Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Monkey business


Here's an example of what can go wildly amiss in a world without Ockham's Razor.

It is hard to believe that as we enter the 21st century any substantial number of people could believe that Lord Ram and an army of monkeys built Adam's Bridge. But then, half of Americans believe Moses parted the Red Sea, and I imagine they would be just as exacerbated if, say, Egypt proposed to build a radar station on Mount Sinai. I won't mention the farfetched things I believed as a youth, with no more evidence than the word of my religious teachers.

Today I believe things almost equally incredible. The big bang. Black holes, The drift of continents. The germ theory of disease. The dance of the DNA.

How does the dance of DNA differ from Lord Ram and his monkeys? The answer is pretty obvious to anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of science. But it is not easy to put it into words. Here is my best shot, from Skeptics and True Believers, for those with the time and the interest to read it.

Wouldn't it be nice if we lived in a world where India and Sri Lanka could be linked peaceably with a real bridge across Adam's Bridge, and where the only issues of contention for a bridge or canal would be environmental.