Friday, July 05, 2013

Schroedinger's cat, ignorance and evolution

Schroedinger's Cat!
I'm not going to try and review or discredit the real science of dating fossils which is based on quite a few assumptions derived through inductive logic. For the most part this blog addresses ignorance and while the evolution of man is based primarily on circumstantial evidence, inductions and a refusal to participate in the scientific process many of these acts are not necessarily ignorance, just stubbornness.

Not all of it, them though, there is a lot of ignorance out there.

Schroedinger came up with an excellent way of expressing a huge problem in science.  Observation.  Schroedinger thought up a concept or hypothesis which described one of the inherent problems with the scientific method related to observation and logic.
Schroedinger suggested that we stick a cat in a box with a poison gas, close the box and put the closed box in a room. Is the cat alive or dead?
In pure science we have to admit that we don't know since we have not observed the cat.
Using the circumstantial evidence available we can induce that the cat is probably dead since it is unlikely that the cat can survive exposure to the poison gas. To find out if the cat is alive or dead we must make an observation. Once the observer pierces the closed room and the closed box the observer has become part of the conditions which are being observed. The acts associated with observing an experiment influence the experiment.
In pure science unless we can repeatably observe the outcome of an experiment we can not state “if X than Y”, rather we should say, “If X probably Y”. Many pseudo scientists, like Richard Dawkins, state that human evolution is a fact when it isn't. The adoption of the result of inductive logic based on circumstantial evidence as “facts” undermines science.
Let us look at a website, where we are told:

Carbon-14 dating helps us date fossils? That sounds interesting and I suppose that it may be possible some day, but, in reality that isn't true. Carbon-14 dating works by measuring residual Carbon-14 left in organic materials. As time passes the amount of Carbon-14 breaks down. To establish a date with Carbon-14 we measure the amount of Carbon-14 left in the organic material, the less Carbon-14 the older the material. At the current level of technology we can only date back about 60,000 years ago.

Skeletons of modern humans have been dated, using methods other than Carbon-14, back to around 200,000 years ago. Carbon-14 dating is not going to help us much with dating human evolution which requires our evaluation of evolutionary evidence which resulted in modern humans 200,000 years ago and consists of a fossil record going back millions of years.

Claiming Carbon-14 dating can be used to date fossils is an example of someone attempting to use a well established scientific method to validate assumptions that the method has nothing to do with.

There is a scientific rule called the rule of “super position” which states, essentially, the deeper something is buried the older it is. This allows people to determine or estimate relative dating of objects they discover. This sounds pretty obvious, but, it isn't always true and dating based on super position is based on probability. There is nothing wrong with this, unless, some ignorant idiot teaches people that the result of a dating analysis based on super position is a fact rather than a probability.

Science is often about probabilities rather than absolutes. There is nothing wrong with this until people teach that probabilities are absolutes.

I'll use a personal anecdote which illustrates the problem with assuming that probabilities are absolutes. My direct supervisor was an electrical engineer with a Masters and he spent four months working on a broken machine. He hired controls technicians from the company that built the controls. He just couldn't find the problem.

My supervisor's boss asked me to fix the machine and I did. My supervisor had assumed that the electrical prints were accurate. After he had worked on the machine for a couple of weeks I told him that the prints had to be wrong, he insisted they were all we had to work with. When my supervisor's boss asked me if I could fix the machine she asked how I knew I could fix it and I explained that the prints were wrong. She asked me how I knew and I told her that if the prints had been correct my supervisor would have fixed the machine. I used a multi-meter and checked every wire in the machine manually and found an unfused 24v power circuit that had shorted out. That particular circuit also powered the CNC controller unit. Problem solved.

People make assumptions, they assume probabilities are facts and then, much too often, those assumptions are wrong.

In my experience teachers often make statements of “fact” which are not true to “simplify” education. For all practical purposes 2+2 always equals 4 so students are told “two plus two always equals four”. This is a lie. There are some occasions, binary base number systems for example, where the number four does not exist.

If a teacher were to accurately teach that “two plus two usually equals four” it would open a dialogue concerning what the rules are for determining when “two plus two equals four” and when “two plus two equals ten”. This kind of instruction is often used when teachers do not believe their students are capable of understanding the nuances of the subject.

The same lies are told about many things including the evolution of humans. The evolution of humans is always going to be a theory since we cannot observe, unless someone invents a time machine, the evolution of humans.

Even if we create an experiment where we evolve humans such an experiment would only prove that humans could have evolved, it would not prove that humans did evolve.

But people still believe crap like “two plus two always equals four” or “humans and apes evolved from a common ancestor” even though neither of these are facts, just probabilities.

I am not saying that evolution of humans didn't happen, I'm just pointing out that only someone who is ignorant would claim an inductive probability is a fact and that many people try to use unrelated and well established facts to prove their assumptions.

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