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Author Topic:   No Witnesses
Dr Adequate
Member (Idle past 391 days)
Posts: 16113
Joined: 07-20-2006


(5)
Message 5 of 215 (650837)
02-03-2012 9:59 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by ookuay
02-02-2012 8:10 PM


"No one was present when life first appeared on earth. Therefore, any statement about life's origins should be considered as theory, not fact." ~Alabama State Board of Education
Well, that is obviously stupid.
There is something to be said about the origin of life, and a non-crazy person might phrase it like this: "There is insufficient evidence to confirm any hypothesis about the origin of life on earth. Therefore, these hypotheses should be regarded as hypotheses and not elevated to the status of theories."
Are witnesses really necessary to count evolution as a legitimate theory?
Well of course not. I like to imagine creationists trying to use their bogus epistemology in a court case: "Yes, members of the jury, the prosecution may have presented you with fingerprint evidence, DNA evidence, gunshot residue, a signed confession, the fact that my client was arrested while standing over his victims holding a smoking gun, and video footage of him killing all the eyewitnesses. But they haven't produced any eyewitnesses."

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Dr Adequate
Member (Idle past 391 days)
Posts: 16113
Joined: 07-20-2006


(2)
Message 25 of 215 (651776)
02-09-2012 10:16 PM
Reply to: Message 22 by shadow71
02-09-2012 7:54 PM


If the statement read as follows:
any statement about life's origins should be considered as theory, not fact."
then I think it is correct.
Close, but two things.
First, it should read "hypothesis, not theory" instead of "theory, not fact". 'Cos we wouldn't want to be scientifically illiterate morons, would we?
Second, this does not apply to any statement. For example, some people believe that God poofed life into existence about six thousand years ago. This is known to be false, since life is in fact older than this. Not every hypothesis is on the same level of ignorance. Some of them are just wrong, and known to be wrong.
So to be accurate we would have to say: "All hypotheses about the origin of life are unproven, and so should not be regarded as theories. However, at least some of them have been conclusively disproven, such as literal belief in the Book of Genesis, which from a scientific point of view must be regarded as a steaming pile of crap."

This message is a reply to:
 Message 22 by shadow71, posted 02-09-2012 7:54 PM shadow71 has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 30 by shadow71, posted 02-10-2012 2:44 PM Dr Adequate has replied

  
Dr Adequate
Member (Idle past 391 days)
Posts: 16113
Joined: 07-20-2006


(3)
Message 45 of 215 (651944)
02-11-2012 3:57 AM
Reply to: Message 30 by shadow71
02-10-2012 2:44 PM


Some people believe God created life, but not necessarily 6000 years ago.
So I would agree with your last Paragraph if you changed it to include that God may have created life at a time more than 6000 years ago, and we have no proof or factual basis to disprove that hypothesis.
Well, I'm still right, aren't I? A literalistic reading of the Bible is known to be false. Our admitted ignorance of the origin of life does not put all hypotheses on the same level, because although we don't know which ones are true, we can at least identify some of them as false.
Your own hypothesis about God creating life but not according to Biblical chronology is also not on the same level. Consider this: the proposition that things happen according to natural law and not by God doing magic is the best supported theory in science. Every experiment ever done, every observation ever made, supports this proposition. We should still consider a miraculous explanation as a bare possibility, but it is contrary to our scientific knowledge as it stands just as though someone proposed that the origin of life involved a violation of the law of conservation of energy. We can conceive of it, we can consider it, but everything we know suggests that that wasn't what actually happened.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 30 by shadow71, posted 02-10-2012 2:44 PM shadow71 has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 50 by shadow71, posted 02-11-2012 9:33 AM Dr Adequate has replied

  
Dr Adequate
Member (Idle past 391 days)
Posts: 16113
Joined: 07-20-2006


(1)
Message 55 of 215 (652012)
02-11-2012 4:43 PM
Reply to: Message 50 by shadow71
02-11-2012 9:33 AM


I do not deny natural law, but you cannot prove how natural law was instituted.
This is not relevant to my point.
There is as much support for my proposition ...
Well, no. We see natural things, but not miracles, which means that if we want to figure out how anything in particular happened, all the evidence supports the proposition that it was natural and not miraculous.
Now this is in fact your normal practice --- when the shingles come off your roof, you suppose that they were blown off by the wind and not removed by Evil Roof Pixies casting a spell. It's the default position. The wind theory is supported by the fact that we know the wind exists and that this is the sort of thing it does, whereas the pixie hypothesis is undermined by the fact that no-one's observed any pixies or any magic.
There is, to be sure, a long-standing religious prejudice in favor of attributing some things, such as the origin of life, to magical causes, but this prejudice is not evidentiary.

