GETTING PRIDE OUT OF THE WAY
While I was our trip to Ohio and back, I bought a science magazine, called TOP 75 QUESTIONS OF SCIENCE, as I think I’ve mentioned more than once here. I thought it would fill my airport and flight time pretty easily without asking me to devote much mental energy to following long complex lines of evidence and reasoning. It admirably filled my need. Below, I’m quoting two questions and answers from the text. What I like about these answers is the way they deflate human egos, reducing us to chemical processes doomed to inevitable extinction. And hasn’t that been the aim of so much good science—to get the human ego out of the equation and put the truth into its place? That’s why I wonder why religious folk, dedicated to humility and truth as they are, are so opposed to ego-reducing and truth-telling science.
WHAT IS LIFE?
Answer: George Whitesides, chemist, Harvard University: Life in a certain sense is a sack of chemical reactions. That's one way to look at it. Another is to say that it's an entity that is compartmentalized, energy dissipating, adaptive, and self-replicating. A third way of looking at it is to say it's a network of catalytic reactions, and amazingly, it replicates itself. But I haven't said anything yet. I've just given names to things I don't understand.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO EARTH'S CLIMATE OVER THE LONGER RUN?
Answer: Ken Caldeira: The sun, which is 30 percent brighter than it was early in Earth's history, will continue to get hotter and hotter. At first, carbon dioxide levels will drop and compensate for the brighter sun. Within a billion years there will be virtually no carbon dioxide left in the atmosphere. From then on, Earth will start heating. The oceans will evaporate more quickly, sending more water into the upper atmosphere, where it will be bombarded by cosmic radiation and split into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen will escape into space, so we will eventually lose our oceans. At that point Earth will be uninhabitable.