I have to admit that this morning, I was slightly peturbed that once CERN’s (European Centre for Nuclear Research – aren’t acronyms meant to have the letters in the same order ???) Large Hadron Collider (LHC – that’s a better acronym) was switched on, I would immediately be sucked into a man-made black hole. Not even a real one, but a sub-standard Euro-produced black hole that no doubt could have been made quicker and cheaper in the Far East (viva capitalism…!!!).
Thankfully – given that life is pretty good at the moment – I wasn’t but I did have to endure the switching on via Radio 5 which, if truth be told, wasn’t the most exciting or relevant of mediums through which to experience it. I was most disappointed though when – unlike Christmas lights in various parochial towns across the UK – some bit part Eastenders actor wasn’t there to do the honours and ‘turn it on’.
The reason for posting this is because of a conversation I had with someone close a while ago. When I was listening to the coverage, I couldn’t help but wonder whether this was merely a case of the ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’. Why do I say that? Well because I don’t really trust – or believe – scientists.
When I said this to a friend, they were somewhat taken aback that I didn’t believe scientists. When I responded that much of what scientists currently espouse is based upon conjecture and is only fact until another scientist disproves it – and replaces with another theory – they thought I had gone mad. With the turning on of the LHC, I thought that I would explore this further.
In more technical terms, what I was trying to get across was the idea of ‘argument from ignorance’ or argumentum ad ignorantiam (“appeal to ignorance”) as it is also known. Here it is claimed that something is true only because it has not been proven false or, vice versa, false because it has not been proven true.
Take for instance the Big Bang theory, something that I said to my friend wasn’t necessarily provable. As the idea of argumentum as ignorantiam explains, just because a theory does explain all known relevant phenomena it would be wrong to conclude that this must then be correct. The fact that no counter-examples are known to exist – at this moment in time – is not in itself proof of a given theory, since there is always the possibility of some yet-to-be-observed and/ or proved counter-example. For instance, there are no known phenomena that are inconsistent with the Big Bang theory – at this moment in time – but this by no means constitutes definitive proof that the universe actually did begin with the Big Bang.
And this is my criticism of many within the scientific community because they are happy to allow people – the great unwashed like you and I – to proceed as if a given theory – the Big Bang for example – were definitively true. It’s not.
Ok, I admit it. I don’t have the answers and can’t make any more of a reasoned argument that quoting Latin to refute (some) science and to justify my mistrust of (some) scientists and (some) scientific theory.
The thing is though, when the LHC is turned on and they speak about re-creating the moments after the Big Bang, they’re not even sure that the Big Bang happened so how do they know…??? As I said, just because there appears to be no counter-examples known to the theory, this is not in itself proof of a given theory. In fact, the LHC might even offer the possibility of some yet-to-be-observed and/ or proved counter-example. How great would that be: they disprove exactly what they were intending to learn more about…?
And isn’t this the same premise upon which many people of faith also hold their belief: that until someone ‘proves’ that God doesn’t exist, they will continue to believe that it does.
As I said to my friend, scientists and people are faith are not a million miles away. The scientists just have the better PR.
And don’t forget, the scientists have the means to bring about an end to the world (just wait until the two beams collide and then we’ll see who’s the most dangerous…well maybe !!!).
At least people of faith have to have divine intervention on their side and there’s no proof that even exists: or is there…???.
This work by Chris Allen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 UK: England & Wales License. Based on a work at www.chris-allen.co.uk.