Too Many People?

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

The temperature of our globe is rising and the population debate is heating up. The mounting stack of books in this field, to which I admit contributing several titles, often lacks historical perspective. Partisans of the two camps, Malthusians and Cornucopians, build Malthus up as hero or straw man, effacing the complexity of his arguments. […]

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Progress & Its Discontents

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

It is not hard to spot a liberal. ‘Scrupulous, hardworking, impatient, dogmatic, and without a shred of humor or tact,’ is how Edmund Fawcett describes Sir Edwin Chadwick, the 19th-century manager of poorhouses and sewers, in one of the vignettes that make up his ambitious new history. Somewhat trickier is describing what liberals actually believe. […]

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Shocks to the System

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Summing up the current intellectual situation, Ben Shephard writes: On the face of it we now live in a completely new world. All the old gods are dead – neither nationalism, Marxism, psychoanalysis nor Christianity any longer provides philosophical ballast. Instead, the modern intellectual landscape is dominated by two phenomena, Neo-Darwinian genetics and modern neuroscience […]

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Words to the Wise

Posted on by Tom Fleming

After decades of research among the Pirahã – a small indigenous group of people in a remote southern region of the state of Amazonas in Brazil – American linguist Daniel Everett found unlikely fame. What began as missionary work, under the auspices of the Summer Institute of Linguistics, continued academically with a doctorate at the […]


Posted on by Tom Fleming

Science is a human pursuit and the history of its ideas, like all human history, is messy; the bigger the idea, the messier its history tends to be. No idea that anyone has had since, say, Muhammad founded Islam, has had more impact than Charles Darwin’s grand notion of evolution by means of natural selection, […]

Only Connect

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Forest, jungle, labyrinth, maze – the human brain attracts dizzying analogies, and with good reason: our brains contain around one hundred thousand million nerve cells (neurons), linked by ‘millions of miles of gossamer neurites’ permitting around one thousand million million interconnections (synapses), the points at which cells exchange information with one another. It has long […]

Life’s Greatest Achievement?

Posted on by Tom Fleming

‘The dilemma of good and evil was created by multilevel selection, in which individual selection and group selection act together on the same individual but largely in opposition to each other.’ Combining an aura of scientific rigour with magisterial obscurity, this dictum conveys the flavour of much of what Edward O Wilson’s publisher describes as […]

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