The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning and the Universe Itself? Part 8

Part 8 of my review of the book: “The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning and the Universe Itself,” by Sean M. Carroll. Part 7 is found here.

Darwinian Evolution

In his next chapter “Evolution’s Bootstraps” Carroll starts by describing Richard Lenski’s experiment, which he labels as evolutionary biology. I am thinking that Carroll must have gotten the creationist message that evolution (in the goo-to-you sense) cannot be science because there is not one experimental demonstration of any process which changes microbes into molecular biologists. I say this because he states:

“Evolution is the idea that provides the bridge from abiogenesis to the grand pageant of life on Earth today. There is no question that it’s a science: evolutionary biologists formulate hypotheses, define likelihoods of different outcomes under competing hypotheses, and collect data to update our credences in those hypotheses.” (p.273, emphasis added)

In the first sentence he uses one definition for the word ‘evolution’ (the bridge from abiogenesis to the grand pageant of life) but in the following sentence it is different (mutations and selection though not explicitly stated). After the word ‘science’ what follows implies ‘evolution’ is observable in the lab, by carrying out experimental science. This is changing of the definition is called equivocation, and demonstrates very poor logic.

Very strangely Carroll does not see the point he makes himself in terms of the weakness of equivocating on the meaning of the word evolution when he admits that chemists and physicists have an advantage over evolutionary biologists because they can perform repeated experiments in their labs. The latter defines experimental science but nowhere in his statement (above) does he indicate that the evolutionary biologist carries out an experiment that “provides the bridge from abiogenesis to the grand pageant of life”.

The data collecting and formulating of hypotheses is in relation to what they believe happened in the past. At best this is historical science, a type of forensic science that tries to unravel the sequence of unseen past events. But experimental science or operational science, which is the usual definition used for science, depends on repeatable experiments to test hypotheses. This the evolutionary biologist cannot do and he admits it.

“It would be very hard to set up a laboratory experiment to see Darwinian evolution in action, just as it would be hard to create a new universe.” (p.273) (emphasis added)

Nearly correct, but not quite! It would be not “hard” but impossible. But like all evolutionists, he then equivocates at this point saying:

“But it’s not impossible. (At least for evolution: we still don’t know how to create new universes.)” (p.273)

Continue reading

The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning and the Universe Itself? Part 4

Part 4 of my review of the book: “The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning and the Universe Itself,” by Sean M. Carroll. Part 3 is found here.

Understanding the World

Carroll devotes a few chapters to assessing how well we understand the world. He introduces us to Rev. Thomas Bayes who, in the latter part of his life, studied probability. He was published posthumously on the subject. His work has become widely used in mathematics, principally statistics, and also in physics. The subject has become to be known as Bayesian inference or Bayesian probability.

Bayes’ main idea involves how to treat the probability of a proposal being correct in the light of new evidence becoming available. In physics we rely on what we already know, or what we think we have established as foundational and we build upon that. When we get new information that could change our view we need to update what we believe is the probability of the hypothesis being correct in light of that new information. That probability is what is called a credence, or the degree of belief that we hold that we are correct.

So Bayesian inference attempts to apply a quantitative value to what we might infer from our attempts to explain the physical world. It is the basis of scientific investigation. In terms of experimental discoveries it is easy to see how this might apply. We can never prove any hypothesis or theory correct. All we can hope to do is update our credence, meaning to increase the probability of a theory being correct.  In physics a threshold is established of 5σ (5 sigma) above which it is said that a discovery has been made. Statistically that is like saying there is only 1 in a 3.5 million chance that the signal isn’t real and thus the theory is wrong. That is a very low probability indeed. But some discoveries have been made at the level of 3σ or less.I know of one hypothesis that had a 6σ probability yet it turned out to be wrong.2

But things don’t always work out to be correct, even with a statistical probability above 5σ. Any hypothesis may be refuted but it can never be proven. Do you remember the claim of faster than light neutrinos in 2011? The OPERA team’s experimental results indicated a 6σ level of confidence, which is much higher than the 5σ usually required for new particle discoveries. But in the following year, as many expected (because we don’t expect any particle to break the speed of light limit), an error was found in the experimental analysis resulting from a loose fibre optic cable, and that meant those neutrinos obeyed the universal speed limit. When the new information came in the Bayesian credence could be updated to nearly zero. Continue reading

Intelligent design or the “simple unguided” laws of nature

This year I restarted a hobby that I hadn’t participated in for over 40 years. That is oil painting. One of my fears in restarting to paint was that I would not have the ability I had when I was young and I would just waste my time. Some examples of the art I have been doing in the past few weeks are shown below.

