Replies to certain science threads on

Some of you might like to know I have subscribed to and am actively commenting on certain science discussion threads on—which is described as a “Learning Community for Kingdom Builders”. I found the site on @JuanitaBerguson’s twitter profile and figured some of the people over there might appreciate some links and introductions to certain scientific principals.

Juanita said:
Quantum Physics predicts the existence of multiple, parallel universes

Jim Gardner said:
I think you’re confusing quantum electrodynamics with string theory. Quantum physics is the study of subatomic particles. String theory surrounds the study of black holes—or more precisely the problem of infinite gravity at the centre of a black hole.

One postulate is that, since infinity is a mathematical way of expressing, “we don’t yet know”, it is hypothetically possible that Einstein’s famous equation E=MC2 breaks down at the point at which, according to string theory, black holes contain so much gravity they rip open into another universe—which would, from the point of view of a hypothetical observer on the other side of the event, produce a big bang similar to the one which created our observable universe.

I think your confusion, in a deistic sense, stems from the fact that this chimes rather well with the principle of so-called Anthropic Reasoning—which refers to a wide range of often contradictory methods of calculating both the exact age of the universe and the “why something rather than nothing” argument of “fixed constants”.

Astronomer Fred Hoyle had originally been a strong advocate of the fixed constants argument, because as a religious person he felt this pointed to a grand scheme, instigated by a designer. This also made him a strong opponent of big bang theory. However, he was later compelled to concede that both big bang theory had been proven more likely than his “steady state” theory and that therefore the argument of fixed constants no longer made sense. This was later shown to be a most valiant and educated concession on Hoyle’s part, since after his death it was discovered that carbon production inside stars actually hinges upon the radioactive state of three helium nuclei within a 20 percent range of Hoyle’s original fixed figure of 7.65 million electron-volts, which Nobel laureate physicist Steven Weinberg called “not such a close call, after all.”

In other words, the production of the fundamental particles of which all things are made, within stars, doesn’t actually hinge upon fixed values at all. The “goldilocks” argument is a neat parable, but it doesn’t actually deal with all of the evidence. Similarly, it should be noted, that most of the universe is completely inhospitable to any kind of DNA based life. Only our pale blue dot Earth, as far as we know, is conducive to or contains any life at all. If, then, it is to be argued that the universe was created with DNA based life in mind, the immediate problem posed is why it was necessary to create the entire rest of the universe?

Juanita said:
Lisa, thanks for the great information. I should have said “Science text books assume evolution is fact.” ;-)

Jim Gardner said:
Science is not about making assumptions, it is about establishing what can be proven to be true; removing uncertainties until only working hypothesises remain. In other words science is about establishing the exact opposite of an assumption. Text books which explain evolution do not do so on the assumption it is true, they do so on the evidence that it is highly likely to be true.

The mathematical probability of life having evolved by means of natural selection is a number with an almost infinite number of decimal places—because it grows exponentially each time new evidence in support of evolution is exposed to what scientific philosopher Karl Popper called falsification—the stronger of the logical processes between irrefutability and probability.

There may well be arguments between individual scientists over certain areas upon which evolution touches, such as in palaeontology where the age of certain fossils are incredibly difficult to gauge with a degree of accuracy any lower than a few million years. But these are not arguments about the validity of Darwinian evolution itself. They are about the way in which certain data sets are best located in the taxonomic table.

Remember, there is nothing within the theory of evolution which proposes origins. That is covered in the study of abiogenesis. Evolution theory is about what happened after the first spontaneous production of RNA and DNA as Alexander Oparin’s and J. B. S. Haldane’s famous experiment shows.


9 comments on “Replies to certain science threads on

  1. I’ve also replied to Paul, here:

    Humans are exceptionally good at seeing pattern or meaning where in reality there isn’t any to be had. There is a perfectly good evolutionary reason for this to do with threat analysis and what is commonly known as fight or flight stress response. It can also be an especially difficult facet of the human condition to step away from, in attempt to form some degree of objectivity about a given event, because when it comes to family members and people we are close to, on a deep emotional level, we want so much for there to be some meaning in the loss we feel when they die that this often overcomes our ability to think clearly or rationally about what we are experiencing. In cognitive psychology this is known as a confirmation bias—the tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms one’s preconceptions.

    Various forms of framing bias affect all of us most of the time. But when we experience shock or grief we are also at our most suggestible. It should be clear that making assumptions about the clarity with which we are operating; our own emotional state after hearing the bad news, isn’t going to help us find the actual cause of the phenomena to which we have succumb later on. Merely it is going to cloud our ability to make sense of this very commonly reported phenomena, when we are no longer in a state of suggestibility, but instead in a state where those suggestions are now embedded within our selective recollection of events which happened.

    This phenomena has been documented and studied in double-blind experiments many times. While we may not find this a particularly satisfying explanation of the phenomena, it should be noted that we never remember the hundreds of occasions day to day upon which we think about out loved ones, when it turns out nothing happens to them later on to trigger our memory of having thought about them earlier. We only recall these times when something happens to remind us.

    While it is more than possible to find people who describe themselves as having once been a non-believer, who then having had an experience of this kind then describe themselves as “a believer”, this doesn’t change the fact that explaining something with an appeal to suspend the laws of physics, immediately requires that the claimant present material evidence of their claims which, by definition, can not be shown—because we live in a material reality made of atomic, chemical and biological interactions & causality; hence ‘natural’, as opposed to ‘super-natural’.

    “Plurality should not be posited without necessity” – William of Ockham's_razor

  2. I’ve fought with her a few times already via Twitter… I don’t know that I’m really ready to wade back into that level of stupid again. If I start itching for a fight though, at least I know where there’s one waiting to happen!

  3. One more:

    luminary2009: “I always invite people of science who may not be religious to look deeply into the world of Spirit because I believe that the mysteries of science are there too.”

    I couldn’t agree more. But I also fervently believe and hope that it will one day be possible to elucidate fully on what we actually mean by words like ‘spirituality’ by the use of reasoned terms, free of nonsensical guesswork and illogical superstition. I also believe and hope that this will lead us all into a new age of humanity, where war and hatred are not only rejected out of hand but made impossible by a collective respect for and renewal of the principal of interpenetrating opposites.

    I do not say and have never accepted that people who believe in a spiritual aspect are deluding themselves—although clearly many of my detractors do not always extend the same courtesy towards me, when they assume I must be emotionally wanting in some way, simply because I reject the contradiction which says that the only way to be free is to be enslaved. If I had a £1 for the amount of times I’ve been prayed for by people who make it clear to me that their requests for intercession are being begged of a vengeful and capricious god, I’d be a very rich man—and a very dead one at that, if there were indeed any such being actually listening to these petulant and insular demands.

    Clearly there is something happening physiologically and emotionally to people who describe themselves as “a believer” which must be explained if we are to make the necessary steps forward in neurology and psychology which will, eventually we hope, unlock the secrets of the mind and benefit all of humanity—regardless of race, age, religion or otherwise. Because it is also clear that the vast majority of believers are perfectly happy individuals with a balanced and healthy outlook on life and a respect for the views of others.

    It’s interesting to note, however, that many of those who will describe themselves as ‘spiritual’, who will then act in ways which are a complete contradiction of what it means to truly accept the truth of what we already know about the human condition and how we came to be the complex animal we are, are defended and protected by other people “of faith” simply because they share a common upbringing into a particular religion or belief system arrived upon in adulthood. This is the surest sign one could wish to hope for that such people have had their ability to think clearly and for themselves on such matters as the logic of scientific discovery, have had their subjectivism hijacked by the complacency of arrogant certainties—which is a very dangerous thing for any society to accept as merely someone’s religious right—when this unwieldy and easily abused freedom often informs a person’s political and social actions, in ways which so often negatively impact upon the rights of other people. (Luke 6:31)

    This statement, however, immediately poses a problem for those of us who argue in favour of objectivism, because the cognitive bias of choice among radicalised evangelicals is one which will show them the same arrogant certainty in others as they exhibit to everyone else, precisely because they have an emotional commitment to the same kind of bad choices as are held by those who, perhaps, worship financial materialism, far more than they worship their claimed ‘spirituality’.

