Reading Time: 4 minutes I’ll never forget what I saw in a dirt-poor, dusty Yemeni mountain village more than a decade ago. It was plastic bags—the kind city-dwellers have long toted groceries in—and they virtually covered the steeply sloping mountainsides that fell away from the roadway bisecting the village. I had never before in my life seen such a […]
Science stories that matter, reported from a secular perspective at OnlySky, a secular community for nonreligious Americans.
Down with the algorithm
Reading Time: 5 minutes [Previous: Is social media the cigarette of the 21st century?] Is TikTok a Chinese plot to undermine America? The popular video-sharing site is already banned on U.S. government devices, and some politicians are proposing to outlaw it completely in the United States as a national security threat. At the heart of the debate is which […]
Draft bill bans everything but ‘scientific fact’ in Montana’s science classes
Reading Time: 2 minutes A draft bill in Montana sponsored by first-term Republican State Sen. Daniel Emrich would effectively destroy science classes throughout the state by requiring them to teach “scientific fact”… and nothing else. Which is the sort of thing you’d propose only if you didn’t understand the meaning of scientific “theory.” LC 2215 claims that “a scientific […]
Reclaiming human agency in how we think about AI
Reading Time: 9 minutes Online panic about AI models like ChatGPT follows a well-travelled path set by impoverished understandings of evolutionary theory. Can we reclaim human agency?
So this is 90 seconds to midnight
Reading Time: 4 minutes On January 24, the Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists officially moved the hands on the Doomsday Clock, which for three quarters of a century has been used to depict humanity’s risk of global disaster from nuclear war. When the clock was first launched, on the cover of the June […]
Camera phones don’t prove God’s existence
Reading Time: 3 minutes Smartphones have created video evidence for many claims both unknown and underappreciated, but they’ve failed to support religious beliefs.
Your gas stove might make you sick, but your politics can kill you
Reading Time: 4 minutes Living longer and being healthy should be uncontroversial, nonpartisan ideas—but to the American right, they aren’t.
Four recent failures in climate change response
Reading Time: 6 minutes Welcome to 2023: another year of corporate and political mediocrity when it comes to climate change response. We’re in the middle of the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting, known colloquially as Davos after its Swiss Alps location, so rhetoric around climate change response (and related economic pressure points) is currently running hot. On Wednesday, an […]
The science you will never know
The science you will never know can kill you, and it can save your life. Getting scientific answers right is more important at this point in history in countless ways than it has ever been. You and I cannot be productive contributors to every scientific conversation, except in one way: by pointing, on a given issue for which we lack expertise, to the people who do know what the hell they’re talking about.
AI is here: Are we finally ready to rethink the value of being human?
Reading Time: 6 minutes It’s been a good few months for machine-learning software—and a confusing one for the humans trying to live their best lives around it. Last fall, digital art generators like Midjourney and DALL-E drew the alarm of illustrators, photographers, and other digital artists: not just because the algorithms were trained on data not expressly sanctioned by […]