Cosmic Accidents Are Not Scientific Explanations

first_imgSunday Meditation Oct 3, 2010 — The classic understanding of science is that it explains things with reference to natural laws, makes predictions, is testable, quantifiable, and falsifiable.  Depending on the branch of science, many researchers still attempt to hold to those ideals.  Eugenie Scott put it this way: “modern science operates under a rule of methodological materialism that limits it to attempting to explain the natural world using natural causes.”  Natural causes include natural laws, predictable patterns, probability, or combinations of these.  Pure accidents, by contrast, contain no explanatory power.  How satisfying would it be to hear a scientist explain a phenomenon by saying, “Weird things just happen sometimes”?  That’s tantamount to saying, “We have no idea.”  See if the following two articles from New Scientist’s series “Cosmic Accidents” can do better than that.    New Scientist has a headline: “Cosmic accidents: Inventing language, the easy way.”  What is this easy way of which reporter David Robson speaks?  Here’s how he explained it.  He picks up the tale as hominids migrate out of Africa to discover new habitats:Released from many of the selective pressures that had shackled their evolution, they began to change subtly.  Their calls, for example, had once needed to be very specific – one to signal aggression, one to announce feeding time and so on – and were hard-wired in the brain.  Any variation from a small inherited “vocabulary” risked a potentially fatal misunderstanding, so mutations that promoted greater flexibility were quickly weeded out.    In the new havens, however, mutations emerged that allowed more complex vocalisations, controlled by wider regions of the brain.  Ultimately, these morphed into huge learned vocabularies and flexible grammars that exploded the tight constraints on interpersonal communication.  A change of scene had accidentally created that most human of features: language.The key to the story is “mutations” that “emerged.”  If an environment itself could create language, every organism in the environment would end up talking.  Selective constraints cannot create anything, either.  They can only hold creative powers back.  In the end, Robson himself attributed the ultimate cause to chance: an accident created language – one time, in Europe but not in Africa, in humans but not in other animals.  Weird things just happen sometimes.    Attempting to explain how bacteria became humans, Michael Le Page wrote another entry for the “Cosmic Accidents” series: “One giant leap for a single cell.”  How did single cells cross the “chasm” between simple prokaryotes, like bacteria and archaea, and eukaryotes, which include everything from one-celled organisms to giraffes, orchids and humans?  Enquiring scientists want to know.  Le Page set the stage: “while bacteria never form anything more complex than strings of identical cells, eukaryotic cells cooperate to make everything from brains and leaves to bones and wood.”  Here’s his explanation:The countless simple cells living in many different environments on Earth have had over 3 billion years to evolve complexity.  It could have happened repeatedly – and yet it appears to have happened just once, perhaps 2 billion years ago.  All complex life is descended from a single common ancestor.     Why is that so?  Because, says Nick Lane of University College London, natural selection normally favours fast replication, keeping simple cells simple.  Then a freak event occurred: an archaeon engulfed a bacterium and the two cells formed a symbiotic relationship.  That transformed the dynamics of evolution, leading to a period of rapid change that produced innovations such as sex.  The incorporated bacterium eventually evolved into mitochondria, the energy generators of complex cells.Le Page added that “it seems there was nothing inevitable about the rise of the complex cells from which we evolved.”  If it was not inevitable in any way, shape, or form that science can get a handle on, where does science enter the explanation?    Once again, the heart of the explanation was pure chance: “a freak accident occurred.”  The prokaryotes were trying to evolve complexity for a billion years, but they just couldn’t.  Then a freak accident occurred.  The archeon was not trying to engulf the bacterium.  It had no desire or plan to do such a thing.  A freak accident occurred – something completely unforeseen, something weird.  It transformed the dynamics of evolution.  This freak accident, though, was pregnant with possibilities.  It “produced innovations such as sex” and mitochondria – you know, those little organelles with piston engines and rotary engines (09/22/2010).  Weird things just happen sometimes.    