God, Science, and the Big Questions, from Biola

J.P. Moreland, William Lane Craig, John Lennox, and Hugh Hewitt in almost two hours of conversation on God, Science, and the big questions. Great stuff here!

Comments

  1. Keith

    Second listen:

    They need a physical scientist on the panel: WL Craig’s presentation of cosmology is bad (just for example — not to critique his understanding, which I cannot judge, the presentation is flawed).

    WL Craig is pushed by the moderator into an area he’s not happy with, he gets out as quickly as possible, but at 46:37: “many have argued if there is intelligent extraterrestrial life, they ought to be here already, we ought to have evidence of it, and since we don’t, that suggests there is no such extraterrestrial intelligent life anywhere else in the observable universe.” Anybody arguing that is “wrong”, and Craig must know that.

  2. Keith

    Craig is pure stud-muffin @ 1:07:55: “I think it would be about the historical Adam and Eve. … therefore, the person who believes in an original human pair has got some real explaining to do.”

  3. Keith

    Lennox is killing me @ 1:12:

    All explanations proceed from the simple to the complex, but language is the exception.

    “You go into your laboratory, and you see the DNA with 3.5 billion letters in exactly the right order, and I ask you what’s the origin of that, and you say chance or necessity — when — you see anything with language on it, 4-5 letters and immediately you say ‘intelligent input’.”

    Seriously?

    Are we still arguing if evolution can create complex organisms?

  4. Keith

    I’m sorry, but Lennox needs to go home.

    1:33:10: “In the beginning was the Word, the word was with God, the Word was God, all things came to be — it’s an existence statement through the Word — in other words, this idea of Word logos is primary, mass energy is derivative, that is a colossal claim because it bangs straight into the face of materialism.”

    That is a colossal claim because it’s entirely irrational.

    “This universe is word based”; are we done here?

  5. Post
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    Tom Gilson

    I think what you’re trying to say, Keith, is that it’s irrational to view reality as having rational foundations. Am I reading you wrong there somehow?

  6. Post
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    Tom Gilson

    Yes, we’re still waiting for some solid reason to believe evolution can produce complex organisms. Sorry to break it to you, but that “non-controversy” isn’t going away yet.

  7. Post
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    Tom Gilson

    The best reasons to be convinced evolution can do that are:

    We’ve seen it produce novelty in organisms (though we’ve never observed it increasing informational complexity).
    We see strong evidence of common descent.
    If evolution didn’t do it, then some purposeful designer almost has to have done it.

    I think there are enough holes in there for it to be remain open question.

  8. Keith

    Tom @8:

    Once you accept evolution can create complex organs (and we’ll reference everybody’s favorite, the eye), why would you then draw a line at organisms?

  9. Post
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    Tom Gilson

    Keith, since no one has observed evolution producing any complex organs, I think it’s still an open question.

    Ray, for these purposes it’s enough to define it as any adaptive change in form or function that involves more than two simultaneous mutations that are not of the gene-degrading variety. You can drop the term “informational complexity,” in fact, if you like, and just go with that more extensively worded language.

  10. Post
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    Tom Gilson

    If we’re starting over, Ray, let’s keep it simpler. What new organ has evolution been observed to produce in any organism?

    What significant new functions?

    Please exclude statistical effects such as increased proportions of antibiotic resistant microbes, if those variants existed among those organisms prior to the introduction of the selective pressure that caused them to multiply. That’s not creative work, that’s distributive work.

    Show me your best example, please. We don’t need a dozen of them, just one really good one.

  11. Philmonomer

    @Keith

    WL Craig is pushed by the moderator into an area he’s not happy with, he gets out as quickly as possible, but at 46:37: “many have argued if there is intelligent extraterrestrial life, they ought to be here already, we ought to have evidence of it, and since we don’t, that suggests there is no such extraterrestrial intelligent life anywhere else in the observable universe.” Anybody arguing that is “wrong”, and Craig must know that.

    Isn’t this a reference to Fermi’s paradox?

  12. Bill L

    Tom,

    Hope you don’t mind me jumping in…

    What new organ has evolution been observed to produce in any organism?

    Are you expecting entire new organs to arise within a the lifetime of an observer, rather than being modified from previous forms? If so, why?

    What significant new functions?

    Please exclude statistical effects such as increased proportions of antibiotic resistant microbes, if those variants existed among those organisms prior to the introduction of the selective pressure that caused them to multiply. That’s not creative work, that’s distributive work.

    I don’t know which one is the “best” example, but here is one:
    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/gene-genesis-scientists/

  13. Post
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    Tom Gilson

    Not expecting it, just noting what I said above: it hasn’t been observed, so it makes sense to leave it an open question whether evolution can actually do it (compare your comment #10).

    Your SciAm reference doesn’t meet the criteria. “Andersson and Roth’s model posited that beneficial mutations already present by chance would be favored by natural selection and stick around in the genome. ”

    What happened was the evolution of a new “primary function”–a gene that could do something as a secondary function began to do it as a primary one.

  14. Ray Ingles

    Tom – Okay, read the first two links (or, at bare minimum, the first). Chloroquine resistance in malaria. The entire point is that the genes for transporting chloroquine didn’t exist prior to the use of chloroquine against malaria. At most one neutral variant of a gene was present that could be mutated to transport chloroquine. The pathways that were taken are even mapped out.

    (Note that “observed” is a rather strong requirement. We haven’t observed mountain ranges being raised up by continental drift, and yet I’m happy to assert that it would be irrational to dispute that based on the evidence we have. But chloroquine resistance is within the last century.)

  15. JAD

    I think J.P. Moreland had a good point when he made the distinction between core beliefs and peripheral beliefs. Unfortunately, this distinction is lost on most of the interlocutors who show up on this site, who think that by undermining some minor peripheral belief that Christian-theism will collapse like a house of cards. For example, on another thread Keith is trying to argue that Genesis teaches that the flood of must be a global one… What qualifies Keith as biblical scholar? Doe he understand Hebrew? Does he even know that the O.T. was written in Hebrew and ancient Hebrew has a very limited and “pre-scientific” vocabulary?

    Personally, I don’t see any problem interpreting the flood a large regional flood. I think Hugh Ross has one of the best interpretations. He argues the flood was geographically regional but anthropologically universal wiping out most of mankind.

    Ironically, most of our interlocutors, like Keith, mimic the arguments of young earth creationists, who try to use anomalies for the age of the earth or dating methods to argue that the science is unreliable. Most scientists agree that anomalies exist but argue correctly IMO that they do little to undermine science. In other words the anomalies are minor and peripheral.

    It gets really annoying when our so-called critics purposely take threads off topic and bring up problems which are clearly peripheral. However, on the positive side it does show that they do not have good arguments about the issues that really matter. That’s not surprising at all.

  16. Bill L

    Tom,

    OK then, how about the evolution of nylonase in bacteria? Is that a new enough function for you?

  17. Post
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  18. Post
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    Tom Gilson

    It appears that nylonase evolution has been an exception, and if I read this discussion right, there are non-question-begging reasons to regard it as unusual, rare, exceptional, and not the way evolution normally operates.

    Note that I do not deny evolution per se; I deny unguided evolution as the explanation for existing biological complexity. It appears to me that nylonase represents a combination of two special cases: microbial variability (more commonly resulting in phenomena like antibiotic resistance) and a rare genetic transposition circumstances.

    Does this unique circumstance give you enough confidence to assert that genuine evolution has been observed often enough to be sure it explains everything in all the biological world?

  19. Bill L

    Does this unique circumstance give you enough confidence to assert that genuine evolution has been observed often enough to be sure it explains everything in all the biological world?

    I don’t see good reason to think otherwise. But it’s not just based on this one case. You will have to be willing to understand a lot more – a bit like your argument for Christianity. 😉

  20. BillT

    Are we still arguing if evolution can create complex organisms?

    Even if we didn’t, evolution still doesn’t get you very far. If we concede evolution can create complex organisms it isn’t naturalistic evolution that can do so. Why? Because naturalistic evolution depends upon but can’t explain it’s own most basic building blocks, namely the existence of life and the existence of evolution itself. And I believe that the existence of the life that it depends on and evolution itself are best explained by mono-theism. So yeah, I believe in evolution and that it can create complex organisms. But not a naturalistic evolution that can’t even explain itself.

  21. DJC

    Tom,

    Note that I do not deny evolution per se; I deny unguided evolution as the explanation for existing biological complexity.

    Does this unique circumstance give you enough confidence to assert that genuine evolution has been observed often enough to be sure it explains everything in all the biological world?

    The numerous lines of independent evidence all pointing to the fact of evolution is most persuasive to me. That sort of harmony isn’t likely to be a fluke.

    That said, is it possible that God played a part in common descent throughout history, tinkering here, inserting a pre-designed gene there? Well, sure. And is it equally possible that throughout history, God helped with plate tectonics, nudging a continent here, lifting a mountain there? Well, sure. But such theories seem superfluous and unnecessary if natural processes can do the work just fine.

    Unless real limits in complexity are identified (and Behe and Dembski have just not succeeded in persuading anyone but the faithful on that), it seems perfectly valid that lots of small changes (and the occasional gene duplication) add up to large changes.

  22. Bill L

    BillT,

    Do you think God of the gaps arguments should be sufficiently cogent?

    (That is not a sarcastic question – I’m really not sure what to think about it).

  23. Post
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    Tom Gilson

    Bill L,

    How much of more understanding would count for you?

    Consider what Dawkins has read of Christianity. Consider that I’ve studied Dawkins, Miller, Ayala, Mayr, Gould, the NSC, Diamond, and Matzke (for what that’s worth) in the science of evolution, not to mention whatever they drilled into me in school; Dennett in the science and philosophy combined; and Pennock, Midgley, Forrest, Schafersmann, Ruse, and Joyce in the philosophy of evolution.

    That’s all off the top of my head. I could come up with more if I tried.

    Does that sound like “a bit more” to you?

    Be cautious of your assumptions, my friend. I was not familiar with nylonase metabolism. I am not, however, playing an ignorant game here.

    You say there’s nothing here to give you “good reason to think otherwise.” I say there’s very little observed evidence anywhere to give you reason to think in the first place that unguided evolution has the grand capacities attributed to it.

    True or false:

    The best reasons to be convinced evolution can do that are:

    We’ve seen it produce novelty in organisms (though we’ve never observed it increasing informational complexity).
    We see strong evidence of common descent.
    If evolution didn’t do it, then some purposeful designer almost has to have done it.

    I think there are enough holes in there for it to be remain open question.

    Is it not even possible in your mind that there might be enough looseness in there for questions about it to be permitted?

  24. Bill L

    Tom,

    Sorry, you took my joke in a way I did not intend it. I should have explained myself better…

    I often notice how you and others on this blog chastise non-Christians for not doing their homework or not having sufficient background in Christian theology. Of course that is true on many occasions. But it seems to me that too often it is just assumed that others who don’t share our own viewpoints just have not read enough, or studied the right materials.

    We think – if only they knew “such and such” then these people would understand. Or – if only they weren’t trying so hard to maintain what they want to believe, then they would see the truth that I have.

    I don’t know that there is a way around this problem, so for now I have to laugh at it. We all have different backgrounds and ways of understanding the world. Even if we read 20 or 30 of the same books, we are going to come away with different understandings of the materials.

    So I was just trying to say, isn’t it kind of funny that believers point out that non-believers don’t understand because they don’t read the right things, while at the same time a non-believer could point out the same about a believer? In other words, don’t take it too seriously. It was not a comment about your lack of knowledge really.

  25. Bill L

    True or false:

    The best reasons to be convinced evolution can do that are:

    We’ve seen it produce novelty in organisms (though we’ve never observed it increasing informational complexity).

    First part true, second part not so much.

    We see strong evidence of common descent.

    I would say incredibly strong. At best, one should be a theistic evolutionist, given the evidence.

    If evolution didn’t do it, then some purposeful designer almost has to have done it.

    That would be a bad reason to believe… equally as bad as wanting not to believe in evolution because you want to believe in a God. I hope we agree there.

    I think there are enough holes in there for it to be remain open question.

    Is it not even possible in your mind that there might be enough looseness in there for questions about it to be permitted?

    That’s kind of a no-brainer… legitimate questions are always permitted… in fact encouraged. Do you know of anyone who says otherwise?

  26. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Close:

    That would be a bad reason to believe… equally as bad as wanting not to believe in evolution because you want to believe in a God. I hope we agree there.

    Sure.

    But belief in the God of the Bible is logical reason for disbelief in unguided evolution.

    That works in two directions. If a person wants to believe in God, that person can believe in evolution (guided). There is freedom to follow the evidence where it leads, and the psychology of belief in God does not have to have much influence on how one views natural history (given an old-earth view of Genesis, which I think is correct).

    However, if a person wants not to believe in God, that person does not have freedom to believe in anything but unguided evolution. There is no other game in town, no other live option on the table. The conclusion concerning natural history is psychologically pressured, one might even psychologically forced, by the desire not to believe in God.

    Yes, I really do know many people who say evolution must not be questioned. Many. Many.

  27. Bill L

    But belief in the God of the Bible is logical reason for disbelief in unguided evolution.

    A key statement… let’s keep it in mind for your other comments…

    That works in two directions. If a person wants to believe in God, that person can believe in evolution (guided).

    Or unguided, correct? I mean that’s what Theistic Evolution is, right? Why did you state only the “guided” variety? Just preference?

    There is freedom to follow the evidence where it leads, and the psychology of belief in God does not have to have much influence on how one views natural history (given an old-earth view of Genesis, which I think is correct).

    Really? What if you start looking for reasons to believe in either a local or global flood because your religion tells you there should be one? Isn’t that influence? What if you start to exclude unguided evolution because you think that’s what should be there? That seems like influence to me.

    If psychology should tell us anything, it is that we are all subject to our preconceptions and those preconceptions shape our thinking in ways we are not aware of.

    However, if a person wants not to believe in God, that person does not have freedom to believe in anything but unguided evolution. There is no other game in town, no other live option on the table.

    That would be a good point if it were true, but directed panspermia with pre-programmed DNA for evolution could be non-evolutionary naturalistic alternative.

    The conclusion concerning natural history is psychologically pressured, one might even psychologically forced, by the desire not to believe in God.

    This is as true as is the converse desire to believe in God. Let’s be honest.

    Yes, I really do know many people who say evolution must not be questioned. Many. Many.

    Can you provide any influential writing by people who say we should not question scientific ideas or evolution?

  28. BillT

    BillL,

    It isn’t a God in the gaps argument. It’s a quite reasonable explanation for what little unguided evolution has to offer. It’s a quite cogent explanation for the origin of life (life comes from life in all known circumstances) and it’s the best explanation for the existence of evolution and the (non material) information on which it so depends.

  29. JAD

    Here is something I wrote here on this site last May that I think applies to the current discussion:

    Let me try to state this clearly as possible. Theism is not a scientific theory; it is a philosophical world view. Naturalism is not a scientific theory; it is a philosophical world view. Of course as philosophical world views they can (indeed they must) interpret and explain certain kinds of scientific evidence, but they are not themselves scientifically testable. The only way that I know of evaluating a world view is by examining it’s rationality, plausibility along with it’s explanatory scope and power.

    https://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2014/05/creation-design-and-evolution-if-a-theory-could-be-derived-straight-from-metaphysics-would-it-still-be-scientific/#comment-96998

    It is very apparent that those who embrace philosophical naturalism and comment here think that science somehow proves naturalism and disproves theism. It does nothing of the kind. If anything theism allows a broader range of interpretations and explanations. For example, it can allow the possibility that evolution is guided… It can even accept the possibility that evolution is stochastic on the local or “micro” level but it’s guided with a plan and purpose on the “macro” level. I would argue that has a better fit for what we presently know of evolution both cosmologically and biologically.

  30. G. Rodrigues

    @BillT:

    It isn’t a God in the gaps argument. It’s a quite reasonable explanation for what little unguided evolution has to offer. It’s a quite cogent explanation for the origin of life (life comes from life in all known circumstances) and it’s the best explanation for the existence of evolution and the (non material) information on which it so depends.

    This depends on the metaphysics, but I would add that you are selling yourself extremely short; this type of considerations *can* be made into a rigorous, deductive argument (e.g. the Fifth Way) and therefore, it is much, much more, than merely a “best explanation” for this or that phenomena. This is what has been historically defended by classical theists from Plato downwards, and mainstream Christianity (which inherited and suitably modified this Greek tradition) from its inception: God as the absolute pre-condition of the very orderliness and intelligibility of reality.

  31. scblhrm

    Nylonase? Oh please…….

    I’ve never been impressed with presuppositions about the current, temporary, real-time status of highly flexible cascading systems found in the genes which code for the binding clefts of enzymatic frames shifting percentages both with and without stop codons (mostly without). Our own *range* of, say, our antibody experience and, say, our own lactase enzyme experience in this day of this month of this year is not based on the presence or absence of various milk products in our environment *now* but is instead gene based as there are thousands of available phenotype and expression options spread throughout the planet’s human genome ranging in specificity potentiality/possibility. In a sense it is similar to knowledge – any infant can learn any X in any century.

    All ranges are achievable right now and, say, lactase persistence varies and yet the available range is unchanged. The interface of organism with environment at the juncture of self/nonself just is capacitated with this hyper-variability feature at any such juncture between the world inside and the world outside. Enzymatic cascades interfacing with energy, food, pleasure, foreigner, mind, and so on are the only places such are actually observed happening in front of us.

