Re: [asa] Re: Scientific stupidities part 2

From: William Hamilton <willeugenehamilton@gmail.com>
Date: Sat Mar 28 2009 - 13:34:02 EDT

Glenn is off the list and asked me to forward this
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I have unsubscribed to the ASA and yall have my permission to post
this in its entirety to the ASA. Bill H., if you would do this for me,
I would appreciate it. I find the suffocating rules and small minded
enforcers of those rules on the ASA to make that list not worth much
of my time. The rules are there to stifle debate, not encourage it.
Now to your question.

One of the things I learned in my grad days in philosophy. There are
multiple ways of looking at the same thing. The problem with most
people is that they only look at the world through a pre-set filter
that makes them incapable of seeing alternatives. I experienced this
in China when I would be speaking English with a Chinese, both of us
understanding what the other was saying. Then I would switch to
Chinese, and they would have no idea what I was saying. I always
thought but didn't say, "What is wrong withyou? Don't you recognize
your own language?" My Chinese is good enough to have a social
conversation in Beijing and they all understand me.

But then, one day, I was having a Chinese conversation with a friend,
and HE switched to English. I heard sounds. I didn't understand
anything that he said--not one word. I asked, "Ni zai shou yi bien,
hao bu hao?" (say again), He said it again, and only at the end of
the sentence did I suddenly hear, actually hear, English. Now, I had
to ask myself why I was unable to understand my own language? Was I as
stupid as I had thought of my Chinese conversants?

I became convinced, after a few more examples of this happening to me,
that there is a switch in the brain. The sound is run through one of
two filters inside my brain. There is an English filter and there is a
Chinese filter. Which ever filter is turned on, one tries to interpret
the sounds in that language. Such filters hinder our ability to
actually understand the world.

Now, George, You have stereotyped me and are not thinking outside of
the box into which you have placed me. You have me 'filtered'.
Everything I say runs through your filter of me. You probably won't
beleive me, but not everything I criticize is about your position.
There really are two alternative ways of understanding what I was
saying, and the one I was using had nothing to do with you, you
sensitive soul, you!

When I wrote that statement I wasn't thinking of my disagreement with
the non-empiricism of some of you on the ASA wrt theology. I was
actually thinking of people like Steven Weinberg, who at the Nature of
Nature conference in 2000 at Baylor made a flippant remark about God's
being unobservable and termed him a faerie. So, I was actually
criticizing the atheist physicists who demand that real knowledge is
empirical but then hypocritically engage in theology themselves by
beleiving in a multiverse of unobserved universes, filled with a
plethora of unobserved sentient beings (mathematically a necessity for
a multiverse), and by believing in unobserved particles, like the
graviton or the magnetic monopole (All Hail the Wonderful name of the
Monopole--the one necessary particle for our existence!--Yes, that is
true). Naming unobserved particles, even if they are mathematical, is
not really all that much different than making up names for various
angels in heaven., So, Physics has become theology. George, you think
I think about you more than I do.

Here is the actual event I was speaking of. Below is the transcript
of some of Weinberg's comments. Notice how he disdains the religious
people who aren't empirical. Yet he would most likely believe in the
graviton, which, is really a form of theology--which he disdains. Note
the dripping sarcasm of those references to faeries:

"I am not sure what naturalism means. ... If the universe contains
everything. If the universe means everything that is and if you happen
to believe in Zeus, or Jehovah, or Christ, or Allah or Ahura Mazda
then that is part of the universe and so Naturalism is obviously
correct. The universe is self contained because it is everything that
is. In order to give, I know that is not what is obviously meant here
by the word naturalism. I know that what’s meant is that there is some
dividing line between the natural and what’s natural is defined as
that which isn’t supernatural. That also raises a problem. It’s kind
of a circular definition, to say that naturalism is everything that
isn’t supernatural. well Of course it is. but it doesn’t tell you
anything. I don’t know of any way of defining Naturalism except by
saying it is, naturalism is the belief that you can understand nature
or that nature is the way it is because of certain reasons which are
not supernatural and then define supernatural by enumeration. I don’t
know any way out of this problem area. I would define supernatural to
mean Zeus, or Jehovah, or Christ, or Allah or Ahura Mazda or things
like that. And, I strongly suspect that the people who are raising the
issue of naturalism really have that on their mind anyway. I can’t
keep repeating that list so I will just and I really don’t want to
give offence to any particular sect, so I just lump them all together
as faeries. Supernaturalism is the, well, naturalism is the belief
that things are the way they are for reasons that have nothing to do
with faeries.” Steven Weinberg, Transcript of tape, Weinberg/Schaefer
Debate, Baylor University, Thursday April 13.

