Saturday, November 29, 2008

Beyond Belief: Candles in the Dark - Peter Atkins

Peter Atkins 25 minute talk.
Pride in Prejudice
October 5, 2008

My Notes
Candle - one end gives out light - the other end darkness. Prejudice is represented by the candle.

Rotten bad prejudice - spreads darkness - eg religion presumes any explanation will necessarily be beyond our comprehension - despises human understanding

Good prejudice - good light - scientific method is the only road to true comprehension (4'0"), flexible not rigid prejudice, we discard our prejudice when the publically available evidence is overwelming (unlike religion); experiment is the only true way of understanding and the rest is imagination (Max Planck). Science does not consist of little warring tribes - but is a great river

New models or paradigms are an approximation. Science works, many springs are supportive not at each others throats, detached from sentiment, open to public scrutiny, verifiable predictions.

bad/good prejudices - Aristotle (world is explicable - observations - rest is natural state of motion - thought) , Galileo, Newton, Copernicas.

Atkins Foundational Prejudices - science is a uniquely reliable way of illuminating the world and discovering its prejudices (11'58")

Atkins Operational Prejudices - scientific method can illuminate every real question and incidently can reveal the emptiness of vacuuous questions and musings of theology (purpose of universe / nature of afterlife).

Three Eternal True Paradigmatic prejudices (book: Galileos Finger)
1) Energy is conserved - conservation of energy underlies causality
2) Energy degrades - 2nd law of thermodynamics - things get worse! Can tap into degradation eg sun collected on earth by photosynthesis or metabolism in body giving amino acids or organs. Evolution by Natural Selection is a manner of degrading energy
3) Mathematics works - supreme language of the illuciadation and description of the world

Good Prejudices
1) No validity in question that begins in 'Why' (eg why was the universe created, why evil in the world, why are plants green): can it be deconstructed into 'How' questions (how is it that the world exists, . If it cannot be deconstructed it is not a real question and not worthy of further consideration
2) Reductionism is really assembalism
3) the world is nothing more than Mathematics

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