Science Fail: Shaky Assumptions Topple Long-Held Notions
Science is supposed to be self-correcting, we’re told. But when towers of belief are built on assumptions later shown to be false, the consequences can be monumental.
A Shocking Discovery
We echo Science Magazine‘s headline because it fits the theme that faulty assumptions can undermine years of scientific ‘fact’. In this case, shocked quartz, long considered definitive proof of an extraterrestrial impact, is proof no more (7/18/17). H. Jesse Smith says that lightning can create the same evidence.
Shocked quartz—whose crystalline structure is deformed along planes inside the crystal, a result of sudden high pressure and heating—long has been considered to be an unequivocal signature of the impact of an extraterrestrial object such as a meteorite. This favorite tool of geologists searching for proof of an impact may not be so foolproof after all, though. Chen et al. simulated the pressure and temperature caused by an idealized lightning strike on rocks and found that lightning can produce the same conditions and effects caused by impact events. Therefore, the presence of shock features in quartz should not be taken as unequivocal evidence for an extraterrestrial impact.
Trees Cause Global Warming
According to long-held climate model assumptions, trees absorb carbon dioxide, acting as “carbon sinks” for the atmosphere. Nature announced, “Tropical forests may be carbon sources, not sinks.” According to new more accurate measurements, tropical forests appear to be emitting more carbon than they absorb.
Every moment, the world’s roughly 3 trillion trees either suck up carbon dioxide from the air or release it into the atmosphere. Accurately quantifying these carbon flows is a long-standing challenge that has hindered scientists’ understanding of how forests help to regulate Earth’s climate. Now, researchers have combined ground and satellite measurements to conclude that tropical forests seem to be a net source of heat-trapping carbon emissions, rather than a carbon sink….
The study authors estimate that the world’s tropical forests release approximately 425 million tonnes of carbon annually, equivalent to roughly 5% of the globe’s annual fossil-fuel emissions, and about five times more than an estimate in a highly cited 2011 paper that relied on ground-based forest inventories.
Climate scientists still found ways to blame humans for this, including logging and burning of forests, and the drying out of forests due to climate change. Still, a 500% mistake in a “highly cited…paper” represents a whopper of an error. Will a correction be made before governments undertake more drastic actions?
Linguistic Evolution Assumption Has Been Myth-Taken
Prior assumptions about language history have led to a myth, Phys.org says: “Languages do not share a single history.” According to the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, “a language’s grammatical structures change more quickly over time than vocabulary, overturning a long-held assumption in the field.” This means that anthropologists, linguists and historians have been propagating a myth:
The ‘myth’ of language history: languages do not share a single history but different components evolve along different trajectories and at different rates. A large-scale study of Pacific languages reveals that forces driving grammatical change are different to those driving lexical change. Grammar changes more rapidly and is especially influenced by contact with unrelated languages, while words are more resistant to change.
The word “evolve” must be taken advisedly, because language is under control of the human mind, not mutation and selection. “This is a bit of an unexpected finding, since many have thought that grammar might give us deeper insight into the linguistic past than vocabulary,” says Stephen Levinson, leader of the study.
Astrobiologists have used the presence of chloromethane at a star or planet as a sure biomarker: an indicator of life. They can’t anymore. Space.com says, “No Life Needed: Organic Compound Forms at Comet and Baby Star System.” Data from the Rosetta spacecraft found traces of the molecule on Comet 67P. It has also been detected around a binary star system.
Previous studies on exoplanets have considered a substance, called chloromethane, to be a biomarker molecule, which means it indicates the potential existence of life. Before now, it was known to be created by some tropical plants on Earth as well as industrial processes, where it is known as Freon-40. However, the new findings, detailed today (Oct. 2) in the journal Nature Astronomy, indicate that the chemical can also form without the help of life.
The article cautions that it still could be a biomarker, but chloromethane can no longer be considered definitive for life. Like many great discoveries in science, this one was made by accident. “”I wasn’t particularly looking for it,” Edith Fayole remarked.
Inflation Is Not A Solution; It’s Not Even a Scientific Theory
At Forbes.com, Sabine Hossenfelder, a theoretical physicist specializing in quantum gravity, takes “inflation” theory apart. This theory has been extremely popular among cosmologists, to the point of becoming an integral part of the fabric of modern big bang cosmology. Ever since Alan Guth concocted inflation in 1980 (see 7/01/14), cosmologists liked it because it supposedly solved the horizon problem, the flatness problem and the monopole problem. Hossenfelder argues that inflation can’t solve these problems, because they never were problems to begin with. She agrees with Paul Steinhardt that inflation is a mess, but goes even further: it’s not even a scientific theory. It works well for cranking out papers in journals, but they accomplish nothing.
