Pharyngula

Two people vying to out-stupid each other

Ben Stein and Bill O’Reilly.

Bill made a thousand creationist hearts flutter in dismay when he opened with his introductory definition: “intelligent design, that is, a deity created life”. It was, unfortunately, the last hint of intelligence in the whole segment.

Ben Stein is an astonishingly ignorant person. He goes on and on about several themes.

  • Evolution (or as he called it, “Darwinism”) is a weak theory with many gaps that was fit for the 19th century, but not the 21st. This is a ludicrous statement; Darwin would scarcely recognize what we were talking about if he attended an evolutionary biology conference today. We’ve added genetics, population genetics, molecular biology, and developmental biology to the heart of the theory.

  • ID is an effort to fill in the gaps, and is a sincere effort to add new knowledge to the theory. That’s false. Look at the books written by IDists: from Darwin’s Black Box to Icons of Evolution to The Edge of Evolution, they are all about complaining about evolution while providing no new useful suggestions for research.

  • This is a free speech issue, we just want to be able to express our side of the story. I don’t see anyone rushing to censor Fox News, or shutting down the printing presses that dare to publish Behe’s or Gonzalez’s books. This is not about free speech, and no one’s speech is being restricted. It is about quality education: will we have our kids taught baseless nonsense because some people want to smuggle their idiosyncratic religious beliefs into the classroom? It’s about quality research: shall we fund and support unproductive and scientifically indefensible ideas because a third-rate character actor likes them? It’s about defending what science is: science is not about wishing something were true and inventing excuse for it; it’s about serious self-criticism and substantial work going into testing ideas. ID simply isn’t science.

I think we get a good glimpse of the dogmatic and dishonest tack Expelled is going to take. It’s going to be one solid wall of lies, insisting that we must privilege the hypothesis that “a deity created life” with the same seriousness that we do population genetics or the biochemistry of abiogenesis.


Jason has a transcript, if you’d rather read than actually listen to those two bray.

Comments

  1. #1 Lago
    October 23, 2007

    I am going to need to read Darwin’s “Origin of Species” again to find the part about lightening hitting mud as a central argument to “Darwinism”.

  2. #2 Sastra
    October 23, 2007

    Creationists are thinking short term benefits here. They’re shooting themselves and their religion right in the foot. If their goals are achieved, and the vast majority of Christians in this country accept that the theory of evolution negates God, then — as science marches on, evolutionary understanding grows, and Intelligent Design remains an unproductive dead end — God becomes a dead end, too. It becomes dead to everybody they persuaded into seeing a conflict. The ones Dawkins missed.

    If you’re religious, you’re not supposed to treat God seriously like any other fact in the world: you’re supposed to fall all over yourself explaining why it’s supposed to be taken as a fact, but treated like a value. That’s been the program ever since it didn’t look like science was leading to God after all.

    Way to go, guys. Keep it up. Trade in the fuzzy land of Faith for Science in order to make God “respectable,” and the hypothesis of God isn’t just cut out by people who are parsimonious, it’s actually disproved. Unlike religion, science has rules. You can’t just make crap up. Reality is that thing that, when you kick it, kicks back — and it doesn’t go away when you stop believing in it.

    Creationism is another spear piercing Jesus through the ribs. Morons.

  3. #3 Zeno
    October 23, 2007

    Creationists keep trying to argue that they are promoting “science”, but they scarcely seem to know what science even is. Here’s a guy arguing that “evidence” helps creationists decide which arbitrary miraculous interventions God did or not perform. (They shouldn’t mock their God this way.) [Link]

  4. #4 Beave
    October 23, 2007

    Wow, I almost just passed out from the concentration of stupidity in the air around my laptop. I love how Bill O’Reilly thinks we “secular pinheads” should have everything figured out by now. If he wants answers he should shut up and let science take its course, not try to inject some BS “theory” on the grounds of free speech. If ID had any merit it would be discussed as an alternative, but since it’s vapid and leads to no new information it does not belong in the classroom.

  5. #5 Brian
    October 23, 2007

    I’m seriously debating becoming an Intelligent Design Theorist. Like a theoretical physicist, I’ll spend all day coming up with ID theories and valid hypotheses. I know exactly what the end result would be – my theories would be refuted time and time again. Still, I would find myself to be a better scientist than anyone currently in the ID field.

    … I think I hate myself.

  6. #6 MartinC
    October 23, 2007

    They are not exactly on-script here regarding the difference between the terms involved and are being pretty careless with calling it ‘creationism’ rather than intelligent design.
    I wonder if this will carry over into the movie or will the Discovery Institute lawyers go through the script with a fine toothcomb (or again simply use a ‘replace creator with designer’ change using microsoft word).

  7. #7 Ron
    October 23, 2007

    Ben Stein did actually make a correct statement in that evolution doesn’t explain how life got started. From the rest of his comments, I figure it was pure, dumb luck. Neither show any real grasp of science (surprise!).

  8. #8 peak_bagger
    October 23, 2007

    I’m a raving religious lunatic and even I can see that Stein and O’Reilly get it wrong. It’s obfuscation that entrenches evolution deniers into greater close-mindedness and rhetoric that serves as a rallying cry in degrading the public’s understanding of proper science.

  9. #9 nunatak
    October 23, 2007

    I always have to girt myself before clicking “play” on Bill O’Really Stupid video clips. It simply hurts to watch as he ramps up the vitriol to cover up his ignorance (which happens often). Fortunately Sastrs’s comment (#3) was just the soothing balm that I needed.

  10. #10 Alison
    October 23, 2007

    It is clear that Billo (along with other non-secular-pinheads) will never understand why they’re wrong. Jeez Louise. He asks why not invite theologians into science classes to explain the other side? OMFG. If you invite one, then you have to invite all the others, and if you do that, then you have comparative religion, not biology. Duh. Duhduhduh. I’d wager that anyone who’s even superficially skimmed the internet on this issue has seen this example as well as the astrologer in the astronomy class, the faith healer in the medical school, and so on. It’s such a stupid proposition that it’s been parodied over and over again and doesn’t take much effort to find – yet Billo, with a paid staff, seems ignorant of the fact that it’s such an incredibly ludicrous idea.

    Maybe he’s got a filter on their internet access that allows only AiG and DailyKos through?

  11. #11 True Bob
    October 23, 2007

    “We are Morons, tried and true
    and we’ll do our yell for you;
    nyaaahhhaaaeeeehhh!”

    Amalgamated Association of Morons

  12. #12 Bryan Carstens
    October 23, 2007

    I’m giving a lecture to my evolution class later today, and contemplating showing this interview. Is this a good idea? What aspects should I focus on? We’ve covered creationism / ID earlier in the semester, but this being Louisiana, with a newly-elected governor who is in favor of the usual Discovery Institute talking points, I feel like this might be an opportunity to reintroduce this subject.

  13. #13 PZ Myers
    October 23, 2007

    Ben Stein did actually make a correct statement in that evolution doesn’t explain how life got started.

    No, he got that wrong, too. I think it is a HUGE tactical mistake to concede abiogenesis: it is a perfectly legitimate field of research, studying mechanisms of the origin of life using biochemical tools. Life is chemistry, and life arose by natural mechanisms to which Darwinian principles did apply.

  14. #14 Chi
    October 23, 2007

    Love the salute at the end

  15. #15 BigHeathenMike
    October 23, 2007

    Apologies if this has been done already, but:

    Stein’s brain….?
    Stein’s brain….? …Anyone? …Anyone? Bueller?

  16. #16 mayhempix
    October 23, 2007

    The irony that these people (O’Reilly, Stein, et al) are descended from apes is completely lost on them.

  17. #17 Caledonian
    October 23, 2007

    PZ:

    No, he got that wrong, too.

    No, he didn’t. The ToE doesn’t concern itself with how life was initiated – it makes absolutely no difference to the predictions the theory makes if life spontaneously generated, came here from elsewhere, or was engineered by an intelligent entity and left to go its way.

    It’s certainly wrong for scientific inquiry to abandon the beginnings of life on this planet to religion – science has a lot to say about the possibilities and the available evidence – but the ToE is NOT the whole of science.

    IF we accept the necessary but unstated assertion that the manner in which life here originated makes a difference to the ToE, AND we acknowledge that we do not currently know how life began here, THEN we’re missing a key piece of information that’s vitally necessary to our evaluation of the usefulness of the ToE, and that would turn it from one of science’s greatest achievements to something that we have unfounded confidence in.

    Fortunately, evolution is set on one of the firmest foundations of science, and it’s partly because that assertion isn’t actually the case.

    I concur that Stein probably got the point right by accident. Even an ignorant ideologue will likely get some things right by chance – it would take gross improbability or real work to be completely wrong.

  18. #18 caynazzo
    October 23, 2007

    It’s a great “non-secularist pinhead” tactic to babble one how evolution doesn’t say anything about the origins of life (genesis) as if that’s where science stops and magic begins. The first chapter of Paradigms Regained has a useful summary of current origin of life theories

  19. #19 MartinC
    October 23, 2007

    Caledonian, surely this all depends on how you define the term ‘life’. Most members of the public would place the boundaries at the level of the self replicating cell, whereas many molecular biologists would probably say the first ‘life’ was a self replicating molecule with the ability to evolve (an RNA strand with catalytic self polymerization properties, for instance).
    To get from the RNA strand to the cell will require a lot of evolution and so it is important to emphasize this point. We have a ‘missing link’ between the first organic molecules and the first self replicating RNA strand but once you get to that RNA the rest is pretty straight forward.

  20. #20 True Bob
    October 23, 2007

    Well, I couldn’t stand watching the whole thing. But it did seem that Ben was implying his god is a god-of-the-gaps.

  21. #21 PZ Myers
    October 23, 2007

    The segment of my course on ID is now over, or I would use that video in class — it really emphasizes the rhetorical strategy of the IDists, and is the kind of thing that immediately sucks in the naive listener as a “fair” demand. I’d use it to invite discussion from the students: ask them to analyze their statements carefully, pick up on the errors, and develop ways to address those claims.

  22. #22 Jeremy
    October 23, 2007

    I remember back in the day watching Win Ben Stein’s Money, and being in awe of how much trivia that guy knew. I wanted to be like him and have that sort of memory.

    Now, I’m not so sure.

    (It was really back in the day for me, like high school/college days when I didn’t know much more than he had once been a speechwriter and he was in that Ferris Bueller movie)

  23. #23 AJ Milne
    October 23, 2007

    …as if that’s where science stops and magic begins…

    These modern mystics astound me. Step by step, the progress of discovery over millenia now has dispelled every ghost they have every conjured… And they keep imagining, nonetheless, that there must be one hiding under the next stone we will lift.

  24. #24 Caledonian
    October 23, 2007

    MartinC:

    Caledonian, surely this all depends on how you define the term ‘life’.

    Point acknowledged, but keep in mind the percentage of the American general public that cannot locate the US on a global map.

  25. #25 Samuel
    October 23, 2007

    Arg, they used the “we just want all the cards on the table” line. I can’t believe they’re still doing that. Seriously.

  26. #26 Archaeopteryx
    October 23, 2007

    I think PZ’s exactly right on abiogenesis. It’s a bit disingenuous to pretend that the chemical origin of life has nothing to do with evolution. It’s as if we’re saying: “Evolution works, there is no doubt, but maybe the Cosmic Muffin got it all started.”

  27. #27 Janine
    October 23, 2007

    Excuse me. Is not Ben Stein a not so great relic of imperialism from the twentieth century?

  28. #28 True Bob
    October 23, 2007

    Their cards and their table is what they want.

  29. #29 tacitus
    October 23, 2007

    They showed the “Expelled” trailed at the Values Voters Summit last Friday where Ben Stein also spoke live.

    Click here for the C-SPAN link.

    The lengthy trailer starts at 27:22 and Stein speaks afterwards (and yes, it’s bad).

  30. #30 wintermute
    October 23, 2007

    Point acknowledged, but keep in mind the percentage of the American general public that cannot locate the US on a global map.

    0%? 0.01%? Somewhere around that mark, right?

  31. #31 Caledonian
    October 23, 2007

    It’s a bit disingenuous to pretend that the chemical origin of life has nothing to do with evolution.

    How is it disingenuous to state something which is true? It would be misleading to suggest that the chemical origin of life has something to do with evolution.

  32. #32 Chris
    October 23, 2007

    “It’s a bit disingenuous to pretend that the chemical origin of life has nothing to do with evolution. ”

    They aren’t unrelated, but they are two very, very different issues. For starters, evolution left a very, very hefty fossil record. Abiogenesis didn’t leave any record at all. There are many things about the actual process of abiogenesis that we almost certainly will never know.

  33. #33 zeekster
    October 23, 2007

    I am so thankful that the Florida science standards are being revised before this movie comes out. This article addresses just how bad our current situation is, and this link takes you to where you can review and comment on the current draft standards. We have less than 60 days, now, to leave our comments before the standards are decided upon.

    Our local papers are filling up with op-eds on how “irresponsible and stupid” it is to teach “evolution of man as fact.” (Orlando Sentinel, Oct 23, 2007, p A2)

    If you have any interest in affecting the Florida science standards, please take the time to do this. I know the religion nuts will be doing their part.

  34. #34 negentropyeater
    October 23, 2007

    Bill O’Reilly uses the word pinhead as he would have used the word heretic a few centuries back.
    Ben Stein’s main argument is that abiogenesis = lightning strike in mud doesn’t seem very “convincing” to him, and therefore ID should be studied in science class.
    Mr Stein, come on, please listen to what scientists have to say before you talk. The universe is 13.5 b yold, earth 4.5, life appeared on earth fairly quickly, so what happened in the universe during those 9 bill years ? Can your small brain even imagine what that means ? 9 bill years of evolution of the universe from the big bang and you compare that to lightning in mud. Are you refering to the Urey-Miller experiment ? Learn before you talk.
    Oh, but the Bible gives a perfect solution for abiogenesis, so science doesn’t have to do what it has done so far. Trying to explain how God did it.
    What a nutcase…

  35. #35 Scott Hatfield, OM
    October 23, 2007

    I’m actually with Caledonian here.

    We don’t ‘give away the farm’ on evolution by distinguishing it conceptually from abiogenesis, or by acknowledging the relative strength of the respective claims. One could look at it a different way: the folk who accept pretty much everything else about evolution, but demur on abiogenesis, are in fact the ones who are ‘giving away the farm’. After all, when (not if) folk like Venter, Szostak, etc. succeed in making replicators, the gap in which those creationists have sequestered God will narrow considerably…!

  36. #36 deeks
    October 23, 2007

    Darwins theorys based on the belief in a god? Thats a bit interesting…

    “Science has nothing to do with Christ, except insofar as the habit of scientific research makes a man cautious in admitting evidence. For myself, I do not believe that there ever has been any revelation. As for a future life, every man must judge for himself between conflicting vague probabilities.” -Charles Darwin

  37. #37 jeh
    October 23, 2007

    BS: “Bueller?…Bueller?”

    BO’R: “Falafel.”

  38. #38 bernarda
    October 23, 2007

    ben stein, “maybe we’re wrong, maybe we’re stupid”.

    Sorry stein, there is no “maybe” about it.

    It would be nice to see someone on O’Reilly’s show describe him as a theocratic pinhead.

  39. #39 Chris
    October 23, 2007

    “After all, when (not if) folk like Venter, Szostak, etc. succeed in making replicators, the gap in which those creationists have sequestered God will narrow considerably…!”

    Even if you show one particular route from abiological to biological, there is no reason to believe that it is the *actual* route that was taken.

    If I give you a gram of synthesized methamphetamine, you won’t necessarily be able to extrapolate the pathway by which it was produced. There are a lot of different ways to synthesize meth.

    TBF, you are talking only about demonstrating the *principle* of abiogenesis without deity, which is sufficient to nullify the “God *had* to have made it” argument. Which is entirely do-able.

    I’m just pointing out that by comparison abiogenesis didn’t leave fingerprints, whereas evolution left fingerprints, DNA, video tape, and a signed confession. :)

  40. #40 Glen Davidson
    October 23, 2007

    What do you know? Stein did say that Darwin worked in an environment where God was acceptable. So what’s his point? That we’re Darwin dogmatists, and we’re adamantly opposed to God making one or more forms of life (as Darwin suggested at one point), even if the evidence favored it? Look, I know the man is stupid (even if only secondarily, by “learning” from idiots), but can’t he make any coherent statements?

    And of course there’s the old whine that God is excluded (implication, we ought to subsidize religious speech–the exact opposite of free speech), that we’re persecuting the poor folk like Sternberg who are just allowing that God might have something to do with life, when most of the “persecuted” have been telling us that God has nothing to do with ID. One has to suppose that the DI has truly switched tactics by now (they’re not directly responsible for the film, however it’s without doubt that DI figures have “informed” the movie and idiots like Stein), and now want to claim that “God” is excluded, not the “designer”.

    At least Stein got something almost right when he said, “we might be stupid”. Dispense with the “might”, and you’re actually right.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/

  41. #41 truth machine
    October 23, 2007

    It’s a bit disingenuous to pretend that the chemical origin of life has nothing to do with evolution.

    It would help if people would stop conflating “evolution” with “theory of evolution”. The current ToE does not address abiogenesis. However, if/when more clarity about abiogenesis is achieved, to the point that there is some confidence and scientific consensus about it, it will presumably be incorporated into the ToE, resulting in a more complete theory of biology.

  42. #42 raven
    October 23, 2007

    Ben Stein is just another paid liar for money. The truth or reality has nothing to do with it. Not the least important.

    Of course this makes him a part of the attack on science, a rather stupid idea that somehow pulling ourselves up from the stone age to the space age was wrong.

    He is also a reprehensible evil creature but way it goes.

  43. #43 negentropyeater
    October 23, 2007

    Chris, abiogenesis din’t leave fingerprints… on this planet. We might find fingerprints on other planets though.

  44. #44 Archaeopteryx
    October 23, 2007

    Chris, do you posit some origin for life that didn’t involve evolutionary processes?

  45. #45 truth machine
    October 23, 2007

    I see no problem with distinguishing the development of life after it origination, from the origination itself.

    The problem with this is that it smacks of vitalism, and I think that’s the point PZ was making with “life is chemistry”. There was no firm dividing line in time between “not life” and “life”; life “emerged” as groups of organic molecules developed (via natural selection plus other processes not well understood at this point) more and more of the functions that we associate with life.

  46. #46 ngong
    October 23, 2007

    I thought good IDers were supposed to draw a sharp line between creationism and ID. Note that Stein utterly failed in that department.

    Scientists = secular pinheads? You eggheads make computers and drugs and prop up the economy, while us common-sensical god-fearing folks make policy about how science is to be taught. Yecchhhh!

  47. #47 raven
    October 23, 2007

    It makes a lot of sense to separate abiogenesis from evolution. Even the defintions are different enough to make this useful.

    Evolution is the why and how life changes through time.

    Abiogenesis is the process by which life arose from nonlife.

    We have tons of data on evolution, we see it going on around us every day, and it is a fact even most cretinists admit. Microevolution is so undeniable they try to drive their wedge between it and macroevolution, a false distinction.

    Abiogenesis is far less understood. Some theories, some model experiments, little real direct data. It is inherently difficult to study a process that happened 3.6 billion years ago, probably only happened once, left few fossils, and most of the evidence has long since been subducted into the mantel.

    Nothing wrong in science with saying, “we don’t know…yet.” Science is open ended. We will never know everything. Unlike the cretinists, we have the ability and wherewithal to find out and usually anything humans try to understand, eventually is understood.

  48. #48 tjh
    October 23, 2007

    So ‘Darwinism’ is a relic of the ‘age of imperialism in the nineteenth century’. Ah, yes, a very sophisticated view of nineteenth century intellectual history being presented here. I would have thought that the free-market, imperial world of mid-Victorian Britain would be quite appealing for O’Reilly and co.

    And just think, key developments of modern chemistry are relics of autocratic old-regime France, or militaristic late nineteenth century Prussia. And Galileo’s heliocentrism is clearly the relic of the decadent, scheming and evil world of Renaissance Italy. Don’t tell these guys that the number system that enables modern mathematics was developed by Arabs!

    On a mildly related note, I just reread On the Origin of Species and was astonished by how insightful and ‘right’ it was given the level of knowledge at the time. Darwin’s inferences as to what was going on were incredibly imaginative, and, more significantly, accurate. Given the ideas around at the time, it is remarkable.

  49. #49 truth machine
    October 23, 2007

    Even if you show one particular route from abiological to biological, there is no reason to believe that it is the *actual* route that was taken.

    It won’t be guaranteed to be the actual route — there are no guarantees in scientific inference — but that’s not the same as “no reason to believe”; some routes will be more plausible and better fit the evidence than others.

    If I give you a gram of synthesized methamphetamine, you won’t necessarily be able to extrapolate the pathway by which it was produced.

    The word “necessarily” is key here — no inference is “necessarily” so in scientific epistemology. Much of the confusion about science is based on this fundamental mistake.

  50. #50 Joolya
    October 23, 2007

    “There is no God but NO God, and Darwin is His Prophet.”

    Why can’t these people think outside their own frames of reference?
    Oh, right.

  51. #51 Glen Davidson
    October 23, 2007

    No, he got that wrong, too. I think it is a HUGE tactical mistake to concede abiogenesis: it is a perfectly legitimate field of research, studying mechanisms of the origin of life using biochemical tools.

    Of course it’s a perfectly legitimate field of research, but it’s not the sort of subject that we should be teaching as established science. We’re not “conceding” abiogenesis as the proper stance for studying the early origins of life, we’re conceding that abiogenesis has no near-certain theories like MET, and we’re pointing out that “Darwinism” in the known history of life is not epistemologically beholden to the unknowns of abiogenesis.

    The two subjects aren’t exactly separate, any more than physics and biology are truly separate, but they are legitimately sorted into separate areas, both because of the status of current abiogenetic understanding, and because there are important “non-Darwinian” issues involved in abiogenesis which are not involved in the evolution of life.

    Life is chemistry, and life arose by natural mechanisms to which Darwinian principles did apply.

    Yes, but we don’t know how or at what point Darwinian principles applied. There are likely to be crucial steps which had to take place prior to Darwinian principles becoming very important to chemical evolution. Abiogenesis isn’t separated from evolution because Darwinian principles had nothing to do with it at any time, rather because there were almost certainly one or several developments which do not play a role in the evolution of life after life got started.

    It’s like the Big Bang and the subsequent evolution of the universe. They’re connected subjects, there are definitely continuities between the two, and the evolution of the cosmos has to be understood in the light of the Big Bang. Yet we might know nothing at all about the Big Bang (as indeed was the case for a long time) and still confidently discuss much of the evolution of the universe. What we knew about the evolution of the stars and the cosmos was based upon principles of science and upon our ability to observe past and present developments, and the vagaries of the origin of the cosmos did not prevent our confidence about how later developments occurred.

    Likewise with biological evolution. We’ll understand evolution better when we have greater knowledge of abiogenesis, but that gap of information does not much trouble our ability to understand evolution subsequent to life’s arising on earth. Abiogenesis is different enough from evolution, however, that we don’t get a clear picture of the origin of life just by working out evolution–almost certainly because non-evolutionary processes were crucial to abiogenesis (analogous with the Big Bang).

    Both for causal reasons and for reasons of our ignorance, we separate abiogenesis from evolution.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  52. #52 ngong
    October 23, 2007

    Even if you show one particular route from abiological to biological, there is no reason to believe that it is the *actual* route that was taken.

    True, but we can then begin to calculate some honest-to-goodness probabilities instead of the “jet airplane arising after a tornado in a junkyard” bunk that creationists robotically summon up.

  53. #53 truth machine
    October 23, 2007

    Evolution is the why and how life changes through time.

    Abiogenesis is the process by which life arose from nonlife.

    It isn’t possible to completely separate these. Treating them as completely distinct leads to the mistaken notion used by deniers that cells sprang into existence by random accident. But, as PZ notes, “life arose by natural mechanisms to which Darwinian principles did apply.”. That is, the transition from “non-life” to “life” can be explained as changes through time explainable via Darwinian principles. “non-life” and “life” are on a continuum; they aren’t discrete states.

  54. #54 AJ Milne
    October 23, 2007

    While I get what’s being said, and it’s certainly fair to say we don’t have anything like the kind of direct evidence listed (the fossil record, for instance) providing us with the relatively rich level of detail we have for the more recent evolutionary histories of living things, I do think even saying ‘abiogenesis doesn’t leave fingerprints’ does leave a slight exaggeration on the table. We do know a few things. We know, obviously, it eventually lead to what we have now, and there are interesting details in contemporary organisms that probably provide broad hints. At the broadest level, we know we’re looking for what led to RNA. That’s something on its own. In a sense, it’s one big fingerprint, that molecule itself.

    Talking about abiogenesis as a progression from the non-living to the obviously living, and assuming it was a gradual sort of process (which I’d bet iet was), note also that there may be additional fingerprints not yet found, of a more geological sort, that may yet take us further back. It’s true the earliest systems almost certainly wouldn’t have been amenable to fossilization the way more recent living things are, but they may yet have left interesting chemical traces, if they existed on a broad enough scale, and though it may be a faint hope, given the turnover rate of the planet’s crust, we may yet turn some of that up. So I’d say: we can’t quite say that abiogenesis doesn’t leave any fingerprints. We can just say: it almost certainly hasn’t left (a) nearly as many (b) that we have, as yet, found. But there may be clues, nonetheless, and one or more of us we may be standing on them right now.

    Outside fingerprints (as in: what follows isn’t a quibble with the fingerprints statement so much as an aside), note also that we obviously can constrain some of the situation under which it should have occurred. Palaeochemistry, apart from finding those actual traces, gives us some of those hints. We also know roughly when it should have occurred, if we assume it occurred here. We also know roughly how long it could have taken at the outside, though yes, as yet, it’s a longish time frame by our standards (smallish, though, against the whole of natural history, I might also note).

    /End quibble.

  55. #55 truth machine
    October 23, 2007

    Yes, but we don’t know how or at what point Darwinian principles applied. There are likely to be crucial steps which had to take place prior to Darwinian principles becoming very important to chemical evolution. Abiogenesis isn’t separated from evolution because Darwinian principles had nothing to do with it at any time, rather because there were almost certainly one or several developments which do not play a role in the evolution of life after life got started.

    Very well said (ditto for the rest of your post). I alluded to this with “natural selection plus other processes not well understood at this point”.

  56. #56 Greg Peterson
    October 23, 2007

    I can’t recall ever seeing a materialist hypothesis for the origin of life that did not include variation, replication, and selection at some points within the continuum from mere chemistry to “life” (a term that is extremely hard to define, at any rate).

  57. #57 Janine
    October 23, 2007

    With extreme apologies to the memory of The Ramones, I wish to reveal a reworked version of ‘Pinhead’ entitled ‘Secular Pinhead’. I know the extra syllables do note really fit. But it is punk, just say it really fast.

    “Secular Pinhead”

    Gabba gabba we accept you, we accept you one of us!
    Gabba gabba we accept you, we accept you one of us!

    I don’t wanna be a secular pinhead no more.
    I just met a creationist that I could go for.
    I don’t wanna be a secular pinhead no more.
    I just met a creationist that I could go for.

    I don’t wanna be a secular pinhead no more.
    I just met a creationist that I could go for.
    I don’t wanna be a secular pinhead no more.
    I just met a creationist that I could go for.

    D-U-M-B
    Everyone’s accusing me!

    D-U-M-B
    Everyone’s accusing me!

    I don’t wanna be a secular pinhead no more.
    I just met a creationist that I could go for.
    I don’t wanna be a secular pinhead no more.
    I just met a creationist that I could go for.

    Gabba gabba hey!

  58. #58 ngong
    October 23, 2007

    “non-life” and “life” are on a continuum; they aren’t discrete states.

    A broth is either gonna have replicators capable of mutating or not. No?

  59. #59 Chris
    October 23, 2007

    “Chris, do you posit some origin for life that didn’t involve evolutionary processes?”

    Define “evolutionary processes.” It’s possible to define the term in such a way that it covers nearly everything that has happened in the last 14 billion years.
    In which case it’s kind of different than the biological ToE.

    “Chris, abiogenesis din’t leave fingerprints… on this planet. We might find fingerprints on other planets though.”

    We’re talking about the specific chemical reactions that occured among less than a handful of molecules 4.6 billion years ago. I’m really not making a controversial statement when I assert that we probably will never know exactly what happened there beyond the core principles.

  60. #60 truth machine
    October 23, 2007

    A broth is either gonna have replicators capable of mutating or not. No?

    “replicators” and “life” aren’t synonyms. And if all you have is one replicator in a broth, that replicator isn’t likely to survive. The explanation of abiogenesis is going to be considerably more complex than that.

  61. #61 truth machine
    October 23, 2007

    “replicators” and “life” aren’t synonyms.

    To flesh that out a little … from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life

    1. Homeostasis: Regulation of the internal environment to maintain a constant state; for example, sweating to reduce temperature.
    2. Organization: Being composed of one or more cells, which are the basic units of life.
    3. Metabolism: Consumption of energy by converting nonliving material into cellular components (anabolism) and decomposing organic matter (catabolism). Living things require energy to maintain internal organization (homeostasis) and to produce the other phenomena associated with life.
    4. Growth: Maintenance of a higher rate of synthesis than catalysis. A growing organism increases in size in all of its parts, rather than simply accumulating matter. The particular species begins to multiply and expand as the evolution continues to flourish.
    5. Adaptation: The ability to change over a period of time in response to the environment. This ability is fundamental to the process of evolution and is determined by the organism’s heredity as well as the composition of metabolized substances, and external factors present.
    6. Response to stimuli: A response can take many forms, from the contraction of a unicellular organism when touched to complex reactions involving all the senses of higher animals. A response is often expressed by motion, for example, the leaves of a plant turning toward the sun or an animal chasing its prey.
    7. Reproduction: The ability to produce new organisms. Reproduction can be the division of one cell to form two new cells. Usually the term is applied to the production of a new individual (either asexually, from a single parent organism, or sexually, from at least two differing parent organisms), although strictly speaking it also describes the production of new cells in the process of growth.

  62. #62 raven
    October 23, 2007

    “non-life” and “life” are on a continuum; they aren’t discrete states.

    That is true as far as we know. Current theories state that the dividing line between life and nonlife will be fuzzy and hard to define.

    It is also irrelevant.

    The important thing is that at one end of the spectrum we have nonlife. At the other end we have life. Where the dividing line is placed is a minor detail.

  63. #63 negentropyeater
    October 23, 2007

    Come on, look at what we have learned, via science, about life, the world, the universe, in just a few centuries, a blip of time compared with what is left…
    If America decides to take for serious the scientific recommendations of people like Billo and BStein, and continues to elect presidents like GWB, in a few generations the USA wil be the third world. Afterall, that’s what happened with the most advanced nations in the 13th century, the arabs decided that Islam would freeze any quest for knowledge, that even asking how angel Gabriel looked like would be a crime and Europe took the lead.
    Don’t worry, us secular pinheads in Europe, China and Japan will make this century’s main scientific discoveries whilst Fox News will continue airing these kind of really thought provoking discussions between your greatest thinkers.
    God Bless America !

  64. #64 PZ Myers
    October 23, 2007

    Here’s a concept those of you who disagree that abiogenesis involves evolution need to consider.

    Do viruses evolve?

    Are viruses alive?

  65. #65 truth machine
    October 23, 2007

    The important thing is that at one end of the spectrum we have nonlife. At the other end we have life. Where the dividing line is placed is a minor detail.

    It seems that you don’t know what “continuum” means; there is no “dividing line”.

  66. #66 ngong
    October 23, 2007

    #63…Well, we’re discussing the abiogenesis/evolution barrier. Evolution needs replicators, but it doesn’t need wikipedia’s 7-point definition of life . No?

  67. #67 truth machine
    October 23, 2007

    Here’s a concept those of you who disagree that abiogenesis involves evolution need to consider.

    I agree that it involves evolution. But Glen’s point was that it doesn’t involve the theory of evolution — or that it involves only a little of that (variation, replication, and selection, Greg says) plus a bunch of other stuff.

  68. #68 truth machine
    October 23, 2007

    Well, we’re discussing the abiogenesis/evolution barrier. Evolution needs replicators, but it doesn’t need wikipedia’s 7-point definition of life . No?

    A theory of abiogenesis should at least explain how the first primitive cells arose. And since they didn’t spring into existence like a jet plane in a junkyard, some sort of evolution of function must be considered.

  69. #69 negentropyeater
    October 23, 2007

    Right on PZ, and if I may add, does the milky way galaxy evolve ? Is it alive ?
    I’m more and more convinced that the key to abiogenesis is a very lengthly evolutionary process which occured over billions of years across the universe, before the planet earth existed. The first replicators were not manufactured in an instant, on the planet earth, but over billions of years in thermodynamic conditions that we will gradually discover, using more and more sophisticated computers and experiments. Science will not give up.

  70. #70 Chris
    October 23, 2007

    “At the broadest level, we know we’re looking for what led to RNA.”

    Which brings us right back to the methamphetamine analogy. There are a *lot* of pathways by which RNA could have gotten here. You might use evidence to narrow it down to a few million.

    (I guess I am kind of quibbling since I am not arguing that the *principle* of abiogenesis can’t be demonstrated and educated guesses made about the actual process).

    ” We also know roughly when it should have occurred, if we assume it occurred here.”

    Wait…are you saying we don’t even know whether this happened on Earth or someplace else at this point? Because that ain’t a small gap in our knowledge.

    “”non-life” and “life” are on a continuum; they aren’t discrete states.

    Err…by definition they actually are discrete states. Reminds me of that scene in Princess Bride: “He’s not dead, he’s only mostly dead!”

  71. #71 ngong
    October 23, 2007

    #66…Obviously, it’s a mistake to say that we should begin talking about evolution when the first “life” appears. That plays right into the creos hands.

    But is it a mistake to refer to abiogenesis as the study of events that lead up to the first replicators? And here, many/most of the mechanisms (e.g. mutation) of standard biological evolution don’t really come into play.

  72. #72 Dan
    October 23, 2007

    I think that C-span link has completely defused any worries I might have had about Expelled.

    Conspiracy theories (“you could lose your friends just for watching this film!!!!” and quote mines. They even cut off Dawkins mid-sentence.

  73. #73 ngong
    October 23, 2007

    Weird shit…I venture over to dictionary.com and enter abiogenesis. Here’s the first entry: the now discredited theory that living organisms can arise spontaneously from inanimate matter; spontaneous generation.

  74. #74 truth machine
    October 23, 2007

    Err…by definition they actually are discrete states.

    Yet another person who doesn’t know what “by definition” means and thinks that “by fiat” is an argument.

    Are “non-bearded” and “bearded” discrete states? Are “non-rich” and “rich” discrete states? Not only is there no definition that makes them so, but there is a rich body of literature that addresses such inexact criteria.

  75. #75 truth machine
    October 23, 2007

    Here’s the first entry:

    Yes, well, that’s not the meaning we’re discussing, now is it?

  76. #76 ngong
    October 23, 2007

    #77…no. But it seems a bit loaded for the first definition offered. Or maybe I’m just seeing creationist conspiracies everywhere I look, Ben Stein-like.

  77. #77 Josh
    October 23, 2007

    If Expelled were a movie that pissed off the Christians enough, they would organize large efforts to buss people around to theaters where it was being shown and protest outside. They’d probably be at school board meetings yelling about it. What will we do? Mostly argue about it to largely like-minded groups of people on the internet.

  78. #78 raven
    October 23, 2007

    #66…Obviously, it’s a mistake to say that we should begin talking about evolution when the first “life” appears. That plays right into the creos hands.

    Actually it is precisely the other way around.

    We have mountains of data for evolution. We see it going on around us literally every day. We have very little direct evidence for what happened once 3.6 billion years ago.

    The brighter creos know this. They know that no educated, reasonably intelligent, and honest person can deny evolution. Most of them grudgingly admit microevolution exists.

    That is why they directly frame or shift the attack to abiogenesis. Read the Stein babble above. Evolution says lightening bolts hit mud and here we are. This is framing and highly dishonest. But he knows that evolution itself post abiogenesis is unassailable.

    This is one reason why it makes sense to separate the two questions. If you let them conflate the two, you toss away most of your best evidence at the beginning and quite unnecessarily.

  79. #79 AJ Milne
    October 23, 2007

    There are a *lot* of pathways by which RNA could have gotten here. You might use evidence to narrow it down to a few million.

    With due respect, this is saying a mouthful. I suspect how many plausible possibilities that may remain may eventually be significantly better constrained than this, depending both on direct evidence that may better limit the conditions, and better modelling of the chemistry, but I’m certainly not going to say with any certainty: ‘we’ll get it down to a few dozen’. I’d be laughed at, and rightly so. But it’s likewise arguing on air to insist the number must always be so large, too, at this point. Field’s newish, more might come in. I do rather suspect knowing that end point is going to help us enormously, in that regard. But I know I’ve got no brief, as yet, to say with certainty how much we’re likely to constrain the possibilities. Nor, just as importantly, how little.

    Note also that in saying we’ll have ‘millions’ of possibilities regardless of what evidence we might have, you’d also have to throw down and say what constitutes a meaningful variation in the pathway. And what constitutes a sufficiently plausible variation therein. Assumptions about palaeochemistry are going to rule some things out, or at least render them less probable.

    Again, with due respect, I’d cite Darwin’s own bon mot on positively asserting something can never be solved by science. I find it rather more likely, as hard as this problem is, and as tenuous as the evidence seems now, that we’ll know an awful lot more about it eventually.

  80. #80 truth machine
    October 23, 2007

    #66…Obviously, it’s a mistake to say that we should begin talking about evolution when the first “life” appears. That plays right into the creos hands.

    Actually it is precisely the other way around.

    Well, it plays into their hands in that it makes first “life” look like a jet in a junkyard. An explanation of abiogenesis most likely will involve some sort of evolution, but not MET per se.

    This is one reason why it makes sense to separate the two questions.

    Yes, it makes sense to do that, but one must also recognize the overlap. There’s more to science than fending off creos.

