Thursday, March 01, 2007

Evolution Is a Fact

DaveScot over at Uncommon Descent writes in Theory of Evolution as well tested as…,
We often hear biologists claim the theory of evolution is as well tested as the theory of gravity.
No, you don't, DaveScot. That's not what you hear at all. You aren't listening. (Either that or you're lying but I'd rather give you the benefit of the doubt even though you're an IDiot.)

What biologists say is that Evolution Is a Fact and a Theory. Gravity is a fact just like evolution. That's what you hear biologists saying. The "Theory of Gravity" and "Evolutionary Theory" are something completely different from facts. It may even be the case that evolutionary theory is on more solid grounds than the theory of gravity.

Let me remind all IDiots of what Stephen J. Gould said 26 years ago. Study these words. It will prevent you from looking stupid in the future.
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.

Moreover, "fact" doesn't mean "absolute certainty"; there ain't no such animal in an exciting and complex world. The final proofs of logic and mathematics flow deductively from stated premises and achieve certainty only because they are not about the empirical world. Evolutionists make no claim for perpetual truth, though creationists often do (and then attack us falsely for a style of argument that they themselves favor). In science "fact" can only mean "confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional consent." I suppose that apples might start to rise tomorrow, but the possibility does not merit equal time in physics classrooms.

Evolutionists have been very clear about this distinction of fact and theory from the very beginning, if only because we have always acknowledged how far we are from completely understanding the mechanisms (theory) by which evolution (fact) occurred. Darwin continually emphasized the difference between his two great and separate accomplishments: establishing the fact of evolution, and proposing a theory—natural selection—to explain the mechanism of evolution.

Stephen J. Gould, " Evolution as Fact and Theory"; Discover, May 1981

78 comments:

  1. Which "Theory of Gravity" is he talking about? Newton's was superceded, or refined if you will, by Einstein's relativity. Relativity is getting a close look now because of the dark matter and dark energy issues; the whole cosmological constant flap. The theories of relativity and quantum mechanics, both of which are considered pretty reliable within their own domains, have never been fully reconciled to each other.

    Meanwhile, evolution encompasses several theories. Common descent and natural selection are both well-tested, and unlike relativity, there are no data challenging them today. There is no successor theory waiting in the wings to take over, and no reason for one.

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  2. Here's the rest of Dave Springer's idiot post.

    What we don’t often hear is physicists claim the theory of gravity is as well tested as the theory of evolution.

    But what we do often hear is prominent physicists (such as, for ex., Steven Weinberg or Lawrence Krauss) going out of their way--and outside their field--to speak out loudly against IDiot creationism. Besides the activists, all legitimate physicists (including certain famous religious physicists in Britain) accept evolution as much the theory of gravity.

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  3. It may even be the case that evolutionary theory is on more solid grounds than the theory of gravity.
    After I read this at Galactic Interactions yesterday, I can believe it. Gravity is just weird.

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  4. Larry Moran,

    "It may even be the case that evolutionary theory is on more solid grounds than the theory of gravity."

    This is an idiotic statement. There is no basis to support it, and certainly strong arguments can be made to dispute it.

    First of all, if evolution is a fact regardless of the correctness of any particular evolutionary theory, then by the same token gravity is a fact regardless of any particular theory of gravity. So that semantic loophole doesn't provide any fodder for making the case that evolutionary theory is on more solid ground.

    Now if we actually look at the two best theories of evolution and gravitation, where is your support for your assertion that: evolutionary theory might be on more solid grounds than the theory of gravity? There is a reason you simply made the statement without supporting it, because there is no rational way to do so. General Relativity has been tested at least to 1 part in 10^9 in the case of binary neutron starts—it may have more stringent tests, I don’t know, I’m not a GR expert. But I do know there is nothing in evolution that can make a prediction to one part in a billion.

    If you had any sense whatsoever you’d say: evolution and gravity are completely different types of theories, with no real way to compare which is on more solid ground, in fact the comparison is meaningless. Evolution is predictive, but not in the same sense that General Relativity is predictive—which it is to astonishing accuracy.

    Instead you make a completely indefensible statement.


    Mustafa Mond, FCD

    "The theories of relativity and quantum mechanics, both of which are considered pretty reliable within their own domains, have never been fully reconciled to each other."

    I'll give you the benefit of the doubt that you mean "General Relativity." QM and special relativity get along quite nicely.

    And since QM has been tested to at least one part in 10^12 (g-2) and special relativity to one part in 10^20 (cosmic rays) [again, better tests may exist, so these set a minimum precision], your statement "pretty reliable" is like saying "McDonalds has sold more than one hambuger," to use the example from Innumeracy.

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  5. In 1998 the National Academy of Sciences published and distributed a book to public schools entitled Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science. This publication was designed to persuade and assist teachers to present the theory of evolution as fact. I know, because I “persuaded” my son’s principle to make me a copy of the thing. They teach it at the second grade level as fact. I will give a few of a hundred or so quotes I have on the subject.

    =================================
    =================================
    American Society of Parasitologists: “Evolution is believed by nearly all professional life scientists. Virtually all scientists accept the evolution of currant species from fewer, simpler, ancestral ones as undisputed fact .”

    North Carolina Academy of Science: “Evolution is an established law of nature.”

    Society for Amateur Scientists: “That life has adapted and changed through time is as well established as the fact that the earth goes around the sun.”

    Society of Vertebrate Paleontology: “Evolution has come to be regarded as a confirmed fact , as certain as the drift of continents through time or the lawful operation of gravity… Scientists do not argue about whether evolution took place, that is a fact .”
    =================================
    =================================

    Similar statements are made by: the Academy of Science of the Royal Society of Canada; Alabama Academy of Science; American Association of Physical Anthropologists; American Astronomical Society; American Chemical Society; American Geological Institute; American Geophysical Union; American Physical Society; American Psychological Association; American Society for Biological Chemists; California Academy of Science; Iowa Academy of Science; Kentucky Academy of Science; Louisiana Academy of Science; National Academy of Sciences; New York Academy of Sciences; Society for the Study of Evolution; Southern Anthropological Society; and the West Virginia Academy of Science, as well as numerous educational, religious, and civil liberties organizations.



    PapaG

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  6. "What biologists say is that Evolution Is a Fact and a Theory. Gravity is a fact just like evolution. That's what you hear biologists saying. The "Theory of Gravity" and "Evolutionary Theory" are something completely different from facts. It may even be the case that evolutionary theory is on more solid grounds than the theory of gravity."

    It could also be semantically easier to explain the difference between the observed phenomena and the verified theory for physicists, since for some reason we say "gravity" but "theory of gravitation" or "gravitational theory". I once jokingly suggested that we could say 'evoluty' for the fact, but 'evolutional theory' could be even better (due to immediate distinction to other systems evolution). :-)

    Anyway, it is probably true that evolution is best tested in a comparison. As many physical theories on systems where there are few and relatively easily separated other effects, general relativity is tested to high precision. Sometimes to at least 10^-9 parts, IIRC.

    But for the same reason that it is easy to test general relativity it doesn't make many different predictions. We have mass behavior in gravitational fields, mass precession in high gravitational fields, light bending in gravitational fields, time dilation, gravitational redshift, singularities like black holes, presumptive radiation from pulsars, frame dragging and probably some others I have forgotten.

    Put that against the many different effects and special cases that evolution theory has explained or predicted, and the precision tests of physics are overwhelmed.

    Mustafa has described the most important other factors that detracts from the mere effective theory of GR compared to the emergent but mostly fundamental mechanisms of ET. I can add that GR is so incomplete that one can't in general solve the equations. In ordinary space one can chose foliations of spacetime and use a couple of different energy conditions to check for physically reasonable solutions.

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  7. David:

    "if evolution is a fact regardless of the correctness of any particular evolutionary theory, then by the same token gravity is a fact regardless of any particular theory of gravity."

    We must keep the distinction between the phenomena and the theory. Of course a theory lends trust to the phenomena and the objects it describes, but we can also in many cases observe the phenomena directly.

    Both evolution and gravity are such phenomena, birds of the same feather. Gravitation as process is easily seen to exist by observing things falling. In the same way evolution as process is easily seen to exist by observing phylogenetic trees (well defined branching structures) of fossils and genes laid out against time.

    "I'll give you the benefit of the doubt that you mean "General Relativity.""

    That is not so generous as one may think, considering we are discussing gravitation.

    "QM and special relativity get along quite nicely."

    In the sense that they can be combined in some relativistic QM formulations, and together predict Planck mass and its associated black hole.

    But that is exactly because we would need a quantum gravity description to study spacetime under such conditions. A few such phenomena can be predicted by semiclassical theories, but it is wrong to give the impression that QM and SR gets along under all conditions. Especially here, where Mustafa states this exactly, "never been fully reconciled", regardless we discuss GR or SR.

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  8. Billions of people in the world reject the "fact" of evolution. On the other hand, only exceedingly feeble minded adults and children reject the fact that if they jump off a bridge the direction they will fall is downward.

    Like duh. So Larry, given your apparent inability do discriminate between fact and speculation, I have to ask this: if you were to jump off a tall building, are you convinced of the direction you'd fall and if so, which direction is that?

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  9. re; special relativity

    I've been involved in a longish debate recently over the twins paradox. This is the prediction by special relativity that if there are two twins the same physical age and one twin travels to a nearby star at a significant fraction of the speed of light that upon his return he will have aged less than the one who didn't travel.

