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June 30, 2007

How Museums Teach Evolution...

...and the psychological brickwalls they run into. With all of the talk about the Creationist Museum, I thought it would be worth discussing a museum that is trying to teach evolution. In the June 2007 issue of Evolution*, Diamond and Evans describe some of the responses to a revamped evolution exhibit, "Explore Evolution", at the Nebraska State Museum.

The authors conducted a survey of visitors to the Nebraska State Museum, asking them seven questions about the exhibit, with the goal of determining what cognitive biases existed among museumgoers (note: I've snipped the references):

Considerable research on everyday explanations for natural phenomena reveals a set of cognitive biases that would appear to make evolutionary explanations particularly counterintuitive. Though these biases emerge in childhood, they are manifested in all age groups. Evolutionary ideas challenge the everyday intuition that the world is stable and unchanging (essentialism), and that animate behavior is purposeful (teleology) and intentional. Moreover, human evolution, in particular, challenges the intuition that humans are privileged and destined to escape the fate of other species on this planet.

In our research, visitors who exhibited one or more of these cognitive biases when explaining an evolutionary problem were categorized as using novice naturalistic reasoning. Visitors who had a basic grasp of Darwinian evolutionary explanations, though they were not experts, were categorized as using informed naturalistic reasoning. Visitors that invoked supernatural explanations used creationist reasoning.

Personally, I prefer the term bleeping moron, instead of creationist reasoning, but, granted, it's not very professional (although accurate). Onto the questions. One was about fruit flies**:

Scientists think that about eight million years ago a couple of fruit flies managed to land on an Hawaiian island. Before that time, there were no fruit flies in Hawaii (show map). Now scientists have found that there are 800 different kinds of fruit flies in Hawaii. How do you explain this?

The answers (italics mine):

An example of informed naturalistic reasoning by a museum visitor:

Well, the process of evolution. So, at certain points there were, uh, mutations that just naturally occurred. Um, . . . reproduction. And then, those mutations, if they were adapted to that environment, they were further reproduced, and if they were not adapted, the mutations just ceased - those fruit flies died off. So that would explain the variety.

This visitor invoked several evolutionary concepts, though the visitor was clearly not an expert.

An example of novice naturalistic reasoning by a museum visitor:

Obviously people have brought the fruit flies in. And Dole probably, Dole pineapple people probably brought them in.

In this example, intuitive modes of reasoning are invoked, which indicate that the visitor is not conceptualizing this problem as one of evolutionary change.

A bleeping moronAn example of creationist reasoning by a museum visitor:

Um, first of all I have a problem with your eight million years. I believe in creation in the biblical account, so that pretty well defines how I believe things. God created them and due to the great flood, that is how the diversity came and that would be my explanation ... Ok, I believe um, God created a pair, a male and female of everything with the ability to diversify. So I guess what I meant at the time of the flood, I believe that's when the continents broke apart and so even though only a few of each things were saved in the flood, they had the genetic background to be able to diversify into all of the, like for instance, dogs, and all the different kinds that we have. And so um, does that help? Just a creationistic view.

This visitor invoked supernatural rather than natural explanations, in particular, God's direct role in the origin of species.

The responses to this next question about Galapagos finches were quite astonishing:

During one year, scientists measured the beaks of one kind of finch on a remote island. They found that most of these finch beaks were small. In the following year, a drought wiped out almost all the plants that produce small seeds. Only the plants that make large tough seeds remained. A few years later, the scientists returned to the island and measured finch beaks again. This time they found that more of the finches had bigger beaks. How would you explain why more of the finches had bigger beaks?

Many of the respsondents gave a Lamarckian response: individual finches grew different sized beaks in response to the environment.*** However, this bleeping moroniccreationist response made my jaw hit the floor (italics mine):

But like I said, I don't believe in evolution. So I don't believe that they evolved because it takes too long. There are too many failures before they evolve into something that finally works, so I just reject that view. Um, my guess would be that there probably were larger beaked finches but there weren't as many of them and the small beaked ones would have died out because they couldn't get the food.

Erm, you...just...described...natural selection....brain...freezes....up....

But wait!  There's more disturbing news (italics mine):

Not surprisingly, in comparison with national samples, U.S. natural history museum visitors are much less likely to endorse creationism. However, even for a group that is more highly educated and probably more interested in natural history than the general public, only about a third demonstrate a basic grasp of Darwinian evolutionary principles. Not one visitor offered informed naturalistic responses to all seven questions. Interestingly, museum visitor research in other English-speaking countries demonstrates a similar lack of understanding. Using different measures, Silver and Kisiel (2006) found that only about 30% of visitors to selected natural history museums in Australia, Canada, and the United States exhibited a basic understanding of natural selection; this despite the fact that creationist ideas were less likely to be endorsed in the other countries than in the United States.

These findings offer support for the thesis that many people find evolutionary ideas counterintuitive. Given their educational levels, museum visitors are likely to have been introduced to Darwinian evolution at school, but these principles do not appear to be retained. Visitors seem to revert to their more compelling intuitive explanations of evolutionary change.

Well, the good news is that Americans are as likely to be bleeping morons as other English-speakers.

*It is outrageous that these general interest articles are behind a private publisher's paywall and not available to the public. As a member of the Society for the Study of Evolution, this appears to be in opposition to the mission to "promote the study of organic evolution."

**I could be wrong, but aren't the Hawaiian drosophilids fruit flies, but just flies? I seem to remember more than one drosophilist getting really cranky when I referred to drosophilids as fruit flies.  Update. (I was right).

***In fairness, people often become confused by phenotypic plasticity--identical genotypes don't appear identical because of environmental perturbation (e.g., starvation). However, the absence of thinking about the change in beak size as a population level response is disturbing.

Crossposted at Mike the Mad Biologist

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This is one of those "don't even get me started" topics.

Willful ignorance. Talk about an agenda.

Although this article only shows one side of a larger debate between to worldviews, it goes to show that Christians do not have a grasp of their own concepts and beliefs when it comes to a biblical worldview. However, I have talked to folks who have a naturalistic worldview and hold to the Darwinian evolutionary theory of human origins, and even within this circle of folks there are varied ideas as to what evolution is and what the claims are (as this article shows).

The so-called creation movement has two camps with which the issue of origins sit. The old earth view (OEC) hold to the idea that the universe is billions of years old and the earth is millions of years old. The ages for both keep changing as new “evidence’ is discovered. OEC do not hold to the Darwinian evolutionary concept of human origins, which claims common decent and ancestry among biological organisms. Yet, some still claim that the creator is still working within its creation, which is why we see all of the diversity and changes in life forms here on earth. Yet, even among this camp, issues of scripture interpretation and the creators acts upon creation are debated.

The second camp is the young earth view (YEC). They hold to a literal interpretation of the Genesis creation account. By literal, it is meant that biblical interpretation is based on the original language, historical context, culture, theme audience and the intent of the author as they were moved by God (biblical hermeneutics). In that you have six literal days, and with the historical genealogy found within the Old and New Testament, a period of about 6,000 years is established. The Genesis account in itself contradicts the Darwinian Evolutionary account of common ancestry, which is called “molecules to man” among YEC. Here is where the average Christian makes the mistake in framing their views.

The average Christian is brought up in an environment of “church”. “church” for the past 200 years has let go of the ideas of reason, logic, science as it pertains to the observable world. Instead, “church” has chosen to hold on to the moral and theological issues and to let the “scientist” answer the issues of origins, science, logic, reason and creation. The average Christian learns the bible stories and the “feel good” message of prosperity, hope and faith on Sundays and Wednesdays, then the rest of the week they are being instructed in the “real” issues of the “real” world that they observe. All the time not questioning anything they see (in either the church or the world) and blindly going through life oblivious to the concept of objective Truth and what they believe and why. Hence, we read the comments of the so-called creationists answers to the survey in this article.

The average Christian will at some point try to reconcile the apparent contradicting views between “science” and “faith”. They hold to a six day creator god yet see the “evidence” for millions of years. They hold to truth about Adam and Eve yet sees the “evidence” for “evolution”. What usually happens next is that the average Christian settles for the OEC view or abandons their “faith”. So what?

The issue that the YEC have is two-fold. First with the idea of evolution as taught today in the schools. The basic idea that is taught (I mean really basic) is that once the first life appeared on earth a couple of millions of years ago it evolved into the diversity of life that we see today. This concept is grounded in what Darwin showed through natural selection, adaptation and what we see today in mutations in DNA among the different species of life. The evidence that is put forth is usually a thing such as the finches. We have long and short beaks, climate and weather disrupt the food source, nature’s pressure is applied, natural selection happens, and bingo, you have only long beaks. “See evolution is true”. However that is just the smoke and mirrors, because in the same breath evolutionists will most often claim, that since we see this change among species living today, given enough time we can see a whole new “kind” of organism take form. That is where the slight-of-hand of evolution mystifies the world.

On one hand you have species that change through natural selection and adaptation (which can be observed and tested) on the other hand there are assumptions that given enough time a species within a kind could become a whole new species within another kind i.e. ape hominid to man. What is usually not mentioned about the finches is that once the food source is back to normal the short beaked finches are seen in abundance again, and by the way, they are still finches. From an average Christian’s perspective, they do not realize that they adopt a naturalistic worldview/presupposition and blend it with “church” and claim that god uses evolution as part of his creation plan. Instead, of holding to a biblical worldview which stands in stark contradiction (see the six days in Gen 1 and 2)?

YEC don’t have issue with natural selection and adaptation. This concept is not something that is unique to Darwin’s theory. Within observable science, this concept can be confirmed. However to make the claim of common ancestry cannot be observed or demonstrated reasonably through observable science. This falls into origins or historical science. Things of that past are not observed in the past they are observed in the present and assumptions are made based on how the evidence/facts are interpreted through someone’s presupposition/worldview. A naturalistic worldview that holds to Darwinian theory of common ancestry will view the evidence in light of that, such as transitional fossils and geological layers that have been laid down over millions of years (uniformitarianism). Radio metric dating which gives a wide range of readings are adapted to whatever particular dig site is unearthed, i.e. I find a bone in this layer of the geological column therefore it must be about xyz age, the radiometric dating gives a range from def to vwx therefore it is wxy age. Too simple of an analogy, I know there is more to it, but you get the point. Historical science is based on the best assumptions from a particular viewpoint. No one was there millions of years ago to observe the actual events, therefore even if we look at similar theories today that could explain the past, they still cannot account for the actual climate, geology and conditions of the environment of the specific periods in question. They are taken on faith. Even the YEC cannot know for sure if there was a global flood, Adam and Eve, six-day creation… What the YEC claims is that the bible is a historical account form an eyewitness (God) who was there. The staring point is then from the “eyewitness account” (God), then the observable world is seen from that perspective. Such as rock layers laid down quickly from a global flood verses over millions of years (uniformitarianism), all creatures created within their own kind to reproduce after their own kind and man is created in God’s image in his present form (homo-sapiens with genetic variances) and all living humans are a descendent of the one pair Adam and Eve, verses single celled organisms evolving to sea creature to amphibian to reptile to bird to land mammal to sea mammal… to a common ape-like hominid shared by humans and apes.

YEC claims are that it is not about science verses faith, because both positions are looking at the same facts and the same evidence. Then it is a question of two worldviews that are in opposition, the naturalistic worldview (now the main view of origins) verses the Biblical worldview (what used to be the main view on origins) the question that the YEC then poses is which worldview is confirmed by the evidence? Which worldview is true (conforms to reality)?

I mentioned that the YEC issue is two-fold. The second issue is within the “church” itself. Because the average Christian adopts the naturalistic framework of origins, which contradicts the biblical view of origins in Genesis, then it follows that God’s word is fallible. Because it is fallible, it has to be interpreted in light of the “evidence” from the naturalistic interpreted worldview position. Ultimately what this does is then put into question the more foundational doctrines of Christianity such as the virgin birth, Christ being the God-man, His death atonement for the sins of the world and His resurrection. Why should we believe any of that non-sense if we cannot trust what the bible says about creation itself? Mans word against God’s word.

I say all of this for one reason this is the YEC position it could be wrong, however this is the position, argue against it by understanding the position not from some nonsense you get from the average Christians in a biased survey.

Along with that, I apologize if I misrepresented the basic assertions of evolution. If it was misrepresented then I would ask that the true position of evolution as it is widely held today, be explained to me. Thank you for your Blog

A bleeping moronic creationist

I dunno. Science, for me anyway, has always been about beauty. Nature revealed through the perspective the methods developed during, and as a result of the enlightenment, otherwise known as science, turns out to be more beautiful than we could ever otherwise have imagined. The sky without Copernicus, Kepler and Newton is just boring. Water and living tissue sans van Leeuwenhoek is essentially featureless. Matter without Mendeleev is just stuff without context, coherence or meaning. Organisms both living and extinct, without Darwin, and without any mechanistic explanation for their existence (God snapped his fingers is not a mechanism.) are just curiosities and little more. Life without history is barely worth a thought. It’s nothing more than the very last frame of a long movie: no plot, no characters, no script, no context, no history at all, just a single still picture, shorn of meaning, interest, or point. The bible-thumpers live in a very bleak and impoverished world indeed.

Creationist thinking, (if that’s not being overly generous) goes a long way towards explaining right-wing/fundie hostility towards conservation of landscapes and species. These people literally cannot conceive of any meaning for the existence of biodiversity or ecosystems, any more than a naked Cro Magnon man could conceive of a library. The metaphor is “pearls before swine.” Sad.

Here in Virginia, it is possible to run into men who consider themselves Christian, who question evolution, and who on weekends will go into the woods with their paint ball guns, to fight battles with each other, wearing t-shirts that say stuff like "Only the fittest survive."

It is easy to run into hunters who will say stuff, "We cull the herd and make it stronger."

Just don't suggest that culling is a form of evolution.

It is possible to run into right-wing Christians who think "Only the fittest survive" makes for a good survivalist society. That it is a reasonable starting point for economic policy. That it is a reasonable argument against welfare. But they'd rebel at the suggestion that the natural selection they talk about is what Darwin meant when he talked about evolution.

It's okay to believe the theory of natural selection, so long as you don't call it "evolution".

What these Christians want, to a large extent, is outward submission to the church.

I've read that in the Middle Ages the Catholic Church was tolerant of promiscious sexual behavior, especially among soldiers, so long as the people confessed to being sinners and said they repented their sins. However, throughout the Middle Ages there emerged various people who argued in favor of free love. These people were burnt at the stake. Promiscious behavior could be tolerated if it was followed by submission to Church teachings. But to say some form of promisciouity was good - that deserved death.

I live in Kentucky, a core state in the Bible belt and home to the Creation Museum. The place made me angry to some extent but then I thought about it for a while. Much of our population follows some sort of creation theory. I suppose I do myself to some extent because of do believe in some higher entity that was a creator. I don't know all the details(Well I do but I promised not to tell), but I also don't support the notion that all who believe literally are morons either. I visit with people like this frequently, have dinner with them regularly, etc. They even passed on an invitation to go with them to this new museum. I did turn it down as I'm going to the Smithsonian in the fall.

To most people who believe in creation, it's is a much more simplistic world view, most certainly, but that's the real appeal isn't it. Most people have worlds much more complicated without throwing this type of debate. Many people find great comfort in the notion that there is one creator, who created us and gave us this world to take care of as best we could. He designed human to based loosely on his own design. This father see us as his children because everyone's father loves them and certainly this one will even when the mortal fathers don't always. Sometimes things happen, but maybe he's punishing or letting us learn things for ourselves as all parents do. But many people have to believe someone cares, even the when the rest of the world doesn't give a damn.

Creation is a primary foundation for many people on this, certainly in the Christian perspective. There are many rules we must live by to stay worthy in his eyes and most know they will fall short but it's still something to shoot for.

I think most people that take the Bible literally, don't see any other way to take it. Because as was mentioned previously, the Bible is the WORD of God. If one questions the Word of God, then one questions God and it also turns over too many other issues most take for granted.

Say what you want about Christians, but many of them are good, intelligent well intentioned people. Many try to live a life faithful to their beliefs, with that faith getting through many other issues that happen in life.

Science is a a framework with which we choose to define our reality. It's based on framing our perceptions in as concrete and logical a format as possible so it makes it easier to understand. It gives people a structure and a perspective based on a belief that these perceptions and measurements are true(of course these are constantly changing). But that belief, in some circles, is called faith. Science in many ways is as much a religion as Islam, Christianity, Hinduism or any of the other belief structure that have developed in society. Either way, people have to have something to believe in.

Besides, in reality, there's not that much difference between 6 billion and 6 thousand. It's all in where you put the decimal point.

PS: I know I rambled, but it's late and I figure somewhat will get my point. Besides, I'm going to "Meetin'" in the morning.

I don't know... I would have said "Well, all those species of fruit flies could have evolved from the original mating pair through mutation, crossbreeding of the mutations and natural selection, but in your question you haven't told me how the scientists know that more foreign species of fly didn't arrive later on." Because later invasion does seem like a plausible hypothesis as well, absent information that isn't included in that question.

cfrost - on the aesthetics of science, check out Natalie Angier's new book - CANNON.

*****

Stith - science is not a "framework for 'choosing' reality..." get this straight...it is a METHOD for testing reality...trial and error is the framework for science. Science is not even remotely about choice or beliefs...it's about knowledge and evidence. You didn't "choose" the science and engineering that enabled you to type that comment. You would be lost with out science. You couldn't make a telephone call, or flush the toilet without science. Gods didn't invent the telephone, or plumbing. After much trial and error, man did.

You don't choose science...please understand. Science is about defining and testing physical reality.

BTW - if you put the decimal point "anywhere you want" that's called cheating.

"if you put the decimal point "anywhere you want" that's called cheating."

These folks can help clarify both the reality, and proper use of decimal points.


"Stith - science is not a "framework for 'choosing' reality..." get this straight...it is a METHOD for testing reality...trial and error is the framework for science. Science is not even remotely about choice or beliefs...it's about knowledge and evidence."

This is what? Sort of Karl Popper's understanding of science? Science is a method for testing reality? I'm not sure I can quite go along with that. Science has methods for testing reality, but I don't think that is what science is. Thomas Kuhn says science is the thing that scientists do. My current understanding, for what little that's worth, is that science is a social process. As a social process, it may have begun to come into existence around the time Francis Bacon published Novum Organum (1620). It was helped along by the English Revolution. It had taken hold by the time Issac Newton began his career. The fact that Newton died a national hero whereas Galileo died disgraced and under guard defines the kind of social conditions science needs to thrive.

To look at it the other way round, the Soviet Union had researchers who tested reality and were able to make significant advances in optometry, lasers and ballistics. But did the Soviet Union have science? I used to say "yes" but I've lately changed my mind. Did the Soviet Union have conferences, debates and arguments over which theory to fund? I now think science only happens in liberal democracies. What the Soviet Union had was something else. But, certainly, it did have researchers who had "a METHOD for testing reality".

Instead of

"I now think science only happens in liberal democracies."

I meant to write

"I now think science only happens in liberal political orders."

The Medici's established a liberal political order but it was not a democracy.

I really despise the argument that because "nice folks" believe something, it makes the misinformation less pernicious or important. "Nice folks" have believed evil nonsense from day one and they provide cover for not-nice folks who act on the same beliefs.

But this is rich, too --

>He designed human to based loosely on his own design. This father see us as his children because everyone's father loves them and certainly this one will even when the mortal fathers don't always. Sometimes things happen, but maybe he's punishing or letting us learn things for ourselves as all parents do. But many people have to believe someone cares, even the when the rest of the world doesn't give a damn.

If God is a parent, it's the most abusive one imaginable. What is the "lesson" of the natural disasters that have killed more people than all wars combined? That all those folks were sinners who deserved to die? Way to show your "care," Big G. If you go down this idiotic path, you at least should concede that the Old Testament got it right -- God hammers humanity because he's a Mean Omnipotent Bastard, so you better get used to it and start kissing his ass early and often. (And, uh, since Big G is kinda hard to schedule an appointment with, kissing ass of his earthly representatives is what you're gonna have to do instead.)

"I now think science only happens in liberal democracies."

Got that right. Doesn't say much for creationists’ ideas about liberal democracies.

I love how creationists use the eye as a model for intel design...as if. The eye is "too complex to be left to chance..." Tell that to my optometrist. If the eye is so perfect, why do I wear glasses?

I also need to take up the issue of my knees with Mr. Intel Design...not the greatest...

Exactly. Stacking nerve and blood vessels, etc. in front of the photoreceptive layer in our eyes is real smart. We’re supposedly created in God’s image, but what if the image was blurred?

As for knees (and backs), the whole upright walking primate thing has to be considered an evolutionary beta version so far. A long way from perfection.

