The entire child benefit database was sent via internal mail by a junior official from HMRC in Washington, Tyne and Wear, to the National Audit Office (NAO) in London via courier TNT on 18 October 2007. 25 million private personal details of all UK families and their young children’s DOB’s, addresses, so on…LOST.
LIVING IN ANOTHER CULTURE
The Western culture in which most living scientists were raised was originally based on a well-constructed set of religious and philosophical beliefs. (In 1980’s, the scientists that were growing up in the 1950’s and before) Among these, we may include the idea that the earth was the center of the universe and that the time since creation was relatively short, the belief in an irreducible distinction between soul and matter, and the likelihood, if not certainty, of a life after death. These were combined, with an excessive (fundamental) reliance on the alleged doctrine of certain historical figures such as Moses, Jesus Christ, and Muhammad.
Now, the remarkable thing about Western civilisation looked at in the broad sense is that while the residue of many of these beliefs are still held by many people, most modern scientists do not subscribe to any of them. Instead, they have a quite different set of ideas underlying their view of life and the exact nature of matter, light and the laws that they obey. The size and general nature of the universe, the reality of evolution, and the importance of natural selection, the chemical basis of life, and in particular, the nature of genetic material and many other things.
Some of these theories have the names of scientific prophets associated with them, such as, Newton, Darwin, and Einstein. These men are held in high regard, yet their ideas are not regarded as beyond neither criticism, nor are their lives considered especially praiseworthy, it is their works that are valued. A modern scientist if he is perceptive enough often has the strange feeling that he must be living in another culture. He knows so much, and yet he is actually aware of how much remains to be discovered. He feels keenly that we need to understand these profound mysteries and also that with time, effort, and imagination, we can do so. This gives a great feeling of urgency to his quest, especially as he is not ready to accept uncritical, traditional answers that lack any scientific support.
While there is little active hostility to his point of view, Creationists are a nuisance, but so far only a minor one. He is puzzled by the response to his work. A considerable fraction of the public shows a keen interest in the discoveries of modern science, so that he is frequently requested to give lectures, write articles, and appear on TV, and so on…
Yet, even among those who are interested in science, and many people are indifferent or somewhat hostile, it seems to make very little difference to their general view of life. Either, they cling to outmoded religious beliefs, putting science into a totally distinct compartment of their minds, or they absorb the science superficially and happily combine it with very doubtful ideas, such as, extrasensory perception; fortune telling and communication with the dead. The remark, "Scientists don’t know everything" usually identifies such persons. Scientists are painfully aware that they do not know everything, but they think they can often recognise nonsense when they come across it. It is only in the last ten years (1970’s) that people have recognised many of the implications of the idea that man is a biological animal, who has evolved largely by natural selection. Even now, (1980) very few professors of ethics approach their subject from this point of view.
The plain fact is that the myths of yesterday, which our forebears regarded not as myths, but as living truth, have collapsed, and while we are uncertain whether we can successfully use any of the remaining fragments, they are too rickety to stand as an organised interlocking body of beliefs. Yet most of the general public seems blissfully unaware of all this, as can be seen by the enthusiastic welcome given to the Pope whenever he travels.
(I cannot resist adding here that I personally heard the Pope say on his last visit to the U.K, "That the three great scourges of humankind were, contraception, abortion, and divorce". Any intelligent child could have told him that they were, “Overpopulation, ignorance, and war”.)
Of course, many modern philosophers have accepted this general position, but the majority of them seem so devastated by the collapse of the old beliefs that they exude nothing, but a rather dismal pessimism. Only scientists seem to have grasped the nettle, this mainly because they are buoyed up by the tremendous success of science, especially in the last hundred years.
Whilst a scientist is sobered by the economic and political problems, that he sees all around him. He is possessed of an almost boundless optimism concerning his ability to forge a wholly new set of beliefs, solidly based on both, theory and experiment, by a careful study of the world surrounding him, and ultimately of himself and other human beings.
Only someone actively groping with the intricacies of the brain can realise how far we have to go in some of these problems, but even in that case the feeling is that within a few generations we shall have got to the heart of the matter.
It is against this background that we must approach the origin of life. We can then see that it is one of the great mysteries which confront us as we try to discover just how the universe is constructed and in particular, to locate our own place in it. It ranks with the other major questions, many of them first formatted by the Greeks; the nature of matter; light; the origin of man and the nature of consciousness and the soul.
To show no interest in these topics is to be truly uneducated, especially as we now have a very real hope of answering them in ways which would have been regarded as miraculous, even as recently as Shakespeare’s time. These are extracts from a book called, ‘Life Itself’ by Francis
Ref, House of Lords Reform Bill. UK Parliament. Average age of Lords/Ladies!!!
PN. A few scientists follow their religious beliefs rather than the scientific method. Biological evolution is just one of the most important of many broad issues on which substantially all working scientists agree. There may be a few persons with scientific credentials who disagree, but they do not contribute to the progress that is the hallmark of science. It is not simply that these dissenters are wrong, because wrong answers can sometimes stimulate controversy that helps lead to correct answers."
Rather, as the physicist Wolfgang Pauli liked to say, "They are not even wrong. That is, their arguments are useless and even detrimental to the pursuit of further knowledge."