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What Happens When Science Mags Go Woke?

When fashion mags go woke, no one cares. Some girls want to wear rags on their heads, well… But science mags?

Let’s look at some of the things that are happening: Darwinian evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne puts the matter concisely when he says, The old saying goes that “all science is political”, a saying that is true only if you stretch the meaning of either “science” or “political”. I’m baffled, for instance, to understand how my work on the genetics of hybrid sterility in Drosophila is political. But don’t worry: the ideologues will find a way to make it so. “You’re doing your work in the milieu of a culture,” they’ll babble, “and decisions about what to fund and publish are explicitly political.” Blah blah blah. Jerry Coyne, “Scientific American goes defensive; tries to pretend that every social justice screed is Read More ›

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Fearful young woman with aluminum hat browsing social media. Conspiracy theory about 5g network destroying brain. High quality photo

How Fact-Checking Can Hide Needed Information From the Public

What role did fact-checking play in the suppression of inconvenient but essential facts about the origin of COVID-19?

Earlier this week, we looked at the recent news that Facebook has a special portal for government to look in and report “disinformation,” — as if government, in a highly charged political atmosphere, were some kind of neutral third party. The assignment of some sort of neutrality to power sources or experts who may not be neutral or have any reason to be is one of the characteristics of fact-checking, as it has developed over the last decade in mainstream and social media. Why was the Wuhan lab leak theory supposed to be a conspiracy? In that context, let’s look at the claim that COVID-19 originated in an accident at a high-level virus lab in the upcountry Chinese city of Read More ›

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Excalibur in graduation hat on stone at sunset day. Congratulate the graduates or education congratulation or academic freedom concept. 3D illustration

Stanford’s Academic Freedom Conference Slammed by Academics

Opponents are angered by the fact that, although the conference will be live-streamed, it is by invitation only and no media are allowed

Stanford Business School’s academic freedom conference, starting next week and headlined by tech entrepreneur Peter Thiel, is coming under fire. The organizers argue, Faculty organizers of the conference, from Stanford and several other institutions, promote it as follows: “Academic freedom, open inquiry, and freedom of speech are under threat as they have not been for decades. Visibly, academics are ‘canceled,’ fired, or subject to lengthy disciplinary proceedings in response to academic writing or public engagement. Less visibly, funding agencies, university bureaucracies, hiring procedures, promotion committees, professional organizations, and journals censor some kinds of research or demand adherence to political causes. Many parts of universities have become politicized or have turned into ideological monocultures, excluding people, ideas, or kinds of work Read More ›

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Kid girl study science

Why It’s Difficult for Science to Answer Some Basic Questions

Are we reaching the edge of the things science can tell us?

Science answers many questions but some questions test us because they are difficult by nature. They take us to the margins. Let’s look at some — why they test us: At Big Think, theoretical astrophysicist Ethan Siegel discusses five puzzles of fundamental physics, solving any one of which “could unlock our understanding of the universe.” They are, how did the universe begin, what explains neutrino mass, why is our universe matter-dominated, what is dark matter, and what is dark energy?: About our universe as matter-dominated: More matter than antimatter permeates the Universe. However, known physics cannot explain the observed matter-antimatter asymmetry. The Big Bang produces matter, antimatter, and radiation, with slightly more matter being created at some point, leading to Read More ›

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The Big Bang

A Recent Big Bang Debate: Sheer Politeness Underscores Shakeup

Takehome point: “Everyone would be keen to abandon the theory if there’s a better alternative, nobody’s married to the Big Bang theory”

Scientific American told readers recently that the James Webb Space Telescope is “breaking the Big Bang paradigm” so we can be fairly sure that astrophysicists have a lot of questions. The October 1 debate at the HowTheLightGetsIn festival in London represented a variety of views: There are those, like Sabine Hossenfelder, who think that physics will probably never be able to tell us how the universe came about and argue that we should think of the Big Bang theory as little more than another creation myth. And then there is Eric Lerner. The author of a recent article “The Big Bang Didn’t Happen” that went viral, Lerner articulated a challenge to the current scientific consensus in cosmology that caused quite Read More ›

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Can Panpsychism Save Naturalism From Itself?

