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Thread: Renaming The Theory of Evolution

  1. #1 Renaming The Theory of Evolution 
    Forum Freshman SlugMan's Avatar
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    I live in Quesnel, B.C. That is an hour from Prince George. Prince George is several hours from Vancouver. Vancouver is in B.C. If your still confused get a map.

    Anyways this is kind of a "hick/redneck town" in some aspects. For the last while I've been talking to various religious people. Both my neighbors which are a very fundamental Christian family and some other religious viewing people. I'm trying not go into the whole evolution vs. creationism battle. Ive talked to them about how science works and how the Theory of Evolution works. Down to mutations, variations and some genetics. I'm not saying they stand for all Christians and such. The ones I have talked to agree that mutations do happen and they can change how a species looks and acts but they refuse to accept the basics of evolution is fact. They say that it is an opinion and only a Theory and a hypothesis. I'm sure that people that are smart enuff to even read this know the difference from Theory/Hypothesis and fact/opinion. In science terms...

    Theory- A body of information gathered from multiple test that are reproducible. Generally these can become a hypothesis. All ways subject to change.

    Hypothesis- A reasonable idea or statement about something that has not truly been tested. Can lead to a new theory or add to a already existing one.

    The term Theory used around me is what you have after you smoke some funny stuff and you see the moon waving and you think its liquid. Its not a fact is just something that was observed and is just an idea.

    After all this I suggest that term "Theory of ________" should be replaced. As not all people look at it the same way. Scientificly evolution is very much a Theory. But people can find this word misleading. This renaming could work for other Theory's like atomic and gravity. I think "The Science of Evolution" would be better. Please give ideas on what you think it should be rephrased as or if you think this is a bad idea.


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  3. #2  
    Forum Cosmic Wizard paralith's Avatar
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    I've said to several people that I think we scientists need to dump the word theory and come up with our own term for it. This confusion between the layman's definition and the scientific definition is a pain in everybody's neck. It could be a nonsense word for all I care, let's just use something different!

    Maybe we could steal the phrase "magnum opus" from musicians, or something like that. Though the connotation of artistic creativity might not be so great.


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  4. #3  
    Forum Freshman SlugMan's Avatar
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    How about something latin as a lot of terms you would use in biology are latin. Recolligo Scientia of Evolution (Gathered Knowledge of Translators. Interent translators are cool.
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  5. #4  
    Universal Mind John Galt's Avatar
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    I understand where you are going with this and why you want to go there, but I think you are wrong, for two reasons.

    First, changing the name will give creationists the chance to say "Look at how those sneaky evolutionists have changed the word theory to make you think evolution is a solid fact". And they will continue to attack the fact that we have not proved evolution, either because they cannot or will not understand the scientific method.

    Second, it is an admission of defeat at the hands of their debating technique. We have accepted, tacitly, their juvenile definition of theory. Surely the correct approach is to use every opportunity, formal and informal, to educate the creationists and the fence sitters about the scientific method in general and evolution in particular.
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  6. #5  
    Forum Cosmic Wizard paralith's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Galt
    I understand where you are going with this and why you want to go there, but I think you are wrong, for two reasons.

    First, changing the name will give creationists the chance to say "Look at how those sneaky evolutionists have changed the word theory to make you think evolution is a solid fact". And they will continue to attack the fact that we have not proved evolution, either because they cannot or will not understand the scientific method.

    Second, it is an admission of defeat at the hands of their debating technique. We have accepted, tacitly, their juvenile definition of theory. Surely the correct approach is to use every opportunity, formal and informal, to educate the creationists and the fence sitters about the scientific method in general and evolution in particular.
    Those are very valid points, John. But I think it's sort of a choice between two evils. Many creationists and IDers have few scruples about using every unfair and twisted tactic they can to promote their agenda, and it matters little what members of the scientific community do - the reaction will continue to be in this vein.

    On the other hand, changing the terminology to draw a clear distinction will help clarify the issue for people who are unfamiliar with scientific principles - and it these people's lack of knowledge that creationists and IDers take advantage of the most.
    Man can will nothing unless he has first understood that he must count on no one but himself; that he is alone, abandoned on earth in the midst of his infinite responsibilities, without help, with no other aim than the one he sets himself, with no other destiny than the one he forges for himself on this earth.
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  7. #6  
    Administrator KALSTER's Avatar
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    I don't think it should be changed either. Science is full of such words that have more specific meanings in science circles. For example, we have been busy trying to get a guy to understand the meaning of "absolute" dating in the Earth sciences section, where he has taken the word "absolute" and created a whole argument around its meaning. I don't think changing one term will make much difference.
    Disclaimer: I do not declare myself to be an expert on ANY subject. If I state something as fact that is obviously wrong, please don't hesitate to correct me. I welcome such corrections in an attempt to be as truthful and accurate as possible.

