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Subject: Bad Science is like Bad Religion... rss

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Trey Stone
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Good column from Dr. Rupert Sheldrake...

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-rupert-sheldrake/why-bad-sc...
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Great band.
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hskrfn822 wrote:

Great band.

I LOVE Bad Religion!! But I don't think that's what the OP was going for.

Bad science is bad religion, IMO.
 
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Well, since I'm too late to make the music joke...

I'm really not sure what the point is. He seems to be saying that there are numerous unsolved problems in science that are openly recognised and being investigated. Therefore scientist should be aware that there are numerous unsolved problems in science.

I would guess they are?
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Sheldrake: "But I am more and more convinced that that the spirit of free inquiry is being repressed within the scientific community by fear-based conformity. Institutional science is being crippled by dogmas and taboos."

Dolphinandrew wrote:
...
I'm really not sure what the point is. He seems to be saying that there are numerous unsolved problems in science that are openly recognised and being investigated. Therefore scientist should be aware that there are numerous unsolved problems in science.

I would guess they are?


Maybe your DNS cache is corrupted and you got sent to a different page?
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Pinook wrote:
Sheldrake: "But I am more and more convinced that that the spirit of free inquiry is being repressed within the scientific community by fear-based conformity. Institutional science is being crippled by dogmas and taboos."


That's certainly the introduction. But the rest of the article doesn't seem to mention anything about this (examples of dogmas or taboos? Or these dogmas or taboos harming careers), but rather talks about a few unsolved problems.

Scientists might tend to be materialists (though I think that's not accurate. It's more likely than in the general population, but most scientists still believe in God), but this is not part of what they do.

The article works better as a criticism of a particular form of materialism (and indeed, one which seems so extreme in the specifics that I've never met anyone holding it), than one of science.
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Dolphinandrew wrote:
Pinook wrote:
Sheldrake: "But I am more and more convinced that that the spirit of free inquiry is being repressed within the scientific community by fear-based conformity. Institutional science is being crippled by dogmas and taboos."


That's certainly the introduction. But the rest of the article doesn't seem to mention anything about this (examples of dogmas or taboos? Or these dogmas or taboos harming careers), but rather talks about a few unsolved problems.


The sort of case Sheldrake is almost certainly thinking of is when someone comes up with something like "morphic resonance" and gets ridiculed for it. Rightly, but not in Sheldrake's view as guess who that was? Or in other words this is an attempt to use an irrelevant set if examples (real problems, but well-known) as a form of unstated self-justification.

Or in other words, nothing new here, move along.
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Pinook wrote:
Sheldrake: "But I am more and more convinced that that the spirit of free inquiry is being repressed within the scientific community by fear-based conformity. Institutional science is being crippled by dogmas and taboos."


Dolphinandrew wrote:
That's certainly the introduction. But the rest of the article doesn't seem to mention anything about this (examples of dogmas or taboos? Or these dogmas or taboos harming careers), but rather talks about a few unsolved problems........

LOL
The following are loading well on my computer.


"Many scientists prefer to think that these problems will eventually be solved by more research along established lines, but some, including myself, think that they are symptoms of a deeper malaise. Science is being held back by centuries-old assumptions that have hardened into dogmas."

And his conclusion,
" These are interesting speculations, but they are not hard science. They are a shaky foundation for the materialist claim that everything can be explained in terms of physics.

Good science, like good religion, is a journey of discovery, a quest. It builds on traditions from the past. But it is most effective when it recognizes how much we do not know, when it is not arrogant but humble."
(bolding mine)

My interpretation is that Sheldrake is saying that materialist metaphysics is becoming a dogma in science and that science progresses faster when it is freer of dogma.

A historical example of a similar, though smaller scale, restriction on science is outlined here in this brief overview of the history of cybernetics. http://www.google.com.au/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web...
In the mid 1960s the opponents of cybernetics gained control of the US funding stream and starved cybernetics out.

