This is Science?

I usually don’t comment on current science news because if I attempted to keep up on it, this blog would be nothing but.  However, I was watching the Today Show this morning and I was struck by something.  As everyone who follows the news a bit knows, physicists in Geneva have built a Large Hadron Collider that took them 30 years and 3.8 billion dollars and is 17 miles long.  The idea, very briefly, is to send particles going almost the speed of light to collide at eachother, perhaps simulating the Big Bang. 

On the Today show, Dr. Michio Kaku was interviewed about the experiment which is close to happening.  When asked what may be the outcome of this experiment, Dr. Kaku said it was about “The theory of everything”, perhaps telling us about “other dimensions and other universes”.  Doing a small bit of research on Dr. Kaku, he has written a book called Physics of the Impossible, which seems to be quite popular.  In the book he urges us to take seriously the ideas of invisibility and time travel.

Wait a minute here.  Other universes?  Other dimensions?  Invisibility?  Time travel?  This is science?  Of course it is.  No really, I agree that we should scientifically explore all options, including these seemingly pointless endeavors.  The ironic part comes in when Dr. Kaku, and any atheists that agree this is science, is asked about God.  I imagine the interview would go something like this . . .

“So, Dr. Kaku, alternate universes, alternate dimensions, invisibility, and time travel.  All these things are possible?” 

“Of course.” 

“Well what about God?”

“That’s not science!”

Hilarious.  Why not explore EVERYTHING?  If we’re willing to entertain the ideas of invisibility and time travel, why not God?  Why the exclusionary bias?  I thought science wasn’t supposed to exclude anything?  No, seriously, I’m asking the question.

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21 Comments on “This is Science?”

  1. Emil Aragundi Says:

    The thing is that time travel and the like are things that Dr. Kaku expects to find out about. In the same sense that there are people that expect (though not positively) that the LHC is in fact a doomsday machine that will destroy the earth. Everyone expects to find what interests them.

    The funny thing about the LHC is that no one is sure what we’ll find, yet. Will we find God? We’ll have to stay tuned.

  2. Eric Kemp Says:

    Emil

    Again, you’ve missed the point. The question I am asking is why scientists have an anti-supernatural bias towards God while things like exploring invisibility, time travel and alternative dimensions do not fall under that same bias. Why is God outside the perview of science while time travel is viable?

  3. Mike Says:

    Eric, I think the answer is basically that science has no interest in defining God (even on a scientific basis). So, how can they investigate something they can’t even define? Do you really want to see them try to define God in terms of physics and mathmatics? So let them study the creation itself. Rest assured though, that the data gathered will be interpreted through the filter of the non-existence of a Creator – despite the fact that allowing for a Ceator might be a better way to decode the dataset and yield more rational answers!

  4. cubiksrube Says:

    Although some scientists put God outside the purview of science, and claim it to be a religious question which should be approached in a religious way and on which science should not encroach, others such as Richard Dawkins have argued against this, and consider that any supernatural claims such as those for the existence of God should be addressed in a scientific manner. If it has any measurable effect on the world, it ought to be possible to study it empirically, applying the usual levels of scientific rigour.

    I’ve just finished reading a book called Warped Passages, by Lisa Randall, another particle physicist who’s done a lot of work in recent years on string theory and multi-dimensional models of the universe. And yes, it is science. Although none of these ideas are nearly as well established as many other theories, these things aren’t obviously impossible, and have the potential to be tested. People are putting forward hypotheses, coming up with models that explain the phenomena we observe, and trying to find ways they can be tested to see if we can find evidence in their favour, or prove them wrong. The models involving things like extra dimensions have, so far, all remained fairly speculative, because actual supporting evidence is thin, but when the LHC gets going, it gives scientists a chance to say “Okay, if this idea is right, then we’d expect to see this result when we do this thing, but not this other result”. As a result, a number of possible models will almost certainly be abandoned in coming months, because they fail to explain the new observed data. Others will be refined and become stronger based on the same data, and we’ll gradually have a more complete picture of how the universe works.

    Thing is, you do realise the conversation you find so hilarious is one you just completely made up? That’s not even demonstrably the opinion of one scientist, let alone representative of their attitude in general. And I hope no scientist would treat the concept of God, and studying his existence scientifically, so dismissively and uninterestedly. Of course it’s something we can look at scientifically. But are there any hypotheses that can be tested, any theories we can attempt to falsify and which could become accepted over time if their explanatory and predictive power seems to remain solid in the face of whatever new evidence is found? Claims about God don’t often seem to be phrased in such ways. It’s not that it’s not science, it’s just not easy to couch it in specific scientific terms that we can actually do anything with. Certainly not with the LHC, anyway, unless you have something very original to suggest.

    There are a large number of religious scientists, who I suppose think there is sufficient reason (scientific or otherwise) to treat at least one religious claim seriously. But I think this is based on philosophical arguments of the sort that have been around for a while, rather than any evidence they’ve found while researching their own field. Is there any particular avenue of science that should be pursuing the idea of God, and seeing if they can turn it into a solid theory? What claims are testable in that way?

