all they’re eating is fascist propaganda.

Even more than Fox News, Facebook is why your grandpa thinks the city you live in is a burned-out husk where BLM protesters and “antifa” won’t let you out of your house unless you change your gender. From a purely business standpoint, leaving Trump out of that is like not stocking Coca-Cola in a grocery’s soda aisle.

Tossing Donald Trump into that barrel of garbage isn’t going to put Facebook on the comeback trail, for sure.

Act I: The story begins with a Christian apologist named David Falk making some scathing comments about a Biblical scholar named Francesca Stavrakopoulou.

From what I’ve seen of Stavrakopoulou, she seems professional and competent. Falk, on the other hand, has something wrong with his brain.

Act II: a fellow named Dan McClellan replies and calmly minces him to a fine pulp. Wow, this is thorough.

Act III: Falk makes a pathetic not-pology.

Act IV: The Vancouver School of Theology, where Falk used to be employed, follows through with a finishing move.

Post-credits teaser: “I’ll have my revenge!” cackles a vanquished Falk.

Stay tuned for the sequel! Oh, wait, Netflix already cancelled it.

I wish I’d jumped on this bandwagon ages ago: just fart out incredibly stupid things with no context and no reason, and then reap the harvest of attention, while never having to justify what I just said. It’s too late for me, though, because Jordan Peterson has already cornered the market.

Atheistic hedonists unconsciously worship Pan.

Look at that! Just 5 idiotic words, and here I am paying attention. The thing is, I can’t resist a puzzle, and the puzzle here is to decipher what’s going through his drug-addled brain to prompt this blurt.

“Atheistic hedonists”…atheism and hedonism are not linked properties. There are theistic hedonists — they probably outnumber the atheist kind — so I don’t understand why he narrowed the subject so much. I suspect it’s more about stringing together seven syllables to sound fancy than about actually making a point.

“Unconsciously worship”…OK, how do they do that? What’s involved in worship that you can do it without intent? What other things does Peterson think human beings worship? He’s using that word rather casually, I think to provide a jarring contrast with atheism, which we don’t generally associate with worship, at least not with the kind of practice followed by theists. So what’s the point? Is he trying to talk about atheists, or hedonists?

After all, the next thing he mentions is an ancient god, Pan. No, atheists don’t worship Pan, consciously or unconsciously. Hedonists might, but not atheistic hedonists who I’d expect to explicitly deny the existence of a god driving their desires. You can be a hedonist for secular reasons, you know.

This is one of those deepities, isn’t it? He subsequently claims we worship Priapus, which suggests an ulterior cause. Priapus was the Greek god of fruits and vegetables, as well as the male genitalia. That hints at another deepity:

Constipated authoritarians deny the divinity of phallic vegetables.

Think about that one for a while. Too bad I’m not on the inanity gravy train like Peterson.

I’m not impressed with the fools who think the two on the left are equivalent to the crook on the right. Those two tell us that the system is sloppier and leakier than it ought to be, the guy on the right is directly practicing his personal criminal intent. It’s that simple.

Also, I think Luckovich’s caricature of Trump is the best out there.

Octopus illustration

Octopuses are having a moment. So are slime moulds and honeybees. Mushrooms are in vogue. After 250 years of humanity (well, some of humanity…) confidently atop the great pyramid of being, we in the west are becoming more aware that we might, perhaps, have company. The ingenuity and inventiveness of the natural world, its complexity and its collaboration, are becoming harder and harder to deny. Some people are even calling it intelligence.

Over the last five years, a cluster of books has brought these ideas to public attention. In 2016, Peter Godfrey-Smith published Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness, in which he argued that “evolution built minds twice over”, and octopuses’ invertebrate intelligence may shed light on what it means for us to be conscious, too. In 2019, Richard Powers’ novel The Overstory, about eight people’s lives connected through their relationship with trees, won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. In 2020, word of mouth lifted Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass, published seven years previously, into the New York Times bestseller list, for the vision it presented of mutual care and connection between people and plants. That year, Merlin Sheldrake published Entangled Life, another bestseller, exploring fungi and the “wood wide web” of their mycorrhizal collaboration with plants.

This year sees the arrival of two extraordinary books that weave these threads one step further: Ways of Being: Beyond Human Intelligence, by British artist, technologist and writer James Bridle, and The Mountain in the Sea, the first novel from American Ray Nayler. One is fiction, the other non-fiction – but they speak to the same themes: intelligence beyond the human, of not just plant and animal varieties, but artificial and technological as well.

Ways of Being sets about “expanding our definition of intelligence, and the chorus of minds which manifest it.” Synthesising the work of ecologists and other scientists, Bridle (who uses they/them pronouns) seeks to explore the “multiple forms of being and doing, of living and thriving, structured across and interwoven between the many branches of the tree, or thicket, of life.” Ultimately, they argue for a “technological ecology” in which our recent creations might not distance us from nature, but instead help us better understand the collaboration and teeming complexity of the natural world.

The Mountain in the Sea is also a story about the meeting of more-than-human minds, encompassing humans, other animals and human technology. In the novel, rumour spreads of an unusual pod of octopuses living on a shipwreck off the Con Dao islands in Vietnam. They’re collaborating, signalling – perhaps even using (can it be?) language. Marine biologist Dr Ha Nguyen, who has spent her whole career researching cephalopod intelligence, is fascinated – and so is transnational tech corporation DIANIMA, which has bought and sealed off the archipelago and parachuted Dr Nguyen in, alongside the world’s first android robot, to find out what is going on.

Will the creatures offer unprecedented breakthroughs in artificial intelligence technology? Or do they just want to be left the hell alone? Nayler’s debut is equal parts page-turning near-future thriller and a profound exploration of language, communication and otherness.

