Last chance to revise the new Tautology FAQ

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Friar Broccoli

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Sep 16, 2010, 8:25:08 PM9/16/10
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After more than a year, I have finally gotten around to preparing the
Tautology FAQ for placement in the TO web site archives.

Criticism of all types are welcome/encouraged.
If you think the FAQ is fine as it is, I'd like to hear that too.

I don't know the real or full names of many of the people acknowledged
at the end, so if you'd like your real name used then tell me what it
is either here or in a private email to eliasrk(at)gmail.com and I
will modify. Also if you feel you made a contribution that and I did
not acknowledge you (a real possibility) drop me an email and I will
almost certainly add you.

For reference here are all the threads containing discussions:

http://groups.google.com/group/talk.origins/browse_frm/thread/ee571605fbebcd8b
http://groups.google.com/group/talk.origins/browse_frm/thread/87d5183b29e2a3dd
http://groups.google.com/group/talk.origins/browse_frm/thread/16ba034e778cbbd0
http://groups.google.com/group/talk.origins/browse_frm/thread/419cbe87977e5075
http://groups.google.com/group/talk.origins/browse_frm/thread/47397610ab5cb2e1

however I am pretty sure Google has mis-indexed some posts so they are
effectively lost.


John mentioned keeping the existing FAQ,
located here:
http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/evolphil/tautology.html
in the archive for reference.

If you (John) would like me to add a pointer to the new location, tell
me what you want and how your original will be designated, and I can
add the link before the FAQ is copied out of my ability to modify it
further.

Note the original is also referenced from here:
http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/evolphil.html

If you'd like I could modify copies of that page too, in whatever way
you specify, so it can be copied back into the archive.

Friar Broccoli

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Sep 16, 2010, 8:31:16 PM9/16/10
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Forgot to provide a link to the revised FAQ:
http://www.talkorigins.org/sandbox/kwork/Ver4_tautology.html

On Sep 16, 8:25 pm, Friar Broccoli <elia...@gmail.com> wrote:
> After more than a year, I have finally gotten around to preparing the
> Tautology FAQ for placement in the TO web site archives.
>
> Criticism of all types are welcome/encouraged.
> If you think the FAQ is fine as it is, I'd like to hear that too.
>
> I don't know the real or full names of many of the people acknowledged
> at the end, so if you'd like your real name used then tell me what it
> is either here or in a private email to eliasrk(at)gmail.com and I
> will modify.  Also if you feel you made a contribution that and I did
> not acknowledge you (a real possibility) drop me an email and I will
> almost certainly add you.
>
> For reference here are all the threads containing discussions:
>

> http://groups.google.com/group/talk.origins/browse_frm/thread/ee57160...http://groups.google.com/group/talk.origins/browse_frm/thread/87d5183...http://groups.google.com/group/talk.origins/browse_frm/thread/16ba034...http://groups.google.com/group/talk.origins/browse_frm/thread/419cbe8...http://groups.google.com/group/talk.origins/browse_frm/thread/4739761...

odin

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Sep 16, 2010, 9:31:10 PM9/16/10
to
On Sep 16, 8:31 pm, Friar Broccoli <elia...@gmail.com> wrote:
> Forgot to provide a link to the revised FAQ:http://www.talkorigins.org/sandbox/kwork/Ver4_tautology.html
>
> On Sep 16, 8:25 pm, Friar Broccoli <elia...@gmail.com> wrote:
>
>
>
> > After more than a year, I have finally gotten around to preparing the
> > Tautology FAQ for placement in the TO web site archives.
>
> > Criticism of all types are welcome/encouraged.
> > If you think the FAQ is fine as it is, I'd like to hear that too.
>
> > I don't know the real or full names of many of the people acknowledged
> > at the end, so if you'd like your real name used then tell me what it
> > is either here or in a private email to eliasrk(at)gmail.com and I
> > will modify.  Also if you feel you made a contribution that and I did
> > not acknowledge you (a real possibility) drop me an email and I will
> > almost certainly add you.
>
> > For reference here are all the threads containing discussions:
>
> >http://groups.google.com/group/talk.origins/browse_frm/thread/ee57160......

>
> > however I am pretty sure Google has mis-indexed some posts so they are
> > effectively lost.
>
> > John mentioned keeping the existing FAQ,
> > located here:http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/evolphil/tautology.html
> > in the archive for reference.
>
> > If you (John) would like me to add a pointer to the new location, tell
> > me what you want and how your original will be designated, and I can
> > add the link before the FAQ is copied out of my ability to modify it
> > further.
>
> > Note the original is also referenced from here:http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/evolphil.html
>
> > If you'd like I could modify copies of that page too, in whatever way
> > you specify, so it can be copied back into the archive

Is the following a tautology?

"Water flowing downhill follows the path of least resistance."

If it is a tautology of some sort, fine... but it certainly is not a
falsehood.

It looks like the same sort of thing as "survival of the fittest".

I fail to see how that is a problem.

-loki

Friar Broccoli

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Sep 16, 2010, 10:04:33 PM9/16/10
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Anything that is not false is true.
Anything that is true is necessarily true.
Anything that is necessarily true is a tautology.

> It looks like the same sort of thing as "survival of the fittest".
>
> I fail to see how that is a problem.

That's because your sight is distorted by atheistic/evolutionist
lenses.

>
> -loki

-True Christian.

cassandra

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Sep 16, 2010, 10:44:15 PM9/16/10
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On Sep 16, 9:31 pm, odin <odinoo...@yahoo.com> wrote:

I don't understand why you are asking your question. Could you
enlighten me?

odin

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Sep 16, 2010, 11:19:45 PM9/16/10
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Sorry. I thought it was obvious. I asked the following question: Is
the statement "Water flowing downhill follows the path of least
resistance" a tautology?

I gave this as an example that is analogous to the so called "survival
of the fittest tautology", where the survival of those who are better
equipped for surviving are by definition already the "fittest". In
other words, begging the question, and all that. I wanted to give this
as an example that would, by the same sort of arguments, be a
tautology, but also provide an example that was also obviously true,
even to a creationist. So, water flowing downhill follows the path of
least resistance, and, by definition, the path of least resistance
would be exactly that path.

I am not sure why I need to go into this much detail over something so
obvious, but perhaps I should add that "tautology" is not a dirty
word. If RM+NS ends up being framed as a tautology by some true
statement, such as such as in SOF, then so be it. As I said, it
certainly does not make the TOE a falsehood. At least not for that
reason.

Does that make sense yet?

As a side note, I think this whole SOF/tautology canard results from
switching from a rhetorical tautology definition to a logical
tautology definition half way through the argument. Creationist tend
to do that sort of scatter-brained type of thing without even knowing
it.

-loki

air

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Sep 16, 2010, 11:21:38 PM9/16/10
to
On Sep 16, 8:31 pm, Friar Broccoli <elia...@gmail.com> wrote:
> Forgot to provide a link to the revised FAQ:http://www.talkorigins.org/sandbox/kwork/Ver4_tautology.html
>
> On Sep 16, 8:25 pm, Friar Broccoli <elia...@gmail.com> wrote:
>
> > After more than a year, I have finally gotten around to preparing the
> > Tautology FAQ for placement in the TO web site archives.
>
> > Criticism of all types are welcome/encouraged.
> > If you think the FAQ is fine as it is, I'd like to hear that too.
>
> > I don't know the real or full names of many of the people acknowledged
> > at the end, so if you'd like your real name used then tell me what it
> > is either here or in a private email to eliasrk(at)gmail.com and I
> > will modify.  Also if you feel you made a contribution that and I did
> > not acknowledge you (a real possibility) drop me an email and I will
> > almost certainly add you.
>
> > For reference here are all the threads containing discussions:
>
> >http://groups.google.com/group/talk.origins/browse_frm/thread/ee57160......

>
> > however I am pretty sure Google has mis-indexed some posts so they are
> > effectively lost.
>
> > John mentioned keeping the existing FAQ,
> > located here:http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/evolphil/tautology.html
> > in the archive for reference.
>
> > If you (John) would like me to add a pointer to the new location, tell
> > me what you want and how your original will be designated, and I can
> > add the link before the FAQ is copied out of my ability to modify it
> > further.
>
> > Note the original is also referenced from here:http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/evolphil.html
>
> > If you'd like I could modify copies of that page too, in whatever way
> > you specify, so it can be copied back into the archive.

I did a quick search and came up with this ref (behind paywall) that
predicts ice at 38 degrees C - definitely not cold ice; might be
useful in showing how some tautologies are subject to falsification,
even 'evidently true' ones.

http://jcp.aip.org/resource/1/jcpsa6/v132/i12/p124511_s1?isAuthorized=no

Air

odin

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Sep 16, 2010, 11:48:10 PM9/16/10
to

Cool... very cool... well, actually, not that cool when you think
about it. But still very cool.

cassandra

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Sep 17, 2010, 12:05:49 AM9/17/10
to


That is a tautological statement. A poor way to start.


