« Cannabis Prohibition as Human Folly | Main | A Movement Still Divided »

January 09, 2014

More on Dr Livio and Science

A recent entry was based on a Christmas present from my wife- Professor Mario Livio's Brilliant Blunders, which I'm still reading because it has so much to offer. Livio has a gift for oscillating between the specific problems that confronted some of our most brilliant scientists as they struggled to pin down the elusive concepts that would soon make them famous, while describing how they dealt with both the concepts themselves and the colleagues whose work they were relying on: often competitors with sensitive feelings and egos of their own.

What impressed me most was Livio's consummate scholarship in exploring these essentially human (as opposed to scientific) questions. An impressive example is his handling of the intriguing issue of how mutually aware Darwin and Mendel were of each others' work. As it turns out, Darwin was probably unaware of Mendel, whereas Mendel had certainly read Darwin in translation and made margin notes on a weakness in his thinking- a weakness Darwin later corrected on his own without having read Mendel's notes on the subject. My point is neither the weakness ("pangenesis") nor its correction, but Livio's wonderful lesson of how critcal curiosity and intellectual freedom both are for any science-based policy.

Compare it to the dogmatism and scientific ignorance of a "drug war" prescribed by "Drs" Nixon and Mitchell in 1969, and administered since 1974- with catastrophic results- by the DEA with guidance from NIDA.

I tried (unsuccessfully, as it turned out) to include a link to a short lecture by Dr Livio on the subject of "curiosity." It deserves wide attention, especially in the US. A great nation does not inflict a punitive losing war on its neighbors. A "wise" species does not knuckle under to scientific ignorance imposed by corrupt police.

I'll include the "missing link" in an email or the next entry.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at January 9, 2014 03:46 PM