Culture Intelligent Design Naturalism News

The Edge thinksite asks, What scientific idea is ready for retirement?

Spread the love

In the old folks’ home of ideas:

Each year a forum for the world’s most brilliant minds asks one question. This year’s drew responses from such names as Richard Dawkins, Ian McEwan and Alan Alda. Here, founder John Brockman explains how the question came into being and we pick some of the best responses

Wonder what kind of answers they’ll get. No, not really.

What ideas do readers recommend for the watch-and-chain?

6 Replies to “The Edge thinksite asks, What scientific idea is ready for retirement?

  1. 1
    RexTugwell says:

    In the above, Irene Pepperberg wants to do away with Humaniqueness. Sure humans can send probes into outer space …”unlike our non-human brethren” but bees can see in the ultraviolet! Apples and apples. When we reject man as created in the image of God, self-loathing is the inevitable result.

    On the other hand, I do like Max Tegmark’s suggestion to retire infinity – the atheist’s best friend.

    Not only do we lack evidence for the infinite, but we don’t actually need the infinite to do physics

    Huh?! Lawrence Krause call your office!!!

  2. 2
    Joe says:


    We should tell Irene that when the other organisms get around to classification schemes we will listen to them.

  3. 3
    RexTugwell says:

    Good point Joe. May be an improvement.

  4. 4
    tjguy says:

    This may not be a major thing, but how about getting rid of the idea of “Inclusive Fitness” as a just so story to explain altruism?

    I just read this on

    Why would an animal forgo bearing offspring to help another’s reproduction? Such natural examples of “altruism” have been answered for 50 years by the notion of “inclusive fitness” – the group benefits when individuals sacrifice. Not so, say Harvard biologists Martin Nowak, E. O. Wilson and Benjamin Allen: there is no such thing as inclusive fitness.

  5. 5
    bornagain77 says:

    Well isn’t this special? Two of the articles argue for giving up human exceptionalism:

    Clearly I don’t contest data that show that humans are unique in many ways, and I certainly favour studying the similarities and differences across species, but think it is time to retire the notion that human uniqueness is a pinnacle of some sort, denied in any shape, way, or form to other creatures.
    IRENE PEPPERBERG – Research associate and lecturer at Harvard specialising in animal thought processes

    If you think, following the dictionary definition of essentialism, that the essence of rabbitness is “prior to” the existence of rabbits (whatever “prior to” might mean, and that’s a nonsense in itself) evolution is not an idea that will spring readily to your mind, and you may resist when somebody else suggests it.,,,
    If all the intermediates, down both forks of the V from the shared ancestor, had happened to survive, moralists would have to abandon their essentialist, “speciesist” habit of placing Homo sapiens on a sacred plinth, infinitely separate from all other species. Abortion would no more be “murder” than killing a chimpanzee – or, by extension, any animal. Indeed an early-stage human embryo, with no nervous system and presumably lacking pain and fear, might defensibly be afforded less moral protection than an adult pig, which is clearly well equipped to suffer. Our essentialist urge toward rigid definitions of “human” (in debates over abortion and animal rights) and “alive” (in debates over euthanasia and end-of-life decisions) makes no sense in the light of evolution and other gradualistic phenomena.
    RICHARD DAWKINS – Evolutionary biologist

    But both of their arguments against Human exceptionalism are directly contradicted by the science of the very first article:

    What scientific idea is ready for retirement? – Mouse Models
    A recent scientific paper showed that all 150 drugs tested at the cost of billions of dollars in human trials of sepsis failed because the drugs had been developed using mice. Unfortunately, what looks like sepsis in mice turned out to be very different than what sepsis is in humans. Coverage of this study by Gina Kolata in the New York Times incited a heated response from within the biomedical research community.
    AZRA RAZA – Professor of medicine and director of the MDS Centre, Columbia University, New York

    and Despite what people may believe from Haeckel’s Bogus Embryo Drawings,,,

    Haeckel’s Bogus Embryo Drawings – video

    ,,,her science is dead on and each species is unique in its developmental processes. Thus the evolutionary presupposition against human exceptionalism, that has and is wasting billion of dollars, is the scientific idea that is ready for retirement!

    Moreover, Human exceptionalism is accented in another article in the paper by the abject failure of ‘science’ (i.e. materialism for these guys) to give an account for art:

    A long time ago someone proclaimed that art could not be studied scientifically, and for some reason almost everyone believed it. The humanities and sciences constituted, as Stephen Jay Gould might have proclaimed, separate, non-overlapping magisteria – that the tools of the one are radically unsuited to the other.,,,
    (According to one influential theory, art arrived 50,000 years ago with a kind of creative big bang. If that’s true, how did that happen?) We don’t even have a good definition, in truth, of what art is. In short, there is nothing so central to human life that is so incompletely understood.
    JONATHAN GOTTSCHALL – US academic and author who specialises in literature and evolution

    If that wasn’t bad enough, another article in the paper argues for giving up the concept of absolute truth,,,

    The idea that things are either true or false should possibly take a rest.,,, For me, the trouble with truth is that not only is the notion of eternal, universal truth highly questionable, but simple, local truths are subject to refinement as well.,,
    ALAN ALDA – American actor

    Whilst another article in the paper argues for hanging onto what is false since it helps us get closer to what is true:

    There are ways of being wrong that help others to be right. Some are wrong, but brilliantly so.,,,
    Even Darwin in the early 20th century experienced some neglect, until the modern [evolutionary] synthesis.
    IAN McEWAN – Novelist

    ,, I wonder if he will be willing to hang onto Darwinism as ‘brilliantly wrong’ when he is shown that the modern synthesis is ‘brilliantly wrong'(Nobel, Shapiro)?

