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June 29, 2007

Issues of Belief « New Thinking »

Glenn Reynolds takes a cheap shot.

He uses micro-evolution to imply he's seen macro-evolution.

Pretty sloppy thinking for a lawyer; excessively sloppy for someone who is supposed to be teaching prospective lawyers how to build arguments.

But then, it is issues like evolution, intelligent design, abortion, Terry Schiavo, and other issues of belief that bring out the cheap shots from people who should otherwise know better.

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posted by Nathan on 09:40 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 05, 2005

The Definitive Post on Evolution vs. Intelligent Design « New Thinking »

Don't bother arguing about ID with a committed evolutionist.

They are close-minded and refuse to accept that any other viewpoint might be correct.

They claim that ID is not science, in that it is not falsifiable, not replicable, and has no predictive utility. But they fail to note those same objections apply to Evolution Theory as well.

Don't believe me? Read any defense against the Theory of Irreducible Complexity. "It could have worked out this way" is absolutely not falsifiable. A fact conveniently overlooked by supporters of Evolution Theory.

Macro-evolution has never been observed in nature, which kind of destroys any chance of replicating it. And predictiive utility? Go ahead: tell me what the next new species to emerge is, and what its characteristics will be. I dare ya.

Plain simple fact: no genetic trait can appear that isn't already in the genetic code. That's Rule #1 of Evolution Theory. So the only way for speciation to have occurred is by changes in the genetic code, i.e., mutation. Evolution Theory supporters would have you believe that the vast array of species you see before you occurred because enough favorable mutations occurred in an organism still capable of passing on genetic information, and that enough of the offspring received that genetic information to intermingle, be displayed and passed on to succeeding generations...and in sufficient numbers to actually compete with non-mutated versions of that same organism. Which is difficult enough to swallow, except that they also expect you to believe all this happened within the accepted astronomic estimates of the age of the universe, which every computer projection I've seen indicates is pretty much impossible. Allowing for random mutation at a far greater rate than we see occuring in nature (remember the "observable, replicable, and predictive" requirements for something to be "science"?), it would still take much longer than the universe has been in existence for speciation to the extent we observe to occur, by at least a factor of 1000.

Another problem with discussing ID with an Evolution Theory supporter is they fancy they can use their own "common sense" to disprove ID. Aside from the fact that they are usually arguing against a strawman to begin with, they don't allow you to disprove Evolution Theory with your own common sense. Scientists are supposed to be the ones determining what the common man should or should not believe, I guess.

Because that's what is at the heart of Evolution Theory chauvenism. The person arguing against ID has decided that ID is not science. They don't have to listen to the rigorous documentation of ID theory, the peer-reviewed publication in scientific journals, the theories that have been tested and falsified, because they have already decided that ID is not credible, based on the experts they chose to believe because those same experts have also already decided ID is not a credible theory. Circular logic like that is also not scientific.

What, in fact, is the harm of teaching ID theory? Is anyone going to change their lifestyle if they believe ID is true? Are toasters and MP3 players and cars going to stop working? Are people going to stop going to doctors? Is Evolution Theory research going to get less funding?

At worst a generation of kids will grow up believing that ID is a credible theory. It won't make them worse football players, worse lawyers, worse doctors...or even worse scientists. And some of them will see inherent contradictions between Evolution Theory and Intelligent Design, and do some research and experiments. And some will attempt to disprove Evolution Theory. And some will attempt to disprove Intelligent Design. And maybe 100 years from now we'll still be arguing the theories.

Or, if the Evolution Theory supporters are as correct as they think they are, Intelligent Design will be totally disproven. From that point of view, sure: why waste the next 100 years checking it out?

The answer is simple: Because science can learn things even by chasing down blind alleys. Serendipitous results from mistakes and bad assumptions have taught us more than staying within the orthodoxy ever did.

And isn't the "Teach Evolution Theory Only" stance rather condescending, after all? It assumes, "I'm smart enough to look at all information and decide Evolution Theory is correct. But those stupid hicks in Kansas/wherever can't."

Bottom Line: Teaching Intelligent Design as an alternative idea to Evolution Theory as the cause for speciation cannot and does not have any potential harmful results; conversely, increasing debate within the classroom only helps in the refining of theories, ideas, and understanding.

