|Wesley R. Elsberry
Joined: May 2002
|Quote (kevinmillerxi @ April 06 2008,02:26)|
|Once again, like a good reductionist, Wesley misses the forest for the trees. Despite his apparent fisking of my post, all he really did was throw up a lot of smoke in order to avoid my main argument, which is that no one approaches the evidence as a blank slate. All of us interpret the evidence through a different worldview. What is clearly evident to one person is not so to the next. Why? Because we all bring something different to the data. Are you denying this, Wesley? Because if you are, why aren't we in agreement on this matter?|
I do not disagree with Kevin on the simple observation that people do come with different worldviews. I never have disagreed with that. What I have disagreed with is the assertion that this diversity of worldviews means that those disparate people with their disparate worldviews will not, in fact, agree on various issues when approached via the scientific method. We can see that over and over again in the way that scientists of almost all cultures and traditions do come to agree on matters where the evidence and arguments demonstrate consilience.
Kevin is again trying to make this exchange be about me, apparently to distract from the fact that his assertions do not survive the slightest scrutiny. Of course, we have reports that this distressing tendency to give up on trying to grapple with concepts and instead cast everything in terms of persons extends to Kevin's movie. And even in trying to attack me, Kevin is incompetent.
Nothing I've said so far here touches upon the issue of reductionism. My master's thesis, though, explicitly argues for an increased role for a synthetic approach to artificial neural system modeling, so the scattershot accusation Kevin makes is rather wide of the mark. Kevin, just so you don't have to go down yet another wrong turn in your next reply, I'll note that I'm not an atheist, either.
And, no, I have not "avoided" Kevin's main argument. I have directly addressed the contention that the mere existence of individual worldviews means that the scientific process cannot pick out a superior explanation from a field of candidates.
Kevin started with an assertion that post-modernism meant that everybody will come to a different conclusion about an issue in science because of worldview differences:
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.
I pointed out that this wasn't true, that people with widely divergent worldviews actually often come to the same conclusion in science:
The value of pi is not socially constructed. People with all sorts of "worldviews" agree on pi, just as they agree on the findings of evolutionary biology. How can that happen if the social solipsism of dilettante post-modernists were true?
Kevin then claimed that he was misunderstood, and referenced a discussion where he had muttered some selective statements about post-modernism. And I responded again to the point that differing worldviews must lead to differing conclusions by reference to what we actually observe happen, which does not support Kevin's "point".
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...
And again I pointed out that despite wide differences in worldview, those examining the fossil record through the scientific method have overhwelmingly settled upon one "interpretation":
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?
And I hit upon this point again in my next reply:
What I was pointing out is that a scientific consensus is different, it proceeds from the evidence through hypotheses that are tested, and a community that criticizes the arguments until what convinces that community is the consilience of evidence and theory, not the personal authority of either any one individual or even the collective authority of the community. The process doesn't always proceed smoothly, as Kuhn noted in discussing paradigm shifts. But what happens even then is driven by the various and sundry individuals of the scientific community, each of whom by Kevin's earlier (and apparently abandoned) argument having their own separate worldview and thus without any expectation under Kevin's argument that they could possibly agree upon some one view, and yet that is exactly what the history of science shows us has happened time and again.
I'm afraid that I simply cannot fathom how my responses from the start have not addressed Kevin's point. Maybe Kevin would like to pretend I never said these things, but the simple fact is that I did.
Why is it that Kevin has chosen to ignore the fact that I did address his point, several times over in fact, and instead simply asserts that I have "missed" that point? I think it is because Kevin has discovered he has no argument that would support his position, and yet doesn't want to admit error. Unfortunately for this tactic, there is not an "infinitely plastic past" that he can reshape into a course of history where he could possibly be winning on the merits. The history clearly shows that I *have* addressed his point, such as it is, over and over again.
Kevin brought up the Galileo incident, arguing that Galileo couldn't have successfully argued with his colleagues in scientific endeavor about heliocentrism given that a pre-existing explanation of geocentrism was commonly accepted. I noted that there is no evidence that those approaching the evidence and arguments of Galileo empirically had, in general, any difficulty seeing the consilience between evidence and the inference of heliocentrism. The new explanation not only explained the old data, but also made sense of Galileo's new evidence collected via telescope observations. It was, in fact, the Inquisition of the Catholic Church whose "worldview" forced them to reject Galileo's arguments, based not upon consideration of the available scientific evidence, but rather upon a commitment to a pre-existing religious doctrine.
In the current discussion of IDC, it is the advocates of IDC who regularly skip over the hard work of examining the relevant evidence. Consider, for example, Kevin Miller, who recently claimed:
Take the fossil record, for example. We're all working with the same body of data. 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.
And so I said, fine, let's do work with the same data, here's a paper that presents evidence of speciation in the fossil record; what is your considered reason on the evidence that we shouldn't consider it to be just that?
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?
When Kevin failed to address this other "point" that he himself introduced into the discussion, I said this:
Now, back to stuff Kevin skipped right over. Kevin said something about the fossil record and working with the data. I brought up a particular piece of research that presented evidence of speciation and asked Kevin to expound upon it.
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?
The answer, it appears, is "No."
Edited by Wesley R. Elsberry on April 06 2008,07:44
"You can't teach an old dogma new tricks." - Dorothy Parker