Richard Dawkins in conversation with Dave Rubin- 8/8/2017

Check out Richard Dawkins with Dave Rubin at the 92nd Street Y.

In his characteristically witty, brilliant fashion, the legendary biologist and public intellectual is calling on all of us to stand up for “the scientific way of thinking” — an approach based on evidence and logic rather than gut feelings and prejudices. Dawkins’ new career-spanning essay collection is Science in the Soul: Selected Writings of a Passionate Rationalist, and it represents a cri de cœur from our most dauntless advocate of rational thought. Hear his bold rallying cry for a truth-challenged society when he sits down with The Rubin Report’s Dave Rubin.

 

Source: https://livestream.com/92Y

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78 COMMENTS

  1. Glad Richard is as keen as ever. Clear explanations all over. Dawkins is one of the most honourable advocates of Darwinian evolution facts! Hopefully he will be continuening like this for many years to come. Love it with my heart and with my scientific soul. ?

  2. I think Dr. Dawkins is overstating when he says “evolution is a fact”. I think, more accurately, it is a word we use to refer to a complex biological process we came to understand through many individual observations (scientific facts), tested hypotheses, and logical inferences. To say evolution is a fact because of facts is circular (what RD is saying). One might more accurately state, we think evolution is true because a multitude of individual facts substantiate the explanation.

  3. Phil #3

    All Professor Dawkins means when he says evolution is a fact is that it really happened and is still really happening, and we know this because of all the evidence accumulated in support of it over the last century and a half.

  4. “Soul” term that in Aristotle means “psyche”, I think “psyche” as equivalent of “personality” defined as all forms and ways of thinking and feeling of an individual (including, of course the desimbodied me that people suppose capable of resisting the death of the body).
    There´s no problem to me with the use of the word “soul”, and I would never object as far as I would object the word “God” in Physics.

  5. Garrick #4
    Aug 15, 2017 at 1:05 pm

    I understand. He would be using the more colloquial sense of the word in the first case. The scientific sense of the word would be the individual pieces of “evidence accumulated” (scientific facts). To expound on my comment; My experience is that this community rightly objects when creationist purposefully use the more colloquial sense of the word theory in an attempt to diminish what we mean by evolution. I see Dr. Dawkins employing the same tactic as the creationists but by using the colloquial sense of the word fact in an attempt to bolster what we mean by evolution. I think scientist should be impeccable in their use of the terms. Leave the muddling of different senses of words to the creationists. Let’s not stoop to their level. Embrace what the National Academies of Science says of scientific theories; “theories are the end points of science. They are the understandings that develop from extensive observation, experimentation, and creative reflection. They incorporate a large body of facts, laws, tested hypotheses, and logical inferences. In this sense, evolution is one of the strongest and most useful scientific theories we have.”

  6. Phil #6
    Aug 16, 2017 at 12:53 am

    I understand.
    He would be using the more colloquial sense of the word in the first case.
    The scientific sense of the word would be the individual pieces of “evidence accumulated” (scientific facts).

    There is a distinction to be made between evolutionary theory and evolutionary fact.

    Evolutionary “fact” is that imprecise copying and mutations, lead to variation in replicated copies, on which natural selection acts to select from the variations generated!
    This is a directly observable fact in any, and every, living organism, which has been studied.

    The “scientific theory”, is the precise nature of these processes in ecosystems, individual organisms, and their relatives.

    Creationists try to pretend that uncertainties about individual details in particular organisms, (There are as yet, undiscovered eco-systems and organisms on this planet), can imply that there is uncertainty about the ongoing process! There isn’t!
    The process of variation and selection is confirmed in every genetic study, and is likely to continue to be confirmed in future studies.

    That evolution happens as an on-going process is a fact!
    I think that is the point Richard is making.

  7. I’m still with my namesake here. Nothing has changed since this…

    https://www.richarddawkins.net/2015/11/is-it-a-theory-is-it-a-law-no-its-a-fact/

    Then I thought

    The current theory of evolution doesn’t yet cover the acquisition of organelles in early cells to create eukaryotes and probably never will. We still don’t know how much the lateral transfer of genetic material between say bacteria drives their change outside of evolutionary processes and how much of our own development is effected by these lateral transmissions.

    I take it as a badge of honour and worthy of note that we are super conservative with the epithet fact, until we can speak with specific authority.

    The problem is a parochial one in poorly educated states in the US.

    Lets stay squeaky clean.

    We don’t want a repeat of the New Scientist Horizontal Gene Transfer fiasco.

  8. Alan4discussion #7
    Aug 16, 2017 at 4:55 am

    There is a distinction to be made between evolutionary theory and evolutionary fact.

    Evolutionary “fact” is that imprecise copying and mutations, lead to variation in replicated copies, on which natural selection acts to select from the variations generated!
    This is a directly observable fact in any, and every, living organism, which has been studied.

    I contend their is no evolutionary fact as you state. We don’t put an object called evolution under a microscope nor do we put what we call a mutation under a microscope. We put cells, molecules, organisms, etc. under our microscopes and on our bench tops to observe. We SAY a mutation has occurred if we see change in the object under observation. In the case of replication we have a new object of observation as well. One cannot SAY their has been “imprecise copying” unless one makes precise observations before and after the supposed copying. It is those precise observations I contend are the facts. I think human analysis of what we observe is distinct from what we observe. By keeping the distinction, we can better evaluate our analysis when new facts present themselves (or reevaluate old facts). New facts can boost our confidence in our present explanations. The explanation does not become a fact though. The facts substantiate or falsify an explanation.

    As I see it, you just brought the words “natural selection” into your case for making a distinction between evolutionary theory and evolutionary fact but it is part of your evolutionary fact definition as you share. I find this circular and it is circular talk like this that I wish to avoid. I too wish to stay squeaky clean.

    That evolution happens as an on-going process is a fact!

    In the colloquial sense of the term. Here is where I think a distinction needs to be made (and Dr. Dawkins does not); between the colloquial and scientific sense of the the word fact.

  9. Phil #9
    Aug 16, 2017 at 10:01 am

    That evolution happens as an on-going process is a fact!

    In the colloquial sense of the term. Here is where I think a distinction needs to be made (and Dr. Dawkins does not); between the colloquial and scientific sense of the the word fact.

    The process of evolution, does meet the criteria of “fact” in the scientific sense, as microbiology has moved on to this level of observation in recent years.
    I frequently link the scientific definitions of words such as “theory” and “fact”, where shifting colloquial meanings cause ambiguity and confusion.

    In the case of observable on-going evolution, this is established to the level of factual observations both directly in genetics and indirectly in the expression of genes.
    On a macro-scale, there were no rabbits in the Pre-Cambrian, and no humans in the Triassic!

    When I observe a tray of plant seedlings, I know that those with variegation, or without chlorophyll are mutations.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fact#In_science
    In science, a fact is a repeatable careful observation or measurement (by experimentation or other means), also called empirical evidence. Facts are central to building scientific theories. Various forms of observation and measurement lead to fundamental questions about the scientific method, and the scope and validity of scientific reasoning.

    In the most basic sense, a scientific fact is an objective and verifiable observation, in contrast with a hypothesis or theory, which is intended to explain or interpret facts

    So Yes! – the observable fact of evolution, is the basis for building the theory (ies) of evolution (Neo-Darwinian Synthesis).

    One cannot SAY their has been “imprecise copying” unless one makes precise observations before and after the supposed copying.
    It is those precise observations I contend are the facts.

    Such precise observations are facts, but we don’t necessarily need to look before and after when dealing with multiple offspring from eggs or seeds from plants. Comparisons of siblings can show mutant variations, although checking against parent DNA can be used for cross checking. In organisms which reproduce on a short timescale, multiple generations can be examined in detail.

    Geneticists and genetic engineers have now been carrying out those sorts of experiments for years.

    One can also look at fossils and preserved ancestral material and make comparisons with modern species.

    There is also of course, the field work looking at species, sub-species, local variants, and inter-species and inter-generic hybrids, which illustrate variations from the common ancestors of the diverging evolutionary branches which lead to modern organisms.

    As I see it, you just brought the words “natural selection” into your case for making a distinction between evolutionary theory and evolutionary fact but it is part of your evolutionary fact definition as you share. I find this circular and it is circular talk like this that I wish to avoid.

    This seems somewhat confused.
    Natural selection is an observable inherent part of the fact of the generality of the evolutionary process of observable mutant variation causing diversity, and the observable forces of selection, matching the functions of organisms to their environment by eliminating the unfit and uncompetitive.
    There are also the theoretical works in progress in the studies of ecological details of specific instances, in particular eco-systems, and in relation to particular organisms.

    The subject of genetics, and genetic engineering, study mutations in depth, while ecology looks in detail at natural (or managed) selection.

    Whole genomes are currently being mapped.

    As I said in my earlier comment, evolutionary change is observable wherever the time-scales are appropriate, and wherever the experiment facilitating technology is available to researchers.

  10. Phil #9
    Aug 16, 2017 at 10:01 am

    We SAY a mutation has occurred if we see change in the object under observation.
    In the case of replication we have a new object of observation as well.
    One cannot SAY their has been “imprecise copying”
    unless one makes precise observations before and after the supposed copying.

    Can you give an example of ANY organism, (with the possible exception of clones) which has been studied and shown to have precisely identical DNA to its more distant generations of ancestors or relatives?

