Monthly Archives: December 2016
The story so far: Spencer Fildes and I defended our petition to the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee on November 24. The Committee (transcript here; see “New Petitions) listened most attentively, questioned us closely but not unsympathetically, and agreed to write to a number of organisations for their views. You will find full details, including petition text and links to the submissions received, at the Petition website. Now read on: Read the rest of this entry
I had the pleasure of hearing Abdus Salam give a talk in Oxford, sometime around 1960. I naïvely asked why a neutron would decay into a proton and electron, rather than an antiproton and positron, and he gently explained to me the concept of baryon number, which I would have known about by that point if I had been paying proper attention to his talk. Both prose and neutron have baryon (heavy particle) number +1, while their antiparticles have baryon number -1. They also have lepton (like particle) number 0, which is why the neutron decays into a proton, and electron, and an antineutrino.
The Washington Post recently ran a story about the late Abdus Salam, a physicist who won the Nobel Prize almost 40 years ago. The piece concerns the politics of naming a building at a Pakistani university in honour of a man from a religious minority background. Salam’s family belonged to the Ahmadiyya community – followers of a Muslim faith deemed heretical by Pakistan’s dominant Sunni Muslims. The religion was formally declared ‘non-Islamic’ by the Pakistani government in 1974. Before the new decree, extremists sometimes attacked and burned Ahmadi businesses, mosques and schools; after the decree, members could be imprisoned for their beliefs. In protest and for safety, Dr Salam moved to London.
Salam from Pakistan
Before leaving Pakistan, Salam had been the chief science advisor to Pakistan’s president, had contributed to theoretical and particle physics, was the founding director of the Space Research Commission (SUPARCO), and had…
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Creationists argue that historical science is different from, and more uncertain than, present-day observational science. But their choice of examples shows that they themselves don’t really believe this.
The difference between what young earth creationists like to term “operational” or “observational” science and historical science doesn’t have the sharp distinction they like to project to their audience. I was reminded of this recently when I had an opportunity to hear Tommy Mitchell speak at a local Answers in Genesis conference a few weeks ago. One particular talk was entitled: Jurassic Prank: A Dinosaur Tale. In it Mitchell presents the young-earth case that dinosaurs lived with man as recently as a few thousand years ago. The “tale” of course is that scientists have been telling us that dinosaurs died out millions of years before man existed. You could say the punchline to the entire talk was that the public has been punked with regards to the truth about dinosaurs.
There are many lessons to be learned from this talk but I want to focus on one seemingly simple observation that Mitchell makes. Below is a YouTube version…
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