Warnings about the direction that science is taking have be accurate in the past.
Jacob Bronowski warned about the then growing trend for laboratories not to share results freely back in the 1970s. The effect that this has had with, for example, some big pharma not releasing negative studies, is I believe accepted as a problem now. The role of this approach in the HeLa debacle might also be considered.

This is not to say that Sheldrake is correct. However it is to say that blithely ignoring him may slow down scientific progress.


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I seem to recall that the history of science is littered with examples of dogmas that the scientific community holds onto for years. The difference of course is that eventually scientists are forced to accept new theories when the evidence is overwhelming (whereas true dogmas refuse to accept any evidence).
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Dearlove wrote:
Dolphinandrew wrote:
Pinook wrote:
Sheldrake: "But I am more and more convinced that that the spirit of free inquiry is being repressed within the scientific community by fear-based conformity. Institutional science is being crippled by dogmas and taboos."


That's certainly the introduction. But the rest of the article doesn't seem to mention anything about this (examples of dogmas or taboos? Or these dogmas or taboos harming careers), but rather talks about a few unsolved problems.


The sort of case Sheldrake is almost certainly thinking of is when someone comes up with something like "morphic resonance" and gets ridiculed for it. Rightly, but not in Sheldrake's view as guess who that was? Or in other words this is an attempt to use an irrelevant set if examples (real problems, but well-known) as a form of unstated self-justification.

Or in other words, nothing new here, move along.
The only thing a non-dogmatic scientist would be interested in would be the experiments and results that an idea like "morphic resonance" stimulated.

Another case that springs to mind of a scientist being ridiculed for a ridiculous idea was the one where transgenetic transfer was postulated. It was much later found to be correct. Though the scientist involved stopped her work in the field for years due to the ridicule.

That you seem prepared to defend ridicule suggests that you have a dogmatic view of how science should proceed.
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Pinook wrote:
My interpretation is that Sheldrake is saying that materialist metaphysics is becoming a dogma in science and that science progresses faster when it is freer of dogma.


Sure, that's clearly what his introduction is saying.

What he fails to do is argue that in the rest of the piece, or give examples. Instead, he brings up examples of current research that, if anything, flat out contradict any slowing down of science or the idea that 'science knows everything' is becoming some sort of dominant idea.

As I say, even in the hard sciences, pure materialists are still mostly a minority. But more importantly, these metaphysical assumptions are generally irrelevant in the working world of science.

Sometimes ideas are dismissed as crackpot and science is set back as they turned out to be correct. On the other hand, time, energy and money is occasionally wasted on researching crackpot ideas that clearly weren't going to work. It's hard to make a balance between these two poles.

Claiming the current balance is skewed towards one of the poles is I think a bold claim that would be difficult to back up. Claiming that such a imbalance exists and is purely down to "materialism" amongst scientists is obvious nonsense, given how funding application works.

Pinook wrote:
Jacob Bronowski warned about the then growing trend for laboratories not to share results freely back in the 1970s. The effect that this has had with, for example, some big pharma not releasing negative studies, is I believe accepted as a problem now.


Those I think are two rather different problems that are only superficially similar. Labs hiding their results (until they are ready for publication) is unfortunate, but people do steal methods and try and publish them more quickly. Big pharma not publishing negative studies is more of a business decision.
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slatersteven wrote:
... The difference of course is that eventually scientists are forced to accept new theories when the evidence is overwhelming (whereas true dogmas refuse to accept any evidence).


Hah -If need be I'll go to my grave knowing that you're wrong!
You've mis-interpretted the evidence and I'll be shown correct eventually!
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Pinook wrote:
slatersteven wrote:
... The difference of course is that eventually scientists are forced to accept new theories when the evidence is overwhelming (whereas true dogmas refuse to accept any evidence).


