Misleading Science Articles

French, German and Hungarian physicists have taken another step in supporting Einstein’s theory of special relativity.

A brainpower consortium led by Laurent Lellouch of France’s Centre for Theoretical Physics, using some of the world’s mightiest supercomputers, have set down the calculations for estimating the mass of protons and neutrons, the particles at the nucleus of atoms.

According to the conventional model of particle physics, protons and neutrons comprise smaller particles known as quarks, which in turn are bound by gluons.

The odd thing is this: the mass of gluons is zero and the mass of quarks is only five percent. Where, therefore, is the missing 95 percent?

The answer, according to the study published in the US journal Science on Thursday, comes from the energy from the movements and interactions of quarks and gluons.

In other words, energy and mass are equivalent, as Einstein proposed in his Special Theory of Relativity in 1905.

All that is fine. What is misleading is the title of the article:

    e=mc2: 103 years later, Einstein’s proven right

Nothing here has been proven. Science never does that. What is seeks to do is disprove. The hypothesis here is that energy and mass are equivalent. In order to discover this, scientists attempted an experiment that, if falsified, would weaken Einstein’s great discovery. That isn’t what happened. It turns out that energy and mass are equivalent – in this instance. That doesn’t mean that in every instance that that will be the case. We cannot possibly know for certain that if the experiment is run again or a new experiment is created that the results will be the same. This is precisely what occurs in all of science. Evolution is not proven in the scientific sense of the word. Gravity has never been proven. We could find a slew of rabbits and sharks in the pre-Cambrian whose fossils fall up tomorrow, disproving both theories, at the very least disproving them in part.

Of course, it should be noted that we know these events to be vanishingly unlikely because of the strength of both theories; neither (modern) one has been disproven in any way meaningful to their overall statements. Despite the constant attempts of scientists to show these (now) theories to be incorrect, they have failed. These constant failures – which manifest themselves as monumentally beautiful and elegant discoveries, quite unlike anything we should normally call “failures” – are what make hypotheses into theories; they are what enable us to refer to so many worthwhile ideas as facts, even if they are tentative by their very nature. They are the core of science – a way of knowing that never seeks to prove anything.

Karl W. Giberson

Every once in awhile, a scientist will come out and say science and religion can co-exist. There will be some press coverage because of the obvious tensions between evidence-based thought and willy-nilly faith. So it comes as no surprise that physicist Karl Giberson is receiving some attention for his recent claim and book that says evolution and God can co-exist. (I presume the man has a longer history in the creationism-evolution issue than what LiveScience seems to suggest, but he evidently has yet to make a big splash.)

Obviously, he thinks one can be a Christian and accept evolution, but these two sets of knowledge “don’t make as much contact with each other as people think,” he said. Many fundamentalists “elevate Genesis beyond what is appropriate.”

Fundamentalists’ spin on the creation story in Genesis “robs it of everything that is interesting,” he said. Instead, readers should recall that the Bible repeats the refrain that God found what he made “good” and looks at the world as good.

It is true that bastardizing such a great piece of literature to literally mean something which is utterly absurd is a crying shame, but that doesn’t suddenly make evolution and religion, especially Christianity, compatible in any meaningful way. At best, perhaps the particular Christian god fully guided the process of evolution, making it mimic precisely what would be expected without any sort of foolish guidance, but that’s a rather superfluous compatibility. What’s more, that can comply to most any concept of a god that humans have had in the past 10,000 or more years. It’s a very non-cromulent way of thinking.

“It makes the world so much more interesting,” Giberson said. “The mystery of God’s existence is a more satisfying mystery than the mystery of how can all this arise out of a particle.”

Despite being a rather subjective claim, it seems difficult to fathom how anyone can honestly believe such a thing. First of all, it’s unclear how a mystery can be “satisfying”. It can be interesting and exciting and all that. Most of the good ones are. But satisfying? It’s when we solve the mystery or at least a piece of it that satisfaction becomes present. And, of course, the only way we can do that for most of the big questions is through the best way of knowing – science.

But what is your evidence, Shermer said, for belief in God?

“I was raised believing in God, so for me, the onus would be on someone to stop me from believing,” Giberson said, adding that “there is a certain momentum that is already there.”

This reminds me quite a bit of the silliness of George Smith. Apparently, an objective look at two sides is out of the question. It is the job of the non-believer to dismantle the long-term indoctrination of the believer. I almost don’t want to explicate on why this is so damn wrong. But I will.

Blind, stupid faith offers nothing of worth to a discussion. Once that argument is presented, any debate falls to shreds because faith is specifically belief without – or even despite the lack of – evidence. Perhaps an argument as to why faith is a bad way of knowing (indeed, it seeks to avoid a knowledge of anything) can be presented, but then one is simply dealing with a stubborn child. Perhaps it is that the onus is to lower one’s self to explaining why faith informs us of nothing.