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Date: Sun, 07 Mar 1999 11:17:05 -0800
From: Cliff Lundberg <>
Subject: Re: Evolution's Imperative (was Def'n of Science)

Vernon Jenkins wrote:

>Concerning falsifiability, let me first say that the nub of the matter
>is not that evolution hasn't yet been falsified, but rather that it is
>incapable of ever being falsified. A number of people seem to have
>missed the point here. For example,

>(4) Cliff believes that "...just because something happened long ago
>does not mean it is in principle not verifiable or falsifiable." I

When we talk of falsfication and verification of events, we are
essentially talking about observation. I think there is confusion
here between *practical difficulty* and *logical impossibility*
of observation.

Cliff Lundberg


Date: Sun, 7 Mar 1999 14:27:08 -0700
From: "Kevin O'Brien" <>
Subject: Re: Flood Model and dinosaur tracks

>>> >sorting hypothesis like size and differential mobility. It simply
>>> >cannot be explained using flood geology.
>>> >
>>> Unless you recognize that pregnant female dinosaurs would have to drop
>>> their eggs at some time during a stressful year, that the nest sites
>>> were
>>> water-laid, indicating inundation of the areas, and that the multiple
>>> layers show repeated inundations.
>>What does that mean, the nest sites were "water-laid"? They obviously
>>weren't built underwater, were they?
>No. I meant that the sediments in which they made the nests were

Many were, but alot were not. Besides, at the time the nests were made
these "sediments" were all rock; the nests were made in the sand or topsoil
that covered these "sediments", which were themselves later covered and
lithified as part of the normal uniformitarian process. You seem to be
suggesting that these "sediments" had just been laid down by the flood, then
the water temporarily receded and the dinosaurs cames out and built nests
and laid eggs and hatched young ones, then the the waters returned and the
nests were covered while the adults fled. The geological evidence
contradicts this scenario.

>>You seem to be suggesting that during the flood,
>>pregnant dinosaurs built nesting sites to drop their eggs, or perhaps that
>>swimming desperately to avoid drowning, they dropped their eggs and the
>>somehow floated in nesting material underneath them. What exactly are you
>I am not aware of "nesting material", only of depressions with mounded
>sides in which the eggs were laid.

As I pointed out in a previous post, these "depressions with mounded sides"
were not natural, but had been carefully excavated by the dinosaurs. Many
of these excavated nests were then lined with vegetation to cushion the
eggs. The eggs themselves were laid carefully in specific patterns, not
haphazardly dumped. None of this suggests that the dinosaurs were trying to
flee an oncoming flood or were trying to raise families in the midst of a

>I hadn't thought that they would release their eggs into the water, but I
>suppose that could happen under duress. Some of the egg layers are strewn
>with broken shell fragments, but that doesn't tell us whether the eggs
>broke on the ground or not.

On the contrary, as I again pointed out in a previous post, those sights
that contain broken shell fragments demonstrate that these eggs were broken
as part of a natural nesting situation. The eggs broke as the young ones
hatched; the fragments were then removed from the nest and dropped onto the
surrounding ground. Some of the fragments indicate that the eggs had been
broken open by predators before hatching. There is no evidence that the
these fragments come from eggs that were simply dumped onto the ground by
fleeing dinosaurs, where they either broke on contact or were smashed in the
stampede. The geological and paleontological evidence of the sites simply
do not support your scenario. In fact, they contradict it.

>>Yes, they show repeated inundations, since the nesting sites were
>>covered, and then a new one built over the top in the next strata, but
>>they had to be built while the ground was solid.
>Yes, and I think an important question is how well-drained the sediments
>were -- are most of the nests in sandy sediments, which would be "solid"
>soon after the tide receeded, and could solidify more as the hours passed?
>Are some in fine silt which would be expected to remain muddy for many
>hours and days?

The evidence shows that, whether the soil in which the nests were made was
either sandy or silty, nearly all the nest sites were made in dry, even
arid, soil. There is no evidence that any of these nesting sites were
constructed in wet sediments freshly laid down by some flood. Also, many of
these sites show clear evidence that they had been used for generations
**WITHOUT** intervening water-laid sediment layers. In other words, the
evidence shows that many generations of dinosaurs used the same open,
uncovered patches of ground, and refutes a scenario which invokes dinosaurs
making nests and laying eggs, the nests are covered with water-born
sediments, the dinosaurs return and make fresh nests, these are then covered
with more water-born sediments, the dinosaurs again return to build more
nests, these nests are again covered with more water-born sediments, etc, ad
infinitum, ad nauseum. This simply did not happen.

