APPENDIX Z13: Major Problems in Science

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Major Problems in Science
[Selected Quotes from
by Dr. Peter Atkins*
“The rst great question of being is one that has probably
entertained us all at one time or another: where did
it, the
universe, all come from? How did it begin?…” (p.
“There are, in fact, three
related profound questions to
address in the context of creation. One is the mechanism
of the coming into being of the universe: what
happened at the beginning? Another is whether
is any meaning to the question of what preceded
universe and had, in some sense, the potential to
a universe. Here we are
confronted by the linguistically
and conceptually engaging question of whether
nothing can have potency to become something. The
third is whether an agent was needed to trigger
process of cosmogenesis, the process of turning that
nothing into what is to all appearances something,
or can
nothing turn itself into something on its own? All
questions sound as though they might fall within

range of science to answer.
A fourth question, why
there is a universe, is rather different, but still apparently
very interesting….” (p. 2)
“As a result of their intrinsic caution, almost
scientist is wisely unwilling to express a view
about the
events accompanying the inception of the universe.
Quite honestly, they
haven’t a clue….” (p. 5)
“The task before science in this connection will be
show how something can come from nothing without
intervention. No one has the slightest idea whether
can happen and, if so,
how it can come about….” (p. 11)
“The unfolding of absolutely nothing—what out of
reverence for the absence
of anything, including empty
space, we are calling Nothing—into something is a
problem of the profoundest
difculty and currently far
beyond the reach of science. It is, however, a target at
which science must aim even though to some, even
scientists of a pessimistic or perhaps just
realistic bent,
it would seem to be for ever out of science’s reach….”
(p. 12)
“Presumably before the
creation, when there was
Nothing, there was no charge; so the coming into
of the universe was accompanied by the separation
‘no charge’ into opposites. Charge was not created
the creation: electrical Nothing separated into
equal and
opposite charges….” (pp. 13-14)

“I promised to return to the question of why there is
a universe. What is its purpose? Something so big,
complex, and all embracing some hold, must be
for a reason….” (p. 18)
“…science is a ceaseless probing with a view to
overturning authority….science, though delighted
by the glorious complexity of the world, seeks the
simplicity that lies beneath it….science is
difcult, as it seeks covert mechanism….science is
ever thrusting forward, wriggling into new modes
understanding,…science gives an opportunity for
humanity to achieve the aspirations it already has
opens its eyes to new ones….” (pp. 26-27)
“A scientist, the arch-descendent of Occam, looks
for the simplest explanation, then builds
only if the explanation’s
barren, rocky simplicity proves
inadequate….” (p. 33)
“One problem with evolution is how it began.
Competition between primitive organisms is all
well, the triumph of one message over another,
but how did matter step across the national bridge
from the inorganic to the organic in the rst
…It would be much more satisfying—satisfying of
curiosity, intellectually
satisfying, and possibly spiritually
satisfying—if we could nd a physical process by
that gap was bridged, presumably without the
intervention of an agent….” (pp. 38-39)

“…Scientists are still puzzled about how this
[of life] emerged under the impact, presumably, of
natural selection, and it remains a problem of evolution.
That is not to say that there are not many ideas about
how it came about. Just as for the origin of life
which is still a real puzzle, evolutionary
biologists are not
without ideas, but have not yet identied which, if
any, is
valid….” (pp. 60-61)
Peter Atkins, On Being
(Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 2011), pp.1-2,
5, 11-14, 18, 26-27, 33, 38-39, 60-61.
Scientist Peter Atkins is the author of almost 70
books, including
Galileo’s Finger: The Ten Great Ideas of Science, Four Laws
That Drive the Universe, and the world-renowned textbook
Physical Chemistry. A Fellow of Lincoln College, University of
Oxford, he has been a visiting professor in France, Israel, New
Zealand, and China, and continues to lecture
widely throughout
the world.

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