It is time to stop quivering in our boots in pointless fear of the future and just roll up our sleeves and build it.
- Ray Pierrehumbert

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

No theory has weaknesses

With friends like this...
Fisher said, "We actually have more evidence for evolution occurring than we do for the law of gravity. ... Something doesn't become a theory if it's got weaknesses. There may be some questions that may yet to be answered, but nothing that's to the level of a weakness."
Uh, right...

Meanwhile the opposition argues thus:
"I'd argue it doesn't make sense scientifically to take it out," Don McLeroy, R-Bryan, the state board chairman, said of removing the "strengths and weaknesses" language. "Evolution shouldn't have anything to worry about — if there's no weaknesses, there's no weaknesses.
Clear? It's all about strength and weakness. Which is why "evolution" has "nothing that's to the level of a weakness" and therefore hasn't got "anything to worry about", which is why it's a "theory".

That all cringingly said, as I read the article in the Austin Statesman, it seems like the strength of the fundamentalists in the current constellation in Texas is a bit less than the ominous picture the Texas Freedom Network presented recently (for instance, in a platform at the Ethical Society of Austin a couple of months back). That at least is good news of a sort.

However, the nonsense you see spouted by the ally of science shows the extent to which the peculiar ideation of the fundamentalists frames the discussion in these parts.



Marion Delgado said...

You're absolutely right.

That granted, the fight is of course over the PROCESS, by which the fundamentalists want to introduce as many scare words into biology class as they can.

It's like the little warning stickers they wanted placed in all HS biology texts saying "the theory of evolution is only a theory" and something about it being not proven certain. True enough, but the tendentiousness is the targeting of evolution. Every subject but math has strengths and weaknesses in its dominant explanation.

If I were to defend Fisher on the merits, I would say 2 things: 1, evolutionary biology is not a chain, only as strong as it's weakest link. It's a rope, woven of millions of strands. Hence, weaknesses of particular parts or issues aren't as important as a naiive onlooker would guess. 2. The strength of the Darwinian explanation is so much stronger than ID or creationism, and the weaknesses so minor, that a fair disclaimer would HAVE to add ".. although the critical theories are far weaker in every way and have no noticable scientific strength to date."

But I wouldn't. I cringe at that language too. And I even spot you that that's a bad way for scientists and science defenders to present anything.

Ian said...

Good luck on this, since creationism is a US export that the rest of the world doesn't need.

In the right context, it might be worth pointing out the article in The Onion that describes "intelligent falling" as an alternative to Newtonian (and Einsteinian) theories of gravitation.