"Nature" and "technology" are not in opposition

Both books are exhilarating and kaleidoscopic. They draw on rich traditions of thought – geography, anthropology, ecology and systems science in the west, alongside older rural and Indigenous traditions of observation and being-in-relation with a place’s inhabitants. But this isn’t traditional nature writing in which “nature” is opposed to “technology”. Quite the opposite. For both authors, artificial intelligences are simply “other minds”, a new human-made branch on the tree of life.

As Bridle writes, “We have already learned – from the gibbons, gorillas and macaques – that intelligence is relational: it matters how and where you do it, what form your body gives it, and with whom it connects.” In this spirit, I spoke to both writers to understand the genealogy of these books in personal, as well as intellectual terms. How did the authors open their minds to other minds, and more-than-human worlds?

For Nayler, it seems that The Mountain in the Sea was a lifetime in the making. “I wrote a report when I was maybe in fourth or fifth grade about octopuses,” he told me. “And then I had spent this time in Vietnam as the environment, science, technology and health officer at the consulate in Ho Chi Minh City, and especially on Con Dao, working on a few different projects.” Through his career in the United States Peace Corps and Foreign Service, Nayler lived and worked all over the world. But he found something exceptional in the remote Con Dao islands, off the southern coast of Vietnam. “I just grew to love that place, this very troubled environment: it’s a national park with a lot of issues with poaching, overfishing and other environmental degradation from the human population. And that place stuck with me as a place that I wanted to set a story.”

Why octopuses specifically? “I wanted a first contact story that wasn’t with an alien, but with a species here on Earth. And that wasn’t about finding intelligent life – which is such a misnomer, because I think that wildlife is incredibly intelligent in very different ways – but that was about finding contact with an animal that had a symbolic level of communication, like we do.”

While Nayler looks at human-animal communication through science fiction, Bridle draws on a diversity of scientific research. “Humans have spoken to and with animals for as long as we have walked alongside them, which is forever,” they write. One example relates to the Yao people of Mozambique, who forage for wild honey cooperatively with honeyguides – small brown birds who make distinctive calls to get Yao people’s attention, while the Yao vocalise a tongue-rolling “brrrrr-hm” to call the birds in turn. The hunters triple their chances of finding a hive in the forest, while the birds benefit from the hunters’ sharp axes cutting open the tough hives, releasing the nutritious beeswax inside.

But it’s not just hunter-gatherers making the effort: computer scientists are, too. Ways of Being covers recent research from Google, MIT and the University of Arizona, such as the use of sensors and machine learning to classify patterns in whale song and prairie dog calls, in the hopes of figuring out the principles of their speech. Bridle values this attentiveness to other beings, but reminds us not to limit our aspirations: “Our goal should not be to master their languages, but rather to better understand animals’ lives in context, and thereby to alter our relationships with them in ways which are mutually beneficial.”

Nayler’s fictional octopuses might agree. When they finally choose to speak directly to Dr Ha Nguyen, one creature presents itself to her, letting her see the pictograms flashing across its mantle and “pouring through the chromatophores of its skin”. Its message is an insistence on their mutual consciousness. When, later, the octopuses start making physical, writing-like signs, it is not in order to engage further with humanity, but to utter a clear and unexpected instruction: “Fuck off.” They wish to be left alone, their environment and emergent way of life undisturbed.

Nayler’s interest in language “came out of my exploration of biosemiotics,” he tells me: Jesper Hoffmeyer’s books Biosemiotics and Signs of Meaning in the Universe were particular inspirations. “If semiotics is the study of signs and sign systems, biosemiotics takes that and expands it to every single level of life,” Nayler explained. “Biosemiotics is the study of signs at the level of the cellular, all the way up to complex human symbolic communication.”

“It’s physical, of course,” Nayler continued, “all sign exchange is physical and occurs in the world,” from the electrical pulses that jolt through a nerve cell, to the pigment sacs that expand and contract in an octopus’s skin. “There’s nothing metaphysical about it. But you can’t really explain life without attending to the exchange of signs and signals processing. ‘Even a cell can process meaning’ is essentially the argument. That doesn’t mean that a cell has a brain, but it means that a cell can take inputs and interpret that input and do something.”

It’s an ontological shock: what if the capacity the human has for language, the thing we thought made us special, is not in fact unique to us, but actually something present across many different forms of life?

The singing world

"More-than-human doesn’t even begin to cover it,” Bridle writes in Ways of Being. “Not only are we the products of multiple entangled ancestors, spanning vast ranges of the evolutionary field; we are not even individuals at all.” Chapter 3, “The Thicket of Life”, explores one search for the origins of life through unravelling the “internal fossil record” of DNA, RNA and proteins inside our cells. Cells not only signal to each other, Bridle explains, they’re deeply entangled “endosymbionts”. Deep in evolutionary history, scientists theorise, one bacterium engulfed another one and their hybridity became the cellular structures of mitochondria and chloroplasts, which produced the energy enabling complex, multi-cellular life.

Bridle’s writing here is joyful, almost delirious: “Frseeeeeeeefronnnng and we all go tumbling down the genetic line together . . . The lichens farm algae and we farm bacteria and each feeds the other, the trees are talking and everyone’s singing.” I am not surprised to read that ayahuasca has been part of Bridle’s journey from London-based technologist to island-dwelling, regenerative-farming exploring, more-than-human thinker. “I have heard a plant speak, and I still don’t fully understand how, nor can I adequately describe the experience, but I know it to have happened, and it changed me utterly.”

More-than-human thinking isn’t just about recognising the near-to-human cleverness of certain animals, but recognising agency and interdependent relations across every kingdom of life, from the single-celled extremophiles known as archaeans, to fungi, animals and plants. For both writers, forests have been particularly inspiring environments.