Panpsychism can be seen as an effort to save naturalism by acknowledging the reality of the mind while insisting that the mind is wholly natural

This article is an excerpt of one that originally appeared in Salvo 61 (Summer 2022), under the title “Everything is Conscious? Panpsychism goes mainstream.” Panpsychism — the view that all of the universe participates in consciousness, which is most fully developed in humans — has been gaining popularity in science in recent years. Does that sound unbelievable? Is not science committed wholly to materialism and nothing but materialism? Will consciousness not soon be “explained” by an accidental glitch in brain wiring that natural selection retained? Science doesn’t seem nearly as committed to that view just now. A 2018 article at Quartz by Olivia Goldhill was titled “The idea that everything from spoons to stones is conscious is gaining academic credibility.” Read More ›

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Big bang explosion in space

Webb Telescope Builders “Are Questioning Previous Science”

In an interview at Futurism, Webb astronomer Garth Illingworth shares how the new findings are shaking up what we think we know about the universe

Futurism’s Maggie Harrison recently interviewed UC Santa Cruz astronomer Garth Illingworth, one of the developers of the James Webb Space Telescope. His observations put the astronomers’ astonishment at the unexpected new findings of very old, developed galaxies in perspective: And I would just say, you know, when I was sitting there watching the first images, I was just blown away by their beauty and the character there, the information. But one of the things I was thinking afterwards was: in that hour, I saw, like, six sets of data. I have to say, that’s more data than I’ve ever seen from anything in any sort of reasonable time period in my whole life. Scientists are going to be working on Read More ›

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Human hand fine tuning levels on professional audio equipment

Philosopher: “Universe Fine-Tuned for Life” is Just Folk Belief!

Do physicists claim that the universe is fine-tuned for life only when writing for a popular audience — and not in their professional work?

Closer to Truth recently published a revealing podcast in which host Robert Lawrence Kuhn asked late Western Michigan University philosopher Quentin Persifor Smith (1952–2020), “What Does a Fine-Tuned Universe Mean?” (Aug 31, 2022). Smith iss esteemed for his work on philosophy of time, philosophy of religion, naturalism and atheism, philosophy of Big Bang cosmology and quantum cosmology. So can we really draw conclusions from the fact that our universe appears fine-tuned for life? Kuhn’s questions and Smith’s responses help us understand why the question remains controversial. A partial transcript and notes follow. Quentin Persifor Smith: (1:43) If the universe is causally deterministic, you can take whatever happens at any point and infer backwards that this is what must have happened, Read More ›

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The Big Bang

At Scientific American: Webb Is Breaking the Big Bang Paradigm

That cosmic blast has been as much of a cultural and philosophical concept as a scientific one — hence the angst over challenging findings

Last weekend, we said — whatever one thinks about the Big Bang, — it was evident that the James Webb Space Telescope had shaken up astronomy. At Scientific American, science writer Jonathan O’Callaghan seems to agree: In the weeks and months following JWST’s findings of surprisingly mature “early” galaxies, blindsided theorists and observers alike have been scrambling to explain them. Could the bevy of anomalously big and bright early galaxies be illusory, perhaps because of flaws in analysis of the telescope’s initial observations? If genuine, could they somehow be explained by standard cosmological models? Or, just maybe, were they the first hints that the universe is more strange and complex than even our boldest theories had supposed? At stake is Read More ›

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Face in multiverse

Sabine Hossenfelder Asks, Is the Multiverse Science or Religion?

Or pseudoscience? The no-nonsense theoretical physicist reveals a gift for comedy as she tries to explain theories that place no constraints on what can happen

Some science controversies arise in disputes over findings. The current flap over the James Webb Space Telescope data, for one. Others sound like clashes over philosophy — claims about the multiverse (countless universes out there) are a good example. Theoretical physicist Sabine Hossenfelder takes on the multiverse in in her new book, Existential Physics: A Scientist’s Guide to Life’s Biggest Questions (2022). She also addresses the topic concisely — and wittily — in a short video and a blog post at Back(Re)Action. She looks at three popular multiverse models: Many Worlds, Eternal Inflation, and String Theory Landscape. Here’s her take on Eternal Inflation: We don’t know how our universe began and maybe we will never know. We just talked about Read More ›

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Deep Space Cosmic Chaos, Galaxies, Stars, Nebula Abstract Art Created Using Authentic Imaging Data From HI NASA

Re the Webb Findings Uproar: Who Owns the Big Bang Anyhow?