    In behavioural science this is known as ‘The Dunning–Kruger Effect’—which is a cognitive bias in which a person who is unskilled in a particular area will immediately assume that their knee-jerk instinct to reject a certain idea out of hand, is one borne of common sense or the reaction “any normal person” would exhibit towards a given proposition. This leads the person to, in fact, artificially inflate their own interpretation of something which they don’t actually fully understand, whilst at the same time assume the inverse about the intellectual capacity of those who point out their mistakes.

    This partly explains why, so often, the only “evidence” which is cited against, for example, evolution by natural selection from behind the veil of rightwing religious extremism, is usually always based upon negative conjecture about the motivation of “atheistic” or “secular society”—as opposed to actual evidence based upon positive research and falsifiable data. This is also why the very act of suggesting to someone that there is a far higher statistical likelihood that their beliefs are not true, than there is that their beliefs hold some basis in fact, is often met with the derisory assumption that the inverse must also be therefore true of those who support the scientific method—and that this alone demonstrates a bias towards materialism.

    Indeed, in this very chat thread, I am accused of “intellectual dishonesty” in the very same paragraph of at least two logical inconsistencies—to which the commentator made proud their reference without embarrassment—as if to satirise the effect of this phenomena without intention. I think we both know to whom I refer and I think we both know why this makes so many of their posts virtually unreadable.–Kruger_effect

  4. And:

    I like you, luminary2009. You seem to actually care. And as I’ve said before I agree with you entirely that we could all use a little more understanding of each other’s positions on spirituality and those facets of our humanity which make humans unique. Neuroscience is a truly fascinating area of study and I can’t emphasis enough how pleased I am to find so many Christians who are willing to find out more about it without—as a minority do with the evolution debate—assuming that it is an affront to someone’s cherished beliefs to study that which makes us who we are.

    I would, however, just like to pick-up on one thing you seem to be saying about the two sides on which some people fall, in the evolution debate, before we move on.

    It is not true to say that there is an equal weight of evidence on both sides of this debate. Where we are at the moment, is that—on one side—there is every major world religion, every single scientific establishment and 99.9% of the educated masses, who are in broad agreement with each other on the basic scientific facts; that there is an abundance of irrefutable evidence which shows that all DNA based life on Earth has common genetic ancestry and that this, in combination with the independent yet mutually corroborative evidence from palaeontology, archeology, cosmology, physics, thermodynamics, chemistry, biology, epistemology, axiomatic and strict logical arithmetic, philosophy, quantum electrodynamics and procedural data analysis—proves that Darwinian evolution by means of natural selection describes how all life on Earth evolved. It is a fact.

    There are those who say evolution, despite the depth of evidence which corroborates it, isn’t a fact. This tiny minority of radicalised religionists—who, at least in organised political groups, are an almost uniquely North American phenomena—are borne of a movement begun in the late 1970s tasked with rebranding the Republican Party as the party of “Christian Values”. This was masterminded by, among others, Francis Schaeffer and the anti-Semite Billy Graham. Advocates of this unconstitutional conjoining of church and State vehemently and dogmatically refuse to accept the very methods and processes used to acquire the evidence in support of evolution having occurred, because it contradicts their strict, narrow and literalist interpretation on life origins which are selectively based upon a poor translation of a book, written in the bronze-age, which addressed the question of how life on Earth came to be through allegorical Pagan astrology myths and Roman folklore.

    There is nothing inherent to the scientific method which precludes new evidence from entering into an existing theory, if that evidence can be shown to improve the theory or falsify it entirely. Indeed, that is what the scientific method is exactly set-up to do. However, precisely because the methods used to continually subject evolution theory to falsification are many and varied—and growing in complexity all the time—some of these methods, designed to rule out inductive conjecture, must—at some point—confront a philosophical impasse which places emphasis upon falsifiability over irrefutability. This is a legitimate problem in the philosophy of science, but these points of legitimate disagreement within the scientific establishment are not the “fatal flaws” or “fundamental contradictions” which creationist propagandists make them out to be in most of the literature which all-too-many armchair apologists have been lead to believe represent a flaw in evolution theory.

