PvM posted Entry 2956 on March 4, 2007 06:09 PM.
Trackback URL: http://www.pandasthumb.org/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.fcgi/2946

Briant Trent, professional essayist, screenwriter and novelist, reports in the American Chronicle on a question he asked Intelligent Design proponent Jonathan Wells during the Cato Insitute sponsored debate between Shermer and Wells.

His simple question, and Wells’ answer shows the scientific vacuity of Intelligent Design. So what was the question? Brian asked Wells what his alternative to the evidence for natural selection was

“I don’t think I’m obligated to propose an alternate theory,” Wells publicly stated. “I don’t pretend to have an alternate theory that explains the history of life.”

Briant Trent observes

ID-Creationists are slick tacticians; having failed with the direct approach, they now try to piggyback in under the banner of science. But again, they don’t have a theory. They have a perspective that a designer must be responsible for what we see around us. And that’s not scientific theory, method, or anything remotely considered science.

First Dembski, now Wells… Seems even ID proponents seem to understand how scientifically vacuous their ideas really are.

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Comment #163944

Posted by steve s on March 4, 2007 6:56 PM (e)

“I don’t think I’m obligated to propose an alternate theory,” Wells publicly stated. “I don’t pretend to have an alternate theory that explains the history of life.”

After thinking a second, Wells continued: “Well, I do have one alternate theory. It involves this Korean dude

Comment #163948

Posted by Sir_Toejam on March 4, 2007 7:16 PM (e)

just a spin on the “pathetic level of detail” response of WD-40.

meh, it’s always good to point it out though, as they say essentially the same thing every day.

Comment #163961

Posted by Popper's ghost on March 4, 2007 8:21 PM (e)

So what was the question? Brian asked Wells what is alternative to the evidence for natural selection was

Um, you might want to provide the words Brian actually used; I’m sure he was clearer than that.

“I don’t think I’m obligated to propose an alternate theory,” Wells publicly stated. “I don’t pretend to have an alternate theory that explains the history of life.”

He’s not “obligated” to do anything, but if ID isn’t “an alternative theory that explains the history of life”, then just what is it, and why should anyone be “obligated” to mention it in science classes or otherwise pay it any mind?

Comment #163963

Posted by Popper's ghost on March 4, 2007 8:40 PM (e)

Argh; I should have read the American Chronicle article first. Trent’s “question” as stated there is terrible, and Wells didn’t answer it, although he did provide a revealing answer to a different question. The question that Trent seems to have meant to ask is “What is your alternative theory to natural selection to explain the history of life, and what is your evidence in support of it?” That still has problems, but at least it is somewhat coherent.

I personally am a big fan of string theory. I like it tremendously. But it’s not yielding anything testable, and is thus more of philosophy.

This isn’t true; string theory has yielded testable claims, and some of those claims will be tested in a year or two after the Large Hadron Collider at CERN comes on line. In any case, string theory is not “more of philosophy”.

Microevolution was once in doubt and now is accepted

Uh, so is “macroevolution”.

even by Creationists. It’s no longer possible to deny the effect of mutations in the rapid generations of microorganisms.

It’s accepted by some creationists. And it’s always possible to deny anything at all. Trent seems to be arguing that, because it’s still possible for creationists to deny “macroevolution”, that somehow it is in doubt or not accepted. I’m sure that’s not what he wants to argue, but it’s not at all clear what he does want to argue.

Comment #163973

Posted by PvM on March 4, 2007 9:55 PM (e)

Fixed is to be his

Comment #163974

Posted by PvM on March 4, 2007 9:58 PM (e)

I watched the video and the question was

“I am a science text book editor and writer, … what is your alternate scientific theory of how life arose and how all these different species came to be here.”

Comment #164008

Posted by Popper's ghost on March 5, 2007 1:04 AM (e)

“what is your alternate scientific theory of how life arose and how all these different species came to be here.”

Ok, so Trent asked a reasonable question, not the totally different mangled nonsense about “alternative evidence for natural selection” that he wrote in his article, and it was he who asked it, not Shermer, as he claimed in the article. Weird.

