As we approach the end of the year, I want to recommend some of my favourite blogs. If nothing else, I hope that my linking them will at least generate some heat (read: traffic) for these intellectual superiors.
In no particular order:
The New York Times has a webpage called The Stone, which brings philosophers of the highest calibre into one arena to write about publicly relevant topics. There will be no Kripke navel-gazing here. Everyone from Peter Singer talking about the end of our species, to my fellow 3quarksdaily writer, Frans de Waal, talking about morality minus god. It is regularly updated with new pieces from the biggest brains in philosophy and related fields.
My magnificent friend, Kenneth Lipp, recently started a brilliant blog. He has the qualities of eloquence, curiosity and scientific literacy. Being a scientist himself – a Cambridge Fellow, if you please – Dr Lipp is attempting to confront all manner of barking dogmatists who wag their tails at the mere hint of unreason. He tackles everything from the origin and idiocy of ‘Islamophobia’ to bad science – even from fellow scientists. Us non-scientists require the guidance of someone who himself wears the white coat, in order that the authority figures don’t silence us with them.
Arthur Caplan, regular contributor to Free Inquiry (a dream of mine only partially achieved), has a brilliant regular blog called ‘Breaking Bioethics’. Though mostly for an American audience, considering most of the issues are from his home-country, the arguments he lays out are – of course – universal.
Speaking of bioethics, I must mention the great Udo Schuklenk who first introduced me to the field – and, indeed, persuaded me into it (by accident!). He has both a blog and a ‘proper’ storage place for his academic papers. Both are extremely useful and make for excellent (indeed, required) reading. He offers often scathing, highly critical and clear insight into ongoing, international affairs regarding ethics – and indeed, things that people called ‘moral’ problems like homosexuality (really, that’s still a moral problem for people?).
Prof. Schuklenk’s fellow bioethicist, Russell Blackford, needs no introduction. His blog is frequented and consulted so often – everyone from Sam Harris to Ophelia Benson have spoken about, reference or link to it. Blackford is also a literary critic, having two PhD’s – though I have no doubt we might have some clashes when it comes to literature, his sobriety in anti-god and ethical discussion is admirable. It is a model of clarity and calm that everyone could learn.
However, if you are looking for humour, scathing analysis and insight, and updates on issues that require public awareness, my friend Emma has started a new blog. Considering her strength and resilience in fighting for women’s rights, equality and reason in every area – stamping on toes that were once curled safely beneath a carpet of comfortable argument – almost all activist type bloggers could learn much from here. Though we might disagree on tone, content remains equal and indeed she has the fortune of having a broad audience even before embarking on becoming a lady of letters.
For local flavour, South Africans are required to read Jacques Rousseau’s blog, ‘Synapses’. Ranging from dry humour to scathing satire, insight and clarity, Jacques’ insight into current affairs is a welcome and, indeed, required view from a South African writer. Considering the poor quality of writing we are regularly subjected to, this is a breath of fresh air. Indeed, even according to international standards, we have someone who comes close to being our Twain.
Staying with South Africa, the best ‘skeptic’ blog (we actually say sceptic with a ‘c’ though my fellow South Africans refuse to submit to this usage for some reason!) is by Angela Meadon. Her humour, clarity and insight is wonderful stuff – especially for us emerging South Africans.
Speaking of which, her husband, the cog-sci student Michael Meadon, has perhaps the most famous/popular website on science-focused thinking in South Africa. His attempts to get all South Africans of a similar disposition, like yours truly, under a banner is most admirable, considering herding blind squirrels is easier than getting god-botherers under a single tent.
His fellow cognitive-science student, my friend and intellectual heavy-weight, is the overly talented Blaize Kaye. No doubt one of those the gods dipped in the vat of talent too often, leaving but drops for the rest of us, Kaye regularly writes eloquently about topics ranging from the science of minds, brains, Tetris and belief to one of the best autobiographical accounts on dislocating the god limb from one’s body of intellectual insight.
I also must mention my friend Sister Y, who has had me engaged with her writing and thought in such magnificent ways that I hope to reciprocate one day (if she’d only let me). To engage with forms of thought that would challenge even the most hardened thinker, you can’t do better than her incredible blog – focusing on suicide, death, antinatalism, and other ways of thinking that most of us rarely even consider.
Kenan Malik maintains a website that is guaranteed to draw love and bullets. Essays, excerpts from his wonderful books, and so on, can be found here. If you want a challenge from someone with the highest intellectual calibre there is almost no place better than this best-selling author and public intellectual. For an example, read his excellent piece about WikiLeaks.
Next year I hope to have some others, but I hope this list helps brings a new audience to these wonderful writers. How they all manage to keep up this calibre is a mystery to us mortals, but let us be thankful they do.
UPDATE: 21/12/2010 – I added Sister Y. I can’t believe I forgot her from the initial one.