Bill Nye, Deniable Guy: Promoting Science and Rationality, He Blunders On Both

Science Guy Bill Nye says he stands for excellence in thinking skills and scientific reasoning. Recently, however, he violated both of those values in the very act of promoting them.

HuffPost reports him as saying,

The biggest danger creationism plays… is that it is raising a generation of children who “can’t think” and who “will not be able to participate in the future in same way” as those who are taught evolution.

Later the article adds,

Speaking on MidPoint, Nye said he blames an older generation of evangelicals “who have very strong conservative views” and who are “reluctant to let kids learn about evolution.” Their presence on school boards leads to debates over curriculum, Nye argued, which further inhibits schools’ ability to teach facts.

For schools to teach facts is great, but it’s not the same as teaching how to think.

Now, what I’m criticizing here comes out of a very short televised interview, and I’m sure that if given more time to discuss it, Nye wouldn’t have made quite the same careless blanket statements he made here.

Given what we have to work with here, however, it seems likely that Nye has confused two categories: knowing and reasoning. All the facts in the world couldn’t teach a student to discern good reasoning from poor. Nye’s complaint about schools inability to teach facts has more to do with teaching students what to think than how to think.

Where’s His Own Reasoning?

But if the interview could be trusted as representative of what Nye really thinks, it would be another instance of the error in reasoning that I discussed in my chapters of True Reason. Along with many atheists, Bill Nye (who may or may not be an atheist, I do not know) here equates thinking well with thinking the right things. If that were the right test for good reasoning, though, if I think the earth is round then I am reasoning well, even if I think so because I like basketballs, and basketballs are round.

I stated that tentatively, since I doubt what I got out of the interview is exactly what Nye would say he really thinks. The rest of what I have to say, however, is not so tentative. He was pretty clear about these topics.

Where Is His Own Support for Critical Thinking?

Nye focuses on Ken Ham and dogmatic young-earth creationism as the alternative to good teaching on evolution. In this he relies on a fallacy, the error of the false dichotomy. Notice his lack of awareness that the leaders of the Intelligent Design community, the Discovery Institute, have for many years been calling for more teaching, not less, on evolution, including both its strengths and the evidential challenges it faces.

This would help students discover that science is rarely cut-and-dried, and that when nature gets complicated so does the message it speaks to us. (The science of life is incredibly more complicated than chemistry or physics.) Students would have the opportunity to evaluate conflicting theories on the basis of evidence. They would learn how to think about these things. Nye says he’s worried about parents who are reluctant to let their kids learn about evolution. What about parents and educators who are reluctant to let kids learn the complicated side of the story?

And yet he says (7:50 in the interview) that the only way to learn it’s okay to question things, to use skeptical thought, is to learn evolution, as if learning exactly one prescribed side of the story could accomplish that.

He’s Right About This Much

I do think he’s right to the extent that it’s hard for children to learn to think well when while trying to square the facts of nature with dogmatic young-earth creationism. There has to be room there for questioning. Some young-earth creationists seem to think we have to make a final decision, and we have to agree that they’re right. They miss what should be obvious: that even if they were right, to reach that conclusion responsibly would require making judgments on topics that are both highly controversial and extremely technical, exceeding almost everyone’s expertise.

It’s wrong to demand a final conclusion from people who are not equipped to reach it. Putting it more bluntly, they ask us to assume it’s impossible they’re wrong—wrong about the science, and wrong about what the Bible actually teaches about creation—and that’s wrong.

But Still, Where’s His Own Science?

So while I could agree with some of what Bill Nye says, he has also committed the extremely unscientific fallacy of generalizing from an unrepresentative sample. At about 7:25 in the MidPoint interview he lumps all evangelical families into one pile, none of whose children will be able to “participate in the future” along with kids who learn to think (about evolution, that is). Doesn’t he know that not all evangelicals think exactly alike, or educate their children the same way?

There’s actually reason to believe many Christian students learn to think better than others. Whether I’m right or wrong about that, I do not know. Neither does Bill Nye–though he claims to know something about Christian students’ thinking skills. He’s committing yet one more breach of science there, you see; he’s drawing very strong sociological conclusions without acquiring the data to justify those conclusions. Where’s the science to support his theorizing?

Bill Nye, Deniable Guy

It’s never a pretty sight to see someone of Nye’s stature proclaiming such a deep concern for science and rationality in such an unscientific, logically fallacious manner. He just released a new book called Undeniable. It’s sad to see him denying his own principles this way.

Comments

  1. BillT

    Not to mention, just where is it that Nye thinks evolution isn’t taught? It’s part of every public school curriculum in the nation. There may be some places where it isn’t the only thing that is taught but I think even those are extremely rare. And the number of home/private school kids that are taught young earth creationism exclusively is vanishingly small. This isn’t a legitimate problem, it’s just Christian bashing that lets a nitwit like Nye put a “legitimate” sheen on his bigotry.

  2. JAD

    Sadly Bill Nye is all too typical of those with a secular world view and mind set. Do you remember who the secular media went to after 9-11 to get the evangelical point of view? It was Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. Who appointed them represent all evangelicals? They certainly don’t represent my left of centre brand of evangelicalism. The media went to them because that is their stereotype, which only goes to illustrate their hypocrisy. They have no problem denouncing stereotyping when it comes to one of their preferred victim groups: women, gays and ethnic minorities– especially those of color. I agree, in some cases, there is stereotyping when comes to these groups and such stereotyping is wrong. But then why is it okay for secular academics along with politicians and members of the “mainstream” news media to resort to stereotyping when it comes to religious belief?

  3. SteveK

    Near the 9 min mark of the video, Nye develops his complaint against the teaching of young earth creationism into a non-sequitar. He thinks holding a YEC view will lead to all kinds of problems in the realm of science and progress – and this is why he has to get the message out. But this charge is demonstrably false.

    In fact, I would wager if YEC were the prevailing belief among all people, science and progress would continue to march forward just as it did during the time of Kepler, Newton, Bacon, etc. because it’s not the YEC belief that is driving the desire to know and discover.

  4. Andy

    Notice his lack of awareness that the leaders of the Intelligent Design community, the Discovery Institute, have for many years been calling for more teaching, not less, on evolution, including both its strengths and the evidential challenges it faces.

    This is simply wrong. Cdesign proponentsists do not want “more teaching on evolution”, they want to teach creationist misrepresentations and misconceptions. Furthermore, schools only teach the central claims of evolutionary theory, like universal common descent, and those are entirely uncontroversial among experts.

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  6. Andy

    Tom,
    I have read plenty of their materials. I am afraid that you have been misled by the DI. The phrase “creationism in a cheap tuxedo” is more than justified, if you are unaware of the history of the terms “cdesign proponentsists” and “wedge document”, I recommend to look them up. Furthermore, all arguments put forth by cdesign proponentsists are one of:
    a) a rehash of earlier creationist arguments that have been refuted for decades (the way Behe talks about irreducible complexity for example is almost identical to arguments that people from the ICR already used back in the eighties – he didn´t even bother to come up with new examples)
    b) a complete misrepresentation of the scientific literature (e.g. pretty much everything that Jonathan Wells has ever written), or
    c) so terrible that not even AiG would use them (e.g. Granville Sewell´s ridiculous misconceptions about the 2LoT or Paul Nelson´s “ontogenetic depth”)

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    Tom Gilson

    I hope I can calm your fears for you, Andy. Until then, my sympathy goes out to you. I have not been misled as you say I have been.

    Here’s how to tell whether the Discovery Institute is calling for the kind of full treatment of evolution that I described above:

    Notice his lack of awareness that the leaders of the Intelligent Design community, the Discovery Institute, have for many years been calling for more teaching, not less, on evolution, including both its strengths and the evidential challenges it faces.

    Read their documents. Find out what they’re calling for. “Calling for” is a very public act. This is an empirically verifiable claim I’m making.

    Do you believe in empirical approaches to empirically verifiable information? Then show it.

    And your fears may then subside.

  8. Andy

    Tom,

    Read their documents. Find out what they’re calling for. “Calling for” is a very public act.

    Not exactly, their true intentions are only obvious to everyone through their incredible incompetence:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wedge_strategy
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Of_Pandas_and_People
    (For those familiar with the history of creationism and creationist arguments, their intentions were obvious from the get go however)
    The “strenghts and weaknesses” approach that you have fallen for is only the latest evolutionary step in the long history of american anti-evolutionism – old wine in new bottles.

    This is an empirically verifiable claim I’m making.

    Indeed, then let us try to verify this claim:
    “the Intelligent Design community, the Discovery Institute, have for many years been calling for more teaching, not less, on evolution, including both its strengths and the evidential challenges it faces.”
    – please give a specific example for such an “evidential challenge” that should be taught and provide a citation from the scientific literature (ideally a review) that elaborates on this challenge (don´t worry if the scientific article us behind a paywall, I have access through a university library).

  9. SteveK

    “Instead of mandating intelligent design, Discovery Institute seeks to increase the coverage of evolution in textbooks. It believes that evolution should be fully and completely presented to students, and they should learn more about evolutionary theory, including its unresolved issues. In other words, evolution should be taught as a scientific theory that is open to critical scrutiny, not as a sacred dogma that can’t be questioned.”

    From here

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    Tom Gilson

    How old are those documents,

    And why are you dodging the empirically verifiable facts of what they’re calling for?

    Are you saying that their inferred intentions of more than a decade ago are empirically equivalent to that? Or are you just trying to take the opportunity to ignore what I said and push your rather outdated point instead?

    As for the rest, I’m actually supposed to be in an online meeting right now so I can’t look that up right now. Maybe someone else can jump in.

  11. Andy

    @SteveK
    That is what they say publicly and this is what they say when they think no one is listening:
    “Design theory promises to reverse the stifling dominance of the materialist worldview, and to replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions.”
    “Governing Goals
    To defeat scientific materialism and its destructive moral, cultural and political legacies.
    To replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God.”
    http://www.antievolution.org/features/wedge.pdf
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wedge_strategy

    Also:

    It believes that evolution should be fully and completely presented to students, and they should learn more about evolutionary theory, including its unresolved issues. In other words, evolution should be taught as a scientific theory that is open to critical scrutiny, not as a sacred dogma that can’t be questioned.

    There are plenty of unresolved issues within evolutionary biology and they are taught all the time, although virtually only on the college level because the stuff that is controversial is much too advanced for schools. The problem here is that what the DI deems to be an “unresolved issues” are in actuality creationist arguments that have been refuted countless times and that are taken as seriously by the scientific community as the arguments of holocaust deniers are taken seriously by historians.

  12. SteveK

    please give a specific example for such an “evidential challenge” that should be taught

    In science, there are always new ideas that challenge the old, and they are often discussed in the classroom. Although I haven’t stepped foot into a biology classroom in years, I’m willing to bet that teachers spend time talking about challenges.

  13. SteveK

    Andy,

    That is what they say publicly

    So you agree with Tom’s statement. Good.

    and this is what they say when they think no one is listening:

    There is no contradiction between the two statements. One says teach the science of evolution, the other says disrupt the materialistic philosophy.

  14. Andy

    Tom,

    How old are those documents

    Seriously? So every time american creationism wants to reinvent itself, we are supposed to forget the entire history that led to this point? The wedge strategy has failed and has been replaced by the “teach strengths and weaknesses of evolution” strategy – but the intention behind it is the same (cast doubt on evolution and promote creationism) and the arguments put forth by cdesign proponentsists are also still the same. What those documents illustrated and still nicely illustrate is, that the Discovery Institute is extremely deceptive about its goals – blindly trusting what they say now while ignoring their history, is unreasonable.

    Are you saying that their inferred intentions of more than a decade ago are empirically equivalent to that?

    It is old wine in new bottles. Name one single point that cdesign proponentsists nowadays want to teach as an “evidential challenge to evolution” that they didn´t already use back then before the Dover trial. You can´t – because there are none.

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    Tom Gilson

    Andy, I know these people personally. They say the same things in private they say in public. They’re not hiding.

    But if you want to stoke your fears with hidden conspiracy theories, then I won’t find it so easy to sympathize with you. I’d rather just encourage you to quit imagining things.

  16. Andy

    SteveK,

    In science, there are always new ideas that challenge the old, and they are often discussed in the classroom. Although I haven’t stepped foot into a biology classroom in years, I’m willing to bet that teachers spend time talking about challenges.

    No, they do that very rarely actually. And there are very simple reasons for that:
    1. Most of those challenges are unintelligible without an advanced degree in the respective subject.
    2. The time is barely sufficient to teach the scientific method and a selection of some core scientific concepts. And those concepts that are taught are pretty much completely uncontroversial among experts.

  17. SteveK

    No, they do that very rarely actually

    But the point remains that they do teach challenges. So once again, you are agreeing.

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    Tom Gilson

    And if they do it not at all, then Bill Nye’s whole argument here evaporates in a mist. Science is all about pouring facts down students’ throats.

    Was it your intention to help me prove the point I was making in the OP?

  19. Andy

    Tom,

    Andy, I know these people personally. They say the same things in private they say in public. They’re not hiding.

    With your approach of cherry picking statements and sweeping everything that is older than a few years under the rug, that might be the case, but I don´t find your approach to be a reasonable one.

    But if you want to stoke your fears with hidden conspiracy theories, then I won’t find it so easy to sympathize with you.

    The one that promotes conspiracy theories is you, you are the one who suggests that what the DI promotes as “evidential challenges to evolution” are genuine challenges despite the fact that the scientific community virtually unanimously rejects these challenges as creationist nonsense. So, what you are saying is either a) that there either is a worldwide conspiracy to silence legitimate arguments against evolution or b) that pretty much all scientists that work in a field relevant for evolution are idiots.
    What I say on the other hand is simply that american anti-evolutionism constantly changes its name but never changes its arguments, and that is demonstrably so.

  20. Andy

    SteveK,

    But the point remains that they do teach challenges. So once again, you are agreeing.

    I repeat what I asked Tom earlier:
    please give a specific example for such an “evidential challenge” that should be taught and provide a citation from the scientific literature (ideally a review) that elaborates on this challenge.
    All of those “challenges” that are promoted by the DI that I have seen so far are either rehashed creationist arguments that have long been debunked or complete misrepresentations of the scientific literature. But maybe you have seen something different.

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    Tom Gilson

    Meanwhile, you continue to duck the issue of what the DI is actually calling for, on which you have been wrong since the beginning of this conversation.

  23. SteveK

    you are the one who suggests that what the DI promotes as “evidential challenges to evolution” are genuine challenges despite the fact that the scientific community virtually unanimously rejects these challenges as creationist nonsense.

    The only way a rejected evidential challenge can fail to be a genuine evidential challenge is if it lacked relevant evidence. Did the DI present evidence that wasn’t relevant to the theory?

    I understand that biology textbooks still teach students about rejected evidential challenges and why they are rejected. I think that kind of talk is healthy.

  24. Andy

    Tom,

    Science is all about pouring facts down students’ throats.

    In schools, it is exactly that to a very large degree. The kids should of course also learn some critical thinking and how the scientific method works but it is mostly indeed learning some key facts about science. Schools are supposed to equip kids with a foundation of core scientific concepts that can be built upon – the stuff that is controversial is discussed in universities among people that have chosen to specialize in this respective fields.

  25. Andy

    Tom,

    Feel free to consider me a liar, Andy.

    I don´t think you are lying, I think you have been deceived.

    Were you still looking for sympathy?

    Please quote me asking for your sympathy, I can´t remember ever doing that but since you keep repeating this ad nauseam, I guess I must have done this at some point.

    Meanwhile, you continue to duck the issue of what the DI is actually calling for

    I am not ducking the issue, you do. I repeat what I said earlier:
    “please give a specific example for such an “evidential challenge” that should be taught and provide a citation from the scientific literature (ideally a review) that elaborates on this challenge.
    All of those “challenges” that are promoted by the DI that I have seen so far are either rehashed creationist arguments that have long been debunked or complete misrepresentations of the scientific literature. But maybe you have seen something different.”

  26. SteveK

    If a high school biology teacher can openly discuss why Lamark’s theory is rejected, then I suppose the evidential failures of ID can also be discussed if he/she wanted to for the same reason – to teach science.

    Despite Andy’s complaint, I don’t see anything nefarious about bringing ID theory into the science classroom.

  27. SteveK

    Andy,

    “please give a specific example for such an “evidential challenge” that should be taught and provide a citation from the scientific literature (ideally a review) that elaborates on this challenge.

    Behe’s IC theory is (was) an evidential challenge that has since been rejected. As I said above, rejected challenges are still taught in schools today so I’m struggling to understand what you are actually objecting to.

  28. Andy

    SteveK,

    Despite Andy’s complaint, I don’t see anything nefarious about bringing ID theory into the science classroom.

    How creationism was refuted is taught in introductory biology and geology classes, there is no reason to cover ID as well because ID doesn´t offer any new arguments.

  29. Andy

    SteveK

    Behe’s IC theory is (was) an evidential challenge that has since been rejected. As I said above, rejected challenges are still taught in schools today so I’m struggling to understand what you are actually objecting to.

    It is not Behe´s theory, Behe was just the first one to use the name “irreducible complexity”. Creationists have used the same arguments with the flagellum as their favorite example way back in the eighties. And a similar objection to evolution was already raised by one of Darwin´s contemporaries (St. George Jackson Mivart), not for molecular machines of course but rather for bigger biological structures (Darwin´s interactions with Mivart were one of the main reason for why the latest edition of the “Origin” is longer than the first edition).
    And this is taught, but it is taught in university classes. This is too specialized for schools.

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  31. Andy

    Tom @30, I take that to mean that there will be no answer to my repeatedly posed question:
    “please give a specific example for such an “evidential challenge” that should be taught and provide a citation from the scientific literature (ideally a review) that elaborates on this challenge.
    All of those “challenges” that are promoted by the DI that I have seen so far are either rehashed creationist arguments that have long been debunked or complete misrepresentations of the scientific literature. But maybe you have seen something different.”

  32. SteveK

    In summary:
    – Tom wasn’t wrong about what the DI is calling for.

    – Like Lamark’s theory, IC theory was an evidential challenge to the theory of evolution that was rejected.

    – Rejected evidential challenges are discussed in the classroom today without all hell breaking loose.

  33. SteveK

    Sorry about the misspelling. I’m not necessarily trying to address all of your complaints because I don’t think everything that you bring up is relevant to Tom’s post. But for the sake of curiosity, what part did I fail to address?

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    Tom Gilson

    I’ve been jumping in and out of paying close attention to meetings, Andy, ever since my first comment here. Three hours straight with a short break.

  35. Andy

    SteveK,

    what part did I fail to address

    You didn´t address any. Example: Tom´s approach boils down to “the Discovery Institute now says x, I believe that and that settles it”. My reply boils down to “what they say has to be seen within the larger context of things they said and do earlier, and them saying x now cannot be reasonably be trusted based on their history”. You chime in and say something that boils down to “but the Discovery Institute indeed does say x now, so you actually agree with Tom”. This is not addressing my point in any way, shape or form.

  36. Andy

    Tom @35
    that´s fine, and even if you wouldn´t be busy, you still don´t owe me an answer. If you want to discuss that issue later, that is fine by me and if you don´t want to discuss it, that is also fine by me.

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    Tom Gilson

    Andy, are you a liar or are you incapable of reading what I’ve written here?

    . Example: Tom´s approach boils down to “the Discovery Institute now says x, I believe that and that settles it”

    The question we started with was about what the Discovery Institute is calling for. The way we discover what the Discovery Institute is calling for is by reading what they’re calling for. So if they say “This is what we’re calling for,” then that’s what they’re calling for. Actually, any reasonable person would agree that empirically that settles it. Only a conspiracy theorist would say, “Oh, they’re calling for x publicly, but they’re really calling for not-x.” That’s drawing conclusions based on fear and baseless inference.

    Further: if you deny what I said in #15, you’re saying, “Tom Gilson said it, I deny it, and that settles it,” because apparently you know the DI people better than I do, even though I actually know them.

    You’re calling me a blithering unthinking idiot and/or a liar. Right?

  38. SteveK

    Andy
    How you manage to justify “the Discovery Institute now says x, I DON’T believe that and that settles it” is your problem, not mine.

  39. Andy

    Tom

    The question we started with was about what the Discovery Institute is calling for. The way we discover what the Discovery Institute is calling for is by reading what they’re calling for.

    You might want to try doing that and read beyond the title to what they actually *mean* by “strengths and weaknesses of evolution”. Do that. And when you´ve done it, tell me which of those “weaknesses” are not a rehash of long refuted creationist arguments or a complete misrepresentation of the scientific literature. I´d also be interested in your explanation for why virtually the entire scientific community rejects those alleged “weaknesses of evolution” as rehashed creationist nonsense.

    Only a conspiracy theorist would say, “Oh, they’re calling for x publicly, but they’re really calling for not-x.”

    It´s not a conspiracy, it is actually quite obvious to anyone who bothers to read up on the issue. The very first textbook on “ID theory” was written by taking a textbook on creationism and literally(!) simply replacing every instance of “God” with “Designer” and “Creationists” with “Design proponents” – it doesn´t get any clearer than that, and they didn´t come up with any new arguments since then. Seriously, what hypothetical evidence could demonstrate that the DI wants to sell debunked creationist arguments under a new name better than the evidence we already have?

  40. Andy

    Tom,
    afaict, what we mainly disagree about is this:
    You say that when the DI says that they want to “teach the strengths and weaknesses of evolution”, they actually mean exactly that.
    I on the other hand say that the “strengths and weaknesses” schtick is just an attempt to sell the *exact same* debunked creationist arguments as before, only under a new name.
    It would be very easy to prove me wrong, by showing that the “weaknesses” that the DI wants to have taught are recognized as actual “weaknesses” by the scientific community instead of being regarded as rehashed and long debunked creationist objections, or by showing that those “weaknesses” are in fact arguments that creationists and cdesign proponentsists have not already tried in earlier incarnations of american anti-evolutionism (“teach the controversy!”, “equal time for evolution and creationism!” etc.).
    Also, I have presented evidence for my case, and honestly, I have a hard time thinking of better evidence for my claim here than the nature of the first textbook on ID “theory”.

  41. Post
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    Tom Gilson

    Andy, they’ve come up with a lot of new arguments since then. Read Stephen Meyer’s books. Read Behe’s second book. Let me take the easy way out, since it’s hopeless anyway–you won’t listen–and just list some of their recent new arguments by way of links.

    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2014/12/rosetta_probe_s091921.html
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2014/12/matching_darwin091801.html
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2014/12/materialism_oug091771.html
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2014/12/is_evolution_tr091731.html
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2014/11/mission_impossi091481.html
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2014/11/how_does_modern091451.html
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2014/11/on_fermis_parad091001.html
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2014/11/interstellar_is090931.html
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2014/11/among_theistic_090921.html
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2014/10/darwinian_biolo090801.html
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2014/10/want_more_misin090711.html
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2014/10/the_difficulty090681.html
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2014/10/natural_selecti_3090571.html
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2014/10/dennetts_algori090491.html
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2014/10/double_your_ple090311.html
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2014/10/consciousness_e090191.html

    Now, I’m not a biologist and I do not claim to be one. I am not evaluating their arguments from that perspective.

    I do know some things, however.

    1. You’re paying attention to your inferences rather than the facts before you. The DI is calling for what it’s calling for. Clear enough.
    2. Your accusations of the DI hiding things are laughable. Everything is above-board and out in the open. I know most of their prominent people, and I know what they write, and who they are is what you see.
    3. Your charges against me amount either to I’m a blithering idiot or a liar.
    4. The world has turned on its axis many times and made many revolutions around its star since the wedge document and cdesign propenentsists. You assume that what the DI has learned since then has been nothing but more effective subterfuge. You allow them no other motive for anything they say. You are unwilling to grant that they might have actually learned something legitimate through early experiences. You have no personal exposure to them. You draw your conclusions based on second, third, probably even fourth-hand information. Tell me: how much do you know from primary sources? And what distinction is there between what you’re doing and plain, ordinary stereotyping? I’d like to know.
    5. You have no argument more recent than that the wedge doc and cdesign… , except you continually parrot, “they have no new arguments.” That very evidence points to someone other than the DI having trouble learning new things as he moves along through life.

    If you have something new and non-repetitive to say, feel free to say it. Please, though, this other stuff you’re trying to pawn off here is getting boring.

  42. Andy

    Let me take the easy way out, since it’s hopeless anyway–you won’t listen–and just list some of their recent new arguments by way of links.

    Aha, I won´t listen anyway eh? Right back at you.
    Furthermore, it would have been sufficient to simply post one link and say “look at every single post on ENV”. How about we do the following – you select just ONE, the one argument you consider to be the very best, and then we try to find out whether it is either a) a rehash of earlier creationist arguments or b) a complete misrepresentation of the scientific literature or c) a genuine “scientific weakness” of evolution. I´ve actually met many of the people whose works were quoted on ENV or Uncommon Descent and not a single one of those would agree that their research has been fairly and accurately represented.

    1. You’re paying attention to your inferences rather than the facts before you. The DI is calling for what it’s calling for. Clear enough.

    You would make an excellent attorney… “but my client says he is innocent, how could this be any more obvious?!”

    2. Your accusations of the DI hiding things are laughable. Everything is above-board and out in the open. I know most of their prominent people, and I know what they write, and who they are is what you see.

    Great. Then please fill in the blank here:
    “The first texbook on ID was written by literally just replacing “God” with “Designer” and “Creationists” with “Design proponents”. Design proponents still argued that ID is not creationism in a cheap tuxedo, and they were totally not lying when they said this because []”

    3. Your charges against me amount either to I’m a blithering idiot or a liar.

    If you insist. Could you please explain how, using the exact same standards of what constitutes “lying” and “idiocy”, what you said about me so far can be explained without assuming that I am dishonest or stupid? If you can´t – your point here would be…. what exactly?

    4. The world has turned on its axis many times and made many revolutions around its star since the wedge document and cdesign propenentsists. You assume that what the DI has learned since then has been nothing but more effective subterfuge

    I am very familiar with the relevant literature, I don´t “assume” this, I have a warranted belief in this being the case.

    You are unwilling to grant that they might have actually learned something legitimate through early experiences.

    Of course they might have. Any examples you can think of?

    You have no personal exposure to them.

    And you have no personal exposure to the scientists they write about. That, per se, doesn´t invalidate your views, but if you want to play the “I know those people personally” card – I can do the same.

    You draw your conclusions based on second, third, probably even fourth-hand information. Tell me: how much do you know from primary sources?

    Again, if you want to play this game – fine by me. I don´t know any “design proponent” personally, but I do know many biologists personally, including several whose work was “discussed” on ENV, I also have an advanced degree in that field. How much do you know about evolution from primary sources?

  43. JAD

    What qualifies Andy to tell other people, he does not personally know, what to believe or think? What qualifies him to judge other peoples motives? What are Andy’s motives? Is he going to tell us that? (I doubt it.)

    As far as the Discovery Institute, let’s get real. Whatever their plans or agenda may be (secret or otherwise) they don’t have a snow ball’s chance in hell of succeeding. Go out on the street and ask any one you meet what the Discovery Institute is and what they are about. I’ll guarantee that 99% of the people won’t have a clue. So without popular support and the support of the elites how are they going to succeed? Maybe they are going to put something in the water? Is that what Andy believes?

    Andy strikes me as a troll driven by an unusually high degree of paranoia. I know I am judging his motives without really knowing him, but since that’s what he’s doing, he shouldn’t mind.

  44. Andy

    JAD

    What qualifies Andy to tell other people, he does not personally know, what to believe or think?

    Please quote me saying something that amounts to “you should believe x and think y”, if you cannot do that, the honest thing would be to retract this.

    So without popular support and the support of the elites how are they going to succeed?

    They aren´t going to succeed. But they will keep finding gullible guys with plenty of faith and money (e.g. Howard Ahmanson, Jr.) or influence (e.g. Rick Santorum), and they will keep spreading misinformation and sooner or later they will get the next schoolboard into a lot of trouble.

    Maybe they are going to put something in the water? Is that what Andy believes?

    Damn straight! Also, BENGHAZI!!!!

    Andy strikes me as a troll driven by an unusually high degree of paranoia.

    And if Andy would have a modicum of respect for your worthless opinion, that might just bother him a little.

  45. SteveK

    Andy,

    Re: debunked creationist arguments

    Ignoring the pejorative ‘creationist’ term…

    If they’ve been debunked via the scientific method then wouldn’t that mean that design theory is a scientific theory and not a theory rooted in religious argument?

    On the other hand, if the arguments haven’t been debunked in that way, then in what way do scientists mean when they say the arguments have been debunked?

  46. Andy

    SteveK,

    Ignoring the pejorative ‘creationist’ term…

    It is indeed pejorative but if it was used by creationists (or is indeed still used by creationists), then it is also accurate.

    If they’ve been debunked via the scientific method then wouldn’t that mean that design theory is a scientific theory and not a theory rooted in religious argument?

    Who said “debunked by the scientific method”? I just said “debunked”. Also, your inference is illogical – it boils down to “x has been debunked using the scientific method, ergo, x must be a scientific theory” – this is like presenting a scientific argument for why astrology doesn´t work and then concluding that astrology must be a “scientific theory” because it was debunked with science.

    On the other hand, if the arguments haven’t been debunked in that way, then in what way do scientists mean when they say the arguments have been debunked?

    Depends on the argument in question, they don´t all fail for the same reason.

  47. SteveK

    Andy,
    It could be that I’m misusing the term ‘scientific theory’. I always thought that if a theory could be tested via the methods of science then it was a scientific theory.

  48. SteveK

    Andy,

    Depends on the argument in question, they don´t all fail for the same reason.

    Can you give one example?

  49. Andy

    SteveK,

    It could be that I’m misusing the term ‘scientific theory’. I always thought that if a theory could be tested via the methods of science then it was a scientific theory.

    That indeed is a misconception of what “scientific theory” means. Short version:
    “A scientific theory is a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that is acquired through the scientific method and repeatedly tested and confirmed through observation and experimentation.”
    Slightly longer version:
    “A body of descriptions of knowledge is usually only called a theory if it fulfills the following criteria:
    It makes falsifiable predictions with consistent accuracy across a broad area of scientific inquiry (such as mechanics).
    It is well-supported by many independent strands of evidence, rather than a single foundation. This ensures that it is probably a good approximation, if not completely correct.
    It is consistent with pre-existing experimental results and at least as accurate in its predictions as are any pre-existing theories.
    It can be subjected to minor adaptations to account for new data that do not fit it perfectly, as they are discovered, thus increasing its predictive capability over time.
    It is among the most parsimonious explanations, economical in the use of proposed entities or explanatory steps. (See Occam’s razor. Since there is no generally accepted objective definition of parsimony, this is not a strict criterion, but some theories are much less economical than others.)”
    Complete version:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_theory

    Can you give one example?

    Sure. Lets take this one “similarities between organisms can be explained by common design just as well as they can be by common descent”. This argument fails because “common design” doesn´t actually predict anything – since ID proponents insist on not making any claims about the “Designer(s)”, every conceivable observation would be compatible with “common design”, and no observation could thus possible support or refute it. Common descent on the other hand makes very specific predictions, it predicts that the distribution of similarities between organisms must correspond to a nested hierarchy (if similarities between organisms would be like similarities between cars, watches, computers and stuff like that – significantly non- or even anti-hierarchical, then common descent would be conclusively refuted) and it predicts that this nested hierarchy should be observed for *all* biological characters, including neutral and deleterious ones (particularly the latter can only be explained with “common design” by postulating that the “designer” is either incompetent or lazy or deliberately repeats mistakes in such a way that it seems as if his “designs” are related via common descent – but since ID proponents refuse to make any claims about the “designer” it cannot be explained with “common design” at all). So, “common descent” is an actual explanation and leads to actual predictions while “common design” explains nothing, predicts nothing and cannot possibly be supported or refuted by any observation because ID proponents refuse to make any claims about the nature, abilities and motivations of the “designer(s)”. Common descent and common design are thus most emphatically not equal wrt to explanatory and predictive power, they actually could not be more different wrt to that.

