A Review of Questioning Darwin

I’ve had a chance now to watch Questioning Darwin. Twice. Short review: I liked it quite a bit. Now for the long review.

I’m obviously a bit partial, since this film represents my television debut! I was one of the talking heads interviewed in the film, and it was a thrill to be in the company of people like Rebecca Stott, Steve Jones and James Moore, among others. I show up around forty-five minutes in, to say a few things about the Scopes trial and the importance of Sputnik in bringing the creationism issue back to prominence in the United States. It was a lot of fun, and I enjoyed meeting director Antony Thomas and his crew.

Enough of that. How about the film itself? It was essentially two films woven together. One involved creationists extolling the virtues of their rather idiosyncratic world view. The other was a biography of Charles Darwin, focusing especially on his own struggles with religious faith, and including some history of the cultural responses to evolution over the years. This is definitely not a Michael Moore style documentary. There is no narrator mocking the creationists, and there is no attempt to tell you explicitly who the good guys are and who the bad guys are.

Technically everything is put together with great skill, and I could notice only the most trivial of nitpicks regarding the factual material presented. However, in assessing a film of this sort, there are a few red flags that I look for. If the film suggests that creationism has any merit at all as a scientific theory, then that is enough to consign it to the rubbish bin. Similarly, if the film implies that creationism is maintained with anything other than closed-mindedness and insularity, then I again start to lose interest.

Some of the comments both to my previous post and to Jerry Coyne’s post on this subject have suggested the film fails these tests. They are wrong. It passes these tests with flying colors, with one small exception I’ll come to later.

The United States is a very religious country, but the fundamentalists are actually quite a small minority. If you make a film that sneers at the religious folks, even if those folks represent an extreme fundamentalism, then a lot of more moderate people will take offense. Someone like me might find it emotionally satisfying to watch such a thing, but it probably does more harm than good.

But just let the fundamentalists speak for themselves, with bluntness and confidence, about all the crazy things they believe, and suddenly you have something far more effective. For example, early in the film we see Pastor Peter LaRuffa of Grace Fellowship Church in Kentucky saying this:

If somewhere within the Bible I were to find a passage that said two plus two equals five, I wouldn’t question what I’m reading in the Bible. I would believe it, accept it as true, and then do my best to work it out and to understand it.

We also hear Pastor Jobe Martin of Biblical Discipleship Ministries in Texas saying this:

There’s no dispute. God has determined what is true and He told us what He did in Genesis, the order in which He did it, and He expects us to believe it.

Have enough faith (pardon the expression) that no one not already in the fundamentalist subculture will find any of that remotely appealing. People might like airy God-talk, but they don’t like being shown that religion entails this level of mindlessness. It’s not even anti-intellectual as much as it is pro-stupidity. Any commentator remarking on the foolishness of this would be superfluous. It’s less effective then just letting the thing speak for itself.

There was also some skillful editing that served, in my view, to make the creationists look so extreme and dogmatic that no one not already with them would want anything to do with them. At one point the narrator reads Darwin’s famous line that accepting the transmutation of species was akin to confessing a murder. The film then cuts to Jenna Dee Martin of Biblical Discipleship Ministries saying this:

What he has done is worse than murder. I am saddened for Charles Darwin being led astray from the truth and leading so many others astray with his philosophies and doctrines and theology.

Later we hear Darwin say, “I feel within me an instinct for truth.” Cut to Charles Bonner of Bible Baptist Church in Washington saying this:

There is only one truth and truth is not an assimilation of information. But there is one truth and that’s found in the Bible. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the father except by me.”

At every turn, the professor-types talked about facts, evidence and science, and they are answered by relentless Bible-thumping and proud closed-mindedness on the part of the creationists. Have no fear that anyone watching was unable to distinguish the good guys from the bad guys.

Anyone reading this blog knows that I am generally skeptical of attempts to reconcile evolution and Christianity. So when they got to the parts where the creationists explained what they found troubling about evolution, I was largely nodding along. The general savagery of the evolutionary process is hard to reconcile with Christianity, as is the portrayal of humanity as just one more random species among many. People on the pro-evolution side can blather all they want about how easy it is to reconcile science and religion, but on this point it is the creationists who have the stronger argument.

One of the creationists interviewed was David Menton, who will be a familiar name to connoisseurs of this subject. I once had a somewhat heated discussion with him at the Creation Museum. He had given a talk in which he presented the standard creationist probability arguments against evolution. Afterwards I politely explained to him, while surrounded by a small crowd of his supporters, that he did not know what he was talking about. As you might imagine, it was not a very productive conversation.

But I thought he was on safer ground when he said in the film, in response to the idea that God might have created the system of natural laws in which evolution unfolded:

What that does is put God so remote, that we can safely ignore Him. He’s way back at the Big Bang and he hasn’t done much since.

This closely echoes a point I made in Among the Creationists. You can toss it off as a logical possibility that God established the initial conditions and then let everything unfold on its own, confident that things would develop in a way that expressed His intentions. But that notion has little power to inspire, or to make God seem present in the daily lives of regular people. That’s why it was such a serious blow that Darwin utterly refuted Paley. The problem wasn’t that any central piece of Christian theology requires that Paley be correct. It was that Paley was only partly trying to make an intellectual argument for God’s existence. He was also emphasizing the nearness of God in everyday life, and that’s what Darwin took away.

I do have a few criticisms, though. While I’m all in favor of letting the creationists hang themselves with their own rope, I do think the film gives them a little too much time to speak. I would have preferred a bit less of that and a bit more commentary from experts about the social and scientific aspects of evolution. Also, near the end of the film there is a segment where we see clips of a few videos from the Creation Museum. This is the one place where we hear about “creation science.” Prior to that point it was all Bible-thumping and obscurantism. Now, right after these videos are shown we get a clip of Steve Jones saying:

If the only way you can make your belief persist is to lie to children, which is what creationists do about the age of the earth and things of that nature, if that’s the only way this thing can persist then it isn’t worth it. It should disappear.

This is followed by Rebecca Stott explaining that all of the subsequent scientific progress since Darwin has confirmed all of his main ideas. Great stuff! Still, I would have preferred a more blunt statement that “creation science” is just a fraud, and that none of their scientific claims have any merit at all.

Strangely given my own views on this subject, I think I also would have liked to see someone like Ken Miller interviewed. The film largely seems to accept the view that evolution is a mortal threat to Christianity. The narrator makes asserts, right at the end, that evolution and Christianity can get along, but I think it would have made sense to have an expert commentator give voice to those views.

But these are relatively minor criticisms, and overall I think the film gets things right.

There is more to comment on in the film, but this has already gotten a bit long. So let me close by echoing what I wrote in this post about the Bill Nye vs. Ken Ham debate. A while back I wrote a post in which I argued that ID was dead. I was more right than I realized. The media attention given to the Nye/Ham debate, and now this well-covered documentary, show as clearly as can be that ID is no longer a factor in the discussion. From the late sixties to the late eighties, anti-evolutionism was just synonymous with YEC. Then ID was hatched in the late eighties, in an attempt to distance anti-evolutionism from the sillier aspects of fundamentalist religion. For a while, it seemed they might have some success. They received respectful coverage from major media outlets, and their books were widely reviewed in scientific journals. Those reviews were almost universally negative, of course, but the attention alone was a success for ID.

But those days are long gone. The combination of the Dover verdict and the complete stagnation of ID as an intellectual enterprise has left it moribund. The science journals barely notice when a new ID book comes out, and Stephen Meyer seems like the only one who’s still trying. Ken Ham has been perfectly happy to step into the vacuum. Nowadays, anti-evolutionism is once again easily seen to be synonymous with blinkered religious obscurantism.

That is precisely as it should be.

Comments

  1. #1 Blaine
    February 12, 2014

    Good review. I agree with your points:
    “I do think the film gives them a little too much time to speak. I would have preferred a bit less of that and a bit more commentary from experts about the social and scientific aspects of evolution…Still, I would have preferred a more blunt statement that “creation science” is just a fraud, and that none of their scientific claims have any merit at all.”
    This sums up my feeling. It was good wine, but the wine’s finish left one a little less than satisfied.

  2. #2 MNb
    February 12, 2014

    “no one not already in the fundamentalist subculture will find any of that remotely appealing”
    This is correct. What’s more, in The Netherlands even quite some orthodox protestants will frown.

    “the order in which He did it”
    Take this for instance. Most Dutch christians know Genesis actually presents two stories, with different orders. They don’t care and think someone saying this an embarrassment.

  3. #3 Jay
    Pittsburgh, PA
    February 12, 2014

    Excellent review ! Wasn’t aware that ID is so dead (second to last paragraph) and the farce of re-branding creationism as ID has been completely abandoned. I guess creationists don’t even try anymore. Nye/Ham debate and this documentary are amble evidence for this.

  4. #4 eric
    February 12, 2014

    Wasn’t aware that ID is so dead (second to last paragraph) and the farce of re-branding creationism as ID has been completely abandoned.

    I’m sure the DI will keep plugging along as long as Ahmanson keeps giving them money. However as a political movement, it does appear that YECism is back in the driver’s seat of the get-God-back-in-school bus.

  5. #5 Katatonic
    Washington State
    February 12, 2014
  6. #6 JimR
    February 13, 2014

    I just finished a second viewing of the documentary. It really is quite good. The Creation Museum’s DVDs are a bit alarming. I was especially put off about the explanation of light traveling faster than c in order to get here in under than 6,000 years.

    The part with the poor child confined to bed due to an auto accident was just heart wrenching. It was, however, a good example in the unwavering faith some people have.

    The closing home schooling example was sad because you know these kids will struggle to experience the grand scope of the world and the universe.

    Thanks Jason for the heads up on this film. Definitely worth watching.

  7. #7 Joe
    University of Miami
    February 13, 2014

    Let me preface this by saying I am a student of Philosophy and personally agree that evolution is most probably the correct explanation of our origins. I say that because I don’t want to immediately be dismissed by Mr Rosenhouse, as it seems to me he is willing to do before actually considering what’s been said, based on his sardonic attack of the creationists at the beginning of this review.

    My issue with the HBO piece is not along the same lines as Mr. Rosenhouse’s. HBO was not looking to take sides, denounce creationism as non-science (though, again, I don’t believe it is science), and assert over and above everything that evolution was the way to go. I thought that HBO was actually taking an objective stance, leaning subtly towards evolution on a visceral level by the tricky editing and information and individuals they chose to concentrate on. Anyone with slight attention could’ve detected that.

    And this is my criticism of the whole documentary. I would’ve liked to see a more intellectual, well-thought-out set of premises from the creationists, because I doubt that everyone who asserts creationism is as obfuscating and close-minded as Charles Bonner of Bible Baptist Church. No, if this is an issue that is truly being debated between creationists and naturalists, then I think that HBO could’ve given us a bit more attention to a more well-developed creationist side, if there is one, and allowed us to decide from there.

  8. #8 Blaine
    February 13, 2014

    @7
    Joe,
    I don’t know what your background is or whether you have had any exposure to Young Earth Creationists ( YEC), but many of them are very closed minded with respect to the literal interpretation of the bible. I don’t think the film makers were cherry picking – although I can understand why so many viewers might think so – because it is so incredibly unbelievable. I live in a relatively rural area of Virginia and have neighbors who are YEC and home school their children. They would fit the pattern of the people interviewed in the documentary with respect to the bible.

    I am not sure that one can present more intellectual well-thought-out premises because the whole YEC movement is part of an anti-intellectual sub-culture that holds that the bible is the literal word of god and that it is to be believed in its plain sense. Their position overall is incoherent. In so far as the bible makes claims about the world, many of those claims have been falsified. For example, the earth is clearly much older than the bible indicates. There is no evidence for a worldwide Noah’s flood. The evidence was so overwhelming that christian scholars, such as the Reverend Adam Sedgewick ( one of the founders of modern geology, who BTW became an outspoken critic of Darwin ), had to admit that the biblical view was wrong.

    This is the crux of the matter. Fundamentalists cannot admit that any part of the bible is wrong. Hence, they are forced to take a critical position with regard to science and engage in all manner of ridiculous criticisms of scientific methods – even though they enjoy the fruits.

  9. #9 Rob Derrick
    Los Alamos, NM
    February 13, 2014

    Very pleased with your review. Yes, the believers did get a LOT of facetime. But, it serves its purpose quite well.

    My best moment was when I had to stop the playback, rewind, play, rewind, play. I heard a creationist argument that I’d never heard before. That is the 2nd time in as many weeks. I am getting out of of touch. I did not think there were many of those left.

    I won’t go into excruciating detail other that to name it — anisotropic synchrony convention (which the documentary, in voiceover at the Ham Museum, called “alternative synchrony convention”). I immediately shared it with my physicist friend, who opined that at first glance to him, it likely violated relativity. I think that it perhaps doesn’t actually violate relativity, having the proviso of “convention” and simply being the choice of a point of reference, but it does throw it to the ground and threaten it with violence a bit.

  10. #10 eric
    February 13, 2014

    I would’ve liked to see a more intellectual, well-thought-out set of premises from the creationists,

    So would we. :) Most mainstream scientists are of the opinion that they don’t exist. Even the arguments of Dembski and Behe pretty much fall apart when examined in scientific detail.

    …because I doubt that everyone who asserts creationism is as obfuscating and close-minded as Charles Bonner of Bible Baptist Church. No, if this is an issue that is truly being debated between creationists and naturalists, then I think that HBO could’ve given us a bit more attention to a more well-developed creationist side, if there is one, and allowed us to decide from there.

    There’s a couple of resources out there for you. Personally I’d recommend Behe’s testimony and the cross-examination from the Dover trial, to include Miller’s comments on Behe’s testimony. That’s Behe, one of the more sophisticated and intellectual of the IDers, getting his chance to explain his position and being forced to answer question about it. You could also read the expert reports from both sides, which again gives you the IDers themselves writing what they think, and mainsteam scientists responding. And…it’s all free! You should be able to download pretty much everything from the Dover case from NCSE.

    There’s also Robert T. Pennock’s Intelligent Design Creationism and Its Critics, which contains essays by both creationists and their critics, and in some cases direct responses to each other’s essays. I don’t think you can get any more balanced than essays by both collected together.

    And of course, I can’t post on this site without suggesting you read Among the Creationists. :)

    However, keep in mind that most of the ‘creationist public’ aren’t that sophisticated. The theological arguments you are most likely to encounter being used in favor of creationism are of the “it breaks the 2LOT” or “why are there still monkeys” variety.

  11. #11 Ruese
    February 15, 2014

    [If somewhere within the Bible I were to find a passage that said two plus two equals five, I wouldn’t question what I’m reading in the Bible. I would believe it, accept it as true, and then do my best to work it out and to understand it.]

    And this is what’s great about the world we live in. You can believe in anything you want! It doesn’t matter. You might die at any moment, and what will happen to you, most likely, does not depend on you what you believe Next time I translate the Bible and add a couple of rules to it I want you to follow, please don’t question them. Just obey because if you do, the world will have a lot more livable environment. The Bible is easily falsifiable, and no one is in control of it. Even if you believe that 2+2=5, you can still adapt and survive on earth, and have a really nice life.

  12. #12 Blaine
    February 15, 2014

    @11
    Egg-zactly. Our brains evolved – quite naturally – to err on the side of making TYPE 1 errors versus TYPE 2 errors. If I mistake a stick for a snake, I am more likely to live and tell my friends around the campsite the humorous story. However, if I mistake a snake for a stick, I am more likely not to make it back to the campfire.

  13. #13 proximity1
    February 16, 2014

    There’s a quite related matter that motivates my interests in all these topics. It’s good to take up the issues of religious fundamentalism and the consequences of it for social and political affairs in the U.S.–and I think your views here on how the film handles this are quite good.

    I’d like to see the same careful and extended attention given to this related matter I have in mind. Put too simply, it concerns the fact that the U.S., in particular, but not exclusively, remains a nation of so religious a public despite all of the efforts of professional science education since the Soviet Union’s launch of Sputnik.

    I never took up a specialist’s study of science and thus, have no formal degree in what we call “the hard sciences.” That doesn’t formally disqualify me from discussing sciences but it is clear that in fora such as this one, many professional scientists are hard-pressed to successfully disguise their disdain for the unlettered public, the “lay” public–an interesting term since that is also how the clergy refers to those who are not ordained–when people discuss and debate the controversies which, within the ordained fold, are readily accepted as a valid part of the testing and advancement of science.

    So, I have a sociological and philosophical interest in sciences. I regard them as both immensely valuable and important and immensely dangerous whenever a large part of the professional scientific “community”–admittedly a fictional construct, but I appeal to in here anyway–goes seriously off the rails, loses too much of what is an essential humility for the limits of our understanding.

    Whenever that latter is raised in such fora, science professionals invariably and defensively protest that theirs is the original practice of modesty in intellectual inquiry, that it is an integral part of science practice to remain modest, humble about our limitations. That, of course, is the PR position. In actual practice, however, much of science practice and even more of the nexus of lay and scientific discussion is woefully lacking in this modesty on the part of professional scientists—who, like you, Jason, are s self-selected group of populizers of scientific knowledge, volunteering your time and effort to do something for the good of the general lay public.

    All of that, however useful and well-meant, has made practically no dent at all in the stubborn level of persistent religiosity in the U.S. I think that part of the reason is that there is trouble within and among the professional scientific community, a loss of a significant degree of formerly acknowledged and accepted humility. I see as the main drivers of the rise of scientific hubris the intoxicating array of technological gadgets which tempt us to imagine that virtually anything is technologically possible, and among the science and engineering professions, that whatever can be done should be done or, at least, that it is for scientists and engineers, not the lay public, to ultimately determine which of the potentially possible should become actual realities.

    In medicine there’s a saying, “Physician, heal thyself.” It’s a reminder to beware of hubris–but medical doctors have other strong incentives to curb their hubris: diseases they cannot conquer. Other sciences need, I think, a recovery of a wariness for hubris and need some introspection over the matter of why the U.S. remains so stubbornly religious a nation and, with that, so dismally poor in scientific knowledge and understanding.

