Extreme positions

Evolutionists are extreme “lumpers” as far as classification goes: there is only one kind of life (or stuff) and all differences are a matter of degree.  The problem for science is that differences of kind cannot be demonstrated unless one first accepts some criteria for differentiating them, which evolutionists won’t do because it would lead to the demise of evolution.

Another approach is to look at the opposite extreme that every individual is different in kind (historically called occasionalism).  By focusing on the particulars one can always find differences between two things and by exaggerating their significance they become differences in kind.

These two extreme positions (evolutionism and occasionalism) are symmetric: they are both right or both wrong.  But by symmetry if one of them is wrong, the other must be wrong, too.  So evolution cannot be right.

In Bayesian terms these are extreme priors and Bayesian calculations don’t work for extreme priors.  So Bayesianism needs to be modified to begin not with mere belief but with data and simple generalization of data.  Then new data can be used to adjust the current generalization rather than give new hypotheses equal weight to old generalizations.  It should be more like exponential smoothing with greater weight given to well-tried theories than to new data — scientific practice is more like this anyway.

Notice how our opponents keep trying to focus our attention on new evidence such as radiometric data.  Our answer should first be, What about the old data such as evidence of a world-wide deluge?  They have no right to dismiss that.  Our opponents abuse the desire for progress into denigrating the past altogether.  But it is precisely the knowledge of previous generations that is at stake here.  Our opponents can emphasize how up-to-date they are; we have the wisdom and knowledge of the ages behind us.  Only a culture that trashes its past can defeat us.

December 2014