John Grehan jrg13 at PSU.EDU
Mon Aug 21 11:53:00 CDT 2000

Zdenek Skala suggests that the problem of creationism lies with specific
problems in evolutionary theory rather than the nature of scientific
argument. However, the points he lists are derived from a point of view
about science - that scientific knowledge is based on direct observation.
If direct observation is taken for granted then there is no need for "theory"
of any kind - whether a theory of evolution, of relativity, of biochmeistry
etc. Everything is observable. Yet much of scientific "knowledge" comprises
conceptual models of reality. That these models are effective in predicting
factual events not already known (e.g. nuclear explostions) renders them
useful - regardless of whether anyone may view them as true representations
of reality.

Zdenek's proposal that the "non-existing" having no evidence seems
problematic. In law the opposite view is taken by all societies when it
comes to identifying a culprit for a crime occurring in the past using
"evidence" from the present. Further, evidence is often developed for
predicting the future (e.g. a criminal's future actions), sometimes with
great success.

In terms of evolutionary theory a common criterion for usefulness is
prediction of one form or another. The effectiveness of such predictions
may render the question of, for example, whether HOX genes are *really*
traces of the phylogeny or of the common design, unproblematic. In my own
field of evolutionary biogeography I would point to the prediction of
"observable facts" (in quotes because I acknowledge that "observable" and
"facts" are theory laden terms anyway) of geology using traces of the past
(the biogeographic tracks).

Some people have commented to me (and perhaps have made the same point on
this list) that the creation issue in the US is a specific cultural
phenomenon in the way it is maintained and played out. In this context
perhaps it is the culture of science contributing to the play as the
creationists by maintaining a form of science and evolution education that
is clearly confusing [sic].

John Grehan

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