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Evolution Disproven?
Posted: 25 July 2007 10:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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I recommend Ernst Mayrs book What Evolution Is

evolution is no longer a theory. it is a fact! and how a biology teacher could say otherwise is grossly ignorant or dismissive of their own field. hardly a branch of biology exists that doesnt center around evolution.

the flu vaccine was a great example and there are many, many others.

I think the biggest problem of evolution is most (Americans) dont even understand what it is*. This is where the Mayr book is very handy. I prefer it over Dawkins (who I admire) any day.

*I had an encounter with a anti-evolutionist and he really thought he had made a point when he sneered, “what species did the chimp breed with to make humans?” Or I get comments about confusion with how mutations work, or the varieties of evolution (ie variations, mutations, etc). When properly explained with what evolution is and examples of how it does and does not work, Im usually greeted with silence.

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Posted: 25 July 2007 07:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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Another problem in discussing this subject with non-scientists is the very important difference in the usage of “theory” in general language and in science.  In general language a theory is something that is akin to a guess without much significant supporting data.  In science that’s a hypothesis.  A theory requires a great deal of data that supports it.  It has to be able to predict the results of tests or of previously unknown events.  And, it can’t disagree with observations. 

Unlike religion in which “truth” is declared for eternity by the religious authority (at least until he dies and the next authority takes over),  science recognizes that there can always be new information which may cause the prior ideas to be modified.  Because of this, they use the term “theory” even for things like The Theory of Gravity. 

When a theist says pejoratively of evolution, “It’s just at theory,” it shows that that person has essentially no understanding of how science works. 

Occam
[to correct two typos]

[ Edited: 27 July 2007 06:55 PM by Occam ]
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Posted: 26 July 2007 09:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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whoa, settle down. Im sensing some intellectual snobbery.

what you just said about there being a “problem” with “discussing thes subject with non-scientists” is akin to creating an intellectual vanguard. perhaps you should have probed me a bit more before putting your foot in your mouth.

would you consider Ernst Mayr to have been a “scientist”? I would and a very important one in the field of evolutionary biology. Wouldnt you agree?

I ask because the premise of Ernst Mayrs book What Evolution Is was that the supporting data for evolution is so overwhelming and that the “theory” has withstood 150 years of scrutiny - not just from theists but scientsists as well - that it has long become a fact.

what you just did was make a semantic argument on the ground of jargon commonly used by scientists and to claim that non-scientists are a “problem.” semantics aside, there is a very good case for asserting that evolution is a fact, no longer a theory. Would “scientists” consider the Earth being spherical a theory?

EDGE: To what extent has the study of evolutionary biology been the study of ideas about evolutionary biology? Is evolution the evolution of ideas, or is it a fact?

ERNST MAYR: That’s a very good question. Because of the historically entrenched resistance to the thought of evolution, documented by modern-day creationism, evolutionists have been forced into defending evolution and trying to prove that it is a fact and not a theory. Certainly the explanation of evolution and the search for its underlying ideas has been somewhat neglected, and my new book, the title of which is What Evolution Is, is precisely attempting to rectify that situation. It attempts to explain evolution. As I say in the first section of the book, I don’t need to prove it again, evolution is so clearly a fact that you need to be committed to something like a belief in the supernatural if you are at all in disagreement with evolution. It is a fact and we don’t need to prove it anymore. Nonetheless we must explain why it happened and how it happens.

http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/mayr/mayr_print.html

[ Edited: 26 July 2007 10:11 AM by truthaddict ]
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Posted: 26 July 2007 10:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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The pope agrees with Mayr:

Pope: Creation vs. evolution an ‘absurdity’
Benedict XVI also says humans must listen to ‘the voice of the Earth’
MSNBC News Services
Updated: 2:55 p.m. ET July 25, 2007

LORENZAGO DI CADORE, Italy - Pope Benedict XVI said the debate raging in some countries — particularly the United States and his native Germany — between creationism and evolution was an “absurdity,” saying that evolution can coexist with faith.

The pontiff, speaking as he was concluding his holiday in northern Italy, also said that while there is much scientific proof to support evolution, the theory could not exclude a role by God.

“They are presented as alternatives that exclude each other,” the pope said. “This clash is an absurdity because on one hand there is much scientific proof in favor of evolution, which appears as a reality that we must see and which enriches our understanding of life and being as such.”

He said evolution did not answer all the questions: “Above all it does not answer the great philosophical question, ‘Where does everything come from?’”

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/19956961/

That position is almost identical to a typical scientific or humanist position.

