Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Predictability

"Hans Reichenbach in The Rise of Scientific Philosophy (1951, p. 89) emphasizes the necessity of a predictive quality for science:

A mere report of relations observed in the past cannot be called knowledge; if knowledge is to reveal objective relations of physical objects, it must include reliable predictions. A radical empiricism, therefore, denies the possibility of knowledge.

The concept of predictability and subsequent testability has prompted the noted scientific philosopher Karl Popper to further emphasize that if an explanation cannot be adequately tested, it is not scientific. The concept must be testable (i.e., falsifiable) to qualify. Any kind of explanation will not do; it must be amenable to a testing process. If it survives testing, it can qualify. In our magnet example, we might propose that objects of only a certain color (and not a magnet) attract iron. If a red magnet were found to work, we could further test the notion by using a wooden block of the same color as the magnet and thus disprove the color theory. Popper in his book The Logic of Scientific Discovery (1968, p. 40) is emphatic on the matter of falsification. He states:

But I shall certainly admit a system as empirical or scientific only if it is capable of being tested by experience. These considerations suggest that not the verifiability but the falsifiability of a system to be taken as a criterion of demarcation.

The idea that a genuine scientific idea must have the consistency that gives it predictive value, and the potential for falsification, has received a great deal of attention during the past few years among scientific philosophers and evolutionists. There is very little disagreement with this aspect of science as enunciated by Popper, and there is genuine concern as to how to apply this principle to the theory of evolution. The unrepeatable or untestable events postulated for evolution are not amenable to evaluation on the basis of consistency and prediction. Thus the concept of evolution as a principle of science is being questioned at a most fundamental level. Does it really qualify as a scientific principle? Some examples of deficiencies follow.

The concept of natural selection by survival of the fittest is the basic evolutionary mechanism. This concept does not qualify as a scientific principle, since fitness is equivalent to survival. Here we have a case of circular reasoning; no consistency or predictive value can be tested. According to this idea, organisms have survived through the evolutionary process because they are better fit, and the way one tells they are better fit is that they survive. A number of evolutionary scholars have labeled the principle of survival of the fittest a tautology (e.g., Waddington 1957, Eden 1967, Peters 1976). Popper (1963) attacks the unfalsifiable nature of the concept and concludes:

If, more especially, we accept that statistical definition of fitness which defines fitness by actual survival, then the survival of the fittest becomes tautological, and irrefutable.

The concept of survival of the fittest of itself does not necessarily imply any evolution. Would not the fittest survive, whether they evolved or were created? The noted evolutionist Mayr (1976, p.3) speaks of "an all-powerful natural selection." Platnick (1977) wonders if there is any difference in this kind of explanation as compared to that of an all-powerful Creator."


(Ariel A. Roth, 'DOES EVOLUTION QUALIFY AS A SCIENTIFIC PRINCIPLE?'
from: http://www.grisda.org/origins/04004.htm )

2 comments:

human rorschach test said...

I like this one. If something can't be tested, details about it can't be proven.

Doesn't thinking along this line serve agnosticism?

It seems to counter theology on the whole, and might be used to counter the theory of evolution, if there wasn't any evidence of animals changing in the space of a few generations, when desirable characteristics were promoted.

Jeff said...

Not at all. The article is stating that Evolution is unrepeatable, untestable and unfalsifiable, hence unprovable, and therefore does not qualify as a scientific principle. Therefore, both creationism and evolution are beliefs.

But just because proof of how the universe began, as well as proof of God's existence, lies outside the realm of Natural Science, does not mean that God is unknowable. He is not knowable through Science (because He is outside this physical, natural realm He created; in a similar way, the creator of the game Monopoly would not be knowable just by playing Monopoly), but He is knowable through personal experience. (So, even though you cannot know the creator of Monopoly just by examining its pieces or the board, you could, in fact, go and meet him in person.) In fact, every true (i.e., 'regenerated'), born-again Christian knows God personally. God is a God of relationships, and the only way to be 'saved' is to know God personally.

As far as "animals changing in the space of a few generations:"
To the Evolutionist, if microevolution (speciation, adaptation, etc.) is a well established fact, then macroevolution must logically be an established fact as well. In contrast, Creationists do believe in microevolution, but they do not believe in macroevolution. (However, Creationists do not believe in the fixity of species, as is often assumed.) They believe microevolution is an observable fact, and that speciation does occur. Creationists believe that animals of different species, such as the wolf, coyote, and fox, all had a common canine ancestor (microevolution), but they don't agree that these species also share a common ancestor with dolphins (macroevolution).

