Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Johnny- guest blogger: Evolution

A new member of the Aussie Atheist Forum, Freediver, has jumped into the pool and dropped this little gem.

Freediver said..."Evolution is not a scientific theory!

Evolution should not be taught in high school science classes because it is not a scientific theory. It fails the requirement of falsifiability that is the litmus test for judging whether an investigation is scientific.

The modern scientific method is defined in terms of hypotheses, theories and laws. The difference between each is the level of acceptance in the scientific community. What they all have in common is that they must be falsifiable. This means that it must be possible to run an experiment that would prove the theory (or hypothesis or law) wrong, if it were not true."



Johnny replied...

It is naive to think that falsification is the only thing that makes science, science.

Falsificationism is not abused by antievolutionists invoking it as a rigid standard for rational discourse; rather, it is abused when they use it as a rigid standard for deciding what belongs to the realm of science. The demarcation between science and non-science is a very thorny issue that is not sufficiently addressed by falsificationism.

It is a naive view of falsification to expect that whenever we encounter data that are contrary to what is predicted by the hypothesis being tested, that we must discard the general concept behind that hypothesis. This is an exceedingly important point to understand because, while at face value it seems counterintuitive, it does not violate any rule of logic.

The structure of scientific epistemology acknowledges
1) General Concepts
2) Specific Models and
3) Observations.

EG...
1)General Concept= Darwinian evolution
2)Specific Model= Continuity of the fossil record and
3)Observation= (for falsification) Discontinuity of the fossil record.

When the predicted observation is not found, then one needs to examine either the Specific Model and/or the General Concept. Often one can reasonably make the equation fit simply by changing the specific model and retaining the general concept. Thus, the prediction of gradual evolution might be substituted with a prediction of punctuated evolution.

Science, therefore, often does not directly test the General Concepts. Rather, it often tests Specific Models and a number of Specific Models can support any General Concept. So, while the General Concept of Darwinian evolution may not be falsifiable, it also is not the direct object of scientific inquiry. The Specific Models of Darwinian evolution are what is tested by science and these are what need to be falsifiable.

Simply put Freediver, evolution as a concept is undeniable (unless you are wearing god goggles) and also unfalsifiable. It is the mechanism of evolution ie. the theory, that is what needs to be testable.

Look past your nose and you will see that there is lots of repeatable experimentation in the field of evolutionary biology here is a start for you.

23 comments:

Poodles said...

Talk Origins is a great website about evolution.

http://www.talkorigins.org/

Richard said...

Another great post Johnny.

That said, I want to suggest that the Popperian approach you are presenting is invalid.

A great weakness in science is the falsification principle. It's effect is to deny induction, the very foundation of all science. It was Karl Popper who presented a convincing case for that error. Basically he sought to demonstrate the immutability of deductive science, yet was blind to the fact that all of the initial premises of deduction, done right, depend upon conclusions achieved by induction.

[Deduction is reasoning from the general to the specific. "We know all crows are black, and are birds of this size etc. This bird is the right size and is black therefore it is a crow. In Induction, one observes black birds of a certain size repeatedly, until one cannot deny that there must be a valid grouping of black birds that can be named "crows".]

It is, therefore, immaterial whether Evolution is falsifiable. Fundamentally, and in surprisingly simple terms, it is a "connect the dots" issue, not an issue of falsifiability. If thirty dots produced the shape of a duck one hundred years ago, and then seventy-five years later 100 dots produce the shape of a duck, it's a duck!!.

Creationists, focus on the biggest space between the dots, ignore the "duck" that is staring them in the face, and claim that Evolution has not been proven. What they would need, to truly show a flaw in Evolution, is a case where a more primitive biological design occurred after a more advanced design. That has never ever occurred, in spite of many thousands of pieces of fossil evidence.

They Creationists keep doing this, no matter where on the "duck" the gap they choose to attack happens to be.

Interestingly, work with fruit flies has shown that selective pressure DOES alter the structure of mating males. (Sorry, I can't reference the study, it was ten years ago).

You mentioned a distinction between Evolutionary Gradualism and Punctuated Evolution. The latter is an argument that "most of the time" there is little genetic change in a population of a species, and then some event happens --a major mutation-- that results in a new species. The two concepts are really the same thing. Sometimes mutations occur in a short geological time frame and sometimes they inch ahead. The distinction is really just a matter of focus. If it happens quickly it is "punctuated" and if it happens in small steps it is "gradual". Darwin would accept both as being the same process.