Nayler said, “I had a short story a little while ago called ‘Eyes of the Forest’, and there’s a character in there that says, ‘It matters how you see the forest but what matters more is how the forest sees you.’” His years in the Peace Corps in Turkmenistan taught him that communication exists in the space between self and other: not only in the intent of the speaker, but the perceptions and interpretation of the recipient, too.

Later on, he came across anthropological writing that brought this idea home. Indigenous Amazonian “perspectivism” is the conception that “the world is inhabited by different sorts of subjects or persons, human and non-human, which apprehend reality from distinct points of view.” Nayler pays homage to this tradition through the book-within-a-book in his novel, Dr Ha Nguyen’s monograph “How Oceans Think” – a reference to anthropologist Eduardo Kohn’s How Forests Think.

For Bridle too, forests provided the germinal moment. “I had a series of encounters where it very much felt like the Universe was kind of knocking on the door and being like, hey, you need to pay attention to these things,” Bridle told me. “The first direct encounter was with Suzanne Simard and her work in the forests of Western Canada. I was completely blown away by the things she explained about the way in which the forest was operating, the way the forests work and the way they live and the way they communicate and share resources.”

Simard’s research explores how roots and fungi form a network of communication and resource-sharing between trees. This research inspired Richard Powers’ novel The Overstory, which was also a catalyst for Bridle, who writes, “As I read it, I felt something shift in myself, a sense of having been blind all my life to events and processes, whole other lives that surround us all the time.”

Origins of thought

For both writers, moving away from their home countries of the UK and the US was important to the development of their thinking – but moving away from big global cities to more rural and peripheral locations proved even more impactful.

“Living in different cultures has a huge effect because it makes you question everything that you know,” Bridle told me. “Examining the assumptions of one’s own culture is the necessary prerequisite for any kind of new critical thinking.” In particular, moving to a small Greek island enabled “a much more intense and personal relationship with the more-than-human world than I’d had previously in my whole life”. For Nayler, his time living in Turkmenistan with the Peace Corps revealed to him all the ways in which his American culture was in fact the strange and “alienating” one, in contrast to the slower-paced, highly social Turkmen life.

Ways of Being refers extensively to Indigenous thought, from Tyson Yunkaporta on thinking with stones, to the sortition voting methods of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Confederacy. When we spoke, however, Bridle told me how they were not solely seeking traditional ecological knowledge or models of alternate social relations from outside European cultures, but also from within:

“I was looking to people in Greece, to histories of magic in southern Italy, to traditional folk music: I cite the Sami joikers or Corsican and Sardinian folk singers. I’ve learned as much from people who forest forage for plants on my own island and the relationship they have with them as I have by reading about plant work in the Americas or elsewhere. So I do think it’s possible to learn from one’s own traditional knowledge as well.”

Some writers might react against the western capitalist worldview by fetishising traditional rural or Indigenous lifeways. Instead, Bridle and Nayler are attempting something more interesting: a counter-reading of western science that finds there has been space for ecosystemic thinking and more-than-human community all along. Recall Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Wall Kimmerer, who is both an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation and Professor of Environmental and Forest Biology at the State University of New York (SUNY). In a 2017 magazine interview, Kimmerer said that “I wanted readers to understand that Indigenous knowledge and western science are both powerful ways of knowing, and that by using them together we can imagine a more just and joyful relationship with the Earth.” Connection and interdependence might be lessons from Indigenous thought and ecology both.

“Systems thinking has been fighting its way into public and academic awareness for a very long time,” Nayler told me, “starting maybe even as early as the late 19th century.” As Nayler points out, it’s a theme that appears in Charles Darwin’s On The Origin of Species, in which he emphasises that the key point is not the struggle for survival in one species, but a tangle of interconnected life:

“It is interesting to contemplate a tangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent upon each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us.”

Bridle also recruits Darwin as an early ally to the cause of more-than-human thought. In 1838 the naturalist took to visiting an orangutan named Jenny at London Zoo, bringing her a mouth organ to play on. “Let man visit Ouranoutang in domestication . . . see its intelligence . . . and then let him boast of his proud preeminence,” Darwin wrote in his notebook.

Systems theory is an interdisciplinary field, based on the principle of studying systems holistically, rather than as atomised parts. In 1948 came Norbert Wiener’s founding work Cybernetics: Or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine, which developed the idea of self-organising systems. In 1972, Donella Meadows and colleagues published “The Limits To Growth” report, based on the global computer model they’d developed, evaluating the circumstances that would lead to environmental collapse. At the same time, James Lovelock was developing Gaia theory: the idea of the Earth and its inhabitants as a self-regulating whole.

Nayler observed that “I think the reason systems theory feels like it’s everywhere right now is because it’s finally starting to bubble to the surface in public discourse, after having been an argument that’s been going on in science for generations. My counter question would just be why it seems to have taken such a long time to address what seems to be obvious, actually, to quite a few people for a very long time.”

The need for a new model

So, why now? “We’re all desperately searching for a way of making sense of a world that has clearly gone quite horrifically in the wrong direction, and is proceeding further in that direction all the time,” Bridle said when I put this to them. “And so there’s a need for new knowledge and new understandings. We need to build those actively. It requires thought, it requires the construction of new models and metaphors of how the world works.”

We live in a doubly existential moment. We have named an entire geological era, the Anthropocene, for our abilities to terraform the planet – and yet we fear that we are unable to terraform our own culture enough to make it compatible with sustaining life. Meanwhile, as Bridle writes, “the new-found sophistication of our own technologies threatens to supersede us.”

This summer, AI image-generation tools have raised questions over what we had thought to be the most human of skills: artistry. Meanwhile, “longtermist” thinkers fret over the risks of artificial general intelligence – the name given to the prospect of AI becoming able to learn flexibly and meet or exceed human intellectual capabilities. Bridle describes this as “a new Copernican trauma”, “wherein we find ourselves standing on a ruined planet, not smart enough to save ourselves, and no longer by any stretch of imagination the smartest living things around.” Through ecology and technology both, we come to a new cosmology in which man is no longer the centre of the universe – which may be, for some, a shock. Nayler’s novel raises the same predicament. In it, Dr Ha Nguyen writes:

“Communication is communion. When we communicate with others, we take something from them into ourselves, and give them something of ours. Perhaps it is this thought that makes us so nervous about the idea of encountering cultures outside the human. The thought that what it means to be human will shift – and we will lose our footing. Or that we will have to finally take responsibility for our actions in this world.”

Bridle agrees, writing that “Our very survival depends upon our ability to make a new compact with the more-than-human world, one which views the intelligence, the innate being of all things – animal, vegetable and machine . . . as an urgent call to humility and care.”

It’s both a very old idea and the leading edge of contemporary thought. Bridle insists passionately that “All of this efflorescence of new thinking in this area is new thinking, even if a lot of it draws upon traditional knowledge and Indigenous practices, or obscure critical theory, or quite complex novel scientific thinking. All of it is new thinking, because it’s being done by new people and phrased in different ways that allows it to be understood in new ways. And it constructs new people by doing that.”

Because that is the work to be done. The ultimate gift of this more-than-human thinking might be to make us more humane.

This piece is from the New Humanist winter 2022 edition. Subscribe here.

Adam Rutherford

Adam Rutherford is a geneticist, author, broadcaster and President of Humanists UK. His latest book is “Control: The Dark History and Troubling Present of Eugenics” (Weidenfeld & Nicolson).

Your latest book explores the history of eugenics. How did the movement come about?

The idea that you can change population structure, or control how demographics work by restricting reproduction, or by planned marriages, goes back to [antiquity]. Plato talks about it very explicitly in Republic. But the Victorian English polymath Francis Galton gave eugenics its renaissance. He defined it as the moulding of populations
according to the desirability of particular characteristics. Galton was piggybacking off what was then new science by Charles Darwin: evolution by natural selection. I’m very clear, however, that eugenics is a political ideology, not a scientific project.

Would you describe Galton and Darwin as racist?

Francis Galton was a white supremacist in an extreme way, even for his time. Darwin expressed views about racial hierarchy that were pretty typical for the 19th century. But he was not wedded to the essentialist views of most of the scientific racists of that era. The central argument of scientific racism is that racial characteristics, which today we call phenotypes, cannot change. Darwin essentially mocked that view in his book The Descent of Man. Conversely, he suggested that there is continuity between these sets of characteristics and that none of these characteristics are immutable.

Scientific racism is expressed in Darwin’s work. But it isn’t central to it. In Galton’s work, it is. Does that make me an apologist for Darwin? Perhaps, I don’t know.

You write that “The pathway of eugenics led directly to the gates of Auschwitz.” One figure you write about was Alfred Ploetz. Who was he?

Ploetz was a driving force in the eugenics movement in Germany, which started in the 1890s. He was wedded to the idea of Nordic purity. He met Galton and was inspired by him. The term “racial hygiene”, which became the Nazi equivalent of eugenics, essentially ripped off the idea of public hygiene, which gained momentum in Germany during the 19th century.

In 1913 the German Society for Racial Hygiene, which Ploetz founded, had just a few hundred members. By the time Hitler came to power [two decades later], it had tens of thousands of doctors signed up. Which seems extraordinary, given that many of the fundamental ideals inherent to the German eugenics project focused on sterilising deformed babies, and people with disabilities or diseases like epilepsy.

And the American eugenics movement was also influential on Nazi Germany?

The link [with Nazi racial science] is unequivocal, well-documented and direct. They took intellectual, scientific, financial and legal inspiration from the American eugenicists. The eugenics laboratories in Berlin during the Third Reich were funded by the Rockefeller Foundation.

Also, the key players in the American eugenics movement included figures like Harry Laughlin and Charles Davenport. Laughlin helped draft important legislation which created a legal framework for involuntary sterilisation in the United States during the 1920s. This was the main inspiration for the Nuremberg Race Laws in Germany during the 1930s.

It’s also worth pointing out that the Americans were inspired by the British. But Britain never had a formal eugenics policy. There were, of course, many attempts to pass legislation [allowing involuntary sterilisation]. This was led by Winston Churchill, who, like Galton, was a white supremacist. The Americans, however, had eugenics policies in 31 states for the majority of the 20th century.

What about China today and the practice of forced sterilisation, which appears to have resulted in a drop in birth rates among the Uyghur population?

There are many challenges in trying to understand what has been happening in the last few years with regards to the Uyghurs, in what appear to be, according to some reports, effectively concentration camps . . . What the Chinese are doing as a state in this area is not very well known at all, and those allegations coming from Xinjiang are hard to verify.

One of the technologies that emerged out of former eugenics labs is prenatal screening. Does giving parents a choice to abort a foetus with Down’s syndrome count as eugenics?

I’m pretty clear about this: routinely screening pregnancies for conditions such as Down’s syndrome, and offering women the choice of terminating that pregnancy, doesn’t count as eugenics. Eugenics is considered a top-down, state-imposed sanctioning of reproductive rights. And selective abortion or embryo selection, in response to conditions or diseases, is a manifestation of parental choice. But this is partially a semantic argument and partially a political one.

Did you consult any parents of children with Down’s syndrome for your research?

Yes. I did. And many of them disagree with me. They say the ready availability of abortions for foetuses diagnosed with Down’s syndrome, or even with the potential risk, is a manifestation of eugenics.

