Common Sense: Math is the Root of All Evil (including Evolution)

Sorry that the blog has been so quiet lately; I managed to catch a vicious flu for the first time since I started getting flu shots, so I've been feeling too ill to write. I'm still far from recovered, but I'm feeling well enough to share a bit of delightful foolishness with you.

After seeing my recent post about a relativity denier, a reader sent me a link to another extremely amusing anti-relativity site. (In fact, I've recieved a bunch of links to anti-relativity sites; I'm only posting the most amusing ones.) This one has
several particularly amusing properties, but from my point of view what makes it
such a great target is that it uses the mathematical precision of relativity as part of its argument against it. You see, math is ultimately the basis of a grand anti-religious conspiracy to replace god with randomness and evolution!

The site is called "Common Sense Science". Alas, the full range of their insanity isn't available for me to view: they publish textbooks and journals, and to get the full details about their "theories",
you must buy the books and/or subscribe to the journals. But there's more than
enough there on the site to see what they're going on about.

You can mostly guess what their problem with relativity is, just from the title of the site. Modern physics - both relativity and quantum physics - is often quite
counterintuitive. Things don't behave the way your common sense says it should. To them, this is a fatal flaw in the physics.

At the end of the 20th century, Barnes, Bergman, Lucas and others began to build on the older classical work that had been largely abandoned nearly a hundred years earlier. Working outside the mainstream physics establishment, their common goal was to correct what they perceived as deficiencies in modern physics by reapplying what they deemed to be sound scientific methods in order to develop better fundamental theories of the elementary particles, atoms and the forces between these objects. By striving to maintain the principles of reality, causality and unity throughout their work, they hoped to bring "common sense" back to the field of physics. The expression "common sense", in this context, alludes to their belief that physics, even at the atomic scale, ought to be intuitive and consistent with the laws of physics that are commonly observed on laboratory scales.

So, anything that you can't observe directly at laboratory scale is completely
excluded by their theory. It's an interesting claim, given that a lot of what they're going to propose about how things work aren't directly observable at lab-scale.

So what's there alternative to standard modern physics? Here's their description of what they're about:

Common Sense Science is a body of theory regarding matter and forces that
describes the physical world using geometric models, absolute time and Galilean space
in a way that strives to be consistent with experimental observations and free of
internal contradictions. The foundational principles of CSS theory are based upon the
law of cause and effect and the assertion that the universe and all natural phenomena
are fundamentally electrical in character.

These principles have led to the derivation of a universal force law that applies on all scales ranging from the sub-atomic to the cosmic domain and to the development of physical models for elementary particles, nuclei, atoms and molecules. Although the new models are novel and in many ways strikingly different from the standard model of elementary particles, they have an inherent simplicity and physical form that appeals to common sense. One reason for this is because the CSS models can be visualized and analyzed using the math and physics commonly found to hold true at laboratory scales.

We can start to get a nice sense of what they're trying to do just from this. They're another variant of the "electric universe" nonsense. Everything is
electromagnetic forces, regardless of how well electromagnetic forces fit reality.
How does gravity work in an electromagnetic universe? You just wave your hands.

Of course, the math of this doesn't work out. It can't. Electromagnetic phenomena generate forces between things with opposing charges. But gravity generates forces between any two objects, regardless of charge. Electromagnetics don't behave much of anything like gravity - that's sort of the point of the whole unification problem. Gravity is an anomaly. It defies common sense why it should be so different from the other forces we observe.

But hey, to the "common sense" guys, that doesn't matter. Because
math is bad. Y'see, the whole problem with modern physics is that they waste way too much time on that math stuff anyway. After all, the number one problem with new scientific theories is "Physical models of matter were replaced with mathematical equations".

Of course, that rejection of math doesn't necessarily last too long. They have a bizzare contrived derivation of their "universal force law", which is basically a sloppy attempt to shoehorn relativistic terms into equations from the work of people like Faraday and Maxwell - without adopting the basic framework of relativity from which those terms were derived. Does it follow common sense to do that? No. Does it make mathematical sense? Not particularly. Does that bother them? No.

