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Author Topic: The idiots are gaining ground
GrumpySteen

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Icon 1 posted August 14, 2006 20:04      Profile for GrumpySteen     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Sxeptomaniac wrote:
Correct me if I'm wrong, Steen, but what you are talking about is philosophical skepticism. It's not that he's saying one or the other is wrong, as much as that they are both dogmatic when there's always room for inquiry.

[thumbsup] [Applause]

I don't go so far as to claim that knowledge is impossible to obtain, but that school of thought is similar to my own.

On a less philosophical, more utilitarian level, I simply think that people should be as accurate as possible when they present information as factual when it may not be.

dragonman97:
Mathmaticians should always keep track of their significant digits to avoid unexpected errors while doing it.

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Ashitaka

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Icon 1 posted August 15, 2006 00:42      Profile for Ashitaka     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Steen:
Ashitaka:
...
That said, you are stating "things used to be different than they are now" as a fact without defining things. Do you have proof that neutrons have changed over time? That there is some fundamental difference between a neutron in the past and a neutron today?


You are right Steen, I should have used the term “biological evolution” instead of “evolution” .
That being said.

Scientists make observations.

Scientists then come up with theories to explain their observations.

Scientists try to confirm their theories with other observations.

Biological Evolution is an observation. (Have you ever been to a natural history museum?)

Darwin’s Theory of evolution is his guess on what happened. It may or may not be true though it is backed with some very heavy evidence.

Observations are not theories.

Saying Evolution is a theory is like saying that the sky being blue is only a theory. Only worthless philosophy majors would argue: “Is the sky really blue, or do you just think it is blue?”

Now observation is subjective, meaning from person to person. But when so many people have observed the same thing over and over, it is fact. Biological Evolution is fact. The organisms from the past are different than they are now.

Now Steen, it may seem that I am in total opposition to your position. I am not. I agree that too often, “95% sure” is replaced by “100% sure” . But the observation of evolution is fact and I am not about to let it by when someone says it is just theory.

--------------------
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littlefish
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Icon 1 posted August 15, 2006 03:38      Profile for littlefish   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Now Steen, it may seem that I am in total opposition to your position. I am not. I agree that too often, “95% sure” is replaced by “100% sure” . But the observation of evolution is fact and I am not about to let it by when someone says it is just theory.
Nice use of spurious percentages. When is it OK to say 100%? That evolution is fact?
99%? 99.9%? 99.99999%? 99.9999999999999999999999999%?

Because you can never be totally sure. Unless you are omniscient, omnipresent, and omnicinemas (last word a bad pun - don't worry).

I'm fairly confident that I'm not a brain in a jar with a malevolent demon tweaking my synapses a la the matrix. But I'm not sure. And there is no way to test if this is true.

Descartes had it right - I think therefore I am. Everything after that is not something you can be sure of. Science aims to get knowledge closer to truth, but although it may achieve it, we will never know. All we can do is to seek the models which fit the evidence in the best way.

This again is subjective. For some people the best model is "God did it", for others "Cos Einstein said so, and he's really clever" fits better.

I'm in the second camp, but the reality is that other people (assuming they aren't just synaptic flashes caused by demons) choose other philosphies to explain the world.

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Ashitaka

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Icon 1 posted August 15, 2006 04:09      Profile for Ashitaka     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by littlefish:
quote:
Now Steen, it may seem that I am in total opposition to your position. I am not. I agree that too often, “95% sure” is replaced by “100% sure” . But the observation of evolution is fact and I am not about to let it by when someone says it is just theory.
Nice use of spurious percentages. When is it OK to say 100%? That evolution is fact?
99%? 99.9%? 99.99999%? 99.9999999999999999999999999%?

Because you can never be totally sure. Unless you are omniscient, omnipresent, and omnicinemas (last word a bad pun - don't worry).

I'm fairly confident that I'm not a brain in a jar with a malevolent demon tweaking my synapses a la the matrix. But I'm not sure. And there is no way to test if this is true.

