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Re: SCIENCE ANYONE?
Thinking fast about Pete's classroom topic, I suggested:
<Science:~ the view that reality can be apprehended and manipulated
to reach a
consciously formulated goal.>
<Science ideally is not goal oriented. Science ideally is you
and I go out in the world and look at stuff and say, "Hey that's
this is why that is." And then we test our hypothesis the only
way you can:
trying to demonstrate that you're wrong.>
Mind if I comment that you enjoy creating antithesis.
When I 'go out in the world and look at stuff', I'm apprehending
reality. The points we're both making are that reality exists
and we can perceive it. We've gotten past some major philosophical
When we 'test our hypothesis', we are creating circumstances
(manipulating reality) in order to (goal!) obtain results which
tend to confirm or refute our contention.
I enjoy agreement, and I think we're agreeing.
And you added:
<Science and the scientist cannot remain objective observers
and collectors of data if we're manipulating reality, especially
if we're manipulating reality to fit it into a preconceived notion
of how reality SHOULD be.>
The last part of your sentence is straw (would I say that?),
but the first part...
Assertion for you: we observe reality, then manipulate it in
thought and in practice.
When we do thought experiments, we change reality in our minds
in order to heighten contrasts and identify significant elements
for further analysis/synthesis. When we mix 2 chemicals together
to see what shakes out, we are acting to create new facts for
our use. So, yes, science is very much concerned with manipulating
reality. How far would science get if its motto were: 'Leave
In response to my question about whether cladistic analysis should
be considered scientific, given that it can produce 2 (approximately)
equally valid but contradictory answers, you asseverated forcefully:
<In a word yes. Cladograms are PHYLOGENETIC HYPOTHESES, they
statements of absolute truth writ with the knowlege of the creator
[Breaking your paragraph up for comments. Agreed then. Cladograms
will remain hypotheses, inferences forever. They cannot become
theories, like evolution, which are backed by so much direct
and indirect evidence that they become equivalent to observations.
This has implications.]
How do you resolve two conflicting hypotheses? You test them.
How do you test conflicting phylogenetic hypotheses? For starters,
combine the data in the two competing hypotheses and see what
Perhaps it's one of the previous hypotheses, perhaps it's something
[Ok. What are the hallmarks of the test? It is done with the
same data (you said, '...combine the data), and it uses the same
logic as the initial analysis. I would argue that what you are
'testing' here is how the results with a larger aggregation (sample
of all relevant animals who ever lived) of data compare to the
results from subsets of the data. You'd certainly find out something
about the computer program logic's response to expanding data,
but the validity of the logic is untested.]
The point I have been making, and will continue to make is that
phylogenetic hypothesis, a cladogram, is the DATA telling you
what the hypothesis should and could be. The just-so-story of
systematicists is again, the anti-scientific way of looking at
Let's take the Linnaean view as one based purely on observation.
The definition of Aves = bird (shhh) is based on contemporary
animals. A cladistic definition of Aves includes the contemporary
animals, a specific species (Archie) included by assertion, and
a mrca whose characters are subject to consensus change with
Now, a just-so story starts from the result and reasons back
to the causes using comfortable premises. In other words, analysis
forced to produce a pre-ordained result. Procrustean. You can
say that basing a definition on the animals we see is a just-so
story because it does start and end with the present situation.
I can assert that the cladistic definition is a just-so story
because Archie MUST be included and that it MUST be possible
to identify the characters of the mrca. Even though we can't
observe or rerun evolution to confirm our very rational guesses.
I think the observational definition includes fewer assertions
and arguable points, so therefore it is less of a just-so story.
You'll disagree, I expect, but the best choice between these
arguments will not be immediately apparent to everyone.
The birds you can see won't change, so a definition anchored
on them is going to be unvarying. That's the very opposite of
You referred to our need for The (Unbiased) Machine for Discerning
<You're right, they are different questions [cladistic analysis
vs nomenclature], but they come up with the same answer if we
look at the question with our Objective Scientist Goggles (tm)
on. Are just-so-stories concerning relatedness more objective
than computers analyzing data? Do I even need to answer? Are
ranks which have no basis in reality whatsoever and no definition
except in relation to other ranks objective? Or is the naming
of super-specific taxa based on objectively obtained hypotheses
of evolutionary history more objective? Hmm... the
Goggles (tm) say objectivity is more objective.>
The problem is, the Objective Scientist Goggles (tm) have one
type of polarization and the computer screen showing cladistic
analysis has a glare shield with a different polarization. When
our scientist searching for Truth looks at the cladistic screen
through his Objective Scientist Goggles (tm), he sees complete
darkness. Someone, somewhere has made a decision during her/his
cladistic analysis, and all chance of perfect objectivity has
When the scientist, disappointed, looks away, and out the window,
he sees a beautiful red cardinal near the window glass, and then
sees and hears the bird's oranger mate screeching at him from
a nearby branch for getting too close to the erratic humans.
The male cardinal stays on the window ledge; it's a cold day.
Our scientist watches, enjoying. He has found, if not THE answer,
a perfectly good answer.
PS Rereading the Jefferson quote lauding Linnaeus for having
found a classification system everyone could agree upon, I found
his statement regretting his error in momentarily agreeing that
bones should be used to clarify distinctions.
Reminded me of John F. Kennedy's comment to a flock of Nobel
laureates that there was more brain power in the White House
that night than on any prior occasion, save when Jefferson dined
Whatta guy! (Jefferson)
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