2/26/09

Scientific Cenobites, part 6 of 9

This is part five of a nine part essay which merely seeks to present what scientists have to say about science and scientists.
Atheism and science

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9

Stephen Jay Gould; teacher of biology, geology and history of science at Harvard University:
“Science…is supposed to be an objective enterprise, with common criteria of procedure and standards of evidence that should lead all people of good will to accept a documented conclusion…But I would reject any claim that personal preference, the root of aesthetic judgment, does not play a key role in science…our ways of learning about the world are strongly influenced by the social preconceptions and biased modes of thinking that each scientist must apply to any problem. The stereotype of a fully rational and objective ‘scientific method,’ with individual scientists as logical (and interchangeable) robots, is self-serving mythology. Historians and philosophers of science often make a distinction between the logic and psychologic of a scientific conclusion—or ‘context of justification’ and ‘context of discovery’ in the jargon…

The myth of a separate mode based on rigorous objectivity and arcane, largely mathematical knowledge, vouchsafed only to the initiated, may provide some immediate benefits in bamboozling a public to regard us as a new priesthood, but must ultimately prove harmful in erecting barriers to truly friendly understanding and in falsely persuading so many students that science lies beyond their capabilities…the myth of an arcane and enlightened priesthood of scientists….T.S. Kuhn referred to the shared worldview of scientists as a paradigm (see his classic 1962 book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions). Such paradigms, in Kuhn’s view, are so constraining, and so unbreakable in their own terms, that fundamentally new theories must be imported from elsewhere (insights of other disciplines, conscious radicalism of young rebels within a field) and must then triumph by rapid replacement (scientific revolution), rather than by incremental advance.”[1]
Atheism and science
The editors of American Scientist made the following comments about Hannes Alfvén’s Memoirs of a Dissident Scientist:
“Alfvén’s anecdotes remind us how personalities influence ideas, and his irreverent comments about peer review are as relevant today as they ever were.”

Following are some of Alfvén’s comments:
“Contrary to almost all astrophysicists my education had taken place in a laboratory…Instead of treating hydromagnetic equations I prefer to sit and ride on each electron and ion and try to imagine what the world is like from its point of view and what forces push them to the left or to the right. This has been a great advantage because it gives me a possibility to approach the phenomena from another point than most astrophysicists do, and it is always fruitful to look at any phenomenon under two different points of view.
On the other hand it has given me a serious disadvantage. When I describe the phenomena according to this formalism most referees do not understand what I say and turn down my papers. With the referee system which rules US science today, this means that my papers rarely are accepted by the leading US journals. Europe, including the Soviet Union, and Japan are more tolerant of dissidents…

What is more remarkable and regrettable is that it seems to be almost impossible to start a serious discussion between E [a very strong Establishment] and D [a small group of Dissidents]. As a dissident is in a very unpleasant situation, I am sure that D would be very glad to change their views as soon as E gives convincing arguments. But the argument ‘all knowledgeable people agree that…’ (with the tacit addition that by not agreeing you demonstrate that you are a crank) is not a valid argument in science. If scientific issues always were decided by Gallup polls and not by scientific arguments science will very soon be petrified forever.”[2]
Atheism and science
But what was Alfvén’s crime against science? Was he one of those creation scientists? Was he one of those intelligent design proponents? No, the issue was cosmic rays and whether they were a galactic phenomenon or subject to heliospheric confinement.
Atheism and science
Sir Arthur Keith and Professor Raymond Dart regarding the Taung fossils:
“For some reason, which has not been made clear, students of fossil man have not been given an opportunity of purchasing these casts; if they wish to study them they must visit Wembley and peer at them in a glass case,’ he snorted. ‘Yes, I know that Keith was very cross about that,’[3] Dart now recalls.”[4]

