Re: [asa] Predictive Power: Astronomy vs. Evolution

From: <>
Date: Thu Dec 07 2006 - 06:03:46 EST

David O wrote:

> First, it seems to me that the argument about astronomy predicting the
> location of the planets is overstated. Based on Newton's laws of motion and
> gravity, one could calculate where a planet in our solar system will be in
> relation to the Sun and the other planets in the future. However, any number of
> reasonably possible, unanticipated, "random" events could change that
> calculation -- say, a major meteor impact that changes a planet's orbit. Further, the
> question of "location" is only a relative one. It's impossible to predict a
> planet's precise location in the universe a million years from now, because
> the universe is not, as Newton thought, a fixed Euclidean space. So, the
> predictive power of Newton's laws of motion and gravity is real, but its
> application is only practical at certain levels of granularity and based on big
> assumptions about intervening forces. A prediction about the location of the
> planets a million years from now is possible in theory, but not really in
> practice.

Basically yes. The thing is that the motion of planets is not
too difficult to grapple with once you understand the concept.
Given nothing really perturbs the system significantly, we can
be pretty sure about what will happen. But if you wanted to
predict precisely what would happen when two galaxies collide,
you would have some difficulties: not the least being that relativistic
mechanics is necessary. So raise the bar of difficulty
from a comparatively trivial isolated binary system with only
weak gravitational interactions, and complexity begin to rear
its ugly head.
> Second, it seems to me that evolutionary theory does make some general
> predictions. The basic one is that organisms will adapt to environmental and
> competitive pressures. This is a very general prediction, but it has specific
> application in areas like disease resistance. This kind of prediction may not
> have the granularity of predictions about the locations of the planets based
> on Newton's laws of motion and gravity, but that is just a matter of degree,
> not of kind.

Mainly it is the complexity that makes it hard to predict. It's
not a simple binary system with fixed constants and time independence.
I have used evolution to predict protein structure. Homology is a
very useful tool to help with understanding important secondary
structure in a protein. Some global folds can be found that way too

> The author of the original argument didn't really address my first point.
> As to my second point, he accused me of dishonesty or ignorance. ID, he said,
> recognizes the type of microevolution I described, so that doesn't count as
> a prediction based on evolutionary theory. After some further exchanges
> about this accusation of dishonesty, I was banned from the forum (!).

My observation is that an extreme reaction means either you've
nailed a weak spot and are basically right, or you're quite
wrong. I would wager it is the former in this case, but then,
maybe we're the ones who are crazy.

by Grace we proceed,

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Received on Thu Dec 7 06:04:36 2006

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