Tangled Up in Entanglement

Source: New Yorker

Author: Lawrence M krause

Emphasis Mine:

No area of physics causes more confusion, not just among the general public but also among physicists, than quantum mechanics. On the one hand, it’s the source of New Age mythology, and has enabled hucksters to peddle new self-help cures; on the other, for the philosophically inclined, it has provided some illusory hope of free will in an otherwise deterministic universe. Of the aspects of quantum mechanics that confuse and dismay observers, perhaps nothing approaches the property called “entanglement.” Einstein, who never really accepted entanglement’s existence, called it, derisively, “spooky action at a distance.”

Unfortunately for Einstein, entanglement, “spooky” or not, is apparently real, as researchers in the Netherlands demonstrated last week, just in time for Halloween. In doing so, the researchers affirmed once again that quantum mechanics, as strange as it may seem, works in every way we can test it.

To understand just how spooky entanglement really is, it helps to step back and think about what happens to sensible, “classical” objects when you separate them. (Classical objects are large enough, or interact strongly enough with their environments, for quantum-mechanical effects to wash out.) Imagine that I have a detonator and a bomb. If I separate them across the street from each other and activate the detonator, it can trigger the bomb only by sending a signal at the speed of light or slower. Only after the bomb receives the signal will it detonate.

Quantum theory, however, suggests that objects which have been carefully prepared together and placed into a combined quantum state can, even when separated across the galaxy, remain “entangled,” as long as neither has any significant interactions with other objects to break the entanglement. If I perform a measurement on one of two entangled objects, the state of the other object will be instantaneously affected, no matter how far apart the two objects are.

In itself, this may not seem that spooky. After all, if I separate two identical twins across the galaxy and then observe that one twin has red hair, I have instantaneously determined that the other twin has red hair, too. The real spookiness comes in only when you consider what a measurement in quantum mechanics really involves.

Imagine a pair of electrons. Electrons behave as though they are spinning; moreover, because they carry an electric charge, they act like small magnets, which means that, using electromagnetic radiation, it’s possible to manipulate their spins. Our pair of electrons, for example, can be set up so that their spins point in opposite directions along the same axis. We can say that such electrons are “anti-aligned.”

Now, suppose that, later, I try to measure the axis about which one of the electrons is spinning. If it’s spinning in one direction around that axis, it acts like a magnet with its north pole pointing in a direction we can call “up”; if it’s spinning in the other direction, then its north pole would point “down.” Because the electrons are anti-aligned, if I discover that one is pointing up, then I know that its partner must be pointing down.

There’s a catch, however. Quantum mechanics says that the actual spin direction of either electron is not determined in advance of the measurement; the only thing that’s for sure is that the spins are anti-aligned. Even stranger, until they have been measured, both electrons are actually spinning up and down at the same time. Their measured state is probabilistic: all that can be said is that there’s a fifty-fifty probability that, once one of the electrons is measured, it will be “fixed” in a state of spinning up or down. Because the two electrons are in a single quantum state—because they are entangled—the moment I measure the spin of one electron, I fix the direction of spin of the other electron. It’s as though, by flipping one coin, and coming up “heads,” I force another coin to come up “tails.”

As long as the two electrons remain entangled, then this link endures—even if they are separated across the galaxy. If I measure one electron in my lab, the second electron is affected by the measurement of the first electron with no time delay—instantaneously—even though a signal travelling at the speed of light would take millenia to cross the distance between them.

That instantaneous link is the “spooky action at a distance” of which Einstein was so skeptical. In his day, of course, no one had actually observed entanglement; it was just a prediction of quantum theory. In 1935 Einstein, along with two collaborators, Boris Podolsky and Nathan Rosen, wrote a famous paper arguing that entanglement was so crazy that, if quantum mechanics predicted it, the whole system had to be flawed. No system that made such predictions could possibly describe the universe accurately.

Einstein and his collaborators were thinking classically, imagining that the electrons were separate objects when separated. But, quantum-mechanically, the two electrons are part of a single quantum state, no matter how far apart they are. They are not independent, well-separated objects. Indeed, quantum mechanics tells us that, until we measure the position of either electron, we cannot say for certain where it is located. It can be, in some sense, everywhere at once.

Over the years, some physicists have channeled Einstein’s skepticism. They have proposed that there is some hidden classical mechanism we don’t know about, which is, somehow, fixing the results so as to create the appearance of entanglement. Perhaps, for example, the laboratory setup is somehow predetermining the spin-directions of the electrons before they are separated. This conjecture has presented physicists with an impasse: How could we ever know that some hidden mechanism wasn’t at work?

In 1964 a physicist named John Bell found a way around it. He wrote a beautiful paper demonstrating that, if an entanglement experiment worked reliably, a specific set of measurements could be made on the particles which produced a quantitative result that couldn’t be explained by any classical mechanism which might predetermine the spins before they were measured. Over the past half-century, many groups have used Bell’s Theorem in trying to affirm that quantum-mechanical entanglement is real. All the while, however, skeptics have pointed out that, in each experiment, there may have been subtle loopholes. It’s been possible, for example, that systems which were supposed to be separated may have actually been coupled in hidden ways.

Last week, a team of researchers led by a physicist named Ben Hensen, at Delft University of Technology, in the Netherlands, reported the results of an experiment designed to lay these concerns to rest. They performed simultaneous measurements on a pair of entangled electrons separated by 1.3 kilometers—far enough that no signal, even one travelling at the speed of light, could get from one detector to the other in time to interfere with their measurements. They also devised a way of independently checking that the electrons being measured were, in fact, entangled. Both these aspects of their experiment are significant and novel: they remove key loopholes which skeptics had argued might bias previous experiments. Needless to say, the new results agreed precisely with both the predictions of quantum theory and of Bell’s Theorem.

Entanglement now appears to be an empirically closed case—at least, until someone can convincingly argue that there is some loophole not ruled out by this experiment (which some physicists have already begun to do). If that happens, other researchers will inevitably attempt to produce an even better experiment in which Bell’s Theorem will be satisfied while the new loophole is ruled out. The cycle will repeat until there are no loopholes left—or until those that do remain seem so implausible that it isn’t worth the effort to explore them.

I say this with confidence because, even though these direct measurements of quantum spookiness are important to perform, we can already be sure that quantum mechanics is the correct description of the world at the smallest, most fundamental scales. In fact, we test that assumption every day. Most of our modern technology depends on it. The semiconductor transistors that govern the behavior of our cell phones, our computers, our cars, and many other electronic devices are based on quantum-mechanical principles associated with the electronics that drive their computing capability. Those principles hinge, indirectly, on the spookiness being measured explicitly in the Delft experiment. So, spooky or not, our lives in the modern world rely on quantum mechanics in many ways.

Entanglement is so spooky that it’s tempting, when thinking about it, to draw nonsensical conclusions. Deepak Chopra, for example, keeps implying that quantum mechanics means that objective reality doesn’t exist apart from conscious experience. The truth, however, is that consciousness is irrelevant to the act of measurement, which can be done by machines, or even by single photons. If consciousness matters, then the inner thoughts of the experimenter who operates the machines would also have to be reported when we write up the results of our experiments. We’d need to know whether they were daydreaming about sex, for example. We don’t. The machines can record data and print it out whether or not a person is in the room, and those printouts, which behave classically, don’t change when the humans come back.

