May 6, 2005

IT'S NOT VERY SCIENTIFIC TO IGNORE THE RESULTS:

Evolution Isn't a Natural Selection Here: Kansas looks again at whether teachers should be allowed to present non-scientific theories. (P.J. Huffstutter, May 6, 2005, LA Times)

In this rural swath of northern Kansas, where the grass rolls thick and green to the horizon, a white cross dominates the landscape.

Kathy Martin, a member of the state board of education, and her family built it on their farm this spring, gathering weathered chunks of limestone from the horse pasture and laying them on a hillside.

The cross is a proud expression of Martin's faith. And as hearings challenging the role of evolution in the state's school science curriculum began Thursday, that cross left little doubt about where she stood in the debate.

"Evolution is a great theory, but it is flawed," said Martin, 59, a retired science and elementary school teacher who is presiding over the hearings. "There are alternatives. Children need to hear them…. We can't ignore that our nation is based on Christianity — not science." [...]

"Part of our overall goal is to remove the bias against religion that is in our schools," said William Harris, a chemist who was the first witness to speak Thursday on behalf of changing the state's curriculum. "This is a scientific controversy that has powerful religious implications."


And that's ultimately all that it is, a clash over whether our society is to be grounded in religious principles and Judeo-Christian morality or secularism, utilitarianism, pragmatism, and amorality. The former view has mostly prevailed in this struggle for the past hundred years and is hardly likely to lose ground now that we can see how the latter worked out in Europe. Consider the two alternate courses to have been a prolonged Social Darwinist experiment and it's painfully clear which is fitter.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 6, 2005 12:00 AM
Comments

You might be interested in the following article from the Boston Globe's Ideas section:

(see http://www.boston.com/news/globe/ideas/articles/2005/05/01/evolutionary_war?pg=full)

What accounts for this revival? Some observers point to the increasing political influence of the religious right. Others point to decades of well-funded creationist efforts to chip away at evolution's stature, reducing it to just one in a range of competing theories. But Michael Ruse has a different explanation: He lays much of the blame at the feet of evolution's most famous advocates...In his latest book, ''The Evolution-Creation Struggle,'' published by Harvard University Press later this month, Ruse elaborates on a theme he has been developing in a career dating back to the 1960s: Evolution is controversial in large part, he theorizes, because its supporters have often presented it as the basis for self-sufficient philosophies of progress and materialism, which invariably wind up in competition with religion....While scientists and creationists often square off over the scientific evidence for evolution, the source of the ongoing dispute is deeper. ''This is not just a fight about dinosaurs or gaps in the fossil record,'' says Ruse, speaking from his home in Florida. ''This is a fight about different worldviews.''...Ruse asserts that popular contemporary biologists like Edward O. Wilson and Richard Dawkins have also exacerbated the divisions between evolutionists and creationists by directly challenging the validity of religious belief - Dawkins by repeatedly declaring his atheism (''faith,'' he once wrote, ''is one of the world's great evils, comparable to the smallpox virus but harder to eradicate''), and Wilson by describing his ''search for objective reality'' as a replacement for religious seeking.

Fortunately, the RCC has never had a problem with evolution, even Augustine warned against a literal interpretation of Genesis. JPII declared it to be "more than a theory".

Darwinism, as preached by the likes of Dawkins, is a different kettle of fish since it makes unscientific/philosophical claims that life the universe and everything are merely the result of meaningless chance occurences, lacking in purpose or meaning. At its heart it is nihilisitic and should be rejected for that reason alone.

Science is not capable of commenting on teleological subjects such as morals, ethics, meaning and purpose. Dawkins is in error when he claims science can do so. He is being dishonest when he palms off his metaphysical speculations as if they were scientific conclusions. Gould's NOMA is a far more sensible arrangement.


Posted by: daniel duffy at May 6, 2005 9:59 AM

Is it necessary for someone who believes in God to be willfully ignorant of modern science? If y'all can walk and chew gum at the same time, surely being able to form a coherent worldview that blends science and religion ought to be possible.

Having to deny something as basic and uncontroversial as industrial melanism just to be able to not have to think about the implications of your faith too much is downright silly.

