Monthly Archives: August 2009
Here’s a little exchange I found on an online forum between an Electric Universe advocate and a critic of same. The names have been deleted to protect the guilty. The grammar, punctuation, and text is verbatim.
[1A] Instead of gravity being the main power behind the universe, Electro-magnetism is.
[1B] This would be true if it weren’t for the existence of electric dipoles. Positive and negative charges have this quality of cancelling each other out, so the overall electric force in the universe, on large scales, is very small.
[2A] It asserts that the power that drives the sun is charges plasma…
[2B] This is almost true. The Sun is a neutral plasma. The electric universe “theory”, though, claims that the power of the sun is generated on the surface, which just isn’t possible. The densities are too low, and the temperature too, to explain the Sun’s energy output.
[3A] …and that an electric current runs from star to star, through galaxy’s, and even through the universe itself.
[3B] This would be observable. Its not observed. Therefore, it’s not true. We certainly see solar and stellar winds, but they’re always in an outward direction. Spray two water hoses at each other and see how much “current” you get.
[4A] It offers a new explanation for what we call black holes. That, they don’t exist. And what we actually see is converging lines of force.
[4B] This claim doesn’t even make any sense. Electric field lines “of force” can only converge on charges. If there are charges, they’ll feel that force, and be accelerated. Accelerated charges give off radiation and therefore are no longer “black”. We’d be able to see these things. More importantly, the electric universe doesn’t account for things like gravitational red-shifting around black holes, which we’ve observed. It fails every observational test it’s ever been subjected to. The model is bunk.
[5A] Yes, the idea that space is actually filled with billions of charged plasma particles instead of actually being a vacuum.
[5B] The problem is that space is actually filled with billions of uncharged particles. We’ve mapped the Milky Way using neutral hydrogen. If space were filled with a plasma, it would eat away at neutral objects, and we wouldn’t see any neutral Hydrogen. Again, it fails the test.
[6A] Stars are powered externally by this “Universal current”, and the tails of comets are electrical discharges… It’s pretty interesting.
[6B] Unfortunately, we already have a model for how stars work, and how comets tails come into being. These models fit the observations. The Electric Universe does not. I mean, please show us this “universal current”. It should be radiating like a mo-fo.
[7A] I am accepting this cosmological model over the Big Bang Theory (BBT). It offers easy explanations for things people had to invent (Neutron Stars, Black Holes, Dark Matter and Dark Energy, and other things ) To explain what they were witnessing in space.
[7B] Easy, but fundamentally wrong explanations. I can offer you an easier explanation of gravity than General Relativity: Everything is held together by giant invisible springs! The only problem is that I’m wrong! Neutron stars have been explained. The physics behind them is very sound. It’s called Quantum Mechanics, and it’s the same theory that engineers have used to build the computer you’re using right now. Dark Matter is a blanket term for “too much gravity”. We see too much gravity. We suggest there’s unseen (“dark”) matter. People are now looking for what this matter could possibly be. Dark Energy is another blanket term. We see too much energy. We don’t know the source (i.e. it’s “dark”). There you have dark energy. Dark Matter and Dark Energy may be uncertain things, but the fact that the Electric Universe fails is not. It doesn’t have a leg to stand on.
I would be much more impressed by this ‘theory’ if it actually had real evidence in support of it, added to our understanding of astrophysics instead of denying it, made genuine testable predictions exceeding those of conventional cosmological theory, and explained the universe better than standard astrophysical theory does, and didn’t consist only of arguments attempting to refute trivial anomalies that the proponents of electric universe theory constantly claim as being in support of their idea, as if by discrediting standard astronomy and astrophysics that their doctrine wins by default, committing the false dichotomy fallacy.
As it stands, I am not at all impressed, nor amused, since EU theory proponents lack any real knowledge of the science they try to undermine. Even the physics they claim to advocate they fail to grasp, which elicits much pathos from my bleeding heart. How sad..
I was involved in an impromptu discussion with a good friend of mine over the weekend, and based on what we both said, a few thoughts arose as a result, and I thought it would be a good idea to elaborate on them here.
As I recall, the discussion concerned the right to believe, or to not believe, and the dividing line between one’s obligation to respect that right, and that of respecting the belief itself.
First, I think it’s important to give an operative definition of a belief: It is an idea, concept, proposition, or doctrine that one holds to be true.
