Mar 13 2012

JPLs Firing of Coppedge

David Coppedge is suing his former employer, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at Caltech, for demoting him in 2009 and then firing him in January of 2011. According to Coppedge he was demoted then fired because of his religious beliefs. He is an evangelical Christian who promotes belief in intelligent design. The case raises an interesting question about freedom of religion vs professionalism, but first let’s go over the details of the case in a bit more detail.

David Coppedge started working for NASA at the JPL in 1996 as a subcontractor. He was then hired full time in 2003 to work on the Cassini mission, and was functioning as a team leader. In 2009 he was demoted from the team leader position because, as NASA claims, of reported complaints from his coworkers of harassment. The nature of the harassment was proselytizing about his beliefs, specifically Intelligent Design (ID) and other evangelical beliefs, such as opposing gay rights. Coppedge sued NASA and the JPL for this demotion, and then amended the suit after he was fired in 2011. He was fired as part of a larger lay off  of 246 positions due to budget cuts and downsizing.

So – NASA/JPL’s position is that Coppedge was demoted for harassing coworkers, and they felt he could not function effectively in a team leader position, and then he was fired as part of a larger round of  downsizing.  Coppedge’s position is that the demotion and the firing were a result of discrimination against his religious views, that he was singled out.

I try to avoid trying cases from afar, based on the very imperfect and filtered information that comes to me second hand through news outlets. This case will likely be judged on details that will come to light during the case. For example, exactly what was the nature of the complaints of harassment made against Coppedge? This seems critical. It’s one thing to occasionally chat with co-workers about your non-work related hobbies. If taken past a certain point, however, then this can make for an oppressive work environment, and can become disruptive and bad for group morale and cohesion. This is not exactly behavior we would value in a team leader. It’s also possible, at the other end of the spectrum, that Coppedge was simply occasionally chatting to others at work or expressing his opinions honestly when certain topics came up. These details will likely come out in court and may determine the ultimate decision.

Given that we don’t know these details, we can still talk about the principles involved. To me the key principle is the balance between individual freedom of expression and professionalism. This is certainly not the first case where this was the issue, taken broadly. Looked at another way, how much can employers demand of employees in terms of their dress and behavior? Can they forbid their workers from wearing religious symbols, or even discussing their personal beliefs with co-workers?

Employers often justify such workplace regulations as necessary to generate a certain environment, which can either be conducive for productivity, harmony in the workplace, or appearance to customers and colleagues. We might refer to all of this collectively as professionalism in the workplace.

In terms of what is appropriate, I think it largely depends upon the nature of the company, the workplace, and the specific positions. A professional, like a doctor, can be reasonably held to a fairly high standard of professionalism in their personal presentation and behavior, in the patient-care setting and especially with patients.

Another variable is – how up front was the employer to the employee about what was expected. If an employer has a published code of conduct and the employee takes the job knowing what is expected and agreeing to it, then it is more difficult to complain about those standards later. Still – this does not justify downright discriminatory standards, but that (like everything with this issue) is a gray zone. Appearance codes are legal and generally accepted, but occasionally run afoul of sex discrimination or race discrimination accusations.

There are even cases of religious discrimination from appearance codes at work. Costco was sued for banning facial piercings by an employee who was a member of the Church of Body Modification, established in 1999, 1000 members. That case was decided in favor of Costco, who, it was decided, had the discretion to make such rules for it’s employees to maintain a clean image to the public.

It seems the courts give employers the benefit of the doubt and wide latitude in making reasonable requirements for its employees, even just for the reason of public appearance. Safety is another reason (such as the requirement to be clean shaven for hygiene or to wear tight-fitting respirators). In this case the justification for demoting Coppedge, it seems, is to maintain a conducive work environment.

It will be interesting from a legal point of view to see which way the judgment goes, but my sense is that the courts tend to favor employers in such cases, and the burden of proof is on Coppedge to prove that he was discriminated against. I further wonder whether the notion that promoting pseudoscience in a company that is science-based is inherently unprofessional. That would be an interesting argument, and I would like to see what the courts think of it.

For the record, in my opinion Coppedge is a rank pseudoscientist. He runs a website, Creation Evolution Headlines, that includes pseudoscientific creationist propaganda nonsense, such as this gem: Humans Evolved from Dogs

“A new finding shows dogs performing better on one kind of intelligence test than chimpanzees.  If evolution teaches that human intelligence is the main trait separating us from other animals, and dogs are smarter than apes, shouldn’t the conclusion be that dogs are closer on the family tree?  If not, is it valid for evolutionary biologists to pick and choose the traits that matter?”

Like all creationist arguments, this one is just packed with silly misunderstandings of evolution. The article is referring to this study published in PLOSOne showing that dogs are better at understanding the meaning of a pointing finger than chimpanzees. While chimps are generally smarter than dogs, dogs are no dummies. It is probable that dogs understanding pointing because in the process of domestication dogs were chosen for being sensitive to human communication, and perhaps even specifically for getting the whole pointing thing.

But let’s dissect that nonsense further. Evolution does not teach us that intelligence separates humans from other animals. The evolutionary perspective is that we are not separate from other animals – we are all part of the same evolutionary tree. The statement also betrays the linear thinking that plagues many creationists non-arguments – as if there is a straight line of intelligence leading to humans at the pinnacle, and therefore we should be able to rank all animals on this one dimensional line. If dogs are smarter than chimps, even in one tiny ability, then they should be closer to humans on the line.

The other assumption there is that if chimps are generally smarter than dogs, they should be smarter in every possible way. If they are smarter in some ways, but dogs are smarter in others, that violates the creationist’s one-dimensional thinking and their brains combust.  There are many different kinds of intelligence, and selective pressures will favor different abilities in different groups and species.

The real evolutionary question is this – are chimps more similar to humans in their intelligence than are dogs? The answer there is clearly yes. Chimps are neurologically and cognitively more similar to humans than dogs. But chimps are not primitive humans. We did not evolve from chimps – we diverged in our evolution about 8 million years ago (and not cleanly – there was some later interbreeding), and so chimps have had millions of years to evolve their own particular traits not shared with human ancestors.

Coppedge promotes pseudoscientific nonsense. Is this even a matter of religious freedom? ID is all about blurring the lines – no, the intelligent designer is not the same as God, ID is science not religion, it’s not creationism, etc. But when an ID proponent is fired from a teaching job or in this case a science job, ID proponents immediately scream “religious discrimination.”

I think it is clear that if you are a science teacher, deliberately teaching pseudoscience (regardless of your personal beliefs) is a firing offense. I also think that believing in pseudoscience like ID is pretty solid evidence that you are incompetent to teach science. I don’t think the same is true of any science job, however. You can believe in nonsense and still be technically competent and do your job well. The question then becomes – do you bring your pseudoscience into work with you? In this case we have the added element of preaching your pseudoscience to your coworkers, including those whom you are supervising as a team leader.

The JPL is probably justified in this case, but we’ll see what details come to light during the case.

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141 responses so far

141 Responses to “JPLs Firing of Coppedge”

  1. muletonicon 13 Mar 2012 at 5:29 pm

    The way you describe it, this case is very simply about harassment, not religious freedom. If you have someone in a leadership position who is creating a hostile work environment by disruptive proselytizing and discriminating against people based on sexual orientation, the company is required to take action. Frankly, he’s lucky he was only demoted.

  2. palaeographiaon 13 Mar 2012 at 6:11 pm

    Is there anything to be said for his inappropriateness as a leader due to his team lacking confidence in him as a scientist? His job at the JPL didn’t have anything to do with evolution, but if he can deny the basis of modern biology was he trustworthy to work in other scientific areas? This is more an academic question than anything (even if we had details of the case I doubt the law would have anything to say on this).

    Most people would agree that a person’s beliefs have nothing to do with how well they can perform their job (barring harassment, etc.). But would the JPL have had any right to argue that he had shown a disregard for scientific inquiry, critical to his job? If biology and astronomy/physics are deemed to be separate enough, what’s more of a grey area?

  3. wijzewillemon 13 Mar 2012 at 6:11 pm

    hmm, it’s interesting that, according to him apparently, he got fired/demoted because of his religious beliefs. I thought ID was supposed to be science, or am I mistaken? :) Isn’t it somewhat cynical that in the Dover trial they tried very hard to disconnect ID from it’s religious background? I mean, what’s it gonna be then, hey? :)

    PS, hi there! Long time reader, first poster ;)

  4. ConspicuousCarlon 13 Mar 2012 at 6:58 pm

    And now…
    DEEP THOUGHTS
    with David Coppege:

    “I was hitting myself on the head with a rock one day and I realized that the Russians made Sputnik first, but the Iridium satellite system is better, therefore Nikita Khrushchev must have given birth to Ronald Reagan.”

    Clearly this man would be the head of NASA by now, if not for religious discrimination.

  5. Gsparky2004on 13 Mar 2012 at 7:34 pm

    Great post!

    I like this statement of yours: “You can believe in nonsense and still be technically competent and do your job well. The question then becomes – do you bring your pseudoscience into work with you?”

    That appears to be the whole point of this trial, as muletonic already pointed out. It wasn’t that Coppedge brought pseudoscience to work. It’s that he brought something to work that didn’t belong AND he kept bringing it up to his co-workers to the point that they were annoyed. It would not matter if he brought up underwater basket weaving. If he kept harping on it, plus he started dropping unwanted baskets on his co-workers’ desks, that could also be grounds for action.

    Minor quibble: It’s “Coppedge” (with a “d”) and not “Coppege”. (Sorry. Ask “The Sensuous Curmudgeon”. I’m a stickler on spelling.)

  6. DocBillon 13 Mar 2012 at 9:21 pm

    According to court documents (NCSE.com) Coppedge was replaced as the honorary team lead, not demoted. Team lead was not an actual position, rather it was an individual who represented the system admins at management meetings. No personnel responsibilities, no hirings, no firings, no supervision. He lost no grade nor salary from his so-called demotion.

    Second, whenever HR gets involved you know things are bad. As a former supervisor and manager I would do everything in my power to keep HR out of my shop. It’s a flare to upper management that you can’t “handle your people.” And, in Coppedge’s case, once they started looking into the matter and talking with people discovered that he had a long history of bugging people on the job and poor interpersonal skills. It wasn’t causal, friendly conversations at lunch, rather, it was persistent and pervasive to the point that some co-workers felt harassed. (This all from the depositions available at the NCSE site.)

