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Re: [APD] Science
On 03/11/2005, at 6:02 PM, Jerry Baker wrote:
> David Aiken wrote:
>> And adding 2 hydrogen atoms to 1 oxygen atom need not always
>> produce water which is a liquid, but may also produce ice or steam
>> - they are all H2O but they aren't all 'water'. You don't even
>> have to go to another planet to prove that.
> Come on ... you're stretching to make this point. Water <=> H2O.
No I'm not. Water by definition is a liquid. Ice and steam are not.
You don't always get a liquid when you combine 2 hydrogen atoms with
1 oxygen atom.
Water is definitely H20 but not all H20 is water.
>> The laws of physics don't tell the universe how to behave and the
>> universe does not behave in accordance with them. The universe
>> does what it does and, after observation and study, scientists
>> come up with hypotheses which attempt to describe that behaviour
>> and which are tested and eventually accepted or rejected. But just
>> because something is eventually accepted and comes to be regarded
>> as a 'law' doesn't mean that it is a full and complete description
>> of how the universe behaves in that regard, or that the 'law'
>> can't be changed. The laws of physics are man-made and are
>> fallible like us. The 'laws' only tell us how we expect the
>> universe to behave - they don't compel it to behave in that way.
>> They do get more reliable over time as our understanding
>> improves, but they aren't going to become perfect and
>> unchangeable until our knowledge is perfect and complete. I
>> wouldn't hold my breath waiting for that day.
> It is not a requirement that humanity learn all there is to know
> about every possible subject in the known Universe in order to
> develop a perfect law explaining one tiny aspect of it. The idea
> wreaks of mysticism.
You may not have to know everything about everything in order to
develop a law explaining one tiny aspect of it, but you do have to
know everything affecting that tiny aspect in order to develop a
perfect law explaining it. Otherwise how would you know that your law
What wreaks of mysticism is the idea that scientific knowledge as it
stands at any given time, in whole or in part, is immutable in
>> Your problem is that you're confusing the way the universe
>> behaves with the statements we use to describe that behaviour and
>> predict what will happen under particular circumstances in the
> I am not confusing the two at all. Things like gravity are already
> sufficiently well understood that the fundamental equations that
> predict gravitational interaction will not suddenly prove
> unreliable. They are here, and they always will be. Anyone who
> comes forward and says that they have an alternative theory of
> gravity and that it contradicts the current equations, is wrong. We
> can say that a priori.
Sorry but we can't say that 'a priori'. 'a priori' means that
something is true independent of our experience. All scientific
knowledge is 'a posteriori' since it is built on the experience of
our observations. You can't assert that it is wrong a priori for
someone to claim to have discovered something that contradicts
something we believe a posteriori.
> You are correct that Einstein's General Relativity adds further
> refinement to Newtonian physics, but that's why I said the bit
> about gravity a human will encounter. I doubt a human will ever
> experience the difference between the result predicted by Newton's
> equations and those predicted by Relativity. The differences are
> absolutely minuscule. It would similar to saying someone "upset"
> the current paradigm in the APD by discovering that 30 mg/L CO2 is
> not a good target, but 30.0000002 mg/L is better instead.
Miniscule differences in the results of a calculation are neither
negligible nor irrelevant scientifically. Asserting that a difference
of 0.0000002 mg/L in CO2 concentrations is a better target is
ridiculous because no hobbyist could measure things that finely and
because that difference in the small volumes of our tanks really
would not make a difference. But no one has argued that such a
difference would be better - you're putting words in other people's
> We can
>> always rely on the universe to do what it will do. We can't rely
>> on our knowledge to guarantee that we will always describe that
>> behaviour completely and accurately, and get our predictions
>> right all the time. We can and do get better at those things but
>> we certainly aren't perfect yet.
> It is true that we cannot ever rely on the entire body of our
> knowledge to be whole and complete, as well as 100% accurate. We
> can count on some aspects being whole and complete, and 100%
> accurate. What we already know, and what has been demonstrated ad
> naseum in countless experiments, is not going to change. I am not
> aware of any physical "law" that was backed up by countless
> observation and testing that was later proven wholly incorrect. I
> am aware of many speculative theories that were proven wrong, but
> that is a different matter.
For a start we can't count on any aspect of our knowledge as being
whole, complete, and 100% accurate. That would mean that that aspect
could never be refined any further. How can you prove that is the
case? If you can't prove it is the case, you can't claim that aspect
as being whole, complete and 100% accurate. As for scientific 'laws'
that were supported by observations that were available at the time
and have since been proven to be totally wrong, we can start with the
belief that the sun and planets revolve around the earth. Then
Copernicus claimed that the earth and planets revolved around the sun
in circular paths. We now believe in elliptical paths. The first
belief was totally wrong, and Copernicus's view has essentially been
modified. We now regard both accounts as theories - the first as a
mistaken theory and the second as a flawed theory. Both were accepted
as laws of science in their days. And of course, any 'law' that gets
proven wrong in whole or in part immediately has its status
downgraded to that of a flawed or mistaken theory. Our 'laws' are
merely the currently accepted hypothoses.
>> Ask any really good scientist if they are as certain of the
>> accuracy and immutability of the 'laws' of physics or science as
>> you are and I'm sure they'll say they aren't.
> No sane person would say that they are certain that the entire body
> of scientific theory is accurate and complete. I bet you couldn't
> find one scientist who would say that there is no physical law
> which is immutable. Only mystics like the guests you might hear on
> "Coast to Coast" of Art Bell fame would suggest such a fantastic
> notion. It keeps them in business.
All scientific laws are 'a posteriori' since they are built on
observation, and observations can be refined and hitherto unnoticed
features noticed. How do you think our understanding of the place of
the earth in the solar system and galaxy changed. Astronomical
observations were refined and other discoveries like Newton's account
of gravity were used to refine previous calculations. No scientist
would claim that any physical law is immutable because of that
possibility of refinement and revision due to changes in related
theories. All scientists will regard some laws as much more certain
and less likely to be subject to change than others, but no
respectable scientist would ever claim that none of our current laws
could ever be the subject of refinement and development. We have a
variety of terms for those who assert that their knowledge on
anything is complete and totally accurate, and they start with
'mistaken' as the most polite and get much worse from there.
'Scientist' is not one of those terms.
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