• Biology,  Physics,  Research

    The Structure-Function Debate in Biology

    Modern science grew out of the idea that the universe is comprised of independent parts, and a complex system can be reduced to these parts without loss of completeness. The independence of parts became the basis of reductionism―the idea that the whole is simply a linear sum of parts. Sometimes, this reduction fails, and then it becomes necessary to postulate that the parts are indeed interdependent.  The reason for this interdependence, however, has not been very apparent. I will describe the reasons in this post, and connect them to the “systems approach” which views a system as a collection of interrelated parts rather than mutually independent parts.

  • Overview,  Philosophy

    Do We Have Free Will?

    Attacks on free will have become fairly common. While the attackers often recognize what is at risk — namely the sense of responsibility and accountability — they are motivated by establishing the primacy of what science seems to be telling us over what we have commonsensically believed over the centuries. This post examines the critique of free will and its associated problems, showing why contrary to common belief, science does not deny free will but rather depends upon it.

  • Philosophy

    The Broken Watchmaker

    Even a broken watch tells the right time twice a day.  However, to know that the watch is broken, we must observe it when it tells the time incorrectly rather than when it tells it correctly. This analogy is a useful way to understand the problem in modern science, because clearly there are times in which science makes correct predictions. Those who argue that science works only look at science when it seems to work correctly. To know that they are looking at a broken watch, they would have to look at it when its predictions break down — either because the prediction isn’t there, or the prediction disagrees with observation.

  • Philosophy,  Physics,  Psychology

    Is the Mind like the Fluidity of Water?

    A common argument against the mind-body duality is that mind is an epiphenomenon of chemical reactions in the brain much like  the fluidity of water is a consequence of molecular interactions. This argument seems appealing because if we reduce water to its molecules, we don’t see fluidity in each molecule; fluidity is only a property of the collection. The mind-brain reductionist similarly argues that the mind’s properties are features of the brain, although individual molecules that make up the brain don’t have these properties.