Perhaps I'll be safe here (Page 4)

axocanth: Same dude, different video . . .


At 1:39 a woman in the video says "Is it just me or does the evolutionary story keep changing?"

I find Forrest's response quite staggering!

"Yeah, science keeps changing. That's how you know you can trust it".

WTF ??????????????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Compare: "Six people at the party asked Vianna how old she is. They were all given different answers. That's how you know you can trust Vianna."

Now, if all six people at the party had received the SAME answer, we might be ON THE WAY to trusting Vianna. Consistency, we might say, is a good start. Though, it's also possible, of course, that she is lying, but at least lying consistently. Some caution is still required.

Inconsistency, on the other hand, provides an immediate reason NOT to trust.

Back to science: There are indeed many cases in science, including evolutionary accounts, which are continually being revised. Let's take the age of the Earth as our example.

Suppose, just for illustration (the actual facts aren't very relevant -- I'm making a conceptual point), that the answers science has given for the age are as follows:

Year 1700 : The Earth is a few million years old

Year 1800 : The Earth is tens of millions years old.

Year 1900 : The Earth is hundreds of millions years old.

Year 2000 : The Earth is a few billion years old.

Now, Forrest may wish to claim that science is converging on (i.e. getting closer to) the actual value of the Earth's age. He may even be right, though that would require a separate argument.

The facts remain, however. If you had believed/trusted the value given to you in the year 1700, the result is almost certainly that you would have had a false belief (unless, of course, the answer given in the year 1700 is RIGHT).

And the same applies to the years 1800, 1900, and 2000.

Conclusion: If a question has one and ONLY one correct answer, you are repeatedly given DIFFERENT answers, and you have nothing else to base your judgement on, the rational course of action is obvious -- believe NONE of them.

Any particular answer you select, in the absence of independent reasons for belief, is more likely to be false than true.

Conclusion 2:
(Edited by axocanth)
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Viannaa: Hey... I tell everyone my real age "same number" so that means, Im consistent in telling the truth.
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axocanth: Notice another thing: The complaint the woman makes, thus the complaint that Forrest is supposed to be addressing, is this:

"Is it just me or does the evolutionary story keep changing?"

In other words, the complaint is that scientific theories in general, and the theory of evolution in particular, keep changing. (And, by implication, caution is advised in committing to a belief in the truth of scientific theories -- something I would heartily endorse myself.)

After admitting that this is true (as indeed it is -- extant scientific theories are in a continual state of revision and sometimes complete abandonment), Forrest tells us "That's how you know you can trust it [science]", and proceeds--at a tangent--to sing the praises of scientifically based medical treatments and aeronautical technology (for which we're all very grateful - thank you, science!).

In so doing, he has effectively changed the subject; he's not addressing the original complaint.

With his talk of aspirin and Boeing 747s, he is now addressing the issue of the practical applications that can be DERIVED from scientific theories; not the truth of the theories themselves.

It is widely recognized nowadays that accurate predictions (thus, in some cases, practical applications) can be derived from FALSE theories.

As is well known, Newtonian physics is still widely used in practical applications. Indeed it got us to the Moon!

That said, Newtonian mechanics is no longer considered TRUE -- by physicists themselves (Quotes available upon request).

As any scientist will admit, I daresay, theories such as quantum mechanics and general relativity may also one day come to be regarded as false. Science is a fallible business, after all.

These theories have practical applications for things such as computers and our GPS system. If the theories are one day rejected as false, does that mean your laptop will crash and your GPS will go haywire? Of course not!


1. Accurate predictions that can be derived from a scientific theory, and any practical applications resulting thereof, are not necessarily a good indicator of that theory's TRUTH.

2. The complaint that scientific theories constantly change therefore one ought to be wary of BELIEVING them to be true is justified.
(Edited by axocanth)
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axocanth: Same video : From about 3:00 - 7:00 mins the topic turns to Piltdown Man. If you don't know what that is, watch the vid.

Piltdown Man was a human-like fossil sensationally unearthed in 1912, thereafter regarded as critical evidence for evolution, until finally being revealed as a hoax in 1953.

The conclusion that Forrest cheerfully draws from all this is that "Science works!" (6:23).

It's a common enough reaction from scientists: Piltdown Man demonstrates the marvelous efficacy of science's self-correcting nature.

Um, well, I suppose you could say that . . . if you were under a religious-like spell, or blinded by love, or . . .

