Can Science Tell Us Right From Wrong?

This was the title of ACM news article today. My first impression is to suggest a definitive NO to the question above. A simplistic argument would be because Science deals with matter while Ethics are out the scope of scientific investigation. ethics relates to spiritual and intuition experience while science relates to logical and rational experience. It’s a matter of Rational vs Intuitive (spiritual) ; two aspects that is really hard to connect. when for example, Max Plank was asked what science could contribute to resolving conflicts of values , his response was simple: ” Science is not qualified to speak to this question”
This question will be a subject of important debate soon. and i’m quoting the whole story below ( credit to acm.org).

Can Science Tell Us Right From Wrong?
Arizona State University

November 3, 2010

If human morality is an evolutionary adaptation and if neuroscientists can identify specific brain circuitry governing moral judgment, can scientists determine what is, in fact, right and wrong? A distinguished panel of scientists, philosophers and public intellectuals will explore this and other questions as part of a public discussion on the origins of morality at Arizona State University.

“The Great Debate: Can Science Tell Us Right From Wrong?” will take place Saturday (Nov. 6) at ASU Gammage in Tempe, AZ.

“Perhaps no topic at the interface of philosophy, biology and psychology currently evokes more interest than the question of whether morality has any external meaning beyond that determined by our evolutionary development,” notes Lawrence Krauss, a theoretical physicist and director of the ASU Origins Project. “At the same time, for the public, morality is at the heart of much of what we think about and act upon.”

Joining Krauss on stage to debate the subject will be bioethicist Peter Singer, psychologist Steven Pinker, author Sam Harris, philosopher Patricia Churchland and philosopher Simon Blackburn. They represent some of today’s leading minds exploring the boundaries between science and morality.

The debate will include a moderated discussion as well as a question and answer session, during which audience members will have an opportunity to submit questions. A book signing will follow the discussion.

“To have a debate that cuts directly at the heart of this issue by some of the most eloquent and thoughtful individuals on the planet should be fascinating,” says Krauss. “It should be a lot of fun. I cannot wait to see what transpires.”

The “debaters” on stage will include:

(stage debaters list was removed for shorteness)

“The Great Debate” is sponsored by the ASU Origins Project in collaboration with the ASU Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law Center for Law, Science and Innovation; the Faculty of Philosophy at the University of Cambridge; and the Science Network.

Krauss cites Jean-Jacques Rousseau to explain why the ASU Origins Project is sponsoring this discussion. “Rousseau said ‘We are born free, but live forever in chains.’ Is that true? Is our morality imposed by our social circumstances or is it innate?”

As an organization focused on getting people to explore their place in the cosmos, Krauss notes that the ASU Origins Project is naturally drawn to asking questions about the nature of morality. “These are precisely the kind of questions we need to be asking,” he says. “And, these are the kind of questions that form the heart of the intellectual journey that the Origins Project hopes to offer to students, faculty and the public.”

“The Great Debate” is connected to a workshop at Arizona State University on the origins of morality. Co-sponsor, James Weinstein, professor of constitutional law at ASU, explains that the workshop will “consider the implications, if any, that evolutionary psychology and neuroscience have for normative ethics or meta-ethics.”

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Algebraic Geometry might solve the P vs. NP challenge

When i first read the cover article in the September Communications of the ACM, I had the feeling that this article was not ordinary and would raise much attention among computer science specialists and even the curious average reader. The subject of the article was very amazing and the reader could not resist the tempting Idea to wonder about this beautiful -Still Not Found- World of P=NP.
The article did Indeed took its promise and more than 10 times the usual number of readers downloaded this popular article. This success was also quoted by NY Times science and technology reporter John Markoff who highlights the allure of the P vs. NP challenge. He reports that if this grand challenge for theoretical computer science and complexity theory is proven, some of the hardest computing challenges may collapse, leading to burst of new economic and technological productivity.
Another reaction to the article was by Communications Editor in Chief Moshe Vardi. He predicts that to investigate the P vs. NP problem, computer scientists may have to start learning a very difficult mathematical field known as algebraic geometry, which offers some hope for proving or disproving the problem.

The Too Beautiful World of P=NP !

Lance Fortnow wrote an amazing article in the Communications of the ACM Vol. 52 entitled The Status of the P Versus NP Problem
I Just found the bellow article passage amazing and wanted to know what would people think about it:

In 2000, the Clay Math Institute named the P versus NP problem as one of the seven most important open questions in mathematics and has offered a million-dollar prize for a proof that determines whether or not P = NP.
To understand the importance of the P versus NP problem let us imagine a world where P = NP. Technically we could have P = NP, but not have practical algorithms for most NP-complete problems. But suppose in fact we do have very quick algorithms for all these problems.

  • Many focus on the negative, that if P = NP then public-key cryptography becomes impossible. True, but what we will gain from P = NP will make the whole Internet look like a footnote in history.
  • Since all the NP-complete optimization problems become easy, everything will be much more efficient. Transportation of all forms will be scheduled optimally to move people and goods around quicker and cheaper.
  • Manufacturers can improve their production to increase speed and create less waste. And I’m just scratching the surface.
  • Learning becomes easy by using the principle of Occam’s razor—we simply find the smallest program consistent with the data.
  • Near perfect vision recognition, language comprehension and translation and all other learning tasks become trivial.
  • We will also have much better predictions of weather and earthquakes and other natural phenomenon.
  • P = NP would also have big implications in mathematics. One could find short, fully logical proofs for theorems but these proofs are usually extremely long. But we can use the Occam razor principle to recognize and verify mathematical proofs as typically written in journals. We can then find proofs of theorems that have reasonable length proofs say in under 100 pages. A person who proves P = NP would walk home from the Clay Institute not with $1 million check but with seven (actually six since the Poincaré Conjecture appears solved).

Don’t get your hopes up. Complexity theorists generally believe P ≠ NP and such a beautiful world cannot exist.

Well, I tend to agree with them for such a world would be really too much perfect!