Life began on Earth early, about 3.4 billion years ago. Photograph: Getty Images

The Milky Way is extremely unlikely to contain another technological civilisation

The dominant male in a gorilla group services a harem, hogging all the sex with all females in the group and denying the subservient males any “look-in”. Photograph: Alan Betson

Balance of evidence indicates we are biologically inclined towards monogamy

There has been a recent explosion of “predatory” science journals that aggressively solicit research papers from scientists who pay to have the papers published.

William Reville: Predatory journals can contaminate scientific literature

The discovery of the structure of DNA in 1953 paved the way for the development of sophisticated gene-editing techniques. Photograph: Getty Images

Despite ethical unease, germ-line modification will surely find mainstream acceptance

 Stem cells are undifferentiated cells that can renew themselves through cell division and, under certain circumstances, can develop into differentiated organ-specific cells. Photograph: Getty Images

Scientists hope to use pluripotent stem cells to replace organs that have failed

Senator David Norris, then Green Party leader Trevor Sargent and Marian Harkin MEP at the GM-free Ireland Network protest rally outside Leinster House, Dublin, in 2006. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

Green criticism has undermined public and political confidence in GMOs but science proves they are no riskier than more traditiona(...)

 Ireland recorded 392 suicides last year. Photograph: iStock

We have been surprisingly passive in Ireland in responding to issue

   The first exoplanet transit was detected in 1999 and within 10 years more than 100 exoplanets had been detected. Photograph:   Stocktrek RF/Getty

The discovery of extra-terrestrial intelligence would be truly transcending

The scientist David Goodall (104) at a press conference a day before his assisted suicide in Switzerland, last month. Photograph: Georgios Kefalas/Keystone via AP

Do you agree that all lucid adults should have the legal right to end their own lives?

Research indicates about 60% of premature deaths can be attributed to unhealthy lifestyles and are therefore preventable.

Five lifestyle practices can dramatically lower mortality rates, research shows

Other well-regarded studies have reported that drinking one to two units of alcohol a day markedly protects against death from cardiovascular disease. Photograph: Johnny Green/PA Wire

Health researchers should tread carefully to avoid the alcohol-guidelines morass

Prof Richard Dawkins and physicist Stephen Hawking are dismissive of philosophy. Photograph: Alan Betson

Science’s success in understanding the natural world motivates some scientists to claim that it is all-powerful and will eventuall(...)

Paul Kammerer: Future investigation may conclusively exonerate him which would make a nice end to his story

Recent re-examination of his work suggests that he may have discovered epigenetic inheritance, a phenomenon not recognised until l(...)

The Ministers for Health and Children respectively, Simon Harris, TD, and Katherine Zappone, TD, at the launch of ‘A Healthy Weight for Ireland - Obesity Policy and Action Plan 2016-2025’. Pictured with the ministers are Bisi Atelade (11), from St Audoen’s NS and Charlie McCormack (10) Talbot SNS. Photograph: Dave Meehan

‘Quite simply, we have found support for the existence of internal bathroom scales’

The formula for optimum distribution of funding between basic and applied research is not being applied at present

Pollination is necessary for plants to reproduce and the honey bee is a pollinator
To bee or not to bee

‘Much more attention must be paid to how beehives are deployed and account must be taken of the effect on local pollinators’

Head of US EPA Scott Pruitt fails ‘the BS test’.

Science is not immune to allure of BS, and we’re not as good at detecting it as we think

Irish philosopher George Berkeley, the Bishop of Cloyne and a noted metaphysician who declared: ‘To be is to be perceived’. Image: Hulton Archive

The old answer to the problem of how the world existed before the advent of conscious observers was that God was watching it

Flowers pictured where people store their relatives ashes after cremation in Mount Jerome Cemetery, Dublin. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

We should not allow cremation to drive cemeteries out of existence and to hide death from us

‘Judgement’ by Rowan Gillespie, at Sutherland School of Law in UCD. Photograph: David Sleator

Higher education is to broaden horizons, not to simply embrace a homogenous view of the world

’Environmental activists are particularly prone to such emotionally driven thinking.’ Photograph: Lukas Schulze/Getty Images

Many people have a deep-seated and powerful emotional need to support their favourite ideology or worldview

Young scientists engage in participative science at the launch of this year’s Galway Science and Technology Festival. Photo: Andrew Downes

National Children’s Science Centre is aimed at stimulating children’s natural curiosity and encouraging them to explore and discov(...)

Scott Pruitt, administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency should not be condemned as a climate change ‘denier’. Photograph: Bloomberg

Since emotion plays a large part in motivating those who reject the consensus, then science communicators should also use emotion (...)