  11. Phil #3
    . . . To say evolution is a fact because of facts is circular (what RD is saying). One might more accurately state, we think evolution is true because a multitude of individual facts substantiate the explanation.

    Nowhere has Prof. Dawkins said that evolution is a “fact because of facts”. Wherever he has stated that evolution is a fact, he has used the word ‘fact’ in what you reasonably call its colloquial sense, and his use of it in that sense was consistent. Had he used the word in both the colloquial sense and the scientific sense in the same argument, discussion or context, then he might have been guilty of one or more logical improprieties, as you have suggested. But of all such improprieties the good professor is innocent. His point in speaking of evolution as fact is to counter the confusion caused in the minds of the kind of people who would be misled by the phrase ‘theory of evolution’ to think that evolution was just a clever idea like many of their own clever ideas which may or may not take one’s fancy. It is clear from your messages here that you understand this problem. I am puzzled that you should object to Prof. Dawkins trying to speak colloquially to make the significant point that the theory of evolution says something true about the world (as opposed to what anyone opines), which is what the word ‘fact’ most basically means in any of its ordinary-language senses.

  12. Alan4discussion #10
    Aug 16, 2017 at 11:39 am

    That evolution happens as an on-going process is repeatedly confirmed through observation (the facts).

    The process of evolution, does meet the criteria of “fact” in the scientific sense, as microbiology has moved on to this level of observation in recent years.

    I don’t find merely insisting on this persuasive but would consider anything you might add to substantiate. I revert back to my previous comments on this.

    On a macro-scale, there were no rabbits in the Pre-Cambrian, and no humans in the Triassic!

    This appears to be offered as fact. I say it is evaluation of facts. We have found no rabbit fossils in the Pre-Cambrian and no human fossils in the Triassis. The facts are the actual fossils we do find. To say “there were no rabbits in the Pre-Cambrian, and no humans in the Triassic!” is an inferential statement not a factual one. By insisting on this distinction, we account for all the fossils that remain un-found as well as how we are actually building our knowledge.

    Such precise observations are facts, but we don’t necessarily need to look before and after when dealing with multiple offspring from eggs or seeds from plants.

    I feel you might be staring to understand where I am coming from. You go on to use the word “comparisons”. To make a comparison I suggest you need things to compare. I call what we are comparing (and respective context and descriptions) the facts. The organisms that you say are examined in detail indicate objects of observation, the description and context of which is the fact. Looking at fossils; the fossil and respective description is the relevant fact. Making comparisons between modern species and fossils likewise, requires two objects of observation to compare. More facts. I see the evaluation and analysis of those observations detached from the observations themselves. It is the mental energy we bring to the facts to develop broader meaning.

    the fact of the generality of the evolutionary process

    This sounds confused to me. Previously you acknowledge “Such precise observations are facts.” in reference to my example. Now you are talking about the “fact of the generality.” I think in these two statements we are witnessing first hand the difficulty in using two senses of the word and illustrates why we need to be rather impeccable in the use of the word fact.

  13. Alan4discussion #11
    Aug 16, 2017 at 1:39 pm

    Can you give an example of ANY organism, (with the possible exception of clones) which has been studied and shown to have precisely identical DNA to its more distant generations of ancestors or relatives?

    Not necessary to make my point. I contend that it is more precise to make a statement of fact about a particular observation. A particular “example” as you say. Consider all the past, present and future happenings that are not studied. To say that ALL the the unobserved instances adhere to what we observed is better characterized as inference; not fact. A highly probable inference maybe, but inference nonetheless.

  14. Phil #14
    Aug 17, 2017 at 9:10 am

    Can you give an example of ANY organism, (with the possible exception of clones) which has been studied and shown to have precisely identical DNA to its more distant generations of ancestors or relatives?

    Not necessary to make my point. I contend that it is more precise to make a statement of fact about a particular observation.

    So having made particular observations, discovering “facts”, in what way do these become LESS factual, when we add up tens of thousands of such independent observations and the “facts” of evolution they have revealed, to say that the observations are consistent and mutually confirming each other and nothing refuting the claims or indicating errors has been found?
    Evolution is a factual property of DNA replication interacting with selection processes, with tens of thousands of confirmations from reputable experts.

    Consider all the past, present and future happenings that are not studied. To say that ALL the the unobserved instances adhere to what we observed is better characterized as inference; not fact.

    There will always be unknowns.
    However in the case of evolution, as with many scientific “laws” and “facts”, the weight of evidence is so massive from millions of examples, and tens or hundreds of thousands of observations, is such as to make the probability as high as for ANY scientific claim!

    All known examples from millions of samples, is pretty well as certain as we are likely to get!
    There are no known examples of DNA remaining unchanged down the generations in the longer term timescales, and many examples of observed changes rapidly taking place. (Such as evolving anti-biotic resistance in bacteria.)

    Having said that scientists do use terms like “fact” and “law”, progressively more sparingly these days, but unless we make the semantic claim, that the status of “fact” is not achievable in science, then that evolution happens in all known living organisms over time, is a fact.

  15. Phil #13
    Aug 17, 2017 at 9:06 am

    Previously you acknowledge “Such precise observations are facts.” in reference to my example. Now you are talking about the “fact of the generality.”

    The “fact of the generality” is that DNA structures do not perfectly replicate.

    The theory is in the inferences from the details of the replications.
    Some organisms have individual mutant genes which their parents did not have or did not express.
    Others have broken and rejoined DNA sequences, with splicing or inversions of strands.
    Some have neutral mutations which have no immediate effect.
    Yet others have hox genes shutting down or switching on, other genes.
    Some have polyploidy with multiple chromosomes.
    Some have combinations of the remixing of evolutionary branches, or back-crossing of hybrids creating new species. –

    But the core fact is that the replication is imperfect, and the variation is selected from, creating changes over time.

    The fact is, that on Earth DNA only copies partially accurately.
    There are various theories about HOW the levels of accuracy are determined, but that over time, the copies are less than 100% accurate is an observable fact.

  16. Garrick #12
    Aug 17, 2017 at 8:27 am

    Thank you for your thoughtful comment.

    Nowhere has Prof. Dawkins said that evolution is a “fact because of facts”.

    My intent was not to suggest he said those actual words. Rather I wanted to point out that if we say our theories are facts, and it is our theories that rely on facts(scientific) (the NAS definition of theory), without saying we are using the colloquial sense, one essentially says “fact because of facts”. It is this muddling of the two senses of the I think we should avoid.

    I am puzzled that you should object to Prof. Dawkins trying to speak colloquially…

    For me it is about transparency. The creationists who wish to discredit evolution wish to talk in terms of theory(colloquial) as if theory(scientific) is not used. They wish to obscure. I would be OK if, when talking about these issues, scientists acknowledge the two senses of the word; fact(scientific) and fact(colloquial). If one does not make the distinction (As I recall hearing Dr. Dawkins stating once in the past “evolution is a scientific fact” though, after a good faith effort, I couldn’t find the clip for you) and one says theory(scientific) IS a fact(scientific) they are essentially saying “fact(scientific) because of facts(scientific)”. It is this use I find circular as the NAS defines theory as ” a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that can incorporate facts, inferences, and tested hypotheses.” To outline the NAS defn. using my previous notation; theory(scientific) because of facts(scientific), etc.. Not circular but foundational. Of course, one could just say evolution is true (as in accordance with facts(scientific)).

  17. Alan4discussion #15
    Aug 17, 2017 at 9:44 am

    So having made particular observations, discovering “facts”, in what way do these become LESS factual,…

    I didn’t say they become less factual. I am saying we have greater confidence in the inferences (the generalizations) we make as we gather more facts that substantiate the inference.

  18. Alan4discussion #16
    Aug 17, 2017 at 10:11 am

    But the core fact is that the replication is imperfect,…

    I contend their is no CORE fact. Just facts. Individual observations. To make any general statement about individual facts is to talk about facts. An abstraction from the facts. Talk about facts is not the facts. When one makes a general statement based on limited observations one is making an inference. One might infer that ALL cases of replication are imperfect because the individual facts (observations) suggest this is probably so. Said this way we honestly account for all unobserved occurrences. One might with the upmost intellectual integrity say; AS FAR AS WE KNOW the replication is imperfect.

    The fact is, that on Earth DNA only copies partially accurately.

    To paraphrase; Apparently, on Earth, DNA only copies partially accurately.

    I see adopting humble vocabulary like this wholeheartedly embracing the spirit of the National Academies of Sciences statement: “Scientific results are inherently provisional. Scientists can never prove conclusively that they have described some aspect of the natural or physical world with complete accuracy. In that sense, all scientific results must be treated as susceptible to error.” They go on; ” Errors arising from human fallibility also occur in science.” I think this last part is important because part of human fallibility is susceptibility to our biases. If we start calling our generalizations facts, I think we risk distancing ourselves from the foundations of our understandings; the observations (facts(scientific)) themselves. I think this can inhibit and possibly erode the way we do science. As I see it, breakthroughs in science come when someone thinks a bit differently than contemporary convention. I think breakthroughs like this can be inhibited if we give fealty to our generalities (possibly an erroneous bias) over fealty to facts(scientific); the specific observations.

    Believing abstractions despite facts(scientific) is the purview of religion and the like. Their foundation is a story in a book or some other unverifiable assertion. I wish to keep emphasis on our foundation, the observations, the facts(scientific). Those things I could (but I understand not always practical) take someone by the hand, point to, and show.

