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Author Topic:   Definitions, Daffynitions, Delusions, Logic and Critical Thinking.
RAZD
Member (Idle past 645 days)
Posts: 20714
From: the other end of the sidewalk
Joined: 03-14-2004


Message 1 of 49 (351900)
09-24-2006 8:21 PM


There is a lot of talk about allowing and encouraging the use of critical thinking in education. Critical thinking is based on a few fundamental pricipals.

  • Clarity - being clear, being distinct, using correct definitions for terms etc.
  • Rationality - considering all the evidence in a rational manner
  • Logic - being able to construct proper logical arguments and support conclusions with valid precepts.

Definitions

Ultimately definitions are what make debate possible:

quote:
definition -noun
1. the act of defining or making definite, distinct, or clear.
2. the formal statement of the meaning or significance of a word, phrase, etc.
3. the condition of being definite, distinct, or clearly outlined.
4. Optics. sharpness of the image formed by an optical system.
5. Radio and Television. the accuracy of sound or picture reproduction.

Standard definitions are available for every word in the language. Usually there are multiple definitions available for a given word, and it is critical for clarity of thought, presentation and debate to delineate the one being used.

For the purpose of this topic we will use definition 2 to accomplish definition 1.

This is particularly critical when we are discussing a science topic, as the science will often use a technical definition, and if people are not using that same definition in their arguments they are not talking about the science anymore but something else.

Daffynitions

Creationists have a tendency to use non-standard definitions to make their arguments, and this gets into the issue of logical fallacies (strawman, equivocation, etc) that will be discussed later, but for now we will address the basic validity of such definitions.

An example is the definition of transitional fossil on A Critique of the "Evolution Essay" A GREAT DEBATE S1WC and anglagard ONLY

S1WC writes:

Message 29
... I think we forgot one IMPORTANT step,that is defining what we mean when we speak of "transitional fossils". I'll start with mine: What I would consider a transitional fossil, a real one that would mean anything to macroevolution, is a fossil that has evolving parts, like a scale/feather fossil, or bones that are evolving from one kind to another, more complex kind, partially evolving body parts, that look almost deformed, because they aren't complete, etc. This is what would be a real transitional fossil.

anglagard hits the nail on the head when he responds:

Message 31
If we are forced to use your definition of transitional fossil, which is closer to chimera than transitional fossil in normal English, then I would say you are most likely correct, there are no transitional fossils.

In order to criticize evolution as false, you must use the definitions used by life scientists and geoscientists, not your own made-up definitions. If you use your own definitions concerning terms used in evolution, then all you have done is criticize as false your misunderstanding of evolution, not evolution as commonly understood.

(color mine for emPHAsis)

We'll call what S1WC presented a 'daffynition' - some statement that does not relate to the terms as used in the science (no matter which science) but some 'daffy' misrepresentation instead (it is also known as a logical fallacy -- the straw man argument).

If you are addressing the validity of a science then you use the terms as defined in the science.

If you don't use the terms as defined in the science then you are not addressing the science.

anglagard goes on to present a fairly standard definition of transitional fossil:

(same msg)
Can we use a somewhat neutral definition such as the first hit in Google such as:

quote:
A transitional fossil is the fossil remains of a creature that exhibits primitive traits in comparison with the more derived life-forms it is related to. According to evolutionary theory, a transitional form represents an evolutionary stage.

In effect saying "let's look up the proper definition and use that" but S1WC protests:

Message 31
Sorry, won't do. That first and only hit on Google define for "transitional fossil" is from a biased source, Wikepedia. Wikepedia is completely in favor of evolution, so we cannot use this if I, as a Creationist, am to debate fairly.

This is a completely ludicrous position and logically false. Wikipedia is "biased" if anything, to providing the proper usage of terms, and properly gives the definition of transitional fossil as used in evolution: and to use some other usage will not address evolution.

This isn't 'bias,' and this is not debating creationist false portrayals of evolution, but addressing the truth of what the science of evolution says. It is either true or not, and if you think it is not true, then (a) show that the definition was false and (2) provide the definition from a credible source that is correct.

