Pharyngula

Handing out a little rope

This fellow, Daniel J. Lewis, from Answers in Genesis has come along and requested a space to defend creationism.

Then if the blog administrator allows it, I’m available to publicly discuss creation vs. evolution if we can do so on level, intelligent grounds without childish attacks. You can start with your belief system (naturalism), and I can start with mine (the Bible).

Perhaps the blog administrator will create a specific area where we can do this. (Preferably a place to which I can subscribe via RSS or email.)

I’m open to debate, are you?

I’m not too keen on accommodating creationist kooks with demands like that, especially when he could have just said what he wanted on that thread, but OK…I’ll give him a chance. Let’s see some intelligent discussion of creationism. It could be amusing.

So, everyone, keep quiet on this thread for a while. Give Daniel J. Lewis a chance to make his statement first.

Comments

  1. #1 bmurray
    November 26, 2006

    I’ll second the call to settle on an axiom list before you start. That way as soon as God comes up either he has to prove it or you agreed to it on the axiom list. All too often these arguments wind up with a statement like:

    “If God exists then Y”

    …and there is an instant disjunct because we see it as a setup for a reductio ad absurdum to disprove God and they see it as a derivation of Y from an axiom.

  2. #2 oldhippie
    November 26, 2006

    Daniel the view of most naturalists is that we have a view that makes the best interpretation of the available evidence. If as you claim:

    “I know that the biblical worldview is the only correct one because it is the only worldview that is entirely consistent with what we observe.”

    Then you are going to have to back that up with the evidence. Starting with age of the earth and how people came into existance would be good starting points. Note that in your statment you say the biblical worldview is ENTIRELY consistent with what we observe. So if you start by telling us about the age of the earth and how people came into existence, these are two points we can discuss on the basis of available evidence.

  3. #3 Mike
    November 26, 2006

    Protobiochemist,
    I am sure you know, but just to aviod a possible pitfall, carbon dating is unreliable once we get into more than 10 or so half lives, IIRC (that may be old info), depending on the accuracy and precision of the measurement (each half life is around 5730 years). It’s still plenty to demonstrate the earth is more than ~6000-10000 years old, but for the really old stuff, other radionuclides need to be used, e.g. Uranium/Thorium and others. The currently accepted age of the earth is around 4.5 billion years.

    Mike

  4. #4 Protobiochemist
    November 26, 2006

    Another slight problem..
    Lewis: “..that we both have our set of beliefs, and we both base our science and interpretations upon those beliefs”.

    With sincerest hopes of NOT opening this up to debate, I would define science as a method of SEARCHING for an understanding of reality. Therefore, you cannot do “Science” from a standpoint of already knowing the “Truth” and seeking to prove what you already hold sacrosanct.

    Also, for the record, our “set of beliefs” upon which we base our interpretations, is dynamic and subject to constant re-evaluation. Again, not so for the Biblical literalist.

    PBC

  5. #5 plunge
    November 26, 2006

    It’s like saying you want to compete with me in a game. I propose that we have a race, and the rules will be that whomever first reaches that fence post after I yell go is the winner. Daniel is proposing that the rules of the game be “Daniel won.” And then he talks about how, well, all rules are biased and unduly influence our perception of who wins.

    Er…

  6. #6 Carlie
    November 26, 2006

    Beating it to death, but I’ll chime in too. Your supposition is that the Bible is true. Therefore, you are using it as your evidence. We then have to discuss its reliability as evidence before even approaching the finer points of evolutionary theory. If you don’t want to begin with dating methods, we could start with “Are the historical events depicted in the Bible corroborated with other accounts from the same time period”, “Is there an unbroken traceable line that connects the original writings with what we have now, indicating no substantial change from the original documents”, or “So, what about all the things the Councils of Nicaea, Trent, etc. threw in or removed from the Bible, and should the Apocrypha also be included?”

  7. #7 JackGoff
    November 26, 2006

    So, Daniel, can I own slaves? Can I kill adulterers? Can I kill blasphemers? Is it right an good to do so? The Bible says it ism, after all, the Bible is holy writ.

    And also, God created all forms of life 6000 years ago, eh? Honestly, in all seriousness, do you think that there is no evidence that humans existed well before your 6000 year time line? Or is my evidence just “naturalism”?

