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A Sea Of Bubbles

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Posted by Benjamin Nelson on February 23, 2001 15:51:57 UTC

Michael:

Of course, there are those in this forum who believe that I am not who I say I am at all. And however breathless this statement may sound, I have no idea how to confront it. All I can say it that I am who I am: a science producer for Nation Public Radio. But what does it matter anyway? And yet, for a variety of reasons, this forum is still the perfect node for a network of people the world over who are questioning some of our most deeply entrenched faiths and beliefs.

Hence, I have found that rather than hop a plane to the West Coast, the East Coast, or another continent, I can sit here like a spider in the middle of this web and wait as it attracts some of the most interesting thinkers in the world -- like E. O. Wilson, for example, the author of "Sociobiology," which, following publication in 1975, instantly drew so much fire and provoked so many charges of malign political intent, that the word "sociobiology" itself became tainted. And while some offer arresting new ways to think about physics and biology, others are turning their sights inward and contemplating the very built-in limits of their faith. To be sure, this forum is a sea of bubbles, where beliefs new and old bump up against one another -- but, for this, how could I possibly write an equation of number

And it is this obsession with "number" that confounds me -- but it shouldn’t be surprising. Science is the search for neat, predictable curves, compact ways of summarizing the data. But there is always the danger that the curves we see are illusory, like pictures of animals in the clouds. As science draws its self-propelling arcs, some points will inevitably lie outside the line -- those that must be dismissed as random error. So, and speaking mostly for myself, we are left with a gnawing dissatisfaction: Are we missing something? And how could we possibly know if we were?

B. L. Nelson
NPR/PBS
Benjamin_Nelson@WPBA.pbs.org

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