    Thank you all for your attention.

  19. Phil #18
    Aug 18, 2017 at 1:10 pm

    So having made particular observations, discovering “facts”, in what way do these become LESS factual,………. when we add up tens of thousands of such independent observations and the “facts” of evolution they have revealed,

    I didn’t say they become less factual.
    I am saying we have greater confidence in the inferences
    (the generalizations) we make as we gather more facts that substantiate the inference.

    But the observations of changing DNA in all known evolutionary studies, are not” inferences”! They are objective observations. (Tens of thousands of them).

    That is why it is important to distinguish the evolutionary facts, from the theoretical inferences.
    There are no equivalences with creationist assertions or vernacular ambiguities!
    There is the fact of evolution happening in all observed species all the time, and there are theories and inferences drawn from these.
    (Creationists gratuitously and incompetently dispute both!)

  20. Here’s a very recent real conversation between a rational person (not me) and a Christian

    RP: Evolution (just like gravity) is an observable fact. The theory is our best and most current understanding of how that phenomenon occurred and continues to occur. It will change to reflect any new data that is discovered along the way.

    C: Precisely proving my point, thank you!
    Having a “best” theory doesn’t say very much about its credibility.

    Note the Christian does not even reflect back the careful speech of the rational person.

    I jumped in and responded,

    PR: Science never claims any status higher for its products than Theory. It is in the nature of science not only to acknowledge that error is always possible, or that more complete accounts may yet be produced under specific circumstances, but in labeling our never-failed-yet models of the world as theories it invites the challenge of disproof and amendment from up and coming scientists. Nothing transforms a scientist’s career like proving a theory wrong (as Einstein did of Newton). The only hundred percent certainty scientists (or anyone) can achieve is in the disproof of a falsifiable theory.

    This latter is the current cherry on the top of the Scientific Method.

    “Theory of evolution” is out there. It is an honest statement of the science. Even if you assert the factual nature of our observations of it, we must address its proper status within science, lest we be undercut by other scientists at a later time.

    Choosing always to have the conversation about scientific theory is entirely a strength against unwarranted dogmatists. Its why Dawkin’s starts The God Delusion with a statement about his necessary agnosticism as a scientist. He has forgotten the power of this.

  21. Alan4discussion #20
    Aug 18, 2017 at 1:34 pm

    But the observations of changing DNA in all known evolutionary studies, are not” inferences”!

    I say we know the DNA changed because of careful observation. We make the careful observations and SAY change happened based on the description the respective facts. As I see it, without the respective facts, we have no basis to say change happened. I say discussions of change is not facts but talk about the respective facts.

  22. Alan4discussion #20
    Aug 18, 2017 at 1:34 pm

    I am not satisfied with how I addressed your inquiry regarding inference. I’ll have another go. We observe the facts of a specific occurrence. The respective observations that warrant the assertion that change happened we call the facts. We can say change happened after analyzing each occurrence based on the facts of that occurrence. We have facts that substantiate the assertion that change occurred in DNA in Tens of thousands of occurrences as you say. As I see it, the inference is in extending the specific to to the general. What I am saying is that we have facts substantiating the assertion of change for tens of thousand of occurrences we observe. It is inference to say that the same thing happens in all the UN-observed occurrences.

  23. Phil #22
    Aug 18, 2017 at 2:21 pm

    We make the careful observations and SAY change happened based on the description the respective facts.
    As I see it, without the respective facts,
    we have no basis to say change happened.
    I say discussions of change is not facts but talk about the respective facts.

    I don’t see where this is coming from!
    Every chemical and physical process progresses through time, showing a succession of respective positions!
    Are you saying that there are no such things as scientific facts based on repeatable objective observations tracking changes through time? – (such as monitoring planetary orbits which demonstrate the fact of the attraction of bodies due to gravity)?

    As I see it, without the respective facts, we have no basis to say change happened.

    But in numerous experiments and studies, we do have “the respective facts”, so of course we are justified in saying change happened!

    Geneticists have been monitoring genes and DNA for decades! Genetic engineering is about engineering such changes – and the processes work!

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_genetics#The_DNA_era

    1997: Dolly the sheep was cloned by Ian Wilmut and colleagues
    from the Roslin Institute in Scotland.[73]
    1998: The first genome sequence for a multicellular eukaryote, Caenorhabditis elegans, is released
    2000: The full genome sequence of Drosophila melanogaster
    is completed.
    2001: First draft sequences of the human genome
    are released simultaneously by the Human Genome Project
    and Celera Genomics.
    2003 (14 April): Successful completion of Human Genome Project
    with 99% of the genome sequenced to a 99.99% accuracy

  24. Alan4discussion #24
    Aug 18, 2017 at 3:45 pm

    Are you saying that there are no such things as scientific facts based on repeatable objective observations tracking changes through time?

    I am making the distinction between fact and inference. I think this important, because it is our inferences that are most likely to be revised in contrast to our observations. We can make a statement of fact about a particular observation. To make any generalization about our facts is better characterized as inference. This accounts for our generalizations (something the human brings to the process) given the limited observations (we don’t observe every occurrence).

  25. Phil #23
    Aug 18, 2017 at 3:20 pm

    What I am saying is that we have facts substantiating the assertion of change for tens of thousand of occurrences we observe.

    Well that establishes the fact of evolution in those thousands of examples – which are of course expanding in numbers of confirmed observations, as work is on-going!

    It is inference to say that the same thing happens in all the UN-observed occurrences.

    The unobserved, yet to be discovered instances, follow the same laws of physics for the same chemical DNA descended from the same ancestral sources, so it is reasonable to extrapolate from the observed base of soundly established examples.
    The existence of unknowns, in no way refutes facts about known objective observations of the known.
    (We know the Earth has seasons because of its axis: – WE don’t need to observe every planet in the universe to recognise this fact! )

    Obviously predictions of future discoveries are not “facts”. They are hypotheses or theories.

    BUT: – It would be wildly speculative and highly improbable, that the chemical reactions, and laws of physics, would suddenly change with respect to new discoveries. – Especially as the present observed evolving organisms, are pretty well a random sample across a wide spectrum of genera and species in a whole range of habitats.

  26. Phil #25
    Aug 18, 2017 at 4:10 pm

    We can make a statement of fact about a particular observation. To make any generalization about our facts is better characterized as inference.

    Perhaps “inference” is misleading and the wrong word to describe a massive accumulation of precise and consistent factual observations.

    Its definition is too wide, and leaves wriggle room for unjustified doubt and uncertainty.

    This accounts for our generalizations (something the human brings to the process) given the limited observations (we don’t observe every occurrence).

    It would be ridiculous to assert that no facts can possibly exist, because we don’t observe every event on Earth or in the Universe!

    Thousands or millions of confirmed scientific observations, meet the criteria for any normal definition of “fact”!

  27. Alan4discussion #26
    Aug 18, 2017 at 4:10 pm

    Well that establishes the fact of evolution in those thousands of examples

    I would say that each fact corroborates our explanation we call evolution.

    …so it is reasonable to extrapolate from the observed base of soundly established examples.

    Yes scientist make reasonable inferences all the time. To the extent that out inferences seems to continue match our observations, our inferences seem to be true. But let’s remember our inferences for what they are for new observations might challenge our currently accepted inferences. For example; If I recall correctly, when the heliocentric theory of planetary motion wan in its infancy, we thought the planetary orbits were circular. Now we understand they are elliptical.

  28. Phil #28
    Aug 18, 2017 at 4:37 pm

    But let’s remember our inferences for what they are for new observations might challenge our currently accepted inferences. For example; If I recall correctly, when the heliocentric theory of planetary motion wan in its infancy, we thought the planetary orbits were circular.

    That was so, while the ideas were in their infancy and rough and ready.

    However you illustrate the point I was making about the Fact that planets orbit as a result of the property of gravity in planetary and solar masses, while the theories about fine less certain details.

    Now we understand they are elliptical.

    Indeed there are number of theories and hypotheses, about the deviations from a circular orbit, including spiralling out due to tidal drag, orbital resonance, orbital inclination, axial precession, the Yarkovsky effect etc.

    But these all build on the consistently and repeatable observable fact of gravitational attraction between masses interacting with other physical forces.

  29. Alan4discussion #27
    Aug 18, 2017 at 4:28 pm

    Perhaps “inference” is misleading and the wrong word to describe a massive accumulation of precise and consistent factual observations.

    As I see it, the word inference refers to any general conclusions one makes based on the massive accumulation of factual observation (or, considering resurrections, for example, even no factual observation) and seems to be precisely the right word to describe what humans DO. We (humans) make inferences that reflect careful, repeatable observations and we make inferences based on what ones parent tell us to believe about an old revered text. Some inferences are better than others depending on how they comport to careful observations, the facts. I have come to believe the careful inferences that, for the most part, the scientific community has learned to make. That does not mean inferences become facts. The facts are cataloged and remain in the archives, the lab notebook, the research paper, etc. Like the NAS says; to paraphrase, our theories, our explanations, don’t become facts with the accumulation of evidence. I understand the evidence to mean the facts or what some scientist call data.

    It would be ridiculous to assert that no facts can possibly exist, because we don’t observe every event on Earth or in the Universe!

