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

Tim Ikeda (
Wed, 17 Mar 1999 22:56:39 -0500

Hello again, Vernon.

You wrote:
>Thanks for writing. I believe the recently-discussed 'peppered moth'
>fiasco underlines what we all know already, viz that atheists (such as
>Dawkins and Crick) are desperate to find hard evidence supporting

Don't forget to add Brian Harper and Howard Van Till to that list
of desperate atheists... (or are they Christian crypto-atheists?)

> From the examples of Haeckel and Kettlewell we see that such
>desperation can lead even "reasonable people" to act wickedly (entirely
>in keeping with biblical principles!). I therefore stand by my
>suggestion that evolution, as a theory, is unique in being one that
>would never be allowed to fail.

Odd, considering that it rose out of the ashes of natural theology...

>On the basis of it being true, much money, time, and effort is being
>expended in detecting highly-developed forms of extraterrestial life.

A pittance actually, compared to other scientific research programs.
SETI is probably staffed more by amateurs than professional scientists.

Funny you should mention SETI. With the old, large satellite antennas
becoming pretty cheap, I've considered joining part of the SETI network
by putting up a dish antenna and scanner. Perhaps I could work moonbounce
and satellite Ham radio modes on the side... For more info see:

>Clearly, whether evolution is true or false, this 'daughter theory' (viz
>that such life forms exist) is unfalsifiable. Yet, if firm evidence of
>an alien civilization were to be found as a result of these ongoing
>investigations, wouldn't that be hailed as a comprehensive vindication
>of terrestial evolution? The possibility that it might represent another
>of God's creative acts would, I suggest, be brushed aside.

That's not what many creationists said when confronted with the possibility
of life on Mars. Therefore, I disagree with that conclusion. That question
would turn more on what the ETs had to say about there own condition and

>In my view, this universalisation of the theory leads, logically, to the
>conclusion I proposed, viz in extremis, the basis of evolution is
>unfalsifiable in the true Popperian sense.

Let's see: Positions held by extremists tend not to be abandoned by
extremists when confronted with contradictory evidence. That's practically
a truism. Where does that take you?

I'll repeat what others have said: Are you certain you're not conflating
evolution (a collection of scientific theories) with scientism? There
is a difference. The notion of a flat earth is a hypothesis; flat-earthism
is something else. Still, if you get a kick out of storming the castle of
"scientism", go ahead and knock yourself out. Just remember that the
ramparts are vacant; the front door, unlocked; the people inside, passed
out from mead; and the maiden, a streetwalker who'll sleep with any dogma
with a pulse. So don't be too confounded if few people here yell "Huzzah!"
when you come back the victor.

>You suggest that this argument leads to a situation in which "... all
>scientific theories can be similarly amended so as to make them
>unfalsifiable." I've tried to think of an example. Do you have one?

Many, actually. Let's take the problem of Mercury's orbit from the perspective
of Newtonian mechanics. For many cases, Newton's ideas of planetary motion
worked quite well on the assumption of a mutually attractive force between
masses. But problems were encountered with fitting Mercury's orbit to the
theory. Did that mean the theory was wrong, or could other additional and
previously uncharacterized forces have been at work besides gravity? Perhaps
this mystery force only worked on materials of which Mercury happened to be
made. Perhaps, there was an exchange of particles and energy between Mercury
and the sun. Perhaps there was a force generator on Mercury, left by visiting
extraterrestrials, that moved Mercury out of its Newtonian orbit. We can
postulate hundreds of potential obfuscating interactions that might allow
Newtonian gravity to be preserved. In fact, many amendments were proposed.
Even today, there are those trying to fit observations to theoretical
constructions that specifically do not include Einstein's theories of

Examples "closer to home" for this group include attempts to fit the
observations to a model of a young universe. Why does radiodating suggest
an old cosmos? Perhaps decay rates were greater in the past. Light from
stars millions & billions of light years away? Perhaps the speed of light
was greater back then. Etc...

Basically, all one need do to preserve a theory from falsification is to add
a few more auxiliary propositions to the bundle and voila, an unfalsified

[ previous comments deleted...]
>As far as I am concerned, evolution is a false doctrine - a conclusion
>arrived at essentially from theological considerations. Regarding the
>tangible falsification scenarios suggested by Kevin, each seems to be
>watertight; yet, if one should arise, experience informs me that it
>would immediately be 'interpreted' by the atheist lobby, and explained
>away. In other words, the strongly-presented view that evolution is
>science, is an illusion; it is, de facto, nothing more than metaphysics.

Again, and in a single paragraph, you're saying that evolution is potentially
falsifiable yet not falsifiable. It either is or it isn't. Is this confusion
possibly a result of conflating "evolution" (a series of scientific theories)
with "evolutionism" (a metaphysical system of belief)? Evolution is supported
by people other that atheists. So just possibly, maybe, with the tiniest of
chances, is it conceivable that evolution has something slightly more than
mass hallucination going for it?

[ previous comments deleted...]
>Tim, I hardly think my understanding of Genesis 1 constitutes a

Correct. It is not your understanding of Genesis 1, but what you claim it
says about the history of the world that constitutes a hypothesis.

Vernon, I was subjecting your claim to analysis (Popperian?). Your claim about
the relative times of origin for birds and land animals makes a specific
statement about the history of life. As such, it can potentially be subjected
to testing by observation. What is the problem with that? My suggestion is:
"Don't invoke Popper unless you're willing to see him turned around and used
to milk your sacred bull." (Pardon the jumbled metaphors)

> The fact that you think it does raises questions about
>your attitude to the scriptures in general.

I didn't expect the Spanish Inquisition.

***Chorus: Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!

Cardinal, fetch the comfy chair!

> Can I ask on what basis you
>decide what passages to believe, and what to discard? I seems clear to
>me that your regard for evolution is greater than for God's word - a
>situation which takes us to the Lord's warning concerning 'two masters'

I perceive that opinion as a potential stumbling block to fruitful
discussions about the nature of science and scientific theories.

>If the created order is 'birds, then land animals', (your reference to
>the meaning of 'day' is clearly irrelevant!) as I believe it is, where
>does that leave the theistic evolutionist?

Most strategies I've seen have been to: 1) Suspect that the passage is
allegorical rather than historically factual. 2) Examine the text to see if
the original words for "birds" and "land animals" really refers to the classes
of animals we think of today (Ancient zoology being rather ambiguous and
confused about which organisms belong to which groups). Note that old-earth
creationists employ similar arguments.

Tim Ikeda (despam address before use)