Altruism, Evolution and Religion?
By Robert Bernstein   |   February 13, 2024

Back in July 2006 I watched a BookTV interview with Francis Collins, talking about his book The Language of God. At the time, Collins was Director of the National Human Genome Research Institute; the massive government project to map the human genome, initiated by President Clinton. Privately funded projects actually reached much of the goal […]

Habits for New Year?
By Robert Bernstein   |   January 9, 2024

Happy New Year! Traditionally, a new year is seen as a time for a fresh start. Even if there is no physical significance to this time, it is an opportunity to reflect on where we have been and where we want to go. Many people make resolutions for the new year and, sadly, few last […]

 

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Street Epistemology?
By Robert Bernstein   |   January 2, 2024

I recently attended an international Skeptics Society conference. One of the highlights was an interactive demonstration and experience of “Street Epistemology” by philosophy professor Peter Boghossian. Our current times are famously tense, with people choosing sides on a wide range of issues and digging in to defend their side. In many cases, the actual issues […]

Ownership vs. Evil Subscription?
By Robert Bernstein   |   December 19, 2023

People are surprised that I don’t own any Apple products and don’t plan to. I developed an aversion to Apple as a grad student, designing scientific instruments based on the newly emerging personal computers. Apple kept their hardware “closed” to outside connections. The IBM PC had its own problems, using the horrible Intel processor of […]

Risk vs. Prediction?
By Robert Bernstein   |   December 5, 2023

My last article was about the need for direct government investment in solving the Climate Crisis. That getting rid of bad subsidies and incentives is helpful, but not enough. This point was made by Simon Sharpe, who worked on counterterrorism for the UK Foreign Office. But Sharpe made another vital point: A lot of climate […]

Climate Repair ‘Five Times Faster’?
By Robert Bernstein   |   November 21, 2023

I have written before about bad subsidies and incentives that have gotten us into the Climate Crisis. But there is another way to view the problem. “Nobody thinks we made the transition from horses to cars by taxing horseshit. Nobody thinks that we created the internet by taxing letter writing. Why would it be any […]

Left is Not Woke?
By Robert Bernstein   |   November 14, 2023

In ancient Greek tragedy, exile was considered a worse punishment than death. In modern times, woke cancel culture applies exile with little regard to its devastating impact on the target and on society. “Woke” originally meant a person was awake to actual racial and social injustice. Leftist Susan Neiman wrote a book Left is Not […]

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  • Common Narrative for Israel/Palestine Conflict?
    By Robert Bernstein   |   November 7, 2023

    I usually consider myself to be a secular Humanist. But events like the brutal October 7 Hamas attack on Israel make me feel very Jewish. Everyone wants peace. The question is on what terms and how to get there. The Humanist Society of Santa Barbara (HSSB) hosted a refreshingly innovative talk in 2018 offering a way […]

    Back to Normal?
    By Robert Bernstein   |   September 26, 2023

    Three and a half years ago (April 2020), I wrote an article “What is Normal?” It was the start of the COVID pandemic and people were asking for a return to “normal.” I asked: “Is that what we really want?” Is it “normal” that tens of millions of Americans have no access to health care? […]

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    Can Legal Action Save Us From the Climate Crisis?
    By Robert Bernstein   |   September 19, 2023

    “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” This line from William Shakespeare’s Henry VI, Part 2 is a widely spread meme on t-shirts and more. Those spreading the meme see lawyers as the enemy. But the original meaning was probably the opposite. The line is stated by “Dick the Butcher” who is […]

    Iceland Adventure: Images from Afar
    By Robert Bernstein   |   September 5, 2023

    Merlie and I travelled for most of July in Iceland and Greenland with Overseas Adventure Travel. Upon arrival, the Litli-Hrutur volcano erupted near the airport. I thought we might be stranded. Instead, it was an opportunity of a lifetime: We got to fly over it in a small plane! Along the way we also saw […]

    What Is Clean?
    By Robert Bernstein   |   August 22, 2023

    Almost 10 years ago I was flying to a psychology conference for my work and I picked up a book called The Power of Habit while changing planes at LAX. I learned something in that book almost as valuable as anything I learned at the conference. Author Charles Duhigg told the story of a Procter […]

    Can Ukraine Help Us Finally Understand the U.S. War in Vietnam?
    By Robert Bernstein   |   August 8, 2023

    Growing up in D.C. in the ‘60s and ‘70s, my parents took me with them to marches, rallies, and demonstrations against the U.S. War in Vietnam. Note that I do not call it the “Vietnam War.” For my parents, I think they saw it as an extension of the lessons of the Holocaust: that we […]

    Telepresence: Where Am I?
    By Robert Bernstein   |   July 11, 2023

    Our Humanist Society of Santa Barbara followed other organizations in moving to Zoom meetings during Covid. But we do now have occasional social gatherings. At one such gathering recently I talked to a member who said she “hates Zoom” and will only attend in-person events. I realized that she did not understand the concept of […]

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