Ethical challenges in science

A childrens book about Darwin and his little theory
A children’s book about Darwin and his little theory. It makes sense, but it requires some speculation, like all scientific theories do.

You hardly ever see or hear it anymore, but many Norwegian radio stations and newspapers used to have an ênquete, often called “five on the street”. I remember one because it was rather amusing. A radio station focused on the sometimes strange questions that appear on the theoretical part of the driving license test. What do you need to have over the car? Some were thinking about something they had to physically cover the car with, like a tarpaulin, but the correct answer was control.

What would your answer be to the question what is science? Some might say it’s about testing ideas through experiments and observations. Then someone else may build on the ideas that turned out to be solid and discard the rest. I would have said that science is that too. Science is also speculation.

When I was studying pedagogics in college in the late 1990’s Jean Piaget was treated with a lot of respect, maybe too much. His theory about childrens cognitive development seems to have been accurate enough, but I wonder how a similar study would have been received today. He used his own children, and in addition to the small amount of subjects it is unclear how scientific his methods were.

Roger Sperry and Michael Gazzaniga were pioneers in split brain research. They severed the corpus callosum, the main bond between the brain’s left and right hemisphere. This is a drastic treatment of epilepsy, and they had done it to ten patients when they started their first study, but only four of them agreed to take part in the study. It turned out to be true that the two hemispheres control different functions, but I wonder how strong that evidence was in the 1960’s.

Giordano Bruno is celebrated as a martyr for science. He was burned at the stake in 1600, although it’s not that clear that it was science that got him into trouble with the Catholics. He suggested that there were distant stars surrounded by exoplanets that could support life. He also believed the universe was infinite. That wasn’t a bad speculation, but it wasn’t based on observations others could test.

People have a lot of opinions about Darwinism, but it’s pretty clear that it can’t give the anwers we want, either you are a Christian or an atheist. There are some questions that will have to be unanswered, but Darwinism certainly doesn’t pose any problems for Christians. I guess it depends on what you do with the survival of the fittest crap. This leads to natural selection, which means that the most adaptable individuals have an advantage.

We are in a fortunate position because we, unlike animals, can change evolution. That means we get to keep people that society may have judged to be useless. I don’t feel comfortable about giving people a diagnose that didn’t exist at the time, but the researcher Michael Fitzgerald calls autism the genius gene, and he has listed names like Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, Nikola Tesla and H.G. Wells. These are not bad idols to have for autistic children growing up today. They tell us that it is possible for autistic people to have rich lives too. It counteracts the negative focus, but it may also tell us that life is in some ways harder today. It’s not that simple to get respect, patience, understanding and so on if you are different, no matter how much some people insist that different is good.

We are living in a period where being smart is more important than having big muscles, but we still value social skills more than anything. That worries me because with the increasing focus on the individual’s right to satisfy his/her ego without having any responsibility, it will be harder if you have to rely on kindness. In a Darwinian society it will be hard for many people, for example those with an atypical neurology, to compete against the rest without any help. Adolf Hitler was probably the best Darwinist we’ve had and and we created him. He was inspired by ideas that were popular in Europe and the USA before the war.

Many theories have been viewed as twisted. One of the least popular ones at the moment is the simulation hypothesis, which says that we are living in a computer programme. The tech billionaire Elon Musk is funding research on this. It won’t be easy to prove, but if someone made a simulation that was real enough to convince anyone, it would at least be plausible (but not yet proven). It would be interesting to see what kind of software Elon Musk has access to. This theory isn’t wilder than a lot of other hypothesis researchers have tried to test. Is it fair to dismiss it just like that? In my opinion the only thing a scientist can do is to say that there are no testable observations that supports the theory. That doesn’t make this speculation more hopeless than others.