    Finally, JPL knew that Coppedge had a pending wrongful demotion lawsuit pending against them, but their personnel evaluation for the layoff still had Coppedge sitting in the Out Tray. Simply put, there were more qualified people on the team than Coppedge. He was let go.

    The Discovery Institute is tangled up in this mess up to their eyeballs. Becker is “their” lawyer, their buddies in the AFA are bankrolling the case, Coppedge himself is a board member of Illustra Media which produces Discovery Institute DVD’s and it is the Discovery Institute who is trying to make this case about poor persecuted “intelligent design” creationism, when, in fact, the case appears to be a straightforward HR matter and an employee who failed to manage his career.

  7. SARAon 13 Mar 2012 at 10:15 pm

    I think its a fool’s game for corporations to run around trying to control their cultural environment in an attempt to avoid being sued, or an attempt to present a particular image. The more rules the easier it is to find a way to sue. The more you limit people’s freedom of expression, the more you find yourself with employees with no ability to think creatively or to take initiative.

    However, that does not include creating a hostile work environment through freedom of expression. When your actions do that, it should be censored. But that is the only guideline worth reviewing. We need to teach people to use their brains in social situations. Most of us know – Don’t discuss your weekend sex life in front of the 59 year old fundamentalist and don’t constantly tell your co-workers that they are going to hell.

    People with “social dementia” (as I like to call those who either willfully or blindly miss social cues and protocols) need be learn to navigate life without creating a hostile work environment.

  8. eiskrystalon 14 Mar 2012 at 6:05 am

    SARA :

    The more rules the easier it is to find a way to sue. The more you limit people’s freedom of expression, the more you find yourself with employees with no ability to think creatively or to take initiative.

    I can assure you, that is exactly what most companies want.

    This was multiple counts of harrassment involving prostheletizing. I think we can safely assume he crossed the line. Several times, with wild abandon and a selection of chick tracts.

    If evolution teaches that human intelligence is the main trait separating us from other animals, and dogs are smarter than apes, shouldn’t the conclusion be that dogs are closer on the family tree?

    Intelligence separating humans is actually closer to the christian concept of what makes humans so very “special”. Therefore the idea of intelligence in dogs actually contradicts his religion.

    I can see how he ended up in “management”. I certainly wouldn’t want him doing anything technical.

  9. Farinon 14 Mar 2012 at 8:40 am

    @SARA: Mind if I steal the phrase “social dementia”? I have met several people in my past that clearly qualify for that therm.

    Stephen, thanks for the thorough disscusion of the case. From what I can gather it seems like this (the firing) was actually the result of both budget cuts and his personal attitude towards colleagues.

  10. ccbowerson 14 Mar 2012 at 10:33 am

    The social dementia that SARA describes always seemed more like a social myopia to me, but perhaps the analogy is somewhere in between

  11. steve12on 14 Mar 2012 at 1:25 pm

    ” I further wonder whether the notion that promoting pseudoscience in a company that is science-based is inherently unprofessional. ”

    It’s inherently disqualifying for a scientist to promote ID or a young Earth, etc. He should be fired on that basis alone considering the state of evidence for the competing propositions. There’s no room for non-rational thought, this is science. Would my views (i.e., reality) be tolerated in seminary? Of course not. They’d kick me out, as they should and is their right.

    Let’s be frank- there’s a large portion of religious people in this country who feel endlessly victimized and for whom a cart blanche to do whatever they please (and pay no taxes) is still insufficient. At the least I should have refuge from these crybabies in a laboratory, for chrissakes….

  12. steve12on 14 Mar 2012 at 1:26 pm

    “There’s no room for non-rational thought, this is science”

    Special dispensation for QM :-)

  13. Kawarthajonon 14 Mar 2012 at 1:52 pm

    By Coppedge’s reasoning, evolution would also say that parrots and dolphins would be more closely related to humans because they are better at some tasks than apes, despite their feathers and flippers and 10′s of millions of years of divergent evolution. Nonsense!

    Coppedge is shooting himself in the foot with this lawsuit. If he loses, who in the world is going to hire him? Any science based agency with a healthy fear of former-employee lawsuits will steer clear of this guy. He could end up selling entrance tickets or giving tours for the Creation Museum, which probably does not pay as well as JPL. Here’s the website, in case he’s looking for a new job: http://www.answersingenesis.org/home/area/employment.asp

    BTW, one of the creationist arguments is that natural selection can occur, but it is not evolution. What does this mean and how do they argue this?

  14. sonicon 14 Mar 2012 at 3:45 pm

    Question-
    How would a court decide what is science or pseudoscience? I have attempted to find a clear demarcation– I can’t find one.
    Is there a universally accepted definition? Where do I find that?
    (I’m pretty sure the judge isn’t asked to make this determination in this case– just wondering how he would)

    Observation-
    The comment about dogs is supposed to be funny. He doesn’t think humans evolved from anything. He is pointing out the difficulties of building a ‘tree of life’ from the evidence– you are aware of the difficulties– right? (I read a couple other entries– the guy has a sense of humor for sure)…

  15. sonicon 14 Mar 2012 at 3:46 pm

    Kawarthajon-
    natural selection (or selection in general) explains how two horses can become all the different breeds we have today- including zebras.
    This is also how the finches of Darwin fame have longer beaks some years and shorter beaks other years…
    Everyone knows this happens.

    The question is this– does that explain how a single celled life form could become an elephant? Some question that it does. (I would be one who questions- BTW)
    This is called micro-evolution vs. macro-evolution– aka the development of species or kinds vs. the development of breeds.

    To make an analogy– Everyone knows you can make a ladder to the roof of the house. Does that mean you can make a ladder to the sun?

  16. robmon 14 Mar 2012 at 4:03 pm

    Coppegde’s blog is there just to troll science that disagrees with the bible, if he acted that way at work I could see it as grounds for a harassment complaint. He has plenty of stupid posts about astronomy and cosmology, clearly this guy is an embarrassment to NASA.

  17. ConspicuousCarlon 14 Mar 2012 at 4:13 pm

    The ladder-to-the-sun idea is a false analogy for a lot of reasons. But if we did find chunks of ladders scattered about the inner solar system, magical nonsense would not be on the list of plausible theories.

  18. steve12on 14 Mar 2012 at 5:10 pm

    “How would a court decide what is science or pseudoscience?”

    Sonic – see the Dover trial. Just like that.

    The combination of a position w/ evidence vs. one w/o AND complete disingenuousness of ID’s proponents actually made it kind of easy.

  19. robmon 14 Mar 2012 at 5:38 pm

    Coppedge claims in his suit that he was fired for religious beliefs. The question of whether his beliefs are pseudoscience isn’t relevant to the court case. NASA claims he was demoted for harassment, so the question in this case is whether the way Coppedge proselytized his beliefs is protected or could be considered harassment.

  20. robmon 14 Mar 2012 at 5:44 pm

    Also the court’s ruling will have no bearing on the scientific status of Coppedge’s beliefs.

  21. sonicon 15 Mar 2012 at 1:15 am

    steve12-
    yes, but judges often rule differently.
    Perhaps I asked the wrong question-
    How would I know if something is a pseudoscience or not?– that is the real question.
    Is there a list of attributes, perhaps a definition…

    conspicuouscarl-
    all analogies have problems. Can you give a specific reason for disliking this one?
    It seems pretty good to me as it makes the point I’m trying to make– but I realize I might be able to do better.
    Any suggestions?
    Also- can you tell me what ‘magical nonsense’ is? I don’t know but it sounds like you might be dealing in false dilemma.

  22. cwfongon 15 Mar 2012 at 4:08 am

    sonic, the evolution as related to ladders analogy was not even close.

  23. eiskrystalon 15 Mar 2012 at 5:19 am

    The question is this– does that explain how a single celled life form could become an elephant? Some question that it does. (I would be one who questions- BTW)

    Actually your question should be “what would stop it from happening?”. You are purporting that something is blocking evolution at an arbitrary point in each creature-type’s evolution that prevents it from being classed by biologists as a separate species.

  24. BillyJoe7on 15 Mar 2012 at 5:59 am

    sonic,

    “How would a court decide what is science or pseudoscience? I have attempted to find a clear demarcation– I can’t find one.”

    How would a court decide who is an adult and who is not an adult? I have attempted to find a clear demarcation- I can’t find one.
    Obviously there is no clear demarcation, but that doesn’t prevent you from separating most of the population into two camps. Likewise with science and pseudoscience.

    “He is pointing out the difficulties of building a ‘tree of life’ from the evidence– you are aware of the difficulties– right?”

    Horizontal gene transfer?
    If that’s all you mean, no analogy is perfect but, in this case it’s pretty good.

    “The question is this– does that explain how a single celled life form could become an elephant?…micro-evolution vs. macro-evolution”

    Three answers:
    More of the same.
    More of the same.
    More of the same.

    “To make an analogy– Everyone knows you can make a ladder to the roof of the house. Does that mean you can make a ladder to the sun?”

    This is a very poor analogy. You are assuming that it is not possible to evolve an elephant from a single cell.

  25. Steven Novellaon 15 Mar 2012 at 10:11 am

    Sonic – the ladder thing is a bad analogy. There are specific reasons based in physics why a ladder to the sun will not work. We can, in fact, prove that it won’t work.

    There is no analogy to evolution – no laws of physics or fact of biology that we can point to that would set a theoretical limit on the amount of change that evolutionary forces can create.

    Creationists have failed to provide any coherent reason for a demarcation between micro and macro evolution. That is a false division.

    Looked at another way, you seem to be saying that because we cannot extrapolate ladder length, we cannot extrapolate anything in science. That is not a valid conclusion. Some things can be extrapolated, and some cannot.

    So far, all the evidence points to the conclusion that you can extrapolate small evolutionary changes all the way to single-celled creatures to elephants. If not – give me one good reason.

    Also – there is evidence that has nothing to do with extrapolating from small changes for evolution and common descent. Trees and elephants are related through a common ancestor. That is the only viable conclusion we can come to based on the evidence we have. No one has proposed a falsifiable alternative (ID is not falsifiable, and if you frame it in a way that it is – then it has already been falsified).

  26. Karl Withakayon 15 Mar 2012 at 10:36 am

    sonic

    “This is called micro-evolution vs. macro-evolution– aka the development of species or kinds vs. the development of breeds.”

