The Universe Doesn’t Have Constants?

According to this blog post entitled Uniformitarianism: Philosophical Problems, all of the scientist in the world should stop trying because all of our theories are just theories. I shall explain.

He starts off with the definition which I shall quote.

“Uniformitarianism, in the philosophy of science, assumes that the same natural processes that operate in the universe now, have always operated in the universe in the past, and at the same rates; and that the same laws of physics apply everywhere in the universe. Its methodology is frequently summarized as “the present is the key to the past,” because it holds that all things continue as they were from the beginning of the world.”

Now, most scientist will see what is wrong here quite quickly. We do operate on the assumption that the same natural processes that operate in the universe now, have always and at the same rates; and that the same laws of physics apply everywhere. Now, the question is why do we assume this? Because that is what we see. When you look at the geological layers and analyse samples – terrestrial and extraterrestrial – we find that the same laws work. When you send a probe into space, the laws of physics stay the same. When you look back into the universe, back in time; the laws of physics stay the same. When we measure the speed of light, calibrate the strength of gravity, observe phenomena in different places and under similar conditions; the speed of light is constant, the law of gravity holds, and the phenomena do the same thing every time, and if they don’t we alter our view to conform to the new evidence. This is how science works and how your computer, iPhone, oven, stove, dishwasher, refrigerator, television, radio, lights, electricity, air travel, medicine, and all of the technology that is enjoyed by society today came to be. It came from science discovering, interpreting and figuring out the world. Then other people use these discoveries to bring all this stuff into being and it works, because uniformity of the universe holds. If you have similar conditions, similar phenomena are expected.

Now considering the statement that just makes one cringe.

This definition has a problem. Consider whether evolution has always been occurring. Was there a time when it wasn’t occurring, before living things existed, according to common ancestry? This shows that there is an enthymeme, or unstated proposition. Something is missing from the definition. Let’s amend the definition to include this proposition.

“Uniformitarianism, in the philosophy of science, assumes that, given a set of local conditions, the same natural processes that operate in the location now, have operated in locations with similar conditions in the past, and at the same rates; and that the same laws of physics apply everywhere in the universe.”

Now there are many things wrong here, I’ll start with the most obvious. Evolution has not always been occuring, this is true. Not because evolution is not a constant, but because there was no life for which it to act upon. Evolution does not deal with the first life form, only after life exists does evolution come into play. Therefore, the amended portion is not needed because it still holds. Uniformity assumes that laws hold for what they are supposed to. Gravity works on sub-atomic particles, however, the effect is minimal due to much stronger forces that are effecting these. Scientific theories are only set to specific conditions.

However, the pain for the scientific and rational mind does not cease. It comes again.

Now let’s look a bit at what impact the new proposition has on the definition. Local conditions determine which local processes are occurring and their rates. Laws of physics are unaffected by local conditions; we assume that the laws of physics determine the local processes and their rates by acting on the local conditions.

We find that we have a uniformity condition remaining:

Uniformity of law: Laws of physics apply everywhere and everywhen in the universe.

Uniformitarians, who ignore local conditions, assert the following invalid uniformity condition:

“Uniformity of process: If a past phenomenon can be understood as the result of a process now acting in time and space, do not invent an extinct or unknown cause as its explanation”

Why is this invalid? We have seen that processes are condition-dependent. The assumption of uniformity of process assumes that the local conditions existing in the past are the same as the local conditions existing now. We know that local conditions change. We know that natural processes operating on different local conditions may yield the same set of observed phenomena. There also may be supernatural events that yield the observed phenomena. We know that there is historical evidence of supernatural events that yield the observed phenomena, so there is no invention apart from evidence.

Boiling all this down, we see the following reasons for the invalidity of the asserted uniformity condition:

1. Ignorance of local conditions in the past. We have good reason to believe that, in fact, they were quite different than the local conditions we see today.

2. Ambiguity of processes that could have produced the phenomena. Different sets of local conditions can result in different processes producing the same observed phenomena.

3. There is no necessity for asserting that natural processes formed the observed phenomena and ignoring historical evidence that the observed phenomena may have been formed by supernatural events.

Thus, uniformitarians who assert that “the present is the key to the past,” are asserting an invalid proposition.

Now this is simply too easy. If you are observing an asteroid and see that it will hit our moon tomorrow, you can enter the data into a computer and predict what is going to happen. When you observe the phenomena occur the principles of physics hold. Uniformity holds for the universe. When different conditions – local – exist, we see evidence in the fossil records, evidence in the type of stone deposited and other pieces of data that can be used to understand and predict what the conditions were. The second statement is why we – scientists, empiricists, rationalists, etc. – seek more evidence, to clear up ambiguity. When we know certain conditions must have existed, we get a better picture. The third statement is ridiculous. To assume a supernatural interaction is not needed when we can explain the phenomena is ridiculous. If we can’t explain because there is to few evidence, we research further. There is stated historical evidence for supernatural phenomena, I humbly ask that this is submitted to the world. If it holds up to scrutiny, you will have altered much of science and challenges are always welcome. This is how we learn; however, we see no necessary requirement for your supernatural occurrence. I discussed this previously here.

The understanding of the present is the key to the past, as it is only in the present that we can obtain new data. To state that this is invalid, then DNA analysis of blood at a crime scene should be inadmissible in court because some supernatural being must have placed it there. I’m sure the judge will be accepting of that claim, or perhaps in Saudi Arabia.

Again, science simply states that the universe exists and it can be observed. Uniformity comes out of this because that is what we see. We do not see supernatural beings moving mountains, dead people walking about in cities, trees talking to humans, etc. We see natural phenomena, explained by natural mechanisms. Let us enjoy and be happy for what science has given us, the comforts of modern day. In the past couple thousand years, we have grown into a successful race at conforming the environment to our needs using science; in the past couple thousand years, what has religion brought us but war, strife, hate, contempt, inquisitions, persecutions and pain to those who are different than themselves?

The answer is simple. It has brought nothing else.

I’ll go with science as it seems to have a better track record.

I. A. Mills

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