If you google evolution you’ll find many articles debunking defenders of creationism, intelligent design and other theories. They can usually manage to squeeze in a few less scientific words such as lunatic, balmy, crackpot, gaga etc. The truth is that a lot of science is about trust and faith, and having read a lot of articles about dishonesty in science over the years, I believe researchers have to accept more responsibility. These people are just as human as the rest of us, but we all want complete atonomy as human beings. That means accepting responsibility, and not keep doing something because everyone else is. You can’t claim to follow ethical guidelines if you fail on honesty and integrity. The pharmaceutical industry has major issues in that respect, and most governments. The Norwegian government has, through its oil fund, invested a lot of money in big pharma. That gives them a credibility problem because they are pushing drugs for an industry with a lot of publication bias.

Putin sneaks through your fridge

Can you shut down internet? That doesn’t seem likely, but after what happened on the east coast of the USA last Friday the answer seems to be yes. Large sites like Spotify, Twitter, Reddit and New York Times were affected.

This was a so-called distributed denial of service attack (DDoS), which means that innocent devices (routers, digital videorecorders,webcamera, smart thermostat/watch,/refrigerator/parking/doorlock etc.) were used to send so many web page requests to servers that the regular traffic was ignored. The servers were simply overwhelmed.

The internet of things (IoT) is used to connect all sorts of devices to the internet. This industry isn’t regulated at, and if you think that’s a good idea think Enron, Lehman Brothers, Fannie Mae, Greece, Ireland, Iceland etc. 5 G is expected to become available in 2020 and that is likely to increase the industry’s desire to offer us services we don’t need. The last product I heard about was a British guy that asked for financial support so he could develop his IoT shower device. What he didn’t say was that the price for saving some water could be that you make it possible for someone to attack a third party. The worst case scenario is your products being turned into weapons.

This reminds me of banks and shops in Norway. Banks don’t deal with cash anymore and the shops have a closed system the cashiers don’t have direct access to (only the exact amount they need). In other words, trying to steal wouldn’t be very smart. Google, Microsoft and other companies have spent a lot of resources on protecting their products, but IoT keeps the back door wide open. Microsoft could tighten security by offering an update we could easily download, but that is not an option with IoT devices. You have to buy a new device and hope the software is better.

The big question is who the attacker was. The governments in Russia, China and North Korea seem to be popular scapegoats, and that may be the right place to point this time. The target appeared to be internet and not institutions like banks, media and the government. I don’t know what ISIS is capable of, but now that the massive attack against them in Mosul has started they are getting desperate, and we really should not give anyone this option. An attack like this has been debated as a possible scenario, but I think the timing surprised many. It is of course possible that this was a political protest making it clear to lawmakers what a security risk they have allowed, but I think it’s more likely to be bigger.

The video sounds wonderful, but if something sounds to good to be true it usually is. Technology is great, but sometimes working harder is the smarter thing to do. It’s not good when we leave the intelligence to the little devices we depend on.

Muddy white

This was the view from our veranda when we lived in Telemark a few years ago. This, unlike many athletes, was pure.

There was a scandal in American baseball many years ago. I have a vague memory of watching something about it on 60 Minutes once. The feeling before the truth came out was that there was no cheating in the true American sport. It is sort of the same attitude most country that send soldiers into battle have. Other people may be corrupted by the evil they fight, but not our boys and girls. So any probe or debriefing is superfluous.

Norwegians seem to feel the same way about what is supposedly their national sport. In my opinion cross country skiing is about as exciting as watching grass grow in winter, but it is still apparently our baseball. The skiers used to have an image pure as white snow, and I am not talking about black city snow, although that seems to be more accurate than many have been willing to admit.

It started a few months ago when the best male cross country skier in the world, the Norwegian Martin Johnsrud Sundby, was caught cheating. He only got a two month suspension, but lost his overall wins in Tour de Ski and World Cup. It didn’t look that serious to begin with, but when media finally started digging they found things they shouldn’t have been able to find. Sundby had used an inhaler with asthma medicine. It was legal, but he had used it too close to the start of the race, which would naturally give him an advantage. It later turned out that the national team encouraged all athletes to use asthma medicine, whether they had asthma or not. When a Norwegian newspaper looked at the 61 Olympic medals Norwegians have won since 1992 they found that 42 of of them had been won by a sick skier. Is this the healthy sport we want to encourage our children to do?

