It's good to get these discussions going, and in response to your question
about intelligent design I've come across a speaker who might be
interesting, not to make the case for it but at least to question some
aspects of existing beliefs on evolution.
His name is David Swift and he's written a book called Evolution under the
Microscope (Leighton Academic Press, 2002).
The bulk of the book is a critique of orthodox evolutionary theory which I
found very interesting and well put. He doesn't make the case for
intelligent design but his final chapter argues that the option of design
should not be ruled out automatically a priori.
I'm interested in what he has to say because I find that existing
evolutionary theory is sometimes put forward with the fervour of a
religion rather than the caution of a science, so I like to hear different
views on the subject.
With best wishes, Howie
[log in to unmask] writes:
>Glad to hear that you are keen on discussion and open minded about what
>or may not be 'fringe'. It is a pity you got caught in the 'Bleep' PR
>but that is a lesson we must all learn. (I learned it when inviting
>to talk about UFO's).
>The Cafes are designed for discussion, not teaching, and, as far as I
>they are the first and only groups in the world whose aim is to discuss
>science, rather than teach it, admire it or just encourage it. And the
>sciences are so powerful and pervasive that they raise a myriad of
>arguments. Here are some.
>Within science - 'Is String Theory Scientific, because we cannot
>experimentally test any results?' or 'Is there any such thing as Pure
>Science and Economics - 'Is the commercialisation of universities leading
>fraud and lack of trust between scientists?'
>Science and Politics - Global Warming
>Science and Religion - Intelligent Design
>Science and Public Trust - When is the Human Genome Project going to
>produce any of the results it promised?'
>Science and Ethics - Stem Cells
>Science and Identity - How much of our behaviour is due to genetics and
>much to free will?'
>Science and Philosophy -'What does quantum theory do to the principle of
>cause and effect?'
>Science and the Arts - Peter Greenaway's installation 'The Children of
>This is just the tip of the iceberg, and the Cafes have the freedom to
>question conventional wisdom and initiate debate. Scientific communication
>is only part of a Cafe Scientifique - the rest is cultural enquiry and
>By the way, if anyone knows of a good speaker on Intelligent Design please
>let me know.
>----- Original Message -----
>From: "Charles Paxton" <[log in to unmask]>
>To: <[log in to unmask]>
>Sent: Monday, December 12, 2005 3:09 PM
>Subject: Discussing things
>Well here at St Andrews we tend to alternate "mainstream science"
>discussion initiators with more "fringe" stuff. Thus we have had a speaker
>pro "creation science", a skeptical magician, "when fringe science becomes
>pseudoscience" plus a trip to "What the Bleep do we know" (which I thought
>was "bleeping rubbish" but anyway). Must admit I thought that this would
>the norm for most CSs but reading other schedules it seems people do go
>safer fair. We like our discussion here.
>At 14:40 12/12/2005 +0000, you wrote:
>>Good to be in contact, Duncan, and many thanks for the information about
>>Ad Lagendijk. He sounds fascinating and I'd be most interested to hear
>>the session with him goes. In fact, if there's any online material I can
>>access about him, I'd be most grateful for the details, as the essay in
>>Nature sounds most interesting.
>>This whole question about the nature of science is so important that I'm
>>coming to think of it as a core issue, so important that if it could be
>>resolved we could open up many more possibilities for the application of
>>science for the good of society.
>>One of the best answers to the question as to whether science is a
>>of ceaseless questioning of established beliefs or the application of the
>>authority of dogma comes from a school pupil in England who was one of
>>those asked for their views on the school curriculum in a survey by the
>>Science Museum as part of Science Year:
>>"I don't really care how you work out how fast a ball falls if it weighs
>>10 kg and is falling 4 metres, it's not stimulating and I'm never going
>>use that information again."
>>What's encouraging for the Cafe Scientifique approach in particular is
>>that the most useful and effective way of learning science came out from
>>the survey as 'having a discussion/debate in class'. 45% put it at the
>>of their list, just ahead of 'taking notes from the teacher', with 'doing
>>a science experiment in class' coming in to third place. And no less than
>>57% said that the introduction of discussions about philosophy and ethics
>>(with animal testing quoted as an example) would make GCSE Science more
>>attractive as a subject.
>>With best wishes, Howie
>>[log in to unmask] writes:
>> >Many thanks, Howie, for raising such an important issue. I certainly
>> >that the Cafes should be discussing not just current scientific ideas
>> >issues, but also listening to critiques and theories from the history
>> >philosophy of science, and I would be interested to hear of good,
>> >opinionated speakers.
>> >We have just invited Ad Lagendijk to speak at Leeds. He wrote an
>> >essay in Nature a couple of weeks ago exposing the male battles for
>> >within the modern physics community, and suggesting a change in norms
>> >values in physics. (Incidentally we can invite him because he can get
>> >Amsterdam to Leeds return for £25! - that changes the economics of
>> >if you are near an airport with low-cost carriers.)
>> >Duncan Dallas
>> >----- Original Message -----
>> >From: "Orkney Science Festival" <[log in to unmask]>
>> >To: <[log in to unmask]>
>> >Sent: Thursday, December 08, 2005 11:21 PM
>> >Subject: Re: ben goldacre
>> >> I hope you don't mind me coming in to comment, but I think that there
>> >> an interesting general issue that might be worth opening up.
>> >> I think that Dr Goldacre would be a very entertaining speaker for an
>> >> evening and might stir up some discussion. But as I understand it, he
>> >is a
>> >> GP who writes mainly about medical treatment which he disagrees with,
>> >> it might be more reasonable to call the column 'Bad Medicine'.
>> >> I do think that there is a need for a serious debate about the nature
>> >> science but it needs to be led by someone of appropriate scientific
>> >> stature who's not committed to any particular interest-group, for
>> >> someone at Nobel level. People like David Bohm and Ilya Prigogine
>> >> expressed some very profound ideas, but they are no longer alive, and
>> >> need people to follow up and build on their work.
>> >> I think that it would be very interesting to explore questions about
>> >> nature of science itself. For instance, has it become a church of
>> >> where orthodox dogma rules, or has it managed to retain the spirit of
>> >> Descartes and Galileo and continually expose every one of its
>> >> beliefs to question and doubt and testing?
>> >> I hope I haven't offended anyone by these comments, but I do believe
>> >> the issue is a very important one. I'd be most interested in hearing
>> >> anyone who'd like to open up this type of discussion.
>> >> With best wishes, Howie
>> >> [log in to unmask] writes:
>> >> >Have a look at www.lablit.com - Jenny Rohn (the editor) has
>> >> >him.
>> >> >LabLit's a great site, too!
>> >> >Ann
>> >> >
>> >> >
>> >> >
>> >> >From: Discussion list for cafe scientifique network on behalf of Ann
>> >> >Sent: Tue 29/11/2005 19:08
>> >> >To: [log in to unmask]
>> >> >Subject: Request from Brighton cafe
>> >> >
>> >> >
>> >> >Hi,
>> >> >
>> >> >Jim Grozier from the Brighton cafe is trying to find contact details
>> >> >Ben
>> >> >Goldacre - he's had several requests but draws a blank on a google
>> >> >Can anyone help?
>> >> >
>> >> >Thanks
>> >> >
>> >> >Ann
>Dr. Charles Paxton
>Research Unit for Wildlife Population Assessment
>Centre for Research into Ecological and Environmental Modelling
>University of St Andrews
>Fife KY16 9LZ
>Tel: +44 (0) 1334 461811
>Fax: +44 (0) 1334 461800
>email: [log in to unmask]