Tuesday 3 April 2007

Question Answered

Regarding a Previous Post, I asked a not-so-rhetorical question:
There is no controversy, nor serious argument. But nearly 40% of Americans think there is. Why?
I got an answer from a dear friend of mine, and a Christian Gentleman in the finest sense of the phrase, old-fashioned though that term is. It fits.

Here it is:
And on the other hand, a lot of people aren't particularly rational or well-read--some people believe in astrology!--and that includes people who identify themselves as Christians. If you read Genesis, you'll see that chapter 2 or 3 says the EARTH brought forth the animals, which fits in with evolution tolerably well.
Some people don't recognize that parts of it are poetry, not literal history.
(On the other hand, some problems are probably translation problems--I suspect "the whole earth" should really be "the whole land" in several places).

And we're used to being lied to by experts pushing an agenda. I'm not familiar with the history of evolution and related hoaxes, but Piltdown Man was pretty prominent, and there have been others.
And the initial arguments weren't terribly convincing. "You see, a hundred zillion years ago, there was this chemical soup, and....uh...life happened. And then...it randomly got better. Grew eyes and feet and all that." That may not be a fair summation of the actual arguments but that's how it came across. There are no "evolution predicts this, let's see if that's what actually happens" so it doesn't come across as scince. Further, when half the scientists are arguing with the other half about, e.g., Punctuated Equilibrium, the public gets the idea these guys don't really know what they're talking about. And the ones who are most strongly in favor of evolution are also the most stridently atheistic--from one point of view that makes sense, but it hardly makes them look unbiased.
In addition, a lot of the people arguing for evolution don't actually show any evidence. They'll argue by assertion or by appeal to authority, but they don't show the fossil record, they don't talk about the DNA sequences. Or perhaps they do, and it just doesn't make it into the media.
There's a book by a Christian researcher who headed up the Human Genome project--can't think of his name at the moment--whose book makes a pretty good case for evolution.
Well Said.

I think the problem is that Religion deals with Certainties, Science deals with Doubt. Religion states eternal Truth, Science nothing but Lies-that-work-in-practice, approximations, models that we know are wrong or incomplete, yet are true enough to be useful.

Let's take the "Earth is Round not Flat" Theory. Every time you use a street map, you violate this principle, because locally, with small distances, the Earth really is Flat, the curvature is lost in the noise of hill and dale, valley and forest.
But the Earth is spherical at large scales, right? Well, it's more an oblate spheroid that is, a roughly spherical object definable by 2 different axes - something like a rugby or gridiron football. So it's not "spherical" at all.

There are alternative ways of specifying the dimensions of the spheroid other than by its major and minor radii a and b. The flattening, f, is defined by f=1-b/a, and the eccentricity e by e^2=1-b^2/a^2. For the WGS84 spheroid, a=6378.137 km and f=1/298.257223563. The eccentricity and flattening are thus related by: e^2=f(2-f)
From Ed Williams Spherical Geometry
So what's this "WGS84" bit? From a site on mapping:
North American mapping agencies are in the process of moving from the 1927 datum (NAD27), which uses the Clarke 1866 spheroid, to the 1983 datum (NAD83), which uses the GRS80 spheroid (identical to within a few mm to the WGS84 spheroid) derived from satellite geodessy. To further complicate matters, the 3-arcsecond digital elevation data compiled by the Defense Mapping Agency and distributed by the USGS uses an earlier satellite-derived spheroid, WGS72. The three spheroids differ not only in their major and minor semiaxes, but also in the location of the center of the spheroid relative to the center of mass of the Earth and in the direction of the x axis.
Platygeans could have a field day - those Atheistic Humanists can't even decide on what shape this so-called "Round Earth" is, let alone what size it is!

I'm old enough so that a lot of my work used in military systems used WGS-72, and it's still "good enough" for most purposes. Heck, a spherical Earth is good enough for most purposes, distances of around a hundred km.

Our understanding of evolution is like that. Until the discovery of DNA, and its role in Life-as-we-know-it, we didn't know anything about the mechanics. Even now, many of the minor details (like WGS72 vs WGS84) are unknown. But not unknowable. And WGS84 will be superceded in time as the need for even more precise measurements come up, and the Earth changes shape slightly due to tectonic forces.

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