The gasp in the audience that night among the Christians was
laughable, ,unfortunately, I did laugh at their naivette in who and
what Weinberg was. I doubt many of them know that one of the great
Christian writers, Chesterton made a similar comparison in his book
Orthodoxy.

"My first and last philosophy, that which I believe in with unbroken
certainty, I learnt in the nursery. I generally learnt it from a
nurse; that is, from the solemn and star-appointed priestess at once
of democracy and tradition. The things I believed most then, the
things I believe most now, are fairy tales. They seem to me to be the
entirely reasonable things. They are not fantasies; compared with them
other things are fantastic. Compared with them religion and
rationalism are both abnormal, though religion is abnormally right and
rationalism abnormally wrong. Fairyland is the sunny country of common
sense. It is not earth that judges heaven, but heaven that judges
earth; so for me at least it was not earth that criticised elfland,
but elfland that criticised the earth." G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy,
(Regent College Publishing, 2004), p. 57

Christians are so ignorant of their own theological history. It is
really sad. And they, like the scientists I posted about, constantly
think only in ridgid constraints, never thinking that there might be a
new and wonderful way to see the world. Wienberg continues:

"Now I would claim that this is not a prior commitment it certainly
hasn’t been historically as religious people are constantly fond of
pointing out many of the great scientists of the past have believed in
faeries. For example Newton. Newton discovered that the motion of the
planets around the sun is governed by impersonal laws which relate the
size of orbit to the speed of planets in their orbits and that had
nothing to do with faeries but that God nevertheless established the
size of the orbits that the initial positions and velocities of the
planets were established by God and every thing since then has been
governed by the Principii. Steven Weinberg, Transcript of tape,
Weinberg/Schaefer Debate, Baylor University, Thursday April 13.

For me it is a moral choice, which cannot be defended in any other
way to take seriously observation and reason and not to surrender my
judgment to sacred writings or ecclesiastical authority. But I find
it contemptible in fact to take as an axiom that the Pope or the
Bible is an authority on anything. But you know different people feel
different ways about things. Now with the passage of time and I have
already given some examples, with the synthesis of urea the
development of evolutionary theory but as time has passed more and
more has been explained in a naturalistic way, that is without the
intervention of faeries. Ordinary questions about why things are the
way they are in general can be answered today. If you want to know why
the sky is blue or why water is wet, we can tell you today. Its true
we can tell you in terms of theories that application we don’t yet
know, but an awful lot of experience has been brought together in
theories that are really quite remarkably simple and comprehensive and
that are completely impersonal and have no room in them for faeries.
The reaction. Now this is a historical fact, I don’t think anyone
here will disagree with that statement. The reaction of those who have
a religious orientation seems to me can be described in three classes,
denial surrender and compromise. On one hand denial is simply, there
are people who simply deny the truth of anything in science which
contradicts the rather literal reading of sacred writings.” Steven
Weinberg, Transcript of tape, Weinberg/Schaefer Debate, Baylor
University, Thursday April 13.

“Most of the things we see in nature have been explained in an
impersonal way without the intervention of faeries, nevertheless,
there are some things here and there some areas of mystery which
require a supernatural explanation. And some of these have been
listed in fact in the program: the beginning of life, consciousness,
the fine tuning of physical constants. And this could well have
resulted in enormous retreat. That it is ultimately in these rare
places that supernatural intervention needs to be called for. Now it
would be disingenuous of me to deny that although I don’t think there
is any naturalistic dogma to which we make a prior commitment there
is a certain naturalistic attitude. And that is, what I would call the
naturalistic attitude is, that these things that we don’t know, and
understand the details like the beginning of life, consciousness and
so on, will be understood and we find it implausible that these will
remain impervious to explanation in the naturalistic style. This is
the naturalistic attitude which I would defend as reasonable attitude.
It is reasonable because it is the result of long experience in
particular the result of the long historical experience of the area
in which it is expected that supernatural explanations are necessary
being continually contracted and the continual expansion of the area
of phenomena which is explained in a impersonal naturalistic way. So
naturally, there’s that word again, as a result of all this
experience, one expects, I expect, that these remaining areas which
are somewhat mysterious will be explained without recourse to the
supernatural. Steven Weinberg, Transcript of tape, Weinberg/Schaefer
Debate, Baylor University, Thursday April 13.

