Vetting Our Elite Masters (2)

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The man who launched the lockdown of Western Civilization, Dr. Neil Ferguson.

Dr. Neil Ferguson (1)

I have already discussed Dr. Neil Ferguson with regard to the Imperial College Model.  But his contribution to what is certainly a deep wounding of Western Civilization continues to be highlighted in many articles.  For example, here is a summary of the influence of his model on initial (and continuing) COVID-19 public policy (emphasis added).

In the current crisis the most alarming model, nay probably the most influential in the implementation of the draconian quarantines worldwide, projected a maximum of 2.2 million American deaths and 550,000 United Kingdom deaths unless there were severe restrictions for 18 months or until a vaccine was developed. The primary author: Neil Ferguson. …

Then a funny thing happened. A mere nine days after announcing his model, Ferguson said a better number for the U.K. would be only 20,000. The equivalent would be fewer than 80,000 American deaths.

The mind simply boggles at this sequence of events.  Dr. Ferguson’s predictions created a massive panic in both government officials and the general population.  The response in the West was a near uniform (Sweden excepted, and universally denounced) imposition of draconian, open ended lockdowns of social and economic commerce.

And yet, in the space of nine days this man and his model reduced the number of predicted deaths by a more than a factor of 27!  Note that nine days is far too short a time for any government policy to have taken effect fully, let alone turned the tide in number of deaths.  No, this was the admission of a massive, incredible error.  But the damage had already been done.  Here’s how one correspondent from the United Kingdom describes the situation (which is very similar to our own here in many States of the United States).

Well, this is where it really starts to matter. We are about a fortnight from the moment when huge numbers of jobs will be in danger of permanent extinction.

The only choice will be to spend so much non-existent money that even the wild gamblers who have taken over HM Treasury are scared to do it.

But here’s the problem for Mr Bumble [Boris Johnson, Prime Minister]. He did not just panic himself. He spread fear far and wide. More than half the population have been literally scared silly.

You meet them on pathways and pavements, flinching with real alarm at the approach of another human being as if bubonic plague were abroad. They genuinely fear to go back to normal life.

The above last two sentences accurately describe what is certainly a plurality (and maybe a majority) of people in the United States.  Thus, even if all our States were completely opened tomorrow our social, religious and economic lives would continue to suffer great self-inflicted harm.

What boggles the mind to an even higher level is the fact that Dr. Ferguson and his models have built a track record of massive failure over decades.  This article provides a good summary (emphasis added).

When it comes to wildly inaccurate predictions Prof. Ferguson’s work at Imperial College has a long and distinguished history. In 2002, he said that 50,000 people in the UK would die from “mad cow disease”, to date less than 200 have passed away; he predicted 200 million global deaths from the H5N1 bird flu. Currently it is a suspected factor in the deaths of 455 people world wide; in 2009 he told the UK Government that 65,000 could die from swine flu in the UK and worked with the World Health Organisation to predict millions of deaths from the H1N1 global flu pandemic.

Suspected resultant UK deaths from swine flu were estimated to be 457 and the global total showed 18,500 laboratory-confirmed deaths from the H1N1 pandemic. …

While Prof. Ferguson and his Imperial College colleagues have been consistently wrong they have also been unquestioningly believed by governments and intergovernmental bodies on every occasion. Seemingly without reservation.

Despite the clear evidence to the contrary, policy makers from all political parties have shown tremendous loyalty to Imperial College’s silly data models. In doing so, they have not only ignored the researchers woeful history of failed predictions but have also denied the scientific evidence which usually contradicts them.

In no way can basing policy decisions on Imperial Colleges computer models be considered science led decision making. Quite the opposite.

The last four sentences constitute a definitive description of our incompetent elite masters.  Dr. Ferguson and his models do not have credibility because of their track record of predictive accuracy, because the exact opposite has occurred.  No, he has credibility because of his academic credentials and position.  His models have credibility because they were developed in an academic institution with high prestige.

The reality is likely that government officials give this pathetic failure of a modeler credibility because  he will always give them reasons to expand their power.  The fear of mass death will always affect a significant portion of the public, who will then willingly cede another portion of their liberty in exchange for “safety” from the phantom, stupidly inaccurate predictions form the likes of Dr. Ferguson.

But it’s actually far worse than this, so stay tuned.

