The Sciences

A final post about Jeff Medkeff

Bad AstronomyBy Phil PlaitAug 20, 2008 2:27 AM


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My friend Jeff Medkeff died on August 3rd. There are a few posts here about him, but Jeff's final request was that a blog post be written on his cancer blog, Yucatangee Eventually Shuts Up. I know most of you don't know him, but reading that entry you might get a glimpse of the strength of will and of mind he had. He was an extraordinary example of humanity, of scientists, and of skeptics. I am very proud of him for saying this, upon visiting Charles Darwin's home in England, not long before the end:

Darwin is huge, personally and scientifically. It is remarkeable to think that his theory predicted genetic mechanisms of inheritance. But the cultural impact was also large. On a personal level, Darwin makes it possible to view my disease not as the result of the actions of some despicable god, but rather as a predictable and impersonal consequence of the way my species came into being. The universe, along with its “creator” or universal personality, or whatever, is not out to get me. The universe isn’t capable of being out to get me or anyone else - it hasn’t got the necessary attributes to do so. This is an impersonal problem.

This, while facing an imminent death and being fully aware of it. Would that we all had the strength of Jeff's conviction. The world is a little bit worse off without him.

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