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Thread: How can the study of fossils be considered science?

  1. #1 How can the study of fossils be considered science? 
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    How can the study of fossils be considered science, since science, basically, is repeatable, observable experimentation.


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    Post script. I've seen wayyyyyy too many creationist dvds stating this statement


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    not all science is experimental, especially not the historical sciences (of which paleontology is one)
    historical sciences are able to find patterns and are able to predict future findings based on those patterns

    e.g.

    fact #1 marsupials are found in South America and in Australia; fact #2 before they drifted apart due to plate tectonics Australia and South America were connected to one another by means of Antarctica

    conclusion : fossils of marsupials will be found in Antarctica

    now have a look at wikipedia, or simply google "marsupials in antarctica" and see what comes up

    as for the claim that historical sciences are not falsifiable there's always the classic reply by JBS Haldane when asked to name a single discovery which would falsify the theory of evolution - his reply "Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian" is still one of the best i've ever heard, and in case you want to have to explained any further have a look at this : Haldane’s Rabbits
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  5. #4  
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    Quote Originally Posted by RamenNoodles View Post
    How can the study of fossils be considered science, since science, basically, is repeatable, observable experimentation.
    Finding new fossil examples, of the types predicted, in the strata predicted, ARE repeatable observations. They are repeatable because different experimenters can see the same fossils for themselves and make their own, independent, assessment of what they are and what strata they are in. Creationists sometimes try to pretend that all "observations" have to be made in a laboratory, in test tubes or something. This is bullshit. Any geologist or botanist will tell you the basis of their science is field observations.
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    Quote Originally Posted by marnixR View Post
    That's a nice article.

    I like this:
    In a way, Darwin’s theory of natural selection can hardly be refuted, as it is a logical inference from what we know about heredity and the struggle for survival. If you accept both that organisms show inherited variation and also that these varieties experience differential survival, you are rather obliged to conclude that populations evolve, and will evolve in a way to adapt them better to their environment. I think this was what struck Huxley so forcibly on reading Darwin’s Origin of Species that he remarked, "How very stupid of me not to have thought of it before!"
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    That same "only in a laboratory" argument is also directed at astronomy, along with dozens and dozens of specialties where observation is the key data gathering process.

    What makes it "science" is the capacity to make accurate predictions from the theory. So people can say that some remote object in the far distant skies is a certain kind of star then it's possible to predict that it's very likely/unlikely to be associated with certain kinds of planets. And geologists do the same with fossils. If you find particular kinds of rock then you can predict that you're more/less likely to find certain kinds of fossils or remnants of certain kinds of critters. And laboratory based science predicts that if you perform this procedure with these materials you will get this range of predictable results.
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    As has been noted there are plenty of predictions/hypothesis and eventual theories that are present in paleontology. In my field of paleobotany formulas have been developed for generation of predictions about what the mean annual temperature for a fossil forest was. Modern disjunct population distributions such as seen between Eastern Asia and Easter North America have been shown to be the result of changing temperatures over time and this has been supported by plat fossils.
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    Quote Originally Posted by RamenNoodles View Post
    How can the study of fossils be considered science, since science, basically, is repeatable, observable experimentation.
    According to your strict definition, astronomy would not be a science. What happens is not repeatable, only observable.
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    Quote Originally Posted by RamenNoodles View Post
    How can the study of fossils be considered science, since science, basically, is repeatable, observable experimentation.
    Science observes, makes conclusions on the observations,... draws conclusions from it. And attempts to form an idea on 'How stuff works'

    HOWEVER, before those conclusions can be validated, they need to be confirmed. by other scientists. So genuine scientists spread out their proposal on a new idea, a potential new discovery, hoping other scientists, smart enough, can confirm... This is confirmed.

    YOUR ignorance of science is shown by the fact you think "the study of fossils"... only requires JUST ONE specific SCIENCE. You did not say so specifically. But you did say this:
    How can the study of fossils be considered science
    THE STUDY OF FOSSILS ... so there is only one study of science that is involved with fossils?

    If this is not what you actually thought,... then provide the list of sciences that are involded in this.
    Last edited by Estheria Quintessimo; October 12th, 2013 at 05:03 PM. Reason: Grammatical correction
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    Quote Originally Posted by RamenNoodles View Post
    How can the study of fossils be considered science, since science, basically, is repeatable, observable experimentation.
    Well you hit on one of my pet peeves with how science is often taught incorrectly or depicted as some inflexible methodology based on perfect idealized situations.