  14. #14 Blaine
    February 16, 2014

    @13 – Your insights, while interesting, do not translate well outside the American context. Your points do not explain why other Western countries like Denmark, etc, have very low rates of religiousity.
    Perhaps scientists are more humble in those countries and have sold themselves better ( to use an American capitalist concept where everything is advertised even religion )?? Doubtful.
    Americans are more religious…which is a recent phenomenon historically…google historical church attendance in the US…largely because religion is promoted like a commodity in the States with all the attendant advertising and hucksterism.
    From Charless Finney, the initiator of the second great awakening through todays TV evangelists, ff Americans want a religion, there is no lack of people to supply it. Think of the new religions: Jehohvah Witnesses ( new religion ), Seventh Day adventists( new religion ), Mormonism( new religion ), Scientology( new religion ), Christian Scientists( new religion ), etc.
    “If the bible said 2+2 = 5,” I’d believe it which nicely sums up religious fundementalism regardless of the thymotic energies of American scientists. First Kings says that PI equals 3 which I’m quite sure they believe.

  15. #15 Pekta
    February 16, 2014

    #14 wrote:

    [...Perhaps scientists are more humble in those countries and have sold themselves better.]

    There are many reasons as to why the US is more religious than other countries. You have to look at the foundation of the entire country in order to be able to answer what seems to be a straightforward question. There is a lot of resentment towards science in the US not just because there is something wrong with the field per se, but with what and how people utilize it, and what consequences this have and can lead to. Knowing that western healthcare in the US, for instance, that is based on science and scientific research, is only available to the privileged few, where each and every minor scientific accomplishment costs and arm and a leg, can be very discouraging. You have all these gadgets, spaceships, technological advancements, only to realize that you personally will never be able to get access to, which eventually excludes you, and makes you feel that science has nothing to do with you. Thus, you end up resorting to any other means possible in order to heal and entertain yourself such as psychological cure, which churches maintain, though under a different assumption. Plus, scientific method is highly exploited, to the extremes, as a matter of fact, by the hardcore criminals in the US, including scientists, who conduct experiments on people, without their knowledge and consent, and who are trying to get away with the murder. These criminals prey on the possibility that the victims may not be able to provide the empirical proof of the crimes, the proof that can be easily hidden or destroyed, thus encouraging the “scientific method”, and therefore, leaving many people in a victimized and disappointed state, which leads to favoring criminals over victims of crimes of horrific crimes.

    The limiting scientific method also leaves a huge chunk of the truth berried undevulged. When you know that someone committed a crime against you, for example, and the people, who didn’t witness it, do not believe you, but you know that a crime was committed against you, leaves the scientific method much to be desired. This also means that people do not have the capacity to see the truth even using the scientific method…. I guess, it’s good to know.

  16. #16 Reginald Selkirk
    February 16, 2014

    Off-topic:
    Elaine Ecklund is earning her Templeton dollars again:
    Science, religion go hand-in-hand in US

  17. #17 Blaine
    February 16, 2014

    @15
    You make good points and the US has a lot to answer for. You may recall the pseudo-scientific eugenics movement in the 1920′s in the US as well as the Tuskegee syphilis experiment. There was also the LSD experiments where soldiers were given LSD without their informed consent. Ken Kesey, the author of _One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest_, was part of a CIA study where he was given LSD.

    But can all that explain America’s religiousity? I am doubtful. I think the marketing theories and risk-aversion theories have more going for them. The risk-aversion theory says that people who are economically insecure are more religious. Of all the Western countries, even though America is the richest, it is also has the worst social safety nets.

  18. #18 Phil
    February 16, 2014

    Blaine,

    “Of all the Western countries, even though America is the richest”

    Richest? America is only pretend rich, like you would be if you borrowed a million dollars that you could never pay back. The neighbors might think you were rich, but you really wouldn’t be. Being 17 trillion dollars in debt is not rich.

    “it is also has the worst social safety nets.”

    Really? We spent 2.2 billion dollars on cell phones for low-income people last year.

    Can you provide a figure and breakdown for annual combined fed and state safety net spending?

  19. #19 Harv
    February 16, 2014

    @13
    “In actual practice, however, much of science practice and even more of the nexus of lay and scientific discussion is woefully lacking in this modesty on the part of professional scientists—who, like you, Jason, are s self-selected group of populizers of scientific knowledge, volunteering your time and effort to do something for the good of the general lay public.”
    I would point out that the state of scientific education in the United States is fairly poor on average. Most citizens cannot recognize what has been established from what cannot be. This is not totally a failure of the education system, since the multitudinous scientific fields have become so diverse that without a fairly in depth education in an area an individual’s knowledge is insufficient to realize the limitations of current knowledge and capacity. This “lack of modesty” might simply be the same annoyance feminists display when speaking to people who have not bothered to educate themselves, or when someone who’s studied evolution hears a creationist speak. Most of the scientists I am familiar with are wise enough not to opine (and expect to be taken as an expert) on any field but their own. However many are also poor communicators to the general public, since many have reached a point where they have completely internalized the basics that the public does not have.
    “I see as the main drivers of the rise of scientific hubris the intoxicating array of technological gadgets which tempt us to imagine that virtually anything is technologically possible, and among the science and engineering professions, that whatever can be done should be done or, at least, that it is for scientists and engineers, not the lay public, to ultimately determine which of the potentially possible should become actual realities.”
    Scientists and Engineers rarely actually choose what to actualize. This is because that intoxicating array of gadgets you mention has a long pedigree. Many engineers and tinkerers love to create, but if they could just create without effort then websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo would not exist. The “lay public” as you call them, rarely have input on the realization of scientific accomplishment because frankly, they don’t express enough concern with it. As an example “A Novel ABO Gene Variant Leads to Discrepant Results in Forward/Reverse and Molecular Blood Grouping.” might sound important. And there are circumstances where it is important. For most people in the United States they might know that they are O+ (or some other blood type). The novel ABO gene variant is important for people in blood banking because it looks like an “O” type, but is actually a variation of “A”. Someone who thinks that O+ is their full blood type probably will not know why being given a different type of blood from their own is dangerous, but this kind of accident (which is quite rare due to extensive testing before transfusion) can be lethal within a few hours. Just to assuage some possible concern, that + or – after the letter is the Rh D (another blood type from the Rh group) status of an individual. Humans naturally produces ABO antibodies, and requires stimulation (exposure) to produce antibodies to other blood groups. My point here is that the lay public are not knowledgeable enough in the field to make decisions as to what should be done. And before someone brings up weaponization; yes, things can be weaponized. Does that mean that the benefits of a field should not be explored because someone might turn it into a weapon? That smacks of a slippery slope fallacy, after all by extension that have stopped the use of fire because it can be used to burn someone. If your concern is the morality of an experiment, then I would agree that all people have a right to their opinion on it, but I would not hold all opinions as equally valid. Too many people argue that one thing is immoral while others argue that it is not a moral issue at all, which encourages me to request evidence from both parties and begin investigation.

  20. #20 Harv
    February 17, 2014

    @15
    You started out with an argument I might have agreed with. Then you diverged. Right here:
    “Plus, scientific method is highly exploited, to the extremes, as a matter of fact, by the hardcore criminals in the US, including scientists, who conduct experiments on people, without their knowledge and consent, and who are trying to get away with the murder.”
    “The limiting scientific method also leaves a huge chunk of the truth berried undevulged. When you know that someone committed a crime against you, for example, and the people, who didn’t witness it, do not believe you, but you know that a crime was committed against you, leaves the scientific method much to be desired. This also means that people do not have the capacity to see the truth even using the scientific method…. I guess, it’s good to know.”
    Your statement about a “huge chunk of the truth” confuses and concerns me. Many times there is no evidence that more truth may yet be uncovered, granted many times in the past there has been more to discover, but like an archaeologist after unearthing all of what we have evidence for we must either wait for more evidence or just start randomly digging. I greatly disagree that the method leaves much to be desired. I would enjoy having something that would give me the correct answer to any question I posed. The problem with such a thing is that human fallibility has been demonstrated many times, and even if there is a method that can provide perfectly correct answers, the human introduces a possible point of failure, so those answers must re-tested (yes, this is a infinite loop, there may be a way to escape it, but I have not heard of one). If one did not rely on a method of empirical evidence anyone could claim anything they wished and it would have to be taken as true. The claimant may even believe it completely, however without evidence there is no way to determine if what one thinks is true actually does comport with the reality that seems to be universal (I leave discussions about the nature of this reality to others who have more interest in that aspect than myself). This is also the problem with religions from what I have seen, there are those who absolutely believe they know the truth; however they cannot offer any evidence to support their assertion other than that they believe it is true. While your example of a crime you know someone committed against you may hold some merit in some cases, I know of too many times where people have been convicted wrongly on eye witnesses testimony (and there are several cases of individuals who have been executed and then later found innocent through new evidence). Also there are studies such as “Reconstruction of Automobile Destruction: An Example of the Interaction between Language and Memory” where individuals created memories of things that had not happened, simply because they were asked a question differently, other examples of the Misinformation Effect or one of the other numerous fallibility of the human mind.
    I am confused by your statement about scientists who conduct experiments on people without knowledge and consent, I do not know who you are referring to specifically. Regardless of who you cite, the counterpoint remains the same. There are people who are claiming that the Fukashima nuclear power plant has given them physical maladies that have not been associated with radiation poisoning before, there are also people who claim that homeopathy cures them of cancer. As to my knowledge neither of these groups have any evidence to buttress their claims, but they can still make them. It is not just the scientific method, but good philosophy, for the burden of proof to be on the person making the positive claim.

  21. #21 Lenoxus
    February 17, 2014

    Being 17 trillion dollars in debt is not rich.

    The wealth of a country is not equal to its government debt or “profit”. That’s an absurd measurement.

    We spent 2.2 billion dollars on cell phones for low-income people last year.

    That’s a huge number from our perspective (and one that I’m guessing has been exaggerated), but it’s a drop in the pan for the government. Compared to Evil Socialist Europe, the USA spends little of its budget on a social safety net.

    I agree with Blaine that risk-aversion is probably the biggest contributor to American religiosity. This country also has a history of religion with unique elements (various English settlers came with the notion of establishing religious colonies, and major political movement have usually had religion explicitly connected to them), but I’m not informed enough to understand the overall pattern.

  22. #22 Sean T
    February 17, 2014

    I think there’s another possible reason that the US is more religious than most European nations. Historically, the US was the first nation to consciously and directly divorce politics from religion. Following the Reformation, most European nations lined up as either Catholic or Protestant, and adherance to a specific set of religious beliefs was not really just a matter of conscience, it was a decision with severe social and legal implications. Certainly there were Protestant minorities in Catholic countries and vice-versa, but the minority religion was always insecure in its social/legal position relative to the majority. Therefore, it’s quite likely that as these countries became secularized that there were many people who found it easier to profess belief in the majority religion and go through all the motions of adherance to it, but were not believers by conscience.

    In the US, on the other hand, while there were areas (such as Massachusetts Bay, for example) which were much like Europe in their religious attitudes, there were other areas in which religious freedom was more or less the norm. Because of this, there tended to be more people who held religious beliefs out of conscience rather than conformity to social norms. Therefore, those people are less likely to give up their religious practice as society as a whole becomes more secular.

    Obviously the above refers to general trends, not to specific individuals. There are likely many people who did and still do practice religion in the US out of a sense of conformity to community norms, and just as likely many in Europe who practice their religion out of deep seated beliefs. I certainly did not mean to imply otherwise, just that as a general trend the US seems to have more people practicing religion out of a true belief.

  23. #23 Pekta
    February 17, 2014

    @20

    “While your example of a crime you know someone committed against you may hold some merit in some cases, I know of too many times where people have been convicted wrongly on eye witnesses testimony (and there are several cases of individuals who have been executed”.

    My point was to demonstrate that empirical evidence, though necessary, is only necessary when someone is trying to prove something to somebody else. In some cases, you need it in order to prove something to yourself as well. However, when you personally know or witnessed something, and you trusted your own faculties with what you witnessed, which means that you know that it indeed happened, and where empirical evidence escapes, what you’re suggesting is that the truth of that should escape with it as well. Just because you cannot provide empirical evidence for some occurrence, for some reason, does not mean that the incident never happened. I guess when it comes to proving to humans, the poor group of the primate family, against whom the ultimate cruelty has been constantly perpetuated, the human primate with very little self-awareness, for the most part, chooses to believe. And what about obvious things?

  24. #24 Pekta
    February 17, 2014

    Every time I read about Richard Dawkins’ attempts to talk religious people into reason, I can’t help but come to one and the same realization. Dawkins, whose “God’s Delusion” cognitive therapy that allows to clear you mind and free yourself from illusions constructed on other people’s forcibly imposed concepts, meaning that Dawkins is a person of empirical evidence, fails to realize that he should be the one to ask religious people or believers to give him some empirical proof that they indeed believe in god, before he tries to convince them not to believe. Anyone can say they believe in god, though why would you want to take their word for it?

  25. #25 Harv
    February 17, 2014

    @23
    “However, when you personally know or witnessed something, and you trusted your own faculties with what you witnessed, which means that you know that it indeed happened, and where empirical evidence escapes, what you’re suggesting is that the truth of that should escape with it as well.”
    My counterpoint would be to echo an argument I’ve heard before that it doesn’t matter if I trust my senses. I know that there are too many potential points of failure betwen that and my conscious mind for them to be trusted. I could honestly believe something happened, but it never did. For all I know it could have been half a dream combined with a memory of a situation. Without evidence there is no way I could prove it. As for obvious things, I do not really like using that as an argument for anything, because what is “obvious” to one person is completely foreign to the mindset of another. It is “obvious” to a lot of USA citizens that there is a specific god with specific attribute. However within that large group there are different god entities that obviously exist to the people who believe in each particular entitiy, and many of these entities are incompatible with the existence of another of the entities.
    While I enjoy discourse, this seems to be veering a little off the topic (I’ll admit I did not help reign it in in my original posts so I’ll refrain from further digression.)
    Although I would prefer it if people were not as insecure in their positions as to react with so much hostility as the religious moderates do when the fundamentalists are insulted, I certainly agree with our good host that showing those kinds of people the actual extent of the delusion that the fundamentalists maintain is a good idea. Unfortunately it has been my experience that many of the moderates in the USA I have spoken with, who are usually quite nice people, run into a presentation of that kind of disassociation from reality just handwave the example away; saying that it doesn’t apply to themselves or it is only a small portion of the populace, while failing to actually investigate how much influence those with fundamentalist positions have wielded in policy, such as the Texan school board or the people with no knowledge of climate science arguing that there is no such thing as anthropogenic climate change.

  26. #26 Pekta
    February 17, 2014

    #22 wrote:

    [Historically, the US was the first nation to consciously and directly divorce politics from religion. Following the Reformation, most European nations lined up as either Catholic or Protestant, and adherance to a specific set of religious beliefs was not really just a matter of conscience, it was a decision with severe social and legal implications...]

    In a democracy, it is very difficult to dissociate religious views from politics, as they eventually find their way into it. A Protestant, who was brainwashed by biblical teachings on such matters as abortion and gay marriage, will most likely vote “No” on both legislations, because these people view gay marriage and abortion as sin. That’s why it took gay people, for instance, such a long time to finally obtain the right to join in the “holy” matrimony, an institution that was established by religious people in order to make it easier to keep the population under their control. A dangerous institution that devastated lives of millions of people. You would think gay people would go forward, as all progressives would, but instead, they chose to go backwards. But I guess, this is beyond the point. In order to free American politics from religious influence, issues such as these (abortion and gay marriage) should be taken off the political agenda entirely. Because people of the US really think that if such issues are listed on the ballot, US citizens should literally sit there and make decisions when it comes to people’s private lives. And again, speaking about evidence, the only way to prove to somebody that they are gay, is to personally walk into their bedroom during the homosexual intercourse.

  27. #27 glasmann
    Newark DE
    February 17, 2014

    I agree that the film gives the fundamentalists a little too much time to speak, but the competing parties are too starkly black and white. I agree that this clearly shows the extremism of the creationists, but I would have liked to have seen some comments from other types of Christians who accept Evolution and are not threatened into homeschooling and by eternal damnation. There is a very large middle ground that accepts Evolution.

  28. #28 Phil
    February 17, 2014

    glasmann,

    “There is a very large middle ground that accepts Evolution.”

    Perhaps many do, but it this is mostly because of endless exposure to the word. Most people aren’t aware of how frail the mutations/selection paradigm is. As the debate increases in intensity, so might interest.

    Actual science could be the party that pulls back the curtain on the wizard. Research continues to uncover the staggering complexity of molecular level biology; things like this:

    “Since the genetic code was deciphered in the 1960s, scientists have assumed that it was used exclusively to write information about proteins. UW scientists were stunned to discover that genomes use the genetic code to write two separate languages. One describes how proteins are made, and the other instructs the cell on how genes are controlled. One language is written on top of the other, which is why the second language remained hidden for so long.”
    http://www.washington.edu/news/2013/12/12/scientists-discover-double-meaning-in-genetic-code/

    Chance mechanisms can’t possibly account for things like this, and there are going to be people who have not lost the ability to distinguish between realistic and impossible. There’s a good chance that the pendulum could start swinging the other way, and a quiet revolt could develop inside the establishment as the materialist old guard dies off. It just takes time.

  29. #29 proximity1
    February 18, 2014

    @ 28— Most people aren’t aware of how frail the mutations/selection paradigm is.”

    In fact, the converse is true–among (U.S.) Americans, that is. Most Americans have, at best, only a dim idea of just how robust is the science of Darwin’s natural selection.

    In fact, if we set mathematics aside as a philosophy rather than an “empirical” science, the chemico-biological sciences are the single most thoroughly established scientific enterprise. More thoroughly and rigorously subjected and tested and proven than any other– more than physics, which is highly dependent on a few core untestable assumptions, without which we couldn’t have all that goes with Einstein’s general and special relativity.

