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Thursday, June 09, 2005

More on Darwin’s Sand Castle

A reader nails me on an inaccuracy.  If I were a Darwinian, I would dismiss any such correction as the ranting of someone who “doesn’t understand science.”

I received a very nice email from Chris Downs, Senior Lecturer in Economics at University College Chichester in the UK.  He wrote, regarding Darwin’s Sand Castle:
I am moved to write only to point out that it is not true to say that Karl Popper claimed that “a scientific hypothesis must be both provable and disprovable if it is to be considered true science” as you claim in the above article.
Popper is famous for expounding falsificationism and wrote at some length on the demarcation between science and non-science. His view is that to be considered scientific a theory (or hypothesis) must be falsifiable. His view is that it is logically impossible to prove a theory to be true - this is the problem of induction, identified by Hume and probably earlier thinkers, and which Popper claimed to have solved by proposing falsificationism as an “alternative” to verificationism. Theories can never be verified or proven true, but we can eliminate false theories (though even this turned out to be more problematic than Popper initially seems to have believed).
My reply:

You are correct.  Thanks for your clarification. 

I had relied upon my recollections from reading, some while ago, Karl Popper’s “The Poverty of Historicism.”  I should have re-read the relevant portions.

Nonetheless, I believe that, by Popper’s lights, the general proposition I stated remains true.

He wrote, in “The Poverty of Historicism”:

“.... the methods in the two fields [natural sciences and social sciences] are fundamentally the same…. The methods always consist in offering deductive causal explanations and in testing them (by way of predictions).....”

“What is important is to realize that in science we are always concerned with explanations, predictions, and tests, and that the method of testing hypotheses is always the same…. From the hypothesis to be tested ? for example a universal law ? together with some other statements which for this purpose are not considered as problematic ? for example, some initial conditions ? we deduce some prognosis.  We then confront this prognosis, whenever possible, with the results of experimental or other observations.  Agreement with them is taken as corroboration of the hypothesis, though not as final proof….”

“.... all tests can be interpreted as attempts to weed out false theories ? to find the weak points of a theory in order to reject it if it is falsified by the test….. This is the reason why the discovery of instances which confirm a theory mean very little if we have not tried, and failed, to discover refutations.  For if we are uncritical we shall always find what we want.  We shall look for, and find, confirmations, and we shall look away from, and not see, whatever might be dangerous to our pet theories.  In this way it is only too easy to obtain what appears to be overwhelming evidence in favor of a theory which, if approached critically, would have been refuted.”

Wall Street Journal columnist Sharon Begley is therefore unscientific when she writes: “Evolution is as well-established by empirical observation as other sciences. There is no serious debate that evolution happens, only deeper questions (left to college and graduate school), such as whether it proceeds gradually or in spasms.”

No one has ever seen evolution taking place.  All that evolutionists have to offer is an hypothesis that, because some features are common to different species, one must have evolved from the other.

Darwinians, when confronted with confuting evidence, dismiss it out of hand, usually by demeaning the questioner as someone who “doesn’t understand science,” as a drooling idiot, or most damning of all in their eyes, as an evangelical Christian.  It is this refusal to entertain any questioning, and their deep antipathy toward the Judeo-Christian tradition, that stamps Darwinian evolution as simply a dogma of the atheistic, secular, and materialistic religion of socialism.

Re-reading of Popper suggests another point that, in hindsight, I should have made: the hypothesis of evolution, unlike verifiable scientific theories, serves no predictive purposes.  Sub-atomic particle physics or quantum mechanics, for example, can predict with considerable accuracy the percentage distributions of energy photons that will result under defined conditions.  Darwin’s hypothesis is useless for predictive purposes, thus it is not subject to one of the important elements of falsification set forth by Popper.

Darwinians can assert anything that pleases them about the past, always finding some piece of evidence that might (or might not) confirm it.  They find endless bits and pieces that appear to fit their hypothesis, but they can only assert that these are confirmatory.  There is not a single proof of the validity of such evidence.  And, as Popper notes, proofs by themselves are not meaningful in the context of science.  This means that Darwinians escape the tests of science, because they have nothing to offer that is testable by scientific standards.

Evolution is merely a speculation about the history of living things in the unknowable, very remote past. Granted that it is an interesting speculation, but it can never be anything beyond that. 

In taxonomy (the classification of life forms), a portion of biology that does qualify as science, Darwinian evolution is unnecessary.  Unlike Darwin’s evolution hypothesis, taxonomy is a field subject to falsification, as newer techniques such as DNA / RNA and biochemistry enter the fray.

Darwinians try to brush aside some powerful challenges by reserving to themselves the definition of science as it applies to biology.  Biologists like the late Stephen Jay Gould have said that biology makes no sense without Darwin, therefore only Darwinian evolution is scientific.  Whatever challenges Darwinian evolution is, by definition, unscientific.  Therefore it is unnecessary to give contrary evidence serious consideration.

One such challenge dismissed out of hand is biochemist Michael J. Behe’s “Darwin’s Black Box.”  Biochemists now have available tools that can probe more deeply into molecular structure than ever before.  X-Ray microscopes, together with the enormous computational power of today’s computers, have enabled biochemists to determine that the single-cell creatures that Darwin envisioned as our first ancestor are, as Behe puts it, irreducibly complex.  That is, even the simplest known living forms require several different, complex systems, each made up of a large number of synthesized amino acids, all working simultaneously.  Without them, the cell dies immediately.  Ergo, Behe concludes that it would have been impossible for the simplest known life forms to have evolved from chance combinations of amino acids.

Which brings me to a point that I made at somewhat greater length in Begley Begs a Question.  Darwin’s ideas were a product of the climate of opinion then gaining ground in England: the Victorians’ reaction to the horrors of working conditions under industrialism and the hope that Comte’s Religion of Humanity might indeed bring a secular heaven to mankind, in our lifetimes, here on earth. 

Had it not been for J.S. Mill and others around 1859 who looked favorably upon the doctrines of Saint-Simonian and Comtean socialism, and advocated them so effectively, Darwin’s “On the Origin” would probably never have found much of a following.  Even his idol and early mentor Charles Lyell initially rejected it on scientific grounds.  Absent the evangelical-style preaching of Thomas Huxley extolling the gospel of secular materialism, poor Darwin would have remained an obscure, but decent and kind gentleman retired in ill health. 

Instead, his work became a fundamental plank in the doctrine of socialism.  Here in the United States it became the basis of Professor John Dewey’s materialistic philosophy of pragmatism. Dewey’s lectures at Columbia University in the early decades of the 20th century laid the foundation for the socialization of our educational system now so evident in minimal competence of college graduates in academic subject matter, as well as their dogmatic anti-Americanism and devotion to epicurean hedonism.

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Posted by Thomas E. Brewton on 06/09 at 11:57 PM
Junk Science • (1) Comments
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