Science denialism

Discussions on the philosophical foundations, assumptions, and implications of science, including the natural sciences.

Re: Science denialism

Postby Reg_Prescott on July 19th, 2020, 3:18 am 

Positor, thank you as always for a stimulating post.

My initial thoughts are these:

In any world in which dogs do not exist, then the proposition "dogs are dogs" is still true, just uninstantiated (i.e. there are no dogs), Cf. in our own world it is true that unicorns are unicorns, just that there happen to be none. This requires no more empirical investigation than "all Xs are X".

I'd suggest the same applies to the principle of natural selection, viz.

In any world where organisms just sit around and do nothing (not unlike my wife), there will be no evolution.

On the other hand, in any world where the preconditions for natural selection are met, i.e., (i) competition, (ii) inheritance of traits relevant to fitness, and (iii) variation, then natural selection MUST occur -not because of empirical circumstances, because of pure logic.

I can think of no one more pro-Darwinian than Daniel Dennett. He says exactly what I just said in his "Darwin's Dangerous Idea"": given certain preconditions natural selection necessarily follows.

He looks on this as a great discovery; I see it as an empty truism.

So are there worlds (or counterfactual situations, if you prefer) where natural selection does not occur? Yes.

Are there worlds where the preconditions for natural selection are satisfied, but natural selection does not occur?

No, it's logically impossible.


I hope I haven't misread you, sir. Please let me know if I missed the point.
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Re: Science denialism

Postby Reg_Prescott on July 19th, 2020, 8:09 am 

Simply put, Positor, at least the way I see things, if evolution happens at all (an empirical matter) then it MUST occur in accordance with the principle of natural selection . . .

. . . which tells us absolutely nothing of any scientific interest about how it occurs.

If it happens at all, it must also happen in accordance with the principle "dogs are dogs" and "vacuous truisms are vacuous truisms".

How could it not be so?
Reg_Prescott
 


Re: Science denialism

Postby Reg_Prescott on July 19th, 2020, 8:23 am 

Put yet another way, is the suggestion that we might discover a planet where evolution occurs, but where those organisms less able to survive and reproduce survive and reproduce more successfully than those more able?

Spock would turn in his grave. :)
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Re: Science denialism

Postby Serpent on July 19th, 2020, 8:36 am 

apparently not
sigh
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Re: Science denialism

Postby TheVat on July 19th, 2020, 9:43 am 

Reg_Prescott » July 18th, 2020, 11:11 pm wrote:Ever seen that duck/rabbit pic?

What are the facts?


Neurologically, the same facts as emerge from the crone/girl pic.
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Re: Science denialism

Postby TheVat on July 19th, 2020, 9:52 am 

Reg, you veered into modal logic, and that's interesting, but you failed to erase the empirical content that's needed to arrive at the Darwinian option. You can't get to Positor's 3 without taking a voyage on a beagle. Grab the ears, if you start to fall off.
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Re: Science denialism

Postby charon on July 19th, 2020, 9:53 am 

Reg_Prescott » July 19th, 2020, 7:25 am wrote:It's absurd on the face of it. "Only the facts matter".

Would you like a list of things that were once considered facts but no longer are?

Might shut me up for a while.

It's a VERY long list, pal.


They were factual to them at that time if they were observed correctly and without bias. No one said things couldn't change if other information came long.

But you miss the point of the post, which is that something observed (if you don't like the word fact) is one thing and all the opinion around it another. It's the opinion which may well be subject to the cultural or personal influence of the time.

Facts don't cause dissent, only differing opinions and interpretations cause dissent.
Last edited by charon on July 19th, 2020, 9:58 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Science denialism

Postby TheVat on July 19th, 2020, 9:57 am 

He's got a point, Charon -- opinion can color what you see. Think of Schiaparelli and the canals he saw on Mars.
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Re: Science denialism

Postby charon on July 19th, 2020, 10:01 am 

TheVat » July 19th, 2020, 2:57 pm wrote:He's got a point, Charon -- opinion can color what you see. Think of Schiaparelli and the canals he saw on Mars.


I think you mean 'He's got a point, Reg'!

opinion can color what you see


That's all, that's what I said.