As you wander through this stuff, you're bound to find yourself asking: Why? This stuff makes no sense at all. Despite its insistence of simple
physical models, it doesn't fit with the results of well-known, easily repeatable experiments. It claims to be focused on common sense. But it's pretty hard to argue
that common sense would imply that you should throw relativistic terms into non-relativistic equations without any explanation of how they can work in a non-relativistic frame. It's also hard to argue that common sense means "If experiments differ from the prediction of my physically based theory, then
the experiments must be wrong". So where's all this coming from?

And that's where things get really strange.

In their page on "Atomism and
Quantum Mechanics"
, they go into a diatribe against Lucretius, claiming that all of modern physics is derived from the idea of atomism as proposed by Lucretius, and that Lucretius proposed atomism not as an explanation for how things
work, but as a way of freeing mankind from the bonds of religion. In fact:

While matter was considered to be eternal, in the atomistic view, life itself was not: "The [atomists] supposed that life had developed out of a primeval slime, man as well as animals and plants. Man was a microcosm of the universe, for he contained every kind of atom." As this is the viewpoint of modern evolutionists, the reader may appreciate that Lucretius, not Darwin, has been the principal spokesman for evolution during the last two millennia.

No one should contend that a scientific theory of matter has no bearing on his religious and moral views. The implied purpose of "On the Nature of Things" was to combat what Lucretius perceived to be the bondage of religion. In the second stanza of his poem he claimed that "human life lay foul before men's eyes, crushed to the dust beneath religion's weight.'' The Greeks admired by Lucretius "used the atomic philosophy mainly to combat religion, not to extend man's understanding and control of nature."

This is where the real insanity sets in. These common sense guys don't seem to have the common sense necessary to understand things like time. Lucretius, whatever he said, had nothing at all to do with "evolution". Lucretius, whatever he said, had nothing to do with the probabilistic nature of what we understand about quantum mechanics. He didn't propose either of those ideas; they didn't come into existence for thousands of years after his death. And his notion of "atomism" had nothing whatsoever to do with modern theories of physics. They're just randomly grabbing a bunch of things that they've connected in their own minds, and tying them into a grand, imaginary anti-religious conspiracy.

And naturally, the root of that evil, atheistic conspiracy against common sense? Math.

The atomistic view is not universally accepted, but is opposed by the Judeo-Christian worldview with its underlying assumptions, the chief of these being the Law of Cause and Effect. This law is rejected both by ancient and modern atomists who insist, wrongly, that elementary particles are subject to the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, that they emit light spontaneously and move randomly, that life arose by chance and evolved into its current forms by chance processes. At the turn of the century, new discoveries in physics came so fast that scientists were unable to explain the experimental data solely on the basis of classical physics and the established laws of physics. So, around 1920, when atomists were able to explain newly discovered characteristics of light and matter by the use of mathematical equations (instead of physical models consistent with proven laws), modern science adopted the atomistic world view.

To make matters even sillier, after all of that ranting about dirty rotten nasty
evil atomism, and all of the problems it's caused, their next step is... To propose a
new model of the atom. Of course, their model of the atom is totally inconsistent with
what some of us like to refer to as "reality", but they won't let that stop them.
Their proposal is based on an idea of "spinning charge rings". They've got some very
nifty diagrams of what they think atoms really look like. And they're all
astonishingly accurate - that is, if you discard all of the observations and
experiments where they're inconsistent. But that's no problem for the common sense guys. Because those observations aren't consistent with common sense, and when common sense and experiment are inconsistent, it's the experiment that's wrong. That's really the short version of what they say. They don't need to explain things like the double-slit experiment: since the results of that experiment are contrary to common sense, there must be something wrong with the way the experiment is set up, because reality must match with common sense.

