For a Kinder, Gentler Society
Living within Limits -
A Scientific Search for Truth
  • Kenneth M. Merz, Sr.
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Living within Limits - . A Scientific Search for Truth
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The author, a research scientist, explores without jargon or mathematics the scientific search for truth, the nature of life and the future of man.

Explaining and appreciating the scientific method and major scientific challenges such as measuring the known universe, the theoretical and experimental underpinnings for theories of evolution, and the unraveling of DNA, he discusses the difference between knowledge and belief.

As the only conscious, rational beings on earth, he concludes that humans must take responsibility for our role overseeing the living kingdom on our planet.

About the Author

Kenneth Merz, Sr., earned a PhD in Chemistry and Ceramics at Rutgers University and worked as a research scientist and a research and development administrator for 25 years at National Lead Co., Carborundum Co., Cornell Aeronautical Labs, IRC Co., and TRW Inc. His scientific papers have been published in the journals of the American Chemical Society, Applied Physics, and the American Ceramic Society, and in Zeitschrift fur Kristallographie. He and his colleagues won 26 US patents and over 100 related international patents.

About the Book

Presenting his view of life as “optimism triumphant,” Dr. Ken Merz, Sr., reflects on the limits of life, the limits of the physical universe, and the role of humans in that universe.

Presenting his view of life as “optimism triumphant,” Dr. Ken Merz, Sr., reflects on the limits of life, the limits of the physical universe, and the role of humans in that universe.

He explains various laws of science in a clear and accessible style while reviewing aspects of physical reality, aspects of biological reality, and definitions of scientific reality. Discussing mankind’s ongoing search for truth, he examines the distinction between believing and knowing. The book’s themes include time and change, with a consideration of the work of Darwin, Mendel, and Watson and Crick. Explaining the basics of the double helix of DNA and the micro evolution of life, Dr. Merz ponders individualism and evolution, and makes a plea for humans to wield their power over life responsibly.

Recent events forcefully show that humans live on a limited planet and themselves have limited abilities. Limits face us from every direction. The Earth has a limited surface with limited arable and to farm, oxygen to breathe, water to drink, atoms to use, and oil to burn. We are pressing against Earth’s resources with unachievable demands.

Humans have limits in their sensory ability, memory, perception of truth, and endurance in the face of unending change. Science is limited to 92 elements and phenomena that are observable. Economics is limited to raising prices or seeking alternates. In a universe of unending change, existence itself is limited.

Malthus, Toynbee, Tainter, Meadows, Diamond, and many others have warned us of looming limits that would someday engulf our civilization. Nevertheless, we have continued to exploit resources wastefully, pollute the environment, and cause extinctions.

Man has searched for millennia but only since the time of Copernicus (1473–1543), Galileo (1564–1642), and Newton (1642–1727) has a reasonably useful procedure been found for finding truth — the scientific method of investigation. That method is the present source of humanity’s ascendancy over the Earth and its creatures.

The book explains the scientific method in terms of logic as well as the day to day activities of scientists. The method is the basis of higher living standards, improved health and longevity, and population growth. These are now diffusing into the countries of the third world, increasing the pressure on natural resources.

We have learned from science that living creatures, including humans, were created by and are controlled by DNA — the double helix of deoxyribonucleic acid — which has been evolving for at least 3.5 billion years. DNA controls behavior as well as our physical bodies. If, as the only conscious and rational creature, we are to accept and fulfill the role as Natural Selector of life on Earth, we must somehow achieve a collective ethical nature commensurate with the task. We cannot wait hundreds of centuries for DNA to do it; there is no time. We must solve the problems of Earth and human survival with what we now have. Our only trustworthy hope is to follow the methods of science, listening carefully along the way.

The Earth is now our home and responsibility; we must finally heed Buddha’s injunction of 2500 years ago: “The self is master of the self: for who else could be the master?”