Kevin L. O'Brien


Date: Mon, 08 Mar 1999 09:47:16 +1030
From: Mark Phillips <>
Subject: Re: Cambrian Explosion

"Kevin O'Brien" wrote:

> "Brian D Harper" wrote:
> >When I think of lack of evidence in a scientific setting
> >I'm thinking mainly of two possibilities:
> >
> >1) There is a particular piece of evidence which would really
> >bolster a theory were it available. Unfortunately, it is not.
> >
> >2) The theory makes a specific prediction that such and such
> >evidence should be found in such and such a fashion. But this
> >evidence is not found.
> >
> >How would you define these two "lack of evidence" situations
> >using your terminology?
> Both are clearly cases of negative evidence, since we lack positive
> evidence that would support the theory, but we do not have any
> evidence that refutes the theory either.

I don't see how 2) is a "clear case of negative evidence"!! If a
theory makes a specific prediction that such and such evidence should
be found in such and such a fashion --- but the evidence is not there
- --- then the theory has been falsified! This "lack of evidence" then
constitutes _positive_evidence_ against the theory.


"They told me I was gullible ... and I believed them!"


Date: Sun, 7 Mar 1999 21:06:16 -0700
From: "Kevin O'Brien" <>
Subject: Re: Cambrian Explosion

>"Kevin O'Brien" wrote:
>> "Brian D Harper" wrote:
>> >When I think of lack of evidence in a scientific setting
>> >I'm thinking mainly of two possibilities:
>> >
>> >1) There is a particular piece of evidence which would really
>> >bolster a theory were it available. Unfortunately, it is not.
>> >
>> >2) The theory makes a specific prediction that such and such
>> >evidence should be found in such and such a fashion. But this
>> >evidence is not found.
>> >
>> >How would you define these two "lack of evidence" situations
>> >using your terminology?
>> Both are clearly cases of negative evidence, since we lack positive
>> evidence that would support the theory, but we do not have any
>> evidence that refutes the theory either.
>I don't see how 2) is a "clear case of negative evidence"!! If a
>theory makes a specific prediction that such and such evidence should
>be found in such and such a fashion --- but the evidence is not there
>--- then the theory has been falsified! This "lack of evidence" then
>constitutes _positive_evidence_ against the theory.

Your conclusion is flawed for two reasons. The first is that Brian himself
gave an example of a failed prediction that DID NOT falsify a theory. So it
cannot be true that a lack of positive evidence in favor of a theory
automatically constitutes positive evidence against a theory.

The second reason is that you are ignoring all the evidence that was used to
develop the theory in the first place. That evidence can be considered
positive evidence in favor of the theory. To refute the theory you have to
refute that evidence. A failed prediction does not refute this supporting
evidence, so a failed prediction by itself does not falsify the theory.
Only if the result directly contradicts the theory by refuting some of this
supporting evidence (or directly contradicts known physical laws or other
more strongly verified theories) can it then be considered positive evidence
against the theory.

Kevin L. O'Brien


Date: Sun, 7 Mar 1999 21:31:49 -0700
From: "Kevin O'Brien" <>
Subject: Re: Kevin later wrote:

>At 05:28 AM 2/24/99 -0700, Kevin wrote:
>>>>>What you wrote, "But there has never, to my knowledge, been a case
>>>>>when a
>>>>>physical law was found to be false by new evidence," is still an
>>>>And yet you still cannot or will not give even one example to prove me
>>>>wrong, or explain what physical law Einstein or any other scientist
>>>>wrong. Making bald assertions you either cannot or will not defend is
>>>>the height -- or should I say depth -- of absurdity.
>>>OK, how about Descartes' law of refraction?
>>I suppose that means that when Descartes' law was shown to be incorrect,
>>refraction as a physical phenomenon was also shown to be false.
>>Yeah, right, and I have seafront property for sale in Colorado.
>>Let's not confuse the physical phenomenon itself with our abstract
>>mathematical description of it, even though we tend to call both a
>>law". When Burgy and I talk about falsifying a physical law with new
>>evidence, we mean demonstrating that the physical phenomenon itself, not
>>just our abstract mathematical description of it, is false. Refraction is
>>still recognized as a legitimate physical phenomenon; what's more, it is
>>also recognized that it is caused by the decrease in the speed of light as
>>that light passes through dense material, such that as a general rule of
>>thumb the greater the density, the greater the angle of refraction.
>>Descartes' attempt to describe this phenomenon may have been shown to be
>>incorrect, but the phenomenon itself is still very much real.
>But what you said was physical law, not physical phenomena. Even
>if Newton's law had been overturned by Einstein (I agree with you
>that it wasn't) it would have no bearing on the physical phenomena
>of gravity. The absence of any mathematical description (law)
>for how gravity operates would have no bearing on the physical
>phenomena of gravity. As Stan so eloquently pointed out, the
>previous discussion and arguments make no sense if it is indeed
>physical phenomena (as opposed to our mathematical descriptions
>of them) that is the issue.

I'm sorry fellows, but I'm rather surprised that two scientists don't
understand this issue better. Perhaps I had better start with some basics.

First, a caveat: there simply are no terms available that will make this
discussion easier, so I ask that you bear with me and not nit-pick over
terms. It is the concepts behind the terms that are important, not the
terms themselves.

Alright, before any science can be done, first there has to be either an
observable phenomenon or a deducible phenomenon. Observable phenomena are
readily apparent; examples would include Boyle's and Charles' gas laws, as
well as refraction. Deducible phenomena are not readily apparent, but can
be deduced from the observation of apparent phenomena; examples would
include all the phenomena described by Newton's laws of motion. Most
phenomena are fairly limited, but some seem to be more general, in that they
seem to occur under a wide variety of circumstances, but always associated
with specific events. For example, the phenomena behind Boyle's and
Charles' gas laws only appear when observing ideal gases, but they occur
under a wide variety of experimental conditions. Refraction is a property
of light (i.e., electromagnetic radiation) only, but it occurs whenever and
wherever light passes from one medium to another. These general phenomena
can be called universal, since (within certain limitations) you would expect
them to be observable or deducible anywhere in the universe under any set of
local conditions. (Indeed, though limited to the non-quantum macroscopic
world, the phenomena behind Newton's laws of motion can be readily deduced
under any set conditions, even relativistic conditions. Though limited to
ideal gases, the phenomena behind the gas laws can be readily observed for
any ideal gas regardless of chemical composition or molecular weight at any
temperature, pressure or volume.)

These universal phenomena are often called physical laws, because they
dictate the behavior of other, more complex phenomena, such as mechanics,
ideal gases or light. Once the veracity of these universal phenomena has
been established, these phenomena never change and they can never be
refuted. Hence the physical laws are, for all intents and purposes,
immutable. It is theoretically possible for the deduced laws to be refuted,
if it can be shown that the deductions were wrong, but such laws tend to be
so basic that they in fact affect much of what we call science. The
refutation of any one of these deduced laws would have such a catastrophic
effect on science as a whole that it is virtually inconceivable that these
laws can be wrong.

So first we must recognize the existence of a physical law. Next we try to
describe it in some general, basic, abstract manner that usually involves
mathematics. For example, Boyle described the physical law he observed by
saying that the pressure exerted by any ideal gas at constant temperature is
inversely proportional to the volume of that gas. Mathematically this is
expressed as P=k/V, where "k" is a proportionality constant. This
description and formula are collectively known as Boyle's law, but they are
actually only a model of the physical law. We can call this model a
mathematical law, but the model is only as good as the observations done.
Boyle was unable to observe the behavior of gases at extremely low
temperatures, extremely small volumes or under extremely high pressures; if
he could he would have produced a better model that had a more detailed
description with a more accurate formula. Boyle at least knew that these
extreme conditions were possible, which was why he said he was modeling the
behavior of an "ideal" gas, but since at standard temperature and pressure
ideal conditions reign, Boyle's law is sufficient to describe one part of
gas behavior under most conditions.