You note in your book how in Denmark and Iceland, for instance, roughly 99 per cent of parents choose to abort such foetuses.

Yes, and this means incidence of Down’s syndrome has effectively dropped to zero in those countries. That does indeed begin to look like a eugenics project. It really doesn’t matter whether we call it eugenics or not. The real impact is that there is a group of people who exist today, who, through advances in technology and reproductive medicine, may not continue to exist in the future.

Your work shows how science, history and politics are connected. Does the scientific community do enough to acknowledge this interconnection?

There is a natural tendency for scientists to think that because we have set up these methodologies, we’re not influenced by politics, psychological biases, or historical and social contexts. That is a noble aim, but it’s impossible. Mainly because science is done by humans, and it’s very difficult to extract our own biases.

You call the story of humankind one of “wonderful impurity”. What do you mean by that?

The history of humankind is indeed a story of continuous mixing, constant migration and shared ancestry. A very small proportion of humans moved out of Africa in the last 100,000 years. Since then, we have populated every corner of the world. What we now know is that those migrations happened gradually. So, what you see, in reality, is that there is a constant mixing of populations when average populations move from place A to place B. During those migrations, people have sex and have babies. That is the real story of human biodiversity, rather than the creationist view of humans, which talks about people moving out of Eden, as described in the book of Genesis.

So family trees are less linear than we think?

We tend to think of our family trees as being these neat branching structures with these nice narratives, which satisfy our desire to understand where we come from. But such stories only tell a tiny fraction of what the total sum of our ancestry actually is.

Interview by J. P. O’Malley

Portrait of Jocelyn Bell (Burnell), 1967

Chance favours the prepared mind. But it also favours the person who works twice as hard as everyone else because of a severe dose of impostor syndrome. At least, it did in the case of Jocelyn Bell. Fifty-five years ago, she discovered “pulsars”, which are the relics of stellar explosions that pack the mass of the Sun into the volume of Mount Everest and spin at up to 716 times per second.

Bell, now Dame Jocelyn Bell, is famous for being overlooked for the Nobel Prize for Physics, which went to her supervisor Anthony Hewish. She is also one of the rare scientists to have their discovery on a bank note: the Bank of Ulster £50 note. But her road to fame was a rocky one.

Born in Lurgan, a town in Northern Ireland, Bell had an interest in science, partly because her architect father had designed the Armagh Observatory. But girls at her school were expected to study domestic science only. Thankfully, her parents kicked up an almighty fuss and the policy was changed. It might have been expected that things would be better at the University of Glasgow. But for Bell, the only physics undergraduate in her year, entering a lecture theatre was not unlike walking past a building site, with the male students stamping their feet and wolf-whistling.

Radio astronomy appealed to Bell because she did not like doing astronomy at night. While at Glasgow, she had a summer job at the Jodrell Bank Radio Observatory near Manchester. It might have led to research towards a PhD had the observatory’s director Sir Bernard Lovell not taken against women. Resigned to going to Australia, an important centre of radio astronomy, she applied to Cambridge on the off-chance. To her amazement, she was accepted.


Cambridge was a daunting place. Not only was Bell a woman in a male environment but she was doubly disadvantaged by coming from provincial Northern Ireland. Convinced that she been admitted because of a bureaucratic mistake, she worked long and hard in the hope it would extend the period before she was, inevitably, “found out” by the university.

For two years, she helped build a very strange radio telescope at Lord’s Bridge, west of Cambridge. The brainchild of Hewish, it covered the area of 57 tennis courts and consisted of vertical wooden poles connected together by 120 miles of cable like myriad washing lines. It was designed to look for the recently discovered, and totally mysterious, “quasars”. However, on 28 November 1967 Bell spotted something very unexpected.

The output of the telescope was recorded by a pen on a rotating cylinder of paper. It was in the course of examining this that Bell noticed a “quarter inch smudge”. Magnifying it, she was amazed to see a signal peaking every 1.3 seconds, regular as clockwork. Hewish pooh-poohed it as almost certainly being man-made radio interference. But Bell, like a dog with a bone, refused to drop the matter. Used to examining 100 feet of pen recorder trace a day, she set herself the task of re-examining three miles of chart, recorded over the previous six months.

Her persistence was rewarded. She found a second source. Eventually she would find four. Given it was unlikely there were several similar man-made sources in different parts of the sky, she had proved Hewish wrong.

The first source, for obvious reasons, had been dubbed LGM-1, for “Little Green Man - 1”. But it was astronomer Fred Hoyle who guessed that it was a “neutron star”, the super-dense relic left after a star had blown itself apart in a “supernova”. Like a spinning ice skater who pulls in her arms, the core of a star would spin ever faster as it shrank down to create a tiny neutron star. Although too faint to be seen in normal circumstances, some neutron stars sweep a lighthouse beam of radio waves across the sky as they spin, making them detectable as pulsars.

Hewish, who died at the end of 2021, won the 1974 Nobel Prize, partly for the discovery of pulsars. And although three Nobel Prizes have now been awarded for pulsars, none has gone to Bell. Hewish once said that, when Columbus discovered the Americas, credit did not go to the first person who spotted land. But Bell was more than an inconsequential scientific deckhand. Having connected up every last cable of the Cambridge telescope, she knew the instrument far better than anyone else. And without her steely determination, born of all the adversity she had faced, the discovery of pulsars would not have been made at that time.

Marcus Chown is the author of many books on science. His most recent is “Breakthrough” (Faber & Faber, 2021)

This piece is from the New Humanist winter 2022 edition. Subscribe here.