Hah -If need be I'll go to my grave knowing that you're wrong!
You've mis-interpretted the evidence and I'll be shown correct eventually!
I think the difference is that is a scientist on their own, it's not science. Scientists can be dogmatic, science is not (in the long run).
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Science isn't anything in the long run, any more than religion/spirituality is. Science or any body of thought don't do their thinking and contemplation on their own. They are entirely dependent on the quality of people doing the activity, and the culture those people operate in.

If Sheldrake is right, and those people in the scientific community are operating in a culture whose assumptions have hardened into dogmas, this becomes a serious problem.

When it is less about the spirit if inquiry and more about defending a paradigm...
 
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tstone wrote:
If Sheldrake is right, and those people in the scientific community are operating in a culture whose assumptions have hardened into dogmas, this becomes a serious problem.

When it is less about the spirit if inquiry and more about defending a paradigm...


It's clear that science would be a problem if it became all about defending certain ideas. But science is job for many, many people all over the world. It's hard enough to have a good idea of what's going on 'large scale' in someone's own field, never mind controlling it. To get some control of the process on a level to push for such a general and unspecific idea such as materialism would be impossible.

For example, if a group of researches in, say, biology, think the idea that turtles can navigate using the Earth's magnetic field, then it's easy enough to imagine how they can control the publication/funding processes in order to prevent that idea getting traction. This is how you get a degree of group control on research, you reject papers/funding applications.

How could this manifest itself on the level of materialism? It's such a broad and ill-defined idea on this practical level, how would you know whether a paper or research project supported it or went against it? The project/funding application would have to be so broad or ill-defined that any reviewer should reject it, for being too broad or ill-defined.

The problem with this article is not his point, but how he argues for it. He doesn't give examples of what he claims exists, and the examples he does give have nothing to do with his point.
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It's interesting juxtposing DolphinAndrew's and Dearlove's takes on this article.

Dearlove approves of the ridicule of ideas that don't fit. And finds no value in the article.
Dearlove wrote:


The sort of case Sheldrake is almost certainly thinking of is when someone comes up with something like "morphic resonance" and gets ridiculed for it. Rightly, but not in Sheldrake's view as guess who that was? ....

Or in other words, nothing new here, move along.


Whereas DolphinAndrew rejects the idea that materialism is part of what many scientists do. And finds no value in the article.
Dolphinandrew wrote:
...
Scientists might tend to be materialists (though I think that's not accurate. It's more likely than in the general population, but most scientists still believe in God), but this is not part of what they do.

The article works better as a criticism of a particular form of materialism (and indeed, one which seems so extreme in the specifics that I've never met anyone holding it), than one of science.


 
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Pinook wrote:
Example of a discoveries that would have gone differently the scientists involved had demanded a "materialist worldview";
chemists that discovered the lead compound that was added to petrol to raise the octane rating - they weren't sure where to start so they decided on red coloured compounds as fire is red,
the benzene ring strucure was discovered after Kekule dreamt of it and then tested the structure revealed in the dream.


What do you think would have gone differently if anyone had demanded materialism in these cases?
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Dolphinandrew wrote:
Pinook wrote:
Example of a discoveries that would have gone differently the scientists involved had demanded a "materialist worldview";
chemists that discovered the lead compound that was added to petrol to raise the octane rating - they weren't sure where to start so they decided on red coloured compounds as fire is red,
the benzene ring strucure was discovered after Kekule dreamt of it and then tested the structure revealed in the dream.


What do you think would have gone differently if anyone had demanded materialism in these cases?
Well if I was a hardened materialist and someone had suggested testing red compound first "because fire is red" I think I'd ridicule them and throw them out of the lab.
This would be in line with Dearlove's approach to science.

And if I was a hardened materialist and you'd come to work raving about some dream or vision you'd had last night and wanted to use up my research resources, the only question would be which version of "Go away" I'd use.
Again I'd use Dearlove as an inspiration - ridicule that which does not fit my worldview.
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DCAnderson wrote:
Pinook wrote:
DCAnderson wrote:
If this guy can produce an example of a scientific discovery that would not be possible with a materialistic worldview, then I'm totally on board.