  50. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Andy, don’t be an idiot.

    If the question is whether the client says he is innocent, then the answer, “but my client says he is innocent, how could this be any more obvious?!” is an obviously sufficient answer.

    If the question is what the DI is calling for (saying out loud, in public), then what the DI says, out loud, in public, is what the DI is calling for.

    Great. Then please fill in the blank here:
    “The first texbook on ID was written by literally just replacing “God” with “Designer” and “Creationists” with “Design proponents”. Design proponents still argued that ID is not creationism in a cheap tuxedo, and they were totally not lying when they said this because []”

    Andy, see my point 4 here, and please explain to me while you’re at it, how do you keep yourself from falling asleep with all this old repetitive stuff?

    “Of course they might have [learned]. Any examples you can think of?”

    Sure. They learned that the American public, American legal system, and scientists around the world weren’t open to a certain version of creationism, and they have also learned that certain versions of creationism had little to do with their overall message anyway. In particular, they’ve learned that the word “creationism” has rhetorical baggage associated with it, baggage that they never carried, but which others have assumed that they did. Therefore they’ve dropped the use o the term, since its popular connotation never fit the heart of their research agenda anyway.

    That’s an example. Thanks for asking. Now you’re going to call me a liar, I’m sure.

    If you insist. Could you please explain how, using the exact same standards of what constitutes “lying” and “idiocy”, what you said about me so far can be explained without assuming that I am dishonest or stupid? If you can´t – your point here would be…. what exactly?

    I think you’re being intellectually dishonest, yes. Two evidences:

    First, you’re drawing unwarranted, evidence-free, and false conclusions about people you don’t know personally, calling them “deceptive” when they’re actually being quite forthcoming about their values, agenda and program. Yet you also seem to place yourself in the camp of those who rely on evidence for knowledge. That’s a contradiction.

    Second, you keep missing the obvious, easy, and simple point that what the Discovery Institute is calling for can be determined in quite a straightforward manner by finding out what they’re calling for. (Note, by the way, that “is” is a present tense verb. Your boring references to documents from 1987 and 1998 do stretch the meaning of what “is” is.

    How much do I know about evolution from primary sources? About as much as I’m claiming to know. (Is Ernst Mayr a primary source? Francisco Ayala? The NAS? Stephen Jay Gould? Kenneth Miller? I won’t suggest Dawkins, clearly he isn’t, though I’ve read him at length on the topic.) We could mark that up as a third sign of your intellectual irresponsibility: you’re playing a fallacious game of tu quoque rather than owning up to your rather absurd means of drawing conclusions about people you do not know.

    Oh, and by the way, speaking of “misinformation,”

    They aren´t going to succeed. But they will keep finding gullible guys with plenty of faith and money (e.g. Howard Ahmanson, Jr.) or influence (e.g. Rick Santorum), and they will keep spreading misinformation and sooner or later they will get the next schoolboard into a lot of trouble.

    It’s “school board.” (Since you like corrections in blog comments; something most people around here tend to ignore, but hey, not everyone!)

    Anyway, name one school board they got into trouble. Just one. Since you’re so insistent on examples.

  51. SteveK

    Andy,
    I know you deny that design is a scientific theory and that it doesn’t offer any predictions, but that seems to be one of the primary issues being debated.

    Setting that aside, what I’m really interested to know is how you arrived at ‘design arguments have been debunked’. Your example of common design vs. common descent wasn’t all that satisfying because:

    1) The two are not *necessarily* mutually exclusive theories. One can be true while the other is also true, or some variation of that. Each theory can have its own strengths and weaknesses too.

    2) If you’re right about common descent being the better theory – keeping in mind my comment in (1) – how does ‘better theory’ translate into ‘this better theory has debunked all the arguments that the lesser theory offers?”

  52. Andy

    Andy, don’t be an idiot.
    If the question is whether the client says he is innocent, then the answer, “but my client says he is innocent, how could this be any more obvious?!” is an obviously sufficient answer.

    If the question is what the DI is calling for (saying out loud, in public), then what the DI says, out loud, in public, is what the DI is calling for.

    Are you being deliberately obtuse here? I keep asking you to read what they MEAN when they say “weaknesses of evolution”, those alleged “weaknesses of evolution” are nothing but a rehash of the same flawed arguments and misrepresentations that they used before, not genuine weaknesses that the scientific community would recognize as such. This is like saying that the CIA could not possibly have “tortured” people because they used the phrase “enhanced interrogation” instead of “torture” – if the facts show that what happened was indeed torture, then “enhanced interrogation” was a euphemism. It is the same with “weaknesses of evolution”, merely *calling* something a “scientific weakness of evolution” doesn´t make it one.
    Imagine that I said that theology students should “learn scholarly objections to the historicity of Jesus”, and it then turns out that by “scholarly objections” I actually mean the “arguments” presented in the Zeitgeist movie – would you then agree that merely *calling* something a “scholarly objection” doesn´t make it one?

    Andy, see my point 4 here, and please explain to me while you’re at it, how do you keep yourself from falling asleep with all this old repetitive stuff?

    This is a pathetic response – this boils down to “yeah, they were flat out lying back then, and the same people are in charge now, but we should ignore that because it was like… already several years ago, and even though they never apologized for lying back then, we should totally trust them now!”

    Sure. They learned that the American public, American legal system, and scientists around the world weren’t open to a certain version of creationism

    And so they tried to smuggle in the same debunked anti-evolution arguments under a new name.

    In particular, they’ve learned that the word “creationism” has rhetorical baggage associated with it, baggage that they never carried, but which others have assumed that they did.

    There is no need to “assume” this, we just have to read what they publish.

    Second, you keep missing the obvious, easy, and simple point that what the Discovery Institute is calling for can be determined in quite a straightforward manner by finding out what they’re calling for. (Note, by the way, that “is” is a present tense verb. Your boring references to documents from 1987 and 1998 do stretch the meaning of what “is” is.

    And again, you are either being deliberately obtuse or intellectually dishonest. Your entire case boils down to “if they call it a “scientific weakness of evolution” then it must indeed be a “scientific weakness of evolution”, even if all the evidence shows that those alleged “weaknesses” are rehashes of debunked creationist arguments or complete misrepresentations of the scientific literature”.

    How much do I know about evolution from primary sources? About as much as I’m claiming to know. (Is Ernst Mayr a primary source? Francisco Ayala? The NAS? Stephen Jay Gould? Kenneth Miller?

    Good, if you count that as primary sources, then you were completely wrong in saying: “You draw your conclusions based on second, third, probably even fourth-hand information. Tell me: how much do you know from primary sources?” – because I actually know everything I do know about this subject from “primary sources”.

    We could mark that up as a third sign of your intellectual irresponsibility: you’re playing a fallacious game of tu quoque rather than owning up to your rather absurd means of drawing conclusions about people you do not know.

    Your buddies at the DI have said plenty of rather unflattering (to put it at its mildest) things about named scientists, the scientific community in general and named institutions like the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History. Are you willing to say that you flat out disagree with ALL of those statements they made? If you don´t, how many of those scientists they talked about do you know personally? If you don´t know any – congratulations for your absurd means of drawing conclusions about people you do not know.

    Anyway, name one school board they got into trouble. Just one. Since you’re so insistent on examples.

    Ah, is this the “the Dover school board had it coming for being stupid enough to believe the lies from the Dishonesty Institute” defense?

  53. Andy

    SteveK,

    Setting that aside, what I’m really interested to know is how you arrived at ‘design arguments have been debunked’.

    I am a biologist and I am very familiar with the relevant literature.

    1) The two are not *necessarily* mutually exclusive theories. One can be true while the other is also true, or some variation of that. Each theory can have its own strengths and weaknesses too.

    That wasn´t my point, my point was that the claim that common descent and common design explain the facts equally well, is wrong – common descent has plenty of explanatory and predictive power and common design (as proposed by the DI) has none. Furthermore, common design, as suggested by the DI (meaning that all clarifications on the nature, abilities and motivations of the “Designer(s)” are verboten) has no “scientific strengths” and cannot possibly have any – it is trivially compatible with every conceivable observation but cannot be supported or refuted by anything (note that this is obviously not true for “design” in general, but it is absolutely true for what the DI understands “Intelligent Design” to mean: an unknown number of unknown “Designer(s)” interacted in an unknown way with the development of life on earth at unknown points in time for unknown reasons).

    2) If you’re right about common descent being the better theory – keeping in mind my comment in (1) – how does ‘better theory’ translate into ‘this better theory has debunked all the arguments that the lesser theory offers?”

    You asked me for one example, you didn´t ask to explain to you why *every* argument that has ever been put forth by a cdesign proponentsist fails – but that is what you ask of me now. I´m happy to discuss particular arguments with you, but I´m not going to write a book length comment about every argument that has ever been used in this context.
    Also, and more importantly, I didn´t say that common descent is the “better theory”, because that would imply that common design is a scientific theory – it isn´t.

  54. Andy

    Tom,
    one final comment because this is obviously not going to be productive and because I don´t like the way this conversation is escalating (and I presume you don´t like it either).
    If you know people from the DI personally (maybe you even consider some of them to be friends), I can understand that you get defensive here. However, this goes both ways – the DI has published and endorsed plenty of defamatory material (the Expelled movie and most of the stuff written by Jonathan Wells are good examples) and I personally know several of those people that were attacked by the DI (not to mention that I work in the field and that I thus have every reason to take statements like “Intelligent design was being suppressed in a systematic and ruthless fashion” personally).

  55. BillT

    …those alleged “weaknesses of evolution” are nothing but a rehash of the same flawed arguments and misrepresentations that they used before, not genuine weaknesses that the scientific community would recognize as such.

    If I may. Andy, I’m a regular poster here and a theist but not a big fan of ID. The above claim seems central to your position and pretty interesting.

    Tom, is there a (single) claim made by the DI that they describe as a “weaknesses of evolution” that they believe is truly a weakness that is not ” a rehash of the same flawed arguments and misrepresentations that they used before” that you could point to so Andy can comment on it.

    I think that might be interesting from both viewpoints.

  56. SteveK

    @Andy #54,
    Thanks. I am still left with many questions but won’t pursue them because I’m not that interested in ID. I still don’t see where anything has been “debunked”.

    BillT’s question about weaknesses is interesting. Maybe I’ll jump back in later.

  57. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Yes.

    Behe has provided empirical evidence that adaptive variations involving simultaneous changes in more than two genes happen very, very rarely. It’s so rare that the statistical likelihood of life having developed as it has, by neo-Darwinian means, in the time available, if there were any significant number of multiple simultaneous adaptive mutations required, is effectively zero.

    That’s one. There are many others in the realm of the natural sciences.

    But look, I’m not pretending to be a biologist, as Andy is pretending to be a mind-reader, assuming he knows some deep dark motivations behind the DI’s communications. My stake in the ID controversy is:

    1. ID is an interesting and promising program of scientific study, whose results are controversial but whose efforts should not be politically stamped out.
    2. Much of the opposition to ID, such as Andy’s, is based on misinformation concerning the nature of ID as a research program and the motives and intentions of its proponents.
    3. Naturalism/materialism, one of the chief targets of ID’s research program, is a demonstrably false philosophy, with or without any science to show that is so.
    4. So in sum:
    a. I sympathize with ID as a program of research.
    b. I recognize that I am scientifically unqualified to comment on its final outcomes.
    c. Nevertheless I think there are interesting points in its science that need evaluation.
    d. I am convinced (and here I am qualified to speak) that naturalism/materialism is wrong.
    e. I am convinced a fortiori that naturalistic evolution is wrong.
    f. Therefore I am interested in any effort, including the DI’s, to counter the unfortunate prevalence of belief in naturalism/materialism, including naturalistic evolution.

    That’s where I stand. It’s why I support what the DI is doing even though I’m not pretending to be a biologist.

  58. BillT

    Just a quick follow up to the above. As much Andy, as you may feel that the ID proponents may present a rehash of the same flawed arguments and misrepresentations that they have used before the secular community is equally as guilty with their claims about evolution. They believe evolution can account for morality, altruism, truth, beauty, humor, love and a host of human metaphysical characteristics well outside the bounds of naturalism. And all this when evolution can’t account for either the existence of life or the existence of evolution itself.

  59. SteveK

    BillT,

    They believe evolution can account for morality, altruism, truth, beauty, humor, love and a host of human metaphysical characteristics well outside the bounds of naturalism.

    Good point. I believe this is the reason why evolution is being challenged like it is in the first place – because its public proponents argue that the science also proves the metaphysics. Design theory is the public pushback to that message – has been since Darwin.

    At the very least, I support ID because, in attempting to play by the same rules where science proves metaphysics, it’s forcing the people in the philosophy of science department to tell the scientists to shut up and stick to the facts. ID will go away when scientists do that.

  60. Andy

    @Tom and BillT

    Behe has provided empirical evidence that adaptive variations involving simultaneous changes in more than two genes happen very, very rarely. It’s so rare that the statistical likelihood of life having developed as it has, by neo-Darwinian means, in the time available, if there were any significant number of multiple simultaneous adaptive mutations required, is effectively zero.

    No, Behe did not provide empirical evidence for this claim. He made some calculations based on empirical results that other people have produced. And his calculations are flawed, he tries the “classic” creationist approach of assuming that if some evolutionary change involves x mutations, all of those mutations have to happen simultaneously – so that he can multiply the individual probabilities for each mutation, get a huge number, and then say something like what you say here.
    Problem is, this has nothing to do with biological reality. He didn´t provide any example for which this is *demonstrably* so (that all 3+ mutations had to happen simultaneously), and he also didn´t address the fact that we have plenty of counterexamples where this is demonstrably NOT so (where 3+ mutations did NOT have to happen simultaneously). Also, we now know that the example he discusses at length – Chloroquine resistance – in his book, is one of the latter cases (we also strongly expect that cases where 3+ mutations have to happen simultaneously are exceedingly rare for theoretical reasons, due to what has been found out about the phenomenon of “epistasis” so far).
    This is a prime example of what I am talking about – Behe completely distorts the scientific literature (if you don´t believe me, I can point you to the primary literature here and you can write to the authors that published the relevant research and ask them if they believe that Behe´s spin is accurate – most scientists are happy to answer such emails from interested laypeople), and Behe does this to use an argument that creationists have already used generations ago – pretending without any rational basis (and ignoring all evidence to the contrary) that a set of observed changes:
    a) had to happen (no alternatives are possible) and
    b) had to happen simultaneously, so that the individual probabilities can be multiplied.
    The way Behe (and Luskin) spin this, is highly dishonest – I´m happy to give you more details on this, but again, you don´t have to trust me here, feel free to write a mail to the researchers that actually worked on this stuff.

    1. ID is an interesting and promising program of scientific study, whose results are controversial but whose efforts should not be politically stamped out.

    99% of those “results” are DI people writing books and blogposts about actual research done by other people, other people who for some mysterious reason never agree with the DI spin – this is not “scientific study” and this is also not “controversial”. The opinions of the DI are not controversially discussed among biologists, they are rather taken as seriously as anti-Cantor cranks are taken seriously by mathematicians. You also have it exactly backwards about “politically stamped out” – since it fails across the board when it comes to science, politics is the only way the DI can try to stay in some sense relevant.

    2. Much of the opposition to ID, such as Andy’s, is based on misinformation concerning the nature of ID as a research program and the motives and intentions of its proponents.

    What demonstrably false claim have I made about the “nature of ID as a research program”?

    3. Naturalism/materialism, one of the chief targets of ID’s research program, is a demonstrably false philosophy, with or without any science to show that is so.

    Cool, could you then tell them to pester philosophy departments and leave scientists alone? That would be a nice change.

    c. Nevertheless I think there are interesting points in its science that need evaluation.

    That has been done, many times. What is your reason for not accepting that evaluation given that you recognize that you yourself lack the qualifications to make this assessment on your own?

    e. I am convinced a fortiori that naturalistic evolution is wrong.

    What reason do you have for singling out evolution here? In what sense do you believe naturalistic evolution it to be “more wrong” than naturalistic gravity, or naturalistic electricity, or naturalistic germ theory of disease?

  61. SteveK

    And his calculations are flawed, he tries the “classic” creationist approach of assuming that if some evolutionary change involves x mutations, all of those mutations have to happen simultaneously

    Assumptions about when mutations occur are now classified as creationist and non-creationist?! LOL

  62. Andy

    BillT,

    Just a quick follow up to the above. As much Andy, as you may feel that the ID proponents may present a rehash of the same flawed arguments and misrepresentations that they have used before the secular community is equally as guilty with their claims about evolution. They believe evolution can account for morality, altruism, truth, beauty, humor, love and a host of human metaphysical characteristics well outside the bounds of naturalism.

    I disagree. They would be equally guilty when they tried to smuggle atheist literature that does make such claims into public school programs, or lobby for policy changes that would allow atheist teachers in public schools to indoctrinate kids with such beliefs. Afaict, the secular / atheist community does not do this, so there is no equal guilt here.
    Also, you would of course be right if you say that biology doesn´t make moral philosophy superfluous, but that doesn´t mean that biology has nothing to say about morality (and especially altruism). Random example, think of the classic trolley problem:
    “On your morning walk, you see a trolley car hurtling down the track, the conductor slumped over the controls. In the path of the trolley are five men working on the track, oblivious to the danger. You are standing at a fork in the track and can pull a lever that will divert the trolley onto a spur, saving the five men. Unfortunately, the trolley would then run over a single worker who is laboring on the spur. Is it permissible to throw the switch, killing one man to save five?”
    and compare it to a slightly modified moral dilemma:
    “You are on a bridge overlooking the tracks and have spotted the runaway trolley bearing down on the five workers. Now the only way to stop the trolley is to throw a heavy object in its path. And the only heavy object within reach is a fat man standing next to you. Should you throw the man off the bridge?”
    – Research has shown that the overwhelming majority of people (independent of cultural background) would sacrifice one to save five in the first case, while the overwhelming majority would NOT sacrifice one to save five in the second case. Science cannot tell you what the correct way to behave would be in those two situations, but it can be used to find out *why* people make different judgments in situtations that (at least superficially) seem to be morally equivalent.

    And all this when evolution can’t account for either the existence of life or the existence of evolution itself.

    This is by design, it´s not even supposed to account for that.

  63. Andy

    SteveK,

    Assumptions about when mutations occur are now classified as creationist and non-creationist?! LOL

    Nope, what is “creationist” is making demonstrably false assumptions in order to multiply probabilities and arrive at huge numbers that unfortunately have nothing to do with reality.

  64. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    I can’t argue Behe with you here, except to say that (a) calculations based on other persons’ empirical data count as empirical evidence, or else Watson and Crick don’t get credit for discovering the double helix, and (b) the flaws you say he committed sound very unlike what I read in his book. He specifically did not commit the error of “assuming that if some evolutionary change involves x mutations, all of those mutations have to happen simultaneously.” That’s a misreading of his entire thesis. It doesn’t take a degree in biology to be able read that much of what he wrote.

    As for the rest of it, I bow out of the discussion as being out of my field.

    I am not about to tell the DI that because of my relative lack of education in biology they should quit their studies in that field. (Silly thought on your part there.) I do think, however, that scientists are foolish to think they can assume naturalism is a true description of reality when philosophical arguments undermine it as severely as they do. So suppose the DI did quit pestering scientists on scientific topics: if naturalism is philosophically impossible, it’s scientifically impossible, too.

    Your misinformation on this thread has been with respect to the DI’s intentions and motives.

    I don’t think naturalistic evolution is more wrong than naturalistic gravity. We were talking about evolution, and I introduced the term “naturalistic,” because I know more about naturalism than I do about evolution. Naturalism is wrong, so naturalistic x is wrong.

    I suspect you have a wrong conception of what I might think of as the alternatives to naturalistic x, however. Christians believe the world works according to natural principles in all but very exceptional circumstances. I do not disagree with natural gravity, natural electricity, natural germ theory of disease, where “natural” means, “in accordance with the regular and consistent operations of nature.”

  65. Ray Ingles

    BillT –

    Not to mention, just where is it that Nye thinks evolution isn’t taught? It’s part of every public school curriculum in the nation.

    Frequently by biased or incompetent teachers, though. In that video, Nye alludes to that at around 6:11 in that video.

    And the other problem is that teaching “alternatives” – as live alternatives – isn’t relevant to science education, especially at the undergraduate level. It’s actually sensible to talk about different hypotheses that have been around in science. E.g. phlogiston theory – you could spend a day or two covering that, and show how it was shown to be wrong. Which would actually teach reasoning.

    You could teach young-Earth creationism that way – by showing how it was shown to be wrong, how even back in 1891 the evidence just didn’t agree with it, how and why science shifted away from that to ‘deep time’. That’s not how those teachers above actually do cover it, though.

    Let me ask you a question – would you want, say, Richard Dawkins teaching Sunday school?

  66. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    You’re right, though, Andy: biology (understood very broadly) has something to say about morality. It says that people have opinions we label as “moral” opinions.

    It doesn’t say whether any opinion is right or wrong however.

  67. SteveK

    Andy,
    What are your thoughts on my comment to BillT in #60? It seems to me that a wedge cannot be used until there is first a place in which it can be inserted. Naturalism gave ID that opening.

  68. Ray Ingles

    Tom –

    At about 7:25 in the MidPoint interview he lumps all evangelical families into one pile

    Actually, no.

    No, really! Go check! The questioner at 7:25, asks Nye to address “the evangelics [sic], if you will, those who believe in creationism” – emphasis added. And Nye’s been very clear about who he’s classifying as creationists – those who believe “the Earth is 6,000 years old”.

    He doesn’t say anything about Evangelicals who aren’t young-Earth creationists. But yes, those who believe the Earth is 6,000 years old “are unable or are uncomfortable with using the scientific method”, as Nye puts it. I’ve used the illustration before, but saying that the Earth is 6,000 years old instead of over 4 billion years old is exactly like saying ‘scientists say that North America is about 2,500 miles east to west, but it’s actually less than 20 feet across’.

  69. Ray Ingles

    Tom –

    [Behe] specifically did not commit the error of “assuming that if some evolutionary change involves x mutations, all of those mutations have to happen simultaneously.

    Might be too technical for you…

    http://www.pandasthumb.org/archives/2008/04/behe-versus-rib.html
    http://www.pandasthumb.org/archives/2007/07/reality-1-behe.html
    http://www.pandasthumb.org/archives/2007/10/behe-vs-carroll.html
    http://www.talkreason.org/articles/Coyne.cfm
    http://www.pandasthumb.org/archives/2007/10/full-text-of-th.html

  70. Ray Ingles

    Tom –

    In this he relies on a fallacy, the error of the false dichotomy. Notice his lack of awareness that the leaders of the Intelligent Design community, the Discovery Institute, have for many years been calling for more teaching, not less, on evolution, including both its strengths and the evidential challenges it faces.

    Sorry, I’m with Andy, and know of no substantive “evidential challenge” raised by the DI. (More on this shortly.)

  71. Andy

    Tom,

    He specifically did not commit the error of “assuming that if some evolutionary change involves x mutations, all of those mutations have to happen simultaneously.” That’s a misreading of his entire thesis. It doesn’t take a degree in biology to be able read that much of what he wrote.

    I don´t know what book you were reading, but Behe gets his huge numbers like this (from chapter six of The Edge of Evolution):
    “Now suppose that, in order to acquire some new, useful property, not just one but two new protein-binding sites had to develop. A CCC requires, on average, 10^20, a hundred billion billion, organisms—more than the number of mammals that has ever existed on earth. So if other things were equal, the likelihood of getting two new binding sites would be what we called in Chapter 3 a “double CCC”—the square of a CCC, or one in ten to the fortieth power. Since that’s more cells than likely have ever existed on earth, such an event would not be expected to have happened by Darwinian processes in the history of the world.”
    This “double CCC” is an event where four mutations *have* to happen simultaneously, if you grant that they do not have to, then his entire thesis is gone. And he has no evidence for any evolutionary change that actually DID require four simultaneous mutations, but we know of plenty examples where a change required 3+ mutations that did NOT have to happen simultaneously.

    I am not about to tell the DI that because of my relative lack of education in biology they should quit their studies in that field.

    Quote-mining isn´t “studying”.

    I do think, however, that scientists are foolish to think they can assume naturalism is a true description of reality when philosophical arguments undermine it as severely as they do.

    Completely irrelevant. This is not a matter for atheists/ naturalists versus theists. The scientific community is as unanimous as it gets in condemning ID as nonsense, and that includes plenty of scientists that do not believe naturalism to be a true description of reality.

    So suppose the DI did quit pestering scientists on scientific topics: if naturalism is philosophically impossible, it’s scientifically impossible, too.

    Also irrelevant, see above. Naturalism is a red herring here.

    Your misinformation on this thread has been with respect to the DI’s intentions and motives.

    You have provided no reasons that would demonstrate that my claims about the DI´s intentions are false. I happily grant you that they are nice people if you hang out with them – that doesn´t change anything about “weaknesses of evolution” being a deceptive euphemism.

    I suspect you have a wrong conception of what I might think of as the alternatives to naturalistic x, however. Christians believe the world works according to natural principles in all but very exceptional circumstances. I do not disagree with natural gravity, natural electricity, natural germ theory of disease, where “natural” means, “in accordance with the regular and consistent operations of nature.”

    So, for evolution you believe that it doesn´t always work “in accordance with the regular and consistent operations of nature” – in the sense that God sometimes literally tinkers with organisms, and, say, builds a shiny new flagellum for some bacteria or designs some genes for a really nasty venom cocktail and inserts it into the genome of a spider, and stuff like that? If not, what do you mean here?

  72. Ray Ingles

    Tom –

    calculations based on other persons’ empirical data count as empirical evidence

    Only if the model the calculations are based on is correct. For example, if you calculate the odds of raindrops forming from water vapor in the atmosphere by water molecules bumping into each other and binding… you’ll find it’ll take a billion years before a raindrop falls. All of this is based on empirical measurement of intermolecular forces.

    Yet rain still falls. How? Toss into your model dust in the air, nucleation sites that water can bind to.

    What Andy is saying is that Behe’s models are thoroughly and demonstrably wrong.

    To wit:

    Assumptions about when mutations occur are now classified as creationist and non-creationist?! LOL

    Indeed, they can be. If one organism has to have a whole set of mutations to give rise to some new molecule, mechanism, or trait – then it’s quite unlikely to happen, sure. But if the mutations can arise in separate organisms, and be combined by sexual reproduction, plasmid exchange, or whatever… then the odds are very different. Calculations are nice, but you need a good model to tie them to the real world.

  73. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    “Now suppose that, in order to acquire some new,
    useful property, not just one but two new
    protein-binding sites had to develop. A CCC
    requires, on average, 10^20, a hundred billion
    billion, organisms—more than the number of
    mammals that has ever existed on earth. So if
    other things were equal, the likelihood of getting
    two new binding sites would be what we called in
    Chapter 3 a “double CCC”—the square of a CCC, or
    one in ten to the fortieth power. Since that’s
    more cells than likely have ever existed on earth,
    such an event would not be expected to have
    happened by Darwinian processes in the history of
    the world.”

    Funny. The next thing you said was,

    Quote-mining isn´t “studying”.

    Naturalism isn’t a red herring if the question is whether naturalistic evolution is a satisfactory evolution for life. Sheesh.

    What do I believe about how God created the world and the life in it? The way you’ve framed the question, it includes a strong implied sideways glance at the problem of evil. Did you want to change the subject? I don’t. You can look up my views on that elsewhere on this site.

  74. Andy

    Tom,

    You’re right, though, Andy: biology (understood very broadly) has something to say about morality. It says that people have opinions we label as “moral” opinions.

    It has much more to say than that, it can also provide some highly interesting explanations that moral philosophy could not find without science – I hinted at one such explanation in my last comment, the majority of people have utilitarian attitudes when they *have* to make a decision where either one or five people die, but they think very differently about the matter if you slightly modify the scenario so that *they themselves* have to harm or kill someone instead of just “letting it happen”, you need science if you want to know why this is so.

    It doesn’t say whether any opinion is right or wrong however.

    Sure, I said so myself, didn´t I.

  75. SteveK

    The scientific community is as unanimous as it gets in condemning ID as nonsense, and that includes plenty of scientists that do not believe naturalism to be a true description of reality.

    You’re just fueling the fire, Andy. This is philosophy dressed up as science. “Nonsense” is not a scientific term.

  76. Andy

    Tom,

    Funny. The next thing you said was,

    Quote-mining isn´t “studying”.

    I have omitted a part that is crucial for correctly understanding the part I quoted? Sorry! Could you please point out which crucial part I omitted?

    Naturalism isn’t a red herring if the question is whether naturalistic evolution is a satisfactory evolution for life. Sheesh.

    You originally only talked about naturalism being false, and the question of whether naturalism is true or false is a red herring.
    If it would be rational to incorporate non-naturalistic explanatory factors within the framework of evolutionary theory, then it is very telling that you (“you” as in design proponents) cannot even convince a non-negligible fraction of biologists who do not subscribe to naturalism. There are plenty of evolutionary biologists that happen to be christians, and with a handful of exceptions, they all think that ID is garbage (if they are even aware of it at all, many biologists in countries other than the USA are not even aware of this nonsense) – have you never wondered why this is so?

    The way you’ve framed the question, it includes a strong implied sideways glance at the problem of evil. Did you want to change the subject?

    Nope, I was rather just curious how you believe this to work – whether you believe God to be some super-powerful genetic engineer (in a very literal sense) or if you do not, what else you mean by evolution not always working “in accordance with the regular and consistent operations of nature”

  77. Andy

    SteveK,

    Good point. I believe this is the reason why evolution is being challenged like it is in the first place – because its public proponents argue that the science also proves the metaphysics. Design theory is the public pushback to that message – has been since Darwin.

    That is not very plausible. Authors like Dawkins (who I presume is the kind of “public proponent” you have in mind) are a very recent phenomenon. There are only a handful of biologists who also wrote bestselling popular books in earlier generations – and they either didn´t talk about atheistic implications of evolution at all or even bent over backwards to leave plenty of room for religious beliefs (think Steven Jay Gould for example). And despite that, creationists had more influence back then, this demonstrates that creationism / cdesign proponentsism is not some form of backlash, we already had to deal with this long before there were authors like Dawkins.

  78. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Andy, you can repeat it as often as you like, but naturalism is the question. I don’t have any particular disagreement with evolutionary theory except for the idea that it happened by purely naturalistic processes–which is the reigning view, unfortunately for those who hold to it.

    BTW: “Christians” is a proper noun.

    God is not a super-powerful genetic engineer in any literal sense. If you want a full explanation, then I’ll have to explain analogical language, the doctrine of God as pure act, and a host of other theology to you. I suggest you simply be content with the thought that I believe God was involved in the process, not as a handyman/tinkerer, but as the creator of all matter, energy, space, physical law, physical processes; that creation is the first act of his providential involvement in the processes of the universe; that those providential processes continue at all times; and that somehow through those processes he directs certain things toward certain outcomes.

    If you want more than that, this is not the time or place for that discussion.

  79. SteveK

    I’d have to research the history, Andy. I’m inclined to think that design theory proponents stuck their nose into the realm of science for a reason. There’s no reason to do that because design and the facts of evolution can co-exist. The Catholic Church has no issue with evolutionary facts. I have no issue either. Something prompted the move. Perhaps it was people like yourself back in the day saying that science has shown design to be nonsense.

  80. Andy

    Andy, you can repeat it as often as you like, but naturalism is the question. I don’t have any particular disagreement with evolutionary theory except for the idea that it happened by purely naturalistic processes–which is the reigning view, unfortunately for those who hold to it.

    And you can repeat as often as you like that naturalism is relevant here, it won´t change the fact that plenty of biologists do not subscribe to naturalism and virtually none of those biologists support ID. If you think it can be scientifically demonstrated that evolution required non-naturalistic interventions, cool, you are free to do that. But virtually everyone who studies this subject for a living, including christians and other people who do actually believe that some God intervened in evolution to give some people a “soul” or whatever, disagrees with you on this.