Similarly, last week, the Pulitzer prize-winning writer Marilynne Robinson published an essay in which she challenges the nature and relevance of modern science. The essay argued that entanglement “raises fundamental questions about time and space, and therefore about causality.” She went on to say that this called into question the ability of science to explain reality as a whole. It’s easy to understand how Robinson arrived at this incorrect idea: when a measurement of one electron here can instantaneously affect the measurement of another electron on the opposite side of the universe, faster than the speed of light, it does seem as though causality has been thrown out the window.

But the lessons of quantum mechanics aren’t that simple. The truth is that nature contains a cosmic Catch-22. Consider our two experimenters—one located here on Earth, and the other stationed at the edge of the Milky Way. Separately, they measure the spins of their entangled electrons. Nothing about what they measure will point to a measurement going on thousands of light-years away. Each of them will measure their electrons spinning “up” fifty per cent of the time and “down” fifty per cent of the time. Nothing will suggest that the spins of their electrons are correlated with electrons anywhere else. The only way they can realize this is if they communicate with one another. But that communication can happen, at its very fastest, at the speed of light. Entanglement may be instantaneous, but it produces no signals that can be detected instantaneously. Its detection still follows the ordinary laws of cause and effect.

Quantum mechanics reveals that nature is indeed spooky at its smallest scales. If we are careful, we can detect that spookiness. But, happily, its presence doesn’t mean that all bets are off. The fundamental laws that govern the universe don’t disappear in a quantum haze. The strangest thing about entanglement may be that it fits so neatly into our broader understanding of the universe.

Lawrence M. Krauss is director of the Origins Project at Arizona State University. His newest book,  “The Greatest Story Ever Told… So Far,” will be released in 2016.

See:http://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/tangled-up-in-entanglement-quantum-mechanics?intcid=mod-latest

 

Texas: Publishers refuse to include creationism in science textbooks

Source: Examiner.com

Author: Michael Stone

“In a victory for science education and the children of Texas, publishers are refusing to include creationism in science textbooks despite fierce pressure from conservative Christians.

The Texas Freedom Network, a nonpartisan watchdog, released a statement Thursday, Oct. 17, declaring “All 14 publishers are refusing to water down or compromise instruction on evolution and climate change in their proposed new high school biology textbooks.”

The following is from a press release issued by the Texas Freedom Network announcing the news:

Materials submitted to the Texas Education Agency and examined by the Texas Freedom Network and university scientists show that publishers are resisting pressure to undermine instruction on evolution in their proposed new high school biology textbooks for public schools.

“This is a very welcome development for everyone who opposes teaching phony science about evolution in our kid’s public schools,” Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller said. “Texas parents can applaud these publishers for standing up to pressure from politicians and activists who want to put their personal beliefs ahead of giving Texas students a 21st-century science education.”

Conservative Christians on the Texas State Board of Education have been attempting to insert religious superstition into science textbooks for years by attempting to smuggle into the Texas science curriculum materials supportive of Biblical Creationism, also known as Intelligent Design.

Science advocates argue Creationism, or Intelligent Design, is not a legitimate scientific alternative to the theory of evolution. Indeed, critics would claim Biblical creationism is a religious superstition that does real harm to America – a symptom of a willful ignorance and an anti-intellectualism that thwarts scientific progress at home and humiliates America abroad.

Lawrence Krauss, theoretical physicist, cosmologist, best-selling author and Science and Public Policy Advocate argues teaching children creationism as a legitimate scientific alternative to the theory of evolution is a form of child abuse. Many rational people agree with Krauss.

Science is the key to our future, and if you don’t believe in science, then you’re holding everybody back. And it’s fine if you as an adult want to run around pretending or claiming that you don’t believe in evolution, but if we educate a generation of people who don’t believe in science, that’s a recipe for disaster. … The main idea in all of biology is evolution. To not teach it to our young people is wrong. – Bill Nye

For more political news, information and humor see Left Coast Lucy on Facebook. For more news, information and humor relevant to atheists, freethinkers, and secular humanists, see Progressive Secular Humanist Examiner on Facebook. On Twitter follow Progressive Examiner.

Emphasis Mine

see: http://www.examiner.com/article/texas-publishers-refuse-to-include-creationism-science-textbooks?CID=examiner_alerts_article

Asking Lawrence Krauss: How was the universe created? Read more: http://communities.washingtontimes.com/neighborhood/conscience-realist/2013/jan/1/asking-larence-krauss-how-was-universe-created/#ixzz2Gsnqi08C Follow us: @wtcommunities on Twitter

From: Washington Times

By: Joseph Cotto

“At one time or another, most people wonder exactly how our universe came into being.

Various religions and philosophers have offered explanations. It was not until physics began to achieve huge prestige in the 19th century that society began to look for empirically verifiable answers. Today, more progress than ever before is being made in unraveling the secrets of of the universe past, present, and future.

Lawrence Krauss is a theoretical physicist and bestselling author. His most recent book, A Universe from Nothing, is a response from the cutting edge of theoretical physics to that all-important question of how our universe burst into existence.

Here Dr. Krauss explains why so many scientific breakthroughs have occurred over the last several years, whether or not faith is compatible with modern science, how the universe might have been created, whether science supports the idea of an all-powerful creator, and much more.

Joseph F. Cotto: Science is beginning to answer many of the questions that have perplexed humanity throughout the ages. Why have so many breakthroughs taken place over the last several years?

Dr. Lawrence Krauss: Every time we open a new window on the universe we are surprised. Technology has allowed us in the past few decades to reach out to observe things we might never have thought possible, to take photos of the universe when it was less than 300,000 years old, to probe the fundamental structure of matter on scales a thousand times smaller than the size of a proton, to sequence the human genome. The expansion in our ability to probe the universe has been exponential, which is kind of poetic, since the universe itself appears to be expanding exponentially.

Cotto: Many people fear that science is answering too many questions too quickly. They claim that this will diminish the societal influence of religion. What is your opinion about this idea? 

Dr. Krauss: It would be fantastic if science diminished the societal influence of religion, since religion encourages people to force the universe to conform to their beliefs. Science forces beliefs to conform to the evidence of reality. That leads to much better policies for society.

Cotto: Across the world, billions rely on faith just to get them through the day. Said faith might be in the divine, another person, or a social construct. In your opinion, is faith compatible with modern science?

Dr. Krauss: Faith is not incompatible with science if it is based on the evidence of reality and does not contradict experiment or observation. The moment it does, it becomes incompatible. Note that science cannot disprove the existence of God anymore than it can disprove the possibility that a china teapot is orbiting Jupiter. But that doesn’t make either likely.

Cotto: The existence of God is an immensely controversial subject. From your standpoint, does modern science support the idea of an all-powerful creator?

Dr. Krauss: Absolutely not. No evidence that anything other than natural laws are required to have produced everything we see and much that we don’t. [There’s] no need for supernatural shenanigans, and no evidence of purpose to the universe. God is irrelevant to everything we measure in the universe, if she exists.

Cotto: In a summary sense, how did the universe come into existence?

Dr. Krauss: WE don’t know the answer of course, but we do know that quantum mechanics, combined with gravity, allows universes to pop into existence from nothing, and those that survive 13 billion years will end up looking a lot like ours.

Cotto: Evolution is a fact of life. Can the importance of its role throughout human history be understated?