    In other words, sometimes, it is a paradox to say that there are two sides to a story—because if their were two truly equal; equally probable sides to the evolution / creationism debate—as it were, a 50/50 split of probably—there would be no difference of opinion in the first place. Creationism and evolution theory would exist side by side and complement each other until one theory won out over the other. The single reason cited by anti-evolutionists for why this is yet to happen, as it has happened in every other area of scientific study since the enlightenment, is—to this day—the self same reason creationists have been crying over ever since On the Origin of Species was first published.

    If it isn’t one group insisting that certain studies have been refused publication because this scientist or that funding body is connected to the work, or that so-and-so in the “Liberal biased media” is refusing to report irreducibly complex flagellum, or school boards refusing to “teach the controversy”, it’s the pitiful, woe-is-me appeals to “people of good moral values” from the Sarah Palin, Stepford WIves appreciation society, who are basically terrified that if they have to stop reading ‘Left Behind’ fan fiction for five minutes they might have to start paying attention to what’s actually happening in real world for once in their cosseted and ultimately meaningless lives.

    But apart from that, I agree entirely with everything you’ve said. :)

  5. And:

    Zdenny: None of what you have just said is true. You aren’t interested in learning why. Stop wasting my time. Stop hijacking every conversation I try and have with people who aren’t as confused as you with opinions we already know you hold for no good reason. We know what you think and why you think it. We have explained why you are mistaken time and again but you aren’t listening. Please, for no-one’s sake other than your own, learn how to learn before schooling anyone else.

    I don’t know what a “Darwinist” is, although I know what you think it is—but I can’t begin to fathom how you have managed to confuse the entire premise of codified scholasticism with a conspiratorial paranoia about an “atheistic agenda” inherent to the scientific method—nor can I begin to fathom how anyone would imagine such a thing might serve any purpose were such an agenda to actually exist.

    There is simply no way I can reason you out of your position, because you haven’t reasoned yourself into it. You have been taken in by an elaborate scam, propagated by professional confidence tricksters—who know exactly what buttons to push to convince people like you that they are genuine in their commitment to the same faith as you. They aren’t. They’re sick and they’re immoral liars and they have turned you into a deeply confused individual with seemingly no interest left in you, whatsoever, in understanding about anything for yourself. You no longer know how to apply ordinary rationalism to anything, because you have allowed every single facet of your understanding to be filtered through the machinations of a fundamentalist cult. Seek advice.

    Based not simply upon the conversations we have had on this website, but elsewhere in the past, I would strongly advise you to take counselling from someone you can trust, from a traditional Christian background, on why you have chosen to take such a radical route on a journey that I am certain must have begun as a genuine and heartfelt attempt on your part to better understand your faith. I celebrate your right to do that with every inch of my being—even though you have repeatedly asserted that, as an atheist, this is something I am incapable of understanding.

    I have tried time and again to explain to you that atheism is not a club to which only anti-theists are invited to join. Atheism is not nihilism. It is a philosophical tract which negates reference to that which can not be corroborated. Nothing more, nothing less. I don’t hate you or your religion simply because I am not religious. I don’t hate anyone—especially not those who are so demonstrably incapable of understanding why they are picking a fight with the wrong people, by singling out free thinkers, intellectuals and secularists for special treatment, when it should be clear to anyone with half an eye on what is happening in this world, that freedom of religion is a cherished value unique to secular societies.

    The same can not be said of theocracies, such as Iran. But, in the inference of your own words on this very page, this is precisely the kind of country you wish for yours and mine to become. The “values” you are fighting for are certain to bring exactly that kind of society into being. You are fighting for a world where only your opinions and only your values are permissible—despite that they are demonstrably false. You have become the very thing you fear the most. If Ken Ham is worth that—keep writing those cheques.

    “Do to others as you would have them to do you” – Confucius, 500 BCE

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