Researcher and science writer Eric Lerner would never have attracted the attention he has in recent weeks if the Webb findings were not disturbing to many cosmologists

The Big Bang is a philosophical — as well as a scientific — presence in many people’s minds. It seems clear, from the the ongoing kerfuffle and vigorous denials that the James Webb Space Telescope findings shook many of them up. Both science writers and scientists sense this. For example, For a long time, for instance, scientists believed the universe’s earliest, oldest galaxies to be small, slightly chaotic, and misshapen systems. But according to the Washington Post, JWST-captured imagery has revealed those galaxies to be shockingly massive, not to mention balanced and well-formed — a finding that challenges, and will likely rewrite, long-held understandings about the origins of our universe. “The models just don’t predict this,” Garth Illingworth, an astronomer Read More ›

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field of red flowers

Philosophy: Can Red Have “Redness” If No Self Perceives It?

As Closer to Truth’s Robert Kuhn interviews philosopher Julian Baggini, they now tackle the question of “qualia” — part of the nature of conscious experiences

Yesterday, we looked at philosopher Julian Baggini’s argument that the unified self is an illusion. He spoke about this in the context of a discussion with Closer to Truth’s Robert Lawrence Kuhn. Kuhn, nearly midway through, steers the conversation toward qualia, that is, the inner experience we have of things. Red, an often-used example, is a color in the spectrum but it is also, for many, an experience. Serious and influential books have been written (2005 and 2017) about the history of the color and the experiences it evokes. Questions are interspersed between exchanges in the transcribed dialogue: Robert Lawrence Kuhn: (3:23) Let’s distinguish two factors that are flying around here. One is the concept of self — what it Read More ›

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The Big Bang

Astrophysicist: Webb Finds May Bring “Revolutionary Changes”

It doesn’t disprove the Big Bang, says Brian Koberlein… but read the fine print. And Fermilab’s Don Lincoln gets the religious implications all wrong

Recently, the James Webb Space Telescope started sending back observations about our universe that started quite the tizzy. Did the Big Bang even happen? More focused: If it happened, did it happen when and how the conventional story runs? At Universe Today, astrophysicist Brian Koberlein tries to put the matter in perspective: Most significantly, it has found more galaxies and more distant galaxies than there should be, and that could lead to some revolutionary changes in our standard model. Our current understanding is that after the big bang the universe went through a period known as the dark ages. During this period the first light of the cosmos had faded, and the first stars and galaxies hadn’t yet formed. Webb Read More ›

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Social media concept. Corona virus fake news concept. Scale on red background

Why Misinformation Comes From the Top as Well as the Bottom

At Big Think, Cameron English asks us to look at the incentives for academic scientists to publish questionable research that gains widespread attention.

Cameron English, Director of Bio-Sciences at American Council on Science and Health, offers a useful take on the need felt by some in power to crack down on Misinformation: The uncomfortable truth is that academic scientists routinely publish questionable research that attracts widespread media attention, adding to the morass of “inaccurate information” circulating online. If we want to get this problem under control, we need our trusted sources to quit releasing untrustworthy information. Cameron English, “‘Trusted’ Sources Spread Anti-Science Nonsense, Too” at Big Think (August 4, 2022) But the fact is, untrustworthy information pays: It is true that researchers live and die by their grants; they either “publish or perish,” as the old saying goes. Often, that means academic scientists Read More ›

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full moon in the sky

NASA Finds Spots on the Moon With San Francisco Temperatures

No, this news is NOT from the “Strange News” tabloid at the checkout counter; it really happened and it is good news for proposed moon bases

Talk about a “fairy godmother” find: NASA-funded scientists have discovered shaded locations within pits on the Moon that always hover around a comfortable 63 F (about 17 C) using data from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft and computer modeling. The pits, and caves to which they may lead, would make thermally stable sites for lunar exploration compared to areas at the Moon’s surface, which heat up to 260 F (about 127 C) during the day and cool to minus 280 F (about minus 173 C) at night. Lunar exploration is part of NASA’s goal to explore and understand the unknown in space, to inspire and benefit humanity. Bill Steigerwald, “NASA’s LRO Finds Lunar Pits Harbor Comfortable Temperatures” at NASA Read More ›

