Superlaser Effect

SF :: Objections


Before we look at specific counter-claims and their responses, I'd like to take a moment to point out the obvious.  That mass-energy conversion is how the superlaser does its thing is a canon fact.  Even if you disagree with the particulars of the SF Theory, we're stuck with that.

Further, the SF Theory could be described as a qualitative, inductive, causality-based concept.   In other words, the theory explains what occurs based on observation of the evidence and synthesis of general parameters based on determining the origin of the different things we witness.  By "explain", I refer to the fact that given the initial conditions of a superlaser-related event and an understanding of the theory, one can roughly deduce the events which will occur.

Meanwhile, many anti-SF claims revolve around different methods of analysis and philosophical approaches, and improperly frame SF in context of those.  The claims usually render themselves irrelevant as a result.

1.  Deductive vs. Inductive

My SF theory is based on induction. That is, I take the specific observations and draw general conclusions therefrom, as opposed to taking general concepts and making conclusions about the specifics. 

At times, of course, I have employed deductive reasoning as well.   For instance, my first webpage iteration of what would become the Superlaser Effect concept was based entirely on deduction (and the fact that the predictions of others' deductive reasoning broke down in reference to Alderaan).  We knew her power systems, and the rings were present . . . something strange was afoot.  Then I speculated as to what that might be, but did so without a comprehensive analysis of the evidence at that point.  Later I started over, and came at the problem with a fresh clean slate, thereby employing an inductive approach and eventually arriving at the SF concept.

Of course, other deductions have occurred since that time, in the form of predictions deduced and found to be valid.  That is to say, I worked from specifics toward a generalization, and that generalization led me to look for and discover more specifics which further reinforced my case . . . such things occurred in reference to certain examples of planar effects, as well as in looking at the material disappearance issue when I first realized what was going on.  

At times, I also found things I wasn't looking for, but which logically flowed from the idea and fit perfectly within it . . . that is another part of a good theory.

The approach employed by most DET theorists (as led by Mike Wong) is generally deductive. They take the fact that the superlaser hit Alderaan which then exploded as their sole evidence, and then apply modern-day physical laws and apply them dogmatically, even to the point of defiance against observation.

Don't get me wrong here . . . deductive reasoning applied to sci-fi is often a safe bet, and is generally the best first course of action when used in concert with observation.  However, 20th Century physical laws utterly disallow most of the sci-fi concepts we discuss. Dogmatic use of those 20th Century principles at the expense of acknowledging the sci-fi evidence is an approach doomed to failure.  You see, sci-fi fans accept (by necessity) such concepts as the transporter, hyperdrive, the Force, and so on. (To do otherwise would, to paraphrase Solo, end our trip real quick.) We see them do their incredible things, and accept what has been done based on the evidence of it having occurred. 

However, as a result of the strict-physics deduction approach, counter-claims to SF have commonly taken the form of  "but Physics Rule X says such-and-such, and thus SF is impossible."  (Note that such claims are often wrong for other reasons, but we'll come back to that later.)   The problem is that the counter-claim requires dismissing the evidence in favor of the deduction, which is a capital error.

2. Causal vs. Mechanistic

Though this is an example of a different method of analysis, I refer to it primarily because its use represents DET theorists attempting to change the rules in the middle of the game, a maneuver first made by Mike Wong during our debate.

For example, Star Whichever fans do not demand that the other side explain the particulars of how their particular FTL drive functions in order to accept that it propels the ship faster than light. Han pulls some levers, or Picard points and says "Engage", and off they go, ending up in whole other star systems over the space of a commercial break. Oh sure, we get some neat vocabulary about subspace fields and whatnot on Trek, or alluvial dampers on Star Wars, but not a one of us can describe precisely how a subspace field results in forward velocity, or how an alluvial damper can participate in causing the ship to jump to lightspeed.

In short, we accept the effect of FTL travel, and ascribe the cause to the proper device, whether that device's operation is understood or not.   There's no handwaving, 'magick', or 'Scottydidit' involved.

Nevertheless, Wong's primary attack on the Superlaser Effect theory is that it is based on that very same inductive causal approach. Since I do not make wild guesses about a nuts-and-bolts description of the mechanism of the chain reaction, he declares the concept invalid, not even a theory ("a theory must have a defined mechanism" (so much for Sir Isaac, or even Darwin!)), non-predictive, and so on, deriding it as "undefined" and "mysterious". This is both wrong-headed and inconsistent on his part, and no amount of bluster and insults can cover up that simple fact.  

Let us take, for example, the basic template for Wong's own causality-based inductive analysis of the superlaser. 

1. Watch ANH and see the Death Star's green beam 'o' doom strike Alderaan, which then explodes. 
2. Conclude that the beam's strike was the cause, and the explosion the effect.

Green beam make planet go boom, and voila . . . observations complete.

Wong (or Saxton, whichever came first) then set out with his deductive reasoning, engaging in firepower calculations based on debris velocity and gravitational binding energy and whatnot, concluding that the energy release was somewhere in the neighborhood of 1E38J. With further deduction from 20th Century physics principles that the Death Star had to have supplied the energy directly via the superlaser beam, Wong thus had what has come to be known as the DET theory of the Death Star superlaser.

