May 10, 2013 | By admin
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Insights into Infinity – Is the World Finite?
November 20th, 2013
Recently I happened across two very different pieces about infinity. The first was a blog post by Mario Livio, and the second a short video by Curtis Childs on Infinity. In his post, Livio poses the question as to whether there are any infinities in nature or whether they are just mathematical concepts. (more…)
Busted: Three 21st Century Technology-Driven Myths
November 7th, 2013
As the digital age has matured, new technologies have emerged that change the way we do things. Some of these changes have been hyped as vastly more powerful and more efficient than the old-fashioned way of doing things. Three prominent examples: multi-tasking, reading digital books, and social networking have been touted as superior – as the way of the future. In all three cases, I found my own capabilities limited, leading me to conclude that as child of the pre-digital age I would inevitably be left behind in the great transformation. Recent scientific studies, however, have shown that the hype is off the mark and the myths are untrue. Human bodies, brains and social behaviors are incredibly complex and interdependent and they do not always fit with the technological infrastructure we are creating. Instead of blindly accepting these myths, we need to make informed choices about our use of technology – or we risk losing the very best of what makes us human.(more…)
Does Knowing = Having Justified True Beliefs?
October 23rd, 2013
Justified True Belief is the Holy Grail (to borrow a religious allegory) of epistemology – “knowing” is to believe something, on the basis of rational evidence and thought, that is in fact true. While this concept has taken a beating over the past forty years, starting with some paradoxical thought experiments by Edmund Gettier, it generally describes the model for knowledge that philosophers have applied for more than 2,000 years. But is it helpful? Is there a better way to define “knowing”?(more…)
Resolving a Self-Contradiction in Neuroscience
September 27th, 2013
It’s hard to imagine a more rationally stimulating area of science than the study of the brain. Yet the remarkable field of Neuroscience seems determined to deny itself. Recent research points to the influence on our decisions of a vast array of innate, genetic, experiential and motivational factors of which we are unaware. The conclusion – the “rational” mind does not make decisions – it is merely rationalizing our pre-determined choices. So much for free will – and for a directing influence of rational consciousness in our pursuit of good choices and deep questions (such as the nature of mind and brain). (more…)
Uncertainty – More Data is Not Enough!
August 15th, 2013
Today I read two articles in the online journal Nautilus: Michael Tuts’ “Discovering the Expected”, which discusses the process physicists have used to validate the discovery of the Higgs Boson, and Amir D. Aczel’s “Chasing Coincidences”, which highlights our tendency to remember the unexpected. The first article highlights the need to throw out the data that does not suit our purpose, and the second highlights how our unconscious attention throws out experience that does not contain meaning. In each case, it is the patterns and relationships that are important. But uncertainty is also significant from a metaphysical perspective.
Are Miracles Real?
August 1st, 2013
This troublesome question sits at the heart of the theist / atheist divide. For atheists, the lack of scientific proof of the interventions of an omnipotent God relegates all religious claims to the category of ignorance and superstition. For theists, the mysteries of transcendent experiences that cannot be explained open the doors to faith in the divine God. Why is this simple question so difficult? To that question there is an answer.(more…)
Causation – another highly disputed concept in physics.
May 29th, 2013
The common scientific explanation of causation follows the reductionist view that states that the interactions of the smallest structures cause the macro effects we actually see: Causation is a “bottom-up” process. But there are significant flaws in this model of causation that scientists (and theologians) have been struggling to address. A new model sees causation working top-down in multiple generative levels. This model may seem more complex, but it does a far better job at explaining the way the world works. And, however difficult it may seem, it is a model that is intuitively understood by children.(more…)
The Puzzle of Entropy in Physics and Intelligence
May 9th, 2013
Entropy, the measurement of disorder in a physical system, is one of the most profound puzzles in physics. The Second Law of Thermodynamics, formulated in the 19th century, states that entropy always increases as physical systems naturally progress from order to disorder. However, modern physics has never been able to explain why the universe has this directionality. While we intuitively understand the “arrow of time,” it is absent in the formulations of classical and quantum physics. In recent decades, the concept of entropy and its related mathematics has also found applications in information theory. A recent study has linked entropy with the emergence of intelligence. Why is there such an unusual connection?(more…)
Science and Theology – Super Cooperators
April 11th, 2013
Two great scientific minds spoke at the plenary session of the Templeton Foundation’s 2012 Science and Religion Dialogue (http://www.science-religion-dialogue.com) at Heidelberg University on October 25, 2012: Martin Nowak and John Polkinghorne. Both offered a hopeful and encouraging view of the cooperative possibilities between science and theology.(more…)
E.O. Wilson – The Social Conquest of Earth
November 4th, 2012
The Social Conquest of Earth (2012) by preeminent entomologist Edward O. Wilson is a marvelous and deep work by a master scientist and storyteller that documents the evolution and advancement of humankind through the intertwined processes of individual and group selection. However, for me the work is marred by a dogmatic anti-religious bias that belies Wilson’s own commitment to dispassionate inquiry. Wilson moreover fails to acknowledge the hard limits to scientific knowledge and understanding – limits that can only be crossed by transcendent forms of understanding which empirical study cannot provide.(more…)
P versus NP – a Confounding Issue in Mathematical Complexity
October 2nd, 2012
A simple problem – what is the shortest route for visiting a number of different cities – is extraordinarily difficult and may become impossible as the number of cities rises. If you can show that any “NP Complete” problem can be solved in a reasonable amount of time (“P”) you can win $1Million, as this is one of the seven “Millennium Problems” in mathematics that the Clay Foundation has offered a cash prize for solving. Personally, I doubt the NP Complete problems can be solved in P time – and I believe that their intractability demonstrates a hard stop to what we can “figure out”.(more…)
Do The Puzzles of Mathematics Prove God?
