In a way it seems that scientists have replaced the priests of old: learned ones appearing out of their mysterious labs explaining findings in a language that only (they and) god can understand fully. Those who do not understand the jargon have a choice: believe or reject. This explains how perfectly reasonable ideas such as evolution are rejected out of hand by many, often religious fundamentalists of various traditions. It actually boils down to a very basic human ‘instinct’ – trust! (There probably is a set of genes for that.) The latest science versus the traditions of our forebears? As a committed scientist, I am very ambivalent toward trust of any kind. Skepticism, on the other hand, does not seem to be a very effective heuristic in the game of survival.

When it comes to scientific communication with the lay community it is of the utmost importance that the highest standards of transparency be applied. Scientists should always disclose their personal agendas in such a manner that the incompleteness of their assessments is always front and center. This almost never happens. Huge errors have occurred that could have been averted by more scientific honesty.

At least, the priests of old were very upfront about their main agenda; their religious theory of everything. It is a lot more difficult to know what the ultimate goal of science is today. It has already been agreed, more or less, that a formal (mathematical) theory of everything is not possible. Thank goodness! The idea of a Bible Mathematical is truly frightening!

Beyond technology, medicine and engineering, science contributes information on every aspect of existence. Psychologically humans have an innate sense of right or wrong that, according to the latest scientific studies, remains essentially the same across all cultures studied. This innate sense must be guided by a unique internal sense of a theory of everything, IMHO. Humans do have opinions on everything, it therefore stands to reason that there are underlying theories of everything.

Are there academic departments that study everything and try to integrate the various disciplines? I think not, but we are now in a place where the extreme excess of information requires some attempt at an holistic approach. In stead, we have a splintering of innumerable disciplines – the famous ivory tower of academia has become a modern day Tower of Babel.

Scientia Salon

fruitflyby John McLaughlin

In both popular culture and the technical literature in biology, the word “genetic” is ubiquitous. Despite its common usage and universal recognition, discussions centered around this concept usually leave its meaning taken for granted. We have the vague sense that it relates to DNA, genes, heredity, and inheritance, but what does it mean precisely to describe a process, trait, disease, or property as “genetic?” Since the completion of the Human Genome Project, a latent hope seems to linger among the general public that genetic causes will be uncovered for the vast majority of human ailments. This hope has been fueled by the often confusing use of biological terminology in the popular media, especially when reporting (often in a sensational manner) on a new study or development in the biomedical sciences [1].

Playing such a central role in modern biology, I believe the concept deserves a thorough and…

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