Wednesday, 27 October 2010

The Human Condition VIII

Religion and Science
Let me start with two ‘religious’ events that lead naturally to what I want to say about science.

This morning I had a visit from two Jehova's Witnesses. I opened the door with the usual question: “how old is the Earth and the Universe?” And got the usual and expected brain-numbing answer, causing me to close the door.

Secondly, at the Royal Academy of Art, where master paintings from Budapest were on show in 2010, one painting in particular caught my attention: Pope Gregory the Great celebrating mass, while Jesus rises out of the wine chalice. The commentary explained, that his vision from sometime around 590 AD was central to the debate about the slightly macabre Christian belief that the wine and bread offered in church represent Christ’s flesh and blood.
Such beliefs go completely over my head and I cannot see that there’s much difference between the various cult-worships of antiquity and the supernatural humbug we see around us today.

Having ascertained that as far as religion is concerned, we have not moved an inch ahead since we left the Olduvai Gorge and the African savannah 60,000 years ago, let me now move on to a more recent cognition from the last 100 years: Einstein’s Relativity Theory and some inconsistencies that I find deeply awesome – if not worrying.

I have always had a problem with the Special Relativity theory’s postulate, that light has a constant speed wherever you are, whatever you do – travel with it, travel towards it, all that happens is that you ultimately become constrained by your mass going towards infinity as you close in on the speed of light. This is not because I am mathematical genius; in fact I understand very little of the complexity juggled so eloquently by quantum scientists.

But here are some conundrums that have bothered me for many years:

1. A particle moving at the speed of light, or close to, would according to Einstein have an enormous mass and consequently begin to attract other particles – and ultimately the whole Universe. That must be rubbish, as it doesn't happen.

2. Science would like to have us believe in “Dark Matter”, created at the Big Bang – even that it constitutes 75% of the Universe’s matter. Otherwise they cannot explain the red-shift of light and other strange phenomenon they observe. So in an almost religious way, the quantum gurus have invented “something”, that cannot be seen, i.e. does not emit light and does not absorb or reflect light (hence Dark Matter) – but has a substantial gravitational impact. Even a bright A-level student can see that this is ga-ga. If Dark Matter has a gravitational impact, it would long ago have absorbed some of the loose particles floating about in the Universe and made itself visible through these lumps of ‘stuff’.

3. If there really were a Big Bang 14.5 Bill. years ago – and despite the likelihood that 'something' definitely happened, I am now less than convinced that it was the all defining creative moment it has been made out to be – how come we can see galaxies 14.5 Bill. light years away? Did they arrive at their position instantly? The light they emitted at the start would have reached us very fast. Nevertheless we say that the light we now see was emitted 14.5 Bill. years ago. Consequently they must have been in place at that time – unless we have got our mental knickers in a twist?
I am aware that the official explanation is, that the Universe is expanding, explaining why we can see galaxies that are 30 Bill. lightyears away. That is: double the light-age of the Universe!! This sounds like annother artificial explanation trying to circumvent the unexplainable, as we still haven't understood the Universe very well. We don't even know for sure whether it expands or contracts, i.e. whether it will cease to exist in "the Big Crunch", the opposite to the Big Bang or in just Cold Death when all stars have burnt out. Or perhaps the Thermodynamic law of energy preservation will prevent the latter?
There are too many contradictory explanations and I shall return to some of them in later writings.

The point is, that when we can’t explain something we have a tendency to take on mystical beliefs: Dark Matter, Higgs Boson particles, Space-Time distortions and even apply theories which we know will not work – but they are the best we have.
Is there such a difference between religion and science, then?

Well – there are two of significance:

In many cases scientific observation provides us with either evidence or rejection of a theory, while religion usually is taken uncritically on board, sadly often through fear and group pressure.
But both have the same origin: we’re searching for a beginning, a reason for our existence, a meaning with this vast complexity. We clearly have great difficulty accepting that reason may be utterly absent. Yet, so far science has provided more acceptable answers than any religion I know of.
And why should we and our little planet count as a central depository of reason in a Universe, that probably holds billions and billions of planets with other life forms?

The other difference is, that you may accept or disregard a scientific postulate based on evidence, research or likelihood, while if you grow up in India, you may become a Hindu; in the American Bible Belt a Creationist; in Pakistan a Muslim; and in Peru a good Catholic. The only argument you can use in these cases is “I believe”.
I know where I stand, when it comes to (at worst) 'some evidence' against absolutely none.
Finally, I never believed in the variable mass in Einstein’s E=mc2.
For the reasons mentioned above, it must be the speed of light that varies, not the mass, or perhaps the way we look at the concept of time - and there is now very good evidence that the latter is the case.
Time Dilation is a measurable fact and if the Time is a variable, so will perceived frequency and speed of light be. It doesn't take much mathematics to see that fixing Mass in the field equation and make light speed the variable (on a cosmic or quantum scale) could begin to help us sort out a lot of the misconceptions we have generated because of the flaws in the Relativity Theory.
I have recently fallen over a theory called the “Tempo Field Theory” by Frank Atkinson, who uses time to explain Gravity and other Universal matters (Big Bang, Black Holes, Energy theorems and Dark Matter) but that must wait till another time, when I have studied it in detail. Nevertheless, it does seem to peel yet one more layer off the religious humbug onion.
Not a moment too early, judged by the incredible advance of Creationism!

No comments: