[Taxacom] Monkey Community greatly relieved

Stephen Thorpe s.thorpe at auckland.ac.nz
Wed Jan 13 16:35:11 CST 2010

very nice! :)

My ("tongue in cheeky") definition: science is a branch of economics where funding is used to provide employment for projects with high levels of predictability and repeatability, so if a scientist is lost to accident or alternative employment, the project can be continued by a near enough clone ...

More seriously, sure it would be unscientific to disregard testability, but that is another closed loop. Equally, it would be unreligious (is that a word?) to require testability. There is a bit of a "leap of faith" from unscientific to "therefore completely wrong and stupid". One ought to approach scientific questions scientifically, and religious questions religiously, approach artistic endeavours artistically, etc... One of my not so favourite colleagues always says "that's not science!", as if it were a put-down. I say, "no, it's not science, but that doesn't mean it isn't worth doing" ...

From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu [taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of Frederick W. Schueler [bckcdb at istar.ca]
Sent: Thursday, 14 January 2010 11:08 a.m.
Cc: TAXACOM at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Monkey Community greatly relieved

Stephen Thorpe wrote:
> A general schema for testability in science goes something like this: a hypothesis plus a bunch of assumptions implies a conclusion. If you arrive at a conclusion that "seems wrong", you can either reject the hypothesis, and/or reject one or more assumptions, and/or "bite the bullet" and reject the conclusion, depending on "how much faith" you have in any of these things. One person's "surprising new result" is another person's rejection of the hypothesis or assumptions. Let's face it, science works best in the context of technology (i.e., either it works or it doesn't). Pure science, on the other hand, is somewhat less grounded in anything concrete. I doubt that evolution is "testable" in any rigorous sense. It is way to vague. I am not aware that we know the exact mechanism by which evolution occurs, and it likely involves a lot of random events (mutations, vicariance, and dispersal events) buried deep in the past. Phylogenetic analyses, often touted by those of the Henn
igian religion as the very essence of "hard science", suffer fatally (in my view) from incomplete data, since only a minute fraction of all the species that have ever lived have been preserved as fossils, and with the rejection of gradualism, it is most likely that the crucial transformations took place too rapidly to have any chance of being preserved in the fossil record ...

* this may be the place to introduce my "Collected definitions of
Science" to TAXACOM - http://pinicola.ca/kitchen.htm#scidef

I'd be glad to have more pointed out to me, as they no doubt will be.
The first definition is mine, and in the above context Stephen may
especially enjoy the last one.

          Frederick W. Schueler & Aleta Karstad
Bishops Mills Natural History Centre - http://pinicola.ca/bmnhc.htm
Thirty Years Later Expedition - http://pinicola.ca/thirty/
Longterm ecological monitoring - http://fragileinheritance.ca/
Portraits of light - http://www.aletakarstad.com/
Mudpuppy Night in Oxford Mills - http://pinicola.ca/mudpup1.htm
     RR#2 Bishops Mills, Ontario, Canada K0G 1T0
   on the Smiths Falls Limestone Plain 44* 52'N 75* 42'W
    (613)258-3107 <bckcdb at istar.ca> http://pinicola.ca/


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