  81. #81 AJ Milne
    October 23, 2007

    Oh… and as to the question about whether or not abiogenesis occurred here, precisely: what I find interesting about that isn’t that we don’t, technically, know as yet. What’s interesting is: actually, given what we know, both are quite plausible enough that they’re perfectly sane questions to consider and research. I tend to suspect abiogenesis occurred here. I don’t really think, on the scale of the universe, we’re going to find it’s such a rare or unlikely event after all. But, in fairness, that suspicion is barely better than mere prejudice at this point, given what we really know about it.

    But again. So what. It’s a current gap in our knowledge. We’ve always had lots of those. And we’ve always been filling them, too.

  82. #82 ngong
    October 23, 2007

    #81…By playing into creos’ hands, I mean saying that evolution begins when you have the first entity that meets a hardcore definition of “life” (post #63). If you accept that, then you really are stuck with a jet airplane that emerges from a junkyard.

    As PZ points out, we have viruses which 1) are not normally thought to be “life” but 2) certainly do evolve. There ARE two separate questions, but it’s not about life vs. non-life. It’s about pre/post replicators.

  83. #83 negentropyeater
    October 23, 2007

    Raven,

    the mistake is to view the evolution from single atoms to highly complex replicating molecules (RNA ?) as a process that happened once, 3.6 b years ago on planet earth.
    It is much more likely that this is a process that took place over billions of years, accross the universe, under very varied thermodynamic conditions. Don’t forget that planet earth was formed in year 9 bill after the big bang. What do you think happened during all that time ?

  84. #84 Ashutosh
    October 23, 2007

    Wanting to teach creationism in a science class is manifestly NOT about “free speech”.

  85. #85 David Marjanovi?
    October 23, 2007

    Caledonian, you once explained that you defined “life” as the presence of all features of a certain list.

    That means that there’s no life in a classic RNA world, right?

    I’m asking because mutation, selection, and drift are completely inevitable in an RNA world. Not all self-replicating ribozymes work at the same speed or with the same efficiency. That means that evolution could have begun long before life did. Right?

  86. #86 David Marjanovi?
    October 23, 2007

    Caledonian, you once explained that you defined “life” as the presence of all features of a certain list.

    That means that there’s no life in a classic RNA world, right?

    I’m asking because mutation, selection, and drift are completely inevitable in an RNA world. Not all self-replicating ribozymes work at the same speed or with the same efficiency. That means that evolution could have begun long before life did. Right?

  87. #87 bernarda
    October 23, 2007

    I haven’t read biographies of Darwin so I don’t know which predecessors influenced him or if he was familiar with French naturalist Georges Buffon(1707-1788). Buffon is interesting in that even though he got time scale tremendously wrong, his overall conceptualization wasn’t bad for his time.

    http://www.answers.com/main/ntquery?s=buffon&gwp=13

    “”Epochs of Nature” (1779) most fully expounds Buffon’s cosmological schema and best reveals his speculative genius. Thousands of years ago, Buffon claimed, a passing comet sheared great masses from a molten sun. These masses scattered in space, congealed, and became planets (including the earth) revolving about the sun. At a later date life appeared on earth. The production of life required one of Buffon’s most disputed explanatory concepts – organic molecules, minute centers of attractive force and heat which constituted indestructible building blocks for all living organisms. He claimed that the molecules were marshaled to form the various kinds of plants and animals by a totally obscure agent, the internal mold (moule intéričure), and that there was a determinate number of such molds, each related to an individual or species.

    Many efforts have been made to represent Buffon as an evolutionist. The complementary ideas of organic molecule and formative molds do not serve this purpose. More germane is Buffon’s notorious conception of the dégénération of animals. The principal instance of degeneration was the purported smaller stature and weaker constitution of American animals compared with those of the Old World. He claimed the transforming agents to be climate, nurture, and domestication. But his evidence was, at best, questionable, and the proffered agencies of change no less uncertain. While degeneration was thus a limited idea, it had the great merit of turning attention to the possibility of such changes and, even more so, to the interest and importance of the geographical distribution of animals.

    All of these questions impinged upon religious matters. While Buffon evidently satisfied all the outward forms of Christian practice, he almost certainly was a deist in the 1730s and may very well have become an atheist in his later years. He recognized that the wonderful intricacies of nature’s productions, especially plants and animals, and the astonishing fertility of natural processes could not be used as evidence of God’s existence or of His providential concern and powers. By the 1780s Buffon regarded events in nature as the mere result of blind chance and believed that “nature” itself was no more than an assemblage of regular but probably inscrutable laws. Their delimitation remained the naturalist’s foremost task.”

  88. #88 truth machine
    October 23, 2007

    There ARE two separate questions, but it’s not about life vs. non-life. It’s about pre/post replicators.

    There are multiple questions: how did the first replicators arise, how did RNA arise, how did DNA arise, how did cells arise, how did all of life arise from the first cells. If you take the first question to be abiogenesis and the last question to be MET, then those don’t cover the whole territory.

  89. #89 Chris
    October 23, 2007

    “Yet another person who doesn’t know what “by definition” means and thinks that “by fiat” is an argument.”

    What is this definition of “by definition” that I am unaware of???

    “Are “non-bearded” and “bearded” discrete states?”

    My friend just had a baby girl 2 months ago, she’s completely non-bearded. And no, having hair follicles do not constitute having a beard in any sense.

    “Are “non-rich” and “rich” discrete states?”

    1) You can give a discrete definition of ‘rich’ using integer values. Above this value you are ‘rich’ and below this threshold you aren’t.

    2) No, but then being rich or not is a relative term that humans use to compare their financial status among each other. So it’s discretely different from the bearded example or the life example. It’s the same thing as arguing that a bit isn’t discrete, since both ‘0’ and ‘1’ are numbers.

    “Not only is there no definition that makes them so…”

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

    I’m not saying the definitions are good ones and can’t be argued with, but they certainly do exist.

    “but there is a rich body of literature that addresses such inexact criteria.”

    So why do people keep using the term ‘abiogenesis’ here, if the term is somewhat meaningless?

    Saying ‘it’s on a continuum’ isn’t a very good argument unless the continuum in question is infinite going in both directions. I don’t see how that’s the case here. Even in fuzzy logic you can have ‘completely false’ and ‘completely true’ and they are discretely different valuations.

  90. #90 Bruce
    October 23, 2007

    Wow, I am stupider for having watched that. Thanks a lot PZ.

  91. #91 raven
    October 23, 2007

    Raven,

    the mistake is to view the evolution from single atoms to highly complex replicating molecules (RNA ?) as a process that happened once, 3.6 b years ago on planet earth.

    If you mean, is there life elsewhere in the universe, sure. Rather unlikely that we are the only case. But really, where is the data? For now, we simply have absolutely zero data on this point.

    Just finding life elsewhere would go a long way towards validating abiogenesis.

    I’ve argued before that we could be the recipients of panspermia of some sort. This doesn’t have to be cellular seeds, even precellular replicators would fit. For all we know, this part of the galaxy or the whole galaxy could be a DNA/RNA L-amino acid clade. There is zero data for or against this also. But it is at least within the realms of scientific possibility.

  92. #92 ngong
    October 23, 2007

    #90…I tend to think of complex life with or without specific sorts of templates (DNA, RNA, whatever) as a done deal once replicators start mutating. You can toss out some plausible scenarios for creos to ignore once you get past the replication hurdle.

  93. #93 Trent1492
    October 23, 2007

    Hello Wintermute,

    The answer to the question of how many Americans can locate the U.S.A on a map is 94%. The following link is the the pdf of the National Geographic report. http://tinyurl.com/2yqsow

  94. #94 truth machine
    October 23, 2007

    What is this definition of “by definition” that I am unaware of???

    You claimed something was true “by definition”, but you offered no definition to support your claim. There is in fact no definition that makes “life” and “non-life” discrete. There’s a debate about whether there is a clear distinction; you can’t just rule that there is a clear distinction by fiat.

    As for bearded and rich, I suggest you look up “sorites paradox”. Nowhere in any dictionary will you find a definition of “rich” that includes a number of dollars (or other form of wealth) above which one is rich and below which one is not; richness is a continuum. Nor is there a specific number of hairs on a chin, or a length of peach fuzz, that is by definition a beard. If you still don’t understand this … I’m sorry for you.

    There is no number

  95. #95 David Marjanovi?
    October 23, 2007

    Define “evolutionary processes.” It’s possible to define the term in such a way that it covers nearly everything that has happened in the last 14 billion years.
    In which case it’s kind of different than the biological ToE.

    Descent with modification by mutation, selection and drift.

    Don’t forget that planet earth was formed in year 9 bill after the big bang. What do you think happened during all that time ?

    Well, nothing.

    After all, a lot of conditions are necessary for life. A first-generation star cannot have planets other than maybe gas giants, for example, because only stars produce elements heavier than lithium, and only supernovae produce elements heavier than iron.

  96. #96 David Marjanovi?
    October 23, 2007

    Define “evolutionary processes.” It’s possible to define the term in such a way that it covers nearly everything that has happened in the last 14 billion years.
    In which case it’s kind of different than the biological ToE.

    Descent with modification by mutation, selection and drift.

    Don’t forget that planet earth was formed in year 9 bill after the big bang. What do you think happened during all that time ?

    Well, nothing.

    After all, a lot of conditions are necessary for life. A first-generation star cannot have planets other than maybe gas giants, for example, because only stars produce elements heavier than lithium, and only supernovae produce elements heavier than iron.

  97. #97 David Marjanovi?
    October 23, 2007

    Sorry — not even ordinary gas giants, but ones composed only of hydrogen and helium plus trace amounts of lithium. The ones in our solar system contain water, ammonia, ammonium hydrosulfide, methane, nitrogen, and plenty more fun stuff.

  98. #98 David Marjanovi?
    October 23, 2007

    Sorry — not even ordinary gas giants, but ones composed only of hydrogen and helium plus trace amounts of lithium. The ones in our solar system contain water, ammonia, ammonium hydrosulfide, methane, nitrogen, and plenty more fun stuff.

  99. #99 truth machine
    October 23, 2007

    I tend to think of complex life with or without specific sorts of templates (DNA, RNA, whatever) as a done deal once replicators start mutating.

    Well, you’re wrong … read the abiogenesis literature. The most likely result of a mutation in a simple replicator is that it will stop replicating. And there are all sorts of other chemical reactions in the broth that will rip the replicator apart. Read that Wikipedia list again and try to grasp the significance of those characteristics.

  100. #100 CalGeorge
    October 23, 2007

    Believers have their temples, mosques, churches, and synagogues.

    They have their presses and their web sites and their think thanks and their television stations.

    They have their universities and colleges.

    Their freedom on inquiry and freedom of expression are not under any threat.

    They are free to babble on all day about nothing and con millions of people with their bullshit.

    They should stop complaining.

  101. #101 negentropyeater
    October 23, 2007

    Raven,

    there are several avenues to explore :
    – a more detailed exploration of the other solid planets and asteroďds in the solar system : afterall, if the biochemical “scum” should have ended up all over the place and it should be easier to find its fingerprints where, because of the particular thermodynamic conditions of the planet, that scum didn’t evolve and might be burried under the surface of Mars for example.
    – computer chemistry : that fucker the Schrödinger equation is so complex that we still can’t do chemistry in a computer. But who knows what we are going to be able to do in 10, 20, 50 years ? And if we can manage to make quantum computers ?
    So, we’ll see, I wouldn’t be surprised if abiogenesis is solved within the next generation.

  102. #102 truth machine
    October 23, 2007

    “Not only is there no definition that makes them so…”

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

    It’s amusing that you offer that … did you even read it?

    “There is no universal definition of life; there are a variety of definitions proposed by different scientists. To define life in unequivocal terms is still a challenge for scientists[5][6].”

    Do you know what “unequivocal” means?

    “However, others cite several limitations of this definition[7]. Thus, many members of several species do not reproduce, possibly because they belong to specialized sterile castes (such as ant workers), these are still considered forms of life.”

    So they are considered “life” even though they don’t fit the definition. So much for “discrete”.

    “Still others contest such definitions of life on philosophical grounds. They offer the following as examples of life: viruses which reproduce; storms or flames which “burn”; certain computer software programs which are programmed to mutate and evolve; future software programs which may evince (even high-order) behavior; machines which can move; and some forms of proto-life consisting of metabolizing cells without the ability to reproduce. [citation needed] Still, most scientists would not call such phenomena expressive of life. Generally all seven characteristics are required for a population to be considered a life form.”

    All seven characteristics are required … except when they aren’t, as for worker ants. But hey, I’ll go with all seven, which means that abiogenesis must get all the way to cells, which means quite a bit of evolution is included. See all the other posts that establish the context that you have ignored or failed to comprehend.

  103. #103 David Marjanovi?
    October 23, 2007

    Pet peeve alert: Why does anyone bother citing answers.com? All of their articles I’ve seen so far are exact copies of Wikipedia articles (not always the latest version, of course!), and they don’t hide that fact. From the bottom of the Buffon article:

    This entry is from Wikipedia, the leading user-contributed encyclopedia. It may not have been reviewed by professional editors (see full disclaimer)

    Donate to Wikimedia

    Is answers.com anything but a time-delayed mirror of Wikipedia with more cryptic URLs? Do they copy from elsewhere, too?

    ————-

    Wow, I am stupider for having watched that. Thanks a lot PZ.

    Nobody forced you to watch it. You had free will. :^)

  104. #104 David Marjanovi?
    October 23, 2007

    Pet peeve alert: Why does anyone bother citing answers.com? All of their articles I’ve seen so far are exact copies of Wikipedia articles (not always the latest version, of course!), and they don’t hide that fact. From the bottom of the Buffon article:

    This entry is from Wikipedia, the leading user-contributed encyclopedia. It may not have been reviewed by professional editors (see full disclaimer)

    Donate to Wikimedia

    Is answers.com anything but a time-delayed mirror of Wikipedia with more cryptic URLs? Do they copy from elsewhere, too?

    ————-

    Wow, I am stupider for having watched that. Thanks a lot PZ.

    Nobody forced you to watch it. You had free will. :^)

  105. #105 Josh
    October 23, 2007

    What George said in #100.

  106. #106 truth machine
    October 23, 2007

    P.S. to ngong:

    I tend to think of complex life with or without specific sorts of templates (DNA, RNA, whatever) as a done deal once replicators start mutating.

    Then why can’t we just put some replicators in a broth, shoot gamma rays at them, and watch them evolve?

    Clearly, the story is a lot more complex than that.

  107. #107 AJ Milne
    October 23, 2007

    On thing this all reminds me of, though the lot of you may already know this: I do think we’re very close now to having much more data–and critical data–impinging on this very question. We’ve found an awful lot of exoplanets out there in the last decade or so (closing in on 300… and COROT hasn’t even started reporting… rumours are it will within weeks, now, though)… yes, mostly hot Jupiters, but this is pretty much a given regardless of which sorts of planets exist, since hot Jupiters are what are current instruments are best at finding. Next question is: how many terrestrial planets are there? We’re going to have (or should have… crosses fingers) instruments soon enough that can tell us that. And at around the same time, we should be able to start getting spectra off them, giving us decent information about atmospheric chemistry. I look at the one place we know life did get a foothold–and that would be here–and think about how relatively quickly that happened after the crust cooled, and again, it’s not much data, but my sense of this is: on what little I have, betting on life elsewhere, and within detectable distance given instruments we’ll have in a few decades, I’d call the odds as not bad. (Note: we could get incredibly lucky, and get a positive for free oxygen in the atmosphere of a terrestrial rock much, much sooner… but this would almost require us to be insanely lucky… current spectroscopic methods require it transits, current mirrors require it be awfully close to us, and in orbit around a rather small star, yadda yadda…).

    I’d actually say: I kinda think on balance we’ll probably have decent evidence for life on an exoplanet within my lifetime. No, I’m not expecting a radio signal. Life that gets around to transmitting those might still be incredibly rare–too rare for us to bump into any time soon. What I’m expecting is that Darwin or the TPF (assuming either of them eventually happens) is going to turn up a tiny little hard rock somewhere with an atmosphere suspiciously full of free oxygen, and the working hypothesis will be we’re looking at somewhere else something else like what happened here also happened… Archaean-like anaerobes, of course, might be vastly more common in the universe, but, annoyingly, I doubt we’ll be able confidently to infer the presence of those in the absorption lines of a spectrograph…

    Either way, once we’ve built those bigger mirrors, and put them out at the Lagrange point, we are going to have more data, at least, about those two things: how many rocky planets there are, at least in the immediate neighbourhood, and what their atmospheres look like. We will know that little bit more, in not much longer.

  108. #108 truth machine
    October 23, 2007

    but my sense of this is: on what little I have, betting on life elsewhere, and within detectable distance given instruments we’ll have in a few decades, I’d call the odds as not bad.

    But the question here is whether life originated on this planet or got here from elsewhere. Which is more likely depends on knowledge of what is possible in RNA World — the knowledge we now have makes origin on Earth considerably more likely than before we had that knowledge.

  109. #109 True Bob
    October 23, 2007

    #100, I like it said this way:

    Don’t preach in my school and I won’t think in your church.

  110. #110 Mr. Piltdown
    October 23, 2007

    One of the determining factors as to whether or not a claim is “scientific” is the concept of falsifiability. That is, you have to be able to test something in a controlled experiment in order to support or undermine its foundation in fact. According to this consideration, ID is not science: how could one possibly test whether or not an intelligent being created life as we know it? With that said however, this same contention seems to be true of evolution. While we can test genetic change in small populations of drosophila or bacteria in petri dishes – given the huge scope of what evolution as a theory entails – is it actually possible to test the gamut of its claims in a single experiment?

  111. #111 Steve_C
    October 23, 2007

    Nope. But with a gamut of experiments.

    What do you want to test? Evolution is a fact. Every year more and more study is done, and more evidence of the how’s and why’s are discovered.

  112. #112 CJO
    October 23, 2007

    While we can test genetic change in small populations of drosophila or bacteria in petri dishes – given the huge scope of what evolution as a theory entails – is it actually possible to test the gamut of its claims in a single experiment?

    While we can test the effects of turbulent flow on small samples of soil and rock -given the huge scope of what erosion as a process is said to have acheived- is it actually possible to test the claim that the Grand Canyon was formed by erosion?

    My point being that historical sciences, of which evolutionary biology is but one, do not have as a benchmark “single experiments.” They rely on a preponderance of consilient observations. Evolution has that, in spades.

  113. #113 Chris
    October 23, 2007

    truth-

    This is the most stimulating debate I’ve gotten into on the Internet in a while. Thanks. It’s all good.

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

    “It’s amusing that you offer that … did you even read it?”

    Yeah, I did. The page is a pretty damn good, discrete definition of life.

    “‘There is no universal definition of life…there are a variety of definitions proposed by different scientists. To define life in unequivocal terms is still a challenge for scientists[5][6].'; Do you know what “unequivocal” means? ”

    “Unequivocal” means you can’t argue with it. Go back and look what I said…I said you could argue with the definitions of life, but that they do exist and represent discrete conditions.

    “‘Thus, many members of several species do not reproduce, possibly because they belong to specialized sterile castes (such as ant workers), these are still considered forms of life.'”

    There is a slight category error here between “life” and “forms of life”. They are differentiating individual members of a species, distinct from the population as a whole, and pointing out those individuals don’t reproduce. It doesn’t follow from this that the definition of life doesn’t require reproduction. All the sterile members were produced from non-sterile members. No non-sterile members means you will quickly have no members at all. Collectively, life has the ability for self-reproduction or it doesn’t. Pointing at individuals who don’t out of a population that does isn’t a very good argument. It’s kind of like pointing out that my finger doesn’t reproduce, therefore my finger isn’t alive.

    “So they are considered “life” even though they don’t fit the definition. So much for “discrete”.”

    “Discrete” doesn’t mean that I have a *concise* definition. Just that I can differentiate life from non-life. This may require a very long-winded definition when written down, but it is still easy to differentiate An electron is completely not alive. Uranium atom, not alive. Moon rock, completely not alive. Bacteria in my gut, completely alive. Jerry Falwell, dead. Easy.

    “‘Still others contest such definitions of life on philosophical grounds. They offer the following as examples of life: viruses which reproduce'”

    I’m not a biologist, I thought viruses hijack self-replicating systems? That’s not quite the same thing.

    “storms or flames which “burn”; ”

    Ongoing chemical reactions, but not the same one as life.

    “certain computer software programs which are programmed to mutate and evolve”

    Artificial life. Should (eventually, hopefully) do everything that life does, only was made by people.

    “Still, most scientists would not call such phenomena expressive of life. Generally all seven characteristics are required for a population to be considered a life form.”

    “All seven characteristics are required … except when they aren’t, as for worker ants.”

    Category error, as I already pointed out. In fact that quote right there itself says ‘a *population* to be considered a life form’ which negates the worker ant argument.

    “which means that abiogenesis must get all the way to cells, which means quite a bit of evolution is included.”

    The problem here is that for you to meaningfully use the word “abiogenesis” there has to be some transition from “not-alive” to “alive.” Think about it. The starting point of any abiogenesis process will necessarily start with something not alive. Otherwise it’s not really “abiogenesis” at all, but “turning something kind of alive into something more alive”

    “See all the other posts that establish the context that you have ignored or failed to comprehend.”

    No, really man. I’ve thought about this. I’ve thought about it a lot. I swear! :)

    To review:

    1) I don’t need a *concise* definition to have a definition.

    2) Category errors aren’t valid arguments.

    3) If there is no differentiating life from non-life, it is impossible to say that a single hydrogen atom isn’t “somewhat alive”. Also, Katherine Heigl’s bra. I’ve thought about it a lot also.

    4) Without being able to differentiate life from non-life, the term ‘abiogenesis’ becomes largely meaningless.

  114. #114 Chris
    October 23, 2007

    “is it actually possible to test the gamut of its claims in a single experiment?”

    I would say that a ‘theory’ is a body of a bunch of experiments that can be explained by a common model. So it might not be testable by a single experiment.

  115. #115 Chris Harris
    October 23, 2007

    I screwed up and left out point 5

    5) Life is a particular series of chemical reactions. Pointing at other, totally different chemical reactions that have similar (or even identical) properties is not a good grounds for saying we can’t differentiate between those two chemical reactions.

  116. #116 CJO
    October 23, 2007

    The argument is basically an essentialist position -in every case, it will be possible to rigorously delineate life from non-life- against an anti-essentialist continuum. The positions are not going to disagree on a hydrogen atom, which is far enough to one side of the continuum to uncontroversially be non-life.

    All such arguments are misunderstood if the essentialist picks uncontroversial extremes. The fuzziness is all in the middle. For what it’s worth, I’m with truth machine on the anti-essentialist position.

  117. #117 Chris
    October 23, 2007

    One more, then I will shut up.

    I said:

    “Collectively, life has the ability for self-reproduction or it doesn’t.”

    And that was stupid.

    I meant “Collectively, a population has the ability for self-reproduction or it doesn’t.”

  118. #118 A
    October 23, 2007

    In any evolution-creation debate, a defender of evolution should
    point out the practical consequence of not allowing for evolution;
    it can be worded as such:
    Well, if you think, evolution doesn’t occur, can I sell you
    a batch of last year’s flu vaccine?
    Would you have your family/aged grandparent vaccinated with last
    year’s flu vaccine?

    Flu vaccine is now easily available (at local drug stores, clinics…) here in California, so people are familiar with it; due to evolution of the flu virus, it needs to be reformulated every year to have some chance of being effective against flu viruses [virii?], which evolved from those prevalent last year.–
    Without evolution, we also need not worry about the ‘bird flu’ (or antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections).

    …But then some fundies might think, vaccinations or antibiotics interfere with God’s plans for them.

  119. #119 RamblinDude
    October 23, 2007

    AJ Milne #105:

    Your comment about other planets reminded me of yesterdays Astronamy Picture of the Day. It’s a very good picture of a crater on Mars. It’s like looking at a geological formation in Arizona–except that it’s on another planet!

    It put a grin on my face.

  120. #120 bernarda
    October 23, 2007

    David Marjanovic, when I link to answers.com or to wiki it is just a form of shorthand for the information. People here are smart enough to know they should look for further information.

    It is simply a way to introduce people to subjects they may not be aware of. It is not meant to be a definitive explanation.

    I find comments like yours not useful.

  121. #121 Skeptic4u
    October 23, 2007

    I feel so bad this this kind of media gets out. This must make those ignorant creationists feel so good about themselves.
    “Because it is a weak theory” says Ben, what a moron. “God done it” is not a theory, and if we go by what they think a theory is then it’s the weakest theory there is.

  122. #122 Chris
    October 23, 2007

    “The argument is basically an essentialist position -in every case, it will be possible to rigorously delineate life from non-life against an anti-essentialist continuum.
    The positions are not going to disagree on a hydrogen atom, which is far enough to one side of the continuum to uncontroversially be non-life. All such arguments are misunderstood if the essentialist picks uncontroversial extremes.””

    The uncontroversial extremes are an existence proof that there exist criteria for differentiating between living and non-living things. There is nothing ‘essentialist’ positing that it’s a critical phase transition between the two states, rather than a slow, continuous process.

    ” The fuzziness is all in the middle.”

    Can you give me some examples of ‘fuzziness’?

  123. #123 Peter Holt
    October 23, 2007

    Don’t tell these guys that the number system that enables modern mathematics was developed by Arabs!

    It wasn’t developed by Arabs. It came to Europe via the Arabs, hence the common belief.

    The system we call Arabic numbers was actually developed in India, then transmitted to Arabia, then to Europe.

  124. #124 negentropyeater
    October 23, 2007

    #97 David, actually the Sun is most likely a 3rd generation star. It could well be that 2nd generation stars and whatever planets (gaz giants cooling down towards the end of that star’s life and later fragments being projected throughout the galaxy after the supernovae explosion of that 2nd gen star) there would have been then would have provided an environment conclusive to the production of the form of prelife building blocks. This adds a few billion years to the few hundred million pre-life years on earth.

  125. #125 Tom Hall
    October 23, 2007

    I showed this to my 10 year old this evening and without prompting his exact words were ….. Do they know they look stupid. What a pair of feckin morons.

  126. #126 negentropyeater
    October 23, 2007

    BTW, I was writing this (#123) mainly as a reaction to that egghead Ben Stein who thinks the best scientists have been able to come up with is that life arose from a few lightning strikes in the mud.
    The problem is that time and time again, people like him don’t even take the time to study the litterature and fall victim of making the explanations simpler than they are. No wonder, if their main scientific reference is a 2000 y old book that explains that, as common sense suggests, women came out of the rib of a man, than abiogenesis is going to be “lightning stikes in the mud”.
    And you are not even allowed to call them stupid, they might feel vexed!

  127. #127 CJO
    October 23, 2007

    The uncontroversial extremes are an existence proof that there exist criteria for differentiating between living and non-living things.

    But not that those criteria will hold in all cases, which is the point at issue.

    There is nothing ‘essentialist’ positing that it’s a critical phase transition between the two states, rather than a slow, continuous process.

    That’s a fine hypothesis. But you merely assert that it is so, when the empirical results of abiogenesis research are still forthcoming.

    As for actual examples of the fuzziness in the middle, provided you reject viruses as definitively not-alive and endosymbiotic bacteria and organelles as definitely alive, then there are not any good ones extant on the planet. (I think those are as good an existence proof for my position as the extreme cases are for yours.) But that, in itself, is not conclusive as to whether such phenomena have occurred in the past or on other planets.

  128. #128 Sastra
    October 23, 2007

    “is it actually possible to test the gamut of (evolution’s) claims in a single experiment?”

    Since we’re talking falsification here, I’m surprised someone hasn’t mentioned the famous Haldane quote re “fossil rabbits in the Precambrian.”

    Ok, it’s a discovery, not an experiment, but it would be pretty strong evidence against evolution. Evidence against Intelligent Design would be … ? What? A note from God on a rabbit saying “I didn’t design this; rabbits were just an accident that happened without any of My input?”

  129. #129 Sastra
    October 23, 2007

    There is nothing ‘essentialist’ positing that it’s a critical phase transition between the two states, rather than a slow, continuous process.

    I don’t think it’s possible to find an intersubjectively confirmable critical moment when the “life phase” can be distinguished from the “death phase” — even when dealing with a living human in the midst of dying. Slow it down to microseconds and focus on the molecular level. If you pick a point where the man is now “dead,” could you defend this cut-off line against someone who moves it forward or back a half-second, or adds or takes away just a little bit of cellular activity?

    I suspect that if biologists were to be transported back in time to view the exact moment when life first formed: one third would be thrilled; one third would think the “first moment” came earlier; one third would think it comes a bit later; and all of them would want to talk to the guy who set the time machine, to hear what his reasoning was, and see if he can defend it.

  130. #130 Christophe Thill
    October 23, 2007

    Thanks for these few minutes of sheer stupidity. Just wanted to nail a tiny little detail (other commenters have taken care of the big stuff well enough). In the end, O’Reilly says to Stein that he’s going to leave him the last word. And guess what ? He doesn’t. He can’t keep himself from adding some more silliness…

  131. #131 J Myers
    October 23, 2007

    In the end, O’Reilly says to Stein that he’s going to leave him the last word. And guess what ? He doesn’t. He can’t keep himself from adding some more silliness…

    In that regard, does it really matter who was speaking?

  132. #132 Bill Gascoyne
    October 23, 2007

    “We’re sorry, this video is no longer available.”

  133. #133 steve_h
    October 23, 2007

    “Intelligent design is an effort to fill in some of those gaps”

    Gaps best explained by Design(*). Gaps filled. Next!

    (* “Best explanation(s)” omitted to reduce bandwidth. See other post.)

  134. #134 B
    October 23, 2007

    The first point in this post is a crucial one, I think. I’ve never heard anyone else take the stance that effectively states Darwinism was a brilliant theory at the time but it’s now time to move on to something applicable to the 21st century. I think that will resonate with a certain segment of people who might start seeing this “new creationism” as some kind of step forward, even though it is nothing less than a perverse and idiotic bastardization of science.

  135. #135 Caledonian
    October 23, 2007

    Here’s a concept those of you who disagree that abiogenesis involves evolution need to consider.

    This really isn’t the point. The point is that evolution, or more specifically the Theory of Evolution, does not include abiogenesis.

    Certainly the mechanisms which Darwin noted can be used to broadly understand how chemical abiogenesis might have come about, but the Theory of Evolution itself has nothing to do with it.

  136. #136 CJO
    October 23, 2007

    Good point, B.
    I think the reasoning is implicit in a lot of ID-style “new” creationism, though. I’ve heard many a creo go on about how Darwin thought the cell was a homogenous blob of jelly, and now that we know about all this marvelous “nanotechnology” (yes they do use the word), the theory isn’t plausible anymore.

    It’s another example of the conflation of “complexity” “information” and “design” into one big ill-defined bundle of bad analogy and faulty logic, but it seems to resonate with some, as evidenced by the ignorant bleatings of Mr. Stein. I’ve tried (elsewhere) to counter the point by arguing that Darwin et al in the 19th Century were perfectly aware of the degree of complexity a naturalistic theory of biological origins was going to need to account for; they simply hadn’t located it at the smaller scales yet. IDers will, confronted with this, insist that a cell is inherently more complex than an ecosystem (Darwin’s own “tangled bank”), but they’d be wrong, at least for reasonable definitions of “complex.”

  137. #137 raven
    October 23, 2007

    BTW, ID isn’t new. It derives from Paley, a contemporary of Darwin. In fact, it predates Darwin’s work.

    And in 150 years, it has produced nothing but dudly ammo for creos.

  138. #138 ngong
    October 23, 2007

    #105: Then why can’t we just put some replicators in a broth, shoot gamma rays at them, and watch them evolve?

    Cuz it’s difficult to create replicators that can mutate without getting stuck, thus illustrating the point that there is a serious leap between a world without and with replicators.

  139. #139 Tatarize
    October 23, 2007

    I never remember having my high school class go over abiogenesis even in AP bio.

    If there ever is a really good and robust abiogenesis theory it will basically consist of: this stuff right here manages to reproduce itself thus kicking off evolution and we’re done. Magic man done it does nothing for these supposed gaps. Unless your intelligent designer is a self-replicating protein we don’t have a gap for em.

    I don’t really think abiogenesis is a big mystery, rather it’s just an unknown. We have plenty of things which could have done it, but no idea which things did do it.

    Paley wasn’t the original he was just well known and read by Darwin and a number others. Hume had a pretty good rebuttal to the argument before Paley ever posed it. Though, Paley and the others were just more forward concluding that God did it rather than some “might be God” intelligence.

  140. #140 Bubba Sixpack
    October 23, 2007

    Science is an occupation filled with pinheads. So Bill Orally is going to show everyone how it’s done.

    Yeah, Bill, you show the scientists how to do REAL science, not that pinhead stuff that has passed for science.

    Bill Orally, Super Scientist, ready to save science from pinhead-dom.

    LOL. What an unhinged maroon. Somebody find him a pacifier and re-fill his thorazine drip.

  141. #141 truth machine
    October 24, 2007

    Cuz it’s difficult to create replicators that can mutate without getting stuck

    But you said it was a done deal. You were wrong. Go read the literature instead of making stuff up like the IDers and creos.

  142. #142 truth machine
    October 24, 2007

    There is nothing ‘essentialist’ positing that it’s a critical phase transition between the two states, rather than a slow, continuous process.

    The notion of “phase transition” here indicates virtually no understanding of biology.

  143. #143 truth machine
    October 24, 2007

    “The uncontroversial extremes are an existence proof that there exist criteria for differentiating between living and non-living things.”

    But not that those criteria will hold in all cases, which is the point at issue.

    Exactly. “criteria for differentiating” must apply to every case, not just two end cases. It’s bizarre that there are people who argue for such obviously stupid and wrong positions — you have to wonder what they hope to gain from it; certainly not scientific enlightenment.

  144. #144 Matt
    October 24, 2007

    I once saw an interview with Ben Stein in which he said public education was communism. It was at that point I stopped listening to him. He’s simply a right wing hack.

  145. #145 truth machine
    October 24, 2007

    “Unequivocal” means you can’t argue with it.

    No, it doesn’t mean that. You missed the point: unequivocal means “discrete”, as it applies to this discussion. As the dictionary says, “unambiguous”. Given a definition of life that involves seven criteria that don’t necessarily hold (e.g., worker ants), the distinction between life and non-life is not unambiguous. The fact that there are cases that are unambiguous doesn’t mean that the life/non-life distinction per se is unambiguous. If you had read the literature on “sorites paradox”, you would be aware of this. Someone with no money isn’t rich, while Bill Gates is rich. But what about someone with $300,000? $100,000? $30,000? There is no unambiguous criterion, so “rich” and “non-rich” are not discrete, regardless of whether there a unambiguous cases.

    Beyond that, no definition of life makes life and non-life discrete “by definition”, any more than, say, the definition of “happy” makes “happy” and “non-happy” discrete, or “art” and “non-art”. Your “by definition” claim seems to rest on the notion that x and non-x are discrete by the definition of “non”, that simply isn’t so, when x is not an unequivocal characterization.

  146. #146 truth machine
    October 24, 2007

    This is the most stimulating debate I’ve gotten into on the Internet in a while.

    That’s sad.

  147. #147 truth machine
    October 24, 2007

    One of the determining factors as to whether or not a claim is “scientific” is the concept of falsifiability.

    The ToE is not “a claim”, it’s a theory which makes many predictions. Falsify any of its predictions and you have falsified the theory. However, theories are not fixed things; they can roll with the punches by being modified (evolving, you might say). But if the theory is repeatedly contradicted by the evidence without any apparent modification available, it’s time to consider abandoning the theory — this is what happened to (cosmological) steady state theory.

    is it actually possible to test the gamut of its claims in a single experiment?

    Of course not, but that’s irrelevant. Get yourself some basic philosophy of science; be sure it covers Imre Lakatos.

  148. #148 truth machine
    October 24, 2007

    “Discrete” doesn’t mean that I have a *concise* definition. Just that I can differentiate life from non-life. This may require a very long-winded definition when written down, but it is still easy to differentiate An electron is completely not alive. Uranium atom, not alive. Moon rock, completely not alive. Bacteria in my gut, completely alive. Jerry Falwell, dead. Easy.

    This is very silly. Picking easy cases doesn’t make it easy to make the differentiation in general — specifically, in the range between simple organic molecules and cells that occurred when life was first developing, which is what we were talking about. And you don’t even get your own cases right — Jerry Falwell may be dead, but the issue is “life” vs. “non-life”, not “alive” vs. “dead”, and Jerry Falwell was certainly still “life” at the time of his death. Of course one doesn’t normally talk about whether a specific individual is “life”. Humans and bacteria are life, rocks aren’t — but what about viruses? Strands of RNA? Red blood cells? Is blood “life”? What about brains? What does your “long-winded definition” tell you? Not much, if you think Jerry Falwell is relevant.

  149. #149 truth machine
    October 24, 2007

    P.S.

    There is nothing ‘essentialist’ positing that it’s a critical phase transition between the two states, rather than a slow, continuous process.

    If it’s something one can “posit”, then it isn’t true “by definition”. And of course it is essentialist — that’s what the assumption that life and non-life are “two states” amounts to. And there’s an extraordinary false dichotomy here — that, for instance, “tall” and “not-tall” are not two discrete states does not imply that height is a “process” or that it is “slow”. There’s extraordinary conceptual confusion here — life isn’t a “state”, it’s a characterization that we make based on the presence of various functions (and whether those functions are present is itself a matter of degree in some cases).

  150. #150 Ichthyic
    October 24, 2007

    Jerry Falwell was certainly still “life” at the time of his death

    well, metaphorically his brain died long before the rest of him went. About 60 years before, I’d wager.

    It’s life, Jim, but not as we know it*.

    *totally obscure reference most likely

  151. #151 truth machine
    October 24, 2007

    Finally, anyone who both offers Jerry Falwell as an example of discrimination (via a long-winded definition, supposedly) between life and non-life and claims that there’s “a critical phase transition between the two states” isn’t displaying the sort of mental capacity and intellectual integrity required for understanding things, as opposed to merely upholding a position in an argument.

  152. #152 Kseniya
    October 24, 2007

    Devil In The Dark?

  153. #153 truth machine
    October 24, 2007

    well, metaphorically his brain died long before the rest of him went. About 60 years before, I’d wager.

    Hmmm … I don’t equate being dead with being an active source of great harm.

    totally obscure reference most likely

    I guess the fact that I don’t know of anyone not familiar with it says quite a bit about me.

