Re: Post-Empiricism Science: A little surprised

Date: Wed Sep 17 2003 - 12:55:14 EDT

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    This is a common caricature and misunderstanding about evolutionary
    biology. Evolutionary biology is extremely predictive. Darwin himself
    hypothesized (predicted) that there would have to be a form of inheritance
    that could allow for evolution. He struggled to formulate a mechanism.
    Later that mechanism was discovered. Darwin also made very specific
    predictions about particular characteristics. For example, I think I am
    remembering correctly that he predicted the existence of a butterfly with a
    very long tongue to account for the known existence of a certain flower
    with a very deep tubular shape.

    Most of what many evolutionary biologists/ecologists do every day is to
    make predictions about the basis of a particular ecological or evolutionary
    situation or process and then test that by examining the
    geographical/genetic distribution or breeding relationships or genetic
    basis of the traits in question. It's true that we cannot really go back
    in time and repeat past historical events, but that is true at some level
    of any field of science. All we can do is predict and test specific
    conditions about the processes involved and then evaluate how the action of
    those processes match the physical record of biological diversity.

    For example, in many plants, chloroplast DNA is inherited maternally
    (directly from the mother plant). This knowledge can be used to predict the
    pattern of genetic variation that would arise among two related species
    that are capable of hybridizing in geographical areas where they occur
    together. By then sampling and testing sequences sampled from among
    populations of the two species, the prediction can be tested. Making the
    valid assumption that these same scientifically confirmed processes have
    operated throughout the entire history of the two species, fairly detailed
    and accurate understanding of the biogeographical evolutionary history of
    the two species can be acquired.

    To say that evolution is not a predictive science is like saying that
    chemistry is not predictive because it cannot tell me the precise path that
    any one particular molecule of H2O will take as it bounces around in a
    bottle of water.


                        Walter Hicks
                        <wallyshoes@minds To: "Alexanian, Moorad" <>
              > cc:,,
                        Sent by: Subject: Re: Post-Empiricism Science: A little surprised
                        09/17/03 09:12 AM

    Does that mean that evolution is not a science? I have not heard of any
    predictive aspects of it.

    "Alexanian, Moorad" wrote:
         Ancients used to explain eclipses and why the sun rises but could not
         make predictions. The essence of a scientific theory is the ability to
         make predictions and not merely give explanations, which is pure
              -----Original Message-----
              From: [
    ] On Behalf Of
              Sent: Wednesday, September 17, 2003 7:39 AM
              Subject: Re: Post-Empiricism Science: A little surprised
              In a message dated 9/17/03 1:46:31 AM Eastern Daylight Time,

              The evolutionary paradigm is just as religious and sacred as a
              paradigm. The only difference is that the evolutionary paradigm
              is based upon
              and accepted by blind faith. It is blind because it cannot be
              confirmed by
              anyone who could know.

         T. Kuhn wrote that the strength of a hypothesis is in its explanatory
         value. The explanatory value of evolutionary theory is so strong and
         there is so much evidence for it that to dispute it at this point is
         to dig your head in the sand.

         "If a paradigm is ever to triumph it must gain some first supporters,
         men who will develop it to
         the point where hard headed arguments can be produced and multiplied.
         And even those
         arguments when they come are not individually decisive.

         Because scientists are reasonable men, one or another argument will
         ultimately persuade many
         of them. But there is no single argument that can or should persuade
         them all. Rather than a
         single group conversion, what occurs is an increasing shift in the
         distribution of professional

         At the start, a new candidate for paradigm may have few supporters,
         and on occasion the
         supporters' motives may be suspect. Nevertheless, if they are
         competent, they will improve it,
         explore its possibilities and show what it would be like to belong to
         the community guided by
         it. And as that goes on, if the paradigm is one destined to win its
         fight, the number and
         strength of the professional arguments in its favor will increase.

         More scientists will then be converted and the exploration of the new
         paradigm will go on.
         Gradually the number of experiments, instruments, articles and books
         based upon the
         paradigm will multiply. Still more men, convinced of the new view's
         fruitfulness will adopt the
         new mode of practicing normal science, until at last only a few
         elderly hold-outs remain.

         Though the historian can always find men, Priestley, for instance, who
         were unreasonable to
         resist for as long as they did, he will not find a point at which
         resistance becomes illogical or
         unscientific. At most he may wish to say that the man who continues to
         resist after his whole
         profession has been converted has ipso facto ceased to be a

                                The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas
         S. Kuhns
                                        Chapter: Resolution of Revolutions

         rich faussette

    Walt Hicks <>

    In any consistent theory, there must exist true but not provable statements. (Godel's Theorem)

    You can only find the truth with logic If you have already found the truth without it. (G.K. Chesterton) ===================================

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