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Category Archives: Skeptics

Unhelpful dichotomies

I recently finished The Creation of Inequality: How Our Prehistoric Ancestors Set the Stage for Monarchy, Slavery, and Empire by Kent Flannery & Joyce Marcus, a very accessible rendering for the lay audience of a huge amount of anthropological and archaeological data about the development of state societies. At the end of Chapter Twenty-Two (“Graft and Imperialism”), there is […]

What if ‘net-neutrality’ was a really bad idea? Guest post by Brian Hanley

[SL: Despite long-term engagement with technology, I remain something of a tech sceptic. I'm not the only lawyer who's noticed that modern computer software often impedes the completion of important, time-critical tasks, or who has witnessed the property department at three different law firms refuse to part up with their IBM Selectrics. This article, however, […]

‘I’m a believer’: Psychic Sally isn’t in it for the money

[SL: This is my first column for British magazine 'The Skeptic'; I share 'Skeptic in the Courtroom' column-writing duties with Manchester barrister Geoff Whelan, which means my duties aren't too onerous (two or three times a year) and, I figure, once the magazine has been on the newstands for several months, I'm probably pretty safe […]

No PETA, No Kill

NORFOLK, Va. — Even some supporters do not know what to make of it. PETA, considered by many to be the highest-profile animal rights group in the country, kills an average of about 2,000 dogs and cats each year at its animal shelter here. And the shelter does few adoptions — 19 cats and dogs […]

Privilege: an advice

[A long time ago, I promised various skeptical friends that I would write a post on the idea of 'privilege', something about which I have had grave doubts for some time. Unfortunately life and work got in the way, and the post remained unwritten. However, I then made the same undertaking to various classical liberal […]

Government by expert, scientists, and those Platonic Guardians (again) #QEDcon

Over the weekend, I was a guest at this really rather splendid skeptical convention (responsible for the terrific animation above). I and my fellow panellists (three lawyers, one science writer) got to talk about libel and defamation law, and how it relates to social media. This is, I think it’s fair to say, controversial right now. […]

The Laws Are Made for People…

…And not people for the laws. First, an apology for my lengthy absence. I have discovered that working and studying at the same time is difficult, so much so that I have resolved never to combine the two again. However, the study has now finished, and even better, I have a month to prepare for […]

The unforeseeable plaintiff

Making sense of the world requires–nay, demands–that we find patterns in events. And, as part of modernity, we’ve become used to the clear-headed, formalised pattern-finding of law and science. There are ways to look for explanations, and things that ought properly to be discarded along the way. That’s why we have ‘legal method’ and ‘scientific […]

Straight ducks, gay Romans, Kiwis, homeschooling, and the lesser Poe

In Skeptical circles, Poe’s Law is an axiom suggesting that it’s difficult, if not impossible, to distinguish between parodists of religious or other fundamentalism and genuine proponents, since they both seem equally insane. ‘Poe’ as a noun has become almost as ubiquitous as Poe’s Law itself. In this context, a Poe refers to either a person, post or news story that […]

'A Plea in Law for Equal Marriage'

As many of you know, I won the 2012 Law Society of Scotland Essay Award for a piece entitled ‘A Plea in Law for Equal Marriage’. The question to which my paper was a response was this: An MSP would like to bring forward a member’s bill in the Scottish Parliament. She would like it […]