marchaa at agric.nsw.gov.au
Wed May 31 20:13:51 EST 1995
Michael Scotto wrote:
> > After billions of dollars, years of research,
> > and busloads of fossils providing what one
> > eminent scientist referred to as less than a
> > coffin-full of "evidence", I would think you
> > people would have moved on by now.
Adam Marchant wrote:
> Evidence, when composed of disparate kinds of data, is difficult to
> quantify. A 'coffin-full' seems to be an eminently suitable unit.
> Let us then calibrate one coffin-full to be equal to 1.25 times the
> amount of evidence that there is for evolution - this would make the amount
> of evidence for evolution equal to 0.8 coffin-fulls (Scotto is not
> precise in saying how much less than one coffin-full of evidence there is
> for evolution).
Patrick O'Neil <patrick at corona> wrote:
Ah, but such a measure (and I would question a mere coffin-load unless
you are restricting fossil evidence to humans alone) does not account
for the mass of observational evidence and molecular biological evidence
which only takes up paper-space or disk space, depending on the storage
media. If you wish to somehow equate information and raw data with mass
and volume, you would end up with FAR more than a single coffin-full.
Evolution evidence includes fossils, bones, and data on more than just
the hominid line and so the initial coffin reference is falsified.
I think that Patrick may have mis-understood me. I was observing
that we did not have a unit of measurement for quantifying 'evidence' per
se. I was taking up the suggestion implied in the quotation given by Michael
that we should adopt a unit called a 'coffin-full'. A 'coffin-full' is the
NAME OF A UNIT OF MEASUREMENT, used to quantify evidence. It is not a
measure of volume (for which we have 'litres' etc), mass, or any
other property for which we already have measurement units.
A 'coffin-full' (symbol cf) need have no relation to the physical volume
of an actual coffin. We have all sorts of names for units of things - Teslas,
grams, Curies, Hertz, scruples, parsecs, Gauss, radians, candellas,
Ohms, Henrys, fathoms, Kelvin etc etc etc - and the names don't need to
have any physical connection with the thing being quantitated. What's a
mole got to do with moles? How does a Siemen relate to semen?
Evidence for biological evolution comes from fossils, from comparative
anatomy, biochemistry, DNA sequence comparison, biogeography, analogy with
plant and animal breeding, theoretical models, etc etc.
The whole adds up (by definition) to 0.8 cf.
It is obvious that a cf is not a very conveniently sized unit.
We'll probably have to use mostly mcf, or even micro-cf, for talking about
the amount of evidence in individual scientific reports.
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