> I asked the following question: Is
> the statement "Water flowing downhill follows the path of least
> resistance" a tautology?
>
> I gave this as an example that is analogous to the so called "survival
> of the fittest tautology", where the survival of those who are better
> equipped for surviving are by definition already the "fittest". In
> other words, begging the question, and all that. I wanted to give this
> as an example that would, by the same sort of arguments, be a
> tautology, but also provide an example that was also obviously true,
> even to a creationist. So, water flowing downhill follows the path of
> least resistance, and, by definition, the path of least resistance
> would be exactly that path.

> I am not sure why I need to go into this much detail over something so
> obvious, but perhaps I should add that "tautology" is not a dirty
> word. If RM+NS ends up being framed as a tautology by some true
> statement, such as such as in SOF, then so be it. As I said, it
> certainly does not make the TOE a falsehood. At least not for that
> reason.
>
> Does that make sense yet?
>
> As a side note, I think this whole SOF/tautology canard results from
> switching from a rhetorical tautology definition to a logical
> tautology definition half way through the argument. Creationist tend
> to do that sort of scatter-brained type of thing without even knowing
> it.

From your reply I infer that you believe whatever is obvious to you
should be obvious to everyone else. My experience shows that is also
something Creationists like to say.

You have worked hard to establish a certain image in this newsgroup.
Skepticism of your intent is one of the effects of that image, and so
you will likely get more questions that you think are obvious, but in
fact turn out not to be. Sorry to bother you.

John Harshman

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Sep 17, 2010, 12:29:38 AM9/17/10
to

Did you try reading the tautology FAQ to see if that point had already
been made?

John S. Wilkins

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Sep 17, 2010, 2:38:50 AM9/17/10
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Friar Broccoli <eli...@gmail.com> wrote:

...


> > John mentioned keeping the existing FAQ,
> > located here:http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/evolphil/tautology.html
> > in the archive for reference.
> >
> > If you (John) would like me to add a pointer to the new location, tell
> > me what you want and how your original will be designated, and I can
> > add the link before the FAQ is copied out of my ability to modify it
> > further.

Do two things: Add a pointer to the old FAQ at a new URL and use the
current URL for your new FAQ; and add a paragraph at the top of the old
FAQ that points to the new FAQ, so nobody thinks it is the latest
version.

That way, if anyone has linked to the old FAQ they will now be taken to
the new one, as is appropriate.

--
John S. Wilkins, Philosophy, Bond University
http://evolvingthoughts.net
But al be that he was a philosophre,
Yet hadde he but litel gold in cofre

odin

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Sep 17, 2010, 7:23:33 AM9/17/10
to
...

> You have worked hard to establish a certain image in this newsgroup.
> Skepticism of your intent is one of the effects of that image, and so
> you will likely get more questions that you think are obvious, but in
> fact turn out not to be.  Sorry to bother you

Good point Cassandra. Sorry, I do shape shift a bit. I have about
three very different avatars going on, here and in real life. I tried
using different newsgroup nyms here, one per alter ego. DIG had a
problem with it, so I am back to just one. I think that some would
like to be able to kill file one of my characters and perhaps not the
others. Perhaps DIG should rethink that. What ever.

And Cassandra, please don't be sorry to bother me. That's what I'm
here for. To be honest for a moment... I actually do enjoy your posts.

Have a nice day...

-loki

odin

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Sep 17, 2010, 7:26:44 AM9/17/10
to

Nope. Never looked at it. I would expect an obvious (sorry again
cassandra) point like that would be in there. There are only so many
thinkgs you cansay on the topic, and that would clearly be one of
them. If it is not a point in that article, don't matter... I actually
don't care much about it.

J. J. Lodder

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Sep 17, 2010, 7:40:42 AM9/17/10
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Friar Broccoli <eli...@gmail.com> wrote:

> On Sep 16, 9:31 pm, odin <odinoo...@yahoo.com> wrote:
> > On Sep 16, 8:31 pm, Friar Broccoli <elia...@gmail.com> wrote:
> >
> >
> >
> > > Forgot to provide a link to the revised FAQ:http://www.talkorigins.org/san
dbox/kwork/Ver4_tautology.html
> >
> > > On Sep 16, 8:25 pm, Friar Broccoli <elia...@gmail.com> wrote:
> >
> > > > After more than a year, I have finally gotten around to preparing the
> > > > Tautology FAQ for placement in the TO web site archives.
> >
> > > > Criticism of all types are welcome/encouraged.
> > > > If you think the FAQ is fine as it is, I'd like to hear that too.
> >
> > > > I don't know the real or full names of many of the people acknowledged
> > > > at the end, so if you'd like your real name used then tell me what it
> > > > is either here or in a private email to eliasrk(at)gmail.com and I
> > > > will modify. Also if you feel you made a contribution that and I did
> > > > not acknowledge you (a real possibility) drop me an email and I will
> > > > almost certainly add you.
> >
> > > > For reference here are all the threads containing discussions:
> >
> > > >http://groups.google.com/group/talk.origins/browse_frm/thread/ee57160...
> >

> > > > however I am pretty sure Google has mis-indexed some posts so they are
> > > > effectively lost.
> >
> > > > John mentioned keeping the existing FAQ,
> > > > located here:http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/evolphil/tautology.html
> > > > in the archive for reference.
> >
> > > > If you (John) would like me to add a pointer to the new location, tell
> > > > me what you want and how your original will be designated, and I can
> > > > add the link before the FAQ is copied out of my ability to modify it
> > > > further.
> >
> > > > Note the original is also referenced from here:http://www.talkorigins.or
g/faqs/evolphil.html
> >
> > > > If you'd like I could modify copies of that page too, in whatever way
> > > > you specify, so it can be copied back into the archive
> >
> > Is the following a tautology?
> >
> > "Water flowing downhill follows the path of least resistance."
> >
> > If it is a tautology of some sort, fine... but it certainly is not a
> > falsehood.
>
> Anything that is not false is true.

Brouwer will get you!,

Jan

odin

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Sep 17, 2010, 8:00:41 AM9/17/10
to

Nope. It is a good way to start. Unless you missed my point again. My
point is that tautologies are just fine. So why not start with one?
Sheesh.

odin

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Sep 17, 2010, 8:06:36 AM9/17/10
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> Anything that is not false is true.

Would that be false dichotomy? After all, anything that is a not false
dichotomy is a true true dichotomy. Ummm forget it...

cassandra

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Sep 17, 2010, 8:43:50 AM9/17/10
to

Or you missed my point. FWIW I deliberately phrased my question so
you could just say no and avoid exactly the kind of reply you gave.

It seems you're spending a fair amount of time on a point you say you
don't really care much about.

odin

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Sep 17, 2010, 8:58:10 AM9/17/10
to

No.

> It seems you're spending a fair amount of time on a point you say you
> don't really care much about.

I do care about the point. The only thing I recall saying I did not
care about is whether the point was mentioned in the associated FAQ.
Am I wrong? I could have said I do not care about something else. Not
100% sure. But then again, I don't really care.


John Harshman

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Sep 17, 2010, 11:52:18 AM9/17/10
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So all this is just to give your fingers some exercise in between bouts
of more private handwork?

Friar Broccoli

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Sep 17, 2010, 1:01:25 PM9/17/10
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I'm not sure your statement is a Tautology, but assuming it is then in
the the section of the FAQ titled "Are tautological statements
verifiable?" it would be in the "contingent" class, along with cold
ice, and that lubricating grease that Harshperson seems to think you
overuse.

John Harshman

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Sep 17, 2010, 1:33:21 PM9/17/10
to
Friar Broccoli wrote:

> I'm not sure your statement is a Tautology, but assuming it is then in
> the the section of the FAQ titled "Are tautological statements
> verifiable?" it would be in the "contingent" class, along with cold
> ice, and that lubricating grease that Harshperson seems to think you
> overuse.

The topic is "Last chance to revise the new Tautology FAQ". That would
seem to require 1) reading the new Tautology FAQ and 2) critiquing it.
Saying something you think is fun that's loosely centered on the word
"tautology" doesn't follow that program. I really don't think it's too
much to ask.

Friar Broccoli

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Sep 17, 2010, 5:49:07 PM9/17/10
to

.

I agree. I was trying to both encourage him to read the faq and
inject a bit of humor. Your comment about "private handwork" seemed
to be something I could work^H^H^H^Hplay with.

John Harshman

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Sep 17, 2010, 6:17:57 PM9/17/10
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I'm not touching that line.

odin

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Sep 17, 2010, 6:37:15 PM9/17/10
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OK... I will look at then.