Unfortunately modern Evolutionists seek recognition for 'special' understandings, and split hairs for that purpose. If a "punctuated speciation" occurs over a 10,000 year interval, which means about 10,000 generations for most species, is it really different from changes that occur over 100,000 years?

All that said, what is "Freediver Evolution"? Is it a reference to a blogger, or have I seriously missed a development? :-)

Johnny said...

Thank you lovely Fiery. I am glad you have done this I was thinking last night after I posted that about what Rich would have to say and if you might do this....great minds think alike [or maybe two minds that are very close ;-)]
Poodles it is a great site I have referenced it a few times in dealing with idiot fundies, it is a great resource.

Richard I actually agree with you about Karl Popper's philosophy of falsification as the qualification for science.
My post was really trying to show freediver that science is not what he thinks it is, he believes that if you cannot falsify a theory or hypothesis then it positively is NOT science. Which I find astoundingly naive
Simply put Freediver, evolution as a concept is undeniable (unless you are wearing god goggles) and also unfalsifiable. It is the mechanism of evolution ie. the theory, that is what needs to be testable. I was trying to show him what he should be thinking if he is to stick with his insistence about falsifiability. I should have put "should" be testable not "needs" I think it is also an argument why falsifiability is not a great argument against evolution, or any scientific concept for that matter.


Oh.... freediver is a person who has just joined the Atheist foundation of Australia Forum with two strings - Atheism is a religion and Evolution should not be taught in schools as it is not scientific. There is a freediver theory to replace evolution though -
The earth is an ark. The organisms currently living on the earth contain all the genetic information required to breed any of the organisms that have ever lived on the earth. This would require no beneficial mutations, just a careful and prolonged selective breeding program, and the exchange of DNA that often occurs naturally between different species. This genetic information has been available for the entire time that life has existed on earth.
He has founded a site (just quietly he is very troll like, although I am not sure how fundy he is his site doesn't really mention much about christianity) which I think he is trying to promote although he so far has only succeeded in making an arse of himself.
None of us on the forum, or at least I don't think any of us, are scientists or experts in any field relevant to scientific enquiery. We are just interested atheists. Some of us like me, in science and philosophy and most in dealing with a world where religion still reigns.

Richard said...

"Richard I actually agree with you about Karl Popper's philosophy of falsification as the qualification for science.

WOW!!! HOLY SHITE!! #@$%^&* You are my first!

I've never met a non-Objectivist who has the faintest clue about that matter... including a great many scientists. Kudos, big time. Or, are you secretly a young objectivist.. Hmmm? Kind of an opposite to Telmeimwrong. Maybe you are a duck... with a potty bill! ;-)

"you cannot falsify a theory or hypothesis then it positively is NOT science"

The philosophical principle is "The the fallacy of asserting the arbitrary." The onus is on the person making the assertion to prove is claim. No one has any obligation to refute or debate the arbitrary.

A good example of the arbitrary lies in Freediver's claim that, "The organisms currently living on the earth contain all the genetic information required to breed any of the organisms that have ever lived on the earth."

A lot of well read people do grasp that Evolution is NOT a theory, it is a flat out fact. It is achieved as a fact in the same way "All crows are black" is achieved. A preponderance of concrete evidence, when properly integrated produces an inescapable inductive conclusion.

Evolution does not even have albinos, which is an exception to the black crows rule. However, albino crows do NOT violate the generality of the inductive fact that all crows are black. For all practical human purposes --especially conversationally-- albinism is of no concern. We don't conclude that eating and swallowing is bad for us because we might choke. When we drive from A to B we do not *expect* to be killed in a car accident, because the likelihood is so low. Both cases *might* happen, but in no way do they define the action.

It's true that religion reigns, but the real issue is that reason is not respected or even encouraged. That costs us all, one way or another, in happiness, freedom, wealth and health. The unreasoning religious and the irrational Left would rather keep their heads in a bucket-O'sh_t, than see the sunshine life can truly offer.

Protium said...

Great posts all around... Thanks for the read.

Xavier Onassis said...

"The earth is an ark. The organisms currently living on the earth contain all the genetic information required to breed any of the organisms that have ever lived on the earth. This would require no beneficial mutations, just a careful and prolonged selective breeding program, and the exchange of DNA that often occurs naturally between different species. This genetic information has been available for the entire time that life has existed on earth."

