Thursday, March 10, 2005

I Want My Templeton Prize

Charles Townes invented a very intense beam of light known as a "laser". He also just won the Templeton Prize for "progress in spiritual knowledge". What the blazes is spiritual knowledge anyway?

I'm not saying Townes should return the $1.5 million. If fools want to throw money down the drain, that's their prerogative. However, he should use the money to buy a book on the Big Bang. If he had any clue what the Big Bang actually is, he wouldn't be talking about its causes.

Ya see, this is the reason why logical positivism is important. LP tells you when you're deluding yourself and speaking utter nonsense. The Templeton Prize has wasted millions of dollars on a linguistic mistake, on meaningless nonsense.

Now that I think about it, I should win the prize. Talk about progress in spiritual knowledge. Demonstrating that there's no such thing as spiritual knowledge deserves at least $1.5 million.


thepoemster said...

- The qualities sought in awarding the Prize are: freshness, creativity, innovation and effectiveness. Such contributions may involve new concepts of divinity, new organizations, new and effective ways of communicating God's wisdom and infinite love, creation of new schools of thought, creation of new structures of understanding the relationship of the Creator to his ongoing creation of the universe, to the physical sciences, and the life sciences, and the human sciences, the releasing of new and vital impulses into old religious structures and forms.-
I may get to work on this in my spare time.
Thanks Doc.

Nevin ":-)" said...

Demonstrating that there's no such thing as spiritual knowledge--indeed.

Logical positivism is just a theory. And, try as you and the other logical positivists might, it cannot disprove the existence of a Supreme Being (just as the religious folk cannot prove it).

"Theists think all gods but theirs are false. Atheists just don't make an exception for the last one."

I'm not sure why my atheist friends are so insecure that they feel a need to constantly denegrate other people's beliefs. Is it really that weak a position?

Charles Townes' achievements are proof that logical positivism is not the one true way, or even necessary, for good science. Is this really what is gnawing at you?

Admittedly, I fondly remember attending an inspiring talk by Charles Townes two decades or so ago. He jokingly mentioned that "laser" should really be "Light Oscillation by the Stimulated Emission of Radiation", but it is really hard to get grant money with that acronym. Later on, he had a mouse balloon inside of another balloon, and he took out a laser gun he had made (it looked like a 60s sci fi ray gun) and shot the balloon, only popping the inside mouse balloon. All in all, quite fun.

Doctor Logic said...

Poemster: I'm not sure you're catching my drift. :)

Nevin: I suppose that Logical Positivism is indeed a theory. As is every statement about the world or about mathematics.

Does every grammatically correct proposition make sense? Is it not possible for a proposition to seem to make sense to us at a gut level, yet actually be meaningless (devoid of sense)? If so, what are the criteria for sensibility? After all, cricket bats subdivide diabolical exponentiation.

BTW, I never said there wasn't a supreme being per se.

As for your quote... flattery will get you nowhere! :) It sums up a major argument against any specific form of theism: if false religions naturally arise, what's the difference between the true religion and the false ones? These faiths would all exist whether or not there was any supernatural cause for them.

Should any beliefs be denigrated? Astrology? Homeopathy? White supremacy? Or the reverse: should any beliefs be touted? Religious leaders have no problem touting their fraudulent beliefs and lecturing the rest of us. The majority of religious people make no attempt at an honest analysis of the facts or the logical consistency of their arguments. This would be okay if religion were art, but it isn't. Religion is commonly regarded as the basis of law, justice, and ethics. To hold that such a basis is beyond critique is unreasonable.

Charles Townes' achievements in mainstream physics are as relevant to the question of religion as the the Third Reich's achievements in rocketry are relevant to ethics. One's ethical convictions do not necessarily impair one's ability to carry out scientific or medical action, and successful action is not a measure of ethical virtue.

You and I know that expertise in laser physics has nothing to do with cosmology. Yet Templeton's goal in awarding Townes this prize is to conflate (in the eyes of gullible folk) expertise in the two areas.

This is not to say that scientific and technical achievements are not valued. Religion, losing its intellectual war against science (and it has always been war), now wants to claim that science is its ally. That's why we see books like Judaism, Physics and God, The Tao of Physics or Origins of Life. Sun-Tsu would not advise reconciliation at this point.

thepoemster said...

Nah, I know what you mean it's just that I don't really have a nickle in it either way. I could use the 1.5 mil though and you know I got this perfectly good school online that's all stocked up in creativity and freshness and infinite love and all. I really hate to short sell myself, you know?

Peg said...

I wonder what if anyone can "define" the actual bang theory either...seems to me many a well-known, well versed, and very sane scientist are baking up and admitting that "things" just don't happen on their own.
But I agree that some awards could use their money more wisely and I don't mean in to whom they give their prizes to.

Doctor Logic said...

Peg: There's a very good article about the Big Bang in the March Issue of Scientific American.

As they say: "Baffled by the expansion of the universe? You're not alone. Even astronomers frequently get it wrong."

Also, check out the Cosmology FAQ, in particular, the entry entitled What came before the Big Bang?

Peg said...

Will check it out Doc, thanks.