Category Archives: Science

Quora Answers 9/7/20: The Kalam Cosmological “Argument”

Today I am answering the following Quora question on the Kalam Cosmological Argument:

Is there a flaw in the Kalam cosmological argument?

My Answer

I assume you mean the form of the argument made popular by William Lane Craig. Which takes this essential form:

  1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
  2. The universe began to exist.
  3. Therefore, the universe has a cause
  4. Therefore God must have created it.

Let me show why this does not work.

  1. Yes, whatever begins to exist generally does have a cause. Which is to say that it did not always exist and did not come about by magic.

    However, the universe is not a thing. The concept of the universe refers to the totality of everything that exists. Regardless of what exists, we can lump everything that exists under the concept “universe”.

    But does the universe have a cause? Well, yes the concept of the universe has a cause. The need to refer to the totality of existence.

    But does existence have a cause? No, it does not. Existence has always existed. No matter how far “back in time” you go, you will always find that something has existed.

    There is no alternative to existence. There is no point at which nothing existed. And if there was, there would be nothing to cause existence to come into being.

    Therefore since existence has always existed and there is nothing that could cause the universe to come into existence, existence cannot have a cause.
  2. Since the universe refers to everything in existence, for the universe to have a cause, existence would have to have a cause. But we have shown that existence has no cause.
  3. Therefore since the existence has no cause, the universe has no cause.

I could go on and point out the Kalam Cosmological Argument has many flaws.

Firstly, the first premise applies to God. If God exists, then God must have a cause. According to Christians, God began to exist therefore god had to have a cause.

So what caused God? And if something caused God, then that thing must have existed and something must have caused that to exist.

And so on you, have an infinite series of creators that must have created each other.

Why does God get to be an uncaused entity? Logically he could not be. And if something created God, is that creator more powerful than God. If so, then that more powerful entity must be created by a yet more powerful entity.

So you have an infinite series of increasingly more powerful God-creating Creator gods.

Which is clearly logically absurd.

God, Kalam Cosmological argument
Hey God, who created you? And who created that God? Or do you get to be an arbitrary exception. If only there was a name for that logical fallacy…

It also greatly diminishes the importance of God as the ultimate creator. Since he is merely the last in the line of an endless line of more powerful creator Gods.

Which means that God cannot be omnipotent. Why? Because there is now a long series of entities far more powerful than God is.

That or all the other gods are just as powerful and God is part of an endless series of gods of equal power than created each other. It is Gods all the way down.

Which rather diminishes the uniqueness of God.

Or, God gets to be the exception to logic and was able to magically create himself.

The Kalam Cosmological Argument is of course an example of the special pleading fallacy.

What is the special pleading fallacy? That is when you establish a principle such as “everything must have a cause” and then make arbitrary exceptions to that principle for no reason.

In other words, you make a claim and then make exceptions to it for no reason. Everything is meant to adhere to the principle except for the things which you make exceptions for.

This creates a double standard where your opponents are expected to adhere to your principles but you get to make exceptions without providing any reason for why your exceptions are valid.

If we are allowed to make God immune to logic, why bother with logic at all? Why not just assume that the universe is magic?

Or, more logically, that the Kalam Cosmological argument is invalid.

But of course, the fact that this is entirely illogical is not going to bother Creationists such as Craig. Since they are perfectly willing to use logic as long as does not apply to God or anything in the Bible.

Which is why it is pointless to argue with them. As they will never listen to logic or reason when it clashes with what they have accepted on faith. For no reason and against all reason.

It is therefore rather pointless to point any of this out to them. As once you have closed your mind to logic and reason, you have closed your mind to reality. And such people cannot be reasoned with. It would be rather a waste of time to try….

Bible firmament

Biblical Absurdities: Is the Bible At Odds With Science?

Introduction

Is the Bible at odds with science? Let us take a look at some of the claims of this book, shall we?

We shall not go in any particular order, but pluck out things as I think of them.

I will not pick on easy things, such as the fact that the Bible asserts that God made the Earth in a few days. Even though we know that the Earth formed over millions of years.

Nor will I focus on the fact that the Earth is not, as the Bible seems to think, a flat circle.

I will not discuss the dome that the Bible asserts is above the Earth which keeps the waters in space from falling onto Earth.

Nor will I go into how Noah could not have gathered two animals of every “kind” onto the Ark.

Nor will I go into the fact that that the Biblical notion of “kind” is completely unscientific nonsense. He did not even have enough room on his Ark!

No, there are many claims the Bible makes about the world or how it works that I will not go into. But what am I going to go into?

I will focus on somewhat less obvious or less well-known ways in which the Bible is wrong.

Bible firmament
So, I guess I will not talk about the dome the Bible claims is over the Earth. But I will show it….

Our List of Blunders

Let us start with what the Bible thinks about insects…

The Bible Thinks Insects Have Four Legs

Here is one of the things the Bible has to say about insects:

All flying insects that walk on all fours are to be detestable to you. There are, however, some winged creatures that walk on all fours that you may eat: those that have jointed legs for hopping on the ground. Of these you may eat any kind of locust, katydid, cricket or grasshopper. But all other winged creatures that have four legs you are to detest.

Leviticus 11:20–23

Insects have six legs, not four. Therefore there are not any four-legged flying insects. Unless the Bible s, for some reason, concerned about insects that have lost two legs.

Surely the Bible authors noticed that insects have six legs?

Well, they noticed they had six limbs. But they did not count two of the limbs as legs. Why? Because at least for the insects described here, they did not consider the two hind legs as walking legs but leaping legs.

But all the same, insects all have six legs. So it is wrong to say that they are four-legged creatures.

The Bible Does Not Know Anything About the Mustard Seed

Let us see which seed the Bible considers to be the smallest seed.

Another parable put he [Jesus] forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.

Matthew 13:31;32

The mustard seed is not the smallest seed. Jesus might not have known that. But I suspect farmers and the like might have known that.

The mustard seed does not grow into a tree either. The mustard plant is clearly not a tree and looks nothing like a tree.

It might have been classified by some as a tree back then because it grew relatively tall. But that is not a scientifically valid reason to classify something as a tree.

The Bible Thinks Pi is 3

Let us turn to the Bible describing a cauldron and see if we can figure out if the all-knowing God knows the correct value of pi.