  154. #154 Ichthyic
    October 24, 2007

    I guess the fact that I don’t know of anyone not familiar with it says quite a bit about me.

    welcome to the club. :P

    Hmmm … I don’t equate being dead with being an active source of great harm.

    but, but… what about zombies and vampires?

    then again, I can’t tell the difference between the fictional undead and most evangelical preachers anyway (both braindead, both bloodsuckers).

    I suppose I enjoy watching a bad zombie movie more than watching a live evangelical, though.

    now maybe if they ate brains during their sermons…

  155. #155 truth machine
    October 24, 2007

    but, but… what about zombies and vampires?

    Arggh, you got me …

  156. #156 ngong
    October 24, 2007

    #140…I said that I “tend to believe” that once replicators get rolling, life is a done deal. “Done deal”, as in “it will happen without any monstrous hurdles”. There’s nothing particularly bizarre or creo-like about that point of view.

    It’s fairly obvious that primitive, mutating replicators are a rare commodity. It’s a big hurdle. Why? Cuz we’ve yet to make them in the lab (though it might not be far down the road, according to some).

  157. #157 Leigh de Paor
    October 24, 2007

    Quote “will we have our kids taught baseless nonsense”
    We currently do.
    I was once a rabid evolutionist and as a scientist believed that those “superstitious” people were merely fools.
    However a friend challenged me that he was surprised at my stance as I was “too smart” to actually believe in evolution, I was highly offended.
    But I started to go back to basics, treating evolutionary teaching with the same criticality I treated religions to.
    Lo and behold, I had been brainwashed and spouting a load of relegious pro-darwinian claptrap all my life while thinking myself intelligent and not religious at all!
    If you go looking for the “evidence” for millions of years or increasingly complex evolutionary events you will find they are all just assumed that someone has proven them.
    Trace it right back and you end up with Charles Lyle, a scottish lawyer and God hater who proposed the geological column and upon which all this rubbish is based.
    The geological column does not exist anywhere in the world but on paper and in the fevered minds of self proclaimed “intellectuals” all round the world.
    Just because a large number of people have been successfully brainwashed into believing in millions of years and Darwinian hypotheses does not make them true.

    Do the research yourself, see if it is so. The truth WILL set you free.

    And anybody knows that celebrities are not necessarily the best informed or scientifically presented people. What did you exepect? Cudos to Ben anyway for daring to stand up there and have all of this lot throw insults at him.
    All that does is undermine any intellectual argument one may have because it looks (correctly) like a bunch of people who are unable to reason against the arguments and thus descend to school-yard name calling, ad-hominim. et al.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if some “smartie” decided to rip this comment apart because of some spelling mistake or typo as if this “proof of stupidity” removes the challenge to be a skeptic to ALL things.

  158. #158 Jud
    October 24, 2007

    First, #156, who claims to have made a serious study of the matter but cannot even spell Charles Lyell’s name right – I call bullshit.

    Second, Alison at #11 gives me an idea: “I’d wager that anyone who’s even superficially skimmed the internet on this issue has seen this example as well as the astrologer in the astronomy class, the faith healer in the medical school, and so on.”

    So howzabout setting up some Christian Scientists to pray over Ben Stein next time he goes for a medical procedure, and having a documentary film crew record his reactions as this is going on (especially when he receives the bill)?

  159. #159 truth machine
    October 24, 2007

    I said that I “tend to believe” that once replicators get rolling, life is a done deal.

    Yes, yes, you “tend to believe” it despite all the arguments against it. You are just like a creo. Again, go read the effing literature on abiogenesis, and put your tendency to believe in the closet.

  160. #160 truth machine
    October 24, 2007
  161. #161 truth machine
    October 24, 2007

    I was once a rabid evolutionist and as a scientist

    Liar. In your case, the question “Are you a good person?” is easily answered in the negative.

  162. #162 Ian Gould
    October 24, 2007

    Stein puzzles the hell out of me as he seems nowhere near as stupid as the Fox News Channel norm and frequently appears embarassed by the positions he’s espousing.

  163. #163 Caledonian
    October 24, 2007

    Stein puzzles the hell out of me as he seems nowhere near as stupid as the Fox News Channel norm and frequently appears embarassed by the positions he’s espousing.

    Publicly demonstrating your group allegiances can be painful, but the kudo points you rack up make it worth the while.

  164. #164 Steve_C
    October 24, 2007

    Lemme guess…

    Leigh de Paor is now a devout christian. All of geology is wrong people!!! Therefore… the baby Jesus loves you.

    But I could be wrong.

  165. #165 Steve_C
    October 24, 2007

    Hehe… I went to Leigh’s link, here’s my response.

    http://youtube.com/watch?v=7hXPuNuz_rM

  166. #166 ngong
    October 24, 2007

    What do you want me to take away from that [quite dated] .pdf? If it’s “there are a lot of questions to be answered between primitive replicators and life”, I’ve got no problem with that. If you think, however, there are huge, obvious, well-documented probabilistic hurdles to be overcome, then show it.

    Cool to see my old prof, Captain Ribosome, on the list of references!

  167. #167 DAC
    October 24, 2007

    If Ben Stein is so stupid, why are you guys expending so much energy talking about him and his dumb movie? Why not just ignore it? It sounds to me like you’re all scared, and you’re talking tough to make yourselves feel better.

  168. #168 Josh
    October 24, 2007

    Yeah, DAC, that’s it exactly. Well done for figuring that out. We’re paying attention to it because we’re concerned about the same thing that these guys say they’re concerned about: we would rather not have American students taught a bunch of bullshit in science class. I for one would rather have them taught science in science class. If you don’t have a problem with students being taught that they can turn lead into gold in chemistry class, or that the world is flat in geology class, that’s fine, but if you don’t mind terribly, I’m going to exercise my right to say that teaching ‘science’ at that level isn’t in the best interests of America’s students.

  169. #169 Rey Fox
    October 24, 2007

    So Leigh, tell me: if evolution is all just a big conspiracy, then who is behind it? What do they stand to gain? After all, publishing all those scientific papers and digging up all those fossils and doing all those genetics experiments is hard work. What is their motivation?

  170. #170 zer0
    October 24, 2007

    Look past the idiotic speaking points about evolution vs. ID for a moment. I think the more sinister thing about this clip happens in the last few seconds. I believe Bill O’Reilly scoffs “Separation of Church and State, PFFffffft.” I’m sorry… what?! How can this blubbering imbecile even claim to be at all patriotic, at all American if he doesn’t accept this fact? How can he sit there and call Americans Secular Pinheads? This is ridiculous. The last few seconds of that clip show us everything that is wrong with America today. The Christian Conservative Right thinks very little of our founding fathers and their wisdom in establishing this great secular nation. I’ve got a suggestion, if you can’t accept that this country is secular, get the fuck out.

  171. #171 RamblinDude
    October 24, 2007

    Thanks for the little trip down memory lane, Leigh. Reminded me of my childhood. Church services, prayer meetings, focusing the mind like a laser beam on the truth, JESUS! Investigating the world, JESUS! Exploring life JESUS!

    I was surrounded back then by people who understood that the world needed the intelligent application of our energy and resources JESUS! and acted like intelligent, deep thinking, truth-seeking, energizing role models just like those people in that evangelical scene out of “Borat”.

    Yeah, GOOD TIMES!

  172. #172 Patrick
    October 24, 2007

    I believe Bill O’Reilly scoffs “Separation of Church and State, PFFffffft.” I’m sorry… what?! How can this blubbering imbecile even claim to be at all patriotic, at all American if he doesn’t accept this fact? How can he sit there and call Americans Secular Pinheads? This is ridiculous. The last few seconds of that clip show us everything that is wrong with America today. The Christian Conservative Right thinks very little of our founding fathers and their wisdom in establishing this great secular nation.

    If you think of this entire exchange as part of a strategy towards a single end, it all begins to make sense.

    Think about it – what is that the Christian Right despise so terribly about secularism? Is it the lack of God in every explanation? Nah. It’s about truth, or more precisely, who gets to define it.

    Currently, science is seen as a viable method of discovery about the world. It was not always so, and our history is littered with thinking men and women who were persecuted for merely believing they could figure something out without having to look in the Bible for the answer.

    There is absolutely NO way a Christian hegemony of any sort, social, political, legal, or otherwise, can be established so long as secularism, and thus science, presents itself as a viable means of civilization building. Evolutionary theory is but one small part of this.

    These people need to convince a large segment of America that science is evil and must be destroyed before their real work can begin. They’re succeeding alot more than you want to think they are, and it’s incredibly worrying.

  173. #173 Josh
    October 24, 2007

    I’m going to echo Patrick’s post here. I’ve been spending a good chunk of time recently researching the Christian Reconstructionist and Dominionist movements, trying to get into their heads. ‘Incredibly worrying’ is probably exactly how I would describe the situation. The words in his post I’d encourage paying particular attention to are: before their real work can begin.

  174. #174 Brian G
    October 24, 2007

    I think my IQ just dropped 10 points from watching that.

  175. #175 Kseniya
    October 24, 2007

    ["thirds" Patrick & Josh]

  176. #176 Eric
    October 24, 2007

    Has no one mentioned that there are not just two opinions… if ID is taught to students, we can’t forget to give time to the Pastafarian beliefs as well.

    The Flying Spaghetti Monster deserves equal time.

    May you be touched by his noodliness…

    RAmen

  177. #177 Josh
    October 24, 2007

    Well I was actually always a fan of whatever creation myth is the one with the earth balanced on the back of a giant turtle. I cannot remember whose that was and honestly I just don’t feel like going and looking it up, but let’s include that one too.

  178. #178 thalarctos
    October 24, 2007

    (“fourths” Patrick, Josh, and Kseniya)

    I’ve been spending a good chunk of time recently researching the Christian Reconstructionist and Dominionist movements, trying to get into their heads.

    I genuinely don’t know whether such a thing is possible, or whether you already have to “be” there in order to do so.

    I spent years studying the Khmer Rouge in an attempt to understand how people like Pol Pot could sleep at night, after the atrocities they routinely carried out. I finally gave up–I can cite lots of historical, political, and cultural facts about PP and the KR, but I am absolutely no closer to understanding them at a gut level than I was when I started.

    I am still curious as to whether getting inside the heads of such haters, without actually being one, is really possible. If you have done so, or are doing so, I would be very interested in what you have to say about it.

  179. #179 Josh
    October 24, 2007

    Yeah…well getting into their heads was perhaps poor wording…and you’re probably right. How about ‘seeing what they’re up to?’ For that is truly what I’m interested in…now that you bring it up and I think about it for a second, I’m not sure I really want to know them.

  180. #180 Kseniya
    October 24, 2007

    It’s important, perhaps essential, to understand ones enemies. (Just ask Robert McNamara, speaking of S.E. Asia.) I’ve been doing what you’ve been doing, Josh, since ’04, though not at all systematically.

    But at the root it’s pretty simple, I think. They believe with all their might that they’re right. They believe they’re saving America from people like us. They generate (or unknowingly but willingly swallow) dominionist lies about the premises upon which this country was founded, because the ends justifies the means. They don’t believe in pluralism or secularism. They believe in a single public orthodoxy. They…

    Uh… I’m about to get Godwin’d.

  181. #181 RamblinDude
    October 24, 2007

    But the most important thing is “They Believe”. What makes them so dangerous is that they reject investigation and reason as much as we reject belief and faith.
    And nothing, nothing, makes them feel more special than feeling like they are martyrs and being persecuted. It makes them feel like Jesus.

    When I was little, one of the ladies told me that women had an extra rib. I don’t think it ever occurred to her to look it up. No, strike that, these people purposely do not investigate to find out the facts. They get together to reinforce their beliefs and feel emotions, instead.

    They won’t individually research history and find out the beliefs and attitudes of the founding fathers and the principles written into the documents. They will believe the words of whatever preacher has the highest level of showmanship, and that’s why unbelievably disgusting pigs like Hagee have such a following, and going into many churches, (like that scene in “Borat”), really is like being in an insane asylum.

  182. #182 Anton Mates
    October 24, 2007

    Leigh de Paor

    Trace it right back and you end up with Charles Lyle, a scottish lawyer and God hater who proposed the geological column and upon which all this rubbish is based.

    Oh, for God’s sake. Charles Lyell was a theist for a decade after Darwin published the Origin, then wavered between theism and deism for most of the rest of his life. In fact, he generally supported theistic evolution, with occasional evolutionary jumps via direct divine intervention. Just read his “Antiquity of Man.”

    If you had even the slightest regard for truth, you could have looked this up online in about five minutes, then made an “Even Charles Lyell supported ID!” argument. Which would be idiotic and unimaginative, yet marginally less worthless than what you actually wrote.

  183. #183 MPW
    October 24, 2007

    DAC: “It sounds to me like you’re all scared, and you’re talking tough to make yourselves feel better.”

    Well, I suppose there’s at least a little truth to that – at least, we sense a threat to important truths and values and are circling the wagons. And? How’s that supposed to be evidence that we’re wrong? Or that, “deep down,” we don’t really believe what we’re saying? Are you arguing that stupid, crazy ideas have never gained great traction and done great damage, so if we believe an idea is stupid or crazy, we should just ignore it? What?

    It’s one of the most surreal non-sequiturs in the standard creationist arsenal – “You’re arguing vehemently against creationism, so you must know you’re wrong.” Again: Huh?

  184. #184 Ichthyic
    October 24, 2007

    “You’re arguing vehemently against creationism, so you must know you’re wrong.” Again: Huh?

    perfectly understandable if you consider the fact that ALL creationist communication is based on projection.

    IOW, all creationists know they’re wrong, but argue out of pure defense mechanisms that take on the form of projecting their own insecurity on to their perceived enemies.

    what else is new?

  185. #185 Caledonian
    October 24, 2007

    I spent years studying the Khmer Rouge in an attempt to understand how people like Pol Pot could sleep at night, after the atrocities they routinely carried out. I finally gave up–I can cite lots of historical, political, and cultural facts about PP and the KR, but I am absolutely no closer to understanding them at a gut level than I was when I started.

    Why would you expect a fish to discourse on the nature of water? They were normal human beings – you cannot get into their heads because you will not accept that you’re already there. Everyone is.

  186. #186 Ichthyic
    October 24, 2007

    They were normal human beings – you cannot get into their heads because you will not accept that you’re already there. Everyone is.

    explain, using differences of experience to validate, please.

  187. #187 thalarctos
    October 24, 2007

    Why would you expect a fish to discourse on the nature of water? They were normal human beings – you cannot get into their heads because you will not accept that you’re already there. Everyone is.

    I don’t think the matter of whether they were “normal human beings” is as settled as you seem to think it is. Certainly mass murder on that scale is more than 3 SDs away from average behavior.

    And I think the question is worth exploring, because if you can know how a mass murderer or other sociopath is formed, you can potentially know whether prevention or treatment is even possible or desirable.

    For example, a lot of the sex offender laws locking people up even after their time is served are based on the presumption that they are incorrigible recidivists. I think knowing as much as possible about the rightness or wrongness of the psychological and neurological basis of an approach that takes away constitutional rights is worth pursuing (although I would agree that the Republicans are currently doing their best to make Constitutional rights moot anyway).

  188. #188 Caledonian
    October 24, 2007

    explain, using differences of experience to validate, please.

    It’s not much of a stretch to suspect that ancient tribal groups spent a lot of time and effort wiping each other out. The most intense competition for an organism isn’t with predator or prey species, but other members of its own species – they have the same requirements and try to fill the same niche.

    Political leaders who turn their societies towards genocide are exploiting instincts and behaviors inherent to all humans. What made recent examples so shocking was that the societies they controlled were larger than human societies have been in the past, and some technical developments like the assembly line.

  189. #189 RamblinDude
    October 24, 2007

    I agree with Caledonian. The Khmer Rouge was organized by ruthless people but the majority of the soldiers were just normal human beings caught up in extraordinary circumstances. You see videos of the members and they’re just regular people reminiscing about the time in their lives when it was kill as commanded or be killed themselves.

    I remember seeing footage of Germans who were children during the Nazi years. After the war was lost for them, allied soldiers explained to them that Hitler was an evil man who committed atrocities. These children all laughed and dismissed it as nonsense–they just knew that they were lying and that their leader would never do anything so bad.

    Given the right circumstances, (need for oil?) it seems any group of people can be led to do just about anything–and be made to believe just about anything.

    We are apes. But I’m tend to be idealistic and believe that us apes can be educated and retrained to be more rational apes than we are.

  190. #190 Ichthyic
    October 24, 2007

    Political leaders who turn their societies towards genocide are exploiting instincts and behaviors inherent to all humans.

    but, that is irrelevant to cognitively understanding *why* a particular political leader turns their societies towards genocide to begin with; it’s far too general an explanation to satisfy at the level Tharlactos is asking, if I understand correctly.

    if i spend most of my life scuba diving, and try to explain what it’s like to someone who has never even been near the ocean, I’m going to fail miserably, regardless of whether there is any general agreement on what it’s like to be underwater.

    the reason that tharlactos can’t understand the Khmer Rouge is simple:

    he never personally had the same experiences they did.
    kinda hard to walk in someone’s shoes in that instance.

    And I think the question is worth exploring, because if you can know how a mass murderer or other sociopath is formed, you can potentially know whether prevention or treatment is even possible or desirable.

    yes, but even then, it is unlikely the results of any particular psychological analysis would give you the feeling you seek; of inherent understanding.

    Moreover, what is applicable in one case often isn’t in another. Might be a genetic predisposition towards schizophrenia, that outlets into a pyschotic episode in one case, while in another, post traumatic stress might outlet into a similar appearing psychotic episode.

    I rather think that in cases like the Khmer Rouge, prevention is better than cure; working to prevent the dehumanization that happens sometimes in war torn countries could go a long way towards preventing groups like the Khmer Rouge from gaining power to begin with.

    working to help rebuild after a country is destroyed by war has helped prevent similar occurrences in the past (postwar Japan, for example). One wonders if Bushco takes that lesson seriously in postwar Afghanistan, for example.

  191. #191 Keith Douglas
    October 24, 2007

    Patrick: That might only be the proximate goal – total control over the masses so that the rich elites can keep them in their place might be. I said it once, I’ll say it again: Marx said that religion is the opium of the people, and the neocons seem to add “and damn good thing, too!”

  192. #192 Caledonian
    October 24, 2007

    See: the Rwandan genocide, in which people picked up machetes and slaughtered their neighbors because people on the radio told them to.

    See also: “The Mysterious Stranger”, by Samuel Clemens / ‘Mark Twain’.

  193. #193 Ichthyic
    October 24, 2007

    See: the Rwandan genocide, in which people picked up machetes and slaughtered their neighbors because people on the radio told them to.

    and yet, you wouldn’t, would you.

    so specify:

    what made that situation different?

  194. #194 Caledonian
    October 24, 2007

    and yet, you wouldn’t, would you.

    Of course not! Machetes are so 1994.

  195. #195 RamblinDude
    October 24, 2007

    Let me rephrase my optimistic little concluding statement; we have to retrain ourselves. In fifty (hundred? Whatever) years, technology will have advanced to the point where individuals will be able to make atom bombs in their basements with the ‘Mr. Fusions’ from their flying cars and their quantum computer parts. If we don’t learn to treat each other with respect and honesty–above all honesty–then we are all going to die or live in ‘Mad Max’ world.

