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Tuesday, 05 September 2017


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"Scientific theories are just that - theories!"
David, David, David! Sigh ...

How many times have I seen your oft-repeated nonsense? Too many times.

When scientists use the word "theory", it has a different meaning to normal everyday use. That's right, it all comes down to the multiple meanings of the word "theory". If you said to a scientist that you didn't believe in evolution because it was "just a theory", they'd probably be a bit puzzled [More than a bit! TBH].

In everyday use, theory means a guess or a hunch, something that maybe needs proof. In science, a theory is not a guess, not a hunch. It's a well-substantiated, well-supported, well-documented explanation for our observations. It ties together all the facts about something, providing an explanation that fits all the observations and can be used to make predictions. In science, theory is the ultimate goal, the explanation. It's as close to proven as anything in science can be.

Some people think that in science, you have a theory, and once it's proven, it becomes a law. That's not how it works. In science, we collect facts, or observations; we use laws to describe them; and a theory to explain them. You don't promote a theory to a law by proving it. A theory never becomes a law.

This bears repeating. A theory never becomes a law. In fact, if there was a hierarchy of science, theories would be higher than laws. There is nothing higher, or better, than a theory." --

Henry, with the sort of blind stupidity that only a masochist would indulge, I am going to contradict you!

A 'theory' is simply an explanatory idea based on the knowledge to hand. A 'scientific theory', is merely a sub-clause of this definition which applies to scientific matters. Even so, I think I am right to suggest that huge numbers of them have failed because, eventually, a fact comes to light that shoots the theory down.

I would go further (damn fool that I am!) and suggest that even 'laws' (as defined by you) eventually stumble against hitherto unknown facts, for example, effect at a distance as exampled by sub-atomic particles with a matching specific 'spin' which are moving away from each other at near the speed of light and yet if you change the spin on one the other immediately follows suit!

I'm off to my air-raid shelter (aka: my bed) and I trust the counter-barrage will not be too fierce! Just remember how many science subjects I failed at school!

Darwin actually took (stole?) a lot of Wallace's work and, having been to both Bali and Lombok I can understand why Wallace developed his theory. Read Wallace and all will be revealed - maybe.

Would it be true to say that a scientific law is a theory with scope?

So a law is a theory with one or more Occam's razor clauses bolted on the end to limit its general applicability?

A theory with limits.

So when a theory gets proved wrong by being falsified - i.e. by failing some experimental test that it purports to explain - it gets "demoted" to being a law instead.

So, a theory is of the form: For all X: Y.

But a law is of the form: For all X: Y, but not when Z.

Something like that?



"A 'scientific theory', is merely a sub-clause of this definition which applies to scientific matters."
That is a false premise.

A scientific theory is not merely a sub-clause of the definition of the word "theory". It is, rather, defined by scientists, to mean: an explanation in scientific and mathematical terms for experimental observations of the characteristics of some natural phenomenon. In addition, in order to be an acceptable scientific theory, it must be falsifiable in principle -- that is, it must, in principle, make predictions that might be falsified by some future scientific experiment. An accepted scientific theory so defined remains a scientific theory so long as it hasn't actually been falsified. If and when it is, then it ceases to be an accepted scientific theory. Until such a falsification occurs, an accepted scientific theory remains the best scientific explanation known to science.

It must be noted that falsification means a contradiction of a theory's prediction. If a previously unobserved characteristic is detected and the corresponding theory does not account for it, it is an indication that the theory is not completely comprehensive. It needs a further extension, but it does not invalidate the theory in the regime for which it functions properly.

One of the most famous examples of an experimental effort to falsify, arguably the most famous scientific theory of all -- Einstein's General Relativity (GR) -- was conducted during a solar eclipse. The experiment was designed to record whether or not star light passing in near proximity to the sun was deflected by the sun's gravity. It was! Not only that, but its angle of deflection agreed with the angle predicted by GR!

Einstein's GR has been the best explanation for gravity known to man for 100 years and counting. It will probably be superseded by the so-called theory of everything (TOE) if and when GR is eventually merged with quantum mechanics (QM), such that phenomena in both the subatomic and the cosmic regimes can be explained using the same scientific theory.