September 20th, 2012
Mario Livio’s book “Is God a Mathematician?” (2009) provides a delightful history of mathematics and its many heroes, but fails to answer the question posed in the title. Dr. Livio does address directly the slightly different question of whether mathematics is a human creation, or a human discovery. In other words, is mathematics absolute, and therefore potentially a “creation of God”, or is it invented, a kind of technology resulting from human endeavor. While mathematics and the physical world are very different things, I think it’s clear they are both a “creation of God.”(more…)
Explaining the Puzzles of Physics
May 9th, 2012
Explaining the Puzzles of Physics – a response to Michael Shermer (Scientific American, May 2012, p.86)
The field of Physics has been confounded for nearly a century with intractable puzzles. It is also rife with contention between religious and atheist points of view, with both sides claiming proofs, or more precisely, un-proofs, for their points of view. A recent example is Michael Shermer’s “Skeptic” column in the May 2012 Scientific American, titled “Much Ado about Nothing”. Mr. Shermer borrows his title from Shakespeare’s romantic farce, a remarkably apt context for his article, but he is apparently oblivious to the irony.(more…)
Moral Foundations for “Good” Markets – Does God have a Role?
February 28th, 2012
I heard an interesting interview on the podcast “EconTalk” recently. Russ Robert’s guest was David Rose, author of a new book on The Moral Foundation of Economic Behavior. Both are self-described skeptics of religion. Dr. Rose’s key finding is that efficient and effective markets require specific foundational moral principles that promote and reinforce trust, without which markets will fail. His principles, which he claims to have derived from research and insights on the functioning of markets, sound remarkably similar to the Ten Commandments.
The Science of Willpower – the Power of Religion?
February 15th, 2012
I have recently come across several pieces from scientists skeptical of religion suggesting that they are coming to see significant benefits to both individuals and society of religion. Religious people tend to have higher self control, they are more trusting, and they are happier, than people who are not religious. So, is this benefit the gift of a divine being, or is it an emergent property of a non-conscious evolutionary selection process?(more…)
Experimental Philosophy – Is Free Will at Issue?
November 13th, 2011
Experimental Philosophy – the New New Thing?
This month’s Scientific American (November 2011, p.57) featured an interesting article on “Thought Experiments” by Joshua Knobe. The idea is that rather than simply designing logical arguments about key philosophical questions such as free will and morality, which philosophers have been doing from armchairs for thousands of years, philosophers can actually test the way humans think and react using experimental, scientific techniques.(more…)
How to Talk to an Atheist
November 11th, 2011
How to Talk to an Atheist
Kathy, in corresponding with me about ISAS, has shared some of her experiences in talking with atheists. She offers a succinct explanation of the causal argument for the existence of God, and I add some additional comments on the challenge of building a dialogue between those who believe in God and those who reject such beliefs.(more…)
Mathematical Predictability – Hard Limits in Economics
September 27th, 2011
This week the EconTalk podcast featured a discussion on whether economics, with its limited predictive capabilities, can be classified as “science”. I found the exchange (between Alex Rosenberg and Russ Roberts) to be wide-ranging, interesting and very perceptive, but I was disappointed that both missed the mathematical dimension to the issue of predictability.
Cognitive Bias – The Difficulty of Judging What is True
July 27th, 2011
I recently heard an economist talking about the problem of cognitive bias in the economics profession, and it occurred to me that this is a key issue in the science and spirituality discussion. A quick survey of the topic (link here) demonstrates the hugely fallible quality of human rationality. How can we get past the problem? Honest and humble introspection – and respect for those holding contrary positions.(more…)
Knowledge and Freedom: Two Questions for Human Brains
June 1st, 2011
By Justin Junge
Note: For a recording of Dr. Junge’s presentation on June 6, 2011, please visit the New Church audio website at this link.>
Imagine that a scientist could acquire a detailed map of every atom in your brain at a given point in time, clustering these atoms into active chemicals, cells (neurons), connections, and other groups of matter relevant to brain function.(more…)
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