Exposing PseudoAstronomy

July 31, 2009

What Is Science, Its Purpose, and Its Method?


Introduction

Following up on my post “Terminology: What Scientists Mean by “Fact,” “Hypothesis,” “Theory,” and “Law”,” as well as a recent planetarium lecture I gave on young-Earth creationism in astronomy, I thought it would be a valuable post to go over specifically what the purpose of science actually is, and how science goes about, well, science.

I need to make three things very clear up-front: First, I am not a philosopher. I have not taken any philosophy classes, nor have I taken a philosophy of science class (though I think I probably should).

Second, even though “science” is an inactive noun – where I use the word “inactive” to mean that it is a process and a mode of thinking – I will be using it throughout this post as an “active” noun, personifying it to actually “do” things. This is how it’s used in popular culture, and I see no real reason to take efforts to not go with the colloquial use in this posting.

Third, this post is going to serve a dual purpose by contrasting the scientific method with the creationist “method” in order to show how science differs in key, important ways.

Dictionary Definitions of Terms

The way the dictionary that Apple kindly provides on their computers defines “science” as: “The intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.” There are three sub-definitions, but that main one emphasizes that “science” is an activity, a study, and one that looks for natural explanations.

My only qualm with this definition is that I would add to it not only what it does or how it operates, but its purpose, as well: “The purpose of science is that once it has provided an explanation for the physical and natural world, it allows one to use that explanation to make predictions.” I know that when I stand on one foot, if I don’t shift my weight to that one foot, I will likely fall if I do not support myself. That is because I have repeated observations that tell me this. Without that predictive power that in the future I will fall if I don’t shift my weight, then all those previous observations are fairly worthless.

In this section, I also want to define “dogma.” Using the dictionary again: “A principle or set of principles laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true.”

Now, hopefully I’m stating the obvious, but “dogma” and “science” are not equivalent. In fact, I know that I’m not stating the obvious because there are many, many, many people out there who believe that science simply leads to dogmatic facts/ideas/theories, etc. This is not true. And in the rest of this post I will show you why.

A Look at the Creationist “Science” Method

Before I say anything else, I want to emphasize that this is not a straw man argument, an exaggeration, or anything else that may lead to you thinking this is not true. This section is really how many – if not most or all – biblical literalists view science, and this is how they decide what science to incorporate into their worldview.

Ken Ham, the CEO of the “Answers in Genesis” (a young-Earth creationist think-tank in the US, now separate from the Australian group by the same name), has explicitly stated that one must start with the Bible, while others at AiG have stated that even logic and science itself flows from the Bible, for without it, you couldn’t even have the tools that science uses.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s look at a flow chart:

Flow Cart Showing the Scientific Method

Flow Chart Showing Faith-Based 'Science'

The above flow chart shows the basic, fundamental process that most biblical literalists use to vet science. They may get an idea, or hear of something. Let’s use a young-Earth creationist mainstay, Earth’s magnetic field. Data shows that Earth’s field has gone through reversals in polarity at many points in the past. The data is clearly out there for anyone to examine, and it is unambiguous that crustal rocks record a flip-flopping magnetic field.

Now, does it fit in the Bible? Creationists such as Kent Hovind say that it does not. The result is that alternating magnetic fields are simply not possible. In fact, to quote him: “That’s simply baloney [that there are magnetic reversals in the rocks]. There are no ‘reversed polarity areas’ unless it’s where rocks flipped over when the fountains of the deep broke open. … This is a lie talking about magnetic ‘reversals.'” (Taken from his Creation Science Evangelism series, DVD 6:1.)

Alternatively, Russell Humphreys, of Answers in Genesis, accepts that there have been magnetic reversals, as he is able to fit it into a reading of the Bible. He explains the field reversals as rapidly taking place during the 40 24-hr days of Noah’s Flood. Hence, because they are able to fit it into the Bible, they accept it as a dogma.

A Look at the Scientific Method

You’ll notice that this flow chart is a tad larger:

Flow Cart Showing the Scientific Method

Flow Cart Showing the Scientific Method

It starts at the same place, with an idea/observation/etc., which we call a “hypothesis.” As opposed to testing this hypothesis against the Bible, it is tested by performing an experiment. In other words, can the idea that you have accurately predict the outcome of an experiment?

If not, then the idea is rejected. If it did accurately predict the outcome of the experiment, then ideally you will do several more and gather other observational evidence, but effectively you now have created a theory. A theory is when all pieces of evidence support that idea, and NO experiment has refuted it.

