December 21, 2016

In the NYT "Lives They Lived" annual feature, Emily Bazelon writes about Antonin Scalia as a "skeptic about science."

The grand year-end summary of those who have died commemorates Justice Scalia with the thesis statement: "He claimed objectivity when it came to originalism, but he was a skeptic about science."

That sounds so wrong to me. I don't think Scalia "claimed objectivity when it came to originalism." I think he aspired to neutrality and thought originalism at least imposed a standard that would make it possible to call out a judge who'd lapsed into deciding that the Constitution means what he'd like it to mean.

And I don't know what is the basis for calling him "a skeptic about science" unless you just mean he was skeptical of a judge's ability to know science well enough to use it in a neutral way or that he thought that unscientific cultural beliefs could be a rational basis for democratic choices.

So far I've only read the title of Bazelon's piece. Let's see what she's come up with — whether it makes sense and is fair and whether it has an appropriate attitude to belong in the set of year-end tributes that is the the NYT's traditional "Lives They Lived" feature.

Bazelon begins with Edwards v. Aguillard (1987), which is about teaching evolution, a subject that has distressed many religious parents for a long time. There was a Louisiana law that attempted to accommodate these people by requiring that — if evolution were taught — the alternative theory of "creation science" would also be taught.

The Supreme Court majority said this was a violation of the Establishment Clause because there was no secular purpose for the law. As Bazelon puts is:
For seven justices, the decision involved a simple constitutional question. They saw the law as an effort to force religious belief into the science curriculum, and they struck it down.
Justice Scalia dissented because there had not been a trial on the question whether "creation science" could be considered a legitimate, alternative scientific theory.
He saw the case as a question about certainty: What can we really know for sure? Pointing to “ample uncontradicted testimony that ‘creation science’ is a body of scientific knowledge, rather than revealed belief,” he chided his colleagues for treating the evidence for evolution as “conclusive.”
But the uncontradicted testimony that "creation science" is science had to do with whether those who challenged the law were entitled to summary judgment — getting a court to strike down the law without going to trial. Justice Scalia wasn't saying "What can we really know for sure?," but what do we know before going to trial and judging the credibility of the witnesses. And, beyond that: what's a scientific enough question to be permissibly included in a science class? As Justice Scalia wrote:
The people of Louisiana... are quite entitled, as a secular matter, to have whatever scientific evidence there may be against evolution presented in their schools, just as Mr. Scopes was entitled to present whatever scientific evidence there was for it. Perhaps what the Louisiana Legislature has done is unconstitutional because there is no such evidence, and the scheme they have established will amount to no more than a presentation of the Book of Genesis. But we cannot say that on the evidence before us in this summary judgment context, which includes ample uncontradicted testimony that "creation science" is a body of scientific knowledge, rather than revealed belief. Infinitely less can we say (or should we say) that the scientific evidence for evolution is so conclusive that no one could be gullible enough to believe that there is any real scientific evidence to the contrary, so that the legislation's stated purpose must be a lie. Yet that illiberal judgment, that Scopes-in-reverse, is ultimately the basis on which the Court's facile rejection of the Louisiana Legislature's purpose must rest.
Bazelon treats Scalia's Aguillard, written in his first term on the Court, as revealing the pattern his decisionmaking would take. She does get around to something close to what I sketched out in the second paragraph of this pose:
“History is a rock-solid science compared to moral philosophy,” Scalia said at the University of Virginia School of Law in 2010. In other words, he saw his project as stripping the law of judicial ideology. When his colleagues reached results that matched their politics, he derided them with the phrase “any stick to beat a dog,” according to another former clerk, Bruce Hay, now a law professor at Harvard. To prove the impartiality of originalism, Scalia often pointed to the occasional votes he cast against his preferences, like his support for a 5-to-4 ruling in 1989 that found a right to burn the flag in the First Amendment.
Fair enough. But why, if he liked history as a check on judicial activism did he also not show more interest in science? Again, Bazelon quotes a law professor:
And so it’s striking, observes Justin Driver, a law professor at the University of Chicago, “that the justice who more conspicuously than any other was invested in trying to make legal interpretation objective sometimes seemed to be skeptical of science itself, the best means we have of pursuing objectivity.” 
But was he skeptical of science or skeptical of the ability of lawyers and judges to slot science into their legal reasoning? I think Bazelon sees that it is the latter:
At an argument before the Supreme Court in 2006, in a case about climate change, a lawyer for Massachusetts gently corrected Scalia for referring to the stratosphere instead of the troposphere. “Whatever,” Scalia responded. “I told you before I’m not a scientist. That’s why I don’t want to have to deal with global warming, to tell you the truth.”
Bazelon says: "But the court had to deal." Actually, no. The case in question was about standing to sue, and the Court — on the existing doctrine — could very easily have said that Massachusetts did not meet the 3-part injury-in-fact test (which required finding that Massachusetts had a concrete and particularized threatened injury that was fairly traceable to the EPA's decision not to regulate new car emissions and that would likely be redressed by requiring that regulation). I was very surprised — and this was after teaching standing doctrine for more than 20 years — that the Court found standing. Scalia's dissent applied the doctrine in what was the conventional way I'd expected. His approach, finding no standing, really would have kept the Court out of the scientific matter. It would have left the question of how government should respond to global warming in the hands of Congress and the EPA.

Bazelon continues to the subject of same-sex marriage. Is that a science topic? It's a social science subject, and Scalia gets chided for refusing to see the social science research "as settled." I'm extremely wary of this idea that a person is hostile to science if he doesn't readily accept the assertion that science is settled! Bazelon writes:
In 2013, the lawyer defending California’s ban on same-sex marriage gave no examples of how allowing gay couples to marry could be harmful. “I don’t know why you don’t mention some concrete things,” Scalia prodded him. “There’s considerable disagreement among sociologists as to what the consequences of raising a child in a single-sex family, whether that is harmful to the child or not.” In fact, at that point there was a strong body of evidence showing that children fare as well with gay parents as they do with straight ones.
I'm sure there is. I would expect that from social scientists, but the question was whether the states that didn't have same-sex marriage had a rational basis to think there was a legitimate reason for their law. If you look at the transcript from that oral argument, you will see that Justice Scalia is referring to the power of state legislatures to have this law because these "states... believe it is harmful -- and I take no position on whether it's harmful or not, but it is certainly true that -- that there's no scientific answer to that question at this point in time." The lawyer for the state then aptly pointed out that it was the other side's burden to show "that it's beyond debate that there will be no harm." That is, Scalia was talking about legal doctrine and whether democratic choice should prevail, not whether he believed the stronger "body of evidence" showed no harm to children. The question of what harms children is subtle and not subject to easy or conclusive research. Human life is an ongoing experience. It's at least arguably more scientific to say we don't know.

