Schrödinger abuse

I’m feeling left out. The mathematicians — Mark, Blake, and Tyler — are having so much fun bullseyeing a certain womp rat over there in Creationist Canyon. Yeah, Slimy Sal Cordova has poked his pointy head up and claimed that, somehow, Intelligent Design and Advanced Creation Science (whatever the heck that is) are built on Fourier transforms and Schrödinger’s equation. It’s a pathetic spectacle — Cordova simply throws up a formula with some Greek symbols in it, waves his hand with a flourish, and says, “A-ha!” After a time of his readers staring blankly at him, he says, “A-ha!” again, expecting us to now absorb what he has said spontaneously. And then people who know what they’re doing laugh at his pretense.

I am not a mathematician, but once upon a time I did discuss Fourier transforms in biology, and while I can’t claim to have offered a high-level mathematical discourse on the subject, I did at least try to explain what I was talking about. Cordova’s got nothin’.

(By the way, if you’re interested in playing with Fourier imaging, the wonderful free image processing and analysis program from NIH, ImageJ, lets you do all kinds of fun stuff with images, including an FFT and inverse FFT.)


  1. Nathaniel says

    To be fair, there really is a deep meaning in the connection between Schroedinger’s equation and Fourier transforms. The fact that wave/particles obey the superposition principle is a very deep and important one.

    The problem here is that he’s got the logic backward. Circuit designers use Fourier transforms because they describe reality, not the other way around.

    He’s like a blind man who’s suddenly realized that there is some bumpy stuff on all those canvases that are hanging around the museum.

  2. says

    Okay, this Sal guy seems to think that Fourier series, because they are used both in engineering and physics, but mean there is a design component to both. Um, the Fourier series is a tool of mathematics.

    By this thinking, because a hammer can hit a nail and a rabbit that proves the rabbit was designed.

    That was some powerful stupid.

  3. Tony Popple says

    It sounds like this guy must have graduated from the William Dembski School of Diversionary Engineering.

    Step #1: Find subject with an intimidating level of mathematics and technical language.

    Step #2: Drop in some biological language to “flavor” the discussion.

    Step #3: Wave arms in the air and insist that the answer is obvious.

    Step #4: When the eyes of the audience start to glaze over, rescue them from the confusion with a cute analogy using computers, rocket ships or airplanes.

  4. negentropyeater says

    that’s because Sal Cordova thinks of a mathematical formula as a magic spell.
    It is so mysterious to him that he thinks it must be something magical.

  5. says

    “To be fair, there really is a deep meaning in the connection between Schroedinger’s equation and Fourier transforms. The fact that wave/particles obey the superposition principle is a very deep and important one.”

    To be clear, I don’t deny this at all. What I’m mocking is the fact that Sal has the balls to claim that a profound discovery made almost a century ago is his profound discovery, and furthermore the sheer stupidity of claiming it supports “Advanced Creation Science”. (Like everyone else, I’m still wondering exactly what that is.)

  6. says

    One reason the Fourier transform is quite important in quantum physics is the canonical commutator of position and momentum. I explained the background to this here; some mathematical experience (linear algebra, operator manipulations) is required.

  7. Christianjb says

    The FT as a tool in mathematical analysis is based on the fact that certain functions can be written as combinations of sine waves.

    It turns out that nature likes sine waves. They arise in pendulums- and indeed any small amplitude oscillation. They also arise in quantum mechanics, perhaps most notably in describing momentum of particles. Also- any problem with motion in a circle can be described in terms of sine waves.

    It might seem to an undergraduate that FT’s are so complicated that only a (really cruel) deity or intelligent designer could have made the universe such that an understanding of physics requires doing all those difficult FT integrals. However, FT’s really aren’t so esoteric. They’re just the natural tool for analyzing anything that’s wobbly and/or periodic.

  8. Christianjb says

    Oh, and before we get too caught up with the mysteries of quantum mechanics….

    I doubt there’s any mathematical scientific discipline that doesn’t involve FTs. The motion of a wiggling Zebra-fish for instance would require some knowledge of Fourier theory.