Also, he made a molten sea [cauldron] of ten cubits from brim to brim, round in compass, and five cubits the height thereof; and a line of thirty cubits did compass it round about.

Kings 7:23-24

The more mathematically astute among you may have already seen the problem. Let me point it out.

Pi is a circle’s circumference divided by its diameter.

The circumference of a circle equals pi times the diameter.

Pi = Circumference divided by diameter.

Now, let us look at what the Bible says. It says that the cauldron is 30 cubits around. So, if we consider the circumference of the circle formed by the rim of the cauldron, it says this circle is 30 cubits around.

It also says that the cauldron is 10 cubits from one brim to the other. So, the diameter of the rim is 10 cubits.

Therefore, according to the Bible:

 Pi = C/d or 30/10 = 3.

But we know that pi is not equal to three. It is about 3.14 and the decimal digits go on indefinitely.

It certainly is not equal to three!

The Bible Thinks the Moon is a Light

Let us see what the Bible says about the Moon, shall we?

And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars.

Genesis 1:16

This seems to be talking about the Moon. The greater light would be the Sun and the “lesser light” seems to be the Moon.

But there is one big problem with this. The Moon is not a light, it gives off no light of its own. It is a big bunch of rock. People only think it is light because it reflects the light of the Sun.

So the Bible does not even know what the Moon is. Nor that it has no means of giving off any light of its own!

Quora Answers 8/7/2015: Random Events and Causality

Why do you believe that random things do not follow cause and effect?

Let us think about this a little more, shall we?

What do you think it means for something to be random?

Let us take the roll of a die. What do we mean when we say that the outcome is random?

Do we mean that the die does not follow cause and effect? No, of course not. At least, not if we are being rational.

We know that if we roll the die, that cause and effect is in play. The die does not move around according to some magical forces. It moves around due to a complicated chain of interactions with the air, the surface it is being rolled across and so forth.

We do not say that the die lands on, say, six, for no reason. No, there is a cause for it showing a six. But the series of events that caused that to happen is a complicated one and we have no way to predict the outcome.

Or, let us suppose that we are an insurer. We have no way to predict if a particular client is going to have a car accident. We acknowledge that if a customer does experience a car crash, there is a reason. There is some chain of cause and effect.

We know that the car crash has a cause. There was one or more event that logically led to the car crash.

Maybe the driver was distracted and he did not see the car coming towards him. Or maybe his brakes failed or whatever. But there is some causal link between one or more event and the car crash.

As an insurer, we do not know what will cause these car crashes in advance. But we can estimate how often on average our customers may crash their car. We may figure that, say, 1/100 customers will experience a car crash.

If we know a bit more about particular crashes, such as their past driving history, we may be able to estimate that that particular customer may have a 5/100 chance of having a car crash at some point.

What does this have to do with random events? Notice that when rolling the die or trying to estimate how often people crash cars, we are trying to estimate how often to expect certain results.

dice, random
Unpredictable little things, but they are not magic..

We have situations where it is hard to predict the results, but we do have mathematical methods of estimating how common certain outcomes might be.

When we say that something is random, we are saying that “We are unable to predict with certainty what outcome to expect. But we know it will be one of these known possible outcomes”.

In other words, randomness is an epistemological issue. Randomness simply indicates that are unable to be certain what the results are and can only guess what the outcomes might be and possibly how frequent certain outcomes might be.

But our inability to predict outcomes does not mean that there is no causality. Just because we cannot predict outcomes does not mean causality does not apply.

Something is random when we have no means of predicting the outcome with any certainty.

Now, in the statistical sense, something is random when we cannot predict out outcomes but we know that every possible outcome has an equal chance of occurring.

But we know that something is going to happen. But how does it happen? Is there any cause and effect? Yes. Just because we cannot predict what will happen does not mean that cause and effect does not apply.

Whatever outcome does occur is because something happens and the nature of the relevant entities means that that outcome had to happen. That is, cause and effect.

That is what causality refers to. That if these entities do this, then the natures of the entities mean that this other thing must happen. There is no alternative, the nature of the entities involved requires that outcome. There was no alternative.

Our inability to know what the outcome is in advance is not an argument against cause and effect.

This applies in the quantum world. There are no truly random events. Everything that happens in the quantum world is because that outcome is what had to happen when the quantum entities do whatever they are doing, there was no alternative.

Take two particles that interact and particle A causes particle B to fire off at that angle. That is what had to happen due to the nature of the two particles.

There is no sense in which there was another possible result.

What about the fact that in quantum mechanics things can lack definite properties?

That has never been established and never will be. To exist is to exist as an entity with a specific nature, there is no alternative. Nothing that exists has an undetermined nature or a contradictory nature.

Therefore this does not provide a rational objection to causality. Everything that exists has a specific nature and will do a certain thing under certain conditions. What it will do will depend on its specific nature.

There is no way around this. Everything will do what its nature requires it do and nothing else.

The fact that we cannot always predict what it will do is not an argument that it will not do that thing. It just means we can only guess what it will do and we should try to use probability to predict how often certain outcomes might occur.

You can find out more about that here.

You can check out the Quora question and some of the other answers here.

Statistical Fallacy List, Part Two

If you have worked with data, then I bet you have been guilty of one or more of some kind of statistical fallacy at some point. I know I have!

In this series, we will be looking at fallacies that often come up when analysing data or, allegedly, academic sources.

This is part two. You can find part one here.

Simpson’s Paradox

A paradox? How is this a fallacy? I thought that we were talking about fallacies?

We are, but we must introduce this paradox first.

Simpson’s Paradox is a phenomenon where a trend appears in different groups of data but vanishes or reverses when those groups are combined.

The classic example of this is a study performed in Berkley University in the 1970s over the following data.

Note that the last row shows the total application success rates for both genders. If you look at this data alone, it might seem to suggest that the application success rate for men is higher than that of women.

This led to Berkeley being accused of sexism. But is it as simple as this suggests?

If we look at the data, we notice that 1,800 women applied for subject A. Only 168 men applied for that same subject.

Of those 1,800 women that applied for subject A, 15% of them were approved. While 14% of the men that applied for subject A were approved.

This is a slightly better result for women. When it comes to applications for subject A it seems that Berkeley was not being sexist.

