Re: Life in the Lab -- Fox and the Nobel Prize
Sat, 8 May 1999 02:26:56 EDT

In a message dated 5/7/99 7:14:44 AM Mountain Daylight Time, writes:

> Non physicists, for instance, take most of what they know about physics by
> faith. It is by faith that you sit on a chair. If you did not "believe"
> that it would hold you, you would not sit!

You're playing word games again, Moorad. People accept what physicists say
because they are confident that physicists are telling them the truth.
Without that confidence they wouldn't believe anything a physicist said, even
if one claimed that the sky was blue or that water was wet. We sit in chairs
because our experience gives us the confidence to believe that it won't
break. Yet even if that confidence is occasionally betrayed, we still accept
our accumulated experience as being valid and continue to sit in chairs even
though there is a risk that a few may not be sound. In neither case do we
have faith, except in the form of confidence and trust.

And my point still is that we don't need to rely solely on trust. We can
read the evidence for ourselves if we want to. Most people simply don't feel
they need to.

> Here you go again using the word "believe."

There you go again playing more word games. I mean it the way any scientist
would: trust that Fox is accurately reporting his results and confidence
that those results support his claims. If, however, the results do not
support his claims, then we would have no reason accept his claims as valid;
hence we would not "believe" them.

> Why can't you say that "life
> has been reproduce in the lab by means of inert matter?"

While I wouldn't express it that way, that is precisely what I am claiming.
I didn't think you had any doubt about that, considering how adamant you are
that I am wrong.

> Kevin, just sit for
> a while in a quiet room and think of what you are saying.

And I suggest you learn something about what we are discussing before you
pass judgement on concepts you obviously know very little about. Start with
Fox's symposium, then go on to the references. Stop hiding behind your
ignorance and start reading the scientific literature.

> We would all know
> about such a breakthrough if it were true. Believe me!

It has never been a secret, Moorad; you just never tried to find out if it
might be true. I really don't understand this obession you have about
popularization. Are you sayng that if every scientist doesn't know about it
cannot be true? Are you saying that the only valid science is that which is
well known to anyone? Does popularization override evidence? What if the
popularization is wrong? For someone who gets so bent out of shape over the
word "believe" that he feels forced to lecture people on the evidentury basis
of science, you have a nasty habit of throwing that basis away in favor of a
popularization that may turn out to be flawed (and often does, in fact).

Kevin L. O'Brien