    Quantum mechanics may be weird- but FT’s were in use for a long time before anyone got around to studying sub-atomic particles.

  9. says

    Wow, it’s not often PZ mentions two things that I know about in the same post :D It must be Squidmas!

    Firstly, I was teaching a lab on Fourier Transforms just this afternoon: the sound of undergrad brains turning slowly to cheese always makes me smile. Personally, though, my frequency domain transform of choice still has to be Laplace Transforms.

    On the subject of ImageJ, I considered creating my current application Neuromantic, a freeware tool for neuronal tracing (think a cut-down NeuroLucida), as a plug-in for ImageJ, but it wasn’t able to support the level of control I needed. Also, I dislike Java.[/shamelessplug]

    Actually getting back on topic, though, the ID crowd’s tendency to try and blind people with maths has always irritated me. My background is optimisation, so watching Dembski abuse the No Free Lunch theorems always particularly rankled.

    Now it seems good ol’ Sal has jumped on the same bandwagon. Oh joy.

  10. NelC says

    Isn’t this an attempt to repeat the old story about a believer mathematician and an atheist getting into a religious debate, and the mathematician ending the argument by writing a random equation on the table and saying, “Therefore God exists. Repondez, s’il-vous plait!” The poor atheist, having no math in this case, doesn’t know how to respond.

    It’s obvious where Cordova went wrong; he doesn’t know any French.

  11. SteveM says

    Trying to read through more of Sal’s blatherings, I get the impression that he is trying to say that the only real science are those with differential equations and integrals and more equations. “Darwinism” doesn’t have any equations so cannot be science. bleh

    as for Fourier Transforms, JPG is essentially a form of FT as a way to compress the image.

  12. David Marjanović, OM says

    “Darwinism” doesn’t have any equations


    JPG is essentially a form of FT as a way to compress the image.


  13. David Marjanović, OM says

    “Darwinism” doesn’t have any equations


    JPG is essentially a form of FT as a way to compress the image.


  14. Physicalist says

    To really appreciate Cordova, you have to realize that he’s basing his profound “advanced creationist” insights on what understanding he’s gleaning from the introductory level physics class he’s currently taking. Now, I’m all for people taking the trouble to learn some science, but it just boggles the mind to imagine Cordova sitting there in class, half understanding something about Fourier transforms or relativity and yelling, “AHA! There’s no way THAT could be true if god didn’t did it!”

    My hypothesis for the meaning of “Advanced Creation Science”: it’s BS on a topic that you’d actually have to go to school or study or something, in order to know about that topic. “Un-advanced Creation Science” = BS that you can get a Texan w/o a high-school diploma to say, “Yup! Sure couldn’t have happened if god didn’t did it!”

  15. robotaholic says

    ok, you can say what you want about any other people in the past – BUT LEAVE MY PHYSICS PEOPLE ALONE! – I wont have them defamed! You christian idiots will not be fucking with the legacies of countless real heros of physics- such as Schrödinger. Next it will be Carl Sagan – they’re already drying to push Einstein into religiosity. Just BACK OFF ,,!,,

  16. katie says

    I’m an ecologist that stumbled into Fourier transforms the back way…through time-series analysis. And I’m very dazed and confused…anyone have any help/suggestions/resources?

  17. Sophist, FCD says

    “Advanced Creation Science”. (Like everyone else, I’m still wondering exactly what that is.)

    It’s like regular Creation Science, except the handwaving involves the use of both hands instead of the usual one.

  18. says

    “Advanced Creation Science (whatever the heck that is)”

    (WARNING: Nerdly joke follows)

    If it’s anything like Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, maybe it gives you the option of working with multi-species animals, instead of being restricted to boring single species animals. I’ve always wanted to play with a multi-class squid/tiger…

  19. says

    . . . Advanced Creation Science (whatever the heck that is)

    It means it all becomes clear if you just ACS the right question. It also means that Sal can’t spell, either, and he has that dastardly, tooth-grating pronunciation of “ask” that drives the rest of us up the wall.

