|Wesley R. Elsberry
Joined: May 2002
|Quote (kevinmillerxi @ April 04 2008,20:06)|
|i think wesley et al misunderstood my meaning. see my latest comment on the "everyone who disagrees with me is stupid' post on my blog.|
Clearing up misunderstanding could be good.
The quote from Kevin that started this:
In response to your question, Ellazim, I think you are a reasonable person. You other guys, however, need to take a primer on post-modernism. There's objective reality, and then there's our subjective experience and interpretation of that reality. All knowledge is perspectival, there's no way around it. No one can experience reality objectively, only from his or her limited point of view. That's why, when presented with the same body of evidence, people will arrive at such different conclusions. How we interpret the evidence depends on the worldview through which we view the evidence.
Now Kevin's latest comment:
I think what's also getting missed here is the point that I'm not saying reality is socially constructed.
Don't various post-modernists say exactly that? Is that not in the recommended primer on post-modernism?
But our interpretation of that reality certainly is.
Not *all* interpretations are socially constructed, thus my reference to the concept of pi. If pi is an exception, then so can other things be...
Take the fossil record, for example.
Science works by not relying upon individual interpretations, but rather placing value in the evidence and inferences from that evidence that can survive a process of intersubjective criticism. It is still not the unobtainable goal of objective knowledge, but it is as close as we humans have managed to come.
We're all working with the same body of data.
What exactly does Kevin mean when he says that he has been "working with" data from the fossil record?
There's no question that the fossils are out there, and that these are the calcified remains of creatures that were once alive.
But over the years, people have interpreted this body of evidence in vastly different ways.
Historically, though, there were "interpretations" of the fossil evidence that held that they were more like crystals in their formation, and not the remains of once-living organisms. There were "interpretations" that God created them in situ out of whimsy.
Why is that? Because each person brings something different to the evidence.
Why then does the scientific community, comprising millions of individuals from almost every culture in the world, have just one broad consensus that the fossil record shows the history and diversity of life evolving by descent with modification showing common descent from one or a few original forms? Is that "interpretation" of only equal value to the "interpretation" of the long-dead people who didn't even believe that fossils were anything but odd mineral deposits? Or can there be "interpretations" that can be demonstrated to be superior to other "interpretations" by consistent criteria? Whether Dawkins notes it or not, ignorance is common. Do the "interpretations" of people who are ignorant count just the same as the interpretation hammered out over decades of intersubjective criticism and testing by thousands of domain experts?
The science community subjects interpretations to intersubjective criticism and ruthlessly discards the unworkable, meaningless, and counterfactual interpretations. Does that count for anything in the end product?
We all view it through a different worldview. After all, if the data truly were conclusive--if we were all able to view it objectively--the proper interpretation should be plainly evident to everyone, not just a select few. (which brings us back to the stupid/ignorant/insane/wicked thing, I know).
Actually, with the fossil record, the interpretation of common descent is accepted by the great preponderance of those who have spent their lives gaining expertise in paleontology. Isn't it instead only a few hundred people with advanced degrees of any sort at all who insist on a different "interpretation", as in the DI "Dissent from Darwin" list?
Is post-modernism a field comprised of independent claims that don't have to be taken as any sort of coherent whole? Doesn't post-modernism espouse moral relativism? Don't some post-modernists deny an objective reality? Why do religious antievolutionists invoke select parts of post-modernism that conveniently immunize claims from criticism, but fail to adopt the rest of the post-modernist agenda?
I'm all for clearing up possible misunderstanding, so let's reduce this to practice. Let's recall that Kevin has tossed his hat in the ring as someone who has enough understanding of the fossil evidence to be able to justify his own "interpretation" of what it means (that pronoun "we" implies just that). So, Kevin, let's see your "interpretation" of what the evidence in the following reference to the peer-reviewed literature shows. I say it shows an instance of speciation, something that Ben Stein likes to imply doesn't happen.
Pearson, P.N.; Shackleton, N.J.; and Hall, M.A., 1997. Stable isotopic evidence for the sympatric divergence of _Globigerinoides_trilobus_ and _Orbulina_universa_ (planktonic foraminifera). Journal of the Geological Society, London, v.154, p.295-302.
Happily, Don Lindsay has put various of the figures online for your viewing pleasure.
