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  1. #151
    Glowy Goopy Goodness The_Liquid_Laser's Avatar
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    (Aside: I haven't actually been referring to carbon dating in this thread, since that is mostly used by archaeologists given the time periods involved. A paleontologist or geologist will probably use something more like uranium-lead or potassium-argon dating.)

    Quote Originally Posted by Mycroft View Post
    Methods and models stand or fall on the basis of their own merits.
    When it comes to extrapolation, no they really don't. If all you want is a best-fit curve then you can measure how far the curve is from the data points. For extrapolation you can't do this, so you need other methods. You can have confidence in two independent models if they yield similar results. You can't have confidence in either if they don't.

    It's certainly reaffirming when independent models buttress one another, but this is not a requisite. Carbon-based dating, for example, relies on the accuracy of the believed half-life for carbon and the procedures by which the presence of carbon is detected in objects. If you can demonstrate that either the manner in which the half-life of carbon has been arrived at is flawed or that the manner in which the presence of carbon is detected is inaccurate, you will have a good case on your hands. Constantly alluding to "mathematical models" does not accomplish this. All you are doing is drawing irrelevant tangents into the proceedings, a basic logical flaw.
    I don't have confidence that the samples are dated accurately. When something is buried in the ground for 1 million+ years anything could happen to affect the parent-daughter ratio of the two elements. Models always have noise, and 1 million+ years of noise is well beyond my suspension of disbelief.

    Now maybe there are several independent models that confirm radioactive dating. I'm not claiming to be the foremost expert on the subject, I'm only saying that when I looked into myself the models I looked at didn't match. If I looked into it again that would still be an important thing I'd be looking for. Because it's not good to say, "let's assume this model is good until someone proves that it isn't". That is a piss poor way to do science. That's the same as just taking a stab in the dark. You need to show that the model is good to begin with in order for someone to have confidence in it.

    Secondly, I have not referred to formal logic as "voodoo". What I have, accurately, stated is that you have as of yet failed to divulge the premises and logic upon which you have based your beliefs. Rather, you've stated, in so many words, that you believe in God because "[you] can feel his presence" and whenever I've pushed you to state your premises and outline your logic, you've airily alluded to formal logic this, mathematics that, and otherwise evaded the duty.

    It is this which makes you no different from every shaman in the course of man's history who duped his gullible fellow-villagers into bringing food to his hut, freeing his time up to snack on the local hallucinogen, by invoking an "other form" of understanding which defies ration and expression and which, incidentally, he possesses. (While, meanwhile, the men of ration were discovering that planting seeds resulted in harvests.)
    a) I've stated my premises in plenty of threads that we've discussed these topics. In case you missed it all of those times here it is again. "I believe in ideas that work." I don't see how you could suggest that my methods are out of touch in some way. If I can be criticized for anything it is being overly pragmatic. I think that ultimately reality should be the judge of what is true and what is not. That means that the most sound ideas are the ones that have been shown to work.

    b) I totally do not get your shaman comparison. I can assure you that I have made no profit whatsoever off of anything I've stated in this thread. (I haven't handed out hallucinogens either, lol. )
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  2. #152
    The elder Holmes Mycroft's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The_Liquid_Laser View Post
    When it comes to extrapolation, no they really don't. If all you want is a best-fit curve then you can measure how far the curve is from the data points. For extrapolation you can't do this, so you need other methods.
    You can have confidence in two independent models if they yield similar results. You can't have confidence in either if they don't.
    Yet again you go on about some nebulous mathematical something-or-other without bothering to demonstrate how it is in any way relevant to the question at hand. How does this, in any way, address either of the two points that would need to be addressed to demonstrate that element-based dating is flawed?

    I don't have confidence that the samples are dated accurately. When something is buried in the ground for 1 million+ years anything could happen to affect the parent-daughter ratio of the two elements. Models always have noise, and 1 million+ years of noise is well beyond my suspension of disbelief.
    Argument from incredulity.