The next step of a theory is to use it to predict a future event. This is where my definition of science differs from the dictionary by adding these predictive properties (the bottom half of the flow chart). Without the theory of gravity being able to predict the motions of the planets and moons, the behavior of tides, etc., then what good is it other than to have on paper and look pretty?

So the theory is used to predict a future event. If it predicted it correctly, then you simply rinse and repeat. Much of basic scientific research is really just testing theories. Far from being the “dogma” that many creationists will want you to believe, theories are subjected to tests every day.

In fact, scientists WANT to be the one to do the experiment that the theory predicted a different outcome for. That’s where we follow the “NO” arrow on the flow chart. If the theory can be modified to support the latest evidence, then it is improved, and you go back and continue to test the now-modified theory. An example of this would be the addition of Inflation to the Big Bang model.

However, if the theory cannot be modified to support the latest evidence, then we have a scientific revolution. People remember your name. You get Nobel Prizes. And money. And women (or men). Anyone over the age of 10 knows Einstein’s name and know him to be synonymous with “Relativity” and likely even “E=m·c2.” Advertisers wish they could be that efficient.

Final Thoughts – What’s the Point, and Why No Spiritualism/Paranormal Allowed?

The point here is that, well, I’m honestly sick of hearing the anti-“darwinist” crowd claiming that evolution, the speed of light, the Big Bang, and many other scientific theories are just a “materialistic dogma.” They’re not. Plain and simple. Dogma is where you believe something as FACT and it cannot be shown to be false, regardless of any evidence. Theories and the scientific method is a process that requires evidence to support it, and no evidence to the contrary. It requires predictive power.

And that is why spiritualism/religion/supernatural/paranormal beliefs are simply not allowed in science. Sorry, they’re not. Why? Because almost by their very definition, they lack any predictive ability. If you can’t use your hypothesis or theory to predict a future event, then they have just been shown not to work. Yes, the Flying Spaghetti Monster may have created us all by touching us with His noodly appendage. That may be a hypothesis. But you simply can’t test that because He in His Infinite Carbalicious Goodness can just choose not to do it again. Or some vaguely-defined “Intelligent Designer” may have caused the bacterial flagllum to exist or have formed the mammalian eye. But that belief does not present any way of being tested, whereas evolutionary theory does (and has shown the precursors to all of those).

And that’s really the point of science: To use testable ideas to explain the where we came from, and then to predict where we’re going.

52 Comments »

  1. When doing science, don’t we hold on to our theories even if they are wrong (i.e. not perfect models) if they are good theories, and we can’t think of a better one? Your ‘revolution’ box makes it look like it’s easy to come up with a new theory.

    If the theory isn’t well established, then scientists don’t want to find that it contradicts the empirical evidence do they? Although, of course, you don’t just go and hide the data. Truth is more important than you being right.

    And, on a less pedantic note, I’m not sure you’re being fair with ‘creation science’. As far as I understand it, the output from the faith based method inputs into the scientific method. Otherwise it is not creation science. I have seen quite a bit of rubbish where this is not done though.

    Comment by PhiJ — August 1, 2009 @ 2:16 am | Reply

  2. Theory — Magnetic fields are due to molten cores. Ganymede should have a solid core but has a magnetic field. So why not modify the molten core , magnetic field theory rather than think of ways of ‘giving’ Ganymede a molten core? For Theory substitute Dogma in your flow chart.

    Comment by Mick — August 19, 2009 @ 6:51 am | Reply

    • Active magnetic fields are due to molten cores. A remnant field can exist for over a billion years (depends on the ferrous iron in the body) afterwards. And, different things can cause a body’s core to melt. It is much more likely – and consistent with other theories – that Ganymede’s core was re-melted after it had formed, likely while it transitioned to a resonance with Io and Europa – and that we are seeing a weak, remnant field. The existence of Ganymede’s field can thus easily fit into existing theories without some massive revolution like the universe was created 10,000 years ago, or that we need some other mechanism to create a magnetic field.

