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Author Topic:   Arguments 'evolutionists' should NOT use
Chiroptera
Member (Idle past 11 days)
Posts: 6531
From: Oklahoma
Joined: 09-28-2003


Message 46 of 74 (400346)
05-12-2007 2:04 PM
Reply to: Message 44 by kbertsche
05-12-2007 1:35 PM


my initial impression is that this crowd is either not very scientifically literate or is intentionally being disingenuous to promote some agenda other than science.

If you click on the name of the person to whom you are conversing, you will call up part of their post ing history. That will give an impression of what that person is generally like.

If you click on the profile button in that page, you will get their profile, which may tell you a little more about that person.


Actually, if their god makes better pancakes, I'm totally switching sides. -- Charley the Australopithecine
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ringo
Member
Posts: 16227
From: frozen wasteland
Joined: 03-23-2005
Member Rating: 1.9


Message 47 of 74 (400350)
05-12-2007 3:08 PM
Reply to: Message 44 by kbertsche
05-12-2007 1:35 PM


kbertsche writes:

I am really surprised at how many folks here misunderstand or disagree with the scientific method!

It's not a question of misunderstanding or disagreeing with the scientific method. It's a question of how the scientific method is presented to lay people. The topic is about arguments used by evolutionists, presumably to educate creationists.

I'm not saying that the no-proof argument is a "bad" argument, per se or that it's "wrong". I'm saying it's an ineffective, even counter-productive argument when used on people who don't understand the scientific method. Maybe I should have called it a bad strategy instead of a bad argument.


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Taz
Member (Idle past 1367 days)
Posts: 5069
From: Zerus
Joined: 07-18-2006


Message 48 of 74 (400354)
05-12-2007 4:20 PM
Reply to: Message 45 by RAZD
05-12-2007 1:48 PM


RAZD writes:

I think you'll find there are three kinds of posters here: your typical creationist (who can't be swayed by any amount of evidence that contradict what they believe they know), people of varying education levels with a keen desire to learn more (and some may think they know more than they do), and bonafide science types


You missed the cr ac kp ot s.

Edited by Tazmanian Devil, : No reason given.



We are BOG. Resistance is voltage over current.

Disclaimer:

Occasionally, owing to the deficiency of the English language, I have used he/him/his meaning he or she/him or her/his or her in order to avoid awkwardness of style.

He, him, and his are not intended as exclusively masculine pronouns. They may refer to either sex or to both sexes!


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RAZD
Member
Posts: 19756
From: the other end of the sidewalk
Joined: 03-14-2004
Member Rating: 5.4


Message 49 of 74 (400355)
05-12-2007 5:30 PM
Reply to: Message 48 by Taz
05-12-2007 4:20 PM


LOL

... your list is not complete ...

... but I don't think it ever will be (and I think you'll find them already covered).


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sfs
Member (Idle past 609 days)
Posts: 464
From: Cambridge, MA USA
Joined: 08-27-2003


Message 50 of 74 (400358)
05-12-2007 6:32 PM
Reply to: Message 44 by kbertsche
05-12-2007 1:35 PM


quote:

No, falsification is still alive and is ESSENTIAL for something to be a scientific theory. If it's not falsifiable, it's not science! Yes, sometimes the theory can be modified to fit the new data, but sometimes it can't . Either way, the original theory was shown to be false.

Sometimes the theory is changed, and sometimes it's scrapped, and sometimes neither happens. Take an example: Ray Davis's solar neutrino experiment was devised to test solar models, which made specific predictions about neutrino production by solar fusion. The experiment took many years, but in the end the results were clearly in conflict with the predictions. The result? The theory survived unscathed, even though the data were (and are) perfectly valid. What had to be changed was not the theory, but an auxiliary hypothesis about the behavior of neutrinos.

Yes, scientific theories do indeed have to be testable, and are always subject to revision, but treating falsification as having a special logical status, the way Popper did, is not consistent with actual scientific practice.

quote:
This is just the very basic scientific method, which I was taught in grade school.
Well, yes, that is how it's taught in grade schools, but it's not how it's taught in current philosophy of science, at least as far as I know.
quote:

And this is the way science is done professionally, whether you agree with it or not. I am really surprised at how many folks here misunderstand or disagree with the scientific method! I am new to posting here; my initial impression is that this crowd is either not very scientifically literate or is intentionally being disingenuous to promote some agenda other than science.

I've been doing science professionally for a good twenty years now. It is worth noting that scientists are notoriously bad at systematically describing what they do for a living, so scientific experience may not be all that useful here.

quote:

If you want another opinion, take a look at "scientific method" in wikipedia.