Posted by: creeper at May 6, 2005 10:00 AM

creeper:

In fact it is we who understand science better than you. Where are the experiments demonstrating industrial melanism?

Posted by: oj at May 6, 2005 10:12 AM

daniel:

There is no revival. Scopes lost. Darwinism is teleological.

Posted by: oj at May 6, 2005 10:13 AM

"We can't ignore that our nation is based on Christianity — not science."

Uh-huh. Would the US be a global superpower today if it didn't engage in scientific research in a big way?

Posted by: creeper at May 6, 2005 10:16 AM

Darwinism is teleological.

You'll have to define your terms. What exactly do you mean by "Darwinism" and how do you distinguish it from evolution?

Posted by: daniel duffy at May 6, 2005 10:18 AM

Darwinism is just a blanket name for the belief that evolution is driven wholly by Nature.

Posted by: oj at May 6, 2005 10:21 AM

Well then, it seems we are actually in agreement about something.

It seems to me that religion and science are complementary, not antagonistic. Religion deals with meaning and purpose (teleology), it answers "why" questions. Science deals with functions and processes (mechanism), it answers "how" questions.

Now I know that this is a very old argument, going back at least as far as the Greek philosophers. Plato and Socrates were on the side of teleology. Epicurus and Democritus were on the side of mechanism. Yet it seems to me to be a silly argument, like fighting over which blade of the scissors is the most important.

Atheists and fundamentalists both strike me a half blind individuals, each blind in a different eye, and forever arguing over which is the better eye to see with. Problems arise when each tries to invade the other's turf. A literal reading of Genesis for example is just plain wrong in the face of the available evidence. Genesis is a "myth" in the true sense of the word - a story which relates deeper truths than a mere literal interpretation can provide. OTOH, for scientist like Dawkins to state that life and existence has no meaning and purpose because science can find none is a logical fallacy. Science has nothing to say, good or bad, about teleology. This viewpoint is inherently nihilistic.

So what is wrong with using both eyes and avoiding the willful ignorance of the fundamentalist and the nihilism of the atheist?


Posted by: daniel duffy at May 6, 2005 10:36 AM

The modern theory of evolution also says that evolution is driven wholly by Nature.

Posted by: creeper at May 6, 2005 10:37 AM

How is "the belief that evolution is driven wholly by Nature" teleological?

Posted by: creeper at May 6, 2005 10:38 AM

daniel:

Yes, we do agree except that Darwinism is a religion, not a science.

Posted by: oj at May 6, 2005 10:54 AM

creeper:

The modern theory of Evolution is Darwinism.

Posted by: oj at May 6, 2005 10:54 AM

"In fact it is we who understand science better than you. Where are the experiments demonstrating industrial melanism?"

Orrin, the controversial aspects of Kettlewell are not as to whether the phenomenon of industrial melanism occurred, which is generally acknolwedged and has been documented, but what caused it. Industrial melanism is not so much demonstrated in experiments as it is observed in nature. Explanations as to what may have caused industrial melanism can be tested in experiments.

Posted by: creeper at May 6, 2005 11:46 AM

"Darwinism is a religion, not a science."

"The modern theory of Evolution is Darwinism."

The modern theory of evolution (incorporating natural selection, genetic drift, gene flow etc.) is not a religion.

Posted by: creeper at May 6, 2005 11:53 AM

creeper:

The documentation is Kettlewell's fraudulent evidence that predation would occur. No one has shown industrial melanism in the first place. Of course, that the moths are supposed to have rapidly evolved back to light colored after the pollution was limited demonstrates the melanism was mere conjecture in the first place.

Posted by: oj at May 6, 2005 11:57 AM

Daniel -

Problem is that half-blind individuals like Dawkins and Wilson have been held up as the standard bearers of evolutionary theory for the past few decades. Proponents of ET like to say that their view is simply scientific and that they hold no particular malice against traditional religion all the while following half-blindly the blatantly religious dogmas of their high priests of darwinism - Dawkins and Wilson. (I suppose you can add Blackmore in as an alter-girl).

Posted by: Shelton at May 6, 2005 12:05 PM

Meanwhile, the less fanatical, like Ernst Mayr, acknowledge it's just a philosophy, not a science. So folks like creeper, daniel, Harry, Jeff, etc., are caught between a rock and a hard place.

Posted by: oj at May 6, 2005 12:13 PM

Orrin,

"No one has shown industrial melanism in the first place."

Nature has 'shown' it. Man has observed it.

The moths "rapidly evolving back to light colored" does not contradict industrial melanism, as it demonstrates quite clearly a correlation between the coloring of the moths and the coloring of their environment as influenced by pollution. It is simply the converse of what happened in the 19th century, and has also been observed and documented. See here: http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/links/doi/10.1046/j.1095-8312.2002.00035.x/abs/

As for industrial melanism never having occurred in the first place and Kettlewell making the whole thing up:

"[William Bateson} sought information on the advance of melanism in moths in the Entomologist’s Record (Bateson, 1900). The results appeared in Barrett (1901) and Doncaster (1906), and were discussed by Bateson (1913). The melanics appeared to originate in northern cities and to spread progressively further south, suggesting a single location of origin. The next step was to find out why. Was the variation genetic? It was soon shown to be (Bowater, 1914). Was its spread due to some kind of thermal or innate hardiness factors? Were the melanic moths better camouflaged than typicals in the changing industrial environment?

But it wasn't documented until Kettlewell fraudulently made it up, right?

Incidentally, you keep accusing Kettlewell of faking the numbers in his experiment, a claim for which you have no basis.

Posted by: creeper at May 6, 2005 12:22 PM

It is one thing to claim that the theory of evolution has religious or philosophical implications - it is another to claim that it has no scientific basis.

Posted by: creeper at May 6, 2005 12:24 PM

As I said, we understand this stuff better than you. You keep citing studies that measure survival rates of mature moths as if they told us something about whether melanism has occurred. A scientific study would look at the distribution of the caterpillars to see if significantly more of one were being born than the other. Of course, the fact that both (actually a range) continue to be born and survive regardless of predation makes nonsense of the idea that they've evolved.

Posted by: oj at May 6, 2005 12:43 PM

creeper

Careful, you are starting to gasp for air here. Astrology, the Copernican universe, alchemy and the four humors all had "a scientific basis." In some ways, so does Genecis, although a little after the fact, I admit.

Posted by: Peter B at May 6, 2005 12:46 PM

creeper:

The scientific basis was sound enough. Darwin noted that groups of finches (and other stuff) varied from one another in ways not dissimilar to those in which breeds of cows, sheep, dogs, etc. did. So he proposed that in the same way that intelligent being (s) breed variations so too might Nature itself. In fact, given enough time, a mechanism, and a direction it might be possible for Nature alone to create species.

It was a sound observation and a sensible theory that just happens tgo have turned out not to work. But that doesn't matter because the religious overtones of the idea and the trappings that go with it produce faith irresp[ective of scientific support.

Posted by: oj at May 6, 2005 12:49 PM

Orrin, if you think that industrial melanism involves a claim that the moths in question 'evolved', then you'll need to abandon your boastful claim that you understand this stuff better than me.

Posted by: creeper at May 6, 2005 1:53 PM

"It was a sound observation and a sensible theory that just happens tgo have turned out not to work."

Does the modern theory of evolution not work? If so, in what ways is it disproven?

Posted by: creeper at May 6, 2005 4:07 PM

Creeper-

In terms of the theory it supplies for speciation it cannot be disproved the way it is framed. In that regard it is unscientific.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford, Ct. at May 6, 2005 4:47 PM

I guess that since you're now linking to the Britannica article on industrial melanism you've finally chosen to acknowledge that industrial melanism is an acknowledged, observed phenomenon. That's progress, I suppose, even for someone in possession of a vastly superior understanding of science such as yourself.

I put 'evolved' in quotes above because you tend not to accept any aspect of the theory of evolution unless it involves a full-blown demonstration of a new species being created, and that is clearly not the case here, nor was it ever claimed to be.

Industrial melanism appears to be a good illustration of the concepts of allele frequency and genotype frequency. The moth first has one genotype frequency (say 90% light, 10% dark moths), then under pressure from the environment changes to another genotype frequency (say 10% light, 90% dark moths). Later on, the environment changes back, and the moth returns to its original genotype frequency (90% light, 10% dark).

Posted by: creeper at May 6, 2005 4:48 PM

"In terms of the theory it supplies for speciation it cannot be disproved the way it is framed."

Which aspect of the theory supplied for speciation do you consider unfalsifiable?

Posted by: creeper at May 6, 2005 4:52 PM

All of it.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford, Ct. at May 6, 2005 4:57 PM

What does the word 'unfalsifiable' mean to you?

Posted by: creeper at May 6, 2005 5:09 PM

creeper:

Yes, note that industrial melanism is considered evolution.

However, as with the numbers you provide, it comes from counting mature moths after predation. Which is meaningless.

Posted by: oj at May 6, 2005 5:47 PM

creeper:

Nothing speciates or changes significantly morphologically as a result of mere selection pressure, isolation, etc.

Posted by: oj at May 6, 2005 5:50 PM

"Nothing speciates or changes significantly morphologically as a result of mere selection pressure, isolation, etc."

Small morphological changes as a result of isolation and selection pressure have been documented. See Darwin's finches. On a bigger scale, there are the results of organisms changing over time on different continents after the Americas and Eurasia split.

Bigger morphological changes over much longer times (over a hundred million years) amounting to species changes have also been documented, as I have linked to many times previously.

If you agree that 1+1=2 is possible, then what objection could you have to the addition of 1 and 1 repeated a thousand times over a long time yielding something in the neighborhood of a thousand?

"However, as with the numbers you provide, it comes from counting mature moths after predation. Which is meaningless."

Are you suggesting that predation accounts for a significant percentage of the population statistics, amounting to birds picking off somewhere over 50% of each generation of moths to bring about these statistics?

Posted by: creeper at May 6, 2005 6:07 PM

Yes, Darwin's finches haven't speciated and the differences between them are unrecognizable to any but Darwinists. They're a perfect demonstration of the theory's failure.

You then proceed to abandon science altogether. Yes speciation has obviously occurred in natural history and morphological change. It just doesn't seem to have anything to do with Darwinism.

Yes.

Posted by: oj at May 6, 2005 6:14 PM

"Yes, Darwin's finches haven't speciated and the differences between them are unrecognizable to any but Darwinists.

Since the differences between them do have an impact on the survival chances of the finches, I would say that the differences are quite perceptible to the finches themselves. A fraction of an inch may not mean squat to you, but if it helps you survive you would start to notice it.

This a simple Appeal to Ignorance, Orrin. Just because you can't distinguish a fraction of an inch on a bird's beak doesn't mean it's not significant.

They're a perfect demonstration of the theory's failure.

At best, this would amount to a non-demonstration of the theory's success, which is not the same thing as a "perfect demonstration of the theory's failure" at all.

You then proceed to abandon science altogether.

What, by claiming that adding one and one a thousand times would get me to the neighborhood of a thousand? How so?

Yes speciation has obviously occurred in natural history and morphological change. It just doesn't seem to have anything to do with Darwinism.

How do you draw that conclusion?

Yes.

This was in response to:

Are you suggesting that predation accounts for a significant percentage of the population statistics, amounting to birds picking off somewhere over 50% of each generation of moths to bring about these statistics?

That's quite a, shall we say, interesting response, Orrin. Please explain this in the context of your earlier claim that birds do not or only rarely rest on tree trunks and can thus not be subject to predators, which is the standard anti-evolutionist critique of Kettlewell's experiments.

You can not claim both. And you just claimed the one that supports Kettlewell 100%.

Posted by: creeper at May 6, 2005 6:32 PM

That's a faith statement. The fact that there are a wide variety of beak sizes would suggest beak size mnakes little difference, not a significant one.

Yes, adding a thousand instances of non-speciation and claiming that the thousandth will be speciation is anti-rational.

Kettlewell was only trying to prove what had been observed, that he resorted to fraud to do so does not negate the observation. Logic tells us that if some moths are easier to see than others that they'll be first culled. That has nothing to do with whether melanism occurred as a result though. It appears not to have.

Posted by: oj at May 6, 2005 6:47 PM

Should anybody care about it, industrial melanism has been observed in several other species of moths. Biston is the poster boy moth.

