Monthly Archives: April 2008

You Never Know

It is always interesting to me to see which of these posts will generate comments, and which will not. Often a probing and painstakingly drafted essay on a subject of ancient and universal interest will attract no more notice than, say, an important scientific discovery or a bit of good news from Iraq; but dash […]

The F-Word

George Orwell, in his 1946 essay Politics and the English Language, wrote: “The word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies ‘something not desirable’. ” Little has changed since then. Related content from Sphere

Service Notice

Sadly, today seems to have been entirely consumed by worldly distractions, and with a busy weekend coming up, we’ll likely be off the air until Sunday or Monday. Apologies to all. Related content from Sphere

Wagging The Dog

When we talk about the question of free will, it often seems that we approach the subject rather differently from the way we would look into any other unanswered question about the world. Usually, when we don’t know about something, we ask “what is going on here?”, and examine the observable phenomena, form hypotheses, put […]

Fire and Ice

According to this story in today’s New York Times, Europe is looking to increased use of coal to meet its energy needs. As you might imagine, this news is not being received warmly by those who are concerned about levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide. However, according to this item by Australian scientist-engineer Philip Chapman, we […]

Ladies Welcome

Our commenter Jeanie Oliver has asked why the overwhelming majority of comments at this website are from men, and I’ve often wondered the same thing. I know that there are more than a few female readers out there, and if you are one of them I just want to make it clear to you that […]

What You Mean “We”, Kemosabe?

Yesterday’s musings about free will led us to the question of where our decisions actually come from. Even in our own inner experience, our choices seem simply to float up into our consciousness, and indeed, experimental results strongly suggest that our awareness of our decisions comes after they are already made. Our commenter Pat Goldsmith […]

Who’s In Charge?

The question of free will has been in the air around here lately, and more than one voice has been heard decrying the awful prospect of determinism. I have a rather blithe attitude toward the problem: I don’t think there’s any need to be upset by the notion that our minds are a product of […]

Postage Due

…but not forthcoming, I am afraid. Worn out and feeling a little under the weather, I am neglecting my duties here for at least another day. Apologies to all.

Full Circle

As suddenly and astoundingly as ever, it is Spring again in New York. The weather these past few days has been simple perfection, and the trees and flowers, having awakened in a celebratory mood, are getting about their morning’s work with extravagant exuberance. But not all is renewed, and even as the living world stirs […]

Service Notice

Having toiled at my Midtown office until 3:15 a.m. last night — and with a joint-locking seminar to attend this evening at the kwoon, and a long mixing session coming up on Saturday — published content may be rather thin these next few days. I apologize: in particular, I owe the estimable Deogolwulf a better […]


What is strange to me now, after 15 years of steady Internet use — during which time an truly ungraspable immensity of information has become available to all — is when there is something I can’t get hold of online. Sometimes it is a particularly obscure quotation, or passage from a book that I would […]

Matter of Choice

An awful lot of people attach tremendous importance to the notion that our decisions are somehow the uncaused product of our consciousness: that they happen not amongst the deterministic web of brain tissue, but impose themselves on that tissue, somehow, from without. I’m not one of them. Related content from Sphere

John A. Wheeler, 1911-2008

We note with sadness the death of this great scientist. He was one of the giants of 20th century physics, and mentor to an extraordinary assortment of disciples. His New York Times obituary is here. Related content from Sphere


It’s my birthday this weekend, on Sunday, April 13th. (I’m 52.) I’ve been taking a little break: just reading and puttering around up here in Wellfleet, and scrupulously avoiding any serious brainwork or controversial posts (I love the rough-and-tumble of a good debate, but the little grey cells needed a rest). So here’s another undemanding […]

A Mind Unraveled

Last Tuesday’s New York Times carried a tragic and fascinating story. It was about Anne Adams, a scientist who was sticken by a degenerative and ultimately lethal brain disease called FTD, which is an acronym for frontotemporal dementia. The disease attacks particular portions of the brain only, with the effect that as the damaged parts […]

Keep The Doctor Away

Here’s another item from it appears that there might have been something to the old saying after all.

Comic Relief

I’ll be traveling later today, and off the air until tomorrow at the earliest. So for now, here is an enormous, time-wasting distraction to keep you occupied.

