Edge 152— January 4, 2005 — 8th Anniversary Edition
(60,000 words)

" Big, deep and ambitious questions....breathtaking in scope. Keep watching The World Question Center." — New Scientist

The 2005 Edge Annual Question...


Great minds can sometimes guess the truth before they have either the evidence or arguments for it (Diderot called it having the "esprit de divination"). What do you believe is true even though you cannot prove it?

(117 contributors; 60,000 words:) Howard Gardner • Nicholas Humphrey • Marc D. Hauser • Daniel Gilbert • George Dyson • Daniel C. Dennett • William Calvin • Lawrence Krauss • Neil Gershenfeld • Joseph LeDoux • Stephen Kosslyn • Philip W. Anderson • Kevin Kelly • Paul Davies • Haim Harari • Janna Levin • Steven Pinker • Alison Gopnik • Martin E. P. Seligman • John McWhorter • Freeman Dyson • Robert Sapolsky • Leonard Susskind • Keith Devlin • Susan Blackmore • Clifford Pickover • Piet Hut • Gino Segre • Roger Schank • Alan Kay • Bruce Sterling • Judith Rich Harris • Arnold Trehub • Gregory Benford • Lynn Margulis • Sam Harris • Elizabeth Spelke • Kai Krause • Todd Feinberg • Nassim Nicholas Taleb • Irene Pepperberg • Jesse Bering • Scott Atran • Karl Sabbagh • Gary Marcus • Stewart Kauffman • Ray Kurzweil • John Barrow • Jaron Lanier • Alex Pentland • Richard Dawkins • Jean Paul Schmetz • Thomas Metzinger • John R. Skoyles • John Horgan • David Gelernter • Jordan Pollack • Lee Smolin • Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi • Jeffrey Epstein • Michael Shermer • Leon Lederman • Tom Standage • Simon Baron-Cohen • Stephen Petranek • J. Craig Venter • Maria Spiropulu • David Buss • Esther Dyson • David Myers • Denis Dutton • Donald Hoffman • Kenneth Ford • Margaret Wertheim • Alun Anderson • Philip Zimbardo • Paul Bloom • Robert Provine • W. Daniel Hillis • Martin Nowak • Seth Lloyd • Donald I. Williamson • Jonathan Haidt • Rebecca Goldstein • Ned Block • Christine Finn • Rupert Sheldrake • Rudy Rucker • Douglas Rushkoff • Verena Huber-Dyson • Chris W. Anderson • Charles Simonyi • Carolyn Porco • Martin Rees • Pamela McCorduck • James O'Donnell • John McCarthy • Carlo Rovelli • Leo Chalupa • Howard Rheingold • Steve Giddings • Tor Nørretranders • Stanislas Deheane • Benoit Mandelbrot • Ellen Winner • Paul Steinhardt • Oliver Morton • Alexander Vilenkin • Terrence Sejnowski • Brian Goodwin • Stephen H. Schneider • Randolph Nesse • Timothy Taylor • Marti Hearst • Daniel Goleman • Robert Trivers • Jared Diamond [click here for responses]

This year's Edge Question was suggested by Nicholas Humphrey.

The 2005 Edge Question has generated many eye-opening responses from a "who's who" of third culture scientists and science-minded thinkers. The 117 contributions comprise a document of 60,000 words.

The New York Times ("Science Times") and Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung ("Feuilliton") have been granted rights to publish excepts in their print and online editions simultaneously with Edge publication. The editors of "Science Times" and "Feuilliton", respectively, made their own selections. The Italian newspaper, Il Sole 24 Ore will follow on Sunday, January 9th.

This year there's a focus on consciousness, on knowing, on ideas of truth and proof. If pushed to generalize, I would say it is a commentary on how we are dealing with the idea of certainty.

We are in the age of "searchculture", in which Google and other search engines are leading us into a future rich with an abundance of correct answers along with an accompanying naïve sense of certainty. In the future, we will be able to answer the question, but will we be bright enough to ask it?

