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NewSkeptic's Avatar Comment 1 by NewSkeptic

Carolyn is a brilliant, passionate and humane promoter of science. I've been a fan of hers ever since her Beyond Belief lecture on the images from the Cassini mission.

Thank you Josh and RDFRS.

Thu, 12 Nov 2009 04:09:00 UTC | #412949

ANTIcarrot's Avatar Comment 2 by ANTIcarrot

"A scientist cannot scientifically say there is no god."

While true, it misses out the point that there are many things they can say. For example a sientist can comment on burden of proof. And burden of rational definition for that matter.

Before you can demand proof that a house/universe isn't infested with invissible pink unicorns/god, you can ask for reassonable proof that such a creature does or even can exist.

And just to remind people, the film endded with spectacular public physical evidence (the anomalus industrial light show) that *something* had happened. It's just a pity the writers forgot about it two minutes later.

Thu, 12 Nov 2009 04:39:00 UTC | #412951

glenister_m's Avatar Comment 3 by glenister_m

I did enjoy 'Contact' but I was annoyed that only Jodie Foster's character went, instead of the 'representative team' that went in the book.

I'd still like to get a message to Jodie Foster regarding a story she kept repeating in interviews to publicize the movie. When she was in university, she took a course in Biology, and when she wrote the exam the first question was: "Describe a cell in 4 words." She basically flipped, tore the exam in half and walked out.

My message to Jodie if anyone has any suggestions on delivering it: "The answer was simply 'Basic unit of life'. No need to overreact."

Thu, 12 Nov 2009 06:30:00 UTC | #412965

helen sotiriadis's Avatar Comment 4 by helen sotiriadis

i'm thrilled to see this video with carolyn porco. she's a hero.

BTW, why is there always this confusion about who ellie's character was based on? i have read it was jill tarter... elsewhere, that it was carolyn porco.

Thu, 12 Nov 2009 06:38:00 UTC | #412966

Alternative Carpark's Avatar Comment 5 by Alternative Carpark

Delightful, as ever.

She is indeed the new, female, Carl Sagan.

Someone give this wonderful woman her own 13-part TV series where she flies us around the universe in a dandelion clock.

Thu, 12 Nov 2009 06:39:00 UTC | #412967

HKSARblog's Avatar Comment 6 by HKSARblog

What a positively profound moment at 39:00 , when I first saw that picture of Saturn light up and heard the words “and across a billion miles of interplanetary space we can spot our own planet Earth nestled in the arms of Saturn’s rings”.

There is a powerful recognition that stirs within us when we see our own gorgeous little blue ocean planet as it would be seen by others in the skies of other worlds. It’s a recognition that never fails to move us.


As Richard Dawkins said, Carolyn Porco’s words are beautifully poetic.

Thu, 12 Nov 2009 06:45:00 UTC | #412968

Shiva's Avatar Comment 7 by Shiva

Oooo! Cassini images! I love space images ;D

Thu, 12 Nov 2009 08:00:00 UTC | #412983

fossil-fish's Avatar Comment 8 by fossil-fish

That whole lecture was superb, but that last image of the earth really grabs you.

Was interested in her comments on 'Longtitude'. That really was a great book. It was dramatised here a few years back where the story from the book was interwoven with the story of a second world war officer, who was going through a personal and emotional break down, and was charged with the restoration of the clocks. Great TV and definitely a great starting point for the real Hollywood science.

Thu, 12 Nov 2009 09:26:00 UTC | #412993

Rawhard Dickins's Avatar Comment 9 by Rawhard Dickins

So much good stuff here, thanks Josh, Richard et al.

Thu, 12 Nov 2009 09:38:00 UTC | #412995

Alovrin's Avatar Comment 10 by Alovrin

Carolyn said, somewhat optimistically, at one point science has only been around for 400 or 2500yrs. Religions or belief in a supernatural has been around for 30000yrs. So maybe we have to wait for another what 27500 yrs for science to overtake superstitious belief.

I dont think we have the luxury of such a timespan.

