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Sunday, February 05, 2006

Comments

J.D. Crane

Calm down.

First of all, gravity is a law: http://zebu.uoregon.edu/~soper/Orbits/newtongrav.html

Secondly, there is no way to test an event that happened in the past. Many "theories" regarding the origins of our existence have been developed backwards from preferred assumptions, evolution being but one example. I find it impossible to reconcile the classical scientific method with much of current science's "reasoning backwards from the conclusion". These "propter hoc, ergo propter hoc" arguments that most scientists make result in two things:

1. A general disdain for the intellectual arrogance of the established science community, and

2. Reflections on the part of a majority of this country's populace that perhaps the idea of a benign and loving creator God is the least ridiculous of the possibilities.

Annus Mirabilis

Hold Up, JD.

Are we really saying here that, because scientists are using reasoning you and "a majority of this country" find hard to work with, scientists are therefore intellectually arrogant? Seriously? Because you don't understand what they're saying?

And c'mon, there are a gazillion ways to test an event that happened in the past, so long as the effects of said event are still occurring. This is why Evolution is essentially indisputable. We see evidence of its continuance right now in our world. The mutation of avian bird flu. The growing resistance of staph infections to everyday antibiotics. The only real trick is to sort out which effects relate directly to the elapsed event, and the scientific method is the perfect tool for this.

I'm sorry, man, but siding with the fundies and the defiantly ignorant on this is a non-starter.

PS. Long time reader, first time poster ;)

Prophet

My main problem with this series of events is that this Administration is not just promoting intelligent design but is promoting Christian creationism through the idea of intelligent design. It is possible (and I believe) that the Big Bang “Theory” [big letter T theory] may be rationalized with intelligent design. I think that the starting point of “intelligent design” could be the point when the Big Bang took place. However, with that thought I am not trying to degrade the Big Bang Theory and promote intelligent design.

There is measurable evidence of the Big Bang. The best evidence that I know of is the measurable Doppler Shift of galaxies, which demonstrates that most galaxies and matter are moving away from each other. (But then again, the Big Bang theory isn’t perfect, either). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Bang

My problem (and I really believe that it should be everyone’s problem too) is that this Administration is trying to promote its “belief” by rewriting science.

JD – Newtonian Gravity is not a law. The phrase “Newton’s Law” is a misnomer. Newton provided a mathematical model, which explains the forces of gravity that large bodies exert on each other at great distances. Nevertheless, in the 300 years after Newton’s discovery of a mathematical equation, we still don’t understand how gravity works, or why it can bend light, cause time dilations, etc. You can say that the effect of gravity is a natural “law,” to which all things must succumb, but we do not know how to explain that effect.

Additionally, Newton’s “law” does not work for small bodies at small distances. See Quantum Theory of Gravity. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_gravity Or String Theory. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/String_Theory

Newton’s equation is only one model that explains one principle (the force of gravity for large bodies), thus it is still a model and not really a law.

Both Religion and Science strive to find explanations. Not so long ago, people saw the sun rise and set. To explain the sun’s behavior, the belief was promulgated that the sun and stars rotated around the earth. Like most beliefs, once that belief was set no further explanation was sought. And if it was sough, those who sought it were persecuted and treated as heretics. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galileo

Science finds explanations through the scientific method, of forming a hypothesis, testing the hypothesis, observing the outcome, and then forming a conclusion. Religion I think too often skips to the conclusion. Even when a conclusion is reached, Science is at least open to change by those with varying observations, which is why I feel it is stronger than religion when explaining the world and events.

Sui Generis

Good lord, y'all are dorks. However, I still don't understand why I should give more credence to Darwinian theories (as an example) than to a group that promotes "intelligent design." Science seems to be constantly proving and disproving its own theories, sometimes leading us closer to what could be the truth, and sometimes completely negating what it stated before (evidence: the "Toumai fossil," discovered in Chad in 2002).

I think I understand that Prophet is saying that reasoning is better than blind faith when it comes to explaining the "world and events." Yet, what about the inexplicable? Does everything need to have a scientific explanation? Is it too optimistic to think that there could be some balance between the scientific community and religion? I'm thinking of the Dalai Lama's address at MIT, in which he discusses scientists' studies of Buddhist meditators' minds: http://www.smithsonianmag.si.edu/smithsonian/issues04/may04/presence.html.