    On a broader sense science is more about consistency between hypothesis and observations than it is about controls, treatments and repeatability of rigid experiments. A good deal of science involves naturalistic experimentation which much eek out approximations for controls and treatments from different observed situations to compare to hypothesis. Oftentimes models which represent the hypothesis are used as a basis for those comparisons as well. Take my own field, meteorology for example. We can't create well controlled experiments about hurricane formation--particularly above the cloud physics level where weather systems are full of emergent, often non-linear properties. Fossilization has it's own challenges and its unique approaches to similar problems.
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    As a a geologist I long ago considered whether or not it could properly be considered a science, given the inability to engage in repeatable experiments. Of course there are a plethora of experiments that geologists conduct all the time: conducting seismic surveys, running sedimentological studies in the laboratory, examining current ecologies and evaluating ancient ones by analogy, melting mixes of minerals and observing crystalisation behaviour, quantifying systematically dimensional changes in fossils through a sequence, studying mineral changes under intense heat and pressure, quantifying the fracture behaviour of rocks under stress, etc.

    Of course none of that is necessary to refute the idea that geology in general and palaeontology in particular is not a science. My take on this is simple. The rocks are a record of a vast and on-going series of 'laboratory' experiments. The palaeontologist (or geologist) simply selects which experiments they wish to examine. The experiment is complete. They need only identify, quantify and qualify the results and form their interpretations, hypotheses, theories and predictions from those.
    Last edited by John Galt; October 11th, 2013 at 10:59 AM. Reason: Correct four, yes four, typographical errors!
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    i once saw the way historical sciences work compared with solving a murder case : they tend to describe complex systems with a multitude of interactions, which means there's usually plenty of clues to figure out what has happened after the fact - in the case of a murder, the murderer really has to be extremely clever and careful not to leave any trace of evidence at all

    however, the same multitude of influences and interactions make it very hard to predict the future outcome of complex systems, apart from describing the likelihood of events in terms of probability - likewise with murders : there's so many factors that may or may not lead up to a murder, that it becomes very hard to predict where and when the next one will happen
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Galt View Post
    As a a geologist I long ago considered whether or not it could properly be considered a science, given the inability to engage in repeatable experiments. Of course there are a plethora of experiments that geologists conduct all the time: conducting seismic surveys, running sedimentological studies in the laboratory, examining current ecologies and evaluating ancient ones by analogy, melting mixes of minerals and observing crystalisation behaviour, quantifying systematically dimensional changes in fossils through a sequence, studying mineral changes under intense heat and pressure, quantifying the fracture behaviour of rocks under stress, etc.

    Of course none of that is necessary to refute the idea that geology in general and palaeontology in particular is not a science. My take on this is simple. The rocks are a record of a vast and on-going series of 'laboratory' experiments. The palaeontologist (or geologist) simply selects which experiments they wish to examine. The experiment is complete. They need only identify, quantify and qualify the results and form their interpretations, hypotheses, theories and predictions from those.
    I don't think one has even to try that hard actually. It seems to me that anyone who examines a fossil in situ, for example, makes a set of eminently repeatable observations, relating to what the fossil may be of, what features can be discerned, what stratum it lies in and so forth. Another person can come along and check it and come to his own conclusions or may turn up his or her own fossil to relate to it, which again can be repeated by others, and tested for degree of fit to the theory that tries to account for them. That's enough, surely?

    After all nothing in natural science says you have to do "experiments" at all. What you need is to make repeatable observations and come up with a theory that predicts what future observations are to be expected. All the field-based sciences do this, without an "experiment", a test tube, or a white coat in sight.

    Creationists love to pretend that in science you have to do experiments, in a lab, wearing a white coat, as seen on TV, etc, because that way they can rubbish palaeontology, but the argument is total cobblers.
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    Let me tell a true story, which illustrates how much of a science paleontology is.

    Some years back, a few researchers wanted to find a fossil fish that would be an ancestor of the first amphibians. They had studied fossil amphibians, and they knew how old those fossils were. From this, they could calculate how long ago the last fish ancestor of the amphibians lived. They then used this data to make a prediction. They predicted that the desired fossil would be found in sedimentary rock of that vintage. They studied geological maps of the whole world, looking for just the right sedimentary rock, of exactly the right age. They found it in Canada, well to the north.

    Those researchers then went to Canada to find their amphibian fishy ancestor. They studied the rocks they predicted would have the fossil for some months. Then they found a lobe finned fish, which they named Tiktaalik, which was very clearly an amphibian ancestor.

    Problem solved, using the principle of prediction, thereby showing that paleontology is a true science.
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    Question?

    Did the study of fossils help in DNA research?

    I would think so!

    Then AGAIN...I don't KNOW so!
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    Jurassic Park to the contrary, it seems DNA is too fragile to survive a full fossilisation process. Any help afforded by fossils in relation to DNA would have been indirect.

    For example, the evolutionary pathways revealed through palaeontology would suggest the sort of relationships we might see in the genomes of current lifeforms.
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  18. #17  
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    Let me tell a true story, which illustrates how much of a science paleontology is.

    Some years back, a few researchers wanted to find a fossil fish that would be an ancestor of the first amphibians. They had studied fossil amphibians, and they knew how old those fossils were. From this, they could calculate how long ago the last fish ancestor of the amphibians lived. They then used this data to make a prediction. They predicted that the desired fossil would be found in sedimentary rock of that vintage. They studied geological maps of the whole world, looking for just the right sedimentary rock, of exactly the right age. They found it in Canada, well to the north.

    Those researchers then went to Canada to find their amphibian fishy ancestor. They studied the rocks they predicted would have the fossil for some months. Then they found a lobe finned fish, which they named Tiktaalik, which was very clearly an amphibian ancestor.

    Problem solved, using the principle of prediction, thereby showing that paleontology is a true science.
    Nice one.
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    I would think it is about time the OP RamenNoodles should respond.
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    actually, come to think of it, the term 'science', that 'creation scien-tists' use, and the term 'science, that 'evolution scien-tists' use, seem to differ very greatly.

    seems like creationists exploit the word 'science', to give the impression that 'science'='truth', and that since that fossil study, under specific conditions, cannot conform exactly to their term of 'science', they use this to give the impression, that since 'science'='truth', and fossil study is not = 'science', it seems to imply that fossil studies are full of lies, making readers assume fossil studies are greatly fraudulent.


    well, its my opinion, at least.
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    seems like creationists exploit the word 'science', to give the impression that 'science'='truth', and that since that fossil study, under specific conditions, cannot conform exactly to their term of 'science', they use this to give the impression, that since 'science'='truth', and fossil study is not = 'science', it seems to imply that fossil studies are full of lies, making readers assume fossil studies are greatly fraudulent.
    That's getting close to it. The big problem is that creationists are usually strongly religious people with a strong inclination towards notions like "truth" as a black and white, true or false, never-changing, specific, identifiable "thing". Preferably, what they think of as "revealed truth". When they transfer this to their perceptions of science and scientists, they go badly wrong.

    Scientists don't have any equivalent concept or purpose. They're only looking for evidence and data and the best available explanation and analysis. Science will abandon any idea, admittedly after considerable disagreement among individual scientists sometimes, and adopt a better one once it's been demonstrated to be better. It might well be an ultimate permanent truth, but there's no way of knowing that at any given time so it's always better to work on known data and accepted theory. Accepted, not enshrined in a category like 'eternal truth' and certainly not complete truth.

    I'm pretty sure that even the most scientifically competent creationists have a fundamental problem in shifting their mindset. What they do is apply their own thinking style to other people. Then it becomes almost automatic that they'll presume dishonesty or some kind of chicanery on the part of people who they perceive as claiming to have "believed" one thing and are now willing to say something else entirely - because if they themselves had changed their statements in such a way they'd have to be dishonest or apostate or something like it to do so.
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    Quote Originally Posted by RamenNoodles View Post
    ..... it seems to imply that fossil studies are full of lies, making readers assume fossil studies are greatly fraudulent.
    I was listening to a Christian radio station yesterday. (I do this when I am in the US and want to get angry. ) A discussion was in progress between an alleged scientist and the interviewer about the global flood. I was left floundering as to how either party could believe the nonsense they were spouting. A minimal investigation of the facts would have shown how wrong they were.

    The problem this creates for me is this. Either these people are seriously deluded, or they are plain-ass lying. So, they are lying to themselves, or they are lying to others. Either way this is not the Christianity that I was raised in. Some members here decry religion in general, or Christianity in particular. The Christianity I respect emphasised good actions just as much as the reasons for those good actions. The travesty of religion practised by fundamentalists borders on being evil. It appalls me.
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    I don't think in the broad sense you actually need things like repeatable experiments, predictions, hypotheses and so on for a field of study to be a science. A rational and empirically-based approach to the study of the natural world is a good enough definition for me. Paleontology would be a science regardless of the fact that it meets all of the criteria laid down by a stricter definition.

    To be honest, I'm not understanding how even a strict view of science would cast a shadow of shame upon paleontology anyway. The discipline involves a careful and considered rational approach to the study of the fossil record, the collection of evidence, theory building, and the testing of hypotheses against evidence. It's not clear to me where the accusation of non-science is coming from.
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    Quote Originally Posted by exchemist View Post
    Creationists love to pretend that in science you have to do experiments, in a lab, wearing a white coat, as seen on TV, etc, because that way they can rubbish palaeontology, but the argument is total cobblers.
    There's not pretending. Unfortunately you'll find the majority of middle school to 200 level undergraduate science courses teach science as doing experiments in a lab, wearing a white coat... science education is providing the bullets for creationist.
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    Curiously, I have heard it not only from creationists, but from physicists, some of whom seem view it as much the same as social sciences or the arts. A minority, certainly, but it is a real view in some quarters.
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Galt View Post
    Curiously, I have heard it not only from creationists, but from physicists, some of whom seem view it as much the same as social sciences or the arts. A minority, certainly, but it is a real view in some quarters.
    Yeah well some physicists (only a few thank goodness) like to strike a pose of looking down their noses at anything else - starting with my own discipline.
    Rutherford's crack about science being either physics or stamp collecting is a notorious case in point. But no historian or philosopher of science would take such a view.
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    There is an xkcd for every occasion.

