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tomh

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About tomh

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    Sagredan
  • Birthday 06/24/1955

tomh's Activity

  1. tomh added a post in a topic (Continued...) The ID debate: Why?   

    Hugo, you wrote, "...evolutionary theory is - along with quantum mechanics - the best confirmed theory we have."

    I am curious where you get your definition of "evolutionary theory" and how you go about comparing it to all other theories, including say, Maxwell's Equations. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electromagnetic_theory
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  2. tomh added a post in a topic CSI and the illusion of omniscience   

    Do you accept the forensic evidence used to exonerate?

    I'm still waiting for you to answer the other questions.
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  3. tomh added a post in a topic Some Epistemic Considerations of Testimony, Scrutiny of Testimony, and Corroboration   

    maddog: "You must think that "I saw a red bird" has some epistemic value regarding factual knowledge of what and where and when a red bird was, yes?"

    tomh: No. The proposition didn't mention time and place of the observation or what kind of bird was seen.

    maddog: "IOW, "perception" gives knowledge of an external reality, right?"

    tomh: I would say that the external reality is assumed and perception corroborates the assumption, but that construction is immaterial to the trial process. In the mind of the judge, the thing that matters is that the statements have the form of empirical propositions. It really is about language games.

    maddog: "How do you know what "an empirical proposition" means?"

    tomh: I defined it.

    maddog: "How do you recognize one..."

    tomh: It contains verbs indicating perception, e.g., "I saw", "I heard", "I smelled", "I felt", etc. The direct and indirect objects are physical objects. Conclusions are to be removed by careful questioning so that they are absent from the final form of the propositions.

    maddog: "how do you know it is emprically correct or not?"

    tomh: If it is corroborated by the empirical propositions stated by another witness, after filtering for cooked testimony, then the statement is confirmed.
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  4. tomh added a post in a topic Some Epistemic Considerations of Testimony, Scrutiny of Testimony, and Corroboration   

    An "empirical proposition" is a statement about a perception, e.g., "I saw a red bird." There are more examples in the other thread.

    How do I know what?
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  5. tomh added a post in a topic CSI and the illusion of omniscience   

    I'm at position 3: Convictions are erroneous, forensic science stinks, and the American legal system is seriously broken. Based on my prior reading, I have evidence for myself that convictions are frequently erroneous. I can't use that to persuade you because I don't remember the reference. However, I can use what I consider to be erroneous evidence to persuade you because you accept the erroneous evidence. We both get to the same place (exonerations are necessary) by different routes. We may not agree which exonerations to perform or why people should be exonerated.

    By producing the forensic exonerations, I assumed the role of devil's advocate.
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  6. tomh added a post in a topic CSI and the illusion of omniscience   


    My response was based on what you would find persuasive due to an epistemology that accepts forensic science, not on the basis of what I would find persuasive due to my epistemology. This was a sidebar and is not relevant to the main thread.

    I will re-post the questions for you:

    1. My question to Campanella would be, "Why do you think that forensic science is successful?" Since you took up his questions and point, I would expect you to also respond to this question.


    2. Why do you think that the exonerations were epistemically correct?
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  7. tomh added a post in a topic CSI and the illusion of omniscience   

    My epistemic position is already laid out. I don't have any confidence in forensic science. This is a discussion of epistemology. Please answer the questions.
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  8. tomh added a post in a topic CSI and the illusion of omniscience   

    maddog: "1) Please back up your contention that the error rate of all murder convictions is at least 25%. "

    tomh: I read a report of this back in the '70s by a sociologist who studied wrongful murder convictions. I looked for this report but
    couldn't find it online. However...

    Scheck, Neufeld, and Dwyer have written Actual Innocence, which argues that there is prima facie evidence that 25% of all prime suspects where DNA
    evidence is lacking are innocent. (see the last paragraph on page XV) http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&id=qxImgC7y68oC&dq=Barry+Scheck,+Peter+Neufeld+and+Jim+Dwyer&printsec=frontcover&source=web&ots=sTLOv2HmH_&sig=w_QKh46inkmeHGa_y4p6vxOBYfI&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=1&ct=result#PPA47,M1

    For the period before the historical advent of the use of DNA evidence in trials, the claim of a minimum of 25% innocence in murder convictions
    is prima facie credible. Now, in order to gauge the actual minimal level of wrongful convictions (judged wrongful based on DNA tests), we would
    need to know what percent of cases have access to sufficient DNA evidence to conduct tests.