Until then he just seems to have a bunch of vague generalities about scientific dogma and "there are still things that science has not answered".


Example of a discoveries that would have gone differently the scientists involved had demanded a "materialist worldview";
chemists that discovered the lead compound that was added to petrol to raise the octane rating - they weren't sure where to start so they decided on red coloured compounds as fire is red,
the benzene ring strucure was discovered after Kekule dreamt of it and then tested the structure revealed in the dream.


Okay, but would those discoveries have not been possible with a materialistic view. Those scientists stumbled across these things for total BS reasons, but they still were able to ultimately work them out in materialistic terms. Because if you just stop at red=fire and call it a day you haven't produced anything of use to anyone.

Quote:
It's not the worldview or source of an idea that is important to curious non-dogmatic scientists - it's the experiments and results that a worldview or idea stimulates thats important.


True. You've demonstrated that you've put way more thought in to this than Dr. Rupert Sheldrake. Sheldrake seems to be upset if scientists are not satisfied without a materialistic explanation for something, which is in my opinion just good science.

If you want to say that some phenomenon is caused by angels, then you'd better damn well prove it. When you've reached the point where you can prove angels exist, they're now just an accepted part of the natural world and you've now shifted them from supernatural terms to materialistic terms. So materialism wins again.
I think you misunderstand what Sheldrake means by materialism.
I'm pretty sure that he is not wanting scientists to believe in the supernatural.

", but would those discoveries have not been possible with a materialistic view." ?

I'm not arguing that point. I showed 2 examples where scientific progress would have been delayed if Dearlovian ridicule had been applied, where scientific progress was presumably enhanced by using a fluid non-dogmatic approach to sources of inspiration.

My take is that it's the ridicule that is the problem, that a materialistic dogma could, will or has, slowed down scientific progress. That any ethical source of inspiration that produces either interesting questions or interesting experiments and results should be protected as a valid beginning of science.
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DCAnderson wrote:


And do you think ridiculing them and asking them not to waste time and money on these things is a bad thing? The vast majority of the time if you went with these things you'd be on a wild goose chase, and thus wasting time and money.
Absolutely it's a bad thing. The octane boosters had to start somewhere - nowhere "rational" presented itself. If they demanded a rational starting point they might have taken another 8? years before they'd got a theoretical position which would have suggested which compounds would be top of the list to test. But instead they started with "red". Now maybe they just got lucky. Or maybe one of them had formed a subconscious association between red and the petrol lead compound, due to reading some article somewhere that they'd long forgotten.

If Kekele's boss had told him "You must be tripping - no way are we investigating your hallucinations in this laboratory", how much would scientific progress have been delayed?

This also goes to nurturing creativity and the freedom to try things out, to fly a conceptual kite, to cast pollen to the wind and see what stamen it fertilises. Reduce this freedom and creativity in your scientists and you've made them more like machines. And machines don't do good science, at least that I've heard about.
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Pinook wrote:
Well if I was a hardened materialist and someone had suggested testing red compound first "because fire is red" I think I'd ridicule them and throw them out of the lab.


I think you'd laugh and say, well we have to pick one to start with, and since we have no other reason, we might as well pick that one.

If they took it as a serious suggestion as a good non-random way to proceed in an experiment, then they likely would get laughed at. Not because they are suggesting some non-materialistic philosophy, but because they have clearly poorly understood some basic chemist and physics.

In the real world, we were in the former case. So nothing would have changed.


Pinook wrote:
And if I was a hardened materialist and you'd come to work raving about some dream or vision you'd had last night and wanted to use up my research resources, the only question would be which version of "Go away" I'd use.


I think if someone tried to use a dream to justify spending vast amounts of money on a research direction, then they'd likely (and rightly) get rejected.

