Monthly Archives: July 2007

Draft post 6

The scientific method verifies correct hypotheses and corrects erroneous ones. Humans make hypotheses and act on them as a matter of course. We live through the experience often enough that we believe all kinds of false assumptions and act on them. The slot machine gave me seventy quarters when I put just one in that little tiny hole and pulled the lever. Slot machines produce more money than they consume. I should keep trying. Maybe it’s broken. I’ll try again. Systematic study using the scientific method will correct the hypothesis that putting money in slot machines nets a larger sum of money.

Some things lead to death drastically enough that whatever hypothesis floats around is a good one. Hey, she died when that smell came by. That smell is an evil demon. If you smell it, you will die. Ok. No one wants to test out those kinds of hypotheses. But that’s what science does. Scientists come up with countless faulty hypotheses but they’ve already learned how to deal with it. Skepticism eventually becomes instinctual once you’ve learned to view things as systems. Systems are the reason science exhibits the faith crushing phenomenon called consilience.

When your car won’t start you can assume that you don’t have gas getting to the spark plugs, air getting to the spark plugs, electricity getting to the spark plugs, compression in the cylinder or lubrication in some part of the cylinder. Intelligent design proponents love to make the analogy that god designed us like we design cars; or a whale’s artificial dick. Maybe ID proponents don’t use that last one but they should. I think the analogy works for limited purposes.

If we know how the system works, like the internal combustion four-stoke engine, then diagnosing the problem involves dividing and subdividing the systems, testing each division until a test comes back failing. The original failure, the car won’t start, prompted a scientific investigation using the scientific method. If your mechanic throws out a hypothesis that stops the investigation without solving the problem -[i]”Sorry sir, you drove through the demon in the air back over the hill. Any local could’ve tol’ you not to go that way. You see, Miss Walker smelt that air and she died. You can call Ernie over ‘t the junkyard and he’d come a’ get yer car fer ya fer prolly twenty bucks.”[/i]- you might not trust that mechanic to work on your cars. Why not? Because you know enough about internal combustion engines to know that you can fix the car.

Now remove yourself one step further. Imagine you don’t know how the internal combustion engine works but you live in America, earned a high school diploma and aren’t mentally impaired. Do you believe him? At this point in reading my diatribe the years of dogma, the learned resistance forces these words from your mouth possibly but at least into your conscious mind: “But that doesn’t have anything to do with God. This is a typical evolutionist evasive debate tactic.”

Right about A, wrong about B. It doesn’t have anything to do with God. If God keeps offices outside the system I can’t discover much about it through careful observation and testing of the mechanics of the system. I can however, discover many things about the system. B fails for that reason.

I assume you didn’t believe the mechanic. You may not know how the engine works but you recognize a system. You know that with careful observation and experiment systems eventually make sense. That intrinsic knowledge acquires a sharp focus and a series of foolproof techniques during scientific training. Foolproof means learning how to keep from getting fooled. That part of science still mystifies the uninitiated. They truly can’t imagine that scientific observation and experiment could conclude that slot machines don’t pay out a huge return. [i]”Science MUST be wrong. My cousin Roy won three hundred dollars on one of them things. I KNOW they work. I WAS THERE. They ain’t been workin’ for me lately but that’s cause I lost my dang rabbits foot.”[/i] Even if you could convince them by showing them your research, after you left they’d be saying to the lady in the next trailer over:[i] “I was THERE godammit!”[/i]

The scientist would set up the question: What killed the lady?

The scientist would set up the question: Do slot machines pay out more than they take in?

The scientist would set up the question: Why doesn’t the car start?

Those questions may appear silly or redundant but the question : Did the lady die from a stinky demon? already holds assumptions. Could that smell also lead to your car’s final journey on it’s flatbed hearse?

A scientist learns to start with a broad question and work towards understanding in a kind of a drill down fashion. This system helps him avoid stupid mistakes. Never assume. If you learn how to assume little, you are less likely to be the butt of a joke when you are shown to be wrong. Another important trick taught in scientific training is the art of isolation. A scientist tries hard not to test anything but the question he is asking. Controls and procedures absolutely must be reproducible by anyone trained in the scientific method and the specific technologies used, using only the notes of the original author.

The final piece of the process is that the trained scientist will publish only that which has been proved. The mechanic can conclude that the car does not run but he has done no research into why. The forensic investigator at first knows only that the lady died. Nothing else. If the mechanic tests the blinkers and discovers that they work, he can conclude that there is power to the electrical system but he can’t rule out an electrical problem.

The ever more specific questions create a map of the system under investigation. The discovery that a system exists at all is the triumph of the scientific method. Trying to claim a place in the system of the physical world for miracles , i.e. inputs from outside the system fell out of favor during the enlightenment as the system began to fit a schematic. Nothing has ever been observed that falls outside that schematic. Modern creationists, recognizing that fact, try to claim that the miraculous events, being fact, are in fact detectable and thus fit within the schematic. But since the schematic is being filled in with ever more detail and precision with multiple lines of investigation all reinforcing each others’ conclusions and all of the data exhibiting remarkable consilience, and as a random and unplanned consequence erasing the places in the schematic written in by ancient mythologies, those trained in science have no need to investigate these matters further because careful observation has proven them to be false.

Trying to put those failed hypotheses back into the schematic, creationists must challenge the parts of the refined schematic that erased their legends in the first place. The problem at this point in human progress lies in consilience. The entries that negate the creationist claims find support from every other line of inquiry relating to it’s functional part of the system. Science is writing the manual for the universal system. That consilience of the schematic, investigated from many angles to the point where it begins to resemble a three-dimensional net or neural net means that scientists can dismiss creationist claims out of hand because they failed long ago. There is no functional difference between knowing the mechanic is wrong and knowing the creationist is wrong.

When Mr. Douglas wondered if tree rings could be cross referenced, he began a branch of science known as Dendrochronology. When J. R. Arnold and W. F. Libby invented radiocarbon dating they too began a branch of science. Same with ice-cores, varves, speleotherms, marine sediment cores and many other similar fields of study. They were each developed for individual reasons and to place independent entries in the schematic of the physical universe. Each branch involves hundreds, possibly thousands of scientists, trained in the scientific method and educated in the accumulated knowledge of a general region of the schematic.

If any part of the schematic fails, the entire region suffers a ripple effect. There is no way to conceal a serious error for long. Other, independent inquiries will need to cross that axis eventually. To misunderstand the process enough to believe that there is any question whether a branch of science represented in independent research institutions and universities worldwide by hundreds or thousands of trained, qualified scientists with an enormous body of published work in the field is valid is a demonstration of supreme ignorance of what is being studied.

The title of this debate, your title, asks if dendrochronology is valid science. The ability to ask that question demonstrates a total lack of understanding of the process. It is, in short, retarded.