Re: preposterous

From: Jonathan Clarke (
Date: Wed Apr 04 2001 - 08:31:11 EDT

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    Hi John

    John W Burgeson wrote:

    > Jonathan scolded Moorad with these words (among many):

    I wrote far less than I might have done :-)

    > In defense of Moorad, with whom I have many times disagreed, I offer the
    > comment of Samuel Boswell, who, though not a builder of furniture, opined
    > once that he could still evaluate a chair as a "bad chair" without being
    > able to do better.

    This is true. But one should not fault a table for not being a chair. Nor
    should people who have never seen chairs presume to instruct those who make
    them until they have seen 9and sat on) a lot of them.

    > Coming, as Moorad does, from a background in physics, I think I
    > understand his position, although I am not about to call another person's
    > field of expertise "bad science." Well -- in the case of JB Rhine, maybe.
    > < G >
    > But I have always been concerned about the level of quantification in the
    > evolutionary theories. That does not make them "bad," of course, let
    > alone "untrue." But "uncomfortable" is a word that does come to mind.

    Perhaps you need to be more specific. By evolutionary, do you mean "organic
    evolution by natural selection", "descent with modification" or any theory of
    the earth and universe that involves naturalistic origins?

    Of course quantification is not the be all and end all of knowledge. A
    trivial example would be the quantification of the number of sand grains in a
    cubic metre of sand from a specific beach. You could do with with the
    appropriate particle counter but it would be meaningless. There were many
    attempts to rigorously define the properties of sediments by people such as
    Keunen (sp?) on the basis of grain size, roundness, sphericity, kurtosis,
    skewness, etc. All very quantitative but ultimately pointless apart from
    some rather general patterns. However historically we can say very
    specifically in many cases that event A occurred before event B and establish
    causal links. This may be difficult, or even impossible to quantify, but is
    none the less factual and shows both repeatability and falsifiablity and
    allows prediction (or postdiction, if you prefer). Examples: we can
    establish, for example, that the lower Wilkawillina limestone in the Flinders
    Ranges in South Australia was deposited after the Parachilna Formation and
    before the upper Wilkawillina Limestone. We can also determine that the
    Parara Limestone was deposited synchronously with the upper Wilkawillina
    limestones and that, while the Wilkawillina Limestone is composed of
    carbonate material manufactured in place, the Parara Limestone is composed of
    material reworked from the Wilkawillina Limestone into deeper water. I could
    go on but won't. I can give you references you can heck up if you wish. It
    may not be quantifiable, but it is observation based, falsifiable, and
    capable of prediction, and has considerable explanatory power. Therefore it
    is scientific, at least as I understand science.


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