Finally, Bazelon criticizes Scalia for not accepting what she calls a "scientific consensus" that the death penalty does not deter murder!
He dismissed the findings of a panel of the National Research Council, which surveyed the relevant studies and unanimously concluded in 2012 that the death penalty does not have a deterrent effect. To support his claim to the contrary, Scalia cited three articles. Two were statistical studies that the National Research Council had discredited. The lead author of the third (which was not an empirical evaluation) had previously stated that his paper did not claim the death penalty had a deterrent effect. “Scalia was willing to cite work that was thoroughly refuted by an accepted scholarly institution, without feeling any need to buttress his position,” says John Donohue, a Stanford economist and law professor who conducts empirical research on the death penalty.
I thought the deterrent value of the death penalty — long rejected — had become a serious subject in recent years. Look at this 2007 NYT article. It quotes Cass Sunstein: "The evidence on whether it has a significant deterrent effect seems sufficiently plausible that the moral issue becomes a difficult one... I did shift from being against the death penalty to thinking that if it has a significant deterrent effect it’s probably justified." It's not surprising that more research ensued, and I'm not surprised that a panel of the National Research Council voted unanimously in favor of the old article of faith.

Here's what Scalia wrote about it in 2015, in Glossip v. Gross:
And finally, JUSTICE BREYER speculates that it does not “seem likely” that the death penalty has a “significant” deterrent effect. It seems very likely to me, and there are statistical studies that say so. See, e.g., Zimmerman, State Executions, Deterrence, and the Incidence of Murder, 7 J. Applied Econ. 163, 166 (2004) (“[I]t is estimated that each state execution deters approximately fourteen murders per year on average”); Dezhbakhsh, Rubin, & Shepherd, Does Capital Punishment Have a Deterrent Effect? New Evidence from Postmoratorium Panel Data, 5 Am. L. & Econ. Rev. 344 (2003) (“[E]ach execution results, on average, in eighteen fewer murders” per year); Sunstein & Vermeule, Is Capital Punishment Morally Required? Acts, Omissions, and Life-Life Tradeoffs, 58 Stan. L. Rev. 703, 713 (2005) (“All in all, the recent evidence of a deterrent effect from capital punishment seems impressive, especially in light of its ‘apparent power and unanimity’”). But we federal judges live in a world apart from the vast majority of Americans. After work, we retire to homes in placid suburbia or to high-rise co-ops with guards at the door. We are not confronted with the threat of violence that is ever present in many Americans’ everyday lives. The suggestion that the incremental deterrent effect of capital punishment does not seem “significant” reflects, it seems to me, a let-them-eat- cake obliviousness to the needs of others. Let the People decide how much incremental deterrence is appropriate.
Let the People decide. That is judicial restraint, not hostility to science.

I myself love science, but I'm skeptical of the work product of scientists — especially social scientists. The scientists are human beings with opinions and preferences.

I'm sure many of them hate the death penalty and some of them structure the studies and look at the data under the influence of their opposition to the gruesome old practice. I know I, a human animal, do.

The scientists are human beings, who like me and like the people they may study, have minds that we can only struggle to understand.

Why does a scientist make a conclusion about what helps and hurts children or what stops a person from committing murder?

Who can ever plumb the depths of even the scientist's mind let alone the minds of all the children and of the people who murder and — where do you find them? — refrain from committing murder?

What makes a judge decide a case one way and not another?

What makes a NYT writer — and a Truman Capote fellow at Yale Law School — write about a conservative Supreme Court Justice as a man who claimed objectivity in originalism but was a skeptic about science?

We scarcely know. We can search forever and still scarcely know. And I consider myself decently scientific, saying that. Decently. Humanly. Why am I writing this, really? Can I even know my own mind? Why do I defend Justice Scalia when I see him attacked? Why does that feel unfair to me and why, of all things, is that what I jump to spend my morning parsing?

Ah! It's a mystery!

98 comments:

Steve said...

It is always interesting when stupid people write about intelligent people. Normally it is Justice Thomas that gets this sort of treatment. I guess since Scalia is dead, Bazelton isn't to worried about a retort.

Michael K said...

In fact, at that point there was a strong body of evidence showing that children fare as well with gay parents as they do with straight ones.

My understanding is that it is impossible to get funding or support for any study skeptical of the premise that children raised by gay parents are not affected adversely, The only rare studies I have seen are by religious organizations and are immediately dismissed as theology, not legitimate science.

The pathology resulting from the absence of fathers in boys' homes is ignored. Some day, it may become obvious that a real problem has been ignored as a result of politics, just as the problem of the black family was ignored too long.

khesanh0802 said...

@Ann Quickly skimming, I had this immediate response: social scientists are not scientists. From what I have seen of their work they begin with a theory and then gather only the information that supports that theory. That's not "science".

Now I have to go back and read your entire analysis.

rhhardin said...

She's up to what the NYT is always up to.

Cultural Marxism belongs in science.

Static Ping said...

People who are not skeptical about science hate science.

Gahrie said...

And I don't know what is the based for calling him "a skeptic about science

You're supposed to be a skeptic about science! Real science is based on skepticism.

The problem is the Left, especially the Progressives, view science as a religion.

Evolution is a theory. It appears to explain the appearance of man, but it is far from proven. There are many missing links. Creationism is also an unproven theory that would explain the appearance of man on Earth.

.... invested in trying to make legal interpretation objective sometimes seemed to be skeptical of science itself, the best means we have of pursuing objectivity.

But when science enters the realm of politics it is no longer objective. AGW and climate change is the best example of this.

He dismissed the findings of a panel of the National Research Council, which surveyed the relevant studies and unanimously concluded in 2012 that the death penalty does not have a deterrent effect.

The death penalty does have a real and observable deterrent effect....any murder executed cannot kill again. How many murders sentenced to less than death have gone on to kill prison guards, fellow inmates and innocent civilians in the course of escape attempts?

Birches said...

The new religion. Same as the old one.

n.n said...

Round and round.

Ironically, Creationists reject evolution of human life from conception. They anthropomorphized the chaotic process in order to normalize abortion rites for political progress. They tend to support "=" rather than equality, and class diversity rather than diversity, through the establishment of the Pro-Choice Church. They oppose capital punishment for murderers and rape-rapists, but advocate capital punishment for the wholly innocent who are summarily disarmed and cannibalized. They voice opposition to self-defense, but defend social "justice" adventurism in mass abortions and presumptions of guilt, inconvenience, or worthlessness.

As for science, most people are either theists or atheists. There are few people who are unaffected by political considerations that avoid conflating logical domains and exceeding the narrow limits of the scientific domain in both time and space to exploit as leverage over competing interests.

YoungHegelian said...

Every time a lefty brings up "science", make sure your powder's dry.

One hundred million people died in the 20th C at the hands of their own governments because of "Scientific Marxism". It not only was science, it was the only possible "proletarian science".

