Paradigms Regained : A Further Exploration of the Mysteries of Modern Science

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9780688161156: Paradigms Regained : A Further Exploration of the Mysteries of Modern Science

How did life on Earth begin?  Is artificial intelligence possible?  How do children acquire language?  does intelligent life exist elsewhere in the galaxy?  Is reality simply based on individual perception?  These are only a few of the questions science has grappled with for centuries.  New evidence gives way to more questions, and new discoveries destroy old paradigms, yet definitive answers have yet to be reached.  As we enter the next century of science, where do we stand with the Big Questions?

In the spirit of the previous book, which framed each Big Question as a mock jury trial with prosecution, defense, and verdict rendered, Paradigms Regained approaches the same questions in the form of an appeal and, in each case, decides whether or not the previous verdict still holds, based on the new evidence.  The result is a unique compendium of current scientific theory, as well as a fascinating glimpse into future paradigms. 

A brilliant, accessible, and illuminating survey, Paradigms Regained offers provocative insight into modern scientific thought.The origins of life...extraterrestrials . . . our genetic destiny . . . the roots of language and learning . . . quantum physics and the shape of our universe . . . artificial intelligence. These are the mysteries of modern science and the unanswered questions that propel further exploration. In Paradigms Regained, John Casti engages in a lively debate of the "Big Questions" and presents a fascinating overview of current scientific theory on the cusp of the next century of discovery. Where Paradigms Lost was a compelling amalgam of the science of this century, Paradigms Regained offers a deeper examination of these issues in light of new evidence and points toward the future of science. A brilliant, accessible, and illuminating survey, Paradigms Regained offers provocative insight into modern scientific thought.The origins of life . . . extraterrestrials . . . our genetic destiny . . . the roots of language and learning . . . quantum physics and the shape of our universe . . . artificial intelligence. These are the mysteries of modern science and the unanswered questions that propel further exploration. In Paradigms Regained, John Casti engages in a lively debate of the "Big Questions" and presents a fascinating overview of current scientific theory on the cusp of the next century of discovery. Where Paradigms Lost was a compelling amalgam of the science of this century, Paradigms Regained offers a deeper examination of these issues in light of new evidence and points toward the future of science. A brilliant, accessible, and illuminating survey, Paradigms Regained offers provocative insight into modern scientific thought.

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Review:

In Paradigms Regained, John Casti reexamines the six big questions he looked at in his 1989 book, Paradigms Lost: Did life begin naturally and on Earth? Is human behavior genetically determined? Is there a language organ in the human brain? Can computers think? Can we talk to ET? Is there a Real World?

In Paradigms Lost, he presents the evidence for yes and no answers to each question as though in a trial by jury, with witnesses arguing for the prosecution and defense, then a summary of the evidence and a verdict. Paradigms Regained takes the same questions to an appeals court, summarizes the evidence from the "trial" and introduces new evidence from the intervening decade.

Casti's goal is to show how science works, how "the single most characteristic feature of science is that its conclusions are tentative." So in three cases he now reaches a ruling of "appeal upheld," overturning his previous verdicts. In fact, the only one truly overturned is his conclusion of "not proven" to the question about the genetic determination of human behavior: he thinks the evidence for "yes" has become much stronger. In the cases of the origin of life and the existence of a Real World, he has kept the same one-word answers but now favors different mechanisms.

Together, the two books are good illustrations of how science looks at the questions that most interest nonscientists and of how scientific knowledge builds and changes. They make excellent maps to the borders between science and philosophy, science and religion, and science and pseudoscience. --Mary Ellen Curtin

About the Author:

John L. Casti received his Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Southern California in 1970. In 1974, after holding positions at the RAND Corporation and the University of Arizona, he became one of the first research staff members at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Vienna, where he stayed until 1986. Since 1992, he has been a professor and resident researcher at the Santa Fe Institute. He is also a professor at the Technical University of Vienna. The author of numerous books, he divides his time between Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Vienna.

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