Meanwhile, embittered old bastards like myself without a paramour to court remain far less impressed.

Imagine that a Russian mole had been working for the CIA, passing on national secrets to the enemy, for a grand total of 41 years, until finally being exposed.

The director of the CIA announces with a smile: "This just demonstrates the marvelous efficacy of our own internal investigative methods."

I suspect he'd be applying for social welfare the next day.

(Edited by axocanth)
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zeffur: re: "Piltdown Man was a human-like fossil sensationally unearthed in 1912, thereafter regarded as critical evidence for evolution, until finally being revealed as a hoax in 1953."

Just 41 years pretending the lie was the truth. Classic evoidiot deception technique...
in the meantime, they collected all the $$$ they could get to continue the search to attempt to prove a lie (i.e. evolution) is true...& try to deceive the masses that they are descendants of extinct monkeys..
(Edited by zeffur)
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TheloniousSphereMonk: Cry us a river why dontcha.
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TheloniousSphereMonk: Re: Classic evoidiot deception technique...

Share with us some recent hoaxes from evolutionary science, eh.

...and don't say it's all a hoax.

I mean, provide some examples of recent hoaxes exposed in mainstream media.

Your statement suggests that piltdown-like hoaxes are commonplace, afterall.
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zeffur: Your words suggest that you are a moron. ✓ Verified!
Evolution is a 100% proven indefensible lie & fraud--you just aren't intelligent & honest enough to break free from your gullibility & honestly admit it!
(Edited by zeffur)
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harpalycus47: Sorry, axocanth, haven't time to fully engage, but if you look at the Piltdown hoax closely, you will find that it was contentious from the start. Many scientists were wary of it, especially on the continent. It was argued that much of the enthusiasm for it was generated by a feeling that the British Empire should jolly well be a more likely place for the evolution of man than Johnny Foreigner. Scientists are human and have human failings. It became increasingly peripheral until it was shown to be a hoax by Oakley et al. Remember, a hoax is designed to fool people! Hoaxes say nothing about the underlying science. All the reports of Noah's Ark and Red Sea chariot wheels, the numerous forged gospels, the Donation of Constantine and Jesus's purported Agbar correspondence have nothing directly to do with the Bible as given.
Nobody has claimed that the hoax was science's finest hour, so your analogy fails somewhat, but as part of the self correcting mechanism of science it worked.
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zeffur: And they only chose to wait 41 years--after getting as much press & $$ as they could get from the fraud... Well done!
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axocanth: @ Harpy

Ok, hope to see you back here soon.

Re: The "self-correcting" nature of science.

Like many other cases when scientists describe their own activities, the results are inevitably not exactly what one would call impartial or objective; the result tends to be rather self-congratulatory. Like so many other things relating to science, I feel it is overstated and misleading.

. . . not unlike the way that a hoax being revealed as such after 41 years is described as a great vindication and victory! (cf. "Science works!" - Forrest in the vid)

Some of my posts tend to be quite lengthy . No matter how carefully I check before posting, a few typos invariably slip through. Grrr!

Therefore, after posting I'll read through again and change words that are spelled incorrectly to words that are spelled correctly. This, I think, can reasonably be described as a process of "self-correction". That which is incorrect is changed to that which is correct.

In science, this is seldom what happens. Just look at the constant revisions to the age of the Earth again, for example. What we see is one incorrect answer (by modern lights) being replaced by another incorrect answer, by another incorrect answer . . . ad infinitum.

To describe this process as "self-correction" . . . well, I'm not sure I'd want warts on my own portrait either.

As you said, we're all human . . . even scientists!

(Edited by axocanth)
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zeffur: 41 years of fraud isn't an accident--it's deliberate..
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axocanth: Same dude again, different vid . . .


At 13:45, with his customary toothpaste grin and youthful naiveté (how I miss mine!), Forrest assures his audience:

"The truth is, science is the exact opposite of dogma."

Well, there you have it, folks: science, unlike religion, is free of all dogma. Now, would anyone like to invest in my Nigerian goldmine?

Um, I'm not even going to bother posting my reaction to this nonsense on the comments section on Youtube, because previous experience in such matters leads me to the near certainty that what I'd be told is . . .

"You idiot! Don't you realize there are two kinds of dogma . . . "

. . . and one thing I'm ABSOLUTELY certain I would not hear is:

"Oh gosh, seems like you're right about science being--at least to some extent--dogmatic."