    But according to special relativity the twin who is traveling perceives the twin who stayed home as the one who traveled. The paradox Einstein described is that both twins should have the expectation of seeing the other more aged. Yet in every test of special relativity the twin who stays home (or rather a clock in motion and a clock at rest relative to the earth) the twin who stays home is the one who ages faster. Time dilation is real.

    Recently, a physicist purported to answer the paradox by incorporating a reference to very distant stars and using motion relative to them to determine which twin ages faster.

    But this goes against the equivalence principle of inertial frames. The credible way out of the twin paradox I can see is that the equivalence principle of inertial frames in special relativity is wrong. There is a fixed, or preferred, frame of reference in the universe and that fixed frame is what determines which twin ages and which doesn't.

    I'm not an expert at SR but I understand the earliest version of SR was much more like Lorentzian relativity where there the vacuum is actually an ether and that medium is what sets an absolute maximum speed of light in all reference frames and there is a fixed frame of reference in the universe (the fixed frame and the ether may be considered one and the same thing).

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    1. "Yet in every test of special relativity the twin who stays home (or rather a clock in motion and a clock at rest relative to the earth) the twin who stays home is the one who ages faster. Time dilation is real."

      But is the twin who stayed home just perceived as older by the observer? or perceived as older by the twin? or is this twin at home really older?

      I'm just curious- I know very little about physics.

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    2. I was once in the room when Richard Feynman was asked that question. He said that general relativity is needed to resolve the paradox. The twin who experienced acceleration is different from the one who didn't. And of course time dilation has been observed in objects in orbit, including both GPS satellites and astronauts' watches.

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  10. Torbjörn Larsson

    Both evolution and gravity are such phenomena, birds of the same feather. Gravitation as process is easily seen to exist by observing things falling. In the same way evolution as process is easily seen to exist by observing phylogenetic trees (well defined branching structures) of fossils and genes laid out against time.

    This is wrong. You presume the phylogenetic tree is a fact when it is, in fact, an artificial construction of the presumed course of evolution. In fact the phylogenetic tree is being updated and rearranged all the time. When the last time the fact that masses attract each other with a force defined by the law of gravitation been updated or rearranged?

    Evolution is not a fact like gravity is a fact and evolutionary theory is not a theory is not a theory as well tested as gravitational theory. To compare the two is an insult to hard science. Evolution is a narrative except in the most trivial cases which can be confirmed by observation. Gravitation is a fact which has been confirmed in all but the most extreme cases.

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  11. To appropriate hard science in an idiot posting against evolution is an insult to hard scientists (who by the way will agree with biologists that evolution is on as solid grounds as gravity.)

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  12. DaveScot

    There is no twin paradox. To be more precise: there is a well known and well understood effect of special relativity unfortunately referred to as "the twin paradox", but it should really be called an "apparent" paradox because the solution has been known from the early days of special relativity. The twins are not in a symmetric relationship. For the traveler to the stars must have periods of acceleration and deceleration, while the twin at home remains in an inertial frame at all times. It is those periods of acceleration/deceleration, when the astronaut twin is in a non-inertial frame, that give rise to the age difference.

    If someone has recently claimed to "solve the twin paradox" then I suspect they are lunatic fringe. (Or perhaps he is an undergrad, and was only reporting thst he had solved the "twin paradox" homework problem in an introductory special relativity class.)

    Dave Head

    "To appropriate hard science in an idiot posting against evolution is an insult to hard scientists (who by the way will agree with biologists that evolution is on as solid grounds as gravity.)"

    First of all, you are not a spokesman for hard scientists so you cannot make such a sweeping statement. I seriously doubt that all physicists would agree with you. Many would agree (though some might say yes because that is the pc answer.) Others might say “no way,” although not necessarily in a way meant to disparage evolution. And others (count me as one) would say they are way too different to compare head to head.

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  13. davescot says.

    Billions of people in the world reject the "fact" of evolution.

    No they don't. That's an untrue statement. There are only two reasons why someone makes a statement that's untrue. Either they're ignorant or they're lying. In your case, both reasons apply.

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  14. Not being a regular reader of UD, I had only second-hand information about DaveScot's reputation as an ignoramus. First hand information always being preferable, I'd like to thank him for showing up in person to demonstrate his howling ignorance of SR.

    (And thank to the other David for the takedown).

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  15. DaveScot said: "Billions of people in the world reject the 'fact' of evolution. On the other hand, only exceedingly feeble minded adults and children reject the fact that if they jump off a bridge the direction they will fall is downward."

    Bacterial strains that have evolved resistance to antibiotics within our lifetimes will kill those who don't believe in evolution just as effectively as jumping off a bridge will those who don't believe in general relativity.

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  16. Davescot: “In fact the phylogenetic tree is being updated and rearranged all the time.”

    Go here: http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/comdesc/

    Read the whole thing carefully.

    Especially this bit:

    “The stunning degree of match between even the most incongruent phylogenetic trees found in the biological literature is widely unappreciated, mainly because most people (including many biologists) are unaware of the mathematics involved (Bryant et al. 2002; Penny et al. 1982; Penny and Hendy 1986). Penny and Hendy have performed a series of detailed statistical analyses of the significance of incongruent phylogenetic trees, and here is their conclusion:

    ‘Biologists seem to seek the 'The One Tree' and appear not to be satisfied by a range of options. However, there is no logical difficulty in having a range of trees. There are 34,459,425 possible [unrooted] trees for 11 taxa (Penny et al. 1982), and to reduce this to the order of 10-50 trees is analogous to an accuracy of measurement of approximately one part in 10^6." (Penny and Hendy 1986, p. 414)’

    For a more realistic universal phylogenetic tree with dozens of taxa including all known phyla, the accuracy is better by many orders of magnitude. To put the significance of this incredible confirmation in perspective, consider the modern theory of gravity. Both Newton's Theory of Universal Gravitation and Einstein's General Theory of Relativity rely upon a fundamental physical constant, G, the gravitational constant. If these theories of gravity are correct, independent methods should determine similar values for G. However, to date, very precise independent measurements of the gravitational constant G disagree by nearly 1% (Kestenbaum 1998; Quinn 2000).”

    Davescot again: "Evolution is a narrative except in the most trivial cases which can be confirmed by observation."

    Dave, in the other thread about the human GULO pseudogene, Larry invited ID theorists to explain why humans and other primates should have such a pseudogene in their genomes and why these pseudogenes should also share many of the same inactivating mutations.

    I think that’s a very good question and I'm genuinely curious how you would explain such a curious fact.

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  17. Dave:

    "Billions of people in the world reject the "fact" of evolution."

    And what has that to do with science?

    Do you also think ID will become a science by making people believe so?

    Wait, you do, don't you...

    "according to special relativity"

    There is your problem, right there. Since we are looking at accelerated frames, we are really doing general relativity. And when we see that there is no paradox.

    Anyone with 'an IQ north of 150' should have figured out the problem in the assumptions with a speed approaching lightspeed.

    "a physicist purported to answer the paradox by incorporating a reference to very distant stars and using motion relative to them to determine which twin ages faster."

    Since there is no paradox, and the use of any one of Mach's principles in combination with general relativity is problematic, that physicist is probably a crackpot.

    "The credible way out of the twin paradox I can see is that the equivalence principle of inertial frames in special relativity is wrong."

    And now you are a crackpot too. Why am I not surprised?

    "and there is a fixed frame of reference in the universe"

    It is true that Einstein pondered the use of Mach's principle in general relativity, but he had to abandoned it. This principle is so loosely defined, that it is hard to judge if any of them are compatible with GR or not. I believe most physicists think not. IIRC Wikipedia has a good starter on this.

    David:

    "you cannot make such a sweeping statement"

    But IIRC according to polls, that is a true statement. Physicists are mostly intelligent and educated, and of course they know and agree with the science of other areas since they trust the process.

    There is no ground to think that a scientist answers in a pc way.

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  18. Dave:
    "You presume the phylogenetic tree is a fact when it is, in fact, an artificial construction of the presumed course of evolution."

    The fossils and their characteristics and ages are fixed. I wasn't discussing the updates and refinements in the models, but the overall structure.

    The process laying down the fossils is no more updated or rearranged than the process of falling in a gravity field. What we are doing is analogous to taking more photos of the falling, and refining our gravitational model of it. But neither case change the fact of the existence of the structure or falling.

    "as well tested as gravitational theory"

    I addressed that above. See also Tony Jackson about the 10^-6 to perhaps 10^-9 or better part accuracy, fully rivaling gravitational theory and as noted much better precision.

    Tony:

    Thank you for a superb reference!

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  19. "And now you are a crackpot too."

    Of course I meant: And now you are a crackpot in physics too.

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  20. Oh oh, I just had to come back with the observation that "the standard phylogenetic tree is known to 38 decimal places"!

    Next time I argue trees I will surely remember the astonishing accuracy the branching structure allow the analysis to result in. But it is rather understandable, if you think about it.

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  21. evolutionist vs. creationist debate

    evolutionist: what's that, fool?
    creationist: you are so dumb
    evolutionist: sorry I didn't catch your point, you liar
    creationist:what's that? Your lies are deafening.
    evolutionist:sheep
    creationist:goat
    (end scene)

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  22. Yeah, ok...I can never believe that I came from a freakin' monkey. Darwin was a nut who drank too much Amaretto & had a heavy snuff can. The only logical explanation for our existance is God's divine plan. How clear that is. All it takes is a close look upon a simple creature such as a butterfly...only such beauty could come from God...not a freakish accident. Yeah...ok, ya'll go ahead & believe that rubbish then go to the zoo & complain to your cousin, Bob the Llama.