Table of Contents
Part I Limits Chapter 1. The Limits of Life Limits to Growth

Part I Limits

Chapter 1. The Limits of Life

Limits to Growth

The Collapse of Complex Societies


Dawn to Dusk on Easter Island

Limits of a Finite Earth

Fossil Fuel Limits

Oil Sands, Oil Shale, and Coal Conversion

Alternate Energy Sources

Atomic Fusion

Global warming



Chapter 2. Living within Limits

The Limits of Population

The Winemakers

The Limits of Economics

Human Inventiveness

Limits of Capitalistic Economics

Limits of Science

Societies That Survived

The Diffusion of Science


Chapter 3. Life is Optimism Triumphant

The Natural

Our Companions

The Methods of Science

Evolution and Natural Selection

The Gifts of Natural Selection

Bisexuality and Ethics

A Rational Life

Life Is Optimism Triumphant

Stand in Awe


Part II. Aspects of Physical Reality

Chapter 4. The Search for Truth

The Limits of Human Truth

Human Sensory Limits

The Search for Truth

The Deductive Method, the Syllogism

The Nature and Limits of Inference

The Axiomatic Method

The Inductive Method, Mendel’s Peas

The Scientific Method, The Source of Knowledge

The Expanding Universe

The Probable Truth

The Trial and Error Method

The Truer Truth

Authoritarian and Absolute Truth


Chapter 5. Believe or Know

On Uncovering Truth

The Nature of Knowing

The Scientific Method

The Dangers of Scientific Fraud

The Nature of Believing

Motives for Belief

Separating Belief and Knowledge


Chapter 6. Time and Events

Some Views of Time

Events and Existence

Present Events — Action and Change

The Ascent of Man

The Ascent of Homo sapiens Homo sapiens

Matter, Mass and Energy

The Nature of the Past

Revents, Remembered Events — DNA

Duration, Past and Future Events

Dates in Time


Chapter 7. Things Change

Change in Motion

The Neutrino

The Expanding Universe

Change in Quantity

Change in Quality

Coming to Be and Passing Away

Change and Duration

The Source of Change — Thermodynamics

Second Law of Thermodynamics




Chapter 8. Scientific Reality

Dual Reality and Reductionism

Science and Numbers

Scientific Models

The Atomic Model

The Quantum Paradox

The Photoelectric Effect

Quantum Waves

The Flowering of the Two-Slit Experiment

The Copenhagen Interpretation and EPR Objection

Bell’s Theorem

A. Aspect’s Experiment


Part III. Aspects of Biological Reality

Chapter 9. Darwin and Mendel

The Problem with Time

Natural Selection and Evolution

Bacteria and the Prokaryotes

The Eukaryotes and Symbiosis

The Evidence for Evolution and Natural Selection

Embryology, Morphology, and Physiology

Domestication as Selection

Bacterial Resistance to Drugs

Paleontology and the Fossil Record


Genetics — Mendel’s Peas


Chapter 10. Individualism and Evolution

The Fossil Evidence

Natural Selection

The Gifts of Natural Selection



The Individual and Reproduction

Advantages of Bisexuality

The Emergence of Choice


Complex Purposes

Humans in Space

Alone in the Throes of Change

The Natural Selector


Chapter 11. The Double Helix

X-Rays Crystal Structures — Von Laue and Bragg

The Watson and Crick Model of DNA, 1953

On Deoxyribonucleic Acid, DNA

DNA Replication

DNA Transcription

DNA Translation

Lord Kelvin and the Problem with Time

Tautology and Falsifiability

Darwin’s Problems


Chapter 12. The Micro Evolution of Life

The Emergence of Purpose

The Facts of Evolution

Timely Design, Result, or Outcome

The Measurement of Time

Major Physical Events

The Accumulating, and Micro Nature of Evolution

The Meaning of Death and Extinction

The Meaning of Life

Conflict between Individuals and Organizations

The Natural Selector


Glossary (Some Facts of Science)

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Pages 200
Year: 2008
LC Classification: Q175.32.T78M47 2008
Dewey code: 121--dc22
BISAC: SCI075000 SCIENCE / Philosophy & Social Aspects
BISAC: SCI000000 SCIENCE / General REL106000 RELIGION / Religion & Science
BISAC: SCI043000 SCIENCE / Research & Methodology
Soft Cover
ISBN: 978-0-87586-585-0
Price: USD 22.95
Hard Cover
ISBN: 978-0-87586-586-7
Price: USD 32.95
ISBN: 978-0-87586-587-4
Price: USD 22.95
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