Other articles in the “Cosmic Accidents” series include Stephen Lawton’s chance explanation for the big bang’s fine tuning (New Scientist), Stephen Battersby’s chance explanation for antimatter imbalance (New Scientist), his chance explanation for the unlikely ingredients of our sun (New Scientist), David Shiga’s lucky impact theory for the origin of our moon (New Scientist), Richard Webb’s lucky fungus theory for our atmosphere’s oxygen balance (New Scientist), Graham Lawton’s lucky asteroid impact for the origin of mammals (New Scientist), Anil Ananthaswamy’s lucky rift theory for the growth of the human brain (New Scientist), and Stephen Battersby’s summary of the “certainty of chance” and the contingency of evolution (New Scientist).  “Our existence is perilously perched on a great pyramid of trivia,” he said.  Maybe that’s why all these freak-accident explanations are published by New Scientist, not by old scientists.Science is stuck with chance explanations sometimes.  We have no theory at this time for why one radioactive nucleus decays when it does, or why a photon goes through one slit instead of the other.  Usually, though, scientists can assign probability values, given a large sample size.  Watch enough radionuclei, and you can predict to a high degree of accuracy how many will decay within the isotope’s characteristic half-life.  Watch enough photons, and you can predict the pattern that will emerge on the screen.  If there were only one nucleus or photon, though, all bets would be off for predicting what would happen.  Scientists would have to admit, “We have no idea.”  Even in chaos theory, which camps on unpredictability, large sample sizes allow predictable patterns called “strange attractors” to emerge.    Given enough smokers, medical researchers can predict what percentage will get lung cancer; but all bets would be off for predicting the fate of a particular smoker.  If either outcome – the smoker lives, the smoker dies – could be “explained” by the probability value, then nothing has really been explained at all.  He dies: Just as we predicted, he was part of the 70% group that gets cancer.  He lives: He was lucky and beat the odds.  Opposite outcomes are encompassed by the theory.  The bottom line is, “We have no idea.”    When a scientist is reduced to saying, “We have no idea,” his or her opinion is essentially no better than anyone else’s.  For all a neutral observer could tell, a New Guinea shaman or the Oracle at Delphi has just as good an explanation for a phenomenon.  A scientist reduced to saying “Weird stuff just happens sometimes” has no claims over a theologian, for sure.  “Sheer dumb luck” as David Berlinski calls it is no explanation at all.  It is the antithesis of explanation.  If science gets reduced to sheer dumb luck, the Stuff Happens Law (SHL), it surrenders all claims to epistemic priority.  Possession of a white lab coat, a PhD, and a university professorship amounts to nothing more than costumery the shaman could put on, by all rights.    The GSA talking points say, “Science cannot be used, by definition, to study events or phenomena that cannot be perceived by natural or empirical senses and do not follow any natural rules or regularities.”  This statement, though intending to disparage creationism and intelligent design, rules out explanations that ultimately depend on “freak accidents.”  It therefore rules out so-called scientific explanations of the Big Bang, the origin of life, the origin of eukaryotes, the origin of sex, the origin of consciousness, and most of the subject matter evolutionists are interested in.    Darwinism itself is outside the bounds.  Why?  The root of its explanation is contingency – sheer dumb luck.  Darwinism is the SHL in different words.  Early critics of Darwinism pointed this out.  They were appalled that Darwin was introducing contingency into scientific explanation in an era when natural law was king.  Darwin believed he had found a law – the law of natural selection – but closer examination shows it is chance masquerading as law.  Nothing could be selected without random mutation, obviously, but selection itself is directionless – therefore random.  The environment is random.  “Selection pressure” is unpredictable; it pushes this way, and that: up, down, sideways.  Everything at the fundamental level is explained by freak accidents.  Whatever happens happens.  Darwinists cannot appear after the fact and say, “natural selection” did it.  That’s equivalent to saying, “A freak accident produced this outcome by sheer dumb luck.  Weird things (like eukaryotes, like language) just happen sometimes.”  As we have shown repeatedly, Darwin’s “law” explains opposite outcomes – therefore it explains nothing (12/19/2007 commentary).  Might as well invite the Delphic oracle, the New Guinea shaman and a gambler to give presentations at the Darwin convention.  On what basis could they be denied admission?  Their clothes?  Their taste in cuisine?  That kind of diversity already exists at science conferences.    Eugenie Scott, in her talking points on the NCSE website, used to say, “Science and religion are different.  