    Take enzyme X for example. Enzyme X may easily adapt future-wards until what is now our own 0.0001% enzymatic specificity (described as a non-enzyme for X) of our current 99.9999% enzymatic specificity (described as an enzyme for X) shifts and becomes the new majority, and yet the range of gene-based options in highly flexible cascading systems in the genes coding for binding clefts of enzymatic frames shifting percentages both with and without stop codons (mostly without) remains yet present and yet available. Just take away nylon and watch. Just take away milk and watch.

    As we’ll see, the Theist is glad to find such a reality. Lactase is an example of converging paths, while others may diverge, as potentiality and possibility were always, all along, burred inside the species’ genome in our entire population. This particularly high degree of hyper-variability and flexibility is seen in an organism’s interface with the outside world, such as in the cases of nylonase, lactase, antibiotics, and other energy seeking cascades. This real-time flexibility is only observed in enzymatic end-points amid self/nonself (energy, food, foreigner, etc.) and nowhere else, and in every species/kind, an observation which proves troubling for those who wish to place upon this observation the entire weight of philosophical naturalism or the entire weight of something else. This is why the naturalist is always pointing to bacterial/viral food and nothing else in observational reality.

    Speaking of food, of bread: We are permitted, capacitated, potentiated, to eat of every kind of tree (but one) both in the material and in the immaterial. What does *that* mean? It means that it couldn’t be any simpler inside of observational reality. Given such permission, we exercise an uncanny predictive power and hypothesize that, should we investigate that unique intersection that is the organism’s interface with the world outside of itself, such as in, say, food, energy acquisition, foreigner, pleasure, and, inevitably somewhere, the arena of the interface of the material with the immaterial where brain chemistry is found amid the intractably irreducible problem of meaning, of image, of impression, of affect, of aboutness, of import, and so on, it just couldn’t be any other way but that we find the hyper-variable. That is assuming, of course, those predictions based on the previously mentioned permission to interface with such a wide array of some rather unique trees in what just is a singular seamlessness from the *lowest* to the *highest*.

    We might even forecast that this particularly high degree of flexibility is observed *especially* in enzymatic end-points given the propensity of those cascading sentences to populate that interface with the world outside. Which, of course, is what science is extracting in observational reality as various energy substrates and enzymatic cascades (and radiation in the reverse direction) are ever on the bench top supplying our data base with the observable, the verifiable, and the falsifiable.

    Nylonase and lactase and so on all can and will find the happily potentiated sentences to shift-off should the trees above our heads so afford. And, a century later, just may shift-on yet again should said trees so afford. The Naturalist is troubled in song: Nylon is gone, yet our book remains, still let us sing our sonnet on enzyme’s hum, let us build all philosophy on enzyme’s run.

    The book inside is casually permitted to speak in gentle, rolling sentences with those many, many trees outside, and yet, that isn’t the peculiar part. The peculiar part is that some books speak with trees both material and immaterial amid brain chemistry and consciousness. Theism’s material and immaterial presuppositions, paradigmatic expectations, and all available physical and philosophical evidence are quite satisfactory as every bit of it simultaneously leaves scientism far, far behind (and how easily it does so) while granting all scientific data a robust seamlessness. Whereas, as always, we find philosophical naturalism trying to fill in the gaps of its many disjointed seams from the *lowest* to the *highest*. In a sense we feel sorry for the philosophical naturalist as he studies life seeking to defend his gap-laden and seam-laden paradigm as observational reality isn’t his friend at all, as he only actually observes his hoped-for variability in one peculiar set of circumstances and in no other, as he bases his entire map of all of reality on that one peculiar, isolated set of observations (how intellectually woeful), as he is forced to retreat to an appeal to the Mind of Man’s Finger on the bench top pushing and controlling and manipulating in his attempt to grant permission for that life in the first place, and as he, on top of all of that, assures us that even what he offers us is at best, at most, a contingently conditioned neurobiological map of a fiction.

  32. Ray Ingles

    Tom – Lemme know if you want to talk chloroquine resistance. But:

    It appears that nylonase evolution has been an exception, and if I read this discussion right, there are non-question-begging reasons to regard it as unusual, rare, exceptional, and not the way evolution normally operates.

    You might want to broaden your reading a bit. I thought it was funny that they say Miller didn’t “compute the relevant numbers”, yet go on to say that “most genes in the nematode [n.b. nematodes aren’t bacteria – ed.] have stop codons if they are frame-shifted” – without quantifying “most”.

    According to this, “Now, having no stop codons in the antisense strand… is a bit unusual, but the probability they quote (10^-12) is dead wrong, the probability is 0.0001… Furthermore, as nylB is descended from a peptide with many internal repeats, and itself contains a fair number of internal repeats, this makes it less likely to generate stop codons in the first place.” (Go ahead and read the link; the ellipses conceal no critical information.)

    Average bacterial genome sizes are, oh, call it 30 million bases, eyeballing it from that graph. So you’d expect around 300 one-in-ten-thousand chances per bacterial ‘species’. Which means it’s a bit of a stretch – and, note, not even supported by your own source – to call this a “unique circumstance”. Unlikely, maybe – for specific and quantifiable values of unlikely – but “unique” is rather an overstatement.

    I’ve seen this over and over. Every time I’ve seen someone put forth an actual biological candidate for something that ‘couldn’t have just evolved’, it falls apart on closer examination. I believe I’m justified at this point in being a tad suspicious of motives.

  33. SteveK

    God as the absolute pre-condition of the very orderliness and intelligibility of reality.

    Orderliness is one of those things that I think too many skeptics dismiss as insignificant in their rush to embrace atheism. Not just how orderliness came about, but more importantly in my mind, why orderliness continues.

    If disorder is the natural state of reality, there must be a causal reason for the order. There must exist a continuous, moment-by-moment, power that keeps it from returning to that state.

    I find it somewhat amusing and ironic that people will point to the virtues of science – a discipline that depends on the existence of this sustaining power – as the reason to disbelieve in the existence of that same sustaining power.

  34. scblhrm

    Tom,

    It’s always bacterial food and foreigners. As described above. You can drink milk and just watch if you want to see the same happen in us. Eventually. Then, turn the milk off and watch it swing the other way once again. Eventually. It’s like turning off the nylon. And turning on the nylon.

    The book is unchanged. We know that because when we turn off the nylon and turn on, say, X, all those nylonase sentences in the book casually, gently, read a different story. Then we turn the nylon back on and, well, there we go again. Any X will do. X’s come. X’s go. As described in the earlier post.

    It’s the book that remains.

    With it’s nicely bound threads and pages and gentle, casual reading of sentences.

    That’s it.

    Every kind/species does it. And only there in that interface. It’s never observed anywhere else.

    The Theist expects it of course, while the materialist has to foist, assert, and then fill in the gaps.

    I suppose one could posit this as a creative means. That’s probably evidenced based as far as presuppositions go simply because, given the data we have from the bench top, the whole show seems indebted to mind and finger should we hope to observe, demonstrate, anything wider than this. It’s all a priori. An d nature hates a City populated with libraries. She’s good at tearing them down though. But for the City’s antigravity.

    I’ve seen this over and over. Every time I’ve seen someone put forth an actual biological candidate for something that is supposed to be an actual observation, demonstration, of something more than that it falls apart on closer examination and ends with its feet firmly planted on an a priori presupposition to justify the gaps. I believe I’m justified at this point in being a tad suspicious of motives.

  35. bigbird

    @Tom

    I say there’s very little observed evidence anywhere to give you reason to think in the first place that unguided evolution has the grand capacities attributed to it.

    I tend to agree.

    I remember a couple of years ago looking into various claims of rapid contemporary evolution, including an example cited by Dawkins of moving Italian wall lizards from one island to another.

    As in most of these cases, claims of evolutionary change were based on changes in the phenotype, not the genotype. When I read the original research, it turned out that the authors suspected phenotypic plasticity was behind the observed changes rather than changes in the genotype.

  36. DJC

    Tom,

    But belief in the God of the Bible is logical reason for disbelief in unguided evolution.

    I think Aristotelian-Thomism is an important counter example here. A-T does not see evolution as guided in the sense of having been actively managed by God but rather that the material of life itself might have causal tendencies allowing it to change, evolve and increase in information complexity. Feser writes:

    A-T philosophers and theologians have been open to the possibility of evolutionary explanations of various biological phenomena, including the human body. It might be that sensory and imaginative capacities of a level of complexity necessary to subserve intellectual activity arose gradually via evolutionary processes.

    So A-T can grant any amount of information increase, novel functionality, etc., because that is part of the (designed) essence of biological material. Thus, it is not logic or observation that necessarily denies the possibility of (macro) evolutionary mechanisms.

  37. JAD

    Before we discuss nylonase let’s look at how nylon was/is synthesized. Here are some pertinent facts from Wikipedia:

    *Nylon was first synthesized, in February of 1935, by organic chemist Wallace Carothers working for DuPont.

    *Nylons are condensation copolymers formed by reacting equal parts of a diamine and a dicarboxylic acid.

    *The most common form of nylon is nylon 6-6 which refers to its diamine hexamethylene diamine.

    *Wikipedia informs us that “Hexamethylenediamine (6 carbons) is the organic compound with the formula H2N(CH2)6NH2. The molecule is [known as] a diamine…

    *Other closely related diamines:

    • 4 carbons: tetramethylenediamine (nicknamed putrescine)

    • 5 carbons: pentamethylenediamine (nicknamed cadaverine)

    *Putrecine and cadaverine as their nick names suggest are the products of decaying and putrefying flesh. In particular they account for the foul odors associated with decaying flesh.

    *Nylon 5,10, made from pentamethylene diamine (cadaverine) and sebacic acid, was studied by Carothers even before nylon 6,6 and has superior properties.

    So what do we have here? A bacteria that evolves (adapts) to digest a synthetic fiber synthesized out of organic compounds. Why is that supposed to be so amazing?

    Apparently, some people haven’t gotten the memo. Most creationists (including YECs) and ID’ists accept bacterial adaptation as a form of micro evolutionary change.

    The only ID biochemist I could find, Michael Behe, was not all that impressed by the argument. This is what Behe (MJB) said in an interview 7 or so years ago:

    (interviewer) ML: Is the repeated independent evolution of nylonase in two different strains of flavobacterium and of pseudomonas aeruginosa a good example of an increase of information in the genome? Does this refute the main contention of your book?

    MJB: No. Those enzymes are very simple ones which simply hydrolyze precursors to nylon. That’s a very simple task, which can be done even by small organic catalysts.

    http://www.ideacenter.org/contentmgr/showdetails.php/id/1449

  38. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    RE #42: Quick question so I know what I’m looking for. We were talking about the development of new functions being observed. I got into that paper a ways and started to wonder whether it had to do with any observations. The only observed evolution I can find in the paper is this:

    Experiments using both unicellular and multicellular predators have led either to the facultative induction of multicellularity or to the evolution of multicellular descendants from unicellular ancestors. For example, as the freshwater green alga Scenedesmus acutus divides, it retains its daughter cells within its cell walls; these daughter cells can remain attached and form colonies, or they can separate and live as unicells (Van den Hoek et al. 1995). S. acutus is normally colonial in field pop- ulations, but unicellular in lab cultures (Lu ̈rling & Van Donk 2000). Exposure of unicellular S. acutus cultures to water from cultures of Daphnia, a cladoceran predator on Scenedesmus, significantly increased colony formation over controls. The colonial morphs grew and photosynthesized at the same rate as unicells, but sank more rapidly. In a similar experiment, cultures of the unicellular alga Chlorella vulgaris repeatedly evolved to form stable, self-replicating colonies within 100 generations in the pres- ence of a phagotrophic predatory flagellate, with the colonies nearly invulnerable to predation (Boraas et al. 1998). The colonial state heritably persisted after removal of the predator.

    This is not the de novo evolution of some new structure or function, it’s the shifting of proportions of observed types within populations. Did I miss some other observed, real evolution in that paper?

  39. scblhrm

    Tom,

    As noted earlier, food and foreigners and so on at that peculiar interface. Your question about the essay and what we are actually observing helps get us to what we are talking about as the essay notes, “Multicellular organisms continue to evolve from unicellular ancestors and sometimes continue to revert to a unicellular state…. the transition to multicellular organization is an inducible response to environmental stimuli…” The evolution of multi-cellular life from single cells is what this is about – and it’s a posited mechanism of transition, not a witness of arrival. The question isn’t proportions within an available range (that pesky present and accounted for 0.0001% – 0.9999%) vs. the birth of an actual multi-cellular organism, for without question it is the former that we are observing, as colonies are (generally) presented in the effort to posit a potential pathway (eons ago) to *actual* multi-cellular organisms, rather than as *an* actual *organism*. Colonies are not organisms, as in, true multi-cellularity mounts the organism’s integrity over and above any cellular benefit as cell suicide rises to necessity. Obviously genetic equivalence is found in all cell lines of contribution, and, undifferentiated stem cells (multi-potency) are necessary and not optional. True multi-cellular coordination is not mere juxtaposition, as it is in colonies, and as such we find the need for an inability of X to be reduced to the sum of X’s parts. Of note, colony formation is akin to malarial resistance in that the capacity, potential, to revert back across those ever present and accounted for ranges, options, remains intact. Of course, there is a difference in that the enzyme pathway in malarial resistance is truly within *an* organism while the colonies are – in the truest sense – more than one organism. We must be careful to differentiate between observation and presupposition. The paper is an interesting example of the a priori filling in the gaps and given scientism’s necessary company inside of philosophical naturalism’s paradigm, it’s reasonable to request more than what is given in the paper given that the price of acceptance is intellectually high. Physical evidence, observational reality, the philosophical naturalist’s a priori commitments, and his offer to us of his best, of his ceiling, of what he describes as contingently conditioned neurobiological maps of useful fictions, all leave us justified at this point in being a tad suspicious of motives.

  40. scblhrm

    DJC,

    @ #41

    To add to what you described, just a little clarification:

    You noted of A-T metaphysics, “…it is not logic or observation that necessarily denies the possibility of (macro) evolutionary mechanisms.”

    On the *granting* of pan-evolution:

    One must take Feser to the end of his metaphysics. It may be the case that you stop too soon in describing his regress. Don’t forget the intractable problem of meaning, of about-ness, of Scientism, and where Feser goes with that. Indifference/Particle isn’t the stopping point and when we speak of *essence* we must keep that in the equation.

    The bench top loaded with the Mind’s Hand, and observational reality – as opposed to presupposition – are all clearly against life ever getting off the ground and against anything more than fluctuating swings within hyper-variable ranges. A-T is not logically against any of it making progress simply because of the reality of what we find on our own bench top over and over again – failure but for the regress to the Mind’s Hand – finding quite another *essence* in regress. So we must clarify what we mean when we say that AT is not against PN’s gap-ridden path based on logic or observation alone. In fact, both logic an observational reality *do* grant very reasonable grounds to doubt PN’s account of Man’s contingently conditioned neurobiological fictional maps in the arena of evolution.

    Here the word *essence* of life does not have to mean guided evolution at each step (etc.) but does mean that peculiar capacity to house more than particle’s regress. The bench top is proof of such a need as everything fails but for Mind’s Hand and so – on the grounds of an *essence* which PN cannot grant – A-T metaphysics is happy to allow PN to fill in the gaps. It’s akin to, say, the logic of logic. In A-T metaphysics there is no logic against logic *because* of where the regress ends, whereas, in PN there *is* a dis-logic awaiting logic in eliminative regress. Useful fictions, intractable about-ness, scientism, and so on. So in *that* case A-T is happy to *grant* logic because there is an ‘ontic stopping point’ which satisfies logic. Such *granting* of pan-evolution is, for similar reasons, not because of observational reality, and not because of logic, and not because of the (anemic) evidence being presented for said pan-evolution.

    So you are accurate in your assessment of A-T’s agreement to go ahead and take what evidence there is and just go ahead and grant the permission to take that anemic evidence as a stepping stone and allow the PN folk to go beyond *both* the bench top *and* observation and begin filling in the gaps with speculation and to accept such speculation on average. *But* that permission of logic to so fill in the gaps is grounded on the “logic of logic” and *not* on observational reality’s anemic evidence. Without that *essence* beyond PN’s reach, both the bench top and observational reality leave us with little to work with and hence that acute necessity on the part of PN to fill in the gaps with speculation after speculation after speculation, and, also, just as intellectually woeful, with scientism.

    So A-T metaphysics has a paradigm within which the *essence* that just is Indifference/Particle can and do *actually* juxtapose and/or house a very different *essence* which Indifference/Particle never can achieve *but for* a very different end of regress. All of this is a very, very *different* statement than the statement that one can – on the grounds of logic and the evidence and observational reality – void of presupposition – easily and casually grant PN’s request. That is not the case. Logic and physical evidence and observational reality and the bench top all find rather insulting affronts *if* PN’s intellectual baggage and its gap-ridden pan-evolution are asking to be taken seriously. But, A-T metaphysics is *still* happy to *grant* PN’s access to logic and pan-evolution *given* the logical lucidity of *essence* afforded within its (A-T) paradigm.

  41. bigbird

    I think Aristotelian-Thomism is an important counter example here. A-T does not see evolution as guided in the sense of having been actively managed by God but rather that the material of life itself might have causal tendencies allowing it to change, evolve and increase in information complexity.

    As I recall Feser says that evolution can’t be responsible for the human mind, as it is immaterial. So that is an important caveat.

  42. scblhrm

    DJC,

    SteveK’s #38 is another approach or useful addition to the qualifier I was offering in my comment to you.

