Thinking Christian

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Science and Religion: Reason vs. Authority?

Posted on Jul 17, 2009 by Tom Gilson

A while ago Geoff Arnold pointed out several “oddities” in my view of science and religion. Some of it I responded to on that thread. (The original post was one I had written about Sean Carroll’s Discover Magazine blog entry, “Science and Religion Are Not Compatible.”) I responded further on an entry titled “Explaining Souls,” and the remainder of my response I am adding here.

I had written,

The Christian response to that is that even though there are competing answers from other religions, where those answers contradict the biblical one, the biblical one is right and they are wrong. (Biblical Christianity takes an unabashedly firm stance on exclusive truth.) There is a reliable, trustworthy set of answers, and they come from one world religion. The answers given by biblical Christianity aren’t guesses, they’re knowledge.

He wrote in response,

So you agree: science and religion are not compatible. Because you clearly believe that an argument from authority (your particular authority) trumps any evidence, reason, or analysis…. why aren’t you congratulating Carroll for making your case so well?

I don’t have a problem with congratulating Carroll for making a good case. I agreed with him that NOMA (Stephen Jay Gould’s “Non-overlapping magisteria” concept) is wrong, and I said in the original post, “Bravo, well done!” But Geoff as talking about the ways religion and science acquire knowledge, and he framed it as authority vs. evidence, reason, or analysis.

The two are not mutually exclusive, though. Christianity in particular does not eschew evidence, reason, or analysis. Anyone who has studied the history of ideas knows that Christians have been bringing forth evidence and letting be subjected it to reasoned analysis for thousands of years. I hope I don’t have to demonstrate that here, because it is quite simply a fact of history.

Meanwhile, authority is not the bogeyman it is sometimes portrayed to be.

We all consider it reasonable to regard certain authority-derived information as knowledge. Let me take Geoff’s flight to Shenzhen as an example, and address these questions to him. Though because of his trip, he may not be able to respond directly right away, others may put themselves in his place and answer, since the experience is almost universal, and could be asked about any airplane trip airport from the detail of the destination.

Before you flew there, did you know that the plane was going to take you where you wanted to go? How did you know? You risked a lot of money on the word of an Internet page that promised you a ticket there (I presume that’s how you booked it). You believed a handful of people, a small piece of paper, and some airport flight monitors that told you if you walked through a certain door at one airport, the next door you would walk through would be in Shenzhen. When you walked off of the plane, you (presumably) saw a sign in Roman lettering that said “Shenzhen,” and you believed that was where you were. The Internet site, the airline personnel, the monitors, the boarding pass, and the signs are all authorities. You did not perform scientific tests on them when you booked or boarded the flight, or when you deplaned. You believed them because based on prior experience or testing with like authorities, you had reason to consider them trustworthy.

For that matter, it was not on the basis of science that you believed there even existed a place called Shenzhen. It was on the basis of someone telling you so. That’s authority. Even if it’s a map or a photo, it’s still authority.

So a scientific approach to life is compatible with a parallel authority-based epistemology. I don’t need to congratulate Carroll for making a point for me, since the point Geoff thinks he made for me is not one I agree with, and it’s not a successful one besides.

How does this apply to Christianity? Christianity’s trust in the Bible has been tested, and from both a thinking and experiential perspective, it has been found to meet the test. It has shown its worth and reliability as an authority. Not all will agree with that, obviously. But even if they disagree, they would be wrong to say that a Christian such as myself has accepted authority as “trumping any evidence, reason, or analysis.” I have looked at evidence, I have reasoned and analyzed, and I have come to the conclusion that the Bible’s authority can be trusted.

What about cases where the Bible and science actually confict? In the case of young-earth creationism, I would say the conflict is only apparent. It is not the Bible that’s wrong, it’s a certain interpretation of the Bible. I don’t believe in the young earth version of origins, because I think there is adequate evidence in the natural world to overrule that interpretation, and that there is a way of looking at Genesis chapters 1 and 2 that honors its intended on an older-earth perspective.

(It is also conceivable that the evidence from science is incorrect, and that young-earth creationism is more accurate, but at this point I would consider that quite unlikely. The scientific evidence is very strong. The grounds for considering young-earth creation the only possible interpretation of Genesis are less strong. As many Bible scholars have pointed out, God has spoken through his word and through his creation. Both of them must be interpreted, and it is entirely appropriate to permit the evidence from one to influence one’s interpretation of the other. Properly understood, properly interpreted, what God says through both must agree, for God does not contradict himself.)

Anyway, that’s the only case of conflict I know of. Oh, there are conflicts with some scientists who think their metaphysical position is a scientific position. Sean Carroll is a great example. He trots out a metaphysically-based objection to miracles and says, “this is what science says!” But as I showed in the first post where all this started, it’s not a clash of Bible vs. science. It’s a clash of Bible vs. metaphysics.

114 Responses to “ Science and Religion: Reason vs. Authority? ”

  1. JD says:

    Excellent post, Tom. I would add that even scientists accept most of their scientific knowledge on authority, because nobody has the time or resources to recreate exactly the conditions of the hundreds of thousands of experiments upon which our current corpus of empirical knowledge is based. As J.P. Moreland stresses in his book \Kingdom Triangle,\ we defer to the AUTHORITY of experts because we assume (rightly or wrongly) that they have knowledge relevant to our questions and concerns. Knowledge, evidence and authority are intertwined.

  2. Alex Hagen says:

    \We all consider it reasonable to regard certain authority-derived information as knowledge.\

    This is a common argument, but a very flawed one. Yes, I believe that a place called Shenzhen exists because of the authority of my maps. But I could go to the place on that map and verify that Shenzhan actually exists or not. I can actually verify that authority if I choose to.

    But you can not verify the bible in any meaningful way. Certainly you can’t verify the accuracy of it’s central claims of the existence of a god or moral authority. Even in historical contexts, much of the new testament should be verifiable and isn’t, such as the lack of any contemporary records of Jesus existence or accomplishments, and much of the old testament is actually verifiably false.

    \there is a way of looking at Genesis chapters 1 and 2 that honors its intended on an older-earth perspective.\

    If you go through all kinds of illogical hoops, sure. You pretty much have to say the Genesis story is pure allegory from beginning to end, and nothing happened the way it said it did. That goes way beyond reinterpretation, and opens you up to the question as to what in the \inerrant\ Bible is actually fact at all then.

    \Anyway, that’s the only case of conflict I know of.\

    Genesis is the biggest albatross around Christian necks, but there are many more that we know aren’t true, the story of Noah comes immediately to mind. Setting aside the logistical impossibility of the Ark, science has shown that there was no worldwide flood as described in the story.

  3. JD says:

    “…I could go to the place on that map and verify that Shenzhan actually exists or not. I can actually verify that authority if I choose to. But you can not verify the bible in any meaningful way. Certainly you can’t verify the accuracy of it’s central claims of the existence of a god or moral authority.”

    I think you’re confusing ‘verifying the Bible’, whatever that means, with verifying the central claims of Christianity, such as that God exists and is creator and that He raised Jesus from the dead. The Bible certainly provides crucial evidence for assessing those claims, but not the only evidence. There is also experiential and philosophical evidence to be considered. Christianity is indeed accessible for evaluation, and billions of people have tried to get to that place on the map, so to speak, and arrived at the promised destination as the existence and presence of God is manifest in their lives and intellectual endeavors. Whether there is a place called Shenzhen on the map is perhaps not the best analogy. We should think rather of complex, comprehensive claims, such as whether general relativity is the best account we have of gravitation and space-time. Sure, it is possible to verify it for oneself, but it takes years of specialized study, tutoring and discipline, and certainly can’t be verified using only the evidence of one’s senses. Oh, wait, that sounds a bit like theology…

  4. SteveK says:

    Bravo, Tom!

    Many skeptics have 2 epistemic standards – the everyday and the scientific – and the ‘appropriate’ one to use depends on if they have an axe to grind, or not. I remember Doctor(logic) telling us that scientific proof via observation/verification today doesn’t guarantee that it would be considered evidence/proof 200 years from now, or even 1 year from now, UNLESS the test could be repeated. In other words, knowledge today doesn’t guarantee knowledge tomorrow.

    So if God said one day, “Okay, I’ll give you the proof you need so you can know, but I’m only going to do this once. Be sure you video tape it and document it for the benefit of everyone”, those video tapes and documents would NOT be considered evidence/proof of God’s existence later because nobody could repeat/verify any of it.

    To the future skeptic with the duplicitous epistemic standards, his disbelief is justified. Had he witnessed the original event he would have believed.

    Of course, an example similar to the one I gave happened 2000 years ago in the form of the resurrection. The main difference is it happened in an age without high-def video tape, without Bunson burners and lab coats, and without Large Hadron Collider’s – but we know that has nothing to do with it.

  5. Jacob says:

    JD -

    The experiential evidence, I feel, doesn’t work in Christianity’s favor. It’s too contingent on culture, on prior values, on emotional experiences, to the point where belief might be a product of circumstance and people have wildly different experiences about what should be the same core truths, even if one is quite honest about accepting it. I also haven’t been impressed with the philosophical claims, though I suppose that’s based on past arguments.

    The problem is that we do have a method for evaluating the timelessness of this authority, but there’s no actual standard given to it. If the Bible actually mentioned an old earth and/or evolution, it would be pronounced as the convergence of theology and science, a method of convincing people of the truth. But if it doesn’t quite line up, then it’s not held to that same high standard. Proof is either convalescent or weighted like an anchor. It drags down some theories but holds up others. Evidence against can’t be evidence for. It’s either one or the other. If you go for a literal interpretation, you run aground with science. If it’s a metaphor, then what’s the interpretation? Is it old earth creationism? Theistic evolution? What do the days mean? What is the garden of Eden? What about the story of original sin? If people did evolve, how did they diversify after the flood? Isn’t it just easier to say that everything here is incorrect?

    This isn’t the only example. If Jesus wanted people to know the truth, then he sure was secretive about his resurrection. It can’t be verified anywhere (indeed, one can easily build an argument that the early Christians weren’t even interested in verifying it to others via empty tombs and such). Prophecy, in my mind, is all over the place: much of it has been unresolved, reinterpreted, or unverified by outside sources. I’ll grant you that the Bible has a bit of historical veracity, but there are points at which it seems to get a few things wrong. So the authority itself isn’t up to the standard that I would expect from a timeless God. And the philosophical arguments aren’t diligent enough to do their jobs, I think.

  6. Tom Gilson says:

    @alex hagen:

    Even in historical contexts, much of the new testament should be verifiable and isn’t, such as the lack of any contemporary records of Jesus existence or accomplishments, and much of the old testament is actually verifiably false.

    But we do have contemporary records of Jesus. Or at least records written by eyewitnesses, or on the basis of interviews with them. For the most crucial claim, that of Jesus’ resurrection (on which everything hinges) we have records reliably dateable to within 5-8 years of the event, as even critical scholars agree. (See also here; not as near to the original sources but it will point you there.)

    You may say, “but those were written by people who wanted everyone else to believe their religion.” I’m not sure at all that they conceived of it as a religion, but otherwise I’ll concede. Did you really expect the Resurrection account would have been written down as a record of history by someone who didn’t think it was a record of history? Or are you looking for someone to have said, “Jesus rose from the dead. Might as well make a note of that in case someone someday is curious. As for me, ho-hum, who cares”?

    So be careful not to discount the documents we have, which are now collected in the New Testament.

  7. Tom Gilson says:

    I discovered this from Geoff Arnold, some of which relates to the current topic, an hour or two after I posted this.

  8. Tom Gilson says:

    Thanks, JD, for that excellent response.

    @Jacob:

    Isn’t it just easier to say that everything here is incorrect?

    For one thing, it isn’t all incorrect scientifically. See Jastrow, and more here.

    For another thing, regardless of the contentious science v. religion questions, it is not incorrect in setting the stage for understanding the human condition, God’s relationship with us, the problems we face, and the groundwork laid toward solving those problems. It’s absolutely invaluable for that, and well-confirmed by experience and the rest of God’s revelation.

    And don’t you think it would be rather pathetic to take the stance that just because some of it’s hard to sort out, we ought to throw the whole thing away? I can live with some ambiguity. I assume you can too.

  9. Holopupenko says:

    The experiential evidence, I feel, doesn’t work in Christianity’s favor. It’s too contingent on culture, on prior values, on emotional experiences, to the point where belief might be a product of circumstance and people have wildly different experiences about what should be the same core truths, even if one is quite honest about accepting it. I also haven’t been impressed with the philosophical claims, though I suppose that’s based on past arguments.

    Self-serving nonsense: the very same thing can be said of atheists/naturalists in today’s scientistically-laden atmosphere. Moreover, it reflects a commitment to “arguing” based on the genetic fallacy (source overrides truth): “they were Christians, so what they say is suspect,” when, in fact, it is closer to the truth that what atheists claim is highly suspect.

  10. david ellis says:


    So a scientific approach to life is compatible with a parallel authority-based epistemology.

    I would put it this way:

    There are questions which it is not reasonable to come to a conclusion about without hard scientific evidence.

    There are other things we can legitimately take someone’s word on.

    Also, in between those, there are all sorts of questions we’d need more than the person’s word on but which might not necessarily require a scientific study.

    Most of this is just everyday common sense:

    My friend says he ate at McDonald’s for lunch. Generally speaking, I have no reason not to take his word for it.

    My friend is accused of having been sleeping with his Chemistry professor’s wife at the time he claims to have been eating lunch at McDonald’s. I now have some reason for doubt as to whether what he said is true.

    My friend claims he’s cooked up a compound in his kitchen that cures cancer. I’d want hard evidence—including properly carried out double blind medical experiments.

    My friend says he encountered Michael Jackson 3 days after he died and had a conversation about God with him following which Mr. Jackson ascended into the sky. I’d be enormously skeptical and would require hard evidence. Preferably in the form of meeting Mr. Jackson myself. Little else would be sufficient. Being told I should open my heart and have a personal spiritual relationship with Michael Jackson wouldn’t do. Even if my friend was being beaten up by Michael Jacksonism deniers and wouldn’t recant even to the point of being killed I wouldn’t be in the least convinced (I’d just think he was sadly a bit nuts and got killed for it).

    To be clear I wouldn’t say that “a scientific approach to life is compatible with a parallel authority-based epistemology.”

    Its not that I follow two separate epistemologies. Its that my epistemology includes that idea that different claims may require different degrees and kinds of support.

  11. Holopupenko says:

    To be clear I wouldn’t say that “a scientific approach to life is compatible with a parallel authority-based epistemology.”

    This is wrong. First, it’s sloppy: there is no such thing as a “scientific approach to life”… except among scientismists. Science (mediate intellectual knowledge based on demonstration) is a methodological approach with certain epistemological limitations—not a “life” approach. Second, what is the basis upon which this “parallel” assertion rests… “scientific”… “philosophical”… or “authority-based”? Inquiring minds want to know. Third, for investigations of the world accessible to our senses (i.e., investigations of the modern empirical sciences), arguments from authority are the weakest. Arguments based on authority in the order of revealed knowledge are necessarily the strongest.

    What and how we know something reveals our epistemological commitments. A proper ordering presents a non-conflicting (in fact, mutually supporting) vision between reason (scientific investigations of those things accessible to our senses and philosophical reflections upon such findings) and faith (revealed knowledge and philosophical reflections upon that knowledge).

    I repeat from a previous comment: to absolutize science over faith and philosophy is scientism; to absolutize faith over science and philosophy is fideism; to absolutize philosophy over science and faith is idealism; to reject any one of these three for the other two is to hamstring one’s ability to understand reality.

  12. david ellis says:

    Holo, to be clear, I was simply quoting Tom. I agree that it’s a sloppy way to characterize it. That’s why I explained below the quoted section what I would say instead. I’m not sure if you realized that those words were Tom Gilson’s and not mine. Its the first time I recall seeing you criticize the words of a christian with the same ferocity you normally reserve for us nonbelievers.

  13. david ellis says:

    How does one distinguish between revealed knowledge and what someone mistakenly takes to be revealed knowledge?

  14. Tom Gilson says:

    Correction noted and accepted. A scientific approach to knowledge is not incompatible with a parallel-authority based epistemology. What I mean by “parallel” is just that one can know things on the basis of one’s own scientific/empirical study or research, and at the same time one can know things on the basis of authority; and that there is no contradiction involved in accepting either or both of those as ways of knowing.

    Or in other words, to paraphrase the charge that was made, if I accept that knowledge through revelation really is knowledge, I am not repudiating a scientific approach to knowledge—just the requirement that the scientific approach is the only way of knowing.

  15. Tom Gilson says:

    How does one distinguish between revealed knowledge and what someone mistakenly takes to be revealed knowledge?

    By studying the rational support for the putative revealed knowledge, including its internal consistency, its level of support from external observations and evidences, and its fit with one’s experience of life.

  16. Tom Gilson says:

    But that is not to deny that in some cases, for some people, God just makes the truth known to them. That is not a way that those persons can show that their understanding of truth is accurate, and it provides no objective safeguard against, say, some other spirit deceiving them. I believe this happens in Mormonism. But when God wants to do it, he can do it.

    Still, when he does it, what he is showing to be true thereby is something that can also be confirmed to be true by the means I mentioned in the last comment. If God (contra the facts, but for the sake of argument) never gave anyone assurance in that way, there would still be rational support for biblical revelation as over against other putative revelations, in the manner I noted above. Mormonism can be shown to be false through archaeology, for example, and also by internal inconsistencies in its core beliefs.

    (Supposed contradictions in the Bible exist, and I do not know the resolution for all of them, but I do know that none of them involve our core beliefs. If all of them were found to be the result of copyists’ errors, we could toss them all and lose nothing of importance. If there were no explanation for them ever found, the worst it could challenge would be biblical inerrancy with respect to those disputed passages. The doctrines of God, man, sin, Jesus, life, death, resurrection, the return of Christ, the way to life and the way to death, the main history of Israel, the early history of the church, the ethical teaching of the church—all these would still stand regardless. Inerrancy is important in many ways, but I don’t know why it would concern an atheist near as much as these other issues should!

    I have never done a detailed study of all alleged contradictions. Those that I have studied have been resolved, usually by understanding historical context more clearly.)

  17. david ellis says:


    But that is not to deny that in some cases, for some people, God just makes the truth known to them. That is not a way that those persons can show that their understanding of truth is accurate, and it provides no objective safeguard against, say, some other spirit deceiving them. I believe this happens in Mormonism. But when God wants to do it, he can do it.

    But if we have no way of distinguishing, from the revelation itself, whether God actually directly revealed X to us or that we simply deluded ourselves (or were deluded by “deceiving spirits”) into thinking we had a revelation from God then I don’t see how revelation qualifies as knowledge.

    Its like my old example of telepathic aliens from a planet orbitting the star Sirius. If aliens telepathically communicated with me and sent to me mental pictures of themselves and their world I could not reasonably say I know what Sirians look like. With only mental impressions indistinguishable from hallucinations to go on I have no rational basis for being convinced Sirians are real.

    Only when they provide information I wouldn’t have but could independently verify could I have a reasonable confidence I wasn’t merely delusional.

  18. Holopupenko says:

    David:

    Understood… I’m sorry. Otherwise, the remaining points stand.