The point is that Boyle's law is only a basic model of the physical law he
observed, thus it uses a formula that can only approximate correct gas
behavior. A better model based on a more detailed description had to wait
until the technology became available to observe gases under extreme
conditions; then a more precise formula was developed. Even so, the basic
description from Boyle's model still applies, even at those extreme
conditions, which confirms the universal nature of the physical law. This
is also why, if you use the more precise formula derived from this more
detailed description to calculate pressure values under ideal gas
conditions, you get the same result as you do if you use Boyle's law.

All of this is true for Newton's 2nd law of motion as well. The basic
description is that a change in momentum is proportional to the magnitude
and in the same direction of the force being applied to the mass. Newton
could not do any experiments where a mass was travelling at relativistic
velocities, and his view that space, time and mass were absolute did not
permit him to deduce relativity. As such, the (approximate) mathematical
formula he derived from his basic description was F=ma. Einstein developed
a more detailed description of Newton's physical law, and thus created a
more accurate mathematical formula, but the basic description is still the
same because the physical law still applies even under relativistic
conditions. Even if we had to wait until Einstein before we had a model for
this physical law, the basic description would still be the same, because
even at relativistic velocities a change in momentum is proportional to the
magnitude and in the same direction of the force being applied to the mass.

So in a nutshell this is my position. We are simultaneously discussing two
versions of the term "law". One is the physical law itself, the universal
physical phenomenon that is readily observable or deducible and which is
immutable and irrefutable. The other is the mathematical law which is an
abstract model and is composed of a basic description and a mathematical
formula. To my knowledge no physical law has ever been overturned or
refuted. Mathematical models sometimes are, especially if they are
partially based on theoretical mechanisms meant to explain how the physical
law works. But to my knowledge no basic description has ever been refuted
as long as it was based solely on the physical law itself. Of course, the
formulas derived from those basic descriptions have often been shown to be
inaccurate, so more detailed descriptions are created that can produce more
accurate formulas. But the basic description itself remains unchanged,
because the physical law itself remains unchanged.

>Nevertheless :), I tried to pick an example that would resist all
>attempts at rebuttal. You say above that " is also recognized
>that it is caused by the decrease in the speed of light as that
>light passes through dense material...". This is the whole
>controversy. And it was truly a controversy on the grandest
>scale, one of the most interesting in the history of science.
>Imagine the furor among the Cartesians when a mathematician
>(Fermat) derived the correct form of the law by making the
>outrageous assumption that light travels along that path which
>minimizes the time of travel. Clerselier, a well known
>Caretesian of the day, wrote of Fermat's principle:
>"That path, which you reckon the shortest because it is the
>quickest, is only a path of error and bewilderment, which
>Nature in no way follows and cannot intend to follow."
>Now, returning to your description of the physical phenomena:
>" is also recognized that it is caused by the decrease in
>the speed of light as that light passes through dense material..."
>This may be recognized today, but it wasn't then. Descartes
>(and everyone else, including Leibniz) thought light travelled
>more quickly through a dense media (a property predicted by the
>law. Snell's law is obtained from Descartes' by inverting either
>the right or left hand side). Not only is the law incorrect,
>the physical phenomena associated with the law (that light
>travels more rapidly through a dense media) is incorrect.

OK, back to basics again. Refraction is a physical phenomenon in which
light, passing from a media of one density into a media of a different
density at any angle other than perpendicular to horizontal (normal),
changes its angle closer to normal if the new media is denser than the old
or further away from normal if the new media is less dense than the old.
This basic observation has never changed and has never been disproven.
Because this is a universal phenomenon, it is also a physical law that light
must obey.

Descartes, Leibniz, et al. tried to explain this observation by saying that
light speeded up as it passed through denser media. This, however, was a
theory that proposed a specific mechanism to explain this observation, not a
physical phenomenon as you claim above. They then created an abstract model
of the observed phenomenon that accurately described the observed action of
light during refraction (specifically the change in angle from one media to
another), but could not accurately predict the value of this change in
angle, because the theory the mathematical law was based on that tried to
explain the observed phenomenon had it wrong.

