"Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and the Sultan of Johor are seen in a blue Proton Saga... "When asked whether there is any tension with the sultan, Dr Mahathir said: “No, I don’t see anything because I went to see him and he drove me to the airport. I don’t want to comment on the sultans because if I say anything that is not good then it’s not nice because he is the sultan”"

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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

An Evolution Skeptic on why the Theory of Atoms is Wrong

"Irrationally held truths may be more harmful than reasoned errors." - Thomas H. Huxley


A: I'm an exevolutionist so I'm not an anti evolution,if the science is convincing I will take it.I'm not singling anything out.I don't believe in the big bang,quantum mechanics,evolution,relativity,theory of atoms.

B: Science is not really about belief but more about understanding.

You claim to rely on Science but reject all the above? Did you really consider all the evidence? Do you accept the methodology of science at all?

Science today is inherently complex and even specialists in one field cannot claim to understand the complexities of a different field. But you won't find them saying they reject it because they don't understand it. That is primarily because they know how science works and the rigorous hurdles a theory has to go through before it becomes part of the scientific canon. And you would reject major theories because you don't believe them?

I find that quite incredulously naive, frankly speaking.

A: Or rather I reject any theories which I don't find convincing.

In Anna Claybourne's Who Split the Atom?(2010)

Page 23

"Atoms really are mostly made of nothing.If you were squashed down so that the empty space in your atoms was removed,you'd be smaller than a grain of rice."

Page 43

"In fact,the more you think about matter,the stranger it seems.Our planet,cities,homes,furniture,food,computers,books,toys,ourselves and all other living things,are mainly empty space."

You believe the above?The book did state the experiment but I don't find the inferences from the experiment convincing.Let me cut and paste from the same source.

Page 22-23

"In 1909,Rutherford and his colleagues Hans Geiger and Ernest Marsden,were working in Manchester,England.They came up with an experiment to fire alpha particles at a sheet of gold foil-which is made up of a very thin layer of millions of gold atoms.They could detect where the particles ended up afterward,by using a screen that showed a tiny flash when a particle hit it."

By believing in the existence of millions of gold 'atoms' is already begging the question,by assuming its true,without proving.

"The results showed that most of the alpha particles shot straight through the foil and hit the screen.But occasionally,some were deflected sideways- and a few actually bounced back the way they had come."

"Rutherford realized this meant the atom was not much like a plum pudding,as Thomson has thought.Instead it must have a tiny,solid,postively-charged core or nucleus(bold in original),surrounded by empty space,with electrons floating around in it.When an alpha particle hit a gold atom,it usually flew freely through the empty part,or hit a lightweight electron that could not stop it.But sometimes it hit the hard,heavy nucleus and bounced off."

The above paragraph already assumed what it claimed it wanted to prove. Circular reasoning.

Page 23

"Rutherford's gold foil experiment revealed that atoms are almost all empty space,with tiny electrons whizzing around a small solid core or nucleus.He had conclusively proved the basic structure of atoms,which was a huge leap in atomic theory"

Did he proved it?I doubted it.Not convincing at all.

Do you think the inferences made from the experiments are convincing?
Maybe to you.Not to me.

Me: Do you believe in a round earth?

A: Do you believe that you asked that question?

Before seeing your question,I thought nobody would ask that.

I'm wrong.Dead wrong.

If you for a minute believe that the evidence of a darwinian evolution is as strong as the theory for round earth.If you answer in the affirmative then I have nothing else to say to you.

Me: The probability that the earth is flat is higher than the probability that the big bang, quantum mechanics, evolution, relativity and the theory of atoms are all wrong

C: Care to elaborate on why the probability of earth being flat is higher than the other stuff such as big bang being wrong?
[or as implied, why is the probability of earth being roughly spherical is lower than probability of big bang, quantum mechanics, atoms etc being correct?]

[the shape of the earth can now be observed as not being flat but the other stuff are mainly affirmed via strong inferences & induction - nothing wrong with discovering truth via inferences & induction]

Me: We cannot directly observe that the earth is not-flat (it can be flat and round at the same time - the Flat Earth Society posits that the earth is a disc with the South Pole being impassable - see http://www.alaska.net/~clund/e_djublonskopf/flatpic1.gif). In any case, we only know what The Powers That Be tell us - have you actually gone into space and viewed the earth for yourself? Even if you *did* go into space, how would you know you were not in an elaborate studio made to trick you?