Let us look at subject B now. For this subject, 50% of men that applied were approved and 51% of women were approved. Again, this is a slightly better result for women and it is hard to argue that Berkeley was sexist.

How then, to explain the fact that women seemed to have a lower overall success rate?

Let us consider that subject A seems to have a lower approval rate for both genders. It seems Subject A is a competitive subject with very low approval rates for both genders.

Now, out of 2,000 applications for women, 1800 of those were to subject A but only 270 of these were approved. That is, 13% of these applications were applications for subject A.

For men, out of 2,000 applications for men, 1200 of these were to subject A but only 168 of those were approved. That is, 8.4% of these applications were applications for subject A.

Note that 1800 out of 2,000 applications made by women were for subject A. That is 90% of applications. Whereas for men, only 60% of those applications were for subject A.

A significantly higher proportion of women were applying for subject A, the subject with a much lower approval rating. And most of those applications were going to be rejected.

So, it stands to reason that a higher number of women would have their applications rejected.

math
Maybe subject A was a hard class like advanced math of physics??

So, far from Berkeley being sexist, the real reason women had a lower application success rate is that they tended to make more applications to subjects with a lower application success rate.

Let us see what happened here. If we look at the data for subject A and B, we see that men and women have about the same chance of being rejected for each subject. With subject A having a much higher chance of rejection for both genders.

But if you combine the subject rejection rates for the genders, you get a 28% rejection rating for men and 19% for women.

This seems to suggest that women are rejected more often than men, even before you did this, this trend did not show itself.

This is Simpson’s Paradox at play. It is the statistical phenomenon where trends disappear or reverse when you combine data.

In this case, women had a slight advantage in application rates if you do not account for the proportions of women applying for subject A and add the acceptance rates per subject together for each gender.

If you do this, the trend reverses and women have a lower application success rate!

The fallacy would be failing to recognize why the trend seems to reverse and assigning some erroneous cause.

The reason we observe the lower application success rate for women is not sexism, but the fact that a higher proportion of women are applying for a more difficult subject.

When you see Simpson’s Paradox you should study the data and try to identify the cause for this paradoxical disappearance or reversal of trends. Not simply assume some erroneous cause.

Try to avoid the fallacy of misinterpreting trends in the data.

headache
Yes, it can be hard to see the patterns in data.

Let us take one more example before we move on.

Suppose we have two baseball players, Joe and Martin. During the years 2019 and 2020 we have the following data:

Note that in both 2019 and 2020, Martin had higher batting averages. However, when you combine these years, Joe has a higher batting average.

What gives? This is caused by the fact that Joe had a lower batting average for both of these years but a lot more time at-bat, meaning that when you combine the data he has a slightly higher batting average.

You could assume that the data was rigged or that maybe Martin was a better batter after all. But that would be a fallacy.

The real cause of the fact that the combined totals being better for Joe is more to do with the fact he spent more time at-bat.

If you see trends vanish or reverse when data is combined, always look more carefully at the data and see why this might be the case. You are likely to find that there is a perfectly logical reason this happens that has more to do with the data than anything else you might erroneously assume.

Post-Reality Physics: Evidence, Who Needs It?

Today we are going to examine this article on the physics of string theory, “Philosophers Want to Know Why Physicists Believe Theories They Can’t Prove”.

As we discussed in one of our earlier articles, “Physicists vs Reality”, it starts in a rather refreshing way:

It’s often assumed that physics and philosophy are at opposite ends of the academic spectrum. In fact, they’re close—so close that they can overlap…”

Interesting, it is not that often you get to see people admitting that philosophy might be of any relevance at all to physics. Not a lot of physicists would admit this.

I suppose that it should not too be too surprising that philosophers might know better. And even less surprising that a philosopher of science might think this.

We will be hearing from one such, Richard Dawid, in this article.

Here is something he has to say:

The criteria for establishing a theory, he discovered, is not in itself subject to scientific enquiry. “They’re considered background assumptions,” says Dawid. “It’s a question that’s driven by physics but it’s a philosophical question.”

There are criteria for establishing a theory. At least there is if you want to do it rationally.

First, your theory should have a rational foundation. It should start with known facts, be it direct observational results. Or with something else we know to be true based on observation. Then we attempt to build up from there.

One should study the facts of reality and identify some implications of those facts. One should then focus in on one or more implications of reality and attempt to see what new facts one might be able to identify.

These form the basis of one’s hypothesis, some proposed fact of reality one wants to prove to be true. One then needs to validate this in some way.

In the physical sciences, this involves experimentation. One needs to perform experiments that validate that hypothesis and then show that it is indeed true.

In more abstract subjects, such as mathematics, one might need to perform a mathematical proof, based on logic. Such proof shows that given some established premise, that a given conclusion is true or false.

Of course, math proofs can be very hard and abstract. But they are not totally disconnected from reality …

In any case, one needs some valid way to prove their hypothesis and show that they have indeed identified some fact of reality.

So, yes, there are criteria for establishing a theory. And the philosophy of science helps establish what these criteria are.

And guess what Mr Dawid, philosophy is a science.

To quote Ayn Rand:

Philosophy is the science that studies the fundamental aspects of the nature of existence. The task of philosophy is to provide man with a comprehensive view of life. This view serves as a base, a frame of reference, for all his actions, mental or physical, psychological or existential. This view tells him the nature of the universe with which he has to deal (metaphysics); the means by which he is to deal with it, i.e., the means of acquiring knowledge (epistemology) …

Ayn Rand, “The Chickens’ Homecoming”, Return of the Primitive: The Anti-Industrial Revolution, 45

That is right, philosophy includes metaphysics, that is, our view of the fundamental view of existence. Which, ideally, one would approach scientifically.

It also includes epistemology, the science of how one goes about gaining knowledge. And this would include how we would go about performing science. Which, again, ideally, we would approach scientifically.

Despite what many philosophers might believe, philosophy is not a bunch of subjective thoughts where one argues whatever one wants.

At least, it does not have to be approached this way.

Ayn Rand, the great rational and founder of the philosophy of Objectivism.

To the contrary! Ayn Rand shows that philosophy can and should be approached as a systematic study of reality, of mankind’s nature and his relationship to the world around him. It should start with observation and work its way up from that.

Observation is something that scientists themselves often implicitly dismiss. What with Kant trying to argue that we cannot trust our senses and a lot of philosophers agreeing with him.