    And shh, Carlie. No need to bring up Christian history, lest we find dragons! 8^D

  8. #8 George
    November 26, 2006

    Usually a debate is one side being for, and another side being against, a stated propostion.

    What kind of debate is this meant to be?

  9. #9 Sceptical Chymist
    November 26, 2006

    Daniel: You have not initiated a dialogue, but a monologue. You start with the axiom that the Bible is 100% true. Scientists, of whom I am one, start with the axiom that to learn something about the world, we have to study it, to examine it, to try to make sense of it without invoking the supernatural. Such studies have led to conclusions that the earth is far far older than 6000 years, that dinosaurs and humans did not live at the same time and to a myriad other facts that do not agree with the simplistic pictures given in the book of genesis. Scientists have thus concluded that the book of genesis does not give a good account of the origins of the earth or of life. Your approach is a turning away from reality, and since it would be a waste of time trying to reason with you, this will be my only post in this discussion.

  10. #10 Peter McGrath
    November 26, 2006

    “ID simply holds that life is so complex that there must be a designer”

    The missing words there are ‘I think, but can’t prove’

  11. #11 Caledonian
    November 26, 2006

    He has no intention of giving us a rational debate. Why should we give him a chance to blather his talking points at us?

    He’s been given enough rope, and he’s strung himself up very nicely. I see no reason why we should bother cutting him down before he chokes.

  12. #12 Stanton
    November 26, 2006

    If Mr Lewis is still answering questions…
    I would like to know which book and which verse the Bible states that the world is exactly 6,000 years old.

  13. #13 Narc
    November 26, 2006

    Posting this is rather pointless, since I doubt anyone is really reading this far down in the comments, but I’ll ask this anyway.

    Mr. Lewis, are you willing to genuinely and seriously consider the possibility that you’re wrong? That creationism or ID or whatever you want to call it is not the explanation for the diversity of life on Earth, and evolution is the correct answer? If not, any “discussion” is a waste of time.

  14. #14 ConcernedJoe
    November 26, 2006

    Amen waldteufel!!!

    We should just keep repeating:

    The essential characteristics of proper science are:
    1. It is guided by natural law;
    2. It has to be explanatory by reference to nature law;
    3. It is testable against the empirical world;
    4. Its conclusions are tentative, i.e. are not necessarily the final word;
    5. It is falsifiable.

    Daniel NONE of what you profess meets any of the criteria under which science conducts its “arguments.” We cannot play because we don’t play the game you all play!! PERIOD! And anyone here that tries is really just feeding a troll. And I guess given that I posted me included :-)!

  15. #15 Kagehi
    November 26, 2006

    The essential characteristics of proper science are:
    1. It is guided by natural law;
    2. It has to be explanatory by reference to nature law;

    Would like to point out, for the sake of our absent guest that these two are only “accurate” in two senses a) Anything observable is considered part of natures laws and b) nothing supernatural has been *actually* observed in any sense that can be verified. I.e., people have “claimed” to observe it, in the same way children claim to hear monsters hiding under their beds, but the moment anyone willing to examine the evidence from the perspective of finding out what is “really” happening looks, there isn’t anything there or its not what the claiment said. Good example – Ghost orbs. No one has ever “proven” one, but someone recently did find that a single speck of dust dangling on the end of a very thin spider web “looked” like an orb when observed through a camera, but that the web itself was completely invisible at more than about six inches away, even to the human eye.

    More to the point, and something that “every” believer completely misses, is that “if” such supernatural things ever where “observed” in some repeatable and non-subjective fashion, we would have to reclassify them as “natural” and one would presume that “someone” in at least one of the literally thousands of institutions over nearly all of human history would have, by now, recorded “something” that more closely resembled a book on, “The Physical of the Spirit World”, than, “Ancient Alchemy: Turning Lead Into Gold in Three Easy Steps”. Until about 100 years ago, there was ***no*** vast collection of atheist scientists to “conspire” to prevent discoveries. For the most part there still isn’t, since something like 60-70% are theists.

    Science “requires” natural explanations and evidence, not because it rejects supernatural ones, but because there isn’t one shred, scrap or dust mote worth of verifiable, repeatable or even provably, “not made up”, bit of evidence for such a thing existing. It doesn’t take a leap of faith to believe this stuff happens, it takes closing your eyes so you can’t see, plugging your ears so you can’t hear, then leaping off a cliff screaming, “a giant marshmallow will break my fall!!”, at the top of your lungs. This is a particulary tree encrusted cliff though, so the believers all wander off a bit dazed from the experience complaining that the marshmallows are stale, not “observing” the reality of what they got bruised by.