Comment #164011

Posted by Popper's ghost on March 5, 2007 1:09 AM (e)

it was he who asked it, not Shermer

Oops, it’s Shermer who is a science writer, not Trent, and so it was Shermer’s question, as Trent stated, not Trent’s, as you state above – right?

Comment #164012

Posted by Inoculated Mind on March 5, 2007 1:13 AM (e)

RIP ID

1987-2007

“I don’t pretend to have an alternate theory that explains the history of life.”

Comment #164044

Posted by Anonymous_Coward on March 5, 2007 3:25 AM (e)

RIP ID

1987-2007

“I don’t pretend to have an alternate theory that explains the history of life.”

Careful.

Their crowd is notoriously good at twisting things around.

That quote could easily be used by Wells himself to nitpick on the semantics to weasel out of this one.

I can imagine their side responding (on similar lines, maybe not words): “We don’t PRETEND to have one. etc etc etc” and then go on about how we misrepresented them, distracting from the whole issue that they don’t actually have one.

Comment #164051

Posted by Frank J on March 5, 2007 5:28 AM (e)

AC and IM:

ID is specifically crafted such that the only way to avoid a response of “that’s not what ID says; you ‘Darwinists’ misunderstand ID” is to unequivovally approve of ID. Or call it what it is - a word game. The minute a critic says that “ID claims X,” or heaven forbid, makes X sound anything like a literal Genesis, the game is over and most fence-sitters are sucked into the ID camp.

How quickly we forget Dembski’s 2001 assertion that ID can accommodate all the “results” of “Darwinism.”

Comment #164084

Posted by Arden Chatfield on March 5, 2007 10:50 AM (e)

“I don’t think I’m obligated to propose an alternate theory,” Wells publicly stated. “I don’t pretend to have an alternate theory that explains the history of life.”

That’s a nice quote. It deserves to be one of those quotes that we should embarrass ID with forever, right up there with Dembski’s legendary ‘pathetic level of detail’ quip.

Comment #164088

Posted by Frank J on March 5, 2007 11:18 AM (e)

Arden:

Wells and Dembski know how pathetic their quotes are to scientists, and they don’t care.

Dembski’s ‘pathetic level of detail’ quip also contains the priceless ‘I won’t take the bait.’ I can only wish that fellow critics of ID were as good as IDers at avoiding the bait.

Comment #164112

Posted by Tuomo Hämäläinen on March 5, 2007 1:27 PM (e)

O’Leary,(pro ID) said in “Uncommon descent”(Pro ID)

“I suggested to my friend that a useful place to begin is to point out the following: The many predictions of ID’s demise, based on current theories, have been so completely and systematically falsified that it is time to look for explanations with better predictive value. Not only did ID not die out after various court cases in the United States, but it is now pretty much an international thing - contrary to many predictions.”

http://www.uncommondescent.com/intelligent-desig…

…and the word “falsified” was strong and big and black…

Comment #164115

Posted by PvM on March 5, 2007 1:37 PM (e)

I have read O’Leary’s book and her musings. Her understanding of science is pretty limited, her objections to Darwinism mostly based on strawmen and I believe she could benefit a lot from St Augustine as her writings are doing imho a lot of damage to science and religious faith.

Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he hold to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion. [1 Timothy 1.7]

Comment #164118

Posted by steve s on March 5, 2007 1:40 PM (e)

William Dumbski, 2002:

As for your example, I’m not going to take the bait. You’re asking me to play a game: “Provide as much detail in terms of possible causal mechanisms for your ID position as I do for my Darwinian position.” ID is not a mechanistic theory, and it’s not ID’s task to match your pathetic level of detail in telling mechanistic stories.

Paul Nelson, 2004:

Easily the biggest challenge facing the ID community is to develop a full-fledged theory of biological design. We don’t have such a theory now, and that’s a real problem. Without a theory, it’s very hard to know where to direct your research focus. Right now, we’ve got a bag of powerful intuitions, and a handful of notions such as “irreducible complexity” and “specified complexity” –- but, as yet, no general theory of biological design.

Jonathan Moonlight Wells, 2007:

“I don’t think I’m obligated to propose an alternate theory,” Wells publicly stated. “I don’t pretend to have an alternate theory that explains the history of life.”