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Dr Adequate
Member (Idle past 391 days)
Posts: 16113
Joined: 07-20-2006


Message 75 of 215 (655592)
03-11-2012 4:57 PM
Reply to: Message 73 by Rrhain
03-11-2012 5:30 AM


It's called a scanning-tunneling microscrope. With it, we can not only image individual atoms, we can pick them up and place them. Surely you've seen the famous micrograph of the IBM logo, yes? It's from more than 20 years ago. This is not new. Or does mechanical assistance not count for "viewed"? What does that mean for people who wear glasses? Are they not actually "viewing" anything?
It's a fine point, but I think NoNukes is right. The STM is an instrument which produces a picture as its read-out rather than, for example, a column of numbers*. That the picture resembles what we like to think we would see if we could see atoms doesn't mean that we are actually seeing atoms. What we're seeing is the picture produced by the STM. We then interpret it (correctly) as telling us about the positions of atoms. But just because the data is presented for us in an intuitively accessible visual form doesn't mean that we are really seeing the atoms any more than someone looking at a street map is really seeing the streets.
* I believe that its raw data is in fact columns of numbers, and that the image is prepared by a computer.

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Dr Adequate
Member (Idle past 391 days)
Posts: 16113
Joined: 07-20-2006


Message 80 of 215 (656010)
03-15-2012 2:13 PM
Reply to: Message 77 by Rrhain
03-15-2012 3:59 AM


Why on earth not? Why do we get to amplify them through optical means but by no other method? By this logic, we have never "viewed" electricity except as sparks.
We haven't.
We've never "viewed" any light beyond the visible spectrum since it requires translation.
Quite so. We haven't.
All those gamma ray bursts that come from the universe, well, we've never actually "seen" them since that requires mechanical equipment to detect them.
Indeed. We haven't.
If you put on gloves, then you're not really "feeling" anything since the sensation is being mechanically transmitted.
If I put on gloves, then what I feel is what things feel like through my gloves when I'm wearing gloves. I am feeling something, but I am not feeling the thing the gloves are touching. I am feeling the pressure exerted on my fingers by the material of my gloves and (by and large correctly) interpreting it by figuring out what I would feel if I actually touched the object, which I am not doing.
I am not touching the thing, I'm touching the glove. The fact that my interpretation of my sensations is particularly easy and intuitive does not mean that I'm touching the thing. I'm not. I'm wearing gloves. This prevents me from touching it.

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Replies to this message:
 Message 81 by crashfrog, posted 03-15-2012 4:28 PM Dr Adequate has replied

  
Dr Adequate
Member (Idle past 391 days)
Posts: 16113
Joined: 07-20-2006


Message 83 of 215 (656031)
03-15-2012 7:55 PM
Reply to: Message 81 by crashfrog
03-15-2012 4:28 PM


Inconsistent with language usage. Devices like IR imagers are widely described as allowing users to see infrared, and this language is viewed as accurate by an overwhelming number of English speakers.
People can say what they like. I'm fine with a little flexibility of usage. Nonetheless, they aren't actually seeing infrared. People also describe astronauts in orbit as being in zero gravity, that doesn't mean that they are. The distinction may not need to be made in ordinary conversation, but perhaps it should be made when we're talking about technical issues concerning science.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 81 by crashfrog, posted 03-15-2012 4:28 PM crashfrog has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 85 by crashfrog, posted 03-16-2012 7:22 AM Dr Adequate has replied

  
Dr Adequate
Member (Idle past 391 days)
Posts: 16113
Joined: 07-20-2006


Message 86 of 215 (656103)
03-16-2012 3:32 PM
Reply to: Message 85 by crashfrog
03-16-2012 7:22 AM