    I don’t see anyone saying that. The facts are the observations we DO make. The inferences are the broad conclusions/claims, the generalizations, we make about those limited observations. The more facts that substantiate the inference, the more confidence in the conclusion we made. We cannot possibly observe all instances of an occurrence, so we have to make inferences. We make good one and bad ones. As I see it, the good ones comport with facts (careful observation) the bad ones do not.

  30. Phil #30
    Aug 18, 2017 at 9:30 pm

    Alan4discussion #27
    Aug 18, 2017 at 4:28 pm

    Perhaps “inference” is misleading and the wrong word to describe a massive accumulation of precise and consistent factual observations.

    As I see it, the word inference refers to any general conclusions one makes based on the massive accumulation of factual observation
    (or, considering resurrections, for example, even no factual observation)

    That is precisely my point about creating ambiguity and false equivalence, conflating scientific facts (well tested objective observations) with very woolly unevidenced (in the scientific sense), thinking about vague claims!

    and seems to be precisely the right word to describe what humans DO.

    … and precisely the wrong word for making a clear distinction between the two different issues I have just commented on!

    We (humans) make inferences that reflect careful, repeatable observations and we make inferences based on what ones parent tell us to believe about an old revered text.

    Which again, is precisely why the term is useless in clearly defining the differences between vague uncritically accepted rambling thoughts, and scientific observations.

    Some inferences are better than others depending on how they comport to careful observations, the facts.

    So it is absolutely essential when explaining scientific facts, that “facts”, “laws”, “hypotheses”, and “theories”, are clearly distinguished from speculations, fantasies, debunked nonsense, and unevidenced mythology!

    so we have to make inferences. We make good one and bad ones. As I see it, the good ones comport with facts (careful observation)
    the bad ones do not.

    It would be ridiculous to assert that no facts can possibly exist, because we don’t observe every event on Earth or in the Universe!

    I don’t see anyone saying that.
    The facts are the observations we DO make.
    The inferences are the broad conclusions/claims, the generalizations,
    we make about those limited observations.

    Scientific facts are verified by repeatable careful observation or measurement (by experiments or other means). Definition – Wikipedia.

    There is no requirement for scientific observations to be one-offs at a fixed point in time. Nor is there any requirement for the elimination of all unknowns, or 100.000000000000000% certainty!
    Insisting on that level of certainty is required, IS asserting that no “facts” can exist!

    This as I said is ridiculous – especially in an evolution debate where the creationist challenges are without ANY credible evidence, and are based purely incredulity, ignorance, and mythological preconceptions.

    A fact is a fact – based on repeatable objective observations. The is no merit in muddying the water with baseless doubts or ambiguities by using inappropriate terms.

    “Inference” is an ambiguous term, which is insufficiently accurate to indicate the probability of scientific facts which are confirmed by ALL repeatable objective observations and debunked by none!

    Neither phenotypes nor genetic structures, remain unchanged down the generations! There is 0.000000000000% evidence for disputing this!

    As with gravity, – science is constantly refining details in the light of new discoveries, but the gravitational attraction between masses remains a measurable observable fact – just as genetic changes and mutations caused by DNA, copying errors, cariogenic chemicals, and radiation, are measurable facts.

    Suggesting that slight variations in the accuracy of measurements, leads to credible doubts about the existence of measurable changes, is simply wrong!

  31. I´ve counted seven quotations where scientists assume evelution is a fact here:

    http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/evolution-fact.html

    And here two nice vídeo presentations both make reference to Prof. Dawkins, The original presentation is Spanish, you can choose subtitles in CC and then with Spanish subtitles you can select auto- translation to to English in settings:

    vídeo 1)

    [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kqgO_HIkOhg&w=560&h=315%5D

    vídeo 2)

    [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vhTnNNipKEI&w=560&h=315%5D

    I cannot make the vídeos appear here, nor images.

  32. Alan4discussion #31
    Aug 19, 2017 at 5:38 am

    That is precisely my point about creating ambiguity and false equivalence, conflating scientific facts (well tested objective observations) with very woolly unevidenced (in the scientific sense), thinking about vague claims!

    I don’t see how ambiguity is created when an honest account is being made of what is going on. I want to emphasize facts(scientific) because it is what distinguishes the claims of science from claims of faith. The inferences we make in science, the claims we make, are not vague but well substantiated by the myriad of facts(scientific). The claims of faith do not come close to being substantiated to the same degree. As creationist muddle the word theory, they also say their claims are “fact”. They infer that, because something is written in an old and traditionally revered book, what is written IS fact. It is not a well founded inference. Anybody can toss around the word fact in an attempt to bolster their argument but that is rhetoric. It is the careful observations the facts(scientific) that distinguish rhetorical uses of the word from reference to actual experience in the real world.

    Which again, is precisely why the term is useless in clearly defining the differences between vague uncritically accepted rambling thoughts, and scientific observations.

    As I see it, the term inference describes what scientist and laypersons DO with information. What sets good and bad inferences apart is the facts(scientific), which is why I want to emphasize their importance. The inferences in science, the generalization we claim are well substantiated by facts(scientific). {I want to emphasize that laypersons can make good inferences based on facts(scientific). Without the laboratory or special instruments, it might be recognized as skeptical or critical thinking.} The inferences of faith are not. Religious people can make the same arguments. Some claim their scripture IS “fact”. Fact is just a word. To say, as SJG does, “In science ‘fact” can only mean “confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional consent.” His use of the word fact is in contrast to the use, fact(scientific) we seemed to agree on before (careful observation); his use seems the colloquial sense. A person of faith can use the same words in making an argument. What sets us apart and to illustrate my distinction between fact(scientific) and fact (colloquial) ask yourself in regard to SJG’s statement; confirmed? How so? Answer, the facts(scientific), the actual observations. The faithful have nothing; just more words. We have the myriad of observations, facts(scientific). This notation I use also highlights the need to speak clearly about this because fact(scientific)=/(not equal)fact(colloquial). It is the facts(scientific) that anchor us in reality because they refer us to the observations themselves not the more abstract inferences. It is the facts(scientific) which substantiate our generalizations. As I understand it, it is these generalizations which Dr. Dawkins wants to call facts(colloquial).

    So it is absolutely essential when explaining scientific facts, that “facts”, “laws”, “hypotheses”, and “theories”, are clearly distinguished from speculations, fantasies, debunked nonsense, and unevidenced mythology!

    Yes. This is why rather than insisting on calling our generalizations about the world facts(colloquial) (and possibly muddling the distinction with facts(scientific)) we emphasize that our generalizations appear to be true because of the myriad of facts(scientific). Instead of employing what I see as rhetoric, give an honest account of why what we claim about the world appears to be true. It describes how science is done. It is not dogmatic. Leave dogmatic rhetoric to the faithful. When I hear Dr. Dawkins insist evolution is a “fact” it sounds very similar to a faithful person insisting that their faith is fact. Anybody can insist that something is “fact”. What distinguishes Dr. Dawkins insistence and faith-based insistence, and I think where emphasis should be placed, is the facts(scientific).

    Scientific facts are verified by repeatable careful observation or measurement (by experiments or other means). Definition – Wikipedia.

    Did you just make that entry? 🙂 Kidding. I stand by what I have said. I understand I am challenging some authorities. Though Wikipedia is not one I blindly recognize. I have quoted what the NAS has said. I even think they can provide better clarity and leadership.

    There is no requirement for scientific observations to be one-offs at a fixed point in time.

    Correct. But they appear to be. As I see it, an observation requires an observer, an object, proximity and, for the benefit of posterity, a means to record. One can review what another recorded as their observation, but I think this is different that making the observation him/herself.

    Nor is there any requirement for the elimination of all unknowns, or 100.000000000000000% certainty!
    Insisting on that level of certainty is required, IS asserting that no “facts” can exist!

    Who is insisting on any level of certainty? I am not. I am saying the facts(scientific) refers to the specific careful observation. The interplay between human, object of observation and possibly instruments, etc.. That interplay happens in a certain context. Any general statement one makes about the world based on those facts is inference by definition. Maybe an example will help. I have a book People in Quandaries written by Wendell Johnson and published by Harper Brothers in 1946. I can measure it using my tape measure and say it is 8 1/2” long. I can record my observation including what I did, what instrument I used, and claim that fact(scientific) for my observation. Others can come, observe and verify and dispute if they like. You might have a book with the same title, same author, etc. on your shelf. I cannot make a statement of fact about your book. I can infer that your book is the same length. It is a reasonable inference. I might even be able to actually test it someday. Maybe we can have a beer as well. I like mine cold. If I do carefully observe your book, my observation may become part of the population of similar facts. I can infer that ALL books of the same title, etc have the same length because I have an idea of how they are manufactured. But my claim about the world, including any un-observed books, might sound like this; Other books with the same title etc. are likely to be the same length because mass produced book typically have the same dimension. This takes an honest account of my observations and my inferences. Should I come across another similar book and measure it, my inferences may or may not be confirmed by the second observation. The facts(scientific) are the measurements (observation) I ACTUALLY make.

    A fact is a fact

    I understand your insistence. A faithful person can SAY the same thing. I think I have articulated two distinct senses of the word fact above. Fact(scientific)/=Fact(colloquial) What would be used to confirm SJG’ fact? It my intent to clarify by highlighting the distinction.

    “Inference” is an ambiguous term, which is insufficiently accurate to indicate the probability of scientific facts which are confirmed by ALL repeatable objective observations and debunked by none!

