RE: Post-Empiricism Science: A little surprised

From: Alexanian, Moorad (
Date: Thu Sep 18 2003 - 10:26:16 EDT

  • Next message: Alexanian, Moorad: "RE: Post-Empiricism Science: A little surprised"

    I am sure that Darwin was fully aware of animal breeding and so the issue of inheritance and variations within a kind was no big discovery. It is only when one says that kinds evolve into different kinds that someone is making a non-trivial statement, which can be a working assumption that may be true but for which there is no present evidence.


    Imagine the similar statement made for biology, viz. "nothing in biology makes sense except in light of evolution" (Dobzhansky), being made in physics. “Nothing in physics makes sense expect in light of the Big Bang.” The latter is a laughable statement.


    I totally agree with you that studies of mutations and so on ought to be done but claims should not to be made as being scientific when they are actually posited for philosophical reasons.



            -----Original Message-----
            From: []
            Sent: Wed 9/17/2003 5:17 PM
            To: Alexanian, Moorad
            Subject: RE: Post-Empiricism Science: A little surprised

            Okay, so the butterfly-flower example doesn't cut the mustard, but you
            can't get around the other example I gave from Darwin. When he formulated
            his theory of evolution, he knew it could only work if the mode of
            inheritance was different from what was general understood at the time. He
            was so compelled by the evidence that evolution had in fact occurred that
            he struggled to contrive a different mode of inheritance that would allow
            for it. That struggle was itself an incredible prediction.
            I suppose that it is valid to assert that at one level most biology
            research has nothing to do with evolution; one does not HAVE to consider
            evolution in order to understand biochemistry of how chloroplasts capture
            light energy and use it to create chemical energy in the form of sugar.
            However, on another level, "nothing in biology makes sense except in light
            of evolution" (Dobzhansky); a consideration of chloroplast evolution can be
            very enlightening about the interplay of mechanisms required for
            photosynthesis. Are you aware that since many of the genes originally
            encoded in chloroplast genome have transferred to the nuclear genome or
            been silenced since their endosymbiotic origin?
            Your point about chemistry in many ways is exactly my point about
            evolutionary biology. "Statistical behavior" is the same as saying
            "probability". No one studying evolutionary biology cares what happens
            with one individual plant or animal; rather, we acquire as much information
            about the genetic basis of traits and their modes of inheritance, etc., and
            then are able to predict probabalistically how things have evolved or will
            evolve. Mutation rates are statistical, and to the extent that gene
            functions are understood mechanistically, the effects of particular
            mutations (which will occur in nature at certain rates) can be predicted
            and then those predictions tested. How such new mutations spread or are
            lost from the population of genes in a population of organisms can also be
            predicted and tested.
                                Moorad" To: <>, <>
                                <alexanian@unc cc:
                      > Subject: RE: Post-Empiricism Science: A little surprised
                                09/17/03 03:16
            The observations of Darwin that you cite means simply that he looked at one
            part of nature to guess other parts of nature. This feature is the
            consistency of nature and has nothing to do with Darwinian Theory. This is
            not an issue of time development whereby Darwin predicts what will be the
            future outcome of what he actually observers. Most of biology, if not all,
            has nothing whatsoever to do with Darwinian Theory.
            Chemistry deals with statistical behavior of systems of molecules and no
            one really care what one molecule does.
                       -----Original Message-----
                       From: on behalf of
                       Sent: Wed 9/17/2003 12:55 PM
                       Subject: Re: Post-Empiricism Science: A little surprised
                       This is a common caricature and misunderstanding about
                       biology. Evolutionary biology is extremely predictive. Darwin
                       hypothesized (predicted) that there would have to be a form of
                       that could allow for evolution. He struggled to formulate a
                       Later that mechanism was discovered. Darwin also made very
                       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
                       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
                       situation or process and then test that by examining the
                       geographical/genetic distribution or breeding relationships or
                       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
                       conditions about the processes involved and then evaluate how
            the action of
                       those processes match the physical record of biological
                       For example, in many plants, chloroplast DNA is inherited
                       (directly from the mother plant). This knowledge can be used to
            predict the
                       pattern of genetic variation that would arise among two related
                       that are capable of hybridizing in geographical areas where they
                       together. By then sampling and testing sequences sampled from
                       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
                       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
                                 -----Original Message-----
                                 From: [
                       ] On Behalf Of
                                 Sent: Wednesday, September 17, 2003 7:39 AM
                                 Subject: Re: Post-Empiricism Science: A little
                                 In a message dated 9/17/03 1:46:31 AM Eastern Daylight
                                 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
                            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
                            men who will develop it to
                            the point where hard headed arguments can be produced and
                            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
                            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
                            and on occasion the
                            supporters' motives may be suspect. Nevertheless, if they
                            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
                            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
                            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
                            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
                            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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