      Comment by astrostu206265 — August 29, 2009 @ 11:29 pm | Reply

  3. You need to introduce some concept of “quality of evidence”. It takes a very high quality of evidence to convince people that the Moon landing was a fake or that the Bible is wrong. We don’t change out belifs vary easily. Even scientists

    Comment by Mick — August 26, 2009 @ 4:55 am | Reply

  4. That’s “beliefs very easily” change it would you please.

    Comment by Mick — August 26, 2009 @ 6:33 am | Reply

  5. That’s “our beliefs very easily”. Going on typing couurse.

    Comment by Mick — August 27, 2009 @ 4:30 am | Reply

  6. ||Ganymede should have a solid core but has a magnetic field. So why not modify the molten core , magnetic field theory rather than think of ways of ‘giving’ Ganymede a molten core? For Theory substitute Dogma in your flow chart.||

    It seems:

    * our understanding of how liquid cores can last over billions of years is wrong

    or

    * we’ve have no understanding yet of how liquid cores can form later in time

    or

    * our understanding of how magnetic fields can be formed is wrong

    Until we have evidence either way, I don’t see why we should throw out a theory that “Magnetic fields are due to molten cores” yet. It’s pretty clear, on earth at least, a liquid core forms a magnetic field. So the theory might need modification. Even if it’s over thrown, it will be when the evidence comes in. I struggle to understand where “dogma” comes into this. Dogma means it can never be over thrown based on evidence.

    Comment by mindmetoo — August 27, 2009 @ 1:43 pm | Reply

  7. It seems:

    * our understanding of how fossils form is wrong

    or

    * we’ve have no understanding yet of how fossils can form later in time

    or

    * our understanding of when the earth was formed is wrong

    My point is that everyone uses the same ‘reasoning’ process but to some their ‘theory is always right’ (dogma) and to others their theory takes a great deal of ‘high quality’ evidence to overturn it. So they hang on to their theory. But how do you decide when the evidence is strong enough to overturn your theory and when to suspect the ‘quality of the evidence’. eg ” ‘maybe’ our understanding of how liquid cores can last over billions of years is wrong” so that makes that evidence invalid,… you’ve decided.

    Comment by Mick — August 28, 2009 @ 7:29 am | Reply

    • * our understanding of how fossils form is wrong

      Yeah and you could be the only person in the universe and we’re just robots. You can pull any claim out of your butt. Table your evidence or move along.

      Look. Science abandons theories all the time. Some scientists like Duesberg regarding HIV never abandon their “theory” in the face of overwhelming evidence. Sure the dogma charge sticks for them but Stuart is not talking about individual scientists who sometimes cling to a theory for religious reasons.

      Again, your dogma charge is 100% wrong on the face of the vast examples of science abandoning theories as good evidence tilts the balance. Science demands substantial evidence to abandon theories that make accurate predictions and this appears to happen too slowly for your own personal tastes in the face of a single anomaly. Therefore this shares some similarities with religious dogma? Is that your claim? If so it’s akin to claiming a dog is a cat because they share many, many features (2 ears, fur, suckle litters, eat meat). It’s the differences that distinguish a cat and dog, of course.

      For example, Relativity is a pretty good theory. You can’t use your GPS device without it. But someone noticed recently one of the Pioneer probes (I think) is deviating from what relativity would predict. OMG does that mean we abandon relativity? Does that mean scientists are dogmatic in their belief that relativity is 100% correct for all time? No. It could be the initial values we assumed for the probe were incorrect. It could mean relativity is like Newtonian physics. Newton works well on a given scale but it turned out to be an approximation of relativity. And maybe they’ll then discover on another scale relativity is an approximation of the new theory. If the Pioneer data proves to be correct, this will be GOOD NEWS to scientists. It means, as Stuart’s flow chart indicates, a revolution. Dogmatics never greet with joy evidence that does great violence to their beliefs.

      Ultimately, you’re committing the False Continuum fallacy:

      “The idea that because there is no definitive demarcation line between two extremes, that the distinction between the extremes is not real or meaningful: There is a fuzzy line between cults and religion, therefore they are really the same thing.”

      Every theory has its own definition of what evidence and the quality of evidence to overthrow the theory. Every single scientist that uses the theory has his/her own definition. Yeah, it’s fuzzy. So what?

      Comment by karl — August 30, 2009 @ 5:57 am | Reply

  8. Good. My statement that “our understanding of how fossils form is wrong” is not a belief I am proposing, I am just putting it forward as a possible stance that someone could take, not a very good one in my opinion admittedly… but possible.

    “The idea that because there is no definitive demarcation line between two extremes, that the distinction between the extremes is not real or meaningful: There is a fuzzy line between cults and religion, therefore they are really the same thing.”

    It is just a sliding scale. I would say they are a different manifestation of the same phenomenon (Hierarchical belief systems), and so is science. It all depends upon where you accept your authoritative source for value judgements. Priests or Professors or cult leaders. You chose Professors (presumably) but you don’t really understand their reasoning you just ‘take it on faith’. Eg Global warmimg. I bet you have ‘decided’ or did the Professors decide for you?? I bet you couldn’t talk about Relativity for more than a few minutes but you quote it like you believe it or even understand it, why.. because your hierarchy include ‘Relativity’ as part of their narrative so you go along with it. And then have the audacity to claim you are a ‘scientific thinker’ No you are not. You follow the trends of a club (cult) you have joined and then draw flow charts to demonstrate how your ‘methods’ are superior to other belief systems. What methods? you don’t use any methods at all, you just quote from books by scientists like it makes you similar to them

    “Yeah, it’s fuzzy. So what?”

    It’s not that its ‘fuzzy’ its that ultimately it is subjective. But you scientists prefer your subjectivity to non scientists. Why.. not because your subjectivity is ‘better’ but becuse it has the Heirachical power to impose itself on society.

    “It’s pretty clear, on earth at least, a liquid core forms a magnetic field”

    Is it. How is it ‘Pretty Clear’.

    ‘The scientific evidence of man made global warmimg is overwelming’

    The public hear this kind of crap everyday from people who haven’t even seen the evidence and wouldn’t understand it even if they did.

    What is it you really know? what evidence is it you really understand?

    “Relativity is a pretty good theory. …. But someone noticed recently one of the Pioneer probes (I think) is deviating from what relativity would predict. OMG does that mean we abandon relativity?”

    Abandon it?? you don’t even know what it is you pretentions muppet.

    Comment by Mick — September 1, 2009 @ 6:49 am | Reply

  9. Feeling a little out classed, Mick? Take care.

    Comment by kamamer — September 1, 2009 @ 6:57 am | Reply

  10. There is no need to feel outclassed. Universities are training actors to sound like academics but whenever you scratch the surface all they have learned is the script.

    No academics are not robots they are actors.

    If the moon causes the tides, why are there two tides a day?? (work it out don’t look ut up)

    When ‘god’ ‘crteated the world’ in myth and seperated the waters above from the waters below, what do think ‘he’ seperated them with??

    Get your own ideas from yourself not (to paraphrase) from someone elses butt.

    You did run out of ideas sooner than I had expected though.

    Comment by Mick — September 2, 2009 @ 5:00 am | Reply

    • Mick – I don’t mind you arguing on here, but I will edit out plain insults especially when foul language is involved. This was close.

      Comment by astrostu206265 — September 2, 2009 @ 9:59 am | Reply

  11. How do I know what goes on in universities?? Because I’m a Professor of science. Cheer up you’ll probably do OK. as a technician.

    Comment by Mick — September 2, 2009 @ 5:06 am | Reply

  12. Mick, you can be anything on the internet. I believe you believe you’re a “professor of science”.

    Comment by kamamer — September 2, 2009 @ 5:22 am | Reply

  13. Good. What are the answers the questions posed?

    Comment by Mick — September 2, 2009 @ 5:48 am | Reply

  14. If the moon causes the tides, why are there two tides a day?? (work it out don’t look ut up)

    When ‘god’ ‘created the world’ in myth and seperated the waters above from the waters below, what do think ‘he’ seperated them with??

    Comment by Mick — September 2, 2009 @ 5:49 am | Reply

    • Mick, if you want to argue on here, that’s fine, but don’t ask asinine, rhetorical questions, especially if you are what you claim, a “Professor of science.” If you want to find out why we have tides, I explain it quite thoroughly here (note website is not complete, but that section is).

      Comment by astrostu206265 — September 2, 2009 @ 10:06 am | Reply

  15. Hi Astrostu, don’t take it too seriously (I’ll explain)

    The reason there are two tides a day is because … (contrary to your explantion given in your reference) The moon’s motion around the Earth is in itself is a misnomer because the Earth-Moon system both revolve around the bari-center…
    the exact center of gravity between the two bodies. The Bari center is about a thousand miles below the earth’s surface causing the Earth’s orbit to actually have a sinusoidal wobble (with a period of one lunar orbit) as it travels around the Sun. This ‘throws’ (centripetal) the oceans out away from the moon on the ‘far’ side of the Earth, giving the second tide.

    Had you got this, the point was that no observations can provide evidence to prove this wobble of the Earth but we can intellectually work out that it exists.

    The second question was to show that the bible is probably (possibly) documenting an unstable magnetic field (creation and then again with Noah, which scientists are now suspecting and finding increasing evidence for. It is possible that the Bible is not wrong (just ancient mindset desciptions) but our interpretation of it is wrong.