  16. #16 Ed Darrell
    November 26, 2006

    I’d like to get into a discussion other than this one, sometime, on this point.

    Mr. Lewis said:

    Did you guys come in here to discuss the Bible, or creation vs. evolution? I’ve simply stated that the Bible is the basis for my thinking.

    Nothing in the Bible contradicts anything Darwin proposed, unless and except we insist on a Darbyist interpretation of scripture only. Is there any tenet of Christianity, especially one based in the Bible, which suggests God couldn’t have created an evolutionary system to make life diverse? Is there any tenet which requires any opposition to evolution or any other finding of science?

    When you’re done here, Mr. Lewis, if you’re ever done, c’mon over to my blog and start in again.

  17. #17 Carlie
    November 26, 2006

    When you’re done here, Mr. Lewis, if you’re ever done, c’mon over to my blog and start in again.

    Done? He hasn’t even started! He just threw out a sop to get us all worked up and then ran away.

  18. #18 natural cynic
    November 26, 2006

    Mr. Joseph does have a website – http://www.djosephdesign.com. I’m sure that he is willing to see your concerns about certain hit-and-run behavior.

  19. #19 AlanW
    November 26, 2006

    I know that the biblical worldview is the only correct one because it is the only worldview that is entirely consistent with what we observe.

    OK, so can we see how you would construct an arch using the biblical value of pi = 3 please?

  20. #20 Dan
    November 26, 2006

    Ooo… Look! A Jolly Rancher. Seems like the pinata gave up its goods.

  21. #21 LesserOfTwoWeevils
    November 26, 2006

    Now now, it’s only been 5 hours since Daniel’s last comment. Perhaps he’s gone to do a bit of research! I certainly wouldn’t jump all over him because he didn’t answer immediately.

    Now, if this time tomorrow rolls around with no word, I’ll be pretty sure that he’s scarpered after being roundly trounced before the argument even began, and I can go back to reading the -fascinating- articles constantly posted here.

    He may be feeling that he’s just had the whole football team pile onto him at once, but he DID bring the discussion here onto your board, after all. What did he expect? So far, most of you have been very polite but also very clear – Far better treatment than any ‘evilutionist’ is ever likely to receive on a creationist forum. I’ve seen the sorts of replies they give! No one here yet has even suggested that he might spend an eternity on fire if he doesn’t see it their way, much less told him so in no uncertain terms.

    I like Junk Science’s starting axioms.
    1. Things we can see, hear, taste, touch, and smell actually exist, and are not tricks played on us by an invisible demon or computer program.

    2. The results of scientific experiments, observed by us through the medium of the above named five senses, provide us with valid information to make assumptions about the nature of the universe. These assumptions become stronger as they are tested, and can be independently verified by any objective observer.

    I like the idea of paring it all down to Carlie’s 2 questions to start, too. If we can’t get past those 2, how can we possibly go any further?
    1: Is the Bible an accurate source to provide evidence of creationism?

    2: What evidence is there of creationism apart from the Bible, since we have not established its validity?

    We know we can supply reams and reams of evidence in favor of methodological naturalism, common descent, and the process of evolution. Is there any point in even trying if we can’t even agree on the ground rules?

    Is Daniel willing to comment on these basics?

    *settles in to wait with the rest*

    Weevil

  22. #22 Korinthian
    November 27, 2006

    So why isn’t mr. Lewis answering any questions? This was disappointing.

  23. #23 Ein Sophistry
    November 27, 2006

    While the problems of presuppositionalism have been well explicated here, I’m willing to throw Mr. Lewis a bone out of curiosity as to how the Bible can be made to account for the molecular evidence which seems to point – exclusively – to common descent.

    I must say at the outset that I do not know your level of fluency with biological terminology, so I apologize for any redundancy in explanation. It’s not my intention to talk down to you; It’s just that these are, I think, extremely important points, and I want them to be fully comprehended.