Through The Looking-Glass

Since the Big Bang was first proposed as a cosmological model for our universe — a model that has since been accepted with confidence by the astrophysical community — it has been assumed that it might well be impossible in principle to say anything about the state of the world prior to the initial singularity. […]


If you’re like me, you like nothing better than tucking into a heaping plate of short-snouted seahorses. Problem is, they’ve become annoyingly rare. Well, I’ve got good news! Story here. Related content from Sphere

No Backs!

While looking over the latest from our friend The Stiletto (who, by the way, has just been chosen as a Webby Awards Official Honoree for her “tart” political commentary), I ran across a story about Arizona’s efforts to deal with its enormous influx of illegal aliens. I was struck by one passage in particular: [E]nough […]

Just Doing What Comes Naturally

As a paternalistic and morally deficient bigot, I of course have a collegial interest in the ideological shortcomings of others — an interest that is not limited to my own species. So I was gratified when a recent item over at Dennis Mangan’s place led me to an engaging and informative piece about the extent […]

Don’t Be A Dhimmi, Be a Smarty!

I must apologize to the reader for the lack of variety around here lately; our little clash of civilizations has occupied me almost exclusively in recent days. I’m afraid that this post will not interrupt the streak, but it will be brief: I just want to call attention to an outstandingly informative series of posts […]

In For a Penny, In For a Pound

As long as I am to be pilloried as a racist and reactionary xenophobe anyway, I might as well carry on. Here’s the latest cave-in, this time from Britain. Related content from Sphere

The Soft Weapon

No matter what your reaction — snarling in defiance, as are the conservative voices of the West, groveling in awe, as are the liberal governments of Europe, or exulting, with growing confidence, as in the mosques and madrassas — radical Islam is rising. Those who see it, rightly, as a potentially lethal threat to all […]

Irrenhaus Europa

In a recent post, Silence!, we remarked upon the indictment of an Austrian politician, Susanne Winter, for her having suggested that there might have been a whiff of sexual impropriety in the Prophet Mohammed’s taking of the six-year-old Aisha as his wife (though to his credit, he did not consummate the marriage until she was […]

Duty and Democracy

I’m sorry to have been off the air yesterday; I spent a long day with the promising young band Bulletproof Soul at Avatar Studios, mixing some of the material we recorded a few weeks ago. I am also working at the office all day today, so can’t write at length now either — but it […]

Without Conscience or Reflection

Christopher Hitchens weighs in, with customary acerbity, on Hillary Clinton’s audacious Tuzla whopper. Here.


I have often, in posts having to do with foreign policy, expressed the sentiment that it is in our interest to foster “democracy”. It has occurred to me, however, in the course of a recent conversation, that the essential point is to promote regimes that rule with the consent of the governed. I’m not sure […]

For Hu, The Bell Tolls

For the crime of expressing dissatisfaction with his government, Chinese freethinker Hu Jia has been sentenced to prison, despite an international chorus of protest. His wife remains under house arrest. Meanwhile, when not distracted by its ongoing bludgeoning and suffocation of Tibet, China preens in the global spotlight as the host of the impending Olympics. […]

Making America Safer

We’ll all sleep a little better knowing that monsters like these are off the streets. Story here.

Our Father, Who Aren’t In Heaven: Hollowed Be Thy Name

Although I am not a theist myself, and sympathize broadly with the current crop of prominent atheist authors, we obviously cannot ignore the central role that religion has always played in the organization and cohesion of human groups. I think, along with Sam Harris and others, that it ought to be possible for human societies […]

“Brevity Is For The Weak”

My friend Salim Ismail, with whom I have just enjoyed a delightful lunch, has introduced me to a marvellous website that I must share with you all. It’s called Idle Words, and features the writings of one Maciej Ceglowski, who seems to get around a bit. You can find it here, or from today forward, […]


With a hat tip to Baron Bodissey at Gates of Vienna, we offer yet another frightening example of the withering of essential Western liberties under the steady pressure of Islamism. The latest gesture of craven appeasement comes from Austria, where a politician has been indicted for expressing an unfavorable opinion of Mohammed’s having married a […]

Title Search

One of the little advantages of living in the pre-Internet world was that it was far easier to flatter myself, in my cleverer moments, that I’d had an original idea. It now requires only a trivial exertion to confirm that I haven’t. Related content from Sphere

Wait! There’s More!

As long as we’re on the subject of spineless capitulation to religious extremism, here’s a relevant post over at Gates Of Vienna.