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posted by Nathan on 04:42 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)

March 24, 2005

For The Record « New Thinking »

There is nothing in science that disproves God. There is nothing in religion that contradicts science. They not only look at different aspects of the question of life, but they use different modes of observation. Moreover, they have different standards of objectivity, and approach any given problem from a different perspective.

This is especially true in light of Quantum Thoery.

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posted by Nathan on 10:06 AM | Comments (5)
» One Fine Jay links with: Mutually exclusive domains

March 14, 2005

Dark Energy « New Thinking »

I've been down on Dark Matter recently, making fun of it in a discussion with Jay and Andy over at Zombyboy's.

Well, I was wrong. Sort of:

Dark Matter is just non-lumenescent matter. There is some semi-ambiguous evidence for its existence in the form of gravitational influence...which sounds pretty significant. Except that there are several other theories that explain the vector anomolies just as well.

But what I was remembering as absolutely ridiculous is a closely related concept called Dark Energy You might understand why I used the wrong term, since they are so similar in nomenclature.

Anyway, read the whole thing for yourself, and see if you can suppress the chuckles when they start saying things like, "No evidence of quintessence is yet available, but it cannot be ruled out."

Yeah, real rigorous burden of proof, there.

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posted by Nathan on 03:10 PM | Comments (0)
Synergy « New Thinking »

Hard on the heels of the two related discussions going on at Zomby's is this brief article on the efficacy of common sense. He doesn't go into it nearly deeply enough, I think, but it does make this extremely, well, sensible assertion:

With such a large amount of information being accumulated by so many people, there is a good chance that many truths will be found. Naturally, some of these will be difficult to prove in strictly logical terms, because so much information and reasoning is necessary to the formation of an explicit logical argument for each of them. We know these truths through experience and intuition, as our brains work faster than even the brightest among us can explicitly reason. Thus these are perfectly legitimate ways of obtaining knowledge.

Hence, before discarding any proposition that involves no clear contradictions of known facts or internal logic, it is important that we first try to find some explanation of why the principle is believed to be true. Of course, we should always be willing to test all things, and must be quick to discard those that prove untrue. That is only common sense.

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posted by Nathan on 08:12 AM | Comments (0)

February 11, 2005

HIV = AIDS...or is it something else? « New Thinking »

I gotta tell you, Dean's top-notch discussion about HIV in relation to AIDS wasn't exactly a denouement for me*, but it did give me a more complete understanding of the arguments on all sides.

Such understanding is vital for reading an article like this one on a "new strain" of HIV.

Duesberg, I believe, was one of the people saying that AIDS was more likely the result of drug abuse than HIV. Well, drug abuse plays a part in this "new strain" of HIV, too:

Antonio Urbina, medical director of HIV education and training at St. Vincent's Catholic Medical Center, site one of Manhattan's largest AIDS clinics, said at a news conference that the patient's use of crystal methamphetamine shows that the drug ``continues to play a significant role in facilitating the transmission of HIV.''

The drug reduces peoples' inhibitions and their likelihood of using condoms or other forms of safe sex, he said.

But isn't that the case with lots of drugs? Heck, alcohol's been doing that for millenia, but not once have I ever heard alcohol cited as a risk factor for AIDS the way crystal meth seems to be. Ande the best argument for its effect is that it reduces inhibitions? My B.S. Detector just pegged the max redline reading.

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posted by Nathan on 01:26 PM | Comments (7)

January 03, 2005

Science and its Adherents « New Thinking »

There's a bunch of good crunchy stuff for New Thinkers* in this article about Einstein.

The story starts in the late 19th century, when the scientific establishment believed in an eternal and unchanging universe. This was a neat theory of cosmology, because a universe that had always existed did not raise any awkward questions, such as "When was the universe created?" and "What (or Who) created it?"

Just the question Newtonian atheists don't want asked. So they turn to explanations like "Big Bang" to exclude the possibility of God.