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I remember being told that Greek philosopher Democritus came up with the atom philosophical concept first.

Not that a simple misattribution like that matters, compared to the rest of their opus.

I was reminded of Norman Leavitt's evisceration of Steve Fuller's new book. He was talking about anti-scientism in the academy, but it applies to these folks as well:

It is easy to mock this development and hard not to scorn it. But perhaps a little sympathy is in order, providing it stops well short of indulgence. Basically, one is dealing here with a community of people who, by common standards, are quite intelligent and imaginative, and certainly diligent enough to carve out large areas of discourse for themselves wherein their assumptions and modes of analysis remain in the saddle for decades at a time. This is not a trivial achievement, think what we may of the fundamental soundness of the enterprise. We can't really speak of a Ship of Fools here, but rather a flotilla of somewhat unhinged idealists who still can put up a pretty good fight. Yet, ultimately, they are cruelly and fatally hemmed in by their inability to come to terms with the deepest and most penetrating ideas that our civilization, or any civilization, has yet been able to generate: the ideas of science and mathematics.

The atomistic view is not universally accepted, but is opposed by the Judeo-Christian worldview with its underlying assumptions, the chief of these being the Law of Cause and Effect.

Isn't one of the "underlying assumptions" of the "[...]-Christian worldview" that their god is the ultimate defier of causality? Pot and kettle...

Steve Novella of Neurologica blog was discussing with a proponent of a Hollow Earth / Expanding Earth proponent. I was awed by Neal Adams willingness to create a dozen new scientific theories on the spot, not fazed in any way by the magnitude of science and research he was repudiating sight unseen, or by his total absence of personal research, measurement, observations or scientific evidence in support of his assertions.

It was all Common Sense, you know ?
He probably can come up with a dozen explanations why current satellites cannot detect either the expansion nor the mass gain (due to mass creation within the crust) postulated by his "theory".

We have seen several examples of "maverick" thinkers coming up with brand new physics systems, oblivious to the fact that their systems are already falsified by existing observations and experiments.

If confronted with that datum, they will usually tell you that the experiments are wrong, someone should redo the experiments until they come up with results validating their newborn "theory"....

They managed to write that stuff without mentioning Ernst Mach or Henri Poincaré? Mach was an anti-atomist, and Poincaré tried to save ether. Curiously, Einstein respected them both, until their disagreements became too big. Einstein's thought experiments were based on Mach's philosophy.

The "Judeo-Christian worldview" appears again, and as usual, means just the latter part. Atomic theory, quantum mechanics, relativity - all Jewish science, if you ask the right kind of people.

By Lassi Hippeläinen (not verified) on 01 Jan 2008 #permalink

One might point out that this is a creationist group. Barnes was the guy who came up with the goof argument that a decaying magnetic field "proved" that the Earth is young.

Barnes book on what would be called "common sense science" was published by the Institute for Creation Research. The quack orbitals and other quack chemistry and physics was published extensively in the Creation Research Society Quarterly

I am sure more can be found. I used Barnes references and a few random checks to find those.

I used to have a blog on electrical engineering. In one of my posts, which had several simple equations in it, someone responded with

'I don't know much about probability, but I don't really believe in it. I mean come on, anyone can figure out that math doesn't always work. Maybe you should take all of your "theorems" and "math" and toss them in the trash. The only real truth is the one that He provides. The Creator makes the rules, not the fancy math.'

Ironically, my post was on information theory.