Behe in the vise:

(Rothschild)Q. And I’m correct when I asked you, you would need to see a step-by-step description of how the immune system, vertebrate immune system developed?

(Behe)A. Not only would I need a step-by-step, mutation by mutation analysis, I would also want to see relevant information such as what is the population size of the organism in which these mutations are occurring, what is the selective value for the mutation, are there any detrimental effects of the mutation, and many other such questions.

Q. And you haven’t undertaken to try and figure out those?

A. I am not confident that the immune system arose through Darwinian processes, and so I do not think that such a study would be fruitful.

Q. It would be a waste of time?

A. It would not be fruitful.

International Society for Complexity, Information, and Design:

Contact Information

ISCID
66 Witherspoon Street, Suite 1800
Princeton, NJ 08542

609-924-4424 (general)

The essay contests at ISCID have been cancelled, the conferences have been cancelled, the student workshops have been cancelled, the online chats have been cancelled. The ID ‘journal’ hasn’t put anything out since 2005.
I’ve emailed two different ‘editors’ of that journal, asking when the next issue was coming. No response. So I just dialed that phone number. After it rang for a while, a fax machine tried to pick up.

As far as I can tell, the only thing the IDers actually do, is blog.

Comment #164150

Posted by Pete Dunkelberg on March 5, 2007 5:14 PM (e)

“What’s being pushed is to have Darwinism critiqued, to teach there’s a controversy. Intelligent design itself does not have any content.”

George Gilder in the Boston Globe

As reported in The Panda’s Thumb

Comment #164173

Posted by Torbjörn Larsson on March 5, 2007 8:53 PM (e)

Even if Trent bungled some details, I think it is a nice piece, concentrating on the misdirections of “ID-Creationist’s”.

This isn’t true; string theory has yielded testable claims, and some of those claims will be tested in a year or two after the Large Hadron Collider at CERN comes on line. In any case, string theory is not “more of philosophy”.

At the very least, string theory has yielded new mathematics and physical insight.

I’m not so sure about testability, since there are arguments both about if the tests are testing string theory predictions (for example, Distler et al test are predictions from standard physics, which must hold if ST is to hold) or if they are better than earlier predictions (some particle physicists are dubious).

It could also be like ‘last time’. Initially, string theory started with Veneziano’s formula 1968 for the hadronic scattering amplitude, which later got its string interpretation. But later QCD emerged as the basic theory for hadrons, which removed the ‘string predictions’ from consideration.

Comment #164184

Posted by Henry J on March 5, 2007 11:11 PM (e)

So, string “theory” might or might not still have some strings attached (so to speak). Interesting.

Is it possible these expected tests might rule out some of the versions of string theory, even if they don’t rule on the overall concept? (Or are there still multiple conflicting versions of it?)

Henry

Comment #164191

Posted by Popper's ghost on March 5, 2007 11:38 PM (e)

I’m not so sure about testability

Lisa Randall says that she has produced testable claims; I’ll take her word, as the most cited theoretical physicist for five years, over your uncertainty.

Comment #164198

Posted by Popper's ghost on March 6, 2007 12:10 AM (e)

Is it possible these expected tests might rule out some of the versions of string theory

Certain results from certain tests may show that certain predictions are false, falsifying certain aspects of certain theories. That’s how science is generally done.

even if they don’t rule on the overall concept?

An “overall concept” isn’t generally falsifiable; one needs a theory concrete enough to make specific testable predictions.

Or are there still multiple conflicting versions of it?