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  23. If Universal Common Descent is a fact, I would expect to see references to survey papers in paleontology to support that claim. Could you please point me to those references?

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    1. http://www.livescience.com/4203-shark-fins-human-arms-genes.html.

      http://www.genome.gov/page.cfm?pageID=10005831

      http://www.genome.gov/10005835

      http://genetics.thetech.org/ask/ask404


      Here are some links to get your started....

      Delete
  24. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  25. I agree with "anon" above. Is there a specific peer reviewed study on the topic of evolution as a fact that we can point to and reference? That would be very handy and interesting to read to see exactly how that reasoning process goes rather than having to fall back on "well everyone thinks so." That's not completely helpful even if important to consider.

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    1. I'm not a scientist, but I can find hundreds of examples -published papers- with a quick goggle search showing much of the evidence of evolution. Evidence=fact.

      Try googling and looking into genomes, humans and animals genomes, the human evolution fossil records, etc

      I would not think anyone paper would be enough. I would think it would take all day just to list some of the references.

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  26. WAR_ON_ERROR asks,

    I agree with "anon" above. Is there a specific peer reviewed study on the topic of evolution as a fact that we can point to and reference? That would be very handy and interesting to read to see exactly how that reasoning process goes rather than having to fall back on "well everyone thinks so." That's not completely helpful even if important to consider.

    Evolution is defined as the change in heritable characteristics in a population over time. There are probably a million scientific papers that present evidence of a change in heritable characteristics in various populations over time.

    Evolution also refers to the history of life or "descent with modification." There are at least as many papers that will give you the evidence to support descent with modification. The specific example given in my posting above is that humans and chimps share a common ancestor.

    That common ancestry is so well supported by thousands of papers that we consider it to be a fact. It would be perverse to deny all of the data that has accumulated over the past 120 years.

    You can't point to any one paper that establishes the facts of evolution. Science is cumulative and knowledge is gained over time as more and more evidence is amassed. You can read summaries of the evidence in most review articles but if you want to see all the evidence first hand you are going to have to invest a considerable amount of time reading hundreds of papers.

    Somehow I don't think you are going to do that. I suspect you don't know how science works.

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  27. There's no need for insults or the canned responses. I was just looking for the next level of depth beyond scientific authority short of getting a degree in evolutionary biology for when I discuss these things with creationists. I find it strange that with such a cultural management crisis on the hands of the scientific community, they do not parade the top 50 relevant papers around the internet and carefully explain their contents on national television over and over again (I would actually read them, if they were organized in terms of relevance and significance). The stuff on talkorigins does not appear to be peer reviewed. Maybe I missing something, but perhaps biologists need to take courses in communication as well as whatevertheelsetheythinktheyaredoing.

    Thanks anyway,
    Ben

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  28. Well said, Ben. Larry knows very well that the paleontological record doesn't support a gradualistic Universal Common Descent (UCD). We have lots and lots of fossils, but most are of a relatively few different kinds most of which are very similar to species we see today. Gould did a survey of the fossil evidence; that is why he developed his theory of Punctuated Equilibrium, which also has no support from the fossil record, as he asserts that evolution occurs too quickly to leave evidence in the fossil record of most intermediate species.

    As the question of UCD primarily belongs to paleontology, those who are not paleontologists who speak about it in a general sense are out of field, which includes all authorities whom Larry cited except for Gould. As Gould's survey showed a lack of evidentiary support from the fossil record for a gradualistic UCD and he asserts that evolution occurs too rapidly to leave fossil evidence of most intermediate species, appealing to Gould doesn't help Larry's case. One wonders, "Where is the support from the paleontological community for Larry's bold claim?"

    Larry's appeal to the human/chimp link is weak. The evidence for the link is based on very few samples and lacks sufficient scrutiny, as it is very new. One would think that Larry would appeal to well-established evidence if he makes the bold claim that "UCD is a fact."

    In conclusion, the claim that "UCD is a fact" is just overreaching equivocation.

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  29. Tom,

    Since you invited me to this discussion I figured I would respond to the mistakes I've seen.

    I think you and Ben (WOR) have missed what Larry actually said, though I don't think Larry specifically answered or dispelled your concerns. Tom is specifically asking about Universal Common Descent (UCD). Precisely, "Is UCD a fact? Larry's response directed Ben to two specific facts that are supported:

    (i) change in heritable characteristics in a population over time, and

    (ii) descent with modification.

    Is this UCD? No! Universal Common Descent is a theory explaining what the facts tell us. That is the role of theory in science--they provide an explanatory model of the facts or information gathered, so as to increase our set of knowledge.

    Is UCD a fact? No, because it would require us to have absolute knowledge about something. Facts are not partial truths or probable truths, they are truths of what actually occurred. Those are binary--either true or false (link: Maher's lecture notes explain this aspect of probability reasoning in the philosophy of science). The theory inferred is taken to be plausible and acceptable as there are, at the very least, no defeaters to the status of its truth as used (other epistemic norms should be considered but that is beyond the point here).


    Let me explain this further. Larry pointed out the simple truth that we have a wealth of knowledge or information and facts that allow us to infer to the case that organisms have descent with modification and changes in heritable characteristics. It would be incorrect for us to say "which came first, the theory or the facts?" This appears as precisely what is being asked for by you (Tom) and Ben. That question makes no sense because you do not get a static relation between our models and our interpretation of facts. There is a symmetric and dynamic relation that models get revised, improved or "ironed out" as more information comes in, and they allow us to better interpret the information into a larger coherent whole with larger sets of facts, knowledge and theories.

    The creationists like to think biologists just jumped onto Darwin's theory of UCD and have erroneously interpreted the facts every since. That is a complete caricature of science and evolutionary theory, and disregard for the symmetric and dynamic relationship mentioned above. We should be clear that this caricature is false and we will not fancy it further unless you wish to fit exactly as Larry stated, "you don't know how science works." Not to take a cheap shot, but I know Ben enough and this is true, and I've argued as much elsewhere (link).

    Thus, we should really be asking if the acceptance of UCD is a valid explanatory theory of the facts is warranted. I will argue it is. The superficial idea would be that for all x that are alive today we can plausibly (or at least in principle) identify an ancestor, and recursively we can identify the ancestor just as well for those ancestors. Since this "pool" of ancestors gets smaller there is a common ancestor. Furthermore, it is supported by the biochemistry that demonstrates all life on this planet shares basic characteristics that we would expect in this idealized universal common ancestor. Furthermore, the fact that the pool gets smaller as some of the "tree" that branches to now close off, further supports this concept.

    This is clearly a superficial outline of evolution, and I know it can better be articulated and explained in detail by trained biologists (Larry?). The question I have against Tom or any creationists or anti-evolutionist, if such a creature exists, is this: What evidence is there to suppose the theory of universal common descent is wrong or misguided or misleading? Where is it correct? If creationists want to meaningfully add to the discourse then the theory is not binary. You don't either accept or fail to accept. You add to the dynamic relationship by evaluating the evidence and support the "ironing out" of scientific theories. Since there is a mountain of evidence to support the foundational aspects of evolutionary theory and UCD, the creationist is in store for quite an uphill struggle.

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  30. Tom says,

    Larry knows very well that the paleontological record doesn't support a gradualistic Universal Common Descent (UCD).

    I don't know what you mean by "Universal Common Descent." For the record, I don't necessarily support the idea that there was only a single common ancestor although I think it was very likely.

    We have lots and lots of fossils, but most are of a relatively few different kinds most of which are very similar to species we see today. Gould did a survey of the fossil evidence; that is why he developed his theory of Punctuated Equilibrium, which also has no support from the fossil record, as he asserts that evolution occurs too quickly to leave evidence in the fossil record of most intermediate species.

    Punctuated equilibrium was proposed because of the excellent fossil record of marine organisms. The record was so good that it became apparent that speciation events occurred very rapidly and that most morphological change was associated with speciation.

    Most of the time the fossils didn't change very much. This stasis has excellent support in the same fossil record that shows rapid speciation.

    Tom, I get the feeling that you don't understand punctuated equilibria. It sounds like you've been listening to creationist liars.

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  31. Oh, and to add to the theme, I have to disagree with our author. I do not believe evolution qualifies as a fact. To compare, look at the theory of gravity. We have two things:

    (i) The fact that the world operates in such a way, such as planets in orbit and apples falling from trees

    (ii) Explanation of (i).

    It is clear to see that (i) is a fact. What (ii) consists of is our understanding of (i) with some kind of explanatory theory. The model used to explain it might be "Keplerian" (it preceded a concept of gravity but still explained the same facts) Newtonian, or Einsteinian. Furthermore, it might be some quantum theory of gravity (not that we have one, but some theoretical models are in the works).

    In any case, we don't have "gravity is a fact" simply because we have a highly accurate and powerful theory explaining the events of the world we denote in terms of "gravity." It will always remain a theory. To say it is a fact is to convolute the very difference between (i) and (ii).

    Using that same notion, we have the same difference, where (i) would be the facts surrounding evolution, and this is what the scientists investigates, and (ii), which explains those facts meaningfully and has developed off of past (i)'s and (ii)'s in other context and other domains that are relevant.