  43. G. Rodrigues

    @DJC:

    A-T does not see evolution as guided in the sense of having been actively managed by God but rather that the material of life itself might have causal tendencies allowing it to change, evolve and increase in information complexity.

    Besides the important caveat Bigbird mentioned (a couple of others could be added) it does see evolution as guided and “actively managed” in other senses, no less important than the one you mention.

    And the big elephant in the room: the sense you quote, and quite correctly should I add, is no less abhorrent to your garden variety naturalist, since it appeals, explicitly or implicitly, to Essentialism, final causes, immanent teleology, etc. all things vigorously denied by them.

    E. Gilson wrote an important book on the relation between AT and Evolution theory: From Aristotle to Darwin & Back Again: A Journey in Final Causality, Species and Evolution. It is mostly an historical book with the explicit aim of defending teleology, but it is a good one.

    Thus, it is not logic or observation that necessarily denies the possibility of (macro) evolutionary mechanisms.

    What you want to say is that (Thomistic) metaphysical principles do not rule out per se Evolution and its proposed mechanisms, but the ID’er could still be correct insofar as those specific biological phenomena that he quotes. To decide that question, since it is a contingent, empirical question, obviously it is empirical observation along with careful reasoning, metaphysical included, that will decide the matter.

  44. Ollie

    35:00 Lennox jokes about the brain. Here is another good one:
    “I always thought that the brain is the most wonderful organ in a human body until I realized who is telling me this.”

  45. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Well, now, wasn’t that cute? 🙂

    But it almost came across as if you were questioning that “if” statement. Which would be a very hard position for you to sustain, if you were.

  46. Ray Ingles

    JAD –

    A bacteria that evolves (adapts) to digest a synthetic fiber synthesized out of organic compounds. Why is that supposed to be so amazing?

    A fiber that had never before existed on the planet, that used types of cross-linking bonds not found in nature. That’s a new function, an enzyme that simply did not exist previously tackling a substance that no living thing had been exposed to before.

    This is significantly different from, to take an example not at random, lactase.

    BTW, for my part, I am not impressed that Behe isn’t impressed.

  47. Ray Ingles

    Tom – Depends a whole lot on what is meant by “disorder is the natural state of reality”. I see no reason to assume that, for example, electrons are inherently unruly and willful, and would take on many different unit charges if only they could escape a firm supernatural leash.

  48. scblhrm

    Ah yes, yet more sliding back and forth amid 0.0001% specificity and 0.9999% specificity.

    Poor Naturalist.

    If only, for the Naturalist’s sake, there had been ZERO specificity.

    But if there had been ZERO, then how to learn to read what does not exist?

    But of course, it existed. Range. As predicted by Genesis but not by PN.

    Another bed of messy presuppositional gap filling by PN.

  49. scblhrm

    And more:

    Range beyond the Now, beyond Today, beyond what exists Here, such is Man and life in Eden. Maybe God has thoughts up ahead. But Naturalism’s mouth able to eat of trees which never existed “Here”? Well, on what grounds? Non-existence?

  50. scblhrm

    JAD,

    Given such Divine permission amid such an uncanny array of Trees, we find no surprise of novel foods, neither for the body or for the mind. Inside of Time. And, per scripture, perhaps outside of Time. QM certainly agrees. Trees are funny things. Non-existent and yet casually readable in that pesky range? Please. Unlike the Naturalist we find no need to appeal to the magic of Non-Existence in order to save our case.

    In short, I’m as unsurprised as you.

  51. Bill L

    Tom,

    ….This is not the de novo evolution of some new structure or function, it’s the shifting of proportions of observed types within populations. Did I miss some other observed, real evolution in that paper?

    The Boraas paper really shows what we had in mind here. There is not much detail in the link I provided; if you can not access the original paper, I could send you a pdf – just let me know.

    In there you will see that it is indeed multicellularity that arose from a unicellular species.

    Also, I am still curious about this question that you did not answer:
    “Can you provide any influential writing by people who say we should not question scientific ideas or evolution?”

  52. Post
    Author
  53. Post
    Author
  54. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Some more quotes, re your question in 59:

    But from any empirical and rational point of view, evolution is a fact in a proximate sense, exactly as gravity, continental drift, genes, and atoms are facts. The existence of all of these objects and processes is not obvious on superficial examination, but all of these were discovered by scientists after intense, patient scientific investigation and keen insight and are now considered to be facts. Similarly, the factuality of evolution is not in question among scientists and educated persons.

    http://www.texscience.org/reviews/weaknesses.htm

    Also:
    http://www.pfaw.org/issues/religious-liberty/defending-science-education-your-community

    http://doubtfulnews.com/2012/06/kansas-official-bemoans-lack-of-respect-for-religion-pooh-poohs-centuries-of-scientific-knowledge/

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/04/mayor-bloomberg-denounces_n_1076879.html

    http://www.theguardian.com/science/2005/feb/07/evolution.schoolsworldwide

    “Evolution is a fact. Beyond reasonable doubt, beyond serious doubt, beyond sane, informed, intelligent doubt, beyond doubt evolution is a fact…That didn’t have to be true. It is not self-evidently, tautologically, obviously true, and there was a time when most people, even educated people, thought it wasn’t. It didn’t have to be true, but it is….Evolution is the only game in town, the greatest show on earth.”
    ― Richard Dawkins, The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution, https://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/6295163-the-greatest-show-on-earth-the-evidence-for-evolution

    http://www.businessinsider.com/scientific-facts-poll-2014-4

    Finally, at the risk of being condescending, I don’t see how your question could have been asked by anyone who has been tracking this controversy. I was pretty surprised you asked for documentation. Evolution is not questionable in mainstream biology. It just isn’t.

  55. JAD

    Ray wrote,

    BTW, for my part, I am not impressed that Behe isn’t impressed.

    There we have it folks. Ray said it that settles it. Where did Ray get his PhD. in biochemistry from? Does anyone know?

    Notice what is going on here. First, those who cite nylonase as some new icon of Darwinian evolution tell us that a bacteria evolved to somehow digest nylon by products—“nylon is synthetic; it didn’t exist anywhere in nature until 1935, when it was invented by an organic chemist at the chemical company Dupont.”** Wow! That’s sounds amazing if you spin it that way and “forget” to tell people the rest of the facts. Like the fact that nylon was invented by an organic chemist, who used organic molecules as a key component in the polymerization process. Furthermore, the diamines used are closely associated with decaying and putrefying flesh. (Indeed, as I noted above, Carothers synthesized Nylon 5,10, made from pentamethylene diamine also known cadaverine.) So if you spin it that way, the story you have is about a bacteria that adapts/evolves to digest organic molecules. Maybe it’s just me but that doesn’t sound as amazing. The wow turns to a huh?

    However, my point here is not to win this debate.

    Earlier in this thread (@ #19) I wrote, “I think J.P. Moreland had a good point when he made the distinction between core beliefs and peripheral beliefs. Unfortunately, this distinction is lost on most of the interlocutors who show up on this site, who think that by undermining some minor peripheral belief that Christian-theism will collapse like a house of cards. “

    And @ #34, “It is very apparent that those who embrace philosophical naturalism and comment here think that science somehow proves naturalism and disproves theism.”

    It appears to me that Ray is one of those interlocutors. He has been here for several years trying the same tactic over and over again. Apparently believing that by nibbling around the edges, using sleight of hand rhetoric and posturing like he is the only one who knows anything about science, he’ll someday, somehow make an argument that really succeeds in destroying people’s faith. The problem is that for most of us here our faith is grounded in core beliefs not peripheral ones. In other words, even if Ray is right about nylonase it won’t make any difference.

    ** See http://www.nbcnews.com/id/9452500/#.VNKzoZ3F-So

  56. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    I have the PDF. Thank you, Bill!

    Here’s what I’m still wondering about:

    Our experiments demonstrate the power of predation as a single selective force in promoting increased morphological complexity, within a short time frame. In a system where environmental conditions were held constant, a multicellular organic form evolved from a unicellular one within 10±20 generations. Based on our data and observations, the multicellular Chlorella, a rare genetic mutant in unicellular culture, was selected over unicells by Ochromonas predation. In the presence of phagotrophs, there was a clear selection mechanism for colony formation: unicells and colonies with small, young cells could be eaten, whereas colonies with larger cells could not. Since Chlorella is obligately asexual, sexual recombination does not cloud the issue.

    First: granted, they culled the initial population to include only single-cellular c. vulgaris, but apparently there is, in nature, a rare multicellular variant already extant. Did this experiment permit one of those variants into the population, despite attempts to control it? I don’t know.

    Second, the method of achieving multicellularity does not appear to be genetic:

    In continuous cultures with the predator, the rapid appearance of very large multicellular Chlorella (Fig. 1c) apparently resulted from incomplete division: an initial loss of the mechanism for separating successive generations. The most probable initial mechanism for colony formation, adhesion of the daughter cells to the mother cell wall, is suggested by two observations: the membrane that surrounds the colonies (Fig. 1d) and the absence of cast-o

  57. Bill L

    First: granted, they culled the initial population to include only single-cellular c. vulgaris, but apparently there is, in nature, a rare multicellular variant already extant.

    They are referring to the genetic mutant that appeared in the culture. I did not exist before. So no, they are not in nature.

    Second, the method of achieving multicellularity does not appear to be genetic

    The authors explain how the colonies persist and multiply through generations. Though the genetic specifics are not discussed, it would appear that there would have to be a genetic (or epi-genetic) reason for this.

  58. Bill L

    Finally, at the risk of being condescending, I don’t see how your question could have been asked by anyone who has been tracking this controversy. I was pretty surprised you asked for documentation. Evolution is not questionable in mainstream biology. It just isn’t.

    Slowly going through some of your links now, I think I understand where we’ve gone wrong. It seem you believe that the right to “question” evolution means that every unqualified person should have his views equally respected in a scientific or educational matter, even if he doesn’t understand the scientific issues.

    What I was referring to was anyone seriously saying that scientific ideas should not be questioned by serious scientists willing to carefully investigate the subject.

    Not one of your links I’ve looked at thus far says anything like that (that I can verify). But I’ll keep looking at them.

  59. scblhrm

    Tom,

    Some observations:

    Many point out that the immediate shift upon predation is vie standing genetic variation. Various genotypes present in one population both with and without the sisterhood stickiness, as it were. Temporary extinction, not evolution, seems to be what ensues. Often upon isolation from predation the lingering traits of unicellularity again ensue as stickiness begins to present disadvantages. About, say, 50 generations later, the original pool proportions *may* be present.

    *An* organism houses multi-potent lines (stem cells) and death precedes full and final separation of its cells.

    Take, say, “X” bacterium, and such just is *an* organism which just does house the unicel/colony range of motion. That’s nice, but observing that organism’s already present capacity there does not grant what is being asserted. The a priori lingers. In a sense shifting enzyme specificity is the same. It is present potential. Present range. Never starting with Zero/De-Novo. Unicell/Colony are, in the same way, not at Zero/De-Novo prior to predation.

    Observations and presuppositions are often dissimilar.

  60. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    RE: #65: It sounds epigenetic to me, as it’s described in the paper.

    Other than shared boundaries (i.e., interior and exterior-facing cell walls), do these cells exhibit any other developing systems?

    I grant that this is an evolution of multicellularity, but if it doesn’t exhibit multicellular systems development, it’s only slightly impressive. I hate to sound like I’m moving the goalposts on you, but if you had asked me on the front end, “are you talking about development of mere colonies or of shared systems?” I would not have chosen mere neighborliness for the sake of size, sans shared systems.

    I’m still wondering.

  61. scblhrm

    X getting fired for openly questioning.

    Apparently X wasn’t a “serious” thinker and taking away his livelihood wasn’t “serious”, shall we say, “communication”.

  62. Bill L

    I grant that this is an evolution of multicellularity, but if it doesn’t exhibit multicellular systems development, it’s only slightly impressive. I hate to sound like I’m moving the goalposts on you, but if you had asked me on the front end, “are you talking about development of mere colonies or of shared systems?” I would not have chosen mere neighborliness for the sake of size, sans shared systems.

    I’m still wondering.

    I think those are fair things to wonder about. But I think if we saw the full steps from unicellularity to shared systems (if I understand your meaning) in such a short time, then that would be a HUGE jump… probably evidence against evolution and good evidence for guided creation.

  63. Bill L

    X getting fired for openly questioning.

    If what is being referred to here is the first article, we don’t know what really happened – we have what was written in the article. Was this person really fired for a legitimate investigation? Or was he fired for being a crackpot without evidence who was just expounding a nutty idea as an official position when it was not?

    We can not tell from the article.

  64. scblhrm

    Bill L.,

    Okay then.

    It never goes on.

    In word or deed.

    And certainly not in lecture halls.

    You’re sounding a little sheltered from the real world 😉

  65. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    RE #70.

    Fair enough. Heads I win, tails yo lose.

    The topic of this discussion was my statement that to my knowledge, there has never been any event observed anywhere in the field or the lab that would actually show that unguided evolution has the power ascribed to it.

    If it had been observed, you say, that would be bad for (naturalistic) evolutionary theory. The fact that it hasn’t been observed is no help, either. I’ll take that as your acknowledging this as a no-win situation for you. It’s not a win for me, either, though. In my view, it’s not a very relevant experiment, since it doesn’t address the question at hand.

    By the way, I do agree that naturalistic evolution does not predict that a great leap would happen in any particular population under observation.

    How many populations of how many organisms have been under observation, for how many generations? I’m not just talking about the lab now. I’m talking about microbes everywhere, not to mention larger species.

    At what point do the probabilities begin to suggest that at least one of those organisms would evolve significantly? How many generations must it take for evolutionary events to happen? How many observed generations will it take before we wonder why it hasn’t happened where we could see it happening?

    More questions. I’m admittedly stretching even further outside my field here, and I don’t know have a clue how close we are to that probability situation.

    And yet I still think it’s true that there remains no observational evidence showing that evolution has ever actually done what it’s claimed to have done.

  66. Bill L

    Sorry scblhrm, but if I had hired a health secretary who thought he should warn parents that vaccines cause autism, I would say he is not capable of doing his job. He should be fired.

    If I had one that said the same and presented credible evidence of the claim, that would be a different story.

  67. Post
    Author
  68. scblhrm

    Bill L,

    Agree.

    *It* never goes on.

    In word or deed.

    And never in lecture halls.

    Yes. Agree.

    That is the real world.

    I mean…. I’m just saying….. 🙂

  69. Bill L

    There are many such observations Tom, but it does depend on what you would accept as evidence. My intent here was to give you what you had asked for in that situation and I have done that. I can give you more. But I think you get the picture.

    There is never going to be any one “knock-down” argument that will convince you, they way you can never give any one argument that will convince an atheist of your position. You say (probably rightly) that it takes a lot of time, patients and a genuine willingness to understand your position on Christianity. I would say something similar of evolution.

    I would guess that it is probably that when you read all of those authors you mention, you’re looking not so much to understand how this could be true, but rather you are looking for the “holes” in their arguments. Isn’t that how you see so many non-believers when they have read so much Christian and theological literature?

    Can you see that this is even a remote possibility?

    Anyway, thank you for the discussion.
    I still enjoy your blog.

  70. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Also, two very key items I should have brought up first:

    1. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/07/books/thomas-nagel-is-praised-by-creationists.html?pagewanted=all and http://news.nationalpost.com/2013/03/23/what-has-gotten-into-thomas-nagel-leading-atheist-branded-a-heretic-for-daring-to-question-darwinism/

    2. https://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2009/02/robert-pennock-the-conciliator/

    and further:

    http://www.amazon.com/Creationisms-Trojan-Horse-Intelligent-Design/dp/0195319737/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1423103802&sr=8-1&keywords=creationism%27s+trojan+horse

    http://www.amazon.com/Doubts-about-Darwin-History-Intelligent/dp/0801065216/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1423103496&sr=8-6&keywords=thomas+woodward

    http://www.amazon.com/Darwin-Strikes-Back-Defending-Intelligent-ebook/dp/B00DHHEJNM/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1423103496&sr=8-3&keywords=thomas+woodward

  71. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    What’s a joke about Expelled?

    Seriously.

    I know many of these men. Guillermo Gonzalez lost his tenure application because he’s sympathetic to ID.

    Expelled went over the top with its Darwin-Hitler link; it was (at least) the wrong place to propose it.

    The rest of the stories, my friend, are true.

    So is the scorn that’s been dump-trucked on the atheist Thomas Nagel for breaking away from the party line. Read the first links in #79.

    Bill, on this topic I’m speaking from my own authority. I’ve had the conversations with many of the people involved. I’ve been reading this topic for years and years. If you think there’s no systematically enforced protocol requiring biologists to accept evolution, you’re simply wrong.

  72. Bill L

    Maybe you do know Gonzalez. But I often find one-sided stories by people who themselves misunderstand a situation can be very misleading.

    http://www.expelledexposed.com/index.php/the-truth/gonzalez

    I’ve been reading this topic for years and years. If you think there’s no systematically enforced protocol requiring biologists to accept evolution, you’re simply wrong.

    Tom, I’ve been a biologist for years and years. You’re simply wrong.

  73. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    And Bill, this really, really, really catches me off guard.

    I would guess that it is probably that when you read all of those authors you mention, you’re looking not so much to understand how this could be true, but rather you are looking for the “holes” in their arguments. Isn’t that how you see so many non-believers when they have read so much Christian and theological literature?