    xkcd: Physicists
    If you need some help with the math, let me know, but that should be enough to get you started! Huh? No, I don't need to read your thesis, I can imagine roughly what it says.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by exchemist View Post
    Creationists love to pretend that in science you have to do experiments, in a lab, wearing a white coat, as seen on TV, etc, because that way they can rubbish palaeontology, but the argument is total cobblers.
    There's not pretending. Unfortunately you'll find the majority of middle school to 200 level undergraduate science courses teach science as doing experiments in a lab, wearing a white coat... science education is providing the bullets for creationist.
    But that means they are teaching that, for example, astronomy and geology (not to mention meteorology), are not science, then?

    I find this very hard to credit.
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    Quote Originally Posted by exchemist View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by exchemist View Post
    Creationists love to pretend that in science you have to do experiments, in a lab, wearing a white coat, as seen on TV, etc, because that way they can rubbish palaeontology, but the argument is total cobblers.
    There's not pretending. Unfortunately you'll find the majority of middle school to 200 level undergraduate science courses teach science as doing experiments in a lab, wearing a white coat... science education is providing the bullets for creationist.
    But that means they are teaching that, for example, astronomy and geology (not to mention meteorology), are not science, then?

    I find this very hard to credit.
    Am I naïve? Or is not any research "science"?
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    Quote Originally Posted by babe View Post
    Or is not any research "science"?
    It depends how rigorously and objectively it is done - what steps are taken to understand/eliminate errors, etc.

    People sometimes post here saying things like, "according to my research..." which appears to mean that they have been watching youtube. Not exactly science!
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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by babe View Post
    Or is not any research "science"?
    It depends how rigorously and objectively it is done - what steps are taken to understand/eliminate errors, etc.

    People sometimes post here saying things like, "according to my research..." which appears to mean that they have been watching youtube. Not exactly science!
    Mahalo for your clarifying answer.

    I was not clear enough in my question. Mea culpa.

    I do a lot of research also. My research, however is not "science" related, nor are my findings.
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    Quote Originally Posted by babe View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Strange View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by babe View Post
    Or is not any research "science"?
    It depends how rigorously and objectively it is done - what steps are taken to understand/eliminate errors, etc.

    People sometimes post here saying things like, "according to my research..." which appears to mean that they have been watching youtube. Not exactly science!

    Mahalo for your clarifying answer.

    I was not clear enough in my question. Mea culpa.

    I do a lot of research also. My research, however is not "science" related, nor are my findings.

    Also I don't think a historian for example would consider his research to be science. It seems to me the term "research" really can mean any form of disciplined investigation of available information, to draw conclusions. Scientific research is one subset of this.
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    Quote Originally Posted by exchemist View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by babe View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Strange View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by babe View Post
    Or is not any research "science"?
    It depends how rigorously and objectively it is done - what steps are taken to understand/eliminate errors, etc.

    People sometimes post here saying things like, "according to my research..." which appears to mean that they have been watching youtube. Not exactly science!

    Mahalo for your clarifying answer.

    I was not clear enough in my question. Mea culpa.

    I do a lot of research also. My research, however is not "science" related, nor are my findings.

    Also I don't think a historian for example would consider his research to be science. It seems to me the term "research" really can mean any form of disciplined investigation of available information, to draw conclusions. Scientific research is one subset of this.
    APPLAUSE...Well said!! It is research with a different objectives, albeit finding a conclusion!
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    RamenNoodles, I just came across this: Home | BioLogos

    I haven't looked at it in any detail, but it is apparently run by Evangelical Christians who reject creationism and Intelligent Design and embrace evolution as taught by mainstream science.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange View Post
    RamenNoodles, I just came across this: Home | BioLogos

    I haven't looked at it in any detail, but it is apparently run by Evangelical Christians who reject creationism and Intelligent Design and embrace evolution as taught by mainstream science.
    Snap - I made the same recommendation higher up this thread. This seems to be more or less how educated Christians from most of the main denominations approach the issue, i.e. not just the evangelicals.
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    Is it right to manipulate words to change the meaning?
    Or must understand the meaning of the word from a dictionary?