Orrin is just making stuff up. His misrepresentation of Mayr has been pointed out by me several times, but he continues to repeat this lie.

He described himself as a scientific illiterate the other day. Today he says he understands science better than the scientists.

Hard to imagine both those thoughts rattling around in the same brain together without inducing headaches.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at May 6, 2005 8:15 PM

Those aren't observations of melanism.

I meant illiterate quite literally. I don't read much of the stuff because I don't find it terribly useful, but it's easy enough to understand science and to understand Science, whichj is what you true believers actually adhere to.

Here again the great Mayr:

"EDGE: To what extent has the study of evolutionary biology been the study of ideas about evolutionary biology? Is evolution the evolution of ideas, or is it a fact?

ERNST MAYR: That's a very good question. Because of the historically entrenched resistance to the thought of evolution, documented by modern-day creationism, evolutionists have been forced into defending evolution and trying to prove that it is a fact and not a theory. Certainly the explanation of evolution and the search for its underlying ideas has been somewhat neglected, and my new book, the title of which is What Evolution Is, is precisely attempting to rectify that situation. It attempts to explain evolution. As I say in the first section of the book, I don't need to prove it again, evolution is so clearly a fact that you need to be committed to something like a belief in the supernatural if you are at all in disagreement with evolution. It is a fact and we don't need to prove it anymore. Nonetheless we must explain why it happened and how it happens.

One of the surprising things that I discovered in my work on the philosophy of biology is that when it comes to the physical sciences, any new theory is based on a law, on a natural law. Yet as several leading philosophers have stated, and I agree with them, there are no laws in biology like those of physics. Biologists often use the word law, but for something to be a law, it has to have no exceptions. A law must be beyond space and time, and therefore it cannot be specific. Every general truth in biology though is specific. Biological "laws" are restricted to certain parts of the living world, or certain localized situations, and they are restricted in time. So we can say that their are no laws in biology, except in functional biology which, as I claim, is much closer to the physical sciences, than the historical science of evolution.

EDGE: Let's call this Mayr's Law.

MAYR: Well in that case, I've produced a number of them. Anyhow the question is, if scientific theories are based on laws and there aren't any laws in biology, well then how can you say you have theories, and how do you know that your theories are any good? That's a perfectly legitimate question. Of course our theories are based on something solid, which are concepts. If you go through the theories of evolutionary biology you find that they are all based on concepts such as natural selection, competition, the struggle for existence, female choice, male dominance, etc. There are hundreds of such concepts. In fact, ecology consists almost entirely of such basic concepts. Once again you can ask, how do you know they're true? The answer is that you can know this only provisionally by continuous testing and you have to go back to historical narratives and other non-physicalist methods to determine whether your concept and the consequences that arise from it can be confirmed.

EDGE: Is biology a narrative based of our times and how we look at the world?

MAYR: It depends entirely on when in the given age of the intellectual world you ask these questions. For instance when Darwin published The Origin of Species, the leading Cambridge University geologist was Sedgwick, and Sedgwick wrote a critique of Darwin's Origin that asked how Darwin could be so unscientific as to use chance in some of his arguments, when everyone knew that God controlled the world? Now who was more scientific, Darwin or Sedgwick? This was in 1860 and now, 140 years later, we recognize how much this critique was colored by the beliefs of that time. The choice of historical narratives is also very time-bound. Once you recognize this, you cease to question their usefulness. There are a number of such narratives that are as ordinary as proverbs and yet still work. "

"Evolutionary biology, in contrast with physics and chemistry, is a historical science - the evolutionist attempts to explain events and processes that have already taken place. Laws and experiments are inappropriate techniques for the explication of such events and processes. Instead one constructs a historical narrative, consisting of a tentative reconstruction of the particular scenario that led to the events one is trying to explain."

Posted by: oj at May 6, 2005 8:23 PM

"The fact that there are a wide variety of beak sizes would suggest beak size mnakes little difference, not a significant one."

The fact that finches on different parts of the islands have evolved to favor different sizes and shapes suggests exactly the opposite, Orrin - that it does make a significant difference.

"Yes, adding a thousand instances of non-speciation and claiming that the thousandth will be speciation is anti-rational."

The point is not that any one of the steps will amount to speciation, but that the difference between the first and the last can amount to a difference large enough to amount to a different species. Projecting that a large number of little changes will over time result in a big change compared to the origin is entirely rational.

"Kettlewell was only trying to prove what had been observed, that he resorted to fraud to do so does not negate the observation. "

1. Kettlewell was not trying to prove what had already been observed, ie. industrial melanism, but testing a theory to explain what caused it, namely the Bird Predation Theory.

2. There is no basis on which to conclude that Kettlewell resorted to fraud. An analysis of the numbers and dates of his recaptures does not yield such a conclusion.

At least you've progressed from claiming that Kettlewell just made up industrial melanism.

"Logic tells us that if some moths are easier to see than others that they'll be first culled."

Yes, logic tells us that. Kettlewell would gladly agree with you. However the most common critique of Kettlewell's experiment is that only a portion of moths (10-25%) settle on tree trunks. While this may be compatible with the notion that survival pressure to a part of the population brings about a change in the genotype frequency, it is not compatible with your claim that bird predation accounts for about 80% of the more exposed moths being picked off at every generation. Unless you also want to claim that the birds can get at the moths in other areas, such as branch-tree junctions etc. Just so you know, that would put you very much in the camp of those defending Kettlewell's experiments.

"That has nothing to do with whether melanism occurred as a result though. It appears not to have."

Industrial melanism has occurred and has been widely observed. On what basis do you exclude your claim that bird predation "appears" not to be a factor?

"Those aren't observations of melanism.."

Since Harry didn't mention which ones he was talking about, how do you know?

Posted by: creeper at May 7, 2005 3:51 AM

Orrin: "Meanwhile, the less fanatical, like Ernst Mayr, acknowledge it's just a philosophy, not a science."

Where does Mayr acknowledge such a thing? In the quote you provide, Mayr calls biology a physical science that tends to rest not on universally applicable laws, but on concepts. He calls evolutionary biology a historical science.

Does your "it's just a philosophy" claim happen to be based on this quote?

One of the surprising things that I discovered in my work on the philosophy of biology is that when it comes to the physical sciences, any new theory is based on a law, on a natural law. Yet as several leading philosophers have stated, and I agree with them, there are no laws in biology like those of physics.

He is not equating biology with philosophy, he is saying "the philosophy of biology", as in this definition of philosophy: "A set of ideas or beliefs relating to a particular field or activity; an underlying theory: [for example] an original philosophy of advertising." Advertising is not philosophy, but there can be a philosophy of advertising. It's the same here: Biology is not philosophy, but there can be a philosophy of biology. Mayr then goes on in the same breath to call biology one of the physical sciences.

Or did you have any other quotes on which you were basing your claim?

Mayr's point is that evolutionary biology differs in some ways from the physical sciences, but by no means does he make the claim that it is not science. That would be distorting the man's words beyond belief. His quote simply does not support your claim.

"Anyhow the question is, if scientific theories are based on laws and there aren't any laws in biology, well then how can you say you have theories, and how do you know that your theories are any good? That's a perfectly legitimate question. Of course our theories are based on something solid, which are concepts. If you go through the theories of evolutionary biology you find that they are all based on concepts such as natural selection, competition, the struggle for existence, female choice, male dominance, etc. There are hundreds of such concepts."

By the way, this man before whom you like to genuflect so frequently also said that not only is evolutionary biology a science, but "evolution is so clearly a fact that you need to be committed to something like a belief in the supernatural if you are at all in disagreement with evolution".

Why you choose to see him as someone who agrees with you is a puzzle to me. Is it because of the paltry amount of quote mining you can derive from him?

Posted by: creeper at May 7, 2005 4:45 AM

creeper:

Yes. That's the dividing line. Mays was committed to Nature, so he believed in his philosophy or historical narrative but was crystal clear that it was not a physical science but a conceptual/historical one.

It doesn't matter which observation Harry is citing, the point is none of them proceed from an experiment demonstrating that melanism occurred, only observations about predation.

Posted by: oj at May 7, 2005 7:41 AM

That what was not a science?

Mayr did not say that either biology (which he saw as one of the physical sciences and which instead of relying on universally applicable laws relied on concepts, and as such indeed "based on something solid") or evolutionary biology (which he saw as a historical science) were not a science.

