Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The following is a comment I tried to leave on Atheist Central, but different browsers were giving different reasons why they wouldn't send it.


     I do not consider evolution to be a theory. It has not predicted anything in advance. Since it makes no predictions, it can't be falsified. But it is also academic (no pun intended.) If universal common descent is somehow false, medicine will not stop working because of it.
     "Again, you don't understand what proof means. But evidence has been shown to the readers of this blog over and over again, and these evidences have yet to be refuted (or even considered as the case may be)"
     Well, I have found the supposed evidences presented to be just as impressive as the christians' evidences for their deity -- which is to say, not at all. I suppose it looks like evidence if you already believe it. I think it looks like confirmation bias.
     The possibility of confirmation bias is actually quite interesting. Assuming, for the sake of argument, that I am right and evolution is untestable but accepted as fact by the reviewers, it is a predictable result that papers "finding evolution to be confirmed" will be approved. Now, this doesn't prove that I am right. It only shows that my belief is consistent with known observations. But reviewers are human. They will apply their biases wittingly or unwittingly. A pseudoscience that becomes entrenched in the scientific community is likely to remain so.
     "The point is that it has been validated beyond any shadow of doubt to anyone that has really studied it objectively."
     I am not convinced that anyone has studied it objectively. It looks like it has been accepted uncritically. But hey, here's something that would show me wrong. If there was a paper out there that identified a prediction made by using universal common descent that could not be made without it (such that a contrary observation would be plausible on the assumption that evolution is false) an experiment was done, and that confirmed evolution, it would show that it was really put to the test. I have no idea what such a prediction would look like. As near as I can tell evolution makes no predictions. I have seen and been shown many papers on the order of "if we get observation X then evolution is true and took path A; if we get observation Y then evolution is true and took path B; but no matter what observation we get evolution is true." Those don't interest me because they can't falsify the "theory." I am also not interested in "through statistical analysis of the fossils, we can safely say that there were no mammals before this point; therefore we now call finding a precambrian rabbit a 'potential falsifier.'"
     Now some things are interesting. Retroviruses are rather suggestive. But their absence would not have falsified the idea. They were not (and could not be expected to be) predicted in advance. They're more the sort of thing that, once you assume evolution to be true, you can use to deduce the tree actually formed.

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