    maddog: "2) My understanding of the Innocence Project and other such programs is that scrutinized, corroborated testimony was what generally
    had resulted in the convictions, and it was the advent of CSI-like forensic science, such as DNA profiles, which demonstrated or resulted in
    the conclusion that the convicted person was, in fact, innocent."

    tomh: I assume that you are attempting to engage my epistemology. If you are to engage my epistemology accurately, eyewitness testimony must corroborate other eyewitness testimony as regards empirical propositions. The judges must attempt to discover cooked testimony. The judicial scrutiny must also be aware of and committed to these methods of my testimonial epistemology.

    I found nothing regarding testimony at the Innocence Project that engages my epistemology--that eyewitness testimony was properly scrutinized and corroborated other eyewitness testimony as to its empirical propositions. Please provide a reference that the testimony in the convictions was properly scrutinized (I reserve the right to audit the scrutiny) and corroborated other eyewitness testimony at trial regarding empirical propositions if you are to properly engage my epistemology with evidence from the Innocence Project.

    Generally, the American legal system delays trials so long that eyewitness evidence is often epistemically harmful (see Elizabeth Loftus' work available online). This situation with respect to eyewitness evidence is not helped by police and prosecutorial misconduct. Furthermore, I'm not convinced that judges nowadays always understand how
    to scrutinize testimony for empirical propositions or the importance of corroboration by other eyewitnesses. I seem to recall that the English Common Law originally provided that witnesses needed to corroborate one another in capital cases. I will happily retract this weak assertion
    but advance it in the hope that someone else can confirm it with a reference.

    maddog: "Are you joking, tomh? If so, what is your serious answer?"

    tomh: I was being mildly sarcastic. My sarcasm contained my negative opinion of the epistemic situation with respect to forensic science. My question to Campanella would be, "Why do you think that forensic science is successful?"

    Why do you think that the exonerations were epistemically correct?
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  9. tomh added a post in a topic The ID debate: Why?   

    A brew--how refreshing! Now for a little crow to accompany it--just the thing! It's all good for the soul.

    Now back to the discussion of red-herringdom--You originally noticed my misstatement in post #94 and I immediately corrected for it in my thinking but failed to explicitly state my acceptance of your correction which led to the red-herring chase. Since my subsequent discussion adjusted for your correction, its questions are unaffected by my admission here.

    Now to the issue of "back-pedaling." I wonder how it is possible to discuss things in any serious way without back-pedaling. We all make mistakes and require correction. If we accept the correction, then continue the discussion, that seems to open us automatically to the charge of back-pedaling. I believe that one of the aims here at TGL is to aim to examine the strongest arguments and to strengthen them when such is possible. This aim runs counter to the aim of debates, which is merely to defeat one's opponents--allowing them to correct and strengthen an argument is not usually considered a good strategy. I have been discussing in this thread and some others have been debating, so our purposes are crossed.

    Post #96 failed to go through the QA department and was rushed into production prematurely. Development has been notified to cease this practice. (Yes, I am both development and QA.) I badly misread the book review of Lewontin's book _Biology_as_Ideology_. (Note that my misreading didn't hurt my case at all!)

    My last post before this diversion into red-herringdom, #102, has not yet been replied to adequately. Prima facie, the notion of the modern synthesis as a central organizing idea in evolution is no longer accepted by many in the relevant specialty of evolutionary biology, as we can see from their quotes which I have posted. Do those quotes represent their current belief? Are there other quotes which are more recent which show that they have changed their minds? If we accept that the quotes are a reflection of their current beliefs, are their questions sufficient for us to claim that the modern synthesis has been discarded by the evolutionary biology specialty? How shall we know that the entire specialty has reached a consensus? When Dawkins and Wilson pass away? (Not that I seek that!) I'm reminded of a quote that science progresses one funeral at a time.

    I think that the Altenberg conference on the extended evolutionary synthesis is a strong indication that the modern synthesis is considered obsolete by evolutionary biologists. The conference shows that something else is needed. The modern synthesis provided a central organization to evolutionary theory.