A similar situation has occurred with murkeywaters in our Basic Fundamentals of THE Debate (now open to anyone) regarding the definition of evolution, where he takes issue with my definition, proceeds to give several other examples of the definition of evolution that still show that evolution is about "change in species over time" and then concludes:

Message 8
Finally, even if were to agree that "Science" defines evolution as "change in species over time", that doesn't make it correct or any less misleading and it would still remain a valid point of debate. Perhaps part of the problem is that the definition we should be discussing is for a comprehensive theory of evolution, not simply the mechanism of evolution. That is what will allow us to compare and debate creation theory and evolution theory on an equal basis.

Still trying to make it into something it is not, still trying to change the definition from what is used in the science (nor is the "doesn't make it correct or any less misleading" clarified or substantiated with any further discussion - yet).

Definition: common usage, clearly set out and easily verified by some credible source or other (dictionary, encyclopedia, etc)

Daffynition: not common (daffy) usage, not verified by any credible source, usually false or misleading or just plain irrlevant.

Delusions

Let me start here with the definition of faith:

quote:
faith -->faith -noun
1. confidence or trust in a person or thing: faith in another's ability.
2. belief that is not based on proof: He had faith that the hypothesis would be substantiated by fact.
3. belief in God or in the doctrines or teachings of religion: the firm faith of the Pilgrims.
4. belief in anything, as a code of ethics, standards of merit, etc.: to be of the same faith with someone concerning honesty.
5. a system of religious belief: the Christian faith; the Jewish faith.
6. the obligation of loyalty or fidelity to a person, promise, engagement, etc.: Failure to appear would be breaking faith.
7. the observance of this obligation; fidelity to one's promise, oath, allegiance, etc.: He was the only one who proved his faith during our recent troubles.
8. Christian Theology. the trust in God and in His promises as made through Christ and the Scriptures by which humans are justified or saved.
-Idiom
9. in faith, in truth; indeed: In faith, he is a fine lad.

The one I want to use here is #2 - faith: belief that is not based on proof.

If you have proof of the truth, then it is not faith.

If you have invalidation, evidence that proves a belief to be false, then this belief is also not faith, as there is evidence that proves the truth, but something else.

quote:
delusion -noun
1. an act or instance of deluding.
2. the state of being deluded.
3. a false belief or opinion: delusions of grandeur.
4. Psychiatry. a fixed false belief that is resistant to reason or confrontation with actual fact: a paranoid delusion

Belief in something in spite of evidence to the contrary is delusion. One can be deluded by others, however when one is confronted with the facts, the evidence, the truth, of the matter and still holds a belief in denial of the {facts\evidence\truth}, then one is psychologically deluded - living in a state of delusion about the reality of the world.

Regarding the definition of transitional fossils above, S1WC refuses to accept the true definition of the term as used in the science of evolution and then concludes:

Message 42
Point "Can't get anywhere": Since we couldn't agree upon a definition of "transitional fossils", this point can't be argued properly at the moment.

S1WC is deluded that his failure to accept the true scientific definition has any validity and that anything is accomplished by it other than providing evidence of his state of delusion. What is true is that he can't argue the point properly at the moment, anglagard does not have the problem.

These are some observed facts:

  • The earth orbits the sun.
  • The earth is old.
  • Life has evolved.
  • There are transitional fossils.
Belief to the contrary is not faith, but denial of the evidence, and belief maintained in the face of evidence to the contrary is delusional.

As an example of this kind of denial, when confronted with the evidence of transitional elements between reptiles and birds that is presented by archaeopteryx, S1WC comments:

Message 43
Like I have said, there are 3 possibilities to this, archaeopteryx could be a real bird, a real reptile, or a fraud, but NOT a transitional. I hold to the fraud part, but I have said it COULD be a real bird or a real reptile. But AIG is not the only source of info out there, I have read 'Darwin's Conspiracy' and have reason to say archaeopteryx is MOST LIKELY a fraud, yet I do not totally ignore that it could be a bird or reptile.