  5. Emil Aragundi Says:

    Hmm… I must have missed the part when you stopped referring specifically about Dr. Kaku and like-minded atheists and took on scientists in general instead. Wait, you did that only after I wrote my first comment.

    Now to your new question, following a bit on what Mike says, science is the study of nature and the physical world (I didn’t make that up btw, wikipedia and dictionary.com tell me that). In order to study the supernatural and nonphysical science would have to transcend its current focus. If the LHC makes this possible then so be it, but it isn’t bias as you put it.

  6. forknowledge Says:

    It would probably be easier for scientists to investigate God if he had any discernible effect on the Universe. Since he apparently doesn’t (unless I’m mistaken), the endeavour is pointless.

  7. freidenker85 Says:

    “Other universes? Other dimensions? Invisibility? Time travel?”

    You know, I’m afraid to say that, neglecting Dr. Kaku’s “show-biz” way of putting it, the answer is, largely, yes.

    Time-travel is something that’s at least made possible by relativity (I studied physics in high school, so I’m really just regurgitating what I remember being said about it, I don’t presume to be able to explain why like a well-educated physicist or even a physics major would).

    Invisibility – That’s something that not only science, it’s not even fiction. Though I don’t know exactly how much physicists have conributed to this particular find, but “invisibility cloaks” (only ask and I’ll link you up to it) are already something that exists (to a more or less successful extent. The trick is to deflect all light coming towards the invisible material in a way that will make light go around its surface, thus allowing no light to be reflected back and thus, to be seen)

    Other dimensions is something I’ve only read about, but physicists are actually basing crazy ideas (it sounds crazy to me, anyhow) like multi-dimensional universes on empirical evidence. Such theories, as it as been said in other comments in this post, are not as well accepted as others, but still – this stuff IS science. It could be shaky science, but, nevertheless, it’s science.

  8. forknowledge Says:

    I’m not sure that ideas about multiple universes are, strictly speaking, based on empirical study. As far as I’m aware (which is not very far at all), most research in this area is currently in the realm of strict mathematics, with hypothetical situations such as ‘If we’re right about this, it means that [something about multiple universes] must also be right’. I’ve seen string theorists criticised for being too far into the waters of pure mathematics, without enough experimental data to back up their hypotheses.

    Still, it’s far from being wild flights of fancy, which is what this post seems to be suggesting.

  9. Eric Kemp Says:

    cubiks rube

    “others such as Richard Dawkins have argued against this, and consider that any supernatural claims such as those for the existence of God should be addressed in a scientific manner.”

    And he applies this empirical standard to God but not to his own metaphysical beliefs. He does not, as you are suggesting, believe that God should be a viable conclusion in science. In fact, he finds aliens more viable than God, that is how far his anti-supernatural bias goes.

    “Thing is, you do realise the conversation you find so hilarious is one you just completely made up?”

    Well, obviously, since I said “I imagine . . .”. But this position is not one that I made up. Almost every atheist I have talked to has this position towards science exploring or concluding God. My question is wether or not these same atheists find invisibility and time travel scientific. I’m asking why there is a difference.

    “And I hope no scientist would treat the concept of God, and studying his existence scientifically, so dismissively and uninterestedly.”

    This is interesting since most naturalisitc scientists I’ve read, seen interviewed, or athiests I’ve talked deem the question of God as “not science” outright and a priori. Your hope in some noble “everything is included” is a utopian hope that doesn’t exist in academia.

    “Claims about God don’t often seem to be phrased in such ways. It’s not that it’s not science, it’s just not easy to couch it in specific scientific terms that we can actually do anything with.”

    I’m getting more confused. Dr. Michael Behe’s work on the bacterial flagellum isn’t explained in specific scientific terms?

    “Is there any particular avenue of science that should be pursuing the idea of God, and seeing if they can turn it into a solid theory? What claims are testable in that way?”

    Obviously the “idea of God” or no God, is an origins idea. It is attempting to explore where a particular phenomena, or all phenomena, have originated from and how. Those that study in these fields and conclude “Intelligence” or “Design” or “Self-aware being” have been firmly discredited as “not doing science” and have been excluded from the majority of academia.

    This is a systematic and purposeful campaign to exclude “God conclusions”. A good example is the debate over Behe’s Irreducible Complexity. Listening to an opponents position, you’ll notice that some empirical work is done to discredit IC. However, the majority of the opponents argument will surround the fact that Behe’s conclusion, Design, is not a scientific conclusion because the Designer cannot be observed, tested of falsified. This is the common argument, yes? I’ve heard this many times.

    The problem is this; both Behe and his naturalistic opponents are forming philosophical, metaphysical conclusions based on empirical evidence. But only Behe is being honest about it. The naturalistic conclusion that non-life begat life, that DNA somehow formed itself, is just as unobservable, untestable and unfalsifiable as they claim the Designer is!