So, the observed phenomenon of refraction is a physical law, because light
obeys it more or less univerally, and the abstract model of this phenomenon
is called a law because it describes a basic reproducible observation of the
phenomenon itself. The theory that explains how the observed phenomenon
works is not a law, because it is not itself a phenomenon, nor is it a basic
description of a phenomenon; instead it is the proposed mechanism by which
the phenomenon operates. However, a theory that explains how a phenomenon
works can influence the way in which that phenomenon is described. Hence
any mathematical law based on that theory, while essentially correct since
it describes the basic observed phenomenon, may turn out to be incorrect in
certain critical details if the theory turns out to be incorrect. The basic
observed phenomenon, however, remains unchanged. As such, as we study these
observed phenomena more carefully over time, our theories as to the
mechanisms that operate them will change, and thus our abstract models of
these phenomena will also change. If a theory is ever proven totally wrong,
then our abstract mathematical descriptions will change radically as well.
But as long as the basic observed phenomena do not change or are never
refuted, then the basic abstract description will not change either.

In the case under discussion here, the observed phenomenon of refraction was
not refuted, but the mechanism proposed by Descartes, Leibniz et al. was.
As such, Descartes' abstract model of refraction was refuted, but the basic
description that formed the core of Descartes' model was not. And it served
as the core of the new model proposed by Snell that was based on a new

So, using the confusing inadequate language available to us, the physical
law of refraction has never been refuted, but the mathematical law of
refraction proposed by Descartes was, based as it was on a theoretical
mechanism that was itself refuted.

Kevin L. O'Brien


Date: Sun, 7 Mar 1999 21:10:29 -0700
From: "Kevin O'Brien" <>
Subject: Re: Evolution's Imperative (was Def'n of Science)

Regarding whether evolution can be falsified.

Here are some scenarios that would falsify part if not all of evolution:

Ths discovery of a six-legged tetrapod (either mammal, reptile, amphibian or
bird) in Late Cenozoic strata (say within the last 25 million years).

The discovery of dolphin, orca, seal, sea turtle and penguin fossils in
Middle Devonian strata.

The discovery of a Homo sapiens skeleton inside the rib cage of a

The discovery on an isolated island of the existence of a community of
animals that are indestinguishable from other living groups, but who use
right-handed amino acids and left-handed sugars.

The discovery of a gene that produces a protein that serves no purpose, but
whose amino acid sequence spells out the Ten Commandments.

With regard to "Professing to be wise, they became fools...".

>Christian No.2 asks his evolutionist Professor, "Have you ever observed
>evolution with your own eyes, sir?...Since no one has ever observed the
>process of evolution at work and cannot even prove that this process is
>an on-going endeavor, are you not teaching your opinion, sir? Are you
>now not a scientist, but a priest?" Let's face it: that really is the
>truth of the matter, isn't it? Should any Christian or Jew respect the
>majority view of the scientific community in respect of a matter which
>so clearly undermines biblical teaching?

How? The last time I read the Bible I found no verse that said, "Thus saith
the Lord thy God: I did not use evolution to create the diversity of life
in the world, but created it all instantly using My divine supernatural
powers." Creationists may like to read into the Bible this statement, but
in fact nowhere does the Bible ever make this claim, not even by

>And particularly when we see in
>our mind's eye a notice on most laboratory doors to the effect, "God,
>keep out! We're hell bent on discovering how it was all done without

That may be what you see, but that may only be because these laboratories
are not singing hymns to the greater glory of God everytime a hypothesis is
verified. The fact that science has nothing to say about God is not the
same thing as saying that God is unwelcome. I have worked with many
scientists who believed they were uncovering the glories of God's creation,
but they still do not use God to explain how that creation works.

>The Scriptures speak plainly on these matters: man is essentially
>an enemy of his Creator; he is 'deceitful above all things' and
>'desperately wicked' (Jer.17:9).

Like most prophets Jeremiah was exaggerating for effect. But in the sense
that man is selfish and prefers to follow his own way rather than the way of
God, Jeremiah was certainly correct. Even so, what does this have to do
with evolution?

>In the words of Christian No.2, "I
>would have thought that the absence of God's moral code in this world is
>probably one of the most observable phenomena going." Isn't that right?

No, considering that we have the Bible that spells out that moral code. The
fact that people choose not to follow that code is not the same thing as
saying there is no code.

>We read in 1Kings 18, verse 21, "And Elijah came unto all the people,
>and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the Lord be God,
>follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him
>not a word."

