Blog

Science is a Collective Human Endeavor – And That’s Beautiful

A philosopher of science once told me, “Science is like a big, ornate building. Unless you’re an Einstein or a Newton, all you can do is etch away at a little flourish on the building’s facade - and then you die.” Though bleak, his thought did speak to a curious truth about the lives of [...]

We Are All Brains In Vats

The following post is from my new article for Knowing Neurons, an online publication about neuroscience and the mind.   The Matrix made all of us ask the same disturbing questions: How do I know that the world I see, hear, and touch is real? Can I prove that I’m not actually in a pod created by machines [...]

There Is No Ghost In The Brain

As long as the nature of consciousness will remain a mystery, we will be in the grip of anxiety. And that is because we are, all of us, haunted by that uniquely human question: what awaits us after death? Although the vast majority of Americans believe in some sort of afterlife, such beliefs are starkly at odds [...]

Consciousness Is A Scientific Problem

Below is the text of my newest article for the Berkeley Science Review: The brain does many things. It makes decisions, it remembers facts, it moves our muscles, it can do math, and it can communicate with other brains. Each of these abilities are active subjects of neuroscience research. But the brain does something else, which [...]

Why Machines Could Be – But Aren’t – Conscious

I recently had a brief back-and-forth with Bobby Azarian about his new article on Raw Story. Azarian, a neuroscientist at George Mason University, argued that artificial intelligence (AI) could never be conscious. I highly recommend reading Azarian’s article: it’s a great distillation of some key concepts in the philosophy of mind, and he makes an [...]

The Demarcation Problem

Below is the text of my newest article for the Berkeley Science Review:   In October, 2004, the Dover Area School District in York County, Pennsylvania decided that intelligent design would be taught in their classrooms as an alternative to evolutionary theory. In response, a group of Dover parents sued the school district, claiming that [...]

The Fragile History of Secular Thought

Secular inquiry is fragile. The history of trying to understand the world without reference to the gods is remarkably tumultuous – so much so that it is baffling that secular inquiry, as a social phenomenon, should have survived at all. Many thinkers throughout history have devoted themselves to keeping nonreligious thought alive, but six thinkers [...]