“although [Henry Fairfield] Osborn was the chief public defender of evolution in the United States , it was not Darwin ’s evolution he was defending: it was a very aristocratic view of the world, and of humans in particular. The whole system, he said, was driven by effort, whose reward was progress and in the end a clear superiority for a few. As a result, an immense gulf separated humankind from the rest of the animal kingdom, and no small gulf divided the ‘superior’ from the ‘inferior’ races of humanity…Racism of a peculiarly pure, intellectual form was a persistent theme of American and British anthropology of the time, and not surprisingly Osborn was a leading figure in the eugenics movement.”[5]

“At the great Darwin Centennial in Chicago in 1959, C. H. Waddington, a convinced Darwinian, conceded this:
Natural selection, which was at first considered as thought it were a hypothesis that was in need of experimental or observational confirmation, turns out on closer inspection to be a tautology, a statement of an inevitable although previously unrecognized relation. It states that the fittest individuals in a population (defined as those which leave most offspring) will leave most offspring. One the statement is made, its truth is apparent.

We must agree that its truth is apparent, but how little that means! If a man says that A equals A, it is hard to dispute his accuracy but the statement is empty, vacuous.
The latest witness is R. H. Peters of McGill University, who asserted in 1976:
Analysis of a number of popular ecological tenets, including natural selection, competitive exclusion, and parts of succession, species diversity, and spatial heterogeneity, reveals that they lack the predictive and operational qualities which define scientific theories. Instead they consist of the logical elaboration of certain axioms. Consequently, they must be termed tautologies.

Darwinism has failed in practice. The whole aim and purpose of Darwinism is to show how modern forms descended from ancient forms, that is, to construct reliable phylogenies (genealogies or family trees). In this is has utterly failed. Every evolutionist knows this, hence it is necessary to quote only three particularly vigorous statements.
J.T. Bonner of Princeton says: ‘In the case of phylogeny our textbooks are little help; in fact they are, as a rule, a festering mass of unsupported assertions.’
M.T. Ghiselin of the University of California says: ‘It is true that many works on phylogeny do read like imaginative literature rather than science. A disproportionate segment of the literature seeks to fill gaps in the data with speculations and nothing more.’
L.C. Birch and P.R. Ehrlich say:
If ecological studies were to depend on a knowledge of the evolutionary history of the species,…then most ecological studies would be halted, for this information is denied us for most species. Indeed, we know nothing whatever of the antecedents of most species for thousands of years. Perhaps these dismal facts account for some of the strangely unsatisfying ‘explanations’ of the evolutionary ecologists.

Evolution is finished. It is commonly agreed that specialized forms do not generate new types. They can evolve a little further in the same direction, or remain unchanged, or die out; but they cannot produce new species. If we add that all existing forms are quite specialized, we must conclude that there will be no more evolution. This may be surprising, but it is well attested.
The late Julian Huxley stated the proposition tensely:
There is no certain case on record of a line showing a high degree of specialization giving rise to a new type. All new types which themselves are capable of adaptive radiation seem to have been produced by relatively unspecialized ancestral lines….evolution is thus seen as a series of blind alleys.

The morphologist E. S. Russell is even clearer:
Existing species represent the terminal twigs of a vast process of differentiation; each is stamped not only with its own specific character but with the characters of the genus, the family, the order, the class to which it belongs—the characters, that is to say, of the branch and trunk from which it has sprung. It may proliferate further twigs, producing new species and possibly even new genera…but there is no possibility of its producing new branches. That new types of organization, even minor ones, can be evolved from the specialized end-products of the great evolutionary tree seems a rank impossibility.

Darwinism is not science. Almost all modern scientists subscribe to Karl Popper’s dictum that the scientific status of a theory depends on its falsifiability, or refutability, or testability. It may be correct, but there is no way of knowing whether it is right or wrong and therefore it is not in the realm of science.
Birch and Ehrlich apply this dictum to Darwinism:
Out theory of evolution has become, as Popper describes, one which cannot be refuted by any possible observations. Every conceivable observation can be fitted into it. It is thus ‘outside of empirical science’ but not necessarily false. No one can think of ways in which to test it. Ideas, either without basis or based on a few laboratory experiments carried out in extremely simplified systems, have attained currency far beyond their validity. They have become part of an evolutionary dogma accepted by most of us part of our training.

