Re: Letter to the Editor

Moorad Alexanian (alexanian@UNCWIL.EDU)
Mon, 08 Jun 1998 13:36:51 -0500 (EST)

At 10:58 PM 6/5/98 -0400, Ed Brayton wrote:
>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.

Dear Ed,

One impression I was left with by seeing Bork's confirmation hearings was
that he acted like a theoretical physicist---using the method of axiomatics
to derive legal consequences from the Constitution. Your example does not
surprise me. Such is the view of one who does not derive from the
Constitution what is not there. Witness the use of privacy to derive abortion!!

>> >> Unlike physics, paleontology is a science in the sense of forensic
>> >> 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
>> >
>> >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.

I do not think there is any scientific depth to evolutionary theory. It will
have the status of a scientific theory, a la physics, if and when it is
described at the biochemical level.

>> >> 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.

There are different depth of understanding. One depth of understanding gives
rise to explanation. However, the truly scientific gives also to
(quantitative) prediction.

>> 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

A sort of linear fit. Tell me what came first the chair or the table--which
evolved from which. What you say reminds me of those political ads where any
Democratic candidate was continuously morphed into Clinton. I believe you
can morph anything into anything.

Take care,