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Science and Philosophy 





What is science? 





A few words from Hannes Alfvén seem appropriate
to begin a discussion on the role of philosophy in science.
Alfvén pointed to an increasing specialisation in science
during the latter half of the last century, and this cult
of the expert certainly seems to have contributed to much
of the resistance to many of his ideas. 

"There
is no such thing as philosophyfree science; there is
only science whose philosophical baggage is taken on board
without examination." Daniel Dennett 


"We should remember that there was
once a discipline called Natural Philosophy. Unfortunately,
this discipline seems not to exist today. It has been
renamed science, but the science of today is in danger
of losing much of the natural philosophy aspect. Scientists
tend to resist interdisciplinary inquiries into their
own territory. In many instances, such parochialism is
founded on the fear that intrusion from other disciplines
would compete unfairly for limited financial resources
and thus diminish their own opportunity for research."
Hannes Alfven, 1986 




It is easy to forget that science is essentially a
philosophical discipline. It is based on Empiricism,
the method by which we gain knowledge through observation
and measurement. At older universities, longestablished
Chairs of Natural Philosophy are generally now occupied
by Professors of Physics.
See the next page on skepticism for an overview of
probably the greatest philosophers of science, Karl
Popper and Thomas Kuhn.


"One
should not increase, beyond what is necessary, the number
of entities required to explain anything". Ockham's
Razor 



The NPA  Natural Philosophy Alliance 





The Natural Philosophy Alliance is an alliance of people who believe that many mainstream/consensus ideas in physics and cosmology, including relativity, quantum theory, and the big bang, are irredeemably flawed. The emphasis is on putting the philosophy bank into science, in other words; where an evidential approach will triumph over ideology.
In recent years the Electric Universe and NPA have run a number of successful joint conferences.
In July 2013 the founder of the Electric Universe, Wal Thornhill, was awarded the prestigious Sagnac award for
lifetime achievement at the 20th annual conference of the Natural Philosophy Alliance at the University of Maryland, College Park, USA. 





The Scientific method 





Traditionally we think of the scientific method comprising
the following stages.
1 Observation 2
Hypothesis 3 Prediction 4
Testing
Richard Feynman, however, argued that "There is
no such thing as 'the' scientific method. Science uses
many methods. There will never be a pat answer to the
question 'what is science'. The very notion that there
could be a pat answer bespeaks an attachment to rote
learning that is incompatible with scientific thinking."
It is a straight forward matter, nonetheless, to differentiate
between the approaches favoured by Big Bang supporters
and Plasma Cosmologists.


"Don't
let your minds be cluttered up with the prevailing doctrine."
Alexander Fleming 



The 'Actualistic' versus the 'Prophetic' 





Following in the footsteps of their famous predecessors,
plasma physicists are keen to take an Actualistic
approach, that of working backwards from observation,
and taking a broad approach to science. Birkeland, for
example, believed in experimentation and observation
in addition to mathematical modelling, despite having
trained as a mathematician himself. He was famous for his Terella
experiments (see history I), and for expeditions to
polar regions to observe auroras at first hand.
Big Bangers, by contrast, exhibit a preference for
the Prophetic approach, that
of starting out from idealised mathematical principles.
This theoretical approach, however, is fraught with
problems, as the history of science testifies. For example:
1. Sidney Chapman's mathematical models failed to
predict the complex three dimensional nature of the
Earth's magnetosphere.
2. The Kinetic theory of Ordinary gases fails to predict
the behaviour of Plasmas (originally called ionised
gases), because of their electrodynamic interactions.
The mathematics may work for ordinary gases, but it
fails hopelessly for plasmas.
3. Ptolemaic epicycles were mathematically elegant,
and they worked, but they failed to recognise the underlying
mechanism.
4. The prophetic approach postulates
a number of entities prior to their discovery. Hypotheticals
like Dark Matter and Dark Energy are required to balance
the equations in Big Bang cosmology.
5. Mathematical proofs were cited to support the claim
that heavierthanair flight was impossible! These,
of course, turned out to be total nonsense.


"After all, to get the whole universe totally
wrong in the face of clear evidence for over 75 years
merits monumental embarrassment and should induce a
modicum of humility." Halton Arp
“We have to learn again that science without contact
with experiments is an enterprise which is likely to
go completely astray into imaginary conjecture.”
Hannes Alfvén




Mathematics and Science 





The importance of mathematics in science cannot be
denied. It is an essential tool for both measurement
and prediction, principles on which science is based,
but history teaches us to be cautious before relying
on mathematics as a starting point.
Ptolemaic epicycles, mentioned above, highlight the
dangers of the mathematical approach. They were a series
of circular orbits within orbits, and with a few tweaks
they would probably still work today, but the point
is that  although mathematically correct, and indeed
elegant  they failed to reflect the underlying reality.
Einstein himself had reservations about the mathematical
approach favoured by expanding universe proponents:
"Since the mathematicians have invaded
the theory of relativity, I do not understand it myself
any more."
"To the extent that the laws of
mathematics refer to reality, they are not true; and
to the extent that they are true, they do not refer
to reality."
In other words, Math should be subordinate
to Physics, and not the other way around, as it is now.
“... Lorentz, in order to justify
his transformation equations, saw the necessity of postulating
a physical effect of interaction between moving matter
and æther, to give the mathematics meaning. Physics
still had de jure authority over mathematics: it was
Einstein, who had no qualms about abolishing the æther
and still retaining light waves whose properties were
expressed by formulae that were meaningless without
it, who was the first to discard physics altogether
and propose a wholly mathematical theory...” Herbert
Dingle, Science at the CrossRoads.


"Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest
enemy of truth." Albert Einstein




Math and Logic 





It is all too often assumed that mathematics is a form
of pure logic, and therefore above reproach. Although
it contains many logical elements, the relationship
between math and logic is not simple. Bertrand Russell
and a number of other philosophers have dedicated no
little time in trying to prove the relationship, but
all have failed. Math is only pure in so far as much
of it reflects the realm of pure thought, and not necessarily
reality. Unfortunataly, math all too often drives modern
cosmology. The trouble is, math should be our slave
... not our master.
Plasma Cosmology works backwards from observation,
not forwards from perfect theoretical principals. Additionally,
plasma behaviours are not always easy to model mathematically.
Langmuir, after all, borrowed the term from blood plasma
because of its lifelike qualities.
Russell's
Paradox highlights a mathlogic problem via the
agent of Set Theory.


"Physics
is mathematical not because we know so much about the
physical world, but because we know so little." Bertrand
Russell 



Matters of some gravity 





It is easy to forget that we do not understand
the mechanism behind gravity. It is a force which is
described mathematically. Newton admitted as much:
"But hitherto I have not been able
to discover the cause of those properties of gravity
from phenomena, and I frame no hypotheses." Isaac
Newton
Einstein further muddied the waters when
he replaced a mathematical description of gravity with
an abstract mathematical description, by factoring
in time as a physical dimension. Can empty space really
be curved?


“Einstein
was quite simply contemptuous of experiment, preferring
to put his faith in pure thought." Paul Davies




Time Dilation 





Alleged Time Dilation is often cited as conclusive
evidence for General Relativity, but caution is urged
before accepting interpretations of tenuous evidence
in this regard. Could wishful thinking be a significant
factor here?
When NASA put atomic clocks on aircraft and on the
space shuttle, they claim to have observed time dilation.
However, these results have been contested by Dr. A.
G. Kelly who examined the raw data. According to him,
the final published outcome had to be averaged in a
biased way in order to claim such a high degree of precision.
Also, Louis Essen, the inventor of the atomic clock,
published an article in which he discussed the inadequate
accuracy of the experiments.
Some even claim that GPS satellites are adjusted for
time dilation, but this simply isn't true. It's more
urban myth than reality. Check out this interesting
web site AntiRelativity


“The
first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and
you are the easiest person to fool.” Richard Feynman




Science and Religion 





It is not the purpose of this web site to enter into
any debate regarding the relative merits of science
and religion. Alfven, however, warned against the dangers
of trying to reconcile the two:
"I was there when Abbe Georges
Lemaitre first proposed this theory [Big Bang]. Lemaitre
was, at the time, both a member of the Catholic hierarchy
and an accomplished scientist. He said in private that
this theory was a way to reconcile science with St.
Thomas Aquinas' theological dictum of creatio ex nihilo
or creation out of nothing.
"There is no
rational reason to doubt that the universe has existed
indefinitely, for an infinite time. It is only myth
that attempts to say how the universe came to be, either
four thousand or twenty billion years ago."


"Science
is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound
source of spirituality." Carl Sagan 



Horganism 





The belief that we know almost all there is to know,
and that there are only a few loose ends to tieup,
is sometimes referred to as Horganism, after John Horgan,
a senior writer at Scientific American. In his book,
The End of Science, he rejects the idea that any major
new discoveries remain to be made.
The history of science suggests that such confidence
 arrogance, perhaps  is illfounded. I share the
view that we have barely scratched the surface!


"Science
is a mountain of theory based on a molehill of evidence."
Anon 
 
 

