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Much Ado about Nothing?

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21 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

Well.  Ok.  But the condemnation of relativism is the type of thing I had in mind when I said what I said.  The GA's are as much the Church as anyone, I'd say. 

Very good.  I agree with all of this. 

Well thanks I am glad you agree.

But to me, I see GA's as just another typical member of the church when it applies to philosophy.   They are gifted , inspired men chosen by God to lead us and show us the way to improve our lives and to teach the lessons of scripture, but I don't suppose that makes them good in plumbing or accountancy or in curing cancer.

I love this talk by President Kimball because it so clearly represents the clash of views even within the talk itself.  This is why I have confidence that we can work this out simply by discussing these fine differences.   The talk is about "Absolute Truth" and it still discusses what one might see as "relativism" in a positive manner.  To me it is full evidence that President Kimball - as prophet- fully understood these differences even if the WORDS of President Kimball- the non-philosophical specialist- sometimes get in the way.

https://www.lds.org/ensign/1978/09/absolute-truth?lang=eng

 

Quote

 

Experience in one field does not automatically create expertise in another field. Expertise in religion comes from personal righteousness and from revelation. The Lord told the Prophet Joseph Smith: “All truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it.” (D&C 93:30.) A geologist who has discovered truths about the structure of the earth may be oblivious to the truths God has given us about the eternal nature of the family.

If I can only make clear this one thing, it will give us a basis on which to build. Man cannot discover God or his ways by mere mental processes. One must be governed by the laws which control the realm into which he is delving. To become a plumber, one must study the laws which govern plumbing. He must know stresses and strains, temperatures at which pipes will freeze, laws which govern steam, hot water, expansion, contraction, and so forth. One might know much about plumbing and be a complete failure in training children or getting along with men. One might be the best of bookkeepers and yet not know anything of electricity. One might know much about buying and selling groceries and be absolutely ignorant of bridge building.

One might be a great authority on the hydrogen bomb and yet know nothing of banking. One might be a noted theologian and yet be wholly untrained in watchmaking. One might be the author of the law of relativity and yet know nothing of the Creator who originated every law. I repeat, these are not matters of opinion. They are absolute truths. These truths are available to every soul.

Any intelligent man may learn what he wants to learn. He may acquire knowledge in any field, though it requires much thought and effort. It takes more than a decade to get a high school diploma; it takes an additional four years for most people to get a college degree; it takes nearly a quarter-century to become a great physician. Why, oh, why do people think they can fathom the most complex spiritual depths without the necessary experimental and laboratory work accompanied by compliance with the laws that govern it? Absurd it is, but you will frequently find popular personalities, who seem never to have lived a single law of God, discoursing in interviews on religion. How ridiculous for such persons to attempt to outline for the world a way of life!

And yet many a financier, politician, college professor, or owner of a gambling club thinks that because he has risen above all his fellowmen in his particular field he knows everything in every field. One cannot know God nor understand his works or plans unless he follows the laws which govern. The spiritual realm, which is just as absolute as is the physical, cannot be understood by the laws of the physical. You do not learn to make electric generators in a seminary. Neither do you learn certain truths about spiritual things in a physics laboratory. You must go to the spiritual laboratory, use the facilities available there, and comply with the governing rules. Then you may know of these truths just as surely, or more surely, than the scientist knows the metals, or the acids, or other elements. It matters little whether one is a plumber, or a banker, or a farmer, for these occupations are secondary; what is most important is what one knows and believes concerning his past and his future and what he does about it.

 

I heartily sustain President Kimball as a prophet seer and revelator in teaching this principle, even though I might disagree with some of his wording as a non-specialist in philosophical wording.

The semantics become irrelevant- but the principle taught IS "absolutely true"!  Truth exists in spheres- and that IS the absolute truth!!   "Nothing as as constant as change!"

We can't let semantics get in the way of teaching.  There ARE "absolute truths" but always within a context.

