Re: serious

From: Don Winterstein <dfwinterstein@msn.com>
Date: Wed Jan 07 2004 - 04:54:55 EST

Walt wrote:

"1.) In order to get "data" one has to make a measurement. That is characterized by a (properly normalized) projection operator. In fact, we cannot define that operator until we know the result of the specific measurement being considered. However, according to quantum theory, the wave function propagates by means of Hermitian operators. Nobody can define what makes a measurement different from a non-measurement. That is fundamental and quite different than "understanding" general relativity, etc. Even Feynman said that nobody understands QM and most professors that I have known sincerely believe that "something is wrong". You speak of "data" in science, yet physics cannot even figure out how measurements are made and data is obtained. My point is that this and the arrow of time point out just how uncertain science is about the true nature of the world.

Sorry, but you're talking like a theorist, and a far-out one at that. As an experimenter I know how to make measurements--at least, some kinds of measurements.

Something may indeed be fundamentally wrong with QM. That would come as no surprise at all. But the QM theory that works so well in simple cases could not have been judged to have worked at all if no one could do measurements. Whether the theory rests on sand or not is not so important to most of us. What are important are the observations of real quantum effects and our ability to model them; those observations all have been made via measurements of one sort or another. So in some weird sense it may not be possible to define measurement, but that sense is not the one scientists commonly mean, and I assert it's not the one that's relevant to measurements that show Earth is old. What you're saying here sounds a lot like, "How do I know anything exists outside my own mind?" Playing with such thoughts may furnish a certain amount of parlor amusement, but little else, except maybe for theorists, for whom any game whatever may lead to new insight.

So people have been able to measure real quantum effects, and people have been able to obtain huge quantities of data that fit the OE model. No one who's actually done those measurements doubts that the measurements produced real data, and in the case of geological or geophysical measurements only a far-out fringe with extra-scientific motives believes those data do not support the OE model.

I may not be able to prove anything exists outside my mind, but whenever I unexpectedly bump my head hard, the possibility becomes more than merely plausible.

Walt: "In addition to being kind to YECs, I would suggest that you cannot establish that they are wrong...."

Don: So true. As long as a YEC is willing to accept that God performed a huge number of amazing miracles--miracles, incidentally, for the most part not even hinted at in Scriptures--to make the world look the way it does, then the YEC position is totally reasonable. God indeed could have spun off miracle after miracle. Then I'd simply conclude in my own mind that God had become temporarily insane, and that, since no similar behavior on his part is in evidence today, he's apparently recovered completely. "Welcome back, God!" I'd say.

So, sure, YEC could be right, and God could be really strange. In principle. I admit it. But unfortunately I can't personally accept that viewpoint. However, I could pretend, and in fact I've probably done so more than once to avoid hassle.

Now that I think about it, I actually deal with real YECs more or less weekly in a Bible class. I know better than to make a frontal assault on their beliefs. To do so would meet with brick-wall rejection. Most of them probably think my beliefs are somewhat close to theirs. They are so, in a few respects; but my classmates would be astounded, I think, to discover how far I am from them in other respects. So for me the frontal assault is out, but chipping away with great discretion around the edges seems to be getting somewhere. For a few of them, OE is a notion they can entertain; but the others are by no means receptive, and at the moment I see no way to make them so. I await an opportunity that shows no sign of ever arriving. I understand that to try changing their minds may do more harm than good: First, they may start questioning a lot more than is warranted. Second, the most hard-core YECs among them seem to have influence only on people who are like-minded. And, unfortunately, on their children.

But as I've said here before, if I hoped to change many YECs to OECs, I'd have to devote my life to the cause, and I feel no calling to do so. The OE model is so deeply ingrained in my being and beliefs that I also don't think I could muster the patience to do so. I can live with YECs and regard them as fellow Christians, even though they'd probably not return the favor if they really knew.

Don

PS - That's why this ASA forum is such a relief: At times I can come close to saying here what I actually think without having to fear dire consequences.

  
  ----- Original Message -----
  From: wallyshoes
  To: Don Winterstein
  Cc: Jim Armstrong ; asa@calvin.edu
  Sent: Tuesday, January 06, 2004 7:52 AM
  Subject: Re: serious

    
  Don Winterstein wrote:

    <?xml:namespace prefix="v" /><?xml:namespace prefix="o" />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

  Two Things, Don:

  1.) In order to get "data" one has to make a measurement. That is characterized by a (properly normalized) projection operator. In fact, we cannot define that operator until we know the result of the specific measurement being considered. However, according to quantum theory, the wave function propagates by means of Hermitian operators. Nobody can define what makes a measurement different from a non-measurement. That is fundamental and quite different than "understanding" general relativity, etc. Even Feynman said that nobody understands QM and most professors that I have known sincerely believe that "something is wrong". You speak of "data" in science, yet physics cannot even figure out how measurements are made and data is obtained. My point is that this and the arrow of time point out just how uncertain science is about the true nature of the world.

  2.) In addition to being kind to YECs, I would suggest that you cannot establish that they are wrong ---- even with this sloppy state of physics. The contention that I have seen (by YECs) most often is that the laws of physics today may not be validly extrapolated into the past. The notion that God just created the universe 6000 years ago with the "history built-in" is rejected on philosophical grounds --- not scientific ones. The taunt of "that makes God a liar" is the same that YECs use to those who do not accept scripture (as they see it).
    

  In this situation, the reasonable approach is to acknowledge that the other side may be right. Once this is done, I suggest that (with everyone accepting the other's viewpoint), more YECs will become non-YECs than the reverse.

  Meanwhile, this stubborn veneration of (flawed) science by ASAers is totally unjustified, as well as counter productive, IMHO.
    

  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 Thu Jan 8 00:29:56 2004

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