[Sca-cooks] Questions on theory and proof

Terry Decker t.d.decker at att.net
Sun Feb 7 10:36:38 PST 2010

> Ian of Oertha said:
>> Actually, my favorite example of this in modern times has to
>> do with clouds.  Meteorologists stated that lightning
>> traveled from the ground to the clouds due to charge
>> differentials which built up.  This was acceptable physical
>> law, and when pilots reported seeing some lightning
>> travelling UP from the clouds to ABOVE the clouds, scientists
>> dismissed this as superstition.
>> The theory being:  This is a physical law that has been
>> discovered, and the math, thereof, works in practice.  So any
>> reports to the contrary must be untrue; the math doesn't lie.
>>  See our perfectly-balanced equations?  And we can use these
>> equations to predict events that actually do occur.
>> Therefore, any accusations of inaccuracy must be false.
> Yet another thing that scientists and mathematicians tend to forget (or
> ignore) is that math is simply another symbol set... It doesn't explain
> everything.  They also tend to forget (or ignore) that math itself has had 
> to
> "expand" to accurately model reality... several times.
>> Turns out, they had to expand the theory, but scientific
>> disbelief can hold back the furtherance of knowledge,
> ...
> Exactly my point. Certainty, of any type, has a way of doing that.  And
> especially when we're talking about history, assuming that your theory is 
> fact
> is generally foolhardy.  Which is not to say that you can't have a sound
> foundation for whatever your theory is, but being certain that your theory 
> is
> the gospel truth just closes doors.
> Ah... Isn't epistimology a lovely topic!
> In service,
> Celia

Lovely, but problematic.

The story of the meteorologists and the pilots is apochryphal with no basic 
journalistic facts being presented.  That the pilot's reports were dismissed 
in some quarters, I have no doubt.  One does not scrap a hypothesis that 
meets all currently quantified data and works on the basis of 
unsubstantiated reports.  However, someone was curious enough to 
investigate, created a body of substantiated and quantified data, and add 
new knowledge to meteorological theory.  The new theory did not supplant the 
old theory of ground to cloud lightning, it is an addition to the theory. 
BTW, scientists have known about upper atmosphere lightning since the late 
19th Century, but the capacity to make accurate and relatively continuous 
observations has only existed for about 25 years.  The hold up was not 
scientific disbelief so much as being able to gather enough data to 
formulate solid working hypotheses.

Here you are using a set of imprecise "facts" to make conclusions about the 
general mindset of "scientists" in order to support your pet theory.  Isn't 
that precisely what you are arguing against?


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