Prophet

I think there are things that are better left to religion to explain. However, Religion should never usurp or subordinate scientific evidence.
Yes, science does get it wrong… maybe even more so that it gets it right. Unlike religion, science has the tools to change its theories and understandings.

To give a quote from Kevin Smith's movie Dogma
Bethany: You're saying that having beliefs is a bad thing?
Rufus: I think it's better to have ideas. You can change an idea. Changing a belief is trickier.

J.D. Crane

Hold Up, JD.

Are we really saying here that, because scientists are using reasoning you and "a majority of this country" find hard to work with, scientists are therefore
intellectually arrogant?

---No, I am not. They are not hard to work with; they are empirically flawed. Many prominent scientists are viewed as intellectually arrogant because they show condescension to and patronize most non-scientists because they think their ideas are simply "above" the average person. The arrogance comes in because most people are perfectly capable of, and indeed do understand what they are alleging. They simply don't agree with the conclusions reached. Then what frequently happens is the scientists, outraged that they (the big, important scientists) would be questioned or disagreed with by (the average joe), engage in personal attacks or character assassination of the critic, because the critic can't possibly dispute the scientists' educated conclusions (who do these common people think they are?), so they must simply be too ignorant to understand the argument. That is the arrogance I'm referring to. People don't fail to understand your reasoning. They understand it, and reject it.

Seriously? Because you don't understand what they're saying?

---Please see the paragraph above.

And c'mon, there are a gazillion ways to test an event that happened in the past, so long as the effects of said event are still occurring.

---Your sentence above aptly illustrates my first comment. Rather than look at what is currently occurring and make deductions from these things, modern "science" has too often started at the conclusion, and then rationalized support for the assumption in question, to the exclusion of any contradictory or differentiating evidence. Your sentence above encapsulizes this bias nicely. You assume the effects happening now are from (not any event),(not an unknown event to be deduced), but an event you've already intellectually committed to with a fervent allegiance not unlike the fundamentalists you so joyfully mock with regularity.

This is why Evolution is essentially indisputable.

---Really? Perhaps you need to read more widely. Thanks again for proving again my points on:
1. Scientific arrogance, and
2. Rationalizing support for a favored assumption.


We see evidence of its continuance right now in our world.

---Really? We do?

The mutation of avian bird flu. The growing resistance of staph infections to everyday antibiotics.

--These are both evidence of Natural Selection at work, which support concepts of typology and dominant characteristics, but have never been shown to result in species change or transfers from one genus to another. Perhaps you are not expressing yourself precisely. Natural Selection is not macroevolution. One is readily observable; one is a theory. The former, while continually claimed to do so, has never been shown to result in the latter.

The only real trick is to sort out which effects relate directly to the elapsed event, and the scientific method is the perfect tool for this.

---Wow, you make it sound so simple! I guess there's no need for controversy at all, it's just that easy! I suppose all the intra-scientific community spats, not to mention the current political-scientific squabbles are simply unnecessary then! Somebody tell these people! Gosh!

I'm sorry, man, but siding with the fundies and the defiantly ignorant on this is a non-starter.

---I'm sorry to harp on someone, especially a long time reader, first time poster, but this last paragraph really pissed me off.

Aside from demonstrating that now typical scientific arrogance previously displayed several time in you post, you now attempt to do exactly what the scientifically arrogant do when their "infallible" ideas are questioned. You respond with "fundies" and "defiantly ignorant". I can only cringe at what a real debate would do to you. Assuming that you are not a prominent scientist, I can only be more dissapointed in you for resorting to a conclusion like that than I would be in them. I can forgive someone brilliant for letting their arrogance overwhelm their common sense and politeness. What is truly depressing is when someone like yourself adopts their attitude and manner without the virtue of their acheivement. It says many things about you, the foremost of which being that you lack the ability to think for yourself. I don't expect you to agree with me. I do expect more cogent discussion than regurgitated rhetoric; and I do expect more than name-calling and dismissal when that rhetoric is questioned.

