Intelligent Design

A Fact is a Fact is a Fact of Course; Unless it’s the Amazing Mr. Darwin

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In the “Hail Darwin” link under “Additional Descent” we are told that the National Academy of Sciences’  “Science, Evolution and Creationism” gives  the following epistemological definition of “fact”:

“In science, a ‘fact’ typically refers to an observation, measurement, or other form of evidence that can be expected to occur the same way under similar circumstances. ”

 So far so good.  This is pretty much the same way I defined “fact” just a few days ago in Epistemology.  It’s What You Know

The NAS then says this:

“However, scientists also use the term ‘fact’ to refer to a scientific explanation that has been tested and confirmed so many times that there is no longer a compelling reason to keep testing it or looking for additional examples.  In that respect, the past and continuing occurrence of evolution is a scientific fact.  Because the evidence supporting it is so strong, scientists no longer question whether biological evolution has occurred and is continuing to occur.  Instead, they investigate the mechanisms of evolution, how rapidly evolution can take place, and related questions.”

Interesting.   Two observations: 

1:  Under the second NAS definition, Ptolemy’s epicycle theory was a “fact” even more than Darwinian evolution is a “fact.”  Ptolemy was tested and confirmed so many times over the course of 1,400 years that many scholars no longer saw a compelling reason to keep testing it.  Darwinism will need to be around another 1,250 years before it can achieve the same success.

Of course, the fact that no one saw any “compelling need” to keep testing Ptolemy’s theory did not mean it was not flat wrong!   

Conclusion:  The NAS’s definition of “fact” may include propositions that have absolutely no correspondence to reality.   Today, with the benefit of 500 years’ of hindsight, many people snigger condescendingly at the poor ignorant rubes who believed in epicycles.  In the future people may snigger condescendingly at the poor ignorant rubes who believe  certain “facts” under the NAS definition of the word.

2:  The NAS handbook is very useful.  We finally have incontrovertible proof that the Darwinists have two definitions of fact.  The first definition above I will call “hammer dropping fact.”  When I drop a hammer, it falls.  That’s a fact.  The second definition I will call “maybe not a fact fact.” 

Here’s the bottom line:  Much of the Darwinistas’ rhetoric depends upon an equivocation between “hammer dropping facts” and “maybe not a fact facts.” 

Additional Thought:

As I contemplated the second NAS definition of “fact” a little more, I realized that at its core it is not a definition at all. It is the exercise of raw power.

When the NAS says a fact is a fact if there is no “compelling reason” to continue investigating, the first question we should ask is “compelling to whom?” And of course the NAS means “compelling to us.” If you say, “Well, it’s not compelling to me,” the NAS will respond, “Tough noogies. We’re the ‘kings of science.’” To which you might respond like Dennis the anarcho-syndicalist in Monty Python and the Holy Grail:

Arthur [to Dennis]: Be quiet! I order you to be quiet!

Dennis’ Mother: Order, eh? Who does he think he is?

Arthur: I am your king!

Dennis’ Mother: Well I didn’t vote for you.

Arthur explains that no one voted to make him King, and Dennis’ mother asks how he became King:

Arthur: The Lady of the Lake,… [Angel chorus begins singing in background] her arm clad in the purest shimmering samite, held aloft Excalibur from the bosom of the water signifying by Divine Providence that I, Arthur, was to carry Excalibur. [Angel chorus ends] That is why I am your king!

Dennis: Listen. Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony!

Arthur: Be QUIET!

Dennis: You can’t expect to wield supreme executive power just ’cause some watery tart threw a sword at you!

Arthur: SHUT UP!

Dennis: If I went ’round saying I was an emperor, just because some moistend bint lobbed a scimitar at me, they’d put me away!

Arthur: Shut up; will you SHUT UP?! [Grabs Dennis and shakes him]

Dennis: Ah, now we see the violence inherent in the system!

So, the next time someone says, “Darwinism is fact.” Put on your best cockney accent and say, “Oh well very impressive. Who made you the king of science? Because I know I didn’t vote for you!”

28 Replies to “A Fact is a Fact is a Fact of Course; Unless it’s the Amazing Mr. Darwin

  1. 1
    Paul Giem says:

    It sounds like the two definitions are designed 🙂 to confuse.