  19. Tom Gilson says:

    But if we have no way of distinguishing, from the revelation itself, whether God actually directly revealed X to us or that we simply deluded ourselves (or were deluded by “deceiving spirits”) into thinking we had a revelation from God then I don’t see how revelation qualifies as knowledge.

    If God is unable to solve that problem, then he’s not God.

  20. Holopupenko says:

    There is knowledge through reason and knowledge through faith. It is a false dilemma to characterize revealed knowledge as “not qualifying as knowledge” merely because it doesn’t follow the same epistemological constraints as reasoned knowledge. (An analogical example: do we discount history because it doesn’t employ telescopes or because historical “objects” are not subject to repetitive experimental verification? Of course not.)

    Truth is known through reason (natural revelation) and faith (supernatural revelation). Supernatural revelation originates through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit accessible through the teaching of the prophets, summed up in Holy Scripture, and (for Catholics) transmitted by the Magisterium… the sum of which is called “Tradition” or the “Deposit of Faith.” Natural revelation comprises truths available to all people through their human nature (the capacities for reason and free will): they are truths all men can attain through human reasoning… including rational proofs for the existence of God, but not supernatural truths such as the Incarnation and Nature of the Trinity. Faith and reason are complimentary rather than contradictory in nature, for they pertain to the same unity: truth. All of creation (natural and supernatural) and all truth (revealed or rational) emanate from God.

  21. SteveK says:

    Speaking with someone face-to-face is a form of revealed knowledge. They are revealing their character to you along with their past experiences, present situation and future dreams. You may be able to corroborate some of the information while other parts will be impossible to corroborate. Are you justified in believing the truth of the parts you could not gather sufficient evidence for? It’s certainly possible to have the justification – we do it all the time through reason.

  22. david ellis says:


    There is knowledge through reason and knowledge through faith. It is a false dilemma to characterize revealed knowledge as “not qualifying as knowledge” merely because it doesn’t follow the same epistemological constraints as reasoned knowledge.

    OK. But how exactly does revealed supernatural knowledge work? In other forms of what we call knowledge we normally have some way of identifying between truth and false in regard to the claims being made.

    My little nephew wakes up from a nightmare convinced there’s a huge three-headed man-eating lizard under the bed. I have a simple procedure for showing this false. We look under the bed and see no monster.

    Direct sensory observation then has a capacity, for the sorts of claims its applicable to, of identifying false claims.

    Same goes for scientific investigation. Someone claims magnets have the ability to alleviate pain. We perform a double blind study and find it has no other effect than what one would find with any placebo. The claim is shown false.

    But what procedure do we have with claims that something is a supernatural revelation for identifying which are true and which are false?

  23. SteveK says:

    But what procedure do we have with claims that something is a supernatural revelation for identifying which are true and which are false?

    For the most part, the procedure, as you call it, is something you are already familiar with – reason. However this doesn’t account for all the knowledge we have. Some knowledge that we possess can’t be reasoned to. Some refer to this as properly basic, axiomatic or foundational knowledge.

    Then there’s knowledge that you can’t get any other way except through direct revelation. I’ve never been to the moon, but Buzz Aldrin has. I can never reason my way to the knowledge that Buzz has of the moon. Likewise, I can never reason my way to a lot of the knowledge God has about himself or about the spiritual realm. God (and Buzz too) might help us understand the knowledge he has through metaphors and analogies, and this is precisely what we find throughout the Bible. I can’t completely challenge God’s knowledge because I am at a disadvantage. I might be able to understand partially though. See 1 Corinthians 13:12.

    If you think confirmation/verification is the so-called proceedure for discovering truth then I’m afraid you can’t claim to know much of anything that is true.

  24. david ellis says:

    The term normally used isn’t properly basic knowledge. Its properly basic BELIEFS. I wouldn’t call them knowledge but simply reasonable foundational assumptions. Do you know any philosophers arguing that they are a form of knowledge?


    Then there’s knowledge that you can’t get any other way except through direct revelation. I’ve never been to the moon, but Buzz Aldrin has. I can never reason my way to the knowledge that Buzz has of the moon.

    His knowledge is direct observation. Not direct revelation in the sense we’re talking about here. You can be said to know what he’s told you about the moon to the degree that you have a reasonable basis for taking his word for what he tells us about it.

    But this is not equivalent to revealed supernatural “knowledge”. Its merely hearsay.


    If you think confirmation/verification is the so-called proceedure for discovering truth then I’m afraid you can’t claim to know much of anything that is true.

    I do indeed think that empirical evidence, or at least something ultimately based on empirical evidence, is the only way to have reasonable grounds for believing in the existence of any particular being. Including those we call gods, angels and the like.

    I know of no other method not reasonably suspected to be a product of the believer’s imagination. Nor any other method by which the true and the false claims of that variety can be distinguished from one another.

    If you know of any other procedure then I’d like to hear it. But your response to my previous post doesn’t indicate that you actually know any way to distinguish a true from a false claim by supernatural revealed “knowledge”.

  25. ordinary seeker says:

    Tom, I have a question: Say I wanted to do an experiment, and follow all the “rules” of Christianity as you understand it. But, I would not make any effort to believe; my current beliefs would remain intact. Would the experiment succeed or fail? Is belief a critical component of the truth of your religion?

  26. SteveK says:

    David,

    The term normally used isn’t properly basic knowledge. Its properly basic BELIEFS. I wouldn’t call them knowledge but simply reasonable foundational assumptions.

    Call it what you will, but the knowledge you have flows from this foundation. I don’t want to start a dictionary war, but what you are saying is that true knowledge is built upon, or justified by, a set of true beliefs (principles) that cannot be demonstrated to be true themselves. The most obvious one being the belief that your senses can be trusted. Do you still want to castigate belief?

    Do you know any philosophers arguing that they are a form of knowledge?

    That is Holo’s department. I can’t answer this.

    You can be said to know what he’s told you about the moon to the degree that you have a reasonable basis for taking his word for what he tells us about it.

    But this is not equivalent to revealed supernatural “knowledge”. Its merely hearsay.

    You are correct to say that I can know to the degree that it is reasonable. However, it can be true or false even if it makes no sense to me at all. It must be logically consistent, that’s for sure, but the truth or falseness is not contingent on my ability to understand. If it sounds reasonable then I am justified in thinking the revealed knowledge is true to the degree that I understand it.

    I know of no other method not reasonably suspected to be a product of the believer’s imagination. Nor any other method by which the true and the false claims of that variety can be distinguished from one another.

    You DO know of another method. I just referenced them – the belief in foundational principles, the belief that your senses can be trusted and the belief that you can reason properly.

    All of this comes BEFORE anything empirical, so you are incorrect to say that truth is “ultimately based on empirical evidence”. Clearly knowledge is not based on empirical evidence. It may play a role, but empirical evidence is not at the foundational level.

  27. Tom Gilson says:

    @ordinary seeker:

    I’m sorry but I don’t understand the question. Do you mean that you would do an experiment, wherein the experiment is that you would try to follow all the “rules” of Christianity? Or that you would do some other experiment, and while you were doing that experiment you would be trying to do it according to “rules” of Christianity? I can’t tell which from your question.

    Either way, this explanation of what I think of the rules of Chrsitianity would be an important part of the answer.

  28. SteveK says:

    Tom,
    Will this play a role in the discussions here?

  29. david ellis says:


    The most obvious one being the belief that your senses can be trusted. Do you still want to castigate belief?

    I’m not castigating. I’m clarifying the usage of a term. I have no problem with the concept of properly basic beliefs (or belief in general). Some beliefs are legitimately foundational. Strictly speaking, when discussing the nuts and bolts of epistemology I really don’t like to use the term knowledge at all (remember that in this discussion of knowledge I’m responding to what others have called knowledge—its not a term I would have used). I’m more inclined to think in terms of rationally warranted beliefs (some of which are foundational, the vast majority are not).


    However, it can be true or false even if it makes no sense to me at all. It must be logically consistent, that’s for sure, but the truth or falseness is not contingent on my ability to understand.

    No one is disputing that (I’m no postmodernist by any stretch of the imagination). We’re discussing whether one has good grounds for thinking a belief true. Not whether human beings can be confused or have a failure of comprehension—that’s too obvious to debate.


    If it sounds reasonable then I am justified in thinking the revealed knowledge is true to the degree that I understand it.

    If you think something reasonable you will, of course, be inclined to belief.

    That doesn’t mean you aren’t in error. What we are discussing is the LEGITIMATE grounds for thinking something true—not whether any particular individual simply thinks it seems reasonable to them. That’s largely irrelevant. A particular person may have poor critical thinking skills and be prone to failure to distinguish legitimate grounds for belief from illegitimate ones.


    You DO know of another method. I just referenced them – the belief in foundational principles, the belief that your senses can be trusted and the belief that you can reason properly.

    Read what I said. I did not deny that we have some forms of legitimate belief not based on empirical evidence (mathematical and logical truths for example).

    I said that the only way we have of having a reasonable conviction that any particular being exists (be it a horse, a human, a vampire, or a god) is through empirical evidence.


    All of this comes BEFORE anything empirical, so you are incorrect to say that truth is “ultimately based on empirical evidence”.

    Again, I didn’t claim that ALL truth is based on empirical evidence. I said that there are CERTAIN TYPES OF THINGS which can only legitimately be believed in based, ultimately, on empirical evidence (even if indirect in the form of hearsay, historical records, video recordings and the like).

    If you stop and think about it this isn’t something you’d dispute. Take dogs, for example. Would you not agree that its impossible for us to have a warranted belief in the existence of dogs if we didn’t have empirical evidence or what ultimately is based on empirical evidence someone else gathered?

    Surely, the only disputed point is whether the Christian God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Ghost, angels, demons, and the like fall into that category.

  30. Dave says:

    Hi ordinary seeker

    Say I wanted to do an experiment, and follow all the “rules” of Christianity as you understand it. But, I would not make any effort to believe; my current beliefs would remain intact.

    An interesting question, but it betrays a common and fundamental misapprehension about Christianity. To be charitable, this misapprehension is held by many Christians, as well as many non-Christians. One of the best illustrations of the point I am making can be found, oddly enough, in Part 1, Chapt. 2 of Daniel Pipes, “In the Path of God: Islam and Political Power” where he begins his study of Islam by comparing it with its antecedents, Judaism and Christianity.

    Pipes begins with the obsevation that, in the case of sacred law, “Islam resembles Judaism as closely as it differs from Christianity.” While I now think it obvious in hindsight I was taken aback when I first read this assertion. After all, there is the Ten Commandments and the multitude of doctrinal rules found in most denominations of Christianity. But Pipes doesn’t end his discourse with this counterintuitive assertion, he expand upon it.

    In Islam, as in Judaism, there are manifold and intrusive laws governing, the Sabbath, what you can eat, how often you pray, what sort of clothing you wear, even how you wipe yourself when doing your toilet. The bulk of Jewish and Islamic intellectual effort has gone into sudying the Law and Rabbis, Mullahs and Immams are “teachers of the Law.” Ideally, every man should be able to apply the Law to his life and know exactly how to act in any situation.

    Christianity, on the other hand, is a different kettle of fish. Jesus scorned the “teachers of the Law”, whom He described as “…the men who eat up the property of widows, while they say long prayers for appearance sake…” When Jesus was asked, “What it the greatest commandment (Law)?” he provided the answer: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

    That reply is the template for Christian theism as a relationship in love rather than a contract in Law. Contrary to Judaism and Islam the Christian intellectual effort has been poured into theology, a study of the nature of God, rather than the study of Law. As Pipes notes, “Nor did a Christian way of life develop in its stead, for Christianity has no program analogous to the Jewish one; there is only one way to live by the Halakha (Law) but there are many ways to live ethically.” “A pious Christian does not encounter the minutae of his faith an observant Jew. Christian communities wishing to live in constant touch with their religion must draw upon their own precepts, for their holy books contain none. Each of the highly regulated Christian societies that has appeared, such as the medieval monasteries, Calvinist Geneva, and the Anabaptist communities, has chosen its own rules. [...] But all Christian laws are limited in time and sspace; the most widespread of them, the canon law, was applied only during some centuries and only to Roman Catholics.”

    In the same sense that a husband loves his wife, and puts his best efforts into pleasing her and keeping her provided for, so the Christian understands his relationship to God. The rules from household to household may differ, but the goal is the same, peace and harmony in the household.

    Would the experiment succeed or fail? Is belief a critical component of the truth of your religion?

    The ‘truth’ of my religion is not contingent upon my, or anyone else’s, belief. Truth is still truth even when no one believes it. I am still waiting for someone to refute this truth… so… perhaps if you study hard to find that “killer proof” that will shatter Christian “Truth” you will discover that it doesn’t exist. As for whether or not what you believe will change — disbelief is an act of will.

    “Via, veritas, vita”

  31. ordinary seeker says:

    Thanks for your response, Dave. I am aware that the “rules” of Christianity are more ambiguous than the rules of Judaism and Islam. The question I am trying to ask is about knowledge. It seems to me that, in contrast to science, Christianity requires belief in order to know its truth. Is that correct?

  32. Tom Gilson says:

    Can one know truths of science without belief?

    The beliefs that underlie our trust in science are so ingrained in our culture we don’t recognize them as such. It takes some comparative anthropology to see that we have them. These include beliefs such as that the universe is orderly, there are general regularities that apply to nature and its behavior, these can be studied, they can be expressed in ordinary and/or mathematical language, they are stable and consistent from time to time and location to location, and more of the like. You have those beliefs, I’m sure, but you have probably never thought of them as beliefs. Not all persons throughout history have thought the same way, which is why science didn’t get off the ground in most places and times in history.

    So in view of that, what is your question regarding Christianity and beliefs “in contrast to science” again?

  33. SteveK says:

    David,

    I’m more inclined to think in terms of rationally warranted beliefs (some of which are foundational, the vast majority are not).

    That is good to know. Now comes the $64 question, what does it mean to have a rationally warranted belief?

    That doesn’t mean you aren’t in error. What we are discussing is the LEGITIMATE grounds for thinking something true—not whether any particular individual simply thinks it seems reasonable to them. That’s largely irrelevant. A particular person may have poor critical thinking skills and be prone to failure to distinguish legitimate grounds for belief from illegitimate ones.

    On the one hand, it’s irrelevant because truth is not contingent on my ability to think. On the other hand, it’s highly relevant. It’s highly relevant because legitimate grounds for belief are an inseperable part of me. I can’t step outside of myself to learn the error of my ways. We are forced into a position where we must trust our senses and our reasoning. If I have no particular reason to think my senses or reasoning is in error, then I am justified in believing.

    I said that there are CERTAIN TYPES OF THINGS which can only legitimately be believed in based, ultimately, on empirical evidence (even if indirect in the form of hearsay, historical records, video recordings and the like).

    It’s perfectly reasonable to think that physical things require physical evidence. What about the non-physical though?

    Would you not agree that its impossible for us to have a warranted belief in the existence of dogs if we didn’t have empirical evidence or what ultimately is based on empirical evidence someone else gathered?

    This statement has a lot packed into it. We should define our terms first but I’m going to skip that part for now.

    At the end of the day, I don’t agree with it as a rule to govern all beliefs because I can think of at least one example common to both of us that doesn’t fit this statement – infinity. We both have a warranted belief in the existence of the infinite even though we have never knowingly encountered an example of a physical infinite.

    On second thought, here’s another….Humanists believe a better world is possible. One that has never been physically encountered or experienced before. Do they have a warranted belief?

    Just thought of a third….you believe in the ideal observer concept. Is your belief warranted?

  34. ordinary seeker says:

    Tom, all those “beliefs” you mentioned can be demonstrated by replicable experiments. Here’s my point: It is not necessary for the person doing the scientific experiment to believe in the “truth” of the result for result to occur. Whether I believe in gravity, the object I am holding still falls when I release it. But, this is not true about Christianity, I think–at least your type of Christianity. I could do everything you do every day, but without my belief, I won’t see the results you assure me are there.

  35. Dave says:

    Hi ordinary seeker

    It seems to me that, in contrast to science, Christianity requires belief in order to know its truth. Is that correct?

    That is at least as ambiguous as the ‘rules’ question. There is no doubt that God has, at various times and places, revealed Himself directly to prove His existence. It is equally true that many who have witnessed His direct revelation have not believed.

    Consider the story of the Exodus when the Hebrews were at Mount Sinai, with God sitting on top of the hill, waiting for Moses to return with the Ten Commandments, and they made the golden calf. I used to think it would be so much easier to believe if I could have personally witnessed the resurrection, but I have come to realize that seeing isn’t believing and evidence is in the eye of the beholder.

    Even the apostles, never mind the famously “doubting” Thomas, if you read the account of Jesus appearance in the upper room, needed special proof. Jesus ‘appeared’ in the locked room and they thought He was a ghost or a spirit. He said “touch me, give me some food to eat”

    37They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”

    40When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” 42They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43and he took it and ate it in their presence.

    Evidence of the Truth is available to all, but belief in the Truth is the gift of God. C. S. Lewis relates an anecdote about a Fellow at Oxford, a notorious atheist, who remarked that the ‘evidence for the resurrection was quite good’. Lewis said that he was shocked at the admission, and that it influenced him to investigate Christianity (he was still an atheist at the time). I think the episode is recounted in “Mere Christianity” but do not recall for certain.

    I think there is something in epistemology about not being able to believe something you think is impossible. The ‘miraculous’ is something we have been trained to think of as impossible. It is a ‘habit of mind’ for there is no ‘rational’ argument against the miraculous.

  36. ordinary seeker says:

    Dave, you write, “…evidence is in the eye of the beholder.” Yes, this is exactly the problem with Christianity, and exactly what I am talking about. In science, evidence is NOT in the eye of the beholder, it is clear and demonstrable and replicable.

  37. Dave says:

    Hi ordnary seeker

    In science, evidence is NOT in the eye of the beholder, it is clear and demonstrable and replicable.

    That’s hardly an accurate assessment of the more controversial sceintific theories.

    Demonstrate and replicate the origin of the universe.

    Demonstrate and replicate the formation of galaxies, stars, and planets.

    Demonstrate and replicate the origin of life

    Demonstrate and replicate evolution.

    These are all extremely hypothetical speculations which are shaped more by philosophy than they are by science. The entire evolutionary hypothesis is in crisis due to the progress of science, and despite that progress, the philosophical element is attempting to silence dissent from the Darwinian paradigm.

    Science, (from the Latin scientia “knowledge”), is the organized search for true knowledge about the universe. It only works if the scientist, the searcher, remains open to answers which may not fit his philosophy.

    It is a commonplace for philosophical materialists to trot out the shibboleth of ‘faith’ as a pre-ordained bias against open research, but in practice the philosophical materialist is even less open-minded than the Christian theist. If true knowledge of the universe includes ‘something’ which transcends the material universe then no theory which fails to account for this transcendent ‘something’ can be true, and therefore it cannot be ‘science’.

    There is a reason that ‘science’ as an organized discipline originated within the context of a Christian worldview. Philosophers of science have remarked on the issue in detail. Most of the great scientists were, until recently, practicing devout Christians. As Christians have been marginalized in the practice of science, science has become more and more procrustian, insisting that all answers (knowledge, scientia) conform to the materialist paradigm.

