Hitting the Nail on the Head

David Friedman writes:

"Before denouncing that as an intellectually indefensible position, it's worth asking what fraction of those who believe in the theory of evolution could accurately explain it—let alone do a competent job of describing the evidence for it. My impression is that most believers in evolution, like most believers in creationism, base their belief not on their own knowledge and thought but on what they have been told by the authorities they respect."

I recently heard a person loudly denouncing those who did not realize Darwinian evolution was "a proven fact." Here's a true believer whose is hugely ignorant of the history of science. No scientific theory is ever a proven fact -- it's the best guesss we've made so far, if it's the currently held theory.


  1. Sydney12:18 AM

    Yeah, a nail is exactly what he hit.

  2. Well, the person you heard may have just meant the existing evidence justifies a very high level of confidence, which is generally what people mean by a "fact". But I don't doubt his/her understanding of the issues was poor.

    You may be surprised to know that recently I made a game out of exposing evolution promoters' own poor understanding of the issues. I made a bunch of youtube videos where I criticized evolution, with frequent references to epistemological issues. And yes: I made them *exactly* as annoying as my worst posts here. I followed up in the comments sections for all of them, and held ground pretty well IMHO.

    Unfortunately, as part of a general project to stop shooting myself in the foot, I took the videos down, though a lot of my comments on others' videos remain. I still have them on my MacBook.

    Sample conversation in the comments section (from memory):

    Them: If you disagree with evolution, then what alternate theory do you propose?

    Me: Ignorance.

    Them: Ignorance isn't a theory!

    Me: If ignorance's predictions are correct just as often as the criticized aspects of evolution, and it has a lower Kolmogorov complexity, then yes, it is a theory, if for no other reason than its scientific superiority to something you already deem to be a theory!

    Them: What's Kolmogorov complexity?

    Me: What the hell? You're trying to debate scientific epistemology and you're not even familiar with Kolmogorov complexity or willing to take a minute to look it up?


    I can make them available as private videos if anyone's interested.

  3. I'm interested. Do I have to fly to Texas to watch them?

    (I really am interested in the videos, just unclear what the private viewing entails.)

  4. Bob, YouTube has a feature that lets you restrict viewing of specific videos on your account, to people you designate. That's what "private video" means in this context. No traveling required. Just a YouTube account :-)

  5. Okay, anyone who's interested, email me your youtube name (or post it here if you want) and I'll authorize you and let you know the account I reupload them to.

    And don't ever forget, the videos are just to annoy people, not to express what I actually believe.

  6. Sounds like you fellas are promoting peep shows. Perhaps, if my wife falls asleep before I do I'll pump in a few quarters. Pay Pal?

  7. Oh, you didn't say I had to get YouTube account. Doesn't that violate Occam's Razor?

  8. "If you want the closest, smoothest shaves a metaphysician can get, buy Occam's razor now, and we'll include a free can of Occam's shaving cream at no extra charge!"

  9. Silas, can I have a peep? My account is TokyoTomSr. Not familiar with that function, though - can you send me an email so I know when to take a look?

    Bob, careful with the razor there; looks like you're nicking yourself.

  10. Okay TokyoTom, I'll add you later today and will give you instructions how to access. Remember my "I will admit to it being mine" YouTube name is SilasX, but the evolution videos were on a different account and when I reupload them they'll be a different account still. And the text comment history for the videos is probably gone :-(

    @Gene: Wait, let me get the extended metaphor right:

    Occam's Razor: Rule that you should exclude unnecessary assumptions.

    Facial Hair: Unnecessary assumptions?

    Occam's shaving cream: Would that be the data compression heuristics? Since they help you "shave" the "facial hair"? Actually, literal shaving cream doesn't help you shave, but whatever.

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