Archives for: November 2006
Just finished Life's Solution: Inevitable Humans in a Lonely Universe by Simon Conway Morris. Interesting book. He had a reproduction of this humorous drawing showing the size of a compound eye that would be required to have the same spatial resolution as a human eye. Looks heavy and is apparently keeping the owner from doing much exercise.
Busy writing weekend-- made more enjoyable by having finally migrated to topics that do not require much of an educational pre-buildup; just good old simple depictive writing. Grab this, measure this, do that. Went over to my little sailboat yesterday with Martha and together we managed to get most of the jackets, bottles, and whatnot out and into the garage. It was a great summer sailing around Long Island Sound. The winds were kind and consistent and the kids are now old enough to savor the experience. Winter just seems extra long and dreary when you can sail with your family and friends in such a great body of water.
Getting the boat over to the winter mooring was a scream. Literally. That day featured absolutely stupendous seas and 30 knot winds. Photographs never seem to do justice to the height of waves, but this photo of your humble blogger (with two sweaters underneath his coat) gives a slight idea of the beating my friend and I took that day. I don't normally wear my hats "homeboy style", but if the visor was in front I can assure you that the hat would have been floating some place in the background.
The other night we made salmon on a plank of cedar wood. I used a ginger-soy dressing that was wonderful, plus lots of garlic. You soak the plank in water for 15 minutes, then put the fish on it, add the fixings, then pop into the over at about 450 for about 15 minutes per pound. Some sautÃ©ed squash and onions, rice and we had a feast. Be advised though that the plank does make some smoke and if you have smoke alarms, you'll need to get your exhaust fans going!
After a week home writing, it's nice to be back in the clinic. The combination of the two (writing and seeing patients) rounds out the day nicely, especially if I can get in a bit of exercise. Someone showed me an article in one of the glossy weekly magazines about how an actress named Jennifer Lopez is following the BTD as an aid to having a healthy pregnancy. Good for her! It can't hurt, and often accomplishes miracles by itself when other methods of fertility have failed.
Speaking of miracles...
Time magazine had a discourse between Richard Dawkins and Francis Collins breathlessly advertised on the cover as "Science Versus God" or some similar dribble. In a rather underwhelming exchange, atheist Dawkins seemed to come out ever so slightly the worse, since Collins appeared every bit as rigorous a scientist, but felt compelled to admit that there were things in existence that he felt could not fall under the realm of scientific scrutiny. On the other hand, I got the impression that Dawkins rules out the existence of God simply because he feels that God is an improbability. Thus my problem with cover sales pitch: It should have been titled, "Science Without God Versus Science with God", since Collins (the coordinator of the US Human Genome Project) is not exactly the type of guy to go around blowing smoke out his mouth, dancing in a grass skirt.
I rather enjoy both of their writings, but each for different reasons. Dawkins, best known for his book The Selfish Gene, has a great clarity of vision that I admire and his thoughts are usually laid out in a rational step-wise order that a computer programmer geek (such as I) can appreciate. However, there is a persistently Cromwellian vehemence to some of his writings; especially when it comes to having a belief in anything other than the belief in having no belief.
Collins, who recently wrote The Language of God, is far cuddlier. He feels that "moral law" (as characterized by the writings of Kant) indicates there is such a thing as right and wrong, and there are some things that you "ought" to do, and some things that you "ought not" to do. In the Time discussion Dawkins pretty much makes it clear that he views things as having the ability to be bad or good, but denies that there is a bad or good.
I bring this point up because these types of media discussions just further convince me of the relative bankruptcy of language --which itself is a sure sign that the discussion is headed towards philosophy and away from any sort of objectivity.
My advice is to, skip the Time article, read Dawkin's The God Delusion and Collins' Language of God. Finally, read Stephen Jay Gould's classic article on nonoverlapping magisteria and draw you own conclusions.
Thomas Kuhn's little book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions identified the problem almost fifty years ago: Normal science tends to reward "puzzle-solvers" who choose only to work within the existing paradigm. Rival paradigms are incommensurable; they simply cannot understand each other through their own conceptual framework and terminology.
That's good news for Time. They can do this again next year.