Posted by: creeper at May 7, 2005 7:52 AM

"It doesn't matter which observation Harry is citing, the point is none of them proceed from an experiment demonstrating that melanism occurred, only observations about predation."

How do you know that without knowing which observations Harry had in mind?

Posted by: creeper at May 7, 2005 7:54 AM

"that it was not a physical science but a conceptual/historical one"

For some reason this got changed from "that it was not a science" to this elaboration while I was responding.

Evolutionary biology is a historical science, but also a physical one, since it concerns itself with physical events in the past. And it is, of course, a science. Why the fact that evolution necessarily has to concern itself with the past should be deemed noteworthy I do not know.

Also, aspects of evolutionary biology can be studied using observations and experiments in the present.

Posted by: creeper at May 7, 2005 7:59 AM

A sciences, but not the science, as his differentiations make clear.

Posted by: oj at May 7, 2005 8:01 AM

"none of them proceed from an experiment demonstrating that melanism occurred, only observations about predation"

Not observations about predation, observations about distribution of genotypes. In order to make the case that the ratios of light to dark moths and changes in such ratios are entirely due to predation (and you would have to do that to support your claim that these are "only observations about predation", you would have to show that a very large percentage of the moths in question are actually exposed to predators.

Which is interesting, because people in your camp have spent significant effort the past few years detailing the opposite in trying to dismantle Kettlewell's experiment, namely claiming that predation can not have had a significant impact on the peppered moth.

Please have a look at their arguments and tell us where they're going wrong.

Posted by: creeper at May 7, 2005 8:05 AM

"A sciences, but not the science, as his differentiations make clear."

That doesn't make a whole lot of sense, Orrin. Please point us to a dictionary definition of "the science" or, if you can't find one, make one up and post that instead.

Posted by: creeper at May 7, 2005 8:08 AM

creeper:

He just made up a new definition because iot isn't what any of us would consider a science, as, for instance, wehen he notes it's not subject to experiment and proof like real science.

It's actually a political/religious belief that substitutes Nature for God, but adherents are uncomfortable acknowledging that.

Posted by: oj at May 7, 2005 8:31 AM

They're wrong because they accepted the premise of the experiment. And they got excited because it was so easy to prove another fraud.

But the fact that Kettlewell pulled off a hoax doesn't mean that more dark moths don't die of old age (or light, whichever it is this week).

Posted by: oj at May 7, 2005 8:32 AM

Mayr disagrees, correctly.

Posted by: oj at May 7, 2005 9:06 AM

"Science is a process for evaluating empirical knowledge (the scientific method)"

As Mayr notes, Evolution doesn't use the scientific method. It's conjectural and philosophical.

Posted by: oj at May 7, 2005 9:08 AM

"he notes it's not subject to experiment and proof like real science"

Where does he note that? He notes exactly the opposite in the quote you provided.

If you go through the theories of evolutionary biology you find that they are all based on concepts such as natural selection, competition, the struggle for existence, female choice, male dominance, etc. There are hundreds of such concepts. In fact, ecology consists almost entirely of such basic concepts. Once again you can ask, how do you know they're true? The answer is that you can know this only provisionally by continuous testing and you have to go back to historical narratives and other non-physicalist methods to determine whether your concept and the consequences that arise from it can be confirmed.

On re-edit, you changed your post to: "As Mayr notes, Evolution doesn't use the scientific method. It's conjectural and philosophical."

Mayr notes that biology doesn't use laws, but concepts. He does not claim that it is not based on empirical knowledge.

So what do you think Mayr's new definition of science is? He makes it quite clear that theories in biology are still based on something solid, even if it is 'concepts' instead of 'laws'. It is still subject to verification by experimentation and observation.

"It's actually a political/religious belief that substitutes Nature for God, but adherents are uncomfortable acknowledging that."

That may well be your belief, but it is not what Mayr claimed.

As for your stance on Kettlewell, your flipflops are simply breathtaking. One moment you claim that Kettlewell has been debunked and is a hoax, the next moment you sweep away the very basis of that argument.

"Mayr disagrees, correctly."

With what?

