[asa] Scientific stupidities part 1

From: Glenn Morton <glennmorton@entouch.net>
Date: Thu Mar 26 2009 - 22:21:49 EDT

Clearly my post is too long so I will post it in part. I sent it again and it didn't come back but later posts did.

Below is my list of stupidites caused by group think, by peer review, by the inability of people to think out of the box, and by just plain sheeple think. The real problem is that we moderns, in our egotistical arrogance, think that we can't possibly do something as stupid as the examples below. As a former YEC, I can assure you that you can. Peer pressure and group think are powerful powerful forces. Ask your self as you read these if you would have risked your paycheck to stand for what you believed was the truth in these matters. Most of us will shut up at that time.

But below is why I think it is utterly stupid to believe that peer review is worth more than a bucket of warm spit. It is, in my opinion nothing but a political tool in the hands of scientific partisans. Only years after the debate dies down does the rebel scientist get honoured, usually after his death when it doesn't really matter to him, at least under normal conditions.

 I want to start with a story about Einstein. For years, Einstein was
 almost alone in his belief that light was a particle. quotations will all have the character on the front of the line.
> Bruce Rosenblum and Fred Kuttner, Quantum Enigma, (Oxford: Oxford
> University Press, 2006), p. 60
> "Millikan was not alone. The physics community received the photon
> postulate "with disbelief and skepticism bordering on derision."
> Nevertheless, eight years after proposing the photon, Einstein had gained
> a considerable reputation as a theoretical physicist for many other
> achievements and was nominated for membership in the Prussian Academy of
> Science. Planck, in his letter supporting that nomination, felt he had to
> defend Einstein: "[T]hat he may sometimes have missed the target in his
> speculations, as, for example, in his hypothesis of light quanta, cannot
> really be held too much against him. ... "
> "Even when Einstein was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1922 for the
> photoelectric effect, the citation avoided explicit mention of the then
> seventeen-year-old, but still unaccepted, photon. An Einstein biographer
> writes: "From 1905 to 1923, [Einstein] was a man apart in being the only
> one, or almost the only one, to take the light-quantum seriously."
> source where applicable

 So, how did Einstein handle it? There is an interesting story of how Emil
 Rupp, a physicist once considered the premier experimentalist of his time,
 deceived Einstein, and Einstein, instead of going with the facts, bought
 it hook line and sinker. You can find the full account in Michael Brooks,
 Convenient Untruths, New Scientist, Nov 17, 2007, p. 58-59
> Rupp published a paper showing that a hydrogen atom coming out of the end
> of a gas discharge tube could emit a coherent beam of light 15 cm long.
> People noted that Rupp's diagrams showed the vacuum pump where it
> shouldn't be. But that was a tiny detail to Einstein, who realized that
> this discovery could be used to test the wave-particle duality of light
> via a grid of wires in a particular set up. If light moving parallel to a
> grid of wires were a wave, it would be 'cut up'. If light were emitted
> instantly, the grid would make no difference.
> When Rupp first performed the experiment, Einstein didn't like it. Rupp
> had mixed up two different kinds of canal rays (as they were called back
> then). The second attempt had Rupp moving a slit which should have made no
> difference but the results were different. Einstein also found a problem
> with the location of the rotating mirror but called the results satisfying
> and convincing. Rupp re-ran the experiment claiming that he had obtained
> perfect results 12 times but Einstein noted another problem with the
> experiment. Thermal jiggling should make the coherence of the light not be
> there.
 Other physicists caught Rupp's errors and published papers critical of
 what he had done. Rupp was forced to admit that he had photoshopped (to
 use modern jargon) some of the pictures. He as caught trying to get a
 printer to change a paper in press without the editor's knowledge. The
 editor was notified and he, in turn, told Walter Gerlach, who in turn
 notified Einstein of the problems, Einstein remained silent about the
 fraud. It ruined Rupp's career. But one thing in the article stood out to
 me. The following quotation:
> Michael Brooks, Convenient Untruths, New Scientist, Nov 17, 2007, p. 59
> "Despite Rupp's obvious confusion, Einstein chose to ignore all the
> previous problematic results and settled for the last results that Rupp
> had sent--the ones which confirmed his expectations. 'Initially, he is
> very critical of the results. Then, when he sees results he was expecting,
> he no longer questions them,' notes van Dongen."
> source where applicable