Tell ya what, guys. I'll just let the scientists speak for themselves . . .

"When a scientific theory is firmly established and confirmed it changes its character and becomes a part of the metaphysical background of the age: a doctrine is transformed into a dogma"

- Max Born (Nobel prize laureate in physics, 1954)

"Now to the field of physics as it presented itself at the time [late 19th century]. In spite of great productivity in particulars, dogmatic rigidity prevailed in matters of principle: In the beginning (if there was such a thing), God created Newton's laws of motion together with the necessary masses and forces."

[ . . . ]

"Even Maxwell and and H. Hertz, who in retrospect are properly recognized as those who shook the faith in mechanics as the final basis of all physical thinking, in their conscious thinking consistently held fast to mechanics as the confirmed basis of physics. It was Ernst Mach who, in his History of Mechanics, upset this dogmatic faith; this book exercised a profound influence upon me in this regard while I was a student."

-- Albert Einstein, "Autobiographical Notes"

"Not everyone agreed [that space and time are absolute]. Some argued persuasively that it made little sense to ascribe existence to something you can't feel, grasp, or affect. But the explanatory and predictive power of Newton's equations quieted the critics. For the next two hundred years, his absolute conception of space and time was dogma."

- "The Fabric of the Cosmos", Brian Greene, p8

"I am usually reluctant to engage in discussions about the meaning of quantum theory, because I find that the experts in this area have a tendency to speak with dogmatic certainty, each of them convinced that one particular solution to the problem has a unique claim to be the final truth.

- Freeman J. Dyson, essay "Thought Experiments in Honor of John Archibald Wheeler"

In the modern world, science and society often interact in a perverse way. We live in a technological society, and technology causes political problems. The politicians and the public expect science to provide answers to the problems. Scientific experts are paid and encouraged to provide answers. The public does not have much use for a scientist who says, “Sorry, but we don’t know.” The public prefers to listen to scientists who give confident answers to questions and make confident predictions of what will happen as a result of human activities. So it happens that the experts who talk publicly about politically contentious questions tend to speak more clearly than they think. They make confident predictions about the future, and end up believing their own predictions. Their predictions become dogmas which they do not question. The public is led to believe that the fashionable scientific dogmas are true, and it may sometimes happen that they are wrong. That is why heretics who question the dogmas are needed.

— Freeman J. Dyson, Frederick S. Pardee Distinguished Lecture (Oct 2005)

"At a news conference at Rockefeller yesterday, Dr. Blobel said there were many disappointments in the 30 years of research, ''such as when your grants and papers are rejected because some stupid reviewer rejected them for dogmatic adherence to old ideas.'' His remarks drew thunderous applause from the hundreds of sympathetic colleagues and younger scientists who packed the auditorium. ''What keeps you going are the little blips of excitement every three to four years,'' he said."

- Günter Blobel (Nobel prize laureate in medicine, 1999)

"[John] Clauser recalled that during his student days "open inquiry into the wonders and peculiarities of quantum mechanics" that went beyond the Copenhagen interpretation was "virtually prohibited by the existence of various religious stigmas and social pressures, that taken together, amounted to an evangelical crusade against such thinking."

-- "Quantum: Einstein, Bohr, and the great debate about the nature of reality", Manjit Kumar, p356

(John Clauser was the first person to experimentally test Bell's theorem)

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(Post deleted by TheloniousSphereMonk 1 year ago)
axocanth: Same vid as last time . . .


From about 34:00 - 35:00 (see also 39:40), Forrest makes a lengthy, histrionic, Mussolini-like speech on how the religious believer has to (at least!) prove that his god exists before being allowed to talk at Forrest's "dissection table".

I'm no religious believer myself, though I'm wondering why the believer is being held to a higher standard than science is. After all, it's widely recognized nowadays that scientific theories (except perhaps for the utterly trivial) cannot be proven.

And if you don't believe me, here's Albert Einstein . . .

"The truth of a theory can never be proven, for one never knows if future experience will contradict its conclusions"

You religious folks out there might as well demand of Forrest that he prove the theory of evolution before being allowed to talk at YOUR dissection table.

Needless to say, this is all very silly.

By the way, the topic of my previous post was "dogma". Forrest, talking yet more crap, insists that "science is the exact opposite of dogma" which, I suppose, can only be understood to mean that there is no dogma in science; scientists are completely and blessedly "dogma-free".