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For the past month, I have been staying in a guest house at the National Institute for Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (A.I.S.T.) in Tsukuba, Japan, while I have been working on some developments of ultra-stable sapphire clocks for the National Metrology Institute of Japan (N.M.I.J.), which is an institute within A.I.S.T.. During my free time, mostly on weekends, I have been oil painting.

TBP coverAlso during this time I have been reading Sean Carroll’s latest book The Big Picture, On the Origins of Life, Meaning and the Universe Itself (2017). In that book, for which I will write a review later, he writes that according to “science” life arose, and has subsequently been driven to evolve by Darwinian evolution, because the apparent design we see has been the natural consequence of available ‘free energy’ (Gibb’s free energy that is available to do work, derived from sunlight), an increase in entropy (the outcome of the Second Law of thermodynamics) and Darwinian natural selection. No intelligence was necessary, he says. The complexity we observe in living organisms is a consequence of the initial condition that we live in certain a time and place in the universe far from equilibrium and the “simple unguided” laws of nature act in a way to produce what we think looks like intelligent design. Continue reading

The Bible is still relevant in this age of Science!

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I presented this message at a small church in Adelaide in 2013. It has just now been posted on the web, and the message is still relevant as ever. In fact, for believers this message daily becomes more relevant as the foundations of the Christian faith are being ‘white-anted’ (eroded) from beneath through the pagan teachings of the big bang origin of the Universe and evolution. That non-biblical worldview has slowly (over the past 150 years) been accepted into the church as true science. The message is ‘the authority of man’s science above the authority of God’s Words.‘ Believers beware of this poison! It is destroying faith and causing many to doubt. But a true understanding of God’s Words and how science fits into the Bible helps us understand the world around us and even answers questions like, if God is a good, merciful and compassionate God, then why is there death and suffering in the world? Continue reading

‘Sacred’ the Film

Georgia with her script

Georgia with her script

Recently I had the pleasure to meet and talk with a very passionate young Christian lady, Georgia, who has written a story called “Sacred“. It is a story about the sacredness of human life regardless of where it comes from or how it is conceived. She is so passionate about this she has thrown herself into it with other like-minded souls to make this full length feature film—a dramatised saga of the events in the life of young 16-year old girl called Jade. And Georgia, and her crew, are doing it on the back of the “smell of an oily rag.” All actors are trained actors but volunteers; the support staff are all volunteering their time. But they need support. These sort of films need money for non-labour costs that are only provisioned that way. I asked Georgia how she supports herself, and she said she works in MacDonald’s. Like the Apostle Paul she is ‘tent making’ but there are significant production costs.  It is a film designed to change lives—to change the culture. Continue reading

Science the new religion

Science has become the new religion. Those who dare challenge the dictates of ‘science’ are often declared crackpots, pseudo-scientists or just plain crazy. If you deny or doubt evolution, or anthropogenic global warming (AGW), now called ‘climate change’, or the effectiveness or safety of certain vaccines, or the universal safety of genetically modified foods, as compared with natural breeding and hybridization practices, you are called nasty names. These might include ‘flat-earther’, particularly if you deny Darwinian evolution.1

It has come to a point now that to be called a ‘creationist’ is a big negative, like you are a pseudo-scientist, or follower of astrology, or witch doctors, etc. Such a person is thinking irrationally and cannot be trusted according to the new paradigm.

Then there are those who are called some sort of ‘climate change denier’, who must be funded by ‘big oil’, as though they must have a corrupt vested interest or be just plain crazy. As a physicist I have analyzed the global temperature data, spanning the last 100 years, downloaded from the Met Office Hadley Centre.2 I have no vested interest here, but I find that a continued warming trend is not supported by the data. But I remain skeptical. The main problem I see is the limitation of human time scales and the lack of any really robust model that successfully predicts developing trends.3 Continue reading