Friday, March 10, 2006

Midweek Cuckoo: Fred Hutchison

You will all have to forgive me for not posting a wednesday whackjob in a couple of weeks, but power cuts and work have been conspiring against me. To make up for it, today i have someone who is not only nuts, but is a great big foolish ass on top of it.

Fred Hutchison is a retired beancounter who styles himself as a christian, lay philosopher who has "written hundreds of essays about religion, politics, history, philosophy, and science". He's an armchair physicist, theologian and political commentator. He's also completely out of his tree. The thing about Fred is that he's not your run of the mill conservative, right wing religious crazy, who claims he is against abortion, gay marriage, evolution and physics because the bible tells him so. Fred claims all his beliefs are based in unshakable science.

Fred has argued in the past that science proves from first principles that there is no such thing as gay marriage. His reasoning is that first principles state that man has an innate nature, and that nature is for man and woman to join together in marriage. Being gay is against man's innate nature. Of course, he has made a logical error right at the start by assuming that man has an innate nature, never mind his assumptions of what that nature is. In fact, he inadvertantly explains his own assumptions while attempting to show why they are so true. To quote:

The advocates for traditional marriage have the advantage in the debate over first principles. It is easy to persuade a man that he has an innate nature because the idea is simple and clear and is naturally agreeable to the instincts of the human heart. In contrast, telling a man that he is a construct of myriad external factors reduces him to a programmed automaton, an idea that diminishes man and is repellant to the human heart. One of the most effective lines a conservative can utter is, "We are not programmed automatons. We are men with reason, free will, consciousness, and conscience. Therefore, no one is compelled or programmed to become gay. No one who is gay is compelled by blind necessity to remain gay.

Indeed, Fred, it is exactly because it is the easy thing to believe, that it is simple and clear to the heart, that people are so easily swayed by the concept. You can also see here how Fred either completely misunderstands the concept of man as a product of his environment, or he is deliberately deceiving the reader. You be the judge. I might lean towards the former, as in the same essay he also says he takes the term Intelligent Design from science. Let me be very clear - the term Intelligent Design has as much origin in science as the term Astrology.

Fred has written many other essays for his column on Renew America, including one that states there's no scientific evidence that carbon dioxide can affect the temperature of the planet. Yes indeed, Fred has disproved global warming. Of course, it seems he has done so only to himself, as his understanding of how carbon dioxide contributes to the greenhouse effect shows such a deep level of misunderstanding, it appears that a grade schooler wrote his essay for him. His reasoning is pretty well ripped apart at Gristmill, including some responses from Fred, so i'm not going to repeat it here. But suffice to say, he makes a fool of himself.

But really, i've got no knowledge beyond the layman's about philosophy, religion, or climatology. So while i would say Fred is full of crap about these subjects, i'm not really in a position to be 100% sure beyond what seems logical and what i can look up for myself. What i do know, however, is physics. I did all my university studies in theoretical physics and astrophysics, and i taught astronomy for 2 year, so when Fred starts ripping into Einstein, that's when i can really spot the mistakes.

Fred thinks he has outwitted Einstein, and proven from his armchair that the great thinker was wrong on just about everything he ever said. Now this is a debate i can pull apart. Let's start from the top:

If reason and free will exist, then Einstein's cosmos is false. Exactly how does Fred come to this conclusion? Neither theories of relativity deny or make impossible in any way human consciousness or free will. They do not imply a deterministic universe on any scale other than that where gravitational effects dominate. Fred fundamentally misunderstands the effective range of gravity. Gravity does not determine neurons firing in your brain, idiot, although in your case you may think this as the proximity to the planet does seem to permanently affect your ability to cogitate.

Einstein claimed he was inspired by the beauty and harmony of the cosmos. But a picture of everything melting into every other thing is the epitome of ugliness and disorder, as we learn from surrealist artists such as Salvador Dali. Can anyone else say 'subjectivity'? For a start, how does Einsteinian gravity imply everything melting into everything else? And who says surrealism is ugly? I'm a huge fan of Dali, and I think his paintings are fantastic. And weren't you just complaining about Einstein's cosmos being deterministic? Isn't that the best example of harmony, where no foot could be put out of place? If you're going to misrepresent a theory, at least be internally consistent.

When he said, "God does not throw dice with the universe," he was referring to the seeming disorder of Quantum Mechanics... Wrong. He was referring to quantum mechanic's fundamentally probabilistic nature. There is nothing disorderly about probability or statistics, ask an actuarial scientist.

However, when Einstein tried to prove that movement and time are relative, he ignored his dictum about the relativity of the movement of two objects. Einstein proposed that if one twin brother took off in a spaceship flying near the speed of light and if the ship returned fifty years later, the twin which stayed on earth would be old and the twin in the spaceship would still be young. But this is nonsense. Indeed, the use of the twin paradox to demonstrate special relativity would be nonsense. But as any first year university student could tell you, the twin paradox is used to describe general relativity. So yes, during the phases of constant motion Fred would be right. But the whole point is the acceleration phases, where the twins are no longer in an inertial frame of reference. Dumbass.

During an total eclipse of the sun in 1919, Einstein predicted that when the sun peeked out from behind the moon, the first rays of light could be observed from a point on the globe which would lie beyond the horizon if the sun's rays are straight. For a start, Fred's got the experiment wrong. Yes, there was a solar eclipse involved, but it was used so that stars near the sun could be observed. The whole point was the star's light curving around the sun, not the earth, and it certainly had nothing to do with sunlight. But it gets worse...

...could not the sunlight bend when it passes through earth's atmosphere, like light refracting as it passes through water or through a lens? Yes, Fred, you complete nitwit, they took that into account. You think you're the first person in the history of the world to think of that? You arrogant ass.

Newton is more practical and makes more sense when it is applied to the human scale, to falling bodies and flying baseballs. Einstein's theory of gravity cannot explain why a falling bodies near to the earth fall straight downwards. Again, Fred shows his lack of any real research before running his mouth off. Einstein's theory reduces exactly to Newton's theory on a small scale. It encompasses Newton's theory within itself, a necessity for any universal theory of gravity. And who says Einstein's theory doesn't explain why falling bodies near the earth fall straight down? It does. A straight line is also a geodesic, numbnuts, and besides not all bodies fall straight down or have you never heard of parabolic motion?

Einstein's mathematics did not work. He made up a number to make his equations balance and called it the cosmological cosmos. Einstein cheats! Indeed, because Einstein's religious convictions led him to believe the universe was static, he did not believe his own equations when they described the universe as expanding. So he put in the constant, because he believed that he must have made a mistake. Later, when it was shown the universe was actually expanding, he called it the biggest blunder of his life. All this teaches us is you shouldn't assume religion trumps science when the two disagree. Einstein should have had more faith in his own maths. Without religious convictions, he would have beaten Hubble to the chase. In fact, if it weren't for his religious aversion to quantum mechanics, we may today be sitting with a quantum theory of gravity, that elusive holy grail of physics.

Pharyngula is about to engage in an email debate with the Hutch. I cannot wait to see what will happen, when a developmental biologist and university professor puts his mind to slicing through Fred's inane babbling on evolution. This should be entertaining.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home