    “As the debate increases in intensity, so might interest.”

    Maybe, but I’m so far not convinced of this. If religious people were susceptible to reason, then, as I asked above, why has science education made hardly a dent in the prevalence of religious belief in America? Part of the reasons have to do with the quality and the quantity of education, true. And part have to do with the quality and quantity of science education, but, with that in account, still, Americans are amazingly ignorant about science—which is why I say that the converse about Darwin and biological sciences is true—most Americans have no idea how well established is evolution by natural selection.

    This is the enigma I pose.

  30. #30 eric
    February 18, 2014

    Phil:

    “Since the genetic code was deciphered in the 1960s, scientists have assumed that it was used exclusively to write information about proteins. UW scientists were stunned to discover that genomes use the genetic code to write two separate languages. One describes how proteins are made, and the other instructs the cell on how genes are controlled. One language is written on top of the other, which is why the second language remained hidden for so long.”
    http://www.washington.edu/news/2013/12/12/scientists-discover-double-meaning-in-genetic-code/

    Chance mechanisms can’t possibly account for things like this,

    IMO chance mechanisms are the only rational explanation for a system like this. No intelligent designer would mix instructions on how to read instructions in with the actual (lower-level) instructions. That’s crazy. It’s like writing a cake baking recipe in which, halfway through, you go off on a four-page diatribe about what the verb “to bake” means and why English grammer requires a verb and a noun in each sentence. Nobody engineers that way. Nobody should engineer that way because its incredibly, unnecessarily confusing. The most reasonable explanation for this intermixing of meta-instructions and regular instructions is evolutionary. Early replicators had some (one) type of polymer that self-replicated and produced additional structures, and as these replicators evolved, it just wasn’t possible (too great a saltational step) to separate this double-duty system into rational sub-components.

  31. #31 dean
    February 18, 2014

    We spent 2.2 billion dollars on cell phones for low-income people last year.

    This says quite a bit about Phil, and goes along with his refusal to play honest about evolution. Beyond the false number provided, he tries to paint the money as coming from government (he never says where). If I were to guess I’d guess he’s mimicking Senator Griffin’s debunked claims about this.

  32. #32 MNb
    Moengo Suriname
    February 18, 2014

    @28 Phil: “Most people aren’t aware of how frail the mutations/selection paradigm is.”
    Even if that were true that is no reason to assume god. No single variation of creationism produces testable predictions, so there is nothing but this.
    You don’t derive ID either from superconductivity at relatively high temperatures, for which there is not paradigm, theory or hypothesis at all. You have nothing but an ad hoc argument.

  33. #33 Michael Fugate
    February 18, 2014

    @28 Phil: “Most people aren’t aware of how frail the mutations/selection ID paradigm is.”
    Fixed it for you Phil.

  34. #34 Phil
    February 18, 2014

    proximity1,

    “..just how robust is the science of Darwin’s natural selection.”

    I’m rather surprised that you ran right by a really fascinating discovery that strains this declaration. There are two core elements of evolutionary theory. The first is random DNA replication errors. The second is natural selection, whereby organisms ill-suited to their environment are removed. May I ask, which of these two would you suppose played the more prominent role in the development of “genomes [using] the genetic code to write two separate languages”?

    ===

    eric,

    “IMO chance mechanisms are the only rational explanation for a system like this.”

    I don’t think you’re going to convert the masses with this rationale. Most people are going to rely on their personal frame of reference which expects organization and complexity to be the result of applied intelligence.

    “The most reasonable explanation for this intermixing of meta-instructions and regular instructions is evolutionary.”

    Ditto

    ===

    dean,

    “Beyond the false number provided, he tries to paint the money as coming from government (he never says where).”

    I’m not convinced the number is false, but if you have better information you should insist on a retraction to this article:
    http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424127887323511804578296001368122888

    As to where the money comes from, you can look on your phone bill under Taxes, Fees and Surcharges. It should be listed as separate State and Federal Universal Service Funds. You can find out who qualifies here: http://www.fcc.gov/lifeline

    ===

    MNb

    “Even if that were true that is no reason to assume god”

    But given a grossly inadequate explanation, it’s no reason not to. Most people are not restrained by the rules of materialists.

  35. #35 proximity1
    February 19, 2014

    @ 34 ”
    “May I ask, which of these two would you suppose played the more prominent role in the development of “genomes [using] the genetic code to write two separate languages”?

    Cells are “organisms”–whether as a single-cell individual organism or as elements in multi-cellular collections. Cells, proteins, DNA, RNA, “know” no language; they do not “code” or “decode” nor do they behave with any conscious awareness o fany such activity. Their behaviours are probabilistic ranges of randomly-influenced environments.

    Nearly all my comments on this topic are based on and drawn from my reading of The Origin of Individuals (originally in French ( http://www.worldscientific.com/worldscibooks/10.1142/6359 )), by Jean-Jacques Kupiec and other related reading by others– Pierre Sonigo, for example, who was Kupiec’s co-author of the popular book, “Neither God nor Gene” (French edition only Ni Dieu ni gène: pour une autre théorie de l’hérédité (Editions Seuil “Points” (Sciences) )
    http://www.seuil.com/livre-9782020585101.htm

    We could have a more interesting discussion if you’d read either or both of these–or, failing that, at least some of their journal papers.

  36. #36 eric
    February 19, 2014

    I don’t think you’re going to convert the masses with this rationale. Most people are going to rely on their personal frame of reference which expects organization and complexity to be the result of applied intelligence.

    You’re right, what I’m saying goes against people’s gut instincts or intuitions, so it’s an uphill battle to convince them. That is why we do science – because our intuitions about the world can often be wrong. And I don’t think it’s a foregone conclusion. People accept many findings of science that would have been thought ridiculous even just a hundred years ago; the contintents float around. QM. Space is a thing, and space and time are fundamentally the same thing. Compared to those things, evolution is (IMO) quite normal. The idea that nature, on its own and with no goal in mind, does something similar to what we do when we breed dogs is far more common-sensical than the notion that an object’s position has an inherent uncertainty associated with it.

  37. #37 dean
    February 19, 2014

    Phil,
    did you miss the part where none of the money goes through the treasury? It’s not a tax, no matter how much your tea-bag influenced mind wants to scream that it is.
    The lifeline program (which is what you’re referring to) pays an average fee (under $10, although it varies per state) to subsidize phone service but typically does not pay for the phone. The amount that you quote doesn’t go to pay for the phones, it is the total amount of money in the program – none of it, again, a tax, no matter how much you or the WSJ or similar ilk jump up and down and get pissed that people who are worse off than you get help. (And yes, there is fraud in the system, but you should look at the recent overhaul to deal with much of it, and note (you can calculate percentages can’t you?) what a small fraction of the whole thing it is.
    I happen to think the whole thing could be organized better, but that’s a different story. If you don’t like the existence of the program complain to the president who instituted it – the first President Bush.

  38. #38 tomh
    February 19, 2014

    @ #14

    Americans are more religious…which is a recent phenomenon historically

    I’m not sure why you would think this. In 1835 Toqueville wrote, in Democracy in America, “the religious atmosphere of the country was the first thing that struck me on arrival in the United States,” and he returned repeatedly to that theme throughout the book. Several “Great Awakenings” swept the country in the 19th century, led by charismatic evangelistic leaders. Religion drove public policy, also, for instance, in the form of “Manifest Destiny,” which predicted a divine destiny for the United States and rationalized dispossessing the natives and spreading over the continent. Religion is not recent phenomenon in America – it has long since permeated the society and been a driving force in public policy.

  39. #39 Keron
    February 19, 2014

    [Americans are more religious…which is a recent phenomenon historically]

    An increasingly religious country with brutal and barbaric Darwinin selection obnoxiously set in place. Wow, another one of those US realities where the reality does not match the theory, with evil and crime allowed and seriously safeguarded.

  40. #40 Blaine
    February 19, 2014

    @38 – I am going by the stat from Finke and Stark’s book _The Churching of America_.( Rutgers University Press; Revised edition (March 3, 2005) As the authors say:

    “In 1776, fewer than 1 in 5 Americans were active in church affairs. Today, church membership includes about 6 out of 10 people.”

    Also from them:

    “Some observers assert that the rise in churching rates indicates increased participation, not increased belief. Finke and Stark challenge this as well. They find that those groups that have gained the greatest numbers have demanded that their followers accept traditional doctrines and otherworldliness. They argue that religious organizations can thrive only when they comfort souls and demand sacrifice. When theology becomes too logical, or too secular, it loses people.”

    One could argue that many people did not belong to churches in the past for possibly logistical reasons. – no access, living in the wilderness, etc. but overall.

    If you look at the Gallop poll, Church membership has fallen from 70% in 1992 to 59% in 2013. Although actual church attendance has stayed exactly the same during the same period ( http://www.gallup.com/poll/1690/religion.aspx )…so who knows.

  41. #41 Phil
    February 19, 2014

    proximity1,

    “Cells, proteins, DNA, RNA, “know” no language; they do not “code” or “decode” nor do they behave with any conscious awareness of any such activity. Their behaviours are probabilistic ranges of randomly-influenced environments.”

    Are you saying that there are no specific, discriminating roles?

    ===

    eric,

    “…I’m saying goes against people’s gut instincts or intuitions, so it’s an uphill battle to convince them.”

    Most people just believe what they like.

  42. #42 proximity1
    February 20, 2014

    @ 41 “Are you saying that there are no specific, discriminating roles?”

    I’m saying that I pointed out where the answer to that and to all your next 2000 questions are addressed in an exposition of keen insight into cell biology.

    I welcome a discussion but I’m not going to play a tiresome game of “Witness under examination” with you when, instead of asking me one after another questions, you could easily demonstrate your interest in these matters–and your fitness to participate in a useful discussion here–by going and doing what really isn’t very much reading.

    So, let me put it this way—I’ve read several of Kupiec’s texts and journal papers, and, though I’m only a layman, I have a basic understanding of what his theses are. If you want to ask me questiosn such as “What does Kupiec mean here, where he writes…” because you don’t know and are sincerely interested to know, I’ll willingly join in that exchange.

    Otherwise, you’re really not sincerely interested in learning anything here and, thus, you’re wasting my time. And I resent that.

  43. #43 Sean T
    February 20, 2014

    Phil

    “Most people just believe what they like”

    So, then, most people are wrong. You, and anyone else, are certainly free to believe what you like. You are not free to post those beliefs on a science blog without the expectation that those beliefs will be strenuously challenged by other posters there.

    You are quite correct in that assertion; most people do indeed believe what they like. Whatever seems to make the most intuitive sense and gives comfort tends to become belief. That’s the utility of science, though. Science questions beliefs that are held because people like them. Science questions beliefs that may give comfort. (To be fair, those types of beliefs are not singled out by science; science questions ALL beliefs). Only by questioning beliefs and demanding evidence for them can those beliefs that are grounded in reality be separated from those that are not.

    From your posts on this topic, you seem to believe that somehow the paradigm of modern evolutionary theory has remained unquestioned by the scientific community. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Like all theories, evolution has been questioned harshly. The only problem (for you) is that evolution has passed all the tests that were meant to cast doubt on it. That’s really how it works; a hypothesis is put forth. The scientist putting forth that hypothesis makes his/her best faith effort to prove that this hypothesis is wrong (note, he/she doesn’t try to prove it right; it’s too easy to fool yourself if you look at it that way). If he/she fails to prove the hypothesis wrong, he/she publishes the results of the testing. Other scientists then take up the challenge and try their best to show that the hypothesis is wrong. Only after surviving all such challenges does the hypothesis become accepted by the scientific community. Occasionally, a whole set of hypotheses that have survived these challenges can be incorporated into a larger scheme. This is what we call a theory in science. A good theory will lead to more hypotheses to be tested. The more that these hypotheses pass testing, the more we tend to hold that the underlying theory is true.

    In short, modern evolutionary theory has this status. It incorporates many well-tested hypotheses and leads us to many other hypotheses that can be tested. So far, it has passed all tests. If you want to overturn the theory, it’s much more difficult than “I don’t see how x, y and z could possibly arise from random mutation.” To overturn evolution, you must actually come up with an alternative explanation. This alternative must account for all known data at least as well as evolution does. It must provide further hypotheses for testing. Ideally it must lead to observable consequences that are different than the consequences of the theory of evolution.

    That last is very important; if all observations under your theory are expected to be identical to what we’d observe if evolution is true, then why should we throw away all the work done on evolution? How could we determine which theory is true? In any case, it’s not enough to show evolution false, you must also show your alternative to be better. If all you do is demonstrate the falsehood of evolution, then you don’t gain support for your theory. The default position of science becomes “we don’t know” with regard to biodiversity. On the other hand, if you can come up with a theory that does all that I have described, your Nobel Prize awaits.

  44. #44 Blaine
    February 20, 2014

    Some depressing news which partly explains why Americans are so religious
    http://www.iflscience.com/scientific-knoweldge-trails-support-0.

    25% of Americans don’t know the earth orbits the sun.

    I wonder what the overlap between this group and tea partiers is ;-)

  45. #45 Phil
    February 20, 2014

    proximity1,

    I’m sorry if you didn’t like the question, but I think anyone trying to understand the idea Kupiec is proposing is going to have similar inquiries. Basically, he is just at the extreme random end of the random vs causal problem. I can understand him, or any evolutionary theorist, wanting to deemphasize the causal, but it is always reasonable to be curious about limitations.

    ===

    Sean T,

    “Only by questioning beliefs and demanding evidence for them can those beliefs that are grounded in reality be separated from those that are not.”

    Agreed.

    “…modern evolutionary theory has this status. It incorporates many well-tested hypotheses and leads us to many other hypotheses that can be tested.”

    Fair enough. It is that testing that I’m curious about, and you seem confident that the scrutiny has been thorough and comprehensive.

    So, how does the theory explain the formation of original genes?

    “So far, it has passed all tests.”

    If this is true, then answers to basic, foundational questions like the one I just posed should be well-represented in the literature. I look forward to reading about it, but don’t feel compelled to provide papers if you can just summarize what you’ve learned in your own words.

    “To overturn evolution, you must actually come up with an alternative explanation.”

    But you didn’t mention that when you described the process:

    “a hypothesis is put forth…scientist [tries] to prove that this hypothesis is wrong…scientists [try] to show that the hypothesis is wrong”

    Wrongness (along with implausibility) can be determined without reference to anything else.

  46. #46 proximity1
    February 21, 2014

    “I’m sorry if you didn’t like the question,”—

    Baloney. What problem was not with the question per se, it was –and is—with the fact that you either already had your mind made up about your answer to it or, if you didn’t, you were apparently not interested enough to have first sought the answer in the sources I’d already cited.

  47. #47 Phil
    February 21, 2014

    proximity1,

    My question was not even about evolution. It was about a particular (and peculiar) evolutionary point of view. Kupiec doesn’t have answers per se. He just has different, disputable ideas.
    http://pleiotropy.fieldofscience.com/2009/07/stochastic-cell-differentiation-my-ass.html

  48. #48 eric
    February 21, 2014

    Phil:

    So, how does the theory explain the formation of original genes?

    Through chemistry. The formation of basic organic building blocks has been observed in nature. The formation of polymers from these building blocks has been observed in nature. I could be wrong but AIUI, even the autocatalysis of organic molecules has been observed in nature (which is a fancy way of saying self-replication: the formation of some molecule makes it easier to form more of that same molecule).

    Now we don’t know which replicators life started out being/using, and we don’t know the sequence. But all the mechanisms are there, observed.

    In contrast, ID creationism has no mechanisms and no observed designer. Which means ID creationsism is much worse an idea than evolution. And this is why the creationist approach of trying to highlight the gaps in the TOE will never work; because theory selection in science is a comparative process. We compare two or more ideas and use the one that has the most support, makes the best predictions. No matter how gappy you perceive the TOE to be, ID creationism will continue to be rejected so long as it does worse at providing mechanistic explanations for how things occurred, so long as it has no evidence that any such designer exists. Want the ID concept to compete? Here’s the best way to do that: use your time to discover a billion-year-old genetics lab or precambrian rabbit, rather than complaining that the TOE does not answer every question about abiogenesis. The former is how you get your idea accepted as legitimate – the latter will never do it.

  49. #49 Sean T
    February 21, 2014

    I should have been more clear; you can prove evolution wrong if you make the right observation. However, despite your protestations, this has not been done. What you cannot do is have your ideas accepted simply by proving evolution wrong. You, (as well as most supporters of creationism and iD) are guilty of the fallacy of false dichotomy. At best, the scientific answer will revert to “we don’t know” if anyone were to actaully disprove evolution, at least absent any evidence and testing of an alternative theory.

    It seems that you have more of a problem with abiogenesis than evolution, especially when you talk about formation of the first genes. Presumably, the first living organism would be equipped with genes. Since evolution can only begin once we have organisms capable of reproduction, this question would fall outside the scope of evolution. I’m not really an expert on the subject, but AFAIK, abiogenesis is a topic much more worthy of questioning than evolution; all we really have right now are some speculative hypotheses.

    As for actual evolution, the evidence is there. Multiple, independent lines of evolution lead to the same conclusion. An evolutionary phylogentic tree can be developed in multiple ways, such as the fossil record, molecular structures, anatomical and physiological studies, and genetic sequencing, for instance. If evolution is true, we should expect that all these ways will lead to essentially the same phylogenetic tree. While there are minor differences in the trees (which represent uncertainties in how we perform our classifications), the trees for all these methods are essentially the same. There are no large scale differences. This is a falsifiable prediction made by evolution, and it’s a test passed, thus lending more credibiility to the theory.

    Another line of evidence (and another falsifiable prediction). Viruses reproduce by inserting their DNA into a host cell (yes I know there are RNA-based viruses, just keeping it simple here). Occasionally this DNA is inserted into an egg or sperm cell, and also occasionally, this insertion does not harm the reproductive cell to the point where its function is impossible. Therefore, there are occasionally insertions of viral DNA that are passed on to an organism’s offspring.

