Ref: -8. Saying evolution is "just a theory, not a fact."- Why the very word 'fact' ought to be avoided like the plague!

AaronAgassi
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Ref: -8. Saying evolution is "just a theory, not a fact."- Why the very word 'fact' ought to be avoided like the plague!

Sapient
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 http://www.talkorigins.org/

 http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/evolution-fact.html

 

 

When non-biologists talk about biological evolution they often confuse two different aspects of the definition. On the one hand there is the question of whether or not modern organisms have evolved from older ancestral organisms or whether modern species are continuing to change over time. On the other hand there are questions about the mechanism of the observed changes... how did evolution occur? Biologists consider the existence of biological evolution to be a fact. It can be demonstrated today and the historical evidence for its occurrence in the past is overwhelming. However, biologists readily admit that they are less certain of the exact mechanism of evolution; there are several theories of the mechanism of evolution. Stephen J. Gould has put this as well as anyone else:

In the American vernacular, "theory" often means "imperfect fact"--part of a hierarchy of confidence running downhill from fact to theory to hypothesis to guess. Thus the power of the creationist argument: evolution is "only" a theory and intense debate now rages about many aspects of the theory. If evolution is worse than a fact, and scientists can't even make up their minds about the theory, then what confidence can we have in it? Indeed, President Reagan echoed this argument before an evangelical group in Dallas when he said (in what I devoutly hope was campaign rhetoric): "Well, it is a theory. It is a scientific theory only, and it has in recent years been challenged in the world of science--that is, not believed in the scientific community to be as infallible as it once was."

Well evolution is a theory. It is also a fact. And facts and theories are different things, not rungs in a hierarchy of increasing certainty. Facts are the world's data. Theories are structures of ideas that explain and interpret facts. Facts don't go away when scientists debate rival theories to explain them. Einstein's theory of gravitation replaced Newton's in this century, but apples didn't suspend themselves in midair, pending the outcome. And humans evolved from ape-like ancestors whether they did so by Darwin's proposed mechanism or by some other yet to be discovered

 

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AaronAgassi
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You begin with only one

You begin with only one among the nine distinctly different primary usages or senses of the word: 'fact' in my catalogue, never mind the plethora of deeper ancillary desertions. And then you plunge, blithely and headlong, into several of the other contradictory concepts of 'fact' [sic.].

 

Which only goes to my point, that in order to avoid needless confusion, instead of using the word 'factual,' trust me, better to spell out: overwhelming supported, evidentiarilly. Say what you mean, mean what you say, and do not abbreviate with 'fact' [sic.].

 

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AaronAgassi
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All hypothesis begins from

All hypothesis begins from unfounded conjecture, only thereafter subjected first to critical preference and then to reality testing. All assertions are both opinion and claims of truth. Hence, none of the aforesaid is any disqualifier, nor is there any better alternative or real need thereof


AaronAgassi
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The entire point of attacks

The entire point of attacks upon the adequacy of explanation of theoretical mechanisms of evolution, is to admit such alternatives as the possibility providential guiding influence of God or aliens. -which it does, of course. But the question then remains, however, of the viability of competing hypotheses upon each their own merits.


BobSpence
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AaronAgassi wrote:All

AaronAgassi wrote:

All hypothesis begins from unfounded conjecture, only thereafter subjected first to critical preference and then to reality testing. All assertions are both opinion and claims of truth. Hence, none of the aforesaid is any disqualifier, nor is there any better alternative or real need thereof

Not ALL, by any means. There is normally some foundation, some ideas or associations which form the starting point of the hypothesis.

'Not rigorously justified' is not equivalent to 'unfounded'.

it is then a matter of working through the implications and possibilities suggested by the initial inspiration into a form which is reasonably consistent with other theories and facts, and that can be tested.

'Critical preference'? What is that supposed to mean? Critical examination and testing, yes, but 'preference'?