    I have no doubts that the citizens of this good Christian nation would energetically kill for “God” even if it meant as brutal a regime as any other in history. All that is needed is the right circumstances. The willingness to lie is the bane of humanity. It is increasingly non-survival.

  196. #196 Ichthyic
    October 24, 2007

    Of course not! Machetes are so 1994.

    LOL

    oh, i dunno, even back then they were so retro.

    could make a comeback…

  197. #197 thalarctos
    October 24, 2007

    The Khmer Rouge was organized by ruthless people but the majority of the soldiers were just normal human beings caught up in extraordinary circumstances. You see videos of the members and they’re just regular people reminiscing about the time in their lives when it was kill as commanded or be killed themselves.

    Yes, it’s the leaders I’m talking about, not the followers. But it’s complicated; when Lon Nol deposed Sihanouk, angry villagers spontaneously took revenge by killing Lon Nol’s brother and eating his liver. They didn’t need the KR leaders to tell them to do that.

    Followers aren’t totally passive, but there is some degree of difference between those who were just following orders, and those who were generating those orders. It’s how the leaders operate that interested me at the time.

    We are apes. But I’m tend to be idealistic and believe that us apes can be educated and retrained to be more rational apes than we are.

    I agree, but I think it’s just a belief on our parts at this point. I don’t think enough is yet known to definitively rule it either in or out. But if we can become more rational, then maybe the lessons learned from studying the KR and the Dominionists and similar past movements will contribute to establishing that, or ruling it out.

  198. #198 Ichthyic
    October 24, 2007

    -then we are all going to die or live in ‘Mad Max’ world.

    I call dibbs on the MasterBlaster.

  199. #199 thalarctos
    October 24, 2007

    but, that is irrelevant to cognitively understanding *why* a particular political leader turns their societies towards genocide to begin with; it’s far too general an explanation to satisfy at the level Tharlactos is asking, if I understand correctly.

    yes, you understand correctly.

    the reason that tharlactos can’t understand the Khmer Rouge is simple: she never personally had the same experiences they did. kinda hard to walk in someone’s shoes in that instance.

    (fixed a minor detail there for you, Ichthyic: we both pee in our wetsuits, but differently is all :)

    you’re right to some degree, and yet at the same time, it’s neither necessary nor sufficient–not all the KR leaders came from the same backgrounds nor had the same experience. And a lot of people *did* come from Pol Pot’s background and had similar experiences with the French colonialists, yet didn’t choose genocide as a career path.

    yes, but even then, it is unlikely the results of any particular psychological analysis would give you the feeling you seek; of inherent understanding.

    Moreover, what is applicable in one case often isn’t in another. Might be a genetic predisposition towards schizophrenia, that outlets into a pyschotic episode in one case, while in another, post traumatic stress might outlet into a similar appearing psychotic episode.

    points well taken. I was young and curious then; I agree now that that approach was always unlikely to work.

    One wonders if Bushco takes that lesson seriously in postwar Afghanistan, for example.

    ha-ha! good one, Ichthyic!

  200. #200 RamblinDude
    October 24, 2007

    thalarctos;

    I agree with you. It is more complicated than just saying that people are sheep-like. I certainly don’t have the answers.

    It really is a fascinating subject. One of the reasons I’m optimistic is that with modern technology information can be disseminated like never before–to everybody. I hope that turns out to be a good thing.

  201. #201 Dustin
    October 24, 2007

    Genocidal tendencies cannot be abnormal, or genocide simply wouldn’t happen — one person, acting alone, cannot commit genocide. Violent nationalism isn’t something that’s happened just once, and how could it keep happening if it didn’t appeal to some side of human nature?

    I think there is compelling evidence in most cases that the demagogue pounding the drums is typically abnormal in some way, but no one will pay attention to it as long as he appeals to their tribalist urges.

    I doubt that most people could honestly say they don’t feel a certain thrill when they see their own country’s display of military might. It makes us feel safe, it makes us feel powerful, and the promise of violence draws a sharp demarcation between “us” and “them” and makes us feel as though we belong to a group. It is also because of that promise of violence and fear of falling out of favor with the group that we persecute and go along with the scapegoating and the genocide, we must always show that we aren’t one of “them”.

    I don’t buy into that whole blank slate business… there is a human nature, that nature is tribalism, and now we’re expressing that tribalism with machine guns, mob violence on a massive scale, and nuclear weapons.

  202. #202 thalarctos
    October 24, 2007

    I don’t buy into that whole blank slate business… there is a human nature, that nature is tribalism, and now we’re expressing that tribalism with machine guns, mob violence on a massive scale, and nuclear weapons.

    I’m certainly not arguing tabula rasa here–and yet some of the European nations who had the biggest human-rights abuses during the colonial era or before don’t show any indicators of going down that path any longer. So something is going on regarding tribalism that’s not simply a purely genotypic question, either.

    Examples: the Vikings compared to modern Sweden; the Dutch in Indonesia compared to the modern Netherlands, and the Belgians in the Congo compared to modern Belgium. Maybe the expats were a somewhat self-selected sample of brutality, but the policies they were operating under went all the way back to the governments and populations at home.

  203. #203 Jason
    October 24, 2007

    what made that situation different?

    We don’t really know, Ichthy. But we have abundant evidence that a strong innate propensity for violence is part of human nature, at least for males.

  204. #204 Caledonian
    October 24, 2007

    GWEN: The whole village was involved.

    EVAN SHERMAN: Every generation. Our tradition. Once a decade. Target those traveling through, those most likely to disappear.

    GWEN: And butcher them. What sort of people are you that you wake up in the morning and think, this is what I’m going to do? Why’d you do it?

    (Evan doesn’t answer.)

    GWEN: Come on! Make me understand.

    EVAN SHERMAN: Why do you care?

    GWEN: I have seen things you would never believe. And this is the only thing I can’t understand.

    (Evan turns and smiles as he looks at Jack. He turns back to Gwen who is expecting an answer.)

    EVAN SHERMAN: So, keep on wondering.

    GWEN: (shouts) Tell me! I need to know why!

    (Jack stands up.)

    JACK: That’s enough. Time to go.

    EVAN SHERMAN: I’ll tell you something … if you let me whisper.

    GWEN: Okay.

    (Evan leans forward, very close to Gwen’s ear. Jack stands over them.)

    EVAN SHERMAN: (whispers) Cos it made me happy.

  205. #205 Jason
    October 24, 2007

    I’m certainly not arguing tabula rasa here–and yet some of the European nations who had the biggest human-rights abuses during the colonial era or before don’t show any indicators of going down that path any longer.

    Right. The expression of the tendency to violence has been tamed by the effects of culture–education, technology, democracy, etc. But the tendency is still there in our genes, waiting to be triggered.

  206. #206 Caledonian
    October 24, 2007

    But we have abundant evidence that a strong innate propensity for violence is part of human nature, at least for males.

    The female of the species is deadlier than the male.

  207. #207 Ichthyic
    October 24, 2007

    (fixed a minor detail there for you, Ichthyic: we both pee in our wetsuits, but differently is all :)

    ah, thanks, i won’t forget again.

  208. #208 Ichthyic
    October 24, 2007

    One of the reasons I’m optimistic is that with modern technology information can be disseminated like never before–to everybody. I hope that turns out to be a good thing.

    my guess is that we will have to fight to continue to have it be so.

    China is already setting a dangerous precedent, and US companies are helping them with the technology.

    don’t be surprised to see that one or two major companies will vie for control of the internet in the US, and much of the independent nature of the web will begin to disappear.

    we already see some of that happening now, with the larger internet providers pushing for scaled pay based on website popularity.

    IOW, the more popular your site, the more likely you will price yourself out of being able to host it.

    It’s already worth spending a bit of time looking into it, and getting an idea of where to stick your nose in to make a difference.

  209. #209 Ichthyic
    October 24, 2007

    Violent nationalism isn’t something that’s happened just once, and how could it keep happening if it didn’t appeal to some side of human nature?

    and yet even in cases of mass support for genocide, there are certainly a lot of those in the same areas who don’t respond to the siren’s call. they “jump ship”; become “expatriots”, etc.

    there may indeed be some genetic predisposition towards being susceptible to messages of gang violence (in fact, I recall a few studies that looked at that very angle), but it isn’t an all pervasive trait by any means.

    I would suggest for Tharlactos, with this specific interest, to take a gander at twin studies that attempt to elucidate patterns of behavior that might have genetic contributions to them, especially along the lines of violent or “susceptibility to cults” type behaviors. Note that these only scratch the surface, and really are only suggestive of avenues for further research, but at least it’s a start.

    this won’t necessarily answer the question of why a specific individual would try to take advantage of such susceptibilities in order to promote genocide to begin with (maybe something more along the lines of “will to power” would?), but I figure if you understand what provides a power base to begin with, that’s just as good if you want to stop it from being used.

    in a much less extreme sense, if you want to prevent the neocons, say, from utilizing the religious right as a powerbase, it would be useful to figure out why the religious right gravitates as a group towards specific messages to begin with. It’s obviously not just because of “the wholly babble”.

    I often post this:

    http://home.earthlink.net/~tjneal/goering.jpg

    but the question implied by Goering’s essentially correct statement is:

    why does it work for so many?

    …and why DOESN’T it work for others?

  210. #210 Leigh de Paor
    October 25, 2007

    Ha ha!
    I just knew someone would be unable to resist the easy attack on the spelling!
    Note: Caps used for emphasis, please do not interpret as shouting.
    Once again a deliberate focus on missing the point and YOU think you are intelligent! Man some of you are being dumb on purpose. I’m not surprised as the Bible warned us that people would become willingly ignorant towards the end.
    Charles Lyulle WAS most certainly a God hater. Otherwise he would have taken God’s word and looked at the facts they way they are instead of thinking himself above all that.
    Thinking himself wise he became a fool.
    I am not currently lying as accused by the (no surprise) personal attack but anyone who has ever told 1 lie is a liar, so therefore yes I am a liar. Thankfully born again of spirit and destined for heaven as opposed to hell where the fire burns eternally and the worm never sleeps.

    The point was ….
    Be a Skeptic for EVERYTHING
    if not you are just as relegious and full of faith in fallible man as any other relegious nutcase.
    The truth WILL set you free.

  211. #211 Josh
    October 25, 2007

    Leigh, unless I’m interpreting what you wrote incorrectly, how does taking God’s word about facts jive with being skeptical of EVERYTHING? If I’m being skeptical of everything, should I not take anyone’s word on faith?

  212. #212 Rey Fox
    October 25, 2007

    “Be a Skeptic for EVERYTHING”

    Except the moldy old holy book, apparently.

    Heaven or hell, I’d sure prefer the company of Mr. Lieyeulle to yours.

  213. #213 Josh
    October 25, 2007

    or better written as: should I not then not take anyone’s word on faith?

  214. #214 negentropyeater
    October 25, 2007

    #205, I find very interesting what Joan Roughgarden is saying about sex and violence. She is looking at social animals (primates, some birds, etc…) and conludes that sex (same sex, different sex, orgies) is actually acting as a social bonding mechanism that also reduces violence.
    As we all know, religion has basically concentrated its efforts over the last 5000 years on telling humans to use sex only as a reproductive mechanism. No wonder violence has been so high.
    People who have more sex tend to be less violent.
    Billo and BStein probably don’t have much sex anyway.

  215. #215 True Bob
    October 25, 2007

    Leigh,

    WRT skepticism, remove the log from your eye, know what I mean?

  216. #216 True Bob
    October 25, 2007

    negentroyeater,

    I think Billo and BS have plenty of sex, but don’t fit the bill because the sex needs to be with a partner.

  217. #217 Steve_C
    October 25, 2007

    Look at the Godbot go on her little belief hamster wheel!

    Hehe, she’s funny. Can we keep her?

  218. #218 Josh
    October 25, 2007

    If you go looking for the “evidence” for millions of years or increasingly complex evolutionary events you will find they are all just assumed that someone has proven them.

    Actually, if you were really the scientist you stated you had once been earlier in comment # 156, you should have been aware that science serves to disprove things rather than prove them and that this statement is essentially a straw man. It does nothing to help advance your argument. Rather, it makes you look either woefully misinformed or dishonest.

    The geological column does not exist anywhere in the world but on paper and in the fevered minds of self proclaimed “intellectuals” all round the world.

    Leigh, are you really going to try and defend this statement as being true? Really?

    Besides the fact that it’s a very strongly worded declarative, the spirit of which would again seem to go against your self-proclaimed philosophy of being skeptical of EVERYTHING, it’s also simply ridiculous. If you were the scientist you claim, one would think you could have researched the point. Again, this statement makes you seem either woefully misinformed or dishonest. In either case, why should I take you seriously?

    If you’re going to denounce stratigraphy as being real, then please stop using all products that involve petroleum, since stratigraphy is an essential base component of the work that furnished the oil for those products. Take a look around right now as you read this…how much plastic can you see? Is your heat on? Is there any glass in your line of sight? Guess how much petroleum it takes to melt sand…

    Denying that a science is real while continuing to relish in the benefits provided by it is pretty obnoxious behavior. It also seems to walk a line close to hypocrisy.

  219. #219 Anton Mates
    October 25, 2007

    Leigh,

    Ha ha!
    I just knew someone would be unable to resist the easy attack on the spelling!

    So you intentionally put errors in your posts for the satisfaction of seeing them caught? Whatever gets you through the day, I guess.

    Charles Lyulle WAS most certainly a God hater. Otherwise he would have taken God’s word and looked at the facts they way they are instead of thinking himself above all that.

    Charles Lyell thought that the best way to figure out what God had done was to look directly at the world God had created, rather than uncritically accepting a poorly-translated book of stories about God, written by a bunch of different people in different times and places. You call this hatred?

  220. #220 Leigh de Paor
    November 1, 2007

    Josh #210 – It is frustrating that you choose to ignore the gist of my comment and make a such a disingenuous statement. Are you really asking this question or trying to bait me?
    If you really want an answer then you should know from experience that people tend to trust others based on their history. If someone has dealt with you deceptively in the past one is less inclined to trust them or what they state as fact especially if they cannot produce supporting evidence. All trust in others comes with an element of risk but we take calculated risks and base our trust/faith in things and people based on our experiences.
    Obviously I would/should not tell you not to take anyone’s word on faith unless you trust that person, that must be a personal choice – that’s primarily what undermines the intelligence of your statement.
    However we are limiting this discussion to the facts and sciences (as much as they can be) of evolution, geology and history. So in the case of anyone who spouts a bunch of “facts” about evolution or which claim “millions” or “billions” of years as an accepted proven fact I am saying this is actually an assumption and the basis of this “fact” should be fully tested. This is scientific and empirical, anything else is religion.

    Rey #211 – You should also be a skeptic about everything anyone teaches or proclaims is biblical, in fact the Bible urges us to do so itself! You can scientifically test the Bible to see if it is from God and if God is as He has revealed Himself to be.
    Heaven will only be populated by born again believers who have repented and put their trust in Jesus Christ, the Messiah of Israel. So you can check for yourself if you will be meeting me there.
    Hell will be heavily populated but sadly there seems no scientific basis for a belief that you will have any company. Since the ability to communicate and have a body comes from God and Hell is an area set aside from God where He will not be and people who have chosen not to have anything to do with God will not be having anything supplied by God. Probably a relief not having to sit beside Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot and all those child molesters for all eternity really.

    TrueBob #214 – That whole log in your eye thing is only between born again believers, you must read scripture in context for it to be applied accurately. This is an out of context use. It is also a bit obscure. I really don’t get what you are actually on about. If you are trying to imply that I am not skeptical about the Bible then read the previous comments.
    I am skeptical about passages, skeptical about my understanding of them until The Lord reveals the meaning to me I don’t just assume I actually understand what is being said.
    I am also skeptical of what “teachers and preachers” of the Bible say unless they can support it with evidence. Amazingly this approach protects me from those false teachers that Jesus warned us about watching out for and has time and again reinforced the accuracy of the whole Bible for me. But you cannot truly explain with full understanding to a child that hot things burn until they have burned themselves.

    Josh #217 – Science: Knowledge, especially that gained through experience. Scientist: A person who studies one or more branches of science.
    Although these definitions seem to have changed in modern dictionaries over time to be classified a bit differently. The current definitions would exclude Darwin and Lyell as scientists so we wouldn’t be able to take their work seriously.
    I really don’t see how this statement is a straw man? What is it a front for? How is it a deliberately weak argument? Please provide supporting evidence.
    Josh it is interesting that you take my different information as being evidence of “woefully misinformed” and “simply ridiculous” since it doesn’t agree with what you believe but you provide no evidence for this.
    I think the truth is quite the opposite. It is quite clear from your post that you seem “woefully misinformed” on the cutting edge science of catastrophic geological formation which proves it does not take billions, millions, thousands, hundreds or even decades of years to form very large geological entities which currently are taught as taking very, very long periods of time.
    I also find it disturbing that you describe this as “denouncing stratigraphy” as if stratigraphy is some kind of heresy and I am an inquisitor. It really sounds like you are presenting stratigraphy as a religious set of beliefs.
    Of course strata exist! However they don’t need long periods of time to exist and the facts are that much of the detail in stratification cannot be explained by long periods of time since the observable data disagree with this theory.
    True empirical science takes new data (skeptically) and if it can be measured and repeated will then modify any necessary assumptions/theories which disagree with this new body of knowledge. Religion denies the facts and clings to it’s beliefs with it’s head in the sand crying “I can’t see it, it can’t be true!”. Such is Darwinism, it is indeed the Emperors New Clothes of today and Ben Stein is the little boy in the crowd laughing and crying “The emperor has no clothes on!”. You really should join in the laughter it’s much better over here where the truth lives.
    Petroleum and it’s products do not require Darwinism and very long periods of time to exist or be useful so who is putting up a straw man now? Even if there was millions of years that doesn’t mean that petroleum needs it to form!
    Once again you declare your ignorance of modern studies in oil production!
    Check out Thermal depolymerization you won’t have to look far. Wikipedia tells us: “A Thermal Depolymerization demonstration plant was completed in 1999 in Philadelphia by Thermal Depolymerization, LLC, and the first full-scale commercial plant was constructed in Carthage, Missouri, about 100 yards (100 m) from ConAgra Foods’ massive Butterball turkey plant, where it is expected to process about 200 tons of turkey waste into 500 barrels (21,000 US gallons or 80 mł) of oil per day.”
    But be a skeptic go and visit the plant yourself to see if it is true!
    Also milk protein has been used since 1897 to make plastics, many computer cases are made from this casein resin as are other household items. Go do some homework.

    I have not denied that a science is real, what I am doing is disputing the underlying assumptions that a body of science are building their theories upon. Obviously the extrapolation of this is that the theories will need to be scrapped and a lot of people will have to admit that their thesis were a big waste of trees. A BSc only proves one can pass exams.

