Posts Tagged ‘Newtonian Gravity

18
Feb
11

The Myth of Special Data

Pick your favorite topic of anti-scientific gobbledy-gook. There is, invariably, a component that is little discussed. The anti-science crowd (even if a small minority, it’s still a pile of addled folks) often argues that the scientific data for a certain theory* (evolution, anthropogenic global warming – AGW, etc.) is flawed or mis-interpreted. That seems to laymen to be a reasonable approach to criticism of scientific findings – they think that each theory has its own special data which supports that theory.

That is false.

*Theorynoun ; a firmly-established scientific principle, having acknowledgement of validity by the consensus ultra-majority of scientists in that field of speciality ; the term used formerly, prior to Relativity Theory and Quantum Theory, was ‘Law‘ ; Example: the Law of Newtonian Gravity was superceded (improved and supplanted) by the General Theory of Relativity.

Scientific theories are like reverse-engineered recipes. And how do scientists reverse-engineer the recipes of nature? Laymen (Sorry to pick on you folks again! But, technically, my B.S. in Physics makes me closer to your status than to scientific standing) might think that scientists grab chunks of nature’s lemon meringue pies and start taste-testing. They (scientists, not laymen) would keep tasting (measuring) and trying things with their samples of lemon meringue pie until its secrets were revealed.

That practice, known as analysis, is a useful and important part of science. It is utterly insufficient to advance scientific knowledge as we do or to explain the progress we have so far achieved. Scientists have a broader perspective. They know that a sharp focus upon the particular is inherently limited. Their research is generalized – the study of ALL desserts could, and definitely does, facilitate scientific progress in researching a specific dessert (lemon meringue pie?). Furthermore, the study of baked goods, which includes a significant portion of the dessert category, ultimately has applicability to a specific dessert (lemon meringue pie?). The study of foamed recipes, which includes a significant portion of the dessert category, ultimately has applicability to a specific dessert (lemon meringue pie!).

The result of scientific research that is generalized is that our knowledge is highly interdependent. The principles (including the acme of principles – the Theory) discovered are not specific to only a narrow range of examples. There are no scientists who have discovered only the recipe for lemon meringue pie. A strong general scientific foundation provides explanatory power for a wide range of subjects – such as for all baked, egg-based foods.

There are scientists who research foods, but the food analogy was utilized as an introduction to specific issues from anti-science.

Anti-science folks discuss their issues (and boy, do they have issues!) with the implicit** assumption that there are special data regarding a particular disliked scientific theory. That is, they assume that there is specific data that is relevant mostly only to evolutionary theory, or to AGW, or to vaccine safety, etc. They attack what they suppose to be the ‘special data’ with the belief that its refutation will dispose of a disliked theory while not affecting other science significantly.

**Implicit for some (I think most), but there are those  who make it explicit. They are utterly fixated upon their single unassailable Authority, and they don’t even want friendly visitors ruffling their superstitious feathers. They are so perverse that, to quote Johnny Kaje, “… attacking all of science, for most of these folks, is a feature, not a bug.” Yeah, ALL.

They (the folks who don’t quite dis-respect 100% of science) utterly fail to comprehend the web of knowledge that ties every scientific theory to vast numbers of strands of knowledge. Those ice cores, reviled for the data they offer regarding AGW, also support our scientific understanding of geology, biological evolution, and astrophysics. If anti-science folks were correct in their criticisms of ice core data, giant swaths of science would crumble – not just the one theory of AGW.

That interdependence of scientific research could, if anti-science folks were correct, have extremely personal consequences for most of us. Do you have an inkling of an idea about how many of the important medicines are developed? It escapes most laymen that the ‘special data’ which supports biological evolution also guides medical researchers in developing medicines. Yes, they sometimes find medicines by ‘screening’ – simply trying stuff. Much, even more, medical research is derived from such ‘special data’ that also supports biological evolution.

If an omnipotent being were to decree (Ken Ham’s dream) the anti-science position about evolution’s ‘special data’ to be correct, then an immense array of modern medicines would stop working.

Since most of the anti-science folks have strong influences from their religious beliefs, I recommend to them that they avail themselves of the possibility that I just described. If their Supreme Being is all-powerful, there is no need of haggling with school textbook committees. They should beseech their Supreme Being to make – what they ‘know’ to be true about certain disliked scientific theories – true for all of nature.

They had just best not expect their Viagra to work the next day.

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22
May
10

Poe’s Law was incomplete – Stone’s Law is absolute

I tried. I really, really tried.

‘Dr. Rand Paul, Civil Rights Patriot‘ was a test of subtle interpretation. Many folks, here and on other blogs, took me to be a True Libertarian. My comments that Rand Paul is not a consistent Libertarian were received especially enthusiastically by Libertarians, who take him to be a Traitor.

It was natural that someone (who is more closely aligned to my political & social views) would be sufficiently offended by the parody to describe me as “sickening filth“. No problem there – I understand the confusion.

I offered explanations here and on other blogs ‘Rachel Maddow vs Rand Paul‘, ‘NOW ASK HIM ABOUT BROWN VS. BOARD OF EDUCATION‘, ‘Rand Paul: Views on ADA and the Civil Rights Act‘, & ‘I’m Sure!‘. Some responded in good humor. Others knew better than I !

‘NOW ASK HIM ABOUT BROWN VS. BOARD OF EDUCATION’ changed the original link, “UPDATE. A Paul defender agrees …” to “UPDATE 3. The “Paul defender” mentioned above says in comments that his post was a parody. I want to believe him, but …“. They are willing to consider my comments, thank you muchly.

‘Rachel Maddow vs Rand Paul’ changed the link to Hey! Get This… from “Jim at heygetthis has more” to “Jim at heygetthis has more (although he doesn’t realize it)” after my explanatory comment. My comments truly get short shrift (what the hell is a shrift, anyway? is a long one better?) here.

I quoted Poe’s Law ad nauseum:

Without a winking smiley or other blatant display of humor, it is impossible to create a parody of Fundamentalism that SOMEONE won’t mistake for the real thing.

That doesn’t really provide a thorough commentary on my experience in this episode. I propose a new, enhanced version of Poe’s Law. Newtonian Gravity needed Einstein’s General Relativity, so why not make a Good Law even better?

Stone’s Law:

Even with a winking smiley or other blatant display of humor, it is impossible to create a parody of Fundamentalism that SOMEONE won’t insist, despite overt profferings of revelatory explanation and analysis, to be the real thing.

{ Permission granted under Copyright to re-use this statement
if quoted exactly and completely, including the title “Stone’s Law”. }

People believe that blimps, eerily lit by the nighttime glow of a city, are alien spacecraft or ultra-secret government spy drones.

People believe that, regardless of the realities of Physics, only a bullet fired from the Grassy Knoll could have produced the kinetics (observed and reproduced) of the JFK assassination.

People believe that antibiotics won’t really work unless they offer earnest appeals to a Deity. They also take the antibiotics if they have an infection.

People believe most of what they believe for emotional reasons. Facts, or at least alternative explanations, have such miniscule influence on their thinking that they will not deign to check the facts or examine the alternative explanations.

Herein resides a great strength of Science: it is a system which explicitly guards against superstitious human tendencies. It has mechanisms to correct – even if slowly and frustratingly – errors, misinterpretations, and oversights. Much of the rest of life is, by comparison, a free-for-all, devoid of rules.




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Basic Understanding

A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves.
- Edward R. Murrow

Intellectual Property Notice

All original material Copyright James R. Stone 2010, except where specifically noted. Some images licensed under Creative Commons, or GNU Free Documentation License, or unlicensed and public domain.

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