Friday, November 30, 2012

Weekend Rebel Science Excursion - 12

Quantum Physics Review
One thing that separates people who are trying to be honest from deliberately dishonest folk is the way they handle facts that counter their belief or knowledge.

Sometimes those challenging facts are new but then again sometimes those challenging facts are old news that has been around for a long time.

This week we had an example of both scenarios from both "sides of the aisle", that is, both a scientist who studies quantum mechanics and a clergy member of a Creationist religion acknowledged relevant facts, and therefore changed their past positions accordingly.

In the religious realm it was TV Evangelist Pat Robertson who shocked some of the fundamentalists he hangs with regarding his statements about the age of the Earth:
Pat Robertson, the controversial televangelist and host of the Christian Broadcasting Network's "700 Club," is said to have stunned many of his viewers on Tuesday when he dispelled the idea -- held dear by many Bibical creationists -- that Earth is only 6,000 years old.


Look, I know that people will probably try to lynch me when I say this, but Bishop [James] Ussher wasn't inspired by the Lord when he said that it all took 6,000 years. It just didn't. You go back in time, you've got radiocarbon dating. You got all these things and you've got the carcasses of dinosaurs frozen in time out in the Dakotas.

They're out there. So, there was a time when these giant reptiles were on the Earth and it was before the time of the Bible. So, don't try and cover it up and make like everything was 6,000 years. That's not the Bible.
(Pat Robertson - Earth's Age). Mr. Robertson's statement is used to help illustrate the purpose of today's post, which is to show examples of how some individuals handle our dynamic human learning process, and handle it well.

Mr. Robertson decided that the evidence should not be denied or ignored, even though he is a member of a group which contains many people who feel that the Earth is less than 10,000 years old.

The import of his honesty is highlighted by the statement that he "stunned many of his viewers" of his TV program by his comments.

That is matched in the scientific community by the statements this week by a well known physicist who indicated that some current theories in quantum physics have been decidely shown to have been quite wrong:
As a young theorist in Moscow in 1982, Mikhail Shifman became enthralled with an elegant new theory called supersymmetry that attempted to incorporate the known elementary particles into a more complete inventory of the universe.

“My papers from that time really radiate enthusiasm,” said Shifman, now a 63-year-old professor at the University of Minnesota. Over the decades, he and thousands of other physicists developed the supersymmetry hypothesis, confident that experiments would confirm it. “But nature apparently doesn’t want it,” he said. “At least not in its original simple form.”

With the world’s largest supercollider unable to find any of the particles the theory says must exist, Shifman is joining a growing chorus of researchers urging their peers to change course.

In an essay [PDF] posted last month on the physics website, Shifman called on his colleagues to abandon the path of “developing contrived baroque-like aesthetically unappealing modifications” of supersymmetry to get around the fact that more straightforward versions of the theory have failed experimental tests. The time has come, he wrote, to “start thinking and developing new ideas.”
(Scientific American, Supersymmetry Fail). What Dr. Shifman said about the pretzel like contortions scientists where having to go through to support an erroneous position (“developing contrived baroque-like aesthetically unappealing modifications”) also goes for those clergy who think and teach that Adam and Eve rode around on dinosaurs.

It became clear to scientists awhile back that dinosaurs were destroyed by an asteroid some 65 million years ago, well before the time of Adam and Eve set forth even by fundamentalists (see State Crimes Against Democracy).

Like some political science struggles (e.g. "Fiscal Cliff" debates), scientists had to go through some similar gut wrenching "science friction" to arrive at a consensus that challenged and did away with old theories about the extinction of dinosaurs.

The good news is that once those struggles for consensus are in the past, what tends to remain after the dust settles is better politics, better religion, and better scientific data to work with from then on.

Somewhat similar posts on today's issues:  Heretics Deny the Dark Matter of Faith - 3, Message of Science & Religion - Western.

Have a nice weekend.

The next post in this series is here, the previous post is here.

Don't judge too quickly.

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