If the BBC, rather than asking Rod Dreher and David Ellis Dickerson, had asked me to give reasons for the global decline in religion, I would have pointed to two things: the rise in a
Northwestern University researchers have broken a world record by creating two new synthetic materials with the greatest amount of surface areas reported to date.
Werner Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, formulated by the theoretical physicist in 1927, is one of the cornerstones of quantum mechanics. In its most familiar form, it says that it is impossible to measure anything without disturbing it.
Researchers at USC have devised a method for detecting certain neurological disorders through the study of eye movements.
In the comments to the post of weird fluids, Jared A mentioned seeing a demonstration in which a fluid was first stirred so that two colors became mixed and then, when the direction of stirrin
Previous work has suggested that the experience of psychological stress may influence physical attractiveness ideals, but most evidence in favour of this hypothesis remains archival. The objective of this study was to experimentally investigate the impact of stress on men’s judgements of female body size.
Men were randomly assigned to either an experimental group, in which they took part in a task that heightened stress (experimental group, n = 41) or in which they did not take part in such a task (control group, n = 40). Both groups rated the attractiveness of female bodies varying in size from emaciated to obese, completed a measure of appetite sensation, and had their body mass indices (BMIs) measured.
Between-groups analyses showed that the experimental group was matched with the control group in terms of mean age, BMI, and appetite sensation. Further analyses showed that men in the experimental group rated a significantly heavier female body size as maximally attractive than the control group. Men in the experimental group also rated heavier female bodies as more attractive and idealised a wider ...
From this week’s National Post and elsewhere an challenging question has been posed: Is a science PhD a waste of time? Please read two of the several articles published: from Slate and from The National Post Contribute your take on a subject undoubtedly close to home for many of us. Filed under: Of Interest Tagged: [...]
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Chemotherapy research gets critical investment McMaster?s Anna Dvorkin-Gheva has received a $119,000 grant from the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation to study drugs that can be combined with current chemotherapy to make it more effective. The post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences was among eight McMaster researchers who received a total of [...]
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New hope for development of an antibiotic that can put down a lethal ?superbug? bacteria linked to the deaths of hundreds of hospital patients around the world, including a recent case at Edmonton?s Royal Alexandra Hospital. Click here for more. Filed under: Biotechnology News Tagged: antibiotic
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One of the perks of writing a blog is that sometimes publishers offer to send you copies of new books. Sadly, they are mostly not the books that I actually want to read.
But here's one that was really enjoyable, but was also (tangentially) relevant to this blog. So here's a brief review - consider it an advertorial :)
The book Why does the World Exist? is framed as an 'existential detective story'. Basically what this means is that the writer, Jim Holt, has shuttled around the world chatting to a bunch of intellectuals (mostly philosophers, but the occasional scientist and even one or two theologians) who give their spin on the question.
Now, the idea that Holt set out on a pilgrimage of enlightenment in the way depicted in the book is clearly a bit of narrative fiction. It's obvious from the way he writes that the guy knows his stuff, and I'm sure he knew pretty much what he was going to hear each of them say before he met them. But it's a fiction that works well, and makes the book very readable despite what are often pretty tough topics.
The questions he starts off with were not what I was expecting at all - what is nothing, and is it actually possible for nothing to exist? What does it mean to say that A causes B, and does A have to precede B in order to cause B?
That last point turns out to be pretty critical to the whole story.You see, Holt's not interested in what caused the universe to exist - well, he is but, as the Oxford Quantum Theorist David Deutsch points, the problem with conventional explanations is that even if you find an explanation, it needs to have some context. There's always the problem of why this explanation and not some other explanation.
That, of course, is the problem with using the existence of the universe to argue for the existence of God. What explains the existence of God and, as importantly, why this God and not some other God?
The theological explanations (from Richard Swinburne and John Leslie) were not terribly convincing. But what I liked about this book is that Holt treats all the arguments put forward with a great deal of sympathy. He carefully explains why it is that they might be right - sometimes to the point where I was on the verge of putting the book down in exasperation - before methodically pulling the arguments to pieces!
If you are into this sort of stuff, then many of the themes (Anslem's and Goedel's arguments, the many worlds hypothesis, platonic forms etc) will be familiar to you. But even when I knew the philosopher and the argument, I found myself enjoying the ride because Holt really has a gift for writing about these topics. There are some tough concepts to digest, but Holt paces it well and keeps it interesting.
I'm sure I won't be spoiling the story if I reveal to you that, sadly, Holt does not reveal the mystery of existence at the end of the book.
However, he does get rather closer than I was expecting. At least now I have some idea what kind of explanation could possibly suffice. And that's got to be a step forward!