Notably missing is a 4th possiblity - one of harsh true reality - that archaeopteryx truly is a transitional (and one of many), and that belief to the contrary is denial of the evidence rather than rational consideration of it: and belief maintained in the face of evidence to the contrary is delusional.

Denial does not make the truth go away.

Logic

Logic is the base of rational thought. The usual form is

Premise {A}
Premise {B}
Conclusion {C}
This is similar to {A}+{B}={C}.

If premise {A} is true, and if premise {B} is true, and if conclusion {C} follows from {A} and {B}, then it is true, but if either premise is false or the construction is invalid then the conclusion will be invalid. Common logical fallacies employ one or more invalid formations.

quote:
logic -noun
1. the science that investigates the principles governing correct or reliable inference.
2. a particular method of reasoning or argumentation: We were unable to follow his logic.
3. the system or principles of reasoning applicable to any branch of knowledge or study.
4. reason or sound judgment, as in utterances or actions: There wasn't much logic in her move.
5. convincing forcefulness; inexorable truth or persuasiveness: the irresistible logic of the facts.
6. Computers. logic circuit.

There are several valid sources for the definitions of various logical fallacies:
http://onegoodmove.org/fallacy/toc.htm
http://usabig.com/autonomist/fallacies.html
even http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Logical_fallacy

some common ones are

Straw Man

quote:
A straw man argument is a logical fallacy based on misrepresentation of an opponent's position. To "set up a straw man" or "set up a straw-man argument" is to create a position that is easy to refute, then attribute that position to the opponent. A straw-man argument can be a successful rhetorical technique (that is, it may succeed in persuading people) but it is in fact misleading, because the opponent's actual argument has not been refuted.

Argument from Ignorance or Incredulity

quote:
The argument from ignorance, also known as argumentum ad ignorantiam or argument by lack of imagination, is a logical fallacy in which it is claimed that a premise is true only because it has not been proven false, or that a premise is false only because it has not been proven true.

The argument from personal incredulity, also known as argument from personal belief or argument from personal conviction, refers to an assertion that because one personally finds a premise unlikely or unbelievable, the premise can be assumed not to be true, or alternately that another preferred but unproven premise is true instead.


Equivocation

quote:
Equivocation is a logical fallacy. It is committed when someone uses the same word in different meanings in an argument, implying that the word means the same each time around.

For example:

A feather is light.
What is light cannot be dark.
Therefore, a feather cannot be dark.

The above argument commits this fallacy: The word "light" is used in the sense of "having little weight" the first time, but of "bright" the second time.

An example of the first one (straw man) can be described as

Premise {A} {a transitional fossil must be a "hopeful monster" (see S1WC above)} == false definition
Premise {B} {there are no fossils of hopeful monsters} == possibly true statement
Conclusion {C} {there is no fossil evidence for macroevolution} == invalid because premise {A} is false.

Thus the validity of evolution is not addressed by this argument.

Another example of the third form above, equivocation, is a little more subtle, but common on both sides: the problem is that there are two "evolutions" - from Message 98

(1) is the mechanism - (micro\macro)evolution, the change in species over time, (mechanism)evolution or {"M/E"} and

(2) is the science - the study of evolution (the mechanism), AND the experiments, AND the observations, AND the results, AND the theories of natural (survival\sexual) selection, common descent, punkeek, etc etc etc, (science)evolution or {"S/E"}.

It is fairly common to have the logical arguments flip from one of these evolutions to the other.

Conclusion

False definitions, poorly constructed logical arguments and invalid conclusions are not elements of critical thinking.

They don't represent the truth, they don't represent the science and they don't represent things that should be included in education.

Enjoy

Edited by RAZD, : forum:

Education and Creation/Evolution please.

Edited by RAZD, : .

Edited by RAZD, : shortened and clarified some parts. Some formating.

Edited by RAZD, : symbols updated

Edited by RAZD, : list fix


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Replies to this message:
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 Message 8 by Nighttrain, posted 09-25-2006 7:58 PM RAZD has replied
 Message 12 by iano, posted 09-26-2006 6:11 AM RAZD has replied
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AdminQuetzal
Inactive Member


Message 2 of 49 (351934)
09-24-2006 11:25 PM


Promoted with Reservations
Thread moved here from the Proposed New Topics forum.