A 19th century watercolour depicts a doctor facing an angry mob.

mob late 17th century: abbreviation of mobile, short for Latin mobile vulgus “excitable crowd”

Politicians like to recycle words that stir the pot. In October, home secretary Suella Braverman did just that in her “plan for law and order” speech, when she said: “We need common sense policing. Unashamedly and unapologetically on the side of the law-abiding majority. That means that the mob needs to be stopped.” She later strung together a stream of invective: “Guardian-reading, tofu-eating wokerati”. The two speeches together show the level of hostility she feels for specific groups of people – as does the context of the word “mob”.

Before it was used to refer to a disorderly crowd, “mob” was an alternative to “mab”, meaning a “sluttish” or “promiscuous woman”. Recall Mercutio’s ironic speech about Queen Mab in Romeo and Juliet. By 1688, when the playwright Thomas Shadwell used the word in his play Squire of Alsatia, a pun had been made by abbreviating the Latin phrase mobile vulgus (the moving crowd) to “mob”.

The French Revolution inspired Edmund Burke, the historian most horrified by the turmoil in Paris, to use the word “mob” to describe events that had occurred closer to home: Britain’s Gordon Riots, which saw several days of looting and chaos in the capital, motivated by anti-Catholic sentiment. Leap forward to our own times, and the Daily Mail is writing about people facing the police in Brixton in 1981 as “the mob”.

In one syllable, “mob” reduces a group of diverse human beings into a single out-of-control mass. It dehumanises them and presumes they have no
legitimate reasons for being in the street. From a
linguistic point of view, it’s also convenient for combining with other words: mob rule, mob action, mob psychology or mob violence.

One puzzle remains in the case of Braverman. Her law and order speech went on to lambast “protestors who use guerrilla tactics and bring chaos and misery to the law-abiding majority.” But are these the same people reading the Guardian and eating tofu? “Tofu-eating mob” – would that be a vote-winner?

This piece is from the New Humanist winter 2022 edition. Subscribe here.

Carrie Jenkins

Carrie Jenkins is a philosopher, novelist and poet, working at the intersection of academic philosophy and the creative arts. She is a professor of philosophy at the University of British Columbia and led the Metaphysics of Love Project (2014 to 2019). Her latest book is "Sad Love: Romance and the search for meaning" (Polity).

You have written that "we have a collective responsibility to figure out romantic love”. Why is this important?

We make so many life-changing decisions based on whether we’re in love – decisions like whether to move across the world, get married, or have children – and yet when it comes to what exactly we’re basing those decisions on, we’re often all too comfortable saying it’s a mysterious magical force that nobody can understand. “You’ll know when you know,” people say, and “don’t overthink it.” But this means a huge factor shaping not only our personal lives but the very fabric of society is left unexamined, and whatever harms it may be causing go unchallenged.

Love is such a popular topic, and so central to our lives, that it might seem bizarre that we still have to "figure it out”. But you’ve argued that the cloud of mystery around love might be purposeful?

Yes! I call this the “romantic mystique” – the idea that we cannot understand love and shouldn’t even try. My question is who does that benefit? And my answer is: the people benefiting the most from the status quo continuing as it is. So we have to think about what status quo is created and sustained by our current baseline understanding of love being the way it is. We think of romantic love as (ideally) monogamous, permanent, and leading to the formation of new nuclear family units. So anyone who benefits from a society structured in this way benefits from the romantic mystique.

To cut a long story short, the romantic mystique is a force for social conservatism: it benefits the patriarchal, white supremacist, colonial, capitalist status quo. It does this by channelling love – a powerful and potentially disruptive force that can lead us to form intense co-operative bonds with one another – into a single structure that is easy to control. There’s a reason Margaret Thatcher once said she believed in individuals and families, but not society. Under capitalism, the nuclear family is essentially just a larger consuming unit. Whereas extended community bonds, and any form of love that may direct our focus beyond our picket fences, is risky. That kind of thing can lead to solidarity, collective action and political change.

What were the aims of the Metaphysics of Love project and why was it important to pair philosophers with poets?

I had a frustration with the way philosophical discussions of love were proceeding, at least within the academic discipline of philosophy. It wasn’t that those discussions weren’t fruitful and interesting in their own right, more that they felt limited. I only saw a few topics being addressed, and a relatively uniform perspective on life represented in the conversations. My questions and my perspective weren’t there, and the more I talked about it with others the more convinced I became that I wasn’t the only one feeling that way.

I turned to interdisciplinary work partly in an attempt to break out of the mould: poetry struck me a natural source for the kind of insight and creative power that shakes things up. Poets are used to working at the edge of what can be said, or even beyond it. On the flip side, philosophy offers a massively powerful toolkit for digging into the theoretical and speculative aspects of those questions. So (despite what Plato said) I see a natural kinship between philosophy and poetry.

These days, I draw on many different disciplines in my work. I now think of the approach not as interdisciplinary but as undisciplined. I’m not trying to straddle separate disciplines, but to challenge the very idea of separation.

You've written about the “happily ever after” myth, but isn’t its power fading with every generation, as more people decide to remain unmarried and divorce rates rise?

Sadly, no! The myth is becoming more and more obviously unrealistic, but even as that happens its power may actually be increasing. That’s because the way the myth functions is as an ideal, a standard against which we measure ourselves and find ourselves wanting. It’s unrealistic, but in the same way that beauty standards are: we are all meant to fall short to some degree, and then feel bad about it, and then to go out and buy something to feel (temporarily) better. My work isn’t aimed at showing the myth is unrealistic – we know that already. It’s aimed at unmasking the myth as a bad ideal to aim at in the first place.

Can you tell us about your theory of how love functions both as a social construct and a biological phenomenon?

Well, we have this ancient, evolved, biological machinery in our brains and bodies that accounts for many of our experiences of romance – from the nervous adrenaline rushes, to the dopamine hits when our interest is reciprocated, to the surges of oxytocin that accompany a secure bond. But then we also have a socially constructed script for a romantic relationship, where it’s supposed to proceed from an initial crush to a dating stage to sex then monogamous marriage and then kids. That’s the romantic “happy ever after” script.