    Come on chaps you could have at least got the tides problem right, where is your academic pride?

    Comment by Mick — September 3, 2009 @ 5:01 am | Reply

  16. If you find the tide solution hard to accept just imagine a moon earth binary system with the moon equal in mass to the earth. It will rotate a a distace half way between the two.

    Astrostu

    The point of that little example of an basic ‘asinine’ question of tides was to demonstrate that: If it was so basic then why can an above average university PhD student not answer it correctly? It is because you didn’t understand why the MaMarion & Thornton, 1995 solution was rubbish (it can’t apply to fluids as the fluid will flow to form one bulge nearest the moon) you just ‘believed’ the explanation and took it on faith. I.E Academia is a faith based belief system (I’m not talking about science) where you put trust in the hierachy without any understanding. However all you have to do is learn the ‘script’ – relativity – the cause of magnetic fields – False Continuum fallacy etc etc.

    Script = Scriptures
    Professor = Priest

    Academia will be dead within 10 years unless we start understanding what we read and stop the rhetoric.

    Comment by Mick — September 4, 2009 @ 4:35 am | Reply

  17. What?

    “because the gravitational pull from the moon is different at different distances from it, the force is different which causes the tides.”
    “This difference shows that the far side of Earth does not feel as much of a pull from the moon… They are stronger on the far side of Earth and weaker on the near side.”

    Your forces would be true even if the moon rotated around the CENTER of the Earth. This is NOT the cause of double tides.

    You don’t even understand why your model is wrong. That is my point about academic rhetoric and why people have lost faith in academic judgement and explanations. It just repeats what it has been told without any understanding. Sound familiar?

    Comment by Mick — September 7, 2009 @ 5:06 am | Reply

  18. The real scientific method is:

    1. Decide what the government (or university surrogate thereof) wants to hear.

    2. Find out which state power-reinforcing idea they will pay the most to hear.

    3. Provide numbers that back up the money-changers desires.

    4. Don’t worry about peer review since your peers work for the same people.

    Comment by Daniel Miller — September 9, 2009 @ 8:53 pm | Reply

  19. Daniel that’s just silly. Science that operates that way would be so crippled as to be a disaster. We have a great example of science run that way: Lysenkoism. That you’re using a computer to post your silly straw man indicates science most certainly doesn’t operate that way.

    Comment by karl — September 10, 2009 @ 3:50 am | Reply

  20. “Science that operates that way would be so crippled as to be a disaster.”

    Who would define it as ‘a disaster’ if so many were benefitting?

    Comment by Mick — September 10, 2009 @ 4:28 am | Reply

  21. Mick – I just got feedback on my website from someone else who had the very incorrect idea of why we have tides. I finally took the 30 seconds to search for other references and found two — Misconceptions About Tides and Tides and centrifugal force. Both explain why the “centrifugal force” idea is wrong, beyond the simple thought experiments that it does not explain tides from the sun being 45% as strong as lunar ones, or tides on moons such as Io and Europa.

    Comment by astrostu206265 — October 4, 2009 @ 10:05 am | Reply

  22. These are all quotes

    “The picture and text below are from the NOAA-NOS website. Your tax dollars at work to propagate misconceptions.”

    “13. A textbook says “Tides are caused by the moon pulling on the ocean waters more strongly on the side nearest to the moon.” If this were so, one would assume the catastrophe illustrated in the cartoon below. Why doesn’t this happen?”

    “Tides are caused by a gradient of forces – in other words, because the gravitational pull from the moon is different at different distances from it, the force is different which causes the tides.

    This is shown by the gray arrows, representing the relative strength of the moon’s pull on Earth on the moon-facing side, the center, and the side facing away from the moon. This difference shows that the far side of Earth does not feel as much of a pull from the moon. The green arrows pointing away from the moon represent the force outward. Their strength is opposite to that of the moon in direction. They are stronger on the far side of Earth and weaker on the near side.”

    The last is your site explanation.

    Do you see my general point. Why can you not trust textbooks and experts. As you point out this is an assinine question but look at the rubbish that textbooks say, including your own site. I know the answer to the tides problem but look how many ‘experts’ don’t…. but think they do even NOAA. This can be repeated for alsmost every scientific point of ‘fact’. It’s all a mess.

    Comment by Mick — October 5, 2009 @ 4:47 am | Reply

  23. ||This can be repeated for alsmost every scientific point of ‘fact’. It’s all a mess.||

    Therefore the earth is 6,000 years old and 2012 the poles are going to shift. Right?