Don't get misled by the European & American revisionist Marxists who walked away from the "scientific" claims of Marxism because they knew it was booyah. The folks who murdered the 100 million? Science all the way.

n.n said...

People who are not skeptical about science hate science.

The raison d'etre of science is a chaotic (i.e. incompletely, insufficiently characterized and unwieldy) system that requires us to acknowledge accuracy is inversely proportional to the product of time and space offsets from an established frame of reference, hence skepticism, with cause.

Kevin said...

I myself love science, but I'm skeptical of the work product of scientists — especially social scientists. The scientists are human beings with opinions and preferences.

And how might those opinions and preferences be even more pronounced if the findings of their research can be used to override public opinion and the political system by forcing judges to issue rulings in accordance with it?

Further, how might their funding, their ability to find meaningful employment, and their ability to do research which might create findings which run counter to their opinions and preferences, be impacted if the weight of "scientific evidence" be paramount in legal decision-making?

Scalia was hardly anti-science. He was working to keep science from corrupting the legal system, and by extention the legal system from corrupting science itself.

Real American said...

Science is a process, not a result.

YoungHegelian said...

“History is a rock-solid science compared to moral philosophy,” Scalia said at the University of Virginia School of Law in 2010. In other words, he saw his project as stripping the law of judicial ideology.

It's telling that Bazelon reads Scalia statement on the shaky epistemological grounds of moral philosophy (a statement that would be uncontroversial among moral philosophers), as a statement of his jurisprudence.

Hammond X. Gritzkofe said...

I'm so confused, Mr. Kotter. I thought the point of "science" was to remain somewhat skeptical, open to new evidence.

Brent Ayotte said...

Thank you Professor for dissecting this!

Having the intellectually deficient skank Emily Baselon judge a giant of intellect and integrity - neither of which she has EVER demonstrated in her years of partisan hate-filled writings and witch hunts - is the peak in illustrating how far far left and Anti-American and Anti- Constitutional the New York Times has become.

Despicable 1 ply Toilet Paper. I only wish she would print her photo for wipability

robother said...

Whenever we hear the words"Social Science," we should reach for our revolvers.

No matter what era you're in, its always deployed by the leftist vanguard to shut down democratic defense of traditional institutions. Its the ultimate Authority deployed by supposed anti-authoritarians. The fact that its certainties (social Darwinism, Freudian psychology, the lame social science cited in Brown v Board of Education) don't pass the laugh test in respectable quarters 25 years later never undermines the new "science" being deployed to empower elites today.

JPS said...

Real American:

"Science is a process, not a result."

Yes!

I get my hackles up when I see phrases like "was a skeptic about science" because so many scientists seem to have decided lately, "Hey: We're taken seriously as experts. Let's spend some of that credibility to achieve some good for society."

Then some of them put their thumb on the scale, because hey, what we're trying to achieve is too important to wait for the dumb public, who probably wouldn't understand what we do anyway, to string along. Then they get caught. Then their reaction is, "Gosh, there's just so much hostility to science out there! Such anti-intellectualism!"

The late Stephen Schneider had a famous line about scientists, hoping to make the world a better place, having to find the right balance between being effective and being honest. His defenders say it's quoted unfairly and out of context. I find it all the more damning when quoted meticulously and in full context, all the more perfect an example of why so many people are "skeptical about science" or even "anti-science".

Ann Althouse said...

Does it smell like moby in here?

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Ann Althouse said... I'm extremely wary of this idea that a person is hostile to science if he doesn't readily accept the assertion that science is settled!

Good, and I hope your wariness pushes you to oppose the political movement(s) pushing just that idea--and doing everything possible to put the power of the State behind enforcement of that idea. That'd be the Left, of course.

Nice of the NYT to pick someone who disliked and opposed a prominent public figure to write the commemorative summary of that person's life and work, huh? No bias there, no siree.

(Fuck the NYT, fuck the Media, and fuck Baselton. Which Slate writer is worse--Lithwick or Bazelon? Tough call!)

whswhs said...

Why is deterrence the issue regarding capital punishment? Yes, you can statistically measure deterrent effects, so far as you can measure things in social science (which is more problematic than a lot of social scientists believe). But the assumption that deterrence is the point of criminal law is a *philosophical* position, and a debatable one. Traditionally the debate has been framed as deterrence vs. rehabilitation, but that's a severe oversimplification. There are a lot of possible functions for criminal penalties:

Pacification: If the law doesn't do something people will resort to rough justice
Incapacitation: Put the criminals where they can't do any more harm
Retribution: Harm the criminals as they harmed others
Restitution: Compel the criminals to make the victims whole
Deterrence: Make examples of the criminals so that other people will fear to commit crimes
Rehabilitation: Change the criminals so they no longer wish to commit crimes

and there are probably others I haven't thought of. My own take is that both deterrence and rehabilitation are deeply flawed: Deterrence can be achieved by punishing the innocent (this is a problem with pacification as well) and rehabilitation has the state presuming to control people's minds. My own preference is for retribution, which is the first place ordinary people go in thinking about punishment. I also think that the Axelrod "tit for tat" experiments give retribution as much of a scientific justification as any theory of punishment can be expected to have. But whatever your position, I think there are enough different possibilities so that simply going straight to "we can measure the success of doing X" is not automatically relevant to questions of criminal justice, not without showing why X is what we should be trying to do.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Steve said...It is always interesting when stupid people write about intelligent people

Peggy Noonan's phrase re: the elite Left's attitude towards non-elite Left Americans, that we are "patronized by our inferiors" sure seems on point, huh?

Dust Bunny Queen said...

I'm not a skeptic about "science". BTW: they need to define what is meant when they use the term "science". If science = you must believe in global warming because we say so, then I am more than skeptical. I am dismissive of such illogical thinking.

I am skeptical about the political perversion of and use of "science" to accomplish pre-set goals and to push agendas to control the population and enrich a small group of people.

David said...

Bazelon is a crowd follower posing as a trend setter. Her analysis is designed to reinforce her own status within a particular social-intellectual group. The design may be conscious or unconscious. Either way it is totally predictable and interesting only as confirmation of how and what the group thinks.

Qwerty Smith said...

As others have pointed out, science is a method that requires skepticism. It especially requires skepticism regarding the ways that interests, preconceptions, and institutional authority shape what is studied, how it is studied, what is published, and so on.

One of the most shocking things I learned in becoming a social scientist was how deeply flawed virtually all published research is, even concerning things with no obvious policy implications (such as astronomy and shark physiology). Virtually all work takes things for granted--and probably has to take things for granted--that cannot be taken for granted.

When it comes to things that have policy implications, the ideology prevailing among the researchers, journal editors, funding agencies, and outside reviewers magnifies the problems attending all research (the greater likelihood of getting positive findings published, the need to publish or perish) to such an extent that I'm disinclined to believe anything.

Peter said...

Big Science is political, as it must be in order to receive the large public and private funds it needs to maintain its present scale. Therefore it's entirely rational to be skeptical of it.