Think of discussions like these as games.  There are "absolute truths" in baseball that have no application at all in the game of Bridge.  The sentence "Bishops never move in a straightforward manner" may apply as absolute truth in chess while not describing Bishops in any other context. ;)

Unless you are a critic that is- and again, that is a third context. ;)

 

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On 9/18/2017 at 7:43 AM, hope_for_things said:

What I see people arguing for in this thread is that untrained individuals are able to completely dismiss the scholarship on a subject because they have done a surface assessment of the scholarship and they find it doesn't line up with their perspective.  This approach is very risky.  A person wants to point out flaws in peer review as justification for dismissing the current scientific consensus.  The reality is that the scientific peer reviewed system is light-years more reliable than the untrained individually biased personal assessment method they are using. 

1

So what you think you see are people disregarding accepted science because it doesn't fit with their world view? I see that kind of thing, too.  This has happened since science was an infant, and it will continue to happen. Even the scientifically literate are susceptible. For example, the current controversy surrounding how many genders there are. Mr. Science, Bill Nye himself, has fallen prey to it.

And no, please let's not go down that particular rabbit hole.

If I meet someone who absolutely insists that the world is flat, or that it is no more than 6,000 years old, then I know there's no point in discussing the matter. They couldn't possibly be swayed, because if they've disregarded the evidence that is readily available, well...  But they are in such a minority that it is simply not important to sway them.  It's not like the country is headed for ruin because a few people entertain incorrect opinions about science.  Even if one or two of them are Congressmen!

On 9/18/2017 at 7:43 AM, hope_for_things said:

If the strawman argument I made earlier does not properly characterize your approach to things, perhaps you can explain how you would approach a topic that you aren't a trained expert in, and when you would feel confident enough in your personal assessment to dismiss the work of scholars in favor or your personal research.  

 

I don't usually make my own assessments, from raw data at least. On any given question there are usually more than two points of view even in the scientific community. I try to evaluate the various points of view and come to what I feel is the best alternative -- if I don't simply accept the "standard view".  But in most scientific fields of knowledge, I don't have an alternative position.  In a few, perhaps I do.

Take the age of the solar system for instance.  The consensus is that it is 4.6 billion years old. There is good reason to have confidence in this figure, but I have a quibble. Being merely an amateur, I am hardly in a position to produce any research that would cast any doubt upon this figure, but something occurred to me a few years ago that leads me to believe the 4.6 billion year figure could be quite wrong.  And there might be no way to tell for certain.  My quibble is based on the source of the metallicity of the sun.  If the primordial nebula in which the sun formed experienced a supernova, this might have caused the sun's metallicity to be much higher than it might have been otherwise, to include certain radioactive elements which are used to help measure the age of the sun.  If the sun started with a superabundance of those elements, it might be considerably older than current astronomical theory says it is. There are other factors used to determine the sun's age, besides radiometric ones, but if the sun is much older than we think, our understanding of stellar evolution may be in need of some revision.  This is hardly something I'm going to discuss with Neil DeGrasse Tyson next time I meet him, however!  I hardly know how to explain it, even to myself.  If I ever get that doctorate in astrophysics I've been yammering on about for decades...maybe then.

I don't know if this answers your question, or not.

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8 hours ago, Stargazer said:

I don't usually make my own assessments, from raw data at least. On any given question there are usually more than two points of view even in the scientific community. I try to evaluate the various points of view and come to what I feel is the best alternative -- if I don't simply accept the "standard view".  But in most scientific fields of knowledge, I don't have an alternative position.  In a few, perhaps I do.

Take the age of the solar system for instance.  The consensus is that it is 4.6 billion years old. There is good reason to have confidence in this figure, but I have a quibble. Being merely an amateur, I am hardly in a position to produce any research that would cast any doubt upon this figure, but something occurred to me a few years ago that leads me to believe the 4.6 billion year figure could be quite wrong.  And there might be no way to tell for certain.  My quibble is based on the source of the metallicity of the sun.  If the primordial nebula in which the sun formed experienced a supernova, this might have caused the sun's metallicity to be much higher than it might have been otherwise, to include certain radioactive elements which are used to help measure the age of the sun.  If the sun started with a superabundance of those elements, it might be considerably older than current astronomical theory says it is. There are other factors used to determine the sun's age, besides radiometric ones, but if the sun is much older than we think, our understanding of stellar evolution may be in need of some revision.  This is hardly something I'm going to discuss with Neil DeGrasse Tyson next time I meet him, however!  I hardly know how to explain it, even to myself.  If I ever get that doctorate in astrophysics I've been yammering on about for decades...maybe then.

