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‘Tis the season for top ten news stories, and at RealClearScience …

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The top story was, of course,the Rosetta comet landing. Other winning picks here. #10 was, surprisingly, gravitational waves:

Early in the year, astrophysicists announced that they had detected gravitational waves, a telltale sign indicating a period of cosmic inflation immediately prior to the Big Bang. (Yes, cosmic inflation occurred before the Big Bang.) Alas, what they actually detected was dust.

Not the “smoking gun,” they say. Indeed not. Rob Sheldon has noted that it wasn’t just a disappointment; it was a bust that points to bigger problems:

I just had the PI for the MSFC dust experiment in my office expressing his disappointment that no one at NASA sees any benefit to continuing his research. I explained that the furor in cosmology could be resolved by his experiment, but NASA managers refuse to listen. Which we all blame on the tendency of all government agencies to hire lawyers instead of scientists for management positions. More generally, American exceptionalism was based on the idea that anyone could excel, that committees could work for the public good, that the truth would prevail–and America is losing its exceptionalism.

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7 Replies to “‘Tis the season for top ten news stories, and at RealClearScience …

  1. 1
    polistra says:

    “Exceptionalism” is a horrible and tyrannical idea, but this part is true:

    “… that committees could work for the public good, that the truth would prevail”

    I served on a jury last week and saw that committees can indeed reach the truth. Juries are different from grant approval committees in two hugely important ways: (1) No lawyers allowed, which means truth has a fighting chance. (2) No qualified experts allowed. Nobody with a specific vested interest in the subject is selected.

    Still, the varied batch of adults bring a wide variety of expertise, and pull in every direction until the truth pops out. The juror who understood the plaintiffs most closely was hardest on the plaintiffs. The juror who understood the defendant best (unfortunately that was me) was hardest on the defendant.

    “Hardest on what you know best” is the source of truth. And it’s the exact opposite of what happens in a bureaucratic committee.

  2. 2
    Axel says:

    Interesting analysis, polistra.

  3. 3
    redwave says:

    News. You might already know of the following peer-reviewed, published work which made the national news … Men are Idiots: the Darwin Awards … as follows.

    The Darwin Awards: sex differences in idiotic behaviour

    Ben Alexander Daniel Lendrem, student, Dennis William Lendrem, project manager, Institute of Cellular Medicine, Andy Gray, consultant orthopaedic trauma surgeon, John Dudley Isaacs, director, Institute of Cellular Medicine

    Abstract

    Sex differences in risk seeking behaviour, emergency hospital admissions, and mortality are well documented. However, little is known about sex differences in idiotic risk taking behaviour. This paper reviews the data on winners of the Darwin Award over a 20 year period (1995-2014). Winners of the Darwin Award must eliminate themselves from the gene pool in such an idiotic manner that their action ensures one less idiot will survive. This paper reports a marked sex difference in Darwin Award winners: males are significantly more likely to receive the award than females (P<0.0001). We discuss some of the reasons for this difference.

    BMJ 2014; 349 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g7094 (Published 11 December 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;349:g7094

    (http://www.bmj.com/content/349/bmj.g7094)

  4. 4
    wayne moss says:

    “Hardest on what you know best” is the source of truth. And it’s the exact opposite of what happens in a bureaucratic committee.
    You know – I never really thought about it this way before, but you’re absolutely right. Seems there is no good substitute for wisdom, and no alternate path to wisdom except through honest reflections on past experiences =…Time.

    And kudos for being a good citizen!

  5. 5
    rvb8 says:

    ‘redwave’, it appears you are giving a description of evolutionary psychology. An interesting field much maligned here at Uncommon. However, how and why humans do the things they do, their motivations and selfish reasons are to me at least, extremely interesting. Whether or not you accept a reason based upon animal observations today, and extrapolate from that evolved characteristics in human behaviour is up to you; you can’t test this in a lab.

    The alternative, that god made us this way is to me, extremely lazy and unfulfilling to my human evolved natural curiosity; to explore, know, and understand. Some people just don’t want to know anything, and are happy in a tiny little world of certainty without curiosity. I’m glad you’re in the latter category.

  6. 6
    rvb8 says:

    Or ‘former’ category, not sure.

  7. 7
    redwave says:

    Rvb8. My previous post to this thread is merely a reference in response to top ten news items, the contents of which would appear to me as frivolous, while well within the irrational milieu of Darwinian-naturalism, as applied to human psychology. Whether approached from Creation, Evolution, or variable combinations, psychology is not now a ‘done deal’ and is, as you say, “extremely interesting”.

    Your observations are well taken. I thought this particular news item would be of interest to UD and News.

    Note: ‘irrational milieu of Darwinian-naturalism’ does not mean every thought arising from naturalism is irrational, only a suggestion that there exists such a milieu in naturalism, as there exists an irrational milieu of supernaturalism based theories, while every thought from supernaturalism is not irrational.

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