So, it is little wonder many of them can find no basis for their philosophical ranting.

[M]any serious physicists seem to have abandoned this model. String theory, for example, is one of the most exciting ideas in modern physics. But it’s not testable—so how can physicists be confident that it’s sound?

They cannot be. Anyone can come up with any kind of theory that they like. I could come up with a system that tries to explain physics as the product of little meta-puffballs (credit to Leonard Peikoff for this amusing idea or at least one like it).

Let us suppose that it is consistent and that if the universe is made up of meta-puffballs, that this would explain everything we see in physics. Does this make the theory true? Does this make this a good theory or good physics?

No, it does not. A theory is not true simply because it is self-consistent. It is not true because it might explain how things work.

What if meta-puffballs do not exist? Or if they have no bearing to anything we can observe? What if the theory does not explain anything?

We need to test theories against the facts of reality. And not simply come up with a purely mathematical hypothesis that may or may not describe the nature of real objects.

We do not want these hypotheses to fail to describe the interactions of real entities.

There is a need to verify that our theories describe actual fundamental entities and their actions. And not a simply self-consistent mathematical theory that may not describe how reality works!

Not that string theory is internally consistent anyway.

quantum, Schrodinger's Cat

Vodcast Episode Two: Quantum Absurdities, Part One

Play

Today we are going over quantum absurdities and showing how quantum physics is in fact highly absurd. This is part one of a two part series.

Click here to download the PDF transcript or read below the video.

You may also listen to or download an audio only version above.

[Note: Please note that this transcript may not exactly match the audio. However, there should be no significant differences.]

Intro

Metaphysics of Physics is the crucial voice of reason in the philosophy of science, rarely found anywhere else in the world today.

We are equipped with the fundamental principles of a rational philosophy that gives us the edge, may make us misfits in the mainstream sciences but also attracts rational minds.

With this show, we are fighting for a more rational world, mostly by looking through the lens of the philosophy of science.

We raise awareness of issues within the philosophy of science and present alternative and rational approaches.

The irrationality of modern physics is the focus of this channel. We have covered topics such as:

The irrationality of Stephen Hawking. The universe and the Big Bang. The philosophy of Niels Bohr. The achievements of Isaac Newton.Optical illusions and the validity of the senses.

If you think that science is about explaining a knowable reality, then this is the channel for you.

If you want to learn more about the irrationality of modern physics, then you are in the right place.

I am your host Ashna. My husband, Dwayne Davies is the primary content creator and your guide through the hallowed halls of the philosophy of science.

We will discuss the problems in modern physics and more and how we can live in a more rational world!

Check out our website at metaphysicsofphysics.com.

The Show Itself

Hi everyone! Welcome to the second episode of the Metaphysics of Physics video podcast. Today we are going over quantum absurdities and showing how quantum physics is in fact highly absurd.

While this is not an exhaustive list, it covers many of the essential absurdities.

What is the purpose of this? Yes, the mathematics of quantum theory is incredibly useful and impressive. But we want to show that the physical interpretations of quantum mechanics make no sense.

This is part one of a two-part series.

Particle Wave Duality

Quantum physics asserts that particles can be described as both a wave and a particle.

Albert Einstein had this to say about particle-wave duality:

It seems as though we must use sometimes the one theory and sometimes the other, while at times we may use either. We are faced with a new kind of difficulty. We have two contradictory pictures of reality; separately neither of them fully explains the phenomena of light, but together they do.

Albert Einstein

Until the early twentieth century, light was widely considered to be a wave, as demonstrated by Thomas Young.

Thomas Young
Thomas Young

But then Einstein showed that light seemed to have particle behavior! And Planck showed that light seemed to come in discrete packets.

So, was light a particle or a wave? Which was it? Later physicists alleged to show that light sometimes shows particle behavior and sometimes wave behavior.

This led them to conclude that light is somehow both a particle and a wave at the same time. And that it, somehow, sometimes behaves as a wave and sometimes behaves as a particle.

Does this make any sense? Well, of course not.

A wave is an abstract description. It describes the motion of something. It describes various relationships.

Take a sound wave. It is an abstract description of the movement of air that can be mathematically represented as a wave.

Or take a water wave. When we say “wave” in this context, we are describing water arranged in a certain pattern.

The pattern of rise and fall with peaks and troughs.

The concept of a water wave describes the relationship of positions between water molecules that makes this pattern.

In common speech, it is often said that a “water wave” or the like refers to the water molecules. This is the noun form of “wave” that describes something arranged like this (something that is waving).

We are using wave in its verb form, as a description of motion or behavior, or a description of some kind of relationship.

A wave is a behavior that a physical entity does. Water may move in a wave motion. Air molecules move in a wave pattern and we experience this as sound.

A wave is the behavior of physical entities. It is not a form of physical entity.

Saying that light is a wave is saying “Light is the movement or behavior of something”. It does not tell us what it is that is waving.

It is like if I held up a ball and asked what it is and you said “That is a bounce”.

You have told me something that the ball does but not what the ball actually is. Bouncing is what the ball does, it is not what the ball is.

Physics is the science of explaining the nature of the fundamental physical constituents of the universe. You want to explain what those things are and how they interact.

Saying “light is a wave, an abstract description of behavior” does not further that in any way and evades the question of what is doing the waving.

We do not even have to get into the issue that something cannot be a wave and a particle at the same time. Because a wave is a description of behavior while a particle is a description of what something is, its form.

The idea of particle-wave duality reifies an abstraction and attempts to reduce physical entities to an abstraction.

It also evades the Law of Identity that says that things are what they are. Something is either a particle or not. It is not a particle, a form of matter and also a wave, an abstraction.

Contradictions do not exist. If you think you see a contradiction in reality then check your premises, because one or more of them are wrong.

quantum, Schrodinger's Cat
That means no dead and alive zombie cats…

Indeterminacy

It is said that until they are observed, particles do not have a definite state. Instead, they exist in a state of “superposition”.

That is, they exist in multiple different, mutually exclusive states all at once. And then when an observation takes place, they take on definite values for their properties.

A property is merely an aspect of somethings existence. But any property of any particle can only exist in one state at a time. That particle’s property can only take one value at a time.

That is just another way of saying something is what it is and that it has a nature and its properties are determined by its nature. Its properties are simply an aspect of its nature and cannot be any different than what they are.