    Now maybe there are several independent models that confirm radioactive dating. I'm not claiming to be the foremost expert on the subject, I'm only saying that when I looked into myself the models I looked at didn't match. If I looked into it again that would still be an important thing I'd be looking for. Because it's not good to say, "let's assume this model is good until someone proves that it isn't". That is a piss poor way to do science. That's the same as just taking a stab in the dark. You need to show that the model is good to begin with in order for someone to have confidence in it.
    Scientists didn't come up with element-based dating out of the thin blue air. It is built on the basis of presumably sound science -- a basis you will need to show to be unsound if you wish to display the process to be inaccurate. (At one of the two points I've repeated now several times.)

    I understand, though, that this line of "prove it ain't so" thinking is difficult for the religious-minded to dispense with. You project your thinking upon others.

    a) I've stated my premises in plenty of threads that we've discussed these topics. In case you missed it all of those times here it is again. "I believe in ideas that work." I don't see how you could suggest that my methods are out of touch in some way. If I can be criticized for anything it is being overly pragmatic. I think that ultimately reality should be the judge of what is true and what is not. That means that the most sound ideas are the ones that have been shown to work.
    "I believe in ideas that work" is a personal credo, not a premise.

    b) I totally do not get your shaman comparison. I can assure you that I have made no profit whatsoever off of anything I've stated in this thread. (I haven't handed out hallucinogens either, lol. )
    You miss the point entirely. I take some degree of satisfaction in noting that others reading these posts will understand the comparison between the psychology of a shaman and that which you display.
    Dost thou love Life? Then do not squander Time; for that's the Stuff Life is made of.

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  3. #153
    Welcome to Sunnyside Mondo's Avatar
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    I definitely believe that people are this bloody ignorant.
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  4. #154
    Glowy Goopy Goodness The_Liquid_Laser's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mycroft View Post
    Yet again you go on about some nebulous mathematical something-or-other without bothering to demonstrate how it is in any way relevant to the question at hand. How does this, in any way, address either of the two points that would need to be addressed to demonstrate that element-based dating is flawed?
    We are talking about a mathematical model. Wouldn't that mean that mathematics is relevant?


    Argument from incredulity.

    Scientists didn't come up with element-based dating out of the thin blue air. It is built on the basis of presumably sound science -- a basis you will need to show to be unsound if you wish to display the process to be inaccurate. (At one of the two points I've repeated now several times.)
    You seem to have no idea why this method is credible. You say that it's credible because scientists claim it is. Why the blind faith? If you have so much confidence in this model, then shouldn't you know why? A method isn't credible simply because someone claims that it is. It needs to use sound reasoning.

    I understand, though, that this line of "prove it ain't so" thinking is difficult for the religious-minded to dispense with. You project your thinking upon others.

    "I believe in ideas that work" is a personal credo, not a premise.
    I admit that I don't understand why people insist on clinging to ideas that don't work. And yet I've encountered plenty of people who do so. Why do you have confidence in any idea that doesn't work?
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  5. #155
    Senior Member Feops's Avatar
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    It's a shame, but I don't blame general human intelligence for this one.

    Evolution has the substantial task of pitting itself against religion. Not only does it have to prove itself, it has to prove itself so convincingly that people will question, adjust, or abandon their core religious values. This is way outside the comfort zone for the average person and well within their tolerance for what they will ignore or rationalize away. It's not as if their position on evolution makes a substantial impact on day to day issues.

    Besides. If anyone would appreciate the gradual shift of cultural evolution, it would be Darwin.

  6. #156

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    I hadn't realize there was such a long discussion going on about "extrapolation" into the past.

    Here is my take on the issue...
    We don't have data on the laws of mechanics, the laws of gravitation, or the laws of electrodynamics to well back into the millions of years, but it is scientifically valid to use assume they work just as they do now. Beta decay is a similar phenomenon.

    Admitedly this pehnomenon has a bit of randomness built in, but beta decay is a law of nature as we know of these laws (infact is the first known interation of the weak nuclear force). We have had plenty of evidence of how weak interactions work... not as much as electrodynamic interactions, but plenty to consider it a law.

    In this law, half-lifes inherently have a error-value associated with them. As AntisocialOne mentioned, using radiocarbon dating is inadequate for geological time because its error is too large. But you can still date back to 26000 yrs. with an error of 163 years (the source didn't specify, but I believe this is the standard error, so we'd expect the stardard deviation to be much greater). I don't know specifically if there is a substance that decays with a standard error that is small enough for dating geological time, but what ever method we use, we'll have a confidence interval around the date we claim. Many people forget this fact. Using radiocarbon dating for geological time would have a large confidence interval indeed.