I've been scrutinizing Forrest's various videos for the past few days now. What happens invariably is that Forrest spends 30 minutes or so ridiculing, mocking, and sneering contemptuously at anyone who is stupid enough to doubt the theory of evolution.

He's not alone in this, by any means. Perhaps the most famous atheist and evolutionary biologist in the world, Richard Dawkins, likewise feels:

“It is absolutely safe to say that if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked, but I'd rather not consider that).”

In other words, anyone who has doubts about the theory of evolution is mentally retarded, or mentally ill, or . . . wait for it . . . EVIL!

This is scarcely what can be described an attitude of dogma-free healthy scientific skepticism.

When asked about the fallibility of science, most scientists, including evolutionary biologists, readily admit it, and tend to say something like:

"Yes, of course. Everything in science is potentially open to revision. We always keep an open mind about these things. New evidence could completely overturn any theory."

Unlike other scientific theories, though, when you zoom in on the theory of evolution, as opposed to science as a whole, all of the above is immediately shown to be mere lip service. You'd have to be very stupid, very evil or very sick not to believe that one.

The fallibility of science, it seems, for certain evolutionary biologists at least (not all), always lies with someone else's theory. Mine is beyond reproach, thank you very much!

(Edited by axocanth)
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axocanth: Oh, and for those of you out there who invariably define a scientific theory as an EXPLANATION of one kind or another, ponder the famous words commonly attributed to Richard Feynman.

"The weird thing about QM is that no one really understands it. The quote popularly attributed to physicist Richard Feynman is still true: if you think you understand quantum mechanics, then you don’t. At a conference in Austria in 2011, 33 leading physicists, mathematicians and philosophers were given 16 multiple-choice questions about the meaning of the theory, and their answers displayed little consensus."

An explanation is something that brings UNDERSTANDING (whether misplaced or not -- there are incorrect as well as correct explanations).

2. Something that explains; a statement made to clarify something and make it understandable; exposition: e.g. "an explanation of a poem"

If no one understands quantum mechanics, as Feynman claims, doesn't this strike you as a theory CRYING OUT for an explanation?,the%20theory%2C%20and%20their%20answers%20displayed%20little%20consensus.
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axocanth: Latest from the comments sections for Forrest's Youtube vids (posted above):

"Feynman died in 88. The quote was from 1964. We understand a lot more about quantum physics now. But also, the context of it was basically for people at the conference to listen to what was being said without trying to associate it as something a lot more familiar, because the quantum is kind of hard to wrap your head around. But there are real theories within it, which have predictive powers. Which have explanatory powers. So, as usual Frank, you don't know what you are talking about."

-- Shane Wilson

My response: (and anyone out there who believes that orthodox quantum mechanics EXPLAINS is invited to share their views here)

No one doubts the PREDICTIVE power of quantum mechanics: It is an extremely powerful tool for making predictions of certain OBSERVABLE phenomena.

But we're supposed to be talking about EXPLANATION, not prediction (to demonstrate that Forrest's claim that [all] scientific theories EXPLAIN is false).

The salient question is "What EXPLAINS these observable phenomena that quantum mechanics PREDICTS so well?" What's going on "behind the scenes", so to speak; what UNOBSERVABLE happenings that we DON'T see account for the OBSERVABLE happenings that we DO see?

The orthodox (Copenhagen) account -- evidently still the prevailing view -- HAS NO EXPLANATION. They do not regard this as a failure; they consider this to be the proper scientific approach. What's going on behind the scenes? Niels Bohr's explicit answer is NOTHING! "There is no quantum world".

That is to say, Bohr IS DENYING THE EXISTENCE OF SUBATOMIC REALITY! There is ONLY the observable.

Other proponents of orthodox QM give similar answers: "Don't ask!", "It's a meaningless question", "Shut up and calculate!", etc., etc.

On the orthodox view, influenced by the prevailing mood of positivism at the time, these are METAPHYSICAL questions that proper science ought to have no truck with.

So, since I don't know what I'm talking about (according to you), YOU tell ME:

Q: On the orthodox quantum mechanics view, what explains all the observable phenomena that the theory predicts so well?

And you'd better not mention wave functions or any other unobservables, for on the orthodox view, THESE THINGS ARE NOT REAL. They are "useful fictions"; they are "mathematical tools"; they are "façons de parler" . . . and nothing more!