    Like my last post, I am only giving a very superficial run through of this stuff, but this is precisely what needs to be understood. Certainly the details get messier, and things are not always so clean cut, but there is a difference between facts and theories, and the facts don't become the theory since the theory is merely denoted as X, and the facts are facts. We certainly take the facts to embody X, but that does not pull X into the facts; e.g., we have a very good understanding of gravity, and that understanding is very justified and supported (by the facts! among other things), but that will never turn this understanding of this thing denoted gravity into a fact because to talk about gravity is to talk about our interpretation of the facts. To draw back to Newton:

    The apple falling is a brute fact which is explained by gravity, a theory.

    We will not have the case that "The apple falling is gravity." It just doesn't make sense to talk about gravity as facts. Such things always proceed a "because..." specifically because they are a theory that explains the facts. I cannot drill that point home anymore than I have just now numerous times.

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  32. Larry,

    You say to Tom, "I get the feeling that you don't understand punctuated equilibria. It sounds like you've been listening to creationist liars."

    Do you care to enlighten the audience or at the very least provide reference to some good source of information, if you don't want to reinvent the whell, so those listening to liars or just the uninitiated can get educated on the material? Your audience will benefit substantially from you assistance.

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  33. I anticipate two possible criticism to what I said above, or at least have two things I feel I should clarify to avoid those possibilities.

    I said facts are binary in that you either obtain said event or you don't. As a statistician I should point out the problem here is that we might have a collection of data (facts) that we use to infer, with some confidence level (interval), X. This X, the critic might say, is also a fact, and it comes as a probable fact not 0 or 1 (degrees of truth). I disagree. We only have a degree of belief in the outcome. This outcome is either confirmed or disconfirmed (0 or 1), or it remains unknown. You do not have "unknown facts" because you don't know the status of those truths. Facts are what are known. We might have a fact "We evaluate P(X) to be true 95% of the time." But this does not make the probability or statistical inference P(X) a fact. We have a fact of the matter surrounding that inference.

    Similarly, and much of what Larry said in the blog mirrors my concerns in the previous comment, we have a difference of facts and theory. To say, for instance, we have a fact of the matter about, say, the Einsteinian theory of gravity is not to say gravity is a fact. The fact is of the propositional form, "We have a theory of gravity G." This does not make the theory G a fact. The fact is that we have a theory G that explains the facts of the world (planetary motion, apples falling from trees, etc.) that embody this model about them.

    To recapitulate, we have facts which are binary, we have inferences based on facts which come with degrees of truth (and I will argue that these inferences qualify as knowledge, if at least only in the propositional form presented above, but that is beside the point here) and we have theories that model the facts. We might have facts about our theories, e.g., the propositional form presented above, but that does not make our theories become facts.

    My challenge is this: If you think a theory like, say, evolution, can also be a fact, then what is the content of this fact? What is its ontological status (since facts are real things in the world)? I suspect that, which is how I have seen it presented, it would be in the propositional form misunderstood, i.e., we have a fact of the form "We have a theory G that explains x." But it is a convolution of the difference to take part of this proposition to obtain the quality (of being a fact) of the proposition.

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  34. Bryan, thanks for your comments.

    I think you misunderstand Larry's actual claims. Did you follow the link at the top of the post? In it, Stephen Gould claimed that ape-like ancestry for humans is a fact, "And humans evolved from ape-like ancestors whether they did so by Darwin's proposed mechanism or by some other yet to be discovered." In it, Richard Lewontin stated, "It is a fact that all living forms come from previous living forms."

    I hope this clarifies Larry's actual claims for you.

    It seems that Larry doesn't understand the difference between fact and strong belief or the difference in epistemic certainty between observing processes where experimental control can be exercised vs. inferring processes from the stuff that is left after data-destroying processes have done their destruction. One would think that a biochemist would understand the difference in epistemic certainty between abduction from the end results of millions of years of the action of data-destroying processes and experimental abduction where there is control of variables and the effect of data-destroying processes can be prevented or mitigated.

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  35. Tom,

    Yes, I did follow the link. What Gould said is not necessarily what Larry said, so I try not to fill other people's mouths. I was responding to what Larry said specifically.

    The quoted claims, I would agree, are not facts in the sense we are trying to discern between theory and fact. The difference is that we are discerning the model of interpretation we accept as plausible (again, symmetrically and dynamically supported) to explain the (brute) facts. It is a fact, for instance, that I am now sitting in this chair, typing on a keyboard. I do not need any kind of theory to explain that, nor does any explanation need to be provided. It is a brute fact.

    If it is the case that humans evolved from an ape-like ancestor, then it either is a brute fact or it is not. The fact of the matter is, we don't know if it is or not a fact. We infer from our plausible and justified stance of interpretation build around evolutionary theory.

    Now, is this the sense of fact these people are appealing to? I don't know, but I would suspect not. If so, then they are simply mistaken. They are not incorrect if they refer to fact in the more loose connotation that it is a "truth" or something "held to be true." This is because, as I said above, inferences can be knowledge and taken as true under the given interpretation/theory/model. In that sense, yes, we might denote those propositions as facts. More correctly, we can simply say "it is true we came from an ape-like ancestor." This truth, of course, requires some kind of interpretation, metaphysical, theoretical or whatever. In this case, if we loosely use the denotation "fact" for truths, then we can see the substitution makes sense.

    Is this the sense Larry is stating in his blog with the citation? No, that use is clearly the distinction between theory and (brute) fact as I explained in my original comment. I think it would be fruitful for everyone to specify what they mean, precisely, by these terms, but I think the use I have explained makes the best use because it keeps things distinct and in proper relation to the other terms. That's just my suggestion, though. I should add the caveat, however, that Gould is incorrect when he says, "[evolution] is also a fact" as he defines them as "the world's data." The reason for this is because he doesn't distinguish the propositional content and the truth-predicate (or fact claim) appended to it. I will clarify this further in the recap below.

    Nevertheless, if your last statements are to undermine the accuracy or truth claim to the propositions, then I fully disagree. The science is strong and I very much support evolutionary theory and the inferences made. The propositional content is more accurately "humans descended from an ape-like ancestor." We need not add "is a fact" or "is true" because that property is not part of the propositional content. It would be as fallacious as saying "We evaluate P(X) to be true 95% of the time." This factual claim does not make P(X) a fact (composition fallacy in general, but specifically an error in attributing to P(X) the quality of the whole proposition).

    Thus, we don't want to make the mistake that "it is a fact that (humans descended from an ape-like ancestor)." with (humans descended from an ape-like ancestor). If we denote the parenthetical as p, then it is obvious that there is a difference between "it is a fact that p" and p, just as there is a difference between "We evaluate P(X) to be true 95% of the time" and P(X).

    To recapitulate:

    The claim "it is a fact that p" and the claim p are two different things. If we denote the first as q, it would be more accurate to say it is q(p) since the proposition has further propositional content, and really it is a conjunction of two things, i.e., it's truth condition is that the claim "it is true/(a fact) that p" and p both have to be true. The former might be part of what Gould calls "the world's data" because it is true if people do assent to its truth or claim it epistemically. But just as it might be true I believe "it is true that (monkeys can fly)," it does not follow that monkeys can actually fly! The truth of the first is a separate fact from the propositional content. The world's data might be about evolution theory, but that does not make evolution theory itself a fact, and that is what I tried to point out in my challenge to Larry and others in my previous comment.

    Given this distinction, I will reiterate I disagree with your sentiments about the falsity of evolution and your hang up with destructive processes, but that discussion is wholly irrelevant and can be better held on another blog. Feel free to start it.

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  36. Bryan, I have a problem with your statement, "In this case, if we loosely use the denotation "fact" for truths, then we can see the substitution makes sense." In order for this to be supported, there needs to be a survey paper, which was my original point. As an example of one from the IDists, see Paul Nelson's paper, "Is Common Descent an Axiom of Biology?" at http://www.arn.org/docs/nelson
    /pn_darwinianparadigm061593.htm . (You'll need to edit the link because it wouldn't fit within the line width.) The biggest problem with Nelson's paper is that it has not received sufficient scrutiny. However, this is an example of the kind of paper that is needed. Maybe you have a reference to such a paper?

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  37. Larry, you asked what I meant by Universal Common Descent. I got it from the section at talkorigins entitled "What is Universal Common Descent?" at http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/comdesc/

    In the past, you've indicated a problem with the term, Common Descent with Modification. Perhaps "Single Genealogical Map of Life" would be better. The point is really a genealogy where all species are related. Single Genealogical Map of Life doesn't specify the nature of the map, direction of evolution, reliance upon a definition of species, or any evolutionary mechanism.

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  38. Tom,

    I do not see why a survey would need to be done. It is rather moot if scientists understand the philosophy of science to use such terminology correctly. I mean, consider Beyond Belief 2006; we got to witness many scientists step out of their field, but especially step into philosophy and butcher it. My point was that IF fact was being used loosely, which we can expect from people not trained to use it precisely, or appealing to a non-technical audience in this instance, then there is no reason to suspect it was a technical reference. The term plausibly was used loosely, and as such, it makes sense in this context. Even if it wasn't the case, then they are making a blunder to confuse terminology.

    The fact is, either they screwed up fact or they use evolution in two representations. On the one hand they say "evolution is a theory" referring to the theory of evolution, and they might say "evolution is a fact" referring to the process of evolution which is the "world's data", that are being explained by the theory of evolution, which in turn gives those processes the denotation that they are a process of this thing called evolution (from the theory). However, we're still faced with a loose usage of the term since on the one hand, it is technical (the theory), and on the other it is loose (using the term in general to mean "change" which is referring to those processes of change that we have evidence of and the theory explains).

