Re: scientific fact versus historical fact (was: Re: [asa] ID question?)

From: Gregory Arago <>
Date: Mon Oct 19 2009 - 04:19:58 EDT

Hi Moorad, With due respect, and knowing that English is not your first language (which is completely fine by me!!), you seem to be speaking a different language than George and Cameron on this topic. I don't see how what you've just written in response to what imo is a *very clear* message by Cameron addresses the topic. Would you care to try again? I am curious and interested in you clarifying your position by answering Cameron's direct and clear questions because you have been opposed by several people on this list on this particular issue: 'scientific fact vs. historical fact.' And since Cameron is a(n) historian, you are in good company to test your claims and your position and how close it comes to 'reality' as expressed by other scholars. I do not for a moment doubt the sincerity of both George and Cameron to work with you together through this issue (not to suggest that the 'issue' is only yours, or your burden). One curious thought that came across my mind today about you, Moorad, while on the metro was this: "What *kind* of knowledge is human-social 'science,' if you would wish not to classify it as 'science'? That is, the academic field known as 'History' is commonly placed (located) in 'human-social sciences' faculties and departments. Yet you say 'NOT SCIENCE' to it (as if to imply that it were either academically 'lesser' or simply as 'other') and I don't think you've made a satisfactory case for this. Whatever happens as a result of this conversation, Moorad, please know that I respect the fact that you are and have been questioning this and giving voice to 'history,' since it is abundantly clear that many people don't give it much thought at all (and thus they come across as amateurs, whose ideas on the topic are easy to dismiss). At least you are considering the differences and similarities between 'history,' 'science' and 'evolution.' Let's not forget what T.S. Eliot wrote in the Four Quartets about evolution, that superficial notions of it are a "means of disowning the past." ( No, no, say the TEs, that is impossible! : ) They are, however, sometimes *too accommodating,* aren't they? And then again, they're the ones rarely asking questions as a theoretical physicist like Moorad would about the differences and similarities between 'science' and 'history.' So that's part of the communication 'equation' here too.    Gregory ________________________________ From: "Alexanian, Moorad" <> To: Cameron Wybrow <>; asa <> Sent: Mon, October 19, 2009 6:23:10 AM Subject: RE: scientific fact versus historical fact (was: Re: [asa] ID question?) All the data that Tyco Brahe collected were historical events. It was the genius of Kepler who summarized the data into his three planetary laws. Newton did the theoretical work that lead to writing equations that are time reversal and from which we can infer where a planet or comet was in the past or, for that matter, will be in the future. That is what observational and theoretical astronomy is and it is science. Note that one must distinguish between the mathematical model and the real thing. For all we know, tomorrow something can happen that can never have been predicted by this model of the solar system, which is eternal and does not foresee the engulfing of the earth by the sun as it becomes a giant red star. I would rather say that the model makes predications about possible future events and what may have happened in the past, however, both these inferences might be wrong. Sometimes one has to corroborate these predications with other historical
 events to be certain!   of the correctness of the predictions. A problem in deterministic chaos is the stability of the solar system as characterized by the mathematical model. The question always arises if such stability question has anything to do with the stability of the real thing. One just does not know. Moorad ________________________________________ From: [] On Behalf Of Cameron Wybrow [] Sent: Sunday, October 18, 2009 9:51 PM To: asa Subject: scientific fact versus historical fact (was: Re: [asa] ID question?) Moorad: I don't think your answer goes far enough to address George's question.  If I understand him correctly, his problem with your position is this: You *seem* to be saying that facts about the past which are inferred by back-reasoning from known natural laws are not *scientific* facts, but merely *historical* ones.  So, for example, if we infer that a certain comet passed by the earth in the year of the birth of Jesus, based on our knowledge of its periodicity, for George, the statement "Murphy's Comet passed by the earth in 4 B.C." would be a statement of scientific fact, whereas for you it would be only a statement of historical fact.  