e-skeptic: what's your law?

From: Steve Bishop <stevebishop_uk@lycos.co.uk>
Date: Fri Jan 16 2004 - 07:54:07 EST
The following was spotted on an e-skeptic newsletter:

If you are not already familiar with the Edge community of scientists,
scholars, writers, and thinkers of all stripes, definitely check out the link above.
This is John Brockman's stable of scientist authors whom he represents
(including yours truly[Michael Shermer]), as well as others who participate in his annual "big
question." This year's question is totally self-indulgent for us, but what the heck,
it was great fun. John's instructions to us this year were: "There is some
bit of wisdom, some rule of nature, some law-like pattern, either grand or
small, that you've noticed in the universe that might as well be named after you.
Gordon Moore has one; Johannes Kepler and Michael Faraday, too. So does Murphy.
Since you are so bright, you probably have at least two you can articulate.
Send me two laws based on your empirica l work and observations you would not
mind having tagged with your name."

You can read all of them at the link above, plus some of the editorial coverage they have already garnered. Since I don't believe in naming laws after oneself, and as the good book says, "the first shall be last and the last shall be first," mine is (as presented in Scientific American, January 2002):

Shermer's Last Law: "Any sufficiently advanced extra-terrestrial intelligence is indistinguishable from God."

Here are a few of my favorites from Edge:

Susan Blackmore     Blackmore's First Law
People's desire to believe in the paranormal is stronger than all the
evidence that it does not exist.

Richard Dawkins     Dawkins's Law of Adversarial Debate
When two incompatible beliefs are advocated with equal intensity, the truth
does not lie half way between them.

John Maddox     Maddox's Fir st Law
Those who scorn the "publish or perish" principle are the most eager to see
their own manuscripts published quickly and given wide publicity--and the least
willing to see their length reduced.

Maddox's Second Law
Reviewers who are best placed to understand an author's work are the least
likely to draw attention to its achievements, but are prolific sources of minor
criticism, especially the identification of typos.

Gregory Benford     Benford's Modified Clarke Law
Any technology that does not appear magical is insufficiently advanced.

John Barrow     Barrow's first 'law'
Any Universe simple enough to be understood is too simple to produce a mind
able to understand it.

John Rennie     Rennie's Law of Credibility
Scientists don't always know best about matters of science-but they're more
likely to be right than the critics who make that argument.
< BR>2nd Corollary to the Law of Credibility
Any iconoclast with a scientifically unorthodox view who reminds you that
Galileo was persecuted too...ain't Galileo.

Geoffrey Miller     Miller's Law of Strange Behavior
To understand any apparently baffling behavior by another human, ask: what
status game is this individual playing, to show off which heritable traits, in
which mating market?

Martin Rees     Rees's Law
As cosmological theories advance, they will draw more concepts from biology.

Paul Steinhardt     Steinhardt's Law
Good science creates two challenging puzzles for each puzzle it resolves.

Robert Sapolsky     Sapolsky's Three Laws for Doing Science
Sapolsky's First Law
Think logically, but orthogonally.

Sapolsky's Second Law
It's okay to think about nonsense, as long as you don't believe in it.

Sapolsky's Third Law
Often, the biggest impediment to scientific progress is not what we don't
know, but what we know.

Nancy Etcoff     Etcoff's Law
Be wary of scientific dualisms. For example:
Brain vs Mind
Mind vs Body
Emotion vs Reason
Nature vs Nurture
Us vs Them

Lee Smolin      Smolin's First Law
Genuine advances are rarely made by accident; in fact, the outcome of a
scientific investigation is usually less dramatic than originally hoped for.
Therefore, if you want to do something really significant in science, you must aim
high and you must take genuine risks.

Daniel Gilbert     Gilbert' Law
Happy people are those who do not pass up an opportunity to laugh at themselves
or to make love with someone else. Unhappy people are those who get this backwards.

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