today. I think I'll spare giving his name, as I talked to him on facebook. But I looked him up on the schools website he claimed to be a PhD student at (Australian National University) and it did indeed have him listed as a PhD student. He's a PhD theoretical physics student, but what I'm about to post may shock and horror you. After a lengthy conversation which involved many other areas where he seemed strangely uneducated for his position in school, I asked him how he thought the Earth formed. Keep in mind that he told me that he accepts that supernovas, planetary nebulas, and helium and carbon burning inside stars occur (sounds like a silly thing to ask someone if they believe or not, but you'd be surprised how necessary it was to ask). Now then, for his answer to how he believes the Earth formed;

 

"I think God used heavy elements and made it by his hands. heavy elements could be from supernova of some other star. Our sun is too young and not hot enough can only make carbon. So the universe is older than the earth. But the earth is only 10000 years old."

 

I was at a loss of words. This guy is seriously a PhD theoretical physics student.

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The Japanese take what they like and make it their own, so far as I've seen. Carebears, for instance, are extremely popular merchandise, but no one knows the cartoons or even character names. They just like the cuteness of it.
This is what accreditation is for. Any institution can call itself a university and pass out degrees.
Besides, how do you know what his grades are like, or if he's even telling the truth?

"Any institution can call itself a university and pass out degrees"

What? Not anywhere in Europe, and I sincerely hope not in the US, either.
 

Yeah, we have something called diploma mills. 

Hi Jeremiah. This serious physics PhD student sounds like he discounts fossil evidence. If this is the case I blame it on the lack of rigor in his curriculum up to this point. May be he transferred to a major educational institution from one of those colleges where by dropping large endowments one attains degrees of human letters, or worse. It is troubling that he could have such beliefs this far along. Compartmentalization is ugly enough when it harbors racism; but this kind of a blind spot is grotesque.
This is precisely why you shouldn't take a PhD as proof that someone knows what they're talking about *unless* that PhD is in the particular subject under discussion. Theoretical physics is all about quantum mechanics and subatomic particles and such with lots of math involved, but evolutionary biology and cosmology are fields distinct from theoretical physics--especially in the mind of a believer. If this guy believed that the Higgs Boson had a brother named Charles, then I'd be surprised, but the fact that he has erroneous beliefs in other fields isn't that shocking.

Noam Chompsky (whether you agree with him or not) pulls this same trick when he talks about politics while his PhD is in linguistics. Ron Paul (again whether you agree with him or not) does this when he talks about economics while his degree is in medicine. Obviously not having a degree doesn't mean you can't be right, but you shouldn't be shocked if someone with Dr. in their name from one field gets things wrong in a different field.

Sorry about juming into this discussion this late, but I have just resently "found" the Nexus and joined this group today and am looking through the discussions. And being a physicist myself...

 

Physics is a very wide field and no one can have detailed knowledge of all of it. Theroretical physics is just a short step away from philosopy, and the border between philosophy and religion is faint at places. I can easilly see that a physicist who dwell in the theoretical area can have some knowledge on the origin of the Universe (which is an evolving theory) and only rudimetary knowledge on the formations of galaxies and stars (also an evolving theory), and thus focuses on the sentence "we are not certain how galaxies and stars formed in the early Universe" (as the early Universe seems to be too smooth for galaxies to form) and concluding that as some things are uncertain, a god could have helped creating the Earth. The physicist in question might have forgotten or might not even have known that Geology exists.

 

If you did a head count on the number of religious people amongst sciencetists, I suspect you'd find few biologists and geologists, some more chemists, and even more physicists, and the highest number amongst mathematicians (if that is how it is spelled).

Yeah, not surprised at the last one. One of my dear friends has a quantum mathematics degree and is at least loosely Christian and absolutely theist. He finds the idea that there wasn't an intelligence that brought us into being frightening. I'm not sure why, though. I would have thought that given the sheer amount of stars and galaxies that the probability of intelligent life developing isn't too extreme to chance... you know? And I'm not the math guru.
Many people with doctorates are religious, but few are fundamentalists or evangelicals.  I can't say a lot about the "hard" sciences, but in the humanities doctoral students learn more about methodology than about facts.  We learn how to learn, and we continue learning after we have completed our degrees.  Doctoral candidates are often autodidacts to begin with; we learn independently, and we evaluate what we learn with clear thinking skills developed over decades of learning both in and out of school.  One of my professors once said that the students he liked best were the ones who didn't need him.  I feel the same way.  Brilliant professors find connections between different fields.  When Chomsky speaks, I listen, but not uncritically; when Ron Paul speaks, I listen for a minute until he shows that he knows far too little about history, or he wouldn't have any faith in laissez faire capitalism or libertarianism.  When Rand Paul speaks, I hang in there until my laughter drowns him out.

The only response I could fathom in this case is:

"Hahaha! That's a good one! No but seriously..."

Jeremiah, this is the issue that forced me to get off the knife edge and declare that god does not exist.  I sat on that sharp edge for several years, thinking a scientific stance of never say never was appropriate. Learning the religious faction in town try to get Intelligent Design into our public schools  convinced me I want science taught based on evidence and critical thinking.  I don't want chemistry taught one hour and alchemy the next, or astronomy in the morning and astrology in the afternoon. There is no reason to think there might be someone/thing that acts as puppet master, or as judge, jury and executioner, and if there is to be a Jubilee, I won't go.

Lawrence Krauss convinced me. He has a way with words and concepts that builds a strong foundation and scaffolding upon which to build a life of moral strength, ethical perspective that has nothing to do with dogma or sacraments or scripture, or stories.  It is more like finding one's internal compass. 

Oh ... so some star made the heavy elements, but ol' Yahweh had to step up and personally make the Earth, eh?

[Loren shakes his head {it rattles!} as he steps away from the computer, mumbling something about: "It's too early in the morning for crap like this...!"]

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