Scientific explanations are based on human observations of natural processes,” where processes include laws, patterns, causes and logical deductions other than appeals to chance or so-called supernatural forces taken on faith.  The newer explanation, “What is science?” at NCSE web, emphasizes method and “ways of thinking” more than laws and cause.  “The process of science is creative and flexible.  There is no single scientific method used by all scientists…. All scientific conclusions are tentative.”    This looser description, more nuanced and postmodern, appears to have been adopted to insulate the NCSE from charges that evolution is unscientific.  But do the gains in defense offset the gains in offense?  Scott can keep evolution in science only by widening the tent.  If she looks carefully, though, she lets in the Delphic oracle and the New Guinea shaman.  After all, they have methods; they are creative; they are flexible.  They can even hold their conclusions tentatively.    To maintain a distinction in the wider tent, Donald Prothero adds the only claim in the article to epistemic priority: the hope of converging on the truth, whatever that is, somehow: “Science is not about finding final truth, only about testing and refining better and better hypotheses so these hypotheses approach what we think is true about the world.”  But in attempting to kick the shamans and oracles out, Prothero has let in a more fearsome group: the logicians and philosophers.  They will ask what he means by truth, what constitutes testing and refining if there is no standard of truth by which one can measure progress, and whether what one thinks is true about the world corresponds to what is really true about the world.  Prothero will need more than sheer dumb luck to get out of that predicament.    Have we gotten lost in a postmodern fog, where everyone’s opinion is equally valid and deserving of a hearing?  Fortunately, no.  Intelligent design (ID) identifies a measurable quantity, complex specified information (CSI), that can dispel the fog.  Intelligence is a known, testable cause of CSI – the only known cause.  And there is a threshold for separating chance from intelligence as a scientific explanation – the universal probability bound, based on the information content of the phenomenon under study.  Human language and eukaryotic cells are rich in CSI.  While ID cannot yield final truth, either, it provides an inference to the best explanation for measuring the confidence one can have in design as the cause versus chance as the cause.  This can be achieved by running the explanation through the Explanatory Filter (ARN).    With this background, re-examine the articles above and their explanations.  The “scientists” (if deserving of that honor) attributed the causes to freak accidents – sheer dumb luck.  But the phenomena under question – human language and eukaryotic cells, are rich with CSI that exceed the universal probability bound.  Chance is therefore excluded; design is the best explanation.     ID leads to another advantage: a theory of truth.  While ID restricts itself to design detection, additional logical inferences can be made once an inference to design has been made – just like when an inference that a string of bits contains a message, rather than being natural noise, leads to additional inferences about the content of the message and the nature of the sender.  Given that many phenomena (DNA, the human brain, and the universe itself) pass through the Explanatory Filter into the design explanation, it follows that a designer capable of producing a universe must be greater than the universe, therefore transcendent, and outside of spacetime, therefore timeless.  That provides an anchor point for truth to allow it to be timeless, universal, necessary, and certain.  Reflexively, it provides the preconditions for intelligibility that a scientist assumed to draw that conclusion.  It is therefore logically coherent and explanatorily rich.     So let’s kick the Know-Nothings (10/28/2009, 02/22/2008) mumbling sheer dumb luck and freak accidents out of the lab and give them new jobs in the caves of Delphi and the jungles of New Guinea.  Let’s welcome back ID scientists (the heirs of Kepler and Newton, Boyle and Maxwell) to clean up the mess and put scientific explanation back on track: chance for single events of low information content, probability for quantifiable events, natural law for predictable patterns, design for high-CSI phenomena with high information content.  Help achieve this if logical coherence is something you value in science.Suggested Reading:  David Berlinski, “The Deniable Darwin,” (1996) and “What Brings a World Into Being?” (2001), The Deniable Darwin and Other Essays (Center for Science and Culture, Discovery Institute, 2009).(Visited 46 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0last_img read more

Why store beans?