There are any number of possible configurations; most of them are obviously wrong, because they produce worlds unlike ours. Thus string theory is not just “more of philosophy” – it produces mathematical models that do or do not coincide with the known facts of physics. Physicist Lisa Randall has a specific model that predicts the exact strength of the gravitational force – without string theory, it’s very hard to explain why the gravitational force is so weak (except for DaveTard, who thinks it’s strong), which is one reason string theory is so popular. Since Randall’s model predicts a specific strength of the gravitational force (which is the actual measured strength), it is already testable and falsifiable; this is something that people seem to have trouble understanding – that a theory that coincides with the known evidence is falsifiable (but not falsified). But in addition, Randall’s model makes novel predictions the validity of which aren’t yet known. Some of these predictions will be tested soon at CERN. If the results don’t match the predictions, the model will have to be modified or abandoned. If the results do match the predictions, then we will gain confidence in the model, but that of course won’t be conclusive, and people will continue to seek novel testable predictions to either falsify the model or gain further confidence. Eventually, if the model continues to pass such tests and no other model of similar confidence has been found, people will start viewing the model as likely to be “true” or “correct” or “close to correct”. And so science goes.

Comment #164200

Posted by Popper's ghost on March 6, 2007 12:19 AM (e)

It could also be like ‘last time’. Initially, string theory started with Veneziano’s formula 1968 for the hadronic scattering amplitude, which later got its string interpretation. But later QCD emerged as the basic theory for hadrons, which removed the ‘string predictions’ from consideration.

That QCD is a better theoretical framework doesn’t make Veneziano’s theory unfalsifiable or “more of philosophy”.

Comment #164261

Posted by Pete Dunkelberg on March 6, 2007 9:21 AM (e)

String theory is not precisely pinned down, to put it mildly. I don’t think you can test ‘string theory’ (all of it). What may be tested with the next generation of accelerators is certain ideas that are part of string theory, such as extra dimensions of a certain size.

Comment #164266

Posted by David Heddle on March 6, 2007 9:55 AM (e)

Popper’s Ghost,

The claims that String Theory will be tested at the LHC are, in the opinion of many experts, greatly exaggerated press releases. What will be tested are general properties of unitarity, analyticity, and lorentz invariance-properties that are not unique to string theory. No positive prediction of string theory will be tested, as far as I know.

So in the case, Wells was more or less correct.

Comment #164267

Posted by David Heddle on March 6, 2007 9:57 AM (e)

For interesting reading on the LHC and string theory testing, see this Peter Woit post.

Comment #164282

Posted by Torbjörn Larsson on March 6, 2007 11:44 AM (e)

Henry wrote:

Is it possible these expected tests might rule out some of the versions of string theory, even if they don’t rule on the overall concept?

I think most of the tests assume superstrings.

But actually, there are also new tests in inflationary cosmology that would rule out several types of versions as I understand it. If the upcoming Planck probe can see tensor modes in the CMBR (which isn’t according to the ‘default’ simplest inflation that you would expect) most versions can’t reproduce that.

I found only the technical http://arxiv.org/abs/hep-th/0702059 , but I’m sure I have seen easier texts on the same models.

Henry wrote:

Lisa Randall says that she has produced testable claims;

Yes, I should have checked her claims too. Originally she didn’t claim to get direct evidence for strings in observing her warped dimensions, at least that was how I remembered it which is why I didn’t check.

But it seems now she claims a lot more:

“If the KK particles decay in the detector, the signal of extra dimensions should be very clear.

If we are lucky, in addition to the KK partners of the graviton, experiments might also produce an even richer set of KK particles. We might also see charged KK partners of quarks and leptons and gauge bosons. Those particles could ultimately give us even more information about the higher-dimensional world.

In addition to KK particles, other signals of extra dimensions could turn up. Although the effects of five-dimensional gravity are minuscule at ordinary energies, five-dimensional gravity will become significant when colliders create high-energy particles. In fact, at the energies reached by the LHC, the effects of five-dimensional gravity could be enormous. Five-dimensional black holes could be produced (don’t worry—they will decay immediately), as well as five-dimensional strings.

Furthermore, at high energies, particles will interact very strongly with other particles. Such strong interactions among all known particles and gravity would not occur in a four-dimensional scenario (three spatial dimensions plus time): they would be a definite signal of something new.

Finally, strings from string theory might show up if spacetime is warped in the way that we suggest.”

( http://www.prospect-magazine.co.uk/article_detai… )

I’m not sure which of these are exclusive for string theory, and what all of the observations will consist of. How would “strings from string theory” show up?

Comment #164284

Posted by Torbjörn Larsson on March 6, 2007 12:06 PM (e)

Uups, sorry, the last quote in the previous comment were PG’s.

PG wrote:

Is it possible these expected tests might rule out some of the versions of string theory

Certain results from certain tests may show that certain predictions are false, falsifying certain aspects of certain theories. That’s how science is generally done.

As long as there are no unique predictions (“tests”) the ‘tests’ merely constrain the possibilities in the untested theory. As the Planck probe results will do with string theory.

PG wrote:

Since Randall’s model predicts a specific strength of the gravitational force (which is the actual measured strength), it is already testable and falsifiable;

That would be interesting, since most small or warped dimension theories seems to predict a range of behaviors depending on how many dimensions they include. This makes them unfalsifiable without further tests.

PG wrote:

That QCD is a better theoretical framework doesn’t make Veneziano’s theory unfalsifiable or “more of philosophy”.

I’m just stating what happened, and I didn’t claim”unfalsifiable” or “philosophy”. I discussed testability and mathematics.

There are lot of earlier results that string theory reproduces, and you may call it falsified if it didn’t do that. Or you may call it untested if it does, which is what the concerned scientists do. They seem to want a unique, distinguishing prediction to test against.

(Actually, some physicists call reproduction ‘theoretical tests’ or something such. I kind of like that.)

Comment #164348

Posted by Popper's ghost on March 6, 2007 7:52 PM (e)

There are lot of earlier results that string theory reproduces, and you may call it falsified if it didn’t do that.

Not only may I, but it would be.

Or you may call it untested if it does, which is what the concerned scientists do. They seem to want a unique, distinguishing prediction to test against..

What scientists want doesn’t determine whether a theory is falsifiable. Popper provided a guideline for distinguishing science from pseudo-science; he did not provide a means of dividing the set of all theories at its joints. Given two falsifiable theories, there may not be any practical means at hand for falsifying one but not the other; there may not even be a theoretical means. But that doesn’t make either of the theories unfalsifiable, it only demonstrates the limits of our ability to acquire knowledge. However, string theory is a lot better off than that; if it withstands the upcoming tests, it stands as the best available framework for unifying gravity with the other forces, and in the long run is likely to be accepted as a working model (much as atomic theory was accepted while there was still doubt that atoms were “real”), a proper thing to do under Ockham’s Razor. But we may never find it very “convincing” or intellectually satisfying – again, due to limits on our ability to acquire knowledge. You might compare this to Einstein’s discomfort with QM and the EPR “paradox”. It could have turned out that this wasn’t testable; that there was no way to determine whether there was some valid hidden variable theory. But that would not have made QM unfalsifiable just because we couldn’t make this distinction; it would have just left us dissatisfied.

Comment #164350

Posted by Popper's ghost on March 6, 2007 8:34 PM (e)

I’m not sure which of these are exclusive for string theory

No test is ever exclusive for any theory; it only rules out some theories. There could always be an infinity of theories, unknown to us, that explain all the evidence. Science is based on inference to the best explanation – the best known explanation – the one that is not contradicted by available evidence, entails (“postdicts”) the most available evidence, and is simplest (information theoretically). There is no requirement that it be in any sense “exclusive”.

and what all of the observations will consist of. How would “strings from string theory” show up?

The observation will consist of sensor measurements, mostly made by particle detectors. Consider what Randall wrote:

Admittedly, the experimental evidence for new phenomena that the LHC will provide will be somewhat indirect. But that is true of almost all recent discoveries in physics. As physics evolved in the 20th century, it moved away from things that can be directly observed to things that can be “seen” only through measurements coupled with a train of theory.

The results of the LHC experiments, whatever they are, will be intensely analyzed and hotly debated for years to come. If Randall gets the results she hopes for, they won’t come in the form of photos of strings attached to D-branes, with all the skeptics of string theory saying “My eyes don’t lie; string theory is true!” Creationists complain that “no one was there”, and a similar complaint was long made by steady state theorists. Inference is a tricky business, and highlights the social aspects of the scientific enterprise.

Comment #164413

Posted by Steve Thomas on March 7, 2007 1:43 PM (e)

Humans, and all animal species, are incredibly engineered machines; thousands of times more complex and better engineered than any device on the planet. We have servo-motors (muscles) that move rods (ligaments) that in turn move ball and socket joints (hip, mandible). We have an incredibly complex and efficient pump (heart), a pair of digital cameras that produce 3D (eyes), miniature sound speakers (ears); and on and on. The one thing that makes us different from an incredibly engineered robot is LIFE; that we are alive. Life separates us from robots. And, life is the one thing that separates evolutionists from being able to see intelligence in the universe. NOT religion, but intelligence; there is a big difference here. If we were functioning and not “alive”, and were constructed of plastic and metal, and an “evolutionist” could observe us, he would have to admit that we are the result of an intelligence beyond imagination. And the amazing thing is that evolutionists have absolutely no idea how life formed, and they are completely unable to duplicate life in the laboratory. In truth, evolutionists are no closer to describing the origin of species than any religion is. Both are composed of fairy tales and figments of imagination.

Comment #164418

Posted by GuyeFaux on March 7, 2007 2:13 PM (e)

Steve Thomas wrote:

Life. Looks. Designed.

Comment #164422

Posted by Lazy Day on March 7, 2007 2:31 PM (e)

“I don’t think I’m obligated to propose an alternate theory,” Wells publicly stated. “I don’t pretend to have an alternate theory that explains the history of life.”

From Should We Stop Criticizing the Doctrine of Universal Common Ancestry?

Jonathan Wells wrote:

I am a Fellow of CRSC primarily because I am committed to challenging materialism by distinguishing it from empirical science ­ and especially to exposing the former when it masquerades as the latter. I also consider intelligent design theory (IDT) to be the best alternative to Darwinian evolution; but regardless of how IDT fares now or in the future, I remain committed to challenging materialism on scientific grounds. [bold added]

This article was written in 2001, so maybe he is acknowledging that “IDT” has not fared so well or maybe it is only recently that he has stopped pretending.

Comment #164426

Posted by minimalist on March 7, 2007 3:07 PM (e)

Steve Thomas wrote:

The one thing that makes us different from an incredibly engineered robot is LIFE; that we are alive.

Oh, that’s all? Pff, such a piddling difference!

So now that we’ve established that

eyes are cameras because they can both “see”,
ears are speakers because they can both “hear”, (erm, doesn’t it kind of go the other way with speakers…?)
muscles are servo-motors because they both “move stuff”,

and so on, I’d like to postulate that

light bulbs are the Sun because they both give off heat and light.

Really, the only difference between light bulbs and the Sun is that one is bigger and off in space. So what’s the implication here? Well, since we can make Suns, we must be Gods ourselves, and making life is no doubt within our capabilities. We must not listen to heretics like Steve Thomas; they are evil doubters, they hold Us back and deny Our glory. They must be cast down!

SEIZE THE BLASPHEMER!

Comment #164435

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 7, 2007 4:47 PM (e)

The one thing that makes us different from an incredibly engineered robot is LIFE

I’ve noticed that such capitalization tends to indicate that the writer has no idea what the word means. Here is some help for you. You might also want to read up on vitalism. Not that you will, being a common sort of hit-and-run troll ignoramus.

Comment #164437

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 7, 2007 4:54 PM (e)

Oh, and also species, since you seem to think that “origin of species” refers somehow to the origin of life.

Comment #164460

Posted by MarkP on March 7, 2007 6:58 PM (e)

Well PG, the fundies answer the question of the origin of all species with the same explanation (if I may elevate it with that moniker), so naturally they assume everyone else must as well.

Comment #164478

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 7, 2007 10:30 PM (e)

I think even Mr. Thomas is capable of grasping, once it is pointed out to him, that the questions of the origin of species and the origin of life are different questions, even if he thinks they have the same answer, in the same way that, say, the questions of the origin of dialects and the origin of language are different questions.

Comment #164480

Posted by MarkP on March 7, 2007 11:14 PM (e)

We are really gonna have to work on your sense of humor Pops.

Comment #164481

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 8, 2007 12:00 AM (e)

We’ll really have to work on your intelligence. A serious response to a comment made in jest doesn’t mean that I didn’t get the jest.

