Re: Evolution's Imperative (was Def'n of Science)

Tim Ikeda (
Sun, 14 Mar 1999 01:07:15 -0500

Previously Vernon wrote:
[... Much stuff cut -- discussed by others...]

>(4) Among theories, it is unique in being the only one that cannot be
>allowed to fail! Kevin, you list several events which, were any to
>occur, should kill evolution stone dead. We could list a myriad more,
>but the practicalities are that these falsification scenarios - which in
>your view support the scientific legitimacy of the theory - are not
>worth the paper they are written on; here's why: included among your
>ranks are the likes of Dawkins and Crick for whom this doctrine is
>essential; is it likely that they would ever wave the white flag?

I'm sorry Vernon, but I don't follow your explanation when you say
"here's why". If "Mr. X" will believe "theory-Z" regardless of
anything one can say, I don't see how that affects whether "theory-Z"
is a legitimate scientific theory. Using an ad hominem argument against
a theory seems a rather peculiar strategy.

I'm not terribly interested in what wild-eyed fanatics think about
any particular theory (& I would hesitate to place Dawkins or
Crick in that extreme category); I'm interested in what "reasonable"
people think. The fact is that there are reasonable scientists (Christians
among them) who are not metaphysically wedded to scientism & who also
happen to think that evolution can be addressed within the realm of
science. One might be more effective worrying about what these people
think than fanatics.

>If the offending data could not be suppressed then it would be explained
>away as a 'creationist plant'. And if these, and other, strategies were
>to fail, there - waiting in the wings - would be the ultimate, unanswerable,
>defence, viz that the offending manifestations are clearly attributable to
>the activities of some unknown exraterrestial beings who had visited this
>planet in times past! So, you see, the universal expectations of evolution
>(clearly unfalsifiable!) create a caudal safety-net. All very neat really,
>and rendering your suggested tests of falsifiability, illusory!.

Odd! Vernon, I thought you were trying to support some of Popper's
ideas of science. Yet, if the description above is correct, then you've
managed to make a strong case *against* falsification as a criterion
for "legitimate scientific theories". That's because all scientific
theories can be similarly amended so as to make them unfalsifiable.

Note: Vernon, on one hand you seem to agree that evolution can be falsified.
You write: "Kevin, you list several events which, were any to occur, should
kill evolution stone dead." In fact I get the impression that you think
evolution is false or already falsified. Yet later you argue that it
cannot be falsified. I don't see how it can be both. Either it cannot
be falsified, in which case prudent dissenters should stop wasting their
time trying to disprove it, or it is falsifiable, in which case counter-
arguments are worth making.

Tim Ikeda (despam address before use)

Aside - In a later reply to Brian, Vernon suggests that birds
were created on the 5th day and land animals on the 6th day.
Let me comment that this hypothesis about the order of creation
can be examined as a scientific question. Yet whether the "days"
in question were 24-hours or longer periods of time, there is
little evidence to support this hypothesis and much more that
argues against it. If we are to use Popper's arguments, then
we should conclude that this creation-order hypothesis is
falsified. And if as Vernon claims, the existence of God is
truly co-dependent on the creation-order hypothesis, then
we should conclude that Vernon's God has likewise been falsified.
I think this illustrates Brian's and Howard's concerns about
rashly overconfident Biblical literalists driving people away from