    This combination of fundamental law + confidence interval modeling is incredibly powerful and accurate and used all the time in physics. Things do become more dubious, however, if you do not have a fundamental law, but only an empirical model that you try to extrapolate well into the past, or if you do not specify a confidence interval around a specific value.

    Since the emperical model is really only a summary of data and does not embody an understanding of nature, it would be dubious to use it, and perhaps this your objection. But only the half-life itself is emperical. The beta decay model is a law of nature (as we know laws of nature).

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  7. #157
    The elder Holmes Mycroft's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The_Liquid_Laser View Post
    We are talking about a mathematical model. Wouldn't that mean that mathematics is relevant?
    As I've stated numerous times, demonstrating element-based dating to be flawed would require you to demonstrate either that the method in which the half-lives of elements was attained was flawed or that the manner in which these elements are detected in materials is flawed. Mathematical models may indeed be involved in demonstrating one of these two points, but as the one proposing this argument it is your duty to demonstrate how and why such is the case.

    Simply disagreeing with an argument (or a method, as an argument's actualization) is not an argument in itself -- something which I have tried to communicate to you for these months now with, what I can't help but feel some frustration at noting, absolutely no success.

    If you feel an argument or method is flawed, you must demonstrate how and why specifically. In the discussion at hand, simply stating that it seems to you models maybe breakdown is not adequate. You must demonstrate:

    1.) What model breaks down
    2.) How and why the model breaks down
    3.) How the breakdown of this model affects element-based dating specifically

    If you do this and publish your work, scientists would take note. If you were correct, people would accept that the method was flawed and proceed accordingly. (I state this because I can see you're already begin to lean upon the demonstrably fallacious notion that belief in anything is the same as belief in a deity.)

    You seem to have no idea why this method is credible. You say that it's credible because scientists claim it is. Why the blind faith? If you have so much confidence in this model, then shouldn't you know why? A method isn't credible simply because someone claims that it is. It needs to use sound reasoning.
    I am always willing to question even the most established of methods and ideas when someone provides a compelling argument, something you have made absolutely no effort whatsoever to do.

    I admit that I don't understand why people insist on clinging to ideas that don't work. And yet I've encountered plenty of people who do so. Why do you have confidence in any idea that doesn't work?
    You're evading the issue. You've yet to state a single proper premise in support of your purported beliefs.
    Dost thou love Life? Then do not squander Time; for that's the Stuff Life is made of.

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  8. #158
    Glowy Goopy Goodness The_Liquid_Laser's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ygolo View Post
    I hadn't realize there was such a long discussion going on about "extrapolation" into the past.
    You've made several good points here so let me see if I can further elaborate on what you've said and also present my viewpoint of things. (Warning: this will not be brief.)
    Here is my take on the issue...
    We don't have data on the laws of mechanics, the laws of gravitation, or the laws of electrodynamics to well back into the millions of years, but it is scientifically valid to use assume they work just as they do now. Beta decay is a similar phenomenon.

    Admitedly this pehnomenon has a bit of randomness built in, but beta decay is a law of nature as we know of these laws (infact is the first known interation of the weak nuclear force). We have had plenty of evidence of how weak interactions work... not as much as electrodynamic interactions, but plenty to consider it a law.
    I think it is reasonable to assume that natural laws behave in the past as they do in the present. The problem when constructing the past is assuming that only said natural law is responsible for your current data. For example, say a person used current knowledge of gravity to extrapolate the paths of our solar system's planets up to billions of years ago. However if it was later discovered that another solar system had passed very close to ours about 1 million years ago, then all of the previous calculations would be thrown off for earlier dates. Everything would have to be recalculated (if possible). In this situation there is nothing wrong with gravity. The problem is assuming that our solar system is a closed system.

    Now the nice thing about a planet's orbit is that it really can only be affected by something with a significant gravity field. On the other hand if you think about the parent-daughter ratio of elements used in radioactive dating, there are all sorts of things that could affect the ratio over time: chemical reactions, earthquakes, erosion, underground water flow, organisms in the ground, etc.... There is nothing wrong with the decay rate itself, but there are other factors which affect the ratio of the two elements used in the time calculation.