Comment #164518

Posted by Torbjörn Larsson on March 8, 2007 9:32 AM (e)

PG wrote:

Not only may I, but it would be.

Actually, I’m very inconsistent about falsifiability in this whole commentary. Even “a range of behaviors” can be falsifiable. I was thinking of string theory problem to make any specific predictions at all.

Here I first forgot that a possible reason to why a theory doesn’t reproduce results known from earlier theories is that it hasn’t yet been possible to extract the result.

Last, as you say I confused the meaning of falsifiability here, because one discard theories that can’t reproduce earlier results, one doesn’t usually discuss their falsehood. (Since they never were accepted.) But with Popper’s definition they are falsified.

PG wrote:

What scientists want doesn’t determine whether a theory is falsifiable.

Which is why I consider your remark beside the point.

PG wrote:

if it withstands the upcoming tests

The probable outcome (according to particle physicists) is that there will be no new physics besides Higgs particles. Which means that the null results on strings will leave us dissatisfied.

PG wrote:

The observation will consist of sensor measurements, mostly made by particle detectors.

Well, duh!

PG wrote:

The results of the LHC experiments, whatever they are, will be intensely analyzed and hotly debated for years to come.

As always, it will not be really impressive on string detractors if Randall postdicts results by tweaking her theories, and not at all if also QCD can explain the particle results. The problem in the former case is that the freedom in having 10^500 vacua is considerable, even if Randall’s theories probably constrain that somewhat.

Comment #164521

Posted by Torbjörn Larsson on March 8, 2007 9:44 AM (e)

PG wrote:

A serious response to a comment made in jest doesn’t mean that I didn’t get the jest.

A serious response to a comment made in jest means that we are really gonna have to work on your sense of humor, though. :-)

Comment #164527

Posted by ben on March 8, 2007 10:32 AM (e)

We’ll really have to work on your intelligence. A serious response to a comment made in jest doesn’t mean that I didn’t get the jest.

An insulting response to a comment made in jest (Mark P’s) might, however, mean you’re a jerk.

Comment #164558

Posted by David B. Benson on March 8, 2007 2:02 PM (e)

Remember than Popper’s Ghost is only a ghost and so lacks a sense of humor. ;-)

Comment #164627

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 8, 2007 6:41 PM (e)

An insulting response to a comment made in jest (Mark P’s) might, however, mean you’re a jerk.

Well, that you apply a different standard to Mark P’s jesting insult from the one you apply to my jesting retort definitely makes you a jerk.

Comment #164629

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 8, 2007 6:46 PM (e)

Remember than Popper’s Ghost is only a ghost and so lacks a sense of humor. ;-)

Damn, you’ve seen right through me.

Comment #164631

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 8, 2007 6:49 PM (e)

A serious response to a comment made in jest means that we are really gonna have to work on your sense of humor, though. :-)

And just how’re you gonna do that, huh? Huh?

A parallel construction is a form of humor, though too subtle for many who only recognize it when it is accompanied by an icon.

Comment #164632

Posted by David B. Benson on March 8, 2007 6:51 PM (e)

Ghosts are translucent. :-)

Comment #164633

Posted by Steveipinhead on March 8, 2007 6:52 PM (e)

Good. I’m glad we’re all clear on that, now!

Comment #164636

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 8, 2007 7:12 PM (e)

I’m very inconsistent about falsifiability in this whole commentary.

I concur.

As always, it will not be really impressive on string detractors if Randall postdicts results by tweaking her theories, and not at all if also QCD can explain the particle results.

Yeah, and Hoyle managed not to be impressed by casting results as tweaking and claiming that steady state theory could explain all the results. But if Randall gets the results she is hoping for, she already has a theoretical explanation for them, whereas the skeptics will be scurrying to find ways to interpret them consistently with QCD. That doesn’t mean that the new theory is right or the old theory is wrong – more often than not that sort of scurrying has, in the long run, led to validation of the old theory. But it does put the lie to the view, that has reached the level of dogma in some quarters, that her theories aren’t falsifiable. And what is repeatedly ignored is that string theory, or M-theory, provides an explanatory framework for observations that not only have no explanation in alternative theories, but are contrary to expectation – notably, the weakness of the gravitational force.