I have to admit that I'm not sure what your point is here. Could you

Kevin L. O'Brien


Date: Sun, 7 Mar 1999 21:39:06 -0700
From: "Kevin O'Brien" <>
Subject: Re: Kevin later wrote:

>With your last note responding to Brian's query about
>Descartes' law of refraction, you have just redefined
>your original claim so as to make it a very different
>one from what you earlier asserted.
>If I remember correctly, you originally chose the example
>of relativistic vs. Newtonian mechanics, and claimed that
>the discovery of relativistic mechanics in the realm where
>v approaches c did not "overthrow" any "natural law" such
>as Newton's F=ma. This is debatable, but is not my concern
>now. By "natural law", you explained that you meant a
>mathematical description of a physical phenomenon. I know
>that is what you meant because you used that definition to
>rule out the phlogiston theory of combustion as a "natural

No, actually, I didn't, but the error was mine for not being more pedantic
(though in all fairness I didn't think I had to be). What I should have
said was the phlogiston was neither a physical phenomenon like combustion
(it was in fact a substance that supposedly caused combustion) nor an
abstract model meant to describe a physical phenomenon like combustion. It
was in fact a theory, a mechanism proposed to explain how combustion worked.

>Yet now, when faced with an example of a mathematical
>description of a natural phenomenon that indeed *was* shown
>to be incorrect (Descartes' law of refraction), you have
>reformulated your claim to assert that what you *really* meant
>was that the physical phenomenon of refraction itself was
>not overthrown, only the mathematical description of it
>(which most people would call the "natural law").

[snip quotation]

I reformulated nothing, but it might seem that way since I had overestimated
your familiarity with this subject and had not been pedantic enough. I hope
that my explanation in my reply to Brian clears up the matter somewhat.

>This is very different from your original claim, as perusal of your
>earlier messages will show. By no conceivable stretch of the imagination
>do people mean "physical phenomenon" when they say "physical law". The
>"law" is our description (which may be mathematical or not depending
>on the subject) of a phenomenon.

Once again, any "difference" stems from the fact that I had not been as
pedantic as it is now obvious I should have been. However, people in fact
do frequently mean phyisical phenomenon when they say physical law. Of
course they also simultaneously mean the abstract model of the phenomenon.
As I explained in my post to Brian, you have to have a physical phenomenon
before you can have a physical law, and you have to have a physical law
before you can have a description of that law. That's basic philosophy of
science. I frankly find it difficult to understand how any scientist does
not know this.

>Rather than get defensive....

I take it then that you define any attempt to point out your errors becoming
defensive. Tell me, is this how you react when someone claims that your
latest hypothesis is nonsense?

>...and try to convince people that you have
>been consistent with your terms throughout this thread....

I freely admit that it might seem as if I have not been consistent with my
terms, since I had not been so pedantic as to define everything I had been
discussing in excruciating detail. However, I have been consistent
regarding the concepts I have been discussing. This whole thread started
when Karen suggested that there might be unknown laws or mechanisms that
might allow a molten pluton to cool in under a year without boiling off the
flood waters. I pointed out that these unknown processes would violate a
number of known laws, by which I meant the physical phenomena we call
physical laws. Karen responed by implying that these known laws may be
wrong. I took that to mean that the physical phenomena may in fact not be
real, that they may just be figments of our imagination, like spontaneous
generation and phlogiston had been. I took issue with that by stating that
to my knowledge no physical law had been refuted (by which I meant the
physical phenomenon we called a physical law was shown to be illusionary).
Burgy took issue with that claim, but since he neither asked me to explain
what I meant or expressed any confusion over what I meant by physical law, I
assumed he knew I was referring to specific physical phenomena.
Unfortunately his "examples" were too vague to be sure what he was thinking,
and he continually refused to provide any more detailed examples or
explanations of what he meant. The one exception was phlogiston, so I
continued to assume that he believed certain physical phenomena had in fact
been shown to be untrue. Using that assumption I then explained how
Einstein had only altered the description of Newton's 2nd law and so
improved the formula based on that description, but had not proved the
physical law itself wrong and in fact assumed that the physical law must be
true. Apparently you did not read that part of my post too carefully.

