Thomas Schlemmermeyer termites at USP.BR
Mon Aug 21 14:16:11 CDT 2000

The problem is not so much whether science is based on direct obervation. Of
course it is! The point in question (or better: the point questioned by some
creationists) is whether these observations must be made in real time.

I once read a creationist pamphlet where the author argued that only events
with a life span very much shorter than the human one, that is events which
occur within seconds, minutes, or maybe hours, can be scientifically

Of course, such a point of view is nonsense, as the timing of observed events
do not need to coincide with the real life time of the observer.

But maybe it would be useful to study more profoundly philosophical aspects of
proper experimentation in order to successfully meet creationists also on this


On (         Mon, 21 Aug 2000 11:53:00 -0400),         John Grehan
<jrg13 at PSU.EDU> wrote:

>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

Thomas Schlemmermeyer, Ph-d. student, Sao Paulo, Brazil

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