Friar Broccoli

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Sep 19, 2010, 9:44:14 AM9/19/10
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On Sep 17, 2:38 am, j...@wilkins.id.au (John S. Wilkins) wrote:

> Friar Broccoli <elia...@gmail.com> wrote:
>
> ...
>
> > > John mentioned keeping the existing FAQ,
> > > located here:http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/evolphil/tautology.html
> > > in the archive for reference.
>
> > > If you (John) would like me to add a pointer to the new location, tell
> > > me what you want and how your original will be designated, and I can
> > > add the link before the FAQ is copied out of my ability to modify it
> > > further.

.

> Do two things: Add a pointer to the old FAQ at a new URL and use the
> current URL for your new FAQ; and add a paragraph at the top of the old
> FAQ that points to the new FAQ, so nobody thinks it is the latest
> version.

OK, here is the new FAQ with a pointer to the old (that NOW goes to an
error page) at the end:
http://www.talkorigins.org/sandbox/Ready4Use/Tautology.html

Here is the old FAQ with a pointer to the new (that NOW goes to its
original self):
http://www.talkorigins.org/sandbox/Ready4Use/Previous_Tautology_FAQ.html

Are you going to notify Wesley?

Also just in case you were wondering the "T" gif here:
http://www.talkorigins.org/pictures/letters/T.gif
is an empty file (a corruption I presume).

Note that the "H" gif is fine:
http://www.talkorigins.org/pictures/letters/H.gif

John S. Wilkins

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Sep 19, 2010, 5:46:32 PM9/19/10
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Friar Broccoli <eli...@gmail.com> wrote:

You notify Wesley. I'm a bit busy.

ivar

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Sep 21, 2010, 6:44:20 AM9/21/10
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The proposed Tautology FAQ is long, complicated, and hard to follow.
I suspect that many readers would abandon this article before
finishing it.

At the end of this post I suggest a shorter Tautology FAQ that may be
more readable. However, I want to make a few comments about tautology
first. My concern is that the current proposed Tautology FAQ is
unnecessarily controversial.

As noted in the proposed FAQ, there are two kinds of tautologies:
Semantic: saying the same thing twice (or more)
Logic: a statement that is necessarily true

To the best of my knowledge, there are three kinds of logical
tautologies that are commonly encountered:
a. Those constructed and manipulated by professional logisticians,
e.g., people concerned with the foundations of mathematics.
b. Definitions. A definition has the form "A is B," for example,
"all husbands are married men." Definitions are true because the
people using the definitions agree that they are true.
c. Mathematical structures. There is probably a better term for
this. An example of a mathematical structure might be Euclidean
geometry. Many theorems can be derived from a small set of axioms,
all of which are true assuming that the axioms are true. Scientists
commonly construct mathematical structures. An example would be a
mathematical model of the solar system based on Newton's Laws.

These comments apply to the current proposed Tautology FAQ in two
ways.

First, tautologies like "All husbands are married men" are not
semantic tautologies as stated in the summary section; they are
logical tautologies.

Second, the question of whether equations are tautological depends on
what kind of model they are used in. If they are used in a purely
mathematical models, then, arguably, they are tautological. Purely
mathematical models can be used to explore the mathematical
implications of the model structure. However, if the equations are
used in what Nancy Cartwright and others call "representative models,"
then the equations are not. A representative model is intended to
represent the real world. It is tested by the predictions it makes. A
representative model of the solar system that is based on Newton's
Laws will not accurately predict the orbit of Mercury. You need a
model based on Einstein's General Theory of Relativity to do that.
The equations in representative models are not tautological because
the model may be false. In short, equations like F=ma are not
examples of a tautology that has been falsified.

With regard to Coulter's presumed Semantic tautology:

I am not persuaded that Ann Coulter's reference to a "circular
statement" was meant to imply that the SOF was a semantic tautology.
I suspect the circle that she had in mind was that the fittest survive
because the survivors are, by definition, the fittest. A semantic
tautology is repetitive but is not usually circular.

Regardless, assuming that Coulter meant a logical tautology seems
prudent. To do otherwise is to risk the accusation that Talk-Origins
deliberately misrepresented her words (even if it didn't). Also,
readers may get distracted from the main message of the Tautology FAQ
article if they start to ponder whether Coulter really meant a
semantic tautology or a logical tautology.

The proposed Tautology FAQ discusses "contingent" tautologies. I
don't understand the need for this discussion.

A draft of a shorter version of a Tautology FAQ that may be good
enough is the following:

A recent version of the tautology argument was made by Ann Coulter who
wrote:

"The second prong of Darwin's "theory" is generally nothing but a
circular statement: Through the process of natural selection, the
"fittest" survive. Who are the "fittest"? The ones who survive! Why
look - it happens every time! The "survival of the fittest" would be a
joke if it weren't part of the belief system of a fanatical cult
infesting the Scientific Community. The beauty of having a scientific
theory that's a tautology is that it can't be disproved."

Coulter is asserting that the idea of natural selection reduces to the
idea that:

"The survivors are the survivors."

This statement is a tautology. In logic, a tautology is a statement
that is necessarily true, that cannot be false. Statements of the
form "S are S" are always true regardless of the value of "S" and,
hence, are tautologies.

The problem with Coulter's argument is that Darwin's idea of natural
selection differs from Coulter's. Darwin wrote:

"This preservation of favourable variations, and the destruction
of injurious variations, I call Natural Selection, or the Survival of
the Fittest."

The "fittest" in Darwin's version are those with "favourable
variations." This is different from Coulter's definition that the
fittest are "the ones who survive." Darwin hypothesized that
organisms with "favourable variations" are more likely to survive and
reproduce. A favorable variation might be faster running speed or
better camouflage (e.g., an insect that looks like a leaf).
Possession of a favourable variation does not guarantee survival --
the fastest zebra might get killed by lightning -- but it does make
survival and reproduction more likely.

Darwin's version of natural selection is not a tautology. Nothing in
logic requires that "favourable variations" must exist. And, nothing
in logic requires that "favourable variations" must be inherited,
which is necessary if evolution is to be effective. Further, one can
test whether a particular variation results in longer life and more
offspring, i.e., whether Darwin's version of natural selection works.
Coulter is wrong. Darwin's version of natural selection is "a
scientific theory" that can be "disproved."

Ivar

John S. Wilkins

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Sep 21, 2010, 6:47:54 AM9/21/10
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ivar <ylvi...@verizon.net> wrote:

No, I disagree. There is no logical equivalence here; there is merely
definitional stipulation; that is not a logical point. It's like saying
"A = B"; not a tautology in formal language, but an axiom.
...

Ray Martinez

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Sep 21, 2010, 3:54:24 PM9/21/10
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How? (You stopped opining at the most crucial moment.)

Matters of logic are NOT falsifiable. Natural selection is true by
definition. Natural selection is NOT falsifiable.

Ray

Burkhard

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Sep 21, 2010, 4:16:02 PM9/21/10
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It is in his text. Finding that traits are not inheritable would
falsify it, as just one example. Finding that every individual has the
same number of offspring too.

Friar Broccoli

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Sep 21, 2010, 9:18:19 PM9/21/10
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Hi Ivar;

Thanks for writing. I was becoming really depressed by
the lack of input.

I will come back to it at the end, but at first flush, I
REALLY LIKE the idea of using the Darwin quote as a
justification for substituting "favourable variations" for
"the fittest", so that your:

"The survivors are the survivors."

becomes:

"The survivors are those with favourable variations."

On the other hand, I can see some (possibly serious)
problems with it, which I will return to at the end.
Hopefully some of the sharper minds here can help me sort
out the issues.

On Sep 21, 6:44 am, ivar <ylvis...@verizon.net> wrote:
> The proposed Tautology FAQ is long, complicated, and hard to follow.
> I suspect that many readers would abandon this article before
> finishing it.

I completely agree. Indeed most creationists are
unlikely to start it, let alone finish. It is for this
reason that I have placed (what I see as) the simplest
and most compelling arguments at the beginning and moved
the more difficult ones to the end.

It is also the reason that I have done my best to present
short summaries as titles before every section and as one
or two liners at the end.


> At the end of this post I suggest a shorter Tautology FAQ that may be
> more readable.

I don't think that length in and of itself is a problem,
as long as the reader is not caused to fear beginning to
read because he is faced with a large solid block of
impenetrable prose. Specifically I am hopeful that the
title:

"Most Creationists agree that the Fittest Survive"

near the beginning will get the reader at least to the
end of that section, which, in my view contains the
argument which is by far the most powerful: namely that
creationists are arguing against a position they already
accept.

I disagree with limiting the arguments for two additional
reasons:

1) We all see things differently. An argument which
seems compelling to me will simply not connect to the
personal experience or world view of someone else and
vice versa. For this reason we should, within reason,
present all the logical arguments we can see.

2) The people reading the FAQ will almost never be
creationists, rather they will be evolutionists who
have got themselves into an argument with a
creationist, which they do not know how to handle.
People in that situation will usually need a very
thorough understanding of all aspects of the issue
under discussion. If we give them a Coles notes
version, the creationist will almost certainly come
back with a variant of the argument that our
evolutionist will then be at a loss to handle.