    The Christian should never be afraid of knowledge because the Christian should realize that all true knowledge (scientia) is consistent with revelation. No doubt, you will think I am misguided, but I have researched a great deal of science, philosophy, theology, and reason, and have found no cause to doubt my conclusions. They have, in fact, been solidified.

    This is why I enjoy participating in discussions such as this one hosted by Tom Gilson. They challenge me to justify my conclusions, to organize my arguments, and to answer criticism. I am forced to face those challenges and expand my knowledge. I have yet to find a challenge that someone in history has not already answered satisfactorily.

  38. Dave says:

    Hi ordinary seeker

    Speaking of the Origin of Life® here is an excerpt from an article in physicsworld.com by Paul Davies, astrobiologist and director of BEYOND: Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science at Arizona State University. The entire article is worth reading as it is filled with anthropomorphisms, attributing intentionality to quantum effects and chemistry. Davies also does a pretty good job of setting out the impediments to a naturalistic account of life’s origins.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Davies

    The origin of life
    A century and a half after Charles Darwin published On The Origin of Species, the origin of life itself remains a stubborn mystery, and is deeply problematic. The simplest known living organism is already stupendously complex, and it is inconceivable that such an entity would arise spontaneously by chance self-assembly. Most researchers suppose that life began either with a set of self-replicating, digital-information-carrying molecules much simpler than DNA, or with a self-catalyzing chemical cycle that stored no precise genetic information but was capable of producing additional quantities of the same chemical mixture. Both these approaches focus on the reproduction of material substances, which is only natural because, after all, known life reproduces by copying genetic material. However, the key properties of life — replication with variation, and natural selection — does not logically require material structures themselves to be replicated. It is sufficient that information is replicated. This opens up the possibility that life may have started with some form of quantum replicator: Q-life, if you like.

    http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/print/39669

    BTW, Davies, in his “The Mind of God: The Scientific Basis for a Rational Worldview” in a subsection of Ch. 1 The Scientific Miracle, wrote “Scientists themselves normally take it for granted that we live in a rational, ordered cosmos subject to precise laws that can be uncovered by human reasoning. Yet why this should be so remains a tantalyzing mystery. Why should human beings have the ability to discover and understand the principles on which the universe runs?” followed by a paean to the wonders of nature and its capacity to ‘self organize’. We are treated to a panegyric on the invitability of complex life and rational thought as an inevitable outcome of a rational order “written into the laws of nature in a deep and, I believe, meaningful way.”

    In the next section, “Human Reason and Common Sense” we discover the usual shibboleth of “science” juxtaposed against “irrational belief” and then the bald assertion “Yet the process of human reason is not God-given.”

    I wouldn’t mind if he offered a flawed argument for the rise of human reason, but this strange mix of pantheism and scientism is emminently qualified for classifcation as “irrational belief”. In both the article and the book there appears an unwavering commitment to the materialist, evolutionary, paradigm coupled with a profound awareness of its limitations as an explanatory model. To compensate for the limitations he imports a “Scientific Miracle” to bridge the gap. That’s why I quit believing in the evolutionary models… too many miracles.

  39. Jacob says:

    Tom Gilson -

    I want to respond to your comment addressed to Alex first. I don’t doubt the fact that many scholars date the creed to within 5-8 years; I presume that Paul would have met with the apostles somewhat early on, and one would expect that a new religion would have clear tenets from the start, but it would be interesting to hear the entire rationale from these scholars. I’d actually like to ask why none of these accounts seem to line up (if Matthew is to be believed, it almost seems like the ascension was the first time that the apostles saw the resurrected Jesus, but John practically tells you that the appearances can’t be counted). None of the gospels seem to converge with Paul’s account. Nor do I see a reference to five hundred at one time (as Paul made note of) in any of the gospels, but I merely skimmed them. I would argue that many of these are rhetorical accounts or hearsay. And the big reason why I don’t expect other extra-Biblical accounts to mention the resurrection is that it was relatively unimportant for the time. If one argues that these resurrection accounts didn’t happen exactly as they were reported, then it makes sense. They had nothing to report. Many of them might not have even known. This says to me that it made no noticeable impact on their lives. Resurrection accounts originated amongst tho followers of Jesus, and it was unimportant beyond that because, from a naturalist perspective, Jesus couldn’t have been resurrected, so the resurrection would not begin as a historically significant event worth recording, but unsubstantiated claims amongst a small group. Of course, I’m merely claiming that this naturalistic outlook is more credible, because from a supernatural perspective, could Jesus have done more? Why settle for less, then, since Paul was trying to be as credible as possible? You’ll settle for less, but you’ll accept more. So it becomes necessary to show that the evidence is good enough for extraordinary belief.

    Anyway, of course I can live with ambiguity. I must if I’m to claim that certain things just aren’t knowable with our current level of understanding. However, I do ask that it’s all coherent, which is what I was arguing about in that comment (saying that scientifically, historically, philosophically, theologically, and prophetically the authority of God fails) and indeed what I’ve been arguing since I began posting on this blog. Sure if Christianity could answer all of my issues, then the Genesis problem is nothing, but Genesis is merely endemic to the problems of the entire Bible. The ambiguity and apparent contradictions themselves render it of no significant application. In that second link you provided me, it talks about evidence for a finite universe, when there is actually good reason to think that the Israelites had a totally incorrect view of cosmology. Even if any of these can be reconciled, I see no reason for this confusion to begin with, where it could have spoken the complete truth about our existence and established its insurmountable credibility beyond question. The apparent problems just make it look like a product of flawed men who were not working at the behest of a greater power.

    Holopupenko -

    Genetic fallacy? Most of my comments on this blog, including the entire second half of that comment you responded to, have been an attempt to judge the actual truth claims of Christianity, so it seems kind of empty to claim that I’m just looking at the source. But that particular argument was an argument about the source. Actually, it was about a bit more than that – it was about the question of whether we can derive truth from experience (because, after all, truth is worthless if it can’t actually be known). So these are perfectly reasonable arguments. Atheism/agnosticism is a different breed: I’ve argued before about the potential of people to ascertain certain beliefs or facts under these worldviews, and you never responded with anything substantive.

    Dave -

    The entire idea of demonstration and replication presumes that given our understanding, we can expect these results. This approach is still inspired from an evidential basis. Evolutionary theory is accepted because it explains the evidence we have from all organisms, and it dramatically underscores the approach scientists take to modern biology to such a degree that little makes sense without it. Actually, it’s more than accepted – the consensus is overwhelming. It makes me wonder…what dissent? Behe and Dembski? Their science is ridiculed because their science is suspect. In fact, given their mistakes, it’s amazing how much time many scientists actually spend refuting their claims. I would surmise that given the numbers, there are scores more evolutionary theists in the scientific community than young earth creationists. Those are the people who have the most prevailing reason to deny evolution and yet don’t. Theists like Ken Miller and Francis Collins attempt to expose the fallacies of the young earth creationists because the evidence simply isn’t there for special creation. Darwin once said that the supposed interconnectedness of all organisms alone is enough to give credence to his theory. As we do more and more DNA work, the gradients between species become even more clear. It’s easy to say that evolution is in crisis, but if you actually read any scientist, their arguments are strong, and they readily engage and refute all critics.

    I’ll talk about the rest of your arguments later, but for now I have to end this comment.

  40. david ellis says:


    That is good to know. Now comes the $64 question, what does it mean to have a rationally warranted belief?

    A rationally warranted belief is, in thumbnail and subject to some, probably minor, qualifications, one formed by methods likely (though not necessarily certain) to result in us believing truths and refraining from believing falsehoods.


    We are forced into a position where we must trust our senses and our reasoning.

    Our senses maybe (so long as we aren’t finding conflicts between our senses or are seeing things others arent). In regard to our reasoning, though, we’re often forced into positions where we must almost inevitably recognize our failure to reason well (ask anyone who failed their calculus class or couldn’t figure out how to solve a rubik’s cube). Regardless, though, I haven’t denied that there are sensible foundational beliefs so I don’t know why you think it necessary to point out something that we’ve already agreed on.


    It’s perfectly reasonable to think that physical things require physical evidence. What about the non-physical though?

    Fortunately, the central non-physical beings claimed by Christians to exist (God the Father and God the Son) are capable of physically interacting with the world.

    We need some way to distinguish imaginary entities from real ones to be justified in saying a being or type of being exists. Without some variety of empirical evidence we simply can’t do that. If, for example, ghosts exist but are in no way capable of making their presence known—either directly through our senses (visually manifesting, moving objects, speaking, etc) or directly communicating to our minds and providing information we didn’t have but could verify—then we just don’t have any way to reasonably claim they exist.

    If you wish to propose some alternate method that could actually distinguish the real from the imaginary then I’d be glad to hear it.


    We both have a warranted belief in the existence of the infinite even though we have never knowingly encountered an example of a physical infinite.

    I have no belief in a physical infinite and, as to things like an infinite number series, that’s an idea—not a category of thing I claimed we need empirical evidence for.


    On second thought, here’s another….Humanists believe a better world is possible. One that has never been physically encountered or experienced before. Do they have a warranted belief?

    The only sort of claim that I’ve argued that we need empirical evidence for is those of the variety “X is an existent being”.

    So why you are giving examples of things outside that category as if you think it refuted my claim or showed an inconsistency in my position is difficult to guess.


    Just thought of a third….you believe in the ideal observer concept. Is your belief warranted?

    See above.

  41. Dave says:

    The entire idea of demonstration and replication presumes that given our understanding, we can expect these results.

    Actually, demonstration and replication is the method of proving your scientific discoveries (knowledge) by demonstrating the methods you used to achieve them and replicating the result. Given the same materials, the same tools and the same method anyone should be able to repeat your experiment and achieve the same result.

    This approach is still inspired from an evidential basis.

    Yes, that is what we call “science” because it deals with true knowledge, through demonstrable and repeatable experimentation.

    Evolutionary theory is accepted because it explains the evidence we have from all organisms, and it dramatically underscores the approach scientists take to modern biology to such a degree that little makes sense without it.

    As you say here, evolution is an “explanatory” model which extrapolates from observed phenomena. As such it better qualifies as “natural philosophy” because it does not involve demonstration or replication. The conclusions drawn by evolutionary theorists are influenced as much by the assumptions they bring to the table as they are by the observed phenomena. Evolution is faced with manifold evidential difficulties despite the assertion of Theodosius Dobzhansky that, “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution”

    Actually, it’s more than accepted – the consensus is overwhelming.

    Science is not governed by consensus, it is governed, as you noted above, by demonstration and replication.

    It makes me wonder…what dissent? Behe and Dembski? Their science is ridiculed because their science is suspect.

    The ID hypothesis, of which Dembski and Behe are only the most visible proponents, is no less specualtive than the evolutionary hypothesis. As an explanatory model it is at least as valid as evolution. The ‘science’ is suspect because the metaphysical implications are anathema to the philosophical materialist paradigm and the hypothesis is ridiculed because there is no satisfactory evidential refutation.

    In fact, given their mistakes, it’s amazing how much time many scientists actually spend refuting their claims.

    1) Have you actually read the arguments?

    2) Yes, it is amazing…. why do you think they take the hypothesis so seriously that they would expend so much valuable time trying to refute it?

    I would surmise that given the numbers, there are scores more evolutionary theists in the scientific community than young earth creationists.

    1) I would surmise that, given the numbers, your surmise would be a demonstrable fact. But, as noted above, science is not governed by consensus, it is governed by demonstration and replication.

    2) Most ID proponents, including Dembski and Behe are not young earth creationists. It is a significant illustration of the dishonesty of their materialist critics that they deliberately and regularly conflate ID with YEC despite the fact that Debski, Behe, and other ID proponents have publicly disavowed YEC and that YEC proponents have publicly distanced themselves from ID.

    No. I do not regard Genesis as a scientific text. I have no vested theological interest in the age of the earth or the universe. I find the arguments of geologists persuasive when they argue for an earth that is 4.5 billion years old. What’s more, I find the arguments of astrophysicists persuasive when they argue for a universe that is approximately 14 billion years old.

    http://www.leaderu.com/offices/dembski/docs/bd-meta098.html

    Behe accepts the common descent of species, including that humans descended from other primates, although he states that common descent does not by itself explain the differences between species. He also accepts the scientific consensus on the age of the Earth and the age of the Universe.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Behe

    Perhaps you should consider learning what these people advocate before parroting the misrepresentations of their critics.

    Those are the people who have the most prevailing reason to deny evolution and yet don’t. Theists like Ken Miller and Francis Collins attempt to expose the fallacies of the young earth creationists because the evidence simply isn’t there for special creation.

    You are continuing to conflate ID, Creationism and Young Earth Creationism. Each makes particular claims about the nature of the universe and the origin and diversity of life each, to some degree, contradicts the others. The same assessment could be mad of the various competing theories of evolution. The major difference is that ID, Creationism and Young Earth Creationism all claim that a design may be observe in nature whereas evolutionary theories are a-teleological. Theistic evolutionist, caught between a rock and a hard place, are trying to straddle the divide, which usually means they are treated as useful idiots when their pronouncements help one side, and as damnable turncoats when their pronouncements help the other.

    Darwin once said that the supposed interconnectedness of all organisms alone is enough to give credence to his theory.

    “…supposed interconnectedness…”?

    As we do more and more DNA work, the gradients between species become even more clear.

    The findings mean that to link species by Darwin’s evolutionary branches is an oversimplification. “The tree of life is being politely buried,” said Michael Rose, an evolutionary biologist at the University of California, Irvine. “What’s less accepted is that our whole fundamental view of biology needs to change.”

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2009/jan/21/charles-darwin-evolution-species-tree-life

    It’s easy to say that evolution is in crisis, but if you actually read any scientist, their arguments are strong, and they readily engage and refute all critics.

    “Evolution is a fact, fact, FACT!”

    Michael Ruse, “Darwinism Defended”, 1982
    (Please note: The above examples are not necessarily endorsed by the myself but do demonstrate that the evolutionary paradigm is in crisis)

  42. david ellis says:


    Evolution is faced with manifold evidential difficulties despite the assertion of Theodosius Dobzhansky that, “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution”

    For example? And please pick those that you believe most strongly warrant skepticism in regard to evolution.

  43. Dave says:

    Hi David

    For example? And please pick those that you believe most strongly warrant skepticism in regard to evolution.

    Read some for yourself.

    http://www.darwinspredictions.com/

    Cornelius G. Hunter is a graduate of the University of Illinois where he earned a Ph.D. in Biophysics and Computational Biology. He is Adjunct Professor at Biola University and author of the award-winning Darwin’s God: Evolution and the Problem of Evil. Hunter’s other books include Darwin’s Proof, and his newest book Science’s Blind Spot (Baker/Brazos Press). Dr. Hunter’s interest in the theory of evolution involves the historical and theological, as well as scientific, aspects of the theory. His website is http://www.DarwinsPredictions.com.

  44. SteveK says:

    So David, if I were to sum up your objection to my last comment it would be that you only want to focus on the question of warranted belief with respect to non-physical beings.

    My objection to that is its far easier to formulate an answer when we start with a belief we both agree with – one that lacks similar empirical support.

  45. Tony Hoffman says:

    Dave,

    I tried to post something like this earlier but I guess it didn’t go through – sorry if this is a repeat (paraphrase).

    Along with David, I am interested in what you think is the chief (or top list) of manifold difficulties faced by evolution. (The page you linked to contains a fairly long-winded list of assertions, and I’m not sure what in particular you find so persuasive there.)

    Science is not governed by consensus, it is governed, as you noted above, by demonstration and replication.

    Replication is the method by which consensus is gathered. Seeing as how most of us lack the technical expertise to replicate experiments on our own, we rely on the consensus of those with the necessary background to inform us of their judgments.

    The ID hypothesis, of which Dembski and Behe are only the most visible proponents, is no less specualtive than the evolutionary hypothesis.

    I have looked for the ID hypothesis for some time, and have not been able to find one. Please tell me what you think the ID hypothesis is, and explain why it is that no one has been able to test it.

    The ’science’ is suspect because the metaphysical implications are anathema to the philosophical materialist paradigm and the hypothesis is ridiculed because there is no satisfactory evidential refutation.

    I don’t know what this means, and wonder if you could clarify.

    Your link to an article in the Guardian discusses the ability of some previously thought distinct species to cross breed. Why do you think that this means that “the evolutionary paradigm is in crisis?”

    Lastly, Evolution is a scientific theory, and as Behe defines Evolution (to mean common descent), Evolution is also a scientific fact. I agree that the differences between scientific theories, laws, and facts should be better taught in basic science classes.

    Lastly, as you proclaim that the evolutionary paradigm is in crisis, I have to ask if you subscribe to or read any biological journals, and if so, which ones.

  46. Dave says:

    Hello Tony

    Along with David, I am interested in what you think is the chief (or top list) of manifold difficulties faced by evolution. (The page you linked to contains a fairly long-winded list of assertions, and I’m not sure what in particular you find so persuasive there.)

    A little personal history… I grew up in an agnostic, if not atheist, household. I learned the whole evolutionary paradigm as a child and never questioned the premises or the conclusions. About 15 years ago I became a practicing Christian for philosophic reasons, but I wasn’t particularly certain if there is a God.

    That may sound strange, but I had determined that the atheist paradigm was irrational. I didn’t know if there was a God. I still couldn’t answer with absolute certainty, but the theistic paradigm is rational. It is the only paradigm of which I am aware which provides a coherent answer to the human condition.

    The one thing that continued to bother me was the story of creation in Genesis. If there was a God why would He pass on a fairy story about the beginning of the world. Over a period of several years I would return to the question of Genesis, discover no solution, and drop it only to return to it again. I read theistic evolution, a variety of quasi-mystical ‘science’ books (by PhD scientists), and anything else that promised to solve the dilemma. The one thing I wouldn’t even consider was that evolution was false. In my mind the Bible needed to be conformed to the evolutionary paradigm.

    Then I read “Icons of Evolution” by Jonathan Wells. It is an examination of the iconic proofs of evolution which we all were taught in school. The ubiquitous illustration of monkey to man, Haekel’s embryos, the Miller-Urey experiment, etc. Wells demonstrates that they are either imaginative fictions, failures, or outright frauds. No one, not even the evolutionists, dispute his demonstration.

    Until then I had been intellectually incapable of questioning evolution, so effectively had I been indoctrinated. Even so, it was only a crack in the wall. I remember thinking, “This can’t really be true.” But I kept digging, I read other critiques of evolutionary theory from a variety of sources, some religious, most scientific. It took the better part of a decade for me to overcome the indoctrination.

    So, when you ask “which particular problem in evolution I find most persuasive” I don’t really know where to start. There is a preponderance of little evidences all of which add up to a convincing whole. There are all the false examples enumerated by Wells, deliberately used, still, even though they are known to be fraudulent. Fool me once, shame on you… fool me twice shame on me.

    I progressed to Behe’s “Darwin’s Black Box” for a journey into the structure of the cell… the ‘simple’ cell. Do you have any concept of the number of integrated functions which are required for a ‘simple’ cell? Do not mistake me here, I am not saying “Oh, its so complicated God must have done it.” any more than I say that about an automobile, a factory, or the computer on which I am presently typing. But I cannot attribute the construction and specialized function of the automobile, the factory, or the computer to a random mixing of parts.

