Pascal Boyer’s blog

Can we (please) have science without the scientific journals?

We had science before the journals. We can have science after their demise.

Science could be organized as efficiently as restaurants.

When enterprising individuals plan to open a restaurant, do they submit their food to a Culinary Editor who sends it for peer-review by gustatory experts, before customers are allowed to enter the place and try the food?

No, restaurateurs just rent premises, recruit staff, open doors, serve the meals they want at the price they choose, and hope for the best.

Then the review process starts. A whole army of self-appointed reviewers make it their job to describe and evaluate what is on offer. They include specialized magazines, special sections of newspapers or websites. More importantly, a vast number of unsolicited, unpaid Internet reviewers create what an establishment needs – a reputation.

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“So you’re saying … we should live like lobsters?” or: Why does politics make us stupid?

A few weeks ago, a TV interview of clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson by journalist Cathy Newman became a minor Internet phenomenon, thanks to the journalist's extraordinary interviewing style. She handled the conversation so badly that the Atlantic commented on that car-crash of an interview under the title Why Can't People Hear What Jordan Peterson Is Saying?

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Is the moral-economic fallacy universal?

If anyone remembers anything from Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations (apart from the number of distinct operations required to make a pin, which greatly impressed me at the time), it is that famous

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Why don’t people like markets?

People do not love markets – there is a lot of evidence for that. Is it relevant that, well, to put it bluntly, people do not seem to understand much about market economics? That is a common

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What it is about women?

A few weeks a go, a young girl was assaulted in the othodox Jewish community of Beit Shemesh near Jerusalem. Being from an orthodox family, the girl was dressed in what most people in Israel and the

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Epistemic vigilance… and epistemic recklessness

We have all enjoyed, if that is the right word, conversations with people who seem to have no great regard for the niceties of argument and evidence - people who tell you that homeopathy does work

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Why are human beings so interested in explaining misfortune?

(Enter our super-competition and win a mega-prize!) Some time ago, a lady in France had the pleasure of seeing her lottery ticket win the jackpot (several million euros), only to have her dream

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Do people ever engage in “magical thinking” ?

Would you enjoy your cocktail less, if it came in a glass labelled “vomit”? One solid result of cognitive psychology, or so it would seem, is that most people, regardless of education,

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Birthers, Obama, and conflicting intuitions

Those of you who deal with psychiatry know of the rare and tragic condition called Capgras delusion. In this condition, the patient ceases to recognize his or her spouse, father, mother, another

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What’s wrong, in the end, with Homo Œconomicus ?

Everyone likes to bash Homo œconomicus - not one stone was left uncast at the poor chap. Now, don't get me wrong, I enjoy a good stoning just as much as the next religious fanatic, but this

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Why would (otherwise intelligent) scholars believe in

I do not know if many scholars of religion still believe in gods or spirits, but I know that a great many of them believe in the existence of religion itself - that is, believe that the term "

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There is no such thing as sexual intercourse

I happen to know the secret of academic success. So far I have never divulged it because, well, charity begins at home. But it looks like the field of cognition and culture might be in need of a shot

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Cognition under the high brow

  High Culture: Da Vinci's Last Supper (as seen in The Da Vinci Code). We cognitive anthropologists deal with “culture” in the broad sense of distributed mental

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Death, where is thy sting ?

I don’t believe any one of you would like to live in a room with a murdered man in the cupboard, however well preserved chemically – even with a sunflower growing out of the top of his

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Institutions again – What is a primitive society?

That is the rather provocative question that Richard Posner asked in a 1980 article that I only recently discovered - and I think should be on the reading list of a decent cognitive anthropology

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How I found glaring errors in Einstein’s calculations

Call me radical, call me a maverick. Rather than slavishly swallowing the scientific orthodoxy from establishment textbooks, I decided to go back to the original papers. I have identified several

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What is an institution, that people may participate in it?

In a recent post, Christophe Heintz told us about “institutions that make us smart”. The posting was of great interest by itself, and got us thinking about institutions - our field still

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Paleolithic art: awesome — but not religious

This would seem to be the conclusion from Dale Guthrie’s massive The Nature of Paleolithic Art, perhaps the most comprehensive and rigorous study to date of cave paintings and other Stone Age

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