Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Conspiracy theory or "conspiracy theory"?

     Several people have branded my belief that large-scale evolution is a sacred belief a "conspiracy theory." I would like to point out that many of these same people have visited Ray's blog where people are claiming that the educational system is trying to brainwash student into atheism and evolution. How often has this been claimed to be a conspiracy theory? By my count, never. Simply put, it is a conspiracy theory and calling it such is not an argument against it. Saying "that's a conspiracy theory" would probably elicit a response like "that's because there's a conspiracy." Calling something a conspiracy theory when it is one is pointless to an argument. Conspiracies do happen. For example, we wouldn't need laws against corporate espionage unless corporate espionage (a type of conspiracy) occurred. Some go on for years before being exposed. Likely, some are never exposed.
     On the other hand, calling something a "conspiracy theory" when it is not may serve as a useful distraction in an argument. It can put the target off his guard and draw out an emotional response. It isn't a logical argument against an opponent's position, or even a pointing out of a fallacy in an opponent's position. It is only a distraction that can prevent clear thinking so that the opponent cannot defend his position.
     No, I don't believe that anyone who charges me with "conspiracy theory" is sincere. Simply put, if you really believed that I was engaged in conspiracy theory, you would not say so (at least, not during the course of the argument.) There is nothing that could be accomplished by doing so.

23 comments:

get_education said...

But pvblivs, if your argument states clearly a conspiracy theory then we have to tell you that such conspiracy does not exist, because it does not. I cannot understand why you cannot see that when you say something like: "they will not publish it until they know evolution is safe" you are actually stating not just a conspiracy theory, but a blatant lie.

So, it is not dismissing your argument because it is a conspiracy theory, but because the conspiracy does not exist.

I have agreed before with you that people, scientists, can have some "sacred beliefs," and be closed to any alternatives. I have agreed with you that this is because we are also humans. Some phylosopher of science, a famous one whose name escapes me know (more a precision thing), said that when new paradigms appear they tend to be rejected, but finally gain acceptance, more because the original proponents die than because the community gains in intelligence. That I can and will agree with. However, science is also the only one field where "sacred beliefs" will be denounced first, and no cover ups can happen for too long. I have witnessed the strong argumentations occurring nowadays. Also, the huge size of science today makes it difficult for scientists to be as overall as they used too, and thus, more of the knowledge from other disciplines is just assumed, almost sacredly. I find that abhorrent, stupid, and sad. Yet, I can safely tell you that there is no such thing as waiting till evolution is safe to publish any results, And I can safely tell you that in this thing you are plain wrong.

Also, the the simplistic high-school explanations of what science or the scientific method are, are not sufficient. We know they lack, but maybe it is because science is not easy to explain. The philosophers of science debate a lot about it, and I am willing to enter into at least trying to understand that. For now I can only offer you this. I hope it helps.

G.E.

Dave W. said...

Telling you, pvblivs, that your ideas would require the assumption of a massive conspiracy among scientists (against their own self-interests) is not simply saying, "you're engaged in a conspiracy theory." It's telling you one reason why your ideas are wrong. Obviously, you get so distracted by the word, though, that you lose focus on the other reasons why your ideas (in this case) are wrong, and you opt to discuss how distracting the "conspiracy theory" charge is instead of continuing to look at the whole picture.

(get_education, you're thinking of Thomas Kuhn, whose work has been often misused.)

get_education said...

Thanks Dave!

I often misplace the philosophers of science because I read them so so so so so long long long ago ...

G.E.

Pvblivs said...

Dave:

     Except that there is nothing that is against the scientists own interests in believing in evolution. My belief is that we do not the means to conduct an experiment that could potentially falsify large-scale evolution. No organization required there. They really believe in evolution and no one has come up with any other possible answers for how. Again, no organization required. For what I am saying to require a conspiracy, would require that they have such evidence and are suppressing it. What they declare as potential falsifiers after the fact, would not falsify large scale evolution. At most, it would falsify the particular path they are claiming the "evolutionary tree" has taken.
     If there were a way to challenge evolution outright or to demonstrate a limitation to common descent, I am sure that someone would jump at the possibility of fame. But I see no such experiment. For example, if it not possible to go from one-celled being to multicellular beings, what evidence would be produced? Any being found, either present or fossilized, will either be single-celled or multicellular.
     The only thing that I have asserted that they withhold until it is safe are "potential falsifiers." And that is because they wouldn't really falsify evolution, only a presumed path. And once it is safe to say that something won't be found, there is little point in showing that evolution would be consistent with it.
     My ideas would be shown wrong (and they could be wrong) by an experiment that has been conducted that, had it gone another way would imply a "barrier" beyond which common descent cannot go. The existence of pre-cambrian vertebrates would not (as someone suggested) do this. In fact, he gave the reason that we do not expect to find those as an absence of food supply. An animal cannot live without a food source even if evolution is false.
     Simply put, my belief stands or falls on whether there have been any tests which could have ruled large-scale evolution as a whole (not just a particular path and not just a particular mechanism) false. Whether a conspiracy would be required to achieve the condition is actually irrelevant and distracting.