    BTW: “Christians” is a proper noun.

    Really? “Christ” is definitely a proper noun but “christians” seems to be a common noun, doesn´t it?

    I suggest you simply be content with the thought that I believe God was involved in the process, not as a handyman/tinkerer, but as the creator of all matter, energy, space, physical law, physical processes; that creation is the first act of his providential involvement in the processes of the universe; that those providential processes continue at all times; and that somehow through those processes he directs certain things toward certain outcomes.

    Thanks for the explanation. I fail to see however how this “not as a handyman/tinkerer” does not contradict this “somehow through those processes he directs certain things toward certain outcomes” – it doesn sound like a super powerful engineer. Don´t get me wrong, I see the difference between a “ground of all being” and a superpowerful engineer, but an entity that builds Behe´s “double CCC´s” / “directs certain things toward” making Behe´s “double CCC´s” happen, sounds like a super powerful engineer, not like a ground of all being.

  81. Post
    Author
  82. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    If a lot of people disagree with me about naturalism, then I think they can be shown to be wrong. I do not expect biologists to be very knowledgeable on the philosophical issues, however.

    If you fail to see how God is more than a super powerful engineer, it’s probably because I didn’t take the time to explain it fully, and I don’t plan to go there in this conversation.

  83. Andy

    SteveK,

    I’m inclined to think that design theory proponents stuck their nose into the realm of science for a reason. There’s no reason to do that because design and the facts of evolution can co-exist.

    Only if you are willing to accept that pretty much all of Genesis is a metaphor for something. And many christians were and are not willing to accept that and prefer literal interpretations of Genesis over science.

    The Catholic Church has no issue with evolutionary facts.

    Yeah, nowadays, it was very different back in Darwin´s time (the Catholic Church also initially didn´t like it very much when a literal interpretation of the Genesis flood was refuted about a century before Darwin published the “Origin”).

    I have no issue either. Something prompted the move. Perhaps it was people like yourself back in the day saying that science has shown design to be nonsense.

    Remember what I meant by “design”, I meant “ID” as proposed by the Discovery Institute and explicitly mentioned that this is ALL I am talking about here. If you parsed that to mean “evolution proves that there is no God” – I didn´t mean that and I don´t believe that.

  84. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    On Genesis: see my OP on what Bill Nye got right.

    What do you mean by “‘ID’ as proposed by the Discovery Institute”? Please be explicit. I know what they mean by ID, but there are a lot of people out there who think they know but get it really quite wrong.

  85. Andy

    Tom,

    “Christians”? You need me to look that up for you? Really?! Use your own keyboard and screen.

    No reason to get testy. Also, I looked it up and you were wrong, it´s not a proper noun but rather a common noun, it still needs to be capitalized apparently though:
    “America and Christ are proper nouns, American and Christian are not, but retain the capitalization of the proper nouns they are based on. In many languages, such derivations lose the capitalization”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proper_noun

    If a lot of people disagree with me about naturalism….

    I need to interrupt you right there, because this is not what I said at all, it is almost the exact opposite of what I said. I explicitly talked about biologists that AGREE with you about naturalism being false (btw, I don´t subscribe to naturalism either), including Christians, and virtually all of those completely disagree with you on the issue of Intelligent Design Creationism.

  86. SteveK

    Yeah, nowadays, it was very different back in Darwin´s time (the Catholic Church also initially didn´t like it very much when a literal interpretation of the Genesis flood was refuted about a century before Darwin published the “Origin”).

    My understanding – and I could be wrong – is that the Church never had a dogmatic position so “different” and “didn’t like” is not a position of the Church. Nothing has changed.

  87. Andy

    What do you mean by “‘ID’ as proposed by the Discovery Institute”?

    What is intelligent design?
    Intelligent design refers to a scientific research program as well as a community of scientists, philosophers and other scholars who seek evidence of design in nature. The theory of intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection. Through the study and analysis of a system’s components, a design theorist is able to determine whether various natural structures are the product of chance, natural law, intelligent design, or some combination thereof. Such research is conducted by observing the types of information produced when intelligent agents act. Scientists then seek to find objects which have those same types of informational properties which we commonly know come from intelligence. Intelligent design has applied these scientific methods to detect design in irreducibly complex biological structures, the complex and specified information content in DNA, the life-sustaining physical architecture of the universe, and the geologically rapid origin of biological diversity in the fossil record during the Cambrian explosion approximately 530 million years ago.
    Is intelligent design a scientific theory?
    Yes. The scientific method is commonly described as a four-step process involving observations, hypothesis, experiments, and conclusion. Intelligent design begins with the observation that intelligent agents produce complex and specified information (CSI). Design theorists hypothesize that if a natural object was designed, it will contain high levels of CSI. Scientists then perform experimental tests upon natural objects to determine if they contain complex and specified information. One easily testable form of CSI is irreducible complexity, which can be discovered by experimentally reverse-engineering biological structures to see if they require all of their parts to function. When ID researchers find irreducible complexity in biology, they conclude that such structures were designed.

  88. SteveK

    Only if you are willing to accept that pretty much all of Genesis is a metaphor for something. And many christians were and are not willing to accept that and prefer literal interpretations of Genesis over science.

    See, here you are forcing a conflict where none is required. It’s people like you that make the DI possible.

  89. BillT

    And all this when evolution can’t account for either the existence of life or the existence of evolution itself.

    This is by design, it´s not even supposed to account for that.

    Andy,

    My point exactly.

    That there is research into moral issues says nothing about the issue I raised.

    And the idea that evolution hasn’t been touted, in the public sphere and implicitly if not explicitly in educational circles, as an explanation for the existence of morality, love, altruism, etc. isn’t just utter nonsense it’s absurd and more than a little disingenuous.

  90. SteveK

    Andy #90

    What conflict am I forcing?

    Give up your faith or deny certain facts.

    If God creating with intentionality and purpose is a metaphor for some other reality, then what you’re saying is that God didn’t actually create. That’s one side of the conflict you are forcing. The other side is take a literal view that denies certain facts we know to be true.

  91. Andy

    BillT,

    And the idea that evolution hasn’t been touted, in the public sphere and implicitly if not explicitly in educational circles, as an explanation for the existence of morality, love, altruism, etc. isn’t just utter nonsense it’s absurd and more than a little disingenuous.

    What is more than a little disingenuous is to conflate “public sphere” and “educational circles” here. Believe it or not, atheists, including atheist biologists, have the right to publish books about what they believe the philosophical implications of evolution to be – no matter how objectively stupid those books are, they have every right to publish them. What they are not allowed to do is teach their personal philosophical views in the science classroom of a public school.
    You said that “the secular community is equally as guilty” – can you support the claim? Can you show that something analogous to this:
    “The researchers polled a random sample of nearly 2000 high-school science teachers across the US in 2007. Of the 939 who responded, 2% said they did not cover evolution at all, with the majority spending between 3 and 10 classroom hours on the subject.
    However, a quarter of the teachers also reported spending at least some time teaching about creationism or intelligent design. Of these, 48% – about 12.5% of the total survey – said they taught it as a “valid, scientific alternative to Darwinian explanations for the origin of species”. ( http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn13930-16-of-us-science-teachers-are-creationists.html#.VJR9rmcCCA )”
    – is also done by atheist teachers?
    Can you show that atheists are lobbying for policy changes that would allow atheist science teachers to indoctrinate kids in public school with their atheistic philosophy?
    If you cannot show that, then the evidence supports my claim – that both sides are NOT equally guilty here.

  92. Andy

    SteveK,

    Give up your faith or deny certain facts.

    What the…?? How did you get this from what I wrote? I made an *observation*. I talked about what “many Christians do” – I didn´t say anything about what I believe they *should* do.
    Saying that many christians (“many” is actually an understatement here) do not accept scientific facts because they do not want to give up literal interpretations of Bible stories is a statement of fact – I neither said nor implied anything about what I believe Christians *should* do here.

  93. SteveK

    Andy,
    You said design and evolutionary facts can co-exist

    Only if you are willing to accept that pretty much all of Genesis is a metaphor for something.

    ONLY plays a key role here. You used that term for a reason. If metaphor is my only choice then your comment is worse than I thought. I don’t think you meant this, so….

    And many christians were and are not willing to accept that and prefer literal interpretations of Genesis over science.

    I figured that the other “only” choice is a literal interpretation. If there had been other choices that don’t result in a conflict then I’m left wondering why your comment looked like a rebuttal of some kind?

    Was the point of your comment to agree with me??

  94. Andy

    SteveK,

    ONLY plays a key role here. You used that term for a reason. If metaphor is my only choice then your comment is worse than I thought.

    *sigh* I meant metaphorical speech as opposed to literal speech. I can be more precise and rephrase “Only if you are willing to accept that pretty much all of Genesis is a metaphor for something” to “Only if you are willing to accept that pretty much all of Genesis is not meant to be understood literally but rather figuratively or metaphorically or allegorically”, but was that really necessary?

  95. Andy

    SteveK,

    Was the point of your comment to agree with me??

    Yes and no. You said “There’s no reason to do that because design and the facts of evolution can co-exist” – and I pointed out that they cannot co-exist if “design” means a largely literal interpretation of Genesis for you, and you are unwilling to reconsider that view, IF that is the case for someone (and it is the case for many), then “design” and evolution cannot co-exist for them.

  96. BillT

    Andy,

    The idea that evolution isn’t taught in schools, as it should be, is ridiculous. I’m 62 years old and it was taught, again, as it should be, when I was in school in the ’50s/60s.

    Where you are getting the idea that there is a serious effort to get creationism taught in the public schools when your own personal demon, the DI, isn’t even trying to do that is beyond me. (And BTW, you can make surveys say whatever you want and it seems clear you want to make anyone who ever thought about creationism your own personal boogie man.)

    If you read my first post here (#1) you will find my thoughts on those that are making a big deal about creationism being taught.

  97. Andy

    SteveK,

    So the point of you saying “Only if ….” was to agree with my comment? Strange.

    The point of saying “only if” was to agree with you but only if the conditional in “only if” is true, see #97.
    What else could “only if” possibly mean?

  98. SteveK

    Well, Andy, it means what you say it does “only if” you aren’t contradicting yourself.

    Given your clarification, that’s how useful and enlightening I am finding your “only if” comment. Not very.

  99. Andy

    BillT

    The idea that evolution isn’t taught in schools, as it should be, is ridiculous. I’m 62 years old and it was taught, again, as it should be, when I was in school in the ’50s/60s.

    It is absurd that there is a non-negligible fraction of science teachers that teach creationism because BillT is 62 and was taught evolution in school…. *headdesk*

    Where you are getting the idea that there is a serious effort to get creationism taught in the public schools when your own personal demon, the DI, isn’t even trying to do that

    Of course they do not want to do that and never did, the Dover trial never happened, and teching “strengths and weaknesses of evolution” with the DI getting to define what those strengths and weaknesses are, is of course totally different from teaching their earlier ID arguments because they say so.

    And BTW, you can make surveys say whatever you want

    I see, so this isn´t a problem and cannot possibly be a problem because you feel quite strongly that this is not a problem – meaning that evidence to the contrary, like a survey among science teachers, must be faked.
    Well, as long as you stay rational about it.

    and it seems clear you want to make anyone who ever thought about creationism your own personal boogie man.)

    I could say “it seems clear that you want to make anyone who ever dared to say that evolution and christianity are not totes compatible your own personal boogie man” with just as much justification as you have for what you say here – none.

  100. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    What on earth does the Dover trial have to do with the DI trying to get ID taught in schools?

    Where are you getting your misinformation from???

    The DI strongly advised Dover against what they did there.

  101. Andy

    SteveK

    Well, Andy, it means what you say it does “only if” you aren’t contradicting yourself.

    One of us has a very big problem with the english language. It might be me, I´m not a native english speaker after all, but I somehow find it more plausible that it is you.

  102. Andy

    Tom,

    The DI strongly advised Dover against what they did there.

    Afaik, they strongly advised them to not make their religious motivations too obvious, which didn´t work.

    What on earth does the Dover trial have to do with the DI trying to get ID taught in schools?

    Aha, the DI people tested as expert witnesses for the side that wants to teach ID in schools, because the DI people absolutely didn´t want ID to be taught in schools.
    Sounds legit.

  103. SteveK

    Jeepers, Andy.

    “Hey Steve, what you said is true but I just wanted to add one very important point that you might have missed. It’s true only if you’re working with an understanding of the various concepts and details that makes what you’re saying actually true”

    Well, duh!

  104. BillT

    I could say “it seems clear that you want to make anyone who ever dared to say that evolution and christianity are not totes compatible your own personal boogie man” with just as much justification as you have for what you say here – none.

    You mean, outside of your ranting and raving?

  105. Andy

    SteveK,
    sorry, I didn´t know that every “understanding of the various concepts and details” that disagrees with yours is so obviously wrong that it is silly to even mention the fact that many in fact do disagree with you.

  106. Ray Ingles

    BillT –

    The idea that evolution isn’t taught in schools, as it should be, is ridiculous. I’m 62 years old and it was taught, again, as it should be, when I was in school in the ’50s/60s.

    It wasn’t until the late 70’s, early 80’s that creationism became an organized political force. Did you see my comment #66? Things have actually changed since the 60’s in this area. Yes, there really is “a serious effort to get creationism taught in the public schools” – though it tends to be lots of local efforts.

  107. BillT

    Yes, Ray, I get that this is a personal boogie man for you, too. However, if they had stuck to the science and not tried to make evolution the grand theory of everything (something you do here on an almost non-stop basis) I doubt there would be the “organized effort” that you seem to think there is.

  108. SteveK

    Andy from #97

    You said “There’s no reason to do that because design and the facts of evolution can co-exist” – and I pointed out that they cannot co-exist if “design” means a largely literal interpretation of Genesis for you, and you are unwilling to reconsider that view,

    Translation: and I pointed out that they cannot co-exist if “design” means something that results in them being unable to co-exist.

    Gee, that’s what I said in #107.

  109. Andy

    SteveK,
    again, sorry for acknowledging the existence of people that have a different understanding of what “design” means then you do – I should have realized that you are obviously correct and that everyone who disagrees with you is so obviously wrong that it is silly to even acknowledge their mere existence.

  110. SteveK

    *sigh*

    Pointing out that people disagree with me doesn’t need to be pointed out. If this was the intent of your comment, it’s not very enlightening nor useful. You’re on a roll, Andy.

  111. Andy

    SteveK,
    sorry! But thanks for pointing out that some people understand “design” in a way that doesn´t contradict evolution – I have *never* heard that before, that was totally new, useful and enlightening information to me. I mean, who would have guessed that Christians do not all believe the exact same things?! The more you know.

  112. SteveK

    You’re welcome, Andy. That comment was within the context of me trying to understand how a pubic conflict arose in the first place. It wasn’t there to enlighten you about co-existence. It was there to emphasize the point I made later: Something prompted the move. Perhaps it was people like yourself back in the day saying that science has shown design to be nonsense.

  113. Andy

    SteveK,

    It was there to emphasize the point I made later: Something prompted the move.

    Yeah, must have been all those atheist biologists who wrote bestselling books about how evolution totally disproves God, immediately after Darwin published his ideas. All those bestselling atheist biologists like…. Or it was all the fault of Dawkins, we just have to assume retrocausality.
    Or, maybe, just maybe, it is a result of this:
    “Christian fundamentalism began in the late 19th- and early 20th-century among British and American Protestants[1][2] as a reaction to theological liberalism and cultural modernism. Fundamentalists argued that 19th century modernist theologians had misinterpreted or rejected certain doctrines, especially biblical inerrancy, that they viewed as the fundamentals of Christian faith
    ….
    A fourth stream—the immediate spark—was the 12-volume study The Fundamentals, published 1910-1915.[18] Sponsors subsidized the free distribution of over three million individual volumes to clergy, laymen and libraries. This version[19] stressed several core beliefs, including:
    The inerrancy of the Bible
    The literal nature of the Biblical accounts, especially regarding Christ’s miracles and the Creation account in Genesis”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_fundamentalism

  114. Andy

    SteveK,

    Perhaps it was people like yourself back in the day saying that science has shown design to be nonsense.

    Totally plausible! I or someone like me probably used a time machine to travel back to early 20th century to teach people about the Discovery Institute and Intelligent Design and why we think that ID is nonsense.

  115. SteveK

    Or, maybe, just maybe, it is a result of this:
    “Christian fundamentalism began….

    You could be right. As I said in my comment before we got diverted, “I’d have to research the history, Andy”

    This is not the driving force today so I’ll leave you with that.

  116. SteveK

    Andy,
    You can stop now. I said *like* yourself – and take your own medicine, design doesn’t always mean ID.

  117. Andy

    SteveK,

    This is not the driving force today…

    …which you know how exactly? I doubt that it is the sole reason because no complex phenomenon has just one underlying reason, but I also strongly doubt that fundamentalist attitudes towards the Bible, especially Genesis, play no role at all in sustaining the american anti-evolution movement. I also wouldn´t be surprised if that still is the main driving force (it would explain why there are plenty of young earth creationists and a lot of opposition towards evolution in the a country like the USA, while there are extremely few young earth creationists and much less opposition towards evolution in countries like England, France or Germany).

  118. Andy

    SteveK,

    and take your own medicine, design doesn’t always mean ID.

    You don´t say! I didn´t know that and it was really stupid of me to not explicitly limit my claims to ID as promoted by the Discovery Institute. No wait… I actually did exactly that. Right from the get go:
    “….and common design (as proposed by the DI)”
    And I clarified it again later:
    “Remember what I meant by “design”, I meant “ID” as proposed by the Discovery Institute and explicitly mentioned that this is ALL I am talking about here.”

    You are being incredibly dishonest here.

  119. SteveK

    Andy,

    No wait… I actually did exactly that.

    You did it again just to make my comment look silly – as if I was so clueless as to believe that my comment actually made sense with your view of design in mind. See #119.

  120. SteveK

    Andy,

    I also wouldn´t be surprised if that still is the main driving force

    If the DI is currently the main force behind the design movement in science, and if they aren’t fundamentalist Christian’s, then something other than Christian fundamentalism is the primary driver.

    If the DI is a lesser player in this whole movement then I’m sure you would have mentioned the biggest threat already. True?

  121. BillT

    …but I also strongly doubt that fundamentalist attitudes towards the Bible, especially Genesis, play no role at all in sustaining the american anti-evolution movement.

    The boogeyman is strong with this one. But the answer is yes, it does, at least to some extent. But I think the truth is that the overreach of the evolutionary claims is a bigger factor. No, Richard Dawkins isn’t teaching classes in American elementary schools. However, you simply have to be naive to think that the overarching claims of scientism and the prevailing societal attitudes that reinforce evolution as the grand theory that explains everything isn’t a far bigger factor.

  122. Andy

    If the DI is currently the main force behind the design movement in science, and if they aren’t fundamentalist Christian’s, then something other than Christian fundamentalism is the primary driver.

    I don´t know to what degree the DI can be considered to be the main force behind american anti-evolutionism. The Answers in Genesis site for example gets much more traffic than UncommonDescent + ENV combined. On the other hand, I think the DI people are way ahead of other creationist groups when it comes to book sales. And I have no idea how to determine which creationist organization has the most political influence… Anyway, I wouldn´t sign the statement that the DI is the main force, it is just one force.

    if they aren’t fundamentalist Christian’s

    It would actually be interesting to know how many of them accept common descent (I know that Behe does or at least he claims that) and how many subscribe to mostly literal interpretations of Genesis, if you have the time, feel free to go through the list:
    http://www.discovery.org/about/fellows
    I know that the list includes several young earth creationists (e.g. Nelson and Hunter) and old earth creationists (e.g. Dembski), but I never bothered to count.

    If the DI is a lesser player in this whole movement then I’m sure you would have mentioned the biggest threat already. True?

    No. Also, note that you are setting up a false dichotomy where the DI is either a lesser player or the main force behind american anti-evolutionism – I don´t think that either label would be accurate.

  123. Andy

    BillT,

    The boogeyman is strong with this one.

    62 years and you still act like a schoolyard bully? Grow up.

    No, Richard Dawkins isn’t teaching classes in American elementary schools.

    Please list the bestselling atheist biologists you are aware of other than Richard Dawkins. I am particularly interested in the ones you know that wrote bestselling books with “overarching claims of scientism” and “evolution as the grand theory that explains everything”, which were published in the early 20th century when christian fundamentalism gained momentum, and from the late sixties to the eighties when creationism gained momentum. How many do you know?

  124. BillT

    Good job Andy at not addressing any of the points I actually made. Schoolyard bully, really?

  125. Andy

    Another dishonest comment about retrocausality designed to misrepresent others??

    Don´t blame me, it´s clearly Dawkins´ fault.

  126. SteveK

    Off topic, but related nonetheless.

    American Atheists announced on Wednesday that AtheistTV, its new television channel, will feature original programs proclaiming the truth about Christmas on December 24 and December 25, featuring scholars and celebrities from the atheist community.

  127. BillT

    Andy,

    If you had actually read my comment you’d know I said it didn’t have anything to do with Dawkins. In fact, I didn’t bring up Dawkins, you did. But carry on by all means.

  128. Ray Ingles

    BillT –

    Yes, Ray, I get that this is a personal boogie man for you, too.

    Let’s assume you’re right for a moment – the worst case obtains, and I have an intense personal loathing for the Discovery Institute in particular and creationists in general.

    Now, which of the historical facts or scientific claims that I’ve made are invalidated by that?

    However, if they had stuck to the science and not tried to make evolution the grand theory of everything (something you do here on an almost non-stop basis) I doubt there would be the “organized effort” that you seem to think there is.

    Well, evolution really is the grand unifying theory of biology. Teaching biology without evolution (common descent, speciation, natural selection, etc.) is like teaching chemistry without reference to atomic theory. And – in undergraduate and K-12 science classes – who teaches evolution as “the grand theory of everything”? Hit me with your best shot.

    And sure, yeah, the organized effort is all in my imagination.

  129. Andy

    BillT,

    If you had actually read my comment you’d know I said it didn’t have anything to do with Dawkins. In fact, I didn’t bring up Dawkins, you did. But carry on by all means.

    Good, so it isn´t Dawkins. And it´s also not anyone else. Because if one asks you who those bestselling atheist biologists are, that make those “overarching claims of scientism” and “reinforce evolution as the grand theory that explains everything”, particularly the ones that were widely read when christian fundamentalism and creationism gained momentum, then you can´t even name A SINGLE ONE.
    But obviously, those atheist biologist scientismists that only exist in your mind were “a far bigger factor” in creating and sustaining american anti-evolutionism than fundamentalist attitudes towards the Bible were because…. something.

  130. BillT

    Ray,

    First of all I said evolution has been touted as the grand theory of everything not of just biology. And the truth is it falls short there as well. As I pointed out above, evolution can’t account for either the existence of life or the existence of evolution itself. Hard to see quite how unifying it is with those quite significant shortcomings. And that’s not to mention its inability to account for those pesky metaphysical human charteristics.

  131. Andy

    BillT,

    First of all I said evolution has been touted as the grand theory of everything not of just biology. And the truth is it falls short there as well. As I pointed out above, evolution can’t account for either the existence of life or the existence of evolution itself.

    Let me guess, if I ask you who those people are that say that the theory of evolution is not actually limited to evolution but rather also a full theory of abiogenesis, cosmology, and literally everything else – you will again be unable to name even just a single one.

  132. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Andy, you are technically right. No disagreement there. Evolution is not the grand theory of everything, but just the grand theory of everything since life originated.

    Nevertheless in order to gain any traction, people who tout evolution as that explanation still owe us an explanation for what enabled it to get started. You can’t wash your hands of it that way.

    And any theory that purported to explain as much as evolution does, but could not begin to point to an explanation of evolution itself, would be suspect on those grounds as well.

    So BillT’s concerns, while technically off the mark as you have said, still count as criticisms of evolutionary theory in spite of that.

  133. BillT

    Andy,

    Your belief that absent some atheist manifesto by some biologist that the idea of evolution as a substitute for God and an overarching expiation for all things living that such ideas didn’t or couldn’t exist is, I think, both naive and self serving. Darwin’s theory had immediate theological implications that, I believe, even he admitted and addressed. That it has been part of the public discussion well before any atheist manifestos isn’t really in question. That you want to claim those are mutually exclusive (no book, no understanding of the theological implications) is simply you bolstering you own position with your own facts.

    As far as the development of the fundamentals that you referenced above you put far too much importance on on it as a reaction to science (which contradicts your above position, does it not) and not enough importance on the theological reasons. The emergence of liberal theology began in the middle of the 19th century. By the turn of the century it was a full fledged battle. That conservative theologians wanted to qualify their beliefs in written form isn’t surprisng.

    And though you may understand this, I and a great many conservative Christians believe in the inerrancy and literal truth of the Bible, an old earth and the validity of evolution. Further, those views continue to, if I may, evolve among conservative theologians and believers and the overall trend is towards the above beliefs and not young earth creationism.

  134. Andy

    Tom,

    Nevertheless in order to gain any traction, people who tout evolution as that explanation still owe us an explanation for what enabled it to get started. You can’t wash your hands of it that way.

    Gain any traction… for what? The evidence for evolution is logically completely independent of how exactly the first darwinian replicator came to be. If I´d grant you for the sake of the argument that there cannot possibly be a natural way for how this happened, even if I´d grant you that your God was responsible for creating the first darwinian replicator, then the case for evolution would still be completely unchanged and biologists would still conclude that the claim that all life is related via common ancestry is true beyond any reasonable doubt.

    And any theory that purported to explain as much as evolution does, but could not begin to point to an explanation of evolution itself, would be suspect on those grounds as well.

    What is an “explanation of evolution itself” supposed to mean? I can only parse that to mean “an explanation of why there is such a thing as evolution to begin with”, but this would be equivalent to the previous point – an explanation of abiogenesis, because descent with modification is a logically inevitable consequence as soon as a darwinian replicator exists. So I guess this is not what you mean here, but what does “explanation of evolution itself” then mean?

  135. BillT

    Let me guess, if I ask you who those people are that say that the theory of evolution is not actually limited to evolution but rather also a full theory of abiogenesis, cosmology, and literally everything else – you will again be unable to name even just a single one.

    I don’t keep a bibliography of everything I’ve read on this but that you think the above isn’t part of the current discussions is is surprising as I’ve heard evolution used as an explanation for all of that. And that’s really besides the point as I explained. There were always theological implications to evolutionary theory. And as both Tom and I said, evolution leaves significant gaps even in its explanation of biology. How is that regularly accounted for. The truth is it isn’t and that there is some backlash over that shouldn’t be surprising.

  136. BillT

    And Andy I’m not sure we’re arguing over anything that important. You seem to be in quite an agitated state over what you see as some concerted effort to teach YEC. However, as someone who is a conservative Christian who follows trends within my faith closely and worked for many years for the largest Christiam ministry in the country I can only say I think you’re exaggerating the supposed “threat.’ Like I said I think the trend among Christians is toward a general acceptance of a reasonable understanding of evolution for those that don’t already which is certainly a minority position among Christians.

  137. Andy

    BillT,

    Your belief that absent some atheist manifesto by some biologist that the idea of evolution as a substitute for God and an overarching expiation for all things living that such ideas didn’t or couldn’t exist is, I think, both naive and self serving.

    I don´t know what you mean by “substitute for God”. I have been an atheist for my entire life – I didn´t believe in God before I had any idea about what “evolution” even means, so the latter could not possibly have substituted the former, at least not for me and everyone else who was never religious. For some people it might be a “substitute” in the sense that the “where do we come from?” question once had a very God-centric answer in their worldview that was then replaced by an evolution-centric answer. But beyond that, I have no idea what you mean by “substitute” here.

    Darwin’s theory had immediate theological implications that, I believe, even he admitted and addressed.

    Of course it had theological implications. Common ancestry with other ape species and literally everything else that lives has theological implications because most religions try to give an answer as to where we come from and this answer had to be modified for the denominations that eventually accepted evolution. But again, this has nothing to do with evolution being a “theory of everything”.

    As far as the development of the fundamentals that you referenced above you put far too much importance on on it as a reaction to science (which contradicts your above position, does it not) and not enough importance on the theological reasons. The emergence of liberal theology began in the middle of the 19th century. By the turn of the century it was a full fledged battle. That conservative theologians wanted to qualify their beliefs in written form isn’t surprisng.

    I didn´t say anything about it being a reaction to science, I said that fundamentalist attitutes towards the Bible seems to be a much better explanation for why so many americans have a problem with scientific facts that contradict a literal reading of Genesis while this problem is much less pronounced in other western countries.

  138. Andy

    BillT,

    You seem to be in quite an agitated state

    *sigh*. Yeah, very “agitated”. Well then this:
    “This isn’t a legitimate problem, it’s just Christian bashing that lets a nitwit like Nye put a “legitimate” sheen on his bigotry.”
    – would make you positively hysterical. You might want to take some valium before you keep commenting, think of your health.
    Seriously though, if you can´t resist the urge of writing crap like this, then I´d suggest the two of us stop interacting with each other.

  139. BillT

    I said that fundamentalist attitutes towards the Bible seems to be a much better explanation for why so many americans have a problem with scientific facts that contradict a literal reading of Genesis while this problem is much less pronounced in other western countries.

    And even if this were true, then what. What, we should abandon the fundamentals of our faith because some people have used them to question or oppose the truth evolution? Seems a tempest in a teapot. Is that any more of a problem than our undeniable secular societal trend that has people question or deny the truth of God. I think the proofs for God, though not scientific, are every bit if not more compelling as those for evolution. In the big picture, which really is the bigger problem? Given, hypothetically, that both are true, which group is really at risk. The anti-evolutionists or the anti-theists.

  140. BillT

    Andy,

    So you’re going all the way back to the first post on this thread to give your opinion on my opinion on Bill Nye instead of actually addressing the points I made. But I’m the reason we should stop interacting.

  141. SteveK

    Evolution is not the grand theory of everything, but just the grand theory of everything since life originated.

    Which means the theory must also explain the list of metaphysical realities that BillT mentioned earlier in #59, correct? I’m going to continue assuming that I am correct.

    If we look at #50, Andy said that part of the requirement of any theory is that “It makes falsifiable predictions with consistent accuracy across a broad area of scientific inquiry (such as mechanics).”

    Can this be done – can metaphysical realities be falsified using the scientific method? No. So it seems that a subset of the theory doesn’t fit the definition of scientific theory. That seems like an oxymoron. Is this a weakness of the theory?

  142. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Andy,

    Gain any traction… for what? The evidence for evolution is logically completely independent of how exactly the first darwinian replicator came to be.

    Traction for the theory behind the theory, the theory that motivates Richard Dawkins, Jerry Coyne, Daniel Dennett, PZ Myers, the Panda’s Thumb site, TalkOrigins, John Loftus, Victor Stenger, Francis Ayala, the NCSE, Nick Matzke, Robert Pennock, Barbara Forrest, the NAS in its original statements on evolution (since amended, but hey, you won’t allow any grace to the DI for its amended positions), Miller and Levine in early textbook editions (ditto), and on and on and on–and don’t just discount the reality that Dawkins’s books have been strong best-sellers—the theory behind the theory of evolution as it is portrayed exceedingly often, in other words: everything that’s happened, happened by natural, ateleological means.

    Evolution simpliciter does not require any association with that theory-behind-the-theory. I agree with you about that. If all anyone were ever promulgating were such a sparsely interpreted theory, there would be hardly any dispute from anyone but young-earthers, of which I am not one.

    But evolution is not presented that way very consistently or very often at all. Maybe it is in the arcane settings of university laboratories, but not in the public view.

  143. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    By the way, “Christian” is capitalized, whether it’s a proper noun or not. When you comment here, you agree to read and abide by the site’s discussion policies.

    “Christianity” is a proper noun.