Just like how someone gripping an orange in their medical prosthesis is holding an orange. All senses are prosthetic. Confusing freefall with "zero gravity" is an error of category, but there's no difference between seeing infrared via the prosthesis of a machine and seeing the visible spectrum via the prosthesis of your own eyes. It's not a "technical issue concerning science", it's your own idiosyncratic word use.
But it is English usage that is idiosyncratic. I'm suggesting that for technical purposes we should make it less so.
Look, consider the following conversation:
Me: I have seen the Loch Ness Monster.
You: You're kidding.
Me: No, I have really seen the Loch Ness Monster.
You: Did anyone else see it?
Me: Oh yes, many thousands of other people saw it.
You: When and where exactly did you see it?
Me: I saw it in this photograph.
Now, in plain English I'm lying or at the very least abusing language when I claim to have seen the Loch Ness Monster. And the same would be the case if the photograph was veridical --- for example, if I claimed to have seen the Taj Mahal and then it turned out that I've never been to India but have seen a photograph of it. Again, you'd think of me as a liar or a fool if I claimed to have seen the Taj Mahal on that basis, and it would not impress you if I excused my mis-statement by saying that I had "seen" it "via the prosthesis of a photograph".
And yet when a machine makes a series of measurements and, based on a theory that tells it how to interpret those measurements, synthesizes a visual representation of its data, you wish to say that someone looking at this visual representation has "seen" atoms.
Now, the English language is a bit sloppy. Ordinarily, I have no objection to that. But if we're going to get into a technical discussion of epistemology, then perhaps we could aim at a little consistency. Have I seen the Loch Ness Monster? Have I seen the Taj Mahal? Have I seen infra-red light? Have I seen atoms? If you answer yes to the second question, then it is you who is flying in the face of English usage. But if you answer no to the second question but yes to the fourth, then it is you who is being idiosyncratic.
Edited by Dr Adequate, : No reason given.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 85 by crashfrog, posted 03-16-2012 7:22 AM crashfrog has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 87 by crashfrog, posted 03-16-2012 4:35 PM Dr Adequate has replied
 Message 92 by NoNukes, posted 03-25-2012 12:08 PM Dr Adequate has not replied
 Message 115 by Rrhain, posted 04-02-2012 1:38 AM Dr Adequate has not replied

  
Dr Adequate
Member (Idle past 391 days)
Posts: 16113
Joined: 07-20-2006


Message 88 of 215 (656143)
03-16-2012 5:34 PM
Reply to: Message 87 by crashfrog
03-16-2012 4:35 PM


By definition, it can't be.
But it manifestly is.
Try this conversation.
You: So you're British?
Me: Yes.
You: So have you ever seen the Queen?
Me: No, I've only seen her on television.
You: But you've never actually seen her.
Me: No.
Now, this is English. It is also peculiar. If I've only played tennis on grass courts, I've played tennis, but if I've only seen the Queen on television, I haven't seen the Queen.
Not at all. If the "Loch Ness Monster" means "a fake aquatic reptile that people frequently manufacture photos of" than you're no more inaccurate in your speech than I am when I say that I've seen Mickey Mouse.
So you would claim that I have seen the Loch Ness Monster?
But I haven't, it doesn't exist.
Where we draw a distinction between seeing something and seeing a picture of something is when it's possible to see something without seeing a picture of it - i.e. you can go to India and use your eyes to see the Taj Mahal directly. But it's not possible to use your eyes to see IR images directly, you have to use a machine to see a picture of an IR image, so in English we call that "seeing IR" because it's as close to seeing IR directly as it's possible to get.
So ... the reason we should say that we can see infra-red ... is precisely because it is impossible to actually do so?
Yes. Because I see no practical difference between a machine made of circuits interpreting EM data and a machine made of cells interpreting EM data.
Using what device, prosthetic or otherwise, did you "see" the absence of a practical difference?

This message is a reply to:
 Message 87 by crashfrog, posted 03-16-2012 4:35 PM crashfrog has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 90 by crashfrog, posted 03-25-2012 10:38 AM Dr Adequate has replied

  
Dr Adequate
Member (Idle past 391 days)
Posts: 16113
Joined: 07-20-2006


Message 89 of 215 (656189)
03-16-2012 9:09 PM
Reply to: Message 87 by crashfrog
03-16-2012 4:35 PM


Where we draw a distinction between seeing something and seeing a picture of something is when it's possible to see something without seeing a picture of it - i.e. you can go to India and use your eyes to see the Taj Mahal directly. But it's not possible to use your eyes to see IR images directly, you have to use a machine to see a picture of an IR image, so in English we call that "seeing IR" because it's as close to seeing IR directly as it's possible to get.
Another oddity occurs to me. Apparently we should say that someone seeing visually presented information about a thing is seeing it so long as it is impossible to actually see it. But this has some strange consequences. Suppose before the invention of submarines someone is looking at a chart of the sea floor prepared by people making measurements and drawing up the chart.
He is, apparently, seeing the sea floor, via the "prosthesis" of a naval chart. But then someone comes along and invents the submarine and can actually see the sea floor, after which it follows that the man with the chart can no longer see it, since it is now possible to actually see it.
There must have been a point, then --- perhaps at the moment when the sea floor first came into view from the window of the first submarine --- when a man sitting with his eyes fixed on a chart would suddenly have stopped seeing the sea floor. One moment, he's seeing the sea floor, the next moment advances in submarine technology means that all he can see is a piece of paper. The object that he's looking at looks exactly the same all this while, but what he is seeing has suddenly changed from being millions of square miles of ocean bed to being a piece of paper twelve inches by nine. And unless he is being constantly updated on the progress of submarine technology, this change will from his point of view go completely unnoticed.
The mind boggles.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 87 by crashfrog, posted 03-16-2012 4:35 PM crashfrog has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 91 by crashfrog, posted 03-25-2012 10:39 AM Dr Adequate has replied