Vat - could the site display a warning if another post appears before an edit or addition? I don't like edited notices coming up, makes it look like I made a mistake! Or, worse, got crafty and altered what I said to win the point (which I wouldn't do). Then I can put the additional point in another post. Thanks.
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Re: Science denialism

Postby TheVat on July 19th, 2020, 10:13 am 

It does warn, but you have to use Full Editor on your reply, and not Quick Reply.
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Re: Science denialism

Postby Reg_Prescott on July 19th, 2020, 10:17 am 

You tell 'em, Charon.

Give these mods an inch and they'll take it a mile.
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Re: Science denialism

Postby Reg_Prescott on July 19th, 2020, 10:26 am 

TheVat » July 19th, 2020, 10:52 pm wrote:Reg, you veered into modal logic, and that's interesting, but you failed to erase the empirical content that's needed to arrive at the Darwinian option. You can't get to Positor's 3 without taking a voyage on a beagle. Grab the ears, if you start to fall off.



I believe I addressed that, sir.

What we need to get up off our asses to discover on whatever planet we happen to be on is whether or not evolution occurs.

This is an empirical matter.

Assuming it does happen, we can stay right where we are on our fat asses to know that it adheres to the principle "dogs are dogs", er I mean "those better at surviving do it better than the other losers".

This requires no field research.
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Re: Science denialism

Postby Reg_Prescott on July 19th, 2020, 10:33 am 

TheVat » July 19th, 2020, 10:52 pm wrote:Reg, you veered into modal logic, and that's interesting, but you failed to erase the empirical content that's needed to arrive at the Darwinian option. You can't get to Positor's 3 without taking a voyage on a beagle. Grab the ears, if you start to fall off.



Mr Vat, have you read Daniel Dennett's "Darwin's Dangerous Idea"?

Even HE says it! i.e., given certain preconditions natural selection MUST occur.

It follows by logical necessity; not by empirical discovery.
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Re: Science denialism

Postby Reg_Prescott on July 19th, 2020, 10:41 am 

TheVat » July 19th, 2020, 10:57 pm wrote:He's got a point, Charon -- opinion can color what you see. Think of Schiaparelli and the canals he saw on Mars.



Quite so, sir.

And to that I would pose the question, as Poincare did, is there a fact of the matter about, say, physical space?

Or is it simply a matter of convention?

Did Einstein choose non-Euclidean geometry because that's the way the universe is? Or just because it makes things easier?

Again, opinions are divided. Some claim all you have to do is posit the existence of unknown forces that slow down clocks and shrink meter sticks in order to defend a Newtonian universe.

You want answers?

I think I'm entitled to . . .

YOU WANT ANSWERS!!???
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Re: Science denialism

Postby Reg_Prescott on July 19th, 2020, 10:42 am 

Oh no, what have I started....

I forgot Lomax was a Quinean

*panic*
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Re: Science denialism

Postby charon on July 19th, 2020, 11:11 am 

TheVat » July 19th, 2020, 3:13 pm wrote:It does warn, but you have to use Full Editor on your reply, and not Quick Reply.



I hardly ever use quick reply. Usually only for one/two liners. Is there a setting somewhere?
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Re: Science denialism

Postby charon on July 19th, 2020, 11:13 am 

Reg_Prescott » July 19th, 2020, 3:17 pm wrote:You tell 'em, Charon.

Give these mods an inch and they'll take it a mile.


I'm taking it you have no answer to the real point, then. That's as it should be. Whatever :-)
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Re: Science denialism

Postby Positor on July 19th, 2020, 11:32 am 

Reg_Prescott » July 19th, 2020, 3:26 pm wrote:What we need to get up off our asses to discover on whatever planet we happen to be on is whether or not evolution occurs.

And that's just what Darwin did. He established that evolution occurs, contrary to what the Book of Genesis and traditional Christian doctrine would have us believe.

That's why his theory upset so many people. They disbelieved an empirical finding, not a tautology. How could anyone disbelieve a tautology? And how could anyone disbelieve that "The fittest for survival survive" (or "Those with a propensity to survive tend to survive") is a tautology?

The empirical content of Darwin's theory is twofold:

1. Evolution occurs.

2. It occurs by natural selection, rather than by selection by monotheistic, polytheistic, pantheistic or any other supernatural intervention. (Of course, a God or gods could still create the initial conditions for natural selection.)

