Friday, October 15, 2010

Science: We Know More Than Bleep You Know

I'm leery of those who take science and try to extend what they learn into areas completely disconnected from the original material. I'm sure that Einstein had to roll his eyes thinking about how people misapplied and misused his theory of relativity.

Of course if you want to try to lend scientific credibility to your particularly offbeat and unscientific ideas it helps to use a part of science most people don't understand. The more modern and obscure the better. The more seemingly wild ideas in the theory you can apply to your own pet theory the better.

Which means that the modern scientific theory most often misapplied is.... Quantum Mechanics.

John McGowan has written an article entitled The Quantum Mystics in which he goes after those that misapply Quantum Theory. What sets him off on his journey is the 'documentary' What the Bleep Do We Know?.

He does a good job trying to explain what Quantum Mechanics theory actually says and the problems it leaves unanswered. There is math involved, and understanding the math helps a great deal, but the prose around the equations does a very good job at explaining the issues at hand. Don't get scared away because there are equations.

There are parts of the article I'm not sure I agree with. I can't challenge the math or the science nor do I think I need to. He meanders a bit when talking about 'crypto-mysticism in mainstream physics' and he goes off on a tangent that doesn't seem to add or detract from his arguments until that point. But that doesn't lessen the importance of the article.

The main takeaway for me is that whenever I see someone outside the scientific community start using scientific theories to bolster their beliefs I should wary. If you want to understand if a theory is being misapplied the people to go to are the people who understand the theory. Let them tell you if the application of the ideas is worthwhile or bunk.

More often then not when scientific theories are used in other disciplines or by those without scientific training and understanding the results are bunk.

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