    Behe thought too small, he was preoccupied with a few (relatively) simple cellular functions (that’s not really fair to Behe, but I think, in a sense, it is true) Unlike the automobile, the factory, or the computer, the cell must construct itself. It must aquire the ores, refine them, construct the components it will assemble into the parts of itself, and then assemble the parts in the right order, the right quantity, at the right time. Furthermore, it must monitor the finished product to detect and repair any damaged or non-functional part before it experiences catastrophic failure. And on top of all that it must collect and dispose of the garbage which are byproducts of its functions. And that’s a ‘simple’ cell.

    And let us not forget DNA. Information theory. The discovery of the structure of DNA caused Francis Crick (temporarily – before he was corrected by the more orthodox of his peers) to speculate that life was ‘seeded’ on Earth by aliens. Directed panspermia. You see, Crick understood that just as an infinite number of monkeys typing for an infinite period of time can not write Shakespeare, it was equally impossible for an infinite number of undirected chemical interactions over an infinite period of time to write the instruction set which we call DNA. Universal human experience is that information is the product of mind. Besides, we don’t have an infinite period of time. We have, at most, 5 billion years. That may sound like a lot of time, but it is not even a drop in the bucket when it comes to the requirements of evolution.

    Darwin looked at the breeding of domestic animals and hypothesized that, given enough time, it was ‘possible’ that one creature could morph into another creature. Yet, animal breeders and plant breeders, have known since long before Darwin that there is a boundary which they cannot cross. We can breed bigger dogs and smaller dogs, but we cannot breed not-dogs. At a certain point the specialized breed either goes sterile and dies out or reverts to type. Thousands of generations of fruit flies, thousands of generations of bacteria, stressed and irradiated and selectively bred have produced fruit flies and bacteria. And that is the result of ‘intelligent and guided’ selection. Do you really think that an unintelligent and unguided process of random mutation and natural selection could do better?

    Finally, here is another example of evolutionists fudging the numbers. We are informed over and over again that the similarity between the human and chimp genomes is 98% – proof of common ancestry. Well, here is a dissenting analysis by a genetic researcher.

    My article on chimpanzees went one simple step further than the Science report. I took the amount of the chimp genome which has been aligned with the human genome (2.4 billion bases) and divided this by the size of the human genome (3.16 billion bases), to work out that only 76% of the human genome shows the 1.23% SNP and 3% indel differences (see above). Using these figures, and citing 2.7% copy number variation between the two species (Nature 437:88-93), I argued for a total similarity of around 70%.

    This is a conservative estimate of what we can be quite sure is similar. Like all estimates, it makes assumptions. The key one here is that the parts of the chimpanzee genome that did not align to the human genome are different to the human genome. In general this is obviously true – only similar sequences can be lined up – but it is possible that the complex procedure by which the scientists aligned the two genomes may have caused some similar sequences not to be included. In addition, the 4% of the chimpanzee genome that has not yet been sequenced, or portions that have not been sequenced accurately, may also prove to have some similarity to the human genome. These could raise the overall similarity by a few percent, but I predict that when we have a reliable, complete chimpanzee genome, the overall similarity of the human genome will prove to be close to 70% (and very far from 99%).

    The author is a research geneticist at the University of Florida

    http://www.refdag.nl/artikel/1378077/70+Chimp.html

    Sorry this post is so long, but it took me a long time to overcome the materialist indoctrination which we have all received, courtesy of the public education system. Even so, I have only hit the “high points” which came to mind while sitting here. I have read a couple of hundred books and hundreds of essays and articles as well. I have little hope that my personal oddessy will be particularly convincing to any of you. It took a prior realization of the inadequacies of philosphical materialsm, plus a shock to my worldview, and a commitment to spend over a decade seeking an intellectually defensible pardigm before I changed my mind about evolution.

    BTW, I refer to evolutionary teaching as indoctrination because it is taught as if there is no dissent to the ‘consensus’ view. In fact there has always been dissent, primarily by scientists on scientific grounds. The only truly compelling evidence for evolution is philosophical. If God does not exist then something very much like evolution must have happened. That is why philosophical materialist insist, “Evolution is a fact, fact, FACT”

  47. Dave says:

    I have looked for the ID hypothesis for some time, and have not been able to find one.

    Right from the horses’ mouth…

    ID Defined

    The theory of intelligent design (ID) holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause rather than an undirected process such as natural selection. ID is thus a scientific disagreement with the core claim of evolutionary theory that the apparent design of living systems is an illusion.

    In a broader sense, Intelligent Design is simply the science of design detection — how to recognize patterns arranged by an intelligent cause for a purpose. Design detection is used in a number of scientific fields, including anthropology, forensic sciences that seek to explain the cause of events such as a death or fire, cryptanalysis and the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI). An inference that certain biological information may be the product of an intelligent cause can be tested or evaluated in the same manner as scientists daily test for design in other sciences.

    ID is controversial because of the implications of its evidence, rather than the significant weight of its evidence. ID proponents believe science should be conducted objectively, without regard to the implications of its findings. This is particularly necessary in origins science because of its historical (and thus very subjective) nature, and because it is a science that unavoidably impacts religion.

    Positive evidence of design in living systems consists of the semantic, meaningful or functional nature of biological information, the lack of any known law that can explain the sequence of symbols that carry the “messages,” and statistical and experimental evidence that tends to rule out chance as a plausible explanation. Other evidence challenges the adequacy of natural or material causes to explain both the origin and diversity of life.

    http://www.uncommondescent.com/id-defined/

  48. Dave says:

    Peter L. Berger argues: “ideas don’t succeed in history because of their inherent truthfulness, but rather because of their connection to very powerful institutions and interests.”

  49. david ellis says:

    Dave, so far the only “evidence” against evolution you’ve presented is

    A. an expression of incredulity at the idea of the natural evolution of the cell.

    B. a claim (unsupported) that billions of years isn’t enough time for DNA to evolve the level of complexity it has.

    C. the fact that dog breeders haven’t breed non-dogs. and:

    D. the claim that the similarity between human and chimpanzee DNA is smaller than has been commonly claimed (even if that’s true, how does it present a problem for evolution?).

    So, in total, we have two statements of personal incredulity, one observation that dog breeders have not succeeded in doing something that, so far as I know, they haven’t even made any concerted effort to do in the first place and the claim that two species most of the scientific community thinks are 97 or 98% genetically similar are more like 70% similar.

    Just out of curiosity, on what grounds do you conclude that we have not had enough time (or that it isn’t possible at all) for whatever was the first self-replicating molecule to develop into cells or for DNA to develop to their present level of complexity?

  50. Craig says:

    I don’t know if this has been brought up before and, as I am having a particularly lazy day, I haven’t looked, so if it has, I apologize in advance.

    Why must evolution and creation be viewed as being at odds with each other? To me, it doesn’t seem like an either/or. Why can’t it be a both/and?

  51. Tony Hoffman says:

    Dave,

    I peppered you with a lot of questions and didn’t expect you to answer them all. But the ones you have answered seem incomplete to me in some ways I’ll detail below.

    Regarding the link to uncommondescent, this is not a hypothesis of ID. I am looking for the hypothesis, the thing to be tested inductively, a reasonable method for so doing, etc. (I imagine that you understand that this is difficult, and that I believe you will separate yourself from all other ID proponents were you able to devise such a thing. On the plus side, it’s probably worth a Nobel Prize, not to mention a Templeton.)

    ID proponents believe science should be conducted objectively, without regard to the implications of its findings. This is particularly necessary in origins science because of its historical (and thus very subjective) nature, and because it is a science that unavoidably impacts religion.

    I am not sure what you mean by “science should be conducted objectively” (I can’t think of any scientific field that promotes subjective methods over objective ones.), especially in light of the your concern that this is necessary because “ it unavoidably impacts religion.” I would say that whether or not a scientific finding conflicts with any religion should be completely irrelevant to the scientific acceptance of that knowledge. Do you disagree?

    Peter L. Berger argues: “ideas don’t succeed in history because of their inherent truthfulness, but rather because of their connection to very powerful institutions and interests.”

    This quote makes Mr. Berger sound like a conspiracist. Some of your earlier post, discussing evolutionists “fudging the numbers,” cases of “outright frauds,” and “materialist indoctrination,” etc. make you sound as if you feel that the Theory of Evolution is more a conspiracy than a scientific theory. Is that fair, or do you think that Evolutionary Science is a legitimate scientific enterprise?

  52. Tony Hoffman says:

    Craig,

    I think it depends on what variety of creationist you are. (I am creation agnostic, for instance — I am pretty sure that we just don’t know how life began, and we will probably never have a definitive, convincing answer.). Certainly, some Christians have accepted a more metaphorical interpretation of the Bible that does not conflict with Evolutionary Theory, and they are comfortable with that. I believe that Crick or Watson has supposed that earth could have been seeded with life from space, and evolution taken over after that introduction, so there is a kind of Evolutionist-first who does not rule out creation per se. But many Christians feel that revelation is clear that God created man as special, and that the Theory of Evolution must yield where its implications conflict with what they consider that greater truth.

    I believe that some Evolutionist has stated drily that Evolution would be falsified were the fossils of a rabbit to be found in some Pre Cambrian rock. I wonder what the Christians on this site would consider falsification of special creation. My guess is that there is no scientific finding that would do, but I am curious what others would say.

  53. Tom Gilson says:

    In case anyone is wondering, my blogging time has been short the past couple of days, and may remain that way for a week or so. I have a series of meetings coming up, and I’m not sure how much time they’ll allow me for taking part in these discussions.

  54. david ellis says:


    Why must evolution and creation be viewed as being at odds with each other? To me, it doesn’t seem like an either/or. Why can’t it be a both/and?

    It can, of course. And it isn’t limited to religious issues either. Its possible, for example, that, as in the science fiction novel 2001 A Space Odyssey (and sequels), a very advanced alien species has encouraged the dawning of life and mind—seeding worlds with replicators and tinkering with various species. Almost any combination of evolution and creation/intelligent design (whether by supernatural or natural beings) is a logical possibility.

    And I’d certainly be interested in any scientific way we might have to distinguish purely naturally evolved life from ones that have been intelligently designed or modified. But it seems a near impossible thing to do—especially regarding extinct species. A more recent real world example would be genetically modified foods and animals modified by selective breeding. I don’t know if there are ways to distinguish these from those not modified by humans but it would be a worthwhile place for those pursuing the possibility of intelligent design theory as real science to start.

    At this point though there’s nothing that would indicate intelligent beings, other than humans, doing any tinkering.

  55. Charlie says:

    Hi Dave,
    I’ve been enjoying reading your posts along with those of Tom, Holopupenko and Steve over the past several threads.
    I commend you for taking on evolution here, which is such a big and broad topic that the discussion can not actually go very far and so is usually avoided as much as possible.
    Thank you for so graciously outlining your thinking while knowing in advance what kind of responses you’ll get back.
    You are obviously well-read and informed on the subject.

  56. Jacob says:

    Dave -

    Of course intelligent designers want to dismiss scientific consensus (all 99% of it) – it’s not on their side. But the consensus itself is a product of the efficacy of the theory. Saying that it’s buffeted by powerful institutions and interests is kind of silly because the religious influences in this country are some of the most powerful – even to the extent that many lawmakers think that the Earth is only 6000 years old. It’s this reason that evolutionists do engage ID or creationism despite the fact that special creation is practically dead in the scientific community. Some 40-50% of Americans still believe in special creation, so a failure to engage their arguments would ultimately hurt more than it would help. In other words, special creation is only taken seriously because it has such powerful influences. But because non-theism is still a small, minority position, evolutionary theory is only a powerful view if it’s valuable to somebody, which means that it carries many levels of truth. Creationists and IDers like to use the persecution complex, but if consensus was on their side, then they’d never think twice about it. Evolution, on the other hand, would fall apart without consensus because its acceptance is proportionate to how tenable it is. It has had to prove itself valuable. But ID hasn’t produced many useful things(if it has, I would dearly like to know) and is only valuable because it buffets the religious views of its believers.

    That leads to another huge issue. Yes, I misspoke when I characterized all IDers as YECers (I tend to do that out of habit, and yes, I have read Behe on irreducible complexity and such), but ID itself doesn’t have any theories of its own. Many of its proponents can’t agree on the timescale, the designer, or the actual limits of evolution. One person I argued with said that speciation can happen, but there is no actual method for the addition of new information. So if I get some of these mixed up, then it’s because there is so much disagreement. This is not the same as evolution, I’m afraid. Scientists disagree on the details. Where in the reptilian line did birds branch off? How did the wing evolve? Where exactly does this species go in the scheme of things? But the underlying theory is solid and hasn’t met with much disagreement except to alter it slightly.

    I also find that proponents of ID often quote mine (and sometimes from individual scientists who may not necessarily hold a tenable view). I don’t believe I said anything about the tree of life. I said that species are gradients – they show changes between one another and compromise large motifs that underlie many species (the whale is my favorite example, as it shows genes and characteristics from land-based mammals that have been altered or fallen out of use completely). I’m not going to argue about that article, as it doesn’t change what I say, and even if it did, it means that the theory is in the process of being refined, which is a good thing. IDers and creationists mistake refinement for weakness.

    Likewise, who are these evolutionists that are fudging the numbers in regards to human/chimp DNA? How do you know that Dr. Richard Buggs isn’t fudging the numbers? (Interestingly, a google search on this topic brings up a lot of creationist sites) He is right that the fundamental approach one takes might change the answer – letter by letter, coding regions, etc. So is this a question of the best method…? Anyway, chimps and humans diverged at least five million years ago, heading in different directions, so it also must be a question of the changes that happened during that period of time. For instance, it only takes one event to drastically change the genome.

    I have also read the arguments of Behe and others that evolution would actually take longer than it is currently surmised. I would like to know the science behind it and the reason why the current theories are wrong. As far as I know, Dembski has done a lot of work on this, but people like Wesley Elsberry have contradicted him. But it’s not very useful to the argument unless something specific is posited.

    Of course, if evolution is actually that slow, then dog breeding would not produce a new species, as the most prolific period of breeding has only occurred in the last few hundred years. But I would like to know what kind of boundaries you’re referring to. Because it seems rather contradictory on one hand to say that organisms cannot go too far in their own species when there are examples of fertile, cross-species hybrids. Is there only one viable arrangement of DNA? No, as each organism is a different rearrangement of DNA. There is no right arrangement. There is only what works. Are the valleys between species some sort of sterile desolation? Again, viable crosses are possible, and the incredible versatility of DNA seems to speak to gradients of change. We’ve also witnessed speciations occur. So there doesn’t seem to be much of a model here. Sure many changes are harmful – in fact, the health of many individual dogs has been deleterious because we’ve removed them from the entire survival of the fittest thing. But it’s a leap to say that all changes are eventually harmful because there is nothing right about any one arrangement of DNA. Are you saying that evolution really isn’t a model of survival and adaptability but is really a degeneration? The science doesn’t support that.

    And actually, I think that a non-intelligent source would be better at evolution in some aspects because evolution, then, is free to respond to market pressures, as it were, and find the right evolutionary pathway to further sustainability. HIV is one example of something that has changed drastically in a short period of time on its own.

    I planned to address the complexity of the cell question, but I may get to that later.

  57. Dave says:

    Hello David

    So, in total, we have two statements of personal incredulity,

    No, I gave you reasons for my skepticism regarding the naturalistic speculations regarding the evolution of an integrated and complex functioning organism. You may wish to attribute that to “personal incredulity” but you have no idea how much I have researched the question. When youare able to offer something other than the ususal “may have”, “could have”, “we might imagine”, “it is possible”, Darwinian fairytale I might change my conclusion.

    one observation that dog breeders have not succeeded in doing something that, so far as I know, they haven’t even made any concerted effort to do in the first place

    I also included the examples of fruit flies and bacteria. We do know that they have made concerted efforts to breed fruit flies and bacteria into different creatures with absolutely no success. The extremely short generation times have made them the preferred organism for such experiments. Are you able to provide some credible refutation of the conclusion I have arrived at through a significant investment of time and effort or are you simply hurling elephants?

    and the claim that two species most of the scientific community thinks are 97 or 98% genetically similar are more like 70% similar.

    Given that the human-chimp relation is one of the “proofs” of common descent and natural selection I think it significant, however the point of that particular example wa the duplicity, intentional or otherwise, of the evolutionary community. I find it troubling that several of the major props of evolutionary theory (remember Icons are imaginary, mirepresented, or fraudulent.

    Just out of curiosity, on what grounds do you conclude that we have not had enough time (or that it isn’t possible at all) for whatever was the first self-replicating molecule to develop into cells or for DNA to develop to their present level of complexity?

    Probability theory. I realize it could be a fallacy to use probability theory to predict the likelihood of any one “miracle” happening, but evolution requires a chain of miraculous events. Each event, highly improbable in its own right, becomes less and less probable as the sequence is extended. It provides no benefit to a creature to develop an eye without the nervous infrastructure and cognitive capacity to use the eye. A tooth is of no benefit unless it is in a mouth. These are obvious truisms, but each relatively ‘simple’ component is part of an integrated whole. The component, on its own, is useless, and the integrated whole, minus one vital component, is dead. I do believe Richard Dawkins wrote a book about that… “Climbing Mount Improbable”
    http://www.amazon.com/Climbing-Mount-Improbable-Richard-Dawkins/dp/0393316823

    BTW – Here is Richard Dawkins speaking about the power of natural selection
    http://www.arn.org/docs/dawkins.mpg

    And if you are really interested in the mathematical criticism
    http://creationsafaris.com/epoi_tp.htm

  58. david ellis says:


    Probability theory.

    Could you be more specific? Again, I’m interested in having a discussion—not an link exchange.

    If its a complex argument, fine. You can start fairly general and then focus in on particulars as discussion progresses.

  59. Dave says:

    Hi Craig

    Why must evolution and creation be viewed as being at odds with each other? To me, it doesn’t seem like an either/or. Why can’t it be a both/and?

    A very good question! What’s the big deal? as I noted above, my concern originally was to ‘fit’ evolution into the Biblical paradigm. I thought the evidence for evolution was so overwhelming that I either had to make the Biblical story conform to evolution or concede that I was wrong about Biblical Christianity. (There are plenty of ‘Christianities’ which have discarded some or all of the Bible) I was convinced that Christianity was the answer to the question of me (the human question), but if it was built on mythical fairy tales I couldn’t beleive it. The major stumbling block (for me) was evolution.

    Now that I have satisfied myself that evolution is a “fairy tale for grownups” I am able to look at the implications of the theory from a slightly different perspective. Here are a few reasons why I think evolution is totally incompatable with Christian theology.

    1) Evolution is, by definition, an undirected, random process of change. To suggest that God directed evolution is to insert a concept into the theory that the theory was deliberately formulated to eliminate.

    2) Since it is undirected there is no room for goals or purpose. Human beings or slime mold it’s all the same to evolution. Everything just chugs along without any end in mind.