This implies that properties must have single, definite values, as determined by the nature of the entities in question.

Saying that particles exist in a superposition of states is equivalent to saying that those properties have no values and do not exist.

It is denying that a particle is what it is and instead treats it as some kind of Platonic combination of possibilities.

This reifies the idea that a particle can have different possible states and pretends that these possible states are all somehow real, independent of the particle and its nature.

Biblical Absurdities: Animal “Kinds” – Follow Up.

This is a follow up to this article on the absurdities of Biblical “kinds”. We are presenting some objections to it given on the Metaphysics of Physics Facebook page.

This is a heavily edited version of that exchange where I expand upon the brief arguments I made in the original thread.

I am not going to name the person I am quoting. Here, I am going to call him Antagonist.

What was Antagonist attempting to argue? Essentially, that it is obvious what the Bible meant by the anti-concept of “kinds”. We shall see that is not the case.

Let us get started with his objections.

Isn’t “kind” just another word for “species”?

Antagonist

What gives you that idea? How could it be? The authors of the Bible had no idea of the concept of species as used today.

Until 1686, the term “species” was simply used as a term for a kind of organism. That is, it had little more meaning that used in the Bible.

In 1686, John Ray introduced the biological concept of species as distinguished by always producing members of the same species.

Carolus Linnaeus then formalized the taxonomic rank of species.

So, again, how could the authors of the Bible have the modern concept of species in mind? They did not know about that concept when the Old Testament was compiled over 2,500 years ago!

If it were a known concept back then, why would the Creationists not point this out, instead of refusing to define the term?

They would not talk about their “cat” kinds or “bear” kinds, since “cat” and “bear” kinds are not species.

If by “kind” the Bible meant species, then why does it talk about the “fowl” kind?

Of fowls after their kind, and of cattle after their kind, of every creeping thing of the earth after his kind, two of every sort shall come unto thee, to keep them alive.

Bible, King James, Genesis, 1:25

What is the fowl kind? Who knows what a fowl kind is, whatever the authors of the Bible considered fowls to be?

More importantly, is there a “fowl” species? No there is not. There is no single species that we could logically call a fowl.

Instead, in modern taxonomy, “fowl” is a group consisting of two orders, the Galliformes (gamefowl) and Anseriformes (waterfowl). Each consisting of several species.

So, it seems that the “fowl kind” does not correspond to a “fowl” species.

kinds
Whups, looks like these might be two different species of fowl. So, maybe “fowl” is not a species…

Let us go into a deep dive of the King James Bible and find every time it mentions kinds.

Keep in mind that later, our Antagonist is going to assert that perhaps the Bible authors meant family or genus. Let us see if we can find any use of the word kind that implies species, family or genus.

And Noah went forth, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons’ wives with him: Every beast, every creeping thing, and every fowl, and whatsoever creepeth upon the earth, after their kinds, went forth out of the ark.

Genesis, 8-18-8:19

Nothing about species, family or genus here. Just vague descriptions of “kinds” which could mean almost anything.

And it shall come to pass, that the fishers shall stand upon it from Engedi even unto Eneglaim; they shall be a place to spread forth nets; their fish shall be according to their kinds, as the fish of the great sea, exceeding many.

Ezekiel, 47:10

Again, nothing about species of family or any genus of fish.

15:39 All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds.

Corinthians, 15:39

Here we are talking about kinds of flesh. It is not clear this is the same … um … kind of kinds. But there are certainly more than one “kind” of best, fish or birds.

In any case, nothing about the concepts of species, family or genus.

For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.

James, 3:7-3:8

Yet again, no mention of the concept of species, family or genus. What a surprise!

So, how does any of this suggest that by “kind” that the Bible mean species? Or family? Or genus?

Nothing in the Bible indicates this. So, why would we assume this?

Or what we call “family”. Or “genus”. Using a different word for the same concept doesn’t invalidate the concept.

Antagonist

How could it be referring to either the concept of family or genus? Those concepts, as used in modern taxonomy, did not exist back then.

As used today, we can trace the concept to the late 18th century. The first person to use the modern concept of genus was the French biology Joseph Pitton de Tourefort in 1753.

Joseph Pitton de Tourefort, the first person to use the modern concept of “genus”.

So, again, how could the Bible have had these concepts in mind when they were not known to exist then?

So, no this is not a matter of using a different word for the same concept. There is no indication that the Bible is talking about species, family or genus. It gives no indication it is talking about any of these.

Nor did these concepts exist then, as far as we know!

It seems Antagonist is giving the Bible authors credit for taxonomic concepts that were not known to have existed for almost 2,000 years.

I somehow doubt we should attribute a bunch of goat-herders such advanced knowledge.

You say that but give no evidence as to why it couldn’t mean that other than a semantically irrelevant argument.

Antagonist

It is not my place to show that it could not mean that. It is your place to that is what the Bible meant. Which you have failed to do. Which everyone that has ever tried to pin down what the Bible meant has failed to do!

Having said that, I managed to show that what the Bible means is not a species.

Please show me any evidence that the Bible authors meant any such thing.

I’m not saying Creationism is right, I’m saying making a semantical argument and acting incredulous towards a plausible explanation is not an argument.

Antagonist

You have yet to provide me with a plausible explanation. I have pointed out that your “plausible explanations” are not relevant.

You have yet to show that they are plausible explanations for what the Bible meant. Since there is no evidence at all to support that is what was meant.

It is not my place to prove that it does mean that. It is the Creationists place to define what they think the concept of “kind” means. Which they seem unable to do.

Instead, they use the word without giving any definition.

It does not mean species, family or genus. The Bible does not use it in a way consistent with species. Creationists do not use it in a sense consistent with any of these concepts.

Creationists decide things that look or act similar are “the same kind”. And this seems to be how the Bible authors were thinking. But whether they were thinking has nothing to do with “species” or “family” or “genus”.

I’m not saying creationism is right, I’m saying making a semantical argument and acting incredulous towards a plausible explanation is not an argument.

Antagonist

Why are you defending the Bible’s use of the word “kind”? This is a lot like trying to argue with a Creationist. Which is funny because I am reasonable sure that you are not one.

And where is this plausible argument you claim to have presented?

Why don’t they define what they mean by a kind? You would think that if you had a point, you would be able to show this.

