RE: Re: preposterous

Date: Tue Apr 03 2001 - 13:27:08 EDT

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    Moorad writes:
    >Thanks for you comments Tim. My comments were on evolutionary theory and
    >the history of the earth and not about biology nor geology, which are big
    >fields in which questions of origins are very minor subfields. My field of
    >study is statistical mechanics.

    Then I am sorry and take back my previous remarks. You probably do
    know as much experimental statistics as many field biologists.

    >One must realize that physics is an experimental science while
    >evolutionary theory and history of the earth are not!

    The latter two are indeed experimental, if not in the quite the
    same way as one might suppose is the case for physics. Individual
    events may not repeat (well, no individual events truely repeat),
    but models can be created and tested. And hypotheses about singular
    events can be tested and refined with newly acquired data even if
    the data is itself not "new".

    >Newton did not study the origin of the solar system but took
    >what was and described its time development.

    And this is distinct from what geologists do when trying to
    reconstruct the past history of the earth? Time development
    works in _two_ directions. One can predict events or
    "retro-dict" events.

    >Studies of the origin of the solar system are speculative.

    But many models are testable against currently available data.
    Minimally one can use available data to evaluate alternative
    ideas (eg. impact origin of the moon & etc.) and rule out
    others. Studies of anything at the cutting edge of _any_ science
    are speculative.

    >The beauty of physics is that outlandish claims cannot be made
    >and smaller claims can be disproved rather readily. Magnetic
    >monopoles were claimed to have been observed in one event, but
    >such claim will be part of physics only if confirmed by other
    >physicists. However, claims of this sort are commonplace in
    >questions of origins. Moorad

    I hope you do not mean to suggest that claims (even the outlandish)
    in "historical sciences" are not subject to future examination
    and testing, or are not subject to later confirmation or
    rebuttal by other scientists: e.g. "Once suspect, always suspect"?
    I think the actual criteria being applied here is the rate at which
    hypotheses can move from cutting edge, speculative results to
    "established ideas". In physics, which deals with comparatively
    simple systems of limited unknowns, this probably is correct.
    Testing can be done quicker... sometimes, yet convergence also
    happens in the "less rigorous" historical sciences.

    In a later letter, you mention the OJ Simpson murder trial
    as an example of the difficulties and uncertainties that can
    apply to forensic sciences. I agree. Sometimes conditions are
    such that a clear record of past events is difficult to deduce
    (insufficient data). That, added to poorly performed tests
    (bad technique) produces events like OJ's trial. Yet, we can't
    use this case as an excuse to ignore the many others in which
    sufficient data and careful processing produce results that
    are indeed definitive. So to bolster a claim that certain
    sub-disciplines with biology and geology "may border on bad
    science", I'd really like to see a definitive survey, done in
    the same style rigorous physics is done, that demonstrates that
    this is indeed the norm.

    But given that you accept that biology, geology, and high-energy
    physics are indeed serious sciences and yet have trouble with
    the sub-disciplines involved with examining the past and
    which have theological repercussions, perhaps your religious
    beliefs have a stronger influence than you might suppose. Yet
    if the study of "earth history" is such a dismal science then
    why get involved with the Earth History Research Center?

    Tim Ikeda (

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