Curiously, Einstein respected them both [Ernst Mach and Henri Poincaré]

Lassi, given the abilities, achievements and status within the international scientific community of both of them it would have been considerably more curious if Einstein had not respected them. Mach was one of the greatest physicists of the 19th Century and also one of the, if not THE most significant philosophers of science. Poincaré was one of the greatest applied mathematicians of all time and alongside Hilbert one of the two greatest living mathematicians as Einstein was doing his seminal work. That they both defended contrary views to Einstein's own in, at the time, highly disputable areas at the cutting edge of scientific theory should not be judged as negative. As is well known Einstein and Bohr held totally contrary views on quantum mechanics but their strong friendship was based on their deep mutual respect for each other's abilities as theoretical physicists. Scientific progress is driven by disagreement and disputation between experts and when with hindsight one or the other of the contestants has been shown to be wrong, as must be the case, this does not make him any the less worthy of respect for the cases when he was right. All leading scientists in the entire history of science have been seriously wrong at least once in their careers and most of them more than once. That is the difference between scientist and popes, scientists are not infallible. ^_^

Electromagnetic phenomena generate forces between things with opposing charges. But gravity generates forces between any two objects, regardless of charge.

I think I know what you're trying to say here, but this is confusingly phrased. Please do us a favor and rephrase. The implication is that electromagnetic forces are not generated between objects having the same electric charge.

Please do not post this comment; I just would like to see this phrasing corrected. Thanks.

By Someone who cares (not verified) on 02 Jan 2008 #permalink

I am embarrassed by association. After starting without a name, my blog became common sense because it developed into a search for clear answers (i.e. science and statistics) in the world of irrationality (i.e. marketing). Obviously the anti-relativity blathering is nothing to do with common sense, it is to do with sheer ignorance.

[That is the difference between scientist and popes, scientists are not infallible.]

I thought the difference lied in that scientists don't wear funny hats and make noises in Latin.

By Doug Spoonwood (not verified) on 02 Jan 2008 #permalink

Re Thony

I believe it was Fermi who said that a scientist who is never wrong is a scientist who has not accomplished anything or words to that effect.

So Lucretius is the focus now, to these woo-struck hand-wavers, of the age-old battle between Philosophers and Poets? Or C.P. Snow's "The Two Cultures"?

In Lucretius's day, poetry WAS the primary vehicle for publishing transcendent thought. The way that the best Science Fiction is today.

Pity we've lost the "Astronomica" by Julius Caesar, allegedly a great poem and containing a great summary of the astronomical theory of his day.

But, then, we do have the "Zoonomia" in 2 epic volumes of verse, by Erasmus Darwin.

My God is a lot smarter than their God. My God understands quantum mechanics and can do math.

I'd pit my science-loving, evolution-embracing deity in a cage match against their god any day, any time, any dimension.

Seriously, the height of their insanity and stupidity is that they seek to argue that their god is no better than a carny side-show act. When will they understand that they are sure to burn in hell for insulting their god's intelligence (and trying his/her patience)?

By pxcampbell (not verified) on 02 Jan 2008 #permalink


Actually, the phrasing is fine, but I think he might want to toss in the word 'attractive' before 'forces'.

i read your blog very often. I don't have opinion of this "common sense" site because i print some stuff to read.
But your opinion: "Lucretius, whatever he said, had nothing to do with the probabilistic nature of what we understand about quantum mechanics" is not 100% accurate.
Epicurus(which inspired Lucretius) one of the great greek atomic philosophers wrote a 37 volume books "ON NATURE". From this book nothing saved, but a letter of Epicurus name "LETTER TO HERODOTUS" saved. In this letter Epicurus exposes a brief analysis of atomic theory for advanced students.

There are certain parts in "LETTER TO HERODOTUS" where Epicurus presents some teachings which are very close to the modern quantum mechanical principles like the non-locality and the quantum superposition.
In my blog i have a text (unfortunately in greek) but i am sure you can easily find it in english

You know, I hear the Tao is, like, just like quantum physics too!

The Greeks had absolutely no knowledge of atomic theory. The Greek version of 'atomic theory' was similar only in name - in reality, it has absolutely nothing to do with how atoms actually work. Nothing.

Similarly, the Greeks had absolutely no knowledge of quantum theory. Any similarities are purely coincidental, and are extremely minor/broad in any case. Saying something is "very close to the modern quantum mechanical principles like the non-locality and the quantum superposition" is incorrect. It's only *possible* for someone to say when they have no knowledge of how quantum mechanics actually works. Superposition and non-locality aren't just some buzzwords, there's actual math involved - very complex math that was nowhere close to existing back then.

