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The view from 2016

Posted April 2, 2004

Inspired by the bold initiative of the conservative Christian magazine, World, to exorcise the demon of Darwinism from the soul of biology (http://www.worldmag.com/world/issue/04-03-04/cover_1.asp), we at WHIRLED have rolled up our sleeves and taken on atomic theory, the atheistic core of chemistry and physics.

WHIRLED Magazine
Spinning in a material world

The view from 2016: How designing demagogues defeated Daltonist dogma by exposing its flawed philosophical foundation.

WHIRLED ASKED FOUR intellectual titans of the supernatural movement to indulge in a little literary fantasy: Imagine writing in 2016, on the 250th birthday of John Dalton, the father of modern atomic theory, and explain how Daltonist doctrine has been thoroughly refuted, unable to rebut the evidence that what we see around us could not possibly consist of mere atoms. The first of our prognosticators is John Welligan Coors.

Coors, a senior fellow at the Disinformation Institute and the author of "Lying Atheist Scum: a fair and balanced look at evolution" (2000), received both a Ph.D. in science from the University of California at Berkeley and a Ph.D. in used car marketing from Yale University. Despite having sworn to his spiritual master that he would savage the defenders of the Daltonist faith by any means necessary, he embarked upon his studies with a completely open mind on the subject of atomic theory.

Whatever happened to atomic theory?

Supernaturalism: supernaturalism has now (in 2016) become a thriving scientific research program and replaced materialistic accounts of matter (in particular, Daltonist theory). Supernaturalism led to new understanding of chemistry and physics, shed light on dark matter, and explained the mystery of human consciousness.

By John Welligan Coors

During the giddy centuries following the so-called Age of Reason, it was widely taught that ordinary matter was composed of particles called "atoms". Whole scientific disciplines and industries were organized around the notion that the stuff of everyday life was composed of submicroscopic structures that contained still more infinitesimal components with fanciful names, such as "protons" and "electrons". More bizarre still, it was generally accepted, despite the common sense and everyday experience of billions of people, that these "atoms" were composed almost entirely of empty space.

Now, a quarter of a millennium later, Daltonian theory rates little more than a historical footnote in chemistry textbooks. Just as students learn that scientists used to believe that combustion involved the loss of phlogiston, so students also learn that scientists used to believe that matter was composed of invisible particles that were almost entirely vacuum. How could a belief that held such sway as late as 2000 become so obsolete by 2016?

Whatever happened to atomic theory?

Surprising though it may seem, Daltonist theory did not collapse because it was disproved by new evidence. (As we shall see, the evidence never really mattered anyway.) Instead, atomic theory was knocked off its pedestal by three crucial developments, all of which stemmed from a corollary of postmodernism -- that all science is politics. Those developments were: (1) the widespread adoption of a clever ruse called "teach the controversy", (2) a growing political and public relations campaign by which wealthy ideologues were able to harness the energy of religious fundamentalism, and (3) the rise of the more theologically correct "theory of supernaturalism."

The first development was a reaction to late 2nd millennium efforts by dogmatic Daltonists to make atomic theory the exclusive foundation for chemistry curricula in American public schools. Chemistry classrooms became platforms for indoctrinating students in Daltonist orthodoxy and its underlying philosophy of naturalism - the anti-religious view that nature is, well, natural. In the ensuing public backlash, many people understandably demanded that atomic theory be removed from the curriculum altogether. A cagier group of activists, however, favored a "teach the controversy" approach that presented students with the evidence against atomic theory as well as the evidence for it.

The U.S. Congress implicitly endorsed this approach in its No Child Left Unproselytized Act of 2005. A report accompanying the legislation stated that students should "conflate the data and testable theories of science with religious or philosophical claims that are made in the name of science," and that students should "master the full range of scientific views that exist, regardless of their scientific merit". Despite loud protests and threats of lawsuits from defensive Daltonists, hundreds of state and local school boards across America bought the "teach the controversy" approach by 2007.

In the second major development, students who were free to examine the evidence for and against atomism quickly realized that the former was virtually nonexistent. Although Daltonists had long boasted of "overwhelming evidence" for atomic theory, it turned out that they had no good evidence -- indeed, no evidence at all. Despite centuries of indoctrination, once scientific objectivity was revived by the fresh air of open inquiry, students realized that no one had ever actually seen an "atom" (unless you count tunneling electronmicroscopy, which -- surprise! -- requires you first to accept its supposed basis in "quantum mechanics" -- see below).

If there was no good evidence that a Daltonian structure underlay ordinary matter, still less was there any evidence that Daltonian processes could produce the complexities of chemical behavior. Daltonists discounted the problem by arguing that atoms were too small to observe, but this didn't change the fact that they lacked empirical confirmation for their theory.

