Re: PHIL: Dynamic Optimism as a tool in logical reasoning

From: Technotranscendence (
Date: Sun Jan 16 2000 - 11:49:23 MST

On Saturday, January 15, 2000 8:09 AM wrote:
> > I.e., calling a theory X
> > 'true' does not say we cease having doubts about theory X>>
> Sure it does, that is what "true" means and that is the problem . . .
> it _mutates the meme_ (and concept definition) "true" far out beyond a
> Popperian non-dogma of critical rationalism and the evolutionary
> of comprehensively critical rationalism.

Blah blah blah. See my "Comments on Pancritical Rationalism" at my web
site, which people on this list have ignored before.

> It is unnescessarily confusing in
> science. Now we will have to define (re-define) that we really don't mean
> "true" in the everyday sense? I don not think that is wise. Better to
> simply not call theories true, avoid that use of the misleading concept
> re-definition.

I generally agree here that theories are theories. They are valid or fit
the facts. Even so, what usually happens to good theories is they get taken
up into superceding theories, much as Darwin's theory has been modified and
become part of modern theories (there are more than one, you know?) of

> The word concept "fact" is just as bad. Here is some of what I wrote on
> this subject:
> In an article entitled: "Kansas and Evolution As Fact: The Scientist's
> Error" I said:
> "Carl Sagan, unfortunately, proved to be an example, when he said that
> evolution was not a theory: 'Evolution is not a theory, it is a fact,' in
> corporation for public broadcasting television program _Cosmos_. That was
> dangerously dogmatic thing to say. The show, _Cosmos_, was his popular
> science series and perhaps he really did not mean to make such an
> unscientific and emotional statement. He was frustrated with irrational
> religious dogma of the creationists. He should have known better, but he
> chose to fight dogma, with dogma -- but that was not a good strategy."
> " . . . the evolution-as-fact, argument is 1) a matter of personal
> 2) an irrational faith in the scientific method, 3) is a matter of
> interpretation of evidence by inductive not deductive reasoning, 4)
> circumvents science's open mindedness of such philosophies as pancritical
> rationalism."
> "A theory by definition, is an explanation for a group of facts, not a
> itself. Neither is it "true" because every theory changes, that is,
> "evolve" -- they are not static and do not meet the definition of a static
> final "truth."

I think what Sagan meant -- and, for the record, I'm not an apologist for
him:) -- was that evolution the phenomena (biological taxa changing) is a
fact while evolutionary theory (the explanation of why such taxa change) is
not a fact. This is, at least, my take on it. Now, we could push things
back a bit and say the true phenomena is stuff like fossils, the diversity
of life, the similarity of various life forms, the way the classification
system in biology seems to yeild up a tree-like structure (e.g., cladograms)
are facts/truths. In this instance, I would agree and adopt a stance that
truth is contextual (though not subjective) and that the ultimate ground is
sense perception.

That said, if we bundle the aforementioned stuff together and call it
evolution, then there still exists a distinction between it as a bundle and
what explains it. There are levels of abstraction here. Evolutionary
theory is on a higher level than evolution the phenomena which in turn is on
a higher level than physical evidence which I can see and touch.


Daniel Ust

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