Re: Dembski and Nelson at MIT and Tufts

Kevin O'Brien (
Mon, 5 Apr 1999 15:56:14 -0600

>> >Moorad:
>> >There is a difference between developing (creating) a theory and
>> >understanding what has already been developed.
>> >
>> Kevin:
>> No, there isn't, and that's the point you keep missing.
>Creative processes, and comprehension processes are quite different.

No, Ami, they are not; they are all the same basic set of processes, mainly
because you have to comprehend a concept before you can use it to create
anything new.

>> >
>> >Let us face it there are
>> >plenty of people that cannot understand even the basic essentials of
>> >science.
>> >
>> Remember what I wrote about the stumbling blocks that keep people from
>> understanding an idea? I'll repeat them here: "The stumbling blocks are
>> a lack of education, a lack of source material to study, ignorance of the
>> existence of the concept, a lack of confidence, a lack of interest or
>> stubborn refusal. Once these are overcome, I believe anyone can learn
>> anything, intelligence notwithstanding." As I said, my experience (as a
>> teacher, lecturer, debator, tutor and scientist) has been that this is
>> true.
>I have worked with mentally handicapped people who could never understand
>what you are teaching.

This is a specious argument, Ami, and you know it. In my first post to this
thread I very carefully stated that anyone with an UNIMPARED ability to
reason can learn anything. Since then I have assumed that everyone involved
would realize that that was a necessary condition.

>The people you are coming up against already have
>the comprehension and desire to put themselves within the system where they
>must meet a teacher of scientific concepts. Unless you teach basic, GE
>courses, there is another group who may be in college and quite intellgent,
>but their bent is in another direction and they would also find it
>limitingly difficult to study certain scientific concepts. There is a line
>somewhere where people simply cannot understand it.

Hogwash, to be blunt. What you are describing is a lack of interest in
those scientific topics; if they had the interest they could understand

>> >I suppose in evolutionary theory speech is cheap.
>> >Not so in the frontiers of physics, for instance. Things are tough!
>> >
>> I am not what you would call a highly intelligent person. I got C's in
>> biochemistry, I barely understood evolutionary theory when it was first
>> taught to me, and I am not now a theorist (I'm good with my hands, not my
>> mind). But I have had no trouble understanding the most esoteric of
>> cutting-edge physics, because I had good teachers who were able to
>> everything so that I could understand it. (The same has been true of my
>> profession as well; with two exceptions, I've learned more about
>> biochemistry, protein chemistry and enzymology from my PIs than I did in
>> college.)
>Aren't you simply validating Moorad's point that people can understand
>theories, yet not create them?

Moorad kept jumping from creating to comprehending theories, treating both
as equals. On top of that, he had suggested that biology was easy to
understand, but physics was not. So I was specifically describing how I in
fact had trouble understanding biochemical concepts but could understand
even extremely esoteric physical topics quite easily.

However, since I have been working as a biochemist, I have come to
understand the various subjects I have investigated well enough to be able
to start creating theories of my own, some of which have made it into the
papers my PIs published. So in fact, I was able to overcome my educational
deficiencies with experience. In reality, it is quite easy to create
theories, as any working scientist can tell you. What is often difficult is
figuring out how to test them. Familiarize yourself with any biochemical
topic and you'll find it filled to overflowing with competing theories,
often one or more for each lab or faction in a lab publishing reports.
There is no trick to creating a theory, only in figuring out which is the

Kevin L. O'Brien