    The only problem is the propositional statement referring to evolution. They use the words in different senses and convolute one proposition's value for an inner proposition within that proposition. In any case, people just need to be clear about the things they are saying. I think Larry did an appropriate job in his response by not saying "we have proof of evolution" but "we have evidence of x, y and z" which are what we use to infer things about evolution and common descent. We wouldn't say "x, y and z are evolution" unless we're just being loose with our speech. They are explained by and in the theory of evolution, so we might just umbrella say "it's evolution" and "they are facts" and make a substitution "evolution is a fact." Is it correct? Not really, but it isn't a grievous error, either. It has no substantial implications on science or evolution, etc.

    And if you're trying to make a hyperlink, go learn how to use an anchor tag (the a one listed underneath the comment box), like I did above for my link. That way, the link is captured in a word(s) and wont run-over.

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  39. I think we’re probably dealing with a concerted troll attack here, but let’s give them the benefit of the doubt -- once, anyway...

    It seems that Larry doesn't understand the difference between fact and strong belief...

    Larry understands this perfectly well, as he made clear when he wrote It would be perverse to deny all of the data that has accumulated over the past 120 years. In other words evolution has as much claim to be called a fact as anything else we call a fact -- and a lot more than most of what we call facts. It is as much a fact as the fact that I had breakfast this morning: I can't prove it, even to myself, because I may have completely forgotten that I was doing something else, but there is no point in adopting an absurd hypothesis when a reasonable one will do. That’s as close as we get to a fact in science.

    He went on to say something that could be misleading: The [excellent fossil record of marine organisms] was so good that it became apparent that speciation events occurred very rapidly and that most morphological change was associated with speciation. Larry knows what this means, but he also knows that "very rapidly" means, in this context, "over a period of a few hundred thousand years". You need to understand that geological time-scales are incredibly slow compared with the sort of time scales we are used to.

    Take dinosaurs, for example. If I remember rightly they ruled the earth for around 200 million years, and we have around 2000 good examples of complete (or nearly complete) dinosaur fossils. 2000 sounds like quite a lot until you realize they are spread over such a long period that there is an average of 100000 years between each consecutive pair of fossils.

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  40. athel said,
    "...In other words evolution has as much claim to be called a fact as anything else we call a fact"

    We are discussing UCD, not evolution generally. The occurrence of speciation is uncontroversial. So let me clarify and amend your statement to, "In other words Universal Common Descent has as much claim to be called a fact as anything else we call a fact."

    I am underwhelmed. Are you seriously asserting that UCD has as much evidence to support it as do Maxwell's Equations, upon which all electrical technology relies? In the biological context, do you seriously claim that UCD has as much support as speciation, which has actually been observed? Would you seriously assert that epistemic certainty wouldn't be significantly enhanced for UCD if a machine were to be invented which would allow us to view prehistory (said machine potentially called a "telechronovision")?

    athel said,
    "You need to understand that geological time-scales are incredibly slow compared with the sort of time scales we are used to."

    NSS. The auxiliary assertion that vertebrate fossils rarely form has been falsified by the relatively new field of taphonomy. Vertebrate fossils are formed yearly by flooding, which allows for rapid burial and fossilization of the corpses. The evidence is that the vast majority of vertebrate fossils are formed by flooding or other rapid, protective events (e.g., freezing in ice, trapping in amber, trapping in bogs where fossilization is rapid, etc.). Scavenging, bacterial decomposition, etc. destroy corpses unless they are buried quickly (protected from scavenging and decomposition). The sedimentation rate in fresh- and salt-water isn't rapid enough to allow for fossilization before scavenging and decomposition of the vertebrate corpse. Anoxygenic zones may protect from scavenging, but not from bacterial decomposition, which still results in the disarticulation of the skeletal remains with the resulting potential of the conflation of vertebrate fossils.

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  41. Some of you all don't know about the dinosaur graveyard in southeast Utah where lots and lots of dinosaur fossils are all in one place. http://www.latimes.com/news/science/la-sci-dinosaurs18-2008oct18,0,3414909.story

    This is more evidence that fossilization isn't rare and that the dearth of intermediate fossils is powerful evidence against UCD.

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  42. Bryan Goodrich says,

    Oh, and to add to the theme, I have to disagree with our author. I do not believe evolution qualifies as a fact. To compare, look at the theory of gravity. We have two things:

    (i) The fact that the world operates in such a way, such as planets in orbit and apples falling from trees

    (ii) Explanation of (i).

    It is clear to see that (i) is a fact. What (ii) consists of is our understanding of (i) with some kind of explanatory theory. The model used to explain it might be "Keplerian" (it preceded a concept of gravity but still explained the same facts) Newtonian, or Einsteinian. Furthermore, it might be some quantum theory of gravity (not that we have one, but some theoretical models are in the works).

    In any case, we don't have "gravity is a fact" simply because we have a highly accurate and powerful theory explaining the events of the world we denote in terms of "gravity." It will always remain a theory. To say it is a fact is to convolute the very difference between (i) and (ii).


    What you call (i) above is merely another way of saying that we observe gravity in action.

    Gravity is defined as "a natural phenomenon by which objects with mass attract one another." [Wikipedia]. Since nobody doubts the existence of gravity, and since we can observe it repeatedly, it's safe to say that gravity is a fact.

    The Theory of Gravity is an attempt to explain gravity just as Evolutionary Theory is an attempt to explain the fact of evolution, where evolution is defined as: "Evolution is a process that results in heritable changes in a population spread over many generations." [see What Is Evolution?].

    Evolution and gravity as both facts.

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  43. Tom says,

    We are discussing UCD, not evolution generally. The occurrence of speciation is uncontroversial. So let me clarify and amend your statement to, "In other words Universal Common Descent has as much claim to be called a fact as anything else we call a fact."

    Tom, I don't know whether you are deliberately trying to confuse everyone or whether it's you who is confused. I'll assume, once, that it's you who is confused.

    Evolution is a fact. And it's a fact that humans and other apes share a common ancestor.

    Universal common ancestry is not a fact. It looks very likely that all living things share a single common ancestor but other possibilities—such as extensive sharing of genes between two independent ancestors—have not been conclusively ruled out.

    What we do know is that all living animals have a common ancestor that lived about one billion years ago. Similarly, all living plants have a common ancestor and so do all living fungi.

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  44. So, Larry, do you have a telechronovision? Cause if you do, I want to get one too. You must have observed the generation of all the living organisms in order to be able to claim that "What we do know is that all living animals have a common ancestor that lived about one billion years ago."

    So, where do I get that telechronovision? I hope you're not relying on the pathetic evidence of paleontology for your claim, but rather on actually observing the generation of the genealogical map of life. If you're merely relying on paleontology, that would be so disappointing as I had my heart set on a telechronovision.

    I think it's really sorry that someone like you who actually does experimentation can't see how incredibly weak the evidence is for a common ancestor for all animals as compared with the observed evidence of speciation. You've really diminished the epistemic strength of "fact." That's very miserable rhetoric.

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  45. Larry,

    You don't want to equivocate terms here. Yes, we do refer to those events as gravity or evolution, but those are not the same as the theory. To say "evolution is a theory and a fact" is convoluted precisely because of that equivocation.

    To get more technical, the way they are described is extensional because you can generalize the instance indexically. We might say "The apple falling is an instance of gravity or a phenomenon of gravity." The apple falling becomes one of a whole class of phenomena which we describe by gravity. It is really no different than saying "x is gravity" where x is any phenomenon which satisfies that condition. Now here is where you need to be careful because how do we derive that definition you quote from wikipedia? It is informed by the theory! The theory of gravity provides the intensional content of our statement. To make it more simple

    Gx: x is a gravitational phenomena

    is the extensional definition which its meaning, the intensional content, is informed by the theory. To to define G requires the theory of gravity. Now what you have said is that "G is a theory and a fact." Well, the theory defines G and x is the fact and they are two wholly different things. Simply because we put them in this relationship to describe the phenomenon x by G does not mean we can talk about them like they are the same.

    Put another way, if you denoted gravity (G) by something else, say E, then we would say "the apple falling is an instance of E" and that "E is a fact and a theory." It's mere semantics at this point.

    To be clear then, you refer to "gravity" as two things in one instance. You are saying "(Gravity is a theory) and (Gravity is a fact)" as if both of these content is one thing, i.e., "Gravity is a theory and a fact." Yet we have two different statements. We have "(G is a theory) and (x is a fact)" and you cannot say G and x are the same thing simply because you can denote them the same. This is where that looseness in speech is coming in that I mentioned before.

    It is more clear to simply talk about those events which demonstrate the instance, such as an apple falling in the case of gravity or the genetic variation in a population over time in the case of evolution as they are, and use the denotation to refer to the theory which describes those events. Thus, we would have "(Gravity is a theory) and (an apple falling is a fact) and (an apple falling is an instance of gravity as stated by the theory of gravitation)." Symbolically I might simply say that we have G and x and we can talk about them as Gx (the third content).

    Denotations themselves are meaningless so saying "evolution is a theory and a fact" is meaningless unless you provide the content of "evolution" and as I've shown we have two different kinds of content, and if we say E is the theory part and x the factual part, then we have "E is a theory and x is a fact" and that is obviously not what is being stated in "evolution is a fact and a theory" since that one word references two different things. It is convoluted.