Finally, it must be understood that TOE would not necessarily constitute a falsification of GR. Just as GR was not a falsification of Newton's Theory of Gravity (it was an extension of it), so TOE will likely be an extension of both GR and QM.

Godel proved that the very formal logical systems in which theories, laws, constant concomitants, and correlations are framed are all inadequate : "There exists truth and form that cannot be proven or formed in formal logical systems" is proven by formal logical systems themselves (Godel) and in reality true (Tarski).

Therefore, every scientific theory framed in a formal logical system, which they all are, is destined to be inadequate. Something true exists which the scientific theory can't corroborate or something formed exists which the scientific theory doesn't corroborate, otherwise Godel is contradicted.

So scientific theories are all really laws. There is always going to be something that the theory can't corroborate, a limit to its predictive power. Only ignorance of the particular unprovable unformable examples that the "theory" fails to corroborate is what renders a law a theory.



TOE? My arse!



A scientific "law" and a scientific theory are not expressions of the same class of concept.

A law is basically a summary description of a physical phenomenon:

(F = m x a) is the law that says force (F) is equal to the multiplication product (x) of mass (m) and acceleration (a). This is Newton's Second Law of motion.

Another famous law is (E = m x c^2): energy (E) is equivalent to the multiplication product (x) of mass (m) and light-speed squared (c^2). This equation (law) derives from Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity, which explains how his famous law for the equivalence of mass/energy comes about.

You don't promote a theory to a law by proving it. Nor does one demote a theory to a law by falsifying it. They are related via the phenomenon that the law describes and the corresponding theory explains.

Henry is absolutely right. Another way to look at it is that science never makes the assumption that all is known about a subject. That's what makes it science and that's why at top level the word "theory" is used.

Here's the hierarchy of steps in the Scientific Method:


If the conclusion is that a hypothesis survives all challenges and is the best existing explanation for a particular phenomenon, it becomes a theory.

A theory is subject to modification. And one can be overturned, but only if there is overwhelming evidence supplied by the scientific method that disproves it or supports a better theory.

Nothing has been found that could overturn Darwin's theory and no better theory has been proposed within the structure of science. In fact more powerful methods than were available to Darwin have supported and added to his theory.

By the way, AN Wilson comes off like a guy who just wants to sell a book. His arguments are silly and over the top, but he knows there are large numbers of people who want to believe them.

So we're saying ...

Law = Description = How something is
Theory = Explanation = Why something is how it is

When you describe something with a discrete, finite list of characteristics, I agree that's different from describing something with a formula. When you describe something with a formula, you're producing a smooth, infinite list of characteristics.

When you are describing some phenomena with a formula rather than a list, are you not making a more powerful generalized statement? Is that not the "promotion" that elevates description to explanation, how to why?

Why is something how it is? Because of its formula.

And so aren't F=ma and E=mc^2 really theories? They are the descriptions so precise - smooth, infinite (purportedly) - that they are the explanations also?



You have fallen in love with your own way of thinking about a subject that has been thought about for millennia by lots of other smart people. But you happen to be wrong. Sorry.

The mass/energy equivalence law is one formalism that happened to drop out of Big Al's Special Theory. So even though the law predicts an infinity of answers, it happens to be just a footnote to what the Special Theory explains. And no, I am not prepared to explain the theory to you in these comments. You will have to read a whole book or two about it.




I don't know as much about Darwin as I do about the great physicists, but I do know that what you said about Darwin is absolutely correct.

I also know that it is virtually impossible to convince people who hold faith-based beliefs that they are contradicted (in many instances) by scientific findings. So I seldom try. I will probably regret getting involved in this thread ...


I'm no expert on Darwin, but know how science operates first hand. People who have never worked in the enterprise are usually interested even if they don't get the overall picture. Con men like AN Wilson need to be answered.

Spoken like a pair of materialist authoritarians!

Bob and BigHen all kissy-kissy and cuddly these days!?

Bottom of Nolan is pretty cosy squashed together.