get_education said...

Well pvblivs, I know you will find a way to dismiss this one, but at one point scientists realized that evolution should be evident in the sequences of proteins (before doing the experiments to show it). If the molecules had not shown homology (common descent)--this would actually have made evolution tremble, a puzzle impossible to subvert; the molecules (not just proteins, but the genes coding for them, which are the very basis of heredity); if they did show homology two possibilities: the differences show a patter consistent with evolution or they are all jumpy and inconsistent. The latter would have made evolution tremble to its very roots unless an explanation for inconsistencies could be found. If not, then evolution would be a nice idea with strong evidence against.

So, they showed homology, and it was consistent with other features.

Vertebrates previous to the cambrian would put evolution in BIG trouble pvblivs. I do not understand why you think they would not.

G.E.

Pvblivs said...

Get Education:

     "Vertebrates previous to the cambrian would put evolution in BIG trouble pvblivs."
     In what way exactly. Common descent does not specify when. It might invalidate the presumed "tree's" timeline.
     "I know you will find a way to dismiss this one, but at one point scientists realized that evolution should be evident in the sequences of proteins (before doing the experiments to show it). If the molecules had not shown homology (common descent)--this would actually have made evolution tremble, a puzzle impossible to subvert...."
     Do you have a reference? I haven't seen that one.

get_education said...

Well, for a reference you would have to read about the history of molecular biology. My sources are many because this is my original area of research. For starters perhaps the eighth day of creation.

Or maybe search for ... hum ... maybe "Russel Doolittle."

But I doubt the whole story is there in a single place. But I will have an open eye. Maybe someone has published something about it. Maybe after Francis Crick passed away (he was claimed to be the one to notice that the evolutionary history might be written in the molecules, but he denied the credit, and said it was someone else ... whose name escapes me now ...)

As of the cabrian. It would put evolution in big trouble because you need precursors to vertebrates. Changing the data of appearance of vertebrates is not enough, you would have to find their ancestors before those vertebrates, not after.

G.E.

Pvblivs said...

Get Education:

     "As of the cabrian. It would put evolution in big trouble because you need precursors to vertebrates."
     In that sense, you need precursors to everything (every living thing.) Many of these precursors are still unknown. Such a fossil would mean (to evolution) that the precursor to vertebrates was unknown.

Dave W. said...

Your earlier statements (in the thread you've let die) indicated that you thought that any evidence contrary to evolutionary theory would be "brushed aside." That would, indeed, require a

conspiracy. If that's not what you meant, fine.

And actually, G.E.'s example of protein homology is pretty much the same as my prior example of the "dangerous" prediction that genetic material would show the same nested hierarchy as built via

phylogeny proir to 1954. Had it not done so, something would have been very wrong. This is pretty much Theobald's prediction 1.3

Quick summaries of potential falsifications of the other predictions:

1.1: Creatures on Earth that don't use DNA or RNA for genetic material. Creatures that use a massively different genetic code. Any animal that doesn't use ATP for energy transfer.

1.2: Birds with hair. Pine trees that flower. Mammals with feathers.

1.4: Intermediates between two long-established groups (like a half-bird, half-mammal).

1.5: I'll quote this one: "Even one incontrovertible find of any pre-Devonian mammal, bird, or flower would shatter the theory of common descent..."

(Why there would be a food problem for that last one is beyond me.)

I could go on, of course, but I'll spare you. The point is that if our evolutionary theories are wrong (especially common descent), there would be no reason that we should not find

flowering pine trees (for example). These theories suggest that some things should be impossible for us to find, so if we do, the theories would obviously be wrong.

