Darwin-L Message Log 1:143 (September 1993)

Academic Discussion on the History and Theory of the Historical Sciences

This is one message from the Archives of Darwin-L (1993–1997), a professional discussion group on the history and theory of the historical sciences.

Note: Additional publications on evolution and the historical sciences by the Darwin-L list owner are available on SSRN.

<1:143>From msimon7@ua1ix.ua.edu  Thu Sep 16 10:37:14 1993

Date: Thu, 16 Sep 1993 10:39:47 -0600 (CDT)
From: Morris Simon <msimon7@ua1ix.ua.edu>
Subject: Re: A reply to Ramsden
To: darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu

On Tue, 14 Sep 1993, Mark Rushing wrote:

that my response to Ramsden's post indicated that I [have]

> ...a deeply-rooted Belief in the Systematics of Science.

Not so at all. While I appeciate the use of Mark's upper-case "Belief ..."
humor, I tend to regard western empirical science as an advanced pragmatic
system of knowledge, one that derives its value from predictability. Based
as it is in pragmatism, its explanatory strength is best seen in
applications to short-term phenomena like medical conditions. Attempts to
apply empirical methodologies to evolutionary data cannot be expected to
have the kind of predictive accuracy. We can only refine our descriptive
schema in a "systematic" manner to reflect whatever processes we think have
actually occurred. "Belief" has little to do with it.

> it is possible to nit-pick over Epistomology indefinately.  to dismiss a
> viewpoint because it appears "Theological" since its foundation exists
> outside of your personal Framework is, perhaps, somewhat hasty.  i believe
> the question asked by peter is extremely valid for our time, and
> especially in an interdisciplinary setting.  to say that a scientific
> System exists independently of human perception or construction is to
> almost have a belief in God.  to believe that we take part in a somewhat
> defined System of perception and categorization focused in very specific
> areas is, i believe, closer to understanding what Science is.

If I understand this paragraph correctly, epistemological "nitpicking" is
decribed as a futile process. I disagree. The subject of this thread has to
include an epistemological discussion of what constitutes "knowledge" among
evolutionary scientists and theorists. I also disagree with the contention
that some "defined System of perception and categorization" even exists for
us to "take part in." As we refine our models of evolutionary systematics, we
will hopefully approach a "natural" classification, but it always be
fragmentary and abstract because of the data we use.


> unless you are willing to 'take a leap of Faith' into believing in
> Absolute Constructs, we remain rooted in subjectivity, no matter how nicely
> you might have your scientific Categories and logical Pathways arranged.
> to quote morris:
> 	A perceiver never "creates" a perception, but the
> 	perceiver's cortex might modify the perception in order
> 	to force it into a learned category.  "Will" is such a
> 	higher order process of mentation than either perception
> 	or cognitive processing that I find it difficult to use
> 	in this context.
> if i might presume to comment upon this well-plummed diagram -- a perceiver
> perceives a perception.  that much i am certain we can agree upon, well,
> more certain than i usually am... the cortex might modify the perception
> and force it into a learned category?  what?  this sounds as much a "higher
> order process" as the term "Will" which was singled out in morris's
> polite attack.  is it a mechanical process?  where do the "categories"
> exist?  are they created by external stimuli, therefore learned?  or are
> they shaped by the Individual who perceives?  is it out of the Perceiver's
> control?

It might have sounded better if I had said "A person uses his/her cortex to
modify sub-cortical perceptions ...." The comment about "will" is out of
context. My original remark was directed toward the use subjective "Will" in
lieu of objective analysis. I don't intend to shift the subject of the
thread to solipsism or idealist/nominalist discussions.

Morris Simon <msimon7@ua1ix.ua.edu>
Stillman College

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