----- Original Message ----- From: <gmurphy10@neo.rr.com>
To: "Bill Powers" <wjp@swcp.com>; "Glenn Morton" <glennmorton@entouch.net>
Cc: "asa" <asa@calvin.edu>
Sent: Friday, March 27, 2009 2:21 PM
Subject: Re: [asa] Re: Scientific stupidities part 2

> I guess I'll have to be more explicit than I was in my "gravitons" post about the pejorative use of the term "theology." I think I know what Glenn means. He doesn't like the fact that theologians aren't the kind of hard-nosed empiricists he'd like them to be. But this just reveals a lamentable lack of understanding of what theology is. Any Christian who thinks about what he or she believes is doing theology because that's simply what theology is, thinking about one's religious faith. It's fides quaerens intellectum, faith in search of understanding, if you want to sound classier.
>
> Now of course not all believers are professional theologians, but in a basic sense they all have a theology if they use their brains. The question is whether or not it's good theology or bad theology. I have no intention of reopening old debates with Glenn about Gen.1-11 or biblical interpretation in general - those who wish can find plenty in the archives. It suffices to say that he has a theology, one that requires the kind of hard nosed empiricism I mentioned about Adam, the flood, &c, and IMO it's bad theology.
>
> Shalom,
> George
>

And George, not all theologians think in such a straight-jacket about
my views or disdain observational evidence. And I too will not
re-open those debates. They are of no further interest to me, or
almost of no interest. I do have one idea I am toying with the idea
of whether or not I want to go to the trouble to get published, just
for the heck of it.

Once again, George, my post wasn't about you. I wasn't even thinking
of you or your views when I wrote it, don't be disappointed, I do
think of other things on occasion, like how many small peaches and
pears are now on the trees in my orchard and what am I going to do to
keep the deer off them.

