Blank slates, babies and beyond: of evolution and epistemology (part II of VIII)

15 Mar

2) I am not a practicing scientist (though I have a biology and chemistry degree) but think it is reasonable to classifiy “scientific things” in terms of observations, hypotheses, theories, and models.  For example, theories, in my view, are stated ideas of varying complexity about observable, testable, and replicable regularities, including the thing(s) that causes these regularities – and these theories have more or less wide impact and applicability when it comes to practical problem-solving (explaining data, making predictions, or implying things about the world that we may not yet have observed).  Models, on the other hand, are hypothetical guesses about how many [or all!] things work together based on the best and most complete use of what is believed to be reliably known, and which, strictly speaking, cannot be reproduced/replicated by scientific methods of investigation.  This would not be to knock models as scientific explanations (i.e. all scientific explanations, in order to be these, need to correspond with what we observe in the world around us – the evidence, or data, corresponds to, or is consistent with, a theory or model[i]), but simply to make what I think is a reasonable distinction.  Although evolutionists may indeed be able to predict some things on the basis of their explanation – and then find confirmations of things that confirm their predictions – I would say that because of Evolution’s inescapable historical component (note the large E, meant to illustrate evolution as a master idea that helps us to explain things throughout history), it is more of a model than a theory.  I recognize that different disciplines would have different ideas about what a theory or model consists of, but I think overall, my definitions above can be useful when it comes to scientific ideas in particular (see next point).  Further, I do not believe that I am denigrating science when I state these things, but rather simply reminding us to be humble when we think about our scientific explanations.

part I
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