    Christians make use of manipulative words to "alter society's understanding of the meaning of a word"
    apparently, i know they add words, e.g. 'true' in front of words, and gives a new meanings to words to society.

    e.g. "creationism is true science."
    e.g. "the world does not know true love."



    why............ WHY THE confusion?!
    how should we understand what they are trying to say, if they keep changing meaning of words, and dont have an official 'dictionary' for themselves, for people to read?
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    That is the true Scotsman fallacy, so called.

    It comes from the argument that all Scotsmen do something. eg. All Scotmen love to eat haggis. Then someone comes along and says he knows a Scotsman who hates haggis, and the reply is : "Ah, but all true Scotsmen love haggis."

    The addition of the word 'true' sounds good, but actually does not make the argument any more correct.
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    Quote Originally Posted by RamenNoodles View Post
    Is it right to manipulate words to change the meaning?
    Absolutely not. It fails on several levels.
    1. It is dishonest.
    2. It is immoral.
    3. It is unscientific.
    4. It is egocentric and therefore anti-social.
    5. It is evil.
    6. It is un-Christian.

    Quote Originally Posted by RamenNoodles View Post
    Or must understand the meaning of the word from a dictionary?
    Let us be cautious. Words change in meaning over time, else languages would not have evolved. Dictionaries do not necessarily contain the most current meanings of a word, not explore the full diversity of its meaning.

    Quote Originally Posted by RamenNoodles View Post
    Christians make use of manipulative words to "alter society's understanding of the meaning of a word"
    apparently, i know they add words, e.g. 'true' in front of words, and gives a new meanings to words to society.

    e.g. "creationism is true science."
    e.g. "the world does not know true love."

    why............ WHY THE confusion?!
    how should we understand what they are trying to say, if they keep changing meaning of words, and dont have an official 'dictionary' for themselves, for people to read?
    I think you are describing a sub-set of Christians whose faith has led them astray.
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    i know they add words, e.g. 'true' in front of words, and gives a new meanings to words to society.

    e.g. "creationism is true science"
    e.g. "the world does not know true love"
    Using the word "true" like this is not giving a new meaning to words for the consumption of society at large. It's a dog-whistle or a reminder to people who share some of the same non-scientific values.

    I'll just copy part of what I said earlier. The big problem is that creationists are usually strongly religious people with a strong inclination towards notions like "truth" as a black and white, true or false, never-changing, specific, identifiable "thing".

    It's a call to emotions rather than to reason. In preference to reason.

    Most importantly, it's shifting the conversation away from the scientific basis of evidence, data, measurements and probabilities and towards vague notions about what feels true and right and permanent and fixed.
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    quite often, if someone on a science forum starts to create definitions for words that differ from the commonly held understanding, you know the topic will end up in the pseudo-science quicksand
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Galt View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by RamenNoodles View Post
    Or must understand the meaning of the word from a dictionary?
    Let us be cautious. Words change in meaning over time, else languages would not have evolved. Dictionaries do not necessarily contain the most current meanings of a word, not explore the full diversity of its meaning.
    if Christians/religious people are part of the society, where words change in meaning over time, why would it 'fail' on several levels? if they are part of society, why don't/do they have the right to change meanings of words?

    Quote Originally Posted by John Galt View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by RamenNoodles View Post
    Is it right to manipulate words to change the meaning?
    Absolutely not. It fails on several levels.
    1. It is dishonest.
    2. It is immoral.
    3. It is unscientific.
    4. It is egocentric and therefore anti-social.
    5. It is evil.
    6. It is un-Christian.
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    if society have ambiguous meanings of words, e.g. science/love/evil/kindness/righteousness, which meaning makes it (officially) in to the dictionary?
    and, if different dictionaries have different meanings, which definition should we pay attention to?
    and, how should we understand a dictionary, if the basis of the dictionary is that we are assumed to understand the meaning of the words used to define a specific word?
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    how should we understand a dictionary, if the basis of the dictionary is that we are assumed to understand the meaning of the words used to define a specific word?
    Remember, dictionaries don't prescribe meanings, they describe them.

