Saturday, March 8, 2008

Seeing Beyond the Visible

Scientists were puzzled. They were observing a beta decay experiment and taking measurements accordingly. Accordingly to the laws of conservation and momentum, they were expecting to find that no energy should be lost when comparing the "inputs" to the "outputs" of the experiment.

They had already confirmed that no mass was lost, so they were very surprised to see that they were measuring less energy at the end of the beta decay than at the beginning.

How were they to account for the loss? They could have assumed that they were witnessing the first exception in the very strongly established laws of conservation and momentum. But we live in a universe that doesn't bend its laws.

So instead, they postulated that there must be a subatomic particle that they were observing that was massless, or had such a small mass that it couldn't be measured by their experiments. They called it the neutrino.

While the scientists had not SEEN this neutrino, it fits their scientific models very well. It fit them so well that they lived with this belief in a particle that was so far invisible to them.

It wasn't until 25 years later that scientists developed the means sufficient to finally detect this elusive particle.

This story presents something that is profound to me. Facts alone are so finite. We can never truly know the world with just facts. However, these scientists used empiricism, combined with rationalism to predict something that they would have otherwise never seen.

They predicted the existence of something that was elusive to empiricism alone.

There is an online movie called the Zeitgeist Movie at

It makes outrageous, but very convincing conspiracy claims regarding Christianity, 911 and the financial system of the United States.

Its claims, on the surface are very convincing. However, they suffer from a severe problem. As I watched the video, I asked questions like "How can I KNOW these people are telling the truth?", "How can I know these people don't have agendas to push just like the conspiracists they accuse?"

I can't...

And I don't have to. You see, the scientists who discovered the neutrino, did so despite the limitations of empiricism alone. They used what is called "logical positivism", ( the combination of empiricism and rationalism to discover what was beyond man's finite reach.

I'm still struggling with terms and phrases, but I would call this "logical positivism" philosophy and worldview.

I know the Zeitgeist claims are false because I have a worldview that is predictive. In my case, its a Christian worldview that says both that humanity is flawed, yet it lauds the possibility of altruism.

We see this altruism in Christ's sacrifice.

It only takes one altruist, a person who can't be bought, bribed or threatened to blow the top off of a conspiracy theory. Because of this, the more complicated a conspiracy theory is, the less likely it can be true. The more conspiracists you have, the more implausible it becomes.

I had never even been to the World Trade Center towers, but I know they weren't blown up by conspirators because I know human nature. I know it would have taken such a large group of people to pull off the claims of this movie that I can flatly dismiss them.

In this sense, what I am calling logical positivism, and can also call worldview and philosophy, has eyes that can see things that can otherwise not be seen.

Open these eyes and see the true world that we live in.

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