Friday, May 20, 2005


Is this in our future?
Doug

7 Thoughts:

Blogger A.T. said...

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Friday, May 20, 2005 11:16:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Hey, Allen:

There are degrees of certainty, surely. That's the "hierarchy" of "informed guess/intuition" (which needs exploration) -- "hypothesis" (which might be considered more solid, but which is still just a hypothesis -- it grows out of a consilience with other already-well-established knowledge -- but still could be wrong) -- "theory" (which is an extremely well-established notion, and [confusingly -- a problem of philosophy and common usage] also a description of the world that's so well-established as to be at the 99.9[bar] level -- the philosophical/scientific and common usage of the word get mixed up) -- and "fact" (which is in the 99.9[bar] range of certainty). No absolute certainty as you get in human-created systems, like Euclidian geometry (If you have a line bisected by another line, you know with 100% certainty -- religious certainty, if you like -- that the line will have two angles, a and b, that add up to 180. That's because, by definition, all lines equal 180 degrees, so any bisected line has to have two angles that sum to 180) or in religion.

Now, this cartoon is a joke, but the freezing point of water can be demonstrated by anyone. The tough problem with the historical sciences (cosmology, geology, evolutionary biology, and so on) is that they are based on inferences -- testable inferences -- that themselves are based on experiments and observations doable by anyone (at least in principle) in the span of a human lifetime.

So, there is a difference of kind between the historical sciences (I'm not including history in that -- just those sciences which treat things not immediately accesible, like going and freezing water) and the non-historical sciences. But natural selection can be demonstrated easily in organisms with generation times much shorter than our own -- and by a host of other sources of evidence too varied to go into here.

So, I see your point, but if geology didn't work (evolution aside), we'd never find any oil or coal.

(As a final irony, 32 degrees is NOT the absolute freezing point of water. Depends on pressure/altitude as well! :) )

Saturday, May 21, 2005 8:49:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

AT: Btw, on another topic, if you don't know how to post images to your blog, e-mail me, and I'll show you how (free software that's associated with/recommended by blogspot -- very cool!)

DT

Saturday, May 21, 2005 8:53:00 AM  
Blogger pawlr said...

Allen - I add to Doug's point that natural selection can be observed to occur in very short relative time scales, such as when you develop resistance to a new strain of virus (your white blood cells literally evolve to combat that specific strain). Thousands of experiments demonstrating this have been conducted using the scientific method.

Saturday, May 21, 2005 9:20:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

One last thing (from me, that is) Allen: Check out the SJ Gould piece I posted here on Creationism. It proves that one can be religious AND accept evolution, based on the evidence.

Very religious natural theologians purposely excluded the miraculous from their science (and they did do science, no doubt), because they felt it a frankly irreligious and unnecessary limitation on an omniscient Creator. Is God so weak that he has to break his own laws? Or is the reference to miracles whenever a tough problem or natural fact incovenient to orthodoxy is encountered. Those natural theologians (William Paley is a prime example, and a hero of Darwin's, by the way) found the recourse to miracles a weakeness of HUMAN intellect, not proof of God's workings in nature, nor of the "recourser's" religious faith. This gets back to "blind" vs. "reasoned" faith...

Out. Off to see U2 (a Christian band, actually, and my kind of Christians!) in NYC.

Saturday, May 21, 2005 11:22:00 AM  
Blogger A.T. said...

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Saturday, May 21, 2005 5:45:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Hi, Allen:

No one really questions macroevolution, either. The extrapolation from microevolution to macroevolution has been done in various ways, but even Stephen Jay Gould a (willfully?) misunderstood "hero" of the creationists, never questioned that the two were related, or that they existed, and he certainly never pushed a non-materialistic view of the link. He merely argued that natural selection was only one of the modes of evolution, and possibly not the most important for large-scale phyletic change. (Full disclosure: I personally knew Gould for years; my Dad went to junior high school and high school with him, and kept in touch -- totally random, but I knew him very well, so I can speak with some authority on what he believed -- I also have read the bulk of what he wrote; no small feat! ;) ).

Virtually no one in the field (or outside the field, in general science) doubts the accumulated evidence of long-term, large-scale macroevolutionary change.

Best, Dug

Tuesday, May 24, 2005 8:30:00 AM  

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