In any event, throughout my discussion I have been consistent with regard to
the basic concepts. My only fault was that I assumed the list scientists
were as familiar with these concepts as I was. For a few of them this
apparently isn't true.

>...why don't you
>take some time to think about what you really meant when you asserted
>that "no physical law has ever been shown to be false".

I've been thinking about this for the past twenty-five years. And it is
still true that no physical law has ever been shown to be false, because no
physical phenomena that we recognize as a physical law has ever been shown
to be false. Our models of those laws are often shown to be crude and
inaccurate, and so are then improved, but the basic description always
remains unchanged, because the physical law itself remains unchanged.

>Then you can explain it better.

See my response to Brian's latest posts on this issue.

>In the form you put it in the message quoted
>above, it seems suspiciously like a tautology that runs something like:
>"real physical phenomena have never been shown to be not real".

It's true, isn't it? A tautology is nothing more than the simplist, most
basic truth one can utter about a subject. Such mathematical laws as A=A,
A=B:B=A, and A=B:B=C:A=C are tautologies, but are also considered to be
profound and powerful mathematical truths. When people like Karen are
confronted with physical laws that refute their scenarios, they tend to
blithely dismiss them with vague suggestions of unknown processes that would
overturn those laws. What they are in fact actually ignoring is that the
physical laws they would like to see evaporate are in fact immutable,
because they are based on real, observable or deducible phenomena that
cannot be refuted. They are in fact ignoring the profound and powerful
truth that real physical laws are **real**.

Kevin L. O'Brien


Date: Mon, 08 Mar 1999 19:40:50 +1100
From: Jonathan Clarke <>
Subject: Re: Evolution's Imperative (was Def'n of Science)

Greetings Vernon

Is your hobby waving red rags in front of male bovines? You wrote in part:

> .... A number of people seem to have missed the point here. For example,
> (2) Jonathan wrote, "We must be very careful with falsification." Then,
> citing three examples, he overlooks the fact that Newton's theory of
> gravitation is clearly 'scientific' because it is manifestly
> falsifiable; on the other hand, his geological scenario is not, for it -
> like evolution itself - involves conjectures about distant historical
> events.

I think you have missed the point, or at least mine. It could be that I did
not explain myself well enough. I will let the others discuss your comments
to their points themselves.

a) Newton's theory was falsified quite early (I believe that the aberrations
in Mercury's orbit was recognised in the 19th century, but would be glad for
someone to correct me on this with more specific info). Despite this
Newton's theory was still accepted, taught, and used - why? Because of its
explanatory power. It was only superseded when Einstein was able to provide
a theory with greater explanatory power.

b) How is my geological scenario not falsifiable? I gave two examples. A
simple case of a rock being a limestone, and a more complex example
involving the lacustrine origin of the XYZ formation. The first was easily
falsifiable with dripping acid on the rock, the second by compiling
collecting a mass of data inconsistent with lacustrine origin.

c) You say my "...geological scenario is not [falsifiable], for it - like
evolution itself - involves conjectures about distant historical events".
What has the distant past got to do with it? The near past is just as
inaccessible as the distant past. Are you saying that we can't saying
anything about the near past? The past is no more inaccessible to science
than deep space (which is also in the past), or the subatomic world. All
are studied indirectly. In many cases geological "conjectures" are far
more easily verified than astronomical or subatomic ones.

More generally you still do not acknowledge the following:

i) falsification, while useful for sifting the simple end of scientific
ideas, is of decreasing value in testing increasingly complex ideas. That is
why explanatory power is of increasing importance the more complex and
general the theory is.

ii) Despite the difficulty of testing evolutionary theory as a whole there
are a whole range of observations which would falsify it. These have been
discussed before by others - things like mammals in Cambrian strata for
example, or a human skeleton within a Tyrannosaurus. In detail specific
evolutionary scenarios (providing properly framed) can also be tested by the
Popperian method.

iii) The danger of relying too heavily on Popper. He was a great
philosopher, but not the last word on the philosophy of science either.
Part of his greatness lay in his ability to admit mistakes, as he did with
Darwinian evolution.

In the end I suspect it is a sign of desperation to try and disprove a
theory because of philosophical argument. Our energies would be better
spent by exploring the theological implications of an evolving creation.

God Bless



End of evolution-digest V1 #1330