GPS METRIC: 39.7486    -104.9478

Carol Cleland at Café Sci2

“Deep time and the Scientific Method of Yore”

Wednesday 17 July 2013, 6:30 PM, at Brooklyn's near LoDo Denver


About the topic




Dr. ClelandCarol Cleland writes: I am a philosopher with an extensive interest and background in natural science. I have a B.A. in mathematics from the University of California (Santa Barbara) and a Ph.D. in philosophy from Brown University. My current position is Full Professor of Philosophy at the University of Colorado (Boulder).

Before I became a philosopher, I was a software engineer. After receiving my Ph.D. in philosophy, I spent a year (1985-86) on a postdoctoral fellowship in philosophy and computer science at Stanford University's Center for the Study of Language and Information (CSLI). I am affiliated with the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) and a Co-I in the Center for Astrobiology at the University of Colorado.

My research is focused in the areas of philosophy of science, philosophy of logic and metaphysics. I am particularly interested in the methodology and justification of historical science, the nature of scientific theories and the role of models in science, philosophy of biology (microbiology, astrobiology, the origins of life, the nature of life, and the possibility of a 'shadow biosphere', a term which I coined), and the nature of causation (including issues about mechanism and emergence).

I enjoy teaching and sharing my work with others. I teach undergraduate and graduate students. I also frequently give presentations to scientists, journalists, high school classes, K-12 teachers, and to the general public.

About the topic

Creationists and other skeptics about Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection claim that it is less well supported by evidence than theories in physics and chemistry because it is an historical (vs. experimental) science. Such claims represent a fundamental (multi-leveled) misunderstanding of the nature of the experimental and historical sciences. We will begin with a discussion of the popular misconceptions about the scientific method upon which this view is founded; as it turns out, no science, experimental or historical, conforms to these widespread myths. Subsequently we turn to the actual methodologies of the historical and experimental sciences, comparing and contrasting them, and exploring why (despite their differences) neither methodology is scientifically inferior to the other. We will then turn to a brief discussion of deep time and how the evidence for the antiquity of the universe (13.7 billion years old), Earth and solar system (4.5 billion years old), and life on Earth (3.8 billion years old) is based on physics and chemistry as well as direct empirical evidence acquired through fieldwork. In short, one cannot separate evolutionary biology from physics and chemistry in the manner so often recommended by opponents of Darwin's theory.

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