first_imgShare Facebook Twitter Google + LinkedIn Pinterest While the USDA report was bearish, the market closed like it didn’t matter. Corn lost 3 cents and beans gained 7 cents on the week. Typically corn prices don’t increase after the September report through the end of September, but we’ll see.CornEarly reports from the field suggest yields are questionable and variable. We have 20% of the corn on our farm in Nebraska harvested, and so far it’s yielding 10 to 15% below average. We expected lower yields, though, on these fields because they are on dryland and in July we missed some rains in our area. We expect at least average yields on the rest of our acres since they are irrigated fields are planted with longer season corn. It seems every year the market hears of these lower than expected yields as the harvest starts, but by the end we find that the yields are much better.Worldwide U.S. corn prices are competitive. This may suggest corn prices are finding some support, as long as the U.S. dollar doesn’t increase against the Brazilian currency or South American farmers decides to sell a lot of corn.SoybeansSoybean demand continues to be strong. Globally, U.S. beans are competitive to world prices with futures around $9.50 to $9.70. The major factor impacting prices going forward will be South American farmers sitting on old crop. To maintain these price levels, the U.S. dollar needs to remain steady to the Brazilian currency and South American farmers need to hold off making a lot of sales as they start planting over the next six weeks. Planting conditions throughout South American will also keep some uncertainty in the market. While some areas have been too wet and others too dry, the bean planting window is wide and there shouldn’t be too much concern for at least a couple weeks.In the U.S., big yields are being estimated for the 2017 harvest. Spreads between contract months suggest the market wants soybeans later and basis is weakening as harvest approaches. Technically beans bounced off the $9.80 level and could continue to trade lower, but it’s hard to say if the bean low for the year has happened. As harvest gets in full swing, it will be difficult being bullish beans until after Oct. 1. Market actionDuring harvest, I can’t logistically haul soybeans from the field to the processor. We don’t have enough trucks or people to keep the combine moving AND wait in line for three hours to deliver the grain. Instead, we store beans at home during harvest and look for future opportunities to move the beans later. For the 2016 crop, we moved our beans in the last 30 days.Also during harvest, I usually don’t know exactly when I will move my beans from home storage. If I hold my beans until after harvest, then I need to move my ’17 hedges (currently in Nov futures) to a future month. This year, I moved them to Jan futures. So basically, I bought back my short Nov futures and sold Jan futures for a 10-cent premium.Many farmers get tripped up in the value of the futures of these two months, but that doesn’t matter. Only the SPREAD value between the months matters. So, if I buy Nov beans and sell Jan beans higher, then I make more money (buy low/sell high). In this example I can make 10 cents for holding my beans for two months (i.e. market carry) in home storage. Are you going to move your beans right after harvest?At this point I’m not exactly sure when I will actually move my beans. Last year I held them for 11 months. This year I could hold them for just two months or I might hold them longer. I’m really not sure yet. The reason I choose January was that I could get the most market carry for this trade at 5 cents per month. Every other forward futures month was at slightly less on a per month value. Why store beans for only 10 cents for two months?Many farmers think it is a waste of time and energy to store beans for two months for 10 cents. It’s a reasonable question, but in my experience farmers don’t always fully take into consideration all of the hidden costs, especially their time or freight costs. Following are the details and options available near my farm: • My local shuttle loader (10 miles away) is bidding 40 cents less than a processor 60 miles away. Typical wait time during harvest at the processor is two or three hours not including drive time each way. In this example, I can get an additional 40 cents, but it takes an additional four to five hours of time for each load I haul. While farmers may figure time and mileage costs a bit differently, for me the additional 40 cents isn’t worth the extra hours of time required during harvest. After including labor costs, fuel and the potential of beans drying down in the field during the extended harvest time, the cost is too high compared to hauling to a local shuttle loader. • After harvest the 40-cent variance between the local shuttle loader and the processor will usually still exist. Using commercial freight, it costs me 25 cents to