Individually, one could perhaps make a case that each claim was less likely than a flat earth. However, *in tandem*, the probability of all of them being wrong is less likely than that the earth is flat.

A: The case against atoms is not an isolated one.

As Roger Penrose said in the foreword of Carlo Cerigani's book,Ludwig Boltzmann : The Man Who Trusted Atoms,'there were a still a great number who regarded this "atomic hypothesis" as merely a convenient fiction which did not reflect any genuine reality at a submicroscopic level.'

In the book,Carlo's argue that the theory of atoms is useful,'What can we do is establish a bridge between the various levels in order to form a coherent picture;the whole of Boltzmann's work is a masterpiece of this procedure,i.e. how to construct,starting from atoms,a description that explains everyday life.It is thus not surprising if nowadays Boltzmann equation is used for practical purpose.When an aerospace engineer studies the re-entry of a shuttle,he must take into account that the description of air as a continuous medium,usually adopted in the design of the airplanes,is no longer valid,in the higher,rarefied atmosphere and he must use the atomistic description provided by the Boltzmann equation.If we want to study the motion of the very minute particles that pollute our atmosphere,we must again,because of the tiny size of these aerosols,abandon the traditional model of air as a continuum and use the Boltzmann equation.'

This I do not disagree that the theory of atoms is useful,just as Penrose mutter people like me treat it as 'merely a convenient fiction which did not reflect any genuine reality at a submicroscopic level.'

My argument is people like the concept of atoms is because it lets people confine it to a finite proportion so they can manipulate and do simulations of it in a computer,if its not reducible to a finite unit then its not computable.The convenience,I understand.The correspondence to reality,I don't agree.

As for usefulness,its well documented that in the history of mankind,false beliefs (like the ionian concept of the world being made up of 1 element water,later expanding to 4 elements) and different forms of religion aided people to make sense of their surroundings,they are certainly useful.Whether they are true is another thing.


Your fellow skeptical humanist

B: If atomic theory is hopelessly defective, chemistry wouldn't work. Chemical equations, the periodic table... are all fictional. But we know that isn't true.

A: If you're trying to summarise my position,its in a wrong way.Penrose puts it better 'there were a still a great number who regarded this "atomic hypothesis" as merely a convenient fiction which did not reflect any genuine reality at a submicroscopic level.'

I do agree its useful.Its not 'hopelessly defective' but it didn't reflect genuine reality at a submicroscope level.

Me: I notice you haven't actually said what matter *is* comprised of.

A: Basically I think matter is irreducible as far as convincing experiments shows.

My current view of matter is it can't be reduced to a finite unit.Well you can say it has a fractal like property in the sense can be split into parts, each of which is a reduced-size copy of the whole,a property called self-similarity.(Of course water can be reduced to hydrogen and oxygen via electrolysis.What I meant by can't be reduced to a finite unit is for example,you take water and some biological stuff say a cell,the water as an individual sample,the cell another sample.You zoomed in and magnify the image.For the cell,eventually you can see the cell components which is of finite proportions,say a ucleus,organelles,cytoplasm and cell membrane.For the water,it is water all the way down.)

If you're trying to summarise my position,its in a wrong way.Penrose puts it better 'there were a still a great number who regarded this "atomic hypothesis" as merely a convenient fiction which did not reflect any genuine reality at a submicroscopic level.'

You keep using that quote. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Full quote:

"From about the middle of the nineteenth century, a gradually increasing number of physicists were indeed coming to accept the reality of atoms, but there were a still a great number who regarded this "atomic hypothesis" as merely a convenient fiction which did not reflect any genuine reality at a submicroscopic level"

The Rutherford experiment (gold foil) came a good half a century (1909) after the middle of the 19th century, which is why the atomic model is what we use today.

Why do you have such a fetish for 19th century science (we can also see this from your incessant quoting of Darwin when Biology has long ago moved on as well)?

Perhaps you'd like to take cocaine the next time you have a headache.

Do you have a problem with the germ theory of disease too? That was also controversial in the 19th century.

In fact, have you even *read* this particular book that you love to quote so much? We have pointed out your quote-mining a la creationism many times, and it seems you are doing the same again.

Here is another quote from "Ludwig Boltzmann: the man who trusted atoms":

Today's atoms have shown an embarrassing richness of internal constituents, the elementary particles, which seem to constitute an unbelievably varied zoo. That the atom was not a simple object was a fact clear to Boltzmann himself, as we have seen: the findings of spectroscopy and chemistry were there to show that atoms cannot be simple, indivisible entitites.

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.
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