My question is: how do these two things —the biology and the social script – fit together? And the analogy I like to use for this is an actor playing a role. A biological organism – such as William Shatner – can be cast in the scripted role of Captain Kirk on Star Trek. In the same way, we can “cast” the biological machinery of love in the role of modern romance. The interesting philosophical work, for me, is about how good that casting decision is. William Shatner does a good job as Captain Kirk. But how well does our biological love machinery fit the contemporary script for a romantic relationship? For some of us, it seems to work well (or at least, well enough). But for many of us – most obviously for all the polyamorous people and the aromantic people [people with little or no romantic attraction to others] – it’s a poor fit.

The problem isn’t the scripted role as such, but the idea that it’s a one-size-fits-all. I argue for more conscious customisation and tailoring in our relationships. The more we do that kind of thing, the weaker the normative model becomes. That model can change, as many of us have seen in our lifetimes with the gradual moves towards the normalisation of same-sex romance. (When I was a teenager, the script stated very firmly that romance was between a man and a woman. In that order.) The normativity of the romantic script – and the policing of every “deviation” from it – thrives in the darkness of the romantic mystique. The remedy is sunlight: more explicit discussion and open challenge.

What is the Romantic Paradox?

This idea is based on an older idea, known as the Paradox of Happiness, which says that the pursuit of happiness is self-defeating. Philosopher J.S. Mill put it this way: “Those only are happy … who have their minds fixed on some object other than their own happiness … Aiming thus at something else, they find happiness by the way.” I also like Viktor Frankl’s catchy statement that happiness “cannot be pursued; it must ensue.”

My Romantic Paradox says that the same goes for the romantic “happy ever after.” We’re all inundated, from early childhood onwards, with the idea that we should pursue this as a (or even the) central component of a good life.

But chasing after the romantic “happy after ever” is actually a way to end up frustrated and miserable. This can be considered a special case of the Paradox of Happiness, but the situation is exacerbated here by two factors. First, the expectations we put on romance: the higher the stakes, the greater the devastation when we “fail.” And second, the script for romance emphasises things like being a perfect fit for one’s soulmate and nothing ever changing, which make it less likely that we’ll be able to successfully navigate challenges and changes in a healthy way.

Your latest book, “Sad Love”, is a powerful case for embracing eudaimonic love, reflecting on its original Aristotelian meaning of “having a good guardian spirit.” How can we apply this to our lives today?

The old meaning of “eudaimonic” – even older than Aristotle – comes from the roots “eu” (good) and “daimon” (spirit). I think of eudaimonia in a contemporary setting as being about good spirits in every sense. You don’t have to think of this as anything supernatural; it’s more like what’s going on when people call their “fairy godmothers” or talk about the “vibe” in a room.

There are all kinds of bad daimons that can ruin our love lives, from the smallest scale – like the little voices in our heads that tell us we aren’t good enough – to the global – like racism or homophobia. Good or bad daimons are operative at every scale in between, too: even in a globally white supremacist world, a supportive family or local community can give an interracial relationship a much better chance of thriving. When we think about romantic love, we are inclined to think of it as a private or personal thing.

But I want to challenge this idea. Lovers are never operating in isolation, even when they build picket fences or close the bedroom door. I aim to call attention to how deeply love is affected by our interconnectedness, and depends for its very existence on supportive daimons at every scale from the tiny to the global.

Eudaimonic love, you write, means abandoning mythology and taking on responsibility for crafting our relationships. Is this why you’ve said that existentialism is due for a come-back?

Yes, that’s a big part of it. Existentialism is all about the ways we create ourselves as individuals through our choices and our actions. So I’m saying that, in taking more responsibility for crafting and customising our relationships, we can move away from what existentialists would call “bad faith” – the attempted abdication of responsibility in favour of a script. We never truly ditch our responsibilities – after all, it’s we who chose to follow the script. But we can pretend to ourselves that we have no choice but to follow society’s script for (say) how a husband or a boyfriend is supposed to behave. That’s bad faith, and I want us all to come to a better sense of how much responsibility we really have for our own love lives, and for the evolution of the social scripts and norms.

Carrie Jenkin's "Sad Love: Romance and the search for meaning" is published by Polity.

This thread has been created for thoughtful, rational discussion on subjects for which there are not currently any dedicated threads. Please note that our Comment Policy applies as usual. There is a link to this at the foot of the page. If you would like to refer back to previous open discussion threads, the most …
This is the 2023 follow-on from the 2022 BOOK CLUB thread, which is now closed, though you can easily refer back to earlier discussions by clicking on the link. BOOK CLUB 2023 has been created to provide a dedicated space for the discussion of books. Pretty much any kind of book – it doesn’t have …
Supporter, December 10 is recognized around the world as Human Rights Day. The theme this year is “Dignity, Freedom, and Justice for All.” Those are wonderful ideals, enjoyed by far too few across the globe. Secular Rescue works to improve (and often to save) the lives of atheists and nonbelievers living in places that would …
This thread has been created for thoughtful, rational discussion on subjects for which there are not currently any dedicated threads. Please note that our Comment Policy applies as usual. There is a link to this at the foot of the page. If you would like to refer back to previous open discussion threads, the most …
From the Richard Dawkins Foundation Newsletter. Subscribe here. Hello! It’s been an eventful few weeks since our last update; weeks that have seen both remarkable highs and terrible lows. It’s been, to paraphrase Charles Dickens, both the best and worst of times. We closed October with CSICon 2022, which returned to being in-person for the first …

matterswebI am delighted to announce that I have a new book out! This one is written for psychologists and students, and is the book that I wished I had read when I was an undergraduate. It examines why psychologists do what they do and aims to inspire the next generation of researchers.  It’s a personal journey into my favourite aspects of psychology, exploring how research can reveal the hidden workings of the mind, boost critical thinking, debunk myths, and improve lives. Along the way, I explain how to think like a psychologist, spot a liar, uncover the truth about happiness, and much more.  Several colleagues have been very kind about it and I hope that you enjoy it too!

