Should we believe what scientists say? (Page 2)
AchillesSinatra: Your confidence in your ineptitude makes me very nervous. dude.
I feel a lot safer around people who say things like "Er, um, I'm not really sure"
AchillesSinatra: Yes, it's all so simple.
We make theories.
Then we verify them.
Then we disappear when unable to support our absurdities.
Gimme a religious loonie any day.
justabigjoke: Here is an example of "science" that is simply one big error, yet many educated people actually believe it, despite the myriad of examples of where and how it fails.
It's basically every theory of Einstein. All are total garbage. The theories on which much of "modern physics" is now based, is a fraud.
AchillesSinatra: Presumably the (unhelpful) post above is meant in jest; the implication being that one would be very foolish indeed not to believe Einstein's theories.
Well, let's focus only on Einstein's magnum opus, the general theory of relativity (hereafter GR), and pose the question: Ought a rational person believe in the literal truth of GR?
To say that a theory is "literally true" is to say that it is a faithful representation of reality; it gets both observable and unobservable reality right; the entities and mechanisms posited by the theory actually do exist as described. It's the kind of position adopted by a scientific realist. This would be contrasted with the stance of an empiricist or instrumentalist, for example, positions that I am more sympathetic to myself.
Before continuing, it might be salutary to clarify the distinction between a theory (in conjunction with the inescapable auxiliary hypotheses) yielding consequences (or "predictions" if you prefer) which are true, and the theory ITSELF being true. It is not in any doubt that GR yields true predictions, some quite counterintuitive, as is well known, and some true to quite a breathtaking degree of accuracy.
But then again, the theory of phlogiston yields true consequences. So does the theory of the luminiferous aether, the caloric theory of heat, and the Ptolemaic theory of cosmology. So does the theory "All Americans are James Cagney". So does almost any other scientific theory you might name, dead or alive. None of the aforementioned theories is now considered true, the veracity of the consequences that can be derived from them notwithstanding.
What reasons, then, do we have to be wary of committing to a belief in the literal truth of GR? Here are a few:
1. If Wireclub had been around in the year 1800, say, the poster above might have written:
"Here is an example of "science" that is simply one big error, yet many educated people actually believe it, despite the myriad of examples of where and how it fails.
It's basically every theory of Newton. All are total garbage. The theories on which much of "modern physics" is now based, is a fraud."
Newton's theories, that of gravitation in particular, were taken almost unanimously by the scientific community to be literally true for two centuries or more. They are now universally regarded as false. No physicist, that I know of anyway, now believes gravity to be an attractive force that acts instantaneously over any distance against a backdrop of absolute space and absolute time.
Yes, yes, we know all about the instrumental efficacy of Newton's theories -- "got us to the Moon" and all that. To repeat once more, that Newtonian mechanics yields (approximately) true consequences in most everyday circumstances is not disputed. Remember, so do the other above-mentioned extinct theories, to a greater or lesser degree. That Newtonian mechanics is LITERALLY true, on the other hand, is believed by no serious thinker I am aware of.
2. The argument from pessimistic induction.
The history of science reveals a graveyard of dead theories, even those most highly confirmed and regarded as most likely to be true. GR is indeed, by any standard, an extraordinarily successful theory. The history of science, however, teaches us -- time and time again -- that a theory's success is a poor indicator of its truth.
For anyone interested, the locus classicus for the pessimistic induction argument is Larry Laudan's monograph "A Confutation of Convergent Realism".
3. GR is already known to be untrue insofar as it is incompatible with quantum mechanics. The predictions it yields at the quantum level are hopelessly inaccurate, and by a simple modus tollens, if the consequences of a theory are false, then the theory is false. Period.
An objector might protest that it is true "in its own domain" or suchlike. This is a trap that must be avoided:
"It may seem tempting to say that later theories simply provide localized readjustments and that the old theories continue to hold good provided only that we suitably restrict their domains of purported validity. On such a view, it is tempting to say: "Einstein's theory does not replace Newton's; it does not actually disagree with Newton's at all but simply sets limits to the the region of phenomena (large-scale, slow-moving objects) where Newton's theory works perfectly well". Such temptations must be resisted. To yield to them is like saying that "All swans are white" is true all right; we just have to be cautious about its domain limitation and take care not to apply it to Australia. This sort of position comes down, in the final analysis, to the unhelpful truism that a theory works where a theory works."
-- Nicholas Rescher, "The Limits of Science"
4. Einstein himself, cautious sage that he was, vacillated on whether his own theory ought to be regarded as a faithful representation of reality, i.e., on whether or not it should be believed to be literally true.
In his younger years, Einstein was enormously influenced, as were so many other physicists of the period, by the thoughts of Ernst Mach. Mach was an antirealist of sorts. That is to say, the job of science, on the Machian account, is merely that of description; to systematize our experience of regularities in nature. All talk of "going behind the scenes" and producing literally true causal-explanatory theories was anathema to an antirealist like Mach, and a great many others like him, both then and now.
In other words, in his early career, Einstein was effectively saying "My theory ought not to be believed as being literally true". It was only later, owing to his well documented dissatisfaction with quantum mechanics, that the great man switched to a realist stance.
Philosopher of science, Arthur Fine, explains...
"In particular, following his conversion [from antirealism to realism], Einstein wanted to claim genuine reality for the central theoretical entities of his general theory, the four-dimensional space-time manifold, and associated tensor fields. This is a serious business for if we grant his claim, then not only do space and time cease to be real, but so do virtually all of the usual dynamical qualities."
