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« You Say You Want An Evolution: Happy Darwin Day! | Main | Pressure Points »


the chaplain

Excellent post. I need to watch that video.


Happy Darwin Day :) Excellent post


Oh, good, my favorite rant!

To many people, science looks a lot like a religion. It has a lot of folks in special clothes who work in fancy buildings and speak incomprehensible gobbledygook that they claim explains the universe.

The difference, and even many scientists aren't good at making this clear, is that science _works_.

Given a pile of observations, you can try to shuffle them into some sort of pattern that you can call a _theory_. To be legitimate science, a theory has to not only explain the previous observations, but also, and this is the essential part, _predict future observations_.

For a theory to be useful, the conditions under which predicted future observations can be made must be _accessible_. That is, the predictions must actually matter in a way that we can possibly encounter.

And the predictions must be specific enough to be _falsifiable_. That is, there are conceivable observations which would demonstrate that the theory is wrong.

Then, when considering two rival theories, you look for a situation where they make different predictions. (If there are no such situations, then they are both actually the same theory, just with the serial numbers filed off.)

And finally, observe that situation and see which theory is wrong. Or maybe both of them are.

All this stuff about scientific method and peer review and whatnot is part of a system that has been very effective at developing theories that work in this sense, but it's not central. You can go about it a totally different way and still get good science. Experience has shown that you're not very likely to, but it's not essential.

But if you have an explanation for how something works that doesn't make accessible predictions, You Are Not Tall Enough For This Ride. Your explanation doesn't even qualify.

Below good theories and bad theories is a third category, which holds such non-theories and ranting gibberish from the street person who needs his medications adjusted: "not even wrong." It didn't fail the test; it never showed up for the test.

The word "fact" is not formally a part of science, but is generally used to refer to a phenomenon so widely and frequently observed that it isn't doubted by anyone with enough brains to breathe without the Polish sex manual. ("1. In. 2. Out. 3. Repeat as necessary.")

Just like gravity was a well accepted fact long before Isaac Newton's theory of universal gravitation, evolution (the change n species over time) was a well accepted fact for over 100 years (a good priority date would be Linnaeus' 1734 publication of Systema Naturae) before Darwin published his theory of evolution that explained it.

It's amusing to contemplate the fact that even if these yahoos managed to completely discredit the current theory of evolution (which is mostly Darwin's, but flatly contradicts him in a few points), they'd still need to come up with something better to explain the observed fact of evolution.

Of course, that's a private amusement; it does no good to explain it to abrahamic nutjobs who don't seem to get the difference between Darwin and Moses.

Jon Berger

If you'd like to read Judge Jones's take on the same issue, here's a link that will get you past the boring Legalese and straight into the good stuff. He felt much the same way.

Judge John Jones (that can't possibly be his real name, can it?) was the judge in Kitzmiller, the case you're talking about. For a Bush appointee, which he is, he was pretty damn vehement.


I trust PBS as far as I can throw a Steinway grand piano. Case in point; PBS's imaginary scene of microbiologist Scott Minnich saying that he had not performed the experiment. The fact is that Minnich did testify about his own genetic knockout experiments, but you didn't know that, did you?

I guess in instances where PBS doesn't have any real evidence to back up certain propoganda objectives they can always resort to using imaginary, made-up evidence confident that people like you will call it "overwhelming".


"Case in point; PBS's imaginary scene of microbiologist Scott Minnich saying that he had not performed the experiment."

blilley, that is not an "imaginary scene". That exact exchange happened in the courtroom. PBS reenacted it with actors, but the lines were taken directly from the trial transcripts. Here are the URLs of those transcripts; the exchange in question happened during the cross-examination, the second one listed below.

Clearly, based on your response, you didn't like the answer Minnich gave to that question. I venture to suggest that in the future, when ID advocates are examined in court and come away looking foolish, you should consider why that is, rather than leaping to accuse scientists of inventing arguments to attribute to them that make them look bad.

"The fact is that Minnich did testify about his own genetic knockout experiments, but you didn't know that, did you?"

Minnich testified that he had tried experiments in which he knocked out various genes from the bacterial flagellum to see what happened. Nevertheless, by his own admission, he never tried any experiment that would test the central claim at issue: whether evolution can produce a flagellum or other complex motile structure de novo. Greta's point is correct exactly as she phrased it: advocates of ID aren't interested in running the tests needed to see whether their own ideas are correct.

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