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Out of Nowhere by Patrick LeClerc.
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tgoyetteCan Science Save the world?2014-06-23 16:26:36
tgoyetteThis question is just about global warming, but other natural disasters, plagues, etc. We are conditioned to have Scotty, Dr McCoy, or Mr Spock, or add in your favorite bacon saving nerd. Can this happen in real life. For plagues, hundreds, thousands, or millions die before a cure is found. Are there disasters that are just too big for science to handle?2014-06-23 16:29:35
Sidewinder4It depends on the size of the projectile. One theory for the formation of the moon has an asteroid striking the Earth which causes the earth to give birth to the moon. A slightly different theory has the asteroid striking Mother Earth a "glancing blow" and sticking around in earth orbit as The Moon. Either of these qualify as "too big" for science to handle. Small Pox and Polio have been brought under control by Science and brave scientists like Jonas Salk, the inventor of the first Polio vaccine who tested his serum on his own family. Mankind's tendency to mass murder, Hitler, Stalin, et. al. may ultimately prove "too big" as well. So maybe the type of threat is as important as its size. Sidewinder4 2014-06-23 21:43:58
jessbaumThis is where everyone realizes that I'm insane because I'm crazily sane. Are we talking about Biology and nature or Chemistry and lab coats? Because I am huge on Biology and have been all my life, worked at a vet clinic, volunteer with all sorts of animals etc and am all for natural cures and helping people realize that there are more holistic ways to take care of our issues than not. Chemists just seem to want to concoct some kind of miracle in a jar that almost always has more side effects than not. Put the two together and we've got the chaos that is civilization. I do not presume to think that humans have any right to stop the natural flow of disaster, from destruction comes rebirth and maybe we need a plague or an asteroid to set things straight. But most people will not agree with me and I accepted that loooong ago. haha2014-06-24 08:56:01
R.TornelloA few months ago Scientific American ran an editorial on this general subject. I can't locate my issue and I just attempted to google it. One conclusion it came to was, if funding and general public acceptance in the role of science and humanity would be allowed to flourish, and just how science works (as in payoff over time, and generally no quick cures) then yes science an play a large role. That was my take on it. I think there were more articles on that subject throughout the issue. It makes me nuts when I know it's in the house SOMEWHERE. RT2014-06-24 11:01:57
mark211I love this question! It's one of those deceptively innocent looking queries that actually conceals issues of deep complexity. As I think the question can be read in two different ways, I'll say 'No' to the first and 'Maybe' to the second reading. In the first, 'Can science save the world?' is basically saying can we prevent e.g. a climate catastrophe from overwhelming humanity through scientific processes. I'd say 'No' because community politics will always come between any potential solution and the result. In fact, this is already happening both India and China (to mention just two examples, but there are more) are suspicious of climate controls on carbon emissions because those ideas originated in the western nations these two economic and industrial giants are set to overtake. So in other words, they read it as a way of the West trying to put the brakes on their progress. They may be wrong, or may be they're right but it will be a hard job to persuade them otherwise especially given that it is difficult to prove that the proposed actions will actually lead to the expected results. In the second, I'd say maybe the issue is the limits of human life and knowledge. Scientific knowledge is incremental and generally proceeds through identifying relatively trivial phenomenon compared to the whole. So in something as complex as the global ecosystem, science would have to develop some kind of massive, super computer to evaluate and process all the tens of thousands of data from separate studies to see how (if?) it can be related to a continually changing dynamic system. Quantum computing might might be able to produce this kind of massive real-time monitoring but that's a big if. But no impossible. So 'Maybe', but probably 'No'. 2014-06-25 10:50:58
Pippin91Mark211's comments hint at the concept of the Tragedy of the Commons. Here's a Wikipedia excerpt: In 1968, ecologist Garrett Hardin explored this social dilemma in "The Tragedy of the Commons", published in the journal, Science.[3] Hardin discussed problems that cannot be solved by technical means, as distinct from those with solutions that require "a change only in the techniques of the natural sciences, demanding little or nothing in the way of change in human values or ideas of morality". The classic example is a common grazing area for livestock. The community benefits if everyone only uses the area in a sustainable way, but an individual benefits more if he grazes his herd there as much as possible, That's the problem with climate change. The polluter benefits (short term) more than the responsible ones who curb their emissions. As there is no effective mechanism to stop this, I see Global Climate Change as a human, not technological problem. But, if the question is interpreted as "Can science be used as an effective tool to save lives and make our lives more comfortable and enjoyable, YES! It has already and as new discoveries are made (There is tremendous progress in cancer treatments presently, for example) this will only be more and more true.2014-06-25 11:10:50
jessbaumSo I'm guessing that by asking about saving the world most of you guys are taking it as "the human world", not the world itself? I mean humans are only a teeny tiny part of the life of this world. 2014-06-25 12:14:31
Pippin91Jessbaum, if it's the planet itself we're discussing, then I'm with Sidewinder - it depends on the peril: A collision with a planet-sized body (even a near-miss that drastically alters our orbit around the sun), or a massive solar flare, or a gamma-ray burst from a nearby star would all wipe us out without a doubt. Our science can't deal with those things. But we could potentially deflect a smaller asteroid. 2014-06-25 12:35:30
tgoyetteI left the question open ended so that the discussion could be wide ranging. The last couple of comment reminded me of a thing I saw about how to destroy the earth. I found it humorous. check it out at: http://www.livescience.com/17875-destroy-earth-doomsday.html 2014-06-25 18:41:45
jessbaumEverything I post is almost always while laughing so never take me to seriously. haha Love the how to destroy the earth post, I mean we can try and screw things up but eventually mother nature will kick our asses(it's how that's the question). teehee2014-06-26 06:42:59
micheledutcherI once had a friend say, "Being Amish is a nice way to live, but it will never put a man on the moon." I think it depends upon how well, quality of life, we want to live. By now I can't imagine life without Air Conditioning, for example...unless I literally lived in a cave. Or at least a fan - which is still electric, which is still the result of science. I'm glad I can get vaccinated against the majority of diseases running rampant over the face of the Earth. The more we learn, the better we will be at protecting ourselves. If we can ever make it off this rock we can enlarge or chances of survival for us and the other organisms we choose to take with us in seed form - the Space Ark Scenario. If we stay here on this planet, we're a sitting duck for whatever the universe throws at us. However, does the explosion of a nearby star take out only a few star systems, or an entire quadrant of the galaxy? 2014-06-29 10:55:19
mark211"So I'm guessing ...most of you guys are taking it as "the human world"..." @jessbaum: Yes, I mean the human world although as I include in that the idea that biodiversity is essential to human life (e.g. the decline in the bee population being a good example) then saving ourselves entails saving other species - but my priority is the continuation of human life (and even then, human life entails human cultures so while poachers may hunt elephants and tigers, governments also send out gamekeepers, wardens and soldiers to ensure the continued survival of certain kinds of animals - so while the concern is primarily human, the benefit (on balance) is to the animals - even though, yes, I concede that they wouldn't be endangered in the first place if we weren't hunting them). 2014-06-30 09:40:26

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