Re: Kansas and NBC

George Murphy (
Fri, 13 Aug 1999 11:12:13 -0400

Blaine D. McArthur wrote:

> 2. Is physics really on that much firmer a foundation than biology
> is? There seems to me to be just as much controversy in cosmology and
> astronomy as there is in biology. Yeah, they thow a lot more numbers
> around than the biologists do; but they squabble and disagree about the
> results just as much as the biologists do. I am sure that there is
> someone on this list who, if they cared to, could play the devil's
> advocate, and do the same kind of hatchet job on physics as P.J. did on
> biology.

The aspects of physics which are debatable, such as big bang cosmology,
are not foundational for the discipline in the same sense that evolution is for
biology. I.e., if BB theory turned out to be wrong (as, e.g., Burbidge, Hoyle &
Narlikar argue in the April _Physics Today_) it would require a good deal of rethinking
of specific areas but wouldn't collapse the whole of modern physics. To do that you'd
have to show basic errors in theories such as quantum mechanics (the physics, not the
philosophical interpretation) or special relativity. There are people who claim to
do that (e.g., Thomas Barnes) but quite ineptly. (For the record, I don't agree with
Burbidge et al either, but they know what they're talking about.)
Of course the phrase "quite ineptly" may prompt one to ask why P. Johnson's
arguments, which could be described in a similar way, have gotten so much attention &
those of Barnes & others of that ilk are generally ignored. That gets into psychology &
sociology, & I suppose a quick answer is that there are a lot of people looking for an
excuse not to accept evolution & not a lot who are upset about QM & SRT in the same way.

George L. Murphy