 This illustrates one of the largest problems we humans have in coming to
 the truth. We lose our skepticism when what we hear fits what we want to
 believe. If it can happen to the likes of Einstein, it can happen to those
 of us who are mere plebians in our scientific disciplines. It did happen
 to me while a YEC and I worry that it is still happening to me. Which is
 why I try to challenge everything I believe by comparing those beliefs
 against the data. It is, admittedly, a lot of work.

 Personal bias prevents us from even seeing the implications of our own
 work. Note how these famous people ignored the consequences of their own
> Lisa Randall, Warped Passages, (New York: Ecco, 2005), p. 9-10
> "James Clerk Maxwell, for example, who developed the classical theory of
> electricity and magnetism, didn't believe in the existence of fundamental
> units of charge such as electrons. George Stoney, who at the end of the
> nineteenth century proposed the electron as a fundamental unit of charge,
> didn't believe that scientists would ever isolate electrons from the atoms
> of which they are components. (In fact, all it takes is heat or an
> electric field.) Dmitri Mendeleev, creator of the periodic table, resisted
> the notion of valence, which his table encoded. Max Planck, who proposed
> that the energy carried by light was discontinuous, didn't believe in the
> reality of the light quanta that were implicit in his own idea. Albert
> Einstein, who suggested these quanta of light, didn't know that their
> mechanical properties would permit them to be identified as particles-the
> photons we now know them to be. Not everyone with correct new ideas has
> denied their connection to reality, however. Many ideas, whether
> believed-in or mistrusted, have turned out to be true."
> source where applicable
 The Higgs Field which might be called THE major idea in the current views
 of how mass arises, was initially panned by those, whose bias's were not
 so inclined. The following quotation from Peter Higgs shows that people
 don't even see implications of various ideas, even if they are very
 important. Our bias's blind us to the data and to its implications.

> Ian Sample, "The Idea of a Lifetime," New Scientist, Sept 13, 2008, p. 44
> At first most physicists dismissed the idea. Higgs had reached his
> conclusions using quantum field theory, which others had written off as
> outdated. Several heavyweight groups insisted they could prove him wrong.
> "Most of my colleagues thought I was an idiot for sticking with quantum
> field theory, but I stuck with it because I didn't believe it was as dead
> as they claimed," he says. "It turned out to be the most important thing
> I'd done, perhaps the only important thing I'd done."
> source where applicable

 Anyone who has studied nonlinear systems has come face to face with the
 Belousov-Zhabotinsky reaction. It is an amazing reaction in which millions
 of molecules organize themselves and act like a clockwork.

> Ilya Prigogine and Isabelle Stengers, Order Out of Chaos, (London:
> Heinemann, 1984), p. 9, cited in Paul Davies, The Cosmic Blueprint, (New
> York: Simon & Schuster, 1988), p. 86.

> "Alvin Tofler, in a foreword to one of Prigogine's books, describes this
>bizarre phenomenon as follows:
> Imagine a million white ping-pong balls mixed at random with a million
> black ones, bouncing around chaotically in a tank with a glass window in
> it. Most of the time the mass seen through the window would appear to be
> gray, but now and then, at irregular moments, the sample seen through the
> glass might seem black or white, depending on the distribution of the
> balls at that moment in the vicinity of the window.Now imagine that
> suddenly the window goes all white, then all black, then all white again,
> and on and on, changing its colour completely at fixed intervals - like a
> clock ticking.Why do all the white balls and all the black ones suddenly
> organize themselves to change colour in time with one another? By all the
> traditional rules this should not happen at all."
> source where applicable