Note that it contained no reference to the nature or composition of the superlaser, and no reference to how the Death Star could produce that much raw energy.  We do get to see him dismiss the fusion reactor idea on the grounds that "the characteristics of hypermatter reactors are not known and may be compatible with the known capabilities of the Death Star" . . . i.e. "hypermatterdidit", but that's about it.

Problems also appeared after the advent of the Special Editions of the films, such as the secondary blast, rings, and whatnot.  These were effectively swept under the rug, and the original conclusion declared valid, in keeping with the slothful induction made in the very beginning.  However, there is a telling comment made in the course of this:  "Strangely enough, there appears to be a second stage of the explosion at this point, even more violent than the first one. The physical mechanism behind this two-stage explosion is unknown, however the second stage hurls more planetary debris outwards and creates a second "fire ring" ..."

An unknown mechanism for the secondary blast. An unknown mechanism for the "fire" rings. Still no explanation of what the superlaser beam is composed of, beyond claiming it is a compound version of a turbolaser . . . the composition of the bolts of which he also doesn't explain. He's also hypothesized that the superlaser has an invisible component, but . . . you guessed it . . . there's no explanation of the mechanism for that, either. (And what of the careful observations I made that were discussed in the debate? No mechanisms for those, either.  Let's not even get into the newer observations, showing things he never noticed nor would've cared to.)

And yet, for some peculiar reason, my theory is claimed to be the only one with undefined mechanisms. How very odd.  

Of course, the real situation is what I mentioned before . . . changing the rules in the middle of the game, trying to require a higher standard (mechanistically speaking) for my concept than for his own.  This essential error is often repeated among other defenders of the DET concept, and results in a widespread application of the double standard.

Among other problems, the double-standard nicely covers up the slothful induction inherent to DET. Whereas I've examined every aspect of the canon thoroughly, developed hypotheses and predictions which were borne out, and changed around elements of the Superlaser Effect concept when the evidence seemed to require it (and then back again, in the case of the polar region, when I noticed that my earlier observation was incomplete), DET theorists' dogmatic approach is based entirely on a priori reasoning regarding a single, very general observation: green beam make planet go boom. Observations contrary to that must be dismissed. This sort of thing is why the DET theorists did not change their tune when the evidence changed for the Special Editions, or when they were shown earlier versions of the SF concept.

Now, on with the show:


1.  Occam's Razor 

Some have quite curiously attempted to employ Occam's Razor in favor of DET and against SF.  

Occam's Razor, of course, is the name given to the concept (also referred to as the principle of parsimony) that one should avoid unnecessary entities in a hypothesis when attempting to explain some phenomenon.   The concept appears in several variations.  The original statement from the writings of William of Occam (aka Ockham) reads: "Plurality should not be posited without necessity."   Newton's version was a bit more straightforward:  "We are to admit no more causes of natural things than such as are both true and sufficient to explain their appearances."   A somewhat humorous common paraphrase of Einstein's version reads:  "Theories should be as simple as possible, but no simpler."   And, of course, there's an implicit concept in Occam's Razor which many people miss depending on the formulation they prefer.  If there is an observation and there are two competing concepts that are supposed to explain it, it is required in advance that they actually explain the observations in question.   

A common misformulation is to assert that Occam's Razor means "the simpler theory is the better one".   That isn't the case at all . . . theories should be as simple as possible, but no simpler.

As a result, DET theorists who attempt to employ Occam to disregard SF fail in two ways.   First, they're putting a theory which explains the observation "green beam make planet go boom" against a theory which explains the entire set of observations about what occurs in the canon.   Because DET theorists ignore or disregard the complete set of observations, their theory cannot match SF and is disqualified from contention.   Second, those who claim DET is better simply because it is simpler demonstrate their own ignorance of Occam's Razor.

2. The Beam Weapons of the Republic

Many have argued over the years that the superlaser's predecessors were seen in Attack of the Clones in use by Republic forces . . . i.e. that the green beam weapons seen in use on the flying LAAT transports and on the large SPHA-T walkers must operate on the same principles as superlaser technology.

Such reasoning is extremely weak on multiple counts.   First, other green beam examples are excluded, such as Jedi lightsabres (which, like superlaser tributaries, can even stop) or the AoTC assassin droid's four green beams.  Primarily, though, the argument fails because it is based on assumptions of similarity due to non-unique properties.   If we apply this same argument to other examples, we would be forced to conclude that all Rebel ship weapons, Rebel fighter weapons, and handheld blasters operate via the same principle as ion cannons.  After all, they're all red bolts, aren't they?   (You can even construct your own variations on this flawed argument, such as 'proving' that Winston Churchill was a Nazi because, like Hitler, he was a male European.) 

Beyond such general flaws, there are more specific ones:  absolutely none of the observed effects of the superlasers appear in the AoTC green beam weapons, excepting explosions.  


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