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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Top Ten mysteries in science 2007 (Golden oldie!)

In this golden oldie from 2007, here are four of the ten chosen at LiveScience. They are not really mysteries as much as stuff that materialist science can't resolve because it is committed to a program that doesn't work:

10. What Drives Evolution? (Jeanna Bryner)
"While scientists are shedding light on natural mechanisms that work to shape species, many questions in the field are brewing on the lab-bench. And the original question examined by Charles Darwin—what is the mechanism that causes new species to evolve—has yet to be fully explained. And another related question looms: How important are chance events, as opposed to natural selection, to shaping organisms?"
So why is it still controversial to mention this fact in schools?

8. Who Are You? (Melinda Wenner)
The nature of consciousness has long baffled psychologists and cognitive scientists, but recent research is bolstering a consensus, said Ezequiel Morsella, a psychologist at Yale University.

If you think of the brain as a set of different computers, each of which performs different complicated tasks and procedures, consciousness is like the Wi-Fi network that integrates the computers’ activities so that they can work together, Morsella explained.

For example, if you are carrying a hot plate of food to the table, one of your brain’s “computers” will tell you to drop the plate because it’s burning your skin, whereas another will tell you to hold on so the food doesn’t end up on the floor.

The brain requires the “Wi-Fi network” of consciousness so that the different computers can interact, hash things out and determine what you do.

It’s “a physical state that integrates systems in the brain that would otherwise not be integrated,” Morsella said in a telephone interview.
The idea of the brain as a set of networked computers is so 2007. Actually, it's so 1987, but ...

7. How Did Life Arise on Earth (Ker Than):
"astronomical" is a relative term. In his book, The God Delusion, biologist Richard Dawkins entertains another possibility, inspired by work in astronomy and physics.

Suppose, Dawkins says, the universe contains a billion billion planets (a conservative estimate, he says), then the chances that life will arise on one of them is not really so remarkable.

Furthermore, if, as some physicists say, our universe is just one of many, and each universe contained a billion billion planets, then it's nearly a certainty that life will arise on at least one of them.

As Dawkins writes, "There may be universes whose skies have no stars: but they also have no inhabitants to notice the lack."

Shapiro doesn't think it's necessary to invoke multiple universes or life-laden comets crashing into ancient Earth. Instead, he thinks life started with molecules that were smaller and less complex than RNA, which performed simple chemical reactions that eventually led to a self-sustaining system involving the formation of more complex molecules.

"If you fall back to a simpler theory, the odds aren't astronomical anymore," Shapiro told LiveScience.
And the bleat goes on.

6. How Does the Brain Work? (Jeanna Bryner)
According to Scott Huettel of the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience at Duke University, the standard answer to this question goes something like: “The human brain is the most complex object in the known universe ... complexity makes simple models impractical and accurate models impossible to comprehend.”

While that stock answer is correct, Huettel said, it’s incomplete. The real snag in brain science is one of navel gazing. Huettel and other neuroscientists can’t step outside of their own brains (and experiences) when studying the brain itself.

“A more pernicious factor is that we all think we understand the brain—at least our own—through our experiences. But our own subjective experience is a very poor guide to how the brain works,” Huettel told LiveScience.

“Whether the human brain can understand itself is one of the oldest philosophical questions,” said Anders Garm of the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, a biologist who studies jellyfish as models for human neural processing of visual information.
Must be lots of symmetry there.

The first five are physics questions, which are more fun to try to answer, and may offer less scope for dogmatism.

Find out why there is an intelligent design controversy:

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