Someone sent me another stupid Jewish article. It’s still not the
wonderful relativity denial that I lost, but it’s pretty delicious as
stupidity goes. This time it comes from Chabad. For those who aren’t
familiar with it, Chabad is a Chasidic organization, which originally
formed around people following a very famous Rabbi from the town of
Lubav after he emigrated to the US. Chabad grew into a very large
fundamentalist organization that is very devoted to what they call
outreach. (I call it proselytization.)
Anyway – on to the article: “Are Science and Religion a Contradiction?”. Large swaths of it are just rehashes
of standard fundamentalist crap – indistinguishable from the kinds of
rubbish we routinely hear from the various Christian fundies, but with
a bit of low-budget hebrew mixed in. For example:
In the 19th Century it was the prevailing view of scientists and
modernists that human reason was infallible in “scientific” deductions
and that sciences such as physics, chemistry, mathematics etc., were
absolute truth, that is to say, not merely accepted truths but
absolute. Speaking in Jewish terms this meant the establishment of a
new idolatry, not of wood and stone, but the worship of the
contemporary sciences and philosophies.
In fact, in the face of dogmatic and deterministic views of
science prevailing at that time, a whole apologetic literature was
created by well-meaning religious advocates and certain rabbis who saw
no other way of preserving Torah heritage in their “enlightened”
communities except through tenuous and spurious reinterpretations of
certain passages in the Torah in order to accommodate them to the
prevailing world outlook. No doubt they knew inwardly that they were
suggesting interpretations in Torah which were at variance with Torat
Emet, but at least they felt they had no alternative.
See, it’s just another version of the old “science is a religion” shtick. No better than the dreck you’ll find on, say, James Dobson’s website.
Of course, if all that they did was rehash the same-old christian dreck, there’d be no good reason to waste my time writing about this
meshugas. But they’ve got a few unique touches that are worth a moment or two.
We can start off by pointing out a really silly example of my credo: the worst math is no math:
In the 20th Century, however, and especially in recent
decades, science has finally come out of its medieval wrappings and
the whole complexion of science has changed. The assumed immutability
of the so-called scientific laws and the concept of absolutism in
science in general have been abrogated and the contrary view is now
held, known as the “Principle of Indeterminism”. Nothing any more is
certain in science but only relative or probable, and scientific
findings are now presented with considerable reservation and with
limited and temporary validity, likely to be replaced at any time by a
more advanced theory.
Most scientists have accepted this principle of uncertainty – enunciated by Werner Heisenberg in 1927 – as being intrinsic to the whole universe. The 19th Century dogmatic, mechanistic and deterministic attitude to science is gone. The modern scientist no longer expects to find truth in science. The current and universally accepted view is that science must reconcile itself to the idea that, whatever progress it makes, it will always deal with probabilities, not with certainties or absolutes.
They try to use the Heisenberg uncertainty principle as a lever to
knock down the whole of science. But the uncertainty principle isn’t
just a bundle of words saying that “nothing is certain”. It’s a very
precise mathematical statement of what can be measured in a meaningful
way. For example, Wikipedia’s statement of the uncertainty principle
is that for any particle, the root-mean-square difference between the
particle’s position from the mean of its possible quantum
states, times the root-mean-square difference between the particle’s
momentum and its mean momentum in its possible quantum states
can never be smaller than a small multiple of Planck’s constant.
Now, I just said that as a bunch of words. But those words aren’t
fuzzy newage “nothing is certain” babble. They’re a rendering of something very precise as language. They’re math. The uncertainty principle is, at its core, a mathematical statement. It’s
value towards understanding the world comes from its mathematical nature: it states something precise, in a way that could never be done without mathematics. You can make meaningful and precise inferences from it. For example, since the product of the RMS differences between position and momentum can’t be smaller than a fixed constant, that means that if you can nail down the momentum very precisely – meaning that you know the particle’s velocity very precisely – then you can’t possible determine the
particle’s position very precisely, because as you make the momentum
RMS difference smaller, the position RMS difference must grow by the same measure.
(And that doesn’t even bother to touch on their misrepresentation of how science works, but that’s a silly rehash of some standard rubbish.)
Ok. Moving on….
Let us give two examples of the metamorphosis of scientific discovery. There is a verse in Ecclesiastes 1:4, “The earth stands forever”, that seems to suggest that the earth stands still and the sun revolves around the earth. This presentation was entirely acceptable in the early common era, especially when, in the second century, Ptolemy perfected Aristotle’s construction of how the sun and the planets revolve around the earth in circular orbits with additional rotation around certain points on these orbits.
That view was adopted by all scientists and especially amongst religious clergy who viewed the earth as the centre of the universe. About 1,500 years later Nicholas Copernicus made a revolution in astronomy by describing the earth as going around the sun. Suddenly this new scientific discovery threw all religious belief into disarray. Even today in most schools children are taught that the earth revolves around the sun and that this is a fact proven by science. To suggest otherwise is considered unscientific.
