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At 4:27pm on February 25, 2009, Richard Healy said…
How facts, hypotheses and theories interact and are interdependent, if you omit one or other side of the triangle the explanation falls apart.

Cold Fusion
In 1988, in a blaze of publicity some researchers announced results of experiments involving cold fusion. This was incredibly exciting. It offered the possibility of near limitless production of energy simply and cheaply. It all came to a big halt when other researchers were unable to replicate the results in experiments of their own based on the published findings. Scepticism grew and cold fusion was declared a hypothesis without any evidence (no facts to back it up but the original scientist assertions, if cold fusion were really, really true as they described, someone else could copy the experiment and get the same result that wasn't happening suggesting that their results were somehow false or their description somehow not accurate.

Without wanting to focus on the specifics it's important to note that what is missing here are observations to confirm hypothesis. Fusion typically occurs inside the hearts of stars which are so hot that hydrogen nuclei fuse to become helium atoms, the colossal release of energy by this process is why stars shine and why Earth isn't an ice cube. But the hearts of stars are regions of intense pressure and heat, consequently this theory to give it it's full title is usually referred to as high temperature fusion. What they researchers were claiming was that the fusion process could be initiated at much lower (terrestrial) temperatures.

Now this might be true. High temperature fusion is afterall, there may be a corresponding low temperature process - it's not impossible - but without the evidence of repeated observation of a phenomena, and without a clear theoretical underpinning to back up the claims the case for cold fusion fell apart.


Human Telepathy.
Now this is the claim that human minds are capable of gaining detailed knowledge of the interior process of another's thoughts. Now we do this all the time: it's called talking. But telepathy says it's not like this the knowledge is accessible through mental powers alone.
It's also, if you listen to psychics, tarot readers, mediums, astrologers, etc quite common.
However, try to test the hypothesis that this is true, by isolating the conditions so to maximise the possibility of observing the phenomena and invariably the success rate drops sharply to no better than guess work.

Moreover, given everything that we do know about how brains work, how information is normally transmitted, this seems to fly in the face of other more accepted theories. And more to the point the claim that some humans are able to read another persons mind has no theory to explain it. Even if it were demonstrably true, it doesn't have any reason to explain why it would be true. So human telepathy is a good example of something which does not benefit from any observed (scientific) facts or a theory to account for it.

This doesn't stop people from thinking it's true, practising it at county fairs or believing their were contacted by the recently deceased spirit of dear, departed Uncle George but such beliefs and rituals are not scientific and are profoundly irrational.

Now at last, I come to an example of theory, hypothesis and fact involving evolution, because you've probably waited long enough.

Chromosome 2

Why do Humans have one fewer pair of chromosomes than chimpanzees? Humans have twenty-three pairs, chimps twenty-four. Why? The theory of evolution (with all it's observations to date) says humans and chimps are related via a common ancestor and spectiated at some point in the past. So a question to ask is during the process for speciation, did humans loose one pair of chromosomes. This is an example of how observations and theory can generate new hypotheses.
In this case, the chromosomes didn't just up and vanish - so where did they go? We can hypothesise, that possibly that one event in the speciation of humans was that a pair of chromosomes that are still found in chimpanzees were in humans fused. Crucially we can make a prediction.( this is why it's science) If this hypothesis is true, there should be evidence in our genetic code of a chromosome with unique features. If one can be found the hypothesis that two other chromosomes fused will be correct.

So what was found when researchers went to check this out?

Human chromosome number 2 showed all the hallmarks of being the result of a fusion of two other chromosomes. How did they know this? All chromosomes have something called telomere cells at either end. When cells divide, the telomeres shed a layer. When The telomeres layers are all gone the cell can no longer divide this is why we a) get old and wrinkle B) get cancer because cells divide without surcease when this biological marker fails.

Human chromosome number 2 has two telomeres at either end and two telomeres in the centre. This observation can be explained if as hypothesised two chromosomes fused to form one.