Thu, 12 Nov 2009 09:55:00 UTC | #412996

glid's Avatar Comment 11 by glid

Brilliant talk!

Thu, 12 Nov 2009 11:40:00 UTC | #413002

Tyler Durden's Avatar Comment 12 by Tyler Durden

That was fantastic. Thank you Carolyn (Richard, and Josh).

The image of Earth visible thru the rings of Saturn, breathtaking.

*wipes tear from eye*

Thu, 12 Nov 2009 13:12:00 UTC | #413007

God fearing Atheist's Avatar Comment 13 by God fearing Atheist

8. Comment #431325 by fossil-fish


I was also surprised about her comments on "Longitude". Obviously the TV series didn't make it across the pond. Surprising given that it had Michael Gambon and Jeremy Irons as the principle characters.

Thu, 12 Nov 2009 14:03:00 UTC | #413012

Koreman's Avatar Comment 14 by Koreman

This is very sad news. A TV crew making 'in the footsteps of Darwin' was involved in a deadly traffic accident in Argentina. One member died, two others are in critical condition. The crew was sailing the world with 'the Beagle' and visiting places Charles Darwin went. Use Google translator.
http://beagle.vpro.nl/#/blog/item/2472/

Thu, 12 Nov 2009 14:17:00 UTC | #413017

Logicel's Avatar Comment 15 by Logicel

So Ms Porco is a strong atheist? She believes that there is no god? Very interesting how she intellectually confronts that her position is a faith position. I agree. But is god belief and belief that there is no god equivalent in probability? I don't think so.

Anyways, I am an agnostic atheist--I have no god belief but I do not know (nor do I care) that there is a god or not. Without evidence, I don't bother with god or pink unicorns or tooth fairies.

She is a wonderful speaker and a sweetheart to boot.

Thu, 12 Nov 2009 14:28:00 UTC | #413019

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 16 by Steve Zara

Comment #431298 by toomanytribbles

I share your confusion. For years I had assumed that Arroway was based on Jill Tarter. In fact Jodie Foster had considerable "contact" with Tarter during the making of the film.

http://www.space.com/peopleinterviews/tarter_profile_991112.html

"Dr. Tarter, the woman upon whom Jodie Foster's character in the movie Contact was largely based"

The point of the character is that she is doing something that isn't mainstream science, quite unlike Porco.

Thu, 12 Nov 2009 14:35:00 UTC | #413020

Bonzai's Avatar Comment 17 by Bonzai

Most scientists active in research don't really spend a lot of time thinking about or talking about God or its non existence. It is likely a non issue.

Thu, 12 Nov 2009 14:45:00 UTC | #413023

bjorke's Avatar Comment 18 by bjorke

I admire a lot of what's said in Carolyn's talk -- however, Hollywood-style TV/movies are about as effective at teaching science as they are at teaching actual police procedures.

Science is, well, *real,* and movies are, almost exclusively, fictional. As a writer of fiction, either you invent "reality" (e.g., the aliens in "Contact," flubber, whatever), or you end up writing biography. And it would still be portrayed by actors and a director who would feel obliged by their professions (and egos) to alter things looking for the "dramatic truth." How many wives did John Nash have, again?

(Sadly I can't help but think that in Hollywood even the spectacular Cassini images would be replaced with "improved" CG versions)

Of course, Hollywood audiences (usually) know the difference. Consider that a few years ago three airplanes destroyed a few buildings and the worldwide ramifications of those events, compared to this coming weekend's movie fare where every building on the planet is wiped out & it's all jolly fun.

Hollywood thrives on spectacle and on stories full of interpersonal conflict. Science only occasionally works via either mechanism.

(As a consolation prize: consider the already-existing stock character of the manipulative power-hungry truth-suppressing churchman...)

Thu, 12 Nov 2009 14:52:00 UTC | #413026

Bonzai's Avatar Comment 19 by Bonzai

Hollywood as a rule doesn't present the reality of science (and actually everything else for that matter)

Real science is not always glamourous, it often consists on many hours of boring, painstaking work that may or may not lead to any breakthrough.