    Humans and chimpanzees share around 98% of their DNA. Now, it may be (and has been) argued that common genes reflect merely common function, common features designed (intelligently) for common environments. The first and easiest point to make against this claim is simply that common function needn’t at all require common materials. A bird’s wing and a butterfly’s wing arise during development from different tissue and have different genetic underpinnings, but both enable the organism to stay aloft and get around adequately. Biologists make a distinction between homology and analogy, where the former refers to structures that arise from common embryonic tissue and the latter to structures that serve a common function. The posited argument from common function can only explain structures which are both homologous and analogous; it cannot account for non-homologous analogs like the aforementioned wings or non-analogous homologs (structures which develop from the same tissue but serve different functions) such as bird wings and our arms or the fins of a fish. Further, it is difficult for this explanation to make sense of the fact that chimpanzees have more DNA in common with us than with gorillas, though gorillas share the chimpanzees’ forested environment while we are generally savannah creatures. The doctrine of common function would seem to predict that cetaceans (dolphins, porpoises, whales) would have more genetic material in common with, say, sharks than with the ruminants from which they are thought by biologists to be descended. While I don’t know if any representative genomes from these three types of organisms have been fully sequenced yet, I can’t imagine that many people would place any money on the shark.

    But there is a much more powerful counterargument to the doctrine of common function. It concerns what’s come to be called “junk DNA.” The vast majority of our genome is in fact never read, never translated into proteins. It serves no function, at least none specified by a nucleotide sequence. There would be no reason, then, to expect commonalities in nucleotide sequence between the junk DNA of apes and that of humans. Troublingly, such commonalities do in fact exist and I will explain a few of those so far discovered.

    There are two types of junk sequences I want to talk about here: retrogenes and pseudogenes. Retrogenes are sequences from retroviruses which have been inserted into the host’s genome. As you may recall, viruses cannot reproduce on their own; they must use the host’s replication machinery. When a virus inserts itself into a coding region of DNA, the host cell begins to manufacture copies of the virus, which will eventually burst through the cell and go on to infect its neighbors in similar fashion. Another, less destructive, way for a virus to get copied, though, is to insert its genome into a non-coding region of the host’s DNA. It becomes effectively a part of the host’s genome and is copied along with it prior to each cellular division. Now, for this virus to be passed on to the next generation, it must infect the gametes (sex cells), or the embryological precursors thereof. There are at present seven known retrogenes shared by humans and chimpanzees (For detailed treatments of some of these see: Bonner et al. 1982; Svensson et al. 1995; and Sverdlov 2000). Further, these retrogenes are present in the same locations in chimpanzee and human genomes. Common descent can easily make sense of these commonalities, but what of the alternatives? It is enough of a stretch to say that, absent common descent, a single virus infected the germ line of these two species in the same genomic locations out of the billions of possible locations, but to argue that this happened independently at least seven times strains credulity to a point far beyond what any rational being should allow.

    Pseudogenes are formerly functional genes that have been disabled by random mutation. One such pseudogene shared by all primates is known as ??-globin, which used to play a role in hemoglobin function. This pseudogene is found in the same chromosomal locations across primate species. Further, the mutations which disabled this gene are the same and are found at the same places within it (Goodman, et al. 1989). Another pseudogene, common to humans and chimpanzees, coded for a steroid called 21-hydroxylase. Humans and chimps actually have both a functional and a nonfunctional copy of this gene (the likely result of a type of mutation called gene duplication). The nonfunctional copies of both humans and chimps are missing identical sets of eight base pairs (Kawaguchi et al. 1992). If these species did not inherit these pseudogenes from a common ancestor, they would have had to independently acquire the same mutations in the reproductive cells (because, again, the mutations would have had to be passed on) at precisely the same locations on precisely the same genes–a vanishingly small probability. Still another example, shared by humans and the great apes, codes for the enzyme L-gulano-gamma-lactone oxidase, which allows its bearer to synthesize vitamin C. The disabling mutation in this gene is why we (and the great apes) must get vitamin C from our diets. Here again, in each species, the gene exhibits the same errors in the same locations. The only other mammal in which this gene is known to be broken is the guinea pig–and, as expected, the mutation is different and is in another location, for guinea pigs are not recent concestors.