()---() + ()------() became ()---()()------()

Furthermore if you take the corresponding 'extra' chromosomes' in say bonobos (2p and 2q) and lay them end to end you greater a chain of genetic material identical to human chromosome number 2, so it is precisely identified as genetic point of divergence between closely related species.

So here we have fact (observation) confirming hypothesis in accordance with theory (of common decent, variation, inheritance, adaptation over time leading to speciation. )

This is one of my favourite examples to use when debating creationists which is why I know it so well. (

You can read more about this here and here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chromosome_2_(human)
http://www.evolutionpages.com/chromosome_2.htm


So now finally to answer your question: Aren't their enough scientific facts to prove the theory of evolution as correct? There are innumerable facts like the one I've outlined above, and confirmed hypothesis which inform and reinforces the theory of evolution. It will however never be 'proven' to return to something I said earlier: theories are the grand idea and the sum total of all observed data thus far. so the proof as it attaches to the theory is on the tested hypotheses and the observed data and not the to the theory as a whole which will always remain tentative.

However this being said the more evidence is confirmed; the more hypotheses are assembled and tested; the more confidence one can have in the theory being true.

One can see this probably best in physics. Unlike biology which had Darwin's big idea which makes sense of all of biology, physics has had lots of smaller no less important but less completely encompassing and explanatory: There's the theory of gravitation*; the theory of relativity, the theory of sub atomic particles, Quantum theory and quantum mechanics.

Quantum theory is a case in point: what it purports to describe matter on the fundamental scale is probabilistically indeterminate. Light behaves as both a particle and a wave. etc. clouds of electrons in energetic states around nuclei which are not really there in a physical sense (none have ever been observed) but unless electrons flowed through wires, we wouldn;t have electricity of for that matter fridge magnets.

but quantum theory makes incredibly accurate predictions (my favourite being the magnetic moment of the electron which has a predicted value of 2.002319304 confirmed by experiment) This is amazing!!! A theory that could predict events with an accuracy of 10 to the power -9 is very likely to be describing some aspect of reality even if it is very weird and incomprehensible. From which we can conclude reality is weird and incomprehensible.;-)


But seriously is quantum theory true? Maybe some future observation will bring pause, yield fresh discovery and maybe a new 'ultimate' theory, but my point was the confirmation and accuracy in tested hypotheses lends credence to theories being correct. And quantum theory (and by extension quantum mechanics - the physics of the manipulation of quantum energies and particles) is a very good and clear example of this.

So in a related way, the more evidence that is collected the more credence evolution has.
At this point Evolution is staggeringly successful (the creationists and IDiots are usually lying, ignorant or both of both matters of fact and theory) when they try to dismiss evolution, but it remains a (distant) possibility that a future explanation might be able to do it better. It's a possibility but it's unlikely.

Now I started off (if you recall) sayign the words that were important to understandign the answer to you question were theory, hyppothesis and fact What you'll see from those who don't accept evolution is either ignorance or manipulation of one of those three things. (presenting false facts - no transitional fossils - or misrepresenting the theory evolution - is a theory of chance - in a bid often to forward their own agenda which is neither scientifically rigourous, capable of generating testable hypotheses or backed up by an explanatory theory.


I hope that answers your question.


Richard.



*the theory of gravitiation, normally called a law, but Newton was writing in the mid 1600's, Darwin in the mid 1800's two hundred years difference rendered law to the more hopeful 'theory' but had Newton of been similarly working in the 1800's the law of gravity would be the theory of gravity it is composed of mathematical proofs (the attractive force of gravity is equal to the inversely proportional square of the distance between the two bodies of mass) and observed phenomena and predictions and hypotheses ( like the irregular orbit, which Newton cannot explain but Einstein could...) as much as any other so it is properly referred to as a theory.

Of course, fundamentalists can still oppose it. ;-)
http://www.theonion.com/content/node/39512
At 4:52am on February 24, 2009, Richard Healy said…
Thank you.

