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Author Topic:   How Science Progresses -- By Overturning Old Paradigms?
lpetrich
Inactive Member


Message 1 of 38 (30420)
01-28-2003 6:58 AM


There is a common view of how science progresses, that it progresses by continually overturning old paradigms. Advocates of various forms of crackpottery are, not surprisingly, especially fond of this view; they often seems to think that all it takes to accept their views is a paradigm shift.
But what has really happened?
In many cases, new paradigms subsume or include old paradigms as special cases or consequences or something else that does not imply falsification. Here are some case studies.
Newtonian mechanics was a big jump over what had gone on previously; it is fair to call it a paradigm shift. Its successors, relativity and quantum mechanics, have enough differences from Newtonianism to be called paradigm shifts. But they also have many close resemblances to Newtonianism, and they include Newtonian mechanics as a limiting case. So Newtonianism was only falsified in some very strict sense; it was shown to be an approximation that has some well-defined amount of error.
In chemistry, the modern concept of chemical elements emerged in the 18th century; it was a drastic departure from the ancient conception of elements as earth, air, fire, and water -- those "elements" correspond more closely to states of matter. So it may justly be called a paradigm shift. Lavoisier's mid-18th-cy. list of elements has held up very well, with most of them being either presently-recognized elements or oxides of them. Later developments, even those worthy of being called paradigm shifts, only built on this conception. These include
The Law of Definite Proportions
Atomic Theory
Valence Theory
The Periodic Table of Elements
and the 20th-cy. demonstration that atoms are really composite entities whose parts follow laws of physics.
Each advance included without falsifying what went before, so paradigm replacement simply did not happen.
Turning to geology, the development of radioisotope dating dramatically confirmed the relative order of the geologic column that had been worked out over the century before; igneous rocks have the "right" order of crystallization ages.
And in biology, Mendelian genetics is a successful paradigm that was dramatically confirmed by the working out of molecular-genetics paradigms, notably the discovery of the structure and workings of nucleic acids (DNA and RNA).
There are several other examples I could give; suffice it to say that perpetual overturning simply does not happen.
I now turn to the paradigm of evolution by natural selection, which was first proposed by Charles Darwin in his Origin of Species. He justly deserves to be called a founder figure, because he had developed his concepts in considerable detail, addressing numerous objections. And his work has held up remarkably well, with his main errors being:
Heredity: modern biology out-Darwins Darwin, rejecting the heritability of "the effects of use and disuse".
Gradualism: modern biology also accommodates the much-observed lack of fossil gradualism -- evolution often works in bursts ("punctuated equilibrium").
In fact, molecular biology offers remarkable confirmations of family trees developed earlier -- human genes have much more sequence similarity with corresponding chimp genes than with dog genes or snake genes or frog genes or fish genes or fly genes or yeast genes or sunflower genes or bacterium genes.
So looking to the overthrow of evolution is a lost cause -- anything that "overthrows" it would have to somehow account for the appearance of evolution.

Replies to this message:
 Message 2 by Quetzal, posted 01-28-2003 7:14 AM lpetrich has not replied
 Message 4 by Andya Primanda, posted 01-28-2003 10:08 PM lpetrich has not replied
 Message 5 by Tranquility Base, posted 01-29-2003 12:57 AM lpetrich has not replied

  
Quetzal
Member (Idle past 5949 days)
Posts: 3228
Joined: 01-09-2002


Message 2 of 38 (30422)
01-28-2003 7:14 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by lpetrich
01-28-2003 6:58 AM


Isn't the "revolutionary paradigm shift" Kuhn's theory? I admit it's the one creationists seem to cling to a lot. Johnson loves it, for one. However, I wouldn't go TOO far in proclaiming ToE invulnerable. In the first place, that plays into the creationists' hands too much, IMO. Consider the oft-heard refrain, "Evolution isn't science because it's not falsifiable." I dunno, comes across somewhat dogmatic the way you phrased it (not that I disagree with your conclusion, mind).

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lpetrich
Inactive Member


Message 3 of 38 (30432)
01-28-2003 10:43 AM


That's right -- it's Thomas Kuhn's theory, expounded in his book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.