haul beans to the processor, meaning the processor is still 15 cents better than my local shuttle loader. But I also can collect the added 10 cents of the two-month carry detailed above. Therefore, by storing my beans until after harvest I can make a 25-cent premium. That 25 cents is nearly the cost of my bin payment and justifies why I recommend that farmers store all of the bushels they raise. After seven years of doing this, I’ve paid off my bins, an asset which should last another 30 years, and now this 25 cents is pure profit for me in the future. What about basis?This example assumes there is no change in basis from harvest to a couple months post-harvest. In most years there has been a premium in holding and waiting for a basis increase (last year was an exception where there was zero increase).As always, it’s important to remember that farmers can only get carry premiums IF they have their crop already priced with futures. Farmers who don’t plan ahead miss out on this guaranteed opportunity AND they have to take on far riskier opportunities (like hoping the market goes up after harvest) to make additional income. Jon grew up raising corn and soybeans on a farm near Beatrice, NE. Upon graduation from The University of Nebraska in Lincoln, he became a grain merchandiser and has been trading corn, soybeans and other grains for the last 18 years, building relationships with end-users in the process. After successfully marketing his father’s grain and getting his MBA, 10 years ago he started helping farmer clients market their grain based upon his principals of farmer education, reducing risk, understanding storage potential and using basis strategy to maximize individual farm operation profits. A big believer in farmer education of futures trading, Jon writes a weekly commentary to farmers interested in learning more and growing their farm operations.Trading of futures, options, swaps and other derivatives is risky and is not suitable for all persons. All of these investment products are leveraged, and you can lose more than your initial deposit. Each investment product is offered only to and from jurisdictions where solicitation and sale are lawful, and in accordance with applicable laws and regulations in such jurisdiction. The information provided here should not be relied upon as a substitute for independent research before making your investment decisions. Superior Feed Ingredients, LLC is merely providing this information for your general information and the information does not take into account any particular individual’s investment objectives, financial situation, or needs. All investors should obtain advice based on their unique situation before making any investment decision. The contents of this communication and any attachments are for informational purposes only and under no circumstances should they be construed as an offer to buy or sell, or a solicitation to buy or sell any future, option, swap or other derivative. The sources for the information and any opinions in this communication are believed to be reliable, but Superior Feed Ingredients, LLC does not warrant or guarantee the accuracy of such information or opinions. Superior Feed Ingredients, LLC and its principals and employees may take positions different from any positions described in this communication. Past results are not necessarily indicative of future results. He can be contacted at [email protected]last_img read more

Florida Approves Solar Farms at Three Military Airfields

first_img Dan Cohen AUTHOR The Florida Public Service Commission on Thursday approved Gulf Power’s plans to build a total of 120 megawatts of solar power at three military facilities on the tip of the Florida Panhandle — Eglin Air Force Base and the Navy’s Holley and Saufley fields.Construction by the project’s developer, HelioSage Energy, is scheduled to begin in February 2016, with the three plants expected to come online by December 2016, reported the Northwest Florida Daily News.“Adding solar energy to our portfolio is another step in further diversifying our energy mix,” said Stan Connally, Gulf Power president and CEO. “Through careful planning, we’ve been able to work alongside our military partners to help provide cost-effective renewable energy — and all our customers will reap the benefit.”The planned capacity for each of the solar farms is:Eglin AFB in Fort Walton Beach — 30 megawatts;Outlying Landing Field Holley in Navarre (Naval Air Station Whiting Field) — 40 megawatts; andOutlying Landing Field Saufley in Pensacola (NAS Pensacola) — 50 megawatts.Gulf Power, a subsidiary of Georgia-based Southern Co., will serve its customers across Northwest Florida with power from the new solar facilities. The solar farms will not replace the utility’s generation plants but, instead, will allow it to diversify the power supply and provide a cost-effective alternative during peak energy usage, according to the story.last_img read more