Monday, July 15, 2013

What we believe but cannot prove?

I like thumbnail sketches and prooftexts, but I also like strategy and the forest as a whole. There is a place for detailed specialisation but I'm sad about the decline in prestige of and the focus on being an amateur (or a generalist). Check out the Google Ngram search of amateur versus professional over the last two hundred years.  What we Believe but Cannot Prove is an illuminating survey of back-of-the-envelope answers from a range of scientific luminaries The most common answers are in roughly the order John Brockman lists them are: Intelligent extraterrestrial life, no God, mathematical proofs, probability, consciousness, various cognitive abilities, multiverses, world peace and progress.

I'll blog a few of the interesting quotes over the next couple of days. Author and public atheist Ian McEwan who wrote the forward answered the question in this way: "What I believe but cannot prove is that no part of my consciousness will survive my death."