These days there are indeed alternative interpretations to the orthodox view. These alternative interpretations are attempts to do what orthodox QM does not do -- EXPLAIN !!(what's going on behind the scenes).

But these are not orthodox, and everything I've said above pertains to orthodox QM.

(Edited by axocanth)
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axocanth: Skeptics of evolution are often heard to say: "Pfft! It's just a theory".

Enraged defenders of evolution normally react in high dudgeon with something like:

"You idiot! You don't understand the difference between the word "theory" in everyday parlance and "theory" as the term is used in science."

Invariably, a definition is then produced to settle the matter. This is not at all unlike the situation when two people are arguing over the meaning of a word, finally pulling the dictionary off the shelf to end the imbroglio.

The dictionary is the highest court of appeal! The dictionary can't be wrong!

In the case of the word "theory", as used in science, the definition adduced usually looks like this:

"A well supported explanation of . . . "

This definition may have come from a dictionary, a science textbook, Wikipedia, or simply retrieved from memories of science class at school.

And it is almost certainly wrong! For example

(i) Not all scientific theories are well supported.

(ii) Not all theories are explanatory; not all theories are explanations.

It's very hard to convince people of this, no matter what counter-evidence is brought to bear. The reason for this, I suggest, is that people like them, and people like myself, are approaching the issue from opposite directions. Our respective modes of reasoning go as follows:

THEY REASON : My science textbook (say) defines a theory thus. My science textbook must be right. If anyone knows what a theory is then it's scientists themselves. Therefore, if someone says such-and-such a theory is non-explanatory, they must be wrong. If it appears that quantum mechanics is non-explanatory, this must be deceptive; the theory must be doing some explaining.

I REASON : Philosophers have examined the characteristics of many scientific theories. These characteristics do not match up with the textbook definition. Therefore, the textbook definition is wrong.

Conclusion 1: The lexicographer--defined by Samuel Johnson in his seminal dictionary as "a harmless drudge"--is like an empirical scientist. After a thorough investigation (studying books, letters, etc.) he reports the way people use words. His definitions are not always correct.

Not only can HE, occasionally, be mistaken about the meaning of words (i.e., he misreports how language users use words); the USERS THEMSELVES can be mistaken (the lexicographer CORRECTLY reports how language users INCORRECTLY understand certain terms).

Just consider, for example, how the term "atom" might be defined in a 19th century dictionary (or science textbook):

"An indivisible particle . . . "

In such a case, the lexicographer has done his job well. That was indeed how scientists used the word back then. The dictionary compiler was not misreporting. These days, however, it is no longer believed that atoms are indivisible.

We've learned more about atoms, that's all.

Next question: Why is it so hard to capture the concept "scientific theory" in a definition? Why is it that every definition thus far proffered turns out to be inadequate in some way or another?

Explanation 1 : It's a very difficult concept (unlike, say, "vixen: a female fox" ) to capture in a definition. Just give these lexicographers, or science textbook compilers, more time and they'll nail it!

Explanation 2 : The reason why it's hard (cf. IMPOSSIBLE) to capture the concept "scientific theory" with a lexical definition is that our concepts are not stored (presumably in our brains) as lexical definitions!

And a great deal of evidence unearthed in recent decades suggests that Explanation 2 may be correct.
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Viannaa: ☺️
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axocanth: Talking of Samuel Johnson . . .

"It took roughly eight years for Samuel Johnson and his staff of six helpers to complete the Dictionary of the English Language, which was published 263 years ago this month, on April 15, 1755. The work soon established itself as one of the most important dictionaries in the history of the English language, and remained a landmark reference source right through to the early 1900s."

Some of Johnson's definitions were a bit . . . um, quirky. For example, he defined "oats" thus:

"A grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people”

Scottish Enlightenment philosopher, Thomas Reid, not to be outdone, (supposedly) responded:

"And that is why, sir, England has such fine horses and Scotland has such fine men"

(Edited by axocanth)
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axocanth: Another member in another forum quoted the following from a website:

"Pseudoscience differs from science in several fundamental ways but most notably in its attitude toward hypothesis testing. In science, hypotheses are ideas proposed to explain the facts, and they're not considered much good unless they can survive rigorous tests. In pseudoscience, hypotheses are erected as defenses against the facts. Pseudoscientists frequently offer hypotheses flatly contradicted by well-known facts which can be ignored only by well-trained minds."

