The specifics on protein folding are great, but I love this part even more:
“We simply do not have the mental tools to intuit what might happen geologically over millions of years, what principles might be in play at speeds close to the speed of light, and so on. Quantum mechanics, to this non-specialist, looks like a violation of basic reason, but my colleagues in physics tell me that my intuitions are not valid. Similarly, what a process of evolution over billions of years might (or might not) be able to accomplish needs to be adjudicated based on evidence, not intuition.”
In my own opinion, this gets to the heart of what separates science and non-science. It harkens back to the early days of modern science when there was a real fight between Rationalists and Empiricists. The Rationalists thought that the secrets of the universe could be revealed through intuition and delving into truths that humans felt were innate. The Empiricists said that we should ignore all that and instead require independent sense experience to back conclusions. In the end, the Empiricists won out and what we got was the modern scientific method.
To put it simply, if human intuition was completely reliable then we wouldn’t need the scientific method . . . but we do need the scientific method.
“There are and can be only two ways of searching into and discovering truth. The one flies from the senses and particulars to the most general axioms, and from these principles, the truth of which it takes for settled and immoveable, proceeds to judgment and to the discovery of middle axioms. And this way is now in fashion. The other derives axioms from the senses and particulars, rising by gradual and unbroken ascent, so that it arrives at the most general axioms last of all. This is the true way, but as yet untried.”–Francis Bacon