Best proofs of evolution

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Re: Best proofs of evolution

Postby niky » Fri Mar 08, 2013 5:42 am UTC

I've written this elsewhere:

Thanks to what they've learned from television, when people say "I have a theory", what they really mean is "I have a hypothesis".

What followed when I wrote that down was a debate on whether that's properly "a hypothesis" or "an hypothesis". :lol:

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Re: Best proofs of evolution

Postby AvatarIII » Fri Mar 08, 2013 9:50 am UTC

gmalivuk wrote:Creationists can accept micro- but not macroevolution by believing that the two are fundamentally different things. It's not a belief that you can get to 10 but not 100 by adding 1s, it's a belief that you can approach 1 but never reach 2 by appending more 9s to the end of 0.999.

It is, at its heart, an inability or unwillingness to recognize that "species" is a fuzzy concept, or even that fuzzy concepts can exist in the first place. (Which is why fundamentalists also generally fail to recognize when other things that fall on a spectrum, like gender or sexual orientation.)

Someone posted a link at one point to the philosophical name for this particular brand of antiscientific nonsense, but I can't find it at the moment.


Thanks for the clarification, I guess I see where they are coming from now, as long as I accept that they have a fundamental misunderstanding of how evolution works.

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Re: Best proofs of evolution

Postby jules.LT » Wed Mar 13, 2013 9:50 am UTC

I think the whold concept of vestigiality, of which a few examples have already been given in this thread is strong evidence that those organisms weren't "designed" as is.

Or would they consider the atrophy of whale hind legs to the point of quasi-disparition "micro-evolution"? I'd be interested in mathmannix's opinion on the subject. In fact, I PM'd him the question.
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Re: Best proofs of evolution

Postby tomandlu » Wed Mar 13, 2013 11:46 am UTC

AvatarIII wrote:Thanks for the clarification, I guess I see where they are coming from now, as long as I accept that they have a fundamental misunderstanding of how evolution works.


Bear in mind that they only accept micro-evolution because they have to. It's sort-of funny that they treat it almost as a weapon - "See, we've accepted micro-evolution, so we are rational, and BTW micro-evolution is all you need to account for the diversity we see, given a starting point of enough created species."
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Re: Best proofs of evolution

Postby tomandlu » Wed Mar 13, 2013 11:52 am UTC

jules.LT wrote:I think the whold concept of vestigiality, of which a few examples have already been given in this thread is strong evidence that those organisms weren't "designed" as is.

Or would they consider the atrophy of whale hind legs to the point of quasi-disparition "micro-evolution"? I'd be interested in mathmannix's opinion on the subject. In fact, I PM'd him the question.


My general understanding is that creationists accept what they have to. I read an article by a creationist regarding vestigial features and they seemed to accept that the base, created, form had used the feature, and evolution had then occurred. I have no idea how widespread this view is, but the effect is to insert a starting-point for evolution from the moment of creation for, say, the first horse, dog, cat, etc.
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Re: Best proofs of evolution

Postby idobox » Wed Mar 13, 2013 3:49 pm UTC

As much as I understand, creationists, at some point, decide to ignore proof and rational thought because it goes against what they think is true.

If you show me a demonstration of Rayleigh scattering that proves the sky is red, I will assume that you made an error, or that the theory you use is wrong, because it concludes in something I know is wrong. No matter how much proof you throw at a creationist's face, he knows evolution didn't happen, so you will not convince him more than you can convince me the sky is red.

To me, the most interesting question, and probably the best way to fight these archaisms is to find out why they believe in this in the first place.The bible is full of contradictions, and although I never read it, I imagine the Qur'an must have its share too (although, since it's written by a single man, it should be more consistent).
I mean, the bible tells us the Earth is fixed, doesn't move. So I'm very curious at how people manage to think this part of the bible is not totally true, but that part cannot be questioned.
Well, you also have the crazier than usual crazies who still believe in geocentrism.
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Re: Best proofs of evolution

Postby screen317 » Wed Mar 13, 2013 6:44 pm UTC

idobox wrote:No matter how much proof you throw at a creationist's face, he knows evolution didn't happen, so you will not convince him more than you can convince me the sky is red.
Can we PLEASE stop saying creationist = fundamentalist?

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Re: Best proofs of evolution

Postby Izawwlgood » Wed Mar 13, 2013 6:55 pm UTC

idobox wrote:o matter how much proof you throw at a creationist's face, he knows evolution didn't happen, so you will not convince him more than you can convince me the sky is red.