One is length, the other relates to the apparent "call out" nature of the OP. I promise you I'll be keeping a close watch on this one, RAZD.

Edited by AdminQuetzal, : No reason given.


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NosyNed
Member
Posts: 8968
From: Canada
Joined: 04-04-2003


Message 3 of 49 (351951)
09-25-2006 12:06 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by RAZD
09-24-2006 8:21 PM


Reasoning behind definitions.
It's fine to start with supplied definitions but if there is disagreement with them then the reasoning behind the definitions should be worked out. If there is then still no agreement then the discussion can end early.

For example:
Transitional Fossils.

If one is agrueing for or against the ToE then one should use that model (that of evolutionary biology) to derive a 'reasonable' definition of a transitional fossil (TF ).

The model says that a base population of animals will undergo a series of speciation events. At the end of a long chain of these we have different taxonomic categories that we see today.

The model suggests that two 'related' taxa today sprang from a base. Near that base the two taxa should be still pretty similar. In fact, it can take sometime before we decide the split has occured. The dino bird example shows that. (as does human and other primates).

Given that the more divergent animals are probably those which move into new niches -- e.g., flight for the dinosaurs but there old niches may (or may not) remain we would expect to see one branch develope new characteristics but the other branch (in the old niche) may stray less far.

Thus we expect a transitional to carry over some of the features of the original base but layer new ones on top. The one branch may lose features of the base faster than the other branch too but retain them for sometime.

To check this we would look for some fossils that are close to the apparent point of divergence. We'd expect to see two branchs (or more) that are both still close to the base but both with some differences.

We'd expect further to find (if we get lucky) later forms which show gradual further divergance from each other.

There is no reason at all why the model would expect large leaps. In fact, our understanding of genetics suggests that large leaps have got to be rather rare.

Can we derive a complete definition of transitional from this?


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RAZD
Member (Idle past 645 days)
Posts: 20714
From: the other end of the sidewalk
Joined: 03-14-2004


Message 4 of 49 (351953)
09-25-2006 12:14 AM
Reply to: Message 2 by AdminQuetzal
09-24-2006 11:25 PM


I'll take that cue
Thanks, I figured length would be a (continuing) problem.

I am interested in what those from the creationist camp think of the problem with definitions.

... the other relates to the apparent "call out" nature of the OP.

Not just murkeywaters and someonewhocares, but anyone else.

It seems to me to go to the heart of the debate -- talking about the same things using terms with the agreed meanings or seeming to discuss things while talking past each other using different meanings for terms.

What I don't understand is that accepted definitions are easy to find - why not use them?


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RAZD
Member (Idle past 645 days)
Posts: 20714
From: the other end of the sidewalk
Joined: 03-14-2004


Message 5 of 49 (351959)
09-25-2006 12:28 AM
Reply to: Message 3 by NosyNed
09-25-2006 12:06 AM


Re: Reasoning behind definitions.
The model says that a base population of animals will undergo a series of speciation events. At the end of a long chain of these we have different taxonomic categories that we see today.

Can we derive a complete definition of transitional from this?

I am sure we can, using logic and the basic theory of evolution -- change in species over time. It would be interesting to do that in a single topic dedicated to such definition.

I had considered doing this in the logic section of the OP, but it was already getting too long, and it also seemed to get away from the topic of why it seems creationists can't use the proper available definitions.

Edited by RAZD, : /


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NosyNed
Member
Posts: 8968
From: Canada
Joined: 04-04-2003


Message 6 of 49 (351977)
09-25-2006 1:38 AM
Reply to: Message 5 by RAZD
09-25-2006 12:28 AM


Why creo's don't use standard definitions
I had considered doing this in the logic section of the OP, but it was already getting too long, and it also seemed to get away from the topic of why it seems creationists can't use the proper available definitions.

Creos don't "get" that they have to attack the actual science rather than some made up strawman. They don't like the definitions because they aren't the strawman they want to tackle.

So you aren't going to get them to agree to the definitions. Aren't going to get them to agree to anything of course, but it might be a good exercise to redevelop the defintions for yourself.