The problem in the former case is that the freedom in having 10^500 vacua is considerable, even if Randall’s theories probably constrain that somewhat.

There are considerable degrees of freedom in most scientific theories; this is one of the criticisms that the creationists have of ToE, that it can always be adjusted to fit the observed facts. But that’s not really a flaw in the theory, because it can’t be adjusted to fit any facts. The theory that people who go to a store and come home with groceries exchange money for them isn’t undermined by the fact that it can accomodate a wide range of items and prices.

Comment #164639

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 8, 2007 7:18 PM (e)

Good. I’m glad we’re all clear on that, now!

“It was clear as mud but it covered the ground
And the confusion made the brain go ‘round.
I went and ask a good friend of mine,
Known to the world as Albert Einstein.
He said “Son, from the beginning of time and creativity
There existed the force of relativity
Pi r square and a minus ten means a routine only when
The solar system in one light year
Make the Hayden planetarium disappear
So if Mt Everest doesn’t move
I am positive that it will prove …” (Harry Belafonte)

Comment #164650

Posted by MarkP on March 8, 2007 8:03 PM (e)

It’s great that even in the least substantive exchanges here, we still manage to disprove IDer/creationist lies about supporters of sound science. Our eagerness to be critical of each other clearly contradicts the empty assertions that we are dogmatists walking in lock step. It’s clear thinking, not dogma, that interests us, whether it’s something as significant as the nature of gravity, or something as trivial as who got what joke and why.

I’d be willing to wager a single malt scotch with Dembski that any independent analysis of PT vs UD that measured the level of critical discussion (vs syncophantcy) would come out on our side. It wouldn’t even be close.

That’s not surprising, since a lack of intra-discipline criticism is a hallmark of crankery, as is the profound lack of interest, so often displayed by IDers/creationists, in squaring one’s findings with the findings of other disciplines.

Comment #164677

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 9, 2007 1:20 AM (e)

I’d be willing to wager a single malt scotch with Dembski that any independent analysis of PT vs UD that measured the level of critical discussion (vs syncophantcy) would come out on our side. It wouldn’t even be close.

I’ll drink to that!

Comment #164678

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 9, 2007 1:26 AM (e)

Say, what ever happened to Steve Thomas? Oh, wait, I know …

Comment #164965

Posted by Torbjörn Larsson on March 11, 2007 12:13 AM (e)

PG wrote:

And just how’re you gonna do that, huh? Huh?

Damn, you got me. I shouldn’t have relied on MarkP for an answer.

Though it seems you are trying your wings because of our prompting.

PG wrote:

A parallel construction is a form of humor, though too subtle for many who only recognize it when it is accompanied by an icon.

Are you complaining about my persistent use of emoticons? :-/ I think they are cute. :-D

PG wrote:

I concur.

:-o

PG wrote:

But it does put the lie to the view, that has reached the level of dogma in some quarters, that her theories aren’t falsifiable.

That stems from the insecurities in energy scale. Many particle physicist bets that Higgs is the only thing seen by LHC. In that case it isn’t certain larger accelerators will be built.

String theories are supposedly theoretically falsifiable (Popperian falsifiability) latest at Planck scale. But there is no telling if they will be practically tested.

PG wrote:

But that’s not really a flaw in the theory, because it can’t be adjusted to fit any facts.

This is perhaps the largest difference between philosophical falsifiability and practical testability. The physicists now that they can’t model 10^500 vacua in practice. Some of them are NP hard to solve, ie no realized computer can model a large such problem -and they are large.

Comment #164969

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 11, 2007 12:31 AM (e)

Though it seems you are trying your wings because of our prompting.

No; because you’re too dense to grasp the subtlety of my humor, I chose to be more explicit. [quantum superposition of emoticon/no emoticon]

Comment #165240

Posted by Torbjörn Larsson on March 13, 2007 11:53 AM (e)

PG wrote:

you’re too dense to grasp the subtlety of my humor

Um, the problem was that a “parallel construction” is not “a form of humor”, it is childish and rather boring.