Evolution is a fact, not a controversy

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Reading through even just a third of The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution by Richard Dawkins, the celebrated biologist, one is armed with enough aha! moments and anti-charlatan detectors to fill a season of Oprah and perhaps half one of Mythbusters respectively. Continue reading

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The biggest fraud in history

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It’s a fine, sultry Sunday on which I should be relaxing but I’ve done all I can to avoid my chair: stayed up in bed, tidied up my apartment, prepared food and ironed. That’s because my back has been killing me since Friday. That’s on top of the fact that my feet have swelled with increasing frequency over the past year. This is all a result of what Yuval Noah Harari calls in Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind the biggest fraud in history.

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In the age of ‘alternative facts,’ let’s reflect on some fact-facts

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‘Post-truth era,’ ‘alternative facts,’ ‘misrepresentations.’ These are all colourful synonyms of what the unpolitical types call lies. At a time when truth has been so thoroughly molested, long-respected institutions questioned, the old ways of doing business suffering an ever-more critical gaze, it’s perhaps apt to exhale in relief as we reflect on some undeniable certainties. There really are some ideas that can’t be shaken. If they are, that would require a shift in our thinking so seismic it would be intolerable in the absence of a better, alternative idea. Continue reading

‘Mum, what is nature?’ ‘A quantum wave function, sweetie.’

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I vaguely remember back in my preteen years asking my mother what nature was, but not her reply. I suspect it was similar to the one she gave when I asked why it’s often said time is money. To that, I distinctly recall her answer: ‘You’ll understand some day.’ That was her way of deferring what would have been a complicated explanation of economics with the expectation that I would one day figure it out myself. Unlike my mother, The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning and the Universe Itself, by Sean Carroll, does offer an answer to an equally complex question, ‘what is nature?’—a satisfyingly simple and concrete one: a quantum wave function. Continue reading

The moment man mastered nature

In Greek mythology Prometheus steals fire from the highest gods and gives it to mankind.

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Me skydiving tandem from 3.4 km above Wonderboom, Pretoria North, in November 2014

The moment man claimed Prometheus’s torch was not when he first controlled fire or found the wheel.

The moment he stopped being at the immediate mercy of nature was not when his brain swelled so large that he devised weapons that dislodged the lion from the apex of the food chain. It was not at the beginning of electrified country, or when he freed himself from the confines of the seasons to harvest food. And put aside the fact that after a test burn of a shuttle engine, which generates thrust by reacting hydrogen and liquid oxygen, and the white plumes billow into the air, rain falls. Continue reading