When the world's great scientific thinkers change their mind

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When the world's great scientific thinkers change their mind

Postby psi29a » Mon Feb 11, 2008 7:10 pm

http://www.edge.org/documents/press/publico.html

Publico 14 Jan 2008 Edição Lisboa

One hundred and sixty-five eminent thinkers, researchers, and communicators, at the annual request of the edge.org website, answered the following question: "What Have You Changed Your Mind About? Why?"

From particle physics to evolutionary theory, to the atomic bomb, to global warming, to the battle of the sexes, to the equality of human beings, to God and the paranormal, and to the dogmatism of scientists themselves, dozens of the big thinkers in the world explained online, at the start of 2008, what the most important things that they’ve change their minds about during their lives are.

The project takes place on the website http://www.edge.org, a kind of informal think tank, a forum for ideas and scientific debates (see adjoining article), which asks such questions annually online and later publishes the result in book form.

Many of the names here are well known to the interested public—the physicist Freeman Dyson, the "genome decoder" Craig Venter, the biologist Richard Dawkins (author of the controversial book The God Delusion), the Nobel laureate physicist Leon Lederman. Other participants, such as actor Alan Alda or the musician Brian Eno, may be surprising departures, but are just as interesting. And there are a number of science journalists, as well, including Steve Connor of the Independent, Roger Highfield of the Telegraph, and Philip Campbell, editor of Nature. The following are some examples of the ideas that they are re-evaluating.

1
The atomic bomb won the war

Freeman Dyson, renowned physicist and mathematician, Princeton's Institute of Advanced Study

I changed my mind about an important historical question: did the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki bring World War Two to an end? Until this year I used to say, perhaps. Now, because of new facts, I say no.
2
We have stopped evolving

Steven Pinker, experimental psychologist, Harvard University

Ten years ago I wrote, "Are we still evolving? Biologically, probably not much." The completion of the Human Genome Project was several years away. But new results have suggested that thousands of genes, perhaps as much as ten percent of the human genome, have been under strong recent selection, and the selection may even have accelerated during the past several thousand years. Currently, evolutionary psychology assumes that any adaptation to post-agricultural ways of life are 100% cultural. If these results hold up, and apply to psychologically relevant brain function, then that simplifying assumption might have to be reconsidered.
3
The paranormal exists

Susan Blackmore, psychologist, consultant to the journal Skeptical Inquirer

When I was a student at Oxford in 1970, I became became fascinated with occultism, mediumship and the paranormal. I did the experiments. I tested telepathy, precognition, and clairvoyance; I got only chance results. I trained fellow students in imagery techniques and tested them again; chance results. I tested twins in pairs; chance results. I worked in play groups and nursery schools with very young children (their naturally telepathic minds are not yet warped by education, you see); chance results. I trained as a Tarot reader and tested the readings; chance results. I was lying in the bath trying to fit my latest null results into paranormal theory, when it occurred to me for the very first time that I might have been completely wrong, and my tutors right. Perhaps there were no paranormal phenomena at all. I had hunted ghosts and poltergeists, trained as a witch, attended spiritualist churches, and stared into crystal balls. But all of that had to go. Once the decision was made it was actually quite easy.
4
We are all equal

Simon Baron-Cohen, psychologist, Autism Research Center, Cambridge University

When I was young I believed in equality as a guiding principle in life. My mind has been changed. I still believe in some aspects of the idea of equality, but I can no longer accept the whole package. Striving to give people equality of social opportunity is still a value system worth defending, but we have to accept that equality has no place in the realm of biology.
5
The obligation of a scientist to do science

Leon Lederman, Nobel Laureate in Physics (author of The God Particle)

I have always believed that the scientist’s most sacred obligation is to continue to do science. Now I know that I was dead wrong. I am driven to the ultimately wise advice of my Columbia mentor, I.I. Rabi, who, in our many corridor bull sessions, urged his students to run for public office and get elected. He insisted that to be an advisor (he was an advisor to Oppenheimer at Los Alamos, later to Eisenhower and to the AEC) was ultimately an exercise in futility and that the power belonged to those who are elected. Then, we thought the old man was bonkers. But today... A Congress which is overwhelmingly dominated by lawyers and MBAs makes no sense in this 21st century in which almost all issues have a science and technology aspect.
6
Men are at the top because they are smarter