But in any case, what is unscientific in being skeptical of science? Data talks and BS walks and science, whether big or small and despite the overall high prestige of science in general, does not occupy some privileged position that places, or should place, it above criticism. At a minimum, an honest science recognizes its limitations, the vast areas where it doesn't (yet) have a clue.

Why would anyone think it somehow "anti-science" to criticize science?

Michael K said...

"Why is deterrence the issue regarding capital punishment?"

I can show proof that capital punishment is 100% effective in deterring murder. No executed murderer has ever committed another murder.

The death penalty was much more frequent in days when society was frequently disorganized and prison was often unavailable or insecure.

With the present devotion of our outgoing president to pardoning and releasing dangerous criminals and terrorists, we seem to be returning to a previous era.

As far as Evolution is concerned, I got into a nasty argument over at Ricochet when I posted that I would not write a letter of recommendation for an applicant to medical school who did not believe in evolution.

Ricochet seems to have a lot of Flat Earthers and also a lot of NeverTrumpers. I haven't decided if the two are related.

JAORE said...

"So far I've only read the title of Bazelon's piece. Let's see what she's come up with — whether it makes sense and is fair...."

El Predicto says: Not likely.


Bay Area Guy said...

Bazelon obviously hasn't read the famous 2005 scientific paper by Dr. John Ionnides from Stanford, Why Most Published Research Findings Are False

Cliff Note Summary:

Many research findings are simply accurate measures of prevailing bias.

Lewis Wetzel said...

I am not certain what it means to "believe in evolution." It's all metaphysical, isn't it? We experience the world as symbols, and the expression of that experience, thoughts and words, are allegory.
The important thing is that our beliefs work in context.

Hagar said...

"Social science is a contradiction in terms" is a saying approximately as old as AA herself.

Bazelon's problem, and evident in her article, is that she sees the Supreme Court as a super-legislature rather than a court.

Hagar said...

Evolution is a fact. How it works is the subject of any number of theories.

n.n said...

Evolutionary process or chaos is a fact. Human life is an evolutionary process from conception until a natural or elective death. The Theory of Evolution is a philosophy which intersects with the scientific domain. Evolutionary Creationism (i.e. spontaneous conception and progressive development) is a fantasy or article of faith.

Michael K said...

"I am not certain what it means to "believe in evolution."

It is a scientific fact but subject to the same sort of controversy we see in global warming but in reverse.

Modern medicine is increasingly based on genetics and you cannot understand genetics without evolution.

I have no issue with "Intelligent Design" although I am a skeptic.

n.n said...

The Flat Earthers have a political or social consensus. Framing matters.

Intelligent Design is an article of faith or perhaps a myth with a social consensus, which cannot be exclusively established in the scientific domain. Neither can Evolutionary Creationism.

"I am not certain what it means to "believe in evolution."

It's an acknowledgement that a chaotic system and processes determine that accuracy is inversely proportional to the product of time and space (or perhaps just space) offsets from an established frame of reference, hence the implicit boundaries of the scientific logical domain and a scientific method to constrain assumptions and assertions outside of that limited frame.

n.n said...

I have no issue with "Intelligent Design" although I am a skeptic.

The belief in "Intelligent Design" does not preclude the acknowledgement of chaotic processes (e.g. evolution). In fact, some theistic philosophies (e.g. Judaeo-Christian) explicitly separate the logical domains, which promotes objectivity in the scientific domain and secular achievement.

Lewis Wetzel said...

Both the creationists and the evolutionists believe that there is a thing out there called "the past" that has a real existence, even absent our thoughts about it. "past" and "future" are features of language, not the observable universe.
Unless you believe in something like the Judeo-Christian God.

Jim said...

I am so tired of people who treat tri-mesters in abortion cases as somehow scientific, complaining about science denialism.

Hagar said...

Einstein said "Time is that which we measure with a clock." I have not heard if our knowledge of what time is has advanced since then.

traditionalguy said...

The Darwinistas are enamored of a single field theory to explain life. The claim to have one and you do not since it is revelation based religion. But "The Science of Creation" is an attack on Darwin's "theory" using known complexity of living creatures and probability theory of their happening accidentally. They are both part of the same science.

Scalia was a rebel against orthodoxy. It was his courage that you mysteriously liked.

Qwerty Smith said...

Hagar said... "Bazelon's problem, and evident in her article, is that she sees the Supreme Court as a super-legislature rather than a court."

That's not fair. She thinks any power--legislative, executive, or judicial--is appropriately exercised by whichever branch yields the correct results at the moment. I'm sure she would deny that the court should be a super-legislature if doing so would support a conservative outcome. Have you ever seen her argue against interest on constitutional grounds?

Here's the column I would like to see from every commentator on constitutional matters: "policies I want that are unconstitutional, and policies I oppose that are constitutional."

Fernandinande said...

Hagar said...
Einstein said "Time is that which we measure with a clock."


Apparently you're the first person to say that.
Hermann Bondi said "Time is that which is measured by a clock."

Michael K said...

"The Darwinistas are enamored of a single field theory to explain life"

My point is that evolution is the only way to explain what we are learning about genetics.

It is not an idle, philosophical pursuit as most modern medicine is based on genetics and why the code is the way it is.

I have tried, partly as a way of keeping up with my students and partly just to keep up with medicine, to keep to date on genetics. This has resulted in me having to buy three editions of the big genetics textbook in ten years. If you want to know why this is important, read the contents list of a few New England Journal issues.

Anthony said...

I don't know if these people are just plain dumb, ignorant, or lying.

whswhs said...

Michael K, when you say "No executed murderer has ever committed another murder," that's not deterrence, but incapacitation. You're talking about making the murderer themself unable to murder again; you're not talking about making people other than the murder (or the person accused or convicted of murder, which may be different) fear to attempt murderer lest they suffer a similar penalty. Failing to recognize such distinctions is the kind of careless thinking too common among social scientists (including penologists); I'm sorry to see you fall into it.

Hagar said...

@Fernandinande,
Google "Time is that which we measure with a clock," and see what you get.
Einstein must have said it in German, since I see the English statement in several versions, but it was Einstein.

Mike said...

Emily writes about things she does not understand. Just like Linda. They pretend to know the constitution but all they know is how to hate the "right" people and disdain their processes, no matter what the law is. They exist to comfort the Upper West Side and provide sneering admonitions to conservatives. It's so nice to live in a bubble on the right side of history.

Fernandinande said...

YoungHegelian said...
One hundred million people died in the 20th C at the hands of their own governments because of "Scientific Marxism".


Heh, no, there was no science at all involved in Marxism, except perhaps that its implementations were experiments which showed that Marxism was nothing but a bizarre fantasy.

"Bazelon begins with Edwards v. Aguillard (1987), which is about teaching evolution, a subject that has distressed many religious parents for a long time."