It's an interesting idea. I'm ambivilant though. I don't believe in ghosts and witches, spirits, whisps , ghouls, banshees, shades, sprites, fairys, etc. (and I remember a time when I did: a dark knight could contain all manner of creatures...)

I rather, I think appreciate Halloween for what it is just a ritual festival - granted one not celebrating that peculiar deities birth or not-quite-death. My attitude (in my blog) is that it's a wonderfully rich and imaginative time, great for being creative. I think that is what I enjoy about it.

Right, last week it was a severe eye infection; this week it's been a cold - so not felt up to doing much. I did promise contents of my bookshelf so here goes:

In no discernible order:

Journeys From the Centre of The Earth Iain Stewart

Six Easy pieces by Richard P Feynman

Atom by Piers Bizony

The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene

Absolute Zero and the conquest of cold by Thomas Scachtman
A brilliant book but watch the (oddly) more detailed documentary online here:
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/zero/program_t.html

E=mc2 by David Bodanis
Takes the equation apart a letter and symbol at a time, explains what each means and the process of scientific enquiry that led to it's discovery / formulation.

In Search of Schrodinger's Cat by John Gribbin

Schrodinger's Kittens by John Gribbin

In Search of The Edge of Time by John Gribbin

In search of The Big Bang by John Gribbin

The Birth of Time by John Gribbin

On the Shoulder's of Giants by Stephen Hawking
Reprints of the published papers of the likes of Copernicus, Galileo, Einstein. A Very hard book as a consequence, BUT if you've ever been curious to know what for example Newton's theorem of Gravitation actually *is* and how he arrived at it, rather than just accepting the received wisdom of what he found then this is a very good book for that purpose. Also each chapter is introduced with a historical sketch by Hawking which are quite enlightening.

God Created The Intergers by Stephen Hawking.
Same idea as in Giants but this time for Mathematics, starting with Euclid ending in Turing.

The Earth by Richard Fortey.
Outstanding tour of the global reach of tectonic activity. I find the chapter on the Alps in Europe and Indonesia to be my favourites. Highly Recommended. Foretey is the former director of London's Natural history Museum. He has other books I've not read about the museum and his personal passion, trilobites.

Your Inner Fish by Neil Shubin
No Transitional forms? Try this one on for size! Not just about that though, also a very clear book for representing how fundamental bodily features evolved and are linked backwards , through common decent, to earlier related organisms.


The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins
Seminal. A quite readable.

The Ancestor's Tale by Richard Dawkins.
My all time favourite Dawkins book so far. If you really want to understand the complexity and scope evolution: read this.

A Devil's Chaplain by Richard Dawkins

Evolution: What the fossils say and why it matters. by Donald R. Prothero
A riposte to creationist claim that the fossil record doesn't back up evolution.

It's funny I thought I had more than that. :-/ I suppose like you I don't just absord knowledge from books!

If I can recommend some dvds while I am at it:

Earth Story with Aubrey manning is superior (IMO) to Earth: The Power of The Planet with Iain Stewart, however, the later has some spectacular things to say about for example Ice, that are omitted in the former. Whereas, the former really is a tourists guide to geology (Manning is a biologist so works from the bottom up as it were...) as a result I find Earth Story a much better documentary all round, but Earth PoTP worthy for particular highlights.

The Blue Planet by David Attenbourugh is six discs of unalloyed delight and intrigue, but you can substitute in practically anything the man has ever filmed. Do your brain a favour and watch some of his documentaries, if you haven't already.
At 9:27am on February 19, 2009, Richard Healy said…
Been a bit busy and ill of late. but I'll get to work drafting that list for you.
At 8:06am on February 3, 2009, Kit Ann Kaboodle said…
I'm originally from Ohio, so I'm really excited to see that there are 88 members in the Ohio Atheists group! Thanks for stopping by my comment wall.
At 1:58pm on January 25, 2009, Richard Healy said…
Regarding reading around science.