Astronomy is not just gazing at the stars in awe, at the time of specialization a Ph.D. student in astronomy may spend all his time in a windowless lab in the basement looking at computer outputs from spectral analysis or analysing signals from radio telescopes.

I once talked to a young woman who got a postgraduate degree in archeology, she thought she would be going on adventures in far away places maybe a bit like Indie Jones, but in the end she was working in a musuem and spent all her work hours staring at rock samples and dating them.

Thu, 12 Nov 2009 15:04:00 UTC | #413029

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 20 by Steve Zara

It is a good talk, but I do disagree strongly with Carolyn's initial comments about science and religion.

The existence of God certainly is a scientific question, and atheism is a reasonable scientific conclusion. The Theist Hypothesis is that there has been supernatural interference in the natural world. All the supposed evidence for that has been satisfactorily shown to be not evidence for theism at all. Combined with the vast amount of evidence that the universe operates naturalistically, this should surely lead us to consider atheism a "theorum", to use Richard's term.

There is another way that theism can be investigated scientifically. It is a belief system held by humans, whose minds and psychology can be studied.

Thu, 12 Nov 2009 15:10:00 UTC | #413032

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 21 by Steve Zara

I would like to add a more positive comment: I totally agree that Porco is our new Sagan. She is a fantastic speaker and and important promoter of science.

Thu, 12 Nov 2009 15:18:00 UTC | #413035

Bonzai's Avatar Comment 22 by Bonzai

Steve

The existence of God certainly is a scientific question, and atheism is a reasonable scientific conclusion. The Theist Hypothesis is that there has been supernatural interference in the natural world. All the supposed evidence for that has been satisfactorily shown to be not evidence for theism at all. Combined with the vast amount of evidence that the universe operates naturalistically, this should surely lead us to consider atheism a "theorum", to use Richard's term.


So in one short paragraph you summarize the answer already. What would be the point for scientists to belabour the point by investigating claims that are outlandishly false? (as far as religion has anything concrete to say about their Gods) It is not good for your scientific career by dwelling on things that you can't publish in respectable peer reviewed journals. :)

Edited The existence of God may or may not be a scientific question, --actually it may not be a question at all,--it depends on what you mean by 'God" and it is, as you know, quite flexible and sometimes flexible to the point of meaningless (like the gap filling God/Gods)

There is another way that theism can be investigated scientifically. It is a belief system held by humans, whose minds and psychology can be studied.


That is strictly speaking an investigation of religion or religious behaviour, not the claims of God. :)

Thu, 12 Nov 2009 15:21:00 UTC | #413036

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 23 by Steve Zara

Comment #431368 by Bonzai

What would be the point for scientists to belabour the point by investigating claims that are outlandishly false?


Indeed.

That is strictly speaking an investigation of religion or religious behaviour, not the claims of God. :)


This is something I have been thinking about a lot recently.

Imagine a time in the future when we can model and truly understand brains. It may take decades, or it may take centuries. But I have no doubt it will happen.

This will mean we can actually investigate claims of God because we will be able to understand precisely why people make those claims.

What will be particularly damaging for theism is when we can say precisely in materialistic terms what the basis of religious experiences is, and can show that it has no supernatural basis at all.

If you take the view that our minds are the result of our brains, then any statement about anything at all can be subject to scientific inquiry, as that statement is made "by a brain".

Thu, 12 Nov 2009 15:31:00 UTC | #413039

Bonzai's Avatar Comment 24 by Bonzai

Steve

If you take the view that our minds are the result of our brains, then any statement about anything at all can be subject to scientific inquiry, as that statement is made "by a brain".


There is a loop hole though. If you are a determined theist you can always say that such and such brain activities are the results of God 'working through nature', inducing the psychological states that result in religiosity.

There is always this 'loop hole' for those who insist on inserting a God in the background. In that case of course God would be a completely useless concept, but strictly speaking you still can't prove its non existence. Einstein didn't prove that the aether doesn't exist, only that you can do (better) without it. :)

Thu, 12 Nov 2009 15:38:00 UTC | #413040

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 25 by Steve Zara

Comment #431372 by Bonzai

In that case of course God would be a completely useless concept, but strictly speaking you still can't prove its non existence.


