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 … Continue reading Why Machines Could Be – But Aren’t – Conscious

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 … Continue reading The Demarcation Problem

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 … Continue reading The Fragile History of Secular Thought

Love In A World Of Atoms

The threads that weave the cloth of our mentality are soulless. Our experience of the most beautiful sunset, our most fervent desires, our loftiest thoughts, and our most expansive feelings of love are storms of neural activity, nothing more. Science – and neuroscience in particular – has stripped our mental lives of a soul. But … Continue reading Love In A World Of Atoms

Peace and the Scientific Worldview

I am sitting on a balcony in Haifa, Israel. Looking westward, I can see a sleepy haze obscuring the horizon where the Mediterranean meets the sky. The atmosphere here is calm – it is Saturday, a holy day. Occasionally I hear the blaring of a car horn, or the happy squeal of a child, or … Continue reading Peace and the Scientific Worldview

On the Golden Age of Islamic Science

We tend to think about the history of science as something that started in Ancient Greece, did fairly well in Ancient Rome, was forgotten in the world during the Middle Ages, and was then revived during the European Renaissance. What’s often neglected in this story is the vital role that medieval Muslims played in preserving and … Continue reading On the Golden Age of Islamic Science

Why Humans Go To War

Humans, chimpanzees, and wolves are the only mammals that form coalitions with other members of their species to inflict deadly violence on yet other members of their species. Why do we do it? We may have evolved an instinct for war. Support for this idea comes from what anthropologist Richard Wrangham calls the Chimpanzee Violence Hypothesis. The … Continue reading Why Humans Go To War