    3) It attacks the very foundations of human thought because it eliminates the distinctions which make coherent thought possible. A dog is merely an arbitrary point on a continuum from pre-dog to post-dog as evolution chugs along. Life is reduced to “matter in motion” ontologically indistinguishable from other matter in motion or from dead matter.

    Evolution is a good example of that modern intelligence which, if it destroys anything, destroys itself. Evolution is either an innocent scientific description of how certain earthly things came about; or, if it is anything more than this, it is an attack upon thought itself. If evolution destroys anything, it does not destroy religion but rationalism. If evolution simply means that a positive thing called an ape turned very slowly into a positive thing called a man, then it is stingless for the most orthodox; for a personal God might just as well do things slowly as quickly, especially if, like the Christian God, he were outside time. But if it means anything more, it means that there is no such thing as an ape to change, and no such thing as a man for him to change into. It means that there is no such thing as a thing. At best, there is only one thing, and that is a flux of everything and anything. This is an attack not upon the faith, but upon the mind; you cannot think if there are no things to think about. You cannot think if you are not separate from the subject of thought. Descartes said, “I think; therefore I am.” The philosophic evolutionist reverses and negatives the epigram. He says, “I am not; therefore I cannot think.”

    Then there is the opposite attack on thought: that urged by Mr. H.G.Wells when he insists that every separate thing is unique,” and there are no categories at all. This also is merely destructive. Thinking means connecting things, and stops if they cannot be connected. It need hardly be said that this scepticism forbidding thought necessarily forbids speech; a man cannot open his mouth without contradicting it. Thus when Mr. Wells says (as he did somewhere), “All chairs are quite different,” he utters not merely a misstatement, but a contradiction in terms. If all chairs were quite different, you could not call them “all chairs.”

    http://books.google.com/books?id=vq9VY-JCyWMC&pg=PA28&lpg=PA28&dq=Chesterton+%22attack+on+thought%22&source=bl&ots=0WIm_HwemO&sig=EXo-G1Ug-1cEebsfKGnrkCnrVag&hl=en&ei=lDBmSvG5B5DQsQPoi43zDg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=3

    4) The Bible tells us that death is an invader, “the last enemy” and “the wages of sin”. Evolution turns this upside down by making ‘death’ through natural selection, the engine of creation. This creative power, in a sense, deifies death in opposition to the God of life. This, I think, has extremely subtle and destructive implications.

    That’s just off the top of my head.

  60. Dave says:

    Hello David

    Could you be more specific? Again, I’m interested in having a discussion—not an link exchange.

    Okay. Let’s look odds of forming a simple sentence by random action. What are the odds that that sentence could be formed by random mutation and natural selection? Richard Dawkins performed this trick with the phrase “Methinks it is like a weasel” from Shakespeare, but he rigged the game (Google Dawkins Weasel and you will find the trick and the critiques)

    IDers write about “specified complexity” – If you are travelling on train and looking out the window you see a series of white stones laid out to say “Hi Dave” would you think they just happened to land that way by accident? Not very likely, but it is “logically possible” in the sense that evolution is logically possible (see my response to Craig).

    The odds of forming the two words “Hi Dave” by chance are over 1 trillion to one. If we eliminate the capital letters, “hi dave”, we reduce the odds to a mere 10.4 billion to one. Pretty easy, huh?

    Now, the great flaw with probability theory is that it is “theoretical”… go figure… There is no way to calculate when in the series of 10.4 billion tries at picking seven letters (out of 26 lower case letter in the alphabet plus one blank for a total of twenty seven) and it could as just a ‘probably’ be the first try as it could be the last try. It matters little for my puposes because a short seven glyph sentence is only the first step in a process.

    We might even draw an analogy between the seven glyph sentence and an amino acid, although the sentence somewhat simpler than an amino acid. Now, an amino acid is only useful to living organisms if it is “left handed” (know as the problem of chirality). So, we first need the near miraculous randam assemby of a meaningful if simple sentence. but now we learn that it must be left handed – let’s draw an analogy to all CAPS “HI DAVE” and all lower case “hi dave”. This will play havoc with the odds calculated so far, but I won’t change them from the lower end calculation because, even giving you a head start, they are so incrediby slim that they are, for all practical purposes impossible.

    Dr. Harold J. Morowitz of Yale University has done extensive research for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to discover the theoretical limits for the simplest free-living thing which could duplicate itself, or, technically, the minimal biological entity capable of autonomous self-replication. He took into consideration the minimum operating equipment needed and the space it would require. Also, attention was given to electrical properties and to the hazards of thermal motion. From these important studies, the conclusion is that the smallest such theoretical entity would require 239 or more individual protein molecules.2

    This is not very much simpler than the smallest actually known autonomous living organism, which is the minuscule, bacteria-like Mycoplasma hominis H39. It has around 600 different kinds of proteins.3 From present scientific knowledge, there is no reason to believe that anything smaller ever existed. We will, however, use the lesser total of 239 protein molecules from Morowitz’ theoretical minimal cell, which comprise 124 different kinds.4

    2 This data via personal communications from Morowitz, October and November, 1971. This reflects Morowitz’ most recent estimate from continuing research with co-workers at Yale. Earlier estimates were that the smallest possible living thing would be much less complex. (Harold J. Morowitz and Mark E. Tourtellotte, “The Smallest Living Cells,” The Living Cell, ed. Donald Kennedy [San Francisco: W. H. Freeman and Co., 1965], pp. 31-39. Also: Harold J. Morowitz, “Biological Self-Replicating Systems,” Progress in Theoretical Biology, ed. Fred M. Snell, Vol. 1 [1967], pp. 52-57.)

    3 Hans R. Bode and Harold J. Morowitz, “Size and Structure of the Mycoplasma hominis H39 Chromosome,” Journal of Molecular Biology, Vol. 23 (1967), p. 198. For number of proteins, Morowitz, personal communication, November, 1970.

    4 Although recognizing that there are hypotheses of origin from simpler forms than this, Dr. Morowitz agreed that in actual experimental evidence, there is no assurance that anything simpler could meet the test of autonomous replication and viability (personal communication, 1971).

    http://creationsafaris.com/epoi_c04.htm

    What are ‘proteins’? you might ask. Proteins are what all living things are made of (not snakes and snails and puppy dog tails). Proteins are made out of ‘left handed’ amino acids. There are 20 unique amino acids which are placed in specifically ordered patterns to build the proteins. The number of amino acids in a single protein varies from 100 to 50,000 with and estimated average of 400 amino acids per protein.

    I flunked math, so I will leave the calculation to you. Suffice it to say that the odds of spontaneous generation of the simplest living thing are so immense as to be impossible. And the theory cannot be saved by the “lucky bounce” fallacy because it isn’t predicated on one spin of the wheel, but upon a sequence of spins, each of greater improbability than the preceding spin.

  61. Dave says:

    The number is beyond all comprehension, namely 1 in 10[to the]29345[power]. Even if we allow for overlapping groups, it cuts the exponents only a few “orders of magnitude” (powers of 10). And, if we had all of them, they still could not duplicate themselves, so it would be the end of the line, unless chance could also produce the DNA code and the entire translating system. The code, moreover, would have to specify that amino acids would be manufactured in the left-handed form, and the coding for all the enzymes would have to match.
    For comparison, the number of inches across the known universe from one side to the other is only about 10[to the]28[power]. The odds against even one average-size protein having all left-handed amino acids is a figure 10 million trillion trillion trillion times that big, namely, 1 in 10[to the]71[power]. Remember, that is out of all the protein molecules that ever existed on earth. The foregoing calculations were on the assumption of equal likelihood that either hand would link up.

    http://creationsafaris.com/epoi_c04.htm

  62. david ellis says:

    I’m also not interested in arguments from analogy.

    And how confident are you that we know what the smallest possible replicator that might be the source of abiogenesis?

    From what I’ve read the scientific community doesn’t think we even begin to know that at this point.

    As long as we’re throwing out links:

    http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/abioprob/

    http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/abioprob/abioprob.html

    And here’s a critique of the book ICONS OF EVOLUTION that was previously mentioned:

    http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/wells/iconob.html#introduction

  63. ordinary seeker says:

    Dave,
    I think the problem with your probability argument is that it presumes that the process had a goal. You work backwards from what is, but the evolutionary process worked without what currently is as the desired end result. Evolution wasn’t trying to create “Hi Dave,” it was simply throwing stones together and whatever was made, was made. It just happened that what was made ultimately became life as we know it.

  64. Jacob says:

    Dave -

    You’ll probably have to point out the problem of Dawkins’s model if you want a fervent discussion. I googled it and came away with many criticisms; I don’t know what you’re referring to (if you mean locking, then I believe that’s been proven false and works well without it). The program itself is interesting because it attempts to model natural selection, reproduction (instead of trying to get the full phrase on one try), and I believe allows for multiple “mutations” in a single generation. Of course, nothing starts with pure gibberish anyway – instead, it’s slow modification from pre-existing organisms. There is also no true end goal except that which helps an organism survive. But it does help show that the “best” combination is selected for and habitually built upon.

    Which goes to show that one must make a distinction between design and “appearance” of design. There is no actual process that directs the arrangement of rocks. There is one, however, for genes. Again, Elsberry talks quite a bit about this. You seem quite willing to accept this math, but what about it makes you so sure that it accurately reflects the true nature of evolution? You’re appealing to sources without giving me a very good reason why I should accept them.

    It’s also strange to use examples of irreducible complexity when there are such things in nature as toothless mouths, nerves without brains, and eyes without nerves.

  65. Dave says:

    Hello David

    From Lies, Damn Lies, Statistics and Probability of Abiogenesis Calculations

    Firstly, the formation of biological polymers from monomers is a function of the laws of chemistry and biochemistry, and these are decidedly not random.

    The laws of chemistry and biochemistry may not be random, but the chemical reactions which ‘lead to life’ are. The mythical warm little pond filled with chemical precursers is a chance occurrence. Furthermore, chemical interactions proceed in law-like steps and can be predicted relatively precisely. One of the major conundrums of DNA and RNA is that the sequences are not chemically determined. It is analogical to the difference between pouring ink on piece of paper and an intelligent agent using a stylus to place glyphs on the paper with ink. (sorry you don’t like analogies, but you’ll have to live with it)

    1 chance in 4.29 x 10[to the]40[power] is still orgulously, gobsmackingly unlikely; it’s hard to cope with this number. Even with the argument above (you could get it on your very first trial) most people would say “surely it would still take more time than the Earth existed to make this replicator by random methods”. Not really; in the above examples we were examining sequential trials, as if there was only one protein/DNA/proto-replicator being assembled per trial. In fact there would be billions of simultaneous trials as the billions of building block molecules interacted in the oceans, or on the thousands of kilometers of shorelines that could provide catalytic surfaces or templates

    I believe I covered this in my when I wrote;

    Now, the great flaw with probability theory is that it is “theoretical”… go figure… There is no way to calculate when in the series of 10.4 billion tries at picking seven letters (out of 26 lower case letter in the alphabet plus one blank for a total of twenty seven) and it could as just a ‘probably’ be the first try as it could be the last try. It matters little for my puposes because a short seven glyph sentence is only the first step in a process.

    and the following;

    And the theory cannot be saved by the “lucky bounce” fallacy because it isn’t predicated on one spin of the wheel, but upon a sequence of spins, each of greater improbability than the preceding spin.

    And how confident are you that we know what the smallest possible replicator that might be the source of abiogenesis?

    Not particularly. But the hurdle is so large that even a replicator 10% of the size used in the example would require more than the total calculated number of atoms in the universe. A ‘simple’ self replicating molecule isn’t simple. Not even the simple 7 character sentence is simple.

    From what I’ve read the scientific community doesn’t think we even begin to know that at this point.

    Gee, I wonder why…

  66. Dave says:

    Hi Jacob

    The program itself is interesting because it attempts to model natural selection, reproduction (instead of trying to get the full phrase on one try), and I believe allows for multiple “mutations” in a single generation.

    Okay, lets consider the definition of evolution. Evolution is a-teleological – that means it has no goal, no plan; it is un-intentional. Evolution is also un-forgiving. Mess up and your dead. Every mutation must be useful, or at minimum, non-destructive.

    The Weasel program does have a goal, the target phrase. It preserves the letters which fit the plan. It also allows spelling errors – the eqivalent of harmful mutations. When the program spells a word wrong the organism should die. Of course, it does not.

    The active information supplied by the “divide and conquer” oracle is necessary to perform the search. In essence, Dr. Dawkins concurs when he writes

    “Chance is a minor ingredient in the Darwinian recipe [as exemplified in the WEASEL example], but the most important ingredient is the cumulative selection [i.e. the divide and conquer oracle] which is quintessentially nonrandom.” (Italics [changed to bold] not added )

    Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design, W. W. Norton, (1996).

    http://www.evoinfo.org/WeaselWare.html

    Of course, nothing starts with pure gibberish anyway – instead, it’s slow modification from pre-existing organisms.

    The origin of life does start with pure gibberish, but evolution requires a pre-existing organism capable of differential reproduction – somewhat more sophisticated than a 28 glyph sentence.

    You’re appealing to sources without giving me a very good reason why I should accept them.

    Quite frankly, I don’t expect you to accept them. I think I made that quite clear at the end of post #46

    I have little hope that my personal oddessy will be particularly convincing to any of you. It took a prior realization of the inadequacies of philosphical materialsm, plus a shock to my worldview, and a commitment to spend over a decade seeking an intellectually defensible pardigm before I changed my mind about evolution.

    It’s also strange to use examples of irreducible complexity when there are such things in nature as toothless mouths, nerves without brains, and eyes without nerves.

    There are such things in nature as mouths, eyes, and nerves. Each is part of an integrated whole. As I said, also in post #46;

    Behe thought too small, he was preoccupied with a few (relatively) simple cellular functions (that’s not really fair to Behe, but I think, in a sense, it is true)

    Regarding your previous post #56…

    Saying that it’s buffeted by powerful institutions and interests is kind of silly

    You don’t think European imperialism, robber baron capitalism, ethnic and economic elitism, and Mrxist determinism were interested in the theories of poor Charles?

    because the religious influences in this country are some of the most powerful – even to the extent that many lawmakers think that the Earth is only 6000 years old.

    Do they really? And what about the educrats who write decide curricula, the educators who teach, the courts which determine what can be taught, and even what qualifies as science. As if a court has the ime or capacity to comprehend the intricacies of scientific enquiry)

    It’s this reason that evolutionists do engage ID or creationism despite the fact that special creation is practically dead in the scientific community.

    It appears to be staging a resurgence.

    Some 40-50% of Americans still believe in special creation, so a failure to engage their arguments would ultimately hurt more than it would help.

    Even after years of indoctrination in a public school system which is unabashedly hostile to Christianity (although it does manage to import almost every other ‘spiritual’ system through the back door). Oddly enough I find this hostility to orthodox Christianity reassuring.

    In other words, special creation is only taken seriously because it has such powerful influences.

    Yes indeed (never mind that I have not been arguing for special creation, except, perhaps, obliquely) we can be certain that it has powerful influences because we live in a theocracy, all the educators are priest in secular clothing, and the court inevitably rule in favor of the church. Who are you trying to kid?

    But because non-theism is still a small, minority position, evolutionary theory is only a powerful view if it’s valuable to somebody, which means that it carries many levels of truth.

    Huh?

    Creationists and IDers like to use the persecution complex, but if consensus was on their side, then they’d never think twice about it.

    Make up your mind – whose got the “powerful influence”?

  67. Dave says:

    Hi Tony

    Sorry I didn’t respond sooner, I appear to have stirred up a little controversy.

    Regarding the link to uncommondescent, this is not a hypothesis of ID. I am looking for the hypothesis, the thing to be tested inductively, a reasonable method for so doing, etc.

    I’m not really a proponent of ID, I simply find some of their arguments useful. Try Googling Dembski, Marks, Behe, etc. or look at

    http://www.arn.org/
    http://www.biologicinstitute.org/
    http://www.designinference.com/
    http://www.evoinfo.org/

    This quote makes Mr. Berger sound like a conspiracist.

    Evolution is, among other things, a moral justication for 19th C. British Imperialism and elitism. In The Victorian Frame of Mind a social history of Victorian England Walter Houghton notes the idea of “progress” as a socio/historic phenomenon first entered the popular consciousness. Everything was getting better, Britain ruled the world, and the new industrial/tradesman elite ruled Britain – like cream rising to the top. Darwin provided the metaphysical justification for English dominance. The ideas quickly spread throughout the West as popularizers wrote panagyrics evolution (survival and domination by “the best”) as the key to prosperity and power.

    Some of your earlier post, discussing evolutionists “fudging the numbers,” cases of “outright frauds,” and “materialist indoctrination,” etc. make you sound as if you feel that the Theory of Evolution is more a conspiracy than a scientific theory.

    It is a philosphy which simultaneously devalues humanity and justifies “social engineering”. The key to demagougery. If everything – including social mores and the people to whom they apply – is in flux, then perhaps we should channel that change in a ‘beneficial’ direction. But this begs the question… who should provide the guidance? On what authority? And what of the lumpen proletariat?

    There is no question that evolution has fudged the numbers and used fraudulent illustrations to promote the theory. This cavalier attitude to truth has spread throughout the halls of academe where it is commonplace to excuse the teaching of inacurate or false information because it has a ‘social benefit’ or because we ‘invent truth’.

    I guess I’m just old-fashioned. I think truth is something we discover and the greatest ‘social benefit’ of education is to teach students how to discern truth.

  68. Dave says:

    Hi ordinary seeker

    Evolution wasn’t trying to create “Hi Dave,” it was simply throwing stones together and whatever was made, was made. It just happened that what was made ultimately became life as we know it.

    And they say religion is a “science stopper”. I call this the “it just happened” defence of evolution. The earliest version of which I am aware is Bertrand Russell’s “The universe is the ultimate brute fact” needing no cause or explanation.

  69. Tony Hoffman says:

    Dave,

    Thanks for responding.

    I’m not really a proponent of ID, I simply find some of their arguments useful. Try Googling Dembski, Marks, Behe, etc.

    If you can’t be bothered to support your argument (that ID even has a hypothesis, let alone that it’s as speculative as Evolutionary Theory) then I am not about to do it for you. I do have to ask, however, that if you’re not a proponent of ID, and clearly not one of Evolution, what biological theory do you endorse?

    It [Evolution] is a philosphy which simultaneously devalues humanity and justifies “social engineering”. The key to demagougery.

    Demagoguery is playing to the emotions and base instincts of a crowd. By claiming that a scientific theory “devalues humanity” you are not making an argument based on reason, but are appealing to the emotions and base fears of your audience.

  70. david ellis says:


    But the hurdle is so large that even a replicator 10% of the size used in the example would require more than the total calculated number of atoms in the universe.

    How do you know that? The problem with these probability arguments against evolution is that they make far too many questionable assumptions. It’s like the old Drake equation for the probability of intelligent life in the galaxy. Its almost entirely guesswork and, depending on one’s preferences, one can plug whatever numbers one likes into the equation and get what was from the start one’s preferred answer.