(Edited by AchillesSinatra)
AchillesSinatra: To add a little more...
In my experience, it's very common for those not well versed in these matters to confuse the true consequences that can be derived from a theory with the truth of the theory itself.
To make the inference from "my theory yields true consequences" to "my theory is true" is to run afoul of the logical fallacy known as "affirming the consequent". Thus...
If X then Y
... is a perfectly valid inference (modus ponens). Also...
If X then Y
Therefore not X
... is likewise perfectly valid (modus tollens). But...
If X then Y
... here there be dragons. Make the inference at your own peril, boys and girls. This is the notorious fallacy of affirming the consequent.
Applied to science it would look something like...
If my theory is true, [such-and-such] must be observed
[Such-and-such] is observed
Therefore my theory is true
Or in the particular case of general relativity...
GR predicts gravitational lensing, the bending of light by massive objects, time dilation, etc., etc.
Gravitational lensing, the bending of light by massive objects, time dilation, etc., etc. have been observed
Therefore GR is true (and ought to be believed by any rational person)
Einstein et al, it goes without saying, were all perfectly aware of this.
chronology: Achilles, interesting. But how would you explain the insistence of Evolutionists here on wire who ignore all known facts about Genetics.
Genetic DNA Codes are just like computer programme codes. They do not 'evolve' they never have. They can only be changed by an intelligent agency of some kind. Fair enough they can be damaged, but only like computer programme codes can be damaged.
AchillesSinatra: I wouldn't be competent to comment on genetics, Chron.
I do feel, though, the Darwinians tend to grossly overestimate the cogency of their evidence to their theory (the one that no one seems able to articulate).
AchillesSinatra: Philosophy legend, Thomas Nagel, has this to say on the unfair treatment routinely dispensed to anyone with the gall to critique ET:
"In thinking about these questions I have been stimulated by criticisms of the prevailing scientific world picture by the defenders of intelligent design. Even though writers like Michael Behe and Stephen Meyer are motivated at least in part by their religious beliefs, the empirical arguments they offer against the likelihood that the origin of life and its evolutionary history can be fully explained by physics and chemistry are of great interest in themselves. Another skeptic, David Berlinski, has brought out these problems vividly without reference to the design inference. Even if one is not drawn to the alternative of an explanation by the actions of a designer, the problems that these iconoclasts pose for the orthodox scientific consensus should be taken seriously. They do not deserve the scorn with which they are commonly met. It is manifestly unfair."
AchillesSinatra: Thomas Nagel is just one among a small number of non-religious thinkers who feel, as I do, that the theory of evolution (whatever that is today) is hopelessly inadequate. Their voices are seldom heard, and on the rare occasions that they are, immediately discredited with vituperative slander.
Try his "Mind and Cosmos".
As you rightly say, to expect a rabid Darwinian to admit there might be anything wrong with his/her theory.... well, you might as well expect a North Korean patriot to admit his may not be the greatest nation on Earth.
This degree of dogma is unheard of in any other branch of science.
It's a disturbing state of affairs.
chronology: Excellent comment Achilles. Like you say, the blind dogma of evolutionists is remarkable. But they see themselves struggling against 'religion ' which to them is the longest running con idea in human history.
AchillesSinatra: Well, not all of them.
I have nothing but admiration for highly intelligent, sophisticated men such as Gould, Lewontin, Eldredge, etc., even if we do not see eye to eye on certain matters. Same applies to defenders of religion who can argue intelligently.
Imbeciles like Richard Dawkins on the other hand....
AchillesSinatra: If you want incontrovertible disproof of evolutionary theory, just look at Australian men
not able to be denied or disputed.
indisputable, incontestable, undeniable, irrefutable, unassailable, beyond dispute, unquestionable, beyond question, indubitable, not in doubt, beyond doubt, beyond a shadow of a doubt, unarguable, inarguable, undebatable, unanswerable;
unequivocal, unambiguous, unmistakable, certain, sure, definite, definitive, proven, positive, decisive, conclusive, final, ultimate; clear, clear-cut, straightforward, plain, as plain as a pikestaff, transparent, obvious, manifest, evident, self-evident, staring one in the face, patent, demonstrative, demonstrable, observable, palpable;
uncontroversial, accepted, acknowledged; marked, pronounced, express, emphatic, categorical, compelling, convincing, clinching, airtight, watertight;
"their judgement is based on the evidence of incontrovertible facts"
justabigjoke: Except my statement was not made in jest.
Despite the attempted overkill by Achilles942, the fact remains that Physics has been corrupted by the flat-out errors of Einstein, and to annoy you further, Quantum mechanics is also a mess of pseudoscience.
Special Relativity and General Relativity live only in the realm of abstract Math, and have no resemblance to reality whatsoever.
And even then, the math is based on false assumptions and blind faith in the absurd.
Myself, I demand higher standards for physics, that are based on Rationality, sound logic and reason. Relativity and Quantum are totally lacking in these attributes.
Universities have been selling a croc of crap for 100 years, but not everyone believes it now, thank goodness.
I should also mention that the idiocy of the Particle Physicist is bordering on insanity.
People should be talking about these things more openly, as its hight time facts were faced.
But I don't have much hope, as the world runs on BS, myth and deception. This is on purpose.