Friday, 10 August 2012

Model Dependant Realism and You

Star Trek may defy our reality; that doesn't mean that we
can't treat it scientifically.
Written 8/8/12. Sorry if it's a bit serious.

Let's talk about science. Specifically, TV Science. Now it's common parlance in the TV trade to invoke the "MST3K Mantra" in order to excuse plotholes. The mantra, named after the US comedy series Mystery Science Theatre 3000, is based upon its themetune, which states, "It's just a show; I really should relax." Well, I'm ignoring that today, so I can talk about one of science's key features that stops everything from going chest skyward. Adding to that, I'll discuss why this relation between science and fiction exposes the problems with the Theistic Hypothesis.
     Let's take a look, for a second, at reality. The Universe operates under a series of rules; a series of laws that, while perhaps varying between different scales, work together without contradiction to form what we experience around us. Particles move as quanta and as waves, with space being a sea of probabilities; probabilities influenced by the four forces. Three of those forces are governed by particles, with the last being a quirk of spacetime itself. Laws, whether Physical, Chemical or Biological, remain constant to allow our reality and disallow what we may call Miracles. For shorthand, I will call this set of laws "26.100", from the name of Walter Lewin's lecture hall in his online lectures in 1999. These laws have been ascertained by both theoretical analysis of observation, but also as the result of experiment, since the dawn of human thought.
     Now let's take a look at a fictional world. I would use Doctor Who, but that's a tad inconsistant with its rules, so I'll instead look at Star Trek. Despite being full of technobabble, Star Trek is known for at least having the same technobabble for the same situations. Planets spin round as they do in 26.100; atmospheres are the same, life develops in similar ways. Matter and Anti-Matter still react to form energy, and vice versa. Everything we know to be true in our reality is also true in theirs. Apart from a few important details. Like, for example, the ability to travel faster than light. In reality, the speed of light is not specific to photons but to any massless particle, because it stands as the proportion between time and space, and between energy and mass. So what does this mean? Parts of the Trek Universe follow 26.100, and parts of them defy them. It would seem incredibly contradictory; how are we going to resolve the situation?
     But yes, it is possible. Science is not just an abstract academic field; it applies to everything, and the scientific method can't stand contradiction. Something's gotta go; either 26.100 is wrong, or the Warp-speed spaceships are wrong. If this were reality, we would be forced to reject the spaceships. This isn't reality, and so with regret, we must throw away all of the rules and laws that allow our existence. But this is easier than we think. Being in a different Universe, the results of experimentation would be different also. The experimental results that so guide 26.100 would instead deliver us a different set of laws, ones that allow both our cushy existence and the defiance of Einstein's cosmic speed limit. We may not be able to conceive of it, but it must be possible, because despite the fact that we have never seen a conventional experiment and its results, we have seen that both the normal laws exist AND that spaceships travel that fast.
Quantum Physics and Newtonian Physics give different
outcomes, but both agree with experiment and so neither is more
correct than the other.
     This emodies one of the key principles of the Scientific Method; the value of experiment. As outstanding physicist Richard Feynman said, "If it disagrees with experiment it is wrong. In that simple statement is the key to science. It does not make any difference how beautiful your guess is. It does not make any difference how smart you are, who made the guess, or what his name is – if it disagrees with experiment it is wrong. That is all there is to it."And this applies to any system, whether big or small, whether perceptionally real or fictional. The laws of Newtonian motion that ruled physics for hundreds of years were defied by the undisputable discoveries of Quantum Physics, but one is no more correct than the other. A molecule will behave in one way and a ball will behave in another, even if said ball is composed of said molecules.
    Really, this relates back to why I don't believe that there can be a deity. Because when we examine 26.100, we do have experimental data. We are faced again with a dilemma between two models; 26.100, and the idea of a Deity. Last time we had to discard 26.100 because the evidence for faster-than-light travel was beyond all reasonable doubt. Herein lies the Theistic Hypotheses' main fault. Because this is reality. And 26.100 does have the upperhand. Nowhere is there a single shred of usable evidence, not one dent upon the Universe that would suggest that supernatural intervention was at all necessary. That is why Religion has no place working in the realm of science, in the realm in which our set of laws is apparent. It also allows us to take in the true beauty of the world around us, revelling both in the astounding revelations of analysis, and in the murky depths of counter-intuition that affect our daily lives.


                                    || ----------Metaphysics---------- Red Dwarf - Back To Earth >>

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