On the other hand, if someone, taking inspiration from a dream, performed some experiments that suggested a project would be a good direction for research, they would get the funding. Likely they wouldn't bother mentioning the dream in their funding application, and really they shouldn't. Where someone gets the ideas for a project is not really relevant.

Back to the real world, Kekule had the idea in a day dream after have worked on the chemical for decades. And having a very through understanding of carbon bonds, he could then justify the idea using the know theory, and could then of course test it. Had he simply used the dream (day dream rather) as evidence, he likely would not have gotten so far.



It seems to me that unless you consider inspiration inherently non-materialistic, in which case materialism would be obviously false, then neither of these cases really contradict any form of materialism.
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Dolphinandrew wrote:
Pinook wrote:
Well if I was a hardened materialist and someone had suggested testing red compound first "because fire is red" I think I'd ridicule them and throw them out of the lab.


I think you'd laugh and say, well we have to pick one to start with, and since we have no other reason, we might as well pick that one.

If they took it as a serious suggestion as a good non-random way to proceed in an experiment, then they likely would get laughed at. Not because they are suggesting some non-materialistic philosophy, but because they have clearly poorly understood some basic chemist and physics.

In the real world, we were in the former case. So nothing would have changed.


Pinook wrote:
And if I was a hardened materialist and you'd come to work raving about some dream or vision you'd had last night and wanted to use up my research resources, the only question would be which version of "Go away" I'd use.


I think if someone tried to use a dream to justify spending vast amounts of money on a research direction, then they'd likely (and rightly) get rejected.

On the other hand, if someone, taking inspiration from a dream, performed some experiments that suggested a project would be a good direction for research, they would get the funding. Likely they wouldn't bother mentioning the dream in their funding application, and really they shouldn't. Where someone gets the ideas for a project is not really relevant.

Back to the real world, Kekule had the idea in a day dream after have worked on the chemical for decades. And having a very through understanding of carbon bonds, he could then justify the idea using the know theory, and could then of course test it. Had he simply used the dream (day dream rather) as evidence, he likely would not have gotten so far.



It seems to me that unless you consider inspiration inherently non-materialistic, in which case materialism would be obviously false, then neither of these cases really contradict any form of materialism.


I think they contradict harden materialist thinking well - sources outside those established in materialism (eg a dream and and an association between the colour of a compound and fire) were successfully used to enhance the progress of science.
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Pinook wrote:
I think they contradict harden materialist thinking well - sources outside those established in materialism (eg a dream and and an association between the colour of a compound and fire) were successfully used to enhance the progress of science.


I think that's a simplistic presentation, both of materialist thinking of these examples.

In the first example above, there was no proven convention between the colour of the compound and the success of the choice. It was simply a random choice, and they happened to be right first time. We know that this is the case, because further experiments didn't show a connection between being red and raising the octane level!

Had they produced further experiments that showed a connection between the colour of the compound and the properties they wanted, then an associated would have been shown (this does of course happen, sometimes colour does have associated properties). Whether this would have contradicted materialism or not would have depended on the nature of this association.

In the second example a day dream gave a guy an idea, and this idea happened to be corrected. This I think is hardly problematic for a materialist for many reasons.

1) There's nothing inherently immaterial about dreams. Indeed, we know they sort through information we already have, so someone having a day dream and coming up with an idea about a subject that they are an expert in is not exactly unsurprising, even to a purely materialistic view of psychology. A 'dream' is not outside of materialism.

2) This only suggests that dreams are sometimes useful. Even given 1), and the non-random nature of dreams, it does not show that they are reliable. Simply that they are not always wrong. A reliable dream is not outside materialism, even if one assumes that they are random, which they aren't.

3) The dream in this example was not used as a source of information, merely as a source of inspiration. Inspiration comes from all sorts of places, none of them automatically outside of a materialistic world, simply by dint of providing inspiration.