Descartes had it right - I think therefore I am. Everything after that is not something you can be sure of. Science aims to get knowledge closer to truth, but although it may achieve it, we will never know. All we can do is to seek the models which fit the evidence in the best way.

This again is subjective. For some people the best model is "God did it", for others "Cos Einstein said so, and he's really clever" fits better.

I'm in the second camp, but the reality is that other people (assuming they aren't just synaptic flashes caused by demons) choose other philosphies to explain the world.

Even if the sky is blue becuase a my head is really in a jar and demons are causing synaptic flashes to make me believe that. These demons are also giving the same synaptic flashes to everyone else. So what if we are heads in a jar or if the sky even exists. I am 100% sure that the sky I am looking at right now is blue. It doesn't matter that you cannot know if it exists or not. I cannot say that I am 100 percent sure that it will not be plaid tomorrow. I am very sure but not one hundred percent sure.

I guess the point I am trying to get at is that confirmed observation, is fact. Fact can exist.

You as well used a example of demon tweaking you synapses. Like you said, there is no way you can know that or not. Would you be so bold to say that you cannot know something that can be observed by others?

--------------------
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littlefish
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Icon 1 posted August 15, 2006 05:22      Profile for littlefish   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Would you be so bold to say that you cannot know something that can be observed by others?
Yes I would. Because they could be:

a) Lying
b) Using the word blue to describe the sky because they have always been taught that the sky is blue, but perceive it as the colour which I call green.
c) Not in existence at all, but merely synaptic flashes caused by a malevolent demon intent on tricking me into believing that others exist.

Confirmed observation is not fact. At least not in the sense that I would choose to use it. (The sense of absolute truth - which is a subject for debate in itself) If it were, then ghosts would exist, having been 'observed' by many people. Optical illusions show that it is not always possible to trust your own senses. Dreams also present an alternate reality - did you really measure pi to be 3.15 once or did you just dream it? And it is possible that pi is 3.14 usually, but occaisionally is a little bit larger?

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The Famous Druid

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Icon 1 posted August 15, 2006 05:51      Profile for The Famous Druid     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by littlefish:
Descartes had it right - I think therefore I am. Everything after that is not something you can be sure of.

Well, if we're going to accept the "malevolent demon" wan^h^h^hhypothesis, then you can't even be sure of "I think, therefore I am".

Descartes error was he assumed a demon that can interfere with our senses, but not with our thought processes. "I think therefore I am" may have seemed like an unassailable truth to Descarte, but it might actually be as illogical as "It's Tuesday, therefore fish climb trees in roller-skates". The malevolent demon is just preventing us from seeing the logical flaw.

Personally, I always preferred "Coito Ergo Sum".

--------------------
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GrumpySteen

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Icon 1 posted August 15, 2006 06:28      Profile for GrumpySteen     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Ashitaka wrote:
Observations are not theories.

I completely agree with you on this point. I must, however, point out that we have no recorded observations of a new human species being born from an older species. We have a lot of fossils that make up a great body of evidence, all of which supports the theory that humans evolved the way we currently believe they did, but no actual observations of it happening. As soon we have one, I'll be quite happy to call human evolution an observation and not a theory.

As for the sky is blue argument... I can perform experiments showing the scattering of light through a gaseous medium and prove that light of the wavelength we call blue will scatter more than visible light in different wavelengths. By doing so, I can show that the majority of the sky will appear to be blue (unless you're color blind and cannot perceive the color blue, which is true for some people... a single observation isn't the final word).

TFD wrote:
Descartes error was he assumed a demon that can interfere with our senses, but not with our thought processes.

I so very much want to make a joke about the old phrase "demon rum" here, but I just can't come up with anything good.

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littlefish
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Icon 1 posted August 15, 2006 08:23      Profile for littlefish   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
The malevolent demon is just preventing us from seeing the logical flaw.
But to have any thought at all, whether it is a logical or illogical one, it is necessary to exist.

Experiencing anything requires that there is some entity, some existence to be doing the experiencing.

