Archive for March 3rd, 2009
This is not a question of whether science can or should prove or disprove the existence or non-existence of God or gods. Some of us believe that we are living in an era of rationalism, or enlightenment. Some, like Dawkins, even hope to see rational thinking purge religious clap trappings from society.
The question is, can rational thinking ever purge society of silly ideas?
I was reading the Dale McGowan post Best Practices 4: Teach engaged coexistence and he obliquely gives the answer.
- Coperincus (ca. 1500) decisively proved that Astrology was unfounded.
- Avagadro (ca. 1800) proved that Homeopathy was bunk.
- John Philips (ca. 1840) proved that the Earth was at least 90 million years old (before Darwin published, or more accurate isotopic dating techniques were even imagined)
- Hubble (ca. 1920) proved that not only was our solar system tiny compared to the galaxy, but that our galaxy is infinitesimal compared to the visible universe.
Surely we would no longer find anyone to believe that the stars predict our future, that water has memory, that the Earth is young, or that the Earth is the sole point of all creation.
No amount of education of thinking individuals will ever remove the comforting effects of belief in paranormal salvation for the majority of mankind.
Important Technical Advisory for All Computer Users
Periodically run this program to clean dust and contamination from the inside of your computer monitor. The IT guy at my office highly recommended this technology. I didn’t know that there was such a program, but here it is . . .
Over the past few weeks, in commemoration of the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birthday, we’ve seen many articles published on the topic of evolution. The November 20, 2008 edition of Nature contains a drawing of Darwin on the cover, and the entire issue is titled “Beyond the Origin.” Inside this issue is an article by Marek Kohn titled “The Needs of the Many,” an article summarizing current thinking on group selection.
Kohn carefully sets out some definitions at the beginning of his article. For instance, he recognizes that modern evolutionary theory is based on the idea that selection “sees” individuals and acts on them through the genes they embody. Compare that to “group selection”:
The idea that evolution can choose between groups, not just the individuals that make them up–has a higher profile today than at any time since its apparent banishment from mainstream evolutionary theory. And it gets better press, too. This is in part owing to the efforts of David Sloan Wilson of Binghamton University in New York, who argues that the dismissal of group selection was a major historical error that needs to be rectified. And it does not hurt that he has been joined by Edward O. Wilson, the great naturalist and authority on social insects. They and many others have worked to reposition group selection within the broader theme of selection that acts simultaneously at multiple levels.
Buried in the dispute about the extent to which group selection occurs are numerous definitional issues such as the proper way to define “group,” “altruism,” and “selfishness.”