Indeed, but at some point surely, surely, it is reasonable to come to a scientific conclusion of non-existence.

Thu, 12 Nov 2009 15:48:00 UTC | #413041

God fearing Atheist's Avatar Comment 26 by God fearing Atheist

25. Comment #431373 by Steve Zara
Indeed, but at some point surely, surely, it is reasonable to come to a scientific conclusion of non-existence.


Change "non-existence" to "irrelevance" and I agree.

Thu, 12 Nov 2009 16:04:00 UTC | #413042

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 27 by Steve Zara

Comment #431374 by God fearing Atheist

I'm afraid I can't change that, as I really do mean non-existence.

Thu, 12 Nov 2009 16:19:00 UTC | #413043

Tyler Durden's Avatar Comment 28 by Tyler Durden

Comment #431373 by Steve Zara

Indeed, but at some point surely, surely, it is reasonable to come to a scientific conclusion of non-existence.
Non-existence in the brain of an individual or in the known (and ever expanding) universe?

'Theory of mind' could help explain belief in God

"It's not surprising that religious beliefs engage mainly the theory-of-mind areas, as they are about virtual beings who are treated as having essentially human mental traits, just as characters in a novel or play are," comments Robin Dunbar, an anthropologist at the University of Oxford.

NewSciencist Article

Thu, 12 Nov 2009 16:36:00 UTC | #413046

chewedbarber's Avatar Comment 29 by chewedbarber

We are well past the point of concluding the non-existence of God. If anyone wants to claim otherwise, then they should first present a definition of a God which has not already been shown not to exist because its attributes have been shown not to exist. If God is God the creator but the creator did not create, then that God is just what exactly? God of nothing is the same as no God.

Thu, 12 Nov 2009 16:37:00 UTC | #413048

God fearing Atheist's Avatar Comment 30 by God fearing Atheist

Assume the SciFi concept of a "universe simulator"

They are created by gods and given to their kids as computer games.

Our universe is such a simulation. The simulation is a closure from the perspective of the simulated entities inside (us). There is no possible way we can know about anything outside the simulation, or ever gain any evidence there even is an outside.

However, god child, lets call him Kevin, can both save bit of the simulation, archive them and/or plug them into other simulations. Kevin can also interfere with the simulations.

If Kevin saves the state of simulated human minds at "death" and plugs them into another simulation we have an afterlife. Because the system is output only, we have no evidence at all for this process.

However, if Kevin uses any input facilities at all we immediately have theoretical evidence of Kevin's meddling. The closure of the simulation is broken, and Kevin is part of the universe. I said theoretical, rather than practical, as Kevin could interfere at about the level of simulated noise in the system (the level theists claim for miracles), and be as hard to detect as he is ineffective at influencing what goes no. However, whatever the level of interference from Kevin he has now made himself part of the universe and capable of detection and investigation by the scientific method by the inhabitants of the simulated universe.

This is precisely what theists claim. They claim to know what Kevin wants, he talks to some of them, he lays down rules, and when he scrapes out souls on death he places them in other universe simulators - "hell" and "heaven" according to how well they obayed the rules he input. This religious view (theism) is a scientific hypothesis and is scientifically testable.

If Kevin takes output only - he just watches, we have no way of knowing, and the hypothesis is not scientifically testable. Its is deism and is irrelevant to human affairs.

If Kevin takes output only; he watches but also scrapes souls; again we have no way of knowing. It is not scientificaly testable. It might be useful to know what Kevin does with the souls, but for all we know he likes horror movies and only the nastiest psychopaths are scraped for "Kevins horror show universe". Since we can't know by definition, again it is irrelevant for human affairs.

In conclusion: If god is relevant, god is part of the universe, and the god hypothesis is theoretically scientifically testable. If god is not part of the universe, is "super natural" or "outside the universe", the god hypothsis is not scientifically testable but is irrelevant to human affairs.

Thu, 12 Nov 2009 16:39:00 UTC | #413049