You are right though, acting incredulous is not an argument. Good thing I presented arguments then and even better arguments now!

Karl Popper, falsifiability

Thoughts on Falsifiability and Popper

(Editorial: Please note that in this article on falsifiability, I use the phrases “science”, “sciences” and the like. Unless otherwise noted, I am talking about the “empirical” or “physical” sciences such as physics, chemistry and biology.

And not sciences such as mathematics and philosophy.

However, much of the same logic applies to those other sciences as well.

Also, I am not attacking the idea of falsifying a theory as such. I am discussing Popper’s philosophy of how falsification is the essence of science.)

Falsifiability is a problem to a “central problem” in the philosophy of science developed by Karl Popper. Popper was a philosopher of science and closely associated with the influential Vienna Circle.

According to Popper, the central problem in the philosophy of science is demarcation. The problem of demarcation is that of distinguishing between science and non-science.

In Popper’s own words:

The problem of finding a criterion which would enable us to distinguish between the empirical sciences on the one hand, and mathematics and logic as well as ‘metaphysical’ systems on the other, I call the problem of demarcation.

Karl Popper, The Logic of Scientific Discovery

In other words, the problem of demarcation is how to distinguish between science and what Popper considered to be non-scientific. Things such a metaphysics and logic.

Karl Popper proposed falsifiability as the solution to this problem.

It can be summed up as:

[S]tatements or systems of statements, in order to be ranked as scientific, must be capable of conflicting with possible, or conceivable observations.

Hansson, Sven Ove (2008). Zalta, Edward N. (ed.). “Science and Pseudo-Science”. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2008 ed.). 4.2 Falsificationism.

Popper accepted the Humean critique of induction and goes further.

We can briefly sum up Hume’s critique of induction with this quote:

From causes which appear similar we expect similar effects. This is the sum of all our experimental conclusions. Now it seems evident that, if this conclusion were formed by reason, it would be as perfect at first, and upon one instance, as after ever so long a course of experience. But the case is far otherwise. Nothing so like as eggs; yet no one, on account of this appearing similarity, expects the same taste and relish in all of them.

It is only after a long course of uniform experiments in any kind, that we attain a firm reliance and security with regard to a particular event. Now where is that process of reasoning which, from one instance, draws a conclusion, so different from that which it infers from a hundred instances that are nowise different from that single one? This question I propose as much for the sake of information, as with an intention of raising difficulties. I cannot find, I cannot imagine any such reasoning.

David Hume, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, 4. Sceptical doubts concerning the operations of the understanding

Popper agreed with Hume that it is logically impossible to conclusively verify a universal proposition by reference to experience.

After all, in his view, it is easy to say that all swans are white. But you have no way to know this simply by observation.

All it would take, according to Popper, is a single counter-example to falsify the induction.

Of course, it would be baseless to assume that all swans are white and call that a valid induction. Why would we assume that? That is not how valid inductions works…

…The answer to this problem is: as implied by Hume, we certainly are not justified in reasoning from an instance to the truth of the corresponding law. But to this negative result a second result, equally negative, may be added: we are justified in reasoning from a counter-instance to the falsity of the corresponding universal law (that is, of any law of which it is a counter-instance). Or in other words, from a purely logical point of view, the acceptance of one counter-instance to ‘All swans are white’ implies the falsity of the law ‘All swans are white’ – that law, that is, whose counter-instance we accepted. Induction is logically invalid…

Karl Popper, The Logic of Scientific Discovery, Ch. 1 “A Survey of Some Fundamental Problems”, Section I: The Problem of Induction p. 27

He, therefore, rejects the validity of induction and insists that science does not use it. Instead, he argues that science consists of problem-solving.

But, in practice, as we shall see, this consists of producing theoretical bowling pins which you then spend your time trying to knock over.

Popper did not understand the importance of induction.

He seemed to equate induction with making an arbitrary generalization from observation and thus making unsupported universal statements.

It is therefore consistent that Popper insisted that you cannot prove a theory true by showing that it agrees with observation.

If you cannot make inductions in science, then you cannot generalize from experimental observation and form conclusions about the phenomena you are studying.

For instance, suppose you are Newton and you have the hypothesis that there is some force which attracts objects towards one another. How might you prove that this is the case?

You might observe the way Mars moves around the Sun. And the way the Moon moves around the Earth. And induce that they have similar behaviours which can be explained by the same inverse square law.

But, according to Popper science does not work by induction.

So, you are not meant to generalize from observations and form generalizations about instances/things you have not observed.

How then are you meant to show that your hypothesis about attractive forces is valid? If you cannot reason from the observed and generalize from observations to general principles, how do you validate your theories?

Well, this indeed means that you have no way to do so. So, yes, if Popper was right about science not using induction, then it would seem reasonable to believe that science cannot show anything to be true.

Induction is not how science works huh? Tell the classical physicists that then. Because Newton and others were masters of induction …

You can, however, according to Popper, disprove a theory by showing that it contradicts with observation. He believed that you can never prove a theory to be true since you might disprove it tomorrow!

So, if you take all this to its logical conclusion, then according to Popper you can never be sure that any given theory is right.

A conclusion Popper seems to have agreed with:

What we should do, I suggest, is to give up the idea of ultimate sources of knowledge, and admit that all knowledge is human; that it is mixed with our errors, our prejudices, our dreams, and our hopes; that all we can do is to grope for truth even though it be beyond our reach.

Karl, Popper, Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge

Indeed, according to Popper, the quest for any particular nugget of scientific truth is never-ending, further implying we can never hope to find it:

The game of science is, in principle, without end. He who decides one day that scientific statements do not call for any further test, and that they can be regarded as finally verified, retires from the game.

Karl Popper, The Logic of Scientific Discovery, 11 Methodological Rules as Conventions

So much for certainty in science then. Or knowing anything.

If we cannot be certain that a theory is true, then how are we to assess the worth of a theory?

Is Falsifiability the Main Criteria to Assess a Theory?

According to the philosopher of science, Richard Dawe, it certainly is an important one.

“Physicists have long relied on a notion advanced by philosopher Karl Popper, that a theory is scientifically valid if it is falsifiable.”

Richard Dawe, “Philosophers Want to Know Why Physicists Believe Theories They Can’t Prove”

Indeed, it is widely accepted that for a theory to be accepted as true, it must be possible to test the theory and show that the theory is falsifiable.