Izawwlgood wrote:Asking for 'proof of evolution' is the first warning sign that the person probably doesn't have an understanding of the field that is sufficient to really have a conversation about it.
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Re: Best proofs of evolution

Postby jules.LT » Wed Mar 13, 2013 7:03 pm UTC

screen317 wrote:
idobox wrote:No matter how much proof you throw at a creationist's face, he knows evolution didn't happen, so you will not convince him more than you can convince me the sky is red.
Can we PLEASE stop saying creationist = fundamentalist?
Why? This is a Science forum, and creationists fly in the face of everything scientific.
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Re: Best proofs of evolution

Postby screen317 » Wed Mar 13, 2013 7:10 pm UTC

jules.LT wrote:
screen317 wrote:
idobox wrote:No matter how much proof you throw at a creationist's face, he knows evolution didn't happen, so you will not convince him more than you can convince me the sky is red.
Can we PLEASE stop saying creationist = fundamentalist?
Why? This is a Science forum, and creationists fly in the face of everything scientific.
No no no no no no.

Fundamentalist creationsts "fly in the face of everything scientific."

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Re: Best proofs of evolution

Postby jules.LT » Wed Mar 13, 2013 7:24 pm UTC

A non-fundamentalist creationist is a pretty new concept to me. Care to explain the difference?
Taking your holy book for a Science Textbook stinks of biblical literalism. And biblical literalism I place up there right before abortion clinic bombing.
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Re: Best proofs of evolution

Postby Meteoric » Wed Mar 13, 2013 7:25 pm UTC

jules.LT wrote:
screen317 wrote:
idobox wrote:No matter how much proof you throw at a creationist's face, he knows evolution didn't happen, so you will not convince him more than you can convince me the sky is red.
Can we PLEASE stop saying creationist = fundamentalist?
Why? This is a Science forum, and creationists fly in the face of everything scientific.

"Creationist" is a broader term than what you're using it for, is the thing. In discussions like these, it tends to be used interchangeably with "young-Earth creationist", and even then ignores the (admittedly, less popular) view that the universe is in reality a few thousand years old, but God for some reason chose to create it so that it looks much older. But creationism, without additional descriptors, is simply the belief in an act of creation - which includes, say, the belief in a creation that took place roughly 13.7 billion years ago and proceeded from there according to natural laws. That viewpoint looks something like, "The Bible tells us, 'Man arose from dust'. Science adds, 'by this mechanism'." This idea significantly predates evolution, it's not just a post-hoc attempt at reconciliation.

Unless you're objecting more broadly to religion in general flying in the face of science, in which case "creationism" is still not the term you want.
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Re: Best proofs of evolution

Postby jules.LT » Wed Mar 13, 2013 7:32 pm UTC

Believing that the universe was created by a god isn't creationism, it's called "religion".
When we talk about creationists, especially in this kind of context, we do speak of people who deny evolution, at the very least.
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Re: Best proofs of evolution

Postby Izawwlgood » Wed Mar 13, 2013 7:37 pm UTC

You swing awfully free with definitions of religion I've noticed. I personally would disagree with that definition, but that's off topic.
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Re: Best proofs of evolution

Postby jules.LT » Wed Mar 13, 2013 7:40 pm UTC

Don't play stupid. "Religion includes belief in a supreme being that created the universe in almost all cases" is the rigorous way to say it. Happy?
And that other time, I was trying to describe what binds societies together, which I find looks an awful lot like religion, but is not restricted to it, as my comment in the next line on it being probably too wide hinted.
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Re: Best proofs of evolution

Postby Meteoric » Wed Mar 13, 2013 7:41 pm UTC

jules.LT wrote:When we talk about creationists, especially in this kind of context, we do speak of people who deny evolution, at the very least.

...which is probably why screen317 is asking that you use the term that specifically refers to those people, instead of a term that also refers to some other people who specifically don't do that.
jules.LT wrote:Don't play stupid. "Religion includes belief in a supreme being that created the universe in almost all cases" is the rigorous way to say it. Happy?

Now you've moved from confusing religion and creationism, to confusing religion and monotheistic creationism.
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Re: Best proofs of evolution

Postby jules.LT » Wed Mar 13, 2013 7:44 pm UTC

Within evolution-related topics, that's what creationism means. Outside of them, it's usually what it means.

Awwww, "one or several", there you are.
Quit playing stupid.
And I said "almost all cases", so the fringe non-creationist religions can $£%#
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Re: Best proofs of evolution

Postby Meteoric » Wed Mar 13, 2013 7:47 pm UTC

Within evolution-related topics, you're playing fast and loose with terminology, which - again - is why you're being asked to please not do that.