> However, I want to make a few comments about tautology
> first. My concern is that the current proposed Tautology FAQ is
> unnecessarily controversial.
>
> As noted in the proposed FAQ, there are two kinds of tautologies:
> Semantic: saying the same thing twice (or more)
> Logic: a statement that is necessarily true
>
> To the best of my knowledge, there are three kinds of logical
> tautologies that are commonly encountered:
> a. Those constructed and manipulated by professional logisticians,
> e.g., people concerned with the foundations of mathematics.
> b. Definitions. A definition has the form "A is B," for example,
> "all husbands are married men." Definitions are true because the
> people using the definitions agree that they are true.
> c. Mathematical structures. There is probably a better term for
> this. An example of a mathematical structure might be Euclidean
> geometry. Many theorems can be derived from a small set of axioms,
> all of which are true assuming that the axioms are true. Scientists
> commonly construct mathematical structures. An example would be a
> mathematical model of the solar system based on Newton's Laws.

I imagine that philosophers have dreamed up all sorts of
ways of dividing up tautologies. I know just enough
about the question to know that if I walk into that
forest, I won't be coming out. All I needed to do was
establish that there are two (or more) that do not have
the same meaning. (More below)

> These comments apply to the current proposed Tautology FAQ in two
> ways.
>
> First, tautologies like "All husbands are married men" are not
> semantic tautologies as stated in the summary section; they are
> logical tautologies.

As Wilkins has already pointed out semantic and logical
tautologies are not mutually exclusive sets anymore than
woman and human are. So, most of us will agree that,
"she is not a human, she is a woman" is not logically
valid.

> Second, the question of whether equations are tautological depends on
> what kind of model they are used in. If they are used in a purely
> mathematical models, then, arguably, they are tautological. Purely
> mathematical models can be used to explore the mathematical
> implications of the model structure. However, if the equations are
> used in what Nancy Cartwright and others call "representative models,"
> then the equations are not. A representative model is intended to
> represent the real world. It is tested by the predictions it makes. A
> representative model of the solar system that is based on Newton's
> Laws will not accurately predict the orbit of Mercury. You need a
> model based on Einstein's General Theory of Relativity to do that.
> The equations in representative models are not tautological because
> the model may be false. In short, equations like F=ma are not
> examples of a tautology that has been falsified.

First, I did not say F=ma *is* a tautology, I framed the
argument more as _suppose we accept that mathematical
expressions (including the SoF version) are tautologies
for the sake of argument_.

I then said it had been *partially* falsified by
relativity and drew a parallel with partial falsification
of SoF by drift, thereby putting SoF on the same footing
as F=ma.

As far as I can tell this is a compelling argument.


> With regard to Coulter's presumed Semantic tautology:
>
> I am not persuaded that Ann Coulter's reference to a "circular
> statement" was meant to imply that the SOF was a semantic tautology.
> I suspect the circle that she had in mind was that the fittest survive
> because the survivors are, by definition, the fittest. A semantic
> tautology is repetitive but is not usually circular.

The interpretation of Coulter you presented further down
was:

"The survivors are the survivors."

which is both repetitive and circular. Can you provide an
example of a repetitive tautology that is not circular?


> Regardless, assuming that Coulter meant a logical tautology seems
> prudent. To do otherwise is to risk the accusation that Talk-Origins
> deliberately misrepresented her words (even if it didn't). Also,
> readers may get distracted from the main message of the Tautology FAQ
> article if they start to ponder whether Coulter really meant a
> semantic tautology or a logical tautology.

I completely disagree that this is the prudent path.
Coulter's statement is incoherent. If a creationist
believes that a logical argument can be extracted from
her wording then they must show it. There is no reason
why we should freely grant that the statement makes any
sense at all, since it clearly does not.

Note also that I did not assert that: a "circular
statement" *IS* a semantic tautology, I said it is "an
apparent reference to the semantic meaning". If a
creationist wants to try and show that a "circular
statement" can be understood as a logical tautology, I
wish him good luck.


> The proposed Tautology FAQ discusses "contingent" tautologies. I
> don't understand the need for this discussion.

Coulter's quote ends as:


"The beauty of having a scientific theory that's a
tautology is that it can't be disproved."

The discussion demonstrates that contingent tautologies
can be disproved, so her statement is false. However,
thanks to this comment from you I now see that I did not
draw that connection clearly out for all readers. I will
correct that. Thanks


> A draft of a shorter version of a Tautology FAQ that may be good
> enough is the following:
>
> A recent version of the tautology argument was made by Ann Coulter who
> wrote:
>
> "The second prong of Darwin's "theory" is generally nothing but a
> circular statement: Through the process of natural selection, the
> "fittest" survive. Who are the "fittest"? The ones who survive! Why
> look - it happens every time! The "survival of the fittest" would be a
> joke if it weren't part of the belief system of a fanatical cult
> infesting the Scientific Community. The beauty of having a scientific
> theory that's a tautology is that it can't be disproved."
>
> Coulter is asserting that the idea of natural selection reduces to the
> idea that:
>
> "The survivors are the survivors."

First note that Coulter did not say this. This is
substituting our words for her words. This creates a
straw man argument, which we are arguably presenting for
no reason other than to have an easier target to shoot at.
And it is a ridiculously easy target.

All we need to do is just say no:

"The survivors are the ones with the longest fir."
"The survivors are the ones that dig the best holes."
"The survivors are the ones that go longest without water."

in short
"The survivors are the ones with the most favorable traits"


which may be why Coulter tried a more complex formulation.
We must challenge her argument as she presented it.


> This statement is a tautology. In logic, a tautology is a statement
> that is necessarily true, that cannot be false. Statements of the
> form "S are S" are always true regardless of the value of "S" and,
> hence, are tautologies.
>
> The problem with Coulter's argument is that Darwin's idea of natural
> selection differs from Coulter's. Darwin wrote:
>
> "This preservation of favourable variations, and the destruction
> of injurious variations, I call Natural Selection, or the Survival of
> the Fittest."
>
> The "fittest" in Darwin's version are those with "favourable
> variations." This is different from Coulter's definition that the
> fittest are "the ones who survive." Darwin hypothesized that
> organisms with "favourable variations" are more likely to survive and
> reproduce. A favorable variation might be faster running speed or
> better camouflage (e.g., an insect that looks like a leaf).
> Possession of a favourable variation does not guarantee survival --
> the fastest zebra might get killed by lightning -- but it does make
> survival and reproduction more likely.

I see what I think is a serious problem with the
expression "favourable variations" which is that it can
easily be misconstrued to mean favourable_new_variants
while NS/SoF refers to existing variation, not the coming
into being of new variation.

This problem is particularly evident in your phrase: "The


"fittest" in Darwin's version are those with "favourable

variations."" which really seems to refer to new
variants.

This would be a mess to untangle and generate a lengthy
digression. Unfortunately Darwin did not say "favourable
traits", which would not generate this confusion.


> Darwin's version of natural selection is not a tautology. Nothing in
> logic requires that "favourable variations" must exist. And, nothing
> in logic requires that "favourable variations" must be inherited,
> which is necessary if evolution is to be effective.

.

> Further, one can test whether a particular variation results
> in longer life and more offspring, i.e., whether Darwin's
> version of natural selection works.

This statement would be a bitch to defend in a real
argument. I think - creationists already agree that
favourable variants are selected - because it is so
obvious, is the easier and more effective route.

> Coulter is wrong. Darwin's version of natural selection is "a
> scientific theory" that can be "disproved."


Essentially this paragraph (that begins "Darwin's version
...") makes the same points as are made in the second
half of the section titled "Survival of Characteristics,
not Individuals", however, right now your wording here
seems better in places. At the very least I like the
general term "favourable traits". I will probably do
something like add a new title with those words and
probably adjust the wording that follows to bring out
your point.

However, I'm really tired right now, so a decision will
have to wait till Sunday after a good nights sleep.
Hopefully others will have helpful comments to help
clarify my thinking.


Thanks Again;

Bill

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Sep 21, 2010, 9:39:57 PM9/21/10
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On Sep 21, 5:44 pm, ivar <ylvis...@verizon.net> wrote:
> The proposed Tautology FAQ is long, complicated, and hard to follow.
> I suspect that many readers would abandon this article before
> finishing it.
>
> Ivar

I agree. It is too long, and too hard to understand, at least for
anyone who would have been tempted by the "NS is a tautology" argument
in the first place.

I agree with you, Ivar, that the best response to that argument is
that the goal of understanding a particular instance of NS is to
understand what "fitness" means, in the specific case, apart from
differential reproductive success. Does it mean, faster, smarter,
beaks better suited to an unexploited food source?