    It is possible to detect these insertions in the DNA of modern organisms. While these insertions are improbable, there have been many opportunities for them to occur, and all organisms have such insertions. Now for the testable prediction. We would expect that if two organisms share a common ancestor, they would share some of the viral insertions that were present in that common ancestors genome. Further, we would expect that if there are three organisms, and one branched away from a common ancestor prior to the branching of the other two that there would be insertions shared by all three, insertions shared by the two later branchers, but that there would be no insertions shared by the early brancher and only one of the other two organisms. For instance, one hypothesis of evolutionary theory is that gorillas, chimpanzees and humans all shared a common ancestor, and that gorillas branched off the evolutionary line prior to humans and chimps. This would lead to a prediction that there are no viral insertions present in gorillas and chimps, but absent in humans (and that there are no insertions present in gorillas and humans, but absent in chimps.) This prediction has been found to be true for the case of the primate line. It has been a useful feature for testing other phylogenic relationships as well.

    Now, even if you can’t falsify evolution, use ID to make some predictions and test them. I would certainly think that one prediction would be that a useful trait found in one organism should be found in other closely related ones. This prediction is false, however. Just consider the ability to synthesize vitamin C, which is found in most mammals, but not in primates. The mechanism for vitamin C synthesis is present, but a mutation in one of the genes has rendered it inactive. How would ID account for this? Why would a designer put all the mechanisms in place for vitamin C synthesis, but break that mechanism? It would be akin to a skyscraper built with elevators that are permenantly broken.

    Let’s try another one: mechanisms designed to perform a given function in one organism should be essentially the same as mechanisms designed to perform that same function in other organisms. Why reinvent the wheel? A designed biosphere, IMO, would contain copies of similar structures for similar functions. This prediction is also false in the real world. Consider the function of sight. There are at least two distinctly different eye designs: the compound eye of insects and the eyes of vertebrates. (There may be more; again I’m not an expert) Why would a designer put two completely different eyes in these two classes of organisms?

    You spend so much time arguing against evolution that you fail to consider the implausibility of your own alternative. That’s the real reason that scientists don’t take it seriously. There just is no evidence for it. There is a lot for evolution. It’s as simple as that.

  50. #50 Feelgood Goodman
    MN
    February 21, 2014

    Simple Question: Can any of you explain how there could possibly be creation or creatures without a Creator?

  51. #51 eric
    February 21, 2014

    Can any of you explain how there could possibly be creation or creatures without a Creator?

    There can be creatures without a Creator in the exact same way there can be a Creator without a Creator.

  52. #52 Feelgood Goodman
    February 21, 2014

    I’m no genius but it seems to me (and I would assume any other rational, semi-intelligent thinker) that it would be IMPOSSIBLE for creation and/or creatures to exist without a Creator. I see a painting and I know (or “logically conclude”) that there was in fact a painter. Likewise if I heard a symphony or a Beatles song I wouldn’t assume the instruments accidentally BANGED up against each other to create a collection of sounds in perfect harmony. I know there must have been a composer. A building must have a builder, a cooked meal must have a chef and so on. There must be a God or else we simply wouldn’t exist.
    Am I stupid?

  53. #53 Michael Fugate
    February 21, 2014

    FG, tells what you mean by creator. Do you need a creator to make a snowflake? or a diamond? Or can complex structures arise without any intelligence?

  54. #54 eric
    February 21, 2014

    that it would be IMPOSSIBLE for creation and/or creatures to exist without a Creator.

    Then how can there be a creator? Clearly you think it is possible for some things to exist uncreated, because you think there is such a thing. Yes?

    The difference between us can perhaps be described this way: we both think there is at least one or more uncreated things. You think that that thing must be sentient AND intelligent AND kind AND powerful AND take a particular interest in human beings. While I don’t assume any of those properties.

  55. #55 Sean T
    February 21, 2014

    Feelgood Goodman,

    I would suggest that by your very choice of words, you are begging the question. By referring to the universe as a “creation”, you implicitly assume that which you conclude, namely that there is a creator. How do you know that the universe as a whole is a creation?

  56. #56 Feelgood Goodman
    February 21, 2014

    MK I’m thinking that EVERYTHING living or otherwise has a common origin and that origin is intelligent and intentional-aka God. We can go as far down the rabbit hole as we want, but the journey begins and ends with a creative Being whose intelligence supersedes our own. An ant’s intelligence is closer to Einstein’s than ours (Einstein’s or Darwin’s) is to God’s. Is Intelligence needed for a diamond or a snowflake to exist? I’d say an obvious yes. Or at the very minimum there must be an Intelligence that created the substances and processes necessary to form a diamond or snowflake? There can be no science without God and subsequently we would have nothing to discover, to analyze or debate if it weren’t created in the first place. The journey down the rabbit hole is infinite but God is the tour guide.

  57. #57 eric
    February 21, 2014

    I’m thinking that EVERYTHING living or otherwise has a common origin and that origin is intelligent and intentional-aka God.

    Yes, we understand that’s your assertion. But saying it over and over again lots of different ways is not evidence that it’s true.

    Is Intelligence needed for a diamond or a snowflake to exist? I’d say an obvious yes. Or at the very minimum there must be an Intelligence that created the substances and processes necessary to form a diamond or snowflake?

    Why? Don’t just say it must be or its obvious. Tell us why. What mechanism prevents an unintelligent first principle (like a law of nature) from producing all other substances and processes?

    If God can be uncreated, I see no reason why deltap*deltax>=hbar/2 can’t be uncreated. And from there…let there be light.

  58. #58 Feelgood Goodman
    February 21, 2014

    Sean T
    My answer is that because it -the universe- exists, I know or “logically conclude” that a Supernatural Creator created it. As far we’re concerned down here on earth, there would be no natural without the Supernatural.

    And one more thought for MF; If I place iron and water together, do they need any further involvement from me to eventually generate rust?

  59. #59 Sean T
    February 21, 2014

    You can “logically conclude” no such thing, unless of course you are begging the question, as I stated above. Your stated argument:

    Premise: The universe exists
    Conclusion: A supernatural creator created it

    is not a logically valid argument. There is no logical principle that connects your premise with your conclusion. Now, I would suspect that you are implicitly inserting an unstated premise into the argument, something like “For the universe to exist, there must be a supernatural creator.” If that’s the case, then you do have a logically valid argument, but a useless one. You have assumed that which you want to prove, namely that the universe requires a creator.

    God may indeed exist. (I personally don’t believe this), but you need to do more to prove the existence of God than just assert that God exists, which is really all you are doing in your posts.

  60. #60 eric
    February 21, 2014

    I know or “logically conclude” that a Supernatural Creator created it.

    Well, I don’t know, so you’ll have to walk me through your chain of logic please. The universe exists. How do you get from there to a sentient, intelligent, kind, omnipotent deity that takes particular interest in humans?
    It has to be sentient because…why?
    It has to be intelligent because…why?
    It has to be kind because…why?
    And so on.

    If I place iron and water together, do they need any further involvement from me to eventually generate rust?

    It doesnt’ take any human involvement at all; not even at the start. There are iron oxides on mars and in meteorites. Unless you are proposing space aliens were needed to put iron in contact with water throughout the universe, I don’t see how your example supports design. It seems to support Michael’s point instead.

  61. #61 Sean T
    February 21, 2014

    In case you don’t see the problem with your “logic”, here’s an analogous argument: my house exists, therefore it was built by pink unicorns. Note, there is no validity to this argument as it stands, but I have implicitly assumed the premise that if my house exists, it must have been built by pink unicorns. This argument does no more to demonstrate the existence of pink unicorns than yours does to demonstrate the existence of God.

  62. #62 Feelgood Goodman
    February 21, 2014

    Like I say Eric, it’s a rabbit hole of data that is impossible to understand in all it’s complexity and awesomeness. And if we could it we be difficult to retain or articulate. The “which came first the chicken or the egg?” debate has been around for a minute but where God is concerned, it could be that He just IS.
    He can’t be understood (completely), can’t be decoded and may just be the only anyone or thing that wasn’t ever created because He just is. Some of us may never comprehend that anymore than a month old baby would be able to comprehend Calculus. Much to your dismay I will state again that the proof/evidence that God exists is provided when you look in the mirror or walk outside or breathe or think or digest or feel or love or judge or CREATE anything. Like Father like son.

  63. #63 Feelgood Goodman
    February 21, 2014

    Sean T
    Let’s start there with the house and that we conclude there was a builder based on the existence of the house. You can call them pink unicorns, or construction workers or whatever. The important thing is that you’re able to admit or to acknowledge that there was a builder to at least think it up and execute it into existence. Now that we’ve established that SOME’M built the house, the next step is to discover who or what that some’m is (in Personality) so we can thank him or pay him or tell’em to F off. If we acknowledge that there had to at least be pink unicorns before the house, we’ve got somewhere to start.

  64. #64 eric
    February 21, 2014

    it’s a rabbit hole of data that is impossible to understand in all it’s complexity and awesomeness.

    You have told us that YOU logically conclude the existence of the creator. I want you to walk me through YOUR chain of logic. How did YOU get from “universe exists” to “creator.” Walk me through that. Surely you must understand your own reasoning!!!

    where God is concerned, it could be that He just IS.

    Okay. The question is: if that could be (true), then why can’t it be true of other things? I’d also point out that you are coming pretty close to circular reasoning here. If you begin with the premise that god is the only possible uncaused thing, then concluding that god is the only possible uncaused thing is not very convincing. In order to arrive at ‘god is the only possible uncaused thing,’ you can’t assume it to begin with. You have to start by assuming other uncaused things are possible and then come up with independent reasoning as to why they don’t exist.

  65. #65 Feelgood Goodman
    February 21, 2014

    I use the term “logically conclude” to be politically correct avoiding the assertion that I am correct. However… ;)

    There is an element of this discussion that is unstated and that is, relationship. We all (hopefully) have our respective parents and/or grandparents in our lives that we have personal experiences and relationships with. I do not have insight into the dynamics of yours Sean or yours Eric, but my ignorance about the relationship does not mean that the people don’t exist or that they don’t have specific personalities/attributes/accomplishments etc. You know who they are, how they think, what they’ve done because they’ve given you fact evidence to support your belief or knowledge about them throughout the course of your life (they were here before you). I can’t possibly comment on them because I simply don’t know them. But if I called them up or had your history with them I might have something intelligent to say about them or confirm that the even exist. So goes the God situation. There is a relationship to be had and knowledge to be attained but is it desired? Conversation, intimacy, Q&A, provision, love & support or any other relational exchange is how one can gain further insight into His existence and subsequent involvement in human life. I don’t talk to everyone I see, but if I wanna get to know somebody I strike up a conversation.

  66. #66 Feelgood Goodman
    February 21, 2014

    To clarify my iron + water over time will generate rust analogy; I simply was trying to establish something similar to the “idea” that God created me and wife separately but does not need to get involved in our sex in order for us to produce offspring.

  67. #67 tomh
    February 21, 2014

    Wow. You guys have a lot more patience than I do, to dispute this kind of “logic.”

  68. #68 Feelgood Goodman
    February 21, 2014

    Tell me about it Tom…

  69. #69 tomh
    February 21, 2014

    As I said, I don’t have the patience to tell you about it. But it’s not hard to educate yourself if you want to. You obviously don’t want to.

  70. #70 eric
    February 21, 2014

    So, basically, I cannot expect you to explain how you got from “universe exists” to “creator?” Despite the fact that you have called the connection both obvious and logical, you cannot describe it. Is that about the size of it?

  71. #71 eric
    February 21, 2014

    Also, I guess I can expect that you will not address the whole concept of uncaused things and the fact that you believe in one of them while simultaneously telling us that they cannot possibly exist.

  72. #72 Feelgood Goodman
    February 21, 2014

    Then educate me Tom!!!
    If we talk about googling theories there are infinite claims to support either argument but like the world is flat theory, there was always the truth that existed despite a popular (yet false) belief. The debates about this matter will too end for each of us when we individually croak. Either we’re alone or we’re not. It will take a certain amount of faith to adopt either view because nobody was around when it all went down. The truth is all there is. What is that TRUTH? Not theory…

    Is the relationship thing a stumbling block or can somebody shoot down how that might confirm the existence of Deity? I’m talking about relationship that runs deeper than intellect or conscience. Are the billions of people that pray just crazy folk talking to an imaginary friend?

  73. #73 Feelgood Goodman
    February 21, 2014

    Eric my fellow man :)
    We weren’t there so we have zero tangible evidence to exchange. All we have are beliefs and ideas accepted or rejected as truth discovered or revealed by intellectuals, prophets, scientists, men and a God Man (?) that walked the earth before we got here. They recorded their findings and subsequent groups of men confirmed the validity of their records instigating our debate in 2014. We both formed our beliefs based on what we read, heard or saw demonstrated though neither of us witnessed a demonstration of creation. Darwin came about in the 19th century right? So we denounce the universally accepted belief that God created man (the 3 major religions do meet and agree there) despite the opposing theory’s age of less than 2 centuries? We will all eventually fully know as we are fully known but there is a lot of truth to be attained here on earth before we make that inevitable transition into the mysterious next dimension. Man has been sustained for centuries having reverence God. I do not reject science because I know that it is and I hear “intellectuals” say that they worry about a generation that denies science. Hoping no one does that but I am more worried about a generation who denies God. WHEW!!! We’d have an even bigger mess than we do now. Spiritual ignorance is more dangerous than ignorance about science given that the latter has no bearings on the “next life.” But what do I know? Let’s keep investing until it’s crystal clear.

    Oh I purposely brought up our parents and grandparents to raise the question: where do they go when they leave us? Where will we be in a hundred years when the earth is repopulated (God willing) with all new people? Do you wonder or are you cool leaving it to chance?

  74. #74 Phil
    February 21, 2014

    eric,

    “…we don’t know which replicators life started out being/using”

    What is actually known is that there is a minimum number of genes necessary for life and replication. The number is around 250. So in terms of actual scientific knowledge, life could not have existed at any level below this.

    “and we don’t know the sequence. But all the mechanisms are there, observed”

    This is a gross oversimplification. Random chemical formations are light years away from genes.

    You still miss the bigger and more important point. Genes are not just chemical assemblies. Genes do things.

    ===

    Seat T,

    “Since evolution can only begin once we have organisms capable of reproduction, this question would fall outside the scope of evolution.”

    Standard evolutionary theory is about change, and evolutionary change is about alterations to existing genes, or acquiring new genes. It doesn’t matter whether it is the first gene or a supposed later error, gene formation cannot be anything but a total accident. Neither hopeful mutations, nor deified natural selection could have had anything to do it.

    So gene formation, one of the core elements of biology, remains untested for compatibility with evolutionary theory.

    “You spend so much time arguing against evolution….”

    I usually focus on the basics, like facts which show that the whole mutations game is a fraud. Or other untested bedrocks.
    -
    “That’s the real reason that scientists…”

    That is seriously wrong. Characterizing the whole community as in-the-box materialists is just a tactic. There are lots of heavily credentialed scientists who do not accept the fluff that is passing for science. Sadly, lots of people spent their time in academia learning how to not ask questions. They function according to Weinberg’s Principle:

    “An expert is a person who avoids the small errors while sweeping on to the grand fallacy.”

  75. #75 AtariBaby
    February 22, 2014

    I have to say, based on this blog’s review, i watched this. IMO, it doesn’t meet the standards of good documentary. The film utilizes saccharine music, boring voice acting, and bad stock footage, and the result is that it accidentally comes off as a badly produced religious film. It meanders and it reveals little. I don’t disagree with the filmmaker, I just don’t think he made a very good film.

    To those who come looking for reviews of this doc, there is a youtube video that captures all of the interviews with creationists in the film, and that is really the only interesting part. Save yourself an hour and just watch that 5-minute video.

  76. #76 eric
    February 22, 2014

    We weren’t there so we have zero tangible evidence to exchange.

    If you have zero tangible evidence for god designing the world, then the rational outcome is that you don’t believe that god designed the world. You say, instead, “I don’t know.”

    So we denounce the universally accepted belief that God created man (the 3 major religions do meet and agree there) despite the opposing theory’s age of less than 2 centuries?

    First…universally accepted? You must be joking. There have been many many religions, with wildly different creation myths, and practically none of them were monotheistic. Even today, you’ve got about half the world which is either polytheist (Hindu) or Buddhist.

    Second, yes, denounce it is exactly what we should do. If the evidence supports a young theory more than some hallowed, revered, historic idea, we reject the historic idea. That’s what happened in the case of geocentrism. Newtonian mechanics. The humor theory medicine. We replace “Zeus causes lightning” with Maxwell’s equations, so I see no reason why we shouldn’t replace “God created something out of nothing” with Heisenberg’s equation.

    As far as I can tell, you have nothing resembling any argument for design or creation. If you do, you keep refusing to share it. The fact that you keep saying that design is obvious to you says to me that what you’re relying on is the argument from incredulity: you cannot imagine that nature could do these things, so you conclude nature did not do them. That’s a logical fallacy, and a pretty obvious one.

  77. #77 Feelgood Goodman
    February 22, 2014

    Eric,
    In hindsight “universally accepted” was the wrong phrase considering you my man. What I mean (to clarify) is that most people have and do presently accept the idea that Someone, something or some God(s) intelligently and intentionally created creation and all it’s creatures. Most people do not believe that we are alone or that this harmonious occurrence is accidental. I do KNOW that there is God but I unfortunately cannot hand you evidence of things unseen, however I do encourage you to look at what you can see. You’re working so hard to believe He doesn’t exist that if He came down to visit, you would still deny-though you wouldn’t be the first to make that mistake. Speaking of mistakes, consider the arrogance it takes to denounce God and the imminent shame one might feel if they one day discovered they were completely wrong/misinformed/misled. DANGER!!! No theories or equations or fashionable new ideas could ever trump truth. When it’s brought to light it obliterates what is false.