Creationism does not mean what you are using it to mean. "Everybody else here is also making the same mistake" doesn't magically make it not a mistake.

Edit: I'm also not sure Buddhism really qualifies as a "fringe" religion.
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Re: Best proofs of evolution

Postby Izawwlgood » Wed Mar 13, 2013 7:47 pm UTC

No; I know plenty of adherents of religion who do not believe the universe was created by their deity.

My point was less to mince hairs over your definition, and more to draw attention to the fact that you have turned like, four threads in the last few weeks into discussions of your perception of religion.
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Re: Best proofs of evolution

Postby jules.LT » Wed Mar 13, 2013 7:49 pm UTC

I count two where I've mentioned it, including this one. (The other in two parts)

Also, this little semantics debate about the use of the word "creationism" doesn't make the discussion "about my conception of religion".
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Re: Best proofs of evolution

Postby gmalivuk » Wed Mar 13, 2013 7:53 pm UTC

jules.LT wrote:Believing that the universe was created by a god isn't creationism, it's called "religion".
When we talk about creationists, especially in this kind of context, we do speak of people who deny evolution, at the very least.
Sure, but the rest of us remain aware that there exist proponents of both young-Earth and old-Earth creationism, and the old-Earth ones don't necessarily believe anything that flies in the face of science.

A belief that the universe was created is simply non-scientific. The type of creationism scientists have a problem with is the sort that denies things like macroevolution, and this kind of creationism is anti-scientific.
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Re: Best proofs of evolution

Postby idobox » Wed Mar 13, 2013 7:54 pm UTC

Meteoric wrote:"Creationist" is a broader term than what you're using it for, is the thing. In discussions like these, it tends to be used interchangeably with "young-Earth creationist", and even then ignores the (admittedly, less popular) view that the universe is in reality a few thousand years old, but God for some reason chose to create it so that it looks much older. But creationism, without additional descriptors, is simply the belief in an act of creation - which includes, say, the belief in a creation that took place roughly 13.7 billion years ago and proceeded from there according to natural laws. That viewpoint looks something like, "The Bible tells us, 'Man arose from dust'. Science adds, 'by this mechanism'." This idea significantly predates evolution, it's not just a post-hoc attempt at reconciliation.

Unless you're objecting more broadly to religion in general flying in the face of science, in which case "creationism" is still not the term you want.


I admit that I use the word "creationist" for people who claim evolution is not a thing. There is no need to argue with people who accept the mechanism of evolution.
Wikipedia defines creationism as the belief a supernatural belief started life on Earth. What you describe is different.

The question of how life started is largely unresolved, even if we have scientific hypotheses. The type of creationism you talk about is still anti-scientific, as it assumes something to be true without evidence, but not as bad as refusing evidence contrary to your belief.
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Re: Best proofs of evolution

Postby gmalivuk » Wed Mar 13, 2013 9:28 pm UTC

We accept things to be true without evidence all the time, though, such as every fundamental ethical value ever.
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Re: Best proofs of evolution

Postby thoughtfully » Wed Mar 13, 2013 9:54 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:We accept things to be true without evidence all the time, though, such as every fundamental ethical value ever.

That's just crap. We accept those things for the same reason we believe in science: it works, bitches!
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Re: Best proofs of evolution

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Mar 14, 2013 3:21 am UTC

It works toward what end? How did you decide that end was to be valued in the first place? You can't logic yourself into ethics purely empirically.

Of course, ethical claims aren't quite the same as creation claims, but the point I was making was that untestable claims (such as "The universe is created") aren't the same as tested false claims (such as "macroevolution doesn't happen"), in terms of their relation to science.
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Re: Best proofs of evolution

Postby PolakoVoador » Thu Mar 14, 2013 4:32 am UTC

thoughtfully wrote:
gmalivuk wrote:We accept things to be true without evidence all the time, though, such as every fundamental ethical value ever.

That's just crap. We accept those things for the same reason we belive in science: it works, bitches!


I'm pretty sure ethical values change wildly over time, because, you know, they don't actualy work all the time.

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Re: Best proofs of evolution

Postby thoughtfully » Thu Mar 14, 2013 5:35 am UTC

PolakoVoador wrote:I'm pretty sure ethical values change wildly over time, because, you know, they don't actualy work all the time.

The values that work for large societies are going to vary depending on context, but there will be significant overlap among them. One could say the same for small bands of nomadic peoples. There could even be overlap among these groups, although it would not be expected to be as large.

There's even overlap among species that have social organization, such as prairie dogs, baboons, moles, cetaceans, etc.