  
Andya Primanda
Inactive Member


Message 4 of 38 (30494)
01-28-2003 10:08 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by lpetrich
01-28-2003 6:58 AM


Regardless of what Kuhn proposed, the only way to overthrow old paradigms is through sciemce, isn't it? The 'paradigm shift' guys are sometimes those which do no research.
Take my subject, taxonomy. I record four paradigm shifts: Linnaean (birth of taxonomy)--Darwinian (evolution) --Mayrian (Biological species concept) --Hennigian (cladistics). Maybe we are on the verge of another paradigm shift, namely, the overthrow of the Biological Species concept. But I don't see anybody explicitly saying 'I try to study speciation in sabre-toothed goldfishes to overthrow the current paradigm'. Paradigm shifts occur naturally, not intentionally as critics wished.

This message is a reply to:
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Tranquility Base
Inactive Member


Message 5 of 38 (30505)
01-29-2003 12:57 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by lpetrich
01-28-2003 6:58 AM


Ipetrich
I mostly agree with your post. Nevertheless there is room for paradigm shifts in science and they do occur.
Creationists already understand both (i) why there is some 'appearence' of eons/evolution and (ii) what the signatures are that a paradigm shift towards creation/flood is necessary.
As documented on this forum site Lyell's three catch cries of geological gradualism 'coincidentally' are also expected from a global flood viewpoint. Let's examin them again and see how this coincidence arises:
1. The geo-col consist of layers
a) Gradualism: layers formed gradually due to seasonal change in load composition.
b) Flood geology: layers formed rapidly via hydrodynamic sorting uner rapid curents
Both a and b are perfectly sensible proposals. It has been shown experimetnally that layers can be formed by two qualitatively differnt methods: via (i) load changes or (ii) hydrodynamic sorting. (i) dominates today but (ii) dominates during high energy events. It is completely coincidental that both (a) and (b) above can explain the data.
2. Gorges typically carry rivers proportional to their size
a) Gradualism: these rivers eroded these gorges over eons of time
b) Flood geology: once high-energy sheet erosion (during the later stages of the flood recession) degraded into an intermediate energy channel forming mode the reecession carved canyons out of still soft flood sediments. The same catchments that provided this 'intermediate energy' run-off are still the same catchments that are the source of the same (low energy) rivers today.
Again both a and b are perfectly sensible proposals. Rivers flows are obviously proportional to their catchment sizes. Hence it is implicit that both eons of time or flood drainage can explain this supossed catch cry of gradualism. Both explanations hinge on catchment size not gradualism or catastrophism per se.
3. World-wide deposits of the geo-col can be assigned to various sedimentary environments
a) Gradualism: these enironmetents can be found today gradually forming layers
b) Flood geology: these environements could have been catastrophic flood stages and lulls
Both a and b are possible. It simply is very difficult to distinguish a rapid marine inundation across a continent from a gradual one. One finds the same things: fossils, burrows, ripples etc. It turns out that it is not that easy to distinguish a long term habitat from a rapid flood burial event simply from strata. We have very few models of rapid marine inundation to compare too. So because of the complexity of the data it is easy for both sides to see fossils, ripples and burrows and clai mit is uniquely consistent with their scenario! [The data we have on modern day shelves actually argues against geo-col marine strata being gradual inundations: (i) a complete lack of comparable shelves forming today, (ii) sea-floors are too disturbed to give rise to the type of starta we typically see in the geo-col and (iii) the paleocurrent data suggests rapid inundation.]
There is plenty of room for the mother of all paradigm shifts to occur in geology (and I could similarly analyze biology).
[This message has been edited by Tranquility Base, 01-29-2003]

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lpetrich
Inactive Member


Message 6 of 38 (30628)
01-29-2003 11:55 PM


There are more appropriate places to debate Flood Geology in this bboard; however, tranquility base's scenario reminds me of what has occasionally happened in cutting-edge research. In the 1920's, physicists Erwin Schroedinger and Werner Heisenberg developed rigorous formulations of quantum mechanics that were very different-looking. In Heisenberg's formulation, the wavefunctions are fixed and the operators (observable quantities, etc.) are dynamic. While in Schroedinger's formulation, the wavefunctions are dynamic and the operators fixed. However, it turned out that Heisenberg's and Schroedinger's formulations were mathematically equivalent!
More generally, in cutting-edge research, scientists often propose and advocate several competing theories, with advocates of rival theories sometimes using rather flamey rhetoric on each other. But such controversies usually end up being resolved in some way or other; the poor performers are discarded, and the "winners" are often reconciled, like being shown to be different special cases.
I think that one good indicator of immature science is the lack of resolution of such controversies; the social sciences often seem to be in such an immature state. Also, the progress of science may run out of steam in some cases, from a lack of good data to distinguish hypotheses.
That has actually happened in evolutionary biology -- the grouping of the eutherian (placental-mammal) orders has long been a subject of controversy, because of the difficulty of identifying features that could be indicative of such groups.
But in recent years, molecular-phylogeny techniques have improved enough to make it possible to resolve that question, with some startling results. For example, elephants, sirenians, hyraxes, aardvarks, golden moles, elephant shrews, and tenrecs are recognizably united in the taxon Afrotheria -- which has essentially no macroscopic-feature support. There is some for the grouping Paenungulata of elephants, sirenians, and hyraxes, and that grouping is indeed confirmed by the molecular evidence, but that's about it.

Replies to this message:
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Tranquility Base
Inactive Member


Message 7 of 38 (30662)
01-30-2003 5:10 AM
Reply to: Message 6 by lpetrich
01-29-2003 11:55 PM


Ipetrich
tranquility base's scenario reminds me of what has occasionally happened in cutting-edge research . . . it turned out that Heisenberg's and Schroedinger's formulations were mathematically equivalent!
More generally, in cutting-edge research, scientists often propose and advocate several competing theories . . . But such controversies usually end up being resolved in some way or other; the poor performers are discarded, and the "winners" are often reconciled, like being shown to be different special cases.
I don't see the relevance of all this (I'm very aware of the Heis vs Scrhod formulations - the flood vs eons are obviously not comparable to this) except perhaps that you probably think flood geology is in the 'poorer' category.
I think that one good indicator of immature science is the lack of resolution of such controversies
So what's the applicaiton? You can say it in plain English and I wont get upset!
But in recent years, molecular-phylogeny techniques have improved enough to make it possible to resolve that question, with some startling results. For example, elephants, sirenians, hyraxes, aardvarks, golden moles, elephant shrews, and tenrecs are recognizably united in the taxon Afrotheria -- which has essentially no macroscopic-feature support. There is some for the grouping Paenungulata of elephants, sirenians, and hyraxes, and that grouping is indeed confirmed by the molecular evidence, but that's about it.
And? Could it be simply that there are overlapping molecular requirements in elephants and hyraxes and aardvarks and tenrecs despite thier diverse anatomies that the creator was fully aware of? Molecular similarity can be interpreted as nothing more than . . . molecular similarity. It need not necessarily have any evolutionary significance.
[This message has been edited by Tranquility Base, 01-30-2003]

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peter borger
Member (Idle past 7742 days)
Posts: 965
From: australia
Joined: 07-05-2002


Message 8 of 38 (30681)
01-30-2003 7:42 AM
Reply to: Message 7 by Tranquility Base
01-30-2003 5:10 AM


Hi TB,
TB: And? Could it be simply that there are overlapping molecular requirements in elephants and hyraxes and aardvarks and tenrecs despite thier diverse anatomies that the creator was fully aware of? Molecular similarity can be interpreted as nothing more than . . . molecular similarity. It need not necessarily have any evolutionary significance.
PB: Molecular similarity rather reflects a similar complexity of regulatory phenomena with respect to protein-complex interactions and protein-R/DNA interactions. (And -of course- NRM that can give the illusion of common descent)
Best wishes,
Peter

This message is a reply to:
 Message 7 by Tranquility Base, posted 01-30-2003 5:10 AM Tranquility Base has not replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 9 by Joe Meert, posted 01-30-2003 8:25 AM peter borger has not replied

  
Joe Meert
Member (Idle past 5757 days)
Posts: 913
From: Gainesville
Joined: 03-02-2002


Message 9 of 38 (30684)
01-30-2003 8:25 AM
Reply to: Message 8 by peter borger
01-30-2003 7:42 AM


