Re: [asa] Demarcation was Re: thinking was prosecutors and not that of the judge

From: David Opderbeck <>
Date: Mon May 07 2007 - 20:30:29 EDT

Yes -- I like Lakatos, and it seems to me there's no way ID could qualify as
a Lakatosian "research program." I might even go so far as to say that
Lakatos' notion of a progressive research program might be a useful
yardstick for things like allocating public research dollars and public
education "bandwidth" -- but simply as a pragmatic matter relating to where
money and time might on the whole might be best spent, not as strong line
between "science / non science."

On 5/7/07, George Murphy <> wrote:
> The issue is not simply "predictions" in the sense of foretelling
> something that hasn't yet been observed. Here (as in other places) I think
> Lakatos' picture of how science works is helpful (without implying that it
> provides a strict definition of what constitutes science). There a research
> program is "progressive" if it is able to predict "novel facts" without
> having to introduce new auxiliary hypotheses, but those facts need not be
> things that were previously unknown. They can be phenomena which were known
> but which were not used in the development of the theory. Thus, e.g., the
> 43"/century precession of the perihelion of Mercury counts as a novel fact
> predicted by general relativity. It was well known decades before
> Einstein's theory was developed but was not used by him in constructing his
> gravitational theory. OTOH a theory which can accomodate new facts only by
> introducing extra hypotheses (e.g., changing the exponent -2 in Newton's
> law of gravitation slightly) is to that extent regressive.
> The value of such predictions is clearer in physica than in
> biology because physics can be formulated more clearly in math terms than
> can biology. & that also helps to explain why prediction is a significant
> criterion. You can always come up with a formula to explain any set of
> quantitative observational data. But having formula which fits not only old
> data but also data which were unknown when the formula was first developed
> suggests that it corresponds to some pattern which actually exists
> in nature. (& as usual in such matters, I acknowledge the assistance of
> Prof. Plato.)
> Shalom
> George
> ----- Original Message -----
> *From:* David Opderbeck <>
> *To:* PvM <>
> *Cc:* ; asa <>
> *Sent:* Monday, May 07, 2007 1:09 PM
> *Subject:* Re: [asa] Demarcation was Re: thinking was prosecutors and not
> that of the judge
> Quite honestly, I don't see why the focus on "predictions" is all that
> crucial. Is an accurate historical description of a natural phenomenon not
> "science" unless a "prediction" can be derived from that description? Why?
> What if the description is of a remarkable, one-off, incredibly improbable
> event or series of events?
> I can see that the social utility of "science" might relate to predictive
> ability. But even then, I can't see why a merely historical description
> lacks any social value at all -- it may have value just because it's
> interesting to some people, or because it helps us place other beliefs in a
> broader context. Or, some merely historical descriptions may have social
> value because they negate predictions based on mistaken notions of history.
> If evidence were produced that conclusively falsified an existing
> paradigm, that would have enormous social value even if that evidence was
> entirely negative and resulted in no predictions about what should replace
> the existing paradigm. Human knowledge advances when false beliefs are
> proven false as well as when new, more accurate beliefs replace the false
> ones. That doesn't always have to happen concurrently, it seems to me.
> None of this is to say ID has proven Darwinism false, but it seems to me
> that the "no predictions" meme is overstated in terms of simply demarcating
> "science."

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Received on Mon May 7 20:30:49 2007

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