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Science and Philosophy    
     
What is science?    
     
A few words from Hannes Alfven seem appropriate to begin a discussion on the role of philosophy in science. Alfven 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 philosophy-free 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, long-established 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. 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 heavier-than-air 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 Cross-Roads.

 

Epicycles

 

 

"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 life-like qualities.

Russell's Paradox highlights a math-logic 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 Anti-Relativity

  “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 tie-up, 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 ill-founded. I share the view that we have barely scratched the surface!

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