The Science of Religions

This article is part of a series called The Scientist Theist. See also:
1. The View From High; 2. The Science of Religions; 3. A Reasoned Happiness

einsteinThat Albert Einstein – the great physicist of the 20st century – was a religious man surprised many. Einstein’s views were nuanced: the scientist described himself, alternatingly, using terms ranging from “agnostic” to “religious nonbeliever”. “I believe in Spinoza’s God,” Einstein said, in his perhaps most-quoted explication of his own views, “who reveals himself in the lawful harmony of all that exists, but not in a God who concerns himself with the fate and the doings of mankind.” [1]

The last article in this series seems to have predicted accurately. Einstein’s religious sentiments appear more aligned with feeling than with thinking.

But should we be unsettled – as many were – that the greatest scientist of perhaps all time embraced beliefs which seem so, well, unscientific? To what extent must religious believers such as Einstein, in embracing feeling over thinking, do so at the expense of their own scientific stature? Can we scientifically validate religious experience? Continue reading

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The Research Player

This article is part of a series entitled 20th Century Chess Greats. See also:

  1. Mikhail Tal: The Deep Dark Forest
  2. Bobby Fischer: The American
  3. Tigran Petrosian: The Iron Fortress
  4. Mikhail Botvinnik: The Research Player

In a previous article, I addressed the classic nature vs. nurture dichotomy, in which skill is attributed to both genetics and environment. I noted that, while talk of nature often concerns only genetic inclination towards talent, we might also consider genetic tendency towards drive, which prompts the skill-seeker to alter her environment such that she might increase her skill beyond that which her combination of environment and natural talent would otherwise allow.

For example, Fischer became a great player only because the three stars aligned. His environment led him towards chess; his talent, presumably, brought strong results early-on; and finally, his incessant drive allowed him to keep studying long after most would-be champions would have put the board away.

Today, I advance an even stronger argument: perhaps, natural talent doesn’t even exist; perhaps we’re dealing only with environment and drive. Natural talent is simply an apparition, a phantom, often confused with natural drive, but not even existing in its own right. Or, more profoundly, perhaps the existence of natural talent is not scientifically-supportable, and, whether or not it exists, we need not believe in it. Continue reading

The Appropriate Practice Scope of Chiropractic May Be a Political Question, Not a Scientific One

This article is part of a series on Health Policy. See also:

  1. Ground Control to Major Reform
  2. Hospital Salaries Could Cut Care Costs
  3. The Appropriate Practice Scope of Chiropractic May Be a Political Question, Not a Scientific One
Chiropractic isn't the only legal business with questionable scientific underpinnings

Chiropractic isn’t the only legal business with questionable scientific underpinnings

A Colorful History

At the turn of the 20th century, medicine was at a turning point. Unscientific practices like bloodletting, bonesetting, and magnetic healing still pervaded medical practice. On the other hand, trust in the scientific method was mounting. Darwin’s controversial Origin of Species, published several decades earlier, was gaining acceptance. Louis Pasteur proved that life, including bacteria, can’t generate itself spontaneously, and Robert Koch developed a testable set of postulates for determining whether a particular bacteria was the cause of an illness. A future of medicine could be envisioned in which medical intervention was chosen from the pages of science alone, rather than from the pages of history.

D.D. Palmer was, then, what one might call a conservative. Continue reading