    It seems to be the correct word to use when referring to the behavior of making general conclusions from evidence, facts(scientific); be it a scientist or layperson. As I see it, the probability that an inference is correct depends on the weight (number of observations, other corroborating facts(scientific), fit as an explanation of what we observe about the natural world, etc.) of the facts(scientific). By corroborating facts(scientific) I mean the facts(scientific) of other disciplines that seem congruous to each other.

    Neither phenotypes nor genetic structures, remain unchanged down the generations! There is 0.000000000000% evidence for disputing this!

    To paraphrase: Based on careful observations to date, it appears that “neither phenotypes nor genetic structures, remain unchanged down the generations!” To date, no evidence has been put forth disputing this.

    but the gravitational attraction between masses remains a measurable observable fact

    As I see it, the fact(scientific) being the specifics of the actual measurement, experiment etc.; the observation. Said another, more general, way; as far as we know, what we call the gravitational attractive force between two objects is directly proportional to the product of the masses of the objects and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between their centers.

    Suggesting that slight variations in the accuracy of measurements, leads to credible doubts about the existence of measurable changes, is simply wrong!

    So I am puzzled as to why you wrote these words here. I don’t recall something like this being suggested elsewhere in the thread.

  33. Phil #33
    Aug 19, 2017 at 5:14 pm

    “In science ‘fact” can only mean “confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional consent.”

    Which is absolutely the case when discussing evolutionary change over time!

    His use of the word fact is in contrast to the use, fact (scientific) we seemed to agree on before (careful observation);

    Not at all! The ongoing evolutionary changes in genomes are “confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional consent.”

    his use seems the colloquial sense.

    Nope! He is using the scientific sense!

    When I hear Dr. Dawkins insist evolution is a “fact” it sounds very similar to a faithful person insisting that their faith is fact.

    His words are backed by evidence, the assertions of faith (belief without evidence or proof) are not! Lies, mythology, and nonsense sound superficially like honest statements – until they are looked at in depth.

    Anybody can insist that something is “fact”.
    What distinguishes Dr. Dawkins insistence and faith-based insistence, and I think where emphasis should be placed, is the facts(scientific).

    We are agreed on that, but that is why I say unambiguous language should be used to avoid any confusion or shuffling meanings! – Especially in any debate where doubt-mongering is being introduced to mislead!
    (As is common with climate change deniers, anti-vaxxers, evolution deniers, ID pundits, and YECs.)

    As I see it, the fact(scientific) being the specifics of the actual measurement, experiment etc.; the observation.

    These can only be factual, if the underlying factual change is happening and exists to be measured. It is therefore misleading to suggest that this underlying fact, is some sort of “generality” which is inferred, when it is in fact an essential core element of the factual measurements!

    If I measure a brick with a ruler, and note the positions of bits being chipped off with a chisel, it is ridiculous to claim that the measurements are factual, while the existence of the brick and the chippings is only an inference!

    As with gravity, the measurements of genetic change in genomes over time, are unambiguous.

    In evolution, there are both facts and theories! (and of course hypotheses and speculations.)
    What in the past was “theory”, has been confirmed as direct factual observations, as improvements in the research technology has enabled more detailed direct observations to be made.

    The ongoing evolutionary changes in (tens of thousands of) genomes are “confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional consent.”

  34. What does “evolution is a fact” mean?

    Does it mean evolution by some Darwinian means happens?

    Does it mean it explains the existence of all species?

    Does it mean it explains the appearance and all attributes of all all species?

  35. As I see it, the fact(scientific) being the specifics of the actual
    measurement, experiment etc.; the observation.

    As creationist muddle the word theory, they also say their claims are
    “fact”. They infer that, because something is written in an old and
    traditionally revered book, what is written IS fact. It is not a well
    founded inference. Anybody can toss around the word fact in an attempt
    to bolster their argument but that is rhetoric. It is the careful
    observations the facts(scientific) that distinguish rhetorical uses of
    the word from reference to actual experience in the real world. Phil on comment 33

    What defines a science as History for instance is the defined object of the study (history of humankind) and the methodology (historiography). If historians find out an old encyclopedia that reports dragons in the sea or other mithological creatures, the historian doesn´t even give any chance of considering dragons as real, the formation of a critical spirit is necessary first to fit the task.
    If you´d look the video1), you´d aknowledge that some facts fit the theory after it´s formulation.

  36. What does “evolution is a fact” mean?

    Phil,

    What would Wittgenstein say? Probably that evolution would not have existed without the word “evolution”. No?

  37. Dan,

    I guess this quotation from a Dictionary of Philosophy can help to answer your previous question:

    In this work [Philosophical Investigations], Wittgenstein gives up the notion that reality exists independently of language and is only reproduced by language. In fact, the world becomes accessible only in its linguistic description. Hence there is not a single correct description of the world; Rather, knowing what the correct description depends on the language being used. This is why Wittgenstein also gives up wanting to construct a perfect and exact language that can avenge without the imprecisions of the current language. This is because the current language is in order as it is. It is more the aberrations arising from the use of the philosophical language (and scientific) is what that creates the problems, but that, through an accurate analysis of the current language, can be understood as having no meaning. Thus, with respect to his first philosophy, what remains unchanged is Wittgenstein’s conception of philosophy as a linguistic therapy.”

    (that´s Google translated, how bad is this?)

    So philosophy is not possible, science neither, and even Linguistics´s object (as defined by Ferdinand Saussure) none of the three can be possible, he looses everything.

  38. Maria,

    Thanks.

    (I think I got the gist of it, but your English is better than google translate. I always understand you.)

  39. maria melo #38
    Aug 19, 2017 at 10:34 pm

    Wittgenstein gives up the notion that reality exists independently of language
    and is only reproduced by language.
    In fact, the world becomes accessible only in its linguistic description.
    Hence there is not a single correct description of the world;
    Rather, knowing what the correct description
    depends on the language being used.

    You have clearly identified the failures of philosophers, who are entangled in their mental gymnastics with the superficial language of labels and semantics.

    Without diagrams, 3D images, videos, scientific and mathematical formula, or computer models, of the world/universe at large, together with concepts of non-verbal brain functions, their concept of reality is so limited and lacking in evidenced content, as to be superficial, trivial, and largely irrelevant, to most modern understanding of the physical environment!

  40. Alan,

    This is unfair. Popper building on W gave us metaphysics as a scientist’s creative moments, gifted falsifiability, that cherry on top of the scientific method. Dennett, the Churchlands and many others reflect exactly this new role of the scientist philosopher.

    Indeed, I think their answers to #35 would clarify things immensely.

  41. What does “evolution is a fact” mean?

    Does it mean evolution by some Darwinian means happens?

    Creationists agree

    Does it mean it explains the existence of all species?

    It doesn’t, so it musn’t. (HGT may have a role. Invaginated symbionts!)

    Does it mean it explains the appearance and all attributes of all all species?

    Again it doesn’t, so it musn’t. (Expression is contingent and generationally significant)

    Is there common descent?

    Yes.

  42. (…) their concept of reality is so limited and lacking in evidenced
    content, as to be superficial, trivial, and largely irrelevant, to
    most modern understanding of the physical environment Alan on comment
    40

    I once admired Plato for a quote I´ve seen, despite cannot find it now, the idea (not the exact quote) was that the initial point is not language, but the object itself.

  43. phil rimmer #42
    Aug 20, 2017 at 5:08 am

    I think you have sorted evolutionary fact from theory and hypothesis here!

    Is there common descent? – Yes.

    Does it mean evolution by some Darwinian means happens?
    [some] Creationists [sort of] agree

    Facts of evolution happening.

    Other more complex specific details – theory, hypothesis, and speculation.

  44. Abstract

    In Plato’s philosophy, the Forms are postulated to be the objective extra-linguistical reference that assure the linguistic meaning. But theory of Forms in Republic and Phaedo has many inconsistencies. Plato, by a self-criticism of his theory of Forms, made changes in important aspects of his theory. To do this, he uses ordinary speech, especially ours intuitions about the relevant differences between meaningful and meaningfulness language, as paradigm to solution of aporias in theory of Forms. We want to show that, if the Forms are postulated to assure the significant speech, language is used by Plato as a model to modify and avoid contradictions of his earlier theory.
    http://tede.pucrs.br/tde_arquivos/13/TDE-2006-09-19T122752Z-4/Publico/345370.pdf

    I was looking for the exact quote of Plato I mentioned before and found this abstract in the internet, so people kindly share their knowledge so that it can contribute to knowledge itself, and notice all abstracts are written in English too.

  45. Very good quote, Maria. Concepts are derived from perception and words (that are names for objects) are derived from perception. Not the other way around. Wittgenstein had no understanding of the primacy of perception. In fact I made up a word – my very own, I believe: W. was logocentric.

    Phil,

    What is Popper’s conception of the metaphysical? And why can’t you appreciate what I keep saying here (below)?

    Real metaphysics is bound up with epistemology; it distinguishes between what is objective and what is subjective. In the process of doing so it may conclude that (absolute) objective existence is, at the very least, problematic.

  46. No true metaphysics! Metaphysics must not be confused with its differing subject matters. These latter wax and wane in apparent value through the ages.

    Read wiki on metaphysics Dan. There’s more to it than, Greek, seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth century philosophy. Read more!

    My final word on he who shall not be named is on the other thread.

