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9 Questions

Discussion in 'Creation & Evolution' started by J_B_, Nov 26, 2021.

  1. J_B_

    J_B_ Well-Known Member

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    I have 9 questions about evolution. I understand they have the potential for heated conversation, but I’m hoping to fill some gaps in my knowledge. I will do my best to remain civil. As we proceed, some questions may become moot, or the conversation may prompt new questions. However, at the moment I have 9.

    Just to be clear, I’m using the following as a definition of evolution: A change in allele frequency of a population from one generation to the next.

    Given that is the definition, it is obvious evolution happens, so the questions are not aimed at whether or not it happens, but at how biologists characterize, analyze, and predict the objects and phenomena that make up evolution.

    Question #1: If there is only one scientific theory explaining a phenomenon, is that theory a sufficient explanation for an occurrence of the phenomenon even without evidence?

    This is a philosophical question. I am aware of the evidential claims for evolution, so I don’t need them repeated. I’m just looking for an answer to the philosophical question.

    [edit]: Questions 2,3 are posted here.
    [edit]: Questions 4,5,6 are posted here.
    [edit]: Questions 7,8,9 are posted here.
     
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2021
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  2. Tinker Grey

    Tinker Grey Wanderer Supporter

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    I wouldn't call any idea a "scientific theory" that is without evidence. Hypothesis, maybe.
     
  3. durangodawood

    durangodawood Dis Member

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    Physics, institutionally, has really screwed this one up with "string theory". There's probably other fast and loose usage examples as well.
     
  4. J_B_

    J_B_ Well-Known Member

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    I tried to be clear that I wasn't speaking to a complete lack of evidence, but let me try to elaborate further.

    Theory AAA is currently the only explaination for the formation of 111 objects. Not all of these objects are identical. Objects 111a, 111b, 111c, etc. have been observed. There is evidence for the formation of 111a, 111b, and 111c per the mechanisms of theory AAA. A new object is observed (111d), but there is not yet any evidence of its formation.

    Is theory AAA sufficient explanation for 111d without that evidence?
     
  5. durangodawood

    durangodawood Dis Member

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    "Theory" aside, I say proposals without evidence are scientifically insufficient to serve as proper explanations.
     
  6. Yttrium

    Yttrium Independent Centrist

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    Yes. Lack of evidence isn't evidence against. You need conflicting evidence to require changes to or replacement of the theory.

    An alternate theory is perfectly acceptable, as long as it also fits all the known evidence.
     
  7. Estrid

    Estrid Well-Known Member

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    Give example
     
  8. durangodawood

    durangodawood Dis Member

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    Ooh I like this question.

    If I discovered a new sort of mineral but havent observed its formation yet, how justified would I be in proposing without specific new evidence that it came about via some new chemical principles different than the ones explaining the formation of all other minerals? Not very.

    I think the onus would be on me to provide evidence for these new principles. And its safe to presume that AAA explains mineral 111d so long as no conflict is apparent.
     
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2021
  9. J_B_

    J_B_ Well-Known Member

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    See post #4.
     
  10. J_B_

    J_B_ Well-Known Member

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    I agree.

    Again, agreed.

    I don't quite agree with this. I would say it's perfectly reasonable to proceed with the current theory even in the absence of evidence for 111d, but conflicting evidence isn't necessarily what we need to cause some head scratching.

    I'll use a real example this time, from my own field of classical mechanics (which I use in my engineering role). The classical description of a machine experiencing vibration is linear. However, not all machines are linear. It is easy to demonstrate nonlinear machine vibration. The problem, though, is how to model the nonlinearity. There are literally an infinite number of ways to model nonlinear vibration. How do you determine which one to use? My field typically answers "correlation". The model that best correlates to the data is the best model.

    But that doesn't work either. In a paper (sponsored by my company I'm proud to say), it was demonstrated that correlation does not produce a best model. Several models can correlate equally well. To date there is no way to distinguish them.

    That means people regress to their favorite model, which is kind of a bummer since I have a model I think is awesome, but which isn't widely accepted. Anyway ...

    The point is, rather than conflicting evidence, I would say a 2nd theory that also fits the existing evidence is enough to question the first theory ... though of course we don't have such a thing in the case of evolution.

    My question is trying to determine what aspects of science make theories provisional (as all theories supposedly are).
     
  11. J_B_

    J_B_ Well-Known Member

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    I agree.

    It's a reasonable thing to do, but as noted in post #10, I don't quite agree. Still, I don't expect my explanation will convince everyone ... maybe not anyone.
     
  12. durangodawood

    durangodawood Dis Member

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    Are you saying an un-evidenced hypothesis that fits the data should have us question a well evidenced theory.

    I suppose it depends on how strong a term "question" really is here.
     
  13. J_B_

    J_B_ Well-Known Member

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    How is a hypothesis that fits all the existing data un-evidenced?

    But to clarify, theory BBB wouldn't establish that theory AAA has been falsified. Rather, it raises the perplexing problem that falsification is too simple a dichotomy (in this case). If AAA and BBB both fit the evidence, how do you choose? The choice is made in a non-evidential manner. Sticking with AAA would be perfectly reasonable, but moving to BBB could also be reasonable.
     
  14. Frank Robert

    Frank Robert Well-Known Member

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  15. Frank Robert

    Frank Robert Well-Known Member

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    As described the explanation for the formation of 111 objects would be a hypothesis for the objects lacking evidence not a theory. A well designed scientific study would state it's limitations and indications for further study. Science does not claim to have all the answers.
     
  16. durangodawood

    durangodawood Dis Member

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    I'm thinking of something like string theory which we're told is mathematically compatible with everything we see (fits the available data), but we've yet to observe (seen evidence of) its proposed necessary component parts.
     
  17. J_B_

    J_B_ Well-Known Member

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    I'm not asking that.

    I disagree for the very reason you state. Science doesn't claim to have all the answers. AAA is a perfectly acceptable theory for the formation of 111 objects. The appearance of 111d does not falsify it. It triggers investigations.
     
  18. J_B_

    J_B_ Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for the clarification. This better explains your position, which I find very interesting. I'm not sure I agree yet, but I could be convinced.
     
  19. J_B_

    J_B_ Well-Known Member

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    Ah. I understand now. That makes string theory an interesting example for the discussion.

    I think I'm repeating myself now, but I wouldn't expect such a thing to falsify a prior theory. But to me it does feel like it makes the statement that theories are provisional a bit more real.
     
  20. essentialsaltes

    essentialsaltes Stranger in a Strange Land

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    The strength of a scientific theory is related to the diversity of phenomena it can explain, which is measured by its ability to make falsifiable predictions with respect to those phenomena. Theories are improved (or replaced by better theories) as more evidence is gathered, so that accuracy in prediction improves over time; this increased accuracy corresponds to an increase in scientific knowledge. Scientists use theories as a foundation to gain further scientific knowledge, as well as to accomplish goals such as inventing technology or curing diseases.

    It's hard to tell from your description how strong the theory really is. If the theory were not just the 'only' theory, but the generally accepted theory among experts, then I would say the answer is yes. There would be a presumption that the theory would apply to similar phenomena that are in the scope of the theory. That said, all theories are only accepted provisionally, so more evidence could improve or displace the theory.

    With specific regard to evolution, the theory is very strong with evidence coming from oodles of specific situations and multiple converging lines of inquiry. There is a very strong presumption that it applies to species currently unknown or unstudied by scientists.
     
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