    I notice that everything you post is all about knowing or what can be known, brain diaharea and nothing metaphysical or spiritual. Question: do you as a being consist of more than flesh and intellect, or are you more complex? I don’t know you from Adam, but I have my thoughts. And you are absolutely correct when you say “I couldn’t imagine nature doing these things-alone”, that’s a good thing (tried for shits and giggles and couldn’t no more that I could forget my mother.) The more urgent question is are you in denial, or can you imagine that God did them?

    Try and if you see Him, be humble and start asking questions!

  78. #78 MNb
    February 23, 2014

    “I do KNOW that there is God but …”
    Then how do you know?

    ” look at what you can see”
    Have done so for 50 years. No god. At all.

    “You’re working so hard to believe”
    Can’t speak for Eric, but no,”believe he doesn’t exist” is bad phrasing. I don’t believe he exists – there is nothing to believe.

    ” if He came down to visit, you would still deny-though”
    Not necessary for me. I can very well specify for you what kind of evidence I would accept.

    ” the arrogance it takes to denounce God”
    Only if you consider the arrogance it takes to think some omni-everything immaterial being would have an interest in silly material beings like you and me.

    “When it’s brought to light it obliterates what is false. ”
    Yeah yeah – when I’m king my son is my successor.

    “if you see Him, be humble and start asking questions!”
    Will do. The first thing I’ll ask is why he permitted all the genocides, why he permitted Elisabeth Fritzl to be raped by her father two, three times a week for 24 frigging years.

  79. #79 Phil
    February 23, 2014

    “Then how do you know?”

    Speaking only for myself, as a dispensationalist, that is knowable because human history is grinding towards an end that was forecast thousands of years ago.

  80. #80 Feelgood Goodman
    February 24, 2014

    MNb,
    How is it possible for me to actually love you though I do not know you or your history? God (1John 4:8), conscience? I can say without arrogance that I SINCERELY want you to fulfill and know all your potential as a human being. What is the network of compassion and empathy that allows me to feel that, and for you/us to feel it for Elisabeth Fritzl and the victims of genocide? Do monkeys in Asia give a damn about the ones in South America? You, being made in the image of God, have a need to see justice served for the evil that takes place in this world as He does and promises to deliver (even where our own personal “small” evils are concerned but that’s another topic for a another thread.) I hear people who are reluctant to acknowledge Him say the same thing you did; “why does He allow this and why does He allow that if He really exists?” Another way to look at it is; if He didn’t exist how much more rampant would evil be? If we didn’t have laws and police on the streets, what would restrain or regulate crime and punish it when it occurs? Just because crime happens doesn’t mean there are no laws, cops, court systems or jails and just because there is evil doesn’t mean that there is no LAW, God, justice or hell.

    It was interesting to learn that what initially got the wheels turning in Darwin’s mind were the same questions of why (violence in the animal kingdom, violence in the world, why did my daughter die?) Asking why does not eliminate His existence.

  81. #81 MNb
    February 24, 2014

    @Phil: how do you know that “human history is grinding towards an end that was forecast thousands of years ago.”? I don’t see such thing.

    @FG: “Do monkeys in Asia give a damn about the ones in South America?”
    How does that prove god?
    Btw even your analogy is false. Asian monkeys do not belong to the same species as South American ones. You and I do. So do you give a damn about cockroaches? If yes, how does that prove god iso human capability to feel empathy?

    “How is it possible for me to actually love you”
    Even if I don’t have an answer (you should ask neurobiologists) you are only arguing for a god of the gaps. What you need to do is prove that a materialistic explanation is a priori impossible. No believer ever has succeeded.

    “if He didn’t exist how much more rampant would evil be?”
    That’s an irrelevant question for an omnipotent being like your god. Crime rates in the USA are much higher than in The Netherlands. That’s a good reason to conclude that American police does a bad job.
    Your god has much more power than Dutch police. So I expect more from him.

    “Asking why does not eliminate His existence.”
    Granted – it makes it just far less likely. Noting this doesn’t answer the question though why your god, given him being omni-everything, allows suffering a la Elizabeth Fritzl. Or the innocent victims of Japanese and Filippine tsunami’s for that matter.

  82. #82 eric
    February 24, 2014

    FG:

    You’re working so hard to believe He doesn’t exist that if He came down to visit, you would still deny

    Nope. If he comes down to visit in a confirmable and reproducible manner, I’ll accept he exists. My position is, I’ll need the visit before I change my mind.

    consider the arrogance it takes to denounce God and the imminent shame one might feel if they one day discovered they were completely wrong/misinformed/misled.

    I see no shame in being wrong when I’ve come to the best conclusion I could, given the evidence available to me. I might be wrong about God. Then again, I might be wrong about fairies in my garden, too. Neither possibility keeps me up at night or gives me a reason to change my mind about God or fairies.

    Question: do you as a being consist of more than flesh and intellect, or are you more complex?

    Flesh and intellect…which I think is pretty damn impressive on its own. I don’t deny the wonders that we see all around us, with human cognition being one of them. I simply don’t see any evidence that these wonders were created by a god.

    The more urgent question is are you in denial, or can you imagine that God did them?

    Sure I can imagine it. I can imagine a lot of possibilities (for causes of our universe). The fact that I can imagine some cause is not, on its own, any reason to think it is real.

  83. #83 Sean T
    February 24, 2014

    Feelgood,

    Many things to say here, so apologies for a long post.

    First of all, I don’t accept the notion that most people have and do accept the notion of a creator. Maybe in a technical sense of “at least 51% of people do”, that’s true, but there are a large number of people who don’t accpet this. Buddhists, for instance do not. Buddhists view the creation of the universe as an unanswerable question not worthy of contemplation. Atheists also do not, and there are quite a lot of us. In any case, whether or not you are correct in this assertion is irrelevant. I will grant that many people do believe this, but that has no bearing on whether or not those people are correct.

    Second, my analogy that you object to is approprate. We both look at the universe and see order. You call the cause of this order “God”, and attribute all kinds of attributes to it that are not really in evidence. I call this cause “natural law” and attribute nothing to it except what is in evidence. Certainly, you can see that there’s more than just a difference in naming here. If I were to assert that my house arose because unicorns built it, that would likewise be a ridiculous assertion. You are doing far more than asserting that SOMETHING created the universe; you are asserting that an omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent being who continues to meddle with the universe did so. You have to provide evidence for those attributes for this idea to be widely accepted. Consider your forum, man. You are not preaching to a congregation here; you are on a SCIENCE blog. We don’t accept ideas here without evidence.

    As far as concluding that there is a builder for a house goes, you are correct; we can confidently do so. That’s because we know how houses originate. We know that houses cannot reproduce themselves, let alone reproduce imperfectly, potentially leading to improved houses. We know no such thing about living creatures, on the other hand. We know that organisms can and do reproduce. We know that the product of such reproduction sometimes contains novel traits not present in the parent organism. We know that some organisms are better capable of reproduction than others. We know no such thing about houses (or any other artifact that you want to throw out there), so we cannot conclude an evolutionary process for houses. We can for organisms because there is evidence and observation backing up that conclusion. You cannot just assert that organisms cannot arise from an evolutionary process; again you must show evidence to demonstrate this claim.

    I can certainly understand why people believe in religion. For most of the history of humanity, people lacked the capacity to provide explanations of the world around them. The natural human inclination is then to tell stories to explain these phenomena. Religion arose precisely from such stories. One of the big things that needs explaining is death. Obviously, nobody wants to die. (That is readily explained by evolution, BTW; organisms with an instinct for self-preservation would obviously be more likely to survive and reproduce). Religion gives us a way to believe that we won’t die. Most religions contain such a feature, the ascension to heaven in the Abrahamic religions, reincarnation in Hinduism and Buddhism, etc. My question, then, is how do you know that when your body dies your soul will go to heaven? How do you know that you won’t be reincarnated or just cease to exist? Please spare me the Bible quotes; I am looking for a convincing argument that would be accepted by a non-believer, Biblical justification won’t cut it.

    Which brings me to my last point. Why can’t you religious people just admit that you believe what you do strictly out of faith and not because of any logic and science? If religious believers would do so, there would be less conflict between science and religion. I cannot speak for everyone, but I personally would have no conflict with someone who believes in religion if they kept it to themselves and stopped trying to make up scientific/logical justifications for their beliefs. Personally, I have more respect for someone like the man in this program who claims he’d believe 2+2=5 if it were in the Bible than I do for those believers who constantly try to justify their beliefs with science, or at least I would if people like him would stop trying to force society to abide by his beliefs. For most of you religious believers, it sure does seem that you are trying to impugn science and gain acceptance by the scientific community simultaneously.

    Perhaps you should take some of your own advice; be humble, ask questions. Nobody is asking you to give up your belief in God. Accepting ANY scientific theory does not require that. There are many scientists in general, and evolutionary biologists in particular who are theists. What it does require, though, is opening your mind to possibilities other than the literal word of the bible. If you recognize, however, that the Bible is not a science text, but a work of morality, then the whole of the Genesis account boils down to “God created the universe, including man and all living things.” It does not literally speak to HOW God did this. It certainly leaves open the possibility that God used evolution as a tool for creating biodiversity. The scientific theory is certainly consistent with this interpretation as well. Some deity influencing gene combinations would be indistinguishable from random genetic combinations.

    If you were to argue from such a point of view, I would disagree with them, but I would not have any argument from a scientific basis to do so. My objections would be philosophical, such as your lame attempts at theodicy, for instance. Your analogy with police and crime is completely inapplicable, for instance. The police are neither omnipotent nor omnibenevolent, so it is no surpise that crime exists despite the presence of police. God is purportedly omnibenevolent and omnipotent. Why is it that God cannot wipe out evil? Being omnipotent, he must be capable of doing so. Being omnibenevolent, he must desire to do so. Why, then, is there evil? Is God not omnipotent? Is he not omnibenevalent?

  84. #84 Walt Jones
    February 24, 2014

    Sean, eric, and MNb: Thanks for taking the time to clearly articulate the scientific perspective, as you always do.

    Feelgood: I look forward to your reply and sincerely hope that it’s not, “The Lord works in mysterious ways.”

  85. #85 MNb
    February 24, 2014

    “Why can’t you religious people just admit that you believe what you do strictly out of faith and not because of any logic and science?”
    Because logic and science have had some success last 200 years and believers want to ride that bandwagon too.

  86. #86 Blaine
    February 24, 2014

    @83
    “God is purportedly omnibenevolent and omnipotent. Why is it that God cannot wipe out evil? Being omnipotent, he must be capable of doing so. Being omnibenevolent, he must desire to do so. Why, then, is there evil? Is God not omnipotent? Is he not omnibenevalent?”

    Some think that the logical problem of the existence of evil has been solved by Plantinga. See this wiki site which has a decent write up: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alvin_Plantinga%27s_free_will_defense

    I don’t agree that he has, but some do.

  87. #87 Phil
    February 24, 2014

    MNb,

    “how do you know that “human history is grinding towards an end that was forecast thousands of years ago.”? I don’t see such thing.”

    There are many prophecies about the end times. The centerpiece, in terms of players, is Israel, though lots of other nations are involved. The restoration of Israel as a political entity after war 2 was a benchmark. Without going into miles of available details, it is going to get unimaginably ugly.

    ===

    Sean T,

    “Why can’t you religious people just admit that you believe what you do strictly out of faith and not because of any logic and science?”

    There is nothing logical or scientific about billions of DNA replication failure events resulting in millions of plant and animal species. The various ideas about accidental formation of the complex molecules are pumpkins-turning-into-carriages level fairy tales….nothing more than religious fables.

  88. #88 proximity1
    February 25, 2014

    There are lots of problems in our habits of thinking and examples of these can be found among all types–the religious believers, the scientific, both of these being, of course, short-hand summaries of highly complicated and inconsistent individuals.

    Here are some examples drawn from a proponent of scientific reasoning : (Try and spot the problematic aspect of the cited remark)

    @83
    “We both look at the universe and see order. ”
    “We don’t accept ideas here without evidence. ”
    “Consider your forum, man. You are not preaching to a congregation here; you are on a SCIENCE blog.”
    “The natural human inclination is then to tell stories to explain these phenomena. Religion arose precisely from such stories.”

    My experience in science classes–high school and college, without a specialization in any one field–is that science courses don’t practice any formal and systematic approach to the development and use of reasoning, per se. They typically did not dwell on matters of how we reason or the sources of our most common reasoning errors. I now think the reason may be that there has been, until recently, only comparatively little agreement about how to handle such teaching. Apparently, the most brilliant scientists arrived at their reasoning habits more by their own peculiar histories of trial and error, of occasional lucky insight and of modeling and adapting the reasoning practices of others they met or read or heard about.

    So we have no systematically approached effort to describe and transmit to others the ways and means of developing and testing and separating good reasoning from poor reasoning. Consequently, there is in science, as in religious reasoning, a lot of poor reasoning and, as this thread tends to demonstrate, at some point, nothing in compelling authority is known to exist which can bridge either camp’s skepticism for the bases of the reasoning chains—wildly variable in rigor and quality–in both.

    It would seem, then, that reasoning–and the teaching of it to others–is an art, not a science. And the quality of the success in teaching reasoning and in learning reasoning is as dependent on the artistic talent of the student as it is on the artistic talent of the teacher.

    Many technically-competent scientists simply are not very good at the art of reasoning or in the art of teaching reasoning to others. So, rather than attempt to do so, when they teach at all, they teach strictly the substantive facts of their fields and leave the students to find in their own time and their own way the logical and reasoning implied by the fact-set being taught.

  89. #89 eric
    February 25, 2014

    Phil:

    The various ideas about accidental formation of the complex molecules are pumpkins-turning-into-carriages level fairy tales….nothing more than religious fables.

    Accidental development of new complex molecules (leading to new developmental features) is directly observed. See for example Figure 4a in this article: 4A gives you the exact point mutations observed in the gene fleN (PA14_45640), which gave rise to multiple flagella, which allowed the mutated daugters to access a new behavioral strategy called “hyperswarming.”

    Now unless you are claiming that God came down and fiddled with the DNA of these specific flagella in this laboratory, while the scientists were doing this experiment, then you pretty much have to accept that it was a bunch of mutations. And that these mutations lead to the development of new complex proteins which resulted in different development and a population of organisms with a new phylogeny and novel capabilities.

  90. #90 MNb
    February 25, 2014

    @87 Phil: “There are many prophecies about the end times.”
    There also have been many in the past. None of them were correct. It’s not knowing what you do, it’s parroting of made up stuff.

    “nothing more than religious fables.”
    Are you sure you’re not a Poe? This coming from someone accepting prophecies which invariably have failed in the past is one of the best jokes I have read lately.

  91. #91 Sean T
    February 25, 2014

    proximity,

    Which of those statements do you find problematic? Statement one is well backed by evidence – symmetry is an important and integral part of almost all of modern physics, for instance. There’s plenty of evidence for order in the universe.

    The second statement is also not problematic. We do require evidence to accept scientific ideas. Evolution, despite what its critics claim, has loads of evidence in its favor. All other accepted scientific ideas have evidence in their favor as well. You may be thinking of things like abiogenesis (which is NOT part of evolution, no matter what the critics want to say), string theory, or other speculative ideas, but the point of these is that these ideas are not generally accepted by the scientific community. There is much debate about these ideas. AFAIK, for instance, there is no generally accepted idea about how abiogenesis occurred. I really didn’t think this statement was particularly controversial.

    The third statement is merely one admonishing the poster that a different type of argument is necessary to convince people on this blog than what would be found convincing to a religious audience. A biblical quote, a reference to some “common sense” analogy, or any of the other typical anti-evolution arguments won’t cut it here. We want scientific evidence before we will reject evolution. Again, the fact that the audience here is different from what it would be in a religious setting and that this audience requires a different type of evidence is not a particularly controversial notion.

    My final statement is descriptive, not prescriptive. I don’t think it’s really debatable that religion arose from attempts of humans to explain the world around them. Look at the mythology of ancient civilizations. There typically are gods governing most important natural phenomena that were important to these civilizations. Obviously, the religion of these civilizations came about from a desire to explain the world. Later religions arose as refinements of these earlier ones. I never stated that I thought people OUGHT to believe in religion as a way of understanding the world, just that the origin of religious belief was from that desire.

    Now, each statement is defensible individually. That only leaves a perceived contradiction as your objection to my post. Where is that contradiction? Am I missing an unstated premise somewhere? I have already demonstrated that the first two are not contradictory. Scientists accept that there is order in the universe because we have evidence for that order. We have observed, for instance, light from distant stars and found that the physical laws governing light emission and absorption from atoms have not changed over time. That is order; that is a symmetry of the universe. We have evidence that this symmetry exists, so we accept it. We also have evidence for other symmetries. Noether’s theorem tells us that any time we find a conserved quantity there is a related symmetry of the universe. We have many conserved quantities, so there are many symmetries.

    Statements one and three would seem to have no logical relationship, so there really is not a possibility for contradiction. The fact that we perceive order has no bearing on the audience of this blog.

    Statements one and four are also non-contradictory. We look at the universe and see order. We desire an explanation for this perceived order. The first explanations that arose were religious in nature. I see no contradiction between these statements.

    Statements two and three again seem to have no basis for contradiction. We do demand evidence before accepting ideas. That is the nature of the audience on this blog. No contradiction here.

    Statements two and four likewise are not contradictory. There is plenty of evidence that the origin of religion came from attempts to explain the natural world. There are writings still in existence telling myths about natural phenomena. The fact of death figures prominently into many of these myths. I see no reason to believe that there is a contradiction here.

    Statements three and four, finally, also are not contradictory. While the natural human inclination is indeed to tell stories to explain the world, science is a tool to overcome that natural inclination. It is true that science “tells stories”, but the difference is that once science tells a story, we go out and try to demonstrate that the story is false. If we can’t do so, despite the best effort of the scientific community, we tend to believe that the story may have merit. Of course, we refer to such “stories” as hypotheses.

    Unless you are adding something that I did not state, I fail to see the error in my reasoning. Despite your accusations of inability to reason, I don’t think weak reasoning is particularly rampant in scientific circles. It seems more the province of non-scientific argument, especially with regard to criticism of evolution. Argument ad popularum and false dichotomy seem to be particularly rampant among critics of evolution, for instance.

  92. #92 Michael Fugate
    February 25, 2014

    proximity – did you miss all those text on research methods, experimental design, experimental analysis on the market?

  93. #93 proximity1
    February 25, 2014

    “– did you miss all those text on research methods, experimental design, experimental analysis on the market?”

    I guess I did. But a marketplace in something proves nothing other than there are some people ready to sell a product and others ready to buy. Both seller and buyer can be deluded about the genuine value of the product. Browse the “self-help” or the “business and marketing” sections of a bookstore for examples of what I’m talking about.

    My point was that, in practical reasoning, we are dealing with artful skill where, unlike lower mathematics, no uniform and general idea of the correct answer to a given problem settles dispute about how to consistently reason effectively. For lack of that, we’re reduced here to suggesting that Phil please just drop it and go off and start his own blog where he can address his “proper” audience. This tells me that there’s no authoritative resort available to us by which we can meet and effectively expose his errors.

    The problem is there. We can see his reasoning mistakes and he cannot; and we have nothing but repetition to address his insistence on his errors. That’s what’s missing and if there is a marketed off-the-shelf solution out there somewhere, I’d be surprised to know that and delighted to see and test it. I’d have thought that it should have been quite sensational news.

  94. #94 proximity1
    February 25, 2014

    @91

    You are due much more in a reply than I can present at the moment. So I’ll limit myself to the bare minimum and take only one aspect of one of your points–about order.

    I see scientists’ seeing “order”– and evidence of it –everywhere in the universe as something analogous to religious believers seeing “God” everywhere and evidence of Him everywhere. I think scientific fixation on order is a function of our brain’s proclivity for pattern recognition and, just as often, to select or invent patterns and their first-cousins, natural order, cosmic order, etc. I also think that, more important than that aspect is that, this supposed order depends on the level of detail, the physical scale at which one is looking. On the level of atomic particles or sub-atomic particles, what’s ordered, what’s harmonious? what–apart from our creative imaginations’ designed products–does “symmetry” mean? I consider it a product of our value-judgements. We find and value symmetry not, I think, because it is “there” objectively but because we are creatures with an aesthetic sense–perhaps not the only such creatures. I think that once we can converse with dolphins or whales or chimpanzees about such matters, we’ll have a better idea about the validity of the objectiveness of the concept of symmetry. Science has dispensed with God(s) but still exhibits vestiges of the old fashioned wonder of the order of the world.

    For further reading:

    https://archive.org/details/metaphysicalfoun00burtuoft

  95. #95 eric
    February 25, 2014

    Proximity 1:

    This tells me that there’s no authoritative resort available to us by which we can meet and effectively expose his errors.

    I gave him the record of an observed example of the process he claims can’t happen. I think that’s pretty “authoritative.”

    Now if you are demanding a scientific argument that literally everyone accepts, and that is the only sort of argument that you will count as “authoritative,” then you are right – there are no authoritatives sources. But then again I think that puts you on a snipe hunt. No such argument exists – heck, there are still geocentrists out there.
    We should continue to use good arguments and cite credible and reliable evidence – first because it’s the ethically right thing to do, and secondly because its comparatively more successful than most other approaches out there.

    Lastly, I’m not telling or implying to Phil that he should drop it or go away to some other blog site. Quite the opposite – I want him to pay more attention to the evidence and arguments we supply here. Please stay. Please try to understand the evidence for evolution. Please read the articles we link to. And so on.

  96. #96 eric
    February 25, 2014

    I see scientists’ seeing “order”– and evidence of it –everywhere in the universe as something analogous to religious believers seeing “God” everywhere and evidence of Him everywhere.

    Hmmm…are you saying the order we scientists “discover” in the world around us is really just a purely internal, subjective judgement, not reflective of the way things behave and not amendable to general testing or falsification?

    That would seem a pretty easy claim to support – just show us some exceptions. Show us that for some people, F/=ma. Or show us that when some people bang particles together, they do not get results consistent with E /= mc^2. But until you can show us exceptions, I think it’s pretty reasonable of scientists to tentatively conclude (based on the evidence we have collected to date, and subject to future revison in the face of new evidence, yada yada yada), that these patterns are real – that because every person who does an experiment gets the same result, regardless of their religious, philosophical, or political beliefs, these results reflect how the external world works, not just some internal subjective experience.

  97. #97 MNb
    February 25, 2014

    @93 Prox: “We can see his reasoning mistakes and he cannot”
    That’s because he doesn’t accept the point I make next. This is not typically religious though.

    “I see scientists’ seeing “order”– and evidence of it –everywhere in the universe as something analogous to religious believers seeing “God” everywhere and evidence of Him everywhere.”
    You see wrongly. This analogy is common, but false for two reasons.
    1. Science uses two objective methods, ie independent of the person who uses it (so you can say “intersubjective” iso “objective” if you prefer): deduction and induction. F = m*a means the same for everyone everywhere. Everyone anywhere can observe things falling downward and not upward.
    Godseekers only use one objective method at best, namely deduction. God being unobservable by definition makes induction useless.
    2. Science has changed how the world looks like more in 200 years than all religions together in several millennia.

    It’s here that religion and science conflict (note: I don’t claim this conflict is unsolvable; that’s just not my problem). Ken Ham is a crystal clear example of course, but it applies to WLC (not to mention Edward Feser) as well:

    http://www.preposterousuniverse.com/blog/2014/02/24/post-debate-reflections/

  98. #98 Phil
    February 26, 2014

    eric,

    “Accidental development of new complex molecules (leading to new developmental features) is directly observed. See for example Figure 4a in this article…”

    First, the mutation is not a a behavioral strategy. It is an adaptation following a crippling of the wild type, as the article goes on to notice:

    “These results raise an intriguing question: if P. aeruginosa can be transformed from a monoflagellated.…into a polar multiflagellated….bacterium by single-point mutations, why is P. aeruginosa monoflagellated in nature? The answer to this question may lie in the fact that hyperswarmers are poor biofilm formers that lose against wild-type in biofilm competitions. Because biofilms are an essential part of the P. aeruginosa lifestyle, hyperswarmers likely face a strong counterselection in the wild, preventing their fixation there.”

    In other words, loss of motility is only an advantage in an unnatural environment. It would be like some group of animals being exposed to a mutagen and having offspring with extra legs. But there is a much more important point, the same one the authors of the cave fish mutations catalog idea were trying to figure out:

    “Placed in a broader perspective, our experiments in spatially structured swarming populations support that adaptive evolutionary paths can be, at least to some extent, predictable.”

    See the random slipping away?

    “Beyond P. aeruginosa, can we expect parallel evolution to be a general feature? Recent experiments on the adaptation of Escherichia coli to growth in high temperatures provide a counterexample and reinforce the notion that adaptive convergence can occur through diverse molecular changes”

    That would be reinforcing an intelligent design notion (though ID is too timid for my tastes).

    “Which conditions lead to convergent rather than divergent evolutionary adaptations is therefore a major open question in evolutionary biology.”

    It’s more a point of confusion than an open question because “convergent” doesn’t jive with the random mutations mandate. Why do the same supposedly accidental point mutations happen in multiple specimens with a 6-7 Mb genome? It isn’t that hard to figure out.

    “Now unless you are claiming that God came down and fiddled with the DNA of these specific flagella in this laboratory…then you pretty much have to accept that it was a bunch of mutations.”

    It is easier to just recognize that DNA is a prepared molecule.

    ===

    MNb,

    “There also have been many in the past. None of them were correct.”

    Lots of the interpretations were incorrect, and I’m sure more errors are forthcoming. But the future is still the future. The veracity of past forecasts and closures is reason enough to stay tuned.

    ===

    Sean T,

    “You may be thinking of things like abiogenesis (which is NOT part of evolution, no matter what the critics want to say)”

    Well if it isn’t, you must have some particular barrier in mind. Where precisely, would you draw the line between the two? Also, you must have some preferences about what happened before the first living organism was equipped with genes. What are those?

    “It is true that science “tells stories”, but the difference is that once science tells a story, we go out and try to demonstrate that the story is false.”

    That’s why I’m interested in the random mutations deal. Who tried to demonstrate that, and what questions were asked? I’ve spent considerable time trying to find records of scientists assaulting that specific notion, and honestly, I haven’t found anything at all. Can you provide some specifics?

  99. #99 proximity1
    February 26, 2014

    To get two things out of the way– there’s this, your last point, above, @ 95:

    “Lastly, I’m not telling or implying to Phil that he should drop it or go away to some other blog site. Quite the opposite – I want him to pay more attention to the evidence and arguments we supply here. Please stay. Please try to understand the evidence for evolution. Please read the articles we link to. And so on.”

    True, you’re not telling Phil to sram; it was Sean T who did that @ 88

    “You have to provide evidence for those attributes for this idea to be widely accepted. Consider your forum, man. You are not preaching to a congregation here; you are on a SCIENCE blog. We don’t accept ideas here without evidence.”

    You wrote, “I want him to pay more attention to the evidence and arguments we supply here.”

    To me, it’s now clear that he isn’t interested in doing that, even if he could. And, speaking for myself, since he isn’t apparently interested in doing any of that, I agree with Sean. Phil isn’t interested in an honest debate and thus really should, in my opinion, take his efforts elsewhere.

    Then, in that vein, did you notice how Phil “responded” to my citation of J-J Kupiec’s work, The Origin of Individuals ? He referred us to a site where Bjørn Østman pretends to discuss the merits and demerits of Kupiec’s work by citing, as sole supporting reference, the so-called “review” of it in Nature (http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v460/n7251/ris/460035a.ris )

    I’ve read that review in full and consider it a spectacular example of the kind of junk reasoning that is too common in science today. I very much doubt that Phil has done more than read the comments of Bjørn Østman. I suspect he never read in full the review. After I read it, I queried its author, Eric Werner, asking, among other things, whether or not he’d actually read all of the book he was reviewing. For an answer, I got a statement that explained that he’d debated with Kupiec on a public forum more than once and that he personally likes Kupiec, that he gets along well with him. As an answer to my question of whether he’d actually read the book, however, I consider what he replied (via e-mail) to be just an evasion of the question.

    i mention all that for two reasons. One, it shows us what junk-thinkers like Phil can do when they want to try and debunk some serious scientific work–they can turn to a journal as prestigious as Nature for “support” and find a supposedly bona fide scientist as Werner, writing spurious stuff which is ready-made for their cause. And, two, I’d just like to get out of the way a nagging question—would you please tell me, if you honestly can, that you aren’t that Eric. Because if you are, I’d lose the minimum respect I’d need to carry on in any discussion with you.

  100. #100 eric
    February 26, 2014

    Phil:

    First, the mutation is not a a behavioral strategy. It is an adaptation following a crippling of the wild type, as the article goes on to notice:

    It IS an adaptation, you are correct about that. An adaptation created through mutation.
    But I fail to see any crippling. There was a population of flagella. They descended with modification. The scientists genetically analyzed some of the daugters which had different phenotypes. This is exactly what evolution predicts.

    In other words, loss of motility is only an advantage in an unnatural environment.

    If it’s an advantage in ANY environment, then what you are agreeing to is that mutation produced a deveolpmental feature that can be advantageous.

    [report authors]our experiments in spatially structured swarming populations support that adaptive evolutionary paths can be, at least to some extent, predictable.”

    [phil] See the random slipping away?

    Nope. They saw random mutation followed by nonrandom and to some extent predictable selection. Which is evolution. You do realize that the TOE does not and never has required random selection, right?

    [report authors]Recent experiments on the adaptation of Escherichia coli to growth in high temperatures provide a counterexample and reinforce the notion that adaptive convergence can occur through diverse molecular changes”

    [phil]That would be reinforcing an intelligent design notion (though ID is too timid for my tastes).

    Um, what? Your conclusion is a complete nonsequitur to the passage you quote. It simply doesn’t follow. What the authors are saying is that in their system and in another e coli system, many different mutations were observed to lead to similar phenotypic changes. This undermines the notion that parallel evolution requires identical genetic change and reinforces the notion that there can be many genetic pathways leading to the same basic phenotype. How you think this support creationism or ID is beyond me. You creationists typically argue the exact opposite to what the authors are saying – you argue that a genetic change that leads to an adaptive phenotype is so improbable that it can’t happen naturally. Yet these guys are saying that there are many different genetic pathways that can lead to the same adaptive phenotype. Which ups the odds of getting there considerably.

    Why do the same supposedly accidental point mutations happen in multiple specimens with a 6-7 Mb genome? It isn’t that hard to figure out.

    Um…did you actually look at 4a? Its showing you many different mutations in different daughters. The “same supposedly accidental” mutation didn’t always happen.

    ****

    Proximity1 – I am not Eric Werner.

  101. #101 Feelgood Goodman
    February 26, 2014

    @83, 84, 91
    “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen” (Hebrews 11:1). There you have it Sean T. All the evidence is unseen and as I stated in an earlier post, I have nothing tangible to hand over. However “since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–His eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse” (Romans 1:20). For a person who believes that “all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2Timothy 3:16), it’s difficult to articulate His point of view without using a quote or two here and there. Nevertheless I’ll comply with your request and “spare you” leaving it at the aforementioned passages but know that the only way for you or anyone else to know anything substantial about God’s existence and/or His creation is to consult the Source.

    You are correct when you say “the Bible is not a science text” but we can’t limit it to being merely “a work of morality” considering that it deals with the spirit, heart and mind/conscience/intellect. Which brings me to what brought me to this science blog in the first place. I made a few assertions and asked a series of questions aimed at stimulating the part of your being that is spiritual, or to see if “science first” folks would even acknowledge that they had a spiritual component. Do you consist of only flesh and intellect? Is there a soul, a spirit, an eternal component to who you are? If so then eliminating God from yesterday, today and next century is out the window.

    Also, I can get with you when you say that people have historically “told stories” to explain the unexplainable but the bible is distinguishable from other religious texts in that it claims that God-through it-is explaining Himself to man rather than man attempting to explain Him. 40 different authors (of various professions and backgrounds, many having never met each other), over several centuries, wrote 66 books that tell a cohesive chronological story that documents God’s involvement in our situation-if true this could be classified as “evidence” that the document indeed had one Author. Furthermore it asserts that He actually came down to visit in the form of His Son demonstrating His Personality and intention while giving man the opportunity to have an actual personal/reconciled relationship with Him. Believe what you will about Jesus but His impact on the world was MASSIVE, unprecedented and ultimately ineludabile. Consider His movements radical growth from 1 to 12 to 2.2 billion and the 2 holidays celebrating the (Supernatural) events surrounding His birth and death-the alleged miracles. At the least a curious Fellow. Btw please forgive believers for continuing to spread His message as some feel spiritually compelled to do so despite the prospect of resistance/rejection. It’s a challenge for me to keep it to myself though at times I would like to.

    You’ve likely established a position on The Book and I promised to refrain from quotes so I’ll keep the handcuffs on, but a suggestion if I may; as an experiment ask God-via prayer of course-if He truly exists and if so to reveal Himself to you using any means necessary. What I’m saying about having a personal exchange is not impossible so there is the potential for you to get a response which would open up the opportunity to ask questions you want answers to. I never died before so I can’t tell you how I know that I’ll exit my body and be present with God but I just know. I have a soul or spirit that I am accutely aware of and I am intimately acquainted with God’s Spirit which confirms within me the promise of heaven. “I just know” would not be good enough for me if I were a nonbeliever (though I would be curious where the certainty comes from) so again I encourage an attempt at connection-if you are willing.

    Finally, why doesn’t God wipe out evil if He’s all powerful and all good? I have the complex answer in my mind but struggle to articulate it without posting those dreaded bible quotes. The best I can do is to say that He has already abolished evil in the eternal sense but it’s yet to happen in our dimension due to developing plot points. Literally impossible to understand without having Him reveal it. You have nothing to loose by testing prayer as everybody who does it isn’t doing it in vain.

  102. #102 eric
    February 26, 2014

    Well finally the proselytization comes out. So you weren’t really asking us how things came about because you were curious about the answers science provides. You were asking us so you could have a reason to evangelize us. Quelle suprise.

    a suggestion if I may; as an experiment ask God-via prayer of course-if He truly exists and if so to reveal Himself to you using any means necessary.

    Oh wow, I never thought of doing that before! You know it never occurred to me in the 18+ years I lived in a Christian household to, y’know, pray.

    I hate to burst your bubble, but you’re being a bit naive and whether you realize it or not, insulting. Most atheists have tried prayer before the first evangelist ever knocks on the door. IMO you should really retire this suggestion from your playbook; just assume the have and go from there.

  103. #103 proximity1
    February 26, 2014

    @100: “not Eric Werner”

    Thank you. I appreciate your settling the question for me.

  104. #104 proximity1
    February 26, 2014

    MNb @ 97

    I do understand what you are trying to argue in your points 1) and 2). I just don’t agree that things are quite that clear cut and simple. And, of course, since I’m not a professionally-trained scientist, when I say that I don’t agree, what I really mean is that the respected scientists–past or present–who’ve informed my views on these issues don’t or didn’t or wouldn’t see things that way. I know this from having read them.

    Like you, I use the term “science” in a short-hand to refer to the general enterprise of scientific inquiry. But when I use it that way, I am really speaking very loosely because, for me, the idealist abstraction that is “science” in the sense of the whole epoch-spanning enterprise, is a fiction which is just a convenient manner of speaking. For me, there are only people, individuals, alone or in concert, practicing something we call “science” for short-hand convenience’s sake.

    We can no more speak properly of a uniformly-done endeavor, “science”, placing all its practitioners on a par, than we can speak of “cooking” in that way. “Cooking”, like “science” runs the gamut from the sublime to the ridiculous and has brilliance at one end of a spectrum and embarrassing hacks at the other end. I recognize that there is claimed to be a “floor”–as in a minimal distinction—between the practiced reasoning of scientists and that of religious believers. But I find such a distinction vain when, as it has already been urged here (above, and, mistakenly so in my opinion) that there is no inherent contradiction in a scientist’s being also a person of conventional religious faith.

    For me, one of two things is true: either there is some greater or lesser degree of “enchantment” at work in the physical universe which scientists study, or there is none at all. I favor the latter view. As such, I consider every religiously faithful scientist as confused about both religion and about his professional endeavor–confused about their inherent irreconcilability.

    But that’s only an open problem for a very few practicing professional scientists. The majority don’t openly quibble with their religious peers– I put it down to what is wrongly seen as professional courtesy, which is very common. Once a scientist has taken vows, once ordained, he or she is given all kinds of special dispensation which a typical layman— or an atypical layman such as myself —is not afforded. Unlike the strange flora and fauna practicing science with credentials, degrees in a hard science, my views can be and have been dismissed on the simple ground that, as is said or clearly implied, “What do you know? You’re not a scientist.”

  105. #105 eric
    February 26, 2014

    Once a scientist has taken vows, once ordained, he or she is given all kinds of special dispensation which a typical layman— or an atypical layman such as myself —is not afforded. Unlike the strange flora and fauna practicing science with credentials, degrees in a hard science, my views can be and have been dismissed on the simple ground that, as is said or clearly implied, “What do you know? You’re not a scientist.”

    Has it occurred to you that the reason scientists reject your idea that their profession is like a religious order might not be your lack of degree, it might instead be because science isn’t like a religious order?

    Have you read Carl Sagan? Here is a quote from him I would ask you to consider: “The fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.”

  106. #106 Feelgood Goodman
    February 26, 2014

    @Eric
    If one has questions they can’t get answers to from mere men, I simply encourage them to consult the Person who has all the answers (if He’s up there). Like with any other quest for knowledge, persist if attempts have been made throughout the journey to no avail. Sean asked a specific question that I could not answer clearly so I naturally referred him to God given that I want him to get those answers. What’s wrong with that?
    Also I am interested in the scientific perspective but also feel compelled to share mine or perpetuate what I believe to be God’s when the opportunity presents itself. We’re exchanging ideas and perspectives is all. Sincere respect.
    Did you read the post I was responding to?

  107. #107 proximity1
    February 26, 2014

    Have I read Carl Sagan?
    No. And having read your citation, I’m not eager to take up his popularizations.

    @ 105: “Has it occurred to you that the reason scientists reject your idea that their profession is like a religious order might not be your lack of degree, it might instead be because science isn’t like a religious order?”

    Again, all my views are based on the supporting evidence I’ve found and taken from scientists who are experienced professionals. See Lee Smolin in The Trouble With Physics for commentary on science practiced as though it’s a religious order. Or Kupiec and Sonigo in Ni Dieu ni gène : Pour une autre théorie de l’héréditéor

    –sorry, I’m out of time. I could’ve gone on.

    But, beyond that, your retort amounts to, “What do you know? We’re scientists and we say science isn’t comparable to a religion! What do you know? Mr. Layman?

    So, thank you for helping me make my point, above.

    Finally, I refer you to your own reply to Feelgood Goodman’s post @ 101 where he recommends you try prayer.

  108. #108 Michael Fugate
    February 26, 2014

    So proximity you are automatically right because you read a couple of science books? Show us some evidence that the two are actually practiced the same. Why does Smolin make that claim about physics? Of course there are similarities because they are both practiced by humans, but beyond that what?

  109. #109 Michael Fugate
    February 26, 2014

    Also on what basis does Smolin know how religion in religious orders is practiced? Did he do a systematic study of religious orders?

  110. #110 MNb
    February 26, 2014

    @101 FG: “experiment ask God-via prayer of course-if He truly exists and if so to reveal Himself”
    Done so a couple of times as a teenagers, about 35 years ago. Nothing. Mind you, I called myself an agnost and dualist back then.

    “The best I can do …”
    That will be a great, great comfort to Elisabeth Fritzl and the victims of the Japanese and Filippine tsunami’s. Not.

    @104 Prox: “We can no more speak properly of a uniformly-done endeavor, “science”,”
    Where is your evidence? Last few years I have followed the blogs of some historians and archeologists. The first formulate the hypotheses and theories (ie deduction), the latter do the digging to test them (ie induction). Of course methodology is adapted to the field of research (the Principle of Embarrassment doesn’t really work when testing Newton’s Laws) but in it’s core I don’t see any difference between the quest for the higgs-boson (CERN) and the quest for the waste Moses should have left behind in the Sinai (Finkelstein and Hawass).
    Further what MF asks.

  111. #111 eric
    February 26, 2014

    But, beyond that, your retort amounts to, “What do you know? We’re scientists and we say science isn’t comparable to a religion! What do you know? Mr. Layman?

    I admit it was fairly terse, but then again, I have yet to take my vows, be ordained, or receive my special dispensations when I speak. When does that happen? After one receives a BS? Masters? PhD? Post-doc?

    In fact on boards such at this (including this one!), I typically don’t mention what field my degree is in, what type it is, or how many years of experience I have in that field. So if you’re implying I’m a card-carrying, robe-bedecked scientist, you’re doing it based on the content of what I say rather than my credentials. Which I guess I should take as a compliment, but it also kinds of undermines your whole point that people are using authority and background rather than content to evaluate arguments.

    Finally, I refer you to your own reply to Feelgood Goodman’s post @ 101 where he recommends you try prayer.

    I read it, but I’m afraid you’ll have to be more specific about what you want me to do with it. Are you suggesting I pray? Was there some other point in it you think I should address?

  112. #112 proximity1
    February 27, 2014

    @ 111
    “When does that happen? After one receives a BS? Masters? PhD? Post-doc?”

    Generally, I suppose, it takes a Ph.D. to gain the sort of cred that protects one from the sort of easy dismissal that lay people routinely get from scientists when they venture to voice their opinions on a topic.

    But, whatever your field of study, a fawning deference for mainstream scientific opinion will –in fora such as this one–also afford you safety from ridicule by credentialed scientists, even if you aren’t one of them since only the rarest of scientists would ridicule a layman for having a too orthodox view on any matter of scientific controversy.

    I notice, too, that you very seldom directly address any of the points I actually argue in my posts.

    “Are you suggesting I pray? Certainly not.

    Was there some other point in it you think I should address?” Well of course there was. And I pointed it out explicitly:

    “I refer you to your own reply to Feelgood Goodman’s post @ 101 where he recommends you try prayer.”

    “Oh wow, I never thought of doing that before! You know (_fill-in-the-blank_) never occurred to me” ….

  113. #113 proximity1
    February 27, 2014

    @ 108:

    “So proximity you are automatically right because you read a couple of science books?”

    Because, after all, that’s what I had claimed, –er, wasn’t it?

    The point here is about reasoning habits themselves and the distinctions, if any, in the way scientists are used to reasoning—note, this reasoning is not the famous “scientific method” per se, it is the fundamental reasoning habits which are applied in the pursuit and practice of the “scientific method.” Anyone who reasons is, then, qualified to mull over and comment on these issues.

    “”Show us some evidence that the two are actually practiced the same.”

    The best most-recent evidence I know of is in the latest books by Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow and Robert Trivers’ Folly of Fools. Anyone reading those and supplementing them with Smolin’s The Trouble With Physics should gain a very good idea of the case I’m trying to defend here.

    Why does Smolin make that claim about physics? Because years of his own personal experience in the profession–together with a quite rare candor–led him to see these things first-hand and then write about them when he finally concluded that no one else was going to do it.

    But, please, put the onus on me to rehearse here for you all of that. Don’t refer yourself to these texts. As they say on television, “Hey kids! Don’t try this at home!” Just wait for me to go and look up, copy and paste, so you don’t have to investigate it for yourself—as I feel obliged to do when I don’t even have the first idea about the topic that I am curious about.

    “Of course there are similarities because they are both practiced by humans, but beyond that what?”

    Why “beyond that, what?” ? Really, isn’t that the point and isn’t that “enough”? Scientists are bound to use the same kinds of reasoning methods as others and this means, importantly, that they are susceptible to the same reasoning errors and habits of error. A few days ago, mulling over the thread here, I thought of posting this–

    You watch and wait–someone soon is going to admit, under duress, that “sure we scientists make the same sorts of mistakes as everyone else in our reasoning and in interpreting data”. The problem is, that admission only comes after the point is made and pressed by a critic. This recognition, which comes whenever it’s necessary to admit it to an outsider critic is apparently not an abiding part of the everyday working picture which scientists keep in the forefront of their consciousness. If that weren’t so, there’d be no need to repeatedly remind scientists that they use the same kinds of fault-prone reasoning that the rest of us do.

  114. #114 proximity1
    February 27, 2014

    @ 110 : “@104 Prox: “We can no more speak properly of a uniformly-done endeavor, “science”,”
    Where is your evidence? Last few years I have followed the blogs of some historians and archeologists. The first formulate the hypotheses and theories (ie deduction), the latter do the digging to test them (ie induction). Of course methodology is adapted to the field of research (the Principle of Embarrassment doesn’t really work when testing Newton’s Laws) but in it’s core I don’t see any difference between the quest for the higgs-boson (CERN) and the quest for the waste Moses should have left behind in the Sinai (Finkelstein and Hawass).”

    …”but in it’s core I don’t see any difference between the quest for the higgs-boson (CERN) and the quest for the waste Moses should have left behind in the Sinai

    — which, as regards the reasoning methods that go into any given sort of empirical research, is really my point, after all. However, I don’t subscribe to the commonly held distinctions in “induction” versus “deduction”. And, no, I’m not interested in regurgitating here all of Bertrand Russell’s exposition on how and why this is a serious delusion on the part of so many who think they are really distinct sorts of reasoning approaches.

    And this— “ ‘We can no more speak properly of a uniformly-done endeavor, “science” ( , placing all its practitioners on a par, than we can speak of “cooking” in that way.),’

    “Placing all its practitioners on a par” refers to individual practice compared and contrasted –and especially within a field —not varied fields, taken as mono-typical practices which are then compared and contrasted to others, supposedly different or not.

    Where is your evidence?” –really? You can’t review your own experiences and discover any evidence of this? And you’ve actually thought about it?

  115. #115 eric
    February 27, 2014

    Generally, I suppose, it takes a Ph.D. to gain the sort of cred that protects one from the sort of easy dismissal that lay people routinely get

    You’re missing the point twice over. First the obvious one – that no degree comes with the sort of ‘frocking’ you imply. If authority is gained, it’s a cumulative rather than a step-wise process. The more you do in your field, the more people in that field respect you.
    Second, and more important point – I don’t know your degree. I don’t know what level it is, I don’t know what it’s in, I don’t even know if you have one. I don’t know whether you’re 50 and have 20+ years of published field work in your field behind you, or whether you’re a teenager working towards their HS diploma. Now, I am NOT asking you for any of this information. What I am trying to point out is that what you’re accusing me of doing – judging your opinion based on your credentials rather than it’s content – is impossible, because I don’t know what your credential are. I have no idea who I’m talking to or what your background is – so how could I possibly be judging your posts on your CV, publication record, GPA, degree, or any other such thing? I can’t be. I don’t know that stuff. The only thing I know about proximity is your post content. So when I say I think you’re wrong, that is based on your post content.

    But, whatever your field of study, a fawning deference for mainstream scientific opinion will –in fora such as this one

    Another reason people might dismiss your content is because you seem to go out of your way to insult them. I do accept mainstrem scientific conclusions on the vast majority of stuff (I won’t say ‘all’ because I don’t know what ‘all’ implies). But by saying ‘fawning deference,’ you’ve implied that I accept this out of personal self-aggandizement, because I’m some sort of brown-noser, and that there is no rational thought or good jutification behind my position. That’s both insulting and arrogant, because you are basically telling me that you know my own motivations for belief better than I know them. When you say stuff like that to people, believe me, their subsequent dismissal of you is not based on the sort of degree you have or whether you’re a layman in their field. Its based in part on the fact that you just accused them of doing ‘fawning deference’ of scientific ideas rather ‘rational consideration’ of scientific ideas.

    “I refer you to your own reply to Feelgood Goodman’s post @ 101 where he recommends you try prayer.”

    “Oh wow, I never thought of doing that before! You know (_fill-in-the-blank_) never occurred to me” ….

    Okay, still not making the connection. Is there something I suggested you do that was completely obvious and which you have already done? Am I acting towards you the way FG is acting towards me? You reference to my post is still not clear to me.

  116. #116 Sean T
    February 27, 2014

    Feelgood,

    Please. That’s what you’ve got. Spare me. If you believe what you do by virtue of faith and require no actual evidence for you beliefs, fine, I won’t argue with that. If you want to present evidence for your beliefs, however, I will call BS. You are aware, for example, that the Bible you claim tells a coherent story over 66 books and 40 authors actually contradicts itself right from the get go. One author, one book, and it can’t even maintain consistency! Which came first, Adam or the animals? Genesis 1 says the animals, Genesis 2 says Adam. There are certainly other contradictions in the Bible such as conflicting geneologies for Jesus, and the question of who exactly it was that Cain married. Even granting a resolution to the contradictions for the sake of argument, consistency across many years and many authors is not evidence of divine origin. It speaks to mulitple authors who read the works of previous authors and incorporated the previous works into their own.

    As for praying, I am fond of the old George Carlin bit. I pray to Joe Pesci. Why? First, he’s a heck of an actor, and second, the success rate is about the same as praying to God, 50/50. Hopefully, you get the point. If you pray for something and it comes true, that’s not proof that your prayer actually worked or that there is a God. If I flip a coin and pray that it comes up heads, and then it does, is that proof of God? What you prayed for might well have happened anyway.

    BTW, you answer regarding the problem of evil is a cop out. Why would a just, merciful and benevolent God allow all the suffering that is out there because HE is taking the long view? While it might please Him that in a million years or so all will be right with the world, how does that help people who are suffering NOW? He’s still omnipotent, you know. He could end all the suffering now, so why wait?

    Even if I believed that God exists, I would question the purported omnibenevolence of God. The whole notion of the Fall as the cause of death galls me, for instance. Would you be okay with it if someone came along and told you that 300 years ago, your great-great-great-great grandfather killed someone, so now you are going to be executed? Isn’t that pretty much what the fall story is about, though? Adam and Eve sinned, so we all have to be punished for it. We are all still being punished for something that was done by people we don’t know thousands of years ago. That certainly doesn’t speak of omnibenevolence to me.

  117. #117 Michael Fugate
    February 27, 2014

    You watch and wait–someone soon is going to admit, under duress, that “sure we scientists make the same sorts of mistakes as everyone else in our reasoning and in interpreting data”. The problem is, that admission only comes after the point is made and pressed by a critic. This recognition, which comes whenever it’s necessary to admit it to an outsider critic is apparently not an abiding part of the everyday working picture which scientists keep in the forefront of their consciousness. If that weren’t so, there’d be no need to repeatedly remind scientists that they use the same kinds of fault-prone reasoning that the rest of us do.

    That’s a pretty big slam on scientists – which of course includes your heroes Smolin, Trivers and Kahneman. Who are these critics that point out the logical errors and if they are scientists are they only able to point out errors in the work of others, but not their own? I don’t think you argument as it stands is much more than hot air mixed with a healthy dose of hyperbole.

  118. #118 eric
    February 27, 2014

    someone soon is going to admit, under duress, that “sure we scientists make the same sorts of mistakes as everyone else in our reasoning and in interpreting data”.

    Under duress? That’s the entire point of open publication and peer review!!! Methods sections etc…are there because scientists want other people to check their work. Disclosure of details and potential problems is an integral part of practically every single scientific study performed.

  119. #119 Phil
    February 27, 2014

    “Isn’t that pretty much what the fall story is about, though? Adam and Eve sinned, so we all have to be punished for it.”

    No. There is punishment, but not for A&E’s or your sins. All the sins have been atoned for. The issues are compatibility and/or completeness. Sins are not the issue at the judgment.

  120. #120 eric
    February 27, 2014

    All the sins have been atoned for.

    Why?
    God is omnipotent, right? So atonement isn’t some metaphysical requirement. He could dispense with it if he wanted.
    “. Done. End of problem.”

  121. #121 Phil
    February 28, 2014

    Atonement is an integrity requirement. There has to be a basis for mercy. No caprice involved.

  122. #122 Walt Jones
    February 28, 2014

    So God needs to adhere to a requirement. How is that omnipotent?

  123. #123 Feelgood Goodman
    February 28, 2014

    Sean T,
    I can’t imagine that bit about Joe Pesci (love Joe Pesci!) is doing George Carlin any good wherever he is and the joke’s likely lost all of it’s humor from his perspective. I’m somewhat crippled in expressing a thorough response to your post but…

    Let’s start with your last point-my cop out; The Fall, granddaddy’s sin etc. The truth is we don’t need the sins of yesteryear to kill us because our own will sufficiently do the job. You WILL die, I WILL die and that’s because the wages of our own sin is death. But taking into account the accumulation of history’s sin, they do affect the climate (I’ll skip the global warming analogy) of this generation’s suffering. A white man is up for a job in a company in Atlanta Georgia that he’s perfect for, but looses it to a less qualified black man. He is pissed at affirmative action and has the right to be, but does not know that his great great grandpappy owned a slave that happened to be the great great grandpappy of the black applicant. The sins of his ancestors interfere with his present day situation as Adam messed it up for all of us. But anybody not named Jesus Christ would have done the same thing in his shoes as we prove daily. Jesus; EVERYBODY has to confront His identity and Who exactly they think He was/is. No questions about His genealogy or any other perceived inconsistencies could change the fact that He came, He conquered and is still conquering/changing the world/increasing. People have been questioning God and the bible for centuries and they just can’t kill it or keep it’s Hero in the grave. The 66 books over centuries by 40 authors/Author, dispute it-knock yourself out. These dudes were slick to collaborate on a lie this grand and supernatural, risking and loosing their lives in some cases to ensure it’s execution and resonance. No email, no phones, no time machines, sometimes no knowledge of each other. To accurately write about events and people born after you’re dead and gone takes some skill. But I wasn’t there so what do I know? Yet I’m still a witness who sees unseen evidence generating my own unshakeable testimony.

