If you want to know what this is about, go and read his blog entry.
I think this pretty much sums it up today.
If you want to know what this is about, go and read his blog entry.
I think this pretty much sums it up today.
This has been kicking around the internet for a couple of days. I offer you the following link:
The copyright's owned by AP, and I don't have permission, but I'm going to paraphrase. The second thing that struck me, reading this, was its relevance to the debate on the cult of science and blind faith in the scientific method. A few quotes:
The problem for scientists is that "you only find what you're looking for," said Penn State University geosciences professor Katherine Freeman, a reviewer of the NRC work.
You only find what you're looking for. The implications of that simple statement are far reaching. just think about it for a minute. And then let's move on:
A new NASA Mars mission called Phoenix is set for launch this summer, and one of the scientists involved said he is eager to test the new theory about life on Mars.
However, scientists must come up with a way to do that using the mission's existing scientific instruments, said NASA astrobiologist and Phoenix co-investigator Chris McKay.
He said the Washington State scientist's paper piqued his interest.
"Logical consistency is nice, but it's not enough anymore," McKay said.
(My emphasis). Of course one of the things that I like most about science as a system of belief is that it tends to attract people who are not afraid to say "I was wrong about that". There's still a lot of dogma; check out the next three paragraphs:
Other experts said the new concept is plausible, but more work is needed before they are convinced.
"I'm open to the possibility that it could be the case," said astrobiologist Mitch Sogin of the Marine Biological Lab in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.
A member of the National Research Council committee, Sogin also cautioned against "just-so stories about what is possible."
Like any religion, science has its' share of Fundies. These aren't the best example - there are far more hard core "natsci's" out there - they just happenned to crop up at the end of the article. (for those unfamiliar to profspeak, "I'm open to the possibility..." Is a subtextual modifier akin to "I'm not saying you are a terrorist" on Fox news when speaking to Muslims. It should be intonated with the sound of a leaden door closing forever, blocking out all light and possbly crushing piteous souls. )
Anyway, enough of that. The first thing that struck me, and the cool thing, was this: There might be life on Mars.
Here it is appropriate to cross your fingers and wish. I do believe in life on mars. Try it. Feel the hope.
There's a lot more I want to say, but it turns out It's really cold in here right now, so I'm going to quote the rest of the article and come back and finish this later:
The Viking space probes of 1976-77 were looking for the wrong kind of life, so they didn't recognize it, a geology professor at Washington State University said.
Dirk Schulze-Makuch presented his theory in a paper delivered at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Seattle, Washington.
The paper was released Sunday.
Based on a more expansive view of where life can take root, the paper's findings may prompt NASA to look for a different type of Martian life when its next spacecraft to visit Mars is launched later this year, one of the space agency's top scientists said.
Last month, scientists excitedly reported that new photographs of Mars showed geologic changes that suggest water occasionally flows there -- the most tantalizing sign that Mars is hospitable to life.
In the 1970s, the Viking mission found no signs of life.
But it was looking for Earth-like life, in which salt water is the internal liquid of living cells.
Given the cold dry conditions of Mars, life could have evolved on Mars with the key internal fluid consisting of a mix of water and hydrogen peroxide, said Schulze-Makuch.
That's because a water-hydrogen peroxide mix stays liquid at very low temperatures, or -68 degrees Fahrenheit, and doesn't destroy cells when it freezes. It can suck water vapor out of the air.
The Viking experiments of the 1970s wouldn't have noticed hydrogen peroxide-based life and, in fact, would have killed it by drowning and overheating the microbes, said Schulze-Makuch.
One Viking experiment seeking life on Mars poured water on soil. That would have essentially drowned hydrogen peroxide-based life, he said. And different experiment heated the soil to see if something would happen which would have baked Martian microbes.
"The problem was that they didn't have any clue about the environment on Mars at that time," Schulze-Makuch said. "This kind of adaptation makes sense from a biochemical viewpoint."
Even Earth has something somewhat related. He points to an Earth bug called the bombardier beetle that produces a boiling-hot spray that is 25 percent hydrogen peroxide as a defense weapon.
Schulze-Makuch acknowledges he can't prove that Martian microbes exist, but given the Martian environment and how evolution works, "it makes sense."
In recent years, scientists have found life on Earth in conditions that were once thought too harsh, such as an ultra-acidic river in Spain and ice-covered lakes in Antarctica.
Schulze-Makuch's research coincides with work being completed by a National Research Council panel nicknamed the "weird life" committee. The group worries that scientists may be too Earth-centric when looking for extraterrestrial life.