But also read some of the criticisms of falsification in that same article. For a web-based look at some of the criticisms, you could start with http://physicsweb.org/articles/world/15/12/2/1. For a deeper investigation, check out the collection Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge, edited by Imre Lakatos and Alan Musgrave. There are probably better references, but as I said, I'm not a philosopher of science.
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RAZD
Member
Posts: 19756
From: the other end of the sidewalk
Joined: 03-14-2004
Member Rating: 5.4


Message 51 of 74 (400363)
05-12-2007 8:37 PM
Reply to: Message 50 by sfs
05-12-2007 6:32 PM


The experiment took many years, but in the end the results were clearly in conflict with the predictions. The result? The theory survived unscathed, even though the data were (and are) perfectly valid. What had to be changed was not the theory, but an auxiliary hypothesis about the behavior of neutrinos.

So there was a theory that was falsified and that was changed: the one about neutrino behavior.

The hypothesis that was based on the theory is still a hypothesis that is allowed with the change to the the theory of neutrino behavior, but it has not been tested yet.

This gets more into theory based on theory based on theory than it does on theory falsification.


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compare Fiocruz Genome and fight Muscular Dystrophy with Team EvC! (click)


we are limited in our ability to understand
by our ability to understand
RebelAAmericanOZen[Deist
... to learn ... to think ... to live ... to laugh ...
to share.

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Chiroptera
Member (Idle past 11 days)
Posts: 6531
From: Oklahoma
Joined: 09-28-2003


Message 52 of 74 (400365)
05-12-2007 8:54 PM
Reply to: Message 50 by sfs
05-12-2007 6:32 PM


Take an example....

Actually, my favorite example is the irregularities in the orbit of Uranus in the 19th century. Rather than "falsifying" Newton's Theory of Gravity, it lead to the discovery of Neptune.

Of course, what this means is that "falsification" is a little more subtle than the cartoon Popperian idea.

Edited by Chiroptera, : Unnecessarily belligerent comment changed to a more benign one.


Actually, if their god makes better pancakes, I'm totally switching sides. -- Charley the Australopithecine
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kbertsche
Member (Idle past 207 days)
Posts: 1427
From: San Jose, CA, USA
Joined: 05-10-2007


Message 53 of 74 (400367)
05-12-2007 9:23 PM
Reply to: Message 50 by sfs
05-12-2007 6:32 PM


Ringo writes:

I'm not saying that the no-proof argument is a "bad" argument, per se or that it's "wrong". I'm saying it's an ineffective, even counter-productive argument when used on people who don't understand the scientific method. Maybe I should have called it a bad strategy instead of a bad argument.


Thanks for the clarification. My approach is still to start by trying to explain the classic scientific method to non-scientists. I find that this gives a better context for discussing science, and it's not very hard to explain.

One of the problems that I see with science at the lower levels (grade school, high school, even undergrad) is that it is presented much too dogmatically. This gives people the mistaken notion that science is all about "truth" and "certainty", whereas it is really better characterized by "exploration" and "discovery". Explaining the scientific method helps to address this.

sfs writes:

Well, yes, that is how it's taught in grade schools, but it's not how it's taught in current philosophy of science, at least as far as I know.


My understanding of the philosophy of science is that there are lots of different perspectives which conflict with one another. The leading proponents are not scientists, and do not really understand science. They offer some good insights, but get lots of things wrong, too. So I would take philosophy of science with a grain of salt.

sfs writes:

I've been doing science professionally for a good twenty years now. It is worth noting that scientists are notoriously bad at systematically describing what they do for a living, so scientific experience may not be all that useful here.


This is often true. In addition, different scientific specialties do their science quite a bit differently.

So if most scientists can't explain what they do, and most philosophers of science don't really understand science, where do we go for an explanation of how science is done? The best perspectives I've seen on how science is done come from actual scientists who have gotten interested in philosophy, but these folks are not as famous as the professional philosophers of science.

i agree that the classic scientific method is an oversimplification in some ways, but I believe that it's still a good framework to explain science.


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sfs
Member (Idle past 609 days)
Posts: 464
From: Cambridge, MA USA
Joined: 08-27-2003


Message 54 of 74 (400368)
05-12-2007 9:23 PM
Reply to: Message 51 by RAZD
05-12-2007 8:37 PM


quote:
So there was a theory that was falsified and that was changed: the one about neutrino behavior.

The hypothesis that was based on the theory is still a hypothesis that is allowed with the change to the the theory of neutrino behavior, but it has not been tested yet.

This gets more into theory based on theory based on theory than it does on theory falsification.



Sure, some other theory was falsified. (Or rather, a better theory for neutrinos was found to match neutrino behavior better than the existing theory, which is not exactly the same thing.) The point is, however, that they thought they were testing a theory about the sun, but weren't. This is always a possibility when you have evidence that you think falsifies a theory -- maybe it's actually some other assumption that you've made that's wrong. That's why you can't know for certain that you have disproved a theory any more than you can know for certain that you've proved one. Both falsification and verification are problematic.
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RAZD
Member
Posts: 19756
From: the other end of the sidewalk
Joined: 03-14-2004
Member Rating: 5.4


Message 55 of 74 (400373)
05-12-2007 10:07 PM
Reply to: Message 54 by sfs
05-12-2007 9:23 PM


That's why you can't know for certain that you have disproved a theory any more than you can know for certain that you've proved one. Both falsification and verification are problematic.

