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Have we reached the limit of human knowledge?

Despite huge advances in science over the past century, our understanding of nature is still far from complete. Not only have scientists failed to find the Holy Grail of physics – unifying the very large (general relativity) with the very small (quantum mechanics) – they still don’t know what the vast majority of the universe is made up of. The sought after Theory of Everything continues to elude… Lees verder »Have we reached the limit of human knowledge?

A giant, cosmic conspiracy

My long-time collaborator, the physicist Taner Edis​, has a cool new paper in which he draws analogies between religions and conspiracy theories. In dealing with challenges from modern science, theologians have often resorted to conspiracies, both involving the “scientific establishment” and God himself (or Satan). In some respects, according to Edis, the responses to evolutionary theory developed by liberal theologians… Lees verder »A giant, cosmic conspiracy

Humor Is a Cover for Racism

The fight against institutional racism recently won a major victory in the Netherlands. The organizers of Zwarte Cross (‘Black Cross’), a major Summer festival combining motorcross and music, finally decided to remove various Islamophobic and racist signs from their premises, following outrage on social media by activists. (Trigger warning: I will be forced to quote some racist statements in this… Lees verder »Humor Is a Cover for Racism

Four Flavors of Doom: A Taxonomy of Contemporary Pessimism

In his short, provocative book Has the West Lost It?, the Singaporean diplomat Kishore Mahbubani identifies a curious paradox. In many respects, the world has never been in better shape than today. People live longer, healthier, more peaceful, and safer lives than at any previous time in history. According to Mahbubani, this enormous improvement in the human condition is a result of… Lees verder »Four Flavors of Doom: A Taxonomy of Contemporary Pessimism

Why Tom Holland was not wrong about Christianity (though his new book may prove otherwise)

It’s always instructive to learn why someone changed their mind about something. It takes courage and intellectual honesty to admit having been wrong. After reading the title of this essay, I was all eager to discover why exactly the historian Tom Holland thinks he was wrong about Christianity. Unfortunately, he doesn’t really deliver on that promise. Just when it gets… Lees verder »Why Tom Holland was not wrong about Christianity (though his new book may prove otherwise)

Disbelief About Belief. Why Secular Academics Do Not Understand the Motivations of Religious Fundamentalists

The Dutch newspaper Financieel Dagblad recently published a rather disturbing interview with a former member of the Hofstad Network, a jihadist group that was active in the Netherlands in the first few years of this century. This ex-Islamist, named Jason Walters, threw a hand grenade at police during a raid in The Hague in 2004, and was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment in 2006… Lees verder »Disbelief About Belief. Why Secular Academics Do Not Understand the Motivations of Religious Fundamentalists

On Choosing Belief – Letter to Peter Boghossian (Part 2)

Dear Peter, Why is it you cannot bring yourself to believe we had a beer in Dresden last month? Your answer is that this belief has no ‘moral valence’, and your community doesn’t support it. By contrast, beliefs about Neanderthals have strong moral valence for your religious student. That’s why he can simply choose to believe, while you can’t. I’ve… Lees verder »On Choosing Belief – Letter to Peter Boghossian (Part 2)

Are ecomodernists “climate denialists”?

Ecomodernist Michael Shellenberger was interviewed on Belgian national TV this week. I’m glad that the Belgian public finally gets acquainted with ecomodernism, a broad international movement of environmental activists and scientists who want to “decouple” the economy from nature. However, the questions asked during this interview illustrate the sorry state of the debate about the climate in Belgium. For example,… Lees verder »Are ecomodernists “climate denialists”?

Do scientists tend to err on the side of least drama?

Here’s a fascinating paper that changed my mind about the IPCC. Contrary to what many denialists claim, the IPCC is not overly “alarmist”. If anything, the reverse is true. We can now establish this, by comparing the earliest IPCC predictions from the 1990 report (about ice sheets, CO2 levels, droughts, etc.) to current observations. It turns out that IPCC consistently undershoots… Lees verder »Do scientists tend to err on the side of least drama?