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Evolution Observed in Darwin’s Finches

Just two weeks ago I wrote about “Evolution Caught in the Act” – I was writing about fossils that are clearly transitional and occur within a major evolutionary change, like a land animal adapting to aquatic life. Now we have another report that justifies the same title, although this one is in living species. For […]

How Wikipedia Tackles Fringe Nonsense

Wikipedia is an interesting experiment in amateur crowdsourcing of information. I think it is a massively successful experiment, but it faces specific challenges. This page on Wikipedia discusses their approach to what information they allow to remain in their pages. They have a number of policies and practices that are meant to act as a […]

Re-Learning the Joy of Living with Journaling and Meditation

Moving along the treadmill of life, many of us succumb to the ever-present pressures to be faster, stronger, more efficient, and smarter. Perspective on what is happening in our lives is lost. We focus on failure and lacking within ourselves, rather than the abundance and opportunities for growth that surround us. We stop taking the time to […]

The Moon Landing Hoax – Again

James Randi has often observed that paranormal beliefs are like “unsinkable rubber duckies.” No matter how many times they are knocked down, they just keep popping back up. That’s because they are not based on facts or logic, but motivated reasoning serving some deeper cultural or emotional need. You can counter them with facts, but […]

God in the Brain: the Science of Neurotheology

We are the only species on the planet known to practice religion. This feature is universal among humans: there is no nation on Earth that does not practice one or another form of spiritual belief. The question is what makes our brain different so that we practice spirituality? Does religion serve any purpose to our […]

Medicinal Plants and the Brain — St. John’s Wort, Skullcap, and Ashwagandha

Medicinal plants still comprise a nebulous cloud in biomedical science. We know they have been used since the dawn of man, but there are precious few good quality scientific studies that support their use. Unlike pharmaceutical drugs, plant medicines consist of many different molecules that interact together in the body to have a variety of, […]

Criminal Brain: Fact or Fiction?

When we are confronted with the acts of excessive and unprovoked violence, we can’t help but wonder what is wrong with individuals committing such crimes. Think of serial killers: what motivates them? Both researchers and society, in general, have wanted to know how to explain the extreme brutality observed in some people. In most cases, […]

The Ethics of Head Transplants

Newsweek, who has been following the story of Italian Neurosurgeon, Sergio Canavero, now reports: “Human Head Transplants Are About to Happen in China: But Where Are the Bodies Coming From?” I have already discussed the scientific aspects of this claim. They are highly implausible and I doubt that such a transplant is about to happen at […]

John Oliver Nails Trump

In the season finale of Last Week Tonight, John Oliver reviews Trump’s assault on truth and decency. If you haven’t been watching this show, you should give it a try. Not only is it funny and entertaining, but on each episode Oliver does a deep dive on something in our society that is not right […]

The Puzzle of Multiple Personality Disorder

Dissociative identity disorder (DID, commonly referred to as multiple personality disorder) is well known to the general public through multiple movies and books. However, the disease remains poorly understood and rather mysterious for the medical specialists. Show More Summary

Fact-checking on Facebook

Last year Facebook announced that it was partnering with several outside news agencies, the Associated Press, Snopes, ABC News, PolitiFact and FactCheck.org, to fact-check popular news articles and then provide a warning label for those articles on Facebook. How is that effort working out? According to a recent survey, not so well. Yale researchers Rand […]

Raccoons Are Smart But Not Good Pets

Animal intelligence is fascinating for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it forces researchers to think carefully about what intelligence is. The comparison might also provide a window into what constitutes human intelligence in particular. There is no question that humans have intellectual capabilities that no other species has. However, […]

Glyphosate Not Associated with Cancer

In March of 2015 the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), part of the World Health Organization (WHO), published their assessment on glyphosate, Monsanto’s popular weedkiller, classifying it as 2a – a probable carcinogen. This was like red meat to the anti-GMO crowd, and even sparked class action suits against Monsanto and may lead […]

Evolution Caught in the Act

The hypothesis that life on Earth as it is currently found is the result of biological evolution from a common ancestor over billions of years is supported by such a mountain of evidence that it can be treated as an established scientific fact. Further, it is now a fundamental organizing theory of biology. This, of […]

Science-Based Veterinary Medicine

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) is a UK-based professional organization for veterinary surgeons and nurses. They describe their mission as: We aim to enhance society through improved animal health and welfare. We do this...Show More Summary

Predicting Suicide: Return of a Scandal (Part 1)

I recently decided to revisit a 2014 case that regular readers might remember. Back in 2014, I posted about a terrible piece of statistical 'spin' that somehow made it into the peer-reviewed Journal of Psychiatric Research. The offending authors, led by Swedish psychiatrist Lars H. Show More Summary

US Government Report Affirms Climate Change

The U.S. Global Change Research Program Climate Science Special Report was recently published, and its conclusions are crystal clear:  This assessment concludes, based on extensive evidence, that it is extremely likely that human activities,...Show More Summary

"Facephenes": Brain Stimulation Creates Phantasmal Faces

Have you ever seen a face on a football? In a new paper, neuroscientists Gerwin Schalk et al. report that brain stimulation caused a man to experience strange hallucinations. The patient saw faces in everyday objects, including an orange soccer ball and a featureless box. Show More Summary

Cracking the Code–Revealing the Secret Behind Our Perception

When you’re an eye doctor, and I’ve spent my entire career as one, you learn a lot about how people use, and misuse, the sense of sight to perceive the world around them. As humans, we’re constantly interpreting and occasionally manipulating our experiences to distinguish fantasy from reality. Some people are better at this than […]

Consistency Bias

“Oceania was at war with Eurasia; therefore Oceania had always been at war with Eurasia.” – George Orwell In Orwell’s classic book, 1984, the totalitarian state controlled information and they used that power to obsessively manage public perception. One perception they insisted upon was that the state was consistent – never changing its mind or […]

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