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“Beyond a reasonable doubt”: How juries get it wrong

The famed author and public intellectual has a bone to pick with the American legal system.

Evolutionary biologist and former Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University Richard Dawkins has a bone to pick with the U.S. judicial system. Specifically, the phrase "beyond reasonable doubt". He argues that it doesn't mean what it says it means — that two different juries would come to two different verdicts (or perhaps the same verdict but in a different way). Therefore, the phrase loses its power. It's semantics, sure, but when people's lives hang in the balance, Richard argues that we should perhaps take a second look at the phrase. Richard Dawkins' new book is Science in the Soul: Selected Writings of a Passionate Rationalist.

Politics & Current Affairs

How Richard Dawkins will win you over to his side

Author, speaker, and public intellectual Richard Dawkins is a first-class debater on subjects as grand and reaching as the very existence (or lack thereof) of a master creator. But he's got a simple yet highly effective technique to win people over to see his point of view. Find out what it is right here.

Many people would like to have a one-on-one argument with renowned professor, author, and all-around big thinker Richard Dawkins. He's most one of the world's most prominent public intellectuals and has written over a dozen books on matters as wide-ranging as atheism and science. Because he attacks such deeply held beliefs, many people disagree with him. But how is he so effective at what he does? Simple. He imagines his argument from the other side's perspective. That way, Richard Dawkins posits, there's a much higher chance that he can land his point. Richard Dawkins' new book is Science in the Soul: Selected Writings of a Passionate Rationalist.

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Why Religion Is Not Going Away and Science Will Not Destroy It

The US is arguably the most scientifically and technologically advanced society in the world, and yet at the same time the most religious of Western societies.


 

 

A man poses with a full back piece of Jesus Christ by Frankie Lee's Tattoo Parlour during the Australian Tattoo & Body Art Expo. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

In 1966, just over 50 years ago, the distinguished Canadian-born anthropologist Anthony Wallace confidently predicted the global demise of religion at the hands of an advancing science: ‘belief in supernatural powers is doomed to die out, all over the world, as a result of the increasing adequacy and diffusion of scientific knowledge’. Wallace’s vision was not exceptional. On the contrary, the modern social sciences, which took shape in 19th-century western Europe, took their own recent historical experience of secularisation as a universal model. An assumption lay at the core of the social sciences, either presuming or sometimes predicting that all cultures would eventually converge on something roughly approximating secular, Western, liberal democracy. Then something closer to the opposite happened.

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Politics & Current Affairs

Why Science Must Embrace Imagination, Intuition, and Evidence

All science begins with a leap of intuition, says Richard Dawkins, but we can only ever find objective truths by knowing when to let evidence take over from emotion.

You can be committed to science, but as soon as you're committed to a hypothesis, you've walked off the trail of objective truth, says Richard Dawkins. For him, that is the mission of science and the purpose of the scientific method: these truths exist—they are the foundations of innovations like vaccinations, antibiotics, and space travel, because they are built on something solid: evidence. Einstein is known for highly valuing the role of imagination in science, and Dawkins agrees: imagination and intuition are the springboards scientific progress depends on—but when evidence refutes a hypothesis or a feeling, that's the end of the line. Dogged persistence doesn't get you any closer to the truth, says Dawkins, only critical thinking can do that. Richard Dawkins' latest book is Science In The Soul: Selected Writings of a Passionate Rationalist.

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