No tongues though, puhleeease!

xox SoD

Now there's the SoD we all know. A man who never saw an agreement between two individuals that he couldn't pervert into a homosexual relationship :)

I'll have you know that Bob and I seldom see eye to eye on political issues. But we somehow persevered and managed to agree to disagree on those issues. This is what grown-ups with a sense of personal accountability, and a willingness to entertain the possibility that someone else's opinion may be almost as valid as your own, should be able to do. But only if we want to enable the continuation of a civilized society like the one we are currently in the process of destroying.

I have just got up but I think I'll go back to bed!

Well now I've got my old job back, what with the demise of Pompie G on account of the executive's action - bloody foreigners, coming in here and stealing our jobs - resident trolls have rights you know! - I'd better get back to work lowering the tone periodically.


As a humble sailor I must say Darwin has a lot going for him and his theory of evolution. I came across a lot of his "missing links". Mostly on the lower deck but some in the Ward Room as well.

Welcome back to your appointed status as resident troll SoD

A better class of troll.

Ref Darwin, I've never been persuaded that survival and development of life was due to small random changes. There's not enough time and iterations for the complexity of life forms for that to be the sole explanation.

A random selection of already complex forms thrust into a survivalist world, now that's more like it.


It seems the materialists weren't too persuaded by Darwin either. They went through a period of scepticism about his theory at the turn of 19/20th centuries, as other theories competed with it ...

And then another fine example of materialist fudge was served up, aka "synthesis" ...

What a load of old bollocks!

If you ever want an example to show someone how Occam's Razor degrades and renders useless a theory, just show them that diagram on the "Modern Synthesis" page.

If this, then that, otherwise if the moon's in line with sun the other, but if it's your birthday another, divided by your favourite and the number you first thought of it's yet another.

"Modern synthesis": Darwin's Theory so Occam razored it's ceased to be a theory any more. Practically begging to be superseded.

Maybe BigHen will call it a Law - hahaha!!!


"A random selection of already complex forms thrust into a survivalist world, now that's more like it."

Thrust by a supreme being perhaps?

Thrust by a supreme being perhaps?

[quiet chuckle] Stirrer :-)

Thrust by a supreme being perhaps?

A supreme being, or a supreme system - any system built in one of the infinite systems numbered -1, -2, ..., -infinity in Chomsky's hierarchy would do the job.

Remember him? The materialist Marxist dick who numbered the hierarchy of more and more powerful systems starting at 0 for the most powerful he thought of (Turing machine) and 1, 2, 3 etc. for the less powerful. Thereby he closed off discussion of the existence of more powerful systems in a "nothing to see here" sort of way. Burning in materialism to the academic agenda, so to speak.

He should have started with 0 for the least powerful and 1, 2, 3 for increasing power, and realized that there are more powerful systems than a Turing machine. These systems - those more powerful than a Turing machine - are the systems in which the truths and forms reside that a Turing machine and all Chomsky's lesser systems cannot prove or form. And all those truths and forms are a piece of piss for those systems more powerful than a Turing machine to prove and form.

Whether you're a God-er or a Godel-er, not much in it really.


Right. I am going to get into big trouble here. I am not a scientist, nor do I play one on blogs.
Aussie D is right about the missing links!
"Thrust by a supreme being" I am one of the religious who do believe in a supreme being, I call him G-d. That said, I do not blindly say the earth is 6000 years old. When one says a supreme being, that is just what is meant; he is supreme.
As far as Darwin and all the other theories and scientific findings, it is hard not to acknowledge the presence of G-d in the makings of our world and all its creatures. I also believe that the discoveries of science are revelations from G-d.
ok, Kick me now!


Witness the power of science as a unifying force! It only goes so far, though.

Your twisting of Godel's theorems is clever and entertaining, but contains a glaring flaw: Incompleteness addresses the limitations of mathematics. It definitely does *not* mean that facts are knowable only on the basis of authority.

Your use of the word "materialist" is also a bit vague. What exactly do you mean by it?

Be warned! Anyone who so much as lays a finger on dear Miss Red will have me to answer to!


I'll paraphrase what Henry wrote above. People can have knowledge and points of view without tearing down everyone who doesn't share them. A sense of humor makes life a lot easier.

