Here’s the latest from Michael Ruse, over at the blog for the Chronicle of Higher Education. He is discussing the anti-evolution“academic freedom” bill that just passed in Tennessee:

On the left, the New Atheist movement frightens me immensely. Its supporters openly and explicitly link evolutionary thinking with non-belief, sneering at those (like me) who think that science and religion can exist harmoniously together. I don’t care what the law says, politically this is moronic. The citizens of Tennessee, the judges of the Supreme Court, are going to believe that if evolution alone is taught in schools the kids of the country will be getting atheist propaganda – no matter what actually happens – and they are going to want to counter it. I imagine that every time that Richard Dawkins opens his mouth, the Discovery Institute lights a candle of thanks, or whatever it is that evangelicals do these days.

Nothing new here, of course. This is what Ruse always says.

We have been down this road before. Truly it’s hard to imagine the legal theory under which Dawkins’s views on science and religion are relevant to the constituionality of this or any other law. Applying Ruse’s logic, it should be unconstitutional to teach about the holocaust, since some people infer from it that God does not exist. Likewise for the American Revolution, since some people believe its unlikely success proves that America is a nation uniquely blessed by God.

If some right-wing judge wants to uphold the law he won’t have to look to Dawkins or any other atheist for a reason. He will just argue that the law has the perfectly legitimate secular purpose of promoting free inquiry, and if that has the indirect effect of giving succor to creationists then so be it.

And since we’re throwing around charges of political idiocy, we might recall that it was Ruse who thought it was a great idea to edit a book, called Debating Design with ID proponent William Dembski. A book, mind you, in which the Darwinian side was very poorly represented indeed. When our side consistently argues, in court no less, that there is no serious scientific debate over ID, it hardly seems politically savvy to persuade a prestigious academic press to certify that there is.

Whatever. We’re rehashing an old argument, and if this had been the only eye-raising portion of Ruse’s post I wouldn’t have bothered to comment. The real reason for this post is to marvel over what Ruse says next:

Note, I am not saying that if you genuinely think that evolution implies atheism you should conceal this belief for political reasons. I am saying it is irresponsible to emote on these issues without doing serious study of the issues and looking carefully at those who beg to differ on the possibility of having both science and religion. And this, as five minutes with the God Delusion shows fully, the New Atheists do not do.

So it’s not arguing that evolution undermines religious faith per se that is the problem. It is only emoting about the issue, or sneering at those who disagree that is politically moronic. This is too subtle for me. Earlier Ruse was immensely frightened that citizens and judges would hear Richard Dawkins and conclude that kids need to be protected from evolution. Now it seems that Ruse’s real fear is simply that those citizens and judges will perceive that Dawkins has failed to do his homework. Presenting the very same arguments after putting in some serious library time is just fine, according to Ruse.

You would think, though, that this is completely backward. Even looking at it from Ruse’s perspective, if we must have folks arguing that science and faith are incompatible we would want them to be people who can be dismissed as ignorant crackpots. Why would he want serious, well-informed people arguing for views he regards as politically dangerous?

Comments

  1. #1 Joachim
    April 12, 2012

    If I remember correctly, you once wrote that the creationists probably win over many folks because of their friendlyness and manners, not their arguments, which are all poor (was that in the HuffPo?). Then, emotions are the issue or part of the issue. It’s just a difference in opinion between those who think that a confrontational course wins over more fence sitters, because it makes them think, and those who think it does the opposite, because it frightens them.

  2. #2 Collin Brendemuehl
    April 12, 2012

    Jason,
    You are a talented mathematician and writer. But it seems that political comment is not your strong suit. I would suggest that an emphasis on your strength might take you further in the coming years. My reasons are simple: Straw man arguments like “some people infer” lend a great deal of incredulity to your post.
    I would challenge you to attempt a bit more serious: Analyze Plantinga’s “Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism” — or at least the section where he takes on an issue offered by another mathematician, Tim McGrew. (The latter might be more in line with your strengths.)
    Political commentary is fun. But politics is often a distraction from what we do best.

  3. #3 Wow
    April 12, 2012

    “My reasons are simple: Straw man arguments like “some people infer”"

    You need to read up what “strawman argument” means before you can take someone to task over them.

    I would stick to your strengths. Whatever they are, if you have any.

  4. #4 Tony61
    April 12, 2012

    I think Ruse and other accomodationists have an inherent disdain for conflict, and it’s understandable from a social perspective; therefore, they would rather look for common ground with theists and they do not condone the ridicule that individuals like Dawkins advocates be lodged at theists.

    While I may not see any workable version of god that is consistent with what we know empricially, I cannot prove the nonexistence of a deity (or any being for that matter) with 100% surety….ie, Dawkins’ 6.9/7.0 scale for theism. So perhaps we should cede some ground and re-trench on the important issues: like keeping ID out of science class. If schools want to teach it in the humanities curriculum I guess I don’t see a problem.

    There is a place for polite accomodationism in the debate, as well as shrill ridicule. Both approaches serve a purpose and both approaches will help to plead the case in their respective venues.

  5. #5 NickMatzke
    April 12, 2012

    All the creationists have to do to win is convince politicians and judges that evolution is just another form of religious belief. Far too often these days, with their emphasis on emotional arguments, ridicule, tarring moderates with the sins of fundamentalists, etc., Gnus are doing the creationists’ work for them.

    In actual professional evolutionary biology in actual universities, like where I work, God or his nonexistence basically never some up in serious conversation. It’s just not relevant to building phylogenies from DNA or doing Bayesian model testing of different birth-death processes for phylogenies or inferring the percentage of the European genome that traces to Neandertals or whatever is going on in the lab. Theological discussions aren’t pertinent any more than they are in chemistry departments or meteorology departments. Ditto in the peer-reviewed literature.

    But if a member of the Tennessee general public or the Tennessee Legislature thinks about, say, chemistry, meteorology, and evolution, what’s their first association likely to be? Well, something like: science, science, atheism. Now, most of this is the fault of the 100 year history of creationism & fundmamentalism telling people this message in the evangelical churches. But it would be nice if the most prominent pro-science voices at least had the good sense to contradict the creationist message, rather than confirming it. That’s what Ruse is lobbying for, I think.

  6. #6 Wow, God
    April 12, 2012

    “I cannot prove the nonexistence of a deity (or any being for that matter) with 100% surety”

    There are plenty of goddists who say KNOW with 100% surety there is (their) God.

    And where, exactly, did the requirement come to “prove 100%” nonexistence? And where does it stop? FSM? Underpant Gnomes?

    Can you PROVE with 100% surety that I’m NOT God?

    There may be plenty of polite discourse possible, but only if you accept at least one God (and the right one at that).

  7. #7 eric
    April 12, 2012

    Nick Matzke:

    In actual professional evolutionary biology in actual universities, like where I work, God or his nonexistence basically never some up in serious conversation. It’s just not relevant to building phylogenies from DNA or doing Bayesian model testing of different birth-death processes for phylogenies or inferring the percentage of the European genome that traces to Neandertals or whatever is going on in the lab. Theological discussions aren’t pertinent any more than they are in chemistry departments or meteorology departments. Ditto in the peer-reviewed literature.

    I think this is an excellent point Nick, and I’d like to see more scientists make it to high school students and teachers in religious areas of the country.

    There may be a small core of believing students that become more upset if they hear that personal religious beliefs rarely even come up when one is ‘doing’ science. But I think for most believers, this is a positive message. It clears up any misconception they may have about walking into a lab and being set upon/discriminated against for being religous. That just doesn’t happen, at least in my experience.

    For working scientists, one’s theology might be lunchtime conversation, but when you go back into the lab, its put to the side. Just as discussions about the performance of local sports teams, news stories, hobbies, etc… is put to the side. Its not shop talk.

  8. #8 eric
    April 12, 2012

    Collin @2:

    Straw man arguments like “some people infer” lend a great deal of incredulity to your post.

    Jason’s ‘some people infer…’ sentences are a reductio ad absurdum argument, not a strawman argument. As a reductio, its perfectly legit: Ruse’s position, taken to its logical conclusion, would lead to absurd legal results.

    Ruse is trying to say that any claimed atheistic nature of evolution leaves it open to constitutional challenge. He’s wrong. If that were so, any historical or scientific factoid that someone thought lended support to theism or atheism would be unconstitutional to teach, which is a ridiculous result.

  9. #9 Bayesian Bouffant, FCD
    April 12, 2012

    Is it Politically Unwise to Associate Heliocentricity With Nonbelief?

  10. #10 Edward MacGuire
    April 12, 2012

    Steven Weinberg tells of how Abdus Salam unsuccessfully tried to get Arab leaders to fund more pure research, getting the response that they felt that that sort of knowledge was corrosive to religion. Weinberg noted that he felt they were right; that knowledge WAS corrosive to religion. He added that is was a good thing too!

  11. #11 SLC
    April 12, 2012

    Ruse is a philosopher by training and likes to bill himself as a philosopher of science. The following quote from Richard Feynman is in order:

    Philosophy of science is about as useful to scientists as ornithology is to birds.

  12. #12 andrsib
    April 12, 2012

    Nick Matzke:

    [...] science, science, atheism. Now, most of this is the fault of the 100 year history of creationism & fundmamentalism telling people this message in the evangelical churches. But it would be nice if the most prominent pro-science voices at least had the good sense to contradict the creationist message, rather than confirming it.

    So, in 100 years evangelicals and fundamentalists managed to get their message across, despite all the best efforts of “accomodationists” trying to convince people otherwise. What makes you think that if this tactics did not work for 100 years, it is going to work now, all of a sudden?

    What if there is a bit of a truth in the creationist statements, and the funda- and evangelical faith is indeed incompatible with good science? Why do you think people will buy your little lies, and believe you and not someone like Albert Mohler?
    http://www.albertmohler.com/2011/04/19/throwing-the-bible-under-the-bus/

    I am quite confident that people will buy what you say if you speak with all sincerity, rather than resorting to any kinds of “tactical lies”. Albert Mohler may be utterly wrong and misguided, but at least he is sincere, and in the minds of way too many people, more reliable because of that.

  13. #13 Jason Rosenhouse
    April 12, 2012

    Nick –

    But it would be nice if the most prominent pro-science voices at least had the good sense to contradict the creationist message, rather than confirming it. That’s what Ruse is lobbying for, I think.

    No, that is explicitly not what Ruse is lobbying for, at least not in this post. According to Ruse, if you have studied the issue carefully and genuinely believe that science and religion are incompatible, then you are not supposed to hide that view for political reasons.

  14. #14 Collin Brendemuehl
    April 12, 2012

    Wow & eric,
    I called it a “straw man” because it was a false analogy. Can can easily see the error when applied to the Holocaust. But that’s the problem — the comparison is faulty. Science that is poorly constructed is not the same as history and the impact is thus different. So, yes, I understand and can cdefend my assertion. Your very existence might provide empirical evidence for EAAN.

    But at least the two of you recognize the simplest of fallacies in Jason’s reasoning. Nuf said.

  15. #15 Wow
    April 12, 2012

    “I called it a “straw man” because it was a false analogy”

    Ah, a classic “Humpty-Dumpty” dodge: A word means what I mean it to mean. Nothing more and nothing less.

    THAT’S what I call a knock-down argument!

    Now, please, as I said, pop off and find out what a strawman argument is. If you meant “a false analogy” then say “a false analogy” because in attempting to look as though you know what you’re talking about you’ve merely shown your ignorance.

  16. #16 eric
    April 12, 2012

    But at least the two of you recognize the simplest of fallacies in Jason’s reasoning.

    I said it was a reductio. Reductio is not a fallacy.

  17. #17 Michael Fugate
    April 12, 2012

    If it is wrong to tie atheism to evolution, then why is it right to tie religion to evolution? Is it because atheists are thought to be securely in the evolution-fold and have nowhere else to go? The NAS, AAAS, NCSE and others go out of their way to connect religion with science – thinking this will somehow increase scientific literacy – but what are nonbelievers supposed to make of this? Are they to infer that their education is deficient because they lack “religious ways of knowing?” The problem is that religion is not universal and if religion were to truly inform us about the world in the way science does, then science would not be universal.

  18. #18 Wow
    April 12, 2012

    “I said it was a reductio. Reductio is not a fallacy.

    Posted by: eric | April 12, 2012 12:00 PM”

    Aye, old Colon also needs to check a dictionary for “fallacy” too.

  19. #19 Tuogni
    April 12, 2012

    First of all, the faith method or belief method is known to bring people to false conclusions, particularly, where information is derived through feelings rather than reason. Feelings are extremely deceptive, and people should also take into account the fact that if a person or a group of people suffer from delusions, which is quite common, their feelings are usually incorrect as well.

    Second of all, the theory of evolution was not infered through faith method. There was reason involved, therefore, it cannot be qualified or labeled as a “belief”.

    As a matter of fact, you do not need the word “belief” in your vocabulary at all, if you rely on reason and intellect to perceive and interpret your environment.

  20. #20 hoary puccoon
    April 12, 2012

    It seems to me that whether evolutionary biology should be protected from anti-science attacks in public school classrooms and whether understanding evolution erodes religious belief are two completely separate questions.

    I think that understanding evolution does, in fact, tend to erode religious belief. But so can learning about– just for instance– the holocaust, the thirty years war, and– for a lot of people– the actual content of the bible. As one Mormon proudly put it, “too much learning takes us farther from God.” I had to bite my tongue to keep from replying, “yes it does. And isn’t that great?”

    Personally, though, it seems to me that if your political goal is to protect American school children from being indoctrinated by creationists, there’s no reason to discuss your religious beliefs one way or the other. The only thing I think is relevant is that many people of all religious persuasions accept the reality of evolution. So learning modern biology won’t automatically turn anyone into an atheist.

  21. #21 Jim Harrison
    April 12, 2012

    Religious conservatives are not going to stop equating evolution with atheism just because educated people hold their tongues about the issue. For the most part, it was fundamentalist Christians and not new (or old) atheists who insisted on the incompatibility of biology and geology with faith. They started this fight; and if it turns out to be a fight they can only win in benighted places like Tennessee, there’s a certain justice in the outcome. It’s not obvious to me why secular people should be unhappy that the religious community is putting itself in a false position.

  22. #22 TFJ
    April 12, 2012

    Now correct me if I am wrong, but is it not fundies who are pushing the evolution = unbelief angle. It’s theists who embroiled the biologists in this whole ‘debate’ because they themselves perceive evolution as removing the last flimsy pillar holding up their creationist fairy story. As far as Dawkins is concerned, I am not familiar with any statements from him explicitly stating that TOE necessitates belief in atheism, or vice versa. Again, correct me if I am wrong, but is his position not that if one is rigorously applying the scientific method, there is no evidence necessitating belief in God(s),making belief unscientific. In my experience that is the dominant view amongst atheist scientists and I don’t see any way that they can say otherwise in good conscience. Most of the umbrage taken to Dawkins seems to be in response to misrepresentation of his position by the God faction and if Ruse wants to ameliorate the damage he might try correcting the distortions rather than helping with the smear campaign.

  23. #23 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    April 12, 2012

    Good point! Ruse has the wits to refrain from creationism as many other accommodationists who are often allowing evolutionary creationism as ‘compatible’ with science. It is too bad that he raises another strawman, outspoken atheism as ‘New’ or uninformed.

    If Dawkins’ book was so deficit in serious study, how come only one creationist (who slips my mind at the moment) has been able to reply to its many points instead of dismissing it as Ruse does?

    @ Collin Brendemuehl:

    Are you serious? Tim McGrew is, unless I am mistaken, not a mathematician but has a PhD in philosophy. And he uses no math but bayesian inference, a way to pose bets, to make a creationist argument.

    But there is seldom any point in commenting on science denialist creationists, they and their supporters will hear that they are correct whatever you say, if I understand the psychological science correct. (Sorry, no refs from where I’m sitting.)

    @ Tony61:

    “I cannot prove the nonexistence of a deity (or any being for that matter) with 100% surety.”

    Well duh, an empirical claim can generally not be mathematically proven. (Exceptions such as Noether’s theorems are exceedingly rare and theory-laden.)

    But we can certainly make the well supported observation that nature is all there is undergo testing to the same certainty as other observations. For example, testing energy conservation in systems (such as described by science theories) that can undergo closure, i.e local systems (can conserve energy) and the universe (standard cosmology has exactly zero energy). By my estimate, physicalism was tested by the mass of science theories produced at increasing rate in the 70-80′s. (I did a binomial test.)

    If you think about it, the existence of physicalism is as important for science as mediocrity and uniformity. None of these had to exist, but they do sufficiently so science can work and furthermore they increase efficiency. The existence of universal naturalism is therefore on par with the existence of universal theories and universal parameters.

    In fact, I think this observation on naturalism and efficiency of science should be taught in school alongside the other ones when you study basics of science. Why not? (Of course, it must be recognized first, and that depends on if it is a good one.)

    @ Nick Matzke:

    “But it would be nice if the most prominent pro-science voices at least had the good sense to contradict the creationist message, rather than confirming it.”

    Certainly creationists also worry about the statistics that describes how education makes fundamentalists become agnostics and agnostics become atheists.

    And besides the fundamentalists atheists generally recognize that religion is in the business to replace fact with faith while science is in the business to replace faith with fact. So it is a mistake to describe it as merely a “creationist message”. It is a testable observation, and religion and science produces such data on a continuing basis.

    The counterclaim is the theological NOMA argument used by many agnostics and all accommodationists, but as such it is a non-starter. It is put forth regardless of such data as above.

  24. #24 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    April 12, 2012

    “they and their supporters will hear that they are correct whatever you say, if I understand the psychological science correct”. More to the point and what I forgot here, they would be _strengthened_ in their suppositions.

    And what TFJ said is a more pointed note on Ruse’s article as pertaining to Dawkins. Not so much a strawman but supporting smear, indeed.

  25. #25 Brandt Hardin
    April 12, 2012

    This law turns the clock back nearly 100 years here in the seemingly unprogressive South and is simply embarrassing. There is no argument against the Theory of Evolution other than that of religious doctrine. The Monkey Law only opens the door for fanatic Christianity to creep its way back into our classrooms. You can see my visual response as a Tennessean to this absurd law on my artist’s blog at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2012/04/pulpit-in-classroom-biblical-agenda-in.html with some evolutionary art and a little bit of simple logic.

  26. #26 Tony61
    April 12, 2012

    Wow asks: “Can you PROVE with 100% surety that I’m NOT God?”

    Answer: No, I cannot. The argument against 100% surety of god’s absence comes from Dawkins himself, and any true empiricist would have to agree. The question really regards where this discussion takes place and I think school is a very appropriate forum, just not *science* class. Call it philosophy or whatever useless subject you want.

    You’ll just have to trust that enough kids will grow up into adults who realize that science exists and everything else is just narrative, just-so stories…and you or anyone else being God cannot be demonstrated empirically. If you cannot trust the human nature of individuals to discern the difference of myth and reality– and it will take a few more generations on this evolution thing, heck it took hundreds of years for heliocentricity– then I cannot add anything more.

  27. #27 dean
    April 12, 2012

    ” Tim McGrew is, unless I am mistaken, not a mathematician but has a PhD in philosophy.”

    True – he is no mathematician, as much as he tries (and succeeds) to embarrass my WMU by butchering probability.

  28. #28 Kurt
    April 12, 2012

    Off-topic, but I was wondering if you had any reaction to the news of Susan Polgar moving from Texas Tech to Webster and taking all her students with her?

  29. #29 Stu
    April 12, 2012

    @2:

    Analyze Plantinga’s

    …and we’re done here. It’s very, very hard to take someone seriously after saying that.

  30. #30 Kel
    April 12, 2012

    It does seem the politically-savvy position, but does that mean that defences of such a position are going to be tainted by motivated reasoning?

    It does seem odd to blame the new atheists for this when the people who are seeing this a problem have probably never read a new atheist book in their life. If they would read Dawkins, maybe they’d show more understanding of evolution when they talk…

  31. #31 Collin Brendemuehl
    April 12, 2012

    Eric,
    You’re not the only one being addressed in that post.
    Still, reductio ad absurdum can be a fallacy (perhaps better, it can be used fallaciously) when it delves into irrelevance. Which it did by changing topics.