    No! Damn again! You continue to misapprehend him. Indeed you explain him in exact reverse. Ostensive definition is functional and foundational to language. How the bleep does He explain the secondary nature and marginal congruence of language with the prior existing world without going rigorously through it, especially when He only has language to do it with?

    He has my experience. I say “there” and you look at the end of my finger. There seems no desire to leap into the mind and thoughts of another out of interest. Only a need for pre-emeptive defense of a state of mind.

    …must…not….respond….must… not… zzzt…. I know!

    I need to come over there and we go for coffee then a long, superb lunch. Maybe a concert. My treat.

  47. Phil

    I have a friend (Paul) who is obsessed with W. I am always “not getting it”. I never will, perhaps.

    What he says at the very beginning of his Investigations, where he quotes Augustine and where he discusses ostensive definitions, is the only thing he ever wrote that makes sense to me. But that is only one tiny section. The rest is nothing but a sophisticated form of playing with words:

    “Here. Come here. No here.” You can always draw a smaller circle and insist that there is no “here.” (“Here” is my example, not his.) Or, “did you read today? Really? When? All the time? Some of the time? What does it mean to say ‘you were reading’ if half the time you were doing other things too?” That is W’s approach to definitions in a nutshell, as far as I can make out. He found loopholes in language and exploited them. It is nothing short of a crime to demand perfection from language when it is we who created it in order to communicate and conceptualize.

    The limits of my language… It’s like me with Schopenhauer. The only difference is that the world doesn’t exist for W without language, whereas, with me and S the world doesn’t exist as object without perception. And yet like a good ex-logical positivist he often talks about the “real” word and has no use for idealism. He is really all over the place, a thoroughly rotten thinker. He doesn’t believe in explanations. He rejects the copula IS and the idea of knowing. It’s all nihilistic, warped, bizarre.

    Let me know when you’re in town.

  48. They infer that, because something is written in an old and
    traditionally revered book, what is written IS fact. Phil

    If Wittgenstein gave all importance to language in a wrong way, Umberto Eco for instance remarks that a very important aspect of language is that it enables lies, so Phil, because it is written, it doesn´t mean we cannot write a lie, isn´t ir?

  49. It is nothing short of a crime to demand perfection from language when it is we who created it in order to communicate and conceptualize.

    Why not wish for more? We always should. Especially when science was departing so rapidly from being understandable. No ostensive defining there, er, osetensibly. Scientists are praised to the echo for breaking things. Michelson and Morley were the particular heroes of his age. Besides, W didn’t break poetry, perhaps rather explaining a few facts.

    By comprehensively showing every mode of explanation to be unable to achieve rigor because of definitions, (and it needed to be comprehensive if he were to make his point), he could stop a lot of wasted time with phatuous philosophy. (I also suspect early on he secretly hoped to find some robust formulation to verbally anchor meaning.)

    And yet again W is no particular hero. He was too interested in his own enfant terrible legacy to go the next steps.

    Popper, dull old Popper, whom W tried to cudgel with a poker for spoiling the completeness of his destruct job, is my hero. For P metaphysics become the components of models. These components are linked by a tiny logical vocabulary of maths-made-words and actual maths, operated and compared with reality where one component or other may show through into real-world measurability. These model components are elements that are ostensively definable in the greater world yet have a rigor in a network of interdepending definitions, so energy is to power identically as distance is to velocity and the former pair merely the product of the latter with force etc..

  50. It is nothing short of a crime to demand perfection from language when
    it is we who created it in order to communicate and conceptualize.

    Language wouldn´t even evolve, that´s not possible, this would be a kind of fundamentalism. actually
    How I feel sorry because I don´t have my anthroplogy dossiers anymore. I would keep it religiously, but once I returned from holidays and someone had thrown it away while cleaning my room, Umberto Eco was part of the schoolary program with his analogy of the construction of a hive (it´s construction is not made from a Foundation on basis to the top, but from the top to the base), which means Language is not an infrastruture but a superstructure (only have my memory back then when I was 17). So no one can stop the evolution of language, however it still is referential as far as it´s a social institution, not completly arbitrary, but conventional. By saying it is not associate with concepts or meaning W destroys the possibility of Linguistics.
    What I´ll try to have back again (not the professor in my pocket of course).
    So perhaps I have lots of books to look for, but not certainly W.

  51. maria

    By saying it is not associate with concepts or meaning W destroys the possibility of Linguistics.

    If it were so, language itself is destroyed. But he doesn’t intend that. All he denies is the possibility of sufficient rigor in the definitions of terms in language that would allow reliable philosophical proofs like the deductive proofs of mathematics.

    It remains good enough for nearly every other purpose. Indeed this identification of its many tiny failings draws attention to its spectacular strength (not W’s point but one that follows immediately from it). Whilst sufficient for daily use its subtle ambiguities become a major enabler of creativity. Indeed language grew rich say 45,000years ago because it co-opts the associative corteces creating abstract verbal ideas from our visceral selves. Its first great creation was more of itself. Language works by metaphor at almost every scale, thank goodness. We grew it for lives and love songs, and inventing. Thats good enough.

  52. Alan4discussion #34
    Aug 19, 2017 at 6:14 pm

    “In science ‘fact” can only mean “confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional consent.”

    Which is absolutely the case when discussing evolutionary change over time!

    In the colloquial sense.

    His use of the word fact is in contrast to the use, fact (scientific) we seemed to agree on before (careful observation);

    Not at all! The ongoing evolutionary changes in genomes are “confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional consent.”

    I think you are muddling the different senses of the word as I illustrated previously. I don’t see you addressing what it is that “confirms” “the ongoing evolutionary changes in the genome”? I contend it is facts(scientific); the precise observations. The different sense of the word fact that I think you don’t seem to acknowledge here but seem to acknowledge before; “Such precise observations are facts,”(#10). What you are saying sounds to me like the circularity I intend to avoid. I see you saying facts(scientific) confirmed by facts(scientific). I see this as circular. If you insist on using the word “facts” in place of explanations/generalities you avoid the circularity by having facts(scientific) confirming facts(colloquial). Of course, it is my position to stop using the word fact in the colloquial sense in a scientific context. But, if one insists on doing so, make the distinction. Creationists (or the like) wish NOT to make the distinction between theory(scientific) and theory(colloquial). We (advocates of science) can, and I think, should do better with the word “fact”.

    his use seems the colloquial sense.

    Nope! He is using the scientific sense!

    I feel like the client in the Monty Python skit Argument Clinic. “This is just contradiction.” Possibly you can address just what it is that SJG refers when he says confirmed. Confirmed by what? I contend confirmed by facts(scientific), the specific observations. I contend it is the general statement, the general inference that is confirmed by specific observations, facts(scientific).

    His words are backed by evidence,…

    His words, his assertion; if he uses the word “fact” as his words, his use is of a different sense, I call facts(colloquial), because, from my perspective, to be backed by evidence has to mean to be backed by the facts(scientific); the actual observations. Distinct form the assertion itself.

    We are agreed on that, but that is why I say unambiguous language should be used to avoid any confusion or shuffling meanings!

    Yay! I say the use of two different senses of the word fact, without acknowledging the other sense, introduces ambiguity. Just like insisting on a particular use of the word theory in a particular sense without acknowledging the other sense.

    It is therefore misleading to suggest that this underlying fact, is some sort of “generality” which is inferred, when it is in fact an essential core element of the factual measurements!

    If I measure a brick with a ruler, and note the positions of bits being chipped off with a chisel, it is ridiculous to claim that the measurements are factual, while the existence of the brick and the chippings is only an inference!

    I don’t follow this at all. From my perspective the foundation ,the fact(scientific), can only involve AN ACTUAL brick. A measurement of a brick cannot happen without a brick. Consider: Fact(1), brick A appears red; Fact(2), brick B appears red; Fact(3), brick C appears red; Fact(4), brick D appears red…Fact(n), brick x appears ?. Consider the general statement, proposition or inference; Apparently, ALL bricks appear red. The facts(scientific) require a brick to observe. I don’t need bricks (or gods :)) to make the general statement, proposition or inference. The statement is just words. The truth or falsity of the proposition depends on the results of actual observations. This is what I mean by confirmed; and why I think SJG is using the word fact in the colloquial sense in the referenced sentence. His statement is general, fact(colloquial), for those who wish to use the word “fact” in this sense. His general statement is “CONFIRMED” (his word) by facts(scientific); the specific observations. The proposition is an abstract from the specific. I think calling the proposition by the word “fact” creates the muddle because we already have a word fact(scientific) to refer to observations. We might say the proposition appears true; as in it comports with facts(scientific). Consider two possibilities for a fifth observation: Fact(5), brick E appears black. This falsifies my proposition (because a black brick contradicts my proposition that, apparently ALL bricks appear red). My proposition does not fit the world as I find it. I should revise my proposition to fit my facts. Or, Fact(5), brick E appears red. This continues to confirm my proposition. My proposition continues to fit the world as I find it. I have increased confidence in my proposition. When one makes a statement about ALL occurrences, it automatically is an abstract because we know we are NOT witnessing or observing all occurrences. We might not even know if brick x exists. We simply might not be in proximity to bricks F, G, H…n to make an observation. This is why the general statement is an inference. To call this general statement fact(colloquial) without distinguishing fact(scientific) I think we risk detaching ourselves from what is most important, the facts(scientific), for it is here that our generalities/inferences are confirmed. It is here where we are grounded in reality. It is here where we are are in contact with actual bricks. Anyone can make a globally (general, as in ALL cases) declarative statement: Gods ARE real. Evolution IS true. and insist it IS “fact” It is the facts(scientific), actual observations, that lend credence to one proposition over the other. But we don’t observe ALL cases; making general propositions an inference (a logical conclusion) as opposed to fact(scientific) (an observation). I think this is why it makes sense for the NAS say theories don’t become facts with increasing evidence.

