It’s incredible that in the wake of financial crises and populist movements around the world anyone would wonder whether a glitzy awards gala and lavish prizes would help improve the public’s view of science, yet that is one proposal to boost the public’s opinion in the wake of floundering financial support. […]
via How to make science great again — SixDay Science
Sarah Salviander provides some much needed perspective on the state of science today and its relationship to the American populace. I encourage you to read it before or after my comments. She provides an insider’s perspective, looking out on the audience, wondering where science is going wrong.
As an outsider looking in, I applaud her, not just because she is looking out, but I think she is right.
Photo by Amanda Leutenberg
We have made remarkable strides in our scientific knowledge over the centuries. We have dispelled many myths and clarified how the natural world works. We have gained an amazing grasp on the material reality of the world, as vast and intricate as it is.
We have so much knowledge about how the natural world works, in contrast to the speculations of the past, that we are tempted to jump to some conclusions that are still beyond our reach.
We can see all the way back to the beginning of space time. We know with detail the constants of the laws of physics that have operated from that very beginning. We now know the physics behind many of the phenomenon that people once attributed to gods or God. Many bright people conclude, therefore, with self-righteous confidence that the natural world is all that is.
Is that really all there is? Continue reading
Science, philosophy and faith are each interesting subjects in themselves and even more interesting when considered together. In this piece, we take a quick look at the philosophical principles of determinism, necessity and chance, springboard to consideration of the observations of Stephen Hawking on the subject of determinism and free will, and finish with some observations about faith and love.
We start with determinism, defined as “the philosophical idea that every event or state of affairs, including every human decision and action, is the inevitable and necessary consequence of antecedent states of affairs.” Many modern scientists and philosophers alike believe we live in a world that is deterministic. Richard Dawkins, Lawrence Kraus, Daniel Dennet and others ascribe to this view.
In his show Genius, in which Stephen Hawking walks three “average” people through a series of exercises that lead them to understand great, nuanced principles of science, he agrees that the universe, including people, are determined by the laws of physics. He asserts that, if we could know where every cog in the machine of the universe is at any one moment, the laws of physics would allow us to know what would happen at any point in time. Therefore, Hawking says, free will is an illusion.
Photo by Larry Betag
Theists are accused of committing a “God of the gaps” fallacy, which is to assume (insert) God (into the gaps in our understanding). Atheists say that this assumption (faith) is irrational and wholly unsupportable by science or reason. They say they would rather rely on science and reason, and conclude there is no scientific or rational support of the proposition that God exists.
Atheists tend to be materialists, meaning that they believe that the “world” (all that exists) is material, only. They tend not to accept that anything other than the material world exists.
An exploration of these contentions will show that the material world is not all that exists and that atheists who subscribe to the modern view of the multiverse, which is used to explain problems for which science has no answers if only one universe exists, is a resort to the same kind of fallacious thinking pinned on theists. The God of the gaps argument against faith and belief in God conflates science and reason, and a materialist worldview conflates scientific knowledge with all possible knowledge of the world.
Photo by Beth Drendel
Materialism is defined in in the Mirriam-Webster Dictionary as “a theory that physical matter is the only or fundamental reality and that all being and processes and phenomena can be explained as manifestations or results of matter.” Science is the study of the material world, so it may come as no surprise that many (most?) scientists are materialists.
If materialism is reality (nothing exists but matter), then science is the study of everything that exists or cold possibly exist. In fact, that is what the scientific community, generally, claims, and many in the academic community have accepted that claim. But is that claim something that is proven by science?
From How bacteria “talk” – Bonnie Bassler – TED-Ed
Who knew that bacteria are social “creatures”? Yes, social! It turns out they do not act as separate organisms, but as communal organisms. Dr. Bonnie Brassler gives an interesting TED Talk on bacteria that explains what incredible social or communal organisms bacteria are, and these bacteria tell an interesting story.
Bacteria not only interact with themselves; they work in harmony with other more complex organisms. Bonnie Brassler points to the example of a squid that engages in an intricate dance with bacteria (virio fisheri) to provide an “ingenuous” anti-predator scheme that prevents the squid from casting a shadow. The symbiosis between the squid and bacteria is amazing, down to signal proteins given off by the squid and signal receptor proteins from the bacteria that are like “lock and key”.
It turns out this is no anomaly. All bacteria have systems like the bacterial friends of squid. “All bacteria can talk to each other. Continue reading