    Actually the development of different breeds is not necessarily the same thing as evolution. Effects such as selective breeding that bring out or enhance characteristics already present in the genome is not micro-evolution. While one key aspect of evolution is natural selection, the other key is genetic mutation that develops new traits that convey a survival advantage.

    Also, the idea of a species is not so precise and discrete as one might think, much like the term planet. If A can breed with B, and B can breed with C, it’s not necessarily true that C can breed with A. If A & C cannot successfully breed, you might classify A & B as the same species, B & C as the same species, but A & B as different species. (see Ring species)

    Frankly the terms micro and macro evolution are useless and essentially arbitrary classifications based on the timescale of the human ability to observe and perceive. They are essentially terms invented by people who are forced to concede the reality that we can observe small evolutionary changes happening over relatively short timescales, but for whatever reasons cannot or will not accept that these small changes observed over short timescales can accumulate to produce major changes over log time spans. To admit “micro-evolution” while discounting “macro-evolution” one basically needs to assume some barrier beyond which no change can occur, which is odd if you think about it because it would seem to imply that all species must have already reached that point and are no longer capable of further evolution. Small changes accumulating over very long time periods = major changes. Add one grain of sand every second to a pile, and the pile may not seem to grow that fast, but in a few dozen million years you’ve got the Sahara Desert.

    Just because I can perceive the movement of the second hand on a clock and not the hour hand does not mean micro-time exists but macro-time does not.

  27. Steven Novellaon 15 Mar 2012 at 11:11 am

    A good analogy would be geological forces. We can see “micro” erosion over human time scales. Does this mean the “macro” erosion caused the Grand Canyon? Well, it might. The evidence suggests that, in fact, the Grand Canyon was carved out by erosion taking place over millions of years.

    There is no distinction between micro and macro erosion. Erosion, and other geological forces, can be cumulative and can be extrapolated to big changes over long periods of time. There are no laws of nature to prevent this.

    Same for evolution.

  28. ccbowerson 15 Mar 2012 at 11:23 am

    “So far, all the evidence points to the conclusion that you can extrapolate small evolutionary changes all the way to single-celled creatures to elephants. If not – give me one good reason.”

    I’ll give you two: cognitive dissonance and strong ideological committments.

    Oh, wait you said “good” reasons

  29. ccbowerson 15 Mar 2012 at 11:29 am

    …how about I find that personally incredulous?

    Wait that isn’t a good reason either, drats

  30. Karl Withakayon 15 Mar 2012 at 11:55 am

    Of course, young Earth creationists will deny that the Grand Canyon was carved out over millions of years. They assert that some mechanism other than normal, slow erosion (such rapid erosion caused by the great flood) carved the Grand Canyon relatively rapidly or that god created the Grand Canyon when he formed the Earth and separated the water from the land. (Perhaps god is Slartibartfast)

  31. rootsmusicon 15 Mar 2012 at 1:43 pm

    @Kawarthajon,

    “BTW, one of the creationist arguments is that natural selection can occur, but it is not evolution. What does this mean and how do they argue this?”

    I can’t speak for the creationists, but I would think that should one do something careless enough to be removed from the gene pool, then natural selection has occurred, but evolution has not. Those incurious enough to never try anything live and perpetuate as the same forever.

  32. sonicon 15 Mar 2012 at 3:03 pm

    Dr.N.-
    It seems that any theory I have read about makes claims far beyond what has been demonstrated. I do think how one views the evidence is influenced by the feeling of certainty one gets early on in the introduction to the various ideas.
    I don’t have any feeling of certainty about this and I have learned- the hard way- that my feelings of certainty aren’t always accurate anyway.
    It’s OK with me that people think these various ways about evolution.
    Apparently my stance is the least acceptable one.
    Oh well… I guess my relationships with others will have to be based on something other than the mutual belief in a certain form and means of evolutionary story.
    (Your analogy to geology is interesting– yes erosion can be gradual. And it can happen overnight as well. And it can happen for various reasons– )
    — Oh, and I like the “non-trivial engineering hurdles” line from the neutrino post.
    A few chuckles off that. Thanks!

    Karl Withakay-
    I know about ring species. There aren’t any that actually exist on earth. There should be many, by theory. There are none. In each case the creatures can and do mate at the overlap point.
    This is one of the problems I have– a theory suggests that a phenomena should be common (Mayr)– but the phenomena is nowhere to be found.
    And you wonder where my doubts come from–

    ccbowers-
    You are referring to geneticist Richard Lewontin who says–

    “Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door…”

    Right?

  33. sonicon 15 Mar 2012 at 3:11 pm

    eikrystal-
    What would stop dogs from giving birth to cats?
    1000′s of years of observation and dogs give birth to dogs… what would stop them from giving birth to something else?
    You’re right– that is a good question– I don’t know.
    Perhaps all those dogs are in cahoots and are just refusing out of orneriness.
    That doesn’t seem likely though, does it? :-)

    BillyJoe7-
    Different cultures have different means of determining when a person becomes an adult. If this is a good analogy- then what is pseudoscience would be determined by culture.
    Actually, that might be true. :-)

    For more on the tree of life–
    http://www.biology-direct.com/content/6/1/32
    (good read)

    Your three answers certainly make my analogy look good don’t they? Just a few more rungs and we will be at the sun… :-)

    I’m not assuming anything about how elephants come into being. So far as I know they come from elephants. That’s observation. Anything else would have to be assumption or inference- right?

  34. cwfongon 15 Mar 2012 at 3:21 pm

    sonic,
    Even observation requires inference to determine what it represents.

  35. ConspicuousCarlon 15 Mar 2012 at 3:22 pm

    Sonic said:
    ” conspicuouscarl-
    all analogies have problems. Can you give a
    specific reason for disliking this one?”

    The physical mass of a Kakapo does not press backward through time causing its ancestors to collapse under their own weight. Of all of the evolutionary traps threatening the Kakapo, that might be the only problem it doesn’t have. And yet that is the primary reason why, under your time::distance analogy, a ladder is not suitable for exiting a planet.

    If that is not obvious to you, then maybe you should quit the analogy game and stick with literal arguments. If you have any.

  36. ccbowerson 15 Mar 2012 at 3:47 pm

    I’m not sure what the Lewontin quote was supposed to accomplish, I did not find it profound. Vague attacks on a materialistic committment without proposing a superior alternative are not impressive. Perhaps if we were given examples where science leads to “patent absurdity,” and provide how, in that example, adding the supernatural would add /improve understanding at all-that would be something to talk about.

    Besides none of that justifies your arbitrary hyperskepticism of “macroevolution.” You have yet to show how “microevolution” (which you accept, apparently) alone over time could not lead to what you are calling macroevolution. The main arguments I have heard are filed under “Incredulity.”

  37. cwfongon 15 Mar 2012 at 4:06 pm

    sonic, in your defense, if, for a ladder to the sun, you substituted a space elevator concept, you wouldn’t have left the realm of practical possibilities.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_elevator
    But it’s still a bad analogy to equate the construction process to the evolutionary process. Ladders don’t evolve themselves.

  38. Karl Withakayon 15 Mar 2012 at 4:33 pm

    Lesson: If you make more than one point at a time on the internet, you risk having your weakest point countered or dismissed and your other points being ignored. Now, ignoring that lesson…

    Sonic said:
    “natural selection (or selection in general) explains how two horses can become all the different breeds we have today- including zebras.”

    Zebras are of course, not a breed of horse, though they are in the same genus. They generally cannot interbreed with horses (or donkeys) and produce fertile offspring.

    Natural selection alone w/o a mechanism to introduce new genetic information is not sufficient to explain how two horses can become all the different breeds we have today even though they are all the same species.

    You still haven’t addressed anyone’s questions in regards to how you assign a limit to what evolution can achieve over long periods of time, how many successive, individual small changes are somehow limited in the net amount of change that can be produced over many successive generations.

    Dogs of course do not give birth to cats. I’m not sure who would be claiming anything remotely like that. However, if you go far enough back, there was a common ancestor of both. Extremely gradual changes in the lines of offspring over many generations eventually produced the cats and dogs of today. There is never one point where suddenly you have an offspring that is a distinctly discrete new species from its parent. A fish didn’t just one day hatch a tetrapod.

    Even if we didn’t have a pretty decent fossil record, genetic analysis alone makes a pretty compelling argument for common descent.

  39. ccbowerson 15 Mar 2012 at 4:43 pm

    “Ladders don’t evolve themselves.”

    They have an intelligent designer

  40. cwfongon 15 Mar 2012 at 4:52 pm

    “They have an intelligent designer.”

    Was there a point there? Do designs have unintelligent designers? If so, is design a misnomer?

  41. cwfongon 15 Mar 2012 at 4:56 pm

    Or perhaps you’re implying that organisms don’t evolve themselves? If so, why not just say that?

  42. Steven Novellaon 15 Mar 2012 at 6:19 pm

    sonic – the evidence for common descent is overwhelming. You cannot dismiss this as personal choice or gut feeling. I submit that if you do not accept this evidence you do not truly understand it or you are making some logical error.

    You did not address my problems with your ladder analogy, problems that render it useless – a false analogy.

    My analogy to some geological process, like erosion (the one I mentioned specifically) is apt. There are other geological process that are sudden or intermittent – but that is irrelevant to my analogy to erosion.

    Dogs don’t give birth to cats, neither does evolutionary theory predict that they should. In fact, it predicts they should not, since their lines diverged far enough in the past.

    You say that dogs are still dogs, but this actually represents well the fuzziness of the species definition. Several thousand years ago all dogs were wolves. Now we have chihuahuas and great danes. Those are fairly profound changes. They still are all dogish, however, but that is how branching descent works. Evolution does not undo previous evolutionary history, which constrains further evolution.

    Once again I find that doubting of evolution is based on not understanding what evolutionary biologists actually think. I have yet to encounter en exception to that.

  43. cwfongon 15 Mar 2012 at 6:58 pm

    As to what evolutionary biologists actually think, check this out:
    http://www.biology-direct.com/content/4/1/42
    Is evolution Darwinian or/and Lamarckian?

  44. Mlemaon 15 Mar 2012 at 8:47 pm

    I don’t think the dogs from wolves thing is a good example of branching descent. People had everything to do with those transitions – to Great Dane and Chihuahua. I think there actually was some intelligent design there.