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Matt P
Member (Idle past 4015 days)
Posts: 106
From: Tampa FL
Joined: 03-18-2005


Message 7 of 49 (352197)
09-25-2006 4:56 PM
Reply to: Message 4 by RAZD
09-25-2006 12:14 AM


Bad definitions = high profit
Hi RAZD,
I found a great case in point regarding being unwilling to accept scientific definitions and to make a tidy profit.

I'm a beginning meteorite collector, and I found this ad on Ebay:
http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=280031536017

For those unwilling to click on the link, this is a missionary working in New England who believes he has a Martian meteorite. He's trying to sell it for 20 million dollars. His sole line of evidence is a vision had where God pointed at the rock and said, "Absolutely, absolutely!" with a pen and a red dot above it. He uses that as proof that it's a Martian meteorite. Never mind that it lacks a fusion crust, is way too big to have survived atmospheric entry, and has magnetic minerals (which aren't found in Martian rocks). He's been chopping it up and selling it for $33 a gram, or about $15,000 a pound.

I've followed the story a bit, and several scientists have looked at his rock out of pity, and none have concluded it's a meteorite. However, it sounds pretty clear that he won't accept any evidence contrary to his vision. By being unwilling to accepted scientific definitions for what constitutes a rock from Mars, this fellow stands to make a lot of money.

Also, note the small jibe thrown at scientists at the end, where we're working actively to disprove God and say we came from monkeys.


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Nighttrain
Member (Idle past 3234 days)
Posts: 1512
From: brisbane,australia
Joined: 06-08-2004


Message 8 of 49 (352252)
09-25-2006 7:58 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by RAZD
09-24-2006 8:21 PM


Courage
Well laid out, as usual, Razd. The only quality I would add to the fundamentals of Crit-think is 'Courage'--the ability to admit to the conclusions reached if they run counter to one`s previous understanding. Possibly the hardest to master. :D

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RAZD
Member (Idle past 645 days)
Posts: 20714
From: the other end of the sidewalk
Joined: 03-14-2004


Message 9 of 49 (352258)
09-25-2006 8:34 PM
Reply to: Message 7 by Matt P
09-25-2006 4:56 PM


Re: Bad definitions = high profit
Looks like the shyster arts of suckering the gullibles is alive and well eh? You could run this operation out of your backyard, with the only overhead being a picture of one large rock, a rock saw and sufficint other rocks to slice up and distribute "while supplies last" ... set up an email account and get a PO box for the checks to be sent.

:rolleyes:


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RAZD
Member (Idle past 645 days)
Posts: 20714
From: the other end of the sidewalk
Joined: 03-14-2004


Message 10 of 49 (352259)
09-25-2006 8:37 PM
Reply to: Message 8 by Nighttrain
09-25-2006 7:58 PM


Re: Courage
... the ability to admit to the conclusions reached if they run counter to one`s previous understanding.

Aye. If you don't hold out the possibility that you are wrong on an equal footing with all other possibilities, then you have jeopardized your personal results.


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RAZD
Member (Idle past 645 days)
Posts: 20714
From: the other end of the sidewalk
Joined: 03-14-2004


Message 11 of 49 (352264)
09-25-2006 9:09 PM
Reply to: Message 6 by NosyNed
09-25-2006 1:38 AM


Re: Why creo's don't use standard definitions
They don't like the definitions because they aren't the strawman they want to tackle.

So you aren't going to get them to agree to the definitions.

The amazing thing is to see them disagree with a dictionary definition in favour of some outlandish interpretation of their own.

Creos don't "get" that they have to attack the actual science rather than some made up strawman. ... it might be a good exercise to redevelop the defintions for yourself.

It would be simple logic: if evolution is change in species over time, what would you see as an intermediate between an ancestral species and a daughter species?

You could start with "micro"evolution - what you do see when speciation occurs, the extent of variations and differences within the daughter populations.

Then move to a "macro" level and discuss what level of change would be needed. Comparisons to branches on an evolutionary tree could be incorporated to keep the discussion 'honest' on what changes are needed.

