Friday, September 30, 2011

Evolution, Darwin, Anthropology and ignorance

I was on a message board once and some ignorant person told me that they had a bachelors of science in evolution.

I almost fell out of my easy chair laughing. I pointed out that no one even gives classes in evolution much less degrees. The theory of evolution grew out of the study of anthropology.

Darwin's doctorate was in a field called "Natural History". I doubt if anyone actually gives degrees in this field anymore. Natural History was a combination of Biology, Environmental Science and Anthropology. Essentially, if you studied the world outside of your door you were studying Natural History. Today the closest thing to what Darwin studied is a BS science course typically taken by people getting a liberal arts degree called "life sciences" or something like that.

Darwin's field of study was very broad and this is one of the reasons he was able to develop a theory that was acceptable to the scientific community.

Darwin did not invent the idea of evolution. That idea had been around for at least hundreds and probably thousands of years.

Darwin presented a well written theory at a time when the world scientific and educational communities were willing to listen to it.

Evolution of humans is not a fact, it is a theory with a solid foundation in scientific evidence.

There are examples of mutations of "species" occurring and then dominating over previous "species" in lesser forms of cellular life. These experiments support the probability of evolution out in the natural world.

The current heated debate between evolution and creationism, religion and atheism gives the world an opportunity to see the destructiveness of closed minded thought.

Recently a teacher began punishing students for saying "God Bless You" because, he claimed, that in the past people believed that sneezing expelled evil spirits from the body and since we "know" that sneezing is not caused by a person expelling evil spirits from their body the use of blessing is "wrong".

First, we do not know any such thing. There is a large body of scientific evidence for the causes of sneezes. There is no evidence and no way to prove that a sneeze is never caused by a body attempting to expel evil spirits.

The very idea that we can dismiss a possibility as ridiculous is a rejection of the scientific method.

Understand this. The rejection of any potential possibility from consideration because of personal beliefs is a rejection of the scientific method.

Does that mean we should invest a great deal of time and money into experimentation surrounding the theory that sneezing is caused by the body attempting to expel evil spirits? Not in my opinion.

The theory of evolution was ridiculed and dismissed by many scientists and scholars based on belief systems.

Instead of learning from our human history of the rejection of theories based on belief structures this world has turned once again to the rejection of theories based on belief structures.

Is there any evidence evil spirits do not exist?

The answer is no.

Using the scientific method evil spirits causing sneezes must be considered as a possibility. Based on the difficulty in proving the theory of evil spirits causing sneezes I suggest giving this cause and effect study an extremely low priority.

That does not mean that eventually someone will not eventually prove that evil spirits do cause sneezes. It means that I am not going to study the subject at this time.

There is ALWAYS a belief within the "educated" community that they completely understand all of the potential variables.

We don't and that is why we can't dismiss evil spirits as the cause of some sneezes.

This is also why we can't raise the theory of evolution from a theory to a fact. We did not observe and document the evolution of man so we can only theorize based on variables that we currently understand.

Understanding that we, as a species, are always ignorant of some of the potential variables that are influencing the outcome is one of the most important features of the scientific method.

Yes, we attempt to create very stringent experiments in which all variables are documented and controlled. Sometimes these experiments are not reproducible and this leads us to understand that we have failed to document and/or control a variable. Our experimentation has resulted in the discovery of a previously unknown, to the experimenter, variable.

What happens when we have reproduced an experiment a hundred times and suddenly the experiment will not reproduce? Once again we have discovered an uncontrolled variable that was undocumented and had not coincidentally not changed in the previous one hundred experiments. Does that happen? Yes, occasionally.

There are two main foundations theoretical to the scientific method. Don't reject a possibility. Don't ever assume you completely understand all the variables.

In the world of investment where we invest time and money in experimentation because we do not have limitless resources decisions must be made to direct available resources to those experiments most likely, in the researchers mind, to produce results.

The balance between pure science and available resources.

In the middle or "dark" ages between about 800 A.D. and 1400 A.D. the Catholic Church was the primary source of funding for educational research and the primary publisher.

There were some rich "patrons" who were fascinated by specific areas of research. Typically these people were heavily invested with the Church because the Catholic Church was the strongest political body in Europe during this time.

When the printing press was invented people like Galileo could go to a printing house and have their research papers printed. Prior the to development of the printing press papers were published by scribes sitting at desks and these scribes typically worked for the Catholic Church.

Just an FYI, the "entire world" was not influenced by the "dark ages", just Europe and not even all of Europe at that.

The Catholic Church ridiculed research that conflicted with their beliefs, which is exactly the same thing this teacher who is punishing students for saying "God Bless You" is doing.

Our species has refused to learn from previous mistakes, rejects the scientific method and continues to suppress ideas based on personal belief systems.

DNA. Fact right? Nope. DNA is a theory. Essentially many experiments were done, not all were documented, not all documented were successful, and the preponderance of evidence suggests that each person has an individual DNA, blah, blah, blah.

Sounds pretty "iffy" right? The theory behind DNA is not quite as "iffy" as I make it sound even though everything I said is true.

The problem is that none of these experiments were done on thousands of people. These experiments were conducted on "statistically significant" samples and generated a statistical profile.

I won't get into statistics right now, except to say that the math behind statistics is very, very good and very, very accurate. It is not "perfect".

So what should we do to make sure the statistical experimentation matches real world results so we can identify potentially undocumented and uncontrolled variables.

We need to have a really huge data base filled with DNA and physical characteristic information and then we look for "flyers". Flyers are data that does not match the statistical predictions.

None of those in DNA, right? Wrong. Evidence suggests that there are. You can research it on the web if you want.

The potential problem with DNA is not the experimentation conducted. The potential problem with DNA is not the statistical math. The problem is that experimental sample sizes are very small when compared to a world population of billions of people.

In the legal community DNA theory has become a legal fact. Probability is that it should be a "legal fact". Probability. Not certainty.

People have a bad habit of being "certain" about things. Lawyers especially demand "certainty".

The more certain people are that they are correct the more I question the basis for their ideas.

A teacher suppressing religion is every bit as evil as a priest suppressing educational research.

In reality "anything is possible" even though very few things are probable.

The greatest tool we have against ignorance is refusing to suppress possibilities based on our beliefs.

No comments: