Monday, May 23, 2005
Authority for Statements
On the Right to an Opinion
I have witnessed many times the tactic of insisting on highly specific authority for statements made in blogs. This can be a very appropriate challenge if the statement made is radical and out of the ordinary. Claiming that the moon is made of green cheese is a simple example. Or that the universe was created 9,000 years ago by God. It is a question of common knowledge, and accepted scientific facts, where to produce unimpeachable references in short order for the statement or its challenge might be difficult. Google helps, of course, and so does Lexus-Nexus, but I ask why is it really necessary?
My opinions are formed through intensive reading, analysis and synthesis and I own them fully.
To trace back to the origins of them could take quite a lot of time, which I consider to be a waste. For example, why do I believe in God? A completely referenced article to establish this would take me days to assemble, when I could as well say something like : that is my Faith. End of Story. Similarly, why am I a conservative? Again, many pages later it would boil down to simply: it seems right for me, since its principles fit my preconceptions very well, and other political belief systems don't.
But, one might say, if you state a fact that is unsupported anywhere, what then? Take the question given earlier that "the universe was created 9,000 years ago." You can find references in Google to that fact if you care to, but then comes the second level of challenge to it, namely what is the scientific basis for such a belief? Here we are on solid ground. A number has been stated.
Now you search for such things as the Big Bang Theory, and other cosmological sources for the latest scientific evidence of how long the Universe has been in existence. Back comes the very hedged answer that some astrophysicists believe the Big Bang happened in the range of 13.7 billion years ago plus or minus .2 billion years, based on their observations and opinions as to the validity of their interpretations of the data collected. Another group places the time at 15 billion years ago, about!
So far so good, and that challenges the other number (9,000 years) as scientifically proven to be nonsense. But, in the highly convoluted new physics of the combination or integration of the General Theory of Relativity and the micro world of Quantum Physics by means of Superstring M-Theory is yielding some very strange results about the origin of the universe, Space and Time and objective reality. So we do not have an absolute answer to the question of how old the universe is, and, if the Theory of Alternate Universes is proven to be true, it becomes equivocal. Now we are on shaky grounds again, because age may be meaningless.
Then you might ask: "What was there before the big Bang?" We probably will never know.
Now look at the above. I could have said simply that the generally accepted age of the universe by scientists is about 12 to 15 billion years old, and not 9,000 years old as some believe.
This is kid's stuff! By the age of 12 I think most kids would know that the 9,000 number was out of line and a number like 12, 13, 14, or 15 billion years would be the better answer. Mine certainly did. When asked how they knew that, they would say something like that is what my book said, or the teacher told us or my Dad said so, and they would be correct. So, my book said so!.
(Source? If you must! For the nitpickers. The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene, Vintage Books, 2003)