    I wrote in #12, “Keith, since no one has observed evolution producing any complex organs, I think it’s still an open question.”

    Am I not trying to understand? Do you not see what I’ve said?

    #44:

    RE #42: Quick question so I know what I’m looking for…. Did I miss some other observed, real evolution in that paper?

    #64:

    I have the PDF. Thank you, Bill! Here’s what I’m still wondering about … Did this experiment permit one of those variants into the population, despite attempts to control it? I don’t know. …

    #68: “I’m still wondering.”

    #73:

    How many populations of how many organisms have been under observation, for how many generations? I’m not just talking about the lab now. I’m talking about microbes everywhere, not to mention larger species.

    At what point do the probabilities begin to suggest that at least one of those organisms would evolve significantly? How many generations must it take for evolutionary events to happen? How many observed generations will it take before we wonder why it hasn’t happened where we could see it happening?

    More questions. I’m admittedly stretching even further outside my field here, and I don’t know have a clue how close we are to that probability situation.

    And yet I still think it’s true that there remains no observational evidence showing that evolution has ever actually done what it’s claimed to have done.

    Just what kind of evidence, Bill, do I have to exhibit before it becomes apparent that I’m not closed off to the possibility that I”m wrong on this?

    You say now,

    My intent here was to give you what you had asked for in that situation and I have done that.

    But I don’t think you have. I have explained why I don’t think you have. I have even tried to be fully frank and honest about the appearance of moving the goalposts.

    All I’m saying is that we still don’t have a positive answer to the question I raised in #12. If the Baraas paper is the closest you have, I think I’ve evaluated it fairly, and I’ve presented reasons for my conclusions.

    But for you, “Expelled is pretty much a joke.” Done. Over. Dismissed with just a quick unsavory comparison. But we can go to Guillermo Gonzalez, and to the emails surrounding his tenure denial, and find out it really happened for the reasons stated. I’ve had that conversation with him. I’ve talked at length with his co-author Jay Richards. I’ve talked with Michael Behe about his shunning at Lehigh.

    Your assessment of me is unfair and inaccurate. I’m not unsusceptible to confirmation bias, obviously, but I’m not just retreating into bias. I’m explaining my reasons. If my reasons are wrong, tell me how. But don’t resort to ad hominems to explain my actions until you’ve got a good reason to do so, which at this point, Bill, you do not have.

  74. Post
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  75. Post
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    Tom Gilson

    Bill, I didn’t know you were a biologist.

    Can you show me some evidence that questioning evolution is acceptable in mainstream biology?

    I’m open to hearing it. Honest.

  76. Post
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  77. scblhrm

    Another way to view this is that such tendencies of abuse are a very human problem. That is why such occurrences persist. The appeal to *scientists* as immune here to our own human failings is peculiar. It seems odd that such an appeal would even be made.

  78. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Finally on this interchange for now:

    There is never going to be any one “knock-down” argument that will convince you, they way you can never give any one argument that will convince an atheist of your position.

    I don’t know which convincing you have in mind.

    I was looking for a good reason to think that a certain level of evolution had been observed scientifically. All it would take to convince me of that would be a single solid example.

    I do not expect there to be similarly simple knock-down arguments that would convince either a theist or an atheist to give up his or her position, partly for reasons already alluded to, but mostly because these major worldview positions are built on so many different interlocking levels of both reason and psychology, it just couldn’t be that unitary and simple. That’s another level of persuasion altogether, not at all comparable to the question I thought we were working on.

  79. bigbird

    And yet I still think it’s true that there remains no observational evidence showing that evolution has ever actually done what it’s claimed to have done.

    Yes – the closest we seem to get are examples of rapid contemporary evolution which aren’t evolutionary at all.

    In fact when I looked a couple of years ago, something like 97% (maybe more) of peer reviewed papers making claims about evolved features had not checked to see if there were changes in the genotype.

  80. scblhrm

    “God, Science, and the Big Questions” is the title of this thread. So therefore………

    The link in #89 is insightful in that it mirrors the Atheist’s juxtaposition of Evolution / Christianity as mutually exclusive. As in: The link states that the lack of change over time, over extreme periods of time, is given as proof of the “Darwinian null hypothesis”. In other words, if there is *no* change, then we conclude that the full blown *through and through* variety of the Darwinian paradigm is the correct paradigm. If there *is* change, then we conclude that the Darwinian paradigm is the correct paradigm. If there is *some* change, then we conclude that the Darwinian paradigm is the correct paradigm. If, as in this thread, we observe no examples that evolution can in fact do the work attributed to it, then we conclude that the Darwinian paradigm is the correct paradigm.

    In other words, the Darwinian paradigm is not based on evidence, but on an a priori commitment to a paradigm. The *driver* in all of *that* is, clearly, anything but the evidence.

    That sounds like suspicious thinking *if* one is to base *PN* on the presence or absence of the *especially* through-and-through Darwinian paradigm. This is where the Atheist misses the point. The Atheist (it seems) just has to have *that* through-and-through variety of said paradigm present in order for him (the Atheist) to feel secure in his PN (philosophical naturalism) and so he projects that superficial sort of approach to metaphysical thinking onto his counterpart, the Christian, and just assumes that the Christian, also, just has to have *no small part of* that wider through-and-through paradigm extricated in order for him (the Christian) to feel secure in his Theism. So, therein, the Atheist comes and bombards the Christian with examples of change and thinks he is making an argument against Christian metaphysics.

    But the Christian expects change.

    Zero adaptability would be an unsophisticated blueprint to fashion *given* the simple facts of time, change, mobility, a rotating planet, and disorder in need of subduing. As if there never would be a change of environment on a rotating round sphere saturated with mobile creatures from the highest to the lowest. *Static* environment is, by far, essentially a no-go from the get-go. Therein we expect, well, what? We expect to find exactly what we *observe* in the real world which we find before our fingertips. The ability to read new sentences in one’s book. And we expect this readable adaptability even at the interface of Reality and Mind – which is troubling for those “useful fictions” which materialism is committed to embracing, ultimately. Genesis is just rich. “You may eat of every Tree but one”. As it turns out, Trees are peculiar entities. To read new sentences one will ipso facto find those wonderfully present and accounted for 0.0001% – 0.9999% alphabetical specificities with which to read, both inside of time and outside of time. Indeed, from the highest to the lowest all of *that* is the observed journey of creation.

    In the purely material that is what we observe in those peculiar interfaces amid self/nonself as in, say, enzyme potential, and in, say, unicellular/colony potential, and in, say, other fluxes. There never is a get-up-and-go from a start of Zero/De-Novo. It’s always the previously described hyper-variability ebbing, flowing, back and forth. In the purely immaterial we come upon that very same interface amid self/nonself in abstraction’s regress into logical lucidity. Man/God.

    That peculiar readability of reality, from the highest to the lowest, is expected. And observed.

    We’ve seen this over and over. Every time we’ve seen someone put forth an actual candidate for something that is supposed to be an actual observation, demonstration, of something more than such readability, *whether* we are speaking of the material order *or* of the immaterial order, it always falls apart on closer examination and ends with its feet firmly planted on an a priori presupposition to justify pesky gaps and troubling incoherence. It seems we are justified at this point in being a tad suspicious of motives.

    Gap-filling by the Atheist has to happen despite observational reality and so of course the observation of Zero Change to Some Change are all counted as stepping stones, as evidence, amid the gaps, and, as noted, evidence isn’t *driving* that sort of thinking. Given the needed paradigmatic ocean which traverses the metaphysical landscape from the [Pre Big Bang] to the [Big-Bang] to the [Intractability of About-ness], well, the actual *evidence* which we find before us in Logic, in the Physical Sciences, and in Metaphysics/Philosophy finds a robust explanatory power in Theism.

    How do we interpret reality? As J. West commented on Feser’s page, “I think materialism can lead to a strange regress: fictional objects, fictional counterfactuals, fictional mathematics, fictional free will, until everything is fictional and we’re back floating in a jar, hallucinating the world. Perhaps eliminative materialism is the final absurdity in the regress — eliminating even the mind.”

    The Christian, fortunately, finds a far more intellectually satisfying map of reality. From the lowest to the highest. Literally. David Bentley Hart touches on such a map, “…we….encounter the world….. through our conscious and intentional orientation toward the absolute, in pursuit of a final bliss that beckons to us from within those transcendental desires that constitute the very structure of rational thought, and that open all of reality to us precisely by bearing us on toward ends that lie beyond the totality of physical things. The whole of nature is something prepared for us, composed for us, given to us, delivered into our care by a supernatural dispensation…… [by] God – the infinite wellspring of being, consciousness, and bliss that is the source, order, and end of all reality…..”

  81. Ray Ingles

    JAD –

    There we have it folks. Ray said it that settles it.

    Given the hash I’ve seen Behe make of information theory, immunology, hematology, and so forth – just astonishingly wrong – I don’t see him as an authority on anything. I’d even double-check statements he made about biochemistry, his actual degree area.

    the story you have is about a bacteria that adapts/evolves to digest organic molecules

    Wow, those goalposts broke the sound barrier.

    Nylon is a polymer. That is to say, it’s made up of subunits that are linked together into larger macromolecules. RNA is a polymer. So is DNA. Carbohydrates are polymers. Proteins are polymers (made of amino acids) that can in turn form polymers. Lipids – fats – can also form polymers. Note that all of these have radically different properties – “organic molecules” aren’t all the same. Chemistry itself is split into organic (carbon-containing) chemistry and inorganic chemistry, because organic chemistry all by itself is hugely diverse.

    It’s like saying, ‘Aw, a Boeing 747 is just another kind of kite. They both fly.’

    And at that, nylon is not ‘just another polymer’. As I said before, the chemical bonds it uses to link up the subunits, the monomers, are not used in biological processes. Read up here – this isn’t a case of some pre-existing enzyme that had some tiny ability to attack nylon – “The data obtained in this study show that 6-aminohexanoic-acid-oligomer hydrolase [nylonase] has no activity on any physiological substrates, including the linear and cyclic amides and peptides tested…”

    (A new polymer arising that proved indigestible has come up before in evolutionary history, BTW. Cellulose, the main structural material of plants, is a polymer made of sugars. A second polymer, lignin, evolved to strengthen cellulose. It made plant matter almost indigestible. That’s a key reason why we have coal deposits. Then about 300 million years ago, mushrooms developed the ability to digest lignin, and coal formation pretty much came to a halt. But evolving that took 60 million years or so.)

    Being able to digest a whole new class of organic molecules is big news. And it does so with an enzyme with no precursors. And we can trace exactly the mutation that gave rise to it. But that’s not enough. What would be enough? Do you require bacteria that can digest concrete and steel? Or bacteria that can digest the power of friendship?

    “It is very apparent that those who embrace philosophical naturalism and comment here think that science somehow proves naturalism and disproves theism.”

    I actually explained why I didn’t argue that the last time you brought it up. And I’ve said before that “Undermining an argument for something is not the same thing as arguing against something.” Indeed, I’ve even explicitly acknowledged that “even if evolution were true and ID were false, it wouldn’t necessarily threaten any central Christian doctrine.”

    Sorry, you’re just wrong there.

  82. scblhrm

    JAD,

    An enzyme which already existed learned to read a new sentence. Ray says it’s from scratch. It’s not.

    “. Detailed examination of the DNA sequences of the original bacterium and of the nylon-ingesting version show identical versions in the gene for a key metabolic enzyme, with only one difference in over 400 nucleotides. However, this single microevolutionary addition of a single thymine (‘T’) nucleotide caused the new bacterium’s enzyme to be composed of acompletely novel sequence of amino acids, via the mechanism of frame shifting.”

    And there we have it. An enzyme (blueprint) already present. Learning to read new sentences. Ever in flux. As expected. As predicted by the Theist. Mind does this too. The peculiar readability of reality. From time to timelessness. Well, except for PN and its unavoidable embrace of fictions.

  83. Ray Ingles

    See, this is why I don’t bother responding to scblhrm. He always responds to what he wishes someone had said, not what they actually say. He pulls things out of context and misrepresents.

    Read the link. The whole link. It explains what a frame-shift mutation actually is – and why, as scblhrm didn’t quote, “The new string of amino acids – the new protein – is completely different from the original.”

    Some people won’t read the link. But anyone heard of Caesar substitution? Rot-13? A simple code, you map letters of the alphabet to other letters, most commonly half the alphabet away. ‘A’ becomes ‘n’, ‘b’ becomes ‘o’, ‘z’ becomes ‘m’, etc.

    So, “scblhrm misrepresents things” becomes “fpoyuez zvfercerfragf guvatf”. A frame-shift mutation scrambles genes in an analogous way. Usually this winds up being gibberish, like “fpoyuez”, but occasionally you get a protein that does something novel and useful. That’s what happened with nylonase.

  84. scblhrm

    Ray,

    Of course the building is different. That’s what a Blueprint Letter “does”.

    You *imply* the whole show is built de novo from scratch. It’s not. One Letter in a Blueprint. That’s hardly from scratch.

    That’s how new sentences are read in one’s book, one’s world.

  85. Bill L

    Ray,

    See, this is why I don’t bother responding to scblhrm. He always responds to what he wishes someone had said, not what they actually say.

    I’ve kind of been noticing that… Thank you for stating it.

  86. Bill L

    Tom,

    First let me apologize for ending the conversation without saying goodnight last night. I just got wrapped up in some other things and it got to be too late.

    Your assessment of me is unfair and inaccurate. I’m not unsusceptible to confirmation bias, obviously, but I’m not just retreating into bias. I’m explaining my reasons. If my reasons are wrong, tell me how. But don’t resort to ad hominems to explain my actions until you’ve got a good reason to do so, which at this point, Bill, you do not have.

    You make a fair point. I would say you do seem much more open than the vast majority of creationists I’ve encountered. In that case, I retract my statements. I will think about what to respond to in your other posts.

  87. scblhrm

    Bill L,

    Interpreting actual observations of biological change as evidence for something very different from what you or Ray are telling us it *is* evidence of is not misrepresenting *you*, rather, it is accurately *representing* the data based on a different set of presuppositions. You and Ray have foisted de novo in accordance with your own interpretive paradigm.

    You see, this is what Tom was speaking of. Not taking an overtly different interpretive paradigm as *serious*.

    Could it be possible that I am not misrepresenting your use of de novo but simply employing it in its proper fashion based on thinking that is different than yours?

    At some point methodological naturalism runs face first into scientism and as such fails to find the reach it needs. Hence it becomes essentially necessary to go beyond it at some point.

  88. Bill L

    Tom,

    OK, let’s start with this:

    Can you show me some evidence that questioning evolution is acceptable in mainstream biology?

    First, the answer is not of the type you’re probably expecting.

    I ask you to really think about what it would mean to have an anti-vaccine person as part of a health committee at either a medical school or a hospital.

    Now for simplicity, let’s say their are two kinds of anti-vaccine people… one is of they type that is doing research that has been peer reviewed and maybe he has found some evidence that vaccine X causes high mortality in children with medical condition Y. He believes that children with condition Y should not get vaccine X. He probably has good reasons, so he subjects his research to verification by outside researchers. If his research can not be replicated under good conditions, he may withdraw his reservations. If the results are mixed, he may hold on to them. Most importantly, he is interacting with the scientific community and is ready to change his mind. He does this on the basis of the state of the science.

    The second type of anti-vaccine person bought into Dr. Andrew Wakefield’s research early on. Maybe he got caught up in the conspiracy kind of thinking that came along later as Wakefield’s research could not be replicated. Maybe he came to believe that Wakefield was being unfairly persecuted because he felt that big pharmaceutical companies really just wanted to keep the truth suppressed for their profits. Now, he looks at the kind of research that supports his beliefs (the confirmation bias you mentioned) and subconsciously discounts contradictory evidence.

    So you Tom are the director of this school or hospital. The second person has started telling patients, staff, and the press about how vaccines cause autism. You have explained to this guy that his story is just not supported by the evidence or the best science. In fact, it’s been debunked countless times. Yet he persists. You ask him not to talk about those views, yet he persists. What do you do?

    If you fire him, he can claim that he is being persecuted for questioning the vaccine paradigm. But this guy has influence over students, staff, and supporting donors.

    Now, let’s go back to the first guy [keep in mind, I’m just making this story up]. Let’s say that there has been some independent support for his findings, but results are mixed. So what does he do? He goes back to work. He looks for mechanisms, he looks to see what the problem might be… was it a preservative? Was it contaminated? Were the studies large enough? What about people who don’t get the vaccine? What about people with conditions similar to Y? What about those who have condition Y but don’t get sick or die?

    If he is right, others will replicate his findings, others will then build a consensus about the dangers of that particular vaccine and the word will come out. Perhaps not quickly enough if you’re the parent of one of those children, but it will come out. This is the way science works. You can not keep the truth down for long because some really smart people are going to figure it out later.

    So, how does this relate to your question?

    Who has questioned the basic understanding of evolution? The answer is – many people.

    When Lynn Margulis first proposed her ideas of endosymbiosis, she was literally laughed at. Of course all organisms came from 1 and only 1 common ancestor. Of course organisms only have genetic material from what is in their same species – or so thought the evolutionary biologists.

    So what did she do? She rolled up her sleeves and got to work. She got a lab and began to test her ideas and publish them. Now, thanks to her, the textbooks were rewritten.

    Other examples?

    Gould’s punctuated equilibrium was vigorously fought against by the vast majority of biologists and paleontologists and so on.

    Kin selection and group selection were seen as radical changes to evolution.

    Epigenetic changes have Lamark practically poised to make a comeback.

    EvoDevo has made everyone look at changes anew.

    More here if you wish:
    http://epicofevolution.com/dialog/evolution-of-evolution.html

    “So what?” you say… “I want to see someone who has challenged all of evolution and gotten away with it.”

    The thing is, it just doesn’t happen that way, in any field of science (I’m sure you’ve read Kuhn). It especially does not happen that way to an integrated and well established field of science that is supported by so many disciplines.

    If anyone wants to overthrow the modern understanding of evolution for something like what most kinds of creationists are proposing, to say they have a lot of work to do is akin to saying the distance from Earth to Alpha Centauri is pretty far for our modern spacecraft. An ID creationist is going to have to establish a reliable method of detecting design. They have not, and that is why the state of their belief is little better than a “God of the very small gaps” argument. Other kinds of creationists (OEC or YEC) have to reinvent the fields of paleontology and geology, just for starters.

    If someone wants to convince others that he has a better idea that what so many scientists have worked for so long to establish, they had better have some very good evidence. Otherwise they start to look like anti-vaxxers with a mission.

  89. Bill L

    Tom,

    Touching on this a bit:

    How many populations of how many organisms have been under observation, for how many generations? I’m not just talking about the lab now. I’m talking about microbes everywhere, not to mention larger species.

    At what point do the probabilities begin to suggest that at least one of those organisms would evolve significantly? How many generations must it take for evolutionary events to happen? How many observed generations will it take before we wonder why it hasn’t happened where we could see it happening?

    Now we get to some interesting stuff, because we have to ask what you would accept as evidence. In this thread, you’ve asked for observed changes. I take that to mean within the lifetime of the observer. And it get’s tricky… If I point out some new functions, or new “information” in the genotype, then someone can always say to me, “hey, how do you know this wasn’t there before, and it just wasn’t expressed.”

    This is why we are so limited for the kinds of things you’re looking for.

    So what you’re really asking for is changes that result in a new function, that are attributed to the changes in genes, that were absolutely not present before. Now if you really want to see the kinds of changes that you talk about where I’ve added your text above, then we will even be less likely to have been monitoring that genome for enough time.

    We have observed new species to arise (keep in mind that this was once the old barrier that creationists said would never happen). We have very good evidence for the evolution of genera, families, and so on… Of course it becomes more coarse grained as you go higher in taxonomic levels, but that is what we would expect.

    So we ask of the creationist (I don’t know that I’m asking you this Tom, because I’m not sure what kind of creationist you are), “if new species can arise, what would stop this process from continuing indefinitely?”

    What is the “kind” that so many creationists seek? If domestic dogs and wolves are of the same “kind,” what about foxes, jackals, and raccoon dogs?

    If someone is an intelligent design creationist, why would God be a micro-tinkerer? Why not just let natural selection play out on a naturally varying genotype?

    Contrary to what some people (not you Tom) in this thread have suggested, I do not see theistic evolution as being incompatible with Christianity. It does raise some interesting questions, but I’m sure others have resolved them.

  90. JAD

    Bill L @ #98,

    Let me get this straight. You’re setting up a purely hypothetical (and made up) scenario about anti-vaxxers and making that morally equivalent to someone questioning evolution? Talk about grasping at straws.

    Is that true of everyone who questions evolution?

  91. Bill L

    Let me get this straight. You’re setting up a purely hypothetical (and made up) scenario about anti-vaxxers and making that morally equivalent to someone questioning evolution?

    No, that’s not what I’m doing.

  92. scblhrm

    What our PN (Philosophical Naturalism) friends in this thread fail to realize is the very simple fact that, despite their best attempts, nothing they’ve presented gives rational justification for the belief that the neo-Darwinian paradigm of genetic mutations interfacing with natural selection can do the work required of it.

    Many (Atheistic) practicing evolutionary biologists have realized that the neo-Darwinian paradigm of genetic mutation and natural selection *alone* is inadequate. This complaint is becoming increasingly more obvious. Unavoidably committed to scientism, they find themselves unable to employ large swaths of logical regressions in search of seamlessness. In a sense their own PN-induced methodological naturalism’s inescapable amalgamation with scientism forces their hand as a necessarily hampered reasoning drastically limits their options. Despite the eerie self-talk required to avoid scientism’s fateful dialogue, it is considered a necessary price tag given the alternative linguistic engagement.

    A growing awareness of the inadequacy of genetic mutation and natural selection alone to do the necessary work is touched on in this quote:

    “Darwin appealed to natural selection operating on random variations in living things in order to explain the adaptedness of organisms to their environment. With the development of modern genetics, genetic mutations came to supplement the Darwinian mechanism of natural selection by supplying an explanation for the variations on which natural selection works. Accordingly, we can call this hypothesis “neo-Darwinism….”

    “If, as a result of methodological naturalism, the pool of live explanatory options is limited to naturalistic hypotheses, then, at least until recently, the neo-Darwinian theory of biological evolution driven by the mechanisms of genetic mutation and natural selection was, as Alvin Plantinga puts it, the only game in town. Rival naturalistic hypotheses could not equal its explanatory power, scope, and plausibility. No matter how improbable it seems, no matter how enormously far the explanatory power of its mechanisms must be extrapolated beyond the testable evidence, no matter the lack of evidence for many of its tenets, it has to be true because there isn’t any other naturalistic theory that comes close…..”

    “Indeed, there are very good grounds for skepticism about the neo-Darwinian mechanisms behind evolutionary change. The adequacy of these mechanisms is today being sharply challenged by some of the top evolutionary biologists. In fact, I was intrigued recently to learn that Ayala has apparently since given up on the adequacy of the neo-Darwinian mechanisms. Lyn Margulis, one of the so-called Altenburg 16, a group of evolutionary biologists who met in 2008 at a conference in Altenburg, Austria, to explore the mechanisms behind evolutionary change, reported, “At that meeting [Francisco] Ayala agreed with me when I stated that this doctrinaire neo-Darwinism is dead. He was a practitioner of neo-Darwinism, but advances in molecular genetics, evolution, ecology, biochemistry, and other news had led him to agree that neo-Darwinism’s now dead” (Suzan Mazur, The Altenberg 16 [Berkeley: North Atlantic, 2010], p. 285).”

    “Now it needs to be clearly understood that Ayala is not about to embrace some sort of creationism. Rather additional natural mechanisms will be sought to supplement genetic mutation and natural selection. These are already being suggested in the scientific literature. I have every expectation that during the course of this century the neo-Darwinian mechanisms, which have been long challenged by creationists of various stripes, will come to be recognized as inadequate, and new mechanisms will be recognized. The irony will then be that the community of evolutionary biologists, rather than admitting that the criticisms of the creationists were justified, will say, “Oh, well, we knew all along that the neo-Darwinian mechanisms were inadequate!” – this despite the public posturing that goes on now in the name of neo-Darwinism…”

    “So while evolution in an innocuous sense is well-established, belief in evolution in senses (2) and (3) is not universal among scientists, and the dominance of [an increasingly inadequate] neo-Darwinism heretofore is due to the constraints of methodological naturalism and the want of a better naturalistic alternative.”

    The future:

    As Tom and others correctly note, the neo-Darwinian paradigm of genetic mutation and natural selection alone has not given us any evidence that it can do the work required of it, despite the failing attempt at posturing of some in this thread. Therefore, the future will probably begin sounding phrases such as, say, “Neo-Neo-Darwinian-Paradigm”, or something similar. The peculiar part is that, regardless of how many Neo’s we string in front of any paradigm that just is the intellectually hampered ontological arena of any PN-induced methodological naturalism, the eerie self-talk required to avoid scientism’s ill-fated and tragic dialogue will, like an addict in detox, yet fill the air with its unintelligible shrieks. (Quote link.)

  93. scblhrm

    Atheistic evolutionary biologists are, more and more often, agreeing with Tom and disagreeing with the mere posturing of some in this thread. The neo-Darwinian paradigm of genetic mutation plus natural selection alone just cannot do the necessary work.

    The reason for such dissatisfaction among (atheistic) evolutionary biologists is evidenced based. And yet, in this thread, all we get are tiny, isolated, inept examples of a mutation and a selection. All the while none of it falls outside of what the Christian expects within the paradigm of necessary intelligibility in reality’s readability in concrete terms from the ground up, from the lowest to the highest, from Time to Timelessness, from Material to Immaterial, in literal terms, and, also, all the while every example they have presented fails to do the work required of it. Professor Margulis is anything but a creationist of any kind, and like many of her kin she is declaring that the neo-Darwinian paradigm of genetic mutation plus natural selection is, well, “dead”. Despite the posturing of our PN friends in this thread, Neo-Evo-Devo-Neo is both unavoidable and forever, tragically, fated to scientism. And why? Well, simply because facts matter, simply because the paradigm of genetic mutations and selective pressure as an explanation is, well, in the atheist’s own words, “dead”, and simply because of the end of true reason which they must inevitably concede as their PN-induced variety of methodological naturalism commits them, ultimately, to the analytical insult of scientism.

    Suzan Mazur interviewed practicing evolutionist Professor Margulis:

    “While Eastman Professor Lynn Margulis clearly doesn’t have time on her hands at Oxford University’s Balliol College where she’s spending the year away from her other job as Distinguished University Professor of Geosciences at the University of Massachusetts – Amherst – I did actually run out of tape talking with her in round one of our conversation, barely scratching the surface on symbiosis (“new species evolve primarily through the long-lasting intimacy of strangers”), the evolutionary concept that brought her the Presidential Medal of Science in 1999. Margulis says that as far as “survival of the fittest” goes, it’s a “capitalistic, competitive, cost-benefit interpretation of Darwin” and that even banks and sports teams have to cooperate to compete. She sees natural selection as “neither the source of heritable novelty nor the entire evolutionary process” and has pronounced neo-Darwinism “dead,” since there’s no adequate evidence in the literature that random mutations result in new species. Margulis takes a holistic view of evolutionary science, and her U. Mass. lab page notes that their work “seamlessly” involves microbiology, cell biology, genetics, ecology, “soft rock” geology, astronomy, astrobiology, atmospheric sciences, metabolic organic and biochemistry.”

    Suzan Mazur’s book A review of The Altenberg 16: An Exposé of the Evolution Industry is reviewed by W. ReMine (in part) for context:

    Some excerpts to follow in the next comment:

  94. scblhrm

    Some excerpts here:

    Because this book was written by an evolutionist, creation scholars will especially love it. The Altenberg 16 looks at the rivalry in science today surrounding attempts to discover “the elusive process of evolution”. Its centrepiece is the by-invitation-only symposium held at Altenberg, Austria, in July 2008, attended by 16 evolutionary scientists, called the Altenberg 16….

    “[W]hile the Altenberg 16 have roots in neo-Darwinian theory, they recognize the need to challenge the prevailing Modern Synthesis, because there’s too much it doesn’t explain….” (p. vii).

    “The Altenberg 16 … recognize that the theory of evolution which most practicing biologists accept and which is taught in classrooms today, is inadequate in explaining our existence….” (p. 19).

    “A wave of scientists now questions natural selection’s role, though fewer will publicly admit it” (p. 20).

    “Evolutionary science is as much about the posturing, salesmanship, stonewalling and bullying that goes on as it is about actual scientific theory. It is a social discourse involving hypotheses of staggering complexity with scientists, recipients of the biggest grants of any intellectuals, assuming the power of politicians while engaged in Animal House pie-throwing and name-calling: ‘ham-fisted’, ‘looney Marxist hangover’, ‘secular creationist’, ‘philosopher’ (a scientist who can’t get grants anymore), ‘quack’, ‘crackpot’….”

    “In short, it’s a modern day quest for the holy grail, but with few knights. At a time that calls for scientific vision, scientific inquiry’s been hijacked by an industry of greed, with evolution books hyped like snake oil at a carnival.”

    “Perhaps the most egregious display of commercial dishonesty is this year’s celebration of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species—the so-called theory of evolution by natural selection, i.e., survival of the fittest, a brand foisted on us 150 years ago.”

    “Scientists agree that natural selection can occur. But the scientific community also knows that natural selection has little to do with long-term changes in populations [emphasis added, ellipsis in original]” (p. v).

    The book gives numerous statements that creation scholars will cheer. I therefore expected its author, Suzan Mazur, to offset those by giving the usual, obligatory, condemnation of creationists or the usual, stern (but empty), warning that ‘creationists will find nothing useful here’. I was pleasantly surprised these were absent from her prose. Though Mazur is an evolutionist, she is clearly a serious reporter, committed to the reporter’s craft of excluding her own views. The book is careful reportage throughout. She asks pointed questions of many evolutionary scientists, and gives lengthy transcripts of their responses, along with biographies, and observations about their appearance, manner, habits, and hobbies. It’s unlikely a creationist reporter could have gotten these same evolutionists to open up that much.

    The book openly acknowledges the insufficiency of explaining evolution via natural selection (i.e. mutation and recombination plus various forms of selection) — and documents this point with statements from leading evolutionary scientists.

    “We are grappling with the increasing feeling … that we just don’t have the theoretical and analytical tools necessary to make sense of the bewildering diversity and complexity of living organisms” (from the invitation to attend the Altenberg conference, p. 31).

    “Basically I don’t think anybody knows how evolution works…” (Jerry Fodor, p. 34).

    “Oh sure natural selection’s been demonstrated … the interesting point, however, is that it has rarely if ever been demonstrated to have anything to do with evolution in the sense of long-term changes in populations. … Summing up we can see that the import of the Darwinian theory of evolution is just unexplainable caprice from top to bottom. What evolves is just what happens to happen….” (Stanley Salthe, p. 21).

    “There are people spouting off as if we know the answer. We don’t know the answer” (Stuart Kauffman, p. 54).

    “Darwinism and the neo-Darwinian synthesis, last dusted off 70 years ago, actually hinder discovery of the mechanism of evolution” (Antonio Lima-de-Faria, p. 83).

    “Do I think natural selection should be relegated to a less import role in the discussion of evolution? Yes I do” (Scott Gilbert, p. 221).

    “She [Lynn Margulis] sees natural selection as ‘neither the source of heritable novelty nor the entire evolutionary process’ and has pronounced neo-Darwinism ‘dead’, since there’s no adequate evidence in the literature that random mutations result in new species” (Mazur, p. 257).

    “At that meeting [Francisco] Ayala agreed with me when I stated that this doctrinaire neo-Darwinism is dead. He was a practitioner of neo-Darwinism but advances in molecular genetics, evolution, ecology, biochemistry, and other news had led him to agree that neo-Darwinism’s now dead” (Lynn Margulis, p. 278).

    “The point is, however, that an organism can be modified and refined by natural selection, but that is not the way new species and new classes and new phyla originated” (Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini, p. 314).

    …….. Stuart Newman’s paper, which “served as the centerpiece of the Altenberg symposium” (Mazur, p. 12), claims that all 35 or so animal phyla physically self-organized by the time of the Cambrian explosion, and selection followed later as a ‘stabilizer’ of the self-organized novelties…… “Look, when Sherman stresses that the sea urchin [which has no eyes] has, in-expressed, the genes for the eyes and for antibodies (genes that are well known and fully active in later species), how can we not agree with him that canonical neo-Darwinism cannot begin to explain such facts?” (Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini, p. 321)….. This problem, from genetics and the fossil record, is scientifically solid and firm—but the evolutionists’ solution is not. Yet Mazur inverts the proper handling by giving a superficial description of the problem. Few of her readers will understand what is driving evolutionary scientists to such desperate lengths…….

    “Self-organization is of course an important component, but not much has been discovered beyond generalities. The immense amount of intricate detail that geneticists and developmentalists have been discovering over the years dwarfs general metaphors like autoevolution and even self-organization.” (Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini, p. 322).

    End excerpts from here.

    As quoted from the link in this thread’s previous comment: “I have every expectation that during the course of this century the neo-Darwinian mechanisms, which have been long challenged by creationists of various stripes, will come to be recognized as inadequate, and new mechanisms will be recognized. The irony will then be that the community of evolutionary biologists, rather than admitting that the criticisms of the creationists were justified, will say, “Oh, well, we knew all along that the neo-Darwinian mechanisms were inadequate!” – this despite the public posturing that goes on now in the name of neo-Darwinism……. So while evolution in an innocuous sense is well-established, belief in evolution in senses (2) and (3) is not universal among scientists, and the dominance of neo-Darwinism heretofore is due to the constraints of methodological naturalism and the want of a better naturalistic alternative.”

    The cerebrally dismantling zenith here is that regardless of how many times we hum the sonnet of Neo-Evo-Devo-Neo and string such melodies in front of any paradigm that just is the intellectually hampered ontological arena of any PN-induced methodological naturalism, the eerie self-talk required to avoid scientism’s ill-fated and tragic dialogue will, like an addict in detox, yet fill the air with its unintelligible shrieks.

    Meanwhile the paradigm of necessary intelligibility in reality’s readability in concrete terms from the ground up, from the lowest to the highest, from Time to Timelessness, from Material to Immaterial, in literal terms, casually carries the Theist’s T.O.E. into the simplicity of seamlessness as logic and reason find necessity’s abstractions ceaselessly flourishing. The Christian thereby finds a far more intellectually satisfying map of reality’s topography. In literal terms. David Bentley Hart describes this flourishing landscape, “…we….encounter the world….. through our conscious and intentional orientation toward the absolute, in pursuit of a final bliss that beckons to us from within those transcendental desires that constitute the very structure of rational thought, and that open all of reality to us precisely by bearing us on toward ends that lie beyond the totality of physical things. The whole of nature is something prepared for us, composed for us, given to us, delivered into our care by a supernatural dispensation…… [by] God – the infinite wellspring of being, consciousness, and bliss that is the source, order, and end of all reality…..”

