What is the methodology of evolution?

John Grehan jrg13 at psu.edu
Sat Aug 14 17:12:35 EDT 1999

Jim Kruse wrote

>Hmmm. I have seen this, but I have also seen many independent thinkers,
>even in the face of discouragement. Independent thinking that pushes
>boundaries of what is known is generally how science is advanced. I like
>to think science is advancing on many fronts, so I cannot agree that all
>is so draconian.

I notice that a lot of the "advances" are of a mediocre nature - i.e. do not
require a fundamanetal change in thinking. However, I would also agree
that there are a lot of independant thinkers in science. Against that it is
my impression that in evolutionary biology such thinking is more 
discouraged than encouraged among students. When students get into
positions of power they might branch out and then impose their view on
more hapless students.

>Yes, I think that a person is obligated to know something about the theory
>or method to which they subscibe in order to offer defense against
>competing theories or methodologies. I think this is more reasonable than
>drawing one out of a hat or siding with the first theory or method they
>have explained to them. "The bible says so" or "Darwin (or my professor) 
>knew what he was talking about so I believe him" isn't enough either.

I am in personal agreement that there are arguments that I might consider
better than others, and I would agree that authority arguements are poor.
However, the question of "intellegent defense" is more problematic, and
students finding their way across uncharted territory so to speak may
not be able to "intelligently defend" their view in the face of more 
experienced superiors who have a wealth of sophistocated counter
arguments to knock them down. Its just a point of view that intelligent
defense is obligated.

>Okay, I am impressed that you are so creative

I indicated nothing about being creative. I just pointed out an example of
the philosophical problems involve with requiring intelligent defense.

and you must have become
>very proficient at explaining it. 

Perhaps the propaganda has become more proficient, but that would
emphasise my point.

Out of all this I have a question that I would like to pose to interested
on lepslist (and I will post the same on taxacom), what examples would
people present to delinate evolutionary theory as scientific methodology.
This question is different from what people do to "prove" evolution. I am
interested to know what kind of research activities evolutionary theory
results in that would be impossible with a creation perspective, and how
these activities lead to new empirical insights (again, that a creationist
would not be able to make whether a geneticist, morphologist, ecologist,
biogeographer, systematist).

John Grehan

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