    Torbjörn Larsson,
    I call Tim a mathematician, but I know that’s loose. He does take a strongly mathematical approach to analytical philosophy. But an embarrassment to Western Michigan? His co-edited recent history of the philosophy of science is a quality piece. Perhaps it deserves some reading here.

    Oh, and since you apparently strive for accuracy, it is not “science” that I oppose, but the metaphysical assumption of naturalism that persists as a subtext here, even though it is seemingly denied. One cannot call any sense of creation a “fairy tale” while at the same time saying that there is no assumption.

  32. #32 dean
    April 12, 2012

    “But an embarrassment to Western Michigan?”
    His “use” of mathematics – yes.

  33. #33 Jose Fly
    April 12, 2012

    What I often wonder is, if Dawkins’ flaming atheism produces such a strong theistic backlash in the other direction, why is this alleged effect so much stronger in the States than the UK? Dawkins is British after all.

    It makes sense that if you’re engaging reasonable, intelligent people then starting off with harsh, pointed, demeaning rhetoric about how silly religion is and how ignorant it is to not inherently realize the superiority of evolution is a mistake. However, has anyone ever seen any of the “new atheists” do anything like that in that sort of situation? Whenever I’ve seen Dawkins or PZ Myers talking directly to a person or a small group, I’m always struck by their manners and their incredible patience (watch the video of Dawkins and Wendy Williams for a great example).

    The only times I’ve seen the “new atheists” ratchet up the rhetoric and get nasty is when they’re talking to large groups of fellow atheists (or something like that).

    So I think even among the most verbally blunt of atheists, there’s a realization that when you’re talking to people you’re trying to persuade over to your position, a certain amount of tact and patience is required. But when among like-minded folks and in a situation that lends itself to grandstanding, it’s sometimes appropriate to throw some verbal barbs at the creationists and theists. That’s how you get people fired up and draw attention to the cause.

    The main issue that seems to divide is how we deal with the hard-core name-calling, mud-slinging creationists who are the most unlikely to be persuaded? How do we address them? With a polite handshake, a smile, and an “agree to disagree” demeanor? Or do we go into it ready to wage rhetorical war?

    I honestly don’t know. The only conclusion I’ve been able to reach is that having prominent, qualified people willing to each take different approaches is probably for the best (kind of a good cop/bad cop thing). Both have their merits and both have their drawbacks, so some of each just might be the most effective.

    Ruse’s last comment on not “emoting” prior to doing “serious study” being “something New Atheists do not do” is little more than a passive-aggressive insult.

    Apparently it’s very important to be entirely civil with creationist liars and charlatans like Hovind and Ham, but not so much with the people on your own team.

  34. #34 Antaeus Feldspar
    April 12, 2012

    Well, here’s the way I see it, and you can decide for yourself whether you think I’m agreeing with Ruse, disagreeing with him, or what.

    There is nothing inconsistent about saying “Scientific observation leads us to accept evolution as a fact of the universe; we should teach our children evolution in the schools because we are so convinced of its factuality. The question of whether there is a Supreme Being, by contrast, isn’t a falsifiable proposition, and if we have our own convictions about it, we should keep them out of the curriculum.” This is a consistent position, behind which we should be able to unite both those who say “Evolution is pretty obvious if you look at the evidence, but I do believe there’s a God,” and those who say “Evolution is pretty obvious if you look at the evidence, and the evidence also points pretty solidly to the universe operating without any supernatural or divine entities.” And it would be politically smart to unite these two allies.

    Who would have dreamed that it isn’t these two closely related groups who share so much that would work together the most effectively, but the extremists on either side who share almost nothing?? Yes, that’s right, the ultra-religious “the only acceptable position is to reject both evolution and atheism” crowd has a lot of its work done for it by the ultra-rational “the only acceptable position is to embrace both evolution and atheism” crowd. The only hope the ultra-religious have to prevent the formation of that powerful “let’s teach our children in the schools about evolution, and leave religion for outside” bloc is to try and drive a wedge between believers who accept evolution and atheists who accept evolutions. And frankly, that wedge is handed to them by the militant atheists who won’t allow the separate subjects of evolution and belief in the divine to *be* separate, but insist that one must think like the militant atheists on *both* counts to be worthy of respect as a rational thinker.

    And I know whereof I speak, because this is the point in the discussion where I reveal that I fully accept evolution as a clear scientific reality, but also consider myself to have some religious belief, and this is inevitably the point in the discussion where multiple people entirely ignore all the reasonable, polite argument I’ve put forth and immediately start mocking my religious belief. “Wahahaha! You call yourself rational, when you believe in a big Sky Beard who’s gonna solve all your problems?!” The fact that I have said nothing about what kind of divine being(s) I may believe in or what kind of divine intervention I may or may not expect never matters. “Why should we listen to what you say, when you think the world’s ruled by a Jewish zombie!?” Apparently, just as some “Christians” think being “Christian” means you can behave like a selfish jerk to everyone around you, so long as you mouth the right allegiance to God, some “rationalists” believe it’s perfectly okay to use straw man arguments, as long as you’re using it to mock someone who’s not as “rational” as you, and therefore lesser than you.

    So there’s my answer: Yes. It is politically unwise to associate evolution with nonbelief, because it is politically wise to bring together allies who are united by a common belief (“evolution is scientific fact, and should be taught as such in schools”) even if they are divided on other issues. Now, if you believe we live in a world where the only factor determining what gets passed into law, what gets held as Constitutional or unconstitutional by Supreme Courts, etc., is pure legal logic and rationality, and that political factors such as “have we been finding common cause with allies, or have we been alienating them?” never come into play, well, then, by all means let Richard “Let’s Find Even More Offensive Ways To Desecrate Someone’s Sacred Item” Dawkins be the public face of evolutionary belief to much of America, and encourage the ultra-religious who push that same association; after all, they’re just playing political games, and those never affect the law. By all means, if you encounter a believer who says “Hey, there’s no need for us to fight between ourselves, when we have a bigger enemy, who wants to push beliefs into our schools neither of us want to see taught there,” by all means laugh in his face and mock him for how stupid he is to believe in a big Sky Beard – there’s no reason you should do anything but alienate him and use him to make yourself feel superior, if political concerns never have any real-world effects.

    However, if you believe that, then you don’t really have room in your glass house to throw stones at believers for their fairy tales.

  35. #35 Stu
    April 12, 2012

    One cannot call any sense of creation a “fairy tale” while at the same time saying that there is no assumption.

    What would that be, other than the null hypothesis?

  36. #36 eric
    April 12, 2012

    @33:

    Who would have dreamed that it isn’t these two closely related groups who share so much that would work together the most effectively, but the extremists on either side who share almost nothing??

    Is it that surprising? Fundamentalists reject methodological naturalism because they think belief in God and the bible should infuse their life. They reject the idea of carving out an intellectual space where the bible isn’t considered. On the other side, strong atheists ALSO reject the notion of carving out an intellectual space for methodological naturalism, for two reasons: they think it should be applied more broadly, and they think the spectacular success of MN’s assumptions shouldn’t be ignored. They see its success as evidence for philosophical naturalism, evidence that those assumptions are right in a deeper sense than just “good rules to follow if you want to run successful experiments.” And they think its foolish to ignore such evidence.

    that wedge is handed to them by the militant atheists who won’t allow the separate subjects of evolution and belief in the divine to *be* separate, but insist that one must think like the militant atheists on *both* counts to be worthy of respect as a rational thinker.

    I don’t know about respect, but regarding science education, I think even folks like PZ and Dawkins would be fine with not mentioning atheism in HS science classes. They *are* willing to allow them (atheism and evolution) to be separate for purposes of science education. The gnus and theistic evolutionists *are* allies in that respect. Take PZ and Ken Miller as examples of each end: the PZs of the world have no beef with how Ken teaches biology, just with what he believes/promotes in his spare time.

  37. #37 Pseudonym
    April 13, 2012

    To expand on Feynman’s point, philosophical naturalism is as useful to scientists as philosophical egg-laying is to birds.

  38. #38 Brimshack
    April 13, 2012

    It is also odd to see how anyone could conclude from 5 minutes with one book anything about what the “New Atheists” never do.

  39. #39 Wow
    April 13, 2012

    “Answer: No, I cannot. The argument against 100% surety of god’s absence comes from Dawkins himself”

    And I agree: I cannot either.

    However, there DOES seem to be the requirement that unless we can do so, that we MUST entertain the actuality of God existing as as valid as scientific facts. From the faithiests.

    There is 0% surety of Gods existence.

    But we STILL have to argue with idiots who want to say it’s 100% true that he (the one they’re thinking of, not any of those other silly myths) is talking about exists because we can’t PROVE 100% he doesn’t.

    To an extent my question was rhetorical: I know where that requirement comes from: the faithiests.

  40. #40 Wow
    April 13, 2012

    “Still, reductio ad absurdum can be a fallacy (perhaps better, it can be used fallaciously) when it delves into irrelevance. Which it did by changing topics.”

    You’re begging the question, colon.

    Did it change topics, or is this merely your newest method of keeping your failed “strawman argument, so wrong” attack on Jason alive?

  41. #41 Wow
    April 13, 2012

    “Apparently it’s very important to be entirely civil with creationist liars and charlatans like Hovind and Ham, but not so much with the people on your own team.”

    It’s a terribly British thing, that. Especially the higher up the class structure you go.

    But apart from that, what does “Agree to disagree” mean? This law doesn’t allow “agree to disagree”, it entirely allows the faithiests their way.

    Antaeus, I was fine with your post up until this:

    “And frankly, that wedge is handed to them by the militant atheists who won’t allow the separate subjects of evolution and belief in the divine to *be* separate,”

    Which DOES NOT follow from ANYTHING you said earlier in that post.

    It also is absolutely contrary to fact.

    This doesn’t happen.

    Atheists don’t have a problem with a religious education class. Faithiests of a different faith to “the one” faith that might be taught there (imagine if the RE class only taught Islam…). They DO have a problem with creationists putting their faith in the science class, though.

    They have no problem with them being separate classes. Plenty of problem with putting them in the same class.

    You may have made a mistype there, though.

  42. #42 hoary puccoon
    April 13, 2012

    Nobody has mentioned yet that if you actually read Dawkin’s “The Greatest Show on Earth” and “The Ancestor’s Tale” you’ll find virtually nothing in there about religion, one way or the other. Dawkin’s arguments are strictly scientific. The same is true of Jerry Coyne’s “Why Evolution is True.” so Dawkins and Coyne are both willing to ignore religious arguments when they are extraneous to the science.

    Unfortunately, creationists invariably drag Dawkin’s and Coyne’s (lack of) religious beliefs into the discussion. So, unless you are willing to keep your atheism (agnosticism, scepticism, whatever) a deep, dark secret, the creos will inevitably use it against you. I am not suggesting that people trying to improve American science education should keep themselves under a permanent gag rule. They should, instead, come down hard on anyone who tries to confuse scientific facts and religious (or anti-religious) convictions. But that means keeping their viewpoint about religion out of the debate when the topic on the table is science education in American public schools.

  43. #43 couchmar
    April 13, 2012

    I have to say I agree with Nick Matzske and Antaeus Feldspar on this issue. The good thing about new atheists is that they have raised awareness of atheism in society and drawn more attention to this issue. This is no small matter, and something philosophers and those like Kurtz have been trying to do for a while. So there is something useful about the focus they have created around this topic. However, new atheists are a public relations nightmare. For years, when creationists wanted to write books attempting to undermine evolutionary theory, they had to comb through somewhat obscure academic books and journals looking for sentences from biologists they could take out of context to support their position. Henry Morris and Duane Gish were known for this sort of thing–misrepresenting small disagreements among biologists as if they undermined the validity of evolutionary theory. But thanks to Dawkins et al they no longer have to work at this any more, since gnus have given them all sorts of bad arguments, poorly reasoned claims, and overstated conclusions in one place. This and the nasty language of the gnus makes it easier for creationist authors to mislead their religious communities and those who follow them. As Matzke says, “it would be nice if the most prominent pro-science voices at least had the good sense to contradict the creationist message, rather than confirming it.”

  44. #44 Michael Fugatem
    April 13, 2012

    couchmar,

    “But thanks to Dawkins et al they no longer have to work at this any more, since gnus have given them all sorts of bad arguments, poorly reasoned claims, and overstated conclusions in one place. This and the nasty language of the gnus makes it easier for creationist authors to mislead their religious communities and those who follow them.”

    Great argument – too bad you don’t offer a single piece of documentation to back it up.

  45. #45 Jose Fly
    April 13, 2012

    The problem with these discussions is how often settings and contexts of discussions, arguments, and statements get conflated.

    For example, has anyone here seen any prominent atheist–new or otherwise–when testifying before a school board, court, or other venue on the need to teach evolution in science class do so in the context of an anti-religion rant? All I’ve ever seen in those settings are people on the side of science–atheists and theists alike–speak to the need to teach good science.

    So unless I’ve missed something, when it comes to the main issue (advocating good science education), WE ARE on the same page of the same script; WE ARE unified.

    As I tried to point out, the only times I see the “new atheists” going off on religion are when they’re discussing religion. Sure, sometimes evolution might creep into the rhetoric, but it’s only in some ancillary way.

    So when someone says “Don’t tie evolution to atheism”, what exactly does that mean? Dawkins, Myers, and other atheists can talk about evolution or atheism, but not both? Because it seems as soon as they talk about both, even if in totally different contexts, they’ve “tied” the two together. And let’s face it, if anyone who advocates for evolution education later comes out as an atheist, the creationists will use that overlap to “tie the two together”.

  46. #46 Collin Brendemuehl
    April 13, 2012

    Stu,
    Sounds like you’re still clinging to the old Logical Postitivism. How about doing real, modern “science” instead?

    Wow,
    Wow. I mean wow. How about a course in, say, the English language? Used to be people were taught Rhetoric as a matter of course. Seems lacking in your analysis.

    Eric,
    “Fundamentalists reject methodological naturalism”
    And there is a sound reason for this. Repeat after me: Naturalism is not science. Naturalism is a presupposition.
    Naturalism is not science. Naturalism is a presupposition.
    Naturalism is not science. Naturalism is a presupposition.
    I will posit, and the evidence is plain, that it is a certain type of evolutionist who demands that even simple mechanics (ever hear of Forrest Mimms, III? We who have worked in electronics for several decades know the name well.) be infused with some abstract concept of “evolution” that escapes rationality. Some in this group also know Ed Brayton who wants people unemployed who do accept this same orthodoxy. It is this class of thought which destroys “science” by turning it into a hammer. It is this which is *plainly* anti-science.
    Now go back and do “science” instead of philosophy.

    And enjoy your weekend. See you next thread.

  47. #47 Michael Fugate
    April 13, 2012

    This is what happens when you attend an evangelical college with 5 science? courses total (who knew geography of the Bible was a science course!) and no full-time science faculty – you don’t know what you are talking about.

  48. #48 eric
    April 13, 2012

    Collin:

    And there is a sound reason for this. Repeat after me: Naturalism is not science. Naturalism is a presupposition.

    No, its not. Nobody sat down and said “I will start with these rules, and never change them.” The rules of science have evolved over time, and they are based on our experiences in using different ways to try to understand the world.

    The general rule “look for a natural explanation” is an outcome of hundreds of years of looking for explanations. It is a tentative conclusion based on our past experience.

    And its open to revision. Go ahead and dump it if you like. Go research a cure for cancer or fusion power or anything else you want without it. If your methodology is more successful than the standard one, people will start paying attention to you. Not just scientists – venture capitalists, corporations, governments. Scientists don’t rule or govern these communities – even if scientists think you are wrong, if you can find oil better than a geologist by dumping MN as part of your methodology, oil companies will hire you.

    As I said in my earlier post, MN’s remarkable success is something atheists think people ignore, downplay, or don’t take to its rational conclusion. And you’re doing that right now; you’re pretending that this past record of success has absolutely nothing to do with why people use it.

  49. #49 TFJ
    April 13, 2012

    @44:Quite so. And furthermore, is there any evidence of significant numbers of people who are going to negatively influence the teaching of evolution based on the actual, and I emphasise the word ACTUAL, output of prominent Gnus. I strongly suspect that politically active creos get their info about Gnus at 2nd hand, and not necessarily in a form resembling the original. A prominent atheist like RD is going to be cast as militant and strident whatever he says.

  50. #50 NJ
    April 13, 2012

    eric@47:

    The general rule “look for a natural explanation” is an outcome of hundreds of years of looking for explanations.

    This.

    The overlooked fact about people like Collin is that they don’t reject MN in most of their daily life. They rely on it to have their cars fixed. To get buildings and roads built safely. To have their diseases treated. To have the crimes committed solved. And on and on and on.

    Where they decide to reject MN is when it leads to conclusions that conflict with their preferred interpretation of their preferred translation of their preferred set of religious writings.

  51. #51 TFJ
    April 13, 2012

    And there is a sound reason for this. Repeat after me: Naturalism is not science. Naturalism is a presupposition.

    Naturalism is based on the natural world which at least appears to exist and seems to be consistent. What should we do then? Use methods based on the existence of realms that don’t appear to exist? Is there any other method of discovery that has produced anything resembling a fact not arrived at by subjective methods not known to be reliable. Sure, the universe may be all magicy, but any approach to gaining knowledge other than the naturalistic would be based on presupposition multiplied by a very big number. If there is a realm outside of the physical then there is zero indication of the nature of such a realm and no evidence that it is anything like the realm theists propose. So what do we do? Stick with that which yields useful results or pick from an unknowable number of undetermined alternatives?

  52. #52 Kel
    April 14, 2012

    Naturalism is not science. Naturalism is a presupposition.

    Right on the first part, wrong on the second. Naturalism is a conclusion, not a presupposition.

  53. #53 TFJ
    April 14, 2012

    I must admit to not previously knowing much about Ruse. Having looked up some of his output he appears to me like an atheist David Bentley Hart. He’s pissed of that the Gnu’s have the audacity to switch off the Apologist smoke machine at the wall plug rather than chase smoke particles. He’s just another clown sneering at those unsophisticated, unlearned noobs. He’s also as hypocritical as hell; he uses words like ‘violent’ and ‘hatred’ to describe New Atheist figures while flinging poorly aimed mud.

  54. #54 lenoxus
    April 14, 2012

    Antanaeus Feldspar @ 34:

    And I know whereof I speak, because this is the point in the discussion where I reveal that I fully accept evolution as a clear scientific reality, but also consider myself to have some religious belief, and this is inevitably the point in the discussion where multiple people entirely ignore all the reasonable, polite argument I’ve put forth and immediately start mocking my religious belief.

    But surely even you agree that some beliefs (not yours, but some) are in fact worthy of mocking. If someone makes excellent points about the value of science, medicine, chemistry, and physics, but adds that they still think there’s something to homeopathy, that person is going to be mocked – can you really say they don’t deserve it? What if someone eloquently decries the evils of antisemitism but concludes by saying they stiil have their doubts on the Holocaust?

    It would appear that I’ve just compared religion to both pseudoscience and Holocaust denial, and this will naturally provoke an emotional response, but I urge to to look past that. Any example I could have given would have to be something you might hypothetically tolerate the mocking-of, and thus connecting it to religion will feel offensive. I truly do not intend to say that religion is as evil as neo-nazism, but simply that there are indeed mockable ideas out there, and that at least some people will indeed look past your positive contributions to zero in on these ideas.

    So the question becomes, what makes religion unworthy of mocking? Is it the fact that it’s so important to so many people, emotionally? That’s just an argument from popularity and it is irrelevant. The only thing it must have going for it that would make any mocking a bad thing is evidence. Without that, yeah, you’re going to be mocked until you can shut people up with some.

    There is an element of this discussion that isn’t mentioned as often as I’d like, and that’s the question of whether or not we should value truth above all, or nearly all, else. There’s something fundamentally irrational about worrying that if one’s children are exposed to evolution, they will lose their belief in God. If God in fact exists then he is necessarily “compatible” with the true facts of evolution, and if he is not compatible, then the evolutionary argument will necessarily be fallacious in some way, or perhaps evolution is true and God, it also happens, does not exist (whether compatible with evolution or no), in which case isn’t it good to know that? The problem is that so many theists do more belief-in-belief than just plain belief.

    Of course, that argument of mine could be turned around – what’s wrong with this law if you can just correct your children about the mistaken anti-evolutionary arguments? But I still don’t think it’s a great idea to tell children falsehoods in the first place (un-learning can be harder than learning, for one thing, and the falsehoods rely on illogical thinking, which children will carry forward into other areas of life). Whereas the anti-evolution folks just don’t seem to have the courage of their convictions, like they did in the Scopes trial days. Why not simply forbid the teaching of common descent – that’s the thing they dislike and think is scientifically false, right? Or is it that they don’t know whether it’s true or false, but don’t care because they know they don’t like it? Because that’s the possibility that scares me the most. 

  55. #55 Collin Brendemuehl
    April 15, 2012

    eric et al,
    The simple term “metaphysical naturalism” says that the exploration is going beyond the physical and now includes things “meta”. If one only studies the physical then the constraint would exclude matters outside that scope. At that point it is a presupp.

    NJ,

    So one has to accept naturalism to fix a car? Now that is an escape from reason. It appears that you have proved my earlier point about radical exclusion.

    Fugate,
    Sinc you are unfamiliar with grad work I will label your comment at best ad hominem. after all, you are supporting a mathematician who pretends to be a political pundit.

  56. #56 tomh
    April 15, 2012

    The simple term “metaphysical naturalism” says that the exploration is going beyond the physical

    Can you explain how one explores beyond the physical?

  57. #57 lenoxus
    April 15, 2012

    One can certainly argue that metaphysical naturalism is more than just a conclusion from evidence, though I would say it is indeed that.

    I also think it’s a sort of promise to oneself to think about everything in more or less the same way, and not loosen one’s standards of evidence/reason just because something falls in a “special” category. When people assert belief in things like dualism, or non-overlapping magisteria, they aren’t so much informing you of a belief about two different “kinds of stuff”, but rather informing you of a practice of thinking about different kinds of stuff differently.

    That’s part of what may be meant by using “naturalism” when fixing your car. I’m willing to grant the (extremely small) possibility that the car is haunted by spirits, but the nature and effects of “spirits” still have to be as strictly defined as “loose zingdoodle valve” would be if we were considering that hypothesis.

  58. #58 NJ
    April 15, 2012

    CB@55:

    So one has to accept naturalism to fix a car? Now that is an escape from reason.

    So, you assume a malign supernatural entity when your car fails to start? I seriously doubt that. You assume that there is a purely material cause for that failure, entirely independently of whether you have a belief in god or gods.

    In other words you are using naturalism purely as a methodology to solve a particular problem. Hardly an escape from reason.

    The same holds for the other cases I listed, and obviously, many others I did not list. That you choose to conflate procedural usage with a philosophical viewpoint is an excellent reflection of the logical contortionism you have to engage in to protect your religious particulars. That the vast majority of other Christians do not feel compelled to behave similarly reflects how out of touch you are.

  59. #59 couchmar
    April 15, 2012

    TFJ says:

    “I must admit to not previously knowing much about Ruse. Having looked up some of his output he appears to me like an atheist David Bentley Hart. He’s pissed of that the Gnu’s have the audacity to switch off the Apologist smoke machine at the wall plug rather than chase smoke particles. He’s just another clown…”

    For your information, Ruse founded the excellent journal Biology and Philosophy. And, for your further information, on its current editorial board are Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett. Your examination of his background seems rather sloppy. Ruse is a serious figure.

  60. #60 SLC
    April 15, 2012

    The problem here is that many of the commentors are failing to distinguish between methodological naturalism and philosophical naturalism.

    Methodological naturalism merely means that natural explanations are to be used to explain what is observed in the natural world. Thus, Newton went outside of methodological naturalism in proposing that the intercession of god is required to maintain the stability of the solar system. Laplace, on the other hand used perturbation theory to show that the solar system was stable over considerable periods of time. As he famously announced to Napoleon when the latter questioned him as to what part god might play, his response was that he had no need of that hypothesis.

    The reason why methodological naturalism is required to do science is that supernatural explanations are unbounded and thus are neither an explanation or a prediction, because god, being all powerful, can do anything. Or put another way, any result of an experiment or an observation is possible if one accepts the possibility of supernatural explanations. Thus, creationism explains nothing, predicts nothing, and cannot be falsified.

    On the other hand, as Barbara Forrest explains, one need not be a philosophical naturalist to do science. Ken Miller, who is often erroneously described as a theistic evolutionist, explained in a comment made on Larry Moran’s blog that he rejected that that term as applied to him, and that he describes himself as a methodological naturalist without reservation and at the same time a philosophical theist.

  61. #61 Michael Fugate
    April 15, 2012

    I seriously hope you didn’t pay for you undergrad education, Collin. If you did you should ask for your money back. Any school that requires a doctrinal statement will get faculty who either believe they already know the truth and therefore only engage in indoctrination and apologetics or liars who will say they believe anything just to get a job. But seriously, how many science course have you taken (I am sure theological seminaries have hundreds of them) and who were the instructors? If you don’t understand the evidence for evolution and are unwilling to engage in it honestly, then I really must chalk it up to your having received an inferior education. This is not an ad hominem, but a suggestion that you might want to expand your horizons.

  62. #62 eric
    April 15, 2012

    Collin:

    The simple term “metaphysical naturalism” says that the exploration is going beyond the physical and now includes things “meta”

    In @46 you quoted me correctly as saying methodological naturalism. I have no idea when or why you took a right turn and decided I meant something else. (Something which is correctly termed philosophical naturalism, PN.)

    So just to summarize:
    1. MN is the method.
    2. PN is a theory explaining why the MN method works so well. Like evolution or heliocentrism, there are no serious competing theories…but also like evolution or heliocentrism, this doesn’t stop some people from rejecting it for religious reasons.
    3. Neither MN or PN are presuppositions. Both are tentatively held conclusions based on current evidence, open to revision if we get future, contradictory evidence, yada yada.
    4. As I said before, nothing stops you from rejecting both/either and using a different system. Good luck with that. I look forward to reading your publication, in which you describe your alternate methodology and demonstrate via evidence how it led you to some confirmable discovery that MN did not lead to.

    SLC @60:

    The problem here is that many of the commentors are failing to distinguish between methodological naturalism and philosophical naturalism.

    I am not aware of anyone mixing them up, except Collin in @55, and that may have been just a simple reading error.

  63. #63 Wow
    April 16, 2012

    “So one has to accept naturalism to fix a car?”

    If you don’t accept natural physical causes for your car’s problems, then how can you fix it at all? A non-physical error in your car cannot be fixed by the physical actions you take, since this can only affect the physical world, therefore such a problem would be insoluble.

    “The demons making it go have left”. Therefore your only choice is to buy a new car with the demons making it go still in it.

  64. #64 Wow
    April 16, 2012

    “Used to be people were taught Rhetoric as a matter of course. Seems lacking in your analysis.”

    Seems is the operative word. I would add “to you”. This is because you do not wish there to be anything to consider, therefore waving your hand and saying “this isn’t the answer you’re looking for” response.

    Unfortunately your jedi mind tricks only work on the weak-willed. This means they’re very useful in your natural habitat: xtian-led woomancering circles.

  65. #65 Collin Brendemuehl
    April 16, 2012

    Eric,
    You’re right — I quoted you but was with a different question. My error. Thanks for pointing it out. A differing explanation is due.

    Of course “methodological” is a question of practice. But so often the term *naturalism* is used without qualifier. Doing so adds a level of (and maybe Wowzer will get this) obfuscation that will woo the minds of the weak. Sort of like using “evolution” to refer at one time to species, one time to refer to morality, and another time to refer to social structures or even auto mechanics. Sorry — they are all different subjects and argument from obfuscation does not work. Never has. (It seems the preferred method used to say that there is no such thing as “scientism”.)
    In short: Obfuscation == categorical fallacy.

  66. #66 Wow
    April 16, 2012

    “Of course “methodological” is a question of practice”

    And that was a tautology.

    “But so often the term *naturalism* is used without qualifier.”

    I haven’t seen an example of this apart from you just then.

    “Sort of like using “evolution” to refer at one time to species, one time to refer to morality”

    I understand “to species”, but who uses it to refer to morality???

    “another time to refer to social structures”

    So social structures don’t change (evolve) and we’re all still family-clans, right?

    “or even auto mechanics”

    Nope, nobody has used evolution to refer to car repairing.

    “Sorry — they are all different subjects”

    You are the only one trying to stuff them all together.

  67. #67 eric
    April 16, 2012

    Collin:

    But so often the term *naturalism* is used without qualifier. Doing so adds a level of (and maybe Wowzer will get this) obfuscation that will woo the minds of the weak.

    That’s really amusing, coming as it does after your post @31 (“it is not “science” that I oppose, but the metaphysical assumption of naturalism”) and @46 (“Naturalism is a presupposition. Naturalism is not science. Naturalism is a presupposition. Naturalism is not science. Naturalism is a presupposition.”)

    So, I guess I have to agree that there are people who are using the term “naturalism” without a modifier, adding to the obfuscation. Your @31 and @46 are prime examples of someone doing that.

    Might I suggest that you take your own advice? The next time you decide to do your “repeat after me” post, I suggest you modify it to the more accurate “Philosophical naturalism is a theory,” rather than your current, obfuscatory, “Naturalism is a presupposition.”

  68. #68 Collin Brendemuehl
    April 16, 2012

    Wow & eric,

    Don’t recall the other threads?
    It’s not all that uncommon.

    scienceblogs.com/evolutionblog/2010/03/thought_for_the_day.php
    scienceblogs.com/evolutionblog/2010/02/evolution_at_wheaton.php
    scienceblogs.com/…/2008/01/oleary_proves_that_id_is_worth.php
    scienceblogs.com/evolutionblog/2010/12/id_and_catholicism.php

  69. #69 Collin Brendemuehl
    April 16, 2012

    And just a little more material …

    Let’s look at the tests being done here.

    Any demand for empiricism from theism but not from the broader scope of science is, well, hypocritical. If science is allowed to use models of various types without the necessity of empirical (scientific method) evidence, then why deny theistic models in general? If there is evidence, at a minimum, for a creator, then that logic must be accepted.

    Next let’s look at a basic constraint: Language. I suspect that all here would accept one premise of the ORV — that the language at the beginning of the inquiry must match the language at the end of the inquiry. The insertion of new language removes the validity of the test. For instance: Theory) Hydrogen + Oxygen yields Water. Test) Add Hydrogen to Oxygen. Report) Get water and heat. The problem) While the result *may* be true it is *not* true to the test. If you are going to Theory) Natural event 1 + natural event 2 yields Natural Result X. Test) Add NE 1 + NE 2, get NR and No Theism. Such is not legitimate “science” by any stretch. This is the leap from the Methodological to the Metaphysical to which I object. (See eric, #48) That is obfuscation and it was not done by me.

  70. #70 Wow
    April 17, 2012

    “Any demand for empiricism from theism but not from the broader scope of science is, well, hypocritical”

    Yup, we can agree on that.

    What we don’t seem to have is any example where this hypocrisy exists.

    “If science is allowed to use models of various types without the necessity of empirical (scientific method) evidence”

    Do you have an example of one? Or is this just a hypothetical?

    “If there is evidence, at a minimum, for a creator, then that logic must be accepted.”

    So where is this evidence? Or is this yet another hypothetical?

    “wordsalad burble .Such is not legitimate “science” by any stretch.”

    Such is tommyrot. What on earth are you talking about?

    Chemically, combustion of hydrogen and oxygen produces water and heat. You’re saying that because we see combustion of H2 and O2 compounds will produce heat and water but doesn’t produce a god as well, this can’t be science????

    “This is the leap from the Methodological to the Metaphysical to which I object.”

    The problem is nobody, not even you, seem to understand what the heck you’re objecting to.

  71. #71 Wow
    April 17, 2012

    re 68. The first link takes us to some creotard who hates atheists therefore proclaims it wrong. Somehow.

    What, precisely, are you trying to claim here?

    That there are idiots who are just as unable to produce a coherent paragraph on their problem as you?

  72. #72 Collin Brendemuehl
    April 17, 2012

    ** Do you have an example of one? Or is this just a hypothetical?

    Yes. Evolution is a model.

    ** So where is this evidence? Or is this yet another hypothetical?

    The Kalam argument.

    ** The problem is nobody, not even you, seem to understand what the heck you’re objecting to.

    What is clear is that you have missed the point: The constraints of “science” say one thing and the statements of pseudo-philosophers say another.

    So you really think that the Method answers the Meta? Hang on to that, why don’t you. It will make you a *good* scientist.

  73. #73 dean
    April 17, 2012

    “The Kalam argument.”

    It would be nice to know that even you aren’t presenting this as “evidence”. You’re not that far into the fringte, are you?

  74. #74 Wow
    April 17, 2012

    “Yes. Evolution is a model.”

    Nope, evolution is a fact.

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

    “The Kalam argument.”

    The Kalām cosmological argument is a variation of the cosmological argument that argues for the existence of a First Cause for the universe. Its origins can be traced to medieval Jewish, Christian and Muslim thinkers, but most directly to Islamic theologians of the Kalām tradition.

    Hmmm. Not really evidence for a creator, is it. It merely begs the question: there is a creator because the universe was created.

    “The constraints of “science” say one thing and the statements of pseudo-philosophers say another.”

    And so your problem must be with the pseudo philosophers like those persuing the Kalam argument, right?

    Those aren’t scientists.

    Really, what IS your problem?

  75. #75 Wow
    April 17, 2012

    What, specifically, CAUSES radiative decay to happen, Colon?

    Does God sit about all the time waiting for a random moment to make a U238 nucleus decay?

  76. #76 eric
    April 17, 2012

    Collin:

    Any demand for empiricism from theism but not from the broader scope of science is, well, hypocritical. If science is allowed to use models of various types without the necessity of empirical (scientific method) evidence, then why deny theistic models in general? If there is evidence, at a minimum, for a creator, then that logic must be accepted.

    Wow, lots of mistakes here. First, I think you are confusing hypotheses with theories. Hypotheses don’t need evidence to be initially presented to the community, or to be “used” in science. Theism can produce hypotheses without evidence, just like any other source can. Example: the Mormons have a hypothesis that Jews came to the Americas in the first century AD. This hypothesis is used by them to help decide how to spend private research money – they spend a lot on new world archaeology. Hypotheses, however, are not theories. We don’t teach unsupported hypotheses in scince classes, and we would certainly not present some creationist hypothesis as an “alternative” to evolution, since that would confuse students as to the difference between theories and hypotheses. It would create a patently false equvalency between two ideas (one a hypothesis, the other a theory) that are not at all equivalent.

    Second, as I’ve said before, you are more than welcome to use any model you want in your work. No science police are going to bang down your door for theistic model use. If you discover something scientifically interesting with your theistic model, other scientists will likely start paying attention to it. But you can’t reasonably expect them to pay any attention to it until you’ve given the community some reason to believe its useful, i.e. until you, the model-proposer, have some initial results worthy of our interest. Demanding we pay attention to some creationist model before you’ve shown how its useful for doing science is to demand special treatment.

    Third, the kalaam argument is not ‘evidence for a creator’ in any meaningful sense. In depends on its premises being right, but those premises presume everything ‘but some first cause’ needs a cause. That ‘but…’ clause arguably makes it circular: the argument gives exceptional status to one being as a premise, and then concludes that one being has exceptional status. Color me surprised. Its also not evidence for God in any anthropomorphic sense at all. Anyone who claims it supports a sentient being, a being with active miracle-working powers, a being who cares about humans, etc… is adding a whole host of utterly unsupported extra beliefs to the arguemnt. Kalam’s uncaused cause could be the rules of QM. Or mindless Nyarlathotep. Any Christian citing this argument for support of the Christian God is at best being ignorant about what the argument actually implies. At worst, they are being intentionally deceptive by trying to convince people it yields support for an entity it doesn’t actually support. ‘Kalam, therefore Jesus’ is no more logical than ‘don’t know how x happened, therefore Jesus.’

  77. #77 TFJ
    April 17, 2012

    @couchmar:

    For your information, Ruse founded the excellent journal Biology and Philosophy. And, for your further information, on its current editorial board are Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett. Your examination of his background seems rather sloppy. Ruse is a serious figure.

    I don’t care what good work he has done. His attacks on fellow atheists display either a lack of comprehension or malicious disingenuousness. How anyone can describe prominent New Atheist figures’ rhetoric as ‘violent’ is beyond me. He seems pathologically incapable of understanding the meat of the beef people have with him. He plays the martyr savaged by those fundie atheists just for wanting to build bridges with the other side. The problem his detractors have with him, which I would argue is plainly evident, is that he makes nice with elements who wish to neutralise atheist voices by helping to characterise them as nasty, ignorant and unreasonable. IOW he ingratiates himself with theists by showing willingness to throw other atheists under the bus. He scorns Dawkin’s The God Delusion for not directly addressing question begging arguments for a creator debunked in all of their guises for centuries. Do physicists have to address perpetual motion in a discussion of energy conservation? Apparently biologists must do the equivalent to avoid embarassing him in his mating dance. The assumption from certain philosophers that only they, with their sophisticated understanding of the esoteric nuances of philosophical terminology, can debunk a bad argument is really irksome. Some arguments are so bad and self-evidently trying for a free lunch that it only requires pointing out the unevidenced assumption to negate them, and it does not require permission from Ruse to ignore them.

  78. #78 SLC
    April 17, 2012

    Re Eric @ #76

    Actually, evolution is both a theory and a fact.

    Taking the 5 elements of evolution as proposed by Ernst Mayr, old earth is a fact, extinction is a fact, most existing animals not being present millions of years ago is a fact, common descent is an inference from those facts, mechanisms of evolution are a theory.

    Relativity and quantum mechanics are theories, strings is an hypothesis (strings is not a theory as we sit here today as it thus far hasn’t led to provable hypotheses).

  79. #79 TFJ
    April 17, 2012

    For instance: Theory) Hydrogen + Oxygen yields Water. Test) Add Hydrogen to Oxygen. Report) Get water and heat. The problem) While the result *may* be true it is *not* true to the test. If you are going to Theory) Natural event 1 + natural event 2 yields Natural Result X. Test) Add NE 1 + NE 2, get NR and No Theism. Such is not legitimate “science” by any stretch. This is the leap from the Methodological to the Metaphysical to which I object. (See eric, #48) That is obfuscation and it was not done by me.

    Yes, any unexpected experimental result must take account of
    the supernatural as causing the discrepancy. Enquiring minds would like to now how one would modify the theory and how one would go about testing it. Of course, failing evidence for the existence of the supernatural impinging on the physical, one would have to also take account of the theoretical mini-cyclone in my underwear, the Easter Bunny and an infinite number of other possible causes for the discrepancy not yet imagined. What’s that you say? The ontological argument, Kalam. When those are trivially dispensed with it’ll be back to the beginning of the whole cycle by which time I bet the ontological argument, or your dead duck of choice, will have risen from the dead for their thousandth incarnation and be waiting in the wings for part ii of the charade.

  80. #80 SLC
    April 17, 2012

    Re TFJ @ #79

    At one time, Prof. Ruse was a legitimate intellect but, of late, for whatever reason, has turned into a crank.

  81. #81 TFJ
    April 17, 2012

    @SLC

    I’m sure that you are right. It often seems to be the way that people are very good in their field but are exposed as being being severely flawed when particular buttons are pushed. It doesn’t nullify their contributions, but as with Duesberg and HIV, it’s the credentials that make them so dangerous by giving an air of legitimacy to their crankery.

    It may be a case of his public persona catching up with the private. Maybe he’s always been a bit cranky.

  82. #82 Dan L.
    April 17, 2012

    For instance: Theory) Hydrogen + Oxygen yields Water. Test) Add Hydrogen to Oxygen. Report) Get water and heat. The problem) While the result *may* be true it is *not* true to the test. If you are going to Theory) Natural event 1 + natural event 2 yields Natural Result X. Test) Add NE 1 + NE 2, get NR and No Theism. Such is not legitimate “science” by any stretch.

    Yes, any interpretation of scientific evidence entails implicit ceteris paribus clauses. This is true even if you’re a staunch philosophical naturalist — the size of the set of such clauses is smaller in that case but it’s there. For example, when one interprets astronomical observations as being consistent with general relativity that person implicitly assumes that there are no unaccounted astronomical bodies in the system; otherwise the results would NOT be consistent with general relativity and this data, along with confirmation of the extra body, would be evidence against GR. This was all done to death back in the 60′s and 70′s.

    And it takes care of your objections handily. Methodological naturalism is basically just the assumption that: “There are no ‘supernatural’ events causally implicated in this system.” The fact that, so far, assuming the opposite has never — not once — in the history of science resolved an observational anomaly is itself evidence for both the efficacy of methodological naturalism and for the truth of philosophical naturalism.

    The most robust philosophical theories of science always set up a competition between two or more theories (or “paradigms” when Kuhn was saying this). In most cases, one theory is being tested while the other, what Kuhn and others called “observation theories.” For example, optics provides the observation theory for optical astronomy. Then anomalous results might either be the result of having the wrong theory of optics (and so the observational equipment or interpretation of data are faulty) or of having the wrong astronomical theory (so the evidence is correct but isn’t consistent with theory; then this is evidence against the astronomical theory being tested). Alternatively, any one of the many implicit ceteris paribus clauses may be incorrect — there may be a dim but massive body complicating the system, and this would cause an anomaly even if both observation theory and theory under test are correct.

    This actually is fine science. There’s no problem with it. One can look at MN as an implicit ceteris paribus clause, but I’d prefer to look at it as a spectacularly successful observation theory because, once again, not a single evidential anomaly in the history of science has been resolved by recourse to the supernatural.

    But as eric and others have pointed out to you, you are free to concoct your own supernaturalist hypotheses, devise tests, and present your data. If you’re successful then researchers will start paying attention (at least if you’re humble enough not to try to position yourself as the lone maverick fighting against the system).

    Incidentally, Kalam is not observational or experimental data, I don’t really see how it could possibly ever be used as evidence for or against a scientific theory. What’s the confidence interval on the truth of the Kalam?

  83. #83 couchmar
    April 17, 2012

    TFJ @77

    Well, I think we disagree over the subject of new atheism since I too find them sometimes “nasty, ignorant, and unreasonable” (and I’m an atheist). I think your characterization of the issue is a bit misleading too. It is not only philosophers who have raised complaints about the new atheists. H. Allen Orr is a biologist and his NYTimes review of Dawkins was as critical as anything I’ve seen. But, putting this aside, whatever disagreements you have with Ruse are independent of his character or credentials. He has written 20 books and it’s laughable to suggest he’s not a serious figure. It would help if people focused on the issues involved and didn’t try to settle for character assassinations.

  84. #84 Wow
    April 18, 2012

    “I think we disagree over the subject of new atheism since I too find them sometimes “nasty, ignorant, and unreasonable”"

    And, since religious nuts (and accomodationists, “normal” xtians, et al) are sometimes “nasty, ignorant and unreasonable”, what would you conclude from this?

    “It is not only philosophers who have raised complaints about the new atheists.”

    Please show why they’re not nasty, ignorant and unreasonable.

    PS Who decided what “reasonable” means? Why is it reasonable to disbelieve in 10,000 gods as long as you think 1 might be right?

    Is it reasonable to decide that, since there are differing views on the value of pi, that the mathematicians should decide that they will use a value “of about 3″ in all their calculations? Or would it be UNreasonable to decide that those who are just wrong be accorded the same voice as if they had a point that had justification to it?

  85. #85 Wow
    April 18, 2012

    “It would help if people focused on the issues involved and didn’t try to settle for character assassinations.”

    That, though is PRECISELY what you’re doing and what accomodationists like Ruse we’re complaining about is DOING.

    I guess that the problem is you want to be the only ones who can bitch and whine and engage in character assassination, right?

  86. #86 couchmar
    April 18, 2012

    I’m sorry but that’s not what’s going on here. TFJ called Ruse “a clown” and on that basis attempted to dismiss his views (see @53). So it was TFJ’s post which started this whole discussion off and there’s no denying this. And, further, I don’t think this is what I’m doing with respect to the new atheists in my comments. I have nowhere suggested that they are “clowns” and not serious figures in the academic community. Suggesting that Dawkins et al are nasty and unreasonable is entirely consistent with saying that they are serious academic figures (indeed, this is what some of us find so frustrating!). So I don’t question Dawkins’ seriousness with respect to this issue but the way he’s going about it.

    In any case, I don’t really want to pursue this issue further since the topic of this thread is concerns about associating evolution with disbelief, not a general discussion of new atheism. Can we both just agree to stop calling people “clowns” and focus on the issues?

  87. #87 Wow
    April 18, 2012

    “I’m sorry but that’s not what’s going on here. TFJ called Ruse “a clown”"

    Which is, even if you think unwarranted, doesn’t stop Ruse being “nasty, ignorant, and unreasonable” in what HE has been doing.

    But on that you are silent. Therefore the problem cannot be the tone of conversation.

    “And, further, I don’t think this is what I’m doing with respect to the new atheists in my comments.”

    But you DO think this is what TFJ is doing. Maybe, to him, he’s merely appropriately labelling Ruse’s actions as clownish.

    “Suggesting that Dawkins et al are nasty and unreasonable is entirely consistent with saying that they are serious academic figures”

    And suggesting that Ruse is a clown does no different.

    “So I don’t question Dawkins’ seriousness with respect to this issue but the way he’s going about it.”

    Care to give something other than “I don’t like it”?

    Because I had, until I’d bought The God Delusion, heard people criticise his book for being harsh and abrasive unnecessarily. I had responded with “well, maybe he’s just found that sells books better”.

    But, after reading it, I fail to see ANYWHERE where the allegations made about Dawkins’ book actually exist.

    His crime is not to condone stupid thinking just because those people are “genuine” in their fantasy.

    It was raised in stark contrast when I read these complaints about him lumping “nice christians” with the “nutbar fundies” when the very same people whine and bitch about how “reasonable Islam” doesn’t denounce the actions of the terrorists/fanatics proclaiming their Islamic faith.

    For the same reason YOU are lumping the islam nutbars in with the “reasonable” islamists, YOU get lumped in with the nutbar xtian fundies.

    You both enable broken thinking and elevate it to sanctity.

    These nutbars just take that sanctity onto places that you, personally, don’t like.

    The issue of Ruse is that he IS A CLOWN.

    Rather hard not to call him a clown when he’s acting one and we wish to tell him to clean up his clown act.

  88. #88 TFJ
    April 18, 2012

    I think we disagree over the subject of new atheism since I too find them sometimes “nasty, ignorant, and unreasonable” (and I’m an atheist).

    Can you please point to statements which are overtly nasty and demonstrably ignorant by leading figures of the calibre of Dennet, Dawkins or Harris. I think we would probably agree on Myers though. If you are able to do that can you honestly then say that is charateristic of them? And ‘violent’, please show me the violent rhetoric. Anyway, my point is arguments made by the better known Accommodationists in labeling Gnu’s in this way seem very weak and usually based on distortions. I think it should be very clear to anyone who has carefully read criticicsms of Ruses accommodationism that the criticisms are not of the nature Ruse says they are.

    I think your characterization of the issue is a bit misleading too. It is not only philosophers who have raised complaints about the new atheists.

    There are lots of people from various professions lining up to trash the Gnu’s, which says nothing about the substance of the arguments. I still stand by my point that some philosophers arrogantly hand wave away lay criticism as ignorant without justification.

    He has written 20 books and it’s laughable to suggest he’s not a serious figure. It would help if people focused on the issues involved and didn’t try to settle for character assassinations.

    Don’t disagree that he has done serious work. People are focusing on the issue, which is his thin-skinned whining about accusations people haven’t made and his cosying up to an organisation which has demonstrated that it’s goal is to insert mysticism into science and not just to foster coexistence. If I was trying to assassinate his character I would have pointed out some of the things people who have met him have had to say, particularly women,and linked some video of the man.

  89. #89 TFJ
    April 18, 2012

    @Couchmar:

    I’m sorry but that’s not what’s going on here. TFJ called Ruse “a clown” and on that basis attempted to dismiss his views

    Oh, right! So all I did was call him a clown and said absolutely nothing else? Okay then. Bollox! I dismissed nothing by calling him a clown. Where did I trash his whole career? What he has done as a Philosopher of Biology is no concern of mine. In the context of of his attacks on Gnu’s I think he is being a clown. Perhaps I should have been more specific, although I think that could have been easily deduced.

  90. #90 Michael Fugate
    April 18, 2012

    Just because Ruse has written 20 books and was once instrumental in slowing the influx of creationism is public schools, does not mean that he is correct in his arguments about atheism and evolution and it doesn’t mean that his current attacks on new atheism are not “clownish.”

    I liked Ruse’s writings in the 80s, but I tend to disagree with them now. I don’t think religion is a separate way of knowing and I don’t think we should be trying to exclude creationism and intelligent design from schools because it is religion, but because it is awful science and based on poor reasoning. The best way to improve education is to take on all arguments and give students the tools to determine which ones are good and which ones are bad. Whatever Ruse might think, atheism is not a religion and teaching evolution in schools could never be legitimately barred no matter how many atheists support it.

  91. #91 eric
    April 18, 2012

    Michael Fugate:

    I don’t think we should be trying to exclude creationism and intelligent design from schools because it is religion, but because it is awful science and based on poor reasoning. The best way to improve education is to take on all arguments and give students the tools to determine which ones are good and which ones are bad.

    I disagree – I do think we should be trying to exclude it. Both because its religious and because its bad pegagogy.

    HS biology classes have limited time and a lot of material to cover. What real science would you cut from them to make room for a more in-depth discussion of why creationism is wrong? Molecular genetics? Cell energy transfer mechanisms? What week of real biology content shouldn’t teachers cover, so they can cover the mistakes in creationism intead?

    I remember in HS chemistry classes the professor spending all of maybe 5 minutes on the plum pudding model of the atom. We didn’t bother discussing in depth why it was wrong. That would have been a waste of time better spent learning about the Bohr model and (quantum atomic orbtal model) that replaced it. I’d be okay treating creationism like the plum pudding model. Spend 5 minutes discussing Paley’s watchmaker concept as a historical model abandoned by scientists after evolution came along. Anything more is, I think, bad pedagogy.

    If you really think there is a critical thinking benefit to be gained from studying wrong theories, there are a host of better choices; wrong ideas that were much more scientific, that were not religiously motivated, and which aren’t going to unnecessarily entangle your science teachers in their student’s religious beliefs. The above noted plum pudding model, for example. Or Lamarckism.

    Whatever benefit you get from ‘critical thinking’ about creationism (1) could be gained from having the kids think critically about real science instead, and (2) isn’t worth the the material you have to give up to fit creationism into the curriculum.

  92. #92 Michael Fugate
    April 18, 2012

    If we don’t confront students’s misconceptions, they will never change their thinking. As soon as the exam is given, they will go right back to thinking creationism is true. I taught high school biology and there is plenty of time to cover this; there are only a few basic principles that need to be understood by high school biology students. Too many students come to college thinking biology is just memorization and not largely dependent on critical thinkingI could certainly be wrong, but my forays into pedagogy – which is mostly what I do now – suggests that we need to take on creationism and intelligent design head on. The NAS publications on “How People Learn” are good summaries of where we should be going.

  93. #93 tomh
    April 19, 2012

    …we need to take on creationism and intelligent design head on.

    You’re suggesting that high school science teachers take a religious belief, creationism, and explain why it is wrong? I’m afraid that between the legalities and the community, this would be a very short-lived class.

  94. #94 Michael Fugate
    April 19, 2012

    Yes – I am. What are you afraid of? It is the only way one is going to get evolution and science in general accepted. What legalities would one actually be violating by taking the hypotheses of creationism and ID and showing how they don’t explain or predict?

  95. #95 Wow
    April 19, 2012

    I think the only problem is that you’re only allowed to teach creationism in school by the fundies if you teach it as “possibly true”. You’re NOT allowed to teach it as “complete bunkum”.

    And, because the fundies have no brains, they will eat yours for daring to do so.

    I think that a course on creationism in biology class would contain just this:

    “Some people wonder if creationism or intelligent design better explain the variety of life. They don’t”.

    Hence be a very short class.

    And the god-squad (who are all for THEIR freedom of speech) will ensure that that class is never given again. Probably ironically using the separation clause.

  96. #96 lenoxus
    April 19, 2012

    Hmm, lots of thought-provoking stuff here…

    Here’s my own perspective: something can be an elephant in the room without it being the case that it has to be addressed, at least in the immediate future. Of course, if that’s true, then the converse is as well – just because the best policy may involve ignoring something does not make that something a non-elephant.

    The elephant in the room is the degree to which so many students come to class with anti-evolutionary notions which were put into their heads by parents and pastors – and to which these notions are inextricably intertwined with their faith as they practice it. (I think atheists have little responsibility for this situation, but of course I would think so; I may be wrong.)

    Some approach this problem by tackling that second part, arguing that despite what your community may feel, kids, there is no fundamental contradiction between evolution and faith, or even specifically Christianity. I find this problematic for a couple reasons, the main one being that I don’t think it’s accurate or helpful to tell other people what their own religion is “really” all about. It bugs me when atheists do it, and I think I see theists doing it even more so. (Heck, you could say that most of inter-religious discourse is of that flavor, from the labeling of heresies to the denial that heresy is possible.) The simple truth is that if someone says they believe in a seven-day creation within the last ten thousand years, then while you can tell them they have their facts wrong, you can’t say they have their own religion wrong, and doing so in a public school setting may even entail first-amendment issues! (I feel likewise about atheists who say that “true” Christians should be young-earth literalists, but that’s a side question.)

    So then you have the first part of that formula – the belief in falsehoods. This indeed ought to be addressed, though I’m not completely sure how. Maybe we can have a “take it or leave it” approach – these are the facts, these are the reasons your objections are wrong. In any case, some feathers are going to be ruffled simply by talking about some of the basic facts.

    For what it’s worth, I’m less interested in having the “generic” (or “un-crazy”) intelligent design arguments being addressed by the teachers, partly because there’s such a complex overlap between those views and the theistic evolution that most sensible non-atheists practice (and sadly there is zero hope of eradicating theistic evolution by public-school indoctrination… oops, didn’t mean to say that aloud!). Many IDists seem to agree with just about the entire biological consensus, they just take an anti-evolutionary “tone” where TEists do not (though at the same time maintaining the “big tent” mode of operation). More important to me are getting kids to grasp the reality of common descent and other stuff which they may be predisposed to dispute.

    But all this is a toughie. Maybe it’s best to start with lessons about how humans can be fooled? It often seems to take a skeptical mindset to truly be able to say to oneself “Mom and Dad and everyone else I know were wrong about this.” The narrative could go something like:

    It’s okay, we all start out believing untrue and crazy things becasue of what we were taught; it’s not in itself a moral failing, and you don’t have to keep insisting that it’s true just so you won’t fall into the dreaded “Wrong” category. However, you can’t take what we know about human fallibility and reverse it into “Maybe the scientists are the ones with false beliefs!” because science is structured in a way that minimizes the effects of bias, such as the use of multilpe independent sources. For example, if the universe is really 7000 years old, then a bunch of separarate physical processes must have once operated differently for no explicable reason, and even the more educated creationists know this – just look at the RATE project and its admission that the “accelerated decay” must have been both caused and made non-lethal by God’s intervention…

    Okay, that was a bit of a ramble, but hopefully you get the idea.

  97. #97 Wow
    April 20, 2012

    “I don’t think it’s accurate or helpful to tell other people what their own religion is “really” all about. It bugs me when atheists do it, and I think I see theists doing it even more so”

    Hey, pastors, parents, talking heads on telly all do this.

    They even do it to each other. All the “No True Scotsman” dodges and “they aren’t christian because they did something I can’t defend” is telling people what their own religion is “really” all about.

    And, to be frank, I don’t see this happening except in so far as atheists are now telling faithiests that their espoused religion is just plain wrong.

    That’s the only telling of “what their religion really is” that atheists are doing.

    “you can’t say they have their own religion wrong”

    You can also say their religion is wrong. In the case of YECs, unless they can explain why their god allows everything to look as though the earth is 4 billion years old, it is, absolutely, wrong.

    They have their religion right, but that religion is no more correct than pastafarianism or jedi.

  98. #98 Wow
    April 20, 2012

    “For what it’s worth, I’m less interested in having the “generic” (or “un-crazy”) intelligent design arguments being addressed by the teachers”

    There aren’t any, though.

    Unless you can point one out to me..?

  99. #99 lenoxus
    April 20, 2012

    By “un-crazy” I guess I meant something more like “less crazy”.

    If someone insists that the Earth’s movement around the Sun can’t happen by mere naturalistic means and requires God’s intervention, I would call that idea crazy. But it is almost-by-definition less crazy than the idea that geocentrism must be true (and the orbits are God-driven) because the Bible says so. One of those ideas has more crazy points.

    Telling kids that the Earth goes around the Sun, or that (nearly) all life is related by descent, is a basic part of science education. Telling them that no supernatural intelligence is behind either seems problematic. Now, the tricky part is telling them: It is not the case that God is required to explain these facts, whether you think so because of some holy book or because of some bogus statistics. That’s the one I’m not sure how to approach, if at all.

    Some days, the only significant difference I see between theistic evolution and intelligent design is political: one group is an ally and the other is an enemy. It’s rare to find a theistic evolutionist who thinks that God is literally unnecessary to explain the observed biosphere, altough the actual beliefs are muddled enough that it’s hard to tell. Many, perhaps most, of them carve out a small exception for that special human je ne sais quoi and leave the rest to Darwin. This is complicated…

    I don’t think it’s unreasonable to “carve out a space” for God-driven evolution, whatever you want to call it, if only to point out some of the fallacies of creationists. Many creationists have denied common descent, especially that of humans and chimps, on the basis that the changes involved would have been “too complex”. “But the thing is,” I reply, “we have enormous amounts of evidence saying those changes did in fact occur, so what you’re implying is that the changes were too complex for God himself to enact.” I still think God-driven evolution is bunk*, but, well, there are degrees of wrong, and I’ll happily settle for a generation of TEists over one of YECs.

    * My reasons include: supernaturalism itself is an outcome of cognitive errors, so there can’t really be any “gods” as such; evolution looks through and through to be the result of a nonintelligent process, though of course an intelligent being may “conincidentally” be guiding it as if otherwise; and the pain and suffering entailed by both evolution and human history are too much for theodicy to explain away.

  100. #100 Wow
    April 20, 2012

    “By “un-crazy” I guess I meant something more like “less crazy”.”

    So, what, like infinity minus 10?
    :-)

    “I don’t think it’s unreasonable to “carve out a space” for God-driven evolution”

    Makes no sense, though. It’s as reasonable as god-driven falling. You know, the idea that we fall to our death because God pushes us down.

    God *instigated* is different, but since biology, when discussing evolution, doesn’t care about how life STARTED, just what it does now it’s here, this isn’t for the science class either.

    It might be something for the pastor to discuss with his flock, but it doesn’t fit even in a Religious Education class.

    “It’s rare to find a theistic evolutionist who thinks that God is literally unnecessary to explain the observed biosphere”

    But then they’re not a “theistic evolutionist”.

    A “theistic evolutionist” would be one who believes that, no matter what “really” happened, God has made it look like he doesn’t exist. For evolution, that means got DOES NOT WANT to be in the picture. Therefore the theism doesn’t enter into it.

    The theistic issue comes with what this theistic evolutionist (presupposing one exists) does with that fact. I.e. WHY does God make it look like there’s no reason for him to exist?

    But the FACT remains: all evidence points to the fact that there is absolutely no need for God to be here at all.

    If you’re a theist, then your process from here is trying to work out what your God is telling you by this.

  101. #101 Wow
    April 20, 2012

    The reason why I *can* say “your religion is wrong” is because these people want to put god where, if he does exist, even HE doesn’t want to appear. Their religion is therefore inconsistent internally. And, unlike science, performed by fallible humans, their religion has an entity who is completely able to be perfectly consistent.

    A failure in science is a failure of human(s).

    A failure in religion is a failure of God.

    If your god isn’t supposed to be fallible (see many tribal religions in Africa, stories replete with local gods being outsmarted by clever humans or anthropomorphised animals), that cannot be true.

    Until “scientists” claim humans are infallible, no such problem exists there in science.

  102. #102 tomh
    April 20, 2012

    @ #94
    What legalities would one actually be violating by taking the hypotheses of creationism and ID and showing how they don’t explain or predict?

    Taking certain religious beliefs and claiming they are false in a public school would certainly be illegal. For one thing, government is forbidden from becoming entangled with religion, and it’s hard to see how it could be more entangling than taking some beliefs from specific religions and claiming they are false. Where would you stop? Would you include the Scientologists’ origin beliefs, for instance, or Native Americans’?

    I’m afraid you can’t do better than laying out the evidence for the current state of science and letting people decide for themselves how to fit or not fit their religious beliefs into it.

  103. #103 Wow
    April 20, 2012

    “Taking certain religious beliefs and claiming they are false in a public school would certainly be illegal.”

    How? It’s not supporting any religion. The government (the US one) is NOT forbidden from becoming entangled in religion. Just not able to establish a state one.

    “it’s hard to see how it could be more entangling than taking some beliefs from specific religions and claiming they are false”

    It’s as fine as taking someone’s belief that the earth is flat and saying it’s false. Or that Little Boy Blue was the first president of the USA is false.

  104. #104 Collin Brendemuehl
    April 21, 2012

    TFJ,

    Of course, failing evidence for the existence of the supernatural impinging on the physical, one would have to also take account of the theoretical mini-cyclone in my underwear, the Easter Bunny and an infinite number of other possible causes for the discrepancy not yet imagined. What’s that you say? The ontological argument, Kalam. When those are trivially dispensed with it’ll be back to the beginning of the whole cycle by which time I bet the ontological argument, or your dead duck of choice, will have risen from the dead for their thousandth incarnation and be waiting in the wings for part ii of the charade.

    You changed the argument that I presented. I talked about only the fact of the existence of the universe. You are talking about that thing called miracles. Different subject — a true straw man. When you return with something real, let me know.

    Dan L.,
    You’re the first one here to be clear, so I think what I’m saying will not fall on deaf ears. Though we may still differ, in the end we should, I anticipate, at least agree on matters of parameter.

    Methodological naturalism is basically just the assumption that: “There are no ‘supernatural’ events

    Actually, that’s not Methodological, that’s philosphical/metaphysical. The Method only says what the test scope encompasses.

    But as eric and others have pointed out to you, you are free to concoct your own supernaturalist hypotheses, devise tests, and present your data.

    That’s exactly what I’ve been complaining about — the demand for empiricism does not apply. There is no empiricism in models — they are not, often, repeatable tests. The four types of models do not operate the same as the old scientific method. Theology is a model. It is a systematic no different than the *several* evolutionary models, many of which sit in plain and exclusive contradiction to the competing models. Even string and Big Bang theories are in doubt in many circles. Models frequenty suffer on account of their incapacity at (what we in IT call) exception handling. It involves how one deals with material outside the scope of the model, but you know that.

    Going back to what was stated earlier, demanding empiricism of a model is as inconsistent in theology as it is in the Big Bang model. One theological joke for a test is: Define “god” give two examples. A corollary for this conversation might be: Define the Big Bang. Give two examples.

  105. #105 Michael Fugate
    April 22, 2012

    If creationists and intelligent designists claim they are doing science and offering testable hypotheses who am I not to take them at their word?

  106. #106 TFJ
    April 22, 2012

    @Collin:

    I may have misunderstood your point. My point still stands though. Why does anyone get to insert theism in place of ‘or unknown X’ , which would cover theism anyway.

    Contrary to your assertion, provisional acceptance of Big Bang theory depends on it’s accordance with specific measurable phenomena, which places it in a whole different category to theism. Inconsistencies in science are not just swept under the carpet to get the show back on the road so I don’t see the relevance of software exception handling. A model that has limited scope is still useful within that scope. It’s imcompleteness is not ignored and you don’t get to make a leap to theism without a way to demonstrate that it fits better than any alternatives. You are talking about the difference between some evidence and eff-all evidence.

    Obviously evolutionary models can be in contradiction. What on earth does that prove?

    Define “god” give two examples. A corollary for this conversation might be: Define the Big Bang. Give two examples.

    So the Big Bang is undefined and there is no background radiation consistent with it? The universe isn’t expanding? The Big Bang model may be incomplete but it is defined in ways that allow predictions to be made and verified.

  107. #107 Collin Brendemuehl
    April 22, 2012

    I’ve not made any leap to theism. This is not fideism. But at the same time a bad model (one that ignores exceptions) is a bad model. Here’s an example:
    news.yahoo.com/game-changer-evolution-african-bones-140125430.html
    In one statement they say that this is a new discovery that doesn’t match the models and at the same time it is claimed that this is exactly what the model would have predicted. So which is it? Can’t have it both ways! That’s what should be called “Joke Science”.
    There is also a tendency to hold onto a model as an idealization or metaphor instead of as an explanatory or predictive tool. Such an alternative use of models raises serious issues, but it is explained by the Grants, prominent evolutionists. It makes one wonder what the purpose and function of a model might be.

    Even if a model fails to fit the data perfectly, it is useful to describe evolutionary branching with a metaphor in mind, because the confrontation between data and metaphor encourages the posing of sharp questions. Being forced to fit data to an idealized concept may lead to new insights and revised idealizations. For example, as we discuss in more detail later, thinking about the loss of lower branches in evolutionary trees forces us to consider past extinctions and the contribution of those losses to the current form of a tree.

    If the model does not *explain* the data, then what does it do? Now to be fair they seem to be using two models — one as a starting point and then one to suit the data after the working from their idealized model. But doesn’t that amount to confirmation bias? I don’t think the hard questions are avoidable here.

  108. #108 eric
    April 22, 2012

    Collin, could you tell me what point you are trying to make with your model discussion?

    -In @69 your point seemed to be that science treats theological models unfairly, i.e. by different standards (i.e., “Any demand for empiricism from theism but not from the broader scope of science is, well, hypocritical”).

    -In @104 you seem to reverse course and demand we treat theological models differently than we treat scientific models, i.e. by not expecting or judging them empirically.

    -Then in @107 you stop talking about theological models altogether, and focus completely on (what you perceive to be) problems with evolution.

    So, what exactly is your point? Is there some specific model you think we should not judge empirically, but are? Is there some specific model you think we should treat the way we treat scientific models, but aren’t? Can you identify what this model is?

  109. #109 Verbose Stoic
    April 23, 2012

    eric,

    See, this is why you’re so completely frustrating to discuss things with: you continually interpret things oddly and then push claims of inconsistency instead of trying to see how the arguments aren’t really inconsistent.

    Here’s what he said in 69:

    Any demand for empiricism from theism but not from the broader scope of science is, well, hypocritical. If science is allowed to use models of various types without the necessity of empirical (scientific method) evidence, then why deny theistic models in general? If there is evidence, at a minimum, for a creator, then that logic must be accepted.

    So from this, it seems that you are interpreting the claim bass-ackwards. He is, in fact, claiming that if it is acceptable to not judge scientific models empirically, then it is hypocritical to demand that theologically models be judged that way. He is not asking that theological models be judged empirically. Quite the opposite in fact. It is only your presumption — that presumably he disagrees with — that all scientific judgement IS empirical that leads you to interpret it the way you do, and that’s a way that’s completely different from the way he interprets it.

    If you look at it the way I interpret it, all of those comments fit together. He starts by saying that science doesn’t always judge based on empiricism, and then moves on to repeating that if we can judge scientific models non-empirically then we should do that for theological ones as well, and then points out specifically why he thinks science does not, in fact, so judge (ie empirically) by giving specific examples.

    So I don’t see the inconsistency, although if there are other comments that do support that I’m all ears, having not read the entire thread at this point.

  110. #110 eric
    April 23, 2012

    VS @109:

    It is only your presumption — that presumably he disagrees with — that all scientific judgement IS empirical that leads you to interpret it the way you do,

    But that IS how science judges models. When some model helps us manipulate the world or predict how it will behave, we judge it valuable. When it doesn’t, we don’t. Those things are considered, at best, hypotheses to be tested – see my comment @76.

    Demanding that scientists not judge theology models this way is to ask for exceptional treatment. Now, “not useful for science” is not exactly the end-all, be-all measure of a model. You may be perfectly happy to have one that isn’t. But presumably Collin thinks this particular measure is important, since he’s arguing about it.

    I am also trying to figure out whether Collin has a gripe about how scientists are treating some specific model, or if this is a vague feeling on his part with no actual ‘bad behavior’ example to back it up. It may be much easier to understand his complaint and respond to it if we shift from vague generalities to a specific case. And if there is no specific case, well, that’s important to know too.

  111. #111 Verbose Stoic
    April 23, 2012

    eric,

    But that IS how science judges models. When some model helps us manipulate the world or predict how it will behave, we judge it valuable. When it doesn’t, we don’t. Those things are considered, at best, hypotheses to be tested – see my comment @76.

    Then debate over that. Recall that he did reply to your comment about models in 104, which you skimmed over to accuse him of being inconsistent.

    That’s exactly what I’ve been complaining about — the demand for empiricism does not apply. There is no empiricism in models — they are not, often, repeatable tests. The four types of models do not operate the same as the old scientific method. Theology is a model. It is a systematic no different than the *several* evolutionary models, many of which sit in plain and exclusive contradiction to the competing models. Even string and Big Bang theories are in doubt in many circles. Models frequenty suffer on account of their incapacity at (what we in IT call) exception handling. It involves how one deals with material outside the scope of the model, but you know that.

    Going back to what was stated earlier, demanding empiricism of a model is as inconsistent in theology as it is in the Big Bang model. One theological joke for a test is: Define “god” give two examples. A corollary for this conversation might be: Define the Big Bang. Give two examples.

    So, instead of jumping to a comment about “asking for theological models to be treated differently and the same”, you could have just carried the conversation on further by addressing what he actually said. Also note that your confusion was seemingly caused by him going from a vague comment to specific examples, which you didn’t deign to reply to even though others did. Also note that defining it as “bad behaviour” again misses his point, which is about the fact that when you work with models that’s just what’s done. He isn’t criticizing science for doing it, but demanding that all get the same treatment, while you are casting your reply as if he’s criticizing science himself because you feel that science shouldn’t be doing that. But since that’s not what he’s doing there will be no debate here.

  112. #112 TFJ
    April 23, 2012

    Regardless of who said what, this is the the difference between Theistic and materialistic models as I see it using evolution as an example. We know evolution happened because of the evidence. The exact mechanisms and their degree of influence is up for research and debate, although some can be observed in action. Different speculative ‘models’, if you want to use that word, still propose mechanisms that we know are plausible in that they obey the laws of physics as established to be reliable. It is at least reasonable to suggest that empirical means to evaluate them may be found. Theistic models are different in that the mechanisms and agents are not describable and there is no evidence that they exist.

    Regarding origin of the universe, we have observed that physical laws seem to apply, so it makes sense to use those laws to look for clues to it’s development. What existed before, if the concept of before even makes sense, is unknown. To insert a God into the mix is to make a massive assumption that the Universe is designed. There is no evidence to suggest that intelligence is not a product of physical laws, so to invent Gods seems to be a projection of ourselves onto the universe.

  113. #113 eric
    April 23, 2012

    VS:

    So, instead of jumping to a comment about “asking for theological models to be treated differently and the same”, you could have just carried the conversation on further by addressing what he actually said.

    I DID. Earlier, I said he was free to use any model he wanted. Nobody’s preventing him. There are no science police. Its up to YOU – not us – to mount a convincing case for why we should use your model. Its up to US – not you – to decide whether we think some model you’ve created is useful for our work. That’s how other hypotheses are treated. And that is about as fair a treatment as you’re ever going to get.

    Holy cow, what do you want scientists to do? Stick a gold star on your model and hang it on our refrigerators?

  114. #114 Dan L.
    April 23, 2012

    Actually, that’s not Methodological, that’s philosphical/metaphysical. The Method only says what the test scope encompasses.

    Uh, that’s because you cut the quote out of context. Here’s the rest of the sentence as I wrote it:

    causally implicated in this system.

    Now it’s clear we’re talking about a particular system and not the universe in general and so I’m talking about methodological naturalism, not philosophical naturalism. Please don’t quote me out of context any more. It wastes both our time.

    There is no empiricism in models — they are not, often, repeatable tests.

    Models are not tests. Models are the things that are tested. But models also entail empiricism. How could you construct a model without observations that you’re trying to predict?

    It goes like this:
    1) Make observations.
    2) Construct a model to retrodict observations.
    3) Use model to predict observations.
    4) Make observations.
    5) Compare predictions from (3) with observations from (4).
    6) Revise model to account for discrepancies.

    As you can see, empiricism doesn’t arise within the model (trivially) but the model wouldn’t be of any use without empiricism. The empiricism comes in pretty obviously in my steps (1), (4), and (5).

    The four types of models do not operate the same as the old scientific method.

    I have no idea what you’re talking about with “four types of model.” I’m fairly certain there’s an uncountable infinity of types of model.

    Theology is a model.

    Of what? In what sense is it actually a model? Demonstrate this according to some sensible definition of “model”. But pay attention to etymology here. A “model” is necessarily a system that is constructed in imitation of some other phenomenon. So if theology is a model there must be some other phenomenon it is being used to model. What is that?

    It is a systematic no different than the *several* evolutionary models, many of which sit in plain and exclusive contradiction to the competing models. Even string and Big Bang theories are in doubt in many circles.

    You are not knowledgeable enough about these subjects to be an effective critic.

    Models frequenty suffer on account of their incapacity at (what we in IT call) exception handling. It involves how one deals with material outside the scope of the model, but you know that.

    That’s one (stupid) way of looking at it. It’s like Baudrillard’s complete map. A map that perfectly represents a territory is useless because it’s the same size and just as detailed as the territory. To be useful a map must exclude a lot of detail. Same with models. A model that was complicated enough to perfectly model the natural world would be useless as a model (although it might work pretty well as a natural world).

    Going back to what was stated earlier, demanding empiricism of a model is as inconsistent in theology as it is in the Big Bang model. One theological joke for a test is: Define “god” give two examples. A corollary for this conversation might be: Define the Big Bang. Give two examples.

    The Big Bang is very reasonably defined as a period of time in which all the matter in the visible universe was restricted to a relatively small but rapidly expanding volume of space. This model was constructed according to the process outlined above. Hubble made observations that implied the existence of distant galaxies and then made observations implying that these galaxies are moving away from us and each other incredibly rapidly. The most obvious — but not only — model consistent with these observations is of a once-dence expanding universe (that is, a Big Bang model).

    Then someone serendipitously observed the cosmic microwave background radiation. Reappraisal of the big bang model showed that this background radiation is exactly what would be expected if all the matter in the visible universe was at one point crammed into a volume small enough that the average energy at every point was higher than the electron/proton binding energy. The model didn’t even need to be revised. Physicists should have been looking for the background radiation but no one had worked out this particular implication of Big Bang theory yet.

    But after the microwave background radiation was discovered most of the opposition to the Big Bang theory evaporated because the COBE is basically the “smoke” in “smoking gun.”

  115. #115 Verbose Stoic
    April 23, 2012

    eric,

    Another example of you epicly missing the point.

    His argument is that it is not fair for you to reject his model on the basis of it lacking empirical evidence when you accept models that also lack empirical evidence, as he asserts all models do. Your reply of “Use whatever model you want!” belies those sorts of demands, and so if you AREN’T considering that model inferior or whatever based on the supposed lack of empirical data then the two of you aren’t actually arguing. And yet, you seem to think there’s a debate here. But then what is it over? You argued on the one hand that all of science’s models ARE empirically evidenced and judged by empirical data, which he disagrees with. THAT’s the argument here, and if he’s right then one of the things you call out the theist model for is something that can be levelled against yours. So, then, again, you can retreat to a “You use your model and I use mine”, but then your distinctions between empirical and non-empirical and hypothesis and model are irrelevant and make no sense in the debate.

    Which means that perhaps it is up to you to clarify your point. You cannot rationally and objectively demand that he must provide convincing evidence to a certain standard that you do not in fact apply to the other models you hold.

    Now, let me say that I’m not saying that he’s RIGHT that you cannot demand empiricism with models, or that science doesn’t in fact demand empirical validation of its models. I’m simply trying to get you to argue what he’s actually arguing and not with some convoluted set of claims that don’t relate to that at all.

  116. #116 Dan L.
    April 23, 2012

    You argued on the one hand that all of science’s models ARE empirically evidenced and judged by empirical data, which he disagrees with. THAT’s the argument here, and if he’s right then one of the things you call out the theist model for is something that can be levelled against yours.

    Which means that perhaps it is up to you to clarify your point. You cannot rationally and objectively demand that he must provide convincing evidence to a certain standard that you do not in fact apply to the other models you hold.

    No, it means it’s up to Collin to adduce an example of a scientific model that is not subjected to scientific scrutiny. But his account of modeling and empiricism is so confused I’m not sure it would actually help. Regardless, it’s Collin that’s being unclear here, at least from my perspective.

  117. #117 Dan L.
    April 23, 2012

    “Scientific scrutiny” should have read “empirical scrutiny.” They’re the same thing from my perspective but I suspect Collin will complain.

    I also suspect Collin will throw out big bang theory, evolution, and string theory as examples. These are bad examples. In all cases they are models designed to account for specific empirical results. Big bang theory was to account for Hubble’s empirical observations and also for consistency with general relativity without cosmological constant. Evolution was formulated to account for Darwin’s first-hand observations of the similarities and subtle differences between species. String theory was formulated to account for the fact that relativity and quantum mechanics don’t seem to have anything to do with each other despite both apparently being true as far as anyone can tell. Any particular string theory that is formulated at this point is constructed so as to retrodict all available empirical evidence; it also makes specific empirical predictions but no one has yet funded a particle accelerator that is powerful enough to test them.

  118. #118 Verbose Stoic
    April 23, 2012

    Dan L.,

    The odd thing is that you are claiming that he’s being unclear while, in fact, clearly getting what he’s arguing in your reply. You put forward a good argument going through his examples and saying that he’s wrong when he thinks that models aren’t subjected to empirical scrutiny. So it seems to me that you get it and are arguing against it. Although you should watch the conflation of “scientific” to “empirical”, since he would be denying that all scientific scrutiny is empirical or empirically based.

  119. #119 Dan L.
    April 23, 2012

    The odd thing is that you are claiming that he’s being unclear while, in fact, clearly getting what he’s arguing in your reply.

    It’s not odd in the least. I had no idea what he was talking about; then you explained it; and then I knew what he was talking about.

    Although you should watch the conflation of “scientific” to “empirical”, since he would be denying that all scientific scrutiny is empirical or empirically based.

    But I think empiricism is the only part of scientific scrutiny that counts. As everyone else has been saying no one cares where a model comes from. Pick it out of a hat. Hold a seance. No one cares. What matters is whether it holds up under empirical scrutiny. So to me, empiricism is the only part of scientific reasoning that is consistent from case to case; empiricism is the defining property of science.

    I realize that Collin disagrees but he’s going to have to make a halfway decent case before I stop thinking in these terms.

  120. #120 eric
    April 23, 2012

    VS:

    His argument is that it is not fair for you to reject his model on the basis of it lacking empirical evidence when you accept models that also lack empirical evidence, as he asserts all models do.

    Nobody in this thread actually said they do that. I have no idea where Collin pulled that from. I have no idea what ‘his model’ is. Do you? I have no idea what ‘his model’ has to do with the big bang theory or evolution. Do you?

    This is why I asked for him to be specific about what model he thinks is getting the unfair treatment.

    Your reply of “Use whatever model you want!” belies those sorts of demands, and so if you AREN’T considering that model inferior or whatever based on the supposed lack of empirical data then the two of you aren’t actually arguing.

    I can’t consider his model inferior, superior, witty, poetic, jazzy, tasty, less filling, or anything else until one of you tells me what his frakking model is.

    You said I didn’t “address” his comment. I addressed it, and I pointed out to you where. Now you say we have no argument. Okay, whatever. I wonder what epic mistake you’re going to accuse me of making in this post.

  121. #121 Spartan
    April 23, 2012

    VS,

    Which means that perhaps it is up to you to clarify your point. You cannot rationally and objectively demand that he must provide convincing evidence to a certain standard that you do not in fact apply to the other models you hold.

    I don’t think it’s eric who needs to do any clarifying, it’s Collin and you, VS. You can’t rationally and objectively accuse him of being hypocritical if you’re not going to provide the examples. Collin’s talked about several things and I may be wrong, but is he comparing his ‘theistic model’ with evolution as his example? I certainly hope not and hope that if so you, VS, see the obvious false equivalence there, unless Collin clarifies his model and whips out some evidence for it.

    His argument is that it is not fair for you to reject his model on the basis of it lacking empirical evidence when you accept models that also lack empirical evidence, as he asserts all models do.

    It may be entirely fair based on how much empirical evidence is lacking in one model when compared to another.

  122. #122 Collin Brendemuehl
    April 25, 2012

    To several,

    Collin, could you tell me what point you are trying to make with your model discussion?

    Models are not by nature empirical and do not operate in the same set of constraints. If you want empiricism for models that fail then turn off your weather forecast.

    In @69 your point seemed to be that science treats theological models unfairly, i.e. by different standards

    Not science — just some posters here.

    So from this, it seems that you are interpreting the claim bass-ackwards. He is, in fact, claiming that if it is acceptable to not judge scientific models empirically, then it is hypocritical to demand that theologically models be judged that way.

    Good.

    Demanding that scientists not judge theology models this way is to ask for exceptional treatment.

    Again, I hope you treat your meterologist (I know this is not the best example, but it is so loaded with social baggage that I though it useful) with the demand for a high level of empirical accuracy despite the high level of failure in their models (and they use the term frequently).
    Remember: Weather is not a repeatable object. This type of model is a predictive one.

    To demand empirical (measurable, repeatable) performance from most models is improper.

    Returning back to the dilemma posited earlier: Define abiogenesis and speciation. Give two examples.

    Its up to YOU – not us – to mount a convincing case for why we should use your model.

    When faulty models are criticized, then you blame the critic?

    That’s one (stupid) way of looking at it.

    There are multiple types of models, the most common being explanatory and predictive. Suppe has the full set. Enjoy the read.

    Now, let me say that I’m not saying that he’s RIGHT that you cannot demand empiricism with models, or that science doesn’t in fact demand empirical validation of its models.
    I’m simply trying to get you to argue what he’s actually arguing and not with some convoluted set of claims that don’t relate to that at all.

    Right. Some models do allow for ex post facto validation. But not all. And that is not a part of the model itself (as it is with the traditional empiricism of the scientific method) but a separation validation. Historical models certainly do not provide for empirical testing.

    No, it means it’s up to Collin to adduce an example of a scientific model that is not subjected to scientific scrutiny.
    But I think empiricism is the only part of scientific scrutiny that counts.

    Now you are changing language to scrutiny. That’s far more broad. Scrutiny also applies to the methods used, at least it ought. Empiricism generally looks at the results.
    Nice trap, but it didn’t work.
    Now, unless you’re going to resort to the positivism of the past …

    … but is he comparing his ‘theistic model’ with evolution as his example

    Not in content but in context, in their treatment.

  123. #123 eric
    April 25, 2012

    Collin:

    Again, I hope you treat your meterologist (I know this is not the best example, but it is so loaded with social baggage that I though it useful) with the demand for a high level of empirical accuracy despite the high level of failure in their models (and they use the term frequently).
    Remember: Weather is not a repeatable object. This type of model is a predictive one.
    To demand empirical (measurable, repeatable) performance from most models is improper.

    Weather and climate modeling are (IMO) excellent examples. They illustrate that we do use empiricism to decide on model choice. They also illustrate a classic creationist blunder, which is thinking that there is some objective ‘bar’ of accuracy a model must pass. There isn’t; model choice is a comparative decision. We use the best available model. Its an empirical decision because we use empiricism to decide on what ‘best’ means.

    Nor is there a single objective definition of ‘best.’ A scientist running a weather experiment might use a model that takes enormous processing power, taking days to come up with a prediction; NBC might settle for a cheaper, less accurate version, because NBC’s definition of ‘best’ also requires near real time or at least daily updates. But reporting cycle, accuracy, processing power – these are empirical concepts. Scientific model choice is based on real world, pragmatic requirements, not philosophical preconceptions.

    ***

    So, you seem to have a problem with the theory of evolution. I would guess your position to be something like this: ‘in some cases TOE is non-predictive, in some cases, predicts wrong. You obviously aren’t holding it to any empirical standard because you don’t reject it when its wrong. So its unfair to hold other [translation: special creation] hypotheses to an empirical standard.’

    This position is wrong because it ignores the comparative nature of model choice. We use the TOE because its, empirically speaking, the best model we have for understanding, predicting and controlling the physical world (or at least the bit of the physical world concerned with relationships and interactions between species). It doesn’t need to pass some Collin-approved accuracy bar, it just has to beat out the competition. Now, if you think it is not beating out some competitor that you have in mind, name that competitor and we can do the comparison.

  124. #124 Dan L.
    April 25, 2012

    @Collin:

    First of all, I’m still curious why you quoted me in such a way as to change the meaning of my statement. It makes it hard for me to believe you’re engaging in good faith. Can you please explain why you would do this?

    Now you are changing language to scrutiny. That’s far more broad. Scrutiny also applies to the methods used, at least it ought. Empiricism generally looks at the results.
    Nice trap, but it didn’t work.

    You are a jackass. You are somehow twisting my words to mean something other than intended. Why? Again, it is hard to believe, given your tactics, that you’re engaging in good faith. “Empiricism looks at the results.” Another way of saying “looks at” in noun form is “scrutiny”. Empiricism is scrutiny of the results. I’m fine with that. What’s your problem with it?

    Remember: Weather is not a repeatable object. This type of model is a predictive one.

    Weather is not repeatable in the same way that no two apples are identical to each other. However, you might notice that apples have many common consistent details; this is how we’re able to recognize them as apples instead of, say, automobiles.

    Similarly, weather does not repeat moment to moment but weather does have a lot of consistent patterns. No two clouds are exactly alike but we’re still able to categorize them.

    Weather forecast models are predictive: they do not predict perfectly (since that is impossible anyway) but they do much better than chance. That is all that’s meant by “predictive” — giving better results than random guesses.

    To demand empirical (measurable, repeatable) performance from most models is improper.

    Simply false.

    Returning back to the dilemma posited earlier: Define abiogenesis and speciation. Give two examples.

    Abiogenesis is a hypothetical event in which chemical replicators form and begin to replicate. Speciation is an observed event in which two clades of a particular species lose the ability to interbreed resulting in two different species. I don’t understand what you think you’re trying to prove here.

    There are multiple types of models, the most common being explanatory and predictive. Suppe has the full set. Enjoy the read.

    Notice I haven’t assigned you any reading despite your DEEP ignorance of the scientific principles you’re trying to criticize. This is because I’m trying to engage in good faith, to actually understand what it is you’re claiming and rebut it on its merits (or, and this outcome is doubtful, concede that you have some really good arguments). If you want to use some random philosopher’s idiosyncratic terminology it is incumbent on you to introduce and define that terminology for your interlocutors. I’m using “model” in more general way, not necessarily adhering to J. Random Dude’s special system.

  125. #125 Dan L.
    April 25, 2012

    @Collin:

    Why don’t you narrow your focus to ONE example. Demarcate the elements — the model that is or is not being empirically scrutinized (or whatever phrasing you’re comfortable with), the established data which the model must retrodict, the sorts of observations which should be predicted by the model, and demonstrate that this entire system does not adhere to the rough account of empirical methodology I laid out in post #114.

    Taking your last example, we have weather forecast models. The model itself is a computer program that encodes the basic mechanisms of weather — barometric pressure, temperature, major ocean currents, etc. and the interactions of all these elements. The input to the model is a “snapshot” of current weather conditions — the temperatures and pressures as measured at some particular recent time. The model is run dozens of times and the results are compared. The weather patterns occurring most frequently within these runs are usually designated to be the forecast.

    The model retrodicts data as follows: put in the pressure/temp measurements for some known time in the past; say, January 25 1992. We have measurements for all the times following that day. So we input the measurements for that day and run the model dozens of times, then compare the results to what actually happened in the real world. We might find that the model’s predictions diverge sharply from real-world data; in this case, we would try to revise the model to provide more accurate predictions (or, in this case, retrodictions). Or if the model predicted the right weather in a small fraction of runs we might run the same test for other periods of time to see whether this shortcoming extends to all times or just the current experiment.

    Note that all these retrodiction tests are strictly empirical. They entail comparing the output of the model to real-world measurements. That is empiricism. This is enough to make weather forecast models empirical. Any weather forecast model used by a weather service has been submitted to this test many hundreds of times.

    The predictive part of the model is when current conditions are used as input so that the model outputs predictions of future conditions. Then these predictions are compared to what actually happens. Again, this is empiricism plain and simple. Again, if the model is consistently wrong it will be revised.

    One more comment; weather models are the context in which mathematical chaos was discovered. Scientists have known weather patterns are chaotic since before mathematical chaos was itself a robust concept. This is the source of the unreliability of forecasts; the relatively tiny uncertainties in measurement of temperature and pressure at any one time yield enormous differences in weather after enough time has elapsed. Despite the fact that weather is an inherently difficult-to-predict system, weather forecasts are much, much better than chance, especially for periods of time less than 72 hours.

    So that establishes that weather forecast models are predictive, fallible (similar to falsifiable) systems based on empirical observation of real weather conditions. Find me a non-empirical scientific theory.

  126. #126 Collin Brendemuehl
    April 25, 2012

    Eric,

    So, you seem to have a problem with the theory of evolution. I would guess your position to be something like this: ‘in some cases TOE is non-predictive, in some cases, predicts wrong. You obviously aren’t holding it to any empirical standard because you don’t reject it when its wrong. So its unfair to hold other [translation: special creation] hypotheses to an empirical standard.’

    You hold to more faulty and just plain wrong assumptions than I can name here. I don’t know whether to call you stupid, incompetent, or an intentional liar.

    Dan L.

    Simply false.

    If that’s the way you want to be … maybe I’ll qualify the *most* to *a large percentage* and trust you are a reasonable person. Either way …
    There are four types of models: Replication-emulation, explanatory, evaluation, and mechanism. (Suppe separates mechanism from models because it is more substantive in its approach as it is designed to produce a specific output via its schema. I keep them together because of their structural relationships.) These come under a variety of other titles depending on the text you reference but the function of each remains the same.
    Now, of course the *results* are always subject to evaluation. I’ve never suggested otherwise. But the empirical approach to the *process* itself (as in the ORV and scientific method) are often absent from these.

    Of course the weather model does not produce a result. It is, as you indicate, a mechanism with a predictable outcome. I chose a poor example. Still, its measurable outcomes are often an inference away from the best explanation. (It rained today and it was not supposed to, per the models employed.) It failed when empirically testing the results. But the model itself is not one of traditional empiricism. It does not follow the old scientific method. The difference is that a model can only re-run against data and it cannot reset the position of the earth to re-test against reality. It is *not the same* empiricism that one might wish for.

    Find me a non-empirical scientific theory.

    That’s easy: Any Explanatory model. This includes historical studies and that includes adaptationism. Don’t confuse the IBE (Inference to the Best Explanation) structure of the argument with the evaluation of the results.

    What you and eric are doing is changing the question from the nature of the study to the evaluation of the fruit of the study. Your deceptive approach by altering the direction of the thread is disingenuous.

    Remember folks: My argument is against the presupposition of Metaphysical Naturalism. All of those here who have argued for it as a conclusion have also begun with it as a state of mind. That’s a fundamental epistemological truth.

    (And while I think there is more to presuppositions than merely a state of mind, that approach seems to be the most common one around. Somehow people still think that information speaks for itself and does not require interpretation. I find such dualisms less than adequate for dealing with information.)

  127. #127 NJ
    April 25, 2012

    eric@123:

    They also illustrate a classic creationist blunder, which is thinking that there is some objective ‘bar’ of accuracy a model must pass.

    Let me offer a slightly different interpretation:

    That’s not a bug, that’s a feature.

    Consider Collin’s position. He wants to have considered, on equal terms with science, a “model” that consists of special creation. Of course this “model” has no empirical support, by definition. It is about faith. In order to have his “model” placed on equal footing, Collin must do one of two things:

    1) Provide some semblance of empirical support for it for those who are more faithless than he. This has been highly problematic. Since the “model” is built upon faith, attempts to make empirical observations fit into it are rather Procrustean and have gained little traction even among the majority of professed theists.

    2) Convince a segment of the population (those who are unfamiliar with the empirical data) that the scientific models he chooses to oppose are equally unsupported by empirical data. This would then make evolution vs. creationism simply an expression of different philosophical viewpoints and therefore deserving of equal treatment. It is from this approach that we see the common statement “It takes just as much faith to believe in evolution as it does to believe in creation.”

    I think this explains Collin’s strawman statement of a scientific model @ 122:

    Models are not by nature empirical

    when those of us who have actually built models understand fully that you have to start from the empirical observations, build based upon them, validate the model based upon them, use them to predict new data and then test that those predictions match with new empirical observations!

    In order to head off the obvious complaint I can see coming from a few km away, a well-known and well-used procedure is to randomly split the initial data set, construct the model from one-half, then compare the calculated model results to the other half of the data set. This is such a standard process of validation that SAS actually has built in routines to accomplish it.

    Or at least it used to…

    Once you understand this, you can recognize that creationists are not trying in good faith to improve the state of science or science education. They are in fact engaged in torturous acts of protective rationalization trying to preserve their preferred interpretation of their preferred translation of their preferred set of ancient religious writings.

  128. #128 Collin Brendemuehl
    April 25, 2012

    nj,

    Consider Collin’s position. He wants to have considered, on equal terms with science, a “model” that consists of special creation.

    Where did I ever say that?

    Once you understand this, you can recognize that creationists are not trying in good faith to improve the state of science or science education.

    Since the “model” is built upon faith

    Such sophisticated straw man.

    My objection here is that the assumption metaphysical naturalism as *necessary* for “science” is bad science.
    I have never claimed that theology is science.
    And I likewise reject your faith/knowledge dualism.
    That construct tells me that you have not evaluated your
    own thought life. And that is tragic.

  129. #129 Wow
    April 26, 2012

    “Where did I ever say that?”

    So you don’t want ID or creationism taught in schools then? Now when, exactly, have you ever said that?

    Or is it that you’ve said you don’t want your fairy tale on equal footing, you want it as the ONLY footing? Like you said in the “Why Do Creationists Believe The Way They Do” thread?

  130. #130 NJ
    April 26, 2012

    Collin @ 128:

    Where did I ever say that?

    Never claimed you did on this thread. But it would make you a pretty unusual creationist if you were happy with the status quo.

    My objection here is that the assumption metaphysical naturalism as *necessary* for “science” is bad science.

    And I don’t think you could reasonably expect to be merely considered as the naturalism police, making sure that a bright line is maintained between the methodological and the philosophical. That would also make you unusual, as most other creationists work to conflate the concepts.

    And I likewise reject your faith/knowledge dualism.

    I used the term ‘science’, not ‘knowledge’ specifically to avoid such a simplistic dualism. And for you to reject a faith/science dualism would once again make you a most unusual creationist, as the bulk of them actively promote this.

  131. #131 Robert O'Brien
    April 26, 2012

    Third, the kalaam argument is not ‘evidence for a creator’ in any meaningful sense. In depends on its premises being right, but those premises presume everything ‘but some first cause’ needs a cause. That ‘but…’ clause arguably makes it circular: the argument gives exceptional status to one being as a premise, and then concludes that one being has exceptional status. Color me surprised. Its also not evidence for God in any anthropomorphic sense at all. Anyone who claims it supports a sentient being, a being with active miracle-working powers, a being who cares about humans, etc… is adding a whole host of utterly unsupported extra beliefs to the arguemnt. Kalam’s uncaused cause could be the rules of QM. Or mindless Nyarlathotep. Any Christian citing this argument for support of the Christian God is at best being ignorant about what the argument actually implies. At worst, they are being intentionally deceptive by trying to convince people it yields support for an entity it doesn’t actually support. ‘Kalam, therefore Jesus’ is no more logical than ‘don’t know how x happened, therefore Jesus.’

    Your inability to apprehend the argument is not a problem for the argument or those who argue for it; it is a problem for you. The premise you botched is “everything that begins to exist has a cause.” The God posited by those who advance this argument (and others) has no beginning to His existence. Moreover, who, exactly, argues Kalam, ergo Jesus? I’ve seen William Lane Craig advance this argument as well as arguments for Christianity specifically, but that isn’t the same thing.

    At one time, Prof. Ruse was a legitimate intellect but, of late, for whatever reason, has turned into a crank.

    Writes the dried up physicist.

    True – [Time McGrew] is no mathematician, as much as he tries (and succeeds) to embarrass my WMU by butchering probability.

    You must be confusing Tim McGrew with the noxious mediocrity Richard Carrier. I’ve not gotten around to reading Tim McGrew’s Bayesian arguments but I know he has collaborated in the past with Eric Vestrup, who is a very good mathematician and statistician. (I recommend his The Theory of Measures and Integration book.)

  132. #132 Wow
    April 26, 2012

    “Your inability to apprehend the argument is not a problem for the argument or those who argue for it; it is a problem for you”

    a) It’s not a problem for us.

    b) The argument has nothing coherent to apprehend.

    “The premise you botched is “everything that begins to exist has a cause.”"

    Except that premise begs the question of there being a cause. “There’s a cause because there must be a cause”.

    “The God posited by those who advance this argument (and others) has no beginning to His existence.”

    And, since time did not exist before it started, there was no beginning to the universe’s existence. Since before that start, there was no time to be “before” in.

    Despite being bounded, the earth is infinite in extent: you can walk FOREVER over a sphere and NEVER come to an edge.

    “Moreover, who, exactly, argues Kalam, ergo Jesus?”

    Uh, the one who brought up the argument in this thread for it proving his existence.

  133. #133 Robert O'Brien
    April 26, 2012

    “Your inability to apprehend the argument is not a problem for the argument or those who argue for it; it is a problem for you”

    a) It’s not a problem for us.

    b) The argument has nothing coherent to apprehend.

    Ah, but it is a problem for you (all). There are legitimate problems with the Kalam Cosmological Argument, but none have been raised here.

    “The premise you botched is “everything that begins to exist has a cause.”"

    Except that premise begs the question of there being a cause. “There’s a cause because there must be a cause”.

    It is a perfectly legitimate premise. One may dispute it, but it does not “beg the question,” your ignorance of logical argumentation notwithstanding. (Incidentally, I am sure Dunning and Kruger appreciate the external validation you, eric, and other internet atheists provide for their study.)

    And, since time did not exist before it started, there was no beginning to the universe’s existence. Since before that start, there was no time to be “before” in.

    Lol

    “Moreover, who, exactly, argues Kalam, ergo Jesus?”

    Uh, the one who brought up the argument in this thread for it proving his existence

    Then you should not have any trouble quoting him exactly. (Although, I do not believe Colin is a professional philosopher, which is the sort of proponent I had in mind.)

  134. #134 Collin Brendemuehl
    April 26, 2012

    Wow,

    Or is it that you’ve said you don’t want your fairy tale on equal footing, you want it as the ONLY footing? Like you said in the “Why Do Creationists Believe The Way They Do” thread?

    Hmmm. I just reviewed that thread and cannot find a single comment by me.
    evolutionblog/2012/03/why_do_creationists_believe_as.php
    Are you making stuff up again?

    … for it proving his existence.

    Again, your grasp of language is lacking.
    It is about the *necessity* of his existence.

    NJ,

    “a pretty unusual creationist”

    Thank you. It’s because few Christians have any background in history and philosophy.

    There was a reason that Obama spoke of having the nation be directed by “science” and not “reason”. The obvious use of “science” to cover everything from morality to speciation to social structures shows its current breadth and relative meaninglessness. Of course, if what you want is scientific atheism and socio-biology, go back to Europe and Asia in the 1930s and 40s. You’ll get your wish. Is this also why Jason had to obfuscate the term “scientism” to that place of meaninglessness?

    Robert,

    I do not believe Col[l]in is a professional philosopher

    I prefer the term “seasoned amateur.” Theology is my strength, though one can hardly do it well without both history and philosophy. My favorite philosophy book this past year was Hurst’s “History of Rationalism” from 1865.

    MA will be completed this summer. Then perhaps on to a PhD, probably something continental.

  135. #135 Wow
    April 26, 2012

    “Ah, but it is a problem for you (all).”

    Nope. Honestly, I don’t have a problem with finding nothing to that argument that can be understood.

    Nonsense, by definition, cannot be understood.

    “It is a perfectly legitimate premise.”

    Not when you wish to use it to prove that premise. “There must be a cause because there must be a cause” is circular and nonsensical (see above).

    Why does EVERYTHING that begins have to have a cause?

    What CAUSES atomic decay? Does God sit down on each and every nucleus and throw dice to see whether this atom should decay?

    And what happens before time? That is as nonsensical as “what’s north of the north pole”.

    See “Posted by: Collin Brendemuehl | April 17, 2012 10:44 AM”

    an xtian fundie who wants to believe that his fairy godfather exists.

  136. #136 Collin Brendemuehl
    April 26, 2012

    Now you are making stuff up.
    I read through the comments and they skip from the 6th (Elte) to the 22nd (Jon S).
    Enjoy.

  137. #137 Robert O'Brien
    April 26, 2012

    “Ah, but it is a problem for you (all).”

    Nope. Honestly, I don’t have a problem with finding nothing to that argument that can be understood.

    Nonsense, by definition, cannot be understood.

    As demonstrated by your comments.

    “It is a perfectly legitimate premise.”

    Not when you wish to use it to prove that premise. “There must be a cause because there must be a cause” is circular and nonsensical (see above).

    You do not prove premises, buffoon.

    Why does EVERYTHING that begins have to have a cause?

    It is a premise based on thousands of years of human experience.

    What CAUSES atomic decay? Does God sit down on each and every nucleus and throw dice to see whether this atom should decay?

    That is, perhaps, a counter to the premise in question.

    See “Posted by: Collin Brendemuehl | April 17, 2012 10:44 AM”

    Collin was asked to back up this statement of his:

    “If there is evidence, at a minimum, for a creator, then that logic must be accepted.”

    He then cited the Kalam Argument. Thus, your claim that he argued “Kalam, ergo Jesus” is flatly false. He may believe the creator is Jesus, the Father, or the Trinity, but he did not claim Kalam gets you all the way to Christianity.

    Quit while you are behind.

  138. #138 TFj
    April 26, 2012

    @Collin

    It’s all remarkably simple. Explain to us what a model for the origin of the universe would look like if one was investigating with a religious naturalism world view. No mechanism, no description of agents, nothing, is there? What would satisfy you? A disclaimer in all publications that Ceiling Cat dunnit? Theologians are free to propose all of the models they want, and until they come up with a shred of evidence that they have any use other than to prop up their faith, the rest of us will ignore them.

    Scientists are looking for explanations and they have no other means than the physical. There is no other means of enquiry. Do you want them to just give up? Methodological naturalism works and I can’t see how it makes sense to give metaphysical and religious naturalism equal weight in light of the fact that one is an extension of what works and the other is made out of whole cloth.

  139. #139 Dan L.
    April 26, 2012

    There are four types of models: Replication-emulation, explanatory, evaluation, and mechanism.

    Again, you’re introducing a framework for discussion of models with which I am unfamiliar. It would be infinitely more helpful to provide examples of each so I understand what it is that you’re trying to argue. I suspect that under my usage of “model” your “explanatory” wouldn’t even qualify. But I need better indications of what you’re trying to say before I can know.

    Now, of course the *results* are always subject to evaluation. I’ve never suggested otherwise. But the empirical approach to the *process* itself (as in the ORV and scientific method) are often absent from these.

    What is “ORV”? And what do you mean by “the empirical approach to the *process* itself” as contrasted with subjecting the “results” to evaluation? Example please? Do you mean the “*process*” of constructing the model? No one ever claimed that construction of models is empirical. Here in this very thread almost everyone has argued that the method of constructing the model is irrelevant to empirically testing the model. (On the other hand, very few scientific models are constructed without taking into account a great many empirical observations.)

    Of course the weather model does not produce a result. It is, as you indicate, a mechanism with a predictable outcome. I chose a poor example. Still, its measurable outcomes are often an inference away from the best explanation. (It rained today and it was not supposed to, per the models employed.) It failed when empirically testing the results.

    The weather model does produce a result. It produces reams of pressure and temperature data that can be compared empirically to real-world pressure and temperature data. I just explained this at length.

    I also don’t understand how a failed prediction becomes, in your eyes, “an inference away from the best explanation.” There is no explanation. There’s a prediction and a means of comparison and the prediction fails. Are you claiming that models must make 100% accurate predictions before they can be considered scientific? That would be an absurd criterion. Weather models do MUCH better than chance. Any particular failure to predict rain should be taken for what it is — a failure of prediction, not a failure of the entire model.

    But the model itself is not one of traditional empiricism. It does not follow the old scientific method. The difference is that a model can only re-run against data and it cannot reset the position of the earth to re-test against reality. It is *not the same* empiricism that one might wish for.

    You’re not making it clear what is the “empiricism that one might wish for.” You’re not clear about what you mean by “the old scientific method.” From my perspective, “the scientific method” is just what I described in my post #114 — all scientific methods, old and new. You have yet to adduce a single scientific model that does not conform to that pattern.

    As far as not being able to “reset the earth,” that’s a total red herring. There is no reason why that should be a criterion for empiricism. Since models are not conscious agents and cannot “cheat” retrodiction of past observations is every bit as empirical as prediction of future observations. As NJ already pointed out, this is a widely acknowledged fact about modeling.

    That’s easy: Any Explanatory model. This includes historical studies and that includes adaptationism. Don’t confuse the IBE (Inference to the Best Explanation) structure of the argument with the evaluation of the results.

    I notice that although you say it’s easy to provide an example, you still fail to actually provide an example. Provide an actual example. “Adaptationism” is not, as far as I know, an actual scientific model.

    What you and eric are doing is changing the question from the nature of the study to the evaluation of the fruit of the study. Your deceptive approach by altering the direction of the thread is disingenuous.

    Stop accusing me of being “deceptive”, “disingenuous,” or of trying to “trap” you. I am doing no such thing. I’m not changing any question. If there seems to be some misunderstanding then it is a legitimate and honest misunderstanding. Between you and me, YOU are the one ignoring most of my points, misinterpreting my words, and actually misquoting me in ways that change the meaning of what I have written. If either of us is being disingenuous it is most certainly you.

    I am honestly trying to understand what you mean by “model” and “empiricism” at this point because it is rather clear to me your personal model of the scientific method is at great odds with my own. I’m seeking only clarity, and I rather resent that you imply I’m seeking more obfuscation.

    Remember folks: My argument is against the presupposition of Metaphysical Naturalism. All of those here who have argued for it as a conclusion have also begun with it as a state of mind. That’s a fundamental epistemological truth.

    Sure. But from my perspective, God may very well exist as part of nature — if God exists, God is the MOST important part of nature. So my personal naturalism doesn’t preclude the existence of God, ghosts, or anything else usually relegated to the supernatural. The fact that such hypotheses are not useful is what leads me to belief such entities do not exist; I certainly don’t start with the presupposition that God doesn’t exist.

  140. #140 eric
    April 26, 2012

    Collin @126:

    You hold to more faulty and just plain wrong assumptions than I can name here. I don’t know whether to call you stupid, incompetent, or an intentional liar.

    Since this sentence was in response to my attempt to characterize your position, okay, I accept that I was wrong about your position. Perhaps you’d like to just respond to what I said about weather modeling then. Or actually tell me what model you’re complaining about.

    What you and eric are doing is changing the question from the nature of the study to the evaluation of the fruit of the study. Your deceptive approach by altering the direction of the thread is disingenuous.

    The thread is about whether its politically unwise to associate atheism with evolution. Your model stuff is a complete digression. One which I’m happy to continue discussing with you, but don’t sit there and claim we took this conversation off topic.

    Remember folks: My argument is against the presupposition of Metaphysical Naturalism. All of those here who have argued for it as a conclusion have also begun with it as a state of mind. That’s a fundamental epistemological truth.

    You’re just asserting what you’re trying to prove. I don’t begin with metaphysical naturalism; I observe that looking for mechanistic, reproducible explanations has historically worked better (much better!) than looking for miraculous explanations. So when deciding what sort of explanation to look for, I go with the method that has the remarkable success rate rather than going with the method that’s had the abysmal failure rate. I’m a methodological naturalist when it comes to science for the exact same reason I’m a methodological naturalist when it comes to my commute – prayer-requested teleportation never gets me to my job. My car is infinitely more reliable. Ergo, tomorrow when I wake up, I’ll trust my car and not prayer to get me to my job.

    Now if, in the future, looking for supernatural explanations becomes successful at finding cures for cancer, workable fusion power, room temperature superconductors, etc… then I’ll switch. Same with prayer-induced teleportation. I have nothing philosophical against it. In fact, I can’t wait until it works!

    That’s my position. If you don’t think it is, then kindly give some evidence that it isn’t my position. Or do me the courtesy of calling me a liar outright. Or lastly, retract your claim that it isn’t my position. But there’s nothing fundamentally epistemologically true about your bald assertion that we are philosophical materialists. You’ve got nothing even resembling argument or evidence to back it up (at least in my case).

  141. #141 Dan L.
    April 26, 2012

    Collin, one more time. Pick ONE scientific model. Describe it in detail. Explain why it qualifies as a “model.” And then demonstrate that it is not empirical by showing that the model is not evaluated as I described in post 114.

    That seems simple to me and it would demonstrate what you seem to me to have been claiming this whole time. I don’t think it’s too much to ask at this point.

  142. #142 eric
    April 26, 2012

    Collin (to NJ):

    My objection here is that the assumption metaphysical naturalism as *necessary* for “science” is bad science.

    As far as I can tell, not one of the folks you are arguing with has said they make this assumption. At least two of us have explicitly rejected it in posts to you. Are you arguing with some position taken in a book or something? Or do you think we are sekret metaphysical naturalists, intent on deceiving you?

    Second, I have already told you that there are no science police. If some scientist is adopting a wrong and unwarranted assumption, too bad so sad for them, they will likely not discover something they could’ve discovered. But science as an enterprise will be fine, because other scientists can operate without it. And they do – you must recognize that a lot of scientists can’t be metaphysical naturalists, given that they prominently declare their religious beliefs. It would be very odd indeed if you were to claim that the Ken Millers of the scientific world are philosophical naturalists!

    Look, if you really think science can be done better via some other methodology, go do science with your new methodology. Report the results back to us. If you find something interesting that our methods wouldn’t have found, that will get our attention. But trying to armchair quarterback what other people do? No so much.

  143. #143 TFj
    April 26, 2012

    My objection here is that the assumption metaphysical naturalism as *necessary* for “science” is bad science.

    I think you’ll find that the prevailing view is that religious scientists are unable to provide any plausible evidence OF ANY KIND for their beliefs and that consequently they are not being true to the scientific method with regard to that issue.

    The whole business of setting up religious naturalism in opposition to metaphysical naturalism is unwarranted, in my view. There must be an astronomical number of unevidenced or downright implausible explanations for natural phenomena. Why does the religious view get a free pass to place itself apart? Why should it not be grouped together with all the other unproven or downright unlikely possibilities? I don’t hear Collin complaining that Elmer Fuddism is unfairly excluded. If you want religious naturalism to be given consideration, whatever practical use that would be, then provide some justification for singling it out from the pack.

  144. #144 Dan L.
    April 26, 2012

    Collin, since you’re accusing eric and I of changing our positions to try to “trap” you, why don’t you tell us what you think our initial positions were and how we’ve changed them over the course of the conversation?

    I can personally assure you through introspection that this is all happening inside your head. My position has not changed at all since entering this discussion. I outlined my understanding of the “scientific method”* in 114. My position is that any model subjected to this methodology is “empirical” — the predictions of the model are compared to real-world observational data. If the model predicts the observational data to within the limits of observation error then the model is contingently confirmed (there’s no guarantee that future observations won’t demonstrate shortcomings of the model). Otherwise, the model should either be revised or rejected in favor of a model that yields more accurate predictions.

    Obviously, we are using “model” in different ways. This is a difficulty that must be resolved before fruitful discussion can continue. You are insisting that I read an entire book to understand what you’re talking about; that is unreasonable. Let me give you my definition of a model: a system constructed in such a way as to reproduce particular aspects of the behavior of another system. For example, the small-angle equation for motion of a pendulum reproduces one aspect of the behavior of a pendulum system: the position of the bob at a given time provided that the angle of deflection is small. This model will not accurately reproduce the behavior of the pendulum for large angles of deflection; nor will it tell you the tension at any given point of the pendulum’s chain. It won’t tell you what the pendulum is made of or how it’s fastened to the ceiling. But it is nonetheless a useful model of pendulum motion and its utility is confirmed by comparison of the model’s predictions with real-world experimental data. This last bit is what makes the small angle approximation an empirical model.

    If you want to object to this definition of model that’s fine, but be clear as to why you’re objecting and please offer a substitute definition that I can review and potentially object to. Please try to keep it simple. There’s no need to do a complete philosophical analysis of the concept of “model” for the sake of this discussion; we just need each of us to understand what the others are talking about.

    *”Scientific method” is a misleading phrase from my perspective. There is not just one “scientific method” that all scientists must dogmatically adhere to. There are many distinct methods in science — but these methods all seem to follow a particular pattern. That pattern is what I am describing in 114.

  145. #145 Collin Brendemuehl
    April 26, 2012

    TFJ
    @143: tu quoque

    Dan,
    @139: “Again, you’re introducing a framework for discussion of models with which I am unfamiliar.”
    @141: “Collin, one more time. Pick ONE scientific model.”
    @144: “observational data.”

    It seems you might want to read Suppe “The Structure of Scientific Theories”. ORV and models are explained fully.
    I provided a perfectly clear example: Explanatory models especially as used with historical information.
    If you don’t understand the answer then either probe the answer or probe the topic. But do not declare it in error because you have failed to do your homework.
    (BTW: History is unobservable and thus non-empirical. Is that clear enough?)

    I’ve assumed that the participants here actually knew the subject at hand. Apparently not.

  146. #146 Dan L.
    April 26, 2012

    @Collin:

    It seems you might want to read Suppe “The Structure of Scientific Theories”. ORV and models are explained fully.

    Maybe I will…eventually. But I am already reading several books — some on the topic of philosophy of science. Note that I’m not insisting that you read the books I’m reading, nor am I insisting you read more about evolution, the big bang, and all the other theories you are criticizing out of sheer ignorance on your part. My failing to read Suppe is much less salient to this discussion then your failure to understand the basic scientific principals you are critiquing.

    I provided a perfectly clear example: Explanatory models especially as used with historical information.

    That’s not a clear example. That’s a topic sentence. Be more specific. Name a particular explanatory model that fits the bill. The phrase “explanatory model” doesn’t cut it.

    If you don’t understand the answer then either probe the answer or probe the topic. But do not declare it in error because you have failed to do your homework.

    I don’t understand the answer only because it’s not a valid response to my request. I requested an example and you gave me a category. That’s your failing, not mine. And there is no “homework.” I haven’t read a book you’re relying on and I’m asking you to put in your own words what you’re on about. I haven’t asked you to go out of your way and upend your reading list on my account; please do me the same courtesy.

    (BTW: History is unobservable and thus non-empirical. Is that clear enough?)

    It’s clear, but it’s also nonsense. Of COURSE history is observable. Of COURSE history is empirical. History is the reconstruction of things that actually happened on the basis of empirical evidence. What do you think history is based on? Why do you think historians spend all their time talking about evidence from primary sources and archaeology?

    On the other hand, this complete absurdity does make clear some of your other grievous misunderstandings about what’s meant by “empirical”.

    I’ve assumed that the participants here actually knew the subject at hand. Apparently not.

    You accuse me of not “knowing the subject at hand” on the basis of not wanting to subjugate the entire discussion to an analysis in an obscure book that I have not read. And you accuse me of being disingenuous? It’s not my responsibility to track down all your sources before disagreeing with you on this subject. And its no indictment of my knowledge of either science or philosophy of science that I haven’t read this one particular book (especially when there is so much else I have read, and so much else for me yet to read).

    Not only this, but you say this after routinely criticizing scientific concepts that YOU do not understand. We could level this same smarmy accusation back at you: we thought you knew what you were talking about Collin. Guess we were wrong.

    If you want to convince anyone of your position these adversarial tactics will not do you any good. It’s clear you don’t actually care to understand what your opponents believe; it’s enough for you to nitpick, twisting your opponents’ words as needed until you can justify to yourself that they don’t know what they’re talking about — even when they do.

    You seem to argue for the sake of proving yourself right. And that’s why you’ll always be wrong.

  147. #147 Dan L.
    April 26, 2012

    @Collin:

    Last chance. Present your concept of model without relying on Suppe (simplify somewhat if needed). Give a specific example of a non-empirical model. (Your attempts so far have consisted essentially of saying: “Non-empirical model. There’s your example.”) And actually demonstrate why it’s not empirical; as already noted, historical research, since it’s based on evidence observed in the real world is an empirical discipline. If you disagree explain how the reliance on evidence does NOT imply that history is an empirical subject.

    Otherwise I’ll have to dismiss you as an ideologue who is completely uninterested in honest discussion of these ideas.

  148. #148 Collin Brendemuehl
    April 26, 2012

    1. Empricism: Evaluation according to what is available to the senses. See the Standford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. (Or do you write your undergrad papers without footnotes or other references?)

    1.1 History is *not* available to the senses. It may not be touched. It may not be listened to. It may not be repeated.

    2. Evaluative model. A scientific theory structure that attempts to describe. It produces no fruit as would other models. Historical studies fit this scenario.

    3. Evaluative models.
    3.1 Classic Darwinian Adaptationism. A set of observations of the relationship between an organism and its habitat. It concludes that things came to this state by way of the “survival of the fittest”.

    3.2 Sociobiology. “Sociobiology investigates social behaviors, such as mating patterns, territorial fights, pack hunting, and the hive society of social insects. It argues that just as selection pressure led to animals evolving useful ways of interacting with the natural environment, it led to the genetic evolution of advantageous social behavior.” (Yes, this is from Wikipedia, a notoriously unreliable source. But since you don’t want real academic references, perhaps Jason will accept this in a paper.) It is a neo-Darwinian genetics-driven model. It cannot account for its conclusions by producing a mapped genetic origin for behavior. (Even Stephen Jay Gould opposed this model.) It is a justification for genocide.

  149. #149 eric
    April 26, 2012

    1.1 History is *not* available to the senses. It may not be touched. It may not be listened to. It may not be repeated.

    Actually, it is directly available; light has a finite speed. (Heck, even if it were infinite, the past would be available; the difficulty in that case would be figuring out which photons came from when.)

    History on earth is available as long as you don’t assume we’re in the matrix, some dreamworld, or other foolishness. But thank you for highlighting yet another creationist blunder; confusing empiricism with direct experience.

  150. #150 Dan L.
    April 26, 2012

    The Domesday Book is an artifact. It is a thing. It is available to the senses. It has a provenance. There are other documents pointing to the authenticity, relative accuracy, and relevance of the Domesday Book. The Domesday book is itself an empirical study of the economy of medieval England. Historians studying medieval Britain can use the book to get valuable data about the lives and livelihoods of medieval Britons, or even get relatively accurate indicators of the economy of medieval England. Alternatively they can compare the assertions of the Domesday Book with available archaeological evidence to assess its reliability.

    The Domesday Book constrains the possibilities for historical models of medieval England. Taking into account this empirical evidence, certain histories of England are simply not possible. Hence, the Domesday Book provides an empirical test for historical models of medieval England. Of course, here we’re assuming that the Domesday Book is authentic. As I already mentioned, this too is subject to empirical test.

    This is exactly what I mean when I say history — as a subject of study — is empirical. It is based on evidence about the past that can be adduced in the present. All knowledge of history is dependent on sources that are currently available to the senses. What do you think it is that distinguishes history from fiction? Historians pay attention to evidence. Even if you want to quibble with the notion that historical texts might constitute empirical evidence, historians still pay attention to archaeological evidence which is unequivocally empirical.

    Classic Darwinian Adaptationism. A set of observations of the relationship between an organism and its habitat. It concludes that things came to this state by way of the “survival of the fittest”.