It is this abundance of useless models that gives rise to the criticism that inflation is not a scientific theory. And on that account, the criticism is justified. It’s not good scientific practice. It is a practice that, to say it bluntly, has become commonplace because it results in papers, not because it advances science.
Her analysis, though, appears to rely on the Stuff Happens Law. For instance, she claims the flatness problem is not a problem because a universe with a curvature near 1 (omega=1) is no less probable than any other. Cosmologists prefer flatness for aesthetic reasons, she says, not scientific reasons. And yet we know that without this admittedly “fine tuning” condition, life would be impossible. Consider the Rubik’s Cube. There are only a couple of arrangements that stand out as special among the billions of random combinations. Saying that the one-color-per-side arrangement is just as probable as all the others may be true in one sense but ignores its uniqueness. A life-permitting universe surely must strike cosmologists as very, very special, considering the multiple levels of fine tuning required for that to be even possible. If it were not special, we would not be arguing about it, would we?
White Supremacists Are Wrong
Those who have envisioned Scandinavian or ‘Viking’ races as the most evolved, pure blooded humans have some explaining to do. “Vikings were never the pure-bred master race white supremacists like to portray,” says Clare Downham at The Conversation. Tiptoeing around Darwin’s guilt for fomenting racist ideas [see commentary], she says,
During the 19th century, Vikings were praised as prototypes and ancestor figures for European colonists. The idea took root of a Germanic master race, fed by crude scientific theories [Darwinism?] and nurtured by Nazi ideology in the 1930s. These theories have long been debunked, although the notion of the ethnic purity of the Vikings still seems to have popular appeal – and it is embraced by white supremacists.
Archaeological and genetic evidence suggests otherwise. The Vikings partook in far-flung trading voyages that involved significant interactions with “Scandinavians, Frisians, Slavs and Arabic merchants” who were in frequent contact with them. “The mobility of Vikings led to a fusion of cultures within their ranks and their trade routes would extend from Canada to Afghanistan,” she says. “…An analysis of skeletons at sites linked to Vikings using the latest scientific techniques points to a mix of Scandinavian and non-Scandinavian peoples without clear ethnic distinctions in rank or gender.”
Was Hitler’s maniacal passion for racial purity thus based on a myth? We tend to think people have always divided on ‘racial’ lines,* but we know the Romans and Greeks were far less sensitive to issues of skin color and so-called ‘racial’ traits than they were to culture and social status. In the Viking era, Downham claims, “modern notions of nationalism and ethnicity would have been unrecognisable.” The Vikings’ long associations with their trading partners would have included intermarriage and racial mixing. As a result, “Vikings in the 9th and 10th centuries may be better defined more by what they did than by their place of origin or DNA.”
*Dr Alveda King, niece of Martin Luther King, stresses that “there is only one human race.” Hear her on FRC’s Washington Watch, Sept 28, 2017. Creationists have taken the lead on this important point, using Genesis 1-2, Acts 17:26 and other Scriptures to show that God “made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth.” Being descended from one created pair, all humans are obviously members of the same family. Racism is foreign to the Bible.
Read Dr Jerry Bergman’s book The Darwin Effect (2014) for an eye-opening account of the roots of biological racism. In ch. 2, he cites numerous sources that show that, first of all, racism based on skin color was rare before the 19th century. “Biological racism” came into prominence in the 19th century, particularly after Darwin’s writings. Why Darwinism? His mechanism requires variation, which implies inferiority and superiority that will lead to survival of the fittest in the struggle for existence. Darwin himself, in The Descent of Man, envisioned warfare between the races and the triumph of the Europeans (whom he considered more fit) as a consequence of natural selection. Bergman quotes prominent scientists in the late 19th and early 20th centuries who were strongly motivated by Darwin’s ideas to rank humans by their evolutionary status, usually considering Negroes as at the bottom and themselves (the Europeans) at the top. Those rankings have no scientific merit at all, Bergman shows. He also quotes biological racists disdaining Christianity as the enemy to their “scientific” racist ideas. People need to know this!