What you believe or what I believe has no influence or bearing on whatever the truth is. What we are left with is an approximation of whatever the truth is that keeps getting to a later approximation of reality.
Socrates said something like "the only thing I am certain of is I know nothing" The flickering on the cave wall (the mind) where everything is subject to the prevailing mindset.
Time for another bottle of St Emilion's finest I think?

@Missred You've got my vote!

I'm with Missred - and Berkeley ...

"Whatever power I may have over my own thoughts, I find the ideas actually perceived by Sense have not a like dependence on my will. When in broad daylight I open my eyes, it is not in my power to choose whether I shall see or no, or to determine what particular objects shall present themselves to my view; and so likewise as to the hearing and other senses; the ideas imprinted on them are not creatures of my will. There is therefore some other Will or Spirit that produces them."

"He did not evade the question of the external source of the diversity of the sense data at the disposal of the human individual. He strove simply to show that the causes of sensations could not be things, because what we called things, and considered without grounds to be something different from our sensations, were built up wholly from sensations. There must consequently be some other external source of the inexhaustible diversity of sensations. The source of our sensations, Berkeley concluded, could only be God; He gave them to man, who had to see in them signs and symbols that carried God's word."

@Bob - Ref materialism ...

"I do not argue against the existence of any one thing that we can apprehend, either by sense or reflection. That the things I see with mine eyes and touch with my hands do exist, really exist, I make not the least question. The only thing whose existence we deny, is that which philosophers call matter or corporeal substance. And in doing of this, there is no damage done to the rest of mankind, who, I dare say, will never miss it."

@Bob - Ref Godel being limited to maths: Tarski showed Gödel's theorem's applied to true and false and matter (as you like to call it) in the real world, not the proven theorems and form in a formal logical system.

So, switch "God" for "more powerful system in the Chomsky hierarchy than that in which the human mind is constructed" as required in the above texts if you're not yet on Missred's page.

Even a bunch of authoritarian materialists will soon see what we're getting at.


not the proven theorems and form in a formal logical system.

should be

not just the proven theorems and form in a formal logical system.



You are a much better brand of troll than that fcking French hoser from Canada. Your sense of humor makes all the difference. Welcome.

Just one request: go easy on the Brexit rants -- they give me a migraine.


Your heroes, including Chomsky, aren't alone in epistemology, and there are more basic questions:

To most scientists it's all beside the point. Explaining an observation by checking each other's work takes precedence. And it gets results. What would you be programming and running cables between without the accumulation of tiny steps that led to computers? As one of our distinguished politicians once put it, "a series of tubes"?

As for a supreme being, I'll leave you to your own imagination. If you come up with any evidence for the supernatural, I'd be fascinated to read it. And please skip the part where you tell me I can't know there's nothing supernatural. That's just cheating.

By the way, science doesn't rule out a supreme being. It just depends on definitions. The oldest species of sentient life in the universe that survived to evolve past all others would be supreme and probably most wise and powerful. For all practical purposes it might as well be a god. Still, it would be part of the universe, or maybe multiverse, and therefore be natural.

Lest anyone here thinks I am anti religion, I can say onto you with the lips of my mouth that I am not. But my religion is a drastically scaled down version of Judaism. Not only that, it is simply a scaled down version of the Decalogue: One "Do" Commandment and one "Don't" Commandment. Here's how I arrived at my religion, which I refer to as "Try not to be a schmuck".

When Moses "transcribed" the Decalogue, he realized he was dealing with a mob of former slaves -- by and large a bunch of schmucks who were largely undifferentiated from wild animals. So he knew they required stern pronouncements and a shitload of repetition. Hence, he presented them with Ten Commandments, and the Rabbis followed up in the ensuing millennia with more shitloads of repetition.

The first thing I did was to eliminate the leading stern Commandments having to do with scaring the bejeezus out of the ignorant: "If you do not worship Me like I tell you, I will pulverize your ass!" I already know that.

The next thing was to recognize that all those trailing Commandments, namely the obvious (to a sane human) "Do not"s -- murder, steal, fck your neighbor's wife, etc. -- all of these are subsumed by Judaism's version of the Golden Rule: "Do not do to others that which you wouldn't want others to do to you". This then is my "Do not" Commandment.

That leaves me with choosing an appropriate "Do" Commandment. As luck would have it, that is the only Commandment left in the Decalogue. It is the one that reminds you that you haven't made this journey on your own. In order to be a reasonably decent human, not just another wild animal, you need to acknowledge other humans who have helped you, especially the two who gave you life: "Honor your mother and your father."

Well ... there goes at least one facet of the Global Warming Theory.

Bob and Henry in agreement.

Hell is frozen tighter'n a drum.


Oh an AD? "Armorers" would be the reply to which you asked t'other day. Our mutual spanner-in-the-works had me rather tightly wound, if you catch my drift.

Thanks JK. Signal received and acknowledged.

...and talking of signals as an ex-pusser [or your local equivalent title] you may enjoy a book "Make Another Signal" by Jack Broome. It is a history of naval signals from Salamis to WW2. Out of print but obtainable second hand from Amazon or one of the other online book sellers.

Bob, Bob, Bob!

"As for a supreme being, I'll leave you to your own imagination. If you come up with any evidence for the supernatural, I'd be fascinated to read it. And please skip the part where you tell me I can't know there's nothing supernatural. That's just cheating.As for a supreme being, I'll leave you to your own imagination. If you come up with any evidence for the supernatural, I'd be fascinated to read it. And please skip the part where you tell me I can't know there's nothing supernatural. That's just cheating."

You've really, really missed the point! You're trying to take us back to the old argument advanced by spiritualists and God-ers that: There is a "supernatural" world, and "you can't know there's nothing supernatural". I've read Karl Popper too. If it's unfalsifiable it ain't science.

That's a straw man on steroids argument to make, if I may say so!

Let's hone right in on it, like a car bonnet ...

"If you come up with any evidence for the supernatural, I'd be fascinated to read it."

I just did! In fact I've been doing it on D&N for a few years now (don't we know it ... Ed). Well Ed, yes, but it still hasn't sunk in on Bob.

The point of Godel and Tarski's findings, completely based on the formal, logical systems that are the foundation of all scientific statements (Theories and Laws - ok with that, BigHen!), has proved that there is!

Whether you call it "supernatural" or "supersystem" is your choice.

If you came to it first from faith, then you'll probably stick with "supernatural" and be rather smug that you sensed it was right but couldn't prove it. Well now you can down the old "You can't know there's nothing supernatural" shield you've been hiding under for 2,000 years as the materialists hammered the shit out of it, it served you well. You hung on in there. But since 1931 there's a new battle-axe on the block - and it's in your hands. Time to stand up and give it a swing.

If you came to it from reason, by reading Godel and Tarski and the crowd around them and followed their logic to its conclusions, and were utterly flabbergasted, and found no-one with coherent logic or reason to disprove them, then you'll probably call it a "supersystem". You'll kick down Chomsky's "nothing to see here" sign, and trample it as you start to wander around on the other side of his sign in utter amazement, and be slightly contrite about having hammered the shield for 2,000 years. You'll laugh at the Darwinists, or "Modern Synthesis", I mean like really belly laugh ...

As said: God-ers and Godel-ers, you couldn't fit a fag paper between them!


By George and all the Saints ...

The Queen of all the long-legged, pert-breasted, high-cheekboned, inky-blinky dahlinkies!

Darwinistas: How do you explain that in "small increments"?!

She never answers my letters, silly girl. Or it might just be she's still reaching down to pick them up!



You can't hide behind an old movie. The truth is Gettier proves that your gang can't prove they know what they think they know, and you can't know either. You're claiming I'm a materialist authoritarian on the basis of authority. Nothing fails like pure reason. Oh ye of too much faith, turn to science and save yourself.

It might just be the angle of the picture, but the Russian model has probably set the hearts of foot fetishists thumping like jackhammers.

Bob ... or perhaps "more accurately"; SoD?


Militant atheists aren't any more constructive than militant theists. It's nice that lately the argument can be had with very few people being burnt at the stake, though.


Burning at the stake is so 15th century. I agree that its abolition is a good thing.

What puzzles me is why people choose to argue about the existence of a god. The issue can't be proved either way, certainly not to everyone's satisfaction. You simply can't have the sort of consensus about this issue that global warning (yes, I meant to write warning :) has achieved.