    A very, very poor explication. First of all, the habitat includes geological and meteorological factors — which are clearly not the result of “survival of the fittest.” “Survival of the fittest” DOES, however, retrodict the taxonomic relationships between organisms discovered empirically by researchers like Linnaeus. This is how Darwin came up with the theory in the first place — close empirical scrutiny of organisms, especially marine crustaceans, and very especially different species of barnacle. It provides constraints on possible models of heredity — Lysenkoism is incompatible with Darwinian evolution and the reason for deciding against Lysenkoism is empirical evidence about how heredity works. Heredity is mediated by DNA, and DNA just gives us so much more reason to believe evolution is correct. It confirms, and in some cases corrects, the taxonomies of organisms. It can be used to retrodict the approximate time period of certain evolutionary events — this is how Shubin found Tiktaliik, making it more of a prediction of “where can we find this type of fossil”. That’s more empirical evidence. Artificial selection provides a proof of principle for natural selection; in fact, it rather implies natural selection must happen if significant numbers of each generation of a species fail to mate for reasons other than pure chance. And there’s tons more evidence for it. There’s whole books written on this subject. I don’t know why you’re even debating this here with me, go read a book. That’s what you want me to do, right?

    Sociobiology. “Sociobiology investigates social behaviors, such as mating patterns, territorial fights, pack hunting, and the hive society of social insects. It argues that just as selection pressure led to animals evolving useful ways of interacting with the natural environment, it led to the genetic evolution of advantageous social behavior.”

    And again, there’s some empirical evidence for this. The diploid nature of most colonial insects is one example. The fact that wolves hunting in packs are more effective than wolves hunting alone is more empirical evidence for this (if some wolves hunt in packs and some don’t, the ones in packs will do better). There was that study of “altruistic” vampire bats that share blood for the sake of reciprocity — sharing increased everyone’s outcome in the long run.

    (Yes, this is from Wikipedia, a notoriously unreliable source. But since you don’t want real academic references, perhaps Jason will accept this in a paper.) It is a neo-Darwinian genetics-driven model. It cannot account for its conclusions by producing a mapped genetic origin for behavior. (Even Stephen Jay Gould opposed this model.) It is a justification for genocide.

    This sort of stuff just makes you sound like a loon. We don’t need to cite papers, we just need to make an honest effort to understand each other (though honestly I’m beginning to doubt your capacity for that). And sociobiology, if it is used as a justification for genocide, is wrongly used. There are theological justifications for genocide — wouldn’t you agree that these are misuses or abuses of theology? Why not lend the same understanding to another field, one you’re clearly not too knowledgeable about in the first place?

  151. #151 Wow
    April 27, 2012

    “You do not prove premises”

    I know. That is why that Kalaam argument is false: it presumes that there must be a cause to everything therefore there must be a cause to the universe therefore there must be a god who caused it.

    However, it also demands that God didn’t have a cause.

    It’s trying to prove its conclusion by presuming the conclusion as a premise.

    Idiot.

  152. #152 Wow
    April 27, 2012

    “@143: tu quoque”

    Learn what it means, colon. Then apply when appropriate.

  153. #153 Wow
    April 27, 2012

    “148

    1. Empricism: Evaluation according to what is available to the senses. See the Standford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.”

    Archaeology: from Greek ἀρχαιολογία, archaiologia – ἀρχαῖος, arkhaios, “ancient”; and -λογία, -logia, “-logy[2]“), is the study of human activity, primarily through the recovery and analysis of the material culture and environmental data that they have left behind, which includes artifacts, architecture, biofacts and cultural landscapes (the archaeological record).

  154. #154 Collin Brendemuehl
    April 27, 2012

    The stupidity level among Jason’s adherents is amazing. Are you guys his students/groupies?
    Light is not history. Things can be touched but events cannot be repeated. You cannot touch or hear or see the Romans in Britain, or anything else. Things which come from the past can provide empirical function for later use, but *the events and conditions* which spawned them are not subject to the empiricism that is demanded — sense perception and repeatability. Artifacts have meaning and value, but they now exist in our time.
    Problems do not disappear just because you say the opponent has a challenge.
    Darwin’s herditary theories were observational. He postulated based on visible features and determined what he estimated was the historical cause. *Every* neo-Darwinian disagrees with him at some level and on the basis of empirical evidence — genetic studies which *are* empirical. These can be measured and repeated.
    A observed (presumed) corollary is not an evidence of cause. As such this defense of sociobiology (and the value of genocide because it knows no moral restraint) still lacks causal evidence.

  155. #155 Wow
    April 27, 2012

    “Are you guys his students/groupies?”

    No.

    Are you congenitally stupid? I’m only asking the question.

    “Light is not history”

    History is, though. And light is light. You can see by it.

    “Things can be touched but events cannot be repeated.”

    So light isn’t a thing? You can’t touch it.

    “You cannot touch or hear or see the Romans in Britain”

    You can touch their artefacts.

    “Things which come from the past can provide empirical function for later use”

    What does “empirical function” mean? Surely things from the past can provide empirical evidence. At the very least it proves it exists.

    “but *the events and conditions* which spawned them are not subject to the empiricism”

    Um, if you have a Bronze sword, then you KNOW they must have had bronze smelting and alloy manufacture. If you have an Iron sword, you know they had complex furnaces (you need far more heat to smelt iron ores). If you have a plough, you know they tilled the land.

    The events and conditions are known as consequential effects required for their existence.

    Go out, find a clue, and make it your friend.

  156. #156 NJ
    April 27, 2012

    Collin @ 154:

    You cannot touch or hear or see the Romans in Britain, or anything else.

    Envision an extraordinarily high-powered telescope system, operated by advanced aliens on a planet some 1969 light years away from Earth. The telescope system is so powerful it can resolve to the level of individual human beings.

    Now envision them focusing their telescope in the direction of our planet on March 15 of next year, in particular concentrating in the area just outside the Roman Senate.

    What do they see, in (for them) real time?

    The stupidity level among Jason’s adherents is amazing.

    A truly luscious example of projection, as I’ve shown. You just do not have the chops to play in this league, son.

  157. #157 TFJ
    April 27, 2012

    @Collin:

    It’s difficult to determine what your point is or what you are trying to achieve. You have moaned about assumptions of Metaphysical Naturalism and tried to muddy the water by pointing to imperfections, both real and imagined, in scientific theories. Yet, when repeatedly challenged, you have not once deigned to demonstrate how methodologies or models derived from different world views would make a damned bit of practical difference or provide any evidence for anything. That is the elephant in the room which you seem determined to ignore by playing the game of trying to catch people out on tangential errors.

  158. #158 eric
    April 27, 2012

    Light is not history…*the events and conditions* which spawned them [artefacts] are not subject to the empiricism that is demanded — sense perception and repeatability.

    I am amused. Thanks, Collin. Tonight I’m going to make a point of going outside, looking up at some stars, and marveling at the quixotic beliefs of creationists who think what I see is simultaneously empirical and not empirical.

  159. #159 Dan L.
    April 27, 2012

    Light is not history. Things can be touched but events cannot be repeated. You cannot touch or hear or see the Romans in Britain, or anything else. Things which come from the past can provide empirical function for later use, but *the events and conditions* which spawned them are not subject to the empiricism that is demanded — sense perception and repeatability.

    Dude, if you really have that much of a problem with this usage of “empirical” — and it is actually a very common usage — then go ahead and replace every instance of the word “empirical” in all of my posts with “evidence-based.” This is a minor semantic disagreement that you’re blowing up into huge deal. It’s not. And if you made the least effort at understanding what we’re saying instead of only paying attention to perceived weaknesses in our arguments you would understand this.

    You misunderstand what is meant by “repeatability” here. For the study of artefacts, “repeatability” is simply the ability of other researchers to do their own examination of the artefact independently of the discoverer or earlier examiners. I.e. two different researchers might want to independently to a radioactive carbon analysis on the same artefact. That’s repeatability.

    You also take the phrase “sense experience” far too literally. When a chemist, for example, uses a mass spectrometer the chemist does not count and weigh the individual ions by hand and eye (that would be impossible). He looks at a little screen that makes a graph out of the data. Then he interprets the data and reports it as if he actually measured the masses. I think you’d have trouble finding anyone who would deny that this would be an empirical test; nonetheless, almost none of the process depends on the chemist’s sense experience. Almost all of it is wrapped up in the mechanism of the spectrometer — which is itself justified by other empirical research.

    You also ignore that this is just the human condition. I don’t have direct sense experience of my own memories, but those memories are the only way I know anything at all. If history isn’t empirical than neither are my memories — but then nothing is empirical at all because all knowledge is mediated through memories. (Memories of sense experiences are not mediated by the senses, so don’t even bother with that objection.)

    Problems do not disappear just because you say the opponent has a challenge.

    But isn’t that your strategy, Collin? State a challenge to Darwinian evolution and then conclude that the “problem” (evolution itself) has been defeated?

    Darwin’s herditary theories were observational. He postulated based on visible features and determined what he estimated was the historical cause. *Every* neo-Darwinian disagrees with him at some level and on the basis of empirical evidence — genetic studies which *are* empirical.

    Yes, Darwin was wrong about some things. Newton was wrong about a lot of things. Schrodinger was wrong about things, Stephen Hawking has been wrong about things. People are wrong about things. That’s not an indictment of science or any particular scientific theory. You’ll note that the Darwinian theory of evolution has been revised since Darwin’s time. This is accounted for by my summary of the scientific method in 114.

    A observed (presumed) corollary is not an evidence of cause. As such this defense of sociobiology (and the value of genocide because it knows no moral restraint) still lacks causal evidence.

    Since altruism is mediated through a so-far poorly understood (but better-understood every day) organ called “the brain” it’s simply not reasonable to demand genetic evidence for a genetic cause of altruism at this point in history. It’s like asking for someone for molecular evidence of the second law of thermodynamics (the second law only applies to large collections of molecules, not individual molecules). Scientists can show that the brain has a genetic origin and that genes mediate the development of the brain, and neuroscientists and sociobiologists can get into the specifics of how the brain subsequently mediates altruism.

    (There’s also the fact that by Bayes’ Theorem observed corollaries consistent with the conclusion DO constitute evidence for the conclusion, but whatever. Trying to catch you up on Bayes’ theorem would be a thankless, frustrating task.)

    As for evidence that altruism is mediated by the brain, there’s plenty of that. Genocide is entirely a red herring; again, there have been theological justifications for genocide, and in many such instances religion did not pose a sufficient moral restraint to prevent massacres of Jews in medieval Europe just for one example. Again, I’m willing to concede that this sort of thing is an abuse of theology rather than a valid use of it — providing you’re willing to recognize that — since “is” can’t yield “ought” — scientific theories cannot provide moral justification for genocide or anything else.

  160. #160 SLC
    April 27, 2012

    Re Dan L.

    Just to pound home the issue of scientists being wrong as well stated by Mr. Dan L. I will paraphrase a quote by Enrico Fermi, a scientist who has never been wrong is a scientist who has not accomplished much.

    Isaac Newton, arguably the most important scientist who ever lived, was wrong in positing that a purely particulate theory of light could explain diffraction and interference. He was also wrong in positing that chemical processes could turn lead into gold and devoted an inordinate amount of time on his alchemy experiments. In addition he was wrong about the stability of the solar system.

    Charles Darwin was wrong about inheritance being an analog process when it has been found to be a digital process. Interestingly enough, a copy of Mendel’s treatise was found among his papers but, apparently he never read it, possibly because it was written in German, and Mendel was a rather obscure researcher.

    Albert Einstein was wrong in positing that black holes would never form. He was also probably wrong about quantum mechanics (god does not play dice with the universe).

  161. #161 Robert O'Brien
    April 27, 2012

    “You do not prove premises”

    I know. That is why that Kalaam argument is false: it presumes that there must be a cause to everything therefore there must be a cause to the universe therefore there must be a god who caused it.

    However, it also demands that God didn’t have a cause.

    It’s trying to prove its conclusion by presuming the conclusion as a premise.

    Idiot.

    Thank you for providing further evidence that “New Atheism” appeals to the low IQ set. Once again, the premise is “everything that begins to exist has a cause,” not “there must be a cause to everything.” Atheologians (i.e., philosophers of religion who are atheists), such as the late Jordan Howard Sobel, have argued against the Kalam Cosmological Argument but since they, unlike you, tend to be intellectually competent, they do not claim it is “circular” because it is not circular. (Nor do they engage in the strawman argumentation that characterizes your comments.)

  162. #162 Drukey
    April 27, 2012

    Jim Harrison:

    |Religious conservatives are not going to stop equating evolution with atheism just because educated people hold their tongues about the issue.|

    Religious conservatives are wired to believe that everyone has to have some kind of idea on how life on earth originated, and if it’s not due to the process of divine creatinism, then there must be another alternative explanation that an atheist would use. The theory of evolution seems to be the only viable option. If you are an atheist, who do not believe in evolution but consider this topic an open issue, then you are more of an agnostic.

    |For the most part, it was fundamentalist Christians and not new (or old) atheists who insisted on the incompatibility of biology and geology with faith. |

    Biology might make people realize that we, after all, are not god creations because god would never create life on earth in a way, for instance, that it has to feed on itself – one species consuming another. It’s outrageously cruel and makes life absolutely pointless. You are born just to end up someone or something else’ food. Thanks to modern science this process can be somewhat altered.

  163. #163 TFJ
    April 28, 2012

    @ Robert O’Brien:

    I’d be more impressed by critics of ‘New Atheism’ if they were able to point to any new or challenging arguments for the existence of God. Instead we get sneering that those ghastly Gnu’s don’t engage in games of philosophical bafflegab over arguments settled a long time ago. I’m afraid ALL of the arguments put forward for the necessity of God seem a bit like William Dembski’s mathematical ‘proofs’ of Intelligent Design. Dembski used to sneer at his critics for not being versed in advanced mathematics. Unfortunately for him, the mathematical maze couldn’t hide the erroneous assumptions and flawed probability values fed into it. And so it is with apologetics; no amount of philosophical weebling can get past the problem of being unable prove anything about God without first assuming it. If a challenging bit of apologetics were to emerge it would be shouted from the rooftops, so apologists, please stop chiding Gnu’s for not covering the same old territory looking for something that’s obviously not there.

  164. #164 Thomas
    April 30, 2012

    The theory of evolution is anything but a faithless theory. It takes almost as much faith, if not more, to believe in evolution as it does in the Bible. To say that everything was created from one single celled organism takes a great deal of faith. The fact that there is no evidence for this argument makes the amount of faith needed even greater. The evidence lacks for evolution and things such as the fossil record show that. Darwin’s theory is one that will never be proven true despite people’s efforts. Also it will more than likely never be entirely refuted. From a Christian worldview we do not deny the fact that evolutionists have faith. That is something they have to have in order to believe an improvable theory. One place that one would think they could find evidence is the fossil record. But even here there is the lack of evidence to prove the theory. Even the oldest and deepest records show that there is no evolving from a single cell. The first fossils recorded are multi celled organisms. If even the fossil record shows that the theory cannot be proven what else is there but faith. Considering the lack of evidence faith is all evolutionists have.

  165. #165 Wow
    April 30, 2012

    “It takes almost as much faith, if not more, to believe in evolution as it does in the Bible”

    Only if you start off believing in the Bible. First of all, you have to believe it might be wrong.

    “To say that everything was created from one single celled organism takes a great deal of faith.”

    Then rejoice! Evolution doesn’t say everything was created from one single celled organism! Maybe you need to read what Evolution is from a book by scientists, not from a book by religionists.

    “The evidence lacks for evolution and things such as the fossil record show that.”

    Sentence, please.

    There’s nothing wrong with the fossil record.

    “Darwin’s theory is one that will never be proven true despite people’s efforts.”

    It’s science, not religion or maths, therefore it doesn’t DO proofs. The only ones trying to prove Darwin’s theory are those trying to prove it wrong.

    “From a Christian worldview we do not deny the fact that evolutionists have faith.”

    Well, yes, this allows you to believe that you’re as right as the scientists when, in actual fact, you’re wrong.

    Here’s a pro tip for you: if you are speculating what others are thinking, speculate whether you’re wrong in that thought.

    “Even the oldest and deepest records show that there is no evolving from a single cell.”

    And there’s no evidence for God’s creation. There’s evidence that the bible story is wrong, however.

    Fossils. How do they work? Eh?

    Read a book.

  166. #166 dexitroboper
    April 30, 2012

    The oldest known fossils are, in fact, of single-celled organisms http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/bacteria/bacteriafr.html

  167. #167 Wow
    April 30, 2012

    “Once again, the premise is “everything that begins to exist has a cause,”"

    But why does that have to be?

    What, for example “causes” radiactive decay? Or the decay of an electron in an excited state?

    And what does “begin” mean before time began?

    And why doesn’t god “begin” and therefore have a cause?

    Thank you for demonstrating the projection that all faithiests engage in to make their idiotic “thought” processes acceptable to their own fractured mind.

    It is YOU who are part of the low-IQ set.

  168. #168 Wow
    April 30, 2012

    “Yes, Darwin was wrong about some things. Newton was wrong about a lot of things. Schrodinger was wrong about things, Stephen Hawking has been wrong about things. People are wrong about things.”

    QFT’d and also indicates the MAJOR difference and acceptable factor between a “faith” view of science and a faith view of faith: science is the human endeavour and HUMANS ARE ALLOWED TO BE WRONG.

    However, for xtian (and most faiths), God is perfect AND CANNOT BE WRONG EVER and to say so is heresy.

    A rather huge difference between them. Even if you take the incorrect view that science is “merely a faith”.

    PS if science is merely a faith, then why aren’t there apologists decrying the GnuFaithiests like Colon, AMC and Robert? Why do THEY get so bashed up about the GnuAtheists “being mean to faith” when, by doing so, they are “being mean to faith” themselves?

    It’s because they have a hate: a hate for being wrong and science and rational though show they are wrong.

  169. #169 Wow
    April 30, 2012

    “…how life on earth originated… . If you are an atheist, who do not believe in evolution but consider this topic an open issue, then you are more of an agnostic.”

    Evolution is not about how life on earth originated.

  170. #170 Ahmed Hafez
    May 2, 2012

    As i am only a student in highschool, i personally believe in evolution and i think without it we would’t have existed. When scientists found fossils of other human species that lived a very long time ago, there were many differences between us and between them. They had stronger teeth, a smaller brain capacity(as they used to depend on hunting more than depending on their thinking abilities), stronger bones and they were much taller than we are. In my opinion, i think that shows how we homo-sapiens have evolved as we now don’t use our bodies for hunting down an animal for food but we use our logic and thinking abilities to get what we want in an easier and less-dangerous way. If you still dont belive in evolution or in the idea that states we were apes who only used to depend on our physical strength and became homo-sapiens who rely on our intellect, my questions are: Can you just give me a reason why we homo-sapiens are different from other past human species? and can you spot the differences between us and these other human species?

  171. #171 Drukey
    May 2, 2012

    @169

    “Evolution is not about how life on earth originated.”

    The origin of life, however, must have abided by evolutionary principles. If not then when exactly, do you think, the evolutionary process kicked in? If it was accidental convergence of elements, then evolution must have set them in motion immediately because evolution precedes the orgin of life.

  172. #172 TFJ
    May 2, 2012

    @ Drukey.

    It doesn’t make sense to say that evolution precedes the origin of life. Evolution is the process of life evolving from whatever chemical origin. Evolution is not a driving force of any kind. It was likely just the laws of chemistry that set the process in motion.

  173. #173 TFJ
    May 2, 2012

    Drukey, I may have misunderstood your meaning. If you are using the word evolution in the broader sense to include the evolution of the universe and matter, then you are correct.

  174. #174 Wow
    May 3, 2012

    “The origin of life, however, must have abided by evolutionary principles.”

    Nope, that would be chemistry.

    Since that is all there was before life existed: chemistry.

    And you can do in university an experiment that demonstrates FOR YOUR VERY OWN SELF that the building blocks for life are created spontaneously in a chemistry very much like the one that would have existed on Earth four billion years ago.

  175. #175 Wow
    May 3, 2012

    “If not then when exactly, do you think, the evolutionary process kicked in?”

    When the first life forms that could undergo evolutionary pressure existed.

    Where, exactly, do you think the first chicken came from? A Chicken Egg?

    (NOTE: the problem here, and I expressly said “Chicken Egg” rather than leave it out as normal to illustrate this, is that you need to define what you consider a chicken egg to be [is it an egg from a chicken or an egg from which a chicken hatches?] to answer it. The only reason why “which came first” is a conundrum is because the question is broken severely)