Favorite oxymorons: Gospel Truth, Rational Supernaturalist, Business Ethics, Christian Morality

"Theology is now little more than a branch of human ignorance. Indeed, it is ignorance with wings." - Sam Harris

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AaronAgassi
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There simply is no a'priori

There simply is no a'priori foundation or justification, nor need thereof in scientific hypothetico deductive method. Errors are detected afterwards. There should never be any attempt to censor or pre-empt errors beforehand, as this is destructive to science.

 

Articles of critical preference include validity, which is logical internal consistency, and theoretical elegance.

 


BobSpence
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AaronAgassi wrote:There

AaronAgassi wrote:

There simply is no a'priori foundation or justification, nor need thereof in scientific hypothetico deductive method. Errors are detected afterwards. There should never be any attempt to censor or pre-empt errors beforehand, as this is destructive to science.

 

Articles of critical preference include validity, which is logical internal consistency, and theoretical elegance.

There has to be a minimal foundation, accepted set of facts, otherwise you cannot form a meaningful hypothesis - it has to be a hypothesis about something, an attempt to explain some gap in our knowledge, or to resolve some conflict in current theories.

Without keeping in mind the background knowledge, we have no basis for formulating new ideas.

Yes, of course we need to set aside various current assumptions and theories in order to see if better ones can be formulated. But unless you are hypothesing about the origin and nature of everything, you need to start from some established foundation or you are faced with re-inventing science, which is not what most serious speculation does.

If you are forming a new hypothesis in the field of chemistry, for example, you will be assuming at least basic atomic theory, and the Physics behind it.

Your comments about errors, and even, to an extent, on deduction, are pretty much on track.

'Internal consistency' should NOT be a matter of 'preference' it should be mandatory. 'Elegance' should not be a criterion, except perhaps in choosing between alternatives which are otherwise of similar explanatory power. 

Favorite oxymorons: Gospel Truth, Rational Supernaturalist, Business Ethics, Christian Morality

"Theology is now little more than a branch of human ignorance. Indeed, it is ignorance with wings." - Sam Harris

The path to Truth lies via careful study of reality, not the dreams of our fallible minds - me

From the sublime to the ridiculous: Science -> Philosophy -> Theology


nigelTheBold
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AaronAgassi wrote:There

AaronAgassi wrote:

There simply is no a'priori foundation or justification, nor need thereof in scientific hypothetico deductive method. Errors are detected afterwards. There should never be any attempt to censor or pre-empt errors beforehand, as this is destructive to science.

 

Articles of critical preference include validity, which is logical internal consistency, and theoretical elegance.

I'm not entirely sure what your intent is, here. Are you saying that specific hypotheses have no a priori justification, or that the deductive method generally employed by the scientific method has no justification?

If the former, the accepted current ontology, as well as continued observation, provide the a priori justification for an hypothesis. This leads to the conclusion that any hypothesis that attempts to modify existing articles of the ontology must first use deduction and observation to demonstrate the failures of the current articles, and further demonstrate how the proposed hypothesis better matches observation, while still remaining compatible with the rest of the ontology.

If the latter, I believe Popper addressed many of those arguments 50 years ago.

"Yes, I seriously believe that consciousness is a product of a natural process. I find that the neuroscientists, psychologists, and philosophers who proceed from that premise are the ones who are actually making useful contributions to our understanding of the mind." - PZ Myers


AaronAgassi
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Hypotheses have no a priori

Hypotheses have no a priori justification, nor does hypothetico deductive method employed in scientific method require a priori justification for hypotheses. And indeed, the failure or refutation of one hypothesis may inspire new and better hypotheses, but that is not a requirement, either, according to Popper. Any starting point is acceptable. Error detection and correction, follow.

BobSpence1, there is no foundation or justification, minimal or otherwise, only background context as provisional as any other hypotheses. Indeed, exactly such bias is inevitable, in order for anything more to be intelligible, and not avoided a'priori but only subject to ongoing error detection and correction as any and all other hypotheses.

nigelTheBold, I hope you won't mind, I made use of your PZ Myers quote, here: http://www.atheistthinktank.net/thinktank/index.php?topic=8103.msg157089#msg157089 

 


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Good point, also if

Good point, also if evolution is "just a theory" than gravity is "just a theory", and the theory that every action has .... reaction is "just a theory", in summary we dont see anyone challenging gravity by jumping of cliffs.