Dr. Krauss: Evolution generally occurs on long timescales, far longer than recorded human history as a rule, although not always. Human evolution has occurred over millions of years, and of course the evolution of life in general over billions of years.

Cotto: Whether they should be rooted in theism or politics, various ideologies often attract droves of willing participants searching for a universal truth of some kind. While modern science is answering many difficult questions, does it offer any absolute truths?

Dr. Krauss: No, but there are no absolute truths. There are only absolute falsehoods. The beauty of science is that it does not claim to know the answers before it asks the questions. There is nothing wrong with not knowing. It means there is more to learn, and as I have said before, ignorance bothers me far less than the illusion of knowledge.

Cotto: Mythology often finds a greater degree of popularity than scientific conclusions do. In your view, is there a reason for this?

Dr. Krauss: Yes. People want to believe, we are hard wired to, and we have a long history of myths. In addition, religions have a vested interested in continuing the myths for their own survival.

Cotto: The search for meaning in life is a theme shared by all societies. Does science offer any concrete answers to the question of what life is all about?

Dr. Krauss: That Scienpresumes that life is about something. Maybe it isn’t.   Science allows for the possibility that there is no absolute purpose or meaning, that we make our own meaning in our lives. In my opinion that is far grander than some meaning imposed by some cosmic dictator in the sky.

Cotto: How did you become such a prominent academic? Tell us a bit about your life and career.

Dr. Krauss: That is a long story. The short version is that I worked hard, and have also been lucky, and I was inspired by many people who came before me, in particular by their writing. That is one of the reasons why I write popular books, to return the favor.

Read more: http://communities.washingtontimes.com/neighborhood/conscience-realist/2013/jan/1/asking-larence-krauss-how-was-universe-created/#ixzz2GsoaSM9L
Follow us: @wtcommunities on Twitter

Emphasis Mine

See: http://communities.washingtontimes.com/neighborhood/conscience-realist/2013/jan/1/asking-larence-krauss-how-was-universe-created/

 

The Consolation of Philosophy

From: Scientific American

By: Lawrence Krauss

“Recently, as a result of my most recent book, A Universe from Nothing, I participated in a wide-ranging and in-depth interview for The Atlantic on questions ranging from the nature of nothing to the best way to encourage people to learn about the fascinating new results in cosmology.  The interview was based on the transcript of a recorded conversation and was hard hitting (and, from my point of view, the interviewer was impressive in his depth), but my friend Dan Dennett recently wrote to me to say that it has been interpreted (probably because it included some verbal off-the-cuff remarks, rather than carefully crafted written responses) by a number of his colleagues and readers as implying a blanket condemnation of philosophy as a discipline, something I had not intended.

Out of respect for Dan and those whom I may have unjustly offended, and because the relationship between physics and philosophy seems to be an area which has drawn some attention of late, I thought I would take the opportunity to write down, as coherently as possible, my own views on several of these issues, as a physicist and cosmologist.  As I should also make clear (and as numerous individuals have not hesitated to comment upon already), I am not a philosopher, nor do I claim to be an expert on philosophy.   Because of a lifetime of activity in the field of theoretical physics, ranging from particle physics to general relativity to astrophysics, I do claim however to have some expertise in the impact of philosophy on my own field.  In any case, the level of my knowledge, and ignorance, will undoubtedly become clearer in what follows.

As both a general reader and as someone who is interested in ideas and culture, I have great respect for and have learned a great deal from a number of individuals who currently classify themselves as philosophers. Of course as a young person I read the classical philosophers, ranging from Plato to Descartes, but as an adult I have gained insights into the implications of brain functioning and developments inevolutionary psychology for understanding human behavior from colleagues such as Dan Dennett and Pat Churchland.  I have been forced to re-examine my own attitudes towards various ethical issues, from the treatment of animals to euthanasia, by the cogent and thoughtful writing of Peter Singer.   And reading the work of my friend A.C. Grayling has immeasurably heightened my understanding and appreciation of the human experience.

What I find common and so stimulating about the philosophical efforts of these intellectual colleagues is the way they thoughtfully reflect on human knowledge, amassed from empirical explorations in areas ranging from science to history, to clarify issues that are relevant to making decisions about how to function more effectively and happily as an individual, and as a member of a society.

As a practicing physicist however, the situation is somewhat different.  There, I, and most of the colleagues with whom I have discussed this matter, have found that philosophical speculations about physics and the nature of science are not particularly useful, and have had little or no impact upon progress in my field.  Even in several areas associated with what one can rightfully call the philosophy of science I have found the reflections of physicists to be more useful.  For example, on the nature of science and the scientific method, I have found the insights offered by scientists who have chosen to write concretely about their experience and reflections, from Jacob Bronowski, to Richard Feynman, to Francis Crick, to Werner Heisenberg, Albert Einstein, and Sir James Jeans, to have provided me with a better practical guide than the work of even the most significant philosophical writers of whom I am aware, such as Karl Popper and Thomas Kuhn.  I admit that this could primarily reflect of my own philosophical limitations, but I suspect this experience is more common than not among my scientific colleagues.

The one area of physics that has probably sparked the most ‘philosophical’ interest in recent times is the ‘measurement’ problem in quantum mechanics.  How one moves from the remarkable and completely non-intuitive microscopic world where quantum mechanical indeterminacy reigns supreme and particles are doing many apparently inconsistent things at the same time, and are not localized in space or time, to the ordered classical world of our experience where baseballs and cannonballs have well-defined trajectories, is extremely subtle and complicated and the issues involved have probably not been resolved to the satisfaction of all practitioners in the field.   And when one tries to apply the rules of quantum mechanics to an entire universe, in which a separation between observer and observed is not possible, the situation becomes even murkier.

However, even here, the most useful progress has been made, again in my experience, by physicists.  The work of individuals such as Jim Hartle, and Murray Gell-Mann, Yakir Aharonov, Asher Peres, John Bell and others like them, who have done careful calculations associated with quantum measurement, has led to great progress in our appreciation of the subtle and confusing issues of translating an underlying quantum reality into the classical world we observe.   There have been people who one can classify as philosophers who have contributed usefully to this discussion, such as Abner Shimony, but when they have, they have been essentially doing physics, and have published in physics journals (Shimony’s work as a physicist is the work I am aware of).  As far as the physical universe is concerned, mathematics and experiment, the tools of theoretical and experimental physics appear to be the only effective ways to address questions of principle.

Which brings me full circle to the question of nothing, and my own comments regarding the progress of philosophy in that regard.   When it comes to the real operational issues that govern our understanding of physical reality, ontological definitions of classical philosophers are, in my opinion, sterile.  Moreover, arguments based on authority, be it Aristotle, or Leibniz, are irrelevant.  In science, there are no authorities, and appeal to quotes from brilliant scholars who lived before we knew the Earth orbited the Sun, or that space can be curved, or that dark matter or dark energy exist do not generally inform our current understanding of nature.  Empirical explorations ultimately change our understanding of which questions are important and fruitful and which are not.

As a scientist, the fascination normally associated with the classically phrased question “why is there something rather than nothing?”, is really contained in a specific operational question.  That question can be phrased as follows:  How can a universe full of galaxies and stars, and planets and people, including philosophers, arise naturally from an initial condition in which none of these objects—no particles, no space, and perhaps no time—may have existed?  Put more succinctly perhaps: Why is there ‘stuff’, instead of empty space?  Why is there space at all?  There may be other ontological questions one can imagine but I think these are the ‘miracles’ of creation that are so non-intuitive and remarkable, and they are also the ‘miracles’ that physics has provided new insights about, and spurred by amazing discoveries, has changed the playing field of our knowledge.  That we can even have plausible answers to these questions is worth celebrating and sharing more broadly.