    Dictionaries identify different uses explicitly.
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    it's also one of the reason why science has its own terminology to describe stuff - not to exclude the novice, but to make sure that people understand what is meant during a discussion

    obviously you can't totally exclude woolly thinking, but you can try to restrict it by using less woolly words
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    Quote Originally Posted by RamenNoodles View Post
    if Christians/religious people are part of the society, where words change in meaning over time, why would it 'fail' on several levels? if they are part of society, why don't/do they have the right to change meanings of words?
    The differences of meaning in the instances we are talking about are used to manipulate and deceive. That is why it is wrong and, in my view, deplorable. I accept that in many cases the individual is parroting what they have heard and is unaware of the deception, or had deluded themselves into believing the deceit. But it remains a deceit.
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    Quote Originally Posted by RamenNoodles View Post
    if society have ambiguous meanings of words, e.g. science/love/evil/kindness/righteousness, which meaning makes it (officially) in to the dictionary?
    and, if different dictionaries have different meanings, which definition should we pay attention to?
    and, how should we understand a dictionary, if the basis of the dictionary is that we are assumed to understand the meaning of the words used to define a specific word?
    I think the answer to that has to be by common sense. If you compare dictionaries in practice, you will find there will be a common core of agreed meanings for a word, possibly surrounded by a penumbra of shades of meaning that crop in only some of them. Words only have useable meaning insofar as that meaning is more or less understood in common, by the group that uses it to communicate. In other words, meaning depends on a degree of consensus. It is that consensus that dictionaries try to reflect. The need for consensus sets limits on the rate of change of meaning of words too. You can't, like Lewis Carroll's Humpty Dumpty, just arbitrarily decide to make a word means something different, because nobody will understand you.
    What you imply about the circularity of dictionary definitions is true of course. The only way we can convey meaning is by using other words to describe the word in question: words which themselves have meanings described on other pages of the same dictionaries. So the whole flimsy construction has a self-referential quality to it that would never be accepted in mathematics. But nonetheless it works, because there is enough consensus understanding by the community of readers.
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    The existence of fossil bones does not mean that those creatures really existed at the point in time they were dated. At least not from the point of view the consistent histories interpretation of QM.
    If the consistent histories interpretation is correct, we have no right to deduce from the existence of fossils now that dinosaurs roamed the planet a hundred million years ago (Fay Dowker).
    In which case palaeontology could be a pseudoscience.
    My view is that evolution, while undoubtedly true, is distinct from the rest of the universe as we see it. The universe is governed by fixed and immutable physical laws while life has no such constraint.
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    You are going to have to provide at least an outline argument to justify that position. Will you do so?
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    Quote Originally Posted by ox View Post
    The universe is governed by fixed and immutable physical laws while life has no such constraint.
    are you honestly saying that life is not subject to the physical laws of this universe ? because if you do, what's preventing you from flapping your arms and flying away ?
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    Anyone who thinks that physics and cosmology are unrelated to biology and evolution needs to set aside a couple of hours to watch a bit of Professor Brian Cox. If you can borrow or buy (or persuade someone to get it as a gift for you) the Wonders of Life series you'll be impressed at how the gigantic cosmic and invisible microscopic physical forces govern what can and can't happen in biology.
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    Quote Originally Posted by adelady View Post
    how should we understand a dictionary, if the basis of the dictionary is that we are assumed to understand the meaning of the words used to define a specific word?
    Remember, dictionaries don't prescribe meanings, they describe them.

    Dictionaries identify different uses explicitly.
    then what prescribes words?
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    Nobody. Nothing. Words just are. The way they're used, or changed, or not used varies from time to time and place to place.

    Just look at these two sets of definitions for the verb "nurse" (I've edited out the fine details) - and then think about what would happen if an Australian or a British woman offered to "nurse your baby for a while" to an American woman.

    English. nurse: definition of nurse (1) in Oxford dictionary (British & World English)

    • 1
      give medical and other attention to (a sick person):
      2feed (a baby) at the breast:

    • 3hold closely and carefully or caressingly:

    • 4 Billiards & Snooker try to play strokes which keep (the balls) close together.
    American. nurse - definition of nurse by the Free Online Dictionary, Thesaurus and Encyclopedia.

    1. To serve as a nurse for:
    2.a. To cause or allow to take milk from the breast:
    b. To feed at the breast of; suckle.

    3. To try to cure by special care or treatment:
    4. To treat carefully, especially in order to prevent pain:
    5. To manage or guide carefully; look after with care; foster:
    6. To bear privately in the mind:
    7. To consume slowly, especially in order to conserve:

    Notice that number 3 usage in the English/ Australian use of the word, doesn't appear in the American uses. So offering to hold the baby gently for a while, by using the word 'nurse', will be interpreted as offering to breastfeed. A look of blank horror is the usual response when this faux pas occurs.
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    Quote Originally Posted by adelady View Post
    So offering to hold the baby gently for a while, by using the word 'nurse', will be interpreted as offering to breastfeed. A look of blank horror is the usual response when this faux pas occurs.
    so people in america don't nurse a grudge then ?
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    Quote Originally Posted by marnixR View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by adelady View Post
    So offering to hold the baby gently for a while, by using the word 'nurse', will be interpreted as offering to breastfeed. A look of blank horror is the usual response when this faux pas occurs.
    so people in america don't nurse a grudge then ?
    I think that is a different subject.