To say that those who leave more offspring are fittest by definition
is just a not very interesting definition. To claim that those who
leave more descendants are fittest, using some other definition of
fitness is a substantial, falsifiable claim which opens up all sorts
of research questions for the future. It also opens up the possibility
that we'll be stumped, in any given case, or that some interesting
structure is not an adaptation. There is plenty of content in
"survival of the fittest."


Friar Broccoli

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Sep 22, 2010, 7:43:16 AM9/22/10
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Would two introductory paragraphs that would encapsulate the argument
vaguely as follows meet the need you see?

_________________________________________________________________
INTRODUCTION - Fitness refers to Adaptive Traits


Creationists commonly formulate the Tautology argument somewhat as
follows: The Theory of evolution is built around the phrase "Survival
of the Fittest" (SoF), but since the only measure of "fitness" is the
survival rate, this phrase actually reduces to "Survival of the
survivors" which is circular and thus an empty tautology.

While it is certainly true that survival rates are the measure of
fitness, what is actually being measured are the survival rates due to
_adaptive_traits_ or _favourable_characteristics_. Thus SoF reduces
not to an empty tautology but to a phrase like "Survival of those with
the most adaptive characteristics" like the most flexible immune
system, the most efficient digestive system, or the sharpest hearing
etc. each of which can be studied.


then some sort of transitional phrase to the remainder of the FAQ
_________________________________________________________________

cassandra

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Sep 22, 2010, 11:43:49 AM9/22/10
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On Sep 22, 7:43 am, Friar Broccoli <elia...@gmail.com> wrote:

<...>

> then some sort of transitional phrase to the remainder of the FAQ

Do creationists believe in transitional phrases? If you identify a
transitional phrase, do creationists say that means you have to
identify two more transistional phrases?

Just asking.

cassandra

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Sep 23, 2010, 3:02:31 AM9/23/10
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On Sep 21, 9:18 pm, Friar Broccoli <elia...@gmail.com> wrote:
> Hi Ivar;
>
> Thanks for writing. I was becoming really depressed by
> the lack of input.

<snip for brevity>

To help relieve your depression, I am willing to add a few comments:

For people like me, I am unfamiliar with the subtleties of the
arguments about the meaning and use of tautology, or even why it's
important enough to justify a separate chapter in the TO FAQ. So like
you I am uncomfortable with going into that forest, which is why I
didn't until now.

I see the FAQ makes a distinction between the semantic and logical
definitions. I would like to point out that in the semantic case, its
modern use infers a negative sense, in that the statement is
unnecessarily repetitive, or worse, that the statement is devious, in
that it suggests additional information is being provided. This is
the sense that Anne Coulter uses it in the FAQ's quote.

Also my impression is Anne Coulter conflates "tautology" and
"circular". The two are related but not the same. I realize t's not
the FAQ's job to explain Anne Coulter's semantic mistake, but it might
make a clearer case if the FAQ made explicit the distinction between
tautology and circularity.

Also, I have a question that the FAQ touched on. Is it true that all
logical and correct deductions are logical tautologies? Is is true
that all logical inductions and abductions are not logical
tautologies?

Finally, as a total aside, I am really surprised to see Darwin's
justification for metaphorical brevity in scientific discussions
included in a TO FAQ credited to Robert Harshman. My impression is TO
generally and Harshman specifically make a point of pouncing on non-
precise phraseology, to the point of occasionally overwhelmin the
substance of thel discussion. Does this reflect a new editorial
policy for TO, or is this a special case in deference to Darwin?

Bill

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Sep 23, 2010, 3:14:09 AM9/23/10
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Yes, this sounds fine. Thank you.

Friar Broccoli

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Sep 23, 2010, 7:56:30 AM9/23/10
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On Sep 21, 6:44 am, ivar <ylvis...@verizon.net> wrote:

> Darwin's version of natural selection is not a tautology.  Nothing in
> logic requires that "favourable variations" must exist.

Thank you very much for forcing me to see that ~fitness as a reference
to specific characteristics that are not logically necessary~ is
central to this discussion. Thanks also to Ray, Burkhard and Bill for
pushing to make sure the point sank in.

Many others have made the same point. In fact the proposed FAQ
already says: "That "fitness" is intended to refer to specific
characteristics is the core to understanding that SoF is not in any
sense a tautology" but the statement is buried too deep in the text to
be found by most readers.

Friar Broccoli

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Sep 23, 2010, 1:22:35 PM9/23/10
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On Sep 23, 3:02 am, cassandra <cassandra99...@gmail.com> wrote:
> On Sep 21, 9:18 pm, Friar Broccoli <elia...@gmail.com> wrote:
>
> > Hi Ivar;
>
> > Thanks for writing.  I was becoming really depressed by
> > the lack of input.
>
> <snip for brevity>
>
> To help relieve your depression, I am willing to add a few comments:
>
> For people like me, I am unfamiliar with the subtleties of the
> arguments about the meaning and use of tautology, or even why it's
> important enough to justify a separate chapter in the TO FAQ.  So like
> you I am uncomfortable with going into that forest, which is why I
> didn't until now.

.

> I see the FAQ makes a distinction between the semantic and logical
> definitions.  I would like to point out that in the semantic case, its
> modern use infers a negative sense, in that the statement is
> unnecessarily repetitive, or worse, that the statement is devious, in
> that it suggests additional information is being provided.  This is
> the sense that Anne Coulter uses it in the FAQ's quote.

First, Coulter's comments are incoherent to the point that I am not
sure that we are referring to anything when ascribing a "sense"
meaning or intent to these comments made by her. I don't mean this as
a gratuitous insult (though insult it is), I really am not sure what
it means to talk about her intent or "sense" here.

When working on this question last year, I spent a lot of time looking
at definitions and descriptions of "tautology" and do not recall any
formal (or even informal) statements to the effect that tautologies
are devious - although I do vaguely remember some tautological forms
used to "prove" the existence of God - which Wilkins told me were
irrelevant and asked me to cut. In any case, it seems to me to be
inappropriate to
speculate on the possible use of a cultural meaning, by Coulter
without compelling supporting evidence, and even then I'm not sure we
should go there, since she presumably "intended" to make a logical
argument.

> Also my impression is Anne Coulter conflates "tautology" and
> "circular".  The two are related but not the same.  I realize t's not
> the FAQ's job to explain Anne Coulter's semantic mistake, but it might
> make a clearer case if the FAQ made explicit the distinction between
> tautology and circularity.

I have long argued that we cannot have a FAQ on the "tautology
argument" without a discussion of tautologies, however I am pretty
sure that most people here think that what I have presented on
tautologies themselves is mostly unnecessary hot air. Since I am
going to make more modifications to address Ivar's and Bill's
objections, I am therefore going to cut it at least a bit more.

As far as I can see circularity is a from of repetition, and thus
meets one of the definitions of tautology - the one I labeled
"Semantic".


> Also, I have a question that the FAQ touched on.  Is it true that all
> logical and correct deductions are logical tautologies?  Is is true
> that all logical inductions and abductions are not logical
> tautologies?

I thought about these questions for several minutes and became
confused.

> Finally, as a total aside, I am really surprised to see Darwin's
> justification for metaphorical brevity in scientific discussions
> included in a TO FAQ credited to Robert Harshman.  My impression is TO
> generally and Harshman specifically make a point of pouncing on non-
> precise phraseology, to the point of occasionally overwhelmin the
> substance of thel discussion.  Does this reflect a new editorial
> policy for TO, or is this a special case in deference to Darwin?

John (Robert!?) makes a clean distinction between references to facts
and statements describing those facts. NS and SoF are references to
part of TOE; they are NOT statements that fully and accurately
describe those aspects of the theory. (This is part of the reason
that it is not appropriate to attack the apparent content of the
REFERENCE, as the tautological argument does.) John comes down on us
when we make false statements about the CONTENT of facts or theories.

cassandra

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Sep 23, 2010, 6:09:22 PM9/23/10
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On Sep 23, 1:22 pm, Friar Broccoli <elia...@gmail.com> wrote:
> On Sep 23, 3:02 am, cassandra <cassandra99...@gmail.com> wrote:
>
> > On Sep 21, 9:18 pm, Friar Broccoli <elia...@gmail.com> wrote:
>
> > > Hi Ivar;
>
> > > Thanks for writing.  I was becoming really depressed by
> > > the lack of input.
>
> > <snip for brevity>
>
> > To help relieve your depression, I am willing to add a few comments:
>
> > For people like me, I am unfamiliar with the subtleties of the
> > arguments about the meaning and use of tautology, or even why it's
> > important enough to justify a separate chapter in the TO FAQ.  So like
> > you I am uncomfortable with going into that forest, which is why I
> > didn't until now.
>
> > I see the FAQ makes a distinction between the semantic and logical
> > definitions.  I would like to point out that in the semantic case, its
> > modern use infers a negative sense, in that the statement is
> > unnecessarily repetitive, or worse, that the statement is devious, in
> > that it suggests additional information is being provided.  This is
> > the sense that Anne Coulter uses it in the FAQ's quote.
>
> First, Coulter's comments are incoherent to the point that I am not
> sure that we are referring to anything when ascribing a "sense"
> meaning or intent to these comments made by her.  I don't mean this as
> a gratuitous insult (though insult it is), I really am not sure what
> it means to talk about her intent or "sense" here.

I don't see that the FAQ treats Anne Coulter's statement as so
incoherent it is beyond comprehension, else why would it bother to use
it? Further, the FAQ goes on to describe how her statement swtiches
from the semantic sense to the logical sense, and even makes a joke
about it. So the FAQ in fact infers it has some sense of Anne
Coulter's sense. It should be easy enough for you to refer to her
sense here in the same way the FAQ does there.

> When working on this question last year, I spent a lot of time looking
> at definitions and descriptions of "tautology" and do not recall any
> formal (or even informal) statements to the effect that tautologies
> are devious - although I do vaguely remember some tautological forms
> used to "prove" the existence of God - which Wilkins told me were
> irrelevant and asked me to cut.   In any case, it seems to me to be
> inappropriate to
> speculate on the possible use of a cultural meaning, by Coulter
> without compelling supporting evidence, and even then I'm not sure we
> should go there, since she presumably "intended" to make a logical
> argument.

You misrepresent my point in three important ways. First, I
explicitly referred to the semantic definition. Second, I am
suggesting it is Anne Coulter who infers that SoF is deceptive Third,
I make no reference to any cultural meaning.

I do not dispute that you spent a lot of time looking up definitions
and descriptions. I'm not sure I understand why you even bring it
up. But I am not the only one who says this:

From Wiktionary:
tautological
2.using repetition or excessive wordiness; pleonastic or
circumlocutionary

and

circumlocutionary

1.Articulated in a roundabout manner; tautological or with repetitive
language.
The old man's rambling yarn was circumlocutionary.
2.(of speech) Evasive, avoiding difficult questions or key points.
The politician was being circumlocutionary; he refused to answer any
of the journalist's questions.

There are many sources that give similar definitions.

And even if you think that point is arguable, you make no mention of
my other point, that the semantic (not cultural) use infers an
unnecessary repetition. Unless you think repetition is always
unnecessary, and my point is itself tautological.

If you think the FAQ doesn't need to mention these points, then just
say so. There's no need to belabor the point.


> > Also my impression is Anne Coulter conflates "tautology" and
> > "circular".  The two are related but not the same.  I realize t's not
> > the FAQ's job to explain Anne Coulter's semantic mistake, but it might
> > make a clearer case if the FAQ made explicit the distinction between
> > tautology and circularity.
>
> I have long argued that we cannot have a FAQ on the "tautology
> argument" without a discussion of tautologies, however I am pretty
> sure that most people here think that what I have presented on
> tautologies themselves is mostly unnecessary hot air.  Since I am
> going to make more modifications to address Ivar's and Bill's
> objections, I am therefore going to cut it at least a bit more.
>
> As far as I can see circularity is a from of repetition, and thus
> meets one of the definitions of tautology - the one I labeled
> "Semantic".

As I said, they are related, but they are not the same. Again, I am
not the only one who says this.
From Wiktionary:
Nouncircular argument (plural circular arguments)

1.(philosophy, logic) An argument which commits the logical fallacy of
assuming what it is attempting to prove.

Certainly you see that one can be repetitive without assuming
anything. My understanding of circularity is that it's closer to self-
evident than tautological.
Once again, if you think the FAQ doesn't need to mention the
difference, then just say so. There's no need to belabor the point.

> > Also, I have a question that the FAQ touched on.  Is it true that all
> > logical and correct deductions are logical tautologies?  Is is true
> > that all logical inductions and abductions are not logical
> > tautologies?
>
> I thought about these questions for several minutes and became
> confused.

And yet you care not to mention what you are confused about. I take
that to mean you think the questions aren't worth your effort beyond
your comment to that effect.
For those who might think otherwise:
From the new TO FAQ: Definition of tautology:
Logic: a statement that is necessarily true.

From Wiktionary:
deduction:
(logic)a. a process of reasoning that moves from the general to the
specific, in which a conclusion follows necessarily from the premises
presented, so that the conclusion cannot be false if the premises are
true.
b. a conclusion reached by this process

induction:
(logic) the derivation of general principles from specific instances

abduction:
4.(logic) A syllogism or form of argument in which the major is
evident, but the minor is only probable.

I interpret the above to mean that all true logical deductions are
tautologies, in that they are necessarily true, but inductions and
abductions may have instances where they are not true, and so are not
necessarily true, and so are not tautologies. I asked because I
thought you might be interested in giving your opinion about it. You
have disabused me.

> > Finally, as a total aside, I am really surprised to see Darwin's
> > justification for metaphorical brevity in scientific discussions
> > included in a TO FAQ credited to Robert Harshman.  My impression is TO
> > generally and Harshman specifically make a point of pouncing on non-
> > precise phraseology, to the point of occasionally overwhelmin the
> > substance of thel discussion.  Does this reflect a new editorial
> > policy for TO, or is this a special case in deference to Darwin?
>
> John (Robert!?)

A small pun to credit both Robert Elias and John Harshman. My bad.


> makes a clean distinction between references to facts
> and statements describing those facts.  NS and SoF are references to
> part of TOE; they are NOT statements that fully and accurately
> describe those aspects of the theory.  (This is part of the reason
> that it is not appropriate to attack the apparent content of the
> REFERENCE, as the tautological argument does.)   John comes down on us
> when we make false statements about the CONTENT of facts or theories.

I'll take that as a "no", then.

You asked for input. I didn't understand you actually meant from
anybody but me. Sorry to bother you.

Friar Broccoli

unread,
Sep 23, 2010, 9:01:52 PM9/23/10
to

I certainly did not mean "from anybody but you" and appreciated your
input..
I cannot imagine what I said to make you feel that.

I did genuinely misunderstand some of your comments. And I really do
find the application of tautologies confusing - not as bad as
falsification, but a minefield nevertheless. Not only that but you
asked about their application with respect to induction and deduction,
probably the two most fundamental concepts in science and philosophy
with almost endless implications. For me the question is so complex
at so many levels that it is almost impossible for me to express how
impossible it would be for me to even isolate a few of the simpler
aspects.

I doubt if Burkhard or Wilkins would have tackled that question - and
I'm not even close to being in their league.

> Sorry to bother you.

cassandra

unread,
Sep 24, 2010, 2:17:34 PM9/24/10
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On Sep 23, 9:01 pm, Friar Broccoli <elia...@gmail.com> wrote:

<snip to point>

> I certainly did not mean "from anybody but you" and appreciated your
> input..

I don't get that impression. You leave untouched your dismissal of
every one of my points.

> I cannot imagine what I said to make you feel that.

In reply to your professed innocence, I offer the difference in
character between your reply to me and your replies to Ivar and Bill.
And since you acknowledge your inclinitation to interpret my comments
negatively, I feel compelled to stipulate they deserve your effusive
and spontaneous expression of appreciation.

> I did genuinely misunderstand some of your comments.  And I really do
> find the application of tautologies confusing - not as bad as
> falsification, but a minefield nevertheless.  Not only that but you
> asked about their application with respect to induction and deduction,
> probably the two most fundamental concepts in science and philosophy
> with almost endless implications.  For me the question is so complex
> at so many levels that it is almost impossible for me to express how
> impossible it would be for me to even isolate  a few of the simpler
> aspects.
>
> I doubt if Burkhard or Wilkins would have tackled that question - and
> I'm not even close to being in their league.

I would be happy with a reply from anybody focused on the definitions
of the terms I identified.

Kalkidas

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Sep 24, 2010, 6:49:00 PM9/24/10
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"Friar Broccoli" <eli...@gmail.com> wrote in message
news:66d92184-7d5d-461b...@j2g2000vbo.googlegroups.com...

> After more than a year, I have finally gotten around to preparing the
> Tautology FAQ for placement in the TO web site archives.
>
> Criticism of all types are welcome/encouraged.
> If you think the FAQ is fine as it is, I'd like to hear that too.

The tautology faq doesn't need revising, because it is complete and
consistent, as demonstrated by the fact that it doesn't need revising.


el cid

unread,
Sep 24, 2010, 8:21:19 PM9/24/10
to
On Sep 16, 8:31 pm, Friar Broccoli <elia...@gmail.com> wrote:
> Forgot to provide a link to the revised FAQ:http://www.talkorigins.org/sandbox/kwork/Ver4_tautology.html
>
> On Sep 16, 8:25 pm, Friar Broccoli <elia...@gmail.com> wrote:
>
>
>
> > After more than a year, I have finally gotten around to preparing the
> > Tautology FAQ for placement in the TO web site archives.
>
> > Criticism of all types are welcome/encouraged.
> > If you think the FAQ is fine as it is, I'd like to hear that too.
>
> > I don't know the real or full names of many of the people acknowledged
> > at the end, so if you'd like your real name used then tell me what it
> > is either here or in a private email to eliasrk(at)gmail.com and I
> > will modify.  Also if you feel you made a contribution that and I did
> > not acknowledge you (a real possibility) drop me an email and I will
> > almost certainly add you.
>
> > For reference here are all the threads containing discussions:
>
> >http://groups.google.com/group/talk.origins/browse_frm/thread/ee57160......
>
> > however I am pretty sure Google has mis-indexed some posts so they are
> > effectively lost.
>
> > John mentioned keeping the existing FAQ,
> > located here:http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/evolphil/tautology.html
> > in the archive for reference.
>
> > If you (John) would like me to add a pointer to the new location, tell
> > me what you want and how your original will be designated, and I can
> > add the link before the FAQ is copied out of my ability to modify it
> > further.
>
> > Note the original is also referenced from here:http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/evolphil.html
>
> > If you'd like I could modify copies of that page too, in whatever way
> > you specify, so it can be copied back into the archive.

Clearly you've put a great deal of effort into this, a rather
thankless task but thanks. However,

Please add me to the list that thinks the new faq is too complicated.
My opinion is that it is trying to do too much. I also think it is
wrong is saying that SoF isn't a tautology, more below on that.

To correctly judge the FAQ it is critical to know what
questions need to be answered.

If it were organized to focus on specific questions, with a header
identifying those questions, that would provide useful structure
and focus. What to include, add, subtract is driven by the
specific questions that are being answered.

I suggest this FAQ should answer:
1 the what is the "evolution is a tautology" complaint?
2 what is a tautology?
3 is evolution/natural selection/survival of the fittest a tautology
and so what?
3a what's the difference between evolution, natural selection,
and survival of the fittest

Do you really want it to answer more? The historical tidbits
about when Darwin added the phrase are interesting but
deflect from the necessary. Relegate it to a footnote it if
you keep it at all.

I think 1 is done well. A link to a page that includes the larger
quote in context that is sympathetic to it would be nice.
The message is, yes, people actually argue this and
here's what they say.

2 Here I think you do way too much. There's some good stuff
there but I would move most of it to a "more about types of
tautologies" section at the end. Provide a simple example
of how definitions are tautologies, an internal link to the
"more about types of tautologies" and an outward link to
wiki or such. The key point is that when you define a term,
the definition of that term is a tautology.

3 is really the key. As I propose the questions, the
answers are no, no, yes.

This leads to my specific complaint that the proposed
faq is wrong as SoF is a tautology. Fitness, in the modern
evolutionary and in particular within population genetics,
is defined by survival (of alleles to the next generation).
The arguments that SoF isn't a tautology are word games
and wrong. SoF is a tautology.
So what? SoF is only part of NS, NS is only part of
evolution.

More can be said about the variant meanings of
fitness with some potentially interesting examples
in the bird-of-paradise. But fitness in the population
genetics sense is absolutely defined in a tautology
that refers to survival to the next generation.

John S. Wilkins

unread,
Sep 24, 2010, 8:23:41 PM9/24/10
to
Kalkidas <e...@joes.pub> wrote:

That was funny. But the mere fact that it *does* need revising shows it
was not tautological...

Kalkidas

unread,
Sep 24, 2010, 8:42:02 PM9/24/10
to

"John S. Wilkins" <jo...@wilkins.id.au> wrote in message
news:1jpddoz.mis6yn1hiubjeN%jo...@wilkins.id.au...

> Kalkidas <e...@joes.pub> wrote:
>
>> "Friar Broccoli" <eli...@gmail.com> wrote in message
>> news:66d92184-7d5d-461b...@j2g2000vbo.googlegroups.com...
>> > After more than a year, I have finally gotten around to preparing the
>> > Tautology FAQ for placement in the TO web site archives.
>> >
>> > Criticism of all types are welcome/encouraged.
>> > If you think the FAQ is fine as it is, I'd like to hear that too.
>>
>> The tautology faq doesn't need revising, because it is complete and
>> consistent, as demonstrated by the fact that it doesn't need revising.
>
> That was funny. But the mere fact that it *does* need revising shows it
> was not tautological...

The arguments about revising the tautology faq are all based on circular
reasoning. Therefore, it should neither be revised nor left alone.


ivar

unread,
Sep 25, 2010, 5:44:40 AM9/25/10
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I have been having a problem understanding the logic of the proposed
Tautology RFQ. Perhaps the following note can help clarify things.

You can divide tautology into two broad categories: rhetoric and
logic. This is what the Wikipedia does. If you look up tautology in
a modern dictionary, for example, the American Heritage Dictionary
(accessible through http://www.onelook.com/), you find both types
mentioned:

"tautology

1. a. Needless repetition of the same sense in different words;
redundancy.
b. An instance of such repetition.

2. Logic An empty or vacuous statement composed of simpler
statements in a fashion that makes it logically true whether the
simpler statements are factually true or false; for example, the
statement Either it will rain tomorrow or it will not rain tomorrow."

Other modern dictionaries have similar entries. The two meanings are
very different. Rhetorical tautology is concerned with writing style;
logical tautologies are concerned with logical truth.

I think that I first encountered the term "semantic tautology" about a
year ago in an essay by John Wilkens (http://evolvingthoughts.net/
2009/08/26/tautology-4-what-is-a-tautology/). He wrote:

"A semantic tautology is basically a definition. The Oxford English
Dictionary (OED) defines it as

a. A repetition of the same statement. b. The repetition (esp. in
the immediate context) of the same word or phrase, or of the same idea
or statement in other words: usually as a fault of style...."

The OED gives several examples of the above definitions, which suggest
that a rhetorical definition is meant, e.g.,

"The Taedium of Tautology is odious to every Pen and Ear." [from
1748]

At the time, I didn't investigate the term "semantic tautology" and
vaguely assumed it meant a rhetorical tautology. However, when I do
so now, I find the meaning is ambiguous. The OED does not define the
term. If you search for "semantic tautology" in the Wikipedia, you
are directed to the Tautology (logic) article. http://www.onelook.com/
points to the Wikipedia article and to this definition:

"A [well-formed formula] of truth-functional propositional logic
whose truth table column contains nothing but T's when these are
interpreted as the truth-value Truth."

A search for the term on the web also seems to suggest that semantic
tautology generally refers to a logical tautology.

To complicate things further, consider this definition of tautology
found in the glossary of Curd and Cover's "Philosophy of Science, The
Central Issues":

TAUTOLOGY Any statement that is true solely in virtue of its logical
form, e.g., if tigers are herbivorous, then tigers are herbivorous;
either xenon combines with phosphorus or it does not. Sometimes the
term tautology is used more broadly to refer to analytic statements
that are true by definition, e.g., no herbivores eat flesh. (See
analytic statements)

Curd and Cover's definition of analytic statements is:

ANALYTIC STATEMENTS Modern philosophers define an analytic statement
as one that has truth (or falsity) completely determined by the
meaning of the words and symbols used to express it.... All
tautologies (logical truths) are analytic. So, too, are statements
such as "all squares have four sides" and "all mammals suckle their
young...."

Elliott Sober in his "Philosophy of Biology" also discusses analytic
statements. He writes on page 69 "The term 'tautology' is sometimes
given a wider application," e.g., to include definitions.

We could quibble about definitions of tautology. However, this is not
my concern here.

If Coulter's quote is, at least, in part, a semantic tautology, then
what kind of semantic tautology is it? Is her semantic tautology
rhetorical, logical (in a narrow sense), analytic, e.g., a definition,
a "contingent tautology," whatever that is, or something else? What
is the proposed Tautology RFQ refuting?


A couple of comments in response to one of your earlier posts:

On Sep 21, 9:18 pm, Friar Broccoli <elia...@gmail.com> wrote:

> ... It is for this


> reason that I have placed (what I see as) the simplest
> and most compelling arguments at the beginning and moved
> the more difficult ones to the end.

> ... Specifically I am hopeful that the title:


>
> "Most Creationists agree that the Fittest Survive"
>
> near the beginning will get the reader at least to the
> end of that section, which, in my view contains the
> argument which is by far the most powerful: namely that
> creationists are arguing against a position they already
> accept.

The fact that most creationists accept microevolution should be
troubling to readers; however, a problem is that this fact by itself
does not refute Coulter's argument. Readers will probably suspect
that something is wrong, but most will not know what it is.
Conceivably, Coulter is right, implying that creationists should
reject microevolution as well as macroevolution. Other readers might
start to analyze the problem, e.g., if there is evidence for
microevolution, then there must be something wrong with Coulter's
reasoning, etc. But, this requires a lot from the reader. My point
is that it is not enough to say there is an inconsistency; you also
have to show how to eliminate the tautology.

Nevertheless, I was intrigued by the idea of responding to Coulter by
commenting on microevolution. I almost added a final paragraph to my
suggested Tautology FAQ, which would have started something like:

"It is amusing to note that...."


> On Sep 21, 6:44 am, ivar <ylvis...@verizon.net> wrote:

> > Coulter is asserting that the idea of natural selection reduces to the
> > idea that:
>
> > "The survivors are the survivors."
>
> First note that Coulter did not say this. This is
> substituting our words for her words.

It seems to me that this is what she meant. It is a common
description of the tautology problem used by Karl Popper, Stephen Jay
Gould, and others. Can you suggest any alternative statement of her
tautology?


> > Further, one can test whether a particular variation results
> > in longer life and more offspring, i.e., whether Darwin's
> > version of natural selection works.
>
> This statement would be a bitch to defend in a real
> argument. I think - creationists already agree that
> favourable variants are selected - because it is so
> obvious, is the easier and more effective route.

Do they? To do so would accept natural selection.

And are you suggesting that natural selection cannot be tested?

Ivar

cassandra

unread,
Sep 25, 2010, 11:19:13 AM9/25/10
to
On Sep 25, 5:44 am, ivar <ylvis...@verizon.net> wrote:
> I have been having a problem understanding the logic of the proposed
> Tautology RFQ.  Perhaps the following note can help clarify things.
>
> You can divide tautology into two broad categories: rhetoric and
> logic.  This is what the Wikipedia does.  If you look up tautology in
> a modern dictionary, for example, the American Heritage Dictionary
> (accessible throughhttp://www.onelook.com/), you find both types

> mentioned:
>
> "tautology
>
>    1.    a. Needless repetition of the same sense in different words;
> redundancy.
>           b. An instance of such repetition.
>
>    2. Logic An empty or vacuous statement composed of simpler
> statements in a fashion that makes it logically true whether the
> simpler statements are factually true or false; for example, the
> statement Either it will rain tomorrow or it will not rain tomorrow."

Very interesting.

Sounds like an accurate paraphrase to me. A more interesting but
related question is if the FAQ should quote Ann Coulter here. She
isn't an authority on Creationist or ID philosophy, and quoting her
risks dragging in unrelated issues about Ann Coulter.


> > > Further, one can test whether a particular variation results
> > > in longer life and more offspring, i.e., whether Darwin's
> > > version of natural selection works.
>
> >  This statement would be a bitch to defend in a real
> >  argument. I think - creationists already agree that
> >  favourable variants are selected - because it is so
> >  obvious, is the easier and more effective route.
>
> Do they?  To do so would accept natural selection.

Not according to them. Their argument in paraphrase is each kind can
produce only more of its kind, regardless of how varied that kind may
be. Of course their argument breaks down when pressed for an
objective definition of "kind".

el cid

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Sep 25, 2010, 1:05:00 PM9/25/10
to
On Sep 25, 5:44 am, ivar <ylvis...@verizon.net> wrote:
> I have been having a problem understanding the logic of the proposed
> Tautology RFQ.  Perhaps the following note can help clarify things.
>
> You can divide tautology into two broad categories: rhetoric and
> logic.  This is what the Wikipedia does.  If you look up tautology in
> a modern dictionary, for example, the American Heritage Dictionary
> (accessible throughhttp://www.onelook.com/), you find both types

Question: what is the purpose of the tautology FAQ?

Presumably the utility would be to address a common
attack on evolution: that it is not but a tautology.

Don't be distracted by the many ways you think
it is a vacuous attack or self-defeating. Rather,
define the attack, explain enough about
tautologies to frame why some naive person might
think this way, then explain why the attack fails.

The Coulter quote demonstrates an example
of the attack. Like many such attacks, it has
additional flaws. Don't be distracted by them.

At essence, the attack is that _fitness_ is a
surrogate for 'those who survive' which renders
one of the pillars of natural selection a tautology.

In essence this is true. So what? Tautologies
are not completely vacuous. In this case, SoF
highlights a potentially overlooked aspect
of fitness. More importantly, a tautology within
the definition of NS does not pose a logical
problem for NS. The attack is thus impotent.

Now the issue of fitness is more complicated.
As noted in the faq, the population genetics
definition of fitness is based on the proportion
of alleles that survive into the next generation.
This definition of fitness is the relevant
definition within The Modern Synthesis, by
which I mean our current and mathematically
mature theory of evolution.

Fitness as proposed by Darwin had a less
mathematically formalized meaning. When
NS is formulated using this more general
sense of fitness - roughly meaning the faster,
the stronger, the more apt - then the SoF
statement within the NS argument is not
tautologous but could instead be seen as
a trivial or obvious consequence. It is also
only generally true as there are clearly
exceptions. The fastest may not always be
the winners, for instance where fastest is
correlated to being less frugal with energy
reserves resulting in a greater tendency to
die of starvation offsetting the probabilistic
advantage of escaping a predator.

The population genetics definition of
fitness is observational based on actual
outcomes while the alternative I suggest
is predictive based on a simple model.

However, these subtleties belong in a fitness
faq, not the tautology faq, IMSHO.


backspace

unread,
Sep 26, 2010, 5:48:05 AM9/26/10
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http://www.talkorigins.org/sandbox/kwork/Ver4_tautology.html#ref04
"....We can see this difference clearly if we consider what would
happen during a process of verification. If in a survey one found an
unmarried husband, one would simply exclude him from the category of
husband and move on. Hence, it is a necessary truth that a husband is
married. Similar reasoning applies to "lubricating grease", "free
gift" and "horned unicorn" since all are human constructs, not
independent realities. ........."


Is the contention that "free gift" is a tautology true? . To assert
that such a phrase always says the same thing twice is to misframe the
particular premise of a user. For example: A man's gift of a dinner
and a movie to his date may be a "gift" but it sometimes comes bundled
with expectations. But, if the recipient of the free dinner asks first
"if I go with you, are you expecting anything?" and gets the answer
"no", then it's accurate to say the invitee got a "free gift" of
dinner. It is incorrect that no gift can ever have non-free
implications attached to it.

Another example is "suddenly, without warning". If two armies oppose
each other in the field and one commander sends the opposition a
warning message as follows "I instruct you to retreat or I will
attack", any subsequent attack, sudden or otherwise, was warned.
"Sudden" means "happening or coming unexpectedly". But students of
military history have noted; via effective deception, any attack can
be seen as "sudden", even if fair warning was previously given.

An expression (as opposed to an assertion) is considered tautological
if it contains redundant information. For example, "to return back
again" is tautological because the sense of "back again" is already
fully contained within the word "return", and so is redundant.

backspace

unread,
Sep 26, 2010, 5:51:18 AM9/26/10
to

Natural selection is not even a sentence how could it be a tautology,
falsifiable or non falsifiable or what ever?

backspace

unread,
Sep 26, 2010, 5:56:50 AM9/26/10
to

1=1, what happens, happens are logical assertions that can't be
verified nor refuted. But "what happens, happens and therefore my
mommy had long teeth and a tail 10mil years ago" is a rhetorical
tautology, the conclusion doesn't follow logically, even though the
conclusion might be correct.

Our problem is that we are using the limited lexicon of the English
language to describe many and varied concepts using the same semantic
label: tautology. All logical validity's , logical tautologies ,
pleonasms and rhetorical tautologies are classified under the rubric
"semantic tautology". "free gift" is a semantic tautology. The term is
used a device to communicate many concepts in different contexts.

bpuharic

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Sep 26, 2010, 8:29:37 AM9/26/10
to
On Sun, 26 Sep 2010 02:56:50 -0700 (PDT), backspace
<steph...@gmail.com> wrote:


>Our problem is that we are using the limited lexicon of the English
>language to describe many and varied concepts

such as 'for god so loved the world....'

that what you h ad in mind?

bpuharic

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Sep 26, 2010, 8:28:53 AM9/26/10
to
On Sun, 26 Sep 2010 02:48:05 -0700 (PDT), backspace
<steph...@gmail.com> wrote:


>
>An expression (as opposed to an assertion) is considered tautological
>if it contains redundant information. For example, "to return back
>again" is tautological because the sense of "back again" is already
>fully contained within the word "return", and so is redundant.

a guy who hears voices and believes this means god speaks to him and
him alone

trying to tell the rest of the world about his knowledge of language

you gotta LOVE creationism

bpuharic

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Sep 26, 2010, 8:30:43 AM9/26/10
to
On Sun, 26 Sep 2010 02:51:18 -0700 (PDT), backspace
<steph...@gmail.com> wrote:


>Natural selection is not even a sentence how could it be a tautology,
>falsifiable or non falsifiable or what ever?

because scientists know what it means and how to test it

you, with your 3rd century mentality and schizophrenic hearing of
voices, have a problem

Friar Broccoli

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Sep 26, 2010, 9:14:57 AM9/26/10