    Away from The Fall and on to Redemption. You’re right it would suck to have had my grandfather(s) commit murder and to be punished for it myself, but take a (vice versa) look at the purpose of Jesus. I sin or transgress (or even murder someone) in my present life and because of the action of another Person in a previous generation I’m pardoned in all the ways that truly matter aka I’ll get what I do not deserve in eternity-as the story goes. There is the “glass is have full” truth about our trajectory. The alleviation for sin and suffering has been accomplished. It is finished and the omnibenevolent God has already wrapped it up in that Man Jesus. We’re down here worrying about this person’s suffering, that person’s suffering, our own pain and He’s already dealt with it in the grand scheme of things-far from “taking the long view” as His perception of time is different than ours as His understanding supercedes our own. “So why wait (on abolishing evil in our time zone)?” Answer: Grace, patience, mercy, love for those who’ve yet to attain citizenship or take Him up on His offer. Fathers have families and that’s all He wants out of humanity, a big family. The universe is expanding so maybe He’s making room for you.

    Finally, imagine that George Carlin still exists somewhere and isn’t laughing and didn’t meet Joe Pesci at the pearly gates. Trust a stranger and be persistent about a humble confrontation with Him on your quest for more knowledge. With respect for you, ultimately we can’t get away from Him anyway.

    No answer as to whether or not we have a spiritual/eternal component to who we are? Can you rule it out?

  124. #124 Phil
    February 28, 2014

    “So God needs to adhere to a requirement. How is that omnipotent?”

    Well, He does adhere to to His policy. The attribute is immutability.

    Consistency makes it obvious (to me) that the Bible is not a human production. Humans will go with what they like, and reject what they don’t like. God cannot and will not do this. The policy and method of redemption is a central theme that starts in Genesis and continues to Revelation, and is authenticated by prophecy every inch of the way.

    There is a reason why Isaac Newton spent more time writing about apocalyptic books than he did science.

  125. #125 proximity1
    February 28, 2014

    @ 115: “… no degree comes with the sort of ‘frocking’ you imply. If authority is gained, it’s a cumulative rather than a step-wise process. The more you do in your field, the more people in that field respect you.
    Second, and more important point – I don’t know your degree.”

    Never mind about that. At this point in the record it’s clear– we’re two laymen exchanging our layman’s opinions about how well or how poorly people–including scientists, in the course of their work—reason and handle criticisms. Neither of our non-science-credentials, good, bad or indifferent, are of much pertinence under the circumstances. And, as I already mentioned, what’s more interesting than any scientist’s (or any non-scientist’s) dismissal of my own opinions is the fact that what is ultimately being dismissed, generally speaking, concerning discussion fora on science topics, is other scienists’ work– which I may happen to be referring to as a supporting example or as the object and topic of my comment itself.

  126. #126 Sean T
    February 28, 2014

    Feelgood,

    I suspect we have come to an impasse. The premises that we start with are different, and likely we are just talking past each other. I certainly can’t rule out that there might be a spiritual aspect to human existence. My Soul-o-meter is broken, and I can’t find anyone to fix it. Obviously (I hope!) that’s tongue in cheek, but it makes the point I am trying to make. I am not going to believe things that are not in evidence. There is no evidence for a spiritual component to human existence. Your Biblical stories do not count as evidence; they are simply stories written down over the years by a bronze age tribe. They are certainly valuable from a historical and anthropological perspective, but for the purpose of prescribing how we should live, I don’t think they have much relevance. Of course, you would disagree with me. You see, that’s one example of our disparate premises; your premise is that the Bible is the inerrant word of God, mine is that any written source must be verified by external evidence before being treated as truthful.

    I don’t mean to come across as dismissive or condescending. You may very well end up being right. That seems to be another difference in our premises. I can certainly conceive of the possibility of being wrong about things. Obviously, and I don’t mean this as criticism because it’s inherent in the origin of your beliefs, you cannot conceive of the possibility that your beliefs are wrong. Given that, I don’t see that it’s really productive to try to debate further with you. You are going to believe what you do regardless of evidence presented to you. That’s the nature of a belief system based on the premise that an omnipotent being has written down everything we need to know to live our lives in one handy book.

    I am convinced that no evidence I present will have any effect. I am not asking you to change your beliefs, but just to think critically about them. I have given you contradictions in the Bible itself, for instance, and you simply ignored them as unimportant. In the next breath you continue to brag that 60 books and 44 authors don’t contradict each other, when in fact I’ve shown you that 1 book with (presumably) 1 author contradicts itself. Which was created first, Adam or the animals? You still haven’t answered that question. You gloss over the geneology conflicts as being unimportant, and I would agree; they are unimportant to the real message of the Bible. However, the Bible is purportedly the word of an omniscient, omnipotent God. What happened then to create this contradiction? Did God forget what the real geneology was? Did he fail to communicate the geneology correctly to the human authors? While not essential to the basic message, such contradictions do call divine inspiration into question.

    That brings up one final point. We agree above that some details of the Bible are less important than others, with the example of the geneology of Jesus being one such less important detail. Why is the detailed method of creation not such a detail of lesser importance. Let me just present you with a thought: (I am going to assume divine inspiration for the Bible for the sake of argument here): what if the real message God is sending in the Genesis creation account is that God created the universe, but the details written down were written as such in order to be comprehensible to a pre-industrial, pre-scientific tribe of sheep herders in the near east. In other words, the message that is important is that God created everything. The details of HOW He did it are to be counted as another example of those that are less important than the overall message. Think about it; suppose God set up the universe in such a way that polynucleotides would invariably self-assemble and being to make copies of themselves. These polynucleotides would, based on laws of chemistry God created, create proteins which would carry out certain functions necessary for the assembly of the whole chemical agglomerate into a primitive cell. Then, this cell would continue to copy itself, with errors in these copies occurring from time to time and with some of those erroneous copies actually improving upon the original. Given sufficient time and sufficient changes to the original cell, we end up with all the different organisms existing today. How would such a scenario be contradictory to the basic message of the Bible, which is that God created everything? How would God describe this to a tribe of people who have no clue about cellular biology, genetics, evolution, etc.? I would think it not unreasonable that He would use a myth, much like the one seen in the Bible.

    I’ll leave you with one final point: why did it take God 6 days to create everything? Why did He not just speak and everything appeared? Surely He could have done just that, right? My point is that the Bible story does not just say “God created everything,” but also that God used a PROCESS to do so. Isn’t that just what the scientific theories say?

  127. #127 Walt Jones
    February 28, 2014

    Phil @ 124: “Consistency makes it obvious (to me) that the Bible is not a human production.”

    Notwithstanding the inconsistencies, I’m sure. See Sean’s post @116.

  128. #128 Michael Fugate
    February 28, 2014

    If Phil’s and Reuse’s god were to actually exist and were to actually have designed living organism, then this shows the character of this god of love [sic]: http://phenomena.nationalgeographic.com/2014/02/27/crawling-through-the-brain-without-getting-lost/

  129. #129 eric
    February 28, 2014

    FG:

    Atonement is an integrity requirement. There has to be a basis for mercy. No caprice involved.

    I don’t see why atonement is an integrity problem. The entire point of forgiveness and mercy is that you don’t require that people “pay” for their bad acts. So, snap your fingers and show that omnimercifullness, God!

    And mercy is only capricious if you withhold it from some people for no good reason. Granting it to everyone because you’re the omni-nice guy is not capricious in the least; there’s nothing arbitrary in either the motivation or the effect.

    God waited 2,000+ years to enact his fix when he didn’t have to. And then he make himself or his son go through pain and agony when he didn’t have to. That would be like me deciding, “hey, I’m going to show my kid how much I love today by cutting off my thumb.” That’s not a sign of love – it’s a sign of insanity.

  130. #130 eric
    February 28, 2014

    Proximity:

    what’s more interesting than any scientist’s (or any non-scientist’s) dismissal of my own opinions is the fact that what is ultimately being dismissed, generally speaking, concerning discussion fora on science topics, is other scienists’ work

    Well, now you seem to be refuting yourself. This particular conversation started by you claiming that scientists (and pointing to me as the example) dismiss laypeople in an unwarranted fashion – because of credentials rather than substantive reasons.

    Now you’ve decided that I’m a layman, and the opinions I’m dismissing are those of scientists. So how does that support your point? Doesn’t it make the exact reverse point?

  131. #131 Phil
    February 28, 2014

    Sean T,

    “suppose God set up the universe in such a way that polynucleotides would invariably self-assemble and being to make copies of themselves. These polynucleotides would, based on laws of chemistry God created…”

    But this doesn’t happen. All the empirical evidence says that life only comes from life.
    -
    “…into a primitive cell. Then, this cell would continue to copy itself, with errors in these copies occurring from time to time and with some of those erroneous copies actually improving upon the original”

    Ditto above, noting that the improvement by errors notion is not plausible, nor is it a tested, scientific idea. It is just a ‘stuck with’ default. At the very starting line, DNA replication is up against extremely effective enzymes which are there to remove copy mistakes, and thereby prevent evolution. Good luck trying to explain the accidental formation of these formidable proteins.
    -
    “why did it take God 6 days to create everything?” Why did He not just speak and everything appeared?

    For those of us who accept the days = millennia, it established the pattern of human history.
    -
    “….the Bible story does not just say “God created everything,” but also that God used a PROCESS to do so”

    Where does it say a process was used?

    ===

    Walt Jones,

    “Notwithstanding the inconsistencies, I’m sure. See Sean’s post @116”

    Which came first, Adam or the animals? Genesis 1 says the animals, Genesis 2 says Adam.

    Chapter 2 is not a retelling of chapter 1. The first account is the sequence. The second is details. The English translations which begin 2:19 with ‘and’ are the source of this confusion.

    “There are certainly other contradictions in the Bible such as conflicting geneologies for Jesus”

    This is about credentials. The Messiah had to qualify first as a son of Abraham, specifically from the tribe of Judah, more specifically as a son of David. The genealogy in Matthew traces the lineage of adoptive parent Joseph back to Solomon, and then back to Abraham. The sequence in Luke is the humanity bloodline, which goes back to Nathan, another son of David. From there, it goes all the way back to Adam. Luke undoubtedly had access to Matthew’s record as he mentions many other accounts in his first verse.

    “and the question of who exactly it was that Cain married”

    This isn’t a contradiction, but it was a sister.

    ===

    Michael Fugate,

    “If Phil’s and Reuse’s god were to actually exist and were to actually have designed living organism, then this shows the character of this god of love”

    First, the only available alternative is to accept that the wasp, the venom and the behavior are the result of random DNA replication errors.

    But this is why I am a creationist, as the narrative reasonably explains the consequences of the fall. Death and natural carnage are not the normal order of things.

    ===

    eric,

    “mercy is only capricious if you withhold it from some people for no good reason”

    A judge cannot just forgive the accused. Justice is the attribute, and impeccability is the standard.
    -
    “God waited 2,000+ years to enact his fix when he didn’t have to”

    No, He did have to in order to be merciful. Even the dead righteous were held up in sheol until ‘It is finished”. The signal that atonement was complete came when the veil in the Temple was torn from top to bottom.
    -
    “And then he make himself or his son go through pain and agony…”

    I can’t argue with that. One of the most startling things in the Bible is the description of the role and accomplishment of the Messiah in Isaiah 53, recorded some 700 years before the crucifixion. There is a chilling notation there:

    “..it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin”

  132. #132 proximity1
    March 1, 2014

    @ 130

    “Now you’ve decided that I’m a layman, and the opinions I’m dismissing are those of scientists. So how does that support your point? Doesn’t it make the exact reverse point?”

    I didn’t just decide to consider you a layman–in the sense we mean here. You explained that you are. Prior to that, I assumed you to be a credentialed scientist in some specialist field. That’s just my working assumption in any forum like this. I think it’s better to assume, in the absence of other contrary indications, that the other person is in some way a credentialed scientist.

    And I don’t have just one undifferentiated point. I have several related points that compose a view of current common features how scientists and lay-people often interact–as evidenced in their public oral or written discussions as I’ve observed them.

    I doubt that this thread’s life-span is going to suffice to develop things much beyond where they are now–which isn’t very far. So, I suggest a short-cut.

    Think of my general view this way: Scientists, as a class, behave more or less like any ordained (in the most generic, not religious, sense) profession–e.g. law, medicine, architecture–where a culture of the profession is transmitted and acquired in the process of earning credentials. There is professional jargon, codes of behavior –open or unspoken, pecking orders, rewards and advantages for orthodox behavior, demerits and costs for unorthodox behavior. Without trying to present an exhaustive picture, I intend this as a summary of the larger picture. You present in your comments here the views that I’ve found are typical of a rather uncritical defender of that abstraction “science”–to which I don’t subscribe in the first place–and that makes you look to me like you are a professional scientist. Given that the thread is on the topic of Creationists vs. Darwinists, those on “our side” of that divide are bound to look like they are scientists even if they are not.

    I was interested in trying to include the question: why, with all the time and money and effort expended in the U.S. on education, is the population so poor in its average capacity to reason well and effectively? And do scientists, as a class, have something or nothing in distinctly different and better reasoning habits from those practiced by everyone else? If so, what are they? Are the differences in the results of reasoning by scientists and non-scientists real or only seeming?

    And to what extent are the typical social interrelations between professionals and lay-people similar when comparing scientists’ interactions with the lay public with other non-science professional classes’ interactions with the lay public. Do these aspects bear somehow on the progress–or the lack of it–in promoting in the lay-public both a better appreciation of what scientists do and how they do it and, so, in helping advance the likelihood that scientific knowledge is imparted to and accepted by the lay-public?

    Maybe Darwin’s genius is lost on so much of the American public for the same kinds of reasons that science knowledge, in general, is not well assimilated by the lay-public. And maybe significant aspects of the root causes are also to be found in the way that scientists know or don’t know much outside their own fields of professional interest.

    How many regular participants here are professional scientists? How many are not? How many scientists are concerned enough about the issue of the lay-public’s knowledge and understanding of Darwin to actually participate in helping improve it and how many, by contrast, are simply too busy with their own work to care or to think about how well scientific understanding is appreciated and assimilated among the general public?

    I think a relative handful of scientists care very much about this latter and the rest care little or not at all about it. I think there is a relative handful of scientists who exemplify an open and generous attitude toward the lay public and the rest are either indifferent or simply hostile to what they consider the untutored public intruding on their special domains. I think the untypical attitude among scientists is to consider themselves as little or no different from the rest of the public, prone to the very same intellectual frailties and mistakes as are found in all kinds of people who are not trained as scientists. I think that, while many, if pressed, will admit that, many more will not, unless pressed, admit it. And least likely to admit it are those who are also least likely to be in a position to be pressed on the issue since they don’t put themselves in such a position in the first place.

    In the whole Creationist/Religion vs. Darwin controversy– as is also typical in this thread, until I raised it–the focus is entirely on what is lacking or faulty on the lay public’s part when considering the matter of what we both see as any failure by the lay-public to have a good appreciation for Darwin and his and his successors’ work on the biology of evolution by natural selection.

    Typically, the question: “what is the part of scientists’ responsibility in these circumstances?” is not raised or considered. I didn’t see it raised or included here until I raised it myself.

  133. #133 Michael Fugate
    March 1, 2014

    @132, I can only argue from personal experience, but my view is very different than yours.

    I work at a research university and we have many and varied outreach programs, in part because many NSF grants have outreach as a component, but also because we want an informed citizenry. Tomorrow for instance, we have faculty and graduate students presenting a program on animal olympics for the public at a local museum. We also participate in the public secondary school STEM academy. We have outreach programs for elementary and secondary school teachers. We are working with the establishment of a Smithsonian granted nature center in a city wilderness park. Many of our faculty have participated in workshops on teaching – especially training in active learning – where students are not just passive receivers of knowledge, but learn to think through problems working with data and analysis. This is just a small sample of the activities we do.

    Do some people in the community still think we are elitists – without a doubt – and in some cases they would be correct. Could we do better, could we do more – of course? But as you say we are only human.

  134. #134 Walt Jones
    March 1, 2014

    The problem is not what is lacking on the lay public’s part, but what is there: active resistance to giving people the education they need to understand evolution.

  135. #135 proximity1
    March 2, 2014

    @ 134:

    “The problem is not what is lacking on the lay public’s part, but what is there: active resistance to giving people the education they need to understand evolution.”

    These are, at most, it seems to me, two sides of the same coin–if not, indeed, just another way to express the same thing–that is, a distinction without a difference.

    I don’t deny that lay people don’t merely passively oppose understanding Darwin and his work but also actively oppose it–that is, they resist attempts by others to teach them. But, again, I am asking what, if anything, is the part and the role of scientists in this, yes, active resistance being so successful?

    I wonder : how many scientists are going to vigorously object to scientists or lay people who, despite ardently defending all the orthodox science concerning biological evolution via natural selection (Darwin’s bio-evolution, for short), don’t understand its principles?

    ( Attention (below) ! : Heresy/blasphemy warning)

    In my opinion, though creationists and proponents of intelligent design do a great deal of mischief in keeping people confused and misinformed about Darwin’s work and its real import, I think that the so-called great Ernst Mayr
    has done even more harm, over all, because his work has contributed to the confusion of not only lay people but scientists, too.

  136. #136 Phil
    March 2, 2014

    “…how many scientists are going to vigorously object to scientists or lay people who, despite ardently defending all the orthodox science concerning biological evolution via natural selection (Darwin’s bio-evolution, for short), don’t understand its principles?”

    Scientists are supposed to continually audit theories. Conforming to orthodoxy should only happen when all the questions have been asked and all the objections have been adequately addressed. When the method breaks down, education collapses into indoctrination, which is very effective, but not very good.

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