So, thank you for the introduction.† It must be my objectivity that makes me feel an introduction like that should probably be coupled with one from a student who doesnít like me very much, though perhaps it would be wise for me to proceed quickly before we find any volunteers.
A couple of things before I forget: One, Ryan Barry asked me to mention his name.† Apparently, heís jealous of Ms. Sheaís affection for someone named John Laurenzano.† I donít really get it, but there you go.† And two, Iím a little upset my middle name wasnít included in the program.† I noticed that it was for everyone else, so Iím not really sure how that happened.† But if you wouldnít mind sometime today penciling that in, my middle name is ďSugar DaddyĒ, so thatís Aaron Sugar Daddy Keller as my full Christian name, I would appreciate it.
Now, I am aware that the person invited to this ceremony is expected, if not obligated, to speak on the topics of scholarship, service, integrity.† But I donít really feel like talking about those thingsÖso Iím not going toÖsoÖtough.† Iím going to talk about what I feel like talking about and what I feel like talking about is science.† I know there are probably liberal arts majors in the audience, both past and prospective, who are not really thrilled with this choice, perhaps already scheming to quietly slip out and get a few early draws from the punch bowl.† Then I imagine theyíll read each other some poems, maybe draw on their hands, write a lullaby in nine-eight timeÖwhatever creative people do, I really donít know.
But let me at least try to ease your concerns by saying our views on the subject may not be as disparate as you imagine.† It is true that I teach a science, that Iíve had a small hand in some research here and there over the years.† But these have not made me some mindless and uncritical devotee.† I do recognize that science is a human endeavor and, as such, it is restricted by our humanity.† In particular, because science is a creation of the human mind, its grasp cannot exceed the reach of our minds.† It cannot assume and utilize ideas and theories so foreign to common thought, they are essentially incomprehensible.† It is here where science has occasionally overstepped its bounds and it is here we should look to find a few examples which are instructive.
For instance, consider the quantum mechanical theory of virtual particle pair production.† According to this idea, as allowed by the uncertainty principle, two particles can arise in empty space, exist for some very brief time, and then recombine and disappear.† Essentially, the particles arise from nothing.† But that doesnít make any sense.† How can something come from nothing?† The whole idea is just so wrong intuitively; there must be some better explanation.
Or consider the relatively modern field of cognitive neuroscience, which holds as a fundamental principle that our entire conscious experience can be explained in terms of the interplay between neurons and neurotransmitters in our brains.† But thereís something missing in that.† My consciousness is a mental phenomenon, not a physical one.† And how can all of my memories and thoughts, emotions and motivations be reduced down to nothing more than cells and chemicals?† They canít be.† It may be difficult for me to pinpoint exactly why not, but I feel this objection with such certainty, there must be something to it.† Furthermore, it would mean that, if I die, I disappear.† But I feel much more permanent than that, so how can I not be?
Even ideas which are safely considered part of the scientific cannon are found to be questionable when considered carefully.† Darwinian evolution may be good at explaining why finches on the Galapagos Islands have subtle variations, but how can any number of random mutations somehow transform one animal into another?† Itís inconceivable.† The extreme Darwinians will even claim that every living thing on this planet is related to every other living thing, that itís only a question of distance.† But the idea that I am somehow related to the grass on my lawn or the mold underneath the sink in my basement is so absurd that it really doesnít require any consideration.† The gulf between people and plants and animals is so wide, it could never be crossed by some random physical process.† Iím sure we all feel this with enough certainty.
And lastly, consider some claims made by astronomers in the scientific community.† If thereís one thing I think I can safely say, itís that we are all stationary right now.† We can all feel that.† And yet there are astronomers who will claim that, at this very moment, the Earth is hurtling around the sun at some 67,000 miles per hour.† First of all, I think I would know if I was traveling 67,000 miles per hour.† And second, how can they claim the Earth goes around the sun?† Any child who watches the sky on a clear afternoon can tell you the sun goes around the Earth.† All you have to do it watch it happen.† And yet, these astronomers, cloistered in their ivory towers with their catalogs of arcane data, have somehow convinced themselves otherwise.† Itís ridiculous.
Itís good that I should end with this example which so clearly illustrates the point I am trying to make.† Science has its merits in helping to advance the fields of medicine, agriculture, engineering.† But when it attempts to answer ultimate questions about our place in existence, it reaches conclusions so unbelievable as to have no value.† Something arising from nothing, the physicality of consciousness, Darwinian evolution, the heliocentric solar system: none of these ideas can be right because none of them feel right, at all, to any of us.† It is this truth of our collective intuition that far outweighs any evidence science can present.† And it is this truth upon which our most deeply held beliefs should continue to stand.