Fermi’s paradox and the Copernican principle

Distant galaxies magnified by a gravitational lens

Fermi’s paradox

As we have discussed on this forum before (see, for example, previous Math Scholar blog), Fermi’s paradox looms as one of the most profound and puzzling conundrums of science: Given that the universe is presumed to be teeming with intelligent life and technological civilizations,

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Chromosomes, DNA and human evolution

History

The Yunis-Prakash diagram comparing the chromosomes of humans, chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans

Evolution in general and human evolution in particular continue to be bones of contention, so to speak, as evidenced by the ongoing efforts by some groups to prohibit or downplay evolution, or to mandate “equal time” for “intelligent design,” in state

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Has cosmic fine-tuning been refuted?

Introduction

Is the universe fine-tuned for intelligent life? In 2016, astrophysicist Geraint Lewis and cosmologist Luke Barnes, both at the University of Sydney, Australia, waded into this perplexing and controversial arena in a new book entitled A Fortunate Universe: Life in a Finely Tuned Cosmos [Lewis2016]. The core of the Lewis-Barnes book and an accompanying

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Pinker’s “Enlightenment Now”: Humanism and scientific progress

Introduction

Many have read books and articles by renowned Harvard social scientist Steven Pinker. In his 2011 book The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, Pinker cited a huge amount of historical and sociological data to conclude, counter-intuitively to many, that violence has declined “at the scale of millennia, centuries, decades, and

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Do probability arguments refute evolution?

Introduction

Both traditional creationists and intelligent design writers have invoked probability arguments in criticisms of biological evolution. They argue that certain features of biology are so fantastically improbable that they could never have been produced by a purely natural, “random” process, even assuming the billions of years of history asserted by geologists and

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What was the ancient biblical cosmology?

Introduction

Much of the perceived conflict between science and religion centers on how one should view the Bible’s account of creation. The vast majority of scientists and theologians are willing to accept the fact that the Bible was never intended to be read primarily or even secondarily as a scientific text, and even among

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Does a sense of purpose improve one’s health?

Serving food at an aid center.

Introduction

Recently several writers have attacked religious belief as a pernicious delusion [Dawkins2006; Dennett2006; Harris2006; Hitchens2007; Stenger2008]. Victor Stenger, for example, specifically rejects claims that there are any health or social benefits from religious beliefs or participation.

Other writers sharply disagree, noting benefits bestowed by religion throughout

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The future of artificial intelligence: Utopia or dystopia?

MIT cosmologist Max Tegmark is no stranger to controversy. In his 2014 book Our Mathematical Universe, Tegmark proposed that our universe and everything in it are merely mathematical structures operating according to certain rules of logic. He argued that this hypothesis answers Stephen Hawking’s question “What breathes fire into the equations?” — there is no

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Fine tuning and Fermi’s paradox

A “freakishly” fine-tuned universe

Ever since the time of Copernicus, the overriding worldview of scientific discovery has been that there is nothing special about Earth and humanity: the Earth is not the center of the solar system — we are merely one of several planets orbiting the Sun; the Sun is not the center of

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Can there be harmony between science and religion?

Introduction

The progress of modern science over the past few decades is nothing short of astounding. Just in the past 50 years, science has unlocked the code of life and read the complete DNA of many organisms (including humans), traced the history of the known universe back to nearly the big bang, and discovered a

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