TB illustrates the following false dichtomies:
quote:
1. The geo-col consist of layers
a) Gradualism: layers formed gradually due to seasonal change in load composition.
b) Flood geology: layers formed rapidly via hydrodynamic sorting uner rapid curents
JM: Modern geologic thought allows that some layers are formed slowly and that some layer form quickly. However, there is simply no evidence that the entire column formed via a single Noachian type flood 4000 years ago.
quote:
2. Gorges typically carry rivers proportional to their size
a) Gradualism: these rivers eroded these gorges over eons of time
b) Flood geology: once high-energy sheet erosion (during the later stages of the flood recession) degraded into an intermediate energy channel forming mode the reecession carved canyons out of still soft flood sediments. The same catchments that provided this 'intermediate energy' run-off are still the same catchments that are the source of the same (low energy) rivers today.
JM: False, modern geology understands that soft sediments can be cut quickly in high energy river systems, but that it takes longer to cut through crystalline and cemented rock. However, there is no evidence for a canyon cut by a single Noachian type flood 4000 years ago.
quote:
3. World-wide deposits of the geo-col can be assigned to various sedimentary environments
a) Gradualism: these enironmetents can be found today gradually forming layers
b) Flood geology: these environements could have been catastrophic flood stages and lulls
JM: False, modern geology understands that deposits can form at various rates and in a variety of environments. What geology also understands is that there is no 'global set of strata' generated during a Noachian flood 4000 years ago. Honestly TB, I thought you'd know better than to tilt at windmills.
Cheers
Joe Meert

This message is a reply to:
 Message 8 by peter borger, posted 01-30-2003 7:42 AM peter borger has not replied

Replies to this message:
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Tranquility Base
Inactive Member


Message 10 of 38 (30763)
01-30-2003 6:36 PM
Reply to: Message 9 by Joe Meert
01-30-2003 8:25 AM


Joe
These mechanisms are simply the primary mechanisms employed by our opposing views. Of course we also appreciate the reality of gradualistic mechanisms just as you appreciate catastrophic mechanisms.
In the future I will make a point of stating that mainstream geology accepts catastrophism where necessary.
However, I made it clear in my introduciton that my purpose was to show that both mechanisms somewhat coincidentally explain the same data.
You missed the point that Lyell et al used these three pieces of data as catch cries of gradualism when further research demonstrates them to be nothing of the sort. They are not points of distinguishment between the models.
There is room for a huge paradigm shift in geology despite your limited acceptance of catastrophic mechanisms.
[This message has been edited by Tranquility Base, 01-30-2003]

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lpetrich
Inactive Member


Message 11 of 38 (30791)
01-30-2003 11:11 PM


Tranquility Base:
(to Joe Meert) ... In the future I will make a point of stating that mainstream geology accepts catastrophism where necessary.
Actually, it is not a choice between grandiose all-encompassing philosophies; gradualism and catastrophism are supported to the extent that they fit the data.
Although Lyell may well have performed a rhetorical snow job, early 19th-cy. uniformitarianism was in better shape conceptually than early 19th-cy. catastrophism. That's because catastrophism back then was not much more than the satirical cartoon about some scientists and a complicated derivation on a blackboard which had this in the middle:
... and then a miracle happens ...
Catastrophism has made a comeback over the last half-century because catastrophes could be much better understood. I'll discuss some examples:
The Earth is known to have ~160 impact craters; many of these have been identified by looking for something that can only be produced by the impact of a fast, massive object: "shock metamorphism" in nearby rocks. An identification made possible by asking: what would a big rock hitting the Earth at 30 km/s do that nothing else would do?
Without that important clue, there would be little to indicate that many craters were really craters, since they are often highly eroded.
There is evidence of giant glacial-dam-break floods during the Pleistocene, notably in the US Pacific Northwest Columbia River Basin and in the Altai Mountains. J Harlen Bretz had studied the Columbia River Basin's landforms back in the 1920's and had found them to have lots of features typical of flowing water -- but flowing water at a scale much larger than even the biggest river. Other geologists were totally skeptical; floods that size simply do not happen. Or at least have not happened in front of anyone who could have recorded their occurrence.
But when other geologists went out to the Columbia River Basin, they saw what JHB had seen, and they realized that he was right about there having been huge floods there. And they even identified the source: a former lake near Missoula, Montana. It was dammed by a lobe of the North America's Pleistocene ice sheet, but every so often, that lobe would break and the water of Lake Missoula would rush out to the sea. Something similar, often called jokulhlaups, happens in icy mountainous regions, though on a smaller scale.
However, I made it clear in my introduciton that my purpose was to show that both mechanisms somewhat coincidentally explain the same data.
Another forum here would be a better place, but it's clear why Flood Geology was rejected -- there are too many things that simply do not fit very well. And would-be rebuttals often make Noah's Flood into sort of magic flood that can produce any landform whatsoever. There is nothing like the shock metamorphism that clinches the case for big impacts or the large-scale flow features that clinch the case for those giant Pleistocene floods.
You missed the point that Lyell et al used these three pieces of data as catch cries of gradualism when further research demonstrates them to be nothing of the sort. They are not points of distinguishment between the models.
If that is the case, that would be an interesting conundrum. But if one model requires many more ad hoc hypotheses than another, then the one with the fewer such hypotheses will be preferred by everybody with any sense. And Flood Geology is clearly in the ad-hoc-heavy category.
There is room for a huge paradigm shift in geology despite your limited acceptance of catastrophic mechanisms.
Except that paradigm shifts do not happen because one wants them to. One has to present a superior model, and to overcome potential difficulties.
Continental drift was accepted late in the history of geology for a simple reason: what could make continents plow through oceanic crust? The early "drifters" like Wegener and du Toit did not make things any better with their extremely implausible mechanisms.
However, in the 1950's, evidence of seafloor spreading was discovered, and that led to the concept of "plate tectonics". Continents do not plow through oceanic crust; instead, they drift with that crust. And having gotten over that conceptual barrier, geologists soon discovered that continental drift provided solutions to numerous geological riddles. And precise-positioning experiments have enabled observations of continental drift -- observations which closely agree with the estimated drift over the last few million years.
Can Flood Geology advocates point to anything similar?