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Posted: 26 July 2007 12:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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THERES A GAP! THERES A GAP!

SEIZE IT!

I feel sorry for the Pope. If we broaden the scope of evolution to astrobiology, astrophysics, etc then it might answer that question. Lucky for the Pope, he can use the limitations of space and time and say questions that potentionally could be answered later are not answered now! A-ha! But then again the Pope might say, after learning where “everything” comes from: “Above all it does not answer the great philosophical question, ‘Why did the chicken cross the Road?’” As long as they find something to cling on to they will claim their beliefs are not obsolete.

why should the explanation of how species originate explain “the great philosophical question”? how does Evolution not answering that validate their beliefs? I can hear it now: There is no Grand Unified Theory so Mormonism must be correct!

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Posted: 26 July 2007 12:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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It is a question of pushing God the cause back as scientific explanations are elaborated.  Once upon a time, God made the rain fall, and the grass grow.  Whenever you come up against an intellectual difficulty, a deus ex machina to save the day.

For Newton, gravity was a mysterious force - maybe God’s direct influence.  For Einstein, the “force” is no mystery; it is a mathematical necessity arising from the natures of mass and space-time, and not mysterious at all.  But, why is it a mathematical necessity, who made those natures the way they are?  Maybe it was God.  And so on.  It reminds me of a scene in the Simpsons where Lucy Lawless is talking to the nerds, and she tells them that whenever something inexplicable happened on Xena, “a wizard did it”.

I think that what the Pope may be referring to by the great philosophical question is the tendency for people who do not understand the theory of evolution to take evolution back into the past, to where it wrecks their creation myth.  That is, if you no longer get your idea of how the world was made from Genesis, you no longer have an answer to that great philosophical question.  The Pope seems willing to say that Genesis is a myth, but adds that evolution does not either replace it, or wreck the idea (that lies behind the myth) that God created the universe.

Ironically, the big hats in the Catholic Church have tended to be quite up to date scientifically, though they have tended just as much to deny that knowledge to their flocks in the interests of preserving a primitive supernatural authority.

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Posted: 26 July 2007 06:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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truthaddict - 26 July 2007 09:38 AM

whoa, settle down. Im sensing some intellectual snobbery.

what you just said about there being a “problem” with “discussing thes subject with non-scientists” is akin to creating an intellectual vanguard. perhaps you should have probed me a bit more before putting your foot in your mouth.

what you just did was make a semantic argument on the ground of jargon commonly used by scientists and to claim that non-scientists are a “problem.” semantics aside, there is a very good case for asserting that evolution is a fact, no longer a theory. Would “scientists” consider the Earth being spherical a theory?

T.A., you did a very nice job of completely misunderstanding my post then positing arguments against your misunderstanding.

Occam

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Posted: 27 July 2007 09:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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I had a comment here, but before I put my foot in my mouth: how did I misunderstand you?

when I read your comment I got the impression that youre “problem” on semantics was a swipe at my problem on how americans dont know enough about what evolution is.

I got the strong impression that you gathered that im not a scientist and were disputing that evolution was a fact on the semantical grounds of what scientists prefer to refer to it as. Which to me means nothing. You can refer to the different shades of blue by their technical name but if someone simply calls it blue it would be arrogant and condescening to say, “no, its sky blue.” The same with gravity. Whatever term “scienitists” prefer to call it does not change the FACT that gravity is a fact. We may learn more about it or come to an understanding of quantum gravity (via a “theory” of course) but we know and demonstrate that gravity is a fact every second of our lives.

anyway, how did I misunderstand you? were you not referring to me as the nonscientist? were you not making a semantical argument about me referring to evolution as a fact?

[ Edited: 27 July 2007 09:41 AM by truthaddict ]
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Posted: 27 July 2007 03:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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Evolution is not a fact, because it is not something that can be directly observed, it is an explanation of things that can be directly observed.  The sphericity of our planet can be directly observed, and is directly observed every day, so long as some cosmonaut is stuck in orbit, forsaken owing to budget constraints.

That the sky is blue is a directly observable fact.  Why the sky is blue requires a theory that will necessarily (by definition) be unsusceptible to direct observation.

The debate over evolution should never focus in on whether evolution is fact or theory - that is an irrelevant (and semantic in the sense of “pointless argument over definitions of words”) side track.  If some Bible thumper wants a fact to deal with, then deal with the fact that the Earth is somewhat older than 5800 years - there are literally millions of facts, of legitimate and true and repeatable observations, that they have to account for if they want the “fact” that the Earth was created on some Tuesday afternoon in 3800 B.C. (including tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of man-made objects quite easily proven to be older than that).