What?!? WTF??

So, if I start a selective breeding program that mates human couples where both the male and female like to eat meat, have short arms and big noses I will eventually come up with a T-Rex?

Is THAT what this lunatic (freediver) is saying? If so, you went to WAAAYYY more effort to refute his argument than was warranted. A simple STFU and a well-placed dope-slap should have been sufficient.

Reg Golb said...

He is clearly not saying what XO thinks. I don't think he is right, and I know you couldn't prove it.

But I do have a question which I would love to have answered.

When you start a selective breeding program, why can't you get it to evolve somethine new?

I know, I know, evolution is "A lot of well read people do grasp that Evolution is NOT a theory, it is a flat out fact."

"reason is not respected" I have a reasonable question, why can't you get it to evolve somethine new?

Richard said...

Reg, surely you can answer that yourself! Take some intellectual responsibility.

Selective breeding has produced thousands of new domestic somethings. New animals, new plants, new yeasts and new bacteria. Do you mean new "species"? Define "species" carefully, and yes new species have been produced by selective breeding. Darwin knew that, which is why he referred to what he saw in nature as Natural Selection.

Do you mean, "Why can't you get reason to evolve something new?" The neural system that produces the conceptual mind is a product of natural selection. (I think there is pretty good evidence the process is not complete!) However reason is a choice to use or not use that conceptual mind. Nature cannot force one to use reason. Dumber people driven by a good philosophy can make better choices than smarter people driven by bad philosophy, but either way reality can sure wipe out the idiots. The consequence is that mankind is substantially exempted from natural evolution. The reason I would not say "completely" is based medical issues and the Darwin Awards.

Richard said...

Cripes, for some reason I just noticed this commonly believed but utterly false view of science from Johnny's post on Freediver.

The modern scientific method is defined in terms of hypotheses, theories and laws. The difference between each is the level of acceptance in the scientific community.

It's that damned 'consensus' nonsense again. A notion promoted by Karl Popper's jerk of a student, Paul Feyerabend (he just died... Yay!). According to him there is no truth so we have to accept what is most widely accepted. Reality is beyond our ability to actually identify it. Of course he uses computers, airplanes, telephones, eyesight ...you get the idea.

The difference between the three --hypothesis, theory and law-- is the nature of the evidence for each. A law is supported by non-contradictory fact. A theory may be so supported, but includes conceivable areas of doubt. An hypothesis, rationally formed (the only proper way) is based on small amounts of evidence that need to be verified by further observation until a theory or law can be induced and perhaps, but not necessarily, tested by deductive methods.

The Goron has no understanding of such matters... the consensus has decided.

Reg Golb said...

The nature of the evidence?

I am not sure I get what you are saying? I don't want to jump to a conclusion.

Poodles said...

I knew there was a reason I was an arts major. You guys are making my head hurt.

Richard said...

Gosh Poodles, I don't want your head to hurt! I've had the same 'hurt' at U of Toronto's Fac. of Education courses --such as The Independent Child and The Classroom which I thought would be about independent minded children, and how a teacher could work with independent minds.

It turned out to be all about feeling good with your friends, and helping the independent child join the flock.

We went through exercises with pictures, learning style analyses dealing with our own, and the child's, differing approaches. We were grouped according to which quadrant we belonged to, and were supposed to come up with our own way of merging the child into the social blob of his particular quadrant type.

I was proud to have landed equally between all four types and refused to join in any of the groups. The prof offered me a B+ if I wrote the final essay and dropped out of the class... what a break! Whew. I had the same brain freeze in four more of the six courses I took there... biggest waste of a year ever.

The stuff Johnny and I are onto is pretty important because it speaks to how one can know and get at valid Truth about Man and his Universe. Without it, study of the Universe becomes an arbitrary game so people can have jobs, and fit into the elitist social club of academia. Either our mind can know Reality or it can't. If God runs reality, then everything we discover about reality is tentative, in so far as God decides to keep it that way or to change it.

In such a Universe nothing is certain, not even the possibility of this post appearing on your computer screen, or that the brown stuff in your coffee mug is coffee and not coffee flavored arsenic or a dead squirrel.

The latter view undercuts a person's sense of life, his sense that he can live well and effectively and enjoy life --he is always never quite sure. A kind of living hell based on uncertainty, enhanced by religious guilt, and on which one is supposed to feel happy and blindly secure that the big guy in the sky will make things turn out right.