If I assume that the demon is screwing up my thought processes (for all I know, you don't exist and are just a machination of TMD [The Malevolent Demon]). I still need to exist to have these thoughts. Descarte's argument (or the impulse in my brain caused by TMD to make me think of Descarte) does not require the process to be logical.

We all exist in our heads (or you all exist in mine due to the machinations of TMD) and cannot know what each other are thinking. As a result, we cannot be sure that the observations made by independent entities are correct.

To conclude, I know I exist (though not in what form) and cannot fully trust any knowledge that doesn't come from inside my head. My head tells me Descarte is right and everything else is suspect.

so:
The voices in my head tell me I AM RIGHT! [crazy]

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quantumfluff
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Icon 1 posted August 15, 2006 14:32      Profile for quantumfluff     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by spungo:
QF: I get what you're trying to say, but I think Steen's on the money here. Your logic sadly fails the 'tonic' test, i.e., a scientist goes out one night and drinks a lot of gin & tonic - gets blind drunk - wakes up with a stinking hangover. Goes out the next night and drinks only whiskey & tonic - same thing happens. On the third night he only drinks rum & tonic. Same thing. By your rationale, he should forego tonic for ever as it is obviously getting him hammered every time.

He might claim that, but I would n't trust his analysis, because no sane person drinks whiskey and tonic. [Big Grin]

But on a serious note, I think my logic does pass the tonic test. Let's say I give up tonic, because it's giving me a hangover. The next night I put away a magnum of red wine with dinner, and wake up with a another dreadful hangover. Now I have new evidence - that something else is ruining my mornings. That night I might go and drink nothing but tonic to see what happens. When I wake up the next morning without a hangover, I have a chance to reevaluate what I think is true.

Like I was trying to say before, I don't think of "truth" as a binary choice. It's probabalistically based on evidence so far. To answer Steen's question "Is it so hard to say "Based on the evidence so far, the theory of evolution appears true" "? My answer is yes, it is too hard to say that, because I'ld go around saying it in every third sentance. As an optimist, I'ld like to believe that other people have as flexible a notion of *TRUTH* as I do. (Sadly, most evidence is to the contrary [Wink] )

Anyway, this thread has gotton dull now. It's a fun, nit-picking semantic argument that - thanks to your tonic test example - really would be much more interesting in person with an assortment of alcohols and mixers. If we ever get together face-to-face, we can resume it then.

In Vino Veritas!

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The Famous Druid

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Icon 1 posted August 15, 2006 15:30      Profile for The Famous Druid     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by littlefish:
quote:
The malevolent demon is just preventing us from seeing the logical flaw.
But to have any thought at all, whether it is a logical or illogical one, it is necessary to exist.

Experiencing anything requires that there is some entity, some existence to be doing the experiencing.

That's what TMD wants you to think...

--------------------
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Sxeptomaniac

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Icon 1 posted August 15, 2006 16:44      Profile for Sxeptomaniac   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Ashitaka:
Even if the sky is blue becuase a my head is really in a jar and demons are causing synaptic flashes to make me believe that. These demons are also giving the same synaptic flashes to everyone else. So what if we are heads in a jar or if the sky even exists. I am 100% sure that the sky I am looking at right now is blue. It doesn't matter that you cannot know if it exists or not. I cannot say that I am 100 percent sure that it will not be plaid tomorrow. I am very sure but not one hundred percent sure.

I guess the point I am trying to get at is that confirmed observation, is fact. Fact can exist.

You as well used a example of demon tweaking you synapses. Like you said, there is no way you can know that or not. Would you be so bold to say that you cannot know something that can be observed by others?

Except that not everyone observes a blue sky. Some people observe a gray sky, a number of people would observe a black sky at this time, while others can't see a sky at all.

The point is not that things can't be known, but that they can only be known with varying degrees of certainty. That doesn't mean that we distrust our knowledge, but that we realize that others might not perceive things the same way we do.

So, we can know things that can be observed by others, but there is still a level of uncertainty (though uncertainty decreases as the thing is more widely observed).