  71. Tony Hoffman says:

    I agree that all this talk of probabilities making it impossible for life to have arisen assumes way too much. For one, science is rife with instances of failures of imagination masquerading as technical observation. And if the probability calculations of men like Morowitz are so clear (as cited by Dave), then why did Morowitz also write: “My own perspective is that of a scientist who believes that life arose on earth by processes that may be understood by considering the laws of chemistry and physics as applied to complex adapative systems.” These are not the words of a man who has concluded, as Dave has, that abiogenesis is mathematically impossible. But even if Morowitz or some other scientist were to make such a conclusion, there is no guarantee that the premises of their model should be applied to the problem; to my mind, all it does is show that a given model is a less likely path to the problem’s solution.

  72. Dave says:

    Hello Tony

    If you can’t be bothered to support your argument (that ID even has a hypothesis, let alone that it’s as speculative as Evolutionary Theory) then I am not about to do it for you.

    I haven’t argued that ID is anything more than an hypothesis. I don’t happen to think that it is anything more than a hypothesis. As an hypothesis I find it interesting. On the other hand, I have argued that evolution is nothing more than a hypothesis. I am willing to give advocates of each hypothesis the opportunity to demonstrate its veracity.

    I do have to ask, however, that if you’re not a proponent of ID, and clearly not one of Evolution, what biological theory do you endorse?

    Why do you think that is important? The argument will stand on its own or it won’t. What I personally believe is immaterial to the veracity of the argument.

    By claiming that a scientific theory “devalues humanity” you are not making an argument based on reason, but are appealing to the emotions and base fears of your audience.

    Yep, that’s me, demagogue all the way down…

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/9087023/ns/world_news-weird_news/

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wQOdNY-HdG0

    BTW – why should anyone fear the truth?

  73. Dave says:

    Hi David

    How do you know that? The problem with these probability arguments against evolution is that they make far too many questionable assumptions.

    The problem with these probability arguments for evolution is that they make far too many questionable assumptions.

    Its almost entirely guesswork and, depending on one’s preferences, one can plug whatever numbers one likes into the equation and get what was from the start one’s preferred answer.

    Exactly. As I said originally, evolution is, at best, speculative science (science fiction) primarily driven by materialist philosophy. I don’t recall making any assertions for any particular cosmolgy here (I suppose someone will correct me if I am wrong), I have merely tried to debunk evolutionary superstition.

  74. Tony Hoffman says:

    I haven’t argued that ID is anything more than an hypothesis.

    You haven’t even argued that ID is a hypothesis – you have merely asserted that it is without supporting your statement. You are failing to demonstrate that ID even proposes a hypothesis. It does not appear to (at least not to me and the many others who have criticized it) hypothesize anything upon which science can be conducted. Until then, it will remain a vague philosophical musing, not worthy of comparison to the scientific theory its adherents hope to destroy.

    I’ll ask again – if ID is a hypothesis, why have you not been able to state what the hypothesis is? Doesn’t it bother you at all that IDer’s also seem to universally stumble on this simple request?

    Why do you think that [what biological theory you adhere to] is important? The argument will stand on its own or it won’t. What I personally believe is immaterial to the veracity of the argument.

    Your belief should be based on an argument. If it’s not, there’s no use in having a discussion about beliefs. Person One: “I believe in the tooth fairy.” Person Two: “Really, that’s interesting – why?” Person One: “Why is immaterial. I just believe.”

    I also am not interested in having an exchange of links. If you don’t haven an argument to make then I’ll stop asking for one.

  75. SteveK says:

    Dave,

    The problem with these probability arguments for evolution is that they make far too many questionable assumptions.

    I was waiting for someone to say that, thanks. Goose, gander, etc, etc.

  76. Dave says:

    Hello Tony

    I agree that all this talk of probabilities making it impossible for life to have arisen assumes way too much.

    A point which I made clear in post #60;

    Now, the great flaw with probability theory is that it is “theoretical”… go figure… There is no way to calculate when in the series of 10.4 billion tries at picking seven letters (out of 26 lower case letter in the alphabet plus one blank for a total of twenty seven) and it could as just a ‘probably’ be the first try as it could be the last try.

    For one, science is rife with instances of failures of imagination masquerading as technical observation.

    But evolution is a ‘well established fact’? Can you not perceive the implicit, if not explicit, inconsistency in this assertion? Granted that probability theory is nothing more than a ‘guestimate’ that some event may or may not happen, If your above assertion is true then why should I believe that evolution is nothing more than [deleted] imagination masquerading as technical observation, particularly given the well-documented propensity of proponents of evolution to engage in imaginative speculation and (some) outright fraud.

    And if the probability calculations of men like Morowitz are so clear (as cited by Dave), then why did Morowitz also write: “My own perspective is that of a scientist who believes that life arose on earth by processes that may be understood by considering the laws of chemistry and physics as applied to complex adapative systems.” These are not the words of a man who has concluded, as Dave has, that abiogenesis is mathematically impossible.

    Prof. Morowitz didn’t perform the probability calculations in question, they were performed by Dr. James F. Coppedge who corresponded with Prof. Morowitz when gathering data for his book. Dr. Coppedge apparently was less concerned with what his sources believe as he was with aquiring accurate data for his calculations.

    But even if Morowitz or some other scientist were to make such a conclusion, there is no guarantee that the premises of their model should be applied to the problem; to my mind, all it does is show that a given model is a less likely path to the problem’s solution.

    If there is no God then evolution must have happened… even if we have no idea how it could have happened.

  77. Tony Hoffman says:

    Dave: “The problem with these probability arguments for evolution is that they make far too many questionable assumptions.”

    SteveK: “I was waiting for someone to say that, thanks. Goose, gander, etc, etc.”

    Evolution is not based on probability arguments. It’s based on things like observation, inference, testing, etc.

    Dave and SteveK, if you’d care to cite the probability arguments for Evolution, complete with those assumptions you find so questionable I’m all ears.

  78. Tony Hoffman says:

    Dave: “The problem with these probability arguments for evolution is that they make far too many questionable assumptions.”

    SteveK: “I was waiting for someone to say that, thanks. Goose, gander, etc, etc.”

    Dave and SteveK, if you’d care to cite all those probability arguments for Evolution, complete with those assumptions you find so questionable, I’m all ears.

  79. Dave says:

    Hello Tony

    …to my mind, all it does is show that a given model is a less likely path to the problem’s solution.

    In other words….

    You think that a particular model is a less probable solution?

    It gets rather difficult to escape the probability dilemma, doesn’t it. 8^>

  80. Dave says:

    Hi Tony

    Here is a book I happen to own which examines the question of evolution vs. design from the perspective of a statistician (probability theory) who is a committed evolutionist. It is rather pedantic beginning with a lengthly analysis of the relative merits of probability and likelihoodism (competing theories of predictive calculation) before proceeding to analyze the evolution-design arguments. If you are really interested in a discussion you could purchase a copy and we could discuss the substance of his argument.

    http://www.amazon.com/Evidence-Evolution-Logic-Behind-Science/dp/0521692741/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1209572125&sr=1-1

  81. SteveK says:

    Tony,

    Dave and SteveK, if you’d care to cite all those probability arguments for Evolution, complete with those assumptions you find so questionable, I’m all ears.

    An inference to the best explanation is part philosophy, part data/facts. I’m not arguing the data/facts, I’m arguing how people use the data to support their inference.

    So….an evolutionist stacks up all the data/facts and uses a probability argument of sorts to support his inference to the best explanation. He asks, basically, what are the odds that evolution isn’t naturalistic – meaning without intent, teleology, purpose, etc?

    This probability argument shows up in other forms like: Occham’s razor, parsimony, questionable design, inefficienty, etc

    Well, I don’t know the odds, and neither does he without resorting to making a lot of questionable assumptions.

    However when an IDer comes along and asks a similar, yet opposing, question….what are the odds that evolution isn’t designed – meaning with intent, teleology, purpose, etc?, they are chastised for making a lot of questionable assumptions.

    Anyway, that’s how I see the debate. I’m a Christian so I readily admit that I take God’s word on faith that it is the best explanation for the data/facts.

  82. Tony Hoffman says:

    Dave,

    …to my mind, all it does is show that a given model is a less likely path to the problem’s solution.
    In other words….
    You think that a particular model is a less probable solution?
    It gets rather difficult to escape the probability dilemma, doesn’t it. 8^>

    I think you’re confusing the probability judgments we use to compare competing explanations (why do we find my explanation that I drove to work today in a car more persuasive than my explanation that I flew here on a magic carpet) versus a probability argument in general. We use probability to prefer one explanation over the other, but the reason we might come to believe that I drove here in my car would be that we have photos of me doing it, there are witnesses, the car engine was warm, I used a gas card en route, etc. In other words, the evidence to support my explanation that I drove my car here does not amount to a probability argument.)

    I never said that we don’t use probability to justify why we prefer a theory. (I would argue that probability arguments are used almost entirely to dismiss explanations, not to provide them.)

    You and SteveK have agreed that Evolution uses probability arguments based on questionable assumptions . If you cannot provide them I will assume that you find these questionable assumptions on which Evolutionary Theory is based to be as elusive as the hypothesis for ID.

    Regarding the book, while I always welcome a link to something anyone has found informative I am not interested in joining a book club in order to have a blog discussion. If you cannot summarize any argument for me from the book you recommended then it is hard for me to be enthusiastic about what it might contain.

  83. Tony Hoffman says:

    SteveK

    Well, I don’t know the odds, and neither does he [the Evolutionist] without resorting to making a lot of questionable assumptions.

    Questionable assumptions like…?

  84. SteveK says:

    Questionable assumptions like…?

    Assumptions like this.

  85. SteveK says:

    I meant to highlight certain non-religious assumptions under a naturalistic philosophy of science. Perhaps a better assumption would be this one.

  86. Tony Hoffman says:

    SteveK,

    You linked to the Wikipedia entry for “Naturalism.”

    This inclines me to believe that you suspect methodological naturalism in relation to its practice in all modern science. This puts you in the position of accepting only Astrology, Paranormalism, et al. as the only “sciences” not based on the questionable assumption of methodological naturalism. Following this logic it would also call into question the findings of every atehist scientist, what with their research being based on what you deem a faulty assumption.

    I’m curious — you said assumptions. Do you mean just Naturalism, or are there others?

  87. SteveK says:

    Philosophical naturalism, Tony. Specifically the part that denies the notion of a final cause.

  88. Jacob says:

    Dave -

    I pointed both of those problems out myself. The Weasel program is not supposed to be hard science. It does, however, model evolution a lot better than your example, which is totally random probability with no thought given to the actual situation. Probability theory is useless without an actual understanding of biology, in this case (which is why we must argue about the methods, as the slightest problem can render the entire thing inert). Dawkins only attempted to show that he could reduce a process that, by your argument, would take longer than all the time since the Big Bang into a very manageable span.

    Of course evolution has a “goal”, of sorts – not a specific one, but a general one. The creature only has to survive. METHINKS IT IS A WEASEL is like a very fit creature, and each step along the way a fitter creature is selected for. Now take this to the macro – this program is like one specific evolutionary pathway that it’s working towards. It could go any which way, but it will always be something meaningful, which is what METHINKS IT IS A WEASEL represents. Your example assumes a very exact end phrase too, but it also assumes random selection on every level, which isn’t how it works. (once again, no partitioning or locking is occuring, as you can read about here and here)

    Furthermore, the very idea of using sentences as an analogy for evolution has its limits. There are neutral mutations (64 codons for 20 amino acids, which means overlapping), and an organism itself isn’t completely invalidated just because of some ill effect. Let’s say that there is a mutation that hurts an organism in one way but helps it in another – as long as the latter outweighs the former, then it’s a net benefit. For instance, sickle cells help fight against the immediate threat of malaria, but they contribute to long term health risks. Well dying later is a lot better than dying now, so the mutation is preserved. Mutations and genes are complex things. In the program of Dawkins, you stumble upon one wrong letter and the entire sentence is ruined. In genetics, there are various levels of benefit and harm and gradients and mixes therein. As long as an organism survives, it’s deemed fit, and it can pass down its genome, mistakes and all (and we do have mistakes and issues, but we’re good organisms because the benefits far outweigh the costs).

    Of course, an organism is not gibberish, like in the Dawkins example, but each organism is relatively clean and coherent. Each mutation goes from one clear, working system to another. Likewise, the origin of life assumes that things organize systematically. What leads you to believe that it would be gibberish?

    There are such things in nature as mouths, eyes, and nerves. Each is part of an integrated whole.

    I’m not sure how that addresses my point. Jellyfish have nerves without a brain. Many single celled organisms can respond to stimuli like light without much of anything at all. Each organism is an integrated whole, which is different. But systems that seem integrated at first can be constituted in different ways. An organism doesn’t need a brain to have nerves. It doesn’t even need nerves to be responsive. These things come to be integrated through successive changes, and the organism becomes reliant on them, but you’re underestimating the true inventiveness of nature to take a specific function and make the most out of it.

    As for the rest of your post: Instead of considering the fact that despite all of your research, you have a very poor understanding of evolutionary theory, you blame it on everybody else. It’s the courts (even though a conservative judge appointed by Bush himself struck down ID at Dover). It’s the educators (even though states like Texas and Kansas are attempting to rewrite the curriculum in favor of ID). It’s the capitalists (if it’s not profitable, then why would they care?). It’s the Marxists (because they are so beloved in America). You’ve been listening to Behe too much if you think that ID is seriously on the verge of becoming more competent and accepted. Show me proof that anybody beyond the usual suspects will ever give it credence. There is still almost nothing in ID that has been credibly peer-reviewed or tested. Again, in a nation where people can elect George Bush partly because of his Christian values, where 70% of the populace at least professes Christianity, where politicians basically fall in step with that, and where even 40% of scientists tend to believe in God, you’ll have to excuse me when I say I don’t sympathize. Christianity, especially ID, deserves to go where all other religions go: at best in a religious class. If that’s hostile, then the word needs to be reevaluated. I applaud Christians who do actually see the way that things should be. Of course, all of this is predicated upon the notion that evolutionary theory is correct, but you have not shown a great understanding of it, so it’s hollow when you cry wolf and expect those (may I say) fraudulent ideas to gain some acceptance.

    Make up your mind – whose got the “powerful influence”?

    I was talking about the scientific community, and scientists alone aren’t powerful. They are powerful in the sense that they have powerful ideas, which speaks directly to the efficacy of those ideas, but they are not powerful on their own, as consensus in the scientific community obviously does not equate to consensus elsewhere.

    And you ignored the rest of my post, which actually did deal with the science.

  89. Tony Hoffman says:

    SteveK,

    Why is the notion of a final cause a necessary assumption of biological science? What non-circular reason can you provide for assuming a final cause into the study of biology? What knowledge would then be unveiled to us, and why haven’t any scientists, who get paid to make these discoveries, not taken advantage of the benefits this assumption would bring?

  90. Dave says:

    Hello Jacob

    The Weasel program is not supposed to be hard science. It does, however, model evolution a lot better than your example,…

    How do you know? Can you demonstrate the evolution of a mouse to a bat? Can you demonstrate the evolution of one creature at all?

    …your example, which is totally random probability with no thought given to the actual situation.

    My example was related to the origin of life, something that evolutionists become very uncomfortable with when forced to confront the question. Why should I give you a free pass on the OOL?

    Probability theory is useless without an actual understanding of biology,…

    Biology is useless without an OOL.

    Dawkins only attempted to show that he could reduce a process that, by your argument, would take longer than all the time since the Big Bang into a very manageable span.

    You confuse OOL (chemical evolution) and (biological) evolution. Furthermore, Dawkins designed his Weasel demonstrate his theory based upon his own assumptions and utilizing an intelligent agency. Dawkins is so very committed to a natualistic process that he, quite openly, denies the evidence of his own observations.

    he theory of natural selection provides a mechanistic, causal account of how living things came to look as if they had been designed for a purpose. So overwhelming is the appearance of purposeful design that, even in this Darwinian era when we know “better,” we still find it difficult, indeed boringly pedantic, to refrain from teleological language when discussing adaptation. Birds’ wings are obviously “for” flying, spider webs are for catching insects, chlorophyll molecules are for photosynthesis, DNA molecules are for. . . What are DNA molecules for? The question takes us aback. In my case it touches off an almost audible alarm siren in the mind. If we accept the view of life that I wish to espouse, it is the forbidden question. DNA is not “for” anything. If we wish to speak teleologically, all adaptations are for the preservation of DNA; DNA itself just is.[bold added]

    http://www.stephenjaygould.org/library/dawkins_replicators.html

    Another example of the “it just happened” defence of evolution.

  91. Dave says:

    Hi Tony

    Your belief should be based on an argument. If it’s not, there’s no use in having a discussion about beliefs. Person One: “I believe in the tooth fairy.” Person Two: “Really, that’s interesting – why?” Person One: “Why is immaterial. I just believe.”

    I have been provided you with a series af arguments with supporting links – just in case you might think I invent my argument. Your response so far has been a litany of “Oh yea! prove it!” “What do you believe?” (as if it isn’t a pretty simple deduction) or “I don’t believe it!” That’s your prerogative.

    I think you’re confusing the probability judgments we use to compare competing explanations

    Am I? Or is the “competing explanation” nothing more profound than the probability judgement disturbs your “belief” in evolution?

    (why do we find my explanation that I drove to work today in a car more persuasive than my explanation that I flew here on a magic carpet) versus a probability argument in general.

    We use probability to prefer one explanation over the other, but the reason we might come to believe that I drove here in my car would be that we have photos of me doing it, there are witnesses, the car engine was warm, I used a gas card en route, etc. In other words, the evidence to support my explanation that I drove my car here does not amount to a probability argument.)

    As an analogy for the veracity of evolution this assertion is really lame. We do not have witnesses to evolution, we do not have photographs, we do not even have the car, and the gas card is just that… so much gas.

    BTW, Where did you get the magic carpet?

  92. SteveK says:

    Tony,

    Why is the notion of a final cause a necessary assumption of biological science? What non-circular reason can you provide for assuming a final cause into the study of biology?

    The knowledge we have of the evolutionary process entails the conclusion (or best inference) that final causes are a reality. How so? Because we know that biologists intend (final cause) to study evolution and biologists know they are a result of the evolutionary process

    What knowledge would then be unveiled to us, and why haven’t any scientists, who get paid to make these discoveries, not taken advantage of the benefits this assumption would bring?

    The knowledge that life was intended to exist would help us get to the next point of discovery. Simple. This is no different than knowing that rocks fall toward Earth helps get us to the next point of discovery. What the next point is is open to discussion, and how it might benefit us is also open to discussion. There are many scientists attempting to work on this however it’s too early to tell if it will bear any fruit. It may not be possible to answer the question of final causes but I admire the attempts.

  93. Dave says:

    Hi Tony 8^(

    You haven’t even argued that ID is a hypothesis – you have merely asserted that it is without supporting your statement. You are failing to demonstrate that ID even proposes a hypothesis.

    Words have meaning, I try to use the apropriate word to convey the meaning I intend.

    hy·poth·e·sis (hī-pŏth’ĭ-sĭs)
    n. pl. hy·poth·e·ses (-sēz’)

    1) A tentative explanation for an observation, phenomenon, or scientific problem that can be tested by further investigation.

    2) Something taken to be true for the purpose of argument or investigation; an assumption.

    3) The antecedent of a conditional statement.