  95. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Hi, Bill, and thanks for the response.

    To my view, observed changes do not have to take place within the lifetime of the observer. They merely need to be traceable by some reliable means, from organism/population A to organism/population A’. Whether that takes one human lifetime or not makes no difference to me.

    If I point out some new functions, or new “information” in the genotype, then someone can always say to me, “hey, how do you know this wasn’t there before, and it just wasn’t expressed.”

    That’s a valid point, and I agree it’s tricky.

    I don’t know that creationists have said that the introduction of new species is the key nut to crack, as you suggest, but you do place it correctly when you speak of the problem of “kinds.” It’s very difficult to be precise about any of these things, and for the challenge I’ve articulated here, precision does seem to be a prerequisite. If we can’t agree on what a real evolution event would look like in the small scale, and if we know that only small-scale events could reasonably be expected to have happened since observations began, then it’s all too easy for challengers like me to say, “Well, yes in a way, but not really, no.”

    This is the same thing you were just saying to me. I think you’re right about it, and I appreciate your staying in the conversation to let me think about it some more.

    I would be interested to know more about observed changes on the level of genus and family.

    It remains the case, as far as I know it, that evolution has not been observed making the large-scale changes that it allegedly has the ability to make. This conversation is leading me to be more cautious about the conclusions I draw from that information. I’ll have to let that percolate in my thinking a while.

    Meanwhile, you ask, “If someone is an intelligent design creationist, why would God be a micro-tinkerer? Why not just let natural selection play out on a naturally varying genotype?”

    I don’t get the point of the question. Are we to base on our conclusions about God on some range of possible ways that God might or not want to work in the world? Why not just look at reality and base our conclusions about God from that, rather than speculate about God and draw conclusions about reality from those speculations?

    My problem with “theistic evolution” (the quotes are intentional) is that it’s poorly defined, so it can mean too many things. There are versions of theories by that name that I could accept quite readily, given enough empirical evidence. There are versions I can’t. Ken Miller, for example, says that if the whole thing were rewound and started over again from the beginning, there’s no reason to think humans would evolve. He’s a theistic evolutionist, but he thinks the process is so random that God didn’t intend humans to exist, they just came along in the course of natural events. That’s in contradiction to what we know about God from revelation, so it fails on the “theistic” side of the matter.

    Intentionally-directed theistic evolution, on the other hand, is a philosophically difficult concept to wrap one’s mind around. If there were some coherent way to formulate it— efforts have been made in that direction—and if it were to match with what we know in nature and revelation, I could accept it. Then my only concern would be this: that if Ken Miller’s version is called theistic evolution, and this other version is too, are they similar enough really to merit the same appellation? Wouldn’t it be better to call them by two different names, since they’re two different things?

  96. BillT

    As someone who has supported theistic evolution here as a concept let me say whatever Ken Miller is selling it’s not theistic evolution. I think Francis Collins and the group at BioLogos has the mainstream approach. It’s spelled out here.

  97. Ray Ingles

    scblhrm – Genes are not blueprints. For all that people chide my analogies, that is a truly terrible one. If you must analogize genes to something, they’re closer to recipes. And what happened with nylonase is more like this, where parts of another recipe got ‘spliced in’.

    I think I’m done responding to scblhrm again. Besides, here’s one of the “Altenberg 16” responding for me.

    Tom (and JAD) – With regard to questioning evolution, it’s true that in biology that’s going to draw critical scrutiny. But I’d suggest that that’s rather like someone in physics challenging conservation of energy – and for pretty much the same reasons. The principles are supported so well, from so many lines of evidence, that questioning it implies either exceptional evidence (which hasn’t been forthcoming for either) or a lack of scientific rigor.

  98. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    The principles and lines of evidence, Ray, very, very clearly and solidly support common descent and microevolution (Ernst Mayr’s term, by the way). The rest involves considerable extrapolation, especially if you’re talking about the metaphysical belief that it happened naturalistically.

  99. Bill L

    First I will address some of the comments involving people other than Tom, then later today (hopefully) I will get around to some of Tom’s specific remarks.

    BillT presents two options of theistic evolution. I agree with Tom that there are many different versions and I do consider both Miller and Collins to be theistic evolutionists. So in that sense, I think Tom is right that perhaps different kinds of TE’s may need to be labeled. I’ve read both Miller and Collins and though I am not convinced of either of their theological positions, I can find no fault with them either.

    I glanced at BillT’s site, and it looks like a good one – Thank you Bill.

    Next, I have been deliberating whether or not to try to untangle scblhrm’s writing. Let me say that if anyone would like clarification on any of the specific issues that he brings up, I will try to address them. Just let me know.

    For now, I will make the general statement that his representation of Lynn Margulis is distorting, to say the least. Margulis (until the time of her death) was talking about the limits of the New Synthesis or even strict Darwinism. Almost no evolutionary biologist limits themselves to that kind of thinking in the modern world. She was emphasizing particular aspects to bring attention to the case (this is similar to what Gould and Eldredge did in the ’70’s).

    The book that scblhrm is talking about (The Altenberg 16) is generally considered poor quality science writing. Have a look at this for starters:
    http://recursed.blogspot.com/2010/02/susan-mazur-perpetually-clueless.html
    But take a look at her interview with one of the attendees:

    The story is not even remotely what scblhrm wants to be true. In fact if you want to know what the conference was about read it in their own words:
    http://www.amazon.com/Evolution-Extended-Synthesis-Massimo-Pigliucci/dp/0262513676/ref=cm_cr_dp_asin_lnk
    …or here for a shorter version:
    http://rationallyspeaking.blogspot.com/2008/07/is-there-fundamental-scientific.html

    Now what scblhrm has actually done for me is helped me illustrate what I was trying to explain to Tom about how evolution is often challenged by scientists. Many of these people have radical ideas that some claim overthrow the modern synthesis, while others in the group say it just extends the MS… hence its title the extended evolutionary synthesis (EES).

    So it is not that anything in the MS was wrong, it is just that new and different mechanisms have been discovered and make the case for evolution even stronger. EvoDevo, which I already mentioned, is a good example – Sean B. Carroll is a good writer on this topic if you haven’t looked in to it before.

    [Edit: Oops, it looks like I was writing the same time Ray was, hence we have a link in common. I will just leave it in for clarity.]

  100. scblhrm

    “The irony will then be that the community of evolutionary biologists, rather than admitting that the criticisms of the creationists were justified, will say, “Oh, well, we *knew* all along that the neo-Darwinian mechanisms were inadequate!” – this despite the public posturing that goes on now in the name of neo-Darwinism…” (WLC)

  101. Bill L

    Tom,

    Meanwhile, you ask, “If someone is an intelligent design creationist, why would God be a micro-tinkerer? Why not just let natural selection play out on a naturally varying genotype?”

    I don’t get the point of the question. Are we to base on our conclusions about God on some range of possible ways that God might or not want to work in the world? Why not just look at reality and base our conclusions about God from that, rather than speculate about God and draw conclusions about reality from those speculations?

    Ok, let’s start with that. But then it seems a bit at odds at what you say next:

    My problem with “theistic evolution” (the quotes are intentional) is that it’s poorly defined, so it can mean too many things. There are versions of theories by that name that I could accept quite readily, given enough empirical evidence. There are versions I can’t. Ken Miller, for example, says that if the whole thing were rewound and started over again from the beginning, there’s no reason to think humans would evolve. He’s a theistic evolutionist, but he thinks the process is so random that God didn’t intend humans to exist, they just came along in the course of natural events. That’s in contradiction to what we know about God from revelation, so it fails on the “theistic” side of the matter.

    [Emphasis mine]

    This is where I worry that you are not being lead by the evidence, but by your preconceived religious ideas. Now don’t get me wrong, I know it’s really hard to simply set aside everything else you believe to be true about reality and look at evidence from a new viewpoint, but do you at least see the potential problems with laying down your expectations before the physical and theoretical evidence?

    I believe this really is one of the main reasons the only people who accept creationism or ID are in fact already religious believers. I also know this does not make them wrong, but it starts us seeing things from very different points of view. The best I can do to assure a believer is to let them know that there are other very intelligent believers (Collins, Miller, et al.) are not in the least bit flummoxed over evolution. No one else need be either.

    Next…

    I would be interested to know more about observed changes on the level of genus and family.

    Keep in mind, I said good evidence, so this again goes back to what you would accept as evidence. [As an aside, I want you to keep in mind the kinds of things you accept as evidence for the words spoken or deeds done by Jesus in the Gospels, when many (most?) historians are skeptical.]

    Let’s start with an interesting (but not necessarily best) one… humans. Why don’t you tell me where you draw the line between modern humans and Australopithecines (and other hominids)? Or do you draw a line?

  102. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    I don’t see the problem with being led by my religious beliefs in this context. The question is whether evolution is unguided. There is no empirical test for that. I’d be interested to know more about what you meant by that. As for the words and deeds in the Gospels, even the historians’ opinions are very obviously colored by their metaphysics. Matthew 24, they say, had to have been recorded after AD 70 because that’s when Jerusalem fell, and we know (wink, wink) Jesus didn’t predict it, because we know Jesus wasn’t God. It’s a bit circular.

    Anyway, the line between humans and other hominids (assuming common descent now) is the line at which God breathed in a life-giving soul in his own image. More on that here and here.

  103. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    That is to say, if there was common descent leading up to the first true humans, then God picked out one pair as progenitors and endued them with a nature and relationship with him that was not the product of just-natural forces, but of God’s special act in them.

    I am not sold on common descent leading to the first pair. This is “if.”

  104. Bill L

    Oops, I didn’t mean to leave all of that text bold in my last comment. I blame it on the Rioja.

    Ok, then Tom, let’s look at the hypothetical if. We still are talking about the transitions from species to genera. The fossil record of hominids is somewhat fine-grained. So where do we draw the line, and why?

  105. Post
    Author
  106. Bill L

    I think you gave a vague hypothetical, but never said at which point that is. The point is not to talk about when humans arose so much, but how do we draw the line between different species of the same genera, or different genera of the same family. You said you were interested in evidence of that.

  107. Post
    Author
  108. Bill L

    I think that is a really honest answer. It’s extremely difficult in this case and in many cases. There are many instances where we can find fossils in a similar location (and often only that location) that are so fine-grained that taxonomists have a difficult time distinguishing species from varieties, or species from genera. The subtle morphological characteristics that seem to blend almost seamlessly from fossils of one era to another leaves candidate groups subject to intense debate. Yet at ends of the spectrum, we see clear evidence of divergence (e.g. from Homo to Australopithecines).

    I’m actually a botanist, and if you think defining groups in the animal world is difficult, just wait ’till you look at my photosynthetic friends.

    Now if you want to subscribe to ID, and you believe God helps evolution along, then this may not matter. You can believe in decent from a common ancestor and still subscribe to ID. But even you Tom seem to be aware that there is (at least currently) no good way to detect that kind of design. That is why it is often referred to as the “God of the very small gaps” argument.

    Honestly, from what I have seen of your descriptions thus far Tom, it’s hard for me to picture you as anything other than a Theistic Evolutionist.

  109. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Thanks for that response.

    Here’s the best way to picture me, actually; and recall that I believe firmly in an original human pair. I’ve been answering questions about TE and trying to present a fair perspective on it. I’m not as inclined toward it as you might think. That link depicts me better.

  110. scblhrm

    Bill L,

    You seem to be conflating two uses of the word human. In one sense, we certainly define today’s human as human, and, so, it is scientifically sound to simply regress in time until an ancestor’s genome is sufficiently different such that reproduction would, today, fail. The 99%-something overlaps with any other living thing isn’t enough – so it seems the regress stops before too long back in time. It just is the case that *whatever* we call human in this sense *must* be compatible with *today’s* human. Otherwise you’re equivocating down the line. The naturalist won’t like that given his preconceived ideas of what reality is, but then he doesn’t mind the physical confusion of saying that today’s X, which has an utter inability to reproduce with yesterday’s X, are the same X. He wants to call the whole regress human despite physical reproductive evidence to the contrary. While Theism’s definition allows reproductive distinction to stand intact in the regress, the Naturalist’s definition gets confused somewhere down the line. That’s common.

    There is a problem which your preconceived ideas ignore despite the evidence and it seems to have escaped you. Given your commitment to some version of naturalism that is not surprising, but evidence cannot be tossed aside.

    What you are asking (Where is Man located, began, etc.?) amounts to the *equivalent* of this: where in the physical regress is Man, that is to say, where in the physical regress is mind’s about-ness, actually located? You know – Person. Human. Man. At what molecule do you point to show us about-ness?

    If you have no material end point of evidence for “that” then you have no material end point for “Man”. And so: Where do you draw the line and why?

    This is where I worry that you are not being lead by the evidence, but by your preconceived commitment to naturalism. Now don’t get me wrong, I know it’s *really* hard to simply set aside everything else you believe to be true about reality and look at evidence from a new viewpoint, but do you at least see the potential problems with laying down your expectations before the physical and theoretical evidence? I believe this really is one of the main reasons that the only people who accept man as illusion in eliminative materialism or in the even more intangible epiphenomenalism are in fact already committed to naturalism. But it is the Naturalist who is asking for the location of “Man”. Well then, the Naturalist had better come to the table with his *own* *evidence*.

    I raise this issue because it is a pattern with those who want to believe in Naturalism. Those such as yourself who were committed for a half a century or more to the evidence-free belief that [genetic mutation + selection] is adequately powered to do the necessary work of explaining all of life were thusly committed exactly *because* they were not allowing the evidence to lead, but rather their own commitments to their beliefs. Now, just as in that case (we agree that new-Darwinism is dead), so too now in this case of “Where is the Human line?” we have come upon the very troubling problem of one’s need (your need) to answer one’s *own* question with your *own* evidence.

    Think about it. You ask of the Theist to point in the fossil record and show you “Man”. But if you cannot point to About-ness then you cannot point to Mind and – then – you cannot point to Man and you really – then – have no evidence by which to challenge the Theist’s location of Man. Evidence which you don’t want to count as evidence is not the Theist’s problem. It’s yours. Where is “Man” there in Mind’s *about-ness*? At what molecule(s) do you draw the line and why? Can you point to *that* and call it *this*? Hypothetically speaking, if there were *perfectly* preserved nano-fossils could you point to *it*, to about-ness, and so have some sort of evidence for where Man came about?

    If you don’t know the answer, then you don’t know. If you can’t detect something you say exists, well, then we (you) have a problem. As you have such gaps to fill, you can either fill them, or, just call mind and logic, and so on, illusions, or, you can come up with some other solution. I’ve never seen molecule(s) that achieved success here simply because ‘related-to’ always ends up being, ipso facto, distinction.

    This is only to raise the issue that you have not answered your own question with any *evidence* (Where is Man?). Obviously, if you cannot point to about-ness there in the microscope, or in theoretically perfect nano-fossils, then you cannot point to “Man”. But yet you subscribe to Man? On your own terms that is going to be a problem as you seem unable to detect it, to show us *evidence* for Man in the microscope (or in the theoretically perfect nano-fossil).

    If you don’t have evidence there in the microscope (or in the theoretically perfect nano-fossil) to answer this request to detect what you say exists (Man) then, well, that is a problem for your assertion that About-ness exists, that Man exists. It is reminiscent of the Naturalist’s void of *evidence* for neo-Darwinian adequacy, and that was certainly a problem for that assertion.

    For emphasis: If you *cannot* point to Mind’s About-ness with *evidence* then you *cannot* point to *Man* and you really – then – don’t have enough information to ask, “Where does Man begin?” This is all evidence based, mind you. Just because your own preconceived ideas about what reality is won’t allow you to count evidence as evidence does not mean that that is another’s problem. Granted, it is difficult to put down your own a priori commitments. Granted, the Naturalist’s preconceived idea of what reality is forced them to ignore the evidence where neo-Darwinism’s inadequacy was concerned (we agree it is dead) for half a century or more. Granted, the Naturalist’s preconceived idea of what reality is forces them today to ignore logic’s evidence where eliminative materialism is concerned. But none of this is a “problem” for the Theist to have to dance around and answer to. If you cannot bring enough information to the table to answer your own question (Where is Man?) then you’ve no right to expect another to answer you.

    If you don’t know which molecule(s) house about-ness, if you cannot *detect* it, then, well, you don’t know.

    That’s fine.

    So now what? Well, if you want to subscribe to Naturalism, and you believe cascading particles helped evolution along to arrive at Mind, at About-ness, at Man, then this may not matter. You can hold to your preconceived idea of naturalism and still subscribe to about-ness, to mind, to reason, to logic, to infer…… in short, to Man. But even you Bill L seem to be aware that there is (at least currently) no good way to *detect* that kind of actuality without annihilating it with your very own particles. It’s just so tiny, so amazingly small, that we can’t detect it with even our smallest of particles. That is why naturalism is often referred to as the “illusions of very small illusions” argument. Because that is, in fact, the argument. There is no M-A-N. Not *really*. No Mind. Not *really*. No self. No other. No us.

    And yet you ask, “Where is Man?” I suggest that until you have your own *evidence* to bring to the table, the Theist does not have a problem in need of solving.

  111. Bill L

    scblhrm,

    @ 120

    I think you’ve completely misunderstood my points. I was not talking about mind, or humanness or what makes a person. I was talking about how we detect change from species levels, to genera levels, and family levels.