  45. cwfongon 15 Mar 2012 at 9:25 pm

    But, Miema, was it the intelligence of humans that offered the wolves a niche to adapt to, or the intelligence of wolves to adapt themselves for the cooperative venture with humans – or both?

  46. cwfongon 15 Mar 2012 at 9:55 pm

    And you’ll notice the adaptation was for behavioral traits with forms to follow. So do behaviors design their more optimal forms, or what?

  47. Mlemaon 15 Mar 2012 at 10:06 pm

    both, and yes, I kinda think so. But I’m not well-educated on the subject.

  48. Mlemaon 15 Mar 2012 at 10:37 pm

    Ugh, still thinking about this. Is there a fundamental difference between the changes that took place as wolves and humans co-evolved, and those changes that were purposeful through breeding dogs? Or is the breeding just a more highly evolved type of evolution? It seems to me that in as much as humans recognize “nature” as being different from human engineering, then those types of evolution are different from each other. But, is human engineering not a part of nature? Isn’t everything natural? These are some questions I’d like answered. Is wolf to chihuahua considered evolution (as in Darwin’s evolution)? Or is it intelligent design? (we “designed” the little tiny dog)

    If I dig a ditch as big as the grand canyon, is it just the erosion caused by humans? (me) or is that particular grand canyon designed? (by me) After all, I AM intelligent! :)

    Sorry, as you can see I’m a little confused.

  49. cwfongon 15 Mar 2012 at 11:26 pm

    I wouldn’t argue that the grand canyon was designed to carry out a function that requires intelligence, unless the laws of nature have a functional purpose or purposes that we’re so far unaware of. But on the other hand, if we start digging in the ground, it’s usually with the design to fulfill some functional purpose of us humans.

  50. BillyJoe7on 15 Mar 2012 at 11:29 pm

    Evolution is “Darwinian” not “Lamarckian”.
    Epigenetics does not change this conclusion.

  51. cwfongon 15 Mar 2012 at 11:44 pm

    So of course someone who believes that in the end we’ve all evolved from nothing will have failed to read and understand the paper cited. By the way, was that last question about Krauss’ supposedly equivocal opinion ever answered?

  52. Mlemaon 15 Mar 2012 at 11:50 pm

    cwfong, so, we had a purpose in breeding dogs, those breeds were designed for particular functions, therefore those breeds were intelligently designed?

  53. cwfongon 16 Mar 2012 at 12:40 am

    Yes, but by human intelligence, not the supernatural kind. Leaving us with the question of where our intelligence came from, of course. Clearly it has evolved, and not likely zapped into earth critters to serve some Godlike purposes. You may differ on that point of course, and you’re free to do so. Intelligently.

  54. ccbowerson 16 Mar 2012 at 1:07 am

    “And you’ll notice the adaptation was for behavioral traits with forms to follow ”

    How are you coming to this conclusion? Dogs were bred for both, and I’m not sure your statement holds up to scrutiny (that is if I am reading into your statement correctly- that once the behavioral traits were selected for by humans that dogs themselves drove the morphological changes) Of course, I may reading into your statement more than what was intended

  55. cwfongon 16 Mar 2012 at 1:53 am

    The short version is that dogs were initially bred for behavioral traits. These behaviors drove the evolution of diverse forms, which, according to some views, were (along with their related functions) pre-adaptive options in the wolf genome. Subsequently, some of these forms were selected for decorative and aesthetic purposes by humans, which consequently had occasional detrimental effects on their behaviors.

  56. cwfongon 16 Mar 2012 at 2:13 am

    Of course I’m of the opinion that all evolution is the proximate result of the entity involved reacting strategically to its experience. I don’t intend to personally defend that position here, however. I’ll offer professional papers like the one cited earlier which in some ways supports my views and in other ways may not.

  57. BillyJoe7on 16 Mar 2012 at 6:50 am

    “Quasi-Lamarckian” is, of course, not “Lamarckian”.
    And the quasi-Lamarckian mechanisms are themselves the result of “Darwinian” evolution.
    And horizontal gene transfer is not Lamarckian.

    Also I was outlining what Krauss said in his book, not my own opinion on the matter.
    Steven Novella, by his own admission, has not read the book and his opinion, therefore, does not count.

  58. sonicon 16 Mar 2012 at 9:21 am

    Dr.N. et al…–
    Regarding the ladder–
    From the NCSE-
    http://ncse.com/creationism/analysis/extrapolations
    “Biologists do not dispute that limits to evolution may exist, and conduct research to test whether such limits exist…
    This insight that developmental constraints can limit what evolutionary processes can produce is not new, and is well integrated into textbooks on biology and evolutionary biology …”

    I note that new mechanisms of mutation are discovered from time to time. I don’t know if the current toolbox is complete or sufficient for the job. I’m not sure anybody else knows either.
    Is that controversial?

    Regarding common descent–
    My personal feelings– I like the idea that all life came from a single source.
    I must admit to having some doubt, however. Please note- I am not saying that I know it isn’t true, I am suggesting that I am less than certain that the history of life on earth has been revealed to the point where it makes no sense to have a bit of doubt as to the ultimate beginnings.
    And I do claim this doubt is related to the evidence.

    For example–
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091210111148.htm
    “This strongly argues against the common assumption that when two species share introns at the same site, it is always due to inheritance from a common ancestor.” Lynch
    (I can give other examples of where this problem comes up experimentally if need be).

    Some of the most compelling arguments for common ancestory come from the DNA. But there are ways DNA changes (horizontal gene transfer- for another example) that can make two genomes look like the result of common descent when they weren’t. In other words– the arguments for common descent rest on certain assumptions (nobody was there to observe it). Some of those assumptions might be false given the observed experimental evidence. While this doesn’t invalidate ‘common descent’ it does mean that there is a possibility an assumption the argument rests on is false. If an argument rests on a false premise- sometimes the conclusion is false as well. Sometimes- not always.

    It doesn’t bother me to say I’m less than certain about common descent. But I’m not in danger of ruining my career or lossing my job for saying so. Seems like a lot of people are.

  59. sonicon 16 Mar 2012 at 9:22 am

    As to why someone accepts the theory or not–

    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/tea.20449/pdf
    “For both knowledge measures (i.e., CINS and ORI key concept scores), the partial correlation values between knowledge and acceptance of evolution (controlling for FOC) were not significant. In contrast, relationships between FOC and knowledge, and between FOC and acceptance, were significantly correlated in the condition in which the other variable was controlled (Table 2).”

    Acceptance not correlated to knowledge. Acceptance correlates to ‘feeling of certainty’.
    That’s what they are saying there– right?

  60. ccbowerson 16 Mar 2012 at 9:53 am

    “But I’m not in danger of ruining my career or lossing my job for saying so. Seems like a lot of people are.”

    And a lot of knowledgeable people are not at risk of losing their jobs, and could be pioneers if they could demonstrate a compelling competing theory. With large number of people involved in related sciences, you would have to have believe in a vast conspiracy. Your arguments are very weak relative to the vast evidence for our current understanding of evolution. I’m not sure how (or why) you are able to maintain such a view as you have described here. It appears to be an unwarranted selective hyperskepticism

  61. Steven Novellaon 16 Mar 2012 at 10:57 am

    belief – that was a study of school teachers, not scientists. The scientific consensus is demonstraly built upon scientific evidence and argument

    common descent – horizontal gene transfer is minimal in vertebrates, it does not significantly alter the dominant pattern of related among gene and protein sequences. Those sequences show a dramatic pattern of branched relatedness, or an astronomical degree of certainty. There are no assumptions there. There is only one testable hypothesis that fits the data – common descent. Horizontal transfer won’t do it. The non-falsifiable hypothesis is that god/ID created life to look that way, for some arbitrary reason.

    Limits to evolution – of course there are limits. Past history constrains what is likely and possible. A horse is not going to evolve a separate set of feathered wings out their back. It is these very constraints that provides some of the strongest evidence for evolution.

    But there is no evidence or even theoretical reason to think that evolutionary processes could not create all life we see on earth.

    Regarding introns – what you have there is a new hypothesis based on observations in one species. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. But even if their conclusions pan out, that does not touch many lines of molecular evidence for common descent. What they have found is that the genome is more complex than previously thought – something which has been happening continuously since the discovery of genetics. It implies that having the same intron is not always the result of common descent, which is not the same thing as never. We have no idea how widespread parallel insertions are in different species.

    What you are doing is cherry picking any piece of evidence that can be used to cast doubt on evolution. It’s a classic denialist strategy, but it’s not good science, and it’s not valid logic.

  62. cwfongon 16 Mar 2012 at 1:22 pm

    BJ7 says
    “Quasi-Lamarckian” is, of course, not “Lamarckian”.
    So what? Is the glass half empty then? And was that the import of the paper?

    “the quasi-Lamarckian mechanisms are themselves the result of “Darwinian” evolution.”
    I must have missed that part.

    Here’s the conclusion in the paper that BJ7 seems to have deliberately missed:
    “Both Darwinian and Lamarckian modalities of evolution appear to be important, and reflect different aspects of the interaction between populations and the environment.”

    As to Krauss, he writes: “Also I was outlining what Krauss said in his book, not my own opinion on the matter.”
    I think he has that exactly backwards. Unless both have now changed their opinions.

    BJ7 also says: “Steven Novella, by his own admission, has not read the book and his opinion, therefore, does not count.”
    But does his recollection of what Krauss explained to him personally count? Evidently not.

  63. cwfongon 16 Mar 2012 at 3:34 pm

    sonic, the idea of common descent is that all living organisms, no matter how different they are, share a single, common ancestor; through which all life eventually developed.
    Horizontal transfers, insertions, etc., are functionally irrelevant, if all forms involved have, nevertheless, an initial common ancestor.

  64. sonicon 16 Mar 2012 at 3:39 pm

    It seems recently I have taken on a role of ‘anti-evolution, pro-theism’.
    This is a bit of an unusual position for me so let me just be clear about a couple things–

    1) I don’t know there is a god and if there is a god I have no idea what it is like.
    2) I don’t know there is something fundamentally wrong with the theory of evolution as described in a modern textbook and if there is I have no idea what would replace it.

    I notice that in discussing these things I sometimes take a jocular approach. This might be inappropriate.
    Hyperskepticism is a new word for me– but it may well describe the positions taken.

