Re: "Facts" and Facts

Greg Laden (gladen@HUSC.HARVARD.EDU)
Tue, 5 Dec 1995 22:19:31 -0500

Gee, have I been flamed? I sure hope not. Anyway, I will apologize for
leaving the quotes off my "facts" as soon as you explain the "*" on

In any event, let me make my position crystal clear, because I may have
failed to do that in my previous post. I believe in facts (no quotes).
I also happen to believe that we don't know what most of them are.

More to the point of this discussion, the real core of the matter is
this: The issue of creationism vs. evolution is not a matter of facts,
theories, or theories about facts and theories. The facts, "facts",
*facts*, theories, and theories about "fact" leave no room for serious
consideration of creationism, "scientific" or otherwise. Rather, I would
argue that this is a political
issue. The religious right wants to shape society in it's own mould and
will do and say (and spend) what they can muster towards that goal. The
rest of us are just trying to do our jobs (in my case, that would be
being a scientist and a teacher). But the situation demands that we not
ignore this issue. That's why I'm a member of the NCSE and engage
actively in this debate in a number of contexts from internet discussions
to radio talk shows such as the "Amen Corner" out of some 5,000 watt radio
station nestled among the tree farms of central Florida. I realy don't
have time for this, but I take the time for two reasons. One, I'm scared
of them. The other, raised as a Catholic (note past tense), I would feel
guilty otherwise!



On Tue, 5 Dec 1995, SS51000 wrote:

> E. Scott used quotation marks when she wrote that it was once a "fact"
> that humans have 48 chromosomes. In G. Laden's remarks, however, the
> quotation marks disappear so that we have him talking about the
> relativity of facts, not of "facts." I hope he does not think it was
> once a fact that we had 48 chromosomes, or that it was once a fact that
> Earth was flat. People once believed these"facts," but we no longer
> do--and for some very good reasons, I might add! Science is an ongoing
> interaction between evidence and reason. It doesn't give us ultimate
> truth, because the last word is never in; but there is such a thing as
> progress, so that in some cases we have been able to replace "facts,"
> such as Earth's being flat and humans having 48 chromosomes, with
> *facts*. To argue otherwise deteriorates rapidly into the hypocrisy of
> academic nihilism, as with the postmodern professors who claim to
> believe science is nothing special until they or their loved ones take
> ill--at which time they behave precisely as if they believed scientific
> medicine had progressed over older beliefs and practices. --Bob Graber

Greg Laden
Department of Anthropology
Harvard University
11 Divinity Avenue
Cambridge MA 02138

"It is a wise child that knows his own father."

"It is a wise father that knows his own child."
--William Shakespeare