Dreams as a reliable source of accurate information would perhaps contradict some aspect of materialism. But who knows? For something to count as materialism, it's the explanation behind a phenomenon that seems to count. If accurate dreams could be explained purely in terms of psychology and biology, why would they contradict materialism? Since dreams generally aren't accurate, we're dealing with a counter-factual, so anything's up for grabs.

But this is really beside the point. The dream (and again, day-dream, rather than dream), was taken as inspiration, not as information. Inspiration is a complex thing, but idea generation certainly some degree of randomness to it. So dreams, which have both some degree of randomness and non-randomness to them, would be expected to be at least as good as some random process. I don't see what form of materialism this would contradict.

Materialism, in so much as it can be reasonably defined, is clearly not about phenomena (i.e. things we experience), but about the nature of the explanations behind those phenomena, i.e. whether they require more than physical explanations or not. As such, it doesn't seem to matter to me, as far as materialism goes, whether or not some method provides inspiration or even information, but why it does so.
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DR RUPERT SHELDRAKE wrote:
Science has been successful because it has been open to new discoveries. By contrast, committed materialists have made science into a kind of religion. They believe that there is no reality but material or physical reality. Consciousness is a by-product of the physical activity of the brain. Matter is unconscious. Nature is mechanical. Evolution is purposeless. God exists only as an idea in human minds, and hence in human heads.

These materialist beliefs are often taken for granted by scientists, not because they have thought about them critically, but because they haven't. To deviate from them is heresy, and heresy harms careers.

Since the 19th century, materialists have promised that science will eventually explain everything in terms of physics and chemistry. Science will prove that living organisms are complex machines, nature is purposeless, and minds are nothing but brain activity. Believers are sustained by the implicit faith that scientific discoveries will justify their beliefs. The philosopher of science Karl Popper called this stance "promissory materialism" because it depends on issuing promissory notes for discoveries not yet made. Many promises have been issued, but few redeemed. Materialism is now facing a credibility crunch unimaginable in the 20th century.


Claiming that the belief that science can eventually answer every question is facing some sort of credibility crunch today is absurd. Science is making progress at an incredible rate. The human genome project was only completed 10 years ago. This guy claims to have been a scientist for 40 years and yet he expresses a belief that because we haven't solved every problem in biology only 10 years after completing our first maps of the genome we have reached a dead end? Go read some history books old man, science takes time.

The author should be embarrassed by this complete load of horse shit. What science needs is less of idiots that believe in magic.
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sfox wrote:
DR RUPERT SHELDRAKE wrote:
Science has been successful because it has been open to new discoveries. By contrast, committed materialists have made science into a kind of religion. They believe that there is no reality but material or physical reality. Consciousness is a by-product of the physical activity of the brain. Matter is unconscious. Nature is mechanical. Evolution is purposeless. God exists only as an idea in human minds, and hence in human heads.

These materialist beliefs are often taken for granted by scientists, not because they have thought about them critically, but because they haven't. To deviate from them is heresy, and heresy harms careers.

Since the 19th century, materialists have promised that science will eventually explain everything in terms of physics and chemistry. Science will prove that living organisms are complex machines, nature is purposeless, and minds are nothing but brain activity. Believers are sustained by the implicit faith that scientific discoveries will justify their beliefs. The philosopher of science Karl Popper called this stance "promissory materialism" because it depends on issuing promissory notes for discoveries not yet made. Many promises have been issued, but few redeemed. Materialism is now facing a credibility crunch unimaginable in the 20th century.


Claiming that the belief that science can eventually answer every question is facing some sort of credibility crunch today is absurd. Science is making progress at an incredible rate. The human genome project was only completed 10 years ago. This guy claims to have been a scientist for 40 years and yet he expresses a belief that because we haven't solved every problem in biology only 10 years after completing our first maps of the genome we have reached a dead end? Go read some history books old man, science takes time.

The author should be embarrassed by this complete load of horse shit. What science needs is less of idiots that believe in magic.



The "magical" belief, is that science will answer every question we have. Especially science as it "understands" things at present.
 
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