    Let me know if you have any questions about those issues.

  112. scblhrm

    Bill L,

    We *are* speaking about science and the big questions.

    Yes, the transition (fossils, etc.) of X to Y to Z. But we must remind you that it was *you* who asked the *Theist* to go to the fossil record and point to those fateful “transitions” arriving, finally, at “Man”.

    Well you can’t just change the goal posts here and pretend you didn’t mean that. Not if you want to be taken seriously. And the reason is that it was *you* who tied it all into an ability to detect evidence for one’s belief, and the foci of location you pointed to was that of fossils and transitions and more transitions.

    Theoretically speaking there can be that perfect nano-fossil wherein we can observe that transition of evolution helped along by cascading particles. That is good as far as it goes, however, that is simply based on your own presuppositions about “Man” and “Evolution” which you are allowing to force this definition into the conversation and, then, expecting someone else to have to dance to those beliefs of yours. But surely you can see the irony there. Fossils? Man? All of that fails at the point of pressing it for real evidence. That is to say, as a Naturalist, you want us to believe that, somehow, cascading particles sort of, well, helped evolution along – somehow – to Man, that is to say, to About-ness, to Infer, and so on up the line. Well then, you’ll need to show us how to detect these sorts of particle-assisted transitions. But you haven’t given us any good reason to accept your definitions or to believe that you can detect this transition (so far), not even in a theoretically perfect nano-fossil. Unless, of course, you can detect what you say is there, even if only in theory you certainly could (no one is stopping you), say, draw a diagram of what said fossil would look like.

    This is all on your own terms. Of course, I find your beliefs incoherent, but I’m trying to stay on your terms for the sake of the discussion.

    IF” there were (in theory) a perfect nano-fossil of these particle-aided-creations, *could* you point to About-ness, to Man, in the fossil record? Again, *you* want to go to the fossil record to find particle supposedly helping evolution along to about-ness. Well then you better bring some evidence of that to the table. Can you detect what you say is there? Can you, even if only in theory, draw a diagram for us of what said fossil would look like?

    It seems that your own definition of Evolution (cascading particles helping evolution along) and of Man just fail when pressed for evidence. Well that is a problem since it is *you* asking the Theist for *fossil* (Etc.) evidence of “Man’s beginning” and of “transitions” and so on. It is peculiar that you fail to see your own contradictions here as based on the evidence.

    The obvious problem is simply that you are in need of one of two kinds of evidence which you really must bring to the table.

    Given, that is, your preference to remain committed to your preconceived ideas of Naturalism wherein cascading particles sort of, somehow, helped evolution along, so to speak, to arrive at the very entity we are speaking of – that of About-ness, that of Man, that of Person, that of Being / Mind. Scientism’s pesky nemesis.

    Those two kinds of evidence are, I am sure, well known to you. But for those unsure, well, on the one hand, you need to show us the physical end point – say in a microscope or in a theoretically perfect nano-fossil – that just is, literally, actually, about-ness, perhaps particularly as such touches on such vectors as, say, time and timelessness, or, say, as such touches on ought, or perhaps on….. and so on. Or, if you cannot detect *that* there in this or that material end point (that *is* what you assert has, somehow, helped evolution along to so arrive) then there is a second type of evidence you can bring to the table. And that, of course, is simply some type of hard, tangible evidence that you and I are…. well, there’s no other way to say it….. that you and I are, actually, illusions…. as in… *literally*. This latter point may prove quite helpful since you don’t seem able to present any evidence of these transitions in the particle arena – even in a “theoretically perfect nano-fossil”. Your terms. Your foci.

    Again, I raise this issue because you don’t seem to be allowing real evidence to guide you. Rather, you seem committed to this idea of “Man”, of “Particle/Being”, and of “Evolution” as compatible with your Naturalism despite the evidence against it. And yes, it is hard to reassess one’s view of reality and adjust to the evidence. I get that. We saw that same problem with our naturalist friends when they, despite the evidence, wanted to believe that [genetic mutation + selection] was adequately powered to explain all life. They actually believed that for quite some time despite the evidence. Well we now know that that neo-Darwinian “equation” is dead, and, in a similar fashion, your search for “Man” seems fated to all the same missteps. And I am suggesting to you that this whole “Where is Man” thing you are pushing is thusly fated for all the same bad reasons that we discovered with the whole neo-Darwinian-equation thing.

    It’s fine that you want to just foist Naturalism’s definition of “Man” and stop there at fossil and particle. Fine. But surely you can see there may be more to the equation than “stuff that can be seen in a fossil”. Remember, it is *you* who asked the *Theist* where in the fossil record one would draw the “line”, a “transition”, at “Man”. On those grounds your equations are just confused unless you can detect what you say is there, and, again, even if only in theory you could, say, draw a diagram of what said fossil would look like. I call this an “equation” which is “not enough” simply to draw your attention back to the “equation” of [genetic mutation + selection] which, as we recall, the naturalist also at one point mistakenly thought was “enough”.

    Bill L it’s just obvious – you’re not defining reality, or Man, based on *evidence*. You want to believe in about-ness as the product of particle helping evolution along, you want to believe in what you cannot detect. You can remain committed to your Naturalism, and, you can I suppose go on believing that cascading particles sort of, somehow, helped evolution along to arrive at Mind, at About-ness, at Being, at Man, and so you can then, I suppose, remain committed to the idea, the belief, that some yet-to-be-discovered theoretically perfect nano-fossils could bring our eye to “Man”. (You *did* ask us to point to the fossil record and point to that fateful transition to “Man” so I can only believe that you believe that that can in fact be done) But the evidence doesn’t support your searching of that particular foci for “Man”. And yet you ask, “How and where in the fossil record do we detect those transitions into Man?” Well that’s just a confused approach.

    Sure, you can hold on to your preconceived idea of naturalism in all of this and just go on subscribing to about-ness, to being, to infer…… in short, to Man as that which evolution arrived at with the assistance of, the helping-along-of, those very important cascading particles. But even you Bill L must be aware that there is (at least currently) no good way to detect that kind of actuality without annihilating it with the very same particles you want us to believe created it in the first place. The evidence is that it seems hopeless and you never will detect “it” with even our smallest of particles and in fact the closer a particle gets to “it” the less of “it” there is. Yet you sort of just push ahead and fill those nano-sized gaps and just go on subscribing to the self, to about-ness, to Man. That is why naturalism is often referred to as the “illusions of nano-sized illusions” argument.

  113. Bill L

    scblhrm,

    But we must remind you that it was *you* who asked the *Theist* to go to the fossil record and point to those fateful “transitions” arriving, finally, at “Man”.

    Well you can’t just change the goal posts here and pretend you didn’t mean that.

    I don’t know how I could have been more clear about what I did write.

    From 111:

    Why don’t you tell me where you draw the line between modern humans and Australopithecines (and other hominids)? Or do you draw a line?

    From 116:

    The point is /not to talk about when humans arose so much, but how do we draw the line between different species of the same genera, or different genera of the same family.

    I think you are again responding about what you wish someone had said, and not what they actually said or meant to convey. If the fault is mine for not being a better writer, I apologize.

    If there is too much wrapped up in the idea of human evolution for you, we can change our examples to plants. Would that be better?

    To anyone else reading this, if scblhrm’s writing makes sense to you and you can provide a translation, I would appreciate the help.

  114. scblhrm

    Bill L,

    I am exactly on your terms here.

    You seem to argue that “hard to find” is evidence against design.

    It’s not. Clearly.

    Material transitions from dirt to about-ness. Keep that in focus.

    Or are you implying that there were “no transitions” then from the ground up through family or genera or species and into (eventually) Man there at the distal end?

    Again, it is *you* who assert there is one, long, continuous line from the ground up to about-ness and that all such footprints are purely material.

    So, I am happy to pick this up at *ANY* point in that line.

    Species, genera, family.

    Whatever.

    About-ness just does have *that* history *too*. Surely the point of that wasn’t missed by you?

    Or did you think that genera vs. family vs. species is some sort of intellectual “out”?

    So *again* on your own terms, let’s track your ability to detect what you say ought to be there. From the ground up to about-ness as particles sort of, somehow, help evolution along in what is a footprint of pure material means through all those layers of Family and Genera and Species and so on. Your terms and your conditions are these very layers.

    I’m even granting you the “in theory” if you’d rather just draw diagrams of those speculated transitions for us though Species or Family or Genera, and Etc.

    “It’s hard to detect that” is fine for you to remind us of. But then, your point seems to be that this is evidence against design. Oh really?

    Well not if Man as God defines him is immaterial.

    And you *do* say that you have a material footprint to find *PARTS OF SOMEWHERE, ANYWHERE” even in that in-theory nano-sized fossil record of Mind, of About-ness, of Being. Of “Man”.

    But you haven’t shown us any nor even drawn a highly theoretical diagram of what such transitional stages might look like.

    If you cannot find your evidence, then perhaps your model is flawed?

    “Man” and “About-ness” may not be reducible to material footprints.

    “Design”? Presuppositions on God’s psychology? Your entire identity claim of “Easy-to-find-in-fossils [would equal] designed” is completely misguided.

    Is that really so complicated, Bill L?

  115. scblhrm

    Bill L,

    Another way to say this is simply that you don’t have the evidence for the evolution of Man and this is the case in two senses.

    First, that of the neo-Darwinian paradigm now fading out and an array of speculations now running around in what is, now, a highly theoretical reach.

    Second, that of the Immaterial, of About-Ness, of Meaning’s “ontic-regressions” and so on. Eliminative materialism is unavoidable otherwise. So much for all our mental maps of evolution, of reality, of anything, short of equivocation, short of conflation.

    Lastly, you assume that transitions being hard to find in a fossil record is, on its own, free standing as it were, evidence against design. Obviously that is loaded with metaphysical presuppositions which your scientism can never justify or defend. As such, it’s just not worth bothering about. God and Man are a peculiar arena, somehow off-set from the purely physical. That can mean all sorts of things. And you’ve no tools to go there. And thus no knowledge to comment with. Philosophy of that sort brings a Knowledge of Metaphysical means and ends which eliminative materialism can never access. As is the case with “Man” in the Christian paradigm.

    But the table is now turned on you to show us your material footprint of Man from the ground up – from Dirt to About-ness. All available evidence and Scripture tell us that “from dirt to about-ness” did happen. Literally.

    You need to show that. To prove it, by naturalism’s means and ends. If you can. When you get there, the Theist will be there with you. Long awaiting your arrival.

    And please spare us the condescension which that old, former, neo-Darwinian “equation” use to employ before it was realized to be fatally underpowered.

    You better have *real* fossil (and other) evidence and *observed* vectors of more than a shadow – particularly on the front touching About-ness.

    Else, mereological nihilism is heard knocking…..

  116. JAD

    This is something that deals with core epistemological claims. According to Steven Pinker:

    the findings of science entail that the belief systems of all the world’s traditional religions and cultures—their theories of the origins of life, humans, and societies—are factually mistaken. We know, but our ancestors did not, that humans belong to a single species of African primate that developed agriculture, government, and writing late in its history. We know that our species is a tiny twig of a genealogical tree that embraces all living things and that emerged from prebiotic chemicals almost four billion years ago. We know that we live on a planet that revolves around one of a hundred billion stars in our galaxy, which is one of a hundred billion galaxies in a 13.8-billion-year-old universe, possibly one of a vast number of universes. We know that our intuitions about space, time, matter, and causation are incommensurable with the nature of reality on scales that are very large and very small. We know that the laws governing the physical world (including accidents, disease, and other misfortunes) have no goals that pertain to human well-being. There is no such thing as fate, providence, karma, spells, curses, augury, divine retribution, or answered prayers—though the discrepancy between the laws of probability and the workings of cognition may explain why people believe there are. And we know that we did not always know these things, that the beloved convictions of every time and culture may be decisively falsified, doubtless including some we hold today.

    In other words, the worldview that guides the moral and spiritual values of an educated person today is the worldview given to us by science.

    http://www.newrepublic.com/article/114127/science-not-enemy-humanities

    I’d like to focus on two audacious claims that Pinker makes:

    (1) the worldview that guides the moral and spiritual values of an educated person today is the worldview given to us by science.

    (2)We know that the laws governing the physical world (including accidents, disease, and other misfortunes) have no goals that pertain to human well-being.

    As far as I can see nowhere does he justify these two claims. He just asserts that they are true. Can his claims be justified (“proven”) by science? How about epistemology?

  117. scblhrm

    Well, “justification” inside of scientism becomes problematic simply because it employs the very ends it denies. Which is why, if we call scientism, say, “S”, then essentially ANY philosophical landscape (PL) that fully embraces the physical sciences in search of seamlessness will immediately become [PL + S] in terms of scope. Which simply means S is easily outreached. Perhaps the easiest given its own dependency on the very thing it wants to refute. Distances traversed without self-negation’s arrival are far greater therefore in, say, Theism and, so, explanatory power rises along with plausibility. Scientism just isn’t a valid candidate for our T.O.E. as it lacks that needed critical mass of seamlessness.

  118. bigbird

    This quote from Jim Tour expresses my reservations about macro-evolutionary theory very well.

    I do have scientific problems understanding macroevolution as it is usually presented. I simply can not accept it as unreservedly as many of my scientist colleagues do, although I sincerely respect them as scientists. Some of them seem to have little trouble embracing many of evolution’s proposals based upon (or in spite of) archeological, mathematical, biochemical and astrophysical suggestions and evidence, and yet few are experts in all of those areas, or even just two of them.

    Although most scientists leave few stones unturned in their quest to discern mechanisms before wholeheartedly accepting them, when it comes to the often gross extrapolations between observations and conclusions on macroevolution, scientists, it seems to me, permit unhealthy leeway. When hearing such extrapolations in the academy, when will we cry out, “The emperor has no clothes!”?

  119. Bill L

    scblhrm,

    It looks like you’re still misunderstanding me; let me give an example:

    But then, your point seems to be that this is evidence against design.

    Lastly, you assume that transitions being hard to find in a fossil record is, on its own, free standing as it were, evidence against design.

    I never said anything about presenting evidence against design. So I’m going to have to assume what you’ve written in this thread is interwoven in that misunderstanding. So I suggest we start over if you want to actually want to understand my position.

    But I’m going to need to get a sense of what you believe and why. So let me begin with this… Do you believe there is such a thing as the Biblical “kind?” If so, does it correspond to (even roughly) current taxonomic levels?

    Roughly, how old do you think the Earth is?

    Do you believe speciation is responsible for the formation of new species? If so, would the continuation of that process over time lead to higher taxonomic levels? If not, why not?

    Do you believe our current classification of the genus Homo is distinct from the genus Australopithecus? That is, is it a different genus (or “kind” if you prefer).

    I don’t mind engaging with you if you write coherently and not just talk past me. For the most part, I would have to characterize your writing style as such.

  120. scblhrm

    Bill L,

    You said:

    “….and you believe God helps evolution along, then this may not matter. You can believe in decent from a common ancestor and still subscribe to ID. But even you Tom seem to be aware that there is (at least currently) no good way to detect that kind of design. That is why it is often referred to as the “God of the very smallgaps” argument.”

    Now, you’ve yet to demonstrate that you can in fact “detect” all which I’ve asked you to demonstrate.

    So not only is it the case that you used transitions as an implication of no-design, but then you’ve also failed to demonstrate the detection of Man, of Aboutness, on your own terms when asked.

    And you think that’s just going to be ignored?

    Hardly.

  121. Bill L

    scblhrm,

    “…no good way to detect design” is not equal to “an implication of no-design”

  122. Bill L

    scblhrm ,

    Not kidding. I’m not a theist. But I am open to evidence of and methods for discovering design.

    Now, do you want to go on writing about what you wish I had said or do you actually want to have a fruitful discussion where we engage in trying to understand the other’s position?

  123. scblhrm

    Bill L,

    I’m trying to understand you.

    Tell me, does the Christian consider the 15th galaxy “over there” as ascribed its form by God’s psychology? On what grounds would you refute such? In the same way, on detecting the very aboutness in and of design, regarding the organ used to thus detect, I take it you claim nature used cascading particles to help evolution along in its arrival. Well you’ll have to show us this detector of design there in said Aboutness either in your fossils or in your particle. If all your appeals end in your own psychology, well then you’ve got a problem. Speaking of our psychology, does the Christian ascribe its form to God’s psychology? On what terms would you refute such? How would you detect evidence for your own terms?

    It *may* be that your preconceived ideas about what reality is are on some level problematic.

  124. Bill L

    scblhrm,

    With that, I’m going to have to give up on you.

    If you change your mind, answer the questions I asked you in 129. Otherwise, I don’t see the point.

  125. scblhrm

    Bill L,

    #134.

    If you can.

    As I recall, you were the one making truth claims on the essence of design and/or its detection. One can’t just run past all of those metaphysical landscapes and think they’re just going to be granted free of charge.

  126. scblhrm

    To often the Naturalist just wants to assume ownership of huge swaths of ontological geography without justification. And he does so simply on the grounds of commitments to his own a priori interpretive paradigm. And then he just assumes the Christian is intellectually obligated to dance to those assumptions. In fact, the Christian is obligated to intellectual honesty and the highest degree of metaphysical seamlessness he can achieve. Not to the Naturalist’s interpretive paradigm per se. Sometimes that demands unpacking the built in presuppositions of the Naturalist. And sometimes it doesn’t. Design and psychology share peculiar contours (meaning far more than only the reference to creation) and as such there is no way that ontological real estate is going for less than full asking price.