I hope you continue to read our blog. As you can see, we here have many differing viewpoints on certain issues. I like to think there is room for all of them.

Even yours.

Have a "great year".

Hunc T. Caveto

JD, you should know better than to expect more than name calling - you doo-doo head. I think many of the potential problems with the attitudes of the scientific community towards those who disagree exist just as strongly (if not more) in the religious community (Prophet, you Godless infidel). Although, I think that as many of the bloggers here have chosen a profession where we get paid to argue, it is not all that surprising to see how quickly intelligent people will degrade their arguments to ad hominum attacks and false airs of confidence.

I tend to agree that the scientific community is much more willing to reexamine the basis for their beliefs than the religious community, and that is why someone may give it more credence than religion. I am just more comfortable with a method that is willing to question and prove itself wrong than an ideology that fervently and unquestionably holds on to its positions (except of course with regard to the Catholics' Limbo). Furthermore, what is so wrong with starting with a potential conclusion and looking for evidence to support or contradict that idea? Obviously, some people will always look only at the positive support, but that is a flaw with certain individuals, not the scientific process.

However, I am also willing to admit that it is often easier to latch on to the more tangible scientific evidence supporting a hypothesis/Theory/etc, than intangible religious beliefs.

Hunc out.

J.D. Crane

OK Prophet, now it's your turn.

First of all, I agree with you that no political party should be promoting a specific religious agenda. And I agree that this current administration has been one of the worst offenders in recent memory in ragards to that.

Secondly, the whole body of your comment pertaining to gravity just illustrates that science does a shaky job of explaining things. I mean, as one of the more constant things that everyone experiences on a daily basis (gravity), science still can't come up with a complete explanation--by your own admission. Doesn't inspire much confidence, nonetheless faith.

I find your comment:
"Science finds explanations through the scientific method, of forming a hypothesis, testing the hypothesis, observing the outcome, and then forming a conclusion. Religion I think too often skips to the conclusion."

...far more in the realm of fantasy than of science. What you have described is how modern science should work. However, in today's coporate-sponsored university labs and private R&D warehouses, contrary indicators, non-correlating data, and flat out contrapositive results are just buried. Perhaps there is pure science being performed for the sake of knowlegde somewhere. I just don't think it is at all commonplace. Most of the science scandals I've investigated lately (south korean cloning being one example) have started with the conclusion first, then attempted to rally evidence. The critique of religion you end your comment excerpt above with is far more descriptive of science these days...

And don't forget:
"Like most beliefs, once that belief was set no further explanation was sought. And if it was sough, those who sought it were persecuted and treated as heretics"
...at one time or another, Albert Einstein, Niehls Bohr, Louis Pastuer, Jonas Salk, and Craig Venter were all treated as heretics---by the scientific community.

Jurisconsultus

Time and again I find myself defending religion because of ignorance. Society has turned science into its own religion. One cannot question "Big Bang" or "Evolution" because this is "Science." Everything is flawed: science, religion, NFL officiating, etc. What Douchebag, I mean Deutsch, did was no worse than what happened in Pennsylvania. I expect people have different views, in fact, I prefer it when people have varying ideas as to how something occurred. In the end, this is a good thing.

The situation here troubles me much like the court ruling in Pennsylvania. One person or group is stifling and suppressing other ideas in favor of its own. This is happening on both sides and must stop if we are ever going to discover the truth.

Freshmaker

Let me clarify one quick thing: Science has never put forward a theory -- and remember, in science "theory" is, as Prophet pointed out, not the same "we just think this may have happened" use of the word -- for the beginning of life. Seriously. Even Darwin never did that; evolution is concerned with how life adapts to its environment but not how it began. Evolution can be quantified; we have been able to watch species change to take advantage of their environments (or die when they couldn't).

The problem with creationism and ID in school science classes is that both go where science hasn't and posit a beginning to life. They suggest a sentient being manipulated natural laws or whatever to begin life. We cannot prove or disprove that at the time, so it cannot be subject to the scientified method and should not be taught in science classes. Because science classes don't even teach a scientific guess as to the beginning of life.

Anyway, Deutsch was rightly canned -- turned out the guy didn't even graduate college.

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