    Or perhaps I am making something out of nothing? Perhaps all radioactive materials exist in a state similar to temporal stasis where nothing in the outside world can affect them?

    Actually I can see either viewpoint being correct. The only way to know which is correct is to perform some type of test. The best one I can think of is to find other models which match the results of radioactive dating. If there are several good ones, then the method is solid. If there are none, then the method should be highly suspect. I personally do not know if there exist independent models that confirm radioactive dating, but the ones I tried did not match, so I became skeptical.

    (Aside: I also take issue with the illogical conclusion that all life descended from a single microorganism, but I'd rather stay on one topic, so I'll save that for a later time.)

    In this law, half-lifes inherently have a error-value associated with them. As AntisocialOne mentioned, using radiocarbon dating is inadequate for geological time because its error is too large. But you can still date back to 26000 yrs. with an error of 163 years (the source didn't specify, but I believe this is the standard error, so we'd expect the stardard deviation to be much greater). I don't know specifically if there is a substance that decays with a standard error that is small enough for dating geological time, but what ever method we use, we'll have a confidence interval around the date we claim. Many people forget this fact. Using radiocarbon dating for geological time would have a large confidence interval indeed.

    This combination of fundamental law + confidence interval modeling is incredibly powerful and accurate and used all the time in physics. Things do become more dubious, however, if you do not have a fundamental law, but only an empirical model that you try to extrapolate well into the past, or if you do not specify a confidence interval around a specific value.

    Since the emperical model is really only a summary of data and does not embody an understanding of nature, it would be dubious to use it, and perhaps this your objection. But only the half-life itself is emperical. The beta decay model is a law of nature (as we know laws of nature).
    This is good, and I'd like to elaborate. Radioactive decay is very similar to a binomial probability model. An analogy often used goes something like this: Say a person flips 80 quarters and then takes away all the coins that turned up heads. Then they flip again and remove again, and so on. After the first flip the expected value is 40 quarters, 20 after the second flip, then 10, 5, etc.... In reality you usually don't get 40 heads after the first flip, but there is a margin of error (based on the standard deviation). If you used more quarters then the standard deviation increases too. The increase in the standard deviation is proportionate to the increase of the square root of the mean.

    Now apply this to the idea of radioactive decay. Say for carbon-14 (half-life 5730 years), each carbon-14 atom has a .5 probability of decaying during any given 5730 year interval. After 5730 years half of the carbon-14 will decay modified by the standard deviation and confidence interval. The standard deviation is based on the amount of Carbon-14 originally present. This means that when you do the time calculation the "+ or - x" is applied to the exponent rather than simply "+ or - z years". And here I am referring only to the theoretical standard deviation that can be measured in a laboratory. The standard deviation of any sample taken in the field is always going to be greater than the theoretical standard deviation.

    Now I don't really have a problem with this part of the theory. I'm just explaining, because I think it's useful to know how it works, and to see how easily the calculation could go wildly off. An increase in the standard deviation affects the exponent. It is easy to see that if the parent-daughter ratio of the sample elements started to vary significantly it would have a huge effect on the final time calculation. So this is a process that requires a high degree of accuracy in the original sample.
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  9. #159
    The elder Holmes Mycroft's Avatar
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    Liquid Laser, even by your own admission this would result in error as the result of unaccounted for aberrant events in a comparatively small number of samples. I have absolutely no doubt such a thing occurs periodically. However, the believed dates are the result of thousands upon thousands of samples.
    Dost thou love Life? Then do not squander Time; for that's the Stuff Life is made of.

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  10. #160
    Gotta catch you all! Blackmail!'s Avatar
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    When you use radioactive decay, you do not take 80 atoms, you use millions of them simultaneously.

    And furthermore, as Mycroft pointed, geologists use thousands upon thousands samples from everywhere so they can compare them. Thus the history they tell is quite coherent, because there are corrections of corrections of corrections... etc...

    With such large numbers, the error margin you are referring to is absurdly minimal, and it's not even worth mentioning it.
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