Generally, I do not consider the issue of falsification to be the essential issue when it comes to testing a theory. And this is not widely considered the central issue, not to the extent Popper advocated.

Let us further explore why I do not think this is the central issue Popper makes it out to be.

Yes, a theory needs to be tested. It should be possible to show that the observable facts of reality are consistent with the theory. One needs to demonstrate that the observable facts lead one inexorably to that theory.

One should try to prove that the theory in question and only that theory is the logical implication of the observable facts of reality.

If the theory is not consistent with the facts, it should be possible to show that the theory is false.

It is important to be able to show that a given theory is false. But if a theory is false, then it would be nice if the experiment was designed so that this could be determined.

Take the Michelson-Morley experiment. This was intended to detect the presence of a luminiferous aether. It was so designed that if there was not one, then the experiment would indicate this.

In other words, this experiment was designed so that the existence of the aether could be falsified.

Generally, the focus of science is not on trying to show a theory to be false. Generally, the point is rigorously making observation and seeing what they imply about the validity of the theory.

bear dog kinds

Biblical Absurdities: Animal “Kinds”.

If you are familiar with the fable of Noah’s Ark, you may recall that the Bible discusses how Noah took two of each kind of animal onto his inadequate Ark. What is all this talk of kinds?

As you would expect, the people that wrote the Old Testament were more than a little lacking when it came to knowledge of taxonomy.

Their knowledge of animals presumably extended to the animals they knew about in their geographic area. As well as, perhaps, some other animals they heard about from those that had travelled to other areas.

They had no way of knowing that there are by some estimates 6.5 million species of land-dwelling animals.

They probably thought that there were only a few hundred, maybe several thousand different species of animals. It seems likely that they had no conception that there might be millions of species of land animals.

So, it is perhaps not surprising that they believed that a giant wooden ark might be able to house two of every species of land animal.

But wait, the Bible does not say species, now does it? No, it does not. It talks of kinds of animals in several places. We will focus on this example of the use of “kinds”:

Of fowls after their kind, and of cattle after their kind, of every creeping thing of the earth after his kind, two of every sort shall come unto thee, to keep them alive.”

Genesis 6:20, King James Version.

What is a kind? Good luck figuring that out. Nobody seems to know. Does that stop the Creationists chiming in? No, of course not.

What do they say a kind is? I do not know what they think a kind is. They do not seem to know themselves.

It would help if we appreciated the problem that they think they are solving. Which is what?

The Creationists seem to be aware that we have a lot of land-dwelling species around us (to say nothing of all the countless extinct ones). So many that two of each of these species could not all have fit onto this mythical boat.

Whoops! But God said two of each kind of animal was on the Ark!

plant kinds
Um, what about all the land-dwelling plants? Did they all get destroyed in the flood? Or did Noah take kinds of plants too?

Yes, two of each kind. Who is to say that kind is the same as the concept of species?

Maybe Noah got two of the cat kind and two of the dog kind and two of the bear kind and two of the rabbit kind and so on.

This seems like it might be helpful. Then Noah does not need nearly 6.5 million species of animals. He just needs two of every kind of animal. And how many kinds of animals are there?

Not nearly as many animals right? Well, this does not really help.

You see, Creationists like to use this anti-concept of “kind” to group all sorts of organisms together into undefined and undefinable groups.

They do this based on grouping together things that look and or act similar. Orwhich they arbitrarily decide are related and hence part of the same “kind”.

For instance, they like to pretend that anything they consider to be a cat, must belong to the cat kind.

Lions look like cats, so they are part of the cat kind. Tigers look like cats, so they too are members of the cat kind.

What about the lynx or panthers? Are they members of the cat kind? Presumably.

But let us consider the Carnivora suborder of Feliformia. This includes the taxonomic order Felidae or cats. I would assume Creationists would classify most or all members of Felidae as the cat kind.

But what about some very cat-like members of Feliformia that are not in the order Felidae and therefore not cats?

What about the extinct family known as Barbourofelidae, a family of sabre-toothed “cats” ? They are not in the Felidae family, but they are closely related to this family.

Are they members of the cat kind?

What about members of the extinct family Nimravidae? These are even more distantly related than the family Barbourofelidae and had different bone structures in the ear to extant Feliformia. As well as more low-slung bodies with shorter legs and tails than typically associated with cats.

Are members of the Nimravidae family considered part of the cat kind?

At what point does something stop being in the cat kind? How dissimilar to cats does something have to be to what they consider cats before it is no longer part of the cat kind?

They do not know! They have no answer to this. Because there is no logical answer to this. There is no clear, logical point where you can logically suddenly decide that something closely related to cats is not part of the cat kind.

We can do the same with any kind they care to name. Such as the bear kind.

Bears are animals of the family Ursidae. But what do Creationists consider to be part of the bear kind? Presumably, brown bears, polar bears and giant pandas and other similar bears, such as the sun bear.

But what about sloth bears? They are members of the family Ursidae, are they part of this bear kind? What about spectacled bears?

What about members of the extinct subfamily of Ursidae known as Hemicyoninae or “dog-bears”? They are very bear-like but also very dog-like. Are they in the bear family or the dog family?

bear-dog kinds
Yeah, is this of the bear or dog kind? How would you know? It looks a lot like both a bear and a dog to me…

Yes, remember we know that bears and dogs are very closely related. Both Ursidae, bears and Canidae, dogs are closely related branches of the family Caniformia.

What kind are the members of the Caniformia family? At what point does something leave this family and become either part of the dog family?

What kinds are members of the Arctoidea family that includes both bears, bear-dogs and mustelids?

Are mustelids part of the bear kind? They are closely related and look a lot like small bears? Or do they form their own arbitrary mustelid kind? Or the Arctoidea kind?

At what point does something stop being a bear and become some related kind?

Creationists have no clear or logical answer. Again, because there is none.

What about rabbits? Rabbits are organisms in the family Leporidae

Are pygmy rabbits part of the rabbit kind? What about the Sumatran striped rabbit which looks quite different? Or the Anami rabbit which barely looks like a rabbit at all? Or the tiny Swamp rabbit which I can hold in my hand?

Are these all part of the rabbit kind?

What about hares? They are rabbit-like. But they belong to a different family, the family Lepus. Are they part of the rabbit kind or a separate hare kind?