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    I don't know how I can outline what's wrong with what you are saying; once again paralith and I see to be on the same wave length though. Instead, I offer you a resounding


    NO


    Okay, so I do have more to say I guess. Changing the name will infact discredit the idea in the eyes of those not educated. Changing the name will only be a sneaky runaround Paralith; not only will they catch on to this, but its effect will really only be changing the name and nothing more. The ONLY way to get IDers and creationists to stop being idiots is education. It's as I ALWAYS say: Ignorance is defeated by education 100% of the time.


    It's not a matter of us accepting their wrong definition of theory- it's them not understanding it. Once again, education will counter this. However, you can't teach the unwilling; sadly, the equation is and always will be this:

    Stupidity (and ear covering) > Education > ignorance
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  9. #8  
    Universal Mind John Galt's Avatar
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    I'm slightly confused. Was there a cross post? Was your resounding NO a rejection of paralith's argument, rather than Kastler's? Yey you say you are on the same wavelength as Paralith, yet you argue for education and seem to say changing the name won't have any effect. I am definitely confused. Please help.
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  10. #9  
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    NO WE SHOULD NOT RENAME EVOLUTION DON'T BE SILLY

    sorry for confusion
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  11. #10  
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    We could call it the 'no offense but we don't think god did it, no disrespect intended just a difference of opinion idea.'

    Or they could jolly well educate themselves.

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  12. #11  
    Forum Cosmic Wizard spuriousmonkey's Avatar
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    what about just providing decent education for people instead of doing something dumb.
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  13. #12  
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    I think the problem is with "hypothesis" not "theory". When laymen say theory they mean hypothesis. And by and large there's no intellectual dishonesty in that. This is much more commonplace than the creation vs. evolution debate. They (we/me) frequently propose an informal hypothesis with "I've got a theory..." Like I've got a theory as to why gas prices go up just before rush hour.

    Hypothesis is not in the common vocabulary. For one reason, we can only fit so many words in that container. Something valuable would have to go. Where I am (SlugMan I'm in Vancouver), the proportion of English second language adults is very high so "decent education" doesn't work. And as the world shrinks I believe we'll increasingly find ourselves engaged in intelligent, scientifically-minded discussions, without ever using the word hypothesis because that's one of a million words our friend doesn't know and shouldn't be bothered to learn just then. Another reason "hypothesis" is not used, is it sounds ostentatious. We prefer "theory" for the tentative ring of it. Ironically the layman's honest desire to be taken with a grain of salt keeps these words in their improper places.

    Scientists too could benefit by a sleek replacement for hypothesis.

    And yeah it would give the Creationists nothing to roll eyes about. They would probably use it, correctly even.
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  14. #13  
    Moderator Moderator TheBiologista's Avatar
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    I'll echo spurious monkey on this. Better science education, better outreach. These are the things that will help people to understand what theory means in science. That any maybe getting the news and entertainment media to do some decent critical science reporting.

    Also, I disagree with the OPs definitions of hypothesis and theory, though he correctly identifies that part of the problem with the acceptance of the theory of evolution is a semantic one. Calling it the Science of Evolution is meaningless. Evolutionary science is a field. Science itself is a method and philosophy. A theory is a model with predictive and explanatory power that is built upon data derived from observations. We could rename the theory in all sorts of ways, but I don't think that would really fix the problem. Until people understand the concepts of testability and modelling, they're going to continue to see science- and thus evolution- as the media portray it. Arbitrary "educated guesswork".
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  15. #14  
    Forum Freshman SlugMan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Galt
    First, changing the name will give creationists the chance to say "Look at how those sneaky evolutionists have changed the word theory to make you think evolution is a solid fact". And they will continue to attack the fact that we have not proved evolution, either because they cannot or will not understand the scientific method.
    Sneaky eh? What about the case about Intelligent design. Where these people "evolved" what they call creationism into this, so it could be accepted into school? Luckily this was stopped. But it was pretty sneaky.

