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To: GSHastings; fizziwig; jec41; narby; PatrickHenry
[Maybe if someone would ever start arguing with "evolutionists" based on logic, we'd actually be able to test that hypothesis.]

So then, the Earth isn't round, and planets don't go around the Sun, and science never proved it, and is not capable of proving it because science can't prove anything. Is that your position?

That wasn't actually the point I was making in that post, but since you ask...

No, science does not deal in "proof". Nor does any other epistemology which deals with real-world things. "Proof" is an impossible standard in this real world. Proof is only possible in artificial realms like mathematics, where every rule and premise is exactly known because it is defined by fiat.

In the real world, however, we have to be content with lesser degrees of certainty, and less ironclad means of acquiring knowledge, because there is *always* the possibility of someday discovering something which upsets the earlier conclusions and requires their modification or replacement.

I'm not saying the Earth isn't round or that planets don't go around the Sun. There is abundant and overwhelming evidence sufficient to establish beyond reasonable doubt that it is and they do. But it is an error to mistake this for "proof" or justification for absolute, complete certainty. To use an extreme example, we might be wrong because we're actually being deceived by a Matrix-like simulation, and our real Solar system is actually something different entirely. For a more prosaic example, it might be a mistake to say that the "planets go around the Sun" because either absolute position and/or motion is an illusion and all frames of reference are equally valid (a la Einstein's relativity), or because (as recent quantum investigations may be hinting) position and motion itself is an emergent illusion due to the properties of an underlying holographic reality.

For another example, for a very long time many people would have been tempted to offer Newton's Laws of Motion as something that had been "proven". And yet, it turns out that the reality is actually much more complex, and Einstein's Relativity needs to be added to them in order to avoid serious errors under many conditions. Oops! If anyone thought they had "proof" of the validity of Newton's laws, they were quite wrong. Reality can *always* throw you a curve even after you think you have all the bases covered and have verified something to the exclusion of any error.

This is not to say that anyone who maintains that the Earth is round and/or the planets revolve around the Sun should be chastised or ridiculed -- quite the contrary, I would cheerfully ridicule anyone who tried to deny either proposition. But at the same time, I would correct anyone who maintained that either proposition had been "proven" in the sense of a mathematical proof. They have not, and they can not, be *proven*. What they have been is *established* as quite likely to be true by evidence and by testing and by having survived potential falsification tests. But this is still not *proof*. "Proof" is a different kind of standard, and indeed a different kind of method entirely.

In ordinary conversation it is acceptable to use the word "proven" as a synonym for "demonstrated" or "established beyond reasonable doubt", but in a scientific discussion, the exact nature of a proposition's state of certainty (and how that has been arrived at, and what holes that leaves open for incompleteness or applicability or error) is a big part of the whole point. Science is all *about* what has been learned, how, by what methods, how far this can be trusted, what openings are left for new surprises, what is left unexplained, etc. Cavalierly saying that something has been *proven*, when indeed it has not, is inexcusably sloppy thinking, and wildly simplistic (not to mention wrong).

While to layman it may sometimes appear that every concept in science is either held with a reckless certainty, or just a wild unsupported guess, in reality it's actually a grand mix of every degree of certainty in between (but *never* complete, we-know-we're-not-possibly-wrong certainty). Science never deals in certainties. Anyone honest with themselves will admit they can never be truly *certain* about anything (not counting the dishonest kind of "certainty" arrived at by simply refusing to consider that one might possibly be mistaken), because we're always working from incomplete knowledge and subject to human error. No one is omniscient.

But science arose from methods dealing with how to get by, and how to acquire reliable and usable knowledge, despite the lack of absolute certainty on anything. The short form is that every conclusion is provisional, and comes with mental footnotes attached concerning how complete or how poor the evidence/testing of that conclusion is, and what holes remain to be filled, etc. The flip side, however, is contrary to the layman's impression, the best progress is made *not* by only adopting the conclusions which have been established to, say, 99% confidence levels, but by using even conclusions with better than, say, 20% confidence levels, AS LONG AS one keeps in mind which conclusions are very well established and which are more tentative and one doesn't bet one's life or space probe or whatever on the more shaky ones. BUT, the point is that like an engineer who needs to complete a project with less than 100% of the information necessary, one has to go with the best conclusions one can arrive at based on the less-than-complete picture one has at the moment. ...while always striving to fill in the gaps when possible. Science is all about using the best knowledge available at any given time, even when it's not as good as you'd prefer. As it turns out from long experience, this is a far more productive method than just saying "hell, we don't know for sure" and refusing to proceed until everything is known to 99% confidence levels (or at least *appears* that way, confidence levels themselves are something that might be due to poorer information than one might presume).

So in sum, scientists get pretty picky about how certainty levels are described, because they're trained to always keep an eye on them.

52 posted on 02/16/2006 9:26:09 PM PST by Ichneumon
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To: Ichneumon
Well said!

I've tried to make some of the same points on a few of these sorts of threads. Anyone invoking the name of science to make their arguments needs to understand that the scientific method is based on attempts to falsify a theory -- not on an attempt to prove it.

The case for the ToE can be made effectively by stating that it has withstood many attempts to falsify it. Anyone who tries to assert that the ToE has been proven is being counter-productive -- because they are not being "scientific".
67 posted on 02/16/2006 10:09:55 PM PST by USFRIENDINVICTORIA (")
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To: Ichneumon
[Thunderous applause!]

Soon to be added to The List-O-Links.

84 posted on 02/17/2006 3:43:00 AM PST by PatrickHenry (Virtual Ignore for trolls, lunatics, dotards, scolds, & incurable ignoramuses.)
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To: Ichneumon
"Proof" is an impossible standard in this real world.

Exactly what "real world" are you speaking of? Yours? Mine? President Bush's?

There is no "reality". No law. No science. No cause-and-affect.

Life is pointless, vain and hopeless.

96 posted on 02/17/2006 9:09:42 PM PST by manwiththehands (Repeal the 17th Amendment. NOW.)
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