    Please understand– I don’t know. I am not in a position to think less of someone for his beliefs. I have high regard for anyone who wants to learn more.
    Please except my apology if I have come across some other way.

    And if you’d like to suggest a proper serving size for the crow I should eat– there I go– fooling around.
    Incorrigible. ;-)

  65. cwfongon 16 Mar 2012 at 4:28 pm

    Perhaps you should take a serving of the purposes of humor more seriously.

  66. BillyJoe7on 16 Mar 2012 at 4:34 pm

    sonic,

    For what it’s worth, I think you mostly don’t see the forest for the trees.
    I think as far as we non-experts are concerned, the consensus view of the relevant experts must be the starting point – and maybe the end point unless we actually develop that expertise. I think the problem comes when a non expert thinks he can read contrary views and properly evaluate them and put them in perspective. For you that puts unnecessary unease in your mind.
    Worse still is if that non expert falls for that contrary view, like someone else here.

  67. BillyJoe7on 16 Mar 2012 at 4:42 pm

    cwfong,

    I’ve already explained twice now that what Lawrence Krauss said to Steven Novella could have been said in a specific context (ie step 1 of his argument for “The Universe from Nothing”). But I think Steven Novella can speak for himself is he so wishes (though I would invite him to read the book first).
    And he probably doesn’t appreciate being used as a foil by you.

  68. cwfongon 16 Mar 2012 at 4:51 pm

    You’re the foil I’m using, and he’s the foil you’re misusing.

  69. cwfongon 16 Mar 2012 at 5:37 pm

    BillyJoe7, quit lying.
    Here’s what Dr. N wrote to you:
    “Krauss is essentially saying that what we previously described as “nothing” – empty space – is actually not really nothing, because of our understanding of quantum mechanics. Empty space is full of quantum stuff. That is what he means by the distinction between a classical “nothing” and a quantum “something” breaking down.
    FYI – I have actually spoken with Krauss about this.”

    You are now denying that this was actually Krauss’ opinion, while at the same time admitting that it was the point being made in the video and the first half of his book. Please explain how he then made an 180 degree turn in the second half. And why he then told Dr. N the opposite.

  70. BillyJoe7on 17 Mar 2012 at 12:31 am

    Go back and read my posts in the other thread. I can’t be bothered to go over it a third time.

    (Hint: Lawrence Krauss talks about three types of “nothing”. The video covers the first type of “nothing” adequately characterised by Steven Novella’s quote above. He has not read the book, and admits it, but hasn’t corrected his opinion to reflect this fact – of course, he may be waiting till he has read the book! I’m not sure what your excuse is because you have implied you have read it.)

  71. Mlemaon 17 Mar 2012 at 1:04 am

    cwfong: “Yes, but by human intelligence, not the supernatural kind. Leaving us with the question of where our intelligence came from, of course. Clearly it has evolved, and not likely zapped into earth critters to serve some Godlike purposes. You may differ on that point of course, and you’re free to do so. Intelligently.”

    You cut me to the quick! I know I brought it on myself by describing dog breeding as intelligent design.
    But haven’t I defended, time and again, the irrationality of trying to argue science with theology?
    You don’t know me after all this time!

    I will be truly grateful if you will direct me to some of the research into how intelligence has evolved. (thanx)

  72. cwfongon 17 Mar 2012 at 2:43 am

    Miema, sorry, that wasn’t supposed to be a jibe at you. I know you are a Christian, and I have no animus against the intelligent practitioners of that and other mainstream religions. Right now I’m reading Religion for Atheists, by Alain de Botton which points out what atheists are necessarily missing and may want to find ways to emulate..

    As to how intelligence has evolved, my research tells me that all life forms have intelligence as a functional necessity. Strict Darwinians, however, tend not to feel that intelligence evolves through an organism’s experience within its group and environment. Those that tend more to a Lamarckian or Baldwinian view propose mechanisms for selection for general learning ability, i.e., evolved optional choice assessment functions, etc.
    As I recall, Lynn Margulis has written on the subject as well as Eva Jablonka and Marion Lamb. Also evolutionary philosophers such as Professor David Papineau.

  73. cwfongon 17 Mar 2012 at 3:15 am

    BillyJoe7, as usual you have tried to deceitfully duck the question. Too obvious by half as they say. There are no types of nothing contemplated by Krauss that equated to an absolute nothing, or that supported your view that something such as our universe came from absolutely nothing. There were, for example, no vacuums, even theoretically, that something then came out of without something first coming into them, etc.
    It doesn’t matter who has or hasn’t read the book, it matters that Krauss has written repeatedly that the question as to why there is something rather than nothing still stands, and precisely since we have always found something that everything we know of today has come from.
    ‘Why is there something rather than nothing’ is the physicist’s true question, and there’s no inference to be drawn there that something therefor must have come from nothing. Quite the opposite, but you don’t seem to have the ability to grasp that. So you simply lie as if you understood what you don’t even know was the wrong question to begin with.
    As a self styled non expert, by the way, you’re not a member of a standard group of such. You’re at the bottom of the non-expert hierarchy trying to tell genuine experts that if you don’t understand their message, then they’re wrong. More likely, if you did seem to understand them, they’d rush to revise their findings.

  74. BillyJoe7on 17 Mar 2012 at 5:15 am

    cwfong,

    How many times do I have to remind you that this is not my view, but Lawrence Krauss’ view – as espoused in his book “The Universe from Nothing”. If you have an argument against his view take it up with him. But don’t try to pretend that he hasn’t covered all the “nothings” – from his point of view. But, if you think there is a “nothing” he hasn’t covered, again, take it up with him.

    “It doesn’t matter who has or hasn’t read the book, it matters that Krauss has written repeatedly that the question as to why there is something rather than nothing still stands”

    Why don’t you just admit that you haven’t read the book?
    Either that, or you haven’t understood it, because that is clearly not what he says in his book. I’m not going to look up the references once again, I’ll just direct you to the other thread where I have already provided direct references from his book testifying to his actual position.

  75. cwfongon 17 Mar 2012 at 6:27 am

    BillyJoe7,
    Why don’t you tell us what your view is then? So far you’ve completely ducked that question. Except for your initial statement that the universe came from absolutely nothing. Your whole thing about Krauss was an attempt to demonstrate that you were right.
    When you realized from Dr. Novella’s statement that Krauss didn’t back you up, you stopped making your initial claim, but refused to concede that you had ever been wrong. Krauss became a diversion to avoid any such admission directly, and you use the book to ask irrelevant questions as to whether the rest of us have read all of it (and I have, as I’ve said, read the relevant parts of it, as well as of many other books on the subject).
    Krauss has told us what the book says about this question, and you know damned well he has. Otherwise you’d tell us what he says in the end, which of course will agree with what he told Dr. Novella. There’s no way you can wiggle out of that one. Except to keep on lying and trying to change the subject.

    Last chance to answer this simple question honestly: Did the universe come from absolutely nothing or from something?

  76. cwfongon 17 Mar 2012 at 6:31 am

    By the way, the question as to ‘why is there something rather than nothing’ was Wheeler’s question and Krauss HAS made reference to it in his lectures and writing.

  77. sonicon 17 Mar 2012 at 1:48 pm

    BillyJoe7-
    I’d tell you to duck but what’s the point? It’s all ready over your head. :-)

    Joking aside– It is difficult to discuss zero. Have you ever read the book “Zero” by Charles Seife? I haven’t read it for a while come to think of it. I think I’ll read it now.

  78. BillyJoe7on 17 Mar 2012 at 2:53 pm

    Nope. I haven’t given my opinion. I’ve only ever related what Krauss said in his book – right after you linked to it, thinking he supported your view. I merely pointed out that he didn’t support your view and that he is “pre-emminent amongst scientists who think that the universe can form from nothing” (three and a half degrees of “nothing” as detailed in his book).

    Of course that’s not the first time you’ve misunderstood what you’ve read. You have misunderstood what I’ve been saying here, you’ve misunderstood what Krauss says in his book, and you’ve misunderstood most of your references about evolution in other threads.

    But thanks for finally admitting you haven’t read the book. And it remains to be pondered at exactly what point in this discussion you actually got around to reading “the relevant bits”, and how you can possibly know what’s relevant in the book without having read it all.

  79. BillyJoe7on 17 Mar 2012 at 3:01 pm

    To answer your specific questions:

    “Why don’t you tell us what your view is then?”

    Because this whole discussion has been about what Krauss says in his book. My opinion of he says in his book is irrelevant in that context.

    “Krauss became a diversion ”

    Read that thread commentary again. The whole subject came up with your link to his book. The discussion had wandered through topics such as theism/deism, evolution, abiogenesis, big bang/inflation cosmology, and then your link to Krauss’ book started off a discussion about the universe from nothing.

    “Krauss has told us what the book says about this question”

    Please link me to where he says this. It will need to be a reference to a time after the publication of his book or, if before its actual publication, a direct reference to the book. In the book he specifically says that, after extensive discussion with many of his colleagues, he has changed and expanded on his views since doing the lecture on which the book was based.

    “Last chance to answer this simple question honestly: Did the universe come from absolutely nothing or from something?”

    It’s not a matter of me answering the question. The question is how does Krauss answer it? Read the book and find out! Or read my direct quotes from his book in the other thread. I have quoted the relevant paragraph at least twice but, obviously, you have failed to see its significance, probably because, as you now admit, you haven’t read the book – and because you have to read the whole book to understand that particlar statement. It is the book’s summation if you like and you’ve not understood that that is the case.

  80. BillyJoe7on 17 Mar 2012 at 3:11 pm

    sonic,

    I suggest you read the book before passing judgement.
    I’ve been criticised by three commenters here for my assessment of what Krauss says in his book but I’m the only one who has actually read it!
    It doesn’t surprise me to find both you and cwfong quilty of such conduct.

  81. cwfongon 17 Mar 2012 at 4:32 pm

    BJ7,
    More fallacious blah, blah, blah, and no answer?
    By refusing to answer the question, we have your answer. Something came, and therefor can come, from absolutely nothing.
    New question: What does the book say about nothing that you claimed you don’t agree with? Give us a positive statement that divulges what you allegedly know that Krauss and the rest of us don’t.

  82. BillyJoe7on 18 Mar 2012 at 7:42 am

    “What does the book say about nothing that you claimed you don’t agree with?”

    Please quote me where I claimed that I don’t agree with what the book says about “nothing”.

    And while you’re at it, I still haven’t seen a response to the following:
    Please quote Krauss where he talks about the book that denies what I’m saying.
    At what stage of this discussion did you actually read “the relevant bits” of his book?
    How can you possibly know what’s relevant in the book without having read it all?

    “By refusing to answer the question, we have your answer. Something came, and therefor can come, from absolutely nothing.”

    In fact I haven’t formed an opinion, but I think Krauss’ book is an interesting contribution to the ongoing debate.

  83. cwfongon 18 Mar 2012 at 1:06 pm

    BJ7,
    First of all I watched several videos of Krauss and read interviews of his and some previous writing. Then I read what reviewers felt were relevant sections of his book, including the conclusions quoted here and there. And then I recommended Krauss and his writings, which included his book, to point out that you were wrong when stating that the universe came from nothing. Which you at the time insisted was absolutely nothing. Up until the time when Dr. Novella pointed out to you specifically that Krauss informed him personally that this was not what he meant in his book.
    Which was that “Empty space is full of quantum stuff. That is what he means by the distinction between a classical “nothing” and a quantum “something” breaking down. FYI – I have actually spoken with Krauss about this.”
    Dr. Novella then asked you specifically: “I am not sure what your position is, if not the above. Can you clarify?”
    At which time and ever since you have not answered that question, no matter how it has been phrased.

    Except that you just wrote: “In fact I haven’t formed an opinion.”

    End of story.

  84. BillyJoe7on 18 Mar 2012 at 2:56 pm

    “And then I recommended Krauss and his writings, which included his book, to point out that you were wrong when stating that the universe came from nothing.”

    Except that your book reference was the first mention of this topic in that thread, so it couldn’t have been in response to anything I said. And I think, when someone posts a book reference, it is naturally assumed that that person has actually read the book! I recommend you do so before commenting any further.

    “to point out that you were wrong when stating that the universe came from nothing. Which you at the time insisted was absolutely nothing.”

    Again you will have to quote me because I said no such thing. At all times I was repeating and quoting what Krauss said in his book, not what my opinion is on the topic.

    “Dr. Novella then asked you specifically: “I am not sure what your position is, if not the above. Can you clarify?” At which time and ever since you have not answered that question, no matter how it has been phrased.”

    I clarified in some detail before and after his question, and it is there for all to see in that thread. It is Steven Novella who failed to follow up on my response to his question. Interestingly he has also not read the book. There must be a lesson on there somewhere!

    “End of story.”

    A story must be read from beginning to end if it is to make sense. I suggest you do so.
    And please don’t ever again reference books you haven’t read, let alone contradict someone who has actually read the book.
    This thread and the other thread have been an object lesson in how you operate on these threads, and how you are mostly unable to understand what you do read.
    That is the end of the story.

  85. cwfongon 18 Mar 2012 at 3:25 pm

    And here we thought you, BJ7, didn’t have an opinion. But yet you apparently think that if I or Dr. Novella had read the entire book, we would have a different opinion than the one that you admittedly don’t have.
    Do you have an opinion as to what it was that I in particular don’t understand?
    Other than you not having an opinion is now better than my having one. Since, if you had an opinion, you’d know mine was wrong.
    “Please don’t contradict someone who has actually read the book.” Why not, if I read enough to understand and agree with it, and you claim to have read all of it, but have no opinion?

  86. BillyJoe7on 18 Mar 2012 at 3:48 pm

    See how you don’t understand what you read.
    This discussion has been about what Krauss says in his book.
    I can tell you what Krauss says in his book because I’ve actually read it. If that assessment is wrong I would like to hear from someone who has actually read the book. I don’t think that is too much to ask.
    But I don’t know whether the question “How can something come from nothing?” has been definitively answered by that book. Maybe it has, maybe it hasn’t. I need to let the contents of that book sit there and add to it the assessments of others that I may come across in the future, including assessment of the contents of that book. However, Krauss’ book has made an invaluable contribution.

  87. cwfongon 18 Mar 2012 at 4:57 pm

    This discussion has been about your contention that the universe arose from absolutely nothing. If you no longer believe that, fine. But apparently you still believe that, and would rather not admit that Krauss doesn’t. So if the discussion is about what Krauss says in his book, you haven’t told us what you’ve read that would put the lie to what the rest of us supposedly haven’t.
    The question as to how can something come from nothing has not been answered, since something has not been found to come from nothing, and I propose it never will be.
    But of course it’s still a valid proposition in your mind, isn’t it, and this book business is just a straw-man to divert us from the questions we have for you on that subject that you’ve refused to answer.
    I suppose you’re trying to resurrect what you see as your fast fading reputation as even a barely plausible skeptic, but doing so by this repetitive lying will continue to come back to haunt you.

  88. Mlemaon 18 Mar 2012 at 9:49 pm

    cwfong,
    thanks for the direction re: evolution of intelligence. The bigger question of course is: what is it, yes? That will have to be for another time.

    My thoughts on drawing anything of value from religion (which you didn’t ask for but I’m sharing with you anyway :) :
    Religion as most people think about it or practice it is mostly superstition. It offers community, ritual, and emotional and physical sustenance (in the case of charitable activities sponsored by the church). It can mark rites of passage for the social individual. It can also offer pomp and circumstance, but no more than is provided by some secular occasions. It can elevate the purpose of a group to something larger than itself which can then sustain the individual members. But if an individual disconnects from the higher purpose, the group can splinter and its factions fight for dominance. It’s not separate from human history. It has inspired the uttermost passion, and thus has often perpetrated horror. It’s been redefined uncountable times. Religion seems to have little to do with the true consecration of the individual mind, heart and soul. Except that perhaps it’s a structure of law and thought against which the soul can rebel once its precepts are internalized, and in so doing find either the freedom (or loneliness?) of atheism or the transcendence (or madness?) of union with the divine, or both. Of course I’m generalizing about religion. The truth is I only know about Christianity.

    Here I am tempted to launch into a lengthy discourse on Christianity, but I think it would be inappropriate.
    I hope that the book you’re reading offers you something. I’m not familiar with it, but even though I’m a Christian, it might offer me something too. That’s because I’m not really a very religious person.

    thanks again
    M

  89. BillyJoe7on 18 Mar 2012 at 11:21 pm

    cwfong,

    I have offered you the opportunity to read my quotes from the book that demonstrate what Krauss says.
    I have offered you the opportunity to quote me where you claim that I have stated the things that I’ve said that I know I haven’t said.
    I’ve offered you the opportunity to actually read the book you linked to.

    I mean, imagine that, expecting that, when somone links to a book that they must have actually read that book!

    You’re a piece of work that’s for sure.

  90. cwfongon 19 Mar 2012 at 12:00 am

    Miema, my mother was a teacher of religion and a student of theology. So I’m quite familiar with the positives and negatives involved. I became an agnostic after reading Russell and studying Hume at my University.
    As to what intelligence consists of, it’s essentially strategy, reactive in the general universe, proactive in choice making entities such as life forms.
    Here’s a great paper that shows how well it has been used from the beginning of life on earth. (It will also irritate the hell out of BillyJoe7, but that’s for his own good as they say.)

    Bacteria as Multicellular Organisms
    http://shapiro.bsd.uchicago.edu/Shapiro.1988.scientificamerican0688-82.pdf

  91. BillyJoe7on 19 Mar 2012 at 5:39 am

    A gentle warning for Mlema

    James Shapiro is a fringe dweller, not progressive mainstream.
    If you want to get the wrong idea about evolution, read James Shapiro.
    Apparently bacteria are intelligent and have active social lives!

  92. BillyJoe7on 19 Mar 2012 at 6:25 am

    James Shapiro’s Theory of Evolution:

    http://www.gocomics.com/pearlsbeforeswine/2012/03/18

  93. cwfongon 19 Mar 2012 at 1:45 pm

    Miema, as I predicted, he gets his authoritative opinions on science from comic strips. The paper was issued in 1988 and represents established science with microbiologists. Bacteria are in many ways able to perform intelligent tasks that he would not have a prayer of achieving. And they do so as the epitome of social cooperation. BJ7 on the other hand demonstrates that intelligence does not necessarily evolve efficiently.

  94. sonicon 19 Mar 2012 at 1:45 pm

    Dr. N.-
    I can discuss this being careful about what is attempted humor and what isn’t–

    A friend of mine did ‘origin of life’ research. He still reads up on the research and we talk from time to time about it. He knows there is a chemical formula for life.
    When I suggest I’d have to see that before I believe that– well, that makes me a creationist.
    I find it ironic that because I don’t accept the unfalsifiable hypothesis of abiogenesis
    without experimental confirmation I am a creationist. Seems like it might be a false dilemma. But, apparently those are the choices.

    At this point I have to joke for a moment–
    Of course you can imagine reading pz myers talk about creationists is like looking in a mirror. ;-)

    Another friend of mine – microbiologist, cancer research. A few years ago she told me “god didn’t make no junk.” I did not laugh (amazing restraint). And I did not take the bet. Good thing– it seems I be paying off every week now as new function is found in the junk regularly.
    Her hypothesis is leading to better research and answers than the hypothesis presented by Dawkins and others. I notice that.

    Now I will joke– I recently read the difference between chimps and humans is in the junk dna. And I think– ‘if the difference between Charlize Theron and a chimp is junk– well just goes to show- one man’s junk is another man’s treasure.’ :-)

    Seriously– the problem with biogenesis ‘life comes from life’ is that it seems to produce a paradox.
    I would note that the Michelson-Morely experiments with the speed of light were similar.
    But Einstein solved the paradox- without denying the experiment.
    I’m not so sure the same won’t happen in biology.

    Why should I be certain of results before they happen?– and isn’t it possible that abiogenesis and creationism are a false dilemma? Can’t I wait for the experiment to decide? Do I ask questions like this because I am inherently evil and am trying to spread doubt where it doesn’t belong?

    I don’t actually know the answers to those questions.

  95. sonicon 19 Mar 2012 at 1:54 pm

    Oh- the assumptions that are made when comparing two strands of DNA are basically ‘random point mutation’. This assumption makes the calculations possible- but is not true- as you point out– there are other means of mutation.
    As far as I can tell- nobody knows how to deal with the new information and how it would affect the calculations. In other words- this might be a big deal- it might not.
    I’m guessing how much doubt information like this creates in a person is proportional to the amount of prior commitment one would have. I think the Bayesians refer to this as ‘prior probability’.

    cwfong-
    Shapiro seems to be one of the most interested in cataloging the various types of mutations that are actually observed. I am impressed by what I have seen on that.