    But I do understand what you are saying. Nation wide this could be a problem. I don't think it would be as bad as your saying it would be. This could lead to problems.

    Maybe we could, and we should, beef up our educatiom and start from the rhzoids. lol.
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  16. #15  
    Universal Mind John Galt's Avatar
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    There are two parallel things going on here, brought out in the last two posts.

    Slugman rightly points to the deliberately deceitful tactics of creationists to sneak creationism in the back door under the guise of intelligent design. The individuals and groups responsible for this will not be swayed or influenced because we changed a word here, or a whole dictionary there. So there is no point in making that change to counter their actions.

    On the other hand there are a large body of essentially neutral people who simply don't understand the language and methodology of science. They can be genuinely confused and misled as the debate ranges around them. I can recall as a teenager wishing to study science, because I thought it was about knowing how things were. Only later did I realise it was about finding out about how things were. This distinction, hinted at by Biologista, is every bit as important as the meaning of theory/hypothesis, etc and both can only be truly dealt with via effective education.
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  17. #16  
    WYSIWYG Moderator marnixR's Avatar
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    it just occurred to me that the title of this thread contains a misnomer when referring to the "theory of evolution", which is how creationists prefer to call it

    instead we should be talking about the "fact of evolution" and the "various theories to explain how evolution operates" - there is no such thing as a monolithic "theory of evolution"
    "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." (Philip K. Dick)
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  18. #17  
    Forum Cosmic Wizard spuriousmonkey's Avatar
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    I think we mostly refer to it in scientific publications as 'evolution'.

    Not theory of evolution.

    edit:
    checked a couple of my articles. I never state theory of evolution. Always 'evolution' or 'evolutionary'.
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  19. #18  
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    Quote Originally Posted by marnixR
    instead we should be talking about the "fact of evolution" and the "various theories to explain how evolution operates" - there is no such thing as a monolithic "theory of evolution"
    Don't know if I'd agree with that. We tend to refer to it as the "modern synthesis" but there's certainly a reletively simple core theory, based on the original Darwin work, that we can call the theory of evolution.

    The various rather more specific models of species descent and interrelation aren't a part of that theory, though they are dependent on it. However, the theory itself is just the basic model that states how variation occurs, propagates, is selected for and eventually gives rise to gross change.

    Quote Originally Posted by spuriousmonkey
    I think we mostly refer to it in scientific publications as 'evolution'.

    Not theory of evolution.

    edit:
    checked a couple of my articles. I never state theory of evolution. Always 'evolution' or 'evolutionary'.
    At this stage we've taken it that the theory represents fact, so we don't really need to make the distinction and we're never going to be challenged on that in publication.
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    Quote Originally Posted by spuriousmonkey
    I think we mostly refer to it in scientific publications as 'evolution'.

    Not theory of evolution.

    edit:
    checked a couple of my articles. I never state theory of evolution. Always 'evolution' or 'evolutionary'.
    It just fucking happens, get over it. However, so does gravity; also a theory.
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  21. #20  
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    Renaming would just be sidestepping the problem, and as pointed out early ion in the thread only provide more ammunition to those who are determined to try to undermine science.
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  22. #21  
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    Quote Originally Posted by mormoopid
    It just fucking happens, get over it. However, so does gravity; also a theory.
    I was talking to my teacher today and asked her if the theory evolution was a fact. She said that natural selections and artificial selection were real factors and there was mutations and such but this didn't mean that evolution was a fact. Then i asked her if the theory of gravity was a fact and she said it was still just a theory but yes it does work and this confused me. Then I sat back down and told my buddie all my dead baby jokes.
    I appoligize for mistakes in grammar, puncuation, and spelling. Cuz i suck at that stuff.
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  23. #22  
    WYSIWYG Moderator marnixR's Avatar
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    the following Wikipedia entry may be of some use in extracting the confusion between theory and fact

    the fact of gravity is that if you jump of a building you're going to fall
    the theory of gravity explains the forces behind this (and other) events

    likewise the fact of evolution is that all organisms are related and show descent with modification is a fact
    the theory (or theories) of evolution explain how + why this might happen
    "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 marnixR
    the following Wikipedia entry may be of some use in extracting the confusion between theory and fact

    the fact of gravity is that if you jump of a building you're going to fall
    the theory of gravity explains the forces behind this (and other) events

    likewise the fact of evolution is that all organisms are related and show descent with modification is a fact
    the theory (or theories) of evolution explain how + why this might happen

