Friday, July 14, 2006

Intelligent falling

A new theory from the onion:

Scientists from the Evangelical Center For Faith-Based Reasoning are now asserting that the long-held "theory of gravity" is flawed, and they have responded to it with a new theory of Intelligent Falling.

"Things fall not because they are acted upon by some gravitational force, but because a higher intelligence, 'God' if you will, is pushing them down," said Gabriel Burdett, who holds degrees in education, applied Scripture, and physics from Oral Roberts University.

Like all good creation "scientists", one should falsely attribute quotes by using dodgy interpretations:

Burdett added: "Gravity—which is taught to our children as a law—is founded on great gaps in understanding. The laws predict the mutual force between all bodies of mass, but they cannot explain that force. Isaac Newton himself said, 'I suspect that my theories may all depend upon a force for which philosophers have searched all of nature in vain.' Of course, he is alluding to a higher power."

Again, like all good creation "scientists", one should completely over exaggerate a scientific conflict to "prove" the entire field is flawed, and therefore your "god of the gaps" (in this case, intelligent falling) is a legitimate explanation:

Proponents of Intelligent Falling assert that the different theories used by secular physicists to explain gravity are not internally consistent. Even critics of Intelligent Falling admit that Einstein's ideas about gravity are mathematically irreconcilable with quantum mechanics. This fact, Intelligent Falling proponents say, proves that gravity is a theory in crisis.

When one wants to discuss the way the physical world works, the only legitimate domain is science. One is fallacious to invoke a non-physical explanation as if it is a scientific one. Intelligent design is doing just that. However, this works the other way too. Science does not have anything to say about the non-physical world (eg God).

As such, science is not the only domain of human experience, something that many anti religious types (eg, Richard Dawkins) seem to wilfully ignore or dismiss. This piece (On the side of the angles.pdf) by Lawrence Krauss, in New Scientist, accurately sums up my views on science and religion. Read the whole thing, but here are a few quotes:

Whatever one’s personal views about religion, it is undeniable that scientific understanding alone does not encompass the range of the human intellectual experience. Scientists who fail to appreciate this, and who attack religious beliefs for being unscientific, do their discipline a disservice, not least because such attacks are themselves unscientific…

He goes on to give Dawkins a little bit of a deserved bashing and then:

Not only is it inappropriate to try to convince people of the validity of scientific theories by first arguing that their deeply held beliefs are silly, it is also clear that the existence of God is a metaphysical question which is, for the most part, outside the domain of science.

This is not to say that all theological interpretations are beyond scientific criticism... literal interpretations of the Bible are not consistent pillars on which to build a faith – at least for anyone who rides in cars, flies in planes or uses any other technologies that rely on the same laws of nature that tell us why these things
[literal interpretations of the Bible] are incompatible with the universe in which we live.

Yet scientists go too far when they attack more generally any belief in divine purpose. From a strategic point of view it’s a waste of energy. It plays into the hands of those who claim that the scientific method itself is akin to atheism, and it weakens any efforts to speak out against those groups who regularly distort scientific education in the name of religion…

To counter these threats we need to argue compellingly that people of faith are ill served by ignorance, rather than argue that faith and ignorance are synonymous.

I'll end with more humour - a final word from the onion:

Some evangelical physicists propose that Intelligent Falling provides an elegant solution to the central problem of modern physics.

"Anti-falling physicists have been theorizing for decades about the 'electromagnetic force,' the 'weak nuclear force,' the 'strong nuclear force,' and so-called 'force of gravity,'" Burdett said. "And they tilt their findings toward trying to unite them into one force. But readers of the Bible have already known for millennia what this one, unified force is: His name is Jesus."

Thanks to Ben for pointing me to the onion piece. And thanks to the lord that it's only a satire… with gravity anyway.

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