One of the Many reasons that I love Karl Elvis Macrae is that he's able to entertain ideas that are contrary to his own. It's a huge gift. This particular discussion began elsewhere, but for various reasons, I'm moving the discussion here (basically, I thought it was interesting enough that (a) I wanted it to continue and (b) it deserved an open forum, even if it's unlikely that anyone else will see it here). Anyway, this is Karl's Comment to me, and my (new) starting point.
This was a discussion on atheism, and it can be again, but for now it seems to have become a book review and analysis of Dawkins' position. More below....
"...Y'know Buck, on the one hand, I agree that Dawkins made some leaps of logic that were a bit sloppy in god delusion. I think there are a few places where he made a vague statement that he was speaking in terms of possible theories, and then lunged forward as if he were speaking in terms of provable facts. I'd like to have seen him rein that in a bit.
I think, though, that the problem isn't that the science is flawed; it's that the rhetoric over-whelmed the focus on science. Because it's not a hard-science text book, it's a rhetorical piece.
I disagree with you on the venom; when one looks at the history of mankind and correlates religion with what we might call 'evil' (war, genocide, cultural obliteration in the name of 'conversion', etc), I don't think it's possible to be too hard on religion. I would stand by the position that dawkins was too soft on it in order to sound fair (and get his book into more hands).
Because his point isn't to prove the non-existence of god, nor to state that our modern science can solve or prove everything. I think his greatest and most important point, and the thing I wish every reader could carry away from that book, (and I wish I had the book handy to quote exactly) is the point that our culture is still treating religions as something deserving of a higher level of respect than anything else. Religion is still treated as valid justification for wrongs that, say, a secular club or school could never get away with. It's still seen as something that should be above rational and rigorous scrutiny.
He makes a lot of important and interesting points in god delusion, but I think that's the one people need to take to heart.
I also don't think his point - or mine - is that 'science is entirely rational'; the point is that science is based (to the best of our limited abilities with our limited brains and still-limited means of measure) on evidence rather than faith. Faith's great danger as a system is that it teaches us to be satisfied with not knowing things. And that's the point I think Dawkins wants to make; we don't need to invent a wondrous being when all the wonder one could ever need can be had simply by observing the physical realities of the universe. That point gets lost if you try to peel apart his straw men (and yes, I wish he'd been a bit more rigorous, if only to withstand the scrutiny of an attack on scientific basis), but, at least for me, that was the importance of the book - to say, screw this notion that religion is above scrutiny, it should be put under the same scrutiny as everything else...."
Where to start? Firstly, I agree that the rhetoric overwhelmed the science. And I agree that as a result what you have is a rhetorical piece. Actually, what you have is a polemic. But here's the problem; Dawkins is speaking as Dawkins the Oxford Biologist, and he uses that implied authority as part of his rhetoric, and he does so dishonestly when he fails to apply the appropriate level of care with his scientific claims.
Secondly, and since this is MY blog now let's get into it, The whole "we poor downtrodden atheists need a break because religion is so big and evil and we are a minority" is utter bullshit. The "you can never be too hard on religion" angle is also bullshit, albeit bullshit of a different kind. Dude, you can be too hard on Hitler. Attacking people or groups who are demonstrably guilty does not absolve you of the need for personal integrity. As my dear old dad once said to me: "if you see a bunch of guys down the road eating dogshit, is it okay for you to eat just a little bit of dogshit because then you're not as bad as they are?"
Just so we're clear, and to remind you, I'm an atheist too. I figure god's about as real as faeries or a good episode of the apprentice. And I certainly agree with you that a good percentage of the world's greatest atrocities can be attributed directly to religion. But that doesn't give anyone else a licence to be an asshole too; certainly not Dawkins.
Your other two points I agree with, and I kind of run out of steam here, although I think for Dawkins they are more incidental than you are giving him credit for. If those were his main and only points, and they were carefully and rationally argued (which by the way it's not hard to do; he himself was much more careful in his earlier work), then the god delusion would have been a great book. But that isn't what he did. And when you start throwing stones at someone it helps to make sure that you're not doing so from the centre of Chez Waterford Crystal.
This entire month will be ugly blog month.
That random "d" that sits above what will be the banner really has to go. Hunting it down is one of my many new years' resolutions.
This looks like some old lady's knitting blog, but it has all the correct elements in all the right places for what I finally wanna do, so I'll keep it for now until I can grab a camera (or borrow Rachel's) and put the colours/images I really want down here. For that reason, if the page doesn't load properly, drop me a line and let me know. Ta.
I'm gonna be fucking around with the templates until I have to go to dinner tonight, since it's New Years and all the shops are closed. If you happen by and see something that works, lemme know. All I know for sure is that I want this pretty minimalist, but I like some of the toys syl came up with for hers.
update: bah, humbug. I'd forgotten what a pain in the ass this all is. Also, how incredibly lazy I can be.