Re: Letter to the Editor

Ed Brayton (
Fri, 05 Jun 1998 22:58:26 -0400

Moorad Alexanian wrote:

> >Though I don't care much for Gould's politics, I certainly don't have a
> >problem with Gould attacking Bork's politics. Bork is a frightening man,
> >and it appalls me that he was so close to being on the Supreme Court. I
> >have never understood why even his opponents always described him as a
> >"brilliant constitutional scholar"; even a cursory look at his law
> >journal writings makes it clear that his legal reasoning is at about a
> >3rd grade level (evidenced by the fact that my 4th grade son figured out
> >the flaw in one of his more absurd legal ideas).
> I have read Bork's "Slouching Towards Gomorrah," watched his confirmation
> Hearings and I am very much impressed with him. I must also have the
> reasoning ability of a 3rd grader. I advise you to immediately send your kid
> to Harvard Law School.

I think I'll wait a few years before doing that. <G> As for being
impressed with Bork, I would suggest that you read his law journal
articles. They are full of some of the most laughable reasoning you will
ever encounter. One quick example. In a 1973 journal article discussing
the Griswold v. Connecticutt case (which overturned a law banning the
use of contraceptives even by married couples), Bork sets up an
absolutely surreal dichotomy between the two sides in the dispute. He
claims that there are two rights at stake in the case, the right of the
married couple who challenged the law to obtain and use contraceptives,
and the right of others to stop them from using them. And he further
claims that there is no reason why one right should be "indulged" (his
term) and not the other. This is stunning even for an apologist for
government control like Bork. This is the one that my 4th grade son was
able to poke a hole in. Even he was able to grasp the obvious difference
between these two "rights" to be "indulged" - one was the right to
determine one's own actions, and the other was the right to control
someone else's actions. These two are clearly not equal, not even to a
ten year old.

> >> Unlike physics, paleontology is a science in the sense of forensic science.
> >> The evidence for evolutionary transition of humans from apelike ancestors is
> >> not abundant enough to conclude, beyond a reasonable doubt, that it has
> >> occurred. The overwhelming numbers of Americans still believe in a Creator.
> >
> >Is "beyond a reasonable doubt" the correct standard by which to judge a
> >scientific theory? Should we apply legal standards to scienc
> I do not consider evolutionary theory a scientific theory. Ordinary people
> do not have to be scientists to understand what is being said by
> evolutionists. It is not like, say, general relativity where ordinary people
> have to take the scientist's word by faith.

So your criteria in judging whether an idea is scientific is simply
whether or not the public can understand it what is being said? I would
suggest that the public does not understand evolutionary theory very
well at all, no more than they understand relativity or the kinetic
theory of gasses. Scientific ideas can often be stated in different
terms, one easily understood and one not. That does not determine
whether an idea is scientific or not.

> >> Evolutionary theory is not a theory in the same sense as Einstein's
> >> gravitational theory where there is an underlying mathematical model with
> >> predicative power.
> >
> >Nor does the Germ Theory of Disease have an "underlying mathematical
> >model". And the theory itself has predictive power with evolution.
> >
> >Ed
> We do not have to have a mathematical model to understand something.

Then your dichotomy with Einstein's theory of gravity is irrelevant.

> However,
> the main purpose of a scientific theory, besides explanation, is predictive
> power. There may be an underlying mathematical model for germ theory--how
> the number changes with time, etc. But there is no theory on how apes become
> humans.

Perhaps not, but there IS a theory for how apes and humans both evolved
from a common ancestor. In fact, the theory on this particular
transition even goes so far as to name the specific genetic coding that
was mutated in order to produce the transition. This theory predicts
that we would have a series of species that fall between this apelike
ancestor and modern humans, and that they should show features that
become progressively less apelike and more humanlike over time. And they