Field of Science

Life isn't fair; science isn't fair

TPP is in a bit of a funk. This happens to many people who anticipating some hints of spring wake up instead to an overnight snow fall. First, my watch thinks it's Jan. 1, 2005, and then my toast gets overdone. How much can one human stand? A scan of the news finds a both laughable and yet depressing item: creationists in the USA, mostly fundamentalist Christians, want equal time because the new science program Cosmos isn't being fair. Well, science isn't about fairness. What is most troubling is that there are that many people who think science is just a "belief", an "opinion", on an equal footing with 2000 year old creation myths. Will they being going to see the movie Noah and think it a documentary?  Well, TPP is not up to it this AM, so here's a quote from the Botanical Society of America's statement on evolution (get the full-text here) with which TPP is intimately acquainted.

"The fairness argument implies that creationism is a scientifically valid alternative to evolution, and that is not true. Science is not about fairness, and all explanations are not equal. Some scientific explanations are highly speculative with little in the way of supporting evidence, and they will stand or fall based upon rigorous testing. The history of science is littered with discarded explanations, e.g., inheritance of acquired characters, but these weren’t discarded because of public opinion or general popularity; each one earned that distinction by being scientifically falsified. Scientists may jump on a “band wagon” for some new explanation, particularly if it has tremendous explanatory power, something that makes sense out of previously unexplained phenomena. But for an explanation to become a mainstream component of a theory, it must be tested and found useful in doing science."

"To make progress, to learn more about botanical organisms, hypotheses, the subcomponents of theories, are tested by attempting to falsify logically derived predictions. This is why scientists use and teach evolution; evolution offers testable explanations of observed biological phenomena. Evolution continues to be of paramount usefulness, and so, based on simple pragmatism, scientists use this theory to improve our understanding of the biology of organisms. Over and over again, evolutionary theory has generated predictions that have proven to be true. Any hypothesis that doesn’t prove true is discarded in favor of a new one, and so the component hypotheses of evolutionary theory change as knowledge and understanding grow. Phylogenetic hypotheses, patterns of ancestral relatedness, based on one set of data, for example, base sequences in DNA, are generated, and when the results make logical sense out of formerly disparate observations, confidence in the truth of the hypothesis increases. The theory of evolution so permeates botany that frequently it is not mentioned explicitly, but the overwhelming majority of published studies are based upon evolutionary hypotheses, each of which constitutes a test of an hypothesis. Evolution has been very successful as a scientific explanation because it has been useful in advancing our understanding of organisms and applying that knowledge to the solution of many human problems, e.g., host-pathogen interactions, origin of crop plants, herbicide resistance, disease susceptibility of crops, and invasive plants."

1 comment:

Brian O said...

Bravo !