Category Archives: Science

The Laws of Nature Don’t Change, #3

Our last post in this series was The Laws of Nature Don’t Change, #2. That was about electromagnetism, which — according to telescopic observations — hasn’t changed in 10 billion years.

The first post in the series mentioned supernova SN1987A, which undeniably indicates that lightspeed hasn’t changed for more than 168,000 years, so there’s no way the universe we observe could be only 6,000 years old. But it was mostly about a demonstration that the mass ratio between electrons and protons has remained the same over the past 7.5 billion years.

Why do we bother with such things? To defend what’s written in Genesis, creationists declare that scientists don’t know what they’re talking about, because the constancy of the laws of nature is an arbitrary, unverifiable assumption. See The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Creation Science. After all, they say, you don’t know what things were like back then. Were you there?

Well, we weren’t there, but we can see things that were there, because the light from distant stars is just now reaching us, and it can tell us how things were a long time ago.

As we’ve said before, if the laws of nature haven’t changed, then radiometric dating methods are accurate, geological forces currently at work were behaving the same in the past, the speed of light wasn’t wildly faster in the past to get distant starlight to Earth almost instantaneously, and the waters of the Flood couldn’t suddenly come from and then go to somewhere, somehow. That means the universe described in Genesis is utterly impossible. Therefore, whenever we learn of evidence that the laws of nature haven’t changed, it’s worth mentioning.

There’s a great new article in PhysOrg — Distant quasar spectrum reveals no sign of changes in mass ratio of proton and electron over 12 billion years. We’ve written about that ratio before, but at that time the evidence was that it had remained the same over the past 7.5 billion years. Now there’s evidence that it’s been unchanged for another 4.5 billion years. That’s getting close to the start of the universe. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:

A team of space researchers working with data from the VLT in Chile [that’s the Very Large Telescope] has found via measuring the spectrum of a distant quasar by analyzing absorption lines in a galaxy in front of it, that there was no measurable change in the mass ratio of protons and electrons over a span of 12 billion years. In their paper published in the journal Physical Review Letters, the team, made up of two members from VU University in the Netherlands, and two members from Swinburne University of Technology in Australia, describe their findings and what it might mean for helping to explain dark energy.

Here’s a link to the paper: Constraint on a Varying Proton-Electron Mass Ratio 1.5 Billion Years after the Big Bang. Without a subscription, all you can see is the abstract, so we’ll stay with PhysOrg:

Some theories suggest that dark energy, the mysterious force that has the universe continuing to expand, might be a field that evolves over time — if so, that might mean that some of the constants we take for granted, such as gravity, the speed of light, etc., might actually evolve as well. In this new effort, the researchers sought to test that idea by looking to see if the mass of protons or electrons (both of which are considered to be fundamental constants) and the ratio that describes their mass difference, changed over the course of billions of years.

We’re not terribly interested in dark energy, but if their observations can puncture a claim of the creationists, that’s good enough for us, so we need only one more excerpt:

Their measurements showed no deviation (with a precision of 10-6) from the current constant, suggesting that the ratio has remained constant for at least 12 billon years.

Creationists like ol’ Hambo and his flock now have two choices: (1) ignore these observations; or (2) mention and dismiss them as the desperate ravings of secularists. Either way, ol’ Hambo is going to stick with his claim that “historical (or origins) science” is worthless, because it’s based on arbitrary, unverifiable assumptions, and the only way to really know what things were like long ago is to read the bible.

Copyright © 2015. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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Science vs. The Regular People

Things are strange out there. At the website of news and talk radio station WHAM, 1180 on your dial in Rochester, New York, we found an article by (or maybe a talk show transcript of) Bob Lonsberry.

Lonsberry is an interesting and controversial character, but when it comes to issues of concern to our humble blog, he seems to be a bit of a drooler. The article is Why People Don’t Trust Scientists. There’s a comments section at the end, with no comments so far. Here are some excerpts from the article, with bold font added by us:

In America, scientists believe one thing, and regular people believe another. Scientists believe that’s because regular people are stupid. At least that’s what a recent survey showed, and what any number of scientific discussions reveal. We go one way, and they go another, and they’ve decide we’re wrong. I’m not so certain.

Wow — that’s quite an ark-load. Regarding their areas of expertise, scientists realize that most people aren’t sufficiently informed — they can’t be unless they’ve made a rigorous study of the subject. Most scientists are interested in ways to communicate with the public in order to remedy the situation. As for genuinely stupid people, scientists don’t run around telling them they’re stupid, because their condition isn’t a science education problem. But Lonsberry has his own opinion, as he quickly makes clear:

Rather, I believe that science has, in the minds of many, stopped being science and started being politics. A group of self-appointed elites – culturally, educationally and religiously isolated from the general population – has decided that their neighbors’ inferiority explains any difference of opinion.

