Self-Motivation
David Goggins
Former Navy Seal
Career Development
Bryan Cranston
Actor
Critical Thinking
Liv Boeree
International Poker Champion
Emotional Intelligence
Amaryllis Fox
Former CIA Clandestine Operative
Management
Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
Learn
from the world's big
thinkers
Start Learning

Is there certainty in science?

Question: Is there certainty in science?

Sam Harris:  Certainty is, I think, a false goal.  I mean we’re not achieving . . .  We’re achieving functional certainties in science and in just . . . in our day-to-day lives.  I mean it’s a functional certainty that I’m sitting here talking to you, though it’s possible I could be dreaming or, you know, deceived by an evil demon.  Those kinds of philosophical, ______ worries don’t really relate too much to the ordinary practice of science, the very useful practice of science, and our ordinary task of just negotiating our lives and finding happiness in this world.  We recognize that there’s a range . . . that there’s a continuum of, “I’m not sure, there’s a coin toss, fifty-fifty” understanding of a circumstance to being functionally certain about what is so.  And many people are pretending to be functionally certain, or believe themselves to be functionally certain about things like Jesus is gonna come back and judge the world in their lifetime.  Twenty percent of the American population claims to be functionally certain that that is gonna come to pass, and 78% think that Jesus is gonna come back sometime – not necessarily in their lifetime.  And these certainties do real work for us.  I mean the person who is certain that the soul enters the zygote at the moment of conception is the person who wants to veto stem cell research, despite the fact that tens of millions of people are suffering from conditions for which stem cell research is the best line of research to generate therapies.  So these are ideas that are not just of academic interest, or person, private, or spiritual relevance.  I mean these are shaping policy.  They’re shaping a national conversation.  And then when you look to the Muslim world, they are causing people to blow themselves up on street corners.

Recorded on: July 4 2007 

Harris believes that certainty is a false goal.

LIVE EVENT | Radical innovation: Unlocking the future of human invention

Innovation in manufacturing has crawled since the 1950s. That's about to speed up.

Big Think LIVE

Add event to calendar

AppleGoogleOffice 365OutlookOutlook.comYahoo


Keep reading Show less

The dangers of the chemical imbalance theory of depression

A new Harvard study finds that the language you use affects patient outcome.

Image: solarseven / Shutterstock
Mind & Brain
  • A study at Harvard's McLean Hospital claims that using the language of chemical imbalances worsens patient outcomes.
  • Though psychiatry has largely abandoned DSM categories, professor Joseph E Davis writes that the field continues to strive for a "brain-based diagnostic system."
  • Chemical explanations of mental health appear to benefit pharmaceutical companies far more than patients.
Keep reading Show less

Navy SEALs: How to build a warrior mindset

SEAL training is the ultimate test of both mental and physical strength.

Videos
  • The fact that U.S. Navy SEALs endure very rigorous training before entering the field is common knowledge, but just what happens at those facilities is less often discussed. In this video, former SEALs Brent Gleeson, David Goggins, and Eric Greitens (as well as authors Jesse Itzler and Jamie Wheal) talk about how the 18-month program is designed to build elite, disciplined operatives with immense mental toughness and resilience.
  • Wheal dives into the cutting-edge technology and science that the navy uses to prepare these individuals. Itzler shares his experience meeting and briefly living with Goggins (who was also an Army Ranger) and the things he learned about pushing past perceived limits.
  • Goggins dives into why you should leave your comfort zone, introduces the 40 percent rule, and explains why the biggest battle we all face is the one in our own minds. "Usually whatever's in front of you isn't as big as you make it out to be," says the SEAL turned motivational speaker. "We start to make these very small things enormous because we allow our minds to take control and go away from us. We have to regain control of our mind."
Keep reading Show less

NASA's idea for making food from thin air just became a reality — it could feed billions

Here's why you might eat greenhouse gases in the future.

Jordane Mathieu on Unsplash
Technology & Innovation
  • The company's protein powder, "Solein," is similar in form and taste to wheat flour.
  • Based on a concept developed by NASA, the product has wide potential as a carbon-neutral source of protein.
  • The man-made "meat" industry just got even more interesting.
Keep reading Show less

New guidelines redefine 'obesity' to curb fat shaming

Is focusing solely on body mass index the best way for doctor to frame obesity?

Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
Surprising Science
  • New guidelines published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal argue that obesity should be defined as a condition that involves high body mass index along with a corresponding physical or mental health condition.
  • The guidelines note that classifying obesity by body mass index alone may lead to fat shaming or non-optimal treatments.
  • The guidelines offer five steps for reframing the way doctors treat obesity.
Keep reading Show less
Quantcast