postmodernism

I am a scientist. I even have the credentials to prove it. There is a PhD degree in microbiology hanging on my wall and a few peer-reviewed publications to my name. And yet, though other people publicly acknowledge that I am a scientist, I rarely self-identify as one. Why?

Because I am no longer a practicing scientist. I gave up the laboratory in 2010 for the glamorous life of a science writer. In my mind, I am more of a "former scientist," but nobody on Earth uses that title. I suppose that -- sort of like being a medical doctor -- once a scientist, always a scientist.

What about people who don't have PhD's? Are they scientists, too? In any world in which credentials matter, the answer is no. (I describe a major exception to the rule below.) Just like getting an...

One of my best friends recently commented that it's disturbing how many Nazis, communists, and terrorists he's friends with on Facebook.

His point, of course, was sarcastic. Labeling people in the harshest of terms is one of the features of our hyperpartisan society. Anyone we disagree with on the Left is a socialist or communist; anyone we disagree with on the Right is a Nazi. Everybody else is a terrorist sympathizer. Such is the condition of our national discourse in 2018.

The Nazi analogy is particularly odious. Really, nothing in history compares to the crimes against humanity committed by the Nazis. While the Communists racked up a far larger body count, Nazi ideology was unique in its evil.

Adolf Hitler and the madmen with whom he surrounded himself were...

Geopolitical analyst George Friedman wrote in his book The Next 100 Years that cultures go through three phases: barbarism, civilization, and decadence/decline. "Decadents cynically believe that nothing is better than anything else. If they hold anyone in contempt, it is those who believe in anything." I think he's right.

There's a word for "not believing in anything": It's called postmodernism, and one wonders if it might go hand-in-hand with societal decline.

Barring some cataclysmic event, decline doesn't happen overnight. Decline is a choice. Historians disagree exactly why the Roman Empire eventually collapsed, but we do know that...

There's no nice way to put this. Academia is in the midst of self-destructing, not just in the United States but worldwide.

Recall that, just two months ago, Fresno State Professor Randa Jarrar went on a hate-filled Twitter rant against the recently deceased Barbara Bush. Her diatribe was so vile, that the university investigated the possibility of terminating or disciplining her. But, nothing happened, despite the fact that a video surfaced of her praising airplane hijackings (1:07) and making a sexual gesture at students (2:02).

Just a week later, the University of...

In our postmodern society -- where truth is relative, "fake news" is prevalent, and scientific facts are just an opinion -- it shouldn't come as a surprise that modern medicine is facing a backlash.

Evidence-based medicine, which is supported by a bedrock of biomedical science, literally has saved the lives of billions of people. Yet, modern medicine has been sustaining an assault from multiple fronts in recent years.

One front has fought against long-standing practices of public health meant to prevent disease, such as vaccination, pasteurization, and water fluoridation. A second front rages against those responsible for treating disease, such as medical doctors and pharmaceutical companies, who have been accused of conspiring against patients, for instance by...

When I was in high school, I was part of a community service organization (Key Club) that literally was one of the best in the world. We won international awards, and at the state level, it wasn't uncommon for us to sweep nearly all the awards.

Maybe I was the only one who felt this way, but after a while, it started to get a little uncomfortable. Everybody already knows you're the best, and winning every award year after year feels a little like rubbing it in. Public accolades paradoxically make me feel proud but also a little embarrassed.

It's a good thing that the scientific community in the United States doesn't share my conflicted feelings about the spotlight. Because, once again, Americans have dominated the Nobel Prizes.

On Monday, the...

Every discussion about postmodernism quickly devolves into accusations that the writer doesn't know what postermodernism is1. Of course, that's true, because nobody knows what postmodernism is. Even the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy agrees2. As the ultimate manifestation of intellectual and cultural relativism, postmodernism means whatever its adherents want it to mean.

Yet, this nebulous concept poses an existential threat to science and technology. How so? Because postmodernism is largely characterized by a rejection of objective truth. This is antithetical to scientific inquiry.

Marcel Kuntz, Director of Research at CNRS (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique), has made it part of his life's work to...

How should scientists respond to the rising tide of anti-scientific sentiment in the world? The backlash against modern technology is widespread: Protests against genetic engineering, vaccines, "chemicals," modern agriculture, neuroscience, nuclear power (and almost any other form of power), animal research, and embryonic stem cell research threaten to hold back, if not reverse, decades of progress. What can scientists do to address this problem?

The typical response, as elaborated in a report by the National Academy of Sciences, is "public engagement," which can range from education to the alignment of values between scientists and the public....