Re: serious

From: Don Winterstein <dfwinterstein@msn.com>
Date: Tue Jan 06 2004 - 04:36:05 EST

Walt wrote:

>1.) Quantum Mechanics: There is not a serious scientist on this planet
>who claims to understand quantum mechanics. There are two conflicting
>sets of rules for observations and for non-observations. And there is no
>set of rules to define which is which. The whole thing is so unresolved
>that QM has "interpretations". If you think that YEC is bizarre, then
>consider those of QM

>a.) Instantaneous Collapse over the entire universe (Copenhagen)
>b.) Many Worlds Interpretation (infinite # of universes for each
>measurement)
>c.) Many Minds Interpretation (same as b but only in the minds of men)
>d.) Transactional Interpretation ("handshakes" with the future)
>e.) Shut up and calculate (The practical man's guide)
>f.) Several others

>Now those are not theories, they are "interpretations" (as in biblical
>interpretations) - something that QM requires! ....

The physics itself doesn't require the interpretations. It's the physicists who seek deeper meaning in the theories who require them. The physics itself is the set of (usually) mathematical models. No one understands such a simple thing as wave-particle duality; but it's good physics. (Actually, "wave-particle duality" is simply a descriptive phrase referring to what seem at the macroscopic level to be incompatible empirical results.) No one understands Dirac's "infinite sea of negative-energy electrons," either, but it's a useful model (or at least was so when I studied QM). Furthermore, no one understands why a particle going at essentially the speed of light keeps gaining mass but almost no speed as you continue to accelerate it. In General Relativity no one understands why masses should bend space-time.

So "understanding" and "interpreting" aren't really integral to the science itself, although those are the things that I suppose most theoretical physicists are most interested in.

While I empathize with your exhortations to treat YECs kindly, when we're talking the age of the Earth we're not talking interpretations of theories or even theories; we're talking hard data. Data of course are meaningless outside a context, so the data do have to be seen within a theoretical framework. To all appearances I just contradicted myself. So I'll tentatively acknowledge that there are indeed two relevant theories (OE and YE). However, almost all the data fit comfortably in one (OE), and very few of the data fit in the other (YE) without ad hoc assumptions that have neither scientific nor biblical basis. In other words, only one of the two theories is respectable. The other is not worthy of consideration as a scientific theory. It ought to be cast into outer darkness--although in a way that's as inoffensive to YECs as possible. Hence there aren't really two theories after all, and the hard data fit the OE model.

(Actually, science is supposed to involve fitting theories to data, not vice versa; yet, once we have a decent theory, we can usefully talk about whether or not the data are consistent with our theory.)

Don

  ----- Original Message -----
  From: wallyshoes
  To: Jim Armstrong
  Cc: asa@calvin.edu
  Sent: Monday, January 05, 2004 7:40 PM
  Subject: Re: serious

  Jim Armstrong wrote:

> This strikes me as a tad too glib and dismissive. .
>
> Ms. Certain is disposed to accept without question a particular
> version of what the Bible seems to say (including a literal seven-day
> creation). Mr. Unsure is exploring whether scripture has anything
> authoritative to say to him. Mr. Unsure is not a scientist, but holds
> a fairly standard view of science and discovery (including its present
> understandings of origins and ages and such) - as most westerners at
> least probably do.
>
> Mr. Unsure has encountered Ms. Certain who wishes to share meaningful
> insights into scripture and the Christ revealed therein.
>
> If Ms. Certain reflects a literal seven-day creation right off the
> bat, there is a strong likelihood that both Ms. Certain and the
> message offered will be dismissed posthaste. [Not a new thought -
> Augustine articulated this concern a lot more eloquently in his own
> time.]
>
> Alternatively, suppose that Ms. Certain remains mum on the
> science-related topics (it is not all that important!), especially
> those which are "known" to embody unorthodox science. Mr. Unsure would
> be none the wiser and things would would be hunky-dory ...until the
> subject of Genesis chronology and its accompanying perspectives are
> raised by himself or some other member of the faith community of Ms.
> Certain. Now Mr. Unsure suddenly finds he has been taken in. He is a
> stranger in a foreign land, and he is forced to reassess everything
> else that he has heard from this particular source, as well as the
> reliability of the source itself.
>
> That is decidedly counterproductive transaction.
>
> I think Augustine had it right. It's not just about fun. The
> consequences of how we conceptualize and communicate the nature and
> discoveries of the physical world are of great consequence to at least
> some. Therefore we need to get the science right to the limits of our
> ability, particularly if that's a part of our own sphere of activity
> and understanding, ...particularly if we want to have anything
> credible to say about the spiritual dimension to anyone who has an
> operational conventional science perspective. That includes a lot of
> folks that are not scientists (consider how many technically trained
> non-scientists there are in our digital electronic
> information-oriented world!).
>
> What underlies this seems to me to be something of an integrity issue
> (either nuance of "integrity"). I refuse to dissociate the matters of
> science from my spiritual pilgrimage. The creation is the habitat I
> occupy and am a part of. It is not without meaning and importance. I'm
> not sure it's even of subordinate importance. It all fits together and
> it is where we are assigned for duty. Likewise, what we have to say
> about Creation is not trivial. All that we have to say about creation,
> how it works, and how it might serve the Creator needs to be congruous
> with what we might feel and say about the Creator himself. It is his
> work and does it not deserve that? "Holy" is not a word that came as a
> label with the manuscripts of the Bible. We assigned that value. Are
> the matters of the physical Creation not in some sense "holy" as well
> as the very handwork of the Almighty?
>
> It seems to me that we ought to be well founded and congruous in all
> the disciplines we have the capacity to think about and understand in
> measure, or at least evaluate with respect to credibility and
> authority. Otherwise, we may find ourselves in the position of
> dismissively describing as "fun" something that other folks take very
> seriously indeed. Thereby we lose our opportunity to talk persuasively
> about the "really important" things.

  In the true spirit of ASA posts, let me disagree wholeheartedly with
  these sentiments.
  First of all I am a theoretical physicist and a practicing engineer.
  Insofar as I am concerned the only true science is physics. Everything
  else is applied engineering.

  Now physics, itself, is a fundamental as it gets. I love physics and yet
  I know how fundamentally flawed the current concepts are. There are two
  specific examples of these flaws.

  1.) Quantum Mechanics: There is not a serious scientist on this planet
  who claims to understand quantum mechanics. There are two conflicting
  sets of rules for observations and for non-observations. And there is no
  set of rules to define which is which. The whole thing is so unresolved
  that QM has "interpretations". If you think that YEC is bizarre, then
  consider those of QM

  a.) Instantaneous Collapse over the entire universe (Copenhagen)
  b.) Many Worlds Interpretation (infinite # of universes for each
  measurement)
  c.) Many Minds Interpretation (same as b but only in the minds of men)
  d.) Transactional Interpretation ("handshakes" with the future)
  e.) Shut up and calculate (The practical man's guide)
  f.) Several others

  Now those are not theories, they are "interpretations" (as in biblical
  interpretations) - something that QM requires! Not only are they
  legion, but also they conflict with each other. (Not all can be true).
  Yet QM is the most fundamental of all physical laws!!

  2.) The Arrow of Time: As we all know, there is a difference between the
  future and the past. However, physics has laws which show that time is
  symmetrical - just like any spatial dimension. There are some
  microscopic laws that show asymmetry, but nothing that exist on the
  human plane. If our minds are made of atoms that obey physical laws,
  then physics has no explanation for why we "know" the past and can only
  "guess" at the future.

  So this is your most fundamental of all the sciences. And many on this
  list think that science is the truth that overrules biblical
  interpretations. I say (loudly and clearly I hope) that such talk is as
  *foolish* as any YEC philosophy could ever be.

  When those on this list learn a little humility, then they may be
  qualified to find the mote in the eyes of their brethren -- after noting
  the beam in their own.

  We have an amazing universe and an amazing God. I suspect that he thinks
  poorly of both sides who polarize this debate.

  But that is just MHO.

  Walt

  ===================================
  Walt Hicks <wallyshoes@mindspring.com>

  In any consistent theory, there must
  exist true but not provable statements.
  (Godel's Theorem)

  You can only find the truth with logic
  If you have already found the truth
  without it. (G.K. Chesterton)
  ===================================
Received on Tue Jan 6 04:32:11 2004

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