Helena Cronin, philosopher, London School of Economics

I used to think that these patterns of sex differences resulted mainly from average differences between men and women in innate talents, tastes and temperaments. After all, in talents men are on average more mathematical, more technically minded, women more verbal; in tastes, men are more interested in things, women in people; in temperaments, men are more competitive, risk-taking, single-minded, status-conscious, women far less so. But I have now changed my mind. It is not a matter of averages, but of extremes. Females are much of a muchness, clustering round the mean. But, among males, the variance—the difference between the most and the least, the best and the worst—can be vast. So males are almost bound to be over-represented both at the bottom and at the top. I think of this as 'more dumbbells but more Nobels'.
7
It is possible to unify the forces of physics

Marcelo Gleiser, Brazilian physicist and astronomer, Dartmouth College

I was always fascinated by the idea of unification of the forces of nature. I wrote dozens of papers related to the subject of unification, even my Ph.D. dissertation was on the topic. I was fascinated by the modern approaches to the idea, supersymmetry, superstrings, a space with extra, hidden dimensions. A part of me still is. But then, a few years ago, I started to doubt unification, finding it to be the scientific equivalent of a monotheistic formulation of reality, a search for God revealed in equations. Of course, had we the slightest experimental evidence in favor of unification, of supersymmetry and superstrings, I'd be the first popping the champagne open. But it's been over twenty years, and all attempts so far have failed.
8
Global warming is not an urgent problem

Craig Venter, human genome decoder, J. Craig Venter Institute

Like many or perhaps most I wanted to believe that our oceans and atmosphere were basically unlimited sinks with an endless capacity to absorb the waste products of human existence. I wanted to believe that solving the carbon fuel problem was for future generations and that the big concern was the limited supply of oil not the rate of adding carbon to the atmosphere. The data is irrefutable. We are conducting a dangerous experiment with our planet. One we need to stop. Now.
9
Humans emerged because they began to eat meat

Richard Wrangham, British anthropologist, student of Jane Goodall, Harvard University

I used to think that human origins were explained by meat-eating. But I now think that cooking was the major advance that made us human. Cooked food allows our guts, teeth and mouths to be small, while giving us abundant food energy and freeing our time. Cooked food, of course, requires the control of fire; and a fire at night explains how Homo erectus dared sleep on the ground. So, in a roast potato and a hunk of beef we have a new theory of what made us human.
10
Races do not exist

Mark Pagel, evolutionary biologist, Reading University

There is an overbearing censorship to the way we are allowed to think and talk about the diversity of people on Earth. Officially we are all the same: there are no races. Flawed as the old ideas about race are, modern genomic studies reveal a surprising, compelling and different picture of human genetic diversity. What this all means is that, like it or not, there may be many genetic differences among human populations—including differences that may even correspond to old categories of 'race'—that are real differences in the sense of making one group better than another at responding to some particular environmental problem. This in no way says one group is in general 'superior' to another, or that one group should be preferred over another. But it warns us that we must be prepared to discuss genetic differences among human populations.
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Re: When the world's great scientific thinkers change their mind

Postby halfnhalf » Mon Feb 11, 2008 10:55 pm

We have stopped evolving

Steven Pinker, experimental psychologist, Harvard University

Ten years ago I wrote, "Are we still evolving? Biologically, probably not much." The completion of the Human Genome Project was several years away. But new results have suggested that thousands of genes, perhaps as much as ten percent of the human genome, have been under strong recent selection, and the selection may even have accelerated during the past several thousand years. Currently, evolutionary psychology assumes that any adaptation to post-agricultural ways of life are 100% cultural. If these results hold up, and apply to psychologically relevant brain function, then that simplifying assumption might have to be reconsidered.



But what about those that never have wisdom teeth? I challenge him to answer that!


either way this is some intresting stuff. What if one changed their mind on something and thus meant nobody would ever know about that new discovery?
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Re: When the world's great scientific thinkers change their mind

Postby The Prince » Tue Feb 12, 2008 12:21 am

Bunch of idiots if you ask me.
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Re: When the world's great scientific thinkers change their mind

Postby psi29a » Tue Feb 12, 2008 12:57 am

The Prince wrote:Bunch of idiots if you ask me.


Care to qualify?
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Re: When the world's great scientific thinkers change their mind

Postby The Prince » Tue Feb 12, 2008 1:05 am

psi29a wrote:
The Prince wrote:Bunch of idiots if you ask me.


