This Idea Must Die: Scientific Theories That Are Blocking Progress (Edge Question Series)
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The bestselling editor of This Explains Everything brings together 175 of the world’s most brilliant minds to tackle Edge.org’s 2014 question: What scientific idea has become a relic blocking human progress?
Each year, John Brockman, publisher of Edge.org—”The world’s smartest website” (The Guardian)—challenges some of the world’s greatest scientists, artists, and philosophers to answer a provocative question crucial to our time. In 2014 he asked 175 brilliant minds to ponder: What scientific idea needs to be put aside in order to make room for new ideas to advance? The answers are as surprising as they are illuminating. In :
- Steven Pinker dismantles the working theory of human behavior
- Richard Dawkins renounces essentialism
- Sherry Turkle reevaluates our expectations of artificial intelligence
- Geoffrey West challenges the concept of a “Theory of Everything”
- Andrei Linde suggests that our universe and its laws may not be as unique as we think
- Martin Rees explains why scientific understanding is a limitless goal
- Nina Jablonski argues to rid ourselves of the concept of race
- Alan Guth rethinks the origins of the universe
- Hans Ulrich Obrist warns against glorifying unlimited economic growth
- and much more.
Profound, engaging, thoughtful, and groundbreaking, This Idea Must Die will change your perceptions and understanding of our world today . . . and tomorrow.
registration of the design and analysis plan of a study before it’s begun. Clinical-trials researchers have done this for decades, and in 2013 researchers in other areas followed suit. Registration includes the details of the data analyses that will be conducted, which eliminates the former practice of presenting the inevitable fluctuations of multifaceted data as robust results. Reviewers assessing the associated manuscripts end up focusing on the soundness of the study’s registered design
large effects and the theories that purport to explain them. And this praise is often justified, not least because the world has large problems demanding ambitious scientific solutions. Yet science can advance only at the rate of its best explanations. Often the most elegant arise from effects of modest proportions. SCIENCE = BIG SCIENCE SAMUEL ARBESMAN Applied mathematician; senior scholar, research and policy, Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation; author, The Half-Life of Facts Centuries ago,
But often it’s not. For example, we’ve focused on the differences in average wealth between groups—whether the United States is richer than other countries and what might have caused this, or whether bankers make more money than consultants and how this affects the professional choices of graduating college students. But the distribution of wealth in the groups may be equally important in explaining collective and individual outcomes and choices. Even if the U.S. and Sweden have the same average
predictions.” But in the real world, the interplay between theory and experiment isn’t so cut and dried. A scientific theory is ultimately judged by its ability to account for the data—but the steps along the way to that accounting can be indirect. Consider the multiverse, often invoked as a potential solution to some of the fine-tuning problems of contemporary cosmology. For example, we believe there’s a small but nonzero vacuum energy inherent in empty space. This is the leading theory to
tumors representing a reversion to an ancestral phenotype. In biology, few things are black or white. The somatic mutation paradigm is undeniably of some relevance to cancer, and sequencing data is certainly not useless. Indeed, it could prove a gold mine, if only the research community comes to interpret that data in the right way. But the narrow focus of current cancer research is a serious obstacle to progress. Cancer will be understood properly only by positioning it within the great sweep