In this regard, there is a class of philosophers, some theologically inspired, who object to the very fact that scientists might presume to address any version of this fundamental ontological issue.  Recently one review of my book by such a philosopher, which I think motivated the questions in the Atlantic interview, argued not only that one particular version of the nothing described by modern physics was not relevant.  Even more surprisingly, this author claimed with apparent authority (surprising because the author apparently has some background in physics) something that is simply wrong:  that the laws of physics can never dynamically determine which particles and fields exist and whether space itself exists, or more generally what the nature of existence might be.  But that is precisely what ispossible in the context of modern quantum field theory in curved spacetime, where a phenomenon called ‘spontaneous symmetry breaking’ can determine dynamically which forces manifest themselves on large scales and which particles exist as stable states, and whether space itself can grow exponentially or not.  Within the context of quantum gravity the same is presumably true for which sorts of universes can appear and persist. Within the context of string theory, a similar phenomenon might ultimately determine (indeed if the theory is ever to become predictive, it must determine) why universes might spontaneously arise with 4 large spacetime dimensions and not 5 or 6.   One cannot tell from the review if the author actually read the book (since no mention of the relevant cosmology is made) or simply misunderstood it.

Theologians and both Christian and Muslim apologists have unfortunately since picked up on the ill-conceived claims of that review to argue that physics can therefore never really address the most profound ‘theological’ questions regarding our existence.   (To be fair, I regret sometimes lumping all philosophers in with theologians because theology, aside from those parts that involve true historical or linguistic scholarship, is not credible field of modern scholarship.)  It may be true that we can never fully resolved the infinite regression of ‘why questions’ that result whenever one assumes, a priori, that our universe must have some pre-ordained purpose.  Or, to frame things in a more theological fashion: ‘Why is our Universe necessary rather than contingent?’.

One answer to this latter question can come from physics.  If all possibilities—all universes with all laws—can arise dynamically, and if anything that is not forbidden must arise, then this implies that both nothing and something must both exist, and we will of necessity find ourselves amidst something.  A universe like ours is, in this context, guaranteed to arise dynamically, and we are here because we could not ask the question if our universe weren’t here.   It is in this sense that I argued that the seemingly profound question of why there is something rather than nothing might be actually no more profound than asking why some flowers are red or some are blue.    I was surprised that this very claim was turned around by the reviewer as if it somehow invalidated this possible physical resolution of the something versus nothing conundrum.

Instead, sticking firm to the classical ontological definition of nothing as “the absence of anything”—whatever this means—so essential to theological, and some subset of philosophical intransigence, strikes me as essentially sterile, backward, useless and annoying.   If “something” is a physical quantity, to be determined by experiment, then so is ‘nothing’.  It may be that even an eternal multiverse in which all universes and laws of nature arise dynamically will still leave open some ‘why’ questions, and therefore never fully satisfy theologians and some philosophers.   But focusing on that issue and ignoring the remarkable progress we can make toward answering perhaps the most miraculous aspect of the something from nothing question—understanding why there is ‘stuff’ and not empty space, why there is space at all, and how both stuff and space and even the forces we measure could arise from no stuff and no space—is, in my opinion, impotent, and useless.   It was in that sense—the classical ontological claim about the nature of some abstract nothing, compared to the physical insights about this subject that have developed—that I made the provocative, and perhaps inappropriately broad statement that this sort of philosophical speculation has not led to any progress over the centuries.

What I tried to do in my writing on this subject is carefully attempt to define precisely what scientists operationally mean by nothing, and to differentiate between what we know, and what is merely plausible, and what we might be able to probe in the future, and what we cannot.  The rest is, to me, just noise.

So, to those philosophers I may have unjustly offended by seemingly blanket statements about the field, I apologize.  I value your intelligent conversation and the insights of anyone who thinks carefully about our universe and who is willing to guide their thinking based on the evidence of reality.   To those who wish to impose their definition of reality abstractly, independent of emerging empirical knowledge and the changing questions that go with it, and call that either philosophy or theology, I would say this:  Please go on talking to each other, and let the rest of us get on with the goal of learning more about nature.

Emphasis Mine

see:http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=the-consolation-of-philos

Has Physics Made Philosophy and Religion Obsolete?

From: The Atlantic

By:Ross Andersen

It is hard to know how our future descendants will regard the little sliver of history that we live in. It is hard to know what events will seem important to them, what the narrative of now will look like to the twenty-fifth century mind. We tend to think of our time as one uniquely shaped by the advance of technology, but more and more I suspect that this will be remembered as an age of cosmology—as the moment when the human mind first internalized the cosmos that gave rise to it. Over the past century, since the discovery that our universe is expanding, science has quietly begun to sketch the structure of the entire cosmos, extending its explanatory powers across a hundred billion galaxies, to the dawn of space and time itself. It is breathtaking to consider how quickly we have come to understand the basics of everything from star formation to galaxy formation to universe formation. And now, equipped with the predictive power of quantum physics, theoretical physicists are beginning to push even further, into new universes and new physics, into controversies once thought to be squarely within the domain of theology or philosophy.

In January, Lawrence Krauss, a theoretical physicist and Director of the Origins Institute at Arizona State University, published A Universe From Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather Than Nothing, a book that, as its title suggests, purports to explain how something—and not just any something, but the entire universe—could have emerged from nothing, the kind of nothing implicated by quantum field theory. But before attempting to do so, the book first tells the story of modern cosmology, whipping its way through the big bang to microwave background radiation and the discovery of dark energy. It’s a story that Krauss is well positioned to tell; in recent years he has emerged as an unusually gifted explainer of astrophysics. One of his lectures has been viewed over a million times on YouTube and his cultural reach extends to some unlikely places—last year Miley Cyrus came under fire when she tweeted a quote from Krauss that some Christians found offensive. Krauss’ book quickly became a bestseller, drawing raves from popular atheists like Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins, the latter of which even compared it to The Origin of Species for the way its final chapters were supposed to finally upend “last trump card of the theologian.”
By early spring, media coverage of “A Universe From Nothing” seemed to have run its course, but then on March 23rd the New York Times ran a blistering review of the book, written by David Albert, a philosopher of physics from Columbia University. Albert, who has a PhD in theoretical physics, argued that Krauss’ “nothing” was in fact a something and did so in uncompromising terms:

“The particular, eternally persisting, elementary physical stuff of the world, according to the standard presentations of relativistic quantum field theories, consists (unsurprisingly) of relativistic quantum fields… they have nothing whatsoever to say on the subject of where those fields came from, or of why the world should have consisted of the particular kinds of fields it does, or of why it should have consisted of fields at all, or of why there should have been a world in the first place. Period. Case closed. End of story.”

