Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Physics And Creationism

When I read the title of the article "What Physics Teaches Us About Creationism", I will freely admit that I was all set to dislike it based on what I thought it was going to lead to, which is a justification of creationism based on the bastardization of physics. Instead, what I read was an opinion that mirrors what I had already written.

This writer made several pointed argument against creationism, and supporters of creationism, who want to teach it as an "alternative" to evolution. In this case, he was using the example of the OPERA result to falsify this often-made claim against science.

Creationists regularly assert that science is a closed operation, that those offering opinions differing from the norm cannot get a fair hearing within the scientific community. They argue that it is impossible to publish papers in the technical literature that call the dominant paradigm into question. It is this narrow-mindedness, they continue, that keeps their "important" ideas from being shared broadly. I can't begin to count the number of notes I've received from creationists who rail against the biologists who refuse to consider what they have to say. The charge is always the same: scientists are biased and unwilling to consider any ideas that contradict their opinions.

The work arising from CERN demonstrates just how absurd this argument is. The scientists responsible for the work calling special relativity into question had absolutely no trouble getting their results in front of their peers. No one closed ranks and black-listed those who challenged the prevailing paradigm. Quite the opposite occurred. The physics community is abuzz with the results, and healthy discussion, meaningful skepticism, and plans for replication abound.
I had made practically the same argument before, especially in addressing what many crackpots have always made when their "theory" got debunked.  There have been many instances in physics where the strongly-held ideas at that time had to be revamped to make way for new and better/more accurate description of our world. So people who continue to make such arguments are utterly ignorant, and hope that those who hear their arguments are also utterly ignorant of such facts.

The other argument made is the fact that creationism/intelligent design offers zero experimental data and physical evidence in its support.

Creationists, on the other hand, simply make assertions. They offer no data and perform no experiments. As was pointed out by creationists themselves under oath in the Dover, PA intelligent design trial in 2005, no one is performing any scientific investigations of intelligent design. No one is publishing any empirical data on the subject. No one is doing anything at all other than saying, "wow, it seems really unlikely and counter-intuitive for evolution to work." What the creationists want is for an alternative theory of evolution to be accepted - and taught to our children - simply because they don't like the one that currently is supported by the data and by virtually every scientist in the field.
I think this is very important, and it also separates science from many other subjects, especially the standard, typically political banter where data seldom get cited, but personal preferences are used as valid justification for something. Don't believe me? Pay close and critical attention to any political speeches and debates. See how many times the superficial claims and assertions are given the support of actual data.

There's a lot to be learn from science, not the least of which is the methodology on how we arrive at a conclusion or knowledge. I can only wish other areas and most people make the same critical evaluation of what they accept as being valid.



Kea said...

The OPERA collaboration are NOT the ones challenging the current paradigm. It is well established that any one that does has a good chance of being blacklisted from the arxiv server, losing their career and in other ways silenced. Look carefully at the wording from CERN these days. Now, there are many Respectable Scientists who have worked on tachyonic neutrinos. Why are they being deliberately excluded from the new discussion? And so on.

Just because YOU don't see the witch hunts, doesn't mean they aren't happening, en mass. Open your eyes. Suddenly string theorists are taking credit for FLT neutrinos, as if they always thought that was a reasonable idea, and you DON'T question this?

ZapperZ said...

Waaaa... ?

You are confusing being CAREFUL before being certain of the result versus being silenced. This isn't politics, where one can simply say something without verification.

You are prematurely getting riled up about the OPERA results and about people getting and not getting credit. If this turns out to not be true (and there are plenty of uncertainty in the timing, and beam profile that can easily trip the sigma confidence on this one), you had just wasted your breath (or your typing fingers) for NOTHING!

BTW, in case you were dead asleep during the early 80's, there's nothing bigger and clearer about challenging "current paradigm" than the discovery of high-Tc superconductors. For many, many years, the field was completely well-established and theories about that showed a limit on the highest Tc that one can obtain. Yet, the discovery of the cuprate completely destroyed that. So who got blacklisted here? Would you like to take a guess at how many ArXiv preprint had high-Tc papers coming out at that time?

With such clear evidence in your face, how come YOU do not question YOUR erroneous view of how things are done?


Kea said...

Actually, I was involved in the discovery era of high-Tc superconductors. I worked in Taylor's UNSW lab in the 1980s, and have 2 papers from there, even though I was only a teenager at the time. Ain't nothing you can teach me about superconductor theory, either, since CMP is using more and more abstract categorical techniques these days.

ZapperZ said...

So? How does THAT either support your argument or falsify mine? Your last comment is neither here nor there.

Whether you were conscious of it or not, the discovery of high-Tc superconductor WAS a reshaping of condensed matter.

And the phrase:

"more and more abstract categorical techniques"

makes zero sense.


Kea said...

Perhaps you could point out, precisely, where I complained about skepticism, for instance? It is you who is putting words in my mouth, and behaving in an unscientific manner. All I said is that the current culture in science FAILS to allow consideration of ALL possible outcomes, as science should. I know this from a vast amount of first hand experience, in different areas of physics. Now CMP is mostly OK, I would say, but that may be why you are blind to how things are in HEP. You have failed to LISTEN.

ZapperZ said...

That makes even very little sense. Consider ALL POSSIBLE OUTCOME? Hello? Even from crackpots? Even from fringe physics? What did you intend to do? Do a summation on all possible paths?

Do yourself a favor and do a search on "Crazy but correct" on this blog. Everything I want to say is said in that blog entry and that Dan Koshland article.


Kea said...

Oh, so you immediately jump to the conclusion that all my work is rubbish, or that I was only talking about myself? And you call me the crackpot?

ZapperZ said...

1. If I thought you were a crackpot, NONE of your comments would have been released.

2. I didn't call you a crackpot. See who is putting words in whose mouth now? I simply pointed out the silliness of making an assertion to accept ALL POSSIBLE OUTCOMES! That is easier said than done!

3. This is getting tiring and going nowhere, and I'm cutting it off right now.

Have a nice day.