My original point was that we don't choose our values arbitrarily, as gmalivuk seemed to be suggesting.
gmalivuk wrote:It works toward what end? How did you decide that end was to be valued in the first place? You can't logic yourself into ethics purely empirically.

Why do we accept science? Why should we value it? It improves our lives and accords well with values we cannot dismiss easily. How else are we to "logic ourselves into ethics" if not empirically?
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Re: Best proofs of evolution

Postby The Mighty Thesaurus » Thu Mar 14, 2013 5:58 am UTC

Maybe if he was talking in code.
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Re: Best proofs of evolution

Postby tomandlu » Thu Mar 14, 2013 9:11 am UTC

thoughtfully wrote:My original point was that we don't choose our values arbitrarily, as gmalivuk seemed to be suggesting.


My interpretation of gmalivuk's comments would be that he's just pointing out that there's nothing wrong with something being unscientific (i.e. untestable) as long as we don't claim it's science. That's not claiming that ethics are dependent on a supernatural force - just that one can't necessarily make a claim for one set of ethics being better than another using the scientific method.
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Re: Best proofs of evolution

Postby firechicago » Thu Mar 14, 2013 11:18 am UTC

thoughtfully wrote:
gmalivuk wrote:It works toward what end? How did you decide that end was to be valued in the first place? You can't logic yourself into ethics purely empirically.

Why do we accept science? Why should we value it? It improves our lives and accords well with values we cannot dismiss easily. How else are we to "logic ourselves into ethics" if not empirically?

But why should we improve our lives? What does it even mean to do so? Where do these "values we cannot dismiss easily" come from? The answer to these questions seems self evident, but saying "this is self evident" is neither a scientific nor an empirical statement.

Or to put it another way, if we do not take as an axiom that human life is valuable and should be improved, what is the empirical argument that we should build a society which improves human life rather than just all killing ourselves right now?

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Re: Best proofs of evolution

Postby tomandlu » Thu Mar 14, 2013 12:59 pm UTC

firechicago wrote:Or to put it another way, if we do not take as an axiom that human life is valuable and should be improved, what is the empirical argument that we should build a society which improves human life rather than just all killing ourselves right now?


Why should there be an empirical argument?
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Re: Best proofs of evolution

Postby firechicago » Thu Mar 14, 2013 3:40 pm UTC

tomandlu wrote:Why should there be an empirical argument?

My contention is that there isn't one, but thoughtfully seems to think differently.

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Re: Best proofs of evolution

Postby thoughtfully » Thu Mar 14, 2013 3:56 pm UTC

My main point was that they are not arbitrary, nor contingent upon one's "faith". Indeed, to some extent, they have a biological origin. Insofar as that's the case, they arose from the influence of evolution. The working ends of evolution are clear enough. Where else do you propose they came from?
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Re: Best proofs of evolution

Postby tomandlu » Thu Mar 14, 2013 4:10 pm UTC

thoughtfully wrote:My main point was that they are not arbitrary, nor contingent upon one's "faith". Indeed, to some extent, they have a biological origin. Insofar as that's the case, they arose from the influence of evolution. The working ends of evolution are clear enough. Where else do you propose they came from?


Well, sure, our cultural behaviour is, at the very least, going to match our requirements as a species, but it's a stretch to say that specific behaviour has a basis in evolution (the drive might be for a consensus rather than a specific consensus). Aside from that, I think there might be some confusion over terms of reference. You seemed to be arguing for ethics having an absolute value that could be tested, but I'm guessing that was a misunderstanding.
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Re: Best proofs of evolution

Postby firechicago » Thu Mar 14, 2013 4:27 pm UTC

thoughtfully wrote:My main point was that they are not arbitrary, nor contingent upon one's "faith".


No one has said that they were arbitrary or based on faith. You are the only one who has used those words or anything like them. "Accepted as true without evidence" is not the same as arbitrary.

Euclid's postulates of geometry are accepted as true without mathematical evidence, but they are carefully chosen because they produce a geometry which closely resembles the world we live in. If we drop the parallel postulate we get a different, non-Euclidean geometry, which may or may not be an even better approximation of the real world, but nothing in the real world can say one system is "right" and the other is "wrong" even if our choice of systems is far from arbitrary.

Similarly, we can not reason about the ethics of human action and experience without accepting some axioms that don't derive in any sort of rigorous way from human experience."Pleasure is good, because it makes happy chemicals be released in my brain" is not an arbitrary statement. It is a statement which is based on billions of years of evolution that has caused me to seek out the release of happy chemicals. But neither the release of happy chemicals, nor my evolutionary history constitutes convincing evidence that pleasure is good. "What is good?" is a question that has to be answered a priori, it can only be answered by reference to what people think is good, not by any reference to the world outside our heads.