Can automatic vehicles make morally appropriate choices? Photograph: iStock

William Reville: As software improves, the supremacy of such vehicles will become clear

Philosopher Roger Scruton:  uses soccer as an analogy to illustrate his point on the primary objective on education

Schools are viewed as instruments of social engineering as much as institutions for the transmission of knowledge

A more accurate read is now possible on declining sperm counts. Photograph shows the beginning of fertilisation as a single sperm combines with an ovum

Scientist warns continued sperm count decline in men ‘may lead to human extinction’

Further indication of how climate change is intensifying storms; the remnants of Wilson’s Bridge in Swan Park, Buncrana, Co Donegal, after extreme floods in August. Photograph: Peter Murtagh

Why the changes to human behaviour necessary to ease climate change will have to be directed by government

The message has been sold successfully to women that they can have both successful careers and flourishing families

A formula must be devised to ensure women are not handicapped in the promotion stakes because of time devoted to having and raisin(...)

US president Donald Trump winces while delivering remarks on the protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, on August 12, 2017. Public perception of the flawed character of politicians is one of the strongest causes of voter detachment from politics. Photograph: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

William Reville: Why politicians should increasingly justify policies on moral rather than economic or electoral grounds

Fake story was written in the jargon typical of gender studies papers

William Reville: Reputable social science journal fell for paper ‘deliberately constructed to be complete, comical nonsense’

Milo was born in September 2005, so he died just short of his 12th birthday

We were unprepared for the level of grief that struck us after Milo died

Stanley Milgram’s results indicate that most of us would follow orders to do terrible things, just as the Nazis did; surely a poignant result for Milgram, a son of Jewish immigrants

Alarming findings by Prof Stanley Milgram of Yale University have since been confirmed in many studies

Auschwitz: the SS doctor Fritz Klein, asked about his Hippocratic oath, said, “Out of respect for human life I would remove a gangrenous appendix from a diseased body. The Jew is the gangrenous appendix in the body of mankind.” Photograph: AP

Notions of ethnic purity and exclusion are still with us. We must remain vigilant

A watch tower in Camp X-Ray, the first detention facility to hold ‘enemy combatants’ at the US Naval Station on  in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Photograph: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

More than 80 per cent endorse torture if they are personally close to the victims

Scientist and investor Yuri Milner  speaks during the New Space Exploration Initiative ‘Breakthrough Starshot’ announcement  last year in New York. Photograph: Jemal Countess/Getty Images

The Breakthrough Starshot programme is the brainchild of Yuri Milner, Russian-born Silicon Valley billionaire-physicist

Many people with anorexia see themselves as overweight, even though they are clearly underweight. Photograph: iStock

William Reville: Although anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, the statistics are encouraging

Global warming: 50 per cent of the public think the Earth is getting warmer mainly because of human activity while 87 per cent of scientists do

A push to dispel suspicions of things such as pesticides has had little effect

Theoretical physicist Albert Einstein in 1944: his theory of general relativity describes how the large-scale universe works in terms of space, time and gravity. Photograph: Popperfoto/Getty Images

Some physicists claim the universe sprang spontaneously out of nothing at all about 13.5 billion years ago

A widely cited 2013 study  estimates that 47 per cent of American jobs are at high risk of being computerised soon

It was feared ATMs would displace bank tellers. However, deployment of ATMs reduces bank running costs, allowing banks to open mor(...)

Tanzania, Africa: life for these  Hadza hunter-gatherers can be very physically demanding

William Reville: Studies show hunter-gatherers burn no more calories a day than sedentary office workers

1948: A classroom scene during a maths lesson. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

We need to combat technology-induced lazy brain syndrome caused by texting and calculators

How did we lose the will to replace ourselves and, knowing the demographic consequences of losing that will, can we reclaim it?

Handlers bathing a horse in the Caribbean Sea near Bridgetown, Barbados. We must now extend the range of the water cycle to include the mantle of the Earth. Photograph: Reuters/Adrees Latif

William Reville: The discovery of vast reservoirs of water deep within the Earth is an example of the power of science to excite w(...)

Collision of a 10km-wide asteroid with Earth 65 million years ago wiped out the dinosaurs but a future collision with an even smaller asteroid could have disastrous consequences for humanity. Image: iStock

David Grinspoon’s new book highlights the self-imposed and natural threats to survival

The general public distrusts much of science-based technology such as genetic modification. Above, a protest against biotech giant Monsanto in Costa Rica in May. Photograph: Ezequiel Becerra/AFP/Getty Images

Public control could allow ideological or economic forces to distort a rational agenda

An Indonesian man, Mbah Gotho, aged 146, is the oldest human in world history. Photograph: Dasril Roszandi/NurPhoto via Getty Images

If it were possible, would it be desirable

A photographer takes pictures of the reconstruction of Neanderthal man’s ancestor displayed in Halle, eastern Germany. Photograph: Sebastian Willnow/AFP/Getty Images

William Reville: One theory proposes that they were assimilated into modern human stock by interbreeding

Photograph: iStock

A controversial study of sexuality and gender claims to focus solely on the scientific evidence

Down syndrome births account for about one in every 546. Photograph: iStock

How do people with Down syndrome feel when they hear predictions of the elimination of their kind?