And he is questioning that characterization. Here is another way of putting it.  Moorad, you seem to be saying that "Murphy's comet completes one orbit around the sun every 121 years" is a scientific statement, because of its general character, but that the inevitable logical inference from that statement, i.e., that it passed by the earth in 4 B.C., is not a scientific statement but only a historical one, because of its particular character.  But that strikes George as an artificial separation, as the truth of the scientific statement guarantees the truth of the allegedly only historical one.  The historical statement is necessarily correct if the comet's periodicity has been correctly understood, and the understanding of the comet's periodicity is a scientific understanding. So how can the retrodiction that the comet passed the earth in 4 B.C. be anything but a scientific truth? George, have I understood you correctly?  And Moorad, what sort of fact would the statement about the comet in 4 B.C. be, scientific or historical? And more generally, do you grant that the categories of scientific fact and historical fact can overlap in particular cases? This has relevance, obviously, to the epistemic status of all statements in the historical sciences, and thus for the subject of evolution. Cameron. ----- Original Message ----- From: "Alexanian, Moorad" <> To: "George Murphy" <>; "dfsiemensjr" <>; <> Cc: <>; <> Sent: Sunday, October 18, 2009 9:20 PM Subject: RE: [asa] ID question? > There is no argument that data collecting is done in time. However, the > generalization of such data, which are recorded as historical > propositions, constitutes our laws of Nature. Of course, without such > unique historical events, no data can be collected. I do not see where we > are disagreeing. > > Moorad > ________________________________________ > From: George Murphy [] > Sent: Sunday, October 18, 2009 5:21 PM > To: Alexanian, Moorad; dfsiemensjr; > Cc:; > Subject: Re: [asa] ID question? > > So when we say, on the basis of the equations of celestial mechanics > (which > are invariant under time translation) that a solar eclipse occurred at > time > t1 in the past, is the statement scientific?  Of course it is. > > & your definition of science is far too stringent even for the natural > sciences.  Sometimes the experimental scientists want to find out what has > happened on particular occasions.  When a physicist studies a photographic > emulsion exposed to cosmic rays his/her first goal is to find out what > happened in the events recorded there.  Of course a longer-term goal is to > develop general laws that describe such reactions but it would be very > strange to say that the answer to the intermediate question (i.e., what > happened in those particular events?) wasn't science. > > Shalom > George > > > > ----- Original Message ----- > From: "Alexanian, Moorad" <> > To: "George Murphy" <>; "dfsiemensjr" > <>; <> > Cc: <>; <> > Sent: Sunday, October 18, 2009 3:32 PM > Subject: RE: [asa] ID question? > > > We all exist in time and so there is nothing outside history—no one can > run > away from it. However, the aim of experimental science is to arrive at > results that are invariant under time translation. Surely, that is not the > aim of evolutionary theory. > > Moorad > ________________________________________ > From: George Murphy [] > Sent: Saturday, October 17, 2009 7:31 PM > To: Alexanian, Moorad; dfsiemensjr; > Cc:; > Subject: Re: [asa] ID question? > > Therewith assuming that history & science are disjoint.  How long do we > have > to keep on with this sort of thing? > > Shalom > George > > > > ----- Original Message ----- > From: "Alexanian, Moorad" <> > To: "dfsiemensjr" <>; <> > Cc: <>; <> > Sent: Saturday, October 17, 2009 6:46 PM > Subject: RE: [asa] ID question? > > >>A simple way to state your findings is that evolution has to do a lot more >>with history than with science—something many of us have been saying for a >>long time. >> Moorad >> ________________________________ >> From: [] On Behalf >> Of >> dfsiemensjr [] >> Sent: Saturday, October 17, 2009 5:26 PM >> To: >> Cc:; >> Subject: Re: [asa] ID question? >> >> Imagine that four guys sit down at a table with a pack of cards. One >> picks >> the pack up and begins to deal them. At the fifth round, one of the guys >> says, "There's something fishy. Every card I've gotten is a heart." One >> of >> the others says, "Yeah, all I've gotten is clubs." The third chap says, >> "Mine are spades." The dealer picks up his cards and reports, "I have >> nothing but diamonds." It seems obvious that somebody gimmicked the deck. >> But can the guys at the table determine whether it was deliberate or just >> an unusual outcome of an honest deal? It seems to me that they cannot >> decide without tracing the deck back and determining the bona fides of >> everyone who had access to the deck. Just observing the outcome won't do >> it, and perhaps all the information they can gather does not lead to a >> definitive conclusion. >> >> Looks to me as though our observations of a sequence of evolutionary >> events, as closely as we can now determine them, does not tell us whether >> the changes were determined by intelligent forces from without or >> internal >> natural changes. The changes, so far as empirical observations can >> determine the source, are equally compatible with direct divine >> intervention, constant divine supervision, and a series of purely natural >> events. One has to call in extra-empirical assumptions to bolster >> whatever >> claim one makes. All the empirical can tell is is the nature of the >> natural changes, whether an insertion or deletion occurred, etc. ID >> insists that they know it was intervention, at least some times. >> Dave (ASA) >> >> On Sat, 17 Oct 2009 01:51:04 -0700 (PDT) John Walley >> <<>> writes: >> This is the impasse between ID and TE. To the extent that this is in >> error, TE's tend to err on the side of upholding the integrity of >> science. >> It appears to me that ID tends to err on the side of upholding a >> philosophical or theological ideal. I don't disagree with that ideal but >> as I have said before I don't believe it is scientific so I don't see how >> we can make such an issue out of a subjective belief. Further, I don't >> think there is any conflict between these two positions so I reject the >> positioning of them as being mutually exclusive as Behe does here. >> >> His personal beliefs aside, Darwin was at least partially right in the >> fact that randomness does contribute to evolution. While it may not >> explain all of evolution you have to at least concede that much to be >> allowed to sit at the table of science and to have your views taken >> seriously. And Eugenie Scott and NCSE serve a valid purpose in policing >> this. Behe and ID need to at least acknowledge this much about Darwinian >> evolution to ever regain the public trust that they are not just >> theocratic science deniers. >> >> John >> >> ________________________________ >> From: Schwarzwald <> >> To: >> Sent: Fri, October 16, 2009 11:24:12 PM >> Subject: Re: [asa] ID question? >> >> Heya John, >> >> Personally, I'm coming to Behe's defense because the claim that Behe is >> 'anti-evolution' is simply unfounded. It seems like some people are >> sensitive on this topic to the point where any criticism of evolution - >> even if it's specified as Darwinian evolution, even if it's based on >> interpretations of data and research, even if it's admitted these are >> (strong) inferences rather than logical proofs - must be balanced out, in >> the next breath, by a public declaration of faith in at least some kind >> of >> evolution. Otherwise, suspicions start to mount. That, I think, is an >> exaggerated response. >> >> In other words, I just don't share your impression. I also don't share >> what I take to be this feeling that it's very, very important for Behe to >> balance out his criticisms of darwinian evolution by praising evolution >> in >> the broad sense. Then again, I think that this obsession with evolution >> (by many, spanning various views and faiths) needs to come to an end >> anyway. >> >> On Fri, Oct 16, 2009 at 8:45 PM, John Walley >> <<>> wrote: >> This is exactly right. Behe does make claims against Darwinian evolution. >> I asked the same question before, is there another form of evolution that >> Behe is more comfortable with? If so, he didn't mention it in the video >> that I recall. >> >> I know he has spoken and written other things in other places about >> evolution but in this video he does come across as being against >> evolution. Its not like it was heavily edited either and made to look a >> certain way nor was he responding to a strict set of questions. He could >> have said anything he wanted and made any point he wanted and left any >> impression he wanted but this is what he chose. Why is everyone then >> apologizing for Behe and saying this is a mischaracterization of him? >> >> John >> >> >> >> ----- Original Message ---- >> From: "Dehler, Bernie" >> <<>> >> To: asa <<>> >> Sent: Fri, October 16, 2009 10:06:11 AM >> Subject: RE: [asa] ID question? >> >> Hi Cameron- >> >> " Please find me one statement, anywhere in Behe's work, where he says >> that he is "against evolution", or else do the honourable thing and >> publically >> withdraw your comments." >> >>  If you watch the video- he said repeatedly that "Darwinian evolution" >> couldn't do such and such.  