Peters is equally harsh:
I argue that the ‘theory of evolution’ does not make predictions, so far as ecology is concerned, but is instead a logical formula which can be used only to classify empiricisms and to show the relationships which such a classification implies. Similar criticisms are then made of several ecological concepts. The essence of the argument is that these ‘theories’ are actually tautologies and, as much, cannot make empirically testable predictions. They are not scientific theories at all.”[6]

Atheism and science
[1] Stephen Jay Gould, “In the Mind of the Beholder,” Natural History, 103(2): 14, Feb. 1994, pp. 14-16
[2] Hannes Alfvén, “Memoirs of a Dissident Scientist,” American Scientist, 76(3):251, May-June 1988, pp. 250-251, reprinted from Early History of Cosmic Ray Studies, ed. Y. Sekido and H. Elliot, pp. 421, 427-31
[3] Interview with the author, Philadelphia, 23 May 1984
[4] Roger Lewin, Bones of Contention (New York, NY: A Touchstone Book published by Simon & Schuster Inc., 1987), p. 52
[5] Lewin, Bones of Contention, p. 54
[6] “A Third Position in the Textbook Controversy,” The American Biology Teacher, Nov. 1976, pp. 495-496


5 comments:

  1. "Analysis of a number of popular ecological tenets, including natural selection, competitive exclusion, and parts of succession, species diversity, and spatial heterogeneity, reveals that they lack the predictive and operational qualities which define scientific theories. Instead they consist of the logical elaboration of certain axioms. Consequently, they must be termed tautologies."

    And he proves that... oh wait, he doesn't, he simply states it. It is worth noting that the same could be said for the theory of gravity.

    "The whole aim and purpose of Darwinism is to show how modern forms descended from ancient forms, that is, to construct reliable phylogenies (genealogies or family trees)."

    False. The aim of all scientific theories is to accurately model reality.

    "Every evolutionist knows this, hence it is necessary to quote only three particularly vigorous statements."

    None of those have anything to do with it not working and everything to do with criticizing presentation.

    "It is commonly agreed that specialized forms do not generate new types. "

    False.

    "If we add that all existing forms are quite specialized, we must conclude that there will be no more evolution."

    First of, many creatures are generalists. Secondly, most of life HAS gone extinct, so this isn't really a surprise.

    "This may be surprising, but it is well attested."

    They are full of BS. What makes them say that the ancestral form wasn't any more specialized than the modern form?

    Evolution is falsifiable. All it requires is something that cannot be explain by natural selection. So far we haven't gotten anything like that... because the theory is true.

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  2. SS:

    Gravity is not a theory - it's a law

    If the theory is true, then it becomes a law. That hasn't happened.

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  3. Actually a theory is a unifying principle that explains a body of facts and the laws based on them. In other words, it is an explanation to a set of observations.

    Theories do not necessarily become laws. They don't need to, they work just fine as they are.

    It has nothing to do with them being "true" or not.

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  4. Oh I forgot *yawn* ok, now I'm done.

    ReplyDelete
  5. It's quite amazing how a person like Mariano can blinker himself by being illiterate to everything that isn't quote-mined to fit his agenda.

    If Mariano thinks that Evolution is false, why doesn't he show off the grand successes of the rivaling theories in explaining all the things that evolution currently explains?

    I suppose "Intelligent Design" has good explanations for vestigiality, junk DNA, ERVs, chromosomal fusion, and why domesticated silver foxes acquire dog-like features after only a few decades of breeding (common descent + selection = ...?). To mention just a tip of the ice berg of the explanatory power of evolutionary theory, also known as common descent with modification followed by natural selection. Oh and, there are tons of ways in which evolution could be proven false, if it is false - watch the second video for one example (chromosomal fusion).

    Mariano continues his Quixotian quest for heavenly harmony in a world that doesn't play by his rules. Poor guy.

    ReplyDelete