    I love you
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  25. #24  
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    Quote Originally Posted by marnixR
    the following Wikipedia entry may be of some use in extracting the confusion between theory and fact

    the fact of gravity is that if you jump of a building you're going to fall
    the theory of gravity explains the forces behind this (and other) events

    likewise the fact of evolution is that all organisms are related and show descent with modification is a fact
    the theory (or theories) of evolution explain how + why this might happen
    Yes, theories are models of reality that have explanatory and predictive power. Example in evolution being that evolutionary theory both explains and predicts the existence of certain species with certain morphologies within certain time frames. So we can use it to predict what we'll find in various gaps in the fossil record if we have enough data. In that regard it works. Similarly it predicts our findings in genetics. The more it works, the more confidence we have in the model. 150 years later we haven't broken the model yet. So we're confident it is a model of reality. Thus evolution is both theory and fact.

    The issue at hand is the public misunderstanding of what theories are. They hear theory and think of something more like what we'd call a hypothesis or whatever the equivalent in maths is. Some manner of educated guess. Pretty far from the truth.
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  26. #25  
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    Quote Originally Posted by SlugMan
    Quote Originally Posted by mormoopid
    It just fucking happens, get over it. However, so does gravity; also a theory.
    I was talking to my teacher today and asked her if the theory evolution was a fact. She said that natural selections and artificial selection were real factors and there was mutations and such but this didn't mean that evolution was a fact. Then i asked her if the theory of gravity was a fact and she said it was still just a theory but yes it does work and this confused me. Then I sat back down and told my buddie all my dead baby jokes.
    We don't have a theory of gravity, or even one popular hypothesis. We have the universal observation that masses accelerate toward each other, and we have derived laws. Gravity is a fact not understood.

    Evolution too is a fact, though less plainly observed. We do have a convincing theory of evolution and many theories built on that. One could develop a "God makes it happen" theory and still acknowledge evolution as fact. Most people today observe evolution of one kind or another self-evident all around, and like gravity, and they do grasp the law of it. Any creationist can see how, say, Formula One race cars have evolved and must continue to evolve. They may disagree with Darwin's Origin of Species by natural selection theory.

    So one may speak about gravity or evolution as laws for which there are conflicting explanations.
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    actually pong, I observe evolution every single time I see an animal (bot not plants, they are like the older cousin of animals that nobody talks to at a party but has to be invited anyways cause your mom made you).

    It's more plainly observable to me than anything- I see a frog, I see its common ancestor with salamanders.

    I see a monotreme, I understand it's cynodont derived but isn't a mammal.

    I see a shark, I understand that it hasn't changed much per say, but neoselachii (well, in modern times for the most part) aren't the same as cladocerans but they do the same thing- therefore they logically should and do have a similar body plan.

    you can see where I am going; I think and see evolutionary steps every single time I see an animal move or just exist. It's so obvious it is painful. When I drop a ball, I know it will drop; it's the same thing with gravity. I know it's there, I know it's going to be there and it just plain fucking happens.
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  28. #27  
    Forum Ph.D. Nevyn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    We don't have a theory of gravity, or even one popular hypothesis. We have the universal observation that masses accelerate toward each other, and we have derived laws. Gravity is a fact not understood.
    Actually we do have a theory of Gravity (well gravitation really but it amounts to the same thing). One theory is that a hypothetical partical (hypothetical because it hasn't been discovered yet and there isn't much evidence it just falls into place with the theories) known as a Graviton causes gravity but currently this one falls apart at at high energies with the standard model.

    jeeze trying to avoid all the semantics in thiss...
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  29. #28  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nevyn
    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    We don't have a theory of gravity, or even one popular hypothesis. We have the universal observation that masses accelerate toward each other, and we have derived laws. Gravity is a fact not understood.
    Actually we do have a theory of Gravity (well gravitation really but it amounts to the same thing). One theory is that a hypothetical partical (hypothetical because it hasn't been discovered yet and there isn't much evidence it just falls into place with the theories) known as a Graviton causes gravity but currently this one falls apart at at high energies with the standard model.

    jeeze trying to avoid all the semantics in thiss...
    The semantics are a little inconsistent even in science, which I think is part of the problem. Quantum gravity is a candidate theory. Basically a whole framework built on a mixture of established theory and currently untested hypotheses.
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  30. #29 Re: Renaming The Theory of Evolution 
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    Quote Originally Posted by SlugMan
    After all this I suggest that term "Theory of ________" should be replaced. As not all people look at it the same way. Scientificly evolution is very much a Theory. But people can find this word misleading. This renaming could work for other Theory's like atomic and gravity. I think "The Science of Evolution" would be better. Please give ideas on what you think it should be rephrased as or if you think this is a bad idea.
    The "Theory of Universal Common Descent" is what I refer to it as, because
    it distinguishes it from speciation that is observable.