 So, how was this amazing reaction received? With utter disbelief by those
 in the know! The consensus of the scientific community was that
 Zhabotinsky was nutso.
> Min-Liang Wong, "What Other Treasures Could Be Hidden in Conference
> papers?" Nature 456(2008), p. 443.
> "Sir"
> "In the obituary of Anatol Zhabotinsky, Irving Epstein mentions Boris
> Belousov, with whom Zhabotinsky shared the Lenin Prize in 1980 for their
> contributions to the Belousov-Zhabotinsky oscillatory chemical reaction
> system."
> "Epstein says 'Belousov tried to publish his results in peer-reviewed
> journals, but eventually gave up after referees and editors insisted that
> such behaviour contradicted the Second Law of Thermodynamics. He instead
> published a one-page description of his observations in an obscure
> conference proceedings on radiation medicine.' That paper, 'A periodic
> reaction and its mechanism', gained little attention at the time."
> source where applicable

 Yes, let's all bow before the altar of scientific consensus! It misleads
 as often as it is right.

 How about the consensus of chemists?

> Don Lincoln, Understanding the Universe from Quarks to the Cosmos,,
> (Hackensack, NJ: World Scientific Publishing, 2004), p. 11-12
> "These observations were not understood and they posed a puzzle. How was
> it that chemically similar materials could have such disparate masses? The
> next hero of our tale, Dmitri Mendeleev, was extremely interested in this
> question. What he did was to organize the elements by mass and properties.
> He wrote on a card the name of the element, its mass (determined by the
> experiments of Dalton and his contemporaries) and its properties. He then
> ordered the known elements and started laying the cards down from left to
> right. However when he reached sodium, which was chemically similar to
> lithium, he put the sodium card under lithium and continued laying down
> the cards again towards the right, now taking care to group chemically
> similar elements in columns. Mendeleev's real genius was that he didn't
> require that he know of all possible elements. It was more important that
> the columns be chemically similar. One consequence of this choice was that
> there were holes in his table. This "failure" was a source of considerable
> derision directed at Mendeleev's organizing scheme. Undaunted, Mendeleev
> asserted that his principle made sense and also he made the bold statement
> that new elements would be discovered to fill the holes. Two of the
> missing elements were in the slots under aluminum and silicon. Mendeleev
> decided to call these as-yet undiscovered elements eka-aluminum and
> eka-silicon. (Note that "eka" is Sanskrit for "one." When I was a young
> student and told of this tale, I was informed that "eka" meant "under," a
> myth which I believed for over twenty years until I started writing this
> book.) In the late 1860s, this assertion was a clear challenge to other
> chemists to search for these elements. Failure to find them would
> discredit Mendeleev's model."
> "In 1875, a new element, gallium, was discovered that was clearly
> consistent with being eka-aluminum. Also, in 1886, germanium was
> discovered and shown to be eka-silicon. Mendeleev was vindicated. This is
> not to say that his table, now called the Periodic Table of the elements
> and displayed in every chemistry classroom in the nation, was understood.
> It wasn't. But the repeating structure clearly pointed to some kind of
> underlying physical principle. Discovery of what this underlying principle
> was would take another sixty years or so."
> source where applicable

 Yes, it was fun to discuss Medeleev's inability to correctly organize the
 elements. Consensus raises its ugly head again.

 And what was the reception to the idea of radioactivity?

> Don Lincoln, Understanding the Universe from Quarks to the Cosmos,,
> (Hackensack, NJ: World Scientific Publishing, 2004), p. 38
> "The consternation felt by scientists of the time was summarized in the
> August 1903 issue of Scientific American
> 'Just what shall be done with the newly discovered radioactive substances
> is a problem that perplexes every thinking physicist. They refuse to fit
> into our established and harmonious chemical system; they even threaten to
> undermine the venerable atomic theory, which we have accepted unquestioned
> for well-nigh a century. The elements, once conceived to be simple forms
> of primordial matter, are boldly proclaimed to be minute astronomical
> systems of whirling units of matter. This seems more like scientific
> moonshine than sober thought; and yet the new doctrines are accepted by
> Sir Oliver Lodge and by Lord Kelvin himself.'
> source where applicable

 One is reminded of Cantor's law of the Conservation of Ignorance, which
 must be put out in big letters.