  144. BillT

    Andy,

    And if I may offer a corollary to Tom’s post, the idea that there is some organized movement here in America to stifle or significantly change the way evolution is taught or include creationism or ID in school curriculum is simply not true. If I’m wrong it shouldn’t be hard to find the organizations and their associated websites and their information, advertising and lobbying efforts. Please, I’d be grateful to know. Or let me quote Ray on this;

    Yes, there really is “a serious effort to get creationism taught in the public schools” – though it tends to be lots of local efforts.

    ? Which is it? A “serious effort” or “lots of local efforts”? they seem pretty much mutually exclusive to me. A number of uncoordinated, random local efforts are not a serious effort.

    That’s why I criticized Nye in the first post though you ignored the reasons I gave before my criticism of him. This just isn’t a problem. It’s a bunch of hand waving by some prominent secularists and since I’m quite certain there really isn’t anything to it but hand waving it makes me wonder what is the real motivation for it.

    And as for you point about religious fundamentalism’s influence on it let me for argument’s sake grant your point unconditionally. Now what? Should we pass some federal regulations or form a new federal agency to deal with this problem. Make it illegal to have fundamentalist views. Require reeducation for all the fundamentalists in the country. As I said, the whole thing adds up to a tempest in a teapot.

  145. Andy

    BillT,

    So you’re going all the way back to the first post on this thread to give your opinion on my opinion on Bill Nye instead of actually addressing the points I made. But I’m the reason we should stop interacting.

    I didn´t give my opinion on your opinion on Bill Nye. You need a new sarcasm detector. The reason why I find interacting with you tedious is that you can´t resist the urge to spice up your comments with armchair speculations about my character and my emotional state. I can and did reply in similar fashion, but again, I´m not really interested in duking this out with you – if you are looking for a fight, I´m happy to let you “win”.

  146. Andy

    Tom,

    Traction for the theory behind the theory, the theory that motivates Richard Dawkins, Jerry Coyne, Daniel Dennett, PZ Myers, the Panda’s Thumb site, TalkOrigins, John Loftus, Victor Stenger, Francis Ayala, the NCSE, Nick Matzke, Robert Pennock, Barbara Forrest, the NAS

    1. It is ridiculous to include the NCSE and the NAS here and lump them together with PZ Myers and Jerry Coyne. The NCSE and the NAS bend over backwards to not offend religious sensibilities and the NCSE has adopted the position that evolution and Christianity are perfectly compatible – a position that they are very vocal about and one for which they have found allies in the clergy of all major denominations. Also, Ayala is religious, has given countless lectures on how evolution and Christianity are compatible, and has won the Templeton prize. And Matzke doesn´t identify as a new atheist either.
    2. What makes you think that I was speaking about this “theory behind the theory”? I wasn´t. The DI´s “weaknesses of evolution” are factually wrong – based on flawed arguments and misrepresentations of the scientific literature. *That* is what I was talking about. I also honestly don´t care very much whether people accept that evolution is true and I also don´t care very much which philosophical conclusions people derive from this. What I do care very strongly about is that teachers present the scientific facts and arguments accurately and honestly, and teaching the “weaknesses of evolution” as determined by the DI is pretty much the exact opposite of that.

    in its original statements on evolution (since amended, but hey, you won’t allow any grace to the DI for its amended positions),

    This is the “original” statement of the NAS on evolution:
    http://ncse.com/media/voices/national-academy-sciences-1972
    And the only thing it says about religion is this:
    “Whereas religion and science are, therefore, separate and mutually exclusive realms of human thought whose presentation in the same context leads to misunderstanding of both scientific theory and religious belief; ”
    – what exactly do you find objectionable about this?

    Miller and Levine in early textbook editions (ditto)

    Given that Miller is a proud Christian, I find it rather hard to believe that he was talking about this “theory behind the theory” in early textbook editions. Citation needed.

    and don’t just discount the reality that Dawkins’s books have been strong best-sellers—the theory behind the theory of evolution as it is portrayed exceedingly often

    So what? Seriously – so what? No one is forced to buy them, no one is forced to read them, no one is forced to agree with him, and everyone is free to publish books to publicly disagree with him. If his philosophical views are taught in a science classroom, that would be a problem – but they aren´t and I am not aware of anyone who argues that they should be.

    If all anyone were ever promulgating were such a sparsely interpreted theory, there would be hardly any dispute from anyone but young-earthers, of which I am not one.

    That is factually wrong because evolution is taught exactly like that but we have plenty of people, who are not young earth creationists, who still dispute it.

    But evolution is not presented that way very consistently or very often at all.

    The place where it needs to be consistently taught like that is the science classroom, and it is consistently taught like that in science classrooms.

  147. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Andy, groupings vary according to criteria. It’s quite likely that you and I could be “lumped together” in many groups, and then someone else would come along and say (as you did), “it’s ridiculous to lump them together…”

    The list I presented you was not a list of people who disagree on religion. If I had said it was I would have been wrong. I didn’t say that, though. It was explicitly a list of people and groups who support the idea actually under discussion: that “everything that’s happened, happened by natural, ateleological means.”

    So please keep your head about you when you start thinking about what might seem ridiculous about grouping people together, and read the whole sentence before you get it wrong.

    2. You may not have been speaking about the theory behind the theory, but if you’re going to accept the theory without concern for the theory behind it, you’re not thinking it through adequately. Your choice. But an unthinking choice, if you make it.

    The first four editions of Miller and Levine’s textbook on Biology said that “evolution works without either plan or purpose … Evolution is random and undirected.” It is ateleological, in other words, as I said he said.

    As to the significance of Dawkins’s books, it was a response to your idea of what wasn’t “very plausible” in #78. It doesn’t take a thousand people all selling a thousand books to sell a million books. That’s the answer to “so what?”

    Evolution is not taught “exactly like that.” Ask Jerry Coyne, Richard Dawkins, and PZ Myers whether they separate out evolution from teleological questions. And don’t tell me they aren’t influential. Don’t be an idiot.

  148. Andy

    Tom,
    I started writing a full reply but stopped in the middle because after reading this:
    “You may not have been speaking about the theory behind the theory, but if you’re going to accept the theory without concern for the theory behind it, you’re not thinking it through adequately. Your choice.” – I can´t help thinking that you are either not being sincere or that I have overestimated your intelligence, and so I don´t really care about your opinion anymore. Have a nice day.

  149. Post
    Author
  150. BillT

    Andy,

    I’m just looking to “win”? You’re the one employing the sarcasm and not addressing the issues I raised both in 146 and 151.

  151. Andy

    BillT,
    I did address your points until very late in the thread, and I told you why I´m not interested in continuing the conversation with you. And since a civil discussion with Tom also doesn´t seem to be possible, I´m out.

  152. BillT

    I did [sic?] address your points until very late in the thread…

    Actually, you didn’t address a number of the points I made at all but that’s certainty your perogative.

  153. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Andy, I’m going to review this later today and see where I went wrong on conducting a civil discussion. Feel free to explain it to me if you care to do so. I’m listening.

  154. Andy

    Tom,
    IMO, you have been unnecessarily condescending and provocative (e.g. “Don´t be an idiot”), several times. I fully realize that I also wrote several comments that were heavy on sarcasm and not exactly productive and polite, particularly in SteveK´s direction. However, if I am not misremembering, I replied to civil comments in a civil manner. If I did violate that principle in this thread, then I apologize.

  155. Ray Ingles

    BillT –

    First of all I said evolution has been touted as the grand theory of everything not of just biology.

    To repeat my question: And – in undergraduate and K-12 science classes – who teaches evolution as “the grand theory of everything”? Hit me with your best shot.

    People have published books about the wide reach of evolutionary thinking – e.g. Dennett’s “Darwin’s Dangerous Idea”. What does that have to do with education below the graduate level?

    A number of uncoordinated, random local efforts are not a serious effort.

    You’re right. But at what point did I say that those local efforts to push creationism were “uncoordinated” and “random”? There’s groups that publicize creationist thinking – e.g. Ken Ham’s AIG. And there’s other groups the Thomas More Law Center that offer to provide legal representation to school boards that try to push creationism.

    Let’s compare it to something else. In, say, Pakistan, there doesn’t need to be an organized, centrally-coordinated effort to persecute non-Muslims. All you need is the accusation of blasphemy or apostasy, and lots of locals will take care of the violence for you. Separate people communicating with a common source of information can look a lot like the groups communicating with each other.

  156. Ray Ingles

    Tom Gilson –

    “evolution works without either plan or purpose … Evolution is random and undirected.”

    Well… so far as can be told from science so far, that’s the case.

    Search this link for the phrase “mouse genes”. You’ll see a graph of the distribution of ‘distances’ (number of differences) between 2019 different human and mouse genes. It fits a bell curve extremely well. There’s no discernible ‘signal’ of any guidance to the gene changes.

    The ID types have been looking for such signals. They haven’t found any yet, as I’ve noted before. The clotting cascade, the vertebrate immune system, and the bacterial flagellum – none of their proposed examples have worked out.

    Until and unless they do, it really does appear that evolution works without guidance.

  157. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Regarding local efforts: one of them that made the news last year was ten miles away from me in Sprinboro, Ohio. I met with the school board president who was touting the idea. She displayed surprisingly little knowledge of the broader issues, and she gave no indication whatsoever that she was connected to any broader movement to push creationism in schools.

    Significantly, she did mention being part of a broader movement trying to promote changes in history curriculums. Since that wasn’t the main purpose for our meeting together, it’s telling that she mentioned the one alliance but was silent on any alliance relating to creationism. I conclude from meeting with her that her efforts were not part of any such coordinated effort at all.

    So Ray, I can tell you from direct experience that your theory fails in at least one case that made national news.

    I strongly advised her against it, by the way.

    IIRC she decided not to run for re-election (for reasons unrelated to this controversy) and the whole thing disappeared.

  158. Ray Ingles

    BillT –

    What, we should abandon the fundamentals of our faith because some people have used them to question or oppose the truth evolution?

    If the fundamentals of your faith lead you to demonstrably false conclusions… then yeah, I’d hope you’d re-evaluate. As Winston Churchill put it, “However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.”

    That’s not the same thing as forcing people to give up their faith. But it is an argument against teaching demonstrably false things in public schools.

  159. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    “Well… so far as can be told from science so far, that’s the case.”

    You might want to read why I said what I did before you respond to it.

    You might also want to read up on how science has nothing whatever to say about it anyway. Science can’t rule out teleology, even in principle, so “as far as can be told from science so far,” it is not the case.

    But let’s not get sidetracked on that before you figure out what I said it for in the first place.

  160. BillT

    Ray,

    I’m a bit pressed for time but for you to claim that evolution hasn’t been strongly touted in the public sphere as a substitute for the existence of God, an explanation for of life and the creation of the universe, an explanation for mortality (like you do) and every other human metaphysical characteristic is laughable. Not quite though as laughable as your Pakistan analogy where the trend here, of course, is toward secularism and away from religiosity thus the polar opposite of what is happening Pakistan.

    Remember, not I nor Tom nor it seems even the DI are in support of the teaching of creationism so if you want to rail against that please find someone who is to rail against.

    And like I said about the fundamentals of our faith , that some use it to tout creationism or oppose evolution is neither here nor there as it’s certainly not part of the the mission of the vast majority of conservative American religious institutions.

  161. Andy

    Ray,

    Search this link for the phrase “mouse genes”. You’ll see a graph of the distribution of ‘distances’ (number of differences) between 2019 different human and mouse genes. It fits a bell curve extremely well. There’s no discernible ‘signal’ of any guidance to the gene changes.

    That, per se, would still be compatible with evolution being goal-directed, IMO. The “random and undirected” aspect of evolution is a conclusion based on a) reproducible experiments that show mutations to be random wrt fitness (in the sense that the fitness difference that would be caused by a mutation is statistically independent of the probability of this mutation happening), b) natural selection not having an “oracle” / having no foresight, and c) observations about the fossil record that show that evolution proceeded in an opportunistic manner, with no stable trends towards any discernible goal.
    I think it is important to distinguish between this “random and undirected” aspect of evolution and what Tom referred to as “everything that’s happened, happened by natural, ateleological means”. If you believe that this “everything that’s happened” includes non-physical aspects, like for example “rational souls” being given to some organisms by a deity, then this per se does not and cannot contradict evolutionary biology, because biology is necessarily agnostic about such things. As long as religious claims are not extended to the physical domain, there is no need for conflict IMO.

  162. SteveK

    Andy,

    The “random and undirected” aspect of evolution is a conclusion based on a) reproducible experiments that show mutations to be random wrt fitness (in the sense that the fitness difference that would be caused by a mutation is statistically independent of the probability of this mutation happening), b) natural selection not having an “oracle” / having no foresight, and c) observations about the fossil record that show that evolution proceeded in an opportunistic manner, with no stable trends towards any discernible goal.

    You are way more an expert in this area, but (b) and (c) are questionable – at least it seems that way to me.

    Regarding (b), does natural selection select anything and everything (from the biology) in random fashion? My understanding is that it does not do that.

    Regarding (c), what you’ve said here sounds like a contradiction. Evolution proceeds in a way that is limited to opportunistic outcomes (whatever this means), yet these outcomes remain unguided toward anything specific, such as opportunistic outcomes?

    Then again, maybe I’ve misunderstood the intent of your comment.

  163. Andy

    SteveK,

    Regarding (b), does natural selection select anything and everything (from the biology) in random fashion? My understanding is that it does not do that.

    Your understanding is correct. It selects nothing in a random fashion (mutations can go to fixation through a stochastic process – but this is a mechanism other than natural selection (“genetic drift”)). My point b) here was with regards to the “undirected” part of “random and undirected”. Because natural selection is opportunistic – it cannot select based on which mutations would likely be useful in the future, or based on a set goal, it can only select based on the immediate consequences of mutational changes.

    Regarding (c), what you’ve said here sounds like a contradiction. Evolution proceeds in a way that is limited to opportunistic outcomes (whatever this means), yet these outcomes remain unguided toward anything specific, such as opportunistic outcomes?

    The definition I had in mind for “opportunistic” was:
    “exploiting immediate opportunities, especially regardless of planning or principle.”
    You can see the “opportunistic” in “natural selection is opportunistic” as an antonym for “planned” / “guided” / “goal-directed”.

  164. Ray Ingles

    BillT –

    I’m a bit pressed for time but for you to claim that evolution hasn’t been strongly touted in the public sphere as a substitute for the existence of God, an explanation for of life and the creation of the universe, an explanation for mortality (like you do) and every other human metaphysical characteristic is laughable.

    Several problems here:

    1. “The public sphere” is rather large. It’s much larger, in fact, than ‘public school K-12 classes and undergraduate college courses’. Which one was Nye – and am I – talking about?

    2. Evolution as “an explanation for” “the creation of the universe”? Gonna need an example or two.

    3. You need to read more carefully if you think I propose evolution as an explanation for morality. A component, perhaps, but hardly sufficient by itself, and in a pinch not even necessary.

    And of course the situation in Pakistan is different! I’m comparing the pattern of behavior, not the content! Sheesh!

    Remember, not I nor Tom nor it seems even the DI are in support of the teaching of creationism so if you want to rail against that please find someone who is to rail against.

    So why get upset at Bill Nye when he ‘rails against’ people who actually do support the teaching of creationism? Remember who’s replying to who…

  165. Ray Ingles

    Ask Jerry Coyne, Richard Dawkins, and PZ Myers whether they separate out evolution from teleological questions.

    Haven’t checked on Coyne, but to quote PZ Myers: “Really, I don’t teach atheism, for instance, in any of my classes, because that’s not what my responsibilities in that class entail.”

    Can you cite some kind of evidence that he’s lying there?

  166. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Oh, for crying out loud.

    He doesn’t have to say it in class. What he teaches there isn’t the only thing his students know about him, or the rest of the world, either, for that matter. They know what he believes, and I guarantee they’re smart enough to connect the dots between his widely known public pronouncements and what he teaches in class.

    He’s a blazing, flaming atheist, and he’s told me to my face he couldn’t even be courteous around Christianity (“I could never go to a church. I couldn’t be civil there”), not to mention the umpteen times he’s demonstrated his contempt for all religion on his blog.

    Meanwhile, though, I’d be willing to bet that even if he doesn’t teach atheism in class, he does teach random, unguided, ateleological evolution.

  167. SteveK

    Meanwhile, though, I’d be willing to bet that even if he doesn’t teach atheism in class, he does teach random, unguided, ateleological evolution.

    That would seem to be consistent with the message that the NAS supports. See here

    The quote about “lack of a grand design” is from pages 3-4 of the NAS book – here

  168. Ray Ingles

    Tom Gilson –

    He doesn’t have to say it in class.

    Careful. You wouldn’t want to open yourself to charges of witch-hunting. Heck, maybe we should disqualify the people on those ‘lists of scientists [actually usually engineers or medical doctors] who accept creationism’ from teaching courses?

    he’s told me to my face he couldn’t even be courteous around Christianity

    You know, the last time you brought that up I pointed out to you that Myers’ actual behavior is quite a bit more moderate than his rhetoric.

    At this point, I want actual quotes from his class illustrating what you “bet”. (How much do you want to bet, anyway? Shall we say $50, to be donated to the charity of the winner’s choice?)

  169. Ray Ingles

    Andy –

    That, per se, would still be compatible with evolution being goal-directed, IMO.

    Oh, I agree it doesn’t disprove guidance, per se. But it’s just one more opportunity for guidance to be displayed… where none is observed. Eventually, after enough opportunities, absence of evidence starts looking awfully like evidence of absence.

  170. Andy

    Ray,

    Oh, I agree it doesn’t disprove guidance, per se. But it’s just one more opportunity for guidance to be displayed… where none is observed. Eventually, after enough opportunities, absence of evidence starts looking awfully like evidence of absence.

    Yes, the case for evolution being unguided is an excellent one (and not only based on the absence of evidence for guidance). that´s why we teach it. But again, that refers to the physical world – if there is something about humans (or other organisms) that neither reduces to nor emerges from the physical, then it cannot be a product of evolution and evolutionary biology has nothing to say about it. In that sense, teleological views about human nature can easily co-exist with the scientific view that evolution is unguided. At least that is how the religious biologists I know reconcile their religious beliefs with their scientific beliefs.

  171. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    That’s a pretty fair statement, Andy.

    Except for this, of course: I think the evidence that evolution could not have happened just by unguided processes seems very interesting. From a layman’s perspective, it has some persuasive power. That’s why I’d like to see it remaining out there for discussion.

  172. Andy

    Tom,

    Except for this, of course: I think the evidence that evolution could not have happened just by unguided processes seems very interesting. From a layman’s perspective, it has some persuasive power. That’s why I’d like to see it remaining out there for discussion.

    Well, it depends on what “out there” and “discussion” means. Example, look at those Discovery Institute “Key Resources for Parents and School Board Members”:
    http://www.discovery.org/a/2112
    The arguments for ID are most certainly “out there”, and as long as we have freedom of speech and the ID folks won´t change their minds, they will remain “out there”. But is it a “discussion”? Yes and no. People certainly discuss it – but it isn´t a scientific controvery in any sense, the DI bypasses academia completely and goes straight to the laypeople.
    And the material that they do present to laypeople is, IMO, a hodgepodge of debunkend arguments and misrepresentations. Lets take one random example from the link above – the “Scientific Dissent From Darwinism: Over 800 Scientists Skeptical of Neo-Darwinism”. This list could not be more misleading, the statement that people signed is this:

    “We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged.”

    There is no need to be “skeptical” here, it is actually undeniably true that random mutation + natural selection can NOT account for all the known “complexity” of life. Just three random examples of the top of my head that can NOT by explained by random mutations + natural selection alone: variation in stickleback armor plates (this is due to developmental plasticity), the peacock´s tail (due to sexual selection), the distribution of AB0 blood types in humans (due to genetic drift). So I actually agree with the claim that this “dissent from Darwin” list makes. Does that mean that I support ID and / or think that any central claim of evolutionary theory (like common descent) is not scientifically well established? Absolutely not. And that is why the list is completely and utterly meaningless and does not represent any support for the ID position what-so-ever. And that is not to mention that the overwhelming majority of people on the list are not any more qualified to make statements about evolution than the average layperson, because they are either not scientists at all but rather engineers, or scientists that work in fields that have little or nothing to do with evolution.
    The way this list is presented by the DI – as something that provides support for their position – could not be more misleading, but will of course ring plausible to laypeople who are sympathetic to their position. They are still free to present it in that way of course (no one is forced to read it or to agree with them after all), but they will not and cannot start any reasonable and productive discussion with such moves.
    If there are people who are genuinely curious about trying to find out whether there might be scientific evidence for “design” / “guidance” in our natural history (maybe there is, I think all the evidence we have speaks against it but if someone still thinks its worth pursuing this, who am I to stop them), then my recommendation for them would be to ignore the DI completely, read Del Ratzsch´s “Nature, Design and Science” (which deals with similar questions as Bradley Monton´s “Seeking God in Science” does, but which is, unlike Monton´s book, very well researched and reasoned), and start from scratch.

  173. SteveK

    In that sense, teleological views about human nature can easily co-exist with the scientific view that evolution is unguided. At least that is how the religious biologists I know reconcile their religious beliefs with their scientific beliefs.

    This is all well and good, however, the mixed message that the NAS is sending (see #174) legitimizes statements to the contrary. It appears that the NAS is doing a fine job of “teaching the controversy” all by itself.

  174. Andy

    SteveK,

    This is all well and good, however, the mixed message that the NAS is sending (see #174) legitimizes statements to the contrary.

    I don´t think so. This publication is about the teaching of evolution, about teaching science / biology, the “lack of grand design” refers to biological evolution and only to biological evolution. This doesn´t legitimize teaching that would entail that there can not possibly be anything about humans that was purposefully created (e.g. a soul). The same document that you refer to also says:

    The committee listened carefully to this discussion, Singer said, and what it learned is captured in the eloquent conclusion to the 1984 report: “Scientists, like many others, are touched with awe at the order and complexity of nature. Religion provides one way for human beings to be comfortable with these marvels. However, the goal of science is to seek naturalistic explanations for phenomena within the framework of natural laws and principles and the operational rule of testability.”

    This is the spirit in which the convocation was held. “My hope,” said Singer, “is that we all respect the religious beliefs of one another, of students and their families. I think you can find ways to teach evolution that are scientifically rigorous but avoid contentious challenges to individuals.”

  175. Ray Ingles

    Andy –

    Well, it depends on what “out there” and “discussion” means.

    Exactly. Both you and I have had to point out to BillT that the “public sphere” and “educational circles” are not identical. I’ve made this point before – “ID is a hypothesis at the moment (and one that hasn’t fared too well in the ‘satisfied predictions’ department so far.) It is logically possible that ID proponents might come up with some solid evidence at some point. If and when they do, ID might then be referred to as a scientific theory.”

    (Although, for even a remote chance of that to happen, the DI would have to step up their research game substantially. And speaking of that list of “scientists”… there’s Project Steve.)

  176. SteveK

    Adding to the problem is the inability of the public to distinguish between a scientist reporting facts about the theory and a scientist reporting his/her opinion about what those facts mean.

    Dawkins gets up on stage and speaks with authority on the subject of evolution – because he is one. It should come as no surprise that the general public cannot separate fact from opinion when Dawkins himself doesn’t seem to know the difference. If he does, he’s not saying much to help clear the air.

  177. SteveK

    Andy,

    People certainly discuss it – but it isn´t a scientific controvery in any sense, the DI bypasses academia completely and goes straight to the laypeople.
    And the material that they do present to laypeople is, IMO, a hodgepodge of debunkend arguments and misrepresentations.

    I read this after posting my comment in #183. I see high-profile scientists doing the exact same thing (going directly to the public, that is) a-la Dawkins, Harris, Krauss, etc (albeit different areas of science) and the public is left in a state of confusion as to what is science and what is philosophy and personal opinion. No wonder there is confusion. Dawkins public speaking tours are aimed at setting the record straight in the name of science and reason, yet his talks are littered with speculation, non-science and non-reason.

  178. Ray Ingles

    Tom –

    I conclude from meeting with her that her efforts were not part of any such coordinated effort at all.

    A la Pakistan, “there doesn’t need to be an organized, centrally-coordinated effort” [emphasis added]. She didn’t spontaneously get the idea of ‘creationism’ out of nowhere, springing forth fully-formed like Minerva from the brow of Jove. There are plenty of churches pushing the idea that ‘it’s either the Bible or evolution’, along with “research” institutes like the DI claiming that evolution is scientifically invalid, along with groups laboring to revise public school curricula in (to use a slightly imprecise term) a more ‘conservative’ direction.

    Sometimes these ideas intersect, and it’s almost like a crystal precipitating out of solution. Add in actual catalysts like the Thomas More Law Center offering legal representation, and…

  179. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    You agreed earlier that, “A number of uncoordinated, random local efforts are not a serious effort.”

    That’s what’s going on in school boards. What’s going on in churches is relatively uncoordinated; what’s going on in school boards is completely so. It’s not a serious effort to get creationism into schools. It just isn’t; and what you say about other institutions and organizations has no effect on that.

    BTW, (*citation needed*) can you point to a case in the last ten or twenty years where the Thomas More Law Center has done what you claim?

  180. G. Rodrigues

    @Andy:

    Yes, the case for evolution being unguided is an excellent one (and not only based on the absence of evidence for guidance). that´s why we teach it.

    I do not know what you mean by unguided, but with that caveat, and given Divine Providence, it is an undeniable fact that Evolution, if it occurred (and something in its close neighborhood has to be conceded by even the most ardent of Creationists), was guided. Slightly less provocative, as far as the scientific evidence goes, and as a layman, I can confidently assert that the evidence for guided Evolution is at least as good as unguided one.

    But again, that refers to the physical world – if there is something about humans (or other organisms) that neither reduces to nor emerges from the physical, then it cannot be a product of evolution and evolutionary biology has nothing to say about it.

    Even if everything about humans (or other organisms) was reducible, or was supervened upon, by the physical, the above would still stand.

  181. Ray Ingles

    Tom –

    You agreed earlier that, “A number of uncoordinated, random local efforts are not a serious effort.” That’s what’s going on in school boards.

    Yes on one, no on two.

    An imam in Pakistan who declares a fatwa against a person, declaring them guilty of apostasy or blasphemy, doesn’t need to coordinate with anyone to convince random people to attack them. Nor do they need to coordinate with police to fail to charge or prosecute those who do the attacks. There’s no hierarchical chain of command… but people die anyway.

    Nor does the DI or AIG need to coordinate with school boards or individual science teachers to get creationism pushed in schools. They just need to declare that evolution is evil, and schools are teaching bad science, and so forth. Churches and churchgoers will take it from there.

    As to “citation needed”, “The defendants [in Dover] were represented by the Thomas More Law Center (TMLC)… without charge.” Nor was it an accident that the Dover school board pursued that course. (There’s a lot left out in that ellipsis, but those are the key points.) Just under ten years there.

    Anyway, whatever else, Merry Christmas to you and everyone here, or happy holidays as appropriate.

  182. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    AiG maybe, DI no.

    The DI actively opposed the Dover school board’s actions.

    As for the Thomas More Law Center, wow, you’re lucky I didn’t limit you to just ten years. That suit was filed in 2004, more than a decade ago.

    You guys just insist on dredging up history from long ago. Have you changed in the past ten years? Have your friends? Anyone at all? Have all your changes been for the purpose of hiding your real, unchanged agenda?

    You’re completely ungracious. Have a merry Christmas anyway.

  183. Bryan Howlett

    Tom, you asked Ray to “point to a case in the last ten or twenty years where the Thomas More Law Center had done what [he claimed]”. He provided one. Yet he’s the ungracious one. Interesting.

  184. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Bryan,

    He provided one more than ten years old. I challenged him on the age of the data he’s relying on. You skipped that in your challenge back to me.

    Context really counts, you know.

    Have a merry Christmas!

  185. Bryan Howlett

    You said, “in the last ten or twenty years”. He gave you one from about 10 years ago. If I’m not wrong that falls well within the range you allowed him. I think you owe Ray an apology.

  186. Post
    Author
  187. GHeiner

    “Nye says he’s worried about parents who are reluctant to let their kids learn about evolution.” That’s an ok thing to be worried about. What is wrong with that? If parents let their kids learn science, free of any religion that may prejudice their views on the science, that should be good for scientific endeavour right?

    The OP then says “What about parents and educators who are reluctant to let kids learn the complicated side of the story?” What is the complicated side of the story? Is it there were alternative models put forth (such as ID)? So what, they get taught briefly out of interest, but because they have been successfully shown to have a poverty of evidence, no need to waste any further time on them.

    Has any significant evidence come up to change this? Not that I am aware of. Happy to be corrected. Tom gives some links to the DI site. Blimey. Very underwhelming.

    Take this one: http://www.evolutionnews.org/2014/12/is_evolution_tr091731.html

    Is it just me, or there some serious problems with this? There is a bit of strawman going on here. Take this quote “4.Modern enzymes can’t evolve new functions…”. Well they can. There are many examples but here is one http://www.plospathogens.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.ppat.1000003

    I have to admit I don’t have time to examine in detail all their content because I was not impressed with what I did read, but if someone was aware of a brilliant killer argument that seriously threatens evolution I would like to hear it.

  188. Bryan Howlett

    GHeiner,

    Here’s the killer argument: If evolution’s true then the story of Adam and Eve isn’t true, which would mean there would be no original sin, which would mean Jesus died for no reason. But that would also mean Christians throughout history have been believing a nonsense for all this time. How could they? Were they idiots? No, of course not! So Adam and Eve did exist and evolution isn’t true. QED.

  189. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Bryan, if there is no personal God directing the course of natural history then there is no personal God directing the course of natural history.

    That’s the tautology your comment resolves down to. Here’s how.

    1. If evolution is true, then it proceeded either naturalistically or not-naturalistically.

    2. If it proceeded not-naturalistically, then it is possible that it was guided by God, including his making and/or designating an original human couple, who were the couple of which Genesis speaks.

    3. The only way we can assume that evolution necessarily makes the account of Adam of Eve impossible is if we assume that evolution proceeded naturalistically.

    4. It follows that your statement about Adam and Eve is only true if naturalistic evolution is true.

    5. Naturalistic evolution entails that there is no personal God directing the course of history.

    6. Therefore your assumption about Adam and Eve depends on there being no personal God directing the course of history.

    7. Your statements about Jesus also depend on there being no personal God directing the course of history.

    8. So if (6) there is no personal God directing the course of history, then (7) there is no personal God directing the course of history.

    Simplified: if you’re right, then you’re right, and you’re wrong, then you’re wrong. But there’s nothing in this last comment to indicate any reason to think you’re right. In fact, your use of what amounts to using a tautology unawares is evidence that you don’t know what you’re talking about.

    By the way and parenthetically: if Jesus did die for our sins, then naturalistic evolution is indeed impossible to be true. You’re right: there is a killer argument against evolution there. There’s independent reason to believe Jesus’ death and resurrection really happened.

  190. Bryan Howlett

    Genesis as a whole doesn’t correspond with evidence we have discovered. You can rationalize about God designating an original couple of humans as Adam and Eve, if you like.

    Evolution doesn’t require a designer in order to transform organisms into increasingly complex and well-adapted forms. A designer is superfluous. That’s why evolution is such a ground-breaking theory. You know that. The idea that God might have guided it is theoretically possible of course – in the same way anything is possible – but completely unnecessary.

    Why did He use this evolutionary method that doesn’t require Him?
    Why did He use a method that takes billions of years?
    Why didn’t He just create the creatures straight off?
    Why did He describe creation in such a misleading fashion?
    Do you believe in a talking snake?
    Why did He create Ebola and cancer and AIDS?
    Why did He send his son to clear up a mess that He created?

    I don’t actually want your answers.

    There’s a simple explanation: He didn’t. There is no He. All those questions fall away and we can look at reality as it is rather than having to find increasingly complicated explanations to force what we see into an ancient model of reality. It’s so simple, yet you can’t countenance it. You’re so caught up in justifications and logic. You’re wasting so much of your life trying to justify nonsense – and so many people do – I find it such a pity. And I feel so frustrated that I can’t help you out of it.