--------------------
Let's pray that the human race never escapes from Earth to spread its iniquity elsewhere. - C. S. Lewis

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Greetings From Italy
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(Hello! I am not a native speaker)
[Summary: I don't believe that we evolved from the apes]
Correct me if I'm wrong but the idea of evolution is to survive. Darwin's observations showed that the animals in the places he visited changed (but they didn't change themselves of course) to survive. Only the animals which their body fit remain and the rest die (AKA "Natural Selection"). Let's see: The apes are still here, that means either we didn't evolve from them or either we're still changing (Is it possible?). So how come the humans came to the world? No idea. [crazy]

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GrumpySteen

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Icon 1 posted August 15, 2006 17:05      Profile for GrumpySteen     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quantumfluff wrote:
I think my logic does pass the tonic test.

Actually, it doesn't. By your logic, your friend says his great, great, great grandfather wrote in his diary on three successive days that he drank the combinations of alcohol and tonic, then woke up the next day with a hangover. He then wrote that he was giving up tonic and never mentions hangovers again in the diary. Your friend reads this and comes up with a theory that tonic causes hangovers and tells you about it. You then present this theory to others as a fact that tonic causes hangovers and never mention that you didn't see it happen and didn't experience it yourself.

As an optimist, I'ld like to believe that other people have as flexible a notion of *TRUTH* as I do. (Sadly, most evidence is to the contrary [Wink] )

Actually, it's that flexible notion of truth that bothers me. Religions, politicians, advertising agencies, con artists and herbal Viagra spammers all have very flexible notions of *TRUTH*.

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Xanthine

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Icon 1 posted August 15, 2006 20:03      Profile for Xanthine     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Steen:
quantumfluff wrote:
I think my logic does pass the tonic test.

Actually, it doesn't. By your logic, your friend says his great, great, great grandfather wrote in his diary on three successive days that he drank the combinations of alcohol and tonic, then woke up the next day with a hangover. He then wrote that he was giving up tonic and never mentions hangovers again in the diary. Your friend reads this and comes up with a theory that tonic causes hangovers and tells you about it. You then present this theory to others as a fact that tonic causes hangovers and never mention that you didn't see it happen and didn't experience it yourself.

Ah, but see, you have this guy's diary, with the written procedure, so you can try it for yourself. Likewise, you can go out and make observations for yourself and formulate your own theory about evolution, or compare your observations to the theory and decide from there.

It is possible to observe natural selection in bacterial cultures, both in the lab and in the wild (where do you think multi-drug resistant strains of TB, pseudomonas, and staph come from?). It is possible, looking at fossil records and also DNA sequences, to see how organisms are related to each other. It is also possible to look at the organisms themselves and draw some conclusions (that's how Darwin did it). And you don't just have to take the scientists' word for it. With some time, patience, and the right tools you can do it yourself. You can make the observations they made, and draw your own conclusions. Lots of people have done just that and, mysteriously enough, formed a consensus on the mechanisms of evolution.

However, you are right. Evolution is not a fact. It is a theory. It is as theoretical as gravity, but perhaps better understood. Evolution is also a victim of the poor job we do in the US of teaching the scientific method. But that's a rant for later. I'll just close by saying that I would have voted yes on that poll, simply because bad questions deserve bad answers.

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And it's one, two, three / On the wrong side of the lee / What were you meant for? / What were you meant for?
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The Famous Druid

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Icon 1 posted August 16, 2006 03:42      Profile for The Famous Druid     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Xanthine:
However, you are right. Evolution is not a fact. It is a theory. It is as theoretical as gravity, but perhaps better understood. Evolution is also a victim of the poor job we do in the US of teaching the scientific method.

Gravity is a godless liberal hoax.
 -

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Sxeptomaniac

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Icon 1 posted August 16, 2006 10:43      Profile for Sxeptomaniac   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Xanthine:
However, you are right. Evolution is not a fact. It is a theory. It is as theoretical as gravity, but perhaps better understood. Evolution is also a victim of the poor job we do in the US of teaching the scientific method. But that's a rant for later. I'll just close by saying that I would have voted yes on that poll, simply because bad questions deserve bad answers.

