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Scientific Controversies: Can We Explain the World?



We know enough about the world to manipulate electricity, operate phones, and send people to the moon. Modern science presumes the world can be understood, that technology based on that understanding will work, and that our ideas should be verified by experience and experiment. As neuroscientist Stuart Firestein argues, we will always be driven to know more, inspired by our collective ignorance. But we can wonder if there are fundamental limits to what we can know, if the mind is too complex to comprehend, and if there are facts about the world that have no explanation. Astrophysicist and writer Janna Levin discourses with Stuart Firestein and Tim Maudlin to consider the question: Can we explain the world?

This live event was recorded June 18, 2015 at Pioneer Works.

About the Participants:
Astrophysicist and writer Janna Levin organized the event.
Stuart Firestein, Neuroscientist, is a Professor of Biology at Columbia University and author of Ignorance.
Tim Maudlin, Professor of Philosophy, NYU, is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and author of books including Philosophy of Physics, Volume 1: Space and Time, and The Metaphysics Within Physics.

About the Series:
Major scientific discoveries can disrupt the traditional order, leaving scientists adrift in concepts that resist familiar intuitions and beliefs. Of the new ideas that emerge, some will be wrong and some will be right. Honest and open scientific controversy helps disentangle one from the other. Eventually, one side of a debate grows in strength and finds confirmation in experiments, while the other atrophies. But both sides of a controversy contribute to the breakthrough of actual discovery--when the utterly abstract barges into the realm of the concrete. This series celebrates that passionate spirit of scientific debate. For the Pioneer Works series Scientific Controversies, we take a look at profound topics at the frontier of physics that have inspired unresolved debates: Reality, Time, and Black Holes.
 

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