    “Nonsense” is too harsh a word. There is a lot of common sense in the Bible and I wonder if that’s what is misleading you into thinking that the fantasy parts are true too.

  191. Victoria

    #Bryan
    Why are the ‘laws of nature’ (the properties and dynamics of spacetime, particles and fields ( or if you like, the ‘stuff’ that makes up physical reality)) such that:
    (a) They can be described using abstract mathematical concepts?
    (b) In particular, why the principle of Stationary Action and Noether’s Theorem, Lorentz invariance, and the fundamental postulates of Quantum Mechanics, which are the basis of all of modern physics, applicable?

    What is the answer to Eugene Wigner’s question, “On the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics in the physical sciences”.
    Please note well: appealing to a multiverse won’t help you here – as all multiverse theories are built upon those very same postulates, not to mention that these are also mathematical theories.

  192. Bryan Howlett

    These are questions that we can either find out answers to or we can’t. I’m willing to accept that there are things we cannot know. It doesn’t bother me. I don’t need someone to make up a comforting story.

  193. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    I don’t either.

    The “comforting story” dismissal displays a serious misunderstanding of what Christianity actually involves.

    Someone made that story up, actually.

  194. Bryan Howlett

    Woah, there. I didn’t say that Christianity was a comforting story!

    It’s a bloody, nasty story and, in my view, the concepts of “justice”, “sin” and “evil” lead people directly away from empathy and love.

  195. BillT

    It’s a bloody, nasty story and, in my view, the concepts of “justice”, “sin” and “evil” lead people directly away from empathy and love.

    Empathy and love Bryan? Just where do empathy and love fit into your naturalistic explanation of the universe. Those are metaphysical human characteristics that remain completely unaccounted for in your naturalistic version of reality. You want to, while denying theism, borrow human emotions from theism and use them as an argument against theism. Doesn’t seem very cricket of you.

  196. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Your take on justice, sin, and evil is dreadfully naive.

    Empathy matters precisely because we experience sin and evil and harm. Justice matters because it gives credible hope of a good outcome, to those who experience sin and evil and harm; while also providing due warning to those who inflict it: they will receive their side of justice.

    Could you explain how empathy would really work in a world where there was no conception of evil or justice?

  197. Victoria

    I’m actually not surprised at Bryan’s answer 🙂

    The best effort I’ve seen yet is by Max Tegmark, and his Mathematical Universe proposal (see here for one of his papers). In it he even proposes an answer to Wigner’s question – mathematics is so successful because physical reality is at its core a mathematical structure – while this may answer the immediate question, Max (and he knows this) stops here – he has no answer beyond ‘it it what it is’. – the axiomatic escape from Munchausen’s Trilemma?

  198. Bryan Howlett

    BillT,

    Empathy and love are emotions borrowing from theism! That’s hilarious! I’m utterly flabbergasted. How the heck did you reach that conclusion? No, on second thoughts, spare me the details. It’s just not worth the typing.

  199. Bryan Howlett

    Could you explain how empathy would really work in a world where there was no conception of evil or justice?

    Empathy is dramatically inhibited by the concepts of evil and justice.

    Empathy is about understanding another person’s motivations. If you think of someone as evil, or you’re seeking justice / retribution against them, you’re blocking yourself from getting into their shoes.

    In my view there are vicious circles – evil circles, if you like – that people get caught up in. The people aren’t evil. The circles are evil. (Even the circles are not really evil; they just produce undesirable results). Focus on fixing the circles, not the people. It’s a lot more effective, and a lot more humane.

  200. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    The concepts of evil and justice are a large portion of the reason to care about other persons’ motivations, as I said above, and which you appear not to have taken into account.

    Christianity has fixed a whole lot of circles. I’ve seen a lot of people’s destructive generational cycles of addiction and abuse broken, by entering into life with Christ.

  201. Post
    Author
  202. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    As to the John Freshwater incident: can you show evidence of some group urging him to do what he did, as in, evidence of this vast fundamentalist network of intentional influencers disregarding law and custom in the public school system, urging teachers also to disregard law and custom?

    I’ve been around Christianity and the classroom a long time. I find Gateways to Better Education’s approach to be far more typical and characteristic, by a long shot.

    The Rutherford Institute’s role in this: were they actively trying to push a long-term creationist agenda? Or were they coming alongside a Christian teacher who needed legal representation? How do you know?

  203. Ray Ingles

    Tom – Search the first link in #208 for “early 2004”. The DI was happy to provide materials for the board’s review, and asserted attorney-client privilege for their earliest communications. If this were a trial and we the jury, we wouldn’t be allowed to speculate, but this isn’t a trial and we aren’t a jury. Later, after it became clear that the board had made obvious their religious rather than scientific motivations, the DI advised them not to proceed because they’d ruined their usefulness as a test case. Even the Thomas More Law Center talked about “this strategy that they’ve been using, in I guess Ohio and other places, where they’ve pushed school boards to go in with intelligent design, and as soon as there’s a controversy, they back off with a compromise. ”

    As to the John Freshwater incident: can you show evidence of some group urging him to do what he did

    He wasn’t the one who made all the creationist materials he handed out (and then collected back again so as to prevent parents from learning about them). And, again, I have said repeatedly that you don’t need a centrally-coordinated, hierarchical organization to push an agenda.

    The agenda and the techniques are very different, but al-Qaeda doesn’t need a rigid hierarchy to be effective either. (Again, I emphasize that I’m comparing only the organizational style, not motives or morals.)

    And then there’s the annual introduction of legislation on the state level all over the country to allow teaching creationism and/or intelligent design in science classes. Yeah, Nye and the rest of us are just jumping at shadows, riiiiight.

    The Rutherford Institute’s role in this: were they actively trying to push a long-term creationist agenda? Or were they coming alongside a Christian teacher who needed legal representation? How do you know?

    Door number 1, and I know because they tried to do the exact same thing in Dover… as I, y’know, linked to. Third link in #208. Maybe a little of door number 2 as well, but numero uno was definitely involved.

  204. Bill L

    Tom,

    I hope you’ve had a good Christmas and New Year. I was just visiting this page and found this blog interesting. I hope you don’t mind my coming into it so late. There is much I may have missed in the comments section, though I did skim through it. I just have some question really…

    If I understand correctly you say that naturalism has been undermined by philosophical arguments and that is why you believe scientists are wrong when they proceed to use it (presumably either naturalism outright or even methodological naturalism?). OK, if you are correct about naturalism being wrong, that seems like a reasonable conclusion.

    So my question is then what has or should proceed from this? What would science look like if it used supernaturalism? Given the position that naturalism has been undermined by philosophical arguments, it seems that many people would have seen that error and proceeded with a new kind of science. So could you point out some of the fruits of that labor, or even just the best example?

    In my mind, one of the strongest benefits of the scientific method is its ability to gain new insight through verifiable, repeatable testing. What new insights have been given to us through supernatural science? How have these improved the state of scientific understanding and led to new knowledge?

    Thank you for your time.

  205. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Supernatural science? Never heard of it. Science is for telling us about the natural world, and its success is due to its keeping its investigations confined to that sphere.

    Philosophical naturalism is incompatible with all kinds of knowledge, as I’ve argued elsewhere. As for methodological naturalism, I believe I have a better alternative to propose.

  206. Bill L

    Wonderful then! Regularism in your view must be circumventing false naturalism and coming up with better answers. Could you point out some of those? Or just the best one?

  207. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    No, Bill L. It’s a way of avoiding the philosophical mistake of thinking that because we are studying natural phenomena, that therefore all of reality is subject to natural laws. It is a way to avoid importing unscientific philosophical assumptions into our science. It doesn’t change our science, it only affects the metaphysical conclusions we might attach to it.

  208. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    So for example one better answer might be this. Rather than saying, “Because we see natural laws operating consistently, therefore science tells us nothing is real except for natural entities and phenomena;” we say instead, “We see natural laws operating consistently, and we recognize that this scientific observation is consistent with a wide range of possible metaphysical realities, not just naturalism.”

  209. Bill L

    OK, I think I misunderstood you then. I had thought you had an issue with methodological naturalism. It seems you think that it is appropriate for science. Is that correct? Your real issue is with ontological naturalism then?

    Or if I have misunderstood you again, could you point out specifically what the difference between MN and Regularism is?

    Thank you again.

  210. Victoria

    Supernatural Science??
    There is no such animal – the Naturalism vs Supernaturalism (which, as a Christian, I will take to be grounded in Biblical Christian Theism) debate is about the metaphysical context in which the practice of science takes place.
    When I work in Quantum Field Theory or General Relativity (yes, I am a professional physicist who is also a Biblical Christian theist), or medical diagnostic imaging (which is what pays my salary :), or whatever, I don’t use a different physics – I use the same physics that any professional physicist working in those areas would use. I ask the same questions of nature, and use the same methodologies to try to work out the answers.
    Are you implicitly equating Young Earth Creationism or perhaps Intelligent Design with ‘supernatural science’? If so, just stop right now.
    I would suggest that you go over to http://www.biologos.org and http://www.asa3.org and read the material there to get a better perspective of how other professional scientists who are also Christians think about the relationship between science and Biblical Christian theism.
    This article, http://biologos.org/uploads/projects/louis_scholarly_essay.pdf, is a good place to start.

    Go over to http://www.amazon.com and search for John Polkinghorne’s books (he is a physicist and Christian theologian) – he has an excellent perspective on that relationship and articulates it very well.

    Metaphysical Naturalism has no real answer to the foundational questions – those things that make science possible. Eugene Wigner asked the question in his essay “On the Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Physical Sciences” (see https://www.dartmouth.edu/~matc/MathDrama/reading/Wigner.html) for a copy of the article); a classic example of Munchausen’s Trilemma if ever there was one – physicist Max Tegmark has his own answer (see http://arxiv.org/pdf/grqc/9704009.pdf for one of his papers, or his book, “Our Mathematical Universe”) – mathematics works so well to describe Nature because Nature is inherently mathematical.

    At the end of the day, though, when I step back and reflect on something that I have learned about physics, my reaction is to worship God for His marvelous and elegant creation ( Psalm 19 and Romans 1:20, for example). I was reading Anton Zee’s text book “Einstein Gravity in a Nutshell” a while back – in it he derives both Electrodynamics and General Relativity from just three principles: The Principle of Stationary Action, Lorentz covariance, and of course, the basic symmetries implied by a (3+1 dimensional spacetime). The derivation of Electrodynamics is particularly beautiful – as he puts it, “we did not go looking for electromagnetism, electromagnetism came looking for us”. It is worth the read (math alert!).

  211. Bill L

    Thank you Victoria for your suggestions. I was not really thinking about YEC or ID when I wrote this. I was more curious about Tom’s implication that if naturalism is indeed false, then we should probably pursue a scientific method that is not based on naturalism or even methodological naturalism (MN). After-all, why use a method based on falsehood? – We would be sure to get bad results.

    Given that, it would seem that many people must be pursuing a different course, in order to get better results that we can verify. It would seem that if Tom’s premise is correct, we should see them obtaining better information about the world.

    But Tom then gave me a link to his idea of Regularism, which he seems to claim is better than MN. But I read through the post (not the comments) and I can not find a difference between it and MN. So, I’m starting to wonder if there is really a problem with MN, or is the problem that some people just take MN to be equal to ontological naturalism.

  212. Victoria

    @BillL
    Ah, I see 🙂
    The problem is that too many people, scientists included, assume that methodological naturalism is identical to ontological naturalism.

    I think the confusion is about the fact that the scientific enterprise, as a human endeavor, must make certain axiomatic assumptions in order to get off the ground.

    Or what of its own presuppositions? Science cannot account for them because they are philosophical in nature. Indeed, science comes to the table with a priori metaphysical commitments firmly in place. For example:

    (1) the existence of a theory-independent, external world

    (2) the orderly nature of the external world

    (3) the existence of truth

    (4) the existence of the laws of logic

    (5) the existence of ethical values used in science

    (6) the uniformity of nature and induction

    (7) the existence of numbers

    These second-order philosophical claims undergird the entire scientific enterprise. To be sure, scientific inquiry cannot get off the ground without these presuppositions in place.

    – See more at: http://str.typepad.com/weblog/2014/12/how-science-religion-converge-part-5-of-5.html#sthash.uE8c90MV.dpuf

    To which I would add, as I have already alluded to,
    (8) the applicability of abstract mathematics to describe the Laws of Nature.

    These are just brute facts under Metaphysical Naturalism, whereas they have a firm foundation in the very Nature and Character of YWHW (the God of Biblical Christian Theism).

    The way I see it (and as many of my Christian physicist colleagues see it), God designed the ‘Laws of Nature’ (the inherent properties and dynamics of {spacetime, particles and fields (or whatever the ‘stuff’ of the physical universe really is)}, and implemented them into His Creation; not only did He implement them, He actively sustains His Creation and ensures its consistency (Colossians 1:15-20, Jeremiah 33:19-21) . He is the guarantee that those presuppositions under-girding the scientific enterprise are valid. From a theistic perspective, the business of science is to discover what those ‘Laws of Nature’ are, nothing more, nothing less, and that we can do so by observing just how the natural world does, in fact, behave.

    That being said, under Christian Theism, God is not constrained by those laws – Nature is His to command, and she is an obedient creature – if God introduces new contingent events into the stream of cause and effect, Nature complies, even if those new events don’t conform to Nature’s inherent dynamics.

    This quote, from that Biologos article I linked to, sums it up very nicely for me:

    By getting rid of the miracle stories in the Bible, Bultmann and his followers hoped to make the Christian
    story more palatable to modern man. Although I recognize the emotional weight of this sentiment, I am
    not convinced that it is an intellectually coherent approach, mainly for reasons of self-consistency. If the
    New Testamentitself asserts, both directly and indirectly, that the historicity of the resurrection is
    foundational to Christianity, then it would seem to stand or fall by that fact. As a physicist, I have a natural
    penchant for wanting to see how an idea relates to more basic principles. And to analyze the validity of a
    quote like the one above, we must take a cold hard look at our fundamental presuppositions. In the words
    of John Polkinghorne:
    If we are to understand the nature of reality, we have only two possible starting points: either the
    brute fact of the physical world or the brute fact of a divine will and purpose behind that physical
    world.
    Where does each of those two fundamental starting points take us? When we use them to construct a
    worldview, what kind of sense does it make of experience, morality, truth, beauty, and our place in the
    world? These are not easy questions. There is so much mystery around us. Perhaps the best way to move
    forward would be to borrow Mermin’s tapestry analogy and carefully investigate whether the different
    threads of historical evidence, philosophical consistency, and personal knowledge can be woven together
    into a worldview that is robust. In particular, does our tapestry posses those qualities of coherence and
    (surprising) fruitfulness that characterise the best scientific tapestries?
    If I start from the brute facts of nature, I personally am unable to construct a tapestry that is both rigorous
    and rich enough to make sufficient sense of the world. By contrast, if I assume a divine will and purpose
    behind the world I believe that I can construct a much more compelling tapesty that incorporates all of the
    threads of human existence. Within that purposeful world, the case for Christianity is much more
    persuasive. To use a famous quote from C.S. Lewis:
    I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen-not only because I see it, but because by it,
    I see everything else.

  213. Victoria

    This quote, also from the Biologos article,

    : if I emphasize the integrity of the regular action of God in sustaining the
    universe, and even in creating us, then why should miracles occur at all? Can they occur today? Rather
    than answer that theological question directly, let me resort to a musical analogy borrowed from Colin
    Humphreys. Suppose you are watching a pianist play a classical piece. You will notice that there are
    certain notes that he plays, and certain ones that he never does. The choice of notes is constrained
    because the music is being played in a particular key signature. But then, occasionally he may break this
    rule and play an unusual note. Musicians call these accidentals, and a composer can put them in wherever
    she likes (although if there are too many the music would sound strange). As Humphreys puts it,

    If he is a great composer, the accidentals will never be used capriciously: they will always make
    better music. It is the accidentals which contribute to making the piece of music great. The analogy
    with how God operates is clear: God created and upholds the universe but, like the great composer,
    he is free to override his own rules. However, if he is a consistent God, it must make more sense than
    less for him to override his rules.

    God’s ‘Laws of Nature’ make the music possible in the first place. They make it possible for us to hear the music and follow it, to recognize its patterns and forms, so that when we see departures from the pattern, we will know that the Composer is actively engaged with us in producing the symphony.

  214. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Bill L, my issue with methodological naturalism is that it imports needless and misleading metaphysics: “do science as if there were no God and no supernatural.” Experience shows that people who adopt that theory tend to smudge it together with “there is no God and no supernatural.” That’s not a necessary entailment of MN, but it happens anyway.

    It seems a whole lot cleaner for science to keep the God/supernatural words out of the picture completely: “Do science on the assumption that you can count on natural regularity.”

  215. Bill L

    I think I’m beginning to grasp your view now Tom. It seems there is functionally no difference between MN and your Regularism (most of the time), but it’s rather the philosophical underpinnings of each and the implications that are drawn (correctly or incorrectly) from those underpinnings. Is that correct?

    With that in mind, it seem like it would be difficult for a system of Regularism to maintain its consistency when it comes to the kinds of “God-like” interventions that ID would require. What would they say, “It’s Regular until we can’t figure out how it might have happened regularly; then it’s a miracle.” Isn’t that what ID proponents are suggesting?

  216. GrahamH

    “God designed the ‘Laws of Nature’ “…where is the evidence for this?

    Tom says “It seems a whole lot cleaner for science to keep the God/supernatural words out of the picture completely”. I wonder then if theists feels religion should stay out of science? Victoria at 225 does not seem to think so. She argues for theistic presup as a basis of science. That seems a claim scientists are right to question or examine.

    Getting back to evidence, I wonder what is the compelling evidence for preferring a God model to the explanation of reality versus a more naturalistic model, apart from the God model offering the poetic explanatory closure Victoria alludes to.

  217. G. Rodrigues

    @GrahamH:

    She argues for theistic presup as a basis of science. That seems a claim scientists are right to question or examine.

    Have you read what Victoria wrote? In #225, she lists 8 assumptions that Science as we know it, *presupposes*. They are not “theistic presup”, whatever that means, they are simply the presuppositions that *any* empirical science makes to even get off the ground, so they are not the sort of claims that “scientists are right to question or examine” in much the same way Differential Geometry of Pseudo-Riemannian manifolds is not “questioned” by people that do GR or “Functional Analysis on Hilbert Spaces” is not “questioned” by people working on QM. Then she asks what can explain and ground those assumptions, and she claims (and argues) that it is the Biblical, Christian theistic framework. If you want to dispute the latter claim, that is fine and maybe even the beginning of a productive discussion, but misunderstanding the competing claims on the table will not get you closer to it.

  218. Ray Ingles

    Victoria –

    These are just brute facts under Metaphysical Naturalism

    I can’t quite agree. I would say, for example, that 3 and 4 are pretty well unavoidable for any coherent worldview at all. They’re not things for which evidence can be adduced, but that doesn’t mean there’s no rational reason for assuming them. Once you have them, 7 follows. Number 1 has a similar basis to 3 and 4, in that assuming the converse is automatically self-defeating and pointless.

    I’d say that 2 and 6 are either identical, or aspects of the same thing. And neither are presuppositions, but instead observations. They could be disproven. I mean, scientific inquiry could proceed without 2 and 6… it just wouldn’t succeed.

    Mathematics being a special case of the laws of logic in action, it seems to me that 8’s just an extension of 3 and 4. It’s certainly not clear to me that the “effectiveness of mathematics in the physical sciences” is “unreasonable”. (Indeed, I may be misinterpreting things, but Wigner’s thoughts on “the present laws of heredity and of physics” – just seven years after the discovery of DNA’s structure – looks uncannily like Haldane’s writings.)

  219. Victoria

    @GrahamH

    Do you ever stop to think about why the Principle of Stationary Action (along with Lie Algebra and Noether’s Theorem) is such a powerful tool in Physics?? Why does Nature behave that way? (I’m just going to assume here that you actually understand these things). Think about it – such a simple principle that leads to profound results (symmetries and conservation laws for example). Oh, please, no ex post facto justifications using Newton’s Laws – either way (because those are postulates too) – it is a fundamental postulate (consult any advanced physics text on Classical Mechanics, QM or QFT (“Emmy Nother’s Wonderful Theorem” is an excellent book devoted to the topic)).
    Multiverse theories won’t help much, since the last time I looked, they are all based on physical theories that assume a Lagrangian formalism.

    You keep asking for compelling evidence that a theistic world-view is a better explanation – well, I’ve just presented you with a piece of information that Metaphysical Naturalism can only shrug its shoulders at and cannot explain; those eight axioms that form the basis of science are hints that there is something (or Someone) behind the curtain of reality – that there are things that science qua science can’t answer, that you need to step back and examine a bigger picture.

  220. Victoria

    @Ray
    Happy New Year! I hope 2015 will be a great year for you 🙂

    I’d say that 2 and 6 are either identical, or aspects of the same thing. And neither are presuppositions, but instead observations. They could be disproven. I mean, scientific inquiry could proceed without 2 and 6… it just wouldn’t succeed.

    Well, that’s the point, right? Also, what guarantees that Nature will always have those properties from one moment to the next?

    Mathematics being a special case of the laws of logic in action, it seems to me that 8’s just an extension of 3 and 4. It’s certainly not clear to me that the “effectiveness of mathematics in the physical sciences” is “unreasonable”. (Indeed, I may be misinterpreting things, but Wigner’s thoughts on “the present laws of heredity and of physics” – just seven years after the discovery of DNA’s structure – looks uncannily like Haldane’s writings.)

    Yes, I agree with you on point #8 – I put it as a separate item because I
    wanted to emphasize it.

    Wigner’s point about the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics was that there is no explanation for it – read Max Tegmark’s paper that I linked to.

  221. Ray Ingles

    Victoria –

    Think about it – such a simple principle that leads to profound results (symmetries and conservation laws for example).

    Could it have been different? If so, in what way? I mean, could e^(i*pi) have equaled -2?

    Well, that’s the point, right?

    Er… no, I’m making a different point from what I take Kunkle (and you, by quoting) to be putting forth. So far as I can tell, you’re saying that science needs to assume 2 and 6. I’m saying that those are, rather, hypotheses to be tested, that have so far not been disproved. Those are, epistemologically, very distinct.

    Also, what guarantees that Nature will always have those properties from one moment to the next?

    Nothing guarantees it. Possibly what we’ve been seeing for the last couple hundred thousand years is just the result of a Really Unlikely quantum fluctuation, and in a few minutes the law of averages will catch up with us. If that’s the case, though, there’s nothing we could conceivably do about it, so I’m not planning on losing any sleep over the notion.

    But thanks… you’ve just agreed that 2 and 6 could be disproved, so it follows that they are so-far-confirmed hypotheses, rather than presuppositions.

    (And Happy New Year to you, too. Hope your holidays were great.)

  222. G. Rodrigues

    So far as I can tell, you’re saying that science needs to assume 2 and 6. I’m saying that those are, rather, hypotheses to be tested, that have so far not been disproved.

    Comedy is about to start.

  223. SteveK

    Ray,
    To avoid delving into the comedy routine that G. Rodrigues is referring to, please see the below video. I know that you were at one time familiar with this topic, but you keep opening your mouth and showing us that you’ve forgot and need to be reminded.

  224. Victoria

    @Ray
    You are still missing the point about mathematics and nature.
    It’s not about the specific details of the mathematics – how did Nature acquire the property that any abstract mathematical formalism works to describe it?

  225. Ray Ingles

    SteveK – Since I have said on this site that Humans don’t get to have logical certainty about the real world and I don’t think humans get metaphysical certainty a video aimed at disproving “the idea that science can guarantee knowledge, true infallible knowledge” hits… rather wide of the mark. Certainty isn’t available, but we can work out degrees of confidence.

    Victoria – Do you have a reason to assume a priori that “Nature” shouldn’t be describable mathematically? What would a universe that couldn’t be described mathematically look like, and how would you differentiate it from a world that violated 2 or 6, or 3 and 4?

  226. Victoria

    @Ray
    Do you have an answer to Wigner’s question that isn’t mere tautology or assertion?

  227. Victoria

    It seems that Anton Zee has much more depth of insight and understanding that Ray will ever have.
    On page 141 of his text Einstein Gravity in a Nutshell, he lists 7 reasons why the action principle is so important.
    His fourth reason says this:

    The fundamental interactions we know about – the strong, weak, electromagnetic and gravitational – can all be described by the action principle(*). As you will see in this book, the action principle provides a natural route to special relativity, electromagnetism, and Einstein Gravity. The action, rather than the equations of motion (the Euler-Lagrange equations, that is – my addition) furnishes the language of quantum field theory….
    (*) Why this is should be so represents a profound mystery

    The little footnote is all he mentions of this – given his style, I’d surmise that he thinks that anyone who is going to claim understanding of this physics will recognize the mystery.

  228. SteveK

    Certainty isn’t available, but we can work out degrees of confidence.

    This is not a *scientific hypothesis* to be tested – as you stated above. Continue with the comedy routine if you’d like. I’m happy to let you have the spotlight.

  229. Victoria

    #241 – correction: “…more insight and depth of understanding than Ray will ever have”
    🙂

  230. GrahamH

    @Victoria

    So in 232 you basically argue a God of the gaps. Naturalism does not have all the answers currently, so on that basis of science there are hints that there is “something (or Someone) behind the curtain of reality – that there are things that science qua science can’t answer, that you need to step back and examine a bigger picture.”

    Ok so there are mysteries to solve. Our ancestors also thought there was something or someone behind natural events such as tides, storm and earthquakes, punishing them for misdeeds.

    So where is the evidence for God?

    And if you say the basis of science is something or someone behind a curtain, it is ok for scientists to examine, comment or debate that claim.

    I also don’t quite buy the argument that because naturalism can’t fully explain things, that is evidence for the claim of God. It is irrelevant. A claim for God should stand on its own two feet. If it doesn’t stack up we can say we don’t bother with any further thought or action on it. Even if that means going back and accepting the situation still poses a mystery. We are not entitled to explanatory closure. We may have to accept the unknown rather than a bad explanation.

  231. Victoria

    @GrahamH

    What kind of evidence would you accept as sufficient motivation to investigate Christianity further? Where are you going to look for the answers? How will you evaluate those answers?

  232. Victoria

    And it’s not a God of the gaps argument – it’s the inference to the best explanation (which was the point of the first quote from biologos.org – referring to John Polkinghorne/C.S. Lewis).
    There is more to consider than just what we have learned through modern science. Christian Theism (plus modern science) has more explanatory power for the whole of reality than Naturalism does, not the least of which is why science works in the first place. – the arguments for that are all over this blog site.

    You will have to discover this for yourself – we can point you in the right direction, tell you what clues you should be on the lookout for (and if you sincerely want to know the truth of Christianity experientially for yourself, we will be more than happy to help you); you have to walk where we have walked – we can’t do the heavy lifting for you. I can tell you that it will be worth your while to seek after God and find Him (and He will let Himself be found by those who diligently seek Him).

  233. Victoria

    As Ray said above, we are not guaranteed certainty (although from a Christian viewpoint, once you take that step of faith and trust in God, you do get it on an ex post facto basis – Hebrews 11:1 ).

    You have to make the best and wisest decision you can, based on all of the available information that God has provided. You have to put the pieces of the puzzle together, and you can’t simply choose to discard the ones that don’t fit your preconceived notion of what the picture is. I’ve read other skeptics here who say they are applying Ockham’s Razor when they opt for Naturalism – reading their comments, they wield it like a clumsy butcher knife, instead of the surgeon’s scalpel it was meant to be.
    The razor only applies when you have two or more arguments that explain *all* of the data equally well. As Einstein said, “a theory should be as simple as possible, but no simpler”.

  234. Victoria

    oh, in my #246, let’s rephrase the statement “Christian Theism (plus modern science) … than Naturalism” to “Christian Theism(plus modern science)….than Naturalism(plus modern science)”

    Also, not only will God let Himself be found, a person who finds Him will discover that He has been leading you in the right direction all along – that He found you.

  235. GrahamH

    If there is no evidence or convincing philosophical argument, then the God hypothesis does not need any further thought or action.

    And regardless of the lack of evidence, I do not see the explanatory power in what is claimed. The God hypothesis raises more questions than answers. I think it is attractive to those seeking explanatory closure to deep questions. Something untrue or fantasy can easily offer explanatory closure. I am interested in what is actually true.

  236. Melissa

    Graham,

    If there is no evidence or convincing philosophical argument, then the God hypothesis does not need any further thought or action.

    Well, since there is convincing philosophical argument, belief in God is quite reasonable. If, of course, you meant convincing to you, one possibility is that you just are unaware or have failed to grasp the arguments and that is why they are unconvincing. If that is the case it is clear that it requires more thought not less.

    Everyone here is concerned about the truth. Clinging to naturalism in spite of it’s deficiencies hoping for some pie in the sky resolution is the fantasy.

  237. Melissa

    Graham,

    Aquinas’ five ways
    Kalam

    Arguments against materialism:
    Ross’ argument for the immateriality of the intellect
    Arguments re the in principle impossibility of consciousness, intentionality.

    They are just a few.

  238. G. Rodrigues

    @GrahamH:

    And if you say the basis of science is something or someone behind a curtain, it is ok for scientists to examine, comment or debate that claim.

    They can certainly comment, debate or examine the claim, but their position of scientists qua scientists is *irrelevant* abd has no special authority or expertise because the question is not a scientific one.

    I also don’t quite buy the argument that because naturalism can’t fully explain things, that is evidence for the claim of God.

    And quite right you do not because proving naturalism false does not prove the existence of God. But given that the majority of objections to the existence of God come from naturalists, if it can be proves that Naturalism is false one big impediment will have been removed, and a very serious one, to belief in God.

    Which of course leads to the next point; Melissa gave some of the arguments for Theism, what exactly is the evidence and the arguments, linking evidence to conclusions, for Naturalism? I would say that the sum total of evidence is exactly zero, but on all probability you know something that I do not, so please, do share.

  239. Ray Ingles

    Victoria, I understand that “depth of understanding and insight” is measured by how much people agree with you ( 🙂 ). Yet I have a couple points for reflection.

    A. Way back in college, a joke “final exam” circulated. My favorite question was the last one: “Define the universe. Give three examples.” How, exactly, do we know what governs universes and their structure? As Einstein is said to have asked, “Did God have any choice in creating the universe?”

    As I’ve pointed out here before, we could imagine a world where everything was the same except water froze at 1 degree Celsius… but you couldn’t actually have such a world. The nature of nuclear and electromagnetic forces would have to change too far to allow ‘everything else’ to remain the same. We don’t know what the ‘free parameters’ of universes are… if any.

    So, I’d like you to answer my question from #239. Propose for me a universe that met conditions 1-7 from #255… yet didn’t meet your #8. I’m going to need some detail, I’m afraid, so that you can convince me such a universe really is logically possible and not just a flight of fancy like “everything the same except the freezing point of water”. (You don’t have to go as far as this guy, but more than a sentence or two.)

    B. Wigner characterizes surprise about the effectiveness of mathematics as “plain common sense”. Can you come up with an example of human common sense getting anything right about the basic structure of the universe? I know of no cosmology for the first couple hundred thousand years of human history that even got heliocentrism right. The Hindu cosmology is the only one I know of that even conceived of timespans of billions of years.

    Nobody thought Relativity fit in nicely with human common sense. Heck, even Newton’s laws of motion aren’t exactly intuitive. And people make rueful jokes about how bizarre and counterintuitive Quantum Mechanics is. (“Quantum Mechanics is a totally preposterous theory which, unfortunately, appears to be correct.” – Steven Weinberg “You don’t understand quantum mechanics, you just get used to it.” – Richard Feynman)

    So when people try to apply common sense to things so far removed from our experience as the structure of universes… color me dubious.

  240. Ray Ingles

    SteveK –

    This is not a *scientific hypothesis* to be tested – as you stated above.

    I’m afraid you miss the point. I’m not claiming the “problem of induction” is a scientific hypothesis. I’m not even disputing the problem of induction.