  127. scblhrm

    Design’s Psychology:

    Both Design and its Detection just do come down to the psychology of the observer, and this in a mode and genre that goes far, far beyond the regression afforded either by the Naturalist’s arbitrary criteria or by his irrationally conditioned instrument of detection. Abstraction’s ends cannot be avoided, and, also, the ontological real estate that just is those ends will not be granted free of charge. Just as the Good is the express antithesis of the Indifferent so too on necessity is Design the express antithesis of the Irrationally Conditioned. Just as the Naturalist comes to the table of Ought with his best, with Indifference, so too the Naturalist has come to the table of Design with his best, with the Irrationally Conditioned, and, unintelligibly as it were, he means to employ that essence, that paradigmatic ceiling of the irrationally conditioned, in all of his appeals both on design and on its detection.

    We wish him luck as we dive into the psychology of God, of Man, and of the irrationally conditioned. Remember these four questions: First, are the nebulae, the galaxies, the animals, the plants, and Man’s psychology ascribed their form by God’s Psychology, as the Christian so claims? Second, on what terms will the Naturalist refute this? Thirdly, exactly what apparatus will the Naturalist employ to detect, perceive, evidence for those very terms he means to use in said refutation? Fourthly, to add to the third, will the Naturalist employ the ontological end that is the irrationally conditioned to ascribe the express terms and conditions of the ontological end that is Design?

    Just as indifference is fated to fail, to come up short as it were, in the arena of the Good, of Ought, and so on, so too is the irrationally conditioned fated to fail, to come up short as it were, in the arena of Design, of the Detection thereof.

    We have repeatedly asked the Naturalist for several things which he has been unable to provide in this journey from Dirt to About-ness. The intractable problem of About-ness finds us right where we want to be – in the psychology of the observer (Man), in the psychology of God, in the psychology of Design, of its Detection, of its Perception. All available evidence and Scripture are quite clear that the transition of Dirt to About-ness did in fact happen. Literally. Well then, it is up to the Naturalist to show us this show. The whole show. Dirt to About-ness. The grossly underpowered equation of [Gene mutation + Selection] is now reaching out for help – a lot of help, just as, Particle’s accounting of About-ness is reaching out for help – a lot of help. In all of these things we have asked the Naturalist for observable evidence just as we have asked him by what criteria will he assess the presence of design in “Man”, and by Man we mean the essence of About-ness there in Abstraction, there in Person, there in Human, there in Being.

    It is his claim that Nature has (irrationally) employed cascading particles to sort of, well, help evolution along as it were, to arrive there, finally, at Man, at About-ness. Given that such is his claim we have repeatedly asked him both for evidence of this mysterious helper he says exists and also to show us the means whereby he has detected this mysterious helper. We have even gone to the concession of offering him the purely hypothetical as a means wherein he can show us. That is to say, we told him that, fine, so he cannot show us this helper, neither in his fossils nor in his microscope, so then he may, we grant him, merely just assume the theoretically perfect “nano-fossil” (or whatever he wants to use) and he may simply draw us a diagram of what this “helping along” would look like IF it were to leave that theoretical footprint of “Dirt to About-ness“. We even told him that if he just couldn’t do that much, if he just couldn’t get there to “Man”, to “Being”, then he may, then, feel free to just dissent from his claims all together and satisfy us with real, hard, tangible evidence that in fact the whole of Man, of About-ness is – literally – illusion.

    In all these various lines no evidence has been forth coming. As another has noted, the emperor has no clothes.

    And so we come again to design.

    What could possibly be the Exemplar of Design? Is there a stick or bar in Paris by which to measure both a meter and design? What tool inside our skulls will allow us to perceive the very entity that just is the paradigm of Mind’s Design? Where does the regress end? In eliminative materialism? But then no design. In some other location?

    What about the irrationally conditioned there inside our skulls?

    The Irrationally Conditioned which just is the evolutionist’s version of mind is neither the Exemplar of Design nor the Detector of Design. That the evolutionist asserts that such a leap can be traversed by the expressly unqualified is unintelligible and in fact the only overreach more unintelligible than that assertion is the express overreach itself of the irrationally conditioned to the designed. To ascribe the task of detection of such an essence to that which itself never can so much as taste the very food it is being asked to digest is a regression of desperation on the part of the evolutionist / naturalist. The ontological landscape of Design where the created order is concerned is found, not in the Exemplar Himself, but in His Image in that it is the very psychology of God Himself and the very psychology of Man himself into which we travel and the only game in town wherein all declarations of design are found therein are in the appeals to our own psychology and to God’s psychology. Here the evolutionist comes to the end of his regress where design is concerned for in detecting the very Aboutness in and of Design we find that the organ used to thus detect is, per his paradigm, the irrationally conditioned, the un-designed. The metaphysical burden this places on him is something he cannot simply unload free of charge for the Naturalist will have to show us this detector of design there in said About-ness either in his fossils or in his particles. If all of his appeals here merely end in his own psychology, well then he has come upon a gap of unintelligible distances.

    He will have to, at the end of the day, settle the case where Design’s regression ends and answer the Christian as to the form of his own psychology. The Christian ascribes its form to design which is sourced not to our own idea of what design “Ought-To-Look-Like” but rather to the goals and contours of God’s psychology. Here we must ask the Naturalist “On what terms would you refute such regarding our own psychology? And, even worse, how would you detect evidence for your own terms here?” Are plants designed by God? Are the nebulae and galaxies designed by God? Is Man? And so we now arrive: Sooner or later, one way or the other, what satisfies those peculiarly necessary ontological substrates of the very exemplar of design and the very detector thereof will find the need to make truth claims both on God’s psychology and our own psychology. Should the Naturalist fail to show us About-ness in his fossils or in his microscope, or, failing that, should he then fail to present physical evidence that, yes, About-ness / Mind is in fact illusion, all of it, and, worst of all, should all his appeals to what design ought look like end in his own psychology as the detector thereof, well then his allotted time at the microphone is done, his regression incoherent, his abstraction annihilated.

    A somewhat indirect “ontic-tie-in” to Design *itself* (speaking in paradigmatic semantics) may be helpful in showing where design is simply unintelligible to the irrationally conditioned means of the Naturalist as such means fail to demonstrate the necessary reach. So, the quote here is a bit indirect as far as terms go, but it is direct as far as express applicability is concerned as it ends in all the same a priori necessities and reminds us that abstraction’s ends cannot be avoided nor will such ontological real estate simply be given away free of charge: “…….The famous meter bar in Paris. The meter, as a length, was or can be taken to be defined in terms of the length of this bar. It is not that the bar approximated some abstract measure called a meter. The meter was just defined as being the length of that bar in the Office of Weights and Measures in Paris. That would be a very good example or illustration. God is like the meter bar with respect to the good. Another example that I find interesting is that the sound of a live orchestra serves as the paradigm for what counts as high-fidelity in recording. A high-fidelity recording means it approximates to the sound of the live music. But the live music *itself* doesn’t approximate to anything *else*. It just *is* the paradigm for what counts as high-fidelity…… Similarly, God just is the good. He is not only metaphysically ultimate, but he is morally ultimate as well.” (WLC)

  128. scblhrm

    Evolutionary biologists Francisco Ayala debates W.L. Craig. As noted earlier, F. Ayala agrees that the simple equation, we’ll call it “A”, of (gene mutation + selection) is, alone, just unable to account for what we see on the planet today. It accounts for some things, but not all, as the Theists have stated from the beginning. There’s only so much “time” one can keep piling on in order to salvage that equation and so he and the Theists and mainstream evolutionists all agree that there must be other equations in play, as discussed earlier. “A” is that equation and mainstream evolutionists have finally got up to speed with the Theist and realized the need to add in equations “B” and “C” and “D” and so on. Of course, as seen in this thread, the biologists posture as if they’ve always known that the neo-Darwinian equation (“A”) never was “enough”. Well, the annals of historicity are a good corrector of such feigned naivety. For some time the prevailing view was that “A” was enough and the undeniable evidence against that was simply ignored given the Naturalist’s commitment to his PN-induced “variety” of methodological naturalism. That’s where a Theistic-induced “variety” of methodological naturalism wins the day – it is aware of the unavoidable and dismantling ends of Scientism and so knows that seam is going to have to be crossed at some point. Whenever and wherever doesn’t matter. Methodological Naturalism is of course commanded by God – in Genesis – where He commands Man to “go out” and to “subdue” the physical world – time and physicality – and of course the immaterial world touching on fractured souls and fractured minds and so on then enters that same problem of the need for “subduing”, but then, Timelessness is another, inevitable, story for a separate discussion.

    And so, where does F. Ayala (and Naturalists for the most part) go in this discussion of science, evolution, and the big questions in the hopes of settling this case? Well, as it turns out, into theology…….

    It is an interesting discussion in that most of what we see from F. Ayala is that initial, inadequate, equation of “A” and then pure extrapolation moving forward. Dr. Craig of course exposes that unsightliness further. Finally, it ends where it always ends, with the Atheist leaving the science behind (such unpleasant distances of extrapolation leave an unmistakable taste in one’s mouth) and diving into philosophy and theology as his final hope to salvage his no-god hypothesis, in his final hope to justify his faith in his physical regress despite the indecent distances of its unbecoming gaps. Dr. Craig notes this turn of events, “Well, it looks as if I am going to wind up talking about theology after all tonight because Dr. Ayala has in his last speech deserted the scientific arguments and gone exclusively for the theological arguments against ID. And I find it very ironic that in tonight’s debate between a biologist and a theologian, the theologian wants to talk biology and the biologist wants to talk theology! But let’s do that.”

    Where does that then take us? Well, let’s see……….

  129. scblhrm

    That is both interesting and relevant as in this thread we’ve touched on the readability of created reality (Time, Material), and up to and including *some* contours of the uncreated (Timelessness, God, Etc.), from A through Z as it were, as necessary given Theism’s metaphysical paradigm where Man is concerned. SteveK also alluded to those contours in comment #38. There’s a related theme in #138. In this debate the Atheist brings what just is the ontological end of an Irrationally Conditioned Bundle of Reflexes that is Naturalism’s “mind” and, having failed to move beyond his own scientism’s pure extrapolation where biology is concerned, now seeks to leverage the Un-Designed (that wad of irrationally conditioned reflexes that naturalism calls “mind”) upon the task of “Reading Final Reality’s Design”. All of that is, of course, well beyond the reach of his own scientism. The intellectual vacuity of employing the end that is the ontologically Un-Designed to argue against the footprints of the ends that are the ontologically Designed is touched on more in comment #138 (and #38). How peculiar. And so we come then to the interpretation of, the readability of, the Psychology of David Hart’s “Infinite wellspring of being, consciousness, and bliss that is the source, order, and end of all reality”, even as we arrive in the landscapes of prior Worlds, of Possible Worlds in Eden, of Worlds to come. It is to this place, and not to his scientism, not to the evidence, where the Skeptic ultimately travels in his quest to justify his very uninviting extrapolations of “A”. Think about that. If the observations were compelling……

    If the observations were compelling, there would be no need for this illogical move on the part of the Naturalist. Or would there? Well, as it turns out, the Skeptic would still have to come to Metaphysics, to Philosophy, to salvage his truth statements. Notice this second miscalculation – the Naturalist (for the most part) feels that had he proven evolution from A to Z (he knows he hasn’t gotten past A) then there would be “no rational need” to dive into metaphysics – and there in that second miscalculation his scientism betrays him. How unfortunate for him that, say, “even if” he gets his way (he is light years away), and “observes A through Z”, so to speak, the problem of God, of Truth, is yet at his heels. And why? The metaphysics of scientism…… but that’s another story. And so, now, here, none of that in his favor, this leading evolutionist then tries to show an internal inconsistency within the God paradigm. And this is inevitable as scientism fails to move beyond those unseemly distances of overreach given its underpowered biological equations and given it’s unbreakable ties with scientism. The problem though is that as the Naturalist/Materialist takes his Scientism and attempts the Transition (wink, wink) into the Philosophical, as F. Ayala does in fact do, the metaphysical baggage is too heavy for his own means and ends to justify. Epistemic conflations in what amounts to detrimental ‘ontic-overreaches’ readily evaporate in the mist of equivocation and eliminative materialism. The problem of Evil, of Good, of Possible Worlds in Eden, of Juxtaposed Realities within the Created Order, and so on, all land in the lap of Theism’s metaphysical means and ends. It is worth noting that Christianity finds – in Christ – such metaphysical vectors converging – seamlessly.

    This is a pattern with the Materialist. His Scientism having failed to move beyond unseemly biological extrapolation, he then leverages his last “layer” and leaks a few of his understated motives – a strong distaste for those ontological vectors of an apparent paucity of the truly good and of an apparent paucity of moral sanity and of an apparent paucity of love’s footprint inside of our mutable and fractured physicality. And so we arrive in the midst of the problem which Genesis told us would always (for a time) be our problem (it arrives in many forms) – that of the truly Good and of the truly Evil and of the true Knowledge thereof. Man can escape many things, but Man cannot escape that. Every infant born will retain the capacity to learn hate as both innocence and mutability remain unable to permanently deliver us without outside help. The Contingent and the Necessary. “Where is God? Where is the Good? Where is Moral Sanity? Where is Love in all of this? Too much evil!

    Here the Metaphysics find us in what just is the juxtaposition of the Created and the Uncreated orders – that is to say – the juxtaposition of what just is Insufficiency/Thirst with All-sufficiency/Fount and we find those unavoidable semantics of amalgamation – that is to say – we find those unavoidable semantics of incarnation extricating the inevitable convergence wherein the Necessarily Existent must pour into insufficiency’s famine. All these contours carry us forward into the ontologically unique landscape of ceaseless reciprocity housed in Trinity wherein all such tensions dissolve amid timeless pouring and timeless filling ever void of what we call first, ever void of what we call last. Of course that, then, now, has gotten us out of scientism’s reach, out of eliminative materialism’s reach, and into…well, into what? Into those assimilations amid material and immaterial, time and timelessness, into the explanatory power of Theism’s ‘variety’ of methodological naturalism, into the reach of that Infinite Wellspring of Being.

  130. Ray Ingles

    Tom –

    I am not sold on common descent leading to the first pair. This is “if.”

    I guess I don’t understand this part. The genetic evidence is pretty solid, including things like endogenous retroviruses. Do you think it likely that “the first pair” of humans were created with genes that just happened to look exactly like they’d branched off from chimpanzees?

    There’s nothing special about the evidence for common descent among humans than among other animals, is what I’m saying. If you accept the one, I just don’t see the grounds for rejecting the other.

  131. scblhrm

    Tom,

    The Skeptic’s hope here is perplexing.

    Atheists and Theists all now know that neo-Darwinism (ND) (a gene mutated / a gene got selected) is, alone, totally inept of explanatory power in accounting for our genome and/or for the vast array of all the life on planet Earth no matter how much time we give it. The fact just is ND + B + C + D + N to the power of X. And yet the Christian is perfectly willing to just grant, to just pretend, for the sake of the Skeptic, that, say, Dirt-To-About-ness is there in the fossils, or in the microscope (Man = About-ness = Being = out of PN’s reach). And still the skeptic is unhappy. But why? We pretend and make believe that he has got his ND + unsightly gaps all observed, that he has got his About-ness in a fossil somewhere (pretend…), that he can show us the whole show. And we just settle there and leave it a moot point with our Christianity well intact happy to drop it and yet he keeps coming back, wanting to harp on that one, rote, point about Man and genome that gains him no ontic-real-estate at all. It’s perplexing as either way, here, leaves the evolutionist without arriving at Man nor with any paradigmatically coherent claim on reality in his hands. This seems lost on the Skeptic. And besides, on that bit about our pretending for his sake, well, overall, A-T Metaphysics trumps I.D. theory generally speaking anyway. Of course, that ends up being of no comfort to the Skeptic as the Naturalist never can leverage the end point which just is the Un-Designed wad of irrationally conditioned reflexes which PN calls “mind” upon what just must be the readability of Designed ontological ends vis-à-vis God, as touched on earlier in this thread (comment #’s 38, 138, 139, 140). The skeptic’s frustration pushing him to come back to this irrelevant point over and over is, perhaps, understandable given that his Scientism fails to get us to M-A-N. Which of course is the reason that, here, on this topic, “either way”, the Christian remains intellectually sound from the ground up even as Naturalism remains formally and finally intellectually vacuous. Oddly, particle, the last desperate hope of the Skeptic, also leaves us scratching our heads as M-A-N is never achieved – full stop. Hence the failure to reveal such in either fossil or microscope. Of course, if the Theists wants to say that there is, inside of time and physicality, the fact of today’s Mankind as that which is from the descent from a single pair of Humans then there is, happily, the mathematical room to do so. And that is the case even as the entire mathematical arena is, in philosophical naturalism’s mist of evaporative equivocations in eliminative materialism (EM), useful fictions, and that terminology ends up the case for unsavory reasons, unlike Theism’s regress of the same which leaves both Platonism and EM behind in their incoherence. And yet the Skeptic keeps harping on…. one…. boring…. rote….. point ….. which gains him no ontological real estate whatsoever regardless of outcome, and which fails to gain him the prize of paradigmatic logical lucidity which he so desperately lacks, and which leaves all of the Christian’s metaphysical truth claims on Man, on Logic, on Reality, on Ought, on Mathematics, on Causality, and so on, casually and seamlessly intact there in actuality’s Infinite Wellspring of Being – there in God.

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