    I thought science was trying to get away from dogmatism; The “law” of gravity gave way to the “theory” of relativity, even though the latter is known to be more accurate.

    It’s just fascinating to note that neither quantum mechanics nor relativity have progressed beyond the theory stage, whereas evolutionists want a special carve-out so that their theory can become a “fact”. Maybe the problem is that evolution is not really science; it’s half science and half philosophical dogmatism akin to those of some religionists.

  2. 2
    bFast says:

    Interesting post. Something interesting happened down at the teck in the last few years. It used to always be that the “fact of evolutions” was “common descent”. Beyond that, “[Scientists]investigate the mechanisms of evolution, how rapidly evolution can take place, and related questions.” This position, of course, is not debated by that portion of the ID community that accepts common descent as I do. However, if you read the entire NAS article in context you would conclude that not only is common descent “fact”, but RV+NS is also fact. Still “[Scientists]investigate the mechanisms of evolution, how rapidly evolution can take place, and related questions.” However, Scientists do not explore the mechanism beyond the limits of Random Variation and Natural Selection, because after all that has now become “fact” — IE, questioning it is taboo. I wonder what overwhelming evidence convinced the scientific community that RV+NS is “fact” also. Further, why has the scientific community been unwilling to share this evidence with me. I believe that the evidence that they have found is the evidence that someone outside of the scientific fraternity accepts common descent, but rejects RV+NS.

    BTW, I love your comparison with Ptolemic astronomy.

  3. 3
    JPCollado says:

    “Instead, they investigate the mechanisms of evolution, how rapidly evolution can take place, and related questions.”

    But isn’t investigating the mechanisms of evolution the same thing as testing it? Confirmation is an irrelevant issue, since it is a natural outcome of any kind of experimentation conducted.

    I like how the NAS goes about substituting words as if that is going to substantively change anything.

  4. 4
    JPCollado says:

    “scientists also use the term ‘fact’ to refer to a scientific explanation that has been tested and confirmed so many times that there is no longer a compelling reason to keep testing it or looking for additional examples.”

    The NAS is using sleight of hand here.

    It is conflating ‘fact’ and ‘explanation’ when it is more than apparent that the former should be the object of the latter. You explain a fact; you don’t explain an explanation.

    Under this ruse, the NAS is conveniently setting itself up to having its cake and eating it too. It wants facts (that which is gathered after observation and experimentation) to mean the very same thing as that which gives them context and clarification. Any critical observer will at first instance recognize that this cannot be so. An explanation can only be formed post de facto, and as such, could not possibly be viewed the same way as the facts it tries to elucidate.

  5. 5
    SCheesman says:

    The heading reminds me of a now-famous quotation of Jean Chrétien, until recently Prime Minister of Canada:

    “I don’t know. A proof is a proof. What kind of a proof? It’s a proof. A proof is a proof, and when you have a good proof, it’s because it’s proven.”

    I Googled “A Fact is a fact is a fact”, and found a number of references, including one back to 1972. Anyone know the etymology of this phrase?

  6. 6
    tribune7 says:

    “[Scientists]investigate the mechanisms of evolution, how rapidly evolution can take place, and related questions.”

    And when they do it right they find “The Edge of Evolution” 🙂

  7. 7
    Gerry Rzeppa says:

    OFF-TOPIC… but of general interest.

    Jon Saboe, long-term sponsor of this blog and eloquent intelligent design advocate will be discussing his book, The Days of Peleg, from 9 to 10 pm tonight (Sunday, January 13, 2008) on WCBM talk radio. Interested parties can tune in here: http://www.wcbm.com

  8. 8
    mentok says:

    A few years back Bill wrote this article http://www.uncommondescent.com.....-of-grief/

    I believe know we are seeing the evolutionists moving into stage 3 of the “5 Stages of Grief”.

    Bargaining – “Please folks, really, it’s a fact that evolution is a fact because all of us really smart folks, in fact “all scientists”, believe evolution to be true, so it’s a fact. That’s all we’re sayin, facts are facts, evolution is a fac, that’s a fact, because we say so. So to sum up; We’re smarter then you , we believe in evolution, therefore evolution is a fact. That’s the deal we’re offerin.”

  9. 9
    Gerry Rzeppa says:

    That’s 9 to 10 pm EST.