I don't know if this answers your question, or not.

Yes, thank you for the explanations, this really makes a lot more sense and I can respect this kind of an approach in general for sure.   I think I even follow this in many lines of thinking myself.  

One complicating factor when discussing biblical scholarship is the competing ideologies and theological traditions.  Bias becomes really strong and objectivity is much more challenging on this subject because for many people their entire world view, family background, even livelihoods are at stake.  Each religious institution has its own apologetic industrial complex with resources and incentives to promote certain perspectives that support the positions of the founding institution.  This discussion board is no exception and many members here participate in these endeavors.  

Objectivity becomes daunting considering all those factors.  

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On 9/20/2017 at 9:26 AM, Stargazer said:

Take the age of the solar system for instance.  The consensus is that it is 4.6 billion years old. There is good reason to have confidence in this figure, but I have a quibble. Being merely an amateur, I am hardly in a position to produce any research that would cast any doubt upon this figure, but something occurred to me a few years ago that leads me to believe the 4.6 billion year figure could be quite wrong.  And there might be no way to tell for certain.  My quibble is based on the source of the metallicity of the sun.  If the primordial nebula in which the sun formed experienced a supernova, this might have caused the sun's metallicity to be much higher than it might have been otherwise, to include certain radioactive elements which are used to help measure the age of the sun.  If the sun started with a superabundance of those elements, it might be considerably older than current astronomical theory says it is. There are other factors used to determine the sun's age, besides radiometric ones, but if the sun is much older than we think, our understanding of stellar evolution may be in need of some revision.

The age of the Sun itself is not known so precisely, but its rough age fits models of stellar evolution that work very well for millions of stars, so it can't be so much older. The more precise figure comes from radiometric dating of Moon rocks, with the assumption that the Moon formed not too long after the Sun.

If Moon rock had coalesced out of gas that was unusually rich in radioactive heavy elements, then there would be more of the radioactive stuff left now even if the Moon was older. There would also be more of the stable daughter isotopes into which the unstable elements had decayed, however. The unstable elements started decaying as soon as they were produced in some ancient star that later exploded, but as long as the unstable elements were decaying inside a star or floating in space, their daughter decay products would have drifted freely around to mix pretty evenly with all other elements. If the unstable element decays while part of a solid rock, however, its product stays in the same place. So you find the unstable parents and stable daughters together in minerals, and from comparing their proportions you can see how long ago the rock solidified, even if you don't know how much unstable element was original present.

 So I think we can tell the difference between an old Moon that started with more radioactive stuff, and a younger Moon that started with less.

Edited by Physics Guy

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On 9/20/2017 at 12:26 AM, Stargazer said:

So what you think you see are people disregarding accepted science because it doesn't fit with their world view? I see that kind of thing, too.  This has happened since science was an infant, and it will continue to happen. Even the scientifically literate are susceptible. For example, the current controversy surrounding how many genders there are. Mr. Science, Bill Nye himself, has fallen prey to it.

And no, please let's not go down that particular rabbit hole.

If I meet someone who absolutely insists that the world is flat, or that it is no more than 6,000 years old, then I know there's no point in discussing the matter. They couldn't possibly be swayed, because if they've disregarded the evidence that is readily available, well...  But they are in such a minority that it is simply not important to sway them.  It's not like the country is headed for ruin because a few people entertain incorrect opinions about science.  Even if one or two of them are Congressmen!

I don't usually make my own assessments, from raw data at least. On any given question there are usually more than two points of view even in the scientific community. I try to evaluate the various points of view and come to what I feel is the best alternative -- if I don't simply accept the "standard view".  But in most scientific fields of knowledge, I don't have an alternative position.  In a few, perhaps I do.