    “ACS and you shall deceive.” — Creationist Standard Version

  20. Pyre says

    It’s a famous story:

    Augustus De Morgan tells the legend of how the formidable anticleric Diderot went to the Court at St. Petersburg, where he gave the younger people “a good deal of lively atheism,” as De Morgan put it fin Victorian times. The Empress, unwilling to admonish their learned guest, enlisted old Euler, a straightforward believer, then in residence, to her cause. “He advanced towards Diderot and said gravely, and fin a tone of perfect conviction: ‘Monsieur, (a + bn) / n = x, donc Dieu existe; répondez!’ Diderot, to whom algebra was Hebrew, was embarrassed and disconcerted, while peals of laughter arose on all sides. He asked permission to return to France at once, which was granted.”

  21. arghous says

    5. “And which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a quantum well, will not immediately pull him out on a sabbath day?”

    6. And they said, “Uh, can’t he just tunnel out himself?”

    7. Thereupon he said, “Oops. I got nothin'”.

  22. Sceptical Chymist says

    Apparently Sal The Wise doesn’t know that Fourier Transforms first saw the light of day when Jean-Baptiste Fourier published his “Theorie Analytique de la Chaleur” in 1822. That’s Chaleur as in Heat. Interestingly enough, Sal’s infantile ramblings about FTs are producing lots of heat but very little light.

  23. says

    Advanced Creation Science?? I wonder if there is a lab requirement in Experimental Theology. Could be kind of a fun lab to do… stirring cauldrons, E-meters, measuring the angles of the True Cross(TM)… any other ideas?


  24. --PatF in Madison says

    Sal seems to inhabit deeper levels of looniness than are hinted at in just the current article. Leaving it aside, and looking at his other Mathematics articles, I found the following gem.

    This discusses mostly what happens on ABC’s reality show “The Bachelor”. However, at the end, it veers off into speculations on the sex ratio of populations. Ah, and who better to discuss why population sex ratios are what they are? Why, it’s RICHARD DAWKINS.


    Yup. That’s right, when Sally needs to deal with real data and real interpretations, he ain’t gonna fool around with no creationist stuff. He’s gonna head off to the place where there is a real scientist who knows what he is doing. Sal references a very nice talk about sex ratios and sexual selection that Dawkins gave on a recent trip to the Galapagos. Sal conveniently does not mention the fact that Dawkins is both an evolutionist and an atheist. He does, however, comment that Dawkins treatment is “wonderful”.

    You can find the reference to the talk on the Young Cosmos post or, if you would rather not sully your screen by going there, you can go directly to the talk at:,1354,Lecture-on-Sex-Ratio-Theory-and-Sexual-Selection,Richard-Dawkins

    (It really is very good.)

    So.. Either we have a very good contradiction here or, this site is a parody put up by someone who wants the ID people to look foolish. Or, at any rate, even more foolish than they already look.

    –PatF in Madison

  25. says

    “Cordova simply throws up a formula with some Greek symbols in it, waves his hand with a flourish, and says, “A-ha!””

    Right, that’s stupid. Everyone knows you’re supposed to use Aramaic, then say “Avra kedabra!”


  26. says

    Oh, but you aren’t going to pick on all that handwaving about QM that leads to the universe “tunneling from nothing” and all that, which also uses real physics/math but in a context that we have no way to test or really understand.

  27. says

    I’m finding it really weird that Cordova is now fetishizing Schroedinger, deeming him a true scientist (not like that Darwin fellow), etc. Didn’t Schroedinger dabble in population genetics? Didn’t he write that “What is Life?” book that discussed evolution as an expression of thermodynamics and hypothesized something like the DNA molecule before DNA was actually discovered? Something of a Darwinist, wasn’t he?

  28. says

    When I was an undergraduate, the folks I knew in engineering and physics were trying to collect a list of all courses in which fourier analysis was mentioned and give out recognition to the most obscure/irrelevant mention. I sort of put a damper on their plans when it came up in the Plato course I took …