One major difference between pseudoscience and bona fide science, then, at least on the above view, is that pseudoscientists cling like limpets to hypotheses/theories (I'll just say "theory" from now) that are contradicted by facts, whereas--by implication at least--proper scientists do not. When a theory is contradicted by facts, good scientists will presumably declare it to be false and abandon it.

While not wishing to deny that there may be salient differences between pseudoscience and the real McCoy, I would warn that the above is overstated, naive and misleading.

Most importantly, it has to be recognized that facts, even facts established beyond any shadow of a doubt, DO NOT CONTRADICT THEORIES, whether scientific or not -- despite what you might sometimes hear scientists themselves carelessly say about this.

Remember, a contradiction arises in a pair of statements where one asserts "X" and the other asserts "not X" (whatever X may be).

The point I'll expound on below can be easily illustrated with an everyday, probably unscientific, example like the following: Many people believe in an all-powerful and all-benevolent god -- that's the THEORY. The theory fits some facts very nicely; some less so. The existence of evil, for instance, seems to be an undeniable--and somewhat uncomfortable--FACT, admitted by many religious people themselves.

At this point, the atheist might say "That's a contradiction! Your god theory is false!".

Of course, there is no contradiction, in the logical sense at least. The assertion of both "Evil exists" and "Evil does not exist", for example, WOULD be a contradiction. But that's not the situation here.

What we might say, rather, is that the fact of evil "sits uncomfortably" with the theory of a benevolent, omnipotent god; the fact of evil is somewhat "awkward" for the believer; the fact is somewhat "at odds" with the god theory, or some similar locution.

There is no direct contradiction, though, and the devout believer can always find some way to reconcile an awkward fact (i.e., evil) with her theory (i.e., God). For example, she might say that some evil is necessary for learning and growth, she might claim that evil is a result of human freewill, and so on, and so forth.

A cynic might refer to this kind of tinkering as "ad hoc" or "making excuses", nonetheless, a reconciliation of facts and theory is always possible.

Of course, sometimes the opposite can happen: the believer's family is wiped out in a car wreck, say, and she renounces God. The FACT of evil has caused her to lose faith in--to abandon--her THEORY.

The above is not at all unlike what routinely happens in science. Let's look at a standard textbook example, which is also mentioned frequently in these forums:

In the mid-19th century the theory of Newtonian physics held sway. It fitted some facts very nicely; some less so. And in what follows, remember that only seven planets were known at the time; Neptune and Pluto had yet to be discovered.

Two facts, among others, that did not sit well with the theory were the orbits of the planets Mercury and Uranus. Newtonian physics predicted that Mercury and Uranus should move in a certain way, but they did not.

Does that mean there exists a contradiction (or two!) between the theory and the facts?

No! Just as with the God example above, we might say that these facts "sit uncomfortably" with the theory, or some similar locution. There is, however, no flat-out contradiction. The technical name for a case like this where fact and theory are somewhat at odds with one another is "anomaly" -- and just about any interesting scientific theory you can name is riddled with them!

Just as with the God example, in the face of an apparent theory-fact mismatch, individual scientists have numerous options available to them. E.g.

1. Do nothing at all. Some scientists, for example, might say "Yes, these facts are a little awkward, but the theory fits so many other facts so well. I'm sticking with the theory."

2. Declare the theory false. Some individual scientists might react much as the Christian above whose family was wiped out and say: "I've lost my confidence in Newtonian physics. I no longer believe the theory is true".

No one in the 19th century--that I'm aware of anyway-- followed this path. Confidence (cf. "faith" ) in the theory was supremely high, moreover, the theory was indisputably successful in so many other ways. Good theories are hard to find! Were scientists to drop their theories just because of a few awkward (cf. "contradictory" ) facts, they'd have no theories left!

Typically, what happens in science in cases such as these, especially when we're dealing with a deeply entrenched, well established theory, is the following:

3. Much like the God defender above who appeals to free will, say, to reconcile theory with fact, the scientist likewise will try to find some way to assimilate awkward facts into his theory. This can be done in any number of ways, constrained only by the ingenuity of the individual scientists themselves.

At this point, notice that what's happening is not a simple comparison of facts against theory. If that were the case, there WOULD be a contradiction, and if the facts were undeniably TRUE then Newtonian physics would be undeniably FALSE.

But scientific theories are never tested "in isolation" like this. There is always a vast, indeterminate number of background assumptions (technically known as "auxiliary hypotheses" ) at play in the game; some explicit, some implicit. In this particular case, these assumptions included: (i) gravity is the only force at work, (ii) there are only seven planets, etc., etc.