    My philosophy is **** me once, shame on you, **** me twice shame on me....**** again you're out of my life
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    so people in america don't nurse a grudge then ?
    See
    6. To bear privately in the mind:
    And if you click the link for the details

    6. To bear privately in the mind: nursing a grudge.
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    As to the subject of fossils. I think I am becoming one...*sigh*
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    Quote Originally Posted by adelady View Post
    Nobody. Nothing. Words just are.
    if nothing prescribes words, how do/would we know them?

    wouldn't there be something to prescribe words?
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    We learn them by immersion in the language of our families and communities.

    If you happen to grow up in a family/community that uses a particular word in an unusual way, you won't even find out there's anything odd about it until you get to school and find out that other people ascribe another meaning to it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by RamenNoodles View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by adelady View Post
    Nobody. Nothing. Words just are.
    if nothing prescribes words, how do/would we know them?

    wouldn't there be something to prescribe words?
    See my earlier reply. You are taught meanings, more or less accurately, by the society you communicate with. But only the French pretend that meanings are handed down, immutable, on tablets of stone, from some central definitions body. (And even they have occasional meetings of the Academie to recognise shifts in meaning and new words, from time to time.) So "prescribe" is not the right word. There is a consensus of meaning, formed by collective use, that's all.
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    er.. lol.. where to begin:

    - We know basic of animal morphology, physiology, etc. so we can say on those principles how x species looked, lived and behaved
    - It gives us a picture of how past species not only lived, but influence current species. Take humans. We know that homo erectus influenced us since they share our general body shape, and most likely led to our ancestral lifestyle and more advanced tool making.

    I don't think it is pseudo-science. We know that a T-rex looked as it did again based on how we know muscles and bones interact.
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Galt View Post
    As a a geologist I long ago considered whether or not it could properly be considered a science, given the inability to engage in repeatable experiments. Of course there are a plethora of experiments that geologists conduct all the time: conducting seismic surveys, running sedimentological studies in the laboratory, examining current ecologies and evaluating ancient ones by analogy, melting mixes of minerals and observing crystalisation behaviour, quantifying systematically dimensional changes in fossils through a sequence, studying mineral changes under intense heat and pressure, quantifying the fracture behaviour of rocks under stress, etc.

    Of course none of that is necessary to refute the idea that geology in general and palaeontology in particular is not a science. My take on this is simple. The rocks are a record of a vast and on-going series of 'laboratory' experiments. The palaeontologist (or geologist) simply selects which experiments they wish to examine. The experiment is complete. They need only identify, quantify and qualify the results and form their interpretations, hypotheses, theories and predictions from those.
    So volcano formation and action is not observable? Just because a science is not exact, this makes it invalid?

    Not all sciences can use the same methodology.
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    Quote Originally Posted by sarnamluvu View Post
    So volcano formation and action is not observable? Just because a science is not exact, this makes it invalid?
    While we can observe volcanoes there are types of eruption that we have not observed. There are depositional environments and sediment types that are common in the past, but are not - apparently - being formed today. We do not observe any of the metamorphic processes. The list goes on.

    I don't know of any sciences that are exact - perhaps you meant precise, or accurate. In that case I think a science has to have a high degree of accuracy and precision in its measurements to be properly considered a science.
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Galt View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by sarnamluvu View Post
    So volcano formation and action is not observable? Just because a science is not exact, this makes it invalid?
    While we can observe volcanoes there are types of eruption that we have not observed. There are depositional environments and sediment types that are common in the past, but are not - apparently - being formed today. We do not observe any of the metamorphic processes. The list goes on.

    I don't know of any sciences that are exact - perhaps you meant precise, or accurate. In that case I think a science has to have a high degree of accuracy and precision in its measurements to be properly considered a science.
    But you are saying that geology is false since it's properties cannot be observed. However, reasoned speculation can be made based on sound principles.

    As said, not all science is exact or equal in its level of precision. This doesn't mean the science per se is faulty.
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    Quote Originally Posted by sarnamluvu View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by John Galt View Post
    As a a geologist I long ago considered whether or not it could properly be considered a science, given the inability to engage in repeatable experiments. Of course there are a plethora of experiments that geologists conduct all the time: conducting seismic surveys, running sedimentological studies in the laboratory, examining current ecologies and evaluating ancient ones by analogy, melting mixes of minerals and observing crystalisation behaviour, quantifying systematically dimensional changes in fossils through a sequence, studying mineral changes under intense heat and pressure, quantifying the fracture behaviour of rocks under stress, etc.

    Of course none of that is necessary to refute the idea that geology in general and palaeontology in particular is not a science. My take on this is simple. The rocks are a record of a vast and on-going series of 'laboratory' experiments. The palaeontologist (or geologist) simply selects which experiments they wish to examine. The experiment is complete. They need only identify, quantify and qualify the results and form their interpretations, hypotheses, theories and predictions from those.
    So volcano formation and action is not observable? Just because a science is not exact, this makes it invalid?