From some of the other predictions: we should never find fossil elephants in South America; we should never find gills in aquatic mammals or birds (though they'd be very helpful); we

should never find a mammal or reptile without blindspots in its vision, and we should never find the uniquely-human ERVs in a cow or any other non-human. These would all represent

huge problems for our current theories, and if those theories were wrong, there would be no reason we shouldn't find them. They are predictions unique to our evolutionary theories, and if the impossibilities show up, it clearly means that the theories are wrong.

get_education said...

Pvblivs,

We see precursors to vertebrates AFTER the Cambrian explosion. If we found vertebrates before the precursors, and not other precursors, it would not be dismissed that easily. It would sure be annotated as one of the puzzles that might help us come with a better paradigm, or else until we find something indicating an obvious mistake in the finding. But no hiding under the carpet would happen.

G.E.

Pvblivs said...

Dave W:

     Any non-confirming results can be dismissed as inconclusive (as far as I can see.) I am not always the best at expressing myself. But... even if I believed that they could conduct an experiment in which a possible result would falsify evolution and chose not to, I could still be shown wrong by being shown the experiment conducted.

Dave W. said...

pvblivs, the important thing to realize is that every time a scientist first sequences any part of the genome of an extant organism, a potential falsification of common descent awaits in the results. If the researcher, for example, finds no DNA, then we have an example of a living creature for which "common descent" cannot possibly be an explanation. Ditto if the researcher finds a vastly different genetic code, or human ERVs, or any number of other things which should be impossible if our theories are correct.

Previously unknown living species are being found all the time (even mammals, and sometimes even primates), and every time one of them is genetically tested it is a chance for common descent to be falsified.

Every. Single. Time.

These sorts of results would cause scientists to go nuts, testing and re-testing until the results were as undeniable as their own names. There is no way any of these sorts of findings could be "brushed aside" or deemed "inconclusive," given what's at stake. And the only way for these experiments to not be done is for everyone to stop doing all genetic tests everywhere, which simply ain't gonna happen, given their usefulness.

Pvblivs said...

Dave W:

     Except genes as mechanism was postulated after genes were consistently found. If a life form were to be found that did match the statistical analysis, it would shake up a great deal more than evolution. I would regard it safe to say, even if large-scale evolution is somehow false, that we will not find such an example. If you were given a world which had all of our existing observations, but the diversity of life was caused by some other (unknown) natural phenomenon, would you predict finding an example like you mention? I wouldn't. That's why I don't see it as a real potential falsifier. It's something that I compare to a religious believer saying his god makes the sun rise in the east, so the sun rising in the west would falsify his god. If we were going to find an example like that, we should have found it before genes were believed to be the mechanism. At least, that's what it looks like to me.

Dave W. said...

If that's how you look at it, then you're missing what's important about the theories.

If our theories are wrong, then there is no reason that everything we find should follow our theories.

And you're wrong about genes. Testing and predicting how offspring should look based on their parents (genetics) was a science long before we figured out how heredity works (DNA). So how

could we have possibly found a creature with incorrect DNA before we knew how DNA works?

And the fact that you predict that no falsifier of evolutionary theories will be found is nothing more than a testament to the strength of the theories. But it does nothing to invalidate

the fact that every genetic sequencing we perform is a test of those theories, and a strong, basic test, at that.

Your example of a person who believes his god makes the Sun rise is poor because a god who can make the Sun rise would obviously have the power to make it rise wherever he wants it to. No

matter where the Sun rises, it cannot falsify the existence of a god. There is no proposed mechanism which forces the god to make the Sun only rise in the East.

However, the mechanisms of evolution flatly state that (for example) no human can have ERVs that are unique to marmosets, or vice versa. No creature born of DNA-using parents could possibly use

some other hereditary material. If our theories are false, then there is no reason why such things couldn't be seen. If our theories are correct, then they will never be seen (and

so if they are ever seen, we will know our theories are wrong).

And as I said, previously unknown species are being found all the time. If we've never seen a species before, what makes you think we should have already seen its wrong DNA already? The

vast majority of species alive today have not had their whole genomes sequenced, so what we have done is a pathetically small amount compared to conclusively proving that all extant creatures use

the same sort of hereditary materials in the same way with the same sorts of inhereted mistakes and insertions that we would expect to see if the theories are correct.