    Thank you for your continued attention but I think I am starting to repeat myself indicating I probably have exhausted my ability to articulate any further at this time. Peace, out.

  53. Phil #53
    Aug 20, 2017 at 1:02 pm

    “In science ‘fact” can only mean “confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional consent.”

    Which is absolutely the case when discussing evolutionary change over time!

    In the colloquial sense. – His use of the word fact is in contrast to the use, fact (scientific) we seemed to agree on before (careful observation);

    Not at all! The ongoing evolutionary changes in genomes are “confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional consent.”

    I think you are muddling the different senses of the word as I illustrated previously. I don’t see you addressing what it is that “confirms” “the ongoing evolutionary changes in the genome”?

    @#31 – Scientific facts are verified by repeatable careful observation or measurement (by experiments or other means). Definition – Wikipedia.

    I thought I had made it clear that the fact that evolutionary changes occur over time, is confirmed by thousands of published peer-reviewed factual observations of changes in all known examples of genomes (species) which have been objectively observed.

    I contend confirmed by facts(scientific), the specific observations. I contend it is the general statement, the general inference that is confirmed by specific observations, facts(scientific).

    That the changes happen as a matter of fact is “confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional consent.”

    The issue I have raised is about debating the subject clearly, so as to avoid using ambiguous terms which open the door to unintentional or wilful misinterpretation, doubt-mongering, fallacious arguments, or quote mining!

    Gods ARE real. Evolution IS true. and insist it IS “fact”

    This is unclear and open to ambiguity and false equivalences, when it uses the terms “true”and “insist it is FACT”, in place of “objective scientific observations confirm it as FACT”. Evolution is clearly strongly confirmed by science! Gods are not confirmed at all!

    @#27- Thousands or millions of confirmed scientific observations, meet the criteria for any normal definition of “fact”!

    It is the facts(scientific), actual observations, that lend credence to one proposition over the other.
    But we don’t observe ALL cases; making general propositions an inference (a logical conclusion)
    as opposed to fact(scientific) (an observation).

    I have made no claims about “all cases”.
    My statement referred to the fact in all KNOWN cases!
    “All cases” would infer that the unknown ones followed the same physical laws and processes as the observed known ones: – a reasonable inference , but nevertheless an inference.
    It is however, open to anyone wishing to make a challenge, to produce a new example from the previously unknown – based on reputable scientific studies.
    However, it is clearly inappropriate or dishonest, to try to present unlikely vague speculations about unknowns, as some form of refuting evidence of facts in a scientific debate.

    I really don’t see why you should be having difficulty with this concept or with the #31 Wiki “scientific definition of fact”, which I have quoted and pasted!

    I think this is why it makes sense for the NAS say theories don’t become facts with increasing evidence.

    Scientific Theories don’t become facts with increasing evidence, (and evolutionary theories will remain a separate issue based on evolutionary factual observations),
    BUT imprecise and speculative observations, certainly can later be confirmed as facts, by improved observation (usually technological) techniques and methodologies!

    As I have said earlier, there are both factual and theoretical features in the study of evolution. The finer details of the processes in diverse organisms and habitats, understandably cover an extensive range of scenarios, for which various theories are offered as explanations.

    We should also remember that creationists also deny (aspects of) the physical evolution of the universe and the Solar System.
    BUT: – The second law of thermodynamics ensures, that nothing remains fixed and unchanged.

  54. maria melo #32
    Aug 19, 2017 at 11:35 am

    Thank you. From your piece:

    “Finally, there is an epistemological argument against evolution as fact. Some readers of these newsgroups point out that nothing in science can ever be “proven” and this includes evolution. According to this argument, the probability that evolution is the correct explanation of life as we know it may approach 99.9999…9% but it will never be 100%. Thus evolution cannot be a fact. This kind of argument might be appropriate in a philosophy class (it is essentially correct)”

    I recognize my contention as resembling the epistemological argument. I differ with the author in that I don’t think we should cast it aside for a rhetorical argument. We should embrace the epistemological argument because it accurately describes what it is that humans are doing; how science is done. I think, to make another argument is to obscure what the author, himself, says “is essentially correct”. The author asserts the epistemological argument “won’t do in the real world.” This sounds defeatists to me. I think openness and transparency win the day. Muddling and obscuring is how faith based orientations get perpetuated. Resorting to the same tactics seems stooping to their level. I say live in and embrace the light of what “is essentially correct”. I am inspired by Carl Sagan’s subtitle to Demon Haunted World; Science as a Candle in the Dark. I think to NOT embrace what the author says “is essentially correct”, somewhat diminishes our candle.

    maria melo #36
    Aug 19, 2017 at 7:33 pm

    If you´d look the video1), you´d aknowledge that some facts fit the theory after it´s formulation.

    I appreciated your instruction on how to translate. I was able to get subtitles and translation, but unfortunately, even at 50% speed I didn’t find it intelligible enough for me to comment with any confidence. Thanks.

  55. @Dam #48

    “The only difference is that the world doesn’t exist for W without language, whereas, with me and S the world doesn’t exist as object without perception.”

    ARGH!

    So both are guilty of Homo stupidens’s speciesist arrogance (= about 90% ignorance). Both apparently have not been able to eliminate their Genesis residue, though probably both of them were ignorant of its existence (they were both born too early to realize this, is my guess).

    But come to think of it, W falls even behind Genesis. Adam names the critters – for himself to be able to tell them apart. The critters were there before him and had no problems existing without his names, even according to this lame tale (and there are some interesting hypotheses about the order in which things appear in Genesis, light being first and the celestial objects only appearing later, though the celestial, specifically impactor evidence has yet to be found).

  56. Phil,

    Finally, there is an epistemological argument against evolution as
    fact. Some readers of these newsgroups point out that nothing in
    science can ever be “proven” and this includes evolution. According to
    this argument, the probability that evolution is the correct
    explanation of life as we know it may approach 99.9999…9% but it will
    never be 100%.

    If you have children and make a DNA test the result (margin of error in fact given by the caculation of a mathematician is that the result is near 100%,. not because it´s not a fact that your children are your children, but because of the mathematical calculation of the margin of error in labs ´s procedures, , but it´s not possíble to calculate the margin of error for evolution in a lab, it´s not a specific substance that you can submit in the same technical conditions to give such accurate results. Evolution however occurs in a giant scale, that´s for sure, and because we use in ordinary language the word fact as true, that´s correct that evolution is a fact, it doesn´t confuse ordinary people, ordinary people even without knowing too much about theory aknowledge that the Earth is round.

  57. maria melo #32
    Aug 19, 2017 at 11:35 am

    @quote:- According to this argument, the probability that evolution is the correct explanation of life as we know it may approach 99.9999…9% but it will never be 100%. Thus evolution cannot be a fact.

    Even when we watch it happening numerous times!??

    . . . and as I said earlier – If we accept this definition, no facts about anything else exist either!

    I would suggest this doubt-mongering view of hypothetical unreality, is a severe liability to understanding functioning systems, or in debunking asserted falsehoods and false equivalences, for which there is 0.000000000000….0% likelihood that they are correct!

    According to this argument, the probability that heavier than air flight is the correct explanation of aircraft operation as we know it may approach 99.9999…9% but it will never be 100%. Thus heavier than air air transport, cannot be a fact.
    Even when we directly watch it happening numerous times! ????
    (Accident reports clearly show less than 100% reliability!)

  58. GK, Alan, Phil, Maria

    @Dam #48: a parapraxis? Who says Freud was wrong?

    If we want to speak or put something down on paper words are all we have, Phil. Scientists use them as do philosophers. W was a great leveler.

    By comprehensively showing every mode of explanation to be unable to achieve rigor because of definitions, (and it needed to be comprehensive if he were to make his point), he could stop a lot of wasted time with phatuous philosophy.

    Blind spot, I guess. (?) Above quote incomprehensible to me. Mark Twain wrote essays. Does he say nothing useful? He was a philosopher of sorts. Stendhal wrote essays. Did he say nothing useful or true? Schopenhauer (the big bad philosopher) wrote essays. Does he have to be wrong because he used words and defined things? This is madness. W was a jackass, and nothing you say in his defense makes any sense. (Comment 4 u on the Open D thread)

    Alan, does one have to be a scientist to say something useful and true? Great novelists can be philosophers. Scientists can be philosophers. Philosophers can be scientists. This type of categorization (and denigration) of “philosophers” is unproductive. Philosophers have said many useful and true things. What about Nietzsche? He said nothing of value?

    What in ‘God’s’ name was W trying to say? Stop reading philosophy? That’s insane.

  59. Maria, Phil, Alan, others

    Some advice for what it is worth: you need to stop reading wikipedia and encyclopedias and dictionaries and go to the primary source. Then I would read what great philosophers have to say about the ideas of other great philosophers.