So you think it is actually possible that the earth is flat?

(Or rather, a better theory for neutrinos was found to match neutrino behavior better than the existing theory, which is not exactly the same thing.)

The original theory did not match the data so it was falsified, the result was to modify the theory to match the data. What part of this is not the scientific process? Knowledge was still increased by the process yes?

The point is, however, that they thought they were testing a theory about the sun, but weren't. This is always a possibility when you have evidence that you think falsifies a theory -- maybe it's actually some other assumption that you've made that's wrong.

Which is why it is unreasonable to build too many theories on top of theory on top of theory with some steps involving unvalidated theories (hypothesis really) ... however this too is part of the review process on any theory in conflict with the evidence: the question is where the error comes from, not a discarding of the evidence to maintain the theory. Any part of the logical foundation can be the source of the error.

Both falsification and verification are problematic.

Validation is always problematic, but some things are definitely falsified with no equivocation: that the earth is young is one. We may not know exactly how old the earth is, but the certainty is that it is not less than 4.5 billions of years old.

Enjoy.


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compare Fiocruz Genome and fight Muscular Dystrophy with Team EvC! (click)


we are limited in our ability to understand
by our ability to understand
RebelAAmericanOZen[Deist
... to learn ... to think ... to live ... to laugh ...
to share.

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kbertsche
Member (Idle past 207 days)
Posts: 1427
From: San Jose, CA, USA
Joined: 05-10-2007


Message 56 of 74 (400375)
05-12-2007 10:12 PM
Reply to: Message 54 by sfs
05-12-2007 9:23 PM


sfs writes:

Sure, some other theory was falsified. (Or rather, a better theory for neutrinos was found to match neutrino behavior better than the existing theory, which is not exactly the same thing.)


But this is pretty much the same idea as "falsifiability." It is the same sense that Newton's theories were "falsified" by Einstein's. Newton's still work quite well in many cases, but there are cases in which they break down and are "false".

The point is, however, that they thought they were testing a theory about the sun, but weren't. This is always a possibility when you have evidence that you think falsifies a theory -- maybe it's actually some other assumption that you've made that's wrong.

And this is how many scientific discoveries are made; things don't work as expected, and a good scientist hunts for the answer and finds that unexamined assumptions were wrong.

That's why you can't know for certain that you have disproved a theory any more than you can know for certain that you've proved one. Both falsification and verification are problematic.

Yes, on the basis of a single experiment one can never be sure. (And even on the basis of multiple experiments all done the same way.) This is why science demands repeatability and testability. Other experimenters will test a new theory with different procedures to try to improve upon the accuracy or precision, and eventually the various pieces will be sorted out.
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sfs
Member (Idle past 609 days)
Posts: 464
From: Cambridge, MA USA
Joined: 08-27-2003


Message 57 of 74 (400491)
05-14-2007 10:51 AM
Reply to: Message 55 by RAZD
05-12-2007 10:07 PM


quote:
So you think it is actually possible that the earth is flat?

I don't think there's a realistic possibility that the Earth is flat, no. The argument here is about whether things can be disproven but not proven. Do you really think we can say for certain that the Earth is not flat, but that we can't say for certain that the Earth is roughly spherical? Because that is what is being argued.

quote:

The original theory did not match the data so it was falsified, the result was to modify the theory to match the data. What part of this is not the scientific process? Knowledge was still increased by the process yes?

That would be the scientific process if it had happened that way, but it didn't. Scientists did not look at the data and say, "Aha, it disagrees with our theory about neutrinos, and therefore the theory is wrong." They looked and saw that there was a disagreement with predictions, which meant that something was wrong, but they didn't know what; conflicting data by itself could not falsify any of the theories involved. Perhaps the solar models were wrong, perhaps there were unexpected artifacts in the experimental process, perhaps neutrino interactions with matter had been calculated incorrectly, perhaps neutrinos actually oscillate into different flavors. What permitted the scientific process to work in this case was the existence of a new theory of neutrinos (an obvious extension of the old one); that theory could explain the anomoly in the solar neutrino measurements, and also made other testable predictions. When those predictions were confirmed by observation, then it became clear what was going on. In other words, it wasn't a conflict between theory and data that did in the old theory, it was validation of a new theory that did it.

