HPS 1702 Junior/Senior Seminar for HPS Majors
HPS 1703 Writing Workshop for HPS Majors

Evidence for the basic principles of science

Below I have listed some of the fundamental principles and randomly chosen results of modern science. What is the evidence upon which we accept them?

Principle or result Evidence?
Heliocentric layout of the planetary system. Explanation of the retrograde motion of the planets.
Conformity with Newtonian mechanics.
Existence of other planets outside our solar system. Wobble in motion of star around which planet orbits (revealed by period shift in the frequency of star's light).
Presence of Helium in the sun. Spectrographs of solar light.
Roughly uniform distribution of matter on the largest scale. Plotting of the density of the distribution of visible galaxies.
Isotropy of background radiation.
Expansion of the universe. Observation of red shift/ distance relation in visible galaxies.
Existence of much dark matter in galaxies. Not enough luminous matter to keep stars in their orbits within a galaxy.
Phases and dates of development of human civilization. Stone, bronze, iron, ... Archaeological evidence
Evolution by natural selection as the origin of species. Analogy to artificial selection.
Transitional forms. Microevolution.
Two factor gene theory of inheritance. Mendel's experiments on peas.
DNA as the carrier of genetic information. Observation of the nucleus in cell division. X-ray micrographs yields the DNA molecular structure.
Basis of chemistry in 92+ elements of the standard periodic table. Cataloguing of all chemical change in terms of compounds of these elements. No chemical changes require changes in elements.
Water is H2O Hydrogen gas burns in oxygen to produce water; water is electrolytically decomposed into hydrogen and oxygen in 2:1 ratio.
Uniformitarianism: geological features are brought about by gradual processes in evidence today. Examples of present processes accumulating and yielding enormous effects; the Grand Canyon.
Plate tectonics Possibility of fitting continents together puzzle style. Matching of fossils and rock types where the puzzle pieces join.
Germ theory of disease Correlation of observed pathogens with illness.
Newton's laws of motion
Newton's inverse square law of gravity Kepler's laws of planetary motion for planets and moons; Galileo's law of fall.
Laws of thermodynamics Failure to devise perpetual motion machines
Maxwell's electrodynamics Numerous 19th century experiments in electricity and magnetism.
Atomic constitution of matter. Numerous experiments establish the same value for Avogardro's number; e.g. Einstein on Brownian motion, experiments on heat radiation
Special theory of relativity Failure of 19th century ether drift experiments; recognition that the Lorentz group is the natural symmetry group of Maxwell's electrodynamics.
Quantum mechanics Observed properties of heat radiation, atomic spectra, scattering.
Spin of electrons. Anomalous Zeeman effect.
General theory of relativity Einstein's three tests: the anomalous motion of mercury, deflection of starlight by the sun, gravitational red shifting of light from the sun and stars
Freud's theory of the unconscious; ego, superego and id.
Behaviorism; operant conditioning

Just as we accept our best science on the supporting evidence, we reject theories on the lack of evidence or the presence of adverse evidence.

Principle or result Evidence?
Telepathic communication
Extrasensory perception; remote viewing; psychic detectives
The present species came about through intervention by an intelligent agent.
Velikovsky: the present order of the planets arose through near misses by comets that are recorded in biblical and other historical records. The earth ceasing to rotate on its axis for a day would have cataclysmic effects.
Velikovsky: terrestrial oil deposits arose from hydrocarbons captured from the tail of a passing comet.
A young universe, coming to be in 4004BC; historical accuracy of the biblical account of the flood.
Homeopathy: massively diluted agents can still have biological effects. Avogradro's number: at homeopathic dilutions, not one molecule of the original agent remains.

If you were transported into antiquity, ...
how would you convince a smart ancient that:
John D. Norton, Spring 2005