Since I was a little boy, I’ve been fascinated by both the revelations of science, and the visions of possibility presented in science fiction. As an adult (well, legally anyway) I’ve taken the opportunity to dedicate the bulk of my spare time to promoting both of these ideas in any venue I could find.
I am the editor of a leading online African IT news site. With a growing sense of wonder at the beauty and simplicity of the natural world I tries to keep my eyes (and my keyboard) firmly targeted on the truth. I dedicate most of my free time to smacking quacks, debunking chain e-mails and exposing myths. Whenever possible I pursue nerdy activities such as reading and playing role-playing games.
Having been the go-to sceptic in my circle of friends for many years I finally decided to make a expand my circle of influence. I started writing a sceptical blog, The Skeptic Detective, in May 2008 and it has been an eye-opener for me. I rediscovered the joy of writing and thoroughly enjoy exercising my sceptical muscles in the public arena.
I have a passion for science which probably started when my mother bought me my first real books: one was about dinosaurs and the other was a beautiful journey through the solar system. Since that modest beginning, I have read books on topics as far apart as biology and mathematics. I believe that every day brings a new opportunity to learn.
I am the author of Ionian Enchantment and a graduate student in cognitive science at the University of KwaZulu Natal in Durban, South Africa. In my younger days, I was rather heavily into the social sciences (I studied Politics, Philosophy and Economics at the Universty of Cape Town as an undergraduate), but I’ve come to a rather dim view of the possibility of a rigorous science of society. As a result, when I’m not procrastinating or trying to read the whole internet, I do research on a narrow but tractable topic: the effect of rapid and unreflective facial judgments on political elections.
Human knowledge and human power meet in one; for where the cause is not known the effect cannot be produced. Nature to be commanded must be obeyed; and that which in contemplation is as the cause is in operation as the rule.
Knowledge, in the words of the popular corruption, is power. Achieving our ends depends (at least in part) on our understanding of how the world works. But, as Bacon also pointed out, (1) the world is exceedingly complicated (“[t]he subtlety of nature is greater many times over than the subtlety of the senses and understanding”) and (2) the human mind is sadly prone to error (“[f]or the mind of man is far from the nature of a clear and equal glass, wherein the beams of things should reflect according to their true incidence, nay, it is rather like an enchanted glass, full of superstition and imposture”). Making sensible decisions in a complex world, then, depends (in part) on us recognising the fallibility of our minds, and demands a commitment to science and skepticism.
The aim of this podcast is to advocate the application of reason and skepticism to topics relating to Africa, and I hope to pay my dues and make my small contribution.