  10. 10
    BarryA says:

    SCheesman “The heading reminds me of a now-famous quotation of Jean Chrétien”

    SCheesman, I wonder if you are American. I think most Americans, at least those of a certain age, would remember the theme song from “Mr. Ed.”

    “A horse is a horse is a horse of course, unless it’s the Amazing Mr. Ed.” 😉

  11. 11
    SCheesman says:

    BarryA: “SCheesman, I wonder if you are American.”

    Sorry to be off-topic; in fact, I’m Canadian, but I do remember the theme for Mr. Ed.

    Of course to a European, a Canadian is an American, a North American. Over time, it seems, the citizens of the United States have appropriated that title for themselves, even though I’d conjecture that the “United States of America” was originally understood (though of course not stated) as “The United States of North and South America”. What I mean is, the 13 states that united were understood to represent only a subset of America, not its entirety. Any historians here?

    This is just a conjecture is a conjecture is a conjecture…

  12. 12
    Corey says:

    “Who made you the king of science? Because I know I didn’t vote for you!”
    And I didn’t vote for the Conservatives (I’m also Canadian) but sometimes your vote doesn’t win.
    And in science, we try to let the evidence “vote” rather than people, as much as possible.

  13. 13
    GilDodgen says:

    …the past and continuing occurrence of evolution is a scientific fact. Because the evidence supporting it is so strong, scientists no longer question whether biological evolution has occurred and is continuing to occur.

    Of course, evolution has occurred and continues to occur. Things are not now as they once were, and in the future they will not be as they are now. So what?

    This is the big bait-and-switch ploy. We all agree that evolution has occurred, so we are expected to accept that the proposed Darwinian mechanism is just as solidly vindicated as a fact that explains how it all happened. This kind of transparently disingenuous ploy coming from the NAS should be beneath contempt.

  14. 14
    gleaner63 says:

    Another interesting way to look at this is from the perspective of our own areas of study. I majored in history, so I can say the American Civil War is a fact of history. What caused it is still hotly debated. In a related discipline, how were the pyramids at Giza built? Although there are no surviving blueprints or eyewitness testimony, a system of ramps is probably a good guess, but it is still not a fact. Herodotus I believe described a machine of sorts (as told to him) thats sounds like some type of lifting device. In my present job, I can tell the boss when our 500kw transmitters are off the air due to technical failure; finding the cause of the failure is of course more difficult.
    Given the various backgrounds of those who post here, what is a fact and what passes for speculation in your present work?

  15. 15
    bevets says:

    We finally have incontrovertible proof that the Darwinists have two definitions of fact. The first definition above I will call “hammer dropping fact.” When I drop a hammer, it falls. That’s a fact. The second definition I will call “maybe not a fact fact.”

    I am working on an article regarding Darwin’s use of the subjucntive phrase. Evolutionists insist that tenativeness is the greatest virtue, but this seems to be more of a philosophy rather than practical science. As always they want their cake and they want to eat it too. ‘Science is tentative’, but ‘evolutionism is True’.

  16. 16
    Kilenc says:

    I do agree with the general tenor of the post, but would not talk down Ptolemy or the epicycles, as they are just as right as the Elliptical orbit view of Newtonian mechanics. The epicycles are the effective Fourier series decomposition – or approximation – of the orbit, as viewed from Earth.

    Benedicamus Domino!

  17. 17
    shaner74 says:

    The second definition sounds to me like if there is a scientific consensus, then it becomes a fact. All of us here know that blind watchmaker darwinism is no proven fact.

  18. 18
    Unlettered and Ordinary says:

    Greetings!

    I am considerable disappointed with the lack of consistency from the scientific community regarding the definitions of “fact” and “theory.” From what I can determine is that the NAS has the same definition for fact and theory. Perhaps I need to be edjemakatid in order to comprehend. So far I have heard that a “theory” is a large body of evidence interpreted to explain definite observable events that any of the innumerable observers can observe. I have no difficulty accepting this definition. The problem is of course the framework by which the data is interpreted, the underlying assumptions, and assertion put forth with a specific agenda to undermine any qualitative investigation. Speculation and conjecture with little or no evidence is nothing, definitely not a sound theory. What the NAS has done has furthered my disappointment.