    One person in the paper wanted to redefine the word ‘addiction’ since romantic love, from brain scans, displays many of the same characteristics as addiction:

    (Love is an) ADDICTION
    Knowing what we now know about the brain, my brain-scanning partner, Lucy Brown, has suggested that romantic love is a natural addiction; and I have maintained that this natural addiction evolved from mammalian antecedents some 4.4m years ago among our first hominid ancestors, in conjunction with the evolution of (serial, social) monogamy – a hallmark of humankind. Its purpose: to motivate our forebears to focus their mating time and metabolic energy on a single partner at a time, thus initiating the formation of a pair-bond to rear their young (at least through infancy) together as a team. The sooner we embrace what brain science is telling us – and use this information to upgrade the concept of addiction – the better we will understand ourselves and all the billions of others on this planet who revel in the ecstasy and struggle with the sorrow of this profoundly powerful, natural, often positive addiction: romantic love.
    HELEN FISHER – Biological anthropologist at Rutgers University

    But why would a materialist be concerned with the negative association of the word addiction with romantic love if, as they hold, love is merely an illusion foisted off on us by our chemistry and genes? She shouldn’t be getting all moral on us with our definition of words!

    One article was concerned with nuclear power plants and climate change, but argued, scientifically, for the idea of more nuclear power plants on the ‘non-Darwinian’ fact that highly sophisticated DNA repair mechanisms, that prevent ‘random’ mutations from happening from radiation, are far more robust than was previously assumed:

    Furthermore, recent research at the cell level shows a number of mechanisms for repair of damaged DNA and for ejection of damaged cells up to significant radiation levels.
    STEWART BRAND – Author and founder of The Whole Earth Catalog

    The last article argued for giving up ‘infinity’

    The theory of inflation has been spectacularly successful, and is a leading contender for a Nobel prize. It explained how a subatomic speck of matter transformed into a massive big bang, creating a huge, flat and uniform universe with tiny density fluctuations that eventually grew into today’s galaxies and cosmic large-scale structure, all in beautiful agreement with precision measurements from experiments such as the Planck satellite. But by generically predicting that space isn’t just big, but truly infinite, inflation has also brought about the so-called measure problem, which I view as the greatest crisis facing modern physics. Physics is all about predicting the future from the past, but inflation seems to sabotage this: when we try to predict the probability that something particular will happen, inflation always gives the same useless answer: infinity divided by infinity. The problem is that whatever experiment you make, inflation predicts that there will be infinitely many copies of you far away in our infinite space, obtaining each physically possible outcome, and despite years of tooth-grinding in the cosmology community, no consensus has emerged on how to extract sensible answers from these infinities. So strictly speaking, we physicists are no longer able to predict anything at all!
    This means that today’s best theories similarly need a major shakeup, by retiring an incorrect assumption. Which one? Here’s my prime suspect: infinity.
    MAX TEGMARK – Physicist

    Other than the fact that he is completely incorrect in his belief that inflation is ‘spectacularly successful’, is the fact that exactly what ‘finite’ parameter is he going to use to get rid of the other infinities that pop up in all the other places that show our mathematical theories in science to be incomplete?

    Science vs God Its The Collapse Of Physics As We Know it

    Perhaps he should realize, as ancienti philosophers realized, that infinity must exist as a reality but that that infinity, as a reality, cannot exist within materialism:

    William Lane Craig – Hilbert’s Hotel – The Absurdity Of An Infinite Regress Of ‘Things’ – video

    Time Cannot Be Infinite Into The Past – video

    Of note:

    Infinity, as a reality, contrary to what Tegmark believes, must exist, and it must reside in the personal agent of almighty God since it cannot exist in a material reality;

    Georg Cantor – The Mathematics Of Infinity – video
    entire video: BBC-Dangerous Knowledge – Part 1
    Part 2

  6. 6
    bornagain77 says:

    As you can see, somewhat from the preceding ‘Dangerous Knowledge’ video, mathematics cannot be held to be ‘true’ unless an assumption for a highest transcendent infinity is held to be true. A highest infinity which Cantor, and even Godel, held to be God.

    Kurt Gödel – Incompleteness Theorem – video

    The God of the Mathematicians – Goldman
    Excerpt: As Gödel told Hao Wang, “Einstein’s religion [was] more abstract, like Spinoza and Indian philosophy. Spinoza’s god is less than a person; mine is more than a person; because God can play the role of a person.” – Kurt Gödel – (Gödel is considered one of the greatest logicians who ever existed)

    The Center Of The Universe Is Life – General Relativity, Quantum Mechanics, Entropy and The Shroud Of Turin – updated video

    The absorbed energy in the Shroud body image formation appears as contributed by discrete values – Giovanni Fazio, Giuseppe Mandaglio – 2008
    Excerpt: This result means that the optical density distribution,, can not be attributed at the absorbed energy described in the framework of the classical physics model. It is, in fact, necessary to hypothesize a absorption by discrete values of the energy where the ‘quantum’ is equal to the one necessary to yellow one fibril.

Leave a Reply