Because the story of modern cosmology has such deep implications for the way that we humans see ourselves and the universe, it must be told correctly and without exaggeration-–in the classroom, in the press and in works of popular science. To see two academics, both versed in theoretical physics, disagreeing so intensely on such a fundamental point is troubling. Not because scientists shouldn’t disagree with each other, but because here they’re disagreeing about a claim being disseminated to the public as a legitimate scientific discovery. Readers of popular science often assume that what they’re reading is backed by a strong consensus. Having recently interviewed Krauss for a different project, I reached out to him to see if he was interested in discussing Albert’s criticisms with me. He said that he was, and mentioned that he would be traveling to New York on April 20th to speak at a memorial service for Christopher Hitchens. As it happened, I was also due to be in New York that weekend and so, last Friday, we were able to sit down for the extensive, and at times contentious, conversation that follows.

I know that you’re just coming from Christopher Hitchens’ memorial service. How did that go?
Krauss: It was a remarkable event for a remarkable man, and I felt very fortunate to be there. I was invited to give the opening presentation in front of all of these literary figures and dignitaries of various sorts, and so I began the only way I think you can begin, and that’s with music from Monty Python. That got me over my initial stage fright and my concern about what to say about someone as extraordinary as Christopher. I was able to talk about a lot of the aspects of Christopher that people may not know about, including the fact that he was fascinated by science. And I also got to talk about what it felt like to be his friend.
I closed with an anecdote, a true story about the last time I was with him. I was reading the New York Times at his kitchen table, and there was an article about the ongoing effort to keep Catholic students at elite colleges like Yale from losing their faith. The article said something like “faced with Nietzsche, coed dorms, Hitchens, and beer pong, students are likely to stray.” There are two really amazing aspects of that. For one, to be so culturally ubiquitous that you can be mentioned in a sentence like that without any further explanation is pretty exceptional. But also to be sandwiched between “Nietzsche” and “beer pong” is an honor that very few of us can ever aspire to.
I want to start with a general question about the relationship between philosophy and physics. There has been a fair amount of sniping between these two disciplines over the past few years. Why the sudden, public antagonism between philosophy and physics? 
Krauss: That’s a good question. I expect it’s because physics has encroached on philosophy. Philosophy used to be a field that had content, but then “natural philosophy” became physics, and physics has only continued to make inroads. Every time there’s a leap in physics, it encroaches on these areas that philosophers have carefully sequestered away to themselves, and so then you have this natural resentment on the part of philosophers. This sense that somehow physicists, because they can’t spell the word “philosophy,” aren’t justified in talking about these things, or haven’t thought deeply about them—
Is that really a claim that you see often?
Krauss: It is. Philosophy is a field that, unfortunately, reminds me of that old Woody Allen joke, “those that can’t do, teach, and those that can’t teach, teach gym.” And the worst part of philosophy is the philosophy of science; the only people, as far as I can tell, that read work by philosophers of science are other philosophers of science. It has no impact on physics what so ever, and I doubt that other philosophers read it because it’s fairly technical. And so it’s really hard to understand what justifies it. And so I’d say that this tension occurs because people in philosophy feel threatened, and they have every right to feel threatened, because science progresses and philosophy doesn’t.
KraussLawrence_4177.JPGLawrence Krauss, author of “A Universe From Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather Than Nothing”
On that note, you were recently quoted as saying that philosophy “hasn’t progressed in two thousand years.” But computer science, particularly research into artificial intelligence was to a large degree built on foundational work done by philosophers in logic and other formal languages. And certainly philosophers like John Rawls have been immensely influential in fields like political science and public policy. Do you view those as legitimate achievements?
Krauss: Well, yeah, I mean, look I was being provocative, as I tend to do every now and then in order to get people’s attention. There are areas of philosophy that are important, but I think of them as being subsumed by other fields. In the case of descriptive philosophy you have literature or logic, which in my view is really mathematics. Formal logic is mathematics, and there are philosophers like Wittgenstein that are very mathematical, but what they’re really doing is mathematics—it’s not talking about things that have affected computer science, it’s mathematical logic. And again, I think of the interesting work in philosophy as being subsumed by other disciplines like history, literature, and to some extent political science insofar as ethics can be said to fall under that heading. To me what philosophy does best is reflect on knowledge that’s generated in other areas.
I’m not sure that’s right. I think that in some cases philosophy actually generates new fields. Computer science is a perfect example. Certainly philosophical work in logic can be said to have been subsumed by computer science, but subsumed might be the wrong word—
Krauss: Well, you name me the philosophers that did key work for computer science; I think of John Von Neumann and other mathematicians, and—
But Bertrand Russell paved the way for Von Neumann.
Krauss: But Bertrand Russell was a mathematician. I mean, he was a philosopher too and he was interested in the philosophical foundations of mathematics, but by the way, when he wrote about the philosophical foundations of mathematics, what did he do? He got it wrong.
But Einstein got it wrong, too—
Krauss: Sure, but the difference is that scientists are really happy when they get it wrong, because it means that there’s more to learn. And look, one can play semantic games, but I think that if you look at the people whose work really pushed the computer revolution from Turing to Von Neumann and, you’re right, Bertrand Russell in some general way, I think you’ll find it’s the mathematicians who had the big impact. And logic can certainly be claimed to be a part of philosophy, but to me the content of logic is mathematical.
Do you find this same tension between theoretical and empirical physics?
Krauss: Sometimes, but it shouldn’t be there. Physics is an empirical science. As a theoretical physicist I can tell you that I recognize that it’s the experiment that drives the field, and it’s very rare to have it go the other way; Einstein is of course the obvious exception, but even he was guided by observation. It’s usually the universe that’s surprising us, not the other way around.

“It’s usually the universe that’s surpising us, not the other way around.”