Maybe they don't know the history of the theory:

The Big Bang model was initially ridiculed by the scientific establishment. For example, one of its pioneers, Georges Lemaître, was both a cosmologist and an ordained priest, so critics cited his theology as his motivation for advancing such a crackpot theory of creation. They suspected that the model was Lemaître's way of sneaking a Creator into science. While Einstein was not biased against Lemaître's religious background, he did call the priest's physics "abominable." It was enough to banish the Big Bang model to the hinterlands of cosmology.


Well, what was Einstein's take?

Gravity seemed to be incompatible with an eternal, unchanging universe, and Einstein certainly had no sympathy for the alternative view of a collapsing universe, stating that: "To admit such a possibility seems senseless."

Einstein was reluctant to invoke God, so his solution was to fiddle with his theory of general relativity, adding an antigravity force alongside familiar gravity. This repulsive force would counteract gravity over cosmic distances, thereby maintaining the overall stability of the universe. There was no evidence for this antigravity force, but Einstein assumed that it had to exist in order to provide a platform for eternity.

Yep, you got that right. Without any proof, mathematical or otherwise, he postulated. That's Science! for "made crap up", and waited for other scientists to find more evidence to prove or disprove his idea. God, however, is right out. Even if it is perfectly in line with the theories of quantum mechanics...

But Einstein was brilliant, and even crap he just makes up has got to be true, right?

However, in 1929 Einstein was forced to eat humble pie. Edwin Hubble, working at Mount Wilson Observatory in Southern California, showed that all the distant galaxies in the universe were racing away from one another as though they were debris from a cosmic explosion. The Big Bang model seemed to be correct. And, while it would take several decades before the theory was accepted by the scientific establishment, Einstein, to his credit, did not fight on. "This is the most beautiful and satisfactory explanation of creation to which I have ever listened," he said, and even called his repulsive force the biggest blunder of his career.

But there's a twist in the tale:

If gravity pulls everything together, then the expansion of the Big Bang should be slowing, because all the receding galaxies would be attracted to one another. In 1998, however, when astronomers tried to measure this deceleration, they were astonished to find that the universe is in fact accelerating. The galaxies are apparently moving apart faster and faster as time passes.

What is the best explanation scientists can come up with? The existence of an antigravity force. Theorists call this repulsive effect "dark energy," but it is exactly the sort of force that Einstein posited to maintain the stability of the universe. Antigravity is now back in fashion some seven decades after he abandoned it.

Yep, we're back to "making crap up without any real evidence". Don't get me wrong: you have to have a working theory in order to help direct search for more evidence and greater understanding. You can't just gather data and expect it to make sense. You have to sort it into "supporting" and "undermining" groups based on your paradigm. So for all my joking around about "making crap up", I do understand the necessity of it.

But Science! adherents** would have you believe that "current theory" is more than just theory, that it has been proven there is no God, that the universe has been demonstrated beyond doubt to be clockwork and automatic and needs no creator. No. Emphatically no. We are just starting to understand some of the aspects of the universe, and our theories are rudimentary at best, if not outright nonsense. But ya gotta start somewhere.

The problem for Science! adherents is that to look at all the current evidence and postulate the idea of dark matter as being the only rational explanation is pretty much equivalent to the ancient Greeks seeing lightning and thunder and assuming Zeus is angry at Hera. It's a working assumption that works in an extremely limited understanding of the universe.***

Hat Tip to Dean. (I didn't have to register for the NYTimes article using his link).

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posted by Nathan on 06:07 AM | Comments (1)
» Anywhere But Here links with: If You Don't Know, Make Something Up

December 30, 2004

Science! II: The Sequel « New Thinking »

Kevin quotes Rand Simburg and muses on how science, as a discipline, seems to have lost its roots. Science apparently now rejects philosophy as being beneath it, yet Mr. Simburg says it underpins all that science (again, as an entire discipine) does.

I'll take it a step farther and point out that because scientific research has progressed so far, all the low-hanging fruit has been harvested and it is nearly impossible to have independent research these days. Everything comes from government (and some private) funding. That means social and political agenda are driving what sort of research can even be done.

Thus, it's impossible to get funding to even do the initial stages of research to test the extremely weak theory that HIV causes AIDS.