[If a reader is squeamish I wouldn't read on... on the other hand, what follows exemplifies the culmination of full blown religious zealotry, which needs to be grasped.]

Of course, God doesn't make things turn out right... just ask the fourteen year old Kurdish girl who was stoned to a slow squirming-in-agony death for having loved a boy of a different Muslim religion. And, in some ways, more evil are her parents. After hiding with an Imam for three months the Imam was convinced she was safe to return to her parents home... where they promptly handed her over to a mob, of 1,000 men, who stripped her from the waist down [to expose her evil loins] before they stoned her. All performed under before the eyes of several Kurdish policemen and Iraqi soldiers.

Fourteen years old; may Allah be praised! [Of course, the awful awful event can be seen on video over the Internet.]

Religion is fundamentally evil, but so is irrational atheism. One or the other will kill one or more people, who did not deserve it, over the course of this day.

Richard said...

Reg has asked a good question.

I said, "The nature of the evidence?

And Reg asks,
I am not sure I get what you are saying? I don't want to jump to a conclusion."

Whenever someone has an idea concerning Reality, and wishes to know if it is true, their first task is to consider what constitutes proof of their idea.

Is a coin loaded? That is, does it have a different metal in it, to unbalance it, so that it does not toss an even number of heads and tails? How could you test it?

Perhaps you note that Bob, who brought out the coin, is a card shark, and rude: "It must be loaded because Bob is a jerk."

Or, "It flipped tails three times in a row, so it must be loaded"

Or, "I'll flip the coin 100x and compare it with a coin I know is not loaded. If they are both close to 50:50 fine. If not, then I'll run another hundred tests to see if the suspect coin moves towards 50:50, or more towards some other ratio of heads to tails.

Or, "I'll have a metallurgist examine it."

Which forms of evidence naturally apply as a proof to the problem?

The first two are plainly subjective, and either have little to do with the coin or do not provide definitive evidence.

The latter two proofs are objective: they focus on the facts of reality that properly apply to the object in question. More importantly, they are contextually absolute! The nature of their evidence provides definite knowledge about the coin in question.

While the coin example is simple, the principle applies to black holes, Big Bangs, God, even Mountain King being another incarnation of Reg.

Maybe Reg is really good at writing in different styles and, as Mountain King, has managed to fool us. Writing style is not, altogether, a definitive proof that they are not the same writer. After many examples it may get more evident.

Proofs are often not handy, and an honest mind stops debating the uncertainties. If the issue is unimportant, the honest mind forgets about it. If it is important, he puts it on the 'back-burner' of his mind --e.g., Starhawk on God-- and remains alert for clearer arguments. However, he must also pay attention to what constitutes a definitive argument.

Starhawk, Reg, you have seen definitive arguments against God... now you need to assimilate them and integrate them with the other related ideas (such as claims for His existence) on the subject. If the contradictions are definitive, then the answer will become clear. And, in the God case, the clarity is there, absolutely.

Thump Thump Eyes said...

I'm with you Poodles, I was also an arts major and this is hurting my brain slightly:)

However, after reading everything a few times it's starting to sink in and I really appreciate the time and effort Johnny and Richard have put into rebutting what freediver said. IMHO this guy just came along to start an argument, he's very cold and not showing any desire to get to know anybody.

Further to Richard's mention of the stoning of the Kurdish girl, I have seen that video, and it is horrifying! All the men are gathered around, bombarding her with rocks, looking eager and excited - and (it seemed to me) aroused - yelling and grunting with mobile phones held high to record the event (for who?).

Their religion seems to dictate that women are to be feared? Covering them up totally, dont educate them, keep them locked up at home or if they do go out, it must be with a male of the family.....the stoning (to me) became a kind of warrior situation where they are killing the (female) beast that has endangered the men. All this is enhanced by religious guilt perpetuated by all the men in their society...which when god doesnt make it turn out right they give each other permission to solve it themselves. I could be wrong about how it works in their society, but how sadly crazy it all is in the name of religion!

Richard said...

TTEyes! Thank-you!!

And thank-you to Fiery!! It is your honesty and your decision to blog as you do, that has attracted some really great people... and a couple of kinda excellent "silly bunts" (see Monty Python) as foils.

