What Is It Like to Know?

by Ari N. Schulman

The famous “Mary’s Room” thought experiment was intended to show that the mind is not merely physical. Ari N. Schulman shows that the debate over the thought experiment conceals a deeper convergence between “dualists” and “physicalists,” and that both sides fail to see how knowledge is bound up with experience.

The Limits of Information

by Daniel N. Robinson

When we look for an explanation — of a biological trait, a historical event, or some personal experience — what kind of explanation should we expect to find? Daniel N. Robinson argues that scientific information can never be enough to explain human experience.

by Lawrence S. Mayer, M.B., M.S., Ph.D.
and Paul R. McHugh, M.D.

A careful summary and an up-to-date explanation of research on sexual orientation and gender identity, offered to improve public understanding of these complicated subjects.

by Brendan P. Foht

The CRISPR technique has reignited the decades-old debate over genetic modification. Brendan P. Foht argues that genetic therapy should be used to treat and prevent disease in actual patients, whether those patients are born or unborn, and that schemes for enhancing the human race through genetic modifications — or for protecting it from genetic modifications — should not interfere with our obligations to future generations.

READ MORE McGovern Institute for Brain Research at M.I.T.

We asked three scientists to discuss some of the latest research and scholarship regarding the place of life, including human life, in the universe:

  • Sara Seager on how — and why — we search for Earth-like planets orbiting distant stars
  • Marcelo Gleiser on why the findings of physics should help ease our sense of cosmic angst
  • Luke A. Barnes on what it means to say that the universe appears “fine-tuned” for life
European Southern Observatory via Wikimedia (CC BY 4.0)

Miss Marple and the Problem of

Modern Identity

by Alan Jacobs

Agatha Christie’s famous amateur sleuth uses her knowledge of human nature to discern if people really are who they say they are — one of the central problems of modernity. Alan Jacobs reflects on the differences between being known by one's neighbors and being known by the state.

READ MORE Shutterstock

Love Conquers All

by Jenna Silber Storey and Benjamin Storey

A number of idealistic communities popped up in nineteenth-century America, each dedicated to its own vision of freeing human beings from society’s constraints. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s months spent at one of these communities became the basis of The Blithedale Romance, his novel about how ill-conceived schemes of liberation can do more to suppress the human soul than to free it. Jenna Silber Storey and Benjamin Storey revisit Hawthorne’s tale of dashed dreams.

READ MORE Elliott Banfield

Evolution and the Purposes of Life

by Stephen L. Talbott

Modern biology has tried to abolish purpose from living things — even as biologists implicitly attribute purposes and goals to molecules, genes, and the evolutionary process of natural selection. Stephen L. Talbott exposes the hidden assumptions behind the view that purpose in nature is just an illusion, and shows why purpose cannot be ignored or explained away.


Is There an ‘Unmet Need’ for Family Planning?

by Rebecca Oas

Increasing access to contraception is a major development goal for many foundations, NGOs, and international agencies. But as Rebecca Oas explains, the claim that the world’s poorest need more contraception is based on a deeply flawed concept.


Scientist, Scholar, Soul

by Marc D. Guerra

Marc D. Guerra on what Margaret Edson’s play Wit can teach the overeducated about death, redemption, and life’s meaning.


Science isn’t self-correcting, it’s self-destructing. To save the enterprise, argues Daniel Sarewitz, scientists must come out of the lab and into the real world.



Missing the Night Sky

by Jacob Hoerger

Light pollution confuses animals and makes astronomy harder — but those are small sacrifices for all the safety and productivity that electric lighting permits. Yet, argues Jacob Hoerger, we also lose something less measurable when we lose sight of the twinkling stars in the black: a sense of our own finitude.


Biomedicine and Its Cultural Authority

by Joseph E. Davis

Critics sometimes accuse modern medicine of focusing too narrowly on the causes of specific maladies instead of holistically maintaining health and wellness. But, as Joseph E. Davis explains, the reductionist style of medicine and the lifestyle that goes with it are deeply connected to our cultural priorities and how we think of ourselves as autonomous individuals.


Why Information Matters

by Luciano Floridi

Does philosophy need an upgrade? Luciano Floridi discusses what philosophy and computer science can contribute to each other.


European and American Views on Genetically Modified Foods

by Orsolya Ujj

Why are genetically modified foods ubiquitous in America but rare in Europe? The answer, as Orsolya Ujj explains, is deeply rooted in cultural and philosophical differences between the two continents.



Getting Over ‘Apolloism’

Rand Simberg explains why the 1960s missions to the Moon are a bad template for today’s space program.

Colonizing Mars

Robert Zubrin offers a friendly critique of Elon Musk’s plans for SpaceX to settle the Red Planet.

Fiction in the Age of Screens

by Erik P. Hoel

As television and video games have increasingly encroached into literary terrain, what is to become of books? Erik P. Hoel examines the “HBO anxiety” of today’s writers — and explains why the novel is here to stay.


Hard to Believe

by Robert Herritt

We are deluged with facts and expert opinions. How can the responsible citizen judge between them when they clash? Robert Herritt on how we know what we know, and what to do when experts disagree.