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  46. anonymous asks,

    I hope you're not relying on the pathetic evidence of paleontology for your claim, ...

    No, of course I'm not relying on fossil evidence alone. That would be silly when there's much stronger evidence available.

    But you knew that, didn't you? It was a trick question, right? I'm sure you aren't as stupid as you look.

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  47. Bryan Goodrich says,

    You don't want to equivocate terms here. Yes, we do refer to those events as gravity or evolution, but those are not the same as the theory. To say "evolution is a theory and a fact" is convoluted precisely because of that equivocation.

    That's exactly the point. Why are you finding this so difficult to understand?

    "Evolution" and "gravity" are observable processes. They are facts. Evolutionary theory and the theory of gravity are theories that explain the facts. Facts and theories are two different things but evolution is both a fact and a theory and it's useful to keep the distinction in mind to avoid confusion.

    I don't know what your goal is here. Do you have different words to describe the attraction between two masses or the change in allele frequencies in a population? Could you let me know what those words are?

    Do you also get confused when people talk about economic theory and music theory? Do you think that the economy and music aren't facts?

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  48. Larry, you give me way too much credit. I'm a knuckle-dragging creationist.

    You're such a friendly fellow, what with all your hand-waving. A great big Texas-sized howdy back atcha!

    I know you're a busy fellow and you'll want to be getting back to your evolution philately, so I'll just wish you God's blessings.

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  49. Larry,

    That's exactly the point. Why are you finding this so difficult to understand?

    I understand it just fine. You're the one not seeing the problem with an equivocation being used. You say we just need to be aware of what a fact and a theory are to remove confusion. No, you need to not make sophomoric mistakes in your rhetoric to avoid confusion, such as an obvious equivocation of terms.

    The use of "Gravity" to explain, generally, all those facts which are categorically under the umbrella of explanation by the theory of gravitation is indexical. The facts are not called gravity themselves. You do not say "the event/process of an apple falling to the ground is gravity." It is precisely that event which is being explained by gravity. I'm sure you've been exposed to basic mathematics like set theory. When we say we have Gx, where x is the indexical event that is characterized as belonging to this category of gravity, G, we are saying x belongs to the set G. Gravity is G, any event x is only characterized as gravity by its fulfilling the properties of G which do so in light of the fact G explains every x in the set (it has to be a symmetrical relationship). Is x gravity? No, G is. x is an event characterized by G. It is only loose speech to say x is gravity.

    Therefore, gravity is only a fact inasmuch as the facts which comprise the set G are themselves facts. But it makes no sense to predicate "fact" on G when "fact" is predicated on each element in G.

    The equivocation is making reference to x by the same term in reference to G and saying the name has some kind of meaning (obtains properties). The name doesn't. A name does not carry such meanings on its own, and to ignore that is to just be confused about language.

    To further the case, there is no confusion is talking about the economy as being a fact, but that statement itself appears linguistically strange. What is meant by the name "economy" is a whole lot of other intensional (make note of the s in there) content behind the name which accounts for the meaning of "fact." "Fact," then, is not being predicated on "economy." The fact of "economy" is the complex of social interactions occurring between social entities, in this case, those things we name as consumers and producers.

    So no. There is no confusion. I would hope not considering I'm getting my PhD in economics. But don't worry, I do not hold anything against your confusion of language. I wouldn't presume you've studied the anthropology or philosophy of language or brush up on linguistics.

    Do you have different words to describe the attraction between two masses or the change in allele frequencies in a population? Could you let me know what those words are?

    This is a good point in case. The word used to describe the attraction between two masses is gravity. That is what a theory of gravitation provides, a description. Does the world also explain or describe the fact? No, it does not. The words that describe that are precisely those which show the event/fact belongs to the "set" G mentioned earlier--namely, "attraction between two masses." So when we say "the apple fell for being attracted to the earth" (though that is not technically correct as attraction is vague in this usage, but I'm sure you've taken a basic physics course) that is the description of the event. We do not talk about that event by a name. I mean, you could. You can baptize anything you want with a name. You can call it Fred for all I care. But the intension is still "the apple fell for being attracted to the earth."

    I don't know how I can make your confusion any clearer. If you've taken set theory before, it is essentially like saying you can refer to 3 by "natural number." Well, sure, 3 belongs to the set of natural numbers and we can say "3 is a natural number" but it makes no sense to say "3 is natural number." There's no equality. You do not name 3 by the set it belongs to. You name it by the property which constitutes its belonging to the set. In the statement "3 is a natural number" we get specifically the indirect article "a" acting as a function inferring that very belonging relation that makes the statement true.

    Thus, it appears odd to say "3 is natural number" yet that is precisely how odd it would appear to say "the apple falling is gravity." Now, I can understand where some confusion might arise because the name usage gets used in denoting the relation, e.g., when I say "3 is prime." But here we are not saying "3 is prime number." We would say "3 is a prime number" because it belongs to the set of prime numbers, and thus has the property of being prime, so the two statements come as equivalent, i.e., "3 is prime" is equivalent to saying "3 is a prime number." Likewise, we might say "the apple falling is an instance of gravity" which is just saying saying "the event of (the apple falling) is a member of the set of events which are described by Gravity." Another way would be to simply say "(the apple falling) is a (gravitational event)." But this functions just like "3 is a prime number" because "gravitational event" obtains its meaning, the intension, from the theory of gravity.

    What is my goal? To show the error in the claim that "evolution is a fact." Fact is not something to be predicated on evolution because evolution is a set. Even if you find a way to predicate it, then you're equivocating two senses of "fact." Where one works on terms like "evolution" and another that works on what are facts proper, such as the events we identify and describe through the theory. That would be like equivocating the idea of addition simply because it is denoted the same, when it is clearly two different things when you add integers versus adding matrices. But now I think I've gone too far into the abstract using mathematics, but since linguistics and logic alluded you before, I figured I'd use other analogies to demonstrate the fundamental relations I am pointing out.

    You are in error to say evolution is a fact because there's an inherent evocation going on.

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  50. Bryan, are you a post-modernest?

    You sure sound like one.

    You are dead wrong.

    Let's just leave it at that.

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  51. Larry,

    Well, postmodernism is a pretty vague concept, but I'm far from it actually. I'm Analytic--particularly, a naturalist.

    What seems lost on you is the fact you're equivocating terms while maintaining that they are different and denoting them equally. It's just sloppy. As a scientist, that kind of crap wouldn't get you an inch. Yet, when it comes to precision here you come off convoluting the discussion.

    Note, I'm not saying I don't understand what you're communicating. You're saying "evolution is a theory and evolution is a fact" while at the same time also saying "evolution in the first sense is not the same as evolution in the second sense" but not actually asserting the latter. In fact, you say, "Facts and theories are two different things ...and it's useful to keep the distinction in mind to avoid confusion." Which distinction? You're going to tell me it is logical to claim:

    1. X is P (evolution is a theory)
    2. X is Q (evolution is a fact)
    3. P is not Q (theories aren't facts)
    4. X is not X (Substitution)
    5. X is X (tautology)
    Therefore, contradiction by 4 and 5.

    You certainly wouldn't make the blunder that x=5 and x=7 and x=x always, so 5=7. You're naming two completely different things by X here, yet it is no different than trying to tell me that two natural numbers that are different are the same, simply because we can denote them both by X. You cannot make that denotation in the same breath while asserting they're different. It's is idiotic as saying "well, X isn't X." A straight contradiction to the most obvious of tautologies, that "X, in fact, always is X." That is why your use of the name "evolution" is an equivocation, even though I know you're referring to two different things.

    But in any practical setting, who would say "the apple falling is gravity"? We might understand what you're saying. Hell, we understand broken English just fine, usually. It doesn't mean it is grammatical and makes sense when being precise. So either you're throwing precision out the window (sloppy scientist then), or advocating sloppy communication (then you're just sloppy, period).

    The unfortunate part is your pretension that I'm just "dead wrong" as if you've said something meaningful by pointing out "evolution is a fact." Really? The identity clause there equates the intensions of the statement; so this being the "second sense" mentioned above, evolution really means "the facts of evolution". In that case, your great contribution to the discussion is to say "the facts of evolution are facts" or "(X is Q) is Q." It's as potent as X=7=7. Awesome.

    The difference is that the name evolution corresponds to the propositions which make up the theory of evolution. Therefore, saying "evolution is a theory" is immediately obvious because the intensional (and intentional) content of "evolution" need not be spelled out (though it could be, in principle).

    Therefore, you've enlightened the audience to the most trivially obvious facts--tautologies--while stating it rhetorically sloppy (and in extension, contradictory) and at the same time mouthing off like some righteous religious follower who's "just right" because you say so. Then even going so far as to implicate an ad hominem there about me being a postmodernist, which I doubt you even know what that means (though even being highly analytic I do study and can make sense of existentialism and aesthetics, since there's nothing inherently "wrong" in those views, it's just a different interpretation). Nice rebuttal though, "you're a postmodernist aren't you? Obviously you're dead wrong then."

    The only obvious fact is that you never took your humanities electives in philosophy or logic (or you never got anything valuable from them), and it makes me wonder what mathematical training you got in becoming a biochemist since you learn these basic critical thinking rules in mathematics, at least theoretical (pure) mathematics. The only difference is I'm talking about linguistics which applies these mathematical notions to language. In the end, you're making a gross equivocation. Like gross generalization, sure, it can be understood and may even be true to some extent, but it's just erroneous. To retort, "you are dead wrong."