We had another “incident” a few days ago. Another Norwegian skier, this time the best female skier in the world, Therese Johaug, has tested positive. She was on pre-season altitude training in Italy in August when the team bought a cream at the local pharmacy. She used it for a sun-burn on her lips, but it contained stereoids. Several reporters have bought the same tube, but no one has been able to find one without a doping warning. The team still tries to give the impression that there was no way they could have realized what they were doing.

Norway has a good reputation in fighting doping in sports. Athletes don’t have anywhere near the rights accused in a criminal case have. It doesn’t matter how small traces they find in a urine/blood-sample, and it doesn’t matter how it got into the body. They are found guilty anyway. I remember a couple of cases from the Olympics in Sydney. A weightlifter was suspended for the same steroid. He had taken a harmless dietary supplement. The manufacturer also made a product that contained this stereoid and hadn’t cleaned the tanks before they made the supplement. It wasn’t on the label as it wasn’t supposed to be there at all. There was also a young femal gymnast that was sick and she got some pills she apparently shouldn’t have taken.

This is very harsh, but Norwegians have had a very unforgiving attitude towards any form of doping. There are no exceptions. Now we are refusing to accept the rules because this time it was  a healthy Norwegian skier that cried her way through a press conference. We don’t cheat. We are Norwegians. The Russians cheat. The Americans cheat. The Chinese cheat. We never cheat. The Americans found out that dishonesty flourishes when everyone is so sure of the contrary that they don’t see the need for testing.

The bad thing about the two cases in cross country skiing is that in the first case they tried to hide it and in both cases they refused to accept responsibility. I don’t know what happened in this case, but if you want to speculate there are ways to hide stereoids. You can use diuretics and masking agents, and a cream used to treat a sunburn could possibly explain why there are small traces of stereoids in your urine. It’s unthinkable. It’s too proposterous for most Norwegians to consider. That’s why it’s a scandal when it happens.

Space Cowboys

The Earth seen from our moon. This might be close enough, but it’ll be hard to enforce laws on Mars. It could be another wild west. Photo: NASA via Wikimedia Commons

I wrote about a possible cold war in space a couple of years ago. This is a real possibility because no one has concidered the tiger. That was an image I used in Tiger Riding Norwegian Style. I referred to a Chinese proverb saying it’s hard to get off the tiger’s back without being eaten. It means that you need to solve a situation now or get stuck with a dilemma later that you can’t get out of.

It would be somewhat distorted to say that there is only peace and tolerance among nations on Earth, for example between the randomly selected governments of Israel and Iran, Turkey and Greece, or USA and Russia, Syria and China. The Outer Space Treaty from 1967 is supposed to ensure peace in space, which is a relative large territory. The treaty stipulates that no state can claim any territory in space, including the Moon. Nuclear energy is also prohibited in space.

The USA passed a law last year that opens up for private US companies to mine in space. There are also companies developing the technology needed to settle Mars. SpaceX is one of them, and if they succeed in establishing a permanent base, they can do whatever they want as long as they respect The Outer Space Treaty. The best comparison is probably international waters on our own planet. No one owns it, but the law from the the country where the ship is registered applies on board. SpaceX  is American, which would bring US law to this base on Mars, if it is ever built.

This could get messy. The most active countries in space are USA, Russia, China, Canada, Japan, India, Germany and Great Britain. These countries are not only willing to defend their government’s interests on foreign soil, but also that of private businesses. A conflict between private businesses could easily develop into a conflict betweeen states, which may be what we are seeing in Syria. It’s interesting that science fiction-authors have warned against this at least since the 1950’s, and we are now approaching the time when we will have the technology that makes it possible.

Tiger Riding Norwegian Style

If you ride a tiger it’s hard to get off

The English translation of the Chinese proverb is used when you face a dilemma or a situation you can’t get out of. It’s not that you can’t get off the tigers back, but you can’t dismount without being eaten. It means that you have to deal with the situation now or stay on the tiger, which means being influenced by forces you can’t control.

