Archive for the ‘limits of science’ Category

Soap contained radium for health benefits

September 6, 2011

…immediately before and during the first half of World War I, (Arthur Koestler’s father) made a fortune (soon lost) by manufacturing and selling soap that contained radium. Radioactivity was then a recently discovered phenomenon, and many believed the rays to be life-enhancing and disease-curing.

Theodore Dalrymple

Let’s just say there is a limit to man’s knowledge of his own best interests…

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40,000 dogs and 200,000 cats were killed to ‘prevent’ the spread of the 1665 Plague

December 8, 2009

During the Plague of London, 1665, the death toll peaked in September at 7,265, Daniel Defoe..reports that 40,000 dogs and 200,000 cats were killed, as it was feared that these domestic animals might be carrying the disease. In fact this was the worst possible action to take, for the real culprits were the fleas carried by the black rats. In the absence of their natural predators, these rats multiplied and the plague spread.

Faith Cook, Fearless Pilgrim: The Life and Times of John Bunyan, Evangelical Press, 2008, p.245

Human solutions are not always beneficial.

Long, long ago, a frog lived at the bottom of a well. One day, the frog looked up and saw a turtle from the Eastern Sea silhouetted against the sky at the edge of the well

November 17, 2009

Long, long ago, a frog lived at the bottom of a well. One day, the frog looked up and saw a turtle from the Eastern Sea silhouetted against the sky at the edge of the well. He tried to convince the turtle to join him in his wonderful well, of which he was the master. The turtle started to descend into the well, but she realized it was too narrow and she would get stuck. So she withdrew and told the frog instead about how deep and wide the sea is. The frog was left dumfounded. He could not imagine the immensity and magnitude of the sea, as he has never seen it. The idiom “frog at the bottom of a well,” or “looking at the sky from the bottom of a well,” which grew out of this Daoist fable, has come to represent a state of limited vision and even ignorance — of not being able to see outside of one’s own immediate environment.

A story by Zhuangzi (c. 369-295 BC), one of the founders of Daoism, sheds light on the ancient Chinese concept of the World (Zhuangzi, Chapter 17: “The Floods of Autumn”).

The Naturalist, life the frog, cannot conceive of miracles because they do not fit his ‘vision’ of the world. They are ‘impossible’ because he knows, as the frog ‘knew’ that the sea cannot be vast, that miracles cannot occur.

Science has explained nothing; the more we know the more fantastic the world becomes and the profounder the surrounding darkness

October 10, 2009

Science has explained nothing; the more we know the more fantastic the world becomes and the profounder the surrounding darkness.

Aldous Huxley

And this was before quantum mechanics and DNA were discovered…

The knowledge of what exists does not automatically teach us anything about what should exist

October 5, 2009

The knowledge of what exists does not automatically teach us anything about what should exist. The knowledge of truth as such is a wonderful thing, but it is so little capable of serving as a guide that it cannot even prove the justification and the value of the aspiration to know the truth.

Einstein, in THE DRAMA OF ALBERT EINSTEIN, Antonina Vallentin

Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind.

ibid.

ll the Human Genome Project will do for us, is a bit like providing us with a dictionary that we can look things up in…it does not explain the meaning of the novel you are reading

October 4, 2009

Even if we did have the complete sequence of the human genome in front of us, (it would not answer most of the questions)…It would not explain to us how you or I were able to develop from an egg (or how)… we were able to learn to talk, to run about and so on. All the Human Genome Project will do for us, is a bit like providing us with a dictionary that we can look things up in…it does not explain the meaning of the novel you are reading.

John Maynard Smith, in Melvyn Bragg, On Giants’ Shoulders, pp.320-1