    Comment by mindmetoo — October 5, 2009 @ 5:39 am | Reply

  24. Mick, you are once again shifting your position. You claimed something. It was wrong. I have pointed that out. Now that I have done so, you’ve moved on to something else, shifting the goal post and now claiming that you can’t trust textbooks nor authority figures, when the discussion was about the scientific method that you derailed to tides. Most rational people know that there is a problem with the textbook industry in America, which is rife with plagiarism, lack of corrections from one edition to the next, and something that sacrifices political correctness for accuracy and detail. That is a separate issue from how science works. Stick to the topic or start your own blog.

    Comment by astrostu206265 — October 5, 2009 @ 9:17 am | Reply

  25. ||The second question was to show that the bible is probably (possibly) documenting an unstable magnetic field (creation and then again with Noah, which scientists are now suspecting and finding increasing evidence for.||

    Mick, scientists are woefully wrong on so many things and yet you trust they are correct in their findings regarding an unstable magnetic field? What is your objective method for determining when scientists are lying scoundrels cranking out lies/error for the sake of funding and when they’re doing honest scientific work? (Other than anything that agrees with your religious beliefs is honest science and anything that challenges it must be the work of scoundrels.)

    Comment by mindmetoo — October 5, 2009 @ 9:38 am | Reply

  26. Astrostu

    Stick with me for a bit I am not just rambling for the sake of it.
    I have devised a thought experiment which will show your tides explanation (and that of your web reference) is wrong. Take a completely dry smooth Earth with a moon. SLOWLY add water and ‘see’ how it distributes. Draw the distribution for 10% coverage 40%, 60% and 99%. Notice what you get and what you don’t get. After you have realised this I will explain where I am going with this

    Comment by Mick — October 6, 2009 @ 3:49 am | Reply

  27. Mindmetoo Hi
    When Astrostu comes back with his reply you will see why I am adressing ‘scientific’ thinking. I assure you I don’t have the religious beliefs that you think I do. I am just a scientist.

    Comment by Mick — October 6, 2009 @ 3:55 am | Reply

  28. When he responds? If he responds.

    Being you’re a scientist, professor, and all, have you published your ground breaking work on tidal theory? If you want to improve the inaccuracies of textbooks, getting your work into the primary peer reviewed literature seems like the most crucial step.

    Comment by mindmetoo — October 6, 2009 @ 5:29 am | Reply

  29. Mindmetoo

    It’s not ground breaking tidal work. Its common knowledge (well obviously not as common as I thought). The tidal theory that Astrostu and his ‘supporting reference’ are advocating is a common misconception. Astrostu’s reference site’s dismissal of NOAA’s explanation of tides is ironic as the NOAA explanation is the correct one
    http://www.co-ops.nos.noaa.gov/restles3.html. and Astrostu’s site and reference site is incorrect.
    If you look at the sites and do the mental expt. I gave you should work out which is correct and so should Astrostu.

    The point of this is that even ‘scientists’ are taken in by convicing arguements even when they are incorrect. The question is …. How is anyone supposed to tell the difference between a convincing arguement (which is wrong) and a correct arguement? Astrostu clearly cannot (or will he?). So why should anyone trust any of the other analysis given. His flow charts are 1) Faith based i.e. unconvinced by any arguements or evidence = Dogma(and pointless discussing anything with them) b)Scientific methods i.e. can be taken in by convincing arguements but cannot see (or refuse to admit) when they are wrong.

    If anyone goes for Dogma because science is tricky is a hopeless case BUB if scientists cannot work out or recognise when they have been taken in by false arguements and convicing evidence then they too are hopeless cases. or scoundrels as you put it. There is useful scientific knowledge out there (like the mag field evidence) but without careful analysis we just end up with flawed scientific opinion or Dogma.

    You would be bored with my papers they are all high speed rotation and pattern recognition YAWN.

    Comment by Mick — October 7, 2009 @ 6:21 am | Reply

  30. ||How is anyone supposed to tell the difference between a convincing arguement (which is wrong) and a correct arguement? Astrostu clearly cannot (or will he?). So why should anyone trust any of the other analysis given.||

    Therefore the earth is 6,000 year old and 2012 is going to wipe out humanity. Got it.

    Comment by mindmetoo — October 7, 2009 @ 6:32 am | Reply

  31. No. BUT the Creationist arguement will just argue that, whatever evidence scientists find, God made it that way 6000 years ago. This is an impossible arguement to refute. Some people just will not change their mind or admit absurdity. Even with simple tide theory.

