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Monday, October 06, 2008

Article says that evolution theory is not predictive

An article in The Scientist magazine says that evolution theory is not predictive (you will need to register or be a subscriber to see the full article):

Biology certainly has a lot of experimental data on which we could build a unified foundation. We even have functional philosophies in the form of empiricism and the scientific method. However, we are woefully short on quantitative biological theories or logical or mathematical frameworks by which we could generate testable predictions in the way that relativity and quantum theory did.

There have been attempts to generate a theoretical framework for some aspects of biology, such as "metabolic theory," 1 but these tend to be focused on explaining a subset of biological phenomena based on underlying physical constraints. Evolution is the most general theory we have, but it serves mostly to explain how life arrived where it is today, rather than predict outcomes of our laboratory experiments.
(emphasis added)

Many biologists feel that there never will be a theoretical biology that is predictive. The late and great Stephen Jay Gould alluded to this idea when he frequently stated that life is a "contingent outcome of history." In other words, if you replayed the history of life on earth multiple times, you would get different results. If evolution itself is not predictable, can we really create a biological theory that predicts outcomes from first principles?

Also, the article has none of that claptrap about evolution unifying biology or being central to biology or biology not making sense without evolution.

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8 Comments:

Anonymous Voice in the Urbanness said...

> Evolution is the most general theory we have, but it serves mostly to explain how life arrived where it is today, rather than predict outcomes of our laboratory experiments. <

It sounds like he agrees with Darwin.

Monday, October 06, 2008 7:48:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Evolution is the most general theory we have, but it serves MOSTLY to explain how life arrived where it is today, rather than predict outcomes of our laboratory experiments.

Important word emphasized.

Monday, October 06, 2008 9:10:00 AM  
Blogger Larry Fafarman said...

>>>>>>Evolution is the most general theory we have, but it serves MOSTLY to explain how life arrived where it is today, rather than predict outcomes of our laboratory experiments.

Important word emphasized. <<<<<<<

Even emphasizing that word does not imply that evolution theory is central to biology.

Anyway, what is un-mostly here?

Monday, October 06, 2008 11:17:00 AM  
Anonymous Voice in the Urbanness said...

> Even emphasizing that word does not imply that evolution theory is central to biology. >

Nor does it give the ball scores. Your complaint seems quite irrelevant.

Monday, October 06, 2008 12:51:00 PM  
Anonymous 'Nonymous said...

The outcome of a three-body interaction cannot be predicted either.

From this you of course conclude that there is no such thing as celestial mechanics.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008 8:55:00 PM  
Blogger Larry Fafarman said...

>>>>>> The outcome of a three-body interaction cannot be predicted either.

From this you of course conclude that there is no such thing as celestial mechanics. <<<<<<

You are comparing apples and oranges. The three-body interaction involves atomic particles, whereas celestial mechanics is based on gravity, Newton's laws of motion, and kinematics. Interactions of multiple bodies in celestial mechanics is highly predictable -- for example, two mathematicians, Adams and Le Verrier, fairly accurately guessed the location of a then unknown planet, Neptune, by analysis of such interactions.

Wikipedia describes three-body forces (interactions) as follows:

A three-body force is a force that does not exist in a system of two objects but appears in a three-body system. In general, if the behaviour of a system of more than two objects cannot be described by the two-body interactions between all possible pairs, as a first approximation, the deviation is mainly due to a three-body force.

The fundamental strong interaction seems to exhibit such behaviours. This is fundamentally because gluons, the mediators of the strong interaction, can couple to themselves. In particle physics, the interactions between the three quarks that compose hadrons can be described in a diquark model which might be equivalent to the hypothesis of a three-body force. There is growing evidence in the field of nuclear physics that three-body forces exist among the nucleons inside atomic nuclei (three-nucleon force).

Wednesday, October 08, 2008 10:10:00 PM  
Anonymous 'Nonymous said...

"The three-body interaction involves atomic particles"

Actually I was referring to gravitational interactions. But of course, it is impossible to have three bodies involved for macroscopic objects. ;-)

According to the Wikipedia article:
"might be equivalent to the hypothesis of a three-body force" (emphasis added). This appears to be another instance of modern "physics" going off the rails. "3-body farce" indeed. Why not a "4-body farce"? A "27-body farce"?

Wednesday, October 08, 2008 11:22:00 PM  
Blogger Larry Fafarman said...

>>>>>>Actually I was referring to gravitational interactions. <<<<<<

But if the interactions of multiple bodies in celestial mechanics are unpredictable, then how were those mathematicians able to predict the location where Neptune would be found in the sky? How could we predict solar and lunar eclipses? What you are saying just doesn't make sense.

>>>>>>> But of course, it is impossible to have three bodies involved for macroscopic objects. ;-) <<<<<<

What? How in the hell is it impossible to have three bodies involved in macroscopic objects? :-(

>>>>> According to the Wikipedia article:
"might be equivalent to the hypothesis of a three-body force" (emphasis added). This appears to be another instance of modern "physics" going off the rails. "3-body farce" indeed. Why not a "4-body farce"? A "27-body farce"? <<<<<<<

What in the hell are you babbling about? If you are trying to be funny, you are falling flat on your face. You are just a lousy troll.

Thursday, October 09, 2008 1:44:00 AM  

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