    [Latin, subject for a speech, from Greek hupothesis, proposal, supposition, from hupotithenai, hupothe-, to suppose : hupo-, hypo- + tithenai, to place; see dhē- in Indo-European roots.]

  94. Tony Hoffman says:

    SteveK,

    I’m not really sure what this means…

    The knowledge we have of the evolutionary process entails the conclusion (or best inference) that final causes are a reality. How so? Because we know that biologists intend (final cause) to study evolution and biologists know they are a result of the evolutionary process

    …but I do appreciate your at least trying to answer my questions.

    I think it’s conceivable that teleology could inform biology, but I also think that ship has sailed. Without a method for the hypothesis, I don’t see how working the framework of a final cause informs any biological research; it’s just a philosophical conclusion divorced from the scientific practice.

  95. Tony Hoffman says:

    Dave,

    I can only conclude that you are being purposely obtuse or that you are incapable of presenting an argument to support your musings.

    I believe my requests for you to support your assertions have gone unanswered. I will let my prior posts here, and your responses to them, stand as a testament to this.

  96. SteveK says:

    Tony,

    I’m not really sure what this means…

    And I’m not sure I answered the question, nor am I sure it makes much difference. Necessary or not, the questions surrounding final causes are interesting and if science can help in some way then I’m all for it.

    I think it’s conceivable that teleology could inform biology, but I also think that ship has sailed.

    You just answered your own question about necessity that you asked earlier: necessary or not, the answers MAY help us. The answers may not help us in the area of biology, but it might help us in other areas. Learning that ID theory is true would confirm to us that some form of intelligence existed before our life existed. If you don’t think science would eat that up, you’re crazy.

    To repeat, the science of ID may never become a reality but I’m willing to give them some room to work.

  97. Jacob says:

    Dave -

    Preface: some of these URLs don’t seem to link.

    Fortunately, some work has been done on bat vision (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14660703), digits, and wing (and http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=1622783). Furthermore, research has been done on the evolution of the eye, blood-clotting system (per Ken Miller and others), dinosaur to bird digits, and signaling molecules called hedgehog (http://www.plosbiology.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pbio.1000 146). Some of this is speculative, some incomplete, but investigating genomes is a radically complex business, and what we have to work with isn’t perfect. But the work that has been done is impressive. Darwin’s dictum was essentially “descent with modification”. Starting there, the evidence that we have from DNA and organisms both living and dead is overwhelming. A certain gradient does tend to emerge, as all organisms are merely modified versions of their ancestors. One cannot hope to defeat evolution without addressing this point.

    Anyway, I never said anything about giving a free pass to the origin of life. A competent theory will need to emerge. But you used the weasel program, which wasn’t really referring to abiogenesis, and you used examples that could have referred to either. They’re being mixed up because they’re being used interchangably here. Of course, if you can’t even use strict probability on evolution, then how can you use it on abiogenesis, when you know even less about the process behind it, and you base the probability on a current understanding of life that isn’t necessarily applicable? Again, you need to understand the issue well to calculate probability. These probabilities assume that life came together by pure chance. But just like natural selection, it seems likely that there is some concerted process when it comes to the origin of life that makes it much more probable.

    Given what we currently know, there are a few that we can suggest. 1) Life evolved from a starting point. 2) The timescale is sufficient. 3) Conditions on early Earth seem to be correct. Of course, no one is denying that our current understanding is incomplete, but there are a few problems here with the ID claim. It means that one would have to reject almost all of our current theories for the history of our universe – throwing biological and cosmological evolution out too, even if the evidence highly suggests that such things happened. Now no other scientific subject is so charged that one uses the incompleteness of the theory as proof against it. That’s because religion happens to be involved. Science is a process of investigation and inquiry. Making it an all or nothing, take it or leave it proposition I think is disingenuous. It’s one thing if the arguments of ID held weight, but they’re rather specious themselves, failing in every possible predictive capacity, so why should I trust ID when it predicts that the origins of life rest with a designer? The point is, we think that life came out of simpler chemicals, so we make progress on the question until we find the answer. But that’s not good enough for those who think that uncertainty is weakness. Part of the problem is that we have no blueprint. With evolution the proof is in the DNA. But we can’t use current life as a model for early life. It’s like looking at a solution and trying to figure out what the problem is. Of course, creationists deny the problem to begin with, but that’s problematic since, again, if the facts don’t support special creation, then you’re merely using an argument from incredulity to deny a naturalistic origin of life.

    Anyway, I wouldn’t mind a scientific based argument about the origins of life and where the science currently stands.

    One last thing: a common creationist tactic is to act as if evolutionists know that there’s design but actively deny it out of certain commitments to the theory. But Darwin himself said that such arguments are emotional, and intellectually he knows better because the evidence speaks overwhelmingly against specific design. Dawkins says that using teleological language actually produces errors – not that it is beneficial to our understanding of biological systems. It doesn’t help your argument if: 1) special design isn’t intellectually fulfilling and 2) the pattern and answer seeking portions of our brain were actually derived out of natural selection itself, in which case ID would be nothing more than an attempt to look for something that isn’t really there.

  98. Tony Hoffman says:

    SteveK,

    Necessary or not, the questions surrounding final causes are interesting and if science can help in some way then I’m all for it.

    I have no problem with anyone taking away whatever philosophical conclusions they might from scientific knowledge. The question really is, though, when science does not support, or contradicts, prior philosophical conclusions, what is the proper course?

    If you say that religious convictions are on an equal footing, or take precedence over the acceptance of scientific facts, then you have put yourself in the position of opposing some scientific knowledge. I just think IDers cannot simultaneously hold that position and say that they are defending critical thinking and scientific exploration without contradiction.

    So your quote above isn’t really a surprising position. But the real question is what should you do when science does not provide the answers you want regarding final causes?

    Here’s an example. I have had several knee operations. When the pressure changes, I can often feel my knee ache more than usual. (Sometimes not.) Despite the fact that my knee lets me know (sometimes) when the pressure is changing, I would be a fool to prefer its sensations to the weather report, brought to me by a trained meteorologist, using satellites, doppler radar, other weather data, and a scientific understanding of the forces involved and how they have historically played out. Is the weather report perfect? No. But it’s vastly more reliable and accurate than my knee, every time.

    You just answered your own question about necessity that you asked earlier: necessary or not, the answers MAY help us.

    My question was to explain why the notion of a final cause should be a necessary assumption of biological study. I don’t think you or I have answered that question. I’m still curious if you can provide me with what you think are the probability arguments for Evolution, and what the bad assumptions are upon which they are based. I still am not sure what it is that you’re going for there.

  99. Dave says:

    Hello Jacob

    Given what we currently know, there are a few that we can suggest.

    1) Life evolved from a starting point.

    How do you know? Where is your evidence?

    2) The timescale is sufficient.

    How do you know? Where is your evidence?

    3) Conditions on early Earth seem to be correct.

    For which of the more than a dozen hypotheses were conditions correct?

    Of course, no one is denying that our current understanding is incomplete,…

    No kidding…

    …but there are a few problems here with the ID claim. It means that one would have to reject almost all of our current theories for the history of our universe – throwing biological and cosmological evolution out too,

    Science is a tentative enterprise which is self-correcting, that’s why it is far superior to the dogma of religion… or so I am told.

    even if the evidence highly suggests that such things happened.

    “Of course, no one is denying that our current understanding is incomplete,…”

    Now no other scientific subject is so charged that one uses the incompleteness of the theory as proof against it.

    Someone on here mentioned ice-fairies and refrigerators.

    That’s because religion happens to be involved.

    See my post on faith and science

    Science is a process of investigation and inquiry.

    I think I acknowleded that in one of the points above.

    Making it an all or nothing, take it or leave it proposition I think is disingenuous.

    I haven’t made it an “all or nothing” proposition, I like science and think it is very beneficial. It is the philosphical materialists who have used science as a stalking horse for a philosphical belief that have invented the ‘science vs. religion’ superstition.

    It’s one thing if the arguments of ID held weight, but they’re rather specious themselves, failing in every possible predictive capacity, so why should I trust ID when it predicts that the origins of life rest with a designer?

    At its inception, some ID proponents predicted that a ‘purpose’ would be found for so-called “junk” DNA. It appears that researcher have discovered that “junk” DNA does have a purpose.

    “As far back as 1994, pro-ID scientist and Discovery Institute fellow Forrest Mims had warned in a letter to Science[1] against assuming that ‘junk’ DNA was ‘useless.’” Science wouldn’t print Mims’ letter, but soon thereafter, in 1998, leading ID theorist William Dembski repeated this sentiment in First Things: “[Intelligent] design is not a science stopper. Indeed, design can foster inquiry where traditional evolutionary approaches obstruct it. Consider the term “junk DNA.” Implicit in this term is the view that because the genome of an organism has been cobbled together through a long, undirected evolutionary process, the genome is a patchwork of which only limited portions are essential to the organism. Thus on an evolutionary view we expect a lot of useless DNA. If, on the other hand, organisms are designed, we expect DNA, as much as possible, to exhibit function. And indeed, the most recent findings suggest that designating DNA as “junk” merely cloaks our current lack of knowledge about function. Design encourages scientists to look for function where evolution discourages it.”

    http://stanford.wellsphere.com/general-medicine-article/we-are-not-junk-dna/359769

    Compare this with the claims of Professor of Biochemistry Larry Moran dated December 18, 2006

    [...]The fact of junk DNA disproves intelligent design and discredits strict Darwinism as well. The IDiots lose twice. Their strawman version of evolutionary biology is wrong and so is design by God.[...]

    http://sandwalk.blogspot.com/2006/12/junk-dna-disproves-intelligent-design.html

    and the facts as we now know them.

    Thus, this discovery in plants illustrates that the link between coding DNA and junk DNA crosses higher orders of biology and suggests a universal genetic mechanism at play that is not yet fully understood.

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090606105203.htm

    This affirmation of the predictive potential of the ID hypothesis, plus the release of Stephen C. Meyer’s new book, Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design inspired Dicovery Institute Fellow, David Klinghoffer to issue the following challenge o his blog.

    A Challenge to Intelligent Design-Bashing Regulars on this Blog

    [...]If you tell me, “Yeah, I don’t need to read it, I know what he’s going to say” — then you’ve just proven to me that you’re not serious. On the other hand, if you’ll go ahead and read the whole book, including the appendix where he lists and describes 12 ways in which ID is testable,[...]

    http://blog.beliefnet.com/kingdomofpriests/2009/07/a-challenge-to-intelligent-design-bashing-regulars-on-this-blog.html

    The point is, we think that life came out of simpler chemicals, so we make progress on the question until we find the answer.[italics added]

    On what basis do you think that life came out of simpler chemicals? What reason do you have for believing this paradigm?

    But that’s not good enough for those who think that uncertainty is weakness.

    You can’t have it both ways, Jacob. You appeal to the tentative nature of the scientific enterprise while asserting with dogmatic certainty that God is a myth. I think we can safely ignore the implied ad hominem directed at “those who think that uncertainty is weakness.” because it certainly doesn’t apply to thinking Christian theists.

    Gotta go to work now…

  100. Jacob says:

    Well you’ve practically conceded every point as it pertains to biological evolution and the origin of species, so asking me to show my evidence after all of that seems rather pointless – unless you have further objections or arguments. And if I sufficiently show that there is such a thing as descent through biological evolution, then it logically follows that it started somewhere.

    I’m not going to spend a ton of time debating the next two points. By timescale I merely meant the billions of years over which life emerged and evolved (unless you’re arguing that these dating methods are wrong). And by conditions on Earth I simply tried to suggest that there is ample reason to think that things were quite different in that time span. All of these things would be far more in favor of a chemical origin of life than special creation, even without looking at the details.

    I never said that God was a myth – that’s kind of a caricature of what I believe and what I think. I have said over and over around here that the God of a specific religion is very unlikely because the religious claims themselves aren’t good enough to warrant belief, and the existence of a non-religious sort of deity is unknown at this time but the answer changes dramatically depending upon how you define this deity. In other words, deism is more likely than religious theism, and atheism is somewhere in there. I say that I live my life as if there was no God, which is a completely different claim.

    Anyway, these beliefs are a product of my thinking. I try not to make unwarranted claims. I say that abiogenesis seems likely because the circumstantial evidence points in that direction (in other words, we know the problem, that life probably needed a starting point), and scientists are making progress toward a more competent theory – we’re at a better place than we were ten or twenty or thirty years ago, and I think that we will probably be even closer in the future. It’s not incompatible at all to say that that the evidence hints toward abiogenesis but that we still need more time to work out an actual theory. Again, a big part of the problem is that, unlike evolution, we can’t actually see how things progressed.

    The other option is to believe special creation, which doesn’t look at all likely given the competence of evolutionary theory and the inability to actually come up with any solid science. That alone is reason for believing this paradigm (though I suppose that there’s always hope that it will all come crashing down tomorrow, and special creation will stand alone). The two choices are either believe in something that has been discredited in many parts or trust that the science will indeed take its course and reach a better understanding of the origins of life. That, to me, is not a difficult decision. Again, it’s a matter of knowing the problem. It seems to me that the problems of the origins of life are very real, and we need to solve them. On the other hand, there aren’t just problems with special creation – the entire thing doesn’t work.

    The “uncertainty is weakness” is a very real point. I’m not going to speak for you, but many creationists aren’t interested in letting the science play out. They’re interested in exploiting incomplete parts of our understanding so that they can buffet their own views.

    Your argument about junk DNA seems somewhat of a simplification. For one, it’s not even the case of creationists getting the jump on evolutionists. Biochemist Larry Moran says, “It’s sufficient to remind people that lots of DNA outside of genes has a function and these functions have been known for decades.”

    Scientists have been looking at junk DNA long before Mims. Quote: Part of the difficulty in studying junk DNA is that it’s impossible to prove a negative, i.e., that any particular DNA does not have a function.

    That’s why T. Ryan Gregory, an assistant professor in biology at the University of Guelph, believes that nonfunctional should be the default assumption. “Function at the organism level is something that requires evidence,” he said.

    The idea that scientists somehow missed the boat on junk DNA, I think, frankly, is fictitious. It simply required greater testing instead of catch-all assertions, and our understanding of the human genome in the last fifteen years has been a great boon for this.

    Furthermore, of course there are “junk” genes that are useful for various reasons, but there are all sorts of inactivated genes and genes that might seem like evolutionary remnants or products reserved for evolutionary change, thus buffeting the theory even more. On the other hand, I would expect a designer to be efficient, and if he uses a common blueprint (DNA), I would also expect complexity of an organism to be a product of size of the genome. Extra DNA is not proof of a designer. It shows constant change in an organism with inefficient but workable genes. Here is a good article that can explain some of this stuff in more biological terms.

  101. Dave says:

    Hi Jacob

    Well you’ve practically conceded every point as it pertains to biological evolution and the origin of species, so asking me to show my evidence after all of that seems rather pointless…

    Okay… you win.

  102. Jacob says:

    I’m not sure what your point is. You’ve been calling evolution speculative and no more valid than ID this entire time, but you haven’t backed it up very well. I asked for proof of the barriers of evolution, but none were provided. I gave an example of prolific evolution that has been documented in nature. You brought up bat evolution, I gave you research. You dropped the arguments completely when I showed that you were mistaken about the integrated whole of systems and junk DNA. I showed how quote after quote has been mangled. You consider the arguments of Behe and Wells valid, but if those arguments can be refuted, then maybe they’re mistaken. I mean one can do a simple Google search and find a cogent answer to Icons of Evolution. If you want to exclusively discuss the origins of life, then fine. Perusing this topic once more, I see that there were even comments (not directed at me) that seem like good harbingers of discussion. In particular probability theory as it pertains to the chemical origins of life. But I do expect some very honest, vigorous debate.

  103. SteveK says:

    Tony,

    If you say that religious convictions are on an equal footing, or take precedence over the acceptance of scientific facts, then you have put yourself in the position of opposing some scientific knowledge.

    I didn’t say anything of the sort. Religious convictions must match physical reality where those convictions attempt to describe/explain physical reality. You know, Christians believe in the law of non-contradiction too.

    But the real question is what should you do when science does not provide the answers you want regarding final causes?

    Don’t give up…keep searching for the truth??? If science can help in that endeavor, then I support that effort. If it cannot then I’m content to rely on the other means available to us for obtaining knowledge.

    Here’s an example. I have had several knee operations…

    Thanks, but this has nothing to do with anything we are discussing.

    My question was to explain why the notion of a final cause should be a necessary assumption of biological study. I don’t think you or I have answered that question.

    If you rewind the tape you’ll find that I said, “necessary or not, the answers MAY help us”

    Now, is it necessary to know this? No. Biological study doesn’t NEED to expand its horizons in order to keep doing what it has been doing. We can stop breaking new ground any time we want and biological studies will keep chugging along just fine.

    Does cosmology NEED to study yet another galaxy? No. So why are we doing it?

  104. david ellis says:


    You know, Christians believe in the law of non-contradiction too.

    Oh, that’s a comment that brings out my inner snark….but I’ll restrain it.

  105. Dave says:

    Hello Tony

    You’ve been calling evolution speculative and no more valid than ID this entire time, but you haven’t backed it up very well.

    I suppose that validity is in the eye of the beholder. What would you consider valid evidence?

    I asked for proof of the barriers of evolution, but none were provided.

    I believe the response was “We don’t know if dog breeders were trying to breed something other than dogs.” and “they’ve only been breeding dogs for a few hundred years anyway.”

    If I recall my mention of ongoing and unsuccessful effort to breed novel creature from fruit flies and bacteria was greeted with silence.

    I gave an example of prolific evolution that has been documented in nature.

    Evolution has not been documented, at best we have observed variation within species i.e. Darwin’s finches or Great Dane and Chihuahua in dogs. Evolution is the “origin of [unique] species” not minor variations within species.

    That deliberate deception has been practiced by evolutionists for the better part of 150 years. It has alos been coupled with the straw man that Christian theists believe in the creation of all creatures exactly as they exist today, a demonstrably false statement, although I wouldn’t be surprised if some Victorian divines advocated that herietical notion.

    We know it is false because the early church recognized Africans and Asians as human beings, descended from Adam and Eve and capable of receiving salvation. The first African bishop (from Congo) was ordained in the 5th or 6th C. When it became an issue in the middle ages, the church debated and ruled that status of Amerinds as human beings, descended form Adam and salvable. IF all humans are descended from Adam and Eve then only a blind fool would suggest that Christians didn’t believe in variation within created kinds. (BTW – as an aside – the debate over the status of Amerinds became the foundational document for the concept of “human rights”)

    You brought up bat evolution, I gave you research.

    The earliest fossil bats resemble their modern counterparts in possessing greatly elongated digits to support the wing membrane, which is an anatomical hallmark of powered flight.

    Obviously we have a clear line of descent from ur-bats to modern bats. The trouble is… ur-bats look like modern bats, they haven’t evolved.

    This absence of transitional forms in the fossil record led us to look elsewhere to understand bat wing evolution.