What other kind of evolution is there? Is he >> saying there's another kind of evolution that he accepts? If so, what >> does >> he call it? >> >> ...Bernie >> >> -----Original Message----- >> From:<> >> [<>] On >> Behalf Of Cameron Wybrow >> Sent: Thursday, October 15, 2009 10:08 AM >> To: asa >> Subject: Re: [asa] ID question? >> >> Bernie: >> >> Your remarks about Behe are incorrect.  They are not only unsupported by >> any >> references to his works; they show an almost complete misunderstanding of >> his position.  It is not Behe who is in a "muddle". >> >> Such a high degree of misunderstanding suggests a lack of familiarity >> with >> Behe's writing.  And this reminds me that you still have not answered my >> earlier question:  which books and essays of Behe have you read entirely >> through? >> >> Please find me one statement, anywhere in Behe's work, where he says that >> he >> is "against evolution", or else do the honourable thing and publically >> withdraw your comments. >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> ----- Original Message ----- >> From: "Dehler, Bernie" >> <<>> >> To: "asa" <<>> >> Sent: Thursday, October 15, 2009 11:39 AM >> Subject: RE: [asa] ID question? >> >> >>> Hi Bill- you apparently see the ID debate as "guided vs. unguided >>> evolution" but I see it as "evolution vs. special creation."  ('Special >>> creation' being creation by fiat.) >>> >>> This is what I think I'm starting to see in the current origin's debate >>> culture:  Because evolution has been proven by pseudogenes, people want >>> to >>> shift the argument from "did evolution happen" to now "is evolution >>> guided."  I think this is the current crisis for OEC's.  But I think >>> OEC's >>> reject evolution, so if they want to now accept it, even as >>> 'God-guided,' >>> they still have to leave the camp and come over to TE.  The OEC camp >>> will >>> always be there, and it is only for those who reject evolution, guided >>> or >>> not. >>> >>> I think some OEC's are attempting to make a switch from "evolution is >>> false" to "evolution is maybe God-guided" and appeal to Intelligent >>> Design >>> to save face (like a ploy to straddle the fence of accepting both modern >>> science and simultaneously rejecting/accepting evolution). >>> >>> Behe is a perfect example of this muddle, by apparently rejecting >>> evolution (in some aspects) and accepting it for human common descent. >>> Therefore, Behe is neither for or against evolution.  Creationists >>> generally like to separate evolution into micro and macro.  When Behe >>> says >>> he accepts common descent for humans, that is macro evolution.  So here >>> we >>> have Behe accepting micro/macro evolution yet still against evolution >>> for >>> other things.  I guess he needs to define another category of evolution, >>> so he can accept micro and macro, but reject this third thing/part of >>> evolution. >>> >>> ...Bernie >>> >>> -----Original Message----- >>> From: Bill Powers [<>] >>> Sent: Wednesday, October 14, 2009 4:14 PM >>> To: Dehler, Bernie >>> Cc: asa >>> Subject: Re: [asa] ID question? >>> >>> OK.  I've got to say something about this. >>> >>> Bernie, you apparently believe something like: >>> >>> Intentional/Design theories fail because they have not been able to >>> demonstrate that unguided evolution could not have done it. >>> >>> This is a rather strange way to do science, and only the kind of game >>> that >>> a bully would employ.  Is there any kind of evidence that it could be >>> said >>> "unguided evolution" could not do that? >>> >>> What a more civilized approach would be is that evolutionary mechanisms >>> were clearly defined so that what is likely and what is not might be >>> become clear.  This would entail, for example, temporal stochastic >>> equations.  Is the abrupt arisal of species a problem for unguided >>> (whatever one means by that) evolution or not?  It doesn't seem to me >>> that >>> evolutionary biology is prepared to even address the question >>> intelligently. >>> >>> How can there be honest theory comparison when the theory is so vague? >>> >>> ID can also be required to be more explicit.  It needs to describe in >>> detail a story, which is nothing more than evolution offers.  The story >>> would describe, for example, what are the minimal capabilities and steps >>> required for a Guide to act. >>> >>> Comparing an explicit evolutionary mechanism and a guided one could be >>> fruitful.  For one, the guided story is one that could be possibly >>> employed by human agents.  The process of putting it together permits >>> dialog between the two.  One supporting a guided mechanism might argue >>> that such and such step was entirely unlikely given available resources. >>> In ths same the unguided advocate might argue that such and such a step >>> might be accomplished without guidance, and here's how. >>> >>> In developing explicit guided mechanisms and paths, perhaps new >>> definitions and understanding of what is guided and what is not will >>> arise.  