The comment in the article about Australia, UK, and Canada being places where creationism was less likely to be endorsed may be technically true, but not by a large degree. Fundies have made large inroads in all those countries over the last several decades. The simple rule of thumb is: If Rupert Murdoch's media empire has a presence, then the average IQ of the country has dropped 10-20 points.

Fortunately, fundies, being conservative by nature, generally do a poor job of adapting to other cultures, in particular learning other languages. So they've not made the same inroads into other countries. If the same study was held in the Western European continent you would probably find a much better aggregate response to the survey.

I blame Xtian fundamentalists for keeping evolution as the Poster Subject for anti-scientific thinking, but you cannot blame them for the dismal general understanding of what science is and how it works. The educational system in the United States, anyway, does that all by itself.

And while I see the point that science under unfree government systems is crippled science, I think it adds unnecessary political baggage to the idea of science to say that science "doesn't happen" under regimes like the old U.S.S.R. Surely the sometimes brilliant folks working there made real scientific discoveries using real science. That there's no obvious alternative name for what they were doing underscores how much it's simply a rhetorical point. And I fear it confuses people and even gives fuel to the notion that science is somehow just another belief system.

"I think it adds unnecessary political baggage to the idea of science to say that science "doesn't happen" under regimes like the old U.S.S.R. Surely the sometimes brilliant folks working there made real scientific discoveries using real science."

Is it the individual act of discovery that is science. or the cumulative process over time? Individual acts of cleverness and invention existed before the 1600s, but do we call these things science? The Chinese invented gun powder, but was the discovery science? Is "science" a synonym for "discovered something cool". In that case, we need a new word to describe what made the process of intellectual advancement in the 1600s in Europe unique. (Unless, of course, the argument is that nothing unique happened in Europe during the 1600s, regarding intellectual advancement.)

Issac Newton said "If I've done much, it is because I've stood on the shoulders of giants." Isn't that sense that one is adding to work that others before you did a major part of what science is about?

Can you imagine science without any peer reviewed articles or books that some self-identifying group asserts are important?

Ptolemy did important work that was later used by scientists, but during his own lifetime, I think we can agree there was no scientific community, and nothing we would recognize as science.

Galileo might have ended up as forgotten as Ptolemy, save that his work made it out to free countries, where people like Isaac Newton could reference his work. Their were free countries in Europe that kept science alive during the 1600s, despite the best efforts of the Spanish Inquisition to stamp it out. The Medicis created a free space and so Galileo was, for awhile, able to participate in European science, till Spanish forces forced submission from the Medicis.

The situation with researchers in the Soviet Union is similar, I think.


"That there's no obvious alternative name for what they were doing underscores how much it's simply a rhetorical point."

That is a legitimate concern.


"And I fear it confuses people and even gives fuel to the notion that science is somehow just another belief system."

The fact that ignorant people might misuse a particular insight is not the greatest argument against that insight.

Actually, let me put it this way.

We can all agree that what Galileo did on January 7th, 8th, and 10th, in the year 1610, was brilliant. His realization, late on the night of the 10th, that the stars he was observing near Jupiter were actually moons revolving around a planet is one of the most important insights in the history of Western science.

But suppose, hypothetically, he died the next day, and his notebooks lay undiscovered till 2007? Suppose, also, that everything he discovered was later discovered by someone else. We would then, discovering his work in 2007, say that he'd been a very brilliant man, but I think we would also agree that his work had not been part of the scientific process, since it had gone undiscovered till 2007.

That process is, I think, what science is. Not the discoveries themselves, no matter how brilliant.

"And I fear it confuses people and even gives fuel to the notion that science is somehow just another belief system."

It seems to me that it is a belief system, or part of a system of beliefs, one that people have fought and died for. If you had been alive during the Enlgish Revolution you would have had to choose (based, no doubt, on your beliefs) whether you wanted to fight for an authoritarian theocracy or for an open, free, liberal system. Had those favoring an authoritarian theocracy won the revolutionary struggle, then I think it is reasonable to suppose that Isaac Newton would have died disgraced and in chains, just like Galileo. But as things turned out, Newton died a national hero.

>Is it the individual act of discovery that is science. or the cumulative process over time?

Neither. Science is the way a discovery or information is made, tested and confirmed.

>Isn't that sense that one is adding to work that others before you did a major part of what science is about?