Science and Religion (4)

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The Functional Equivalent of God

So confident have theoretical physicists become in their mathematics that they follow it into places more suited to theology than science.  It’s one thing to identify a fundamental sub-atomic particle that fills a theoretical void but quite another to claim that we are living in a hologram or in only one of an infinite number of possible universes.  The same mathematical framework, quantum mechanics, apparently leads to these two radically different conclusions.  How can we possibly determine which of these or other equally

unprovable claims (e.g., we are living inside of a computer simulation) to uncovered “reality” are true?  Or, do we next need to follow the math to prove that we live in a reality where an infinite number of possible holograms are being projected from an infinite number of two-dimensional surfaces?

I understand that these results were obtained through the legitimate goal of unifying the theories governing the micro and macro cosmos.  But, when pursuit of this goal leads to places that can only properly be described as theological speculation hasn’t science burst its legitimate bounds?  We hear brave talk about experimentally “proving” that the hologram or multiverse exist, but one wonders how such a feat could possibly be  achieved in a credible manner.

The fact that theoretical physicists have chosen to publicize results that are both unprovable and theological suggests that all is not well.  Returning to the book The Deniable Darwin.

It has been the hope of the physical sciences that everything might be explained by an austere, impersonal, abstract, consistent, and complete set of mathematical laws. The hope has acquired the aspect of a faith. Within the closed coffin of academic science and analytic philosophy, things are as they always were; but no one who shares a delusion, as Freud memorably remarked, ever recognizes it as such. Elsewhere, confidence is leaking from the most profound and ambitious system of secular thought ever created. Everyone feels that this is so. And everyone is right.

It is a fact. Among the physicists, the old quiet confidence is gone. Men with black burning eyes roam the corridors of thought. They talk of theories that will explain absolutely everything and like barroom drunks fasten on anyone to unburden themselves: It’s strings, that’s what it is, I’m telling you. There are physicists (like Stephen Hawking or Paul Davies) convinced that they are shortly to know the Mind of God, or that they have seen in the firmament secrets of a cosmic code, or discovered in the dense inaccessible equations of general relativity living proof of the Christian resurrection. But even as physicists add to their great creation myths, questions follow assertions in a never-ending spiral. … At the margins of speculation, strange numerical coincidences haunt the imagination. And there are singularities at the beginning and end of time, places where the laws of physics simply deform themselves and then collapse.

Everyone may “feel that this is so,” but almost none dare speak in out loud.

Were I to go onto the floor of a PCUSA Presbytery of Chicago assembly with the authority to demand and obtain an honest answer to this question:

Which of these two statements am I less willing to publicly voice
  1. 1. Darwin's theory of evolution has not been proven or
  2. 2. The virgin birth of Christ and His miracles are human created myths.

I am 99%+ certain it is the first that would be chosen.

Now mind you that the vast majority of assembly members do believe that Darwin’s theory is a proven fact as opposed to an unproven theory (and a majority likely do believe the second statement).  My point is that it is scientific doctrine, not Christian doctrine, that wields the power to demand submission in our contemporary culture, even from supposedly religious people.

I’m not here arguing for a return to the bloody days when the local Christian doctrine was enforced through government or ecclesiastical power (although it would be great if people who claim to be Christians actually believed settled Christian doctrine).  However, I do object to speculative and unprovable results of quantum mechanics and general relativity being used as theology.

This situation points to the insatiable human need for religious meaning.  If we suppress religious expression through actual religion it will pop up somewhere else.  In our culture it reemerges within the realm of science (or the pretense of science as in the case of “climate change”) since it is there that we are currently allowed to speculate on these matters.

But this is a dangerous misuse of science.  For in these bizarre theoretical theologies there is no actual God, no revelation, no forgiveness, no hope, no call to justice, love or holiness.  No, there is only the inhuman, unknowable void that leads to nihilism and narcissism.

Science needs to be put back into its place.  Christianity needs to regain its confidence and voice as the true source of theological revelation.

Science and Religion (3)

Universe-is-a-hologram

One possible theoretical result of quantum mechanics: Our “reality” is actually a 3-Dimensional projection of information from a 2-Dimensional plane located an infinite distance away.

Science Approaches “Thin Places”

It’s difficult to exaggerate both the success and the strangeness of quantum mechanical theory.  Simply (!) by following abstract mathematics physicists have predicted the existence of fundamental particles (i.e., much “smaller” than the protons and neutrons of an atom’s nucleus) that are later found by physical experimentation!

Screen Shot 2019-10-22 at 6.06.01 AMIn fact, multi-billion dollar experimental facilities, such as CERN’s Large Hadron Collider have been built to find the sub-atomic particles (e.g., the Higgs boson) predicted by the theoretical mathematics associated with quantum mechanics.

And so, theoretical physicists continue to chase the math of quantum mechanics further and further down the rabbit hole in hopes of discovering new truths about our universe.  Anyone following this work has become accustomed to the counter intuitive (if not bizarre) results.