Thus, it's impossible to get funding or be published in the main journals if you don't embrace Evolution Theory as the origin of the species.

There are other examples I don't choose to enumerate at this time. It all results in a pseudo-factual consensus that I call Science!, as opposed to actual scientific inquiry. Heck, that term says it all, doesn't it? Science is no longer about inquiring into matters, it's about getting a result that you can bludgeon your socio-political opponents with.


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posted by Nathan on 11:09 AM | Comments (1)
HIV Causes AIDS... « New Thinking »

...or does it?

Meticulously researched and described, Dean Esmay questions conventional wisdom effectively. I'd like to see this get widespread coverage from the Mainstream News Media, Instapundit, Drudge.

One thing Dean does quite well is crunch all the reports and look at all the numbers and boil them down into a tight argument that any layman can understand. As such, it sometimes confounds the experts... But always well worth reading.

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posted by Nathan on 10:31 AM | Comments (0)

December 28, 2004

Violating the "Laws" of Physics « New Thinking »

Okay, snide comments about the overwrought scenery-chewing of journalists aside, the Southeast Asian earthquake and tsunami was awe-inspiring and terrible in its power.

The news has said that:

1) the island of Sumatra has moved 100 feet. That is truly amazing.

2) It possibly changed the Earth's orbit. Now, my limited understanding of physics says that is nothing short of nonsense.

First, we are kept in orbit by the Sun's gravity, so it would take a huge force to alter that...I think this earthquake did not expend enough energy to overcome both the gravitational pull and the inertia of the track we are in. No matter how hard you bang glove compartment door, you aren't going to change the path of your car.

Second (and more importantly), for every force, there is an equal and opoosite reaction. All my hard science fiction (based on tangible, proven laws of physics) readings indicated that once you established your own orbit (lost contact with the ship/station), no amount of wiggling or jerking or anything could do anything to alter your orbit to regain contact. The only way you can adjust your orbit would be to actually cast mass off into space, in a reaction-type drive. A meteor striking the earth could change the orbit, but nothing inside or on the earth itself that didn't involve ejection of matter or conversion of matter to energy could change our planet's orbit one inch.

So what gives?

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posted by Nathan on 06:02 PM | Comments (3)

December 27, 2004

Sneering Atheism « New Thinking »
Like an art critic who proclaims the genius of a blank canvas and then stands sneering as the millions pass it by for yet another look at the Sistine Chapel, scientific atheism seeks to proceed from nothing when human experience is the only reasonable place to start. This world of pleasure and suffering will be as it is either way, and we may each of us face it as we choose. But as one can legitimately see design in the chaos of evolution and recognize providence behind the mask of history, so God undeniably may be known to live in the experience of being human.

Read the whole thing.

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posted by Nathan on 07:33 AM | Comments (0)

December 10, 2004

Maybe the Evidence for the Existence of God is More Compelling Than Some Would Have You Think... « New Thinking »

Leading Atheist Recants.

H/T to One of the plethora of Kevins in the blogosphere.

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posted by Nathan on 11:19 AM | Comments (7)
One of the More Amusing Google Hits « New Thinking »

Someone did a search for quantum schrodinger cat jpg.

If you understand the concept, you understand you won't be able to have a .jpg picture of it...

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posted by Nathan on 09:30 AM | Comments (1)

November 10, 2004

Quantum Politics « New Thinking »

From a co-worker (who cites Fark, comes the meme:

Schrodinger's Arafat, i.e., continually existing in a uncertain state, neither dead or alive until someone actually checks on him, in which case the actual act of observing him will affect his state of life or death.

Maybe he could win the Nobel Award for Science as well as Peace?

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posted by Nathan on 07:51 AM | Comments (0)
» The LLama Butchers links with: A new form of quantum mechanics is discovered

June 16, 2004

Quantum Applications « New Thinking »

Another nail in the coffin of deterministic, Newtonian physics.

Information can pass at speeds faster than light.

Interestingly, it seems simultaneous. It would have an entirely different significance if it could be proved that it were not instantaneous, but still incredibly faster than light.

This is an exciting time for science, I think. I may have to try to get a PhD in Quantum Physics at some point.

