Re: Payne-Miller dialogue regarding facts/interpretation (fwd)

From: Joel Cannon (
Date: Mon Jun 18 2001 - 14:24:18 EDT

  • Next message: Joel Cannon: "Re: Copernicus vs. Darwin---was Payne-Miller"

     Gill Payne:

    > Joel, what you have done here is conflate evolution with heliocentricity
    > and atomic structure. There is a major difference between interpretating
    > *historical* science and *experimental* science.

    Please define what you mean by experiment or "empirical testing." By
    experiment, do you mean an observation of some phenomenon you have
    manipulated? Do you insist on numbers to feel it is empirical? How is
    observation of geological column any different from observation of the
    position of Mars against the celestial background?

    On the contrary, Copernicus's inference was based on data, just as
    Darwin's was. In fact Copernicus had conserably less data. The point
    is that he did not observe the earth going around the Sun. He proposed
    a model that explained and thereby interpreted the data. Copernicus
    "experiment" was his observation, just as Darwin's was.

    Similarly, Darwin observed data and proposed a model that explained
    and interpreted the data. Both are inferential, and in both cases,
    the model can be tested further by deducing consequences the model
    predicts and testing/looking for

     Perhaps this divergence
    > in our view of data is rooted in our employment. Those of you who work
    > in the university and government environment are insulated from the world
    > of litigation. You can say practically anything you like about science
    > without fear of a lawsuit.

    A portion of my income comes from work as an expert witness so I am
    not "insulated from the world of litigation". I have found the
    academic world to be far more efficient and precise at arriving at
    truth, in part because of the "anything you say can and will be
    distorted" situation. Indeed Newton's Laws are up for grabs with a
    jury (or a judge).

    > As a geologist working for an international engineering/environmental
    > company (read deep pockets), I and my co-workers are constantly drilled
    > with the importance of making sure our reports are supported by data, and
    > that the data is correctly presented and interpreted. No report should
    > go out without everything being checked, and the final report must be
    > reviewed by a principal. Instruments used to gather data must have
    > documentation that they are in calibration, field notes must be correct
    > and complete, samples shipped to a lab for analysis must have proper
    > chain-of-custody, and on and on.
    > It's a fact of life that some of our clients would like to use any excuse
    > to reach into our pockets. At a recent "Risk-Management Seminar" one of
    > our corporate attorneys told us repeatedly: "Anything you say can and
    > will be distorted and used against you in a court of law." If we were to
    > investigate a historical event not subject to emprical testing, our
    > report would necessarily have a prominent qualifier stating the
    > conditions undergirding our interpretations.
    > I find this lack of distinction between empirical-based science and
    > historical-based science common in the evolution debate. If
    > architects/engineers ran their businesses with the same lack of rigor,
    > they would soon be gone, courtsey of our friends the lawyers.
    > Bill
    > ________________________________________________________________
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    Joel W. Cannon | (724)223-6146
    Physics Department |
    Washington and Jefferson College |
    Washington, PA 15301 |

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