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  52. The eternal confusion made between explanation and description. All science shows as facts are descriptions. The explanation is always "beyond". When Darwin (a true scientist) considered evolution he made a perfect description of the fact. He presented an explanation that was partial. But explanation always is.
    Today we know the DNA. It's enough explanation for the evolutionary fact.
    Explanation can always be improoved, but it also always reaches a point where denying it
    can be certainly called stupidity.

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  53. From a Scientist/Professors point of view, being also an Atheist; I choose to keep my mind open. If we the Evolutionist confront the Theist in the same dogmatic and sometimes hateful or condescending way the Theist come at us with, then we will avail nothing. But if we approach this in a light to provoke thought, instead of name calling... "Idiots" being the keyword I refer to. I do believe our words will be better used. If you really think about it and look at the definition of religion (a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe), our belief in Evolution is as much a religion as Christianity.

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  54. And in following from my previous comment... My only problem with Evolution is why have we stopped evolving in such drastic ways that would be such an advantage to us. Humans have been using and making tools for thousands of years, why would we not have grown extra appendages to accommodate our growing need for efficiency and productivity? What part of us decides what we do and don't need? Why do I keep reading in scientific periodicals scientist changing their minds on how things occurred if it is a fact that I believe? Facts don't change... 2+2 always =4... true scientific fact does not alter. Why are we so frightened to think that their might be a supernatural being? And don't tell me your not. We would not fight so strongly or argue this point so heatedly if it did not cause us some unrest or distress at the thought. All I say is keep your mind open to anything... the theory of evolution is constantly being changed and amended, where as the other side remains constant in what the believe. It does make me wonder sometimes, when true facts and scientific laws are unchanging, why we see the need to change "how we think" (quoting a scientist from the discovery channel recently speaking of evolution) evolution occurred.

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  55. I have a huge question I would like answered... If anything left to itself deteriorates and degrades unless acted upon or assisted by an outside force... how then do we propose that evolution occurred?

    I find a flaw in our belief here. As well as, what about plants? I have never heard anyone address plants in concern with evolution. Did one of those creatures from our first single celled ancestors arrive on land to become a tree? Going from a blooded animal to a plant life?

    What about the Earth's magnetic field decaying at the rate of about 5 % every 100 years. This means that about 1450 years ago it was twice as strong as it is today, and 2900 years ago it was four times as strong. Therefore, assuming that the rate of decay has been constant for the recent past, then only 10,000 years ago the earth's magnetic field would have been 128 times as strong as it is today: so strong that the amount of heat produced would have prevented life as we know it from existing on the earth.

    I am having issues.. I need an answer, or answers. Someone assist me please. venturamusic(at)yahoo (dot)com

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  56. I'm the anonymous who posted the comment on Thursday, March 05, 2009 3:48:00 AM.
    I'd like to explain some things to those who posted after me, as well as to improove my own comment.
    I want to set it clearer that when I wrote "explanation is always beyond" I meant "today's explanation is tomorrow's fact. It has to be understood that it's a process. We start with an initial fact (a primitive concept can be the first of all facts) and find (create) a logical, concise explanation to it that is not controversial, contradictory to anything else. Eventualy, it comes a time (either because an unquestionably strong argument has been reached or some apparatus has been devised, assembled and used for the purpose of prooving) that what was once considered an explanation turns out to be recognised as a scientific fact. For instance (this example is just an ilustration for all Science is completely an example of this) when Democrito explained the fact that matter can be cut, broken or disassembled somehow by concluding that there should be minute whole particles to build this up, that was only an explanation. Then, it came Dalton, the X-ray and today. A whole history of how those "minute whole particles" became from explanation to fact. The same happens to everything else in Science (including, of course, evolution). First we see there is life. Second we see it's very very varied. Darwin sees that life changes and that it may be the reason for the so great variety (from this we can see that the Darwin's concept of natural selection is not as simple as it is normally spoken about). Meanwhile we also see the cells, the microorganisms. Then we see the DNA (conceptually and optically). We see DNA is a building code. We know codes change. We know why DNA code changes in it's many ways. We know why life changes. In this history, what has been left as only an explanation? It seems everything that human Science knows about life (at least concerning it's origin and evolution) has turned out to be facts. It's because life is really very simple. The great Science questions are about the fundamental concepts of Physics. The great majority of people (including those who ridiculously call themselves scientists) see the process of life as an increase in universal complexity. Life only arises in systems where entropy has reached a great level. So life is one of the processes of universal degradation. We laugh at Aristoteles when we remember that he said that heavy things fall because their place is down. But what do we know more than this today? Why masses deform space? Why doesn't an electron fall to the nucleus? We may call it band, allowed orbit, energy level, whatever but we don't even have an explanation to this. So we can't even consider these things as facts. In these matters, all Science has are descriptions, nothing more. Life is simple. Life is not a real problem to Science.
    In the concern of improoving my former comment,(that was very short)I have two more things to say: First is that mathematics will never solve or give any insight into the basic problems of Physics. Maybe it's the most serious mistake ever made in Science. Maths is only a language created by the human mind and the universe does not use it in it's happenings. Fractals, as an exception, can be a powerful tool. Second is that scientists (I'm talking about the real ones - those who didn't surpass the number of 200 in the whole human history and that may not have remained one today) are(were) not at all common people. There is(was) something drasticly different in their brains. The best analogy I find to compare them to common people is in microprocessed systems. You have the hardware (mainly the processor) and then you have a machine language for the working of it. Then you have an assembler and the absurdly called "high" level languages. It's a human mood to think that what is at his level is "high". Well, the Universe is the microprocessed system. The scientist is able to handle directly it's machine language. Maybe there are a few who can understand a bit the assembler of nature. But, for the crushing majority, remains only dealing with "high level languages" (the highest of them being mathematics) if so. Thus a real scientist is, perhaps the unique hard thing to explain in evolution. The ability of a real scientist to make Science is an aberration. It can be genetic, but it's not at all hereditary.
    Now answering the comment just after my first one, it's strange that defining yourself an atheist you don't know the correct definition of religion as well as any other magical thinking. The correct definition of any magical thought is: the pre-scientific illusion that it's possible to get power over nature manipulating, obscurely, unknown "forces". If it was the case of quantic mechanics, I could agree with you comparing it to religion (but the quantic mechanics, nowadays, is not made by scientists, only by "researchers" who dream that the high level language "mathematics" will solve the problems), but in the realm of biological evolution there's no more room for doubt. Quantum mechanics is very complex (it takes real scientists to get it) and life is very simple (anyone who can understand a "high level language" left by the past scientists to us can take over the problem). I don't know what you really meant with that, but I guess for the human hand to become a pair of pliers or the tips of fingers screwdrivers, if possible, would take a bit more than thousands of years. This is not your problem with evolution. Your problem is that you didn't understand it at all. You may see "researchers" changing their minds frequently, but a "scientist" rarely needs to do it. 2+2=4 and all else alike it are only mathematical assertions, not facts (like in the case of any other language, these assertions can be as misguiding as saying "round square"). I'm not afraid of the void "possibility" of a "supernatural" being, but I liked you touching this point because what I see in most everybody is a deep fear and maybe envy of the possibility of existence of a super"human" being (either a real scientist or an "alien" from outside the Earth). Don't keep your mind open or everything will enter it (even dust and garbage). Keep it intelligent to see things clearly. Evolution is a finished fact. Obviously, it may receive future inclusions, but it's core cannot be changed anymore.
    In the next comment there's a "huge question" that I've considered before but I"ll explain it better here. It's a "huge" mistake to think that life represents an increase in universal complexity. If so it was life should be able, somehow, to revert the universal process of entropy and not even the intelligence of a human scientist (the highest degree of evolution known to man) can do that. So biological evolution, from an universal point of view, is deterioration and degradation. If you never heard anyone address plants in concern with evolution is because you heard very little about it. Have you ever compared the molecules of hemoglobin and chlorophyll. Do that. Look for it in the web. You're gonna see the "difference" between them. This is another mistake from many: they put the nervous system over the proper life.
    About the Earth's magnetic field, if you really think it varied the way you projected I will not spend time trying to argue. But even "if" that happened so, could you please tell me how you got to the conclusion that a 64 gauss magnetic field on Earth could produce the aethereal heat you mentioned. Yet 10,000 years ago was the last ice age.

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  57. "If we the Evolutionist confront the Theist in the same dogmatic and sometimes hateful or condescending way the Theist come at us with, then we will avail nothing."

    I'm not committed to either creationist or evolutionist side of the debate, but if anything, there always appears to be *inordinately* more hate and condescension coming from the evolutionist side of the room, in these debates.

    Also quite startling is the discovery that evolutionists seem to resort to as much, if not *more*, dogmatic patterns of argumentation than the creationists (making specific note of the idiot above constantly stating "evolution is a fact" like a mantra and a pathetic coping response). It's becoming clear to me that both creationism and evolutionism are both religions with their own mutually exclusive doctrines and precepts.

    My own studies have left me in a quandary: Spending the past year and a half getting down to study level to seek proof of evolution has been a rather disappointing exercise for me, something which I definitely did not expect.