    Anton #218 – Thanks for the comment. No I didn’t deliberately misspell poor ol’ Charlie’s name but I was keying quickly and without a spell checker so I assumed I would have spelled something incorrectly. Amazingly you didn’t comment on Jud and yourself both then going and proving me right by engaging in an ad hominem attack as a result of a spelling mistake instead of providing a reasoned argument to show where I could be wrong. The best way to destroy an argument is to provide a counter argument that outweighs the original argument. Not to try and point out that one’s opponent is “idiotic”, “unimaginative” and “worthless”. That’s what they do in school yards.
    The second part of your comment is untrue and would require a personal knowledge of Charlie boy in order to know his thoughts. We can infer his stance towards God however by his published works. The Bible says that believers will know believers and unbelievers by their fruits.
    Your comments show that you have not researched the Bible yourself but are now religiously spouting the rhetoric you have been taught about it being “a poorly-translated book of stories about God, written by a bunch of different people in different times and places”. Do your homework.
    They are not stories but accounts and it is not necessarily poorly translated, any mistakes are well known and documented. There are some bad books out there which are presented as “translations” of the Bible all right I’ll grant you that, but most people can find this out with a very little skeptical research.
    I suggest you go and take a short course in Biblical fundamentals, take a trip over to http://www.khouse.org and buy yourself a set of “Learn the Bible in 24 hours” and then come back to me with a reasoned argument against the Bible being from God. Since I have used a computer to key this on does this mean the computer wrote it? Or did I write it but use the computer as my instrument?

  221. #221 Rey Fox
    November 1, 2007

    “You should also be a skeptic about everything anyone teaches or proclaims is biblical, in fact the Bible urges us to do so itself! You can scientifically test the Bible to see if it is from God and if God is as He has revealed Himself to be.”

    So in other words, test the Bible by the assumptions laid out in the Bible. You know, the whopping great assumptions that God not only exists, but has revealed himself. Sounds rather incestuous to me.

    As for the heaven and hell stuff, I have to wonder how any supposed skeptic knows so much about them.

  222. #222 Stevie_C
    November 1, 2007

    Godbots are so damn boring.

    “Read the bible it’s proof of god’s word!”

    Ouch. There is no god so it’s proof of how gullible some people are.

  223. #223 Leigh de Paor
    November 1, 2007

    #220 & #221
    Stevie, Rey,
    What I am or am not does not change the truth and the truth is that you are all sinners and the wrath of God is upon you.
    You will have to face an almighty God on the day of judgement whether or not you believe in Him!
    All your sin, every secret thought, will be laid bare and you will have no-one else to blame or point at or hide behind.

    Read the data records to see the data.
    You are trying to put words in my mouth which is deceptive and unintelligent. “test the Bible by the assumptions laid out in the Bible” is not what I have said but test the Bible against experience and documented history and see if it is true or not.

    How can you be SOOOO sure about something which you are evidently SOOOOO ignorant and uneducated?
    Why you must be religious in your anti-Bible stance!
    There is no other logical conclusion.

    I am glad you are prepared to wonder Rey, perhaps you are open minded enough to think about these things.
    Stevie, God does not believe in athiests.
    To make an absolute statement like “god does not exist” means you would need absolute knowledge, that would make you God then wouldn’t it? A self defeating statement.
    Saying it won’t make it true anymore than standing on a highway saying “Trucks don’t exist” is going to stop you from being killed by one.

    If you don’t believe it why are you arguing so much against it? If God doesn’t exist why are you wasting your brain even thinking about it? Why are you entertaining this discussion?
    What is the evolutionary purpose of the conscience?
    Why does it agree with the Bible when it says
    “But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”
    and
    “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God”
    and
    “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”

    Of course if God does not exist and you don’t believe then you won’t care about what the Bible says since it is “only a figment of mans imagination”

  224. #224 Stevie_C
    November 1, 2007

    She just gets nuttier.

    There is no evidence of a god. Saying god doesn’t exist isn’t any more self defeating than saying Thor, Zeus or Anubis don’t exist.

    I waste brain power thinking about it because so few “believers” actually use any reason to consider the idea.

    Why would murderers be lumped in with mere unbelievers? Your god has some issues.

  225. #225 Leigh de Paor
    November 1, 2007

    #223 – Stevie
    Now sweetie, lets play nice.
    The fact that you think lumping murderers in with unbelievers is an issue once again demonstrates your lack of understanding.
    Let me make it simple for you…
    It’s kind of like this:
    Jimmy and Jenny are sitting at a table denying the existence of Mommy and Daddy yet eating the food that Daddy worked to pay for and Mommy prepared. The table was paid for by Daddy and picked by Mommy for them, Mommy keeps the house clean and does all their laundry. Daddy goes to work every day except Sunday when he comes home to spend time with the kids but they ignore him and in fact when their friends come over they actively deny his very existence.
    The same is true of unbelievers, the very molecules of creation are held together because God wills it. Every hair on your head is numbered, every molecule in the hair on your head is held together because God wills it.
    Go and study some quantum physics and see where it takes you.

    I have been very reasonable with you but you have countered none of my arguments like grown-ups are supposed to do.
    In fact the very deafening silence of the lack of comment says a lot. You jump to different issues and switch to personal attacks. Look to the data instead and interpret what IT is telling you accordingly.
    Show me the data which “proves” evolution, I’d love to see it.
    Saying “god doesn’t exist” is an untrue statement and shows how shallowly your are thinking about the subject.
    It would be fair to say “I have insufficient data to conclusivly say that God exists” or “I have seen no evidence to show me that God exists” these are fair statements and ones which I could respect as it they not entirely intellectually bankrupt.

  226. #226 Stevie_C
    November 1, 2007

    You do realize you are contradicting yourself.

    You’re saying quantum physics proves that god holds everything together? Seriously?

  227. #227 Owlmirror
    November 1, 2007

    Leigh, you keep talking about the Bible as if it came from God. But the reason I, and others, reject God, is because God does not speak for itself. The Bible has only been written by, and transmitted, by human beings. Why would the most powerful and intelligent being that ever existed need so many noisy, imperfect mouthpieces instead of speaking clearly on its own behalf?

    You make the analogy that God is like a truck on a highway. That would imply that there is somewhere that I could stand, and God would strike me down. Where is such a place? If God is everywhere, why does God not strike me down right this very instant, as I type these words?

    God does not exist.

    There are only humans who exist who say God exists. You have been deceived by them, and you have become one of the deceivers yourself.

  228. #228 Owlmirror
    November 1, 2007

    And your parent analogy is just as bad. My own parents were real. They protected me, sheltered me, fed me, punished me, and educated me. They did indeed work hard at it, and I am grateful to them.

    There is no God who protected me, no God who sheltered me, no God who fed me, no God who punished me, no God who educated me. My parents told me that there was such a thing… but God never did anything. Only my parents did.

    It took me a while, but I eventually realized that my parents, while good people, were mistaken, about various other matters, and also about God. They had accepted information from other people, and thought that it was true.

    I’m not going to be rude to them and tell them they were wrong. But I am not going to accept the mistake they made, and I refuse to make it myself.

  229. #229 Rey Fox
    November 1, 2007

    “”test the Bible by the assumptions laid out in the Bible” is not what I have said ”

    Let’s rewind the tape, shall we?

    Comment #219:”You can scientifically test the Bible to see if it is from God and if God is as He has revealed Himself to be.”

    Right there.

    “In fact the very deafening silence of the lack of comment says a lot.”

    It says that you’re commenting on a week-old thread that has disappeared from the front page of the blog, and the only ways for site visitors to find out whether new comments have been posted are to bookmark the thread and check back on it regularly or happen to catch it on the “10 most recent comments” sidebar. Really, the more intelligent commenters are on the newer threads, having stimulating conversation. I’m just responding to having been personally called out. And watching your fuses blow.

  230. #230 Dustin
    November 1, 2007

    You’re saying quantum physics proves that god holds everything together? Seriously?

    Duh! If you’d studied quantum theory, you’d know about the gauge boson known as Jesus.

  231. #231 Stevie_C
    November 1, 2007

    I was confused. I thought it was a Zeus.

  232. #232 Kseniya
    November 1, 2007

    The parent analogy is ludcrious.

    Santa Claus analogies are more apt, and lead the mind in a sensible direction.

  233. #233 Ichthyic
    November 1, 2007

    What I am or am not does not change the truth and the truth is that you are all sinners and the wrath of God is upon you.

    *yawn*

    not a member of the Westboro Baptist Church by any chance, are you?

    personally, I’ve been waiting to be struck by lightning for over 20 years now.

    *looks up*

    not a cloud in the sky.

    sorry you feel the need to project your self hatred on to the rest of us. I hear you can take pills for that now.

  234. #234 Rey Fox
    November 1, 2007

    But Kseniya, do you really think those presents just APPEARED there under the tree? Do ya? Examine the evidence, check out the present-making factory in Rotgut, Arkansas where they can make presents in as little as ONE NIGHT! We don’t need millions of years to make presents, therefore Santa and Santa doesn’t believe in asantists and if you don’t believe it, then the fool in his heart shall be cast into the lake of fire where…

    Man, I feel like I just spun around in my office chair for five minutes.

  235. #235 Ichthyic
    November 1, 2007

    I have been very reasonable with you

    that you appear to think so speaks volumes about your mental health.

    what would resemble the “less reasonable” form of your ranting?

    something like the emails from Neal PZ posted a few days back ( http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2007/10/i_get_email_11.php#more ):

    You STUPID ASSHOLES!!!!!!!!! YOU REALLY DON’T SEE HOW VASTLY INADEQUATE YOU GODDAMN ASSERTIONS ARE (IN WHAT-EVER SO CALLED “SCIENTIFIC” PROGRAM) IN EVEN COMING CLOSE TO EVEN BEGINNING TO START ANY SORT OF LEGITIMATE DESCRIPTION OF THE FUCKING IMMENSE BIO-PHYSICAL-CHEMICAL ORGANIZATIONAL PATHWAYS ARE REQUIRED TO EVEN REMOTELY (NO MATTER HOW FUCKING MUCH TIME IS AVAILABLE) COME CLOSE TO EVEN STARTING SOME SORT OF RESEMBLANCE TO THE BEGINNINGS OF A (WHAT THE FUCK?) LIVING CELL!!!! YOU PHONY BASTARDS!!!!!!!

    is that closer to your less reasonable position? content-wise your posts and this email are actually similar; you just need to yell a bit louder.

  236. #236 Stevie_C
    November 1, 2007

    Leigh is alot like Neal, but on Valium and whiskey.

    The lack of substance is essentially the same.

    Makes in coherent arguments and expects them to be treated is if they make sense.

  237. #237 Kseniya
    November 1, 2007

    then the fool in his heart shall be cast into the lake of fire where…

    Rey, I think in Santa’s case, it’s not a lake of fire.

    It’s more like an ice-cold, snow-filled crater populated by stampeding reindeer shod with razor-sharp iron shoes, by broken and cast-off toys animated by demons who want revenge in a This Time it’s Personal kind of way, and by perpetually hungry “elves” with a taste for human flesh.

    Ringing the crater wall is a series of huge movie screens and audio systems that all show the 1964 stop-motion animation holiday classic Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer from start to finish, at ear-shattering volume, for all eternity.

    Happy Holidays! :-)

  238. #238 Dustin
    November 1, 2007

    I’ve been trying to be as bad as possible in hopes that Santa will leave me a pile of coal. I have student loans to pay.

  239. #239 Dustin
    November 1, 2007

    Hitchens is writing a new book called Santa is not great. It’ll reveal that Santa gets his toys from child labor and, as though to add insult to injury, he forces them to dress up as elves, and that Santa gets his coal from mountain top removal mining and deals with Halliburton.

  240. #240 Ichthyic
    November 1, 2007

    …security provided by Blackwater.

    :p

  241. #241 windy
    November 1, 2007

    Since the ability to communicate and have a body comes from God and Hell is an area set aside from God where He will not be and people who have chosen not to have anything to do with God will not be having anything supplied by God.

    And since souls are given by God, there can’t be any souls in Hell either, Q.E.D!

  242. #242 David Marjanovi?, OM
    November 1, 2007

    One of the determining factors as to whether or not a claim is “scientific” is the concept of falsifiability. That is, you have to be able to test something in a controlled experiment in order to support or undermine its foundation in fact.

    A controlled experiment is merely the ideal case. Any repeatable observation will do.

    Which is why astrophysics and geology and paleobiology are sciences, and why comment 127 is spot-on.

    David Marjanovic, when I link to answers.com or to wiki it is just a form of shorthand for the information. People here are smart enough to know they should look for further information.

    It is simply a way to introduce people to subjects they may not be aware of. It is not meant to be a definitive explanation.

    That’s not what I meant. I meant that 1) answers.com is a ridiculous concept and 2) the equivalent Wikipedia article has a much higher chance of being up-to-date than any given answers.com article. Do link to Wikipedia — don’t bother linking to answers.com.

    I once saw an interview with Ben Stein in which he said public education was communism. It was at that point I stopped listening to him. He’s simply a right wing hack.

    :-o

    GAAAH!

    No, he’s not simply a right-wing hack. He’s way, way, way off the deep end of libertarianism. Surely this is not a normal position for right-wing hacks to take, even in the USA?

    ————

    Wow. Comment 219 is among the most obvious troll comments ever. It goes on and on and on adding ever yet more evidence of being written by a troll, desperate to make sure it is recognized as such. Cute, really.

  243. #243 David Marjanovi?, OM
    November 1, 2007

    One of the determining factors as to whether or not a claim is “scientific” is the concept of falsifiability. That is, you have to be able to test something in a controlled experiment in order to support or undermine its foundation in fact.

    A controlled experiment is merely the ideal case. Any repeatable observation will do.

    Which is why astrophysics and geology and paleobiology are sciences, and why comment 127 is spot-on.

    David Marjanovic, when I link to answers.com or to wiki it is just a form of shorthand for the information. People here are smart enough to know they should look for further information.

    It is simply a way to introduce people to subjects they may not be aware of. It is not meant to be a definitive explanation.

    That’s not what I meant. I meant that 1) answers.com is a ridiculous concept and 2) the equivalent Wikipedia article has a much higher chance of being up-to-date than any given answers.com article. Do link to Wikipedia — don’t bother linking to answers.com.

    I once saw an interview with Ben Stein in which he said public education was communism. It was at that point I stopped listening to him. He’s simply a right wing hack.

    :-o

    GAAAH!

    No, he’s not simply a right-wing hack. He’s way, way, way off the deep end of libertarianism. Surely this is not a normal position for right-wing hacks to take, even in the USA?

    ————

    Wow. Comment 219 is among the most obvious troll comments ever. It goes on and on and on adding ever yet more evidence of being written by a troll, desperate to make sure it is recognized as such. Cute, really.

  244. #244 Uber
    November 1, 2007

    This leigh person is a mess.

    How can you be SOOOO sure about something which you are evidently SOOOOO ignorant and uneducated?

    and then:

    You will have to face an almighty God on the day of judgement whether or not you believe in Him!

    Hypocrite.

    To make an absolute statement like “god does not exist” means you would need absolute knowledge, that would make you God then wouldn’t it?

    And yet here you are telling all these folks EXACTLY what will happen to them when they die. How much of a hypocrite are you? Your pretending to know something you can’t possibly know.

    Saying it won’t make it true anymore than standing on a highway saying “Trucks don’t exist” is going to stop you from being killed by one.

    Except we see trucks everyday so thats a pathetic ‘analogy’. Likewise you saying something exists doesn’t make it any more true than people saying Santa does as mentioned above.

    What is the evolutionary purpose of the conscience?

    Self preservation? Ability to live in a society?

    “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”

    Convienient how you left of the most important part of that verse- as some of you where but all have been sanctified by the lord.

  245. #245 David Marjanovi?, OM
    November 1, 2007

    Hypocrite.

    Not hypocrite. Troll.

    Come on, this time it’s obvious!

  246. #246 David Marjanovi?, OM
    November 1, 2007

    Hypocrite.

    Not hypocrite. Troll.

    Come on, this time it’s obvious!

  247. #247 Stevie_C
    November 1, 2007

    A hypocrite AND a troll. Happens alot.

  248. #248 Kseniya
    November 1, 2007

    David,

    [Re: public education = communism] Surely this is not a normal position for right-wing hacks to take, even in the USA?

    I don’t know how to tell you this, but… there’s a disturbingly large number of conservative voters who believe just that and who revile the “gummint” [goverment] schools. It is hard to believe, but true.

    However, I do not know is just how large that number is. I admit to a bias which makes even a small number seem “disturbingly large” to me.

    Whatever problems may exist in the public school systems here, I believe that terminating the system instead of fixing it is throwing the baby out with the bath water in a big, big way. I guess that makes me a socialist – uh, like Thomas Jefferson.

    As you know, we’ve had this discussion here before…

  249. #249 Ichthyic
    November 1, 2007

    This leigh person is a mess.

    hmm, maybe they were just trying to outstupid Ben Stein and Bill O’reilly?

    In which case, I think they might have succeeded, for whatever that’s worth.

  250. #250 Kseniya
    November 1, 2007

    Leigh is hardly a rare creature. There are millions of people who believe things that cannot possibly be supported by any argument that is at once factual and coherent.

  251. #251 David Marjanovi?, OM
    November 1, 2007

    A hypocrite AND a troll. Happens alot.

    “Troll” isn’t simply an insult. By definition, a troll spews bullshit (make sure to read the philosophical part of the article) to get as much reaction as possible; whether the troll believes any of it is completely irrelevant. In this particular case, I get the impression that the troll doesn’t believe it, which makes diagnosing the troll much easier.

    I don’t know how to tell you this, but… there’s a disturbingly large number of conservative voters who believe just that and who revile the “gummint” [goverment] schools. It is hard to believe, but true.

    Ah. I knew considering it trash and/or godless was normal, but “communism” was news to me.

  252. #252 David Marjanovi?, OM
    November 1, 2007

    A hypocrite AND a troll. Happens alot.

    “Troll” isn’t simply an insult. By definition, a troll spews bullshit (make sure to read the philosophical part of the article) to get as much reaction as possible; whether the troll believes any of it is completely irrelevant. In this particular case, I get the impression that the troll doesn’t believe it, which makes diagnosing the troll much easier.

    I don’t know how to tell you this, but… there’s a disturbingly large number of conservative voters who believe just that and who revile the “gummint” [goverment] schools. It is hard to believe, but true.

    Ah. I knew considering it trash and/or godless was normal, but “communism” was news to me.

  253. #253 Leigh de Paor
    November 1, 2007

    Quick tip: Leigh is also a boys name.
    Thank you for a highly stimulating technical rebuttal. I will consider myself masterfully defeated in the realm of the intellect *silent sarcasm strikes again*

    Stevie_C – show me the data – put your mind where your mouth is.
    Owlmirror – I know that you don’t understand but if you really want to know God will show you. Not a person. God Himself will do it. God does not need a bunch of loudmouths for anything but he chooses to allow us to be part of His plan.
    The Bible says that God does not strike you down because he gives you another day so that you will repent and He will not be forced, by your choices, to cast you for ever into hell. The Bibles tells us that God takes no pleasure when the wicked perish and it is His will that all should be saved. But he is a respecter of choice and of individuals. I’m not forcing anything down anybodys throat here anymore than God does but ultimately your life will end. The soul that sins, it shall surely die. Denying a belief in gravity while jumping from an airplane is a similar analogy – you might enjoy the trip but the end will be enforced by the law of gravity.
    Think of a parent who gives a naughty child another chance to do the right thing, they don’t want to punish their child but eventually the child will force them to. And beleivers die too because they have sinned in the past, they are forgiven the sin but there are still consequences in this life. Cause and effect.
    “God does not exist” is an absolute statement. Do you know how many hairs are on the back of a fully grown male Yak? How many grains of sand are in the Sarah desert? How many litres of water exists on Mars? Do you know all there is to know? It is a statement made from a position of arrogance or ignorance or a combination of the two. Are you serious or just trying to wind me up?
    No one is urging you to make a mistake, on the contrary I am urging you not to make the most terrible mistake you can possibly do and that is to dismiss out of hand something because you know nothing of it.