You can try to cast this story (and many others) into falsificationist terms, but it's really a misrepresentation of what happened if you do. And why would you want to? Popper promoted falsification as the essential element in science because he thought it solved the problem of induction, but it doesn't. So why treat it as more than one tool that science uses?

quote:

Which is why it is unreasonable to build too many theories on top of theory on top of theory with some steps involving unvalidated theories (hypothesis really) ... however this too is part of the review process on any theory in conflict with the evidence: the question is where the error comes from, not a discarding of the evidence to maintain the theory. Any part of the logical foundation can be the source of the error.

The problem with your comment is that essentially all of modern science is built of theories on top of theories on top of theories. Every scientific instrument incorporates all kinds of scientific knowledge from multiple fields, none of which have been fully validated (since nothing in science can ever be fully validated, right?). The theory that turned out to be wrong in the solar neutrino case was the Standard Model of particle physics, possibly the best-tested theory in the history of science -- it was not some off-the-cuff hypothesis somebody slapped together.

I quite agree with your conclusion, however. No one has suggested tossing out evidence. What I am arguing is that falsification is not the essence of science, and that disproof is just as problematic as proof. Neither of those points has anything to do with throwing out data.

quote:

Validation is always problematic, but some things are definitely falsified with no equivocation: that the earth is young is one. We may not know exactly how old the earth is, but the certainty is that it is not less than 4.5 billions of years old.


So your position is that we know for certain that the Earth is not younger than 10,000 years old, but we do not know for certain that it is older than 10,000 years old?
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sfs
Member (Idle past 609 days)
Posts: 464
From: Cambridge, MA USA
Joined: 08-27-2003


Message 58 of 74 (400493)
05-14-2007 11:00 AM
Reply to: Message 56 by kbertsche
05-12-2007 10:12 PM


quote:
But this is pretty much the same idea as "falsifiability." It is the same sense that Newton's theories were "falsified" by Einstein's. Newton's still work quite well in many cases, but there are cases in which they break down and are "false".

Look again at what you've written. How can one theory be falsified by another theory? Falsification is about comparing the predictions of a theory with observations, not with predictions from a different theory. Note that in the case of Newtonian physics, the existence of anomolous data was not enough to overthrow the theory; instead it took the discovery of a different theory that could explain both standard and anomolous data and that was simpler than the ad hoc ether explanations that were being cooked up.
quote:

Yes, on the basis of a single experiment one can never be sure. (And even on the basis of multiple experiments all done the same way.) This is why science demands repeatability and testability. Other experimenters will test a new theory with different procedures to try to improve upon the accuracy or precision, and eventually the various pieces will be sorted out.

Sure, but exactly the same can be said about validations of a theory: the more methods used to validate a theory, the greater the confidence in it. In neither falsification nor validation does confidence ever reach exactly 100%, but it can come very close. So what's logically special about falsification?
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NosyNed
Member
Posts: 8838
From: Canada
Joined: 04-04-2003


Message 59 of 74 (400496)
05-14-2007 11:15 AM
Reply to: Message 58 by sfs
05-14-2007 11:00 AM


Falsification's Importance
I think an important point is being missed.

As others have noted, in practice it may be difficult to "prove" a theory is falsified. There is often wiggle room which may be very legitamate or just someone clinging to a pet theory for too long.

However, the point about falsification is that a theory MUST be falsifiable in principle.

That is, the theory must be robust enough to allow for predictions based upon it that can be tested. It must have some way of tying it to some potential observations that would allow it to be giving some confirmation or disconfirmation.

A current example is the concern that string theory has no such potential falsification with current technology. It is derided by some because it can't be "tested". In this context "tested" is used exactly as "prove" is used in "The exception proves the rule." It is the potential for a "test" which can, of course, be failed that is why falsification is a central and esential part of science.


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Taz
Member (Idle past 1367 days)
Posts: 5069
From: Zerus
Joined: 07-18-2006


Message 60 of 74 (400506)
05-14-2007 11:42 AM
Reply to: Message 58 by sfs
05-14-2007 11:00 AM


sfs writes:

Look again at what you've written. How can one theory be falsified by another theory?


This is called a nitpick. He was relying on the fact that it is well known that at the time newtonian mechanics couldn't explain certain observations, such as the orbit of mercury. Nitpicking on his choice of words would hardly move the conversation forward, would it?

Sure, but exactly the same can be said about validations of a theory: the more methods used to validate a theory, the greater the confidence in it. In neither falsification nor validation does confidence ever reach exactly 100%, but it can come very close. So what's logically special about falsification?

This really is the crux of the matter as far as what I've been taught. Even among the science minded people, there is often the misunderstanding that science works more in a robotic manner than not. In reality, true science is more like porn... I know it when I see it.



We are BOG. Resistance is voltage over current.

Disclaimer:

Occasionally, owing to the deficiency of the English language, I have used he/him/his meaning he or she/him or her/his or her in order to avoid awkwardness of style.

He, him, and his are not intended as exclusively masculine pronouns. They may refer to either sex or to both sexes!


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