    In Plato’s philosophy, the Forms are postulated to be the objective extra-linguistical reference that assure the linguistic meaning. But theory of Forms in Republic and Phaedo has many inconsistencies. (#45)

    On the real meaning of “the forms” or the Platonic Idea, as articulated by a very great thinker. I hope this remarkable and valuable description of the experience of enlightened perception (an experience which is intimately related to the production of works of artistic genius) does not fall exclusively upon defiant and deaf ears. This is, by the way, the secret inner meaning of the Allegory of the Cave. (Republic)

    “Raised up by the power of mind, we relinquish the ordinary way of considering things, and cease to follow merely their relations to one another, whose final goal is always the relation to our own will. Thus we no longer consider the where, the when, the why, and the whither in things, but simply and solely the what. Further, we do not let abstract thought, the concepts of reason, take possession of our consciousness, but instead of all this, devote the whole power of our mind to perception, sink ourselves completely therein, and let our whole consciousness be filled by the calm contemplation of the natural object actually present, whether it be a landscape, a tree, a rock, a crag, a building, or anything else. We lose ourselves entirely in this object, to use a pregnant expression; in other words, we forget our individuality, our will, and continue to exist only as pure subject, as clear mirror of the object, so that it is as though the object alone existed without anyone to perceive it, and thus we are no longer able to separate the perceiver from the perception, but the two have become one since the entire consciousness is filled and occupied by a single image of perception. If, therefore, the object has to such an extent passed out of all relation to something outside it, and the subject has passed out of all relation to the will, what is thus known is no longer the individual thing as such, but the Idea, the eternal form, the immediate objectivity of the will at this grade. Thus at the same time, the person who is involved in this perception is no longer an individual, for in such perception the individual has lost himself; he is pure will-less, painless, timeless subject of knowledge.”

  60. Further to #60:-

    maria melo #32
    Aug 19, 2017 at 11:35 am

    @quote:- According to this argument, the probability that evolution is the correct explanation of life as we know it may approach 99.9999…9% but it will never be 100%. Thus evolution cannot be a fact.

    This opens the debate to spurious and fallacious arguments.

    By:-

    a) falsely claiming that to be defined as “fact” science requires 100% certainty. – Which is unachievable in both scientific studies and the real world. – Thus no scientific facts exist!

    b) Having set the bar impossibly high, it then claims this shows evolution @ 99.999999…9% certainty, is not a “fact” – as “fact” as now redefined!

    c) This then opens the door for pseudo-scientists, religious fundamentalists, and pseudo philosophers, to conflate 99.9999999…9% probabilities, with 0.000000001% probabilities, so as to use a postmodernist ploy to claim false equivalences, – pretending that all views and opinions (expert and non-expert, honest and dishonest, evidenced and unevidenced), are equal.

    d) Unsophisticated, uneducated audiences, are then told by the deceivers, that they can simply choose which of these (pseudo-)”equal” views to accept!

  61. @63

    Very true. This 99.9999 business is for dunces.

    Here’s a joke, Alan: “What if everything is an illusion and nothing exists? In that case, I definitely overpaid for my carpet.” –Woody Allen

    By the way, “extra linguistical reference that assures linguistic meaning” is an actual quote from a real article. Sounds like a parody of post modernism. Now compare that to the passage I quoted. You should admit that the latter is at least clearer.

  62. Maria, Thanks. (I think I got the gist of it, but your English is
    better than google translate. I always understand you.)

    Dan,

    I´m a bit disapointed as far as I think Portuguese copes so well with English in Google translation that it really is something, it wouldn´t happen for instance with Chinese as I suppose.

    (actually I cannot be so sure, I don´t speek Chinese).

    So, scientists and philosophers should create a kind artifitial language of their own (and live in an Ivory tower too), so frustrating it is to cope with the ordinary world?

  63. 62 Dan

    This is, by the way, the secret inner meaning of the Allegory of the
    Cave. (Republic) “Raised up by the power of mind, we relinquish the
    ordinary way of considering things, and cease to follow merely their
    relations to one another, whose final goal is always the relation to
    our own will. Thus we no longer consider the where, the when, the why,
    and the whither in things, but simply and solely the what. Further, we
    do not let abstract thought, the concepts of reason, take possession
    of our consciousness, but instead of all this, devote the whole power
    of our mind to perception, sink ourselves completely therein, and let
    our whole consciousness be filled by the calm contemplation of the
    natural object actually present, whether it be a landscape, a tree, a
    rock, a crag, a building, or anything else. We lose ourselves entirely
    in this object, to use a pregnant expression; in other words, we
    forget our individuality, our will, and continue to exist only as pure
    subject, as clear mirror of the object, so that it is as though the
    object alone existed without anyone to perceive it, and thus we are no
    longer able to separate the perceiver from the perception, but the two
    have become one since the entire consciousness is filled and occupied
    by a single image of perception. If, therefore, the object has to such
    an extent passed out of all relation to something outside it, and the
    subject has passed out of all relation to the will, what is thus known
    is no longer the individual thing as such, but the Idea, the eternal
    form, the immediate objectivity of the will at this grade. Thus at the
    same time, the person who is involved in this perception is no longer
    an individual, for in such perception the individual has lost himself;
    he is pure will-less, painless, timeless subject of knowledge.”

    This allegory of the Cave from Plato is mandatory Reading in school (in more than one discipline I think), for I´ve read it more than once and even wrote a poem inspired on it (lost it). At least one of the interpretation is the impression that the stimuli of the outside world leaves in us (I think after a day in the sea, when I go to bed I can still feel the sensation of waves in the body, after being na entire afternoon listening to my boyfriend playing flute I come home and still almost still hear the music in my hears, being bombard with a crowd wearing so many colours in contrast with the colour of the landscape it would leave a sensation of colour in me-one of my first memories is actually a crowd and the impression of colours of their clothes and the land itself), but it represents also ethical concerns in Plato, as when we are worried with moral issues, but the body plays an important part in it anyway. (I am correct, perhaps not).
    Where does the above quote come from?

  64. Dan #62
    Aug 21, 2017 at 1:34 am

    Some advice for what it is worth: you need to stop reading wikipedia and encyclopedias and dictionaries and go to the primary source.

    Excellent advice! – although Wiki often has citations and links to primary source studies.

    The primary source is of course, physical reality, with scientific descriptions of this based on evidence, as the next level.

    Then I would read what great philosophers have to say about the ideas of other great philosophers.

    As you have probably observed, when I go to the works of “great” philosophers, I look to see what they actually got right, what contribution they made to scientific, logical, and mathematical thinking, and what obvious flaws are demonstrated in their perceptions and reasoning.

    This helps sort the truly great philosophers, from the posers with on-going followings, and those posers who had followings at the time of their writings, but have since been debunked!

  65. Maria,

    The author is Schopenhauer. From his work the World as Will and Representation (volume 1)

    If you want to understand Plato read Plato and maybe Schopenhauer. If you want to understand Socrates (Plato) read Plato and maybe Kierkegaard. And listen to yourself. Don’t place too much trust in the the experts.

    The world inside the cave is “real”. The world outside the cave is that same world with the veil lifted.

  66. Dan,

    I understand your point (I´ve heard your advice a dozen of times), but if people keep reading only primary sources they wouldn´t learn nothing (at least me, besides it would be boring), I could stay at home with a library and wouldn´t feel any need to go to a faculty/school to learn more. In a faculty/school, you have to learn under the orientation of a professor/teacher and learn his points of view, necessary references etc., while learning alone it´s not so interesting and believe me, in my holidays would be reading books of 400 pages while my school mates would read only a resume. Actually, I don´t remember too much of such great books (only the ones I really loved). Sometimes I see a film twice but actually I don´t remember too much until my husband say I´ve seen this film a dozen of times, So, I remember what is interesting to me, and there´s nothing better than to read a professor´s book and know his voice etc,, that´s how learning becomes interesting. I would not learn nothing reading only primary sources alone.

  67. Maria

    That’s all true. I just think we need to learn how to think for ourselves, and prefer to study and read on my own or to discuss literature and ideas with literary friends. Teachers have egos and can do a lot of damage. Some are great. Most aren’t. One needs to be careful. You can lose your sense of self with others. Cultivation of one’s mind a delicate process.

    I think playwriting (something I am interested in) and musical development has to be done with others. That you can’t do alone. No way. Very practical and you need the interaction and collaboration, and to get feedback and guidance.

  68. Forgot to give some merit to colleagues, sometimes I´ve learned from their notes, some were quite interesting. Once I´ve asked some to give me a defintion before a written test, it was very useful by the way. Saussure the founder of Linguistics never wrote anything about his teachings, all that is written about it are actually the notes of his students that gathered all notes to write the book about his teachings, interesting isn´t it?

  69. Well for all the argument above about “law” and “fact”, I found the interview very enjoyable, and it seems Richard is back to his perky self. Yes I agree with Richard that evolution is a factual description of reality, it happens, and we can show it. End of argument, at least for me. As for Wittgenstein, I suspect he knew more about the fine wines and food served at the various Cambridge banquets than he ever knew about the theory of evolution by natural selection. Maybe the ‘fly in the bottle’ resulted from his contemplation of an empty bottle of Chateau Lafite 1926 ? From my viewpoint, a philosopher who taught me nothing useful.

  70. As to that decision as whether the ball might have hit the wicket, dismissing the batsman, had it not hit his leg first, surely a case of estimating / guessing what the laws of physics would have done without the batsman’s leg ? But then no-one ever claimed that cricket was a science, although like all other sports, science (unknowingly, / knowingly ) must be applied to succeed in a sport.

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