But, I ask, "So what?" God's existence is a faith-based belief. Fine. If you are a believer, I am happy for you. If you are a non-believer, I am also happy for you.

What is the problem?


The problem for some people is they become emotionally invested in ideas they believe control their lives and well-being. Some never fully understand the difference between truth and belief. We were trained to always keep the difference in mind and probably both used it every work day. My outlook on the subject is the same as yours.

Henry, I should make clear that by "truth" I mean verifiable fact.

I understand what you say, Bob. And I don't disagree.

But what really puzzles me is why even those people who are emotionally invested in either belief or non-belief feel compelled to convince those who have the opposite view (about this matter) that they are wrong.

For example, Richard Dawkins is an evolutionary biologist and an author. He is undoubtedly a very intelligent man, who has many academic honors, is presumably wealthy, and is likely living what most people would consider the good life. Why then does he care (to the degree that he apparently does) that many people believe in God? Alternatively, why are there many people who do believe in God care that many people do not? I just don't get why it matters to any of them.

According to my own religion, comprising the Golden Rule and the "Honor your parents" Commandment, Dawkins is violating the Golden Rule by proselytizing atheism. He presumably would not want some Mormons to come to his door and try to talk him into converting to their religion. So Dawkins is acting like a schmuck because he is doing to others what he would not want others to do to him.

My question then is, "Why doesn't he try not to be a schmuck?"

Lordy, BigHen, not you as well!

God and your soul have been proven to exist.

So Dawkins is a douche, and the theists were right all along.

It might be the time to request of the Gaffer some posting space and time (nice link JK, in the right area, but still missing the target, btw).

A short step-through of Godel's proof and its consequences, with plenty of Python and inky-blinky dahlinkies as my comic relief and gorgeous assistants!

And a bit of JavaScript programming thrown in to elucidate Chomsky's hierarchy - build your own Turing machine, no ticker tape required!

A sort of super summary of "Godel, Escher, and Bach: The Eternal Golden Braid" by Douglas Hofstadter, and "The Freedom of the Will" by JR Lucas.



I have just got up and now I have decided to go back to bed!


You identify as a nuclear physicist and apparently love, or at least highly respect, physics. If some person or group of people made it their life's work to tell you not only that physics is a false enterprise but that you are an evil person for practicing it, you might have an inclination to fight back or at least defend yourself. In fact you seemed put out when our former troll did something similar. We're only human.

Dawkins was Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford and is an evolutionary biologist and public intellectual. After years of being attacked by theists he decided to take them on. They had originally attacked him because they identify with a belief in a god. To challenge that is to challenge their identities and Dawkins, in offering an alternate explanation of our origins, unavoidably provoked them. Arguments are part of the human condition and won't be going away soon.

SoD, excellent trolling, sir.


Thank you for your thoughtful response. I really appreciate having a calm and sensible discussion about an issue that is potentially (and frequently in reality) explosive in nature.

Let's back away from my poor choice of Dawkins as an example. He is a public figure and, as such, he is a legitimate target for public criticisms.

I am not a public figure. I have a certain amount of knowledge about science, as well as a collection of private beliefs, the latter of which are not necessarily supported by scientific evidence. If I am in the company of acquaintances with whom I enjoy a discussion of issues that we encounter in our lives, I will generally opine on those issues that I have knowledge about, if I am interested in sharing my thoughts.

When it comes to controversial issues, which have to do with beliefs, as opposed to evidence-supported facts, I tend to avoid such discussions if I sense a highly emotional encounter is likely to ensue. My feeling is that such discussion is unlikely to end well and could possibly ruin my day. Since I value the quality of each and every day that I am lucky enough to experience, I don't want a flame war with some idiot troll to ruin it for me. That's just how I roll.

I like being a member in good standing here at D & N. I am glad that David finally blocked the idiot troll from Canada, whose sole purpose was to disrupt the conversations here and to insult everyone who participates in those discussions without malice.


I'm glad we've reached some common ground. I've also no interest in pointless bashing. It's best to just keep that kind of stuff at arm's length.

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