Re: [asa] historical versus experimental sciences

From: Murray Hogg <>
Date: Sat Aug 22 2009 - 11:05:52 EDT


I'll make only three points;

First, I did NOT assert that you claimed Hebert had no evidence for evolution & etc. What wrote was (and please note the opening disclaimer) "It seems to me that you are making the claim that Hebert has no evidence for his speculations". I then went on to try to make the point that the evidence he does have for evolution, & etc in my view does, indeed, constitute precisely such an empirical ground for his speculations (and that's REGARDLESS of whether Hebert himself acknowledges the point). As an example of the point: Earlier today there was a car parked at the front of my house, it is not there now. I did not see HOW it came to be absent. However, I don't think it an entirely reckless ad hoc speculation that somebody drove it away.

Second, when I write "you should (devise some means of testing the hypothesis]" that's equivalent to "one should..." and the main emphasis should lie upon the fact that devising tests is a logically and chronologically secondary activity to formulation of speculative hypotheses. And, as it seems necessary to make the point lest I have to suffer another round of abuse from yourself: note that I read your remark about the use of "hypothesis" not being appropriate in this context - so substitute any alternate word that seems to you appropriate.

Third, the last line of my post "Nor do I understand why you would think Hebert's case actually evidences the position you seem to me to be advocating" uses the phrase "Herbet's CASE" not the phrase "Herbert's WORK" - i.e. my point is that I simply don't think that the example of Hebert and his speculations about a scouring mechanism support your claims about neo-Darwinists devising ad hoc speculations to save an obviously flawed theory.

I apologize if my contributions do not reach the level you have come to expect of academic work in analytic philosophy but as you see from the above, you're not above a misreading of another person's words yourself.

I really don't, by the way, appreciate the ad hominem nature of your response.


Cameron Wybrow wrote:
> Murray:
> Your response illustrates exactly what I was talking about when I
> mentioned a cavalier attitude toward the exact wording of statements.
> At several points you have ignored or misrepresented exactly what Paul
> Hebert said, or what I said.
> Regarding the points that I was raising, I transcribed Hebert's exact
> words, plus accurate paraphrases of the reporter's questions, and I
> expected that you would follow the transcript, plus my analysis, before
> criticizing my comments. (I also provided the link to the original
> article.)
> First of all, I never asserted that Hebert had no evidence for
> evolution, for neo-Darwinism, or for a mitochondrial DNA bottleneck (in
> humans). Read what I wrote carefully.
> Second, I specified exactly the point on which Hebert, when asked for
> evidence or explanation, admitted that he had none. He speculated about
> the existence of an evolutionary "scouring mechanism" which operated
> regularly. When asked directly how the mechanism would work, he said
> that it was at this point a "scientific mystery". In plain English, he
> didn't know.
> Third, I acknowledged in my original comment to David Campbell that it
> was not clear what Hebert meant by "creationism". But even if he meant
> "young earth creationism", and even if much of young earth creationism
> is "obviously false", as you say, it remains true that *on the point in
> question*, which is the genetic "spread" within species and between
> species, the evidence for young earth creationism is no different than
> what it would be for old earth creationism or for many ID proponents.
> The data raises a more general question than YEC versus Darwinism. It
> raises the difference in prediction between design models generally and
> Darwinian ones.
> Fourth, I did not "denigrate" Hebert. I compared him favorably with the
> NCSE people, and praised him for his honesty at more than one point. I
> said that he had an *a priori* prejudice against admitting design, which
> is *true*. Making a true statement is not "denigration".
> Fifth, I did not go after Darwinians *for being Darwinians*, but *for
> denying or suppressing or blithely dismissing the existence of serious
> contrary evidence*. And I *exempted* Hebert on that point. I did not
> include him among the Darwinians guilty of that.
> Sixth, I did not claim that Hebert's work supported my position. (See
> your last sentence.) I grant that there might be perfectly good
> scientific explanations to account for Hebert's results that do not
> entail accepting a design inference. However, Hebert offered no such
> explanations. Instead, he offered a mysterious undocumented mechanism.
> Thus, my remarks were focused not on showing that Hebert's mitochondrial
> DNA work proves design, but on establishing that it was *an a priori
> commitment against design* that caused him to propose an imaginary
> mechanism about which he could offer no details. Hebert postulated a
> scouring mechanism *because he did not wish the design hypothesis to be
> true*. It would be nice if you, David Campbell, and others would simply
> admit that Hebert was in fact nursing this *a priori* commitment. I
> don't even care if you agree with his *a priori* commitment (I expect
> most TEs do). I just want an admission that the *a priori* commitment
> exists. That is a minimum condition of honest intellectual debate, that
> all sides frankly admit their assumptions.
> The fact that Hebert was responding to a journalist rather than writing
> professionally is irrelevant. Of course a response to a journalist will
> be often be *simpler* than what one would write in a professional
> journal. But a response of "I don't know how such a mechanism would
> work" comes out the same in popular science or in technical jargon. And
> Hebert was plainly admitting that he didn't know how such a mechanism
> would work.
> As for your suggestion that it is *my* duty to go out and "devise some
> means of testing the hypothesis", i.e., Hebert's speculation
> ("hypothesis" being too strong a word to dignify the intellectual status
> of Hebert's suggestion), it most certainly is not. It is Hebert's
> responsibility to propose the means of testing his own speculations. Do
> you think it is up to the *opponents* of the "multiverse theory" to find
> means of testing it? Surely it is not. It is the responsibility of
> those who believe in multiverses to do so. The scientific world is
> competely justified in carrying on as if multiverses do not exist, until
> the multiverse people provide empirical reasons for believing in the
> existence of such other universes. And the biological world is
> completely justified in carrying on as if there were no "scouring
> mechanism", if all the Hebert can say about it is that it's a
> "scientific mystery".
> I find it continually annoying that Darwinians so frequently offer ad
> hoc speculations, flimsy hypotheses, etc., and then demand that the
> world disprove them. Science does not work that way. Scientists don't
> dream up causes off the top of their heads, with no idea of possible
> mechanisms, no supporting data, etc., and then defiantly ask the
> scientific world to disprove them. A hypothesis in science is not just
> a speculation or a "bright idea". A hypothesis is a proposed cause or
> mechanism of sufficient intellectual precision that it can be worked up
> into a testable form. It requires mental sweat and some detail work to
> turn a "bright idea" into a testable proposal. Dreaming up an
> unspecified "scouring mechanism" is not hypothesis formation. It is
> irresponsible wish fulfillment.
> I come back to your manner of reading. (To be fair, let me say that I
> have not usually found you to be an unreasonable critic or discussion
> partner, but a rather good one, and my objections here are solely to
> your remarks in your latest post.) You are not alone on this list in
> not reading my words, or the words of others, carefully. Many people
> here have made statements about the views of Darwin (without having read
> him, or having read him only superficially), which I have had to take
> pains to refute by pasting actual statements from Darwin onto the list.
> I have also caught people misrepresenting Behe's notion of irreducible
> complexity, and have had to quote exact passages from him that his
> critics here have not bothered to read or look up. Someone else here
> recently implied that Linnaeus may have believed in common descent, or
> at least was not opposed to it, without bothering to provide primary
> texts of Linnaeus or even direct quotations from scholars whose
> specialty is Linnaeus. There is much that is sub-scholarly in the
> discussions here. Of course, there is also some very good scholarship
> posted here (I could name Ted Davis and George Murphy among many
> others). But the sub-scholarly modes of reading, listening, quoting,
> arguing, etc. do from time to time vex me.
> Cameron.

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Received on Sat Aug 22 11:06:45 2009

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