A Quantum of Knowledge

Just a quick blogroll update: After reading A Quantum of Knowledge, I’ve decided to add it to the blogroll links on the right side of the site here.

Take a look.

Oh, and don’t forget to take a look at the blog of Jim Hodgson, bike and font enthusiast.

FOX Noise

Thought of the day

One of the most common theist tricks to avoiding actual discussion on whether something is right or wrong – sometimes even when the topic isn’t even religious in nature – is just to appeal to the notion that they have an objective basis for morality whereas an atheist does not. There are a couple of problems with this. First, it’s a red herring. Learn some basic fucking logic. Second, just because the theist claims to have an objective basis does not mean he does have one. In fact, he’s just assuming his position is correct. If we’re going to let the theist get away with arguing fallacies, then we may as well point out that he has never shown his view to be right. What he needs is evidence, not only for a deity, but for his specific, cultural choice of a deity. No one has provided that to date. Third, the important issue in this red herring isn’t whether or not someone believes in an objective basis for morality, but rather, Is it true? Is it true that there is an objective basis to be had? The answer, of course, is no. The basis we always use is operational; we are a social animal (and it’s important to remember that we are not somehow magically separate from other animals) and we have a basis for acting which is being applied in a modern world but that was evolved for the African jungles and plains, places with animals far more toothier than we were or are.

A Universe From Nothing

I doubt anyone is likely to watch this video from Lawrence Krauss, but it is worth the time.

Following the evidence

When Edwin Hubble first discovered that the Universe was expanding and all the galaxies (except those in our local cluster) were moving away from us, he found that distance was proportional to velocity. That is, those galaxies moving two times as fast from us as closer galaxies were twice as far away. If they were moving three times as fast, they were three times as far. This was all great – and correct – but there came a problem from this. And that problem can be seen in Hubble’s data.

Extrapolating from this data, the age of the Universe was about 1.7 or 1.8 billion years old. Whoops, right? Yes, but for an interesting reason. Hubble didn’t have a reliable light source to measure distance. He relied on the Doppler Effect to determine the speed at which the galaxies were moving, but he didn’t know how far they were in the first place. He had chosen a particular type of star for his measurements, but there were complications in knowing consistent luminosity due to the fact that the stars could be of different sizes. This video explains it all.

The point I want to make is that when Hubble’s calculations gave a wildly inaccurate age for the Universe – around the same time, we were coming to a conclusion as to the age of Earth at 4.6 billion years – it wasn’t based upon bad science. In fact, the scientific method worked wonderfully. The issue was with figuring out just what was needed to obtain more accurate observations. That is, the science was never weak – and, in fact, science never is weak – instead the problem was merely one of needing better evidence. Once we were able to find standard candles, we were able to better utilize Hubble’s observations. In essence, that is what science does. It relies upon interpreting observations according to a methodology; the reason why it changes is due to better observations, not a change in general methodology. Can religion say anything remotely similar?