    As far as 2012 wiping out humanity goes.. I don’t know, I am a scientist and there is not enough data to support either arguement. But there is mag field evidence which is worth looking at. What’s interesting is that if you were intelligent and wanted to point to a specific date 9000 years into the future (for a future civilisation) but you knew that that civilisation would not have your calendar (BC AD) OR your numbering system, just astronomy how would you do that?

    Please Try to make more intelligent comments than:-
    “Therefore the earth is 6,000 year old and 2012 is going to wipe out humanity. Got it.”

    It just makes you sound inane.

    Comment by Mick — October 8, 2009 @ 4:26 am | Reply

  32. Mick

    You are labouring under a misconception. You are in an English Univeristy right? American PhD students are not as in the UK, there are thousands of them. You should consider them more as degree level in the UK. I have read your tidal references and yes the NASA site is correct. However you will not get Astrostu or Mindmetoo to understand the importance of this in terms of their ability of citical analysis and arguement. This is why comments like “so the Earth is 6000 years old” are made. They are just thinking about scientists versus creationists not bad science versus good science. It is a political thing in the States particularly that area.

    Think of American education more of a programming process rather than the UK mental development process.

    Comment by Sally — October 8, 2009 @ 4:38 am | Reply

  33. ||Please Try to make more intelligent comments than:-
    “Therefore the earth is 6,000 year old and 2012 is going to wipe out humanity. Got it.”

    It just makes you sound inane.||

    You might also want to take your own advice there, Mitch.

    Comment by mindmetoo — October 8, 2009 @ 5:17 am | Reply

  34. PLEASE say something intelligent.

    Comment by Mick — October 8, 2009 @ 6:04 am | Reply

  35. Mick

    They are doctoring this site. It is not what it appears. I have posted comments that have been deleted.

    Comment by Sally — October 8, 2009 @ 6:13 am | Reply

    • I am offended by this accusation. I have not deleted any of your replies, as before today you have never made one. You might be thinking of the comment you made 90 minutes before this one that was awaiting moderation. Any new poster will not be automatically approved. And you made it at 4:38AM my time.

      Comment by astrostu206265 — October 8, 2009 @ 8:23 am | Reply

  36. You first, Mitch.

    We could go ’round ‘n’ ’round with this school yard stuff, if you like. Or you could explain why the links Stu has provided are incorrect. Take ’em down point by point.

    Comment by mindmetoo — October 8, 2009 @ 6:15 am | Reply

    • Mindmetoo

      If you read the reference Astrostu gives (Misconceptions About Tides) (see posting 21) it agrees with his own text (see posting 14) i.e and I quote from his reference.

      “These pictures, and their accompanying discussions, would lead a student to think that tides are somehow dependent on the rotation of the earth-moon system, and that this rotation is the “cause” of the tides. We shall argue that the “tidal bulges” which are the focus of attention in many textbooks, are in fact not due to rotation, but are simply due to the gravitational field of the moon, and the fact that this field has varying direction and strength over the volume of the earth.”

      I cannot print diags here but see the diag. titled in that ref

      “Tidal forces, from Barger and Olsson [1973].
      The relative sizes of forces are exaggerated,
      but the directions are correct.”

      In the reference text. It erroneously shows a variation of moons gravity over the Earths surface as the cause of two tides, as does Astrostu’s own site. (see posting 14)

      Further down (just word search) this ref it says

      “11. The picture and text below are from the NOAA-NOS website. Your tax dollars at work to propagate misconceptions.”

      The NOAA website (which I have given the ref for) he refs is in fact correct.

      If you do (and I say again) the mental experiment “Take a completely dry smooth Earth with a moon. (nothing rotating) and SLOWLY add water and ’see’ how it distributes. Draw the distribution for 10% coverage 40%, 60% and 99%. Notice what you get and what you don’t get.”

      you will see why NOAA are correct and Astrostu’s web site and references are incorrect.

      Can you reply to this substantive arguement.

      Comment by Mick — October 9, 2009 @ 4:20 am | Reply

  37. ||However you will not get Astrostu or Mindmetoo to understand the importance of this in terms of their ability of citical analysis and arguement. This is why comments like “so the Earth is 6000 years old” are made. They are just thinking about scientists versus creationists not bad science versus good science. It is a political thing in the States particularly that area.||

    That makes two things you’re wrong about, Sally. Yes, text books don’t always get it right. Scientists are wrong. The blog post is about the difference between science and religion. Science revises and corrects. Religion doesn’t. Mitch would like to claim instances when science is wrong and doesn’t revise. And then generalize that this is the way science operates. This is the point of my “so the Earth is 6000 years old” quip.