The two topics covered in this post flow from the effort to unify the laws of the micro-cosmos (i.e., atoms and their fundamental particles / forces as described by quantum mechanics) with those of the macro-cosmos (i.e., larger bodies made up of atoms, such as people and stars, as described by general relativity).  Here’s a concise statement of the issue.

It’s always bothered physicists that there is one set of rules for the microcosmic, quantum mechanics, and another for the macrocosmic, the theory of relativity. It doesn’t make sense that there should be two different and incompatible groups of mathematical formulas at work in our universe. Physicists assume there must be some way to bring them into harmony.

It’s the effort to unify these two domains of physical theory that have led to “thin places.”

The Holographic Principle

prometheus56Imagine if everything that you experience as “real” is actually the holographic projection of a two-dimensional plane of information that “creates” the three-dimensional “reality” of our lives.  Here’s how one article explains this concept.

The tiniest levels of the universe are governed by the laws of quantum mechanics. Here things start to get very weird and counterintuitive.

Units of information in the realm of quantum mechanics are called qubits.

Headrick studies the quantum entanglement of qubits, a very strange phenomenon unique to the realm of quantum mechanics.   …

Increasing the number of qubits doesn’t increase the volume. Instead, it increases the surface area the qubits take up.

More and more qubits spreading out across a flat surface—this is how you get the two-dimensional plane described by the holographic principle.

So how do you get three dimensions?

Once you move beyond the realm of the teeny-tiny, the laws of quantum mechanics no longer work. Strange as it sounds, on the macrocosmic level, you need a different set of laws of physics to explain what’s going on.

Enter Einstein’s theory of relativity. To calculate cosmic events like the path followed by light or the orbit of Mercury around the sun, you need the theory of relativity.

The building blocks of relativity are also units of information. Now though, they’re called bits.

And bits behave in a way that’s much more familiar to us. They exist in three dimensions.   …

The holographic principle holds that our three-dimensional world is a representation or projection of all this activity taking place on a two-dimensional surface full of qubits.

Note that I’m not asking you to understand (I don’t) or believe this.  Rather I’m providing information on just how far the effort to unify quantum mechanics and relativity has driven theoretical physics.  There’s yet another weird but scientifically “credible” theory which will be described next.

The Multiverse

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the universe A lesson explaining the distinction between the observable universe and the whole universe. © MinutePhysics (A Britannica Publishing Partner)

Here are the opening statements from the Britannica.com article about the multiverse.

Multiverse, a hypothetical collection of potentially diverse observable universes, each of which would comprise everything that is experimentally accessible by a connected community of observers. The observable known universe, which is accessible to telescopes, is about 90 billion light-years across. However, this universe would constitute just a small or even infinitesimal subset of the multiverse. The multiverse idea has arisen in many versions, primarily in cosmology, quantum mechanics, and philosophy, and often asserts the actual physical existence of different potential configurations or histories of the known observable universe.

And here is the statement connecting quantum mechanics to general relativity from the same article.

Somewhat more-connected multiverses could arise from processes in quantum gravity, a hypothetical theory that would unite Einstein’s theory of general relativity with quantum mechanics.

So why am I claiming that these theories are moving science towards a “thin place?”  That will be the topic of the next post.

Science and Religion (2)

Hydrogen atomic orbitals

Hydrogen atomic orbitals represented as probability density plots. The darker the regional orbital, the higher the probability of finding an electron in that area. (Figure adopted from Hawking & Mlodinow 2010 ).

Embracing the Nonsensical

Counter to your immediate impression this title is not intended to be pejorative in the slightest.  In fact, it is only by the willingness of scientists led by Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg to abandon a “sensible” (as in accessible to our human senses) but defective theory of the atom for a “nonsensical” (as in inaccessible to our human senses) but brilliantly successful theory of the atom.  That “nonsensical” theory is named “quantum mechanics,” and has both been proved correct by a massive number of practical observations and led the way into understanding of our universe that would have been impossible without it.

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I don’t have either the training or experience to comment on this theory.  Nor is that my purpose here.  What I will do is meditate on the radical departure in scientific thinking that this theory spearheaded.

That radical departure occurred after a monumental controversy in the 1920’s between scientific traditionalists led by Erwin Schrödinger and Albert Einstein and the radicals led by Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg.  Their debate over how to capture the properties of the atom pitted those who insisted that any valid theory had to enable scientists to visualize its behavior (the traditionalists) against those who claimed that the application of pure mathematics (the radicals) was the correct path forward.