Is there any evidence that children benefit from getting lawyers 'n' courts involved in their education ?

Paul Snively said...

Hagar: Einstein said "Time is that which we measure with a clock." I have not heard if our knowledge of what time is has advanced since then.

It's important to distinguish between snappy comments attributed to Einstein (he offered many, and many, including this one, are probably apocryphal) and what we know about physics—in this case, thanks to Einstein himself.

"Special" relativity tells us that space and time are not distinct, hence the popular term "spacetime." It also tells us that the speed of light is a universal speed limit and, bizarrely, a constant for all observers, with the implication being that the rate at which time passes is not constant for all observers (hence "relativity"). It's also where we get "E=mc^2" from. In short, most popular understanding of "relativity" is about the "Special" theory, which is "Special" in the sense that it doesn't treat the general cosmological case.

"General" relativity, which took Einstein another decade plus to develop because, frankly, he didn't have the math chops for it when the idea first occurred to him, starts with Special relativity and adds the observation that gravity is the curvature of spacetime due to the presence of mass. The really mind-blowing part of this is the implication that, because mass moves in spacetime, the geometry of spacetime is not fixed: spacetime bends and warps as mass moves through it. This also has weird implications, like: light rays passing a very massive object, like a star, should observably bend in their trajectory as they do. And they do. We've observed this.

Back to time: so according even just to special relativity, we should be able to take two atomic clocks on earth, synchronize them, and put one on the fastest supersonic jet we have, send it around the earth a few times, and when it lands, the clock from the jet should be slightly behind the one left on earth. We've done this, too, and it works as predicted.

There's more, of course, but hopefully you get the idea. We have a quite good understanding of spacetime, thanks to Einstein, and have tons and tons of experimental support for it. You'll sometimes read that quantum mechanics is our best-attested physical theory, but frankly, that's hogwash. General relativity is.

Francisco D said...

Whwhs,

I don't think that Michael K failed to recognize the distinction between incapacitation and deterrence. I took his comment as sarcasm. I take your comment as condescending, sort of like a fifth grade teacher correcting a student.

What is your opinion on the deterrence value of capitol punishment? Please avoid bogus polling and studies. Does it make sense to you?

Don't be afraid of using big words. Most of us on this site have reasonably good educations and experience. :-)

Mike said...

Putting "social" in front of a word nullifies its meaning.

__________ justice

__________ science

__________ engineering

__________ medicine

__________ security

etc.

Hagar said...

"Religion is about who created the universe and why; science is just trying to find out how it was done."

People who think science is incompatible with religion just fail to recognize how far beyond our ken God must be - if there indeed is a God, that is.

jacksonjay said...

I think Scary Scalia wrote the opinion that allowed the EPA to regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant. Hell what's science skeptical about that? Ammirite?

Fernandinande said...

whswhs said...
Michael K, when you say "No executed murderer has ever committed another murder," that's not deterrence, but incapacitation.


"Murder" has the lowest rate of recidivism...because most murderers would only kill that one person anyway, regardless of punishment of other circumstances. In fact, someone who kills more than one person in separate incidents is sometimes considered a "serial killer". (pages 3 to 5 show how rare they are).

It's burglars, armed robbers and such who could use a good death penalty, hopefully provided by an intended victim.

Michael K said...

Failing to recognize such distinctions is the kind of careless thinking too common among social scientists (including penologists); I'm sorry to see you fall into it.

Failing to recognize a statement that is true and makes no other claim as far as "Social Science" is concerned, is evidence of "careless thinking" that may be seen in those who fail to understand others.

Try to think some more. Do you know of a case in which an executed killer committed another murder ? I would be eager to hear your evidence. We could probably come up with a booby trapped corpse in Guadalcanal, but not too many examples in civilian life.

Hagar said...

Paul S.,
Nah. General relativity theory is just a way of looking at the known universe and doing some calculations; it does not explain what either time or space or space-time is.

Michael K said...

"we should be able to take two atomic clocks on earth, synchronize them, and put one on the fastest supersonic jet we have"

I've also read this example as two clocks, one on a train passing through a station and the other in the station.

Hagar said...

Why is the speed of light in a vacuum ~300,000 km/sec? Why not some other number? How about the recent articles where some scientists claim they have speeded up light beyond that figure? How about those who claim time has varied over time?

And which of us do not remember discussing with other kids what might lie beyond our universe? Because there must be a limit, right? But then what lies beyond that again? And so on.
I am glad there are big thinkers at Harvard and Cambridge to think about these matters so that I do not have to. I just get a headache.

Lewis Wetzel said...

There are two things: the signified and the signifiers. Human minds, by definition, experience only the signifiers. We can only interface with the signified by means of the signifiers. Time and space are signifiers, not the signified. This what Wittgenstein was on about when he wrote "Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent."

readering said...

In the Creation Science case, Scalia accepted the following definition of Creation Science: "a collection of scientific data supporting the theory that the physical universe and life within it appeared suddenly, and have not changed substantially since appearing." That is the writing of someone who is a skeptic about science, since science shows Creation Science, under that definition, to be nonsense. The Big Bang theory indicates that the physical universe appeared suddenly, but it sure changed substantially since.

Eric the Fruit Bat said...

Being the very dumb person that I am, I simply do not get how proving that life on Earth is the consequence of intelligent design in any way, shape or form proves, or tends to prove, that anybody, at any time, has ever had the slightest clue as to what did the creating or what it ever wanted, if anything at all.

Roger Sweeny said...

Since Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962), it has been scientific to be skeptical of science.

Paul Snively said...

Hagar: General relativity theory is just a way of looking at the known universe and doing some calculations; it does not explain what either time or space or space-time is.

That's a question of philosophy, not physics. General relativity tells us what spacetime "is," in the sense any hard science does: it gives us explanatory and predictive power about it. No general relativity, no GPS satellites, for example.

I'm not saying the philosophical question is illegitimate, incidentally. Just that it's different from the scientific question.

Paul Snively said...

Hagar: Why is the speed of light in a vacuum ~300,000 km/sec? Why not some other number?

That's a good scientific question, but also distinct from "what is spacetime and how does it behave?" It also covers a bunch of other dimensionless constants in physics; "c" is not at all unique in this regard.

How about the recent articles where some scientists claim they have speeded up light beyond that figure?

The amount of bad popular science out there is astonishing. I mean, there are people who not only believe string theory is a theory, they believe it's true.

How about those who claim time has varied over time?

They have no experimental evidence. They're theorizing in order to account for the (rate of) inflation of the universe and the hypothetical dark matter and dark energy. Which, again, is great, but it's not at all in the same league as general relativity, which has withstood literally thousands of experiments attempting to falsify it.

