A major problem why poeple often question evolution as science is that they
assume all true science has to be empirical as if physics is the only true
This means that historical sciences such as geology (and also forensic
science) are by definition not science. In a popular way we get the old
chestnut that no one was there to see the dinosaurs so one "theory" is as
good as another.
True, historical sciences cannot use prediction and thus be confirmed by
success in prediction, but geologists do use retrodiction or from geological
data etc suggest that something ought to be the case. As any geologist knows
that can be very fruitful. This is akin to either a forensic scientist or a
historian reckoning what must have been the case a nd then testing it not by
experiment but by looking for further evidence. That happened to me when as
a historian of geology I was studying Darwin's geological work before he
went on the Beagle. I made various predictions and knew that there had to be
manuscript evidence to prove it. See Just before the Beragle in Endeavour
vol25 Mach 2001. First Darwin made a map around Shrewsbury and marked 4
sites with letters . One I said was in the wrong place and when the notes
were found the notes were of the place I had predicted or rather
retrodicted. It was the same in another part, I "predicted" he visitied
Anglesey and then found notes on Anglesey rocks. My theory was testable and
could have been refuted .
It is the same with evolution as ultimately it is a theory about the history
of life and this planet.
Let's have more respect for historical science , whether geology, biology or
----- Original Message -----
From: "Moorad Alexanian" <email@example.com>
To: "AmericanScientificAffiliation" <firstname.lastname@example.org>;
Sent: Friday, December 07, 2001 3:26 PM
Subject: Re: Evolution Statement (corrected)
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Howard J. Van Till" <email@example.com>
> To: "Moorad Alexanian" <firstname.lastname@example.org>; "Dick Fischer"
> <email@example.com>; <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> Sent: Thursday, December 06, 2001 5:43 PM
> Subject: Re: Evolution Statement
> > >From: Moorad Alexanian <email@example.com>
> > > Science is more than explanations. The overriding priority in science
> > > prediction.
> > Predictive accuracy is only one of several epistemic values that
> > scientific theory evaluation. The rest of the list includes: relevance
> > theory to observation or measurement; internal consistency of a theory;
> > consistency of a theory with other relevant theories; explanatory scope
> > theory; unifying power of a theory; fertility of a theory (its power to
> > suggest further observation and theorizing); + several aesthetic values.
> > pick any ONE of these epistemic values as "the overriding priority in
> > science" is a remarkably unscientific approach.
> The overriding priority in science is indeed prediction. One can not make
> correct predictions without a theory being relevant to observations and
> measurements. Inconsistent theories will give rise to wrong predictions.
> notion of unification is primary for any theory---more data under one
> theoretical umbrella. Theories that make strong predictions are fertile
> theories and usually beautiful as well.
> > Want a prediction? One prediction of the the theory of evolution might
> > that, since there are so many authentic contingencies in the historical
> > development of life forms, one cannot expect to predict the future
> > evolution on a large or long-term scale.
> Then do experiments to test the validity of your claims. But do not rest
> what nature has already done since that is history not science.
> > > 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
> > > 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
> > sciences. Physics has chosen the luxury of limiting itself, for the most
> > part, to extremely simple systems -- systems whose behavior lends itself
> > 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
> > living organisms -- systems not generally amenable to the simplistic
> > predictions of orbital mechanics.
> There is a division of labor in human knowledge and you cannot hold that
> against physics! In fact, physicists are more honest than the
> who go beyond their scientific attempts and develop a theology out of
> > > I think the theory of evolution is, at best, phenomenology and does
> > > the credentials to be called a full-fledged scientific theory.
> > That tells me something about what (and perhaps how) you think, but I
> > think it tells me anything about the theory of evolution.
> > Howard J. Van Till
> There is nothing wrong with picking a subject matter and doing the best
> in it with the aid of human reasoning. But let us not confuse hypothesis
> made with facts.
This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Fri Dec 07 2001 - 18:09:52 EST