“This engaging yet scrupulous introduction is ideal for those who wonder what psychology is really about.”
Uta Frith, University College London

“Reading this one-of-a-kind book, you feel as if you’re in a personal conversation with Richard Wiseman, one of the world’s most creative psychologists. He beautifully explains how psychologists gain insight into the human mind, expertly regales you with findings that are fascinating and surprising, and uncovers some of the many ways in which psychology improves lives. Perfect for students and professionals alike.”
Elizabeth Loftus, Past President, Association for Psychological Science

“A fantastic book. No one is better than Richard Wiseman to write about what psychology does and doesn’t offer. The quality of the writing and research reported is excellent.”
Cara Flanagan, top-selling author of A level psychology textbooks

“This wonderfully entertaining book celebrates why psychology really matters, calls for even more meaningful research, and presents a manifesto for change. A thought-provoking text that is deserving of serious consideration by both students and professional psychologists.”
Adrian Owen, OBE, neuroscientist and author, Western University

The book is available in the UK here

coverlevHi, a quick update about two projects that have just magically appeared!

First, I have co-authored (with Prof Caroline Watt) an article in PeerJ about the psychology of the impossible. It takes a look at research into impossible experiences across many different areas (including magic, dreaming, children’s play, and science fiction), examining how these experiences inspire creativity and have changed the world. It is free and can be be seen by clicking here.

Second, the fifth and final issue of our Hocus Pocus comic has landed! This comic celebrates magic, mystery and the mind, and this issue is all about levitation. It has stories about stage magic, the Indian rope trick and seance room trickery. It has been enormous fun working with the creative team of Jordan Collver, Rik Worth and Owen Watts. The comic has been selling out fast and this issue is available now at Propdog.

Do you know how best to cut your carbon footprint?

I recently invited people to take an online survey about sustainable lifestyle changes and over 800 people kindly responded. The work was conducted with Prof Mike Page from the University of Hertfordshire and Edinburgh Science, and the results are now in!

Everyone were asked to estimate how many kilograms of carbon dioxide would be saved by taking a range of actions. Many of the ratings were hugely inaccurate, with people generally overestimating the effects of less impactful changes, such as unplugging appliances, but underestimating the contribution of larger lifestyle changes such as following a vegetarian diet. For example

….unplugging a mobile phone charger saves around 2kg of CO2 emissions per year; yet one third of respondents thought that it saved five times that (100kg or more).

….leaving a television on standby emits around 15kg of CO2 per year, but a third of respondents estimated that it was far more significant (125 kg or more).

….becoming a vegetarian can save over 600kg, yet half of the respondents thought that it only saved 300kg or less.

…buying a blue jumper rather than a red one has no impact at all, but, on average, people thought that it would save 37kg.

The good news is that other estimates about, for example, the impact of flying, were more accurate. Every little helps, and people should consider doing whatever they can to cut emissions. However, these results suggest that there are many widely believed myths about sustainable behaviour. There’s a real appetite to make changes, which is great, but many of us may need clearer information on how make the biggest impact.

Many thanks to everyone who was kind enough to take part.

I have teamed up with Edinburgh Science to conduct a short survey into your thoughts about climate change and sustainability. It only takes a few minutes and it would be lovely if you could take part. All you need to do is click here. Thank you!

IMG_1433I have been interested in magic since I was 8 years old.  Early on, I became fascinated with the history of this strange performing art, and when I was 13 years old I wrote a school project entitled ‘The Art And History Of Conjuring’.

One section of this 34-page extravaganza was devoted to contemporary magicians and included the cover of a magic magazine featuring the legendary David Copperfield.

A few years ago, I was in Las Vegas with my friend and fellow magician, Massimo Polidoro. We went to see David Copperfield’s amazing show and he kindly invited us to his secret museum of magic. This stunning collection is housed is a large building on the outskirts of Vegas and contains a jaw dropping collection of apparatus, posters and books. It is the Smithsonian of magic and explores how magic shapes society, inspires technology, and creates a sense of wonder.

IMG_1435Due to the nature of the exhibits, David is only able to show a few people around the museum at any one time. Afterwards, David and I spoke about producing a book that provides readers with a personal tour of this magical space. Excited by the idea, we enlisted the help of brilliant magician David Britland and amazing photographer (and co-director of David Copperfield’s shows) Homer Liwag. Together, we put together a pitch document and were delighted when Simon and Schuster agreed to publish the book. Not only that, but the wonderful Priscilla Painton agreed to act as our editor.

IMG_1409Three years on and our vision has become a reality. This 270-page glossy book is our love letter to magic. Filled with Homer’s stunning photographs, it celebrates a group of outsiders who bring a much-needed sense of magic into the world, including the man who fooled Houdini, the woman who caught bullets in her bare hands, and the illusionist who made himself vanish. Along the way we encounter a sixteenth-century manual on sleight of hand, stunning French automata, and even some coins that are said to have magically passed through the hands of Abraham Lincoln.

Over forty years ago, 13 year-old Wiseman write a school project on magic and referenced David Copperfield. Today, I am honoured to have worked with this legendary performer and co-authored a beautiful book on the topic. To me, that feels like real magic.

For information on how to purchase in the USA, click here and for the UK, click here.


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 […]
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 […]
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 27 January 2023 04:31 UTC