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Re: Best proofs of evolution

Postby thoughtfully » Thu Mar 14, 2013 5:03 pm UTC

The axioms of geometry are axioms because they cannot be deduced. Deductive proofs are not the only form of evidence, and mathematical sense of "proof" is entirely irrelevant outside the idealized world of mathematics, as any statement made about the natural world is subject to falsification by an uncertain future. You go on to give many reasons for choosing these axioms. Perhaps this is an awkward use of the term "evidence", but this is what I'm referring to. We find these axioms suit some end for us. I contend it is also with the values we choose to form the basis of ethics and morality. In this sense "accepted as true without evidence" does imply arbitrariness.

I fear we are once again the victim of differing semantics. My apologies.

tomandlu wrote:You seemed to be arguing for ethics having an absolute value that could be tested, but I'm guessing that was a misunderstanding.

What I was saying is that the values that our ethics arise from them are context dependent. No more absolute than there is an absolute fitness in Natural Selection. If there's an argument to be made for some values being universal, I contend that it must arise from context that is shared by all.
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Re: Best proofs of evolution

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Mar 14, 2013 5:16 pm UTC

thoughtfully wrote:My main point was that they are not arbitrary, nor contingent upon one's "faith". Indeed, to some extent, they have a biological origin. Insofar as that's the case, they arose from the influence of evolution. The working ends of evolution are clear enough. Where else do you propose they came from?
I'm not arguing about where they came from, I'm arguing that they're the sorts of things we accept without empirical evidence because they aren't the sorts of things to which empirical evidence can even apply.

You seem to be saying, "We act this way (and feel we should act this way) because we evolved to do so."

I am saying that's all fine, but it doesn't explain the epistemic side of things. Forget about why we feel we should act a certain way, I'm talking about why we *believe* we should act that way, or more accurately, why we believe the ends promoted by acting that way are goals to be valued over, say, simply sitting somewhere until you die of thirst.
Unless stated otherwise, I do not care whether a statement, by itself, constitutes a persuasive political argument. I care whether it's true.
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firechicago
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Re: Best proofs of evolution

Postby firechicago » Thu Mar 14, 2013 5:45 pm UTC

I agree that this may be a semantic discussion around the definition of "evidence" but your definition of evidence is really, really bizarre, and manifestly not what gmalivuk meant when he made the comment that set you off. Off the top of my head, I would define evidence as "empirically derived information which suggests the truth or falsity of a hypothesis."

"Believing X is true serves some end for me" says nothing about whether X is true or not. It is manifestly the case that believing false things serves some ends, and that believing true things is destructive to other ends. And therefore it can not be evidence, in and of itself, that X is true.

Consider belief in Santa. We can talk all day about the ends that belief in Santa serves: the threat of withheld presents might improve children's behavior; it's fun for parents to put out presents; it constitutes a socialy bonding shared experience. Belief in Santa is certainly not arbitrary. But none of these constitute evidence that there is, in fact, a man with a beard and a red fur-trimmed suit who comes down your chimney on Christmas Eve. And what's more, [SPOILER ALERT]
Spoiler:
there is no evidence that Santa exists, because he doesn't.


More generally, ethics is itself the study of ends. So saying "I choose ethical axioms X, Y and Z because they serve ends A, B and C" is to assert that ends A, B and C are desirable, which is itself an ethical axiom which you have not provided any empirical evidence for.

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Re: Best proofs of evolution

Postby jules.LT » Mon Mar 18, 2013 7:02 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:We accept things to be true without evidence all the time, though, such as every fundamental ethical value ever.

That's if you consider that ethical statements can have an objective truth value. I know I don't.

I'm not sure if there are untestable statements that I or any person trying to be somewhat rational would believe in the strong sense.
I can't think of any, but there might be one somewhere.
Bertrand Russell wrote:Not to be absolutely certain is, I think, one of the essential things in rationality.
Richard Feynman & many others wrote:Keep an open mind – but not so open that your brain falls out

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gmalivuk
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Re: Best proofs of evolution

Postby gmalivuk » Mon Mar 18, 2013 7:14 pm UTC

I don't care whether you attribute objectivity to statements like, "Torturing someone to death is bad," I only care whether you accept that statement as true. Whether there are different kinds of truth besides whatever you mean by "objective" is beside the point.
Unless stated otherwise, I do not care whether a statement, by itself, constitutes a persuasive political argument. I care whether it's true.
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