(1) was (and still is in some places) the really controversial point, as it contradicted many people's deeply held beliefs.
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Re: Science denialism

Postby TheVat on July 19th, 2020, 11:46 am 

Charon: I'm typing in full editor. Now, if anyone has posted since I started typing this, when I hit submit, it will post a message telling me there's a new post and that I may want to check mine to see if any changes are needed. It will show me the new post or posts. (it just showed me Positor posted) It's automatic, there's no special button. (as this sidebar should be in feedback forum, I will probably move it there when we're done)

Reg, I will look at your Dennett reference, but may be a day or two. I don't think natural selection is logically necessary, though. I can easily conceive of universes where it's survival of the cutest, because a cosmic entity steps in and purges all the less cute members of a species. In an eon or two, all living creatures look like Zooey Deschanel and are adorably ditzy. To know what specifically constitutes "fitness" requires an empirical quest. Does the environment consist of Deschanel-obsessed deity or a godless realm of hungry predators?

If NS is a boring tautology, why is it so helpful to study why this one mutation of coronavirus (nicknamed the "G variation") has proliferated and taken over? Why is it fit? Can't we just utter a tautology and move on? No, we need the MECHANISM. Spike proteins? Nice legs?
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Re: Science denialism

Postby Forest_Dump on July 19th, 2020, 11:59 am 

I would go further and point out that the historical fact of evolution was known before Darwin but Darwin did come up with a relatively simple mechanism to explain it and this was coupled with a simple mechanism for inheritance from Mendel. But I also agree with Reg in that I think we have definitely outgrown the early 20th century explanatory theory and in fact the "New Synthesis"" increasingly makes me think of the Incredible Hulk's clothes. We were somewhat challenged by punctuated equilibrium, although not much. Curvier was also revived in some ways. And now it certainly also appears that Lamark will return somewhat through the role of epigenetics. I don't think there can be much doubt that some, like Reg, will strongly and somewhat rightfully argue that early 20th century theory just doesn't hold up. I don't have a problem with that but neither can I say that I am very concerned about it. I see no problem with nodding that yes Darwin's 19th century stuff is a bit out of date and frankly so is Dawkins and Dennett. But until something better comes along, we will just have to make do.
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Re: Science denialism

Postby Reg_Prescott on July 19th, 2020, 12:20 pm 

Say what you will, but all the finest people are here now

:)

Replies to all and sundry tomorrow.
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Re: Science denialism

Postby Reg_Prescott on July 19th, 2020, 12:25 pm 

@ Vat

I have Dennett's book here. I'll quote directly if you like. (I use it as a beer mat)

But I do have a pornographic memory.

He does say, given such-and-such conditions natural selection necessarily follows.

And of course, he's right.

The only difference between me and the bearded fella is he thinks we've discovered something very important. I think we've discovered Socrates is mortal.

I do enjoy the input from all you wonderfully clever people.

See yas.
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Re: Science denialism

Postby Reg_Prescott on July 19th, 2020, 12:33 pm 

TheVat » July 20th, 2020, 12:46 am wrote:
Reg, I will look at your Dennett reference, but may be a day or two. I don't think natural selection is logically necessary, though. I can easily conceive of universes where it's survival of the cutest,



Looks like we're screwed then.

Can't you conceive harder?

:)
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Re: Science denialism

Postby charon on July 19th, 2020, 12:35 pm 

Vat -

Okay, I'll keep my eye on it. Thanks.
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Re: Science denialism

Postby Reg_Prescott on July 19th, 2020, 12:42 pm 

TheVat » July 19th, 2020, 10:43 pm wrote:
Neurologically, the same facts as emerge from the crone/girl pic.


Neurologically, being in love is equivalent to eating lots of chocolate.

Woo-ah!

Oops, bed time

(Hey, what's wrong with smiling as we solve the world's problems?)
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Re: Science denialism

Postby Reg_Prescott on July 19th, 2020, 12:46 pm 

And that Lomax fellah is a complete liar.

I got no Word games today at all.

You just can't trust these sassenachs.
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Re: Science denialism

Postby Positor on July 20th, 2020, 1:24 am 

"The fittest survive" is tautology,
But "fit" could depend on theology.
Charles Darwin said 'no',
And proceeded to show
That on Earth it's a case of biology.
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Re: Science denialism

Postby Reg_Prescott on July 20th, 2020, 3:22 am 

Some basics first that ought to be uncontroversial . . .