Hey, math surely must be evil since Pythagoras developed so much of it. Pythagoras and his homeys developed some number theory but also mixed it up with pagan ideas of what integers represented, etc. and they were religiously horrified at the notion of square roots and pi which never worked out to any neat clean fraction.

Every good Christian soldier must fight mathematics with every breath...

By Pierre Savoie (not verified) on 05 Jan 2008 #permalink

The greek word "atom" has to do with the ultimate non-dividable part of matter not the physical atoms with protons and electrons. Is a much more rich scientific concept than the idealistic metaphysical abracatabra.
The atomic philosophy is a subset of a general school of philosophy called THE MATERIALISTIC MONISM. Unfortunately the final winner in history was not the materialist monism, but the platonic idealism because of the christians and islamists who favored the idealism and burnt the 99,99% of the materialistic and scientific ancient books.
Democritus like Archimedes was a very strong mathematician and the atomic theory was above all a mathematical theory.
The ancient greek monists of all branches were scientists like Thales, Democritus, Archimedes and the doctor Hippocrates who was member of the materialist cycle.

The greek word "atom" has to do with the ultimate non-dividable part of matter not the physical atoms with protons and electrons. Is a much more rich scientific concept than the idealistic metaphysical abracatabra.

The only possible way this can have any relevant to *actual* atomic theory would be if the greeks were talking about quarks. This is obviously untrue.

We can give them a bit of credit and also allow them to be referring to atoms themselves as indivisible. This was, after all, a valid scientific theory for some time, and the reason that atoms are named as such. However, for them to have been *actually* talking about atoms as we understand them they would have needed *some* idea of the elements and how they work. They did not.

Before we understood the difference between elements and compounds, and why they were different, we didn't have anything resembling an atomic theory. The Greeks had nothing resembling an atomic theory. They just had a bit of philosophy which was superficially similar to the most basic concepts of modern theory purely by accident. There is no deeper meaning or hidden relevance - the Greek idea of atom simply has nothing to do with the modern, or even classical, idea of the atom.

I don't have opinion of this "common sense" site because i print some stuff to read.
But your opinion: "Lucretius, whatever he said, had nothing to do with the probabilistic nature of what we understand about quantum mechanics" is not 100% accurate.

It never fails that someone describing science as "common sense" immediately starts to espouse other serious misunderstandings.

Once again, science as a method makes eminent sense, but it isn't "common" or it would have been developed well before the Enlightenment. And few, if any, results in science makes "common sense". Quantum mechanics being a prime example.

"Common sense" is not a good metric of knowledge.

By Torbjörn Lars… (not verified) on 05 Jan 2008 #permalink

this "common sense" site

Oh, now I get it, it isn't "this" site, it is that site.

Fortunately, my observation is still true. :-P

By Torbjörn Lars… (not verified) on 05 Jan 2008 #permalink

The atomic philosophy was not "by accident similar to the basic concepts of modern theory".
Their direction of thinking was the RADICAL MATERIALISTIC MONISM, this way of thinking is absolutely similar way of thinking of the modern scientists! In the fragments of books saved, the atomic philosophers did real experiments and real observations in physical phenomena!
That's why we say that that the modern science was born in ancient Greece (of course we don't mean Plato but the materialistic monists philosophers, the first scientists!)

A small sample of the atomic cosmology and physics:
Cosmology of Democritus and Modern Physics, The
Original title: ÎημÏκÏιÏÎ¿Ï ÎºÎ±Î¹ ΣÏγÏÏονη ÎοÏμολογία
Duration: 30'
Producer: The Art Factory AE
Director: Kostas Haralabous
Participant: Dr E. Danezis, Dr E. Theodosiou
Scientific field: Astronomy
Year: 2006/07
Country: Greece

Today, everyone considers Democritus along with Leucippus as the fathers of the Atomic Theory, but very few people know that the two atomic philosophers are the forefathers of a cosmological proposition, which has not been analyzed in depth, as it should, nor it has been placed under the judgment of the modern scientific knowledge, as it happened in the case of their views about atoms.

