Thursday, July 17, 2008

Who was it -- Revealed

     The comment to which I refered appeared appeared under An interesting thought on 13 Jul at 8:54pm on this blog. My prediction was that, without knowing the subject matter at hand, people would guess that it was a christian. It was actually Clostridiophile responding to me asking what one would expect to find if evolution was held as a sacred belief. The actual result was that Clostridiophile recognized his own comment and no one else hazarded a guess.
     The reason I expected people to guess it was a christian is that it fits the christian methodology so well. Anything of the order "if what you are saying is true we should find X" is met with "Nothing will convince you!"

11 comments:

Clostridiophile said...

**Yawn**

Two working molecular biologists tried to explain to you that the theory is in fact falsifiable, but that falsifying the major tenents of the theory is extraordinarily unlikely now that we understand heredity, have observed and tested natural selection working in nature today, and have progression of fossil forms which were absent when the theory was first proposed. Oddly, you find this a weakness of the theory; but what you are taking for granted is the enormous amount of positive data, that could have gone the other way.

Today, if you read the evolutionary literature, we readily falsify specific hypotheses regarding evolutionary origins of various clads, the mechanisms that were important in their evolution, etc. Papers are coming out all the time saying, "we used to think this..but this work shows that X was not correct, and we offer a new interpretion with this data that better explains this phenomenon". This is how science works. Other researchers can test the new model with other approaches and see if it holds up. If not, it is discarded or revised.

In the end, we have tried to explain that your view of the philosophy of science was off from how science is actually practiced. You simply won't accept this...as Behe said in Dover when given the evidence for the evolution of the immune system, "it's not good enough". This seems to be your position on our case. Fine. We have both called one another fundamentalist in our position. Others can decide who is correct. What more can I say? I have made my case.

*Note* it was you, pvblivs, who said that we need a time-machine to determine what happened in the past. This misunderstands quite alot.

Pvblivs said...

Clostridiophile:
     Here is the quote from where I brought up a time machine. "I consider it quite plausible. I just don't see a way to test it. Unless, maybe, we develop time machines or something. Even if there were a way to test it, the existing community seems closed to the notion of evolution being false." In short, I don't see how a relevant test could be conducted short of visiting the past. That is not as strong a claim as claiming there is no way a test could be conducted.
     "Two working molecular biologists tried to explain to you that the theory is in fact falsifiable...."
     And you failed. You failed because the examples you gave never admitted of a potential falsification. Either failure to confirm would be regarded as a non-event and not treated as a falsifier or the "potential falsifier" could be predicted not to occur whether evolution was true or false. That leaves you saying it's falsifiable "because you say so."
     "Today, if you read the evolutionary literature, we readily falsify specific hypotheses regarding...."
     It is only the overarching concept that I think you accept uncritically. It looks a little like falsifying certain mechanism for miracles without ever really calling the miracles into question themselves.
     Yes, you have talked at length about the positive data that could have gone the other way. But the fact is that many times things did go the other way (e.g. no fossils were found in a dig.) These were regarded as non-events. Any idea will get "hits." Psychics get "hits." The "positive data" mean nothing if there isn't some way to estimate how much positive data you would get by chance if the idea was wrong.
     I have asked, several times, what you would expect to be different if evolution was held as a sacred idea. This would at least give me some insight as to why you believe you have examined the idea critically. You never answered this. Instead, you tried to convince me that you were an authority and to make a pronouncement by fiat. Maybe that is where you are coming from. Maybe you ultimately believe by decree of authorities before you.
     I have stated what I would expect to find if evolution were non-sacred. (Note: I do not state what I expect to find if evolution is false because it is the same as what expect to find if it is true. The proposition is, as far as I can determine, untestable.)

Clostridiophile said...

"You failed because the examples you gave never admitted of a potential falsification. Either failure to confirm would be regarded as a non-event and not treated as a falsifier or the "potential falsifier" could be predicted not to occur whether evolution was true or false. That leaves you saying it's falsifiable "because you say so.""