Never mind whether evolution accounts for all known facts, or is a fact or theory or whatever - what alternative can make a plausible case to account for even a handful of facts that anyone with eyes to see can see, with ears to hear can hear, and so on?

That’s usually where the discussion is clearly revealed to be between two people living in entirely different worlds, with entirely different rules for what constitutes reason.

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Posted: 27 July 2007 03:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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Seems to me it’s better policy not to claim that something has to be directly observed in order to be called a “fact”. I mean, we can’t directly observe the innards of an atom, but nevertheless it is a fact that each hydrogen atom has one proton.

My point is that mucking around with issues as to what counts as “direct observation” and the like adds unnecessary complexity. I completely agree with you that we want to avoid semantic irrelevancies. So let’s just use “fact” in the ordinary, everyday sense of something that is true.

X is a fact iff X is true

Therefore, since the theory of evolution is true (it applies to all living things), it is also a fact.

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Posted: 27 July 2007 03:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
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kudos, dougsmith

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Posted: 27 July 2007 06:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]
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That an explanation is true does not make it a fact except in the most trivial sense where “is a fact” is simply synonymous for “is true”.  If that’s how you want to use the word, then you should certainly make that clear. I find that calling a tentative explanation a fact, even if it is extremely likely to be true, is incoherent (except in another trivial sense—that it exists).

The superiority of scientific reasoning lies precisely in the fact that theories are not considered “truth”, but only the best available explanation.  Once you start declaring this or that theory a “fact” or a “truth” you abandon the scientific outlook.  Was the ether “a fact”? or phlogiston? or phrenology? or any number of “facts” that have since been replaced?  The theory of evolution itself has undergone fundamental changes, for example with the abandonment of Lamarckism.

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Posted: 27 July 2007 08:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]
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First, truthaddict, you are assuming I was directing my post at you.  That’s not the case.  I hardly paid any attention to your posts.  I wasn’t referring to you as a nonscientist.  In fact, I wasn’t referring to you at all.  I was making a general statement about the communication problems that occur when two groups of people use a word differently.  Intelligent Design people argue against evolution by saying it is ONLY a theory.  It IS a theory, but when scientists call something a theory (as they did by calling it “the theory of evolution”) their meaning is quite different from the use by most people.  And scientists, doctors, lawyers, and other disciplines have been using that word with that meaning for centuries.  It certainly doesn’t qualify as jargon. 

There are many words used by various disciplines, be they scientific, music, art, etc., that have specific meanings distinct from the meaning of the same word when used by the general public.  For example, chemists have used the word organic for almost two centuries to mean a compound that contains carbon.  In the last forty years it has been usurped by those who want to describe foods that were raised “naturally” and without chemicals.  EVERYTHING material is a chemical or a mixture of chemicals.  Another example of the difference in word use or definition between scientists and the general public.  Similar to the above, “organic” and “chemical” can’t be called jargon because scientists use them.

In reference to Doug’s post, rsonin did a very nice job of answering it.  To paraphrase Doug’s statement:  Therefore, since Newton’s theory of gravity is true (it applies to all material things) it is also a fact.  Einstein pretty well shot that argument all to hell.

Occam

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Posted: 30 July 2007 12:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]
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rsonin & occam,

im not going to waste my time with semantical arguments. ernst mayr did a damn good job of explaining why evolution is a fact in the above referenced book. if semantics or comparison to “the theory of gravity” (wich is tantamount to comparing an apple to an orange) is the basis of your disagreements, then fine; whatever. if you are not comfortable saying its a fact then thats your perogative. for me, im confident

yes, Lamarckism, saltationism and other theories about (and within) evolution have been weeded out. whether there is more to learn (and much of it we will undoubtedley learn); whether evolution broadens in our understanding or shrinks is completely beside the point. the point is that for 150 years darwins theories have not only been confirmed - for the most part - but have been advanced upon. its here to stay. again, there is little doubt we will learn more about it but that doesnt mean its not a fact.

and the same is true for gravity. so, einstein pushed the envelope, so what? all that means is we know more about gravity. a little bit more of the mystery has been solved. doesnt mean gravity is NOT a fact either.

[ Edited: 30 July 2007 02:22 PM by truthaddict ]
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Posted: 30 July 2007 03:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]
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I think it’s funny, T.A., that we both agree thoroughly about the validity of both evolution and gravity, but manage to nit-pick our reasoning that got us to the same conclusions.

Occam

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