I think there are many reasons why future generations of Norwegians may face a dilemma because we didn’t deal with the situation today. Immigration could be one issue because there is a lot that doesn’t make sense when Norwegians talk about multiculturalism. The term means that immigrants don’t need to be assimilated or intergrated, not the first generation or any later generation. They would of course have to respect the laws, but there was a period when authorities seemed to allow a different standard. The problem with this view is that it’s irrelevant what Norwegians think about religious symbols in the public sphere, religious laws like sharia and alien traditions like a patriarchal society. In a multicultural society it would be concidered a violation to deny people the right to choose a minority culture and ignore everything Norwegian. We know that most Norwegians expect a lot more of the old monoculture than you could possibly have with diversity, so the welcome many Syrians have received isn’t realistic.

Many talk about how wonderful it is to help the Syrians and about how much we value ethnic diversity, but our actions say something else. Many say that we can let Syrians work, but it’s  not that simple. There are Norwegian studies showing that people with a foreign name have a significantly reduced chance of being called in for a job interview when they are just as qualified. There also studies showing that first generation Africans with a degree from a Norwegian university are at the back of the line when they apply for a job. Data from Statistics Norway show that the employment rate is much lower among Asians and Africans than any other group. On top of this no one seems to concider the fact these people come from a war zone, and in a war there isn’t any difference between allies and enemies. Some will have emotional issues and may not be able to function in a job.

I read about 62 year old Maryam Mirzad recently. She came as a refugee from Afghanistan 14 years ago, and last year she was granted a loan through a government program that helps people with low income get a house/apartment. She bought an apartment, but the board wouldn’t let her move in because they didn’t think she could speak Norwegian well enough. I guess this is the small print on our welcome to Norway contract.

Many don’t realize that children born in Norway are classified as refugees. Two Kurds from Iran settled in my hometown in 2003, and their two daughters Nawjin and Hawjin were born at the local hospital in 2004 and 2006, but the whole family was deported last year. The kids may have had a chance to stay if the parents had turned them over to the Child Protection Services (CPS), but they would still have been treated as refugees and deported when they turned 18.

From a support for refugees-march in Vienna in 2013. This is very commendable, but there is a price to pay.
From a support for refugees-march in Vienna in 2013. This is very commendable, but there will be less support when they realize what this means.
Wikimedia Commons

There’s been so many CPS-cases involving families where one or both parents are foreign citizens that some countries are publicly accusing Norwegian authorities of stealing children. That may seem like a ridiculous claim, but maybe less so after the court battle that is taking place on Iceland these days. Norwegian CPS decided to take a five year old child from an Icelandic woman and place it in a foster home, but the woman took the child back to Iceland before they could act. This is where it gets crazy. The Norwegian CPS hired a lawyer on Iceland and asked for this child to be extradited referring to The Hague Convention. The Icelandic court said yes, but the decision has been appealed. The child’s father lives in Iceland and the Icelandic CPS has said that it can provide the same services as their Norwegian colleagues, so what is this about? I assume the objective is to help a child and not win an argument.

These are just a couple of key issues that could have dramatic consequences in a couple of generations, if not sooner. This isn’t just about ethnicity and religion, but about anything we see as un-Norwegian. Sooner or later immigrants are not going to accept being treated as less than a true Norwegian.

We may in fact be creating a class system. Norway isn’t worse than other countries. This is human history, but we should still protest.

The sheep syndrome

Donald & SpongeBob painted in an underpass
I was never a fan of Donald, but this one is at least harmless

Narcissist, loser, arrogant, weak, dishonest, liar, dangerous, ignorant, idiot. These are just a few of the many words used to describe Donald Trump, and just to make it easier for everyone we can use many of the same words to describe Hillary Clinton and media as well. That’s very thoughtful of them as many of us have a limited vocabulary.

I did an experiment a while back. It wasn’t meant as an experiment, but it turned out to be one anyway. I didn’t watch, listen to or read mainstream news for almost a year. I used alternative sites and I concluded I didn’t miss mainstream.