Our closest animal relatives are the great apes – chimpanzees, orangutans and gorillas

Since 95 per cent of human DNA is identical to that of a chimpanzee, do chimps have a sense of morality?

Erik Zackrisson’s study indicates there are far fewer places than we thought where life such as ours could evolve. Photograph: iStock

A computer model has found Earth to be uniquely suited to life among 700 million trillion terrestrial planets

BabyPod is designed to make the unborn baby smarter by playing music through the mother’s vagina

Despite an industry around it, no research data shows that playing music to babies in the womb will boost IQ

Conceptual computer artwork representing the origin of the universe. File photograph: Science Photo Library

Three different hypotheses of dark energy predict different futures for our universe

Hungarian Greenpeace activists demonstrate against genetically modified organism food. Photograph: Ferenc Isza/AFP/Getty Images

Golden rice could save lives in developing countries, but activists continue to resist it in the face of the evidence

Image: iStock

The risk of extinction in the next 100 years is 9.5 per cent – how seriously should we take this?

Children in Auschwitz concentration camp just before liberatoin

Viktor Frankl studied people in concentration camps who found ways to keep going despite their dire situation

A fecal transplant paper was retractedfor containing fraudulent data. Photograph: iStock

Scientists are not required to subscribe to any universal code of ethics. This needs to change

Photograph: iStock

Despite Europe’s wonderful heritage, the continent is losing faith in itself, and birth rates have collapsed

Students recently lobbied Cardiff University to cancel a lecture by Germaine Greer, labelling her “transphobic”. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Trigger warnings and other student-drive trends in universities will do much more harm than good

Ninety per cent of smokers regret taking up the habit, and 40 per cent attempt to quit each year. Photograph: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

We license the use of all other drugs that can be dangerous if improperly used – why not tobacco?

Photograph: Thinkstock

Based on current understanding of how our planet formed, the answer is almost inevitably yes

Photograph: Thinkstock

Measuring a person’s body-mass index is not the most reliable way of assessing their health

Oscar Wilde offered sage advice about forgiving one’s enemies

Research suggests that forgiving people can bring peace, happiness and emotional wellbeing

A surface sensor, or skin patch

Implanted devices are being developed that can feed health data to a computer and then disappear

Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Photograph: Gleb Garanich/Reuters

When it comes to the safety of GM crops and the effects of the Chernobyl disaster, environmental campaigners ignore the facts

Photograph: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The value of vaccination is long proven but fears still exist, leading the WHO to correct the misconceptions

A nuclear fusion research centre at the Max-Planck-Institut for Plasma Physics in Germany. Photograph: Stefan Sauer/EPA

Serious progress is being made with nuclear fusion, which has huge potential for generating clean energy

Photograph: Thinkstock

One study suggests that family and spiritual activities make people more satisfied than the material aspects

Photograph: Thinkstock

It may become possible soon to harvest large supplies of organs from genetically engineered pigs

Induced pluripotent stem cells. Photograph: Shinya Yamanaka/AP Photo

A new technique may negate the need to use human embryos to create stem cells

‘Experts agree that most people who claim alien abduction experiences are sane and sincerely believe they have encountered aliens.’ Photograph: Thinkstock

Many people sincerely believe they have had such experiences, but there might be a simple reason

Illustration: Thinkstock

Delaying retirement, taking exercise and fidgeting while sitting might contribute to good health

MRI scan of a human head. Photograph: Thinkstock

A discovery in the 1970s challenged ideas about how the brain works. So why did medical science ignore it?