Again, there's nothing a priori wrong with asking "what is time?" but it hints at expecting an answer in some form other than "here's a theory which has explanatory and predictive power and has withstood thousands of attempts to falsify it." That's what takes it outside the realm of science and into the realm of philosophy. "Why do the dimensionless constants have the values they do?" isn't just a good question, it's the question in physics today. Well, that and "how do we reconcile general relativity and quantum mechanics, which aren't jointly mathematically consistent but the universe doesn't seem to care?" but that's a whole 'nother story (that led some poor souls to string theory).

Unknown said...

One of my favorite quotes about science is something like this, from Terry Pratchett in his book Hogfather:
“Credulous: having views about the world, the universe and humanity's place in it that are shared only by very unsophisticated people and the most intelligent and advanced mathematicians and physicists.”

--Vance

Quaestor said...

The only time questions of science should be a matter for judges is when science is used to justify a law, or when science is used against a defendant. In the first case laws that rest on science rather than on the will of the people are wrongheaded in conception, and should be challenged and taken down if possible. In the second case any science used by the state should be open to attack by defending counsel if any opportunity presents itself. A defender should attack the bias of the scientist, the methodology of the work, or even the soundness of the scientific principle in question itself, and the judges legitimate duty is to rule not on the science, whether it is true or false, but simply on its relevance or admissibility, and nothing more.

Nonapod said...

One of the most infuriating aspects of the modern left is that they've fairly successfully perpetuated these narratives about conservatives being unscientific and/or anti-science by speciously conflating various arguments, ideas, and concepts around topics like anthropomorphic climate change and ideas championed by some (arguably fringy) social conservatives like Creationism as actual Science and what-not. Then they'll conversely champion themselves and their fellow travelers as the party of Science. They exploit the human tendency to group concepts together, even when those concepts are only be tangentially related at best.

It makes it difficult to make meaningful counter arguments that don't cause peoples eyes to glaze over in boredom.

Take a topic like "climate change" and all the horseshit that's been said about it, from absurd statements like "the Science is settled" and whatever percentage of Scientists agree on what thing. Even the term "Climate Change" is heavily loaded and ridiculous. No real scientist is going to say that the climate doesn't/hasn't/won't ever change. No real scientist is going to say that the activity of humans (or any other organism for that matter) doesn't have some kind of effect on the climate, even if it's only in some infinitesimally small way. Of course what that effect actually is, how severe it is, how to best quantify it, predict what may happen in the future, what can realistically be done about it... these things are all hugely debatable among scientists.

It's also insane to assume that scientists themselves are beyond reproach. Scientists are human beings. Human beings make errors in judgement. Human beings are prone to weaknesses like greed, fear, peer pressure, and a desire for job security.

And consensuses made up of human beings are historically bad at predicting stuff. Look at history! Certainly a hundred years ago a broad consensus of people believed a lot of stuff we now know to be nonsense. And if you want a more recent example of the failure of consensus, look at the 2016 elections! Weren't all the "smart people" we're telling us that Hillary had it in the bag?!

Steven said...

I get my hackles up when I see phrases like "was a skeptic about science" because so many scientists seem to have decided lately, "Hey: We're taken seriously as experts. Let's spend some of that credibility to achieve some good for society."

My only objection to this statement is the word "lately". As long as there has been public respect for scientists as experts, there have been scientists using that status to pontificate on how society should be organized.

On another note, Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions is relativist bunk by a man who wouldn't have been able to notice truth if it repeatedly hit him between the eyes with a baseball bat.

Quaestor said...

Infinitely less can we say (or should we say) that the scientific evidence for evolution is so conclusive that no one could be gullible enough to believe that there is any real scientific evidence to the contrary, so that the legislation's stated purpose must be a lie. Yet that illiberal judgment, that Scopes-in-reverse, is ultimately the basis on which the Court's facile rejection of the Louisiana Legislature's purpose must rest.

Scalia was a sceptic about the role of law in science, and here illustrates beautifully for us the outer boundary of law. There are some questions that have no business in a court of law. Questions of science are usually among these. To bring a matter of science to the Supreme Court for summary judgement is a stupid as the "creation science" the plaintiff wishes to exclude from the classroom.

The problem with state laws that seek to establish an equal footing between science and religion masquerading as science is the fact that high school students are not intellectually prepared to weigh the evidence, that's why they're called students and not peers. In fact high school science teachers are not often up to the task themselves. Soi-disant creation scientist cultivate a slick, smiling style that is calculated to mislead persons whose understanding of the scientific method is inadequate, which is why high schools should teach the consensus view of biology without having to submit to counter-arguments from creationists, not because it the consensus is true, but because the consensus view has at least survived disconfirmation long enough to be printed in textbooks. Challenges to the consensus view should wait until the student has been admitted to graduate school. In fact teaching the consensus has no place in any graduate school of science worthy of the name. If you are a grad student in biology or physics or chemistry or what have you it means you're there to apply your brain to the task of disconfirmation of the consensus. Mostly you'll fail. Your experiments will most often either confirm the observations or conclusions from previous work, but that's not bad. That's good.

I once had the privilege to attend a series of guest lectures given by Richard Feynman. It was during the first lecture, an introduction to quantum mechanics for non-physics majors that he digressed into some important commentary about the scientific method. He said "When I tell you about the electron you can believe me, but don't trust me." He told us a story about a Ph.D candidate he knew at Cornell. He was studying psychology, and consequently had little contact with Feynman academically, however they both loved jazz and often sat in the same session together. The grad student told Feynman about his troubles with his faculty advisor. His thesis proposal had been rejected on the grounds of not being original, something about monkey sex. The advisor told him he should do something original, not re-do a classic experiment that everyone in the field considered definitive, in other words, do try to disconfirm orthodoxy. There were some psych majors in the hall, and there were a lot of discontented mumblings about disrespect. Feynman said in real science 90% of what you do is what has been done before. Mostly you just end up doing something confirmatory or inconclusive, and that's good. It often means your lab work is competent. Sometimes you get results that contradict the original work, and that's usually bad because it means your lab work sucks. But rarely, ever so rarely it means you're on to something revolutionary.

Fernandinande said...

Creation Science was settled in 1971:

"We know for certain, for instance, that for some reason, for some time in the beginning, there were hot lumps. Cold and lonely, they whirled noiselessly through the black holes of space. These insignificant lumps came together to form the first union, our sun, the heating system. And about this glowing gas bag, rotated the earth, a cats-eye among aggies, blinking in astonishment across the face of time.
...
Animals without backbones hid from each other, or fell down. Clamosaurs and oysterettes appeared as appetizers. Then came the sponges, which sucked up about 10% of all life. Hundreds of years later, in the Late Devouring Period, fish became obnoxious. Trailerbikes, chiggerbites, and miskweetoes collided aimlessly in the dense gas. Finally, tiny, edible plants sprang up in rows, giving birth to generations of insecticides and other small, dying creatures.

