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I find it interesting that adherents to scientism claim that modern science, especially evolutionary biology, has proven intelligent design theories and various strains of Biblical creationism false.  The main strategy is simply to claim that ID or creationism conflicts with the facts of science.  However, this conflates raw facts, which scientists seek to explain with theories, with the “facts” of the theories themselves.  Let me give an example to clarify how this is wrong.  Albert Einstein gave a theory to explain the low-temperature heat capacity data of crystalline materials. The theory worked pretty well, but not perfectly.  Peter Debye gave a theory that fit the available data much better.  Is it valid to say that Debye’s theory ignored the “fact” of Einstein’s theory?  Yet, that is exactly what is going on when it is claimed that ID or creationism is proven wrong by evolutionary biology.  They are competing ways of viewing the data, which ultimately gets back to whether or not evidentialism itself can distinguish the two.  The simple answer is: it cannot.  At its root, scientific evidence is the interpretation of raw facts (data) through the context of a worldview.  It is this act of interpretation that gives raw facts their meaning, linking together the facts in a coherent manner and systematizing the facts into a theory.  It is my contention that the methodological naturalism used in science results in scientific theories that are inexorably tied to a naturalistic worldview.  This is what makes using scientific evidence as a truth test for other worldviews so specious.

I recently saw the movie Avatar and was inspired to write a post on ecology.  William Lane Craig used the movie as a picture of the Incarnation of Jesus on his website.  This was enough to entice me to rent it, even though I had some misgivings that it would be standard liberal tripe on ecology.  The movie is very good; the special effects alone are well worth the $1 for a Redbox rental.  The movie did have a strong rhetoric about ecology; however, I left the movie agreeing with their overall thrust with regard to environmental stewardship.  My only complaint is that the movie claims this is found in a pantheistic worldview.  This is not unique.  It is very common for modern environmentalism to have a pantheistic foundation, but I think this position is gravely mistaken.  First, the pantheistic worldview is not a coherent worldview.  The interested reader can certainly find a plethora of writings on this topic, so I will leave a defense of that for another time.  Second, Christianity does provide a firm foundation for a responsible view of ecology. 

Two writers immediately come to mind when I think about the Christian view of ecology.  The relationship between man and his environment is one of the major points behind C.S. Lewis’ so-called Space Trilogy, especially Perelandra but to a somewhat lesser degree in Out of the Silent Planet.  In Perelandra, we are given a glimpse of a world that is untouched by sin, and man lives in harmony with his environment.  This is contrasted against our world in Lewis’ That Hideous Strength.  Here we see a redeemed man in proper relationship with God and creation amidst a fallen world.  Francis Schaeffer makes a similar point in his book Pollution and the Death of Man.  Here, Schaeffer suggests that greed and haste are the root cause of our ecological crisis.  Both are the result of our sin nature.  We are eager to turn a buck and do so fast, regardless of the ecological impact.  In this way, Christianity not only explains the origin of the ecological crisis, but it also provides an answer for its remedy.  If our ecological crisis is rooted in our sinful nature, then the only way to resolve the issue is having our sin nature removed through Jesus’ sacrifice.  This is distinct from pantheistic or atheistic views that lack a real solution for the crisis.  Christianity certainly agrees with pantheism and atheism that man is part of the world, but we are not merely part of the world.  We are also distinct from our world in a very important and unique way, being created in God’s image.  This leads us immediately to a proper view of man and the environment.  We are part of the world but not merely part of it, for in God’s image we are unique.  Thus, we should use our environment to the betterment of mankind, but not in a greedy or hasty way that needlessly destroys our world.

I am working on a paper that describes room temperature molten salts in terms of a quasi-crystalline lattice.  The preservation of the lattice-like structure in the ionic liquid results in some pretty neat features in the IR spectrum, specifically the presence of transverse optic/longitudinal optic (TO/LO) modes.  TO/LO modes commonly occur in the solid-state due to the coupling of incident IR photons with the phonon states of the material to produce polaritons.  In the absence of any anharmonicity among the constituent vibrational modes, the incident photons are completely reflected.  It is fascinating that a room temperature molten salt supports optical phonons, resulting in TO/LO mode splitting in the IR spectra.  This can provide tremendous insight into the fundamental interactions among the constituent ions composing the ionic liquid.

The TO/LO splitting can also be used to calculate the dipole moment derivative for the vibrational motions responsible for a given band.  This requires the use of dipolar coupling theory, which relates the dipole moment derivative to the magitude of the TO/LO splitting.  The theory also requires some knowledge of the particle density of the compound.  My current task is to support the result derived from dipolar coupling theory by estimating the optical constants of the ionic liquid.  Integration of the extinction coefficient can give another measure of band intensity.  This may then be related to the dipole moment derivative.

This is my first foray into calculating optical constants or dipolar coupling theory.  I also learned a tremendous amount writing the portion of polaritons.  I think this article may have done more to expand my expertise in molecular spectroscopy than some classes I had in graduate school.  This post would be much clearer if I could insert some of the equations, but I don’t know how to do that yet.  If I figure it out, I will come back and edit it some.

In my previous post, I articulated my view on the limits of scientific inquiry by focusing on how scientists “do science.”  I also explored three implications that result if this picture of science is adopted.  Here, I examine one objection against this position: naturalism must be correct because modern scientific theories work. Read the rest of this entry »

The fruit of scientific exploration permeates our culture and has greatly shaped our lives in many ways. However, the increasing role of science in our lives has also brought a greater emphasis on scientific explanations about our lives, and society seems geared to automatically accept scientific explanations over theological or philosophical ones. In this regard, scientific explanations are elevated to a point where they effectively function as a truth test for a worldview. For instance, it is often claimed that Christian theism is false because in one way or another it is incompatible with certain sets of scientific evidence from biology, chemistry, physics, or geology. The relationship between science and theology is incredibly important for a Christian, because many scientific explanations, at least on the surface, seem to contradict Scripture. Integrating the two can lead to a crisis of faith that is not easily surmounted, and more often than not Christians either bend theology into the mold of scientific reasoning or claim the scientific evidence is in some way fallacious. Read the rest of this entry »

I spent the summer of 2009 essentially doing two things: reading and waiting for the birth of my daughter.  Although that is not entirely true (e.g., I also collected some awesome EPR data on a confined system and I spent an inordinate amount of time at the library with my two-year old son), those are the things that most stand out to me.  My reading list was surprisingly long for a typical summer.  I read Robert Ludlam’s book The Sigma Protocol, which was very good right up to the end, and Donald McQuarrie’s Statistical Thermodynamics.  McQuarrie’s text was excellent.  Read the rest of this entry »