Someone claiming to be "working with" the evidence of the fossil record in some substantive sense should either already be familiar with the cited work or have no difficulty in locating and retrieving the actual paper for study.
Is there an alternative "interpretation" that follows from a principled examination of the evidence?
There are a lot of ways to argue to set aside this research that have nothing to do with the evidence at all. This is where religious antievolutionists shine. The following is from a challenge I make to people who claim that no transitional fossil sequences exist.
Evidentiary and Non-Evidentiary Responses to Challenges
There are two main ways in which respondents can deal with the Transitional Fossil Existence Challenge. The intellectually honest and appropriate way is with specific discussion of the fossil evidence as described and discussed in the primary literature. This is by far the least common approach taken by those who have been given the TFEC, and typically only follows after a long period of non-response, the elapsed time apparently serving as an index of the claimant’s unfamiliarity with the specific evidence.
The other category of approach is to ignore, so far as possible, any mention or discussion of actual fossil evidence. These varied strategies are what I term “non-evidentiary” responses, since they are completely independent of empirical data. There are many routes to achieving this end. The simplest is non-response. The challenged person may decide that not saying anything further is the best option, sometimes in the hope that there will be no long-term penalty for this behavior, and that eventually few, if any, persons will remember the abandonment of the original claim. Another common non-evidentiary response is digression. Bringing up a different topic as if it held some relevance to the TFEC allows someone to give a semblance of a reply, even though few will be fooled by it. Yet another strategy is to discuss theoretical issues as if theory did away with the need to actually look at the empirical data. A variant of the theory strategy is the quote-mining of those people who expound theory. Usually, though, quotes reveal nothing about the specific data at hand, and often come from sources whose opposition to anti-evolutionary action is otherwise well-known. Still another variant upon the theory strategy is the definition game. One can construct connotations of “transitional” such that no real-world evidence can satisfy all the piled-on conditions. It is useful to know when an anti-evolutionist simply defines evidence out of existence, though. Another possible tactic is to dismiss the taxonomic category from which the cited example comes. A respondent can claim that they really meant no transitional fossils in some other taxonomic hierarchy, but they often seem to forget that this means that the “no transitional fossils” claim is then self-admittedly false. A particularly brazen non-evidentiary response is to play an “even if” game, as in, “Even if this is true, it doesn’t mean anything.” That ignores that if the cited sequence does contain transitional fossils, it at least means that the claim of no transitional fossils is false.
The following is a short form for response to the TFEC, if a challenged person wishes to ignore the evidence and simply adopt one of the non-evidentiary tactics for their own. Simply indicate which one or more of the following Non-Evidentiary Response Items (NERI) fits what would otherwise involve a bunch of redundant typing.
Non-Evidentiary Response Items:
Let me note that each of the following items follows a pattern of being like a response that I have actually received from challenged religious antievolutionists at least once, and for many of these I've seen that same sort of dodge from many different antievolutionists. They span the gamut from ignorant through stupid to insane, and maybe some wicked thrown in to boot. None of them comes anywhere near the thing that would put that statement from Dawkins in any danger, a principled denial of evolution based on the evidence.
A. You have your faith; I have mine.
B. I meant that no vertebrate transitional fossils exist.
C. I meant that no transitional fossils above taxonomic rank (fill in blank), which means that none can exist.
D. I have quotes from (give list of names) that say that no transitional fossils exist.
E. My understanding of _ theory (fill in blank) is that transitional fossils cannot exist.
F. My connotation of “transitional fossils” is __ (fill in blank), which means that none can exist.
G. I have a cool rebuttal of _ (fill in blank). What were you saying about transitional fossils?
H. Even if the cited example does show transitional fossils, it doesn’t mean anything.
I. I cannot be bothered to support my claim, so I will not be giving you a reply.
J. I promise to support my claim Real Soon Now. I will be in touch. My reply will be devastating to you and completely and utterly convincing to everyone. Just you wait. It’s in the mail.
K. Provide the fossils for the transition from X to Y, which will let me ignore these fossils that actually exist. (Courtesy of “edwin voltaire” aka “evossler” 20030210.)
L. Person X says this challenge is bogus, therefore I don’t have to provide any response to actual evidence of transitional forms.
Kevin has the opportunity to prove Dawkins wrong the right way, by making a principled argument against evolution having occurred that is based upon the specific evidence at hand. Will he do that?
"You can't teach an old dogma new tricks." - Dorothy Parker