Now, unless you are completely bonkers, you probably want your beliefs to be true, regardless of what it specifically is that you consider to be true.
The reason for this is simple: we base our decisions on what we believe to be true so as to better ensure the success of actions based on those decisions.
Unfortunately, not all beliefs have equal truth value.
There is an infinite number of false ideas, but only so many true ones.
Many of our beliefs are based on prior beliefs inculcated into us by our culture and family in childhood, beliefs which might or might not be revised or abandoned as we grow older.
I hold that believing something really hard, even absolutely, doesn’t mean you Know it and that it is True.
Even if everybody on Earth believed that Cthulhu existed, and shall rise from the sea bottom to devour the world tomorrow, that doesn’t mean that it is so.
Even if the Church of Zotharr the lizard-god held as part of its official doctrine that wearing pants was evil, because doing so caused the pants to transubstantiate into demons that could possess you and make you do bad things doesn’t make it true.
The point is that no matter how many people hold a belief, or how fervently they hold it, these are no indication that said belief reflects reality.
A belief is an idea, a meme, and has no independent existence outside of the brain that holds it unless actualized through the direct effort of the one holding it.
An idea for a book is not a book until it is written.
Democracy in a recognizable form didn’t exist outside the minds of the Greeks who conceived it, until they made it happen by their own actions.
Psychology studies have shown that the more fervently a belief is held, the less cognitively secure the one holding it.
Fanatics tend to be so because of a poor sense of self-worth, and come to tenaciously hold an ideology as having more importance than anything, including their own lives and those of others.
Yes, history is full of people who held belief systems that allowed them to kill, torture, or otherwise harm or wrong others with a clear conscience.
They grasp at a cause or belief as a surrogate for their own pathologically deficient self-esteem, and will readily die…and kill for it, or worse.
No action is unconscionable if they can somehow justify it, rationalize it in terms of their beliefs. Any questioning of their belief is seen as a vicious personal attack, and reacted to as such. They are slaves to their own inner demons.
People like that really exist…and they scare me.
I’m of the view that we all have a right to our own beliefs, as the country I live in is a democracy, not a theocracy, and hopefully it won’t be in my lifetime.
I have no problem with people believing what they want to, but as a skeptic I draw the line when people convince themselves that they have a right to not only hold a belief, but to impose their beliefs on others whether through force or deception for the purpose of ideological, financial, religious or political exploitation.
This is often the case with creationists, cult leaders, some of the more cynically inclined politicians, psychics, CAM quacks, and proponents of any questionable claim or ideology.
I do not oppose peoples’ right to believe of their own free will and full understanding, but my skeptical hackles are raised when someone uses trickery and subterfuge, whether through sleight-of-hand or sleight-of-mind, to convince the unwary of falsehoods so as to unscrupulously use them.
Anyone who can convince you of absurdities can make you commit atrocities.
No one who propagates their beliefs by fear, lies, and manipulation should be let off the hook.
I’m an equal opportunity offender, and I consider it important to oppose certain beliefs because they can be harmful, whether to others’ finances, freedoms, health, happiness, and ultimately…lives.
I respect people, and I respect their right to believe, but no idea, no belief, should be so unquestionable, so sacrosanct, so holy, that it is off the table for rational discussion, criticism, inquiry or debate.
I’ve said this before, and will repeat it here: people have rights, but ideas do not.
The belief is not the person.
Those who place too much stock in a belief system, identifying themselves too closely and dogmatically not only with it, but as it, simply put have left the playing field of sound rationality.
But I’ll state my main thesis, as I’ve rambled enough and this post is already far too long.
I’m not a crusader.
I do not have an agenda.
I’m not on a mission.
I’m not out to destroy or tear down anyone or anything.
I’m not interested in mind-controlling people into joining any ridiculous Religion of Scientism™ and emptying them of all that is human.
And I don’t want anyone to take what I say on this blog as Revealed Gospel Truth, but to discover the truth on their own. To find yourself, think for yourself, as Socrates is said to have quipped.
As not merely a skeptic, but a person who just happens to be part of the modern skeptical movement, I consider it important to point out when people are being fooled, by themselves or others.
But it’s more important to me to show others from my own ever-growing experience with skeptical thinking so that they can figure these things out on their own, so as to not get taken by the next fraud, con artist, or bamboozle that happens along.
If I can achieve that even for only one person, then my life in this big, wonderful Cosmos has been well-spent.
Not for the uptight…