It's important. But claiming it's "a major part" exaggerates things. Besides, I see no reason scientists in the Soviet Union could not have that sense.

>Can you imagine science without any peer reviewed articles or books that some self-identifying group asserts are important?

Absolutely. The trappings of a scientific community are hardly synonymous with science itself.

More important, the research of Soviet scientists -- except for military material that is, you know, classified even under democracies -- was not buried away forever and ever. Or even kept from relevant peers when it was current.

>The fact that ignorant people might misuse a particular insight is not the greatest argument against that insight.

It is if the insight is minor and dubious enough.

>Suppose, also, that everything he discovered was later discovered by someone else. We would then, discovering his work in 2007, say that he'd been a very brilliant man, but I think we would also agree that his work had not been part of the scientific process, since it had gone undiscovered till 2007.

I wouldn't agree with this at all. Is the work of Gregor Mendel somehow "not science" because its significance went unnoticed for so long?

>That process is, I think, what science is.

This notion is, I think, nonsense.

>It seems to me that it is a belief system, or part of a system of beliefs

Well, in a way, everything is a belief system. What I meant was twisting science until it was just another way of explaining the world on a par with Christianity, Scientology or Melvinism.

Matt McIrvin'S POST: OF July 01, 2007 at 01:22 AM

Stith said: - science is not a "framework for 'choosing' reality..." get this straight...it is a METHOD for testing reality...trial and error is the framework for science. Science is not even remotely about choice or beliefs...it's about knowledge and evidence.

My comment: True, science IS a method for testing reality. But when you say Science is not remotely about choice or beliefs I must disagree. When it comes to the belief in evolution. The whole so-called' science of evolution is about belief and choice. They make the most absurd assumptions imaginable. Sometimes their claims are so preposterous, that even a cave man knows they are out on a broken limb.to an extent

Also it is absurd to think that you couldn't make a telephone call, or flush the toilet without science.

Visit some of the ancient Roman sites, and see what the CRAFTSMAN were able to accomplish. I suppose you were purposely using hyperbole for effect. But Science is more than the suppositions, such as the evolutionists flood us with, Science is presenting the real facts, logical facts that make sense, and they MUST present proof of their postulates. Evolution has failed in every way and cannot be classified as a science.

Yes, God didn't invent the telephone, or plumbing. He invented man, who then invented the telephone and plumbing.

You wrote so emphatically: "You don't choose science...please understand. Science is about defining and testing physical reality." And I fully agree, so present the evidence and tests that would prove that evolution is a science.

Believers in evolution are captives of the Podium Principle, they have been mesmerized by their College professors and their high school science teachers. While young and impressionable, they swallowed the mythology of evolution, and now they can't seem to escape.

BTW - if you put the decimal point "anywhere you want" that's called cheating.

>And I fully agree, so present the evidence and tests that would prove that evolution is a science

This is a pretty good site about that.

"To look at it the other way round, the Soviet Union had researchers who tested reality and were able to make significant advances in optometry, lasers and ballistics. But did the Soviet Union have science? I used to say "yes" but I've lately changed my mind. Did the Soviet Union have conferences, debates and arguments over which theory to fund? I now think science only happens in liberal democracies."

Huh? This is the most amazingly bizarre statement. Of course the Soviet Union had numerous scientific conferences, debates and arguments - as well as frequently sending scholars to foreign conferences and submitting to foreign journals. Of course, that was limited by security concerns, and a more restrictive state security apparatus, but the Soviet Union had an extremely active scientific community, certainly after the death of Stalin.

Further, and more broadly, saying that science is only possible within liberal democracies is both completely inaccurate and even theoretically incoherent. A massive number of the greatest scientists of the twentieth century either worked under or were educated by the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Czarist Russia or Wilhemine Germany. In fact, the most liberal democracies (the USA, the UK) were not the primary сenters of science in the nineteenth century - the UK heavily underfunded science education and scientific research and the scientific research structures weren't developed enough in the US for most of the nineteenth century. Science education in the US was a conscious effort, initially by Johns Hopkins University, to import Wilhemine German scientific structures. Up till the very end of the nineteenth century (and even beyond), Americans often needed to undertake graduate study abroad(usually in Germany or in the Austro-Hungarian empire) to become academic scientists.

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