Molly Hanlon

Graduate Student - Plant Biology, Penn State University
State College, PA, United States

About Molly

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As a grad student, I need distractions. TED still provides me with a forum where I feel like I'm accomplishing something!

I'm passionate about

Science, understanding

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Molly Hanlon
Posted about 3 years ago
How important is Religion?
Yes, you're correct in saying that both sides are needed. You can't have a debate based upon variations, you need opposing viewpoints. I have a hard time having conversations with my friends oftentimes because my question of "Why?" is often met with "Because I believe." This goes back to the filling the gaps argument that has been referenced many times. Only open minds can lead to open discussion, and I found the comments made my Lesley Hazelton about faith (http://blog.ted.com/2011/02/15/uncertainty-touches-the-best-of-what-is-human-in-us-qa-with-lesley-hazleton/) extremely important in this regard. It seems as though these debates and progressive conversations won't necessarily happen regularly between lay-people, as those with opposing viewpoints don't tend to gravitate toward one another, nor can they stand each other long enough to have a beneficial conversation. It can be done, though, if believers and non-believers stop looking at one another with disgust and contempt but rather with wonder. I tell some of my friends that I'm intrigued by their religious dedication and, as a scientist, like to figure out the answers to questions, thus they're great "experiments."
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Molly Hanlon
Posted about 3 years ago
How important is Religion?
Religion, as previously stated, is historically significant. As far as the future, one can only speculate. And I don't necessarily see a stigma associated with Theology, but rather with religion, and the two can be uncoupled. Theology is a historical, philosophical, even scientific, approach to understanding. Atheists, agnostics, non-believers can all be theologians, and these people, as well as others, are open to dissecting, analyzing, and critically approaching religion as a field of study. Most religious people, though, aren't open to these conversations. They do not want their beliefs to be challenged, nor do they think they can. A good friend of mine, am Evangelical Christian once asked me if I could "believe in God and form a relationship with Christ for one week?" I, in return, asked her if she could give up her belief for a week. She said no, it was too ingrained in her and her way of life. It's that rigidity that makes it difficult to develop conversations. To get a religious person to talk about religion sans personal belief is difficult, but to get a theologian to do so is not as difficult. Bart Ehrmann, in his book Jesus, Interrupted, makes some interesting points about what is actually taught in seminary versus what is preached to the public on a weekly basis. It's an interesting dichotomy and addresses some of your questions.
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Molly Hanlon
Posted about 3 years ago
should we rethink about medical science funding?
Most of these interesting (and beneficial) side projects, though, came about while working on a basic research program and noting an interesting observation. The basic knowledge base is required for any major discovery to be found. Albeit often disregarded by the public as unnecessary, basic research is the foundation of progress. That being said, drugs coming to the market are difficult to produce. We've picked off (as a former boss of mine used to say) all of the low hanging fruit. Now is when we have to get creative, look elsewhere, and think of alternative strategies (ie preventative medicine).
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Molly Hanlon
Posted about 3 years ago
A world without religion, how will it really look?
Wouldn't your proposal of co-existence require that the two opposing forces are trying to answer different questions? I think of it as science and religion following parallel paths, both leading to understanding, but they're not paths that can be traveled in the same way. That is, a railroad track can only carry trains, and a road, cars. They may both go from town A to town B, but the paths slightly different, the obstacles and mechanisms to get around there even more divergent. Maybe there will be a day when more people follow one path (aka the train, or science) than the other. In the meantime, all those within the community can do is try to make their path better through work, questions, and developing an understanding of the world at large. But if one happily travels by car, without disrupting my train ride, then who am I to tell them to stop?
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Molly Hanlon
Posted about 3 years ago
Can people who deny science be educated? How?
People who deny science can only be educated if they stop denying science. If they stick with it long enough, have good educators, and personally experience science, then it seems impossible for one to deny science. The problem might be in the "stiffness" of current education systems and the inaccessibility of science. Call it a light bulb moment, but I find it hard to believe that someone would really be able to make an educated decision to deny science. It seems as though most undergraduate students who deny science do so in accordance to claim (1). The problem with this seems to be that these students think that they know everything (or at least most things), and these things have been 'proven,' whether it be by science or personal experience. In that, I'm saying they haven't been humbled by the amount of information that we don't know, but are always trying to discover. The only way to combat it? Education and truth (or Truth?). There are some things we do know, some we don't, but as was said earlier, each scientific discovery is an incremental step towards what is correct/true/right. This relates to claim (2), but also draws on what many scientists are taught in training: A "good" hypothesis is one that is (in one way) falsifiable. At the core, scientists develop an idea to test it, not to push an agenda (not mentioning problems with current science - sticking with the idea of research). If we present science as infallible, then one erroneous claim (even if taken out of context) can shatter the whole establishment. Remember, the Titanic was "unsinkable." The fact that science is changing is what makes it exciting. There's a place for everyone in research due to this. Who isn't excited by discovery? Unlike other fields (ie religion) we're not beating the same stories and "facts" into oblivion. Rather, we're developing new explanations that are better and can even be improved upon.