    These are but a few examples. Most mammals are highly olfactory creatures, hence adaptations like a long snout and a wet nose. Primate evolution has exhibited a marked decrease in reliance on the sense of smell, as exhibited by the gradual reduction in snout length and the loss of the wet nose (still retained in lemurs, the most primitive living primates). Humans have nearly 100 different olfactory genes, yet around 70 of them are inactivated pseudogenes (Rouquier, et al 2000). Why would we have all these useless genes devoted to olfaction if we were built from scratch and not descended from ancestors for whom olfaction was much more important?

    Now, as I’ve said, humans and chimps have vastly similar genomes. One conspicuous difference, though, is in the number of chromosomes present. Our haploid chromosome number is 23, while that of chimpanzees and the other great apes is 24. How do we explain this? Chromosomes are not uniform in structure, and when stained with certain dyes will exhibit distinctive banding patterns which may be used to gauge similarities or detect abnormalities. The following picture compares the banding patterns of human chromosome 2 (chromosomes are numbered according to their size, 1 being the largest) and two chromosomes (called 2p and 2q) each from chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans:

    http://www.gate.net/~rwms/hum_ape_chrom_2.gif

    You can see that there are many similarities, most notably between the patterns of the human and chimp chromosomes. This led researchers to hypothesize that earlier versions of the two chromosomes possessed by the apes shown above had fused to create our chromosome 2 in one of our ape-like ancestors (Yunis, et al 1980; Yunis & Prakash, 1982). Is there any evidence for this?

    There is, but it will require a little more background explanation. When the enzymes responsible for the replication of DNA get to the end of a strand, there’s nothing for them to hold on to, and so they fall off without being able to replicate the last few nucleotides. Because this would quickly degrade the genome (and the organism harboring it), chromosomes have long, non-coding strings on their ends called telomeres, which serve to prolong the destruction of the coding genetic material (what manifests to us as the process of aging). Our telomeres consist of a specific six-base pair section repeated over and over: thymine-adenine, thymine-adenine, adenine-thymine, guanine-cytosine, guanine-cytosine, and guanine-cytosine. Interestingly, we find these telomeric regions in the middle of our chromosome 2, right at the expected point of fusion. Further, the bases and the sequence even reverse in the middle of this region (remember that the two DNA strands are anti-parallel), indicating the presence of both a trailing and a leading telomere (as from two different chromosomes) (Ijdo, et al. 1991).

    There is more. There is a region of the chromosome called a centromere, which is crucial to proper cell division. These are the slightly constricted regions in the chromosomes shown in the above image. Our chromosome 2 contains remnants of a second centromere corresponding to the centromere seen on the lower chimpanzee chromosome (Avarello, et al. 1992).

    Each of these lines of evidence is individually quite powerful. Take them all together, though–along with the morphological, geographical, and fossil evidence–and the force of the argument becomes tremendous. Common descent is the only thing that can satisfactorily account for the discussed similarities.

    Avarello, R., A. Pedicini, et al. (1992). “Evidence for an ancestral alphoid domain on the long arm of human chromosome 2.” Hum Genet 89(2): 247-9.

    Bonner, T. I., C. O’Connell, et al. (1982). “Cloned endogenous retroviral sequences from human DNA.” PNAS 79: 4709.

    Goodman, M., B. F. Koop, et al. (1989). “Molecular phylogeny of the family of apes and humans.” Genome 31 (316-335).

    Ijdo, JW., A. Baldini, et al. (1991). “Origin of human chromosome 2: an ancestral telomere-telomere fusion.” PNAS 88(20): 9051-5.

    Kawaguchi, H., C. O’hUigin, et al. (1992). “Evolutionary origin of mutations in the primate cytochrome P450c21 gene.” American Journal of Human Genetics 50: 766-780.

    Rouquier, S., A. Blancher, et al. (2000). “The olfactory receptor gene repertoire in primates and mouse: Evidence for reduction of the functional fraction in primates.” PNAS 97: 2870-2874.

    Svensson, A. C., N. Setterblad, et al. (1995). “Primate DRB genes from the DR3 and DR8 haplotypes contain ERV9 LTR elements at identical positions.” Immunogenetics 41: 74.

    Sverdlov, E. D. (2000). “Retroviruses and primate evolution.” BioEssays 22: 161-171.

    Yunis, J. J., J. R. Sawyer, K. Dunham. (1980). “The striking resemblance of high-resolution g-banded chromosomes of man and chimpanzee.” Science 208(6): 1145-1148.

    Yunis, J. J., O. Prakash. (1982). “The origin of man: a chromosomal pictorial legacy.” Science 215(19): 1525-1530.

  24. #24 grendelkhan
    November 27, 2006

    For my money, this is the best part.

    To start on a trail of every fact in the Bible is as much a sidetrack from our purpose as me asking for your every reason that God doesn’t exist.

    No. No, it’s not, and here’s why.

    Your task in this debate, should it ever get started, is to defend creationism. Our task is to defend evolution. You have, by your own admission, claimed that you need the Bible to be inerrant in order for you to make your case. However (leaving aside the idea of proving a negative), the nonexistence of God is not necessary to the theory of evolution. (You can check with the Catholic church on this one.)

    I’ll wager that pretty much every evolution supporter here is willing to undertake the debate without the use of the axiom that God doesn’t exist. You’re not willing to do the same about the axiom that the Bible is inerrant.

    Furthermore, you’ve made a testable claim by saying that the Bible, taken literally, does not contradict observable evidence. If you tell me that the sky is orange and rain falls up, I’m going to tell you you’re wrong. Your Bible claim is just as ridiculous. (There’s water above the sky? Locusts have four legs?) You can’t just toss off a claim like that and tell us we can’t criticize it.

    In short: You say the Bible, taken literally, has no conflict with observable reality, and we’re not allowed to contradict you. You place yourself directly opposite observable fact. There’s nowhere we can go from here.

  25. #25 tim harris
    November 27, 2006

    Sorry: ‘Tertullian’s aphorism’.

  26. #26 Drhoz!
    November 27, 2006

    I’ll have to agree with MarkP – Ein Sophistry’s mini-essay there is beautifully comprehensive – i’ld love the chance to reprint in my journal as well, including the references in your follow-up comment? With your permission, naturally.

  27. #27 ERV
    November 27, 2006

    Erg. At post #173-ish, Im a bit late to the fun– but no, PZ, you shouldnt humor this.

    I think students ‘debating’ Creationists is a good idea. Its really helped me pull together things I learned in ecology–>genetics–>physiology–>biochem, etc. However, real scientists shouldnt give them a seconds glance. Who is this guy? D. Joseph? Who the hell is he? Ah but for one glimmering moment, he is the Brave True Christian (TM) that stood up against the Mighty Evil Atheist PhD. Seriously what the hell does this guy know about biology? He knows enough to ‘debate’ you? I doubt it. Ugh ignore it, or ask your daughter if shes up for some fun.

  28. #28 pattanowski
    November 27, 2006

    No! Don’t shut down the thread! I have a point I wanted to make……….tomorrow night. Maybe

  29. #29 E-gal
    November 27, 2006

    Mr. Lewis,
    Why do you recognize only one of the three sets of the Ten Commandments?. Possibly because the set at Ex 34:14 lists women as property? Or because that set cautions us not to boil a lamb in it’s mother’s milk? Are those too absurd for you?
    Exodus 20:1-2
    Exodus 34:14-
    Deuteronomy 5: 7-
    There are also 613 other commandments in the bible. Whay do you ignore most of them?

  30. #30 Dave Newton
    November 27, 2006

    Well, that went well :/

    Just out of curiosity, why did you pick the Bible to believe and not, say, Bhagavad Dita?

  31. #31 Ginger Yellow
    November 27, 2006

    Tom Foss, I think you’re getting misled by terminology.

    So, if we observe, in a laboratory setting, the pieces of a broken coffee mug spontaneously restoring themselves into an unbroken mug, we wouldn’t immediately say “well, we can’t study that because it can’t be explained by natural law.” The theory and law has to fit the observation, and never the other way around. If we are able to reliably repeat this antientropic experiment, then it may require us to re-evaluate the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

    All that is intended by “natural law” in this context is that we assume observable phenomena behave in a predictable manner, even if we don’t yet know how to predict the behaviour. Finding a verifiable violation of the second law of thermodynamics (which would be difficult given its statistical nature) wouldn’t necessarily mean that the concept of natural law had been invalidated, merely our understanding of what that law is. Scientists didn’t just give up on the scientific method when they discovered quantum mechanics.

  32. #32 Ginger Yellow
    November 27, 2006

    Russell: Perhaps “regularly” would be a better choice of words, then. I don’t mean to imply that we can predict the behaviour of all observable phenomena, merely that we assume that for each observable phenomenon ‘x’ there exists a pattern ‘y’ to which it conforms. Determinism or otherwise doesn’t come into it.