    I’m saying that while scientific hypotheses don’t produce “true infallible knowledge”, we can nevertheless characterize how certain we are about various hypotheses. As you would know if you’d read the links in #239.

  241. JAD

    The big problem for any kind of naturalistic or materialistic world view is that it must presuppose an infinite regress of mindless natural causes. This is an assumption that must be accepted by faith the same way a Christian-theist believes “that the universe was created by the word of God” (Hebrews 11:3)

    The naturalist would rewrite the verse this way:

    ‘By faith we understand that the universe is the result of mindless natural causes, so that what is seen is made out of things that are visible.’

    The bottom line, in other words, is that naturalists are asking us to trade faith in theism for faith in naturalism.

  242. GrahamH

    If someone makes a claim like there is a God, and it is a personal God, that created everything ex nihilo, and provides ultimate morality, etc – a denier of that claim only has to show if the claim is worth considering further or not. The denier does not have to replace it with an alternative claim that satisfies the theists desire for knowing now what created the universe and what is ultimate reality, and whatever else they require (such as a guarantee there is life beyond death).

    Melissa

    Aquinas 5 ways and Kalam are philosophical arguments with no evidence to back them up. For example, the whole first cause thing and actuality and potentiality. No evidence. There is no evidence the universe was created ex nihilo from nothing, and no one knows if there ever was “nothing”. Can you give me one example of a non-temoral and non-material cause that we can verify? Nope.

    An argument by itself is not evidence. An argument needs evidence to support it. Inferences need evidence to support that they can be applied. Aquinas and Kalam fail.

  243. SteveK

    Ray,

    I’m not claiming the “problem of induction” is a scientific hypothesis.

    Okay, but what did “hypotheses to be tested” mean in #235?

  244. SteveK

    GrahamH,

    Aquinas 5 ways and Kalam are philosophical arguments with no evidence to back them up.

    I realize the below summary is just a summary, but which steps do you think have no evidence backing them up?

    The First Way: Argument from Motion

    1) Our senses prove that some things are in motion.

    2) Things move when potential motion becomes actual motion.

    3) Only an actual motion can convert a potential motion into an actual motion.

    4) Nothing can be at once in both actuality and potentiality in the same respect (i.e., if both actual and potential, it is actual in one respect and potential in another).

    5) Therefore nothing can move itself.

    6) Therefore each thing in motion is moved by something else.

    7) The sequence of motion cannot extend ad infinitum.

    8) Therefore it is necessary to arrive at a first mover, put in motion by no other; and this everyone understands to be God.

  245. G. Rodrigues

    @GrahamH:

    The denier does not have to replace it with an alternative claim that satisfies the theists desire for knowing now what created the universe and what is ultimate reality, and whatever else they require (such as a guarantee there is life beyond death).

    Great, then by your criteria, and since you offer no evidence, naturalism is false. Case closed, so we can move on to the arguments in favor of theism.

    Aquinas 5 ways and Kalam are philosophical arguments with no evidence to back them up. For example, the whole first cause thing and actuality and potentiality. No evidence.

    You have absolutely *no* idea what you are talking about, something painfully evident in your other comments as well.

    @SteveK:

    Are you sure you want to go down that road? My prediction is that GrahamH will completely mangle and misunderstand the argument.

  246. BillT

    Aquinas….fail(s).

    Just like that, in three sentences, Graham concludes eight hundred years of philosophical argumentation surrounding possibly the greatest thinker, theologian and philosopher in human history. And we were here to witness it.

  247. SteveK

    I may not go down the road with him, G. Rodrigues, but I’d like to know how a naturalist like GrahamH thinks about these things.

    I’ve had people tell me that #5 and #7 are unsupported and all I can do is shrug my shoulders at what some people choose to believe [ without evidence 🙂 ]

  248. GrahamH

    SteveK

    A few quick things:

    First up I have a metaphysical issue I can’t seem to get past. Where is the evidence such inductive rules derived from a set of observations applies outside of space and time, even when the inductive rules themselves require space and time?

    It is a fallacious idea that empirically observed phenomena can be taken as axioms that apply to circumstances outside the conditions they were created.

    This is the fallacy of composition objection that probably puts at an impasse at this point. But for the purposes of more discussion on your points:

    I am aware Aristotle taught that the First Mover and the Final Cause are one. In other words, he says the principle of all motion is final causation.

    But our intuitions about motion, cause and effect are due to patterns and entropy or the arrow of time in the universe. But outside the universe, we don’t know the patterns and the arrow of time, so we simply can’t assume causality applies. Where is the evidence it does? Do you know what conditions exist outside the universe to confirm they can adhere to your inductive rules (from Aquinas)?

    Where is the evidence of an example of a non-temporal and non-material cause that we can verify?

    Putting that aside that for the moment then…

    I’d like to hear your evidence for 7 before I comment on it. You present it as simply an assertion.

    On 8, where is the evidence for the massive leap that goes from the need for a first mover and this has to be God? The first issue is it seems to make a massive leap with no evidence (where is it?), and which God anyway?

    Even if you granted the argument except the last half of 8, you don’t get awfully far.

    I believe theistic claims have 3 core problems:

    It’s not well-defined (God, faith, etc. is loosely defined and has many different, mutually exclusive claims)
    It adds unhelpful layers of complexity that open up more questions, or requires question-begging or special pleading, and
    It’s completely unnecessary anyway to advance our knowledge and understanding of reality.

    But, happy to be proven wrong.

  249. Melissa

    GrahamH,

    Aquinas 5 ways and Kalam are philosophical arguments with no evidence to back them up. For example, the whole first cause thing and actuality and potentiality. No evidence.

    Ha … that’s funny, and you latest reply to SteveK is even funnier. I think the possibility that I raised in #250 is confirmed.

  250. GrahamH

    Melissa – That is great news! I would be willing to concede….once I am given the evidence.

  251. Melissa

    Melissa – That is great news! I would be willing to concede….once I am given the evidence.

    You want evidence that you don’t understand the arguments? It’s there right in your replies.

    Prior experience with skeptics leads me to conclude that a large input of time to correct the many problems with what you have written would be a waste of my time, so I’ll just leave you with one point to satisfy your demand for evidence.

    For example, the whole first cause thing and actuality and potentiality. No evidence.

    You don’t think things change? Or are you unaware of the reasons why Aristotle proposed the actuality/potentiality distinction? If you are aware, why not propose serious objections instead of wasting everyone’s time.

  252. GrahamH

    Melissa

    If you, or other theists, are not willing to provide evidence for their claims, that’s fine and the discussion ends there. It is not like Aquinas 5 ways are not controversial.

    I was hoping your mocking previous remarks represented a high level of confidence that you have compelling evidence to clear up my objections. This site is for that type of discussion after all, regardless if you think my level of knowledge, education and intellect is inferior to yours.

    I have heard no sensible rebuttal to my objections, so I don’t have to provide further objections you deem “serious” without any further explanation of what that means. That is an astonishingly conceited proposal for polite discourse.

    Your choice. I’ll await to hear some evidence from others (if there is any).

  253. Andy

    @G Rodrigues,
    sorry for the late response, I was on vacation.

    I do not know what you mean by unguided, but with that caveat, and given Divine Providence, it is an undeniable fact that Evolution, if it occurred (and something in its close neighborhood has to be conceded by even the most ardent of Creationists[1]), was guided. Slightly less provocative, as far as the scientific evidence goes, and as a layman, I can confidently assert that the evidence for guided Evolution is at least as good as unguided one[2].

    1. Nope, the most ardent of creationists believe things that are not in the “close neighborhood” of biological evolution as understood by scientists, they believe things that are not anywhere near the close neighborhood of evolution – they deny that evolution can lead to any variation beyond the variation that they can see with their own eyes in their families and pets (and sometimes also simultaneously believe that evolution can and in fact did lead to macroevolutionary changes that happened about ten thousand to a million times faster than they could have possibly happened – to “explain” things like the rapid (to put it at its mildest) emergence of spider venom after the fall in a young earth context)
    2. Well, your confidence is misleading you here, there is excellent evidence for evolution being unguided and no evidence whatsoever for evolution being guided (virtually every argument for evolution being guided that I have seen (and I´ve seen plenty) boils down to an argument from personal incredulity: “I can´t imagine how this happened, so my God must have done this somehow”)

    But again, that refers to the physical world – if there is something about humans (or other organisms) that neither reduces to nor emerges from the physical, then it cannot be a product of evolution and evolutionary biology has nothing to say about it.

    Even if everything about humans (or other organisms) was reducible, or was supervened upon, by the physical, the above would still stand.

    Well, of course it would still stand, but it would be a rather trivial thing to say then, wouldn´t it?

  254. Melissa

    GrahamH,

    I have heard no sensible rebuttal to my objections, so I don’t have to provide further objections you deem “serious” without any further explanation of what that means. That is an astonishingly conceited proposal for polite discourse.

    A serious objection would display some understanding of the arguments. Rather than claiming that there is no evidence for the actuality/potentiality distinction, it would address either the reality of change or propose some other way of understanding how things can change. Since you have failed to provide a sensible objection I don’t feel especially compelled to provide you with a sensible rebuttal, although I did ask you to clarify whether you were actually disputing the reality of change.

    A claim that there is no evidence for God is so obviously false that it is very hard to take the person who makes the claim seriously at all. It is not a serious objection. No one is taking empirically observed phenomena can be taken as axioms and I’m not sure what inductive rules you think are being applied outside of time. That’s a lazy objection, the crux of the argument is that no thing that is a mix of potentiality and actuality can even continue to exist without something actualising it here and now.

    Polite discourse does not include insinuating that our beliefs are motivated by a desire for comfort rather than to have true beliefs, so I suggest you drop the moralising. You might want to keep in mind that that belief of yours is the type of belief that could function to protect you from ideas that might threaten your worldview.

  255. Andy

    @Tom

    Bryan, if there is no personal God directing the course of natural history then there is no personal God directing the course of natural history.

    That’s the tautology your comment resolves down to. Here’s how.

    1. If evolution is true, then it proceeded either naturalistically or not-naturalistically.

    2. If it proceeded not-naturalistically, then it is possible that it was guided by God, including his making and/or designating an original human couple, who were the couple of which Genesis speaks.

    3. The only way we can assume that evolution necessarily makes the account of Adam of Eve impossible is if we assume that evolution proceeded naturalistically.

    Many different ways have been proposed for how the account of Adam & Eve can be interpreted, some of them do not contradict scientific knowledge, but most do. If “designating an original human couple” entails that there was a time when there were only two humans, then this cannot possibly have happened (the only way how it could have happened is if God is a trickster who did this and then faked all the evidence (or allowed Satan to fake it) that shows that the human population was never smaller than ~1200 individuals).

  256. G. Rodrigues

    @GrahamH:

    Where is the evidence such inductive rules derived from a set of observations applies outside of space and time, even when the inductive rules themselves require space and time?

    As predicted, GrahamH shoes no inking of understanding of the arguments. They are neither “inductive rules” (although there is a sense in which they are abstracted from sense, experiential data), neither they are the sorts of rules that themselves require space-time; not that the latter is important because the First Way is wholly operative *within the created order* and never makes assumptions about what is “outside”.

    Look, I will repeat what I said: you have absolutely *no* idea what you are talking. You seem to think that Aquinas arguments are some sort of quasi-scientific arguments that have to be judged by the same standards. Newsflash: they are not. If you want to learn and then put your objections, that is fine. On the other hand, if you want to play the the fool mouthing off about what he does not understand, the floor is whole yours, un-Christian as this sounds, as I always appreciate a good show of buffoonery.

    Where is the evidence of an example of a non-temporal and non-material cause that we can verify?

    The obvious answer is there is none, because by definition the only thing we can check up with our senses is… wait for it… sensible objects, which by definition, are material and localized in space-time. But the only force this argument could have is if a priori we know there are *only* material things, which of course is what is in dispute, so this is nothing but question-begging.

    On 8, where is the evidence for the massive leap that goes from the need for a first mover and this has to be God?

    You have a point here, but only a very minor one. The argument itself only proves the existence of First Mover. Aquinas then devotes hundreds of pages (supplemented by thousands more by his commentators) of painstaking deduction to prove the traditional attributes: Omniscience, Omnipotence, Omnibenevolence, etc.

  257. G. Rodrigues

    @Andy:

    Nope, the most ardent of creationists believe things that are not in the “close neighborhood” of biological evolution as understood by scientists, they believe things that are not anywhere near the close neighborhood of evolution

    Obviously you have more knowledge of “ardent creationists” than I have, so I will not argue strenuously this point; but what I was thinking is that an “ardent creationist” accepts a global flood and since quite obviously there is no room to stuff every species on Earth in the ark, they have to have a mechanism to explain the diversity of life on earth as we have now — that is what I meant by “something in the neighborhood” of Evolution; but I accept the correction gladly, especially by an expert on fundamentalist, creationist thought.

    Well, your confidence is misleading you here, there is excellent evidence for evolution being unguided and no evidence whatsoever for evolution being guided (virtually every argument for evolution being guided that I have seen (and I´ve seen plenty) boils down to an argument from personal incredulity: “I can´t imagine how this happened, so my God must have done this somehow”)

    And your ignorance is misleading you here. I do not know what “excellent evidence” you have in mind (I am vastly ignorant of Evolution and it is not something that will be cured), but guidance or non-guidance is not a question that Science can answer in any meaningful way, so my suspicion is that you are taking some scientific data (say, mutations seem to happen “uniformly” and are not “localized” in any way), insert your favorite metaphysical assumptions and proclaim that all we have is “excellent evidence for evolution being unguided”. Bunkum. Either way, I never made an “argument of personal incredulity”. Possibly because that is all you ever heard, that is what you thought I had to say. On the other hand, I explicitly mentioned Divine Providence, which should at least be a sign that I am not talking of design as you seem to think: some super tinkerer which in a super-human way inserts his supernatural finger to “correct” the natural course of events. Such “corrections” have indeed occurred, but as far as I know the only absolutely certain commitment (I am talking from a certain specific Christian POV; but since you are an expert on fundamentalist creationism, maybe you can enlighten me on Orthodox, Catholic dogma) is with the human species — and that happens *everytime* a human being is born. For philosophical reasons I tend to to think that at least the origin of life is another case (but while the arguments are powerful, I do not think they are decisive, in more than one way), but this is outside the purview of Evolution theory anyway.

    Well, of course it would still stand, but it would be a rather trivial thing to say then, wouldn´t it?

    If by “trivial” what you have in mind is that the particular conception of design you have in mind collapses into triviality, maybe yes, maybe no; one would have to look at the details.

  258. Ray Ingles

    SteveK –

    Okay, but what did “hypotheses to be tested” mean in #235?

    I think I see the specific issue. What I said to Victoria was “So far as I can tell, you’re saying that science needs to assume 2 and 6. I’m saying that those are, rather, hypotheses to be tested, that have so far not been disproved.”

    Now, those specific points are, as listed by Victoria:

    (2) the orderly nature of the external world
    (6) the uniformity of nature and induction

    Reflecting for a moment, I can’t really make sense of the phrase “uniformity of… induction”. So I think we have to assume that (6) has two parts: 6a (“uniformity of nature”) and 6b (“induction”).

    Your confusion makes sense, and I apologize, because I didn’t properly distinguish them. I’d say that (6a) is either identical to, or a consequence of, (2), and it was (6a) that I was talking about in #235. (6b), though, is different. I grant that (6b) is not a scientific hypothesis.

    (2) and (6a) are, though. Indeed, by some viewpoints we’ve already disproved (2) and (6a) – look at Quantum Mechanics, where things are only probabilities, and state changes “just happen”, in ways that can’t, even in principle, be predicted.

    That said, (6b), “induction” is only a ‘problem’ if metaphysical certainty, “true infallible knowledge”, is required. If we’re willing to work with probabilities, and degrees of confidence, it’s no problem at all, as I’ve explained.

  259. Ray Ingles

    G. Rodrigues –

    Slightly less provocative, as far as the scientific evidence goes, and as a layman, I can confidently assert that the evidence for guided Evolution is at least as good as unguided one

    Since the “guidance” you seem to be talking about (in light of 272) is by definition (I almost want to say “by design”) completely unrelated to “scientific evidence”, you would seem to be technically correct. Though you could simply have said, “No scientific evidence could ever prove to me that evolution wasn’t guided,” and been a lot clearer, though I concede you would have had fewer opportunities for pedantry.

  260. Andy

    @G. Rodrigues

    And your ignorance is misleading you here. I do not know what “excellent evidence” you have in mind

    One of the lines of evidence that support evolution being unguided is the reproducible observation that evolution is random wrt fitness. That means that the fitness difference that a mutation causes is statistically independent of the probability of this mutation occuring in the first place – it couldn´t be any other way if evolution is unguided, but it absolutely could be different if evolution would be guided (and it would not only be possible but also expected, if one further assumes that evolution is guided by someone who has a plan, someone who has a specific goal in mind that he wants to reach with this evolutionary process).
    Another line of evidence would be fact that the vast majority of all species that ever lived are extinct. Extinctions and even mass extinctions are common events over geological timescales. And one of the main reasons for these extinctions is, that organisms cannot adapt fast enough to a fast or rapidly changing environment (e.g. after a big volcano eruption or meteor impact). If evolution were guided, this wouldn´t have to be this way at all, whoever is guiding it could help organisms adapt or even anticipate changes (something that evolution cannot do in principle, evolution lacks foresight) and equip organisms with the necessary changes in advance.
    A third reason would be the complete lack of any stable trend in evolution – there is no biological property (at least none that any biologist ever thought of) that organisms seem to be “drawn” to in the course of evolution beyond reproductive success. And this is again something that could not be any other way if evolution were unguided but that could be different and would be expected to be different if evolution were guided by someone who has a plan of what he wants to accomplish with the evolutionary process.

    but guidance or non-guidance is not a question that Science can answer in any meaningful way

    This contradicts what you said earlier however. You said “I can confidently assert that the evidence for guided Evolution is at least as good as unguided one” – but if science cannot answer this question “in any meaningful way”, then there obviously also cannot be any evidence for or against the idea that evolution is unguided (at least no scientific evidence).

    so my suspicion is that you are taking some scientific data (say, mutations seem to happen “uniformly” and are not “localized” in any way), insert your favorite metaphysical assumptions and proclaim…

    Where exactly am I doing this? Look at the observations I mention above. At no point am I smuggling in assumptions wrt evolution being guided or not, I rather point out that under the hypothesis that evolution is unguided, the observations are not only expected but rather could not be any other way. While under the hypothesis that evolution is guided, they a) could be different and b) would be expected to be different, particularly if the “guidance” is provided by someone who has a plan / a goal in mind.

    Possibly because that is all you ever heard, that is what you thought I had to say. On the other hand, I explicitly mentioned Divine Providence, which should at least be a sign that I am not talking of design as you seem to think: some super tinkerer which in a super-human way inserts his supernatural finger to “correct” the natural course of events. Such “corrections” have indeed occurred, but as far as I know the only absolutely certain commitment (I am talking from a certain specific Christian POV; but since you are an expert on fundamentalist creationism, maybe you can enlighten me on Orthodox, Catholic dogma) is with the human species — and that happens *everytime* a human being is born.

    Afaict, this can still entail that evolution is unguided. You seem to be talking about a God who grants certain organisms a non-physical “soul” – but even if we assume that this indeed happens, it would have nothing to do with biological evolution per se. Biology doesn´t concern itself with non-physical things, if there is something about humans (or other organisms) that is not reducible to or emergent from the physical, then evolution has nothing to say about it at all.
    In other words the non-physical “soul-giving process” or however you want to call it, would be guided, but the physical evolutionary process wouldn´t necessarily be. I don´t know if this is in any way an official Catholic position but I know biologists who also happen to be Catholics and who believe something along that line.
    For theists, this view has the nice side effect that it does away with a big part of the evidential problem of evil, because things like developmental disorders or viral diseases are not part of Gods plan but rather a consequence of an unguided process. From a theistic perspective, it can also be argued that Humean miracles / law-breaking events should be exceedingly rare and only happen if they have theological / religious significance (see this: http://writings.kennypearce.net/miracles.pdf for example), which would not be compatible with God miraculously causing trillions of mutations over billions of years (but exactly that would be required if evolution is guided to produce a specific goal billions of years after the origin of life).

  261. SteveK

    @Ray #274

    I also don’t know what the basis for “The sequence of motion cannot extend ad infinitum” is, except “because!”

    Nobody is suggesting the answer is “because”. It’s been explained. If one boxcar cannot move another boxcar by itself, an infinitely long train of boxcars cannot move the last boxcar either. An engine is needed.

  262. Andy

    SteveK,

    I read this after posting my comment in #183. I see high-profile scientists doing the exact same thing (going directly to the public, that is) a-la Dawkins, Harris, Krauss, etc (albeit different areas of science) and the public is left in a state of confusion as to what is science and what is philosophy and personal opinion. No wonder there is confusion. Dawkins public speaking tours are aimed at setting the record straight in the name of science and reason, yet his talks are littered with speculation, non-science and non-reason.

    I think I fully agree with you here, Dawkins is remarkably clueless when it comes to philosophy and he failed spectacularly in educating himself about some of the subjects that he writes and speaks about (he has written some great books IMO but his The God Delusion is an embarrassment). In this respect, I´d agree that both sides are pretty much equally bad. However, Dawkins (or other popular atheist authors that are not exactly well educated in philosophy) is not writing textbooks and supplementary materials for school teachers for the teaching of philosophy classes… If he would, I´d join you in demanding that this dreck has to be kept out of classrooms 😉

  263. G. Rodrigues

    @Andy:

    That means that the fitness difference that a mutation causes is statistically independent of the probability of this mutation occuring in the first place – it couldn´t be any other way if evolution is unguided, but it absolutely could be different if evolution would be guided

    I am sorry, but this is incorrect on several counts. Look, I am going to give you one scenario where everything you say is absolutely correct and *everything*, down to the last detail is providentially guided.

    (1) God is omniscient.

    (2) God has knowledge of all the possible worlds (*).

    (3) God actualizes one of the possible worlds.

    In this scenario, God chooses a world history in every single detail, not one escaping His notice (or to quote the gospels, not a single sparrow drops dead without His knowledge) and yet everything *in* the world has all the features you say it does. And the scenario I have just described *just is* one aspect of Divine Providence.

    (*) using “world” in the technical, modal sense. Replace it by universe or totality of the created order if it is less confusing.

    The other two lines of evidence you list afterwards are spurious in other senses as well, even if I granted their cogency (as I said before I am not competent to judge the arguments pro and con). For example, they rely on an unwritten assumption of what God would do, presumably based on what we intelligent beings would do. Quite obviously, God wanted for there to be mature human beings, but human beings do not drop out of their mother’s belly fully formed but go through a period of maturation, so the obvious inference is that God wished not only for mature beings but the whole *process* of maturation as well. Similar remarks apply to Evolution.

    Then there is the issue with “guided”. But *of course* Evolution is guided in some senses — for example in the sense of greater adaptation. Without this teleological background Evolution theory is not even a coherent theory. And before you jump the gun on my mention of teleology, I am using it in a very specific technical sense as is used in Aristotelean-Thomistic metaphysics. This notion, by itself and in isolation, does no imply Consciousness or God or whatever, although Aquinas Fifth Way does go from it to the existence of God. But the argument is a metaphysical argument and there is no need to drag it for the current purposes.

    This contradicts what you said earlier however. You said “I can confidently assert that the evidence for guided Evolution is at least as good as unguided one” – but if science cannot answer this question “in any meaningful way”, then there obviously also cannot be any evidence for or against the idea that evolution is unguided (at least no scientific evidence).

    But that is exactly what I meant, or intended to mean anyway; it is at least as good because there is exactly none. What there is some data that is read through the lenses of some metaphysical position — which *is* fine, after all that *is* what I am doing here so I can hardly complain — but let us not confuse the orders of knowledge, shall we?

    Where exactly am I doing this?

    See above. And below.

    While under the hypothesis that evolution is guided, they a) could be different and b) would be expected to be different, particularly if the “guidance” is provided by someone who has a plan / a goal in mind.

    Both (a) and (b) are non-sequiturs for (some of the) reasons I already expounded. Furthermore, and just to underline my previous point, what you are engaging in is Philosophical argument; you bring some assumptions to the table, mix in what we know best about the world around us and derive your conclusions, which is what I said you were doing.

    You seem to be talking about a God who grants certain organisms a non-physical “soul” – but even if we assume that this indeed happens, it would have nothing to do with biological evolution per se. Biology doesn´t concern itself with non-physical things, if there is something about humans (or other organisms) that is not reducible to or emergent from the physical, then evolution has nothing to say about it at all.

    With all the qualifications I already made (and some more, which are actually important as well), fine by me. When discussing the Hamiltonean in loop quantum gravity, I am not offended by the fact that Thiemann did not put a God-term in there. It is not exactly a modern discovery, or even a concession to modern discoveries, that the natural order can be discussed without bringing God into the picture; precisely because it is *natural*.

  264. SteveK

    @Ray #274,

    QM seems to disagree.

    I know nothing about QM, except this: what seems to happen there doesn’t translate into the non-QM world. If it did then your answer here would apply to everything from boxcars to planets to chemical reactions.

  265. Andy

    @G Rodrigues

    I am sorry, but this is incorrect on several counts. Look, I am going to give you one scenario where everything you say is absolutely correct and *everything*, down to the last detail is providentially guided.

    (1) God is omniscient.

    (2) God has knowledge of all the possible worlds (*).

    (3) God actualizes one of the possible worlds.

    In this scenario, God chooses a world history in every single detail, not one escaping His notice (or to quote the gospels, not a single sparrow drops dead without His knowledge) and yet everything *in* the world has all the features you say it does. And the scenario I have just described *just is* one aspect of Divine Providence.

    Agreed. However, what you describe here would be an example of a) guidance and b) lack of guidance being completely and utterly indistinguishable in every conceivable way. In your scenario, I´d argue along the line of Flew´s “Theology & Falsification” ( http://infidels.org/library/modern/antony_flew/theologyandfalsification.html ) and point out that the claim “evolution is guided” is completely meaningless qua being 100% indistinguishable from its negation.
    Furthermore, note the difference between “possible” and “plausible”, I provided three reasons for why I think that the claim “evolution is unguided” is plausible, you reply by pointing out that guidance is still possible given the observations I describe. Mere possibility however is almost trivial, every claim that is not logically self-refuting can be shown to be possible if you are allowed to make up an arbitrary number of arbitrarily far-fetched ad hoc hypotheses to support it. Example: it is possible that the earth actually has the shape of a flat disc, despite all the scientific evidence to the contrary, I just have to assume that God has an unknown (to us) reason to both a) create the earth with the shape of a flat disc and also to b) make us believe that the earth is actually spherical, by clouding our judgment every time we think about this subject. This is possible, but it certainly isn´t plausible.

    The other two lines of evidence you list afterwards are spurious in other senses as well, even if I granted their cogency (as I said before I am not competent to judge the arguments pro and con). For example, they rely on an unwritten assumption of what God would do, presumably based on what we intelligent beings would do.

    Then I would ask you if you would be able and willing to list some conceivable observations that would either support or contradict the notion that x (e.g. “evolution” or “brownian motion”) is “unguided”. Can you name any? If you cannot, which would mean that “guidance” and “lack of guidance” are completely indistinguishable, what meaning does the word “guidance” then have?

    Quite obviously, God wanted for there to be mature human beings, but human beings do not drop out of their mother’s belly fully formed but go through a period of maturation, so the obvious inference is that God wished not only for mature beings but the whole *process* of maturation as well. Similar remarks apply to Evolution.

    Yup, and I can demonstrate that the world could possibly be a flat disc – God just had some completely unknown reason for wanting to make us believe that it is spherical although it is actually flat.

    Then there is the issue with “guided”. But *of course* Evolution is guided in some senses — for example in the sense of greater adaptation.

    In this sense, everything that is and could possibly be is “guided” – this world we live in seems to have certain rules (like the laws of thermodynamics for example) and everything is “guided” to produce results according to those rules, and similarly, in a hypothetical alternative world that would be completely random and lack all order / lawfulness, everything would be “guided” to result in maximal lawlessness.

    Without this teleological background Evolution theory is not even a coherent theory.

    You´ve lost me here. What teleological background are you speaking of here (I don´t see how this sentence is connected to what you wrote earlier) and how would the lack of it make evolutionary theory incoherent?

    But that is exactly what I meant, or intended to mean anyway; it is at least as good because there is exactly none. What there is some data that is read through the lenses of some metaphysical position — which *is* fine, after all that *is* what I am doing here so I can hardly complain — but let us not confuse the orders of knowledge, shall we?

    I disagree. As I mentioned above, I can provide reasons that make the claim that evolution is unguided plausible, you have only mere possibility so far.

    Both (a) and (b) are non-sequiturs for (some of the) reasons I already expounded. Furthermore, and just to underline my previous point, what you are engaging in is Philosophical argument; you bring some assumptions to the table, mix in what we know best about the world around us and derive your conclusions, which is what I said you were doing.

    I still don´t see where I am smuggling in any philosophical assumptions that you would disagree with. The closest you came to pointing out where I made such assumptions is your point about what God would or would not do. And to this I would reply that God of course could guide something in a way that would be completely and utterly indistinguishable from a lack of guidance, but that is not an objection to my argument, that is like an attorney saying “of course all the evidence points to the accused being guilty, but maybe God actually killed the victim and had a reason to make it look as if my client did it” – possible certainly, but it does nothing to dismantle the argument.

  266. SteveK

    @Ray #280

    Intuitions about infinities can be misleading.

    Look, Ray, we’ll never construct an infinite series of boxcars to test out the theory so we have to work with what we do know. This much we know, adding another boxcar to a series of existing boxcars doesn’t result in motion. We’ve tried it. You need a reason to think the outcome will change and you currently have no reason.

    And if General Relativity is to be believed, time and motion don’t work quite the way our intuitions expect, either.

    Call us when you actually know something that undermines the argument.

  267. SteveK

    Andy,

    I disagree. As I mentioned above, I can provide reasons that make the claim that evolution is unguided plausible, you have only mere possibility so far.

    What does this say about the position of the NCSE – are ‘plausible’ and ‘mere possibility’ synonymous with ‘perfectly compatible’? In #153, you said:

    The NCSE and the NAS bend over backwards to not offend religious sensibilities and the NCSE has adopted the position that evolution and Christianity are perfectly compatible

  268. Andy

    SteveK,

    What does this say about the position of the NCSE – are ‘plausible’ and ‘mere possibility’ synonymous with ‘perfectly compatible’?

    X and Y are “perfectly compatible” means that nothing in X per se contradicts Y and vice versa (the per se is important here, X and Y being “perfectly compatible” does not mean that X and Z are also “perfectly compatible” with Y ) .
    X being a “mere possibility” means that X, so far, has not been shown to be logically incoherent / self-refuting, but also has not been shown to have reasons that support X being true.
    X being “plausible” means that X is possible and that there are known reasons that support X being true which outweigh the known reasons which support X being false (if there are any).
    Regarding the connection to the NCSE statement – I don´t really understand what you are asking for, can you rephrase?

  269. Andy

    SteveK,
    erm… yeah, it is. Do you see anything in what I wrote today that led you to believe that it is not accurate based on my views?

  270. SteveK

    Andy,
    You said the more reasonable view is that evolution is unguided. I didn’t read everything you wrote, but I assume you’re saying this because this is the scientific view of evolution and not just Andy’s opinion. If that is the case then that position is not compatible with Christianity and the NCSE statement is inaccurate.

    What am I missing – seriously? I’m not trying to create a disagreement where none exists.

  271. BillT

    However, what you describe here would be an example of a) guidance and b) lack of guidance being completely and utterly indistinguishable in every conceivable way.