There is a tendency to follow the crowd.  I still don’t pay much attention to the news. Most national radio stations in Norway have three minutes of news every hour and that gives me most of the big national and international headlines. There’s been an awful lot of Donald Trump this weekend. There’s always been people criticising Trump, but the bandwagon appears to have been rather crowded this weekend. It’s suddenly popular and safe enough for everyone to join.

I do have one favourite. Someone shared a story about a more than a hundred year old woman, and she was determined to live a few weeks longer so that she could choose not to vote for Trump. I think she deserved a better alternative.

The timing is interesting. There is another TV debate between the two candidates tonight and there’s been a rumour about a possible leak revealing a side of Hillary Clinton she wants to hide. There is only one story that gets attention at the moment because media has no agenda. They just want to help us make decisions based on the honest truth.

In this case you couldn’t go wrong if you criticised Trump, but his opponent is hardly a saint. It wouldn’t be politics if we didn’t get shit flying in both directions, so it wouldn’t surprise me if some of Hillary’s mails surfaced out of the blue. The question is whether the content would surprise anyone. Many were willing to vote for Trump before this weekend after all, and it’s not because they thought he was a decent sort.

Autism and friendship

Sherlock Holmes and John Watson have been among my biggest heroes since my early teens. It was reassuring knowing that some was smarter than the criminals.
Sherlock Holmes and John Watson have been among my biggest heroes since my early teens. I always return to my heroes. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

NLD and Asbergers are known for additional conditions, or socalled comorbidity. There is a lot of focus on the big ones, such as depression, anxiety, epilepsy and ADHD, but it could also be hard to separate the main diagnose from the additional conditions. There are a few children with Asberger and NLD for example that withdraw after a series of negative experiences, which makes them lose opportunities to learn social interaction.

So in addition to having problem understanding social interaction as a part of the diagnose the extra crap makes it worse. I recently discovered some really cool board games, one of them was called Star Munchkin. I would have loved to play that as a teenager. That is totally my thing, or the person I want to be, but I know I am not that person.

Some people want me to be more than I am, but I think I am enough to the people that matters the most, my family. To most other people I am the guy that doesn’t speak, but some seem to be able to deal with that. It takes a while to get to know me, and I probably don’t make it easy, but fortunately there are some patient people. I have been lucky enough to encounter a handful of them.

I don’t always connect with them the way they prefer, but I still try to connect when it matters to me. I am grateful for the few that stay with me even when I am not responding. I have never had many friends, I have had enough friends. Maintaining friendship is hard, which is why I find it just as well to keep the number low, but it’s nice to encounter people with the same interest as I have. I watched Mad Max: The Fury Road together with some of them tonight. I usually prefer watching TV alone, but it was nice.

False Münchausen

I am not as concerned with the day to day statistics as I was during the early days of blogging. I realized I needed a longer perspective and my most popular posts this year are two and three years old. I usually look at the stats anyway and it sometimes gives me reason to reflect. I had one of those moments a few days ago when someone had googled: “Help the Child Protection Services think I have Münchausen by proxy.”

I am without a computer at the moment and have limited opportunities to research and write, but I can tell you this much. Münchausen is a controversial theory, and it isn’t actually more than a theory. Münchausen is a condition where the patient fabricates symptoms. It could be ailments it isn’t possible for doctors to document with physical evidence, or injuries inflicted through physical violence or poison.

What do you think when you hear words like science, study and research? Most people would probably say that it’s about truth. Alternative medicine is pure speculation, real science is about patiently waiting for evidence. That may not always be the most accurate description because there is more speculation and assumption in research than many realize. The early autism research launched “the refrigerator mama-theory” in the 1940’s, and research blamed autism on cold mothers for a long time. No one really questioned this before Lorna Wing in the early 80’s. We know today that this was rubbish of course, and it turned out we had been listening to the wrong people. Lorna Wing rediscovered 40 year old research by Hans Asberger that had been completely ignored.