Care to qualify?


nope.

the biologist Richard Dawkins (author of the controversial book The God Delusion), the Nobel laureate physicist Leon Lederman. Other participants, such as actor Alan Alda or the musician Brian Eno, may be surprising departures, but are just as interesting. And there are a number of science journalists, as well, including Steve Connor of the Independent, Roger Highfield of the Telegraph, and Philip Campbell, editor of Nature. The following are some examples of the ideas that they are re-evaluating


Alan Alda WTF? Great thinkers.....or great liberal ones?
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Re: When the world's great scientific thinkers change their mind

Postby psi29a » Tue Feb 12, 2008 1:20 am

;)

Oh OK, we get your point.

However, I still have a great deal of respect for Alan Alda. Just so happens to be Killfile's relative. :)
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Re: When the world's great scientific thinkers change their mind

Postby The Prince » Tue Feb 12, 2008 1:23 am

psi29a wrote:;)

Oh OK, we get your point.


Cheers....though I will be going down in flames for it. 8)

However, I still have a great deal of respect for Alan Alda, he happens to be Killfile's relative.


Why (edit) doesn't that suprise me?

....Alda's is a talented actor no doubt.
Last edited by The Prince on Tue Feb 12, 2008 1:30 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: When the world's great scientific thinkers change their mind

Postby psi29a » Tue Feb 12, 2008 1:24 am

The Prince wrote:
psi29a wrote:;)

Oh OK, we get your point.


Cheers....though I will be going down in flames for it. 8)


hahaha, not like others haven't.

I enjoyed reading this because it is just more food for thought. Not just some nuts with a particular agenda, but given the evidence presented to them, changed their minds.
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Re: When the world's great scientific thinkers change their mind

Postby MrFelony » Tue Feb 12, 2008 4:37 am

I no longer believe in global cooling
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Re: When the world's great scientific thinkers change their mind

Postby fujinsan » Wed Oct 01, 2008 5:09 pm

Can someone delete this idiots posts and ban him?
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Re: When the world's great scientific thinkers change their mind

Postby Starnum » Wed Oct 01, 2008 10:51 pm

fujinsan wrote:Can someone delete this idiots posts and ban him?


I'll let Arke know.
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Re: When the world's great scientific thinkers change their mind

Postby fujinsan » Sat Oct 04, 2008 2:16 am

Thanks Starnum that annoyed the shit outa me. Anyway though to be on subject of the topic, I think it's cool that these scientists are changing their minds. I mean in the long run it makes most of their lives work fruitless. It only gives rise to how stupid a scientist can really be, they call it irrefutable evidence and then what happens? One of them believed for twenty some-odd years that there existed paranormal entities, but even she discredited what her herself said then. It's really all a farce no matter how you look at it. :lol: So I laugh at their mistakes hehe.
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Re: When the world's great scientific thinkers change their mind

Postby MsNomer » Sun Oct 05, 2008 10:31 pm

fujinsan wrote:Thanks Starnum that annoyed the shit outa me. Anyway though to be on subject of the topic, I think it's cool that these scientists are changing their minds. I mean in the long run it makes most of their lives work fruitless. It only gives rise to how stupid a scientist can really be, they call it irrefutable evidence and then what happens? One of them believed for twenty some-odd years that there existed paranormal entities, but even she discredited what her herself said then. It's really all a farce no matter how you look at it. :lol: So I laugh at their mistakes hehe.


Yes, as this forum attests on so many occasions, learning and discovering new ways of looking at things is really all a farce no matter how you look at it. We should all just stick to our guns and never admit a mistake... the Earth is flat and we (the US) will stay in Iraq (stay the course) until victory (an indefinable state of being) is achieved! It must be nice to know everything.
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Re: When the world's great scientific thinkers change their mind

Postby Eldo » Mon Oct 06, 2008 11:05 am

Yeah, nah, I only believe what Oprah tells me. It's not like she ever changed her mind on anything, right?

Wait a minute...
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Re: When the world's great scientific thinkers change their mind

Postby MrFelony » Tue Oct 07, 2008 12:56 am

About Alan Alda, isn't he very involved in a lot of PBS stories covering scientific topics? It seems that whenever I do watch NOVA, which is infrequently, he is always the person hired to do the show. I'm not saying he's a scientists, but it seems like he would have a pretty good grasp on the world of science.
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Re: When the world's great scientific thinkers change their mind

Postby Shizuka » Sat Feb 14, 2009 2:20 am

they're only changing their mind based on scientific evidence, aren't they? in biology we're being taught that you have to create a hypothesis to go on with the experiment, and the point of the experiment is not to prove the hypothesis true, but to learn what the facts are.
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