However such education is prejudiced since Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity eliminated the idea of absolute space and absolute movement. According to Einstein, science in principle cannot decide whether the earth stands still and the sun revolves around it, or vice versa. In The Philosophy of Time by Hans Reichenbach, a disciple of Einstein, he demonstrates that all the following concepts are clearly shown possible from a scientific point of view:
- The earth stands still and the sun revolves around it,
- The sun stands still and the earth revolves around it,
- Both are revolving around a certain point. There is no way to prove which of the above is correct or preferable.
For practical purposes it is simpler to calculate astronomical events if we assume that the sun is standing still and the earth is moving around it. Copernicus’ main motive was to make calculation easier but this is not good enough reason to ascribe “truth” to this concept. To dismiss the Biblical verse that suggests that the earth stands still is wholly unscientific.
Again, they’re taking a mathematical statement, and trying to
understand it without the math – and as a result, they’re getting
Relativity, loosely described, says that there is no preferred universal reference frame. It does not say that there’s no difference between the earth revolving around the sun and the sun revolving around the earth.
In fact, relativity has some trouble with accelerated reference frames. There was some long-lasting worry that there was a flaw
in relativity because there are observable differences
between certain frames of reference – like a reference frame that
doesn’t account for its acceleration.
You can build a reference frame in which the sun revolves around the earth, and where relativity works. But you can’t do that without it being an accelerated frame. And if you have an acceleration, then you’re not stationary. If you try to treat earth as absolutely stationary, there are observations that can prove that it’s accelerating.
Next, we get an attempt to argue about the age of the earth. The
idea is that they want to make the observations that we use to
predict the age of the universe seem uncertain. They assemble an explicitly mathematical argument to justify it:
Let us now inspect more closely the methods scientists have employed to discover the age of the universe. Science has two general methods of inference:
- The method of interpolation (as distinguished from
extrapolation), whereby, knowing the reaction under two extremes, we
attempt to infer what the reaction might be at any point between the
- The method of extrapolation, whereby inferences are made beyond a known range, on the basis of certain variables within the known range. For example, suppose we know the variables of a certain element within a temperature range of 0 to 100 and, on the basis of this, we estimate what the reaction might be at 101, 200 or 2,000.
Of the two methods, the second is clearly the more uncertain. Moreover, the uncertainty increases with the distance away from the known range and with the decrease of this range. Thus, if the known range is between 0 and 100, our inference at 101 has a greater probability that at 1,001.
Let us note at once that all speculation regarding the origin and age of the world comes within the second and weaker method. The weakness becomes more apparent if we bear in mind that a generalisation inferred from a known consequent to an unknown antecedent is more speculative than an inference from an antecedent to consequent as can be demonstrated very simply.
Four divided by two equals two. Here the antecedent is represented by the divided and divisor, and the consequent by the quotient. Knowing the antecedent in this case gives us one possible result – the quotient – number two.
However, if we only know the end result, namely the number two, and we ask ourselves how can we arrive at the number two, the answer permits several possibilities, arrived at by different methods: 1 + 1 = 2, 4 – 2 = 2, 1 x 2 = 2, 4 ÷ 2 = 2. Note that if other numbers come into play the number of possibilities giving us the same result is infinite (since 5 – 3 = 2, 6 – 4 = 2 etc., ad infinitum.)
Add to this another difficulty which is prevalent in all methods of deduction: Conclusions based on certain known data, when extended to unknown areas, can only have validity on the assumption of “everything else being equal”, that is to say, on an identity of prevailing conditions and their action and counter-action upon each other. If we cannot be sure that the variations or changes would bear at least a close relationship to the existing variables in degree, if we cannot be sure that the changes would bear any resemblance in kind, if, furthermore, we cannot be sure that there were not other factors involved – such conclusions of inferences are absolutely valueless!
This hole argument (it’s a hole argument because it’s an argument built around a hole, get it? oh, never mind) is almost
correct. If you had one set of observations, dependent
on multiple variables, you could wind up thinking that you had identified a single factor – where actually you had identified a
factor that was a function of multiple inputs – not a constant at all.
That’s why, in science, we like to have multiple independent
observations. In the case of the age of the universe, we have
a huge number of independent things which all point to the same
age. Starbirths. Supernovas. Redshifts. Gravitational lensing.
On and on, there are so many different independent observations
that allow us to calculate a minimum age of the universe. They all
agree, and none of them are remotely consistent with a 6,000 year old universe.
