James Francis Lyons-Weiler
weiler at ERS.UNR.EDU
Tue Sep 30 16:50:34 CDT 1997
(In response to William Pratt and Doug Yanega et al.)
A couple of folks have responded off taxacom, one saying I'm naive and
other with much nicer things to say. Three people mentioned the O.J.
Simpson trial as a good example how scientists can be tripped up,
embarrassed, or made fools of by slick individuals. One said creationists
are not taught logic.
Bruce Weir's mistake in performing calcuations on the probability of the
existence of another possible perpetrator was, I'll agree, a low point
for biological science - but ONLY because SCIENCE was misrepresented, My
initial, visceral reaction was anger - at Bruce - because I thought he
made us look bad. But the I recalled something that Popper once wrote on
how scientists should be judged on the number of past mistakes (erroneous
hypotheses) they have fixed in the past year - for having done so, they
have brought a body of knowledge that much higher along the asymptote to
truth. Few scientists show the backbone to admit it when they have made
a mistake - because they think it will make them appear NOT scientific.
My view of science is antithetical to this - of course we all make
blunders now and then. The Hollywood portrayal of science doesn't wash
with me... yet scientists feed into it, and some even believe it. I have
kept track of who has reversed their stance on hypotheses in the
literature I'm most familiar with - and I have ONE example. Mike
Miyamoto decided in 1985 that congruence was a poor way to do things -
and then reversed this position ten years later. Some snickered; I think
it was a laudable act of courage, honesty, and ever so much more
scientific than chanting a mantra about a favorite method (note my
admiration is independent of the fact that I think he had it right the
first time). I'd love to hear oif more examples; I SERIOUSLY think these
types should be given an award for living science, and not pretending to
I refuse to entertain someone in a debate unless we can both agree, from
the start, that we might both (in principle) be wrong. Debates on the
existence of holy spirits are misplaced (note DEBATES are misplaced, not
positions) when approached by scientists as if there is an issue to
debate. Until a creationist defines a critical test of the existence of
such beings, there can be no real discussion.
Creationist have human minds - and I firmly believe that natural
selection has endowed each organically well-built human mind with the
capacity for rational thought. I don't think creationists or anyone else
for that matter has to be taught reason to be able to recognize it when
they are looking for it. Natural selection has also most likely endowed
in most of us a propensity for spirituality; it's efficient to ascribe
bad happenings to fate, or to a god, and then get on with making babies.
The fact that Darwin's theory of evolution can predict the origin and
maintenance of religious propensity in ancient hominoid populations is
rewarding in itself (this idea belongs to P. Colinvaux, a past advisor
and dear friend).
On making it illegal to teach evolution, whatever law came to pass that
made it so would be unconstitutional - and NO swing in the Supreme Court
bias would EVER repeal the first.
It is ironic that I managed to drag myself into the discussion. I hope it
all winds down soon, and I'm now kicking myself for dragging it out.
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