When I was working as a teacher my colleagues liked fashionable terms like “evidencebased measures”. Research was the magic word and any suggestion that had been harvested from a study guaranteed you success. I am afraid it’s not quite that simple. Publication bias is a major problem in research on medicine and has probably killed a lot of people. This means that if they don’t get the result they want the study is less likely to be published.

A study from 2008 wanted to find out whether they had the same problem in psychology. There were 270 researchers involved and they tried to copy the result from 100 studies in cognitive and social psychology. One of the most elementary scientific principals is that researchers anywhere in the world should get the same result, but in this case 75 percent of the studies failed on that account. The remaining studies managed to copy half the original findings. That doesn’t mean that psychology/psychiatry is pure speculation, but I think it tells us that we should be careful about drawing legal conclusions in questions the health authorities don’t have an answer to.

Münchausen is probably real enough, but very rare. There are cases where parents deliberately hurt their children, but there seems to be a serious problem with inflation because this accusation keeps coming up in the CPS. They are certainly not evidencebased. How do you defend yourself against  an accusation like this when denying it is likely to be interpreted as denial?


I liked this wall painting from an underpass by an elementary school. It means "follow the dream, not the stream."
I liked this wall painting from an underpass by an elementary school. It means “follow the dream, not the stream.”

I have always been sorry I couldn’t draw. I remember trying very hard during my teens. I had a book with illustrations of all the birds in Norway, but all the hours I spent trying to make something that resembled a bird was in vain. I had the same result later when I tried to make anime, and after spending a significant amount of time on it daily for years I concluded that I was never going to get any better.

I discovered many years later that I could make words look better. I made some progress with the written language at least. Blogging is relatively easy. Most people can make it look pleasing enough, but figuring out what people want to read is harder. There are thousands of posts promising the recipe for success, but I think real success has more to do with who you know and how much you spend on marketing. Do you remember the silly song What does the Fox Say?  The Norwegian comedy duo Ylvis wrote it as an anti-hit to promote their just as silly talk show, but when the very successful Norwegian recordproducing and songwriting team Stargate produced it success was almost guaranteed. I think it was more like a distraction to Ylvis because they had other plans.

I am not sure how I pictured it when I started blogging five years ago. I was unemployed and didn’t have a lot of options left, and the blog was initially just about having something meaningful to do, and to learn, but I probably had some grand ideas about success as well. I wanted to accomplish what I couldn’t with my sketchpad. I realized I had to focus on what I enjoyed, and any success that came later would be a pleasant surprise.

I have gone through the evolution many bloggers do. It may not apply to all, but a number of us pay closely attention to statistics at some point, and when traffic goes down we tend to get stressed. I am always going to write even though some don’t seem to understand why, but that doesn’t mean blogging. I liked the way Alison, or Writing -Wishing put it. She wrote a couple of years ago that she was giving up blogging, but not the blog. She wanted to be a writer more than a blogger that constantly tried to figure social media out.

There is a lot going on in my life at the moment, but I hope to eventually write the texts I can´t  focus on now. I won´t limit myself to the blog then. I love writing  and giving it up would be impossible, so I want to submit my texts to multiple channels.

The mindless atheism

The first big idol I had was the astronomer and astrophysicist Carl Sagan, and he is still high up on my list 20 years after he died. People that have read this blog for a while may remember some posts about religion, and then they might ask themselves how a Christian man can admire an atheist.

I am firstly interested in science. It has many fascinating aspects, not least the contradiction it is when those defending it deviate from their principles. Many are doing something similar when they use Carl Sagan to justify their atheist view. Carl Sagan used this phrase several times, like when he was skeptical to stories of people being abducted by aliens:

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

He had similar ideas regarding religion as well, but he was always a scientist, and didn’t express the hatred that many celebrity atheists do. He saw religion as irrelevant, but treated these questions with more humility. He may have been closer to atheism than anything else, but it sounds to me that it would make more sense to call him an agnostic. There is sufficient evidence to suggest that he didn’t like the label atheism, and he even said that by some definitions atheism is very stupid. That doesn’t mean he thought atheism was stupid of course. I’m not sure why he said that, but I imagine it’s because atheism is a very anti-science position.