Similarly, we have observed relationships between different
basic constants. Heisenberg uncertainty relates to Planck’s constant. The basic masses of particles relate to the basic forces. The strengths of the basic forces relates to the speed of light. It all ties together. You can’t change one without changing the others. Change the speed of light, and everything else changes. Matter
no longer works – atoms as we recognize them could no longer exist. Change one, and it all changes. And yet, we observe clear
signs of suns that operate on hydrogen fusion in galaxies that
are separated from us by astonishing distances. And yet every
observation – every observation is that things work
the same way a billion billion miles away, a billion years ago, as
they do here and now.
Of course, none of this can prove that God didn’t create the universe this way 6,000 years ago. But, as we usually point out
when confronted with this sort of argument, we also can’t prove
that the universe wasn’t created by the flying spaghetti monster
Now, the way that they use that rotten argument is a more
perfect demonstration of how utterly clueless they are about
what science actually says than anyone could possibly predict.
We may now summarise the weaknesses of so-called scientific theories regarding the origin and age of the universe:
1. These theories have been advanced on the basis of observable data during a relatively short period of time of only a number of decades; at any rate, not more than a couple of centuries.
See above: we may only have been observing the data for a couple of centuries, but the data consists of information spanning billions of years, and if the uniformity assumption weren’t valid, the distant galaxies that we can see wouldn’t be able to exist.
2. On the basis of such a relatively small range of known (though, by no means, perfectly known) data, scientists venture to build theories by the weak method of extrapolation, and from the consequent to the antecedent, extending to, according to them, millions and billions of years!
There’s nothing weak about extrapolation, provided a sufficient
quantity of data, and some means of independent verification. When multiple extrapolations from independent data all point at the same thing, there’s nothing weak about the conclusion.
3. In advancing such theories they blithely disregard factors universally admitted by all scientists, namely that in the initial period of the “birth” of the universe, conditions of temperature, atmospheric pressure, radioactivity, and a host of other catalystic factors, were totally different from those existing in the present state of the universe.
And the stupidity really kicks in.
Yeah, the atmospheric pressure at the beginning of the universe
was different! Talk about a meaningless statement. We’re talking about the origin of the universe – when matter was being created. There was no atmosphere to have a pressure.
And radioactivity! Don’t forget the radioactivity.
Except, of course, that radioactivity means something specific. Radioactivity is energy released from the decay of atoms. There were no atoms to start – and then after there were atoms, it was a hell of a long time before there were any atoms large enough to be radioactive.
What they meant was radiation, not radioactivity. But they don’t know the difference. And to them, because they don’t understand what this stuff means, and they
don’t understand the actual mathematical statements which describe our understanding of the early conditions of the universe, they’re left doing the equivalent of wandering through a maze in the dark. Radiation, to them, is something almost magical. It’s
mysterious, incomprehensible, something outside the realm of the ordinary. But radiation isn’t some magical unknown thing. It’s electromagnetic energy – which behaves in very specific ways,
which can be described using mathematics. It’s not just some
magical background fuzz that exists independently of everything else: it’s an intrinsic part of the universe as we understand it. And its behavior is well understood and predictable – to the limits of what
predictable means in our universe.
To make things worse for them, radiation didn’t meaningfully exist in those initial moments. In the ultra-high energy
environment of the first few moments of the big bang, the strong, weak, and electromagnetic forces hadn’t separated yet, and so nothing that we would recognize as radiation could be said to exist.
The things that they’re throwing up as insurmountable barriers – things that they claim we can’t possible know – are exactly the things that scientists study. Cosmologists studying the big bang have developed some amazingly elegant and precise testable theories about the conditions immediately after the big bang – which necessarily include some very precise predictions of what the energy environment was like at that time. In fact, we’ve been watching some very exciting news on that front as the LHC gets ready to be turned on!
4. The consensus of scientific opinion is that there must have been many radioactive elements in the initial stage which now no longer exist, or exist only in minimal quantities; some of them elements the catalystic potency of which is known even in minimal doses.
Now they’re just making stuff up. That statement is, to put
it mildly, a pile of wretched bullshit that bears no resemblance to anything that anyone with a clue would call science. They just made it up, whole cloth.
5. The formation of the world, if we are to accept these theories, began with a process of colligation (binding together) of single atoms, or the components of the atom, and their conglomeration and consolidation, involving totally unknown processes and variables.
Again, they’re demonstrating their cluelessness. It’s not totally unknown processes. If you can only look at informal prose descriptions
of the science, then it might seem that way. But if you actually look
at the real theories – they’re chock full of math. And what that
math does is make things precise. We don’t understand everything
yet, obviously. But we’ve got some very strong handles on it – and they’re precise, mathematical statements. If you look at the math,
you can see what we know, and what we don’t. But they can’t understand the math, and they don’t understand why they
should. So they play word games, and think that they’re doing something profound – when in fact, they’re just making idiots of themselves.
This is only about half-way into this mess of a document, but
I’ll stop here. The rest is just senseless regurgitations of the
usual christian fundamentalist rubbish arguments against evolution.