Extrapolation

I love ongoing debates which may never be resolved, such as Team Evolution versus the Intelligent Design crew.  I am hesitant to even post this since it tends to provoke apoplexy in people.  This quote from Jerry Coyne is quite clever which I got from this article.

When, after a Christmas visit, we watch grandma leave on the train to Miami, we assume that the rest of her journey will be an extrapolation of that first quarter-mile. A creationist unwilling to extrapolate from micro- to macroevolution is as irrational as an observer who assumes that, after grandma’s train disappears around the bend, it is seized by divine forces and instantly transported to Florida. (Nature 412:587, 19 August 2001.)

Of course, there are big risks to extrapolation which any one who has ever traded in the markets has learned.  As legendary trader Ed Seykota put it, “The trend is your friend except at the end when it bends.”

Then there is Mark Twain’s masterpiece from Life on the Mississippi.

In the space of one hundred and seventy-six years the Lower Mississippi has shortened itself two hundred and forty-two miles. That is an average of a trifle over one mile and a third per year. Therefore, any calm person, who is not blind or idiotic, can see that in the Old Oolitic Silurian Period, just a million years ago next November, the Lower Mississippi River was upwards of one million three hundred thousand miles long, and stuck out over the Gulf of Mexico like a fishing-rod. And by the same token any person can see that seven hundred and forty-two years from now the Lower Mississippi will be only a mile and three-quarters long, and Cairo and New Orleans will have joined their streets together, and be plodding comfortably along under a single mayor and a mutual board of aldermen. There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.

I suppose the debate could end when a single observation is made which no longer requires extrapolation.  Let’s say it does I doubt that will change the minds of many.  Conversely, if it is shown at some point that it’s completely impossible to go from micro –> macro I doubt that will change many minds on the other side either.  Beliefs persist.

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