The traditional teaching method, unfashionable since the 1960s, focuses on explicit instruction of the students by the teacher. Photograph: Richards/Fox Photos/Getty Images

So-called ‘drilling’ teaching methods may be unpopular nowadays, but they have been proven effective

Photograph: Thinkstock

Getting away from the daily grind is good for your health, but it’s important to avoid that smartphone

Taking regular exercise is one extender of youth. Photograph: Thinkstock

About 80 per cent of the factors that determine ageing are not genetic; we can exercise control over them

The ground-breaking psychiatrists Sigmund Freud uncovered the flawed nature of the human psyche. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

The freedom pendulum has swung too far, and the assumption about humans’ innate goodness is flawed

‘This is highly illogical’: Leonard Nimoy as Spock

It seems we are all susceptible to illogical thinking, including scientists and philosophers

Nearly all corn and soybeans grown in the US are genetically modified. Above, activists take part in a march against US agrochemical giant Monsanto and GMO foods in Los Angeles. Photograph: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

GM foods are widely misunderstood by the public. They offer advantages that we forgo at our peril

Chief concerns with the way scientists do research include inadequate understanding of statistics, publishing studies that can’t be reproduced because they used shoddy procedures or didn’t have enough data, or because they ‘spun’ the data to please sponsors. Photograph: Thinkstock

The modern world depends on science, but as much as half of the literature may not be fit for purpose

‘The 1998 study by Andrew Wakefield [above] and others that linked autism to the MMR vaccine has been comprehensively debunked by now’. Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

It seems that most of the apparent increase in autism spectrum disorder is down to reporting practices

In a 2003 experiment, ‘short-changed’ monkeys became upset. Above, a capuchin monkey. Photograph: Thinkstock

We humans share an innate sense of fairness – and of righteous grievance – with other primates

Does music help us to deal with cognitive dissonance? Photograph: Thinkstock

One hypothesis is that music helps us to reconcile our conflicted emotions when making choices

Research shows that feelings of loneliness increase risk of death by 26 per cent, lack of social connections increases risk of death by 29 per cent and living alone increases risk of death by 32 per cent. Photograph: Thinkstock

It is predicted that loneliness could reach epidemic proportions by 2030 – and it is very bad for your health

Physicist Lee Smolin contends that cosmologists should test hypotheses against the properties and history of our universe

Physics and cosmology have veered down a non-scientific cul-de-sac, a leading physicist has argued

 The World Health Organisation says that, when it comes to cancer, no amount of alcohol is safe

Risks associated with high consumption are clear, but research shows mild drinking can have benefits

In the whole-class teaching method, the teacher stands at the blackboard, teaches the whole class the established body of knowledge, tests the children with questions and ensures a disciplined class environment. This type of teaching was the norm in Ireland until the 1960s. Above, schoolchildren in the west of Ireland in 1955. Photograph: Three Lions/Getty Images

Whole-class teaching, in which childern learn to use their long-term memory, has been abandoned for a more personalised, naturalis(...)

Bad news for those who regularly run marathons or ultra-marathons: such running can damage your health. Photograph: Thinkstock

Even a little regular exercise can boost your health, but beware: pushing your body too hard is damaging

‘In December a well-argued letter to The Irish Times by David Walsh took the field of women’s studies to task for promoting the ideological notion that gender is a social construct in the face of scientific evidence that biology plays a prominent role’

A study argues that more diversity among academics would improve social psychology research

The former home of George Boole in Cork. Photograph: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

The research of the ‘father of pure mathematics’ was significantly motivated by his faith

Our capacity for co-operation has deep evolutionary roots and scientists have been studying this in chimpanzees and bonobos (above), our closest living relatives. Photograph: Thinkstock

Studies suggest that co-operation played a far bigger role than aggression, but is that to underestimate our bloodlust?

Recent research suggests that mindfulness meditation can make pain less bothersome to those who practise it. Photograph: Thinkstock

Meditation can be helpful, but its efficacy depends on the ends for which it is used

Photograph: Thinkstock

Resuscitation medicine can now revive people who have been dead for hours, and some of them have intriguing stories to tell

As grasslands cover nearly 60 per cent of the Irish landscape, the quantity of carbon dioxide sequestered annually in Irish soils is enormous but is not allowed to be factored in under current accounting procedures. Photograph: Thinkstock

Research indicates carbon emissions from grasslands are much smaller than current calculations

The culpably faulty study that claimed to find a link between MMR vaccination and autism scared many parents, who stopped vaccinating their children. Photograph: Thinkstock

Loss of public trust will be the most serious consequence if misconduct is not eliminated

Ikaria: the island’s inhabitants live 10 years longer than Americans before contracting cancer or cardiovascular disease, and suffer much less from depression. Photograph: Thinkstock

It’s no myth: on Ikaria a mix of contentment, diet and social interaction extend life well beyond the norm

Are all brains preloaded with a reservoir of remarkable abilities that are lying dormant?

Pinocchio learned all about the damage lies can cause

Lies told to spare people’s feelings are generally considered harmless, but some scientists disagree

A leg up? Not all self-help books are worthy of the name

Avoid any approach that hasn’t been verified by independent data or that promises a quick fix

How much of reality can be explained by the physical sciences?

Materialists claim that the self is illusory and free will doesn’t exist, but many scientists disagree

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