Moving on to your book “A Universe From Nothing,” what did you hope to accomplish when you set out to write it?
Krauss: Every time I write a book, I try and think of a hook. People are interested in science, but they don’t always know they’re interested in science, and so I try to find a way to get them interested. Teaching and writing, to me, is really just seduction; you go to where people are and you find something that they’re interested in and you try and use that to convince them that they should be interested in what you have to say.
The religious question “why is there something rather than nothing,” has been around since people have been around, and now we’re actually reaching a point where science is beginning to address that question. And so I figured I could use that question as a way to celebrate the revolutionary changes that we’ve achieved in refining our picture of the universe. I didn’t write the book to attack religion, per se. The purpose of the book is to point out all of these amazing things that we now know about the universe. Reading some of the reactions to the book, it seems like you automatically become strident the minute you try to explain something naturally.
Richard Dawkins wrote the afterword for the book—and I thought it was pretentious at the time, but I just decided to go with it—where he compares the book to The Origin of Species. And of course as a scientific work it doesn’t some close to The Origin of Species, which is one of the greatest scientific works ever produced. And I say that as a physicist; I’ve often argued that Darwin was a greater scientist than Einstein. But there is one similarity between my book and Darwin’s—before Darwin life was a miracle; every aspect of life was a miracle, every species was designed, etc. And then what Darwin showed was that simple laws could, in principle, plausibly explain the incredible diversity of life. And while we don’t yet know the ultimate origin of life, for most people it’s plausible that at some point chemistry became biology. What’s amazing to me is that we’re now at a point where we can plausibly argue that a universe full of stuff came from a very simple beginning, the simplest of all beginnings: nothing. That’s been driven by profound revolutions in our understanding of the universe, and that seemed to me to be something worth celebrating, and so what I wanted to do was use this question to get people to face this remarkable universe that we live in.
school_of_athens2.jpg“Philosophy hasn’t progressed in two thousand years.”
Your book argues that physics has definitively demonstrated how something can come from nothing. Do you mean that physics has explained how particles can emerge from so-called empty space, or are you making a deeper claim? 
Krauss: I’m making a deeper claim, but at the same time I think you’re overstating what I argued. I don’t think I argued that physics has definitively shown how something could come from nothing; physics has shown how plausible physical mechanisms might cause this to happen. I try to be intellectually honest in everything that I write, especially about what we know and what we don’t know. If you’re writing for the public, the one thing you can’t do is overstate your claim, because people are going to believe you. They see I’m a physicist and so if I say that protons are little pink elephants, people might believe me. And so I try to be very careful and responsible. We don’t know how something can come from nothing, but we do know some plausible ways that it might.
But I am certainly claiming a lot more than just that. That it’s possible to create particles from no particles is remarkable—that you can do that with impunity, without violating the conservation of energy and all that, is a remarkable thing. The fact that “nothing,” namely empty space, is unstable is amazing. But I’ll be the first to say that empty space as I’m describing it isn’t necessarily nothing, although I will add that it was plenty good enough for Augustine and the people who wrote the Bible. For them an eternal empty void was the definition of nothing, and certainly I show that that kind of nothing ain’t nothing anymore.
But debating physics with Augustine might not be an interesting thing to do in 2012.
Krauss: It might be more interesting than debating some of the moronic philosophers that have written about my book. Given what we know about quantum gravity, or what we presume about quantum gravity, we know you can create space from where there was no space. And so you’ve got a situation where there were no particles in space, but also there was no space. That’s a lot closer to “nothing.”
But of course then people say that’s not “nothing,” because you can create something from it. They ask, justifiably, where the laws come from. And the last part of the book argues that we’ve been driven to this notion—a notion that I don’t like—that the laws of physics themselves could be an environmental accident. On that theory, physics itself becomes an environmental science, and the laws of physics come into being when the universe comes into being. And to me that’s the last nail in the coffin for “nothingness.”
It sounds like you’re arguing that ‘nothing’ is really a quantum vacuum, and that a quantum vacuum is unstable in such a way as to make the production of matter and space inevitable. But a quantum vacuum has properties. For one, it is subject to the equations of quantum field theory. Why should we think of it as nothing?
Krauss: That would be a legitimate argument if that were all I was arguing. By the way it’s a nebulous term to say that something is a quantum vacuum in this way. That’s another term that these theologians and philosophers have started using because they don’t know what the hell it is, but it makes them sound like they know what they’re talking about. When I talk about empty space, I am talking about a quantum vacuum, but when I’m talking about no space whatsoever, I don’t see how you can call it a quantum vacuum. It’s true that I’m applying the laws of quantum mechanics to it, but I’m applying it to nothing, to literally nothing. No space, no time, nothing. There may have been meta-laws that created it, but how you can call that universe that didn’t exist “something” is beyond me. When you go to the level of creating space, you have to argue that if there was no space and no time, there wasn’t any pre-existing quantum vacuum. That’s a later stage.
Even if you accept this argument that nothing is not nothing, you have to acknowledge that nothing is being used in a philosophical sense. But I don’t really give a damn about what “nothing” means to philosophers; I care about the “nothing” of reality. And if the “nothing” of reality is full of stuff, then I’ll go with that.

“But I don’t really give a damn what “nothing” means to philosophers; I care about the “nothing” of reality.”