Replies to this message:
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Joe Meert
Member (Idle past 5757 days)
Posts: 913
From: Gainesville
Joined: 03-02-2002


Message 12 of 38 (30797)
01-31-2003 12:52 AM
Reply to: Message 11 by lpetrich
01-30-2003 11:11 PM


L--
Every point you make has been made in similar or more detail to TB in the past---hence my earlier terse response. HE just ignores the points and continues on his merry way fabricating false views of modern geology and ignoring past rejections of Noachian flood geology.
Cheers
Joe Meert

This message is a reply to:
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Replies to this message:
 Message 13 by Minnemooseus, posted 01-31-2003 1:53 AM Joe Meert has replied

  
Minnemooseus
Member
Posts: 3946
From: Duluth, Minnesota, U.S. (West end of Lake Superior)
Joined: 11-11-2001
Member Rating: 10.0


Message 13 of 38 (30801)
01-31-2003 1:53 AM
Reply to: Message 12 by Joe Meert
01-31-2003 12:52 AM


Oh oh, time to open a new can of geologists. The old ones are starting to get as cranky as the biologists.
Moose
------------------
BS degree, geology, '83; Professor, geology, Whatsamatta U; Old Earth evolution - Yes; Godly creation - Maybe
My big page of Creation/Evolution Links

This message is a reply to:
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Joe Meert
Member (Idle past 5757 days)
Posts: 913
From: Gainesville
Joined: 03-02-2002


Message 14 of 38 (30816)
01-31-2003 9:14 AM
Reply to: Message 13 by Minnemooseus
01-31-2003 1:53 AM


Lol, not cranky per se. It just gets a bit tiring spending the time to post a thoughtful response and then watching the same (false) argument arise from the same person. The 'to hell with data because it interferes with my belief system' works well for keeping forums alive, but not for ones patience.
Cheers
Joe Meert

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edge
Member (Idle past 1783 days)
Posts: 4696
From: Colorado, USA
Joined: 01-09-2002


Message 15 of 38 (30831)
01-31-2003 10:22 AM
Reply to: Message 14 by Joe Meert
01-31-2003 9:14 AM


quote:
Lol, not cranky per se. It just gets a bit tiring spending the time to post a thoughtful response and then watching the same (false) argument arise from the same person.
Unfortunately, this is a strategy that works. Eventually, the rational person loses interest and simply goes away (what that means about the rest of us, I will not say). Anyhow, I sometimes think that having about seven kids would be a good training ground for these discussions.

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