Friday, January 12, 2007

Science: Underappreciated Provider

` This post was originally created on May 4th, 2006 (before I had my own internet access):

` Science. A method and its stupendous products. It helps people more than it harms them, though it seems these days that it doesn't get enough attention and support. I received a short article in my e-mail the other day, one I suppose would be appropriate to post, concerning the current matter on this blog.
[Uh, yeah... 'current'....]
Science Getting too Little Notice

By Sheldon F. Gottlieb

Based on years of experience, I concluded that one of the saddest commentaries in the ongoing, religiously inspired debate concerning the "truths" of religion as opposed to the "truths" of science is the one pertaining to the absolute certainty of religionists in the correctness of their biblically based beliefs, despite the fact that their beliefs are not based on empirical evidence and that the Bible is not a scientific treatise.

A case in point is the Jan. 23, religiously inspired, seemingly smug, arrogant and contemptuous letter -- with its condescending superiority and "gotcha" attitude -- challenging "anyone to make a living organism."

First, it is important for the readers to know that just because something hasn't been done doesn't mean that it cannot or will not be done.

Next, the letter writer ought to be made aware that his challenge had been met long ago, when biochemist Sidney W. Fox, who died in 1998, synthesized life in a test tube.

It should be noted that one cannot define "life," and the best we could do is to describe characteristics that are associated with living organisms.

Fox and his associates were the first to demonstrate, under conditions that are found on Earth (thermal vents in the oceans, geysers on land), how life came into being from nonlife. Fox found that inanimate amino acids, when heated, will reproducibly and nonrandomly join to form thermal proteins. The amino acids determined their own arrangement in the proteins.

Fox showed that these new thermal proteins, when placed in water, would self-organize, within minutes, into relatively uniform microspheres having virtually all the properties of a living cell: They displayed growth, metabolism, reproduction and response to stimuli -- thus meeting the basic criteria expected of living organisms (and the criteria set forth by the letter writer).

How sad it is for society that people are unaware of what has been transpiring scientifically. How sad that people, because of their presumed religiosity, prefer unsubstantiated belief over empirical evidence, ignorance over knowledge. How sad that such people will not only permit their unsubstantiated beliefs to trump scientific findings, but that they also demand to use the power of the state to impose these beliefs on others as being equivalent to empirical evidence.

Sheldon Gottlieb, Ph.D., is a retired professor of biological sciences and author of The Naked Mind. He resides in Boynton Beach.
` Indeed... as I've already said myself in many (often original) ways, the ignorance of science and the way it works is quite sad on many levels. This is why I think it is imperative to raise awareness of science and critical (=scientific) thinking. [And I'm pretty sure I can do much better than this!]


Galtron said...

I didn't even know about that myself, Doctor! Now I think I know why people write letters like whatever one he was refferring to -- the word does not get out much!

S E E Quine said...

` Indeed, not many people are aware of this at all - though this may partly be because many others discredit this as an example of 'creating life' because they don't know as much about it as they think they do. (Especially creationists.)