Scientists claim manmade global warming is incontrovertible fact; a majority of Americans disagree. More than 90 percent of scientists say there is no God; some 80 percent of Americans say there is. It goes on like that.

We’re going to ignore the global warming issue because it’s not a keen interest of ours. As for God, it’s understandable that many scientists — who rely on verifiable data — have their doubts, but that’s not a scientific issue unless some fanatical sect tries to interfere with the work of scientists. Let’s read on:

The trend is that science takes a position on the progressive extreme and the American population lags back in the thick center, and instead of valuing the collective wisdom of the people we worship the agenda of the elite. And that’s what science has become.

Did you follow that? Science is on “the progressive extreme,” and it doesn’t value “the collective wisdom of the people.” It’s true that many scientists lean far more to the political left than your humble Curmudgeon — but that’s politics, not science. Our reaction is to respect their scientific expertise, because that’s what they know, and to ignore their often naïve opinions about politics and economics. Lonsberry continues:

A field based on inquiry has somehow embraced orthodoxy, and named itself the defender of that orthodoxy. And those who disagree are ridiculed and mocked, dismissed as unintelligent and uneducated, unworthy of serious consideration or a part in the dialogue. In short, science has told the people to pound salt, and the people have merely returned the favor.

He’s getting carried away a bit, but that’s what makes him amusing. If Lonsberry had any understanding of how science works, he’d know that it’s the most revolutionary of human endeavors, with the greatest rewards often going to those who make new discoveries to correct — and sometimes overthrow — prior misconceptions. Here’s more:

In a role reversal of stunning proportion, the scientists who centuries ago risked excommunication or death for defying the orthodoxy of the Vatican, have become the Vatican, and are busy excommunicating and burning at the social stake any who defy the orthodoxy of this day. People understand that. And people think and act accordingly.

What’s he talking about? He’s probably been influenced by the trash documentary Expelled, promoted by the Discoveroids. Moving along:

The mistrust of scientists is not driven by inadequate science education in public schools, or by insufficient public spending on scientific research, it is driven by the fact that the scientific community has proven itself untrustworthy. Or at least hostile and alien.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! We’ll skip some grumbling about global warming. At the end he says:

Science betrayed society, and it is now blaming society, and it can’t be surprised if society withdraws. And it cannot be surprised if future study – honest science untrammeled by political agendas – finds that the opinions of the people of our day were a lot closer to the truth than the pronouncements of the scientists.

So there you are. Take heed, dear reader. There is much you can learn from what Lonsberry calls the “regular people.” If what you think is out of sync with “the collective wisdom of the people,” then the problem is yours, not theirs.

Copyright © 2015. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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Creationist Wisdom #514: No Aliens!

Today’s letter-to-the-editor appears in the Lima News of Lima, Ohio. The letter is titled Bible precludes alien life. There’s a comments section at the end.

The letter-writer isn’t a politician, preacher, or other public figure, so we won’t use his full name. His first name is David. Excerpts from his letter will be enhanced with our Curmudgeonly commentary and some bold font for emphasis. Here we go!

I am writing in response to the Jan. 8 article in The Lima News Religion section: “Are there others ‘in God’s image’ in the universe?”

We can’t find that letter in the Lima News, but it was undoubtedly a reprint of: Are there other beings ‘in God’s image’ in the universe? David describes it like this:

In the article Rabbi Avi Weinstein allows for worlds that preceded the present Earth. And the Rev. Holly McKissick said she is almost certain there are other inhabited planets in the universe and that her gut tells her the billions of yet unexplored solar systems must be filled with more of the same.

Yup, that’s the article we found. Here’s David’s reaction:

Where do they get these ideas? It is certainly not from the Bible that I read. Their statements contain not one biblical quotation to justify their statements.

Not one quote from the bible? This is an outrage! David continues:

God created Earth and death did not occur until man sinned, which separated man from God. If death did not occur until the original sin, how are there previous Earths?

Good question! Here’s more:

If McKissick is correct, the aliens she feels exist in the universe, will be destroyed by a loving God for no apparent reason or at a minimum because of what happened on Earth (our sin, not their own) some 6,000 years ago.

The logic is undeniable. Moving along:

When one goes outside the Bible to incorporate the ideas of fallen men, who weren’t there, who don’t know everything, whose theories change constantly, both these ideas and the Bible at that point make no sense.

He’s right. Ideas outside of the bible make no sense — compared to what’s in the bible. Another excerpt:

No matter how much scientists know, they will never know what it is they don’t know, so how can they ever claim to have discovered the truth and be certain of their theory?

Yeah — scientists can never be certain of anything outside of the bible. And now we come to the end of the letter:

So to answer the articles posed title question. NO. There were no pre-worlds and neither exist other alien worlds. Straightforward Biblical principles simply do not allow it.

So there you are — there are no aliens on other worlds. If there were, they’d be mentioned in the bible; but they’re not, so they don’t exist. They never did. Of that you can be certain.

