RE: Evolution Statement

Date: Fri Dec 14 2001 - 14:23:44 EST

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    Moorad wrote:
    >No scientist can make any scientific statement without objective data. I
    >ask you what constitute objective data in your field? You will see that
    >what makes something objective is that it is determined or can in principle
    >be determined by physical devices. If you see something that nobody can
    >verify, then you are hallucinating. If you see the same something next
    >time, my advise to you is to take a picture of it! Moorad

    Well, I already suggested some measurements taken with physical devices.
    For example, micrometers and rulers are generally a good choice for measuring
    bone lengths and depths beneath sedimentary layers. Mass specs are the
    instruments of choice for determining isotope abundance. DNA sequencing
    is a physical process: Originally, human eyeballs determined the order of
    bases in the gels but now automation handles most of the work. DNA alignment
    and sequence comparisons are done by computers. Similar software packages
    are often applied to morphological comparisons as well. All those are
    measurements that are readily verifiable.

    ***** ***** ***** ***** *****
    In another letter:
    >I am glad you all dig me! :) But don't forget you heard it from me first:
    >If something cannot in principle be measured by means of physical devices,
    >then that something is not the subject matter of science. Moorad

    To be honest, I've seen similar statements that predate your birth.

    As we all know, science isn't just data but _synthesis_, or 'making
    connections' between data. In essence, it's about finding and syutdying
    correlations within the data in the hopes of determining causitive
    relationships. Our efforts never conclusively 'prove' causative links
    but instead establish correlations to various degrees of confidence.
    When we talk about "objective measurements" being important in science,
    what we mean is that the data and the processes used to evaluate
    correlations and inferences are, in principle, transparent or visible
    to all. Using instruments to collect and report data is one method of
    producing 'transparent data' (This assumes the instrument is collecting
    the data in the way we expect. Another, downstream assumption is that
    the data collected is pertinent to the phenomenon in question -- but
    that's a whole other discussion). This is in contrast to things like
    revelation and personal perception, that are not readily available for
    others to experience.

    FWIW - I've never proposed that evolutionary history can't in principle
    be studied by means of physical measurements. In fact, it can be and
    it is studied that way. How do you think phylogenetic reconstructions
    are evaluated? Data from physical objects. If it was simply a matter of
    hallucinating, why do zoologists group humans, chimps, and gorillas
    closer together than say, humans and dogs? Why would one anticipate
    finding fossils resembling intermediates between terrestrial mammals
    and whales within a particular epoch?

    Tim Ikeda (

    mail2web - Check your email from the web at .

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