    Tom: I entirely agree with your last paragraph, with only the exception that I have previously given to a Catholic philosopher who insists there could be no proof of (a) God’s existence, for the reasons you state. I offered up the Rapture, half in jest, but half seriously, on the grounds that any naturalistic being capable of effecting the Rapture is to all intents and purposes indistinguishable from a deity, and I’d be down on my knees praying regardless. But that’s a pragmatic rather than a metaphysical argument.

  33. #33 mobmij
    November 27, 2006

    The problem with Mr. Lewis’ proposal should have been apparent from his initial axioms: the science most at issue here isn’t biology; it’s psychology.

    There is no way to have a “rational” debate with a person whose ideas are wound not only into their “worldview” but into their very persona. Bible-based creationism has become part of how Mr. Lewis defines himself. It isn’t subject to argument or logic. It’s like trying to talk someone out of being in love with a total abusive bum. The reasons NOT to be in love can be clear and irrefutable, but the emotional attachment simply can’t be overcome by any logic.

    So, despite the internal contradictions of the Bible and the reprehensible behavior of the creature purporting to be “God” in that Bible, Mr. Lewis is (I fear) unable to let go of whatever has caused his emotional attachment to the Bible-based mindset — whether that be a sense of connection to the infinite or submission to a comforting authoritarian rule or feeling of elitism in being “saved” or whatever. The short answer is that these Bible-based ideas aren’t even ideas at all: they’re emotional constructs that the unfortunate sufferer can’t release. I’m not sure even the most enlightened 12-step program can help a Bible-holic.

    At the other end of the spectrum is the rational “scientific” thinker. This person doesn’t have to be a scientist (which is why I used parentheses above). But he or she is capable of recognizing evidence, accepting ideas and, more importantly, rejecting accepted ideas once new evidence disproves it. Even the most accomplished “scientific” thinker is subject to emotional constructs in the same way as the Bible-holic (e.g., being in love with a bum). But the “scientific” thinker can better maintain a wall between subjective personal emotions recognized as such and the objective outside world.

    The key difference is the ability to act like the professor in Dawkins’ anecdote who had maintained an incorrect scientific position for 15 years — until he heard a lecture that conclusively disproved his position. As a good scientist, he went up to the lecturer and thanked him for illuminating him. Alas, I doubt that a Bible-holic could ever betray what has become a part of his own personality and do something analogous, even if God himself came along and told him to do so.

  34. #34 Doc Bill
    November 27, 2006

    So typical of the pattern of “creationist debates.” I’ve seen this kind of drive-by fruiting time and time again. What the creationist wants is a platform to make a statement then, after the scientist has responded with a 900-page answer, say “well, let’s agree to disagree.”

    Daniel cloaks his cut-and-run by saying, Oh, what a lot of postings to respond to, which is a ruse because he hasn’t responded to a single one.

    The essence of Daniel’s “argument” is this:
    I know that the biblical worldview is the only correct one because it is the only worldview that is entirely consistent with what we observe.

    The whole point about creationism is that it is entirely INCONSISTENT with what “we” observe! To say otherwise isn’t an axiom, it’s ignorance and willful ignorance at that.

    Daniel won’t be back. He generated over 200 comments on PZ’s thread in a day and that’s pretty good going. One thing about creationists, they sure know how to generate comments out of thin air.

    Hmmmm….

  35. #35 Faidonas
    November 27, 2006

    “Several of the readers have contacted me directly, acknowledged that the debate is very “one-sided,” and suggested that I respectfully bow out.”

    Haha right.

    Notice how this supposed exchange of courtesy can also be interpreted as “some of the readers (who obviously were not too keen in having my views presented on this blog) contacted me privately to get me to back down, saying I wouldn’t stand a chance in this debate”…

    Now guess which version (the one presented, or the one implied) would seem more plausible to his creationist buddies.

    I wouldn’t underestimate Mr. Lewis: He seems well-trained in the ways of the YEC.

  36. #36 John H. Morrison
    November 27, 2006

    Titus 1: 12, 13 — “One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, the Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies. This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith;”

    Therefore, if the Bible were perfectly accurate, you have a Cretian tell someone truthfully that all Cretians always lie. If a Cretian tells you that all Cretians always lie, can he be telling the truth?