    If we accept that the modern synthesis is on its way out, what is left in evolution that is central and organizing but common descent? What is the status of common descent? Is it axiomatic or something else? I can find no evidence from any professional source that evolutionary biologists consider common descent to have the status of "fact." Science requires systematic approaches, yet it seems to me that evolutionary biology is left only with an eclectic collection of ideas without any central organization once the modern synthesis is discarded.
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  10. tomh added a post in a topic What is science?   

    I read, with considerable interest, Gregory's (g arago) clarifying summary including his response to my question about the absurdity of scientists defining "science." -- "This seems to get at the praxis issue; who defines the action
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  11. tomh added a post in a topic The ID debate: Why?   

    I acknowledge that I wrote that "natural selection and mutation occur but are fundamentally irrelevant" and further that that phrase is a severe overstatement of what evolutionary biologists believe.

    I couldn't find where I had written this initially, but eventually I found it. I apologize for the claim of a red herring. I further apologize for the confusion that this brought to the thread.
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  12. tomh added a post in a topic Epistemological warrant for experimental inferences into the past   

    Hugo: "Yes, you have; but the fact that you have posted so many threads is no indication of their soundness, only that you have ignored requests not to do so."

    tomh: If I had known in advance that I would have received those requests, I would have refrained from posting them. The dates of the posts precede the dates of the requests to not post them.

    Hugo: "You'll forgive me if I read "we must resign ourselves to inevitable ignorance" as a little stronger than "just indicating caution" and "not dismissing all historiography". As I said before, and as has been pointed out to you in other threads, this kind of backtracking isn't appreciated "

    tomh: However, I only dismiss historiography which is exclusively based upon abductive inferences from the detritus of the past. If the historiography includes testimony, that has a basis for its connective explanations; historiography necessarily includes abductive inferences. On that I think we are agreed.

    Hugo: "There may be warrant that experimenters control experiments but that is because they implicitly or otherwise use abductive inferences to arrive at this warrant, discounting possibilities - such as the influence of a hidden factor(s) or that the devil is asleep and hence not tinkering..."

    tomh: It seems to me that experimenters use inductive reasoning much more than abductive reasoning when they design and perform their experiments. The difference is subtle. Inductive reasoning is foundational rather than coherentist.

    Of course, experimenters use abductive reasoning when they connect their experimental results to theory.

    Hugo: "Your "whack the epistemologist" claims were critiqued and you backtracked to admitting that your ideas are "eccentric""

    tomh: Every radically new idea is eccentric, by definition. I don't recall ever backtracking. I certainly admitted that I had omitted one or two important points in my original statement and jedaisoul and I agreed that the argument could be strengthened/saved by adding them. My ideas about my epistemology were critiqued, which I appreciated, but were never shown to be fundamentally unsound.

    Hugo: "...where are the posts in which you address your claims, perhaps those no one replied to, with the same determination you reserve for attacking evolutionary theory?"

    tomh: It seemed to me that evaluating my own claims in a post would be opposite to the aims of TGL as it wouldn't be true conversation. Was I wrong? I'll be happy to do it. I can use some arguments that I've heard elsewhere.
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  13. tomh added a post in a topic What is science?   

    We're back to the question of the definition of science. Whose definition are we to accept? Without a doubt, the standard definition is highly conflated--generally, it is the investigation of nature and knowledge derived from that investigation. These two things (knowledge and investigation) are very different things. Is it so strange that some of the same things that are knowledge from the experimental craft might also be knowledge in trade crafts? Let's consider cooking.

    I experiment with a new recipe and produce a new type of borscht. I then archive that recipe and cook the same new borscht for friends who come over for dinner the following week. Doesn't the evidence of the repeatability of the new borscht recipe show that I have real knowledge of how to make a new type of borscht? (Consider that cooking is a technology associated with chemistry.)

    Consider the invention of the Carnot engine. Sadi Carnot wasn't investigating nature when he invented his engine. Still, the result of operating the engine was real knowledge. Furthermore, knowledge of thermodynamic theory was advanced as a result of the technological advance produced by Carnot's engineering studies.

    In both of these examples, knowledge was advanced independent of the investigation of nature and was of the same kind as that produced by experimental craft. Clearly, knowledge about nature isn't necessarily dependent upon the investigation of nature.

    I think that conflating the investigation of nature with knowledge produced by it just ends with us confusing ourselves. I think that de-conflation of investigation and knowledge (with respect to nature) will help us considerably to think about these things more clearly.

