Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Truth is not a matter of opinion

There is something many, many, way too many people don't understand about science–or reality, in general, really: an assertion of fact is either true or its not; whether you like the idea is irrelevant. 

Don't like the idea that the universe is wasn't built just for you?
Don't like the idea that you're related to gorillas?
Don't like the idea that human activity is causing the Earth to warm which will melt the polar ice, causing sea levels to rise, thereby flooding most of world's costal cities and all of Florida?

Too bad. Come up with a better (and by "better" I mean "with better evidence" not a better-feeling story) idea and you can argue. Otherwise, keep your bruised sense of dignity and self-worth to yourself. It's not helping.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

God is not a testable hypothesis

I think the biggest reason religious folks get all hot and bothered when it comes to science is because of the perception that it is inherently atheistic–that scientists work under the assumption that there is no God. This is most apparent in Darwinism, which not only contradicts the book of Genesis (this is unremarkable since most branches of science contradict Genesis in some way), but more importantly, calls into question the fundamental belief that we are God's special creation. I guess it really bothers people when you tell them they share a relatively recent common ancestor with chimpanzees and the historical Adam was probably a DNA-like molecule that "accidentally" acquired the ability to self-replicate. Anyway, my point...

Science is not atheistic. In fact, one of my favorite scientists, Ken Miller, is a Roman Catholic. Rather, science is non-theistic (for now). Scientists do not "allow" God into their work because God is not a testable hypothesis. The scientific method calls for hypotheses to be test by experiment. This is how scientists "know" things. Ideas are tested until they fail. Darwinism, for example, has been tested for over 100 years and has yet to be invalidated. That's how science works.

I said "for now" because the day may come when actual physical evidence of God's existence is found, and if that happens, science will assuredly become theistic, so long as the God hypothesis holds up to experiment. Until that day comes, don't expect good scientists to jump the gun.

"God did it" may be a satisfying answer for some, and it may even be true, but it is impossible to test. And when you rely on an explanation that is impossible to test, investigation and learning ends, and ignorance takes over.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Why the Campaign?

"Shouldn't people just be free to get on with their religion?
Yes, they should, if they would leave the rest of us alone."--Richard Dawkins

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

I heart NY

If you're not familiar with the common law, the basics: It began with the Norman conquest of England in 1066, was used in the Colonies and adopted by the original States and most thereafter, and continues to evolve to this day. Therefore, can be quite irksome to law students and legal professionals. Here's what one Henry G. Sedgwick, a New York lawyer, wrote in 1821 about the application of English common law in the New York legal system:

The life has departed, and the soul has gone; but the body is embalmed, and kept to future ages in a useless state, between preservation and decay.

Between 1827 and 1829, the New York State Legislature issued the first systematic codification of statute law in the United States. Hooray for codes! Hooray for New York! I love that quote.

Friday, January 25, 2008

John Edwards' Religion

I've been waiting for a presidential candidate to give a speech or answer a question about religion without saying something completely ignorant. First, there was Mitt "freedom requires religion" Romney. Then we heard from Mike "amend the Constitution so it's in God's standards" Huckabee. Of course, they're Republicans, so ignorance is to be expected. It was the democrats who'd been disappointing me, with the usual platitudes aimed at appeasing the ever-so-humbly self-proclaimed "values voters" of the democratic party. Until today.

Campaigning in South Carolina, John Edwards said this:
I think it's really important for me not to be imposing my faith beliefs on the country because ... we should embrace all faith beliefs and those ... who are not believers."

If I were a Democrat*, and if I were inclined to vote in a primary, and if John Edwards were still in the race for the Illinois primary, I would definitely vote for him. That's a lot of ifs, so I'll just say Go, John Edwards, Go!

*Lest you get the idea that since I am not a Democrat, I must be a Republican, I'm not. Please, don't even think that.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

A bit of legalese

I enjoy legalese. I think most law students do, though they pretend not to. As mere students, we have none of the status, money, and power that lawyers like to show off to the laity. So, we must make do with what we do have: words... lots and lots of words. If you're unfortunate enough to know law student, you'll know what I'm talking about. He's an example from a book about the law of real property:
The future interest retained by the grantor of a fee simple determinable is a possibility of reverter; the future interest arising in the grantor of a fee simple on condition subsequent is a right of entry for condition broken.
If you ever hear a law student say something like that, you can probably go ahead and punch him in the stomach. He won't sue you because he's too busy studying. And he won't fight back because he knows if his response is disproportionate and he ends up killing you, he'll probably be liable for manslaughter.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Neil deGrasse Tyson Gets It

D.J. Grothe recently interviewed Neil deGrasse Tyson on the Point of Inquiry podcast (again). That guy gets it, man. Here's what he had to say about our old friend, Science v. Religion:
The conflict is not whether or not you're going to Heaven of Hell, or whether or not you believe Jesus is your savior. That's not where the conflict is. That's not what's going on in the school boards. What's going on in the school boards are people who, based on their religious texts, assert that they have knowledge of the physical universe that is demonstrably false. That's where the conflict is. And I got something to say about that.... If you're going to tell me that Noah had dinosaurs on his ark, I am sorry, you are ignorant and scientifically illiterate. And you don't belong in the science classroom.... You want to teach that in Bible school, I'm not going to go knocking on your door to stop you. By the way, there is no tradition of scientists beating down the door of Sunday school, saying, 'That might not necessarily be right.' Yet, you have fundamentalist religious communities trying to knock down the door of the science classroom. And that asymmetry there bothers me.... [T]he moment you take your religion and put it into the science classroom and claim something that is demonstrably false, I'm going to be up in your face, telling you, "Go learn about how the universe works."

My hero, Neil deGrasse Tyson.