You're effectively saying that if I look at ten one-dollar bills and find none with serial numbers beginning with an F, then I could reasonably conclude that no one-dollar bills have such numbers.

I would argue that a much larger sample is required before any such prediction could be considered "safe," and even when it seems like a sure thing, all that's needed is a single example to bring

the whole theory crashing down.

(By the way, I apologize for all the extra line-breaks in my second post back. Feel free to clean those up, please.)

Dave W. said...

Dangit, I did the line-break thing again. Stupid Notepad. Sorry.

Pvblivs said...

Dave w:

     Before genes were found, it was postulated that something unknown was responsible for heredity. If genes had not fit the pattern, as you seem to be suggesting as potential falsifier, they would have been deemed not to be that something.
     "You're effectively saying that if I look at ten one-dollar bills and find none with serial numbers beginning with an F, then I could reasonably conclude that no one-dollar bills have such numbers."
     Actually, it's more like finding ten million one-dollar bills (selected at, not off the press with consecutive numbers) finding that they all begin with "GB5" and concluding that it is true of all one-dollar bills. New species are found all the time. But they are found in a manner that is uncorrelated with the notion of having DNA. If there were species that used another mechanism, there should have been some in our existing sample.
     If they had decided on DNA as the mechanism with a small sample size, they could very well have selected an incorrect mechanism with large-scale evolution still true.

Dave W. said...

No, pvblivs, I'm saying that now, if two vastly different methods of heredity are found, existing concurrently, that would spell disaster for common descent. And we haven't looked at the DNA in all that many creatures. As of 2000 or so (the latest data I could find quickly), cryogenic DNA banks were hosting on the order of one out of every 10,000 known species, and they were mostly focused on animals known to be endangered. Online genome databases may have billions of DNA sequences stored, but many of those are variations on E. coli or a handful of other experimental species. So neither represents a random sampling of what's available, and both are rather paltry when compared to the whole of the biome.

Pvblivs said...

Dave W:

     We haven't looked at the DNA in the sense of confirming that there is DNA? Or we haven't looked at the DNA in the sense of mapping the genome?
     "I'm saying that now, if two vastly different methods of heredity are found, existing concurrently, that would spell disaster for common descent."
     That's rather unimaginative. I can picture the concept of multiple methods of inheriting traits within a single species. Indeed, I can conceive of a gradual shift from one method to another, all consistent with common descent. Now, there is nothing to suggest that anything like that has happened. But neither is there any reason to believe that it couldn't. An alternate method of trait inheritance (especially in a life-form that also had DNA) would seem to suggest such an event more than it would suggest evolution did not happen.

get_education said...

So pvblivs, you still believe that the results on molecular homologies were hidden until they knew evolution was safe?

Also, you are going way farther than you think. If there were two different "methods of heredity," yes, you can imagine intermediates from one to another, but it would not be published. You have to find evidence for that! Without it, you would publish your intermediates only in sensationalist magazines, if you are lucky.

G.E.

Dave W. said...

Well, I certainly don't know what you think is plausible, so I've got no way to evaluate your argument. I can imagine quite a lot of things, but the mechanisms of evolution say we're going to be stuck with DNA and RNA for quite a long time, even though switching to something else would be quite useful (current viruses would be rendered powerless, for example).

Of course, this laser-like focus on one small aspect of the argument neglects all the other possible falsifications of common descent which will be tested simply by sequencing more genomes.

get_education said...

Pvblivs,

Sorry, I just noted a mistake in my post, where I said "you still think," I do not measn to say that you actually said this before, I mean to as whether you think they did so.

G.E.

get_education said...

Pvblivs,

Genes were supposed to exist when people proposed there should ba some material that is passed to offspring that contains the information. It was not the other way around.

Then, people thought of proteins as candidates to be genes, but later they found it to be DNA (then RNA in lots of virus).

I repeat, if the substance of heredity failed to show homologies: evolution as in common descent=false.

This is not the earth coming from the wrong side. A probability to find the mistake is still there. The sun coming from the wrong side is not just improbable, but impossible.

You really need to rethink that analogy. It is a false analogy pvblivs.

G.E.

Clostridiophile said...

I don't even know why you all bother talking to pv anymore about this. Clearly, he is the one with the religious faith in his own stupid idea. Each of us has shown on a number of levels why his thinking is wrong...but it doesn't seem to matter. Your not going to crack this nut.