About Rationally Speaking

Rationally Speaking is a blog maintained by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York. The blog reflects the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet's idea of what a public intellectual (yes, we know, that's such a bad word) ought to be: someone who devotes himself to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them." You're welcome. Please notice that the contents of this blog can be reprinted under the standard Creative Commons license.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Rationally Speaking podcast: Mario Livio on scientists' brilliant blunders

The next time you're kicking yourself for some stupid mistake, remember: Even history's genuises screw up! Astrophysicist and author Mario Livio joins this episode of Rationally Speaking to talk about his new book, "Brilliant Blunders: From Darwin to Einstein - Colossal Mistakes by Great Scientists That Changed Our Understanding of Life and the Universe."

Learn about why Darwin's theory of natural selection "shouldn't" have worked, why Einstein was confused about the role of aesthetics in physics, why Hoyle stubbornly refused to change his mind about a "steady state" universe - and why those mistakes are central to scientific progress.

Mario's pick: "Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error."


  1. Truth is
    The most important scientific blunder that science has yet to resolve is the uncertainty of measure.
    And Einstein was correct, God doesn't play dice, the solution is the elegant equation itself.
    True science, not the theoretical or probable grey area science of today, is clearly more simple and absolutely more beautiful than thought!
    The solution is


  2. Darwin's blunder is bigger than that. Selection is not predictive - mutation is random & novelties that survive will do so with novelty - he didn't have a handle on the mutations or environment for prediction. In fact, DNA evolves from one cell by constructing working phenotypes only using proximate environmental chemicals - phenotypes are living embodiments of a chemical landscape, and proximate chemicals and their properties will determine what can be constructed. Read how this argument develops in my free book at the humandesign.net or on skydrive at http://sdrv.ms/12CAukv

    The human anatomy is a literal embodiment of our environmental landscape - with a working design for mental states from the capacities of those chemicals. The blunder is to ignore the chemical structure of the working phenotype. We could be much further advanced in understanding what can be constructed in the first place, rather than narratives about how it survives. Anatomy, inorganic fashioned into organic chemicals by DNA, and the chemical nature of mental states would also be more advanced. The fault is with science in general in not picking up this point, rather than Darwin, who almost got half way there with his selection after construction. Look at what can be constructed from a landscape in the first place.

  3. Here's a nice video of lecture in which Dawkins shows how tantalizingly close Darwin came to realizing (in correspondence with Alfred Russell Wallace) the digital nature of heritability (as opposed to the idea of blending): http://berto-meister.blogspot.com/2009/11/darwin-most-revolutionary-scientist-of.html


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