    Rey – Comment #219:”You can scientifically test the Bible to see if it is from God and if God is as He has revealed Himself to be.” does not mention assumptions.
    The Bible says that if you seek God with all your heart (and a humble one at that) you will find Him. You can do a scientific experiment on this and test it to see if it is true. There are other ways, YOU have just assumed them to be about assumptions!
    In regards to comments, allow me to clarify for you, I am obviously not making myself clear enough for you to understand: There is plenty of hot air about other items but nothing to challenge the technical content I have proposed or to show me how I am possibly wrong, just some Bible & Christian bashing and insults!
    Just because this thread is a week old doesn’t render my arguments null and void. And I was only answering your accusations anyway Rey. I was also hoping you might be capable of holding a reasoned debate.

    Thanks Stevie, scintillating. But interesting the whole Zeus thing is tackled in Genesis. Go check out the angel view of Genesis and you may find some interesting explanations for UFO’s, Greek and celtic mythology and some other interesting stuff like demons etc.

    Uber the bit I left out was because contextually it was addressed to believers, which you are not. And yes I do not think I am a good person, anybody who does, does not truly understand why the good news is good!
    This does not make me a pretender but a sincere person.

    May my God bless you all and pour out massive amounts of His goodness into your lives and open your eyes to the truth.
    P.S. I’m still waiting for any actual facts from you guys which will bring me to admit that I am deluded etc.
    Wake me up when you find some!

  254. #254 Ichthyic
    November 1, 2007

    but “communism” was news to me.

    I’ve heard the argument before, but usually only from groups with the same level of credibility as the Westboro Baptists.

    More commonly, I’ve hear the “socialism” argument, and some confusion of socialism with communism (common), but rarely the “public schools are communist” canard.

  255. #255 Ichthyic
    November 1, 2007

    May my God bless you all and pour out massive amounts of His goodness into your lives and open your eyes to the truth.

    May my absence of deities pour out massive amounts of rationality into your life and convince you to seek therapy.

  256. #256 Kseniya
    November 1, 2007

    Ichthyic’s take on it is more accurate than mine. I was conflating the tendency of wingnuts to conflate Communism with Socialism, with the tendency of wingnuts to conflate public funding of anything remotely beneficial to mankind with Socialism. ;-)

  257. #257 Ichthyic
    November 1, 2007

    “Troll” isn’t simply an insult. By definition, a troll spews bullshit (make sure to read the philosophical part of the article) to get as much reaction as possible; whether the troll believes any of it is completely irrelevant. In this particular case, I get the impression that the troll doesn’t believe it, which makes diagnosing the troll much easier.

    correct, what we have with leigh is more accurately labeled “spam”, as I’m reasonably sure the content of the rants are the same, regardless of where they are posted, and the desire isn’t to debate, or even generate response really, it’s to sell a product.

    hence the inevitable closing of “you didn’t address any of my points”, which of course completely ignores the fact that whatever sapient points were made (few as they were) were addressed.

    It’s an ad campaign, intended to bolster the “spirit” of the poster, and entice the idiots to buy their product.

  258. #258 Ichthyic
    November 1, 2007

    The Bible says that if you seek God with all your heart (and a humble one at that) you will find Him. You can do a scientific experiment on this and test it to see if it is true. There are other ways, YOU have just assumed them to be about assumptions!

    man, that’s some funny shit right there.

  259. #259 Kseniya
    November 1, 2007

    I totally believe Leigh is sincere. However, that doesn’t make you right, Leigh. Surely you’ve heard that extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. The burden of proof is on you to substantiate anything and everything you’ve claimed. It is not up to anyone here to provide proof that something extraordinary (yet mysteriously undetectable) doesn’t exist.

    I do not think I am a good person, anybody who does, does not truly understand why the good news is good!

    Don’t the implications of this statement disturb you, even just a little tiny bit?

    [Gah... what a waste of time. Oh well.]

  260. #260 Ichthyic
    November 1, 2007

    I totally believe Leigh is sincere.

    yes, that’s why I think it leans more towards spamming than trolling.

    even hypocrites are often sincere.

  261. #261 Ichthyic
    November 1, 2007

    OTOH, Leigh seems to know the mind of God, so perhaps the DI should hire him(?) to detail how the designer functions so they can finally produce that long awaited hypothesis of Intelligent Design.

    I mean statements like this:

    God does not need a bunch of loudmouths for anything but he chooses to allow us to be part of His plan.

    he is a respecter of choice and of individuals.

    etc.

    surely indicate that Leigh is more knowledgeable of how god works than the rest of the DI thinktank, right?

    so what about it, Leigh?

    how would you feel about defining the designer so ID supporters can finally form a working hypothesis?

    could be your claim to fame….

  262. #262 Kseniya
    November 1, 2007

    God does not need a bunch of loudmouths for anything

    Oh? Knock me over with a feather, why don’t you?

    That’s especially intriguing coming, as it does, from the person with the highest word-to-post ratio on the entire thread!

  263. #263 Leigh de Paor
    November 1, 2007

    Uh, guys.
    Trolls don’t actually exist except in fairy tales.
    Oh BTW just re-read my last post and noticed tons of major spelling errors – sorry about that, keying in a hurry.

    Ichy, What I initially claimed was to be as skeptical about the underlying assumptions of the existence of any amount of time greater than 6000 (approx) years. That’s it.
    The rest is actually in response to the vacuous comments that were then directed at that claim.
    Is it not reasonable to suggest that people be skeptical?
    And I’m not like Neal in that I’m not angered by the comments or your willfull ignorance, some of it (the comments, not Neal) may just be blindness and that’s not so bad.
    After all what kind of person shouts at blind people to “watch where they’re going”?

    My use of capitals was not for shouting it was because I was in too much of a hurry to bother with using HTML for emphasis. (I did mention that in one of the posts). Terribly sorry if the large letters alarmed you, that really wasn’t the intention.

    There sure is a lot of disturbing content on this blogsite though I’m sure you’ll all be happy to know.

  264. #264 Leigh de Paor
    November 1, 2007

    #257 Ichy, I just read this book He wrote and it told me loads of stuff about who He is and isn’t, what He likes and dislikes, how to meet Him, etc.
    So, sorry old chap, it’d be plagurism if I was to claim it as my own.
    But thanks for the vote of confidence! :)

  265. #265 Ichthyic
    November 1, 2007

    oh, wait, so you got it from a book?

    no independent verification on your end? I thought you said you could (or did) scientifically verify the existence and operation of the almighty for yourself?

    what were you saying about assumptions again?

    btw, have you ever read any HP Lovecraft? much more interesting characterizations of mythical deities in his writings.

    would you care for some references?

  266. #266 Ichthyic
    November 1, 2007

    Trolls don’t actually exist except in fairy tales.

    more in heaven and earth, than are dreamt of in your philosophy…

    try looking up “internet troll”. I know, I know, learning is hard, but I have faith that even you can do this. here, I’ll even help you get started:

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

    while your at it, look up “internet spammer”.

    oh, and find yourself a good therapist, too.

  267. #267 Ichthyic
    November 1, 2007

    What I initially claimed was to be as skeptical about the underlying assumptions of the existence of any amount of time greater than 6000 (approx) years.

    ah, so you did start off trolling, and quickly moved to spamming, thanks for clearing that up.

    everybody satisfied?

    Leigh is both Troll AND spammer.

  268. #268 Leigh de Paor
    November 1, 2007

    #261 Oh, Ichy we’ve already established that I used independent verification.
    You should steer clear of aluminium cookware, seriously.

    Still waiting on those undeniable evolution facts!

  269. #269 Ichthyic
    November 1, 2007

    Oh, Ichy we’ve already established that I used independent verification.

    but you just said:

    I just read this book He wrote and it told me loads of stuff about who He is and isn’t

    say, rather than spewing your insanity on things you haven’t the slightest clue about, like science, biology, paleontology, evolution, geology, etc….

    why don’t you try tackling Mooser’s question in this thread:

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2007/10/interesting_discussions_that_i.php#c623435

    you might want to read up to when he first posed the question (#71):

    I challenge anyone to prove that they believe in God. Cause they don’t.

    now, don’t answer it here, go to the thread i linked to and answer it there.

  270. #270 Leigh de Paor
    November 1, 2007

    Not a Troll : Wasn’t trying to get a reaction. Was trying to get your brain to work.
    Mission status: failed.

    Not Spam either I started in-topic. I’ve been using the internet for quite a long time now and am familiar with what a spammer is.

    Response to other comment is normally permitted on most open-minded blogs.

    And sorry to break it to you but Santa and the Tooth Fairy, they made them up too. But it’s ok because all liars go to hell so you will be vindicated.

  271. #271 Ichthyic
    November 1, 2007

    . But it’s ok because all liars go to hell so you will be vindicated.

    you too?

    gonna be packed down there.

    should be one hell of a party.

    please, you won the contest here: you are actually dumber than both Ben Stein and Bill O’reilly. why not try to do something different while your still hanging about flaunting your “intelligence” and go to the thread I suggested.

    all you have to do is prove you believe in God to just ONE person.

    easy, right?

    If you can, maybe you’ll “win” two threads!

  272. #272 Ichthyic
    November 1, 2007

    …c’mon, Leigh!

    what, is it past your bedtime or something?

  273. #273 Leigh de Paor
    November 1, 2007

    Nope I won’t be going as I am the righteousness of Christ and have been washed clean of my sins.
    Praise be to God Almighty.

  274. #274 Rey Fox
    November 2, 2007

    “Rey – Comment #219:”You can scientifically test the Bible to see if it is from God and if God is as He has revealed Himself to be.” does not mention assumptions.”

    It sure bloody well does. Right off the bat you assume that this God character 1) exists, and 2) has revealed himself. I won’t hammer on that point any more, it’s not really necessary, as you’ve just piled on bald assertion after bald assertion elsewhere in the thread.

    “The Bible says that if you seek God with all your heart (and a humble one at that) you will find Him.”

    I don’t really take a lot of stock in this sort of thinking. Anyone can delude him or herself into believing anything if one really wants to. Sort of like how the only people who ever see the face of the Virgin Mary in tortillas are Catholics, and the only people who claim to have visions of Jesus during near death experiences are Christians. If God were to reveal himself to my skeptical self, then that would hold a lot more weight for me. And seeing as how he supposedly holds all the cards, I’m sure he could come up with a pretty convincing way of doing it.

    “There is plenty of hot air about other items but nothing to challenge the technical content I have proposed or to show me how I am possibly wrong, just some Bible & Christian bashing and insults!”

    Well, you make it awfully easy. But I suppose if its evolution facts you want, you can certainly do a lot worse than checking out http://www.talkorigins.org , a site that’s a clearinghouse of information with regards to evolution and other sundry sciences that creationists attack. I’m sure they have plenty of information regarding the geological column as well. The thing about technical knowledge is that few of us have a command of all of it, because there is an awful lot of it (an occupational hazard when taking one’s worldview from more than one book).

  275. #275 Kseniya Damnedtohellenenko
    November 2, 2007

    A fascinating blend of ignorance and arrogance, one who submits The Bible as proof of everything contained IN The Bible. And an evolution denier, to boot! A YEC who smugly informs us that trolls and Santa don’t really exist.

    I’d say the odds of winning THIS particular blottery on THIS particular night on THIS particular way are one in some number too big to write even with all the molecules in the universe!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!11111

  276. #276 Ichthyic
    November 2, 2007

    Kseniya Damnedtohellenenko

    say… did you try that one on the google image meme thing?

    :P

  277. #277 Kseniya
    November 2, 2007

    LOL, no, but now that I think about it, the root would make for a better German name than a Ukrainian name. Something like “Claudia Damnedtohellenbach”.

  278. #278 Stevie_C
    November 2, 2007

    Wow. I missed a whole world of crazy last night.

    Leigh is a classic godbot.

    The bible is evidence for everything.

    Idjit.

  279. #279 Josh
    November 2, 2007

    Leigh,
    Sorry about the delay in replying to this…I’ve been away for a week.

    Regarding the beginning of your comment # 219: how did I make a disingenuous statement? I didn’t make a statement at all. I asked a question. And yes, I was asking the question because some of the earlier things you wrote confused me. I don’t generally bait people, but I do notice that you don’t have any problems with calling people stupid. Nice.

    You go on in #219 to write: However we are limiting this discussion to the facts and sciences (as much as they can be) of evolution, geology and history. So in the case of anyone who spouts a bunch of “facts” about evolution or which claim “millions” or “billions” of years as an accepted proven fact I am saying this is actually an assumption and the basis of this “fact” should be fully tested. This is scientific and empirical, anything else is religion.

    Okay, well first, I didn’t realize we were restricting the discussion to natural science issues, since in the comment you wrote (#209) which confused me, you both stated emphatically that the point is to be skeptical of EVERYTHING right after you accused Lyell for not trusting God’s word. These two positions struck me as contradictory, which is why I queried you about them in #210.

    Next, you assert that those who spout “facts” about geology or evolution are just making claims and that these “assumptions” should be tested. I agree that all geological or evolutionary assumptions should be tested. Can you list, just to start, one geological and one evolutionary “fact” that you think isn’t tested and needs to be so?

    You further continued in #219: I really don’t see how this statement is a straw man? What is it a front for? How is it a deliberately weak argument? Please provide supporting evidence.

    I took it to be a deliberate weak argument because the statement you wrote in #156 (which I was referring to) : if you go looking for the “evidence” for millions of years or increasingly complex evolutionary events you will find they are all just assumed that someone has proven them is false both on factual grounds (the data contradict your statement; there is plenty of evidence for both millions of years and for increasingly complex evolutionary events) and on the grounds that you accused scientists of doing something we don’t do and then set that up as weakening natural history. We don’t just assume evidence for deep time has been proven by someone else; we don’t assume things have been proven at all. As I said in #217, science doesn’t work to prove things. It works to disprove things (a rather important distinction). Your saying that a lack of something being proven is a demonstrated weakness for a given scientific theory, but it’s not because your whole argument mischaracterizes how science is done. Thus, you came across as uninformed or as being disingenuous by twisting things unfairly to try and make a point.

    You further continued in #219: Josh it is interesting that you take my different information as being evidence of “woefully misinformed” and “simply ridiculous” since it doesn’t agree with what you believe but you provide no evidence for this.

    I presume here that we’ve moved on here to the next part of the comment thread (stratigraphy)? It isn’t clear from what you wrote, but I’m gonna operate under that assumption. My apologies. Since you provided no evidence to support your point (that the geological column doesn’t exist), such as a citation, I didn’t think the claim deserved anything other than simple refutation. So I guess you didn’t know that the column is preserved in North Dakota?

    You further continued in #219: It is quite clear from your post that you seem “woefully misinformed” on the cutting edge science of catastrophic geological formation which proves it does not take billions, millions, thousands, hundreds or even decades of years to form very large geological entities which currently are taught as taking very, very long periods of time.

    Okay, well overlooking the inaccuracy of the statement “cutting edge science of catastrophic geological formation proves” because I’ve already dealt with “proof,” I will move on. What the heck does is the science of catastrophic geological formation? Are you talking about volcanology? Are you referring to seismology? What is this? Are you trying to revert to 18th century sedimentology?

    Please define what you mean by very large geological entity, since that term is rather broad and covers everything from a batholith to the moon.

    I never said that all geological entities required long periods of time to form, but please do provide me with one such entity which has recently been proven to form quickly but which is being taught as taking long periods of time to form. I’d like to have an example…and if you can provide a citation to the paper reporting the research, that would be great too.

    You further continued in #219: I also find it disturbing that you describe this as “denouncing stratigraphy” as if stratigraphy is some kind of heresy and I am an inquisitor. It really sounds like you are presenting stratigraphy as a religious set of beliefs.

    You wrote: The geological column does not exist anywhere in the world but on paper and in the fevered minds of self proclaimed “intellectuals” all round the world. I took this statement, and the tone in which it was written, to be you denouncing the science of stratigraphy and I indicated such. I’m sorry if you don’t like my use of the term denouncing, but it seem appropriate and accurate to me. You made a statement that was as vacuous as saying volcanoes don’t exist anywhere in the world. If you read your comments, it is far more you than I who use language that converges on zealotry.

    You further continued in #219: Of course strata exist! However they don’t need long periods of time to exist

    Well, that really depends on the unit you’re talking about. Some stratigraphic units form quickly, or certainly specific facies within units can form quickly. Others form very slowly. Show me a natural mechanism for generating anthracite in a decade. Provide me with an explanation to quickly produce a 500 meter thick body of limestone which is cemented with carbonate cement, and which underlies a 20 meter thick body of porous sand with quartz cement, which underlies a 1000 meter thick package of limestone with carbonate cement. Figure a way to lithify the package of limestones, sandstones, and other sediments exposed in the Grand Canyon and then erode the canyon out of said package in…I don’t know…a half a million years.

    and the facts are that much of the detail in stratification cannot be explained by long periods of time since the observable data disagree with this theory.

    Much of the detail cannot be explained by long periods of time? Cite some data that are in disagreement with a deep time interpretation of the Earth’s sedimentary veneer. How about 5 specific things in sedimentology which we view as having taken a long time to form but which your data argue against?

    You further continued in #219: Petroleum and it’s products do not require Darwinism and very long periods of time to exist or be useful so who is putting up a straw man now? Even if there was millions of years that doesn’t mean that petroleum needs it to form!

    Uh, Leigh, where did I ever say how long it took for petroleum to form? I didn’t talk about the oil window at all, although our synthetic oils don’t really inform how oil cooks in rocks at all… And could you stop moving the goal posts? It should have been obvious that what I was talking about was naturally occurring oil. Stratigraphy is an essential base component of finding productive horizons, including the relative ages of the various units. When you’re trying to drill to a particular limestone producing formation several miles below the surface and it is within a 5000 meter thick sequence of different limestones that all look alike and your trying to determine which limestone unit your drilling through on the basis of tiny cuttings that the drill is bringing to the surface, figuring out the relative ages of the various units is one of the main ways to determine which rock you want to hit. Petroleum isn’t useful unless we can find it and “Darwinistic” methodologies are essential in helping us find it. Your statement is simply false. And perhaps you should check all of the various types of plastic in most modern electronics before throwing around barbs.

    I have not denied that a science is real, what I am doing is disputing the underlying assumptions that a body of science are building their theories upon.

    If you’re going to do that, you need to provide some pretty serious for your claims, not just assertions. You’re the one making the claim here. Support your claim.

  280. #280 Mr C!
    November 22, 2007

    Have you seen the full-length trailer? It’s the most paranoid mental thing I’ve ever seen, well, maybe not as paranoid as all the rapture shit!

The site is currently under maintenance and will be back shortly. New comments have been disabled during this time, please check back soon.