Hello and good day!
I listened to the most fascinating debate over the weekend. It was between the famous author and evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins and an equally prestigious biologist named Dennis Noble. Dennis Noble is a physiologist and biologist at the University of Oxford. Of the two, Dawkins is much more well known due to his popular and controversial books.
However, back in the day, Noble was the chair of Dawkin's PHD dissertation committee. This made for a very interesting dynamic. You had the famous, outspoken popular writer against the old professor who has stayed in the laboratory behind the scenes doing research.
I didn't understand all the technical aspects of the debate, and I don't want to pretend to be overly knowledgeable on the subject of evolutionary biology. I'm not qualified to offer an opinion on who won.
But based on the reaction of the moderator, the ability of Noble to confidently defend his position against all attacks, and Dawkins' fumbling responses to many of Noble's critiques, it felt like Noble won going away.
As far as I could ascertain, the crux of the issue was statistics versus mechanics. Another way to put that is causation versus correlation. I'm going to spare you an attempt at reciting the very technical details because I will probably botch them anyways.
The question up for debate was whether genes drive evolution through natural selection, the Dawkins position, or whether organisms as a whole choose genes from a library of available genes based on the organism's perception of its environment, the Noble position.
In the Noble position, what we call evolution is not caused by mutations and natural selection. It is caused by cells making intelligent decisions about how best to engineer the organism. I'd never heard of the Noble position because the natural selection paradigm is what we were taught in school.
If I understood the point, Noble explained that statistical analysis would make Dawkins appear to be correct, but observation in the lab contradicts the theory.
The importance of properly understanding mechanics has practical implications.
Beyond understanding the origin of life, which is mostly an intellectual pursuit, knowing how cells and organisms choose genes will help develop better medicines and therapies and this is the real danger in propagating untrue beliefs.
It isn't merely ideological. People's lives are at risk.
I remember reading a book about Einstein in which he was quoted as saying that theories must be proved in the lab. Good theories explain reality and a single contradiction disproves the entire theory. You can say that in most cases x leads to y, but you can't say that x definitely causes y.
Over the weekend, I began reading a wonderful book. It was given to me by a friend and chocolate shop customer who is a cancer survivor. It's called Remarkable Recovery by Caryle Hirshberg & Marc Ian Barasch. The book is about cancer patients who recovered miraculously.
It is meticulously footnoted and includes interviews with overseeing physicians who witnessed the cases in question. Many of the physicians qualify their testimony and express consternations over sharing their experiences because they don't want people to eschew effective medicine based on these extraordinary cases. They would much prefer that patients use an approach that puts the odds in their favor.
All that being said, the book has story after story about people who went into complete remission without any treatment whatsoever. In many of these cases, the cancer appeared so severe and terminal as to make treatment seem futile. Doctors felt they had no choice but to send these patients home to die.
Then, against all odds, and in complete contradiction of prevailing theories, the patients made a complete recovery without medicine. Of course, this means that the issue is not fully understood and that operating theories are incorrect or incomplete.
here must be other unknown factors that lead to eradication of illness and the book goes on to discuss what those might be with the purpose of helping cancer patients improve their chances of survival.
I have to share here that I personally have been witness to two medical miracles. The first was a friend of our family who was pregnant with twins. A sonagram revealed that one of the babies had a malformed heart. Doctors recommended aborting one baby to spare the life of the other.
The mom decided not to follow the doctor's orders. The doctor assured the mother that both babies would die in that case. He didn't say it to be mean, he was expressing his professional opinion, and he wanted the mother to make the best choice. She prayed on it and made her decision and both babies lived.
In another case, we had a friend of our family who was diagnosed with leukemia. On religious grounds, she denied the treatment plan offered by the doctors. She accepted part of it but turned down the part that went against her spiritual beliefs. The doctors told her that her decision was a death sentence, but she proceeded anyways. She is now cancer free and doing maintenance chemo for safe measure.
If it were me in either case, I would have followed the doctor's advice. These two women took a much different path than I personally would have taken. I prefer to trust experts who have spent their careers studying an issue.However, since I saw both of these incidents with my own eyes, I can't deny that there must be large chunks of understanding missing.
In our business life, we had a cacao farmer in northern Peru walk my brother to a single cacao tree out of tens of thousands in the zone. He pointed to it and told my brother that this was the most special tree he'd ever seen.
To us it just looked like another tree. The cacao farmer explained to Brian that the tree had a special aura. When genetic tests came back, that one tree was the purest specimen ever tested of a thought to be extinct variety of cacao. We've cloned that tree several thousand times now and much of our chocolate is made from those clones.
Here is the point of all this.
A decadent society feels that it has reached the apex of achievement. Everything meaningful that can be done has already been done. Therefor all that is left is entertainment and the satisfying of sensual pleasures.
That state does not yet exist.
There are still a ton of mysteries out there waiting to be solved. We don't have it all figured out by a long shot. The end of times is not upon us. Decadence is not justified.
Hard work is still the order of the day.
Thank you so much for your time today.
I hope that you have a truly blessed day!
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