Re: [asa] historical versus experimental sciences

From: Tim <>
Date: Sun Aug 23 2009 - 13:38:41 EDT

Cameron Wybrow wrote:
> Tim:
> Your reply, like those of David Campbell, reminds me of why I didn't
> go into biology (even though I started university on a science
> scholarship, with the intention of possibly studying animal
> classification and evolution). You drown me in data and specialist
> studies of minutiae, when I am trying to keep you fixed on a line of
> logic in a particular argument.
I recall your asking for such references in your last letter to me. I
took time out my weekend to collect that information and pull out a
particularly useful section of one so that you wouldn't have to spend
the time yourself.

> It does not matter if you can come up with ten thousand pieces of
> evidence for a "scouring mechanism" *after the fact*. Please read my
> original argument carefully. Hebert did *not* offer any of the
> evidence you are offering. He did not offer any evidence at all.
> When asked what the proposed scouring mechanism might be, he said that
> it was a "science mystery". That is, he did not have any clear
> hypothesis of the mechanism, let alone any proposed ways of testing
> it. Yet *still*, lacking even a clear conception of what such a
> mechanism might be, he proposed it, and he proposed it (by his own
> admission) because he did not like the alternative, which he believed
> was suggested by his data, i.e., "creationism". (I suspect that he
> was including ID in there, but it doesn't matter for my point, since
> "creationism" in any form, ID or not, involves the conception of design.)
Cameron, you might wish to pick up a book on population genetics. At the
time, Herbert may not have been aware about which *particular* mechanism
drove the narrowing and some of the details remain to be determined, but
he was likely aware that such mechanisms exist. These were proposed
*decades* before his interview. Some of that information could be found
from the papers I provided.

It's like I mentioned with developmental biologists from a two to three
decades ago: Many postulated that developmental timing and spatial cues
for development of body structures were established from
physico-chemical gradients; essentially, the results of basic chemistry
and physics. At the time, they had no idea about the identity of the
compounds and gradients, only that it made a useful hypothetical model
that could explain a lot and guide research. Rupert Sheldrake used that
lack of specificity and knowledge at that time to propose an alternate
and heretofore unknown physical mechanism, "morphic resonance", that
guided development. In his model, the morphogenic compounds and
gradients hadn't been found because they actually didn't exist -- He
suggested that development was guided by a different sort of 'field'. He
proposed some experiments but they were pretty muddled. Others could
have proposed explanations involving Invisible Pink Unicorns or divine
intervention, I suppose. Understandably, at least to most scientists,
theses alternate explanations gathered little traction. Many supporters
of Sheldrake did cry foul about his proposal being largely ignored and
possibly the Invisible Pink Unicorn and divine interventionist camps
were likewise upset. A few years later, more and more chemical
morphogens were found. Later, the regulatory mechanisms and networks
were uncovered. Basically, it seems that good ol' basic chemistry and
physics can account for many of the previous questions we had. Go
figure; what are the odds of a 'natural' explanation working to explain
organismal development when there were a near infinity of other
non-natural explanations that had been yet to be examined?

Cameron, I seriously suggest you invest more time reading or taking
classes in biology and genetics if you are interested in really
investigating evolutionary biology. Even if you wish to limit your
interest to the sociological aspects of science as it relates to ID and
creationism, or the philosophy of science (Ted Davis could certainly
help you there), it still wouldn't hurt to understand more biology.
Furthermore you're carrying what I see as a gigantic chip on your
shoulder that I find makes it difficult to maintain pleasant discussions
with you. But please don't take my opinions as an insult, just a
friendly observation offered in the spirit of trying to help.


To unsubscribe, send a message to with
"unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message.
Received on Sun Aug 23 13:39:15 2009

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Sun Aug 23 2009 - 13:39:16 EDT