Up to this point in time scientific theories, even the most complex and difficult, when understood allowed a visualization of the natural world even if the level of abstract thinking exceeded that to which most humans are capable.  What Bohr and Heisenberg claimed was that the atom exists so outside the realm of human experience and intuition that its behavior could only be described by “quantum mathematics,” which give results that are not just utterly foreign to out intuitive understanding but that are also utterly “nonsensical” in every sense of the word.  The following figure shows underlying mathematical equations that describe (examples, not complete descriptions) these two scientific theories of the atom.

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Two radically different equations both attempting to describe and predict one physical reality

These two equations, both claiming to describe an atom, are obviously very different from one another.  It’s critical to note that both are mathematically correct.  That is, neither one violates the rules of mathematical logic.  However, it is Heisenberg’s equations (and the theories that they describe) that ultimately were accepted as the basis for scientific understanding of the atom and upon which the theory of quantum mechanics has been based since the late 1920’s.

As a consequence of this victory scientific inquiry into the fundamental nature of the universe ceased to be limited by human intuition and expectations.  Rather the application of pure mathematics combined with practical physical measurements created the path forward.  And this path yielded absolutely amazing advances in our ability to predict and describe the physical world’s behavior.  In particular, the purely mathematical predictions of quantum mechanics were again and again proved correct by physical measurements.  It was as if by some inconceivable miracle the physical world was constituted to behave exactly as predicted by an abstract system of mathematical logic.

Scientists have been following quantum mechanics further down the rabbit hole, yielding predictions and theories that violate all ideas of common sense and yet are proved correct by physical measurement.  But as they descend deeper and deeper into the intricacies of quantum mechanics they scandalously find themselves approaching a “thin place,” where the barrier between God and creation becomes virtually nonexistent.

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Is science moving towards a “thin place?”

Science and Religion (1)

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Image from National Geographic: Dark Matter and Dark Energy

The Scandalous State of Science

I am no enemy of science.  Without science my rewarding career as an electrical engineer in wireless communications would never have existed.  That’s because engineers are in the business of transforming the truths about our natural world discovered by science into practical human applications.

If you read my “About Mark Birchler” page you will find that science is a primary concept with which I define myself.  However, you will also find that I place limits on the scope of science’s ability to discover and convey truth.  It is at this boundary that my criticism of science originates.

There can be no doubt that the practice of science over the past four centuries has delivered a miraculous bounty of understanding and comfort to humanity. We today live in warmth in the winter and cool in the summer, move across local and continental areas with speed and ease, explore our solar system and universe, communicate massive amounts of information almost instantaneously, are diagnosed and often successfully treated for bodily illness and have access almost anywhere to all the world’s art, music, literature, philosophy and opinions on a handheld device.  These are just the few areas that immediately come to mind.

Because of this amazing success science has come to claim for itself a reach of authority that far exceeds its actual grasp.  And more importantly, the general public has granted it a scope of authority that often becomes religious.  This transference of belief from religion to science is well summarized in this excerpt from The Deniable Darwin by David Berlinski.

It is odd to imagine that intellectual structures so singular could carry a general burden of belief, one often expressed in religious terms. Nonetheless, as others were once prepared to say that they believed in God, a great many men and women are prepared to affirm that they believe in science. It is widely considered inappropriate not to.

If you almost physically shuddered at the prospect of scientific heresy associated with a denial of Darwin then you have experienced the emotional power that science now holds over our lives.  I can tell you for a fact that no one in Mainline Christianity has the visceral fear of theological heresy that almost everyone now has of scientific heresy.

All of these comments would be relevant and appropriate even were the field of science at an unassailable peak of credibility and success.  However, in point of fact the field of science has been experiencing a series of shocks and failures that has reached scandalous proportions.  The practitioners of science and those who rely on their authority are prone to paper over this situation.

But is some cases the issues are unavoidable.  As this post’s leading image says, scientists must admit that “only five percent of the universe is visible.”  The scandal is that they have no idea what constitutes the other 95% of the universe.  They call these unknown components “dark matter” and “dark energy,” but must admit that they have no idea what they actually are, how to measure them or why they exist.

Most scientists would contend that situations such as this are to be expected as our knowledge expands.  It is true that with every new quantum of knowledge comes new

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Hamlet, Act 1 Scene 5

and often unexpected questions.  However, for a field of activity that has come to claim the mantle of ever expanding progress towards human enlightenment the fact that the scope of our actual knowledge of the universe’s constituent parts has gone from 100% to 5% is more than a bit embarrassing.

It is at this and other places where the previously impregnable wall built between “science” and “religion” has began to show serious decay.  We do need clear boundaries between these two domains.  However, what we are finding as our scientific theories struggle to account for measured reality is that ““There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”