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Cancer’s Inconvenient Truths

Inconvenience #1: Genetics represents < 10% of the risk but most of the science...

Is math inherently part of the structure of the universe?

In another thread on Science 2.0 we got onto the nature of existence and what we can say for certain...

Is cancer curable?

James Watson, co-discoverer of DNA’s double-helix structure recently called for a back to...

Cancer research surprises

Many people would admit to not understanding cancer well, but fewer people would admit to not understanding...

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Rafe FurstRSS Feed of this column.

Rafe Furst holds an M.S. in Computer Science and B.S. in Symbolic Systems, both from Stanford University. He is an entrepreneur, investor and business leader whose passion is connecting people... Read More »

Godwin's Law says, "As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1."  Since I started with the comparison, we can hopefully move forward :-) 

The reason I think the analogy is apt is that calling a truth claim "woo" is the least interesting choice the claimant could make.  If a claim is meritless, it should be easy to dismantle.  Further, it is important to dismantle it in as air-tight and a logical manner as possible so that those who would debunk the dangerous meme have artillery to do so and don't need to reinvent the argument from scratch.
Isn't dividing the world into disciplines the antithesis of Science 2.0?  My preference would be no categories, but at the least, couldn't we have a Field called "Multidisciplinary" or "Science 2.0"?

If you grew up like me you were brought up in a culture based on a dualist metaphysics, one that asserts that there is an objective reality outside of ourselves (whatever “we” are) and that we know about it indirectly through our senses and conscious reasoning.  This is the basis of the Western traditions of science, liberal arts and symbolic systems (such as mathematics and human language).  Essentially anything that can be studied is part of this metaphysics.  Observation and rationality may never lead to complete knowing, though everyone agrees we can continually refine our knowledge and thereby at least asymptotically approach enlightenment.

Will Wright’s demo of Spore illustrates some key concepts of complex systems, including the notion of simple rules generating complex behaviors, and also the power of recursively applied (i.e. fractal) computation at different levels.  Living systems leverage these same principles.

[note: I struggled with what category to put this in, perhaps there should be a new one called Complexity?]

One of the paradigms in complex adaptive systems thinking that has great explanatory power is the idea that there are distinct systems organized hierarchically in various levels of complexity. So, for instance, you can look at atoms as being a system at one level of organization, on top of which sits the next level of atomically bonded compounds (aka molecules), on top of which sits the next level of molecular reactions (e.g. chains of enzyme reactions), and so on. It’s well-understood that within a given level, the individual elements (i.e.

Voting blocs are an emergent property of representative democracies wherein each new voting issue carries with it an automatic right for each representative to vote. In other words, when votes are treated like a continually renewable resource, there becomes incentive for each representative to give away votes on issues they care less about in exchange for something of greater value. When that thing of greater value is money we call it corruption. When the thing of greater value is a promise of future support from an outside agency, we call it lobbying. And when groups of representatives agree on an ongoing basis to trade away votes in exchange for membership, we call it a party.