One Thing to Learn

This is good fun – although a few of the answers will give people like Philip Blond fits. But that’s good, that will give him something to talk about next time he’s on the radio. No doubt producers are calling him all the time, now that he’s an expert on What’s Wrong With Science.

Anyway. Lots of good ones.

I would teach the world the importance of staying actively intellectually engaged throughout our lives, especially as we become elderly. There are good data now that point to the fact that continuing to challenge yourself late in life — taking up a new hobby, learning to play a musical instrument, doing crossword puzzles, etc — actually helps to maintain cognitive function, and protects against the onset of cognitive decline.

Yeah. I did one or two N&Cs on that nun study a few months ago. And it would be worth doing even without the protective effect – though the protective effect means you can do it that much longer, so it comes to the same thing.

Paranormal phenomena do not exist. Magic, witchcraft, mind-reading, clairvoyance, faith healing and similar practices do not work and never have worked. It makes a crucial difference whether we imagine ourselves surrounded by supernatural beings and happenings or whether instead we see ourselves in a world that science can help us understand.

Tell it, brother.

Science is not a catalogue of facts, but a search for new mysteries. Science increases the store of wonder and mystery in the world; it does not erode it. The myth that science gets rid of mysteries, started by the Romantic poets, was well nailed by Albert Einstein —whose thought experiments about relativity are far more otherworldly, elusive, thrilling, and baffling than anything dreamt up by poets.

Beautiful. Take that, Philip Blond!

Frighteningly, most people do not understand Darwin’s great insight…Once you see it —copy, vary, select; copy, vary, select —you see that design by natural selection simply has to happen…Then, the scary implications follow. If everyone understood evolution, then the tyranny of religious memes would be weakened, and we little humans might find a better way to live in this pointless universe.

Yeah, but then we’d miss the fun of an occasional papal funeral. Are we sure that would be a good idea?

I would teach the world that scientists start by trying very hard to disprove what they hope is true. When they fail, they have a good reason for believing what they hope is true, and can even convince others of its truth. A scientist always acknowledges the possibility of error, and is less likely to be mistaken than one who always claims to be right.

Yeah but if everyone did that then we’d miss the fun of stuff like papal infallibility and mullahs telling everyone what to do. Are we sure that would be a good idea?

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