  96. cwfongon 19 Mar 2012 at 3:15 pm

    sonic, thanks.
    And abiogenesis and creationism ARE a false dilemma. Living matter has learned to use the energy in non-living matter strategically. No God was required to teach this, unless we see the evolving universe as god driven. But then we’d see an evolving God and not one of the omnipotence that the creationists require.

  97. BillyJoe7on 19 Mar 2012 at 4:18 pm

    cwfong: “Bacteria are in many ways able to perform intelligent tasks…And they do so as the epitome of social cooperation. ”

    I rest my case.
    Now add in quantum mind and universal consciousness and you’re down the sink hole.
    (or are you still denying those beliefs)

    sonic: “Shapiro seems to be one of the most interested in cataloging the various types of mutations that are actually observed. I am impressed by what I have seen on that.”

    I agree.
    Where he goes with it is the problem.
    (see the above quote and note that anthropomorphism and metaphor are not intended)

  98. cwfongon 19 Mar 2012 at 4:48 pm

    As predicted, BJ7′s persistent ignorance is irremediable. But he makes the best Simplicio ever.

  99. BillyJoe7on 19 Mar 2012 at 11:31 pm

    …intelligent bacteria, socially cooperating bacteria, quantum mind, universal coinsciousness.

    Remember he is not using metaphor or anthropomorphism here. He really believes this.
    (No wonder I resort to cartoons to lampoon these crackpot ideas)

  100. cwfongon 19 Mar 2012 at 11:38 pm

    Do you have a question, Simplicio?

  101. BillyJoe7on 20 Mar 2012 at 6:10 am

    Talking to yourself again fongie?.

  102. cwfongon 20 Mar 2012 at 12:46 pm

    *You cannot get energy from nothing. Scientists do not use the term “impossible” lightly, but there are certain things that are simply impossible.*

    Any questions, Simplicio?

  103. sonicon 20 Mar 2012 at 12:51 pm

    cwfong-
    Shapiro also talks about a ‘third way’. I can only hope I know what he is talking about.
    And how can anyone question that living things communicate and plan and act?
    Do people really think these things are due to brains?
    Doesn’t anyone study ‘slime mold’ anymore?

    BillyJoe7-
    That’s your rugby team? Excuse me– I thought this was the men’s league. :-)

  104. cwfongon 20 Mar 2012 at 4:07 pm

    sonic, I think that Shapiro’s ‘third way’ refers to his suggested alternative to either neoDarwinism or Creationism. Which would be his version of a self-engineering (or self-designing) evolutionary process. NeoDarwinists (Dawkins, Dennett, et al) believe that evolution involves selection of design purely by stochastic accident, and creationists (Dembski, Behe, et al) believe a god does that part. Shapiro doesn’t delve that deeply into the strategies that biological forms use or where they came from, but is satisfied that we don’t need a God to explain how such accidentally driven systems of the neoDarwinists could be so consistent with the biological experiences they otherwise had taken no part in.

  105. BillyJoe7on 20 Mar 2012 at 4:22 pm

    “That’s your rugby team?”

    To quote one of my favourite pop groups, “But you’re wrong Steve, you see, it’s only solitaire”
    …so I’ll leave you to your two man circle jerk, it’s just too embarrassing to stay around while you two cover each other with…um…better leave it there, shall we.

    (And, sonic, please don’t play the reasonable fellow again. When you throw yourself in with the likes of fongie, you must know the game is up.)

  106. cwfongon 20 Mar 2012 at 4:34 pm

    You can always tell when BJ7 knows he’s lost. He reverts to the only undertaking he feels good at, scatology.

  107. Mlemaon 20 Mar 2012 at 7:16 pm

    Thanks cwfong!

  108. Mlemaon 20 Mar 2012 at 7:17 pm

    BillyJoe7,
    thanks for being protective, but, that i might be misled is an unnecessary hypothesis :)
    I didn’t really understand the comic. (see? when you’re as dumb as me, it’s hard to be misled!)
    but i know your heart is in the right place, so thanks again

  109. Mlemaon 20 Mar 2012 at 7:17 pm

    sonic,
    I’ve always appreciated your contributions to the conversation. And I enjoy your humor too!

  110. BillyJoe7on 20 Mar 2012 at 11:27 pm

    fongie,

    You have probably read the book by now so why not just come clean.

  111. cwfongon 20 Mar 2012 at 11:52 pm

    You’re right. The book says that something came from absolutely nothing.

  112. BillyJoe7on 21 Mar 2012 at 5:29 am

    Maybe you can correct this error as well:

    “You cannot get energy from nothing. Scientists do not use the term “impossible” lightly, but there are certain things that are simply impossible.”

    Bear in mind the sum total of all the energy in the universe is….wait for it…ZERO.
    Another type of something from nothing ;)

  113. sonicon 21 Mar 2012 at 12:19 pm

    Mlema-
    thank-you and likewise for sure.

    cwfong-
    yes, I get that about Shapiro.
    I will look into his stuff some more.

    BJ7-
    Oops- I missed one of your comments–
    I have not disagreed with you about what Krauss is saying. I did point out that his hypothesis is consistent with the basic concepts of theism– that is – the universe came from ‘not a thing’. That’s why god is described as ‘non-corporeal’.
    Get it? Pretty cool- huh?

    I am not in a position to think less of someone for his beliefs. I would have to think nothing of myself- because I am that weird. And ‘nothing’ in this case doesn’t imply the ‘creator of the universe’ ;-)
    However, I am in a position to try to understand another person’s beliefs. And just because I understand someone (or try to) doesn’t mean I agree with them.
    OK?

  114. cwfongon 21 Mar 2012 at 2:52 pm

    Actually sonic, I don’t know what the book said exactly because, as I said before, I didn’t read the whole book. Only this part on page 149 from the Google books version:

    “First, I want to be clear about what kind of “nothing” I am discussing at the moment. This is the simplest version of nothing, namely empty space. For the moment, I will assume space exists, with nothing at all in it, and that the laws of physics also exist. Once again, I realize that in the revised versions of nothingness that those who wish to continually redefine the word so that no scientific definition is practical, this version of nothing doesn’t cut the mustard. However, I suspect that, at the times of Plato and Aquinas, when they pondered why there was something rather than nothing, empty space with nothing in it was probably a good approximation of what they were thinking about.”

    So empty space exists and the laws of physics exist, and that still doesn’t cut the mustard.
    And in addition to what Krauss told Dr. Novella, here’s what he said in an interview about the book here:
    ( http://www.npr.org/2012/01/13/145175263/lawrence-krauss-on-a-universe-from-nothing )

    “So it could be that the question what happened before the big bang is not even a good question, because before it had no meaning.
    It’s not necessarily the case because we really don’t know. We are at the limits of our knowledge. And I guess that’s something I want to stress for people who think, you know, I don’t want to claim that we know the universe came from nothing. What is amazing is that we can see plausible mechanisms by which that happened. And I find that development truly astounding, and remarkable and worth celebrating.”

    “You take space, get rid of all the particles, all the radiation, and it actually carries energy, and that notion that in fact empty space – once you allow gravity into the game, what seems impossible is possible. It sounds like it would violate the conservation of energy for you to start with nothing and end up with lots of stuff, but the great thing about gravity is it’s a little trickier.
    Gravity allows positive energy and negative energy, and out of nothing you can create positive energy particles, and as long as a gravitational attraction produces enough negative energy, the sum of their energy can be zero. And in fact when we look out at the universe and try and measure its total energy, we come up with zero.”

    So then BJ7, who now confirms he was arguing all along that the universe came from absolutely nothing, still doesn’t understand that Krauss’ nothing does not include the existence of space and, as pointed out before, “mysterious” energy.

    Which is why he now wants me to disavow somehow Dr. Novella’s statement that:
    “You cannot get energy from nothing. Scientists do not use the term “impossible” lightly, but there are certain things that are simply impossible.”

    Sorry, but he’ll have to ask Dr. N directly to do that. Because according to Krauss, Dr. N is correct.

    How was that for a gotcha.

  115. sonicon 21 Mar 2012 at 3:21 pm

    cwfong-
    And when asked to summarize general relativity Einstein said–”Time and space and gravitation have no separate existence from matter.”
    So I guess if you assume space you will be assuming the rest- at least in any theory that agrees with Einstein’s take on general relativity.
    But that would be a silly thing to point out.

  116. BillyJoe7on 21 Mar 2012 at 4:20 pm

    sonic.

    “I did point out that his hypothesis is consistent with the basic concepts of theism– that is – the universe came from ‘not a thing’. That’s why god is described as ‘non-corporeal’.
    Get it? Pretty cool- huh?”

    You’re just playing with word though.
    Without the word games theism says the universe came from a god.
    Playing word games doesn’t mean you don’t need an explanation for a god.
    So what if this god is non-corporeal, you stilll need an explanation for this non-corporeal god who creates the universe.
    Krauss shows how the universe could have come from nothing.
    THAT is pretty cool!

  117. cwfongon 21 Mar 2012 at 4:50 pm

    Hey BillyJoe7, you’ve changed your tune. But even then, you’re doubly wrong. ‘Could have’ was in theory only, and nothing did not mean no space, no energy, or prior universes. Not to mention the multiple universe theories that made him uncomfortable but he felt obliged to support.in theory.
    Krauss seems to want his readers to use their own inferences to better grasp his meanings. But proper inference at least requires prior knowledge of the subject, and you apparently have neither.

  118. BillyJoe7on 21 Mar 2012 at 4:53 pm

    I don’t know why I bother to discus a book with someone who refuses to read it but seems somehow content to pontificate on what it says.

    cwfong: “So then BJ7, who now confirms he was arguing all along that the universe came from absolutely nothing, still doesn’t understand that Krauss’ nothing does not include the existence of space ”

    But there is a clue to his error and confusion in the very bit he quotes from Kraus:

    Krauss: ““First, I want to be clear about what kind of “nothing” I am discussing at the moment“.

    At the moment.