What about the Pika? They are another family in the Lagomorpha order which includes rabbits and hares. Are they part of the rabbit or hare kind? Or the Pika kind? Even though they look like short-eared rabbits or hares

What about members of the Glire clade? It is the parent clade of the Lagomorpha order. Where do you draw the line between Glires and members of the Lagomorpha order you consider part of the rabbit kind?

At no point is it clear where something closely related to a cat stops being part of the cat kind. Or where something closely related to a bear stops being part of the bear kind. And so on for every other kind you care to name.

There is never any clear and distinct point where you decide something that is closely related to members of one kind is no longer part of that kind.

It is easy to include things that clearly look like “cats”. But at some point, you have no way to clearly decide which closely related species belong to this kind or another kind. And so on.

Is “Settled Science” Scientific?

Is there any such thing as settled science? Yes, there is.

But, first, what do I mean by “settled” science? A scientific claim that any rational person would accept as true and established beyond any reasonable doubt. And which they consider will never be replaced by an alternate theory.

You might object that this is not very scientific! We must always keep in mind that we might be wrong. We need to be ready to adjust what we know to accommodate new information that might cast what we know today into doubt!

Yes, that is partially true. We should keep in mind that we are fallible and that we might come to invalid conclusions.

Science, as with any other body of knowledge, is contextual. We study reality and based on what we observe, we form logical conclusions. But we can only account for that which we know about.

For instance, take Newtonian gravity. In the context of not knowing what happens near the speed of light, it was entirely reasonable to accept Newton’s laws of gravity as settled science.

We did not know what happened at extremely high velocities so we had no reason to doubt Newtonian gravity. Newtonian gravity is valid, within the context of things not moving near the speed of light.

Then, we expanded our context to be able to account for things near light speed. We realized that in that context, Einstein’s relativity provides better mathematics for what happens with gravity at near light speed.

Does that mean that we had no reason to be certain about Newtonian gravity?

No, it does not. We knew that it was an extremely accurate description of gravity at speeds much lower than the speed of light.

That is why NASA uses Newtonian gravity for most purposes, even though relativistic equations would be more accurate. Newtonian gravity is easier to deal with and is extremely accurate at the speeds NASA tends to work with.

You may have noticed rockets do not go at anything near the speed of light. So, Newton’s gravity equations will work just fine thanks.

Certainty is contextual. Suppose in the context of our knowledge, the available evidence supports a theory. We are therefore entitled to some certainty about that theory.

But what if it turns out that we are wrong? After all, we used to believe some strange things.

We used to think things burned because of phlogiston. Phlogiston was a mysterious substance that was thought to exist in all combustible bodies.

We used to think that dinosaurs were all sluggish, scaly critters that probably lived in swamps to support their massive weight.

Well, yes. Sometimes we are wrong. Our theories are sometimes not supported by facts. We have no business accepting some theories as anything more than a plausible hypothesis.

These are the theories which do not make up the body of settled science. These are the theories we should not consider settled.

However, it would be dishonest to consider a theory settled in the absence of evidence. It would also be dishonest to consider a theory settled if we did not understand it well enough to be sure it was consistent with all the available evidence.

Having said that, some theories are entirely reasonable within the context of the available evidence. Sometimes all the known evidence points to these theories being true.

Sometimes we understand the theory well enough to reasonably conclude it is entirely consistent with the facts. Therefore, we can be certain about these theories.

We should not entertain serious doubt of theories that have substantial evidence behind them.

We can always imagine that some theories might be disproven. However, we should be certain about a theory if all the available evidence points to it being true.

Certainty does not require us to magically account for the possibility of a context of knowledge we do not currently possess. We can be certain that something is true even if there is something we do not know about now that may later show that it is not true.

Certainty is contextual, it is valid to be certain based on the context of available evidence. As long as we are willing to address any evidence that arises should the context of our knowledge change.

In other words, we can be certain something is true. And yet adjust our theories when the context of our knowledge expands.

However, there are theories that we can consider completely and forever settled. These are theories we know with certainty and can prove without any shadow of a doubt to be true.

We know these will never be shown to be false.

It would contradict known facts of reality if they were not true. Things would have to not be what we know that they are.

Examples of these would be that atoms exist. We know atoms exist; we have seen them. If they did not exist, almost everything we know about chemistry and atomic physics would not be true.

We know evolution happens. We might not know everything about how it happens, but we know that it does. To disprove evolution, we would have to invalidate almost everything we know about biology and the known facts of biology would have to be other than what they are.

We know that the Earth is round and that it orbits the Sun. To invalidate this, the direct evidence of our senses would have to be wrong! The fact that we can see that the Earth is round would have to be fake. And how would we explain the observed behaviour of Earth if it does not orbit the Sun?

Yes, because it is much more scientific to think this might be real, right?

We can say without a shadow of a doubt that theories like this are absolutely and forever settled and that we will never find anything that contradicts them. We know that no such evidence is even possible.

Such science is completely settled. It would be nonsensical to pretend otherwise!

So yes, there is such a thing as settled science. It is baseless to pretend otherwise. And it would be intellectually dishonest and non-scientific to pretend that it is not settled!

It is unscientific to question that the Earth might not be round. Or that evolution does not happen. Or that atoms do not exist. Why?

Because we have seen that the Earth is round! Are we to question the evidence of our senses so that we can become a Flattard?

It would contradict the obvious implications of the evidence of our senses to believe atoms do not exist. Additionally, we have seen atoms!

It would go against observable facts and their logical implications to question that evolution happens.

It would be unscientific to question that light exhibits wave behaviour. This would go against the evidence of our senses and the logical implications of that evidence.

To question theories which we can show are irrefutable facts based on the evidence of our senses and the logical implications of such, is unscientific.

Your belief that the irrefutable facts of reality might be wrong is completely nonsensical and unscientific.

The ability to entertain alternatives to the way reality works is not indicative of science, it is closer to the mindset of the religious person that must evade reality to maintain the possibility of his delusions.

The questioning of everything, even things we can prove beyond any reasonable doubt is little better than those that deny science outright.

To deny the absolute certainty of that which we can show beyond any reasonable doubt, is to either partially deny the veracity of the evidence or fail to understand that science is about the study of an objective reality, not blind guesswork.