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posted by Nathan on 01:43 PM | Comments (7)

June 06, 2004

Quantum Theory and Prayer « New Thinking »

I love this passage:

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posted by Nathan on 04:36 AM | Comments (3)
Systems and Viewpoint « New Thinking »

While everyone else is posting about Ronald Reagan, I thought I'd share some more from Who's Afraid of Schrodinger's Cat?

A few things I didn't make clear before. New Science and New Thinking don't replace or invalidate Science! or the mechanistic/deterministic paradigms, they merely place them into a larger context. Another aspect of New Science is that unlike Newtonian physics, the observer is not detached and objective, but does play a role in the outcome merely by observing (that's the basic idea of Schrodinger's Cat, by the way).

One way observers affect the outcome is merely by imposing a classification system. Mechanistic thinkers like Darwin adherents insist the order is there, but they merely describe it. Quantum thinkers recognize the fallacy of that view.

Here's an example: Scientists and philosophers in historical China started noticing that everything seemed to come in "fives". There are five distinct colors (blue, green, red, yellow, and black). There are five directions (North, South, East, West, and Center/motionless). There are five visible planets. There are five elements: Air, Water, Fire, Wood, and Metal. They based their music on a five-note scale. Was that a natural system, or order imposed by the observer? The Chinese didn't really know what to do with mercury. Or the color "white". But the framework of "fives" lasted beyond the recognition of aspects that didn't fit neatly...

None of these things have been "disproved", per se, they have just been placed in a larger context in which they make more sense. Blues still uses a pentatonic scale because there is no "wrong" note, which can happen in a major scale (minor scale tone played against a major scale sounds "wrong"). There are more than five directions, but those five are definitely the most definitive. The elements are rather comprehensive, too, representing liquid, gas, energy/plasma, and two kinds of solids: living and non-living. The color concept is the most intriguing to me, because "brown" and "orange" still aren't distinct colors for the Chinese (the term for them is usually in relation to the other colors...brown is considered a subset of "yellow", incidentally), and their perception of color certainly impacts their sense of fashion from a western viewpoint....

And that applies to modern biology, too, doesn't it? The classes and families and phylums and everything are nice and consistent...but what about the platypus? It breaks several rules by itself. And what about some uni-celled creatures that have aspects of both plant and animal...? But the framework of genus classification still lives on despite clear examples that don't fit the classification scheme. Why? Because the classification isn't wrong, per se, and is still very useful in understanding how living things relate to each other. But it makes more sense to admit that it is more of a useful shorthand system representing human viewpoint and sense of order, rather than actual reality.

So if you don't like some of the things I discuss in the context of New Science vs. Science!, understand that I am not denying the accepted principles of Science!, I'm merely attempting to explain the broader context in which Science! makes more sense. To do that, however, at times I will have to point out the flaws inherent to Newtonian/mechanistic/deterministic thought. Okay?

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posted by Nathan on 03:25 AM | Comments (0)

June 03, 2004

Science! and Society « New Thinking »

The Mechanistic, clockwork view of the universe mentioned in the previous post didn't immediately pervade world thought. It took time, as various philosophers and teachers and thinkers encountered and explored the ramifications. But it still dominates the thinking of most people, and is still taught in many disciplines today.

I think we will explore and expand on the new paradigms introduced by New Thinking, and in time it may become the norm. For now, though, the remnants of old-style, either/or, mechanistic, deterministic Science! are still seen everywhere, from the Evolution vs. Creationism arguments to socialism.

I'm a great believer in cause and effect, don't get me wrong. But I recognize the inherent problem of clinging too tightly to the idea that "if I do A, B will happen". I've also long been a great believer in the perversity of humanity. I would rather use fuzzy logic and say, "If I do A, B will probably (or probably not) occur", and make my plans accordingly.

I think I naturally understand New Thinking. It resonates with what I've already observed, identifies many of the same problems I've already identified, and takes steps to actually begin to answer those problems.

Well, Glenn Reynolds has nano-tech. I'm going to try to start applying fuzzy logic and quantum approaches to politics and society. It may not happen for a while, because I have some research to do, but look for more on this subject in the future.

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posted by Nathan on 11:32 AM | Comments (1)