It's possible that the theory is indeed false. Logic, alone, cannot take us that far, however. It's also possible that the problem lies not with the theory itself, but with the auxiliary hypotheses, and a little tinkering with the latter might set things straight again.

For instance, in order to protect their theory, scientists might say the following:

(i) There must be another force, besides gravity, at work

(ii) There must be something out there that we're not seeing which is causing the orbits of Mercury and Uranus to behave in a manner inconsistent with Newtonian theory.

etc., etc.

And in case you don't know already, here's what ACTUALLY happened:

An unknown planet was postulated to account for the anomalous orbit of Uranus. The mathematician nerds calculated where this planet ought to be, the astronomers pointed their telescopes, and viola! They found it. We now call it Neptune.

An unknown planet was postulated to account for the anomalous orbit of Mercury. The mathematician nerds calculated where this planet ought to be, they even named it ("Vulcan" ), the astronomers pointed their telescopes, and . . . um, nothing was found.

Can't win 'em all, eh?

The puzzling orbit of Mercury had to wait for Einstein to come along and explain.


1. Facts don't contradict scientific theories. Though, some facts sit less comfortably with a theory than others.

2. By and large, scientists do not abandon a theory, especially an already successful theory, because of a few embarrassing facts.

(Edited by axocanth)
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axocanth: Re: my post at the top of this page. Commenters on Youtube clearly do not understand the point I'm making. Come to think of it, they don't understand ANY point that I make. No matter what evidence and logic is presented to them, their faith remains unshaken. So much for critical thinking!

To repeat. First a woman--evidently a Creationist--says this:

"Is it just me or does the evolutionary story keep changing?"

. . . to which Forrest replies:

"Yeah, science keeps changing. That's how you know you can trust it".

His response is ABSURD in the highest degree! Before continuing, two things to clear up:

1. Forrest makes two assertions -- C1: "Science keeps changing", and C2: "You can trust science because it keeps changing".

2. I will assume "trust" here is synonymous with "believe" (to be true). After all, the woman skeptic who says that evolutionary accounts keep changing is obviously implying that this is a reason not to BELIEVE these accounts.

C2, then, can be restated as . . .

C3: "Science keeps changing, therefore you can believe that scientific knowledge claims are true"

Moving on . . .

Consider the following claim: "Predictions for the second coming of Christ keep changing, therefore you can believe these Christ predictors."

Manifest nonsense! The correct inference to draw is precisely the opposite: The fact that these predictions keep changing, as previous predictions are dismissed as untrue (cf. untrustworthy), gives us excellent reason not to believe ANY of them. The dismal track record BY ITSELF constitutes a strong reason not to believe the latest prediction, unless you have some INDEPENDENT reason for believing it.

One poster on Youtube responded:

"Science changing makes it more trust worthy because it means that science can accept when it is wrong and alter or create a new theory that supports all of the facts. It adapts to what we know to be more accurate. It changing means that it corrects itself if it is wrong." (Dr. Potato VII)

Now, if it could be shown that science was a two-step process of taking FALSE knowledge claims and replacing them with TRUE knowledge claims (which would thereafter forever remain UNCHANGED), then we would indeed be justified in believing the revised claims. But do we have any reason to believe that this is so?

To say the very least: Not obviously! Clearly, at least in a great many cases, this is not what happens at all. Consider claims made for the age of the Earth. Consider claims about the nature of atoms, gravity, and light. Consider claims about how evolution occurs. Such claims have already been revised umpteen times, and I see no reason to think that they will not continue to be revised in the future.

Furthermore, Forrest explicitly asserts that science KEEPS changing, implying not a two-step process of amending that which is incorrect to that which is correct, but rather a never-ending ongoing process of revision.

Conclusion: If Forrest is RIGHT that science keeps changing, then Forrest is WRONG that the conclusion to be drawn is that scientific knowledge claims--in a constant state of flux--are worthy of belief.

Even if it could be shown that scientific knowledge claims are APPROACHING the truth--a separate claim that would take some arguing for--one would STILL be irrational to believe our current ever-changing knowledge claims.

For example, suppose the actual/true value for some figure is 100. Science, through the centuries until now, has given us figures of 12, 21, 33, 40. The true value is indeed being approached, yet every claim thus far made has been FALSE. Thus, to have believed/trusted each previous claim, as well the current one, would have resulted in a false belief.