    Evolution is observable when you define it as changes in species over time.

    Creationists often distinguish it as "Neo-Darwinism" to account for modern
    finds, but many also refer to it as "Darwinian Evolutionary Theory" or DET
    (also) to distinguish it from evolution that is observable, recognizing that it
    could have been Wallace, Huxley or Darwin who could have first published,
    and that Darwin was not the sole believer in universal common descent at
    the time of publication.

    From the POV of the individuals who are talking to you, they probably believe
    that you are taking the processes by which we see changes in species, and
    "inducing" (open to error) it as an explanation for origin of ALL species.
    The paradigm often used by creationists to explain this "induction" is
    Haekel's "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny." Where "deduction" would
    force you to account for the first gametes, you can use "induction" to make
    a specific conclusion on recapitulation of phylogeny if it fits the (sc) model.
    Although the development of the "brain" during the embryonic stage
    was not the reason for rejecting it, (it was rather seen as non-linear with
    no clear fish, reptile, mammal consecutive stages), it was often referred
    by creationists in the 70/80's as a "no-brainer" because of the lack of
    development of the cerebral cortex during the amphibian stage of develop-
    ment (embryo). Which brings to point the fact that many creationists
    still feel that pharyngeal gill slits are more of a difficulty to explain than
    say commonalities such as endogenous retroviruses or telemore to telemore
    fusion to form human chromosome 2. (commonalities which creationists
    would EXPECT to find because of trademark in creation and the belief
    that such processes are not cosmically random but insert in the same
    locations for chimpanzees because the same mechanism is used by a
    Creator who has a process which is consistent)

    I suppose now I have to defend all this....

    ~Michael
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  31. #30 Re: Renaming The Theory of Evolution 
    Moderator Moderator TheBiologista's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Breckmin
    Quote Originally Posted by SlugMan
    After all this I suggest that term "Theory of ________" should be replaced. As not all people look at it the same way. Scientificly evolution is very much a Theory. But people can find this word misleading. This renaming could work for other Theory's like atomic and gravity. I think "The Science of Evolution" would be better. Please give ideas on what you think it should be rephrased as or if you think this is a bad idea.
    The "Theory of Universal Common Descent" is what I refer to it as, because
    it distinguishes it from speciation that is observable.

    Evolution is observable when you define it as changes in species over time.

    Creationists often distinguish it as "Neo-Darwinism" to account for modern
    finds, but many also refer to it as "Darwinian Evolutionary Theory" or DET
    (also) to distinguish it from evolution that is observable, recognizing that it
    could have been Wallace, Huxley or Darwin who could have first published,
    and that Darwin was not the sole believer in universal common descent at
    the time of publication.

    From the POV of the individuals who are talking to you, they probably believe
    that you are taking the processes by which we see changes in species, and
    "inducing" (open to error) it as an explanation for origin of ALL species.
    The paradigm often used by creationists to explain this "induction" is
    Haekel's "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny." Where "deduction" would
    force you to account for the first gametes, you can use "induction" to make
    a specific conclusion on recapitulation of phylogeny if it fits the (sc) model.
    Although the development of the "brain" during the embryonic stage
    was not the reason for rejecting it, (it was rather seen as non-linear with
    no clear fish, reptile, mammal consecutive stages), it was often referred
    by creationists in the 70/80's as a "no-brainer" because of the lack of
    development of the cerebral cortex during the amphibian stage of develop-
    ment (embryo). Which brings to point the fact that many creationists
    still feel that pharyngeal gill slits are more of a difficulty to explain than
    say commonalities such as endogenous retroviruses or telemore to telemore
    fusion to form human chromosome 2. (commonalities which creationists
    would EXPECT to find because of trademark in creation and the belief
    that such processes are not cosmically random but insert in the same
    locations for chimpanzees because the same mechanism is used by a
    Creator who has a process which is consistent)

    I suppose now I have to defend all this....

    ~Michael
    Not really, since the topic regards the semantics of "theory" and you've contributed exactly nothing to that discussion.
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