In the case of fossils, you claim that failure to find them in a dig would be blown off as a "non-event". I'm curious, do you find organisms just piling up everywhere, preserved right after they die?? No. Of course it is difficult to find a given fossil form, people spend whole careers looking for some and fail. This does not falsify, and I don't claim it would. My point about positive data is that you must have it in order to verify your theory. So while every dig is certainly not going to be successful, many have been. Now, we establish a pattern of fossils throughout geological ages. The key is what the patterns tell us. If we had found life as we know it today throughout the fossil record, evolution would simply be false because life today is the same as a million years ago, and is the same as 3 billion years ago. We would search for another explanation. Also, we expect that similar mechanisms are at work today as throughout the history of life (while not necessarily at the same rate). So we experiment in nature. We can test and therefore falsify selection in nature. We can observe populations over generations and test Darwin's principles and additional principles that have been added since Darwin. These tests today can tell us whether selection is a likely explanation. We have even observed recent and current speciation, we have observed the evolution of new proteins in viruses and bacteria. Unlike Darwin, we have looked at the hereditary material and study its properties, its transmission and determine whether this fits the notion of change; the change that Darwin's theory necessitates.

With viruses, we can witness new tissue tropisms...i.e. the evolution of SIV into HIV has only been within the last 60 or so years (first case of HIV). We can show that an initial infecting strain of HIV will soon give rise to a complex phylogenetic tree in a single patient and that this information can be used to determine who has been infected by this person and about when. If evolution doesn't occur, what a mystery why this happens.

In addition, and as we've said, you can test the theory by comparing whole genomes. We expect to find a very distinct pattern in certain 'housekeeping' genes that are consistent with what we find in the fossil record, if this doesn't work, and continue to work we won't let this go as a "miss" as you claim, we will work to figure out the discrepencies. If too many accumulate we will question core assumptions, if our continued probing leads to a better fit for the data, we will abandon the previous theory. This is what I keep trying to drive home. We keep theories in science because they successfully predict what we should find. We don't just throw away inconvenient observations as "non-events", that's why we publish. We have a written record of any "misses" for current and future researchers to dredge up and think about and design experiments to work on. This is why you're analogy with psychics is so absurd. Do psychics record all the times they are wrong and post them on their websites? Hell no.

"Here is the quote from where I brought up a time machine. "I consider it quite plausible. I just don't see a way to test it. Unless, maybe, we develop time machines or something. Even if there were a way to test it, the existing community seems closed to the notion of evolution being false." In short, I don't see how a relevant test could be conducted short of visiting the past. That is not as strong a claim as claiming there is no way a test could be conducted."

I quoted you correctly, you said we needed a time machine, and went on to say "even if there were a way to test it". The history of life is found in the rocks and in the genomes...as well as the biogeographical distributions of extant organisms and their phylogenetic relations to one another. What I think is that you like to think you are sounding smart, but it is clear to me that you don't really understand how science works, how evolution is tested or what the evidence is. You haven't presented anything specific to let me know that you have actually looked at the data. Again, I am not claiming by fiat or authority that evolutionary theory is falsifiable, I am saying that with what we know now, we are essentially beyond this point. We can test our hypotheses today, and calibrate our calculations based on the fossil record.

"It is only the overarching concept that I think you accept uncritically. It looks a little like falsifying certain mechanism for miracles without ever really calling the miracles into question themselves."

Yeah, and this doesn't even make logical sense. A miracle is defined as something inexplicable...so if you have the mechanism...it's not a miracle. How can we get down to the nitty gritty, as you state, the mechanisms of evolution without building off from first principles? The first principles for evolutionary theory are straightforward, remain Darwinian at the foundation. The foundation has already been established and reinforced, same with much of the rest of the structure. We are putting the roof on now. This is why I am telling you that you simply fail to see the overwhelming and consistent evidence. You are basically saying, "forget all that, how can we show that it didn't happen?". And we keep telling you and you aren't listening. We could falsify it both through current observation as well as the pattern of forms we find in life's history. You keep telling us "that's not good enough". If this doesn't satisfy you, can you be more specific. Why don't you tell us your notion of the overarching theory and why you think these are not testable. I want to make sure we are on the same page. Thanks.

get_education said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
get_education said...

pvblivs,

I think this was not fair. You are comparing two very different things. In one you got scientific explanations, maybe not corresponding fully to your expectations about what science is/should be, or maybe not truly corresponding to your question, maybe because the question is somewhat hard to understand. I think in the end I did not completely understood it either. Though you said I was "close." In the end Clos got kinda tired. In the other thing you are comparing with the scientific world you do not get a scientific explanation, just gut feelings and that kinda shit. They also get tired. The getting tired is the same, but the basis for the discussion is not.


Anyway,
G.E.

Clostridiophile said...

pvblivs,

could you give an illustration of this or reword?

"...or the "potential falsifier" could be predicted not to occur whether evolution was true or false."

Clostridiophile said...

GE said,

"In the end Clos got kinda tired."

I gotta tell you, a few years ago, I would have done alot of research and put forth a strong case...I am tired of trying to prove/explain evolutionary theory to some. I've done so many, many times, usually about specific cases, something that I can really wrap my mind around and make a strong case for. I agree with you that this attack is simply too vague to really do so with. This is getting very philosophical. I would prefer that pvblivs explain to us what he thinks the central tenants of Darwinism are...simply so that I can judge whether he has got it. Otherwise, we may be talking about something different. If we have a stated hypothesis, THEN we can determine whether it could in principle be falsified, and in what instances has it been tested and subjected to scrutiny. I can't deal with having to try to explain EVERYTHING about the theory...this gets us nowhere.

Pvblivs said...

Get education:

     I respectfully disagree with you. What I see the same in both situations is a mind trying to protect its sacred beliefs. I recognize that he got tired. He may be accustomed to people eating the stuff up. After all, he carries the weight of authority. But the fact is, from the beginning, he gave (what looked like to me) dodges.
     Frankly, I think he is not used to skepticism here. The idea of evolution and the "meta idea" of evolution being treated in a scientific manner are seldom met with skepticism. Usually they are accepted uncritcally by the population or rejected uncritically by creationists.
     The point that I wanted to make is that without an indication that he is defending an idea "we are not to criticize" his actions look just like a defense of religious beliefs. The early ones look like that of a believer who thinks who thinks he has an easy convert. The later ones look like that of a believer frustrated because the normal question-dodging isn't working.
     That's my perception. And I think that, if you can see past the special consideration normally given to his ideas, you will remarkable paralells. My hope had been simply to bring those paralells into high relief. In that, I appear to have been unsuccessful.

Pvblivs said...

Clostridiophile:

     To the best of my knowledge, there is no such thing as Darwinism -- except in the minds of creationists. I certainly haven't called anything "Darwinism."
     The primary ideas in evolution are that traits are heritable from parent to offspring (offspring will tend to have similar traits to the parent(s)) traits are not perfectly heritable (there will be variation in traits among the offspring) and that selective pressure causes "favored" traits to tend to result in more offspring ("favored" being more or less defined as being the traits associated with more offspring.) The idea of "macro-evolution" further postulates that through this "descent with modification" subpopulations that become separated (in that something prevents interbreeding) can diverge into distinct populations and even into organisms not obviously similar to one another.
     The "gene theory of evolution" proposes genes as the mechanism by which traits are passed from parent to offspring. I remember reading that it is believed that some traits are passed by other mechanisms (e.g. chemical makeup in the womb.)

Clostridiophile said...

pvblivs,

No, I am sick to death of people constantly attacking the field. I can only give generalities because your claim is so broad....I gave broad explanations with a few well known examples. I am not defending a "sacred belief". I will present a case based on some of what you said when I get time today. You think you have a stronger case than you do, and again it is based on a faulty view of the philosophy of science. I am more than used to skepticism. It is interesting that in your attack you lacked any specific cases that would lead me to believe that you have thought about it. All you have done is stick to your criterion and say "that's not good enough", which is why I asked you to explain evolution...which you barely did. Now, we can get into specifics.

Clostridiophile said...

http://ofmicrobesandmen.blogspot.com/2008/07/response-to-pvblivs-on-evolutionary.html