Thursday, November 27, 2014

Consequences of scientific fraud, a lesson for politicians

Scientific fraud is an important issue that can give rise to complex ethical problems. The mystery novel Gaudy night (1936), by Dorothy L. Sayers, offers a concrete example. When he is about to defend his doctoral thesis, a scientist discovers a little-known document that demolishes his work. Temptation is too strong, he steals the document and proceeds with his thesis. Unfortunately (for him) one of the university committee was aware of the existence of the document, tries to look it up and discovers that it is missing, and who was the last person who consulted it. The fraud is thus discovered, the thesis is rejected, the case is made public and the researcher is dismissed with unfavorable comments that put an end to his scientific career. As he must support a family, he has to accept a job below his level and finally commits suicide.
The characters in the novel formulate the following ethical problem: Must a person give up his vocation because of having yielded just once to a temptation of fraud? What comes first, the integrity of science or the fate and perhaps even the life of an individual human being? In the words of one of the characters: [That old piece of paper] made no difference to anybody. It wouldn’t have helped a single man or woman or child in the world - it wouldn’t have kept a cat alive; but you killed him for it.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The multiverse does not solve the fine tuning problem

Atheists use the multiverse theories to escape the need to accept God’s existence as the cause of a universe which seems to have been designed to make life possible (fine tuning). While they do this, they are contradicting one of their most beloved arguments against God’s existence, which they have been using since the nineteenth century. This one:

The theist hypothesis offers an explanation for the origin of the world based on two entities: God and the universe.
The atheist hypothesis only needs a single entity: the universe.
Ergo Occam’s razor favors the atheistic explanation.
As it is well known, the lex parsimoniae, also called Occam’s razor, one of the fundaments of the scientific method, asserts that, between two competitive theories, we must prefer that one with the fewest entities (or assumptions).
But the current situation is quite the opposite. The alternative to the theist hypothesis is no longer a single entity, the universe, but rather many (between 10500 and an infinity of universes). The previous argument must therefore be re-written thus:

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The multiverse and the fine tuning problem

The multiverse theories appeared in cosmology over half a century ago, but they have proliferated and spread starting at the eighties, together with the discovery of the fine tuning problem, the verification that the universe appears to have been designed to make life and our existence possible: many of the physical parameters we consider independent adopt quite critical values, so that very small differences in those values would make the universe hostile to life.
The fine tuning problem has three possible solutions:
·         The universe has been designed by a creator.
·         Our existence is the result of a huge, incredible chance.
·         There are many universes and we are located in that one which is compatible with our existence (the multiverse hypothesis).

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The probability of existence of extra-terrestrial intelligence

Normal statistical distribution.
The text makes reference to a uniform statistical distribution.
Probability is a well-known mathematical concept that was initially defined to quantify random data in mathematically known environments and has been extended to other situations.
For instance, the probability that the next car passing near me has a license plate with four identical figures is computed by dividing the number of favorable cases between the number of possible cases. The first number is ten: 0000, 1111, 2222, ... , 9999. The second is ten thousand: 0000, 0001, 0002, ... , 9998, 9999, in a uniform distribution. Therefore the indicated probability can be computed as one thousandth. Here we haven’t considered that vehicles can be removed from circulation, an independent random process that would not change significantly the result of the computation.
The problem is, sometimes we are interested in computing data in mathematically unknown environments. This can happen, for instance, when we ignore the number of favorable cases, or the number of possible cases, or both. In such situations, we can estimate the unknown data with more or less uncertainty. We speak then of a priori probability.