But I don’t have to accept that argument, because space didn’t exist in the state I’m talking about, and of course then you’ll say that the laws of quantum mechanics existed, and that those are something. But I don’t know what laws existed then. In fact, most of the laws of nature didn’t exist before the universe was created; they were created along with the universe, at least in the multiverse picture. The forces of nature, the definition of particles—all these things come into existence with the universe, and in a different universe, different forces and different particles might exist. We don’t yet have the mathematics to describe a multiverse, and so I don’t know what laws are fixed. I also don’t have a quantum theory of gravity, so I can’t tell you for certain how space comes into existence, but to make the argument that a quantum vacuum that has particles is the same as one that doesn’t have particles is to not understand field theory.
I’m not sure that anyone is arguing that they’re the same thing–
Krauss: Well, I read a moronic philosopher who did a review of my book in the New York Times who somehow said that having particles and no particles is the same thing, and it’s not. The quantum state of the universe can change and it’s dynamical. He didn’t understand that when you apply quantum field theory to a dynamic universe, things change and you can go from one kind of vacuum to another. When you go from no particles to particles, it means something.
I think the problem for me, coming at this as a layperson, is that when you’re talking about the explanatory power of science, for every stage where you have a “something,”—even if it’s just a wisp of something, or even just a set of laws—there has to be a further question about the origins of that “something.” And so when I read the title of your book, I read it as “questions about origins are over.”
Krauss: Well, if that hook gets you into the book that’s great. But in all seriousness, I never make that claim. In fact, in the preface I tried to be really clear that you can keep asking “Why?” forever. At some level there might be ultimate questions that we can’t answer, but if we can answer the “How?” questions, we should, because those are the questions that matter. And it may just be an infinite set of questions, but what I point out at the end of the book is that the multiverse may resolve all of those questions. From Aristotle’s prime mover to the Catholic Church’s first cause, we’re always driven to the idea of something eternal. If the multiverse really exists, then you could have an infinite object—infinite in time and space as opposed to our universe, which is finite. That may beg the question as to where the multiverse came from, but if it’s infinite, it’s infinite. You might not be able to answer that final question, and I try to be honest about that in the book. But if you can show how a set of physical mechanisms can bring about our universe, that itself is an amazing thing and it’s worth celebrating. I don’t ever claim to resolve that infinite regress of why-why-why-why-why; as far as I’m concerned it’s turtles all the way down. The multiverse could explain it by being eternal, in the same way that God explains it by being eternal, but there’s a huge difference: the multiverse is well motivated and God is just an invention of lazy minds.
In the past you’ve spoken quite eloquently about the Multiverse, this idea that our universe might be one of many universes, perhaps an infinite number. In your view does theoretical physics give a convincing account of how such a structure could come to exist?
Krauss: In certain ways, yes—in other ways, no. There are a variety of multiverses that people in physics talk about. The most convincing one derives from something called inflation, which we’re pretty certain happened because it produces effects that agree with almost everything we can observe. From what we know about particle physics, it seems quite likely that the universe underwent a period of exponential expansion early on. But inflation, insofar as we understand it, never ends—it only ends in certain regions and then those regions become a universe like ours. You can show that in an inflationary universe, you produce a multiverse, you produce an infinite number of causally separated universes over time, and the laws of physics are different in each one. There’s a real mechanism where you can calculate it.
And all of that comes, theoretically, from a very small region of space that becomes infinitely large over time. There’s a calculable multiverse; it’s almost required for inflation-–it’s very hard to get around it. All the evidence suggests that our universe resulted from a period of inflation, and it’s strongly suggestive that well beyond our horizon there are other universes that are being created out of inflation, and that most of the multiverse is still expanding exponentially.
multiverse.pngAn artist’s rendering of the multiverse.
Is there an empirical frontier for this? How do we observe a multiverse?
Krauss: Right. How do you tell that there’s a multiverse if the rest of the universes are outside your causal horizon? It sounds like philosophy. At best. But imagine that we had a fundamental particle theory that explained why there are three generations of fundamental particles, and why the proton is two thousand times heavier than the electron, and why there are four forces of nature, etc. And it also predicted a period of inflation in the early universe, and it predicts everything that we see and you can follow it through the entire evolution of the early universe to see how we got here. Such a theory might, in addition to predicting everything we see, also predict a host of universes that we don’t see. If we had such a theory, the accurate predictions it makes about what we can see would also make its predictions about what we can’t see extremely likely. And so I could see empirical evidence internal to this universe validating the existence of a multiverse, even if we could never see it directly.
You have said that your book is meant to describe “the remarkable revolutions that have taken place in our understanding of the universe over the past 50 years–revolutions that should be celebrated as the pinnacle of our intellectual experience.” I think that’s a worthy project and, like you, I find it lamentable that some of physics’ most extraordinary discoveries have yet to fully penetrate our culture. But might it be possible to communicate the beauty of those discoveries without tacking on an assault on previous belief systems, especially when those belief systems aren’t necessarily scientific? 
Krauss: Well, yes. I’m sympathetic to your point in one sense, and I’ve had this debate with Richard Dawkins; I’ve often said to him that if you want people to listen to you, the best way is not to go up to them and say, “You’re stupid.” Somehow it doesn’t get through.
It’s a fine line and it’s hard to tell where to fall on this one. What drove me to write this book was this discovery that the nature of “nothing” had changed, that we’ve discovered that “nothing” is almost everything and that it has properties. That to me is an amazing discovery. So how do I frame that? I frame it in terms of this question about something coming from nothing. And part of that is a reaction to these really pompous theologians who say, “out of nothing, nothing comes,” because those are just empty words. I think at some point you need to provoke people. Science is meant to make people uncomfortable. And whether I went too far on one side or another of that line is an interesting question, but I suspect that if I can get people to be upset about that issue, then on some level I’ve raised awareness of it.
The unfortunate aspect of it is, and I’ve come to realize this recently, is that some people feel they don’t even need to read the book, because they think I’ve missed the point of the fundamental theological question. But I suspect that those people weren’t open to it anyway. I think Steven Weinberg said it best when he said that science doesn’t make it impossible to believe in God, it just makes it possible to not believe in God. That’s a profoundly important point, and to the extent that cosmology is bringing us to a place where we can address those very questions, it’s undoubtedly going to make people uncomfortable. It was a judgment call on my part and I can’t go back on it, so it’s hard to know.
You’ve developed this wonderful ability to translate difficult scientific concepts into language that can enlighten, and even inspire a layperson. There are people in faith communities who are genuinely curious about physics and cosmology, and your book might be just the thing to quench and multiply that curiosity. But I worry that by framing these discoveries in language that is in some sense borrowed from the culture war, that you run the risk of shrinking the potential audience for them—and that could ultimately be a disservice to the ideas. 
Krauss: Ultimately, it might be. I’ve gone to these fundamentalist colleges and I’ve gone to Fox News and it’s interesting, the biggest impact I’ve ever had is when I said, “you don’t have to be an atheist to believe in evolution.” I’ve had young kids come up to me and say that affected them deeply. So yes it’s nice to point that out, but I actually think that if you read my book I never say that we know all the answers, I say that it’s pompous to say that we can’t know the answers. And so yeah I think that maybe there will be some people who are craving this stuff and who won’t pick up my book because of the way I’ve framed it, but at the same time I do think that people need to be aware that they can be brave enough to ask the question “Is it possible to understand the universe without God?” And so you’re right that I’m going to lose some people, but I’m hoping that at the same time I’ll gain some people who are going to be brave enough to come out of the closet and ask that question. And that’s what amazes me, that nowadays when you simply ask the question you’re told that you’re offending people.
But let me bring that back full circle. You opened this conversation talking about seduction. You’re not giving an account of seduction right now. 
Krauss: That’s true, but let me take it back full circle to Hitchens. What Christopher had was charm, humor, wit and culture as weapons against nonsense, and in my own small way what I try and do in my books is exactly that. I try and infuse them with humor and culture and that’s the seduction part. And in this case the seduction might be causing people to ask, “How can he say that? How can he have the temerity to suggest that it’s possible to get something from nothing? Let me see what’s wrong with these arguments.” If I’d just titled the book “A Marvelous Universe,” not as many people would have been attracted to it. But it’s hard to know. I’m acutely aware of this seduction problem, and my hope is that what I can do is get people to listen long enough to where I can show some of what’s going on, and at the same time make them laugh.

Emphasis Mine

see:

First They Came After Science Teachers for Evolution. Now Let’s Defend Them on Climate Change

From AlterNet, sourced from  Booman Tribune.

N.B.: We, the 99%, need Church State Separation more than ever!

By: Steven D.

“In state after state, school boards for various reasons (ideological, political, religious, etc.) have objected to science being taught. We are all well aware of the struggles of biology teachers regarding their ability to properly teach their students about evolution. However, the science of climate change is also under attack from many of the same school boards, political ideologues, religious zealots and also from propaganda funded my major fossil fuel companies.

“Critics of the teaching of evolution in the nation’s classrooms are gaining ground in some states by linking the issue to global warming, arguing that dissenting views on both scientific subjects should be taught in public schools,” reported The New York Times (March 3, 2010). “Wherever there is a battle over evolution now,” Lawrence M. Krauss told the Times, “there is a secondary battle to diminish other hot-button issues like Big Bang and, increasingly, climate change. […]

NCSE’s Joshua Rosenau told the Times that he began to notice the linkage after the 2005 decision in Selman v. Cobb County. At issue was a disclaimer about evolution affixed to textbooks; although the text of the disclaimer was not religious, it was held to be unconstitutional because it endorsed the creationist view that evolution is a problematic theory lacking an adequate foundation. “By insisting that global warming also be debated, deniers of evolution can argue that they are simply championing academic freedom in general.”

Science teachers are increasingly under attack for teaching the overwhelming consensus view that (1) climate change is occurring due to global warming, and (2) Human activity, especially the burning of carbon based fuels such as coal, gas and oil which emit greenhouse gases, is the primary basis for that change. And once again, a subject that should be apolitical has become a political controversy because of the Republican party’s whole-hearted embrace of anyone who attacks the science of climate research, whether for economic or religious purposes.

Where once Newt Gingrich, John McCain and Mitt Romney were willing to acknowledge global warming the importance of addressing the issues we face that are a direct cause of our reliance on fossil fuels for energy, now it is next to impossible (outside of the state of Maine perhaps) to find a Republican politician who will publicly state that climate science researchers are not liberal dogmatic money grubbing conspirators out to destroy our economy, our nation and our very way of life. Local Republicans and fundamentalists feel emboldened to challenge climate science instruction in our schools and attack teachers:

“It’s very difficult when we, as science teachers, are just trying to present scientific facts,”says Kathryn Currie, head of the [Los Alamitos High School’s] science department. And science educators around the country say such attacks are becoming all too familiar. They see climate science now joining evolution as an inviting target for those who accuse “liberal” teachers of forcing their “beliefs” upon a captive audience of impressionable children. […]

… An informal survey this spring of 800 NESTA members found that climate change was second only to evolution in triggering protests from parents and school administrators. One teacher reported being told by school administrators not to teach climate change after a parent threatened to come to class and make a scene. Online message boards for science teachers tell similar tales …

“There seems to be a lynch-mob hate against any teacher trying to teach climate change,”says Andrew Milbauer, an environmental sciences teacher at Conserve School, a private boarding school in Land O’Lakes, Wisconsin.

