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Beautiful butterfly in Hunei, Taiwan
Photo by Boris Smokrovic on Unsplash

Here’s How to Tell if Scientists are Exaggerating

How much can the public trust confident claims by scientists? Especially about morally or politically or philosophically charged topics? Alas, not so much, as the New York Times Magazine reminds us once again in a recent article, “How Beauty Is Making Scientists Rethink Evolution.” The subtitle asks, “The extravagant splendor of the animal kingdom can’t be explained by natural selection alone — …

Seattle Skyline

Go Grow Somewhere Else

Microsoft recently announced an unprecedented three-year, $500 million investment to spur housing development across the Puget Sound region. Since 2011, strong economic growth in the Seattle metro area has boosted overall jobs by 21 percent, but the housing stock has expanded only 13 percent, leading to a massive increase in rental and home prices. It’s a problem reaching crisis levels in all West Coast tech cities. Read More ›
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The Deep State Digs Deeper

As we approach Martin Luther King Day, it seems timely to reflect on King’s statement from a Birmingham jail in 1963 that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Arguably, the greatest injustice and worst crime against the democratic republic of the United States is for an elite cadre to engineer and attempt to carry out a coup that Read More ›

Alaska Way Viaduct
overpass off of the Alaska Way Viaduct in Seattle

Technology, Transportation, and the Tunnel

The work of Discovery Institute’s ACES Northwest Network was recently featured in this Seattle Times article, authored by project co-chairs Tom Alberg and Bryan Mistele.  The article highlights our efforts to advance autonomous, connected, electric and shared (ACES) vehicle technologies in the Pacific Northwest—especially during the so-called ‘Period of Maximum Constraint’ following the impending closure of the Alaskan Way Viaduct.  Read More ›

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Photo by zhang dayong on Unsplash

Is Society Now Adopting the Values of ‘Blade Runner’?

“Blade Runner” may be the most influential science fiction movie of my lifetime.  The 1982 film starred a terrific Harrison Ford as a world-weary detective assigned to find a terrorist cell of artificially intelligent cyborgs with super human capacities. Led by Rutger Hauer, the cyborgs have traveled to earth from space colonies in a desperate attempt to force their designer Read More ›

Supreme Court Motto

The Federal Bureaucracy in Check

Congress, despite many chances, has not been willing to take responsibility for checking “the administrative state,” as the aggrandizing bureaucratic power of federal agencies has come to be known. Arrival of a Democratic House makes it still less likely that Capitol Hill will resist the continued expansion of federal rules and regulations. As executive, President Trump has tried to slow Read More ›

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Seattle viaduct at dusk

Transportation Technology Can Deliver Us From Viaduct-Closure Gridlock

Seattle is facing a dire transportation crisis with the Jan. 11 closing of the viaduct, politely dubbed the “Period of Maximum Constraint” (POMC). While commuters, employers and school officials are busy making contingency plans, why not take advantage of this moment to tackle some of our traffic congestion problems with creative solutions that might not be possible in normal times. Read More ›

Avoiding Chinese Intellectual Property Theft

President Trump may have mastered the “Art of the Deal” in real estate negotiations, but his controversial trade policy with China is stalled over lack of progress in the reduction of tariff trade barriers. The good news unbeknownst to many, is that U.S. businesses can now obtain fair treatment and avoid theft of intellectual property (IP) in China. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer Read More ›

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The Earth rises above the lunar horizon, photographed from Apollo 8, December 24, 1968. (NASA)

Apollo 8 and Our Privileged Planet

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the launch of Apollo 8, the first manned mission to the moon. The historic flight set the stage for a lunar landing less than a year later. It was also the first time human eyes viewed Earth directly as a complete sphere or saw the far side of the moon.

But what many people most remember about astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and Bill Anders is what they did that Christmas Eve of 1968. Emerging from the moon’s far side during their fourth orbit, they were mesmerized by their vision of Earth, a delicate, gleaming swirl of blue and white, contrasting with the barren lunar horizon — the famous Earthrise picture.

To mark the event, the crew decided, after much deliberation, to read the first ten verses from the book of Genesis, starting with the familiar “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” The reading, and the reverent silence that followed, went out over a live telecast to an estimated 1 billion viewers, then the largest audience in television history. It was a noble and poetic moment, one that brought people together after a year of political division and strife not unlike 2018.

In his book about Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman notes that the astronauts had chosen the words of Genesis not as a parochial religious expression but rather “to include the feelings and beliefs of as many people as possible.” Indeed, most Earth residents who look at the wonders of nature or the awe-inspiring Earthriseimage instinctively perceive the majesty of a grand design.

Of course, many scientists and others dismiss such perceptions as mere sentiment. Yet scientific evidence has increasingly confirmed what the astronauts, and many who heard them, intuitively sensed on seeing the image of Earth from space.

Astronomers now know that Earth is a rare, life-friendly “oasis in the big vastness of space,” as Borman later reflected. In the past few decades they have discovered that life on our planet depends on many improbable “rare-earth” factors. Earth must orbit the sun at just the right distance, with just the right axial tilt, and with just the right-shaped orbit and right planetary neighbors. Life depends on Earth having a moon of the right size at the right distance. The solar system as a whole must also reside in a narrow life-friendly band of space within our galaxy, the “galactic habitable zone.”

We’ve also come to appreciate that we inhabit a privileged platform for scientific discovery. Earth’s crust is endowed with the abundant mineral and energy resources required for advanced technology, including that necessary for sending astronauts to the moon. Our clear atmosphere and location far from the center of a large galaxy allow us to learn about the universe near and far.

At a deeper level, physicists now know that the universe itself exhibits extreme fine-tuning. Even slight changes to the relative masses of fundamental particles or to the strengths of fundamental forces, or to the force driving the accelerating expansion of the universe or to its initial arrangement of mass and energy, would have rendered the universe incapable of sustaining life. In the 1960s, physicists had just begun to discover examples of such fine-tuning. Now they know of many more. This suggests “the common sense interpretation,” as Cambridge University astrophysicist Fred Hoyle put it, “that a super intellect has monkeyed with physics” to make life possible.

Read More ›