A couple of weeks ago, I saw the name ‘Bo Burnham’ trending on Twitter.

I looked him up, he turned out to be a young comedian who made one of the best films of 2018, ‘Eighth Grade’

Eighth Grade is a deeply cringey, touching and scary film about the effect of social media on an awkward eighth-grade wannabe-influencer.

I would never have guessed such a sensitive film could have been made by a 20-something YouTube comedian.

In 2006, when Burnham was a sweet young Christian teenager from Massachusetts, he posted a video of him singing a funny song while playing…

There’s an anecdote about William James, visiting his brother Henry James, in Rye in Sussex. The village was something of a writers’ retreat — HG Wells, Joseph Conrad, Rudyard Kipling, Stephen Crane, Ford Madox Ford, and Rebecca West would all spend time there. That weekend, GK Chesterton was staying in the inn next to Henry’s house. William, in his 60s, is overwhelmed by curiosity to catch a sight of this young writer, so he puts a ladder up to peer over the wall. His brother is appalled — ‘such things simply aren’t done here!’ he wails. …

Here in no particular order, apart from the last one which is clearly the best, are my top ten performances on the BBC music show, Later…With Jools Holland.

At number 10, it’s Adele, back in the days when she was curvier, performing her number Chasing Pavements. She has oodles of charm and this song is pure New Year’s Eve..

At nine, it’s the first performance on Jools from Future Islands, whose lead singer clearly decided to just effing go for it, and gave us some incredible chest thumping, metal growling, ice-skate moves, and hair-stroking gyrating at the end. …

At the end of the 19th century, the prospect of the death of God filled people with terror.

It would — we were told — lead to anarchy and despair.

Worried intellectuals assembled new religions — Marxism, Spiritualism, psychical research, Social Darwinism, western Buddhism — and scrambled onto them like life rafts as they awaited the deluge.

But 150 years on, it is extraordinary how absent ‘God’ is from people’s lives, and how little people notice.

God has been completely forgotten by most people in my country (the UK), who are often second or third generation atheists.

The very headline…

I’m writing a book on the history of the human potential movement and transhumanism, told through the lens of the Huxley family (Thomas, Aldous and Julian) and their friends. The book argues that the Huxleys were religious prophets, who imagined a future evolutionary religion of expanding human potential. I suggest this religion or worldview, which weaved through the late 19th and 20th centuries, is going to become yet more influential in the era of genomics. …

Julian looking at an African sculpture, overlooked by a portrait of his grandfather

Can we develop an evolutionary ethics? Can we derive an Ought from the Is of natural processes? People have certainly tried.

The Reverend Thomas Robert Malthus was the prophet of evolutionary theory (his Essay on Population inspired both Darwin and Russell Wallace to arrive at their theories). Malthus observed the natural law of population working on all animals, including humans, and suggested this natural law produced higher more virtuous types, capable of insight and self-control, while killing off lesser types. His philosophy was a biological morality:

the various impressions and excitements which man receives through life may be considered as…

This week I was lucky enough to get a COVID vaccine. I was given it in the Science Museum, appropriately enough, about 20 metres from an exhibition showing the implements that Edward Jenner used to dispense the first ever vaccine in 1796. Nothing did more to radically extend human life expectancy in the 20th century than vaccines.

While recovering from the mild flu effects of the vaccine, I spent the day reading about perhaps the most famous advocate of radical life extension — Silicon Valley investor Peter Thiel.

He’s not the richest entrepreneur in Silicon Valley (he’s worth a mere…

I’m going to tell you something which may make some of you laugh at me. That’s OK, we all need a laugh these days.
I believe in astrology.
There, I said it.
My name’s Jules and I’m a secret astrology believer.
I got into astrology when I was 23, messed up, chronically single, and desperate to know how my life would pan out.
I would sit at my desk in my first job, which I hated and longed to leave, and peruse about five different astrology websites a day.
If one site was a bit downbeat, I would read four more until I found…

The most influential thinkers of the last half century are an obscure group of French philosophers — Jean-Francois Lyotard, Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, and possibly others like Jacques Lacan and Roland Barthes. They are The Postmodernistsduh-duh DUHHHHH! — and they pose a fundamental threat to western civilization — to free speech, reason, science, to the idea of the individual and universal values, to liberalism itself.

At least, that’s the view put forward by digital mullahs in the Culture Wars like Jordan Peterson, James Lindsay and Stephen Hicks. Peterson, in this 2017 talk, is so angry he can barely speak, but…

Abraham Maslow was one of the most influential psychologists of the 20th century, who helped create humanistic psychology, transpersonal psychology, and the human potential movement. He believed he’d forged an empirical spirituality which would save the world from the modern crisis of valuelessness and meaninglessness. He was an early example of the psychologist-as-moral-prophet, like Jordan Peterson, John Vervaeke, Brene Brown, Sam Harris, Ken Wilber, Roland Griffiths or Jonathan Haidt. But, as I will show, there are major logical and ethical problems with his attempt to create an empirical spirituality.

Maslow was born in Brooklyn in 1908, the child of Jewish…

Jules Evans

Author of Philosophy for Life and other books. Honorary fellow, Centre for the History of the Emotions. www.philosophyforlife.org.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store