This cosmological proposition is similar to the Inflection Cosmology (A. Guth) and forecasts the existence of many Cosmos, like blobs (Blobs Universe), that construct the whole Universe.

Please name experiments that were done that confirmed the identity of atoms and demonstrated the Greeks had the ability to tell pure elements apart from compounds.

They did not have this ability. They had no idea that atoms as we know them existed. They simply had a superficially similar theory that said matter was composed of indivisible pieces.

In fact, Democritus did little to no experiments. His 'theory' was pure philosophizing with no actual physical support. The scientific method didn't really exist at that point. The true precursor of modern atomic theory didn't come about until the 19th century. I think Dalton was the first to really experiment and determine how atoms and compounds worked.

If you have some problem with greeks for some reason, you better don't judge all the philosophers is such way.

an elementary experiment:
Democritus with his students was standing in a distance from a big collection of discrete elements(for example black rocks or white sheeps). The elements are amassed very close together in a way that from a distance 2-3 kilometers seem to be a smooth-homogeneous mass. Democritus made a signal to a servant and the servant destroyed the block of rocks or freed the sheeps.
In such experiment are present all the crude scientific ideas of non discrete mass, the wavelength, the energy, the spacetime.
And there were many other experiments did by atomists.

Nope, I love the Greeks. They were awesome guys that did a lot of wonderful philosophy and have an exciting and vibrant history. They were not, however, supergeniuses that knew all the secrets of science thousands of years before the enlightenment. They discovered a lot of cool things, but a lot of what they thought was wrong. Fetishizing their philosophy is not constructive.

Democritus with his students was standing in a distance from a big collection of discrete elements(for example black rocks or white sheeps). The elements are amassed very close together in a way that from a distance 2-3 kilometers seem to be a smooth-homogeneous mass. Democritus made a signal to a servant and the servant destroyed the block of rocks or freed the sheeps.

This is not an experiment. It's barely a demonstration. At best, it's a nice analogy that can be used to explain the philosophy of how seemingly continuous things can be formed from discrete elements. It has nothing to do with atomic theory.

In such experiment are present all the crude scientific ideas of non discrete mass, the wavelength, the energy, the spacetime.

It's barely an analogy of continuous vs. discrete. It has nothing to with mass, and absolutely nothing to do with wavelength, energy, or spacetime. The fact that you even mention these concepts alongside ancient Greeks is laughable - NONE of them existed before the 19th century (Newton and contemporaries may have hit on the basics earlier than that), and spacetime wasn't dreamed up until the beginning of the 20th!

Again, I have nothing against what the Greeks did. For their time, they were an incredibly advanced culture. But when you try to say that they anticipated discoveries and fields of science that actually only came about in the last 200 years or less, you're just being ridiculous. There were lots of good Greek philosophers, but most of them were *not* scientists. Those that were were still limited by the knowledge and technology of their time.

It pains me to see Akis and Xanthis fight so. They are after all on essentially the same side (science versus nonsense). Please allow for the obvious, that english is not the first language of at least one of them.

I for one will try and get english translations of the linked material before coming to a conclusion.

Anything claiming to be "common sense" is suspect, in my book, because it almost always comes to down "this is what right-thinking people think, and if you don't agree with us, then you must be wrong."

Let's remember that Albert Einstein is supposed to have said, "Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen."

Amazing what blather can be found on such as high minded, rational blog! LOL The arrogance is displayed by those who haven't evaluated the work of Common Sense Science, but harp on their name. Wow, really deep analysis. One visit to this site and it is enough to know it is driven by ignorance and prejudice and no interest in truth.