#shanenaz

We've done it again! This time we biked from Petra in Jordan up to Nazareth in Israel, to raise money for the Nazareth Hospital CT Scanner appeal. Nazareth is the largest Arab town in Israel, but they still don't have a dedicated Stroke Unit to cope with this devastating condition and major cause of death. Click here to find out more, and please help this fantastic cause. Thanks!

27 January 2007

UNKNOWNS & MYSTERIES

[I posted this to Pharyngula just now...]

I sometimes find it helpful in dealing with [theist] nutters [who go on about "spirituality" and such things] to point out that there are two categories of Things-We-Do-Not-Know. These are UNKNOWNS and MYSTERIES. (Apologies for the capitalisation; I'll be trying to work these into acronyms at some point!)

I define the former as things that are in principle knowable, and hence they are not-yet-knowns. Even when they can't in *practice* be known, they are nonetheless non-mysterious.

MYSTERIES, OTOH, are things that we can never know *in principle*. They are beyond mere human ken. They are the realm of the pixies.

The problem for pixie-huggers is that there aren't any situations that fit into the latter category. They *claim* that there are, but there aren't. They will, furthermore, claim that certain UNKNOWNS are in fact MYSTERIES, but that is a leap that imposes upon them a burden of proof, and they are unwilling to be so gracious as to provide that.

So even your first mitotic division sits comfortably in UNKNOWN territory, but it sure ain't no MYSTERY. The vast tree of science is peppered with UNKNOWNS, but these are generally treatable as "black boxes", where we can establish the inputs and outputs of the system, even if we don't know the full details of the inner workings. But pixies cannot live in such black boxes, because these nasty old scientists have a habit of opening the lids and exposing the insides.

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