Hello, Beautiful

(Note: The final post in the free will series will appear tomorrow.)It has been a hundred and twenty-five years since Charles Darwin passed away, but his legacy is alive and well. The theory of evolution which he was first to propose has become the unifying pillar of modern biology, drawing together a vast array of evidence from genetics, paleontology, biochemistry, ecology and other scientific fields. Contrary to the creationists who are perpetually (and wrongly) forecasting its imminent … [Read more...]

An Oft-Asked Question

Turn on the TV, turn to the back pages of a newspaper, or peruse the best-seller lists, and you're almost certain to come across one of those angels in human form, the psychics. Every day they display their powers to the wonder of believers and the astonishment of skeptics, presciently predicting startling information such as, "The body will be found near water", or "I see the letter 'R' in connection with you."Though these incredible insights revolutionize the lives of many, it is undeniable … [Read more...]

Pulling Back the Curtain

The previous post in the Observatory, "On Presuppositions", discussed a few of the many ways in which bias has been shown to affect our decisions. When we expect or believe something to be true, we very often act as if it is true, and disregard contradictory evidence.Given these undeniable facts, what hope is left for us to know the truth? A cynical interpretation would be that science, the organized quest for truth, has ironically proven that science is hopeless, that every conclusion is too … [Read more...]

On Presuppositions

Malcolm Gladwell. Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. Little, Brown and Company: New York, 2005.D.L. Rosenhan. "On Being Sane in Insane Places." Science, vol.179, no.4070, p.250-258 (19 January 1973).In 1973, the peer-reviewed journal Science published a now-classic study in psychology. In its introduction, the study's author, D.L. Rosenhan, pointed out that the criteria for determining whether someone is mentally ill are highly subjective. The provocative question Rosenhan asked … [Read more...]

Living Up to the Renaissance Ideal

In my previous post in this category, Know Everything, I expressed my desire to know every fact there is about the universe, to know how to solve every problem that has been solved. This goal is, of course, impossible. We cannot do that, so what can we do?I have always admired the Renaissance ideal - the person who is knowledgeable in many areas, and constantly learning about more. Given that we can never know everything, this is probably the best we can achieve, and I think it is what we … [Read more...]

Know Everything

Richard Feynman's blackboard at Caltech at the time of his death in 1988. The text in the lower left reads, "Know how to solve every problem that has been solved." From Stephen Hawking, The Universe in a Nutshell, p. 83.Since I was very young, I have been fascinated by the findings of science. It really is true that the world is a more intricate and wonderful place than we can imagine, and even the limited glimpses we have obtained into its underlying workings are more than enough to provoke … [Read more...]


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