    And what the heck does this mean?

    Genesis 5: 1-3 — “This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him; Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created. And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, and after his image; and called his name Seth:”

  37. #37 Caledonian
    November 28, 2006

    I know you have something more than sensible to say on the subject of the distinction between natural and supernatural, and indeed I have seen it a few threads back when I asked, but I have to say (although I think it is apparent to most people) that your tone is seriously obscuring the content.

    No. The “tone” was only added several posts after the content was originally put up. If you can’t detect for yourself where Russel’s statements about the things I said and the things I said diverge, explaning would be pointless.

  38. #38 mobmij
    November 28, 2006

    “I definitely hope you where making a joke, because if not, you have an unreasonably high expectation of what the God-step programs actually do….”

    The 12-step program mention was just a throwaway reference to a well-known “recovery” program for the addicted. Pick another if you like.

    The real point is that Bible-holics have trans-rational needs that are invulnerable to rational argument. Therefore, trying to engage a Bible-based creationist in a rational discussion is pointless. Their position is based on deep-seated emotional needs that can’t be argued away.

    As I suggested above, if God Itself came along and told a Bible-holic that his or her position was wrong, the Bible-holic would prefer to rationalize God’s own intervention away as a demonic delusion rather than uproot his or her Bible-based worldview. The alternative would be just too damaging and painful (although I’m sure there are exceptions who have somehow managed to overcome their Bible-holism).

  39. #39 George
    November 28, 2006

    “The Bible is not a science textbook, it’s a history book.”

    Last I checked, the Bible was in the religion section of my library, not the history section.

    I’ll notify the librarians and ask that it be moved.

    I so look forward to reading once again the “future” history sections of the Bible.

    So enlightening.

  40. #40 Faidonas
    November 28, 2006

    It is not a form of debate because I have officially bowed out of the debate due to it’s unforeseen (on my part) size, which makes it almost impossible to participate.

    But Mr. Lewis, you just answered in two questions presented to you, just a few comments above.
    Not to mention that you thanked all those of us who are “still having discussions” (as if a discussion ever started).

    Make up your mind please. Do you want to have a debate here, or not? Posting a reply to whoever you feel like, whenever you feel like it, and then avoiding to address counterarguments by saying “this is not a debate, as I have bowed out long ago”, is NOT the most sincere and straightforward behavior, in any exchange.

  41. #41 Ken Cope
    November 28, 2006

    Danny boy, I suggest you ponder the significance of this observation made by Louann Miller (on the newsgroup talk.origins) about behavior typified by your inept performance here at pharyngula:

    It’s like the kid in the old Westerns who plinks a few tin cans with Daddy’s six-shooter and then rides in to the saloon to challenge Doc Holliday. Genuinely thinking he’s the first one to ever have this bright idea. It’s hard to decide whether to kill him outright, wing him to teach him a valuable life lesson, or just stare at him and laugh your ass off.

  42. #42 Caledonian
    November 29, 2006

    There’s always a chance some you people will start thinking. It’s the hope that drives me, after all.

    If you can’t identify the basic points of an argument and compare someone else’s summation of the argument to them, how do you expect to be able to understand any explanation I offer? Honest incomprehension I don’t mind, but I’m not going to pander to dumb.

  43. #43 beepbeepitsme
    November 30, 2006

    You are all bad, bad people who are all going to heck for not believing in gosh.

    See you guys aren’t willing to play the game right. You have to BELIEVE that the bible is the word of god FIRST.

    No cheating and reading it like any other book where AFTER reading it, you decide whether it is credible or not.

    There are special rules for the Babble. Gosh said so. Belief FIRST, belief AFTER and no questioning of its contents or gosh’s followers gets their panties in a bunch.

    Personally, I always got stuck on the talking snake bit. I have some major problems with snakes having the ability to talk under ANY circumstances.

    I am in Australia, and snakes don’t even talk when you whack them with a huge stick after finding them in the cutlery drawer. You would think that if EVER there was a time to talk, it would be when you see a huge piece of 4 by 2 timber about to impact your skull. But no, not one of them has ever made so much as a peep. Not even “bloody hell sheila, don’t smash me head in. I will be out of the cutlery drawer in a tick.”

    Not a peep. Nothin. Nada. Zilch. ;)

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