Copyright © 2015. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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Lawrence Krauss Rebuts Eric Metaxas

You are all aware of the creationist op-ed column by Discovery Institute fellow traveler Eric Metaxas that recently appeared in the Wall Street Journal, about which we wrote More Creationism in the Wall Street Journal. It’s been endlessly re-posted at other news sites, and it’s been the subject of adoring praise by a number of creationists.

Afterwards, we took a stab at criticizing that creationist nonsense — see The “Science” of Intelligent Design — but our effort is nothing compared to what we found today. It’s a splendid rebuttal of the Metaxas nonsense, and it appears in a publication as mainstream as the Wall Street Journal.

In the New Yorker magazine we read No, Astrobiology Has Not Made the Case for God, written by Lawrence M. Krauss, theoretical physicist and cosmologist at Arizona State University. It’s excellent, and we urge you to read it all. The only thing we’ll do here is repeat a few of his most powerful rebuttals, which belong in everyone’s intellectual arsenal. Here we go, with bold font was added by us for emphasis:

Recently, the Wall Street Journal published a piece with the surprising title “Science Increasingly Makes the Case for God.” At least it was surprising to me, because I hadn’t heard the news.

That’s good! Then Krauss says:

[T]he article was a not-so-thinly-veiled attempt to resurrect the notion of intelligent design, which gives religious arguments the veneer of science — this time in a cosmological context. Life exists only on Earth and has not been found elsewhere. Moreover, the conditions that caused life to appear here are miraculous. So doesn’t that mean we must have come from a miracle at the hand of God?

Yes, that’s the argument. It boils down to: Look, look! Ooooooooh, ooooooooh! Design, design! Let’s read on:

Let’s start with the first point raised in the Journal piece, which is that the more we have learned about our own evolutionary history on Earth, the more we appreciate the many different factors that may have been important in allowing that evolution. [Then a few of the Privileged Planet factors are listed.] By considering each of these many factors and imagining the probability of each separately, one can imagine that the combination is statistically very unlikely, or impossible.

Such a claim is fraught with statistical perils, however. The first is a familiar mistake of elaborating all the factors responsible for some specific event and calculating all the probabilities as if they were independent. In order for me to be writing this piece at this precise instant on this airplane, having done all the things I’ve done today, consider all the factors that had to be “just right”: [List of factors.] It would be easy for me to derive a set of probabilities that, when multiplied together, would produce a number so small that it would be statistically impossible for me to be here now writing.

This approach, of course, involves many fallacies. It is clear that many routes could have led to the same result. Similarly, when we consider the evolution of life on Earth, we have to ask what factors could have been different and still allowed for intelligent life. Consider a wild example, involving the asteroid that hit Earth sixty-five million years ago, wiping out the dinosaurs and a host of other species, and probably allowing an evolutionary niche for mammals to begin to flourish. This was a bad thing for life in general, but a good thing for us. Had that not happened, however, maybe giant intelligent reptiles would be arguing about the existence of God today.

Well done! He continues:

An even more severe problem in Metaxas’s argument is the assumption of randomness, namely that physical processes do not naturally drive a system toward a certain state. This is the most common error among those who argue that, given the complexity of life on Earth, evolution is as implausible as a tornado ravaging a junkyard and producing a 747. The latter event is, indeed, essentially statistically impossible. However, we now understand that the process of natural selection implies that evolution is anything but random. Is it a miracle that the planet produced animals as complex as, and yet as different from, humans, dolphins, and cicadas, each so well “designed” for its own habitat? No. Natural selection drives systems in a specific direction, and the remarkable diversity of species on Earth today, each evolved for evolutionary success in a different environment, is one result.

Also well done! Skipping a few paragraphs, Krauss then talks about “fine tuning of the constants of nature in order for us to exist”:

It is true that a small change in the strength of the four known forces (but nowhere near as small as Metaxas argues) would imply that stable protons and neutrons, the basis of atomic nuclei, might not exist. (The universe, however, would—a rather large error in the Metaxas piece.) This is old news and, while it’s an interesting fact, it certainly does not require a deity.

Once again, it likely confuses cause and effect. The constants of the universe indeed allow the existence of life as we know it. However, it is much more likely that life is tuned to the universe rather than the other way around. We survive on Earth in part because Earth’s gravity keeps us from floating off. But the strength of gravity selects a planet like Earth, among the variety of planets, to be habitable for life forms like us. Reversing the sense of cause and effect in this statement, as Metaxas does in cosmology, is like saying that it’s a miracle that everyone’s legs are exactly long enough to reach the ground.

There’s much more in the article, but we’ve excerpted enough. Now click over there and read it. It’s as good as it gets. No doubt, the Discoveroids will be posting something in response, in an effort to salvage the Metaxas column, because — as defective as it was — it’s essentially all they’ve got. That will be amusing.

Copyright © 2015. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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