Re: Evolution Statement

From: Howard J. Van Till (
Date: Thu Dec 06 2001 - 17:43:51 EST

  • Next message: Terry M. Gray: "Re: Evolution Statement"

    >From: Moorad Alexanian <>

    > Science is more than explanations. The overriding priority in science is
    > prediction.

    Predictive accuracy is only one of several epistemic values that function in
    scientific theory evaluation. The rest of the list includes: relevance of a
    theory to observation or measurement; internal consistency of a theory;
    consistency of a theory with other relevant theories; explanatory scope of a
    theory; unifying power of a theory; fertility of a theory (its power to
    suggest further observation and theorizing); + several aesthetic values. To
    pick any ONE of these epistemic values as "the overriding priority in
    science" is a remarkably unscientific approach.

    Want a prediction? One prediction of the the theory of evolution might be
    that, since there are so many authentic contingencies in the historical
    development of life forms, one cannot expect to predict the future course of
    evolution on a large or long-term scale.

    > The present model of the solar system allowed us to put a man on
    > the moon. Such feat is based on the predictions that our theory makes. In
    > physics we used to call something phenomenology when we would cook-up
    > explanations for experimental data for which there was no real theory.

    Physics (my own territory) is NOT the model or ideal for all of the natural
    sciences. Physics has chosen the luxury of limiting itself, for the most
    part, to extremely simple systems -- systems whose behavior lends itself to
    the kind of prediction that you take to be the symbol or goal of all
    science. Chemistry is daring enough to tackle systems as complex as
    molecules. Biology, daring and ambitious in the extreme, dares to deal with
    living organisms -- systems not generally amenable to the simplistic
    predictions of orbital mechanics.

    > I think the theory of evolution is, at best, phenomenology and does not have
    > the credentials to be called a full-fledged scientific theory.

    That tells me something about what (and perhaps how) you think, but I don't
    think it tells me anything about the theory of evolution.

    Howard J. Van Till

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