Tuesday, March 28, 2006

"Weak Verificationism" and Evolution

Before I move on from the topic of evolution and science I had intended to mention one other method of justification of theories in science that is fallacious. Now for the most part in the previous posts I have been talking philosophically against evolution rather than going through every scrap of evidence for and against the theory of evolution. To do the latter would require a blog of its own, thus I have focused on the philosophic side. To analyze what are the criteria that distinguishes science from non science is the work of philosophers not scientists. This is the area of philosophy known as the philosophy of science. For example to answer questions like: "Should science be done objectively?" and "What makes a theory acceptable?" are questions philosophers deal with answering because such questions are kin to ethical and epistemological questions. Thus the scientific method is not based upon science but rather philosophy. This is why in the last post I dealt with a few of the typical logical fallacies (Ad pop, and ad hom) used to defend evolution theory. I want to here address some ways in which theories (particularly evolution) are justified that are just plain bad...sucka.

I) Weak Verification:

A popular way in which non-scientific theories pass as scientific is "Weak verification". By verification I mean a person lays out theory "A" and says:
1) If theory "A" is true then we should see hypotheses"B",
2) We find "B" therefore
3) Theory "A" is very probably true

Now this may seem as though it is a sensible way to go about things and indeed it is logical. Many theories' hypotheses are tested using such methods. A problem arises when there is no way in which hypotheses "B" can not be found to be true this I call "weak verification". Take for example Freudian psychology, Karl Popper writes:

"The Freudian analysts emphasized that their theories were constantly verified by their "clinical observations." As for Adler, I was much impressed by a personal experience. Once, in 1919, 1 reported to him a case which to me did not seem particularly Adlerian, but which he found no difficulty in analyzing in terms of his theory of inferiority feelings, although he had not even seen the child. Slightly shocked, I asked him how he could be so sure. "Because of my thousandfold experience," he replied; whereupon I could not help saying: "And with this newcase, I suppose, your experience has become thousand-and-one-fold."What I had in mind was that his previous observations may not have been much sounder than this new one; that each in its turn had been interpreted in the light of"previous experience," and at the same time counted as additional confirmation. What, I asked myself, did it confirm? No more than that a case could be interpreted in the light of the theory. "

What Popper is getting at is that no matter the circumstances Freud and Adler have an psychologized explanation of the person being examined that fits perfectly into the theory thus "confirming" the theory. To put it in my own words take psychologized egoism, there is no behaviour that does not fit into the theory. What about helping an old lady cross the road? The theorist can answer "Actually that is egocentric too, look at the helper's motives possibly good feelings from helping, or atention from on lookers." Do we see what is happening? The theory has an explanation for every behavior making the behavior square perfectly with the theory.

It is my contention that much of the same sort of "weak verification" is employed to prop up evolution theory, at least in part. I cite for example the common ancestry theses of evolution. This states that all of life came from the same source, and given time, mutation, and natural selection has produced the wide array we now see (Dogs, whales, cats, chimps, alligators, flowers, bumble bees, trees, and humans). All of the things I listed share a common ancestor according to this theses. Evidence given for example is the striking similarities between human and Chimpanzee DNA over 98% identical. Thus we have strong evidence for common ancestry theses.

I disagree, for the same reasons Popper rejects the Freudian egoism theses. I think that if Chimp/human DNA were 90% alike this would be used to support common ancestry as would 75%. When a theses is accepted it is easy to go about and point to things that allegedly verify its truthfulness. The problem with the 98% identical DNA being supportive of common ancestry is that it is subjectively interpreted data. One could equally look at it and say "Wow God used similar blueprints in His creation." Also a good rule of thumb is to remember that statistics are misleading. 98% identical sounds radically close. If someone said my brother and I looked 98% identical you would think that they meant apart from a mole or two we looked identical, and this would make sense. However, when you are talking about DNA 2% difference is huge, thus the percent needs to be weighed relatively to what it is describing.

(This is the difference 2% DNA separation makes, a world of difference!)

II) Some Final thoughts

Before I move on from evolution I just want to make clear that I in these last 3 posts have NOT proven evolution to be false, I have merely exposed some bad arguments used to justify and defend evolution. Ultimately we need to look at the evidence and consider what it points to. I for one have not been too impressed by drawings of half ape men in caves with clubs who are supposedly links between human and apes. I would be impressed if they found some fossil remains, not only of humans and ape links, but multiple other species and their ancestors. Not only that how about some intermediaries when the first arms were slowly being developed over time? There really should be plenty of this stuff if evolution is indeed an accurate description of origins, yet there seems to be a lack of its discovery. To be fair I think there are problems with the Intelligent Design arguments like I said in the last post, namely it is basically a "god of the gaps" argument. Many have picked up on this and asked why does "god" have to be the intelligent designer why not the "Flying Spaghetti Monster"? (there is an actual FSM page) I think this criticism is correct. That is why I personally don't think ID is the way to go. There is no "god of the gaps" problem when you begin with God and His word. Rather, I think evolution is a gap filler for a philosophy without God as the starting point.

When we begin with God and His revealed truth we enjoy a freedom the naturalist does not enjoy. This brings me back to my point of methodological naturalism which I think drives much of the rhetoric of "science vs religion" in our day. To restate the issue, methodological naturalism says the only right answers you can have in the scientific endeavor are naturalistic ones, to quote Alvin Plantinga on this:
"Judgements here, of course, may differ widely between believer in God and non-believers in God. What for the former is at best a methodological restriction is for the latter the sober metaphysical truth: her naturalism is not merely provisional and methodological, but, as she sees it, settled and fundamental. But believers in God see the matter differently. The believer in God, unlike her naturalistic counterpart, is free to look at the evidence for the Grand Evolutionary Scheme and follows it where it leads, revising that scheme if the evidence is insufficient. She has a freedom not available to the naturalist. The latter accepts the Grand Evolutionary Scheme because from a naturalistic point of view this scheme is the only visible answer to the question what is the explanation of the presence of all these marvelously multifarious forms of life? The Christian, on the other hand, knows that creation is the Lord's; and she isn't blinkered by a priori dogmas as to how the Lord must have accomplished it. Perhaps it was by broadly evolutionary means, but then again perhaps not. At the moment, 'perhaps not' seems the better answer."

Plantinga's point is that the Atheist is bound to a naturalistic explanation of the origins of life, where as it is not necessarily the case for the believer. The believer can be open to a theistic evolution view as well as a special creation view of life's origins, the believer is the one who is truly free when it comes to this issue.

That being said I find it highly unlikely that life's' origins are explained by evolution theory based upon what evidence I do know of. Again I think evolution represents an ideology that is anti-christian, again I know it doesn't have to be (theistic evo) however, it is indeed used as a God supplanter in philosophy. Again I refer to Augustine's description of a battle between the City of God and the City of the world, and say I stand against evolution not because it necescarily undermines Gods existance per se, but men are going to hell believing evolution is accurate and there is no God to whom they will give an account. Men's eternal souls are at stake here.


Papacurt said...

I like chuck.
I like monkey.

Papacurt said...

The only thing I know is that if you go into cardiac arrest, I can shock you.
Or if chuck gives you a round house to the face, I can fix you right up.