"But the fact that Kettlewell pulled off a hoax doesn't mean that more dark moths don't die of old age (or light, whichever it is this week)."

Accusing Kettlewell of a hoax will remain a baseless assertion until you can back it up with something. So far you have not been able to. What's more, you have subscribed to the very theory that Kettlewell set out to test - the Bird Predation Theory - to a more extreme level than even Kettlewell would have dared.

You hypothesize that perhaps more dark moths die of old age. It's a speculation, sure, but it's not based on anything nor supported by anything whatsoever.

But as long as you know ever so much about science without ever cracking a book about it, I guess that's all right, isn't it?

Posted by: creeper at May 7, 2005 9:26 AM

creeper:

Like I said, it's a rock and a hard place for you guys. Mayr's honesty annihilates the notion that Evolution is a hard science, but you want to believe. Nothing wrong with having your own philosophy.

Posted by: oj at May 7, 2005 9:40 AM

That Kettlewell was right makes his fraud all the more foolish.

Posted by: oj at May 7, 2005 9:42 AM

It's pretty evident that it is not I but you who is happy to go to any lengths to maintain your faith, at the expense of any coherence in your claims.

Evolution is a science that by necessity concerns itself with the past - hence a historical science. That does not make it any less of a science. Evolution being characterised as a historical science makes sense in part, though there are aspects of the theory that are very much current, not historical - genetics etc. I think that's perfectly clear, and I don't see why that should amount to some hypothetical difficult spot between a rock and a hard place.

It's you who equates science as being utterly incompatible with religion and will make any incoherent arguments to maintain that belief that has created an insupportable stance for yourself.

"That Kettlewell was right makes his fraud all the more foolish."

Since despite your fervent and insistent belief in the experiment being a fraud you have not been able to substantiate it in any way, doesn't it make it a lot more likely that an alternative explanation is true, namely that the experiment was not a fraud, but a flawed experiment? Never mind that it didn't disprove what Kettlewell set out to prove, it merely failed to seal the deal, that's all.

I wonder if any of your creationist buddies will attempt to discuss with you why you now have flip-flopped to thinking Kettlewell was right.

Posted by: creeper at May 7, 2005 9:58 AM

creeper:

science is not only compatible with religion but tends to confirm Judeo-Christion cosmology.

Evolution isn't science.

Kettlewell was wrong about melanism but right about predation. His fraud was needless from a scientific perspective but necessary to the ideology.

Posted by: oj at May 7, 2005 3:42 PM

"Kettlewell was wrong about melanism but right about predation."

Since Kettlewell wasn't out to prove melanism, but his Bird Predation Theory, you are therefore saying that his experiment was a success, or at least agreeing with his conclusions even if his methods were flawed.

Industrial melanism has been extensively observed and documented. You have not offered anything to back up your claim that it never occurred.

"His fraud was needless from a scientific perspective but necessary to the ideology."

You have also never been able to back up your claim that the flaws in Kettlewell's experiment amounted to fraud. You can't lose sight of the fact that this requires not just intent on his part, but also the ability to predict that his ways of handling the experiment (including lab-grown moths, for example) would result in skewing the results of the experiments to his purposes.

"Evolution isn't science."

The theory of evolution is science. Evolutionary biology is science. Your hero, Ernst Mayr, even goes so far to claim that evolution is not just science, but fact.

If you want to claim that evolution (or Evolution) isn't science, then define what you mean by evolution and on what basis it should not be considered science.

"science is not only compatible with religion but tends to confirm Judeo-Christion cosmology."

Literal creationism is not compatible with science, and science does not confirm Judeo-Christian cosmology in that it offers no evidence for the existence of God.

Posted by: creeper at May 7, 2005 4:07 PM

No, his experiment was a failure and when it failed he committed fraud. Melanism has never been observed, a seeming prevalence of better disguised individuals has.

Yes, Mayr skips from science to fact, having acknowledged his beliefs are not scientific, just as any religious figure would. Christians don't try to prove Christ scientifically, but accept Him as a fact. That's how faiths work. No one begrudges you yours.

All science suggests God:

http://www.brothersjudd.com/blog/archives/020117.html

Posted by: oj at May 7, 2005 4:21 PM
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