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Re: Just So stories and science



Brian "philidor11" writes:

The examination of testability seemed appropriate in the context of the
response that whatever leads to the choice of a hypothesis, that hypothesis
must live through tests. The question then becomes whether proving a
hypothesis plausible advances the discussion, given the number of other
possible hypotheses which might also pass plausibility tests using logic,
and also given the need to make choices and assumptions when applying logic.

If I am understanding you correctly, you are asking whether or not establishing the validity of an hypothesis of, say, dinosaur systematics or functional morphology, advances the important discussion that keeps paleo (and all sciences) going or whether it stymies it.


If that is what you mean (I hope?) then there are two answers:

1. Yes, but only if the temporarily validated hypothesis or theory is then put out of bound for future testing, authoritatively stated as "fact," or any number of unfortunate things that can and do happen by practioners of science.

2. But, usually, no for many reasons. Let's say we establish to the satisfaction of the scientific community some dinosaur relationships. Even if most workers no longer seriously delve into the continued testing of these relationships, the newly proposed and currently accepted system now provides new questions, new conversations, new reasons to go to field looking for specimens, new ideas about the development of novel structures, etc. If anything, paleontology (and science in general) advances by establishing a body of knowledge, and then building upon that framework. Some have called it "standing on the shoulders of giants," sometimes with a cynical tongue, but this is how we make advancements.

The important point in all of this, which Brian is speaking of, is that science dies if doubt and continued discussion about even things we "know to be true" are not allowed to continue.

You might like another quote from the same essay:
<The key point that blunts the Gould and Lewontin critique of adaptationism
is that natural selection is the only scientific explanation of adaptive
complexity. "Adaptive complexity" describes any system composed of many
interacting parts where the details of the parts' structure and arrangement
suggest design to fulfill some function. The vertebrate eye is the classic
example.>

I thought the criticism of Gould and Lewontin was that people were suggesting that various organs, structures, etc., were evolving toward a particular end. Although natural selection works on the raw and somewhat random process of genetic mutation, selection of the "winners" is not toward any goal, but rather is more a combination of environmental, genetic, phenotypic, behavioral, historical, and other factors. Maybe I don't understand the quote.


Matt Bonnan
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