This is an alternative path. It may be that it's okay not to be certain, but to have a hunch, and to perceive on that basis. There is also evidence here that the scientists are thinking beyond their individual fields. Yes, they are engaged in the science of their own areas of research, but more importantly they are also thinking deeply about creating new understandings about the limits of science, of seeing science not just as a question of knowing things, but as a means of tuning into the deeper questions of who we are and how we know.

It may sound as if I am referring to a group of intellectuals, and not scientists. In fact, I refer to both. In 1991, I suggested the idea of a third culture, which "consists of those scientists and other thinkers in the empirical world who, through their work and expository writing, are taking the place of the traditional intellectual in rendering visible the deeper meanings of our lives, redefining who and what we are. "

I believe that the scientists of the third culture are the pre-eminent intellectuals of our time. But I can't prove it.

Happy New Year!

John Brockman
Publisher & Editor

Fourteen scientists ponder everything from string theory to true love.
January 4, 2005 [free registration required]

"What do you believe is true even though you cannot prove it?"

This was the question posed to scientists, futurists and other creative thinkers by John Brockman, a literary agent and publisher of Edge, a Web site devoted to science. The site asks a new question at the end of each year. Here are excerpts from the responses, to be posted Tuesday at www.edge.org.

John Brockman's Question for the Republic of Wisdom

(Woran glauben Sie, ohne es beweisen zu können?)
By Christian Schwägerl, January 4, 2005

It can be more thrilling to start the New Year with a good question than with a good intention. That's what John Brockman is doing for the eight time in a row. The New York based literary agent and pionieer of the "Third culture", in which the natural sciences and the humanities are meant to fuse, has posed a question to researchers and other scientific literati in 1998 for the first time. Then the question was: "Which questions do you as youself?". In the meantime, Brockman has set up a World Question Center" at the internet site of his intellectual foundation Edge (www.edge.org). It is no accident that this years question refers to believes after a year in which America has shown its strong believing side. But what is it the reason-driven members of the Third Culture believe in? We supply a small selection of answers to this year's question."


New Image for The New Year

KATINKA MATSON is cofounder and resident artist of Edge.


"The greatest virtual research university in the world."
— Denis Dutton, Editor, Arts & Letters Daily

"A stellar cast of thinkers tackles the really big questions facing scientists."
— by Paul Nettleton,The Guardian

"It is like having a front-row seat at the ultimate scientific seminar series."
— Matin Durani (Deputy Editor, Physics World)


"Good, narrative history, combined with much fine writing...quirky, absorbing and persuasive in just the way that good stories are." Nature "Some of the biggest brains in the world turn their lenses on their own lives...fascinating...an invigorating debate."Washington Post • "Compelling." Disocver • " An engrossing treat of a book...crammed with hugely enjoyable anecdotes...you'll have a wonderful time reading these reminiscences." — New Scientist • "An intriguing collection of essays detailing the childhood experiences of prominent scientists and the life events that sparked their hunger for knowledge. Full of comical and thought-provoking stories." — Globe & Mail • "An inspiring collection of 27 essays by leading scientists about the childhood moments that set them on their shining paths." Psychology Today

Curious Minds:
How a Child Becomes a Scientist

Original essays vy Nicholas Humphrey • David M. Buss • Robert M. Sapolsky • Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi • Murray Gell-Mann • Alison Gopnik • Paul C. W. Davies • Freeman Dyson • Lee Smolin • Steven Pinker • Mary Catherine Bateson • Lynn Margulis • Jaron Lanier • Richard Dawkins • Howard Gardner • Joseph LeDoux • Sherry Turkle • Marc D. Hauser • Ray Kurzweil • Janna Levin • Rodney Brooks • J. Doyne Farmer • Steven Strogatz • Tim White • V. S. Ramachandran • Daniel C. Dennett • Judith Rich Harris • edited, with an introduction by John Brockman


When We Were Kids:
How a Child Becomes a Scientist (UK)