In 1950 Cosmology Reached its Peak

“Is it likely that any astonishing new developments are lying in wait for us? Is it possible that the cosmology of 500 years hence will extend as far beyond our present beliefs as our cosmology goes beyond that of Newton? It may surprise you to hear that I doubt whether this will be so. If this should appear presumptuous to you, I think you should consider what I said earlier about the observable region of the Universe. As you will remember, even with a perfect telescope we could penetrate only about twice as far into space as the new telescope at Palomar. This means that there are no new fields to be opened up by the telescopes of the future, and this is a point of no small importance in our cosmology.”

Fred Hoyle, The Nature of the Universe 1950

Now go watch this for a sense of what is going on in cosmology today:

Could he have been more spectacularly wrong? Dark matter, dark energy, the Hubble Telescope—which would peer into regions unimaginably old and distant, the cosmological background radiation, on and on the discoveries have gone. The fact is it has only taken about 50 years rather than 500 for cosmology to be further from him than he was Newton. Continue reading In 1950 Cosmology Reached its Peak

If McCoy was a physicalist he was right not to trust the transporter

Pondering on those who argue consciousness is purely a physical phenomenon one day, I designed a thought experiment, (but shortly found that it was an elaboration of a thought experiment, proposed by McGinn in 1999 (although I think mine carries more oomph)).

Leonard McCoy, the doctor in the original Star Trek TV series, did not trust the transporter, a device that beamed you from one place to another by splitting you up into your constituent atoms and sending them from here to there in the blink of an eye and reassembling them on the other side. He was very unsettled about being broken down and being put back together (perhaps he had seen the 1950s movie The Fly and had been concerned about the potential for error in such a machine). But there may be a bigger problem than McCoy realized. Continue reading If McCoy was a physicalist he was right not to trust the transporter

Tsetse flies: Why evolution and climate change matter

I thought I would give you a sense of my work in science to give a better context for what I do for a living. Plus since it involves both evolution and climate change it gives me a chance to promote two of my favorite topics and the focus of this blog!

So what do I do? I study tsetse flies. Here is a picture:

http://www.dkimages.com/discover/previews/887/20001636.JPG

http://www.dkimages.com/discover/previews/887/20001636.JPG

Continue reading Tsetse flies: Why evolution and climate change matter

Interview with dead Henri Bergson: Part IV (and last)

I’d like to welcome my guest today at the Mormon Organon studio: Henri Bergson. As many of you know Henri died in 1941 but the indefatigable Frenchman will not stay down and has agreed to be my guest today, channeled trough the help of the Psychic Channel Medium “Hectaba”
Continue reading Interview with dead Henri Bergson: Part IV (and last)

Life: Keeping you safe from a deterministic universe, Part III

So somewhere, somehow some chemicals started replicating. It’s no shame that science hasn’t cracked this yet. There are some great hints starting to become manifest, maybe RNA started it, but how is actually irrelevant to our metaphysical quest. Somehow it got started, is a perfectly acceptable beginning to our quest at this stage of the science. But we want to be careful about just saying “God did it” because when science figures this out we don’t want to have hung our hat on this lack of explanation as a coat hook for our belief. (See my “God of the Gaps” post for more on this.) Continue reading Life: Keeping you safe from a deterministic universe, Part III

It was determined at the big bang you would read this post: Part II

I have great difficulty influencing the past. Try as I might, it seems to be a fixed place that manipulating is hard because time’s arrow, as it is called, moves in only one direction. Breathtakingly bright physicists don’t really see a reason for this, but it does seem to be an empirical observation of how the universe unfolds. It might be that the universe is deterministic and if so, time is a bit of an illusion. Continue reading It was determined at the big bang you would read this post: Part II

The Depth of Darwin

Job and his buddies have been trying to figure out how God works in the world. Job is being tried, well, like Job. His friends insist he must of have done something wrong. Job says no, Continue reading The Depth of Darwin

Flying Monkeys Illustrate the Evolution of Religion (as I win a bike race against an invisible rider)

To get at the possibility of the evolution of spirituality let’s take a diversion into current attempts by evolutionary biologists to explain the evolution of religion. Pascal Boyer speculates that religion arose as part of evolving human cognitive abilities.

First, the mind evolved to the point it was able to imagine possibilities that do not exist in reality. We can consider counterfactuals. We can combine the stuff of thought in new ways that suggests possible worlds that really have no necessary tie to reality. Continue reading Flying Monkeys Illustrate the Evolution of Religion (as I win a bike race against an invisible rider)

Paradise Lost and the evolution of spirituality

I have been thinking about challenging questions at the interface between faith and evolutionary biology. In the next few posts I’m going to explore speculation in biology that religion and spirituality are evolved features of human cognition. What are the implications of that if true? Can we believe that and still keep our faith? Continue reading Paradise Lost and the evolution of spirituality

Can An Evolutionary Process Generate English Text? Guest Post by David Bailey!

The Mormon Organon welcomes again guest blogger David H. Bailey! David is a researcher at the High-Performance Computational Research Department at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory in Berkeley, California. He is a leading figure in the field of high-performance scientific computing. He has over 100 scientific papers in that area, but to Mormon audiences he is best known for his insightful writings about Mormonism and Science issues. Welcome David!

Introduction

A fundamental precept of evolutionary biology is that a combination of random variation and natural selection is the fundamental driving force for evolution. The consensus of the vast majority of biologists is that over the course of many generations, species have diverged and adapted to their local environment, thus producing the remarkable variety of life presently seen on earth. Continue reading Can An Evolutionary Process Generate English Text? Guest Post by David Bailey!