Of course, there was plenty of "evidence" for some of the trivial aspects of atomic theory. Indeed virtually everything in chemistry, physics and biology could be "explained" by just-so stories invoking unseen particles. Unfortunately, this was not the sort of explanatory power that atomism needed. After all, the main point of atomic theory was not how it explained natural phenomena, but how "atoms" could exist at all. Originally, "electrons" were supposed to orbit "nuclei", until it was pointed out that this would entail continuous loss of energy. To counter this criticism, doctrinaire Daltonists invented the desperate academic exercise in handwaving known as "quantum mechanics". Appropriately, this discipline was based on a concept called "the uncertainty principle", which basically states that if something can be observed, it can't be true.

A growing number of people realized that the "overwhelming evidence" for atomic theory was a myth. It didn't help the Daltonists when it became public knowledge that their "theory" was substantially more complicated than its popular representations. For example, long after the Bohr model of "orbiting" electrons had to be scrapped, "atoms" were still being represented in the popular press as miniature solar systems. The attempt at damage control known as quantum mechanics had become so Byzantine that students were expected to accept the notion that light could be simultaneously (a) a particle (b) a "wave" (c) both of the above and (d) none of the above.

At the dawn of the new millennium, the intellectual stranglehold of the Daltonists was so strong, especially in science and technology, that few skeptics dared to speak up. In 2016, however, when Dalton's high priests had hoped to stage a triumphal celebration of their hero's 250th birthday, millions of people are laughing at the emperor with no clothes.

The third and perhaps most decisive development was a series of breakthroughs in politics and public relations. Everyone, even the Daltonists, agreed that matter appears to the naked eye not to consist of atoms. Daltonists insisted that this was merely an illusion, resulting from the convenient fact that atoms were "too small to see"; but supernaturalists argued that the apparent absence of atoms was real. For years the controversy remained largely outside the realm of serious science. Then, in the final decade of the last millennium, a few pioneering demagogues stumbled upon the realization that poor science education was autocatalytic. They found that by using politics and public relations, they were able to bypass the stodgy structures of scientific validation and pass off ideological crusades as legitimate alternatives to research. Once it was recognized that the boundaries between science, politics and theology were illusory, it was "Katie-bar-the-door"; the death-grip of the naturalists had been broken, and all manner of scientific illiteracy became fair game for further political exploitation.

One of these areas was the existence of so-called "dark matter." From a Daltonian perspective, "atoms" were supposed to constitute all matter. When physicists found that the behavior of the visible universe implied that "atoms" could account for no more than 5 or 10 percent its mass, they conjured up "dark matter" to make up the difference. Dark matter -- strikingly reminiscent of "atoms" -- was something that could not be seen, heard, felt, smelt, or directly detected in any way. True to form, naturalists pitched this obvious failure of their theory as a need for further research, milking a gullible public for yet more funding. Meanwhile, supernatural theorists were able elegantly to explain the apparent discrepancies in the data as evidence of supernatural forces.

Another unexpected vindication of supernatural theory was its ability to solve perhaps the greatest mystery of all: human consciousness. Ever since the dawn of science, naturalists had struggled to concoct some scenario whereby whizzing electrons and lifeless nuclei could result in sensation, awareness, thought, and emotion. Even the quasi-mysticism of quantum mechanics was hopelessly inadequate so much as to approach this cosmic puzzle. Supernatural theorists, however, were able to calculate with stunning precision the probability of atoms coming together to form even the simplest thought. This probability proved so small as to be literally meaningless. Thus supernatural theory had produced - not by philosophical or religious arguments, but by rigorous, quantitative science -- incontrovertible proof that human consciousness is supernatural.

All three of these developments - teaching the controversy, pointing out the lack of evidence for atomic theory, and using supernatural theory to dismiss the disturbing implications of mechanistic scientism - were bitterly resisted by Daltonists in the first decade of this century. The brave heroes of the supernatural movement were subjected to vicious character assassination by the craven and desperate defenders of the Daltonian faith. These attacks were borne with grace and equanimity by the embattled champions of truth. Meanwhile, Daltonist stooges in the news media conducted a massive disinformation campaign, aimed primarily at convincing the public that scientific theories with actual content were somehow superior to arguments from ignorance.

More and more people rubbed the sleep of naturalism from their eyes, however, and within a few short years Daltonist orthodoxy had lost its credibility. By 2012, public funding of research was widely recognized as a subsidy, at taxpayers' expense, of arrogant impiety, and research became dependent on privately funded think tanks. By 2015, science was effectively dead.