"At this point, one might wonder exactly why creationists aren’t willing to accept macro as a scientific fact if they will accept micro. I believe part of the problem is with the term “microevolution” itself. This term sounds like small changes are occurring that will lead to macroevolution provided there is enough time. However, when creationists say they believe microevolution occurs, what they really mean is that they believe variations within a kind of animal or plant occurs. Sometimes these variations can lead to a new species, and in some cases, even a new genus. But the variations have limitations. That limitation is within the genetic information of the organism. For instance, dogs can produce numerous varieties of dogs, but they will never produce a fundamentally different kind of animal, such as a cat (similar perhaps in shape and form, but an entirely different kind of animal). It’s just not within their genetic content. In my experience, evolutionists will quickly question exactly what a "kind" is. I’ll admit that it is partially true that creationists don’t have a definite definition of what a kind is, but this shouldn’t be cause for concern. Evolutionists don’t have a definite definition on what a species is either, as Scientific American admits:

“recognizing a new species during a formative stage can be difficult, because biologists sometimes disagree about how best to define a species”. (John Rennie, Scientific American, “15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense”. June 2002)

This is an important point for evolutionists to keep in mind when creationists don't have a perfect definition of what a kind is. Creationists, however, do have a good idea of what a kind is. The Bible makes it clear that if two different organisms can bring forth offspring, then they are the same "kind" of creature. The break down happens because today some animals that are of the same "kind" may no longer be able to reproduce with the parent populations because of loss of information or ability."

"So exactly why can’t microevolution lead to macroevolution? In order for this to happen, something very fundamental must occur: new genetic information must arise in an organism. The organism must then pass on its genes on to its descendents, and with later accumulations of changes over several generations, eventually macroevolution will occur. This theory actually seems pretty logical, yet as logical as it may seem, it is not what we observe when microevolution occurs. In fact, we observe exactly the opposite of what must happen if microbe-to-man evolution is true. And that is, we see organisms become more specialized as they adapt to their environment, or when speciation occurs. Sometimes these changes might even be beneficial despite being an overall loss of information. For example, beetles on a windy island will sometimes lose their wings due to a degenerative mutation. This mutation is actually beneficial in this circumstance because the beetles aren’t able to fly and be blown off into the ocean. But even though this mutation is beneficial, it still resulted in a net loss of information.

Information is the key factor if microevolution is going to eventually extrapolate into macroevolution. The evolutionists might try to counter this by pointing out that the reason we may not see new information arise is because it is extremely rare. So rare, in fact, that it might not ever happen in our lifetime or even in several generations. Admittedly, this might actually be true when it comes to multi-cellular life forms; however, if this type of evolution is true or is at least even possible, then one might not have to look much further than microscopic single-cellular life forms such as bacteria to observe the changes. Under the right conditions, a bacterium can divide every 20 minutes. This means if the conditions are right, one bacterium can multiply into billions of bacteria within 24 hours. As any biologist can testify, the numbers at which bacteria can populate is staggering, and because bacteria can multiply so quickly, this can be used to simulate eons of time. If macroevolution is true, it shouldn’t be that inconceivable to see bacteria gain new genetic information. It also shouldn’t be too unreasonable to expect to see a single-cellular bacterium evolve into a multi-cellular bacterium. Why then has this never been observed to occur even in bacteria? Perhaps it’s because the types of changes that are needed to lead microevolution to macroevolution simply do not happen."

"It is no surprise to creationists that animals become more specialized and often lose information when they ‘microevolve’."

".....new information must be information that the life form did not originally possess. Sometimes evolutionists like to give examples of mutations that do technically increase information in an organism. They are, however, the wrong types of information increase needed as evidence for molecules-to-man evolution. Such an example would be certain humans who possess an extra chromosome at position 21. I want to first point out that this is a harmful mutation which results in Down’s syndrome, so it hardly counts as evidence for evolution. Also, while this might technically be an increase, it is not the type of increase we are looking for in order for macroevolution to be true. The human already had the information, it just was duplicated. This is not new information. It leads to a harmful mutation, and it certainly tells us nothing about the origin of the information."
http://www.trueauthority.com/cvse/micromacro.htm