A tautology is a necessarily true proposition. To lapse into the jargon of modal logic again, it is true in all possible worlds.

A tautology is non-empirical. No empirical investigation is required to establish the truth of a tautology. You could, of course, if so inclined, conduct door-to-door studies to collect evidence for the proposition "Bachelors are unmarried men". The point being, however, you'd be wasting your time.

Now, Braininvat might resist this, but I'd further argue that a tautology has no explanatory power or "heuristic value", at least none of any interest to science. The only explanatory power that "a bachelor is an unmarried man" might conceivably have is to a person (a child or a foreigner perhaps) who doesn't know the meaning of the word "bachelor".



Granting the above, if you will, and moving on, let's take "lemurs are lemurs" (L1) as our poster-child tautology. Since it's a tautology, "lemurs are lemurs" is true in every possible world. It has no empirical content. No inquiry is required to know its truth.

Of course, not every possible world has lemurs; some do, some don't. The question of whether any given possible world contains lemurs (L2) is an empirical one; its truth could only be ascertained with some pretty fancy technology.

So, let's be very clear. L1 which is non-empirical must not be confused with L2 which is empirical.




I've been arguing that the principle of natural selection is a tautology. I believe (correct me if I'm wrong) at least BiV and Lomax have conceded this, though they probably would want to add that it is a tautology with heuristic value (see my objection above).

If the principle of natural selection is indeed a tautology (NS1) then it is true in every possible world. It has no empirical content. No inquiry is required to know its truth.

Of course, not every world will have evolution, or indeed life at all. Therefore whether or not natural selection is instantiated in any given world (NS2) is an empirical one; its truth (i.e. does this world contain natural selection or not?) could only be ascertained with the same fancy technology.

Again, let's be very clear. NS1 which is non-empirical must not be confused with NS2 which is empirical.




At the end of his interesting post at the bottom of the previous page, Positor writes:

Positor » July 19th, 2020, 3:36 pm wrote:
Now, the tautology "the fittest survive" is compatible with any of the above possibilities. The theory of evolution by natural selection, however, is compatible only with (3). So the theory of evolution by natural selection is not identical to the tautology – it has an empirical content which rules out (1) and (2). Indeed, it was highly controversial because Christians traditionally believed (1).



Two points to note:

1. What's controversial with religious fundamentalists has nothing to do with the mechanism of evolution. Switch the mechanism from natural selection to something else and they're not gonna shut up. What they object to is that evolution (or at least macro-evolution) has happened at all.


2. More importantly, what you're doing here, as far as can see, is to confuse NS1 with NS2.

The issue is not over whether the principle of natural selection is true (NS1). Granting its tautological status, NS1 is true in every possible world, regardless of whether or not it happens to be instantiated.

The controversy, rather, is over what kind of world we live in: do we live in a world in which evolution/natural selection is instantiated or not. (NS2)



Conclusion: The question of whether ours is a world in which natural selection/evolution occurs is an empirical one.

The principle of natural selection is not.
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Re: Science denialism

Postby Reg_Prescott on July 20th, 2020, 8:05 am 

Positor » July 19th, 2020, 3:36 pm wrote:
Now, the tautology "the fittest survive" is compatible with any of the above possibilities. The theory of evolution by natural selection, however, is compatible only with (3). So the theory of evolution by natural selection is not identical to the tautology – it has an empirical content which rules out (1) and (2). Indeed, it was highly controversial because Christians traditionally believed (1).



Or, to be less long winded, and assuming "the fittest survive" is identical to the principle of natural selection . . .

I agree, the theory of evolution by natural selection is not identical to the tautology; Darwin had a lot more to say than just natural selection. For example, he adduced a stockpile of evidence that evolution had occurred, and suggested natural selection as the principal mechanism.

But the principle of natural selection, taken by itself, is a tautology -- you said so yourself -- thus devoid of any empirical content.

And that's all I've ever been arguing.
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Re: Science denialism

Postby Reg_Prescott on July 20th, 2020, 8:17 am 

It's kind of irrelevant, but I think you'd find religious fundamentalists have no problem with natural selection. Even they concede that Darwin's finches tend to evolve -- but only in an intra-species manner; once a species, always a species.

What I assume they would say, assuming they are, like most people, oblivious to my own tautological concerns, is something like this:

"Yes, natural selection happens, but there are limits to what it can do".
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