    We have no transitional forms… the perenial problem of paleontology, referred to by the [eminent?] Stephen J. Gould as “the trade secret of paleontology”

    http://books.google.com/books?id=yfXJhKmp1wUC&pg=PA263&lpg=PA263&dq=stephen+J.+Gould+%22trade+secret+of+paleontology%22&source=bl&ots=lcrGkiDcWa&sig=lbxvgFdIkqq2vvwLkKJmpp1CMR0&hl=en&ei=qz5pSuSPNoH4sQPyt5mXBQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1

    ..so leaving behind the fossil record we go in search of alternatives.

    Investigating embryonic development, we found that the digits in bats (Carollia perspicillata) are initially similar in size to those of mice (Mus musculus) but that, subsequently, bat digits greatly lengthen.

    A comparative analysis of embryonic development, shades of Ernst Haeckel (whose fraudulent illustations of embyonic development are still defended by evolutionists).

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ernst_Haeckel#.22Infamous.22_embryo_drawings

    Embryos begin with a single cell which develops into a multicellular infant creature through a process of cell division. It is not only unremarkable, but it is a no-brainer, that this process would, at times, produce ‘similarities’ in appearance. However, outward appearance masks a finely tuned, highly integrated, and barely understood series of functions beneath the surface.

    Together, our results suggest that an up-regulation of the Bmp pathway is one of the major factors in the developmental elongation of bat forelimb digits, and it is potentially a key mechanism in their evolutionary elongation as well.

    What the researchers are saying is the “similarity” in mouse and bat digits disappears when the Bmp expression is activated and they speculate (potentially) that the cause of Bmp expression is evolution. It could as easily be said, “…up-regulation of the Bmp pathway is one of the major factors in the developmental elongation of bat forelimb digits, and it is potentially a key mechanism in their design

    You dropped the arguments completely when I showed that you were mistaken about the integrated whole of systems and junk DNA.

    If you are referring to your rather disorganized defense of “junk” DNA and the desperate efforts of evolutionists to salvage their reputaions from another failed prediction. Yea, I dropped it. My mother told me never to match wits with the witless.

    I mean one can do a simple Google search and find a cogent answer to Icons of Evolution.

    Yes, I read the talkorigins critique shortly after I read Icons. Despite their vigorous defense of the “unfairly maligned” evolutionists I found their arguments unconvincing. You see, when I went to school (and I had a particular interest in paleontology), they used most of the icons in the biology texts. They are, at best, misleading. Most of them are known to be misleading. Haeckel’s fraud was exposed in 1868 by Ludwig Rutimeyer, but they kept on using them until at least 1970.

    In particular probability theory as it pertains to the chemical origins of life.

    I thought you had disposed of probability theory as the wrong approach to OOL… perhaps that was David… 8^>

  106. Jacob says:

    I did respond to the fly and bacteria issue by saying that it’s difficult to reproduce natural selection in an artificial environment by simulating market conditions. Experiments have to be carefully devised. In response I turned to the natural world and pointed toward HIV, which has adapted to specific human behavior and grown resistant via mutations. However, we have been able to model sexual isolation in labs fairly easily – this is paralleled by a certain maggot fly in the wild that has split off on a new course from its brethren via key mutations. One E. Coli experiment produced a novel function involving citrate (Behe’s response was that these multiple mutations only allowed the organism to transport citrate, as if that makes it any less beneficial, and that it was still rare, even though it happened in a millisecond of evolutionary time), and if I remember correctly, there is a mouse experiment too. Scientists have also seen gene duplication happen in the lab. An actual search on Pub Med reveals 60000 references to mutations and 7000 to gene duplication (though not all of these are produced in experiments). There’s no good reason to deny that beneficial change of genes occur.

    Of course, I don’t think it matters how many examples there are, as creationists will always retreat just a step beyond what can be accurately documented and reproduced. The problem with this argument is, as I said before, self-evident. Each organism is a different arrangement of DNA. The argument that these mechanisms for DNA rearrangement and change are deleterious is somewhat defeating. For instance, the dog example presumes that one change, ten changes, a hundred changes, or a thousand changes are all fine. But ten thousand…a hundred thousand…maybe that’s dangerous to the organism. Well how does that make sense? Each organism itself is a different collection of genes. We only use classifications to group like-minded organisms. In actuality they’re gradients. Some dogs are like wolves, and there are dogs farther from wolves. In other words, there are only organisms in relation to one another. There is no inherent “dogness” that leads to deleterious effects once gotten away from. There would have to be good proof and solid research for why such a thing would even make sense. No, there are only different constituencies of DNA. If a poodle can exist, if a golden retriever can exist, if a wolf can exist, then anything in between can exist, as long as it’s a fit creature. Once again, the very fact of fertile hybrids proves this. You’re essentially relying on the unproven definition of “kinds”. But evolution itself is merely change – it works from one generation to the next with no starting point except for the first common ancestor. It’s all minor variations between organisms that are isolated and modified and selected for so that small changes become large changes. You haven’t given a single shred of evidence to the contrary.

    Which leads to an interesting question. You seem to be implying that diversification within a species is possible, but then you say that scientists can’t seem to produce evidence of this change and diversification. But there is no evidence for a boundary between species, and it appears possible that incremental alterations can work to make a creature more fit.

    It’s false to say that we have no bat transitional forms. There is one that has claws, teeth, and modified limbs and tail like a kind of pre-bat. It’s funny that you quote Gould, though, because he also says this:

    Since we proposed punctuated equilibria to explain trends, it is infuriating to be quoted again and again by creationists—whether through design or stupidity, I do not know—as admitting that the fossil record includes no transitional forms. Transitional forms are generally lacking at the species level, but they are abundant between larger groups.

    Fossils are merely snapshots in time. It’s like taking a picture of yourself at ten and again at eleven, but all of the pictures in between were burned. The theory of evolution does not rest on any one series of fossils. Creationists, in fact, are disingenuous here. They themselves have no expectations – if God created organisms that appeared to be transitional forms, well then that’s just God being God. But they expect evolutionists to account for every single fossil. No amount seems to be good enough – even though scientists were able to predict a creature very much like Tiktaalik before it was discovered. Fortunately, there is a lot more to evolution than that. In a moment I’ll discuss why the evidence actually makes the most sense within evolutionary theory.

    More pertinently, your inquiry is absurd. You asked me to show you a method of bat evolution (I posted that and about five other things). You never asked me to then prove that evolution must have done it. You asked whether evolution could do something, but when evidence is presented, you switch tactics to say that, well, it doesn’t mean that evolution did do it. To say that a paper on bat evolution assumes evolution is like saying that a paper on germs assumes germ theory. But the purpose of those works is not to produce a treatise on evolution.

    Now evolution is buffeted by evidence for common ancestors. The whole point is that, instead of specific fine-tuning, there is evidence of modification from previous organisms. Even the unique organisms can usually be elegantly explained. All creationists can claim is that there only appear to be common ancestors, that God works based on common motifs, but beyond the obvious issue that creationists are co-opting evidence for evolution into their beliefs, it completely ignores the DNA evidence. Once again, there’s a pseudogene in the whale genome that is active in its land-based ancestors but was somehow turned off during its slow modification toward whales. I believe that humans have olfactory pseudogenes that are switched off (so do dolphins, as they obviously have no need of them). The evolutionary baggage that accumulates over long stretches of time seems to speak against special creation. Combined with the mechanisms of change, these things heavily inform the theory.

    Scientists were so wrong about junk DNA that they were using it to do research on cancer back in 1983 and research on diabetes in 1987. So creationists weren’t even first, and they don’t get points for being orthogonal to the truth. Ryan Gregory on this topic:

    As I have discussed previously, both hardcore adaptationists (if any exist anymore) and creationists have a vested interest in having all non-coding DNA be functional. I believe that real-world variability in genome size argues strongly against such a prospect, but of course it is possible, and this is the point that people like Ohno, Doolittle, Orgel, and Crick made in the 1980s. The important point is that yes, some non-coding DNA is functional at the organism level (as opposed to existing for its own sake or because there is no strong selection against it). And certainly, non-coding DNA has effects at the organism level. But current evidence suggests that about 5% of the human genome is functional, and even the least conservative ENCODE participants (whose primary, and important, objective is to identify the functional elements and their features) are betting that 20% is functional.

    In the end, it is obvious that non-coding DNA is the product of evolution whether it all turns out to be functional or not. The cases in which former parasites (transposons) have taken on function at the organism level are a perfect illustration of cooption, which is the same basic process that allows explanations for the evolution of complex structures like eyes or flagella. The research into function of non-coding DNA, which the creationists are eager to cite, can be carried out only under an evolutionary framework — it is meaningless to talk about “conserved non-coding DNA sequences” otherwise.

    http://genomicron.blogspot.com/2007/06/junk-dna-gets-wired.html (he gives many more links on his blog)

    In regards to the Icons article: it does a good job of exposing Wells, showing where he takes people out of context, fails to cite, or misrepresents the data. If somehow these are distortions of his work, then give a few examples. They give plenty of evidence that outright contradicts Wells, so either they’re misrepresenting things, or their arguments are simply better. Even when they did give one to Wells, Haeckel’s embryos, you failed to list any pertinent scientists who actually believe it. In fact, there’s a much better explanation for embryological development that scientists use to inform their work on things like bat evolution.

    P.S. These links are crap. If you can’t get some of them to work, or you need a specific link that I didn’t provide, then I could oblige.

  107. Dave says:

    We only use classifications to group like-minded organisms.

    All chairs are not the same…?

    In actuality they’re gradients. Some dogs are like wolves, and there are dogs farther from wolves. In other words, there are only organisms in relation to one another. There is no inherent “dogness” that leads to deleterious effects once gotten away from.

    Dogs and wolves are part of the same family of organisms- they are all varietes of dog. The names we give teh different varities of creature are, to some extent, arbitrary, but that does not imply that there is no exxential ‘dogness’ applicable to all dogs.

    The interesting cases are the ‘interspecies hybrids’ – are they evidence of diversification within created “kinds” or are they evidence of your evolutionary gradient? Almost all sheep and many goats can hybridize. All dogs can hybridize. Most cattle (including the buffalo) hybridize. Horse, zebra, donkey hybridize. The big cats have been know to hybridize.
    http://www.pets4you.com/bobcat.html

    However, we do not see cat-dog hybrids or sheep-horse hybrids.

    Scientists were so wrong about junk DNA that they were using it to do research on cancer back in 1983 and research on diabetes in 1987.

    What conclusion did the evolutionists draw from so-called noncoding DNA? What did the IDers predict. The fact that a few scientists were looking into noncoding DNA, depite the general concensus that was “junk”, is the reason we learned it was useful.

    So creationists weren’t even first

    And you cannot even get past the misleading use of labels.

  108. Jacob says:

    Of course dogs and cats can’t reproduce. And if evolution predicted a dog giving birth to a cat, then you’d be very correct. But it doesn’t. Evolution predicts incremental change that become large changes. This means that DNA becomes more and more incompatible as two species drift apart. If you line all varieties of organisms up side by side and go back along the evolutionary path, then any single organism will be able to reproduce with those nearest to it. That’s all evolution is. There is no magical divide between groups except divergence and change over evolutionary time. You’ve given no rationale for these magical barriers – no theories, no evidence, no research.

    What did the creationists predict about junk DNA? Did they predict that it would contain evolutionary significance? Did they do any actual research on their own? Anyway, here there are a number of quotes that give wide-ranging opinions from the 1980s. There are about 30 quotes alone throughout the blog, just a sample, but many conclude that more research needed to be done before anything solid could be said. He also gives a more complete history of junk DNA. There is even an article from 1994 that says deeper meanings are clearly embedded in the so-called waste, and it’s leading to a more complete understanding of the genome. More from Ryan Gregory:

    In other words, there was no real period in which noncoding DNA was dismissed by the scientific community, though there was a much-needed shift away from strictly adaptive interpretations in the 1980s. Some individual researchers ignored noncoding regions, but there is no gap in the literature other than limits on what could be done in a methodological capacity. The “new” view of noncoding DNA as potentially important has been proclaimed regularly for at least as long as the claimed period of neglect between 1980 and 1994.

    Lastly, it should be said that I’m referring to all who believe special creation when I say creationists. I hate saying IDers. How is that misleading? Young earth creationists and old earth creationists, both, unsurprisingly, utilize creationism. When there is a specific theory that denotes very specific research and claims, then you can complain about what I call it.

  109. Dave says:

    Hello Jacob

    Don’t you just hate that creationist quote-mining?

    These showed that the early discussions of these notions did not rule out possible functions for noncoding DNA. Nevertheless, creationists, many science writers, and far too many biologists insist on claiming that noncoding DNA was long dismissed as unimportant because of these ideas.

    Where in the world did those foolish creationists, science writers, and “far too many biologists” (as if they would know) get the idea that noncoding DNA was “junk”?

    In other words, there was no real period in which noncoding DNA was dismissed by the scientific community, though there was a much-needed shift away from strictly adaptive interpretations in the 1980s.

    Translation:
    While real scientists continued to investigate the nature of noncoding DNA the evolutionary apologists dismissed it as a nonadaptive artifact of evolution. Now that the real scientists (the far too man biologists?) have discovered that noncoding DNA (an oxymoron perhaps?) does, in fact, have a function the evolutionary apologists are busily quote-mining the literature to substantiate their sudden volte face on the subject. “No, no, no, we never said it was useless junk, we just said it was junk.”

    blackwhite- The ability to accept whatever “truth” the party puts out, no matter how absurd it may be. Orwell described it as “…loyal willingness to say black is white when party discipline demands this. It also means the ability to believe that black is white, and more, to know black is white, and forget that one has ever believed the contrary.”

    http://www.newspeakdictionary.com/

  110. Jacob says:

    Nearly everybody (if not everybody) doing research on it was an evolutionist, so it’s impossible to make a distinction between “real scientists” and “evolutionary apologists”, whatever those terms mean. Furthermore, you’re presenting an oversimplification of the term junk DNA. I believe that the term originated with Susumu Ohno, who proposed it to describe DNA that had fallen out of function. Of course, it’s a lot more complex than that:

    It has turned out that non-coding DNA is far more complex than just pseudogenes. It also includes transposable elements, introns, and highly repetitive sequences (e.g., microsatellites).

    Some non-coding DNA is proving to be functional, to be sure. Gene regulation, structural maintenance of chromosomes, alternative splicing, etc., all involve sequences other than protein-coding exons. But this is still a minority of the non-coding DNA, and there is always the issue of the onion test when considering all non-coding DNA to be functional.

    According to Gregory, many noteworthy scientists have attempted over the last forty years to explore these functions and ascertain a better understanding of the genome. It’s not exactly stunning that science develops and changes. By the time Mims wrote that letter in 1994, most of the genome was already well on its way to being explored, and we were beginning to have solid ideas about many things that constituted this supposed “wasteland”. By adaptationists, I think he means the people who thought that all of the genes were perfectly conserved by natural selection because they were useful (in other words, it was an assumption that they were overly useful, not simply “junk”). Quote:

    It needs to be pointed out again that evolutionary biologists and geneticists held a variety of views on functionality, some claiming that it was all functional, some saying very little (but few, if any, saying it was all totally non-functional). Strict adaptationist (“ultra-Darwinian”) thinking had led many authors to assume that non-coding DNA must be doing something useful or it would have been eliminated by selection long ago. The proponents of the “selfish DNA” approach to non-coding DNA wrote their papers in direct response to this overly adaptationist interpretation and argued that much of it could be explained simply by the existence of mechanisms that put it there, independent of organism-level function. But even they expected that some would turn out to play a role in regulation. At the same time, most researchers for the past half century have noted the link between DNA amount and cell size, which means that total non-coding DNA content is not irrelevant biologically. This could, however, be an effect instead of a function, which is why there has for decades been discussion about this issue.

    http://genomicron.blogspot.com/2007/09/junk-dna-let-me-say-it-one-more-time.html

    Now what exactly did creationists propose here? Because there is still the very real possibility that the majority of it will not be all that useful. Creationists try to take such a view and claim that it contradicts every new function that’s uncovered, but no: there is room for interesting functions, but what we know about DNA does not appear to support the total usefulness of a genome given discrepencies in size vs. function.

    And the accusation that Gregory is quote mining is funny because he says that he is extracting quotes and encourages readers to actually go back into the literature themselves. You, on the other hand, are merely throwing out unsubstantiated claims about scientific beliefs without attempting to back them up at all.

  111. Holopupenko says:

    Tom:

    It might be good to warn Jacob regarding his repeated and incorrect use of the term “creationism”: he intentionally employs it in a broad-brushing pejorative manner–quite nicely revealing his philosophical ignorance in his weak justification for using it.

    Rigorously speaking, “creation” has to do with the before-and-after from nothing to something. (In fact, “before” doesn’t even work here because time is the metric of change.) The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy’s first paragraph in its entry on “creationism” does a fair job in drawing out the important distinctions.

    None of the modern empirical sciences can address creationism per se because they study the before-and-after of things already existing: they need to observe and measure something before it changes into something else. It’s kind off amusing to watch atheists flail about looking for an initial target to explain, when there was nothing in the first place. Nothing means nothing: nothing means “no thing”–the privation of beingness itself.

  112. Jacob says:

    What’s your point? I’m well aware of the distinctions. In fact, I have never discarded the idea that the universe could have, in fact, been created. It still remains a distinct possibility (though there are wildly different definitions of the creator). Of course, it’s eminently obvious the brand of creationism I’m speaking of, so any mincing of the terms has not effected my arguments because I readily make the distinctions themselves within my arguments. It’s obvious that I’m referring to the idea of special creation (hence, creationists). But the problem is that proponents of this view have themselves mingled terms. Ken Ham uses the term creationist all the time. Denton once called the creationist concept antithetical to evolution (or at least that’s how it has been considered by many). Creationism.org insists that the term was hoisted upon it by evolutionists but then has no qualms about choosing it as a URL. The term for the movement initially was creation science (or scientific creationists), which doesn’t explain anything more than creationism except that they’re apparently doing science based on it, whatever that is. It doesn’t tell you what they believe about creationism, what brand, etc. It only changed to Intelligent Design once “scientific creationism” began to be rejected, but that term, as I pointed out, doesn’t easily make sense as IDer (since it sounds like the proponents themselves are the intelligent designers), nor does it describe in much greater detail what its proponents actually believe. So I use the term creationist. It’s not exactly a rejected term in ID circles, showing up in numerous special creation literature, so until the movement comes up with a very specific theory that communicates specific ideas and scientific proposals, it’s hardly worth complaining about. I already apologized for being careless enough to use the term young earth creationist in a broad sense, so I can hardly be accused of trying to distract from the point. Creationism does describe these beliefs, perhaps not exactly, but that is not my fault. I use the term because it’s purposely vague. And given that I’m only attacking the specific anti-evolutionary theory portion, I see no problem here. And what of it anyway? I at least get the arguments right. You, however, have mischaracterized my arguments from the start.

  113. Jacob says:

    I do have one more thing to add: in past arguments on other sites I’ve also been told that intelligent design doesn’t necessarily endorse a specific designer or method of design, so we still might run into the issue of whether this term is too vague or whether it addresses something specific. In that context, I don’t see how it all matters. I mean the textbook Of Pandas and People was shown to substitute Intelligent Design language for words such as creation and creationism. Given all of this, it’s very difficult to ask me to make distinctions. I have my own word: special creationists. If it really pains anyone that much, I can use that word instead.

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