Why rape cases should not be subject to reasonable doubt

Is it better to have the harm of 100 sexual assaults than the harm of one false conviction?

US film producer Harvey Weinstein poses during a photocall at the 70th Cannes Film Festival on May 23, 2017. (Photo: YANN COATSALIOU/AFP/Getty Images)

Conviction rates for sexual assault against women are shockingly low, to the extent that, even in a developed nation such as the United Kingdom, only 6 per cent of rape allegations result in a conviction, a far lower rate than for any other violent crime. As The Guardian columnist Julia Bindel puts it, ‘rape might as well be legal’.

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Gods, Aliens, and Atheists: Are We Alone in the Universe?

If you believe there is intelligent extraterrestrial life out there, have you ever stopped to wonder why?

Are atheists who believe in aliens falling for one of humanity's oldest brain biases? In a series of four studies titled 'We Are Not Alone: The Meaning Motive, Religiosity, and Belief in Extraterrestrial Intelligence', psychologist Clay Routledge and his colleagues discovered that participants who report low religiosity demonstrate a greater belief in intelligent extraterrestrial life existing out there, elsewhere in the universe. This tendency is particularly interesting to science writer and skeptic Michael Shermer, because let's face it, he says, "religions have no more evidence for god than scientists have for extraterrestrials." These two beliefs are as detached from proof as each other, yet both fill the all too human need to be comforted by the thought of another world—whether takes the form of moral and kind sky gods, or technologically advanced aliens. Is a belief in intelligent extraterrestrial life just another expression of our religious impulse? Michael Shermer's new book is Heavens on Earth: The Scientific Search for the Afterlife, Immortality, and Utopia.

How to fight work bullshit (and keep your job and your dignity)

Bullshit greases the wheels of sociability. Questioning bullshit can be a sure way to lose friends and alienate people. 

'Curb your Enthusiasm,' actor Jeff Garlin discuss the popular television series at the HBO U.S. Comedy Arts Festival on March, 6 2004 in Aspen, Colorado. (Photo by Chip Strait/Getty Images)

After getting lost in the conference hotel, I finally located the ‘creativity workshop’. Joining the others, I sat cross-legged on the floor. Soon, an ageing hippie was on his feet. ‘Just walk around the room and introduce yourself,’ he said. ‘But don’t use words.’ After a few minutes of people acting like demented mimes, the hippie stopped us. ‘Now grab a mandala,’ he said, pointing to a pile of what looked like pages from a mindfulness colouring-in book. ‘And use those to bring your mandala to life,’ he said pointing at a pile of magic markers. After 30 minutes of colouring, he told us to share our mandalas. A woman described how her red mandala represented her passionate nature. A man explained how his black mandala expressed the negative emotions haunting his life. A third person found words too constraining, so she danced about her mandala. Leaving the room after the session, a participant turned to me and quietly said: ‘What a load of bullshit.’

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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.

The Evidence Is Overwhelming—Vaccines Do Not Cause Autism

Anti-vaxxers may have a friend coming into the White House, and medical experts are worried. 

 

A doctor vaccinates a child.

A small but tenacious group of parents and others who are against vaccines may soon enjoy support from the White House, a fact that is causing health experts alarm. Since 2000, a small but tenacious group of parents have refused to vaccinate their children and advocate against it, believing that the contents cause autism. Because of this, cases of measles, whooping cough, and mumps have increased dramatically, illnesses which medical science was thought to have under control, and in the case of measles, nearly wiped out.

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