    Not all sciences can use the same methodology.
    actually it is at some extent

    Loihi

    Loihi Seamount: The New Volcanic Island in the Hawaiian Chain


    If you go to Volcano, there is much more information
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    Quote Originally Posted by sarnamluvu View Post
    But you are saying that geology is false since it's properties cannot be observed.
    Please read my posts carefully. I specifically challenged the notion that palaeontology and geology are not sciences. I argued, on two independent counts, that they are sciences.

    You, apparently, misread that post and made a comment about observations about volcanoes that was incomplete and therefore inaccurate. I corrected that. You interpreted this as being an attack on geology as a science. I regret my posts have confused you.
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    I distinctly note you said geology wasn't a real science, but OK.. generally, I don't study geology so it's not really my issue if it is or not.
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    Niece has her degree in Geology and going for her Masters. She is already working with the USGA....trying to get into some big geology college in San Diego...think it begins with an S.
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    Quote Originally Posted by sarnamluvu View Post
    I distinctly note you said geology wasn't a real science, but OK.. generally, I don't study geology so it's not really my issue if it is or not.
    I distinctly note that you have reading comprehension difficulties. If you will review my posts in this thread you will not find anywhere where I say that. The closest I come is in my first post, where I say "As a a geologist I long ago considered whether or not it could properly be considered a science, given the inability to engage in repeatable experiments."

    Do you notice what that means? I looked at two alternatives: it was a science; it was not a science. In the rest of that post I present two reasons as to why it should be considered a science. Apparently my argument was sufficiently cogent and engaging that no fewer than four members very kindly awarded the post a "Like".

    I mention this, because I think I have seen another member comment on the fact that you do not properly read posts. This leads to you making arguments that are irrelevant to the discussion - as well as pissing people off. I urge you to be more attentive in future.
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Galt View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by sarnamluvu View Post
    I distinctly note you said geology wasn't a real science, but OK.. generally, I don't study geology so it's not really my issue if it is or not.
    I distinctly note that you have reading comprehension difficulties. If you will review my posts in this thread you will not find anywhere where I say that. The closest I come is in my first post, where I say "As a a geologist I long ago considered whether or not it could properly be considered a science, given the inability to engage in repeatable experiments."

    Do you notice what that means? I looked at two alternatives: it was a science; it was not a science. In the rest of that post I present two reasons as to why it should be considered a science. Apparently my argument was sufficiently cogent and engaging that no fewer than four members very kindly awarded the post a "Like".

    I mention this, because I think I have seen another member comment on the fact that you do not properly read posts. This leads to you making arguments that are irrelevant to the discussion - as well as pissing people off. I urge you to be more attentive in future.
    It's clear what your meaning was.
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    Actually, in geology, repeatable and repeated experiments are done all the time. For example : if a geologist wants to date a stratum of sedimentary rock, he may sample it for dateable fossils. He can repeat this experiment as many times as he wishes, and often does. Ditto sampling and testing volcanic rocks (or other rocks) and testing for mineral content.
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    true - in that respect geology and paleontology have one over on history : their subjects of study are open to anyone willing to go out into the field and make the appropriate measurements
    "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." (Philip K. Dick)
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    When they unearthed titanoboa a few years ago, they used an ad hoc process to examine it? The used modern large snakes as anacondas and retics as a template.Fossil science really is about how past life lived and relates to extant species. It simply uses a unique methodology.
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    WYSIWYG Moderator marnixR's Avatar
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    true that the past is often interpreted using the present as a template, and sometimes that template falls flat, but that's the name of the game named science : most of the times it works but at times it lets you down

    e.g. we still don't know exactly what the metabolism of dinosaurs was like - was it more like mammals, birds, crocodiles or lizards ? one day we may find the crucial bit of evidence to help us make up our minds, but until then we don't really know for sure
    "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." (Philip K. Dick)
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    But we can say with good certainty that smilodon or T-Rexs were carnivores. or that homo erectus had a morphology very similar to our own.

    Fossil science can never be exact, however it does provide a good base for how extinct species lived.
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    WYSIWYG Moderator marnixR's Avatar
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    true - most of the time we can make valid extrapolations, but sometimes reality throws a spanner in the works, and that's when received wisdom is thrown out of the window
    "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." (Philip K. Dick)
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    Quote Originally Posted by sarnamluvu View Post
    It's clear what your meaning was.
    I agree: it is clear that my meaning was that geology is a science. Yet you earlier posted this statement: "I distinctly note you said geology wasn't a real science, ...."

    So, what are you saying, because your meaning is not clear to me.
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