It would also be interesting to take several known fossil lineages and make predictions on what would be found if an intermediate fossil were discovered, the more "gaps" we added into the prediction lists would mean a sooner return on investment when one is found.

We could even ask creos which gaps they would like to see filled.

This could be an interesting topic, but one that could take years to produce noticeable results.

On the other hand, it could be a really neat project for the forum and one that could run in the background as we progress from day to day.

I also note that this is similar to the approach they took to finding Tiktaalik in predicting the features and the environment that such an intermediate species would exhibit and inhabit.

Could be fun.


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iano
Member (Idle past 1181 days)
Posts: 6165
From: Co. Wicklow, Ireland.
Joined: 07-27-2005


Message 12 of 49 (352309)
09-26-2006 6:11 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by RAZD
09-24-2006 8:21 PM


Can we use a somewhat neutral definition such as the first hit in Google such as:

quote:

A transitional fossil is the fossil remains of a creature that exhibits (according to evolutionary theory) primitive traits in comparison with the more (according to evolutionary theory) derived life-forms it is (according to evolutionary theory) related to.

According to evolutionary theory, a transitional form represents an evolutionary stage.


I've added in parentheses what is excluded (for some reason) from the first half of the definition. Thus we can read the second half of the definition better as

quote:
According to evolutionary theory, a 'transitional form' is a description that is assumed to factually describe a fossil exibiting features assumed of it as described above

Now that's what I call a neutral definition.


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robinrohan
Inactive Member


Message 13 of 49 (352323)
09-26-2006 7:46 AM
Reply to: Message 10 by RAZD
09-25-2006 8:37 PM


Re: Courage
Aye. If you don't hold out the possibility that you are wrong on an equal footing with all other possibilities, then you have jeopardized your personal results.

The stance described here is an ideal behavior, not a realistic one.

Science succeeds through prejudice.

A quote from an essay called "In Defense of Prejudice": "[science] does not require that scientists be unbiased, only that different scientists have different biases."


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RAZD
Member (Idle past 645 days)
Posts: 20714
From: the other end of the sidewalk
Joined: 03-14-2004


Message 14 of 49 (352324)
09-26-2006 7:47 AM
Reply to: Message 12 by iano
09-26-2006 6:11 AM


another example.
Funny. :rolleyes:

From Wikipedia (still)

quote:
A transitional fossil is the fossil remains of a creature that exhibits certain primitive (or basal) traits in comparison with its more derived descendants. "Missing link" is a popular term used for transitional forms. According to modern evolutionary theory, all populations of organisms are in transition. Therefore, a "transitional form" is a human construct that vividly represents a particular evolutionary stage, as recognized in hindsight.

I don't see any missing parenthetical phrases in that definition ...

Iano writes:

I've added in parentheses what is excluded (for some reason) from the first half of the definition. Thus we can read the second half of the definition better as ...

Thank you for providing another example of creationist inability to deal with the real definition.

Now that's what I call a neutral definition.

And it's one that I call worthless, as it isn't used in evolutionary science, so therefore it doesn't apply to a discussion of evolution.

So Iano, do transitional fossils exist that meet the criteria of the scientific definition? A simple yes or no eh?

Or is that why you need to change the definition in some way to attempt to neuter this fact?

Enjoy.


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This message is a reply to:
 Message 12 by iano, posted 09-26-2006 6:11 AM iano has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 17 by iano, posted 09-26-2006 8:28 AM RAZD has replied

  
Nighttrain
Member (Idle past 3234 days)
Posts: 1512
From: brisbane,australia
Joined: 06-08-2004


Message 15 of 49 (352326)
09-26-2006 7:59 AM
Reply to: Message 13 by robinrohan
09-26-2006 7:46 AM


Re: Courage
The stance described here is an ideal behavior, not a realistic one.

Not so, Rob, I face it many times a year. Unlike other habits, it doesn`t get easier with practice.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 13 by robinrohan, posted 09-26-2006 7:46 AM robinrohan has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 16 by robinrohan, posted 09-26-2006 8:22 AM Nighttrain has replied

  
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