‘He Who Can Learn Things that are Difficult, and Not Easy for Man to Know, is Wise:’ An Address to the Students in MIT 10-250, Caltech 201 E. Bridge, and Similar Lecture Halls: Minds that are the Greatest Natural Resource in the World
Edward H. Sisson
January 15, 2009
Abstract: How human beings came to exist in this physical world is a question that has preoccupied mankind for as long as history records; every religion offers an answer, and so too have philosophers of natural history from Aristotle and before. The year 2009 will see celebrations of the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin, progenitor of the theory – or fact, as its adherents see it – that gives the secular scientific world the “creation story” dominant today. Social status in every society flows to the people who persuade the mass that they offer the true and accurate explanation of how we humans came to be; but the social and financial benefits that flow to the “truth pronouncers” of society produce sociological and psychological motivations that bias and impair the independent logical assessment of whether the data supports, or contradicts, the story whose wide acceptance produces so many tangible benefits. The discoveries of molecular biology and DNA over the years since 1950 raise, in the minds of a dissident minority of scientists, substantial possibilities that the theory of evolution cannot be considered complete without the operation of some force or element in the material world that we can only conceive of as being akin to the intelligence with which we ourselves address the world. In this paper, the author, holder of an MIT bachelor of science (in architecture) and the latest in a family of seven generations of physicians, scientists, and engineers, from the 1700s to the 2000s, relates lessons learned not only about evolution, molecular biology, and “intelligent design,” but also about the accumulated “bad habits” that have developed and encrusted the conduct of science in the 130 years since the foundation of the research-oriented universities in the 1870s.
Keywords: science, education, innovation, dissent, evolution, intelligent design, history of science, sociology of science, psychology of science, education, religion
JEL Classifications: D71, D73, H52, I20, I28, J44, L31, L32, O00, O30, O31, O32, O38
Working Paper Series