Re: preposterous

From: Jonathan Clarke (
Date: Wed Apr 04 2001 - 08:31:05 EDT

  • Next message: Jonathan Clarke: "Re: preposterous"

    Moorad Alexanian wrote:

    > What I wrote and what you say I said are totally different. That is the type
    > of rigorous thinking that is lacking in the speculative areas that deal with
    > questions of origins. You "summarize" what I said with the phrase "How many
    > times do you need to be told that there is more to science than physics?"
    > Please explain to me, how does that logically follows from what I said?

    My statement was based several conversations we have had in the past when you
    have expressed statements to the effect that physics was superior to historical
    studies. How does this lack in rigour? Your most recent statement supports
    this. You certainly said "I judge the work in that area (ie evolutionary
    biology and historical geology) and compare it with the rigor that is needed to
    do good physics and realize that most, if not all, is very speculative and may
    border on bad science." Therefore good physics is better than most or all
    evolutionary biology.

    > Chemistry, biology, microbiology, etc. are sciences and I can assure you
    > that every person that practices such disciples wants to do his/her science
    > they way physicist do theirs!!

    Every person? I don't know any biologist (or geologist) who wants to emulate
    physicists. There may be some who might suffer from physics envy, but that is
    their problem.

    > In fact, some will even say that those disciplines can be eventually reduced
    > to physics.

    Some may say this, but they are guilty of the most naive reductionism. In what
    way can animal behavior be reduced to physics? In what way can a sequence of
    historically contingent events in a sedimentary basin be predicted from
    physics? In what way can physics allow us to determine the political norms of a
    given society? Biology, geology, and the social sciences wrestle with questions
    that physics cannot even begin to to answer.

    What we need to recognise is that there is a taxonomy of disciplines we call
    sciences. These share certain common characteristics, which is why we call them
    sciences. These include being observation based, rational, attempts at
    determining relationships in the material world. Common tools include
    deduction, induction, falsifiability, repeatability, prediction, and explanatory
    power. Within this larger taxonomic grouping there are differences in
    methodology based on the object of study. So we have the theoretical,
    experiment, observational, historical, and behavioural sciences. It is
    pointless it fault the methodology of one because it does not conform to the
    methodology of the other. The theoretical rationalism and even instrumentalism
    of some theoretical physics works well in that field but is perhaps irrelevant
    to biology. the historical principles of Steno are essential to archaeology and
    geology but completely irrelevant to sociology or quantum theory.

    > Did O.J. killed Nicole and her friend? Forensics science may say yes, but the
    > answer may be no.
    > How many shooters killed president Kennedy? So we really know!! Those are
    > the sort of questions asked in historical sciences. Are the answers to these
    > questions conclusive? You tell me.

    Of course there are limits what we can know about the past. But the fact we do
    not know everything does not mean we therefore know nothing. We may not (thanks
    the obfuscation of the legal profession combined with insufficient data) know
    who killed Nicole and friend , but I presume that even you do not dispute that
    the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbour, that Napoleon lost at Waterloo or Jerusalem
    was destroyed in AD70. How is this dissimilar to the situation in the physical
    sciences. Because there is no TOE (and perhaps will never be a TOE), because of
    quantum uncertainty, does this mean that it is impossible to say anything about
    physical interaction?

    I ask again: How much work in historical geology (or evolutionary biology) have
    you actually done and how much have you reviewed for you to make this judgment?
    Have you actually done the morphological analysis of fossils through a
    stratigraphic section? Have you looked at gene distribution and transmission
    in isolated populations? Have you actually attempted to work out the geological
    history of an area or even a single depositional unit? How wide a range of the
    literature in these fields have you read? I don't mean popularisations, I mean
    actual papers. Unless you have done this sort of work you have no basis for
    your sweeping generalisations.


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