Take the age of the solar system for instance.  The consensus is that it is 4.6 billion years old. There is good reason to have confidence in this figure, but I have a quibble. Being merely an amateur, I am hardly in a position to produce any research that would cast any doubt upon this figure, but something occurred to me a few years ago that leads me to believe the 4.6 billion year figure could be quite wrong.  And there might be no way to tell for certain.  My quibble is based on the source of the metallicity of the sun.  If the primordial nebula in which the sun formed experienced a supernova, this might have caused the sun's metallicity to be much higher than it might have been otherwise, to include certain radioactive elements which are used to help measure the age of the sun.  If the sun started with a superabundance of those elements, it might be considerably older than current astronomical theory says it is. There are other factors used to determine the sun's age, besides radiometric ones, but if the sun is much older than we think, our understanding of stellar evolution may be in need of some revision.  This is hardly something I'm going to discuss with Neil DeGrasse Tyson next time I meet him, however!  I hardly know how to explain it, even to myself.  If I ever get that doctorate in astrophysics I've been yammering on about for decades...maybe then.

I don't know if this answers your question, or not.

Ah, so your beliefs about the nature of the universe, taken on faith, could motivate lifestyle decisions regarding going back to school, though you have no real evidence for the correctness of the belief, right?

I know you are LDS but I am just illustrating that even atheists might make such lifestyle changes based on faith with no real evidence.

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21 hours ago, Physics Guy said:

The age of the Sun itself is not known so precisely, but its rough age fits models of stellar evolution that work very well for millions of stars, so it can't be so much older. The more precise figure comes from radiometric dating of Moon rocks, with the assumption that the Moon formed not too long after the Sun.

If Moon rock had coalesced out of gas that was unusually rich in radioactive heavy elements, then there would be more of the radioactive stuff left now even if the Moon was older. There would also be more of the stable daughter isotopes into which the unstable elements had decayed, however. The unstable elements started decaying as soon as they were produced in some ancient star that later exploded, but as long as the unstable elements were decaying inside a star or floating in space, their daughter decay products would have drifted freely around to mix pretty evenly with all other elements. If the unstable element decays while part of a solid rock, however, its product stays in the same place. So you find the unstable parents and stable daughters together in minerals, and from comparing their proportions you can see how long ago the rock solidified, even if you don't know how much unstable element was original present.

 So I think we can tell the difference between an old Moon that started with more radioactive stuff, and a younger Moon that started with less.

Interesting analysis!

However, the current predominating theory of the Moon's origin is the giant impactor hypothesis, which, if correct, means that the Moon and the earth share a common origin. I shan't go off on an explanation of this theory, as you can find it easily online, but unless the samples collected on the Apollo missions just happened to be from rocks that had been left behind by the hypothesized impactor, the rocks of the moon should reflect the same age as the earth. 

As to the hypothetical impactor's origin (they call it Theia), that's a complete mystery.

And personally, I have qualms with this theory. It's too pat. And too unusual. While it explains many things well, it is not as neat as it should be. It does not conform to Occam's Razor, either -- although the word "tends" as found in Occam does not lend certainty!  As Hector Barbosa once said, "It's more a guideline than a rule."

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The whole solar system is thought to have formed at about the same time, give or take maybe a hundred million years or so.

The formation of Earth's moon is an interesting problem, because our moon seems to be unusually big for a planet our size, and this may conceivably have been a factor in the evolution of life on Earth, because tidal zones may have been important environments at some point and it takes a big moon to make big tides. I don't see what the connection is, though,  between how the Moon formed and the age of the Sun, Moon, or Earth.

Regardless of how we got our big Moon, the whole solar system is about 4.5 to 4.6 billion years old. That fits the stellar evolution models for the Sun, and it fits radiometric dating of Moon rocks and many meteorites. Radiometric dating of Earth rock has turned up some samples nearly that old, even though the Earth has been geologically active throughout its history, so that the very oldest rocks have gotten mixed up in ways that make them harder to date precisely.

There is a lot of data that all agrees on that four-and-a-half-billion year age, and no reason to suppose a significantly older solar system. The possibility of heavy metal enrichment from a nearby supernova is not a factor in age measurements, because they do not depend on the absolute amount of radioactive material, but upon proportions of collocated parent and daughter elements, which indicate elapsed time since solidification.

Edited by Physics Guy

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