Saturday, May 24, 2008

Closing in on a Cure

Here's more marvelous medical news: Researchers have developed a vaccine which apparently prevents an Alzheimer's-like disease in mice. The hope is that the vaccine may even be able to reverse some of the causes of Alzheimer's. Read the story for the details.


The Loser Letters II

Mary Eberstadt sends off another letter to her BRIGHT overlords offering them some sage advice as to how to deal with Christian DULLS. Her letter is full of excellent insights. Let's hope the BRIGHTS decline her recommendations.


The Scientist and the Turtle

Scientist Sean Carroll responds to an article by physicist Paul Davies who wonders why the laws of nature take the form they do. Carroll writes:

I can think of a few possibilities. One is logical necessity: the laws of physics take the form they do because no other form is possible. But that can't be right; it's easy to think of other possible forms. The universe could be a gas of hard spheres interacting under the rules of Newtonian mechanics, or it could be a cellular automaton, or it could be a single point. Another possibility is external influence: the universe is not all there is, but instead is the product of some higher (supernatural?) power. That is a conceivable answer, but not a very good one, as there is neither evidence for such a power nor any need to invoke it.

The final possibility, which seems to be the right one, is: that's just how things are. There is a chain of explanations concerning things that happen in the universe, which ultimately reaches to the fundamental laws of nature and stops. This is a simple hypothesis that fits all the data; until it stops being consistent with what we know about the universe, the burden of proof is on any alternative idea for why the laws take the form they do.

No further explanation is necessary or plausible. The universe is the way it is because it just is. But could it be designed? Yes, Carroll tells us, but there's no need to invoke that possibility.

Why not? There are mountains of evidence that the universe is amazingly suited for living beings and that such a universe is extraordinarily improbable. Doesn't that suggest the need for some explanation beyond itself?

No, Carroll insists. Why? Because there's no evidence that a designer exists. But what about the evidence of a precisely-tuned cosmos? That's not evidence, replies Carroll, that's just the way things are.

This is like the men who found a turtle perched atop a five foot high post. One man turned to his friend in wonderment and asked who he thought put the turtle there. His friend replied that there was no reason to think that anyone put the turtle on the post since there was no evidence that anyone else was around. But what about the turtle, the first man, asked, isn't that evidence? No, the second man answered, the turtle's sitting on the post because that's just the way things are.

That's how scientists think when they're determined to make their science support their atheism.