Archive for September, 2010

Preach the Controversy

God, eh? What’s that all about then? In this post I want to talk about the uneasy relationship between science and religion in the modern world.

I don’t think that science and religion have ever made particularly cosy bed fellows, and I doubt they ever will. But in many ways I think that this could, and should, be a non-issue. Just to lay my cards on the table, I’d consider myself a fairly staunch atheist. It would, quite literally, require a miracle to turn me into a theist. Now, contrary to what you might be expecting, I am not actually going to launch into an anti-religious screed. Probably.

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This isn’t right. This isn’t even wrong.

The title of this post is a quote from Wolfgang Pauli. It was the ultimate scientific smackdown in response to a terrible paper, which was vague and unfalsifiable.

Based only on Pauli’s quote, let’s then take these 3 statements:

A) Pauli was not supportive of the paper

B) Pauli was supportive of the paper

C) Pauli’s favourite Care Bear would have been TenderHeart Bear, had he not died in 1958.

Of course, A) is right B) is wrong and C) is not even wrong. Essentially, C) isn’t wrong but it certainly isn’t right. It is a disconnected supposition based on… well, nothing. We have no evidence to even begin to test the idea that Pauli would have loved TenderHeart Bear.

Continue reading ‘This isn’t right. This isn’t even wrong.’

Express Your Contempt

Right. The Daily Express. You know, that suppositry that thinks it’s a newspaper? Well, today it carries the headline “ASPIRIN STOPS BOWEL CANCER“. Apparently Princess Diana was unavailable for comment.

Whatever about bowel cancer, I can always spot the work of an arsehole.

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NICE attitude, jerk.

I’m sure you will have seen the furore recently over Avastin. To summarise, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE, and yes it irritates me that they left the H out. If they’d rearranged it they could have at least had NICHE) have ruled out funding the drug on the NHS, on the grounds of cost effectiveness. The media jumped all over this and NICE have been subjected to another PR whipping as a result.

Cancer is, of course, an emotive subject and of endless public interest. So stories like this get traction pretty easily. Generally, the media reported it by saying that Avastin is shown (incidentally, the article that links to made me punch my desk) to prolong life in colorectal cancer, but the meanies at NICE were keeping the purse closed. No sweeties for you.

Head of NICE

A NICE decision-maker steps out for a sandwich during the Avastin meeting. Source: the whole media.

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Symphony of Science

You may have seen some of these. And of course, I did not create these. However, I love this series of videos. People have a misconception that scientific study somehow diminishes the awe that you should feel when you think about the world in which we live. Well, these videos completely sum up why I think this argument is wrong.

When you attempt to truly appreciate the complexity and intricacy of the universe as it is, this doesn’t have to be a dry thought exercise. Nothing stands alone. Everything is intricately related. And this, to my mind, is absolutely breathtaking.

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