    Andy,

    If I may. Yes, the two are indistinguishable but only because you expect unguided evolution to succeed to the point we currently see, that being the evolution of sentient beings. You only think that is inevitable because that’s what happened. Evolution might well have stopped at paramecium or invertebrates or non sentient vertebrates. That also could be an expected and valid outcome of unguided evolution. However, guided evolution is guaranteed to evolve sentient beings given that is the will of the guider. You are claiming what did happen actually had to happen under unguided evolution. It didn’t. Only under the guidance of a will that desired this outcome is it inevitable. In other words, you don’t know for sure that unguided evolution would have gotten this far. I’m quite certain that under guided evolution it could.

  272. Andy

    SteveK,

    You said the more reasonable view is that evolution is unguided.

    Yup. And as I pointed out many times now in this thread, unguided evolution is perfectly compatible with the special creation of “souls” (or whatever other non-physical thing you have in mind) because evolution doesn´t have anything what-so-ever to say about stuff that isn´t reducible to or emergent from the physical.

    I didn’t read everything you wrote, but I assume you’re saying this because this is the scientific view of evolution and not just Andy’s opinion. If that is the case then that position is not compatible with Christianity and the NCSE statement is inaccurate.

    For certain conceptions of what “Christianity” entails, this is certainly true. However, why should mere “Christianity” necessarily entail that our physical bodies must have been created by a guided process? (again for emphasis: I am talking about our physical bodies and do not make any claim about anything that transcends the physical world) I don´t see how mere Christianity would logically depend on this and I know, and have personally spoken to people that identify as Christians and who do not believe that evolution was guided.

  273. Andy

    BillT,

    If I may. Yes, the two are indistinguishable but only because you expect unguided evolution to succeed to the point we currently see, that being the evolution of sentient beings. You only think that is inevitable because that’s what happened. Evolution might well have stopped at paramecium or invertebrates or non sentient vertebrates.

    I think you are combining two misconceptions about what evolution is here:
    1. The view that we are “more evolved” than unicellular organisms like Paramecium, that a higher degree of complexity is “progress” in some sense. However, we humans are seperated from the last universal common ancestor by exactly as much time as every other species is – no extant species is “more evolved” than any other extant species. Also, evolution never “stops”, random example: just a few years after the Chernobyl disaster, we observed fungal species close to the reactor site which thrived under extreme gamma radiation because they evolved pathways to protect their DNA from the effects of the radiation and to convert the radiation into chemical energy for growth. More complexity also doesn´t necessarily mean “progress” – for pretty much every measure of biological success you could think of, we humans (and multicellular organisms in general) are actually hopelessly inferior to pretty much every unicellular organism out there, it´s not even a contest.
    2. The view that evolution is goal-directed – that it inevitably had to result in medium-sized mammals with huge brains for example. There is no reason to believe that it had to play out the way it did, had some historical accidents been different, there still would be huge reptiles with tiny brains out there, which would have made the emergence of mammals bigger than a Lemur impossible, to name just the most obvious example.

    You are claiming what did happen actually had to happen under unguided evolution.

    Nope, I am not claiming that at all. If we´d “wind back the tape of life”, as Gould put it, way back to, say, the Ediacaran period, and then let it play out all over again – I would be positively certain that things would look very different and it would be absolutely possible that there wouldn´t be even just a single creature out there that is not only sentient but also self-aware.

  274. BillT

    Andy,

    Ok. Fair enough. If so, then isn’t your assertion that there is nothing to distinguish directed and undirected evolution wrong. Directed evolution, as we understand it, will always result in sentient creatures because that’s what it was designed to do. Given that unguided evolution can’t explain its own existence, our existence nessesarily, or the existence of all those things that “transcends the physical world” it would seem guided evolution is certainly plausible and maybe more likely given what currently exists.

  275. SteveK

    Andy,
    Considering God purposely created everything a certain way, including humans, and yes, the process by which their physical body would come to exist, it’s unavoidably true that the act of creation was guided by intent.

  276. Andy

    BillT,

    Ok. Fair enough. If so, then isn’t your assertion that there is nothing to distinguish directed and undirected evolution wrong. Directed evolution, as we understand it, will always result in sentient creatures because that’s what it was designed to do.

    I am not asserting that guided and unguided evolution cannot be distinguished, I think they can and as I pointed out above, I think the evidence clearly favors unguided evolution. G Rodrigues pointed out that God of course could have wanted to actualize a world where the evolutionary process looks the way it does in our world – where it has all the features we would expect if it is not guided. However, if we assume this, then it would be the case that guided and unguided evolution would become completely indistinguishable.

    Given that unguided evolution can’t explain its own existence

    But guided evolution can? Then please explain the existence of guided evolution using nothing but guided evolution itself as an explanation.

    or the existence of all those things that “transcends the physical world”

    Evolution cannot produce anything non-physical, guidance doesn´t change that at all – I cannot ask you which exact mutations God magically inserted into which ancestral population and how those mutations cause the development of a “soul”, because a “soul” is not a physical thing (or at least it is not assumed to be one) and thus logically cannot possibly be the result of mutating physical hereditary material. If there are things that trancend the physical world, evolution has nothing to do with it either way – this is true whether evolution is unguided and it is exactly as true if evolution is guided.

  277. Andy

    SteveK,

    Considering God purposely created everything a certain way

    Does this include your own thoughts and choices?
    Does it also include anencephaly? If so, what exactly is the purpose of developmental disorders?

    including humans, and yes, the process by which their physical body would come to exist, it’s unavoidably true that the act of creation was guided by intent.

    If that is what you believe, fine, I still don´t see why you think that Christianity cannot possibly be true unless literally everything is “guided”.

  278. GrahamH

    SteveK and G Rodrigues

    So you both agree with me then, that the philosophical arguments presented (Aquinas/Kalam) do not offer evidence for God. As G Rodrigues says in response to my objection that the arguments at best only prove a first cause or mover:

    You have a point here, but only a very minor one. The argument itself only proves the existence of First Mover.

    So the arguments do not offer evidence for God. Only a first cause/prime mover. You have to go elsewhere to find the evidence. Maybe you guys can be a bit more specific on this crucial point?

    He also says I am a fool and buffoon (SteveK gave support to his comments). But guys, because I believe in the Golden Rule, I promise to converse with you both respectfully and I am not interested in belittling or calling anyone names. I don’t believe I have ever done that to anyone. If any of you want to be at that level, up to you, but getting back to the argument:

    So where is the evidence God is the first cause?

    Other problems with Aquinas/Kalam:

    Where is the evidence that everything which begins to exist must have a cause? Lots of things do, but if experience has taught us anything it’s that our observations are limited and generalizing can get you in trouble, especially in areas you don’t know about (such as the rather broad spectrum of “everything”). As soon as one premise fails to be completely established, the deduction fails and the argument is of little use.

    There are obvious additional flaws as well – namely that most theologians will exempt God from the first premise (saying something like, well, He didn’t begin to exist, He always existed, and therefore doesn’t need a cause) but that begs the question and assumes the conclusion the argument is setting out to prove.

  279. Billy Squibs

    Just to clarify something Graham. Let’s say that tomorrow you came to be fully convinced in the truth of the 5 ways or a particular version of the Kalam (we’ll go with the version that WLC offers). You are saying that despite your new found belief in a First Mover you would not count this as evidence for God? Which would you be closer to now? Theism (of some sort) or atheism?

  280. Andy

    @GrahamH

    There are obvious additional flaws as well – namely that most theologians will exempt God from the first premise (saying something like, well, He didn’t begin to exist, He always existed, and therefore doesn’t need a cause) but that begs the question and assumes the conclusion the argument is setting out to prove.

    That´s not a double standard though, if the premise is “everything that begins to exist has a cause”, then something that did not begin to exist is obviously exempt from this. It is also not a case of begging the question, the conclusion is entailed by, but not included in the premises (as is the case for every logically valid argument).
    The argument from motion is afaict logically valid (and I think that it is widely considered to be logically valid among philosophers). What you can do is question the premises or argue that what it demonstrates cannot reasonably be called a “God”. The latter approach is IMO the best atheist response to the argument. The “first mover” logically must have certain attributes, like being immutable for example, which in turn implies that it must also be impassible, and saying that something that is immutable and impassible can also love, will, condemn, forgive etc.pp. is quite a stretch, to put it at its mildest (I´d call it self-refuting).
    If you can argue that point sufficiently well, then you could go as far as granting the truth of the premises of the argument from motion, but still point out that worshipping this “first mover” makes about as much sense as worshipping the sun – there is no reason to and neither the sun nor the first mover would know or care that you are doing it anyway.

  281. GrahamH

    Hi Billy

    Neither. The arguments don’t go so far as to prove an agent in any causal event.

  282. GrahamH

    Hi Andy

    The reason it begs the question is because none of the premises establish the something that did not begin to exist. It is simply assumed as the alternative of whatever began to exist.

    “Things that begin to exist need causes” was allegedly derived from a set of observations of things with causes that themselves began to exist.

    I think the Kalam should be restated as:

    ◾Everything which begins to exist might have a cause
    ◾The universe might have begun to exist
    ◾Therefore, the universe might have a cause

  283. Andy

    GrahamH,

    The reason it begs the question is because none of the premises establish the something that did not begin to exist. It is simply assumed as the alternative of whatever began to exist.

    Sorry, my bad – I thought you are talking about Aquinas’ first way and so my response was about that and not the Kalam.

    I think the Kalam should be restated as:

    ◾Everything which begins to exist might have a cause
    ◾The universe might have begun to exist
    ◾Therefore, the universe might have a cause

    You can do that but if you want to be consistent you need to do that – include a “might be” at every step – with every syllogism you use ;-). It is always the case that a premise might be false (and a conclusion based on it thus as well), even if you use an additional argument to argue for the truth of the premises of the first argument, this second argument will then again have premises that could be false, and so on and so forth.

  284. AdamHazzard

    Perhaps we can gain some clarity by stating the Kalam argument in provisional form:

    – If everything that begins to exist must have a cause, and
    – If the universe began to exist, then
    – The universe must have a cause.

    Of course:

    – If a syllogism is only sound if all of the premises are true, and
    – If it is not established that the premises of the Kalam are true, then
    – It is not established that the Kalam syllogism is sound.

  285. Billy Squibs

    So what premises are untrue? Or are you saying that because we can’t establish the first with certainty that we must reject the syllogism? Or are you saying something else?

  286. AdamHazzard

    I can only speak for myself here — your mileage may vary — but I can’t say with any degree of certainty that the first premise of Kalam is true; the second premise is a speculation about the nature of the universe that has not been firmly established and is in fact a contested scientific question, so I can’t commit to that either; hence I’m forced to regard the entire construct as a metaphysical speculation, and not a very compelling one.

    In other words, you can only be very confident that the conclusion is sound if you’re very confident that the premises are true. If you have that degree of confidence, fine, but I don’t know where it’s coming from. The facts don’t seem to warrant it.

  287. Billy Squibs

    OK, just to clarify. Are you very confident that the sun will rise tomorrow? Are you very confident that an experiment into the boiling point of water will return the same results wherever it is rung so long as it is given the same parameters?

    We could all easily name something that began to exist that required a cause – this is our every day experience. Could you name something that began to exist that didn’t have a cause? That would be an arrow to the heart of the Kalam, no?

    I suppose the premise that the universe began to exist is contested in some scientific circles. However, I would think that the general consensus is still that the universe began to exist. Though I suppose I could be wrong on this.

  288. AdamHazzard

    — “We could all easily name something that began to exist that required a cause – this is our every day experience. Could you name something that began to exist that didn’t have a cause? That would be an arrow to the heart of the Kalam, no?”

    Well, I’m not really interested in “an arrow to the heart of the Kalam” — but I do have to evaluate it, if I want to take it seriously. I’m neither a physicist nor a philosopher, but in discussions like these I’ve seen debaters offer examples of arguably “uncaused” phenomena in particle physics, and I’ve seen plausible arguments that it’s not possible to extrapolate the behavior of entities within a system (like the universe) to the behavior of the system as a whole. The existence and plausibility of these and similar controversies has effectively shaken any confidence I might have had in Premise One. Beyond that, a closer examination of the premise requires a rigorous definition of “cause” (and of the phrase “begins to exist”), which often deteriorates into unresolved controversies over Aristotelian/Thomist causality versus physical causality.

    There have been many objections in physics to the idea that spacetime itself must have a prior cause, not least because “prior cause” presumes the existence of spacetime. Again, I don’t have the academic qualifications to stand in judgment of the physics, but the existence of the controversy (at a very high level of academic thought) is one good reason to consider the second premise speculative, at best. In scientific cosmology, the origin of the universe is an open question.

    And when I add up these cumulative uncertainties, I don’t find much force in the Kalam. Again, your mileage may vary.

  289. G. Rodrigues

    @Andy:

    First my apologies; to borrow from Pascal, I wrote a long comment because I did not have the time to write a shorter one.

    I´d argue along the line of Flew´s “Theology & Falsification” (http://infidels.org/library/modern/antony_flew/theologyandfalsification.html) and point out that the claim “evolution is guided” is completely meaningless qua being 100% indistinguishable from its negation.

    Yes, you could argue that way. But to be a successful argument at least two conditions need to be met:

    (1) I was advancing a Scientific claim, for which the falsification criteria is relevant. Since I was not, you cannot.

    (2) If Flew’s positivism, under which that specific article was written and on which it is based, was not discredited and completely untenable. Since it is not, you cannot.

    note(s): I should add, but just as an aside, that even the weaker Popperian falsificationism *cannot* be the whole story; it is certainly an important ingredient, maybe even the most important, in how to evaluate Scientific theories, but it is not the complete story.

    You complain about “evolution is guided” being a “completely meaningless” claim presumably because it is indistinguishable from its negation, as *if* its negation is in fact “distinguishable” in any of the senses you seem to find relevant. After all, you certainly do not mean “distinguishable” as capable of being decided, at least in principle, by the methods of Science. Or are you suggesting that we can rewind History and check out the different paths? And if that is not what you are suggesting, what exactly are you suggesting? I will get back to your plausibility arguments below, but for now, let me say that you seem to be forgetting that History is only a science in the sense of being a systematic body of knowledge, not in the modern sense of the hard, empirical senses, not even in the broader Aristotelean sense. And the historical half of Evolution theory is not even History in the proper sense of the term, since it relies not on written records but on the mute stare of dumb rocks.

    As for your arguments for Evolution being unguided, I stress once again that they are not scientific arguments, so what *is* the point of all this talk of “distinguishability”? What is is what is and what was is what was, so what meaning can have “distinguishability” in regards to different world histories? Your alleged inference from “Evolution is unguided” to “We see exactly what we expected to see” is not only shaky (and I am being charitable), it is certainly *not* a scientifically testable prediction. As I have said, I know next to nothing about the subject, but I would be seriously surprised if there were peer-reviewed papers on the relevant fields actually arguing the matter. And if there are, it is a sure sign of decadent scholarship.

    I may be misunderstanding you, but your possibility argument is positively baffling (you make it more explicit in #292, .2). So the History of the world could have been different. Now I should add that you are smuggling here a not-insubstantial metaphysical hypothesis — and I just insert this in order to substantiate my claim that you are indeed smuggling metaphysical assumptions in practically every turn of phrase, not because I disagree with it. In theological terms, this means that it is possible that God could have actualized a different world. How does *that* make the world’s history more or less guided or unguided? This is like arguing because it is possible that I was doing something else other than typing this comment, there is no reason for typing this comment.

    Now I think you are laboring in error partly, or even completely, by my fault, especially on the term “guided”, so let me try to be clear on what I mean: in one sense of the word, *every* single event is guided as there could not even be such a thing as an unguided event, such being a metaphysical impossibility. Furthermore, Divine Providence tell us that every single event concurs with God’s overall plan, even if in any given specific instance *we* may not be able to understand how or why.

    Apparently, you think this collapses into triviality. I am not sure what to answer. This would be like, after having proved the infinitude of the primes, I were asked what evidence could possibly sway me in the direction of its denial, that is, that the set of primes was finite, and then being told that the claim collapses into utter triviality because it is indistinguishable from its denial. My response would be to shrug my shoulders and maybe add that the person so responding is simply missing the point.

  290. G. Rodrigues

    @Andy (continued):

    Furthermore, note the difference between “possible” and “plausible”, I provided three reasons for why I think that the claim “evolution is unguided” is plausible, you reply by pointing out that guidance is still possible given the observations I describe.

    And I responded by saying why your plausibility arguments do not phaze me one iota. They are predicated on plausibility assumptions that I deny; on the background, and to cite just one, God as a super-engineer, like us but just without our limitations. There is simply no path that runs from “God is omniscient, etc.” to the instances of what we are “supposed to see” that you cited.

    Mere possibility however is almost trivial, every claim that is not logically self-refuting can be shown to be possible if you are allowed to make up an arbitrary number of arbitrarily far-fetched ad hoc hypotheses to support it.

    Actually, no, it depends on the relevant modality you are invoking. And no, even mere logical possibility can sink you in a non-trivially deep mire. But this is mere quibbling; I will tackle the important ad-hoc charge in the next point.

    Yup, and I can demonstrate that the world could possibly be a flat disc – God just had some completely unknown reason for wanting to make us believe that it is spherical although it is actually flat.

    So the idea seems to be that given my commitments I can just pile up any amount of hypothesis to explain anything whatsoever. Now, needless to say, I deny this although on the background is a misguided analogy with scientific theories, but let that pass. So in order to substantiate your charge you present what I take to be a reductio, not a formal one, as you only claim an implausible conclusion and not a formal contradiction. Well, let us see if it works, shall we? So my argument was:

    (1) What is actual was intended by God.

    (2) X is actual.

    (3) God intended X.

    note: Once again “actual” has a specific precise meaning. Likewise for “Intended”. If you are thinking of jumping from this to the PoE forget it — it won’t work. At any rate, just save it for another occasion.

    So my argument runs from what is, or what is actual to use the AT jargon, to God’s intentions, but you seem to be running in the *opposite* direction; but then there is no parallel and your attempted reductio fails. Furthermore, your argument seems to be both invalid and unsound. That the world could possibly be flat I can grant you, but afterwards you loose me. Why exactly should we believe that God wants us to believe an untruth? In fact, I deny this. But let us grant this possibility for the sake of argument. It still does not follow that from, possibly, the world is flat, and possibly, God wanted us to believe that the world is spherical, that the world is actually flat (and all the evidence just happens to be contrary to it).

    Then I would ask you if you would be able and willing to list some conceivable observations that would either support or contradict the notion that x (e.g. “evolution” or “brownian motion”) is “unguided”. Can you name any? If you cannot, which would mean that “guidance” and “lack of guidance” are completely indistinguishable, what meaning does the word “guidance” then have?

    Given what I have said before, I hope you can understand why I am confused by your question. Adding examples from the hard empirical sciences (“Brownian motion”) just adds to the confusion, since as I have been stressing, your argument is not, and *cannot* be a scientific one. And in what sense is Brownian motion comparable to Evolution theory that you take it to be similarly “unguided”?

    In this sense, everything that is and could possibly be is “guided” – this world we live in seems to have certain rules (like the laws of thermodynamics for example) and everything is “guided” to produce results according to those rules, and similarly, in a hypothetical alternative world that would be completely random and lack all order / lawfulness, everything would be “guided” to result in maximal lawlessness.

    Yes, if I am reading you right that is exactly the sense of AT teleology. But once again, I am not understanding why you think this is absurd — or more correctly, your inference is incorrect, because while such a “completely random and lack[ing] all order” world is possible under naturalism it is not metaphysically possible under (classical) theism, so if someone has a problem it is you, not me (I am assuming you are a naturalist).

    You´ve lost me here. What teleological background are you speaking of here (I don´t see how this sentence is connected to what you wrote earlier) and how would the lack of it make evolutionary theory incoherent?

    I am going to drop this, because while it is important (even crucial) I do not know how to put it in reasonably coherent terms and in a reasonably short space.

    I still don´t see where I am smuggling in any philosophical assumptions that you would disagree with. The closest you came to pointing out where I made such assumptions is your point about what God would or would not do.

    Given that two out of the three arguments you made rely on that assumption specifically (*), the way you phrase it certainly seems odd. But I hope by now I have made clear other assumptions lying in the background.

    (*) I think I understand what you mean by the first argument, but since I do not want to put my foot on my mouth, I have not commented much on it.

    Now let me add one last comment. You seem to be saying that the “space” of possible worlds is unboundedly vast under theism and at every turn or so, ad hoc hypothesis seem to be needed to explain this or that feature, while presumably, Naturalism is “minimal” and does not suffer from such problems. But this is nothing but wishful thinking. I have already adumbrated this in the previous point, but here is another way to see it. Suppose one is committed to full mind-brain reductionism (which is common among naturalists, if not de rigueur); then brain-in-a-vat scenarios are possible. But if brain-in-a-vat scenarios are possible, it is possible that we are brains-in-a-vat. And lots of other scenarios are also possible: worlds which have all the the trappings of being orderly and lawful but are completely orderless and unlawful; worlds in which while God or gods do not exist we would have all the evidence that He or they do not exist, etc. and etc. Add some multiverses to the mix or Tegmark-ian plenitudinarian-like hypothesis and watch the fireworks. And just to bring the point home, in order to rule these out, or at least contain their more toxic inferences, you have of course to add extra metaphysical assumptions.

  291. G. Rodrigues

    @GrahamH:

    He also says I am a fool and buffoon (SteveK gave support to his comments).

    Let’s start with this. What I wrote was:

    On the other hand, if you want to play the the fool mouthing off about what he does not understand, the floor is whole yours, un-Christian as this sounds, as I always appreciate a good show of buffoonery.

    So, not only you do want to play the fool, you also show that you a have creative relationship with the truth.

    You have been making some rather strong claims (“no evidence” for this or that) about your opponents, so the intellectually responsible course is to actually know what they hold and show where they go wrong. But it seems clear by now that expecting intellectual responsibility from you is about as fruitful as expecting a dog to learn calculus. With that settled, let us get back to the buffoonery.

    So the arguments do not offer evidence for God. Only a first cause/prime mover. You have to go elsewhere to find the evidence. Maybe you guys can be a bit more specific on this crucial point?

    Now what you said can be read in at least at two ways: you as an atheist are perfectly fine with the argument because it “only” proves that a First Mover exists. This is the response of a pinhead, so I will make the charitable assumption that you mean something else. I take it that you do not understand the First Way, but grant for the sake of argument that it is correct, and ask — well what are you asking? Are you asking for a specific argument that shows that the First Mover has a specific divine attribute? Or are you asking why is the First Mover the Biblical God?

    Where is the evidence that everything which begins to exist must have a cause?

    What evidence could settle this? This principle is a *metaphysical* principle, so it is *not* evaluated like *scientific* laws are evaluated in which you go out into the world, collect data, and make an inductive case for them. So you have a couple of options here: you take the intellectually responsible course and actually learn *why* the principle is an indubitable one and then place your objections, if you actually have them. I suppose you can also argue that metaphysics is all bunk — which, and I should warn you, *would be* a show of buffoonery, but *this* time I am all too glad to dismantle it into fine powder.

    Oh, and just to not let you forget about it: the evidence you have presented until now for naturalism amounts to exactly zero, so by your criteria we should take it as false.

  292. Andy

    G. Rodrigues, the most important first but I will probably not get around to replying to the rest before tomorrow.

    As for your arguments for Evolution being unguided, I stress once again that they are not scientific arguments, so what *is* the point of all this talk of “distinguishability”? What is is what is and what was is what was, so what meaning can have “distinguishability” in regards to different world histories? Your alleged inference from “Evolution is unguided” to “We see exactly what we expected to see” is not only shaky (and I am being charitable), it is certainly *not* a scientifically testable prediction.

    Consider two scenarios:
    1. John goes into a bar, gets drunk, really drunk – consuming an amount of alcohol that would kill most people. Then he stumbles out of the bar, walks around erratically for a half an hour and damages several parking cars while doing this, and then finally collapses and spends the night sleeping in a pool of his own vomit.
    2. Jane´s husband tells her that he wants a divorce. Jane would get nothing in case of a divorce but millions if her husband dies while they are still married. So Jane starts googling ways for how to best poison people without getting caught, buys some poison, and then kills her husband by poisoning him.
    Would you, or would you not, agree that if we some information about both cases (e.g. a surveillance camera filming John´s drunkard´s walk and Jane´s browser history and credit card bills), we could reasonably conclude that John did not plan / intend to damage the cars while Jane absolutely did plan/ intend to kill her husband? I doubt that you disagree with this. But if you do agree with it, then you also agree that it is, at least in principle, possible to distinguish whether an action was planned or not. Wrt evolution, there are conceivable observations that could only be observed if someone with a plan would be guiding it – but we do not observe any of those, we rather observe only those that would be expected if there is no plan behind it. Now, you seem to have something different in mind with “guidance” – your “guidance”, where everything is “guided” would of course imply that literally everything, from brownian motion over volcano eruptions to anencephaly, was “guided” to turn out exactly the way it did turn out (note that this also includes the choices we make then btw).
    But as I mentioned, I can see no meaning in the word “guidance” or “plan” at all then – if brownian motion and evolution as we can observe them happen according to a “plan”, then I see no reason what-so-ever to deny that John in the scenario above didn´t also “plan” to drunkenly stumble into a parking car (in fact, I´d argue that we could do away with the words “guidance” and “plan” entirely then).

    And I responded by saying why your plausibility arguments do not phaze me one iota. They are predicated on plausibility assumptions that I deny; on the background, and to cite just one, God as a super-engineer, like us but just without our limitations.
    There is simply no path that runs from “God is omniscient, etc.” to the instances of what we are “supposed to see” that you cited.

    Would you agree then that I could reasonably argue that the God of the Bible wants us to worship Satan and he just has a very weird humor, which is why Satan comes of as the bad guy in the story? If you disagree – on what grounds would you do that?

    Actually, no, it depends on the relevant modality you are invoking.

    Try me. Give me any claim that is not logically self-refuting and I´ll prove to you that it is possible – anything from the moon being made out of green cheese to the earth being a flat disc, I´ll guarantee you that I can demonstrate it to be possible.

    Furthermore, your argument seems to be both invalid and unsound. That the world could possibly be flat I can grant you, but afterwards you loose me. Why exactly should we believe that God wants us to believe an untruth? In fact, I deny this.

    You shouldn´t believe it. But it certainly is possible. Just like evolution being guided is possible.

    But let us grant this possibility for the sake of argument. It still does not follow that from, possibly, the world is flat,

    Yes. And from pointing out that it is possible that God could have guided evolution, it does not follow that he did.

    Yes, if I am reading you right that is exactly the sense of AT teleology. But once again, I am not understanding why you think this is absurd — or more correctly, your inference is incorrect, because while such a “completely random and lack[ing] all order” world is possible under naturalism it is not metaphysically possible under (classical) theism, so if someone has a problem it is you, not me (I am assuming you are a naturalist).

    My point was, that the sense of “guidance” that you used is a meaningless one – because everything that is, everything that could possibly be and everything that could conceivably be (i.e. every conceivable world based on every conceivable metaphysical assumptions) would be “guided”, the negation of “guidance” in that sense would not just be impossible, it would not even be thinkable.

  293. SteveK

    Andy,

    If that is what you believe, fine, I still don´t see why you think that Christianity cannot possibly be true unless literally everything is “guided”.

    This is not my belief about Christianity, Christianity teaches that God is in control – always – and God sustains everything – always. You and I can ponder how that plays out and in what sense God is doing something, but everything is guided by God nonetheless.

    I guess I can’t expect the NCSE and NAS to know what Christianity entails and so I suppose I can forgive them for thinking that there is no inherent conflict. My hope, as far as this conversation goes, is that you will understand why people see a conflict.

  294. SteveK

    Andy,

    …we could reasonably conclude that John did not plan / intend to damage the cars while Jane absolutely did plan/ intend to kill her husband?

    You don’t consciously intend every movement of your legs from moment to moment yet you will insist that Andy intended to take each step and run. John did not consciously intend his every movement that night, yet John intended to do what John did otherwise it would not have occurred. What is animating John, if not John?

  295. G. Rodrigues

    @Andy:

    I should probably wait for your second part, but I will add this, as it can offer some potential clarifications.

    But if you do agree with it, then you also agree that it is, at least in principle, possible to distinguish whether an action was planned or not.

    But I deny this. And what is most amazing, is that this argument is at bottom the ID’ers strategy, and also the reason why (or one of the reasons why) Aristotelean-Thomists tend to disagree with them vocally, and oft violently. Should I gather that your problem with ID’ers is not that they are not doing science, but doing it badly?

    From the fact that you can make plausible inferences about human intentions based on a series of factors, it simply does *not* follow that you can make likewise inferences about God — say by looking for cyphers in nature, secret clues or whatever, in a similar manner that Shakespeare-deniers hunt his works for secret whispers of the “real” author. This is just bad philosophy (and bad theology, but I assume that is not your concern).

    Wrt evolution, there are conceivable observations that could only be observed if someone with a plan would be guiding it – but we do not observe any of those, we rather observe only those that would be expected if there is no plan behind it.

    What type of argument are you suggesting establishes this? I am not denying that you indeed did gave arguments, what I deny is (1) that they are scientific arguments in the proper sense of the term; in particular, there is exactly zero support for them from Evolution theory; for an analogy, there is as much support for them as there is support from GR that Eternalism is true — there is *always* some metaphysical assumption that is doing the real work with invocations of GR being added just for show. As a corollary, the alleged “distinguishability” criterium is pure bunkum (2) that the arguments are any good.

    I already explained (2), but I will try it again. So one of them runs like follows (from #276):

    Another line of evidence would be fact that the vast majority of all species that ever lived are extinct. Extinctions and even mass extinctions are common events over geological timescales. And one of the main reasons for these extinctions is, that organisms cannot adapt fast enough to a fast or rapidly changing environment (e.g. after a big volcano eruption or meteor impact). If evolution were guided, this wouldn´t have to be this way at all, whoever is guiding it could help organisms adapt or even anticipate changes (something that evolution cannot do in principle, evolution lacks foresight) and equip organisms with the necessary changes in advance.

    As I pointed out, it is undeniable that God wants mature human beings, and possibly, He could have had us sprout from the ground fully formed, but that is not what happens, so that is not what He intended, so it follows that He not only intended mature human beings but the *full* process of maturation. Likewise, with Evolution, granting that everything occurred as you say it did. Period, end of story, your argument fails. Your conditional “If evolution were guided etc.” is a non-sequitur and is based on picturing God on the model of engineers (e.g. why did not God found some more efficient way?), but once again, this is a horrible and completely false picture of God that any Aristotelean-Thomist (and that is what I am defending here) will deny strenuously, viciously and to its last dying breath — I am not exaggerating, well not much anyway.

    Now, you seem to have something different in mind with “guidance” – your “guidance”, where everything is “guided” would of course imply that literally everything, from brownian motion over volcano eruptions to anencephaly, was “guided” to turn out exactly the way it did turn out (note that this also includes the choices we make then btw).

    Yes, that is what is implied by the AT notion of teleology. While I understand that you may find this strange, since in one sense it differs from what we most commonly think of when we think about guidance (but in another sense, it *is* just what we ordinarily mean by guidance, heh), what I do not understand, in fact I am completely baffled, is why you think first that “guided” in this sense implies everything “turn[ing] out exactly the way it did turn out”; there is neither any inference to modal collapse, nor any implied determinism or even violation of Free Will (but I grant that one or more of these issues are more difficult to tease out).

  296. SteveK

    And what is most amazing, is that this argument is at bottom the ID’ers strategy

    I agree and said so back in #60. It’s quite ironic.

  297. Andy

    @G Rodrigues

    But I deny this. And what is most amazing, is that this argument is at bottom the ID’ers strategy, and also the reason why (or one of the reasons why) Aristotelean-Thomists tend to disagree with them vocally, and oft violently.

    Alright. So if you deny this, would you agree that the criminal justice system should be abolished because it is in principle impossible to distinguish whether something was done deliberately or happened by accident? If you do not agree, please explain why you do not agree.

    Should I gather that your problem with ID’ers is not that they are not doing science, but doing it badly?

    Exactly.

