Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Dogma in physics

  1. Aug 20, 2007 #1
    i hear and read everyone and their mother repeating the same things over and over
    nothing can exceed c, energy/momentum/mass is always conserved, etc. yes i know all these things are experimentally supported but c'mon this seems like parroting to me. this kind of stuff is dangerous just like the Ptolemaic universe was dangerous and Galilean relativity (as opposed to general) was dangerous.

    on the other hand if these things are axioms i see i no problem in parroting them.
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 20, 2007 #2


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Why is it dogmatic if there is a mountain of evidence to support the claim? Doesn't that just make it a sound theory?

    Or look at it from the other side: Why would it make sense to say objects with mass may be able to travel faster than C when all evidence we have says they can't?

    And there was nothing dangerous about Galilean relativity. That was also sound theory and a necessary step toward Einstein's relativity. It was used at the time because it worked and was the best (only viable) explanation available. And it is still used today because it still works in a large number of situations.
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2007
  4. Aug 20, 2007 #3


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    I think the fact we moved from Galilean to Einstein's relativity is proof that these things are not dogmatic. They are the best we have to work with at the minute and if someone does an experiemnt which shows differently they will evolve.
  5. Aug 20, 2007 #4

    Science can clearly say that it knows that v < c and that mass-energy is conserved. It is important to notice that everything in science is approximations that gets better and better as more data is coming in.
  6. Aug 20, 2007 #5
    ice109, you gave bad examples. There are some things that some physicists keep repeating perhaps too fanatically, but postulates of relativity and conservation laws are not the biggest concern because they are backed up well.

    "There's no spin in classical theory." "There's no magnetic monopoles." "There's no relativity in special or general relativity." "There's no centrifugal force."

    These are examples of claims that are not solid scientifical truths, but are sometimes in authoritative manner claimed to be.

    (notice however: I don't believe that magnetic monopoles exist)
  7. Aug 20, 2007 #6


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor
    2016 Award

    Er.. you seem to be missing one very important aspect to all this. While we consider those things to be valid, we CONTINUE TO TEST THEM, and test them with even better accuracy. Have you ever ventured into the Recent Noteworthy Papers in the General Physics forums? There are plenty of evidence there that while physicists do accept many of these things to be valid, we continue to test them and see if they start to deviate from what we know - this is the sign of new physics that we haven't discovered.

    Now is this what you call a "dogma"?

  8. Aug 20, 2007 #7


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    It would probably be tough for science to go dogmatic right now, with modern communication putting everyone in touch with each other more often and so quickly.

    I could see the possibility maybe a couple hundred years ago, when the English were the only ones able to publish, or earlier when there wasn't much collaboration between different societies versions of science.

    Fortunately, the numbers of skeptics out there waiting to prove creative scientists wrong keep us in check. (Note, these aren't two separate types of scientists, but two different state-of-minds for a scientist, individual scientists may have different combinations of either at different stages in their life).

    But since everything is filed and recorded (to the best of some people's abilities), there's always eventually going to be someone to prove a falsifiable theory wrong (or right). This isn't to say that bad papers don't get through, but they're not paid much attention to unless they've been verified (or you're the one verifying it).

    Sometimes you'll see little anecdotal assumptions propagate through 80 years of papers without ever being experimentally verified, but eventually, someone will be in the right place at the right time.
  9. Aug 20, 2007 #8
    I don't want to see anyone driving on the road with having some driver's education classes.

    Can you built a new type of house without at least knowing how to build a 'safe' conventional one first?
  10. Aug 20, 2007 #9

    Chi Meson

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    "Parroting" is never a good educational method. On the other hand, if certain things have repeatedly been shown to be valid (such as the primary conservation laws), they will be mentioned often.

    But that does not make them "dogmatic," just "highly valid."

    Interestingly, the law of conservation of energy has exceptions (quantum fluctuations), and the law of conservation of mass is not at all a law anymore. So where's the dogma?

    A more valid law than those two is the law of conservation of electric charge which, in conjunction with momentum, led to the assumed existence of the neutrino decades before it was detected. Quite valid, I'd say.
  11. Aug 20, 2007 #10
    This is the point of the OP, as I understood it. There are, indeed, people who acquire and repeat good information without much understanding what it means. It strikes me as more depressing than dangerous, I guess.
  12. Aug 20, 2007 #11
    The only complaint I have is how passionate people seem to be over some interpretation of QM to the exclusion of all others. Why does it matter, if they give the exact same answers to practical questions?
  13. Aug 20, 2007 #12
    "Quantum" = magic!

  14. Aug 20, 2007 #13
  15. Aug 20, 2007 #14
    What the bleep do you know, dogmatic QM fascist!

    I'm going to sit here and softly chant the word "quantum" until you disappear.
  16. Aug 20, 2007 #15
  17. Aug 21, 2007 #16


    User Avatar

  18. Aug 21, 2007 #17


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Those into Solipsism have really latched onto that interpretation of QM for their own ends.
  19. Aug 21, 2007 #18

    Ivan Seeking

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Regarding the speed of light, note that this is no longer considered to be an absolute limit; at least, inflation theory makes it possible that distant objects can move at speeds greater than C. So I think the op wins on that point. For years scientists have said that nothing can travel faster than C, and now we don't.
  20. Aug 21, 2007 #19

    George Jones

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Yes, we still do. In general relativity, the speed of light is a local speed limit, i.e., no observer can see anything rushing by with a speed greater than that of light. In general relativity there isn't (and never has been) a barrier for speeds of objects through extended coordinate systems.

    This no more and no less true during periods of extreme inflation than it is during periods when there is no inflation.
  21. Aug 21, 2007 #20

    Ivan Seeking

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    The expansion of space between us and distant objects means that distant, ordinary objects may exceed the speed of light from our frame of reference. Correct?
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Similar Discussions: Dogma in physics
  1. Dogma (Replies: 41)

  2. Science and dogma (Replies: 20)

  3. Physics and Poetry (Replies: 22)