    AT THE MOMENT he is discussing “nothing” where “nothing = empty space + laws of physics”.
    LATER he goes onto discus “nothing” where “nothing = laws of physics”.
    LATER STILL he goes on to discus how the laws of physics could have arisen from a multiverse.
    EVEN LATER STILL he goes on to discus how the difference between nothing and something has lost all meaning as a result of the discoveries in particle physics and cosmology.

    cwfong: “So empty space exists and the laws of physics exist, and that still doesn’t cut the mustard.”

    See how he uinderstands nothing he reads.
    He is referring to the bit where Krauss says:

    Krauss: “Once again, I realize that in the revised versions of nothingness that those who wish to continually redefine the word so that no scientific definition is practical, this version of nothing doesn’t cut the mustard.”

    Clearly, obviously, umabiguously, Krauss is referring to the continual redefinitions of nothing – for the specific purpose of excluding a scientific defintion – that cut no mustard. In other words, there are those who define nothing in such a way as to specifically exclude a possible scientific explanation. Krauss shows how these particular defintions of nothing don’t cut mustard.

    Krauss: “I don’t want to claim that we know the universe came from nothing. What is amazing is that we can see plausible mechanisms by which that happened. And I find that development truly astounding, and remarkable and worth celebrating”

    That’s right. I’ve never said anything different. We don’t know the universe came form nothing, but we do have a plausible mechanism by which the universse could have come from nothing. Go back and read what I have written. None of it contradicts the above. How do I know? Because I have always and everywhere quoted Krauss himself.

    cwfong: “Which is why he now wants me to disavow somehow Dr. Novella’s statement that:
    “You cannot get energy from nothing. Scientists do not use the term “impossible” lightly, but there are certain things that are simply impossible.””

    Steven Novella is not interested or hasn’t got time or whatever, but the very bit he quoted from Krauss again contains the asnwer!:

    Krauss: “It sounds like it would violate the conservation of energy for you to start with nothing and end up with lots of stuff, but the great thing about gravity is it’s a little trickier. Gravity allows positive energy and negative energy, and out of nothing you can create positive energy particles, and as long as a gravitational attraction produces enough negative energy, the sum of their energy can be zero. And in fact when we look out at the universe and try and measure its total energy, we come up with zero.”

    Which is exactly what I said in a much more compact form:

    BillyJoe: “Bear in mind the sum total of all the energy in the universe is….wait for it…ZERO.”

    In other words the negative energy of gravity cancels all the positive energy of everything else.

    I really do wonder how it is that someone who considers himself way above me in his knowledge of science can continually make such basic errors of comprehension. And I’m on record as saying that I’m just an educated layman as far as science is concerned. I have never studied science formally or taken a course in science beyond secondary school..

  119. cwfongon 21 Mar 2012 at 5:00 pm

    sonic, you are quite right that to assume a space existed at all before the big bang is to assume, as Krauss did (and Einstein before him) that it had laws of physics, and if it had laws, it had something that the laws were there to regulate.

  120. cwfongon 21 Mar 2012 at 5:32 pm

    BillyJoe7, your recent rebuttal is far from what you claim to have said in a “much mire compact form.”
    What you have repeatedly confirmed, with your secondary school exposure to the science of the last century, is the belief that something has in fact come from completely nothing, and still don’t understand that nothing is not a zero non-existant universe, but a zero measurement of a conflicting combination of theoretical forms of energy.
    Even when you now deny (again) confirming that belief in absolutely nothing, you keep making juvenile arguments still confirming it.
    If you’re here to learn something, and especially from the owner of the blog, Dr. Novella, don’t make some lame excuse as to why you don’t answer his questions; pay some attention to what he says at least and really try to learn.

  121. cwfongon 21 Mar 2012 at 5:38 pm

    “In other words the negative energy of gravity cancels all the positive energy of everything else.”
    Beautiful.

  122. sonicon 21 Mar 2012 at 6:49 pm

    cwfong-
    yes- if you assume any part of matter (mass/energy), space or time you assume them all. That’s if you also assume general relativity is correct- an assumption that is often forgotten because of the level of certainty associated with it.

    Some difficulty might have something to do with Godel’s incompleteness.

    Anyway– re: origins– if you assume any thing (space-time or matter) you are circular.
    If you assume ‘not a thing’ then you are deist.
    If you don’t know what to assume you are confused.

    Who made up this game? ;-)

  123. cwfongon 21 Mar 2012 at 7:08 pm

    Hey, even a deist is a thing.

  124. BillyJoe7on 21 Mar 2012 at 11:27 pm

    cwrong,

    READ THE BOOK.

    Then, and only then, will I discus this further, becasue you have no idea what you are talking about. absultely none and nor can you be expected to when you haven’t…

    READ THE BOOK.

  125. cwfongon 21 Mar 2012 at 11:32 pm

    Get a tutor.

  126. BillyJoe7on 22 Mar 2012 at 6:16 am

    READ. THE. BOOK.

    …and, yeah, get a tutor to help with the comprehension.
    (you’ll need a good one willing to work for a lost cause)

  127. cwfongon 22 Mar 2012 at 12:58 pm

    “In other words the negative energy of gravity cancels all the positive energy of everything else.”

  128. BillyJoe7on 22 Mar 2012 at 4:08 pm

    What exactly are you denying?

  129. cwfongon 22 Mar 2012 at 4:38 pm

    Your capacity for drawing proper inference. To identify and secure elements needed to draw reasonable conclusions; to form conjectures and hypotheses; to consider relevant information and to educe the consequences flowing from data, statements, principles, evidence, judgments, beliefs, opinions, concepts, descriptions, questions, or other forms of representation.

  130. BillyJoe7on 22 Mar 2012 at 11:43 pm

    Look in the mirror!

    And….

    READ THE BOOK.

  131. cwfongon 23 Mar 2012 at 12:44 am

    Theoretically there was no gravity in the universe prior to the big bang. So, BJ7, your assumption that the negative energy of gravity had somehow negated all energy is (other than ridiculous) not even in the picture. So your assumption that the effect of negative energy of gravity cancels the negative energy of everything else and thus reduces the universe to nothing is obviously idiotic, as Krauss was of course referring to this universe, and the mass that we can observe now is around 6e51 kg (6 with 51 zeros that is).
    If that’s not in your book, perhaps it should have been on the chance that some undereducated literalist would buy it.

  132. BillyJoe7on 23 Mar 2012 at 6:36 am

    I will simply let Lawrence Krauss answer that question:

    Krauss: “out of nothing you can create positive energy particles, and as long as a gravitational attraction produces enough negative energy, the sum of their energy can be zero. And in fact when we look out at the universe and try and measure its total energy, we come up with zero.”

  133. cwfongon 23 Mar 2012 at 12:54 pm

    You have no idea what that means, do you. Did you note that “we look out at the universe” when we try to take that measure? Are we then nothing standing on nothing looking out at nothing?

  134. BillyJoe7on 23 Mar 2012 at 4:35 pm

    “Are we then nothing standing on nothing looking out at nothing?”

    If that is what you believe Krauss’ statement means, you are indeed a lost cause.
    Here’s a novel idea, cwrong…

    READ THE BOOK.

  135. cwfongon 23 Mar 2012 at 5:15 pm

    No, that’s what his statement doesn’t mean, and that you were (and still are) unable to infer. He’s not intending to describe the complete nothing that you seem to think he’s describing. Otherwise he wouldn’t have you standing on and looking at a lot of something. Amazing that you still can’t get it.

    David Albert (professor of philosophy at Columbia and the author of “Quantum Mechanics and Experience) says this about that:
    “What on earth, then, can Krauss have been thinking? Well, there is, as it happens, an interesting difference between relativistic quantum field theories and every previous serious candidate for a fundamental physical theory of the world. Every previous such theory counted material particles among the concrete, fundamental, eternally persisting elementary physical stuff of the world — and relativistic quantum field theories, interestingly and emphatically and unprecedentedly, do not. According to relativistic quantum field theories, particles are to be understood, rather, as specific arrangements of the fields. Certain ­arrangements of the fields, for instance, correspond to there being 14 particles in the universe, and certain other arrangements correspond to there being 276 particles, and certain other arrangements correspond to there being an infinite number of particles, and certain other arrangements correspond to there being no particles at all. And those last arrangements are referred to, in the jargon of quantum field theories, for obvious reasons, as “vacuum” states. Krauss seems to be thinking that these vacuum states amount to the relativistic-­quantum-field-theoretical version of there not being any physical stuff at all. And he has an argument — or thinks he does — that the laws of relativistic quantum field theories entail that vacuum states are unstable. And that, in a nutshell, is the account he proposes of why there should be something rather than nothing.”

    You see, as I said long ago, it’s about something “rather than nothing” rather than it is about something coming from absolutely nothing. This is a distinction that DOES make all the difference.

  136. cwfongon 23 Mar 2012 at 5:22 pm

    I doubt that anyone else is still reading this exchange, but if they are, David Albert’s review can be found here:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/25/books/review/a-universe-from-nothing-by-lawrence-m-krauss.html?_r=1&nl=books&emc=edit_bk_20120323

  137. BillyJoe7on 24 Mar 2012 at 12:42 am

    “No, that’s what his statement doesn’t mean, and that you were (and still are) unable to infer. He’s not intending to describe the complete nothing that you seem to think he’s describing. Otherwise he wouldn’t have you standing on and looking at a lot of something. Amazing that you still can’t get it.”

    How the #v<k could you possibly know when you haven't….

    READ THE BOOK.

    And there you go quoting again and changing the topic from what Krauss said to why you – actually David Albon – thinks he is wrong. But, when you've failed miserably at understanding what Krauss says – through failure to read the actual book! – what else can you do?

  138. cwfongon 24 Mar 2012 at 1:21 am

    I can leave you to wallow in your ignorance.

  139. BillyJoe7on 24 Mar 2012 at 2:32 am

    …says the ignorant person who COMMENTS ON A BOOK HE HAS NOT READ!

    At the very least, I have read the book.
    If I am wrong about its contents, my first demand is that anyone who criticises my account of its contents will, at the very least, have READ THE BOOK also!

  140. cwfongon 24 Mar 2012 at 3:25 am

    Demand away.

  141. sonicon 29 Mar 2012 at 12:20 pm

    I have fired employees in California.
    I have been fired from a job in California.
    After spending some time looking at what is going on with this case in terms of the types of complaint and the timing– it looks like a hatchet job– probably illegal.
    How the judge will rule– having been involved in similar situations– I say flip a coin.

    One thing does make me smile– BJ7 asking someone to read a reference… :-)

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