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Amyloid plaques in Alzheimer's disease

Trust in Science? Fraud Now Claimed re Key Alzheimer Paper

Autism and COVID-19 research have also been marred by misrepresentation, raising issues about what “trust in science” should mean

[This article is republished with permission from The Epoch Times (July 26, 2022) where it appeared under the title “Scientists Are Destroying Our Trust in Science.”] A just-published exposé in the journal Science claims that a seminal study on the causes of Alzheimer’s disease may contain falsified data. The 2006 report concluded that Alzheimer’s is caused by a buildup of a certain type of plaque in the brain—a finding that has guided research into cures for Alzheimer’s ever since. But now, critics claim that the original authors “appeared to have composed figures by piecing together parts of photos from different experiments” calling their conclusions into significant question. If true, this is a scientific scandal of the worst order. As the Science article Read More ›

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Exploration of new worlds, space and universe, new galaxies. Planets in backlight. Exoplanets. Solar systems. 3d rendering

Exoplanets: As the Data Streams Back… the Picture Comes In

China is now focusing on the search for a planet like Earth, using the Earth 2.0 Telescope (ET). Astronomer Jian Ge believes his team can find 17

In recent exoplanet news: ● China is now focusing on a search for a planet like Earth: Most likely, such a planet does exist, but in the relatively nascent field of exoplanet research, no one has yet been able to find it. That is not for lack of trying. Kepler spent nine years searching over 150,000 stars, and while it detected almost 3,000 new exoplanets, none met the criteria of being Earth-sized in the habitable zone of a sun-like star. Bad luck might have played a role – the new paper’s authors even calculated that statistically, Kepler probably should have found at least one Earth-sized planet in a habitable zone. Andy Tomaswick, “An Ambitious Plan to Find Earth 2.0” at Read More ›

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Trust Concept

Claim: If Science Were Properly Presented, Trust Would Grow!

The ideas examined in these four short essays all assume that scientists are exempt from the bias and self-interest that governs everyone else

Here’s the fourth short essay on an interesting summary at a science news site of a paper that bemoans the decline of trust in science. The summary did a good job — perhaps unintentionally — of typifying in itself the reasons so many people distrust claims made on behalf of science. Earlier, we covered: obliviousness to the damage created by science dogmatism; failing to recognize internal weaknesses; and the fear that the more the public knows, the more problems we will find. The summary concludes with the view that science needs to be presented in the right, targeted learning style: 4. Information is not being presented in the right learning style This problem is the most straightforward of the four Read More ›

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Researchers: If We Tell Folks More About Science, They Trust Less

Part 3: The researchers argue that doubts about science arise from conflict with beliefs. The many COVID-19 debacles suggest other causes…

We’ve been looking (here and here) at a summary at a science news site of a paper that bemoans the decline of trust in science. The author did a good job and doubtless means well. But the outcome — unintentionally — typifies the reasons so many people distrust claims made on behalf of science. For example, the third factor for distrust that we are asked to consider is that information we learn from science sources can go against our personal beliefs: “Scientific information can be difficult to swallow, and many individuals would sooner reject the evidence than accept information that suggests they might have been wrong,” the team wrote in their paper. “This inclination is wholly understandable, and scientists should Read More ›

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Young amateur football fan supporters cheering with confetti watching local soccer cup match at stadium - Friends people group on green t shirts having excited fun on sport world championship final

Researchers: Distrust of Science Is Due to Tribal Loyalty

In Part 2 of 4, we look at a claim arising from a recent study: We blindly believe those we identify with, ignoring the wisdom of science

Recently, a paper lamenting the decline of trust in science was discussed at ScienceAlert, a science news site. In representing the paper—doubtless accurately — for a lay audience, the write-up embodies the causes of legitimate public distrust. That is worth dissecting in more detail. Yesterday, we looked at the write-up in light of the government responses to COVID, which were all too often panicked reactions rather than trustworthy guidance. Then, in the wake of the debacle, the White House chose to set up a Disinformation Board to target non-government sources of alleged disinformation — which could only deepen existing distrust. We press on. The second point of four raised at ScienceAlert is that tribal loyalty is thought to create distrust Read More ›