    Comment by mindmetoo — October 8, 2009 @ 8:50 am | Reply

    • Mindmetoo

      You are missing (I think it is Mick’s) point. False science can creep in in anywhere. Even Creationist are using spurious science to ‘prove’ the Earth is young or evolution is ‘impossible’, they don’t argue ‘we are dogmatic’. Why Mick keeps going on about tides is as an example that scientists can make the same mistake and are doing so all the time. He is not “claim(ing) instances when science is wrong and doesn’t revise. And then generalises that this is the way science operates” He is trying to point out that without guarding against ‘convincing’ arguements and evidence and just following the ‘science method’ flow chart that science will unwittingly stick to spurious arguements. He is showing that this is exactly what Astrostu and all his references are doing. I don’t think Mick thinks the world is 6000 years old but without REAL evidence and CORRECT arguement, we might just as well think so for progress we will have made.

      (excuse my presumptions in this Mick)

      Comment by Sally — October 9, 2009 @ 4:36 am | Reply

  38. Sally, that’s the third time you’ve shown up here in error. I’ve already stated science is not perfect and errors happen. (You yourself demonstrate you’re not incapable of error, thinking Stu was censoring your words.) Your error THIS time is thinking I’ve missed Mitch’s point. I am not missing that point. Thanks for rephrasing what I’ve been saying but you’re adding about nothing to the debate. Science does try to guard against such error and it is a process that eventually self corrects. Mitch is merely offering a non sequitur. I’ll repeat again, and hopefully you’ll read it this time, the blog post is about what differentiates science from religion. Science abandons theory all the time based on evidence. Surely it sometimes keeps around a theory over long. But oh well. Humans are humans. Do you not agree that science and religion differ in that key and important aspect?

    And let’s let Mitch speak for himself regarding what he thinks is the most likely age of the earth. Mitch? Care to put your nickel down?

    Comment by mindmetoo — October 9, 2009 @ 5:42 am | Reply

    • I will, but one step at a time. Please see comment 39. Until you reply to that I cannot see the justification for your case.

      Comment by Mick — October 10, 2009 @ 5:07 am | Reply

    • Mindmetoo

      Mick is pointing out that a lot of people who CLAIM to be scientific thinkers are actually ignorant of scientific facts and are just as opinionated and dogmatic as religions but are not humble or intelligent enough to know it or to change their mind when proved wrong. Knowledge is just opinion unless it is truely understood. He is pointing out that you are charletons and do not deserve the right to say what true scientists do. Go and get a REAL education!

      Comment by Sally — October 26, 2009 @ 6:45 am | Reply

  39. Mindmetoo

    I replied to your request in your comment 36 to explain why Astrostu’s tide theory and that of his references are incorrect (again). It would support your case for the existence of ‘scientific methods’ if you applied them to this example. You know the one where evidence overturns existing theories.

    Comment by Mick — October 10, 2009 @ 4:45 am | Reply

  40. Well no defence then!

    OK Here is some information for free (listen in creationists) The days before the fall (don’t ask) are equivalent to a thousand years (it says in the bible). So seven days of creation = seven thousand years. Add the six thousand years of generations (7000+6000) = 13,000 years. SO? Well the ‘creation’ story is the story of the world recovering from the chaos of the Youngers Dryas catastrophe(clovis extinction) event 13000 BC. Below that archeological black line expect to find fossils millions of years old.

    Astrostu- Now you can explain to the Creationists that the bible says the scientists are correct. Give them a break, it was a simple mathematical error and they are only human.

    Comment by Mick — October 14, 2009 @ 4:55 am | Reply

  41. Sorry thats 13000 BP

    Comment by Mick — October 14, 2009 @ 4:56 am | Reply

  42. So the phrase “scientifically proven” is an oxymoron?

    Comment by mel — November 20, 2012 @ 10:00 pm | Reply

    • I would say, in the strictest sense, that the phrase “scientifically proven” is probably an oxymoron because you cannot technically “prove” something in science. You can develop a model that explains things to the best of our measurement ability, but that’s still a model (and, at that point, a theory as opposed to a hypothesis) and not “Truth” nor “Fact” with capital letters.

      Comment by Stuart Robbins — November 20, 2012 @ 10:26 pm | Reply


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