Millions of months passed, and, 28 days later, the moon appeared. This small change was reflected best, perhaps, in the sand dollar, which shrank to almost nothing at the bottom of the pool, where even dumb amphibians, like catfish, laid their eggs in the boiling waters, only to be gobbled up every three minutes by the giant sea orphans and jungle bunnies, which scared everybody.

And so, in fear and hot water, MAN IS BORN!"

Chuck said...

If I were King, I'd require readers of NYTimes.com to click on the Althouse blog before being taken to the article of their choice.

StephenFearby said...


Ed Whelan (NRO)

"Emily Bazelon’s attack is even much funnier (because even much less competent) than I expected. If nothing else, please read item 5 in the Part 2 post."

From Bench Memos:

Smearing Justice Scalia on Science—Parts 1 & 2

http://www.nationalreview.com/bench-memos

'5. Bazelon says that Scalia “contradicted scientific consensus when he declared it ‘very likely’ that the death penalty deters murder.” (Note that she again conflates social science with science.) Here’s the passage from his separate opinion in Glossip v. Gross that she objects to:

Justice Breyer speculates that it does not “seem likely” that the death penalty has a “significant” deterrent effect. It seems very likely to me, and there are statistical studies that say so. [Followed by citations.]

So Scalia’s “seems very likely to me”—which is poking at Breyer’s own “seem likely”—is what Bazelon presents as Scalia “declared.”

Much worse, Bazelon invents the “scientific consensus” that she says Scalia contradicts. The National Research Council report that she links to and touts actually “concludes that research to date on the effect of capital punishment on homicide is not informative about whether capital punishment decreases, increases, or has no effect on homicide rates.” (Emphasis added.)

Summarizing this same report, Breyer accurately stated that it “reviewed 30 years of empirical evidence and concluded that it was insufficient to establish a deterrent effect.” In a gaffe that should disqualify her from writing about science, Bazelon flubs Breyer’s warning that “‘lack of evidence’ for a proposition does not prove the contrary.”

Perhaps it would have been better if Scalia had added that the “statistical studies that say so” had been disputed. But Breyer and Scalia both have unclear scientific support for their intuitions. Why is one, but not the other, the supposed enemy of science?'

Michael K said...

the judges legitimate duty is to rule not on the science, whether it is true or false, but simply on its relevance or admissibility, and nothing more.

I used to run into this as an expert witness in med-mal and trauma cases. You cannot establish truth in a courtroom.

You say, "This is following the standard of care." The other side can get another expert to say , "No it isn't."

Then the judge or jury decides who sounds more likely to be right.

Jack Wayne said...

To all the people who either do or don't believe in creation science or do or don't believe in the Big Bang: we are told the universe is expanding. What is it expanding into?

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Re: evolution, the thing that always flummoxes me is how you get to self-replication w/o the use of self-replication. Granted that descent with modification works, how do you get to the point where it can work? I remember an experiment in my middle-school science text, whereby scientists attempted to simulate the conditions of primeval water thrown up on the side of an active volcano, which (after many tweaks) yielded simple organic molecules. Did they get a double helix? Of course not; still less the superstructure surrounding it that makes self-replication possible.

Mitch H. said...

To say you 'love science' is to speak as a plausable bully, the sort whose spouse is always sporting long-sleeved blouses or shirts, and the occasional shiner. It is an abusive, negating sort of love, possessive and controlling. To love 'science' is to do violence to the concept.
You can love your family, you can love God, you can love your country.

To say you love a method of inquiry is to demonstrate your capacity for category errors.

Lyin'PB_Ombudsman said...

""we should be able to take two atomic clocks on earth, synchronize them, and put one on the fastest supersonic jet we have"

I've also read this example as two clocks, one on a train passing through a station and the other in the station."

The important thing is the difference in pace. The faster you (and your clock) can get to the speed of light, the greater your clock will diverge from the not-fast moving clock.


BTW, I don't believe that Althouse is into science.

Chuck said...



Regrettably, you are mostly right. But we do have varying state requirements on board certification in the relevant specialty; and there is the growing line of Daubert cases.

Have you taken a look yet, at the case that made Judge Posner a hero to me? Before, that is, Judge Posner lost his mind in the SSM cases. The case is called Austin v. American Association of Neurological Surgeons. 7th Circuit. I lauded that opinion in publication, and Dr. Austin demanded to meet with me for lunch and straighten me out. We met, he gave me a signed copy of his book, and he did not straighten me out.

Chuck said...

Oops. My post just above was aimed at this comment by Michael K:

Michael K said...
"the judges legitimate duty is to rule not on the science, whether it is true or false, but simply on its relevance or admissibility, and nothing more."

I used to run into this as an expert witness in med-mal and trauma cases. You cannot establish truth in a courtroom.

You say, "This is following the standard of care." The other side can get another expert to say , "No it isn't."

Then the judge or jury decides who sounds more likely to be right.


Chuck said...

Stephen Fearby:
Isn't Ed Whelen of the NRO great? He loves multi-part columns, where he first disputes an opposing columnist. And then in parts II, III and IV, he rips out their guts, burns their corpse and kills all their offspring.

boycat said...

I would not write a letter of recommendation for an applicant to medical school who did not believe in evolution

They'll just get someone else to write it who hasn't closed their mind on the subject.

Paul Snively said...

Jack Wayne: To all the people who either do or don't believe in creation science or do or don't believe in the Big Bang: we are told the universe is expanding. What is it expanding into?

The question isn't well-formed, unfortunately, and equally unfortunately, it's extremely difficult to explain why. My attempt to summarize goes something like this: what we experience in human terms as "space" is not only not infinite in extent, it's not even constant in shape or structure moment to moment. When we talk about the universe expanding, we don't mean, for example, that the galaxies, stars and planets in them, etc. etc. are getting farther apart in space; we mean space itself is expanding. There's no "into what," that we know of, for it to be expanding into. At the very least, it's not expanding "into" space.

An analogy I've heard used that I don't especially like, but can't do any better than, is to take a plain toy balloon, and use a sharpie to draw some dots on the surface of the balloon. The dots do indeed get farther apart from each other, but not because they move across the surface of the balloon: they don't. They get farther apart because the surface of the balloon is expanding. So it is with space(time).

This is another one of those things that sounds absolutely bonkers, but has survived thousands of experimental attempts at falsification. My personal favorite thing about Big Bang cosmology is that, if the Big Bang happened as the physicists believe it did, there should be residual radiation literally everywhere you look in the universe. And sure enough, in 1965, the CMBR (Cosmological Microwave Background Radiation) was discovered, by accident, by scientists who weren't even looking for it, hanging in there at about three degrees Kelvin, exactly as predicted.

So the current picture is that the visible universe (the part of the universe from which we're able to get photons) is about 13.8 billion years old, is expanding, and the rate of that expansion seems to be increasing. This is because the universe began in what's called the "Big Bang singularity," the nature of which is not understood at all, but for some reason, one day (see how difficult it is to talk about these things? There were no "days" before the Big Bang!) decided to expand into the spacetime we know and love today.