He made a series of lectures that were collected in the book The Varieties of Scientific Experience: A Personal View of the Search for God:. This is a quote from the book:

I think if we ever reach the point where we think we thoroughly understand who we are and where we came from, we will have failed. I think this search does not lead to a complacent satisfaction that we know the answer, not an arrogant sense that the answer is before us and we need only do one more experiment to find it out. It goes with a courageous intent to greet the universe at it reallly is, not to foist our emotional predisposition on it but courageously accept what our explorations tell us.

This is a typical scientific standpoint, or should be, but we frequently see that researchers are so eager to conclude that they are running far ahead of the evidence. They then try to make their findings concur with the conclusion. This is contrary to scientific principles, as I understand them, but it seems to me that Carl Sagan was loyal to these principles. So he concluded, as Christians do, that faith is not about something we can prove or disprove. He chose, as a consequence of his scientific belief, that the universe was not created for us and that there is no meaning behind life. If he had declared himself an atheist he would also have said that it didn’t matter how much evidence someone may have found in the future. He wasn’t going to change his position anyway. He could, at least theoretically, have accepted the intelligent design theory if someone could prove it, but as it stands this is just as much a theory as evolution.

I still believe there is a lot to suggest that the universe was  designed and that there was a designer. I can respect an open attitude like the one Carl Sagan expressed, but I sometimes wonder about scientists or people claiming to have a scientific mind. Some of them say they let the evidence lead them, which means they could end up with any position on a specific issue. That’s impossible if you reel off the kind of hate speech we sometimes hear from the likes of Richard Dawkins and Stephen Fry. There’s no way back from there. I suspect most people would experience euphoria, either because they were pleasantly surprised or because this was the moment they had been waiting for all their lives, if they suddenly found themselves face to face with God (I don’t know what that means because I don’t think God is a person). A true atheist would probably have been angry, which is a strange attitude for someone looking for answers.

Some of my favourite things to wath on TV are documentaries on astronomy and I’m sometimes astounded at how far some of the scientists they interview seem to wander away from their field of expertise. I think that’s what researchers do when they say there has to be life on other planets because that much empty space would be a waste, or meaningless. So it seems like they are looking for a meaning at the same time was they say there isn’t any.

There are probably different motivations for this, but some suffer from the delusion that a discovery of life on other planets will kill the idea of God once and for all. I haven’t memorized the Bible, so I don’t know it as well as I should, but I don’t think it claims that life elsewhere is impossible. This is a fascinating topic to me and I don’t think a future discovery of alien life would make us less unique. One of the Norwegian newspapers had an article a few days ago about a possible exoplanet as close as Alpha Centauri. Astronomers have discovered many of these planets in the habitable zone, but this is the first one this close.

I took this photo with my cell phone on February 10th 2014. I believe it's Jupiter next to our Moon. I hope we get there some day.
I took this photo with my cell phone on February 10th 2014. I believe it’s Jupiter next to our Moon. I hope we get there some day.

Knut Jørgen Ødegaard, Norwegian media’s  favourite astrophycisist, was very excited about this news. The science fiction-author and science popularizer Anne Mette Sannes was also interviewed and she thinks that a round trip of 25 years will be possible in 100-150 years, but that sounds overly optimistic to me. Alpha Centauri is only 4,37 light years away, but with the present technology it would take us 80 000 years to get there. I think we would have to be closer to achieving close to light speed, or wormholes, but that could be a milennium away. There doesn’t seem to be a drive for exploring deep space because after NASA’s last mission to the Moon in 1972, they have been stuck in low orbit.

It would have been good to see the space agencies launch generation ships into space, but it probably won’t happen during my lifetime. I think there will be people on Mars within 30 years, though. In the meantime I think science can give us a lot of answers, but it is not without speculations, cheating and corruption. So it may not be a bad idea to believe in a philosophy that is not dependant on people because we are corrupt. That’s what religion is all about, trying to keep us honest.