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Confessions of a Former Environmental Skeptic

April 2008

In his 1964 Republican presidential nomination acceptance speech Barry Goldwater gave voice to one of the most memorable one-liners in political punditry: “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.”

These are stirring sentiments, to be sure, and once in a great while they may even be true. But for most human endeavors, moderation is a virtue and extremism is a vice. The reason is clear: all extremists think they are defending liberty and pursuing justice, from Timothy McVeigh and the 9/11 terrorists to Torquemada and abortion clinic bombers. One country’s terrorist is another country’s freedom fighter.

Extreme environmentalists are a case in point. Members of environmentalist groups who vandalize Hummer dealerships, destroy logging equipment, or torch scientific laboratories see themselves not as the terrorists that they are, but as environmental freedom fighters. And environmental groups who paint doom and gloom scenarios and exaggerate, distort, or even fabricate claims in order to keep the donations flowing only hurt their cause in the long run when doomsday comes and goes without incident or the claims turn out to be baseless. (continue reading…)

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Wag the Dog

April 2008
Emotions are as much a product of our evolutionary
heritage as they are our environmental circumstances
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The next time you come face to face with a dog wagging its tail, you can make a quick determination on whether to reach out and pet it or step back in deference: check the tail-wag bias. If the wagging tail leans to the dog’s right, you’re safe; if the tail leans to the dog’s left, don’t move. (continue reading…)

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Is Religion a Force for Good or Evil in the World?

March 2008

Michael Shermer and Dinesh D’Souza go toe-to-toe on some of the greatest issues related to science and religion: is there evidence for God’s existence, what is the proper relationship between science and religion, and has religion been a force for good or evil in the world? (continue reading…)

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Adam’s Maxim & Spinoza’s Conjecture

March 2008
Belief, disbelief and uncertainty generate
different neural pathways in the brain
magazine cover

During an early episode of the über-pyrotechnic television series MythBusters, Adam Savage was busted by the camera crew for misremembering his predictions of the probability of an axle being ripped out of a car, à la American Graffiti. When confronted with the unmistakable video evidence of his error, Adam sardonically rejoined: “I reject your reality and substitute my own.” (continue reading…)

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Scientology, Anonymous

February 2008

Imagine reading the following press release:

Hello, Jews. We are anonymous. Over the years, we have been watching you. Your campaigns of misinformation; suppression of dissent; your litigious nature, all of these things have caught our eye… Anonymous has therefore decided that your organization should be destroyed. For the good of your followers, for the good of mankind — for the laughs — we shall expel you … and systematically dismantle Judaism in its present form…

The rantings of crazed neo-Nazis, right? No. Substitute “Jews” and “Judaism” with “Scientologists” and “Church of Scientology” and you are reading from a statement issued by a group of anti-Scientologists calling themselves “Anonymous.” This statement was released Jan. 21 (read in a YouTube video by a Stephen Hawking-like computerized voice). It was followed by another on Sunday Feb. 10 that coincided with demonstrations at Scientology centers around the world at which protesters donned masks (the Guy Fawkes variety from the movie “V for Vendetta”) and waved posters that read, among other things, “Honk if you hate Scientology.” (continue reading…)

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