I'm fibbing a bit when I say the Big Bang singularity is not understood at all: there's reason to believe it wasn't any different than any other singularity in cosmology, which we call "black holes," although it's an interesting question as to what it means for a singularity to cause the universe as opposed to other singularities being in the universe, and now we come to the question of black hole radiation, evaporation, whether there will ultimately be any event horizons as we approach the end of the universe, Stephen Hawking and Leonard Susskind's "black hole wars," etc. etc. etc. but this is already plenty long enough.

Paul Snively said...

*sigh*

Draw dots on the balloon, then blow it up, of course.

Douglas said...

Bazelon is propagandist, period. She may claim to be a legal analyst, but that's just marketing for the rubes.

Lyin'PB_Ombudsman said...

"Draw dots on the balloon, then blow it up, of course."

The pieces of fruit in an expanding fruit cake analogy is better, anyway.

Also, I can't bite my tongue any more, please never type that dark matter and dark energy are hypothetical. If you want to, rightly, make fun of string theory, you should probably tighten up on the trivial stuff yourself. I can continue to ignore your other errors.

rcocean said...

Anyone who talks about "Social Science" should be shot on sight. You might as well talk about "Nazi Science" or "Communist Science" - sticking the word "Science" after "social" doesn't make sociology, criminology, anthropology, or even Political "science" -actual, y'know science.

All these "social sciences" are dominated by Leftists who pretend to be "Scientists" - when they are actually doing nothing more then studies or statistical analysis. Most of the time, their object to to simply prove or disprove something, not to objectively observe what is going on.

There have been so many frauds, phony stats, biased studies, etc. its impossible to take any of it seriously. See Margaret Meade, Freud, Kinsley, et al.



rcocean said...

As for "proving" the death penalty doesn't deter. How is that even possible? To do so, you'd have to identify all the people who DIDN'T murder someone because of the death penalty.

You can compare state homicide rates with the DP and those without, but then you get in the problem of apples vs. oranges.

And of course, you also have the "DP on the books" but almost no one is ever executed. Maybe, we'd have a large scale deterrent effect if we actually executed 10% of convicted killers instead of .01%.

Jack Wayne said...

Paul, the balloon you are describing is getting bigger, isn't' it?

Saint Croix said...

Emily Bazelon writes about Antonin Scalia as a "skeptic about science."

He's a skeptic about science as a religion.

Bazelon has a faith-based approach to science. She has no doubts whatsoever! And no real tolerance for the doubts of other people. She denounces Scalia as an apostate and proceeds to burn him at the stake.






Crimso said...

Accusing someone of being skeptical about science is like accusing an Olympic sprinter of being someone who can run really fast.

Marc Puckett said...

There's an article now at the Daily Mail about Peter Thiel teaching "a course on heterodox science" at Berkeley Institute (had never heard of it) in California. "The course, heterodox science, is described on the site as ‘fields of study that dissent from mainstream science.’" https://goo.gl/7CIFF2

Saint Croix said...

I would not write a letter of recommendation for an applicant to medical school who did not believe in evolution

I would not write a letter of recommendation for an applicant to law school who could not argue against evolution.

Here's a law student for you!

And another one!

Paul Snively said...

Jack Wayne: Paul, the balloon you are describing is getting bigger, isn't' it?

Yep. So's the universe. That is, spacetime is expanding, again, as opposed to things getting farther apart in spacetime.

Let's put it this way: if you were a ladybug on the balloon's surface, you wouldn't be able to tell that the balloon was getting bigger; you'd only be able to tell that the other ladybugs were getting father away from you. That's kind of where the analogy breaks down, because there are experiments we can do, and have done, to confirm general relativity's claim that it's spacetime itself that's expanding, not that things are getting farther apart in space(time). It's why the mathematics of general relativity relies on Riemannian geometry.

Relativity's weird.

Paul Snively said...

Lyin'PB_Ombudsman: Also, I can't bite my tongue any more, please never type that dark matter and dark energy are hypothetical.

You may wish to take that up with, say, Lee Smolin, who also characterized dark matter and dark energy as "hypothetical."

And they are, in the literal sense that they're hypotheses that physicists use to explain major discrepancies between the observed amount of matter in the universe and the rate of the universe's expansion, and those numbers as predicted by general relativity. It's not because we've "observed" dark matter or "measured" dark energy somehow—by definition, because, as I'm sure you know, dark matter doesn't interact with matter, and dark energy isn't measurable the way what we call "energy" is.

In other words, it isn't that I'm saying the discrepancies aren't real (whatever that would even mean). All I'm saying is that we don't have, even in principle, some set of experiments characterizing some new kind of matter and new kind of energy in the universe. If it's fair to "make fun of" string theory because it isn't even a theory, it's just as valid, for the exact same reason, to call dark matter and dark energy "hypothetical." They're phrases we use to label disagreements between theory and experiment. They're not at all on the same footing as, say, electromagnetism.

George said...

I'm not sure why you would expect anything other than partisan hackery from Bazelon. She's an embarrassment.

Lyin'PB_Ombudsman said...

Paul,

It's a shame that you don't understand what makes up the universe and and what doesn't, proportionately re dark v visible. There is no speculation involved, just as we can measure the moon around the earth we can measure the acceleration of the universe's expansion and the influence of matter sans light emission.

This is not hard stuff, dude.


Paul Snively said...

Lyin'PB_Ombudsman: It's a shame that you don't understand what makes up the universe and and what doesn't, proportionately re dark v visible. There is no speculation involved, just as we can measure the moon around the earth we can measure the acceleration of the universe's expansion and the influence of matter sans light emission.

I'm sorry, but "measure the acceleration of the universe's expansion and the influence of matter sans light emission" is exactly what I said, is not the same as measuring mass (matter) or energy (energy), and saying "dark matter" and "dark energy" to describe differences in actual vs. expected measurement outcomes is not the same as "dark matter is a new form of matter and dark energy is a new form of energy."

This is not hard stuff, dude.

Actually, it is. And i can't help but notice that you failed to engage with the fact that professional physicists, who have been studying this for over a decade now, also use terms like "hypothetical," "if it exists," etc. to refer to dark matter and dark energy. I suggest you move a bit beyond the Michio Kaku's and Lawrence Krauss's of the world (NB: they do important work, popularizing this material, with the attendant cost in precision), and study more deeply.

Lyin'PB_Ombudsman said...

Paul,

Thanks for the tips. But presumably my background in graduate courses re this stuff will suffice.

You don't seem to be able to grasp that it is impossible for the universe to be the way it is w/o dark matter and dark energy. That's not debatable, it's math.

Whatevs.

readering said...

Go to Amazon--Books and type "evolution" and you get 64,351 hits. No doubt much duplication, but still. The biological sciences are based on the theory of evolution.