> John R. Parks, Biology's Variable Logic Nature Vol 351 June 6, 1991, p.
> 434.
> "...an incorrect concept accepted, taught and used for many years by many
> intelligent people is hard to change: and the less the concept is
> understood, the harder it is to change."
> source where applicable

 Often that is what scientific consensus consists of--the conservation of
 ignorance, and the suppression of honest questioning.

 Maxwell's equations? Surely such important equations were immediately
 given great honor? No, the consensus wasn't with the truth on that one

> Leon Lederman, The God Particle, (New York: Dell Publ. 1993), p.
> 129
> "A somewhat gross conception." Sir Richard Glazebrook
> "A feeling of uneasiness, often even of mistrust is mingled with
> admiration...'-Henri Poincare
> "Found no foothold in Germany and was scarcely even noticed."--Max Planck
> "I may say one thing about it (the electromagnetic theory of light]. I do
> not think it is admissible." - Lord Kelvin
> source where applicable

 Even the experts in the field, were wrong on Maxwell. Even Planck's great
 idea was panned.

> Bruce Rosenblum and Fred Kuttner, Quantum Enigma, (Oxford: Oxford
> University Press, 2006), p. 57
> "But let's go back to Planck's day and the reaction to the solution he
> proposed for the thermal radiation problem. His formula fit the
> experimental data well, but his explanation seemed more confounding than
> the problem it presumed to solve. Planck's theory seemed silly. No one
> laughed, at least not in public. Herr Professor Planck was too important a
> man for that. His quantum-jumping suggestion was simply ignored."
> source where applicable

 In many of the above cases, the scientific consensus was behaving just
 like the Church was in Europe in 1054.

> Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Death by Black Hole, (New York: W. W. Norton & Co.,
> 2007), p. 292
> "When scientifically investigating the natural world, the only thing worse
> than a blind believer is a seeing denier. In A.D. 1054, a star in the
> constellation Taurus abruptly increased in brightness by a factor of a
> million. The Chinese astronomers wrote about it. Middle Eastern
> astronomers wrote about it. Native Americans of what is now the
> southwestern United States made rock engravings of it. The star became
> bright enough to be plainly visible in the daytime for weeks, yet we have
> no record of anybody in all of Europe recording the event. (The bright new
> star in the sky was actually a supernova explosion that occurred in space
> some 7,000 years earlier but its light had only just reached Earth.) True,
> Europe was m the Dark Ages, so we cannot expect that acute data-taking
> skills were common, but cosmic events that were "allowed" to happen were
> routinely recorded. For example, 12 years later, in 1066, what ultimately
> became known as Halley's comet was seen and duly depicted-complete with
> agape onlookers-in a section of the famous Bayeux tapestry, circa 1100. An
> exception indeed. The Bible says the stars don't change. Aristotle said
> the stars don't change. The Church, with its unmatched authority, declares
> the star's don't change. The population then falls victim to a collective
> delusion that was stronger than its members' own powers of observation."
> source where applicable

 Yet the church is subject to huge pots of ink spent condemning their
 belief in the unchanging heavens, while scientists who believe that their
 views of nature are unchangeable are given a total pass, and the
 historical events cited above barely get noticed. Yet regularly, the
 rationalistic writers depict science as if it is totally different than
 religion. Paul Kurtz, provides and example. He was published by Prometheus
 Books--a publisher for the atheistic viewpoint.

> Paul Kurtz, " An Overview of the Issues," in Paul Kurtz, ed., Science and
> Religion, (Amherst: Prometheus Books, 2003), p. 13
> "There is a profound difference between science and religion in its
> conception of truth. Science requires an open mind, free inquiry, critical
> thinking, the willingness to question assumptions, and peer review. The
> test of a theory or hypothesis is independent (at least one would hope) of
> bias, prejudice, faith, or tradition; and it is justified by the evidence,
> logical consistency, and mathematical coherence. Science claims to be
> universal (though postmodernist critics deny this), transcending specific
> cultures and replicable in any and every laboratory in the world. Although
> religions claim to be universal, they have split into contending factions
> concerning hegemony: they rely on the acceptance of faith in specific
> revelations and their interpretation by differing prophets, priests,
> ministers, rabbis, monks, or mullahs."
> source where applicable

 But what about the scientists, whose consensus views were not following
 where the data leads??? Are such consensus views any better than those of
 the consensus views of the mullahs?

 Where does the data actually lead in some of the areas of physics? It
 leads us to reject string theory. Modern string theories only work if
 there is supersymmetry, which is where each particle has a partner, called
 a sparticle of the same mass. But, since we could actually see the
 selectron (the sparticle of the electron)if it actually existed, the fact
 that we don't see it is evidence that supersymmetry doesn't exist. Why is
 this so? Because the sparticles must have the same mass as the electron,

> Don Lincoln, Understanding the Universe from Quarks to the Cosmos,,
> (Hackensack, NJ: World Scientific Publishing, 2004), p. 397-398
> "Supersymmetry has provided a possible answer to this lingering worry.
> Because of subtle mathematical facts, supersymmetry can neatly cancel out
> the large predicted energy density obtained from the Higgs theory.
> However, this is true only if the newly predicted particles have exactly
> the same mass as their normal matter analogs. We know that this
> supposition isn't true, because we've not observed any of these
> hypothetical particles. Given that we know that, even if they exist, these
> new particles must have a large mass, it follows that SUSY cannot simply
> solve the Higgs energy field problem. However, this property is
> interesting enough that some theorists continue to make theories for which
> this disparity in masses isn't a showstopper .
> source where applicable

 In other words, they ignore the observational data.

 Supersymmetry would also lead to a cosmological constant different than
 what is observed--consensus that string theory is THE theory is not
 following the evidence.
> Lee Smolin, Three Roads to Quantum Gravity, (New York: Basic Books, 2001),
> p. 220
> "However, the apparent fact that the cosmological constant is not zero has
> big implications for the quantum theory of gravity. One reason is that it
> seems to be incompatible with string theory. It turns out that a
> mathematical structure that is required for string theory to be
> consistent-which goes by the name supersymmetry-only permits the
> cosmological constant to exist if it has the opposite sign from the one
> that has apparently been observed."
> source where applicable

 But, why should the general consensus that string theory is the answer
 worry about the fact that the data doesn't permit it to be true? And
 without supersymmetry, string theory is unstable and would give off
 tachyons by the bucket load.

> Peter Weiss, "Fit to be Tied," Science News, Oct 21, 2006, p. 264
> "Over the years, string researchers have devised explicit equations for
> only a few parts of the theory, and they have solved them under
> extraordinarily limited circumstances, Woit and Smolin both argue. And
> even when string theorists have done so, the answers they've gotten are
> often found to disagree with facts or accepted physical laws. For
> instance, to be compatible with Einstein's general theory of relativity,
> early string theory equations required a 26-dimensional universe and a
> highly unlikely particle, called a tachyon, that travels faster than the
> speed of light."
> source where applicable

 So the question is, Why do we require YECs to pay attention to facts when
 physics itself doesn't do it? One popular theory is the holographic
 universe. This view postulates that our 3d world is mathematically
 equivalent to a 2d world on the boundary of the universe. We might be 2d
 rather than 3d, mathematically speaking. But that view requires an
 anti-De-Sitter universe--which our universe isn't. Once again, evidence
 contradicts popular theory, which isn't rejected. It is pure BS when
 science text books say science will always follow the data and evidence
 where it leads.

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Received on Thu Mar 26 22:21:36 2009

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