To justify the assertion "You can believe scientific knowledge claims", one would have to show that the true figure, or the true account (including evolutionary accounts), has already been arrived at, or approximately so, and WILL NOT BE REVISED AGAIN.

And this is clearly inconsistent with Forrest's assertion that science KEEPS changing.
1 year ago Report
axocanth: My second to last post began with a quote from somewhere, posted by another member (ghostgeek) in the religion forums, suggesting that the main difference between science and pseudoscience is that the latter clings to theories which are "contradicted" by facts, while the former--by implication--does not.

(The reason for the inverted commas around the word "contradicted" is that theories are never flat-out contradicted by facts, as explained in the aforementioned post.)

Here's the quote again:

"Pseudoscience differs from science in several fundamental ways but most notably in its attitude toward hypothesis testing. In science, hypotheses are ideas proposed to explain the facts, and they're not considered much good unless they can survive rigorous tests. In pseudoscience, hypotheses are erected as defenses against the facts. Pseudoscientists frequently offer hypotheses flatly contradicted by well-known facts which can be ignored only by well-trained minds."

When facts sit awkwardly with a theory, then, according to the above writer, pseudoscientists "erect hypotheses" to protect their theories. Just think of the Christian who appeals to freewill in order to shield her benevolent God theory against the awkward fact of evil.

Presumably, the writer feels bona fide science doesn't do things like this. Ahem . . .

Consider the Darwinian theory of evolution in its bare bones, with natural selection working on individual organisms:

It was noted, beginning with Darwin himself, that the existence of altruism poses a problem for Darwinian theory.

Think of these poor worker ants, for example, who, not unlike myself, slave their lives away and never get laid.

Given that the fitter are supposed to prevail, and given that altruists are, by definition, less fit than the other selfish bastards, altruism ought not to exist at all, or else be winnowed out by the merciless action of natural selection shortly after it rears its ugly "do-gooder" head.

But altruism appears to be an incontrovertible fact -- not least of all in our own species!

Now, according to our quoted writer above, in cases such as this where theories are "contradicted" by facts, pseudoscientists will cling to the theory, choosing rather to "erect hypotheses" to protect their theory. And, presumably, he believes that bona fide scientists don't do this. Presumably, he feels that scientists will reject the theory as false.

I suggested (2nd to last post), rather:

Typically, what happens in science in cases such as these, especially when we're dealing with a deeply entrenched, well established theory, is the following:

3. Much like the God defender above who appeals to free will, say, to reconcile theory with fact, the scientist likewise will try to find some way to assimilate awkward facts into his theory. This can be done in any number of ways, constrained only by the ingenuity of the individual scientists themselves.

Now compare with what another member (harpalycus47) says today in another thread about scientists' reaction to the mismatch between theory (i.e., Darwinian evolution) and an awkward fact (i.e., altruism):

"How altruism and morality developed is well explained by evolutionary theory in terms of kin selection, reciprocal altruism and the requirements of social living."

So, in the face of an awkward fact (= altruism), rather than declare their theory to be false and abandon it, scientists chose rather to "erect hypotheses" (i.e., kin selection and reciprocal altruism) in order to PROTECT the theory . . .

. . . precisely what our quoted writer tells us that pseudoscience does and bona fide science does not!


1. Once again, I do not wish to deny that there may be significant differences between pseudoscience and the real McCoy. It IS, however, very hard to state what these differences are.

2. Once again, I'm not judging the right or wrong in scientists behaving as they do. That's their business. What I AM saying is that the quote at the top is overstated, simplistic, and misleading.

3. Just as pseudoscientists do, bona fide scientists routinely "erect hypotheses as defenses against the facts".

Postscript: re -- "Pseudoscientists frequently offer hypotheses flatly contradicted by well-known facts which can be ignored only by well-trained minds." (quote at top)

Perhaps another day we can examine the saga of how Einstein published his special theory of relativity in 1905, another scientist (Kaufmann) posted a refutation in the same journal just a few months later that no one could find fault with . . . and as far as anyone can tell, Einstein simply ignored it.

My hero!
(Edited by axocanth)
1 year ago Report
harpalycus47: A hypothesis is an proposed explanation, to be investigated and either accepted or not depending upon the evidence found. That is the natural procedure of science. It is not an ad hoc explanation provided to board up a failing theory.
1 year ago Report