I can agree with that. Unfortunately, the focus on facts and figures that comes with so many standardized tests only seems to exacerbate the problem.

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Let's pray that the human race never escapes from Earth to spread its iniquity elsewhere. - C. S. Lewis

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GrumpySteen

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Icon 1 posted August 16, 2006 17:23      Profile for GrumpySteen     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Xanthine:
Actually, we're pretty much in agreement, even if it doesn't initially appear that way.

As you say, I can make the same observations and come to the same conclusions as others have about evolution. I have, in fact, done so. For the record, I believe humans evolved just as the theory of evolution and fossil records indicate that they did. My belief, however, does not make it a proven fact even though all evidence points towards it being the right answer.

Which brings me to one other thing that became clear in this discussion...

I'm surprised and appalled at the number of of people here who, upon hearing my refusal to label a theory of how humans wound up on the planet as a fact, were so quick to label me as a creationist. Even when it wasn't said, it was obvious that it was assumed that I was saying human evolution (or sometimes evolution as a whole) didn't happen, when my actual statement was that human evolution probably happened but has not been proven as a fact. This is for all those who reacted that way (and you know who you are):

Open minds can learn. Closed minds cannot. When you close your mind to what others are saying, you hear exactly what you want to hear and you mislead yourself and others. Once that starts happening, you make a complete fool of yourself doing things like calling an atheist a creationist. I'd like to think some of you might learn something from this, but I'm pretty pessimistic after some of the responses I got.

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Icon 1 posted August 16, 2006 20:31      Profile for Sxeptomaniac   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Steen, I have to admit sharing your frustration at times. Unfortunately, I have found that many people seem to believe that, just because an issue is highly polarized, there can be no middle ground. Opposing viewpoints must therefore be fought, rather than discussed.

Rhetoric seems to be a dying art form, if not already dead and gone. [Frown]

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Let's pray that the human race never escapes from Earth to spread its iniquity elsewhere. - C. S. Lewis

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Icon 1 posted August 17, 2006 07:05      Profile for SpazGirl   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Just to raise another point. What if both theories are possible and either side is just refusing to combine the two? In theory, since we don't know how life on the planet came about, you have your "intelligent design" but then the wee little microbes came together and started making multicellullar organisms, there's your evolution! Ta da! I've solved the problem [Razz] Now no one is wrong.

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Things, and things.

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Sxeptomaniac

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Icon 1 posted August 17, 2006 08:14      Profile for Sxeptomaniac   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by SpazGirl:
Just to raise another point. What if both theories are possible and either side is just refusing to combine the two? In theory, since we don't know how life on the planet came about, you have your "intelligent design" but then the wee little microbes came together and started making multicellullar organisms, there's your evolution! Ta da! I've solved the problem [Razz] Now no one is wrong.

You're assuming that the most vocal sides in the argument are the only sides. There are actually several different creationist viewpoints out there, including "theistic evolution", which you are referring to. In between are various types of "old earth" creationists, who believe the world was created, but over a longer period than the literalist "young earth" creationists believe.

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Let's pray that the human race never escapes from Earth to spread its iniquity elsewhere. - C. S. Lewis

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Icon 1 posted August 17, 2006 13:58      Profile for SpazGirl   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Really I was just trying to make light of the situation. You have a massive argument where neither of the most vocal groups will make a concession that the other is possible. At this point we don't have enough information to declare either as "fact", or to completely disprove one or the other and people insist on fighting like their lives depend on it. To me it's a strange argument because if both sides would look at the other and decide that there is room for both theories and continue research together they might be able to work out an answer.

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Things, and things.

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Icon 1 posted August 19, 2006 10:54      Profile for chromatic   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by SpazGirl:
To me it's a strange argument because if both sides would look at the other and decide that there is room for both theories and continue research together they might be able to work out an answer.

I don't see how that's possible, when neither side is willing to debate the real issue: abiogenesis.
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