    There seem to be far too many inconsistencies, data outliers, conjectures and assumptions in evolutionist "strongholds" such as ERVs, the "phylogenetic tree", as well as fossil records. Moreover, many evolutionist arguments are futile in that they simply turn a blind eye to the dichotomy of genetic adaptation versus transformationism.

    I think we can be agreed that genetic adaptation is proven to be true as it has been scientifically observed, and the underlying mechanisms for it have been relatively well characterised. To extend that to a theory of common descent spanning multiple broadly-differentiated species is just poor science, with the current data we have.

    The only field in which I can speak with some authority is in genetics, and even in this field, the more precise data we accrue regarding interspecies genomic variations, the more silly the phylogenetic tree is starting to look.

    I'm keeping my mind open for the moment, but, following critical appraisal of the primary data, it's been a big shock for me to note how woolly the evidential basis for evolution is.

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  58. To Sept 12's version on anonymous,

    The only field in which I can speak with some authority is in genetics...

    &

    To extend that to a theory of common descent spanning multiple broadly-differentiated species is just poor science, with the current data we have.

    ---

    OK then. Have you ever done a BLAST search? If yes, why bother if we have not demonstrated "common descent spanning multiple broadly-differentiated species"?

    Genomic evolution has been one of the most powerful confirmations of evolutionary theory. Darwin knew nothing of Genes or Genomics. Yet when these fields are studied, they confirm common descent, as predicted by Darwin. ERVs and horizontal gene transfer do not cripple evolutionary theory.

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  59. I keep coming back to Asimov's famous phrase; "Creationists make it sound as though a theory is something you dreamt up after being drunk all night."

    Seriously, are there really intelligent people who can argue the point and call their position scientific? If you want to believe, strictly on faith, that the world was created in six days by a supernatural being then go ahead, I have no argument. But if you try to claim that the scientific evidence doesn't support evolution then you are in a state of denial bordering on insanity.

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  60. EVOLUTION A THEORY WITH NO EVIDENCE
    No transitionals- Darwin said there would be thousands - every suggested one is debunked.

    NATURAL SELECTION CANNOT DESIGN DNA
    Natural selection cannot design DNA
    into say the sonar of a bat or whale. It is not a design mechanism. Blind chance could not design a hair on your nose.
    The fittest deer is still a deer and Darwins iguanas and finches are still iguanas and finches.

    PROBABILITY MATHEMATICS DESTROYED THE CHANCES OF SPONTANEOUS LIFE LONG AGO.
    For the ten stages of the blood clotting mechanism to happen by blind chance would be the chance equivalent to picking the correct atom out of all the atomes in the universe.

    JESUS SAID UNBELIEVERS IN THE BOOKS
    OF MOSES WOULD NOT BELIEVE IN HIM
    He said unbelievers would end up in the lake of fire (Revelation)

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  61. The problem with Mechanism (Theory) of Evolution (Fact) is if you don't understand how or why it happened, how can it then be called a certain fact? That is like saying Step 1: Come up with Theory, Step 2: We'll figure it out eventually... Step 3: It's a Fact!

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  62. Deacon_Oriana asks,

    ... if you don't understand how or why it happened, how can it then be called a certain fact?

    We understand a great deal about how evolution happens but let's assume, for the sake of argument, that we don't have a clue.

    Can we still say that evolution is a fact? Yes we can. Think of gravity as an example that will make the point clearly. Five hundred years ago we didn't have a clue about how gravity works. That didn't stop Newton and his contemporaries from thinking of gravity as a fact, did it?

    Evolution is a proven, demonstrable fact. If you can't accept that then you also can't accept anything else in science.

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  63. After having read what Dobzhansky had to say on the topic in his essay "Nothing in biology makes sense...", I find these claims about facts on both sides increasingly silly. We evolutionary biologistst should not let the false dilemma between theory and fact, which creationists press upon us, dictate our usage. So, I'll prefer Dobzhansky's uasage and will continue to call evolution a "proven theory" that is supported by a mass of "facts".

    Check this out: http://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=2517151789164345023#editor/target=post;postID=5622528524501855314

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    1. That's a curiuos position. Evolutionary theory is quite complex. Do you really think that species sorting and molecular drive are "proven"? What about punctuated equilibria and kin selection? Which examples of sympatric speciation do you think are proven? Are you convinced that random genetic drift should be the null hypothesos in all studies of evolution?

      If not, then perhaps you could clarify what you mean by "evolution theory."

      I suspect you're confused about the difference between fact and theory.

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    2. That's funny, i thought the same of you. Here are the first few paragraphs of Dobzhansky's 'Nothing in biology makes sense...':

      >>As recently as 1966, sheik Abd el Aziz bin Baz asked the king of Saudi Arabia to suppress a heresy that was spreading in his land. Wrote the sheik:
      "The holy Koran, the Prophet's teachings, the majority of islamic scientists, and the actual facts all prove that the sun is running its orbit ... and that the earth is fixed and stable, spread out by God for his mankind. ... Anyone who professed otherwise would utter a charge of falsehood toward God, the Koran, and the Prophet."
      The good sheik evidently holds the Copernican theory to be a "mere theory," not a "fact". In this he is technically correct. A theory can be verified by a mass of facts, but it becomes a proven theory, not a fact."<<

      It's really the very beginning of that famous essay, which unfortunately is usually only quoted by its title. I'm pretty sure that Dobzhansky's was the majority view until creationists exploited the false dilemma of 'only a theory' vs. 'fact' so successfully that evolutionary biologists felt pressed to change their usage. You should have been in the business for long enough to have witnessed that change.

      (Given this entry of Dobzhanky, I also don't see how you make Dobzahansky agree with your position in the other essay called 'Evolution is a fact and a theory' [http://bioinfo.med.utoronto.ca/Evolution_by_Accident/Evolution_Fact_and_Theory.html])

      I find it more consistent to say that a theory does not become a fact but a proven theory, like Dobzhansky. Evolutionary theory is proven by a mass of facts, but of course there are always facts that are not yet completely understood within the current theory. Consequently, there are always many sub-theories or hypotheses which are out on a limb and need further research. Otherwise science would be a boring exercise.

      I do see the external pressure from creationsts forcing a change in usage, of course, but I do not have to like that, do I?

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    3. We agree that there's a difference between "theory" and "fact."

      What's the problem?

      Is there a difference between "proven theory" and "unproven theory"? Of course there is. A lot of evolutionary theory falls into the category of "unproven theory," right? Do you actually go around telling people that evolutionary theory is all proven?

      Why would you do that?

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    4. P.S.: A consistent way to make it impossible for creationists to exploit a false dilemma between theory and fact would be a usage, unlike Gould's, according to which theories and facts _are_ rungs in a hierarchy of increasing certainty and that theories do obtain facthood through surviving tests.

      For example, most people nowadays take atoms to be facts and only some theoretical physicists and chemists still speak of the atom theory (or historians and teachers when introducing the subject). For all other purposes, atoms are treated like facts.

      But I don't know how well that would be received by philosophers (epistemologists) of science.

      And what's your problem with the term "proven"? Is that some Popperian hangup of falsificationism? If you can say that evolution is a fact, why can't you say it's proven? Facts are proven by definition, no?

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    5. The word "evolution" is being used in (at least) two different senses. Evolution can refer to facts like the fact that humans and chimps descend from a common ancestor.

      Evolution can also refer to evolutionary theory. Some parts of evolutionary theory are so well established that we could say they were "proven." Examples would be natural selection and random genetic drift. Others have not been proven. Examples of unproven parts of evolutionary theory can be found in Gould's book "The Structure of Evolutionary Theory." They include the concept of hierarchical theory, punctuated equilibria, and species sorting. These are not facts and they are not proven theories.

      I don't understand why you are quibbling about this.

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  64. Sorry, I just find it inconsistent to say that theory and fact are different things on the one hand and to claim that evolution is both on the other. Just read this passage from the SJ Gould quote you've given above:

    "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."

    Does it not hurt?

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    1. The word "gravity" can refer to the fact of gravity and to the theory of gravity. Theories and facts are different things but "gravity" is both a fact and a theory.

      Continental drift is a fact. The theory of continental drift (Plate Tectonics) explains the fact of continental drift.

      Gamma ray bursters exist. That's a fact. There's a theory of gamma ray bursters that attempts to explain them.

      I could go on and on ... this is not controversial except in your eyes.

      Why?

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  65. Quibbling? i thought we were talking about the favourite rhetoric toy of creationists and how to take it away from them.

    You wrote: "Evolution can refer to facts like the fact that humans and chimps descend from a common ancestor."

    Well that surely was not a fact but a theory in Darwin's days corroborating my claim that theories do become facts or facthoodish, at least for the experts in question (here evolutionary biologists).

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  66. Darwin established evolution as a fact and it is a fact but possibly you do not have the mechanism to explain it. The fact is only based on Darwin's "authority". The fact is exclusively in your strong belief. We do understand the differences between fact and theory always have it is only we don't understand your hope. The enforcement at all costs of not throwing this whole idea in the trash has Dumbed Down the world. It is for your vanity that scientific inquiry and freedom of thought are suppressed.

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  67. No, the fact is not "...only based on Darwin's "authority"." It is based on mountains of evidence and data that has been collected since he first published. No sane scientist teats Darwin as an authority. While his general idea has formed the basis of what is now called the theory of evolution, the theory itself has progressed so far that he wouldn't recognise it. He probably would, however, understand it if it was explained to him. He was a true scientist who was willing to learn and understand.

    Dave Bailey

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