  
Dr Adequate
Member (Idle past 391 days)
Posts: 16113
Joined: 07-20-2006


(1)
Message 93 of 215 (657066)
03-25-2012 1:59 PM
Reply to: Message 90 by crashfrog
03-25-2012 10:38 AM


Well, you seem to have brought your own reductio ad absurdum, which is usually my job, so I don't know what I'm meant to do here. When you yourself admit, nay, insist, that according to your definition of "see", I have seen the Loch Ness Monster, then I have supplied you with the rope, and you have been good enough to hang yourself with it. My work is done.
Edited by Dr Adequate, : No reason given.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 90 by crashfrog, posted 03-25-2012 10:38 AM crashfrog has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 94 by crashfrog, posted 03-25-2012 6:29 PM Dr Adequate has replied

  
Dr Adequate
Member (Idle past 391 days)
Posts: 16113
Joined: 07-20-2006


(1)
Message 96 of 215 (657113)
03-25-2012 11:15 PM
Reply to: Message 94 by crashfrog
03-25-2012 6:29 PM


Now everyone who's reading this post has seen the Loch Ness Monster.
No ... they ... haven't.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 94 by crashfrog, posted 03-25-2012 6:29 PM crashfrog has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 99 by crashfrog, posted 03-27-2012 8:47 AM Dr Adequate has replied

  
Dr Adequate
Member (Idle past 391 days)
Posts: 16113
Joined: 07-20-2006


Message 107 of 215 (657297)
03-27-2012 12:56 PM
Reply to: Message 99 by crashfrog
03-27-2012 8:47 AM


Have you seen Mickey Mouse?
I wouldn't say so, but then perhaps I am more pedantic in my speech than the average person. On the other hand, the average person would definitely say that I have not seen the Loch Ness Monster, despite having seen a cartoon drawing of it.
As I say, I'm happy with the English language being a bit sloppy and inconsistent, because that's OK, we can use context to understand what people mean: if a small child claims to have seen Mickey Mouse, I'd suppose that she'd been to Disneyland and seen someone dressed as Mickey Mouse, not that she'd actually seen Mickey Mouse, a fictional character.
On the other hand, when we are discussing technical questions in epistemology, maybe we ought to use more technical definitions, rather than those used by a four-year-old girl. If you have seen a cartoon of macroevolution, you haven't seen macroevolution. If you have seen a cartoon of the Loch Ness Monster, you haven't seen the Loch Ness Monster.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 99 by crashfrog, posted 03-27-2012 8:47 AM crashfrog has not replied

  
Dr Adequate
Member (Idle past 391 days)
Posts: 16113
Joined: 07-20-2006


Message 108 of 215 (657298)
03-27-2012 1:00 PM
Reply to: Message 105 by crashfrog
03-27-2012 11:55 AM


I don't think it would be misleading, because I don't think anyone would think that you were claiming to be a time traveler. Similarly, people talking about 9/11 reminisce about what they were thinking when they "saw the twin towers fall", irrespective of whether they were actually at Ground Zero when that happened. Most people making that statement watched it happen on TV, even in New York.
"See" has a pretty expansive definition that includes nearly all forms of optical prosthesis.
As, for example, in the phrase: "We can see macroevolution in the fossil record".

This message is a reply to:
 Message 105 by crashfrog, posted 03-27-2012 11:55 AM crashfrog has not replied

  
Dr Adequate
Member (Idle past 391 days)
Posts: 16113
Joined: 07-20-2006


Message 123 of 215 (658976)
04-11-2012 12:50 PM
Reply to: Message 91 by crashfrog
03-25-2012 10:39 AM


You should try using it to see, instead.
I use my eyes for that, and would you like to actually reply to the point in my post? According to you ideas, it seems that someone looking at a thing can suddenly change from seeing one thing to seeing another, this change being all unknown to him and corresponding to absolutely identical qualia.
Another example: it seems that when I look at a photograph which I and you both know to be faked I am seeing the Loch Ness Monster. Now, consider me sitting and staring at that photograph, at the exact same time at which someone catches an actual monster in Loch Ness. At that point, although I am sitting staring at the same faked photograph, and there is no change whatsoever in my visual sensory impressions, there is a moment (perhaps when they haul the monster on board --- or if not perhaps you could tell me exactly when this moment occurs) when I go from seeing the Loch Ness Monster to not seeing the Loch Ness Monster, even though the photograph which I am seeing stays exactly the same throughout this momentous event.
Edited by Dr Adequate, : No reason given.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 91 by crashfrog, posted 03-25-2012 10:39 AM crashfrog has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 124 by crashfrog, posted 04-11-2012 5:36 PM Dr Adequate has replied

  
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