Throughout history the sheeple have been led --by men and women with a better vision of the world-- as they were dragged, whining and biting, into that world. They are dragged by a minority like us, who recognize the value of the great ideas in history, and who make the choice to stand on that side. Sometimes our decision is at the price of friends, family and one's life.

We may not lead, but there is still a certain greatness in recognizing who deserves to be 'followed'. We achieve that greatness when we consciously and deliberately grasp those good ideas, and then make them our own.

We are not "mindless followers", even if accused to be so by those who are most guilty of it. We are mindful adopters, like Fiery.

Richard said...

Man, I wish Blogger put its previews beside its text input box!

Anyone -- is there a trick I don't know?

Poodles said...

TTEyes :)

I understand what is being said, I HAD to take biology in college, and I even enjoyed it. But I was the kind of student who always hated when the class fundy tried to argue shit with the professor. I did have a great professor who after a few mimutes would admit the fundy was blind and deaf and require that the class move on. Seems to me that there are some people that no matter how hard you try they will never get it. Their indoctrination is so strong and their brains so small that only one thing will fit, and guess which they choose? All of Johnny and Richards brilliance will not help the YEC's move on.

I have not seen the stoning video and I won't. Since they chose to put it out on the web that means to me, they get off on having people watch their arrogance. I won't comply.

Poodles said...

And on a side note, I am tired of the schiophrenia of my pansy picture. I have changed to photobucket for hosting and it isn't consistent. DAMN!

Richard said...

Hey Poodles,

Boy can I sympathize with you!!

I took a fourth year genetics course. The prof was steeped in the formulas of genetics, and went on and on about embryonic development. Periodically a student would ask a probing question about the more fundamental causes of some of the things he discussed. The prof, almost weekly, seemed to dodge the questions.

Finally, at the end of the year he began a three class review. Once again he dodged a question. The next class the student listed five questions the prof had dodged, and asked that they be seriously answered. A major question was how do mutations of little apparent value lead to new species. The prof responded that it depended on God. There was a few snickers.

Then he launched into a five minute tirade about how people were always trying to get God out of Life. It was GOD who decided what mutations happened and GOD who decided whether they were good or bad, just as when he first made all the animals and saw that it was GOOD!! Two thirds of the class were laughing, some in loud guffaws, and 1/3 looked about with obvious embarrassment.

I'll never forget it as it was, at the time, shocking. Today few would dare to laugh.

What's a YEC? Perhaps a "Young Educated Christian?" or a "Young Earth Creationist"?

Poodles said...

Richard,
I would like to say YEC is Young Educated Christian, but... I was indeed refering to Young Earth Creationist.

Fiery said...

TTEyes, I'm glad you popped back in again! I had rather been missing you and your lovely dolphin picture on my blog.

I find it utterly abhorent that people in the 21st century are still stoning those who do not measure up to their standards. It is primitive and horrific and the worst part is the lack of global outrage. People sit back and say, "Well, we should tolerate their religious beliefs, they are a religion of peace afterall." She was 14 years old. 14. And her family turned her over willingly to the mob and allowed her to be taken.

Fiery said...

Poodles- I too refuse to watch the stoning. I refuse to allow their terror to take hold of my mind. They are part of a despicable religion, and not something that deserves respect or accomodation.

About your pic. I put up a blog post with just the phoenix picture and then used that code for my profile. So far it's been working! :-)

Fiery said...

Richard- your genetics professor sounds like the epitome of compartmentalization. He steeped himself in science, a man supposedly of reason and rationality. But only up to a certain point, then "nup! God did it!" Unable to look beyond the bible and his faith, to be surrounded by all the wonder of nature, to understand it on such an indepth, microscopic detail, yet cling to the wishes and fantasy/nightmares of long dead tribal people.

I think if the student where to stand up today and confront the professor that not only would there be no laughter at the professors expense, but probably gasps of outrage at the religious intolerance and temerity of questioning another's religious beliefs.

The man who invented fire was probably burnt at the stake.

The man who invented the wheel, broken on the rack.

The fundies ever use what science has given to try and ram god further down the throats of others. Kicking and squeeling all the way that while science shows this... the gaps are filled with god. Close one gap and they'll seek out another and fill it with their god. Slippery as eels they are. Terrified to embrace the truth that there is no heaven nor are there hellfires awaiting anyone.

The best way to deal with making your comment look and say what you want...write it in a word processing document then

ctrl-a
ctrl-c
ctrl-v

when you are finished.