    If naturalistic scientists were honest, and admitted, as any Creationist does (Behe is an ID guy, not Creationist), that their conclusions are metaphysical ones based on empirical evidence. I would have zero beef. I would continue to argue my empirical evidence for design of course, but at least we would be able to have an honest discussion.

  10. Pat Says:

    Do you actually know of a proposal for how one would see God at the LHC? Scientists are excited about extra dimensions and other possibilities because they know precise things about what that predicts for what they’ll see at the LHC. It will take years of dedicated work to interpret the data, which comes in the form of “this many electrons, jets, etc. were produced this many times at such and such energy”. This has the possibility of providing evidence for extra dimensions because if there are extra dimensions that are big enough, particle physicists know how they would lead to a few extra electrons here, a few extra neutrinos there, etc, in a precise way. No one has any clue how a Christian God leads to any kind of prediction for LHC data. As long as that is the case, God is completely irrelevant to speculation about what the LHC will find.

  11. Eric Kemp Says:

    Emil

    “Hmm… I must have missed the part when you stopped referring specifically about Dr. Kaku and like-minded atheists and took on scientists in general instead. Wait, you did that only after I wrote my first comment.”

    I’ll respond with a quote from the end of my post: “Why not explore EVERYTHING? If we’re willing to entertain the ideas of invisibility and time travel, why not God? Why the exclusionary bias? I thought science wasn’t supposed to exclude anything? No, seriously, I’m asking the question.”

    I was asking this question to all scientists who exclude God from science. I apologize if it seems I was still talking to Dr. Kaku.

    “In order to study the supernatural and nonphysical science would have to transcend its current focus. If the LHC makes this possible then so be it, but it isn’t bias as you put it.”

    But see, that’s the issue, time travel is a “non-physical science”. And yet Dr. Kaku is not laughed out of academia for expressing it’s possiblity the same way as if he said “God is possible, we will investigate Him.” Don’t pretend it would be the same.

  12. Eric Kemp Says:

    forknowledge

    “It would probably be easier for scientists to investigate God if he had any discernible effect on the Universe. Since he apparently doesn’t (unless I’m mistaken), the endeavour is pointless.”

    The Creator of the universe would have a significant effect on the universe. Since He Created it and all. For instance, as I’ve argued, God created the uniformity we see around us while pure chance could not have. God created it so that humans would exist, this is the fine-tuning argument, which I will make soon.

  13. Eric Kemp Says:

    Pat

    While I’m unsure how this became a conversation about how the LHC leads to discovering God . . . but your explanation of how evidence of multiple universes could come about through sub-atomic particles doesn’t make sense to me. Could you elaborate?

  14. Pat Says:

    I guess I was very much mistaken in my reading of your post – apparently it wasn’t supposed to be about whether scientists should explore the possibility of God when they are speculating about the outcome of the LHC. Glad to know we agree that they shouldn’t.

    The reason extra dimensions lead to predictions about sub-atomic particles is that extra dimensions imply the existence of new heavy particles, which are essentially quantized fluctuations of the gravitational field in the extra dimensions (similar to how photons are quantized fluctuations in the electromagnetic field). Such particles could potentially be produced at the LHC.

  15. forknowledge Says:

    The Creator of the universe would have a significant effect on the universe. Since He Created it and all. For instance, as I’ve argued, God created the uniformity we see around us while pure chance could not have. God created it so that humans would exist, this is the fine-tuning argument, which I will make soon.

    That’s kind of ironic, since I’m going to be making the ‘coarsely-tuned argument’ soon as well.

    What discernible effect does God have on the Universe that we can observe? You haven’t actually established that uniformity in nature was the action of a god, much less your God. What else is there that we can point to and say ‘Yes, God has done this/is doing this’ with any sort of certainty?

  16. Eric Kemp Says:

    forknowledge

    In order to discern whether this question is answerable for you or not I must know what your standard of “certainty” is.

  17. forknowledge Says:

    To know something as certainly as we know anything; there needs to be at least some observable evidence that the idea is correct, that it is correct when compared to other, similar ideas, and we must have a way of determining whether the idea is wrong.

  18. Eric Kemp Says:

    forknowledge

    Ok so observability, testability and falsifiability?

    If we can agree on those, which I do, then I will address them specifically.

  19. Emil Aragundi Says:

    Eric

    But see, that’s the issue, time travel is a “non-physical science”. And yet Dr. Kaku is not laughed out of academia for expressing it’s possiblity the same way as if he said “God is possible, we will investigate Him.” Don’t pretend it would be the same.

    Granted, and I don’t think it would be the same either. But – correct me if I’m wrong – time travel has been defined a priori through quantum theory whilst the concept of God remains essentially in theology, which is more philosophy than science. That’s what makes time travel a more debated subject in physics and therefore one of most interest to physicists. I see where you’re coming from, but I don’t see an evident bias.

  20. forknowledge Says:

    Sure, I agree with those. Let’s get to it.

  21. Eric Kemp Says:

    Alright forknowledge, my first fine-tuning argument is up. Let’s do it!


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