RE: [asa] ID views on macroevolution, common descent, age of earth,etc.

From: wjp <>
Date: Sat Aug 22 2009 - 23:03:48 EDT

This description of physics appears to emphasize the mathematical modelling
aspect of physics. But not just any model will do. Often, as for Newton's
theory of gravitation, the model is more descriptive than explanatory.
Newton's theory of gravitation says nothing of how gravity works, a clear
break with the tradition. The logical connections of a physical theory
are important, but they are not all that is important about them. There must
be some kind of mapping to the empirical world.

I was trying to point out how it is possible for Newton to hold no opinion as to
how gravity works. If gravity only worked in the heavens, would we have a
different view of his theory? It seems to me that we would. Part of the
Copernican revolution was to recognize the unity of the earth and heavens.
It is because gravity is evidenced on earth that we require no greater
justification. We can see an apple released from a tree and fall to the
ground. We can see balls tossed into the air follow a parabolic path.
That these things occur is taken to be true in a primitive and directly
observable sense. We don't have to posit whether they take place or not.
We start from them.

I am suggesting that this is not the case for atemporal sciences.
As much as some would like to say that evolution is a fact, it does not
appear to me that it is the kind of "fact" that apples falls from trees is.
The "fact of evolution" must proceed according to some interpretive scheme
or template. Empirically, evolution does not appear to be on the same basis
as gravity is, or, to be more specific, the falling of balls to the earth.

There are probably many reasons for this. For one, evolution is a very "slow"
and complex event. So it is not "transparent." Physics relies on paradigmatic
experiments to isolate causes and effects. Can there be such an experiment
for evolution? We can, I think, attempt to "simulate" evolution by some
form of genetic intervention, and then postulate that such a thing could
happen sans intervention. At least, by doing this, we make evolution a
possibility. But I still don't think we have raised to the status of an
observational given.

Cosmology appears to be in the same boat as evolution. No one has seen the
formation of a star or a solar system. We have to employ an interpretive grid
to "see" it.

I understand that modern science relies heavily on this extended sense of seeing
and inferential observation. But I still believe my distinction holds water.
There is a weight of persuasion in establishing or observing some preconditions
that result predictably in some observable effect. We strongly believe that
when such a relationship can be established that some causal process underlies
the associated events.

I suggest that when we cannot establish a predictable and reliable observational link
between events that the level of our conviction is diminished.
We must fill in the missing observations, or presume they are there. A story must
be provided to supplement observational reality. We can, as for cosmology, orient
effects into a temporal scheme, and in this way attempt to establish causal
relationship within the evidential effects. But there will always be a sense
that we are free to not make such a "temporal" choice. This is not the case
for an apple falling from a tree. In such a case, we are bound by the association,
or so it seems to me.

Perhaps this paradigmatic "binding" of the associated events is merely psychological
and even rare. We'd have to discuss it more, but other things call for now.



On Sat, 22 Aug 2009 12:03:52 -0400, "Alexanian, Moorad" <> wrote:
> Scientific theories in physics emphasize logical connections rather than
> temporal or causal connections. In a sense, a scientific theory is like
> Euclid's geometry. There are axioms and there are theorems. However, the
> selection of axioms is arbitrary and, instead, one can select some of the
> theorems as axioms. The logical connection is what is important. All of
> classical physics is of that nature. For instance, Newton’s theory will
> tell you how the system evolves in time, forward or backward, given the
> initial conditions and the dynamics. However, the underlying
> gravitational law, says that if you have, say, two masses, then they will
> attractive each other with such a force. Pure logical connection.
> Moorad
> ________________________________________
> From: [] On Behalf Of
> Murray Hogg []
> Sent: Saturday, August 22, 2009 11:35 AM
> To: ASA
> Subject: Re: [asa] ID views on macroevolution, common descent, age of
> earth, etc.
> Nice post, Bill.
> I don't, however, have much to say by way of response other than than I
> like the observation that "atemporal science must provide a causal story."
> Perhaps THAT is what evolutionary theory is doing in biology? Providing the
> "causal story" by which biology makes sense of its world? I don't know, but
> it seems worth pursuing as an insight.
> I think it makes a very great deal of sense even if I don't have the time
> to explore the issue with you at the moment.
> Blessings,
> Murray
> wjp wrote:
>> There has been much discussion about the distinction between historical
> and ahistorical sciences. I agree that this distinction is not as clear
> as we might like, but what is? I have suggested in a previous post that
> we might try to clarify a distinction by classifying science, at least in
> part, according to whether they empirically study cause-effect systems or
> merely effect systems.
>> Paradigmatic cases of each are possible. There are clearly sciences
> that directly observe what we call cause-effect relationships. A bat hits
> a ball, and the ball accelerates off the bat. A high energy proton beam
> strikes an atom and certain nuclear events are observed. This last is
> clearly a complicated example, and the description is already heavily
> theory laden. However, it would be possible to attempt a less theory
> laden description of the relationship of two events, one we call the caue
> the other an effect. Problems in the picture accrue when the time between
> two events becomes significantly larger.
>> We study effects only in many sciences. The sciences of cosmology,
> evolutionary biology, and forensics might be seen as such. Here we don't
> directly observe the relationship between a cause and an effect. In fact,
> we don't observe any causes. It seems, when I think about it, odd that we
> call them historical sciences, since, in a very real sense, they are
> atemporal. We are, at least primarily, provided with only static data.
> It is, in this case, the temporality, the sequence, that is to be
> constructed, whereas in the temporal science (cause-effect) the temporal
> sequence is ostensibly given.
>> The atemporal science can only supply "process" or temporality by
> presuming a world, a possibility of processes, or some cache of stories.
> These stories, at first at least, must come from the temporal world that
> we know, although these will fall far short of all possible worlds, and
> surely all imaginable worlds. Hence, the temporal reconstruction must, at
> least from the start, rely heavily upon temporal science. Is it likely, or
> even possible, that QM and the like would have developed were it not a
> causal science, but an atemporal one? It is only in temporal, empirical
> sciences that an instrumentalism is possible, since we already have in
> hand the cause-effect relationship. This, it seems, is not possible in an
> atemporal one.
>> If any of this makes sense, it seems that such atemporal sciences must,
> by their very nature, take on a heavier load of "metaphysics" than a
> temporal science. The atemporal science must provide a causal story. It
> must be imagined, for it is not observed. Of course this story relies,
> one would hope, upon causal relationships that we do observe.
> Nonetheless, the connection between the causal story and the empirical
> effects is more tenuous, more indirect, and therefore more obviously an
> imaginative construction. Perhaps the distinction is aided by considering
> experimental versus non-experimental sciences.
>> Well, I'll stop here and see if anyone thinks this a thread worth
> pursuing.
>> bill
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Received on Sat Aug 22 23:05:01 2009

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