    My personal definition of science: the pursuit of truth, through the study of observable nature, of the known universe.

    One cannot study what one cannot observe, and one cannot know what is unknowable.

    Where is the pursuit of truth? Where is the evidence so we may examine it? I don’t need other people interpreting information for me and telling me what to believe without even showing me viable evidence. I need to be persuaded by the evidence and truth, not opinions, conjecture, assumptions or presumptions.

    This reminds me of a chinese proverb: your truth, my truth and the truth.

  19. 19
    Rude says:

    Beauty is a guide to truth in mathematics and physics and technology—often cited as the best guide. In biology, however, ugliness (vestigiality, poor design, junk DNA, etc.) is considered the best guide to the truth—at least if you believe the unelected Darwinist kings.

  20. 20
    SteveB says:

    The deep irony here is that the introduction of two categories of “facts” by the NAS flirts dangerously with postmodernism. They might as well call the second a metanarrative, which empowers the legitimate voice of a subgroup against marginalization…

    In this regard, the NAS would fit in well in most college English departments: This second category of facts–always the group’s most important ones, the ones for which there is no “compelling need” for insiders to reconsider, and which are wrong for outsiders to criticize–have been defined by the subculture as true; therefore they are true, regardless of what Category 1 facts might dictate or anyone else’s perspective might be.

  21. 21
    Graceout says:

    Until the following have been observed, tested, and subject to the rigors of the scientific method, there is NO definition which could consider them facts:

    1. Abiogenesis: Life arising from non-living chemicals.
    2. Macro-Evolution: New species with new traits, abilities, structures, and systems arising from other species. (The term Macro-Evolution was first coined by Russian evolutionist Iurii Filipchenko in his book on evolution.)
    3. Proteins forming without DNA, or DNA forming without Proteins. (One had to “evolve” first.)
    4. Right-handed amino acids forming in vats of organic chemicals. (The ones needed for life)
    5. Non-deterministic Information without an intelligent, non-naturalistic source.

    Show me the science, and I’ll consider applying the word ‘fact’ to them.

    Until then, evolutionists will just have to keep slapping on new epicycles to prop up their speculations….

  22. 22
    JPCollado says:

    Given the NAS’s statement concerning the amount of testing and confirmation Evolution has received, the next best question to ask is:

    So when or at what point in time in the long history of Darwinism did its proponents finally realize that Evolution (according to the NAS’s definition) was in fact a fact after so much testing?

    I bet the answer will reveal an alarming or disarming response and shed light on the real motive behind the NAS’s plight.

  23. 23
    JPCollado says:

    The second question flowing from the first is even more tantalizing:

    If it is true that Evolution was only confirmed after numerous and repeated testing attempts, then would it be fair to say that Darwin and Company did not believe that evolution was a fact when the theory was originally being proposed and pushed for mass consumption?

    If Darwin and Company believed it was a fact, then the NAS lied because the theory did not really receive that much testing.

    If, OTOH, Evolution was not believed to be a fact, then one would wonder why it was pushed so fervently up people’s throat unlike any other theory of similar stature.

  24. 24
    Frank says:

    This looks a bit like a confession to me. They are actually willing to admit that evolution does not fit their first definition of fact: “In science, a ‘fact’ typically refers to an observation, measurement, or other form of evidence that can be expected to occur the same way under similar circumstances.”

    In the past, I’ve often heard that evolution is a fact in the same way that gravity is a fact. The “equivalence” of these two theories has now been officially denied! Of course, they may try to squeeze out of it by utilizing the “expected to occur the same way” clause, since the randomness of evolution could lead to a different set of results in the next experiment with creating a planet earth.

  25. 25
    BarryA says:

    JP, how do you push something “up” people’s throats? Are they standing on their heads? 😉

  26. 26

    The first definition above I will call “hammer dropping fact.”

    Barry, did you happen to come up with that phrasing independent of my video on evolution? Because if you did, that’s a neat coincidence. 😀

  27. 27
    BarryA says:

    angryold. I came up with it on my own. It is a coincidence.

  28. 28
    JPCollado says:

    BarryA,

    In the world of darwinism, where doublethink is all the rage, down is up, black is white, explanations are facts, left is right.

    And yes, I picture upside down torture stakes with the Party drowning us with Propaganda.

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