My point is that the only reason religious people challeng eevolution is that it clearly disagrees with their beliefs, therfore we can show that ID institutions are not for the advancement of science but simpyl attempts to slow social progress and instill their dumb beliefs on others


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I think in general the

I think in general the population of the US doesn't understand the word 'theory' in the scientific use of the word.

 

Christian apologists DO however know the word and I think that in many cases they are purposely equivocating to muddy the waters

and make it appear that they can dismiss the theory of evolution as somehow weak or unproven.

"Lisa, if the Bible has taught us nothing else, and it hasn't, it's that girls should stick to girls sports, such as hot oil wrestling and foxy boxing and such."
Homer Simpson


AaronAgassi
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Of course it's unproven

Of course it's unproven simply because there is no proof outside of logic and of validity, being merely internal consistency of hypotheses, not truth which remains an Empirical question. Nevertheless, as in the case at hand, a viable hypothesis may be strongly supported by the evidence. Nor am I aware of any viable alternative hypothesis, most generally. Indeed, given evolution thus as strongly supported a it is, simply as an ongoing historical event, among any particulars of explanation thereof, any notion of a guiding consciousness behind it all, does not currently stand among the viable hypotheses, being inelegant and unsupported or poorly supported by the same body of evidence. The term for at least apparent purpose howsoever without consciousness is: 'Teleonomy,' and the best general explanatory scheme remains natural selection of one kind or another.

Evolution, then, only seems weak or dubious in comparison with the purported certainty promised of revelation from On High.


BobSpence
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I think "knowledge" is more

I think "knowledge" is more deserving of being "avoided like the plague" in serious discussions, because it really is just a form of belief, at one end of the spectrum with something like wild speculation or guesswork near the other end.

The common, and stupid, 'definition' of 'knowledge' as 'justified true belief' is getting close to recognising this FACT, but renders itself hopelessly nonsensical by including the word 'true' in there.

My reaction to the article is not entirely facetiously summed up in a slight variation of the title - 'Metaphysics' is for Dummies.

EDIT: To the extent that Metaphysics refers to something useful, I prefer to stick with 'Philosophy of Science', as having less medieval baggage hanging off it.

 

Favorite oxymorons: Gospel Truth, Rational Supernaturalist, Business Ethics, Christian Morality

"Theology is now little more than a branch of human ignorance. Indeed, it is ignorance with wings." - Sam Harris

The path to Truth lies via careful study of reality, not the dreams of our fallible minds - me

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AaronAgassi
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No, it's Justificationism

No, it's Justificationism that is such nonsense. Whereas, a belief can, indeed perchance be true, meaning: correspondent with reality. Knowledge is awareness of truth. As problematical as even that remains, awareness of truth cannot easily be denied as a real phenomenon, only certainty.


BobSpence
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 We can never be a"aware of

 We can never be a"aware of truth" as such, only of the degree to which a theory corresponds with our current perception of reality. This is all we have, not "truth".

EDIT: Of course there is a serious problem with "justifiied" as well, but 'true' is what massively begs the queation, or turns that definition of 'knowledge' on a hopelessly circular thing.

Favorite oxymorons: Gospel Truth, Rational Supernaturalist, Business Ethics, Christian Morality

"Theology is now little more than a branch of human ignorance. Indeed, it is ignorance with wings." - Sam Harris

The path to Truth lies via careful study of reality, not the dreams of our fallible minds - me

From the sublime to the ridiculous: Science -> Philosophy -> Theology


AaronAgassi
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Empirical evidence,

Empirical evidence, peception, however indirectly and fallibly, does indicate and thereby make us aware of correspondence between assertions and reality, granting howsoever falible knowledge of, coming closer to, truth. Whereas prior justification is quite simply neither possible nor necessary.