    Timothy and I were discussing why it might be beneficial to de-conflate "science". It seems to me that the likelihood of confusion due to conflation in the definition of "science" is a major argument in favor of deconflation of the definition.
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  14. tomh added a post in a topic What is science?   

    mosaic: "Well, you've managed to confuse me more. In any case, the point is that "seeing what an untrained eye" would see does not give you more information about what is going on."

    tomh: Right. What I am looking for is just the raw data, such as an empiricist might require. If you followed the thread, one of my points is that the "repeatable" raw data constitutes real knowledge, as does the claim that the procedure is sufficiently identified and a particular mechanism has been identified when the raw data is corroborated by another research team. This must hold true even for an empiricist such as van Frassen. Any artifactual claims by empiricists become irrelevant.

    mosaic: "The crafting of an experiment is not theory-less or neutral even if one can merely perform instrumental tasks and be ignorant of the objects to be identified."

    tomh: Of course, but I distinguish between the crafting of the experiment and its execution. I have already specified that the crafting is theory-laden, though minimally so as regards entanglement with the mechanism of interest. The execution of the experiment need not be theory-laden. Let me give an example.

    When I was a lab assistant in an optics lab I didn't need to know any optical theory to execute the experiments. Here's what I did.

    Initially I placed a sample at a particular location. I set an instrument to the beginning and adjusted a knob to get a maximum reading on a dial. I flicked a switch. Eventually numbers were produced on paper. The numbers were the raw data. Theory-ladenness is not an issue. No theory was required for me to perform my task. If I could repeat my results, I had real knowledge that I had identified a particular mechanism (process + experimental conditions), without knowing anything about theory.

    I know that this doesn't seem particular exciting, but it is important to know what we really know. Being able to establish that we actually know something experimentally is profoundly important. Assuming repeatability and corroboration, we know the raw data produced by the procedure, that the procedure has identified a particular mechanism, and that the procedure has been sufficiently specified to invoke a particular mechanism of interest.

    If theory is required to "see" the data, perhaps the error is due to an incorrect specification of the experiment due to too many processes being entangled in the mechanism being studied. The experiment needs to be simplified further.
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  15. tomh added a post in a topic What is science?   

    Originally Posted by tomh


    I need to see what an untrained eye would see in this experiment. E.g., I see a container labeled E. Coli. I take a sample and put it in an augar dish. Etc.
    mosaic: I don't see how this requirement makes any sense. What are you trying to achieve by seeing what an untrained eye would see? What is an 'untrained eye'? The untrained eye of the physicist ignorant of biology? The untrained eye of an accountant who's not studied biology but took a few classes? The untrained eye of the high school student just learning biology? The eye of a child? Certainly, if we take your epistemic requirements seriously science could never be practiced - no one merely 'observes' the world so you cannot talk about an "untrained eye" as if it is something univocal. An "untrained eye" is context specific and only indicates lesser degrees of theoretical knowledge. An 'untrained eye' that merely took in stimuli devoid of all thinking would be the most ignorant and empty not a basis or test for knowledge. After all, an "untrained eye" has less capability of discerning facts, not more. Any move from an "untrained eye" to informed inquiry requires thinking and the application of theories and concepts to what is already recognized.

    tomh: Thanks for your questions.

    The "untrained eye" of my post would be exemplified by the untrained eye of the student lab assistant who doesn't need to understand the theoretical complexities involved in interpreting the experimental data of the experiment she just ran. The student just needs to know enough to run the experiment; the student doesn't need the theoretical understanding to interpret the data. (I suppose that I have been writing for Timothy instead of making my ideas intelligible to other readers as well and that I need to bear this in mind in the future.)

    Timothy and I should probably discuss the role of experimental craft in the design of experiments in order to test theory, including minimizing the impact of uninteresting theories by the use of craft. This aspect of the craftedness of experiments is important to a defense against attacks that data is so theory laden that it is necessarily artifactual (such as van Frassen might have said). It also is highly technical and correspondingly difficult to make clear to non-experts.

    The basic idea is that experimental craft enables us to filter out the entanglement of known theoretical complications in experimental procedure, equipment, raw data, etc. The interpretation of the data is mostly where serious problems with theory-ladenness arise.
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