    From the fact that you can make plausible inferences about human intentions based on a series of factors, it simply does *not* follow that you can make likewise inferences about God

    Lets take this apart. Here you seem to agree that it is possible to make “plausible inferences about human intentions based on a series of factors” – why should that be possible? Lets switch roles for a second here. I will now deny that this is possible – I will assert that you can *not* make any plausible inferences about human intentions. How would you argue against this?

    Wrt evolution, there are conceivable observations that could only be observed if someone with a plan would be guiding it – but we do not observe any of those, we rather observe only those that would be expected if there is no plan behind it.

    What type of argument are you suggesting establishes this? I am not denying that you indeed did gave arguments, what I deny is (1) that they are scientific arguments in the proper sense of the term; in particular, there is exactly zero support for them from Evolution theory; for an analogy, there is as much support for them as there is support from GR that Eternalism is true — there is *always* some metaphysical assumption that is doing the real work with invocations of GR being added just for show. As a corollary, the alleged “distinguishability” criterium is pure bunkum (2) that the arguments are any good.

    Then please provide an argument of your choice that you would deem “scientific in the proper sense of the term”, and point me to the difference between this argument and my arguments that make mine not “scientific in the proper sense of the word”.

    As I pointed out, it is undeniable that God wants mature human beings

    ?? Observe: I deny that God wants mature human beings. See how easy that is? I can go further: I deny that God wants anything at all.

    He could have had us sprout from the ground fully formed, but that is not what happens, so that is not what He intended, so it follows that He not only intended mature human beings but the *full* process of maturation.

    And the “full of process of maturation” just happened to be an incredibly clumsy and inefficient way that included countless detours, like giant reptiles for example, because God didn´t only want mature human beings, but also to watch and kill some dinosaurs because…. something. Sure, that is possible. Possible and absurd.

    Likewise, with Evolution, granting that everything occurred as you say it did. Period, end of story, your argument fails. Your conditional “If evolution were guided etc.” is a non-sequitur

    That doesn´t make any sense. A conditional cannot be a non-sequitur, only a conclusion can be a non-sequitur (I don´t say this to nitpick, I really have no idea what you tried to say here).

    and is based on picturing God on the model of engineers (e.g. why did not God found some more efficient way?), but once again, this is a horrible and completely false picture of God that any Aristotelean-Thomist (and that is what I am defending here) will deny strenuously, viciously and to its last dying breath — I am not exaggerating, well not much anyway.

    I am not “picturing God on the model of engineers ” here or picturing God in any other way.

    Yes, that is what is implied by the AT notion of teleology. While I understand that you may find this strange, since in one sense it differs from what we most commonly think of when we think about guidance

    Well I guess we´ll just have to accept that I can say “evolution is unguided” and you can say “evolution is guided” without contradicting each other – because what I understand guidance to mean doesn´t seem to be in any way similar to what you understand it to mean, so we are not talking the same language here.

    what I do not understand, in fact I am completely baffled, is why you think first that “guided” in this sense implies…

    I retract that, I don´t believe that “guided in this sense” implies anything at all because I don´t have the foggiest idea about what “guided in this sense” even mean and the only thing I understand about it is that it has absolutely nothing to do with how I understand the word guidance.

  298. SteveK

    G. Rodriques,
    I read this article not too long ago about how AT critics are wrong to lambaste ID to the degree that they do. I’m sure the debate will continue, but the article seemed to make some valid points – at least to this rookie.

  299. Andy

    @SteveK

    This is not my belief about Christianity, Christianity teaches that God is in control – always – and God sustains everything – always. You and I can ponder how that plays out and in what sense God is doing something, but everything is guided by God nonetheless.

    And let me guess, determinism is false and libertarian free will is true and you believe that this doesn´t contradict God “always being in control” and “everything being guided by God” at all, correct?

    You don’t consciously intend every movement of your legs from moment to moment yet you will insist that Andy intended to take each step and run. John did not consciously intend his every movement that night, yet John intended to do what John did otherwise it would not have occurred. What is animating John, if not John?

    What you say here is that everything that your body does is intended by you, else it wouldn´t happen. This is the definition of “intention”:
    “Intention is a mental state that represents a commitment to carrying out an action or actions in the future. Intention involves mental activities such as planning and forethought.”
    And, to take a random example, here is the definition of the word “spasm”:
    “In medicine, a spasm is a sudden, involuntary contraction of a muscle, a group of muscles,[1] or a hollow organ such as a heart, or a similarly sudden contraction of an orifice. It most commonly refers to a muscle cramp which is often accompanied by a sudden burst of pain, but is usually harmless and ceases after a few minutes. There are a variety of other causes of involuntary muscle contractions, which may be more serious, depending on the cause.
    The word “spasm” may also refer to a temporary burst of energy, activity, emotion, Eustress, stress, or anxiety unrelated to, or as a consequence of, involuntary muscle activity.”

    Do you now see the problem with your claim that “John intended to do what John did otherwise it would not have occurred”?

  300. GrahamH

    G.Rodrigues

    The onus is not on me to speculate or articulate why a person find a philosophical argument like Aquinas 5 ways and Kalam convincing. Up until now, I have asked for a convincing philosophical argument with evidence that proves God exists. Melissa put Aquinas 5 ways and Kalam on the table with no explanation of why she finds it convincing.

    It is as if all you need to do is merely mention Aquinas 5 ways and Kalam like putting some cards on the table, and that’s it, a lay-down-misere – there’s the evidence. It must be only a technical matter of understanding them and then any person that does is convinced these arguments are true! There must be no other controversy, right?

    I know where to go to read up on these things, and have done so. I am not interested in the references, I am interested in why someone finds these arguments convincing.

    Now you did say something very interesting that is probably the crux of the matter: that the metaphysical principle on cause is an indubitable one. Your claim, onus on you to establish this.

  301. BillT

    …God of course could have wanted to actualize a world where the evolutionary process looks the way it does in our world – where it has all the features we would expect if it is not guided. However, if we assume this, then it would be the case that guided and unguided evolution would become completely indistinguishable.

    Andy,

    This cuts both ways. If God has done so, then the evolutionary process looks the way it does because it’s His world and you would be only assuming it was “our” world.

    But guided evolution can? Then please explain the existence of guided evolution using nothing but guided evolution itself as an explanation.

    But if it’s guided evolution then it doesn’t have to explain itself as it does in unguided evolution. We have the guider to provide what we and you acknowledge that unguided evolution can not explain. And that’s not a “god in the gaps” explanation as we both agree that evolution is limited to the physical.

    But guided evolution can? Then please explain the existence of guided evolution using nothing but guided evolution itself as an explanation.

    I don’t have to because a world with guided evolution isn’t limited to evolution as an explanation as a world with unguided evolution is.

    And I couldn’t agree more with your last paragraph. But yet, those things that “transcend(s) the physical world” undeniably exist and they could exist only in a world with a being capable of guided evolution.

  302. Gavin

    SteveK @ 259

    The First Way: Argument from Motion…
    3) Only an actual motion can convert a potential motion into an actual motion….

    Spontaneous decay is an obvious counter-example. An object which is not moving, and which does not interact with any moving object, becomes two or more moving objects. Muon decay to an electron and two neutrinos is an example. The neutrinos departs at nearly the speed of light, and the electron is usually pretty zippy as well.

    I think 2-8 are all rubbish, but number 3 is most obviously in direct contradiction with known physics.

  303. G. Rodrigues

    @Gavin:

    An object which is not moving, and which does not interact with any moving object, becomes two or more moving objects.

    The first sentence is wrong because, to take the muon example, the muon is in motion (that is, changing), and the second is likewise because for example the muon is interacting with the Higgs field.

    I make the same suggestion that I made to GrahamH; I am not particularly phazed by the use of expressions such as “rubbish”, as it is common in the give and take of dialectical situations to apply some emotional pressure, but it would be nice if you would spare us your particular ignorant brand of it.

  304. Gavin

    No, the muon is not in motion. It is not changing until it changes. It is not in motion until it changes to products that are in motion.

    The Higgs field is also not in motion.

  305. GrahamH

    Gavin – be prepared to go through the looking glass…

    Thomistic metaphysics offers solutions to problems that are only problems if certain other Thomistic arguments are accepted. God is the nominee for the unmoved mover–if you need an unmoved mover. However, the need for an unmoved mover has to be established by something like Aquinas’s First Way. But this already presupposes a particular metaphysical perspective. So, you need the argument to accept the metaphysics and you need the metaphysics to accept the argument.

    Aquinas’s First Way, for instance, argues that the change in the world implies the existence of per se causal series, and that per se causal series cannot be ungrounded, ie. one can’t have a series of movers in which all of the motion is dependent on the subsequent movers’ being moved. That is obviously a very brief sketch but the conclusion that Aquinas draws from that is that there is a being which lacks the potential to change.

    The key problem for them is there is no need whatsoever for a prime mover or an uncaused cause or a (metaphysically or logically) necessary being. I do not see the lack of such things as a puzzle or problem at all no more than the lack of a luminiferous ether is any longer a problem for physics.

    I suspect its attraction relies more on a form of personal incredulity that “there just has to be God to explain all this”.

  306. Gavin

    The state of the muon is completely described by two parameters, its spin and its momentum. The spin is intrinsic; it does not represent motion. If the momentum is zero, which is a perfectly fine momentum for the muon, then there is no motion at all. Both the spin and the momentum are conserved quantities. If there are no relevant background fields (other than the Higgs, of course) and the muon does not encounters another particle, then spin and momentum are constant. The muon is not changing. Muons don’t age. They don’t have little fuses that burn down. They don’t have timers. Left alone (with the constant companionship of the Higgs field, of course) a muon doesn’t change in any way until the moment it decays.

    GrahamH, Thanks for the warning. I’ve been there. I’m sticking to number 3 because its primary flaw is not that it is poorly defined (in fact it seems quite clear), or that there is no evidence for it, or that it is an over generalization. No, the primary problem with number 3 is that it is false. We know it is false because it makes a clear claim about a necessary requirement for motion and there are carefully studied, well understood processes giving rise to motion that contradict the claim. The decay of the muon is one. The claim that the muon is in motion (i.e. changing) is also false. We’ll see if I can stay out of the rabbit hole with this strategy.

  307. Victoria

    @Gavin
    Even in its own rest frame, the muon experiences the elapsing of proper time, so I think you should qualify your point to take that into account.

  308. Gavin

    “Experiencing the elapsing of proper time” while standing perfectly still is not “in motion” according to the usual definition of “in motion.” Do you want to define motion to include motion through time?

  309. SteveK

    If I understand the situation correctly – and there’s no guarantee of that – it’s that nobody can detect what is causing the potential decay to become actual decay. But what follows from this?

  310. SteveK

    Put another way, who’s to say that the decay we see isn’t validation of the First Way where the unmoved mover is causing the potential decay to become actual decay?

    Anyone?

  311. Victoria

    @Gavin
    Well, in QFT we talk about particles and fields in a 3+1-dimensional space-time, right?

    If I understand your point, the muon decay has nothing to do with the value of its 4-momentum in any particular frame, so we can describe the process in the muon’s rest frame, where its 4-momentum has only the rest energy component).
    Obviously, in the laboratory frame, the muons are usually moving at some appreciable speed (either due to cosmic ray production or as a result of another process in a particle accelerator), but that is not relevant to the decay process itself. I think that was not clear in the way you stated your argument.

  312. G. Rodrigues

    @SteveK:

    The commmon line, and I assume that is what Gavin intends, is that either the principle of causality is in direct contradiction to the known physics or then the principle is irrelevant in some way or another because it makes no empirically falsifiable predictions. Yawn. But there is however one valuable point one can extract from your observation: there is difference from “there may be or may be not be a cause, if there is it does not show up in experimental setup X” to the categorical “there is no cause”. What argument could possibly establish the latter? Maybe we will hear that existential negatives cannot be proven (wink, wink)?

    @Gavin:

    First comment: no, the muon state is not determined by two parameters alone. What maybe you want to say is that for the specific experimental setup involved in muon decays, the only relevant parameters for the muon decay distribution are the spin and momentum. But if that is what you mean then it simply does not follow that the muon is not changing. The second comment is if you are going to change to the reference frame of the muon to say that the muon has zero momentum and therefore is not changing then your objection has nothing to do with radioactive decay or whatnot since the same effect can be achieved by a similarly spurious analogy and by much simpler means: start with a classical, point particle in R^3xR, describe its movement as a curve in this space, observe that the curve does not change, conclude that the particle is not in motion, congratulate yourself with the cleverness of the argument. A third comment is how the same type of spurious analogy is commonly touted as giving the *contrary* conclusion; while you go the route of the muon *not* being in motion, uniform motion and the law of inertia is commonly held as leading to the conclusion that the mobile *is* in motion, but nothing is changing it. How marvelously supple Physics is, that can be used to beat the Scholastics from opposite, contradictory directions! A fourth comment is that the relevance of all this is not obvious, since for 3., which is a (sloppy) formulation of the Scholastic principle of causality, and in the way you are interpreting it, it is irrelevant whether the muon is changing prior to the decay or not.

    But all this, as compared to the larger metaphysical issue in dispute, is mere quibbling. The alleged incompatibilities being bandied around are not the sort of incompatibilities that can be established without a grasp of both the Scholastic ideas, the scientific accounts, and a series of thorny issues in the philosophy of physics. Since I do not have the time, nor, to be quite frank, the inclination, to disentangle your objections, I will direct you to this, which is at any rate, certainly much better than anything I could ever write, so nothing is really lost.

    @GrahamH:

    Aquinas’s First Way, for instance, argues that the change in the world implies the existence of per se causal series

    The argument you quote Aquinas as making is logically independent of the First Way, so the juxtaposition of the two is puzzling.

    and that per se causal series cannot be ungrounded, ie. one can’t have a series of movers in which all of the motion is dependent on the subsequent movers’ being moved.

    The first sentence is correct, but since what you describe after the “i.e.” are, if I am understanding you correctly, accidental series, and quite obviously Aquinas does leave that option opened since he himself quite famously makes the distinction, it cannot be correct.

    I suspect its attraction relies more on a form of personal incredulity that “there just has to be God to explain all this”.

    You suspect?

    You earlier asked me:

    I am not interested in the references, I am interested in why someone finds these arguments convincing.

    Because the arguments are valid and sound and thus I would be irrational in not accepting their conclusions. Seriously, what kind of a question is this? What type of answer are you after? An outpouring of my personal feelings? A peek into the quirks of my mind? What could possibly be the relevance of that?

    Anyway, I am done here.

  313. G. Rodrigues

    @Andy:

    Should I gather that your problem with ID’ers is not that they are not doing science, but doing it badly?

    Exactly.

    The discussion has officially entered the Twilight Zone. I have to say the irony is quite delightful; having had a couple of rough-and-tumbles with ID’ers, I now find myself arguing against a mirror-ID’er, the left to the right, the yin to the yang, the positron to the electron, the Professor Zoom to the Flash!

    I am taking this light-heartedly, but this has consequences. If your arguments are “scientific” then they do belong in the class room and you think some professor teaching this “unguided” claptrap is just doing his job. And by parity of reason, so can ID belong in the classroom. All the professor has to do to satisfy anyone’s scruples is append the words “But this is bad science. Because”, offer some explanatory words, maybe even one of your “arguments” and it is all good.

    I have to say that insofar as I understand the ID debate (to be quite honest, not very far), I have my disagreements with ID’ers, but it has always been abundantly clear that a lot of the flack the ID crowd gets has nothing to do with Science but is just cultural war conducted by other means.

    Here you seem to agree that it is possible to make “plausible inferences about human intentions based on a series of factors” – why should that be possible? Lets switch roles for a second here. I will now deny that this is possible – I will assert that you can *not* make any plausible inferences about human intentions. How would you argue against this?

    Because we have a fairly good grasp of what human beings are while we are seriously in the dark about God’s nature. Somewhat sloppily, because while we can make plausible conjectures about what and how human beings think, and the finite ways in which they can execute their plans, we are seriously in the dark about what an omniscient, perfect being, that created the world ex nihilo and sustains it in existence from moment to moment at every moment, thinks or wills. We know some things by the light of natural reason; a few more if we add revelation, but on this side of Life? Yup, darkness.

    Or to put it contrapositively, *if* for the sake of argument the type of ID-like argument you are envisioning were successful it would not prove the existence of God, but in the best of circumstances only that of a demiurge, a lower-case god or an alien intelligence, a being like us just without some of our limitations, technological or otherwise, which of course would invite, and rightly so, all the stock responses (“who created god?”, etc.). I am certainly not interested in *that* and I surmise you are neither — or maybe you are, but then you should find another interlocutor.

    Then please provide an argument of your choice that you would deem “scientific in the proper sense of the term”, and point me to the difference between this argument and my arguments that make mine not “scientific in the proper sense of the word”.

    You are joking, right? You do not know what is a proper scientific argument? Never heard of falsification? Repeatability of experiments? With a sample size of exactly one reality… That as Aristotle observed there is no science of the particular only of the universal? May I suggest taking a course on physics?

    But given your prior admission, these are nothing but rhetorical questions.

    I deny that God wants mature human beings. See how easy that is? I can go further: I deny that God wants anything at all.

    You can mean by this two things: either that I affirm things willy nilly without substantiating them, which is simply false (and if there is an argument missing do point out) or that you can deny or affirm anything that tickles your fancy; yes, I suppose you can, but *if* your dialectical aim is to derive a contradiction from some theory (in the broad sense), then quite obviously you cannot deny or affirm anything whatsoever, instead you have to show that the theory entails a contradiction or, weaker but still quite respectably and perfectly acceptable, some entailment that the holders of the theory are not ready to swallow. Since you have not been disputing the theory, but rather arguing for what you take to be implausible or hard to swallow consequences, your comment is content-free, and the only thing I am left wondering is why the heck I am even bothering with it.

    And the “full of process of maturation” just happened to be an incredibly clumsy and inefficient way that included countless detours, like giant reptiles for example, because God didn´t only want mature human beings, but also to watch and kill some dinosaurs because…. something.

    I am sure the Omniscient all-Provident God should have consulted with you when timelessly creating the world for a more “efficient” way, whatever that means; or since the Proverbs say that there is wisdom in the multitude of counsels maybe He should have gone around asking everybody that ever lived? At any rate, I do not know what strength you imagine this has — maybe in your scale of values it is somehow an important consideration — I just shrug my shoulders. If it makes you feel any better, I observe that *your* existence necessitated the “clumsy and inefficient” history of the world, so hey, it is not *all* bad.

    A conditional cannot be a non-sequitur, only a conclusion can be a non-sequitur (I don´t say this to nitpick, I really have no idea what you tried to say here).

    Well I *will* nitpick; of course conditionals can be non-sequiturs since trivially they can be conclusions. For example, in Hilbert’s propositional calculus p -> (q -> p) is a logical axiom, so assuming p, q -> p follows by modus ponens.

    And this is what I tried to convey; your “If evolution were guided etc.” does not follow from anything I hold, it is simply an assumption you bring to the table without any argument for why I should accept it in the first place. And I do not accept it. And I *argued* why I do not to accept it.

    I am not “picturing God on the model of engineers ” here or picturing God in any other way.

    Yes, you are; in numerous ways. It is plastered *right* in the quote above (“incredibly clumsy and inefficient way that included countless detours”, etc.) — God fails to live up to your Efficient Engineering 101 exam. So Evolution is unguided. Therefore He does not exist. Or something.

    Well I guess we´ll just have to accept that I can say “evolution is unguided” and you can say “evolution is guided” without contradicting each other – because what I understand guidance to mean doesn´t seem to be in any way similar to what you understand it to mean, so we are not talking the same language here.

    We are not? I grant that there are different senses in which “guided” can be taken, but all the ones I am aware of are intimately related. At any rate, here is what the Catholic Encyclopedia has to say on Divine Providence;

    Providence in general, or foresight, is a function of the virtue of prudence, and may be defined as the practical reason, adapting means to an end. As applied to God, Providence is God Himself considered in that act by which in His wisdom He so orders all events within the universe that the end for which it was created may be realized. That end is that all creatures should manifest the glory of God, and in particular that man should glorify Him, recognizing in nature the work of His hand, serving Him in obedience and love, and thereby attaining to the full development of his nature and to eternal happiness in God. The universe is a system of real beings created by God and directed by Him to this supreme end, the concurrence of God being necessary for all natural operations, whether of things animate or inanimate, and still more so for operations of the supernatural order. God preserves the universe in being; He acts in and with every creature in each and all its activities.

    Sure looks like “guided” to me, but I will let you decide.

  314. Ray Ingles

    G. Rodrigues –

    What argument could possibly establish the latter? Maybe we will hear that existential negatives cannot be proven (wink, wink)?

    Well, experiment has established that no cause that is limited to the speed of light (“local”) can account for quantum behavior.

    All the professor has to do to satisfy anyone’s scruples is append the words “But this is bad science. Because”, offer some explanatory words, maybe even one of your “arguments” and it is all good.

    Andy’s hardly the first one to call ID failed science, though. Not even in this thread. (Prior examples. “>last paragraph here, or here.) True, it can be useful to talk about failed theories in science, and why they fail, though it usually doesn’t take long to cover the ground. I can’t see spending more than a day on ID, or phlogiston, or epicycles, etc. The other 179 days or so can cover actual science.

    How marvelously supple Physics is, that can be used to beat the Scholastics from opposite, contradictory directions!

    Or maybe it’s just that there’s two different ways to interpret physics that don’t align with/confirm Scholastic assumptions. There’s Elliptical as well as Hyperbolic geometry contra Euclidean, for example.

  315. SteveK

    Well, experiment has established that no cause that is limited to the speed of light (“local”) can account for quantum behavior.

    As luck would have it, formal and final causes are not limited to the speed of light.

  316. G. Rodrigues

    @Ray Ingles:

    Andy’s hardly the first one to call ID failed science, though.

    I am not exactly cheered by you likewise having a shallow grasp of science and philosophy.

    Or maybe it’s just that there’s two different ways to interpret physics that don’t align with/confirm Scholastic assumptions. There’s Elliptical as well as Hyperbolic geometry contra Euclidean, for example.

    Why do you think I disagree with this? Because, as far as I can understand you, it is exactly right. The scholastic principle of causality follows necessarily from Aristotle’s account of change as reduction of potency to act, so it stands or falls with the theory of potency and act. But as you quite rightly mention, Physics, whether classical, quantum or some variety to come, does not even *mention* these things, because it abstracts from the concrete reality and focus solely on those aspects amenable to mathematical treatment. But if it does not even mention act and potency, quite clearly it cannot say anything about the theory, much less refute it.

    So the inference from the explicit *contradiction*, that you inanely describe as “there’s two different ways to interpret physics”, is that the objection does not even rise to the level of being well-formulated, and is predicated on the metaphysical assumptions one *brings* on how to interpret the results of Physics. But then it is not Physics that is doing the job, but rather those assumptions, and the former is just for window dressing.

    About your mathematical analogies, the less said the better.

  317. Gavin

    Victoria, What does “in motion” mean in the argument? I took it to mean that, in the observer’s rest frame, the position, orientation, or arrangement of the object is changing as time passes. I think that how most readers would interpret the argument and I think it is what the author intended.

    Using that definition of “in motion,” a muon with no momentum is not “in motion.” Number 3 is false.

    If you define motion to include motion through time, then the entire argument means something significantly different from what most people think it means, and from what the author intended. I’m comfortable in 3+1 dimensions. Is that is how you think the argument should be interpreted?

  318. G. Rodrigues

    @SteveK:

    As luck would have it, formal and final causes are not limited to the speed of light.

    This does not quite work, at least not against all objections, because the principle of causality is explicitly concerned with efficient causation.

  319. SteveK

    G. Rodrigues,
    I was attempting to (playfully) highlight what I though Feser was saying about spontaneous change in the link you provided (quoted below).

    The decay thus has a cause in the sense that (i) it has a formal cause in the nature or substantial form of the particular Pb210 atom, and (ii) it has an efficient cause in whatever it was that originally generated that Pb210 atom (whenever that was).

  320. G. Rodrigues

    @Gavin:

    Using that definition of “in motion,” a muon with no momentum is not “in motion.” Number 3 is false.

    Motion is a technical term of art; it comes from the Latin “motus” and denotes change, any kind of change, not what you take it to be, change of place. And of course, if *that* is your objection, radioactive decay has absolutely *no* role in it.

    So let me see if I get this: in #322 we have “I think 2-8 are all rubbish, but number 3 is most obviously in direct contradiction with known physics.” In #327 “No, the primary problem with number 3 is that it is false. We know it is false because it makes a clear claim about a necessary requirement for motion and there are carefully studied, well understood processes giving rise to motion that contradict the claim.” Now in #338 you ask “What does “in motion” mean in the argument?” in complete ignorance of what the term means, and ” I think that how most readers would interpret the argument and I think it is what the author intended.”, so that we are down to questions of interpretation and guesses about what the “author intended”. Newsflash: the intended argument is what Aristotle, Aquinas and their commentators intended.

    Lovely, freakin’ lovely.

    Buffoonery as predicted. I am just going to get the popcorns and enjoy the show.

  321. Gavin

    G. Rodrigues –

    No, the muon state is not determined by two parameters alone.

    Muons only have momentum and spin. That’s it. Congratulations for winning today’s episode of “Pretending to Know Things You Do Not Know.”

  322. G. Rodrigues

    @Gavin:

    Muons only have momentum and spin. That’s it.

    Really? So position is not an observable? And they are not leptons ruled by the electro-weak force, a gauge theory with gauge group SU(2)xU(1) (before symmetry breaking)? They are not excitations of *the* fundamental fields? Whose states are lines in the L^2-section space of a spinor bundle?

    And another one bites the dust; done here as well.

  323. Victoria

    @Gavin
    I was thinking more about the implications of what I had suggested earlier to you.

    In the context of QFT, what constitutes the motion of the system?
    The action integral, based on the system’s Lagrangian, is a Lorentz-invariant quantity, whereas the Hamiltonian is not (since it is just the 00-component of the stress-energy tensor), but it is the generator of the system’s time evolution. Since it’s not Lorentz-invariant, one would have to choose a reference frame to work in.

    Which should we choose?

    To answer SteveK’s question :
    in the electroweak theory of the muon, we can draw a Feynman diagram for the decay process (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muon – the section on muon decay) that is a shorthand for describing what is going on in terms ofthe mathematical formalism of the particle creation and annihilation operators for each interacting field – basically, the diagram represents the creation and annihilation of particles – that let’s us do the calculations of the relevant dynamics and interesting quantities – the creation and annihilation operators themselves are opaque to us – as far as QFT is concerned, when you trace back the chain of cause and effect, the chain stops at the creation and annihilation operators. The muon is created as a result of some other process (call that t = 0 in the muon’s rest frame). At some completely random time, which cannot be predicted for any individual muon, the muon is annihilated by its field, the muon-neutrino and the W- are created, the W- is annihilated after a random time, which cannot be determined for any individual W-, and the electron and the anti-electron neutrino are created . QFT allows us to calculate the decay rate for the process (see https://books.google.ca/books?id=Dm36BYq9iu0C&pg=PA96&lpg=PA96&dq=muon+decay+lagrangian&source=bl&ots=bmye271qKJ&sig=ph_Tr_RqBWZLwVfaV4Iyd1bFLvY&hl=en&sa=X&ei=Cx-wVNC4MYizyAS58oDoBg&ved=0CC0Q6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=muon%20decay%20lagrangian&f=false) , but not when any individual muon will decay.

    That’s the physics in a nutshell – the metaphysics is another story 🙂

  324. SteveK

    Thanks for reminding me of how little I know about physics, Victoria. 🙂

    That’s the physics in a nutshell – the metaphysics is another story

    We have Gavin and Graham to help us with the metaphysics.

  325. Gavin

    Victoria, if it’s up to me let’s go with Lagrangian. That fits better with the nice summary you gave to SteveK.

    If anyone would like an explanation of G. Rodrigues’ bloviating, let me know. Otherwise I’ll ignore it, since it is totally irrelevant.

  326. Bill L

    Gavin,

    Having only taken Physics I and II, I would love an explanation if it’s not too much trouble.

  327. Victoria

    @Gavin (#346)
    I was thinking the same thing – using the Lagrangian;
    that’s not to say the Hamiltonian is irrelevant to the description, of course, but for the purposes of our metaphysical discussion…

  328. Gavin

    Bill L, No problem. G. Rodrigues is listing a bunch of things about the muon with the suggestion that they are additional information needed to describe the state of the muon. However, everything he lists is already accounted for by the momentum, spin and the word “muon.”

    First he mentions position, but that is related to momentum in such a way that if I describe the muon in terms of momentum, a description in terms of position is redundant. They are like different coordinate systems. Once you have given the components of a vector in one coordinate system, you don’t get any new information from the components in a new coordinate system. It’s just two different descriptions of the same thing.

    Everything else he lists is just a description of what a muon is. If I want to tell someone about a specific muon I don’t walk them through every property. I tell them it’s a muon, give the spin and momentum and I’m done.

    That wasn’t really an explanation of everything he said, but rather an explanation of why it is irrelevant. Hope it is somewhat helpful.

  329. scblhrm

    @ G. Rodrigues

    I wanted to say thank you to you in particular for your often employed language of instantiation, form, essence, essentialism, and so on. Very educational (helpful). Metaphysically I’ve found E. Feser’s robust descriptive rather troubling for the necessary presuppositions employed by the critics in this thread. Metaphysics lead(s) physics. That’s what Meta means. I’m looking forward to his new title, “Scholastic Metaphysics: A Contemporary Introduction”. I’ve been unimpressed with virtual particles leading us beyond what Scripture has told us from day one – eons ago – awaits us on the other side of the created order’s contingent field fluxes there in what just will be the Timeless, there in what just will be the Immaterial. The Theist has always known that about those. Brief but interesting: “Objections to the Causal Principle” in W.L. Craig’s Q&A #117 at: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/objections-to-the-causal-principle — Virtual particles satisfy Aquinas. Time theory is fascinating. The experience of Time and the experience of Change are equally fascinating. Trouble awaits up ahead: Imaginary Time’s misty vapor effervesces amid the murky miasma of Imaginary Change. On all fronts. Full stop. Else God. Hawking’s static imaginary sphere. Full stop. Else God. Hawking’s ontological pluralism in imaginary reason’s stasis. Full stop. Else God. All is delusion’s static taskmaster observed in actual speciation as she births – per imaginary reason’s stasis – Absurdity. Else God. Metaphysically speaking in this thread thus far the Critic’s stasis necessarily offends both the afore mentioned Meta and her close cousin Reason while eons of Theism continue to predict and satisfy. On all fronts. Full stop. Thus God.

  330. G. Rodrigues

    @Bill L:

    If spin and momentum completely characterized the state of a muon, then having a muon with the same momentum and spin but on the other side of the galaxy instead of here, on a lab experiment, would be physically equivalent, which is obviously false. What Gavin wants to say is something else, but at this point I frankly do not care. As far as the charges of “bloviating” or what not, given their source, a fake wannabe whose buffoonery is all over the thread, well, let’s just say that it is a compliment.

  331. Ray Ingles

    G. Rodrigues – Not that you’ve noticed, but I’ve only objected to ID as science to the extent that it’s actually tried to be science. But don’t worry, I don’t expect you to spend any effort trying to process that.

    So the inference from the explicit *contradiction*, that you inanely describe as “there’s two different ways to interpret physics”,

    Well, it’s only an “explicit *contradiction*” if the same person puts forth both interpretations. Even you in 333 don’t claim Gavin is doing this. I’m curious if you can point to anyone who does?

    It’s possible to imagine multiple alternatives to Euclidean geometry – Hyperbolic and Elliptical are famous examples, as I noted. I was simply pointing out that it’s possible to imagine multiple alternatives to A-T metaphysics, too. If you can find someone who simultaneously advocates two contradictory ones, you go to town with my blessings. Noting that ‘some people say this, but other people say that’ is… well, it’s not wrong, I suppose, but it’s hardly an argument.

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