For now it is vague. >>> >>> As far as I can tell there is no good evidence available to distinguish >>> guided from unguided evolution.  I don't see why "pseudogenes" are any >>> better off in this regard.  They appear to adopt a position that you >>> oppose: an argument form ingnorance.  Just because we know of no >>> "reason" >>> that a "pseudogene" would exist does not imply that some "reason" might >>> be >>> later found.  So all that can be said is that no "reason" is known YET. >>> Sound familiar?  What is more, unless you know God or all putative >>> designers better than I do, I don't see how you (or anyone) can say that >>> "pseudogenes" were not intentional. >>> >>> The argument begins to look like Antony Flew's Invisible Gardener.  One >>> might ask what is the difference between and invisible Gardener and no >>> Gardener at all, or what is the difference between an invisible designer >>> (guided evolution) and no designer at all (unguided evolution).  But I >>> take from Flew's argument something different from what he intended. >>> All >>> his argument suggests to me is that given the evidence provided I have >>> no >>> reason to prefer a Gardener or none at all. >>> >>> Frankly, I think, if one must proceed along these lines, that the >>> evidence >>> better supports a guided universe. The only argument offered in Flew's >>> case to prefer no Gardener at all is Occam's Razor.  But I take this to >>> be >>> an epistemological criterion, and see no reason for it to bind ontology. >>> Indeed, if it did, it would argue for a Gardener. >>> >>> bill >>> >>> On Wed, 14 Oct 2009, Dehler, Bernie wrote: >>> >>>> William Paley used the 'watchmaker analogy' to demonstrate the idea of >>>> intelligent design.  We can just tell, by looking at nature, that >>>> things >>>> are obviously designed by God by fiat, such as man, because of their >>>> complexity. >>>> >>>> Darwin creates a stir with an alternate hypothesis of man's creation >>>> via >>>> biological evolution instead.  It is a competing hypothesis.  Evolution >>>> has now won, for explaining the biological creation of man, because of >>>> DNA evidence like pseudogenes. >>>> >>>> So my question: Isn't Behe's 'moustrap' irreducible complexity the same >>>> EXACT situation? It is basically saying since we don't know how it >>>> could >>>> have evolved, therefore it was intelligently designed (by God or >>>> aliens). >>>> The only difference is that Behe goes into great detail trying to >>>> explain >>>> how it can't be done by known "Darwinistic evolutionist" mechanisms, >>>> but >>>> Paley could have (and maybe did?) done the same thing (explaining >>>> why/how >>>> known science of his day could not explain evolution for humans). >>>> >>>> I would like to know what is so different about Behe, compared to >>>> Paley. >>>> Paley has a 'complexity' argument with the watch, and Behe introduces >>>> irreducible complexity, but both are proposing ID because known science >>>> can't explain it... yet. >>>> >>>> It is interesting to me that Paley's argument for the biological >>>> creation >>>> of man is not discarded because it is wrong with the idea of >>>> complexity, >>>> but because the evolutionary process has evidence "beyond a reasonable >>>> doubt."  So complexity may still be a valid way to detect ID, yet in >>>> this >>>> case, it turned out wrong as science accumulated more facts.  It could >>>> be >>>> the same with irreducible complexity.  A valid way to detect ID, yet >>>> disproven in the future when more facts become available. >>>> >>>> But what is the evidence to prove irreducible complexity?  It seems >>>> like >>>> the only evidence is "evolution can't do it or explain it... yet." >>>> >>>> ...Bernie >>>> >>> >>> >>> To unsubscribe, send a message to >>><> with >>> "unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message. >>> >> >> >> To unsubscribe, send a message to >><> with >> "unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message. >> >> >> To unsubscribe, send a message to >><> with >> "unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message. >> >> >> >> >> >> >> To unsubscribe, send a message to >><> with >> "unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message. >> >> >> >> >> >> ____________________________________________________________ >> Best Weight Loss Program - Click >> Here!<> >> >> >> To unsubscribe, send a message to with >> "unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> > > > To unsubscribe, send a message to with > "unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message. > To unsubscribe, send a message to with "unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message. 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