These teachers simply want to present the objective factual basis for human-made climate change. Yet they are being painted as the “bad guys” by the energy industry and local politicos who see benefits from ad hominum assaults on teachers and on the researchers who discovered the link between human activity and global warming. And the result is that our children are lagging behind the rest of the world in science education:

[National Math and Science Initiative] RESPONSE [to declining science achievement among U.S. Students]: In a world that is increasingly dependent on science, we are failing to educate our kids in science. That ís putting them at risk and putting our country at risk, said Tom Luce, CEO of the National Math and Science Initiative. “We need to do much more to engage our students in the sciences. It can be done if we make science and math a priority — NMSI is already proving students can meet this challenge by using programs that have hard data showing they work.

The problem we face is that powerful and influential economic, political and religious forces do not want our children to be properly educated in science. Each of them have their reasons, but the end result is the same: Science teachers are being forced to navigate a minefield of ginned up phony controversies and put the very careers as educators at risk in order to simply teach the facts. Fortunately, at long last, The National Center for Science Education has stepped up to proved aid and assistance to our nation’s science teachers, with a program dedicated to helping teachers confront the objections of right wing attacks on their profession and their ability to teach their students about climate issues.

The Oakland-based National Center for Science Education (NCSE) has announced that it will now offer support to teachers facing resistance to climate science in the classroom, similar to their long-standing work to keep the instruction of evolution in schools. “We’ve already had a couple of calls along the lines of, ‘I know you guys do evolution, but I’ve got this problem with [teaching] climate change and do you have any suggestions for me,’” said Dr. Eugenie Scott, executive director of NSCE.

Scott says parents often argue that schools should teach both sides of a controversial scientific issue. But she doesn’t consider the fundamental conclusions of climate science to be controversial. “The idea that scientific topics that are well grounded in basic science, like evolution or climate change, should be balanced, or that all views should be taught, is not one that is very scientifically or pedagogically supportable,” said Scott. […]

The Center’s approach to dealing with these issues has always been local. “We provide information to people in communities,” Scott emphasized. “We get local people to appear at school board meetings because all politics is local and this is politics.” The Center’s staff isn’t nearly big enough to fly around the country defending climate science in 1,500 school districts. So it provides support to teachers who ask for it. “Teachers in general are conflict-averse; they just want to do their jobs,” explained Scott. Unfortunately that means that it is often easier for a teacher to avoid the issue completely than to stand up for the climate science.

Unfortunately, NCSE is a small non-profit organization that lacks the resources or media access of the Climate denial industry. An industry heavily financed by — guess who — the Koch brothers, among others.

Who’s behind a multi-million dollar campaign to seed doubt about climate change? It’s not just Exxon and Chevron—it’s also Koch Industries, an oil and gas giant that most people have never heard of, according to a new report from Greenpeace. Koch’s extensive funding of anti-climate work makes it the “financial kingpin of climate science denial and clean energy opposition,” says Greenpeace.

The Kansas-based company and its affiliates and foundations spent almost $25 million on “organizations of the ‘climate denial machine'” between 2005 and 2008, according to the report. Koch Industries and the Koch family also spent $37.9 million between 2006 and 2009. “Although Koch intentionally stays out of the public eye, it is now playing a quiet but dominant role in a high-profile national policy debate on global warming,” the report concludes.

So, Executive Director of the NCSE has made a direct appeal for our help at Real Climate, the leading climate science bog on the internet. Here is the text of the appeal that Eugenie Scott, speaking on behalf of the NCSE climate change initiative:

Long a defender of the teaching of evolution, the National Center for Science Education has recently launched an initiative to support and defend the teaching of climate change science. The “support” part has challenges all its own. Unlike evolution, which easily fits into biology and other life science courses, climate science spans multiple disciplines and can fall through disciplinary cracks in biology, chemistry and physics, or appear briefly in more specialized disciplines like ecology or Earth sciences. Moreover, climate science is complex and often non-intuitive, and students (and all too often teachers) stumble over misinformation and misconceptions that are hard to overcome. Many educational institutions are wrestling with how to support climate science in the K-12 curriculum.

But the “defend” part is where NCSE will make a unique contribution. Our experience over the decades helping teachers and school boards resolve the problems that have arisen over the teaching of evolution should stand us in good stead in helping them deal with this newer “controversial science”. Of course, there are many perspectives affecting the objections to climate science education, and each requires its own response.

Some of the denial is literal (It’s not happening! The science is bad!), some of it may be interpretive (it’s maybe happening but people aren’t to blame), and some of it stems more from the implications of climate change (it’s happening and maybe humans are responsible, but someone else is to blame and/or there’s nothing I can do about it). We’re going to help teachers understand where pressure against climate science education comes from, as the first step in helping them construct a response. From the evolution education controversy we learned long ago that one does not solve these problems merely by piling on more or better science: the underlying, motivating issues must be addressed. The science is essential, but not sufficient.

Climate change education should be an integral part of science education. Students should graduate from high school and certainly college with at least a basic understanding of the foundational concepts of climate science so they can understand human activities and how they are impacting climate and other aspects of the earth system.

This is no small task, and obviously NCSE as a relatively small non-profit can only do so much. We need your help.

We have been successful because we marshal allies, like scientists, teachers, parents, and other citizens, at the grassroots. NCSE’s success over recent decades in defending the teaching of evolution has been due in large measure to scientists and others who are willing to support good science education locally and at the state level. We also need scientists to provide us with their scientific expertise.

If you are a climate scientist, please give us your contact information so we can consult with you. Also, your contact information will be helpful to us if something occurs in your region or state where we need a scientist to write a letter, testify before a committee, support a teacher, or help in some other way.

Of course, an obvious way you can help is to join NCSE, but even if you don’t, your expertise will be helpful to us.

Visit our website, and contact our new Programs and Policy Director, Mark McCaffrey, who will be helping spearhead the new initiative, to let us know you support our effort. Teachers will thank you.

Even if you are not a climate scientist you can help with your donations. I know there are many worthy causes that cry out for our attention and our money, but to my mind it is hard to imagine a cause for which support is more critical. The future of our children is at stake as well as the future of our planet. If we allow the Luddites ion the right to prevent science teachers from doing their jobs, we will surely ultimately end up with a poorer economy, a more polluted environment, a more ignorant electorate and a tragic loss for future generations of Americans who will need all the knowledge we can give them so that they can work to prevent or at least ameliorate the climate catastrophes to come.

We have all seen the beginning of such disasters in the extreme floods, droughts, storms, tornadoes, heat wave, drought and famine that stalks our planet in this second decade of the 21st Century. And by beginning I mean just that. The effects of future increases in greenhouse gas emissions will result in catastrophes far worse than any to which we have borne witness to date. Wars, famines, massive migrations and disruptions, deaths from disease and lack of clean water, or lack of water at all, storms so immense that they will make today’s seem insignificant in comparison, coastal erosion and ocean acidification — all of these things are in our future. We need our children prepared, and the way to do that is let our science teachers teach the truth about climate change without fear of losing their jobs.

So please, if you can help the National Center for Science Education in every way you can. Thank you.”

Emphasis Mine

see:http://www.alternet.org/newsandviews/article/776434/first_they_came_after_science_teachers_for_evolution._now_let%27s_defend_them_on_climate_change/#paragraph2