Saw your post in the Origins discussion.
Would you like any references to some popular science books?

I've got a ton on my book shelf and it's through these that I've built up my theoretical knowledge. I am not a scientist by training and envy those who are.
At 9:07pm on January 19, 2009, Aaron Bowers said…
About the tattoos, don't you love it, when some people come up too you right out of the blue. Then say, why do you do that too god's body. I either say, "god told me to do it", or if she don't like it, she can haul her ass down here and tell it too my face.
At 1:02am on January 19, 2009, God said…
You are welcome for the weather, My child. And thankyou for your love and appreciation. Without love from humans like you, I don't think I could keep going.
At 7:29pm on January 18, 2009, God said…
I will help you, but first you must promise to love Me.
At 12:45pm on January 17, 2009, Leslee Love said…
I agree...there's no need to be serious ALL the time. I appreciate serious conversation, but some like to lighten the mood, and relieve the tension:
Absolutely! I love God...he makes me laugh! His site is hilarious! And you're right, we don't always have to be serious and boring.
(about the blog) I like to believe in the energy one leaves behind. And as long as we can dream about them, and remember them, they are still very much alive to me. I have thought about asking to my dad before he dies to do something to let me know if he is "here" or not, alas, I fear I would have the same experience as you.
I love gargoyles...and thanks for the comment and friend add! If you are a fan of the scifi hit Doctor Who, please feel free to join my group TARDIS! It's loads of fun.
At 4:24am on January 16, 2009, LeaT said…
Hm, I don't want to interrupt or sound rude, I just saw the disussion you had with funk_Q about me. I just want to inform I am not completely humorless :) I try to lighten up my posts with my smileys, maybe it sounds too serious anyway. I am known for taking things very seriously (or at least sounding like I am...) and I belong to different communities where we do discuss certain things very heavily and I think a more serious post is taken, well, more seriously than a post which isn't. I think it's more of my writing style than I am actually taking things as seriously as some people believe I do; it has been noted before by others. I generally try to prefer keeping a more objective way of writing than a more personal, I think this might lead you to believe that I sound overly serious, because all my writings sound like an essay paper. I assure you, this isn't intentional from my side because I want to be serious or sound serious! I just easily get caught up in a discussion, I can show you my more unserious side: http://www.antichristian-phenomenon.com/leat/why-i-dont-want-to-die-err-not-really

I can also assure you that there are people out there who know that I can be utterly childish in my behavior if the right opportunity is given; it just happened to be that I often come off as the overmatured person, especially when people look at my age. Putting it this way, I take good discussions seriously, not necessarily the topics themselves.
At 4:22pm on January 9, 2009, Adam said…
Actually I'm from WV originally and moved over to OH a few years ago, I live in South Point, and since it's so close to WV and my friends I still call both home. Yea if you ever have any questions I'll try to help the best I can.
At 12:32pm on December 11, 2008, Lori Gilliland said…
You are the 2nd person to ask about the grizzley and how it died. I will update the picture to explain that it was hit by a truck last year. Poor thing!
At 8:23am on December 11, 2008, Sushi Q said…
Hi Susan - thanks for your message to us Ohio/Columbus members. I myself am not a native, but I (and husband) are here. There are a few local groups who do meet, but they are organized through other sites. Are you interested in getting together with other locals?

Welcome to the Nexus. :)
At 11:35am on December 9, 2008, Dr. Terence Meaden said…
Hi Susan.
I have just replied to your well-written message at the point of action on the ORIGINS group site. Thanks for commenting so well.
At 5:14pm on December 8, 2008, Lori Gilliland said…
I figured it out. Go to Media on the upper right of the main page. There is were one can upload pictures and video
At 3:49pm on December 8, 2008, Lori Gilliland said…
I am a newer member also, i have yet to figure out how to add pictures. Most of my time is spent looking around the site for ideas.
At 3:42pm on December 8, 2008, Lori Gilliland said…
Welcome Susan

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