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On Fri, Mar 27, 2009 at 2:21 PM, <gmurphy10@neo.rr.com> wrote:
> I guess I'll have to be more explicit than I was in my "gravitons" post about the pejorative use of the term "theology."  I think I know what Glenn means.  He doesn't like the fact that theologians aren't the kind of hard-nosed empiricists he'd like them to be.  But this just reveals a lamentable lack of understanding of what theology is.  Any Christian who thinks about what he or she believes is doing theology because that's simply what theology is, thinking about one's religious faith.  It's fides quaerens intellectum, faith in search of understanding, if you want to sound classier.
>
> Now of course not all believers are professional theologians, but in a basic sense they all have a theology if they use their brains.  The question is whether or not it's good theology or bad theology.  I have no intention of reopening old debates with Glenn about Gen.1-11 or biblical interpretation in general - those who wish can find plenty in the archives.  It suffices to say that he has a theology, one that requires the kind of hard nosed empiricism I mentioned about Adam, the flood, &c, and IMO it's bad theology.
>
> Shalom,
> George
>
> ---- Glenn Morton <glennmorton@entouch.net> wrote:
>> this morning I needed to get to the ranch really early as I had to come back
>> to Houston this afternoon, so I didn't have time to look up Rothman and
>> Brouhn's paper.  Here is a lnk to it.
>>
>> Tony Rothman and Stephen Broughn, "Can Gravitons be Detected,"
>> http://arxiv.org/PS_cache/gr-qc/pdf/0601/0601043v1.pdf
>>
>> You wrote:
>>
>> > The theoretical and metaphysical side of physics needs the graviton to
>> > support the universally held rejection of action at a distance (shades of
>> > DesCartes).  Gravitons according to well accepted theory "must" exist.
>>
>> I absolutely agree. If the graviton doesn't exist, then everything in modern
>> physics is probably wrong, but, we will never be able to determine if the
>> graviton exists--which makes the graviton much like God in that there is
>> little empirical evidence one can point to.  So, at what point does theory
>> become theology?
>>
>> As to quarks, I do believe that there is experimental evidence of their
>> existence. Collisional studies, where particles are smashed together show
>> evidence that the proton and neutron are not solid but have things moving
>> around inside them.  I can accept quark's existence via empiricism more than
>> the graviton.
>>
>> ----- Original Message -----
>> From: "Bill Powers" <wjp@swcp.com>
>> To: "Glenn Morton" <glennmorton@entouch.net>
>> Cc: "asa" <asa@calvin.edu>
>> Sent: Friday, March 27, 2009 7:47 AM
>> Subject: Re: [asa] Re: Scientific stupidities part 2
>>
>>
>> > This is an interesting study.  Talk of the graviton has surely been around
>> > for quite some time.  I believe it was Einstein who suggested it would
>> > travel at the speed of light.  I remember in my graduate days some guy at
>> > Stanford, I believe, was trying to measure the graviton.  I'm sure he was
>> > well funded.
>> >
>> > The empiricist side of physics may argue that if we can't measure one, or
>> > their supposed effects, they don't exist.  Something like the neutrino.
>> > Observe, however, the great rapidity that the neutrino advanced from being
>> > evidently observed (through a thick mass of theory) to being used to
>> > observe other things.  Why was this?  Because of the theoretical
>> > "necessity" for the neutrino.  The theory had already been laid into the
>> > foundations.
>> >
>> > The theoretical and metaphysical side of physics needs the graviton to
>> > support the universally held rejection of action at a distance (shades of
>> > DesCartes).  Gravitons according to well accepted theory "must" exist.
>> >
>> > Since I suggest that the "new" physics has left behind empiricism and
>> > moved into a metaphysical and "religious" era, gravitons will, like
>> > quarks, be said to exist, even if they be more sly than quarks.
>> >
>> > bill powers
>> > White, SD
>> >
>> > On Fri, 27 Mar 2009, Glenn Morton wrote:
>> >
>> >> Once one leaves observational verification, science becomes nothing more
>> >> than mathematical theology.  Take the Graviton. Tony Rothman (and someone
>> >> else) had a conversation with Freeman Dyson about whether or not the
>> >> graviton was verifiable.  Rothman with the someone else wrote a paper on
>> >> that idea. They concluded that in order to detect the graviton, one must
>> >> build a clear liquid vessel the size of Jupiter and monitor it for 14
>> >> million years before having the high certitude of getting one
>> >> interaction. But because of the noise level in such a system, it would be
>> >> impossible to tell the noise from the signal. and even if you could do
>> >> that, if you monitored it for 14 million years and got a strike, you
>> >> would have to wait another 14 to 28 to get enough confirmations to
>> >> publish!
>> >>
>> >> So, the question is: Is the graviton  verifiable.  How nutty is the
>> >> concept?
>> >> ----- Original Message ----- From: "Bill Powers" <wjp@swcp.com>
>> >> To: "Glenn Morton" <glennmorton@entouch.net>
>> >> Cc: "asa" <asa@calvin.edu>
>> >> Sent: Thursday, March 26, 2009 10:01 PM
>> >> Subject: Re: [asa] Re: Scientific stupidities part 2
>> >>
>> >>
>> >>> Just a question.  How do we know when a "theory" or a suggestion is
>> >>> "nutty"?  Is it "too metaphysical," meaning much more than we think is
>> >>> required to explain the phenomena (Ockham's razor type nutty)?  I think
>> >>> the String theory and multiverses are "nutty."  Why?  Suppose String
>> >>> theory actually suggests some new phenomena?  What then?  Will it then
>> >>> be viewed by me as not or less "nutty"?
>> >>>
>> >>> It occurred to me today that if causal properties, or forces (or
>> >>> whatever you consider fundamental) always came mixed up, we would never
>> >>> have discovered them.  We depend upon the possibility of demonstrating
>> >>> the properties of causal forces in isolated and simple situations and
>> >>> experimental designs.  Nancy Cartwright calls such demonstrable
>> >>> regularities nomological machines.  What if nomological machines were
>> >>> not possible?  What if, e.g., the effects of gravity could not be
>> >>> "sensibly" isolated from the electromagnetic effects or even the
>> >>> gravitational effects of other bodies, then we would never be able to
>> >>> observe or confirm the existence of such forces and their force laws
>> >>> (fortunately we have a nearly ideal gravitational machine in the
>> >>> earth-sun system)?
>> >>>
>> >>> Having said this, a further doubt arises.  Modern physics has advanced
>> >>> on the ladder of simple idealized models (i.e., they may not ever
>> >>> exactly exist in nature -- there is no hydrogen model in nature because
>> >>> a hydrogen atom never exists alone).  How do we know that we have chosen
>> >>> the "correct" building blocks?  Why believe there are four fundamental
>> >>> forces? Perhaps all of this is "nutty."
>> >>>
>> >>> I frankly do not know how to know.  My model for how science progresses
>> >>> is that it keeps throwing out its net, further than would seem
>> >>> reasonable by most conservative estimations (i.e., anyone interested in
>> >>> certain truth), sort of like inching out along a branch in the dark.  We
>> >>> keep proceeding unless something really comes up and hits us in the
>> >>> face, something that snaps off the branch, and we fall to the ground.
>> >>> But we don't at that point burn the whole tree down.  We climb back up
>> >>> into the tree, closer to the trunk and try again.
>> >>>
>> >>> So, I guess would say that anything is "nutty" only within the context
>> >>> of a given branch.  Often, or at least possibly, what appears "nutty"
>> >>> will in some future realization produce a new branch as the neo-nutty.
>> >>>
>> >>> I'm certain there are examples of such occurrences.
>> >>>
>> >>> Anyone got any?
>> >>>
>> >>> bill powers
>> >>> White, SD
>> >>
>> >>
>>
>>
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>
>
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>

-- 
William E (Bill) Hamilton Jr., Ph.D.
Member American Scientific Affiliation
Austin, TX
248 821 8156
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Received on Sat Mar 28 13:35:05 2009

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